“Just relax Varga.”
Varga was a mouseish man with a large mustache and receding hairline. He wore typical merchant attire and a loose sash across his chest. His eyes darted around the room looking for some way to escape. We were currently in Varga’s home office, Reji sat on one couch and Varga the other. He had been mad at first when we took him from his bed, less so when he saw his guards unconscious.
Reji looked up at me “Can you sit down, you're scaring the man.”
I grunted and sat on the end of the couch, the legs groaned and gave out, the couch smashing into the ground. Reji sighed and adjusted himself, Anna snickered behind us, reading in a dark corner as always.
“What do you want Reji?” Varga asked.
“What do I want?” Reji smirked and leaned forward pouring two glasses of camel milk vodka “I’m more curious about what you want.” he said, sliding a glass forward towards Varga.
Varga took the glass with a shaky hand and drank from it. "I want a new couch."
Reji smiled. "Your estate has shrunk Varga, you hardly had five guards protecting this place. Business not good?"
Varga scoffed. "Good? No one needs weapons and armor anymore, there's no fight going on, no caravans to guard. Business has been as dry as the desert, but the Queen is planning war, things will pick up."
I still remembered Varga from the campaigns, an arms dealer and scavenger, he’d take the sword off your best bud’s body and try to sell it back to you, at least he'd give you a good deal on it. This wasn’t the first visit we made today and I didn’t think it would be the last.
“Has she reached out to you, invited you to the palace? Offered a contract?” Reji asked, taking a sip.
“She has not.” Varga said.
Reji nodded, placing the cup down “I thought not, she won’t. Not now or any time later. She’s ushering in her new age, cutting away the bits she doesn’t want. The common people becoming Merchants? She takes away our workforce and is tossing away those she deems unfit. That’s us Varga, you and me who fought for the City. Look where it’s gotten us.”
“We fought for ourselves.” Varga stated.
“Aye, but we did it in the City's name.” Reji responded.
That got a chuckle out of Varga and he nodded “What would you propose?”
Reji pitched. “It’s time for new management, a council instead of a King or Queen, me, you and some others. We do away with the Queen and retract some of her promises, although we should keep the war, I quite like that idea and I think you do too.”
Varga considered Reji’s words, his eyes had lit up at the words 'council' and 'you on it'. Reji was always great at throwing a starving man a bone. Still, Varga was hesitant to agree “The Queen is always guarded and she's garnered many supporters, what if this goes south? You were there at Ulgar's funeral, she chopped Rykard down with that sorry excuse of a reason, she's a vicious one."
Reji gestured to me “Brutus can take care of the Queen’s guard, and I’ve made arrangements for her supporters. If you don’t take my offer you’ll be left behind, fade into irrelevance and then die. If you accept my offer you can rule the City.”
Lie. If he didn’t accept, Reji would have him killed right now.
Varga bit his lip looking at me “That’s you Brutus?” I grunted back in reply. “Think you can take the Queen’s guard?” I grunted once again. Varga seemed satisfied with my response and nodded. “I’m in.” He said leaning back into his chair. “What do you need?”
Reji grinned like a gambling man who had just won big. “Weapons, and a lot of them.”
Anna knocked at the door a few times and after a moment it opened revealing a sickly man. He coughed heavily and shook, sweat dripping down his face, heavy bags under his eyes. A red headed man, he glanced my way with a look of fear but his eyes returned to Anna.
“I did what you wanted, I told the Queen’s guard I wouldn’t have access to the Relly network for sometime, uphold your part of the deal and give me the antidote.” he said.
Anna nodded and pulled out a vial giving it to him. Bart Relly, a distant cousin of the Relly family and who was now the current head after we had offed the last one. He opened the vial and drank it swiftly letting out a sigh of relief, it was short lived.
“That will last you a week.” Anna said.
“What!? The deal was I lie and you give me the antidote. What is this?” he cried.
“A shakedown, pure and simple. If you don’t want to die you’ll keep doing odds and ends for us. Now enough chit-chat, what has the Queen been up to?”
