Chapter VII: Memorabilia
The surgeon had already wrapped the stitches up, and had now retreated inside the apothecary cabin that lay beyond a narrow door to the far side of the room. Morgun had had little surgeries done since the start of his career as a mercenary. He makes to stand up slowly, so as to not tear the stitches. He pulls his back up and sits on the wall on the head of the rough bed, by pushing downwards with his arms. He finds that his grip is weakened, and that less blood is being pumped in his muscle, definitely not for a lack of strain. He rotates his body, and lets his feet fall on the floor. He presses them downwards, his pelvis slowly but surely lifting from the bed. The stitched bullet wound is stretched. He lays his fingers on the stitch, and sighs with relief they emerge bloodless. The surgeon did a decent job.
He can’t help but stare at the surgeon’s table. It is ridden with bloody rugs, needles and hemp rope. Morgun knew that local physicians were not skilled enough in the technique of stitching, usually opting to bury the wound under a mountain of blackpowder, then setting fire to the whole thing, in a risky procedure which, more often than not, caused the patient to lose the wound limb entirely, dying instantly. On the rare occasion where the victim was lucky enough to survive that, the unmoved bullet would fester, causing the patient to suffer through a few more painful days filled with fever-dreams and pain, until someone finally decided to pull them out of their misery with a bullet to the head.
A cloud moves outside the window. The weak sunlight falls on the surgeon’s table, causing everything metallic to glimmer. But while the scalpels and the needles shine in bright white, a particular artifact that sits on the bottom of a liquid-filled jar absorbs the radiance and emits a darker reflection. Like a moth being drawn to the flame, the object exerts a mesmerizing pull on him. He grabs the small jar and lifts it to his face. A quick whiff reveals the liquid to be water. He places his hand inside, and grabs the artifact that is sunk at the bottom.
Astonishingly, despite striking home, the small lead bullet has sustained only minor warping that is limited to the one side of the sphere. Morgun had the habit of collecting memorabilia from all of his missions. At first, he would be carrying the collection with him. Then, when he had completed his fifteenth or sixteenth contract, the retrieval of an ancestral headdress stolen from its rightful owner by a band of berserkers, he found that the unique double ax held by the leader of the group to be too sizable to be portable. On his return to civilization, in the merchant city of Faroot, he sought out the trader’s guild and leased a small warehouse by the river. There, he stored the Yrdanian golden coin, the sigil-ring of the late lord Garo da Kumre, the feathers plucked from the holy eagle of the Bartun tribes, and all the other artifacts that made up his small, at the time at least, collection. As for the ax, he hung it on the western wall, opposite of the narrow window, thinking that when the sun rose a few hours into the day, the ax would make an interesting spectacle. Every now and then, the company’s adventures would bring him back to the island city, and he would spend a day or two admiring the collection, to the company of good wine. This bullet, and the Serenian golden coin he had acquired from the mission he was on earlier in the month, would hang together from a single rope and passed around the ax’s massive blades.
The surgeon walks back inside. He is a young man, not too deep in his twenties, tall and hunching over, most probably due to long hours of study. Furthermore, he wears glasses; paper is a rare commodity, so the scribes pack as many words they can in each book, so it is a given that the habit of reading quickly takes its toll on the eyes. He’s not a local, that’s for sure. His accent is instilled with the comforting breeze of the sea, rather than the chilled breath of the mountain. He approaches the table and pulls a clean cloth from his vest, and starts cleaning his medical equipment. He spots Morgun checking the bullet against the light, and open his mouth wide to speak, neverminding the loss in body heat that all of the natives avoid.
Doctor: “Thought you’d wanna keep it.”
Morgun: “Yeah, it’s not every day one get shot.”
D: “Bullet wounds are more exciting than fractured bones or festering arrow holes, I know that much.” he smirked, his face showing that he actually enjoyed tending to the wound.
M: “You’re appointed here?” Morgun reciprocated with a half-smile.
D: “Appointed?” the surgeon walked to the opposite side of the table, and got to cleaning his equipment.
M: “Appointed...uhm, stationed in the city by the Archon, or the Crown.”
D: “No, no. The Archon does not care much, or, correction...he did not care much for the city’s operations, before you had him summon the militia at least.”
M: “I had him summon the militia?”
D: “Yeah, that’s the talk around the town. You asked for them, and he caved in. Most think Icefellow would never make such a bold move.”
M: “And why is that?”
D: “Well, I came in the city not a month ago, so I do not know much from experience, but the merchants laughed at me for mentioning that I did not want to sign a permanent contract with the Archon. I asked them why, and they just told me that Northlight does not have one.”
