Aug 6, 2017
This story is from a setting that never actually saw play. It was a swashbuckling fantasy setting with animal people that centred around a relatively technologically advanced island state trying to remain independent. It was loosely connected to my 4th City setting (which will be posted later) in that I considered them part of the same universe but I never had any plans to interconnect them.
“You don't get it, do you, Freesian?” I growled through my teeth. “I'm not here to for your coin.”
The pudgy merchant scuttled backward on his bottom, getting as far away from me as he could. Blood ran down his chin from raw places where teeth used to be. I always found that the best way to inspire fear was with the unexpected. Few people expected someone to knock and then break down the door. Though this particular man wasn't the brightest as seen by his reasoning for bribing me.
“B-b-but think of all the fish you can buy with that money!”
My image was constantly both a boon to my work, and the bane of my social life.
“B-b-b-but if you can't pay your debts, how can you afford to bribe me?” is my mocking reply.
Shock crosses his fat face for a fleeting second as he realizes the truth of my statement. How did such a fool ever achieve any wealth at all? I'm certainly allowed to toy with my prey, my boss likes when his legend gains a new layer of terror.
He's got his back in a corner, pressed between the wall and a heavy cabinet that should have been filled with fine cutlery and plates. I reach towards him and he raises his hands in front of him, shutting his eyes. Gripping the cabinet I lower myself to the floor and lean against the wall beside him.
“How did you come into the possession of enough money to afford such a fine house?”
He blinks his eyes open, and lowers his arms. His mouth opens and closes without speech.
“Clearly you're not the brightest fellow, I think you see that as well. So how did you have enough money to convince my boss that he should lend you more?”
“My f-father, I inherited the wealth.”
I let that sit in the air for a while. Just the sounds of our breathing, and the street noises from outside. Every so often a curious passer by notices the smashed door and peeks in. When they spot me sitting next to their bloodied neighbour they move on. In this town I'm a well known face, and they know to leave my business alone.
The silent treatment gets to him and he starts sobbing into his hands. I can't stand the crying, worst part of my job. I guess it's time to get this over with. I stand up, and pick up my axe from the table where I had left it. The solid handle and hefty head a reminder of why I'm here.
“I guess your children won't have anything to inherit from you then.” I say as I raise the axe to my shoulder.
At the mention of children he glances towards the cabinet beside him. Oh for the love of the ocean. I lower the axe and put it back on the table. I bend over and bring my face right up in front of his.
“You may have no money to give them, but with your last words, you can tell them what you have learned from this ordeal.”
I open the cabinet and see a boy and a girl. The former about 5 years, and the latter about 8. She has her hand wrapped around her brother's mouth as he weeps silently. She is stony faced. Tears stream from her eyes but she meets my gaze and doesn't look away.
I smile at her bravery, and their father begins to lose his composure when he sees my teeth. He begins whispering “no” to himself over and over again. I reach in and pick them both up in my strong arms despite their wriggling. I separate the children and put each under a different arm. The boy begins wailing as soon as his sister is out of his grasp. Ugh, more crying. Like father like son, I suppose.
“Listen to me children. Your father has done something very wrong. He borrowed a lot of money and didn't give it back. And what is it called when you take something, but refuse to give it back?”
The three humans simply stare at me. I shoot a pointed look at the father and he seems to figure out the right answer far too late in his life.
“It's c-called stealing.”
I smile my friendliest, toothiest smile as I say “Absolutely, and stealing is a crime.”
I seem to have gone a little overboard with the smile, as the father begins sobbing again. The smile leaves my face as I decide to cut the morality lesson short. I lower the children to the floor.
“Say good bye to your father, children. Then go wait outside, and do not look.”
They run over to their father and hold him as tightly as their little arms can. The three of them whisper messages of love to each other between the sobs of the males. After a while I grow tired of waiting and approach them.
I learn that the cabinet was not completely devoid of cutlery when the girls slashes my left radial fin as I reach for her. Most would pull back from such a strike, but my instincts carry me forward. My arm darts out, grabbing both her wrists in one hand. I lift her off the ground even as she tries ineffectually to stab my hand with her bloody steak knife.
Lifting her up to my face, I stare into her eyes, and she stares right back. Then she lunges for my nose with her teeth. I'm much faster though and she stops short when she realizes that her face is half way in my mouth. She finally cracks, and I hear a soft gasp escape her. The merchant, thinking I've bitten her face off, begins wailing. I gently pluck the knife from her hand, then lower her to the floor.
“You should've been a shark, girl. A human body doesn't deserve your spirit.” I tell her kindly. “If you were older I would welcome adding your strength to my own, but I do not eat children.”
The father manages to get even paler when he hears that.
I narrow my eyes at him in contempt and say “I don't eat flabby merchants either.”
