High Hopes

by raenarcam

Hi! Listen to Me!

“What.. what was his name?” He asked, looking to where the physician was rummaging the dead man’s pockets.

“Hm? It doesn’t matter, the dead don’t need names. Get to work on those shoes.” Athalbert did as instructed, loosening the dead man’s boots from his feet. He had only been dead an hour and the remains of his final meal seemed to be working their way through him. He let out a little groan and Athalbert nearly caught himself jumping. The physician was unfazed, his focus on salvaging whatever could be salvaged in this dead man’s little hovel.

“R-right.” He went back to work on the boots, stopping after another moment of quiet broken only by the sounds of the busy street beyond and the dead man’s groans. “Why are we doing this?”

The physician had moved on to rummaging cabinets and the sound of shifting pottery was momentarily diminished. “Well… The lot of all men is suffering and death, but it is our purpose in life to see those suffering to the bitter end and so perhaps to help aid in the removal of that suffering. We do only what is allowed of us by the gods, but by the gods we are permitted to give some succor to the dying.”

Athalbert contemplated this in silence, pulling one boot off of the dead man and going on to unlace the second. He paused again, frowning, looking down at the laces. “Yes, I know all that. I wanted to know why we’re robbing this dead man.”

The physician gave a muffled little chuckle, the clinking in the cabinet ceased, he wondered if he had found anything. “We are not stealing. We are taking what is owed to us. Unfortunately the less fortunate tend not to agree with the contract portion of verbal contract. They will refuse payment and we will have taken it already. And you need new boots. It’s not as if there’s anything to worry about with this one. He died of liver failure.”

“R-right.” He pulled off the second boot and putting them on they were a better fit and of better quality than what he had been wearing, that was true. The physician looked up with a start, his beaked mask pointed toward the door.

“They’re on their way. Liven up, we’ll need to be scarce quickly.” He gestured toward the dead man quickly and Athalbert shoved his old boots onto the man’s feet. He managed a quick apology before he got his mask up and rushed to the physician’s side. The man’s family had returned.

The physician had been right, they refused to pay now that the man was dead, but the physician was gracious and patted hands and gave comforting words to the mourners. But his pockets jingled when they made a hasty exit, and they had the coin for stew for dinner which was pleasant enough, all things considered. And, as they made their quick exit from town early the next morning (‘early enough,’ the physician explained, ‘that their grief would not have time to turn to greed) he had to admit the boots were of better quality.

So that wasn’t all bad.