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Iron Quill - Strings - Stupid


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(Author's Note: Apologies about the uneven indentations, apparently Google Docs don't get along with forum code, I'll work on it in the future.)


Stupid: A story by RarerMonsters


    Quentin went ankle deep into mud with the sound and feeling of kissing an unwilling catfish.

    Gady Dautrive slapped his little green thigh with a guffaw. “Ya step’d in stuck-mud.”

    Quentin wrenched his foot about, the sunken shoe holding fast.

    “Wiggle all you want coz,” his guide continued, “dat aint get’n out.”

    “I can’t walk around barefoot!”

    “Aint never pried nothin’ outta stuck mud. My papy fell all the way in once. Loss my two best sticks tryina get him out.”

    Quentin stopped fidgeting. He hadn’t yet considered that a Gremlin was capable of family and loss. “I’m sorry, Gady.”

    “Yeah,” he lowered his conical straw hat over his heart, “dem was good sticks.”

    “I meant your father!” He worked his bootstraps angrily.

    Gady bellowed even louder. “Papy aint dead stupid! He still sunk in stuck-mud, aint moved for nigh on two year. We bring ‘im pork and shine when he ‘ollers for it. Still teaches da younguns howta trap rabbit.”

    Cursing his own empathy, Quentin planted his bare foot into cold, slimy bayou ground.

    “See, aint so bad if’n ya just watch for critters. Now get to movin’, coz. Aint wanna be stuck in the bottoms when night comes round.”

“Why me,” he quietly asked, “why do I always get the crap jobs.”

    Quentin opened a satchel full of children’s clothes. He fished out a cloth tunic and wrapped torn strips of it around his bare foot. “Are we at least getting close?” he asked.

Gady offered a positive grunt and kept walking. Quentin grumbled and followed.

Within the hour, they spotted bright orange through the line of overgrown greens. “There ya go, coz, Fauntaine land. Sumbitches won’t shut it ‘bout all the scratch they pinched offa dat blowed up wreck.”

“Perfect,” Quentin answered, genuinely happy to see some actual progress in this fool’s errand. Four days ago, the Neverborn had savaged a Guild carriage. If Gady was anywhere near the truth, then these were the Gremlins who’d scavenged the abandoned wreck.

“Aint no thing for nice hat, coz!” Gady tipped fondly at a conical Three Kingdoms hat: Quentin’s trade for guiding a human this far into the bayou.

“Now, you still need’n me round? I aint sure I can walk in that hole.” He spit a burst of what Quentin hoped was chew. “I like yo comp’ny an all, bein’ of dat scholaly type, but dem Fauntaine boys is stupid.”

Quentin fought the urge to rid himself of Gady. “I’ll still need help getting out of the swamp,” he said, holding up the novelty tortoiseshell glasses that went with the hat.

Gady nodded solemnly.


“Fauntaine Land” was a settlement only in that the riverbank shanties were near enough to string “washed” garments up to dry. So many pigs wandered about, snuffling the ground and wrestling with children, that it was more open air pen than town. In the center of this mess, near a large campfire, a roasting pig, and a thick knot of Gremlins, Quentin spid his goal: a steel coffin hanging from a tree.

Sloshing through bayou mud, Quentin could feel the eyes atond barrels of a whole warren settling on him. Fortunately he was outnumbered by enough that they didn’t need to shoot yet.

“Gady!” A voice both baritone and shrill cut through the trees. The whole village snapped to attention, following it to the new visitors. “You got crap for brains comin’ back round ‘deez part.”

Quentin tensed up.

“Aww don’ be like dat, coz!” Gady called back without even a slight change to his jovial tone. “Nice threads, by the way.”

    The voice came from a paunchy Gremlin by the barbecue pit. He was trailing a Guild duster and carrying a guild Scattergun, each recently scavenged and twice his size.

    “Gady,” Quentin whispered, “what is he talking about?”

    “Aww, nothin’,” Gady answered at full volume, “just tol’ dis Calhoun sumbitch he aint no good cookin pig.”

    “D’as a damn lie Gady Dautrive!” Calhoun’s scatter gun aimed at Gady, at a range that was as likely to clip Quentin.

    “Please, calm down,” Quentin yelped. When nobody calmed down, he desperately added, “I’m sure your pig tastes great.”

    “It aint” Gady corrected.

    “Shut up,” Quentin whispered back.

    Calhoun kept the gun steady on Gady. With a free hand, he snapped twice.

    “Whassa snappin’ mean boss?”.

    “It means grab a chop dummy!” He yelled, smacking the confused subordinate. Receiving a chunk of cooked pig, Calhoun hurled it across the “town square” to Quentin.

Thanking heaven that he caught it, Quentin took a hearty bite. It had the bold, smokey taste of burnt sand painted onto a jellied rat. He wasn’t exactly a gourmet, but it seemed that putting the pig in fire after you’ve killed it was still a novel concept among the Fauntaine boys.

“It’s,” he choked out the words, “it’s amazing. Damn fine chop. Listen, I was hoping I could ask you about... “

“You full of it, coz,” Gady interjected.

“Now who’s stupid Gady,” Calhoun beamed, “this feller knows him some chop!”

“I’m glad you think so,” Quentin rushed, physically restraining Gady, “listen, that coffin you have up there, can you get it down?”

