A Hunter and His Prey
A Tamalarian Tale
A Hunter and His Prey:
A Tamalarian Tale
Copyright 2008 by Joshua Calkins-Treworgy, all rights reserved. No portion
of this novel may be duplicated, transmitted, or stored in any form without
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5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious
or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is
It was the year 877 A.F. The land of Tamalaria had barely recovered from the devastating War of Vandross. Now, no warlocks threatened the peace, no monsters ravaged the countryside. The more common, mundane sort of villain and beast roams freely once more, terrorizing their communities and the cities in old-fashioned ways.
But one city could never return to normal after the ravages of the warlock Richard Vandross: the city, of Ja-Wen. Brimming with brigands, thieves, and other merciless ne'er-do-wells, the city relies on a relatively new sort of professional: the Bounty Hunter. Commonly referred to as 'Bloody lawmen', or 'heroes-for-hire,' this group of professionals come predominantly from the fighter Classes, and are typically Human, Elven, or Jaft. But at high noon, where our story begins, one particular Bounty Hunter does not seem to fit this profession. He was a Simpa, or werelion in simple terms. His name was Portenda: Portenda the Quiet.
The noon sun blazed heat on the sprawling city of Ja-Wen, the wind gently churned dust on the town's streets. Only Pocket Town, the district in the northwest, had paved streets, as it was inhabited and independently maintained by the more well off members of the city's society. In the southwestern residential district, the buildings were shabby and worn down, the wood of the homes and apartment complexes stained and rotting from water damage suffered over the years. Down one of the many narrow streets of this hobbled-out area stalked a broad-shouldered Simpa, a man few of the locals recognized, or wanted anything to do with.
The Simpa wore the black leather armor typical to his people: buckles and belts and straps adorned the front of the upper leather shirt-coat. The sleeves had been torn off to the shoulder, exposing the robust musculature beneath his thin layer of golden fur. His pants were off-white, simple and baggy, concealing the chain link greaves that protected his legs. Bare feet curled their toes every few steps as he tested the ground for stability and movement opportunity. His cold, gray eyes swept over the area, scanning for any signs of ambush. He saw none, but noted the escape routes that he or his prey might take in the event of a confrontation.
Slung across his back were three weapons of equal deadliness: a broadsword that held an enchantment of some unidentified sort, a spear for thrusting and piercing attacks, and a chain flail. Though Bounty Hunters were well known for being all show and no skill, most entering the profession thinking it would be quick, easy money, the Simpa looked more than competent. Then again, Portenda thought without betraying any sign of emotion, most died that way.
At his right hip hung a monstrous crossbow, known to the Dragoon Forts and the Order of Oun militias as an Auto-Crossbow. Composed of wood and steel and springs, as well as a single pair of grind wheels, the bow had a crank on the left side and a circular attachment on the bottom for holding the bolts it fired. If used properly by a highly expert Elf Hunter or Soldier, an Auto-Crossbow could fire fifteen shots in a ten second span.
At his left hip, the silent Simpa kept a strange, ancient weapon, known as a firearm. Truth be told, Portenda knew it was once referred to as a pistol of the forty-fifth caliber, whatever that meant. It had taken him nearly four years to learn how to properly wield and maintain the odd weapon, but once he had the hang of it, he kept it as his standard response to ranged threats and targets.
Portenda saw neither his assortment of weapons nor is brute Simpa strength as his greatest assets. True, coming equipped like a one-man army made one appear intimidating, but the weapons and the armor and the fighting skills he had learned over the years did not by themselves make him deadly and effective. His keen sense of observation completed the package. As Portenda stalked down the dusty lane of Ja-Wen, his footsteps carefully counted in his head, he heard the faint rustle of a body standing from being flat against a wooden rooftop. From the faint echo and furtive movements of whoever made the noise, he estimated two hundred yards in distance from his location.
The Simpa stopped his advance, closing his eyes ever so slightly. The familiar clink and snapping noise of a crossbow bolt sliding into the firing position caught his ears.
