Flickering lights danced in Led’s dream, his senses overwhelmed by the tang of blood. Half-heard screams pierced his failing mind, backed by the desperate beating of his heart. He shivered from time to time, a chill seeping into him.
He balanced on the edge of wakefulness, vaguely aware of the world around him. The sharp scent of smoke enveloped him, cutting through the stink of gore. Eventually he felt himself moving, slowly pulled by an unseen entity. Then nothing. He could not tell how long he had stood at the brink of consciousness, only that he teetered for some time.
A dull sting radiated from his face, more a nuisance than anything. He tried half-heartedly to scratch his cheek, and to alleviate the bothersome itch on his eye.
A wave of searing pain washed over him as he touched his eyelid, the left side of his face alight with agony. The sellsword groaned, grinding his teeth as he screwed his eyes shut.
“He’s awake,” someone cried, “by my ancestors he alive!”
“Tors,” Led hissed, every syllable laboured, “what in all the hells happened? Why is my face on fire?”
Ledram heard the rattle of steel as his comrade approached. “By my bones,” Tors exclaimed, “I thought you were dead. Done. Deceased.”
“Tors,” Led repeated, “what happened?”
“Here I was planning out a funeral and everything, fretting and fussing-“
Ledram opened his eyes in anger, pushing through the pain. “What the fuck happened to me!?”
His vision returning, Ledram was confronted by a bruised and scratched Tors. The mercenary stood over his companion, silhouetted against the night sky. Bags had formed under his eyes, and it appeared as though he had been weeping.
“Take it easy, Led,” he stated, voice jittering, “I’m just happy your still alive. We’re at the mercenary camp, just outside the capital.” He waved to an unseen structure, Led unable to follow his hand. “You’ve been out of it for two days. It took the medics hours to sew you together. By my ancestors, you were a right mess when I found you.”
“Found me where?” Led spat.
“Piled under a few Telucian rebels, by the oasis,” Tors replied. “I spotted you as I was investigating the bodies.”
“Graverobbing,” Led corrected.
“Even in death you’re a right bastard,” Tors chirped.
“Takes more than some prick with a rebellious streak to put me down,” Led stated, blinking a few times. “Could we take the bloody eyepatch off? I can’t see a damned thing.”
Tors deflated at Led’s request. “I’m afraid… how do I put his?”
Ledram cocked his head. “What?”
“You aren’t wearing an eyepatch.”
“Then what’s over my bloody eye?”
“You lost that eye,” Tors stated, exhaling. “It was cut clean through. The best we could do was remove it and clean the socket.”
Led shot up, grabbing Tors by the collar. Pain flared in his shoulder, but he ignored it. “I lost a goddamn eye!?” he bellowed.
“Calm down!” Tors replied, grabbing Ledram’s arm, “you’ll pop a stitch, and we’re running low on catgut.”
“I. Lost. An. Eye!” Ledram pushed away from Tors, bringing his hand to his face. Wincing, he ran his fingers along the jagged wounds that had been crudely sewn shut. As he brushed his left eye, he felt something cold. “What is this?” he asked.
“It’s a replacement,” Tors stated, “solid silver. I found it on one of the rebels, and thought you should have it.” He paused for a moment, before adding, “The craftsmanship is exquisite, and I think you’ll be pleased.”
“Unless I can start seeing out of it,” Led spat, “I doubt I’ll be anywhere near pleased!” Fuming, he laid back down.
The two went silent, Ledram glaring into the dark sky above. His blood was boiling; this expedition had cost him dearly. What was a bag of money worth when he had been damned to spend the rest of his life crippled?
Tors broke the silence. “I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now-“
“Pissed as all hell!” Led spat.
Tors cleared his throat. “Okay. I can imagine how you’re feeling right now. But we served admirably, us mercenaries in Isaac’s company.”
“All so that bastard could further himself with these thrice-damned politics.”
“He was not as fortunate as you,” Tors stated, “an arrow went clean through the visor of his helmet. He is well and truly dead.”
Ledram snorted. “Alright, that brings me some comfort.”
“Did I mention his wage was split among the survivors of his unit?”
Ledram turned his gaze to Tors, who appeared quite pleased with himself. “No shit?”
“Yessir,” Tors hummed, “it came out to a hundred Jacks a head. And combined with our wages, loot, and the double pay for going in first, we-“
“Have a small fortune,” Led interrupted.
“Not enough to retire,” Tors said, “but certainly enough to start being choosy with our contracts.”
Led sighed. “Doubt I’ll be doing any more contracts.”
“Oh hush now!” Tors chided, “plenty of sellswords find work, even short an eye. A little training and you’ll be as good as ever.”
Ledram huffed. “Name a single one-eyed sellsword.”
“That’s not the point,” Tors said, “the point is you’ll be good as new in no time. Besides, you’ll have a few days to recover on the boat ride home.”
“They cut our contract short. My guess is that her royal majesty’s ambitions were bigger than her coffers. Half of the mercenary army has been disbanded, you and I included. So I booked a pair of bunks on the next freighter to Anwex. Well, one bunk, I wasn’t sure you’d still be… anyway, I’ll get the paperwork signed and we’ll have you aboard by noon.”
Led wanted to object, dreading another trip across the sea, but found himself unable to complain. He pined for home, rainclouds and all. “Alright,” he sighed, “come noon. Now drag me to the mess tent, I’m starving.”