Lucian Ravenholm - The Desertion

  • Torches like orange stars in a black sea of night – that’s what the watch always was. Keep of the Far Hills, Grey Watcher of the Morning – Darkhold had more than a few names, but it was always shaded in either black or gray. Fourteen winters I’d spent there and not a single scruple ever found me. I’ve never venerated any of the dark gods, but coin is coin is coin – and the Black Network has always had its share. Patrol on horseback. Transport this shipment of drugs. Haul these weapons. Guard this shipment of slaves. Get this coin. Drink this ale. Visit this brothel. The boys and me. The rules were simple – but at least there were rules.

    Then one night, word comes down the line that the leadership is changing. Semmemon – who has always been more concerned about that woman of his – is being traded out for Pereghost. As was said, ne’er a scruple to be found but at least there was an order to Semmemon. Servants of Cyric: murderers for the sake of murder. What purpose would that even serve? But the trade in power signaled a purge as much as a change in ideology.

    No muss or fuss, we deserted on horseback patrol one night... me, Roland, Matthias, and Ulrich. The usual suspects as it were. South then, through Hluthvar, finding a change of attire along the way and vanishing into Asbravn and then finally Iriaebor, or at least that was the plan. We thought, at worst, the Red Cloaks of Asbravn would expose us and there would be a fight, but our luck was far sourer a full ten man patrol from outside of Hluthvar mixed with the Shields of Iriaebor... perhaps they were on joint patrol while hosting war games. Who knows?

    They were far more heavily armored and armed than any of the Red Cloaks we expected, and at more than two-to-one odds, we tried to ride off, but our horses had already tired a deal from the haste with which we made our trip south. I took up my role as shield to the others almost instantly and held off the initial charge, but ten men are impossible for a single man to hold. Roland and Ulrich were heavily armored as I was but Matthias – a horse archer – to his everlasting credit, he took out three riders with arrows before they struck him down with lances in the backfield after running through the line. Roland felled two and wounded a third with his axe before he was unhorsed and trampled. Ulrich took three with his greatsword before a halberdier took his neck.

    I found myself alone against two opponents, one whom Roland had already injured deeply. A large shield and a curved blade against a halberd and a wounded longsword – not my favorite odds. But rushing in on the halberdier proved to be the smart choice, his disadvantage in close quarters and the longsword wielder already being wounded. With little more than bruised shoulder, I emerged the last man standing – and indeed with my life at all that night.

    I would not have time to bury my comrades. I quickly found a man whose measure I matched from among the Shield of Iriaebor and traded armor and shield for his and after doing so, took his corpse with me to the woods where I hid it the best I could. I left the rest in the road. A shame I have no way to steal this identity in its entirety. Perhaps I can settle on a name on my ride west...