Topic: A Bandit's Tale

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    I figured there’s not been enough activity here, so I’d shake things up a bit by posting. Dunno how many people will see this, but I figure why not.

    I don’t like long-winded introductions, so I’ll get right into it. My one disclaimer: I’m writing a story about hard, unpleasant men. Now, I don’t intend to make this super-edgy: there will be no explicit depictions of sex or sexual violence, and I’m not going to be unrealistically-excessive with the gore. This said, I’m not going to use kid gloves on the subject matter. Consider yourself warned.

    I’m going to do one post a chapter, because that’s how I roll. I’ve written a couple in advance, so I’ll just post them all now and then update as I write more. I also won’t waste your time holding back material to build hype: I’ll post what I’ve got when I’ve got it, as soon as I’m happy with it.

    Lastly, I dedicate this story to S.A.H.

    This story contains violence and strong language.


    A Bandit’s Tale

    Chapter 1: The Mud

    I’m sweating like a pig.

    The Weald has two temperatures: hot as hell, and cold as death – and it always seems to be whichever one you ain’t ready for. Right now, it’s a humid, swampy, stinking jungle. Probably it’ll freeze over in a couple of hours, once we’re good and sweaty, so we’ll freeze too.

    Don’t help we’re hauling a cannon through a swamp, either.

    “Fuck,” grunts Florent, stopping for a moment to wipe his brow.

    “Fuck,” I agree.

    “Don’t stop!” yells Rodin, and we keep at it.

    It’s all their fault, those bastards up in town. We used to have three cannons. The old gun was an eight-pounder – just right for a job like this. Not so hard to carry, not so difficult to pull from the mud, and because the shots were only eight pounds each, we could carry a lot more with us. Sure, it wasn’t as powerful as the other two, but that cannon was a real beauty.

    Was. The “adventurers” in town, they show up four months ago and smash it to scrap. I saw the wreck and I wanted to cry. And then, on top of that, they spike the twelve-pounder, too, just a couple of weeks ago. So we’re stuck with the biggest, heaviest one, which is why the gun behind me right now, breaking my spine, is a sixteen-pounder. Powerful, deadly, and absolutely impossible to haul around. Never mind how difficult it is to carry all the powder, and cannonballs that weigh sixteen pounds apiece. There’s ten of us here, and it’s still taken us half a day to get through this muck.

    “I’m gonna die,” I wheeze. “We need a horse.”

    “For the meat?” asks Florent.

    “To pull the cannon, idiot,” I snap. But he winks at me, and I realize he was joking.

    I look behind me for Guy, who’s walking slowly along behind the gun. Most of us like to joke Guy’s half-Giant, but I’m not so sure that ain’t the case. He’s massive – the size of two men, at least. Right now, he’s got his hands full carrying a box with the cannonballs, and the powder barrel strapped to his back. I take a second to spit and curse again our rotten luck. Old eight-pounder, we could carry the balls, and he could help lug the damn thing around. Good luck carrying balls sixteen pound each ‘less you’re strong as an ox.

    The cannon stops moving, and we all realize the wheels have sunk in the mud under its weight. Most of us just start swearing ’cause we can’t think what else to do, but Rodin keeps his head.

    “Guy! Put the damn balls down somewhere safe, and help us get this thing outta the mud,” Rodin yells.

    “What, so they sink in the mud too?” Guy says.

    “Just do it,” we all holler back.

    So while we keep hauling on the ropes, trying to keep the thing from slipping further into the swamp, Guy trudges on ahead to find a dry spot he can put the balls down on. It’s an hours-long couple minutes of pulling, gasping, and straining until he finally comes back, stands behind the cannon, and starts pushing. Even with his help, it’s another minute before the cannon pulls free of the mud with a wet pop, and then we all have to pull some more ‘till the cannon’s far enough from the swamp it won’t slide back in. Then we pause for a breather while Guy goes back to get the cannonballs.

    He comes back with exactly two, both of which are covered in filth.

    “Box sank in the mud. I managed to fish these two out.”

    “Fuck!” says Rodin.

    “Fuck!” says Florent.

    “Fuck,” I contribute. Don’t wanna be left out.


    Chapter 2: The Crew

    Career as a bandit, you’re guaranteed three things.

