A Journey Home – Saben Evans

The room is dark, except for an area surrounding two
lit candelabras near the padded chair by the window.
It smelled of smoke, dried blood and old papers. The
blood scent is from an orc, killed in the hallway
outside. The body might be gone, but the blood stench
will probably not be gone for a few days.
The old paper scent is less misplaced considering
the room is the Black Roses library.
As dangerous as smoke sometimes can be in such a
place, this was harmless. The smoke is comming from a pipe,
holding the pipe is me, Captain Saben Evans.
Once a religous man, now someone to be bought and sold for gold.

One can argue that I had changed considerably,
I certainly did sometimes but more often than not
I took the stance that I stilled held true to my beliefs,
if not to my god. I still valued purity, justice and honor,
even if it was in a refined form.
It might sound like an oxymoron coming from a
mercenary, but in truth, there was nothing purer than
gold. It was always there, it didn’t change, it didn’t
betray you, in a chaotic world, it was a point of stability.
Place your loyalty with it, and you will never be
disappointed.

Of course there were other reasons, reasons I didn’t
care to think too much about…

– TO ARMS! The Amazons are attacking Necropolis!

Ah.. Payback time, Northwood was under constant attack
by the Crimson Alliance, by the Coven of Evil, by the
Shadowclan orcs and lately by our former allies, the
Ordo Malleus.
Mostly their great numbers determined the outcome, but
here they were under attack, maybe our support would
sway the outcome in the evil city’s disfavour?

Taking the stairs in three steps, I try to make up for
time lost phillosophising.
The Stable doors are still open since the last person
made it out.
Grabbing the gear I try to hastily make Fury ready,
Damn horse don’t like the reins so he snaps at my left
hand in his playful manner, normally reserved for all
but me.
It bleeds a little but when I strap the gauntlet
padding on, it stops.
Snickering at the possible cliché regarding biting the
hand that feeds you, I take an apple from his
basket and deliberately look into Fury’s eyes when I
take a big bite from the juicy apple.
We enjoy tormenting each other, even at the expense of
arriving late for battle sometimes.
Then he gives me the look.. damn! I feed him the rest
of the apple and get up.

Fury stirs while I put on the right gauntlet and then
we are away.
Outside I notice the absence of troops,
seems they went ahead, I curse and hope someone
capable is there to provide some tactical advice,
instead of the organized chaos the younger Roses have
been guilty of lately.

Taking Fury inside I head to the tact room and open
the rune book.

– Kal Ort Por, crap!

I arrive in the middle of a circle of trees west of the dark city,
without one Rose in sight. I don’t know if it is my imagination,
but the sky looks darker in this part of Brittania.
Looking back to the town, I decide that if my swordbrothers
would haven been here, in an organised fashion,
this clearing would have served as a fallback point.

Heading into the city I spot no Roses, no Amazons and no enemies..

– Kal Ort Por

There is a glow a bit south of the old Templar hall,
now a trade and stable house for the Shadunes, the
glow expands and transforms into a heavily armoured
Saben wearing a white tunic and sturdy boots.

I take the eastern path around the old Templar hall,
where it used to be a hall of equal proportion owned
by a man named.. hm.. Dues?
We had tried to buy it back in the days, but never got
hold of the owner, until one day he shows on the steps
and declare his intent to become a Templar.

Heading for the Rose’s Tower I cut through the forest
making my way around bushes and trees.
This is normally the calmer area of Northwood.
Suddenly there is a noise, sounding like several
horses somewhere in front of me, I speed up and see a
black clad man, resembling what is normally worn by
the Coven of evil. He seems terrified and slightly
damaged.

– Kal Vas Flam

Kain! Behind the poor sucker is a mounted Kain, Rose
veteran and a good friend that I haven’t seen in ages.

The smell of burned flesh finds it ways from the black
robed man to my nostrils. I kick my heels back and
get Fury into a.. a.. Furious pace! I catch up with
the man in a matter of seconds, few horses can match
the speed of Fury on a good day, and his days are
almost always good.
I don’t bother with holding the sword in front of me
like a lance, it would surely pierce him but the time
needed to get the weapon out of his body might prove enough
for him to get off a spell, or even worse, get away.
Instead, the sword falls heavy onto his back, tearing
through flesh and reaching bone. He doesn’t scream, just
twists his body in ways you can only achieve when you
desperately are trying to get away from something.
Only, there is no escape. The sword falls again,
hitting his spine making an icky crunching sound.
Magic goes through the air and the mage is hit by an
energy bolt.. good old Kain.
I see the mage waving his hands fiercely, and uttering
the words of power for a greater heal so fast he
sounds like squirrel.
He lights up and some of his wounds are healed,
but at least he won’t be able to throw that spell
again, not with his left hand in the grass and my
sword already on the way up to strike again.

