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Brother of the Sword Chapter 8 - Printable Version

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Brother of the Sword Chapter 8 - frenzied67 - 02-02-2021

1/28/2021


Chapter 8
Challenge
The Road North, 1533 Imperial Calendar


“Why, dearest sibling, why deny us what is our right?” Brother Sword implored. Brother of the Sword waited, watching the conspiracy of four shuffle out of his room. Each of them cast one last look back at him before stepping out of the door. Her green eyes imploring, Star Iris trailed after the others; her last glance back was the hardest for him to bear. The gentle way the door clicked shut was more of a recrimination than slamming it would have been. “Fellest of the fell, for a wizard to reap we really should services sell!” Never had his sword sibling ever been so upset before, inside Brother could feel Brother Sword tugging at his emotions trying to make his blood boil at the prospect of removing another magic practitioner from the world. Deep down he did want to take up the crusade, then he thought of all the soldiers he had killed the last time he dealt with a wizard.

The problem with having a mental and emotional connection with another sentient being was that it could sense his argument just as he was forming one. Brother Sword was broadcasting scorn on Brother’s idea even as he stated it.

“I was made to kill too many people who were innocent just taking out a divinator… a divinator, Brother Sword!”

“Innocent’s you say! Many more Krendiel would kill, even to this day! His waste would mount, the bodies beyond count, would our hand had been stayed. Think, brother fell, and you could tell. An opportunity to hunt and be paid, sheath me not, let not my will be betrayed.” Brother grimaced at the sword’s steely obstinacy, he had never felt Brother Sword worked up so much before. It tugged on their ties of creation trying to increase his blood lust to match it’s own, it’s words sharp reprimands.

Exasperated, Brother of the Sword turned and placed his hands on his hips while glaring at Brother Sword propped up against the chest of drawers.

“They said it themselves, they were greedy and stupid. Instead of calling in the experts, they compiled their stupidity. This is not our fight.” Brother was not prepared to hear Brother Sword use his own voice to fight back with, this tactic affected him like a slap in the face.

“A sword should be used to stop trouble, Sheriff Dade Cartin, that is why I carry mine,” the thinking sword sent, reminding Brother of his first conversation with Mudpie’s law man. “Blame should fall upon their head, brother fell, yet your guilt grow if they become dead. A fate not earned nor deserved though bad acts they disturbed.” Though Brother Sword had stopped shouting in his head, there was a firmness in these last arguments; Brother had the impression the blade had drawn it’s line in the sand, it’s mind made up and firm.

“Choose one, sword. It’s either the Witch Garmev, or this Dragstar dickhead!”

For close to a minute Brother Sword did not share a sensation or send a thought. Brother of the Sword gave a slight smirk and moved to break their connection through the ether.

“Childish you’ve become, yourself you did not master! That which you did not wish, passes. You’re now a monster!” Even as those words scalded Brother of the Sword, he felt a pulse burst from the pommel of Brother Sword. The blade severed their link to the ether.

“What have you done?” he asked Brother Sword, trying to push the thought through the ether. He felt diminished on the inside, exposed and wrong, also unjustly maligned. Yet, Brother Sword had not been completely incorrect. His arguments to stay apart from Mudpie’s problems had stemmed from his guilt over killing all those guards while trying to get to Krendiel. He was also responsible for all the people who had been killed by the fey giant in Galen Falls. Everywhere he went it seemed good people died, and now that Brother Sword had repudiated him Brother knew himself as a monster. The destroyer of innocence.

From far away the wave of some impulse thudded into Brother of the Sword’s psyche. For several moments he thought it might be the returning ripple of whatever energy wave Brother Sword had cast out into the world. Then he felt the difference between the two ripples. Brother Sword’s energy had felt like an angry call to war, this return wave reeked of madness and malice from something that wanted to punish the world for it’s many transgressions. “You son of a bitch!” he growled at the sword. It had sent a challenge to Esper Dragstar, and that provocation had just been answered. If Brother ran now innocent people would definitely die, Brother Sword had not only tied his hands, it had taken Mudpie’s options away as well. “You son of a bitch!” he said again as desperation filled Brother with a sensation like panic. His words were as potent against the sword as the plate he flung at it, no impression at all was made.

