Helping each other
Chu woke up with bloodshot eyes early the next day.
He was kept out until way past midnight by those young masters. If it was not for the Military officers on patrol spotting them and sending back home, they might have reveled until morning. As a twelve year old kid, it was way past his curfew.
‘This from someone who hung around at night in the forest looking for cheap thrills.’
After following master Gofart and his contingent back home, he slipped away to his room. A waking and worried Ming greeted him as he entered like an old housewife ready to squabble. It was early in the morning when they both went to sleep. Ming left and went to his parent’s house returning after a few hours.
Together they were now standing in the cold at the Lodge entrance. The morning sun was up and shining brightly but failed to penetrate the cold winter air. Except for light it did nothing for warmth.
“Can you do it?”
“I think so Chu. But I don’t think I am as good as you. I even spent an hour soaking in a herb bath this morning. Clod made me run over to the neighbors naked to get dressed. This robe is even sprinkled with herbs, I smell like a seasoned piece of meat!”
“Trust me, you will be very, very happy that Clod took such a good care of you.”
While they were chatting Master Gofart and his entourage made their appearance. All of them were decked in warm looking furs. The morning sun reflected of the metal armor that was partially exposed. It was a stark difference from the cheap cloth cloaks they both were wearing.
“Spade head to the garrison and get me a Hound. Meet us up at the north gate when you are done. Tochus will help you with the requisition, he should already be at the garrison.”
“Lord Gofart sir, this humble one greets you.”
Chu stepped out to the side and bowed, careful not to seem like he was impeding this young master.
“Oh, if it isn’t my little follower. I can’t believe I missed you last night. I usually tend to treat all my servants equally.”
Chu knew exactly why Gofart didn’t see him often enough last night. He wasn’t going to enlighten him about it anyway. The last thing he wanted was to be treated ‘equally’ like those servants.
“Lord it is my fault for being not able to take part in your happiness. Please forgive me for not being able to please you. I was now heading over to the slums to meet up some companions.”
Gofart paused for a moment. His countenance changed as he spoke in a forgiving tone
“Forget it, forget it, my young master. Next time we hold another feast I will be sure to treat you well. Where are you heading now by the way?”
Chu smiled and brimmed with pride as he fawned over Gofart.
“Many, many thanks, young master. I have some followers in the slums so I am heading there now.”
Chu puffed out his chest as he continued
“I use them to run little errands and beg for scraps. I hope to use what I learned from the young master to the fullest.”
He sighed and shook his head sadly
“But it so hard to find good help these days, and the food is scarce to come by. Even in all the ruckus now we can’t find enough work for money.”
“I see, I see. Tell you what my little friend, I have taken a liking to you here. When I return to the city I am going to send for you. I was going to hire some folks for an easy job this morning, but I will give it to you. I shouldn’t though because it concerns the Military…”
Chu displayed the performance of a hungry man being thrown a loaf of bread. For a commoner to be fancied by a noble was a huge privilege.
“Please, please master Gofart I will take it. I can get any help you need.”
One glance at the little boy and you could see how he was desperate for this favor. He was so desperate he did not bother asking for a price. The enticement of being able to someday leave this place was just that alluring.
“I don’t know…This work might require the hired help to remain with us for some time in the forest. We might even need others as time goes on.”
“Say no more Master Gofart. I can organize any amount of help you need. I can send my servant to the slums for a helper anytime your call.”
Both of them smiled as they reached an agreement, both of them satisfied with their deception of the other.
“Come then, I am heading out for the Military. I need two helpers preferably fit and not old. They would have to do some work in the forest for a couple of days.”
“Yes, yes no problem. Ming! Get your scrawny a$$ to the slums and shake out two of the younger men. Tell them they would get paid from the young master Gofart on completion.”
Chu launched a kick on Ming’s backside propelling him out on a run. He then continued behind Gofart and the others who were heading to the garrison. Since he had already gotten his helpers, young master Gofart was in high spirits.
“Would ten coppers suffice for a day for these helpers? I don’t want to overpay them. When the commoners get easy money they tend to become lazy.”
The boy glanced at Gofart as he muttered his righteous bull.
“Ten coppers are more than enough Master Gofart. Are we going to the garrison?”
Chu forgot this guy’s foundation was from a merchant company. Being a miser was bred in his bones.
“I am meeting another companion to carry out this mission. Since your here I will permit you to see a Hound up close.”
“Thank you Master Gofart. Master Gofart is really powerful to be able to control these beasts.”
Chu did not forget to keep laying down the compliments.
