Imperial Artisans => The Imperial Office => Topic started by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 17, 2021, 06:52:34 AM

Title: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 17, 2021, 06:52:34 AM
Hello, everybody :mellow:

My name is Aleksey and I'm writing a novel about a band of mercenaries in the Old World. They are mere tools in their employer's plans. It's about a conflict of men, but other creatures are mentioned and even seen ::heretic::

At this moment, I'm finishing the 9th chapter (the story is going to be 12-14 chapters-long). Will pose here first couple and a  link to the rest.

Will appreciate and welcome any reviews :blush:

Thank you!
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 17, 2021, 06:56:05 AM
            I The cheapest mercenaries in the Empire

   It was the late spring, but the breeze still made Andreas shiver. He was prodding through pasty mud indifferently to its slick embrace. After the spent time here, the wretched land, which knew no comfort or true civilization, stopped bothering him. The life has become a drawn-out siege with appropriate quality of living. Except for there was no enemy. Andreas slipped, pulling one foot out of the wet slush. The dirt let go his shoe begrudgingly, the worn straps withstood to his surprise, after all, it was an old pair. Splashes of mud dried out on his shins, tightening the skin and leg hair. He wished to say that the stockings were put off to spare it, but there was none to take care of. Another blast of the wind shook the trees and cooled his head, wrapped in the faded shawl, reminding of the gone padded beret. Andreas had to depart with the favorite headdress during the winter - the healer took it to settle his debt. The charlatan vowed that the bitter poison would drive the cough away and he drank that piss obediently, lying alone in the barrackís separated corner. With that filthí help or not, but Shallya had mercy over him and the illness stepped back. Andreas touched the doublet where the carved dove used to hang - he burned it, when got better, so the goddessí bird took the sickness away for good. The left hand with the sword and belt helped to keep balance, while the right one carried the heavy musket on the shoulder. Balls were in short supply, the good ones he could count with one hand, and even for them there was not enough powder. He hoped it wouldnít come to that. The poor and quiet life recently has changed to dangerously active one, thought not stopping being poor. The baron suddenly remembered them and if such tasks would become frequent or, Sigmar forbid, a new routine, it promised nothing but dangerous troubles for nothing. Andreas glanced at Ernst, whose bulky figure was drugging through the mud by his side.
   The scribe, who pompously called himself a secretary, looked and behaved like a true peasant, but had an attitude of elector count. The broad faced under a soft hat was twisted with disdain, as the man stepped out a palace for the first time in his life; the mighty back bent under a pack frame, loaded with a small chest; thick legs stomped the dirt angrily.
   - Almost there, - Ernst caught his look and barked, as if Andreas didnít know the place.     

   The beeches became thicker, now it was not occasional groves, but true outskirts of the Jagerforst forest. It seemed the least dangerous one Andreas had seen, but he still was glad, that their destination didnít demand to get deep inside. The sun was up and the birds were singing, expecting of the established spring to turn into summer already. But in the thick a man always was in ominous gloom, filled with strange noises. The forest stretched to his right, stirring up the memories of all kinds of monsters, seen and known by stories. Andreas was glad to hear the running water ahead and hurried to the bank. The Steinbach river flew towards them, squeezed by low banks filled with pointy grass, sticking as a fence. The forest on the other side was watching as the river helped to deal with its kin - a water powered sawmill operated in this area. The rumbling mechanism wasnít visible yet, but swirling sawdust on the running surface marked the profitable affair.   
   - Almost there, - Ernst repeated and took the lead with his nose in the air.
   The same mud called the road brought them to a plot - an area, recovered from the forest, where the lumberjacks had done their business already. Empty meadows with occasional young trees separated them from the rest of the Jagerfrost, spared due to the distance to the sawmill.
   Soon it showed itself: a tall two-storey building by the river with a thundering knock and screech inside, surrounded with cut trees and piles of goods. Next to it a living structure for the workers stood - a plain long house, a bit better than the one Andreas called his barrack. As far as the felling let back in the time, the dealerís house was built. It was definitely the best house around: turning logs into planks was like finding gold inside trees. The tireless sawmill consumed a big part of the forest and now the lumberjacks did they work out of sight upstream. Andreas saw a simple shrine to Rhya: a transplanted young beech surrounded with flies - the tree was covered in honey. A covey of children was running around it, not daring to take the sweet belonged to the goddess. With Andreas' approach they froze, the younger ones looked up to the senior, a ten years-old boy.
   - Give us sweets, - the kid demanded saucily.
   - I've seen nothing of that sort for a long time, boy, - the little snotís boldness amused Andreas. He would go far.
   - Get out! - the scribe barked, but only the youngest got scared and backed.
   - Some bread then, - the boy didnít avert the hungry eyes, ignoring Ernst.
   - Do you know what month is now? Itís Sigmarzeit, lad, - he replied grimly, - bread is not an easy thing to give away.
   - Get off! All of you! - the secretary stepped towards the children, and they fled, half-screaming half-laughing. Ernst turned to him, - stay focus, what are you babbling about with this brat? Little bastards! - the scribe spun around, when lumps of mud hit his back and frame pack. Fortunately, Ernst didnít see his smile, though he was nothing, the pompous fool was close to the baron. The children ran away, though no one pursued them. The scribeís red face leant to him, - we are here by serious business, take it seriously! All of you!
   - We do, - Axel replied grimly, - say your words, Ernst, and we shall do our part.
