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(RP) Mistas

Jepeth

Journeyman
Governor
TheGloriousTaleOfBayeux.png
It was eighteen years ago and the air was thick with the smell of blood and burning reagents. Mages lined the perimeter walls of Mistas casting spells to block the bombardment of arrows, meteor storm spells, and greater lightning strikes. Even though their main force was still some distance away one could hear the screams and howls of the Juka determined to claim the city from the Meer and their new allies. In the eyes of the Juka the Meer were already beasts to be dominated. But now they aligned themselves with the alghaza from Britannia. For this the Meer had forfeited their lives.

A cadre of knights had left the city just after sunset toward the Juka encampment. The knight’s squires all stood at attention peering out across the large bridge into the city. They waited silently with clean clothes, whetstones, cloth, and a bucket of water in hand prepared to assist their charge as soon as he or she returned.

But all the squires had the same thought. It had been three hours now and the group should have returned. “Where were they?” they wondered. Each squire waited.

Suddenly they saw a great flash in the distance. A knight mounted on horseback galloped full speed towards the gate and only paces behind him lightning struck the ground again and again as if drawn to his armor. In moments the knight had crossed the distance and barreled across the bridge into the city spraying mud as he went. The squires leapt from out his path spilling the water they had dutifully held for the last couple hours onto the ground.

“Fools!” screamed the knight. “Close the barricade!”

The Meer and Britannians who were waiting for the cadre’s return sprung into action pushing the great wooden fencing into position, blocking off the archway into the city. There had been a drawbridge protecting the city garrison but it, like the garrison commander, had fallen three nights ago.

The knight tried to dismount his horse but ended up as a heap on the ground. He had an arrow sticking out of his left shoulder and burns across his back from spells which had barely missed him. His horse was worse and beyond aid.

“I’m here, sire,” said one of the squires who rushed up with the remaining unspilled bucket of water and a ladle. He tried to provide the knight a drink but was the knight rebuffed him and knocked the ladle away from his mouth.

“They are,” he moaned. “They’re!”

“They’re what?” said someone in the crowd of soldiers, squires, and mages that had gathered. “Speak up, man!”

The squire shot the loud-mouth man in the crowd a dirty look as he attempted to unlatch the knight’s plate armor chest piece.

“Clah,” said the knight. “Clah-ockwork!”

The crowd looked at each other in worry. Intelligence from other fronts in Ilshenar had reported the sighting of strange clockwork villains. The Juka had a new ally, or, the Juka had been subjugated. At present no one was really sure. Either way there was a new foe to contend with in the fight for Ilshenar.

“You, squire,” said one of the mages in the group. He was a lieutenant mage judging by the red sash tied around his waist which cinched his robe in the middle.

The squire had been attempting to assist the others in removing the knight’s armor. The knight had stopped talking entirely and drew himself into himself on the ground like a curled up dead insect. The squire stood at attention when he realized he was being addressed.

“Name and city, young squire?” asked the mage officer as he looked out past the scene, through the makeshift barricade.

“Jepeth, Brae.” replied the squire in a thick west Britannian island accent.

“Is he your charge?” asked the mage pointing down at the knight.

“Nae, sire,” he replied.

The mage looked at the defeated knight, then to the barricade, then to the sky above. The hail of projectiles striking the energy which cocooned the city seemed to be getting faster.

“Fetch the sawbones, squire Jepeth of Skara Brae.”

****

Jepeth the squire rushed through the streets of Mistas. He was young, barely past apprentice age, and grateful to stretch his legs a bit after the three hour vigil. There was, of course, the matter of his master not returning from the cadre’s expedition. This was the third knight Jepeth had been squire to in the last sixth months. Revenge and violence swirled through his mind as he thought of what the Juka had done.

He put those dark thoughts aside as he continued to head towards the healer’s quarters. Mistas was something of an enigma both in layout and in origin and he didn’t wish to get lost. The other young squires and soldiers had traded whispers and tales of a secret power hidden within the city. A giant stonecraft scale of Justice was centered in the city itself almost taunting the Meer and Britannian forces with the hope of an advantage in the increasingly bloody war. Neither Meer nor Juka had built the city, and its mysteries had so far eluded everyone.

Fifteen minutes later Jepeth reached the quarters of the remaining garrison healer. He had been bunking in a space in the field hospital but as the unit filled up with the wounded he found other lodging. After explaining the situation to the healer they both rushed to the field hospital together past the rubble of the crumbling city.

Jepeth had thus far been spared any major injury during his service. But like most of his garrison he knew this healer well. Harbottle the healer had (like Jepeth and all the others) been conscripted into the ‘Ilshenar Expeditionary and Defense Force’ fifteen months earlier. They arrived into the newly discovered facet via a new permanent moongate into the green joyful fields in southeast Ilshenar. It was the last bit of happiness any of them had seen since.

What started out as an expedition had become a skirmish. What was a skirmish became a local conflict. What was a local conflict turned into a series of sortees. Everyone fighting in these sortees knew what was really occurring: Britannia had gotten herself into a war. The Juka and the Meer appeared in Ilshenar almost at once already locked into conflict. Jepeth certainly didn’t know who started their fight but as he and Harbottle rushed to the field hospital he wondered if it was to finish once and for all tonight.

Jepeth followed the healer into one of the remaining undamaged buildings which had become the hospital. The remaining cadre knight had been carried into the main room and placed upon a wooden platform. The squires had successfully pulled him out of his own armor as he laid on the bed staring straight up into the ceiling. His personal squire stood at attention, holding his sword in both hands awaiting the moment his master would recover and call for it.

