The MailMan Chronicles: Man Bites Dog

The Mail Man Chronicles: Man Bites Dog-

Some stories start with grand adventures and mighty heroes, some start with small and humble characters who go on to do great things, and still others start with magic and tragedy…this is not one of those stories.

“Shmall, four miles!” the road sign says. A narrow ass, one lane dirt road winding between hills and over creaks for eighteen miles from where it split with the main (and actually important) road and they still feel the need to mark every mile between the junction and Shmall like they’re trying to nail the road down. Our hero, if you can keep a straight face while calling him that, saunters down the path towards Shmall. He carries on his person one short sword, notched, one bedroll, moth-eaten, one personal pack, small, and one large leather bag, very important. His boots are worn but of high quality leather, his pants and tunic have a mass produced and official feel to them; blue faded almost to grey with one darker strip running up the outside of the pant legs and down the sleeves of his tunic. Over his tunic he has his bags slung from each shoulder, straps crossing over his broad chest and his sword belted around his ample waist. An almost shapeless hat perches on his head, pulled low over his eyes to protect them from the noonday sun. Walking at a quickstep, yet still seeming to saunter without care, our hero whistles as he marches on to Shmall.

Meanwhile in the bushes off the side of the road, a small pack of kobolds waits in ambush. Well, they’re not really a pack since there’s only two of them, and they’re not really kobolds so much as flea bitten, starving and deranged almost-exiles from their tribe. Covered in mud and poorly drawn war paint, the two ambushers whisper together in debate.

“Less take’m soon’s ‘e get close!”

“Nononono…we’m take’m ass ‘e go past!”

“How?”

“We le’m go past, we jumps out and grabs ‘im from behind! Wit TEEF!”

“No! We le’m get close, den we jump out, howl and grab ‘im from da front, wit CLAWS!”

It’s around this point that our two villains, never even remotely considered the smartest of their particular breed, begin to have what can best be described as a shoving match…with claws and ‘teef’. Growling, snarling, yelps of pain and the violent shaking of a few particular bushes are all that our hero needs to see and hear to suspect there might be trouble nearby. Stopping about ten feet away from the bush-coyote hybrid at war with itself, our hero coughs loudly. (As one would when trying politely to get the attention of the next customer in line…the one who can’t help but be chatting away with her friend just as you get ready to attend to her needs, but then she gets huffy with you for having the gall to interrupter her conversation and “why did it take so long” type comments ensue…yeah, that kind of cough.)

“Huh? Was dat?”

“Was what?”

“I tink ‘im heard us…”

“Stoopid, was you ‘e heard, nor me!”

“NO! Was you! I is silent like mouse knight ting!”

“PUN NO SAVE YOU NOW!”

And more bush-war ensues…until, “Excuse me, but am I interrupting something? You see, I have a timetable to keep to and if you are going to ambush me I’d like to get it over with so I can get along with the rest of my day…or not, depending on how vigorous your stance is vis-a-vi the whole “Your money or your life!” question.”

“Ummm…GET ‘IM!!”

“YEAH…wait, me?”

“NOW!!!”

And with only minimal debate and a few false starts, the two ambushers erupt, or rather matriculate, out of the bushes. Slinking over to stand in the middle of the path, square in our hero’s path, our would-be robbers stand in perfect light for a little description. Short, humanoid, jackal related mammals; bipedal, symmetrical and stupid. Loin clothes serve as clothing, though not very well. Ropes serve as belts with various bags, tokens and leftovers hanging from it. Each kobold has only a small stone knife as a weapon, but their teeth and claws are dangerous enough and frankly, they look diseased.

“You give us bags, gold and food now, and we kill you!”

“Ummm…what?”

“No you stupid…is OR…or!”

“Oh! Right…you give us bags or gold or food and we kill you!”

*facepaw!*

“Let me get this straight, I can choose what to hand over in exchange for a brutal murder, but you won’t take the other things afterwards?”

“YES!”

“NO! No, you hand us you tings…we let you live. Otherwise we kill you and take you tings anways!”

“Do you have a license? Or really any form of identification on your person?”

“What…?”

“Why ‘im ask question like dat?”

“Why you need dat for?”

“Well, obviously I’m on the clock right now, and if I get waylaid or lost or lose track of the time then it comes out of my pocket see? Now, official business I can submit for recoup, but if I’m just taking the piss or grabbing a bit of lunch or the like, well then… that’s something the bosses don’t feel they have to pay me back for. Now, if this is official business, then I can recoup what you steal and everyone goes home happy…but if it’s not, well then…it’s more’n my job is worth really…standing here like a stump when there’s work to be done and me giving you my choice of my things just so you can murder me, the cheek!”

