by Sir Various
A young woman seeks the help of a lawman in the desert west of Lastearth. REVISED
The Law and the Fist
by Sir Various
Trouble was brewing. I could feel it. The town of Devil's Creek seemed to resonate with prophetic anticipation.
I sat in the dirty saloon, drinking bad whiskey, alone in my section of the dusty room. I did not blame them for shunning me, the other drinkers. I am to be feared, rightly so, but only those that choose to defy Law need fear my notice. I know all their names, their faces inscribed in my memory. The world of Lastearth's lawmakers bind every soul of Gehenna with artificial order. I know all who are bound by this palpable Law, from the drunk two tables away to the nobles in the capital city of Gomorrah. My purpose leaves me no choice in my intimacy.
They know me too. I possess no badge, no name. My face, plain and weathered like Gehenna, is not what brands me. It is my gun, Judgment, and my sword, Verity, that tell them who and what I am. I am a Lawbringer.
I nursed my whiskey, my wide-brimmed hat pulled low, waiting for the inevitable trouble my instincts sensed. The hot burn of the barely drinkable alcohol did little to soothe my anticipation. I didn't have to wait long, fortunately. The saloon doors opened wide with a rusty creak, and trouble in the form of a Shali monk entered. The idle chatter of the nervous patrons paused a moment as they stared at this odd development, their attention not focused on me for once.
I suspected she was here for me; it was too coincidental that she arrived here now, and I do not believe in coincidence. She was a tiny thing, dressed in the Shali holy robes, the soft simple cloth cinched at the waist and the rest hanging loose to the floor. Her face, marked by flames, was horribly scarred. Her short-cropped hair did little to distract from her damaged visage, yet its soft fairness left her a faint echo of former beauty. She went by the name of Lin, and I recalled her history of fire and tragedy, just last year in fact. There is little I do not remember.
When she fully entered the saloon, she was a striking contrast to the dust and grime; her pale white robes gave off a faint red aura from the afternoon sunlight in the door behind her. She should have changed into something more discreet if she was seeking my services. She drew too much attention my way, and there were already enough eyes pointed at me in here. As a Lawbringer patrolling the kingdom of Gehenna's desert west, I made most citizens wary, and linking me to any monk of Shali would spread too many rumors. Regardless, it was too late now; her unique face and faith would spread gossip like wildfire. She approached my table and stood rigid like a recruit in Gehenna's army, staring straight over my head. She did not look at me directly, and I did not think it odd, as she was blind, an end product from the blaze that had swept her home.
I did not speak or acknowledge her immediately; she would make her business known soon enough. Patience was crucial in my job, and I had enough patience for the entire west. I tossed back my drink, provided free to my profession. As I felt it warm my throat, I signaled the barkeeper for more. I had a feeling I was going to need it.
The barkeeper brought the bottle of the cheap junk I was drinking, and I gestured for him to leave it. With a nervous glance at the monk he stammered, “M-miss, we d-don’t serve the church of Shali…i-it is forbidden. You m-must leave.” She continued her sightless gaze above me, not reacting to the barkeeper’s hesitant demand. He looked down at me, expecting a response from me when she did not give one. I would not punish him for her entry here, of course; I do not waste my time and Law on the trivial, even if the coin is good. The Law forbade the monk’s church from mingling with any citizen, especially in public gathering places, but she was here because of me. The barkeeper did not need to know that, however. I leveled my gaze at him without responding. After an awkward moment, he gave a hasty bow and scampered back to the broad bar.
The monk's mottled and wrinkled scars turned to me after the barkeeper left, and somehow her sightless eyes, hidden in her disfigured face, met mine. They were milky blue, and they seemed to see through me, as if I was incorporeal. It was a bit disconcerting, as I knew she was blind, but I sensed that her unusual mannerisms would be shortly explained.
“You are Sebastian.” She said. Her voice, although dulcet and gentle, also possessed a faint edge of harshness, like the feeling of iron against stone. It contrasted with her face, yet still fit, and I sensed again that there was a story here.
