Swords, Scales, and Bagpipes

Nash raised a hang to plug his snout as he entered the bar. These places always smelled horrible. He glanced to the left, and noticed a group of Hoblins, pig-like creatures who, due to their habit of living in swamps, always had a horrible smell surrounding them. Well, at least now he knew the source of the stench.

He walked over to a nearby barstool, one that was a good distance from the Hoblins. The tiny robot bartender floated over to him and asked for his drink order.

“An Aku Ice, stirred,” Nash requested. The robot whirred in response, and floated off to get the drink. Nash sighed. Aku made sure his influence was part of everyone’s daily life. Several drinks being renamed in his honor was just one of many ways Aku spread his influence.

Nash handed his credit card to the robot with his scaled right hand to pay for the drink. The robot processed the card, and returned it to Nash.

“Thank you for your patronage, and remember, Aku is watching you!” was the robot’s pre-recorded reply. Nash had to sigh at this, too. He had heard that same message a thousand times over.

Nash sipped his drink casually, and after awhile, reached for the leather bag he had strapped to his side. He opened it and removed a folded piece of paper. Nash had looked over this flyer many times, but he found that viewing it reminded him of his goal.

The paper was a wanted poster. The man pictured was wearing a plain white robe, with a sword hanging at his side. His long black hair was tied neatly in a knot on his head, and his narrow eyes hid a great power within. The text read:


The Samurai Warrior


Reward: Anything you desire

Warning: He is armed and dangerous.

Aku commands you to find this man

Nash didn’t know why this man was so important to Aku. The black sorcerer could easily overpower any man alive…so why was this simple samurai so dangerous?

Nash’s concentration was broken as he noticed someone had sat nearby him. The creature’s race was unknown to Nash, but he resembled a serpent. The man began to speak.

“Heeey, lizzardmann…” he said, his tongue flipping in and out of his mouth as he spoke. “I’m a bit…down on casssh…could you pour me a bit of that drink you haaave?”

Nash ignored the man, instead looking back to his poster.

“Come ooon…help out a fellllow hunter…”

Nash glared at the man, and pulled his drink a bit closer.

The snakeman grunted, and turned away.

Suddenly, a large noise erupted from the other side of the bar. Nash turned to look, and saw that the Hoblins were excited about something. The largest of the Hoblins was ranting about something.

“Yeah, I’m telling you, it’s true! That Jack guy was spotted nearby here! And they say he’s traveling with that Scottish guy! He’s got a big bounty on his head, too! When those two come on down this way, I’ll capture both of ’em! Aku will make me a rich man!”

Nash shook his head. Hoblins were such braggarts. They weren’t very good fighters, either. Rumors said that Jack had been able to take out a whole squadron of Aku’s robots. A pitiful group of Hoblins wouldn’t stand a chance.

Nash glanced back at the snakeman sitting by him. The man had inched towards Nash’s drink, and his long tongue was now extending slowly and furtively. Nash whipped his arm out and grabbed the man’s tongue.

“Go away, or I’ll eat your head,” Nash growled quietly.

The snakeman made a quick retreat.

* * * *

“Aye, see there? That’s seventeen for me now, laddie!”

A large finger was raised to point out a poster tacked to the city walls. “You see my beautiful mug there? You’ve only got a two poster lead now, Jack.”

The slender robed figure turned to face his stout friend, raising his straw hat as he spoke. “I admit, my friend. Aku wants your head nearly as much as mine.”

The two sat in silence for a moment, and then broke into a round of laughter. “It sure takes a couple of loose screws like ourselves to argue about whose head is more valuable, eh?” the large one said with a chuckle.

“Yes, I agree.”

“Well, I say we go about finding a place to relax, and grab some ale!”

“I think I will just have some tea, thank you.”

The Scotsman opened the gates to the city with ease. “Aw, you’re just a little pansy, laddie. You need the drink of a real man!”

The pair walked into the town and followed the main road. The tavern was not hard to find, as it was quite a loud establishment. Various vehicles were parked outside the bar, including a small army of motorcycles.

“That’d be the Hoblins,” the Scotsman said, pointing out the cycles.

“Who are they?”

“They’re jest little piggies,” the Scotsman said with a laugh. “But they’ve got a stench that’d kill an ox!”

“I appreciate the warning,” Jack replied as they entered the bar.

As the duo went inside the bar, a hush fell over all of the occupants. All yelling, all talking, all arguing fell silent as the bar’s customers eyed the two new entries.

