Balance

Battle of the Burn Pt 3
Post rated R: has mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised

28th of Patchwall, 381 ONT, Amberdale, Kenzrenad, 7:43am, The Battle of the Burn

Dewey English stood with the crossbowmen on their line. He held a heavy crossbow and shuttered to think he would have to use one again. During the Goblin wars, his daddy had ridden with the old king, still that night haunted him when the goblins had broken into the town and attacked his Ma and sister, he had grabbed the crossbow and done what he needed to do, but the bolt had killed the creature and his sister… he hadn’t ever wanted to fire a weapon again. Now here he was, twenty seven years later hefting the weapon he hated most. He had apparently had the most skill with the weapon, Digger had called him “a Natural” during training. So now he was leading a small squadron holding the death machines that had stolen Katlyn’s life. He gazed ahead and watched in horror at the sheer amount of horses that road over the ridge and into the valley after Subaru. He waved to his “men”, children and women mostly, to load their bows, they did with practiced skill, Digger had been relentless over the last six days and most could now load a crossbow with their eyes closed. The horses rampaged with masters of death astride, hurtling towards carnage. When they were about two hundred feet away he raised his weapon and sighted in a rider, he noted in his peripheral that the others did the same. He didn’t call any commands he just squeezed the trigger and let his squad do the same as they were ready, rushing wasn’t going to help matters. His heart lurched as a rider fell from his horse but he quickly looked down and focused on reloading. Digger had been clear on that, ‘FIRE, RELOAD then run… do not run until you a ready to shoot’. So he diligently reloaded his weapon and looked to see if his team had done the same, when the finished up he waved his arm, they wanted to run he didn’t need to encourage them as they quickly ran past the musketeers and sighted again. He shot twice more until he heard the bang from the musket line and saw them break

“ONE MORE!” he called to his team and loaded another quarrel, he sighted a horsemen charging for Ms. Aurelia and fired, he didn’t kill him, but had caused the horse to veer. He reloaded… had to remember that you weren’t allowed to run until you reloaded; he looked to his line, they had already scattered towards the town. He finished his task and started running to, holding his weapon tightly as he ran towards the Hooper house; that was his next waypoint. He was two thirds of the way there when he saw Addie. She was bleeding badly, lying in the dirt to the left side of the road, it looked like a musket ball had taken out her calf and she seemed to be crawling towards her waypoint. He bent to helped her up.

“RUN DEWEY, THEY”RE COMING!” she gurgled, she must have been hit somewhere else two as blood escaped with her words. Dewey turned, he could see some scattered spearmen running along with the last of the Sailors and a host of horsemen hot on their heels, he looked to the Hooper House, and knew that there was no way he was going to make it there. He hefted his bow and shot at an oncoming horsemen then slung the weapon and grabbed Addie under her arms. He wasn’t a big man, and hadn’t the strength to properly carry her so he dragged her towards one of the nearby houses. “What are you doing Dewey, these are rigged to blow!” Addie nagged, he recalled why several people in town referred to her a Nan.

“That’s another three houses down, I think we’ll be ok in here” he said softly as he opened the door and dragged her in. It was Fred’s old house, a nice two bedroom place with a shared kitchen and common room in the front. Dewey pulled Addie to the back room and placed her on the bed before running forward and closing the door, as an afterthought he locked it. Then remembering Digger’s training he stopped and reloaded his crossbow. Once that was completed he placed his loaded crossbow on the small kitchen table outside the room and entered to look at Addie. She was white as a ghost and fumbling with her Blunderbuss trying to load it.

“Put that down Addie, and let me take a look at you” she fought and refused until he assured her that the weapon was ready to fire, he placed it beside her bed and started at the leg, but things were worse than that, she’d be shot by an ally not an enemy, there were pellets all through her midsection and down her right leg, the limp was the least of her worries. Dewy didn’t know much first aid but he ripped apart the sheets on the bed and started bandaging as best he could.

BOOOOOOOOOM

That would be the collapse of the buildings, there was a little more musket fire and then things got quiet. Dewey focused on his task but quickly decided he needed water, and maybe some herbs, he raced from the room and entered the little kitchen fumbling around in the cupboards trying to remember what herbs, if any, helped gunshot wounds.

THUMP

CRASH

Please Listen While Reading

The door burst open, and in HE staggered. The man was tall and well built, covered in dust from head to toe. His clothes had little blood nor tears in them, but did show some signs of recent battle, his hair line was receding but what hair that was still their held the black of its youth. The Man had dark eyes mixed with his pointed nose it gave him a hawkish look; his face with spattered with a salt and pepper scruff and his lips held a smile that did not reach his eyes. Dewey looked over to the table maybe three steps away that held the Crossbow, the man just smiled and nodded to his left hand that held a pistol in it. Dewey let out a sigh and raised his hands.

