March 6 at 4:00 PM
Photo courtesy of aschaeffer
The clatter of boots rang through Lawson's ears as he neared the Vangley estate house. Spotting the domes and spires a short distance away, he took a deep breath, and rushed forward. As he crossed the stables, a cast of unshaven ruffians poured out, halting his advance.
"You must be the Salander's brigade," the hunter caught his breath.
Dozens of roughnecks snaked around him, the largest stepping forward with an ash bludgeon in hand. Without warning, he struck Lawson in the ribs, knocking him back.
But the hunter did not fall.
"Seems I am not the only in need of manners this afternoon." Lawson shed his coat, and tossed it on the ground.
Confused why he had not dropped the lesser man, the behemoth rushed forward, swinging wildly. At the last second Lawson stepped aside, the wild ape splitting his comrade's head. As he swung again, the hunter caught his arm and tossed him over his shoulder.
"Let's start over, shall we? The name's Lawson." He snapped the arm. "Lawson Parker."
The man screamed; his forearm twisted the wrong direction.
"Is this your battle cry? Or the cry of infants?" Lawson silenced the giant with the stick. "Perhaps you should be worried about saving lives rather than jobs, that is ultimately what is at stake here. Do you really find it unjust that I try to spare your families in this critical hour? What utter nonsense."
Two men screamed and charged forward. The hunter dove, pushing one into the other. As their feet tangled, Lawson cracked each on the side of the head, preventing any further discussion.
"Gentlemen, the hour is near. Vissorouy needs you; otherwise there will not be a town left to service. Help me avert this crisis, and your jobs are safe. In addition, Lord Vangley will compensate you in excess of any lost wages. Does anyone find this disagreeable?" He pointed the stick. "Please, let us work in harmony, and bury this quarrel." He set the club gently on the cobblestone.
The group pounced, punching and kicking the hunter to the ground. They reclaimed the club, and beat him with it. As Lawson shielded himself from the onslaught, something burst out of the stable nearby.
The beast rose on two legs, kicking wildly. It charged forward, stomping the crowd, and thrusting its head in. As men tried to mount the steed, it kicked its hind legs, launching them through the stable doors. At the prick of a knife, Taurus jerked its head around, and bared its fangs.
"Vampire," the men cried, and ran away.
Lawson lingered on the ground as the men scattered. "Taurus, you knothead, why did you do that? Your secret is no longer safe."
The mare loomed over him, licking blood from his face.
"Thank you, old friend." Lawson patted his snout.
Taurus sniffed his hand and sneezed.