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Brother of the Sword Chapter 5 pt.2 - Printable Version

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Brother of the Sword Chapter 5 pt.2 - frenzied67 - 01-09-2021

Chapter 5 pt.2
Ripped Away Will
From Mudberry by the Water to the Road North 1533 Imperial Calendar

With the tents extra weight, his travel pack was not as fun to carry as it had been.  At least that is what he told himself as he left the tavern for the bright outdoors, then he tried to remember a time where carrying his backpack had been enjoyable.  Nope, most of his pleasurable moments had occurred despite the carrying container, or with it off his back.  For the first hour his pace seemed to match the strolling gait of the other pedestrians headed in his direction, he yawned continually while thinking about finding a place to take a nap.  An hour later, Brother of the Sword was yet again impatiently taking to skirting the boardwalks to pass slow travelers; energy incarnate.  After the bells tolled three, Brother was being cursed by folks forced to skirt around him.  That damn back pack felt like it was sucking the life out of him.

By the time the twin gated exit of Mudberry by the Water came into Brother of the Sword’s view he was dragging, sweat stained, and weary.  With the gate’s guardians still looking like far off specks, he stepped into the street and looked for an inn.  One ramshackle two story and two swanky three story establishments proclaimed they were inns; the run down place was closest.  In Brother’s rented room was a musty smell that came from the walls, the blankets on his bed had many patches and were begging for many more.  Grime and ripples occluded the window so much that Brother could only catch movement on the street below, there was no telling if it was person or beast that made the dark wavering motion on the pale cobble stones.  Dropping his pack, Brother flopped onto the bed and let his legs twitch and shake from all the hours of labor he had put them through.  His new boots had not rubbed any raw patches on his feet or lower leg, but his calves felt spots where digging leather had pressed into his flesh.

Sighing made the box springs protest as he allowed his back and neck muscles to relax.  Even his following yawn made the bed creak.  The mattress reminded him of the forest floor of the mountain with odd lumps and impressions, but despite that he drifted off.  Starting awake, Brother of the Sword noticed that the light drifting through the window had hardly moved.  Grumbling, his stomach let him know what had pulled him from the restorative slumber his body craved.  I worked hard today with the extra weight on my back, I worked my lunch off and then some.  I won’t regenerate properly unless I have food to fuel myself.  Groaning, Brother sat up and then lingered on the edge of the protesting bed, reluctant to put weight on his tired feet and legs.  For a moment he thought about breaking into his traveling pack rations, then he realized that would be all he would be eating for many weeks ahead.  Like it or not, this would be one of the last civilized meals he would have for a long time.

Making the noises of protest he thought his body parts would make if they could vocalize, Brother of the Sword forced himself onto his feet.  His next act was to sponge bath his face, neck, and torso using the basin of water the inn supplied; one of the few amenities they did provide.  After wiping away his dried sweat, he then made sure Brother Sword was tied securely to his pack, he double checked to see if he had everything together.  Tucking the key to his room in his left pocket, he found himself skipping down the stairs suddenly not as wiped out as he had thought.  I’m going to say this is because that pack is off my back.  As jaunty as his wave and grin were, the tattooed inn keeper glared after Brother as though he had made rude gestures at the man.  When checking in, Brother had been offered and refused to have the inn keeper send him up a hooker, the proprietor had stopped pretending to be friendly.

The sun was half framed by the highest roofs and steeples of Mudberry by the Water when he hit the boardwalk.  Shadows from those buildings were creeping up the eastern faces of all the houses, businesses, and other buildings in the city.  Closing his eyes he let those fading rays warm his face.  Letting his senses open, Brother of the Sword tilted his head back and began to sniff the air as he basked.  Close to the gate he could smell two buildings across from each other that had kitchens working with multiple foods, too the south east there were other establishments that were making meals, but they were far away.

Plus there was a woman wearing lavender perfume that was the nearest of all.

“I love the sunset in this city too.”  Her voice was rather young sounding, and Brother could smell recent sex on her person.  Cracking his eyes open, Brother of the Sword rolled his head over to see who was talking to him.  The girl did not need the make up she wore, her complexion was naturally porcelain and flawless.  Her face held the unworldly stamp of the Elven, but she was not purely of that race.  The Human stamp of her genes had given her a button nose to go with her exotically slanted eyes, which threw him off because she looked more doll than living being at his first glance.  Slightly pointed ears peaked from her straight dark red tresses.  Low cut to show a slight amount of cleavage, the young woman’s dress was meant to show off her female curves rather than hint at them.  Her eyes held boredom but her mouth smiled with invitation.

