Post by Beowuuf on Jun 24, 2008 7:41:48 GMT -5
A hut, somewhere near Eshnar
Armadalus had a problem - if this was Armadalus. Beowuuf would be the first to appreciate and sympathise with this problem, if it was not Beowuuf's problem too.
Both Armadalus and Beowuuf could perhaps be forgiven for not sympathising with Simey, who infact had the same problem, if not worse. Simey had to cope with the same problem whilst still under the influence of a head injury.
"So let us begin again," said Armadalus quietly, standing tall with hands resting on Beowuuf's bluesteel blade. Given the previous confrontations the knight had participated in recently, one could imagine pride was the reason the knight was not resting more weight on the blade. Either pride, or a lapse in the acting of a Helghast of course.
The fact Beowuuf and Simey were lying in pain on the floor, and Armadalus, or 'Armadalus', possessed the only weapon effective against a Helghast, were reasons to respect what Armadalus said but certainly were not reasons to trust him yet. The hooded looks the man received were obviously noticed and not appreciated.
"Oh for goodness sake, you saw the blood!" said Armadalus, the strip of cloth over the hand he'd cut still reddened, the hand itself still obviously painful enough to cause him to wince if he shifted the wrong way on the sword, perhaps another reason he did not put his full weight forward.
"The other Armadalus was bloodied," said Simey, speaking up with reluctance, but stung by the tone Armadalus had adopted as always. Simey shifted backwards, wincing himself and looking at the wolf out of the corner of his eye. The creature was either a Helghast pretending to be injured, or a wolf creature injured and trapped in a corner, still under suspicion. Neither possibility would seem to make for a good companion at the moment. Therefore Simey's suspicious looks could be understood. Of, course, they could also be understood if the man found unconscious in the hut by Armadalus was the Helghast again instead of Simey.
"Vojske, do you see any blood on the floor?" said Armadalus again, gesturing around.
"You could have cleaned it earlier, we were both unconscious," said Simey patiently and petulantly in equal measure, defending his position.
Beowuuf laughed, then groaned, the shifted painfully to a better sitting position. "This will get us nowhere," said the wolf, gingerly moving the splinted arm to a better orientation, eyes tearing when that move forced him to lift the arm through a much less comfortable set of orientations. Armadalus lifted the blade slightly, and it was Beowuuf's turn to roll his eyes. "For goodness sake, I am not a Helghast!" said the Vakeros irritably.
"Does it matter in your case?" asked Armadalus, biasing himself to the wolf and then after an internal pause biasing back to cover both occupants in the room again.
Beowuuf growled. He was in severe pain that his wolf body and Vakeros mind could not fully dull, he was in the downswing of adrenaline, he was in mental confusion from psychic assault and from the shell game the Helghast had been playing with them all, and now he still had this to deal with. "By the Magi I helped you fight the Helghast, I could have died fighting that Helghast!" said Beowuuf with rising anger and bile.
"Yes, conveniently you were around to be rescued by a Helghast, which attacked you just when I arrived, and yet did not kill you when I left you. Infact it kept you alive to be rescued again."
Beowuuf snarled a curse at stupid knights, and stood up tall ready to deliver a suitably derogatory epithet to that effect. Unfortunately his legs were still unsteady, and that in turn meant his reflexes kicked in to throw his arms forward. Beowuuf's howl of pain was deafening, and his laughter afterwards hysterical and laced with sobbing. Armadalus flinched forward, as if to help the creature in spite of himself. Simey flinched as if to get as far away from the strange creature as possible.
"I think," said Beowuuf's laboured voice, "we are obviously so at a disadvantage that if the Helghast is still present, we are dead. That blade," said Beowuuf, gesturing with his snout, "is a Vakeros blade, and neither of you can rely on its magical nature as a constant when wielding it."
"Now you inform me," said Armadalus.
"It did not seem relevant nor prudent to point that fact out when I was faking my battle with the Helghast," said Beowuuf acidly. "My point is now, if we assume we are all who we say we are, and also assume we are all in this together," and Beowuuf paused to glare daggers at Armadalus, red eyes redder not just from the watering of pain, "then can we also assume that there is a Helghast who has made it away from here. We are in danger staying here. It could be back with reinforcements or stalking us for whatever reason it first infiltrated your group."
Simey, if Simey he was, seemed surprised to find himself voicing a thought in the tense atmosphere. "The Helghast was probing me about Eshnar. He kept talking about it to me, telling me not to think about it, which made me consider it more. Infact..." Simey stopped talking, then shook his head then winced. "I think I recalled something, but it is gone again - like a dream."
"Eshnar is not important," said Beowuuf grimly, "there is nothing in Eshnar now."
"What do you know of it, wolf? When were you there?" asked Armadalus quickly.
"I have never been there," said Beowuuf, with convincing truthfulness, "and further questions will do neither you, nor me, any good. I just know there is no importance to it."
"That's not true," said Simey, again apparently surprising himself. He screwed his eyes up and winced again, as if the thinking were hurting him. "The Helghast thought it was important - knew it was important. And - well - and I think it is important." Simey said this reluctantly, and Armadalus was sufficiently surprised at the change in Simey's attitude to disregard the wolf for the moment. Armadalus stared too hard at Simey, and Simey shifted uncomfortably.
"That settles it, it seems," said Armadalus at length. "Suspicion must be set aside for now. If you two are able to continue, we seem honour bound to pursue our foe lest some information of importance we have forgotten aid the Darklands." Armadalus turned to Beowuuf. "I assume the Vakeros have a duty to honour too?"
Beowuuf spotted the dig for what it was as a test, but refused to be drawn anyway. Instead he tried again to get to his feet, the previous pain not gone and giving his limbs great reluctance to comply. He wobbled for a moment, and his arm even supported ached at the small movement. "You have my sword," said Beowuuf, "even if the matter were not in my people's interests, and even if we were all not bound under the agreements of our orders under the Magnamund Knights' Council that you claim not to know of..." Beowuuf felt a twinge of amusement at being able to throw old suspicions back at the Sommlending, "I would not let that weapon from my sight." Beowuuf tested his limbs, and looked for a suitable item to make a sling with. A thought then crossed his mind. "Besides, I do not like Helghast."
Armadalus nodded slowly. Simey groaned as he probably realised, if Simey he indeed was, that whatever else the wolf might be, the wolf was also as much of a damned fool under the fur as Armadalus was. Simey got to his feet unsteadily, but had the good grace,or lack of acting talents, to not complain as much as usual about the inconvenience.
"So where are we headed?" asked Simey painfully. Armadalus stared at him. "I do not know the direction the creature headed!" he said as Armadalus raised an eyebrow.
"That was not what I meant," said Armadalus, lifting his cut hand. Both Simey and Beowuuf realised what the man meant, and found suitable cuts. Painfully wiping them, they both flicked blood to the floor.
All three stared intently for a while. Beowuuf wondered if it proved anything. However, as he had indicated earlier it did not matter - if they were being tricked, they were dead anyway. The only course of action was onwards.
Post by Simey on Jul 20, 2008 12:03:48 GMT -5
"Where are you, you idiot?"
How could he possibly have got lost on exactly the same patrol as he'd been going on for the past week?
Bron dramatically rolled his eyes, shook his head and threw his arms up in multiple gestures of incredulity at his friend's incompetance. There was actually no one to see him do this, of course, but in his mind's eye someone watching was fully appreciating the level of his disbelief and frustration.
"Captain needs his boots cleaned, Herik! Better hurry up!"
The patrols had become routine already, even if the company's general alertness had risen sharply in the aftermath of the dome's spectacular collapse. Bron could still hear the terrifying Crack! that had rent the air for at least two miles to reach his ears. He had immediately turned towards the dome and above the trees had seen white forks of intense light streaking from its summit and multiplying as they flashed down its sides.
"And if you don't want to be polishing his and everybody else's boots for the rest of the year then you'd really better hurry up!"
Bron stomped on through the tangled undergrowth, irritated at having thought yet again about the mysterious, sorcerous dome that had apparently covered Eshnar, and the unnerving nature of its eventual demise. It had fallen at first like a giant, flimsy tent, the supports of which had lazily given way, but its descent had accelerated rapidly until its enormousness was rushing towards the ground as though to deliberately crush everything underneath. No one that Bron knew had been in a position to actually witness the impact, but in contrast to the thunderous crash that he had been expecting, the sound had - even more chillingly - been little more than a dull whump making him feel as though the air had been knocked out if him and causing him to wonder if that was what had actually happened to the entire city.
"Y'mother's worried about you as well, Herik! She thinks you'll get lost like a little kid if you're left by yourself!"
And exactly none of the developments in the situation since they had arrived here from Holmgard had shed any light on what had actually happened in Eshnar in the first place and what they or anyone else was supposed to be doing about it. The company commanders seemed to know little more than the regular soldiers, but they had never seemed frustrated by this; the rumours that inevitably circulated to fill the information vacuum tended to suggest that the disaster that had struck the city was so calamitous that even the highest ranking officers didn't fully understand it and were reluctant to get involved.
"Don't want to prove your mother right, of course, but at the moment it's looking like you had best be going back home to hold her hand!"
So the soldiers' duties were largely confined to repetitive patrols of the countryside surrounding Eshnar in order not to let anything pass into or out of the city without the army knowing about it. Who or what was expected to be trying to get in or out was another mystery.
"Oh, come on, storgh-brain! Where are you? And what have you done with your horse?"
Bron was starting to get genuinely annoyed - and a little nervous - about his friend's ability to completely disappear in a very small wood northwest of Eshnar, when he found him. And vomited.
The lieutenant had shown great understanding of Bron's dreadful experience both in sparing him the trial of looking at Herik's twisted, bloodied body again by sending two men who had not known the man well to retrieve it, and in distracting him from his tortured thoughts by involving him in the party that had set out to find whoever or whatever had killed his friend in such an obscene manner. The sight of Herik's silently screaming face with dried blood around the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and the terrrible burns around his neck had by no means been erased from Bron's mind, but at least he had been given something positive to concentrate on achieving.
