The Bushranger's Bayonet
A creaking cart with a canvas roof. It had pulled up along the road into town not too long ago, but the people were wary of it. The horse hitched to it, though looking healthy, smelled different to the others that walked the town.
The group of young bushrangers, now numbering five and pulling from three different schools, walked back to town with monster parts to sell.
“It’s lucky there was four of them there; we’ve got enough parts to sell for fifty pounds without issue.”
“You’re more chipper than usual, Mara. Did you finally get that stick outta your arse?”
Jack yelped in pain as Mara’s knuckles cracked against his forehead. “Hmph. Hard-headed as usual. Did you forget to stop bashing your head on rocks?”
Arthur laughed at their antics. Stopping themselves dead, they looked at him in shock.
‘Is that the first time he’s actually laughed?’ was the thought rushing through both their heads.
As they walked along the road, laden with the spoils of a successful hunt, a voice came from the depths of the stall in the cart.
“Good hunting today, my good fellows?”
Connie turned toward the voice. “Whatsit to you, dickhead?” Jack, taking charge as usual, tried to remain civil. “Quite” He tried to fake an imperial accent. “We managed to catch four giant toads, but they were so big we had to butcher them on the spot.”
Mara nudged him with one of her boots. Jack looked down to see her but couldn’t help but let his eyes wander all the way up to her thighs, where her boots ended. He smirked slightly before she nudged him with her fist.
Jack, dropping the accent, continued on. “If you’re looking to buy some parts or meat, we’d be happy to trade. Have you got a good amount of coin on you?”
The strange man looked at him with suspicion. That sort of question would only ever be thrown out by a really stupid bandit.
“No,” The man said through clenched teeth “I have something more interesting.” He turned to the side of his cart and undid several latches. He swung out a few panels and upon them hung guns.
Lots and lots of guns.
the man reached for one of them, placing it on the flimsy wooden counter he stood behind. “I have a job for people of your skill. There’s this creature that stole a few pieces of merchandise from my wagon after tripping me up on the road. If you can bring my stock back, I’ll sell you this here weapon for twelve pounds of toad meat.”
Connie strode over, his giant frame towering over the man. He picked up the weapon, inspecting it.
“So what’s this one do, exactly?” His nasally voice surprising the merchant.
“That there’s a new type of scattergun. You can load it with shells, and it gives a good spray at short range. A very practical weapon for home defence or hunting big game.”
Cat, smelling a trap, had snuck off to some place nearby, leaving almost no trace of her existence. Jack had also taken note of the strange situation. “Alright, what’s the catch?”
The merchant smiled, but his eyes remained cold. “It’s very simple. All you need to do is leave me a deposit of 30 pounds and come back with its head for a refund. Hesitantly, Jack reached into his coin pouch, dropping the requested sum on the counter without hesitation. “Now describe the creature in as much detail as you can.” He waved Mara over and nodded his head toward the man. Connie headed back toward Arthur proudly showing off his new toy.
The gun salesman nodded. “So, I was walking up the road with my donkey’s reins in hand when all of a sudden I tripped. This red creature that’s less than a foot tall came out of a tree and stole some of my merchandise as well as some food. It was about a half-hour walk out of town along the southern road.
Jack’s mind began to comb through the lists of monsters in his head.
Less than a foot.
Trips its targets.
“There’s a good chance we’re dealing with a solitary Thinan-Malkia.”
The gun seller looked at him in confusion. “A Thinan what?”
“Thinan-Malkia. Commonly called the Merchant’s Bane or the Foot-snare Imp. Local beast that usually just hunt small game but like to steal shit too. Shouldn’t be an issue. We’ll be back with its remains in no time. Make sure you have my money.” Connie hung the gun on his belt, picking up some ammunition from the counter too. They shared a mutual glance, nodding at one another. A simple gesture between two men that could convey emotion better than a million words.
They headed out along the road, ready to face this newest challenge.
Following the road, they reached a patch of forest before stopping. Cat had, in total silence, slipped away yet again. Jack crouched to examine the dirt. It had been disturbed in a perpendicular line across the road, showing that something had rather clumsily set up a trip snare by laying out the string.
“We’ve found the spot.”
Mara smirked, pulling out her rifle. “So, what’s the plan?”
Jack, chuckling, began to run through his thoughts. “So, I was thinking that we should wait for the beast to come back and set up another snare and catch it as it makes off with the goods of another hapless merchant. It’ll lead us back to its hiding place and we’ll get to loot it.”
“Or we could just shoot it,” Connie grunted in his nasally fashion.
Mara laughed, petting Arthur’s head as he stood there silently. He pulled his opal dagger out and placed it on the ground. “These things like to steal, right? It’ll come by to steal the shiny knife and we can catch it in the open.
Jack nodded, stroking his chin. “Good idea, but I think we should set up a snare.”
“But these things know snares and it’ll just run.” Came the red-headed snark.
“Shit on my poetic justice, why don’t you?” Jack retorted at her.
“I’m not shitting on your justice, I’m shitting on your stupidity.”
Jack rolled his eyes, “I’m trying to be classy, you’re just being stubborn.”
“That’s rich, coming from you of all people.” Mara got closer to him, puffing up her cheeks in frustration and standing on the balls of her feet to try and meet him at eye level. Staring each other down, their mutual glare began to soften as they gazed into one another’s eyes, mesmerised by what they saw…
The crack of a rifle interrupted them, both springing into a combat ready pose. Kat walked out of the underbrush with a squat creature dangling from her slender hand.
“I believe we have our quarry. Shall we cash this one in, or do you want to express your mutual longing through argument some more?”
“What mutual longing?” came the response in stereo.
Arthur giggled as he played with his opal dagger. “Can we get some food back in town?”
Mara knelt down, petting him on the head. “Of course, sweetie. We’ll get a nice hot meal.”
“Knowing you, it’ll be accompanied by half a dozen mugs of ale and a fistfight.”
Jack walked into town that day with a swollen cheek.