With hindsight, Conan realised he had been set-up. But at the time, he needed to eat. He’d needed to work.
“No need for the likes of scum like you. Get-the-fuck-lost!”
The inn-keeper didn’t want to know. Conan had tried his intimidating best. But this inn-keeper didn’t look like a man easily scared. And Conan didn’t have much going for him.
Conan glowered back. He didn’t like the way the man was looking him over. It felt almost like his eyes were groping under his tunic. Conan could almost feel the inn-keeper’s hands mauling at his hard-packed chest. But still the fucker wasn’t letting him chop wood for the prick. Anything ….. he’d do anything.
He needed to eat. He was broke. Again. Nothing to his name. Not a single coin. He’d work for nothing, he’d said. Just a roof over his head .. out of this pissing rain and cold. And a meal-a-day. He’d work his balls off, he’d growled. The inn-keeper had heard better offers perhaps …..
“Down by the river ……”
Outside a stranger had sidled up to him. Outside the tavern. Under the awning. Looking out at the driving freezing rain. Conan thought he’d been in the tavern before. Heard the encounter with the inn-keeper.
“Caves. Plenty of wood for a fire. Berries to stave off the hunger. Try that.”
Conan wasn’t good at showing appreciation. Especially when he got the same feeling. The stranger’s eyes on the solid mounds in his sleeveless top. Almost like his gaze could look under the leather top and get a feel of the strength beneath. But beggars couldn’t be choosers. He hadn’t eaten much in a couple of days. Against his nature, Conan managed to nod a gesture of thanks.
He’d been set up. He could see it now. Waylaid. Sent to the river. Unknowingly sitting there waiting to be attacked.
Settled down .. in an overhang of the cliff .. he’d got a fire going. Even in the half-darkness he’d found plentiful fruit to eat.
But then ….. fast asleep .. he’d come-to .. aware of movement. Going for his sword when ….. something landed over him. He lashed out. A net. A man-size net thrown over him. And men landing on top. Blows to his head. Punched to his gut. The more he struggle, the more he entangled himself. Blows caught up in the net. Maddened, frustrated, he threw punches. And only made things worse. Snagged himself further in the net Punches rained down. Clubs thwacked him in the side. He cussed back. He twisted, he squirmed. Getting more and more twisted into the net.
Blows thudded into his struggles. But undaunted Conan twisted and fought back. Then a lucky blow .. some fucker got him a hit across his skull. Light exploded. Pain in his head burst. A sickening burst of pain. Then blackness. Conan passed out.