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Old 06-19-2008, 05:59 PM   #148
Itinerant Songster
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: The Edge of Faerie
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littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Eodwine - same day - almost noon (with thanks to shaggydog)

Rowenna came back with Harreld, who wrinkled his nose.

"It is in there?" he asked.

"Aye," Eodwine said. "We must take it out of there and bury it."

They found spades and climbed a little way into the scar. Finding a likely spot with not so much rock and gravel, Eodwine and Harreld were the first pair to set to, taking a turn digging while the other three watched. Then Lťof and Thornden took a turn. When all four men had had a turn, Rowenna jumped down into the growing hole before Eodwine and Harreld stopped stretching their aching muscles in preparation for taking another turn. The girl did not mind getting her hands dirty, and no matter what she did, it seemed she could not help looking fetching doing it. As she dug, the four men discussed how they would go about removing the body and burying it. They would need gloves, which Harreld had pairs of and to spare, for it would not do to touch the fetid flesh.

Rowenna stopped and looked up. "Have you never been curious what lies beneath the skin?"

Lťof pulled a face.

"Not beneath skin ready to fall off the bone," Eodwine remarked. Rowenna shrugged and kept digging.

At last they had the hold dug, about six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet deep. Eodwine had heard of six feet under, but this harsh land was unforgiving, and he decided that three feet was enough to ward off wolves and the like. They found a strong plank of wood and returned to the shed. Eodwine told Rowenna to wait outside, but he could not stop her from peering with great fascination into the gloom.

Even in the dim light, they could see that the man had been a big burly fellow, muscle running to fat, perhaps an indication of middle years, and the luxury of having more than enough to eat. His clothes, torn and eaten through as they were, also told of a good life; good quality homespun befitting a man of importance, no lord but maybe a well off farmer or craftsman. Through half closed eyes, the men approached the body with caution. The visible presence of death was no stranger to them. Even violent death was not so rare, whether from the war, or the time leading up to it, or from the multitude of accidents that could strike a man, woman, or child down at the least expected moment. Yet this gruesome reminder of the frailty of life had settled a thick mantle of respect and dread over them.

Thick leather boots encased the feet, which lay closest the door. The legs and torso stretched inwards, diagonally, towards a heavy table by the wall, which had no doubt been used for a cutting surface, hundreds of shallow slices streaking its surface. The head, or what was left of it, lay close to one of the table legs, face downwards. The back of the skull appeared to be intact. Raggedly chewed patches of scalp remained, from which trailed long tufts of rusty hair mixed with an abundance of grey . The entire back of the corpse showed signs of decomposition and having been gnawed upon. But a close but brief inspection did not reveal any significant wounds or signs of the cause of the fellowís demise.

If only they could have stopped there. Laying the plank down beside the body, it seemed most appropriate and easy to roll it onto the wooden slab by grasping the shoulders and giving a good push. The corpse turned belly up most obligingly and to a man they all jumped to their feet, gasping for breath and standing clear as best they could. The face was a ruin of decomposed mush, at first glance perhaps attributable to the rodent activity on the soft fleshy parts of the face. Eodwine, however, steeled his nerve, and his stomach, and bent down for a closer look. The gaping maw that had once been the right side of the manís lower face was smashed in, the upper jaw shattered, broken teeth sticking out at odd angles. His gaze travelled downwards to the mess that was the chest and stomach and that at least was a tale any idiot could have read. Although the flesh was almost non-existent, a long rent of splintered bone was easily discerned, tracing a path from the left clavicle to the middle of the right ribcage. The instrument of this destruction, it would appear, was to be found lower down, nestled half in, half out of the cavity where the manís innards had lain, and where now a mucky pool of black decay coalesced. The meat hook, used for hanging heavy sides of mutton, venison, or pork was embedded tip in and even the wrenching of the body as they had rolled it over had not caused it to drop free from its tomb. Fascinated, Eodwine saw the point had pierced the back bone and thus the hook lay securely anchored in place.

The dull gleam of metal affixed to antler provided the final revelation to the onlookers. Under the dead manís body, twixt hip and groin, a formidable dagger had lain concealed. Naked to the air once more, its role in this drama was unclear. Had it belonged to the killer, or was it some counter-point to the silent but eloquent accusation of death by anotherís hand? Eodwine reached out and carefully plucked the dagger up, noting the smear of dried rusty colored blood along its edge. He set it on the table and called his fellows to the nasty business.

Soon the body was covered with dirt and rock and the five of them were tamping at the soft mound with shovels.

All five agreed that a strong drink and a thorough washing were quite in order.
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