Private Tales In the Service of Mankind

Discussion in 'The Chronicles' started by Trajan Meng, Jun 13, 2019 at 1:03 PM.

  1. Trajan Meng

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    Clarissa Mejeure would never admit it.

    But she loved fucking elves. It just felt so wrong. So dirty, given what she and the Luminari believed. And that made it fiercely exciting. The taboo of it. And not just elves, though they were her favorite. Orcs. Dwarves. Xenos of all kinds. Thrilling. Oh so thrilling. To flirt with the line of outright danger and peril both ways. If her fellows in the Luminari found out some of her particular predilections, there'd be trouble. If the elves she now rode with on this caravan found out she was a spy and had tipped off their route for an ambush...there'd be trouble.

    She craved it. The adrenaline. Coursing through her veins. The ferocious pounding of her heart. What a peak of excitement!

    They'd come from an elven town just outside of Fal'Addas, heading toward Alliria. Five finely-crafted wagons in total. All loaded with mastercrafted elven goods and wares. Gold. Other things, perhaps, she didn't know the entire manifest.

    Five wagons full of loot and spoils for the Luminari. Fifteen filthy elven caravan guards to be purged. Mmhmm. A delectable opportunity. She'd sent off a bird back to Dio, and more importantly Trajan, before the caravan had begun its journey. And they were now only four or five days out from Alliria. The ambush would surely be coming soon. Soon.

    Clarissa sat in the lead wagon next to Min'dellar. A kind enough elf, but still a haughty xeno. She'd miss his prowess in bed.

    She rubbed Min'dellar's arm. Leaned into him. Kept her other hand close to her sheathed daggers.

    "What a lovely afternoon," she said. "Wouldn't you agree?"

    "There have been many more beautiful," he said. "But this one is fine enough."

    A throaty hmmm from her.

    The dirt path stretching on ahead of the caravan. The trees of Falwood all about them. Twin hills ahead. Each flanking either side of the path. The perfect place for an ambush.

    She enjoyed making love to Min'dellar, oh of course she did. But she'd also enjoy killing the filthy, haughty xeno.

    For Mankind.

    * * * * *​

    Trajan Meng had lying in wait for a few days with a dozen loyal fighting men of the Luminari. Camouflaged in cloaks made from the local flora and foliage as soon as they had arrived. And it had been incredibly banal. To simply lie there. As the sun trekked across the sky and the moon came and followed its footsteps and the sun came back again and there wasn't a sound or a sign of the caravan Claire had sent word of.

    At first, he feared that he may have missed it by arriving too late, and that this Dark Operari would be a bust. But that would have been highly unlikely, lest the caravan had been sped along to an unnatural pace.

    And so he waited with his men. None making conversation. As little noise as possible. Eating sparingly of their rations and drinking seldomly from their waterskins. Hand signals to indicate the call of nature. Never more than one at a time to go down the hill to the small trench they had dug to relieve themselves. Always careful to see if they appeared to be alone. Always as swiftly and silently as possible. Always certain to cover up their filth in the trench with dirt.

    Ambushes were not glamorous. Not in the slightest. But they were necessary. Especially after the lost opportunity with the Supersledge. Kha still had not forgiven herself for failing in her task. But she would endure. She was already plotting another operari to strike against the complacent man who called himself the Philanthropist. He would be made to serve Mankind. One way or another. And Trajan had absolute faith in Khadija's ability to make it so.

    But now.

    It seemed their day had come for the task at hand.

    Lying down on the crest of the southside hill, Trajan spotted in the distance the caravan. Making its way toward the ambush spot of the twin hills.

    They'd never see him, even if they were elves. Not Trajan nor his fellows. They'd thick bushes and the trunks of trees and their camouflage cloaks to obscure their presence. It should be smooth. Routine.

    Trajan made a hand signal to the man on his left. The same with the man on his right. Ready crossbows. And they passed it along until all knew it was time.

    Trajan carefully gripped his own crossbow. Kept it close to his chest for now. His warhammer, the Emblazoned Sun, lying on the ground next to him.

    And he watched the caravan as it drew closer to the twin hills.


    Jericho
     
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  2. Jericho

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    Unbeknown to Trajan and his band, there was another group waiting at the twin hills. On the opposite side, men and elves stood alert in the foliage, crossbows at the ready. They too have been waiting for days, waiting for the caravan to finally arrive.