Bart looked helpless and I pitied him, he gave in soon enough just like I did. “I hope you are sent to the deepest layer of hell when you die. The Queen went to the Ironhold fortress to meet Lady Eliza. Her guard has been sniffing around a certain carriage.” he spat.
“Lazy Eliza?” Anna inquired.
Bart sighed “Yes, an old thing who leads the Ironhold mercenary company, a highly skilled tactician with house troops to match. She hasn’t met with anyone since the last campaign, the Queen was turned away like the rest.”
Anna nodded, jotting a few things down “I’ll need you to find out info about the Queen and all her supporters. I want to know where she will be, where her guards will be and how many troops her supporters can call upon.”
“And if I get you that you’ll give me the antidote, the full one?” he asked.
“Yes.” Anna replied.
Lie. There was no full cure, Anna had boasted as much to me earlier. Apparently it was quite a feat to make an incurable poison.
“She went to go see that stiffard Eliza? Ha! She went senile and paranoid with age, it’s no surprise she was turned away. A Queen in name only it seems.” Reji laughed.
We were in an inn, out back our carriage of transport laid covered with tarp, we wouldn’t be using it anymore after today it seemed. The inn was empty save for a slave bartender, Reji had secured this place through one of his new allies. A dark and seedy place with cheap sand-mud walls and cheaper beer. I sat cross legged on the floor and my two pals sat at a nearby table. Anna was opening and reading what appeared to be letters with quite the ornate red seal on them, Reji was viewing a map of the City, his eyes filled with plots.
Me? I was just drinking beer and eating food. The good life.
“When did Bart say he could have the info by?” Reji asked.
“Tomorrow evening.” She replied. Her eyes scanned the letter in front of her with zealot fervor. “My sponsor is pleased with the progress so far and has promised to send a battalion of juggernauts and sappers as support.”
Reji looked up from his paper eyebrows raised “When will they arrive?”
“Within a fortnight, they are fresh out of the Academy and will need time to arrive.” Reji scowled “Unseasoned troops, can you not request some others more experienced?” Anna placed her letter down her face growing dark, I paused my eating, I had never seen her so angry.
“I assure you, anyone from the Academy is a hundred times better than the miscreants you call seasoned here. Do not forget your place in this deal Reji Ourlous.” she spat.
Reji stared back for a long time, his eyes hard but eventually he waved his hand “As long as you assure their quality.” I drank from my tankard and belched, breaking the animosity of the two and drawing their attention. I held out my gauntlet covered hand to Anna. She smiled and placed a vial of Brute’s Brew in it, I poured it into the tankard and drank.
Now it only tasted slightly rancid.
“Nonetheless we can’t wait for them to arrive, as our informant stated the Queen is investigating things quickly, she’s on her guard and we can’t let her dig in. As soon as we have the necessary info we will prepare a strike, we will take the Queen’s life first then her supporters.” Reji said, staring at the map.
“We will get her when she’s in transport, she’s been running around a lot these days solidifying her reign and alliances, that’s when she’ll be weakest.” Anna seemed less than pleased but she nodded nonetheless.
“What should I do until then?” I asked.
Reji looked at me and crinkled his nose “You should take a bath. There’s a well out back, don’t worry it’s private property, no one will see you.”
Lie. I smelt fine.
I placed the large leather sack onto the ground and began rolling it out. I got up admiring the display of goods. Heavy hand-axes, maces, spears, rapiers, bastard swords, messers, warhammers, long swords, partisans, bardiche and halberds. Say what you want about Varga but he provides. I’d never used any weapon for long, I had a habit of throwing them that almost got me killed on more than one occasion, they each had their purposes, spears, halberds and pikes were excellent for taking out charging animals, others were more suited for plate and some for chopping down defenseless folk. A good blade could take you far.
“Think you’ll have enough?” Anna asked nearby, she was sitting atop some boxes in the alley. The alley was narrow, dark, and damp. It smelled of rotting food, urine, and old smoke. The walls were grimy and covered with graffiti, whatever poor folk had windows here only ever opened them to throw out their piss and shit. Puddles of murky water collected in the cobblestones. Discarded tools and scraps of fabric were scattered around the area. A rat scurried by in a flash, its tiny claws tapping against the ground. The only source of light in the alley came from a slight crack in the rooftops and the bustling street at the entrance where carriages went by. A lovely place really.
