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Story #5: Founded In Battle

Founded In Battle is about how four people came together as a group. It is four parts total; each part will be told through another characters point of view. The story is based as three of the four arrive in a town that has been preparing for a battle. Keilly Leigh, daughter of the High Lord of the region takes charge and does what she can to help the townspeople.

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Part One, February 3, 2010

The trio rode their horses into the small town just as the sun was coming up over the mountains in the east, the long shadow starting to fade away into day. Smoke hung in the air carried by the south-westerly winds, remnants of villages in the distance burned in the night. There was a battle brewing in the town of Sandall, but the people didn't fully understand it, they couldn't.

Garin Talbus grew more confident of the information that led them here as they were waved through the thick wooden gates. The town was more defended than he had hoped in some ways, but it was weaker in just as many others. The tall wooden walls had guard towers strategically placed on all four sides. Garin was eager to meet the man who was in charge here, he obviously had some experience defending. Garin had a number of suggestions to offer.

As they rode, he picked up what information he could. People always gave cues of the feelings inside a town. Each one looked up, eager to get a look at strangers, but they averted their eyes before his companions even got a little close. Garin guessed it meant the raids had begun. Outsiders were no longer as welcome as they once were. That gave them less time than he'd hoped.

It meant something else too, though. These people weren't going to run. The ones who would have had probably done so days ago. Whatever their fate, these men and women were ready to meet it. Garin was impressed by that. It was more than he could say, were he in their shoes. Then again, here he was. His eyes darted to Keilly Leigh, her white mare taking the lead.

Her father was the reason he was here at all. Well, that wasn't fair, her father was the reason Garin was still alive after all. She road with her back straight and head held high since they had entered site of the town, every inch of her showed that she was of a noble family. The image was somewhat lessened by her attire though. Few noble women dressed in pants and a coat, and even fewer wore a sword at their waist. Only an expert would be able to tell that sword was one of a kind.

Garin still remembered the first time he met Keilly, when she was put into his care. Garin couldn't very well go against the order, not after her father had brought him back from certain death. Long ago he argued that it was her father who had put his neck in that noose in the first place, but Garin's opinion on that had changed over the years. Spying was a dangerous game, after all. Nobody had made him get into it. On top of that, her Lord father had managed to bail him out when he got caught, something he didn't have to do. Something most men in his position would never do.

So he followed young Keilly on her adventures, as mad as they seemed at times. By all accounts there were hundreds of orcs in the hills and mountains around them, if not thousands; either way they were too close for comfort. If that wasn't enough, rumors said the dead were now rising up against these people as well. It was no wonder they were afraid to look strangers in the eyes.

Ahead of them, he noticed a boy talking excitedly to a couple. When the boy finished he began running toward them next. Garin noticed the couple had begun moving toward the middle of town at a rather brisk pace.

"Ho! You there, tell me your news boy!" Garin called out when the boy approached. Nobody in his party was surprised; they were used to letting him do most of the talking. "High Lady Keilly has come to help with the problems you've been having." He added, to the boy's suspicious glare.

As expected, the boy perked up to the mention of a high lady, certainly he'd never seen one before. On cue, Keilly bowed politely and smiled. That was it, but the boy went through an immediate transformation away from the scared child. Children were usually the easiest to gain the trust of.

"Well," the boy began, proud to be the one who got to help a high lady no doubt, "I don't know that we'll need it after all! They caught a witch today, say she's the very one causing all these problems! They overwhelmed her too! So fast she didn't even have time to attack they said!"

Garin glanced at Keilly doubtfully and she gave the slightest hint of a nod. "My, my my, now that is good news indeed! Have a silver mark for your troubles." The boy watched in amazement as Garin rolled it down the back of his fingers and flicked it toward him. As they rode away, Garin watched in amusement at the boy trying to mimic what he had done. With any luck it would be some time before he remembered the message he'd been sent to spread. Long enough to correct the situation at least.

Whoever these people had caught, it wasn't who they thought. It was highly unlikely that person would get so close so soon, and impossible that they would be caught off-guard and without a fight. That made her another traveler, but was that any better?

