"Throw a cub off the cliff, a lion one will see. Kill the boy before his time, a man all shall see."
~Erik, Lord of Berserkers
A Ranger's Tale
Naked body stained by blood not of her own, Leeysa can only flee with nary a direction. Believing at first a heroic Elf arriving to save her, every sliver of hope has sold itself for despair. This is a rabid madman high on drugs, a Demonic maelstrom leaving behind a bloody wake. This is surely some bastard child conceived from heroic tales and fiendish myth, the power displayed in full nothing less than a storm of swords. Gone are her only friends, companions making her inevitable fate somewhat bearable.
“Ye’ll fectha’ fine hella’sum, slut!”
What has she done to deserve all these? He father is a hopeless gambler, her mother in turn a drunk without hope. Tiny shreds of joyful memories matter not, only an eternal nightmare awaits. The image burns deeply in her like a ewe lamb branded, screams and body parts scattered staying in her. The bandits are the ones guilty, not her or others doomed to pleasure drooling men!
The attacker said nothing, his silence betraying something amiss. Why did she choose to run towards him? If she never done that, maybe… just maybe there’ll be a happy ending. She’d leave behind her past for good while finding a worthy husband. Her kids will be forever happy, her husband always cheerful. Who knows, mayhap her parents will one day beg for forgiveness!
“It’s your fault… you murdering dog, worthless mongrel…”
Weeping whilst running, Leeysa curses the monster before her. That monster verily true both in her eyes and heart…
“Save me! Plea…”
Comes the moment, comes the surrender. Damning moments at last devouring her mind for good, Leeysa’s strength caves in.
No strength to run, no strength to think… no strength to…
Her skull suddenly feather light, Leeysa's throbbing head promptly collapses like a fortress made from cards. Her vision brimming with inexplicable giddiness, incoherent thoughts start swimming like voracious sharks. With nothing sustaining the poor lass’ mind, nothing else is felt apart from a single voice heard.
Fret not, for you will survive this night. May the murderer face a wrath rivalling the Holy Quintet scorned…
Taking a sip from his wine, Fergie Malom cast his sharp brown eyes on various mission reports submitted days ago. The Gaffer of Manchester has guarded his post for three decades like a possessive youth, the Empire's decision of appointment benefiting the Red Lions till no end. Exceptional leadership having ensured success true, systematic reforms coupled with an inner fire keeping alive his stubborn streak.
Real arrogance means producing the real goods.
Such is the sole mantra of his life, Fergie has earned a notorious repute before his detractors. A penchant in telling off every critic to shove his own words up the arse is merely one of his more common statements, they say no one crosses Fergie Malom without risking a new hole somewhere below.
Should there be a stain in his glittering career thus far, it would be those slipping away from under his hooked nose. Those are the very same soldiers joining other Divisions, the very same people incurring their own losses. After all, rejecting the glory of Manchester means snubbing that once-in-a-lifetime chance. A particular Fabras Cesc still leaves behind a bitter taste with Arsun Wengas of the Highbury Division stealing a march. Fergie has guessed correctly during the same year a certain Ronal Cristan as a rough gem destined for dizzying heights, yet why stop at one when two are available? Another recruit more recent then comes to mind.
Guy Cody remains an interesting prospect, having trained under one of his former students. As one of the very few worthy of Pallister Scholes’ praise, nothing was said from his ex-protege apart from remarks pertaining to combat and passion.
“The only problem I have with him is a questionable intelligence at times. No, make that most of the time.”
Sadly, Teesside was to be the final nail in Guy’s coffin. Fortune always favours the pragmatic, not those recklessly bold. Guy is a lad valuing personal kinship and honour, only if Demons end up threatening him can a compromise be possibly made. Garyth Parkins has based his own roots there for an entire lifetime, Moggray is truly one lucky sod. Shaking his head slightly in resignation, this loss for Manchester is tantamount to everybody's loss. Fifty five years of staying alive, the veteran has never felt so much like a clown before.
“Then again, Demons are likelier to get a ‘fuck you’ from the lad,” chuckles Fergie.
Frantic knocking cutting off his thoughts, the iron haired Gaffer clears his throat as an unspoken signal. A runner lanky and fair haired wears an ashen face as he stumbles through the oaken door. His reaction surprising Fergie, the Gaffer knows Evans Jonno as another talent unearthed. Nevertheless, the sign is anything but well boding.