“I would recommend that you take your brother and go to the scholars' castle. They take in orphans there, and if you work hard you might get an education. At the least you'll be fed, for which you should be grateful. Go now.”
The boy doesn't move, but the girl has the sense to drag him towards the door. I smile as I follow them to the doorway. She'll do well, and so will the boy if he's more like her than their father.
I close the remains of the door, and upend the table against it. This will keep curious eyes away. They know what is happening here, they don't need to watch this man's shame.
Once again I lift the axe to my shoulder. The worn wood of the handle feels almost comforting on my bare blue-gray shoulder. A sign of how narrow my world truly is.
“There's two ways we can do this: clean or messy.” I tell the quivering pile of meat. “Clean is when you present your head, and I take it off with one swing. Very little pain. Messy is when you try to run or fight, and I chop into you one piece at a time. As someone who has been cut deeply, let me tell you that it is not a pleasant feeling. So which will it be?”
He makes the smart decision. He gets on his hands and knees and stares hard at the floor. Mucus, tears, and spittle drip to the floor. I don't make him wait. A single swing of the heavy axe and his head rolls across the wooden floor.
In my head I'm rather amused by the townsfolk. They glance at me and my bloody package as we pass each other in the street. Once I'm beyond them I can feel them staring at me. I see them whispering to each other. “There he goes with poor Thomas' head.”
None try to stop me, nor arrest me. The peasants fear me too much, the soldiers don't care about a nobody like the merchant, and the magistrates only care if I might disrupt the scholars' work. My boss' business booms on this island of intellectuals.
I turn the corner and walk smack into the middle of a tense stand off between two groups of soldiers. Five blue and black clad Freesians stand tensely to me left, while six red and gray Espans face them with white knuckle grips on their rifles. No one is actually aiming at each other, but the officers in charge of the two groups are shouting at each other, with their hands on their sabres. They're so engrossed in each other they manage to not notice the hulking sharkman carrying the bloody bag who just about bumped into them.
Taking a step back, I spot Lucas, a Freesian drinking buddy of mine, and shoot him a questioning look. He puts on an exaggerated look of worry, then shrugs. I suppose this isn't the best moment for him to elaborate.
He spots my parcel, and raises an eyebrow. I shrug right back at him. I'll have to find him later, assuming the officers don't get him killed.
“Monster!” cries the Espan officer, who is also staring at my parcel. Uh oh.
“You're new here.” I reply. “And I'm guessing so are you.”
The Freesian officer says nothing, but looks tensely at me. The military community on this island is pretty small, and the one in the city is even smaller. The fact that I don't recognize either officer is almost a guarantee of their greenness.
I hold out my empty hand and take a step towards the Espan officer. “We got off poorly. My name is -”
Both officers draw their blades smoothly, making me jump back in surprise. These guys might be new to the island, but neither one of them is green. If I'm not careful I'll lose a body part here.
“Ok. You obviously aren't interested in liking me. That's fine, but you have to understand your position on this island.”
“Our purpose here is clear, finhead.” Spews the Espan. Clearly the more talkative of the two. “We're here to keep this island safe.”
“I'll ignore the slur for the moment. You are correct, in a sense. You are here to keep the island safe, but only from outside dangers. Namely Frees, Espa, and pirates. I'm not any of those things, so I'm none of your business.”
“The blood dripping from your sac would say otherwise.”
“No, that says I'm the business of the magistrates, but they won't care unless I'm disrupting the business of the scholars.”
“Then the magistrates are poor protectors, creature.” The Espan takes a step towards me, while I take a step back. This is going poorly.
“I would take issue with that remark.” comes a voice from behind the officers. The man in the brown uniform is holding a long gun with 6 barrels. Magistrate Jonas, like all magistrates, has one of the scholars' famous caseguns. A weapon that can fire 6 shots before needing to be reloaded. I'm really hoping it isn't loaded with scatter rounds, because if it is, I need to find cover.
“I don't give a shit what you take issue with. This finhead should be turned into chum!” shouts the Espan.
“The man in that sack was buried in debt and could not pay. He knew who he was borrowing money from, and the man you're threatening hasn't broken any law in his repossession of losses.” Magistrate Jonas shifted his grip on his weapon. Not pointing it at the officer, but keeping it ready in case it is needed.
With most of the attention on Jonas, I want to leave. Unfortunately the Freesian officer is still watching me and my morals say that I don't want to leave Jonas twisting in the wind after he came to my aid.
“Fine. It is not our place.” Finally the Freesian officer speaks as he sheathes his sword. “I would recommend you return to your post Espan. We can have our words later.”
The officers then signal for their soldiers to follow them. They turn and head in opposite directions, presumably back to their posts on opposite sides of the island. The Espan gives me a hateful look as he departs, while the Freesian is cold faced.