“I can’t let you in, Mauricio, you know that,” Boyd’s voice was sympathetic but firm. His thick muscled arms were held open, palms facing upwards before his broad chest, opening himself up to the smaller man facing him. Mauricio’s stare burned deep gouges into the guard, his intensity counterbalancing that physically he seemed hardly more than a boy before Boyd.
“We don’t have enough, and there’s enough in there to feed everyone comfortably until the thaw, everyone knows that.” When he spoke his voice was hot with emotion, the depth of anger held in his tightly clenched jaw heard clearly his words. Seeing Boyd remain unmoved his voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper, “Just let me have enough to feed my family, they owners won’t miss it and I swear I won’t tell anyone anything.”

“I’m sorry, Mauri,” the soldier shook his head, dropping eye contact with his friend. Subtly shifting to diminish his great height and bulk to assume a diminutive stance, making him easily looked down on, almost vulnerable despite his powerful build.
Tense moments pass before the expected outburst of cursing followed by Mauricio storming off. Boyd took the abuse stoically, having heard it all before more times than he cared to remember. When, at last, he was alone he stretched back out to his full height, shaking out like a massive dog casting off the words.
As he watched the snow gently falling from the sky, Boyd revisited the conflict from Mauricio’s perspect, winter was always hard on families like his. After the Vojt took his cut as taxes, they often didn’t have enough to last the whole season and needing to keep aside enough money to plant again in spring they needed to make a little go a long way. Usually the community had enough surplus that the villagers of various trades were able to trade well enough so that everyone could make it through the winter comfortably enough. This year blight had struck, taking out a huge swathe of the crops and livestock north of the Village, leaving the majority of families scrambling to survive. The scarcity has proved an enormous boon to some, in particular The Guldvalyer family who reside to the southern side of town were able to sell their surplus at massive markup and also loan money to those who could not afford to pay. The storehouse Boyd guarded belonged to them, their coin that fed and housed him until the weather calmed enough to allow caravans to start again. It wasn’t what he wanted to be doing, but it was enough for now.

“Sleeping on the job, big guy?” the voice of his relief Tervou as carefree as ever. Boyd inclined his head in greeting, accepting the covered bowl offered. Still hot. As cruel as the Guldvalyer’s seemed in matters of money, they understood exactly how and when to be generous to those working for them for maximum loyalty.
Stepping into the storehouse with Tervou, the pair sat across from one another at their small wooden table. Beef and vegetable stew, Boyd’s heart leapt at the pleasant surprise, meat was a luxury hard to come by this deep into winter. He looked up at Tervou, raising an eyebrow expectantly to be met with a disarming chuckle and raised open palms, “Don’t look at me like that, big guy. Dinner first, be suspicious after.”

It was good advice, Boyd decided. Devouring the stew like it might escape if he waited to breath, far too soon it was all gone and all that was left was to watch Tervou eating his. Leaning back in his chair, Boyd enjoyed the warmth in his stomach, picturing the warmth spreading through his body, though even in his imagination it didn’t quite reach his toes.
Tervou’s spoon clattered into his bowl, signalling that Dinner was over and time for suspicion had returned. Leant forward over the small table, Boyd addressed the senior mercenary before Tervou had time to say anything, “What kind of gallows work are we being seduced into with meat?”

“Gallows work? Am I the executioner, judge or condemned in your metaphor?” knowing Boyd’s piercing stare was the only answer he’ll get, Tervou continued, “It’s nothing like that. The bosses are smart enough to realise they’re not popular this year, people blame them for their misfortune with the harvest. Resent them for having what they don’t. That’s exactly when you want to make sure the people working for you, are really working for you. Think of this as a perk for not selling them out.”

Boyd’s mind went to the brush with Mauricio earlier, wondering if the timing was a coincidence or if they might have been watching him. It didn’t seem likely, the cost of employing a guard to watch the guard would easily outweigh what Mauricio would have taken.
More likely Tervou wasn’t telling the whole truth, or otherwise didn’t know it. Rumour was that the Guldvalyer family were hoping to have one of their own elected Vojt when the chance arose. That kind of ambition came with it’s own share of paranoia. Whatever their thinking, Boyd was happy to accept the perks that came with it.

“Hmm,” he rumbled somewhere deep in his chest as a response to Tervou’s explanation, “As long as they’re paying me, I’ll do as I’m told. I’m not planning on staying here for long enough that I need to worry about what’s down the road.”

“So you tell me, every year is your last here. Every year you sign up for guard work when the caravan’s stop running.” his tone and expression playfully dismissive, Tervou’s words bite regardless, “I’m sure you’ll make it this time for sure, but maybe it’s worth thinking about what might be down the road. Just in case.”

His chair grinds loudly as it slid across the stone floor. Boyd rose wordlessly, making his way to the door he paused with his hand on the handle before looking back at Tervou, “No. This time there’s no more excuses, I’m leaving and I won’t be coming back. I swear it.”

As Tervou took the guard station by the storehouse entrance, A bittersweet grin poisoned his lips as he watched Boyd trudge heavily through the dark and the snow. A chill wind bit him deeply, drawing his heavy cloak around himself he shook his head awaiting the long night to come.

A slice out of a life, a sad ending I think.

Hope you enjoy it,

Featured Image credit:

Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

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