The Perils of Peat

From: Oliver D. Bernuetz <bernuetz_at_...>
Date: Wed, 02 Mar 2005 19:51:14 -0000

The Goddess glared balefully down at the scene her disapproval clear for all with the vision to see. The scene was a group of furtive men cloaked in browns and greys instead of their more usual crimson. They were hard at work loading blocks of peat onto some stretchers. Well, actually most of them were hard at work. One pair were somewhat less diligent in their labours than the rest. In fact if you combined the amount of work they were doing and divided it by half you ended up with a number somewhat less than one. One of the pair was very slowly loading single blocks of peat onto a stretcher while his companion was standing hunched over trying to light a hit of hazia. Unlike the other men who were labouring in silence this pair kept up a near constant dialogue. This would have earned them a rebuke from the commanding noncom but through an almost unbelievable order of events the man lighting his spiff, or not lighting it as the case may be, was actually the senior man present. Although he cared little for the rank the Old Hand had two bright pips of silver on his collar. He had vowed upon receiveing the honor that he would be different than the bastards but truth be told the position molded the man as much as the man molded the position.

"What this junk called again?" asked the Young Pup.

The Old Hand cursed his spiff which still refused to ignite before replying. "It's called peat maize for brains. Desparate people and those who just don't know any better burn it for fuel."

"Why are we taking it?"

"Because we've run out of most other fuels and we need to burn
something. Just like we've run out of officers and decent hazia. What in the Goddess' many names is in this crap? Why won't it burn?" He shook the spiff as though that would have some effect.

"Why did the storm lovers just pile it here and leave?"

"Because it needs to dry before it'll burn. You'll note, as the
centurion learned to his misfortune, that we are in a bog. A bog is a nasty bit of useless scenery. Once the peat is cut and left to dry you can actually burn it. At that point you're no longer cold. Though you will stink something fierce."

The Young Pup stopped in his labours.

"Alright I understand why the storm lovers would leave it piled here
to dry." His brow wrinkled in his bewilderment. "But why would they leave their tools scattered around?"

The Old Hand stopped swearing for a moment and halted his futile efforts. He straightened up and slowly turned to face the Young Pup.

"Come again?"

"The storm lovers seemed to have left in a hurry. Well just look
there's cutting tools all over the place. Like they were just thrown down in a hurry."

The Old Hand looked around at the tools scattered over the ground.

"I thought we brought those."

The Young Pup shook his head.

"No, we knew the stuff was already cut and waiting to be stolen, err
taken so the centurion told us not to bring any tools along."

The Old Hand looked at the Young Pup.

"Has it gotten even quieter all of a sudden?"

The pair stepped closer to each other and then looked around. Some Middle Air deity, probably the watery crossdresser had insulted the Goddess by herding a flock of clouds across her face so it was quite dark. Try as they might neither could see anyone else from the work detail. Suddenly the flock of clouds moved briefly away from the Goddess' visage and the pair breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the other soldiers. Their relief was to be short lived however.

"Um, how many of us were there?"

"Twenty-six not including the dear departed centurion."

"Um, I'm not great at counting but there seems to be a lot more of us

The cloud herd moved again and the Goddess' light shone down in her full radiant glory. It revealed, not a work detatchment of Lunar soldiers but a scene from a nightmare. The soldiers lay on the ground in twisted positions that living men were not inclined to adopt and teetering over them were the husks of what had been men. Each one was withered and wrinked, tanned dark as leather from their long immersion in the bog and each one had a leather rope knotted around their neck. They turned as one to face the Young Pup and Old Hand and though there was no spark of life in them something could be sensed animating them.

"Lad, do you remember my piece of advice about losing causes?"

"You mean playing dead?"

"No I suspect this lot aren't big at playing games. They look too
serious for that. No, the other piece of advice."

"You mean running as though your life depended on it?"

"That's the one. In this case I suspect our lives DO depend on it.
Shall we?"

The Young Pup reply was to turn and flee the Old Hand not far from his heels. When they finally reached the edge of the bog the Old Hand cursed and dropped his suddenly lit spiff.


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