by thefourpartland

This is the continuation of a story I’ve been working on for the Splintered Lands project. Previous entries can be found here

“Náhte, why is there a net on your head?”

“I needed a hat.”

“Náhte, it’s a net. It lets the sun shine through. And doesn’t keep off the mosquitoes either. Also, it smells of fish. Dead fish.”

“I know. I’m hoping fish will jump into the net and I can eat them. I’m hungry.”

Butan just sighed.

They’d been in Át?san a week now, and had, for once in their lives, honest employment. Neither of them liked it very much.

“Kagdor didn’t bring any food, did he?”

“He brought me more nets to wear. Draped them over my head when he left.”

“That was probably because he doesn’t like you. You cut up one of his nets and used it as a fishing line.”

“He wasn’t using it!”

“Náhte, we’re supposed to be repairing the nets, not breaking them.”

“Oh, is that what this job is? I thought I was just a clothes rack.”

“You just might be.”

“Do I get more money as a clothes rack?”

“No, less.”

“Then I don’t want to be a clothes rack.” Náhte thought for a moment. It was a long moment. “I don’t want to be honest any more, Butan. Honesty is kind of dull.”

“You mean there’s nobody shooting arrows at you? Or trying to sell you into slavery?”


“You want people to shoot at you.”

“I think so. I like the sound that arrows make as they whiz by.”

Butan started crying.

“Why are we here?”

“Because I was bored of being honest as well.”

“But this is the Knights of the Broken Wheel mission. We can’t join them, they’re honest!”

“I don’t want to join them, I want to rob them.”

“Doesn’t that mean they’ll poke us with pointy things?”

“Given everything else we’ve met tried to do that, what’s the difference?”

Náhte paused.

“They have bigger pointy things?”

“On that, you’re probably right. Ready to go over the wall?”

“Why not swim up the little creek into their complex that no one ever guards?” Náhte pointed.

Butan clapped a hand over his eyes. “Náhte, that’s an open air sewer.”

“Oh, that means I’ll smell foetid. I’ll have all the pretty flowers again, and I can paint them.”

“Fine. Náhte, you can swim in, and I’ll climb over the wall.”

They went their separate ways.

Butan dropped over the wall, huddled in the darkness behind a crate, and looked around. There wasn’t any movement he could see, so he crept towards the storehouse against the back wall of the complex. A Knight stepped out from the barracks, heading to the outhouse, and Butan froze, posing himself like a tree. And then almost fell over.

When the Knight had gone, he made it the rest of the way to the storehouse and slipped inside. Oddly, the door had been unlocked.

“Butan, you’re slow.” Náhte was sitting on a chest, munching on some flatbread.

“How in the name of all the gods did you get in here so quickly?”

“I followed the stream. I knew it came here, after all.”

“You knew the stream came straight into the storehouse, and you didn’t tell me.”

“I’d swum in it before, Butan. I like swimming. Lets me be closer to the fish.”

“I thought the fish tried to bite your fingers and you didn’t like them.”

“We’re on better terms now.”

Butan shook his head, and started hunting through the stacks. Most of what was there was either sealed barrels of food, or military equipment that would be difficult to sell.

“I don’t suppose you’ve worked out a perfect way to sneak stuff out of here, Náhte?”

“I usually swim with it in my shirt. It gets a bit smelly though. And damp.”

“Selling urine-soaked bread is probably not going to go down well. Next idea?”

Well, we could weight a barrel down with some rocks so it floats just below the surface, push it along, and then pop it out of the stream when we’re outside.”

Butan stared at his friend. “Did you just have a smart idea?”

“I’m not sure. What makes ideas smart?”

Butan puzzled on that one. “You’ll have to ask a philosopher.”

“What’s that?”

“A man who thinks about the big questions.”

“You mean like ‘To surrender, or not to surrender’?”

“No, more like whether we perceive reality, or if what we perceive is only a shadow cast by the true reality.” He stopped. “Incidentally, why’d you bring up surrender?”

“Because there’s five Knights outside.”

They both dove for the open sewer.

The thieves came up spluttering, covered in foul smelling liquid. Unfortunately, the first thing they saw was a pair of boots. Followed by a sword tip, the rest of the sword, and a large angry man.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to let us surrender?”

The sword swung.

“Thought not. Knights aren’t known for their mercy.”

Náhte ducked, and Butan grabbed a lump of, well, better not think about it and threw it into the Knight’s face.

With the Knight clawing at the adhesive filth, they ran. Well, Butan ran. Náhte charged into the Knight, knocked him to the ground, and stole his helmet. Then he ran.

After they were a good safe distance away, inside the edge of the swamp, Butan looked at Náhte and gestured at the helmet. “Why?”

“I always wanted a Knight’s helmet.” He plopped it on his head. “I look dashing in it, don’t I?”

A man in rags with the metal helmet of a Knight. Dashing wasn’t exactly the word that sprang to Butan’s mind.

“You look exotic, Náhte.”

“Oh, I like that even more.”

“Yes, I thought you might. That’s why I said it. Now, what are we going to do?”

“Well, there’s a nice sunset I could paint on the tree. With mud, of course.”

Butan shoved Náhte into a puddle.

“No, Náhte, big picture what are we going to do next?”

“Oh, hrmm. Die, probably. At least, I think that’s what comes after living.”

“You aren’t helping. Especially not since I think those Knights are organizing a search party.”

“We could flee?”

“I like your thinking.”

They fled.


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