    One is you’re gonna see some shit. And it’s gonna be awful.

    Two is you’re gonna do some shit. And it’s gonna be worse.

    Three is you’re gonna meet some interesting people. Key word is “some”. Not everyone’s interesting. Lotta people in my crew, but only a couple are interesting enough to be worth a mention at the moment.

    There’s Florent. Florent’s got bad teeth – all crooked, and several decayed. One or two we’ve had to pull out. He’s good with gallows humour, which is always in demand. He can keep his head decently. He’s not my best friend, because you don’t have real friends in this line of work, but he’s all right to be around.

    There’s Guy. Mentioned him already: big bear of a man, strong as an ox. Likes to use a scourge with razors tied into it; real bloodletter in a fight. Don’t talk much, but he’s not the silent type either: he says what he needs to say then shuts up. I like him too.

    There’s Rodin. Rodin’s favourite colour is blue, and that’s the colour he wears. Rodin’s good at keeping his head in a fight, and we all look up to him as a boss. Rodin’s also a real bastard, and I hate his guts. He’s none too fond of me neither. But you don’t have to like one another to work together. He knows I’m good in a fight. I know he’s a good planner. So we mostly let one another alone.

    There’s also me, but you don’t give a shit about that.


    Chapter 3: The Plan

    Once we’re through the mud, things are a lot easier, but it’s still only an hour and a half before dusk by the time we finally meet the others. Clairwil’s the boss of this crew, and when we find him, he’s cleaning his rifle, and doesn’t bother to get up and help.

    “You took your time,” is all he says.

    “You try dragging this thing through a swamp,” says I. Rodin grunts in agreement, and that’s that. We wheel the cannon into place, drink a bit of water, then gather round and go over the plan.

    We need the cannon because there’s a carriage due to come up here around sunset, which isn’t too long from now. The carriages ferry supplies up to the hamlet – stuff like food, bandages, medicine. More importantly, though, they sometimes carry magical trinkets for a shop someone set up in the hamlet, and Rodin’s “inside man” way south in the next town – whoever he is – told us this one’s got something real nice, though he didn’t specify what it was.

    The problem is that they’ve started armouring the carriages these days. Maybe we knocked too many over, and they got wise. Not just that, but past year and a half or so they’ve started travelling with a whole crew of fortune-seekers hopin’ to find jobs up at the hamlet – and those bastards are always spoiling for a fight. With Clairwil’s boys, there’s twenty of us now (well, seventeen, since the matchman and both loaders have to stay with the gun), so we can take ‘em, but there’s still the carriage to consider.

    That’s where the cannon comes in. A good cannonball will kill the horses and knock over the carriage, then you can hit ‘em with grapeshot a few times before we go in to finish off any survivors. Easy as pie.

    We got two issues, now.

    First is that this cannon’s too damn big for the job. A sixteen-pounder’s deadly on a battlefield, and it’s great for putting holes in buildings, but a direct hit from the heavy shot will punch right through the carriage and wreck all the valuables inside. I mean, it’d also punch through all the bastards inside and make a lovely gory mess, but there’s no profit in that.

    Second is that since we lost most of our ammunition in the swamp, we only have two solid shots. This means that our aim has to be bang-on, because if we miss both shots, that’s it: the carriage gets away, and we’re left with squat. It also means that because we lost all our grapeshot, we’ll have at most one piece of solid shot to soften them up, and that assumes we don’t miss the carriage first time. That means it’ll be a much tougher fight.

    Our plan for the first problem is to aim low, so the shot bounces off the ground a few times before it hits the horses. Cannonball uses up some of its energy that way, so it’ll crush the horses and maybe the driver without obliterating the carriage. The trick is to angle it so it bounces off the ground without plowing right into the dirt and stopping, or bouncing so high it overshoots the carriage, but I assume the crew know what they’re doing.

    Second problem can’t be helped: we’ll just have to make sure we hit them. Once we stop the carriage, we’ll fire our second round if we’ve still got it. Then Clairwil and the fusiliers will hang back and lay down some covering fire while everyone else charges in, with Guy in the van ‘cause he’s the toughest we’ve got.

    “Right,” says Rodin at last. “This is as good as it gets.”

