A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 7: War and Rumors of War
“What are you? Why are you doing this?” I yelled.
“I am something you should have let die when you had the chance. I must kill you now. For that, I am sorry.”
“Wait, you don’t know what you are doing. I don’t want to hurt you!”
“I am sorry,” she said with a sorrowful tone.
With that, her chains shot out at me. Almost like one would flinch when something flew at you, I used TK to parry the chains. She began to walk towards me.
“You don’t know what’s just happened!” I said knowing I had true power now.
“And you have no idea what’s going on,” she replied.
Then it hit me, I could feel the power leaving me. I had to do something, and quickly. I focused all the energy I had into TK and attempted to squeeze her into unconsciousness. Now I could really feel the energy leaving me. ‘Come on, black out already’ was all I could think. I hear the sound of bones cracking. I could see it was working. She began to pass out. I tried to look inside her head to find out what she was doing, and I saw something, something I hadn’t expected. At all. It had worked, but before I could react, she brought her chain down my face. All I could see was a red blur. And then I too passed out from the pain.
When I came to, I saw one of the warriors standing over me.
“He has awakened,” he said.
“Where is she?” I moaned.
“You killed it. It disappeared.”
“No, it’s… she’s not dead.” I sat up and asked again, “where is she?”
“She is gone, we thought she disappeared.”
She continued to run. She ran as fast as she could, as if trying to outrun her very past. Then he, it, appeared in front of her. She stopped dead in her tracks.
“You have failed!” it groaned.
“He is more powerful than we thought,” she pleaded.
“I DO NOT WANT EXCUSES!” he screamed at her.
“Why is he so important?” she demanded.
“He’s not! And I don’t like your tone!”
“I will not fail again,” she pleaded.
His eyes began to glow a dark red.
“You have feelings for him!”
“No, I just think we could use him. His power could be....”
“His power must be destroyed! Forget it, I will send another. One more capable and not hindered by emotions. Fail me one more time, and you will never feel again!”
He disappeared. She began to run fast, the tears flowing from her. She couldn’t stop running.
“Then she is alive, and she will be back.”
I then put my hand to my left eye. I immediately knew it was bad. I could feel the meat and muscle pushing out from the wound. I couldn’t see anything out of it. I was blind in my right eye. That wench took my eye! Nothing is ever free. It was numb for the time, but I knew I was soon feel the wounds fury. I quickly got the healing herbs from my pocket and began to dress the wound. After I had applied the herbs and wrapped my head in a sterile cloth, I exited the tent to see what damage was done. As I walked out, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. Bodies everywhere. The vampires had nearly taken out the whole tribe. There were about fourteen survivors. The one left began to walk toward me, the leader in the arms of one. He approached me and set the body down before me.
“Now you must tell us what to do chosen one. We have nothing left. You must help us now.” For the gods’ sake, their people were just wiped out and they think I can help them somehow. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.
“We need to get this cleaned up. They are gone for now, but they will return to finish us off. First, we need to bury the dead. We also need a main tent now. We need to reinforce that tent and move all the supplies to it. After that is finished, we will need to prepare. They will not return for at least a day. They will want us to suffer. Until that time, I must go to the forest to take care of some things. I will return tomorrow at first light. Until then, hold together. This I command.”
They began to do that which I said. I looked at those who were left.
The warrior, my trainer, and his son. The blacksmith, a music maker, four men and women, and two slaves. Including me, that was fourteen people. Of those fourteen, three were skilled in combat. Three including me. What were we going to do? So I headed back for the circle, something almost called me to it. After about an hour I reached it. I then went to the center. I got the same feeling. As if I were being watched. I fell to my knees, and began to weep. I had been strong long enough. I no longer had to lead anyone. Now it was time for me to let it all out. I ended up crying myself to sleep.
Finally she had come to where she had hoped. A bald spot deep in the forest. She entered the spot and cried out for help.
