Fresh Meat

Nobody warned the recruits that one type of flesh being seared by flames smells much like any other meat cooking over an open fire. Ergin always laughed at the uneasy looks new recruits would cast on their mutton after the company had burnt a village down. Out of all the unspeakable acts they committed, the thought of eating another persons flesh still gave pause. Ergin didn’t know if that meant there was hope for humanity or not. He stalked away from the mess pit with a leg in one hand and a flagon in the other.

He hated sitting with the grunts. None of them paid any respect to the veterans of the King’s campaign. He’d trounced through leagues of Argan jungle fighting off the giant man eating cats and natives alike. The bright eyed upstarts from home thought they would win the war single handed. The memory of his start with the company drifted to his mind. It taunted him. Reminded him the recruits were not much different from himself.

“Not much different if they survive, at any rate.” He muttered to himself, drawing questioning looks from several green soldiers making their bed for the night. He laughed at the puzzling looks he drew, taking a large swig from his flagon and making his way to the watch post. It sat on the edge of the camp, just far enough away from the jungle that alarms could be raised if the people they were trying to conquer decided to attack in the night. A rookie soldier sat there, eyeing the dark between the large draping leaves.

Ergin thumped him on the back, eliciting a startled jump.

“See something out there, boy?” he asked.

“No, sir.” The recruit responded with a crisp salute.

“Put your hand down, you idiot. I’m a sergeant. Not some pompous officer that expects every groveling grunt in the damned company to salute to him.” Ergin snapped out the words in a quiet hiss and settled down for the watch. The encroaching darkness dampened the heat very little. Ergin noticed that the soldier next to him had rivulets of sweat streaming down him and felt the same perspiration afflicting his own face. He took a deep drink from his flagon and proffered it to the recruit who accepted it thankfully and took large gulps of the fresh water.

“I would have thought you’d have wine in there.” The younger man said without an attempt to hide his disappointment.

“Wine gets you drunk and only makes the heat out here worse.” Ergin replied. His lip curled in a sneer as he added, “It’ll also get you dead.”

The recruits attention had already left Ergin. His flagon thumped on the ground and the young soldier knocked an arrow. The man drew and loosed the shaft before Ergin managed to inhale before speaking. His eyes followed the flight of the projectile as it hit a buffalo square in the eye.

“Fresh meat!” The man said, turning to grin at Ergin. He dropped his bow and ran off to butcher his score. Ergin ran to sound the alarm.

Apropos of: Arathania


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