So, I’m not going to let this blog die, not yet, but substitute teaching is way harder than I imagined and adding in all the stuff going on at home and my gaming nights with the Guild I need to think up some new strategies. One of these is that I’m moving my updates to the weekends.Tuesday Night/Wednesday Morning is too busy for me to find time to post anymore.
Also, I’m going to have to bite a bullet and begin posting some stuff I was nervous about posting, like this piece today called Needs. The problem I ran into with Needs is that the story I started to write and the world I started to build did not match the concept I had envisioned. I love what I might be able to do with the story, but for right now it does not work quiet right. Thinking I’ll need to fast forward it, working with Ren and his companion a little later in life and having the following be a flash back.
The plains stretched out as far as the eye could see, tall grasses rippling like a windblown ocean, cut only by a single dirt road. Ren, his fifty foot trailer pulled at a ponderous pace by a giant, horned beast, studied the peaceful landscape. No insects sang in the afternoon sun. No prairie birds leapt to the pale sky. Nothing. There was a pile of boulders up ahead, remnants of some natural force, or perhaps moved by Old Worlders for some unknown reason. As he approached two men stepped out from behind the rocks and headed towards him. Ren watched them from over his sunglasses. The younger man wore a tattered polo, teal, with the arms torn off. The pants had probably once been black, but had long faded to a depressive grey and hung in long strips against his calves. The older man had scavenged up some better clothes, the khaki pants were still in one piece and the suit, though patched at the elbows, maintained an air of decrepit dignity. It was obvious to Ren they were from one of the eastern Cities. The poorly concealed shotguns meant they most likely meant to rob him.
“Good eve.” Ren called out from the seat of his trailer, “What can I do for you gentlemen?” The older man pulled out his gun, clearly not up for small talk.
“Ya got gold and jewels, right? If ya value your life hand ‘em over.” Ren adjusted his appraisal of the men, they were fresh from the cities.
“I’m afraid you have made a mistake. I assume you heard stories that all Traders carry around mountains of gold and jeweled relics-“
“We’ve seen ‘em, just hand it all over so ya don’t get hurt.” the younger man said. He was more nervous than his companion, keeping a wary eye on Betsy. She stared sullenly back, chewing her cud.
“No need to worry about Betsy here. Bixen only care about two things, food and predators. She won’t hurt you.”
“Guess you haven’t seen one before. They’re creatures of the Old World, cross between two species that the Old Worlders once used for labor. She’s still pretty small, only eight feet to her shoulder. Her sire was near twelve feet last I saw-“
“Enough.” The older man shouted, glaring at his companion, “We want the gold. Either cough it up or…” He cocked the shotgun. Ren sighed and adjusted his sunglasses.
“There are two things you need to know about Traders, friend. First of all, the ones that carry the gold and jewels, they’re Wants Traders, they paint a pair of scales on their trailers.” Ren gestured back to his own trailer, where a field of wheat was painted, “Me, I’m a Needs Trader, I specialize in clothes, food, medicine, things like that.”
“But people need to pay for that stuff, right?” the man growled, “I know you’ve got something of value, and you’ve got to the count of three to hand it over.”
“You’re forgetting,” Ren replied, setting Betsy’s reigns down, “There’s still something you need to know about Traders.” Ren grasped the end of the chains lying beside him and jumped. He heard the boom of the shotgun and the clattering of the buckshot hitting his trailer. He also heard a muted scream come from the boulders. Ren flicked his chain, wrapping it around the gun and allowing his momentum to rip it from the man’s hands. “We are fairly good at defending ourselves from bandits.” Ren concluded, using the chain to toss the weapon away.
“Shoot ‘im Son, shoot ‘im” The older man yelled. His son was shaking as he tried to draw his weapon, but it had gotten tangled up amongst his clothes.
“There isn’t any need for violence here, you know.” Ren said making sure his sunglasses were secure, “Your camp is behind those boulders right? Let’s just head on over there and see what kind of deal we can make.”
“Deal?” the father asked, going from screaming to calculating, “What do you mean?”
“I’m a Trader, I don’t hold grudges, I just do business. The cities contain many items from the Old World,” Ren said, walking back to his seat, “things you might not have given much thought to, I can find a need for. At the very least you may be able to resupply me with some blankets or rags for someone farther down the road.”
“And why should we?”
“I do have a small box of gold I can trade you. I received them in a recent transaction with a very desperate man. Not many people need gold out on these plains, but if you say you do I’m willing to trade.”