    “Yeah,” I nod. “Let’s do this.”


    Chapter 4: The Raid

    Half an hour later, the carriage shows up on the horizon.

    The cannon’s on a hillock above a bend in the road, concealed in the trees as best we could, with a clean enfilade right down the road. We’re crouched in the bushes below the gun – safest bet so a missed shot doesn’t waste us – with the carriage bearing down on us.

    “They better not fucking miss,” I mutter.

    “They can miss. Just not twice,” says Florent.

    “Shut up,” hisses Rodin.

    Carriage comes on. Closer. Closer…

    “Fire one!” yells Rodin. I quickly stick my fingers in my ears.


    The shot flies out over our heads. It scrapes the ground, bounces once or twice, then caromes up and plows right into the horses. There’s a hideous shriek and a crunch of wood and bone giving way as they die, and then the carriage’s forward momentum flips it clean around to land on its roof, crushing the driver beneath it to boot.

    It’s a perfect shot, and we all cheer. The sight of all the gore and wreckage is beautiful: completely worth hauling the damn cannon through the swamp.

    The cheers eventually die down, and we wait for any survivors to emerge. Sure enough, out they crawl, bruised and blooded. We take stock.

    A man in plate armour, with a cross blazoned on his surcoat. He’ll be a problem. Or she – I suppose it could be a woman under there.

    A tall woman with war paint on her face, a spray of red hair, and what looks like a big fucking axe, maybe a glaive. She’ll be a problem too.

    A man in a turban and what looks like some kind of robe. He doesn’t look like a problem, but you never know.

    Another man, bearded, who’s pulling a big ugly dog out of the wreck. I swear under my breath. I hate dogs, except when served with a side of potatoes. And even if I didn’t, that thing’ll be a pain in the ass to keep track of. Another problem.

    Lastly a shorter woman, blonde, in a blue overcoat, lugging what looks like a…mining pick? If that’s all she’s got, she’s gonna have a problem.

    “Bagsies on Blondie,” says Florent with a grin. I grin back, but privately I think he’s acting like a fool. This is a proper fight coming up, not some cowering villagers we can walk over. Not a good time to try and get in a bit of rape.

    “Fire two!” yells Rodin. I put my fingers in my ears again just in time.


    The second cannonball sails down and hits the guy in armour square in the chest. He’s instantly turned into paste and a bunch of scrap metal, and the cannonball goes bouncing off down the road. We let out another, bigger cheer. One less problem.

    “Charge!” roars Rodin, and we surge forward.


    Chapter 5: The Fight

    We come in screaming like demons. Clairwil and his fusiliers lay down a withering barrage, but the survivors pull back behind the wreck of the carriage so they can’t get a bead on ‘em. As we run up to the carriage, we split into two groups – one left, one right. I go right, and stay in the middle.

    It saves my life. As we round the corner, we find the tall woman, and she screams right back.


    Even from here, her voice is like a fist in the face. The two guys in front are even worse off – they stagger back, stunned, and she hacks one down with her glaive. I gotta admit I’m impressed.

    The man in the turban comes into view, and raises what looks like a skull. There’s a sudden red glow above me. I don’t look up, but immediately dive right, narrowly avoiding a tentacle of energy that drops from outta nowhere and coils where my head used to be. Man behind me isn’t as lucky – another tentacle catches him in the face, and he reels back clutching at a broken nose.

    “They got a fucking magician here!” I yell to the others, and come in from the side.

    Things get real hectic, real quick. Guy comes in with the boys who went left before and lays about him with the scourge, raking the glaive-woman red across the back. She turns to fight him. Dog’s barking, and in the corner of my eye I see it sink its teeth into someone’s ankle. I close in on the magician, who drops the skull and pulls a curved knife as he sees me coming.

    We take a moment to size one another up. He’s got one knife, in his right hand. I got two.

    “Fight me, savage!” he yells at me. I say nothin’, just grin, to piss him off so he gets sloppy. Sure enough, in he comes, slashing in from my right. I step backward, feint left, and lunge forward with my right, but he sees it and dodges back and to his right. I turn to face him again.

