The Pounders Spoke

The Pounders Spoke

An excerpt from J.D.G. Perldeiner’s forthcoming novel, Haven. Read our profile on Perldeiner and Haven here, and preorder the book here or here.

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Nate felt the tingle of heat in the back of his throat. The wind creaked through the pines. His ancient polycloth jacket was starting to chafe. “I queried you two-ways now,” he snarled at the scav. He took a swig from his water jug, then wiped his brow. He despised scav-talk, but after three days in the wild with Skrim, the scav’s ugly doggrel crept into his mouth and lay there like some dead thing, tainting each word he spoke.

“We leagueways from any townies. No worries, Nathaniel.” Skrimshank always used Nate’s full name when he addressed his companion. The scav was skinny, bone-white, and always wore a crinkly, crooked smile painted on his face. “You audit them? You audit any but brushfolk?”

“I hear and see naught,” Nate growled, “and you cog’it.”

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Skrim made a jerky waving gesture. “Bad as a scrivna,” he complained. “Blind as a bat. Deaf as a donkey.” It was one of the standard dismissals his kind used for all townies. The scavs had great disdain for anyone who stayed in one place and tried to make a living. One thing they did respect, though, was sorcery. Nate had made sure to convince Skrim that he was a powerful magician. “I don’t cog how you townies are so blind, but stillwise keep such old potens.”

The jumble of Havenite Latin was giving Nate a headache. Watching Skrim’s brilliant tongue flicker across his ash-white lips gave him a mighty urge to crack the scav across the brow. He couldn’t, though. He needed Skrim. The Prophet had most certainly sent hunters out after him when he fled. He needed this scav to keep him away from the Prophet’s children. Yes, he had an autopistol tucked into his belt, but the Prophet’s chosen would carry the ugly black pounders of yesteryear that could shoot for leagues and cut trees in half.

Skrim started walking again, in a low ground-lope. Every once in a while he would glance back over his shoulder at Nate, who gave a weak smile and a nod to urge him on. He knew the scav wouldn’t turn on him; Skrim was too afraid of what Nate could do. Credulous scavs would believe almost anything. Purgation, even townies from the southern Province were easily duped by the Prophet’s folk. Nate had once held up an entire caravan at gunpoint with only three men at his side. All he’d needed to do was call his pistol a magic wand and discharge it in the air and they were falling over themselves to surrender swords, coins, and, best of all, a fine Electrobike.

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The Prophet had only been Ezekial back then… Ezekial Green. He was just as hard, though, for he’d claimed the bike as his own before Nate could even so much as show it to the Old Prophet. He claimed every last victory, and the choicest spoils were always his for the taking.

Fuck him six ways to purgation anyhow, Nate thought, thinking back to one of the Prophet’s numerous sermons. In his mind, Nate could almost see the wrinkled vulture standing up at the pulpit, reading the Green Gospel as though he’d written the damn thing himself. He didn’t deserve it. The Prophet wasn’t half the man his father had been.

“Hope he chokes on it,” he muttered.

“Dicte que?” asked Skrim.

“Naught,” Nate said angrily. He’d forgotten that the stupid little scav was still there. Ah well. At least Skrimshank was good at finding a way through the underbrush. The scav could find the best paths across rotten leaves, old tree trunks, and even around the crumbling pits over which the ancients had built their mansions. He sensed them by instinct, almost as if he himself knew some tribal magic. Maybe there was something in scav blood that gave them an edge in the wild. Maybe it was because they were wild themselves.

After a short while, the two travelers crested a low hill. It gave Nate a good survey of the land on all sides. Round about the hilltop was mostly trees and brush, but to the south stood the gray sweep of one of the great highaways that followed the saltwater coast.

Nate knocked back the rest of the jug and thrust it out to Skrim. “Aqua. Make cert it has no thrax, neither.”

Skrimshank smiled stupidly, bobbed his head, and grabbed at the jug with his pale white hands. As he scurried off, Nate surveyed his position at the top of the hill. It was a good place to camp: thick with trees and underbrush, yet it still allowed him a commanding view of his surroundings. It would make it hard, if not impossible, for the Prophet’s hunters to get a bike up the slopes.

Nate paced the perimeter of his new kingdom. Yes, yes, it would serve him well, until morning, at least. He paced an outline, dropping gathered stones where he wanted Skrim to build the tent, then left a handful more where he’d have that mangy scav dig the latrine. Come dawn, they could move on. Or maybe not. Maybe they would stay a few days. After all, the Prophet’s men may have given up by now. The Green family wasn’t known for being smart, just pushy. If the Old Prophet had been alive, things would’ve been different. Nate knew in his heart that the old man had loved him and his family. The Old Prophet wasn’t like the vulture born from his loins. The New Prophet, Ezekiah, was a demon in man’s flesh. Ezekiah saw Nate as one of the traitors, one of Jed’s followers. No matter that he’d never followed that moron Jedediah Ford, nor any other fool that spoke against Gospel. Assurances were no salve to Ezekiah.

It was a good idea to bless the site, in case things came to that. Nate searched back through his memory to see if he could recall any of the old benedictions, but nothing came to him. Well, fair break. Maybe that was why he’d never been chosen for Priesthood.

Not that it mattered. There were other things in his future. The weakling monks of Haven might very well bow to his autopistol and declare him supreme aedile of the monastery. That would be good and proper, seeing as he wasn’t just some townie, but a Groton man. He contented himself with these thoughts as he paced the hilltop, but his eyes never left the old highaway nor rested from sweeping the forest. Even clustered with the chariots of the ancients and choked with tree and vine, the highaways were still the fastest way to travel. Skrim had insisted they take it this far.

Nate was startled enough to draw his autopistol when Skrim came sneaking back into the clearing, but the little scav quickly raised his hands to show he meant no harm.

Nate burst out laughing. “What a duo, you and I, you mangy creature,” he chuckled. Skrim nodded stupidly, displaying that half-comprehending look Nate had come to loathe. Well, he thought, when we reach Haven, I’ll turn him over to the locals and let them skin him alive… or whatever it is they do to Albans.

He collected himself from his laugh just as Skrim’s expression went flat. Nate barely had time to comprehend what followed, for two huge men suddenly loomed up from behind the little scav. Both carried pounders with long snouts, which they swung in his direction.

Oh God, Nate thought, looking at Skrim. They followed him. But no, that wasn’t true either. The scav was pointing, speaking his name. He—

The pounders spoke. Nate’s hand went to the little pouch at his belt, as if his flimsy hand could protect it from the shells. He staggered backward and fell as dull explosions of pain erupted through his body.

Never should’ve trusted a scav, he thought frantically, uselessly, as the life rushed out of him and onto the cold, hard ground.

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J.D.G. Perldeiner’s Haven
Release Date: September 3, 2016
Preorder: Prepper Press | Amazon

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