Friday, June 27, 2008

Chapter 15d: Wellan Takes a Chance

The night brought with it a cool, damp breeze that blew over the sea from the south, filled with humidity and the salty smell of the sea. A full moon shone on empty streets, clouds occasionally blocking the shining orb. Renier sat quiet and peaceful. The silence uncommon for the large bustling city, the peaceful appearance decieving. Men paced back and forth along the palace walls, anticipating the return of Stiles and the group from the temple, dreading the return of the undead. The eerie quiet adding to their nervousness.

Wellan stood on the wall, looking down the road where the refugees would be returning any moment. A shadow moved within the trees and then another. Soon the forest came to live as swaying figured trampled into the open. The undead. They gathered on the Temple Way Road, just beyond arrow range. Their heads protected by hemets, guards and soldiers, even a few city residents wore battered helmets that appeared to have been keepsakes of someone's grandfather.

"The refugees will never be able to return if those things don't get out of the way." a guard grumbled.

Wellan couldn't disagree. This new move showed organization, thought, a planned of attack.

Further down the wall Duke Renier frantically discussed a rescue strategy with a handful of men. Each looked grim and determined as they nodded their heads and commented on his plans.

The wizard ignored them for the moment, studying the ghouls. Each stood still, gazing down the road, waiting on the refugees. They looked like soldiers formed up for an attack.

A large man stepped out of the woods wearing armor of frayed leather and rusted steel. He marched to the middle of the road and stood before the undead. Wellan gasped, not believing his eyes.

The man reminded him of someone he knew from centuries past, but it couldn't be him.

He closed his eyes and whispered an archaic phrase. When he opened them again the world stood out clearer as night became day to his eyes alone. He focused on the large man. There could be no doubt. General Faygen led the undead.

The ghouls behind Faygen shuffled their feet in excited anticipation. Further down the road dim shapes became clear as they sped toward the ranks of corpses. The refugees. They stopped several yards away from the ghastly line. The general stepped forward as an armored form detached itself from the group of refugees, Stiles. The two exchanged words, but Wellan couldn't hear.

He turned and walked to the Duke as the man mounted the stairs, preparing to go outside the city walls and rescue the refugees.

"Come to help us, Wellan?"

Wellan shook his head. "You can't go out there. It is a trap. He's trying to bait you to leave the safety of the palace walls."

The Duke smiled. "I know it's a trap, and a damned fine one at that because I can't just leave those people to die at the hands of those...things. Knowing it's a trap gives me the ability to avoid it."

"No, my friend. Did you see that large man that came out at the last, the one Stiles was talking to. That is Faygen, General of the Croshans."

Duke Renier gave Wellan a blank stare. The Croshan's hadn't existed as a people for seven hundred years.

"Faygen never lost a battle, even when grossly outnumber he would always find a way to win. If HE prepared the trap there will be no escape."

"How do you know so much about this General Faygen?"

"I'm far older than you think. Keep your men inside the walls. I will go out and speak with the General."

The Duke shook his head. "If the trap is so perilous, leaving no means of escape, why do you think you will get out of it any easier than my men and I would?"

"I know Faygen, we were friends once. He is a good man and I don't think he will harm me. Let me talk to him, find out what's going on, possibly talk him into letting the refugees through, maybe even leaving our city all together."

The Duke thought about it for a moment, hand on his bearded chin, then looked Wellan in the eyes. "I don't like this idea. I don't like it at all, but I trust you to know what you are doing," The Duke's serious expression broke into a mischievous grin. "After all you've been around for what seven, eight hundred years?"

Wellan's grin matched the Dukes as he replied, "If you only knew."

The duke turned to the men in the courtyard, just inside the gates, and roared, "Crack the gates open. Let the Wizard of Renier through." Then he turned to Wellan and in a softer voice said, "I hope you know what your doing."

Wellan smiled, but didn't say anything.

The guards had opened the gate just enough to let the wizard through by the time they reached the courtyard. As Wellan turned to slide through the crack the Duke grasped his forearm. "May the gods watch over you, my friend."

Wellan returned the gesture with a smile then squeezed through the opening.

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