    Rule one of knife fighting – keep your eyes on the knife, not on who’s holding it. Sure enough, he tries to pull a fast one – he switches hands on me. He drops the knife into his left hand quick as you like and thrusts with the empty right hand to try an’ make me dodge left, while slicing upward with the knife held in his left hand. I don’t fall for it – I use the knife in my right hand to parry his attack, and use the one in my left to stab him in the guts.

    “Ghhhk,” he says.

    “Nice try,” I grin, pull my knife from his guts, and run it across his neck. I step to the side as I do it so I don’t get as much blood on me.

    The whole fight, start to finish, was about six seconds long. Business like this, you’re either quick or you’re dead.

    As the magician falls, I take a moment to stomp on the skull he was using for his spells and crush it to bits – no sense leavin’ it lying around. Then I turn to see what else is happening.

    It’s bad. The two guys who were ahead of me are dead – the woman with the glaive cut one open from chin to cock, and the other is oozing blood from a hole in the head I guess came from Blondie’s pickaxe. I see another two wounded next to Guy, who’s got his hands full trying to keep the dog off them. The guy with the busted nose and Rodin are both struggling with glaive-woman, who’s drenched in blood, screaming like a banshee, and seems to be holding them both off. Blondie’s throwing knives – thankfully, not in my direction. The dog’s master is laying about him with a club. Over it all, there’s the dog barking and snarling, and a whole lotta yelling.

    “Get it off me!”

    “Hit her from the side!”


    “That damn thing’s rabid!”

    “I’ll gut you, bitch!”

    “Run for it!”


    “Would someone kill that fucking dog?!”

    Guy must have heard that last one, because when the dog comes by him next, he manages to snatch it by the collar. He picks the thing up, still snarling, and slams it as hard as he can against the side of the carriage. It whines and squeals real loud, so he slams it into the side again and it finally shuts up. Hopefully there’s still some meat on it.

    I’m running toward Blondie, hoping to get her from behind, when it hits me.


    It’s like being slugged in the guts and kicked in the crotch at the same time. Worse. White explodes in front of my eyes, and I sit down with a thump. For a second there, I’m sure I’ve had it. I close my eyes and wait for the axe to fall.

    It doesn’t. When I realize I’m still alive, I shake my head to try and get my wits together, and manage to clear it enough to focus on what’s happening again.

    Blondie, the glaive-woman, and the man who owned the dog Guy killed seem to have realized it’s hopeless, because they’re legging it across the road, trying to get to the woods. Probably that’s why I ain’t dead: glaiver yawped at me to keep me off Blondie so they could run. A loud blast of gunfire rings out – Clairwil’s boys opening fire – and the man twists and falls in the dirt. But the other two make it.

    “After them!” roars a voice I recognize as Rodin’s. I take a second to shake off the last of the dizziness and get to my feet, then join the others as we chase the two survivors into the Weald. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice someone stop to put a knife in the fallen man’s back, and grin. Serves him right for bringing the dog.


    Chapter 6: The Hellion

    Overconfidence and bloodlust make us sloppy. We charge pell-mell into the Weald, and before we’ve realized what we’re doing we’ve let the darkness and confusion split us up into a bunch of small groups rather than one big one. I lose track of Guy and Florent, and pretty soon it’s just me and one other guy wondering where the hell everyone else is.

    “Think we should turn back?” I ask. “We ain’t finding ‘em again in this mess.”

    “Yeah,” says the other guy – ugly son of a bitch by the name of Jean. “This is hopeless.”

    “Hopeless for you!” comes a voice I don’t recognize.

    We draw steel and turn to see the glaive-woman running at us out of the gloom. She swings at Jean, who barely ducks in time. He darts back to me, and the three of us size one another up.

    The glaive-woman’s screaming is the real threat – I know firsthand it’s like being slugged – but if we make sure not to stay too close to one another she won’t be able to knock us both for a loop at once. And if one of us gets behind her, we can probably win this. I wink at Jean, who starts circling around her to the left. I go right.

    “You’re a real fuckin’ hellion, woman,” I taunt, trying to goad her into charging too soon. “I’m impressed.”

    “Come closer,” she calls back, “and I’ll show you just how much of a hellion I can be.”

    “You’d like that, hey?” Jean cuts in with a harsh laugh. “Having the both of us real close.”