Her simple address halted the low mutterings in the room. Lawbringers do not possess a name, legally, and addressing one informally was a significant crime. The drunken saloon froze and the tension could be felt in the dust motes of the old room as they waited for my reaction.
The Law is finicky. I wouldn’t reprimand for this, of course, although all eyes expected me to. This drew too much attention for my comfort, so I chose to respond to her amicably.
"Ma'am," I said with a tip of my hat. The saloon's patrons began to mutter again, their fear and surprise now driving their murmurs. The Law was so strict that even trivial transgressions near a Lawbringer were risky at best and deadly at worst. When I ignored her minor crimes, the citizens in the saloon grew uneasy. The Law and the church are forbidden to interact, and here I was being conversational with a monk.
"I need your help." Lin pulled out a rickety chair across from me and sat, her body stiff and formal.
“The Law does not recognize your goddess, monk,” I said. It needed to be said, although we both knew it. It was more for the listeners in the room, so that it would be clear where the Law stood.
As I spoke to Lin, the saloon doors slammed open, and three new arrivals entered the saloon. Once again, all eyes darted to the newcomers. I frowned at the men; yet another coincidence today. They were dusty from fast travel, probably horseback. I could smell the salt of the ocean on them, which was odd considering how far inland we were. I did not recognize any of them, which meant they were not citizens of Gehenna. I felt the room resonate as they raucously approached the bar. Even more trouble, I thought. I poured another shot of whiskey, ignoring their waves of vibration for the moment.
The resonance I feel is a Lawbringer skill; I sense when citizens sin against Gehenna, as the Law of Lastearth permeates everything. When the Law is broken hard enough, I perceive the imbalance; Law commands me to seek equilibrium. It didn't seem like I would need to go far, today.
The monk did not react to the men openly, yet I could see her jaw tighten. In fact, I could feel the whole room tense, a strong chord of fear only I could detect. The new arrivals would most assuredly be trouble, perhaps the same trouble Lin was about to dump on me. They did not notice me yet. I loosened Judgment in its tight holster.
“My goddess is dead to me, Sebastian,” she continued, despite this new development. I sighed at her use of my old name. The crisp yet gentle way she said my name evoked distracting memories of a past life, which was her intent, of course. I forced myself to suppress my unbidden memories. She had no regard for the Law, yet I felt there was a reason for her to act this way, using my forgotten name. This reason involved these three unknown men, who were now arguing about alcohol to the barkeeper.
Several in the saloon had already left, their chairs scattered and empty; oh yes, they feared the Law. They knew what was coming.
I shifted my own chair back a few inches; I may need the room. "You have forsaken Shali, Lin? You know Shali is outside the Law."
"No, she has forsaken me. This discussion of my faith is wasting time. I need you to find a murderer…my family…” She turned away, blindly looking elsewhere.
“So, this is for you, then,” I replied, watching the men from the edge of my vision. "A private matter." The trio had now received their drinks, and were boisterously recounting tales of women and plunder. They were corsairs, raiders of peaceful ships and coastal towns: another crime. The Law reached to the western coast, but the waters of Hell's River were without Law, and many used this to skirt the long arm of Gehenna's binding rules. Yet, these three apparent outlanders were inland too far from their watery haven. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense why Lin entered the saloon illegally.
“Yes, a private matter…Sebastian.” She continued calling me by name, and its repeated use after so many years began to annoy me. She was cunning, this girl. In fact, I was sure now that she timed her meeting with me to coincide with the entry of the corsairs. She was manipulating me, but I would let her. At least until I finished this bottle.
The entire saloon had cleared out now, except for the monk and I, the barkeeper, and the three corsairs. Although I never miss with Judgment, I felt more comfortable with the bystanders gone. Perhaps nothing would come of the corsairs, although I doubted it. My intuition has never failed me; the corsairs already vibrated with sin and broken Law.
