A small, prosperous town sits in the shadow of a huge mountain. At the bottom of the mountain there's a dense forest which contains bugbears. These bugbears would have taken over the town if not for the efforts of the five hunters that protect it.
The hunters not only have to deal with bugbears, they also have to contend with an easily corruptible Mayor, family, each other and their own feelings.
Or something like that. It's a story I'm working on which I could use some constructive feedback
The roar made him spin round in anticipation. It was a sickening roar he’d heard many times before, but like most of roars that came before, the bugbear responsible didn’t appear.
There’s not much you can say about him, but the one thing most say is that he’s aware. He won’t let much get past him. He is Markus ‘Trident’ Groningen. The things he’s done whilst being so aware were and are to this day greatly appreciated by the townsfolk.
‘Trident’, which was the town’s and his fellow hunters nickname for him, was so called because he hunts with a wooden handled Trident with three extremely lethal prongs at its end. The considerable weight this creates doesn’t stop him from handling it with same ease as the wind would handle a stray leaf. He is six foot two inches tall and there isn’t an ounce of fat to be found on him. He along with each of the other hunters has a weapon of choice to the bugbears that ranged from gigantic in size to at their smallest man sized. None of the hunters was recognised officially as the leader but ‘Trident’ was treated as such within the five.
The hunters had only a few things in common, these included wearing the same smart shirts and cotton twill pants along with any footwear of their choosing. Eriden Grainger, who has the distinction of being the only woman hunter to date, stood at five foot eleven inch with a considerable amount of muscle herself. Though this muscle had been toned over the years so she kept her womanly figure and never strayed into the ‘manly woman’ category. I’m sure you know one of these and there not the best to look at. She carried two pistols which matched that of any gunslinger to have ever graced the Wild West. Although I doubt many of them wore a corset. They all covered up with the standard long dark brown coat which was closer to black but patches of the coats still remained there natural color. The shirt, pants and long coat combination was standard for a hunter and it always allowed them to keep their weapons concealed from the bugbears. The bugbears knew the hunters by their clothes more so than there facial features and in some instances a bugbear has been lured by a coat being put around something that resembled a hunter from the back and lured into a trap by the coats owner.
As we join ‘Trident’ we find him doing his daily rounds. Each hunter is required to walk the distance of the forest in search of bugbears each day alternately. Bugbears came out at night which was when all the hunters were scheduled to patrol the forest in shifts. Two would go on patrol for the night and then the next night another two would patrol. The remaining hunter would hunt with the Sheriff of the town the next night then they would switch partners the next night and so on.
‘Come back in Trident. Seven times is enough for any
man. Even one as tireless as yourself.’ Stuart shouted from the edge of the forest. Stuart Pinder-Marsh carried a fencing sword at one side of his six foot muscular frame and the other side was accompanied by a great sword who’s blade stretched four and half feet and was three inches wide. It was the sharpest sword in the town and has been called a contender for sharpest in the country by some travelling blacksmiths and sword experts. His muscles are his pride and have enabled him to handle his great sword with ease just like Markus can handle his Trident. He now held the less taxing two jugs of water for him and for the now tried Markus. Marcus had reached the edge of the forest but was looking back one final time. After a few more minutes of cautious glances towards the darker parts of the forest, he turned and walked towards him. Stuart in turn held up the full jug of water which was swiped from his hand quickly.
‘Polite as usual.’ Stuart muttered.
‘I heard that.’ Replied Markus as he took a large gulp of his jug.
As they made their way back to the town they were soon greeted by a very smiley man with a slight pot belly and red cheeks. He dressed very brightly which usually included a yellow tartan waist coat and, unfortunately, a matching hat. He strode up and stopped in front of Markus. Markus would have walked right through him if Stuart hadn’t stepped in to shake the man’s outstretched hand. He didn’t like the man very much. The only reason he ever gave was that he didn’t like the feeling he got whenever he was near him. A sense of unease and general suspicion came over him and he could never get the other hunters to understand.
‘I hope the daily round went well?’ The man asked tentatively. He didn’t answer until Stuart accidentally on purpose nudged him when he stepped back to the side of him.
‘It did.’ He replied whilst trying to look directly into his soul. After another uneasy silence, the man decided to break it.