It had appeared to the lieutenant as though Herik had been attacked on the edge of the wood and then dragged in to conceal his body from plain sight, so their search had begun there. All five of them had been surprised by how little time it had taken to find their quarry.
Now Bron and the lieutenant watched from the top of the slope whilst the other three soldiers moved into the woods to encircle their prey. Fortunately, the two wildmen and the wolf-monster seemed to be arguing quietly amongst themselves, so it looked as though they would have plenty of time to ensnare them.
Post by Beowuuf on Jul 24, 2008 6:42:50 GMT -5
Somewhere near Eshnar
The lieutenant stood looking at the scene, considering the options. Bron shuffled nervously beside the man.
"What is the creature cradling?" asked Bron with an odd tone.
"Decorum, Bron," warned the lieutentant. He did not just mean keeping a cool reserve as a soldier of Sommerlund should. He also felt the captain kept a loose company, a product of his common breeding. Really, soldiers should be focused, and speak out of profession only when a ranked officer addressed them. The captain was a lower ranked soldier who had worked his way up. While nothing was wrong with that, it showed in many unfortunate ways. The man being part of this group instead of staying behind. Allowing the soldiers luxuries such as talking out of order. Discipline was key, especially at times such as these when the companies were on the borders of their land. Eshnar was proof that out here, large and frightening things could happen. Many were mindful of the chronicles of Lone Wolf and the known history of the scouring of Ruanon a few generations ago. Vashna was almost raised to obliterate Sommerlund, right under their noses.
The lieutenant technically was outranked by the captain, but the captain was out-classed by the lieutenant. The lieutenant had many connections of social standing, connections that informed him of many odd things. Of sages of Lyris demanding action in Somerlund's outlying areas, of intervention by the Magi to secure the small town of Eshnar from some burgeoning evil. The lieutenant had a healthy respect for the captain's abilities in the field, if not his abilities leading in so senior position nor the captain's real standing and knowledge. Whatever the captain felt in return of his technically junior officer was really of no concern. Rank and privilege met to make them peers, and hopefully the captain could work under those terms amiably as the lieutenant was prepared to do. Hopefully the captain respected the lieutenant's ability to see the bigger picture for the captain, while the captain could concentrate on more mundane matters such as leading.
Bron still shifted, and the lieutenant was not uncaring of the man's position. There were many reasons, some practical and professional, and some humane, not to have the man come forward in the final trapping of the group ahead of them.
"When we advance, you must stay back to ensure we are not being flanked nor a trap sprung around us," he said. Bron looked agitated about this. "Do not worry soldier, I am sure the captain will assign you guard detail of the prisoners on our way back to camp."
The lieutenant looked at the odd figures and saw the smallest movements. He took out a spyglass, and saw the move of his captain and the other two soldiers. The time for them to act was apparently at hand. The lieutenant withdrew his sword.
* * * *
The captain moved as quietly as his still armour allowed. He missed his old soldier's armour, but rank demanded the accoutrements of it, and the captain was determined to ensure he filled the part. Luckily, the three figures that the soldiers were focused on were still distracted, brazenly debating with each other without heed of the realm they walked through. The captain's blood boiled at this, but he kept his patience and moved slowly, unhurried so he could move into a perfect position.
'Something is not right,' he thought to himself as he saw the figures with better definition. The captain gestured left and right, and the two soldiers accompanying him nodded, knowing his usually tactics and silently following their part. The wolf infront was apparently dressed, and worse yet the wildmen seemed to have defined armour, like knights. This was not just some strange party, not some murderous group. This was some form of trick in the making they had uncovered. The soldier - Helrik was his name, the captain seemed to recall - was not a targeted victim but had perhaps uncovered something himself earlier.
The captain shifted as he looked passed the group to see that spoilt, lax lieutenant moving out of the tree line. The man had no soldierly instincts, and no discipline, he was lax in his form. Why the captain's commander had saddled him with the lieutenant was Kai's own business, but Salor preserve the soldiers who were put at risk by such foolish political placement.
'What is he doing?' thought the captain with heat as he realised the lieutenant was continuing to move. The man was moving too early, the captain was not fully in position yet, had not fully appraised the situation. Damn the man to clean Salor's armour for an eternity!
The captain had no choice but to draw his weapon and decide on an opponent. He motioned urgently for his accompanying soldiers to follow him to the fray, cursing old families and noble connections.
* * * *
Beowuuf wondered if this were what marriage would be like.
Not the headache, bodily pain and twisted arm. Infact nothing to do with Beowuuf's own status. He was thinking more the behaviour of the two supposed knights before him. The white knight Simey more and more did not seem to act as a Durensee Knight in any way Beowuuf would have imagined, if such things were indeed every imagined by the Vakeros.
Meanwhile, Armadauls seemed to take it as a default position to accept the jibes and retorts of his fellow while leading him ever onwards, as if for the younger knight to better himself by Armadalus's example.
Beowuuf's patience had been eroded by Armadalus's brusque manner in the matter of the direction the track they had picked up had led. The barely contained innuendo of Beowuuf's guilt was the final straw, so much so that the wolf lapsed into an aggressive silence and let the other two knights fence about the merits of trailing out across the open land here where an opponent could easily see them, as opposed to possibly losing the trail but keeping cover in the edges of copses of trees and gentle undulations of the lands.
Beowuuf therefore was better positioned to hear a noise carrying on the wind, like a sword coming from a scabbard - uncertainly rattled as if the action painfully slowed down to the point of not being instinctive, or as if a new weapon. Beowuuf realised the two knights could not be alerted, and tried as slowly as possible to turn around to catch a glimpse of-
"What is this!" said Armadalus, looking in the opposite direction and seeing a charging soldier.
"Hold, in the hallowed name of the king, wildmen!" said the charging lieutenant. Armadalus and Simey turned surprised.
"Hold, soldier," cried Armadalus, raising the bluesteel blade instinctively then lowering it again.
Beowuuf was temporarily distracted by the new occurrence. It was only when he appreciated the echo in the rattle of mail and pounding of ground he remembered the sword sound had come from behind.
The bodily pain and twisted arm were nothing compared to the headache as Beowuuf turned to find a well-armoured man smashing a sword-hilt into the side of his head. Infact, the headache was such he fell sickly to the ground on his side, half upright and braced on his good arm. He had no ability to defend himself from a second blow that robbed him of consciousness.
Meanwhile, the lieutenant slowed to a halt and lowered his weapon, satisfied to see that the captain had dispatched cleanly if a little naively the beast creature, and the two other solders had quickly advanced to put weapon points to necks. The soldiers had also drawn incase the two figures tried to twist away from the drawn swords at their backs.
"Well done, captain" said the lieutenant, looking behind and calling forth Bron. The captain shook with internal emotions.
"Why did you charge?" he demanded. "Why did...Bron...stay behind?"
"You were in position, sir, and it was clear you would want to act with alacrity. These simple wildmen and their pet were obviously to be no match, but it is surely prudent to ensure no trap nor reinforcements could surround us without heed?" The lieutenant tried to convey with his eyes the other reason it was obvious Bron should not have led the charge.
The captain had no desire to begin bickering with the lieutenant infront of his men. "These 'simple' wildmen are obviously nothing of the kind, lieutenant, and this situation is obviously beyond your grasp" said the captain, gesturing to the three. "The beast is a fell creature of the Darklands, no doubt - a lure in some scheme." The captain moved his sword to force the lieutenant to see the outfits of the bedraggled men. "A 'Sommlending Knight of the Realm' and a 'Durenese Knight of the White Mountain'," said the captain with disdain. "Obviously nothing of the kind," he continued, looking across and addressing the men grimly. He first pointed his blade at Armadalus. "A Drakkar thug if ever there was one, fooling no-one, he even still wields the dark blade of his kind." The captain then took a step back, eyeing the two soldiers at the backs of the knights with an obvious worry.
"More importantly, lieutenant, if you have such a grasp of tactics, you will appreciate that a 'foreign' knight is the perfect distraction to hide another impostor."
The captain raised his blade at Simey, a slight twitch in his hand. "You tell me, lieutenant, with all your valued knowledge and books," said the captain steadily, not breaking eye contact with the bewildered young knight, "you tell me how we can quickly dispose of this Helghast."
Post by Simey on Jul 27, 2008 13:34:39 GMT -5
Outpost tent, Camp Seventeen, near Eshnar
"To be blunt, sir, it would seem to come down to this: either I am a Knight of the Order of the White Mountain, in which case I am bound by the Oath of Truthfulness and have given you an entirely accurate account of my experiences with regard to this matter, or I am the helghast creature which killed one of your men, and have been telling you as convincing a story as I can concoct in order to divert you from the facts and save my wretched hide."
Simey paused to glare testily at the Sommlending captain for a moment. He was fed up with recounting the same story over and over and was particularly annoyed and discomfitted by having to admit to substantial gaps in his recollection of the last few days, perhaps even weeks. Having to sit and talk with his hands tied behind his back only darkened his mood further.
"Whichever it is," he continued curtly, "I would suggest that it is high time you ceased hiding behind the shield of these constant interrogations and plucked up the courage to actually get on and do something about discovering the truth."
"You watch your tongue," snapped the captain, "or I'll string you up and have done with it."
Simey rolled his eyes at the man's ill-considered bluff. "You can't harm me," he said brusquely. "If I'm a Durenese knight then doing such a thing would have very grave repercussions; if I'm one of these helghast things then you simply can't hurt me anyway."
The captain shot to his feet on the other side of his desk. The man was clearly livid, but Simey could also see that he felt somewhat helpless; his mouth twitched, obviously desperate to fire a furious retort, but unable to devise one. Clearly battles of words were not the sort of combat in which the captain was used to fighting; this seemed to give Simey the advantage.
