Monday, May 3, 2010

A Tale From the Busted Gut

I is Midge Highwater and I guess I’ll be tellin’ a story t’night since that no ’count musician ain’t showed. You gots to do somethin’ for entertainment around here. The Busted Gut ain’t exactly known for its good ale, that’s fer sure.

No, no, Arnie. Jus’ settle down. I ain’t puttin’ down yer place. I spent plenty a night sippin’ grogs around these parts. It sure as hell beats goin’ to one a them fancy places, like the Frog or the Hex. Besides, where else can a workin’ man get four quaffs for a silver? Seems like these days a man can’t even —

What? I’ll get to it! I’ll get to it! Can’t a man finish his damned drink first? I ain’t one uh them fancy storytellers on the streets scrapin’ up change. I’ll tell my story in my own way and in my own time. That’s how us Highwaters is.

Now. Let’s see.

My story.

Well, you know how yer always hearin’ about them fancy sword fighters. You know the kind, don’t you? Like that Zith feller who teaches fancying to the young lads? Or that big Oracar?

I know! I know! So what if Oracar don’t use a sword? He’s still one uh them big ones everybody’s always raisin’ some sort of hullabaloo over.

Now don’t interrupt me again. Understand?


Huh? What was that? Oh, why not. One more ale won’t hurt. Thank you much, Arnie.

As I was sayin’, everybody knows about all them big name sword fighters. About how they is always goin’ off to save the world or some sort uh nonsense. How they is slayin’ dragons left and right and defendin’ the honor of some hussy who done up and lost her honor years ago.

Well, ole Midge has been around for a while and I’ve seen a thing or two. And I’ve come to the conclusion that for the most part all them stories is hogwash. Oracar hisself was in here just a couple of nights ago and he was drunker’n a pissed rat, he was. Swingin’ that big axe around like he was gonna cut off heads if’n he didn’t get his drink right quick. Shoot. He was so drunk even that fairy musician (Damn his eyes. Where is he? ) coulda tossed him out that window.

But enough on Oracar. Like I was sayin’, I been around. I’ve seen some tough hombres and then, again I’ve seen some tough hombres. Bein’ big and strong might be nice, but it ain’t nothin’ against smarts.

Now you take this Darkbow fellah, fer instance. He’s not the biggest or strongest around, but when it comes to a drag-out, cuttin’-up fight I’d put my money on him every time.

Why? Because he uses his head. He don’t just run right into a buncha fellers and start waving that sword of his around. No siree. He’ll sit back for a second or two, size up the situation and then he acts. And still he won’t run right up and wave that sword. No indeedy. He’s clever. Sneaky, some call it. I don’t care what you call it, but I know it keeps the man alive.

I guess ’bout here is where my story really begins.

’Twas last winter, I reckon, cause the ground was still hard but weren’t no snow down. I was tendin’ to my own down at my old place in the Loop. What? Yes, that’s right. That was back ’fore the dang flood done wiped out the Loop.

Anyhow, it was night and I was mindin’ my own (with a little help from a bottle of Giantkiller, that is), when all of uh sudden there was all kinds of racket and clatter goin’ on like a bless’d soul never did see. I look’d out me winder and there was city guards and horses and carriages and all kinds uh dang stuff goin’ by like a bat out of hell. For a min’te or two I thought we was headin’ for another war. I didn’t know what was goin’ on. The damn Sarkovy coulda been invadin’, for all I knew. Well, I upped and got out my old rusty saber and me and my bottle of Giantkiller strolled on after all them fellers to find out just what in blazes was happenin’.

After a couple of twists and turns and whatnot them guards came to a stop in front of the Asylum. There was guards for days. Musta been at least a few hundred . And Vennah bless me, but I ain’t never seen s’much artillery and wagons and horses carryin’ on since I was a pup in the service myself.

All turns out, the inmates had taken over the place. Apparently one uh the guards had taken out one uh them crazy folks for an operation or somethin’, “therapy” they called it. Anywho, that crazy grabbed a club or somethin’ and just about beat that guard into a tomata. Pulpy, that is. Then the crazy got holda the keys and started lettin’ all his crazy buddies outta their cells. Next thing—

What was that, child? No, I’m not quite sure on why that crazy fellah let ’em all out. Maybe they was gonna have a reunion or somethin’. A nut-gatherin’ I’d call it.

Well, next thing you know the whole place is surrounded by city guard and all kindsa soldiers and the like. I fell in with uh couple of my drinkin’ buddies, Pat and Gil I think it was, and we stayed up all night listenin’ to the goin’s ons.

You see, once the crazies took over the place, they held the rest of their guards hostage and started askin’ for stuff. You know, food and the like. A couple of them nuts asked for weapons and stuff but even the city guard ain’t that dumb. Some of the stuff they asked for was damn weird. One fellah wanted a pair of laidies’ lingerie. What he was gonna do with that in the middle of the Asylum is beyond me. Maybe he was some kinda fruit or somethin’.

Anyway, it was gettin’ late, about four bells in the mornin’ I reckon, when them crazies started sayin’ they wanted to see the mayor. Like the mayor’s got time to spend on nuts like them. Then they started sayin’ they wanted to see Lady Tara herself, and even the Queen. They said they had more requests to make or they’d start killin’ their hostages left and right.

Well, you know as well as I do that the city guard don’t take to bein’ threatened. You push just one uh them boys and you suddenly gotta face ’em all. A bunch of the guard was raisin’ hell and sayin’ they oughtta just bash there way in and kill the whole darn bunch. But Gris just happens to be seargant in that section of town, and Gris is a thinkin’ man’s soldier.

Kinda like that Kron Darkbow I was talkin’ about.

