Taking Care Of Business


Max.jpg Waine.jpg

Date: 2011.01.27
Location: Narrow pass in the mountains near Eastern Weyr.
Synopsis: Traders paying for his protection are being ambushed. Max takes care of business and makes more of an 'impact' than he'd intended to.
Rating: PG18 - for language
Logger: Max

His day had begun just before dawn with a sleep shattering clatter of hooves ringing out against the rock flooring of the beast caverns when Boxtol, rode in with the message - A caravan of traders bringing supplies that had just come in from the north and bound for the Weyr, were being set up to be ambushed. The information, originating in one of the seedier taverns down at the docks, gathered and sent via the newly formed grapevine Max was starting to send out across the continent.

And so riding hard, Max, Waine, Boxtol and a few of the burlier ‘stablehands’ found themselves at mid-morning with the sun beating down on their backs, looking down into the narrow pass in which information had it that the trap was to be laid for the traders.

“Rockslide,” Boxtol surmised, kicking at the pile of unnaturally arranged boulders.

“Aye,” Max replied, pulling his hat down further over his eyes, the saddle creaking as he turned and surveyed the landscape further up.

“Got a plan, boss?” Waine asked with far more cheerfulness than anyone had a right to have given the long, hard ride, the heat and the rude awakening of a some hours earlier.

Southern’s crimelord sent his second a disparaging look, “Naw, figured we’d just sit here and watch it play out below like a harper performance.” Snorting and turning Starflight in a tight circle, he started picking his way up higher along the natural path formed by wild game. “Boxtol, take Isikia, Lansya and Shandon. Intercept the caravan, take the lead wagon and two extra, leave the traders and the others behind and head on toward the pass,” he called over his shoulder.

The three burly men assigned under Boxtol’s command sent each other wolf-like grins. Now this was more like it. Real work, not that beast caverns shite that Max had them on day in and day out.

A curt nod of head was given and the four wheeled their mounts around and headed back down into the pass, whipping their runners into a hard gallop once they hit the valley floor.

“WAINE!!” Max roared, eyes narrowing to slits from his vantage point above when he caught his second lounged against the side of his runner deep in conversation with one of the men recently come up from Landing.

“Boss?” Waine suddenly snapped to attention.

“Get your thumb out your arse and over to the other side of the pass!” Max snapped. Ill tempered for being hot, hungry and in no mood for needing to explain the way of things to minor criminals trying their luck on his turf. The traders paid him good marks for protection and safe passage and he sure as shit was going to see that they got it.

“Take Orson and Nastor with you. And please, please tell me you remembered to bring full quivers this time.” The last time having been a hunting trip when Waine snatched up two empty quivers which had very nearly cost two men their lives and those of their mounts when a wounded wild feline and her mate had launched at them from the undergrowth.

Some of Waine’s good humour slid off and tugging his hat down further over his face to hide his chagrin, he sent his boss a dirty look from under it, before reaching out to cuff Orson who was standing snickering nearby.

Once the three had ridden off, Max dismounted and nodded to the two remaining, both quick footed and good with a knife in close quartered hand-to-hand fighting. “Jezua, sweep the trail. Arkon, take up position.” This as he gathered up the reins of their three mounts and led them around a pile of boulders further back on the trail.

There was little to do now, but wait.

As Rukbat climbed higher in the sky, the whining of the midges and gnats common to the southern continent and the occasional cry of a hunting wherry were all that broke the silence. Sweat trickled down his back and Max slapped at the side of his neck and then froze as the unmistakeable sound of hooves climbing up the path sounded out. Glancing over to where his two men had taken up position behind rocky outcrops, lips compressed into a thin line when it became evident that Arkon had dozed off in the summer heat. Picking up a pebble he tossed it at the side of the chunky man’s head. Abruptly he came awake and sent his boss a sheepish look.

Focussing on the approaching sounds, the beast manager counted three on runner back, the information relayed to Jezua and Arkon using hand signals.

