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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 8:55 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 29, 2004 3:14 am
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Location: Guelph, Ontario
The morning came, cold and thick with the air swelling into the cracks and breaks in the guard house's flimsy exterior. Through the night the girl had sloughed off an arm or any closeness, but as the chill crept into their tired and strained bodies, the night pulled them to huddle together for the necessity of warmth. She awoke, a rush of sensation filling her body as the split second passed. It wasn't Sebastian that was comforting her. A little pang hit her at the base of her skull as she shrugged out of his arms, standing up in the darkness of the hut, hands reaching groggily for her newfound instruments. Anton stirred as well, his thick accent apologizing as he smoothed the loose hairs from his face, groaning to sit up. She busied herself, the sense of urgency slowly returning as she tied back her black curls, coughing and sniffling as she faced away - partly from shaking the cold slumber from her lungs and nose, partly for her own reasons.

She moved to open the door to the guard house, the bright light of the sun bouncing off of a slim sheet of snow that had fallen in the night. The trees and the forest all were crossed and dusted with the gentle snow as it still drifted down from the skies. Her breath came out in wispy plumes of vapor. There was no marks in the highway, the fresh snow untouched and pristine. Beneath the bridge, the river still flowed on, rushing a cascade of orange and yellow leaves towards the Stirland River. For a moment, it was as if the entire night before had been erased, the cold didn't seem nearly as cold, nor did the silence seem still. She took in a deep breath, letting her head fall back as she enjoyed the feeling of it for a few moments until Anton ducked his head to come into the scene as well. She turned to face him, as well as the oncoming day.

"What do we do now?" She kept her arms crossed, hugging at her pistols.
"We wait. There is a chest in there - it must be filled with supplies. We only need to break a lock." He walked into the house, and with a deep, raspy grating, he dragged the chest into the light. It was locked up solidly as could be expected, and from the weight of it and Anton's strain, Anton walked to the bridge, and found a loose rock coming from the base of it. It was heavy enough - with a grunt, he slammed the rock down on the dangling lock, bending the cast iron with the first hit, and knocking it clear with the next. Lifting the lid open, it was filled with several wrapped bundles - each of them waterproofed. They both took knees beside it, Madeline wincing a bit as she shifted to rest on her hip. The packages had dried fruits and meats, a few skins of wine and water, and another pack inside, holding a spool of gauze and some other medical liquids.
"There is enough to last two days here, if we are frugal enough." Anton pulled a pair of thick, warm cloaks from the chest, handing one to Madeline as he wrapped the other around himself. Madeline grabbed the last pack, interested in the polished and hardened leather satchel. It was a rifleman's bag, that much she knew. Inside she found a horn of black powder, a pouch of shot and a pack of wadding. Most comfortingly, she found a harness made to hold a brace of pistols. Obviously the guard that had vacated this watch took the pistol in the midst of a great urgency.

She sat with her legs straight out, letting Anton tend to her wounds. Most of her knowledge of such things consisted of washing the wound out with warm water and blowing air onto it - and she allowed him to teach her the discomfort and unpleasantness of iodine and rubbing alcohol. She breathed in sharply through gritted teeth as the liquid seeped into the deep cuts on her knees. It drew an unseen grin from Anton as he began to wrap the gauze around the wounds. After all was said and done, she stood to figure out the harness. Anton did nothing but watch out of the corner of his eye as he busied himself with repacking the chest. She slipped arms into the holes, and began to cinch up the buckles and straps as best she could manage. She wore a face of discomfort as a strap of leather tightened up beneath her meager breasts, uncomfortably so. 'Such is the nature of combat, I suppose..'.

"You've got it on backwards. Here." Anton stood and reached to the buckle at her sternum, stopping as he realized where his hands were. She huffed and unfastened the buckle herself. He turned the leather rig around, and fastened the last strap behind her back.
"There you are. Is it too tight?"
"It's just fine, thank you. I was getting tired of carrying these around." She slipped the repeaters into the leather sheaths, and placed her cloak back on. There was a comfort to this, even though she knew she was far from a crack shot or even possessing good eyesight, she still felt like there was a sense of safety in wearing something like this.

They spent the day close to the guard house, gathering the damp, musky wood that was suited for a fire. The guard house did have a small stove, and they packed it tight, and within minutes with the help of a bit of black powder, they had a crackling fire, filling the small room with a comfortable heat. From the vantage that the windows offered, they could see down both ends of the highway. It was hard not to sit and watch constantly, but in the end, they both took confidence that if someone were to come, they could hear the pound of hooves or the crunch of snow underneath foot. The meals were uninspiring, but with the empty stomach and the night before, it tasted like the food at the Cloak and Dagger. The evening drew in quickly, and soon the lack of a view turned the situation towards conversation. Anton did not waste time getting to the point.

