Land In Revolt Interludes IX
“I don’t like this one bit, Jake,” said the burlier man.
“Quiet Finn!” scolded the smaller of the two. “This is a bad part of town and I don’t want to call attention to ourselves!”
“That’s kinda my point, Jake,” Finn replied. “Isn’t it sorta, I don’t know, unbecoming of us to be hanging around here? I mean, being part of the Church and every-”
“Shhhhhhhh!” interrupted Jake. “That’s the LAST thing I want anyone around to hear! We’ll get trounced for sure. Look, if it makes you feel any better we’re doing this FOR the Light. We’re doing it for our brothers. Most of all, we’re doing it for HIM.”
“Yeah,” replied Finn sheepishly. “I guess…”
“Stop thinking about it so much,” demanded Jake. “You’re only going to hurt yourself. Besides, thinking’s MY job, remember? Ah, looks like our contact is coming this way. Now keep quiet and look…menacing or something.”
As ordered, Finn stood up straight, folded his arms and attempted to form a ferocious snarl with his mouth. It came out looking more like he was having a difficult time going to the bathroom. Jake just rolled his eyes and sighed as their contact approached.
The dwarf limped towards them, casting a spurious eye over the pair. They stood out like a sore thumb in these parts. While he was quite certain these were the clients, the dwarf proceeded with the security phrase.
“Why dinnea kobold cross the road?” asked the dwarf.
Jake recognized the cue and replied in kind, “A dragon ate it.”
The dwarf nodded in approval. “So, what can I do for ye…gents?”
“I’m guessing your boss gave you the rundown,” replied Jake in hushed tones, “but we need some friends, uh, transported out of their current…situation.”
“Wait,” chimed Finn, “that sounds a lot different from having him break the other acolytes out of jail…” In response, Jake buried his face in his hands and uttered prayers for patience. The dwarf cocked an eyebrow and looked at Jake.
“Is he daft?” asked the dwarf.
“You know,” answered Jake, “I wish I knew. I really, really do.”
“Well this is fun boys, but I have places ’ta be,” continued the dwarf. “Your friend told me what I needed ’ta know. Do ye have what was agreed upon?”
“I do,” replied Jake as he retrieved a sizable bag of gold from Finn’s backpack. “This is everything.” Jake handed the coins to the dwarf who immediately inspected the bag as inconspicuously as possible.
“Jake!” protested Finn. “You said that was a bag full of dirty laundry! That looks like it’s all the group’s money…”
“Shhhhhhhh, you knob!” growled Jake. Through gritted teeth, Jake explained, “It’s going. To. A. Good. CAUSE.”
“Looks about right,” said the dwarf ignoring the antics of his would-be clients. “It’s on then. You pick up your lot on the southern road an hour after midnight. Then you take off. No questions asked, no going back, no refunds. Do ye understand?” The last question came off more as a threat than anything else. Both Finn and Jake cringed.
“Y-yes, we get it.” replied Jake as he swallowed. “Y-you just do you part and we’ll, ahem, do ours.”
The dwarf nodded once, turned and limped back towards the throngs of seedy Black Market patrons. He disappeared from view shortly afterwards.
Finn and Jake had apparently been holding their breath. They looked at each other and let out a simultaneous sigh of relief.
“He was scary,” Finn said breaking the silence.
“He was definitely that,” Jake concurred. “But we hired the right man – I’m sure of that much. He’ll get our brothers and sisters back to us. Then we can finally make our way to Him.”
“I still don’t know if I feel right about all this, Jake,” lamented Finn. “I mean, I fell like we’re turning our back on everyone and everything. Just look where it’s taken us!”
Jake saw the concern in Finn’s face and opted for a more sympathetic response than his usual snark. “I totally understand, Finn,” he replied. “The thing is, we’re doing this for a greater good and you know it. The Church isn’t the institution we thought it was. The people who follow the Light are acting pretty dark. And if the rumors of what lies ahead are true, then we need to help shine the Light wherever we can.”
Finn nodded in approval as Jake spoke. The smaller follower of the Light placed his arm around his large compatriot as he turned them towards the alley’s exit.
“And what better way to shine that Light, my dear friend, than with a Beacon?”
* * *
Talarra hated meetings of the War Council.
First, the group’s name was a blatant misnomer. There were currently no wars taking place, rendering a council devoted to the act pointless. Added to its inherent lack of purpose was the poor quality of its Members. Talarra loathed each and every one of them. Composed primarily of fattened nobles, the lot of them had never seen a battlefield much less possess the credentials to sit on such a governing body. The Major General often fantasized about eviscerating them before they realized what was going on. The thought pleased him immensely.
Alas, the Council and its cadre of fops were a necessary evil. Each putrescent member represented one of the many factions Talarra successfully brought under a single flag in the years following the Rebellion. The Black March was an unparalleled military force; after Cathist perished in the Holy Lands it fell to Talarra to keep it in tact. He took to politics quickly. His actions made Shar the greatest nation in all of Majeria.