"I understand the difficulty of your situation," he said, forcing himself to adopt a tone of patience and sympathy which he did not feel: "the act committed was a heinous one and it is your duty and no doubt your want to find and deal with the culprit with the utmost expedition. But I have told you everything that I can, true or not, and it therefore inevitably falls to you to act upon the information that you have. My companions and I are in your power, so wasted time will not help nor harm us. If we are who we say we are, however, then the foul creature that murdered your soldier is benefiting from every delay."
The captain was prudent enough not to let it show in his expression, but Simey could see by a slight softening of the man's eyes that he had taken in the little speech and was considering its content.
"I don't know whether your tongue is coated in silver or venom," said the captain accusatorily after a few moments. "Either way, I don't like it. But you're right about my needing to take action, so I shall."
"They're going to kill the wolf," murmured Simey to Armadalus as soon as the soldiers had once again secured the stakes of their makeshift wooden prison and moved back to their guarding positions.
"What?" hissed Armadalus. "What made them decide to do that?"
Simey looked with vexed embarrassment at the floor. "I think I did."
Post by Beowuuf on Jul 27, 2008 15:54:03 GMT -5
Utility ground, Camp Seventeen, near Eshnar
Drums sounded a dismal tattoo, but it fitted the oddly subdued occasion and the oddly subdued surroundings. Although there was anger for Herik's demise, although no one had any empathy for beast creatures, it was still...a distasteful process.
The atmosphere was oppressive, and the natural jutting of the forest and the odd jutting of the many tents around seemed to create a barrier surrounding the ground that hid the occasion - an oddly uncomfortable thought - and also psychologically created a block against leaving.
"This does not feel correct, sir," said the lieutenant, standing close to the captain.
"In times such as these, and one can certainly not argue these are dark, unusual times, then even a mere captain has some flexibility in his standing orders, and in the disposition of prisoners."
"The Durense knight claimed the wolf was Vakeros, captain," said the lieutenant, hoping an acknowledgment of rank might smooth the way for a reciprocal respect.
"I know this, lieutenant, and if you believe this part-"
"The white knight cannot lie," said the junior yet privileged officer, wishing to delay proceedings enough to allow him to send a message to one of the commanders in one of the other camps.
The captain turned on his heel. "That only applies if the knight is a true Knight of the White Mountain, lieutenant," said the captain. He span back on his heel. "And even a Knight of the White Mountain has no mystical power over the lies other tell him," the captain finished, hissing it from the corner of his mouth.
"You have a stain on your armour, sir," said the lieutenant harshly. The captain quickly looked to where the lieutenant could be looking, and then realised the meaning.
"Stop looking at me, lieutenant," said the captain dangerously.
"What would be the consequences?" asked the junior officer, with a haughty tone.
"I think there will be no consequence, however according to you the consequence will be the missing of some clue in the actions of the knights, or the wolf, that will validate your position. Then the wolf's death will be on your head, if I am wrong."
Beowuuf knew nothing of the debate, was not looking to the astonished expression of the lieutenant at the time. He occasionally spared a look to his two erstwhile companions, but they seemed, by degrees, either uncaring or embarrassed. Certainly the knight Simey seemed unable to look at Beowuuf directly for some reason. The knight Armadalus simply seemed unable to care about seeing Beowuuf, his eyes flicking over the wolf with no more regard than as they flicked over the troops still standing guard over the bound knights, the quietly debating senior officers, or the troops spread in a wide circle to watch the prisoner being dispatched.
Beowuuf had no such lack of focus, he was always drawn back to intently look at only one man - the man that slowly walked forward, to the drum beat, axe hefted. The man did not look comfortable in his role, but he was a scarred and well muscled veteran with a deep look. The man had seen much, and the man was obviously beyond questioning orders for the greater good. He had seen too many deaths come from the treacherous enemies of Sommerlund to question the measures asked of him and fellow soldiers to defend the land.
Beowuuf did not blame Simey for not looking directly at the wolf, for the wolf was a wretched sight. He was still bedraggled and matted of fur from the trek, and winced in pain every shift of his broken limb. His eyes were still reddened more than usual from his previous man-handling by the soldiers who had re-bound him for this execution. The wolf had howled in so much pain as they tried to bind his limbs together that they had instead bound each arm in turn behind his back to the corresponding ankle, painfully twisting his body.
It had taken many soldiers to carry the heavy round mount to the block, and the executioner himself would almost have to roll the wolf into position, pressing a foot down on Beowuuf's back to put the wolf's head on the block.
"You do not have to do this," said Beowuuf, feeling trapped, powerless in the situation. There was only one thing, realistically, he could do. He said his phrase quietly, a litany the soldier advancing forwards would surely not hear at first.
Step. Step. Heft. Step.
"Please...I am asking...begging...pleading...do not do this. You do not want to do this. You do not need to do this. Please. I do not want you to do this. No one has to die. Do not do this."
Step. Stop. Shift. Heft.
Beowuuf lifted his reddened eyes, reddened either from previous pain, new pain from shifting to face the man, or fear. "Please. Do not do this. Stop. Wait. We do not need to do this. This is a mistake. Your captain is making a mistake."
Shift. Foot forward. Push block to position. Shift back. Heft. Shift.
"Please, this is a mistake. Please, do not do this. You do not want to do this. You cannot want to do this. Please, do not do this."
Shift. Foot forward. Push prisoner down. Shift back. Heft. Sigh.
Beowuuf craned his head round once more, looking directly at the man. "Please," he said.
* * * *
The soldier came forward, carrying the small bloody bag towards one of the many watchmen dotted around the perimeter shared with camp sixteen.
"Lieutenant Tyler wishes the Commander to identify the prisoner...well, what is left of the prisoner executed," said the soldier when challenged by the watchman. The soldier's expression showed how much he hoped this was a futile mission.
"The execution over so soon?" asked the watchman, surprised and with a mixed expression that showed his own feelings on what he had heard was happening in camp seventeen.
The original soldier opened the bag to show the grisly contents, and despite himself the watchman craned forward. He winced at the smell and sight of the bloody head, luckily odd matted fur visible instead of a distinguishable face. The soldier shifted the bag though to give the watchman a better look, and the 'fur' shifted to reveal something pinker-
"This is your head!" said the watchmen with keen perception, even if his comprehension was not as swift. He looked up into red eyes above a grinning skull, and his thoughts ended as his keen perception focused, for a short span of time, on the pain in his throat.
* * * *
The rope snapped easily as Beowuuf's right arm and leg flexed in unusual ways to the extreme tensing of unusual muscles. The executioner had no time to comprehend as Beowuuf's hand shot out, wrapping around the axe shaft near the blade.
The blow was diverted by a powerful yank of the arm, and then Beowuuf sprung upwards. The movement, while his left side was still bound, was both awkward and painful to the wolf. However the soldier would have had no sympathy, as the awkward movement Beowuuf made was still sufficient to snap the soldier's arm in an ugly way.
Beowuuf had no time to feel bad, even as his arm ached in sympathy. It had been necessary to free the axe quickly. And it had been necessary to free the axe quickly because...
The butt of the axe was pushed down with as much force as possible on the soldier's head. Beowuuf had no time to dwell on whether, as he feared in the moments before, he had just been forced to end the operation of the man's mind at the least. Perhaps the body's existence too at worst.
Beowuuf had no time at all. He quickly and painfully flexed his left side and caressed the axe over the rope. The Sommlending soldiers were not cruel, the blade had probably been sharpened to perfection by the very soldier Beowuuf dared not look back down at, for many reasons.
Beowuuf put his other foot to the ground, unable to let his legs buckle even though blood and feeling were slow to return. Even so, it was almost too late, for the captain's reaction was swift and his men did not allow a bow to stray far from their grasp. The wolf had to curse and throw the weapon he held away, to allow him to instead lift his useless, aching left arm.
The soldiers fired a volley of arrows, and with a word of power, the battlemagic of 'Splinter' did its work. Beowuuf wasted no time, he pushed his weakened legs to instant action, a wolfish trick his body would demand payment for later.
Beowuuf held his left hand to his chest to cast a shield spell, for all the good it might do, while his right arm engaged in the far more useful task of holding on to his left arm tightly before the pain there threatened to punctuate his wolfish body's powers and his Kaenos trained mind to make him black out.
The chase was on. Would the captain of the soldiers use the most logical two assets to track the wolf? And would those knightly assets be able to use the opportunity?
Beowuuf, at this moment, did not care - the expression of the executioner, frozen in time the moment before Beowuuf had struck, was taking up too much of his conscious mind. And he dared not allow it to leave, for pain was waiting to flood in.
Post by Beowuuf on Aug 3, 2008 13:20:54 GMT -5
Hidden location somewhere in Sommerlund
It was decided there would be five.
"You outdo yourself," said the woman, the one to be the leader. She still felt Nyles's gaze burning into her and shuddered. It was lost in the shivers of fear and excitement caused by the fact of the Nadziran she knew was in the next room. She hoped the creature could not hear their words. She hoped the creature could not see with other eyes the tapestries of magic around, could not hear the very thoughts of those gathered here.
Kollosco was the one the comment had been directed at. He was to be the guide. "Sister Saline, I am most heartened and overjoyed at your kind if unexpected words of encouragement," he said in his syrupy, gruff tones. He smiled an amused smile.
She flashed a thin lipped imitation of a smile back. "I merely commented upon your ability to not be murdered by a small girl. I do hope you are not taking credit for the induction of the Nadziran Arbo was already honoured for?"
"Of course not, why perish that very thought in your mind before the scandal of it sets fire to the refined and delicate knowledge you possess!" Kollosco looked across at the uncomfortable Brother Arbo, nodding to the man to show no ill will. Arbo was to be the bodyguard, the minder of the Nadziran. The Nadziran was the passenger.