“If I run out I’ll just use my fists.” I stated.
“Gods, you really think you’ll run out, there must be enough weapons to arm a battalion.” Anna said in disbelief.
I grunted. Nothing was certain when it came to battle, even more so when going up against a strong foe. Palace guards may not be the most experienced bunch but they were the best equipped, wielding rare artifact blades and armor pieces. A wealth built up over centuries by the ruling King or Queen, invested to enforce their reign. We hadn’t tested how the armor did against artifact blades, best to be prepared.
I held up a large spear admiring the tip, it had a heavy shaft and large blade, the kind poor lads in the front dug into the grounds as mounted enemies charged them down. In about a quarter-hour the Queen’s carriage would come down that busy road, I would stop it, kill the guards and kill the Queen. Apparently she was on her way to inspect the schools she'd been building.
I didn’t dislike the Queen, in fact I liked her. Getting rid of slaves and making something for the people, it was good. She botched the method though, she should’ve had everyone she thought would oppose her executed, one by one. Now she wouldn’t have enough might to see it through and in that case it meant jack shit.
Besides, even if she did succeed, it didn't change much for me now. Reji had removed my slave brand some time ago, said I did what was requested in the contract and that he was a man of his words, yet I was still here. My fate was tied to them now, a new form of chain, looser in some ways, tighter in others.
“5 minutes Brutus.” Anna said.
I glanced at her curious “Who is your sponsor?” She smiled at me, eyes looking somewhere else. “Someone wonderful, all mighty and the one who we should all strive to be but can never achieve.”
Seems doubtful if they have someone like you working for them. I said nothing and put on my great helm as the sound of camels began to approach. The Queen’s entourage was drawing closer, already I could hear the calls of ‘Make way for the Queen!’ shouted by her guards.
I took a deep breath picking up the spear like a javelin. I steadied my limbs and stilled my heart as the moments beated slowly, even the residents inside me stilled their insistent squirming. For a moment it was bliss, the hunger, the pain, the anger, it all faded away. Some guards passed by the entrance and I knew the carriage would follow soon.
Anna looked at me perplexed “What are you-”
It appeared, two large work camels tied in harness trudging along. I let loose with a hoarse shout and the spear took off with a shrill scream. It flew true and struck through the first camel, then the second and deep into the wall of a shop. The camels cried out and fell to their legs pinned and bleeding. Wind still whistled in the tunnel, I looked to Anna whose hair was still fluttering her eyes wide, a smile forming on her lips.
“My experiment, oh they’ll never forget you.” she said.
I snorted and reached down to pick up an axe and partisan. Already guards in brown were screaming, creating a defensive perimeter. Two cautiously began to walk down the alley, blades gleaming. They weren’t scared, shocked maybe but not scared, palace guard then.
The guards advanced slowly, one in front with a kite shield and short sword, the other behind with a crossbow. “Halt! You have assaulted your Queen! Place down your arms and surrender!” one screamed. The other aimed a crossbow and shot, the arrow whistled and scraped off my shoulder pauldron.
“Well, I’ll leave the rest to you Brutus.” Anna said and disappeared into the shadows.
I scoffed, typical. I returned my gaze to the advancing soldiers. Let’s see how good your armor is. I threw the axe at them and it whirled promising death, the shield man held up his shield to block the blow, the axe thunked deeply into the shield.
He put his shield down just in time to see the partisan I had thrown when he was distracted. He yelped but the pronged weapon dug deep into the shield shattering it and hitting the man. He went down with a cry but to my surprise was still moving, his pal helped him up and threw the partisan aside. Artifact chainmail then blocked the impact, although I'm sure he now had a few broken ribs.
Seems I would need something more heavy duty.
