Humor Science Fiction posted May 13, 2022 Chapters: -1- 2 


Crime Times in Fantasy Climes

A chapter in the book A Penny for you Fought

Murder House

by Fleedleflump

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

I opened the door to an odour with a physical presence. It smelled like a good night out - more specifically, like the various fluids one wakes up amongst in the early hours of the next morning. You know - that moment where you're not sure if the sensation in your throat is dried vomit, a poor kissing choice from the night before, or your stomach trying to escape. Your brain feels like the ringer in the town crier's bell and your joints are stiffer than a corpse in a harem ... And some bastard nearby is cooking bacon.

Sergeant Mastik's face turned to me, all burning eyes and twiddled moustache. His narrow features and lanky frame gave him the look of a desert insect but the expression could have been stolen from a vulture. If poshness and intensity had a child, they'd name him - well, this was him, standing before me, blinking as though I was too bright for his eyes.

"Please close the door," he said. "I need the gloom to discern intent."

"Are you sure? It smells like a year-old brothel room without wash facilities. And who's cooking the hog roast?"

Not even the ghost of a smile touched his lips. Even the young watchman standing behind Mastik kept a straight face. Tough crowd. "I must see the room how the killer did. I need to get inside his head. This was not a crime committed in the light."

"Trust me - there isn't much in most killers' heads. Just grey mush and bad intentions." I let the door shut out the morning, leaving me in a cramped abode that was essentially one room. Two straw mats occupied one corner, watched over by a rough table with two rickety chairs. The floor was compacted dirt with a small rug in the middle. A stone hearth was probably the most valuable item here, and was built with the corresponding amount of care, a single pot braced above the flames.

And then there were the bodies.

One was stapled to an ancient rocking chair by so many arrows, I was only marginally sure it was a woman - albeit a pincushion woman. The other ... well, he'd fought, presumably. His arm was roasting in the fire and the rest of him took me a while to locate - pinioned to the ceiling by enough timber that the nearby forest must've had a new clearing.

"Tom and Winny Miller," said Mastik, his voice croakier than a dying frog. "They deserve justice."

I nodded, feeling something angry flopping in my guts like a burning tapeworm. "You'll get no argument from me. Whoever did this is either colder than a snow suppository or as mad as a box of goblins."

Those intense eyes turned on me once again. I swear - there was almost a smile hiding beneath them. "Are you a trained criminal profiler?"

"No, I've just fought a lot of weirdos in my time." I glanced again at the bodies. "I'm all for helping you out, here, but what exactly do you need the Companions for?"

Mastik dismissed the rookie watchman with a flick of his head and waited until the young guy was out of the dwelling. "The hypernatural is at work here." Distaste twisted his lips. I know it was distaste because he looked like he just ate yesterday's Jolly Jester breakfast. From the rubbish heap. With a slobbery bite already taken out of it. And bits stuck to- You get the point.

"Seems plausible," I said, looking up. "That, or some inventive murderers on stilts with very itchy bow fingers." He was peering at me like it might tell him my life story. I held up my hands. "I'm not taking the piss - honest. I'm just being flippant. I want to catch these guys - trust me."

"The hypernatural is at work," he repeated. "And my hands are tied by the gimp."

I blinked, caught off guard for a moment. "Hey man, what you do behind closed doors is your own concern - I won't judge."

"No, the GIMP. The Gnome Initiative for Meritorious Policing. It's an agreement preventing us from using magic to solve criminal cases. It's seen as cheating, apparently, and the gnomes consider it disrespectful. Of course, the criminal element is bound by no such accord." He shrugged - the most colloquial thing I'd seen him do. "Your group has a reputation for getting the job done. I have leave to contract out services where it may be beneficial to my investigation. I'd like to hire the Companions. You will be thoroughly recompensed."

He walked closer, until those eyes almost met my own and his moustache quivered like a rodent overflowing with impotent rage. "I'll keep investigating the way I know. You do what you do. I don't care how you achieve it. Avenge this poor family. Bring them justice." A long breath exited through his nose, billowing bristles. "Do what I can't do. Catch these bastards."

