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Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories

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The Grudging Allotment

Everyone in the inn’s common room were ostentatiously minding their own business yet eyes couldn’t resist darting to the farthest corner table where an odd quartet sat in the shadows drinking. At the table with her back to the room sat a woman of middle years wearing white robes. They had seen her come in and all had noted her long glory of hair, pulled tightly back and her weathered beauty and stern visage. At her right hand rested a long, unembellished staff. To her left sat a lean man all sinew and gristle. He wore his graying hair short and his clothes in black and grays were close fitting, much mended and utterly functional. A scabbarded long sword leaned against the table and seemed to quiver now and then. He seemed to be lost in conversation with his table mates but his eyes continuously scanned the crowd. Most disturbing to the bar crowd was the death rune branded into his forehead. To the woman’s right sat a hulking brute of a man. Where the death rune man was lean and well kempt this man was a mass of hair and furs and muscles. Every inch of skin not covered by furs or hair was scarred. Leaning up against the wall next to him was an iron great rune axe. On his back was an iron target shield with the mark of the Bull in the centre. He seemed to ignore the crowd and looked to be completely at ease. Across from the woman sat a scarecrow of a man. The bar crowd could smell him from where they sat. His clothes were nothing but tatters except for a beautiful red scarf with Lunar runes he wore wrapped around his neck. On his head perched some sort of dead animal in what was apparently intended as a lifelike pose.

“Life,” belched the bullman, “is good. I have survived yet another year of living in honour of my god and have slain much chaos. People are always grateful to us when a chaos nest is found.” “And does their gratitude linger once the danger is past?” the woman asked. A frown came over the bullman’s face. He shook his head in an irritated manner not unlike a bull bothered by flies. “No, once the danger is past their gratitude becomes a trickle like their ale and mead and hospitality. They are always keen to see us when danger exists but they are just as glad to see us leave after the danger is over. The chief begins to whine about the expense of our drink and food and the women get tired of our advances. Nowhere it seems has enough danger for us to be always welcome.”

“And what of death?” asked the woman. The whipcord man smiled a cold smile and spoke in a raspy voice. “No one is eager to see death. Yes in time of war we are almost welcome but our killing is too cold and dispassionate for most. We see no kin or family if the god has his way. All of the living are equal in the eyes of the god. They are happy enough to stand near us in the shieldwall or follow after us in the charge but they want us to keep away from their livestock, crops and pregnant women.”

The scarecrow of a man spoke next. “Yes, you lot have a hard enough time of it but at least your gods are easy on you.” The other two men scoffed openly at this claim. “No, listen. Mine rides me like a drunk does a donkey and he always seems of twelve minds about everything. No one would ever hurt either of you through fear but who fears me? Satire and ridicule only go so far. Someday I will push too hard and someone will find my corpse in a dark corner somewhere as full of holes as my head always is. And no one to avenge me.” The two other men didn’t speak but they each placed a hand on the scarecrow’s shoulders.

The three men looked at the woman and the hulk asked, “And what of the healer then?” The woman smiled somewhat bitterly, “Oh, everyone loves a healer. When they lose an arm in an accident or a stupid fight they love me. When chaos has cursed them with disease or someone is poisoned they love me. You should see how they loved me when I quested to bring a chief’s daughter killed unjustly back from the other side. Oh how they loved me. But then I healed a horse injured by an angry thane before the thane himself and they seemed to love me less. I followed a raid and healed all according to need and they loved me less yet. And then I healed a Lunar.” The hulk gasped and she looked angrily at him. “She was not tainted by chaos and was in need.” She paused to drink, “And that’s when then they suggested that maybe it was time for me to move on. That’s how much they love me.”

The foursome sat lost in thought, each remembering a group of four children playing happily in a meadow together before any gods had come seeking followers. They each felt a tug and rose to leave. “Next year again?” asked the woman. The scarecrow and the hulk nodded. The whipcord man whispered, “As long as the god lets me remember that meadow I will come.” They left the room and the crowd breathed a sigh of relief.

Last updated October 07, 2016

Glorantha is a trademark of Chaosium, Inc. Gloranthan material on this page is copyright ©1997-2016 by Oliver D. Bernuetz or by the author specifically mentioned on an individual page. Glorantha is the creation of Greg Stafford, and is used with his permission.

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