"You said that was your sister. What happened with her?" He asked, placing another small log into the furnace, closing it with a cloth-covered hand.
Madeline sat on the small cot, taking in a deep breath. There was a desire not to talk about it - but it would serve no good to act as such. "Odetta, she is my older sister. Nachthafen was not yet under the protection of Stirland, and Count Varla had eyes to take back every city that was once under his rule. Our family, the Von Straadens, had become a large part of the city after his power left, many years before. We did not have much, but compared to the other cities in Sylvania.. we did fine." She chewed on another handful of raisins, continuing.
"The rumors kept reaching us more quickly. Talks of dark horrors coming in the night, razing the cities that opposed to the ground, taking their children and torturing them for days on end to punish the city leaders for rising against the strength of the Count. Nachthafen was a city such as that, and soon enough, rumors, they were at our doorstep. It was a messenger that came to the city, giving the city one last chance to fly the colours of Sylvania again." The light flickered and the fresh, damp wood snapped a few times as she composed her voice again.

"The three largest families told the messenger to leave, and that they had already sent word to Stirland to bring garrisons to the border cities, that they would stand against the Count, that it would be in his best interest to leave them alone, and be content that he had regained all the jewels in the crown of his domain."
"And did Stirland come?"
"It was all a ruse, we had sent no messengers, we had barely enough strong sword-arms to handle the usual fare of brigands and cattle-thieves. It was two days after the messenger had left that the Count marched on Nachthafen. The only thing we could do was prepare an escape with as many people we could fit onto carts. We did not expect that their men were already that close, and we were caught unaware. They closed off the surrounding highways, and those carts that we did send out were swarmed with beasts.. horrors.. they came from the skies as much as from the earth. All of the children in the village were on them.. their screams..." She trailed off, eyes going glassy, "-The troops began to burn the buildings, but did not harm any of the rest of the city's people. The stench of these villains reeked, and they stared at us with white eyes. The Count stood in the square, ordering the three families to face him. Odetta told me to hide, pushed me towards the small hidden trails of the woods."

"I saw from a wooded knoll. My father, he was pleading, just as the other two leaders were. Then as the Count barked and shouted, my father asked Odetta to step forward, urging her towards Count Varla. He was too fast, and Odetta.. she did not even seem to realize that her throat had been slashed. She stepped a few feet more and fell to his feet, bleeding out on the ground." Madeline wiped at her eyes, hugging her knees up to her chest again. "They slaughtered the rest of the city then, why they waited.. I do not know that which dines on fear like them. But something is not right. Why she walks again.. it is disturbing."

The silence came back. The question needed to be asked, but Anton had wished that he did not have to draw tears from the girl. As safe and warm as this refuge felt, there was a tingle at the back of his neck that there were things in the darkness that watched them even now - that a two hour sprint on a horse was not enough to hide from the grip or blade of an unreasonable and relentless foe. With a little short whispered prayer, he turned over to curl up on a blanket on the floor, letting the girl have her tears in as much privacy as he could give her. It would be another hard and trying night for the girl, for his part.

-----

He awoke to watch her at the window. The day was bright and snowy as the previous - there was an eagerness to her posture, hands resting on the sill to get her nose close to the pane, fogging it lightly with her breath which was quickly wiped away. Anton rose to peek his head down to her sightline, looking out to the highway as it came from Siegfriedhof.
"Anton, there are people coming, a dozen of them!"
"They must be survivors from the attack. We must help them, come!"

The two of them burst from the guard house, startling the horse which had been tied to the hitch with a frightful whinny. Their feet crunched and slipped in the snow as they started to cross the bridge, eventually settling into a pace as their boots dug into the snow with a greater ease. There were eight adults, and the rest children. Against the white backdrop of the road, they were black silhouettes, obviously injured and fatigued from their long journey. They stumbled and moved forward with a desperation that perked up when they saw the pair running towards them. They began to hobble into a small trot, voices raising in emotion. The distance slowly grew slimmer, and that was when Anton reached for Madeline's shoulder, staying her to the spot. She tried to free herself from his grasp, but she caught the sight of what stopped him in the first place.

As they neared, the contrast of white dulled, and the wounds of the dozen people were apparent. They were grievous, gashes that carved deep into the stomach, some of them had their entrails feasted clean from their bellies. The group of them began to rise into a what would pass for a sprint for the undead. A menagerie of rended flesh, burned hair and festering wounds. The realization took the pair by surprise, as they were only twenty or so yards away. Madeline fumbled and drew a pistol as their heels dug into the snow, hoping to turn and run back for the safety of the guard house. She fired off the first shot at the group in general, catching one of them in the shoulder, reeling him back as he hit the snow with a soft groan. Anton urged Madeline to keep backpedalling, himself looking to his waist for a blade that wasn't there, "Back, keep moving back!"

Her second and third shots went wide, kicking up small tufts of snow somewhere in the distance. The smell of the powder burned at the girl's eyes, forcing her to stumble backwards and turn into a sprint. The shock and ring of the shots did nothing to their attackers, as they did not even startle or slow at the threat of one of the Empire's finest creations. They reached the bridge, and Madeline stopped Anton right at the end of it. "Look, it narrows, go and get your blade, I cannot miss here!" Anton hesitated for a moment before falling on his face, scrambling towards the house. Taking a deep breath, Madeline saw the throng of undying begin to funnel into the bridge, which would barely hold a cart's width. She trained her pistol and cocked back the hammer, firing off shots towards them, planting her feet firm.