M: “That’s interesting. So you are commissioned by the merchants?”
D: “The traders’ guild, yes, but I make extras doing business with everyone. See, hunters, miners and fishers are around things sharper than the gold and silver coins surrounding the merchants.”
M: “They must pay less though.”
D: “Yes, some even promise to pay but just skip it altogether. They do keep my days full though, and I do learn more of the craft from tending to them than I do with the merchants. You sending them out will probably bring me more than a handful of customers, so thank you.”
M: “Oh, I’m not the one to thank boy.”
D: “And who should I thank then?”
M: “Ah, the Archon of course. He gave me command over the city’s militia, to help me complete my work.”
D: “Didn’t you ask for them?”
M: “First off, I do not ask for anything. My company is commissioned by the Marshal, and he made sure we would have all we would need to accomplish our mission: supplies, arms, beds; the militia’s command does help, but it was the Archon’s idea.”
D: “Your company? You’re a mercenary?”
M: “Yes. Yr’dan company. Solves every problem you might have.”
D: “And you’ve done missions for Fonte before?”
M: “Yes, more than one. Before coming here we were in Serene, if you know the city.”
D: “Do I know it? I was born and raised there.”
The doctor rubbed the final scalpel and threw it in the brandy-filled bowl with the rest of the paraphernalia.
D: “Okay, you’re all wrapped up. I’ll see you in a few days again, see how the flesh is tying together.”
M: “Don’t think I’ll be here in a few days doctor.”
D: “You won’t?”
M: “Yes. I didn’t come to stay.”
D: “Why are you here then?”
M: “I’m expecting a delivery, from your home-town actually.”
D: “Oh, are you now? What kind of delivery is that?”
M: “Can’t say.”
D: “And why did they hire a mercenary band anyway? Fonte has a standing army from what I know.”
M: “There are jobs that the crown would not like to be connected with. Also, soldiers tend to be way too stringy and...inflexible. See, they have a persistence that makes them ideal for holding the trenches and clashing in the battlefield but terrible at anything else. May I make a suggestion, since you saved my life and all that?”
M: “I know is that the Marshal thinks the city will be overrun by Naramarians before long, so I suggest you leave before the blizzard season ends. See, they made a similar move on Emporia not a week ago, and the battle is still raging over there. Naramar is not playing games in this war.”
D: “Wait, they took Emporia?”
M: “Half of it. I got a letter saying that the city’s been torn in half, split in two parts by barricades on the street. No one army has the courage to assault the other. I suppose the locals are waiting for reinforcements before they reclaim the port and the attackers are happy with holding the entrance to the city. Trust me, you would not want to be involved in the spy game that’s been going on there.”
D: “And where should I go then?”
M: “You’re a physician. I’d set up a tent right on the side of the battlefield in the Central Plain, and strip wounded soldiers of anything valuable they may carry to save them.”
The door is kicked open. Two militia, carrying what initially seems like a slab of meat over their shouders run inside.
“Quick! Help him!” the two men shout and drop the decimated man on the bed. Morgun and the doctor exchange looks, and then the latter takes a quick step towards the man. “What happened to him?” he exclaims, then grabs the scalpel and a towel. Morgun approaches, and looks down towards the man. The flesh above his ribs has been torn in four parallel lines which bleed profusely, with the bones looking badly fractured underneath. This does not look like a battle wound at all, Morgun knows instantly. The militia make to run outside. Morgun grabs one of them from the shoulder.
“What happened out there soldier?”
The militia turns to face him. He is a young, muscular man, most probably a miner. The look on his face is that of horror and shock. He does not reply.
“Soldier! What the hell happened out there?” Morgun yells at him.
“S...Sir, we surrounded one of them, and immediately we were attacked.”
“Attacked? By whom? Another ambush?”
“B...By animals sir. A bear killed anyone who would try to enter the cave where the woman had taken refuge, and a pack of wolves started attacking our perimeter from the back.”
“Sir, there are more wounded waiting for someone to carry them. I have to go. Oh, a soldier gave out a note to have delivered to you.” the militia leaves a bloody piece of paper on the table, turns around and runs out of the door.
“Wait!” Morgun yells, but the militia don’t seem to bat an eye.
The small piece of paper that a guard had carried over still lied as he had found it. He picked it up with minimal effort, and scanned the single sentence that was written on it. “A member of the marauder band was captured in Willow hill, I ordered the militia to transfer her to the dungeon. -Keran”
“Her? That’s interesting” Morgun mumbled to himself.