Franklin coughed and moved away from the incinerating pyre. It seemed that no matter which direction he approached it from, the wind changed within a few moments and he was breathing smoke again. He pulled off the rag that was tied around his face and rubbed it in a snow drift to clean it. After rubbing three or four black smudges into the snow, he shook it, wrung it out and folded it triple instead of double this time before returning it to cover his mouth and nose. Franklin then hefted up another armload of wood and returned to the burning corpses. Then, with the last of their precut firewood thrown on the pyres, Franklin walked upwind between Thom and Elmo.
“What a putrid stench.”
Thom pulled off his own face rag and used it to blow his nose before answering.
“It’s nasty business and their ain’t two ways about it.”
Thom was uncouth but a decent warrior with a fair bit of experience which he had flaunted their first three matches. However the old man had used up all of his tricks within that first week of fencing and Franklin had bested him at every contest since then. About a week ago Franklin’s true skill level had finally penetrated Thom’s brain. Since then the mercenary had managed to weasel out of every combat request Franklin made.
“There’s no more wood.”
Franklin glanced at the huge thug standing beside him who was staring at the, now non existent, wood pile from which they had been retrieving wood. Elmo made Thom look like a Magi in comparative intelligence. He was slow as a tortoise and not much smarter. The one good thing about having him as a companion was he couldn’t come up with many excuses spur of the moment. This provided Franklin with at least one small way to show off his fencing skill.
“Aren’t we supposed to get more wood?”
Franklin stared at the oaf in disbelief.
“What on earth for?”
“Simon said to burn the corpses.”
“And they are burning … not that I understand what we’re doing taking orders from a barbarian in the first place.”