    Seems that day has come.

    An old, grizzled captain surveyed the caravan as it drew near, a smile leaping onto his scarred face. "Seems the sheep have come to the slaughter." He muttered to himself, signaling to the elf next to him to get the 'asset' ready.

    An informant had tipped the Silent Belle off about this caravan days ago, along with the full details of it's cargo and who it was ferrying. Yet while the cargo was valuable, that wasn't what they were there for.

    Their orders were to ambush the caravan and capture Min'dellar alive. The rest would either be slaughtered or taken captive as well, there was to be no witnesses. He'd briefed his men on their orders, having earlier handed out leaflets depicting what Min'dellar looked like as well as the plan of action. Failure would not be tolerated.

    As the caravan neared the twin hills, a young boy suddenly jumped from the bush, running directly into the path of the incoming caravan. The boy was covered in fresh cuts and scratches, his robes torn and dirtied from him running in the forest. Yet in his blind panic to escape, the boy collapsed to the ground, screaming in pain as the bell on his collar jingled.
     
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  3. Trajan Meng

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    Trajan squinted his eyes when he saw the boy emerge. What on Arethil was this all about? Some incredible mishap of timing? Perhaps. He'd no reason to think it was a diversionary tactic in use by a rabble of common bandits. They'd been here lying in wait for days, and none of them had seen another soul. Surely they were alone. Surely the boy had merely come upon the twin hills as abruptly as the caravan. Likely the case. Just look at him. The victim of some manner of misfortune or another, fleeing away.

    It troubled Trajan to see the lad in such a state, but as it so happened he ended up inadvertently providing a diversion for Trajan and his fellows all the same. And they were here with a purpose. For the good of the cause, they would liberate the wealth and goods this caravan carried from xeno hands.

    Trajan watched the caravan stop. Not in the ideal location directly below the firing line of his men, but with the distraction of the boy, it became good enough. The elven guards alongside the wagons and riding on them nocked arrows. Some aimed at the boy. Most scanning the hills, letting their bows guide their eyes. Caution, yes, but no overt alarm from them. Good.

    Claire, in the lead wagon, stood up in the driver's platform next to the elven man who held the reins and called out the boy, "Hello there! Are you alright? What happened to you?"

    The elven man sitting next to her seemed unsure. But the xeno seemed content to let her talk. He'd be safe for now. Trajan and his fellows wouldn't risk firing at him while Claire was so close.

    Trajan moved his crossbow forward. His men doing the same. The slight peeking of them from beside tree trunks and behind bushes and piles of fallen leaves.

    One of the elven guards seemed to notice something amiss.

    Too late.

    A hail of thirteen crossbow bolts rained down. Eight of the fifteen elven guards were struck. Half merely wounded and falling to the ground and and crying out and clutching at the bolt lodged in them, half simply falling dead onto the dirt path.

    Six of the remaining seven returned a volley of arrow shots toward the southside hill. Their backs turned the northside hill. The elven driver next to Claire did not. Ha. He seemed dazed by it all.

    The whistling of arrows. Dangerously close. Even with no clear target, elven archers were deadly shots. So attested the arrow that now stuck out of a bush nearby Trajan's head.

    And before Trajan and his men slid down slightly into the defilade of the hill to reload, he saw Claire put on a look of fear and raise her hands. And when he slid down and pulled back the string of his crossbow he heard her say, "We surrender! Spare our lives! I beg you!"

    Trajan loaded another bolt, and didn't quite make out what the elf who had sat next to Claire said in response. But he heard her cry out in frustration, a desperate plea against the afternoon stillness of the forest. "It's our only chance, Min'dellar! Half of us are wounded or dead already! Please! We are lost!"

    Yes. She was good at her work.
     
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  4. Jericho

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    The boy watched, wide-eyed in horror as the battle unfolded around him. He screamed when an elven guard fell dead next to him, his body beginning to visibly shake with fear. Getting up, the boy stumbled to Claire, hiding behind her as he clutched her legs for dear life. His eyes began to water, his bell still jingling.

    Meanwhile, the grizzled captain furrowed his brow, observing the events that unveiled before him. While he knew the caravan was a lucrative target, he had no idea that there was another ambush party waiting on the other side. It made him wonder how long they've been sitting across from each other.

