“That should be the last of them,” said Fredrick as he pulled the tip of his spear form the corpse of the monstrous creature that had once been a graceful stag. The Rayward squire looked around at the village streets littered with the bodies of similar creatures and several unfortunate citizens of Evermist.
“Right you are, Fredrick. It is quiet enough. I would say that the village has earned a reprieve from the chimera…” responded Sir Jonathan to his squire. The Knight wiped down the blade of his broadsword and once it was clean of enemy blood he returned it to its sheath. The man’s gaze wandered up towards the sky and he saw the red clouds beginning to gather once more. “…a reprieve for a short while at least.”
“You think the red rains will return soon?” Fredrick queried.
The Rayward knight gestured upwards with his gauntleted hand. “I would say the state of the sky is a strong indication. These poor folk will receive another soaking before long.”
“And then more chimera to follow, surely,” said the squire with a deep grimace on his face.
“Surely. It seems to be the nature of these creatures. They come in the time after the rain. I have yet to see, or hear of, them striking during one of the red storms. A small mercy, that,” said Sir Jonathan with a mournfully reflective tone as he looked at the unmoving bodies of several children who had fallen to the chimera.
“I have yet to decide which I prefer less, the red rains or these beasts,” touted Sir Kenneth as he swaggered up to the other knight and his squire. Sir Kenneth sort of waddled as he walked due to his portly physique. Blood flowed freely from a deep cut on the man’s right cheek.
“You are in need of medicine,” Sir Jonathan said as he indicated the wound on his brother knight’s face.
“What, for this?” responded Sir Kenneth with mock surprise as he pointed to his bloody cheek. “I’ve had far worse that what this herd of overgrown venison can muster. I can tend it myself.”
“Perhaps that is for the best. I fear that will not have enough time to return to the rest of the regiment before the next storm breaks. We will have to make do with what we have on hand,” said Sir Jonathan as he warily regarded the thick gathering clouds.
“I am certain that the people of the village would be willing to extend us some shelter and hospitality while we wait out the rain,” said Fredrick hopefully.
“I would think so. Things being the way they are I doubt that the people of Evermist would care to see real fighting men venture to far from their homes. Who knows, maybe this will be enough to inspire the formation of a proper army in the Valley,” said Sir Kenneth with a pompous voice that perfectly fit his rotund frame.
“Peace is the way of the people here. It is not a thing to be made light of. I should think that it is a way for all men to aspire to, in fact,” shot Sir Jonathan at his less considerate brother-in-arms.
“Maybe but it is not the Rayward way, ha,” chuckled Sir Kenneth as he stomped his armored foot on the head of one of the deceased chimera. He smiled as he heard the crunch of bones beneath his heel.
Sir Jonathan shook his head disapprovingly but said nothing.
“We may be able to keep out of the rain in the village here but what if the chimera come before we can resupply from our base camp?” Fredrick said with a nervous edge in his words.
“Our orders and our duty have not changed because we are less equipped. We will continue to protect the people of the Evermist Valley as commanded by our betters,” responded the young man’s knight.
Sir Kenneth gave a wide toothy grin and playfully pushed Fredrick’s shoulder as he spoke. “What is the matter, boy? Do not tell me that these scrappy little things have put the fear of death into your spine. I would tell you to check our dead before tending to the horses but we lost no men. In fact this excuse of a flea bite is the only casualty Rayward suffered in the skirmish,” goaded the knight as he flaunted his bloody cheek in the squire’s face.
Some good natured teasing was to be expected from veteran knights, it had become a bit of a tradition in the knightly fraternal order. Sir Kenneth was the sort to take a squire’s hazing a little too far. Sir Jonathan was about to intervene and come to his squires rescue. Before Sir Jonathan spoke he realized something about his brother knight’s boast and it gave him a greater measure of concern. “Wait, that farmstead up the way…” Sir Jonathan trailed off.
Both Fredrick and Sir Kenneth looked at the man with curiosity. “What of it my lord?” asked the squire.
“We had assumed that these chimera were responsible for the butchery that was visited upon that poor family,” said Sir Jonathan as he swept his arms around and indicated all the bodies of the vanquished monsters.
“Yes and…” pressed Sir Kenneth as he scratched his head in quandary.
“Well look at how these villagers were slain. Remember how the family in the farm house was butchered. Whatever ended them back there was something altogether more savage. More than that I would venture to say that whatever it is, it is still close by.” said Sir Johnathan.
After a moment Sir Kenneth laughed heartily and continued to prod Sir Jonathan’s squire. “You see boy, you have gone and made my brother-in-arms start to question his valor. If there is another beast lurking about, let it come. We will give it a taste of Rayward honor just the same as this lot.”
The Rayward men were cut silent by a malevolent voice that sounded from the tree line around the village. “I am what you fools speak of so brazenly. Now, make your offerings.”
Sir Jonathan watched, nearly petrified with terror as the thing that had spoken broke from the cover of the wood. It was undoubtedly a chimera but this creature was a monster beyond anything the Rayward man had dared to imagine or dream. With as much knightly virtue as he could command Sir Jonathan summoned the will to speak. “Rayward to me! Rayward to me!” the knight ordered all the warriors in the village. With what he saw coming, Sir Jonathan knew that he would need every last one of them.