   - You better do, - the scribe glared back and turned to him again, - do you carry it as a stick or what?
   - The loaded muskets are famous for being fired, scribe, - Andreas growled back menacingly: Ernst pushed too hard, he was not a peasant to talk like this with. The secretary saw it too and turned away, grumbling, that they were wasting time, - we have enough.
   Andreas nodded to his companions and the mercenaries prepared for the action. Actually, he was the only one, who needed time for that. Andreas buckled-up the sword and stretched the right arm, tired of the musket. Then he raised the handgun and blew the pan, knowing for sure itís been empty as his purse, but the drill is a drill. Andreas put the hand in the bag on his belt and produced a paper cartridge of powder, opened it with the teeth and poured priming grains into the pan. Closing it and putting the handle to his thigh, he was wondering what ball he should use: a good or bad one? The affair shouldnít end with a fight, for the baron said that the merchant wouldnít dare to oppose his will. Andreas smirked and dropped a good ball into the barrel after the powder - if it came to the loaded musket, let it be loaded properly. He blew the match cord, wrapped around the short handle and fixed it for shooting.
   - Letís go! - Andreas let the scribe led them further.
   The children stood at some distance, fascinated by his operations with the musket, and when Ernst made first step towards the sawmill, raced off to warn the adults, leaving the weeping little ones behind.
   - Do your task, - the scribe repeated, when they got closer and people came out to meet them.
   - Canít wait to start, - Helmut alone replied with his bass. The rest kept silence.
   Andreas shared their uneasiness. This was wrong: you either send the men to attack, an ambush is preferable, or to rob somebody, cutting a share to the executors is expected, but to go openly like this with some paper and the scribe for protection - that was no good. And they were the only ones, who were risking. Moreover, the baron, Morr take his greedy ass, told not to take the whole band so it wouldnít look like a robbery. Watching a crowd of tough men expecting them Andreas imagined himself floating down the Steinbach back up. The sawmill was thundering, those who stood inside with the mechanism must be deaf. But majority of the workers gathered outside, between the merchant's home and the determined scribe: a couple dozens of grim men of all ages stood in front of them, some held axes, he wanted to think that out of habit; women came out the long house holding the kids and biting the lips, they got pale of fear. Andreas knew the reason for both feelings. He put on the proper look of the heartless mercenary: scowled and held the handgun in such fashion as could blow away everybody with one shot.   
    - Go back to work! We came on the baronís business which is none of your concern! - the scribe raised his meaty palm as a landlord, but the lumberjacks were not children and knew the laws. 
   - This land belongs to master Roettger! - one man, covered in sawdust, said aloud defiantly and the rest backed him with the confident murmur. The workers were not intimidated by the guests. Andreas saw that more men were running to them from the river behind the sawmill; only few youngsters stayed in the water catching the drifting logs, brought by the stream.
   ¨- Baron Martin of Flenswil is master of this land and I am his secretary, bumkins! - Ernst spat, getting red and shaking his big fists to the lumberjacks.
   - Werner Roettger has a contract, fat fool! - the same man screamed back, - take your outsiders and get out to your robber baron!   
   - Get lost! Reivers! - the lumberjacks shook their fists and tools; some women added their shrilling complaints and accusations.
   - Shut up! - Axel stepped forward and lowered his halberd - the men didn't react. After all, it was just an axe on a long shaft, and they had many similar sharpened pieces of iron by themselves.   
   - Order! - Ernst got angry facing open disobedience and was pointing at somebody with the thick finger, - you will answer for this, foreman!
   Andreas didn't know who was the foreman, for he kept an eye on everybody at the same time. It seemed that it wouldn't go further than the loud squabble, but the mob could bit the tongues any moment and raise the axes. Dark Miguel and Tulio behind his back earned the title of outsiders, but he was the unwelcomed stranger too. They say that people in the Grand County of Stirland demonstrated a special hostility to aliens. Been here and there, Andreas could honestly said that it all was old wives' tales. Wherever they were, the locals met them with the same wary look and something heavy by the hand. He couldn't blame them though. But his half-naked life was cherished by him, and Andreas opened the musket pan subtly.
   - Get out my way! - Ernst was bawling his head off.
   - Make me, inky thief! - One lumberjack of the same complexion leant to the scribe as a ram ready to knock him out.
   - I will, treetop, - Timm waved the sword and his gruesome necklace shook on the chest. But the lumberjacks didn't pay any attention to it and raised their tools. Andreas lowered the musket, making those who stood against the barrel backed in fear - now it would start.
   - Stop this madness! - A strong voice cooled down the hot heads and everybody turned to the merchant's home.
   The screamed man was wading through the mud, waving empty hands. By his look he must be a servant. Andreas raised the musket and looked over a group of rich folk, coming after fast, but not hastily. The oldest among them must be Werner Roettger, the owner of the sawmill. The merchant was dressed in a dark suit and a short cloak lined with fur, which waved behind, while the honorable trader was walking, surrounded with relatives and servants. Up close they all looked well: good new full sets of cloth, well-fed cheeks. But the faces were stiff with anger and grudge. Andreas smiled in the beard, which he hadn't shaved since the sickness brought him down - it's always good to know that you are not the only one who suffers. The merchant and servants had no weapon, two young men had long knives on their belts - at least they didn't run out to wage war.
   - Master Roettger, - the scribe put off his hat and bowed.
   - Master Ernst, - the old man replied venomously. Andreas saw the secretary jammed the hat on, hiding the offended pride of man with no family name, and put his frame pack down.
