The Creation of Heaven and Earth Chapter 3
In all his years as a barkeep in Albrook, Griff McKasky had never seen anything like it. Ten minutes before the Inn's pub closed, all of his patrons had got up and walked out. Many had even left their half full mugs of sake and liquor on the tables. Gold coins, the payment for the drinks, were thrown onto the tabletops. A scattered deck of cards lay on one table, where Juno and Ralse always played. The two would remain at the tables until Griff had to throw them out, locked in 'combat.'
But not tonight. The short stocky man surveyed the tavern, trying to locate the cause of this exodus. The tavern was an old style pub, wooden walls, lamps hanging from the crossbeams on the ceiling. In one corner or the building was a set of stairs leading to the inn that occupied the building's upper floor. Sitting near that stairway, was the person Griff was looking for, and the barkeep thought he had come face to face with the devil himself.
The large bodied man sat at one of the tables, making himself at home by propping his big feet up on the table, studying a weathered piece of paper. The man was as big around as Griff but a head and chest taller, a giant. However, that wasn't the most striking feature about him. It was the dragon skull, or skulls rather, that he wore. There were four in all. One had been converted to a headdress with a cloth scarf that wrapped around the big man's face. It left only his right eye and an eye patch visible. Two others adorned his shoulders and the fourth was mounted atop a staff that was laid across the table. Set into the other end of the staff was a silver spear tip. They were all decorated the same, painted red with white letters lining the snout. The rest of his clothing consisted of a leather suit that had been cut and stitched back together more than once. He also wore crimson red boots that went up to the middle of his calves and forearm guards. On his chest was a metal breastplate bearing some strange insignia, a kind of dragon.
The big man looked up from the paper and saw the sobering effect he had on the bar patrons. He got up and retrieved his staff and sauntered over to the bar. There he slapped down the piece of paper. Griff looked down at it and was greeted with the sketch of a scowling man, jet black hair. Beneath the picture were the words, '5,000 gold for the capture of Huzo. Wanted by authorities in Tzen in connection with a double murder. Reward will be paid upon Huzo's delivery, dead or alive.'
"This man," a deep voice emerged from underneath the headdress. "has been known to frequent this inn."
Bounty hunter, Griff realized. That explained the get up, bounty hunters made more enemies than they could count, so keeping their identity concealed was a common safety measure. Griff knew better than to act ignorant which would simply make the bounty hunter mad and this guy looked like he could break him in half easily. So Griff nodded and pointed toward the stairs, "Go up the stairs, down the hall until you reach a T junction. Take the left hallway. He's in the last room on the right."
The bounty hunter nodded, reached into a pouch attached to his belt and flipped a coin at him. It hit Griff in his sizable gut and bounced off, landing on the counter with sharp ring. A payment for the information. Griff examined the coin. It was a copper one, worth only one fourth of one gold coin. "Cheap bastard." he muttered. The bounty hunter heard him, turned, and menacingly stepped toward him. Griff cringed and felt under the bar, searching for the sword he kept under there. 'Why, oh why did I say that?' Griff scolded himself as his fingers brushed against the hilt of the blade. Too late though, the bounty hunter was already towering over him. The skull man reached out with one of his black gloved hands.
And took the coin from Griff.
With that, the bounty hunter turned back to the stairs and walked up to the next floor. Griff felt his arms go limp and drop to his side as relief flooded his veins. He cast one last glance toward the stairs and saw that the bounty hunter had already disappeared from sight. Once he was sure of that, Griff turned away from the bar and entered his own little room in the back. He was in need of a fresh undergarment.
Upstairs, Huzo, a middle aged man of forty-five, counted his ill gotten money again and he still couldn't believe it. Five hundred gold, he had killed an elderly couple for five hundred gold. That was pocket change to him. Yet the old man still fought him for it. That confirmed one of Huzo's suspicions. 'A fool and his money are soon parted.' Huzo shook his head and leaned back in his chair. 'Such a waste.' he thought. Huzo felt no remorse for his crime, the waste he was referring to was his time.
