Chapter 10 - A Coming Together, and a Ripping Apart
- Lytha: Dinner for Two - Day 7: 8:00pm
I hoped that he had not felt the papers in my pocket when he had brought me to the couch. He seemed like he cared about me, but I was still not sure about his intentions. The childish voice tried to tell me that he had, of course, really bad motivations, but his next questions interrupted the shouting inside my head.
"It's no wonder you're too weak to move, it must have drained you to destroy my house like this," he said. I have no idea what he meant by that. He smiled widely at me, which only served to make me grow tense. He offered some of the food to me. I tried not to look at it. I waited for a voice in my head to tell me that it was poisoned, or something ever more horrid, but the voice never came.
"At least eat a little. If you feel like eating a lot you can do that too."
I didn’t want his food. I didn’t trust him and I didn’t trust his food. Fortunately, I suppose, the instinct for survival outweighs paranoia, and eventually I gave in to the extreme hunger I felt. I grabbed a carrot. It was the easiest to get into my mouth.
He began to eat the meat. It looked like it was some type of bird. Strange, it was already cooked when he got here. He must not be as poor as this shelter made him seem, to afford a service like that. I finished my carrot, and began to take other vegetables. He ate slowly, and wasn’t looking at me. What was his name again? I couldn’t remember. Somehow I felt it was important. What was it? "Ghost…" I suddenly whispered, remembering.
He looked up suddenly. "What…? How do you know my name?"
I was silent. I put down the piece of fruit I was eating, having lost my appetite.
"Why were you in there? Prison." he asked, after a pause.
I was not sure if this was not another trick of the Hammerites, to get more confessions out off me. I tried to change the subject of our conversation. "Nightfall wanted you to get me out… But why…? I don't even know him."
"I'm as curious to why as you are. Maybe if I knew why you were in there we could figure it out."
This was surely only a trick. I refused to know anything. Of course I remembered my expedition to the hunting lodge very well, but I did not intend to confess more than they already knew. "I... I don't know why..."
But he insisted. "What was the last thing you were doing? That you remember?"
Telling him about my last expedition was definitely not a good idea. But I heard myself already talk about it, and couldn't stop myself from doing this. "I was in that lodge. In the woods, in the north... and then they came." The memory of the pain as the crossbow bolt had hit me in the shoulder and as they had kicked me, struck me. I tried to forget, and made a fist. Before the voices could continue to shout at me, he asked the next question.
"Sounds like you were in the wrong place at the wrong time... or they followed you there. Was it a Hammerite lodge?"
"No, it belongs to this rich lady. No Hammer lodge. But I -- " I stopped. Telling him about my plans for the break into the Hammerite Temple would indeed be a very bad idea. My intentions for the lodge's burglary had been simple: I needed gold for equipment. I wanted to pay them back what they had done to Thalia, while she was arrested. I tried to nurse her back to health. Seeing her scared face every day had increased my hate against the Order of the Hammer to an insanely high level. The avenging had still to be done. "Don't be silly and throw the chance for revenge away through talking about it. Just shut up about this." Those were my own thoughts in the chaos inside my head.
He sat cross legged on the couch, and looked at me. The long pause seemed to have made him very curious. "But what?"
"Nothing," was the only answer that came into my mind. "Don't say anything! You are still not sure if he is no Hammer spy!" I looked nervously down to my hands. But once again my lips were faster than my mind. "I have no idea what the Hammers wanted there. It was just a lodge. Just a small tidy hunting lodge." Something inside me seemed to trust him. He had a very friendly face.
"What were you doing there? Was it your lodge?"
"No. I live in Newmarket. At least I lived there. I doubt I can go back there now." I was sure that I had told them where I lived. The Hammerites would search for me there in the first place. No chance to go home, now.
"Yes, the Hammers had a note about who you are... They will be looking for you -- and probably for me, too."
For him, too? Another part of me decided that it wanted to trust him. I relaxed a little more. I tried to tell him more. "I fear I told them more than I wanted. And I can't remember what I told them; but definitely far too much." I hesitated a moment.
"Okay. You said you lived in Newmarket and that you can't go back... Do you have any family in the area?"
"Just as she -- " We had spoken at the same time. I looked up, irritated, and answered his question first. "No. I have no family any more."
"She who?" he asked.
"She. My sister. Thalia. But she is dead now."
Yes; Thalia was dead. She had died some days ago -- or weeks? Counting the time was difficult now. I had cared for her, after she had been released from the Hammerite prison. They had arrested her a few years ago, because they distrusted everything that they couldn't easily control. They could not control the criminals, and they could not control the telepaths. And that's what was wrong with Thalia. She was both.
We had a lot of fun with her telepathic abilities, when we were young. Yes, those were happy days, before we learned that this was not normal and that others hated her for it. We stopped playing with it soon after, before we had figured out if I too could do it myself. I was sure that I could not. I did not want to have that ability. It caused only pain, threat, and loneliness. I had seen it, when it happened to Thalia. And I was very good at denying possible facts. So, I was sure that I had absolutely no telepathic abilities.
I had tried to help her in the last month. The goal of my last few burglaries had been simply for her survival. I had failed. And she was dead. I had given her a burial, but that was far too little. So, I had developed my plan to pay back to the Hammerites. I had already got myself some maps of the most important Hammerite temples, and I had spied around the places a little. The revenge had still to be carried out. Maybe I could stop the voices in my head in that way. And maybe I could stop my self hate that way. Trying to forget my feelings of guilt about my sister's death, I stared into the nothing.
"What did you do over in Newmarket?" his question brought me back to reality.
"I -- " I hesitated, but remembered what I knew already about him. He was a thief, same as me. I continued. "I had a job similar to yours, I think."
"It seems to be a popular job these days. You're either a rich old bastard, or trying to rob them," he said, laughing.
I smiled wanly. "Yes... the rich old bastards were my most preferred targets, indeed. They have too much, you know."
"Yes, I know. But I'm trying to change all that." He was still laughing.
"Popular job... indeed. But what else could you do? Working in the guild of seamstresses?" I tried to make a joke, myself. Some part of me stood beside myself and watched my relaxed face with anger, fear, and hate. But I managed another smile.
Then he said, still laughing: "I could be a Hammer guard... 'Thou there, stopeth thee thisith instantith!' "
"What? And you trusted him?"
"He Is a Hammer! As I told you! You never listen!"
The fear and mistrust was back, and I stared at him, frozen in fear.
"I'm sorry. It was inappropriate," he said, as he realized my pain.
"He will bring you back to them" cried the childish voice, filled with pure fear.
"And You Would Deserve It. Of Course. But You Could Prevent It. You Know How? Attack Him. No Matter How. Attack Him! Get Out!"
"Shut up. Both of you! I want silence in my head! Give me time to think, damn it!"
I still stared at him -- probably very aggressively. "Are you one?"
"No... I don't like them any more than you do," he said, slowly. He seemed to be scared by the fact how aggressive the thought made me.
I tried to relax again. But I kept watching everything very attentively. He would never betray me.
"You probably don't remember, but several of them died on the way out of the prison. I'm sure they aren't too happy with me," he continued.
"I don't remember. There was this terrible numbness. And those voices -- " I said, but stopped immediately when the voices shouted at me to stop telling him about them. I glanced nervously at him, but he seemed to be happy that I had broken my silence. He ignored the fact that I stopped in the middle of the sentence.
"I'm not surprised. You didn't even complain when you fell on the floor." He was much more relaxed, and started smiling, again.
I smiled briefly, myself. "Didn't I?" I felt tired after the dinner, and yawned behind my hands.
"No. You were a good escapee."
"Oh well. At least that’s one good thing about me." I said.
