|Bounty x Hunter
Author: Jax Creation PM
The Crossroads Bounty Hunter is famous for taking down the most dangerous of marks, so when Roland is captured he expects to end up in a cell. But Eliah has no intention of cashing in on his bounty; the immortal Aeonari are being slaughtered and Roland's going to help find the man responsible, even if she has to tie him up and drag him along. [Comedy / Action / Romance]Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 7 - Words: 17,022 - Reviews: 66 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 20 - Updated: 06-05-13 - Published: 10-16-12 - id: 3065981
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N (Jan 28th): Added new prologue, therefore resulting in all chapters being pushed back by one. Apologies for the haphazard updating!
Snakes on a Train
Siris the Snakehead was itching to shoot someone. He strutted up and down the aisle, taunting the passengers as his companions hastily collected what they could from the passengers. He revelled in the hostages' undisguised fear, directing his pistol at the more fidgety ones, secretly daring them to give him an excuse to blow a hole in them. Unfortunately no one in the audience appeared to be willing to play hero and provide him with some target practice.
"Come now, ladies and gentlemen. Let's get them valuables out quickly, we don't have all day!" he bellowed raucously, sneering as he watched them turn out their pockets and empty their coin purses. Things were going just as planned. However, the ceaseless bawling coming from the rear corner of the car was getting on his nerves.
The brigand spun on his heels and stormed down the to the small booth to confront the source of the noise. A young couple huddled together in their seats, the wailing infant sitting in the wife's lap. "Can't you shut that brat up?" he demanded.
The mother paled as she rocked her baby. "I-I'm sorry, sir! I'm trying, but she's disturbed by all the noise."
"Then try harder, wench!" roared the bandit, drenching the unfortunate woman in spittle.
"P-please, sir, you're making it worse. I can't calm her if you continue to yell like that."
"Are you saying it's my fault, wench?" snarled Siris, waving his revolver.
"N-no, sir, of course not! I-I just meant—"
She flinched as he glowered. "Are you disagreeing with me now?"
"N-no, I mean yes—I mean…" Terrified, she fell silent and directed a pleading look at her husband. The man shook his head slightly and set his jaw, staring determinedly at the trembling fists in his lap. Cradled in its mother's arms the infant began to howl anew. The brigand gritted his teeth and cocked his pistol.
"SHUT THAT GODDAMNED BRAT UP, NOW!"
The woman screamed and held her baby closer. Her husband yelled and reached over in a futile attempt to shield her. The revolver went off with a deafening bang.
Slowly, the young woman opened her eyes and saw only black. For a moment she panicked, thinking that she was dead, but then she realised that was looking at a mass of swirling black cloth.
Siris was stunned. Where in Oblivion had this joker come from?
He vaguely recalled seeing a man in a black cloak sitting at the counter on the other side of the carriage—when had he come over here? Siris hadn't even noticed that the bastard had moved until a vice-like grip had clamped down his wrist and redirected his shot towards the skies as his finger had squeezed the trigger. The bandit hadn't really intended on shooting the woman or her kid, but still, he thought incredulously, it had to impossible for someone to react in the split-second it took to fire off a shot.
"That," the cloaked meddler said quietly, "was dangerous."
Siris very nearly dropped his revolver as the fingers wrapped around his wrist tightened considerably. The bandit's bones creaked beneath the crushing pressure.
"Don't you have any shame?" continued the faceless passenger. "Pointing your gun at defenceless women and children; what a coward."
Around them, the other passengers murmured their agreement. Siris could feel their fear waning. His face turned purple as he struggled fruitlessly to pull out of the other man's clutches. "Bastard, unhand me! I'll kill you, I'll fuckin' kill you! Don't you have any idea who I am? I am—"
"Siris the Snakehead—or should that be Neilan McCarthy?" Eliah grinned as Siris—or Neilan, rather—went wide-eyed at the mention of his real name. "A Lorenite bandit imprisoned for mugging and highway robbery in the Free Nations of Thaedris at the cost of a fifty gold sovereign bounty. I know exactly who you are. The question is; what are you doing here?"
The brigand paled when he saw the gleam of white teeth in the shadows of the black cowl. He remembered seeing that image a few months ago… right before he'd been cuffed and thrown into the gaol beneath the Renartian Citadel. He glanced at the pin at the neck of the cloak and swallowed. "Oh, shit, you're—"
Eliah didn't bother to let him finish. Moving rapidly, she yanked the bandit forward and made a swift chopping blow to the bony ridge just below the back of his skull. His eyes rolled up to the back of his head and he crumpled to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
Roland whistled from his place on his stool. She'd used the exact same manoeuvre on the leader of the slave traders, Khadim, back at the Heron yesterday. He scratched his head, was it really only yesterday that he'd been captured?
He let the thought go as a wild cry filled the air from the other side of the dining car and one of Siris's followers began to charge down the aisle. The thief glanced at Eliah, who had stooped to bind the bandit leader with a length of rope pulled out from beneath her cloak. She turned at the noise and then looked directly at Roland, as if she were expecting him to do something.
Roland sighed and stuck out a foot, watching silently as the brigand tripped and tumbled head over heels, his sword skidding down the aisle. Roland hopped out of his seat and scooped up the blade, gently pressing the trip to the hollow at the base of the man's throat. "Sorry, mate," he said with an apologetic shrug. "Gotta do what the bounty hunter demands or it'll be me in your place."
The bandit spat on his boots.
Roland grimaced slightly and glanced at the last of the trio. The youth blanched and scrambled to unsheathe his sword. Roland shook his head. "I wouldn't bother if I were you, lad. Sword or not, you're going to end up in shackles."
