Saturday, March 23, 2013

Flesh Wound- Two

My name is Cain the suicide. If it was Cain the book lender, I might have chosen another profession. My hair is cut into a War stripe, and I kill Orcs.

My favorite way to do that is with a sword, although I'll use whatever comes easily enough. My sword is a mean bugger, hand and a half valyrian steel. I wear ramshackle Shardplate armor. Orc teeth are sharp. Like any suicide, I stole or bought illegally all this. I’m not a fucking knight. Or a barbarian. Especially not one of these Imperial redcoats, running around with their fancy new rifles. Smarter than that.
In town I like dark ale, loud music with a Nord bard on the drums, and a woman with tattoos and a war stripe. If a bitch approaches me and she looks like she comes from temple, I won’t pass up, but that isn’t an often occurrence with my appearance. Not that my appearance matters to me. I can read and write, and do sums, which is more than many of your Ser's and Milady's.
The last bloody mess I was in came courtesy of a favor I did while I was in Cyrodil. They happened to let me in one of the nicer areas, which doesn’t happen too often. Means they don’t think I'll steal too much, which I did anyway. I was between horses when I got there, and had to ride a caravan, which seemed to work out all for the best, as they were attacked by gobs three times. Things are rough these days in the Empire. I impressed the lot with my swordplay, and a visual display of gob guts and brains in abundance, but none of the womenfolk was a proper nice wench, and one of the menfolk seemed to be looking at me in that funny manner which I don’t go for. So I kept to myself and did my business, got off at the gates and didn’t look back. People are funny about suicides, they want us when there’s things to kill, and every time else, not at all.
I am here today, to save a Princess. It is entirely the wrong sort of job for a suicide. As such, I have failed at it horribly.
The Princess is in my arms, dying. If I want to I can feel the holes in her side, where the arrows stick out. An arrow is a messy wound, and you don’t want to pull the shaft out, if you can help it. Not without a Maester around.
"Can you hold me tighter?" She says. "It’s getting kind of cold."
She isn’t dressed for warm, that’s for sure. High boots and bustier, with one of those short black skirts whores prefer around Kings Landing. Lips and eyes painted dark, along with jet black hair. The hair coloring is natural, only. I don’t tell her that the chill she feels is death coming. I just press her tighter to me. A beautiful girl. Her teeth are chattering now.
"Just answer me one question." She says.
Anything, I tell her.
"How is it my father was so stupid to send a suicide to guard me?" She asks
A long story, I say. And then I start to tell it.


An Orc is nowhere near as attractive in its menace as popularly portrayed, by artist across Cyrodil. An actual Orc is about four and a half feet tall, grey, and wrinkled. Not to mention the smell. The stink of perpetual feces and rot, is a calling card for anyone that’s dumb enough to look, a sure indicator, Orcs live here.
The story starts with me in single combat against one such Orc. I say single combat because there is two of them, and I have a companion, so the odds are even, in theory. In practice, I am standing out in the woods with a dumb, fat friar, armed only with a ceremonial mace, who looks as if he might piss himself at any moment. It is two on one, then, made even more complicated by the fact that I have to keep both Orcs attention, and keep the friar alive, in order to get paid for the job.
I have evened things up early by relieving one Orc of its arm. It was a smooth cut, and it staggered the creature. Will most likely kill it, eventually, from blood loss. But the Orc is overall too stupid to care about little things like a mortal wound, and it hobbles around with a simple club, swinging back and forth. Possibly it will hit me, possibly it will hit its comrade. So much of fighting these things is a game of chance.
The other Orc is quicker. It has one of those rusted edges of black metal they use as blades. Its own blood is trickling from between its fingers where the creature is gripping it. There is no handle to an Orc sword, no unsharpened or padded point on the sharpened edge. They lose their own fingers often, and with little regard. "Grag slagger de nork!" The Orc howls at me, which I take to be its own language for "Kindly relieve me of the useless burden of my own life."
It jumps furiously. It is nimble despite being ugly, and I have only made minor wounds. It suddenly shats and pisses itself, the urine dribbling out its member in brown gold trickles. A series of warts decorates its lower belly, making its way prominently to the penis. To save me from this sight alone, I would clothe the enemy myself. I have an epiphany, and drop my guard.
The Orc takes the initiative immediately, charging and howling. I let my armor take it. That is the key thing about shardplate, it can indeed take it. The black metal sparks with each impact, and leaves a glow from where it was hit, but it holds. I bring my sword up in time to save my face from the one lucky blow that might get me. The Orc is fast, but frantic and erratic.
The thrust that kills him he almost throws himself on.
I take its head off for good measure. You have to be sure, with Orcs. There is absolutely no need for an abundance of caution. I move over to the side, where I see the other Orc has sagged to its knees. Its eyes are dull and mostly lifeless, a stroke of good fortune for the overweight friar, who is comically dancing forward and back, swiping his ineffective mace just short of touching the beast. I take this one's head as well. The friar squeals when the torrent of blood that issues forward splatters the front of his brown habit.
"You got me." The friar whines. It’s all over."
I ignore the man. It isn’t over, of course. There still is a matter of the eggs.
The friar sits and eats a leg of mutton he brought with him to satiate his appetite. I give him credit for that, I have little stomach for eating after spending a day around Orcs. I look around for the nest. It has to be close. Orcs don’t stay in one spot unless rooted. I find it at last under a fallen tree stump that comes up nearly as high as my head. Five eggs, two hatched. The infant Orcs are ugly pink thinks, blind and mewling like kittens.
I crush them quickly beneath my boot. One of them a merely maim with the first stomp, and it lets out a tinny howl at the injustice. My next blow crushes its head flat to the Earth. Afterwards I put flint and tinder to the mess, and burn the unhatched. Only way to be sure. No need to waste time, trying to crack the shell of an Orc egg. Let it cook.
When I get back the friar looks up at me, his face a mess of mutton juice. "What’s that smell?" He asks. "Are you making breakfast? Those eggs are rotten. I won’t eat rotten eggs."
"Neither will I." I tell him. "So let’s get back to your abbey, and you can make breakfast for us both."