“Aye, this is the best part of bein’ infamous,” the Scotsman said. “I love it when they do that.”

“I’m beginning to get used to it,” Jack replied.

They walked over to a lone table several feet away from the bar, all eyes following them there. The Scotsman flopped down onto his chair nonchalantly, while Jack slid into his seat silently. “Robot!” the Scotsman called to the mechanized bartender. “Grab me a large ale, plus a jug of green tea for the pajama wearin’ daisy beside me!”

Jack gave his companion an annoyed look.

The robot waiter wasted no time in completing the order, and rolled over to their table to deliver the drinks. The room continued to be silent. The Scotsman leaned back and chugged about a fourth of his mug, while Jack quietly poured the tea into his cup and sipped it gently.

A bit of noise came from the direction of the Hoblins. Naenog, one of the Hoblin’s best hunters, stood up. Nash noted that he was the one who had been bragging a bit earlier. The lizardman watched as Naenog walked slowly over towards the two men. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” the pig snorted. “I believe we have something to discuss.”

“Oh, piss off,” the Scotsman replied. “I’m tryin’ to enjoy my drink.”

“I think that we need to step outside,” Naenog said quite sternly.

“I think you need to step off a cliff,” the Scotsman shot back.

Naenog began to reach for his sword. “I didn’t want to start anything in here,” the Hoblin replied, “but if we have to…”

The little robot left his position at the bar and rushed over to the table. “No fighting in the tavern, gentlemen,” it said, oddly cheerful.

Naenog responded by hacking the droid into several pieces.

The Scotsman took action while the Hoblin was busy with the robot. He smashed his mug over Naenog’s head, shattering the glass cup into millions of pieces. Naenog slumped to the ground, unconscious. The other Hoblins roared with anger, and rushed to attack the two fugitives. Jack slowly stood up from his seat, giving his companion an annoyed look.

“Sorry buddy,” the Scotsman said with a smile. “It had to be done.”

Nash turned in his seat to watch the fight. He wanted to see the samurai’s power for himself.

The first group of Hoblins reached the duo, grasping their blades. The Scotsman met the first one, slashing it across the chest with his massive runic sword. Meanwhile, Jack fought off two of the beasts at once, parrying each of their blows. The samurai maneuvered until he was between the two Hoblins. His attackers roared, and rushed at the samurai. Jack smiled, and then jumped up swiftly. The Hoblins collided with each other, knocking themselves out. Jack landed softly, and quickly swung his sword to the left. Nash looked over to the samurai’s left. He had hit a Hoblin who had snuck around the battle to get in a cheap shot.

Nash was impressed. Being a lizardman of the Jethardi tribe, he had heightened senses, but even he hadn’t seen that foe. If the Hoblins were good at anything, it was stealth. For a human to sense a sneaking attacker like that…

Nash shook himself out of his daze, and looked back at the battle. The Scotsman and the samurai were handling themselves admirably, but there were simply too many opponents for them to fight off in such an enclosed place. Not to mention that several of the bar’s other customers had joined in the fight, since most of them were also bounty hunters.

Nash sighed, and rubbed the crest that was woven into the right shoulder of his tunic. “The Jethardi code of honor,” he said, smiling to himself. He stood up from his seat, and jumped nimbly onto the bar. He unsheathed his blade from his waist, and jumped into the fray.

Jack leaped to the side quickly to avoid one sword, then ducked to avoid another. There were too many Hoblins, not to mention the other hunters in the bar. Out of the corner of his eye, Jack noticed a large green figure jump into the fray. “Great, another one,” the samurai mumbled to himself. He swung his sword twice, and heard two Hoblins fall to the ground. He risked another look at the new entry into the fight, and was quite surprised. The man was fighting off Hoblins left and right. Jack skillfully maneuvered himself over to the lizardman, until the pair stood back to back.

“You are not a hunter?” the samurai asked quickly.

“Wrong,” the warrior replied.

“Then why do you are help us?”

“I have my honor,” the warrior said simply.

The pair split up, swinging their swords skillfully. Jack instantly felt a deep respect for the man. Honor was sadly uncommon in Aku’s world.

The Scotsman cut a path towards the bar, as he thought intensely. They couldn’t win the battle in a closed space like this. Out in the open, they would have a better chance…suddenly, he had an idea. He pushed an insect-like creature out of the way with ease, and jumped behind the bar. He swung his sword at each end of the bar, severing it from the wall. Turning around, he grasped the top of the bar. “Muscles, don’t fail me now,” he prayed.