After that, we went to bed. Despite my tiredness and the knowledge that I really needed more rest, to feel better tomorrow, I couldn't fall asleep. I still heard the voices, and tried to make them silent. But it didn't work very well. My head hurt again. In addition to the ranting voices, I remembered more of the last few days. I remembered that I had probably given the Hammerites the names of almost everyone I knew. I thought about it. I should eliminate any records of that. And I should eliminate the witnesses and the Inquisitor. I could not let them arrest everyone, only because I had given the Hammerites some suspicious circumstantial knowledge about them. I wouldn’t -- and not because I owed them something; no, some of them were my friends. Friends were rare for me, but I had one or two. I couldn't let happen what I predicted.
I rolled to my left side, hoping to feel comfy in my usual sleeping position. I moaned as I felt the pain in my left side. I rolled to my back. The voices came again, and the thoughts. I rolled to my other side.
After some hours, I had still not closed my eyes. But I had a raw plan for a possible solution, to be carried out as soon as could be. I turned again, restless in the bed.
- Jyre: A Goodbye - Day 7: 8:00pm
I laid his body in the shallow hole I had managed to scrape out of the hard, dry soil, crossing his arms over his chest and gently closing his eyes. Dirt from my fingers now marred his smooth skin. It seemed out of place somehow. Odd, considering I was about to cover him in the stuff. I watched him for a while, remembering our short time together. Then I scraped the dirt over him and lay a single white flower on his grave. Some would have said prayers at this point, or asked their god why. I had no need of such things. You learn things quickly growing up on the streets. There were no gods, only yourself and the people around you. What you got from life you were either born to or you worked for it. When it was your time to die, nothing would prevent it. Still, I felt the need to say something. I remembered a prayer Aulden once said at a funeral. "Nature takes your body now as once it gave it to you. Your life did bud, grow, and come to flower. Now it will fall to the ground to merge with earth and sprout new growth. When the bud forms anew you will find new places, see new faces and experience new things. May fate smile fondly on your transition." I stood and watched the sunset as I remembered the time when he had told me of his belief. There were no gods involved here, no strange otherworldly beings with unknown intent, just nature taking its course as it did with all life. I smiled as I thought that. There weren't many things we had shared but such a belief had been one of them. "Sleep well," I whispered, fighting back the tears. I turned for the city once more.
- Nightfall: Personal Log, 9.12 - Day 7: 11:00pm
"Okay, so they found Private Ranthos stuck up in a tree today, and Private Christopher was just gone. The two poor saps went out scouting, and next thing we knew, Ranthos was holding on for dear life to a small branch on a large oak, screaming like a banshee. How did they get him down? They chopped the tree, of course! Poor fella, that must have hurt. He’ll be limping for quite some time. Anyway, he said a dark spirit leapt out of the tree, grabbed him and Christopher, flew up, and dropped him, but not his friend. They just carried him off. After the tree came down, they burned it. Typical.
"The morons thought it was a tree spirit. I’ve got news for them -- If it was a tree spirit, then I bet it would have crushed him. All those tangle vines would have grabbed onto his little mansie flesh and smashed his ribsie-cage. No, it picked him up and dropped him -- the tree wasn’t the suspect. It’s a beast. Wouldn’t be surprised if it were the same beast, or beasts, that were responsible for the tree falling on the bulldozer, or the missing hammers. Must be a mongbat. Damn, I hate mongbats. I used to kill them for sport – no, not even for sport, just because I hated them so much. I’ve visited so many different lands across so many different realms, and none seems to be free of the scum. I mean, hell, if some whacked out deity was going to create a beast, why the hell did he have to combine a monkey and a bat? As if a monkey and a rat were not nasty enough. I swear those things are messed up.
"We have been at this for three days. THREE DAYS. I want to scream. These pinheads could have been to the damn lodge, torn the place down, and been home by now, without their infernal machines! Damn
damn damnit damn dammmmmnnniiitttt!!!! Sigh. Wow, did this book just record all that? One Damn will do.