Flying down the stairs was not as entertaining as the last time. Brother’s one stumble made him leap the last steps rather than struggle to reestablish his running pattern. From the second story he just skipped treading on several steps to increase the speed of his flight down. Stumbling onto the ground floor, Brother of the Sword careened into a middle age couple slow dancing to the jig the atrocious band was playing. He had to catch both the man and woman so that they were not bounced off the floor by the violence of his inertia. Their protests were wind in the air, Brother was looking left and right to find any of the people who had just quit his room. The four were all seated at the table closest to the bar, engrossed in pointing fingers at each other. He abandoned the couple without answering ‘who the hell he thought he was?’.

Despite all the dancers smacking the floor boards with fun fevered feet, it seemed everyone could hear the patter of Brother of the Swords running steps; Mudpie’s four leading citizens turned on him before he reached their table. Wide eyes met his as he skidded to a halt next to their table.

“How fast can you get everyone out of Mudpie?” Due to his wild actions, the musicians had chosen to stop playing at the exact moment Brother’s question boomed out. Dancers and drinkers alike began to mutter in protest to the weird eyed stranger’s question. The querying look that Cyrus adopted plainly asked if he had been dealing with a mad man this entire time. Dilane Shunt narrowed his orbs in suspicion, while Sheriff Dade merely looked confounded. For her part, Star Iris seemed to catch Brother’s alarm, her eyes grew large in sympathetic distress.

“We could get everyone cleared out in a few days, a week at most. We sent most of the wagons back to our old town for the next group to be resettled. What’s wrong?” the law man asked.

That was not what Brother of the Sword wanted to hear, his grimace seemed to affirm his lack of sanity to Cyrus.

“What in the blue blazes are ye on aboot?” Dilane demanded, clapping a hand over his money pocket. The business man plainly thought they were about to be gamed for money this very moment. Only Star and the sheriff seemed ready to treat Brother on face value.

“Brother Sword just challenged your wizard, and the wizard accepted! He’s coming tonight!” even as those words slipped out, Brother knew he sounded as crazy as Cyrus currently thought him to be. Even Star stopped believing in him that moment her eyes showing disappointment.

“How did you challenge Esper? What are you talking about?” at least Sheriff Dade still thought he was coherent enough to answer questions.

Oh gods! Am I supposed to explain Brother Sword and myself to these people? Could they ever believe me? They were all leaning back to create as much distance as they could from the wild man accosting them, at Brother of the Sword’s back he could hear boots shuffling up behind him as the townsfolk began to form to defend their friends. Taking a deep breath to still his beating heart and firm up his wits, Brother gestured a plea for the four to bear with him as he gathered himself. I have to show them, then tell them, I think. Reaching back behind himself he sought a connection to Brother Sword through the ether, even as he began to speak.

“Sheriff, I didn’t contact Esper Dragstar, my sword did. My blade is truly my brother, and it wanted to help you when I did not.” Though he had half feared that their argument had been so severe that Brother Sword would no longer acknowledge Brother, the blade did complete the circuit and teleported to Brother’s hand.

“Fuck me!” Cyrus and Dilane had evidently known each other so long that they mimicked each other’s response by swearing and tipping their chairs over as they scuttled back.

The men and women ranged behind Brother of the Sword also gasped out four letter exclamations, their boots and shoes made a racket as they surged away. Star froze like a deer in sudden lantern light her eyes huge, shooting up, Sheriff Dade went for a sword he was not wearing. They’ll listen to me now, he thought feeling brutish with his methodology.

“When I turned you down, Brother Sword got mad at me. It felt I should have helped you, and when it got mad it sent the wizard a psychic challenge. The challenge was answered, which means that your enemy is coming.” All four of the conspiracy glanced passed Brother to see how the people of Mudpie were reacting to Brother’s words, the flinching in their features indicating that this was a secret they had wanted to hold on to. Star Iris studied Brother of the Sword as if just meeting him, this time she seemed horrified by what she saw; her distaste spurred on by memories of her seductive attempts with him no doubt.

I’m not a man, this is proof that ‘simulacrum’ is another word for monster! his thoughts flagellated him, Star’s response scourging his emotions. Pushing on passed these thoughts and back onto the task at hand was hard, he had been avoiding this self reflection for too long. “My hands are tied now, I have to fight your fight for you, but it will be harder for me to do that if these people are in the way!” From behind Brother of the Sword, a man called out making the three men and Star flinch.

“Who is this man? What enemy is he talking about?” There were also a lot of comments back there about his sword, or words about Mudpie dealing with an obvious sorcerer. That made Brother start a little, being accused of being a wizard did not sit well for some reason.