   - Werner Roettger, - Ernst produced a rolled parchment out of the chest and showed it to everybody, - you leased this land from Martin of Flenswil, the baron of Flenswil, by the contract dated the third day of month Kaldezeit in the year...
   - I know how and when I built my sawmill, - the merchant interrupted Ernst tiredly. - Tell your business! - Andreas caught a confident look of one son and demonstratively blew the match cord. 
   - Then you know that you are late with the payment, master Roettger, - the scribe continued sweetly.
   - By whose fault? - the merchant said bitterly and a tired glance slid by Andreas.
   - Your master knows well, scribe, - another son replied, suppressing the anger, - that our couriers were killed and robbed day before the payment.
   - Killers! - a woman screamed and broke into tears. She was taken inside immediately, but Andreas saw that nobody here doubted who intercepted the gold.
   - By whose fault indeed, - Ernst spread his hands in a gesture of incomprehension, - the garrison and villagers saw no one. The baron sent the grim news to Enzesburg, but no one had been caught yet. All I know, that two men of yours were found stabbed, did they have the rent or not, it's not for me to decide, - the scribe looked so impartial in the face of the hating crowd, that Andres could believe him. If hadn't seen by himself how the bastard took the clanging purse off the body, - the rent must have been paid two weeks ago, the baron didn't get it, that's all I worry about, master Roettger.
   - Let you neither your baron worry, - the merchant said with disdain, - I shall pay soon, my men are selling timber right now all over Stirland. And burgomaster Feldman personally sold me the patent to the sawmill, so I believe justice will find the killers. 
   - Two weeks, master Roetger, - Ernst repeated nastily shaking the parchment, - sixteen days is the longest possible delay according to the contract. Pay today or leave the place tomorrow.
   - Outrageous! - the younger son yelled, while the older looked at the father puzzlingly, who only shook bitterly. The workers buzzed.
   - I remember that day, - the scribe enjoyed the petty inky victory, - you were bragging that always pay on time, master Roetger, time to prove it.
   - Three years of fair payment, indeed, baron Martin may wait, - the older son began, but was stopped by the merchant.
   - I shall pay again, - the old man didn't hide his opinion on his landlord. - But I have no sufficient amount of gold and silver at home.
   - We shall return to that, - Ernst said easily and Andreas prepared to the worst, for the worst hasn't been told yet. - May I take it that you are inclined to continue using this land in lease?
   - Damn you, yes! - the merchant glared at the scribe.
   - Then in the name of baron of Enswil I demand a payment for two years ahead, - the secretary stated evoking the hum of spectators. No axes raised in the air - the folk stood stunned. The lumberjacks knew nothing of lease contracts and fancy words, but saw that their master was being sheared thrice at the daylight.
   - On what account?! - the merchant pointed at the parchment and grabbed the son, - bring my copy, there is no such paragraph!
   - No need to run, it's not in the contact, - Ernst glanced at Andreas, sharing the triumph,- it is an Eastern Stirland tradition, that became a law: when the renter failed to pay on time, but wish to continue using the land further, he must pay in advance to protect the landlord's interest from repeating such inconvenience in the future, - the scribe raised the voice to muffle the angry hum, - that's a local law known across the county.
   - The baron will not get away with that! - the merchant shook with rage and looked younger, had he a sword, he would have killed Ernst on the spot, - Wilhelm is my friend!
   - Wilhem Feldmann is the burgomaster of Enzesburg and protects the law, not his friends, - the scribe put an end to the argument taking the parchment back in the chest and putting on the frame pack. Doing so Ernst continued in calm voice, - you are free to go to trial, master Roettger, but right now you either pay double rent or give me a letter of your refusal.
   - But I do not have enough money, - the merchant began weakly and Andreas relaxed a bit, he saw, that the old man gave up.
   - Not here, - Ernst said amiably and nodded at the lumberjacks, - the business between you and the baron is not theirs. Sent them away and let's have a walk to your beautiful home.
   - Let me deal with this, father, - the older son supported the dealer and beckoned his brother, who stood idly with a puzzled look, not getting what just happened. Stupid rich brat. - Gunter, help the father. Foreman! Send the men to work, take six lads with us, - this one was smarter, but nobody was going to rob them. Legally speaking.
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 17, 2021, 06:58:42 AM
Wilted Werner Roettger was escorted to the house by his sons, followed by the scribe and the mercenaries. Andreas exchanged looks with Axel, who nodded back, taking upon himself the watch over the lumberjacks, who were walking after them with useless axes in huge fists. The foreman joined his masters, exchanging words and glancing at the guests angrily. The servants ran forwards and warned the rest members of the household. When they reached the house, one leaf of massive doors was opened and well-dressed women ran out towards the merchant yelling. The screeching sounds woke up the father and he sent them away, freeing himself from the careful hands. The women disappeared inside.
   - Gunter, - master Roettger handed over a key to the son, - bring the money, all of it.
   - Shall we deal with this outside? - Ernst had a nerve to taste the manís patience.
   - Is it against traditions, scribe? - the merchant spat and turned back to them. Andreas didnít mind staying here, where he could see the potential enemies. Axel leant on the halberd next to the lumberjacks. The rest looked relaxed too, being confident, that would deal with the workers and some traders easily, since they were not so outnumbered anymore. Tulio and Miguel wrapped themselves in frayed short coats - the Estalians havenít forgotten yet the hot sun of their home.
   - Here, father, - Gunter ran out the home with a simple wooden box.