Stymied because of all the mixed signals he was getting, Brother of the Sword tried pleasantries in order see how he really felt about the woman at his side; or what she truly felt about him.

“The last rays always feel so pleasant, but I was actually trying to smell where the nearest eating place was,” he admitted pointing a thumb over his shoulder towards the gate.  This actually sparked real interest in the girl, she did a double take.  Her brows furrowed as a more genuine smile came to her full lips; the shape of her mouth and the fullness of her lips were another human trait.

“I don’t smell anything.  We’re not close enough.  There is a tavern and a restaurant over there, and another restaurant back that way about three blocks.”  Without thinking he nodded to show he knew the information she had just shared.  “I’ve never seen you around here before, are you traveling through?” she asked, her empty invitation coming back to her show smile.

Still uncertain to why she was there with him, Brother of the Sword, tried one more time to see if this being was seeking a connection or not.  If she had just wanted to talk to someone he would have sensed that, she was half signaling him that she did not actually want to be in this place with him at all.

“I’m on my way to Lake Talenchan, do you know how far that is away from Mudberry by the Water?”  Shrugging his question away, she stepped a little closer to him, uncomfortably close.  She may have been lovely but she did not want to be doing what she was doing.

“I think it’s a long way from here.  A very long way.  Do you want to party with me before you go, this could be the last time you get some action for quite some time?”

Now Brother of the Sword realized what the girl was really after, she didn’t want him, she wanted to earn the few coins he had left.  For the first time in his short life, Brother found himself stepping back from a desirable woman; the nature in him protested against what he was doing.  His brain told him the opposite.

“I was robbed this morning, I don’t have enough coin to keep your interest,” he said trying to be polite.  Annoyance wanted to color his voice, but she did not deserve his becoming negative towards her.

“Well fuck you too, asshole!  Why go around in your fancy clothes if you can’t afford a good time?”  Well, so much for being polite.  Shaking his head he just turned around and began walking across the Emperor’s Way.  One of the two places he had scented smelled slightly better than the other.    For that, the hooker cast aspersion on his penis that could not be true.  The two sexual encounters Brother had before now proved to him that functionality was not a problem he had.

Tallow, and lantern oil flavored the air on the boardwalks.  Though not all of the business’ on the street had lanterns that burned oil or candles, a large majority of them did.  Even in the shadows it was evident that the sun was still up, so the store owners currently lighting their outside lights were doing so as a courtesy for would be customers.  Glancing through shop windows did give Brother of the Sword a surprise, there were more shoppers in each place he passed than he had seen in any single establishment earlier in the day.  Using deduction, Brother figured it out after seeing a few shops closed for the night; many workers only had time to acquire their supplies after their day of labor.  Discovering that people of all sorts had solved problems long before he had come to be made him smile and shake his head in admiration.

A brightening of light ahead of him and screams pulled Brother of the Swords attention off of the nearby store fronts.  The tavern across the street from the restaurant he was aiming for suddenly had tall flames licking through a shattered window.  Men and women were trying to dash out of the front doors, but the timber of their cries changed when they ran into shadowy figures who cut them down with swords or spears.  Coming from the guardhouse, a figure dashed across the Emperor’s way with an open flame of some sort in their hand, they threw what proved to be a flaming bottle through the windows of a stationary store.  Brother was so shocked that he froze on the walk, helplessly he watched the arsonist kick the stores owner back into his own shop, directly into the flames climbing the window frame.  His intended restaurant flared up, while dozens of capering figures in armor set themselves at the exit, hewing unarmed refugees down as they tried to escape the bursting fires.

Brother of the Sword saw that all the figures wore the armor and uniform of the local soldiers, however none of them were Human, Dwarf, Elf, or any of the other creatures from Mudberry by the Water.  They were lumpy and twisted, long tongues lolled out of mouths full of nail like fangs, bulbous eyes spoke of agony and malice working in brains blind to coherent thought.  Not one made a sound, a call, or barked an order, they just naturally moved into position to hurl Molotov cocktails then carve up the helpless creatures scrambling for some sort of safety.  Horrified he instinctively called through the non space ether for his sibling, and found Brother Sword proclaiming that magic was near.  Gripping the magic sword in both hands Brother charged forward finding a simmering anger heating up his brain.

Heeding the sounds of chaos growing in their city, people began to check the street to see what was transpiring.  Eyes wide with terror those people began to push out of the shops, turned to the south east and ran.  In moments the boardwalk became a seething mass of people trampling each other to get away.  Swerving from that growing disaster Brother of the Sword did a one arm vault over the walk’s railing to hit the Emperor’s way, which was still fairly open.  Escapees who did make it to the wide cobbled street veered out of Brothers way, they saw his all out sprint and the light reflecting off of Brother Sword so they stayed out of his way.  Letting a burning man flail by them, two of the cursed figures pounced on a brunette woman who stumbled out of the same theater.  They grabbed her and raised their weapons to strike the girl down.  His wordless challenge made the creatures take their attention away from their captive for a moment.  Without looking, they stabbed the woman then began to spread out to receive his charge, their blades dripping gore.

Instead of pelting into the gap they had created between them, Brother swerved.  He caught the striking sword of the his victim on Brother Swords edge then plowed full steam into the twisted figure with his shoulder from a lowered stance.  Shrugging to assist the lumpy monster’s flight, he flung the thing over a dozen yards over the rail and through the unbroken window of the theater.  Trailing a wake of broken glass, the figure disappeared behind a wall of hellish flame.  Long tongue wagging from the things distended mouth, the other monster tried to slash Brother of the Sword, only to have its long sword swatted aside with force enough to make it stumble.  His brutish follow up swing crunched through the chest cavity of the uniform wearing nightmare, shattering ribs and spine in that one swing.

“There he is!” a voice called from the densest formation of warped figures.

Far too distant for Brother of the Swords taste, the shrill whistles of patrolling guards began to summon aid.  Nearer, all the hellish guard caricatures stopped hacking and burning the innocent.  With that one command they all turned crazed bulging eyes upon Brother and his glowing and flowing sword.  Evidently the creatures blood was good enough for Brother Swords taste, it began to make slurping sounds after they carved into the nearest ghoul figure, who tried to tackle Brother of the Sword’s about the waist.  Then he had to start flowing and moving as he was forced to fight three of them at one time; only his speed, footwork, and superior strength allowed him to down all three in a count of five.

Oh fell sibling, there is that among the twisted ones who is the source and director of the evil I/we feel.  Find that one and I/we can end this fray, it shall be the only being with natural form.  Instead of impressions and ideas, Brother Sword spoke to him mind to mind.  A first for both of them.  In the chaos of fiendish creatures rushing him it was hard to pick out details.  Some of the warped beings loped, some bounded in prestigious leaps, while others were so twisted that they had to use all four limbs to make awkward lurches his way.  Side stepping a spear point, Brother split the head of that assailant then began an angling walk to his right that took him out of line of the main rush of attackers. Through his bond with Brother Sword, he could sense something like a sigh of satisfaction as blood soaked into the flowing blue pattern of its blade.

Throwing the next monstrosity into the spear of one of it’s friends, Brother of the Sword continued his rightward semi circle keeping the creatures from being able to fall on him in a large mass.  However, he was slowly being circled by the twenty or so remaining hell beings.  They both saw the lone human at the same time, a healthy middle age man who looked to be an inch or two over six foot; about Brother of the Sword’s height.  Patterns on this man’s dark robes held insignia that aligned him with the guards, it was an Assembly Arcanuum uniform.  One last lumpy thing threw itself at Brother of the Sword, it’s spear tip probing like a prize fighter using jabs to size up their opponent.  He made a three hundred sixty degree spin, his first slash taking the tip off the ten foot pole arm, then with the momentum of his last whirling step he dashed the wretched creature to the cobble stones; one arm bouncing away from the deeply sliced torso.

Though they had numbers, the wizard made a circling gesture.  The spell caster’s creatures did not close with him, but they rushed to complete the ring of twisted forms around Brother of the Sword. Do it now, fell brother, I implore thee!  Without drawing energy from him, Brother Sword built up it’s charge.  With a swing, Brother of the Sword pointed the blade at the wizard.  A pale blue sword shaped energy discharge flew at the man with the speed an arrow would envy.  Unable to dodge aside or block the energy, the wizard cried out in dismay.  This man’s fevered look of impending victory turned to wide eyed dismay as his magic and ability to craft spells ceased, blasted away by Brother Swords spell eating power.  Writhing in agony, all the twisted ghoul like creatures began to tumble to the ground.  For the first time sound issued from their throats as the limbs of their bodies spasmed and flowed unnaturally.  Shocked anew, Brother Sword and Brother of the Sword watched the soldiers agonizingly start turning back into men and women, of many different races.  They screamed as their bone and tissue warped from the forms their bodies now held, their pain daunting.

In the moments they took to witness the horrific reversion, the wizard had almost made it back to the gate’s barracks.  Dancing through the bucking horde of soldiers caught in the brutal agony of their transformation, Brother began to sprint after the robed figure.  That man dashed into the three story tall, block long military hall, slamming the black doors closed in his wake when Brother was still half a block away.  When he burst through that door, Brother heard a crash coming from above them, with his eyes on the stairs and murder in his heart he skipped steps flying around the climb up.  On the second floor, it was a cooler air flow coming from the right that drew him in that direction.  A room meant for an officer had its door flung wide, but it was the alchemist set on a big table in the middle of that room that told Brother whose room it had been.  The back window facing the farmlands beyond Mudberry by the Water was shattered, blown outward by the fleeing wizard.

A small wooden casket that looked like a jewelry case and a draw string pouch of blue leather lay on the floor before the broken aperture.  Rushing to the window Brother of the Sword looked out and found that he had not gained any ground on the wizard, the man was still about half a block away rushing into an orchard in the dim light that remained.  Even at this distance he could see how the villain clutched a bundle or bag to his chest, his personal effects too precious to leave behind perhaps, or treasures rare enough to cling on to.  Tired from his hike, aching from his fight, Brother of the Sword abandoned the idea of jumping out of that window to continue chasing the man who had been trying to kill him.

Turning about to return to the fires and transforming soldiers, Brother recalled the two items below the window frame.  Kneeling down he picked up the purse and felt coins filling the bag; this pouch was smaller than the fey giants ox blood purse but it was larger than what many of Mudberry by the Water’s citizens carried.  A quick peek showed him silver.  Having a hooked clasp and little brass hinges, the little wooden casket easily opened to show Brother a cameo necklace.  The womanly silhouette at the end of the bronze chain did not look at all familiar to him.  An inscription read ‘Your Mother will always love you, Krendiel’.  He tossed the box and necklace aside then walked out of the room without further exploration.

A twisting, spiraling hose of flying water soared over the eastern wall to pour itself upon the stationary store.  Bucket brigades formed living chains between buildings not touched by current fire, all coming from the river a block behind the eastern shops.  A slight figure wearing the robes of an Assembly Arcanuum wizard struck a pose near the still writhing guards.  Sibilant words called out like a bard setting his spirit into an aria, another spray of water flew over walls and buildings from the river, to spray the tavern on the western side of the street with gallons of water.  A pair of hale soldiers tending their stricken comrades noticed Brother of the Swords exit from the barracks, they stood as he neared, hefting their spears defensively.

“You think you can kill nine guards and get away with it!” the woman soldier challenged, her male counterpart simply charged with his spear point aimed at Brother’s belly.

Stopping far short, Brother of the Sword spread his arms to show how inoffensive he was.  He still had to parry the spear aside to keep from being skewered despite his show of surrender.  Even though they were of similar height and weight, the male soldier could not escape Brother’s grip when he slipped through the spears reach and grabbed him up.

“I didn’t… I- uh…!  They weren’t people when I killed them!”  Right after the words left him, Brother knew his argument would never have swayed these two.  His captive began to throw himself about with enough vigor to stagger Brother, he had to twist about to keep from falling.  Watch whistles began to shrill away nearby, as other nearby soldiers moved in on their struggle.  Before Brother could interpose her partner between them, the female soldier struck with a shriek of rage.  Pain in his head, followed by a bright all pervading light, erupted from within and without Brother of the Sword’s cranium; for a time he knew nothing.

Firelight flickered over Brother of the Sword’s eyelids.  Hundreds of voices stabbed into his swollen brain, only the nearest people could be understood.  He wished they would all shut the hell up, Brother knew he needed to heal and his regeneration worked best when he slept.  Brother Sword even got into the act, without words it showed him images of nearby wizards pulling water to fight fires with.  Scrunching his eyes tight, Brother tried to shut it all out, but his betrayer senses started to hone in on the outside stimulus instead.  It can’t talk too me anymore, Brother Sword used up it’s power so it can only show me images and concepts again, that thought wormed out from the throbbing inside his skull.  A gash running from his right temple too just passed his ear was the center of all his head pain.  Brother also let his ears focus on the nearest conversation, because it was a discussion and not a series of shouted orders.

A woman seemed to be asking questions, and two men and another woman were dishing out information too her.

“You say he came out of our barracks over there?” this woman, though not loud, spoke with authority.

“Yes ma’am, he came at us with that long blade in his hands.  He was the only armed person in the street who wasn’t a guard,” a man claimed trying to make himself sound concise.

“I knew he was the asshole who killed our people, ma’am.  That’s why we took him out.  With your permission, ma’am, I’d like to finish what we started before you showed up.”  This woman sounded like the female soldier who had hit him in the head, she had hurt him badly and sounded like she wanted to dish out more cruelty.

Another man spoke, and he did not sound like he was deferential at all.

“Dammit, listen to me, this man was the hero, not the bad guy!  These soldiers you have laying around were monsters, and I mean twisted savage monsters that didn’t look at all like they look now.  Your soldiers were torching these buildings and killing the people that were forced out by the damn fires.  I was in the theater, and if this man hadn’t of charged into the beast’s your guards were at the time, I would be dead.  His sword was glowing with a light blue-”

“His sword was glowing?” the authoritative woman queried, interrupting the one speaker.

“This is bullshit, ma’am, we don’t have-” the angry woman silenced herself with one short admonition from the leader.

“Hold yourself, soldier.  You, you’re the second person who has told me that this sword is magical.  What did this sword do?”

Brother of the Sword groaned and opened his eyes and looked up at the four people, three of whom were in uniform.  The lone civilian responded as all four of them looked down at his movement.

“There was a lone soldier in wizard’s robes among all the creatures, this man shot the blue glow  at that man.  Immediately all the creatures fell down and started screaming and turning back into people.  It was scary and horrible, but this man charged off after that wizard when that man began to run away.  They both ran into the guards building over there.  This guy came back.”  Flicking her eyes to the male soldier, the woman captain tried to verify what the civilian had claimed.

“Did you see any of that?  Was his sword glowing when you two saw him?”

“No ma’am, we showed up and started to see to these injured troopers, there was no sign of this guy or the supposed wizard.  As the bucket brigades started into the Emperor’s Way, this man came loping out of the barracks with just a regular looking sword.  We had seen the dead guards among the dead civilians and came up with our own sums, ma’am”

Bending over to get a closer look at Brother of the Sword, the officer addressed him as he tried to roll over onto his side; she looked as if she was catching a rancid smell from him.  The world swam before Brother’s eyes and nausea twisted his guts when he tried to sit up, he toppled back onto his back.

“Is it true?  Are you and your sword magic?”  When his eyes stopped rolling, Brother met the officer’s probing orbs.  He wanted to bite the world, not answer too it.

“Hate magic, we eat magic,” he glared, trying to will the woman to step closer so he could hit her.  Even the idea of standing up hurt, now if only Brother could get the world to line up for it’s ass kicking.

“Did you catch the wizard who did this?” the demanding captain asked, motioning Brother to remain still, momentary compassion flitting across her normally stern visage.

Realizing that the captain’s sour look was for the situation and not just for him alone, helped mollify Brother’s foul mood a little.

“No, he got away through a second story window.  He dropped a cameo locket from his mother on his way out.  His name is Krendall or something.  He was prepared to slip away after….”  Brother of the Sword realized almost too late that he should not tell anyone that he had been the target of this attack.  “After his attack,” he finished, swallowing his near confession down with a grimace.

“Krendiel?” the male soldier asked, eyes going wide as if Brother’s words did not make sense.  That man turned to his superior.  “Ma’am, Krendiel is only a divinator, he doesn’t have magic to warp these soldiers.”  After that protest, the civilian man drew himself up looking annoyed.

“Someone did it!”  Both soldiers ignored the man, waiting on the dark haired captain to indicate her thoughts.

She chose to study Brother of the Sword for a moment, then looked at the barracks, and then she spun about to look at the carnage around herself.

“I believe these civilians, but I’m also inclined to seek verification.  You,” she declared pointing at Brother, “I’m going to have these two watch you while I investigate this shit.  You two remain here and don’t let this man leave.  He better be in good condition when I get back, understand?  You, thank you for sticking around to help people and tell your story.  Can we call on you if this goes to the magistrates?”  That last question was aimed at Brother’s fellow civilian.  That man nodded, seeming to suddenly understand he was being addressed by a bad ass warrior woman.  “Good man, give Private Garbelia your contact information.  I’ve got to find corroborating evidence.”  For several moments the captain let her daunting gaze fall on each person in turn, saving Brother of the Sword for last.

Giving the woman his own baleful stare he reached for Brother Sword who felt as though it were almost a block away from him.  Brother Sword teleported into his right hand as he pushed himself up to a seated position.  Everyone jumped back, the female soldier who had knocked him out squeaked from fear.

“Yea, I’ll wait for you to check things out,” he said trying not to show the physical distress from his movement.  Not as sure as she had been a moment before, the captain studied Brother Sword, then Brother.  This time she really did not like what she was seeing, she turned and left before deciding to do something rash where Brother was concerned.  Stepping well back from Brother of the Sword’s position, the two soldiers and the man kept on glancing his way nervously as they took the civilian’s information down.

For a long time Brother sat still trying to will out all the outside stimuli, but at first his eyes instinctively followed all the motion and commotion, so he closed them.  That made him able to tune the world out, and after a while it was just himself and Brother Sword drifting in a place that whispered like waves over sand.  Weakly his sibling offered to send him healing energy, but Brother Sword had used up a lot of it’s stores canceling the spell caster.  This is part of the ether isn’t it? Brother of the Sword asked.  Waves of approval emanated from the steel thing that was his brother, and he was given the impression that Brother Sword was drawing strength in this drifting nowhere.  As the blade was doing, Brother opened himself up to the ether and let something in… it felt like solace.  That feeling of peace entered him and wove up his spine as a serpent climbing a tree, a moving spiral that left a physical wake of coolness in and on his body.  It gathered in his head, soothing the heat of his pain. When the ether energy faded, or was absorbed, he found himself aware of the world again.

Although the all pervading pain was still hammering in his skull like a titan’s hang over, Brother of the Sword still noticed a marked improvement.  Rolling up to his knees did send stabbing pain into the depths of Brother’s gray matter, but nausea and dizziness did not strike him with any debilitation.  Groaning he pushed on up to achingly take his feet.

“Hey, whatcha doing?” the female soldier demanded, stepping back as though thinking of bolting.  While Brother of the Sword had been meditating the civilian had departed.  There was no sign of the man who had stuck up for Brother.  Pale faced the woman’s companion held up a hand demanding that he halt.  They wouldn’t stop me if I decided to leave, he realized, then wondered what to do with that knowledge.

“I’m standing up, dipshit,” he growled, using a vulgar descriptive for the first time.  He found the word fit his mood, this meant that other appellations like this were viable for his future use.

Staring at the two guards seemed to unnerve them, then Brother of the Sword realized that he was standing with his shoulders hunched and his head down so that he was peering at them form under his brows.  Predators stared at prey that way, no wonder the pair were pale faced and swallowing oh-so nervously.  Knowing that his head pain was partly responsible for his stilted posture, Brother turned to watch the nearest sorceress at her work; he tried to stand straighter but could not maintain holding his spine that way for long.  Her spout of water was not as thick as before, and as she let the spray move over to the last fire on the western side of the Emperor’s Way her gestures seemed labored.  Not understanding why he felt a little delight at the arcane weaver’s difficult movements, the exhaustion so clearly trying to hamper her magical abilities, he seemed to be willing her to lose her spell and fall spent to the cobblestones.  When he understood that Brother Sword was urging him to stalk and kill the woman, he thought it best to look upon another sight.

Some of the soldiers who had been transformed were being helped to their feet, while a majority of them still lay tumbled where they had fallen.  A medic helping the newest risen soldier wrapped their charge with a blanket, then assisted them over to the eastern boardwalk to sit with four or five others in front of the smoldering remains of the tavern.  Slender and fit though she was, the captain did not look womanly questioning one of the blanket wrapped survivors, even from across the wide street she looked nothing but militarily capable.  The man she was question kept on shrugging or shaking his head no as he tried to avoid the potent stare of his superior.  Behind Brother of the Sword, other soldiers were lining up bodies and parts of bodies on the cobblestones; they were even pulling out the carbonized remains of men and women who had not been able to escape the infernos.  Only small flames flickered in the last fire damaged building, the two fire brigade wizards were done flying water from the river, so the flagging bucket brigades were left to tamp out those little flickers and embers that clung tenaciously to the building’s saturated parts.

I still haven’t eaten yet, Brother of the Sword realized as volunteers laid out another pyre stiffened corpse.  He shuffled around again to see the city walls and the barracks that guarded the gates.  A wizard in the imperial uniform of a wizard led a squad of soldiers into that building, while another squad took up station in front of the doors.  Those men and women seemed devoted to the idea of keeping other people out of the quarters of their comrades.

“Hey, whatcha doing?” the female soldier demanded again.  Wondering what he had done, Brother turned around only to find that the challenge had been given to a military medic.  More otherworldly than the dark haired Elves of Mudberry by the Water, this Blond Elven male pushed by his fellow soldiers with eyes on Brothers bloody head, his long hair had three braided locks.

Without a backwards glance at the pair guarding Brother of the Sword, the soldier/healer answered over his shoulder.

“This creature is injured, I intend to do my job.”  Even though the Elf was engaged with the world, his voice came off as detached and far away; an opium dreamer speaking to a world he was not in anymore.

“He’s dangerous!” the male human guard warned.

“He is also severely out numbered,” the Elf countered, smiling suddenly into Brother’s eyes.  When he halted in front of Brother, the perfect seeming creature took several moments to study him.  “Your height will make it difficult for me to examine your wound, would you mind bending down or seating yourself?”

Awed in spite of himself, Brother of the Sword dropped down into a squat, then further into a seated position.  He felt as though an angelic power were taking an interest in him, it’s motivations too lofty for his mortal understanding.  Using a pale finger the Elf began to trace around the gash in Brother’s scalp, he even squatted to bring his eyes closer to the wound.

“I didn’t expect to receive aid from the guard tonight,” Brother said, trying to read the Elven man.  Still sounding as if his mind was on other things, the Elf seemed to have dispensed with facial expression to portray his thoughts or emotions.

“We may have to hang you tomorrow, but the empire will not be judged cruel for not seeing to your comforts, creature.”  This news shocked Brother of the Sword, his start interrupted the perusal of his wound.

“They’re going to hang me?”  Even in this serene being’s company, he found his heart hammering with extreme dread.

Laying a calming hand on Brother of the Sword’s shoulder, the Elf smiled an apology.

“I actually do not know your fate, thing, I made an assumption because you are under guard.  Did you do some self healing on yourself?  Your wound, other than the new blood, seems a day older than it should.”  As was becoming his practice, Brother tried to think of a lie to tell, but then he realized this Elf had already seen and commented on his oddness without becoming distraught.

“Brother Sword showed me a short meditation that assists our natural regeneration.  I just learned I could do this tonight.”  As potent as a gasp, and as dramatic as pulling away with an emotional display, when the Elven man arched an eyebrow he was expressing a lot of astonishment.  He glanced down at Brother Sword sitting naked in Brother’s lap.  His eyes narrowed then darted for Brother of the Swords lapis lazuli eyes.

It was not his imagination, the Elf’s eyes were wide.

“Creature, the material that makes up that hilt is the same as your skin!  You share a bond of life with your sword!”  Brother of the Sword nodded to show that the Elven male’s statement was true.

“You keep on calling me creature and thing.  Why are you doing that?”  Wetting a cloth with water, the Elf began to wash the blood out Brother of the Sword’s hair around the wound.  As that man started dabbing it was obvious to Brother that the Elf was formulating his thoughts, that was the reason for the hitch in their conversation.  His words still seemed as something meant to drift on smoke and wind.