I reached down and grabbed a halberd. A large thing I wielded with two hands. A thick shaft with the blade of a huge flat axe and spike of a spear at the top, best for keeping foes at range, not good for tight spaces though, so it was time to get out of the alley. It started as a trot but as my legs warmed up and my muscles bulged it turned into a jog and finally a slow run, that was the most I could get but it struck fear into the two guards eyes. Each step shook the earth and kicked up dust, I laughed deeply at the one joy I had left.
To their credit they stood their ground.
I kept running, the halberd swinging back and forth in time with my feet. I put it down low the tip rushing towards them. As I closed in on the two guards they tried to side step but I grinned and flipped the Halberd so the axe blade caught one on the side, a gnarly wound that didn't pierce the chainmail underneath but did crunch bone and send him sprawling. The other got the tip, with all my weight and speed behind it it pierced through and I took him along with me as my momentum carried me out into the streets.
I came out into the street by the dying camels and a dozen guards turned hard gazes to me and the screaming man impaled on my halberd. I held it beside me, shaft in the ground, dying man to the sky and looked around. The black ornate carriage was still closed so the Queen must still be inside.
Best not to dally. I swung the halberd flicking the impaled guard off and moved to the carriage swinging with might that sent splinters of wood flying. In the end I grabbed the door and ripped it open revealing the carriage interior.
“Looking for somebody?” a female voice shouted out.
I looked up squinting at the bright sun, a silhouette on a nearby roof finally came into view. A woman with brown tan skin in a black uniform and black crown that went high into the air. She leaned on a cane with her right hand and held a smoking pipe in the other.
“You Queen Azeal I take it?” I yelled.
She grinned madly down at me, one eye twinkling the other dead “See anyone else that fits the rumors?”
“No.” I said.
“Smart. Are you a foreign mercenary?” she asked.
“No.” I chuckled “Local.” she paused at that then shrugged taking a puff “Well local mercenary, do you surrender?” I glanced around, the hard faces of the palace guard stared back “You don’t have enough men.” I stated. She nodded and called out “Captain!” I heard the jingle of chainmail and footsteps as another twenty palace guards came out of nearby alley’s. A sharp looking man stepped forward with a sword.
“Still think you can take us Brute? Thirty to one?” he said.
"I've faced worse." I said gripping the shaft of my halberd tightly.
Early on in my soldier career when I was just a battalion leader I trained recruits. 'What's the best way to win a fight?' they would ask, my response?
Hit them before they hit you.
I roared and charged towards the Captain, my halberd already swinging for his head. He moved to parry and I was surprised as he managed to deflect my blade into the ground. He gave me little time to think, stabbing towards the seams in my armpit. I was quicker, my momentum carried me forward and I slammed my shoulder into him instead, letting the blade strike my pauldron and pushing him aside. He lost his footing and stumbled. I seized this opportunity, turning on the guards who's blades and hammers were already closing in.
I swung wildly, using my strength and the weight of the weapon to drive them back. The swing taking one guard's head clean off. I glanced at my pauldron and my eyes narrowed as I saw a light scratch, an artifact blade and it could leave a mark. I'd have to be a bit more careful now.
The clang of swords and shields filled the air as I continued to fight on, swinging my halberd with more strength than precision. The surrounding palace guards fell one by one, unable to keep pace with me. My halberd cut through the air like a storm, cleaving through armor and shields. Bodies littered the street as more and more of the Queen's men fell.
I could hear the Queen's voice ringing out from the rooftop, yelling orders and curses. I knew she was preparing for something, so I pushed myself even harder, fighting with every ounce of strength I had. But her damn Captain was slippery, dodging in and out of combat aiming for my weak spots. Already he had managed to get a few cuts in between the seams in my joints, not enough to harm me but enough to keep me cautious.
Something slammed into my back sending me to my knees. My armor rang with the impact and looking to the side I saw a long bolt, too large for a crossbow. I glanced up to the rooftop and saw that the Queen was no longer alone, the tops were aligned with troops of a different crest, wearing gray chainmail and cloaks with the crest of a castle.