“Elders of the forest, hear my cries. I need help. I don’t know where else to go. I am torn between worlds. Please, help me!”
And with that, she too fell to her knees and began to weep. Then ended up crying herself to sleep.
I began to dream. I was in a dark place. Then I heard the voice. The ever so familiar voice of him.
“I cannot stay long chosen one. I must tell you this, ‘everything that happens is meant to happen.’ And you are not what you think you are, and nothing short of death will show you that. But you must also want it. Now go, your destiny awaits.”
“Why do you weep so, young one?”
“Huh,” I mumbled as I began to wake up. “Who’s there?”
“A friend, now why do you weep?”
As I lifted my head to see who was speaking, my “eye” was met by those of a raven, staring directly at me. To anyone else, this might seem odd.
“I weep because I am seventeen and supposed to be a leader, wizard, and savior of a people nearly extinct. And I’m afraid I’m going to fail at all those things.”
“I see. Well, fear not, for I am here now. We have work to do.”
The army is firmly entrenched in Talladale and every able-bodied person is drafted into service. I became an officer immediately at Colonel Wynne’s insistence. I take to it well enough and I am rapidly field promoted up the chain of command. My fighting and leadership skills make me ideal officer material. The Colonel tells me that I will out-rank him one day. That will put me in charge and I don’t want that. Being a Major and independent scout suits me just fine.
It’s the day beginning my third month in this realm, I return to Dragon’s Peak to check on the re-planted Dragon’s Claws. I intend to spend the evening there under a full moon and clear sky. Moonscrye thought it strange, but saw no reason why I shouldn’t. As before, I feel welcome within the ring of stones. However, I wasn’t alone. I find someone standing in the ring of stones, paying homage to the spirits of the grove. She is a lovely auburn haired woman with large brown eyes, wearing black leathers. She looks very familiar to me, or is it only from a dream?
She isn’t startled to see me. On the contrary, she behaves as though she expected me. I suppose I should be suspicious of her intentions. I assumed that she had the same intentions I have; spending the night in the grove. We immediately get on well together, maybe it’s the atmosphere of the grove. Whatever the reason, we become friends and more. Her name is Cassandra Dragna.
My time with Cassandra in the grove will be something I’ll remember fondly. We spend most of the night talking and watching the evening sky. She describes the various constellations in the sky of this realm and explains the mythos. She talks as though her mind contains the knowledge of the ages, yet she looks like a mere child of twenty.
She tells me that she is a mage, a rarity in this realm and female mages are almost unheard of. Apparently, no one bothered to tell Cassandra that. She is on her way to Talladale to offer assistance in the upcoming war, stopping in Dragon’s Peak to meditate and collect magic. It’s just a coincidence that it happens to be the night I decide to visit here. I don’t know why I decided to come here on this particular night, other than the weather conditions are perfect for camping out under the open sky; which is something I truly enjoy.
I don’t believe in fate and I’m sure that probabilities can be altered to affect events. Perhaps magic is involved. I will be the first to admit that I know very little about this realm and remember very little of my own. If I had the ability, I would certainly use it to change or affect events; I think I may have.
My paranoid subconscious tells me that I am somehow being manipulated to be here, but that seems unlikely. I know of no reason that anyone would do such a thing. Was there something sinister about getting us together? Doubtful and uncertain.
Cassandra explains one of the reasons that the grove is important to her. Magical pathways are in the grove, she calls them ley lines. In the center of the grove is a ley line nexus point, an intersection of two lines - like compass lines. Magical energies can be tapped freely here. She teaches me how to see them and how to tap into them. She sees something within me and feels that I have the capacity to learn magic. She teaches me a few spells. She is right, I find it easy to learn magic. Maybe I had some magic talent in my old life.
We stay in Dragon’s Peak for another day and evening. She teaches me minor spells that are variations on my ability to examine the horses. I can now sense magic, see wards, see auras, see ley lines, and tap into them.