*****

Morning in Pennylast is like having the bag pulled off your head after being kidnapped - you don't know what you're going to see. It might be a cheering crowd singing you an embarrassing song, or a jeering one waiting to see you hanged. It could be a dark room full of hard bastards with sticks or a dusty street strewn with dead bodies. I mean, once, it was a day where everything was blue except for a rainbow-hued vortex in the sky - it turned out a local Commseer got into an argument with a gnarly witch over who's magic was more valid and they forgot other people had to live with the consequences of their squabbling. It took the Gnome Council many days to tidy that one up and explain to both parties that neither one's magic was, in fact, worth a toss.

Oh, and I know what you're thinking (no, not that), and yes - I do get kidnapped quite a lot.

Anyway, today, Pennylast was a relatively normal trading town. I strode through the bustling market and its questionable smells on the way to meet my crew. Being built on a convergence of two roads, its population was a mixture of traders (in every commodity imaginable), fighters and low-level Commseers, whose ability to communicate telepathically over distance made them semi-valuable. Of course, the damage it did to their minds rendered most of them nuttier than schizophrenic squirrel poo.

A town crier was doing his best to be heard over bartering, fights and the odd mugging, saying something about plans for new buildings and a crackdown on organised crime.

I felt sure if that was going to be relevant later, he'd have made himself heard more clearly.

*****

"Okay," I said, dealing the metal pins across the tavern table like cards. "Here are your Sheriff's badges - no sniggering." My fellow adventurers picked up their brooches with varying levels of suspicion. Harry - my dwarven getaway carter - pinned his enthusiastically to a jerkin pocket, beard bristling with pride. Elven wizard Lindon picked his up gingerly between thumb and forefinger. Opening his robe with the other hand, he dropped the badge into an internal pocket. His nose was so twisted, he looked like he'd encountered a pleasant-smelling drill bit.

I held up my hands in exasperation. "Lindon, it's a badge of authority - not a cowpat."

"Uh take a wee bit o' pleasure from bein' the right side o' the law," said Harry.

Lindon sniffed. "Well, it makes me feel dirty."

The Dragon's Tail was vaguely busy, by which I mean there was one other table occupied and it was the other side of the common room. It hasn't changed much since our last adventure - the floors are more alive than the patrons, the beer is cheap and the smell could get work as a bouncer. In the weeks since we rescued the gnome party, it's become our base of operations, and Olaf - the innkeep - doesn't complain.

I'm Rozlyn, by the way, and you're following along on my adventures. We've been doing small jobs around the town of Pennylast. Frighten a cheating husband, retrieve stolen goods, and one memorable time that saw us competing in underground dogfighting tourneys - as the dogs (it's a long story). Anyway, back to business.

I looked at my final team member. Terence was nominally human, if humans were constructed from slabs of meat with iron skeletons. He hailed from a tribe of barbarians who considered most human traits weak - you know, traits like talking and empathy. Oh, and not killing people for random reasons like walking funny or breathing in an offensive manner. On formal days, he dressed up in a fur loin cloth, apparently for the purpose of holding his weaponry more than any other reason.

"Erm," I looked him up and down. "I suppose you could wear your badge in your hair?"

Terence shrugged, opened the Sheriff's medallion, and pushed the pin unceremoniously through one nipple. The others sucked in breaths and my fingers gripped the table edge in response to a wibbly feeling that danced on the bottom of my tummy.

"Dirt's bumholes, you're a wee nutter!" roared Harry.

Olaf chose that moment to arrive with a tray of spicy root vegetables. He took one look at the blood trickling down Terence's chest and toppled over backwards with a percussive crash.

"Pain's not real," said Terence. "That's what the tribe Dadboss says. Only killing's real, and stopping enemies killing you. Nothing else is real."

After a few moments' silence, we all picked up tankards and slugged some ale. There didn't seem to be any comeback to that. Harry helped Olaf off the floor and then prised the dropped vegetables from the tavern's floorboards.

The innkeep shuffled away. "You're paying for those," he muttered.

