Horror on the Orient Express
Belasir hated this. He absolutely hated this.
He had thought it was bad enough when he had been stuck overseeing the building of the defensive wall. He didn’t have the temperament for that sort of thing. He could quite happily spend hours waiting for the right moment to take down some game, or attack someone, or avoid being caught and spotted. That he was fine with, even enjoyed, but watching people lay stone on stone? Tedious. He had barely had a chance to shoot anything.
When Tillius had collected him for a final mission before retirement, he had been elated. When told to get his things together, he had picked up his pack from by his feet with his small oval shield attached to it and would have been ready to march out of Nova Roma then and there, except Tillius wanted to collect some others first.
Belasir had been happy to see the faces of the other 5 of their old squad of Fortes Falcone that Tillius had picked out. Going anywhere without the Old Man would have felt wrong after 20 years in service together. He was much more of a father than Belasir’s actual father had ever been. The medicus Asinius could be frightfully obscure at times, but what did you expect from a reader like him? Most important was that of all the medicus who had been with them, Asinius was the one they all trusted to stitch them up safely. Melonius was always good to have around, handy in a fight with his bow and a good drinking partner to boot. Lorenz was a demon with his spear, always a good man to hide behind, and the Bear? Belasir didn`t know anyone who had bested him in the ring when it came to bare handed fighting. A good solid group, if smaller than what they usually had.
All of them had been unsettled by the way Millitus had treated them – the wine had been nice, but how could you appreciate when the senior officers are treating you weird like that? Sure they had a relaxed relationship with Tillius and the Old Man, but they had fought side by side … well, in the same battles even if Belasir had been out of sight a lot using his crossbow … but none of them had any such relationship with Millitus. It was dang odd.
As the ship had left the docks of Nova Roma, Belasir had been fuming about the way that neither Lorenz nor the Bear had turned up. So what if Tillius said if they didn’t want to come they should run and hide? Just cos he said it didn`t mean he meant it! After so many years together how could they dishonour Tillius like that? Tillius had put his neck out to vouch for them as being his best men, and they thank him by being cowards and trashing his faith in them. They had better run far!
He’d had fun at their first stop. As the rest had run around getting supplies, Belasir had entertained himself with the local troops. They’d been asking why the Fortes Falcone were there, but obviously none of them couldn`t say anything. Millinus had demanded that pledge. So while the others had denied to comment or just bluntly told them to go away, Belasir had claimed they were looking for recruits good enough to join, and had had a group of wannabes doing all sorts of things before he had finally slipped away to meet the others. If the wannabes were going to be that gullible they deserved it as far as Belasir was concerned.
But now they were at the outpost, everyone asking where the rest of the relief column was. That wasn`t a good sign.
That the current commander had practically jumped to be able to hand off command had been an even worse sign.
And then everything had gone horribly wrong as the screaming babbling woman’s skin had ripped all the way down the sores on the back of the spine and pulled off as easily as a strumpet’s stola. Skinning rabbits was easy, a quick tug was all it took, but that strenuous when compared to the way the woman’s skin slipped off.
The medicus had been mad, asking for a pig of all things as Belasir had sluiced them both off in the rain. Naturally Belasir had gone straight to the Old Man to let him know what had happened, and had ended up loitering outside the tent that acted as the hospital, hugging a rather charming pig. It would have been more comforting had the pig not been so persistent in trying to nibble his ear.
As Belaris had handed the pig over the tents threshold – he had no intention of going back in that hellish place again! – he had hoped that his day couldn’t get any worse. Then the Old Man had come out and spoken to him. And not just today got worse, but the next couple of days as well.
Belaris sat crouched on his haunches, loaded crossbow on his lap, short sword part drawn for ease. His back was pressed against the side of some chest full of medicus stuff. In front of him was Asinius, pottering away, talking in literal greek to the other medicus, and examining the hordes of ill people, all suffering from the Valerian Plague.
Belaris hated this. He hated being around ill people. He didn’t much like most people to be honest, but he was going to have to stay here surrounded by ill people to keep an eye on Asinius and protect him. And all because the Old Man couldn`t trust anyone else to do so. It was nice to be thought of highly like that by the Old Man, but not for this. He really hated it. He’d have to give Milo a hoofing for having left him in this position. What had the archer done that had made the Old Man not trust him? He hoped the Old Man was giving him something worse to do because of whatever it was.