King Ludrig of the Shires sat on his beautiful horse and addressed a large group of men, also on horseback. His son, Prince Keegan, was at his father's side on an equally impressive beast.
"Right you lot!" Ludrig raised his voice. "We need a dozen men from each Gang to form a Sixth Gang. That's the one after Five." Ripples of laughter rumbled around the men. "Keegan and myself will lead Gang Six. The rest of you patrol the same areas as last time, and the time before that, and the time before that. Good! Sod off."
"Where is Gang Six going?" Someone shouted.
"There's always one nosy sod eh?" Ludgrig rolled his eyes. "Our Scouts have reported Golon sightings on this edge of the Swamp. I believe Finnus and his thugs saw a group of them building a bridge. Over what, I have no idea. There's bugger all there except swamps. Anyway, Finnus went and gave them a hiding and trashed their bridge. There have been a few more sightings of the sods loitering about and on two occasions they managed to set fires on my land. Little shits. Basically, we want to make sure they're just being pains in the arse and not up to anything more sinister. Now will you sod off! Please? Come on Keegan." Ludrig moved out.
"They're just making a nuisance of themselves." Keegan said. "Finnus breaking their bridge won't have helped." He laughed.
"He did right! We can't have that rabble constructing things at random. Why a bridge anyway? There's nothing to bridge to or from. That's a bit iffy Keegan." Ludrig nodded wisely.
"Fire!" One of Gang Six shouted. "Copstan Wood!" This was on Ludrig's land.
"Right! They're for it this time." Ludrig headed for Copstan Woods. "I want to know why they're doing this crap. They know the fires won't spread in this dampness."
"Fire! Tannisland scrubs!"
"What in the Creek ..." Ludrig spun round.
"Another fire, sir! Draftwood Cops!"
"Get Gang Five, Keegan!" Ludrig ordered. "One fire wont spread. Four could."
"Fire! Uhm Bunkers!"
"I'll get to it." Keegan rode off. In the short time he was gone, eight more fires sprang up along the Golan-Ludrigshires border.
"Blast and pox!" Ludrig swore "Get Gang Four to the Bunkers! The stables are near there!" Keegan swung round and galloped away.
"Fire! Sir! Luh's ablaze!" Someone bellowed. Ludrig's innards turned to water. He looked north and could see the orange glow above Luh, and the swirling, as filled clouds.
"Sacred shit." Ludrig said in horror. "To Luh! We've been duped! Get to Luh, all of you!" He roared as he galloped towards the town.
"What in the Realm is going on?" Keegan shouted, keeping up with his father.
"The Golon grew a brain!" Ludrig replied. "Where the crap are the Agalians?"
"Blessed Stars." Keegen almost sobbed when Luh was in sight, or what was left of Luh. Everything was alight and the Golon ran amock, butchering and slaying anyone in sight.
"You bastards! Attack at full fury!" Ludrig's roar was reciprocated by the rest of his men. "For Luh! You scum!"
Waylon could hear the din and smell the smoke. It made him physically sick. Up until now, he'd pushed the Golon's notorious barbarity and cruelty out of his mind. Now he was a mere mile from it.
"Where is my rescue party!" He shrieked hysterically at the Innkeep.
"I've sent my stable lad to Agalia sir. He has the fasted horse and he's the best rider in Gilby, sir. Please, I beg you to take cover in my cellar. Your escort are there already." Innkeep babbled.
"I will not hide in a cellar!" Waylon was in tears of sheer shock at what he'd caused.
"Then I'll stay here too, sir." Innkeep stood bravely behind the bar.
The noise and the smell persisted on for seven hours before the yells and screams lessened in volume. The Agalian army would be on its way down by now, but without General Zarsan. Waylon took a deep breath and walked shakily out into the Inn yard. The fight was tailing off and Waylon knew that Ludrig had routed the Golon. If he still needed any help, the Agalians would be there within the hour. Gradually, Hannet and the rest of the escort appeared in the yard.
"You cowardly scum. I'll see you all punished for deserting your Emperor." Waylon snarled. "Take the chance to redeem yourselves and accompany me to the outskirts of Luh. We go on foot." He strode off and the escort looked at each other uncertainly. "The penalty for deserting an Emperor in a battle is beheading." Waylon's voice reminded them they had little choice.
"Mercy save us." Hannet said in horror when he saw the carnage in Luh. Everything in sight was charred and black and bodies of men, women and children littered the streets. Ludrig's men moved among the desolation in silence, many of them in tears. Waylon turned away and vomited violently at the sight infront of him. Hannet didn't have the sentiment to ask if he was coping. He didn't care if he was or not.
"Hannet I have special orders for you." Waylon gasped, dabbing his mouth with a handkerchief. "Two people from Luh are of a very special importance to Regent Zarsan. The Mayor's daughter and her son. We owe it to the Regent to find out the fate of those two."
"I think we could take a good guess." Hannet said in disgust. He knew Regent Zarsan had a wife and son here. He'd heard that Waylon wouldn't grant her dual citizenship, but that may have been gossip.
"I don't want to guess and I'm sure the Regent wouldn't want to either! Go and see what you can discover, then get back here to me." Waylon walked away, towards a line of trees, so he didn't have to look at the wreckage of Luh while the rest of the escort remained and simply stared in petrified shock.
Hannet was only gone for twenty minutes when he returned and made his way quickly to Waylon.
"Sir, sadly the Mayor was killed inside his home. It was the first place they attacked. Scum!"
"His daughter and grandson?" Waylon asked impatiently.
"Sir they survived!" Hannet smiled and Waylon felt the colour drain from his face. "Ludrig's men found them under the pier along with other survivors. They were taken to Ludrigshires with the other refugees."
"That's fantastic." Waylon felt sick again. All this for nothing? "Did the others see you returning, Hannet?"
"No sir, I don't think so. I came round that way. I'll go and ..." Hannet felt the blade slide between his ribs and never finished his sentence. The rest of the escort were still in shock and Waylon found them huddled together where he'd left them.
"Back to Gilby. We wait for my rescue party." Waylon announced.
"We don't wait for Hannet?" One of them asked.
"Hannet is dead. He saw fit to race off into that carnage and I saw him slain. Back to Gilby." Waylon set off quickly and walked straight into King Ludrig.
"Waylon Boon. I thought it was you lurking about. What in black torment are you doing here?" Ludrig's voice rumbled.
"I was on my way to deliver a message when this battle broke out. I was stranded in Gilby." Waylon tried to sound aloof, and didn't really manage it.
"Emperors deliver messages these days in Agalia? Things must have gone downhill."
"I was under an obligation of decency, Ludrig. Excuse me." Waylon tried to sidestep the big man.
"Not yet, Waylon. Did you come from Gilby just to be morbid? I doubt that. What do you want?" Ludrig asked flatly.
"I was an associate of the Mayor's." Waylon lied. "I'll enquire at a more appropriate time."
"I'll save you the job. A huddle of bodies were found at the Mayor's house. I recognised a Mayoral seal on the finger of one of them. He's dead, Waylon." Ludrig informed him.
"And his family?" A huddle of bodies?
"I didn't know he had a family." Ludrig shrugged.
"Sir! The pier is going to collapse and the Agalians are coming!" Someone shouted to Ludrig.
"I'll return to Gilby and await an armed escort home." Waylon went to join his original, unarmed escort.
Emperors And Kings