Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain (Volume 1: Raise the Black Banner)--Part 3

The two Flagellants walked beside the troops, their faces hidden by their masks.

“This is one of the worst jobs you get in the order,” muttered Brother Law.

“Worse than branding folks?” asked Brother Cord.

“I said ‘one of the worst’,” noted Brother Law. “Not THE worst. So don’t try catching me up on specifics.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Cord nodded to himself. “I hate it too.” He shuddered to himself. “The way they glare at you…”

“They glare back in Joyeuse too,” said Law.

“They aren’t all armed there,” muttered Cord. “Oh, sure, every now and then, you hear of a Brother getting knifed in a back alley, but that’s the exception.”

“It’s still the exception here.” Law looked over the line of men marching wearily down the road. “If it wasn’t, you’d see every damn force that had ever been assembled go rogue, with the men killing the officers. But you don’t. They take their pay, and they march to where they’re told to march, and they kill who they’re told to kill. Or get killed by them.”

“Well, it doesn’t feel that way,” said Cord. “It feels like they could kill you at any given moment.”

“I know,” said Law. “One of the reasons this is one of the worse duties a Flagellant can draw. The marching, and the cold, and the weather, and the feeling that one of these men is going to go at you with a sword.”

Cord’s eyes seem to grow grimmer. “At least the pay is good.” He coughed. “I can finally get Elizabeth that kitchen she wanted. She has the men looking over the place right now.”

“Well, that’s good,” said Law. “And how are the kids?”

“Growing like weeds,” said Cord. “No complaints on that score.”

“Well, that’s nice. I’m happy for you two,” said Law. “I’ve been meaning to come over the last few months, but in between all the extra duty and Melissa’s…”

“I know,” said Cord. “I know. Same with us, really. We keep meaning to stop by, but in between all this bustle and our household--never can find the time.” He turned towards Brother Law for a moment. “How… how is she…?”

“The same,” answered Law.

“Ahh.” Cord coughed. “Well… at least she hasn’t gotten worse.”

“True, true,” said Law. The pair marched on in silence for a while. “Who knows? With this damned war she might outli--”

“Don’t say that, Justin,” said Cord. “Just… don’t.”

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