Corin sipped his water. Not even midday yet, the sun promised miserable heat. His head throbbed from the revelry he partook at the Slaughtered Calf. He forced himself up in the morning, and only now, as the time for his proposed meeting with Garl drew closer, was he starting to feel some semblance of his normal self. Going into business with the soldier from the Republic seemed like a good choice to him. He hoped Garl would see it that way as well. Removing the his scabbard and belt, he relaxed and started to rest his eyes while he waited.
Garl chose that exact moment to make his noisy approach. Corin opened his eyes with an exasperated sigh. The last thing he expected was Garl to show up more punctually than the brief note he left had suggested. The other soldier approached him with caution, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword and eyes casting about for any signs of an ambush. Corin chuckled to himself. The night before meeting well outside of town popped into his head as the best course of action. He saw now how it might seem to someone who had spent the better part of the last decade fighting Imperial soldiers. He stood up off the ground and suppressed the nausea the sudden movement caused him. He let his sheathed sword stay at his feet to put Garl’s mind at ease.
“Lo there, Garl. I wasn’t sure that you’d actually show up,” he called out to the approaching man. He noted that now that he was standing an obviously not a threat, Garl’s posture had eased and the man actually smiled as he approached.
“Couldn’t miss this opportunity, Corin. Never know when another like it’ll show up,” Garl replied. Corin noted that his new friend had removed his sword hand from the pommel and know rested his off hand on it instead. The tension of the man’s approach deflated and he found a wide grin spreading to his face.
“You’re looking none the worse for the drinking we did. How do you manage that?” Corin asked as they clasped hands in greeting.
“Once you get used to drinking Ogre’s Spit, you never have a hangover. Guessing you’re a bit green to it?” Garl laughed at his own joke and elbowed Corin in the side a bit harder than Corin thought necessary.
“Aye, but you can’t beat the flavor, the hangover is worth it this time around, especially if it means the next one will be less intense.” Corin rubbed his temple after speaking and took another swig of water. His mouth felt much drier than it ought.
“So, what’s our plan of attack then?” Garl asked him. The squat man produced a rolled up piece of what appeared to be hide. “I got my map of the Republic. You got a map of the Empire?”
Corin grinned. Garl was jumping right to business. He wanted a business partner this eager to get to work. Corin pulled out his rolled up piece of vellum and unfurled it. “I figured we’d start in the Empire if that’s all right with you.” He said and looked at Garl. The other man nodded and stowed away his own map before moving to Corin’s side to peer at the finely inked map of the Empire. Corin spent the half hour detailing the routes he thought they should take and which ones would not produce enough business. Every so often Garl would pipe in with a question about whether or not the town guard or Imperial army wouldn’t be better suited to protecting a given hamlet as opposed to two mercenaries. Corin felt that the partnership was really starting to bloom.
After they settled on a plan of action, Corin rolled up the map again. “You have a horse?” he asked his partner. Garl shook his head.
“I can get one though,” he replied. His grin offered more menace than warmth in that moment. Garl placed to fingers to his mouth and let loose a piercing whistle. Two men came out of the nearby copse. One held a sword at the ready and the other leveled a crossbow at Corin. “Hand over the map, sir.” Garl spat out the honorific at the end with disgust. Corin narrowed his eyes. He didn’t believe these men would be so stupid to break the truce in the neutral town. His gut sank. He’d specified this meeting outside of town. On Republic land.
He dove to his scabbard. The crossbow bolt shattered against the rock near him. A man cursed. He came up with his sword out only to fall to the ground. His throat was wet. His breath refused to flow properly. Garl stood over him holding a sword in his off hand. The blade slicked with blood. Corin swatted at him with his own sword, but the ugly man danced out of the reach of his blade. Everything grew dark as the curse Corin tried to muster for the Republic soldier died on his lips.
Apropos of: The Slaughtered Calf Parts 1 & 2