Suddenly, the sound of shuffling paper came from the direction of the door and drew him away from his thoughts. Puzzled, Huzo got up and walked over where he found a brown piece of paper that someone had slipped under the doorway. Huzo picked up, took one look at it and dropped it like it was some sort of venomous snake, all the color draining from his face.
It was a wanted poster. HIS wanted poster.
Panic shot through him like electricity, I couldn't be a wanted poster, his father had told him that he arranged all charges against him dropped. 'Unless,' he thought, 'someone got to father first.'
Huzo snatched his sword and dagger from where they were hanging on the nearby chair. He clipped the dagger to his hip pocket. He unsheathed his sword and aimed it at the door. When the door cracked open and a small stream of light sliced the shadows in the room, Huzo let out a kamikaze yell and charged. By putting all his weight behind it, he managed to shove his weapon completely through the door slamming it shut..
"I knew you would try that." A voice growled from the other side. The door was kicked with enough force to split it in two and rip the sword from Huzo's hands. The two pieces of the door crashed into the room, one of them striking Huzo hard in the shoulder. The criminal whirled around and clutched his new injury. He was swearing between clenched teeth when he felt a large, rough hand clutch his shirt and yank him out of the room hard enough to literally lift him off the ground. Huzo felt pain rip through his arm again as he was slammed against the wall, his injured shoulder hitting it hard. Groaning, he felt the large hand let go of him and let him slide down the wall.
Huzo tried to stand on shaking legs as he turned to face his opponent. All he was able to catch was a glimpse of a red and black shadow and a blur of motion. Something struck him hard in the side and Huzo shouted again as he felt two ribs snap from the impact.
Griff burst out of his room, still fastening his pants, when he heard the sound of the struggle. 'They're tearing up my beautiful pub! Rat-bast...'. He howled wordlessly in surprise as he saw the wanted man land at the base of the stairs and roll onto his hands and knees. Blood dripped from his split lip and broken nose, gathering in a small puddle on the floor. The man, Huzo, tried to stand to his feet, a look of extreme pain clutching his face as he slumped against the counter.
The bounty hunter appeared at the top of the stairs and lumbered down toward Huzo, catching up with him as he began to stagger away from the counter. Huzo took a halfhearted swing at the giant the minute he got within arms reach. The larger man blocked it easily and drove his elbow into Huzo's sternum. Then whipped around and launched a roundhouse kick that struck Huzo's injured side throwing him against a table. The table toppled over, throwing the mugs of liquor and bowls of nuts into the floor and spilling the contents everywhere.
Griff yelled at the big bounty hunter. "Hey now! I don't care who you are, you can just come in here and start wreaking the place!" As quickly as he said it, Griff recognized the fact that talking to the man now would be pointless.
Still injured, Huzo had surprisingly managed to pull himself up to a crouching position. His clothing was stained with the spilled drinks and his mouth and jaw was covered in blood. His hand dropped to where his dagger was sheathed and his fingers began to coil around the handle. When he did, he cast a glance toward his attacker. It was the first good look he had gotten at that man.
"Strifeild? AYIN STRIFEILD?" Huzo looked him over with disbelief, his grip on the knife vanishing. It had finally dawned on him who this man was."YOU! You're the bounty hunter that's been tracking us down?" Once he was done speaking, Huzo spit something from his mouth which clattered across the floor. A tooth.
Ayin stopped in his tracks and looked down at Huzo. "It's been Dragonhead for sometime, Huzo."
"Dragonhead, figures." Huzo spit out one of his teeth. "Always bragging about killing four dragons single-handedly." Huzo examined the tooth he had just lost. "Hell man, this is no way to treat an old friend. Look." He pointed to his face, covered in blood pouring from the broken nose. "You ruined my damn face."
"Wounds heal, Huzo." he said, his tone all business. "And we never were friends."
"Of course, you just beat your acquaintances senseless, but your friends your friends you back stab." Huzo fired back at him.
