I knew that leaving the relative security of Khador and the life I had laid before me there wasn’t a certain way to find something more than the rigors of the military and the apparent disregard for my life when my usefulness ran out.
So here I am, former Rastovik of the Greylords, former warcaster for the Empire, and now with my rank turned in and my removal from the military roles, I’ve got little enough left. I spent the remainder of my service at Ravensgard, which suited the higher ups fine. It kept me away from anything important rand relegated me to demeaning busywork.
Once my six months were up, I packed up the few things that were mine and turned my back on my homeland and sought my fortune elsewhere.
A week in, I learned my first, and probably most important lesson: everywhere is covered in mud.
I expected this when I was in the military. One battlefield or training ground was much the same as another: a flat, cratered morass that was roughly the consistency of watered down stew.
Outside of service, I expected it to be, I don’t know…less dirty, maybe? Sadly, that has not been my experience. Once I left Ravensgard, I had to make my own way, having little money, and little in the way of prospects.
I started in Llael and moved south and west, living hand-to-mouth as I slogged along the border roads, too poor to afford rail or horse. At least here, I was able to keep myself fed and mostly dry, if not exactly clean, doing odd jobs, repairing mechanika and driving the odd laborjack in some menial piece of work.
I ended up in Fellig, long one of the more reputable border towns, since three countries had their fingers in it. Even with that, tensions always seemed high: the very obvious Khadoran militia and officers eyeing the very obvious Cygnaran militia and officers, all the while the sparse Ordic forces keeping a nominal presence to avoid any open conflicts.
Once there, and once I realized there was nothing for me there, I quickly ran out of prospects, but I found a man who was running a supply of what he referred to as “high quality fertilizer” to Hearthstone, and said he was in need of a mechanik. I offered to help, sadly not before I realized that high quality fertilizer is just a fancy way of saying amazingly smelly pigshit.
I spent the next several days trying to keep my head buried in the broiler of the limping laborjack that pulled the man’s wagons because a mouth and nose full of coal dust and smoke was far better than our pungent cargo.
In Hearthstone, I was once again left to my own devices as, once the delivery was made, he informed me that he’d be staying a while to plan a return trip.
It was only by happenstance that I saw another group roll into town through the mud and muck. I was, should I mention, tired of the stench of hooaga. I’ll take some fine Rhulish tobacco any day. Regardless, the motley crew of this particular caravan had with them another warcaster, I could sense him immediately, and a mercenary at that. He looked like an ass, surly mouth and pompous attitude, and apparently he didn’t like the company because no sooner were they through the gate than he was off like a bolt, leaving them with an untended jack and several wagons of cargo.
I offered my services to the leader, a man named Mugferd ’Merkins as I watched the two trollkin with him lift a crate that was cripplingly heavy and somehow manage to power it into the warehouse, even if it left them both breathless.
Mugferd accepted my terms and offered to pay me handsomely for my help, on the condition that it continue on to Tarna which is where his contract would get him paid. I agreed, and with the help of his jack, relatively short work was made of cargo, despite the mechanikal mule being locked to prevent me from having true control over it.
Once the work was done, Mugferd urged us out of town, to make our way to the next destination and we agreed. He was given a gift a hand rolled cigar as thanks, and we were on our way.
Once we bedded down for the night, we set watches, and for the first watch, everything seemed seemed fine, and then, just after midwatch started, we were attacked. It was the brutish trollkin that took the brunt of the attack, suffering some damage, which their hearty constitution shook off.
Our retaliation was swift, if not particularly brutal. The alchemist threw grenades, which burned a section of the forest, and the trolls showed all their primitive fury in the counter attack. I can honestly say it was the first time I’d ever seen someone screamed to death. For my part, without my armor wading into battle was not really and option, so I made do with what I could: the laborjack.
It is not a thing made for war, and with most of its commands locked to me, controlling it was even harder, so instead I used my magic, overriding the basic controls and sent it hurling into the underbrush after our assailants like a cannot shot.
The results were…messy, to say the least. Seeing a jack’s fist or weapons covered with gore is one thing, but to see it smash into another being and watch them explode as several tons of steel and fire batter against them is another thing entirely. After that, the battle was largely over, and we lost the ring leader of our attacker. In victory, I decided that the scalp bits would make an excellent victory trophy for mechnikal mangler.
We roused Mugferd, who had apparently been slipped something in his goodbye cigar, and had to explain to him the circumstances of the dead men and blood-covered machine of burden. Once that was discussed and we assured ourselves of no lasting damage and no loss of cargo, we bedded down for the rest of the evening, intent on getting an early start as possible to the town of Tarna.