It wasn't hard to find where they'd taken th woman they managed so easily to ensnare. The massed group of people shouting at the entrance to the town hall made it pretty clear. Keilly led the three of them closer and the crowd fell to silence as they took notice.

Beside him, Owyn loosened the bow slung over his shoulder, he didn't seem aware that he'd done so. Garin had yet to figure out exactly why a man with the reputation of Owyn Dest was traveling with them at all. Perhaps his obvious interest in Keilly wasn't an act, but it Garin had his doubts. Nothing was ever so simple as that. Still, the man wasn't one to follow and take orders. Yet he'd done both for some time now.

Garin and Owyn dismounted at Keilly's lead. Without a word the three tied up their mounts. Garin watched the crowd as they walked, taking notice of each one's reactions. They were curious of them, but most were not scared. They didn't appear angry either, which was good.

With an air of authority, Keilly walked straight to the front entrance of the town hall. It was an impressive building for a town this size. Three stories tall, it was made of stone cut from the mountains to the east. A gravel path stretched out in a square around the building. There were four old, giant oak trees visible in various locations across the grass-covered town square.

People stepped out of their way as they approached the wide double doors atop half a dozen steps. A big-armed man with a wide club was standing in front of the entrance. "Private meeting, you'll have to come back later." He announced simply, in a no-nonsense tone.

"I am Keilly Leigh, Firstborn of House Leigh, Champions of the East. I will enter now, if you please." Shocked and excited whispers spread through the gathered crowd. The guard fell into a deep bow.

"My Lady, I apologize. Please, forgive my rudeness, I was merely instructed to keep everyone out. Please, forgive me." The man said in a rush. Obviously afraid he'd offended her.

"There is nothing to forgive, guardsman." Keilly said, smiling softly. "Your commitment to your duty is commendable." She added words of thanks as he moved to open the door for them to enter.

Part Two, February 9, 2010

Owyn appreciated the town hall they entered. It felt very much like a comfortable home. The polished wooden floor of the entryway had a full-sized rug covering most of the fine work. The rug itself was of equally fine make; the red was a dark shade and there was an enlarged pattern of golden scales. A symbol that matched the banners atop the towers.

"Pete, I told you, there are to be absolutely no vi-!" Said a balding man as he stalked in through a door to their left. Owyn sized him up out of habit. The man had sleeves rolled up and ink smudged the fingers of his left hand. His clothes were decent enough, but certainly not well tailored, even for a town this size. Certainly not the mayor, then, perhaps an assistant of his.

The newcomer eyed them, quite obviously settling on Owyn as the one in charge. It amused him, but he couldn't say why. Men everywhere often came to the same conclusion in years past. Even he wondered why he'd followed Keilly for some time now, instead of taking the lead. The girl would have moderate power all across the realm in a few years though. Should anyone be worthy of the things he could teach, she surely topped the list.

It was more than that, though, he had to admit. She'd made life fun again. How many more battles could he really be the hero of? Perhaps the one coming would be his last; the next always could be. After so many years of military experience, sometimes he felt death had a score to settle with him. Then she had walked so casually walked into a battle with little chance of survival, and had quite easily usurped his command. Nobody had ever done that before. How was he not supposed to be intrigued at the challenge? He fought down a grin when he noticed everyone was staring at him.

Owyn looked to Keilly. "Well, Sir Owyn, the gentleman asked you a question." There was a challenge in her amused gaze. It seemed to declare she knew what he'd been thinking. And what was the "Sir" business? Did she even have that authority?

"Y-, You are Owyn Dest, Hero of the Southlands are you not? Forgive if you are not, we are not so far east not to hear tales of your deeds. Where are my manners, look at me saying we are not so backward?" The man gave a deep laugh that matched his wide girth. "The name's Thomas, Thomas Brask." The man said.

Owyn glanced at Keilly again, had she known he'd be recognized? What game was she playing? "You do me honor, Master Brask. We understand you have a prisoner being held here. We would speak with her, if you please."

