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Wow, thanks for the great words Luna, a great comment from a great artist like you makes me proud...

No worries Embala, you got plenty of time to catch up...

I'm happy your enjoying the ride jeb and G0lden, it only gets better with each chapter...

Now for the new chapter, where Cutter and Bearclaw finally meet Ironbar, and oh what a meeting it is...

Chapter 17 – To many chefs in the kitchen…

A wise man once said he didn’t fear death; he just didn’t want to be there when it happened, which is pretty deep for a dirty homeless man sitting on the corner offering enlightenment for the spare change rattling around in the dark of your pants pocket or purse. Yet, that’s the way of this world, gems and nuggets hidden in places you didn’t really want to look.

Skywise sat at Ironbar’s private table in the back of the Palace on a raised section so the king could oversee his empire of debauchery easily. The Massive Troll sat to his left and smiled with pure evil enjoyment as that old bum’s words kept singing in the PI’s head, which was a feat since the music in the club drowned out anything and everything else in the place. At the moment it was a little raucous number played by a mix of Trolls and Humans from a special loft stage built on decorative poles right above the bar. The six person band was horns and drums and seemed to play only loud rough music which literally rained down on the patrons and dancers’ hurting ears and delicate sensibilities alike. He watched with Ember sitting next to him as Mender struggled to keep what dignity he had to himself, and that oversized burlesque costume on, as every Troll laughed and screamed and hooted with glee. The PI noted the elf didn’t give up the top after the first song and that was going to hurt his earning potential, if you wanted to make money taking your clothes off then you had to tease and give the boys a taste. The trick though was to not give it up all at once, just a bit here and a little more there…and then for the big finale it was the whole thing…sort of speaking.

The music came to a merciful end as Skywise hoped it wouldn’t come to the big finale. He wasn’t interested in seeing a naked elf dancing on the main stage, well, at least not Mender. “Tell the band to play it again Drill Bit, and tell Sludge that human at table 12 hasn’t tipped our cone yet.”

“Yes sir boss,” The Troll behind Ironbar nodded and walked away. Skywise bit down on his lip as the music started up again, maybe the pain from somewhere else on his body would cancel out the pain in his head. He didn’t get to test out the theory though as Ember started sending to him.

What are we going to do?

The PI watched as a Troll dressed in a suit that stretched to its limit to fit his burly body marched over and with no ceremony or word of warning grabbed the human at table 12 by the back of his neck. The poor man barely had time to think before he was on his feet being propelled forward like a puppet right into the main stage with a crash. Skywise saw the human turn, look into the Trolls large tusk filled face as it simply pointed toward the semi-dancing elf, and then slowly turn and drop a dollar at Mender’s feet.

You got change to tip Mender? I’m a little short of cash right now He responded flatly, detached from the whole situation.

Are you serious? Ember spat giving his leg a kick. We have to do something to get out of here!

He sighed keeping his head watching the spectacle playing out on the main stage. No need to tip the big green trolls to the fact you’re talking freely in each other’s head. Someone had successfully pulled the top away from Mender and was now going for the bottoms as the elf tried to scamper away. And how do we run past all the Trolls, who by the way are armed with guns? This isn’t the Holt Ember and that’s not Picknose who we could dupe with a whim sitting next to me. These Trolls have no problem shooting someone and grinding up the body in the back.

The thought of a body being disposed of in that manner must have shocked Ember just a touch as she quieted down. From the corner of his eye Skywise saw a new troll walk up and whisper in Ironbar’s ear a bit of news that made him grin like the cat that just ate the canary. His tusk jutted out a little further as he nodded and the new troll went walking off. What’s this twist Skywise asked himself as Ironbar looked over to him. “Do you think we made the cone suffer enough for the indignity he caused my Della?”

“I’m wondering how you know the meaning of the word indignity,” Skywise replied with a smile as he turned to look at Ironbar before adding. “You must have a dictionary stuffed somewhere in your coat cause I know you didn’t go to school.”

Everyone, and don’t believe them when they say they haven’t, has had that moment when you know you went too far with something. You know the one where the sign screaming out telling you to stop and save yourself the pain and humiliation just flies by as you ignore it and race right to putting your foot into a big pile of…well, you know the one. Skywise figured over the past few years he had ignored a lot of those warning signs, more than he could count really, but this one just might be the most painful one he had ever zipped by. The trolls around them started to glare, real mean dark looks of anger, yet not a one matched the snarl forming on Ironbar’s face. Gone was the sly smile as his mouth went to a straight flat line as the troll called Bit behind them growled.

