“Well look what the cats dragged in.” Meredith hadn’t got very far before she heard a familiar voice from up high, she looked up and saw Amil perched on the roof of a barricaded building.
“Amil, what’s happening here?” Amil looked to contemplate Meredith a moment before jumping down.
“I didn’t expect to see you again” Amil shrugged and tilted her head back.
“To be honest for a little while I doubted that I’d make it back.” Meredith looked around at the scene of utter destruction around her.
“The Commander told me to wait here until you came back, I thought she was mad” Amil raised her hands in an exagerated shrug.
“The Commander?” Meredith frowned.
“And here you are. Yeah she said you’d probably pop up around here at some point and I should wait here until you do.” Amil eyed Meredith with suspicion.
“How long was I down there?”
“A month give or take, I’ve been waiting since our position at the Iron Keep became untenable. We should make a move” Amil started walking and Meredith fell in line.
“What happend after I left?”
“We raided the temple and the merchants when you didn’t return the records for the merchants led us to a number of groups that had been purchasing human cadavers and slaves captured out in the provinces.”
“What about the temple?”
“It seemed to be a flop house until we found a secret door that led to where the cult was providing the drugs and sacrificing those too weak to put up much of a fight. Finding that though took a day.” They were weaving through back alleys and through abandoned workshops.
“Anyway a few days ago we were about to bust a bunch of nobles and temple masters when all hell broke loose we received a bird that said an army had crossed the river and we needed to send reinforcements so of course we sent them and so did the guard, the king sent word to his lords to start gathering their hosts.” The two of them scramled over a ruined balister and watched as something inhuman scurried between two buildings like a large lizard.
“That stopped us from having the people and time to raid the nobles and they all left the city to start putting together their hosts and in the streets the various marshals and levies were out getting men to join the war.” They sped between the two buildings and crimed up a piece of piping to get back onto the roofs.
“I can imagine there weren’t as many takers as normal.” Meredith looked behind them towards the Slags with its now empty streets.
“Well, no, but still a little bit of coin goes a long way in the slags and the shanty town.” They made the jump between two close buildings and clambered up onto a higher set of roofs.
“Then what happend?” Meredith easily kept up despite the height difference.
“The fiend worshippers came out a few days after the hosts had gone, they had their own host of killers and monsters they decended on the rabbles looking to sign up and the panicked citizens in the streets.” They stopped at a ledge and looked down on a street, they were above the smiths district.
“A blood bath I assume, any word on what happend on the border?” Meredith put her hands on her hips and joined in the surveyence.
“As it turns out the bird was a lie.” She pointed at a path that would lead them back to the road. Meredith nodded.
“Didn’t it have a seal?” They started their rapid decent, Meredith could see that they were heading out of the city via the East gate.
“It did.” They ran along an empty street.
“Then how?” Meredith glanced at Amil.
“I don’t know, but no doubt the commander has her suspicions.” They past an empty wagon that had a half dozen arrows sticking out of it.
“Then what happend?” Meredith looked into the open door and saw that the inside was bloody.
“It took a week for the army to get back to the city and it turns out most of the lords didn’t make it to their own terretories to start raising their own hosts. The guards and kings host tried to restore order but well it wasn’t like a siege, the cultists and their fiends didn’t hold the city they just went down into the sewers and hid in basements and let the troops back in then pounced and picked them off in small clumps. Patrols vanish all the time.” They could see the gate houses.
“Yeah I can imagine it doesn’t suit the rigid thinking of the noble generals.” They stopped and watched the gate houses carefully for a few moments.
“mmhmmm, that’s why we’ve joined up with the fire cult.” Amil made a hand gesture to go.
“I take it the dead still aren’t behaving.” They started running towards the open gate.
“Yeah, being dead seems to be optional nowadays.” Amil snorted a laugh.
“Heh” They made it to the gate, murder holes lined the sides and ceiling of the gate passage way.
“So as things stand citizens are hiding in their houses or in the camps, so are the fiends, the military is fractured, oh and an army did eventually march across the river it seems once the Commander and much of their camp headed back here.” They made it out of the city to see rolling hills and trees, looking behind her Meredith contemplated the sad looking city its gate house that once lead to a vibrant capital of a mighty kingdom now led to a kind of hell.
Amil slowed to a walk and looked across at Meredith.
“So what have you been up to for the last month while I’ve been trying not to be eaten?”
“Honestly Amil, I don’t really know.”
“Well I’m sure the Commander will want more of an explanation than that.”
“And I’ll be sure to give her one.”
It took about an hour for the two to walk to a small make shift fortification on a hill next to a river and a small village below it surrounded by a wooden pallisade.