‘Well, as always, I’m happy to hear it. It soothes my soul to know that as Mayor of this town I have nothing to worry about. Hopefully anyway.’ He said as he checked his pocket watch. It was getting close to darkness.
‘Right. Well, Maybe I’ll see you in the House tonight Mr. Groningen? I know I’ll see you Pinder-Marsh.’ The Mayor said as he turned and walked off towards the town. He walked a short distance before turning left and entering a large building with “Sheriff/Mayor” written on the side. This was away from the first row of four houses that started around ten feet from the forest. Each side had houses and buildings, used as shops or meeting areas, which stretched through the town. The middle was covered with either a slight covering of mud or grass. The Mayor’s building was the second biggest building in the town and only housed five people. The Mayor Anton Brokeback, Sheriff Terrance Kelly, a stand up man around six feet tall and well built who always carried a pistol in his right holster and a sawn off shot gun on his back, deputy Elijah Grainger, brother to Eriden who became the deputy after failing to impress enough to become a hunter. That which his sister had no problems in doing and which has caused a rift between them ever since. Their parents are the only ones who enable them to be in a room together without arguing or physically fighting. The last two members of the oversized building is the Mayor’s assistant Amanda Pinder-Marsh who was considered by many to be the most elegant woman in the town but some considered the other occupant to be as such. Darling Bloomflower was her name and she was the top saloon dancing girl of the town. This divided the town on numerous occasions but it really didn’t wash well with her son Stuart who would frequently beat up anybody who showed an unnatural interest in her or discussed her in such a way.
‘You coming to the House tonight Trident?’ Stuart asked as they strolled through the town.
‘Why the hell not?’ He answered to the huge grin of Stuart. They arranged to meet later in the House along with the other Hunter who wasn’t on patrol that night and made their separate ways to their houses. The hunters lived next to each other in five houses three of which were joined side by side on the left side of the town and the other two joined on the right. These were reserved for the hunters and every time one hunter died another replaced him. This unfortunate fact was known to each hunter but accepted as part of the job. The place known simply as ‘The House’ was the only entertainment venue of the town and also was the biggest building of the town. It has become quite famous outside of the town borders and travelers frequently flock to sample its delights.
It was very quiet at this time of day as most people were either getting ready to eat there evening meal or to go out to The House. The House boasted a huge stage which had dancing acts from the saloon dancing girls every night except for Sunday and fist fights between local and foreign fighters every night except Sunday. The bar stretched around the inside of the building and in total the whole place could fit all the townsfolk if needs must. The location was in the centre of the town on the right hand side and the shops opposite sold everything anyone needed and those next to it as well. Food, drink, clothes, weapons, pets, and basket’s everything that was needed for a town to survive could be bought in close proximity. Some of the shops stayed open late on occasion and the townsfolk have had trouble returning there unwanted drunken purchases the next day. A horses saddle is always a good idea to buy once drunk and with a pocket full of gambling winnings, the next morning however the idea seems surprisingly below par.
Eriden and Owen were the selected hunters for this night’s hunt. Owen Bernard Treeben carried a long bow and specially made arrows which packed a more powerful hit than normal. Standing at six foot six and having an athletic build allowed this to happen. Brian Oxberry joined Markus and Stuart in the House whilst they waited to either help the other two or buy them a drink once they had finished. Brian Oxberry carried with him two harpoons, one in a gun and the other by hand and was again athletic but was the shortest of the hunters and compensated for this with his amazing agility. His five foot nine inch frame was filled with muscle but without this it’s said that he wouldn’t be a hunter at all. His never ending ability to bound around and move to help the other hunters made him possibly on a par with Markus, though his lack of self esteem at times will always stop him from surpassing ‘Trident’.
The door was in the fashion of a saloon and allowed anybody to believe they were entering a Wild West style environment. Fun was the name of the game for the House and if anybody took it too far the Mayor’s “squad” would reject them immediately and deal with them appropriately. Usually by either a swift punch and a threatening glance. This squad consisted of five failed hunters who could easily deal with anyone, including the actual hunters providing each hunter stood still or was asleep. The squad is known for their brawn and definitely not for their brains. They were greeted literally seconds after stepping through the door by the Mayor and his assistant who was carrying a letter clutched close to her chest.