“Ya’ Hidin’ Boy?” the man said taking the moment to enter the room and push the door closed with his foot. It took all Dewey had not to look over towards the open bedroom door he didn’t trust himself to speak so he just nodded “So thar be at least one clever fella in this po-dung town… HER HA!” his laugh at the end seemed forced and though that smile held their seemed to be seething menace emanating from the creature of a man. The fellow stepped into the room further and approached the table, keeping his eyes on Dewey all the while. “Name’s No-Fluke Bradley…” he said as his right hand pulled an oversized knife from his belt and cut the string of the crossbow “What’s yer name… boy?”

Dewey swallowed and took a tentative step forward. He was halted by No-Fluke making a tsk tsk noise and rattling his pistol

“umm.. Dewey… Dewey English” he stammered

“Ha… Dewey English, don’t reckon I ever heard a more sly name if all my years… folks must of hated you from the start” Dewey said nothing to this not knowing how to reply, he watched as the man put down his knife and picked up his water skin and moved to drink.. Dewey knew it was now or never and rushed forward to tackle the brute. No-Fluke lived up to his name easily side stepping the clumsy attempt and smashing Dewey in the nose with the butt of his pistol. Dewey staggered back a step or two as No-Fluke punched him in the stomach allowing Dewey to slump to the ground wheezing. “Now that was just genuinely unfriendly Dewey” the brute said as he kicked the smaller man in the ribs once more before returning to his water skin. “Now, I’m not gonna lie to ya Dewey, I would have honestly preferred if you was a women, but I have been in the saddle for some time now, and this battle has got be all stirred up… since you and I need to while away the time until the Count has the rest of yer ilk rounded up… well I do believe we should get better acquainted” as he said the final words he grabbed Dewey by the scruff of the neck and bent him over the kitchen table. Dewey began to turn and struggle to try and kick, but quickly felt the pistol to the back of his head, tears began to well up in his eyes as he heard the man speak again “Now I don’t mind some fight, that makes it all the more fun, but you best keep them legs spread and yer boots on the ground, else this is gonna be a hell of a lot messier” Dewey didn’t move, he stared as the table in front of him as he felt the man’s knife cut through the belt at the small of his back. He felt the cold iron of the pistol muzzle pushing against the back of his head. In his mind he told himself to wriggle, to fight or dive or move or bite him, but he faced the facts, he couldn’t, he was too scared to move. The knife finished its job and Dewey heard the rustle of a buckle and saw a grubby dirty hand reach around him and take a handful of butter before retreating behind him once more. Dewey sniffled and let out a whimper as a greasy hand touched his hip and drop his pants. Dewey bit his lip hard, so hard it began to bleed. “Now remember Dewey, the more ya clench the more I’m a gonna enjoy it, so feel free to do as you need”

CHICK CHICK

“and you feel free to Die Asshole!” Both men looked up and saw a ghostly Addie leaning in the door frame of the bedroom; her Blunderbuss was loaded and pointed at No-Fluke. No-Fluke pulled Dewey into a standing position hunching behind his victim.

“HOO-WEE! You were holdin’ out on me Dewey, look at that pretty little thing, death becomes her” No-Fluke cackled at his terrible joke

“You Sick Drokk! You’re gonna die slow” Addie said her voice was weak but her will was iron.

“Oh, come on now girly, you ain’t gonna do that… ya see yer hold’in a Blunderbuss, that thing has a good old spray, that will mangle me something fierce, but yer dear boy here, he gonna look a lot worse taking that in the face… how bout you lower the weapon and we figure something on out” If No-Fluke was nervous he wasn’t showing it, he genuinely seemed to be having a good time. Dewey looked at Addie, she was dripping blood and looked like she might fall any minute, all No-Fluke had to do was stall, he looked her hard in the eye and nodded

“fine with me” Addie said pulling the trigger

BANG

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Hikaru's Long Ride

Hikaru felt drained as he rode the horse at a trot in the direction of Harbinger. The smoking wreckage of Amberdale lay behind him as did the majority of its citizens and those who came to liberate them. They’d done all they could to prepare and train the townsfolk but these were not warriors, they were simple folk who were unlucky enough to live in the path of an ambitious and cruel lord. They’d fought for their freedom and paid a terrible and bloody price for it. Hikaru had seen no survivors and feared that none had.