“All life was created by the gods.  Their touch is evident to us who were created first, an ability we never suspected the younger races to lack.  You may be a living, breathing, thinking, feeling creature, much like a Human man, but no god had a hand in your creation.  Arcane magic is what crafted you.”

Not knowing why this information was as a slap in the face, Brother of the Sword shook his head trying to negate the medic’s summation.

“We hate magic, and those who use it!” he hissed his eyes hot with denial.  For the first time, the Elf sounded like a person in and of the world, engaged and focused.

“You do not!  All life is magic!  Most of the arcane is good and beneficial and there are those spell casters who unselfishly use magic to better the world we live in.”  This shut Brother up, he sat in silence trying to correlate his experiences with magic and magic users to see where he really stood as the elf wiped away the caked gore on his head.  Drifting away to the lands where dreams were manufactured, the Elf’s voiced sounded normal again.  “I use magic, but I sense no hatred from you because of that fact.  Why is that?”

Finished with cleaning his wound, the Elf began to break bandages out of the satchel he carried.  He started applying the gauze before Brother of the Sword thought his answer through.

“I didn’t know you were a mage until you told me.  We didn’t sense the gift in you,” he admitted feeling sheepish.

“I have an idea that you only sense arcane workings when they are being used around you, you only act when those magical crafts are used to bring harm.  Hold this.”  At the end of his little speech, the Elf directed him to hold the end of the bandage that was wrapped around Brother’s skull.

“You have never seen us in action, how would you know this is the way we act?” he challenged the Elf.  Chuckling lightly as he applied adhesive strips of some sort to hold the bandage that was holding the gauze, the Elf took a moment to answer.

“There were wizards working with the fire brigade all around you, thing.  Why didn’t you strike them down with your all consuming hatred of all things magical?”

He caught the Elven man’s eyes as that individual rose, his work done.

“I wanted too.  Brother Sword really wanted me to do away with them, it kept on pointing out their proximity to me.”  Nodding to Brother of the Sword, the Elf parted from him leaving a single query to haunt Brother’s thoughts.

“But you did not.  Why is that?”  Pondering that fact made Brother feel nauseous again because he realized a truth in the Elf’s words.  Sickened at the death of his assumptions, Brother closed his eyes and tried to capture the ether again.  He craved those moments where his mind was silent, and he wanted to heal a bit more to stop the ache in his head.  His brain and skull still throbbed ferociously from the wound.  Almost exuding sympathy Brother Sword informed Brother that the healing meditation would not return until he had slept a deep healing sleep.

The Assembly Arcanuum wizard exited the barracks with his squad hustling to catch up with him.  That man crossed over the cobbles and saluted the woman captain.  Their discussion seemed to take hours with many head shakes, nods, and both of them taking turns pointing in Brother’s direction.  Bored with the show, and still troubled by the ideas the Elf had implanted, Brother of the Sword once again closed his eyes to seek a meditative state.  Instead of seeking healing, Brother reviewed the ecstasy of his night long sexual encounter with Lalia.  She may have ripped him off, but she had left an impression in the way she had coaxed all that extra stamina out of his body.  Realizing that his breathing was starting to quicken at those memories, he hastily opened his eyes.  The captain was walking toward him, with Brother fixed in her gaze.  He would never think of this woman as he did Lalia or the waitress from earlier this day.

Before she stopped to loom over Brother, the captain gestured the two guards over to support her.  Her eyes flinched off of Brother Sword when she did come to a halt.

“Are you planning on staying in Mudberry by the Water?” she asked Brother of the Sword, her face screwed up from a frown.  Her usual look it seemed.

“I plan on leaving tomorrow, unless you’re holding me for some reason.”  His expectant look wrangled a sigh from the woman, making it seemed she were regretting the words she was about to speak.

“Your story pans out.  Even though these gate guard don’t remember anything about it, too many other witnesses affirm that they had been transformed, somehow, into vicious monsters.  They set the buildings on fire and killed close to sixty seven people, as the count now stands.  You were justified to intervene and the nine guards you killed were slain in service to the city and empire.  You are free to go.”  the captain’s sour face began to turn away, then she glanced back down.  “I’m glad your leaving and I hope Mudberry by the Water never has to suffer your presence again.”