"And that just leaves the fifth, our returned Brother Tamerus," said Nyles, stepping forward to block more words fired between his daughter of the spirit Saline and Kollosco. Nyles turned his back deliberately to Kollosco, and from Nyles's look obviously considered Saline and Arbo a common unit, a single entity leading this delicate mission.
Arbo returned the look with an encouraged nod, though was still obviously uneasy with the disharmony between Saline and Kollosco. Arbo knew better than to look to Saline. While the woman bore Arbo no ill will directly, the constant pressure of Nyles always cause unpleasant undercurrents. Saline ignored the two of them, and Kollosco too, looking across to Tamerus.
Both shared a nod of mutual respect, acknowledging each other as equals in the brotherhood. Tamerus would happily defer to Saline, and Arbo, and share his knowledge freely. His was the position of adviser.
However, Tamerus was very obviously standing close to Kollosco.
"This course is not approved," said one of the brotherhood not standing in the inner circle. Nyles took a few steps backwards to acknowledge the three elders gathered in the Hidden Hall this night.
"I hope you can see the logic, the need, of this course though, and the need for urgency," said Nyles. "With many brothers and sister absent undercover and unable to come now, and with many of power that remain here too young to understand, we are forced to seek the wisdom of only we in this room alone. We risk much to gain our dreams, it is true."
The three elders seemed uncertain. The brotherhood acted in concert, and while the eight in this room certainly were powerful it was by no means a majority of the Voice. Fatherhead Nyles was only the mouth to shape the diverse thoughts of the brotherhood into a coherent pattern, the Breath and the Voice was always that of the full brotherhood joined in final unity.
"It is indeed a simple matter," said Kollosco shrugging and joining the conversation without care of the looks from some of the inner circle. "The Nadziran has joined with us, and requests from us that we undertake a simple mission of small matter. One that will free his mind from worry to allow him to teach us all he knows, in return for the same in kind"
"Do you know what this 'Kai's Pledge' is he wishes to break?" asked the second Elder.
"I would not be the guide if I did not know where to go," said Kollosco, neatly avoiding answering the challenge. "I would not be in this order if I did not have the code in my soul," he finished, throwing back a direct challenge at the implicit inference that Kollosco was not being fully truthful. Kollosco rolled up his sleeve, touching the tattoo of an ugly, waxing moon consuming a star - the symbol of the Brotherhood. Kollosco bowed his head. The others followed suit, touching their tattoos directly beneath clothes, touching them above clothes, or simply hovering a hand or fist over the area. All bowed and intoned the Word.
"We are all joined, and we act as one while we are in the Brotherhood," said Nyles formally. "This is the advice of the Fatherhead, that the Five will journey where Kollosco takes them, for the purpose Namanas requests. That Saline will lead, that Arbo protects, that Tamerus advises and acts as eyes for the Elders and the Voice. What say you?"
Nyles looked around at the outer circle, at the three mages who stood there. In turn each mage looked at the others, looked at Nyles, and nodded their assent.
It was decided. And there would be five.
Post by Simey on Aug 3, 2008 22:51:39 GMT -5
Camp Seventeen, near Eshnar
The captain's exclamation carried over the general gasps of dismay as the arrows aimed at the wolf shattered in the air before striking him.
"No, captain," called out Armadalus, his voice resonant with absolute authority: "Vakeros battle magic!"
"Silence!" bellowed the captain, briefly flicking a glare of unbridled hostility in Armadalus' direction before turning to bark orders at his men.
"This is ridiculous," growled Armadalus; "the man's out of his depth and he won't acknowledge it."
"He probably would if it wasn't for the lieutenant," murmured Simey as he watched the wolf picking up speed, left hand clutching right shoulder. He hoped that the creature might somehow be able to evade the numerous soldiers that were begininng the pursuit; much though he still didn't know what to make of him, he didn't want the wolf's death to be even indirectly his fault. "Is there anything we can do?" he said after a moment, more so that he'd at least asked the question than because he expected any positive answer.
"Wait," said Armadalus, a quiet intensity suddenly in his voice.
Simey looked round and saw that the lieutenant was eyeing the two of them in their makeshift cage, seemingly evaluating them silently. The man suddenly turned and hurried over to the captain. Simey listened intently as he was sure Armadalus was doing also.
"Captain, we should secure the prisoners more fully," called the lieutenant; "they can be of no use to us at the moment, and we mustn't risk another escape while most of the men are pursuing the wolf creature."
The captain turned his head to glower at the lieutenant over his shoulder. He seemed as though he was about to spit an immediate retort, but then his eyes flicked to the captives. "No use to us, eh?" he snapped, clearly determined that Armadalus and Simey should also hear his words. "They'd better be: their lives will depend on it."
"Don't thank me for this," scowled the lieutenant as he unshackled the stakes holding Armadalus and Simey captive; "I know there's something not been right here, but I'll kill you myself if you try anything."
"We won't," said Simey with an emphaticism that he didn't fully feel. "But you wouldn't have to play games to get your captain to do the right thing if you didn't antagonise him so much in the first place."
"That's irrelevant at the moment," said Armadalus quickly as the lieutenant glared at Simey. "The important thing is how we can help to sort this mess out."
"Well, you're to help me track the wolf creature, of course," said the lieutenant.
"That is unnecessary for a start," said Armadalus.
"What do you mean by that?" asked the lieutenant incredulously.
"He will come back for the sword, so pursuing him is a waste of time and effort." Armadalus' manner was neither scornful nor dismissive, simply blunt and to the point; even should the lieutenant take issue with his words, arguing was clearly pointless. "The problem that needs to be tackled is the helghast. I had assumed it had fled onwards to the Darklands, but I now believe it is actually still here somewhere, very close. My guess would be that having discovered a power structure in the form of the army presence in this area it is attempting to infiltrate its way to the very top in order to discover everything it can about what happened in Eshnar."
The lieutenant looked hesitantly derisive. "How can you possibly have discerned all that whilst you've been captive here?" he asked.
"It's what he does," Simey cut in before Armadalus could respond; "Don't argue."
The lieutenant looked for a moment as though he would like to resecure the cage and organise another couple of executions, but he clearly had sense enough to put his own annoyance aside and focus on the immediate situation. "It will be difficult to persuade the captain of this," he said matter-of-factly.
"Then Sir Vojske's comment may have been more apposite than I thought," said Armadalus. "What stands in our way and what aids the helghast more than anything else is your antagonisitic relationship with your captain. If he would see sense were it not for that then it is that which must most urgently be resolved."
Soldiers were surrounding the cage now, preparing to escort Armadalus and Simey to their captain. "Any suggestions as to how I might best go about that?" said the lieutenant cynically as he ushered two men forward to prise apart the unshackled stakes.
"Yes," Simey responded flatly: "let me do it."
Post by Simey on Aug 6, 2008 16:08:37 GMT -5
Camp Sixteen, near Eshnar
"Well, have you noticed anything unusual? Anything?"
Simey mentally berated himself for the dozenth time at having been only partly successful in his reasoning with Captain Angerd who now stood hawkishly beside him in the dimming evening light. Armadalus would have had little need for questioning the soldiers in the next camp; most likely he would have simply followed his instincts in his own inexplicable way and then either found something or announced emphatically that there was nothing to be found. Whether this would have satisfied the captain one iota was debatable, but if it hadn't then at least Armadalus would have got it in the neck and not Simey. As it was, Armadalus - judged, not unreasonably, by the captain to be the superior tracker - and Lieutenant Tyler were off trailing the wolf-who-would-most-likely-return-to-the-camp-at-some-point-anyway while Simey and the captain focused on the possibility of the helghast having infiltrated the personnel at either Camp Seventeen or its neighbour, Camp Sixteen.
"I don't think so, sir," said the young watchman, clearly puzzled.
"Don't call him 'sir'," snapped the captain. Simey bit his lip; it was difficult enough trying to get anything useful out of a bunch of bemused soldiers without Captain Angerd undermining his authority to question them.
"Sorry," said the watchman.
"You may address me as 'sir'," said the captain impatiently.
"Yes, sir. Sorry. Sir." The lad was no more than sixteen years old, but was looking younger every second.
"Has anyone perhaps gone out of your sight and then returned seeming a little different?" Simey was grasping desperately at elements of his own experience encountering the helghast to find some sort of perspective that might strike these soldiers as familiar, but his not being entirely clear what had happened to him made it difficult to present anything meaningful to them.
"No, sir....I mean, no," the watchman gabbled as the captain glared at him.
Simey glanced vexedly at Captain Angerd. He didn't think of himself as an unreasonably proud man, but the contrast between the courtesy that the captain should by rights be showing him and the barely tolerant way in which he was actually being treated annoyed him greatly, particularly given the way it was hindering what already seemed a fairly hopeless investigation.
"Excuse me, sir," said another soldier stepping forward, clearly talking to Simey, but trying to look as though he was addressing the captain. "I couldn't find Penna for a bit earlier. But he'd been checking on something he saw when you had the breakout in your camp. He might know something." The man looked doubtful as he spoke and then slightly uneasy as the other dozen men standing around murmured at his speaking out.
Simey nodded his acknowledgement at the volunteered information. "Where is Penna now?" he asked.
"Probably asleep. He's on dawn watch tomorrow."
"Well, we'd best go and wake him up then," said Simey, thinking that doing so would be a waste of time, but keen to avoid being locked up again through seeming useless.
"And how are you going to find anything out from him when you do?" muttered the captain close to Simey.
Simey didn't respond. He wasn't sure what he would do. Or what to expect.
Post by Beowuuf on Aug 6, 2008 17:13:34 GMT -5
In the forest beyond Camp Seventeen, near Eshnar
"Our bodies are perfect. Some more perfect than others, apparently."
