Bounties of Dorn # 14 – The Sun Wand

•May 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

As always, follow the Bounties of Dorn link in the menu to read the rest of the story.

“S’not tha’ funny, ya oaf,” said Dorn as Jexer slapped his knees and doubled over with mirth.

“She blew you straight into the street!” howled the minotaur, “Heard it from the apple man!”  Dorn frowned even deeper and shut the door to his tunnels behind him.

“If the apple man paid more attention to his produce instead of nasty gossip, I wouldn’ have to track dow’ so many thieves!”  He trudged away muttering about ungrateful apprentices and treacherous maidens.  Jexer followed, raising his three nostrils to the fresh air and inhaling.

“It’s too good of a morning to be cross, Dorn.  Where are we going?”

“I’m goin’ out into the woods.  Ye can go wherever ya please.”  Jexer grinned.  He’d never seen Dorn so ruffled.  The bounty hunter didn’t even wave to people as they passed to the edge of the city, his expression forcing several citizens to cross the street.

Clumps of grass began popping up in the road, until they walked solely on a green layer of long fronds.  The trees got bigger, and more variant in hue, from burnt orange to lavender.  Walking through the deep forest was like taking a stroll under a pane of stained glass; the leaves gave their own brilliance to the filtered sunlight.
Continue reading ‘Bounties of Dorn # 14 – The Sun Wand’

Project Zeppelin

•May 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I didn’t write a Dorn this week, I got caught up in a short story I had literally dreamed up several months ago.  It came to me fully formed and I woke up freaking out.  I hope you enjoy it!

“It doesn’t look at all like I remember,” said Marie into the quiet.  Her husband had refused to come on this therapeutic visit.  A pancake of a building, the facility lay low in the slight divot its construction had made on a plain just outside her old home town.  Marie pushed away from her car, and took step after step toward the past.

Everything had been different then.  Noises, atmosphere, even colors.  She squeezed the bottom of her sleeves, her fingers hard from the last two years’ work.  A simple sign above the building, covered in dirt and neglect read, “PROJECT ZEPPELIN.”

Marie remembered the speech, “We in the government assure you that our efforts will be like an airship, lifting you away from these troubling times.”

The plastic glass of the doors hadn’t shattered, but the hinges only held them aloft.  Familiar with the decay, Marie stood to one side as she tugged on the handle, not bothering to jump as it crashed down and cracked.  Sharp, silver lines cut into her memories.  They had all filed in.

“It is in the best interest of every citizen to check in at the reporting stations.  Your health will be assessed by our Professionals.”

She wound her way through the posts and ropes, stricken faces looking back at her from every corner.  Green.  Green fog covered those memories, but her physical presence brought it all back.

“John, do you think we’ll be okay?” she had asked.  He refused to hear any more of her worrying, and left Marie to listen to the chaos around them.  People packed like cattle into the reporting station, driven into these lines by uniformed workers.  The family in front of Marie’s had five children to her two.  The mother and father could barely keep them all calm enough to stand in line as the children absorbed the panic and fear of the adults.  Finally, it became their turn to sit at the partitioned counter, separated only for courtesy since everyone could hear the conversation anyway.  Marie listened harder so that she might be prepared to answer on her turn.

Continue reading ‘Project Zeppelin’

Bounties of Dorn #13–Fortune Dealer

•May 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

As always, follow the Bounties of Dorn link in the menu to read the rest of the story.

Dorn raised a solid fist and banged on the door of the mystic shop.  A rustling came from inside, then a small cloaked figure cracked an opening.

“You can just come inside…” she began until she saw her guest, “Oh!”

“I need my fortune tol’,” said Dorn.  He’d left Jexer back in the tunnels to do more research.

“You do?  I mean, yes, of course.  Come in.”  Dorn had never been in the clean shop where Miriel ran the front to her wand business.  Bundles of herbs hung on the west wall, labeled by their purpose.  Luck charms and symbols took up the opposite wall, and front and center was a table with a fortune-teller’s tools scattered on its top.  It was the most organized and least sopping with burnt incense of all the mystic shops Dorn had ever visited.

“Nice place,” said Dorn, peering around.  Miriel jumped and fidgeted, the natural calm she’d had when Dorn came to her shop as a troll was gone.

“Thank you.  Um… why don’t you have a seat at the table?”  Dorn complied.  Did he, a bounty hunter, make her nervous, or was this an act?

“Business good aroun’ here?” he asked.  Miriel nodded with such vigor the hood of her cloak fell back.  She stared down at the table in shock and her hands twitched to pull it back in place, but she forced them down.  They both knew he only had to see her face once to memorize it; hiding now was pointless, even if it would have made her more comfortable.  She cleared her throat.

Continue reading ‘Bounties of Dorn #13–Fortune Dealer’

Bounties of Dorn #12 Most Wanted

•April 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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

“This is boring,” moaned Jexer.  His third nostril poked out of the crease in the enormous volume of history Dorn had given him for research.  Not many books could boast a width equal to Jexer’s mighty head, but this one even stretched past his horns.

“Ya been spoilt thinkin’ huntin’ is a sport and not a science,” said Dorn, not taking his eyes from his own dusty reference.  Jexer’s tail switched behind him.

“A third of this book is blank anyway.  How I am supposed to finish it?”

“It’s not blank, calf.  It’s waitin’ to be written.”  Jexer raised his head and blinked.  He held his place and flipped to where the words ended.  The last bit of history it covered was the Raid on Dervish Park.

