Bounties of Dorn #10

As always, follow the link above for the rest of the story.

Dorn hitched the basket up his arm.  It had a pretty, blue-checked cloth hanging over the edge.

“Jexer, y’see tha’ shop?”  Dorn pointed to the dumpy fortune-teller’s hut.  Jexer nodded.  He had one set of stitches left, crossing his thigh.  His axe had been replaced by a large club for the day.

“Tha’ is our target.  Somewhere near… There,” said Dorn, pointing to a statue some genius had stuck in the middle of an intersection.  The dirt roads of the working city were difficult enough to navigate without an arsehole block of rock in the way.

“Why do we need to do this here?  Shouldn’t we go to the festival square or something?” asked Jexer.

“Who’s in the fest square this time o’ day but people tryin’ to sell ya stuff?  I need people who listen,” said Dorn, “Hoist me up.”

Jexer lifted Dorn to his shoulders, smack in front of the statue, which happened to be of Chancellor Manks.  Three or four passing bounty hunters saw him first and shuffled out of traffic to watch.  Dorn inhaled a barrel of air.

“Grea’ Citizens,” he called, waiting for the interested, practically everyone, to find a spot.  The mystic shop’s window squeaked opened and a hooded head peeked through.

“I am Dorn, an’ today I’m havin’ a picnic at Dervish Park.  Yer welcome ta join me.”  He hopped down from Jexer’s height, more of a controlled fall, and began his march.  Excited, anxious whispers trailed after him.  The hunters followed immediately; they’d never miss the event unfolding before them.

Before long, Dorn’s simple picnic invitation turned into a stampede of hunters, well-armed citizens, and guards who were ‘keeping the peace.’  Captain Greeves appeared beside Jexer.  Dorn raised his eyebrow fold at him.

“Public events, planned or spontaneous, require the City guards to provide security to innocents,” said Greeves, reciting the handbook.

“Aye,” said Dorn, grinning.  When Dervish Park came into view, a solid barrier of Gnomes, sneering little scowls on their faces, blocked the entrance with Pilton at the fore.  Dorn and his crowd more than out-sized the Green Gnomes, but Dorn called a halt.

“Anyun’ who is jus’ spectatin’ break off now.”  About half the people separated, some to wait until the fighting began, some to view the coming ‘picnic.’  Dorn walked on, Jexer and Greeves forming the rest of the front line.

The sky held to an ocean blue shimmer, cream puff clouds drifted past.

Pilton had expected some sort of outright challenge, or hostile greeting, or snarky banter, but he received none of these.

Dorn reached the gate, and seeing it blocked, said, “Jexer, kindly make us a door, since this be unusable.”

Red tinged Jexer’s pupils, and steam poured from all three of his nostrils.

“Greeves, wha’ be tha fine fer destruction of public property?” asked Dorn.

“One hundred gold plus damages,” said Greeves.

“My apologies,” said Dorn, handing Greeves a diamond, cut like an apricot and shining in the sun.  Jexer raised both fists to the twelve-foot high wall next to the gate.  Horror spread amongst the Gnomes and a dozen or so jumped at Jexer’s knees, attempting to weigh him down.  Bricks and stone flew into Dervish Park, narrowly missing the back squads of Green Gnomes assembled.  When the way was clear, Dorn and all of his assembled allies flooded through the hole.  Enraged and none too bright, the Gnomes attacked despite Pilton’s calls to fall back to the Dervish Oak.

Dorn smiled as the first Gnome sailed at his face.  He allowed the little bugger to bruise his cheek before reaching into the picnic basket and drawing his crossbow.  Net after net captured the thrashing criminals.  Jexer swung low to the ground, sending Gnomes east and west to be scooped into bonds by more lightweight participants.  Greeves used lengths of rope to corral and imprison.  Gnome families were allowed to flee the Oak undisturbed, ushered out by a line of guards.

“You idiots!” screamed Pilton, face beet red.  He threw Gnomes toward the exits, engaging no one.  “Get out of here!”

More and more Gnomes heeded his advice, until every last one had escaped or ended up in ropes.  Pilton gave Dorn a last, heated glare of hatred and dove through the ankles of two guards.  Dorn and Jexer plopped beneath the Oak as the gathered citizens cheered and frolicked about their new park.  Dorn retrieved two sandwiches from the bottom of his squashed and torn basket, and handed one to Jexer.

“The bushes were worse,” grunted Jexer.  He dabbed at the blood coming from the lower half of his legs with a napkin.  Dorn chuckled.

“Maybe so, but today mean’ more,” he said.  Dorn watched the hooded figure staring at them from across the grass, before it turned and left the park.

After the damage had been cleared and the last Gnome family had been allowed a few moments to gather their precious possessions, Dorn and Jexer headed back to the tunnels.  They left even though a party went on back at the park, the first since its construction.  On the outskirts of the Great City, the hooded figure waited for them, seated on a bench.

“Why did you do that?” she demanded, springing to her feet.

“Sorry?” asked Dorn politely, the only one completely aware of what was going on.

“Why did you storm the park?  You could have been arrested.”  Jexer raised a finger to tell her off, but Dorn patted his arm.

“What’s it to ya?”

“You can’t get arrested.  Do you understand that?  If they ever got you in prison, for anything, you’d never get out,” she said.

“I didn’ see anyone else handlin’ that blight, did you?”

“Yay, we have a park,” she waved her hands in the air, “What about the real stuff?  The fraud and coercion, bribery, overtaxation, tariff dodging, and the violence that makes it all possible?”

“Firs’ o’ all, crime will ne’er go away.  Secon’, one thin’ at o’ time, lady.  One bounty hunter, even me, needs a plan.  Today, the park.  Tomorrow?”  He let the implication hang in the air.  “Are ya worryin’ ’bout me gettin’ arrested or not doin’ enough?”

“Both!” she cried.  Fists balled at her sides, hood shaking, the figure wrestled with some inner turmoil.

“Ya kno’, change doesn’ happen withou’ risk.  Keep yer eyes peeled, I’ll fix this.  It’s my own mistake,” said Dorn.  He and Jexer left the figure where she stood.  Dorn glanced back and she was gone.  He cringed, thinking that one day she could be his next bounty.

~ by Rachel Francis on March 17, 2013.

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