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
[Happy 4th, too! Happy Birthday, America!
As always, feedback, corrections, and comments welcome!]
Jispin had been at it steadily for more than an hour when two of the guards wandered over from the gate-house to check out the horses and watch him. Jispin could smell the wine from where he worked; they must have had some of their own wine or beer in addition to that which Hávarðr supplied them. The two were discussing the condition and value of the animals, which were mostly standing in a tired cluster in the lee of the shed, together for mutual warmth and herd-like companionship. The guards slurred speech was difficult to understand over the wind and through a heavy accent, but he got the impression the horses and mules were fairly valuable. They also thought he was not. They’d been told he was a half-breed Kurgen, the sort of non-person they thought less than nothing of. What man would be so desperate he’d be willing spawn such a thing with a Kurgen woman, if the female of the things could be called as such, and what decent woman would let herself bear such a creature who had a Kurgen father? Surely the mother would rather be rid of the bastard than let it grow. Continue reading Career Choice, Part XII
An hour past the fields of Bastonell, Jispin hurled the heads into the deep brush, their need to keep frontier locals at a distance no longer needed. They only passed two groups of farmers, wary and armed, over the next hour on the road, a road which was little more than a slightly wider trail with poor drainage and an occasional cleared spot for passing or camping with a small corral. The farmers gave them a wide berth, but took the news of a modest victory with good cheer. When they came to a fork in the road, they headed south for the small town at Grestell, rather than northeast for the even smaller garrison of Grennell. The garrison was more likely to have need for good armor and weapons being closer to the border, but it would likely have little cash and lots of soldiers with questions, while the growing city of Gresell would have more money, more ambition, and more pressing need for weapons. The surrounding farms would always want more animals at a fair price, too, even if there wasn’t a need for cavalry. Continue reading Career Choice, Part XI
It was Hávarðr who finally came up with the solution: pretend they had already sold everything to a relatively wealthy and powerful buyer and were just the delivery team. He dug through the small mountain of booty to find the leather pouch with papers that had been taken from the two units’ bodies. Among them were general orders, letters of introduction and credit, a few personal letters, messages obviously in code, paymaster lists, requisitions, and sundry other items. With them they were able to piece together who was in each group, where they were going, and what the overall picture looked like in the region, a much better picture than Sir Andronikos have been given to believe while traversing portions of the two countries recently trying to be hired. Crimea needed the mounted troops more, but had less ready money than Argentain. Both had some intrigue problems with unhappy nobles and disputed crown inheritance lines, and the notes illuminated these problems somewhat. Both sides had been trying to foment insurrection among one of the opposing border baronies. Continue reading Career Choice, Part X
Sir Andronikos and his squire finished arming, figuring to leave the helmets off but close, and they made sure their steeds were secure to stout limbs, but could be loosed quickly should the need arise. Then they waited, listening. Continue reading Career Choice, Part IX
“What will it bring?” asked Jispin a mile later, indicating the pack train of loot. “How much gold?”
Andronikos frowned thoughtfully and shook his head. “No way to know. Good armor and weapons are always wanted, but not everyone wants to pay, nor has the money. Perhaps a gold crown for the armor – each, of course – and another for the swords in good shape. Maybe twice that. The odds and ends maybe five silver doluers a set, likely less. If a count or baron is raising a company and in a hurry, more. Sold one at a time to militia, less. Farmers have little spare money.” Continue reading Career Choice, Part VIII
[As always, comments, typos, corrections, thoughts, and feedback welcome!]
It was barely the earliest of first light when Jispin woke the other two. All three were sore and stiff from the hard labor of the day before, but none complained. It was a harsh world they lived in, where sore and stiff was the rule rather than the exception. The squire wanted to make a fire and cook some hot food, but Jispin and Andronikos dismissed the idea out of hand, though for different reasons. Cold but generous portions of food was the order of the day. Jispin’s comment about the marvelous quality of it drew sincere mirth from Sir Andronikos, and his squire as well when the knight translated for him. The idea of typical soldier trail rations being high quality fare gave them a glimpse at how hard life in the Kurgen mountains really was. Continue reading Career Choice, Part VII
After the fifth Crimean body in a row with nothing worth taking, Jispin pursed his lips and thought, then headed for the treeline. On a hunch, he went a few paces inside the line of bowed tree limbs and started searching parallel to the glade. In the dim, watery light he spied a T-shaped furca leaning against a tree with a soldier’s bag and travel gear hanging from it. He took it out and planted it upright into the soft ground two paces form the trees. Walking inside the treeline he’d collect three or four before taking them out to prop up in a bunch together. In ten minutes he’d collected 37, then went back to helping the Kilpan fighters finish the task, eating jerky and apples taken from the supplies he’d recovered as he worked. Continue reading Career Change, Part VI