SOMEWHERE WEST OF VEL ANIR CORTOS Gaheris prodded the head of the corpse with his cane several times before he got it at the right point. He leveraged it slowly, tilting the corpse’s head this way and that as he examined it for damage. A soldier. Or a conscript, rather, judging from his clothes. Rough-spun. Looked basically like sack cloth – a far cry from the fanciful (yet ostensibly practical) uniform Gaheris had been issued. Other scavengers had already come through and relieved the conscript of whatever weapon he had been issued as well as his boots. More power to them. That was not what Gaheris had been sent to collect. Gaheris prodded the limbs, ensuring they were still attached. They were, in fact. An increasing rarity over here where the cavalry charge had initially hit. “This one,” he announced, and gave the corpse a decisive thwap on the chest. Two Red Guild armsmen trudged away from the waiting cart. Gaheris did not know their names. With their coifs on, they were virtually indistinguishable anyway. One had a mace clipped to his waist, and the other had a pair of long knives stuck under his belt. “Poor bastard,” muttered one of them, and took the corpse up under the arms. The other one scoffed and took the ankles. “Luckier than both of us, I reckon. He doesn’t have to work.” If that man knew what Gaheris did, he might have reconsidered that. It was not Gaheris’ place to educate them, anyway, so he merely moved to the next body. The armsmen trundled away, and hefted the conscript into the cart with the other corpses. Gaheris could not recall who was doing the fighting. Some petty Dukes squabbling in the shadow of Vel Anir, as usual. The battle had progressed quickly, one side pursuing the other with such vigor that they had not stopped to collect the dead. If Gaheris looked across the muddied and upturned earth, he could see the distant shapes of other scavengers picking their way through the dead. Pocket change, bad boots, and chipped weapons. What a miserable living that had to be. Gaheris did not sympathize. He had a salary. Gaheris prodded this new corpse in the chest, a weathered looking regular. No boots. Padded armor, empty scabbard, arm still hooked into his shield. The corpse sputtered suddenly, and groaned. Not a corpse after all. The soldier reached out weakly, muttered something, tried to grasp at the cane that had prodded him. Gaheris frowned, swatted the hand, and moved on.