"Sebastian..." she began, but she hesitated. Something bothered her, which did not surprise me, since she went through all this trouble to get me interested. Lin inclined her head at the corsairs, and then leaned forward, her voice softer. "Yes, I am trying to get you involved. I can't pay, your Law segregates my former order from your economy; but, I need to find the leader of these...monsters." Her intense focus, her conviction, her driving need to sway me actually moved me. Nevertheless, in the end, resolving an unsolved murder would be my reason for doing this, not her vengeance. I wasn't required to only enforce Law for money, but it was strongly encouraged by my profession's long history. As I said, the Law is finicky.
I decided to go with it, despite the lack of pay. After all, Law was already being blatantly broken here, and perhaps more than what was immediately apparent would be revealed. I finished one last drink, and then stood up, my dark duster creating swirls in the dust of the floor, exaggerating my motion to draw attention to myself. I saw Lin smile, but I ignored it; she could feel smug if she wished. In the end, only the Law mattered.
The corsairs noticed me immediately, and they paused from their raucous drinking. The nearest one spoke. "What do we have here, boys? I thought we had the place to ourselves."
As they stood up from the bar, I noticed the other two subtly deferred to the speaker in their mannerisms. I placed him as their leader. All three were dirty from their dusty travel, and they wore what looked like naval uniforms, yet they were ragged and worn. I walked around the edge of the bar so I could see them completely, and as I did, I saw they were all armed with revolvers.
Law shook the room, in my perception, reverberating around their weapons. Not only were projectile weapons outlawed by Law in our land, these specific guns had been used to commit wrong on Gehenna's soil.
That clinched it. It was now time for tribunal.
I moved in front of them, across the room, perhaps thirty feet as I could reckon. I felt Lin standing behind me, and although I wished she would withdraw, I knew she could take care of herself.
"I am the Law." I stated, my voice clear and firm. "You have broken the Law and must submit or be Judged."
They stood there a moment, just staring, and then their leader guffawed. "What in Hell’s River are you supposed to be? Some kind of sheriff?" All three began to laugh, unnerving the already shaking barkeeper enough for him to cower beneath the bar.
"No sheriff. I am the Law." I repeated. I pulled back my duster, showing Judgment. With the Law set to restrict firearms by all citizens, showing Judgment to criminals was usually enough to dissuade violence; a Lawbringer's gun is well known. Judgment was the finest gun modern technology could produce, with a enough caliber to end disputes with sheer intimidation; its power was readily apparent to even the unlearned. “Remove your firearms, place them on the floor, and kick them away.” The trio recognized my gun, and their eyes widened, but they did not immediately do as I requested.
As if only existing to ruin my day, the door to the saloon burst open, and two other corsairs entered, dressed like the first three. “Lieutenant! We got the horses sta--" The speaker paused mid-word, his dirty scruffy mouth open in surprise.
Focused on the original group, I failed to detect the new pair's approach. My ability to perceive Law’s imbalance was not perfect, and with enough dissonance, it could be a distraction. Three armed thugs were manageable, especially with simple intimidation as I had planned. However, the new arrivals would now embolden the original group, and it would be a fine mess. Wonderful.
The Lieutenant took advantage of my distraction and drew his gun. It was cheap, a rickety relic from before Gehenna's creation of Law into nature. I doubted it would even fire.
Fortunately, my reflexes do not possess hesitation, and my trained perceptions shifted into combat mode. The old shell was easy to dodge; I leaned a few inches to the left, and the shell shot past my right shoulder. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lin turn and face the new arrivals, so I ignored them for now. She was a monk after all, albeit a blind one.
The lieutenant stood with a shocked expression, as I am sure he felt his shot should have hit. He stumbled and pulled his gun back in surprise, the barrel pointed upward. I took advantage of his hesitation, and that of his cohorts, and drew Judgment. In one swift arc, with honed precision and terrible speed, I fired a single shell at the Lieutenant’s archaic pistol. The upper half disintegrated from the force of Judgment, and the handle spun out of the corsair’s grip to fly across the room. The Lieutenant gasped in pain, cradling his hand. Perhaps his hand broke from the impact of my high caliber shell; I did not particularly care. Sunlight entered through the wall behind the corsairs, and the dim room brightened noticeably from the sizeable hole left by my bullet.
In a rush of anger, the Lieutenant pulled a long shiv from his belt and ran at me. He stood the best chance of having information, so I decided not to put a hole in him as well. As he approached, I quickly glanced at Lin; already one of the new arrivals lay unconscious, and she busily dodged the fists of the other. Apparently, blindness did not hinder her. I turned back as the Lieutenant neared, and dodged his first awkward thrust. He did not seem trained to fight with knives, as his swings were wide and his bruised hand unwieldy; a skilled knife user would use short quick strikes. I easily avoided several swings, waiting for the right opportunity. As one last swipe came around, I knocked his blade aside with Judgment’s heavy grip. Stepping inside the Lieutenant's forward motion, I grabbed his extended arm, pulling him forward across my hip. He slammed to the ground with a solid thud; as he lay there stunned, I stood above him, Judgment aimed at his surprised face.
His two cohorts, hands resting on their own guns, gasped and backed away. I gestured at the floor with my gun; they drew and threw their weapons down, holding up their arms in surrender. Cut off the head and the body will die, I thought disgustedly. I shook my head.
Satisfied, for the moment, I turned to assess the rest of the danger. Lin stood above both of the late arrivals. The first one, still slumped over and unconscious, lay against the doorjamb, his face bloodied from the nose and brow. The other lay on his stomach, his arm pulled back and up by Lin, her tiny knee digging into the corsair's back. I smiled, realizing her capabilities were potent despite her lack of sight.
They cooperated readily. I made the four flunkies line up, binding their wrists and ankles with rope, looping the line through every knot and connected to each corsair. Once bound by Law, the rope was unbreakable, and I could punish here or defer to Gomorrah as I saw fit. The Lieutenant I would now question; there were answers to be had.
I tied the Lieutenant's legs, and made him sit at the bar; I left his arms untied and his hands free. As Lin listened with barely restrained anticipation, I pulled Verity from her scabbard, and turned the Lieutenant to face me.
"Listen to me very carefully." I spoke evenly with a level tone; with the way his eyes fixated on Verity’s narrow and straight blade, I knew I had his full attention. "The Law of Lastearth has been broken. I will right it. You will answer me immediately when I ask you a question."
The lieutenant nodded his understanding, but I still sensed some rebellion in him. That's alright, I thought, that is why I have Verity. All truth is bared to Law by my sword, in the end.
"Pirate," I began, using the quaint title for his ilk. "I seek the truth and I shall have it from you." I firmly grabbed his arm, placing his hand flat on the bar. "This sword only cuts untruth. For those who speak the truth, they shall have no fear of Verity, and she will be as vapor. Am I clear?"
He spat in my face. Very well, I thought, he will learn how it works. "Barkeeper," I glanced over the edge of the bar. "More whiskey. My friend is going to need it."
Two hours and four fingers later, I had the information I needed. The Lieutenant learned that truth really did prevent Verity from injuring him, but it was a hard lesson for the stubborn corsair, initially. Some take much longer to learn this than the Lieutenant, actually, so I commended him for his quick study. He just sat there and gazed at me blankly. No matter. He had been punished, and was free to wait for pickup to Gomorrah.
I stepped outside, where Lin waited for me. I had been hesitant at first to interrogate the Lieutenant in front of her, but her blindness and desire for justice inured her to my techniques. She was a hard one, for sure.
Devil's Creek was old and grimy, as if the dust from decades of travel and wind became thick stucco on the buildings. The glare of the setting red sun was still bright, and I pulled the wide brim of my hat forward to block the light. Lin was standing impatiently near my horse. He did not have a name either, my horse, but he still had plenty of identity. A pale courser, he was light, fast and strong, as was I; a fitting horse for pursuit or battle. Apparently Lin expected to ride with me, but I doubted my horse would abide by that.
"I ride swift, ma'am. I doubt you can follow," I said, hoping she'd get the hint.
"I will use one of the corsair's horses." She gestured behind me. I glanced back, and saw a brown mare saddled and ready. Lin, it seemed, had prepared thoroughly by retrieving a horse from the stables, and was determined to accompany me. All the property of these corsairs were now owned by Gomorrah, so I permitted her to have one of the horses. At least I told myself I let her; I doubt she would have listened if I had said no. Stubborn monk.