The healer immediately set to work binding his wounds with bandages. As he worked he circled the knight’s bed laying bandages, softly whispering spells, and praying as a healer does. Jepeth distinctly heard the healer whisper “The Eight” to the knight as he worked, a poem near and dear to all those who follow the virtues. The poem has a long history which can’t fully be recounted here, but it had become less literature and more spiritual throughout that history.

Finally the healer stopped working and sighed. The lieutenant mage, knowing better than to try to use magery to assist a master healer, stood up from the chair they had been resting in.

“What of him, Harbottle?” asked the lieutenant mage.

The mage looked around the room. He counted Jepeth and the knight’s squire at attention in the corner, himself, the mage, and another unconscious soldier occupying a bed.

“Perhaps we should speak privately?” said the healer.

“Nay,” said the mage. “I don’t believe we have much time.”

“It’s more than an affliction of the flesh,” said the healer. “This man has an affliction of the mind which is beyond either of our skill to heal.”

“Meaning what?” replied the mage. “He needs a long convalescence?”

The healer shook his head no and placed a hand on the knight’s forehead. The knight continued to stare up at the ceiling, his face white and his eyes unmoving.

“It’s a miracle he even was able to return,” said the healer. “It must have taken all his remaining strength, the poor wretch.”

“I need to know what he saw out there,” said the lieutenant mage. “What happened to the rest of the cadre? They were the last officers besides myself.”

“Get used to disappointment,” said the healer.

The mage’s face darkened slightly. From the corner a voice spoke out.

“He said ‘clockwork' men,” said Jepeth.

The other squire blinked and turned his head slowly to his fellow squire in slight shock of his cheek for speaking out of turn.

The lieutenant mage and the healer both turned to face Jepeth.

“Mind your place, young squire,” said the lieutenant mage frowning.

"But they've killed so many of us, sire! We should cut their damn- ," began Jepeth.

"Quiet!" spit the mage.

“If that is truly what they encountered,” said the healer who turned back to his patient ignoring the squire for the moment, “then we must evacuate the city. We must begin to prepare the wounded for transport!”

“Dupre commanded Mistas garrisoned!” said the lieutenant mage, his voice rising with his chest slightly puffed out.

The healer looked around in bemusement.

“Who are ye commanding?” asked the healer. “There’s a handful of souls left in Mistas. As soon as the Juka realize this they and their clockworks will storm your wooden fence and slaughter us all.”

At that moment both squires felt they’d rather be on the front lines dragging the heaviest lance through the mud trailing close behind the backside of their Lord’s horse than be in the room for this uncomfortable argument.

“It is not my duty to question orders,” said the lieutenant. “Nor yours, Harbottle.”

“The garrison commander is dead,” replied the healer. “I called to his soul for the resurrection spell myself. He’s not coming back. The garrison is going to fall.”

The mage turned and strode away from the table in anger. He wheeled around gesturing at the healer.

“We cannot escape through the front arch,” said the mage. “They hold the two bridges from here to the Honesty moongate.”

“Open your own moongate and evacuate!” said the healer, his voice rising to match. "What, ye can't cast spells anymore?"

“I cannot open a bloody moongate and evacuate the garrison myself!” yelled the mage. “I’ll need to pull the others from defending the city. Without them casting protection spells we will be swarmed in minutes!”

“We are leaving,” answered the healer. “What does it matter?”

“The city will be destroyed!” yelled the lieutenant mage. “The beasts will tear it down brick by brick!”

“We are LEAVING,” yelled the healer. “What does it MATTER?”

“I have orders to HOLD this city!” shouted the mage.

“You’ll hold a city of the dead for an officer who can be found dimensions away all be your lonesome?” asked the healer.

“If that be my orders, yes.” said the mage.

To both squire’s amazement, both men began to smile at one another.

“You stubborn ass,” said the healer.

“You bellowing fool,” replied the mage.

A silent moment passed between them. Their smiles faded.

“Squires,” said the healer turning to address Jepeth and his compatriot. “Get word to all the others. We’re abandoning Mistas.”

The squires looked at each other and then at the lieutenant mage.

“Ye heard the healer,” replied the mage,

Both young men rushed off.

Twelve hours later the garrison escaped Mistas via moongate to the safety of Meer controlled Lakeshire. During the rest of his service Jepeth never saw the lieutenant mage again. He remained behind with a few others to provide cover for their force’s escape, one of many brave actions taken during the war. As expected, Mistas fell and neither side ever fully discovered the city’s ancient secrets.

****

It was eighteen years later and the one-room hospital of Britain was quiet. All the beds had been unoccupied for the entire day and the healer was preparing to close shop for the night and return to his quarters in the nearby inn. He stood, cracking his back as he reached his full height. It was hard for others to tell as he always tended to wear a thick, brown wool robe, but age had begun to bend him like an old tree.

All of a sudden the door sprang open and a crowd practically dragged a man in. He looked fairly young, wearing very damaged armor, and had clearly been in a fight. He had bleeding wounds on his right thigh, a deep gash in two places on his right arm, and probably more than that.

“Oh dear,” said the healer. “Another brawl at the tavern eh?”

The wounded man tried to dislodge himself from the two carrying him.

“Put him the bed,” said the healer. “And hold him still.”

The injured man was placed on the bed while still trying to feebly get back up on his feet.

“Hold him, I said!” cried the healer as he began to remove what remained of the man’s armor and look for other wounds.

“A green knight! He was undead!” groaned the man. “Leave me be, I’m fine!”

The healer chuckled, “too much ale,” he thought. He removed the final broken pieces of mail and his under shirt.

He stared down at the man’s chest and felt along his flank for broken ribs. His patient still tried to squirm out of the grip of those holding him.

“You were a soldier, eh?’ said the healer smiling. “I’ve seen scars like this before.”

The healer looked into his patient’s eyes and stopped. Recognition hit him like a mace. His mouth opened in surprise, and then dropped into a deep frown.
 
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