This was no simulation or skirmish like those he’d faced back at the academy but true and bloody war. It was the first time Hikaru had been in an actual battle of this magnitude and the results sickened him. They had broken the Count’s men and destroyed the bastard in the process but this was no victory. Both sides were decimated and none could live in the smouldering shell that had been Amberdale. Oh the king of this place would send men and families for the mine was still nearby but what of Addie and her family? What of the youngsters that believed in this small band of sailors to save them? Dead and all because Hikaru thought he could win, how could he not with the captain’s support?

But the captain was missing and probably dead along with poor Mandy buried under the burning wreckage miles inland from his beloved boat. Loann too seemed to have perished and Ungle foolishly went to recruit the goblins. Not that his presence would have made a difference. Hikaru had been a fool not to scout the enemy and gain a measure of what and who he was going to fight. It had been the mortars, the deadly alchemical bombs that swung the pendulum away from victory. If only… but he could not rewrite the past for these people anymore than he could do the same of his own.

So Hikaru rode alone towards Harbinger, a messenger of failure and death. He did not expect a warm welcome and only hoped they would let him gather his things and come back to help cleanup before they kicked him from the Champion’s Boot for failing to keep the captain of any of them safe. It was only by the grace of Ymeri and her blessing that he had survived and he prayed his offering of the Count would balance his failure in some small way. He’d paid dearly for the sin of pride and fallen to the sin of wrath at the end. Looking back though he could find no fault with his motives and his need to protect those who were preyed upon only his inability to keep them safe.

So he would have to become stronger. No, not just stronger, but resolute and unerring like the arrows he used. He would accept the failure as his and embrace the chance to learn from it. He would become the wrath of the weak, the flame of vengeance if he could not save them and the fire that kept them safe in the darkest times. Hikaru prayed reverently to Ymeri to find him worthy and to bolster his heart against what he would need do to root out the corruption and burn it away in a righteous fire. Hikaru would not let Amberdale happen again.

(Posted on the plane in Calgary before the next leg. Sorry for any errors)

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The Battle of the Burn Pt. 1

28th of Patchwall, 381 ONT, Amberdale, Kenzrenad, 7:41am, The Battle of the Burn

“Anamachara’s icy wrath will protect you, Hansel’s wisdom will guide you, Aleau is charming and kind, following her wake, you can always look up to Prometheus for guidance and love. This is how we know the Brackish Emperor loves us, because his children care for us so… this is how we know the Brackish Emperor loves us, because his children case for us so…” Mandy Doyle found herself repeating the words of the nursery prayer over and over, it had been taught to her during her time in the orphanage and now was like a mantra. The dust cloud from the exploding building masked all but Mr. Subaru and she could hear little aside from the screams of horses and men and the steady shots of muskets. Mandy repeated the prayer one more time before she managed to work up the courage to go… she knew she couldn’t stay where she was, but she did not want to leave.

Off like a rocket she ran into the thick smoke and dust tripping and scrambling as she tried to see through the grey haze. She stopped seeing a large man with a sword, the man turned to swing at her but Oscar chain slammed into him first and the two struggled and were lost in the cloud. She kept running feeling more than seeing a horse run past. The sounds of muskets went off again and she felt the ground shudder knowing she had nearly been hit. And then it was clear and she could see again as she came careening out of the dust cloud. Ahead of her beside the town alter stood Ser Thalion and Mr. Fargazer. Her little legs didn’t stop as she ran towards them. She felt a little better seeing two of her crewmen alive, well and where they were supposed to be. She was halfway to them when a horse raced past her, its rider hefted a spear and impaled Mr. Fargazer pinning him to the ground. She stopped the horror in front of her sutting down her legs. Her crewmates mouth gasped for air and blood burbled from it. He moaned in pain as he weakly began to slump against the weight of the spear. The horsemen wheel for a second pass.

“MANDY GET OUT OF THERE!” a voice snapped her out of it, she looked around seeing Aurelia had called and was climbing down a rope from the Lonely Blossom Saloon. She saw Ser Thalion raise her shield to meet the foe and shook her head and began to run once more, her little legs propelling her towards the old Town Hall and the perch on top where the Captain was. She could hear hooves thunder, muskets and crossbows fire but she didn’t look back… no matter what happened she knew in her heart of hearts that poor Mr. Fargazer was dead. She made it to the town hall and entered the burnt out husk of a building. Finding the rope ladder where she’d left it. Quickly she scrambled up the ladder to the tower on the third floor and pulled it up behind her.