From far below, the lowing and bawling of yoked herdbeast and the creaking of wagon wheels filtered up on the stifling summer air.

The sound of voices in low conversation reached their ears just moments before the runners crested the path and their riders came into view. A tall, sour-faced looking man, clearly the leader by the manner in which the other two deferred to him. Dismounting and stepping to the edge, he peered down into the pass, lifted his hat from his balding head and waved it in the air before stepping back again.

From his position Max frowned. Just as he’d thought, there was an ambush party waiting down below too. Which was why he’d had Boxtol, Isikia, Lansya and Shandon take the place of the traders for that fight would be theirs.

Quietly unsheathing his knife, he straightened slightly from the crouch he’d been in, leg muscles complaining after hours of inactivity when the two underlings at command from their leader set a hefty shaft of wood to the boulders piled up at the cliff edge. He couldn’t hide the derisive sneer that formed for the fact that none of the three had bothered to do a sweep of their location to ensure they were alone.

It was an arrow from the other side of the pass landing with a decisive thud into the bedroll strapped to one of the men’s runners, causing the animal to rear up in alarm that first got their attention. The two at the shaft of wood dropped it instantly with the sour-faced man letting out a curse, “I thought you said the path up the other side was unapproachable!?” This as he aimed a kick at one of his men just as another arrow landed, pegging into the dirt at the third man’s feet.

“It was,” the man yelped, rubbing at the side of his leg where his leader’s boot had landed.

Max smirked from behind the boulder. Indeed it had been. That is until they’d cleared it soon after their arrival at the pass.

The third man, having backed away from the arrow, was now eyeing his runner with longing. He wasn’t getting paid enough to wind up with an arrow in his chest.

That did it, the sour-faced leader cuffed the third man hard alongside the head, “The sooner you get your fucking backs into it, the sooner we can leave and get our share of the takings.” Another arrow landed, this time thunking into the shaft of wood and all three suddenly leapt into position and threw their weight behind the leverage just as the three wagons rolled into view down below.

Max, Arkon and Jezua stepped out quietly from where they’d hidden themselves, a few paces behind the three saboteurs. “You’ve got four excellent marksmen with their bows aimed at you from across the pass, us at your back, and a long drop in front of you. You might want to rethink your actions.” There was no denying the smirk to Max’s low held tone. From the valley below, shouts and the ringing sound of steel against steel drifted up. Boxtol and his men had clearly engaged the party waiting for the wagons.

As one, all three spun on their heels, shocked expressions in place. It didn’t take the leader but a few seconds before he launched himself at the beast manager, snarling as he did so, “Fuck you!” He’d waited too long for the opportunity to get his hands on the cargo he knew to be in those wagons.

Having expected the move, Max stepped swiftly to one side, his knife bearing hand swinging up to club the man on the side of his head with the hilt while his other hand snapped out and closed about the man’s throat. Dazed, the taller man’s hands grabbed at the beast manager’s in a weak effort to pry his steel grip loose. “Who the fuck are you!?” he was able to wheeze out, eyes tearing up and bulging a little.

Giving the man a light shake, Max pointed his blade at the man’s gut, eyes flat, his tone turned deadly quiet, “I’m the man you’re trying to steal from.”

Underlings one and two hadn’t even so much as lifted their hands to their belt knives, eyes darting to their boss as Jezua and Arkon closed in on them. One of the two men took a few steps backward, only to find his heel losing purchase in a shower of loose dirt that went cascading over the edge of the precipice and he froze, eyes thrown wide in alarm, flailing a little before he found his balance again.

“Says who!?” rasped out and then gathering together enough breath, the sour-faced man’s lips drew back and without any warning he hawked a gob of spittle right into Max’s face.

That did it! With a snarl of anger, Southern’s crimelord yanked the man forward by his throat, headbutted him hard and then tossed him away from himself, knife held at the ready as he stalked over to him. “Anyone,” the words grinding out, “that steals from someone under my protection, steals from me.”

