Telnarian Histories 01, The Chieftain by John Norman

By John Norman

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It had taken Gathron no more than two minutes to die. He had died squirming, gasping, eyes bulging, staring, at the peasant's feet. Page 44 The peasant had watched this intently, for he had never seen a man die before. But he had seen animals die, of course, and had killed many of them, and then butchered them. So, too, had other young men of the village. He, and the others were familiar with blood, and killing. It was part of their way of life. They thought little of it. Perhaps it is well to make that clear.

The territory had been scouted earlier by Hageen merchants, welcomed by the men and women of the villages. To be sure, as is always the case, some had eluded the nets of the horsemen, doubtless men returning to the villages, finding them burned, the occupants slain, or missing. The claw prints of the horses of the Heruls, the marks of blades on timbers, an occasional arrow in the soil, the marks on the bodies, the unmistakable print of the stones, the parts of bodies, the impaled bodies, made things clear enough.

Too, this suggests what was the case, that the peasant had very little in the way of funds. He had left the festung Page 45 village with some seven pennies given to him by Brother Benjamin, who had been his mentor from childhood, those and a sack of bread on his back. He had walked to Venitzia, staff in hand, bread on his back. For the most part, he lived off the country. In this way he conserved the bread as long as possible. It is not hard for a given person, or a small group, to live off the country, at least for a time, if one can distinguish between what is edible and what is not edible, and is not squeamish.

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