“Captain… they killed MR. Fargazer!” she cried… she didn’t want it to sound like the squeak and sob that it did but she couldn’t help it. The Captain seemed to pay her no heed as he continued to reach for arrows and shoot out through the dust cloud and into the fray. She looked back down into the street ahead and saw Ser Thalion dispatch the horsemen. The from behind a building she saw Mr. Suberu riding away to the north. Her heart broke as she saw her proud friend flee from combat. She could not blame him, the odds seemed hopeless but somehow she had not thought that any members of her crewmates would be the ones to flee. She watched as the Captain turned and noted Mr. Subaru’s retreat, the captain fired off three arrows, striking down enemy horsemen who were moving to intercept the Fire Nation rider. She nodded, it was good that at least one of them would live to tell the tale.

“Imperious Faex” the Captian swore (Oh Shit) and in a blinding motion he turned to Mandy dropping his bow and taking her by the shoulders he whispered some words to her “mea est prudentia tua” she felt the power of ancient elvish magic leave his body and race into hers, she felt strong and agile where she had not before. (my skill is yours). Mandy looked up, she could hear and odd screeching noise and now saw the first red streak smash into the general store, causing it to explode in flames and debris. She quickly looked up and saw one of those red streaks coming right for their position. She looked at the Captain who smiled at her and gave her the smallest of grins “Fly little Jack, Fly” with that he hefted her up and threw her off the side of the building just as the red screecher slammed into the wall beside the Captain.

KAAABOOOOOOOOOOM

Burn.jpg

Mandy was soaring through the air, it was amazing, had the Captain somehow given her the power of flight? She opened her arms to gain altitude…. It was not working, the ground began to race towards her, she was most certainly falling. She felt the heat lash out from behind her and felt debris fling past her at every angle. She tensed and closed her eyes awaiting the imminent impact of the ground below

to be continued

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Rooftop Sunset

Hikaru sat on the roof of the inn staring out at the setting sun and absently fixed the fletching of one of his arrows. Though his body was recovered and present in the here and now his mind had wandered far afield. He thought of how he had ended up in Amberdale and how he was fighting for a people not his own to free them from a cruel man. Yet his own nation suffered from many of the same and he could do nothing to help them. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he could help these people. Sure he’d killed the mercenaries and soldiers set to keep the townsfolk cowed while the lord was away. But where was the victory? Sure they’d won the day and given the people a chance to flee, but to where would they go? Hikaru didn’t have the answer only a question; could he walk away from them and save himself?

He knew the answer as well as he knew his name. No, he would not back down from those who would stand on the backs of others for their own gains. It may not have been his fight to begin with but in asking Addie had made it his. He would do everything he could to see as many people safe as he could. They needed time or they needed to find a way to make it not worthwhile for this upstart lord to be here anymore. A straight up fight was not going to work and this day had shown that quite handily. Twenty plus mercs and soldiers down but too many more to face in a fair fight. So what could they do?

A thought about the gold mine surfaced and Hikaru wondered if it was even possible. The man wanted the riches this land had to offer, but if the riches were gone then he would have no reason to stay, would he? Could they even destroy the gold mine to the point where it was not worth trying to dig it out? He’d have to ask in the morning.

Setting aside the quiver and his remaining arrows Hikaru turned instead to a fresh piece of parchment from his journal. Uncapping the ink and pulling a fresh quill from his small supply he dipped and began to write a small letter to his mother:

Sora kono yoru wa, chiheisen-jō ni moeru yōna orenji-irodesu. Watashi wa anata ga shisa shita yō ni itte iruto watashi ga aru koto ga yosō sa reru basho kara tōkuhanarete sōkō suru koto ni yotte, yoriyoi jibun o kakushite imasu. Watashi wa korera no kotoba wa anata ga kanojo no idai-sa ni keiiwoharau tame ni mayonaka ni settei rōsoku no tenmetsu hikari de anata o hōmon suru kanōsei ga aru koto Ymeri ni shinrai shite imasu. Watashi wa watashi no tabi wa nagai mono to nari, watashi wa kore ijō kiken’na watashi ga ie ni taizai shitai baai yori mo naru yō ni idō shite inai dōro o mitsukeru osorete imasu. Sate watashi wa, ikutsu ka no yūkan’na hitobito ga issho ni ryokō suru koto ga wakatte kita hobo sonomama. Wareware wa, shin no dōmeikuni ni naru nodeareba sore wa mada wakarimasen. Watashi wa watashi yori moyori ni naru tame ni kenmei ni hataraku hitsuyō ga aru koto ga wakarimasu. Ymeri no shukufuku ni yori anzendesu.

