Small Time Vengeance – Guest Post by Steve McHugh
This week I’m hosting my fellow Rebel, Steve McHugh. The flash below is a prequal to his debut, Crimes Against Magic, an urban fantasy novel about sorcerer, Nate Garret, set in modern day England with flashbacks to fifteenth century France.
Small Time Vengeance by Steve McHugh
Near Soissons, France 1414.
The only reason the man wasn’t dead was because he hadn’t taken part in the raid. He swung gently from the rope I’d wrapped around his chest and under his arms, before I’d hoisted him off the ground. After gaining the information I’d needed about his friends, a cloth gag ensured he would make no sound, and if he woke up and thought about making problems, the four corpses of his comrades, lying clearly visible below him, would prove I wasn’t someone he wanted pissed off.
The four had died while they slept, their throats cut without a sound by the light of their campfire. They’d deserved no less, but my anger would be saved for the man who truly deserved it, the chief of the bandits I’d decimated.
I sat on the thick branch of the old oak tree, high above the ground, watching the man swing slowly back and forth beneath me.
My patience was rewarded as the moon reached its fullest and the sound of laughter came through the forest. The newcomers called to their friends in the camp, their laughter dying when there was no reply. Weapons were drawn and their leader barked orders, as he realised that there would be no answer from his erstwhile followers.
I stepped off the branch and white glyphs erupted over the backs of my hands and up my arms, as my air magic slowed my descent. When I was just over head height with the bandits, I forced the magic down toward my feet, so that I smashed into the ground with a roar. Leaves and dirt were thrown into the air, causing enough confusion and panic that the two closest bandits died before the leaves had drifted back to the earth. A blade of white-hot fire cut through their throats as I moved past them, out of the clearing and into the darkness of the forest, where the blade vanished from my hand.
Four were left in the circle of their camp, their eyes flickering frantically at the merest hint of movement.
The chief grabbed the nearest minion and pushed him. “Get in their and find him,” he barked.
I used my fire magic to see in the dark, turning my vision into a mixture of reds and oranges without casting any visible light from me.
Two large men crept into the forest, their daggers drawn. I moved behind them and took the first one with a blade of air into the base of his skull, almost decapitating him. He fell forward, alerting his companion who turned toward the noise, only to have a gust of air lift him off his feet and crash him into a nearby tree. The angle of his neck suggested he wouldn’t get back up.
“What are you fucking idiots doing in there?” the chief shouted from the tree line, his voice full of barely concealed anxiety.
I charged out of the forest and caught him in the jaw with a blast of air that threw him onto the ground.
I sprinted to the final bandit and he swiped at me with his sword, but I dodged aside and broke his knee with a swift kick. He screamed in pain and fell back, but I caught him and snapped his neck before he hit the ground.
The chief had gotten back to his feet and drawn a dagger, waving it in my direction. A gust of hardened air removed the danger and a second shattered his arm. He howled in pain and I punched him in the stomach, doubling him up, and then pushed him onto the ground.
“Who are you?” The chief’s voice was raspy with pain.
The noise had woken the hanging man, and he watched wide-eyed as I picked up the dagger and crouched beside his boss.
“You terrorised that village. You went there time and time again to steal and have your fun. And when a boy of twelve stood up to you, you murdered him in front of his parents and maimed the man who tried to stop you.”
I smiled down at the chief as fear oozed out of him. “You did everything in your power to break them. But you know what? When I arrived there two days ago, the first thing they did was offer me hospitality.
“They warned me of you and your bandits. They made sure I was going the other way. They wanted to keep me safe from you. Even though you tortured those people, you couldn’t break them.”
“So?” he groaned as I placed the tip of the dagger against his stomach, drawing blood.
“So, clearly you’re very bad at your job. And someone that terrible needs to be shown how to do it properly. So allow me to educate you on the fine art of breaking someone.”
The chief’s screams and pleas lasted only a short time. I gained no enjoyment from what I did, but it needed doing.
The surviving bandit begged me to spare him as I cut him down and removed his gag.
I nodded. “But you’re going to do something for me in return for your life.”
“Anything,” he said immediately.
“You’re going to gather up every last coin and item of worth from your fellow bandits here, and you’re going to take it back to the village you stole it from. You will do this tonight. You will beg for forgiveness. And if you fail to do any of these things, I will find you.” I dragged him over to the body of his chief.
“And I will make what I did to him appear as a tap on the wrist, are we clear?”
The man nodded repeatedly.
“One more question,” I said. “Have you heard about Soissons?”
“You don’t want to go there. The French army murdered everyone. I’ve heard stories of monsters and demons roaming the city.”
“Monsters and demons?” I smiled. “Sounds like my kind of city.”
* * * * *
It’s been almost ten years since Nathan Garrett woke on a cold warehouse floor with nothing but a gun, a sword, and no idea of who he was or how he got there. His only clue … a piece of paper with his name on it. Since then, he’s discovered he’s a powerful sorcerer and has used his abilities to work as a thief for hire. But he’s never stopped hunting for his true identity, and those who erased his memory have never stopped hunting for him. When the barrier holding his past captive begins to crumble, Nathan swears to protect a young girl who is key to his enemy’s plans. But with his enemies closing in, and everyone he cares about becoming a target for their wrath, Nathan is forced to choose between the life he’s built for himself and the one buried deep inside him.