"Of course, Master Dest. If you will all follow me. We would very much appreciate your expertise on this matter, ah, did she say it was Sir Dest? My congratulations." Owyn nodded with a sigh. Out of the corner of his eye he caught Keilly laughing quietly to herself. Laughing! She truly was enjoying this.

The assistant looked oddly at Owyn, and he realized the man was waiting for Owyn to walk alongside him. He'd gotten a little too used to following Keilly around. Well, he'd show her, if she wanted him to take the lead then he would. And show her how it was really done.

Thomas opened the door, holding it for everyone as they walked through. Then he moved quickly to the front with Owyn again. Owyn took the chance to talk idly of the town's defenses and war preparations. This man actually believed the troubles were over and protested Owyn's questions. Madness, to be sure, but he'd rather argue that with the mayor.

Owyn nearly laughed aloud himself when Thomas led them into their makeshift interrogation room. The windowless room was dark from a lack of lanterns. It was simple, no decorations, no fancy furniture. Just a table off to one wall and a sturdy chair in the center of the room. It was just like the interrogation rooms he read about in fanciful stories.

The woman tied to the chair actually did have a dangerous look about her, to the townspeoples credit. It wasn't enough to convince him that she was behind the attacks though. Then he noticed the mayor and forgot all about the woman in the chair.

Brell Patristt, that was his name. He'd been the commander of a sizeable army far to the south. Together they'd ran a string of victories against an invading army of giants and their allies from the mountains. What was he doing here of all places, and as the mayor?

"Owyn, it's good to see you again, my friend. If ever there was a time for it, I'm glad it was this. Have you found yourself a wife at long last, Owyn?" Brell laughed and moved to the side to get a better look at the woman behind Owyn, and then immediately fell to one knee. "My Lady, forgive the jest, I am overwhelmed that you have come to our aid."

Well, that was unexpected. Except, Keilly wasn't surprised in the least. Owyn glaced back to the door to see Garin wasn't surprised either. Perhaps he'd underestimated his traveling companions just a little. What was her game?

"Nothing to forgive, of course." Keilly said with a curtsey. "I am pleased to hear you talk of danger. I see not everyone in this town is convinced the threat has been stamped out today." Thomas the guide looked down at that, but Keilly was focusing on the woman in the chair. "What is your name, Daclivesh?" Owyn had never heard the word before and it didn't seem Brell had either, but the woman in the chair certainly recognized it.

"How do you know this name," The woman said, almost accusingly, her accent marked her as a woman of the mountains. "My Lady," she added coolly.

"Brell, I would speak with this magi alone, if you would please." Keilly said, and then approached Owyn with a hopeful expression. Owyn just hoped he'd figured her out enough to guess her intentions.

"High Lady Leigh," Owyn began, he offered that mostly for the woman in the chair. Raised eyebrows were enough of a reward. "If it would please you, I will join Mayor Patristt to speak of strategy and war. I face my enemies with a bow in hand, not by words."

Keilly smiled at him in approval, in approval! And yet, he couldn't deny that part of him was happy to have it all the same. So he smiled back and left with a low bow. Nobody objected to Garin standing in the corner as the last man left the room. In all likelihood, none of them had even remembered Garin was there. A useful trick, that.

"You planned this from the beginning, didn't you?" He whispered to her. "You had me lead the way because of my history with the mayor, you wanted me in charge of the military here." He paused and laughed softly. "You did, didn't you, you'd planned all of this?"

"Of course, my good Sir Owyn, and yes, I do indeed have that power. The ceremony is more a show for the people, yes?" Keilly smiled at him and then raised her hand to stroke his cheek. Owyn's face must have been crimson before he even recovered from the surprise. "You are a remarkable man, Owyn." She laughed and turned away to face the prisoner again. He laughed too, if a bit more unsure. She seemed to really enjoy leaving him wondering at her final words.

