Soon Earl called a halt for a noon meal. Franklin pulled out the tin of fried potatoes he’d packed and Earl groaned.
“And now we’re supposed to eat cold the festerin’ swill I couldn’t stomach for breakfast hot. At least one of you seem to be an asset to the camp, though I still can’t see how Walt parted with nine weight for ya.”
Franklin took the backhanded compliment as a sign he was passing the tests and grinned.
“Well, even if Martha doesn’t manage to spice up a decent potato broth, I figure we’ll have better fare than this for dinner. That is one of the benefits of being on the hunt.”
“True. Bear flank never did sound quite so good.”
Earl chewed down a mouthful of potatoes and then threw the rest of his share away.
“Ah forget it. I can go hungry a little longer if it means getting that bear faster. After all hunger is the greatest spice.”
Franklin wasn’t sure he wanted his meal quite as spicy as Earl seemed to, and besides he knew he’d need his strength if anything unexpected happened on the hunt. Trying to think of a way to delay the short foreman long enough to finish his potatoes, Franklin’s gaze fell on the short sword strapped to the other man’s belt.
“Is there a story behind your blade?”
“What this here darning needle? I guess ya could say so. Not a pretty one though. Used to belong to the fellow what held yer post when we first staked this mine years ago. I know she’s not much to look at, but she’s got a silver lining and that’s what matters. Plus she’s been put to the test against weir hide.”
Franklin couldn’t keep the surprise from showing on his face.
“You’ve killed a weir?”
“Not me personal like. But this blade has. Rusty managed to force it far enough into the rib cage of the infected what attacked him that he ended its run. He got roughed up pretty bad in the process, but he was so excited that he didn’t care.”
“Where is he now?”
Earl’s gaze was steady as he replied.
“Didn’t ya here me say he got roughed up? We were lucky though. Rusty was so proud over his first weir kill that he didn’t even think about what we’d have to do. None of the rest of us had silver weapons but I was able to get the jump on him and take his head out with a pickaxe before he turned. Even infected can’t come back from that. Walt thanked me for my quick thinking and gave me the blade for a reward.”
The potato in Franklin’s throat went down like a stone. He pushed the rest onto the ground and stood up looking away from his companion. Rusty hadn’t even turned yet. Franklin knew he was in danger up here, but he’d not considered that he might face violence at the hands of his own camp because they thought he ‘might’ turn. He had a new desire to find out just how good Earl really was with that short sword.