The Necklace

Fan Content

Written on 2018-07-09 by Laurent Duhamel

Impatient and nearly at the point of starting to show it, the Baron's massive granite-skinned hands grasped the arms of his marble throne in an audible slightly crushing sound, the noble furniture trying to express some form of pain, hoping, as much as an inanimate object could, that someone would rescue it from the Troll's irritated grip.

Facing him at a polite (and most importantly, safe) distance, a Boggan in blood-stained overalls sporting a grayish skullet of hair hanging on for dear life on a wrinkled leathery head spoke in a heavy and grinding tobacco-destroyed voice.

"He simply won't talk. Won't even open his mouth. He's a scarred mess by now. Had to take a break just to keep him conscious", the Baron's tormentor said.

"Keep. Trying. He. Will. Talk. One way or another", the Baron insisted through clenched teeth. The tormentor, not willing to push his master's patience further, bowed forward, walked three steps back and turned his short roundish stature around, trying to think of a way to perform the task appointed to him that would result in anything different than what had been happening so far: failure.

Many floors below, in a dank, dark room, the Redcap was breathing heavily, but only through the nose, eyes closed. At that moment, like all the moments before this one since almost forever, it seemed, there was only pain. He knew pain. He didn't like it, per say, but he understood it, he was familiar with it, like a distant relative that always shows up at family reunions and that you just tolerate because… because.

Knowing the pain allowed him to make abstraction of it, to think beyond it. His mental focus shifted, and he regained a knowledge of time, of the order in which events had transpired, and what would need to happen next.

Two things had been vital: Not open his mouth and resist the pain for as long as possible while remaining conscious. In that order. He had succeeded, but now it was time for the next step. The uncertainty of how much time he had to make it happen gave him the small surge of adrenaline he needed.

"Don't loose focus, Bartok", he thought "The greatest challenges are still to come. Don't let her down. Don't let her down. Don't let her down."

Finally, when he regained some modicum of composure, he opened his eyes, a greenish glow coming through his pupils. Hanging from the wall, wrists chained up high, feet barely touching the floor, his main concern seemed to be the ambient sound, his long purple ears twitching, as if they were trying to detect as precisely as possible any indication of the tiniest sound that was contrary to the Redcap's designs.

There were none.

With a grunt, Bartok brought up both his knees and with a fluid motion, spat out onto his thighs.
And there, covered in spit, the cutest mouse you've ever seen shook herself as dry as she could, gave a look up that seemed to say "well, that could've gone better!" and then…

Lisette, fists on her hips, was sitting on the Redcap's lap, looking at him directly in the eye. She was quite naked and obviously didn't care.

"What have we discussed about brushing your teeth everyday, mister? There are bits in the back of that big mouth that are so gross I can't tell if they're real or chimerical!" She said in her squeaky voice.

He simply smiled and gently brought his knees down, lowering the Pooka down. She looked at the chains binding his wrists to the wall and frowned.

"You could've just eaten the chains, no?" she wondered.

"Nah, too much noise. Do your thing, honey buns, we ain't got that much time" he responded in his usual rough monstrous voice, although he did seem very, very tired.

Lisette looked at the chains, wiggled her nose and the chains loosened enough so that Bartok could pull forcibly pull his wrists through the bindings. Feet finally on the ground he took a moment to compose himself fully.

"Do you know where they put our stuff?We need to get it back quickly, the guys are gonna start their diversion soon" Lisette asked.

"Some room down the corridor, near the service elevator. I hope they didn't suspect anything… I mean… I did have your clothes tucked here and there on my person" Bartok said as he made for the metal door to the small cell they were in.

"Oh baby, no one would even blink at the notion of you having my underwear on your person. I'd be insulted if they did." she answered with an elegant tone and a dash of Blanche Devereaux.

He couldn't help the overly large smile of growing on his face. This was going to be fun.

Alone and grim, the Baron looked down through the great windows of his hall and clenched his teeth.

Down bellow, his men were managing, as they could, a large red troll woman who very enthusiastically seemed to throw them around like a child in a ball pit. He knew the woman by name, and reputation. He wasn't surprised at all that Lady Cassandra of the Crimson decided to walk through the front gate of his demesne. After all, she was one of the Merry Motley's most infamous characters, a known associate of the Redcap he currently held in his dungeons.

