Dragon Fire Episode 45

Aric and Degan passed through the front gates of Ethion and rode into the darkened streets.

When they reached the city watch headquarters, Aric said,

“Stay here.”

Degan leaned back in the saddle to wait while Aric dismounted and hurried to the gate.    When Aric saw no guardsman at his post and the open gate swinging back and forth in the night breeze, he drew back and wondered,

“What is this?”

Sensing danger, Aric pulled his swords from their sheaths and crept toward the front doors. As he drew closer, he saw that they too were hanging open.

With his shoulder, Aric moved the door aside and peered in. Cautiously entering the room, he stopped five feet in when he saw dead guards scattered across the floor, a black arrow protruding from each man’s chest. On weakened legs, Aric staggered backwards then regained his strength and ran to check the next room.

“What has happened in this place?” Degan asked from behind him.

“All are dead,” Aric responded.

“Who has done this?” Degan asked.

“The Black Arrows,” Aric said, “a group of assassins.”

“Why would these assassins kill the city watch?” Degan asked.

“I fear they plan to overpower the kingdom and must first remove the city guard,” Aric replied.

“Then we must find their headquarters at once,” Degan said.

“They? Who is this they you speak of?” a man said as he entered from one of the back rooms.

Dressed in the garb of a woodsman, he stood tall with a bow and arrows at his back.

“Who are you?” Aric asked suspiciously.

“I am a hunter. I search for the man who has done this.”

“You are mistaken. No one man did this but a group of men. I have seen them,” Aric explained. “Each carries the black arrows.”

“That is true,” the woodsman returned, “but they are ruled by one man. One with great power commands an assassin. The assassin then chooses men, gives them the black arrows, and sends them to kill.”

Still skeptical, Aric asked, “Why do you look for this man?”

“He murdered my wife and child,” the woodsman said.

“A tragedy. Return to your home, sir. We will find him,” Degan assured him.

“I have no home, no one to go back to. I must find him myself,” the woodsman explained.

Aric looked at Degan then asked,

“Where will you search?”

“On the far end of Ethion is a wall. It protects the city from an older part destroyed long ago. The people on the other side of this wall are little more than animals, feasting on rats and anything else they find. They are fire worshippers, the smoke from their fires rising day and night. It has blackened the rocks and trees. From those scarred trees come the black arrows you see here,” the woodsman explained.

“Then we will go with you. You will need our help,” Degan offered.

“Thank you. The one who killed my family, I want to see his face as he dies.”

“These fire worshippers. You say they eat anything. Do they eat people as well?”  Degan asked.

“Yes,” the woodsman said. “They are savages, desperate for a food source. I must warn you, their love of fire has left many burned and disfigured.”

“Let us go and find the man who killed your family and these men,” Aric said.

“I will show you the way. Do you have horses?” the woodsman asked.

“Yes, just outside the headquarter gates,” Aric answered.

“I am Degan, and my friend is Aric. May I ask your name?” Degan asked.

“I am but a lowly woodsman. A peasant, sir.”

“But surely you have a name,” Degan pressed.

“Forgive me. They call me Vanamir.”

Published in: on January 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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