Episode 35 - The Cussar Sword
by Camille LaGuire
It was a good thing that Pookiterin caught sight of his reflection in a window just before the train pulled in. His mustache was lopsided! The girl had cut it when she stole his sword. He shuddered with humiliation.
He could not face his colleagues with half a mustache! And if the train were carrying his enemies... that was all the worse.
He pulled out his grooming kit and hastily trimmed and pruned the remaining hair. The light was poor in the dusk, but the reflection was clear enough to see it was presentable.
The train pulled in while he was trimming, but he paused to brush away loose hairs and straighten his collar. The act of grooming was always calming for Pookiterin. When he looked good, he had confidence.
He flicked some dust off his sleeve and reminded himself that, whatever had gone wrong in the capital, he could blame that clown Rozinshura for everything that had happened here. The man was a known liar. If he said anything about the girl, everyone would assume it was a lie.
The first officer off the train was Colonel Sochir. Though Sochir was a rival, Pookiterin was thrilled to see him; it meant he had not been arrested. Things might have gone wrong, but there was no disaster.
Sochir spotted him from the platform, and rushed to greet him. He drew Pookiterin aside, away from the others.
"Is Argoss alive? Has he spoken?"
"He's alive. I have him hidden away. When I heard Vshtin was coming, I thought it best to wait for orders."
"Good man! The plans have changed. It is now critical to blame this on the Cussars, you understand?"
"Yes, kinchin. Of course."
"Has anyone else spoken to him?"
Pookiterin hesitated. It would be best not to hide the fact that Rozinshura got involved.
"We had some interference from the district facilitator--" he began.
"These facilitators are always impudent," said Sochir.
"Indeed," said Pookiterin, warming to the story. "This one is worse than most. I had to detain him."
Sochir paused, and then nodded with a smile.
"Excellent. Yes. I will deal with him. In the meantime, you have an important duty."
"You must kill our spy. Get a car, take him up the mountain to somewhere near the wreck, a little ways away so people will not wonder why they didn't find him." Sochir paused to signal to an officer. In a moment the officer returned with a long package wrapped in newspaper.
"This is a Cussar sword," continued Sochir, quietly, so others wouldn't hear. "You must kill him with this. Hack at him like a savage, and then drive it in deep and break the sword, to explain why they left it behind."
"Is that... necessary?" said Pookiterin. He was not fond of blood work, though he could make his drunken guards do the job....
"It is absolutely necessary, kinchin," said Sochir sternly. "We can salvage everything if we can blame this on a Cussar plot to inflame relations between Imperia and Awarshawa. But if we fail to blame them, then we are all at risk. We are counting on you, Pookiterin. You must do this right!"
Pookiterin clicked his heels and gave a sharp nod of acquiescence. He took the package and headed back toward the shed. He was a dizzy and a little sick at the thought of this duty, but it was important.
There were soldiers all along the tracks, busily unloading supplies from the cars. He hardly noticed them, even when a pair of young soldiers separated themselves from the rest and carried their heavy sacks along the path just behind him.
As Pookiterin reached the shed, he had convinced himself that this duty was so critical it would certainly lead to promotion. It was a job only a truly loyal man would do. He would not fail!
He leaned the bundle with the sword against the wall of the shed, and fished out the keys to the padlock. Just as he unlocked it, though, something large and forceful -- like a sack of flour -- struck him from behind, and he bounced violently against the wall of the shed, and fell to the ground unconscious.
Stay Tuned for Thirty-Six: "Finding Thorny"
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