Errow tried to refrain from admitting it to himself but Rin Northfell was magnificent. The Amurai warrior had paid his new superior only passing interest during the time that they were both residing at the Frostdale Barracks. Errow heard plenty of tales about Rin’s power after the daily bouts of exhibition fighting drills. He even drifted through the courtyard during a few of the practice assemblies as a casual observer but the man had never truly given Rin his full attention. Now that Errow was face to face with the primal might of the magic that Rin could bring to bear the Amurai could no longer ignore the fact that the boy had a great measure of potential.
The white furred thing that was one part stallion and two parts bear fell to the snow as the icy lance impaled it with a wet thud. Rin Northfell tapped into the abundant cold of the sounding wilds and began harvesting the energy to launch another such bolt of supernatural ice at the oncoming beasts. Rin grit his teeth hard as he used his innate power to control the land and call it to do his bidding. Once his spell had fully charged he let out a blaring scream that had no business coming from the throat of a boy so young. With a rage that was as hot as the steppes of Frostdale were cold, Rin sent another volley of icy murder into the chimera mob.
From his position at the rear of the Amurai patrol’s right, Errow Cutwick could see Rin’s impressive defense of the unit’s left flank. The boy was single handedly keeping the chimera at bay. The fury and rage that the lone Frostdale child fought with was as lethally potent as the rest of the Amurai patrol combined, if not more so. As a pair of warped bear things fell to the snow at Rin’s feet, Errow returned his attention the fighting in front of himself and his brothers-in-arms. As the Rustwatch born warrior affixed his gaze forward, he noted that more than one of his comrades had been similarly enthralled by Rin’s display of sheer destructive acumen. Errow rolled his eyes and frowned while he regarded the shameless expressions of awe and admiration that mired the faces of his fellow fighting men.
The Amurai captain at the front of the unit gave the signal for his soldiers to switch ranks. Bloody and exhausted, the front line of warriors stepped back from the thick of the combat with the chimera. In less than the span of a single breath, Errow and the rest of the warriors in his rank replaced the men and women who had been holding the front. The fresh line of Amurai met the chimera with a forceful resistance. The burst of new blood in the fray helped to reclaim the few precious footsteps of ground that the Frostdale forces had given up.
Amid the organized chaos of the combat Errow was able to see past the seething horde of beasts and glimpse their handiwork. Another of Frostdale’s outlying villages had been put to ruins by the claws and fangs of the monstrous things. The huts of simple folk burned with hungry flames and the bodies of dead and wounded villagers littered the snow. Amid the commotion handfuls of surviving people were able to break from assorted hiding spots and run for the safety of Amurai armor. Most of the refuges were able to make it to the Amurai ranks but several did not have the speed or good fortune to outrun the deadly jaws of the chimera. As Errow gutted one of the white bear creatures he glanced an elderly man being bore to the ground by a pair of monsters as he ran from a burning stables. Though the clash of blades and snarling, the Rustwatch native could hear the creatures begin to feast. The death screams and unanswered pleas for aid of the old man somehow managed to work their way through all the madness and find the ears of Errow Cutwick. As the man died, Errow silently cursed the name of Rin Northfell. For all the high praise that had been laid upon the boy, he had been unable to spare the life of a helpless man that was scarcely more than an arm’s length away.
Errow and the warriors as his side did a masterful job of keeping the chimera contained within the village. The broad shields of the Amurai surrounded the contested community and kept any of the vile creature form escaping back into the wilds. The combat wore on and the chimera mob dwindled in number until there were no more of the beast left alive. The victory came at the cost of several Amurai lives but it was a price paid gladly. For every warrior who had sacrificed themselves, at least two villagers had been saved from what would have been and assuredly gruesome end.
“We should see to the wounded and collect the dead,” Errow said after making his way over to Rin and standing at the boy’s side. As Errow spoke he regarded the piled of vanquished chimera that sounded Rin. It was notably greater in size then the mass of enemy bodies that the Amurai warriors had been able to account for.
“Yes of course,” Rin said, sounding fully unsure of himself as the fire of battle died in his eyes.
“You fought well,” Errow said tentatively. It was clear that compliments were not the man’s specialty.
“Thank you. I think that I ended more of the things in this encounter than ever before. It is nice to outdo myself,” Rin stated with a renewed sense of confidence. While it was plain to see that they boy dreaded wielding authority like an infectious disease he loved speaking of his exploits and reviling in the might he was able to exhibit.
