Chapter 6 Excerpt from The Storm of Anticus: A Zombie Fantasy Novel
Kurgen and Turgeson stood at sloppy attention in the barren antechamber in front of what was known as the corporal’s office. They could hear him scribbling away at something at his desk while they stood quietly waiting. The corporal’s page, named Page, smirked insolently at them as he leaned against a wall. The twelve-year-old boy was the insufferable understudy of their commanding officer, and many a night the brothers had drunkenly come up with ways to torture the ever-present smirk off the brat’s face.
Unfortunately for them, Page had the corporal’s protection, and neither of the brothers, no matter how inebriated, would have dared to cross him. So they waited and withstood the impertinent bastard’s pimpled smirking face with carefully blank expressions. Even dealing with the corporal’s crony was far superior to dealing with the man himself.
All too soon, the scratching of the corporal’s pen stopped. Some rustling followed, and then the voice they dreaded made its first appearance. “Paaaaage?” it intoned, the long-drawn-out query making a one-word interrogative smarmy and condescending.
The pimply-faced brat straightened from the wall and left the antechamber with a final smirk. They could hear his obsequious “Sir!” making it easy to picture the boy’s ridiculous salute.
The corporal voice maintained its slow dramatic pace. “So, Paaaage, who is it that graces the antechamber and waits upon my presence?”
“Sir, it’s the two guardsmen of Northgate, Kurgen and Turgeson, sir.”
“Hmmmm.” The creaking of the corporal’s chair squealed through their heads. Undoubtedly, their commander had leaned back. “Paaaage, what is the hour?”
“Sir, the midday peals were sounded not long ago, sir.”
“Hmmmm.” The creak sounded again, and they knew he’d leaned forward once more. “Midday. Now, Page, what time does the shift at Northgate end?”
“Sir, sundown, sir.”
“Hmmmm. Sundown. Did the sun set at midday today, Page?”
“Sir, no, sir, it did not, sir.”
“Hmmmm.” The settling-back creak. “So the guardsmen, Kurgen and Turgeson, are currently neglecting their duty?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
“And what, Page, is the penalty for dereliction of duty?”
“Sir, that is up to the commander to decide, sir, but regulations permit punishment up to and including death, sir.”
“Hmmmm.” The sitting-up creak. “Death. Well, now, that does sound serious. And what possible reason could these two guardsman have to see their commanding officer before their shift has been completed?”
“Sir, I don’t know, sir.”
The brothers smirked at each other as Page stammered. “Uhh, I mean, uhh, sir, they, uh… refused to tell me, sir.”
The brothers’ smirks each fell at the same instant. The little brat had never asked them, a fact which the corporal would know, since he’d been sitting eight feet away from the conversation they’d had with Page in the first place. Unfortunately for them, reality and facts rarely interfered with the corporal’s judgments.
“Hmmmm. In that case, they’d better have an incredibly good reason to interrupt me in the middle of writing my reports to Captain Sheyn.”
The legendary, never-seen Captain Sheyn was allegedly the chief of all of the city guards in the Gutters District, and a man the brothers had never met. The corporal alluded to the man often, however, referring to the meals he and the Captain took together, where the corporal’s always-forthcoming promotions were discussed while they sipped Estavian wine and fondled courtesans. Sometimes, the corporal’s punishments were presented as coming from the Captain himself. Both brothers were in agreement that if Captain Sheyn existed, then he was a complete and total prick.
“All right, Page,” the corporal said, “send them in.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
The smirking brat re-entered the antechamber. “The corporal will see you now. Mind your manners and tongues.” Kurgen’s right eye twitched as he contemplated smashing his fist repeatedly into the boy’s face but didn’t. He felt sure that not doing it was going to give him an apoplexy one day, but today was not the day.
The brothers sighed inaudibly and in unison, then turned and marched the five steps it took to reach the corporal’s desk.