Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Old and the Broken

The dogs turned and growled as an elderly drunken man with a full gray beard and long hair stumbled forward.  His face and hands were covered in scars and he was dressed in a long red coat and bearing an old rapier.  He had a pistol, but he was carrying a rather large book in one hand and had taken out a hip flask in the other to take a steady drink.  

The dobermans looked angry, but Beryl had the feeling that their leader was pleased that the fight had grown.  When he was finished he tossed that can to the side as well.  “Those were poorly chosen words, dog, unless you wanted a good thrashing.” He slurred and stumbled down the debris of the decaying Cuffs building. “Besides, in my day when an outsider threatened a Babbager he was threatening all Babbagers.  As I haven’t plopped my cogs yet, it is still my day, mutt!”

The leader barked something in German and then the Dobermans broke their circle and started to close on Beryl, while two doberman dismounted and went to take care of the old man.

Beryl ran towards the two fallen hound-cycles and their dead riders smelling of burning fur and meat.  He leapt over them to safety to the disappointment of the dogs.  He landed on a patch of stone that was mostly clear.  The dogs had to turn the cycles to avoid joining their comrades fate.

Beryl took the moments reprieve to run towards the older man, but one of the dobermen was lying on the ground nursing a broken jaw, and the other had been reaching for his sabre when the gentleman delivered a solid blow to the dogs abdomen and then an elbow to the snout with a crack that didn’t seem to only come from the doberman’s nose.

As the second Doberman stumbled and fell back, Beryl arrived with Arnold in tow and Tepic’s cap still loose on his head.  The old man was nursing his elbow, though he kept his eyes on their opponents.  

Beryl moved behind the armed man, grimacing at his injury, “Are you alright?”

“You think two of this rabble could have gotten the best of me?” The drunken stumbling and slurring was gone, though he was hunched over and breathing heavily. Either the pain had sobered him or he had been faking his inebriation.  “I could have fought a dozen alone in my prime, lass, though I don’t think I should try it now.” 

The dobermans were getting organized again under the commands of their leader and forming up. Beryl half wished that during the pause more Babbagers would join their fight, but he was disappointed. “Who are you?”

“Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me, lass?”  Beryl didn’t want to admit that he didn’t, nor to correct him at the moment, “It is all right.  I don’t look anything like myself anymore.”  The old man couldn’t elaborate as the leader barked and the nine remaining dobermans began a charge on their Hound-cycles.

The old man passed the book that was in his good arm to Beryl, “Hold on to this for me and get inside! If I can’t keep up take it to the catacombs!  You’ll know where!”

Beryl was surprised but took it into his own free arm, the one that didn’t have Arnold tucked underneath, but then realized that he no longer had a free hand to fight with.  Arnold told him to throw the book back at the old man, but Beryl ignored him as the elder pushed him towards ‘Cuffs.  

Beryl and the old man got inside the devastated building, which had many of ‘Cuffs treasures littering the floor and covered in a thick layer of dust, abandoned and all but forgotten.  Papers broadcasting fights long gone, wanted posters, and even a paper about mer sightings were ripped from the walls and lying on the floor. The cannon that dispensed the special rum shots was broken and laying in pieces on the broken wood.  The crossbow was similarly disassembled, and the broken pennyfarthing was rusted and had lost one of its wheels.   The bar that everyone had sat at and the fireplace were the two places that were crushed completely by the roof.

Beryl winced slightly at the sight, but kept running as the old man directed even though he knew that ‘Cuffs had never had an exit in the back.  At least his Babbage hadn’t had one, but the old man had led Beryl to a corner that had always been occupied by barrels and supplies. There were still a few supplies, and what appeared to be gunpowder, but there was also a cave system at the back wall.  There was no sign of any vine-wires within the cavern smelled of death.

The old man pushed Beryl into a run and shouted for him to go, and Arnold spurred him on.  Beryl ran into the darkness hearing the dogs barking behind him, and then the challenging shout of his friend who had stayed behind just before the cavern shook violently, bits of rock falling from the caverns ceiling.

Beryl turned back and he could see a fire at the end of the tunnel he had just descended from and sighed.  

“Well,” Arnold said quietly. “Guess you don’t have to carry his book around for him now.”  Beryl flexed his claws into Arnolds skull and the head shut up.  After a moment he asked,  “So why did he do it?  Who was he?”

Beryl didn’t know.  He took a moment to examine the book for the first time and realized what he held in his hands.  He was confused for a few moments, wondering how anyone could have gotten their hands on this, but he felt that he might finally have an answer.

“Well?”  Arnold asked impatiently.

Beryl considered his answer carefully before he replied, “I think he was a warrior who didn’t want to go forgotten in a sick bed.  He went out with a roar instead.”

Spread the love

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply