Dark Mercenaries
Author: Neil Evans

Chapter 3
The Bargain

    At once, Karen got the horsemen. They mounted and rode off as quickly as they could. The second they left the palace, Karen got the bird and gave it to the Empress, who put it down on the table and closed all doors and windows in the room.
    General Darell rode on a white horse. He didn't know its name, but he knew the thing would go fast. Darell was good at that. He rode as fast as the horse would allow. Finally, he came to the outskirts of the Cari Empire. He let the horse walk from there. People stared from their houses and hissed at him as he passed. This city, named Terri, loathed the new Empress. Calling her a witch, claiming she forged the will.
    Darell rode to a small, cozy cabin. There he saw a man sitting on his porch. The man looked as if he were lifeless. It was strange to see him like that. The porch was finely polished and looked as if it had never even had a speck of dirt on it. The man wore a black shirt and red suspenders. He was young, but had crows feet. He didn't glare at Darell. Instead, he seemed to look through the general, as if he weren't there. Darell seemed to prefer the glares and hisses.
    Darell approached the porch, careful not to step on it. "Jack," Darell said lightly. The man on the porch, Jack, twitched lightly, but then just continued to pierce through Darell. "Dammit Jack, look at me. I need your help. The empire needs it." Jack didn't even flinch this time. Darell, angry, said, "Fine! I didn't want to do this Jack, mainly because I wanted to get your help safely." Darell put a foot upon Jack's porch.
    Suddenly, Jack's body came to life. "What the hell did you do that for!" Jack yelled. Darell could tell others were watching now. He could feel their eyes glaring.
    "Because you won't talk to me, Jack," Darell replied. "We used to be good friends, you remember that? Well, as one friend to another, the Empress needs you, and--"
    "Tell the bitch to drop dead! And get off my porch!" Jack said angrily.
    "Come on, Jack. You know your the best we got here. We need a fighter. Pleas, Jack, just listen. We're willing to pay anything. We'll cut this section of town off and give you authority over it, if needed. You'd have your own empire!" Darell said this, knowing that Karen had told him to promise Jack anything.
    "I won't do it," Jack said. "I got crops to attend to out back. And now that your dirty boots have trotted on my porch, I gotta fix that."
    "How much?" Darell asked. "Just tell me how much."
    "You want a price?" Asked Jack. He smiled devilishly. "Half the Empress' money, as a start. Next, I want ten men. Slaves. I'll teach them how to clean the porch and hoe the field. They'll help me do my work. Also, I'll need time to sharpen my weapons. That will take at least three hours. While I do that, you can get another horse. Get the finest breed.
    "And, you know the final price of this dog. I'm sure you do. Finally, you tell the Empress that she will owe me one favor of any kind. No restrictions on the favor--except maybe her death or her throne. You got that all? I'll tell you one more time. Half Abagail's money," Darell flinched when he heard his Empress called by her first name, "ten slaves, a fine-bred horse, the one price that's always paid, and one favor from the Empress."
    "You have my word, Jack Mare, I'll get you everything you ask for. You might have to go to the palace, though."
    "She can come to me if I have to speak to her," Jack said firmly.
    "Fine," Darell said agitated. "I'll get what's needed. You just sharpen your weapons."
    "Will do. But if I find that I'm not getting what I want, you know what will happen. Don't think I won't do it, either." Jack said.
    "I know Jack, I've seen you on the field before. I wouldn't dream of double-crossing you." With that, Darell rode off, back to the palace at full speed.
    Jack Clayton looked over at the house across from his. Filthy-humans live in there, he thought. From the doorway there was a man and a woman. Neither looked healthy. They were skinny as toothpicks. They turned and, before closing the door, the woman said, "Sell-out, old fuck." Jack smiled and stood from the chair and walked back inside. As he did so, he muttered something of a curse.

 

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