   - Pass it to the baronís scribe, - the merchant didnít turn as if couldnít bear to watch Ernst getting his gold.
   - Let me count, - the secretary took the money from the boy, who seemed able to do something stupid, but only reluctantly dropped the gold in the scribeís hands and stepped back under Andreasí stare.
   He kept the pan open and watched the merchantís men listening to the magnetic clang. Andreas didnít know how much was the rent, but was sure that even a part of it was bigger the he could earn in a good year. But unlikely enough to make them disappear in comfort after killing all those people. The mercenaries must have similar thoughts. May be, if only two or three were escorting the scribe? What about killing the half of companions in misfortune on the way back? Andreas gave it a thought and relaxed - no one among them was close enough with others to pull that off. So, a woodcutterís axe was the only thing to be wary about.
   - Check this receipt, master Roettger, - the scribe wrote couple lines on his thigh, kneeling in the mud, and stood up heavily.
   - The sum is correct, - the merchant looked swiftly at the paper and put in under his soft jacket, - whatís the interest rate?
   - I donít understand, - Ernst asked obediently.
   - I ask you, son of a pig, - Werner Roettger hissed and his sons and men drew forward, - what interest rate your master, that robber, offered on the loan to pay the damned rent. Watch your tongue or I simply add couple golden crowns to my debt for your cheap life.   
   - There is no need to turn a simple misunderstanding into a fight, - the scribe replied in hoarse voice and glanced at the mercenaries, that showed their readiness with clanging, - especially when itís you, who donít understand, Werner. Money right now or give back the receipt and these men will walk you out tomorrow.
   - Watch your tongue, serf! - that Gunter was asking for a bullet in his white teeth.
   ¨- Shut up, boy, - Ernst stretched out his sausage-like finger towards the young merchant, - donít make it harder for your daddy as it is. Are we on the same page now, old man?
   - I told you, I have no more money! - the merchant put a hand on the son's breast restraining him, - I don't keep it buried in the garden.
   - Have no reason to doubt your sincerity, master Roettger. That's why I was empowered to evaluate your belongings and collect the debt in kind. All will be written of course. Shall we proceed? - Ernst turned from the merchant and nodded to him.
   - Helmut, go to the yard and brought some cart, - Andreas turned to the shaven companion acting the spontaneous play, while all the roles had been learnt in advance: Axel had already stepped away from the lumberjacks and held his halberd ready; the Estalians kept arms not around their cold shoulders but ready to use the blades; Timm put the sword in his shoulder, protecting the other with the shield. The precautions were not in vain.
   - Stay where you are, filthy dog! - the older son seemed to have enough. He stepped over the father and pushed aside the scribe threatening Helmut with a dagger, - make a step and I will cut you!
   - Sigmar is my witness, - the mercenary drew his axe, - I shall finish you with that penknife of yours.
   Helmut wasn't a big man, and as Andreas knew, he was not much of a fighter, but the weapon, thick leather jacket covered in sewn metal plates and the round shield on the back left no wonder who would win. Nevertheless, the shaven mercenary didn't rush to split the merchant's head, because there were several tough lumberjacks next to them, and many more in a minute-long run.
   - Control your men, Werner! - the scribe hid behind Andreas, - or I'll turn mine loose!
   There was a familiar moment when everything hanged on a knife edge. Andreas wanted it to fall on the right side this time.
   - How dare you! - a lumberjack stepped out fearlessly, his hands were empty, he seemed to going to strangle the scribe, forgetting the mercenaries.
   Andreas removed his gaze protecting the eyes, and a loud smelly bang prevented the killing. For the most of them. He held the short musket in the left hand butt up and produced the sword, but the lumberjacks and servants saw the blood and it cooled them down instead of heating up.
   - Foreman! - a couple of men knelt by the wounded, who was coughing blood - the good ball at such short distance tore up the ribs. The rest froze, feeling how the professional killers had an upper hand. A young woman ran out the house yelling. He watched with little interest, how the girl in simple but expensive dress dodged the servants with clumsy Gunter and fell on the dying.
   - No more blood, please! - the merchant pulled the older brother away from the grinning Helmut and turned to Ernst, - robe us away, but keep them off my family! 
   - Weapons down, - the scribe stretched out the hands palm down and called the servants crowded in the doorway, - bring me a chair and table already for Sigmar's sake.

   The foreman died swiftly. More lumberjacks came to the shot, they called Morr, definitely mentioning Andreas in their prayers and carried the body away. The servants carried the fainted woman in the opposite direction into the house. To the amazed lumberjacks Ernst sat down as a lord before the stunned merchants and pointed with two finger at the house.
   - Bring everything that can be sold easily, - the scribe enjoyed his moment of power, - and don't be carried away. You are here to execute the law.
   -Are you going to stand for it, father?! - the oldest son stood in front of Timm, who has already sheathed the sword and put the shield behind.
   - It's this farce or blood, - the merchant replied dully.   
   - We'll play your game, scribe, - the angry man stepped aside and bowed mockingly to Timm, - after you, good sir. Gunter, pick the men and follow our guests! - a bunch of lumberjacks hurried to their masters.
   - Just spare us of accidents inside! - Ernst shrugged easily, - Helmut, the cart.
   - The Emperor, go with him, - Andreas nodded to the last mercenary, whose high title based on a simple fact of being named Karl.