Oh yeah, yeah. He showed up all right. That Darkbow fellah stepped outta the shadows like he was a piece of the night itself. I never did see a fellah all dressed up in black like ’im. Even his dang sword’s painted black somehow.

Anywho, this Kron Darkbow showed and he walks over to Gris like he kinda owns the place, as if’n the whole city is his own personal property, and he says “What is the situation?”

That was it. No “How-do-you-dos” or “Hi, I is Kron Darkbow and I’m one mean sumbitch.” Nothing like that at all. He just casually strolled up and said “What is the situation?”

Now Gris is a fine feller, I’ve known ’im since he was a boy, but he was kinda flabbergasted by this Darkbow. He hem-hawed around and said a little of this and a little of that but what it all amounted to was “We’re in a heap uh trouble here, mister.”

This Darkbow listens to everythin’ Gris says to ’im —

Another ale, please, Arnie. Thank you kindly.

— and then he looks over at the Asylum likes he’s studyin’ thangs. He looks up and down and all around and then he takes a gander at all them troops surroundin’ the place.

“You’ll never make it in there,” he says in that cool sorta way of his.

Gris just nods his head and says “Ayuh, that’s right, sir. We’re in a holy heap uh shit and there ain’t a thang we can do about it.”

Well, that ain’t exactly like he put it, but you git my drift.

“Half an hour,” this Darkbow character says.

“What was that?” Gris askt.

“Half an hour. If I haven’t returned by then, I won’t.”

Me and Pat and Gil was just about bustin’ a gut by then. Up to that point we’d been watchin’ the conversation, tryin’ to see what was gonna happen and who this dark feller was. But then when he starts in on this “Half an hour” stuff we just couln’t hold back. Pat laughed s’damned hard he dropped his bottle an’ it busted inta a tiny, million pieces.

That’s what caused him to notice our attention. Darkbow that is.

He slid on over to us and askt what was so damn funny. You never seen three grown men get sober faster in yer life. We straightened up and acted jus’ like proper gen’lemen, we did.

“Nothin’, sir,” I said calm as I could, “we wuz just out havin’ a time fer the night when we stumbled upon this mess.”

This time he looked me up and down and I tell ya I didn’t like it a bit. I swear I felt cold like winter creep up me back.

After a second or two this Darkbow said “Stumbled, for sure. You’re drunk. Go home where it’s safe.”

Then he was gone. And I mean really gone. One moment he was there and the next he wasn’t. Oh, Gil says he saw a bit uh the man’s cloak as he headed between a couple of wagons, but Gil’s known to tell a lie longer’n a dragon’s tail.

About then I took another swig uh Giantkiller and thanked Vennah that the feller was gone.

We didn’t take his advice, o’course. We wasn’t goin’ home with so much free entertainment just hangin’ round. Pat, Gil and me upped and decided to stay right where we wuz. Well, actually we did climb up on top of one a them wagons so we’d have a better view and all.

Gris was soon pacing back ’n’ forth and worryin’ so much I thought he was gonna start foamin’ at the mouth ‘fore too long. Several of the other guard was rattling there swords and tryin’ to look tough. But all in all not a one uh them boys accomplished a whole lot.

Twenty minutes or so had passed and we wuz all startin’ to get a little bored. When suddenly — BANG! KAPOWIE! CRASH!

There wuz explosions and fire and all kindsa hellish stuff goin’ on over at the Asylum. I could smell smoke and I heard metal clashin’ like some fightin’ was goin’ on. Sounded like a small army was already inside the place.

Gris and the rest uh them nocounts all runned forward and me and Pat and Gil decided to go along to keep ’em company. There’s no way we was missin’ any uh the action.

Finally we all got to the front gate uh the place and them sounds of fightin’ died down. Died down quick.

Gris sent a coupla fellahs forward to try liftin’ the gate but it weren’t no use. They backed off and wuz about to take a different tactic when then and there the gate began to go up by itself. Somebody inside musta been raisin’ it.

All the guard backed up and brandished their weapons and tried to look mean’r than hell. We all knew the door was just gonna bust open any min’te now and a bunch uh them crazies was gonna come rushin’ out with blood in their eye. I even tightened me grip on my old saber.

But nothin’ much happened when the gate was up and them big front doors swung slowly open. All we could see was black.

Then that Kron Darkbow stepped out uh that black. And damn but if Pat didn’t wet himself right there. Heh. It’s kinda funny lookin’ back on it, but I’d bet gold Pat’s wasn’t the only trousers soiled that night.

Anyway, Darkbow stepped forward where we could all get a good look at ’im. He looked like he’d done ’bout went through the ringer, he did. All his black leathers was torn and covered with soot. His cloak had pretty much been cut to pieces. That black sword uh his weren’t black no longer. Looked like that paint had come right off. Through lots uh use, that is. And the feller was spillin’ blood all over the damned sidey walk.

Vennah help me, but I don’t know how the man was able to stand. But stand he did. And bold like too. None uh them wounds seemed to have put a hurt on ’im one bit.

Gris went forward slow, like he wasn’t sure what in hell was goin’ on.

“Proceed,” this Darkbow said sheathin’ his sword. Then he just upped and walked away.

Simple as that. No reward or nothin’.

We never got inside, o’course. The guard wouldn’t have that. But we heard all kindsa tales. One fellah told me there was piles uh bodies all over the place and it looked like somebody’d done burnt it inside out. Another fellah told me he’d seen signs of spell castin’, but I never believed that much.

To this day I’m still not sure whut to believe. But I know that Kron Darkbow went in there ’n’ cleaned house. I wouldn’t cross ’im.

Now there. That’s me story. Pour me another damned drink.

And somebody find that sissy musician Chaim and kick his hornery ass for not bein’ here t’night.

No comments:

Post a Comment