    “Forget him,” says I. “Killer like you, you’d make a great bandit. I’m sure the others’d let you into the crew, no questions asked. Just put the axe down and we can talk it over.”

    “You really think I’m that stupid?” she asks.

    I’m actually thinking I only need to keep her talking for a few more seconds when Jean suddenly rushes her – maybe he thought he saw an opening. But he’s still too early, and she sees him coming. Idiot! She whirls and hacks him a blow that opens up his stomach, then takes his head off on the back-stroke. As he crumples to the dirt, she turns back to me.

    “He didn’t last long,” she says with a sneer. “Will you?”

    Career as a bandit, you see some shit. See enough of it, you know when to cut your losses and run. I say nothing, but turn and flee into the bushes.

    “Coward!” I hear her roar after me, but I don’t take the bait.

    For another few minutes, maybe longer, I blunder through the Weald. As soon as I’m sure I’m away from the Hellion, I slow down and move as quietly as I can. I don’t wanna get caught alone out here, especially without a torch. After a couple of minutes, I hear yelling ahead of me, and make my way over.

    After about another half minute, I emerge into a clearing. I can make out four other people, all lit up by a still-guttering torch that’s fallen to the ground.

    One of them is Blondie – probably she’s the one dropped the torch. Another is one of our boys, who’s twisted one of her arms behind her back, and got his other arm round her neck. The third is Florent – he’s lost his hood in the fighting, and I can recognize his mug from here. He’s busy trying to get his pants off, I assume so him and his friend can have a bit of fun before they cut her throat and make their way back to the carriage. He’d probably get away with it too, except the fourth person is the Hellion, eyes blazing hate as she sneaks up behind him out of the darkness. She must have heard the noise too.

    “Hey, Blondie,” Florent taunts, struggling with the buckle. “Have you ever been fucked befo-”

    “Florent,” I yell, “Behind you!”

    Florent looks up at me, startled, before looking behind him like I wanted. By that time, it’s too late.


    The Hellion slashes sideways with the glaive and catches Florent right in the face. His skull splits open like a piece of fruit. The guy holding Blondie cries out in horror, and the moment of distraction is enough for her to slip out of his grasp. In one fluid motion, she pulls a hidden knife from her coat and pushes it up under his chin.

    “Shit,” I whisper to myself.

    They turn to face me, and I realize I’m alone, two on one. The Hellion’s face, lit from below by the fallen torch, is like something outta my worst dreams – eyes hidden in darkness, only a disembodied nose and mouth twisted with a sneer of contempt. She must’ve recognized me.

    “Back for another lesson?” she taunts.

    I may have liked Florent well enough, but he got himself killed and that’s his lookout. I’m not getting dead trying to avenge him. So I just snarl at her, and turn and run again. This time, I don’t stop for anything.

    Five or ten minutes later, I manage to find my way back to the road. Rodin, Clairwil, and a couple of the others are picking through the wreckage of the carriage. They look pissed off.

    “You find them?” asks Clairwil.

    “We got separated. Jean, Florent, and at least one other guy are all dead. I found them in a clearing,” I lie. “They must have got the drop on them while we were split up. Figured no point stayin’ around to get killed. Anyone else make it back?”

    “Fuck!” yells Rodin, ignoring my question. He’s having a tantrum, pounding the metal side of the overturned carriage. I look at Clairwil and point my thumb at Rodin.

    “What’s with him?”

    Clairwil looks grim as he answers. “Carriage had plenty of food, plenty of bandages and medicine, and no gold or valuables at all. One of those two must have nicked anything worth taking when they crawled out. All these boys dead, and we got nothing to show for it.”

    “Fuck!” yells Rodin again. I shake my head in disbelief.

    “Fuck,” I agree.


    Chapter 7: The Night

    That evening, we camp next to the cannon. We cook up a big feast of a bunch of food taken from the carriage, along with the stewed carcass of that dog. Having our bellies full helps lift our spirits a bit, but not by much.