Errow found his eyes drown to the ruin body of the old man who failed to escape during the combat. The Amurai swallowed down a burst of aggression and the urge to beat the arrogant little child black and blue. “Commander, perhaps your skills will continued to grow. In time you may be able to do more than just slay these mindless beasts,” Errow said with a voice that came out like the hiss of ice being melted on a hot iron furnace.
“What are you talking about?” Rin said with a sharp edge entering into his voice. The boy’s hands began to curl into fists and tremble with reignited aggression.
“We are expected to do more than just be a hammer to smash the chimera. The Amurai are also a shield to protect the people,” Errow said with biting and eyes that cut like winter ice.
“Ha, and what is it exactly that you think we were doing here, if not protecting the people?” Rin laughed with a slighted quality about his speech.
“The vast number of slain villagers here might take issue with the degree of protection that you are capable of offering to the good people of Frostdale,” Errow stated with driving ire as he took a subtlety aggressive forward step.
Rin’s eyes became wild and his breathing grew rapid and forceful. His head rolled from side to side like he was trying to pop a crick in his neck. “Because of me, men women and children will live to see another day.”
“Yes some will but not all, not enough anyway,” Errow shot back at the boy. While he could do no harm to Rin physically, Errow could at least take satisfaction in hurting the boy with his words.
“Enough,” Rin echoed with the unmistakable sound of murder in his voice.
Before the standoff between the commander and his advisor could escalate any further the light singsong sound of Cassidy’s voice cut the tension like a spring sunrise melting the lingering frost of winter. “Commander Northfell, you should come and see this,” Cassidy said from where several of the Amurai were regrouping.
Rin and Errow shared one final silent look of mutual disdain before heading off to investigate what Cassidy was speaking of. The commander and his advisor walked through the parting ranks of armored warriors to find Cassidy and the Amurai captain standing over the bodies of several dead chimera. Three of the white furred bear creatures lay still and bloody on the hard snow underfoot.
“What is it? These are just some dead beasts,” Rin said with careless abandon.
Errow accessed the forms of the dead chimera. Two of the three things were in fact the simple beasts that they appeared to be but the third body was not as mundane. “No they are not,” Errow refuted as he knelt by the suspicious third corpse. The carcass had the same white fur as the others but it was far smaller in size than the rest. Bravely, the Amurai searched the body and within moments he pulled the white fur cloak away to expose the heavily scared face of a man. Amid the blood and marred flesh of the copse was the carving of a great horned beast etched into his brow. There were several gasps and explicit choice words uttered from the gathered warriors.
“I thought they were just stories,” said one man to Errow’s shield side.
“This does not mean anything,” retorted a dark harried woman to Errow’s sword side.
“Maybe there really is a cult of people that worship the chimera,” sighed on of Errow’s comrades who was nursing a freshly broken arm and cuts to match.
“Enough talk,” interjected the Amurai captain. “I will here no more suspicions and far stories until the commander has given his next orders,” he continued sternly. The moderately girthy man looked about as he made mention of Rin as if to find the commander but to no avail.
Errow saw the boy who he was charged to guide and protect wandering off towards the outskirts of the village in a dreamlike haze. The man could tell by the soft and clumsy way that Rin moved something was amiss with the boy. With an uncharacteristic tenderness, Errow gently touched Cassidy on the shoulder as he moved by her. He offered the woman something that could have passed for a smile. She returned the expression with one of the smiles that she was so well known for. Errow found it curious that this time Cassidy’s alarmingly wide grin caused him to experience levity instead of annoyance. “I will see to Commander Northfell’s wishes,” Errow said to the captain and rest of the warriors as he followed in the boy’s footsteps.
“The men await your orders, commander,” Errow said with the mask of etiquette and propriety as he caught up to Rin. The boy turned to look at Errow and the Rustwatch born Amurai was taken aback by the unexpected expression that had darkened Rin’s features.
“I expected to end the lives of many chimera in The Great Cleaning. Never for a single moment, did I think that this war would mean having to slay my fellow man,” murmured Rin with grief and palpable remorse.
“They may be human but those who stand against the great cities of Argaia are not your fellow man. Before this war is over you will have to get quite comfortable with the idea of killing more than just savage animals,” responded Errow with a tone that was as cold as the snow and freezing wind that whipped across the torn battleground of the wilds.