Sunday, August 18, 2013

Monster Hunter, Part One

Grunting as the carriage comes to an abrupt halt, I lean my head back against the polished mahogany frame, cracking an eyelid open to look through the tiny window at my side. I immediately regret it as my mind is stabbed by the brutal rays of the sun, causing me to wince and pull the curtains over the offensive luminescence; I cough, clearing my dry throat as my boots kick about three empty green bottles on the carriage floor. I grope the seat across from me, grabbing for my leather hat and shoving it onto my head just as the door is pulled open, allowing the accursed light to flood over me in my own personal hell.

“Here we are sir, the village of Relmouth!” The overly cheerful Englishman said, saluting me as I practically fall out of his carriage, the world spinning at my feet. I turn a bleary eye on the overweight cabbie, heaving a sigh at his expectant face as I fish inside my heavy trench coat. Pulling out a handful of heavy coins, I press them into the cabbies palm, not even bothering to count them.
I didn’t come here for money.
“T-thank you sir, this is most generous!” He stammers, counting the tip I’d forced upon him.
I shrug. He was the only cabbie from London that would take me this far out into the countryside, especially with all the rumors of the attacks that were occurring every new moon. Not many viewed this locale as a tourist spot in the first place, but add in the chance of a grisly death at the claws of some mystery beast, well…
You do the math.
“Is there anything else I can do for you sir, anything at all?” The cabbie asked me, his loud voice doing nothing for the throbbing pain set behind my eyeballs. I rub the bridge of my nose with my gloved hand before waving at the three pieces of luggage I’d had stacked in the atop the carriage. I can hear him quickly moving to reach them for me.
“Careful,” I rasp before clearing my throat. “Careful with that…”
“Yes sir, of course sir!” The cabbie replied happily, bringing one of the heavy wooden cases down to the soft earth below. “These are mighty heavy sir, what are you carrying might I ask?”
“Tools.” I grunt, pulling my hip flask up from within my coat, popping open the top with my thumb. Ah, the sweet aroma of Absinthe…
“Tools? Are you a carpenter sir? Or a blacksmith?” The cabbie presses as I down a few glugs of the bright green alcohol.
I breathe a sigh of relief as the liquor burs a path down my throat into my stomach, its mere presence easing my aching head. Clinically I knew this was just a psychological effect, but then again I also know that the physical aspects of my hangover will be eased by the introduction of more liquor.
            “Not eased… staved off I suppose…” I mumble to myself, looking over the village as I take another sip from my flask.
The village seems sleepy enough, waist high wooden fence surrounding several small buildings, which all form a circle around a tall elm tree… an East Anglian Elm to be specific, though I doubt anyone else in the village is aware of its technical name.
Your standard nineteenth century village cottages, stone foundations with dark wood walls and slanted roofs covered in hay to keep heat in and the cold out… all of the seven buildings within sight match this description, though most if not all of them have obviously had additions added within the past fifty or so years. Probably a population increase from a more rural family moving closer for safety from the wild beasts of the surrounding forests.
The cabbie is still blathering on about something. “What was that?” I ask, turning to look over my shoulder to watch him lower my third and final piece of luggage.
“I asked if you were some kind of craftsmen, you know, what with all of these tools.” He said with a grunt as he hopped down from the roof of the carriage into the bollock seat. “I can’t imagine craftsmen moving out this far, village like this would already have whatever you are.”
“If they had what I am then they wouldn’t be living in fear… well, as much fear.” I reply with a raspy voice. Damn whiskey did a number on my pipes! I clear my throat and turn towards the Cabbie. “I’m no craftsmen or carpenter, but a scientist.”
“Scientist? What’s that?” The Cabbie asks, making my headache somehow worse despite his lowered voice.
“I… a scientist… you mean you have no clue what a scientist is?” I stammer, slapping my forehead, immediately regretting it as my entire skull throbs once in protest. “I… I bake cakes. I’m just a kind of baker, alright?”
“Oh,” he says, staring at me as he desperately tries to pick up on my sarcasm, “alright then.”
My head throbs once more, protesting the presence of this idiot. “That will be all good sir, just be back here in a week to pick me if you would.”
“Alright then, if you say so.” The Cabbie replies, taking the reins of his draft horse and snapping them to get the large animal moving, pulling out and around me to get back on the road leading away from the village.
I watch the back of the garishly painted carriage slowly grow smaller in the distance, shaking my head. “And to think we almost lost a war to these people.”
“To what people?” A voice pipes up from my elbow, causing me to jump in surprise. Looking down, I see a young boy, perhaps eight years old, with dark hair and a dirty face. He smiles at me with a gap-toothed grin.
“Good gods child, don’t sneak up on people like that!” I gasp, pulling a handkerchief from my pocket to wipe my brow. I re-cork my flask and return it to my hip, looking at the strange child that seemingly appeared from nowhere.
“I didn’t sneak up on you, I just walked…” He began before I waved at him, cutting him off.
“Details, details… I don’t need to hear about your lack of manners and how you obviously weren’t beaten enough as a younger child, I am in need of a porter. Which of these hovels is the local inn?”
He stares at me for a moment before shutting his mouth. He opens it once more, looking back into the village before settling his eyes on me. “What?” He succinctly asks.
I resist the urge to bury my face in my hands. “The inn. A place where I can stay for a small fee. Perhaps get a drink…”
“Oh! You want the Lock and Barrel, run by Andrew Stock.” He replies, once again smiling.
“Lock Stock, Andrew Barrel… God, I hate this town already.” I quip before fishing out a heavier coin and flicking it to the child. “Be a nescient pleb and take my baggage to the bar, and tell Mister… Stock… that I’ll be renting a spare room from him for the next week.”
“What’s your name sir?” The boy asks, eyes as large as saucers as he stares at the large denomination coin I just flicked to him casually.
“Henry Glass, Doctor Henry Glass.” I reply, clapping my hands twice and pointing at my luggage. “Do be careful, my luggage is very fragile.”
“I’ll be careful sir!” The boy gushes, moving to grab the first heavy wooden chest. He stops before looking over his shoulder at me. “Sir?”
I mentally chide myself for my lack of patience before smiling and answering. “Yes lad, what is it?”
“What’s fragile mean?” He asks innocently.

It takes everything in me not to merely draw my pistol and do the world a favor by removing him from it.

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