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Chapter Five: Chaim's Only Friend

Updated: Jul 3, 2022

The leather purse skid across the dusty cave floor—drawstrings shaking loose and gold coins skipping out like stones on a creek. Chaim walked in after it. He was drenched with rain and sweat. Gershom snatched the bag, corralled the loose coins, and began counting.

Chaim rubbed his arm and blinked away the pain from the long gash in his leg. He had almost got away unnoticed, but a voice alerted the guard to his presence. Thankfully, the spear alone caught up to him as he ran away in the darkness. "You're welcome." Chaim's voice carried disdain. Gershom grunted.

"Need help with that wound, my Dominus?" Rem stood over him leering.

Chaim scowled, and swallowed back his anger. "Hand me that wineskin."

"Ah, ah, ah!" Rem waved a finger in Chaim's face. "I thought you'd want some of that, but you can't have it."

Chaim spun around, giving no care to the shock of pain in his leg.

Rem stood there with mocking eyes. "You've had more than your fair share of drink, besides it's the last one."

"Quit your infernal teasing, and give me that wine!" His hands were in fists, but both arms shaking.

Rem scooped up the wineskin. "Oh, sorry, lady, did you mean this wineskin? Here, let me go and get a cup for you, my lord." He sauntered over to the other side of the cave, flung his arms up feigning a loss of balance, and opened his hand, allowing the wine to splash to the ground. Rem grinned, "Oops! Do forgive me, my—"

Chaim was over to him in an instant. Without thought, he snatched his knife up from its place on his belt, and before Rem cried out, his blood was mingling with the wine on the cold, rock floor.

The other hired hands in the cave stopped what they were doing. Chaim released his grip and the knife clattered to the floor--it's metal fall rang through the darkness. Chaim's heart started racing faster than before and his head pounding even harder. He stared at the puddles of wine, unable to bring his eyes up to see Rem's lifeless corpse. One stab, right in the heart. No one said a word to Chaim, and instead returned to what they were doing. Gershom resumed counting the gold, and O'leg continued his story of Great Kura.

Chaim felt his stomach churn. Most of the wine had soaked into the ground, but a few drops still lingered. He dropped to his knees, about to lap it up like a dog, but the thought of Rem's blood stopped him. He shivered, and stood back up, and walked shakily over to Gershom, who was tying up the purse's drawstrings with a satisfied look on his face.

"Rem is dead."

Gershom didn't look up. "Get him out of here." He said with no emotion in his voice. He would have been more upset if a lamb had died in Rem's place.

Chaim tried to steady his walk, and pretend no one could hear his heart pounding. He set his jaw and kept his eyes on the stony roof of the cave as he dragged Rem's remains out and tossed it over the hill. The sheep encircled Chaim, staring with him over the dark slope. Chaim was washed with the knowledge that Rem was the closest thing he had to a friend in that cave. He grabbed a rock and launched it over the hill, then another and another. Soon he was shouting curses at Rem, then he was just shouting. Yelling nothing at the top of his lungs. The sheep scattered at this outburst, adding worried "baas" to the ruckus, but not a single man came out of the cave to see what was going on.

Chaim slumped to the ground, burying his head in his hands, and pulling at his matted hair. Here in the cave murder was the same as squashing a bug, but at that moment, Chaim wanted out, but it was no use. He was a part of the darkness of the cave.

A little "baa" crept up behind him. Chaim laid his still shaking hand on the lamb's back, leaving a thick streak of blood. He pulled his hand away. Who would die next?

Was there hope for any of the shepherds in this cave? Stealing gold. Gorging on fine food. None of that turns this filthy cave into a palace—no king here. I need some wine. He stood too fast, darkness swirling in around him, steadied himself, and limped back into the cave.

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