– Corp Por

My sword falls again. I don’t know if Kain is
barbequing a dead body, or if I am carving some nicely
roasted beef, but the mage falls off his horse, dead.

Then there is an incredible, metallic roar and
several incantations.
Two more mages that have been speeding to their now
dead friends rescue.
One is mounted on a Nightmare, it might be that
Vampire.. What’s his name again? No time to check
properly, distracted as I am by the dragon that
accompanies him. Deep in me there is a burning
desire to leave, but we do the next best thing, we charge.

The spells finds home, my right arm oozes and it feels
like I put my head in a pot of boiling water.
Team coordination, brought by numerous battles side by
side makes us take a collective decision, we move from
battle speed to unorganized retreat, speed away from
the battle, from the fire, from the dragon, and from
the nightmare.
The mages, or in some cases vampires, have caught that
oh so sweet scent of blood that easily turns a pitched
battle to chaos.
No sense, no thought, just the chase and the kill.
The one I think is that Vampire seems to be slacking
of, slowing his speed to get the dragon to follow.
I heard that a dragon unattended can go berserk in a
blink of an eye sometimes, I wonder if that is true?

Both me and Kain turn right and start heading back to
the square in front of the tower. This is what
separates warriors more than the skill of their blade,
or the power of their spells.
The ability to control their bloodlust, the ability to retreat,
and more so, the ability to exploit the bloodlust of others.
The mage riding a ordinary horse catches up, alone.
Snickering, we turn and while Kain utters the familiar
Kal Vas flam, my sword starts biting into the poor
fellow’s flesh.

The Vampire, seeing again a friend in agony from
bleeding and burning, no longer seems to care about
his other, larger friend. He speeds the Nightmare forward,
but it has an even worse temper than my
beloved Fury, and the Vampire is thrown off.
He charges forward anyway, now on foot, out of reach
of his dragon. Out of reach of his bad tempered
Nightmare.

So while the battle is ended with a dead mage by Fury’s hoofs,
a new one commences between a Nighmare and a
Dragon with a Vampire trying to calm them both.

In the end, the Dragon stands victorious, the corpses of a
Nightmare and a Vampire by the feet of the
beast, faithfully guarding its master’s corpse.

A few silent seconds passes as we contemplate our
victory.

– Been a while Kain.

– Yes it has.

Then we go back to feeling smug, with the odds we just beat,
we have every right to.

A blue light in front of us starts expanding into a
gate, it has the look of trouble about it. With most
people escaped to that other facet, Northwood stands
pretty alone in battling the forces of the Guardian.
If it were our boys coming home, I would likely have known.

Then the gate is finished, and the head of a horse can
be seen stepping through, when the creature is fully
through we sigh, the rider is of the Ordo Maleus,
the vampire must have used his power to call for help…or vengeance.
Next person through wears the black and red of the Crimson alliance.
We move our horses a bit west, toward the rougher part of Northwood.
The enemies keep stepping through, the previously arrived guarding the operation.
The chilly air is filled with the noices of armoured men and eager horses.

At a headcount of 15 I no longer bother to stay, Kain
lets off a spell and we are both on our way.
A few of the arrivals break of to follow while the other
stays behind to guard the army still going through,
I make a sharp turn and hide by the Shadune manor’s western wall,
they ride by, but returns to reform right infront of me a few seconds later.

Silently cursing my bad luck I notice a few monsters that live in
the area closing in to bother them. For a few moments they are distracted.
Squeezing the handle of the sword,
I see my chance and attack a mage that is standing close by.

– Damn, damn, damn.

The Sword hardly bites, too few Weapon smiths
in Northwood have slowly made all my weapons all but useless.
She manages to survive the assault, and I have to break
off and flee,
a rain of arrows and spells.
I pass around the southern corner but the spells are still hot in
pursuit.
I have so many holes in me now I should by all rights
bleed to death instantly was it not for the magic assault
of the mages closing them with fire.
It reminds me of what field healers sometimes do when
they lack the time to use bandages, or a wound is risking infection.

Then an energy bolt strikes true and all pain is gone.
I can see my body falling from the back of Fury,
landing in a patch of green grass.

I drift now, the world loosing colour, but not
it’s beauty. How could everyone leave this? Abandon
this?

The question echoes in me, concealing a deeper
fear that this death may be the last, that this time I
will not have the strength to find my way home.
A fear that is often felt in Northwood.

The Winter is here.

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