"So, what's Mastik like?" said Lindon. "I hear he's a somewhat intense fellow."

I nodded. "I told him to trust me about fifty times - do I need his approval or something?"

"He has authority. If he says you're doing the right thing, you can feel vindicated for all the sick, twisted shit you do."

"Like what, Lindon?" I tutted. "You're the one wrestling with your conscience. Don't think I've forgotten our conversation in the Harries' wagon."

He was turning redder than a bashful radish. "You know, like killing guards who are just doing their jobs, stabbing guys through the balls, stealing wagons, and talking to your friends in a mildly disrespectful manner."

"Yeah," I stammered, caught a little off guard. "I'm properly evil, alright."

"Uh got te ask, Lass," said Harry's beard, cutting off Lindon's comeback. "Do ye have a plan?"

Lindon tried to nod whilst sipping ale and spluttered, coughing beer from his nose. "I don't even know where to start," he wheezed.

"Start with the dossers and work your way up to the ponces," said somebody behind me. Our table went silent as we all turned to look at the newcomer. He was a guy - six feet tall - who might have looked bulky if Terence wasn't sitting nearby. Dark, hard leather armour clad his frame and a business-like pommel peeped from his belt. His hair looked like somebody flat-ironed the top, compacted and dark. It crowned a clean-shaven face with eyes that danced with reflected light. I'm not talking a waltz here, either - more like the frenetic gyrations a hopeless lunatic.

He smiled and the smile was ambiguous. "Awright, me old muckers."

"Darling," said Lindon. "Whatever does that mean?"

I threw the elf a warning look. Don't play with your food until you know what it tastes like. "This is a Companions meeting, mate. If you've come to hire us, I'm afraid we're already engaged."

He grabbed my hand and I let him - no danger in this place. His lips brushed the back of it, a wisp of warm breath caressing my skin. "I hope you personally ain't engaged, Lady Rozlyn. There ain't many fit birds left round 'ere worth me time." I pulled my hand back, trying to maintain a composed exterior despite my stomach betraying me with cartwheels.

"The last person who talked to our esteemed leader that way lost his tongue," said Lindon quietly.

The newcomer grinned, ticking a few boxes in my nethers. "I bet it was worth it."

Harry was vibrating with affront next to me and Terence looked oblivious. I cleared my throat loudly. "Don't mind my guard dogs. They're here for your protection." I opened my arms. "Now, how can we help you?"

"It's me what's here to help you. Constable Smiff, at your service." The way he pronounced 'constable' made it sound like an equine brothel. "I'm on secondment, or somefink. Point is, I'm 'ere to lend a hand."

"And yer great wisdom, young lad, is te start with tha poor and work yer way up?" Harry didn't sound convinced.

Smiff pulled up a chair without asking, planting himself uncomfortably between me and Lindon. He peered at the dwarf, now across from him. "The dossers know everyfink. They'll be the ones what know what's going down." He placed a hand flat on the table and flicked his eyes sideways to glance at me. "But the ponces ... one o' them'll be behind it. People get silver spoons up their arses, suddenly they fink no one else matters."

Terence let out a thunderous belch that actually wafted my hair. "Money's not real," he said.

"That's right." Smiff was grinning. "But peeps fink it is, so they get uppity. I seen posh bastards piss 'emselves for no reason and poor sods come save 'em for no fanks, fanks very much." He shrugged. "Story of life, me old muckers. Story of life."

Olaf appeared once again, squinting suspiciously at the newcomer as he carried a tray of lunches to another table. "You want some more food?"

Terence reached over, plucked a sandwich from the tray, and crammed it in his mouth. When Olaf started to object, the huge barbarian pointed to the badge pinned to his nipple, then got up and strolled towards the exit.

"Looks like we're on our way," I muttered as the others got to their feet.

"He can't do that," moaned Olaf.

I patted him on the shoulder. "Put it on my tab, like usual."

"You don't have a tab!" he shouted at my departing back, but I could tell he wasn't too worried.

Lindon coughed quietly, inclining his head towards Smiff. Do we trust him? I shrugged expansively - what choice did we have?

