7. The Coat of Many Corpses

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Brisbain, the trapper, was a wiry badger of a man with beady black eyes and an elongated sniffer. His fur cloak was patchworked from the hides of squirrels, rabbits and prairie dogs, many with the heads still attached. It writhed and cavorted as he sauntered toward Kadav, appendages flailing about as if trying to pull free from their stitches. In addition, he wore a necklace of assorted fangs, claws and beaks that produced a sound like a rattlesnake.

The trapper drew a bone-hilted knife, flipped it over to hold it by the blade, and cast it in the mayor's direction. The blade whizzed past his leg to strike a hard object behind him. Metal jaws snapped shut with a loud retort that sent echoes ringing through the forest.

"Wouldn't want you to step on one of them bear traps," the trapper said. "It'd crush your ankle like a walnut."

"There are bears out here?" Kadav said, a bit shaken.

"Don't know," the trapper shrugged, causing a commotion amongst the tiny corpses. "Never tried catching bear in these woods before. But if the size of the trees is any sign, I'd expect they'd be big."

"Shouldn't you be working on the trigger mechanism?"

"Shouldn't you be at the work camp overseeing things?" rejoined the trapper.

"I came out here looking for you," Kadav lied. "Thought I'd check up on how the trigger mechanism was coming along."

The trapper's rodent-like eyes contracted. "Ain't got no levers, springs, braces, brackets or screws. How do you think it's coming?"

Kadav rubbed one corner of his mouth, trying to conceal his irritation. Brisbain was the only man in town with the mechanical know-how to build the giant trigger. He was also intractable, quick to take offense, and a bit wild in the head. "Have you given the blacksmith a list of the items you require?"

"Of course I ain't. If I had, he'd have lost it already."

Kadav had to admit he had a point. "Give me the list. I'll see that you get everything you need."

"You want a list. I want four crowns. We all want something, don't we, mayor?" The trapper turned his back to squat beside the sprung trap, leaving the mayor to negotiate terms with his taxidermic coat.

"Four crowns?" Kadav was outraged. "But that's twice our agreement."

Brisbain pried open the metal jaws and held up a gray-green slab. "Would you just look at this moldy old steak. Only a few days old and already gone rancid. Kind of like our agreement, wouldn't you say?"

"Three crowns," Kadav countered. "But only after the dragon's been slain."

The trapper flipped over the steak and reset the trap. "Rumor has it that once we kill this here dragon, there'll be fountains a'spouting perfume. Can you picture such a thing?"

"Pah, women! You know what sort of crazy talk they get up to."

"Crazy indeed. I sure as hells ain't got no use for a perfume fountain. Can't fish in it, see. But four pieces of gold, now that would be a right boon to my situation."

"I told you, I don't know anything about any rutting perfume!"

Brisbain flashed a badger-like grin. "Know what else you don't know anything about? Trigger mechanisms."

"All right, all right." Kadav inwardly cursed the trapper. "You'll get your four crowns. Two now and two when the work is done. And that's my final final offer."

"Why, that's mighty generous of you, mayor," Brisbain said. "But I better ask Tweeky here what he thinks."

"Tweeky? Who's Tweeky?"

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