    Entire raid’s been a disaster. We outnumbered them three to one and had a cannon at our back, and what happens? An absolute fuckin’ embarrassment is what. In exchange for three of them – four counting the mutt – we lose five killed outright, including Jean and Florent. Another guy outta Clairwil’s crew never came back from the Weald, so he’s probably a goner too. On top of that, almost everyone who wasn’t hanging back with Clairwil or the cannon was wounded – one man, Philippe, was mauled by the dog so bad we’ve been taking bets on whether or not he’ll last till morning. We did get a whole lot of bandages and healing herbs off the carriage that we used to patch him up, so I put my money on him making it through.

    Still. Food and medicine is always needed, sure, but they weren’t worth the price we paid for it. We went in this for gold, and we got squat. Everyone’s pissed, and that goes double for Rodin and Clairwil. The two of them went at each other’s throats pretty quick once Guy and the last of the boys who went into the woods get back empty-handed, blaming one another for the colossal fuckup.

    “Don’t you dare lecture me!” yells Rodin. “I’m not the one that hung back by the cannon where it was safe, doing nothing, while my boys and I were getting killed. You’re nothing but a damn coward!”

    “Oh yeah?” snarls Clairwil. “Well, I’m not the one who sent everyone charging blindly into the fucking woods! We got three dead and one missing that could all still be here if you’d let that bitch with the axe run off instead of going after her. And I’m not the one who lost all the cannonballs either.”

    You pull the cannon next time then! And you’re the one who said someone took what we were looking for outta the carriage, smart-mouth. Obviously it was her! Or maybe her friend in the blue coat. We had to go after them: they must’ve taken the goods!”

    He hurls his plate of food into the fire.

    “That fucking cunt! I get my hands on her, she’s dead!”

    I manage to stop myself from pointing out that the fucking cunt in question was the one killed three of the five that are dead, and it’s unlikely Rodin would fare any better. Best not to provoke him right now.

    Clairwil just sneers. “Big talk from someone couldn’t even beat her in a fight. Besides, how do you even know there were any valuables? Your ‘inside man’? You got the wool pulled over your eyes, you idiot. Face it: we’re fucked, and it’s your fault.”

    My fault?!”

    Rodin swings at Clairwil and belts him in the face. Clairwil responds by tackling Rodin, and within seconds the two of them are wrestling on the ground. Me and Guy and a couple of others quickly step in and pull them off one another before they can roll into the campfire.

    “There’s enough dead,” Guy says curtly. He looks disgusted with the two of them, and I can’t blame him.

    “Room for one more!” spits Rodin.

    “Fuck’s sake,” I say ‘fore I can stop myself, “Look at you. Fighting in the dirt like a couple of kids. Some bosses you are.”

    I shoulda kept my mouth shut, because Rodin uses the excuse to turn on me.

    “You shut your fucking mouth,” he says, “before I shut it for you. You got no right to talk down to me, asshole. You came back from the Weald alone, and you’re the only one seen Jean and Florent dead. Why is that? Was it ‘cause you left ‘em to die? Maybe you saw ‘em get killed and chickened out. Maybe you’re a coward too.”

    He’s hit pretty close to the mark and I ain’t proud, but unless I say something quick he’ll realize he was right. And if he does, I’m dead. No place for a coward in a business like this. I think fast.

    “Ain’t gonna apologize for not getting killed,” I say, firm as I can. “Besides, I’m not the one sitting here pointing fingers ‘stead of comin’ up with a solution.”

    “A solution?” mocks Clairwil. “And what might a ‘solution’ be for us getting fucked this hard?”

    “Well some ointment to start with,” says I. A couple of the guys laugh – including Clairwil, who snorts despite himself. “And use your heads. They couldn’t’ve gotten far before nightfall, yeah? And we know they’ll be going for the hamlet the second the sun’s up – if they last the night. They got no food. They got no more than one or two torches, tops. They got no bandages or nothin’. Just the treasure they stole.”

    “If there was any,” says Clairwil.

    “My man in town don’t make mistakes like that,” says Rodin sullenly. “There was something good in that carriage, I’m telling you.”

    “All right, well, if they’re still alive they’ll be hungry, tired, and cold,” I continue. “And we know where they’re headed. So we have a hope of catching them. All we need is a couple of boys, at least one good at tracking, to run ‘em down, cut ‘em down, and take what’s ours.”

    “And how do we know they’re still alive?” asks Rodin. “Lotta ways to die out here. The fungus-men. The spiders. Those death-cult fuckers. Or maybe the witch-woman put ‘em in her pot.”