(The sky this evening is a fiery orange on the horizon. I have done as you suggested and have hidden myself better by travelling far from where I should be expected to be. I trust in Ymeri that these words might visit you in the flickering light of the candle you set at midnight to pay homage to her greatness. I fear my journey will be a long one and I find the roads I travel to be no more perilous than if I’d stayed home. Well almost as I have found a few stouthearted people to travel with. It remains to be seen if we are to become true allies. I find that I need to work harder to become more than I am. By Ymeri’s blessing be safe.)

Folding up the small letter, Hikaru gathers the rest of his things. When midnight arrives he will burn the letter in the hearth downstairs before retiring to his bed…

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Rescue by Numbers pt 3

It had been a long afternoon. With Randel guiding the wheel and Leslie pulling the cart the two had managed to move most the oil down towards the docks. Redistribute the food hoarded in the larder to the various families in Harbinger and put aside all the longer lasting foods to be processed should they decide on a voyage or not. Leslie had not spoken much throughout the afternoon, though is cursing had decreased substantially since Randel had offered aid. The solider felt he may have earned enough trust to ask, now that the core work was done for the day.

“Uh… Leslie?” he started, getting the large sailors attention. “I was wondering if… now that the work is done…”

“Don’t be so skiddish… we ain’t as heartless as your Count, we’ll feed ya” the Sailor had said. Using a rag to clean off his hands and taking a long pull of water from his wineskin

“Well… thank you… but no, it wasn’t that… I had a request if at all possible” Randel saw the sailors face turning towards a frown but pushed forward anyway “I’d like your permission to go and… well… I would like to… I want to bury my friends” he spat it out at last. The brows furrowed on the sailor

“Your friends… you mean those fellows you shot at us when we rolled into town? The ones who helped Count Assanal take over in the first place… those Drokking Peckers?”

“Yes, well… sort of… they didn’t know why you were coming, and many of them were good men, just doing their jobs… they were my friends, some of them just collecting money to support families… I would do it myself… I can’t really get into that much trouble with a shovel can I? and I’d do it on my own time, it wouldn’t take away from any of the work that you would need me to do…. please” Randel gave him his best innocent look, until he started speaking he hadn’t realized how much he cared

“All right, you want to play in the dirt… fine,” he reached into the cart and tossed Randel an old shovel. “I see you anywhere but with those bodies or in the graveyard and I will kill ya, we clear?”

“We’re clear sir… thank you” Randel said. Leslie just snorted with derision

“Sun’s setting, get to it Digger”

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Rescue by Numbers Pt 2

Randel Trebond looked down at his cuffs, he sat in the shade in front of a wooden thatched building on the main street of Harbinger. He watched as the burly crew member of the elven ship loaded the ragged old cart with another barrel. He had been at it for a few hours. It seemed that they were short on man power, so the fellow… what was his name…. Leslie! Leslie would walk him down the street and tell him to sit in front of a building, then the bloke would slowly load up on the oil and materials needed, make Randel stand and walk ahead of him while he pulled the cart to the next stop. Randel watched as the shirtless crewmen heaved with exertion after hoisting the last barrel onto the cart. The last day and a half had caused Randel to think a lot about his situation. He had been hired on as a mercenary to help a minor lord with security. It hadn’t seemed so bad, the pay was reasonable and the work load had been pretty light, patrol the streets, make sure there were no terrorist actions, and report to his sergeant if he heard anything suspicious in the pub. He kept a quarter of his earning for himself and the rest he sent back to Truegar for his mother, sister and her kids. It wasn’t until after he’d been captured, after he’d been forced to sit in on the town hall that be began to hear the atrocities he’d been a part of. Count Aderal killed the Yoeman, Count Aderal had had a farm salted, Count Aderal had taken the innkeepers wife and beaten her to death,Count Aderal had killed the old town guards. And in many cases not only the Count but men he had worked with, men he worked beside had carried out these orders. He had always thought Harbinger an unfriendly town, the people had never friendlied up to him when he was in the inn and off duty, but if they were living in fear, being treated like this… how had he never seen it before? He shook his head in disgust with himself, he truly deserved whatever fate these people set upon him.

CRASH

“BY ANAMACHRAS FROZEN GASH ARE YOU KIDDING ME!” Leslie cursed stomping around. The wheel had popped off the cart causing it to tip and spill most of its contents. “BY YOLO’S SALTY BALLS ON THE MOLTEN ANVIL OF DUMANTHION I SWEAR TO ALL THAT’S HOLY IF ONE MORE DROKK OF NERRID GOES WRONG I WILL MURDER EVERY KELEZANDRI PEDDLING TWERP NUGGET IN THIS BLASTED STEAMED ANUS OF A TOWN….DROOOOOKKKKKKKKKK!” Randel watched somewhat impressed… he supposed a sailors reputation for language was indeed well founded. He swallowed the lump in his throat and steeled his resolve before calling out to the angry sailor

“Release me… please” Randel hadn’t expected his voice to croak but nodded to accent his point. The sailor rounded on him

“What? Are you mad?” the sailor cracked his knuckles and approached, Randel hurried to explain

“look, you’re never going to get that wheel on by yourself… and there is nowhere for me to run, and nothing I can do to stop any of this… what I did was wrong… let me help… please” Leslie looked at Randel for a long moment weighing the odds

“If you try anything I will tear you an new asshole” he said patting the sword at his belt

“That’s fair… I guess” Randel agreed.

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Rescue By Numbers Pt 1

18th of Patchwall, 381 ONT, Harbinger, Kenzrenad, 4:19pm

Thitmed ran his fingers through his oily hair as he flipped through Zephyrs predictions. Even if he gave Zephyr all the labour he needed and conscripted half the town to helping, there was no way to build enough boats or ships to move the people of Harbinger, let alone the added citizens of Amberdale off the island. He had tried the math, it would take the better part of a day to get to a landable shore on the mainland where they could drop people of in the wilderness, assuming he was willing to leave the Omar Cargo here while he did it. It would then take three days to row back up to Harbinger, he could do it in five trips if he was being dangerous with the number of people he was bringing onboard, but that still wasn’t enough time. He turned the pages over. In theory Zephyr could build two large rafts that could fit most the people on board, no possessions just people. But the sailor in Thitmed bristled at this. The Champions Boot could pull them, but the currents off Harbinger were dangerous for a sea worthy vessel, open rafts, and two of them, he doubted they wouldn’t lose at least one raft in the process, and more likely could get the Champions Boot beached on a shallow or sunk… What had happened to the Legendary Clyde was not lost on him. He sighed in frustration and looked up and Belinda, she was sitting across from him trying to tally the minimum amount of supplies the people would need for a journey depending on where he decided to take them, he had yet to factor in feeding anyone. He tossed down the papers and growled

“It can’t be done, I’m gonna have to talk with the Captain again about it” she looked at him trying to break his declaration with a gaze, but had no luck

“We can’t just leave these people here, they will die without us” She said

“YA THINK I DON’T KNOW THAT?” he yelled standing, his frustrations had boiled over “YA THINK I WANT TO SEE THESE PEOPLE DIE? I DON’T, BUT WE ARE A CARGO SHIP, NOT A MILITARY! I DON’T HAVE THE SPACE, OR THE MANPOWER, OR THE SKILLS, AND I TOLD YA ALL THIS BEFORE WE EVEN LANDED! IT’S SAD, I WISH WE COULD HELP THEM, BUT OUR CHOICES ARE THIS, SAVE OURSELVES, SAVE OURSELVES AND FEW OR DIE WITH THEM… THAT’S IT! I DIDN’T MAKE THIS UP, THAT’S HOW IT IS! YOU AND I OWE IT TO OUR PEOPLE NOT TO GET THEM KILLED!” he breathed heavy for a few moments a sudden exhaustion of the last few days settling into him, he slumped back into his chair his head in his hands as he spoke softly now “we can’t save everyone, and it’s time to start talking about who we can save as opposed to seeing everyone die”. Belinda got up and walked around the table, her soft hands rubbing the tight muscles in the first mates shoulders and neck

“I know your trying Thitmed… not matter what happens, I know you are doing you very best… you’re a good man” her words were soft and soothing “it’s not fair of us to ask you to figure out this mess… let’s start talking realistically, maybe we can take some of the non-combatants and help the others hide or start a pilgrimage south?” he turned and looked at her and nodded solemnly

“Aye… let’s get to work on that” he said grabbing a new sheet of parchment and pulling the page that listed the names occupations and ages of the townsfolk.

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Adventures in Orc babysitting

I stared down at the large stupid half Orc. It had taken three of us to haul him off the roof of the bank and into a second floor room at the lonely blossom. Lucky for us there were a number of recently vacated rooms available. I had assisted Aurellia in bandaging Ungle and paid close attention as she talked me through it. We needed more people who could do basic first aid if we were going to survive this island.

