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    Josh
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    Small Stories

    Post by Josh on 22/11/11, 06:15 pm

    Despite the light snow in the air, Nattumung was covered in a significant layer of sweat. The debris he was carrying must weigh several hundred pounds, but the bugbear bore it silently, with measured breath. Wagons waited a short distance away, full loads of rubble being carted to a central processing center to be reconstituted for rebuilding projects.

    The priest loved the simple exertion of the work. The previous morning, the area had appeared to be one large pile of wreckage where portions of the mountainside had come down. Now, the outlines of houses gave mute testimony to the families that once made their homes here.

    Several times, Nattumung had been called upon to deliver last rites after the work crews uncovered a body. Each time, he prayed the Raven Queen would give them safe passage, and thanked Kord their struggles were finally over. Another wagon waited for them, as well, though all gave it a wide berth.

    “What in the hells did we do to deserve this?” came a nearby voice.

    As Nattumung set his burden down, he noticed a fellow worker began to shovel a load of stone into a nearby wagon. The man seemed not to be addressing anyone in particular.

    “I’m sure there were all terrible people for the gods to let this happen. Oh, certainly we’re a wicked bunch, to bring the wrath of the mountain down on us.” The hobgoblin had been launching into these tirades all day, his casual blasphemies familiar to a soldier like Nattumung. The cleric paid him no mind and returned to his work.

    Several trips later, the hobgoblin finally gathered enough nerve to address the bugbear directly.

    “You, cleric. Yeah, priest, with the tattoo. What do you have to say for your god? What’s the answer to this?” He gestured expansively.

    Nattumung dropped off yet another large piece before responding. He paused, his arm on the rock, steadying his breath, feeling the dull ache in his muscles. Finally, he turned to the heckling man.

    “Do the work,” he said simply, his face a passive mask. With no further reply, he returned to work amid the continued sarcasm of the other worker.

    The day passed quickly, with little change in the work crew. Some eventually were called away, to family, to sleep, to other responsibilities. As darkness fell, only Nattumung and the morose hobgoblin remained of the original crew.

    The man grew more quiet as the day had progressed, now only muttering under his breath, struggling to lift his shovel. At last, it grew too heavy, falling from his hands. He slumped next to the wagon, his head in his hands.

    The priest edged nearer, not wanting to upset the man. He picked up the shovel and silently began loading the cart. At length, the hobgoblin looked up, eyeing him strangely.

    “What’re doing?” he asked, incredulous.

    “The work that’s needed. Go, get some rest.” Nattumung replied gently.

    Silently, the man stood. He opened his mouth to speak, paused, and seemed to think better of it. He simply nodded, turned, and walked away.

    Watching him go, Nattumung mouthed a silent prayer, finally uttering a quiet thought.

    “We all need our strength.”

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