He looked toward his companion. “Jack, dive to your left!” he shouted.

Jack quickly glanced at his friend, and sensed his purpose. He quickly dove to the side of the room. In front of him, he saw the lizard warrior do the same thing.

The Scotsman, seeing his allies safely out of the way, pushed forward with all his might. The bar was nearly as long as the building itself, so as it shot forward, it knocked over the attackers with great force.

Nash turned toward the Scotsman. “That won’t stop them forever!” he protested.

“Aye,” the Scotsman replied. “But it’ll give us a chance to get away!”

The trio emerged from the bar, running at full speed. They quickly exited the city gates, and entered the forest behind the city.

Minutes later, the remaining Hoblins left the bar, led by Naenog. “They must have fled into the forest! Let’s go! And make sure you kill that filthy Jethardian with them, too!” The pigs mounted their motorcycles, and drove off towards the forest.

* * * *

When Nash felt that they had ran far enough, he signaled for his companions to stop and rest. The Scotsman leaned against a tree, breathing heavily. Nash glanced down at the man’s leg, and noticed the gun in place of his left leg for the first time. He was amazed the man could run so well with that attached.

Jack looked towards the lizardman. “I don’t believe we have been introduced. I am called Jack. And my companion…”

“Jes’ call me the Scotsman,” the large man said with a grin. “I like to keep anonymous.”

“I am Nash of the Jethardi tribe,” Nash replied, bowing to the two men.

“Ah, I thought you were a Jethardi,” the Scotsman said. “I’ve heard of you guys. I guess the rumors of your tribe being skilled fighters is true.”

“We pride ourselves on our strength,” Nash replied.

Jack still felt troubled. “But you said you were a hunter,” the samurai said. “So why did you help us? Surely you know of the large bounties on our heads…”

“I do,” Nash answered. “But I keep my honor above all things. You were outnumbered, so I helped you.”

Jack stared at the man. “But I’m sure you will not let us go peacefully, will you?”

“No,” the lizardman said, somewhat regretfully. “But the Scotsman can go. I am not interested in his bounty. Only yours,” Nash replied, staring right back into the samurai’s eyes.

“Well, if ye makes a move on my buddy,” the Scotsman said angrily, “you’ll have to contend with me as well.”

The lizardman glanced at the large man. “That is not how I fight,” he said. “I did not become a hunter by my choice. My race does not lower itself to such a level. But I had no choice. I can, however, choose how I fight. I battle my targets in duels, one on one.”

The samurai smiled. “Trying to inject honor into bounty hunting,” he said, smiling.

Nash turned to the samurai. “So you will accept my challenge?” he asked.

Jack looked troubled. “Why have you come after me?” he asked the man. “I know Aku has a large bounty on my head, but you could get plenty of money by fighting other targets…”

“It’s not for the money,” Nash replied, his eyes focused on the samurai. “Aku said he would give a man whatever he wishes if he defeats you. What I fight for can only be obtained that way.”

Jack sighed. “If we must battle, then I will accept. But I wish there was some other way…”

Suddenly, there was a large noise in the distance. “The Hoblins,” the Scotsman sighed. “They’re after us.”

“I’m afraid our fight must wait,” Jack said to the lizardman.

The Scotsman turned to the other two. “I’ll take care of them,” he said, confident. “You two go off and have yer little fight.”

“Are you sure?” Nash asked, awed. “There must have been at least thirty of them left from the fight in the tavern…”

Jack and the Scotsman glanced to each other, grinning. “Just thirty of them?” the Scotsman asked.

“I feel sorry for them,” Jack smiled.

The noises were getting louder and louder. “Go now!” the Scotsman shouted. “Don’t worry ’bout me!”

Jack ran forward without a word. Nash looked back at the Scotsman. He had drawn his sword, and he appeared to be ready to take on anyone. Nash said a silent prayer for the man, and ran to follow the samurai.

The Scotsman continued to look at the underbrush in front of him. Soon enough, the group of Hoblins emerged. Sure enough, there were nearly thirty of them, with Naenog leading the way.

The pig recognized the Scotsman. “You again,” he snorted. He then glanced down at the Scotsman’s sword. “Do you really expect to beat all of us with THAT thing?”

The Scotsman looked down at his sword, and grinned. “Ah, does my lil’ knife scare you, piggies? All right then, I won’t use it!” He tossed the large blade aside.

