Clean Nails

Just a little flash fiction/short I wanted to write for my fantasy universe and novel I’m working on. Its set a little into the novel, giving a little prospective and backstory on some characters. It might be rough, so please forgive that! Tell me what you think, like if you like it, and share it if you think its worth sharing! I hope you enjoy!

“Why do you do that?” Questioned a young woman, looking at one of her two companions. The trio sat around a dim fire, which smoldered just enough to provide light but not enough to be completely visible for miles around. The man in question – middle-aged and graying, dressed in dirty leather and linen – glanced up from where he picked at his nails with a knife. “They’re just going to get dirty again, later.”

“I like having clean hands.” Was all he said, holding his hands up for his companions to see. The skin – rough, scarred, and calloused from hard use – was quite clean, having been washed with a spare canteen the aging man had pulled from his bag. His nail were immaculate, completely free of any dirt and carefully filed and trimmed.

“It is a bit odd, you have to admit. Especially for our line of work.” His second companion, a red-haired man that looked to be several years his junior, commented. “Though, thinking on it, I don’t remember ever seeing you without gloves for the most part, either. What’s wrong, Rodrik? Afraid of a little mud?”

The red-haired man chuckled, and the young woman cracked a small smile, her oddly glowing white eyes not moving from Rodrik. Grunting, the older man just slipped his knife into its sheathe and placed it into his traveling bag. After seeing that he was done placing his cleaning instrument – she’d never see him use that particular knife for anything else – she decided to press the question further, now curious. “Surely there’s a reason, Rodrik. Even you have to admit that it’s a curious habit for a sellsword to have.”

Looking at the slowly dying fire and reaching for a few twigs to toss in, Rodrik could only shrug in response. His face set in its ever-present aloof expression as he watched the newly added fuel be consumed by the flames, hands clasping together between his knees. The two remained silent, watching him patiently. Finally, he glanced down to his gloved hands, trailing the fingers of one hand over the other, the sounds of worn leather scrapping together barely audible over the cracking of the small fire.

“My hands are my life, the tools of my trade. They should be treated with the same respect and care as any other.” Rodrik’s said, voice firm. Neither of his companions doubted for a moment that he believed what he said, nor would they question him on it.

“It’s a good philosophy to have, wouldn’t you agree, William?” The woman said, glancing over at the red-haired man who nodded.

“Aye – maybe I should start taking better care of my own…” The red-haired man glanced down at his own hands, which were dirty and wore no gloves. He grimaced and turned to the sole female in their party, “Cassandra, could your magic-?”

“That’s not how it works and you know it. Even if I did make you a pair, they’d fade away eventually.” The white-eyed woman, Cassandra, cut William off before he could pose his question. “And you know I don’t like using magic for pointless reasons.”

“What good is conjuration if you can’t make something that lasts forever? That seems like a complete waste of time, if you ask me. Might as well make a fireball or lightning bolt, or-” William’s began to rant, causing Cassandra to turn to him. Her eyes narrowed and a sharp retort on her tongue.

Rodrik simply turned his attention back to the fire, tuning out his two traveling companions as they had yet another heated conversation on the usefulness of certain branches of magic. Clasping his fingers together, his mind turned back into the past, the sudden question dragging forth memories buried under over twenty years of bloodshed. Memories of a time before he’d ever seen a sword outside festivals and tournaments, let alone held one.

“A man’s hands are his life, Rodrik. They’re the tools of his trade, no matter what that trade might be. Just like this knife in my hand, or that rack over there, your hands should be treated with respect. You only ever get one set.”

Closing his eyes, Rodrik tuned out the arguments of his companions, which he knew would last hours from past experiences, and let his mind wander back to that small hut at the outskirts of the village. The smells of tanning hides and fresh leathers, forever infused into the wood and thatch of the small home, filling his nose. The comforting weight of a fleshing knife in his hand, and a large, strong, and calloused hand on one shoulder. A firm and deep, yet gentle, voice guiding him in all the proper movements as he parted the skin.

“Just like that, Rodrik. See? Not so hard, is it? You’re a natural with a blade. You’ll make a fine tanner.”

His father had been a wise man, too bad he’d been given a rotten son…

END

Just a little short thing I wanted to write for fun! I hope you all enjoyed it a little! Please be sure to check out my other works some time, both fiction and non-fiction! Thanks for tuning in and I’ll see you next time in The Bin!

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