THIRTY-THREE TALES OF WAR XXXIII: THE ROPEMAKER
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Civil war rages in the black-blooded nation of Kandrisev. Its citizens grow restless. They demand their voices be heard. These are their stories laid out in thirty-three tales of war.
“LOTSA ropes this week,” the Ropemaker said as she began loading two score bundles of rope from the ropery porch into the back of the gallowman’s cart. “Working overtime?”
The gallowman grunted and remained hovering at the cartside, saying and doing nothing.
Taking it in stride, the Ropemaker kept moving. Most folks didn’t care to speak more than was needed lest the Rosehearts raise a stink about it. Since the invasion of Sosna Chonok—and the Blue Queen’s death—the air in Kandrisev had become downright putrid.
“These all, you know,” the Ropemaker asked as she hoisted a particularly heavy bundle into the cart, “for the condemned?”
“Wouldn’t tell you even if I could say,” the gallowman muttered.
The Ropemaker bit her tongue and threw the last ten bundles into the cart as fast as she could go. When finished, she held out her hand. The gallowman dug around in his vest pocket, eventually producing ten dull coins laced onto a hempen string.
The Ropemaker counted the coins. Since the Red Queen invaded, business was grim, what with the gallows weighing more bodies than sacks of grain nowadays. The latest of the Red Queen’s campaigns into Chariv wiped out most anything that wasn’t made of stone this side of Mount Pobritsya. Hers was the only ropery for leagues; a good thing, one would think, until the realisation set in that one measly little ropery wasn’t enough to support an entire region—and that coins once worth ten were now just two.
"Hey! This ain't enough." The Ropemaker looked to the gallowman, who had already lifted the cart by its handles. “A single one of those ropes’s worth six times this. You’ve gotta pay the rest before you go or give ‘em all back.”
“Alright.” the gallowman dropped the cart. “Only need one today anyway.”
The Ropemaker glared at him. “And you’ll be givin’ me ten more tadril for the pleasure of loadin’ and unloadin’ for you.”
“Six, and you can help me unload.”
“Eight, and I won’t.”
“Fine.” The Ropemaker arched her back to crack her spine and rolled her shoulders, heading to the back of the cart. “Sure you only need one?”
The gallowman grunted. “And I wouldn’t tell you who it was for even if you handed it over for free.”
The Ropemaker stopped and, two bundles on each shoulder, stared the gallowman down. “Did I ask?”
He held up his hands and looked away. “Seemed like you wanted to talk earlier.”
“Seemed like you didn’t,” the Ropemaker mumbled. Once the second-to-last rope landed on the ropery porch, she faced the gallowman.
He handed her a string of eight coins and lifted the cart. “Pleasure doin’ business with you.”
The Ropemaker watched him push the cart into the distance. If the last few months meant anything, he’d be back before the day was out.