“You’d just give us gold… for blankets?” Ren grabbed Betsy’s reigns and clucked her into motion.
“Of-of course. Junior, go and find that gun while me and this gentleman conduct business.”
Ren guided Betsy to the far side of the boulders. The men’s camp was just a pile of belongings lying in the dirt, two ratty backpacks and a scattering of empty cans of beans. There was a woman huddled in a crack between two of the stones, a pile a blankets pushed deeper within. Her hair was long and tangled and her clothes were torn in multiple places. She turned as Ren and the man approached, revealing a massive bruise on her left cheek and pure scarlet eyes. She was Blighted, first-generation, twisted up inside by forces from the Old World. The Blight would not harm her further, but if she ever had any children they would be inhuman, either granted strange abilities or monstrous bodies. Sometimes both. Something shifted amongst the blankets and moaned.
“Greetings ma’am. How are you this eve?” Ren hailed. The woman turned back to the blankets.
“Ignore her.” The man said rummaging through one of the backpacks, “Our former boss cut out her tongue ‘cause she was gettin’ mouthy with the gang back home. Those dullards were all terrified of her ‘cause of the Blight, but I know opportunity when I see it. When the Boss was killed I scooped up her and the brat and headed out here. With this much open land I can set-up a gang of my own, maybe even a town, and that woman will give me the kind of monsters I’ll need to make a real name for myself. The kid too if she don’t die. Little mountain cold and she’s havin’ tea with Death, worthless brat.” Ren watched the woman, saw her stiff back and clenched fists, both emaciated with hunger and beaten into submission.
“How old is her child?”
“Ain’t hers,” the man snorted, laying out some silky cloth and a crumpled hat from the Old World, “just some Blighted kid she picked up on the streets. Eight or so, I think.”
“Excellent. I am in need of an apprentice, and Traders must learn the craft young. If you will give me the child, the blankets, and the aluminum cans you have scattered about I will give you all the gold in my possession, as well as some bandages. Acceptable?” The man stared agape at Ren, clearly thinking him mad.
“You’d take the kid and some worthless cans… for gold? What game are you playing?”
“No game. I need an apprentice and I know a man who trades fair value for metals. You have said you needed gold, is this an acceptable trade? Or perhaps you need more ammo for your guns instead of the bandages?”
“Gold and Bullets…” the man laughed, “you’ve got yourself a deal, you crazy bastard!” Ren walked over to the woman and placed his hand on her shoulder.
“May I?” the woman began shaking violently, but she did not move. The man rushed over and dragged her away by her hair.
“Move you stupid bitch.” He snarled, “she ain’t even yours, what do you care?” The woman screamed, a wordless cry of helpless rage and sorrow. Ren knelt down and picked up the child. She was tightly wrapped in layers upon layers of blankets, the only visible part of her was her face, flushed with fever. She weighed next to nothing. Ren walked back to his trailer; the woman continued screaming until the sound of a fist striking flesh silenced her. Ren released the latch, holding the child with one arm, and walked past rows of barrels and boxes to gently lay the child on his bed. He began unwrapping her, unsurprised to find she had small horns and tufted ears. A second-generation Blighter. He couldn’t know how the woman had hidden her daughter’s condition, but he admired the effort it must have taken. Ren began gathering the ammo and the gold. He would give the man about fifty slugs for the shotguns and about two pounds of gold jewelry. After placing everything into one of the empty boxes, Ren also grabbed two of the child’s blankets and a dagger. As he exited the trailer he saw the son returning with the shotguns.
“Here is what you requested.” Ren said, tossing the box on the ground. The man scrambled over to the spilled jewelry, shouting that he’d finally hit it rich. Ren walked over to the woman, who was on her knees gathering the cans. She looked up as Ren’s shadow fell over her.
Blood was running down her face from a newly broken nose. Ren knelt down and took off his sunglasses. Her ruby eyes widened as they met his Amethyst gaze.
“I don’t give people what they desire,” he said placing one of the blankets in her arms, guiding her hand to the dagger hidden within, “I give them what they need. She will live free and she will be safe.” Ren stood, placing his glasses back over his eyes, “If you can make it there is a village three days to the south, they will take you in. If that isn’t your choice…” Ren gathered the cans in the second blanket and placed them in his trailer. The father and son were tossing gold bangles and earrings into the air, whooping with greedy joy. Ren vaulted back up into his seat and took up Betsy’s reigns. The child would take at least a week of treatment to recover. He’d need to make good time. Ren turned Betsy to the west and set off along his route.