    Regardless, the other party gave them the perfect opportunity. With the guards attention focused elsewhere, it'd would be easy to take them out. Turning to his lieutenant, he gave the order to fire.

    Within seconds, a flurry of 11 crossbow bolts rained down on the survivors. The remaining guards were felled, the driver with a bolt impaled in his side. From the brush, robed men and elves pushed forward, crossbows reloaded and drawn. "Well well, what do we got here?" The captain called out as he strode into view, his brazen voice echoing across the carnage.
     
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  5. Trajan Meng

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    Clarissa was adept at acting. At putting on any kind of face at a moment's notice and making it believable. Hence why she'd found her role as a spy and infiltrator. And she adored her function within the Luminari. Adored it dearly.

    But when another volley of crossbow bolts flew from the other side of the twin hills, she didn't need to act anymore. Real fear gripped her.

    And, as it turned out, the boy with all the cuts and scratches stumbled into her. Gripped her legs. Damn did she hate children, but they were oh so useful. She reached behind herself, holding his shoulders in a protective fashion. Whoever this other group was, perhaps her perceived innocence and the boy's actual innocence could be her shield. Maybe they just wanted the goods, and they'd spare the woman and the child? At least long enough for Trajan to come up with something.

    Min'dellar was hurt. Groaning and crying out, a bolt in his side. But fuck him.

    And the mixed group of men and elves revealed themselves. The leader among them speaking.

    Clarissa looked down at the ground submissively. Said with the real fear that had taken hold of her, "Please. Don't. We--" Wasn't really much a 'we' now. "I surrender. I surrender."

    And Min'dellar panted and groaned. Both his hands on the bolt. Eyeing them all wearily.

    * * * * *​

    Reloaded, Trajan and his men shifted back up and onto the firing line. All of them still lying prone. Crossbows ready.

    Only, they weren't needed? Another volley. From the other hill. For a moment, Trajan was aghast. How could it have happened? A whole other group, right across the gap and behind the other hill, and neither them nor Trajan's own men had been the wiser? An astounding fluke.

    And, though the matter of the caravan guards had been made easier, the matter of securing the goods in the wagons had been made more complicated. Likewise, though Claire had not been hit, she was now in more danger than ever before, for neither she nor Trajan had expected this unknown element.

    But the other group revealed themselves. And they were of analogous size. Bah. Men and elves. What was wrong with them, the men that walked with elves there? What were they? Complacents? Sympathizers? Traitors?

    It mattered not. At present, the most important thing was ensuring Claire's safety. If a brother or sister in the Luminari was imperiled, it became paramount to exhaust all possible means to aid them. Such as it was in the Anirian Guard, and that spirit had been instilled in the Luminari from the very beginning. A fallen comrade was not to be abandoned. And Claire had fallen into a dangerous and uncertain situation.

    This would have to be played carefully. As Trajan knew of their presence, so too must they know of his and his men. To fire on them would be to jeopardize Claire's life in the crossfire. An effort of last resort.

    Trajan discarded his crossbow and took his warhammer and stood up slowly. And his men, seeing him stand, did as well. And Trajan stepped out from foliage and the trees and exposed his presence and that of his men as the other group had. His men had their crossbows in hand, as did the other group, but not aimed directly at them.

    A man among them had spoken. And so Trajan called out to him, "You there. Shall we parley? I have no quarrel with you nor your fellows. And I believe we may be here for the same, or a similar, reason."
     
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  6. Jericho

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    “Aye! You’re here for the loot, and we’re here for him and the boy!” The captain called out, pointing towards Min'dellar. He has curious how the other band would react, especially considering the fact he asked for the boy.

    Meanwhile, one of the robed elves approached Min'dellar, keeping his crossbow on him and Claire. “Don’t move. I’m a healer.” The elf hissed, drawing closer to them.

    The boy still clung to Claire’s legs, sobbing uncontrollably. “I want to go home!” He cried, looking to Claire for support.
     
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  7. Trajan Meng

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    That went far more smoothly than Trajan had anticipated. Likely owing to the fact that the captain was a human. Difficult, if not impossible, to come to a reasonable conclusion with a xeno. Though, given that it was a loathsome thing to come to terms with, if the captain had been an elf or Trajan were forced to do it, he would much rather parley with an elf than any other species of xeno. There were some tolerable, even admirable, half-elves he'd known. Luc the Unlucky, for instance.