"Ronal Cristan rescued an unconscious girl… found her lying at the Headquarters' entrance!" blabbered the lad.
"What the fuck?” snaps Fergie, “Aren't he supposed to be under Pallister Scholes’ command for that mission in Citias? You better tell me some answers I want to hear, boy!"
Ronal, you’re so gonna get screwed…
Swallowing his saliva, Evans starts praying to the Holy Quintet even though he is never the religious type. If Fergie hears word of his pet earning temporary leave via unwarranted means…
“Well, he stated that he got himself a slight stomach cramp…”
“Evans, I know you haven’t got laid before… why not I introduce you a serving wench or two from the nearby tavern?”
“But that’s before the mission!” adds Evans.
You better keep true your word, Ronal…
"Have you ever wondered about what you’re pursuing?"
I stare at the ginger bloke, an eyebrow raising in surprise before that dude I call mentor. I don’t know what Scholes is trying to put across, but guess I should just try going along the flow.
"Of course it's all about the Red Lions! What else?"
Yep, that’s the best answer I can give.
"I'm not talking about a simple life without any purpose. Don't bail out from my question!"
Oh shit, I’m seeing a pissed off Pallister Scholes for the very first time in my life. Or maybe he's just plain annoyed over my half-assed answer. Okay, make that him getting a wee bit piss drunk since we're bumming in the local bar anyway.
"Erm, so what's the real deal then?"
Wow, that’s some amazing stuff coming from me here.
"Very simple. Just tell me your first answer coming into mind."
I cocked my head along the right since it’s not an everyday honour to have Pallister Scholes giving you a mind fuck. Wait, is that counted as a legal mind fuck anyway?.
"To win Alestrial's hand of course!"
In that very moment, a shiver creeps down my spine. That dirty look hailing from him... seems that he’d have gladly shafted my arse with a foot long pole on the spot. I better thank the Holy Quintet once I reach the nearest chapel since me and Scholes do know each other as teacher and student. Wait a holy sec. Did I mess up this sentence somehow?
"Do you understand what a turtle is made of?"
Oh man, not even you as well, Scholes? That’s the kind of answer I always hate much more than death. And to think this is someone who knows me best. Apart from Ales of course. But still in Pallister Scholes I trust. Yeah, he could and would have buggered me for good back in Merseyside if he wanted to. Plus only a retard will try testing his luck against such a black face. So here's going for broke then...
"Too bad, Scholes. I don't think you understand the type of relationship between a guy and a girl."
"Too bad, Guy. I don’t think you know anything."
Damn, why do I even try opening my golden mouth?
Sapphire eyes snapping wide open, Guy Cody only feels his mentor's words fading away like a lingering trail of smoke. The scenery where the cub was preparing to leave its den still a stronghold in his mind, Guy only harbours fond memories of that man himself. Pallister Scholes is a renowned drinker, his threshold for liquor more than able to match a barrel's worth. He on the other hand, can only afford to know what the real deal is made of. After frying his brain briefly, any in-depth thinking is judged pointless. Yet, obsessive stigma stifles his much desired sleep, rhythm singing from the heart whispering events long gone by.
Alright, Guy Cody. Try forgetting the dream. It's just random shit anyway.
Slapping hard his cheeks with both palms several times, the pain is indeed all too real. Alas unknown taunts from the past never bid farewell, the sandy blond lad crashing back onto his bed. Cutting a frustrated figure, Guy Cody can only throw himself into a chasm of emotions. Detecting a state of brain damage on the cards, the tolling of bells signals a brand new morn. Any hope pointing to challenges ahead being the only way out, Guy strengthens his resolve as a lion’s visage suddenly flashes across the mind.
For reasons known only to the Holy Quintet, a sombre feeling starts chafing Guy from inside. Unable to discern the cause behind this ever-present turmoil, the only thing unable to evade him is an ominous feeling akin to a prey cornered by the hunter. People tend to say fortune favours the brave, yet Guy cannot be sure whether the truly brave is himself. If there's anything to go by, something in him suggests that whatever awaiting isn't about some simple fishing trip along the upstream of River Portar. In the Red Lions’ own words, it means fire burning in the backyard.
Upon sighting Moggray Tonn entering the training square, a stance of attention is reinforced by unified thundering from the boots. Reading every face belonging to his charges, rampaging pangs ten times worse than a thousand swords stuck inside corrodes the veteran’s soul. Knowing well the combination of events, any upcoming conflict they may face can easily spell a premature swan song.
Moggray, I got bad news for you and the rest. Especially Guy Cody.
A terrible being of unknown origin annihilating an entire battalion hailed from the famed Manchester Division is no a laughing matter.
We only got one survivor telling the tale and she’s not even one of us.
Can an army of rabbits truly bare their teeth in the face of a wolf untamed? This is the most damning question ever asked from Moggray. Not to Fergie, but to himself. Never has he imagine the day where the Red Lions are likened to the likes of rodents and other little critters, yet this is the only impression coming up to mind. If the elite from Manchester couldn’t deal with such a monster, what manner of a chance would Teesside have? This very county belonging to the Empire’s north east is never known for anything else apart from blood and thunder.
"Alright lads. I'm gonna keep this short," Clearing his throat, Moggray tries forcing out a casual bravado out of himself, "Official word stated by all ten Divisions is this: Every man shall be put under red alert. Know that every Gaffer has reached a bugger-all… well, that's all. Briefing will be done in fifteen minutes time. Take note that assume under any case is only this: Making an ass out of you and me. Okay, squad dismiss!"
"Do you think I phrased my stance correctly?" questions the Northern Lion quietly, a steaming mug of tea being sipped.
"I believe the lads know it. No problem to be brutally frank,” smiles Southgate while lounging on a leather couch, his expression alike that of Moggray, “Fifteen minutes of rest before ten minutes of outright mind fuck… you made your point clearly, there's no reason for them to imagine otherwise."
"May the die be with us then. If I’m to say things straight to the point, it means I mean business,” answers Moggray, his gnashing of teeth acting as proof pointing to a facade erected minutes earlier, “Don’t underestimate foolhardiness. Everybody knows history is full of actual shit."
"Moral of the story: One shot glory does have its own advantages," sighs Southgate, his cynicism all too obvious, "Well, what about Guy Cody then? Your number two here is no clown, Moggray Tonn. Remember who’s that poor bloke watching your back for the past donkey years?"
"Yes, I do remember you," chuckled a scar lined face bereft of mirth, "You're the only lucky sod surviving everything."
"That's because no sod is crazy enough to do so," grumbles the stocky brunette in a mocking tone, "The Northern Lion has always been a batshit crazy looney once he started charging like a madman. You're lucky to have me because you could’ve shared Crazy Park's half crippled fate."
"Oh yes, Parky… that brings us back to Guy Cody," growls Moggray in a guttural tone not unlike an elderly lion, his tea swiftly downed, "We’ve got to break the news to him somehow. The longer we delay, the worse it gets. Only a moron will bank on what-ifs.”
"So we're gonna give him that big red slap?" murmurs a morose Southgate, "Discretion is our only SOP and I'm not interested in burning down the bath-house."
"I can assure you no sane leader would ever boot his own guy off the cliff. Figure you should know it by now," nods a terse Moggray, "We better start burning offerings to the banker, shit’s definitely getting more real with every passing day…"
"But it's likely he will be hatred's bitch," Southgate's hazel brown eyes narrows sharply, his words hollering with clarity, "I…no... We still remember what happened eighteen years ago."
"No choice, suck thumb!" retorts Moggray with a sudden bang on the desk, a finger wagging in front of Southgate, "Different situation, but same logic. Let me repeat myself one last time: We better start burning offerings to the banker."
Crumpling back to his seat, the jaded warrior massages his temples in frustration. Southgate feels suddenly gutted for the Northern Lion. Back in their halcyon years, Moggray Tonn would always cut an imposing figure leading the line. Ironically, the flustered veteran before him actually reminds him of what could possibly be otherwise.
You’ll always be right there taking the fight to others like an awesome squall. Now that I look at you this way, it seems that you’re able to retrieve merely a shadow of your glory days, Moggray.
"We're banking on his anger management? Fingers will somehow be pointed towards me making a gay gamble, so don’t you worry about getting sucked into this shitstorm" assured Moggray with a wry frown, his fiery temperament minutes ago finally cooling down.
"Why not we take a swig later in the evening?" suggests Southgate Garrat, "Wiser Bud's still charging the brew, no?"
“Wiser Bud’s always charging the brew!” chortles Moggray, his mirth again remaining dead.
Briefing already done by then, a plainly furnished locker room is brimming with excited chatter and nervous nods. In an isolated corner, Guy Cody and Catterm Leen start exchanging words.
"Can I label this as the most retarded miracle in human history? Only a dream trip back to the past and you ended up stoned?" huffs redhead offhandedly, his locker filled with soiled smelly clothes rummaging about.
"We're not talking about buff poker, Catts," frowns the sandy blond, contemplation on his dream bubbling up more questions unanswered.
"Don't give me this bullshit with this kind of bullshit face, Guy Cody. Gotta bath now," sighs an apologetic Catterm, a change of unsoiled clothes wrapped separately finally fished out, "Gonna be the sixth cycle tomorrow, but everyone’s gotta stay."
"Maybe I’ll end up asking whether my life being a celestial comedy?"
Before self-deprecating reply verily given, nobody bothers giving Guy Cody a reply, let alone his best friend already off to the baths. Not that words matter much, but inner comfort at the very least might come his way should silence most unsettling be broken. Even if it's merely for a split second.
Dude, this doesn't feel good. Reminds me of the time where that bothersome fart actually grilled me straight just because I pecked Alestrial by accident... wait a holy sec, should it be considered kissing? It's just an accident!
“Don’t worry, Joenne. I’m here.”
Grabbing my friend’s arm tightly, I can only watch in awe and shock as the unruly boy decimates our tormentor. No one knows whence the wild child hails from, neither can we discern the reason behind a smallborne entering a school reserved for nobles and the rich. Sneaking a glance towards Karen, I realised she’s wearing an expression no different from mine. Only Joenne is scared stiff, yet who can blame her?
The three of us have been close since our first year in Form School, yet it is my mother’s death which brings us closer still. Joenne detests her family watching her every move, the less said about Karen’s father the better. The gaze Graniar Tenias sent me a fortnight ago remains a nightmare I can never shake off, perhaps this is why sweet gentle Karen will always have nothing good to say about him.
Then again, no one has yet to discover why that boy managed to evade the security. What I do know, however, is this: the bully has gone too far by ripping off our skirts and calling us unsavoury names.
While I am able to keep calm, Joenne broke into tears. Karen, on the other hand, is still trying to fight back her emotions.
“Kill you! Kill you! Kill you!”
Those are the words screaming out from the boy’s lungs, his voice resembling a lion’s roar. Prior to her death, mother has brought me to the Imperial Park. I remember two animals standing out from the rest, the lion happens to be one of them.
Is this then how a real man should be like? Full of wrath against what is wrong and blessed with an unruly, yet upright soul?
“Ales, stop him! We’ll get implicated if Victis dies!”
I stare blankly into Karen’s pleading look, Joenne shaking her head vehemently.
“No! Let that bastard die!”
Promptly interrupting Karen's rebuke, a crippled man lays a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Your father may be a scoundrel, but you are not. Lady Karen of House Tenias, I give you my word that I’ll stop this child.”
Calling out his son’s name, the kindly man seems to have fulfilled his promise. Then comes the most shocking twist to the fight, his question resembling an animal’s growl.
“How many girls have you fucked?”
His question raises blushes from every girl while the boys can only stay speechless for whatever reason inside their minds.
“Garyth! Tell your boy to shut up before I terminate your service!”
Garyth? Isn’t that the name of our school chef?
“No wonder he looks familiar…” sniffles Joenne, “His meat loaf is the best we’ve ever tasted.”
“None…” sobs Victis Blaem, “Please, no more…”
Without saying a single word, Garyth’s son turns his back on a defeated foe.
Joenne’s warning comes too slow, Karen can only stare in tears and horror over a rock smashed across our boy knight’s head. Yet, he manages to survive a hit which could have killed someone our age. Just how old is he? Only twelve winters like us?
“Hu… huh… HAH!!!!!”
Victis Blaem runs away as fast as possible, all the girls present including Joenne laughing at his plight. The boys, on the other hand, start whispering to each other. ‘Tis one thing believing you are the only god among the rest, quite another to understand a god does not soil himself. As for me, I only keep my eyes on what has made the firstborn of House Blaem flee this way.
Our saviour’s eyes and his smile… nobody noticed his features moments ago, but I know another person bearing the same feel. Guy Cody is merely someone around my age, but his anger indeed reminds me of that True Apostle I met under that blue full moon.