Cracks in the Wall
Errow saw the chimera fall to the ground as his shot struck it in the upper torso close to its throat. The perverted bear-creature began to rise filled with an unquenchable killing need as if fought through a wound that would have slain any mortal or uncorrupted creature of nature. The Amurai warrior nocked another arrow on his bowstring and prepared to add a sixth shaft to the collection of five arrows that protruded from the thing’s body. The chimera roared with bloody fangs and glared with glowing green eyes at Errow Cutwick. It started to charge strait at the Amurai with enough force that its heavy frame hitting the snowy ground of the remote village could be felt by all those engaged in the combat. The chimera’s roar was choked off as the arrow embedded itself in the creatures open maw. This time when it fell the chimera did not get up again.
It was an admitted surprise to Errow that his shot had been so true. He did not expect such a fortuitously lethal blow to be landed by his arrow. The Rustwatch born warrior had fully expected his archery to only serve as a means to even the inevitable melee combat with the chimera monstrosity. Errow was pleased with the fact that he did not have to go hand to hand with a thing that was well over twice his size though he did not indulge in even a single moment of pride for his perfect aim. There would be time enough for vanity and congratulations when the skirmish was over, not that such things had an appeal to Errow’s ever stoic and practical demeanor. The Amurai had seen more than one skilled warrior cut down in the heat of the fray by losing their focus and basking in premature glory.
Despite his remarkable ability to keep his head locked on a single purpose to the exclusion of all else, Errow felt something hit him by surprise as a break on his flak shattered his clarity in the chaos. The death-scream of one of Errow’s brothers-in-arms came from nowhere as another dark mockery of a bear rent the man’s armor and flesh like fire cutting through a forest in drought. In moments, the fighting formation of the small Amurai squad had been scattered by the raucous thing as it visited remorseless carnage upon the fighting men. Before long Errow was the last man at his position left alive. He had put two shafts into the second chimera but the arrows did not impede the beasts killing acumen. The bear charged Errow the same way its predecessor had. Errow reached for his quiver only to find it empty. Now he took an ill-timed moment to curse himself for carelessly losing count of how many arrows he had at his disposal. In a fruitless desperate gesture Errow hurled his bow as the chimera. The weapon harmlessly bounced off the bulky shoulders of the monster. Errow let his hands go to the pommel of his bastard sword with all the speed that he could command. The chimera was looming over the Amurai with gore stained fangs and claws before Errow had even drawn his blade half way from its scabbard. Errow readied himself to feel his skin being ripped open and his bones splintered like kindling by the unmatched brawn of the chimera but the sensation of death never came.
Instead, it was the bear that cried out in pain as the broad tip of a spear pierced its thick hide. From out of the snow and anarchy of battle, Cassidy appeared sporting fresh cuts on her face and wearing an enormous scarlet smile. She forced the tip of her spear further into the chimera’s body and while she did, her smile grew to unnatural proportions, as did the battle hungry look in her eyes. The Frostdale warrior woman let out a primal battle cry as she plunged her weapon in midway up its haft. The warped bear fell on its flanks as Cassidy buried the point of her spear in its heart with a strength that grown men of Rayward linage would envy. In its death throws the chimera swatted at Cassidy with a gnarled claw. The woman jumped back with impressive speed and dodged a blow that would have removed her head from her shoulders.
“Trying to take me with you. I admire your fight but you die alone, ha,” Cassidy laughed as she twisted her spear and shredded the chimera’s insides.
When the chimera had stopped thrashing about a morbid calm fell over the small mountainside village. Errow and Cassidy exchanged expressions of relief as they realized the battle was finished. As soon as the shared emotion faded Errow’s face returned to its usual sour expression and Cassidy found her lips set in a pleasant smile once again.
“I am grateful for your aid. I do not think I would have survived without your help,” Errow said in earnest. He was polite with his cadence but it was plain to see that he was unaccustomed to expressing gratitude, let alone weakness or vulnerability.
“Think nothing of it. It is what we do for our brothers and sisters. Besides if I let this one end you I would have nobody left to enjoy irritating with my…what did you call it…unrelenting joy,” Cassidy said with equal parts sincerity and humor. She flashed her blood covered teeth at Errow in a champion’s grin.
The two Amurai looked about the besieged huts and tents of the community and noted the number of dead chimera, villagers and fellow warriors. The settlement was small enough that Errow and Cassidy could take in the full spectacle of the clash with the chimera. The other surviving Amurai began to gather in the center of the village, near a large fire pit that still had healthy flames.
“This one cost us nearly as many as holding the tunnel back in Frostdale proper,” Errow lamented as his eyes lingered on the forms of slain Amurai covered in crimson snow.
“A heavy cost but a worthy cause,” Cassidy retorted as she removed her gauntlets and began to warm he hands by the large billowing fire.
“How is that? We come out here beyond the seal wall to patrol the wilds and put ourselves in peril for those who refuse the protection of the city. Good warriors have died for what?” Errow grumbled as he followed Cassidy’s lead and doffed the armor on his hands so he could warm them by the fire pit.
The light of the fire made the streaming blood on the warrior woman’s face shimmer and shine against the reflective white snow. She had a bizarre incongruous beauty about her as she sighed and shook her head at Errow with fond disapproval. “Errow Cutwick, men and women are not meant to live their entire lives behind walls, even walls as grand as those of the great cites. The good folk who try and make a life for themselves here in the wild are to be commended for their bravery. Those who live beyond the wall are trying to build something worthwhile in spite of the chimera and the terror that they sow,” Cassidy said with great empathy and passion.
Errow heard the words of his fellow warrior and tried his best to separate the facts from the plentiful naivety that imbued Cassidy’s statement. “Something worthwhile,” he said with a disgusted pucker of his lips. “It is safe in the great cities. Here in the wilds it is death waiting to happen. I doubt that people would be so keen as to try and live out if we did not regularly patrol the territory.”
Cassidy looked at the man from Rustwatch with a cool discerning eye before she offered her perfect rebuttal. “We have laid many of our comrades-at-arms to rest inside the seal wall of Frostdale. There have been a small army’s worth of chimera that have breached the city over the years. I would hardly say that Frostdale is safe, as you claim. Nowhere on the face of Argaia is safe as long as the creatures roam.”
Errow took the words like a slap in the face. This time he could not deny the reality and truth of Cassidy’s statement. “Perhaps this new commander, Rin, who you seem to put so much faith in, will be able to make the city safe, if he ever shows up that is,” muttered Errow as he chewed on the inside of his cheek.
“I am sure that Rin Northfell and Father Rhodes will be back from the conclave any day now. I know it have been some time but if Rin or our Councilmen went missing I have to believe that we would have heard about it,” Cassidy said defensively.
The dour Amurai man huffed and scoffed at the perpetual optimism of his compatriot. “I swear that…” Errow started to say but was interrupted by Cassidy’s vocal outburst.
“Missing!” Cassidy exclaimed as her eyes darted around the modest settlement.
“What?” queried Errow with unfiltered confusion.
“Are you blind?” Cassidy asked with fervor. “Starks and Martello, they are not by the fire and I do not see them among our dead. I do not see them anywhere.”
Errow was about to reflexively take a contrary position to Cassidy’s alarm but his eyes were unable to locate any trace of the two other Amurai either. “The heat of battle is still fresh. We have not even properly regrouped and accounted yet. I am sure that our brothers will turn up soon enough,” Errow said with something that could pass for a supportive tone. “Whether they are alive or dead is a wholly different matter through,” he continued with a return to his typical pessimistic bearing.