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Old 10-11-2006, 08:38 PM   #223
Child of the 7th Age
Spirit of the Lonely Star
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By the time the leader of the slavers awoke and struggled to his feet, it was already well past mid-morning. Imak glanced outside his tent and saw men scurrying from one side of the camp to the other. The deadly business of getting ready for the night's attack was well under way. After pulling on his boots, Imak girded his older sword around his waist and uttered a private curse, swearing that he would retrieve the fine blade that had been stolen from him two nights before. He walked out of the tent and strode purposefully among the men, carefully noting what had already been accomplished as well as those tasks that still needed to be finished.

Men were rounding up the last of the horses, rummaging through small stockpiles of daggers and swords, and finishing up the holding pens in which the young slaves would be stored before being driven back to Nurn. When asked by one of his men if they should build a second pen, Imak had tersely responded that this would not be necessary. Only the fittest and fairest would be left alive: the rest would be summarily slaughtered. The leader of the slavers was in no mood to be challenged. The men exchanged worried glances at this news, since it would substantially reduce the profits they drew, but no one had the courage to cross Imak's path. In any event, the men were not opposed to an easy night of slaughter.

Reaching the center of camp where the cooking fire still burned, Imak met up with Eyshkin, the second in command, and barked out a final series of orders, grudgingly acknowledging that things had gone better than he had feared last night, “There’s no use waiting till nightfall. Our preparations are almost complete. We leave by mid-afternoon. We need no cover of darkness to defeat this rag tale band. Tell the men to be prepared to ride out then.”

Eyshkin nodded curtly, but then hesitated a minute, wondering if he should say anything about what had happened earlier that morning. Still, he had better come up with a good explanation, because the men would be without meat at their mid-day meal and tempers were likely to be frayed. Unable to concoct a believable story, Eyshkin finally decided to tell the truth, despite the fact that the story sounded odd even to him. Nervously clearing his throat, the man continued, “Imak, there’s one problem. Cook was preparing a fat donkey for the mid-day meal. Only now there's a problem. You see the carcass has turned up missing”

“Missing? That’s ridiculous. Has the idiot been into one of the casks? I told him to leave the stuff alone till after we had finished with the slaves.”

“No, Captain. It’s not that. You see one of the men swears he saw a monster come into the kitchen and lug off the meat. The monster was a big ugly thing, as broad as it was tall with fangs as long as daggers. Cook went and hid in the log pile while the thing piled the meat onto its back and ran off onto the plain.”

“You expect me to believe that?” Imak snapped. “Those fools have been drinking. Put the casks into my tent and have one of the men stand guard outside. Nobody, and I mean nobody, touches that brew before we come back tonight. I should have your neck for this one, Eyshkin. It’s your job to handle all these problems. But I’ll let you off this once. Only you’ll be the one to announce to the men they are having grain porridge for lunch. We can’t take any more time to slaughter an animal or prepare it for cooking.” Imak spat on the ground and laughed. “I don’t envy you that job. Just tell them that hunger is good. It makes them fight harder. Tell them to do well and there’ll be a reward for everyone in camp.” With that, Imak turned and marched off to where several men were beginning to practice with their bows.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 10-11-2006 at 11:36 PM.
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