   And the inventory began. The scribe was sitting in the chair and the mercenaries were piling up the things on the carpet. The Estalians and Andreas stayed outside, keeping an eye on the numerous spectators: the men and women were agog to see what other miracles their masters had inside. The dead foreman seemed to be forgotten as soon as he gone to the Gardens of Morr. The same kids were running around, escaping the grip of adults and dodging the slaps, but not daring to tease Ernst anymore, who had become the most important man in their eyes. The former prominent person was standing leaning on a servant. Werner Roettger stared blankly, as the mercenaries came in and out his home, dragging the dirt in and looting it on his eyes. Andreas didn't feel sorry for the man: the merchant did have his good days and would have more ahead, if he was strong enough. Another thought occupied his mind - what was it like to have a home of your own, to own something besides a sword. A garret room was as miraculous as a tiny house let alone this palace. Andreas looked over the merchant's home again - a well-built structure made of the best wood around, no less. Well, the innkeepers don't drink sour piss either at their tables.
   - Another candelabrum with a candle bundle, I say its quarter of a crown, master Roettger, don't tell the baron, he would be furious for my generosity, - Ernst stopped naming the growing list after losing the voice and now only occasionally commented what kind of lies he was writing down.
   - Let him alone! - the older son came out after Timm, who got used to this chaperon and walked easily as across the barrack. Embalmed hands of orc, skaven and man shook on the necklace, while the mercenary was carrying a big copper washbowl on his head.
   - I think, that's enough, - Ernst looked at the cart, loaded with all content of the house, - this thing will even the debt. Come out! We are finished!
   The scribe signed the long piece of parchment and slammed it on the table. He stood up, knocking down the chair, so mud soiled the soft cushion. Axel came out the entrance with a pile of sheets and was told they have finished. Shrugged, the mercenary dropped the snow-white fabric and picked up his halberd, leant on the cart, and padded the harnessed mule. Helmut joined the rest already empty-handed and hastily threw the last written things off the carpet into the cart. Then the Emperor showed up.
   - Did you count this too? - Gunter asked darkly pointing at Karl who held a strangled goose in each hand. 
   - You have your contract, and we have ours, - the mercenary replied boldly, waving the white birds, - there is nothing about collecting debts out of merchants. Consider it a compensation for dragging here in this mud. 
   - Good bye, Werner, - the scribe turned back to the robbed merchant and walked away along the quieted crowd. Andreas sheathed the sword, put his musket to the lawful loot and pulled the bridle. To the screeching wheels and rattling load they left the sawmill, which kept knocking, though there were none to put new logs to the insatiable mechanism.
   - You've worked well, the baron will be pleased. Nice shot, Andreas, - the scribe has already taken a place next to the cart, looking after it trusting not a candle to the mercenaries.
   - Thanks, - he barked in reply and turned to Helmut, - how was it inside?
   - Fancy, - the shaven man grinned, though Andreas noticed dissatisfaction in his companion's eyes. He looked at Karl, carrying gently the gooses next to him - the Emperor nodded in the affirmation.         

Flenswil barony consisted of one village of the same name clinging to the Jagerforst forest. Several hundreds of scrimpy peasants struggling with the bad land. It wasn't all sand and clay, but Andreas been around to see the difference in soils, knowing nothing of growing crops. One thing was good in the Eastern Stirland - there were plenty of space. People of Flenswil used this privilege fully, and ploughed fields met them long before any houses showed up. The peasants had already sown it with seeds, which they saved through the winter and filled with their hopes for better harvest. Flocks of small birds hovered above the fields chirping loudly. Alive scarecrows kept the flying vermin away of the precious furrows.
   - Albaulea! Albaulea! - breathless children were running across the fields waving hands and sticks and calling-in the local goddess of farming. They didn't pay much attention to the mercenaries, because Andreas and others lost their novelty for the kids, while the duty lasted from dawn to sunset. The older ones learned well the importance of every grain. Traditional warnings were in use too - tall poles with bigger feathery robbers nailed to it stood here and there.     
   - I wish such fowl flies here, - Klaus nodded at the gooses and then counted the men, - went well?
   - Tolerably, - the Emperor in his turn nodded at the cart, - how is hunting?
   - I would offend Taal calling it so, - Klaus showed a small bird, almost torn to pieces by his arrow. The man wore his cloak made of pelts till the hottest months, came from Ostland or even Norland and shot his bow resembling antlers as the god of hunting itself.
   - Where is Tobias? - asked Andreas.
   - Wasting arrows somewhere, - the hunter began to crucify the shot bird for edification of others.
   Tobias was the youngest among them and the most peculiar. His strangeness was in his kindness, Andreas couldn't find another word. Usually it's the younger the meaner with the bastards, but this one was soft. He could and did kill of course, they were not wandering priestesses of Shallya, but it seemed that Tobias took them for a family instead of a bunch of outcasts stuck together with need and hardship. Witless moron. 
   Old grey houses were waiting for them ahead - Flenswil in its entire splendor. The mercenaries outpaced a group of peasants bent under logs bundle - while there was time before field works, the folk was gathering wood for the next winter. The sawmill was a useful miracle for others, but the baron was generous enough to let his subjects to collect as much firewood as they wanted. Though, selling it was strictly forbidden and punished by lashes.