The second morning arrives, and she accompanies me to Talladale. My wagon in the caravan is large enough for a guest. So, she accepts my hospitality and remains in my company. I hope it will be for a long time.
We now work together and independently to prepare for the war. I assist the cavalry and practice combat techniques with the men. She sets up magical spells and wards to protect the outer boundaries of Talladale. Cassandra and I usually spend our evenings together. She teaches me more magic, and I learn as much as I can, enjoying her company. But occasionally, she returns to the grove alone. She teleports to it, to save travel time. Nice trick, that. I remember something I was once told. “The trick to teleporting, is knowing how not to teleport.” It sounds like the words of a madman, even now.
She needs the solitude to meditate upon her magic, away from the distractions of Talladale. She is free to do whatever she needs to do as am I. I find other activities to keep busy on those nights. Talladale has no end of nightlife and I take advantage of it.
One evening, Cassandra leaves for Dragon’s Peak. I decide to use my new abilities to check my possessions. I am not surprised to see that my umbrella is magical, at least the blade itself is; it’s deceptively hard and sharp. My bowler is also magical in nature. It too is deceptively hard, but I can’t decipher other magical properties in it. So I stop my scanning.
I decide to go to the Fox and Hound Tavern and I forgot my hat. I stop at the door and touch my forehead, tapping the nonexistent hat into place. I notice it wasn’t on my head and I hear a rattling. I turn to see something quite unusual. The hat wobbles, rolls on the brim, and rolls along the desk. It falls off the desk, rolls on the floor, assumes a heel position at my left like a patient dog, and spins there. I step back a pace and it follows, again at heel. I pick it up.
I nearly fall over laughing. Through my sense magic spell, I determine that it’s not intelligent.
It’s just programmed to return to me when I tap my forehead. It occurs to me that it will make an excellent throwing weapon that should always return to me. As I learn more about my past, I find that I must have had a bizarre sense of humor. It figures.
It has been over a year since my arrival in this realm. I spend my time training with the cavalry and learning magic on Dragon’s Peak. As time passed, I was able to learn more powerful spells. It takes a great deal of time and effort to commute from Talladale to Dragon’s Peak, so I spend a few days in each place. There has to be a better way. Sometimes, Cassandra teleports me back and forth. It drains more of her energy than most other spells, so she does it sparingly.
This is one of those periods that I am training with the cavalry. It’s morning and I just finished breakfast. Cassandra is probably still on Dragon’s Peak. I hear a knock at the door. “Come in.”
I recognize the lad who enters and gives me a salute, which I return. It’s one of Captain Willow’s men, Private Todd Pember. “Major Wylde, sir. Sorry for the intrusion. Colonel Wynne requests your presence at a meeting in one hour at the Guardhouse.”
“Thank you, Pember. I will be there. Care for some coffee?”
“No thank you, sir. I still have more officers to alert. Good day sir.” He steps back, salutes, and departs.
“Good day, Pember.” I finish my breakfast and have another cup of coffee. Meetings have been a regular occurrence since the cavalry arrived, but little information has been given to us regarding the enemy. This is the first meeting that I have been summoned to by a runner.
I reach the Guardhouse and it appears that all the officers are in attendance; no enlisted or civilians are present. We gather around in the meeting hall and take our seats. Everyone is carrying on conversations among themselves asking about the purpose of the meeting. No one seems to know why we were summoned.
Colonel Wynne calls us to silence and a beginning of the meeting. “Gentlemen. Your attention, please.” Silence in the hall. “I am aware of the growing rumors about the upcoming war. I know that everyone wants to know as much as possible, in order to prepare mentally and physically for it. There has been a news blackout until we learned as much as possible about the enemy.” He pulls a report from his pocket and shows us a battle map.
