The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 48

He had no idea why Parton had asked him to travel this far out just to spy on a teacher.

Foreman Graves yawned as he leaned against the window sill across from the small school. The Waring Woods was a small village on the outskirts of Millewhist featuring mostly poor farmers not yet caught up in the whirlwind of steam farming apparatuses. Most of the farms around the Chop and to the east of Millewhist had converted over. Here on the western reaches of Millewhist’s borders, it was all old school. Magic was performed out in the open. The Sigil didn’t even have a post out this far. It was too close to the Cracked Plains and Mount Hewn. The nobles had once hilariously used this as a vacation spot, a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Capital city.

The husks of their rotted homes dotted the spots where crops weren’t, their decadence lost on generation after generation of hard scrabble soil turners. Graves had once called a place like this near the Capital his home. But the lure of the Machine was too great, especially when the farm owner he had worked for up and fired everyone. A few days after the firing, steam plumes had risen from the crops. He had been replaced with the very machinery he would wind up helping make.

The irony of it was lost on him. He was a doer, not a thinker. And whatever he was told to do, he did it. Morality, right and wrong, legality, all took a back seat to his orders. He liked it that way. Thinking was for fat people behind desks. Roddy Graves got things done.

His job now was to spy on a teacher. Odd thing to do. She was old. Took care of kids. He hadn’t a clue why Parton had asked him to do this. He didn’t even know when he’d get an opportunity to- how had Parton put it?

“Tie up an old and frayed loose end.”

Roddy knew what that meant. He’d have to put his old stag cleaning skills to use, stick her, leave her bleeding and crying. He’d done it dozens of times before for everyone from other Foremen to the Chairman himself. Another notch in his belt, another stack of gold going into his safe. And a teacher in some far off farming village?

“But don’t take her at her home. Nor around others. Make it clean. Quiet.”

Parton had respect for this one, he guessed. No matter to him. He’d obey orders. Do what was to be done.

“And tell her that ‘Lottie sends his love’ before handling it.”

Whatever the boss wanted. He didn’t even bother asking who Lottie was. Not his problem. He just needed gold. Worthington had never given Roddy the time of day, the prick. “Scythe” was laughable, a bastard bored noble. Screw his crew. Had fucked things up, run out on the big boss, gotten sloppy. Roddy wasn’t sloppy. He did what needed to be doing.

The teacher sent each child, be they Hume or Animas, off with a hug. Roddy’s teachers had never done that. They always hit him or kicked him. Told him to get out. Told him he’d never amount to anything. Well, look at him now. Working for the Chairman, right under. Ready to blow up, get the respect Worthington had always hogged. What did that halfbreed know about clean and quiet? Not a damn thing.

She was alone now. He knew her name to be Elara or something like that. Real pretty name. Ugly broad, though. Time had not been nice to her. Maybe just older than the boss? Maybe. Didn’t matter. She’d get stuck, no question. But not today. A bunch of older, maybe teenaged, kids started to come around after the schooling was done. What business did they have with her? More learning? Didn’t that stop at age twelve in these parts? Roddy had left at ten. Had had enough. Screw em. He’d show em. He had. He was. He will.

More hugs. Lady was a hugger. She jokingly scolded one of the feline girls. They laughed. Hugged again.

Roddy turned away from the window and went back to the bed he had rented. There’d be no stickin’ today. Was almost like the lady surrounded herself with kids to make up for something. Maybe it was some type of armor for her. Maybe she liked him in the wrong way.

The thinking he was doing had made him thirsty. He poured a glass of filthy well water and drank, not minding the sulfuric taste or smell. He’d had much dirtier in his many years, especially during the empire’s waning days. The Purge had thrown the economy for a loop, had devastated the shipping and receiving of goods. Farms had no one to buy their stuff. Gold shot up in value. The Machine introduced script, bought everything from the farmers with that as collateral. Began helping workers earn their food with good hard work. He had liked that. It was what had drawn him to the Machine in the first place. Respect. Food. Hard work. His three core competencies.

Graves stared up at the rafters in the attic room. It was the nicest room he had ever had the pleasure in which to lie. Things were looking up for him. Just a matter of time before he could ditch his dusty border shack and move into the Chop proper, maybe in Little Mille. He didn’t have any issue with all the Animas, long as they didn’t bother him. Heck, maybe he could get a trip to a bath house after this, all that gold in his pockets.

He nodded. “Yeah,” he told the room. “Bath house. Get a pretty little Animas to wash me up real good.”

He took another gulp of water. The sun was going down now. The teacher would be escorted home by those older kids. Off limits to him. What was he gonna do about that? How could he lure her out of her hidey holes? A rare moment occurred. He had an idea.

“A trap. A lure. Like I’m hunting. Boss didn’t say I couldn’t do that...”

His grin was wide.

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