Sacripant darted forward, staying on Quiet’s tail. He said a silent prayer to the Darksome Lady, as he rounded the corner. This was his first real battle, and while he liked to think he was doing all right, he still couldn’t shake the feeling he was out of his depth.
He moved quickly down the town’s single large street, trying his best to stay covered, and keep Quiet in his sight. It was a difficult job, made tougher by the need to avoid the Shrikes. But he didn’t have to do it for very long.
Rounding a corner, he saw her. Quiet was fighting with a crowd of Milesians and Ghouls, fending them off as best she could. Wishing he still had a spear, he rushed forward. And that was when a tall, blond Milesian stepped in front of him, slashing at Sacripant with his sword. Sacripant raised his own blade to parry, the two swords clashing against each other. The third time their swords crossed, Sacripant’s blade snapped. He winced, then stepped back, and coiled his cloak around his arm. As he fended off the blonde’s sword blows as best he could with it, he noticed Quiet toppling on the ground. He had just time to register that, when something was wrapping around his legs. Sacripant lost his balance and fell.
Several Ghouls came forward holding their curved blades on the downed Guards. “Leave them,” came a melodic voice. Sacripant saw a pair of feet clad in purple slippers stepping out of the crowd--glancing up, he saw the man they belonged to, a slender Ghoul clad in rich silver robes and golden turban. The Ghoul stepped briskly by Sacripant, and then knelt by Quiet. “I’d know those eyes anywhere,” he declared, deftly removing Quiet’s veil. Quiet stared at him furiously. “Nouronihar,” declared the Ghoul with a chuckle. “It has been too long, beloved.” He began to idly stroke her cheek.
“Bastard,” hissed Quiet. “Bastard. Bastard!” She took a deep breath, then shouted. “Vathek yn Barbour is the bastard of a jackal and a whore!”
The Ghoul sighed. “Really now, beloved--is that any way to talk to your betrothed?”
“Grandfather dissolved the contract,” snapped Quiet. “Just as he cast you out, Vathek!” She glanced at the other Ghouls. “He is nothing! He is not of the line of Prophets! We disown and dishonor him, as the traitor and rebel he is!”
“Grandfather may do what he wishes, as old men who have lived too long often do,” declared Vathek smugly. “He is no longer the Prophet--indeed, he never truly was--and his actions have no legality.”
“And yours do?” muttered Quiet.
Vathek stood up, and gestured at Sacripant. “Who is this then?”
Quiet looked at the ground. “Just--just a fellow Guard member, he’s nobody you…”
“I see,” said Vathek, crossing his arms. He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Really, Nouronihar. With a Nixie?” He sighed. “Your father would be so disappointed.”
“If he were not dead,” muttered Quiet. “At your hands.”
Vathek gave a dismissive wave. “It was a tragic, of course, and if Grandfather had recognized that I am the true Prophet and rightful Prince, all could have been avoided. He has caused much bloodshed by refusing to step down.” He yawned. “Ah, well. It’s useless talking about this.” He idly raised a hand. “Kill them both.”
Four Ghouls stepped forward, producing long knotted cords from their sleeves. Quiet began to shout something in Ghoulish. And then one of the Ghouls hit the ground with a handaxe buried in his back.
Hagen Greatthews burst on the scene, screaming in Ogre, swinging his great-axe and scattering his opponents. As Sacripant watched him in awe, Palamedes knelt by him, and began cutting his bindings. “Hey, Sacripant,” said the fat Erl. “The, uh… ghost told us you were in trouble…” He turned to take care of Quiet. “So, here we are…” He stood up, sheathed his knife, and slapped his hands on his shins. “So, you… okay?”
Sacripant rose unsteadily, watching Quiet replace her veil. “Been better,” said the Marsh Erl. Quiet nodded in agreement. “You know, everybody here knows you’re a girl, Quiet…”
“It’s my thing,” she said, then drew a knife. She stared at Vathek’s retreating form. “Vathek yn Barbour is the excrement of a worm!” She tossed her blade at him, only for him to catch it nimbly. Quiet nodded.
“Right. Got that out of my system. Let’s go.”
Hagen nodded, holding the crowd off as his fellow Guards retreated. The blonde Milesian rushed the Ogre, only to be felled by punch. “Hagen!” shouted Palamedes. “We REALLY need to get out of here!” Hagen turned and joined them.
They jogged swiftly down the street, reaching the barricades. Quiet and Sacripant leapt over them. Palamedes reached them and stared at them hesitantly--only to be picked up by Hagen, and tossed over. As Sacripant and Quiet helped Palamedes to his feet, Hagen jumped over himself. And with that, they ran back to their lines. The Shrikes and their Ghoul allies were returning to the barricade, recovering from their confusion. A few fired potshots at the retreating Guards, but that stopped when Bolekiz and his Kizaks rushed out and fired their bows.
Sacripant slouched forward and caught his breath. “I never thought I’d be so glad to see you, Hagen,” he noted. Hagen chuckled--then collapsed on the ground.
Palamedes rushed to the Ogre’s side. “Hagen--Hagen--what…,” he said nervously, shaking the Ogre’s massive form. Then he raised a hand to his face. “This… ohh… this is blood…” He bit his lip nervously, and stared at Hagen plaintively. “Hagen--you’re bleeding…”
“They--nicked me,” said Hagen with a chuckle. “In--the leg.”
Sacripant looked over and saw it. A bolt, buried deep in Hagen’s thigh. “Tha--that’s not so bad,” said Palamedes nervously. He looked at Quiet and Sacripant, his eyes pleading. “Right? That’s not that bad…”
Quiet regarded the chubby Erl sadly, while Sacripant looked away. “That can be a killing blow,” said the Marsh Erl. He raised a hand to his mouth. “Somebody--get Subtle! NOW!”
Hagen smiled gently. “Don’t--don’t waste his time. They got me--earlier than you think.” He laughed. “Darksome Lady gave me enough time. Now--She wants to see me.”
“Hagen--Hagen, you can’t die!” sobbed Palamedes. “You have to go to Kitvekh, remember?”
Hagen gulped, and shut his eyes. “I am in Kitvekh, Woodash. I am IN Kitvekh.” He muttered something inaudible that sounded like a request for some water.
Then he died.