Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Berserker Part 10

Jarn swiftly adapted to the life of a traveler, his clan had not had much belief in possessions, though it strongly urged being self sufficient, and this was something he was good at. In the morning he would awake earlier than the others and had learned after a few experiments that being in the front of the breakfast line didn’t necessarily mean that you would get the largest portions. Gerda had a network of cook aids, spies, and informants which allowed her to know at any time where someone was and how much work they had been doing. She was of the old school philosophy that the more work a person did, the more they deserved to eat. So Jarn would volunteer every morning to go out and cut firewood for her, he would return later with a cord of wood and, with a smile of gratitude and wink of approval from Gerda, would be given two-to-three times larger helpings than anyone else. With most people this would seem like gluttony, but because of Jarn’s impromptu starvation, massive size, and the fact that he worked harder than most anyone had ever seen kept him hungry too.

After breaking his fast, Jarn would load up his things into the guards’ wagon and go to see Terris, where he would then be given instructions for the day. At first they had tried to teach him how to use a crossbow. Things worked out very well and he could hit a target just as good as any of the others, but when he accidentally pulled the string back too hard when reloading one and ripped the crossbow in half, Terris had a fit and tossed him over to Kyle. Kyle was the caravan’s wrangler, he took care of the wagons and the animals that pulled them. Tragedy befell once again when a particularly nasty mule with an amazing sense of anatomy kicked Jarn as he was tying it up to the wagon with it’s team. The poor animal must’ve had at least three broken ribs from the punch Jarn sent it’s way.

Everyone was about to give up when Gerda commented on his ability with an ax. The idea of Jarn clearing and widening the trail, far ahead of them, where he could do no harm, was very appealing. So he would spend most of the day trudging ahead of the wagons with his war ax. Having accidentally broken through the wooden haft of one of the communal axes, he decided that the solid iron haft of one of his own beautifully carved masterpieces to be more sturdy and reliable than the dandy little things that the rest seemed content to use.

The scrub and pine which he was sweeping away was becoming less common. It was replaced by yew and other types of warmer climate trees. They were slowly working their way south. By the time Jarn would get to thinking about their destination and his strength would begin to flag, Kyle would call a stop to the procession and they would break for lunch.

One of the innumerable children Gerda had working for her would bring Jarn water and utensils for washing, she was a stickler for cleanliness and knew that he would work hard and stink bad enough to make the food gag by then. Lunch was normally salted pork with any number of pickled vegetables, hardly great fare but enough to keep a person going. Jarn would normally forgo the niceties of eating with the others and go back out to the clearing he had carved just hours ago. It gave him time to think and rest without being interrogated by the other, ever curious travelers. His only regret was not being able to see Millienya, she was in his thoughts more and more often. With her fine hair, blonde as cornsilk, and her radiant sky blue eyes.

After lunch, while he mindlessly chopped away at any offending plant matter in reach, a few camp followers or an occasional guard would visit him every so often to take away the fallen wood or bring refreshments. Sometimes he would get into a conversation with Seryan or Karnar as he worked, but the never once saw Lars though, somehow Millienya had managed to keep her word and Jarn did not have to worry about awaking with a knife stuck in him.

From these talks he learned a number of things. Seryan was from the distant city of Doneliss, a large city-state in southern Bretolia, which was the caravan’s destination as well as his. His father was a merchant that traded with a number of distant tribes in Kormusleiv. He had been sent in his father’s place to hammer out a new trade agreement with a tribe which had split off from another larger group. He was curiously reluctant to relinquish the details of his escapades. Jarn soon found out from Karnar that the reason he was so far from home and extremely quiet is that there had been a death in his family. His beloved wife and Jarn’s cousin-in-law, Katherine, had died while giving birth to their first child. What’s worse is that the child didn’t survive either. Karnar mourned for months, hardly sleeping or eating. Then one day he simply picked up his few belongings and left, he didn’t care where he went or how he got there. All he knew was that he couldn’t stand to live with Katherine’s death, so he ran away. A few days into his traveling he happened upon the camping caravan and joined them for lack of anything better to do.

Jarn didn’t move a muscle for the entire time Karnar spoke. It was absolutely awful about what happened. Jarn had known Katherine too and she was always in good health and full of life. Although he racked his brain, Jarn couldn’t think of a single thing to say that might possibly ease Karnar’s sorrow. All he could do was nod his head and go back to work.

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