    Trajan and his men slowly walked down their hill. Approaching the wagons. No sudden movements, if some understandable wariness.

    "Yes. Agreeable terms," Trajan said. "Take the wounded elf and the boy. We seek only the spoils and the woman there returned safely to us."

    Min'dellar looked to Claire. Said, "You insufferable bitch."

    A slight shrug from her. Along with a mocking grin breaking through the fading expression of fear. "Oh, you poor thing, Min'dellar."

    Claire took her hands off the boy's shoulders. Glanced back and down at him. Donning another mask. Said, "Hey there, little boy. Don't you worry. These men are going to take you home."

    And Min'dellar groaned and said to the robed elf, "Do what you must do."

    Trajan and his men stopped at the base of their hill. And Trajan said to the captain, "In addition, we never saw you here, and you never saw us. Do we have a deal?"

    A stroke of luck, and no mistake. That the ends of their groups had no overlap at all. Trajan had been prepared to parcel out the loot to keep the peace between them and ultimately to ensure Claire's safe return, but it appeared unnecessary. He felt nothing for the wounded elf, but he found it regrettable to turn over the boy to the mixed group. Yes, it was an action for which he would feel guilty. Certainly. But in this instance, he had to value the lives of his men and the life of Claire over an uninitiated boy. A hard decision. But leadership was not easy. It never was.

    The boy was the other group's business, and he didn't wish to become involved. Claire and the spoils were his business, and he didn't wish for them to become involved.

    This was the way it had to be.
     
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  8. Jericho

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    “Heh, glad y’all good come to an agreement.” The boy announced with a cheerful voice, wiping away his false tears. The boy, who was just moments ago shaking in fear, was how strolling about, pulling crossbow bolts out of the guards. “I really do appreciate your help, Mr. Trajan. Yours too Ms. Claire.” The boy said, flashing his fangs at Trajan.

    Jericho, that’s enough. We have no quarrel with these men.” The captain said bluntly, keeping his hand close to his scimitar. “Anyway, yes, we have a deal.” He said to Trajan, walking up to him.

    Meanwhile, the elf cautiously approached Min'dellar, keeping his crossbow aimed on him. Reaching out, he yanked the bolt out of the wound, tossing it to the ground. Soon, his hand began to glow green and magic flowed into the wound.
     
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  9. Trajan Meng

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    Not much shocked Trajan. Granted, he was but a man, and did not possess the formidable lifespan of an elf, but in his forty-nine years he had seen much. Most notably during his service with the Anirian Guard, but even beyond that, xenos--and yes, humans as well--practiced deceptions and trickery of all manners. Magic, also, made many things possible, and he need only think of Kalliana's illusions during the Pandemonium crisis to be reminded of that. And blessed was he to have her on his side, for it was that very same magic that surely saved his life against the fiend within the mists.

    Yes. He had seen many things.

    But none had prepared him for the simple shock that took him once the boy dropped his act and grinned at him...with fangs. An immediate furrowing of his brow and hardening of his face. And Claire, well, he could understand why her mouth dropped open and she looked, frankly, insulted. She'd been outdone by the xeno boy, for he had her fooled too. Even though she'd performed her operari flawlessly up to this point and delivered them a hearty caravan to plunder...it was still the sort of thing she took personally.

    A thought. That he should have trusted his initial gut reaction of the boy. How true it was.

    And a second thought. One of continued observation. That so many xenos craved to emulate the sacred human form. Hiding their abominable qualities away under the false veneer they have crafted for themselves. And for what ends? Always nefarious. Always devious. Such was their nature. And such was all the more reason that Mankind ought to unite once and for all. To forever guard against the insidious predations of deceptive xenos who lurked in the very midst of everything good men and women have built, seeking nothing more than the corruption or outright destruction thereof.

    But that, the true unity of Mankind, was a dream only to be realized in the future. And Trajan was here in the present.

    "S...Sure, as you say," Claire said to the boy--Jericho--uncharacteristically sputtering over her words and briskly shuffling away from the boy and the robed elf and Min'dellar and hurrying to Trajan's side.

    Min'dellar just winced as the bolt was pulled out and magic applied. He knew he was beaten.

    And Trajan swapped his warhammer to his left hand and held out his right for the captain to shake. "Good. I am glad we could come to a sensible arrangement for the both of us."