    “If they’re dead, they’re dead, and we’re outta luck,” Guy cuts in before I can reply. “But if your man in town’s good as you say, Rodin, what they’re carrying could be worth it to try.”

    If Guy’s decided to say something, it must mean my big words sold near everyone. Hell, even Clairwil’s lookin’ at me with grudging respect. Only Rodin’s still glaring at me.

    “All right,” nods Clairwil after a couple of seconds, “I like your style. So who’s gonna go?”

    Rodin suddenly grins wickedly, and slaps me on the shoulder.

    “I think we got our first volunteer right here.”

    “Ah, fuck.”

    “I’ll even do you a favour. I’ll let you pick who’s coming with you: any two men you want.”

    This ain’t actually a favour, and Rodin knows it. He’s mad I showed him up by thinking of a plan, and this is how he’s paying me back: everyone probably likes the idea of getting the treasure back, but no one wants to get up at the crack of dawn and go into the Weald with only two men at their back. Whoever I pick’s gonna be pissed at me. Still, I don’t really have much of a choice.

    “Well,” I say after a moment to think, “I want Guy as the first man. That axe-bitch is a stone killer and I want someone good in a scrap.”

    “I’m into it,” says Guy, who thankfully doesn’t seem too mad I picked him. “Better than sitting here.”

    “Who’s your second?” asks Rodin.

    “Someone good at tracking, and preferably a decent shot with a gun. Clairwil, you got any suggestions?”

    “I got just the one,” he says. “Ho, Bressac! You’re going on a trip.”

    While Guy was more or less okay with being picked, Bressac makes no effort to hide his disgust. He spits into the fire and spends about a minute cursing while Clairwil listens indulgently. As I’m sitting back down to try and finish my food, Rodin comes and sits down beside me.

    “Don’t think this is over,” he says in a low voice. “Talking like that to me in front of the boys? You better fucking put some money where your mouth is. I promise you: come back empty-handed, and I’ll have your guts for garters.”

    “You don’t wear garters,” says I.

    “Keep tempting me, and I might just start,” he snaps. “Oh, and by the way – Philippe just bled to death. You lost your bet. Pay up.”

    “Damn it,” I say, and disgustedly pass him some coins.


    Chapter 8: The Trail

    ‘Bout an hour or so before the sun rises, we wake one another up and go get our stuff together. Along with our weapons, we take two bags, packing flint, tinder, eight torches, two yards of bandages, two doses of antivenom, a compass, some bullets and powder for Bressac’s rifle, and enough food and water to last the three of us two days – just in case. Out here, it pays to be prepared.

    “You two are carrying the packs,” says Guy, when we look at him. He’s never been a morning person, and he’s cranky as hell. The fact the Weald’s cold as the grave this time of night ain’t helping his mood none either – I can see my breath by the light of the fire, and the three of us are shivering. “I spent half yesterday lugging those fucking cannonballs.”

    “I spent half yesterday lugging the fucking cannon, and you don’t see me complaining,” I point out. I’m tempted to point out that he spent half yesterday losing the cannonballs, but pissing off someone his size is a bad idea.

    “Besides, the biggest man should carry the load,” Bressac argues. I nod in agreement, but Guy’s having none of it.

    “The biggest man should get his way,” Guy snaps back. “And I don’t feel like carrying that shit.”

    Can’t argue with that, so I quietly shoulder the pack. After a moment, Bressac follows suit, muttering to himself, and the three of us head out.

    This close to dawn, there’s almost no one up – just the cannon crew playin’ cards by the light of a candle. I give the matchman a wave as we go past, and he waves back. Once we’re out of the camp, we pick our way down to the wreck of the carriage, then turn off into the section of woods we charged into yesterday. As soon as we’re into the Weald proper, Guy lights a torch so we don’t have to grope around in the dark. Then Bressac starts hunting for their trail.

    Bressac’s a whiner – he starts complaining the second we’re away from the camp, talking about how much of a pain in the ass it is to come out here, how there’s no point to it and so on. I quickly tune it out, but all the same he don’t let up for more than a few minutes at a time ‘til Guy roars at him to shut his yap. He mostly keeps quiet after that. Still, he knows what he’s doing when it comes to tracking. I tried to find my way around in this mess, I’d get lost for sure, but with Bressac looking around it’s not twenty minutes gone by before we emerge into the clearing where Florent died.