“We have received reports from the advance scouts. Few have survived the onslaught. Those that escaped, got word out to us. It’s not good. Talladale is in the direct path of the army and it’s heading for the city of Dumayn. We have learned that the invading army is from the city of Skeldwick, led by a fire warlock called Kilner and his elite guard. Kilner is using magic to lay waste to everything in his path. The reason for his attack is unknown, but Talladale is definitely in his path”
Many officers get up and a shouting match occurs. Many are outraged and want to attack now. Others are shocked by disbelief that such an enemy has inflicted so much damage. The meeting becomes a call to fight now, before they get any further. To advance before it hits Talladale.
I ask Colonel Wynne. “Sir, what actions have been taken by our forces so far? Are there any weaknesses the enemy has that we can take advantage of?”
“Major Wylde, we have used conventional warfare and spies to infiltrate his army, but to no avail. Little information has been gathered. We have found no weaknesses yet. We may be dependent upon Lady Cassandra for aid, since she is the only known spell caster. The gypsies are needed to help take care of casualties.”
I leave out the fact that I am learning spells - for now. Maybe I can be a wild card in this battle. “Sir, I suggest that we evacuate the population of Talladale to Dumayn, except the army and those who were drafted. Going after them is commendable, but would be riskier than waiting for them here. We should do what damage we can to them before they reach Dumayn. We may be able to weaken them sufficiently so that Dumayn can finish them off.”
“Major, much of what you say makes good sense. However, I plan to finish them off here and we will not evacuate Talladale. If I thought that the evacuees had a chance of survival, I would agree wholeheartedly. If civilians want to leave, I won’t stop them. But we can’t afford to let the enemy get by us and we need every able-bodied person to help. I want some ideas on how we can do this. The enemy should reach us within a month, moving slowly but unerringly. Now, we will stay here all day and every day until I have some plans that we can put into place. Gentlemen, we will win this war or die here.”
A stunned silence. I know he is right, but it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. We begin the first of our Council of War meetings. Many will follow, as preparations are made.
At the end of the day, everyone is talked out and ready to go home. I reach my wagon and find Cassandra there, with a glass in her hand.
“You could say that. How was yours?”
“Profitable. I will be ready to assist with preparations tomorrow. I hear you will need a lot of help.” She smiles like she found out a big secret.
“It looks that way. You know what we face.” Not a question.
“Of course. A fire warlock, he will have access to great power and to fire elementals.”
I don’t know what that means yet, it doesn’t sound good. “Ideas?”
“Bloody...” She is teasing me and I am tired. I would rather ride all day than sit in those blasted meetings all day.
“Very well, I can tell you are tired. Tomorrow, if you are not too tired, I will start instructing you in spells that will be helpful against them.”
That got my attention. “That’s great!” I feel a surge of adrenaline, anxious to do something other than talk and listen.
“No Wylde, tomorrow! You need to be well rested and the spells require complete concentration. Anything less is dangerous.”
My disappointment shows. “I see. Any hints?”
“No, I like to have some surprises.” She laughs.
I grin. “As you wish. Is there some wine still in that bottle?”
“Of course, help yourself.”
I do. The wine tastes wonderful.
“Wylde, I want to try something to stir your memories.”
I take another drink and let the wine roll on my tongue. “What do you have in mind?”
“While you sleep, there is a period of time when you dream. I want to try a simple spell to waken you and stimulate your awareness and memory. I don’t know if it will work, but I hope you will recall a part of your dreams at that instant. The result, if it works, will be random at best. Are you willing to try it?”
I think about the possibilities of remembering the details of my dreams. I am willing to try nearly anything. “I would be willing to try it every night, if it would help recall something.”
“Excellent. We will try it tonight. Drink the rest of your wine and get ready for bed.”
I finish my glass and smile. “That’s the best offer I’ve had all day.” I head for the bedroom and get ready for bed.
Soon, she enters the room seductively and smiles. She walks around the bed, leans over, touches my forehead with her fingertip, and says. “Good night.”
Blast it! I detect a cast spell. Darkness...