Puck was having a fuck of a day.
He had been woken up barely before dawn that morning by a raid on the boarding house he had been renting his room from. Her Majesty’s Goons hadn’t been after him – they didn’t have any reason to come after him. But then again, what, exactly, was their reason for taking Nikol? He heard them screaming something about possession of forbidden items, but whatever it was they thought he had he couldn’t make out through his closet door. Couldn’t even fathom what they thought he had. Nikol was the most honest in the house after the owner, Tolly. Went to work out in the fields every day, played cards at night, always settled up with the barman…for all Puck knew Nikol didn’t even drink. At least he hadn’t made much of a scene when they took him away. He could still hear Denny sobbing all the way out to the wagon.
It had taken all morning for him and Tolly to clean up the mess the foot soldiers had made of the house, meaning he was later than he liked to be at the market. He entirely missed the lunch crowd and only managed to cut a few purses before his fingers slipped entirely on a little silk bag belonging to a woman who could scream much louder than you’d think just looking at her. One bad turn during that little footrace and he would have been in the wagon with Nikol.
And then, the jousting match. It was nothing big, just a few locals who thought that riding in and out of town all day meant they could ride full speed at another guy carrying a fourteen foot spear. But bets were bets – it didn’t matter what you were betting on as long as someone else was willing to take it. Besides, he preferred these matches. Usually, when you knew the people jousting you could better figure out who was going to win, and who was willing to take a dive for a cut.
Today, the answer had been ‘nobody’ and all of his honest bets went just as worse. If he hadn’t been able to slip out the back he never would have made it to the streets.
The sun was setting on this shitty day. He could go back to the house and figure out if was worth trying to stick around, or if Rachel had done all it could for him.
Puck stopped and ran his fingers through his hair. “Of course.”
“The Basher Brothers!” he said, turning on his heels. “As if the universe didn’t think one giant, muscle bound, anger fueled idiot was enough, it went and made another.”
“If you think we’re such idiots,” Ben said, “then why do keep coming back to us?”
“And losing, too. Doesn’t that kind of make you a bigger idiot?”
Puck shrugged his shoulders. “Point. Look, guys, I have had a terrible day, so can we just skip all the talking and the wit and the…oxen growls and just get to the point where you threaten to break my thumbs if I don’t pay?”
“We can skip to the part where you pay, if you’d like.”
“It’s that, or we skip to the part where we do break your thumbs.”
“Oh, I see, you two aren’t looking for payment. You’re just looking for something to hurt.” Puck had started backing up slowly.
“You’re not the only one who’s had a bad day.”
Puck started to turn to run only to have his collar grabbed and yanked back.
“Guys guys guys-”
One of the brothers – he had a hard enough time telling the two apart when they weren’t about to pummel him – yanked his arms behind his back and he was hit three times in quick succession: eye, lip, stomach. The last one pushed all the air out of him, and as the first brother let him go he had no strength to keep from falling onto the pavement.
“Not done yet.”
“I think you might be.”
“Look at this. The little girl wants to play-”
He was interrupted by a dull thud and a smack.
“What the hell?”
Puck was wondering the same thing, and managed to pick himself up.
“I think…there might have been some damage…”
A small figure was attempting to fight both of the Basher Brothers, and she wasn’t doing half bad. As he watched she got in a few shots, even making one of them stumble backwards and fall on his ass. But then the other one had her by the waist and had lifted her off her feet.
“Get off me, you gorilla.”
The brother attempted to quiet her by placing his hand over her mouth, but yanked it back with a scream.
“She bit me!”
“Hold her,” the other one said, finally getting up.
“Shit,” Puck muttered to himself. He took a breath, and threw himself at the back of the second brother, throwing his arms around his neck. The girl kicked the same guy in the face before driving her elbows into the other’s gut.
Second Basher gripped both of Puck’s arms and flipped him over his head, and again Puck found himself on his back on the ground.
“Will you get rid of her?”
The dagger came out from one of Second Basher’s pockets and before Puck could think it through he had his leg in a grip and pulled with everything he had. He realized this meant he would fall directly on him just a split second before it happened.
“Ow, god dammit.”
A dull thud.
The Brother on top of him made a dull ‘oof’ sound several times in a row and then rolled off him. A hand was in front of him.
Puck took it and helped himself up, and the two were running before the Basher Brothers could even move.
They stopped on the other side of town, away from the lights of the saloons and pubs. Even if the Basher Brothers had followed them they probably wouldn’t even have been able to see them.
“What the hell was that?” Puck asked.