“Ironhides.” I spat. They had set up their specialty, a ballista, strong enough to pierce through any shield, they pierced through men like butter. Already they were reloading another one, two Ironhide’s at the side turning the handles to pull back the rope. I looked around at the encirclement once again realizing I’d been trapped, the men here were never meant to kill me.
The ballista was.
I tried to dodge but it was futile. The ballista bolt took me in the shoulder punching through the artifact pauldron and out the back. I winced at the pain, Brute’s Brew numbed it somewhat I expected but my arm was out of commission hanging limply at my side.
“The next bolt takes you through the chest, surrender now.” the Queen said. Her eye was locked on me as she took another pull, the smoke drifting up off her like a desert mirage. Unfortunately surrender was never an option for me, my chains didn’t allow it.
The things inside me began to squirm, my hunger swelled and pain danced, drawing red to the edges of my vision. She had just used her men as a trap and it had gotten some of them killed, but it had worked. Even now they were almost done reloading the bolt that would kill me. I grinned madly inside my helm laughing, stabbing my halberd into a nearby body.
“Monster Queen. It makes sense now.” I shouted at her, her face flinching. I grabbed the halberd again just as the click of a fully reloaded ballista sounded out. I dug in my legs spinning my body holding on to the end of the halberd within moments I knew I had enough momentum and let go with a shout just as the Queen ordered her men to fire.
The halberd spun through the air at an incredible rate nearly taking out the Queen but she fell flat in time. It did however crash into the ballista and the two men there wrecked it. The Queen got up leaning heavily on her cane with a pained expression, she looked at the Halberd embedded in the wrecked ballista then looked at me. One monster to another, slave and Queen.
She could still get me. I was wounded. If she committed the entire forces left here they could take me down. But as our eyes met I saw something missing, something I had seen in Anna’s eye’s when she cut me open, something I often saw in Reji’s eyes when he discussed his plots and deals.
Something I had seen in my own eyes.
I turned and began running, the guards unsure. The Captain looked at me with furious eyes and called out “My Queen, we can still take him! Orders?”
She said nothing in response.
The Captain was a man who cared about his men. I could tell from the way his face had grown darker with each one I chopped down. So it was no surprise when he shouted in frustration and ran up to me stabbing me. I attempted to flick him aside but he dodged low, driving the blade into the gap in my armpit, its artifact blade dug deep piercing through the chainmail I wore underneath and made me gasp.
He glared at me driving the blade in deeper “Die.”
“Not today.” I responded and smashed him into the ground with a swing of my arm, he went down with a sickening crunch. Leaving the blade in I continued on. The remaining guards attempted to stop me but I knocked them aside, running along slowly. I had to stem the bleeding somewhere.
Some began to follow but from behind me I heard the Queen’s voice call out “Let him go. Tend to the wounded.” and they stopped.
She wasn’t ready to pay the full price, no one ever is.
It was some time later after running through alleys everywich way for hours that I finally reached my bodies limit. Meager attempts to hide my tracks but some were better than none. I had made my way to the Cities outer rim, the houses were smaller and now made of a cheap sand-mud and lacked the artisan touch of the inner City. The sun was setting in the sky, creating a blanket of orange and red across the horizon, the sounds of approaching footsteps forced me to take refuge in a large shack, opening the doors revealed large bundles of hay. I had to bend my head a bit inside but I closed the door behind me letting the citizens pass.
“Did you hear?” one of them said.
“What?” another replied.
“The Queen was attacked in broad daylight by a huge monster, he cut down half her men before escaping.” The other let out an annoyed grumble “Bah! It was probably some Merchant not happy that the Queen is helping out the people. My cousins a slave and he’s set to be freed next week on her orders, is she alright?”
“Aye, she’s well by all accounts, her Captain not so much…” the other said and their voices faded away as they walked further. I sat down in the shed feeling exhaustion and pain mix together. I lay down in the dark, making as little noise as I could. The Queen it seemed was on her way to being well loved, but I could tell she didn't have what it took. If not Reji and Anna it would have been someone else. I had to make it back to the hideout, get treatment and report, also Anna had the god-damn Brute's Brew.