Part Three, February 16, 2010

"Jerich Pince being the mastermind behind these events changes things greatly." High Lady Keilly Leigh spoke with authority. She stood before the half dozen townspeople Mayor Patristt had chosen to lead today's battle. "The plan is solid, and I am not proposing we change it. Brell, your men are ready, I have complete confidence in them. You won't need us so much as you may think."

"Thank you High Lady." Brell nodded his head respectfully. "We are indeed humbled by your confidence, but again I must protest not leaving the magi to us, how do you know you can trust this woman? She will ruin whatever you are planning if you take her along." Brell didn't care to lower his voice at the mention of his prisoner of war, as if she could be called that. He made no illusion of how little he trusted her, or that Keilly was the only reason she was still alive for that matter. It was time they learned who the woman really was.

"Morine Callesh was the one who sought you, Mayor Patrisst. She is not your enemy." The men in the room began to whisper their disagreements. Keilly had grown tired of the subject. "I have every confidence that your men could have overpowered her, Mayor, but this is the Parevaar of the mountain region, gentlemen, emissary of the Magi council. Her ability is not to be underestimated. Morine was under the impression that you would treat her with the respect due to her position. That is why she did not resist you."

Brell colored visibly and looked down to avoid her eyes, realizing he'd never even asked about who she was. The rest of the men looked to still be puzzling out what she said. It was a bit more information than she'd originally intended to give them, but it wouldn't hurt for the rest to get out as rumor, it might help tie Morine more solidly to them. Keilly didn't fully trust the woman, but if everything went as planned, Morine wouldn't be a risk even if she did turn on them.

"Now that that is settled. Yes, I do trust her. I know you are worried about us not being there to defend your walls, but understand the enemy we hunt is the key to everything." Keilly watched the magi as she said the words. She saw as Morine understood what it was she intended. The approving nod that followed was barely there, but Keilly saw it. When the woman turned to meet her eyes, Keilly nodded too.

"You are correct, of course." The mayor said softly, his voice was still moderated by embarrassment. Owyn had suggested taking the mayor with them to find Jerich. The man would be useful, true, but he was a leader, not an adventurer. A man like Brell needed an army under his command to be happy. Owyn didn't see people like this; they were skilled and therefore useful, or they were not.

Everyone paused as the bell tower began to chime. The men seated around the room shifted uncomfortably and glanced about. They all knew what the bell meant.

Mayor Brell stood to speak. "Men, the time has come for us to act. The High Lady needs time for her plan to work, she needs a distraction, and she needs it from us!" The men rose to their feet with shouts of approval. Even Morine gave a little cheer, then looked around embarrassed for doing so. Keilly hid her smile.

Owyn laughed softly and approached as the men were filing out of the room. She hadn't figured out just what to think of the man. Was he what she would become after ten years in the heart of battles? It was a challenge to match wits in his games, but that's what she had been taught to do for most of her life. Even as a little girl she was forced into deep political conversations with the most powerful houses. She'd never met anyone like Owyn though.

"You certainly have a way with them." Owyn teased, before the other two approaching could hear. He still hadn't figured out that Keilly didn't like him thinking of her that way. She did her duty, that was all.

Keilly looked at the three of them standing together, a little ways apart from her. Always standing just far enough away, waiting for her to lead. Morine broke the silence.

"You mean to use me as bait for him?" The magi said.

"For better or worse, Morine, you have tied your fate to ours for this battle. Would you rather stay here and fight among those that can't see past your appearance?" Keilly's words sent the woman's eyes to the floor. "You know that your place is among us for this fight. I won't lie and say it is not dangerous, but together we will survive this, we will do what we can to protect you." The woman looked at each of them then slowly nodded. She even smiled slightly. Owyn was wrong about her though, she didn't manipulate people; she asked the best of people, but she let them choose.

"Alright, let us go save the day then, yes?" Morine said with a bemused smile.

"Oh that's good, we haven't done 'save the day' in awhile." Owyn said sarcastically. "I like this one, Keilly, I can already tell." He added while walking toward the doors. The problem with clever men was that it was hard to tell when they were kidding. Morine was a very pretty woman, and closer to his age. No, that was just a joke.