    Dark Operari didn't always go perfectly. It was an understood fact. But this could have turned out much worse than it did. A small price to pay, in looking the other way with regards to the collusion with the xeno boy Jericho and the elves this time.

    In the end, this outcome would be a greater boon to the cause than foolishly engaging in needless conflict.
     
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  10. Jericho

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    The grizzled captain extended his hand outwards and shook Trajan’s quite firmly. “Aye, pleasure doing business with ya...” The captain said, his voice trailing off as he eyed the kid hopping about, worry evident on his face. He knew what Jericho was capable of, and he rightly feared, like everyone else. “Hopefully he doesn’t get bored...” He muttered, letting go of Trajan’s hand.

    “You Luminari are all so naive, especially you, Trajan.” Jericho remarked as he was dragging the corpses into the pile, his bell chirping cheerfully. “When you look upon me, you see a coward hiding in sacred skin, an Xeno plotting the downfall of the human race, don’t ya?” He quizzed, throwing another corpse into the pile, locking eyes with Claire.

    “Whatever you do, do not piss the boy off!The elf hissed, fear evident in his voice as he healed Min'dellar, the wound starting to heal.
     
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  11. Trajan Meng

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    A firm handshake, and the matter was settled. The mixed group got their elf, and Trajan would have the spoils. And yet, it still could not be overstated how fortunate the day had gone. He and Claire and all of his men alive, the spoils they sought theirs for the taking, even with the unexpected occurring.

    And it was time to head home. Job well done. There was always work to be done. Always. But for the duration of the journey back and perhaps a few days after, they could rest and celebrate their success. And congratulations would be order for Claire, for the outstanding work she had put in and her unfailing dedication and continuing extraordinary service to the cause.

    Then the captain said something...peculiar. In reference to the xeno boy. Bored? What difference would that make? Trajan got what he wanted, and the captain got what he wanted. What did that boy Jericho have to do with anything? His part in all this had been performed and they were all set to part ways. Surely an odd--

    And the boy spoke. The wounded elf laughing after, as if in revenge against him and Claire.

    A squinting of Trajan's eyes. And likewise, suspicion and apprehension from his men as well. A slight shifting of crossbows. Grips made to be tighter. Arms tensing. Uncertainty.

    But Trajan raised his free hand. Made two hand signals. And the men relaxed. Some.

    He looked at Claire.

    A kind of a horror had overcome her. She stared back at the boy. Her bottom lip curled in fright.

    Trajan put a hand on her shoulder. She looked at him. And he shook his head.

    Trajan said to the elf, "It is not my intention to do any such thing."

    And, to the captain, he said, "Good day. And swift journey."

    He looked back to the men behind him. Nodded toward the wagons. And they started toward them. Carefully. Vigilantly.
     
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  12. Jericho

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    “Better keep your wits about ya. Company’s going to arrive in twenty minutes Sir Trajan.” The boy remarked as he gouged the eyes out of one of the corpses with his hands, smiling as he played with them.

    The captain furrowed his brow in worry upon hearing the boy’s words. “Take up defensive positions! I want scouts to fan out! Report back immediately if you see anyone!” The captain barked, the mixed crew nodding in response to his commands. “The boy has a knack for knowing things he shouldn’t, or things in advance. If he’s right, then we’ll have company soon.” He explained to Trajan, whilst the rest got to work.

    “Ms. Claire, ya seemed horrified. Why?” Jericho asked in a sweet tone, as he gouged out the eyes of another corpse. His gaze locked with hers, a rather smug smile on his face.
     
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  13. Trajan Meng

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    The men paused when the boy spoke again. Looked to Trajan.

    And Trajan glanced to the captain. Listened. To his orders. To what he said about Jericho.

    "Company soon," Trajan said. "All the more reason for us all to disappear."

    And, to his men, Trajan said, "Get the wagons turned around. On the double."

    The boy spoke to Claire. Trajan looked to her. Moved to stand between her and Jericho, facing her and his back turned to the boy. He brought his free hand into the space between them. Made one of the two hand signals from before again. She eyed it. Nodded in affirmation.

    And Trajan patted her shoulder.

    Then he turned and walked to the lead wagon. Looked to the wounded elf sitting on the driver's bench and the robed elf healing him. Said to the robed elf, "You should secure your captive from there. We'll need to turn this wagon around."
     
