Part 8 of 8 – 600 Words
This work of fiction contains strong elements of horror and violence. Reader discretion is advised.
Ozzen let out a long, low whistle and Anton erupted into a fit of laughter so convulsive that he spilled his drink all over himself. Ambroys grit his teeth and glared at the elderly halfling.
“Scrap Knight! Ha! That’s a good one!” said Anton still seizing with peals of laughter. “Next you’ll be telling me that Crot guided you from the Morass himself! Does Ruvest tuck you in at night too, boy?” The halfling tried to struggle out a few more words but they were eclipsed by his side-splitting guffaws.
“I’m glad you find this all so amusing,” growled Ambroys.
“Well, Son, you do have to admit that it’s one hell of a yarn,” said Ozzen. The Candle’s brow was furrowed. He took a long draw off his cigarillo and blew slow deliberate smoke rings. “Sometimes I forget just how young you new recruits can be,” he said more to himself than to the others.
“Excuse me, sir?” said Ambroys taken aback.
“Boy, the Scrap Knight ain’t nothing but a legend,” said Anton wiping his eyes. “He’s the boogeyman of the bog, the story we tell sprouts to keep them from wandering into the Morass. ‘Don’t go in the swamp or the Scrap Knight will get you,’ that sort of thing. But he ain’t real.”
Ambroys stayed focused on Candle Ozzen. “Sir, I’m not from Reaper’s Fen. I don’t know what the hell a Scrap Knight is, but I know what I saw.”
Ozzen held his young soldier’s stare so long that Ambroys thought he could almost count the cogs as the gears turned behind the officer’s eyes. He didn’t give a rat’s ass if Anton believed him but Ozzen was his commanding officer. If Candle didn’t believe him, then his credibility in the Vigil was shot. His career would be over before it really began. Worse, folks would start to wonder why he had lied. They’d whisper. At best they would say he was nuts or maybe a coward. At worst, they’d say he was a traitor. Just the thought made the vein in his temple throb. No, Ozzen was a good man. He’d see the truth.
Candle Ozzen ran a thick hand over his broad jawline. With a sigh, he plucked the stub of the cigarillo from his lips and chucked it into the fire. Then he patted his knees and stood. “I think this has been a long morning for you, son. Let’s get you back to the barracks, let the medic take a look at your scrapes, and get you some rest. We can go over all this again tomorrow.”
Ambroys did not move. He stared coolly back at the Candle and said, “Sir, I’m telling the truth.”
“No one’s calling you a liar,” he said with a kind of put-upon patience. “Let’s go.”
Ambroys remained seated.
Ozzen planted his feet and pulled another cigarillo from an interior pocket. He jabbed it between his molars and said, “Son, I am trying to help you right now, but you are testing my patience.”
“Candle, I am not asking for your help. I am asking for you to listen to me,” said Ambroys jumping to his feet. “I saw what I said I saw, and I’ve got the proof!” He reached into his tattered tunic and withdrew a rag doll, soiled with straw poking from the seams. He brandished it at the two of them like a talisman.
The cigarillo fell to the barroom floor as Ozzen’s mouth fell open. Anton choked off his chuckles. “Well fuck me running,” he said. The color drained from his wrinkled face. “The Scrap Knight is real!”
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