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Escort Duty – Part 2

Simon, son of Melek, sat in the shade of a supply wagon. His long legs splayed out in the grass in front of him, and he tapped his foot to the tune of the doggerel he was humming to pass the time.  He kept his dark blue eyes fixed on the space between his heels, but occasionally he lifted his head and scanned his surroundings.  He wore a simple gray tunic and breeches, their elbows and knees worn but not ripped.

Every so often, he tugged on the chain which held him close to one of the wheels, but mostly, he just stared at the iron manacles around his ankles and hummed.

Last time this happened, he thought, lifting his manacled hand to run his fingers through his close-cropped blonde hair, I at least had a roof over my head. This is going to get uncomfortable if it rains. Now, how do I get that fool thing off?

A low whistle sounded from the other side of the wagon as something clunked softly against the inside of the wagon wheel next to Simon.

Simon froze, resisting the urge to look toward the noise.

“Hollo?” he whispered.

“Who else?” his friend answered, “Here, see if this works.”

Simon slowly looked to make sure nobody was watching, then reached through the spokes and palmed the object Hollo had thrown. When he opened his hand, he found a small file.

“Perhaps if you piss on the chain, it will rust away,” Hollo whispered hoarsely, “That’ll probably work better than wishful thinking.”

“I was just considering whether to let it rust, melt, or just turn to smoke, but this’ll be more effective.”

“Be careful. I’ll be back at sunset to get you.”

Simon listened to Hollo’s careful footsteps in the soft grass, then waited a few minutes before setting the file’s edge on the cross piece holding the manacles together and slowly sawing across it. He worked at it for an hour before he felt the iron release its tension on his wrists.

He moved his wrists slowly, and felt his fetters start to fall away. With a satisfied smile, Simon held the irons in place and leaned back against the wheel to relax. The file went into the pocket of his tunic as he shifted to lean back against the wagon.

Never know when that will come in handy, he thought as he dozed in the warm noon-day sun.

When he woke up, the sun was beyond its zenith, and a tall blonde man stood in front of him.

“Wake up, thief,” the blonde said as he nudged Simon’s leg with his foot, “Lord Dveglammar wants to talk.”

“Hello, Soren,” Simon replied, carefully standing up without letting the chains fall from his wrist, “You’ll have to get me off this wagon first.”

Two large men wearing the crossed-hammer livery of Tor Dveglammar’s personal bodyguard stood behind Soren. Both guards wore their armor and helmets, their faces obscured by the crosspieces over their noses. One was armed with a long spear, while the other carried a huge war hammer in his hands.

Soren motioned to one of the guards, who lifted his hammer and brought it down on the pin locking Simon’s chains to the wagon. The pin popped out of its enclosure neatly, the wagon barely rocking on its axles at the impact. The guard gave Simon a smug look as he picked the chain up from the grass.

“Nice work,” Simon said as the guards fell in on either side of him, “You’ll have to teach me how to do that.”

Neither the guards nor Soren said anything more as they trooped through the camp. Simon took quick glances around as they went, but caught no sight of Hollo.

Soren stopped them in front of the commander’s tent with a raised hand.

“Stay here,” he said without looking back as he walked through the gray-green canvas flap. The guards grunted and turned to watch Simon. He, on the other hand, looked down at the ground. Around him, the smells and sounds of an armed camp, bread baking, a blacksmith hammering on a weapon, and wood smoke, filled his senses. There was no hint of why he had been summoned to the army’s commander.

This is a lot of fuss for a thief, he thought, I wonder what’s going on?

As he stood there, he heard a faint low whistle. Hollo was close. Simon considered how to signal him to let him know he had heard, but all he could think of was to scratch his leg with his foot.

As he stood there on one leg, the tent flap opened and Soren motioned them inside. Flanked by his two guards, Simon walked past him and into the tent.

Dveglammar sat in his chair facing the door. His cavalry commander, a young Kossaki nobleman, stood behind him. Both officers looked at Simon gravely as he came to a stop in front of them.

“Hello, Tor,” Simon said cheerfully.

“Simon,” Tor answered with a nod, “Vat da hell vere you tinking?”

“It was only a few bags of coins,” Simon said, “And you wouldn’t have a bit of it if I hadn’t found that path behind their lines.”

“You vere supposed to come to me vit any claims.”

“True, but I would have waited for days to see you, and the party was that night, and my dice were feeling lucky.”

The cavalryman behind Tor snorted at that. Simon had seen his face before, probably at one of the illicit gatherings he had attended in the past few months.

“Now I got to do someting vit you. You took from Baron Lovenherz’ tings, and now dat he’s dead, your life belongs to his family.”

“Life? Tor, at most, we’re talking about me making restitution.”

