The Book of Rahl – Chapter Twenty-Nine: Beaten, Bloodied, and Relieved
(Dramatized by Col. Amberle Jax, Special Operations Division, Black Rose Society)
Another ball of fire slammed into the wall of Empath Abbey soliciting a low rumble and a crash of another toppled bookshelf and washing the interior with an eerie red glow. The cheers outside grew louder, and somewhere in the Abbey loft a child was crying. Lieutenant Kenyon slumped against the wall and wiped more blood than sweat from his eyes. He shook Torinor off in a flutter of bandages and poultices and took a quick look out the arrow slit to the clearing below. It was a dark night, but the field of torches and small fires outside the Abbey made the place look like day.
“The entire damned town’s out there…” he grumbled to no one in particular. Torinor squeezed around him and shot a glance outside as well and was narrowly missed by an arrow streaking through the opening. Torinor fell backwards out of the line of fire and grinned weakly.
“Certainly looks that way,” he said, going back to work patching up an arrow wound in the Lieutenant’s leg.
Kenyon looked down to the lower level of the Abbey, Noc waited there, his shadowy ostard jittering with its rider’s impatience and half a dozen regulars and militia waiting for the word to charge through the Abbey’s doors. Kenyon shook his head slowly and the other man gripped his mace with a creak of metal and leather and went back to waiting.
The crystal in the Lieutenant’s ear crackled to life, it was Doc and the prison detail reporting the Mayor had been taken and was being held at sword-point, likely being forced to resign. Several more magical blasts slammed into the wall, showering the men with plaster and dust.
“That’s it,” Kenyon muttered, switching frequencies on his crystal, “WallGuard to Command,” he shouted above the rising noise of the rioters outside, “ WallGuard to Command, the hammer has fallen, I repeat, the hammer has fallen!”
Half a world away, General Debinani Rahl strode through the dark halls of the Society’s Headquarters, pulling a fur-lined cloak around his bedclothes to fight away the night’s chill. A page hurried along behind him, rattling off troop-movements and intelligence reports that had come in over the last few hours before the usurpers had finally made their move. He charged into the communications room, nearly toppling a runner who was rushing out with an armload of papers. The Captain was already there, closing the last clasp on his tunic and trying to get a report from Yew.
“SAY AGAIN WALLGUARD, SAY AGAIN!” he shouted into the large glowing crystal on the desk before him. The crystal crackled and sputtered, and Kenyon’s voice came through faintly along with the sound of hundreds shouting and spells exploding. “…hammer..fallen…,” was all that came through. The General strode over to the crystal and worked with the tiny knobs and wheels mounted into its side, gently refocusing the magical energies that powered the device, until the signal cleared.
“…Mayor’s been taken, and there’s no way in hell we can do anything about it. We’re pinned down and it’s just a matter of time till they come through the doors.”
The Captain tapped the crystal and shouted for Kenyon to stand by for orders. He straightened and looked at the General. For a moment, the bustle of the room went still as all eyes turned to the General for the word. The old man took a moment to stare out the window to the darkened swamps. With a sigh he turned around and spoke.
“Captain…,” he said.
“Sir?” replied the other man.
“We are surrendering our position in Yew.”
“Aye sir!” the Captain responded with a shout. The room exploded into motion, pages went running out the door with their messages, orders were shouted into crystals, the Captain moved from station to station barking orders, and across the room, an old man wrapped in a cloak stood at a window, half listening to the commotion behind him and staring at the lights of Trinsic across the bay.
Doc stood in the guard room of the prison at the Court of Truth, wincing at the volume and vehemence of the Captain’s voice in his ear.
“Wait, wait, wait,” he said into the air, shooting a glance to the few guards who were there with him, anxiously awaiting news from the front, “ you want to repeat that boss?”
Saben’s voice in his ear was loud enough that the other men in the room could hear it too, “I said, we’re getting the hell out of Yew. Leave the political prisoners and the felons, take the truly dangerous ones. Send word ahead to Lord Grimblade in Trinsic and tell him to expect the transfer.”
Doc nodded and scratched a few names and cell numbers down on a scrap of parchment and tossed it to one of the waiting guards. “Roger that, sir, we are outta here!”