“You wrote this?” Jex asked in amazement.

“It’s dry, but facts don’ need no fancyin’ up.”  Dorn squinted through his reading glasses as the words in front of him became smudged and faded.  “Damn basemen’ floods.”

With renewed interest, Jexer read the book, searching for signs of his mentor’s touch.  It covered the intimate history of the Great City going back a century.  He tried to imagine what it all looked like from four feet high and grumpy.

“Dorn?  What are you?” asked Jexer.  A minute pause, then Dorn took off his glasses and looked over at his apprentice.

“Ya don’ see many like me aroun’ here, do ya?  In truth, there may not be many left anywhere.  A story for another time though, calf.  I need you to go to Twig’s, and get our supplies,” said Dorn.  Jexer wanted to argue, but let it drop and nodded.  He rose, the table protesting as much as his back, and went off to take care of the errand.

 

A tingle.  A presence.  Dorn gave no outward sign that he knew someone trespassed in his tunnels.  It couldn’t be Jexer, he was never that quiet, or ominous.  The amulet at his chest, tucked deep in his shirt, hung heavily on his neck.  With no ceremony, he closed his book and set it down.  Dorn stretched and grumbled to himself about forgetting to eat.  Before he could leave his precious library, the door shook in its frame.  He clenched his jaw; Dorn had hoped he could avoid damaging his books.  The door blew open, barely staying attached to the wall.

The woman of Dorn’s nightmares, surrounded by slithering blackness, floated into the room.  The Great City’s Most Wanted criminal.

Silvia.  Wanted for over two dozen murder charges including the previous Chancellor.  The long, clawed fingers that dug into Dorn’s deepest terrors were from her hands.  The hate and cruelty of a troll were nothing to Silvia’s.  Her figure, thin at best, insubstantial otherwise, could not be distinguished from the blackness until one or the other moved.  The only flesh visible were her hands and head.  Dark, smoky eyes, attractive on anyone else, sunk into a gaunt face topped with blonde hair, tightly bound up.  To Dorn, she was death.

To anyone else, she was also death.

“Dorn,” said Silvia, “It’s been awhile.”

He said nothing as he tried to form a plan.  No energy could be wasted on talking.

“You’ve upset some interesting people lately.  I never thought Pilton would have the stones to hire me, but he did, and here I am.  I’ve never come for you because I was afraid.  But… I can’t resist anymore.  I think… yes, I think I can kill you now.”

Dorn breathed in and out as her clawed tendrils climbed up the walls and enveloped the only escape route.  Indeed, they would soon snuff out the fire and Dorn wouldn’t be able to see anything, but her dark magic.  This puzzled him, but he kept his usual frown in place.

“I love power, Dorn.  I love killing people with power.  If I can take from them what they’ll try the hardest to protect, then I’ve won.  I am more powerful.  You have it, in spades.  Killing you will be the ultimate victory,” said Silvia.

“Surprisin’ people in repose is hardly lettin’ ’em muster their full power,” said Dorn.  He crossed his arms, worry melting away.  Silvia laughed.

“Oh, no.  People of true power are never surprised.”  She raised her horrible hands toward him, pointing with all her effort.  The blackness collapsed toward Dorn, wave after wave tumbling over each other to strangle and rip.

Dorn rolled his eyes behind his eyebrow fold.

In a perfect orb around the bounty hunter, the violent darkness broke and smashed into itself.  Papers and debris swirled about as the attack continued.  Each wave beat against the barrier only to slide around and dissipate.  Silvia displayed no anger.  She drew her tendrils back.

“An’ here I though’ you’d killed all those people with yer bare hands.  Joke’s on me,” said Dorn, chuckling in earnest.  Pure fear poured from her eyes, opened so wide white could be seen all around her iris.  Adjusting his dirty brown hat, Dorn marched toward her.  Silvia drifted back and screamed.

“Don’ worry.  I won’ hurt ya if ya come quietly.”  Down the hall, Jexer ran to see who had screamed.  Silvia’s terror turned into a vengeful grin, and her magic stormed toward the bull man.  The last Dorn could see of him was an innocent surprise in Jexer’s big eyes as he backed up a step from the onslaught.

Dorn took out his rubber rock wand, made a shield, and leapt at Silvia.  With one swipe, he bashed her unconscious and into a nearby wall.  Blood flowed from a gash in her hairline.  The magic slowed and disappeared.

Jexer had his back to the wall at the other end of the hallway.  One claw had made it through, slicing his forearm.  Dorn shook his head.  He went over to Silvia and peered at her injury.  She’d need a doctor.  He reached down to heft her, when her eyes opened and she hissed at him.  Silvia slashed his cheek, then vanished into her darkness and rumbled out the door.  It was as if the magic itself screeched with her as she escaped, so enraged she was reduced to primal screams.

“Jex?” called Dorn.

“Aye.”

“Le’s get out the bandages,” said Dorn.

“What the hell was that?”  Jexer put pressure on his arm.

“Biggest bounty in the city.  Shoulda netted her.”

“Dorn… I was a dead man, wasn’t I?” asked Jex.

“Yep,” said Dorn, “But, don’ feel bad.  Most would be.”

“Just another day, training with Dorn.  What’re we gonna do tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?  I have a wan’ to pick up.  More woman trouble.”

Bounties of Dorn #11

•April 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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.

 
ascetic

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