‘You best not be looking at her untouchables.’ Brian whispered as they waited for the Mayor and his assistant to approach. The letter Markus was gazing at had ‘Hunters Records’ written on it and was between two things Markus knew he shouldn’t be staring at. Though a fine pair like that deserves a bit of attention he thought.
‘Markus I see you’ve returned from the daily round unharmed. You know the rest.’ The assistant said as she handed the letter to him. He quickly took the contents out and opening it to its full length to reveal a document that had ’Markus Groningen’ written at the top and ‘Wednesdays Report’ written just below it. Each hunter had to document each days round and the next day the two night patrol hunters had to document their hunt for the Mayor’s records. These were used to keep track of the Bugbears sightings and to prepare them if it seemed the sightings were becoming more frequent and a possible attack was on the horizon. This has only happened once before.
One hundred years ago when the town was in its infancy and were completely unaware of the inhabitants of the woods they had chosen to settle in front of twenty man-sized bugbears smashed the town’s houses and surrounding buildings and killed half the inhabitants in a frenzied attack. They came out of nowhere in broad day light as the forest back then was so dense it was hard to pick anything out even with full sunshine. The bugbears were, as they are presently, vicious creatures who look like bears but move like humans. Sharp claws and teeth along with brutal strength meant the efforts to repel them by hand were useless. The settlers at the time didn’t think to arm themselves as they were a peaceful folk but quickly became wise after rebuilding the city the following year. The town also decided to create a band of “Protectors” or “Hunters” as they were soon to be called who would be given the sole job to shield the town from the bugbears. They were paid very well for their services. They only did this one job and for long periods would consist of doing nothing but walking round the woods either at night or in the day. Though countless bugbears seemed to inhabit the woods, they kept themselves
well hidden and didn’t attack very often.
After walking over to a table that was three rows back from the stage and comfortably sat five, Markus made swift work of the day’s report. The report could be as long as the hunter wanted it to be. So long as it was clear and stated any happenings of any kind. The report read as follows;
“No sightings of the any bugbears of any kind.
No sighting of any homes made by them or places which they’ve been. The usual
evidence of them covering their tracks with piles of leaves and excretion
covered by mud was found at the dead centre of the forest. I followed the
tracks and they led to a dead end. Went round seven times in the
space of three hours to compile this report.
Markus Groningen(Hunter of the town) “
He finished his report as Stuart and Brian came over with three pints of beer each. They both handed one to Markus as they sat down.
‘Back in a minute.’ Markus said as he walked over to the Mayor’s table to hand over the report in its envelope. The Mayor’s table was always located at the centre of the front row in front of the stage and was big enough to fit more than its current capacity of four. Markus dropped the report down in front of the mayor’s assistant.
‘Thank you.’ She replied gratefully. Markus was the only one who remembered to put the report back in its envelope to hand back to her each time. The others just completed and returned it in any form they chose. Folded, ripped, beer stained and so on. She appreciated this from Markus.
‘Markus!?’ She cried after him as he started to walk off. He turned back annoyed as he was very much looking forward to his fresh beer while it was cold. The House’s home brewed beer was never tastier than when it was cold and fresh. He noticed the Mayor and the deputy looking back at him and then to the assistant. Markus always tried to avoid doing this as people are free to do as they choose without prejudice. He was one of only a few that thought this way so he spent a lot of free non hunting time annoyed.
‘Yes Ms Pinder-Marsh?’ He said feigning politeness. He did this a lot and was very good at it.
‘I’d like again to say thank you for your promptness and neatness with regards to your report. You never disappoint.’ She said proudly.
‘I try my best.’ He replied still thinking of his beer. He wouldn’t think of it so much if it hadn’t been two weeks since his last drink. A night of one too many at the House and a stage routine he’d rather forget he created started this current two week shun of his favorite, all be it only one in the town, beer. ’Thank you Ms Pinder-Marsh.’ He said as he bowed and carried on walking. She ran up to him and touched him so he turned back around.
‘Please, you should know by now you can me Amanda.’ She whispered as she winked at him and returned to her table. This had happened the last god knows how many times he had handed his report to her. He knew what it meant but tried to forget it as she was always his fellow hunter and close friend Stuart’s mother. He returned to his table and informed Stuart and Brian of what just happened.
‘She likes you Trident. Go on, marry her and be Stuart’s new dad.’ Brian said through a suppressed laugh. Markus went straight for his beer and took a drink which lasted half the glass.