Gofart strutted at the front soaking in praises. His lips were open as he boasted and chatted. Chu understood that the Hounds tracked using scent. Only when they were close could they pick up a demon’s scent and then follow a fresh trail.
The boy was secretly amazed at the intelligence of the wolf demon. This beast had ambushed the garrison patrol in the north and driven them into the forest. It slowly toyed with them in there pushing them to the south in despair. The last person was eventually killed far south near the barn.
Methodically killing the guards one by one as it herded them in despair towards the south. That poor guard was probably the last survivor who finally escaped the forest only to see his hope dashed to pieces. It then set its sight and sadistic nature on those who were unfortunate at the time.
Chu could save these trackers lots of time by giving them the general direction of where the demon herded its unfortunate prey.
It wasn’t long before they arrived at the north gate.
They met Tochus and his servants at the north gate with a Hound and its trainer. Some low ranking Military soldiers were also present. After a brief conversation, they headed west to the forest. Chu was very happy with the unresponsive Hound.
Ming was supposed to bring along the helpers and join up as they passed the slums. From there he and Chu would leave Master Gofart and the others to proceed with their mission in secrecy. What greeted them was unexpected.
Ming dashed out from among some shacks when they had ventured close. To the members of this company he was in a sorry state. He was disheveled and looked like he had just escaped from a dogfight. His face bore a frightened look of one who eluded death.
Most probably it was because he rushed out towards them without paying close attention. When he came to a stop, he was only a few feet away facing a growling Hound.
He finally understood the importance of that bath and those herbs.
‘Thank the gods for Clod and his experience or I might have been ripped apart. No wonder Chu was scrubbing so vigorously in the tub yesterday with those herbs.’
Ming shuddered as he forced an answer from his mouth. To the soldiers and others around, such a reaction was understandable. They were not aware of the true meaning and his thoughts.
“Chu, I found a few helpers for the young masters willing to work for food. But there were men who didn’t believe me. They said that those young nobles were useless. I tried to argue but they beat me up. I barely escaped with my little life.”
Ming panted in the cold with warm fog puffing out from his mouth. Chu kicked him on his legs.
“Stupid $#@ can’t you do anything right? You did good standing up for our young masters or else I would leave you to beg.
Young Master Gofart, please accept my apologies. It seems like these lowly dogs are not aware of your might. They need to be taught a lesson to remember where they stand. A good scare would have them begging to serve you.”
Chu bowed and glanced subtly at the Hound held nearby. The animals were normally not used on patrols or around the village to avoid unsettling the demon. They were sent out with the scouts in the forest to chance on any trail. They were used exclusively in the north of the forest, trying to trace the old scent.
Tochus picked up on Chu’s glance immediately.
“Hahaha, Master Gofart I think these slum dwellers would be glad to see a Hound up close. Lets show these scum what the true might of the Military is. Lead the way boy!”
Without waiting for a reply Tochus commanded Ming to guide them into the slums. He beckoned the Trainer to follow with the Hound. The group walked behind them.
This large dog looked like a large wolf pumped up on steroids. Its fur was raised like little spikes reminding Chu of those cartoons of a frightened cat. The mouth was in an everlasting sneer displaying some mighty looking teeth on asphalt colored gums.
Ming led the way genuinely frightened by the animal that was literally breathing down his neck. Soon they reached the middle of the Slum area close to a large firewood heap.
The few Slum residents who did not venture out to beg in the village were not that demented to stand around this posse. Only a certified wacko would be that nosy. Forming a crowd around these unscrupulous but affluent people was clearly looking for death.
Ming walked around near the firewood pile as he yelled out for his previous attackers. It appeared that they had scattered before the face of might. His taunts were to no avail.
The trainer and the Hound remained close to him. The animal was held on a long leash that it could snap whenever it wanted. The leash acted as the medium of control the Trainer had over the animal.
“Haha, I knew it. Those slum rats only have balls among themselves. If I was not busy today, I might have shown them a good time.”
Tochus sneered as he looked around arrogantly. All the servants were snickering as they basked in their superior status. The soldiers from the Military stood at the side, this had nothing to do with them.
Gofart issued out a command, in this group he and Tochus were the highest in rank
“Boy hurry and get your helpers, we will wait here for you.”
Ming scampered away out of sight among the shacks. He presumably went to seek out the two willing helpers.
Gofart folded his hands as he surveyed the place. He had the face of someone who was unwilling to remain here for too long. He didn’t want this poverty-ridden place to infect his noble upbringing.
Chu was the only one who was standing quietly at the side like an innocent bystander. He was only focused on one thing. After a few breaths he finally saw what he was waiting on.
The Hound that was motionless at the side, had finally begun to move.