Just as Brother of the Sword was about to shout at the group in front of him to break them from their spell of gaping, Sheriff Dade bent over and started righting the two overturned chairs from the sudden exodus Dilane and Cyrus had made from them. Of the three men he had been the only one not to knock his seat over when standing. Star was still in her seat with seemingly distasteful thoughts marring her exquisite features; Brother began to avoid looking at her, she was all but shouting the accusation of monster at him.

“Where would you want to meet him, what ground do you want to fight on?” the lawman asked him, then whispering over his shoulder he addressed the card player. “Cyrus, can you handle the good people’s questions? Things might turn ugly for us if you don’t.” Skirting wide around Brother, Cyrus watched Brother as if he were expecting more madness to manifest such as more magic swords or extra limbs. Star finally stood up and backed away to stand next to Mister Dilane, both of them watching the conversation as if expecting something to blow up.

Before Brother of the Sword could formulate his answer to Sheriff Dade Cartin, the lawman whispered at him. “If Cyrus plays this right you may have volunteers lining up to help you defend this town.” Brother felt his mouth gape wide.

“I don’t want anyone to help me. Once the wizard shows up and kills just me, you would still have a few days to pack up and leave. If these people are seen supporting me, then this Dragstar fuck might forget his time table and start carving you guys up right away.” Sheriff Dade’s expression proclaimed that he found Brothers reasoning laudable. “Is there a place you can gather everyone that will be out of the way? Plus, which way is Esper Dragstar’s lair?” Pointing to the hills to the west, the law enforcement officer showed Brother where Esper lived as he answered the sword man’s other question.

“We could roust everyone out and have them gather here or in the mill. Which would you prefer?”

Mister Dilane suddenly stepped up to rest his hands on the back of the chair he had sat in.

“We should send ‘em to the mill, sheriff. The boat out back ain’t big but we can shuttle people acroos in shifts,” the heavy set man declared pointing east. When their eyes sought him out, Brother gave a nod to their plan. It was a sound idea in what felt like a sea of chaos. Fear started to depart from Star Iris’s gaze as she suddenly became more animated than her statue like stance had been.

“I’ll have my staff start knocking on doors. Dilane, you should have some of your employees start lighting the way to your mill, that road is dangerous in the dark.” Behind Brother of the Sword’s shoulder Cyrus must have had half an ear bent their way. He went from exhorting the twenty or thirty people into being calm to asking them to volunteer to knock on doors or hold lanterns to illuminate the rutted road. “After the evacuation starts rolling along on its own, we should meet back here for a last strategy session.”

Star’s addendum was addressed to her male friends, her eyes avoided Brother of the Sword as if he were an ugly canker on reality. As everyone transformed from indecision to incarnations of certain action, he was left alone with his thoughts. He noticed that people were taking extra precautions to maintain as great a distance from him as they could. Why should they come close, even I know I am a monster. Death follows me everywhere, maybe I should let this Esper Dragstar take me out. The world will be a better place without this simulacrum messing it up. Feeling sorry for himself, brother stepped out of the inn. He walked around the building to the tall grass on the inn’s western side. Baby trees and flowers in several score terracotta pots sat in double rows along the inn’s west facing wall. Someone had been planning a scenic garden to add to the inns reputation and desirability.

Mudpie was in a definite stir, darkened houses had lantern bearing citizens suddenly beating on the doors or calling back and forth to one another asking after misplaced neighbors. Thin though the moon was over Brother of the Sword’s shoulder, it still provided enough light that he could see the mound like hills to the west; but he could not differentiate the hills from the trees growing upon them, they were silhouettes against a starry backdrop.

“Look what you did, Brother Sword, you’ve turned these peoples lives over so that you could have your way. There’s a good chance that most of them will be killed after we are done away with. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to run from this fight, but we should have had the time to learn the terrain and the enemy we fight. You stole that away you asshole piece of steel.” Brother’s recriminations were met with silence from the sword.

For a moment Brother of the Sword thought about casting Brother Sword away into the tall grass or into the river, yet he knew he would summon his sibling the first time trouble raised it’s head. Then Brother fantasized about breaking Brother Sword over a boulder or melting it in a forge. After his second revenge scenario played itself out he began to feel another wave of self loathing come over himself. His feelings were hurt, but that did not give Brother the right to dream of murdering his stubborn brother, no matter how wrong headed the sword was acting.

“Brother? Brother of the Sword, are you back here?” Star’s voice barely carried over the distant shouts of her neighbors moving off to the dubious safety of the saw mill. Her call was the last thing Brother thought he would ever hear.

