And Then the Hammer Came Down [part 3]
This is the third and final part of a longer fan fiction story set in the world of the Degenesis RPG. The first part is available here, and you can find the second one here. If you want to learn more about Degenesis, head over to their website.
The sun had set, no deal had been made. Damir was used to the darkness. He hadn’t been in the area long, but he had studied the landscape. He needed to locate scrap veins, figure out where to put his traps to keep unwelcome guests away, and dig out hiding places. He kept a detailed map in his head — every hill, every ruined wall, every rabbit hole in the ground. It was a spotty map, granted, and his memory for those details wasn’t what it had been when he was younger. Yet he knew the land. The intruders did not.
The Judges had fanned out. He had lost track of the large man. That one was smart. Well trained. Used to infiltration tactics and raids. The other two were not as competent. Both of them had brought long sticks, poking the ground as they tried to sneak through the cave bear’s territory. They had learned a lesson. At least their fallen friend’s sacrificed leg hadn’t been a complete loss.
The first of the three Judges was a young, pretty man with a face that could break the hearts of many a boy and girl at home. He had his hammer out, way too heavy for him to wield effectively. An idealist, all caught up in the romance of the Judges’ symbol of justice. He could hardly carry the thing, yet he held it with one hand while poking his stick into the ground with the other. Damir was sure that at this very moment, the young Judge was thinking about the glory of bashing the Scrapper’s head in with it, declaring a victory over the criminals that threatened the virtue of the Protectorate. He would make his superiors proud! He’d get a promotion! All the girls would want to fuck him!
“He is cute,” Damir thought. “What a shame.” In one quick motion, he stepped out of his cover and bashed the young Judge’s teeth in with his studded glove. The man crumbled to the ground. He would never smile at a beautiful boy or girl again. The heavy hammer landed in the red dust.
The second Judge had more brains. He carried a knife, hammer hanging at his side, ready to fight in the close quarters of the ruins surrounding Damir’s burrow. While the first one had been a pathetic excuse for a lawman, it was easy to tell that this one was an experienced knife fighter. It explained the scars — he had taken many cuts to both arms and hands over the years. He knew how to defend himself. He moved like a predator.
So did Damir. A big one. The Scrapper gave the man a hard push from behind. The Judge dropped his stick, stumbled forward. There was an audible click. Panic. Damir jumped behind cover, tumbling to the ground, as the explosive device he had hidden in the scrub went off, sending parts of the knife fighter flying. He was still alive, groaning, as Damir snuck away. The righteous suffering wouldn’t last long.
Anja screamed. Damir’s head whipped around. Fuck, the large one was smart. He ran.
Outside the burrow, the large Judge had Anja on her knees, a firm grip on her hair. He had his hammer out, and there was no doubt he knew exactly how to use it as a functional weapon. Three red gashes went down his cheek. The girl had fought back. Her own cheek was already swelling. The Judge’s leather coat was red with dust. Had he crawled the whole way up here?
“You’re good, bear,” he said. “But your skills at setting traps and catching useless prey” — he spat towards his fallen compatriots — “won’t be enough.” He held up the hammer, pointing it at the Scrapper, following his movements. “I offered you forgiveness. But the Iron Fist does not abide murderers.”
“Let her go, faszszopo,” Damir growled. “What are your priorities, Protector? Who is the most dangerous enemy here? The rodent who stole bread and cut off your herék, or the wild animal that will tear out your throat?”
The Judge smiled. “You are right, of course, old man. I’ll kill you first, then I’ll break both her hands and her skull once I’m done with you.”
The threat set off years of pent-up anger, sorrow, and regret. The lawmen had come to his home, temporary as it might be, chasing an innocent, hungry mouse. Just like they had chased down and killed a man that had done nothing more than defending himself. Damir was tired of the arbitrariness of the laws of the Protectorate. He was old. You could only survive in the wilderness for so long. Might as well bring down a living symbol of the Righteous Fist before dying.
As the Judge let go of Anja’s hair, Damir rushed him, knife in studded glove. The man was fast, too fast, and dodged away from the first swing of the weapon. The Scrapper spun around, knife flashing, and graced the leather coat. The material was thick. The cut didn’t draw blood.
The hammer came out of nowhere. Damir didn’t see where the swing started, but he felt where it ended, connecting with his left arm. Bones broke. Ribs broke. Organs broke. The pure momentum of the heavy weapon threw the Scrapper to the side, sending him crashing to the ground, knocking all air out of his lungs. Dark stars swam across his vision. He gasped for breath, but he could only gulp as any movement sent a stabbing pain through his chest.
The Judge stood over him, holding the hammer with both hands, waiting, grinning. His eyes were glowing with pride. “I told you, you aren’t good enough,” he said, as Damir finally stood up, slowly, holding his arm, still drawing short breaths. The Judge held the hammer above his wide-brimmed hat, ready to deliver civilization to the wildlands. “Justice will be done. Let our words be the last thing you hear, cave bear. Per Aspera ad Astra!”
There was a loud bang. The Judge’s shoulder exploded in a cascade of blood, tissue, and bone. He dropped the hammer behind his back. He didn’t scream, but his face turned to shock as he looked at the bloody crater, at his limp arm. Anja was standing behind him, sobbing, the musket smoking, the smell of black powder in the air. He turned his head towards her. “That’s… That’s mine,” he stammered. Then he collapsed to the ground, his face in the dust, frothing saliva in his mouth, trying to grab at the wound to hold the blood back and the arm in place.
Damir took a few steps, every movement hurting, every breath torture. His eyes locked on the Judge’s. They stared at each other for a few seconds, the only sounds coming from Anja as she sat down on the ground, musket next to her, hands in front of her mouth. Red dust blew across the hill, gathering around the Judge’s body, turning blood into mud.
“Do you remember this?” Damir asked. Of course he didn’t. He hadn’t been there. This Judge had probably still been playing ball with his friends in the street when Damir’s lover died. “I asked you a question. Do you remember this?”
“I don’t…” the Judge groaned, his eyes glazed over from the pain. “What do you…”. Damir brought his foot down on the Judge’s head, over and over again. It took a few tries, and he ignored the pain shooting through his body with every impact, but finally, the skull cracked. It was the last energy the Scrapper had. His legs gave way.
After a few minutes of staring at the sky, Damir used his still functioning arm to drag himself away from the body, towards the sobbing Anja. He felt like a sack full of metal scraps. He coughed up blood, grunted, and managed to pull himself up to sit next to her. His vision was darkening, his ribs screaming, his left arm on fire. He felt something sharp move inside his body. Damir knew he wouldn’t be able to stand up again.
“What… What do we do now?” the girl asked, her gaze fixed on the dead Judge, desperation in her voice, tears on her face. The hunt wasn’t over. More Judges would come, crawling over these hills, looking for their comrades. The war cry would sound when they found the bodies. The traps were a dead giveaway of who had caused this. They would hunt Damir and Anja to the edge of the Protectorate.
Damir coughed again. More blood.
“We… We’ll move to Toulon,” he whispered, red saliva hanging from his mouth, his head slouching. He smiled at Aleksy. “Get honest jobs.” Then he closed his eyes.