I sighed. "Very well. We ride to Judecca."
She blanched. "Judecca? If Shali would still listen, I would pray to her."
"Pray to your forsaken goddess, ma'am. You began this with your manipulation of Law and me. I am compelled to finish it. Ride with me if you wish your vengeance." I was a bit annoyed at her for her manipulation of me inside, but I reminded myself to not be so quick to emotion. "Judecca is where these corsairs hail from. This particular group was searching and scouting inland for loot. Judecca is a cesspool of depravity and villainy; those that flee the Law reside there. That is where our path leads."
Lin stared at the setting sun. She could not see it, but I imagined its fading warmth lent her some small comfort. That direction was the ending to her quest.
She spoke softly but firmly. "And the corsair leader? You have a name?”
She tilted her head at my short reply, but did not press me for details. Her vengeance would come, whether or not I answered her. She seemed satisfied that I was on the trail, and I could tell her anticipation was brimming over. She strode to her mare, and adroitly leapt in one motion upon its back. Turning the mare to the sun and Judecca, she waited for me to follow.
I shrugged. Very well, I thought. She was skilled enough to be not in the way. I mounted my horse, and we rode out of Devil’s Creek, seeking justice.
It was a long trip. I hoped we would reach the coast in a fortnight. The information the Lieutenant provided gave me info on their schedule, habits, and leadership. We had twenty days to reach Judecca, normally under a two-week trip, and I wanted to use some time after we arrived to gather more information. I told Lin I preferred not to go in blind; she snickered at that, but she agreed. In twenty days the corsairs would be leaving to move up the coast, as the calm season on Hell's River would be almost over.
As we crossed the arid plains of the Dead Sea, the hours and days dragged by. I have endless patience, but I still get bored. We didn't really talk much. Her quest for vengeance was her own issue, and I did not care to know more beyond the generalities I already knew. I had nothing to contribute, either.
The red sun above pressed down its heat on the Dead Sea, but it did not bother me. It was an old sun, and it had seen many things; who am I to disrespect its timeless gift of light and heat. Yet, its warmth bothered Lin, and she wrapped wet towels around her head to cool herself, slouching in her saddle as we rode.
The air cooled as we neared Judecca. A breeze rushed in from Hell's River occasionally, and the smell of salt filled my lungs. It was refreshing, and I looked forward to seeing the water again, even if I had business to attend to. Lin perked up a bit as well, and I knew she noticed the change. Her senses of smell and touch were stronger than mine, and so I imagined it refreshed her more than I. The closeness of her quest's resolution helped, I'm sure.
When the city finally appeared on the shimmering horizon, I saw the landscape vibrate with sin. I had not felt reverberations this strong at this great a distance before, but it fit Judecca's reputation. Judecca was nestled at the end of a long-dried washout. The flat empty rivulets of baked sand seemed skeletal as they reached for the sprawling city. As we rode close enough for the city to become clearer, I counted three sets of triple masts beyond the pale buildings, which corroborated the Lieutenant's story.
Lin wanted to traipse right on in. I explained to Lin the problems of just walking in with guns a-blazing while she listened impatiently; I knew I would have to control her when we arrived. There was no way to approach the city without detection, and I did not want her blood on my hands.
We rested silently on the last night, without a fire, so that we would not draw unwanted attention before we entered the city. I slept fitfully, a rarity, and my dreams were filled with fire and smoke. When I woke, the red sun was already high above the sands, and I cursed at my lapse of duty.
Then, I noticed Lin was gone.
Rarely did I sleep so heavily, and never have I overslept past whatever time I set for myself to wake. She probably did something to force my sleep, and I berated myself for my carelessness. The foolish girl probably stormed into town, a tiny cyclone of vengeance, and I knew she truly was trouble.
I took my time getting ready. She was long gone, past the point of catching her, and I doubted she would be amenable to reason. As a monk of Shali, I strongly doubted I could even track her. She could take care of herself, to a point, but I had a feeling she would show up at the wrong time.
