Barundar and Nym are an unlikely pair

                        They hunt down the wanted, in spheres everywhere

                        Though feared by the lawless, they're not really grim

                        They're actually quite fun, are Barundar and Nym




                                                                                Chapter Twelve




            Of all the people the Storyteller had met, Barundar and Nym were the two he liked best.  He found them to be both sociable and jovial - traits unheard of in most bounty hunters.

            Which was understandable, really.  They weren't actually bounty hunters.  They were happy-go-lucky adventurers who wandered from place to place in search of fun.  Bounty hunting was just something they did to pay for their trips.

            Not that they weren't good at bounty hunting.  Quite the opposite, they were perhaps the most successful team in the spheres.  After Cyril Blackthorne and the Wayfarer, they were the most feared bounty hunters in the multiverse.

            They were an unlikely pair, really.  Barundar, the giff, was tall for one of his kind (not so tall as Skullcrusher Velm, who Barundar had never met and was often - to his considerable discomfort - mistaken for), standing about eleven feet in height.  Although he had eschewed the military lifestyle of most of his kind and held no specific rank in any army, he did wear a smartly-cut uniform of blue and gray.  (He liked the way it looked on him.)

            Nym was that most rare of dracon - a solitary one.  Most dracon were so attached to their family unit that if they became separated from their families for any extended period of time they would weaken, and sometimes even die.  Nym, however, had been orphaned at a very young age.  Consequently he grew up outside of the traditional dracon culture.

            Both of them preferred the company of humans and demihumans to members of their own races.  No-one knew exactly how they had met each other, but they had become great friends at a very young age and been inseparable ever since.

            Perhaps the most surprising thing was that Nym was the one who had an interest in firearms.  For some reason, Barundar had never had the obsession with smokepowder so many other giff seemed to fall prey to.  He preferred hand-to-hand combat with his trusty and well-worn battle axe.  Nym, on the other hand, prided himself on his marksmanship with the arquebus - unusual among his own kind, who considered firearms messy, inaccurate, and dangerous.

            "Well, well," chuckled Barundar good-humordly as he approached.  "Reanyn Al'Nuoth!  It's been a long, long time!"

            "Too long," chimed in Nym from just behind.  "The last time we ran into each other was back on Taltos IV, when you stole our contract."

            "I took out a wanted man," said Reanyn.

            "Who we had been hunting for almost a year," interjected Nym.

            Reanyn shrugged.  "I recognized him on the street.  I had no idea that you had been trailing him for that long, and were just about to take him.  And it wouldn't have mattered to me if I had."

            Barundar gave a hearty laugh.  "That was a disappointing day for us indeed!  But, you are right - sometimes luck favors us and sometimes it does not."

            "And who is your companion?" asked Nym.

            "Wayland Tavras," put in Tavras with a slight bow.  "Perhaps you've heard of me?"

            "Of course," said Nym.  "The psionicist.  I'd heard your reputation, but I was not aware there was a price on your head."  The dracon turned to Reanyn.  "That is it, isn't it?  There is some reward for his capture that I'm not aware of?"

            "He's a traveling companion," explained Reanyn.

            "Strange times indeed," murmured Barundar, "when Reanyn Al'Nuoth has traveling companions."

            Reanyn shrugged.  "A moment of weakness."

            "I suppose we don't have to ask what you're doing on such a backwater moon," said Nym.

            "I could ask you the same thing."

            Barundar spread his massive hands.  "But the difference would be that we would be honest enough to admit it.  We're following the trail of the Raver - it's an old hobby of ours."

            "I'm trailing a man also," said Reanyn.  "But not the Raver.  The Raver doesn't exist."

            Nym smiled.  "I won't get into that old argument with you.  Who are you trailing, then?"

            "A man named Jarren Windhook.  Human.  Heard of him?"

            Barundar snorted.  "I say six; you say a half-dozen.  Why argue semantics?  Windhook is the key to the Raver.  Surely you know that."

