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Old Soldiers Can't Forgive

The sun beat down on Harrigan's back as he filled in the latest vermin tunnel in his field. He thought the hides he hung on the fences would discourage them, but they appeared oblivious to the obvious consequences of invading his farm. Now three more skins were drying on the poles.

“Mornin', Harri!” a cheerful voice lilted across the field. He wiped his forehead on his arm and peered at the owner.

“Morning, Cassie!” He walked across the field, scraping the worst of the dust from his arms as he went. She was waiting in front of the house when he got there. He rinsed his hands off in a rain barrel and dunked his head. Cassie yelped and laughed as he shook the water from his head. “What brings you this way?”

“The cows gave extra milk and I thought you might like some,” she swung the milk can around and held it in front of her.

“Much appreciated. I was starting to run low. Bring it inside and we'll get it in the cooler.” He led her up the stairs and into his small hut.

His uniform was folded and resting neatly on a shelf near the bed. Under that, armor hung on a rack, ready for use. A small table held jeweler's tools and an unfinished statuette. The cooler and a small stove were grouped in another corner, next to a sink fed from a barrel on the roof. A keg of beer and bottles of alcohol were near a comfortable-looking chair. The bathroom, complete with a small shower, was walled off in the other corner. The home was very small, but clean and comfortable.

Harrigan hung his sword on the rack while Cassie found the clean milk bottles. These she filled and set in the cooler, making sure the door shut properly.

“Fruits and vegetables are in bins under the house. You're welcome to anything you want.”

“Very generous of you,” she backed him toward the bed. “I'll start with you and we can look at the crops later.”

 

 

Harrigan grinned as he watched the freckled woman carrying her milk can back up the road. The redhead was something else; a farmer's daughter that could drink and fight as well as any regular soldier. If he wasn't careful, she might make herself a regular guest at the farm.

“Would that be a bad thing?”

“Soldiers' wives end up widows. You know that.”

“Haven't you heard, Harri? Peace has broken out. You were there.”

Harrigan snorted. “I give it a month, two tops. There's always another war.”

“You don't have to go back to it, you know. You never imagined you'd be a farmer again, but here you are. And admit it; you're enjoying yourself.”

Harrigan grunted. “Maybe a little.”

“Hard work to keep you fit and busy. Someone warming your bed regularly. You've cut back on drinking so much a distillery went out of business. Hell, you even pet that cat that wanders around.”

“I better start drinking again. You talk too much.”

She laughed. “I'm the only one you listen to. But, seriously, Harri; why is it so terrible for you to quit and settle down? After everything you've done, all those years of fighting, don't you deserve to be happy?”

“After all the blood I shed? The people I've butchered? No,” he shook his head. “Monsters don't get happy endings. They play their part until they get put down like they should be.”

The voice quieted and Harri listened to the silence for a while. Then he turned and looked back over his little farm.

“I wonder if a row of raptorleaf would take care of the vermin. I could put the carrots right behind it to lure them in...”