“Dis is not some village market vere you got caught stealing chickens, Simon. You took gold from vat ve seized from da enemy, and da lords have to get deir share before anyvone else gets his. You know dat.”

Simon sniffed and looked around the tent. Tor kept things sparse, but it was cleaner and better furnished than the lean-to’s and large tents the men slept in.

“So, what are you going to do?” Simon said, locking eyes with the Northman.

“Vell, I may be able to spare you. Dat is, if you are villing to do some service to make up for it.”

“Service?” Simon asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.

“You know Lord Bogoyin, don’t you?” Tor said, ignoring Simon’s question.  He motioned to the officer standing behind him.

“We’ve met,” Simon said, nodding to the cavalryman, finally fixing a name to his face.

What do you have up your sleeve? Simon thought, You Northmen don’t normally go in for subtlety.

“Ve need a guide.”

“Guide? Where to?”

“Vell, I believe you’ve been dere before, and dat’s all I’m going to say before you agree to do da job.”

“The alternative is to be kept here in chains until the campaign is over,” Bogoyin said with a faint accent.

“I either accept being tethered to a wagon for a few months or go who knows where? Not much of a bargain.”

“You know, dere is anudder alternative. Ve could alvays take off your hands like any common highway robber.”

Simon gave his best sulking pout at that. “Common highway robber? Me? I’m the best you’ve ever seen at getting in somewhere and getting back out. And my taste in loot is exceptional, thank you.”

He looked up at the tent’s ceiling, striking something of a dramatic pose. “Common! I’m insulted.”

“Dat’s vhy ve are giving you dis opportunity. Ve need somebody who knows da back vays and can get in and out vitout being seen.”

Simon considered it for a moment. He made a show of looking from Tor, to Bogoyin, then back. Finally, he shrugged and said, “All right, I’ll go. What’s the job?”

Tor nodded to Bogoyin, who said, “You’ll be escorting a certain person back to their own lands.”

“And you need a guide who can keep this quiet?”

“Exactly. They’ll be going through some rather unfriendly places. We’d rather not have too many run-ins along the way, if you know what I mean.”

“How many people?”

“Ten of my men, the two people you’ll be escorting, and you.”

Simon snorted. “You want to try to keep half a troop of cavalry quiet? Do you want a guide or a wizard?”

“You’ll do your best, I’m sure.”

Simon laughed out loud at that. “I ought to be honored by your confidence in me, my lord. But I’m only capable of the smallest bits of magic.” With that, he let the shackles on his wrist fall with a clatter. A sly smile and a wink crossed his face as he looked at the shocked faces of the guards.

Tor stood up from his chair and peered down at the shackles. Pulling on his beard, he considered Simon for a moment.

“Vitchcraft!”

“No, merely a little talent I have.”

“Vell, if you can’t hide da cavalry, vat do you suggest?”

“I can slip a few people through, but not a bunch of cavalrymen and their chargers. Two people, me, and one other, and that’s it.”

“And who vould be da other?”

“If we’re going through Booda, I have a friend who can help.”

“So, you’ll leave behind the guards, and add a ‘friend’ to go along?” Bogoyin said suspiciously.

“If we do our job right, we won’t need the guards. And if we have to run, we’ll have a better chance of getting away or hiding four people then we will with thirteen.”

Tor tugged on his beard again, nodding. “Dat makes sense. Go kvietly and try to not stick out.”

“I’m the best at not sticking out.”

“I vant your vord on your mudder’s soul dat da people you escort vill get dere safely.”

“Of course. You have my word.”

“I’ll have more dan dat, now dat I tink about it. Soren vill be going too. He’s good on a horse, and I trust him.”

Simon looked hurt at that. “How can you say that after all we’ve done together?” he said, bringing his hand to his chest.

“Oh, yeah, all dat ve’ve done togedder. Like you sneaking away to bed dat girl in dat village outside Franzberg? Or maybe you deciding to lighten the haul from da baggage train ve captured last veek? Oh, I know just how much I can trust you, Simon. Soren goes or you go back on da vagon. I can find a vizard to make sure you stay stuck, too.”

Simon put his hands up in surrender. “All right, Soren comes. That makes five.” He put his hand out to Tor.

Dveglammar took it and gave it a hard shake.

“So, who am I escorting, and where are we going?” Simon asked after Tor released his grip.


Other episodes can be found here.  The entire anthology can be purchased at Amazon.

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3 Comments

  1. Little does he know… LOL

  2. That was a fun read! In fact, I enjoyed the whole anthology, but this was my favorite story.

    • I really enjoy writing stories about Simon. There are a few rumbling around inside my noggin at the moment. Hopefully I can get them out soon.

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