They were waved through the gate of the village quickly and headed up through the middle to the steep hill that led to the twoer again they were quickly ushured through.
“Not much ceremony?” Meredith took note of the guards lack of questioning.
“They recognise me and also” Amil held her hand up and twirled the ring a bit. Meredith nodded.
The keep ontop of the hill was about three stories tool, the bottom most layer was made of piled stone and then the upper layers were wooden, there were many arrow slits in the upper two floors outside of the entrance were a couple of heavily armoured guards that ushured the pair into the keep where the commander was sat behind a desk, there were several curtains strewn about and bed rolls on the floor with sleeping guards.
“Ah, I was wondering where you’d gotten to.” The Commander looked at the both of them, she looked like she’d somehow gotten even older.
“I’ve no time for dilly dallying so give me an abridged version.” The Commander stroked a silver ring and waited. Meredith nodded and covered the major points, the individuals she thought and knowledge she’d gained. Amil looked aghast as the commander simply nodded along.
“I had begun to fear something like this. I had reports that on inspection the sigil used to sign the order to send troops was from Flacidious and I’d heard repors of someone matching Primela’s description traveling between scout posts murdering the scouts there and their horses.” The old woman looked at Meredith and picked up a letter opener.
“I suppose my main question is what to do with you, are you a poison well or a final chance for survival.” The commander said while pointing the letter opener at Meredith.
Amil rolled her eyes and looked at the sleeping guardsmen that covered the floor.
“With all things considered I can’t lose a capable operative so I have a mission for you, kill the general of the army that is heading here. Kill this mockery of Flacidious.” The old hag clenched her fist.
“Flacidious.” Meredith frowned as she recited his name.
“You know, he wasn’t like the rest of you, I selected him from a military academy to the south.” The commander lent back and took the measure of Meredith again.
“Mmm I was aware.” She nodded along thining.
“Did he tell you?” The old lady crossed her arms.
“No, it was obvious he was a from the south and he was a follower of the twelve, he simply seemed to be the kind of person who gets the job done.” Meredith swayed a little on the spot.
“Hmm indeed, I suppose in a way he was like you all, but just a little bit less of a jail bird” she laughed.
“But he was a ruthless tactician and a strategist, if he’s in charge of their army then the world may well be doomed, so find him and kill him, for good.”
“I will, but I’d quite like a sleep first.”
“Of course.” The Commander smirked and pointed at the floor.
“Thank you.” Meredith found a bed roll and laid in it. Amil sat behind her and then also laid down. Within moments Meredith was fast asleep, exhausted by however long she’d been gone. Amil followed.
When Meredith woke up the commander was still busy writing things under candle light her eyes flitted over to Meredith.
“Good morning.” Meredith sat up and looked at the Commander and nodded.
“I can’t offer you a fine meal like last time, supplies are low and there’s no real cook here, but outside you’ll find them making barley and potato soup, it think there may even be some kind of meat in it.”
“That will do fine.” Meredith stood up and stretched and noted Amil still asleep.
“Bring me some back, we have things to discuss.” Meredith nodded and went out to find the soup.
Outside of the keep was quite but she could smell the soup cooking and headed towards it a group of guardsmen were nestled arouund talking in hushed tones, she walked past and greated the person handing out the soup. She saw a ladder leading up to the top of the pallisades and decided to go and take a look once up there she could see the capital, almost entirely shrowded in darkness. Here and there she could see smoke or a light high up in a tower but otherwise it was completly black, it reminded her of Florens just a lot bigger. She withdrew and returned to the commander.
She placed a bowl of soup in front of the commander and another infront of herself and they wolfed it down without a moments notice or pause putting the licked clean bowls ton one side.
They discussed where the fiends army had been last seen and its movements, the commander described a number of the monsters that traveled with the force and some of the magics that had been seen, Meredith nodded along and interjected with other information where she had it. Also the Commander pointed out where the other noble bands were and settlements that the hoard might decend upon. As the sun started to rise outside the two sat back.
“I need you to take Amil with you, she’ll be of some use.” Meredith glanced at the girl who was starting to stir, Meredith grimaced and frowned but offered no resistence and nodded.
“Very good. I hope that at long last we’ll have some good news.” The two women relaxed in their chairs for a moment.
“I’m going to soak in the river for a little while, once I’m done I’ll need some clothes and we’ll head off, can we get together some traveling packs?” The old women nodded. Very well.
Once Meredith returned Amil was waiting for her with the supplies, Meredith checked it over once and nodded reporting to the Commander that they were leaving and then headed off into the wilderness.