With my courser saddled, I made sure to check that Judgment was loaded, and that Verity was well-oiled. I mounted, and then pulled back my dark duster so that Judgment was clearly visible. My weapons were my badge, and it was time to bring the Law.
Judecca's walls were low but solid, the same bleached color as the Dead Sea behind me. I made my way to a shallow archway with a dark metal gate, guarded by two slovenly and dozing riflemen. I had to kick one of them awake to admit me, and they both stood up sharply, rifles aimed in my general direction. I waited a moment for their heads to clear, then I announced myself.
"I am the Law. I seek Remiel."
The nearest glanced at my gun, and choked, his face whitening as he backed away. He waved me in, his partner pulling the black iron gate open, pointing a shaking rifle down a wide dirt street toward the domed center of Judecca.
I tried hard to ignore the pounding in my head from the waves of broken Law that seethed from every rundown building and person. Whores slammed brothel windows shut as I passed, and a brawl well underway halted midswing as both drunken fighters recognized me. Even more disturbing, a figure stumbled toward me from a dark alley, hands outstretched, a knife wound in his chest. As he fell bleeding on to the street, I saw the murderer gasp as he saw me, and then flee into the darkness. I knew much worse happened that I could not see, but while they feared me, today I had other business.
I knew that Remiel, Captain of the corsairs, would already know I was here. The Lieutenant also told me his captain would be cunning and difficult to deceive. I saw a flash of movement on the roof of a dingy hotel, and the glint of metal confirmed the sniper. Since I had requested him personally, they would not attempt to fire until Remiel knew my intent. The last thing he would want is a firefight with a Lawbringer; the Law would retaliate sevenfold.
The Captain's building was simple; round and smooth, without ornamentation, the dome was just as bleached as everything else was. Several men hovered near the entrance, and they warily watched me as I dismounted and tied my courser to a hitch.
"The Captain is expecting you," growled a particularly ugly man. He licked his lips without fear and stared at my horse, unconcerned of my profession.
I paused, glancing back at my courser. Without warning, I drew Judgment and aimed it at the gargoyle of a man. I still stared at my horse as I said to no one in particular, "No one touches him."
The other men had drawn their pistols, although much slower than I. The ugly man's eyes were wide in shock, as were the others; my gun seemed to magically appear, my aim deadly accurate despite the fact I looked elsewhere. I chuckled and holstered Judgment, my point made and my horse safe. Ignoring the raised guns, I entered the dome of the Captain.
I paused inside a large round room, full of lush plants, and even lusher women. Nude, entwined in various positions contrived to inflame a man's desire, lay several beautiful dark-skinned women. The amount of opulence was over-used, and it seemed intended more as a distraction than an actual place of pleasure.
Several rough-looking corsairs stood in the shadows of a narrow hall that ringed the room. I sensed they were armed, and I even recognized a few; those were former citizens that fled the binding Law.
Remiel himself, dressed in a crisp and formal naval uniform, lay sprawled across a bleached stone throne, weaponless. Clean-shaven and hair well-oiled, he contrasted with the debauchery and grime that filled the room.
"Lawbringer! Welcome to Judecca!" Remiel stood up and approached me, smiling broadly.
Hand outstretched, he seemed to expect me to return the greeting, so I did. What struck me as odd was that he possessed no vibration or resonance of wrong, and that seemed quite unusual for one such as him. By my investigation, he was the one I sought for Lin. Yet, Law did not touch him; he was innocent.
"Ah yes, I know exactly what you are thinking." He smiled even broader, a maddening grin that I immediately wanted to put a hole through. "How can I, Captain of a motley lot of murderers, rapists, and much more, be such a nice guy?" He spread his arms wide and turned in a slow circle. "Clean as a whistle!"
Something was not right. I began to sense a wrong with him, but it was a different kind of wrong than the breaking of a Law. I perceived a subtle shifting, a deflection of a sort, as if Law acknowledged him, but chose to ignore him.
Hell, I really needed another drink.
I paused a moment, then spoke carefully. "I bring the Law. I seek the murderer of three Gehennan citizens, two adults and one young male. I have investigated, and find you guilty." He kept smiling that wide grin, and he nodded at each sentence as I spoke.