Beowuuf grimaced, feeling the weight on his broken arm and whimpering with the pain of it, knowing he could not afford to make a noise. Pursuit was surely not far off. He was the sound of a snapped twig away from recapture, he was one mistake from rescheduling a forestalled death.
"Stay lost in this wilderness."
Beowuuf was lost in a different wilderness, mental defenses breaking. Sadly the forest he was in was no wilderness, the small copses could not provide cover for long to a determined search. And a dedicated tracker such as Armadalus, if he aligned himself with the soldiers instead of using the opportunity to escape himself, could easily find the blundering trail left by the wolf.
"A real wolf would not be stopped by the world. A real wolf forces his body beyond the constraints of the world. You[/i] are no wolf."[/i]
Beowuuf had to agree.
"Go further into the wilderness and die. You are not worthy of the name wolf, Sorba."
The tall wolf who said it was young, but then Sorba was young too. Eight years old now this tall wolf, the pride of the tribe, he had wandered the wilderness but not because he was expelled as many wolves were. Usually young wolves were forced out until they could tame their instincts. This tall wolf instead traveled the wilds to show his readiness for true greatness. The two behind him, the two lopping in fear were seven years old as was Sorba. One of the two was called Grakx, and would be known to Sorba again in later life. Sorba had forgotten that he had ever met Grakx this young. Grakx obviously survived the wilderness as Sorba did, eventually fought his way back into the tribe on his own unlike the cowardly fellow beside him. This second would standing behind the tall wolf had staked much on 'standing on the tail' of the tall wolf. This would be a mistake.
The tall wolf, the tall wolf, he must have possessed a name. Sorba could not remember that name now - and that seemed disrespectful somehow. When with the Hunters later, Sorba had been taught to respect all his kills. This would surely be the supreme disrespect in their eyes. Of course, Sorba was no Hunter...even if he did allow himself to learn from those who would be his prey. The tall wolf said a true wolf force their body beyond the constraints of the world? Hmm, a good point, but that did not sound correct. The body is a coiled spring, burning with the Source. It was the wolf's own mind that constrains the body, surely, both afraid for it and yet afraid of it. The mind forces the body to do nothing. It is therefore the mind that must be forced to do something. The midn that must be forced down, to let the body off the leash...
The tall wolf had... not pinned Sorba's arm at the time...
Beowuuf recognised he had staggered forward and landed on his left side. He rolled around accommodatingly to let the memory continue uninterrupted.
The feat of dexterity was quite unexpected, and quite exquisite. The tall wolf have had but a second at best to appreciated the movement that turned perfect rest to swift action. Perhaps the tallwolf could have lamented not actually standing on Sorba's arm or leg before Sorba's whole body was extended vertically. Sorba had pushing off with his arms, let his body go at an insanely full stretch, and this let his feet hook around the tall wolf's neck. The dexterity continued, the true wolfish feat of body being Sorba making a powerful twist without any leverage. The surprised and tall wolf would be neither of those things again, his slender neck snapped.
Beowuuf shifted upright in shock, but neither the lesson nor vision were finished.
"The Elder's son!" said the wolf who was not Grakx, his metaphorical second tail now going nowhere, twitching a few times attached to a dead body, a tail that stopped shortly afterwards. The doomed second wolf narrowed his eyes, although he made no move to go towards Sorba, even as Sorba flipped himself upright without care. "You are finished now, the wilderness claims you for your crime!" said the wolf angrily.
Sorba laughed, filled with satisfaction and the sense of his own importance.
Beowuuf felt sick, for both the casual killing he had witnessed and for the Obligation that even now drove Beowuuf beyond his conscience into current actions. Would Beowuuf have stood firm and allowed himself to die earlier, so as not to be forced to injure - perhaps kill - another? It was an uncomfortable question he could not now answer, for the Obligation had forced him to act. An Obligation to one who killed so casually.
"You do not understand," said Sorba haughtily, though whether through the memory at Beowuuf or merely in coincidence to the doomed wolf of memory one could not be sure. "I will be welcomed," said Sorba in explanation, "the Elder will not punish me, he will anoint me with his son's blood! For I am no mere warrior as his son was to be." Sorba pounded his fist to his chest, pleased with himself. "I. Am. Assassin!"
Sorba grabbed the corpse of the tall warrior, and dragged it awkwardly as he walked through the space the other two wolves had occupied, which each wolf hurried to vacate. The awkward gait was not from the weight Sorba now dragged. Sorba was allowed, by his wolfish body, to get out of sight of the two other wolves before it informed him in primitive, impossible to ignore terms that he now had a dislocated leg. Sorba collapsed down biting his tongue with the pain...
The memory coalesced into reality, with Beowuuf lying down as Sorba had. Even as Beowuuf grimaced at the bitter memory, he understood the twin reasons for seeing it. The first was to understand the Price. Beowuuf's wolfish body, divorced from either consciousness, could do incredible things. Breaking the bindings on the stout rope that had tied Beowuuf for execution would be impossible for one of lesser body as the midn would rebel at stretching the limits of its muscles. However, even as Beowuuf had access to Sorba's memories, even as prior knowledge told him of this flexibility and power, Beowuuf had not fully understood the ways of the body. Beowuuf was Vakeros at the core, the memories he called his memories were the memories of himself when he was Tamas. The training of his mind in Kaenos, and the lessons from there, were fundamental to Beowuuf's make up. Lessons that told of the mind's power over the body, of the mind's ability to force the body to ignore its pains, for his mind to rise above those instances.
That training, Sorba was implying, was a Lie. The Price of the wolfish feats showed this. Pain was all in the mind, they said, and that was true. Pain, to the body, was just another function it produces as it operated - similar to hunger, pleasure, fatigue, nausia, balance. These were over-riding messages to the control centre that was the brain. These were over-riding messages the control centre dealt with to adjust the actions of the body. However, the Price of the wolfish feats was allowing the Body to do what it wanted. For the body - without the self adjustment of control through sensibilities and morals and pain from the mind - could attempt anything. And usually it could succeed, even if it had to damage itself to do it. For without the mind, it had no conscious limit, there was no 'trying', there was no bowing to the perceived limitations of the world or of its own power. There was success or failure. Failure would only come if the body broke before it could achieve its goal. At least with success, there was a chance that the success stopped the effort short of breakage.
Beowuuf realised all his attempts at control, of telling his mind to ignore the pain, would not work. As galling as it was to acknowledge, this pain was fundamental. It was not a control signal to be blocked, not a fear of the mind that the body was approaching its limit, not a fear that the mind had to dupe itself into ignoring. This was true pain, this was the body broken passed its own endurance. This was not a controlling message, this was Fact boring a deep pit into his consciousness. Beowuuf could not control this, it was not his world. Instead, he had to do what both his mind and even Sorba's mind feared - he had to let go.
With barely a metaphorical fingertip on the reins, Beowuuf allowed the wolf body to stand. It ignored the signals that its left arm produced, that pulling itself up by that appendage caused. The arm still worked, wolfish musculature spawned in times passed by the Darklords much denser. That was all that mattered, not what additional damage this did to the stretching muscle nor loose bone. The body was more concerned with the real encumbrance of the right leg, the leg pulled partially out of its socket during the escape. The run afterwards had done nothing to aid this state of affairs. The leg had been an existing weakness from before, and the body had echoes of memory from that time, refreshed thanks to Sorba's current re-telling in vision. Thanks to this, the body had the echoes of memory to know how to correct this state.
Without the processing of signals, there was no hesitation nor consequence of ramming the leg back into position against the tree. The body tested out the function of the leg, and found it adequate. The body moved off, carrying on in the direction it had before.
Slowly Beowuuf's consciousness wrestled back into position, unfortunately this meant that slowly the pain in his left arm and right leg became so great that as he regained full control he also threatened to lose full consciousness. Beowuuf fell back down to his knees in terrible agony. However, Sorba's lesson was clear. Beowuuf had to stop relying on mental trickery. He could not directly fight his body's demands with his own mind and win. Not when the damage was so severe and new.
Beowuuf scrambled his fingers in the dirt around him, searching for something and finding it. After a moment's hesitation though, he redirected it for another purpose. He carried on searching, finding an even better substitute that he weighed in his hand, steeling himself. With the piece of wood firmly champed in his mouth, Beowuuf used the rock on his foot. His muffled snarl indicated the action was close to doing the very thing he was trying to avoid, but luckily the euphoria and adrenaline of the new crushing wound allowed the pain to be manageable and unconsciousness was forestalled. And most importantly some mechanism shut off the messages of his arm and leg to deal with the broken toe's calls for attention.
Enjoying the brief, manageable lull, Beowuuf spat out the disgusting wood, gingerly got back up, biased his right leg to his heel, cradled his left arm now it was safe to touch it again with his right and awkwardly continued on his way. He almost laughed in hysterics at his condition, but kept that under control - his mental training was good for something at least.
Sadly, contrary to Beowuuf's hopes, the wolf body had not been using any superior tracking skills nor sub-conscious knowledge to guide its movements. It was sheer luck that Beowuuf was closer to the only destination he could think to go. Beowuuf hoped this destination would provide his current situation some form of resolution. Beowuuf was not sure it was the most sensible location to go to, but somehow, at this time, it was the only one that made sense to him.
In the forest before Camp Sixteen, near Eshnar
Beowuuf told himself tactically it was the smartest move. Beowuuf also tried to convince both himself and the floating consciousness of Sorba that re-acquisition of certain items was not some frivolous luxury.
Although in truth, one set of items spoke to an indulged madness, and the other item spoke to an obligation that now, it would seem, must be broken for a new Obligation. Yet Beowuuf could not abandon these items. The first set of items defined Beowuuf in a way, and gave him a centred core in this madness his life had become. It was a small purpose and drive in times like these where he had many choices, and could easily find a mental trick to abandon what he knew was right.
