Leath was buried in paperwork. It was only naturally that dramatically expanding the military would result in poorly-scaling regulations, but no one had anticipated the magnitude. In the past, injuries were extremely rare, so no one had minded much that recording them required about ten forms each--each as in, 'Oh, you got a scrape /and/ a bruise when you tripped? That'll be a total of twenty forms, then, thank you'--but Leath was certainly gaining an appreciation for the magnitude of bureaucratic inefficiency today. When they had begun training with scythes this morning, one private hurt himself almost immediately, and Leath left the others to continue unsupervised while he went with Private Baker to the medical tent, where he spent half an hour filling out the necessary forms. By the time he finished, he had eight more injured troops, meaning at least eighty more forms.

It was as he filled out these forms that Leath finally realised what he should be looking for in a sargent: someone who could do the paperwork for him. It didn't need to be a good fighter, or a good leader. Just someone who could fill out forms. That, of course, cut out a lot of candidates. The ideal sargent would need to know Leath's rank, have a mind for memorising regulations, /not/ have injured his writing hand, and be sufficiently cowed to let Leath dump loads paperwork on him all day, every day. Who could Leath possibly choose?

'Greetings, lieutenant, sir!' proclaimed Private Dallywonk, walking in supporting his screw-ball pal Filcher. "I believe we have an I227g here: blunt trauma to the left kneecap.'

Leath smiled broadly. 'I227g, eh? Are you sure that's not the right elbow?'

'Yes, sir, that would be I12j94.'

'Why's he smiling like that?' asked Private Filcher. 'My knee really hurts.'

'Say, Dallywonk, how do you feel about paperwork?'


Sargent Morris Dallywonk scribbled in various bits of information in the blanks and added another form to the second pile on his left: completed, but needed an officer's signature. It was far larger than the 'completed and ready to go' pile, and didn't seem to be getting any smaller. Lieutenant Leath had popped in briefly to sign a few earlier, but spent most of his time outside training the other troops in the subtle art of /not/ injuring people with their weapons. This was apparently more important than teaching them how to injure people. It seemed to Morris that if you didn't wan to injure people, maybe you shouldn't be using a tool designed specifically for that purpose, but he'd never really got the whole 'fighting' thing. The Zombie Trout never flopped to war. But, no, just a dream. Not real. The gods were /not/ trout and they weren't dead. He had to get this straight or he might find himself filling out a I47px1 form for himself: troop in need of psychological counselling.

Finally, he decided to take a break to grab a bite to eat. As a sargent, he figured that was his prerogative, so long as the lieutenant didn't see him. If an injured soldier came in needing a form filled out...well, it was his own fault for injuring himself. Dallywonk would only be gone a few minutes, anyway.

Slipping out of the tent, he started walking towards the mess hall, glancing back from time to time to make sure no no bloodied corpses were being carried towards the med tent.

Just as he was about to enter the mess hall, a huge fireball rose up from the nearby kitchen tent. Probably someone had spilled the cooling oil again. Sargent Dallywonk turned right around and ran back to the medical tent, where he proceeded to pre-fill in various burn-related injury codes to the forms for when the wounded soldiers began pouring it. It would be a long night.


Fin wasn't sure what the best course of action was. Everyone on the group seemed to assume he had some master plan, and for a while he had at least had the goal of avoiding people and making his way up north, but now that he was limeless, it occurred to him that that plan was really quite unnecessary. Yet with his companions all seeming to desire to push northward, he didn't really see any reason to try changing their minds. Granted, he wasn't going to accompany them all the way into the frozen icelands beyond the borders of Tanenbaum Region, but there was no reason he shouldn't keep going north until they hit an interesting town where he could hang out. Maybe stow-away on a boat bound for...somewhere. It didn't really matter where.

'Avast! It be getting late' commented Melville, their resident reformed (for the second time) pirate. 'Perhaps we should stop and set up camp!' They all looked at Fin for guidance, so he shrugged. Taking this as a 'That's a great idea and I fully endorse it. Let us begin at once!' they all stopped and Snook ran off into the grass to look for firewood and snakes. They others didn't really want any snakes, but Snook did, so he always looked for them then the opportunity arose.

'So, Mr. Boss,' began Melville once camp had been established. 'Just what are our plans?

'And don't shrug' added Hilfa. 'Shrugging indicates lack of a plan. It's not a plan itself.'

Fin grunted. Hilfa threw an acorn at him.

'Polar bears!' shouted Snook, causing Melville's eyebrows to rise almost off his face.

'That seems a...dangerous plan. And a cold one. You know it's nearing Winter as it is. Normal people would be heading south at a time such as these.'

Though he was somewhat cynical of someone like Melville commenting on what 'normal' people would do, Fin was quite ready to jump on something better than Snook's brilliant 'Let's all go freeze to death and then get eaten alive!' plan. 'Yeah, cold. Could go south.'

