Returning Home (Part 3: Burning Town)Mature

After the hours had passed and the day became halfway over, Bain started moving up a familiar hill. Yes, this was Welcome Grove. Around him were trees that would bear apples in the seasons after winter had passed. That meant that over this hill, Garrison’s March was lying in wait….

A red glow over the road brought a sense of dread to Bain. Surely it was just welcome fires? Horus could have told the people he was coming. They could have fended off the cultists, too. Or the cultists could have just came upon the road and started using it? Yes, that had to be it. Bain continued telling himself this even as he peaked Welcome Grove.

“No…”

Garrison’s March was on fire. No, it WAS fire. No matter where Bain looked, the buildings, the trees, the fences… they all were blazing with a brilliant flame. Not even the blacksmith shop was spared. How.. How could this be? Where were the knights Bain trained? Surely they could take down some measly cultists? In the distance, Bain saw the large castle he called home. Flames surrounded it, but…

They were not coming from it! There was hope, then!

Bain took off, heading for his castle. The streets of Garrison’s March proved dangerous, with flame and debris covering the roads. Dalzig had a tough time getting through, but he somehow made it. Bless the horse. What would Bain do without it? Well, he certainly wouldn’t be alive to see his wife once more. Dalzig jumped over a flame coved plank of wood, burning himself in the process. Had they not been in a hurry, Bain would have stopped the horse. Both rider and horse knew they must hurry, though.

Dalzig and Bain finally reached the gate to his castle. Thank God. Bain was unsure if he would make it with all the flames. No, he would have made it no matter what. With his resolve and his steed, he knew he could.

“I am Lord Bain Van Rose! Open these gates before the flames move closer!”

A sentry appeared above the gate, obviously verifying his identity. Bain wished the fool would hurry! He had no time to wait! He needed to check on his wife’s condition and then assess his land. The gate opened slowly, almost slow enough to make Bain dismount and crawl under. A few men greeted him with cheers, but he ignored them.

“See to Dalzig and watch for another man, large and Germanic. He is an ally.” Bain dismounted and moved past the men and into the confines of his Castle. The men, thankfully, went to work on Dalzig without questioning him. Good, he did not want to waste time.

“My lord, we must-“

Bain silenced his chancellor and kept walking. He had no time to deal with the man and no time to wonder where he had been hiding. Had he that time, it would be spent punishing the man. No, right now he had to focus on Elizabeth. She came first. She always came first. He knew it was selfish, but he cared not. She was his world.

Bain found his way up to where Elizabeth was isolated. Outside were Albert and Samuel, two of his most trusted knights. They seemed startled to see him. Then again, he was due back tomorrow. Bain walked towards the door they guarded, but found two spears stopping him. How dare they!? Bain grabbed one of the weapons and tried to rip it from its owner’s hand. Never stop a man on a mission! They would not stop him from-

“My lord, please do not make us restrain you.”

Bain realized he was surrounded. When had they..? Bain then realized what he had been doing. What a fool he was. These men were among his most trusted of knights. Albert, Samuel, Higgins, Gravile, George, and even Alfred. They were stopping him for a reason. What reason though?

“Is she..?”

Albert shook his head and smiled. “Do not worry, my lord, she still fights. Horus has instructed us to keep any out for now, however. I would have told you, but you seem to have taken me by surprise.”

Bain smiled as best he could. She was alive. That was good news, at least. “My apologies. I have not been thinking straight.”

The knights were taken back. What now? “Well,” Higgins said from behind Bain, “I would think not with you of all people offering up apologies. How odd, my lord.”

Bain cursed. Foolish knights. “Maybe I should make you run three times around the castle for your words, Higgins?”

The other knights laughed and Bain felt himself relaxing. “Not to ruin the mood, but Garrison’s March is on fire, you know.”

Bain nearly jumped at hearing the Chancellor’s words. How had he forgotten! Such a fool he was. “Alright, we need to save as many of the people-“

“Already gathered, my lord,” Samuel interrupted.

Bain nodded. “Good, now we need to work on putting out the flames in-“

“We can’t, my lord.”

Bain nearly cursed. “Samuel, the next time you cut me off, I will have you beaten!” The man seemed taken aback, but smiled anyway. Was he unaware of the situation? “Now, what do you mean you tried?”

Alfred took up the explanation. “No matter how much we tried, the flames simply will not go out.”

Bain rubbed his head. “Alright, let’s head to the East Wing watch tower. Along the way, you can fill me in on what in God’s name happened here.” Bain started walking, after giving Albert and Samuel orders to continue watching Elizabeth’s room, not that they would have listened to any other orders anyway. Sometimes Bain doubted they were even his knights, since they were more loyal to Elizabeth.

“It all started just the night before, my lord,” Gravile started, “Me and George here were scouting the surrounding lands when we came upon a camp of black-clad men.” Cultists.

“Go on.”

“Well, my lord,” George said, moving his hands excessively as he spoke, “We started to move in with a dozen of the Garrison Knights, mainly to see their intentions and reason for being near the town. We would have left them alone, but they had armories.”

Gravile nodded. “When we approached their camp, they attacked. Having so few of our own number, we fled to the South Woods. We thought we could fool them and use the forest to our advantage. Instead of following, they moved to the town, leaving a few of their number to keep us busy.”

“Allow me to take it from there, my lord,” Alfred said, not waiting for permission as usual, “The strange force started attacking the eastern part of the town first. Many lives were lost, but we managed to organize a defense and fight them off as the townsmen were pulled back into the castle.”

Bain stopped walking. It made no sense. “Tell me, how is it our men were beaten when you organized a defense? We have superior fighting power than most feudal lord’s personal armies and more practice as well.” Bain’s voice rose in anger. “How is it we lost, Alfred!?”

Alfred shrank back, making himself seem even smaller than he was. A hand touched Bain on his shoulder. “My lord,” Higgins said, “I was there. Alfred and I did everything we could. For the most part, we were winning. They simply had an overwhelming number and a certain soldier who surpassed our abilities.”

Bain cursed himself. He should have held his tongue. Those cultists…. Arkheem. There were likely others like that creature of a man. These men should be praised for saving any lives at all. “How many of the townsmen survived?”

Alfred smiled. “All but twenty eight.”

Bain smiled. Out of nearly two hundred and fifty of his people, only twenty eight died? It was still a loss, but not nearly as bad as he feared when he first laid eyes on his burning home. “Well done, Garrison Knights. Now, let’s go devise a plan for stopping this flame.”

The End

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