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)