Wow. Libby is more intense than even I'd anticipated. And this is a lady who once strung one of her workers up on a spinning windmill for breaking a hammer. (True story.)
Probably a day earlier than expected, we arrived at the town where Doc and his buddies are holed up. It's a rather tiny burg, maybe fifteen houses large at most, with a little town hall, a sherriff's office, a barracks, and a general store to add some official flair. We pulled up on the outskirts 'round noon, Libby gunning the Dauphine along at top speed -
- and we were just fast enough to spot a three-headed monstrosity lugging a bag of something down the main street. It waved frantically at us as we approached, but soon seemed to think better of the gesture and shambled into a nearby house.
Libby, standing vigil by the Dauphine's front window, grinned and smacked fist against palm. "That'll do. DAENA? PLANT US."
"Yes ma'am!" my mom cried back. The Dauphine jerked, slowing to a roll, and then, gradually, to a complete stop. It halted maybe ten feet shy of someone's house.
Libby reached for a comms tube, barking into it. "GUNNERS, ACKNOWLEDGE!"
A chorus of acknowledgements floated up through the tube. Libby nodded gravely. "FIRE BY NUMBERS!"
I plugged my ears.
More figures were emerging from the town's homes as the Dauphine opened fire. A dozen cannonballs ripped through the afternoon sky, carefully timed by the gunners to go off at four-second intervals. Blam, blam, blam, blam, each report of the cannons seemed to make the tiny people in the town below cringe a little further away from the Dauphine. Eventually, after ten cannon blasts, the creature with three heads raised a white flag and waved it around.
"That'll do." Libby cracked her knuckles. "Did... did that wake up Dragomir, by any chance?"
I ducked into his cabin for a peek. "Nope. Sorry, boss."
She sighed. "Oh well. This'll be fun anyway."
The town sprang to life as the front of the Dauphine slid open. Watching from Command, I saw a goblin and an orc emerge from the sheriff's office with a struggling, purple-haired figure between them. An enormous, hulking Non appeared, a ramshackle wooden platform slung over its shoulder, and it dropped the whole thing in the middle of the street. Doc leaped off of the Non's shoulder and onto the platform, flailing his arms wildly.
When Libby, Fynn, Antonio, Traveller, Plato and myself emerged from the front door, Doc was waiting for us, flanked by the penguin and orc bounty hunters. The rest of his squad was hastily setting up the platform, a bound Nagi passing from one set of hands to another and complaining loudly all the while.
"Wow," Traveller said first, cocking his head. "He's really black. Are you made of tar?"
Doc snorted, otherwise ignoring Traveller. His fingers danced against one another. "Ah, yes, hello. You're... you're somewhat earlier than I'd anticipated. I don't see Dragomir - "
Libby cut him off with one swift swipe of her arm. "Can it. We aren't here to deal."
"Ahh, but you must!" A toothy white grin formed on Doc's face, and he gestured to the platform. The purple goblin bounty hunter was setting up a length of rope, attached to a gallows. "We have your comrade, and unless you wish to see her hang - "
Libby cut him off again, this time with a shrug. "I don't give two shits whatcha do to her. None of our business."
Freeing herself from one of her bonds, Nagi waved a hand in my direction. "Logan! Logan! Save me! C'mon, man! No, no, look at me!"
I didn't. Instead, I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms, and waited. Gradually, the reality of the situation no doubt sinking in, Nagi's hand fell and she went silent.
Doc's gleaming green eyes narrowed. "You aren't in a position to bargain, no ma'am. If you leave, I'll find you."
Grylock spoke next. "Aye, been trackin' us all year, haven't ye? No wonder ye keep poppin' up. Yer poor little spy Kara won't be botherin' us anymore, I'm afraid."
Doc twitched. "K... Kara...? I... I surely don't know anyone named Kara."
"Aye, for certain." Grylock grinned. "I doubt ye'd call that thing you left on the Dauphine Kara. Little bastard near made me shit m'self when it started whispering 'bout that damned effigy ye left for us te find. Maybe ye should've just made the thing bigger, and not sacrificed yer little homing beacon?"
Doc scowled. Narrowing the fingers of his left hand into a line of points, he pressed hard against his ribcage. Everyone, including his bounty hunter cronies, cringed as Doc's nails plunged into his side and began to root around. After a few moments of exploratory surgery the hand emerged clutching a small, black-and-purple device. Doc's scowl deepened as he tapped its glass cover and shook it around, and eventually he cursed and tossed it away.