We emerged into sunlight, almost obscured by Terence, who was peering intently at every group of commoners he could see. His forehead was so wrinkled, he looked like a confused prune after an afternoon in the sun.

I sighed. "They're not all suspects, Terence." I waved to the others. "Come on - we'll talk to some poor people. Smiff, you be thinking about who - but before that, I need to make a stop."

"We ate already," said Harry, winking.

"Aye, lad," I replied, trying to put on the Dwarf's deep voice. "But if we're gunney figit, uh needs meself sum harder teets."

*****

Benchmark the blacksmith raised his eyebrows, hands planted firmly on his hips. "I'm telling you, the lad's done nothing but work on perfecting your armour, Roz. I can't just give away his time. He deserves recompense."

"Don't give me that. I saw him peeping when I bent down to look at your new dirk display. Did that just happen to end up on a bottom shelf opposite the alcove he's hiding in? Is he back there, imagining me doing it again without my leathers? Is he mentally running his young hands across soft, warm places with an inexplicably assured touch? Am I moaning breathily and begging him to reach around and cup-"

A sound like curtains being dropped came from the alcove. Lindon leaned sideways to look. "Yep - he's fainted. And my trousers feel two sizes smaller."

"Strange - comatose teenagers don't do it for me, personally."

"Hey, that's not what I meant!"

I fixed my best unimpressed stare on Benchmark. "You sold my horny elven friend here a Short Sword Plus One. Really? I mean, I know he's an idiot, but he's an idiot who can make toast without a grill and occasionally look places without physically going there ... Okay, so he's not sounding very impressive now I say it aloud, but he is a wizard and I'm still not letting you get away with it."

I could almost feel Lindon glaring at me. "Oi!"

Benchmark held his hands out to his sides in a gesture of innocence, turning his eyes to Lindon. "Have you fought with the weapon since I sold it to you?"

"Err, yes." Lindon blinked. He looked like someone certain he was being tricked but unsure how.

The blacksmith re-emphasized his hands. "Well, there you have it. You got in a fight using my weapon, and you're not dead. What better proof of quality can you get?"

I sighed, beckoning impatiently. "Hand over my armour, okay? And it had better fit properly now. I'll tell all my friends to shop here - I promise."

"They all shop here anyway."

"Then I'll tell them to smile while you're fleecing them.

"Fine." He lifted my breastplate from behind the counter. It no longer resembled two prize-winning watermelons, which was a start. "The lad did say he wanted to check your cup size properly before he'd be fully happy with it."

"I bet he did." I snatched the armour from him. "Tell him if it fits, I'll blow him a kiss next time he's peeping at me. Oh, and Benchmark?" I headed for the exit.

"Hmm?"

"Make sure you say the 'a kiss' bit."



First Chapter And More contest entry

Recognized

#11
May
2022


Genre is Fantasy Comedy, but there's no easy way to define that!

UK English with some UK slang and dialect - imagine Harry with a Scottish accent and Smiffy from South London (think Guy Ritchie films).

This is a sequel to another story that needs work before I post it, which is why there are a couple of references, but nothing that will get in the way (this is its own story).


Characters

The Companions - A group of mercenaries who take odd jobs for cash. Used to be the wrong side of the law and now aren't so sure.

Rozlyn - Leader of The Companions. Sarcastic and doesn't take crap.

Harry - Dwarven getaway carter (of old). Scottish accent. Only recently grew a beard. Been with Rozlyn the longest.

Lindon - Elven wizard, kind of useless, often randy.

Terence - Huge barbarian. Generally oblivious. Handy in a barny.

Smiff - Cockney Watch Deputy. We don't trust him yet.


Mild language warning.

I hope you enjoy the read.
Pays 10 points and 52 member cents.


Save to Bookcase Promote This Share or Bookmark
Print It Print It View Reviews

You need to login or register to write reviews. It's quick! We only ask four questions to new members.


© Copyright 2022. Fleedleflump All rights reserved.
Fleedleflump has granted FanStory.com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.