“Nononononono…you have only choice of what to give us and we let you live, or you don’t and we kill you…I tink?”

“So you don’t have a license?”

“We don’t have no license brudder…’im sound official, what if’n we get in trouble?”

“What trouble? ‘Im all alone, out here on path…who know?”

“Why ‘im looking at us like dat?”

“Prolly wonder why we whisper together…make us look suspicious…No, no we don’t have license or other form of iDentiFiCation! What you do about it?!”

“Well now, that’s a bit of a pickle you find yourselves in boys. I’m sorry to say I’ll have to take this up with your employer. See…let me explain things to you. Everything has what is called “Market Value”. Now, your basic apple say, has a M.V. of only a few pence right? But a bushel of apples could be worth as much as a dollar right… and flour, eggs, sugar and cream in small quantities only cost a few pence as well, you follow me? But, if you had say a portion of a bushel of apples and some flour, eggs, sugar and cream, all bought for only say thirty pence or so…why you could make yourself an apple pie that could sell for as much as three dollars…see Market Value, you understand so far?”

“Uhhhhhhhh…?”

“Ummmmmmmmm…?”

“Excellent! Now, let’s expand on this principle shall we… consider the M.V. of a person, or kobold in your case, and the relationship between one and the other. Now, I am a highly trained and qualified specialist in my field. I’ve cost my company several hundred dollars over the years in training and gear alone, not to mention what I’ve been paid for simply doing my job plus benefits, vacation and pension plane…why, you add all that up and it’s got to be almost a thousand dollars I’m worth. Now, you two are what we call “Unskilled Laborers”. You, and let’s be frank about this, cost your company very little in terms of training or recompense, but you stand to bring in more than you cost…this is good, we call this “Profit Margin” and I’m certain on any normal day a little bit of unlicensed thievery would benefit your company in some small way, but what you also need to consider is “Liability” or what your actions could potentially cost your employers in the long run. Now, to demonstrate the concept of Liability, I’d like you to consider what might happen if say the King of the nearest country was riding down this path and you decided to ambush him? What might we extrapolate as a likely outcome when you disturb royalty from their overly comfortable hallucination like lives?

“Uhhhhhhh…?”

“Ummmmmmmmmm…war…?”

“Exactly! Top of the class you are mate.”

“Wait second…you’m sayin’ you King? You no look like any kinda king we’m seen!”

“Oh no, I’m no king me…just a working Joe like yourselves. Though, I do kinda work for the king…and not just that king, but a lot of the kings around here. In fact, you could say I am the voice of the kings…fancy huh?”

“Ummmm…what mean you “voice o kings”? Dat sounds iffy to me…”

“Well, what I mean is…well, you see this bag here? This bag carries the letters, notes, packages and messages of folks from a half dozen little kingdoms around here. Everything from Great Aunt Rue’s bread recipe to General Shroo’s battle strategy and everything in between. Why, you might even say I’m MORE important than any king or general or Great Aunt Rue ‘cause without me, their words would never reach the wide world. Now you think on that a few my sons, and you think on just how much Liability your company would have to assume if you were to say, waylay and murder me instead of just letting me pass…”

Pausing to let this sink through the koboldian skulls of his “attackers”, our mail delivering hero edges over into the shade of a nearby tree and begins to roll himself a cigarette. Gauging by the ever more frantic facial tics of his two victims, he judges his moment and strikes…

“Course…I might could be persuaded to forget this little incident, if you two could find it in your hearts to donate to the Mail Carrier and Parcels Shipper Orphan and Widow Fund? I’ll be sure to make the donation in your name…or, you know, we could let this get serious and I’ll just have to contact your employer and fill a complaint… probably have to take it on up to the city commissioner as well…tsk tsk…”

“NO…No we’m not need complaint filed, not in triplicate not with Boss or City Commissioner! We make donation, here have all!”

“Yes! Yes…please no fill injunction against us nor sue for lost wages! Please don’t tell Boss we made him Liable!!”

With howled please for mercy and forgiveness, the kobolds empty their bags of all their valuables (which isn’t much) hand it over to the Mail Man (or rather drop it into his hand from a safe distance…like I said, these things are diseased or something!) turn tail and flee back into the forest, screaming as though all the demons of hell were following behind them. Chuckling softly to himself, the Mail Man continues on down the road to Shmall…

To be continued…

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