    Something ate most of the two bodies last night – a scavenger probably. I can only tell which body belonged to Florent because the Hellion’s glaive took off most of his face above the nose, and it’s hard to mistake a death that messy. That, and when I look at the corpse’s teeth – easy, since the lips are gone – I see the familiar set of cavities. I quickly check his pockets, but find nothing: if he had anything of value on him, Blondie and the Hellion must’ve taken it. Guy lumbers over to have a look as I’m finishing up.

    “They cleaned him out,” I say. “Nothing but leftovers.”

    “Hmph,” he replies. “Done the same in their place.”

    “Yeah,” I nod. “I would’ve too. Shame though. I liked him.”

    He just shrugs. “One less man means we get a bigger share when we find the treasure.”

    If we find the treasure,” says Bressac.

    “Shut it,” Guy and I snap at the same time.

    “You shut it,” he says wearily. “And take a look at this.”

    He holds up a strip of blue cloth.

    “The blonde had a coat this colour,” he says. “Must’ve snagged it on a branch. And look – there’s a bootprint in the dirt here. So that means they went north, toward the Hamlet.”

    “The hell did they know which way the Hamlet is?” I ask. “Don’t think any of them had a compass…”

    “Last night, you said they’d be heading that way for sure,” observes Guy.

    “Er…” I croak, caught off-guard. “Well, I didn’t think of that until now. That they might get lost, I mean.”

    “Seems your first instinct was right anyhow,” says Bressac. “Maybe they do have a compass. Or they could just be heading in the right direction by luck. Don’t matter, anyway, as long as we can follow ‘em.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” I admit. I take a moment, then start thinking aloud. “Well, it weren’t more’n an hour they could’ve travelled before night fell, and they probably weren’t stupid enough to try and travel in the dark…”

    “Meaning they’re close,” says Bressac. “Hell, if they didn’t try leaving before dawn like us, we might still catch them sleeping.”

    “So we gotta move quiet, then,” says Guy. “You’re sure you can find them?”

    “I found their trail, didn’t I?” he replies. “They won’t escape me. Count on it.”

    That’s good enough for us, so we follow him back into the brush.



    I like this. Might I suggest that when the adventurers come back, they bring a few familiar faces to take on the Brigands, such as, say, a Highwayman who used to work with the Brigands and a Bounty Hunter who’s been collecting prices on Brigand heads?


    <p abp=”530″>I like this. Might I suggest that when the adventurers come back, they bring a few familiar faces to take on the Brigands, such as, say, a Highwayman who used to work with the Brigands and a Bounty Hunter who’s been collecting prices on Brigand heads?

    Hey, thanks for reading!

    I actually decided to continue writing this story elsewhere, since I didn’t think anyone was reading the copy here. I’ve been updating to – I actually finished the story entirely quite recently.

    Since I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to post twelve times in a row, I’ll leave a link to where I put the story on – interested readers can continue the story from the next chapter here.



    I just read the full thing and I must say I quite like it. It really gives a layer of depth to guys who are usually just bad guys that you mow down without much problem. My only problems are that it seemed like the main character seemed to brow-beat the Hellion a bit too often and (though this next one is a bit personal) that you killed Dismas. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Highwayman. Aside from that, it’s great.


    <p abp=”580″>I just read the full thing and I must say I quite like it. It really gives a layer of depth to guys who are usually just bad guys that you mow down without much problem. My only problems are that it seemed like the main character seemed to brow-beat the Hellion a bit too often and (though this next one is a bit personal)


    that you killed Dismas. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Highwayman


    . Aside from that, it’s great.

    You should probably wrap that last part in spoiler tags! :p

    Thanks for reading, and thank you for the feedback. Regarding the Hellion – could you give me a more specific example of a case where you thought it didn’t work? I’m always interested in hearing about areas where I can improve.

    As for Dismas – well, as I mention in the afterword,


    unfair deaths have always been a staple of Darkest Dungeon. :p



    Loved the tale



    Reading the entire history now

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