"Ok, now I feel better. I always hated camping. I mean, I love the wilderness, it’s a great place to visit, but I do not want to live here. It’s wet, hot, the insects are in season, and worst of all, I have to take my cloak off to be comfortable. Damnitallagain!!
"Okay, out with it Dan, why are you really so pissed off? No one is reading your log but you, (until someday someone finds it and decides it needs to be published! Ha! That will be the day!) All right, out with it. Okay. Last Night, when I spoke to Cristen, in my dream, she warned me that she sensed much danger ahead. She’s never wrong about these things. She also said that in the direction I’m heading, the force of evil is so strong that her projection would not be able to reach me. I fear that tonight she may not be able to contact me.
"Okay, Richen has started to snore, so I may as well try and get some sleep. Oh look, left over dinner. Hmm... someone forgot to salt the fries…
"End Day’s entry."
- Nightfall: Thurm's Sermon - Day 8: 6:00am
Ahh, dawn. The birds are singing, the flowers are opening, the huge metal monstrosity is churning away, ripping everything in its wake to shreds. What a beautiful day! Yes, as luck would have it, the repair crew had worked day and night, and not only rebuilt the broken machine, but enhanced it. Now we had two again, and they were shredding wood like it was going out of style. They even got the idea (geniuses), to employ the wrecking machines in the task of killing trees and widening the road. Brother Thurm was back, and I gladly returned command to him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him happier. He even accepted my offer to ride with me in the carriage, in spite of the fact that it was driven by a beast! "What have you to fear, Brother Thurm? Surely if the emissary to the Master Builder trusts this beast, so should you!" I was amazed, not only did he accept, but he even talked to Richen!
"So, my good sir, have you ever considered following the path of the Master Builder?"
Richen looked at him, and then glanced at me. I knew he was thinking, "why the hell did you invite this guy to sit in the passenger seat?" "Urm, well now that ya mention it, sir, well, can’t say ah ever did. Nope. Erm, not that I’m closed to it er anythin, it’s jus dat -- "
Thurm looked at me, and then back to him, cutting him off. "Do you mean to tell me, that Master Nightfall has never spoken to you of our ways?"
"Uh wellumm… "
I interjected quickly. "Oh indeed I have. However Richen expressed his desire to investigate the matter personally, rather than be preached too." I grinned when I said it, hoping that Thurm would let it alone. "I respected his wishes, as the Master Builder teaches us. Respect between two men is a bridge cast in iron, nothing shall compromise it, as long as the two banks remain firm!" Actually the word was trust, but I love to bend those things.
"Ahh, I see. Good then! I shall not preach to thee. However I am sure that thou wouldst not be offended if I simply speak to thee!"
"Oh well ser, actually ah think ‘twould be best if ah -- "
"You see, as Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 108 teaches us, ‘Mortar cannot hold when the stone is not strong and clean. Before beginning thy endeavors, look to thy material, both physical and spiritual.’ If thou art to begin your search for true faith beneath the Master Builder, thou must first cleanse thy mind off all previous false assumptions! However thou shouldst not be wary to begin thy journey, for fear of error. As Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 113 teaches us, ‘A stroke of thy chisel, once made, canst not be undone, but a stroke thou dost not make from fear is a worse flaw. Be not cautious -- be correct.’ All men have much potential within our order. It is truly a sin for any man to not realize all that he truly can be! As the Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 12 teaches, ‘The Builder gave thou the raw stuff of thy life -- makest thou a great work of it or thou mockest His gifts.’ However, always remember, the Order of the Hammer is very strict in its rules of conduct. We understand the difference between accident, mistake, and evil intent. Who can forget Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 141, which gives the parable, ‘When the Builder came amongst his children and asked, ‘who is it that hath spoilt this work?,’ then didst his errant son answer ‘I do not know’. Then didst the Builder cast down his son and smite him with his hammer. For is it not known that a mistake may be mastered, but a lie lasteth forever on the tongue?’ As one of us, you shall be building a legacy for yourself that will span the ages! As is written in Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 170, ‘The proof of the wall is that it stretcheth above the height of a man, and lasteth beyond the span of a man. Our greatest works exceed us in all ways.’ The work you do as one of us is more than any simple commoner could ever dream of! However one must be wary that thy accomplishments do not make thee vain. Vanity, as all flaws, will cause any man’s downfall. As Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 199 dictates, ‘A flaw in the gear will fate it to shatter, a flaw in the beam harbors the termite, a flaw in a man's righteousness encompasses his death.’ Death, as many men believe, is the ultimate end. For a man to die in the manor I discussed above, it truly is his end. However for some men, who truly repent and worship the Master Builder, and follow his ways, shall live eternally with the Master Builder, in the great Metropolis of heaven. The Book of the Hammer itself speaks of it! ‘I stood before a tower, of planks and nails and stone carved with fire, and I said, surely my eyes behold a miracle, not meant for man, but the Builder smiled and spake, ‘I stand with my mind in Heaven but my feet upon the Earth, and so shall you and your kin.’ And I wept, though I knew not why.’ It is truly a place of unbridled glory, but to attain it, as I said before, one must repent! It is not easy to truly repent in this way, most never do, but it is always possible, even for a thief! As the Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 2, says, and I quote, ‘When the thief did cry to the master, ‘release me, for I repent, and shall do good all my days,’ then did the master strike the thief's hand from him with a blade. And the master said, ‘go now and do good, for thy repentance has been paid.’ That man bore the punishment set down by the Master Builder, and his slate has been cleansed. He may start anew! However this does not mean that his path is any easier. The path to righteousness is ever the struggle! Those who try to make it otherwise shall surely fail! As Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 36 states, ‘Time once past, the harlot did say to the priest, ‘tarry a while, and wait upon thy duties,’ and the priest did tarry. And then was the harlot scourged with birch branches, and was the priest crushed beneath the great gears, for the path of righteousness leads ever upwards, to where it is perilous to fall.’ Thou must be eternally vigilant if thou dost wish to live with the Master Builder for all eternity! We hold the hammer in our hands as a symbol of our vigilance! We never tire of its weight, nor do we pause in its use. As Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 39 commands us, ‘Hadst I a hammer, wouldst I hammer in the morning. Wouldst I hammer in the evening, all over this land.’ Thou must always take the tools which the Master Builder has granted thee, and use them, fearless of the danger! As Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 53 warns us, ‘To use thy chisel is to blunt its edge 'gainst the stone. To not use thy chisel is to waste its edge’! Never waste anything the Master Builder has granted thee! Thou must heedst the works of those that came before thee! As Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 7 clearly states, ‘When the Builder walks before thee and builds for thee a fortress, wilt thou go inside and shut the door? Or wilt thou say ‘Yes, and now I shalt raise one of mine own!’ Thou shalt build a tower, tall and sturdy -- a tower never falters, if the stonework is true. It is ever vigilant, just as are we. This that thou dost see around thee, it shall one day all be gone. Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 77 tells us, ‘What is a tree but a tower that withers and dies? What is a pond but a cistern that stagnates and fills with muck? What is a patch of ground but a road which cracks and washes away?’ These are chaos, and chaos decays. By the words of the Book of the Hammer itself, ‘Dig your hands into the earth, and then let the clay and dirt fall to the ground. After a year's passing, can you find that clay again? But drop a stone block, a wooden beam, a fired brick. It will persist a year, and another hundred years beside!" There is no vigilance in chaos, no righteousness, no faith, and no trust. Chaos is a disease that infects the world in which we live. Heed the words of Hammerite Compendium of Precepts, Regimens and Rules of Conduct, Vol. 94, ‘Guard thy tongue from falsehood as thou gardest thy purse from a jackablade. Guard thy hand from misdeed as thou gardest thy house from firelighters. Guard thy heart from doubt as thou gardest thy tools from corrosion, for thy faith and thy tools are the best that thou hast."
