Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Siege of the White Mountain, Vol. 3: Due to the Dead--Part 13

The three Khans of the Kizaks were riding through the snow.  The aged Gali Khan glanced up, and gave a snort.

"An early snow this year," he stated.

The Balu Khan wrapped his cloak around him.  "It is bitter cold," said the young man.

The Gali Khan rolled his eyes.  "This?  This is nothing.  Now, the cold of the Blue Ox Year of the Fifteenth Golden Conjuction.  That was cold.  My breath froze on my beard, in the month that the Plainsfolk call 'Germinal'. I crossed the Murkenmere then, coming and going.  A bitter year, save for one thing..."

The Agra Khan glanced up at the sky.  "Wasn't that Ostrog's birth year?"

A slight twinkle came to the old man's eye.  "As I said, save for one thing."  He sniffed the air.  "Another over here," he said, gesturing towards a copse of trees in the distance.  His fellow Khans sniffed and nodded, turning their horses towards it.

"Yours is still the sharpest nose on the Waste," said the Balu Khan with a smile.

The Gali Khan gave another snort.  "Only because you young lot let your sense of smell get out of practice, and dull it with those decadent perfumes.  Mine is the nose of a true Kizak!"  He sighed.  "But sadly faded with age.  Ahh.  When I was young man, I could have told you the color of his hair.  Alas, no longer."

"Really?" said the Agra Khan with a smile. They had at last reached the copse of trees.  The Lord of the Red Horde raised his bow, and gave a sniff.  "I'd say... dull straw."  He leveled it at the tree.  "Come out.  We know you're there.  And we can hit you even if we can't see you."  He raised an eyebrow.  "Though it might take us a while."

A man in the tattered livery of the Rabicanos shuffled out, his dull blonde hair long and unkempt.  "Don't... don't shoot.  Please."  He gestured to a ring on a blackened finger.  "I've... I've jewelry."

"We have no need for your baubles," said the Balu Khan.  "We wish news of your master's troops."

"I... I... I don't know," blubbered the man, waving his hands around.  "I... I last saw the part of the army I was with ten days ago at  Seven Coins.  Or maybe eleven days.  All I know is that I've been cold, and hungry, and hurting..."

The Gali Khan stared at the man's blackened fingers.  "You are dying," he said quietly.  "The frost has gotten into your hands, and it is killing you.  A long cruel death."  He eyed him significantly.  "I can give you a short, quick one."

The man stared at him for a moment, and then shut his eyes.  "Yes, please."  The old Kizak's hand darted out so fast, it was a blur, and then the man dropped dead to the ground.

"Ten or eleven days," he said afterwards, as they rode away.  "A small force."  He sniffed the air.  "To the west."  They rode on aways in silence.

"Men do survive frostbite, you know," stated the Agra Khan at last.  "If they get treated."

"And we did not have the room to take him on our horses," stated the old man.  "Not if we wanted to get back in time.  Nor would walking have helped him."  He shrugged.  "War's an ugly business."

The Agra Khan sighed.  "That I can agree with."

The Gali Khan nodded.  "It is good to ride together, like this."  He smiled.  "It reminds me of my brothers."

The Kizaks continued in silence.

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