Calhoun’s grin collapsed and his gun fidgeted, “tha’s my box, fella. Shows all the kin round who got the big scratch.”

“I know,” Quentin continued, suppressing his tension, “I just need what’s inside: A bunch of paper. Worhtless to you.”

Calhoun’s face twisted in circles, mind at war between not trusting and not understanding.

“You good dere, Calhoun?” Gady prodded with a smug grin.

Changing the subject fast, Quentin opened his sack and drew out a child’s top hat. “I’ve brought trade?”

In an instant, all grudges dropped before the hypnotic glory of a big hat. A Fauntaine boy reached for it, but Calhoun smashed him with the butt of his scattergun. He then turned the gun on Quentin, and the lone human could feel every other boomstick following suit.

Quentin grabbed the hat by both ends and tensed his muscles, ready to rip it in half.

“Woah ease up feller,” Calhoun yelped, “so uh, trade huh?”

A few boys lowered the coffin. Calhoun blew the lock off and kicked it open. This time Quentin was mesmerized: an entire Marshall payroll in guild scrip; easily more than his yearly salary.

“So this’s all you want then?”

Quentin nodded. “The hat, and everything else in my sack for these papers. You can even keep the coffin.” He shared a firm if awkward shake with Calhoun’s tiny mitt.

“Got yourself a deal, feller!” Each smiled, convinced they were ripping off a rube.

The scrip found its way into the sack, and the clothes were spread among the Fauntaine boys. The Gremlins, now resembling a young men’s cotillion for plague victims, were already breaking out the shine.

Quentin was all too ready to take his leave. “Let’s go Gady.”
    The Gremlin guide grumbled and turned toward the best path out

“Yeah, go on’n get Dautrive-” Calhoun slurred at him.

Quentin tensed, but Gady seemed to shrug it off.

“-stupid sumbitch-”

Still no reaction. Quentin relaxed.

“-ann’er dumb hat.”

“Whatchu say?” Gady turned, a killing glint in his eye.
“You ‘erd me!” Calhoun’s words were practically wet with liquor.

“Just go Gady, he’s drunk,” Quentin pleaded.

“Dis hat,” Gady spat bacl, “is a treasuh a the Or-ee-ent. Supid Dautrive kin jus’ don’t know scholaly mattahs.”

“It’s small’en mine.” Calhoun tipped the children’s top hat proudly. “So, seems like you the stupid one, Dautrive.”

Quentin was pulling Gady away by the arm. “Yeah, well, you so stupid you aint even think ‘bout why he want that paper so much!”

Quentin froze. He could see wheels turning and boomsticks rising.

“How bout you drop that sack ‘fore you leave, fella.”

Quentin took stock of his situation. He could negotiate with a Gremlin, but not a drunk, armed Gremlin. And he could kill Gady when they were out of the Bayou. All factors weighed, he hurled Gady over a shoulder and took to a mad swerving dash.

The first few boomsticks were impulsive and only kicked up dust nearby. Calhoun tried aiming, but tripped over his oversized duster and took out several kin with a wild shot. For each that went down or stumbled over drunk, though, more emerged to chase.

    Quentin and Gady broke free of the camp’s edge, Fauntaine boys close behind. Quentin unholstered his Collier, but would need about five times the ammunition he had. “Please tell me you can get us out of this mess you put us in.”

    “Keep calm coz!” Gady answered, “just follow me.” Gady hit the ground and scampered ahead.

    Quentin barely kept pace with the nimble swamp native. They cut away from what passed for a path, climbing through tangled vines and along an unsteady treebranch over a familiar patch of slimy ground.

“Now,” Gady declared, “just need some bait.” Without hesitation, he stepped ankle deep into the edge of the stuck-mud.

    Soon after, the charge of Fauntaine boys barreled after the vulnerable Gady. Triumphant and careless, dozens piled into mud so deep only a few still had heads over the surface. Only Calhoun remained, stepping over his stuck comrades and angling the scattergun at the stationary Gady.
    “Who’s stupid now, Dautrive?” He asked, grinning wide over the massive gun.

    “Still you,” Quentin answered, easily downing him with a Collier bullet to the head.

    Gady cackled, “nice shootin coz.”

    “I... can’t believe you did that, Gady,” he said, awkwardly moved. “You sacrificed yourself stop them.”

    “Sac’a’fice?” he pondered quizzically, and then looked at his feet. “Aww damnit all! I did, didn’t I? Hey get me outta here coz!”

    Quentin sighed, and nearly pulled Gady’s feet off. The two were at an impasse.

    “Decent tryin, coz, but guess I’ll be here ‘while.” He grinned, looking over the exposed Fauntaine heads. “Least I gotta best hat ‘round. Real scholaly.”

    Quentin shook his head at the delighted Gremlin stuck in the iron grip of wet mud. Wet mud. There was one way to fix this. Quentin grimaced.


    “Smart thinkin’ coz!”

    Quentin winced thinking about the piles of paper scrip he’d used to soak up the stuck mud. He would rather have cut off a limb.

    “Yeah well, I had no choice. I still need a guide,” he lied.

    Gady slapped his thigh. “Aint no thing, coz!”

    Quentin shrugged, handed over the novelty glasses he’d stashed in a pocket, and the two headed home.

Edited by RarerMonsters
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