LEGEND OF THE PALADINS
CHRONICLES OF A BOUNTY HUNTER
IN THE SHADE OF THE MOON
IN THE SHADE OF THE MOON
‘A monster is not judged by its size and
ferociousness, but by the devastation it brought.’Sage the FireheartFounder, Fireheart Hunters’ GuildFirst Emperor of Arcadia
An Oddjob and an Orcjob
A boy runs in a hurry along the narrow streets of Rand. He bumps into people and tramples mud puddles along the way, leaving people cursing and yelling behind him – some even check their tunic to look whether the boy has stolen their purses or anything valuable. The streets are real crowded here in Rand – as the city in the kingdom of Lore becomes a center of economy and culture. Thanks to the hunters and the hunters’ guild, the risk of monsters and bandits’ attacks has been lessened – at least less than other major cities in Lore: Varestine, Wagnerport even the capital, Alceste. Merchants, caravans and travelers usually hire hunters as escorts, unless, perhaps they are well-skilled, well-armed and can defend themselves or hire personal bodyguards.
The boy ignores all the curses and yells upon him, and runs along several blocks until he enters a shabby-looking tavern with a yellowish ram with the text ‘The Golden Ram’ badly carved on a signboard hanging in front. The Golden Ram is the cheapest, shabbiest and dirtiest tavern-inn in Rand. The wine and ale there are bad, but it is always full of rowdy, strange and suspicious people with their own strange, shady businesses – gambling, brawling, having fun with tavern maidens, and even talking in low voices. Well, secret talks in loud voices can be made in here too, as it’s too loud there – rest assured your talks won’t be heard by the neighbor at the next table.
The boy looks around desperately, and once in a while ducks to avoid flying objects like wooden mugs, stones – fortunately no sharp ones, though. After a while, he finally notices someone and comes to a group of people gambling on a corner. They are shouting in frustration or muttering things like ‘Damn, he won again!’ and all sorts of curses. One of them – a man with silvery, unkempt hair - doesn’t yell, though and coolly extends his hands to collect the crowns (gold coins), florins (silver coins) and zennies (bronze coins) on the table and pour them all into his purse. Although he apparently is the winner, he doesn’t smile. He only stare cautiously around him, readies himself as though anticipating something bad. And it happens. One of the gamblers, an ugly, fat, unshaven and badly dressed man gets up, bangs on the table and puts his one foot on the chair, screaming.
‘You CHEATED! Bloody cheater!’
The two other gamblers are puzzled for a while, staring at him – but they instantly understand, and scream along to support him.
‘Yeah! Winning seven times already! That’s impossible!’
‘Must be sumthin’ behind ‘ees hands!’
‘And he ain’t even smile all the time! Mus’ be afraid he’s gonna be found out!’
‘Search him! Make him return our money!’
The cool silver-haired guy raises his face. He is handsome, although his face is sallow and looks somewhat feminine, but his calm, serious and cautious behavior gives an air of someone who has endured great hardships, tragedies and traumas. He always wears a leather breastplate in front of his shirt, and always ready with a kiliji (a curved long sword) neatly hung inside its scabbard under his shabby blue hood and robe. The boy recognizes him perfectly at once, and is about to call him, but the silver-haired man notices the boy and signals him to keep quiet and keep away.
‘Hey, won’ speak a word, eeh? No reveal your secret!?’
‘Maybe you will talk after we rearrange your pretty face!’
‘O’ you hungree? Wanna eat? Here, taste THIS!’
The bald man launches his knuckle sandwich towards the silver-haired man’s mouth, but the silver-haired man simply moves his head aside with great reflexes and avoids the hit altogether. He gets up, and is ready for the next attack.
One thought comes into the silver-haired man’s mind:
Even if I speak, these stupid brutes won’t listen – they just want to rob my winnings. Well, it’s time to show them who I really am, as Pear is already here…
To avoid revealing too much of him, the silver-haired man avoids most of the attacks using knuckles, knifes and a wooden chair, and finally counterattacks, catching the bald man’s punch and kicks him straight on his jaw, sending him flying backwards and falls crashing on the wall, knocking him out. The fat guy and the one-eyed scarface are astonished to see this display of strength, but thinking that it was only a lucky strike they attack the silver-haired guy altogether. The scarface’s attack misses, but the fat guy successfully hit the silver-haired guy’s shoulder as he is avoiding the scarface. But the silver-haired man’s expression doesn’t even change in pain, instead he ducks and sweep-kicks the fat guy’s feet, causing the fat guy to fall tumbling on the floor.
The one-eyed, badly-scarred man thinks. Damn! He’s too strong! I must get outta here!
And he runs away at once.
The fat guy tries to get up although he is irritated with his friend’s cowardly behavior. But the silver-haired man doesn’t waste time and instantly draws his kiliji and points it directly to the fat guy’s throat. Then he finally speaks.
‘Get out now. I only kill monsters and bandits, unless you are one of them.’
The fat guy whimpers, ‘Ah, you’re a hunter?’
A tavern guest cuts in.
‘You’re new in town, heh? He’s a hell of a hunter, you know.’
The little boy named Pear speaks, ‘Mister Orcbane?’
The silver-haired man replies, ‘Sssh, I’ve told you many times, just call me Robert.’
‘Aw, it’s easier to remember you as Orcbane, as it is so frequently said at the guild.’
‘Ah, Pear, now you’ve done it.’
Robert the Orcbane then talks to the fat man with a threatening tone.
‘Well, what will it be now? Still want to rob my money?’
‘Your money WHAT? You must be cheated, I can tell’.
‘I didn’t cheat.’
‘Then how come you won seven times and only lost twice?’
‘’Twas a dice game, right? Maybe you must learn about concentration *). Focus your mind and eye on the dice movements. Well, you must train them hard, because I got that kind of training once as a soldier and a scout in the Lore-Arcadia war.’
(* Concentration = What Robert means is Eagle’s Eye – the ability to notice very quickly or even the slightest movement from the objects from any distance. Besides training, one must have the talent – that is very uncommon among humans. An Eagle’s Eye expert is usually a good scout or spy. Robert has that talent.)
‘Damn, you’re a soldier! Then why did you lose twice?’
‘Even fools can guess that. I deliberately let you guys win so you won’t suspect me using concentration and you won’t want to gamble with me anymore. I know you guys are new in town because none of my old mates want to gamble with me again. I need to earn pocket money, you know as there is no orc to hunt…’
Suddenly Pear remembers something and cuts in.
‘Excuse me, Sir Orcbane, but now there is’.
‘It’s Robert, Pear, Robert.’
‘Yeah, Robert… Robert…’
‘Wait.. you said there’s an orc-job at the guild?’
‘Let’s go there! Here, Gumbold, for the food, ale and for the damage too’
Robert tosses several florins and zennies to Gumbold the tavern-innkeeper’s table, and a crown to the fat guy.
‘Here’s for you. No hard feelings mate. Treat your friends too.’
The fat guy doesn’t believe his eyes and ears. He is still sitting on the floor, astonished as he sees Robert and Pear rushing out from The Golden Ram tavern-inn.