The After Effects

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Lefty's Trading

Ragnar stopped and waited for me to dismount before he turned and walked to the stables that were only a couple of streets over.

He snorted a goodbye and left me alone.

I watched as he started strutting down the road, kicking and stomping his hoof at bystanders. What a faker..

People marveled at Ragnar, his huge body, and rare presence.

Horses were kind of rare nowadays. In fact, I thought I was going crazy when I first saw him. I have no idea where he came from or who he belonged too, but he didn’t seem to care.

Before the Plague, it seemed that most people who lived in the country had horses. The plague killed not only billions of people, but also livestock and pets. So animals were important but rare. The only exception to that being the North territory, as the Vikings all had horses and many people raised livestock there. Horses and other livestock were typically a sign of wealth as not many people had them and they were expensive to keep.

Luckily for me, Ragnar is an easy keeper. He finds his own food, usually in the Black Forest, and every now and then I sometimes get him some treats, but otherwise Ragnar takes good care of himself.

When we are in Everest though, he's spoiled rotten at the local stable. Since not many horses come through here, the family running the stable loves when we visit.

Before we leave, I slip the family a nice tip along with the bill for caring for him. Plus it's nice to know that I'm helping a family in need.

Most people nowadays don't expect kindness. It's so rare for someone to smile and not curse you out. I guess that's what happens though in this day of age.

Everyone's just doing what they have to survive. Working to feeding their families is most peoples priorities.

I had a family. Parents and siblings. My mother died sometime in the first year of the Plague and my sister... well she died while fighting for me. Something that had motivated me to become who I am today. A cold-blooded killer with a sweet smile. The rest of my family... well... we'll get there someday.

Once Ragnar was out of sight, I turned and entered the trading post. The old sign displaying its name, Lefty's Trading, mirrored the wear and tear of the whole building. Dust coated the window seals and the floorboards whined when weight was put on them. Despite the fading look of the building, I still loved coming here.

"We're closed." An old voice hollered from the back room when I rung the bell at the front desk.

"Aw shucks." I leaned against the counter and sighed.

I heard a distraught sound and footsteps quickly move around the backroom. The splintered wooden door flew open and out stepped Lefty.

His usually grumpy face was split with a smile that reached his eye. His left glass eye spun around helplessly as he limped to the counter, while his right eye was trained on me and my backpack.

"Lady Bjerke, I haven't seen you for a while," Lefty said as he got to the counter and stretched his back. His huge hands rested on the edge of the counter as he talked to me.

"It's literally been two weeks." I rolled my eyes and shouldered my backpack off.

"Like I said, awhile." He watched as I set my bag on the counter and started digging through it. "Did you have much luck?"

I started setting some of my findings on the counter. "Surprisingly yes." Lefty picked some of the items up and inspected them. "I found a barely touched bunker with lots of goodies."

Lefty grinned when he picked up some old bottles of Whiskey that had been weighing down my backpack for nearly a week. "Is this Alcohol?"

"Found it stored in a freezer." He eyed me briefly.

Lefty put the bottles down before he examined the rest of my hall.

I remembered some old jewelry that I also found in a few houses that I pulled out. One of my best scavenging hunts yet.

Lefty took in all the stuff and hummed to himself. "I'll give ya ten coins for the jewelry and fifteen for the whiskey."

I acted like I was debating for a second before I reached over the counter and shook his hand. "Deal."

Despite the fairly good deal, I had no use for the money. In fact, I was in no need for money thanks to my "job" three years ago, but I needed to look like this was how I made money. Otherwise, people would get suspicious and may ask questions.

I honestly didn't care if people in Everest knew my secret. In fact, I think most people in Everest know it actually, but if outsiders got any word of who I really was, there could be problems. So I kept up the scavenging appearance, plus it gave me something to do.

One thing people don't tell you is that life after the apocalypse is boring. Once everyone figures out their place in the new society, life becomes such a bore.

Lefty disappeared into his backroom with my findings and came back with a pouch of coins.