That provoked a reaction from him, anger laced his voice now. "Don't you dare compare that to this. Different times, different circumstances."
"I'm sure you companions Clyde and Baram would be inclined to disagree."
"Shut up!" Dragonhead roared. He was shaking with rage now.
"Still battling your inner demons, I see. I would prefer you left me out of that fight." Huzo got up and turned toward the door.
"Don't turn your back on me Huzo!" Dragonhead ordered.
"I'm going to leave here Ayin, and the only way to stop me is to kill me!"
"I aim to please." Dragonhead growled.
Huzo glanced back at the bounty hunter, his hand sliding toward the dagger. "You probably could have gotten me anytime Ayin. You waited until you got here, back where it all began, to do it."
"Coincidence, Huzo. This is no personal vendetta, I'm just doing to what I do for a living."
"Since when did dying become a living." Huzo whipped around with the large dagger gripped in both hands. The man was ready to give it a new home in Dragonhead's heart.
The bounty hunter saw it coming. As Huzo's hands down, his went up and grabbed the fugitive by the wrist, then twisted around and flipped the man over his shoulder and onto his back. Huzo landed with a thud, gasping for breath, each one hurting due to his broken ribs. Dragonhead still had a hold on the man's wrist, twisting his arm around, giving him a reason to let go of the knife. All Dragonhead got was profanities.
The big man pressed his heavy foot against Huzo's neck. "You were right about one thing Huzo. This is where it began, and this is where it ends." Dragonhead yanked on Huzo's arm. There was the sound of bone snapping as Huzo was killed instantly, his neck broken. The knife slipped from Huzo's lifeless fingers and clattered to the floor.
Griff looked at the bounty hunter than the dead man, and then back at Dragonhead, not sure what to make of the whole scene. The bounty hunter still looked down at Huzo, the last link to the man he once was, Ayin Strifeild.
Dragonhead turned to Griff. "I'm going to deliver Huzo to the law in Tzen and collect my reward. After that, I'm coming back here to pay for the damages. Then I want a room for the night and the strongest liquor you have."
He bent down and lifted Huzo's body off the floor and threw him across his shoulders in a fireman's carry. As he walked out the door, Dragonhead muttered to himself, "I want a hangover so bad that I forget this night ever happened."
Outside the pub, the night air was cool. Dragonhead paused and took a few breaths trying to calm the maelstrom inside his mind. Doing this job stirred up a lot of bad memories for him. Too many. The bounty hunter looked around him, mildly surprised that there were few Friday night revelers returning home from parties, staring back at this massive man with a corpse across his shoulders. Instead, it was as if Albrook had closed up, no one but a few stragglers walked these streets and they were too drunk to notice him. It was then Dragonhead remembered the strict curfew imposed by the garrison of soldiers that governed the town. He had heard rumors of what happened to the last individual that had stayed out too late. Dragonhead preferred to be out of the town before they noticed. It was eight years after Gestahl's Empire fell and Albrook had become the occupied city once more.
The bounty hunter entered a nearby Chocobo stable. He walked past several stalls containing the large birds, until he stopped at one in particular. In side the pin was Nico, his own personal steed. The bounty hunter stepped into the stall, which caused Nico to warble in greetings. Then he placed the body of the man across the creature's back, then secured it using rope he had retrieved from his saddle bag. He lead Nico out by the reins and back into the open. He flipped a coin at the night caretaker of the stable. The same coin he had flipped to Griff. This caretaker accepted it and turned to close shop.
Huzo's eyes were still open and stared back at Dragonhead. The big man took his hand and closed them. He then patted the chocobo on the head, his last friend in this world. The large bird chirped happily as Dragonhead scratched the spot between birds large eyes. 'I might end up betraying him too.' he thought as he looked at the chocobo and he wasn't joking, to himself at least. Dragonhead then took his eyes off of Nico and took one last look at the dead man before he mounted the animal.
"Dying was too good for you, Huzo, after what you and Sagan did to Clyde and Baram. Dying's also too good for me, because I let you do it."
Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic