"When the tyrant Aedraxis rescinded the ban against Eth machines, he promised the Bahmi and Ethian people an Empire of their own if they helped him weaken the Ward against Regulos. Those Defiant cowards helped him open the rift without even considering the cost. Now they hide in the forest, swelling Aedraxis's numbers even now with their profane machines."
He shook his head grimly and I felt an answering fury inside of me well up. How dare these Defiant do this! Could they not see what their foul technology is doing to our world? Would they stop at nothing to gain power? Shyla nodded at Borrin, agreeing with his passionate statement and I balled my hand into a fist. Perhaps I could be of help in thinning the Defiant numbers? The forest couldn't be too far; I could see scraggly bare treetops from across the town, in the direction of the fire-streaked sky. That was the direction I needed to head in anyway to confront Aedraxis. So I put the suggestion to Lady Shyla to see what she'd say and she was grateful for any aid.
"Oh thank you Raeslyn! You're dedication to the cause is noted and the Vigil shines down on you. Head to the town's front gate and talk to Brother Jebiah. He's one of the main men in charge of the Guardians in that side of town and he could tell you more than I the status of what's going in the wood. I'm sure he would appreciate any aid you can give him. Gods bless."
I murmured a blessing to both Lady Shyla and Borrin, and turned, decisively picking up my things and gathering a few other items I might need. I had the feeling I'd be leaving the town and not coming back. Which saddened me. As despairing and serious as the town was, it was familiar territory now after roaming it for these past few days. It was something I could fixate on, a task I knew well. Now I'd be heading out into the unknown again.
Stationed on either side of the town gate were two men in the military colors that I'd come to associate with the Mathosian army. One was a dwarf and one a Mathosian. Interesting. I stepped up between them and inquired as to which one was Brother Jebiah. The dwarf spoke up, admitting to owning the name. I explained to him who I was and what I'd been doing, finishing that I'd been feeling restless in the inner parts of Ardenburgh once I'd managed to cull most of the thralls and Knights. I was wanting to be of more help and Borrin had mentioned something about Defiant trouble.
The short man nodded, eyes narrowed in hate."Aye, Borrin Gammult speaks the truth. We had peaceful relations with the Southern races but than
Aedraxis lured them to his side with promises 'a power. If you could lend us a hand lassie, I'd be much obliged to ya." He explained to me the extent of the Defiant's treachery in the forest and I felt myself filling with righteous anger again. How dare they. Even after the tragedy of the rift, those betrayers of Telara still aid Aedraxis. There must be a reckoning.
Brother Jebiah rubbed his chin, before snapping his fingers. "I got just the task for an eager young Ascended lass, that I do." I perked up, eager to be of help.
"The abhorrence of those Defiant betrayers knows no bounds; they've stolen sourcestone to power their machines. Sourcestone is a result of the gods' creation of Telara. It is holy, and ours by right. Rip the sourcestone from their unholy devices and return it to me, where it can be of better use to our Guardian soldiers." I blinked, of conflicting thoughts on that. In my opinion, sourcestone should not be controlled or manipulated by any one side, and it did not "belong" to any one person by any right, regardless of their belief. It was a tool, like any other and should be used sensibly and reliably, whoever has access to it. However, I do agree on one thing. The Defiant should never be allowed near sourcestone. They misuse it's divine powers to attack the rest of the Telarans and to create abominable constructs.
I narrowed my eyes, holding my daggers close and keeping a sharp eye out for any of these Defiant traitors. I needed to put a stop to their unholy magic and bring back those spheres so they could be used for good. Heading past the gate, I kept my daggers close as I searched for any Defiant invaders to get rid of. Movement among the trees alerted me to the presence of one such Defiant. Keeping focused, I crept forward, silently weaving among the undergrowth. The Defiant, a woman in a long red and gold patterned robe and carrying a gem-topped staff, was facing the other direction. Just my luck, she wouldn't even know what was coming. I stealthy crept along behind her, crouching behind a thin tree. There, I took a deep breath and steeled myself to the realization that I'd have to kill. I gripped my daggers tighter. It was my duty to do this.