The boy hesitated for a moment. Coming to a decision, he dropped to his knees and raised his hands into the air.
Roland flinched slightly as the sound of chains clinked in his ear. He looked over his shoulder to find Eliah holding out a set of manacles.
"Err—those aren't for me are they?"
"Of course not, you fool. I need you to chain him up so we can go and clear out the other carriages."
"We?" repeated Roland stupidly as he took the irons and clamped them around his captive's wrists, securing the man to one of the bar stools.
"You've got a sword, don't you? Here, you can have this pistol too."
Roland blinked and fumbled as the bounty hunter flung Siris's silver pistol at him. He caught it and blinked. "Eh? You're giving this to me?" He eyed her suspiciously. "What's the catch?"
"There is none—provided that you don't do something stupid like try to shoot me in the back."
"Huh, there's an idea," said Roland jokingly. He winced as Eliah emitted a death aura from beneath her hood and quickly added, "Don't worry, even I'm not that stupid."
"I agree; you're stupid, but not quite that stupid."
As Roland spluttered with indignation, Eliah turned her attention to the surrendered member of the bandit crew. The boy swallowed and cringed a little as the black-cloaked figure loomed above him.
"Relax, kid. Just tell me what I want to know, and I won't hurt you."
He just stared back at her with wide-eyes.
Roland sighed and scratched his head. "I've told you before, haven't I? Hearing that isn't exactly reassuring."
"Shut up, Roland."
The thief shrugged. "I'm just saying… violence doesn't solve everything."
"Funny, it's worked perfectly fine for me over the last year and a half," retorted Eliah. She glanced at the youth again. "I don't remember seeing you or your hot-headed partner's faces amongst Siris's band the last time I caught him. You new?"
The boy shook his head fervently. "No, sir. Me name's Mica, I've been part o' this group for a while. It's the Snakehead who's the new one. The three o' us serve under Morinth. She 'n' Siris were cellmates in gaol. Escaped together and picked us folk off the street."
"Morinth?" repeated Roland and Eliah in unison. They paused and exchanged looks.
"You know her?" asked Eliah.
Roland shrugged. "Sure I do, she's the 'Red Widow,' a thief and an assassin. We're in the same line of business so we've crossed paths on occasion. Doesn't have any issue with killing witnesses or competitors, I tell you now. She's tried to shiv me in the back more times than I care to count. I take it she's on your bounty list?"
"Of course. Her bounty is double the size of yours."
"…Why do I feel like you're trying to insult me? Anyway, she won't be easy to take down. The woman's got illusionary magic to rival the conjurers in the Renartian Circus."
Eliah snorted contemptuously. "Shadows and illusions do not work on me. My main concern is why she's on this train. Pillaging from defenceless travellers isn't her style. I don't suppose you have the answer to that question, do you, Mica?"
"Err—I do, but I'm not 'sposed to say…"
Eliah cracked her knuckles.
"Ah, but I'll tell you anyway! She sent us out to the other carriages as a distraction… mainly a-cause the Snakehead wouldn't shut up about wanting to make some coin. We were supposed to make sure that no one disturbed her while she carried out her job."
"What job?" growled Eliah. She could see where this was going.
"Don't make me hit you, boy."
He chewed his lower lip and blurted, "She's got a contract on one of the passengers in the private compartments—one of the nobility from Valles, I think. That's all I know, I swear!" He cringed as the last words tumbled from his lips, expecting the bounty hunter to punch him for being unable to divulge more information. She didn't though. Instead she pulled another pair of shackles from beneath her cloak and chained him to the compartment door.
"Nobility from the Kingdom of Valles…" she muttered and paused when she realised that Roland was frowning at her. "What?"
"I've been wondering for a while now, where do you keep pulling those shackles from? It's almost like you pull them out from your—owowowowow!" He yelped as Eliah pinched his ear and twisted.
"I'd tell you to stop being stupid, but we both know that's not going to happen. Come on, we need to get back to our compartment. I have a feeling that little miss priestess-in-training is in danger."
Myra sat on the floor of the compartment, nursing a bruised forehead. She'd somehow managed to smack it on the edge of the opposite seat when the sudden jarring stop had catapulted her out of her own chair. "By the Goddess, that hurt…" she moaned. "What happened?"
"Nothing good, I'd say," said Col gruffly as he grabbed his charge by the elbow and hauled her back into her chair. "You hurt?"
She waved him off. "I'm fine, just a little bump on the head."
"Alright, I'm going to see if I can find out what's going on. Stay put, you hear."
Col scowled at her. "No, not, 'yea, yea.' When you say that, I know that you're not listening to a word I'm saying. I'm not going to get in trouble with your royal father because you ignored my orders and ran off to get yourself tangled up in something dangerous again, Princess Myrathina."
Myra sighed and plastered what she hoped was a sincere smile onto her face as she said sweetly, "I swear upon my father's crown not to leave the confines of this compartment until you return, Master Col."
"Whatever. Just try and stick to it this time," grumbled Col as he unsheathed his sword and stepped out into the corridor, closing the door behind him.
Myra drummed her fingers against the armrest of her seat and waited impatiently for him to return. He couldn't have been gone for more than a minute when the door started to slide open. She raised an eyebrow and pulled it the full way to let Col back into the room. "Well that was quick, what's going—"
She froze mid-sentence as the edge of a dagger pressed lightly against her neck. Her blue eyes locked onto a pair of disturbingly crimson ones.
"Who are you?" she whispered.
The crimson eyes glinted and below them a pair of glossy, blood-red lips curved into a sardonic smile. "Why hello there, kitten. They call me Morinth, but you need not remember it because in about twenty seconds, I'll be carving it into your jugular vein."