Downtown Druid

Book 2 Chapter 22: Let Me Come Up with Something Better
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Book 2 Chapter 22: Let Me Come Up with Something Better

Dantes wound his way back up through the outer city and back to where his boots clacked comfortably against concrete. The sun was high and he’d spent several hours getting information on the different local plants that Hema had sold him. Though Clay had frequently interrupted her so they could bicker on the fine points of what certain things did, the overall lesson had been clear.

He took no breaks and was grateful that he’d recovered as much as he had in such a short time since his blood garden had been destroyed. Now the key would be to make it so that he could never be weakened like that again. He walked down the center of a wide and empty street as he considered next steps.

There was a loud crack, and suddenly he found himself spinning and falling onto the ground. He felt a white hot pain in his back left shoulder, and he clutched at it with the opposite hand, feeling blood pouring from a wound. He regained his footing and started running, just as another cracking noise rang out and a piece of concrete next to him burst.

He wove, trying to mimic the pattern he’d seen Gavain run in to avoid gunfire, and narrowly avoided two more shots as he dove into a nearby alley. Gritting his teeth, he sent his will out and summoned a cloud of bats to begin a search in the vicinity the bullets seemed to be coming from. The shooter had to be a large distance away, as the vermin he had watching things in front of and behind him hadn’t detected anything. As he did so, he moved further down the alley, but stopped before it opened up into a wider square between four buildings.

He detected a lot of movement in that direction. He began to turn back, when another shot rang out and he found his legs pushing him into the square. At the same time he adjusted the swarm of bats he’d sent out and found the shooter.

He was a dwarf sitting on the rooftop of a building behind him, which meant either he was a very fast dwarf or he had an accomplice. The Dwarf had a short well trimmed beard, and wore an immaculate black outfit with a number of heavy ammo pouches. He was crouched over a long gun of some kind with a barrel as tall as he was, and a second one right next to it, presumably to alternate shots.

Dantes had the bats descend on the man, but was immediately forced to turn his attention away as he entered the cleared block. A group of ten dwarves, all with guns pointed in his direction, and all wearing full plate armor with their faceplates closed. He raised up his hands, letting Jacopo slide out of his pants leg and run toward cover.

One of them stepped forward, and slid open his faceplate, it was Iron in the Mine. He looked much the same as he had the last time Dantes had seen him in person. Broad, dark hair and beard braided through gold and silver beads and rings, and a blunderbuss. This time however, he was missing a couple fingers, and wore an eyepatch.

Dantes began bringing all the nearby vermin he could closer, and reached out to sense if there was any plantlife nearby that could help him. Unfortunately, he sensed only concrete.

“Lead in the Chamber does good work for an untouchable. Brought you right to us, just as promised.”

Dantes’ attention flickered to the bats nearby who were chasing the dwarf that had been shooting at him, presumably Lead, across rooftops. He was incredibly agile.

“Iron,” he said, nodding at him.

“Deceiver. Bet you weren’t expecting to see me.”

Dantes suppressed a quip about Iron’s now missing eye. “Can’t say I was, no. What’s this about?”

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“No. You aren’t going to be able to pretend you don’t know what you did. I lost dozens of good men to your bloody garden. And I know that it was you that shot me.”

“I’m good at hiding and sneaking, but I’m not that good.”

“No, but the animals you control are.”

“Animals? What do you mean,” said Dantes even as he gathered more rats and roaches, bringing the swarm of bats back toward himself.

“You’re a Druid. I remember learning about you all as a child. My grandfather used to speak of one that lived in the endless mountain. One who cultivated forests of mushrooms and summoned creatures from the dankest corners of it to protect what he grew. They hunted him of course. His gardens were in the way of a gold deposit.”

Dantes kept his face passive. “Sounds like a good reason to kill someone.” He began gathering his will into the branch, moving it up to wrap itself around, and brace his wound. “This though,” he gestured to the dwarves with all of their guns trained on him. “Seems unnecessary. Why stay in Rendhold? Aren’t you nobility? Is revenge on me really worth staying here and in danger?”

Iron nodded. “It absolutely is.”. He raised his gun to aim at Dantes.

Dantes sighed, then let his hands drop to his side. “Disagreeing with that would only make me a hypocrite.

He released his will, and the branch wrapped around his left arm shot forward through his jacket and pushed the barrel of Iron’s blunderbuss away from him just as he pulled the trigger.

Dantes dove to the side as the shot went off, and unleashed the vermin he’d been gathering at the same time. Bats, rats, and roaches all swarmed the dwarves. The square became a sea of movement as roaches crawled into the seams in the dwarves' armor, rats tried to pry open their faceplates, and bats blinded them. Some of the dwarves managed to pull the triggers on their weapons causing an explosion of viscera as the vermin that surrounded them were turned to paste, but they were unable to reload afterward, as roaches stuffed themselves into the barrels of their guns..

Once they all seemed to have fired a shot, Dantes moved into action. He pulled his stiletto out and worked his way from the outside in. He sent his branch forward to pry open the dwarves faceplates, then jammed his knife into their eyes. It brought back memories of his assault on the orcs back in the Pit. By the end of it his favor was drained, but not gone, and he was breathing heavily covered in his blood, that of the creatures he’d summoned, and that of the dwarves. Only Iron was left, writhing on the ground as the vermin scratched and tore at what flesh they could reach.

Dantes reached down to pick up one of the guns that the dwarves had dropped, this one still cocked and loaded. He winced at the burning pain in his shoulder, and walked over to Iron, calling the vermin off of him.

Iron writhed a bit longer before realizing he was no longer being bitten into, then he forced himself up.

Dantes smiled down at him, pointing the barrel of the gun at his faceplate. He didn’t know much about guns, but he felt that from this range the bullet would likely tear through the armor without much issue.

“From what I hear this won't be the first time a man has put his gun to your face,” said Dantes smirking.

Iron said nothing, but Dantes guessed he was gritting his teeth behind the visor.

“Sorry, that was low. Let me come up with something better.” He pulled the trigger, and red sprayed from the back of Iron’s head onto the vermin behind him.

He rubbed his arm which seemed to be buzzing a bit from the force of the shot. He looked over as Jacopo returned from his cover.

“They are more powerful than expected,” said Jacopo, indicating the gun.

“Yes, but at least I had the heads up from being with you when you used one.”

Dantes sent the vermin permission to feed and leaned against a wall, removing his jacket to view his bullet wound. It looked like the bullet had passed through cleanly, but his muscle there would likely be damaged forever unless he could find a healer or get his hands on a healing potion. He had a bit of one left from when he killed Gaspard, but he wasn’t sure that there was enough to fully heal him. He willed his branch to wrap back around and compress the wound, then began to pull his coat back on.

He heard a commotion and sensed movement coming nearer.

“Fuck,” he said as he shifted into ratform, and leaned against the wall. His wound followed him, and he needed to walk on three legs to find cover.

Just as he took cover, Orebus, Wane, and Merle entered the square. Orebus had a spear, Wane a large club, and Merle his bricklike fists. They were all still wearing collars, and they came to a dead stop as they saw the see of vermin feasting on the dead dwarves.

Merle sighed heavily, dropping his hands to his side. “Seems he didn’t need our help after all.”

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