Chapter ThreeMature

The ground bumped and bounced under Issac as he came too. His forehead throbbed and his mouth tasted of dust and blood. He groaned as he tried to push himself upright, only to find his hands were bound behind his back. He rolled over to get better leverage, bumping into a soft form as he did so.


"Glad to see you're awake. Was beginning to think they might have killed you." Marshal said with a dry tone. He was leaning against the wall of their prison, his face impartial. "Careful when you move. I don't think our hosts sprung for a luxury ride."


Issac let out a groan as he pushed himself upright. He balanced awkwardly before toppling back against the wall. Marshal let a barking laugh before adjusting his legs.


"So, kid, what brought you to Selker Ridge? No offense, but you aren't exactly a strapping young oak. More of a dried out tumbleweed." Marshal's gaze was intense as ever on the young man, but it seemed softer somehow. 


Or maybe, Issac mused, the fear he was going to die had become an accepted reality. The youth shook his head, "I'm a Pilgrim from the Saltos Monastery. My father said I either needed to join the military or pick up a caravan, so I made my own choice." Issac was shocked at how clear he was speaking. He was even more shocked when Marshal didn't laugh.


"I'm not much for a man of religion myself. I've had my moments when I prayed just in case, I think we all do, but for the most part, I find it hard to believe that God really cares about us. We're on a rock floating around one ball of gas that looks exactly like countless other balls of gas." Marshal shrugged, "I kind of think the state of the world is all the proof you need that any God we may have had was left behind by the Founders."


Issac shook his head so violently that it caused his temple to throb anew. "That's not true! If the Bible teaches us anything, its that God cares for all his children, no matter how wayward or far away they are." A rush of energy passed through Issac. He didn't care that his audience was a violent, dangerous man, or that there was only that one person listening. It was the first time since he'd entered this hellish nightmare of a land that anyone had even listened a little to his message.


"So, what, you think bastards like Santiago walk this world because God wants innocent people to suffer? That's the problem I have with you preachy types. You talk good enough when things are good, but the second someone shows you a whole bunch of Scavengers killed off by plague, you get awfully quiet."


"It is not ours to know all that goes on in the Lord's plans." Issac offered quietly. There was a tremble in his voice, and Marshal's mouth twitched upward in a slight smile. Issac lowered his gaze, not wanting to meet those piercing eyes. The air became quiet, with just the squeak of a poorly greased axle the only sound filling the dusty cage the two men occupied.


"Hey, kid." Marshal offered softly. When Issac didn't respond, he kicked the youth's leg, causing Issac to grunt in pain. "I said hey kid!"


"What!" Issac snapped. "What in hell could you want? Thanks to you, my pilgramage has gone from a miserable time in a terrible place to a death sentence. I could be back at Selker Ridge, working for a decent place to sleep overnight, but now I'm going to be killed because of some people who have an issue with you!" Tears ran down Issac's cheeks but he didn't care. 


For once, Marshal lowered his gaze. "Look, kid. I didn't mean for any of this to happen. You looked like you were going to bolt back in town, and I was trying my damndest to keep them from gunning you down. I promise you, we aren't going to die here."


"So you can be human. Here I was thinking you were just an animal who looked like a man." Issac snorted, but his self righteous fury dissolved when Marshal's eyes snapped upward. He tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry to do more than go through the motions.


"And what do you know of civility?" Marshal's voice was cold. Venom dripped on every syllable, the stone indifference that had made him seem so dangerous now replaced with a fire. "I'm not from the Outlands, or as you call it, this "terrible place." Well, let me give you my evaluation. You are a selfish brat of some moderately ranked Emissary, who couldn't follow in mommy or daddy's footsteps. So, when the real world came knocking, you had a choice, but you didn't have the strength to join the military, and you didn't have the smarts to run a business. That left the one option, chasing religion. Let me tell you about the land you come from. Just because you can't see the blood there doesn't mean it isn't being spilled." Marshal leaned forward, and despite the bonds, Issac was suddenly afraid the older man would pounce on him.


"Your little paradise was built on blood. I know because somewhere out there, someone like your mommy or daddy is paying someone like me to spill it. That peace of your monastary? Raiders and Tribals don't care for your religion. You have something, they'll take it from you. Doesn't matter if its only a moldy piece of bread, for them its worth killing for." Marshal let out a sigh and fell back against the wooden wall.


"This place isn't nice." He said quietly, and Issac almost missed it. "But the difference here is nine times out of ten, you can see who's got the Iron pointed at you." He smiled bitterly at Issac, "Believe it or not, that's a peace of mind."


Issac started to speak, but sunlight filled their dark cage as the doors were thrown open. Burgess smiled as he pointed Marshal's iron at the two men.


"I hate to intterupt your lover's spat, but Santiago wants you two in a cell until he can come take care of you himself." Burgess stepped aside as Marshal stepped out, and a Mule held each of his arms so he couldn't move. The massive wall of muscle said nothing as he lead Marshal away. A strange emptiness filled Issac's stomach as he watched the older man be lead away. Anger seethed within him to how the men surrounding them made a show of the whole thing. 

The End

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