            "I doubt it," said Reanyn.  "The Raver is a myth.  I'm after a real person."

            "Of course," conceded the giff with a smirk, "Of course.  Let us know if you find him, though.  Some of us still believe in legends."

            Reanyn looked around him.  "With the number of fools out there who 'believe in legends' I have to admit I'm a little surprised there aren't even more bounty hunters on this backwards moon."

            "Actually, we weren't the first to arrive," said Barundar.  "You've heard of One-Eye Pierce?"

            "A little," admitted Reanyn.  "We've never met."

            "Well," continued the giff, "friend Pierce decided to thin the competition, so he set a little trap for me and Nym.  Figured that on a backwater moon like this, where nonhumans were not particularily welcome, the locals would turn a blind eye to a nonhuman execution or two."

            "Where is One-Eye Pierce?" asked Tavras.

            "I believe they're burying him on the other side of town," answered Barundar.

            "Too bad," Reanyn said without real conviction.  "Now I suppose I'll never meet him."

            Barundar shook his head sadly.  "He thought he was better than he really was.  It's a common mistake.  Oh, well."  He heaved a dramatic sigh at the man's foolhardiness.

            "I wonder if we might propose an alliance," ventured Nym.  "Ordinarily I would assume it was out of the question, but since you've taken up traveling companions..."  He let the idea trail off.

            Reanyn pondered for a moment.  "What sort of alliance?" he asked at last.

            "Well," said the dracon, "it just occured to me that we're working towards related, but not mutually exclusive ends.  You're after Windhook; we're after the Raver.  So it's agreed that we're not after the same mark, correct?"

            Reanyn nodded.  "I'm willing to concede the point."

            "Well, then.  Perhaps we should work together to find Windhook."

            "I do pretty well finding people on my own."

            Barundar smiled.  "We do pretty well too.  That doesn't mean that when presented with a direct line to where our target is we ignore it."

            "Fair enough."  Reanyn thought.  "Very well.  An alliance.  But if your leads are the same as mine, no deal."

            "Agreed," said Barundar.  "You were following the money trail, as usual?"

            Reanyn nodded.

            "Well, we've been following it too.  But this planet's a dead end for us.  The Rimian Credit and Money Union is closed to nonhumans.  We couldn't even get in the door."

            "I'm not human either," Reanyn pointed out.

            Barundar waved a hand dismissively.  "Close enough.  The point is you can get in and we can't."

            "So far I see only how I can help you.  Let's discuss how you can help me."

            "Oh, the money trail wasn't our only lead," said Nym.  "We've been aware for some time that Windhook is already being held by a certain organization.  We just don't know where."

            "The organization?" asked Reanyn.

            Barundar smiled.  "Let's just wait and see where the money trail leads.  After all, if it turns out to be as much of a dead end for you as it was for us, you won't have anything to offer us.  If you come through, then we name the organization."

            "Fair enough," agreed Reanyn after a moment.

            Tavras drew Reanyn aside momentarily.  "I must protest.  You and I have already made a similar agreement."

            "I don't recall coming to any specific understanding about not taking on other partners," said Reanyn.  "I wouldn't worry; the reward for the Raver is large enough for all of you."

            "All settled?" asked Barundar when the two turned back.

            "All settled," confirmed Reanyn.  "We have an agreement."

            "Good.  Where shall we meet you after you've talked to the financial people?"

            "This rock is small enough that we should be able to find each other fairly easily," answered Reanyn.  "How about that inn there?  Wait in the main room."

            "Splendid," said Barundar.  "We'll do just that."

            "By the way," asked Reanyn, just as the two were turning away, "where is your ship docked?  I didn't see it at the port."

            The two looked at each other, then looked back to Reanyn, grinning.  "Actually," answered Nym, "it's docked on Taurus Inris, over in Midspace.  Our lead here insisted we fly blind, and took us on his own ship.  We were going to have to wait for the next passenger liner to arrive before you showed up."