‘You wouldn’t would you?’ A concerned and clearly worried Stuart said. He never did really get any kind of sarcasm and never knew when Brian was joking. Brian, knowing this, did it a lot.
‘I was joking Stuart! Dear lord!’ Brian said as he finished his first pint.
‘Of course I wouldn’t.’ Markus calmly replied patting Stuart on the back. The reassured look in Stuart’s eyes ensured the subject was dropped quickly and the night could continue.
The next half an hour past by quite quickly as they talked about nothing subjects like annoying people around them and waitresses falling out of there dresses until the lights slowly dimmed in the House. It was known in the town and in some of the cities nearby (nearby being at least ten miles away) that it was the one place where the party was always good. The first act was a group of saloon dancing girls who, whilst only just secure in their dresses, would come on wooing and laughing as they danced and transfixed there audience. The next was another set of chorus girls, who looked suspiciously like the first set in less clothes, with their own dance act which involved the crowd as well.
The rest of the night was devoted to either bear knuckle boxing matches or music from a piano and a space for people to dance in. This was known as “Clifton’s Dance floor” but the Clifton part was dropped when any ’travelers’ would tell their friends back home of the place. It is said the dance floor idea has taken off in the bigger cities. The House allowed them all to come out of their collective comfort zones and be as free as they liked. “Be free, no matter what.” was the slogan of the place and it attracted travelers who took up the rooms which the House also provided.
The Owner and Bar manager Clifton Tomas always decided how much the charge would be for anyone wishing to sleep in the House. He was an excellent judge of character and was never wrong. He would talk to the potential occupant for ten minutes and no more before deciding how much to charge. Depending on how they acted, the price could go high up or low down. Clifton would never turn custom away, but he would make custom that thought deserved it pay a pretty penny for the privilege of the staying within his walls. He never used to judge people like this and was open and honest with all people he met until he returned from America. He seemed sharper and more aware and the story goes that he lived and worked in the St. Louis, Missouri with a distant cousin of some sort after said cousin had come to the town looking for him. Clifton was born in the town of the mountain and it took some persuading for him to leave. After the cousin had proved he was indeed a relation of his he convinced Clifton to work in his bar. Clifton was always a big man and could intimidate anyone he met was either by his size or his temper. He added muscles to his frame but even without them he would be big.
He lived and worked was there for five years and returned a five years ago to set up the House with the knowledge he‘d gained from his travels. He tried to bring the cousin back with him and he was all set to succeed until his cousin’s wife died giving birth to his son and he had to stay in St. Louis to look after him. Though he had planned to set up with his cousin, he quickly got the town involved. The town helped him build his dream saloon and within a few short months those who helped and the rest who didn’t were there almost every night from day one. He also placed posters in the bigger cities to get their attention and bring in the ‘travelers’. He would travel to the bigger cities and stay overnight and see if that city had the right kind of people for the House. He would then put up posters, making sure people spotted him doing so, and then talk about the House to get them to come which they always did.
‘Quick, get the beers in.’ Said Brian to Markus hurriedly as the first set of chorus girls were about to start. Markus reluctantly got up to do so as he knew he’d miss the grand entrance. As predicted as he was waiting for his beers to be poured when they made their glorious start to their performance. He could see it from the bar but the views always a lot better from a table.
The huge curtains of the stage opened swiftly and the saloon girls burst through. The crowd would go berserk and the saloon girls would indulge this for a while before stopping to wait for the place to become almost completely quiet. Then, one saloon dancer, the head of group, would slowly walk onto the stage high kicking with every step. As she gets to the centre of the stage she bows her head until the place is absolutely silent in anticipation. A swift lift of her head and, dressed in a red corset which sparkled along with her red high heels, she shouts ’WELCOME TO THE HOUSE!’ and takes three steps back as the rest of the girls step forward and perform a breathtaking stage show. The girls would run in-between each other and high kick all the while. Jumping and wooing as if their lives depended on it. Some
girls would pair up and help each other do cartwheels and do many (so called by
the staff) suggestive dances.
