Bob the Musketeer Saves the Cake (Part 3) by Sam Underhill
After some minor investigative work, the crew had deduced the most likely location of the kidnapper’s hideout as the Lagartija cave, the same cave Froggo Villa’s gang had used to ransom Serena. Finding the helpful trail of flour Hector had managed to drizzle didn’t hurt either.
The heat rising from the floor of the Banditoad Trail hit them before they had ventured ten minutes. Through the sun-baked haze, the quintet could spot other denizens of the Trail lurking about. Banditoads and Salamanders gave them a wary eye, but decided the pirates looked like more trouble than they were wroth. After all, the usual rule of the Gulch was ‘If you don’t bother me, then I won’t bother you, unless you look like easy pickin’s.” Skirting the omnipresent nests of scorpions, the pirates progressed swiftly. Or at least as swiftly as a Human, Fox, Mouse, Bull and one-legged Rat could go without blaming each other for every misstep along the way.
“Those are my feet, ya lummox!” “Then don’t put ‘em where I’m stepping.” “Are we there yet?” “Must you trod on every stick down here?” “Why am I the one lugging this picnic basket?” “I’m hungry, is it lunchtime yet?” “I think that Salamander was winking at you.” “Don‘t make me come over there.” “Just a little further.” “My feet hurt.” “Comes from stepping on mine.” “What‘s that smell?” “Why are we doing this again?” “Can’t ye keep those blasted lips of yourn shut?” “I’ve heard that if prepared properly, scorpions can be very good to eat.” “I said shut it!”
Not soon enough for Bob’s liking, the entrance to the Lagartija was stumbled upon. The sun was past its zenith, and the afternoon heat would ramp up even further. It was time for Bob to give one of his nigh-legendary pre-battle, morale sapping, er… boosting speeches. Resigned to their fates, the crew happily ignored him and took to readying their weapons. “Well, we’re finally here. We were right all along, the flour trail led straight to the Lagartija. Now remember, once inside let me do the talking. All you guys have to do is look menacing.”
“We can look something other than menacing. Perhaps we could look ominous for a change of pace.”
“We could try lurking.”
“Maybe we could just act threatening. Calls ‘em likes I sees ‘em, I say.”
“I’m partial to portentous, myself.”
“Intimidating? Foreboding? Fulminating?”
“Is that even a real word?”
Bob sighed disappointedly. “Alright, everyone ready? Here we go.”
The inside of the cave was exactly as Bob remembered it. Large enough to contain several chambers, the cave held plenty of those ever-present scorpions. Despite the heat and humidity from the Trail outside, the inside of the cave remained a cool, constant temperature, around fifty degrees. The opening chamber didn’t even boast a sentry, but the crew could hear raised voices coming from further inside.
Skirting the scorpions as best they could, the crew gained an overlook of the innermost chamber, where a score of Banditoad Soldiers and Veterans, Salamander Stabbers and Cutthroats, all congregated around a cooking fire. The evening’s offerings looked pretty sparse. Sarah pointed out Hector Varga seated on a crate near the back of the cave. The only possible way to him was through the crowd below. “Let‘s go,” Bob led them onward.
“Look out, Cap‘n!” Hector jumped to his feet, squawking a warning. They want me to bake a cake for them, but they ain‘t got no oven to cook it in! They‘re gonna crash the party!”
“Sit back down, Hector, and stay out the way, so you don’t get hurt,” Bonnie Anne warned the Chicken. He immediately sat back down on the crate and did his level best to look inconspicuous.
The bandits all rose to their feet and formed a disorganized mob between the pirates and the baker. One of the older Banditoad Veterans stepped forward. “You will not stop us, señors y señoritas.” Bonnie Anne and Sarah gave grunts of appreciation at someone actually acknowledging their gender. “If we cannot have cake, there will be none for you. Then we shall come for the food.” An angry growl of assent came from the assembly.
“Five of us, twenty of them, a fair fight for El Toro!” The massive Bull flashed his sword magnificently, beginning a worried look or two to cross the faces of the enemy. “And his pirates allies, of course,” he amended thoughtfully. Perhaps it was just the wind, but it sounded as if a trumpet fanfare echoed in the distance.
“Cap’n, I’ve set aside time later on to clean my Scaramanga, don’t forget.” Bonnie Anne lovingly stroked the barrel of her beloved gun, then gave it a gentle toss in the air. Catching it behind her back, she ended by raising it to her eye, checking the sighting. Her unfeigned confidence took the courage of the kidnappers down another notch.
Sarah Steele had already drawn her sword and was eyeing up the enemy, looking for weaknesses to exploit. She had spotted a group of Salamanders nervously bouncing back and forth on their feet. She grinned wolfishly at them. “If we don‘t dawdle,” she casually commented, “we can make it back to Santo Pollo by nightfall.” Was it Sarah’s imagination, or were these bandits even younger than the last group they had tangled with? Some of these bandits couldn’t be more than tweeners.
“Are we just gonna stand here yammerin’? The Chicken’s got a cake ta bake!” Ratbeard pointed out, pointing with his sword in Hector‘s general direction. Nervousness palpably spread throughout the cave. How could only five people just waltz in and threaten them in their own hideout? None of the villains had experienced such nonchalant courage before.
Bob set his Brown Bess on his shoulder, then promptly tripped over the picnic basket they had lugged along. The resulting backwards somersault landed him in a less than dignified display, and created more than a few sniggers to roll through the crowd. Bob retrieved his dignity, then pulled himself up on the picnic basket. Suddenly he gave it a reassuring pat. “Actually, I don’t think this will take long at all.”
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