Fall to Ruin
The fire was burning low and the sky above Evermist was moonless. It was still impossible for Sir Norman to sleep. The destruction of the rest of the Rayward regiment kept him from drifting off to slumber. He looked about at the battered collection of knights who had been able to survive the chimera’s attack on the Rayward encampment. Sir Norman shifted from side to side in an attempt to find a more comfortable position. He desperately wanted to sleep before it was his turn to stand watch but his cuts and bruises, added to the recent bloody memories, made it impossible for the man to rest.
Sir Norman’s hand went to the hilt of his broadsword as he saw a figure coming out of the darkness. His fingers relaxed their grip on the weapon when a friendly face stepped into the flickering firelight. The wounded man let out the tense breath he had been holding when he saw his brother-in-arms, Sir David, approach with a smile.
“Could not sleep either, Sir?” said Sir David as he continued to smile but stood up as tall and straight as his broken body would allow. Even in his beaten state Sir David still managed to show proper discipline and deference to a ranking knight.
“No I can not manage a wink. It has been a long night so far and I still have watch coming up,” Sir Norman said as he gestured for the junior knight to be seated.
“Nerves is it?” inquired Sir David. The man groaned softly as he took the weight from his sore legs and sat beside the fire.
The commanding knight said nothing in response but nodded his head in the affirmative after a few heartbeats of contemplation. “What about you?” asked Sir Norman after the silence endured for a few moments more.
“Ah, not in my case. At least not completely nerves. I had to tend to nature’s call and this old thing was bothering me,” responded the junior knight as he pointed to the bloody rags that bandaged his head.
“Of course. I will make sure that you have some proper wraps once we get to the Grand Abbey. I am positive that the Councilmen will be able to ease the pain there,” said Sir Norman with an empathetic breath.
“That will be just fine. I could find use for some comfort. Making this trek on foot has not been easy,” lamented Sir David.
“At least we are alive to make the trek. What horses survived the attack needed to be used for a distress dispatch. The ones back at the garrison and Rayward’s Gate need to know what happened here,” Said Sir Norman with a bitter edge in his words.
“You will not hear me debate that point. You made the right choice, sir. The sooner that King Gregory hears of that…that…whatever sort of chimera it was, the better. One regiment lost to it is one too many,” mourned Sir David as he loosened the blood encrusted cloth around his head.
“Agreed, sir…”said Sir Norman softly as he turned to some of his memories. He thought of the monster’s assault on the Rayward encampment. Those images gave way to the faces of knights who had perished by the creature’s hand. Sir Norman shook himself from his despair. “The riders should have made it back to the garrison by now. It won’t be long before our King can give that thing a fitting dose of Rayward discipline. We are not far from the Grand Abbey either. We should be able to rejoin out brothers-in-arms in no time at all,” continued the knight as he tried to keep a cheery air in his voice.
“What measures do you think that the King will take once he learns of the beast?” asked Sir David as he tenderly poked and prodded at the cut and swollen skin beneath the bandages on his face.
“More men to the region, I would suspect. That is all that can really be done though, isn’t it?” mused the ranking knight as he held his palms up to the fire and enjoyed some relaxing warmth.
“I would say so, unless you think his majesty wound beseech the aid of any of Rayward’s allies?” countered Sir David. The man winced in pain when his fingertips became too brave and unintentionally slipped into one of the gashes on his temple that had yet to stop bleeding fully. The knight had a few choice obscenities leap to the tip of his tongue but he valiantly fought to keep them from being spoken aloud.
Sir Norman snorted and snickered at the other man’s statement. “Ha, Rayward call upon our allies? King Gregory ask for aid? No, never,” he scoffed.
“You seem awfully sure of that fact,” Sir David responded curiously.
“Sure I am indeed. I will admit that this chimera is as deadly a foe as I have ever encountered but truly sir. With all the fighting men and provisions that Rayward has at her beck and call…I will say this, If this beast it something that our King can not defeat then it is because it can not be defeated,” said Sir Norman with unshakable confidence.
The pair of knights sat without passing anymore words. The two men each turned to their own thoughts for a time. The night continued to press on but neither Sir Norman nor Sir David felt the call of sleep beckon them. The senior knight was unsettled by the dark restless purgatory that he was entangled in. Sir Norman was in the midst of contemplating some topics for small conversation just so he could do something besides not sleep. The silence of the night was broken with the sound of another armored man rapidly approaching the dying fire.
Sir Harold, who was one of the men that had been on sentry duty, tore thru the ragtag campsite of battered and wounded Rayward fighting men. “Sir Norman, Sir Norman…” cried the knight as he navigated the poorly lit soundings.
“I am here. What news?” Sir Norman said as he stood. The leading Rayward knight readied his sword, as did several other men who had been woken by the disturbance.
“A handful of Councilmen, Sir. At the perimeter,” panted Sir Harold as he knelt before Sir Norman.
With the eyes of his subordinates locked upon him Sir Norman indicated that Sir Harold need not be so formal and should stand. “Red Cloaks? Was the Grand Abbey informed of our folly? Were they dispatched to collect us?” inquired the senior knight.
Sir Harold grimaced as he prepared his words. “No sir, I doubt that very much.”
“Why say you?” asked a perplexed Sir Norman.
“They look even more poorly then we do sir…and…” trailed Sir Harold.
Sir Norman gave the other man a discomforting look as he spoke. “Well man go on, speak.”
“The Councilmen said that they fled the Grand Abbey. That it was under attack, put to flame even,” said Sir Harold with a quaking voice.
Sir Norman felt he knew the answer without even asking the question. Still he compelled himself to inquire just so he could confirm his suspicion. “The Grand Abbey put to flame, by what force?”
“From the description I gathered, I would say it is the work of the chimera that broke our regiment and ended so many of our brothers-in-arms,” Sir Harold said with much grief.
Even though he had prepared himself to hear such an account, Sir Norman took the words like a lace to the chest. He passed a silent glance with Sir David who looked equally as grim. Sir Norman began to reconsider his thought that Rayward and King Gregory could vanquish this foe without aid.