But for now I needed to rest. I closed my eyes and sighed heavily. As I drifted off, I thought of a distant past, of a woman and a price I hadn't wanted to pay.
“Mom it’s him, he’s the one who attacked the Queen!”
I was awoken by a young girl's voice, instantly I felt the pain but more so I felt the hunger. I groaned, pushing myself to sit upright, wincing at the blade and bolt still embedded in me. You learn real quick on the field that you’d best have a doctor nearby if you're gonna take a blade out, I just had to be mighty careful for now.
There was a gasp and my vision cleared to see a woman and her daughter pushed behind her. The woman was of average height, with dark hair pulled back from her face in a long plait that hung down past her waist, and her skin had a warm brown hue. Her almond-shaped eyes were filled with a mix of fear and concern as she regarded me. I could also see bags from exhaustion and tiredness lingering under her eyes. The young girl standing behind her had her mother's same warm skin tone, but had a wilder, more mischievous air about her. Her hair was a halo of dark curls that framed her face, and her wide eyes were cautious but also curious.
The woman's voice trembled as she spoke. “You shouldn't be here. Leave, please.”
I slowly moved away from them, my hands raised in a gesture of peace. “Peace woman, I'm not here for you. I'll be on my way.” I said quietly.
The woman shifted her stance and led her child out of the shed. I was greeted by the blanket of night. The desert sky filled with jewel-like stars. Ripe for the taking. Smoke came up from multiple unseen fires nearby. Laughter and conversation as well.
“Lead Momo back into the shack honey.” the mother said to her child. She nodded eagerly and went away for a moment.
“I’ll be on my way then.” I said and began to walk away, I winced after a few steps taking painful breaths as I felt near the sword impaled in me just under my armpit. It would be a long walk back to the hideout, now that the adrenaline was gone I’d-
“You’re hurt.” the mother said from behind me.
“Aye.” I said.
“From fighting the Queen’s guard.” she said. I looked back at her, staring her down for a moment, her eyes flashed with fear but she didn’t back down. “And that sword stuck in you, it’s from one of the guards?” she continued.
“What of it?” I grunted.
She paused for a moment biting her thumb, eyes conflicted. “I have some desert poppy, freshly picked. I got some bandages and suture too, I could patch you up in return for that blade” she continued. I eyed her suspiciously, unsure of what to make of her offer. I knew if I refused she had the power to alert the local guards, and I was in no shape to fight my way out of trouble. Grudgingly, I nodded.
“All right! We’re with the bad guys!” came an excited shout as the daughter returned, leading a very old and sickly looking camel. Momo I would presume. The mother shushed her child and ushered her back into their small house.
She returned with her supplies and began to patch me up as best she could with only the small light of a candle by her side. I took off the armor on my arm and shoulder with some difficulty letting them plop to the ground heavily, she eyed them warily. She worked quickly and efficiently, silently understanding my desire to get away before help could arrive or perhaps just wanting to be rid of me. I winced at the pain as she removed the blade from my body. She paused as the wound began to bleed.
"What?" I asked.
"I think the wound is infected. Your blood... it's mixed with purple and your veins are sickly."
Sickly huh, at least I wouldn't have to explain Brute's Brew. "Don't worry and continue." I said.
She covered and filled the wound with the plant paste, it had properties to clot blood and slow bleeding. She offered me a cloth to stuff in my mouth before she began stitching but I refused, I would hardly feel the stitches enter, Brute’s Brew ensured that. “You a doctor?” I asked as she stitched, she seemed caught off guard by the question “N-no, I learned a bit for my son.” I grunted not wanting to pry more but she told me anyway.
“He was always trying to do so much for the family, taking dangerous jobs no one else wanted to do. He always came back cut or bruised.” she said.
“‘Look how much coin I got today Ma!’ he would say with a grin, as if he didn’t even feel hurt.” she said with a slight smile. “I didn’t want him to have to do those things, it pained me as his mother to have to watch but we needed the coin, he knew too.”