Not surprised, no. Annoyed, certainly. He had hoped that the outlawed motley would show up and try to rescue their comrade. He had set up an ambush, taken precautions… and it seemed now, all in vain.

He reminded himself to hire more capable servants. The thought of having underestimated the ragged ruffians never even subtly crossed his mind. He was the Black Rock of Titan's Hill, after all. He was infallible. He had to be.

He was taken out of his thoughts by the sound of the great doors of his hall opening behind him.

He turned slowly around, expecting a servant of his to report on the events unfolding on the outside. He spoke before he saw anything.

"Send the rest to the front gates. If the Lady of the Crimson desires battle, we shall indulge her."

A grinding, guttural sound answered.

"I am afraid you have done like you've done so many times before, Lord Ivar. You've spoken too fast, and in ignorance."

The troll went from annoyance to sheer frustration. Before him stood his prisoner, fully dressed and armed. His plans now utterly shattered, the Baron settled for the opportunity of a more direct confrontation.

"A shame torment did not render you more docile, creature", he said while putting a hand to the sword at his side.

"Dear Ivar, surely by now you would've learned that few things possessed by nobility render one of us docile, me least of them", the Redcap bowed theatrically.

"I care not for your reputation, Redcap, nor for your so-called exploits. Your stories and those of your compatriots are one and same to the motivation you might hold on to behind your arrogant facade: false hope. Let me remove from thy body this poisoning notion", the troll drew his weapon.

Bartok giggled and then coughed, holding his side as if in pain.

"I'm afraid your headsman worked a bit too diligently on my carcass for me to entertain you with much sport, m'lord."

"You presume much, monster. I would be content for you to simply stand where you are and let yourself be cut in twain", the Baron advanced slowly, smiling at the prospect of an easy end to the day's troubles.

Ivar Blackrock was never known for his foresight, nor for his quick appraisal of obvious situations.

"Now now, Ivar, no need for such villainy. Would it not hurt your precious honor?"

"I will have the honor of presenting your head to the Duchess. But you speak some form of truth. I must confess to a want of immediate satisfaction… but it would be in bad form for me to succumb to it, I will give you that. Draw your weapon" the troll adopted a majestic battle stance.

"Very well. My Lady has been itching for a fight, she could barely contain herself within her scabbard", the Redcap smiled as he drew his rapier. The blade seemed to sing a metallic note as Bartok pointed it towards the Baron.

"But I will not fight you, m'lord. Not today", he added.

The troll stood still, his eyes adorned with a look of rising anger and surprised confusion.

"But she will."

From behind a stone pillar to the side, Lisette burst out of the shadows, rapier and main gauche in hand, a flurry of stings and slashes. Surprised by the small, mouse-looking woman, the Baron took a few steps back as he employed himself to block the tornado of assaults he was forced to contend with.

Picture, for a moment, an improbable scene: The Baron of Titan's Hill, Ivar Blackrock, massive but regal troll that he was, dressed in his noble's garb, great sword in hand, moving back, feet shuffling desperately to reel backwards from the spinning dervish-like maneuvers of the Lady Lisette, the Queen of Fudge herself, in a tube top, short shorts and sneakers, mouse-tail slapping around, contributing to the unrelenting attack.

Finally, the Baron saw his opening and took it. Experienced warrior, he brought down his blade with expert strikes, hoping to unbalance his unforeseen opponent's and break through her defenses. Lisette's attack had been a fury of motion, and her technique in defending herself was just as such. She was fluid, sudden, unpredictable, nearly graceful if it wasn't for the poses and grimaces she seemed insistent on adding to the mix. The Baron was mesmerized by her fighting prowess, taken completely by surprise.
There had been a hope, indeed. But it was anything but false.

Distracted as he was, the troll could not feel the creeping at his back, and it was only pain that revealed his foolishness.

Bartok plunged his monstrous teeth on the back of the Baron's neck and held on. The troll let out a confused yell and with one hand waved his sword around to maintain a semblance of defense, flailing helplessly the other around behind him, trying to catch the Redcap and throw him off some place, any place, the pain frustrating more than actually hurting.