And he hated himself for it.
Instead of conquering, now he presided over a group of whining children. Instead of growing the borders of his mighty nation, he settled petty squabbles among entitled landowners. Instead of the clanging of steel and the unmistakable smell of bloodshed, Talarra was forced to endure the shouts of bloated fools who reeked of strange perfumes. But do so he must. It was all for Shar. It was always for Shar. Duty is life, and life belongs to the Nation as the saying goes.
Besides, he thought, the unnoticed personal warfare he waged behind closed doors helped mitigate the doldrums of administrative life.
The Major General mulled over these things while cursorily listening to the most recent dispute between House C’than and House Drugos. As usual, the morons accused each other of land grabs or something of the sort. It was then Talarra saw his assistant, Fallon, enter the room with a grave look on his face. He waved Fallon over and braced himself for the news. The young assistant whispered something in the Major General’s ear while the two Houses raged on.
“DAMN HIM TO THE NINE HELLS!!!” shouted Talarra as he stood from his seat, knocking over the heavy wooden chair upon which he sat. He then slammed his armored fist into the table used by the Council with such force, it erupted into a shower of splinters. When he looked up, the room was silent and all eyes were on him. He looked down to see that he had knocked Fallon down with his display of brute force.
Talarra took a deep breath to center himself. _ “Excuse me for a moment, ladies and gentlemen,”_ he requested in the calmest voice he could muster. “Something’s come up that I must…address.”
He did not wait for a response from the War Council. Talarra stormed out of the room, grabbing Fallon by his cloak and dragging the assistant unceremoniously with him. He slammed the heavy iron door behind the two of them once they entered the hallway.
“Stand and speak,” ordered the Major General. Fallon complied as quickly as he was able. He delivered his news with impressive composure even as blood trickled from his nose.
“Alera has failed, once again, to eliminate the target, sir,” began Fallon. “She took great pains to ensure scrying on her was difficult but the combined efforts of the wizards and clerics managed to overcome her wards. They initiated the scry just in time to witness a rather….odd scene, sir.”
“Explain, Fallon,” demanded Talarra, his growing annoyance more visible with each sentence.
Fallon hurried his cadence. “The report states the scry observed Alera apparently defending Worgrave from a dwarf who attempted to murder the group in their sleep. After subduing the dwarf with the assistance of Worgrave’s companions, she allowed herself to be captured. Then Worgarve separated her from his group in order to, ahem, release her sir…”
There was an awkward pause in the hallway as Talarra processed the information. Fallon stared blankly ahead and prayed to Mother Shadow with all his might that today was not his last day in the world.
Quietly, Talarra responded, “She…did…WHAT??!!” The last word came out more like a hiss. Fallon understood it was a rhetorical question; repeating himself would cost him dearly. The assistant waited until enough time passed to play the ace up his sleeve.
“The report turned up something else worth noting, sir,” said Fallon. “It seems Worgrave has in his company the disgraced Samurai from one of the villages sacked during the March. Wizard Lida recognized him through the scry. He wears the coveted dwarven armor with which he absconded after subduing the remnants of the raiding party. Lida recalled it was a piece of some importance to you. She also took it upon herself to see what the Echelon could turn up on him. While considered ejected from the Samurai order, he’s made a name for himself as a sword for hire. Furthermore, he’s rumored to be associated with the deaths of some of our former officers who settled in Maccordia after the Rebellion. He may bear some sort of grudge against Shar.” Fallon hoped the additional information may distract the Major General from his seething anger around Alera.
The young assistant’s calculations paid off. Talarra was forced to absorb the additional intel and apply it to whatever would be the next course of action. He closed his eyes and spoke firmly to Fallon, “I tire of the walking embarrassment that is Jeric Worgrave. I am finished with sending overpaid assassins to do what is clearly military work. These are your orders, Fallon: go see Rivas and tell him to activate Terminus. Immediately.”
The words made Fallon’s stomach practically leap out of his throat. “T…Terminus, sir? But, he’s ‘sleeping’,’ sir.”
“Then. Wake. Him. UP,” ordered Talarra.
“Y-yes, sir. Right away,” replied Fallon.
“Furthermore,” continued Talarra, “tell Rivas the targets are now Worgrave, Alera and we may as well get that armor for my collection. I prefer Worgrave alive but that is no longer necessary if he continues to prove difficult. His head, along with Alera’s and the Samurai’s torso will suffice.”
“Yes, sir,” Fallon affirmed.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Fallon,” said Talarra. “Get yourself cleaned up before you see Sergeant Rivas. On the way, please remind my dear wife her presence is required at tonight’s Gala. Provide her an additional reminder of what happens when she is late to such affairs.”
Fallon swallowed, saluted and turned to leave as quickly as he could. “One last thing,” Talarra said, interrupting the young man’s exit. “Tell my daughter to meet me in the Training Room. I need to let off some steam…”