Once he was over a hill and out of sight of the encampment, he headed south. He still moved cautiously and stuck to shadows, padding silently along, senses bare to the raw elements, anticipating the Thune pickets posted at intervals around the camp. As expected, he smelled the horse before he saw the man, sitting with his back toward the camp and eyes outward looking for intruders rather than escapees. There wasn’t any obvious way past the picket. Jispin didn’t want to leave easily-followed hoof tracks, so he left nothing but the Thune’s body and an unteathered pony. Continue reading Thune Runner VII
The Thune lashed at them with a whip and ordered them more loudly, in heavily accented and hardly understandable Crimean. It wasn’t clear if the old couple spoke that language or not. Jispin eyed the huddled mass of humanity and gritted his teeth, then stood. He motioned to a large man nearby, one from a string that had come in with him, to help him with the bodies. The Thune yelled even more inarticulately and shook his whip at all four of them. With a shrug, few words, and a brief bit of pantomime, Jispin communicated the older pair didn’t have the strength, and that he and his friend would bury the dead if they were given a shovel, so the dogs wouldn’t eat them. Continue reading Thune Runner VI
The Thune were dragging the third man to death when one on Jispin’s string, an older man whom had started the morning with a barely perceptible limp which had gotten steadily worse, was slowing down. It was causing a struggle by others in the string trying to help him along. He was the patriarch of a family, he guessed, with family on his slave-string. He’d also get them all killed if they didn’t cut him off soon. They were not able to get ahead to gain time to drink at streams. No water would mean certain death on a run of this distance. He guided the string near one of the guards riding nearest. Continue reading Thune Runner V
Four of the line drew back their strong recurve bows of horn and wood.On command they fired as one. Jispin ducked, flattening himself on the ground, then bouncing back up, once again armed with two swords and a challenge on his face. “Kurgen are better than any Thune! You disgrace your parents, if they even know who you are!” Continue reading Thune Runner IV
He made it to the rock without incident, and settled in on the side away from the river, finding a small hollow that blocked the wind. He munched silently on food pilfered from the horse’s saddlebags, pulled a sheepskin from his too-small pack and wrapped it around to ward off the cold, curled into as small a ball as his growing frame could manage, and slept. Continue reading Thune Runner III
“Haggen! Did you kill the runner?” Jispin understood enough of the Thune tongue to get the gist of the question. He grunted back a nondescript reply as he nocked an arrow and headed back for the embankment, giving his new weapon a few quick test draws. A good weapon. The arrows were straight and well-made, as expected of a race of horse-archers. Continue reading Thune Runner II
The village in the burned-out valley was a total waste. Smoke still rose from smoldering heaps of damp wooden wreckage and sodden thatch. Jispin skulked from corner to heap, like a silent shadow in the dim light blown on a desultory wind. Bodies lay unburied but obviously looted, and often just as obviously raped and tortured to death… and sometimes apparently tortured to death, then raped. Some pillagers were not very particular. Continue reading Thune Runner I
Ahhh… Done with making corrections based on reader feed-back for the moment. It’s amazing how hard it is to whip out some high-quality hackneyed purple prose. 🙂
While fixing all the things you and the other readers/commenters pointed out, I found a number of other typos. Nothing like a rewrite, just lots of little things. Buffed out a few places, etc….
The Castalia House blog post on the barbarian had a bit of food for thought. When you present a man fully formed, it’s got it’s good points and bad. One of the things I liked about the Conan was he “just was.” You took him as he presented himself, as a blank slate upon which much could be projected. The downside is that you didn’t understand how he got to where he was, and I’ve always liked a good back-story.
So that is what “Career Choice” (tentatively retitled as “Making a Mercenary”) largely was: the start of a barbarian-adventurers back-story, showing the life and environment that would create such a man. Likely turn it into the first segment of a normal-length book, maybe a year of his life, maybe one that takes him up to 20 or so. Enough background to be fun, not so hole-free that there is nowhere to back-fill with references and flash-backs in later stories.
The next stair to creak was the second from the top, with a distinctive two-part noise, followed by a long pause. Clearly listening. He thought briefly about stories he’d been told as a child and young man about raids and war and tactics. He kicked Hávarðr’s bed. “Hey, wake up!” he spoke normally, but it seemed loud in the near pitch blackness of the room. The squire couldn’t understand the words, but it was hard to ignore the noise and kick. Continue reading Career Choice, Part XIV – Last part!
The inn’s food was excellent, the room’s door locked, and the women smelled nice. The latter treated the knight very well from the moment he walked in the door, starting to flirt so openly and competitively that it was even obvious to a comparatively inexperience young man like Jispin, whom they ignored when they didn’t sneer at his obvious low-born status, youth, comparatively poor clothes, and northern barbarian blood. He contented himself to sit in the corner and watch. Continue reading Career Choice, Part XIII