"Your words stink of truth," the Non admitted. "Fine. Fine fine fine. Then why did you come here, if you knew I couldn't track you? Assuming you're telling the truth about the purple-haired wench behind me?"
By now Nagi had a rope wrapped 'round her neck, and she was staring nervously down at something on the platform that I assume was a trap door. She looked terrified, but oddly resigned at the same time. I scounged up as much pity as I could muster for my former partner, which, admittedly, wasn't a hell of a lot.
Libby smiled. "My husband is unwell. He needs a doctor. So long as you're under threat of death, I think you'll do."
Doc twitched again, much more violently than before. He laughed. "Y... you intend to capture me? Woman, you know not how stupid you are, no, no, ha, ha, ha... oh, if only you realized the depths - "
That's when Libby gave the signal, a simple chop of her hand. The world went to hell.
The Dauphine exploded above us, twenty cannons opening up simultaneously. Cannonballs rained down into homes on both sides of the street, demolishing half of the buildings in the little ramshackle town. The noise was more than enough to distract Doc's forces, and most of them - the bounty hunters in particular - hit the dirt at once as wooden shrapnel flew in all directions.
We went next. Abruptly bolstered by Fynn's magic, protective shells settling neatly on our backs, Libby, Antonio, Traveller, Grylock and I bounded at Doc's bounty hunter bodyguards. Antonio put the orc on his back with a quick roundhouse, while Grylock and Traveller went for the stout penguin. I didn't catch their exchange, though I did hear Traveller shout "I remember you!"
Libby and Plato went for Doc himself. The stubby platypus charged at the Non, arms outstretched as if seeking a childish embrace. Doc jumped up and landed on Plato's back, neatly sidestepping Libby's grasping hands. He shrieked and cursed and laughed and squealed all at once, and his cries brought his huge Non enforcer and the three-headed CeDrisArd to bear on the attackers. I was dimly aware of Plato's scythe sliding out of its interdimensional hole.
I ignored the lot.
Bounding around the throng of battlers, I leaped across the street and landed neatly on the platform, beside Nagi. Her bounty hunter attendants stepped back. The purple goblin brandished a pair of knives, while the other, a grungy old man with a box on his head, held an empty beer bottle.
"'ey, Chewtoy!" The old man giggled and waved his bottle in the air. "Got a nip for us, eh? We don't like to... hic!... fight on an empty stomach!"
"Sweet gods." The goblin shook his head. "Why am I always stuck with ye, fuckin' lush?"
"You're lucky!" the drunk cried, and he sipped at the bottle. Nothing came out, I assume, though he looked satisfied all the same.
Sliding a shortsword from its scabbard, I pointed at the fracas behind us. Traveller was leaping onto the giant Non's head, laughing happily. "How much you gettin' paid for all this?"
The goblin sighed. "Not near enough. But a gig's a gig."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
I charged. The goblin was good, I'll admit, and he managed to parry my first two slashes. The old man didn't do so well, and I laid him flat with a pommel to the back of the head. I doubled around after my first sweep, legs pumping, and cut the goblin down before he could turn to face me. He squealed and collapsed off the side of the platform.
Nagi, mouth tight with anger, glared at me as I leaned casually against the gallows, cleaning my blade. "You gonna cut me loose?"
"I don't know," I admitted. "You gonna let me out of my cell?"
She winced. "... next time... maybe..."
I sighed. "That'll do."
One quick swordstroke later we were rushing back to the Dauphine, the noose still dangling from Nagi's neck. I ducked and rolled as the penguin bounty hunter flew over my head and out of sight, and Nagi snaked expertly into the air as Traveller and the big Non wrestled and rolled on the ground, apparently a match for one another. They nearly flattened my ex-partner.
By the end of the brawl the bad guys were in retreat. Led by the big Non, who'd apparently had its fill of wrestling with Traveller, Doc's group fled to the other side of town and ducked into the barracks. A few cannon blasts ensured that they remained there, the Non huddled behind the building and occasionally peering out at us.
Doc is in an improvised jail cell. Tied, bound, gagged. His final words were "BUT I'M NEEDED" before Libby shoved a leather strap between his teeth. Despite the gag he remains a noisy little bastard, bouncing around crazily and annoying the shit out of us in general. We're keeping him that way until he calms down a bit. Once he does... well, then Libby will begin the process of frightening him until he won't dare consider harming Dragomir while working on him.
All in all, a job well done.
Logan the Thief