And the second item ...true, one day he might have to make a decision about how deep his Obligation ran. However, until that day Beowuuf needed the strength of spirit the second item gave him. Beowuuf realised yet again that it was the strength the item gave him that may allow him to one day abandon it.
One day though. Not today. As he had said to Armadalus, he would follow his sword.
Post by Simey on Aug 7, 2008 12:18:06 GMT -5
Camp Sixteen, near Eshnar
"Wait! We're going the wrong way!"
Simey was almost too startled by his own exclamation and the notion which had prompted it to register Captain Angerd's stare of icy disbelief. The two soldiers who had accompanied them from Camp Seventeen, and who were now carrying torches since it was almost dark, exchanged puzzled glances.
"What is this now?" snapped the captain. "I'll not have you wasting my time!"
Simey's eyes flicked across the ground as he rapidly considered the situation in the hope of confirming that his theory did at least make some sort of sense.
"Don't you think this is a little too convenient?" he said after a moment.
"What?" barked the captain in angry bafflement.
"It's as though we're following a straight road," said Simey, gesturing vaguely towards the outer edge of Camp Sixteen. "We started in your camp, and a sighting of someone walking this way led us to the perimeter bordering this camp. Then we were quickly heading into the middle of this camp to find the tent where this Penna fellow we're looking for would be sleeping. He wasn't there, but he'd been seen going this way, which happens to be directly away from your camp."
Captain Angerd said nothing, but simply glared at Simey with dangerously narrowed eyes, silently threatening him with all manner of dreadful punishments if he didn't very quickly get to the point.
"Captain, it seems to me as though we have followed a very direct route from your camp straight through this one and that we are now heading towards another perimeter and after that....well, probably into the woods." Simey hoped that he wasn't coming across as condescending; he very much wanted the captain to work out at least a little of what he was getting at for himself on the assumption that the less it seemed to the man that Simey was telling him what to do, the more he might be inclined to do what Simey wanted.
"As if an artificial trail has been laid to distract us from the real one," the captain said slowly, his ill temper seemingly softened a little by thoughtfulness. "We should check behind us. Any bright ideas where?"
"Well, we know of only one instance of someone unexpectedly coming towards one of the camps rather than heading away, so we could start there," said Simey. "If that seems reasonable to you, Captain."
The captain scowled at the ill-disguised insincerity of Simey's obsequiousness, but a curt flick of his head back towards the centre of the camp seemed to indicate his agreement with the suggested course of action.
Flanked by the two soldiers from Camp Seventeen, Simey and Captain Angerd hurried back to the main encampment of Camp Sixteen. They quickly sought out Kavel, the soldier who had spoken up about his fellow having disappeared momentarily, informed the camp's captain of what they were now doing and then headed back to the perimeter close to Camp Seventeen.
"Alright, Kavel, where was it that Penna returned from when you were looking for him?" asked Simey evenly.
"Down there, sir," said the soldier, pointing along the natural crease in the landscape between the two camps formed by a small brooklet.
Grateful for the captain's silence regarding the soldier's inadvertant respectful epithet, Simey peered down the gentle slope towards the dark smudge of trees at the bottom. "Hardly the ideal time to go searching for clues," he muttered, acknowledging ruefully to himself that if Armadalus had been there and had deduced that this was the best place to look, he would likely have done so in seconds rather than spending over an hour talking to people and looking around the camps, and so would have had some daylight left in which to work.
"Well, we're not going to mess about any longer," said the captain, though with a less ireful tone than had been typical. "Let's get moving."
As he started to walk carefully alongside the tiny stream Simey felt a slight chill at the thought that their search might reveal nothing in particular and that he might then be accused of diverting the captain's attention from something important when he deviated from the direction their investigation was taking before. But then he felt a resurgence of the notion that there had been something wrong with the trail they had been following previously. He didn't know why he was so certain of that; perhaps he was finally letting his instincts guide him as Armadalus had sometimes advocated; perhaps he was making a terrible mistake.
"Sir," said Kavel, interrupting Simey's ponderings; there was distinct unease in the man's voice. "Sir, you don't think anything's happened to Penna, do you?"
"I hope not, soldier," said Simey, glancing as briefly as possible at the man's concerned face, "but I honestly don't know." He wanted to say no more, to spare Kavel's mind and his own any more imaginings of dark possibilities than necessary, but he spied the tactical opportunity to press for the captain's further conviction in his story and reluctantly continued. "I'd never taken these creatures seriously until a few days ago. I'd heard stories, of course, but the thought that anything could make itself look and sound so much like someone you knew that you might actually believe it was them seemed preposterous. The one that we've been tracking, however, took me in completely, so anything seems possible now."
"I don't understand, sir," said Kavel, and Simey realised how carefully the captain and himself had kept the target of their investigation unspecific.
"A helghast, soldier," said Simey, careful to sound as though he was gravely taking Kavel in to his confidence: "that is what we're looking for. And I hope for your comrade Penna's sake that we're looking in the wrong place."
There was a non-committal grunt from the captain behind them and Simey saw out of the corner of his eye the man's hand move to rest on the pommel of the wolf's blue-steel sword that would be the only defence they had should they happen upon the vile creature they sought.
The soldier carrying the torch up ahead reached the bottom of the slope and almost immediately started to examine the ground near where the brooklet entered the trees.
"What is it, soldier?" demanded the captain as the rest of the little company approached.
"Look, sir," replied the man, using his free arm to draw an invisible line from without to within the trees: "looks like something's been dragged along here, sir."
As they gathered around the piece of ground over which the soldier was standing Simey could see how first the grass at the bottom of the slope and then the undergrowth skirting the trees had been scraped in a uniform direction heading into the wood. His heart sank and he realised that he'd wanted to be wrong more than he'd wanted to be right.
Captain Angerd glanced up at Simey, a degree of scepticism having left his features. "Alright, men," he said, "we go carefully and stay close together."
The trail was obvious, even by torchlight, and the search was short. The discovery that ended it, a mere thirty feet into the trees, was grisly. The body of the soldier called Penna lay barely concealed in the undergrowth, appalling burns around its throat and dried blood around its eyes, nose, mouth and ears. The worst sight was the expression of disbelieving terror fixed on its features.
Simey felt sick, as he was sure did all the others, though everyone held their stomachs in check. "It was in a hurry," he said bleakly. "Hasn't tried very hard to hide the body. Probably had some idea you were coming." He looked sympathetically at Kavel and saw the horrified realisation of what must have happened earlier in the day cross the soldier's face.
"What's that?" said one of the soldiers holding a torch. He was pointing to one side of the body at what Simey had assumed was a rock sitting under some tangled briers. Captain Angerd moved to investigate and gradually succeeded in pulling free a tattered and bloody cloth bag. His nose wrinkling at the smell, the captain peered inside and gasped in shock.
"What is it?" Simey asked, fearing any answer that the captain might give.
Captain Angerd slowly turned, holding the opened bag gingerly in shaking hands.
"This man," he said as he exposed the utterly ruined face of a head looking out from the bag: "he's one of the men who captured you."
Post by Beowuuf on Aug 8, 2008 15:32:30 GMT -5
In the forest around Camp Sixteen, near Eshnar
"Tyler can get lost for all I care, and take that 'knight'-"
"Bah, we still have one here-"
"Not our problem, the cap'n'll see 'im off..."
The two soldiers allegedly on watch duty shut up instantly when a sergeant strode across to redirect them, but they moved off with reluctance.
The soldiers' under the captain, from what Beowuuf saw, had a strange attitude. They certainly seemed very professional and capable, but outside of a threat they possessed odd lapses of discipline. They were happy to let their guards down and talk, shutting up under direct watch from superiors only. The two soldiers, in their meandering thoughts, had come up with a sadly accurate if cynical idea of where the wolf might go. However, they had not cared to share with a superior.
This was fine, as it allowed Beowuuf more access than he could have reasonable expected, something much appreciated due to his barely eased injuries. It certainly allowed him to wind his way deep into camp sixteen through the boundary with camp seventeen.
Beowuuf still knew he would not get inside the place to find Simey nor Armadalus, not with the more disciplines soldiers of camp sixteen. Luckily conversations still occurred even between more observant watchmen, watchmen who had not been explicitly told to be that watchful. Yet. The various lax watchmen previously allowed Beowuuf to know that at least Armadalus was gone, had taken the opportunity one way or the other with Beowuuf's escape to free himself from the immediate situation. This was a cause for concern, as Armadalus did not seem one to run away, and Armadalus's prowess would surely track the wolf back in his loop. Armadalus may have even spotted the possibility and pre-empted the move. Beowuuf hoped Armadalus had other plans, that the knight either trusted the wolf enough or at least did not wish the beast creature dead and therefore was off somewhere else stalling for time.
Beowuuf was astounded to find Simey accompanying Beowuuf's biggest fan, Captain Angerd, on the edges of the camp. Beowuuf wasted no time thanking chance or deities, instead scanning the status of the Durenese knight and generally sizing up the captain as they walked and talked. Angerd seemed capable on the battlefield, but not off of it. He tried to force respect of rank, relying on his mens' respect of his past abilities and that camaraderie. This was so wrong, for Beowuuf knew you had to cultivate a respect of rank, because that was what you used when you were required to order the men to do something you wouldn't have before, when you had to order them to do something for the greater good that they couldn't or shouldn't understand.
Still, Beowuuf realised that was only important if he was forced to face the man directly, requiring leverage in a contest of wits or arms. Hopefully Beowuuf could remain undetected. And currently, the captain seemed to be investigating some other matter anyway. Even at this distance, Beowuuf could spot the skill of the white knight in steering and leading the search for whatever was being sought. It was, perhaps unfairly, surprising that the knight had such competence. The constant sparring with Armadalus had downplayed the man's abilities. In a way, Beowuuf could see the relationship of the two knights echoing the command structure here. Armadalus kept provoking the white knight, hindering the man instead of pushing him as was perhaps the idea. Then again, Beowuuf had only observed the command structure here for a few moments at a time - the captain, now understandably, had never come close to Beowuuf for Beowuuf to better analyse him. And of course Beowuuf had tried to ignore the knights for the most part, still not knowing much beyond the echoes of Eshnar and the fronts both put up against Beowuuf's strange appearance. Perhaps such comparisons were unwarranted in both cases. Certainly they were unhelpful except for relieving the monotony of sneaking around waiting for an opening to use.