“Over here,” he responded, turning her way confused.

A black blob moving in the deep shadows of the three story building proved to be Star. Evidently she could see him because she stepped up to Brother of the Sword’s side without asking for directions; the bell of her dress touched his leg as she stared out at the same hills that fascinated him.

“Most of the town has moved into the mill and we have two boat loads of people on the eastern shore… maybe three by now. Cyrus and the sheriff just got back which means that Mister Dilane will soon be here.” He grunted to let her know he had heard her. Instead of moving away immediately, Star chose to stand with him in the dark for a few moments. “Brother of the Sword, did your sword really call out and challenge Esper Dragstar? The wizard is hours away?” Brother knew his reluctance in answering stemmed from his fear of further reprisal.

Having to clear his voice twice almost led Brother of the Sword to try changing the subject, he knew his face was screwed up in dread when he did answer.

“This is the first time it and I have ever fought over something. Normally Brother Sword just makes suggestions or feeds me ideas, and it is content to let me choose our course in things. This time I didn’t want to involve myself in your problem because the last time I fought a wizard close to twenty imperial soldiers and several score civilians paid the price. I don’t think those tolls are worth the fight, Brother Sword thinks differently. It stole our options away to force my hand.” Surprisingly Star did not shift nor move away from him, she was silent for several moments though.

“I’ve never heard of anything this crazy in my life. I for one am glad your sword is making you help us. I would have lost everything if we had been forced to move back to Tarin’s Feather, that is a place where women aren’t allowed to have power or make their own decisions. It’s a place where dreams die faster than the people do, Brother of the Sword, and a lot of people die in Tarin’s Feather. I’m sorry you got dragged into this mess, but I want you to thank… what is it… Brother Sword for me. It’s been a while since I felt hope.”

Satin rustled in the dark, then Brother felt her hand fumble against his shoulder. Following the contours of his shoulder and neck, Stars hand reached behind Brother of the Swords cranium and pulled his head down. Her other hand rose to cradle his cheek as her kiss lingered so sweetly that tears sprang to Brother’s eyes. “You are such a beautiful man, Brother of the Sword. I hope we get to have some time to love each other after this crazy stuff is over, I want that so bad.” She kissed him again, pressing herself against him so that he knew she was arching her back to contour herself against his stoop. Breathing heavily Star broke their intimacy and stepped back. “We’ll be waiting for you inside. Don’t take to long.” Her voice was soft from breathlessness. His tears spilled over as she walked away.

She was good too me? Why? Brother of the Sword wondered as his body relaxed with the relief flooding his being. His answer was ready in his mind. Star Iris would not have come back around, she would not have renewed their intimate tie if she really found him to be monstrous. As Brother’s self doubt melted away he silently rejoiced. Having other people judge him fit was more potent than the way he and Brother Sword had been criminalizing his thoughts and deeds. Still, all the people that had died weighed his conscience like large lead chunks in a small small boat, Brother was starting to realize that he was not the sole author of those tragedies. Vibrations coming up from the soles of his feet alerted Brother first, his tears stopped welling forth as he set his eyes to trying to pierce the night’s veil. He opened his senses to the dark trying to feel or notice anything, his senses recognizing possible trouble.

Those vibrations were like a horses hooves drumming against the earth, but the cadence was too fast and the time between drumming was spaced too far apart. No sound associated itself with what his feet were telling Brother; yet he knew it was trouble hurtling his way. There… was that sound coming from the north west? An inhuman shriek sundered the night, like a panther using a megaphone while it also scratched a chalk board. Raising Brother Sword, Brother of the Sword started to trot in that direction; he fully intended to put himself in between the inn and the wizard. Before he made three steps he saw the chrome flash of a huge feline shape zip through the air as fast as a shot arrow. In over thirty feet, the cat creature’s paws only touched the ground once before it crashed into the side of the inn like a giant’s fist fired from a ballista. Broken lumber crashed through the entire building and out of the south facing windows, hurled by the metallic creations juggernaut momentum.

“Gods no!” The beast was now inside the building and he was still under the night sky. Star and her friends were in there!

