“I may have underplayed the situation, slightly…” Tors declared, taking a step back.
“You lied to me,” Ledram spat, his nails digging into the leather bindings of his blade.
“I did no such thing!” Tors replied, frantically glancing about as he held his hands in front of him. “It’s like I said, ten Jacks a day to-“. The soft rasp of steel against leather stopped Tors dead.
“Explain. Now,” Ledram hissed.
Tors exhaled, deflating noticeably. “All right, I’ll explain. Just put the bloody sword away, you’re making a scene.”
Ledram complied, sheathing his blade, although his hand remained at his belt. Satisfied, Tors began. “Like I was saying, the pay is still ten Jacks a day. Thats thirty crowns mind you.” Ledram remained unimpressed. “And we’re still raiding villages and hamlets, just like I said.”
“But?” Ledram growled.
“But… Well, you see, Led, the imperial family is a complicated entity. Cousins bedding cousins, sisters wed to uncles, and claimants to the throne are as common as lice.” Ledram’s scowl deepened. “Anyway, her majesty’s brother… nephew… husband? He decided he would make a better ruler than his… sister, and…”
“And it seems half of the nobility has agreed with him.”
“It’s civil war then.”
“Well, officially we’ll be on a “punitive expedition”, but-“
“I’m out,” Ledram stated, “you and your imperial majesty can shove it. I’m not fighting in another bloody war!” The sellsword turned and took a step, but was stopped by a firm grip on his shoulder.
“Come now Led, be reasonable!”
“I am being reasonable!” Ledram exclaimed, turning to face Tors. He planted a gloved finger square on his comrade’s chest. “If I was any more reasonable, I would have gutted you on the spot! You betrayed me, Tors! Broke every bloody code we’ve ever lived up to!”
“I broke nothing!” Tors shouted, stepping forward. “You’re my brother, Led. The closest thing to family I’ve ever had!”
“You scammed me into sailing a world away to die! How’s that family?”
“I had to do something!” Tors exclaimed, “like it or not you were a dead man walking!”
Ledram snorted. “I was doing fine up till this point.”
“Till this point, yes,” Tors agreed, his tone softening. “I’ve yet to see you bested by man or beast. You’re a poet with a sword.” He paused for a moment. “How old are you, Led?”
“How old? I’ve known you, what, a decade? And I never learned your age.”
“Thirty six, why?”
“Because men like you and me don’t retire. We don’t have golden years.” Tors exhaled. “How long can you keep going like you are, living contract to contract? Five years? Six? And nothing to show for it but scars and stories.”
“And your point?” Ledram hummed, crossing his arms.
“What will you do when you run out of coin, when your sword-arm fails you? No craftsman would take an old man on as an apprentice, and I doubt you’ll be cut out for fieldwork.” Tors looked Led square in the eye. “You’ll either die on a contract, or starve.”
When Ledram remained silent, Tors continued. “Here we have an opportunity, not just for coin but for a future. We can line our pockets, return home, and live like kings! We can grow fat into our twilight years, and die wreathed in silken sheets!”
“Assuming we don’t die on the field.”
“At least you’ll go out at your prime,” Tors scolded, “and not half eaten by some beast or mutilated by some bandit. Believe me, I’ve had to bury bits and pieces of a friend more than once.”
Ledram crossed his arms, deep in thought. Tors had a point, though the sellsword was loathe to admit it. His last contract netted him naught but a few missing teeth and twenty crowns to cover room and board.
“Tell you what,” Tors said, putting a hand on Ledram’s shoulder, “I’ll sweeten the pot a bit. Half of my wage on top of yours for the first month.”
Ledram sighed, unfolding his arms. He glowered at Tors, and stated, “Fine, I’ll take the bloody job. But don’t expect me to forgive you anytime soon.”
Tors smirked, and led his comrade through the camp. “I knew you’d be reasonable,” he chirped. “Just think about it, the locals will be telling the story of the Lead Man for years to come! The terror of Anwex, the sword-singer, the-“
“Just show me to the damn tent.”