Naenog gasped. “You fool!” he shouted. “If you really want to die, then I won’t stop you!” He turned to his allies. “Attack!” he commanded.

The Scotsman reached down and grabbed the gun that was his left leg. Good luck, kid, he thought, hoping Jack could survive his battle. He then turned to face his own battle. “All right piggies!” he shouted. “EAT FOOT!”

The Scotsman rained bullets down on his adversaries as they approached…

* * * *

Jack stared down his opponent. “There is really no other way?” he asked.

“No,” the warrior replied simply.

“Then grant me this,” Jack said. “What do you fight for?”

Nash sighed. “I suppose you have a right to know…”

“My people were enslaved by Aku. Despite our fighting skill, we were not able to resist him. The sorcerer recognized our fighting skill, however. He has sent many of us out in the world, as his servants. He uses us when people resist him. I, however, was able to avoid becoming a simple hitman, due to my skill. At the time Aku conquered us, I was the greatest Jethardi warrior. He lets me stay in our village, living normally. But when someone becomes too powerful for the guards and bounty hunters to stop, Aku sends me. When you began defying Aku, he sent me out to find and kill you. Aku always lets me have the rewards from the people I stop. So, after I stop you, I am going to ask him to free my people.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Do you really think Aku will let your people go?”

Nash smiled. “He really hates you. I think he might.” His face became serious again. “When I ask him, however, I will volunteer to stay as his slave. I am the only Jethardian he really needs, anyway.”

Jack smiled. He finally understood this man. “Sacrificing yourself for your people. That is a very honorable thing to do.”

Nash’s hand rested on the crest on his right shoulder. “The Jethardian code of honor,” he said simply. “But enough talk. My only option now is to defeat you. I am truly sorry, however.” He drew his blade and prepared for battle.

Jack readied his own blade. “There is always another option,” he said softly.

The two rushed at each other. When they met, they both swung their blades with all their might.

Jack stopped running, and sheathed his sword. He turned to look at his rival.

Nash stopped, and quickly grasped his right shoulder. He expected intense pain, but there was none. He looked at his hands. There was no blood. He looked at his shoulder. The crest of honor was gone.

Jack spoke to his opponent. “Aku does not fight with honor,” he said. “Therefore we must adjust ourselves to the situation. Honor is important. But so is justice.”

Jack continued. “This is a battle between good and evil. We are both on the side of justice. Therefore, we have no reason to fight. Instead, we should be allies.”

“But if I don’t stop you,” Nash protested, “my people will…”

Jack grew stern. “Do you really think Aku would free your people? He has no honor. Even if he has no use for them, he’d rather slaughter them than free them.”

Nash fell to his knees. “I know,” he answered. “But in these times, I just needed something to believe in,” he sighed.

“Then believe in me,” Jack said. “I will do my best to free your people. But you must keep fighting, as well.”

“But how?” Nash cried. “How can I stop Aku? There’s no way!”

Jack smiled. “Remember? There is always another option.”

Nash stood silent.

Jack held out his hand. “Here,” he said. “Your crest.”

Nash took it. Then he smiled. “You’re right,” he replied. “From this day forth, I’ll be a wanted man too!” He smiled at this. “Let Aku send whatever he has after me! I’ll find a way to free my people!”

Jack smiled.

Suddenly, there was a roar from behind the two warriors. A pair of motorcycles was emerging from the trees. Jack grinned as he recognized the only rider as the Scotsman.

“Hey, buddy!” he shouted. “I took care of the swine problem!” He rode up to the pair. “So, ye found a way to resolve this peacefully, eh?”

Nash smiled. “This man is incredible,” he said, glancing at Jack admirably.

“Yeah, he’s a bit odd, but if anyone can stop Aku, it’s this lil’ guy,” the Scotsman said, giving Jack a heavy pat on the back.

The lizardman laughed. “Farewell to you, Scotsman. And you, Samurai Jack.”

Jack bowed to the man. “Farewell, Nash. May your quest be successful.”

“And yours as well.”

They shook hands. “Always keep your honor,” Jack said to the man, and he turned to leave.

Nash watched the pair leave, Jack walking forward, and the Scotsman following on the first cycle, dragging the second one behind him.

“Come on, laddie! I grabbed one for you, too!”

“I will walk, thank you.”

“Come on, ye pansy! This is so much easier…”

Nash smiled as the two argued into the distance. He looked to the sky, full of hope. Before today he had thought Aku was unstoppable. But now, he knew the truth. His people would be free soon. Aku’s days were numbered.

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