Just for kicks, I opened the pouch and peered inside at the colorful and mismatched coins. Bronze, silver, and gold coins clinked around, all worth the same.

"Well Lefty, It's been a pleasure. I'm going to go drink this all away at the bar now." Lefty chuckled as I waved goodbye and left.

Glancing around, I spotted the sun and figured it to be close to nine in the morning.

Never too early too start drinking, I guess. Shrugging, I walked away from the trading post and toward the local bar.

My worn cowboy's boots crunched on the gravel as I cut across the road. People milled about, getting ready for whatever they do nowadays. Most likely slaving away on a nearby farm, hoping to make some coin for their families.

The Plague luckily left our crops alone, but with no one to tend them for a few years, the fields either became overgrown and crowded or they just died. Once the survivors settled, they began work to create a steady food source for whatever territory they lived in.

The South Territory specializes in corn and potatoes, though they grow lots more species. The East favors their rice and the North deals more in livestock than farming. And the West, well who knows what those idiots do to survive.

Speaking of the west.. I couldn't help but overhear more of the stupid rumors floating around about them. I rolled my eyes at a particularly obvious lie. The people aren't actually human. And Santa Claus is real.. I scoffed to myself as I entered the bar.

The sounds of general buzz met my ears as I entered the saloon looking bar. An old sawed-off shotgun that had been there before the Plague had even struck was proudly displayed above the bar. The beautiful oak wood bar was massive and held close to thirty bar stools. Besides the bar, worn wooden tables with six seats each were spread out around the place, along with old leather booths that lined the walls and corners. Making this an enjoyable place to lounge and drink after a long days work.

Despite it being work hours, the bar was still busy. Filled with mostly men laughing and talking about recent news. A few women walked around, their intentions less than desirable as they were looking to make a quick buck, and their clothing tight and revealing.

The bar maiden greeted me and pointed me to my usual corner booth. While avoiding all eye contact, I seated myself, sinking into the somewhat comfortable leather booth.

Soon a waitress, or a harlot, it's hard to tell the difference nowadays, came and took my order. Which was my usual good, ol', and expensive, moonshine.

The bar maiden chuckled as the waitress told her my order. "Typical." I heard her say as she rolled her eyes.

A couple of minutes later I sat drinking my moonshine. My thoughts strayed back to the family I had buried earlier that night. The Vikings were pillaging and plundering a little to far South for my liking. Maybe I should meet with King Samuel so I could warn him?

Lost in my thoughts, my eyes lazily scanned the bar. That was until I meet piercing blue eyes and my thoughts slipped away from me. The blue-eyed stranger was.. strange?

Covered in a pitch-black cloak, he blended in well with the black apparel of most patrons in the bar. Though with his hood up it was hard to see any more of his features. He seemed to have a decent build about him, but the cloak did good about hiding him almost completely. Luckily, no hood could cover up the beautiful ice blue of his eyes. Tilting my head, I realized I was staring.

With a shake of my head, I went back to scanning the bar. Watching for any sudden movements or anything unusual. Though once again, my eyes met the strangers stare. Why is he staring at me?

I sipped my moonshine and watched as the stranger abruptly stood and left. Stopping only to toss some coins on the bar for whatever he had been drinking.

Well, that's that I suppose.

After I finished my drink, I slipped the bar maiden a couple of coins and headed for the local lodging. Staying awake for another twenty-four hours was doing me no good. I figured.

I paid for a night and wasted no time in heading up. The lodge was a three-story building, with close to twenty rooms for visitors to Everest. And since it was the nicest in the Capital, I made it a point to stay here every time.

Once I ensured the room was secure, checking every closet, corner, and curtain, I checked under the bed. Finally, a hundred percent that the room was secure, I unstrapped my weapons, gear, and peeled off my dirty top layer of clothes and basically jumped into the bed.

The mattress was definitely better than a tree and I found no trouble in slipping off to sleep. My thoughts thankfully numbed by the moonshine and my dreams dull and boring.

Cheers to that...

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