Monday, July 27, 2009

Berserker part 40

They awoke from their cots the stablemaster had been kind enough to provide, to the sound of civilization. By this Jarn could hear the stamp of feet, cry of children, and loud yelling of adults no more mature than their smaller counterparts. The three had been greeted by Karnar as they reached the stable the previous night, acting very much like a dog who has broken a priceless heirloom and hopes that by being cheerful and happy, then no punishment would be exacted upon him. This had not worked given that, the three men had spent much of the day hanging by their wrists. Strangely enough it was mild Kyle that suggested Karnar should insert his head into the rear end of the nearest horse. Exercising his powers of perception, Karnar thought it best that he bedded down elsewhere, not that he was welcome in the tavern anymore. Thus there were only three men sitting up and wincing at sore muscles and bruises going from the initial black and blue to shades of unsightly brown and nauseating green.

Millienya peeked into their little alcove- usually a stall for sick horses but better than nothing- as they were cleaning themselves from a basin of water that one of the stableboys had left.

“We’ll be clearing out in an hour so you had better get ready”, she chided.

“Yeah, yeah”, Lars grumbled. “We’ll just end up back here anyway”.

Still weary and aching they stumbled out into the morning light, with hands shielding their faces. A lot had changed while they were getting some well-deserved sleep. A number of wagons had been added to the train and Kyle noted happily that their mixed teams of mules and horses had been sorted out.

“The extra wagons are with us only until the civilians are safe”, Millienya supplied by way of explanation. “The extra horses, on the other hand, are ours to use as we see fit”.

Kyle, having met the stablemaster, found such a generous donation more than a little surprising.

Millienya walked through the throng of bustling crowd that was on the verge of hysteria to the front of the lead wagon, where the pitchfork that Jarn had forced through the cobbles still stood. “Thanks to Jarn’s... social skills”, she said with a smile, plucking the instrument for emphasis, sending it vibrating. “We have been treated more than fairly by most everybody here. Even the town blacksmith couldn’t pry it loose.” Lars chuckled wryly at the thought of such consternation among his captors.

“Imagine that”, he grinned. “The world’s largest tuning fork”. He thought it was funny, but Jarn was still in some gloomy mood of his and Kyle was busy examining the carts.

It was true what Millienya had said, the wagons looked amazing. Like new. Splinters, blemishes, and mudsplatters covering the wood had been swept into oblivion. The tattered remains ones canvas top had been replaced. Axles and wheels had been checked and oiled. Harness had been mended in places and greased to reduce chafing. Someone had even made the attempt to polish the iron shodding the wagon wheels!

Admirations aside, the wagons barely looked large enough to harbor the huge number of people who were queuing up to stow away their goods. Jarn, Lars, and Millienya quickly found their hands full, Kyle having left to see to the wellbeing of his animals.

It seemed that although the people arriving knew how to behave in a high stress situation, they hadn’t counted on the finite carrying capacity of the wagons. A person who was considered to have packed lightly in the crowd would have had two large bags or sacks, while those who had more possessions were even carrying furniture. While Millienya tried to explain this predicament, the utter sense of selfishness from some of the people made such level-headed thinking impossible. Finally Lars had the bright idea to create a baggage check line. Millienya, Lars, and Jarn would inspect everyone’s belongings to assure that no one was taking up to much valuable room.

Though the line was long and wound its way down the street and around a corner, some semblance of order was established. As the tense morning continued, the group noticed that the owners of the bags that Jarn inspected put up much less of a fight whenever he deemed something to be too large or deadweight. It might’ve been a strange coincidence or a spark from the Lars’ rather slow synapses that the line ended right beside the pitchfork, illiciting much whispered comments and nervous glances. Apparently the stablemaster’s having a big gut depended on his having a big mouth too.

Finally having checked and loaded the refugees’ possessions, they made ready to roll.

“Is their anything else before we leave?”, Lars asked the other two.

“Yes, I sent Aniston to get get Seryan and Tyrel before you two awoke. Go see what is keeping him”.

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