   They've been here for three months, but the villagers met them with the same hostile suspicion every time the mercenaries went out the barrack. Andreas understood the peasants, he wouldn't like an armed gang next to him for sure. And the loaded cart showed the real reason why the baron called the mercenaries. The peasants were not dumber than the lumberjacks and knew well what exactly happened to those couriers with the gold. There were no fights between the locals and the strangers - one drop of blood  would flood whole Flenswil. But there was no shortage of curses and dark looks. Andreas saw that today the peasants met them with especial grimness. They couldn't care much for the merchant and his men, taking them for the rich who got gold standing idle next to the machine, while the villagers worked the land in hardship. He looked at the Emperor and got it: in white gooses held by dirty hands the peasants saw their own skinny chickens and couldn't like it.
   - What's this? - a bunch of children, who somehow sneaked out of work, pushed forward the youngest among them to the wheels. - That smooth thing!
   The snotty kid was stretching to the big mirror reflecting the dull surroundings.
   - Watch it! - Andreas grabbed the tot and put him off the road.
   The children surrounded the crying baby and showed him a barking dog. The animal felt something, shut up and ran away. Instead the loud kids got themselves busy with a man sitting in the stocks.
   - The bugger seemed to die, - Axel noted indifferently - the body didn't react to pushes.
   - No wonder, - Andreas also didn't care. The caught horse-stealer had it coming. There are safer things to do for a lone tramp. He heard Karl's short laugh - to join the goose-stealers for example.     
   - To the baron, - the scribe gave voice, when the cart came to the barrack - the dullest building around, surrounded with a dump, separating it from the living houses of good villagers. The door burst open and from the darkness emerged Bjorn as always in his cavalry helmet, cuirass too small for him and one mitten gauntlet on the left hand. The mercenary was first to laugh at his appearance, but there is no such thing as an extra protection.
   - They came back! Emma, meet your faithful! - Bjorn shouted, coming to the cart and exchanging greetings with the others.
   - Andreas, move! - Ernst hissed, as if the mercenaries would robe the cart now, in front of half of the village staring at the plundering.
   - Should we all go? - he asked the scribe not pulling the exhausted mule further.
   - I definitely stay here, - Axel tossed the halberd to the ridiculously dressed companion and caught a woman, ran out the barrack. It was Emma, kind of his wife and kind of another member of the band. She looked after their modest belongings and couple of servants. There used to be other women following them, but they had gone with the better times.
   - And I shall go to witness the triumph, since I didn't see the action, - Walter passed the kissing couple and stopped next to him. Shaved and cleaned, which only empathized the same poverty, he was the meddler, who would never leave any talk of money or job to others. Ever suspicious and inquisitive, Walter could be a real nuisance, but every gang needed one, who stayed sober at the end of a revelry.   
   - Ernst, don't you forget how Andreas saved us there, - Axel winked to him and spanked the wife, - take the birds, honey, make Ferd and Odo cook it well.
   - Look after those bastards, - the Emperor passed the loot and warned Emma of those two. If there were people less reliable than mercenaries, it were their servants.
   Miguel and Tulio waved shortly and went inside, besieged by Bjorn, who kept asking how it went. Timm wanted to stay too, but the bowel should be delivered to the baron and no one was going to relieve him of that captured treasure.
   - I haven't seen Peter, - on their move through the village Andreas asked Walter in whisper, expecting to hear something bad, while the scribe paced victoriously.
   - He is napping, - the meticulous sellsword replied shortly, - Harmunt's whining put him to sleep. The man is the mess.
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 17, 2021, 07:12:04 AM
Andreas didn't get to reply, because they reached the baron's house. The merchant had a better one: the same hut could be owned by any peasant; the second floor was the only distinction; no coat of arms or even glassed-in windows - the thick shutters on the ground level were shut, the higher row revealed dark holes. The baron could watched them now hiding behind one of it. The peasants murmured, but didn't rush to leave the street when a tall man came out the building.
   - We'll take it from here, - Rolf fearlessly put his boot in the mud. The aged man was a retired state trooper who found a warm place by the baron and acted as his bodyguard and captain of a local garrison - a bunch of tough peasants who had an access to ancient armory and even did some drill. When there was no field or other work of course. These glorious warriors emerged holding arms on their belts weighted with knives.
   - Finally, - Timm dropped the bowel, - are we free now?
   - Baron wants to hear how it went, - the so-called captain took the bridle off Andreas' hand, who turned away indifferently taking his musket.
   - I'll tell him, - the scribe darted to the entrance impatiently.
   - From them, - Rolf stopped Ernst. - Not all of you, it's not a brothel. Two will be enough.
   - Andreas, take somebody, - the bloody scribe didn't waste a moment to show his authority.
   - I'll go, - Walter was already putting off his sword belt.
   They left weapons to their companions - that was a routine, and came in, shadowed by Rolf and Ernst. A fat lamp illuminated a corner of the dark room, practically empty but for a crude chair with the baron in it. The big fireplace stood cold and there was no smell of smoke - only the second floor got heated. Andreas didn't know was it more suited for a man of the title - none of them have been there.       
   - So, it worked, - Martin of Flenswil was sitting leaning forwards and keeping his palms locked in front of him. Dressed slightly better than Ernst, but worse than the shot foreman - a true peasant next to the merchant. Until recently, Andreas didn't believe there were such barons: he met poor knights who had nothing, but not a village owner, which could be easily mistaken with a servant. The baron had no dashing look either: a mediocre man of middle thirties, simply cropped hair, just a man, who didn't starve or slave in fields.
   - Everything went according to your plan, my lord, Werner paid the rent, - Ernst said joyfully and addressed the veteran, - your peasants are better not to take a pendant from the cargo.