She led them outside as the sun was peaking over the mountains. All across the green, men and women stood at attention with straight backs and heads held high. Each was armed with a great variety of weapons; some simpler than others, such as the sturdy chair leg being held like a club. For all intents and purposes, it would do, assuming the man holding it knew how to swing it.

Keilly would bet that he did. Her father had sent Brell here to raise an unassuming army. Every man and woman here had trained for this day for many months. Morine had confirmed that she was not the only one who had abandoned their posts after Jerich Pince began dabbling in Occultist magic. With everything else, the rumors of the dead walking were not so far fetched.

They approached as the mayor was calling his men to attention. "Men!" He shouted loud enough for them all to hear. "We have worked hard these last months training, building defenses, readying ourselves for an attack we all hoped wouldn't come. Today that attack has come, and we will show the enemy that we will not back down from their threats! They will say of today that the people of Sandall met the mountain hordes, and drove them back to their holes and their mines!" The mayor paused as his troops shouted cries of victory. Then he moved to stand beside Keilly.

"The High Lady has come to ask all of us to hold back this force while she battles the greater evil who hides in his mountain stronghold." The crowd fell to complete silence at the mention of their enemy. "He is an Occultist of the worst sort! He sends our own neighbors against us as undead minions." Shocked gasps filled the air and then fell silent once more. "Will we fall and let these creatures be the hammer that smashes the High Lady into the anvil?" His voice rose as he finished. "Will we fall and let the entire realm fall behind us?"

"NO!" The crowd shouted in unison. Other cries followed it, "For Keilly!" and "Sandall, guardians of the realm!" among others.

Keilly rested a hand on Brell's arm and he cut off the rest of his words to let her speak. "Good people of Sandall." Keilly called out. "We stand today and tell our enemies that we will not cower at their feet! My companions and I will stand beside you all as the first wave crashes against your walls. Would you stand with me, Sandall?"

Cheers rose up all around her. Brell had no doubt told them she would be riding out before the battle. This surprise was meant for him as much as the people. And from the smile on his face, it had worked. She needed their spirits high for the battle to come.

"When we crush those who approach, the four of us will sneak out with the creatures who flee from the mighty blow Sandall will give them! The time has come for you good people to stand. The time has come to fight! Today will be the day Sandall becomes the Protectors of the North!" She drew her sword and thrust it into the air as she finished. All around men and women moved to copy her, lifting axes, swords, sticks, and bows.

"No time to waste then, men! To your stations. You all know your place!" Mayor Patristt said.

Keilly joined the archers atop the northern wall. It had the best vantage point from the town. Beside her, Owyn studied the enemy troops forming up on the other side.

"There's a lot more than I anticipated." He noted.

"The defenses are good. They will be able to hold back far more than that. And good thing too, this is but a fraction of what will come after we leave." She replied softly.

A rhythmic pounding began from the enemy lines. Other drums picked up the beat and soon drummers all down the lines were beating. Boom boom; Boom boom; Boom boom.

"Here we go again." Owyn said. Keilly nodded and watched as the orcs and ghouls began their slow approach.

Part Four, February 23, 2010

The sounds of the dying made Morine Callesh shift uncomfortably on her feet. The dozen others around her all seemed perfectly calm. Owyn was actually kneeling on the ground to rest. Of them all, Owyn was the only one who had joined the fighting so far today, if from a distance. Morine had never seen anything quite so impressive as watching Keilly and him carefully pick targets out of an oncoming horde of orcs. Owyn never missed a single shot.

Morine had asked Owyn why they chose such specific targets at that distance, but it was Keilly that answered. For some reason that had seemed to amuse Owyn. Morine never studied orcish armies to any detail, despite all her studies of their culture. She found it interesting when Keilly said they fought in small groups with squad leaders. It seemed too human in a way, too orderly. Apparently Owyn had killed just about every squad leader.

