Preview: Singer of a Strange Song

Art by by Paul Slinger, Design by Rob WakefieldThis is the seventh preview for the Farewell, Something Lovely short story collection that I will soon be Kickstarting. You can find “the Spear” here, “Flotsam Jewel” here, “For Simple Coin” here, “Of Shadows and Flutes” here, “A Pound of Dead Flesh” here, and “Farewell, Something Lovely” here.

SINGER OF A STRANGE SONG

Drust rubbed his stubbled chin. “She reminds me of my sister.”

Brude didn’t like that comment, and he didn’t like the cold gleam in his friend’s eye. Drust’s shaved head, thick neck, brawny arms, and tattoos might intimidate most, but what frightened Brude was that particular gleam that meant violence, likely ending in death.

In the large stable that housed Brude and Drust’s horses, five toughs surrounded a young woman, perhaps of marriageable age, perhaps not even that. The street-trash pawed at the girl and pulled at her clothes. She tried to fend them off but her attempts incited them further. Brude knew the scene from many a siege, after a city fell and the soldiers rampaged. This wasn’t war, though. These weren’t soldiers.

Maybe ten strides in, near the centre of the stable, the girl knelt in the loose straw in the aisle between the horses’ stalls, shadows playing upon her. In those stalls, the horses shuffled and snorted, their smell dominated the stable. Their stalls had no doors, but rope secured each beast around each neck.

One slovenly, dark-haired, squint-eyed weasel stood apart from the knot. “He said not to break you, but that don’t mean we can’t have no fun.”

“That one goes first.” Drust had his hand on the long, barbarian sword he carried on his back.

“Not our business.” Brude held Drust’s shoulder. “Not our concern.”

“To the Hells it’s not.” Drust shook off Brude. “Damn it, sergeant, she’s just a girl.”

Drust didn’t use Brude’s old rank from when they had both marched in the legions of the Aeolean Empire consciously. Sometimes, it just slipped out. That day, it jarred Brude. How often had he pulled men off a woman, a girl or a boy – a civilian they had given oaths to protect? When the frenzy came, laws, honor, and oaths didn’t matter.

It had mattered to Brude. It should still matter.

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