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Jensen leaned on his pick and wiped his brow. The going was hard, much harder than they’d predicted, and the sweat was rolling off him in waves despite the chill in the air.

“Oi!”

A loud voice echoed off the rocks and he looked up with a poorly suppressed groan. Hedwig was pushing her way through the tunnel towards him, shoving the others out of the way and ignoring the looks they gave her.

“Am I paying you to stand idle?”

He paused before speaking, trying to find the best words to say. She didn’t wait for him to find his tongue.

“Am I paying you to lean on your pick and do nothing, or am I paying you to excavate a tunnel?”

His eyes narrowed slightly, but he didn’t let his emotions colour his voice like she did.

“You are indeed paying us to excavate a tunnel,” he replied. “But you are not paying us to be worked to the bone, or to listen to your nagging. If you don’t like the pace we’re setting you can pay us more, or we can all stop and let you dig it yourself.”

At his words the others stopped, the sound of their picks ringing off into silence as the echoes bounced and died off. He lifted his own pick and held it up.

“I’ll even leave you my own pick, out of the kindness of my heart.”

Hedwig clenched her fists and her face turned red. Jensen remained calm. The men trusted him to make sure that they got paid well for their labours, and he was sure that he had judged her right. She was so used to having money that she would never break a sweat over honest labour. She grew redder and redder, as if she was about to boil over.

“Fine.” She spat out the word as if it tasted foul. “I’ll pay you ten gold sovereigns more. Dig faster.”

Jensen nodded, and swung his pick against the rock once more. His men followed suit, and Hedwig stalked away. He grinned and winked at one of his men. That was the fourth time he’d managed to increase their pay. Whatever she thought was hidden beneath this old temple, it must be worth a lot.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Three Word Wednesday time again, and the prompts this week are Idle, Nagging and Pace. Happy New Year to all.)

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