A Pact with the Underworld
I sit reading an old scroll from an ancient story, a group of shepherds
by a grave, an old grave. The quote on the tomb is, 'I too am from
Arcadia’. I'm thinking, yes, 'I too am from Malkin’, but was it
something I wanted on my grave? I'd really have to think on it. To once
more be allowed to go home.
The next scroll is an expanded one we are taught from birth of our
origins, it comes from the Sumerian people. We were created by the evil
gods of beyond to be their slaves, like almost all the religions it
tells we are forbidden to learn knowledge of or from them for fear of
revolt. It tells of rebellions and wars and anger, not by man, but among
the gods themselves. We are one of many racial lines, all similar, of
places that may hold one-hundred Englands, similar yet different, and of
gods fighting for control of them all.
Dang, hundreds of me? Pity them all.
My reading was disturbed by a very beautiful blonde. "Please, will you
help us, Sir Wendel?"
"Now that's a name I have not heard spoken in but whispers for a few
years, young lady. Might I caution you to not speak it so loudly. That
title no longer exists. I am simply called The Bounty Hunter."
She looked around, we were quite alone in the little corner of the
Tavern. "Hear my proposition then, Bounty Hunter." With that she dropped
a sheaf of hand written documents on the table. I picked them up, giving
them a cursory glance.
"What you read of is convict 171645 while in his last meeting with his
Presenter before he was executed. He lays in the death room waiting for
a reprieve from the Superior Court in Krilldane. A reprieve that has
never come in almost fifty years of any convicts waiting."
What I read was of a young man of sixteen, strapped to a table and
talking to an old man in a wheeled chair. I could see the boy’s face
clearly in my mind from the description. The man in the wheeled chair
was fairly well detailed as well.
People to be publicly hanged when royalty was present were
‘prepared’ by the monks to make sure their bodies were cleansed of
anything that might cause embarrassment to the ladies of the court while
the convicts are slowly hanged in the square. They spent the last
forty-eight hours of life strapped down with no food or liquid—if they
embarrassed themselves, the executioner could well be the next one to
The blonde lady brought forth a wisp of a lad who stood silently. "This
lad here is Lyle, he is deaf. He reads lips and what he says he heard is
quite interesting. The story you read is as he related it to my scribe."
The boy couldn't have been over twelve. She explained, "He is the
executioner's helper, and because he is deaf he is permitted to remain
in the death chambers since it was believed he could tell no one what
was said. She turned the boy and spoke as he watched her lips. "Lyle,
tell the man what was being said, please?" the young lady asked.
He had a deep raspy voice. "He tells the one in the wheeled chair, 'You
swore it would not go this far! You knew I was innocent. What happened?'
"The one in the chair says, 'They paid you well, far more than your life
is worth. I suspect they changed their minds.'
"The boy says, 'But you promised! It was just until Hammond or whatever
his name is, could get out of the country, then you'd prove he did it
and I'd go free. Everyone would be happy and I'd get the money to help
my mother. You promised!'"
I could picture an evil grin cross the face of the man in the wheeled
chair, as the paper described it, and Lyle continued, "The man in the
wheeled chair says, 'Son, I tried to tell you, I am a Presenter. I say
whatever I am paid to say. They wanted someone to take the fall for
Samuel's murder and you freely volunteered to be that fool. I was paid,
as were you, to ensure the Prince in question took no blame for his
death. Now, if there is nothing further, I will let the monk give you
your death rights. Good day, 171645, die well.' Then he leaves."
As the man in the wheeled chair slowly turns and wheels out of the room,
the paper said the boy was yelling from the table.
Lyle continues, "The boy says, as he cries, 'But you promised! They
promised. I did nothing! Nothing. Help me!’"
The girl stepped forward, moving Lyle to looking at her. "Thank you,
Lyle." Then she turned to me. "The monk gives last rights, the boy
protests his innocence to his death an hour later, and thus convict
171645 is no more."
"Fine, another innocent dies, happens often enough. What can I do about
it? I'm just a small time bounty hunter," I told her.
The way she shifted her body and placed a hand on her hip said she
wasn't quite buying that. "Look Vernon, I know who you are so quit
spreading manure. Please? I spent a long time finding you. You are about
the only one with enough guts to do this. You went into the enemy lands
of the Farrakhan to capture that one criminal and for what? A mere three
thousand gold coins? I want you to find and eliminate all of them
involved, from that crooked Presenter to this Hammond fellow."
"Look milady, I appreciate the flattery and all, but there are plenty of
toughs who can do this; you don't need, nor can you afford me. I am a
bounty hunter. Not an assassin."
"And I place a bounty on all their heads, as high as necessary for you
to not bother to bring any of them back alive!"
She looked uncannily like my dead wife. "Listen, you're a beautiful
young woman and all, and I really do appreciate the offer, but why not
get someone cheaper? You're looking for an assassin not a hunter."
When I said that she threw a stack purse of gold Torps on the table,
each a fine gold bar. "That is 40,000 worth in coin." She turned to the
man with her who handed her a purse which she also tossed on the table.
There is another 40,000, making 80,000, and it is real gold. I will give
you another 80,000 when Hammond is dead." At the current rate of the
realm, that was eighty bars at 1000 gold coins each. Quite heavy.
At one time gold coins were real gold, not the brass we use today. Even
the silver were silver, not pewter. I was told as a child that due to
the shortage of these metals in three of the four realms, that the
Abbott in Krilldane consulted his council and they came up with these
alternatives. Only the Torp was real gold. The rest were exchanged at
Krilldane for their equal in gold or silver, only if you were a trader
and journeying outside the four realms. It forced most trade to remain
at home and keeps outside ruffians to a minimum.
I think I whistled—most Torps were held by royalty; it also meant she
was quite serious. "What was he to you? That kid. Your husband? Lover?
Is he really worth all that?"
I saw her lovely face soften a bit then mask again. "He was my only
brother. Will you do it?"
"What of the man in the wheeled chair? Others involved? How much for
"I only have 10,000 left," she said.
"Hmm, no deal, sorry. I really would like to help, but business is
business. I know you are aware that the Hammond they speak of is
probably the King's son and the man they said your brother killed,
Samuel, is King Darth's son from Sorensen Provence? I am not some fool,
my lady, I hear of these things. If you want me to go against ruling
dynasties. 170,000 is far short of even an opening offer for such a
Excerpted from "The Bounty Hunter [Kindle Edition]" by M F Burbaugh. Copyright © 2012 by M F Burbaugh. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.