Beowuuf kept his distance, deliberately losing sight of the knight and captain to listen in on helpfully forthcoming watchmen. Sadly due to camp sixteen's better command structure these tidbits were not enough to formulate a strategy on. Beowuuf therefore almost lost Simey when suddenly the movements of the captain and the knight went in a 180 degree turn, leading back to the joins of the camps. Beowuuf dared to come closer, and heard the grisly discovery. The captain was frozen for a moment.
"Men, secure the knight!" Simey seemed by turns surprised and disappointed. "None of you are to leave his side - nor leave each other's sight!" The captain started away. The Captain then made a movement back. "This knight has aided us. He and myself are the only two in this camp that I trust are not replaced. Do not do anything to cast doubt on this by leaving him, nor leave yourselves vulnerable to attack nor speculation by splitting into groups of two or less!"
The soldiers instantly looked shocked, and their hands moved to their weapons. The captain nodded to Simey, as if his rash decision was the only obvious solution. The captain then made the grave tactical mistake he was warning his men against, himself leaving the group to pursue some need. The captain was, of course, going to throw suspicion on himself as soon as he left the sight of witnesses. And of course the captain, in this fraught time, was leaving himself open for an attack in the dark. Beowuuf would have mocked the captain's faith in the bluesteel weapon by his side as proof or purity and proof against attack, were Beowuuf not relying on its presence as proof of the captain's innocent himself. And of course Beowuuf could not mock too heavily the captain placing himself open for an attack, and this would not allow Beowuuf the time for-
"Breathe a word and your throat will be burned out," said Beowuuf, leaping form the dark and lifting the man by his neck. The captain had not, probably due to his decisions regarding Beowuuf's fate, gotten close to the wolf creature earlier. Therefore, Angerd had not seen Beowuuf's burning red eyes up close. Beowuuf was counting on that hesitation and fear. "And the throats of your men too," concluded Beowuuf, taking advantage of the hesitation to deliver the death blow to the captain's psyche.
The captain's face twitched, but Beowuuf nodded to himself that he had spotted the man's weakness well. He cared about his men too much. Command was no place for him, you either had that strange darkness to isolate yourself from those around you for their own good, or you didn't. The captain could try to artificially distance himself from his men, but it wouldn't work. Even as Beowuuf was nodding to himself internally, Beowuuf allowed the captain to nod his understanding in a restricted way. The man was obviously seeing the value of biding his time, taking Beowuuf out on his own, given time to free the bluesteel blade.
Beowuuf bounced his gaze to the sword meaningfully. "Luckily for you I am not the Helghast. That blade, in the hands of one not attuned to it, may not save you. Luckily for you, I do not hold a grudge, do not have the ability to burn throats, and can weild that blade. Luck for you, despite appearances, I am a Vakeros, Knight of the Cobalt Order." Beowuuf let the captain fall.
The man shifted back to his feet. Several thought processes were running through his head obviously. If the wolf was a Helghast, calling for help would do no good. The captain obviously appreciated the speed of the wolf, that the bluesteel blade would fall from dead hands if he tried anything now, ensuring any reinforcements would be slaughtered. If the wolf was merely a murderous liar, the captain could apparently not dismiss the possibility he would be found lying dead by the men he called. And if the wolf was telling the truth...
"Why did you say you would burn my throat out. And my men?" asked the captain, reaching for the bluesteel sword and hesitant upon seeing it generating no reaction. For Beowuuf's part, Beowuuf couldn't make a move because he still felt weak in his right side and his unsupported left arm was now in agony as it stretched under its own weight.
"I did not, because I would not," said Beowuuf in gruff tones. "However, if you capture me again, then the Helghast will be free to murder for its purpose. I am making a reasonable assumption you will be one of the victims." Beowuuf gave his usual disquietening grin, aware it was possible not appropriate, and was certainly not easy given how he felt in his pain racked body.
"The idea was not to kill you," said the captain, uncertainly, "I just needed to know what happened to my man!"
Beowuuf raised an eyebrow at what he considered an outright lie, but let the matter drop. "You will not find out what is happening from myself nor the other knights, for we do not know."
The captain still shifted, still seeing the three possibilities in his mind apparently, still seeking the advantage. Beowuuf sighed. "Let me tell you what I do know - I do know you will walk back to you men, and not tell them you have found me."
The captain seemed incredulous.
"Let me tell you," continued Beowuuf, "what else I know - I know how we can catch the Helghast."
Post by eviltb on Aug 9, 2008 5:47:30 GMT -5
Remoire dashed through the streets of Eshnar. His bravado at the encounters beginning had left him quicker than it had taken the General to demolish the buildings around him. Even for someone as skilled as he, taking on a lone undead warlord and trying to out-run a four-armed, raged-up monster was a completely different kettle of fish. He had to think of something fast.
Turning a corner, he almost tripped over himself, noticing the black figure in his way.
“MOVE!” he yelled, still running, passing the figure in the road. As he passed, he caught a glimpse of the persons face. It certainly looked Sommlending, but more grizzled and worn. Could it..., Remoire thought. He stopped and turned, cautiously stepping forward towards this new threat.
“What is your purpose here, Helghast!” Remoire sounded as threatening as he could, although with his magic rapier he could do little against such a foe.
The figure turned his head slightly and smirked.
“I am no mere Helghast...”
This was all the figure could say, as the General came steaming around the corner. Seeing a new target, he lowered his massive body down and gunned towards them.
The NAK eviltb reacted with lightning speed, throwing two sharp blades into the General’s neck. The knives cut through its throat, opening a gaping wound. The General flailed wildly, an arm smashing into the Hunter, flinging him into the remnants of a stone building. eviltb fell to the ground with crash, alive but hurt. As he tried to rise, a further blow from the General's arms drives him back to the ground. The General closes in on eviltb to finish him off. He raises all four of his arms, ready to deliver the killing blow.
Suddenly, Remoire charged full speed at the General, driving the tip of a metal pole he found lying on the ground directly into the General's neck, into the very wound that eviltb had opened with his knives. The General screams in pain as Remoire twists the makeshift weapon, opening the wound still further. The General attempts to grab Remoire, but he shelters beneath the General's own body.
The General then whipped to one side. Remoire keeps a hold of his makeshift spear for a moment, and is lifted off the ground. His grip cannot hold and he is flung away, landing hard on the ground. The General struggles furiously with the object still embedded in his neck. Finally he pulls it loose, but in his frenzy, he loses balance, collapsing into another derelict building.
The General rises from the rubble, furious and ready for vengeance.
Remoire shelters behind the wall of a small house. He can hear but not see the General, which somewhat surprises the scribe considering the creatures size. Somewhere out there, it is moving through the detritus, on the hunt for Remoire. The sound of his giant footsteps echo all around. Remoire's eyes strain, but the General cannot be seen. His footsteps however, are getting closer.
Then without warning, the General lunges from the dust, looming right above Remoire. Remoire turns and flees, but the General is right behind him. Remoire sprints through a wooden shack, hoping to lose the General. But the creature is seconds behind him, crashing through the shack, sending the wood flying like toothpicks. The General is right on top of Remoire, his arms stretched out to grab him, when Remoire takes a sudden turn to the left. The General is too big and going too fast to be as agile as Remoire. The General attempts to turn, his reach missing Remoire by inches, but in an instant he overbalances and crashes across the floor.
Within an instant however, he is back on his feet and the chase is back on.
The General's giant legs eat up the distance between Remoire and itself in a matter of seconds. Looking behind, Remoire can see the General is almost on top of him. He tries to turn again, this time to the right, but loses his footing and tumbles over onto his side, ending up flat on his back. The General slows and a guttural laugh echoes from its throat. The General reaches down and picks up Remoire, holding him up in the sky, it roars and begins to squeeze the life out of its prey. Remoire winces in pain, but cannot cry out. Desperately looking for a means of escape, he blinks as a black shape comes leaping out of the sky.
eviltb drives the pole previously used by Remoire clean through the side of the General's head and lands on the ground ready for battle. The General howls in pain, and for a moment, he is too distracted to fight any further. He releases his hold on Remoire, who falls neatly to the ground. Luckily for the scribe, he is not too badly injured. He thrusts a hand into his pack and pulls out a glass vial. Breaking the seal, he quickly downs the liquid. The Laumspur works instantly, relieving the aches and pains from his almost broken body.
eviltb watches his temporary partner, and then tosses him a blade. Remoire acknowledges the weapon with a nod and both men turn to face the General. The General removes the pole from his head and throws it towards the ground. The combatants avoid the pole and dash under the creature legs. Swiping in unison with their blade, they cut along the Generals shins and at the back of its knees. The creature roars in pain and falls to the floor, steadying itself with its arms.
eviltb then launches a furious psychic assault on the Generals mind. It squirms and cries out in pain at the mental torture, but the Hunter keeps up his attack. Worming his way into the creatures mind, he reaches a point where another thought would relieve the hideous thing of its life-
“NO!!” Remoire shouts from behind, placing a firm hand on eviltbs shoulder. “We need it alive, if we are to ever escape this accursed place.”
The NAK is clearly agitated by the others interference, but Remoire insists.
“Very well…for now.” replies the hunter, .who switches his psychic energies to merely rendering the General unconscious. The huge creature gurgles, then slumps forward, out for the count.
eviltb twirled his blade in his hand as Remoire circled the now dormant General. He lifted the borrowed blade and glanced over at the Dark Hunter with a grin.
