The Free Company

William looked north, his tent flap whipping against his bare arms in the relentless, icy, pre-winter wind.

“Savages, you say, Cedric?”

“Yes, Chief. A small scouting element, to be sure.  Probably looking for a quick kill before the sun sinks behind the mountains, enveloping everything in darkness for the next few months”, Cedric replied.

“‘Tis no matter. We are prepared to parlay should they come this way.  Let them hunt.  Let them feed their young and the wounded.  We have provisions enough to last the winter.  They are no threat to us,” William said softly.

“But, Your Grace, we have heard of these savages from our allies across the sea … horrible stories.  They are not mere savages.  We have heard that they eat their own.” Cedric’s voice cracking … trailing into a whisper.

William paused for a moment, the soft sigh of his exhale clearly visible in the pre-dawn chill.

“No accounting for taste, then, dear Cedric. ”

“My Lord,” Cedric pleaded, ” I implore you to weigh this enemy more mighty than he seems.  Should word of our ally’s position on this continent get back to their kin, they will surely come looking for them.  These are not normal warriors; they delight in the sound of battle and the taste of human flesh.  And, they are not alone.”

Again William paused, clearly weighing the value of his trusted general’s insight.

“Very well.  Assemble the Free Company. We will head out at first light and send these cannibals back across the land bridge.  Piece by piece, if necessary.”

“A wise decision, Your Grace,” Cedric replied, the relief evident in his voice.

As he turned to leave, William grabbed his arm in his calloused, battle-scarred hand.

“Be sure to let our allies know that this ‘intervention’ shall come at a dear price.  The Blackrune Free Company is not a charity.  Our skills at arms do not come cheap.  Tell them, Cedric, that they can expect a hefty fee for our ‘protection'”.

Cedric turned with a nod.  There would be battle ahead.  He could barely contain his grin as he headed into the main camp to assemble his brethren for war.