I carefully check his bandages making sure the bleeding hadn’t started again. Hopefully we could get him on his feet before we started back to the ship. Dragging his large carcass would slow the evacuation. While I waited for him to wake up, so I could bully him into eating the stew Addie sent up, I felt a certain smugness contemplating how I was going to break the news that I had in fact won our little contest.

He stirred so I gently slapped his cheek and jumped back, rightly anticipating that he would wake up swinging.

“Calm down you’ll open your wounds.”

His eyes focused on me across the small room. “Elf.” He grunted. “Why you be here?”

I wasn’t sure if it was his tusk filled mouth or the fact the common was obviously his second language that made understanding him a challenge, one that I was of course up to. “You need to eat. As soon as we manage to convince the town’s folk of the necessity of evacuation we will be headed back to Harbinger. You need your strength.”

“Bah, Ungle have strength, so much that it is in… how you say…spades!”

Despite his words he enthusiastically dug into the bowl I offered him.

He glared at me. “Ungle eat! Why you be still here?”

I clasped my hand behind my head and stretched my legs in front of me crossing my ankles modestly. “I just wanted to know how you were feeling.”

He glared suspiciously “Ungle good, once more Ungle Orcs be better than Elves. Why you so happy?” he put the empty bowl on the chest of drawers beside the bed.

“Oh?” I arched my eyebrow. “Since when has nearly getting yourself killed equaled wining? I’ll admit you killed more men faster than me, but you went down hard after five. I took three with minimal injury to myself and could have easily taken three more as still walked away.”

“Five and half!” Ungle glared. “You take pride in fighting like coward? Orcs have word for Coward… it is Elf!”

I couldn’t help it I smiled partly in relief that we had all survived and partly because I could so easily see through his need to prove himself based on flawed notions of masculinity. I leaned forward and trailed my fingers down his arm, absurdly pleased as he flinch wearily away. “Don’t worry Ungle, I’ll teach you about stamina before we do it again.” I tucked the bemused Half Orc in before taking the bowl and leaving the room. He needed his rest and I needed to see to Elthoron before the town meeting.

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Showdown at the Lonely Blossom Saloon

18th of Patchwall, 381 ONT, Amberdale, Kenzrenad, 2:13pm

Mandy clung tightly to Ser Thalion as he rode into town behind Mr. Subaru and in front of Ms. Ouellette, Mr. Ungle and Bosun Rogard. Their horses trotted with purpose and she had seen the scary men on the rooves holding their muskets with cocky ease. She squeezed Ser Thalion a little tighter nervous and filled with tension. Mandy was awed at how her companions seemed so at ease… save for Bosun Rogard, he did not look at ease at all on his pony. They had crossed the town and Mr. Subaru had dismounted and knocked on the stable when she heard the call… it was friendly enough but still the sudden noise had made her start. Her head swiveled around first seeing give men approaching all with weapons then back to Ser Thalion, the elf winked and her and offered a quick grin, then her head was back to the men approaching. The fellow in the middle was shorter and a little pudgy, she had a salt and pepper beard and was balding a bit, he held a musket with ease and had a shiny star on his chest; He must be Sheriff Tait Mandy figured.

“Hello there strangers….” The Sheiff had called, Mandy had missed the next bit, but was sure she heard his final words “…we don’t allow strangers to carry weapons in our town, throw them down now” Mandy could see a whispered conversation flying between Ser Thalion, Ms. Ouellette and Mr. Subaru. The little girl looked around she couldn’t stand the tension, the streets were so quiet you could hear the nervous nicker of the horses or the squeak of leather on leather at each little movement. It was Aurelia who moved first drawing her Musket and firing in one clean motion, she shot one of the Sheriffs men, who quickly drew a pistol and just missed Mr. Subaru. Too much happened at once now as the street exploded into calamity, the horses were spooked and began to jump and thrash, the bangs of muskets and thunks of crossbows filled the air. Ser Thalion knew his horses and somehow his didn’t spook, Mandy wasn’t going to wait she slipped off the back and made a run for it, squeaking as she felt arrows just miss her, she was scared, and threw herself under the board walk in front of the saloon.