"Of course! I am he! Judge away, Lawbringer." As he finished, the men around the room brought out their weapons and leveled them at me with the staccato sounds of rounds loading.
I hesitated. A confession was enough for me to Judge, and I felt the truth of it, yet the lack of Law's confirmation bothered me. In addition, I was not sure I could handle his men. I sensed at least thirty.
Wait, no. Something registered in my perception, a lessening in the ring of vibration around me. The number of men surrounding me began to decrease rapidly, and several corsairs began to fire at a new and unknown assailant. It was time to act.
Remiel saw it too. He ducked and ran immediately for a door I had not noticed, in the wall directly behind his throne. Just before he hit the door, he turned back to yell at any who could hear. "Kill them!" Then he was gone, disappearing into the sunlight that breached the doorway.
Chaos ensued as his remaining men opened fire. I suspected Lin was the cause of the disturbance, so I went after Remiel. I sprinted towards the Captain's throne, stepping up and over it swiftly, pulling Verity and Judgment as I landed. The confused men fired wildly at nothing and everything, and I only needed to dodge one stray bullet. I kicked a grungy bearded pirate aside that blocked my path, and then ducked under the saber of another attacker, still moving to the door. I fired two shots down the curved hallway to the right, knocking two of Remiel’s men back several feet and to the ground, then kicked open the door the corsair's captain had fled through.
It opened onto a wide wooden dock, the three large military frigates I had seen before looming large in their wide berths. I saw Remiel running to the farthest frigate, at least a hundred yards to my left.
Remiel apparently had a pre-arranged signal with the boat, as it began to pull from the dock as he approached. I was quite impressed with his athleticism, as there was no way I could catch him before he reached the boat. He leapt off the far end of the dock, grabbing the rope that the crew-members tossed over for him. Climbing hand over hand, he reached the deck easily and waved cheerily at me as the ship began to accelerate out of the bay.
I didn’t carry a rifle, never needed one before. Judgment had decent range for a handgun, but I doubt I could do enough damage as fast as Remiel’s ship was moving. So, I shrugged and turned away to find Lin. She had been more capable than I had originally estimated her, and her blindness was certainly not a limitation. After losing Remiel, I owed her my help with his remaining men. Perhaps Verity could get some leads to his destination or plans.
To my surprise, Lin stood behind me, facing Remiel’s fleeing ship, as if she could see it clearly. “Ma’am,” I began. She raised a hand, silencing me, her face intensely focused to the bay, her head cocked at an angle. Then, she smiled, quite satisfied. That puzzled me, but then I heard a loud explosion behind me. Turning quickly, I saw Remiel’s frigate on the horizon, at least what was left of it, churning a fiery plume of smoke and fire.
From behind me, she spoke softly. “Murder by fire is repaid in kind. My vengeance is complete.” I turned to look at her, several thoughts of the Law and revenge on the edge of my lips. However, I stayed silent; she did not tremble or vibrate with broken Law. Her acts of vengeance I had thought would be a problem; the Law is quite clear on matters of revenge. Yet, here, now, Law did not judge her, nor did it proclaim a criminal act. I can only assume there are aspects of the Law I have yet to fathom, so I shrugged again and walked back into Judecca, Lin at my side.
One thing that bothered me: why did the Law choose to ignore Remiel? By all accounts, he was where my path led, yet the oaths and magic set by the lawmakers had little effect on him, at least to my perception. In my experience, if something was capable of occurring once, then it could happen again; if Remiel could be free of Law, so could others. What else did I not know about Lastearth's Law? What or who else could freely walk and commit crime with no fear of retribution? This troubled me much more than whether or not Law held Lin accountable.
Lin nudged my arm. Lost in my troubled thoughts, I had forgotten her for a moment. I glanced down at her blind and scarred face, a small yet mighty monk with fists of vengeance. She held up an object for me with a knowing smile. As took it from her, I had to chuckle; her intuition was uncanny yet sharp.
It was a full flask of fine whiskey.