Tee grizzled veteran stared at the youth. "And why do you want to join The Crazy Ates?"
"For glory and honor," the young man replied. No more than sixteen, his face was still soft, though tan from working the fields. Rangy, with big hands, he was just starting to bulk out with manhood.
"You ever kill something bigger than a chicken?"
The youth narrowed his eyes, jaw jutting defensively. "I've been hunting deer since I was big enough to draw a bow."
Patrons of the inn made merry, all of them mercenaries and whores. Money and alcohol flowed freely, keeping the crowd at a fever pitch. No one noticed the tense exchange in the corner.
The veteran mercenary spat a greasy gobbet to the floor. "Did some bard fill your head with bullshit tales?"
Young green eyes hardened. "What's bullshit about them?"
"I fucking knew it. The vet spat again, then drank deeply of his ale. "Johnny-on-the-farm here's some fancy words on market day, and suddenly honest work isn't good enough for him. He runs off for adventure and glory so his name can be in a song.
"But that honest work is good. It's necessary. It's a sure sight better than holding your friends guts in while he's screaming for mercy. Cow shit smells cleaner than a boy shitting himself when he dies.
"And farms got beds and farmgirls and fresh eggs. Ain't no struggle to get a fire going in the rain, or wondering if you're gonna freeze in the night, or being scared you'll get your throat slit in the night.
"So take my advice. Go on back home, and leave the mercing to those of us as too dumb to do no better than kill for their coin."
The young smiled. "You've mistaken my origin." His smile deepened, revealing razor sharp teeth. "I want to kill for coin because it's in my nature." He laughed, licking his lips with a reptilian tongue.
"Fucking drakken," the veteran swore, sliding the ledger toward the boy. "Just remember who you're supposed to kill."