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Exiled to the Couch
Short fic draft: Solving It Bartido-Style
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Short fic draft: Solving It Bartido-Style
Not quite short enough to be an omake, but close enough...
"I don't mind saying, I'm sure glad you're along with me, sir," said the watchman.
Bartido Ballentyne didn't doubt it. Among the things the young alchemist had noted during his time as a spy was the efficacy of—when well-run—a professional police in controlling crime. Back home now in Albion, he realized how the population's fear of a standing army was allowing criminals to run more or less wild, largely restrained only by private "thief-takers" who worked for bounty money. The neighborhood watchmen were largely elderly and ineffectual, most known for having their boxes tipped over by roving bands of "gentlemen" with too much drink in them.
This particular greybeard, Bartido thought with a glance at the man beside him, was at least willing to risk his neck trying to stop the sorcerer who'd been setting loose packs of imps to play violent and destructive pranks in the neighborhood for the past week. He appreciated the courage, which was why he'd been motivated to offer his help.
Well, that and boredom. The problem with being a spy was that a fellow got used to a certain level of excitement, and without that, well, life tended to pall.
"I'm glad to help out," Bartido said.
The two of them picked their way down the by-street. This was the kind of area where such things happened; the residents were generally respectable tradesmen but the coffee-houses and taverns catered to a "better" class of people.
Maybe it wasn't being a spy, Bartido thought. Maybe he'd
a spy to deal
the boredom that seemed to come with being part of the landed gentry, and just wanted to deal with it in a less pointless way than some of his peers did.
"There," he said, pointing. The ruddy light of a sorcerous Rune was shining from an upper-story window. Once a person had seen that particular shade, he didn't easily forget it. "That's the place."
The window was over a tavern, the Dancing Bull. Raucous noise and singing spilled onto the street whenever the door opened, and Bartido and the watchman went inside.
"Oi! Look there, Charlie, decided to give up watching and belly up to the bar plain and simple?" hooted one wag at the sight of the watchman. Since a fair number of the men did spend the night putting away a bottle or two in their watch-boxes, it wasn't actually too much of a stretch.
"You should stand him a drink, Adam."
"Yeah, stand him up now, 'cause you'll be tipping him over later!" someone else cried, and the group dissolved into hilarity over their bowl of rum punch.
"Who's in the front room upstairs?" Bartido snapped to the barkeep.
"Private party, sir," the fat man said obsequiously, trying to respect both the room's occupants and this new, well-dressed and therefore possibly well-paying customer.
Bartido flipped him a gold piece.
"We'll be going up and joining them."
"Always room for one more, I say," replied the taverner.
Bartido's feet hammered on the wooden stairs as he rushed up. The watchman trailed behind, puffing and losing ground to the younger man. The red light was spilling out under one of the four doors in the upstairs hall, so Bartido bent and peeped through the keyhole.
The light came from a completed Hell Gate Rune that had been drawn on the floor, the room's table tipped up on its side to make room. The sorceress was a blonde in a low-cut green dress trimmed and cinched at the waist with gold; it and the glossy, high-heeled boots she wore were casual evening wear for gentry. A red-haired man in green brocade coat and striped trousers cuddled another blonde on his lap, this one in sapphire-blue. Both of the two observers held pewter quart flagons.
The Hell Gate was burning brightly, indicating that a summoning was taking place, and four black-bodied imps in jingling red jester's caps milled about already.
"Mmm, what shall we have Di do with 'em tonight?" the girl in blue asked. Her voice was slightly slurred, suggesting her tankard had been emptied at least once already.
"Damned fellow Potter had the nerve t'kick me out of his shop last week. Said I was being loud and unruly! Damme, what's the point of a coffeehouse if one can't be unruly? It was only a debate among friends. You were there, weren't you, Di?"
"Indeed I was," the sorceress said. Her face was slick with sweat from the effort of spellcasting and the heat in the close little room, but her voice was clearer than the other two. Apparently she had enough wit to realize that devils were best summoned while sober. "It was a complete accident that you clouted that fellow at the next table on the head and made him spill his coffee over his friend's shirt-front. If Potter didn't try to jam so many tables in there to increase his number of customers, people would have space to argue, so where does he get off blaming
"Exactly!" the gentleman said. "Natural consequence of his own actions, is what it was."
"An' he blamed you for it." The girl in his lap managed to be cooing and indignant all at once.
"Well, now he'll pay for that. Right, Di?"
The light of the Hell Gate dimmed, the fiery aura slowed in its dancing as another imp emerged from the Rune.
"That's it, then," Bartido murmured. He straightened up, grabbed the door-handle, and threw the door open.
"Stop what you're doing, in the name o' the law!" the watchman barked.
This produced nothing but hilarity in the three occupants of the room.
"Look at that! A Charlie who's lost his way."
"Be off with you; get back on the streets before we toss you out ourselves."
The sorceress was the only one to take immediate note of Bartido.
"Wait. Who are you, and what's your business here?"
"Quick, lad, use your magic afore she sets those devils on us!" said the watchman, clutching Bartido's arm. He had to give the man credit for courage—plenty of people would have run screaming from the imps. Good judgment in choosing his words, though, was something else entirely.
The woman in green lifted her wand. Probably she intended to empower her Hell Gate further—it took a more advanced Rune to compel imps to fight than it did to summon them. Could he cast a Rune of his own and summon defenders in time?
Bartido yanked his hand free, took two strides forward, and hit Di with a quick uppercut that snapped her teeth together with a clack. She went over and out onto the floor. Her two companions stared at him.
her! A woman!"
"What, it would have been better if I'd created a chimera to eat her?" he drawled.
"Peace!" yelped an imp; they scuttled for the Rune and were gone in an instant. Apparently
did not consider being eaten by a chimera to be the superior fate.
"But...but you're a gentleman, damn my eyes."
Bartido's gaze swept up and down the pair of them.
"Like you'd know. And besides, I'm not a gentleman. I'm a
~X X X~
A/N: Players will already know that Bartido doesn't have any Wouldn't Hit a Girl hangups, as he showed Ms. Opalneria in Loop III.
*wince* teeth clicking upper cut? Bartido, what if she accidentally bit her tongue off? XD
Apparently Bartido wouldn't have hangups on hitting the elde-uh, I mean, 'ladies more to Hiram's tastes' either then...
What an idiot constable.
(Historical note: I actually used the genuine state of law enforcement in early 18th-century London to reflect Albionese law. Local watchmen weren't professional police at all (there
a professional police); roving bands of "Mohocks" actually
literally tip over their watch-boxes in drunken rowdiness!
This has now been posted to fanfiction.net:
Solving It Bartido Style
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