Knowing he was closer to the hole the monster had blasted into the northern wall than the door or shattered window, Brother of the Sword sprinted in the direction of the creatures entry hole. The people inside didn’t have that long, they were already screaming at what was confronting them. Brother had to crawl through the hole that was four feet up the wall, the floor of the inn was elevated over the ground outside. Sheriff Dade stood between the beast and his friends, his slender sword in hand. Cyrus was bolting for the main door while Mister Dilane shielded Star Iris with his bulk against the bar; she was was crawling over the barrier tugging upon the mill owner’s sleeve encouraging the mill owner to follow her over the counter. Seeing the creature of Esper Dragstar helped Brother realize what Cyrus had meant when he had described the thing as a beast of metal and bone.

Almost as big as an imperial cavalry horse at the shoulder, Esper’s creation had the skeleton of a great cat who had curved teeth over eighteen inches long. Filling out and resting in the bones were mechanisms of chromed steel, gears, tubes, and wires. Symbols and sigils adorned the metallic surfaces, the writings would glow red or grow quiescent with each of the creatures moves. Before Cyrus reached the swinging half doors the construct pounced, claws of bone, steel, and mystic energy raked the man’s flesh away even as he was pinned to the ground. The card player’s screams were a thin sound attesting to the loss of hope the man felt as his life was ripped away. Sheriff Dade Cartin’s sword shattered when he thrust through the beast’s ribs, there was a grinding noise, then the ‘spang’ of breaking steel. Shards of the rapier chimed while bouncing over the inn’s floor boards. Almost too fast to see, the metal thing lashed out with a single paw.

Flung back as though kicked by a horse, the sheriff landed on a table which broke under his weight. He didn’t even try to roll with the breaking of the table, shards of wood stabbed into Sheriff Dade who was screaming and trying to keep some purple blue ropy thing from spilling out of the gashes in his midriff. Spurred by the knowledge of what he was seeing, Brother of the Sword clumsily climbed to his feet calling a challenge to the artificial creature; this monster of sorcerous artifice. Having gutted men before, Brother knew the law man was in a great amount of fear as well as pain; he could read that in the sheriff’s bugged eyes and tortured screams. Ignoring Brother, the cat monster crouched over Cyrus’s corpse while magic symbols began to glow up the thing’s tail, from it’s hips to the tip of the tail each spinal disk lit up in a racing ripple. Sprinting and screaming, Brother continued to try and distract the construct. He might as well had been in another country as far as the monster cat was concerned.

Stabbing like a scorpion’s tail over the metal filled cat’s skull, the monster’s tail lashed out and spat a stream of beet red lightening. Punched into the racks of hard alcohol bottles, Star Iris’s bones appeared as shadows under her glowing flesh; an arch of red electricity sparked from her hands, one arc knocked Mister Dilane down behind the bar even as glass sprayed from Star’s impact into the racks. She dropped out of sight too fast, too limply. Then the beast spun on Brother of the Sword even as he reached the thing’s flank, red glowing orbs filled the cat skull’s malevolent eye sockets. Claws sheathed in red energy, black bone, and shiny steel flashed at his gut, but when Brother Sword slashed into the cat thing’s shoulder the glow in every sigil cut out momentarily, and it froze in place as if time had been stopped for it. His blade had carved through steel and bone alike to reveal hidden gears and wires, but he heeded his instinct to step away. Red energy flared anew as the beast’s paw flashed through where Brother had stood a half second earlier.

Stepping back and then away again, Brother of the Sword struck it in the side of the head then in the same shoulder he had hit before. Each time Brother sword came in contact with the wizard’s creation the blade would cut through bone and steel alike, and the monster would freeze for a fraction of a heartbeat. With it’s eyebrow cleft and its left shoulder thoroughly mauled the creature was still quicker than Brother who himself was faster than most. His fourth cut missed entirely as the thing of bone and steel bounded backwards onto Sheriff Dade. The lawman had passed out mere moments before, but when the rear paw of chrome and ancient bone stepped into his stomach he came back screaming. Even in his horrified death throes, Sheriff Dade thought to grab the beast’s leg when it tried to lunge at Brother; he left a five foot long smear of blood and guts as he was dragged. Still the construct was held back from pouncing on Brother.

Impeded as it was, Brother of the Sword slid to the side and brought his glowing sibling down right where the feline cranium joined bone and gear spinal parts. It shied away from Brother, snarling and grinding in a weird manner as its head vibrated oddly. Dragging it’s left front paw, the creature’s left eye stuttered on and off while sparks played among the newly exposed wires and gears; the sheriff fell off the magical construct’s rear paw, an inert castoff. Shrieking like an enraged panther the beasts tail suddenly lit up and stabbed Brother’s direction. Brother Sword yanked his arms down so that it was interposed between the lightening bolt and Brother’s body; his sibling had never done that before and it was evident that it cost Brother Sword a lot of energy, it’s glow dimmed considerably. The pale blue energy that flowed up and down the sword ceased as the electric red bolt struck the folded steel of Brother Sword; it vibrated as it sucked the energy down, then flared with renewed blue vigor.