She put in the last stitches and began covering the wound with bandages, her eyes distant, she finished shortly after not saying much more. Soon enough I was tenderly rolling my arm, my armpit was still weak but manageable now, until I found a proper healer at least. “I would help with the other one but it seems beyond me.” she said looking at the bolt impaled through my plate shoulder.
“Don’t worry about it.” I said and handed the sword to her “It’s an artifact blade, find and sell it to some arms merchant for a discount and you should be able to walk away with a few hundred gold.” she held the blade, her eyes going wide. “Your son won’t have to work anymore, your family can retire.” I said.
Her eyes went blank as tears began to fall, it felt awkward so I was about to leave but my stomach grumbled and my willpower split for a moment, I groaned as the hunger and pain shot through me. “What’s wrong? Has the wound reopened?” she asked.
“No.” I said through winced teeth “Just hungry, so damn hungry.”
She seemed confused but eventually called out for her daughter. Within seconds the daughter returned. She had a pot of xyz in her arms, and on the side xyz. "Sit. Eat." the mother said.
I looked at the pair, noticing how thin they were "No need I will be on my way." but she was insistent forcing me to sit, her daughter serving me a bowl. As the scent wafted into my nose I couldn't refuse any longer and took off my helm. I began eating, taking great restraint to not devour the entire bowl as I so strongly wished too. Looking up I saw the Mother and Daughter staring at me, eyes wide with horror. Ah right, I was a monster now.
The Mother regained her composure first and motioned for her daughter to eat. We sat there for sometime eating in silence. The mother got up after we had finished our meals, saying she would bring some tea.
"Why do you want to kill the Queen?" the daughter asked after she was gone.
“I don’t.” I replied.
“That doesn't make sense. Why did you try then?” said the girl.
“I was told to, commanded.”
The girl seemed confused. “But if you don’t want to do it, why would you? Even if someone told you to.”
“Sometimes you don’t have a choice, your brother understands this, he's probably out working right now. Doing something he doesn’t want to do, because he has to.” I said.
The daughter's face went tight as I mentioned her brother and she looked down quietly for a long time. She got up eventually, looking at me with tears falling.
“No, he’s not.” she said and walked away back inside, the Mother returned soon after with a tray with cups and a teapot.
“I’m sorry. I believe I said something that upset your daughter, I should be going now.” I said.
The Mother said nothing, only laying out the tea before her on the ground pouring two cups full. She looked at me and gestured “Drink first.” I took the cup and drank it all in one go, it had a bitter taste. I hated tea but it helped quell my hunger, if only slightly. I got up after putting on my helmet.
“Thank you for the meal. Guard the sword and find someone reputable to sell it too, accept no less than three hundred gold pieces.” I told her. The mother looked at me in silence as if she was waiting for something, her body tense. “My name is Elija.” she said.
“My daughter’s name is Emily and my son’s name is Robert, I thought you should know.” she continued
I grunted “My name is-”
“Brutus.” She finished for me. “The monster from the mines. My son, he told me about you, a giant amongst men, strong as he was mean.” I stared at her blankly as it all began to sink in, the young guard, the tauntings of one-armed, the woman standing before me. She looked at me, eyes sad and angry.
“When you killed my boy, was it quick?” she asked. I opened my mouth to respond but no words came. All I could do was stand there silently.
“Did he scream? Did he cry?” she continued on, eyes growing desperate “I was waiting for him that day, ready to fix his cuts and bruises as always but he never came.” tears were flowing from her eyes now “Then they came to tell me that the monster in the mines got him, and said he was gone. They didn’t even give me his body. Said they couldn’t be bothered to carry it all the way.” her face contorted as she looked at me “Oh I knew who you were the minute I saw you, I wanted to kill you but the blade. I needed it for my daughter. I still tried.”
She pointed to the tea pot “I stewed that team with nightshade and you drank it all.” she laughed helplessly “You don’t feel a thing do you.”
“Go, leave.” she said head dipped and sobbing.
“I SAID GET OUT OF HERE!” she screamed, face mad. I nodded and left. There was nothing else to say, no words would bring her son back, no apology would ease the grief.