'Then why the bloody hell have we been walking /north/ for the past two days?' exploded Hilfa. 'If that shrug really /did/ mean you have no plan whatsoever, couldn't you have mentioned something?'

Fin shrugged and another acorn flew past his head.

'So do we turn around or what?' Hilfa looked from Fin to Melville. 'South?'

Snook paused and looked thoughtful for a second. 'Are there polar bears to the south? I thought the Pesce killed all the animals except for fish?'

'Not that far south, Snook. And, no, there aren't any polar bears down there, so you'll just have to survive without being mauled to death. But there might be real swordfighters down there.'

This speech, especially the potential for swordfighters, seemed to satisfy Snook. But they still had to make a decision about where to go from there.

'Yeah. South.' declared Fin.

'Oh, like you know anything. Why'd we even make you the leader in the first place?'

'Because I was the oldest who wasn't a pirate drop-out?'

'Hey, now! I completed piracy school!'

'Yeah, whatever. Too bad you couldn't find anyone to pirate from except for a couple kids with nothing to steal.'

'Sure, you're older than me, but this is the first time you've managed to speak in complete sentences the whole time, and it's not like you had a masterful plan. "Let's walk north and then turn around and walk south." Real clever. You should be a general or a sea captain or something.'

'And your strategy of follow the mute? How'd that work out? Oh, right, you're the same place he is now, aren't you?'

The next acorn bounced off his arm and somehow wedged itself up his right nostril.

'So...' began Melville. 'South?' He looked around at the others and realised asking them just wasn't going to cut it. 'So! South. In the morning.'

The next morning, they all set out the way they had come. Things looked different now because people travellers were facing the opposite direction. Trees were mossier and the sunlight more blinding. Plus, the air had decided it was still August, and the November cool had to take a break for the day. By mid-afternoon, the frozen wastelands to the north were starting to gain some appeal, though the killer polar bears and cannibalistic icemen were still a bit o a turn-off. But they treat onward with conviction and no real plan still.

Despite the heat, they passed their campsite from the previous night before the sun began to set and continued onward for a good distance beyond. Finally, by unspoken agreement, they stopped for the night. If their collective memory served well, the next several miles would not make the best camping grounds. One of the benefits of their earlier indecisiveness.

While they slept that night, the evil pirate One-Tooth Pete crept by and stole half their provisions.


Once, long, long ago, there was a fearsome pirate who went by the name of One-Tooth Pete. One-Tooth Pete never really understood why everyone called him One-Tooth Pete, as he actually had a bunch of teeth and his mother had named him Wilbur, but you can't shake a nickname like One-Tooth, and he'd built up a reputation under that name, so he just went along with it.

One-Tooth Pete was renowned throughout the land as one nasty little bugger whom you really didn't want to mess with. Whenever a merchant would spot the black eye flag flying above Pete's ship, they would load up a lifeboat with their valuables and a cabin boy and send it over to Pete whilst they sailed rapidly in the other direction. Such was his notoriety.

This actually led a number of copycat pirates to fly imitation One-Tooth Pete flags atop their masts in hopes of scoring easy booty and a delicious cabin boy. It was this duplicity that eventually led to the decline of One-Tooth Pete's ability to evoke dread in sea captain's hearts. At one point, One-Tooth Pete met up with a small merchant vessel some ways off the coast of the Isle of the Gods, and they, as usual, sent over a lifeboat of goodies without so much as an 'Avast!' from One-Tooth, but during their traditional flight afterwards, the found themselves fast approaching a rickety ship flying the very same One-Tooth flag as the ship to which they'd just donated a cabin boy and some colourful rugs. The captain of the merchant vessel quickly realised that they had been had or were about to be had, and decided to take a chance and board this new pirate ship, praying it was the hadder, not the real deal.

Upon boarding the pirate ship, they found a skeleton crew consisting largely of cabin boys. Realising what a valuable find this was, the merchant took the cabin boys and all the pirate's treasure and set sail to the northern regions, where he hoped to sell the cabin boys into slavery.

His crew, however, decided they didn't want to go up north, so they mutinied and turned the ship toward Sawbill, where they eventually arrived. That night, they all went out drinking and telling tales of how they had defeated One-Tooth Pete and how all the other One-Tooth Petes out there were really cheap fakes. They brought along the cabin boys who weren't old enough to drink, but were old enough to say 'Yes, it's true. They rescued us from the readful pirate One-Tooth Pete. He was scary, but at least he didn't eat us before our rescue.'

From that day on, One-Tooth Pete found himself laughed at by passing ships rather than shown the traditional deferential attitude, so he decided to give up the sea and wander around in Tanenbaum Region robbing people while they slept. He rarely got any delicious cabin boy to eat, but he found that fish was really just as tasty. In his youth, he had always hated eating fish, but this, as it turned out, was merely because his mother was a truly awful cook. When prepared properly, seafood was indeed just as tasty as all his childhood friends had always insisted.