Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain, (Volume 1: Raise the Black Banner)--Part 13

Simon moved back into camp, the heavy bag of grain on his shoulders making his aching back scream in agony. Another one of the armiger’s… bright ideas, it meant that after having had to… do that business, he’d had to lug a great deal weight around for a long time. Him and many of his fellows. At least, he called them his fellows. Were they really? Were any of them anything but a horde of men moving mechanically forward at the bidding of the officers, following orders, mechanical tools that did what they were told and killed…

He was tired. He needed to sleep.

“…to the stores,” said a voice that seemed to come from far away. Simon turned to see the speaker--a Flagellant, who stood there, looking at the men with his terrible masked face. Something about his gaze seemed to attract the Flagellant’s interest… the Holy Brother stepped towards him. “Sir… are you all…” Simon gulped in horror and stepped back, only to find his legs were unsteady. As he toppled, he heard the grain he was carrying strike the ground, the bag opening, and he worried that they would punish him for spilling his bag…

Simon’s mind went somewhat fuzzy, at that point--he had a vague impression of being lifted up, and carried somewhere, but it was… well, vague. When his mind cleared--at least, mostly--he was lying in his tent. “What in the Black Bitch’s name did you people do?” came a voice. Cracking his eyes open, Simon saw the Flagellant from earlier, along with another, taller one, and… the old timer.

“Heh. What do you think?” said the old timer. “Young Breezy’s a bit ambitious. In that way some armigers get. He wanted to get blooded. And he did. In that way that didn’t get him personally blooded, mind you, but that’s a technicality.”

The Flagellants nodded. “Thought so,” muttered the taller one.

“Well, at least we got food from it,” said the other Flagellant.

“Food that we’re going to have take care of,” muttered the tall Flagellant. “Because apparently the Eremites and the armigers can’t be bothered to deal with supplies.”

“Ain’t that how it always goes?” muttered the old timer. “Duties roll down from the top, and land on those below.” He offered the pair his hand. “Well, thanks for the help.”

“Ehh, don’t mention it,” said the taller Flagellant as he shook it. “Brother Cord and I needed a break from all the trouble. To which we are now returning.” The old timer nodded, as the pair walked away. As soon as they were gone, he turned to Simon and looked him over. “You up?” he asked.

Simon nodded. “I… I’m sorry about the grain.”

“Don’t be sorry about the grain,” stated the old timer flatly. “We have plenty of grain. We have more than enough grain. We are probably going to be dumping grain out to rot in the road. Now--you don’t seem to be wounded. Did any of them get you…?”

“No,” he stated dully. “How could they? They… We…”

“Don’t think about it,” said the old timer. “Not if you don’t have to. You clear it out of your mind, and you don’t think about it. That’s what you do if you want to get through this. Understand?” Simon nodded. “Good. Now get some sleep. You need it.”

Simon waited for the old timer to leave before he shut his eyes. He tried to rest, but no matter how hard he tried to follow the man’s advice, images of blood, and flames, and broken bodies would flash before him, and refuse to go away.

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