Their cities never displayed such order. Most cities were destroyed and rebuilt by a new faction every couple years. Any leader that did manage to gain some authority had very little time to abuse it before he was killed. Instead of learning from this destructive cycle they seemed to thrive on it. Morine never imagined that beneath such chaos something like this could be found.

In combat, they found something they all agreed upon. Being a soldier was a holy cause, and warriors were honored members of their society. Even feuding factions would unite to crush a common enemy then go their separate ways. In the warrior society, rank was earned by survival. The longer one of them lived, the more orcs he found following him. It was truly fascinating; she couldn't believe she'd never noticed it before, it made perfect sense.

Owyn standing brought her to attention. He looked quite formidable with two quivers of arrows criss-crossed across his back. The bow he held was longer than others Morine had seen. It seemed too heavy to be useful, but he'd already convinced her that he was more than capable with it.

"Morine, it's time." Keilly said urgently, surprising her.

"What? Oh, right. Of course." Morine said.

When Keilly walked by Owyn he gave her a sly grin that got him a stern look in return. There was definitely something strange going on between those two. Then she saw the orcs coming around the corner in front of them and she forgot everything else.

When Morine had decided to leave Jerich Pince's lands she'd been determined to find a force opposing him and join it, but an actual battle had seemed very far away at the time. Yet here she was staring at a few dozen orcs pouring around the outer walls of the city. Suddenly their small group felt like a pebble beneath a wide stream.

Keilly had been right about the surprise though. The orcs halted for just a moment at seeing them, and half a dozen died in that instant to arrows. Keilly's sword flashed out of its sheath as the orcs closed, regaining their senses. The High Lady shifted her weight and gave the sword one circular swing with her wrist. When the sword stopped Keilly had a different look about her, a dangerous one.

Three orcs reached her at the same time and Keilly moved like a dancer. One foot stepped back and she deflected the blow directed by the orc approaching her left side, knocking it hard to the right. The momentum made the creature stagger to his left, impaling another orc with his sword as he fell into him. The third orc didn't even see Keilly's sword cut into him because he was watching what his companion had just done. A third stab cut into the first orc's back as he fell. It all happened so fast that Morine could hardly believe what she'd seen.

She watched as Keilly cut through orc after orc that approached her until Morine was sure there were too many. An orc was running toward Keilly with a raised spear and Keilly hadn't seen the creature yet. She wanted to cry out but terror froze the words in her throat. Then an arrow flashed past her and slammed into the orc's throat. Morine flinched as the arrow tore straight through, blood flowing from the wound.

It was Owyn that loosed the arrow. Morine noticed that had been the last arrow in one of his quivers and she looked around realizing just how many creatures lay dead all around them. Owyn easily shifted his stance and moved his bow to the other hand. In the same motion he was drawing another arrow left handed now. She followed the arrow's path to see it take another orc in the back that was approaching Garin. When had the man gotten all the way over there?

Garin had taken off his coat to reveal a belt full of small daggers. When she looked closer Morine noticed it was actually only about half full. He held a short sword in one hand and a dagger in the other. An orc thrust straight at Garin's heart and the man casually shifted his weight and blocked with the short sword as his other hand sliced the creature across the throat. Garin kicked at the dying orc's body to knock it away as another was approaching him from behind. He spun and threw the dagger into the approaching enemy's eye, it fell to the ground screaming. Garin already had another dagger in his hand and was running to help with a crowd gathering around Keilly.

Morine had never seen such a thing in her life. The rest of the soldiers stayed back taking open shots at orcs with their bows whenever they could. This fight was meant for these three all along, Morine realized. Already there were dozens of dead orcs littering the ground. What had she been thinking? This was no place for a Parevaar. Her place was meeting ambassadors, teaching classes of children, studying and learning; this was all too much. What had she gotten herself into?

"Morine!" Keilly shouted at her. Morine took control of her emotions. Here she was acting like a scared girl. There were very few Parevaar's, and even fewer had her ability with magic. She may not have the experience, but she did have the skill. She was here to defeat a great evil. It was now or never.

