The Battle Scavenger’s Story

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Carrig Conchobhar fled his native Ireland just ahead of his pursuers, and the hangman’s noose.

He was a peasant turned highwayman out of necessity. Having violated the rules according to Brehon Law, Ireland’s legal system at the time, he knew that he could expect to have his neck stretched until it snapped like a dry twig.

So he went to Europe, working as a deckhand on a boat for passage. He left the ship when it docked in Normandy, setting out into a foreign land on a quest to make a living. As he walked through the countryside he ate wild fruit and berries, and drank from small streams that crisscrossed the rugged territory. On his third day he met a man, a commoner like himself, who said he was on his way to a great battle.

“Not to fight I take it, judging by your looks and no weapons,” Carrig observed.

“Ain’t yew the clever one,” the man chuckled.

“Why do you travel to such a dangerous place? Battlefields are harvesters of souls.”

“It’s afterwards…when the fighting is over, that I wait to make a harvest of me own. There’s wealthy men lying on the field of death for days sometime. Taking their gold and silver is an easy thing that requires little labor and pays handsomely,” he grinned through a nearly toothless mouth.

“Don’t you fear a penalty if you’re caught? It seems to me looting a battlefield is akin to robbing graves.”

“Aye, but a quick death is better than a slow one watching your family starve to death. We all take chances in life don’t we?” Thomas the commoner, asserted wryly.

Carrig nodded in agreement. The man was right. Being a highwayman was a lot more dangerous than stripping valuables off of corpses. Their conversation died out as the two men made they way through the thick forest. In the distance they heard the screams of men fighting and dying. Then the rain came down so hard they had to take cover under a fallen oak that had been hallowed out by others seeking shelter in the past.

When the downpour stopped in the early morning hours the two men resumed their journey. When they got to the edge of the forest a great plain lay before them. Thousands of dead horses and men were scattered about. They could see campfires still burning on both sides of the battlefield. It meant the fighting would resume that day, Thomas explained.

Carrig and Thomas found comfortable hiding places where they could observe the battle safely. They were both nibbling on scraps of food when they heard a mighty horn blare, and the birds in the trees rose up in surprise. Their eyes turned on the two approaching armies. The English knights powerful steeds broke out in a trot, then a full run towards the French line. The French knights sallied out to meet them from behind their foot soldiers.

The clash of horses, armor, swords, and lances produced a hellish din. In the clouds of dust, men died savagely, fighting until their last breath. When the two armies infantry units collided, the screams of men could be heard for miles.

Finally the French line broke and the English chased the survivors until darkness stopped them. There was only one set of campfires that night and Thomas gave the go-ahead to start looting bodies. Carrig didn’t feel a twinge of guilt peeling the rings and necklaces off of mangled knights. He did keep a sharp eye out for someone who might cause him trouble. Under the light of the moon he could barely make Thomas out, moving among bodies of men and horses like a ghoul.

Carrig was in the process of stripping a jeweled belt off of a white-haired knight who bore the crest of France on his elaborate armor, when he noticed movement to his left. He instinctively hunkered down and watched as a tall shadowy figure moved among the dead, stopping at times to see if life still existed. When he found a man still alive and propped up against his shield, the shadowy figure stopped and bent over him.

At first, Carrig thought it looked like he was listening for a heart beat, but minutes passed and the shadowy figure stood up and wiped his gory lips. He didn’t know what to make of the sight. The figure disappeared in the growing fog.

Weighted down with his loot wrapped in a knight’s cape and in several leather purses, Carrig hurried back to the shelter of the forest, and to the hollowed-out oak he slept under the night before with Thomas. He had found a fine sword that he laid on his lap while he went through the leather purses contents. Suddenly he heard a noise. A minute later Thomas came stumbling toward him with a clay flask in one hand, a large leather bag in the other, and a nobleman’s gold gilded helmet askew on his head.

“A gift from the gods,” Thomas said, slurring his words as he held the clay jar up for inspection. “What a night. I’ve already hidden twice this much,” he picked up the leather bag, “… and with no problems! You’ve brought me luck, good Carrig. This is the first time other looters didn’t beat me to the goods, or take away my findings.”

“I’m glad to hear this,” Carrig said, “but I have a question for you. Did you see a tall thin man dressed in black moving around the battlefield?”

Thomas dropped his clay jar and it shattered on the forest floor. “What was the man doing?” he asked in a rapidly sobering voice.

“I couldn’t really make it out that well, but it looked like he was embracing a live survivor. When he stood straight, I’m sure I saw blood on his lips. Then he disappeared.

“Vampire...” he muttered. “That thing you saw wasn’t a man. He was a count in England once, before being attacked by a vampire as he lay wounded on a distant battlefield. Now he roams battlefields in search of dying men with enough blood left to satisfy his thirst. You’re blessed that he didn’t see you.”

“I wouldn’t say that you greedy fool,” the vampire said, as he appeared before them. “I was just waiting to get both of you scavengers together. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s thieves,” he snarled, showing his sharp fangs.

As It Stands, I’ve always suspected battlefields would be like a delicatessen for vampires.