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Author Topic: The Soldier and the Scavenger  (Read 368 times)

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The Soldier and the Scavenger
« on: April 21, 2017, 10:24:49 PM »
 The Soldier and the Scavenger

(Original Work, Cross Genre)

Warren Richard was a happy man.  He had grown up in a good home in one of the richer humae (hairless bipedal ape people) families in Granier (one of the richer kingdoms on the planet Grandskyre).  He was the son of a baron and had grown up with all the perks that came with that position.  When he turned 15 he had taken up the family tradition of joining the Granier tenth Legion and due to his status in the nobility had been granted an immediate promotion to Captain upon joining.  He had served for 6 years though he had been fortunate enough to avoid actually going to war.  Then he had returned home and fell in love.  He fell in love with the most beautiful women in all of Granier.  He could have married her in an instant but being a fiercely independent man he opted to earn the dowry money himself rather than dip into his rather large family fortune so he had re enrolled in the army promising to return in a year with enough of his own hard earns to marry the girl of his dreams. 

Then war came with the Sloha (scaly bipedal lizard people), but this captain had the incredible good luck to be assigned to the wrong area and once again avoided conflict.  Then he had been homeward bound his service agreement used up and his hard earned dowry in his pocket.   But first he had wanted to do some celebrating and coming from one of the more progressive families in Granier had decided that he was going to walk straight into a tavern in a small Ranthem (Smallish bipedal rat people) village, buy everyone a round on the house (which greatly decreased the amount of hostile stares he was getting), and sit himself down with the nearest solitary Ranthem and tell his entire life story to someone who was just sober enough to remember it in the morning.  After that he stumbled out of the bar and went back to his camp to join several of his comrades heading home.  That was three weeks ago.

           The Ranthem from the tavern was a young man named Veryl.  And now he stood by the side of the road staring at a small metal necklace in his hand.  An inscription on the necklace said Warren Richard.  He had gotten it from a pile of torn fabric and white bone on the side of the road by his feet.  The corpse beetles don’t care how well off you are.

The pile of bones and fabric by Veryl’s feet was far from the only one.  The road was strewn with corpses most of them picked clean by scavengers.   It was no coincidence that Veryl was there.  A contingent of Granskyre legionaries had been camped outside Swyngate (Veryls home town) for weeks before the soldiers loose spending at the town tavern giving the place one of the few economic boosts it got these days.  Then two days after the soldiers left the sound of gunfire accompanied by the shrieks of Sloha and the bellows of their burmu mounts had been heard in the distance by a pair of old hunters six miles down the road from town.  The collective decision had been made by the town council that scavengers would be sent to check for anything of value at the scene of the battle ten days later.  Ten days, to decrease the chances of running into any Sloha still hanging around the scene.  Now 6 days later Veryl had decided to beat the rush. 

“Come on be here” muttered Veryl as he began to feel around in what was left of Warren Richards Jacket.  There was a reason Veryl had come long before the others.  The others would be lucky to find some usable fabric or maybe some bullets that the Sloha missed.  A very lucky scavenger might find some jewelry or a good pair of old boots.  Veryl was after a years’ worth of Legionnaire captains pay.

                     *                            *
           Three weeks previously:

“...And I finally got enough money to marry the most beautiful women in the world.”  Warren
Was on his feet swinging in slow circles in the Rusty Nail tavern in Swyngate with a mad grin on his face. 

“Not for long, if you keep yelling that in here you won’t” said Veryl getting up from his seat and helping the ecstatic humae back to his. 

“Ha I’m no fool” said Warren sitting down.  “Did you take me for some knave who yells his fortune while he has it on him?  Hell no, I have got all my hard earns back in camp.” 

Veryl glanced around, he spotted about 10 people he suspected were wondering exactly how well guarded the camp was.  “Keep yer voice down” he whispered leaning in close to Warren.  “There are people in here who would like very much to relieve you of that money” 

“You refer of course to the stereotype that Ranthem are crooks and thieves right” said Warren leaning back with a look of socially enlightened stupidity on his face.  “I am surprised you would think that being one yourself.  I personally have educated myself beyond such foolishness.” 

Veryl glanced around the bar again.  Every ranthem there including Veryl stunk of desperation.  Many of the people in there even stunk of drunken desperation which was far more dangerous than the normal kind. 

“Anyway” Whispered Warren leaning in conspiratorially.  “Even if they snuck into my camp they would never find it.  I have it all hidden you see, sewn into a seam of my coat right under the buttons in a really long thin bag so no one will notice the extra bulge.” 

