The little convoy reached a great caravan on the fifth day of the month of fog, and Lord Amadan haggled with Lord Eri over the prisoners. “You want twenty gold marks for this sorry lot?” chuckled Eri. “I’ll say this Amadan--you’re still the half-mad bastard you were when we were young.”
Amadan gave a snort. “No, sir, I am not. I am older, and meaner, and less inclined to take your shit.” He crossed his arms. “Twenty gold marks. This may not be a large haul, but these Milesians are warriors to a man. Their backs are broad, their legs are sturdy. They will last for some time in the mines, and the overseers will know that.” The tall Erl warlord gave his head a shake. “You’ll not lose money on this, I promise you.”
Eri chuckled. “Truth be told, a man would be a fool to lose money trading on the Cthonique Road--but I still want to make as much as I can.” He glanced over the enslaved men and laughed. “‘Warriors to a man’? That hillfolk and riverfolk scum the Northern League hires to do its mercenary work is more like it…”
“That ‘scum’ has a reputation feared on both sides of the river…” noted Amadan.
“Which is why they now lie in chains before us,” said Eri with a shake of his head. “The fact that these fools are willing to pit their arms against the Empire AND the Great Kings of Night isn’t proof their courage, it’s proof of their folly.” He glanced at the men. “Ten gold marks, for the lot.”
“Seventeen, and I consider it a waste of the talents of my band in acquiring these men, in the first place,” said Amadan.
“Twelve, and I’m surprised that you didn’t think the entire Battle of Bitterleaves was that,” said Eri. “Are the stories I heard true? Sons in their early teens, fighting alongside their grandfathers?”
Amadan glanced away, a strange nervousness in his face. “The Northern League grows desperate.”
“The Northern League is a worm-ridden corpse, that tore itself from the rotting belly of the League of Prosperity and was conceived after she gave a mercyfuck to the White Pine Confederation as he lay dying,” stated Eri, a certain sardonic glee evident on the slightly corpulent Erl’s face as he said all this. “Which is to say, the damned stupid cunt was always desperate.” He chuckled to himself. “You know what? I’ll throw in a little more coin as payment for the expression on your face. A hungry man deserves some charity. Fourteen gold marks.”
“Fifteen,” said Amadan.
“Fourteen, and provisions for your men,” said Eri. “Including a pot of ale.” Amadan gave a quiet snarl and then nodded his assent. Eri signaled his man to fetch the coins, and then gave his old compatriot a sympathetic glance. “Don’t be so sad, Amadan. There’s more battle coming--and more profitable battle too. I hear Joyeuse is calling in the Empire. That should give King Sutekh’s phalanxes a pause…”
“They will be ground beneath the Undying One’s feet, same as all others,” snapped Amadan. “What does the Empire fight, save hordes of savages and brutes? They lord over vermin, and think it makes them great kings. Sutekh shall show them their vanity.” Amadan bowed his head. “May he rule forever.”
Eri nodded quietly. “He is certainly making the attempt…”