“Barraka mentioned that getting to the heart of Eshnar required going through the General. I intend to take that literally.”
Turning to the General, Remoire starts to poke along the side of the beast. Although still breathing, the monster is comatose, eviltbs psychic assault did more than render it unconscious. Raising the blade, Remoire drives it into the General belly and swiftly pulls down. A fine slit appears which Remoire then places his hands either side. Pulling the flesh apart, revealing the creatures pulsing, black heart, Remoire couldn’t help but stifle a cough. He noticed his dark companion standing there passively, waiting for something to happen.
“So, what now?” eviltb asked, “Stab the heart? Should have let me kill him, would have saved you the time of this living autopsy.”
Ignoring the Hunters snide remarks, Remoire pushed his hand through the Generals heart. He could feel the ventricles pumping blood through the creatures’ body. Shifting around, Remoire finally seemed to give up and withdraw his black covered hand. Walking over to the Hunter, he shook the slime off an object he now held in his hand.
“Find something?” queried eviltb, who was starting to get restless with all this standing around. He had to get back to Xog, but was intrigued at what the scribe had found.
“Indeed. This may help us reach our goal.”
Holding up the object, both could now clearly see what it was. A key, once golden, now stained black by the Generals blood.
“This is a teleport key, not unlike the kind used by the magicians of Dessi. This will take us where we want to go, into the heart of Eshnar”.
Post by wildhorse on Aug 9, 2008 9:19:49 GMT -5
~~~ Outside Tyso ~~~
Wild Horse watched the Crystal Forge rise into the sky, its engines as the skyskip gathered power for its flight across Sommerlund. He hoped that Black Cat will be in time to reach the Kai Monastery and defeat the impostor before much irreparable damage was done.
Although he had no Kai weapon with him now, during his training as a Kai, Wild Horse was not worried. All Kai Lords had to learn the arts of unarmed combat, hence he will not be too worried by the lack of weapons during his short ride back to the city. Besides, he will be able to use any one of the numerous blades aboard the Emerald Defender.
Arriving back at Tyso and returning the two horses, he was saluted as he came aboard the Emerald Defender. As he made his way back to his cabin, followed by Oriphus, he issued his orders.
"Cast off for Holmgard!"
Post by eviltb on Aug 11, 2008 18:15:40 GMT -5
The Maaken range
Darklord Xog stood looking down at the city of Eshnar. The power shield that still remained cast its yellow tint into the sky. Surrounding the shield, Xog could see the many camps that lay dotted around Eshnar’s perimeter. Using his intense vision, he could see clearly the standards of Sommerlund, Dessi and Durenor. He spat as he scanned east to west. There were possibly 20 camps here; each set a standard distance apart, each supporting a standard regiment of soldiers.
Xog chuckled and turned to survey his own troops. The gourgaz had prepared themselves quickly and eagerly. This had allowed him to leave for Eshnar much sooner than the three days he had given the Dark Hunter eviltb. But then, Xog was never one to sit idly by while there was a job to be done.
The gourgaz stood before him in perfect formation. Five-hundred sturdy warriors, each one holding a huge one-handed black axe and black shields emblazoned with Xog’s symbol, the broken green door. Each one worth equal to at least ten Sommlending soldiers. Xog grinned, his mouth wide across his ape-like face. He began pounding his fist – the very fist that held the Doomstone of V’Ka - on his own black breastplate. Red and purple sparks flew from his chest and fizzled onto the ground around his feet. The gourgaz in turn began to clash their weapons together in unison.
This would not be a fight, thought Xog. This would be a slaughter.
Post by Beowuuf on Aug 22, 2008 0:35:03 GMT -5
Camp Sixteen, near Eshnar
Captain Angerd look flustered, and flushed, and disheveled. Yet with that came determination. It made Simey instantly nervous, and he looked to the men surrounding him, hoping they would not move away. Certainly hoping they would either notice something unusual and act accordingly, or perhaps notice there was nothing to notice and calm Simey's own paranoia.
"Men, come to me - one at a time," beckoned the captain with a distracted yet commanding tone. "The rest of you, cover the man!" The captain had unsheathed the bluesteel sword, holding it readied by his side. Hesitantly one man came forward, and with an odd smoldering expression the captain gestured to the man's off-hand. The soldiers and Simey realised what was to be done, the knight because it was similar to what Armadalus had forced Simey and Beowuuf to do in what seemed a long time ago in the hut last night.
The soldier accepted, and was given intense scrutiny by his captain as the blue steel made a severe introduction to the man's palm. At the captain's urging the soldier then flicked blood to the grass. In the dim light, all present strained to see if the blood was really blood, and was still blood when left alone on the grass.
The captain nodded finally, and the group around took a deep collective breath, stealing themselves for the next round of paranoia and straining. One by one the group around Simey was tested. Simey prepared himself with mounting dread but resignation to be similarly indoctrinated. However, the captain kept to his assertion that Simey was obviously not the Helghast.
Or, Simey conjectured, the captain suspected the knight very strongly but did not wish to not alert him.
* * * *
Camp Sixteen, if viewed from the air by a passing bird curious in the way of humans, would have been a bewildering place to start. The small bundle of soldiers, with the nuclei composed of captain and knight, drifted on haphazard currents, finally finding stray soldiers to assimilate.
The group reached a critical mass after gaining a few more bewildered soldiers, and split in three.
Unknown to any aerial observer, Simey was nervous. The captain sent away two groups of soldiers, keeping Simey with him alone. The captain who had disappeared into the knight and come back a reformed, determined man of unusual actions. Comfort was something Simey had long learned to do without in the presence of Armadalus, but was sad to find it lacking in his life altogether even when the Sommlending knight was absent.
"Do not show your hand," said Simey to the groups leaving. The soldiers nodded to this tactical advice, and Simey had to avoid rolling his eyes at his Sommlending cousins. Literally, Simey thought that showing their hands - the small wounds that they all carried - would be inadvisable. A few gestures conveyed this and the captain nodded approval and gave Simey a respectful nod aswell.
To the aerial observer, the small groups again drifted on their currents. Despite the small size the group were more ambitious, aggressive. They sought to assimilating an equal number of soldiers. If one had a way to observe the process closer, place a magnifier on the proceedings, it would become clear that the assimilation was in one of two ways. Some soldiers were merely talked to - whatever the conversational gambit, it engendered earnest speech in return that was apparently satisfactory..
The second method, tried and trusted, was to pull lone soldiers off from the groups, or take them unawares during passage. They were given the more violent indoctrination into the core faithful. The virus spread, but instead of infection it was the knowledge of an absence from infection that slowly multiplied and spread out.
The core faithful were diluted, and so too were the means of determination they could employ. It became a matter of small groups asking larger groups about odd behaviours, while observing the odd behaviours of others and trying to avoid tipping their own odd behaviours. While this method of proof was becoming shakier, one could understand that a man who had been with the same group of men for many nights was far less likely to be a risk. There was a tangled set of webs of eye witnesses in the larger groups that vouched for each other, and hopefully these were thick enough to trap a lone suspect.
Meanwhile, the original nuclei carried on. It no longer drifting, for the virus of the faithful took stronger hold. Deeper into the camp the captain and Simey approached important officers directly, pulling them from their duties. While the reactions were varied, and the resistance proportional to the seniority of the offer, all succumbed to the reasonable words of Simey and the earnest plan of the captain's.
The officers began to take charge, leading the faithful that would have otherwise been resisted. The assimilation of camp sixteen was complete now, the head secured and all that was left was for the remains of the body to be slowly claimed. All that was left was for those unsavory morsels that did not conform to be pulled into the center, there to be dealt with.
The commander of the camp, a senior Sommlending knight and incidental relative of Lieutenant Tyler, gave over one of his meeting tents for the cause, a tent usually used for planning sessions. Its size was impressive, but its distance from other tents was the key requirement.
* * * *
Seven men were called to the tent, gathered and respectfully dispositioned inside to find themselves facing Captain Angerd, Simey and three of the faithful. The slow, inexorable sweep had found little suspicion, and this was hopefully a good thing. If the Helghast was not now inside the tent, Simey could not see what the next course of action could be - too much time had now passed for great evil not to be done.
"Bring the accusers too," Simey had said, or else the number might have been only three men gathered, and there would have been less guarantee that a Helghast was caught. Of course, this meant that there was already a tention as accusers and accused caught each others eyes and the tendrils of suspicions on both sides became tangible things.
"Why do you trust me," Simey had asked when near a large group of soldiers at one point earlier.
The captain had looked across deeply, and urged Simey across from the group, even from the faithful. "The real owner of the sword managed to intercept me, and outlined a plan. He vouched for you."
Simey had felt slighted, relieved, and suspicious in equal measure. "I am glad you finally belief Armadalus's word as a Sommlending Knight, at least. The situation could become dire if we allow suspicion to grow."
"Not the knight," the captain had corrected, "the real owner of the sword." The captain said this last quietly and pointedly, looking across briefly to his men fearing they might hear. Having established a healthy suspicion of odd behaviour, the captain obviously wished to not be caught indulging in any himself. Angerd gave another meaningful look to Simey and guided the two of them back to the faithful, before the activity were noticed.
Simey's mood was therefore not one of being reassured. At best he had to hope a Helghast, one that had taken a facination to Simey earlier, was in this tent. Simey's only real ally was the oddly acting captain, who had been vulnerable earlier to replacement. And worst, the wolf creature was now involved - another uncertain component, giving a second chance that foul trickery was afoot.
Simey had hoped the two groups of accuser and accused would be kept separate. Instead the potential for tension was growing by the second as the captain failed to inform the men why they had been summoned, leaving their imaginations to go along correct routes of paranoia. Simey could not imagine what could make this situation worse.
As a shadow detached itself from the back of the tent into the lit middle, Simey would shortly discover that some benevolent god was happy to show the knight exactly what those things could be.