Frequently, flies were the first sign of things gone wrong on the road. It had only taken a year or so of constant travel for me to realize it, and several other journeys before that.

It wasn’t like finding the shit of some pack animal- the stench would still linger. If the poor sod was lucky, there might be wagon tracks careening off the road into a ravine, the body of a horse or donkey rotting at the bottom. If they weren’t, a trail of blood might be slowly baking into the dust. Sometimes, in particularly remote locations, I would find the shriveled remains of someone curled in sand or asleep forever next to cold coals.

Once, I came across the remains of a fight. It was near the border, a skirmish between passionate townsfolk and well-armed but tired soldiers. Perhaps some had survived, but no one had yet carted the bodies away. I am ashamed to say this, but I stopped there, combing through pockets and prying away armor as though men were crabs and me a starving seabird. I had no money- I had been robbed a few days earlier, and hadn’t eaten more than a few rodents since- and I needed to purchase new supplies when I had the chance. I was able to sell some of my findings in town, several days later, and that night feasted on a skewer, threaded with roasted chicken and vegetables. I threw most of it up, unused to such decadence, but in the morning I ate porridge with fruit and delighted in my luck.

There was honor in my trade, I knew, but out on the road, the things I did to survive and make it to my destination were rarely pleasant. If I had been a good person, perhaps I’d bury those bodies. Perhaps I would find their next of kin, pass on their jewelry or the profits of their wares if they had any. But I was not a good person, not on an everyday level. The jobs I took, I knew they had an impact, but I knew the truth. I never would be.

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