*                                   *                              *   

           Veryl’s probing fingers finally found what they were looking for.  Sure enough under the few remaining buttons of a torn legionnaires jacket a long series of lumps that didn’t belong there.  Pulling the jackets remains away from the bones he pulled a knife from his belt and cut the end of a very long thin hidden pouch and poured out more money than he had ever seen in his life.  Counting them he found about 30 Lira.  20 more than he had ever heard of any single person possessing.  Enough apparently to pay the dowry for the most beautiful women in all of Granskyre.  Unfortunately for her Veryl had never thought much of the appearance of Humae women.  He had more pressing matters on his mind. 

           Quickly filling a leather sack full of the precious coins Veryl turned down the road and set of back towards town.  His first thoughts were euphoria.  He wasn’t poor anymore.  He had in a sack on his belt enough money to buy a freakin mansion.  Thank the gods for dead humaes.  Suddenly Veryl felt a very real twinge of guilt at the back of his spine.  A man had died trying to get this money.  A man who had a family friends even a bride to be waiting back home.  And when he had heard of the battle Veryl had truly hoped that man had died.  He had prayed the humae had been routed so they wouldn’t have gathered there dead.  He had been so desperate for the ability to ensure his next meal that he had wished death on another being.  Become one who profited from death.  Sadly this was not a concept he was unfamiliar with.

                                   *                                   *                                   *
           10 years earlier

           Funerals had become far too common in the weeks before the mine closed.  The mine had had such promise.  Jobs for everyone it had promised, an end to poverty it had promised.  Death had never been mentioned, but death had come.  The long twin shadows of the wanderer had fallen across Wyngate.  Come for most anyone who had ever strayed down into the mines. 

           The lead mines were started by a wealthy baron from Granier.  With rumors of conflict with several of their neighbors looming the baron had assumed rather correctly that it was time to mine lead.  Bullets were after all a growth industry in wartime. 

           Veryl was ten years old and felt nothing.  He had no tears left to cry.  He had cried them out when his best friend’s father had died.  He had cried them out when the funny women who lived down the street had died. He had cried them out when the baker who had given him sweetbreads had died.  He had cried them out when his cousins and his uncles died.  Now his father was dead, and there was no tears left to cry. 

           This seemed wrong to him.  He should feel something, anything!  So he walked up to the nearest adult and asked him about it. 

           “Why aren’t I sad?”  Veryl asked.  The adult he had chosen was Cathrouse the town dregla or healing sorcerer depending on who you asked.  The old ranthem was no expert on matters of emotion but whenever anyone asked him any question they always got an answer. 

           “You're in shock.”  Said Cathrouse matter-of-factly.  “You won’t feel anything today but tomorrow you're gonna ball your eyes out.” 

You had to be brave to ask questions of Cathrouse.  He was one of the world's few truly honest men.  One who would didn’t care how much the truth hurt so long as it was the truth. 

           “Why is everyone dying?”  Asked Veryl still feeling nothing. 
           
           “The mine killed them.”  Said Cathrouse.  “There wasn’t much ore down there and that damn humae foreman who owned the place new it.  So he gave everyone a month to dig it out and then he would pay the workers and leave.  But the mine was contaminated with something even I didn’t recognise until it was too late, and the damn humae put in his contracts that his workers had to collect their pay in person at the end of the month.  So every man and women who worked down there who dies before month’s end is about 50 or 60 hours free labor for him.  Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the foreman knew this would happen.  Everyone is dying to line a greedy man's pocket.  That’s why.”

 
                            *                            *
           Now it was ten years later and the cycle seemed to have come full circle.  A Ranthem strode down the road his money bag bulging with the wealth of a dead humae.   In part Veryl felt an odd sort of justice.  He had lost so much so a rich humae could become richer.  Now he had been rendered rich by a rich humaes death.  That feeling soon faded.  He had lost a father to greed.  Now some far off humaes had lost a son.  Veryl wondered if there were humaes who had lost a brother.  He wondered how many humaes had just lost a brother.  He wondered how many humaes had just lost a friend.  Several friends, Warren had been far from the only corpse laying by the side of the road.  That was just the Humae.  The sloha had carried off their dead if there were any.  Veryl wondered if it was just him, or if the coins in his bag were slowly growing heavier. 
 
« Last Edit: April 21, 2017, 11:14:26 PM by Lord Palatine »

 

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