Richen just looked at him. Thurm just looked back, finally finished. After several moments, I spoke.
"Um, Brother Thurm, thy words were noble indeed, but I do indeed believe that you were preaching."
- James: Knowledge Gained - Day 8: 3:00pm
The day was spent, and much knowledge was gained. Though it was still merely mid afternoon, I felt as if I had done a week’s worth of investigation in just a short few hours and now it was time to go home. I would have liked to have rested when I got there, but I had a report to prepare. My job never seemed finished. I looked up to see storm clouds gathering, and noted that I had best make haste, or find some type of natural shelter. A few moments walk on my tired limbs prompted me to investigate the possibilities of the 2nd option. After all, I would be no good at writing if I was too tired to hold a pen. Best to rest now while it rained, and have a clear mind for the journey home and the preparation of my report. I looked about for something to turn into a shelter, but after visiting the remains of that villa, I was unsure if I would truly sleep.
- Nightfall: The Storm - Day 8: 3:00pm
There was something definitely very evil about the sudden thunderstorm that swept over us. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the sky suddenly filled with dark clouds. Before long, it was as dark as night; a night without sunset. The sky was filled with billowy blackness. Our only light came from torches, and the thunderbolts which rippled incessantly across the sky. When the rain came, it was a wall of dark rushing water, racing towards us, until finally we were engulfed in the fury of it. The torches were extinguished, as were the fires powering the machines. The task force came to a total halt, and soldier and worker alike dashed about, to preserve any equipment that might be damaged by the rain.
However the rain soon became the least of our worries, as several lightning bolts struck ground, bursting trees into flame. The flames did not last long, but the force of the strike shattered the wood, hurling slivers of oak and pine, impaling anything that was not made of stone or metal. Richen and I found shelter from the rain, lightning, and debris under the carriage. Most of the Hammerites hid under the great machines. May the Master Builder save them if the wheels should fail and it comes crashing down.
The storm had been raging for a good hour, when the true threat came. The fiends which had been sabotaging the force all along made their appearance plainly. A Hammerite with sharp eyes spotted them, about five dozen black specks in the sky. They looked like oddly shaped birds. It was not until the soldiers began to assume defensive positions that I noticed the new threat from above. I recognized the sight almost immediately. I was correct, they were mongbats, big ones. I could tell that they were not passing through -- they were making a direct assault. It was the last ditch effort by this Lady to stop the task force from destroying her lodge, no doubt. Each of the beasties had a scimitar, and were beginning the attack dive.
The Hammer captain ordered the men to take up defensive positions around the machines. The rain was still very heavy, so it was hard to hear the shouts and the commands being issued. Richen was growing restless, still oblivious as to what exactly was happening. I told him, and he evinced both excitement and dread with a grimace. He drew his short-blade and made ready to defend Suzy and the carriage. I cursed myself for not brining along my longbow. All I had to fight these monsters with was my quarterstaff. I had never tried to fight airborne foe with that before. It would be interesting.
The lot of us looked up in anticipation, weapons wielded, watching the black shapes in the sky grow more and more defined. A group of the soldiers raised their crossbows and simultaneously fired. Several of the creatures dropped, but overall the salvoes did little to stop them. All at once, the creatures struck. Some ended their dives with a slash of their blade. Other went into a suicide dive, blade extending forward to impale whatever they hit. Others simply made landfall. At that moment when the initial attack came, the majority of the damage to us they would do was done. Many of the soldiers were maimed, or killed, as the long curved blades sliced through them. Several dozen suicide bombers slammed themselves into the great machines, doing great damage to the delicate machinery, and shattering their bodies. For several seconds thereafter, the air was filled with the deafening tones of monkey chatter, rain, and the screams of dying men.