He does. Or rather, a slightly plump, well bosomed handmaiden does. The church eats well, in my experience anyway. This meal is no exception. Buns with honey and butter, strips of bacon. Bowls of berries. Fine mead to wash it all down. We finished our business early, and it is just mid-morning when I push back from the table. The light is shining through the stained glass windows, warm sunshine. I think I could take a nap, if I let myself. Just in the grass, outside the confessional. I imagine the residents of this Shire have lazy moments, just like that.
The friar pushes back, and smacks his lips. We get down to business. "Now," he says. "On the matter of your payment."
"Twelve talents." I tell him. "Six an Orc. agreed upon guild rates."
"Ah." His eyes darted around nervously. "And you feel that is, shall we say, appropriate?"
"And you don’t?"
"It did seem a quick bit of work." The friar said. "No doubt, I am sure that you are very good at what you do."
"The best." I lied. One-lipped Sawl is the best, but there was no reason for this asshole to know that.
"As you say." The friar said. "The best. I am quiet adept as well, in my ministries. And I believe that as I was out there, the Prophet God himself was helping me, aiding my strength, that I was able to dispatch one of the fell Orcs myself. So I do believe, that, ah, if guild rates were to be applied, then the price should be-"
I summoned up the steel in my voice, and turned my eyes to ice. "Should be what?" I asked him.
"Six talents." The friar gulped.
I let my right hand subtly drift to the sword resting beside me. "The price was for two dead Orcs." I said. "Those are both dead. What’s more, a nest of eggs was destroyed, free of charge. This was agreed upon on condition of hire."
The fat man gulped, and said nothing.
I let my voice soften. "But I suppose a discount could be provided." I said. "For assistance rendered, and this fine meal. Five talents an Orc, then."
The friar was happy, smiling contentedly between greasy cheeks. "Ten it is." He brought out a fat purse, brimming with more than six times that number of golden coins. For a moment, I considered taking it from him, and taking off his fat head with a Valyrian blade. Then the moment passed. The friar intoned that he would pray for my soul. I thanked him graciously. As I walked down the road, away from the abbey, I gave it my middle finger. Five an Orc was the actual guild rate. I had told the man ten because I knew he would try and cheat me, and I knew that I would have a better chance of getting my money if he thought he was getting some sort of bargain. Men of the cloth are notoriously stingy when it comes to settling their debts.
I knew what would happen next, of course. Or rather I didn’t know, completely, but more like heavily suspected, based on years of being a suicide. So I ducked in the woods, a quarter mile down the road to Westshire from the abbey. I dusted off my boot prints from the dirt, so if you read my tracks it would look like I simply vanished in my tracks, called up to heaven by the Prophet God. I picked a spot off in the woods, and waited.
It didn’t take long.
There were four of them. Amateurs all. The kind of rough sort you pull up from the docks in any city, especially the so-called free cities beyond the dark portal. They weren’t wearing professional garb, no mail between the lot of them. Simple peasants rags, mostly. Their weapons were the worst of it. I counted two with long knives, one with a lumberjacks axe, and one with the sort of rapier that is mostly ornamental. They had a half starved dog, which they obviously didn’t know would be no good against a proper suicide. When they reached the point where my tracks vanished, they started to argue.
“He’s in the trees!” Said the fat one with the lumberjack axe.
“Shut your mouth.” Said a skinny one with one of the long knives. He spat, and I could see a mouthful of ruined black teeth. “You think he’s a bird then? He can fly.”
“He can jump!” Blubbered the lumberjack. “Jump high, to the thick of the branches.” He scratched his mangy head. “We should have brought arrows.”
"Oh?" Said the fat one. "And who would have shot the arrows? Perhaps you could stick the bow up your fat arse, and pleasure yourself thusly."