The leader of the group, scrabbled to his feet, drew his blade and backed up a step, sneering, “You got a name to go with that threat, pretty boy?”

Cold the smirk that peeled out as the beast manager took another step forward, forcing the sour-faced man to either back up another step or come at him as he had but a few feet left to play with before being precariously close to the edge of the cliff, “Name’s Max.”

From far below in the pass, the scuffle continued with Boxtol and the men with him, starting to gain ground as they drove the ambushing party in against the steep rock face. Across the way, on the other side of the pass, Waine and his men, kept their bows trained on the scene unfolding opposite them.

“That would be Max, as in maximum pain if you don’t spread the word around that Southern’s got a new crimelord and he ain’t taking shit from no one,” that from a smirking Arkon right as he made a grab for underling one.

Despite the rather tense situation at hand, the crimelord just named lifted his brows and sent a darkly amused look Arkon’s way, giving in sardonic return, “Arse licker.” To which the ‘stablehand’ flashed a grin as he swept a leg out, putting underling one on his back and then quickly flipping him onto his stomach, arms drawn up painfully behind him.

That short moment of distraction was all it took and the sour-faced leader of the three took the opportunity, lunging at Max with his knife.

Catching the movement from the corner of his eye just seconds too late, Max let out a grunt as the point of the blade cut through the fabric of his shirt and nicked a line across his side though luckily not deep enough to cause any real damage. The anger of a wounded animal welled up and with a low snarl he shoved his shoulder hard into the man’s chest, his own knife sweeping in to slash at the man’s shoulder. His opponent, dropped to the ground, the air knocked from his solar plexus and instinctively tried to roll away from the blade coming at him but he was too close to the edge of the cliff. A howl of terror tore from him as he dropped over the edge and hit the ground far below with a sickening crunch.

Max realized too late that the man had overplayed his hand and didn’t have any room to spare. Throwing himself to the ground he tried to grab at him before gravity played its role plucking the man out of his grasp and leaving the beast manager the man’s boot in his hand and the horrific sound of his waning scream ringing in his ears.

Shock had him scrambling quickly away from the cliff’s edge, chest heaving and blood pounding in his ears as adrenaline tore through his system.

With Jezua, Arkon and the now subdued and bound underlings staring at him ashen-faced, Max had little choice but to shove his own sense of horror down and use the gruesome situation to his advantage. Bending he picked his hat up from the ground where it had fallen, dusted it against his thigh and sheathed his knife, expression turned hard.

“Let ‘em go,” tone grim as he jutted his chin in the direction of the two would-be saboteurs.

Jezua and Arkon nodded mutely and quickly cut the bonds of their prisoners, pushing them Max’s way. Both of whom gibbered like fools, stuttering and stammering with fright, assuming they were next to go over the edge of the cliff.

Blood starting to seep through the fabric of his shirt from the light flesh wound, and sweat streaking through the dust on his face, Max presented a sinister sight as he stepped forward. “You’re going to remember what just happened to your mate, and warn anyone else that thinks they can steal from me, that the same will happen to them too.”

Underling one and two swallowed hard and nodded their heads like buoys at sea. “Ye-ye-yessir..” they stammered as one and then made a dash for their runners.

Guessing their intentions, Max’s voice cracked like a bullwhip out onto the stifling summer air, “Leave ‘em!”

The petrified men veered their paths and broke into a run, disappearing down the trail as an arrow suddenly descended out of the sky, a blue piece of rag tied to its tail, and thudded into the trail just behind them, Waine’s signal that the fight below was over, it having ended quite abruptly when the body of the thieves’ leader had come sailing through the air and landed in the middle of the melee.

From across the pass, Waine set a long look onto his boss, blue eyes narrowed and square-jawed face set into a grim expression.

Neither beast manager nor second with the extra runners in their possession said a word during the long ride back to the Weyr, Boxtol having been left in charge of returning the wagons back to the traders and ensuring they reached their destination without further incident.

Closing Credits: Metallica - Master Of Puppets

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