Her companions were gathered to her right fighting unbelievable odds, and yet seemed to be winning. To her left another batch of orcs appeared around the corner and a great wind swept past Morine and carried her whispered chant spiraling forward. The tornado swept up the new batch of enemies by the dozens. But it wasn't the right thing to do. Those bodies wouldn't survive wherever they landed, but what if they landed on an ally? What if they destroyed people's homes? No, something else then.

More enemies came toward them and she whispered again. Flames erupted from the ground, scorching orcs that were near. Some even ran into the unexpected flames. Then she noticed that the flaming creatures were running toward her companions as if they didn't feel the pain and she quickly whispered to put out the flames, worried they would think she was trying to kill them instead. How was it they made this look so easy?

She was deciding a plan to try next when she noticed the orcs were no longer coming around the corner. She looked around and Keilly was cleaning her sword on the clothes of a fallen orc. Morine approached as she was sheathing the sword and turning to Owyn.

Keilly reached for Owyn's hands and held them tight. "You saved my life again, thank you." The High Lady said. Then it occured to Morine what all those strange looks meant. Keilly was afraid another woman might catch his eye. Morine hid her amused laugh.

"And you saved mine," Garin said with a laugh as he approached.

"Perhaps we should keep score?" Owyn suggested, in a sarcastic tone Morine was already getting used to.

Morine looked at the three of them and felt a lot more respect for each one. When they all turned to regard her she froze in her spot, remembering that they very well might think she had tried to kill them along with the enemy.

Owyn spoke first. "I told you I liked this one, Keilly. Except she could have left us a few to kill on our own." The three laughed together and she took a deep breath she didn't know she'd been holding. Left a few for them, surely they had done far more than she?

"You- You mean you are not angry with me?" She asked. They looked puzzled at that. "An orc could have fallen on you from the sky, or gotten too close and burned you. You are not bothered by this?"

Owyn looked up with a puzzled expression. "You know," he said, "I didn't consider that they have to come back down again." He laughed.

She turned to Keilly and the woman looked sad. "You have not seen much of war, have you Morine? No, you don't need to answer. I should have considered that and I am sorry." Keilly paused as if in thought. "After some time you learn to avoid those questions. What if I had been too slowly to strike, or too slow to block? Any one of us could have died today. It is not easy to come to grips with. We do what we must do, until the Gods bring us home."

Morine reflected on that. It was a wise view in many ways, but very sad too. How was one simply always ready to die? How did you accept your regrets and missed opportunities? Morine realized she was not so wordly as she once thought.

"It's time to be going. This is but the foot of the mountain looming before us." Garin said quietly. Morine had forgotten that this was only the beginning of their journey together. She looked at each of her companions and nodded with all the confidence she could muster.

"Alright then," said Owyn, grinning. "Here we go again."

(*****)

Brell Patrisst looked out in exhaustion at the army of undead creatures pounding against the reinforced walls of Sandall. The abominations seemed to be in various stages of decomposition. Many of Brell's men still were sickened by the sheer sight of it, and then there was the smell. A week gone he had sent pidgeons calling for any priests who might come to their aid. Sickness and disease had not gotten out of control yet, but it was only a matter of time.

Sandall had fought bravely these last weeks against attack after attack. The biggest weakness in Pince's strategy was underestimating them. Had the man sent his forces as one Sandall would never have withstood. As it was they had lost half their numbers. The sea of undead surrounding the city would kill the rest eventually. They were surrounded, cut off from food or water. It was all just a matter of time.

"Look!" One of the guard's called out. Brell leaned forward to see more over the wall. All around them the undead seemed to die again. As if blown over by a strong wind, the entire army fell and didn't move again.

"She's done it, Mayor! Jerich Pince is slain!" The shout was picked up all down the wall and through the town. "Jerich Pince is slain! Jerich Pince is slain!"

"We did it, Brell." Nathaniel Hull said by his side, he'd been Brell's second for a lifetime it seemed. "She said to protect the border while she fought him and we actually did it." The man sounded shocked by his own words.

"So we did." Brell answered, still a bit shocked himself. "So we did."