The remaining three shots slammed into the chest of the lead, toppling him back into the others with the force. The second shot found another's head, snapping his neck back as he fell over. The third managed to land in one of the children's stomachs, doubling it over and crumpling it to the ground. She dropped the pistol down and drew another. For some reason her feet found themselves moving forward to the cluster of walking dead, ringing six clean shots a good ten feet out directly into the vitals of the reanimated. Over the pile that she left, the remaining two foes crawled and tripped, uncoordinated and altogether unbalanced. Anton came in front of her, his long blade thrusting at them as they struggled to regain their footing, his blade lancing into their necks and chests with well-placed strikes, his blade coming out clean each time, their blood dried in their veins even now.

The bodies still twitched and moved, with the second wave of rigor mortis. Anton moved about, taking the heads off of each of them in turn, Sylvanian lore dictating each and every stroke of his blade. Though the bodies did not move, their skulls still opened their mouths voicelessly, chattering with blank stares into some unseen void. "Madalina, watch the woods, there may be more coming. Do not watch what I do, it is unsavoury." She stood at the peak of the bridge, watching to the black pillars of the wintery trees. There was no movement, and the wind began to whistle in her ears as the gusts increased. Behind her, Anton had his face turned away as he grabbed each of the bodies in turn, dragging them by the legs, well away from the guard house to pile them up. Hesitantly, he went back to each severed head in turn, kicking them towards the pile, careful to avoid the jaws with the toe of his boot. After a good twenty minutes, the cluster of bodies was piled. With a bottle of lantern oil, Anton circled the grisly pile, drizzling the fluid as evenly as he could. A lit piece of wood later, and the pyre was alight, thankfully the wind was blowing away from their camp, keeping the fetid stench from them, and from seeping into their clothes.

Anton watched the young girl stand there, arms crossed, unfazed by the sight of the ritualistic burning. He remembered during the skirmish, how her nerve held. It was a rare thing for a woman to be able to hold her ground, let alone move forward thusly, her pistols singing dirges for each of her foes. Though the blast kicked her arm high each time, there was a fury in her eyes, and it worried him that she was in such a mood, when in reality they were not far removed from the threat of the Counts.

As the fire began to die down, hooves could be heard coming from the west, from Thalheim. Anton was sitting on a small stool outside of the guard house, trying to figure out how to reload Madeline's pistols. He looked up to see a familiar sight in the regions. The Order of Lost Children was a knightly order in the loosest sense. They were looked on more as duellists and sell-swords than a true knightly order. There were five of them riding at a good pace towards them, each of them travelling light as possible. Madeline stood out in the road to wave them down, their hooves slowing as they reached the bridge. The leader of them, a youngish Marshall, regarded Anton with a salute, and a grinning tip of the hat to Madeline. His eyes moved to the smouldering pile of bodies, and saw Anton trying to load the repeaters.

"You are citizens of Siegfriedhof?"
"Yes, and so are they." Madeline interjected, nodding to the pile.
"So it is as bad as the messenger had told us. Have you any other news or details?"
"None, we were waiting here for Imperial forces, someone to help us."
"It looks as if you need little help.. well, perhaps some." The Marshall reached behind him to his saddlebag, pulling out another rifleman's bag, tossing it to Anton. He opened it to reveal strange tubes, painted a yellow and black, each of them with a copper cap. There was more than enough for a good sixty shots. "Slide them in, copper first. You are going to need them sir."
"For what?"
"We regret to inform you that you have been ordered to serve us as guides and militia. We know nothing of what happened, our commander told us to enlist the aid of any survivors we find. So far, you are the only two we've seen. We are also quite forgiving, as it is a crime to handle those pistols without being an officer of the Empire." The Marshall had a wolfishness to him that was unsettling.
"Why do you go back there? The danger may not have passed yet."
"That is our business, and with six men we could handle the trouble more easily than with five. You have no choice in this."
"Pack the horse, Anton."

Madeline strode over to Anton, and took the pistols from his lap. Cracking the breaches open in turn, she slid in the strange shots, clapping the pistols shut smoothly, tucking them back into her harness. "I have things to gather in the city, will we have a chance to recover them?"
"Of course ma'am." The Marshall gave a look of slight surprise as the girl moved to the horse and sidled up onto it as the young man slung the saddlebags back over, and mounted up himself.

-----

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[i]"So long honeybabe, where I'm bound, I can't tell. Goodbye's too good a word, babe, so I'll just say 'fare thee well'."[/i]
[b]Recent Joys:[/b] MMA Record: 7-5-1 (Retired) Finished a West-Coast tour as a bass player for several acts.


Last edited by Madeline Merri on Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:49 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2009 11:26 am 
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It is a joy to read what you have written =D>

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