Not a very well oiled weapon, he thought with a small measure of satisfaction. A quick sniff of the air alerted Portenda that the bolt was purest silver. Someone had done their homework. Few of his targets ever knew he was even coming for them; this one had both been informed and knew to bring silver to bear against the lycanthrope Bounty Hunter.
Using a snake-like slither, Portenda brought his right hand up to the hilt of his broadsword. Wait for it, he thought silently, wait for it.
His fingers remained open as he brushed the hilt with his palm, counting the seconds. One, two, three, four, he counted, waiting for the sound that would send him into motion. Almost a full minute passed before he heard it, the sharp report of the crossbow trigger and the catch of the firing mechanism snapping open.
His fingers closed on the broadsword, and in a single, lightning-quick reflex movement, he brought the weapon down in front of him, cutting the silver bolt in half and deflecting its motion into the ground at his feet. Both metal halves glimmered in the bright sun's rays as he lifted his head to look up at the face of a stunned Jaft Strong-arm Thug. Thug or Pickpocket, Portenda thought as he shook his head, they all think alike.
Whipping the sword back in place with his right arm, Portenda drew the firearm with his left and fired a single bullet back at the target, watching as the stricken Jaft spun around, a bleeding hole opened in his left leg. The force of the impact, combined with the angle, spun him around. From the edge of the inn, he dropped to the ground two stories below.
Landing with a heavy thud and a scream of agony, the blue-skinned humanoid writhed and thrashed about, clutching his wounded leg. "Why won't it heal?" Jafts' regenerative ability was on par with the healing factor of many lycanthropes. This Jaft's wound, however, refused to regenerate.
Well, the Bounty Hunter thought, here we go again. The same dance of stupidity, foolishness, and cashing in. He shook his head, trying to ignore the screams rolling from the target over his sensitive ears. The target, he thought, his feet starting him in motion towards the downed man. If I keep working like this, they'll all be targets before too long. No friends, no family, just colleagues and targets. He would have wondered what kind of life it was, but he already knew. It was a life of profit margins and staying in cold, unfamiliar places full of people he knew damned well didn't like him.
Portenda stopped fifteen yards of the Jaft, pulling a scroll out of his pocket and opening it. He glanced at the target on the ground, and then back to the sketch and the words 'Dead or Alive, five thousand gold pieces' beneath it. The name Roger Barone was in bold, italicized letters above the picture. This man fit the picture and the description. Without a word, Portenda pulled his large, green rucksack off of his back and withdrew several feet of thick, black rope, and slung the bag back over his shoulder.
"I'm not going without a fight." The Jaft sat up and pressed his back against the outside wall of the inn. He drew a wickedly curved and serrated dagger, holding it in front of him as a last line of defense. "You'll have to kill me, Bounty Hunter!"
"That's just fine by me." The Simpa's voice carried through the area though it was barely more than a whisper.
The entire neighborhood stood stock-still and silent, watching this encounter unfold.
Portenda looped the rope around his right hand, and held out the contract scroll for the Jaft to see. The target's face fell, and the dagger wavered.
"D-d-dead or alive?" the Jaft asked in a hushed, humble stammer. With the Jaft's attention on the scroll, Portenda drew his right hand back, and brought it down at an angle into Roger's upper forearm, knocking the weapon out of his hand.
With a howl of surprise, Roger watched his last chance for escape or resistance tumble under the feet of a storeowner.
The Human scooped up the dagger and whisked it away to his shop, where he would sell it for three gold pieces. A reasonable profit for something the man hadn't had to pay for at all.
Wasting no more precious time, Portenda used the rope to hog-tie Roger, slinging him over his burly left shoulder and stalking away from the area, the shadow of Death come alive. He sighed quietly at the drudgery of this routine for he could not recall clearly when last he had taken a break from his career. Maybe never, he thought. Maybe this is all I am. A Simpa who couldn't even cling to the proud old ways of the hill-born lycanthropes.
Local authorities hadn't been able to catch Barone, so they had issued a general bounty on his head: five thousand gold pieces. In a world where two-thousand gold pieces could buy you a house and a little property, successful Bounty Hunters made a great living.
There weren't very many successful Bounty Hunters in Tamalaria.
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