“I know you’re not callin’ the boss stupid, are you cone.”

Ember at his side swallowed hard enough for everyone to hear as the troll’s hand slid in beneath his jacket. Skywise only stared as he went over what was going to pop out, a gun wasn’t the likely choice, he was worth more alive than dead. Nah, it was going to be a sap probably and that small leather sack filled with lead was going to hurt real bad when he got hit with it. Then Ironbar raised his hand and leaned back in his chair stopping his troll’s movement. That smile, the one where he ate the bird, yeah…it was back again as he chuckled.

“No need Bit, I’m sure the next few minutes will be painful enough for the PI here to shut that mouth of his for a while.”

Now Skywise was really thinking, what did that mean? Then the music stopped again abruptly and he almost gave a little praise to the High Ones for stopping the headache when the awful tune was replaced by loud screaming, an angry whiny voice of someone really upset. The PI turned his head to see a new Troll come running out of a side door, a well hidden one, and storm to the middle of the floor. He was holding a bag of ice to his face with one hand as he looked around and when he spotted Ironbar he made a bee line right for his table, the whole muttering under his breath about the two damn cones that had beat on him. He didn’t make the table, one of his brother green beast stopping him short with upheld hands.

“I want my respect back Ironbar! I demand my satisfaction!” The troll yelled from behind the bag of ice, his face bruised Skywise could see now.

What in the name of Ti-then two more bodies entered the room from the same well hidden entrance and Skywise’s question just hung in his brain. Oh yeah, this was going to painful. Ember next to him perked up and whispered ‘Father!’ as soon as she saw him. It was Cutter, dressed as dapper as he always did these days and next to him was…Bearclaw? Dressed in some old sweats? Mender on stage called out to Cutter to get him out of here as another Troll dropped a bill by his feet.

“Are you telling me those two cones beat you down Bite?” Ironbar called out with a laugh.

The trolls with Cutter and Bearclaw pointed toward them the back table and Skywise.


“Is that…Mender?” Cutter asked looking up at the stage with surprise and a little shock.

“Help ME!” The healer screamed.

Bearclaw nodded with one eyebrow cocked high as he watched the stage. “Where are his clothes?”

“The cone hit Della and she’s Ironbar’s favorite so he got to dance on stage as puishment.” The Troll answered behind them.

“Who’s Della?” Cutter asked with eyes locked to Mender. As hard as he tried Cutter just couldn’t look away at the spectacle.

“The boss’s Caddy…touch it in a way he doesn’t like and you end up in the back room.” The other Troll answered with a laugh.

That’s not the only surprise cub, look up there. Bearclaw sent to his cub giving his head a small nod toward the back.

Cutter turned to look at the back table and instantly noticed his daughter sitting next to his brother in all but blood, quite the surprise indeed, though if he were Cutter never showed it. His eyes squinted as he took note of all the green standing around the room, and all of them surely carrying guns. Are you ready to fight our way out here?

His father, the wildest and most fearless of all the Wolfrider chiefs only smiled and replied quietly with his own send. You forget who you’re talking to? Just get Ember and the stargazer out of here when it all comes to a head.

There was no reply, none was needed. Cutter turned and started walking toward the table, striding with a single minded destructive purpose was more like it. He never faltered or looked back as he crossed the distance to the back table, not even slowing when the Troll who stopped Bite stepped in to stop him. Nope, he just dropped him with one punch to the throat causing the green beast to fall back onto the stairs. He heard someone scream from behind then get cut off suddenly, probably his sire laying one of the Trolls out flat with an elbow. It’s what he would have done Cutter thought as he jumped forward slamming his foot down on the Trolls face as he gasped for breath. A second Troll moved forward trying to pull his gun out from under his coat, but the leader of the elves was just faster, a blur of movement. Before Bit could get his 45 free Cutter kicked him hard enough between the legs to make him jump a good ten inches off the floor. As the world spun and his brain exploded with pain Bit dropped to the ground while Cutter stepped past him. New Moon was out in a flash as well, the hammer dropping back with a loud click, as he put it right up against Ironbar’s head, right at the temple.

