The woman’s imposing armour and the towering lance by her side stand in stark contrast to the delicate – and expensive – drink she sips as I approach. I can feel her eyes on me as I weave through the other tables towards me. As I sit down, she welcomes me with a wolfish grin.
What’s a Half-Bondsman?
Well, there’s bonds – missives from the courts to bring someone in alive. Half-bonds are the same, but they don’t care if they’re alive or dead. I prefer half-bonds; the pay’s usually not as good, but the jobs are simpler.
So you’re a bounty hunter?
Sure, if you like.
How did you become one?
I grew up with three older brothers and my dad, all in the killing business. I spent a few years with the Never Been Kings and a few other guys, but never really fit in, you know? I always wanted to do my own thing. That brought me here.
Pretty good! Half the city is flooded, they’ve got these ugly leech-guys running around that keep scaring the locals. Half-breeds, they call them. I’d hate to see whatever did the breeding!
Had any interesting cases recently?
Yeah, a couple. Bryne’s full of eggheads and wizards – they’ll throw a fireball your way as soon as look at you, but get up close and they’ll be begging for mercy. Sometimes you get a couple of rival wizards putting out bonds on each other. There was one case, some student had been looking at some books he shouldn’t, they asked me to bring him in alive. Not normally my bag, but the pay was good.
I spent three days tracking the guy through the Shallows [the slums of Bryne] – no easy job mind, you try tracking someone’s footprints in no less than knee-deep water. By the time I found him he’d clearly found the chapter on Necromancy! He had this little court of bloated zombies and his skin had gone all grey and shiny, it was gross.
Anyway, I beat his little gang to pulp and got him back in one piece. But the damn eggheads wouldn’t pay up! They said he wasn’t technically alive any more, he’d read too much of that book. So I told them, alright, screw it, and I cut him loose there and then. I’ve only done half-bonds since – and never for the college.
Isn’t it a dangerous business?
[She laughs.] If it isn’t, I’m doing something wrong! [She unclasps her gorget, revealing a ring of ugly scars on her neck.] I got these from a nasty half-breed with a face like a leech. Hell of a kisser, that one. Of course, you can believe I gave as good as I get!
How do you defend yourself?
However I can. I’ve got all this armour for starters, obviously, though with all the standing water I’ve gotta be careful with rust. If it’s open battle I prefer the lance – yeah, it’s impractical, but I know what I like and damn if it doesn’t scare them silly when I charge. Of course, when they get up close and personal, like that bad kisser I mentioned earlier, it’s usually the misericorde. [She pats a slim dagger at her waist.]
Usually I try to stack the odds in my favour first – only hit them when they’re vulnerable. There was another band of half-breeds, there was a price on their head but you had to bring them all in at once. I hung about the shallows for a bit, did a bit of learning and asking around, and found out they had a monthly breeding ritual. So, I gate-crashed the party. Caught them with their pants down, literally!
How do the targets react when you capture them?
I’ve had all kinds. Some will get all honourable, “glory for the gods” and all that crap. Others will get on their knees and beg. Makes no difference to me, it would’ve been a lot easier on them if they hadn’t gone rogue. “You want a sonnet, go ask the bard.”
The thing is, they say these half-breeds are mindless beasts but a lot of them talk better than the wizards and bandits. No-one mentions that part when I bring them in, but then, I don’t ask either.
What’s next for you?
Things are getting a little busy in Bryne, it might be time to move on. I’ve heard there’s more bondsmen than students in Bryne at the moment. Like I said, I’m not exactly in the college’s good books anyway. I heard there’s trouble in the border towns and up in their capital – that great world tree, what’s it’s name? Leatherhead?
Yeah. Good thing about this business, you go where the work is. Work your own hours! Meet wonderful new people, and gut them on your lance for profit! [She laughs.]
Klare left Bryne three days later, bound for Leidsdrasil. She has not been seen since.