                                                            *          *          *


            "Wonderful," muttered Tavras darkly.  "You just gave them a partnership and passage out of here, all rolled into one.  You probably could have gotten them to give you their leads on Windhook simply for passage, but no, not you.  Now the ship's going to be really crowded."

            "I don't mind their company," responded Reanyn.  "And I trust them far more than I trust you.  If you think my ship will be too crowded, I'll gladly leave you here.  As to the Raver, I've already made it clear that he is none of my concern."

            They had by this time reached the steps leading up to the doors of the Rimian Credit and Money Union.  "Now keep quiet in here," instructed Reanyn.  "Let me do the talking, understand?"

            The inside of the building was as elegantly and tastefully furneshed as the exterior led passer-bys to believe.  The employees were universally human, and smartly and conservatively dressed.  A small circular fountain bubbled playfully at the center of the main room, beautifully sculptured statues and exotic potted plants surrounding it.

            A young human female sat at the front desk.  She smiled smartly as the two of them approached.

            "I'm sorry sir," she said to Reanyn, "this establishment serves humans only."

            "Don't be ridiculous, child," Tavras said, before Reanyn could respond.  "Do either of us look like non-humans to you?"

            The woman's smile faltered momentarily, and a blank look passed over her face.  "I'm so sorry," she suddenly blurted apologetically, "I don't know what I was thinking, sir!  I'm so very sorry!  Will you be opening an account with us, or do you already have one?"

            "A little of both," answered Reanyn, shooting Tavras a quick look.  Tavras shrugged.

            The girl seemed slightly dazed.  "Very well, sir.  Perhaps you should speak with the manager."  She pointed.  "Office twelve.  He's not busy, just go right in."

            "I told you I could be useful," said Tavras in a smug undertone as they headed towards the indicated office.

            "Don't be stupid," Reanyn shot back.  "Do you really think an establishment like this doesn't take precautions against psionic intrusion?  Keep your abilities to yourself, before you trip some alarm system."

            "Don't worry about that," said Tavras.  "I've already taken care of their defenses."


            "See the man standing over there?" Tavras nodded his head to a man in the far corner of the room.  "He's psionic.  And I've already dealt with him.  He doesn't even know we're here."

            "Surely he can't be the only defense they've got."

            Tavras shrugged.  "I've been inside his mind, remember?  Don't worry, he's all they've got.  I've taken care of him, just like the girl."

            "And this manager?" asked Reanyn.  "Can you affect him in the same way?"

            Tavras seemed inordinately pleased with himself.  "I have already done so."

            Reanyn looked at him in surprise.  "We haven't even seen the man yet."

            Tavras shrugged.  "Some minds are easier to breach than others.  Accountants with little or no imagination are the easiest of all."

            The manager turned out to be an average-looking man, slightly on the short side, with sandy hair and beady brown eyes.  He was laboring over a ledger as they entered, but quickly put on a false smile and ushered them in.

            "Will you be opening an account with us today, sir?" he asked.

            "Not really," said Reanyn.  "I'm a bounty hunter by trade, and I'm following a trail.  It lead me here, and now I want to know everything you can tell me about one Jarren Windhook.  He may have used another name, so this could take some time."

            The little man's smile evaporated.  "I'm sorry.  All our files are strictly confidential.  I'm afraid we can't help you."

            "I assure you we haven't come this far to give up simply because of some petty rule."

            The little man was frowning decidedly.  "Do I have to call security to have you escorted from the building?"

            "Please," interrupted Tavras in a soothing tone.  "I'm certain that three reasonable adults such as we can come to some mutually beneficial understanding."

            The man's face softened somewhat at Tavras's words.  "I... I really don't know.  The files are supposed to be private.  Only employees of code three or higher clearance can go looking through them."

            "And you, of course, have that clearance?" Tavras asked persuasively.