In cell B9, Pedron Niall sat quietly on his cot with his hands folded in his lap. The thundering sound in the distance was undoubtedly magical in nature – very likely the people of Yew revolting against their Council. He allowed himself a moment of levity – after all, nothing cleansed quite like fire – but the feeling never altered the serene look he kept on his face. Many of the other prisoners were up and shouting, clanking their cups and bowls against the cell bars, shouting that Yew would once again be free. He saw some of the black-cloaked men move back and forth past his cell, scurrying this way and that, sometimes with a prisoner in tow, sometimes not. Finally, two men came to his cell, one opened it while the other summoned up some magical energies – obviously a threat to keep him in line. The one who opened the cell came in, offered a toothy grin, and rattled a set of manacles and chains in the air.
“Time for a change of scenery crazyman,” he said with a sneer.
And that, after a flash of gauntlet and sharp pain in his nose, was that.
Alexander stood in the pitch-black shadow of a Yew tree. He had turned off his crystal long before, he knew which way the wind was blowing. Every now and then he could see the flash of light above the trees. The Abbey was getting pummeled. He quietly lifted a prayer to the stars that his brothers and sisters there were safe. The crumpled form at his feet stirred slightly but never became conscious. He was just a farmer, and hadn’t known any of the identities of the ring-leaders of this little insurrection. Eventually a wizened little man in a scribe’s robe shuffled out of the darkness and joined Alexander against the tree. The little man produced a sheaf of papers and handed them over.
“You’re not coming?”
The little man smiled and shook his head in the negative.
“You sure about that? They’re not likely to be friendly to someone so closely involved with the old administration…”
The old man spoke then with a voice like dried leaves, “Ohh, pshaw…there’s always work for a good scribe. And they’ll not likely be able to find someone for the wages I seek.”
Alexander looked at the old man and grinned.
“Alright, just be careful. I’ve contacted everyone that needs contacting, I’m heading home.”
The old man nodded and pat Alexander on the shoulder before turning and shuffling off back into the woods.
“Jack of Diamonds to Ace of Spades,” Alexander said quietly into the air, “we’re all wrapped up here, awaiting extraction.”
“IT’S ABOUT GODDAMNED TIME!” Kenyon shouted into his crystal above the din. The crowd outside was pounding against the doors of the Abbey now. The men down on the floor were looking more and more nervous, except of course for Noc who was looking more and more crazy with every ear-splitting pound against the doors.
The Lieutenant lifted his hand in the air and made a sharp circling motion. As one, the black-cloaked soldiers gathered in the Shrine of Justice, helping their wounded and carrying their dead. The able-bodied cavalry circled the cluster of beaten and bloodied infantry, the hoofs of their mounts clattering loudly against the cobblestone flooring.
When the rioting crowds broke through the doors, they found no soldiers, no resistance. What they did find was a hastily scrawled note stabbed to the doors of the Shrine of Justice with a dagger that read:
“Think you can do better? Give it a shot, we’re done.
-Lt. Kenyon, BRS”
And then a little below that one, another note:
“Oh, and by the way, Fuck all you ungrateful bastards.
Four men stood atop the tower, watching the last of the gates close, the dead and the wounded being carried inside.
Saben leaned against the battlements and sighed deeply, “That’s all of them except for a handful of moles.”
The General nodded in response.
“The Trinsic Council’s sitting tomorrow,” continued the Captain, “ we’ll have to move our timetable up a few weeks.”
Once again the General nodded silently.
“Looks like Hap’s been hired as top bitch for the Broken Swords.” The General’s head turned sharply to Saben then at mention of the name, when he didn’t speak the Captain continued, “He’s got a handful of old-timers with him. Silent for sure, most likely Venom, Kerris and maybe Napes.” The General frowned – an old, tired gesture – and turned back to the scene below.
He turned to Sandoval, unwavering brother in arms for nearly forty years, and the other man just gave him a curt shake of the head, silently admonishing the General for letting the news dishearten him any more than the situation already had. A short ways off, Shadowspawn muttered something to himself, fingering the Society of the Iron Rose service ribbon on his breast.
“Give the men a one week liberty,” the General said quietly, never turning from the makeshift triage below, “Keep ”˜em out of Trinsic until we can get the Council‘s blessing tomorrow. If I were a government official I’d be a little peeved if some old asshole let his army loose in my town without asking permission.”
Saben nodded silently.
“So what’s next?” Shadowspawn said gruffly. The General just shook his head.
All three men suddenly became very uncomfortable. They looked to each other – Captain, Field Marshall, and Sergeant – and came to a silent agreement. Slowly, quietly they left the General on the rooftop, catching pages and turning them back the way they had come, the dark looks on their faces scattering junior officers and enlisted men in their wake.
The Old Man was weeping.
And when the Old Man wept, he wept alone.