The saloon girls of the house had seemingly unlimited stamina and could continue like this for thirty minutes straight. They would leave the stage for five minutes and return in different costumes and get the audience to join in with the some routines which were very simple but allowed each audience member to have fun with the dancers. Any audience member getting too friendly with a dancer was
quickly seen too by either Clifton or the mayor’s squad. This happened rarely as the seeing too was unpleasant to say the least and had helped the House’s dancers to become a tradition for the town and most people had no problems joining in as they were lucky not to have fun. It seemed almost impossible.
Whilst this was getting under way, in seemingly more extravagant style than usual, Markus was still waiting for his beer. A man in scruffy clothes that only needed to be tucked in to make him look smart was complaining about something. It was with passion but his speech was slurred and Markus could only pick out a few words.
‘There not dam comfortable enough.’ He said but only just. As he continued the barman kept his cool and poured Markus’s beer’s perfectly. As he took the last two over to Markus and received payment, the scruffy man came over to them to continue his drunken rant.
‘You know you barman aren’t anything to write home about. You’re just miscreants. ’ Once the scruffy man had said this Markus immediately recognised him. He didn’t know his name but he knew that he was the assistant to the chief clothes supplier for one of the big cities the town had as a client. The town was self sufficient and made some of the best clothes in the country. Once the bigger cities got wind of this they struck deals with the town to sell the clothes as their own. The Mayor has many flaws but his thirst for money meant these deals allowed the town to prosper. This man was also solemn and uptight toward Markus whenever he came to town with his boss to do a deal and had no idea about how to let off some steam. The fact that his drunken ramblings were more garbled than most suggested that he mustn’t drink very often. Although, most can’t pronounce miscreant when sober let alone after a few pints of house beer. Markus took the beers back to the table and decided to go back and help the clothes assistant out before he got into trouble. He was too late.
‘You’re going on the street boy.’ One rough looking squad member shouted. The house didn’t have trouble that often so whenever there was a hint of it they seemed to pounce very quickly.
‘Hey! Calm down!’ Markus shouted as he got back to the bar. The hired gun had the assistant by the neck and pants ready to throw him out of the saloon.
‘What do you want getting involved, Hunter man?’He replied. The clothes assistant was now completely off the ground and looking terrified.
‘This man is the assistant to one of the town’s top clients when it comes to clothes and provides a fair amount of profit for us. What do you think the top client will do when he finds out his assistant was treated in such a way at a House I’ve heard him deem “Safe for all comers.”’ Markus said but knew half way through that man had lost the plot and seemed to be frowning a lot. He quickly summed up.
‘Put him down or the town will lose money.’
‘Right.’ He said dropping the clothes assistant on the floor. Markus quickly picked him up and sat him in a chair with a table on his own. The assistant put his head on the table and passed out.
‘Sorry hunter. I just get so bored. I can’t afford to leave as I’ve got a family to support back home. I’d try for a hunter job but my brain doesn’t work well enough. Well, that’s what he said.’ He walked off solemnly to his post at the end of the bar and took up his position. Markus noticed he looked at the Mayor as he did this and Markus stared at the Mayor for a while. He had always despised the way that the Mayor conducted his affairs and manipulated five seemingly no brain thugs to protect the House. They follow orders and do nothing else for a more than likely bad wage depending on how stupid they were and would convince that it was good money they were being paid. This annoyed him to the extent that he actually considered attacking the Mayor as he sat in a crowded House surrounded by his friends. This was not the first time this had crossed his mind but he soon remembered that he was up for a good night before he entered the House and decided to drink more beer to forget about it until tomorrow.
Markus was due to meet the Mayor for a Sheriff focus group the following morning. The Sheriff was an excellent hunter but was unable to train to become one officially because of his bad knees. He fell and landed on said knees from the top of his house. He can walk normally but constant action over the course of a few days and they would buckle and he needed to rest for a least a week to regain his strength. The Mayor was always skeptical of the Sheriff and wanted his own assistant to have that job instead so he had almost completely control the town. The Sheriff had been voted in by the town members and, though Miss Amanda Pinder-Marsh was well liked, Terrance Kelly was liked more and got elected. The Mayor and the Sheriff have a good relationship in the open space, but behind closed doors the Mayor’s annoyance was clear and the meeting he requested behind the Sheriff’s back with the hunters proved this. None of the hunters agreed with the meeting but had to attend as per the terms of them becoming a hunter. As Markus continued to stare with shear contempt at the Mayor, he suddenly felt something and swiftly turned and left the House.