            The man nodded slowly.  "Of course.  But I couldn't... I couldn't show them to you..."  The man let the words slide.

            "Certainly not," said Tavras, as if the very idea apalled him.  "Nor would we ask you to.  But nothing could stop you from looking, could it?"

            The man shook his head as if to clear it.  "No," he said at last.  "No, I suppose not.  Nothing to stop me from looking."

            "And you could just look at it for a few moments.  Then we could ask you some questions about someone totally different, and you could answer them."

            A bead of sweat appeared on the little man's forehead.  "Questions?"

            "Totally and completely unrelated questions.  Which you could answer according to what the file said about Windhook."

            The man looked puzzled, as if he were searching for some hole in Tavras's logic.  At last he bestirred himself.  "I... I suppose I'd better go and fetch the file?"

            "Yes," said Tavras.  "That would be the thing to do."

            The man nodded emphatically, as if he were completely pleased that he had made the right decision, and then hurried out of the office.  "It will be a few moments," he said apologectically, sticking his head back through the door and wringing his hands in very real dismay at having to make them wait.

            "We'll wait here," assured Tavras.

            The man scurried out.

            "I told you I could be useful," said Tavras after a moment.

            "And if he lies?" asked Reanyn.  "We won't see the files ourselves."

            Tavras shook his head.  "He can't lie.  I'll take care of that."

            "I would prefer to see the files with my own eyes."

            "That can be arranged.  It might involve some minor permanent damage to his mind, but I can do it."

            Reanyn thought.  "No, I don't think so."

            "Why not?  He's just an unimportant accountant."

            "Precisely.  Why should that be reason to destroy his mind?"

            Tavras shook his head in puzzlement.  "You are a very strange person, Wayfarer."


                                                                        *          *          *


            "That took more time than I would have thought."  Barundar and Nym had requisitioned a table and two chairs large enough for them to sit in from somewhere, and looked to have been waiting for some time.

            "It could have taken less time, but apperently Reanyn has a soft spot in his heart for middle-aged human accountants," grumbled Tavras.

            "It turned out Windhook did use another name here, and it took a while to find his records," said Reanyn, ignoring the psionicist.

            "Well, don't keep us in suspense," said Nym, standing.  "What did you find?"

            "Windhook has no account here," answered Reanyn.

            "Wait a minute."  Barundar was confused.  "I thought you said he did."

            "He had one.  Past tense.  Two years ago he cleared everything out."

            "And moved his assets to... where?" asked Nym.

            "The records were a little inspecific.  Someplace in Bralspace is the best I could do."

            "The Rock of Bral," ventured Barundar thoughtfully.

            "That was my thought too," said Reanyn.  "It is the major center of Bralspace."

            "It's a start," said Nym.  "If he didn't move his assets to the Rock, at the very least it seems likely he'll have had dealings there we can trace."

            "Precisely," said Reanyn, nodding.

            "Excellant!" rumbled the giff, thumping the table.  "When do we leave?"

            "As soon as you two reveal what it is you know about Windhook that I don't."

            Barundar grinned.  "Oh, of course!  That was our end of the bargain, wasn't it?"

            "I should say so."

            "Well, Nym," instructed the giff, "tell the good man!"

            The dracon sighed.  "We have it on extremely good authority that Windhook has taken refuge with the Seekers."

            "The Seekers?" asked Tavras in disbelief.  "He went voluntarily?"

            Barundar shrugged.  "He's been a Seeker for many years.  Makes sense, after all, when you consider he's an astrobotanist.  Why shouldn't he take refuge with his own kind?"

            "But the Seekers gather knowledge of mysteries!" said Tavras.  "They'll bring whatever knowledge of the Raver he has out of him!"

            "Maybe they've discovered that Windhook doesn't know anything about the Raver," said Reanyn dryly.

            "I hope not," said Barundar sincerely.  "Because if that's the case a lot of people are going to be disappointed, including me.  And I hate being disappointed."