Bounties of Dorn #11

As always, check out the link above for the rest of the story.

He had the flat, stupid eyes of a chipmunk, and a ring of tufted fur about his neck.  Feathery tendrils covered the rest of his body, made of soft hair.

“He’s so… not… threatening, Dorn.  Are you sure?” asked Jexer.

“An’ gnomes are scary criminals?  Of course, I’m sure,” said Dorn.  Jex shrugged, hulking along the street as natural as he could.

“What is he again?”

“Rare deermunk.  Came from the Warlock’s Conference ‘o’ ten sixty-six, a sad nigh’ ‘o’ magic an’ booze.  Got the stuff?”  Jexer lifted the sack in his left hand.

“It’s nasty, but I got it.  I can’t believe that someone who stands upright would eat this, but then again, if I weren’t tailing a shoe buckle thief, I wouldn’t believe that either.”  Dorn snorted a laugh.  Corsip, the deermunk, scuttled waist-high to most passing residents.  Mistaking him for someone’s pet, ladies often stopped to pat the thief, during which he nicked their gold or silver buckles from their shoes.  Dorn shook his head.  If people couldn’t be bothered to learn a dog from a magical mishap of a crook, he couldn’t feel sympathy for them, but stealing was still against the law.  Corsip had a sizeable bounty as well, on account of other hunters passing on the cute face as chump stuff.

Dorn knew better.  He tightened a hand around the crossbow on his back, netting for deermunks loaded and ready to fire.  Nodding to Jexer, they entered a spacious setting in the Jeweled Quarter of the Great City, where many well-dressed men and women enjoyed a street festival in honor of someone’s grandfather.

“Remember, yer a distraction.  Don’ figh’ a deermunk, got it?” said Dorn.  Jexer rolled his eyes behind thick lashes, and his tail twiched in annoyance, but the bull-man allowed his muscles to relax.  Dorn had forced an iron staff on him that morning instead of his normal bladed special, a thing Jexer found neither comfortable nor practical.

“Blades’ too heavy,” Dorn had said.  His apprentice sniffed and whined, but Dorn insisted.

A colorful juggler on stilts nearly stepped on Dorn, were it not for the bounty hunter’s dextrous hop behind his pupil.  Jexer glared at the entertainer until he or she, impossible to tell under the mask, sheepishly scooted away.  Dorn growled something about the vertically insensitive, and searched out their target.  Corsip had gathered a group of younger damsels around him with a puppy act.  One by one their buckles disappeared as he rolled around on the ground, and made a hiccuping bark which they all found adorable.

“How cute!” one pink-puff girl squealed.

“He doesn’t even wear clothes,” muttered Jexer.

“Maybe if yer pants looked more like pants instead ‘o’ a loincloth, I’d give you tha’ one,” said Dorn.  Jex scowled from the corner of his eye, but kept his attention on their quarry.

“What now?”

“Got tha’ bag?”

“Yeah.”

“Walk in there, wave it aroun’, and have yer staff ready,” said Dorn.  He vanished in a wave of people, leaving Jexer by himself.  Sighing, Jexer took his staff in one hand like a walking stick and broached the circle of females.  Unused to the appearance of a half-naked and well-muscled bull-man, the ladies gasped and blushed.  Corsip stopped playing dead and sneered up at him.

“Get out of here!” hissed the criminal.  The girls, shocked and embarrassed, stared down at the thing they’d been petting for the last ten minutes.

“Heard you needed a snack, furball.”  Jexer let the mystery sack fall open, revealing its inner odor of rotten apples.  Corsip’s deer snout wiggled and his chipmunk eyes whirled in their sockets.  His lips curled back to allow the double row of fangs, common to all deermunks, the freedom to slice and tear.

“Are you sure you’re a fruit kinda guy?” said Jexer.  Corsip bunched up and sprung at Jexer’s face.

“Give them to me!  They’re mine!  I’ll kill you for them!  Die!”  The ladies screamed and scattered.  Jexer shoved the staff into Corsip’s mouth of unexpected teeth.  Even so, the rage of the little scam artist bowled Jexer over.  The bag of apples fell to the side, and Corsip snapped and drooled on the staff trying to get to Jexer’s vital organs.  His tiny paws, which had been drawn up to his chest in submission, became ugly scoops of animalistic death.  Jexer imagined how many guts had been separated from their bodies by flings of the webbed and jagged fingers.

“Gods, Dorn!  Where are you?  He’s gonna chomp through the staff!”  In a valiant show of support, one of the disgusted ladies began throwing rocks at the deermunk.  Puzzled, Jexer risked a look.  The pink-puff, a tiny blonde, led the charge as the rest of the maidens heaved stones and lobbed them at Corsip.

“Dorn!” Jexer shouted.  Some of the rocks actually connected, though not always with their intended recipient.  Between the savage, snarling above him and the “assistance” from around him, Jexer began to panic.  Corsip’s back claws dug into Jexer’s thighs.

“Oh fu…” he groaned.

“One goo’ toss!” came the instruction.  Jexer did not hesitate.  He took the staff from Corsip’s mouth and drove it into his stomach up as far as he could and with as much strength as he still had after holding weight for so long.  Jexer had just enough time to sit up and see Dorn, like an avenging knight, perched on a pair of stilts above the crowd, crossbow at the ready.  Corsip hit the top of his flight as Dorn fired, the kickback of the net clearing him from the stilts.  Jexer couldn’t see Dorn from there, only a bundle of vicious teeth coming back down toward him in a metal net.  Jex braced himself for unknown injury.

A gigantic tug on the rope holding the net had Corsip off course and into the ground before Jexer interpreted the cracking plop as something other than his body cushioning the fall.  He pried his eyes open to see Corsip flattened besides him, breathing in gasps.  Dorn stood over his bounty, his crossbow pointed into the sky.  Jexer wondered how he’d ever hated the bounty hunter.

“Good job, Jex,” he said, pulling the rope over his shoulder for leverage, “Le’s go.”

Jexer stood, dusting himself off.  He bowed to the ladies, giving the pink-puff blonde a special wink.  She giggled.

“Are you with Dorn?” she asked.

“My wors’ apprentice,” called Dorn, “I said le’s go!”

“Good day, milady,” said Jexer.  He caught up to his master.

“Stop foolin’ aroun’ and grab the other en’ ‘o’ the rope.  Plenty ‘o’ time fer women later, after we get paid,” said Dorn.

“She’s high bred anyway.  Just thanking her for her… help,” said Jexer.

“Maybe if you’d wear pants…” muttered Dorn.

~ by Rachel Francis on April 1, 2013.

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