Of Pawns and Well-Intentioned Advice


Author's note: This was the result from the following prompts on my Tumblr: A fic dealing with the Pawn Guild image you posted. Make sure to involve Barnaby. Said image depicted assorted pawns and humans feasting at the Pawn Guild, and can be found on my Tumblr.


Barnaby looked at the tiny parcel of land he had just purchased with the assistance of his mercenary acquaintance, and some of said mercenary's colleagues. It would have been impossible otherwise, for a considerable number of the human inhabitants of Gransys could not – or mayhap would not – even see why pawns should be paid for their labours, much less to purchase and own property.

He aimed to change all that. Just because pawns do not age or die in the way humans understand it, that did not mean their human employers could take advantage of them and treat them in an ill manner. And as pawns generally lacked the will to contest the decisions of these unprincipled humans, most of the myrmidons merely accepted what some of the more sympathetic – and polite – mercenaries described as 'grossly unfair terms'.

The less polite ones just swore a lot.

To put it simply, the pawns were ill-treated. They were given the most dangerous tasks, and yet received very little pay for their services. Some never received any form of remuneration at all.

When he had brought the matter up for discussion with his mercenary acquaintance and asked why human mercenaries were not so badly treated, the man had told him that it was because their guild protected them for the most part from unscrupulous employers, such as by way of warning guild members to stay away from such employers, as well as insisting on a minimum standard in their contracts.

"Perhaps I should create something similar," Barnaby had stated then, and to his surprise, the mercenary had agreed with him, as well as offered assistance in the setting up of such an association.

Construction at the small parcel of land began soon enough, and it was not long before Barnaby stood with a carefully-schooled expression of satisfaction in front of the building that was to serve as the offices of the Pawn Guild.

"Well then, when's the opening?" asked the master craftsman; the only one in the city who had agreed to take up the project and not charge an exorbitant fee.

"Opening?"

"You can't have a proper guild if you don't have a proper opening."

"What is involved in this… opening?"

The craftsman shrugged. "Lots and lots of ale, usually."

He blinked. "A party?"

"Something like that."

In the end, Barnaby invited some of the mercenaries he knew – and they invited some of the mercenaries they knew – and experienced some modicum of surprise when he was told by the sellswords that throwing a party to celebrate the guild's opening was 'a bloody good idea!' He had the suspicion that the enthusiastic reaction was more due to the prospects of consuming free ale and food rather than the sincere desire to help him, as the humans were more than happy – extremely enthusiastic, in fact – to help him convince the local alehouse to supply the feast. However, he had also decided that the guild opening would also be a suitable occasion to teach some of the new arrivals from the Rift on the ways of interacting with humans. It would do well for these pawns to learn about humans, in order to serve future Arisen better.

The pawns assembled at the building an hour or so before the scheduled opening feast, where Barnaby explained to them that the occasion would help them to learn and imitate human mannerisms. It was all an act, true, but nevertheless a necessary one in order to make their presence less unsettling to Arisen and humans in general.

"So we are to observe, and then copy what these mercenaries say and do?" asked a ranger-pawn.

"Yes. Not only that, you must ensure that the next time you make such comments or actions, you are in the appropriate occasion or setting."

The pawns nodded, and Barnaby reminded himself to tell them later they should not do so all at the same time, and in such large numbers. Some humans may find it extremely unsettling.

"Barnaby?" said another pawn. A warrior, he noted.

"Yes?"

"I think I understand why we need to learn to talk and joke like humans at these gatherings. But what if we are travelling? Surely we do not spend our time in silence, and the conversation is likely different than what takes place in these gatherings."

"Then it is best that you offer your Master some helpful advice when you are on the road, if you have any," he replied, and the answer seemed to satisfy some of the new arrivals.

Not all though. "What can be considered as helpful advice?" another pawn asked.

"The strengths or the weaknesses of the monsters in the area. Sometimes even the smallest fact about the terrain or the local beasts can also be of help to your Master. Some humans like to know the history of a place, so if you know some lore of your current location, mayhap your Master would like to hear it."

The pawns collectively nodded again, and Barnaby made the appropriate expression of a grimace to demonstrate just how suitable the expression was for the moment, before he explained to them all about the mass nodding.

The mercenaries arrived not long after, and the feast and merriment – feigned and somewhat stilted merriment for some, anyway – soon began. Barnaby decided to demonstrate to the less experienced pawns by participating in the banter of the mercenaries, making comments about the food and drink and how they smelled and tasted, and even drank to the toasts.

Some of the more adventurous pawns not only observed the mercenaries' and Barnaby's actions, but quickly copied them.

Well, at least they tried to, with somewhat less desirable results.

An attempt to slam two flagons together to mimic a hearty toast failed rather noisily as the two concerned pawns had misjudged the amount of force necessary, and instead ended up with ale-drenched clothing and shards of pottery all over the floor. An attempt to carve a slice from a roast partridge caused some minor panic, as the concerned warrior-pawn had tried to do so not with a knife, but with his sword. Fortunately Barnaby was close by to correct his error, and the merriment soon resumed.

The ale soon dulled the humans' wits, and they began to act more amicably towards the pawns. Some of them even leered and made suggestive remarks at the myrmidons, and Barnaby furiously shook his head when the pawns looked at him, silently seeking his advice on whether they should mimic such comments and actions, or to return home with the humans as drunkenly suggested.

The pawns also noticed the humans' more accommodating manner, and some even started asking the mercenaries questions, and Barnaby noted this with the necessary expression of approval.

"May I ask a question?" said a ranger-pawn to one burly, bald-headed mercenary who had probably just drank his eighth – or mayhap eighteenth – flagon of ale.

"Ask away, lad!"

"Barnaby says that I should offer useful advice to employers whenever I am travelling with them. What would be one such advice?"

"I don't know? How about telling them how wolves behave?" replied the tipsy mercenary, before he downed another flagon of ale in one breath. "Everyone should know about wolves and how they hunt in large numbers!" he said, and then fell into a fit of drunken laughter that was quickly joined by the other mercenaries.

"I see," said the pawn, who decided that he would relay this piece of advice to all his fellow myrmidons.

—x-x-x—

Countless years and equally countless Arisen later:

"Wolves hunt in packs!"

"I KNOW!"