Greetings, Loyal Reader!
We continue our preview of Chapter 1 of Noble Cause, already in progress. If you need to catch up, start with part 1 and follow the links.
Haakon hurried on his way, dripping a trail of blood behind him. I regarded my remaining opponents. “Any others having second thoughts, now is your chance to leave!”
Two men bolted immediately, sprinting past poor Haakon. After a moment’s hesitation, another would-be combatant lost his nerve. Several more followed him.
“That thinned the herd a bit,” I said.
“Indeed,” said Merc. “I think that is it for bounty hunters and amateurs. Pros next! Contract killers, assassins, hitmen. Anyone here to kill my good friend Master Cosmo for pay. I’ve got Nestor Breen and the Boys! Blue Crew! Black Sheep! The mysterious Spider Guild! Or it might the miserly Spider Guild? Hard to read that spidery script. And something called Quik Kill!”
I knew Nestor Breen and the Boys by reputation. They were Reorganized Crime muscle, the bane of shopkeepers who fell behind in their protection payments, gamblers who reneged on their debts, and others who ran afoul of Caratha’s criminal element. The Blue Crew was a rival band of enforcers, blue-skinned Cyrillans who wore blue caps and capes to further emphasize their blueness. The Black Sheep were young bravos from otherwise good families—younger sons of aristocrats who stood to inherit little, considered honest work beneath them, but had no qualms about slay for pay.
I did not hide my disgust. I respected those who fought me to prove their prowess. My undeserved reputation as the most fearsome warrior to walk the face of Arden was hard to correct. Our martial age honored strength of arms. It was natural for men of the sword to seek out a challenge.
Nor did I look down on bounty hunters. They did a useful service. Their usual prey were outlaws, brigands, pirates, and other scoundrels. The Dark Magic Society had so smeared my name that most people believed me a blackhearted villain—and thus fair game for the bounty hunting brotherhood. I went easy on those I could not dissuade.
But hired thugs were another matter. They preyed on the weak and helpless. They lurked in the shadows, set traps, attacked from ambush, and enjoyed inflicting pain on their victims. With them, I would not hold back.
Few of Caratha’s top assassins had come after me. For the most part it was second-rate killers-for-hire like this lot who sought me out. I suspected some unknown mastermind was directing a steady stream of low grade thugs my way. I didn’t know why, but I welcomed the opportunity to rid the city of such vermin.
“Breen Boys, Blue Crew, and Black Sheep, I’ll take you all together!” I said.