   - They know better, - Rolf replied in irritation. "They are not the mercenaries", - was his meaning.
   - Did they make a fuss? - the baron asked Walter, who looked at Andreas.
   - No, baron, - he replied simply, - one worker was killed - a forced blood-letting to calm the rest.
   - That's alright. And the other business? Did you send the message? - Martin of Flenswil stared at him.
   - It's done too, baron, - Andreas nodded, feeling how Walter perked up his ears.
   - Good, it will make him go, - the baron nodded, - you did well.
   - Will baron consider an extra payment for extra work? - Walter hurried to ask their employer who scowled again.
   - What extra work? I pay you not for sleeping, - the baron looked at his men, - that what everybody warned me about the mercenaries: give them a work to do for a change and they would cry for gold. Your payment is written in the contract you all signed since you have no captain. Choose one already!
   - It hardly covers the beans your peasants keep rising price on, baron, - Walter wasn't that easy to shush.   
   - Enough of this whining! - Martin slapped his thigh angrily and Rolf clung with something behind their backs. - I thought it is clear, that I hired you for the only reason - you are the cheapest mercenaries in the Empire. If it's changed you are free to go before the next payment. - Andreas withstood a gimlet eye and the baron continued, - you are not the only ones who complain. The village head came to me again about women. You've been told to keep hands off the wenches. There would be no warning, the stocks are vacant, I believe.
   ¨- But Helmut was with us at the sawmill,- Andreas began to explain.
   - I don't know this name and not going to learn it. I told you two, you will warn the rest.
   That was the end of the audience and Rolf walked them out. The cart has gone as well as the most of the peasants. The armed men were watching each other. Helmut was making faces to one red-faced lad. Rolf with his militia were a joke - they could easily beat all these village blockheads but it would lead to nowhere. Andreas as well as the others been there and didn't want to come back.   
   - Let's go! - he called his companions.
   - No payment? - the Emperor asked  sarcastically.
   - What message? - Walter asked inquisitively.
   - Ask Helmut, - he nodded to the shaven man. Actually, Helmut had a short bristle, for he didn't put his head to the razor as often as required.
   - I groped a bit a clean woman at the merchant's home, - the mercenary grinned, and Walter looked puzzled.
   - The baron told to before we left, - Andreas explained with displeasure. A killed worker in the heat of a quarrel was nothing, while such offence could bring blood faster than stolen rags and coats, - he thinks that it will make the merchant go. Or shut up.
   - Or the opposite, - Walter didn't like it either.
   - Are you sure it was a rich woman? - Timm laughed, - I bet it was some kitchen-reeked fat crone.
   - Why would I need one, while you snoring by my side every night, - Helmut smacked his lips loudly to the next burst of laughter and screams "lustful goat".
   - Keep laughing, idiots, - Walter shook his head, - soon we'll start splitting every bean in two. 
   - Not today, - the Emperor looked around and produced out of his distressed doublet a small handheld mirror in a gleaming frame. At least somebody did something good.

   The barrack was filled with people and smoke: the servants were cooking in the middle of the shabby building on an iron sheet. A new smell of meat diluted the evil reek of beans.
   - The man of the day! - Andreas thought that Peter praised him, but the Dwarf welcomed Karl, whose savvy brought the poultry. While the later just shared the name with the emperor, the former had an appearance of another race - really short and squat, hardly taller than a halfling. Actually, the poor man was on the edge of being born a midget but the nature had mercy on him and gave a small chance to survive. Peter shaved cleanly his chin daily to avert any resemblance to the mountain folk, all in vain of course.     
   - And of the night! - The Emperor waved the mirror to joyous cry of the mercenaries and Emma's shrieks. The woman leapt to the expensive trinket before it perished in a tavern. Andreas went to his mattress to drop the handgun and found it occupied.
   - Get off! - he kicked the lying man in the butt, - don't touch my things, Hartmut!
   - It's Harmut Krech! - the mercenary jumped to his feet and drew the dagger. The others ceased chatting.
   - Shut up and quit it, - Andreas tossed the musket on his mattress, but didn't rush to draw the sword. Once out, it would end painted red now or later. - I don't give a shit about your cranks, we're all tired of it, but don't graze your fleas here!
   - It's a bag of damned straw, - Harmut stood sleepy in disarray, but the bastard was woke enough not to touch his sword.
   - Which is mine, - Andreas looked him straight in the eyes, the familiar cold inside marked the crucial moment.
   - What does it matter? - the man mumbled and put away his dagger. Andreas didn't expect an apology.
   - That's nice! - Emma first added her voice to the bubbling brew, - let's eat, boys!
   The mercenaries returned to the chat, forgetting the dangerous outbreak. Andreas did too - it was not a company to keep grudges. Squeezed between Helmut and Timm, he slurped out of the crude bowl, waiting for the small bits of goose to cool down. Besides the cloth, weapon and that mattress he literally had nothing. Andreas glanced at Odo and Ferd, the servants were munching happily they beans with giblets. Damn it, he could end up like these two in no time! Andreas swallowed a hot piece of meat to burn the bitterness in the throat - he had to deal with all that, while some bastards had a palace in couple hours walk. When he was sick, the local priestess of Shallya, who by the way was nothing like an image of the goddess, told him to love the neighbors. The woman preached that it would ease his life. Screw it! He didn't feel sorry for the robbed Roettger.

