Winds of fortune: the worth of a life

“Yes but what about that fella up north and his …”

Kejek slammed her mug down on the table, loudly, clattering platers and sending her fork pinwheeling off the table.

“Oh for the love of … can we not talk about something other than politics?”

Eft and Yantl exchanged a quick look. Eft rolled his eyes heavenward while Kejek recovered her fork from under the table.

“We could but this Thane needs to be …” he began, conciliatory.

Kejek reappeared, slammed the fork tines-first into the table. She leaned across, bringing her scowling grey face close to her companions’ and grabbing a handful of his shirt.

“I think it’s time to talk about something other than politics.” She growled, making it clear to the other two that it was time to talk about something other than politics.

Yantl finished chewing his mouthful of mammoth and said mildly: “Isn’t it so much colder up here than Dawn?”

The other two glared at him. He grinned.

“Sorry, is weather still off the table then? How about we talk about the real problem then? The mines.”

Kejek rocked back onto the bench on her side of the table. “Go on. What mine problem?”

Yantl sliced off another hunk of meat as he spoke.

“Mines. Do you want to work in a mine? Underground. Picks. The rattle of chains. That kind of thing.”

Eft shook his head emphatically. “That’s no life for an orc. No life at all. My grandparents died to get us out of the mines.”

“Everyone’s grandparents died to get us out of the mines.” said Yantl, swallowing another hunk of meat and chewing it meditatively.

The three sat in silence for a moment. Then Kejek raised her mug, and the other two mimiced her in a silent toast, and they each drank a deep mouthful, and then returned to their conversation.

“The mines of Skarsind are rich.” Said Yantl. “Really rich. It’d be a crying shame to let them go to ruin. More than that … Skarsind is rich. It’s not Varushka-rich, not Karov-rich, but it is richer than we’ve ever had before.”

Kejek frowned. “Are you saying we should all … I don’t know. Stop thinking of all the orcs who died in mines and take up a pick? Maybe get the preachers to …”

Yantl shook his head, swallowed convulsivley, coughed madly for a few moments while Eft pounded him on the back and gulped down a mouthful of beer.

“No no no, bugger that idea. No I think we just face facts. Orcs don’t mine. But we do like having our shiny knight’s redboubt and our shieldbreaker axes. So why don’t we just face it. We’re not beggars, nor paupers. We’ve all got money set aside. Let’s just pay people to work the mines for us. I think its probably even prosperous, which will make the preachers happy. And more importantly its sensible.”

“Wise.” said Eft. Yantl and Kejek looked at him. He shrugged. “It’s wise, not sensible, and we’re the people to make it happen.”

Kejek nodded thoughtfully. “We’ve got a lot of experience dealing with the Dawnish and the Leaguers, it’s true.” she said. “How much harder can Winterfolk, Navarri, and … well we’re on the Varushkan border and they do know a lot about mines …”

Eft looked surprised, but Yantl nodded along with her, his enthusiasm growing.

“Yes. There’s more bonesetters in Skarsind now than there has been in one place since the end of the rebellion. And we’ve got fifty more years experience with the humans than we had back then, and we’re … we’re established now, you know what I mean?”

They knew. They’d fought hard to be people, and much of that fighting had taken place since the rebellion technically ended.

“So … what else?” asked Yantl. “We can pay people to work the mines … and I think we need to look at Southpine as well. We’re going to need all sorts of things now, food from the Marches, labour. Wintermark has Hahnmark, they never really needed to worry too much about the trade routes but all we have is Skarsind.”

“And herbs.” Said Eft. The others looked at him. “One life make it count.” he quoted. “I think it’s time we stopped being proud of … of window boxes on the backs of wagons and looked at what we might be able to grow in actual soil. Look at the Hearth Tithe, and the gardens at Treji. We could do that. And bigger. Better. Together.”

The other two smiled at each other. The fire of enthusiasm had caught the big orc physick as well.

They talked long into the night, before tumbling exhausted into bed, all worries about Thanes, and Stormcrows, and the Thule and the war in the Marches banished in the face of a new-found ambition to build something.

A book-end to Skarsind, detailing a trio of opportunities ( … gnificance

This is probably the last WoF for tonight; there will be a handful more tomorrow covering such divers topics as new stars, missing stars, the renewal of poisoned wastelands, angry city-destroying trees, cursed congregations, the other third of the orc situation, and a council of Hakima.

And now I look at that list I suddenly find I really, really want to get an early night.


The picture is by Steph Morris of the things her character Gralka finds in her pockets.