Security at the mines consisted of two night watchmen. Bristleboar demi-humans, though physically impressive, tended to be a lazy and undisciplined bunch. While two watchmen were enough to alert the others in case of a beast attack, they were woefully inadequate in stopping the Iron Banner Mercenary Company. The watchmen were easily subdued and restrained without a sound.
The mercenaries moved silently through the camp, taking position surrounding the huts. When they all were in position, Baatar gave the order, and the doors were kicked down. A brief struggle, and the guards dragged out, some injured, but all of them alive. Not a single guard had managed to lay hand on a weapon and most had surrendered almost immediately. They were gathered into a group, on their knees, surrounded by the mercenaries. A complete victory.
“W-What is the meaning of this Captain? Has there been some problem with our transaction? I’m quite willing to renegotiate.” The pale-faced merchant spoke, shivering in his night-clothes.
Baatar ignored him, and patiently waited, taking measure of the guards.
“We’ve enough coin to-to make you rich, Captain. The coffers are in the safe. I can open it for you, and I will forget you were ever here.”
The guards chime in with what they can offer, how they could be of use, some begging and pleading. Several of the mercenaries stepped forward and clubbed them into silence. Healing the worst of the boy’s injuries had taken the better part of an hour, and the entire company had seen his swollen stomach and jutting ribs, his bruised flesh and layered scars. Taduk was unable to finish, fearing he would overtax the boy’s body. The girl was especially vicious, a tigress defending her newfound cub. Baatar smiled at the thought. Good, Good. Good. She had waited too long to start a family, in his opinion.
“I have land! Slaves! My Daughter and two nieces, peerless beauties each, all yours if you spare me! Please don’t kill me.” The merchant was already crying. They hadn’t even touched him. A worthless excuse of life.
Charok finally appeared with the boy, having been kept back until it was safe. He had been cleaned and fed, but a single nights rest was not enough to mend him. He walked with a hunched back, head down out of habit. Baatar frowned at the sight. Healing the body was simple, but they had no method to heal the mind. That could only be left to time. Charok and the boy stopped in front of the subdued guards.
Baatar silenced the spineless merchant with a glare. “This boy was taken from our tribe. Enslaved here. I want to know when and where you purchased him.”
“Of course, of course. Whatever you need. Gortan! Tell the Captain everything. Leave nothing out.”
The ugliest bristleboar Baatar had ever seen spoke up. “Uh, Apologies to Ser Wolf, but we don’t keep no records or nothin’ like that. We jus’ buy from whoever sellin’ cheap. I can’t be sayin’ about any when or who from.”
“Bring me to speak to the slaves. Perhaps one of them remembers.”
“Uh, I can do that, but they ain’t goin’ be no help. Them slaves all dead. Had to put em down. Mister Xin o’er there gave us the orders last night. Gots the sickness in them. Said it’d be cheaper to replace em.”
“How DARE you slander me, you vile disgusting creature! If it weren’t for your stupidity at managing this, I wouldn’t even have needed to be here.” The merchant was screeching now.
“I can take ye to the slave market, mebbe one of them sellers be rememberin’ where that slave come in from.” Gortan offered, hopeful.
The boy had walked off. Perhaps he wanted to grieve for a friend? Baatar watched the boy walk into one of the guard huts and return quickly with a large club in his hands. He dragged it behind him, leaving a small furrow in his wake. Baatar smiled and remained silent, as the boy marched up to Gortan. He lifted the club in both hands, setting it to rest on his shoulder. He wound up, and smashed the club into Gortan’s knee with all his strength.
The club glanced off the knee, ineffective. The bristleboar’s eyes darted from the boy to Baatar, too afraid of the latter to move against the former. The boy lifted the club and tried again. And Again. And Again. Each strike as futile as the last. The boy was screaming incoherently, tears streaming down his face, his body failing him, unable to exert his rage. Alsantset stepped towards the boy and took the club from his hands, patting him on the back.
“Allow me to aid you little Rain.”
She turned and smashed the club, one-handed into the same knee, breaking bone. Gortan fell to the ground, screaming and clutching his knee. A second strike broke his hands, followed by a third. He laid curled upon the ground as Alsantset laid strike after strike on him, each one breaking bones. She continued until Gortan laid prone on his stomach, barely breathing, all his limbs broken, unable to even crawl anymore. She handed the bloody club to the boy and maneuvered him into position at Gortan’s head.
The boy nodded in thanks, eyes focused on Gortan, and lifted the club, two-handed, above his head. After a moment of quiet thought, he brought it down with all the force his body could muster. It landed with a wet thump. The club went back up, and down again, this time with a muffled, wet, crack. And Again. And Again.
“This has gone on long enough, Captain. He is a child.” Gerel whispered to Baatar. Even as Second-in-Command, Gerel was wary of upsetting Alsantset.
“Young in years, but aged in suffering. He is a man, and a man deserves to carry out his vengeance with his own hands. Let him leave his anger and hatred here, and return with us free of those burdens.”
“Hatred can also poison the spirit. Be wary you do not allow it to settle too deep in him.” Gerel stepped back, his argument done. It was a moot point. The boy was spent. He had fallen to his knees, crying. Between sobs, he kept repeating the same thing, over and over again.
“I am not a slave.”
Alsantset held him gently, soothing him as he cried. It was done. There would be no more answers here. Baatar gave his orders.
“Kill the guards. Then we return home.”
He turned to the merchant, removing his token from his pouch. “By the authority of the Empire, I charge these guards with murder. I find them guilty, and sentence them to death.”
The merchant Xin nodded furiously. He didn’t care about the guards. He was going to survive. “Of course, of course. You are completely justified, and I am happy to see justice completed so swiftly. To have such criminals working for me is a shame to all my ancestors.” He carried on praising Baatar, as he was lead to a hut by Gerel. Baatar trusted that he would impart to the merchant the consequences of an inquiry in this matter. Baatar would have preferred to kill the merchant as well, but that would be a black mark on the reputation of The Iron Banner. That the merchant had been escorted here by them was a matter of record. Having him turn up dead would reflect poorly on them.
The boy watched as they killed the guards, resisting all of Alsantset’s attempts to bring him away. There was no joy on the boys face. No mercy, or hatred, or even satisfaction. He watched it all silently, as if it were his duty to see each and every death. When it was all over, he asks quietly “What am I supposed to do now?” He did not address anyone in particular, as if thinking aloud. Baatar gave the boy the friendliest smile he could.
“Did you not hear me earlier boy? The guards are dead. So now we return home.”
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