A brief struggle ensued, in which the fat one managed to blacken the skinny ones eye, purely on accident. After which they separated, muttering curses. The one with the dog petted it on the hind-quarters, which caused the animal to wag its tail morosely. I could see that this one was merely a boy, very young indeed.
"Toby's lost the scent." Said the boy."
"Fuck that dog." The skinny one spat in the dirt. "It’s done nothing but chase a damned squirrel. This whole things a wash. I told you we should have gotten what we could out of the friar when we could have, and then headed to the pub to drink it away."
"He promised us half a talent each." Whined the fat one. "From what we got back from the suicide."
"Do you think it really was a suicide?" The boy asked. "I’ve heard the stories..."
"Every sell sword this side of the plague lands calls themselves a suicide." The skinny one said. "It’s just business, and nothing more. That lot died out a long time ago."
But I hadn’t, and to punctuate the point I took out a small dagger, and threw it so it caught in the skinny ones shoulder, buried to the hilt. He let out a howl and then fell and started to kick and thrash around. The others that weren’t carrying their weapons in their hands drew them. I rustled the bush I was hiding behind and stood up, allowing them to see me. The reaction was predictable. Shouts of "there he is!" and "let’s get him!" If they looked around them carefully, they would have spotted me long ago.
I took off on a careful run, headed back into the woods. It was careful because I was deliberately letting them see and hear me. The group chasing me made only slightly less noise than a herd of Kroog, particularly the fat one, who managed to fall down twice. The dog took the lead, yapping near my heels, but not getting close enough to bite. I doubted it would, anyway. When we reached a small clearing that I thought was perfect, I let them surround me. I took a moment to let them feel comfortable. They were cowards to the bone, the kind that would only think of killing a man in his sleep, ordinarily, unless the target was weak enough. And I didn’t want them to run. I would have to chase them. I kept my hands by my side, off my sword, and tried to look neutral. They were panting, breathing heavy from the run through the woods.
It finally happened with the skinny one. Anger from the wound I had given him earlier gave him enough courage to cry "God damn it!" And charge at me with his long knife. I drew my sword cleanly while slashing low, in the manner of the east. The cut opened up as he passed me, and his guts spilled out the wound, to his feet. He fell trying to put them back in with both hands.
I took the one who had not spoken with the most skill, afraid he would run, in a leaping thrust. After that my Valyrian blade went in neatly to rupture the fat ones heart. When I reassessed the dog was long gone, being the only member among the party with any degree of good sense.
The boy put his back to the tree, his eyes wide and bright like two shiny pennies. He looked impossibly young now, years from shaving the hair from his face. I pointed the blade in his direction. As I did blood gently dripped from the steel, making a soft patter onto the leaves.
"Who sent you?" I asked.
"The friar." He told me, confirming what I already knew.
"Are there any others?"
He shook his head. "You killed them." His voice was filled with awe. "Your sword wasn’t even drawn, and you killed Lean Tom without even trying. I’ve never seen anything like it."
"I doubt you have seen much death, boy." I told him. "How old are you?"
"Fifteen." He sniffled, a thin trail of snot running out his nose. "I’ve seen Lean Tom kill a man once, by the docks in Kings Landing. A merchant. He bought me a sweet bread with what we got." The boy shook his head again. "It wasn’t like that, though. What you did. You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?"
I said nothing.
"I didn’t want to come." The boy said. "They told me I had to. I was planning on running away once we got to the Shire. There’s work there, you can work the fields when harvest comes in, and they don’t care who you are or what you've done. But they made me do it. I didn’t want to."
"I believe you." I said gently. And then I brought the sword down fast to the back of his skull, splitting it to the brains, so that when he fell forward I would not have to see his face.

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