This is the story of the Company, and the story of the liberation of Taelos.
The story thus far:
It was a day like no other. For the first time since the beginning, a battle against the Shadow had been won. The news had come the day before-A weary but jubilant Cantet soldier had ridden through the Crow’s Gate and straight to the Helm, the great fortress at the center of the city. His horse, nearly overcome by the stress of the journey, was led to the Royal Stables. The soldier was brought before Emperor Jonathan Stormcrowe himself. The News was given quickly, for the soldier could muster only three words before passing out.
Three words-“We Have Won.” Three words that carried with them a deed not done since the days of the great Aran Alata, the wise king who once sat on the throne of what was now that of the Cantet Empire. Three words that carried with them a message not seen since the reappearance of the Shadow-A message of Hope. Alas, this message was soon to be shattered…far too soon.
A feast was held the very next day-a day of rejoicing, a day of merry-making, of dancing and singing. A Day of Peace. During the feast, the Emperor was to make a speech. Rumors had spread that Jonathan was worried, for although the Shadow’s army had been defeated in combat at the border town of Ora, the mysterious commander of the dreaded hoard had not been present.
Although most of the Company had left with Nielyn, Scipio Blade, his brother, Peter, Solomon Murdoch, as well as Scipio’s lifelong friend, Kieran Greenhale had stayed behind at Cantet. Scipio had stayed to council the Emperor, one of his oldest friends. Although Scipio looked like a young man, maybe 34, he was part-elf, and was many years older than he appeared.
“My People!” shouted the Emperor, “A great victory has been won today! My son, Prince Nielyn and the members of the Company with him have destroyed the forces of the Shadow at the Border! No more shall our lands be threatened! He drew his blade, Crabanmor, and shouted “No more shall our fields burn! No more shall our people die! No more-” THUKK
His mouth widened in shock, his blade clattered to the ground. His eyes gazed down, catching sight of the long, black shaft embedded in his chest. Stormcrowe looked up into Scipio’s hard brown eyes, saw Scipio rise, heard the THWAP of an arrow being released from its bow, and felt darkness overtake him. Jonathan Stormcrowe, Emperor of the Cantet Empire, was dead before he hit the floor.
The Next Bit-
“Jonathan!” Scipio’s shout rang out over the roar of the crowd. Out of the corner of his eye, Scipio saw Peter’s bow sing, saw someone else cry out, saw Kieran raise his staff, but ran toward the Emperor. Scipio dashed through the chaos straight to his friend. Scipio held his friend’s fallen body, weeping silently. His gaze wandered to the arrow that had cut Jonathan’s thread and gasped. He saw the angry purple liquid dripping from the shaft-where it touched his clothes, it burned like acid. Solomon knelt beside Scipio, intently studying the wound.
Solomon gripped the arrow and pulled gently-he was mildly surprised when it slid free with little more than a ‘plop.’ He studied the head for a moment, touching the tip to the stout leather of his glove. When the poison failed to do anything, he realized its make immediately.
“Scipio, look- It is some kind of…Iocane…”
Scipio stood, turning, barely hearing the words of the smith. As he was gazing out over the chaos and confusion of the crowd, he saw Peter kneeling near the rear of the room. Briskly, Scipio approached his brother, the crowd parting in fear and apprehension.
As Scipio neared Peter, he saw what the target of his attention was- a man, dressed in the uniform of a guard of Cantet, lay against the wall. He was wheezing heavily- The arrow protruding from his chest saw to that. A black bow lay near his hand.
Scipio’s sharp Ranger’s eyes noticed the ‘guard’s’ fumble immediately- The bowmen of the Cantet army wore braces of leather around their arms to prevent the snap of the bowstring from scathing the skin from their upper appendages.
The imposter looked up at Scipio and wheezed even more intently. Just as Scipio realized that the man was attempting to laugh, the bowman spoke, locking eyes with the Ranger.
“Heh…You and your friends, all of…Cantet will die tonight…This City…will…Burn……!” This was the bowman’s last sentence- shattered by his wheezing and coughing, delivered with all the force as his broken body could muster. He died laughing.
Scipio called out to the other members of the Company and rushed down the stairs of the Helm.
The sky outside was black. Scipio looked to Kieran, whose sharp eyes saw what the others missed- the sky was moving! Kieran shot a glance at Scipio and gave a loud cry- “Arrows!” He glanced around at those staring in surprise- “If you wish to live, then I suggest that you take cover!” His quiet yet stern command was heeded by many- most rushed inside, cowering before the storm.
One seemed deaf to the warning- Solomon stared up into the sky, into the storm of arrows. He remembered his return to his own village- the bodies, the silence, the smell of death…
I'm Grumpy because You're Dopey!