Our counterattack was swift and deadly. As if unified by one massive force, all hammers struck mongbat flesh simultaneously. The air that was once filled with mongbat chatter was now filled with their shrieks of agony. Then, everything broke into a melee. Our numbers were about equal at that point, but it did not stay that way. Several of the Hammerites still standing were indeed slain, but the rest worked quickly to pound the beast attackers to a pulp. Some mongbats tried to escape, but where made short work of by crossbow bolts. About a dozen of the creatures channeled their attention towards myself, as if the Lady knew who I was and told them to make sure I was dead. I did not attack them -- I waited for their approach. One by one the foolish creatures dove at me, and each dive was met by a fell swing of my staff. The party was cut short when five or so soldiers came to my aid, doing with their hammers, damage which I could not hope to do with a staff.
Within minutes, the battle was over. I cast my eyes about the scene, my gaze moving from corpse to corpse, Hammerite and mongbat alike. Only about thirty of our initial group were left, but we, in all, slew more than seventy of the creatures. It was still raining. Remembering, I quickly went to Richen. He was nursing a broken arm -- the horse was fine. However my new carriage was destroyed. I gave Richen a healing potion, which he took thankfully, and as soon as the magical fluid had mended his arm, he moved to inspect the horse to make sure she truly was fine.
My next task was to find Brother Thurm. I found him, standing in the middle of the battlefield, moving from soldier to soldier, healing wounds with his Hammerite magic. I watched him work, laying his hand on the shoulder of the men, concentrating, and then moving on to the next. No physical wounds were healed in this manor. Some of these men would live out the rest of their lives with missing arms or legs, but their constitution was restored, and the pain was numbed. When he was done with each, several surgeons took over, administering whatever treatment was needed to stop bleeding. I watched in admiration of their efficiency, and of the bravery of the wounded men.
I approached Brother Thurm.
He raised his downcast eyes at me. "Yes, my friend?"
"Were the losses serious?" I asked, feigning ignorance.
He shook his head. "No, not serious. Our force was only maimed, theirs was slaughtered." The gravity in his voice deepened. "This Lady is no simple pagan. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is a fool to think that this feeble attempt to stop us will do any more than delay the inevitable. Now we have our brothers and sons to avenge, and our justice shall be more severe. Yes, more severe by tenfold." He moved away from me, to the machines. All the workers were occupied tending to the wounded soldiers, so the broken hulks stood solitary in the dark rain. He went up to one of the wrecking machines. All the arms were broken and the steam engine cylinder was shattered. Bits and parts of mongbat were strewn about, and the entire thing was coated by their blood. He laid his hand on a place where the metal was still clean, and then bowed his head. I turned to walk away, and let him be alone with his destroyed creations.
That was the first time he had ever called me by my first name before. "Yes, Thurm?"
He turned and looked at me. The rain had died down slightly, so I could see his face. He looked tired, and beaten. The fire and enthusiasm were gone from his eyes. "Is the beast -- the horse, alright?"
I was shocked that he showed concern. "Yes, she is fine."
He nodded. "Good."
I didn’t know what to make of it. Maybe he found comfort in knowing that my creature was all right, even though his were dead. I could have speculated, but I left him alone to mourn.
I walked back to Richen who was attempting to put the carriage back together. The Hammers were beginning to stack the mongbat bodies into a heap for burning, and line up their fallen brothers for burial. I was about to speak to Richen, when I heard a shout from a Hammerite soldier. I looked over my shoulder, and standing at the end of the road was a group of Hammerites. It was one of the scout groups, and from the looks of the direction from which they approached, they had come from the lodge.
"Brother Thurm! Captain! Master Nightfall!" the party leader shouted.
I approached him, as did Thurm and the captain.
"Yes, lieutenant, what is it? What have you to report?"
"Brother Thurm, we came immediately when we saw it. We were almost complete with our patrol when we circled back to the lodge, and we found…" The man hesitated.
"Yes, what is it?"
The Lieutenant told him. The words he spoke filled me with dread. Thurm’s eyes seemed to come back to life, but instead of with pride and excitement, they held anger, fear, and hatred.
"Take us to the… wreck." Thurm said, motioning for me to follow. We left immediately.