The watch guards gestured frantically, waving their arms high over their heads. “Over here!” they yelled, eyes on the mounted figure swerving and darting in an attempt to shake its pursuers. A vicious looking demonic dog grabbed and bit at the horse’s legs, while an airborne demon resembling a huge bat sailed just feet over the ground, its maw seemingly inches away from the head of the rider. Just as all seemed lost, both pursuers peeled off in different directions: one left, one right, and a few seconds later Lauren pulled her snorting and gasping horse to a stop on the grounds of Light’s Hope Chapel.
“Hell of an entrance,” remarked one of the guards as Wren dismounted and began to look around the camp.
“Wouldn’t have been if I could have just flown here!” snapped the blonde. “Mora needs water, where is it?”
A second guard laughed openly, while the first had the decency to simply gape open-mouthed at the question. “Does it look to you like there’s any fresh water within ten miles of this hell hole? Where do you think you are, princess?”
“Hey, Forsyth, come get a load of this!” yelled the second soldier at one of his buddies. Forsyth, for his part, looked over and immediately stood ramrod straight. The taunting soldier looked confused for half a moment until his error was made abundantly clear.
“Tucker! What in fel’s name are you doing off the line? I’m giving you until the count of three to get your lousy maggot-fearing butt back at your post! One!” There was no need for the commander to even say the first number; Tucker was already three quarters of the way to his station while he was still in the process of being chewed out.
Lauren couldn’t help but grin, though she regretted doing so immediately. “What the fel are you smiling about, princess? Report to the lieutenant on the double! And get those damned shiny stars off that cloak, sweetheart! Demons’ll see them from five clicks.” Wren stood at attention, stunned into inertia. “Move, princess! I swear, I ask for soldiers and they send me beauty queens! Light save us all!”
The warrior looked around for some place to tether her horse, but when the officer started barking at some other poor soul, she finally dropped the reins and pleaded with palms up. “Mora, just… just stay.” The filly whinnied and stomped the dusty ground before wandering off to one side of the camp where some other horses stood.
Wren was halfway to the chapel itself before she realized she had no clue who the lieutenant she needed to see actually was. It took a few seconds, but she finally noticed a dwarf with a tablet motioning her to come that way. “What’s yer name, soldier?”
“Argent Dawn soldier Lauren Montrose, reporting for duty, ma’am.” The blonde quickly saluted the diminutive woman.
“Get that hand down, Montrose!” the dwarf hissed. “Ain’ nobody who ain’ Dawn needs ta’ know I’m helpin’ run the show out here.” Beet-faced, the girl hurriedly lowered her arm. The dwarf scoured her parchment. “Montrose, Montrose… there ya’ are. Lauren… huh.” The lieutenant paused, as if surprised by something on her roster. Wren tried to look at the list, but the dwarf quickly flipped to another sheet of the bound tablet.
“Alrigh’, Montrose, let me give ya’ the lay of the land. You can see there ain’ much to Light’s Hope. Yer welcome ta’ camp here, but most soldiers hearth home at the end of the day an’ fly back out here. Yer silver, yer call. Anytime ya’ arrive in theater ya’ come report to me. Anytime ya’ leave theater ya’ come report to me. You go missin’ around here, we’re liable ta’ think the other side’s gotcha. You come back, we ain’ gonna know if yer alive or undead, an’ we ain’ in the business of takin’ on that kinda risk. Am I clear, soldier?”
“Yes,” said the wide-eyed girl hesitantly.
“I said, am I clear, soldier?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lauren replied.
“Good. Now, learn yer way around the camp. There’s no missions on the official roll today, but there’s plenty needs done. Make sure ya’ talk to the flight master. And stay outta the chapel if ya’ know what’s good for you. Dismissed.”
Wren reflexively started to salute again, but stopped herself halfway. She spent some time walking around the post locating the essentials: the blacksmith, the gryphons, the quartermaster. With no reliable way to ship in needed supplies, Light’s Hope relied on paying finder’s fees for materiel, and Lauren noted a few items she’d be sure to save in her future travels. Exhausted from the ride and the jarring welcome, the warrior decided to head home for the day and attack her new tasks with vigor in the morning. She returned to the lieutenant long enough to report her departure, then went in search of her horse.
“Mora!” Wren called and clucked her tongue looking for the filly. Hoping for a better vantage point, she climbed the short steps of Light’s Hope Chapel and scanned the camp. A fierce argument was going on inside the church, but Lauren was more concerned with finding her horse. She started to whistle but was interrupted by someone who shoved her shoulder from behind.
“Out of the way, princess.”
“Hey, watch where—“ Wren’s voice caught in her throat as the rude man walked past her and down the stairs. He wore a white tabard edged in red and bearing the symbol of a scarlet flame. The warrior’s heart raced and she looked into the chapel with rage in her eyes. Inside sat a long haired sorceress who glanced up at Lauren with a scowl; she, too, wore the tabard. The figure facing directly away from the girl pounded the table with his fist and stood, shoving his chair out of the way with the backs of his legs. The red flame was emblazoned across his back as well.
Unbelieving, the blonde staggered backward and into a large figure. Sword at the ready she spun around to find Mora, who nudged her mistress’s shoulder as if to apologize. Wren took the horse’s reins with one hand and grabbed her hearthstone with the other.
“I’ll kill him. So help me I’ll kill him.” Lauren vanished from the camp in a flash of green.
writing/the silver cord ch 04.txt · Last modified: September 3, 2011 by Dave Leach