Ivar Blackrock was, after all, a troll. And a powerful one at that. Redcaps can and will chew through anything eventually… but this was not the intent of said Redcap.

Eventually Bartok let go of his toothy grip and jumped back. The Baron whirled around, hand on the back of his neck, blood bursting through his fingers, his eyes mad with anger, focused on the Redcap.

He noticed too late that in between his teeth, Bartok was holding a golden necklace of intricate making, necklace that a few seconds before had been around the troll's neck.

Bartok dashed towards the large windows on the side of the hall, Lisette moving at his side.
The outlaws jumped out, crashing through the glass.

As with anything, it seemed, Ivar Blackrock took a long time to understand exactly what had just happened. He wasn't a stupid man by any stretch of the imagination, no.

He was just known for his temper and lack of judgement. And that he enjoyed appropriating treasures from commoners from time to time.

That "Redcap Robin Hood" would've purposefully let himself be taken, hiding his most infamous companion in his massive maw, enduring torture, escape and confront him only to take a necklace from him and escape as soon as said necklace was secure was a concept that never entered the Baron's imagination.

The desire for revenge, however, manifested itself quite strongly and immediately.

The feeling of flying and the feeling of falling are very close to one another. One can shift to the other in a nanosecond. As soon as both Lisette and Bartok broke through the glass of the great window, there was the exhilaration of success, the adrenaline of hunt for which they were both semi-junkies, and then… the reminder that they were falling from the fifth story of a building to a concrete floor.

They had planned so far, yes, and they knew how the fall was going to be managed.

But instincts are difficult to hold in check when fear is concerned.

Bellow, the fight was still raging. Cassandra, bare-handed, her sword still in her scabbard, was throwing minions of the Baron left and right, the red Troll making herself the main target of their assaults. The Eshu Longstride seemed to dance around the pavement, his night blue robes flowing around him, his scimitar deflecting attacks from all sides, expertly redirecting them to other targets. Francine, the Boggan of the motley, stayed back, near the "La Fudgerie" icecream truck, whacking an unfortunate assailant with her trustworthy frying pan any time one of them would notice her and think themselves smart by picking on "the weakest link".

Never attack a mother. Never. If they're not always the strongest link, but they're the ones who make damn sure the strongest link is the strongest it can possibly be.

It was she who pointed out and yelled: "Longstride!"

The Eshu knew his role and had positioned himself perfectly. In one fluid motion, he threw the lower portion of his robes forward. The fabric rolled out and extended itself, its extremity firmly rooting itself on the wall of the building. Both the Pooka and the Redcap fell right in the middle of the magically improvised trampoline and bounced harmlessly once, twice, and then landed with gymnast precision to the sides. With a quick snap of the wrist, Longstride brought the cloth back to him and the trio ran towards the truck.

"I've got the necklace!", the Redcap yelled.

"Just when they were about to run out of men too!", Cassandra roared in appreciation as she joined them.

Francine jumped into the drivers' seat as the others piled up through the back doors and hit the accelerator as soon as she heard a whistle from behind her.

They had done it. They had escaped. It would be a long time before the Baron's men would reorganize and try to give chase. Most likely, they would lick their wounds and wait for another time to get their revenge. The Baron would not be denied an attempt at it, that was certain, but the Merry Motley knew better than to hit the same bee hive twice. For now, they would make for safe haven and hide a while, rest… and hopefully recuperate.

Bartok moved to the front of the vehicule and sat on the passenger seat.

Francine side-glanced at him. "You look like shit", she said.

The Redcap smiled widely and produced the necklace from his left pant pocket. "Got this back for you. Now, I can do as I promised I would"

The Boggan sighed and tried to focus on her driving, but there was a definite emotion to her voice.

"We're going to get Bobby back?"

"We're going to get Bobby back."

There was a finality to Bartok's words. He had promised. A child was involved. A child which he had protected once. A child who had seen his true visage and had not been scared. A child which, more than likely, had protected him too.

You bet your ass he was going to get him back.

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