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  14. Jericho

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    “With all due respect sir, we have no idea which direction this company is even coming from. Hell, we don’t even know how many are coming.” The robed elf pointed out, his magic having almost closed up Min'dellar’s wound. “Be glad you’re still alive Min'dellar.”

    Meanwhile, the mixed group got to work, the captain overseeing their actions. Some men began putting together makeshift barricades from whatever was available, whilst others were scouting ahead. Two men tried to approach the pile of corpses, only to back off once the boy started growling at them.

    For those who bothered to pay attention, it was rather obvious that the mixed group was afraid of Jericho, regardless of whether they were xeno or human. Even the captain was afraid, as much as he tried to hide it. Yet the group didn’t pay much attention to the boy, even as he tossed one of the corpses eyes to Claire.
     
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  15. Trajan Meng

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    Trajan clapped his hand to the wagon. Gave it a couple of firm pats. Said, "Then keep it. We're leaving."

    Trajan walked away. Down the line of the caravan and toward the rear wagon.

    The wounded elf, his name Min'dellar, just grunted. Scowled at Trajan and the robed elf both.

    Claire shrieked and her snapped her quivering hands up close to her face when Jericho tossed the eye. It bounced off of her chest and dropped to the dirt path. And she quickly and feverishly brushed and swiped and patted the area of exposed skin above her leather corset that it touched. A quiet little whimper, and a face of a pitiful disgust. And she finally broke from where she had been standing and hurried after Trajan. Walking with him such that his body would be between herself and Jericho as best she could manage.

    Trajan and Claire reached the rear wagon in the caravan. Most of his men were there. Some tried leading the horses around in a half-circle to turn around. The hill was near, the wheels of the wagon dragging in the dirt, the horses protesting against turning so sharply. They led the horse back around until the wagon was straight again. Another two came and started to undo the buckles. Another man stopped them. Shook his head. Pointed to all four wheels of the wagon. Hands tossed up into the air in frustration.

    Trajan held a hand to his chin. Looking on. And he sighed.

    He approached the man who had stopped the unbuckling of the horse. Leaned in close to his ear. Whispered.

    And the man whispered back.

    Trajan whispered.

    And the man grew a little more frustrated. "Shit..." And lowered his voice and whispered to Trajan. Nodding.

    And Trajan nodded back.

    Trajan whistled. Made a small twirling signal with his finger. And all his men stopped trying to figure a way to turn the wagons around in the confined space and gathered around.

    The caw of a crow. Overhead. Above in the trees.
     
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  16. Jericho

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    Jericho! To me!” The captain called, making his way to the rear of the caravan, Jericho hopping alongside him. “What seems to be the problem here lads?” He asked Trajan, examining the commotion before him. Meanwhile, Jericho simply stared at Claire, fidgeting with a bloody eyeball.

    With Jericho away from the corpses, the two man started tossing them into the woods, occasionally squishing eyeballs under their boots. Another man, decided to mimic the crow, letting out a nearly identical caw. The rest continued with their work, surveying the environment as they did so.
     
  17. Trajan Meng

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    Claire shrunk behind Trajan. Avoiding eye contact with Jericho. Looking down at the dirt path at an angle.

    Trajan rested his free hand on his hip. Tapped the head of his warhammer lightly against his leg. Said to the captain, "To my dismay, we will not be able to turn the wagons around quickly enough. And so I will trust in your judgment with regards to this incoming 'company'. Should half an hour pass with no sign of them, then we will leave as planned. Pray, we should all be so lucky."

    He eyed both the hills. Said, "It seems likely that this company would come from either the east or west, along the path. I will take my men to the southside hill again and prepare."
     
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  18. Jericho

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    Jericho The Mad Pierrot

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    “I see. My men are already settling up at the north side hill. Let’s all pray the boy is wrong.” The captain responded, giving a worrisome glance towards Jericho. Leaning towards Trajan, he whispered into his ear. “Come with me, there’s something you should know.” The captain then trotted off, towards the front wagon, leaving Jericho alone.

    Meanwhile, Jericho simply continued to stare at Claire, slowly creeping closer. His gaze seemed to pierce into the soul, a gaze full of malicious intent. “Why so shy miss?” He teased, giggling as he rung his bell.
     