“ARRRRRRGG!” she saw Mr. Ungle yell in a rage and swing his axe cleaving a man’s head open. Mandy had to look away for fear of emptying her stomach. She looked back and saw a man shoot Mr. Subaru, her friend staggered slightly but hefted his bow and fired at the enemies again. She could hear fighting above her as well as things started to get loud inside the saloon. She watched Ms. Ouellettes horse die and tears came unbidden as she recalled giving Pom Pom apples that afternoon on the way to Amberdale. Her friends were dying, and she was watching, she felt herself screaming on the inside, if only she could do something… anything. “My Pistol” she said the words out loud cursing herself for being so slow, Mr. Ironbraid had given it to her and schooled her well on how to use it

“Fer yer protection only lass, no one’s expectin ya to be fellin our foes” he’d said. Now she fumbled at her belt and pulled the weapon out. Her hands were shaking, and it was hard to see with all the dust kicked up and the tears in her eyes. Trembling fingers found the powder packet and ball and carefully put them into the muzzle of the pistol. She took the little ram rod and stomped it down as well as she could before replacing the rod… she had the pistol ready, and remembered to keep it pointing up so the ball would not fall out. Now what? She looked across the battlefield, Mr. Ungle was fighting two more people. Ser Thallion had a spear and seemed to be helping. Mr. Suberu looked pretty bad off but kept shooting, as did Ms. Ouellette. She took aim a few times, but was scared to hit her friends… or what if they noticed her and hurt her… more tears came along with the realization that she was a coward… she didn’t want to hurt anyone… she didn’t want to get hurt either.

THUMP THUMP THUMP.

She heard heavy steps on the board walk above her. She looked up through the cracks to see a tall man with a bow. She watched in horror as the man drew an arrow and sighted Mr. Subaru, she didn’t know how she knew he was going to get shot, but she did… she went to scream but no sound came as she opened her mouth… just a muffled croak. The man’s arrow sped across the dusty violence strewn street and slammed into Mr. Subaru with the impetus of death. Mr. Suberu staggered under the weight of the blow. It had hit his chest and there was certainly blood on his lips but as if in defiance of death itself he refused to fall. The Bowman almost leisurely pulled another arrow from his quiver and prepared another shot.

“no, no, no…. no, no no no” Mandy whispered as her hands seemed to move of their own accord she looked through the knothole in the boardwalk one more time and then moved the muzzle of the pistol so it was up against it…. “Sorry” she whispered as she closed her eyes and pulled the trigger

BANG

THUMP

She opened her eyes slowly and let out a silent scream of horror. The bowman and fallen forward with his head handing over the boardwalk, staring at her with accusing lifeless eyes.

DRIP

Blood began to slowly drip through the cracks and knothole dripping onto the poor little girl. But she couldn’t move, trapped but the stare of the man she’d murdered. She didn’t know how long she sat there, how long she had stared at the man until he’d been pulled away and Ser Thalion’s face appeared looking under the board walk. Instinct caused her to start and point the pistol but the calm elven voice penetrated her fog of fear.

“Easy there Mandy, it’s just me… why don’t you pass me your pistol and come out of there” Mandy wasn’t sure she could move, she felt sick and sticky and wrong, tears continued to pour down her bloody face. “parvulus veniat omnia iam” the elf said in its own tongue (Come young one, all is now well). Mandy didn’t know what the words meant, but the melody of the speech made her feel better, she looked into the grey eyes ahead of her and nodded slightly “Bellum innoxiis sit locus” the elf said taking the pistol from her hand (war is no place for the innocent). She did not stop Ser Thalion from reaching in and pulling her out. The kind elfin knight looked her up and down, quickly pulled a cloak from a ruck sack and wrapped it around Mandy. Walking her around the corner and sitting her on the board walk where she faced no dead bodies. In the common tongue the elf said “Sit a moment Mandy, I will get you some water to wash and clean up”. It was a warm day, but for some reason Mandy could not stop shivering.

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Water Lookout

16th of Patchwall 381 ONT, Harbinger Harbor, Kezrenad

Addie Ficken slipped through the small town and down towards the Warf. She knew the Count kept watch for people who might try to leave by the great river but this was her last best hope, she had to find help. The heavy rain and storm made it a dubious time to attempt an escape, but also a time that nobody would be watching for boat thieves. She lowered herself into a two person skiff and undid the knots carefully pushing off, the water was choppy and the wind was up, but her kids needed her to find help, find anyone and get back before Count Aderal did. She set the oars and let them into the water pulling carefully and aligning the little boat for the northern most mouth of the harbor. She knew little about ships or trade lanes but hoped that there would be someone out there, maybe a navy ship from one of the Great States, if not maybe she could make it to Stormbreak and appeal to the King directly, if he knew what was going on, surely he would do something about it… wouldn’t he? She gritted her teeth against the cold and pulled at the oars disappearing into the stormy night.

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