I leaped out from behind the tree, making not a sound. The woman saw me at the last second, but it was too late for her. Quick work of my daggers silenced her within moments. Once the threat was over with, I noticed that she had been standing next to some sort of tripod. Lightning crackled along the rods and a large orb sat on the top of it. Aha, that's what I needed. I wondered how I was to get this orb back to the gate, since it seemed heavy. But thankfully once I picked it up I realized it was actually quite light.
I shoved the glowing orb in my bag, securing it with ties, and set off to hunt more of those Defiant. I was actually in luck on my next kill, for I found he was carrying a nicely crafted bow. I slung the weapon over my shoulder, inspecting the arrows for alignment. Satisfied, I even checked his pockets for coin. I smirked. I'm turning into the real mercenary here.
I took down any Defiant I could see in the wood. And believe me, there were a lot more than there should have been. How could we have let them sneak between us like this? I grimaced as I slashed the throat of another Defiant, a warrior this time. It was something I think I'll never get used to, despite the necessity. Finally I headed back to the gate with my prizes. I was quite pleased that I was able to impress Brother Jebiah and Tam Daggerborne, who were still guarding the gate when I walked up. Jeez, you'd think they'd have found someone else to relieve them. I bet they were tired from standing so long. I know I was tired. My leg muscles burned from all the activity and my eyes ached from the strain of constantly being on the lookout for the enemy. I handed over the three orbs I found. Truthfully, that was the only amount that would fit in my bags. Those things are far too big for their own good. As I chewed on some dried meat I had left over, I noticed that Lord Daggerborne was eyeing me approvingly. I raised an eyebrow at him, wondering what he wanted. He grinned back at me.
"It's glorious being Ascended, eh Raeslyn? I thought my days of slaying demons was over when the Rifts came, but the Vigil gave us one more chance for vengeance." He beamed at me, so obviously proud to be fighting in the Vigil's name. I nodded rather absently when he was finished, knowing that's what he expected. Personally, I followed my lady Tavril and carried out her will when required. I wasn't of the view that I had been brought back simply because of my ability to kill things. After all they'd have picked someone else besides me if that were the case. Right?
"You should head to Valor Hold. Speak to Cyril Kalmer there, he'll have need of you. We can hold off for now at this point. Thank you for your aid." Brother Jebiah said grudgingly. "That's where the real battle is."
I closed my fist around my weapons. Soon I'd need to either procure new ones or find a sharpening stone. Constant use of my daggers on flesh and bone was dulling the edges. Back I went into the woods. This time, I avoided the Defiant when I could, wanting to only get to this Valor Hold. The sooner we removed Aedraxis from the picture, the better things would be. As I wove my way through the small copse of trees that lined Ardenburgh village, I realized that the fire-streaked sky was darkening and I was amazed to note that yet another day had passed. It seemed that time went by so quickly when I was focused on a task. As the sky darkened, torches sprang into existence beyond the trees, letting me know where Valor Hold was quite easily, just in case I couldn't find it. I smiled, relieved. Perhaps I could get some good rest in a real bed tonight. Hopefully. I've no clue as to the shape of Valor Hold's defenses, but they must be relatively secure to risk lighting torches at night, as torches are a beacon in darkness. I wove my way tiredly through the remaining wood, coming out to what I thought was just a clearing but actually turned out to be a wide open field. The field was quite large, extending off into the darkness and I realized this must be Thedeor Field, where the Mathosian army had clashed with Aedraxis's evil powers and lost. It gave me chills thinking about it. Immediately after leaving the tree line I was accosted by Guardian scouts, who took me past Valor Hold's defense line straight into the camp.
At least they were better prepared for intruders, instead of just letting me walk up there. It wasn't hard to spot this Cyril Kalmer I was supposed to report to. He was big, a bear of a man, dressed in gleaming white armor. I would have pointed out that with that white armor and dark hair, he stood out like a lit beacon among the rest of the ordinary soldiers but he probably already knew that. You can't get to be general of an army if you were that dense...right? Right, let's not answer that.
I reported on what I'd accomplished so far, adding that I'd appreciate a nice bed and a good supper. Cyril Kalmer was quite kind actually, despite his booming voice, and he completely understood how exhausted I was. And he didn't once mention that I was the savior or anything. Things were definitely looking up. I slept like the dead that night, no pun intended, and woke up feeling my usual, cheerfully sarcastic self.