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  19. Trajan Meng

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    Trajan Meng For Mankind

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    Trajan glanced back at his men. Gestured with his head toward the southside hill. And they started toward it and up it, keeping their crossbows held at a low ready and glancing about.

    Trajan nodded to the captain. Walked after him.

    Claire stood frozen, watching him go. A whispering, "No, no, no..." escaping her mouth. A split-second glance at the xeno boy. Eyes averted immediately. She shook her hands vigorously, as if they were soaking wet.

    "Claire!" Trajan called to her.

    She head snapped up. Looked at him.

    He made the same gesture with his head. Toward the southside hill.

    A quivering and quiet "Ahhhh~...ah!" from her. And she shuffled along after the men. Faster than a walk. Not quite running.

    And Trajan met with the captain beside the lead wagon. Min'dellar and the robed elf still on the driver's seat.

    Trajan held his warhammer close. Holding the head of it with his other hand. Leaned toward the man and whispered to him as he had whispered to Trajan just before, "What is it?"
     
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  20. Jericho

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    Jericho The Mad Pierrot

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    A smile slowly grasped the boy’s lips as he watched Claire walk off with Trajan, his gaze still intently focused on Claire. “Why do you run little rabbit?” He muttered, his words only reaching her ears.

    “You’ve probably heard what happened to the town of Nostra, 20 years ago.” The old captain whispered, loud enough for Trajan and Claire to hear. “How it’s inhabitants were all massacred by a roving band of Orcs. How the Allirian guard found the town engulfed in flames. How, in the village center, corpses were piled high, each and every one with its eyes gouged out.” The old man shivered, sweat dripping from his brow as he recalled that day.
     
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  21. Trajan Meng

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    Trajan Meng For Mankind

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    Claire said nothing. Just hurried after the dozen men with her back to the xeno boy and reached the crest of the southside hill and hurriedly slipped behind a tree atop it and dropped down into a crouching position beside it and shivered and hugged herself and rubbed her hands feverishly up and down and up and down her arms. One of the men took hold of Trajan's crossbow that he'd left up at the ambush point and met her eyes and tossed it to her. She caught it, clutching it close to her body.

    By the lead wagon, Trajan whispered back to captain, "Your point?"

    A second passed.

    And his brow scrunched.

    And then a rage ignited in Trajan's eyes.

    A fleeting thought had stolen into his mind, despite his best effort to keep it clear. A realization of what the captain implied.

    Nostra. The corpses. The innocent men and women and children.

    And the xeno boy.
     
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  22. Jericho

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    Jericho The Mad Pierrot

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    “You know all to well who’s responsible, eh? Yet I urge you not to confront the boy.” The old man whispered, his face visibly contorted with fear. “I’m well aware what he’s capable of, I was there. I failed them...”

    The captain simply glanced towards the ground, his eyes full of regret. He could’ve done something, he could’ve tried to stop the boy, he could’ve perhaps been able to save a single soul. Yet in the back of his mind, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to do anything.

    “If you decide to confront him, then I won’t stop you.” He said, turning to glance at Jericho, only for his face to flash with horror. The boy was nowhere to be seen, with no evidence as to where he could’ve gone.

    Meanwhile, a small bell chimed near Claire. The sweet sound fell deaf on the others ears, only noticeable by Claire.
     
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  23. Trajan Meng

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    Trajan Meng For Mankind

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    Trajan's nostrils flared. He grabbed hold of back of the captain's head and said through snarled lips and clenched teeth, "Then. Redeem. Yourself. And help us avenge them."

    Trajan had broken discipline. But it couldn't be helped. Enraged thoughts battered their way into his mind, and the overall situation had changed dramatically. And it didn't matter much now. He would make his intentions quite clear.

    This day and the days preceding it had been about a simple ambush. The quick and tactical acquiring of spoils. But now it was about honor. Dedication. Personal courage. What manner of man would he be if he simply allowed the debased slaughterer of Nostra to walk free? That sick xeno bastard. Wearing the guise of the human form as a kind of mockery, no doubt, as its bloodied hands murdered scores of innocents and mutilated their corpses for its perverse pleasure.

    A fiend. A demonic fiend! Beguiler and trickster, wielding deceptions powerful enough to not only sway these poor men who slaved under its hellish command, but also other xenos! Trajan spared no love for the elves, that much was true, but in the name of all that was good and righteous, this vile creature had to be put to death. None who walked upon Arethil's beautiful lands would be safe while the disgusting monstrosity yet lived; Nostra and all who once dwelled there could attest to that.