   - Sigmar bless you! - Helmut said aloud when they all came into a tavern later that night. Even the servants followed them, hoping for a glass since their masters had money and good mood. Axel and Emma left to look after weapons and to have some privacy. "Not on your mattress", - the happy husband said to him with mocking fear.   
   ¨- No weapons! No credit! - the owner yelled before looking at them.
   - We have none, don't piss yourself, - the Emperor pompously walked to the counter, clanging with his long knife. Halberds and swords were forbidden in public, but a rare peasant in the crowded ale house had an empty belt. Karl grinned and produced the mirror, giving the quieted peasants a proud look. He even winked to Andreas, but then his face changed and turned red.
   - Let me, - Walter joined the Emperor - he was better in selling, where long-handed Karl has a short temper.
   - I bet there would be no maid serving us again, - Helmut landed on a bench in the darkest corner away from the rest. Not a big deal, they haven't learned the local songs yet anyway. And some distance between drank companies would make the evening easier for everybody.
   - And whose fault is it? - Peter settled himself next to him, rattling the stunts of fingers on the table.
   - They are too much of prudes here. Why are they coming back so gloomily?
   - Greedy bastard, - Karl slapped the rough wood.
   - For how much? - Andreas asked Walter.
   - Three times less, - the mercenary replied shortly, - no bargain.
   - It's still enough, isn't it? - Tobias asked fondly.
   ¨- Where is your pride, lad? - Timm spat on the floor, - it's not the only place around to have a drink.
   Swearing and threatening they left the place to the peasants' satisfaction. The mercenaries crossed Flenswil, slipping in the darkness. There was no light inside the houses, those who didn't sleep split between two taverns. A lonely drunk on the road jumped over a short fence to the dog's joy behind.
   - Take care, buddy, - Bjorn laughed to the frightened fool, - we are after beer tonight, not your blood.
   - Let the feast begin! - the Emperor opened the loud tavern.
   The innkeeper offered even less than his colleague. It was either take what was given or go back to the barrack. They picked a table. The gloom of failed expectations was swiftly forgotten. Timm and Bjorn were singing a bawdy song, forcing Tobias to repeat the punch lines. The Dwarf yawned but stretched to the cup relentlessly. Miguel and Tulio sat at the corner and sang quietly a song to themselves in their brisk language. Klaus was next to them, but hardly thought about hot Estalia, stroking the bow without string. The peasants as always got used to them and clamored by themselves, occasionally giving the mercenaries a glance of surprise, forgetting they were not alone.
   - I'm sorry, Andreas, - drunk Harmut fell to the bench by his side, - it was low of me to touch your mattress.
   - Forget about it, - he raised his cup cheering the man but sobered up a bit. Besides Walter, the rest would take a sudden mortal fight for a funny drunken wrestling.
   - No, I can't forgive myself, behaving like a last peasant, - the mercenary slowly drew his dagger, - take it for my apology.
   - Keep it, Harmut, - Andreas loosed the grip on the cup and tried to smile convincingly. - We are good, swear to Sigmar.
   - You are good bastard, Andreas, - the mercenary sheathed the blade at the second attempt and stood up shakingly, - the best among this lot. I'll be in the barrack.
   - Harmut and his dagger? - the Emperor took the vacant place and poured him more beer, - was you there when he stabbed that passing-by drunk, imagining he was going to steal it? - Andreas nodded, feeling how the pleasant drunkenness enveloped him again. - Never touch it. And his shirt?
   - The blooded one in his sack? - he asked without much interest - there was no oddity that couldn't be found in a mercenary's bag. Since the gold was a normal thing, alas, it never stayed for long.
   - He showed it me once, having one too many, of course, - Karl gave a belch, - said that it all started with it. All his story of a fallen noble. Did you see him? Harmut is a noble as much as I am Karl Franz. I bet he killed somebody and now running with the stolen dagger and the damned shirt. Who do we have to work with, Andreas?
   - Tell me about it, - he took a sip and jumped to his feet hearing a loud thud. Peter fell under the table, and he was the only one who reacted. Andreas put the cup down and went out without goodbye. Several minutes in the darkness would give him a moment of solitude to forget in what sewer his life had turned.       

The ened of the 1st chapter. It took some space)
I shall leave a link to the rest chapters, you can download for free fb2 or epub here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/nameless-50986413
If you like it or want to tell your thoughts, you are welcome to do so here or at my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aleksey_forsyte/

Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: GamesPoet on May 17, 2021, 10:13:27 AM
Welcome to W-E! Take a look around, become a part of the community, and enjoy! :::cheers:::
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 17, 2021, 01:53:32 PM
Thank you!  :::cheers:::
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Perambulator on May 19, 2021, 08:19:07 PM
 :Ohmy:  It's great to see that we still have people contributing their time to the site. Welcome!  :::cheers:::
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on May 20, 2021, 01:52:34 PM
Thank you! :::cheers:::
Though it relates to you, guys, I'm just a guest :blush:
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: wdv331 on November 22, 2021, 02:36:42 AM
The link isn't working for me...and I really wish to read the rest of this wonderful story!
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: GamesPoet on November 22, 2021, 01:13:12 PM
Yep, didn't work for me either. :icon_sad:

Nice figures on the instagram link though! :icon_biggrin: :eusa_clap:
Title: Re: The cheapest mercenaries (FB novel)
Post by: Aleksey Forsyte on December 10, 2021, 08:18:38 AM
Thank you for the interest!
If anybody else would like to read the complete novel, feel free to contact me at alekseyforsyte@gmail.com - I'll send you a digital copy =)