As an actual big cat would have finding itself facing a superior foe, the feline skull glanced this way and that trying to determine the best way around Brother of the Sword. It feinted for the doors where Cyrus’s rent corpse stared into infinity, then it spun about and started to flow up the stairs. Trying to split the old bone hips and their steely gear like supports, Brother ended up burying Brother Sword into the fourth step up. A foot long section of chrome and ivory tail writhed and sparked like a sundered serpent next to the magic blade. Shrieking in pantherish indignation, the wizard’s creation continued streaming up the steps, and Brother chased after intent on not letting his prey get away. When he reached the second story landing he saw the monstrous construct turn about and start running straight down the hall sitting between rooms; at the end of that straight shot was a window, the creatures goal.

“Throw me!” Brother Sword commanded, as excited for the kill as Brother was.

Tumbling once through the air, Brother Sword miraculously hit the speeding juggernaut beast right in front of it’s rear left leg. The hurtling cat had been gathering itself for the leap through the window when Brother Sword’s glowing blade pierced its gear box guts. Just as with Sheriff Dade’s rapier there was a grinding noise. This time the monster burst apart scattering metal and bone parts up and down the inn’s hall. Glass smashed outward as the fore half of the magical monstrosity flew through by inertia alone, it’s back legs and hips skidded into the vase stand Star had as decoration under that window. Brother of the Sword gasped, in the wreckage he could not see his sibling. When Brother of the Sword stepped into the hall he saw the pale blue energy of his sibling under shards of chrome and fossil fragments.

“Are you alright,” he asked the blade as he swept it up.

Flowing wood grain style patterns slowed down and began to flicker as Brother Sword started to go quiescent.

“Brother most fell, I do fare well,” it declared, exuding more than a bit of satisfaction. That emotion dimmed and fell away as sorrow welled from the blade. “As you warned, as you said. My actions rash, innocent lives were shed.” Brother of the Sword only felt a slight moment of victory before he remembered what he would find downstairs, his sibling’s apology making his sense of guilt rear up anew.

“Yet you were not entirely wrong, Brother Sword. If we had walked away more people might have died. That monster cat thing could have killed everyone in Mudpie because they had nothing strong enough to fight back with.” After a momentary lull in their conversation, Brother Sword, who still felt distraught, reached out to Brother in the ether. A mental and spiritual hug that was both an apology and an acceptance of the familial love they shared. Silently Brother knew that the blade would never again go as far as it had this night, and he knew he would never set Brother Sword’s advice aside so easily in the future.

Glancing out the broken window, Brother of the Sword made sure that the cat beast was not trying to crawl away to seek repairs. Chrome parts glittered in the light of the moon and the lantern light filtering out through the hole in the inn. No sigil nor eye glowed with red energy, no limb twitched with the memory of artificial life, the wizards killing machine was shattered and dead. Taking the stairs down, Brother walked slowly; he did not want to have to see the people he had failed to save, even Cyrus whom he had never warmed too. On his side, dead eyes facing the floor, Sheriff Dade Cartin’s trailing intestines vied with the puddles and smears of his blood for which was more gruesome. Cyrus just lay in his own gore staring through the ceiling, his face and chest split with four parallel grooves that had gone to the bone. A man’s sobbing pulled Brother passed those horrible sights.

In the narrow walkway behind the bar, Mister Dilane cradled Star Iris in his lap, tears spilling down to splatter on the dead woman’s hand which he held in both of his. The hole in the satin dress was as blackened and burned as the charred flesh behind the clothing; Stars lovely face held a look of surprise as if she had seen something unexpected at her moment of death.

“She was the best of us, Broother of the Sword, she should hae been spared this,” the mill owner stated between the gulping noises he made while weeping. Brother of the Sword knelt down next to the two, he gently closed Star’s beautiful green eyes. They did not look right without the vitality of life animating them. “did ya stop Esper’s beast?” Brother swallowed hard finding that he had tears left to spill.

“We killed it, Brother Sword and I. We are going after Esper Dragstar next.” Mister Dilane did not say anything to that vow, but he did grab Brother’s free hand and pinned it over Star’s already cooling digits with his warm palm.