    And so it was decided. Where once Trajan's concern had been the safety of Claire and his men and the successful and stealthy completion of their task, now they would all be made to stand and fight. To give their lives if necessary. And even if they should all fall this day to the unholy might of the xeno deceiver, then they will have not cowered in the face of pure evil. They will have all fought and died proudly, taking upon themselves the highest and most holy cause that one may yet have the solemn burden to bear.

    To avenge the innocent against the wicked.

    For Nostra.

    For Mankind.

    Let it be so.

    That they should find victory this day. And triumph over the foul abomination.

    Trajan let the captain go and turned to southside hill and bellowed, "Red! Red! Rally on me! Now! Kill the xeno creature on sight!"

    His men immediately stood and starting rushing down the hill.

    Claire stumbled after them, running down the hill, shrieking, "I hear it! I fucking hear it! It's right behind meeeee~ahhh!"

    "Stay vigilant!" Trajan shouted, glancing around, his warhammer held at the ready. "And trust nothing it says!"
     
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  24. Jericho

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    Jericho The Mad Pierrot

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    “Are you crazy!? This is exactly what he wants!!” The captain yelled, storming up to Trajan, hand on his scimitar. “That monster, is capable of feats far beyond any mortal man! Believe me when I say I tried to save those innocent souls at Nostra! But there was nothing I could do!”

    The rest of the mixed group hurried to the scene, their faces going pale once Nostra was mentioned. A few began to shake uncontrollably, one even going into a nervous breakdown. They were all afraid, afraid not only for their lives, but for the lives of their family.

    Meanwhile, as the tense showdown was going down, a young boy burst from the bushes, laughing playfully as he ran towards the group. The boy looked almost identical to Jericho, yet without a bell. “Hi!” He said to Trajan as he ran towards him, smiling happily.
     
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  25. Trajan Meng

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    Trajan Meng For Mankind

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    "Do not give in to cowardice or fear!" Trajan said to the captain, to the men and, yes, even the elves under his command. "Free yourselves of the demon's chains! Through valor, or death, but fight! Fight! I implore you! Reclaim your pride, your honor, and fight!"

    Trajan's men gathered around him, forming as much of a circle as they could given the nearby wagon. Eyes scanning the southside hill. The northside hill. The eastbound and westbound directions of the dirt path. All crossbows held high and ready to shoot. A wariness of the other group, given the vocal disagreements between the captain and Trajan, but an overriding alertness for the xeno boy.

    "Just help us," Claire pleaded with the captain as she ran up to him and Trajan, standing to the side of both men, her face torn with worry. "Please! You don't need to serve that monster! We can win this, we can! If we all unite as one!"

    "There! There!" said one of Trajan's men.

    Trajan whirled around. Faced the southside hill and saw the xeno scum. Running down it. There was no more time to try and reason with the captain. Either he would join Trajan, or he and his men would stand idle and love their chains. Or, worse, they would play into the fiend's hands and attack Trajan and his men and in the ensuing chaos doom them all.

    And Trajan could only pray that what few words he and Claire had managed to say would reawaken the righteous spirit that yet dwelled in the broken man. Such that he might see how much better it would be to die free and with one's holy spirit intact than to give in to the sickening whims of the hellish creature that had so bewitched them into its vile service.

    "Claire, eyes rear! All else, ready!" Trajan said as he broke away from the captain and stood in front of his men.

    He'd not ask a single one of them to fight such a monster if he himself was not so willing. Men and women who dared take command of others had to be willing to do all they asked of those subordinate to them. One of the core tenets of effective leadership. And if any among the number of his men or even the captain's men must die this day to slay the creature, then Trajan prayed that it would be him. A small sacrifice, if it meant that they all should live and the demon would be vanquished.

    Trajan slammed the head of his warhammer down into ground, and his Bulwark burst out around him and four of his nearby men, a shimmering and mostly transparent dome faintly shining of gold. The Bulwark would forcibly expel magic inside it and prevent magic from entering, and as such it would not allow him to protect himself with his Iron Skin. A conscious choice.

    "Open fire!" Trajan said.

    And the men all fired a volley of crossbow bolts, those in front kneeling for those behind. All aimed at the charging xeno bastard.
     
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