A cacophony of loud clicks and pops echoed in the Palace as every Troll still standing brought out their guns and pointed them right at Cutter. It was just like those gangster movies scripts Leetah got every once in a while, the gritty suspense filled part where the good guy and the bad guy had the stare down to see who’d blink fist. Only this wasn’t a movie and Cutter was pretty sure this wasn’t going to end with the good guy walking away without a scratch.

“Well, I guess talking nice isn’t gonna happen, huh?” Ironbar asked with a smile that screamed he was calm and cool with it all.

His cage doesn’t get rattled easily the leader of the elves thought pressing New Moon a little harder against the Troll’s head. “I’m taking my cub and my two tribesmen out of here or I’m going to blow your head off.” Cutter growled with every ounce of mean his voice could muster.

Don’t worry Fahr, I’m taking you out of here. Cutter sent to his brother in al but blood.

You might be over your head with this one Tam…way over both our heads. Skywise sent back.

When it all started, even before Cutter started beating the Trolls like drums, Ember had grabbed Skywise’s hand and started to squeeze. Now, with her father staring down Ironbar, she was just about ready to break the PI’s appendage. Skywise didn’t try to pull it away knowing full well a false move at this juncture of the ‘Negotiations’ could get them all killed. He was a little taken back though when Ironbar turned and looked at him with a wicked smile.

“What do you think PI, should I let him leave with all of you?”

“I’m pretty sure Cutter’s gonna shoot you if you try and stop us.” Skywise said flatly.

“Of that I have no doubt,” Ironbar spoke while turning his head to look Cutter in the eyes, “but just how much is he willing to give up for that chance?”

Before he could ask just what was going on Cutter heard more screaming and then from the same hidden door they walked out of more Trolls showed up dragging the rest of his fellow elves. Leetah and Joyleaf each pushed back as hard as they got, but it didn’t bother the Trolls who did the pushing much, and when it came to Treestump and One-Eye…they knew better to poke the bear in the cage you could say. They just tried to keep the lifebearers from getting hit.

You brought your mother and Leetah along? Skywise yelped in his send.

I wasn’t given much of a choice…Cutter shot back as he looked down into Ironbar’s eyes with a cold glare as the Troll just smiled and spoke.

“That’s a very nice 45…get it out of my face or I’ll have my boys start hurting your people down there.”

Cutter pulled New Moon slowly away from Ironbar’s head as he had to make a decision that left a really bad taste in his mouth. He breathed deep as the Troll just shook his head. “I got nothing against you Cone. Truth be told I respect you, coming in here ready to shoot it out for your daughter here and her friend. You just got blindsided is all, happens to us all every now and then.”

“What do you want for my cub and her mate?”

“Oh you can have them back, consider the debt paid in full as soon as the elf leaves all the money he got for his dance with Sludge.”

Cutter looked down at the stage where the large Troll was all ready taking all the bills away from Mender then back to Ironbar, “and Skywise, what about him?”

The leader of the Green Machine shook his head. “The PI stays here…but you got other things to worry about leader of the Cones.”

“What other things?”

“Those four down there, I don’t like Cones snooping around, especially cones with badges…and then there’s the matter of shooting up my bar…now that really irks me to the bone.”

Cutter had run into beings like Ironbar before, mostly humans, who used fear like a hammer to just beat you into a corner. It probably worked too almost every time, except this one. Ironbar had never seen what he was willing to do once his back was in that corner, and he was really sure no one had ever seen what Bearclaw was capable of once turned loose to fight it out.

“I’m going to give you one chance to let us all walk out of here, one chance.” Cutter whispered low.

“Or what? What do you think your gonna do now?” Ironbar asked back with a snap.

“Or I’m going to bring this place down around your fat ears!” A voice growled from just a few feet away. When Ironbar looked down he saw Bearclaw and the pair of his Trolls laying face down on that expensive carpet.

The leader of the green machine eyed them and then turned back to Cutter with that same smile. “I’ll tell you what; you hang onto all that juice your feeling right now for a minute or two and then tell me if you still got it after our last party guest arrives.”

Who else did you bring with you? The whole tribe? Skywise asked Cutter in a send filled with exasperation.

I didn’t bring anyone else…and why in the name of the Elders are you here in the first place?

Before the PI could answer though she walked in from the main entrance, strolled right out into this great big mess with an air of dignity and grace. A grand entrance that made most of the Trolls whistle, the humans stand agape with mouths open, and the few elves look on in shock with one exception. Bearclaw’s face soured, took on a rather perturbed look as she appeared.

“Great balls of crap…of all the elves I didn’t need to run into today.”