The Fall of the North
"Our helmets got a message from an Arbiter Knight, Lady True, she told us she was just signaled by a Few posts in the mountains who sent out emergency distress signals. She just learned that the Northern Caravan might have been wiped out and survivors would be scattered. Folter was right. Lady True was a Native of Raben. Born into Raben, but feathered into the Arbiters. She is on her way to the Avisland city: Nest Reacher. I'm going to lead our squads back to warn the Clans. This will expose the traitors and they'll act immediately. But speed is necessary. The Fate Clan, Warden, and the Scouts need to know. The communications of the Corvus Castrum are rigged. We'll need to go in person."
-Personal Note: Marshal Verner-
Avisland: Northern Border Post
“Volker? What is this?” I asked at the horror before me. A sight burned into my eyes.
“My guess is what we see here... is what happened at each post. Two distress signals have gone off out here. A few of the posts resisted what ever happened out here. Others might be alive.” Volker said. With a tremble in his voice.
We arrived at the summit post. The door was opened before we arrived, an explosive fastened to the ladder. It would detonate should the hatch open fully. Trish clipped it off and disarmed it.
The base of the ladder was stained and a Rabenite was dead with his body skewered to the ladder. The blood had darkened signifying at a day had passed.
Another was in a pool of his own blood with the blood of another. A Rabeness was laid down with her helmet in her lap. An honorable position, her eyes were closed and her pain was gone. Her entire mouth was deeply sprayed with her own blood as her entire outfit dripped with it. She had been place there. Her body was laid on a clean place and the weapons of her foes were piled around her.
The masked bodies were gory and splattered on each wall with glyphs and symbols scratched in with a Raben’s claws. Blood for ink, claws for stylus.
“These here are two souls with no business in the Northern mountains. And the poor girl there is Alanza. She’s a Fate like yourself. But her squadmate was supposed to be up here too.
“Marshals Gardener and Pox. These two were Wardens before they became Marshals. And these two have only been marshals for a few weeks.” Trish said.
“These weren’t fiends, were they?” I asked.
“Look at the wounds Verloren, figure it out. I know you won’t want to but you will learn.” Volker told me.
Four incisions, on the neck, metal rod plunged into abdomen. I gagged. Entrails ruptured, excessive blood loss, and two bloody spots on the side there, and a ruptured heart.
“My revo can make holes like that, the tree I shot earlier tore open. I guess that someone shot this person, Gardener, twice. And the gun against the ladder, Jezail rod, a bit obvious. This poor girl. She’s in my tribe?
“Yes Verloren. You would have been good friends. Alanza was fond of new recruits, loved to enjoy tea, learn about their old ways and their tribes, meet their families. Always humble, always the friend. She was a Bedded native.”
“The marks are talons, four slices, and four holes in her ribs, and her heart was ripped up.” I squirmed under ceiling of the mountain top. I always imagined the peaks of mountains were tranquil, and they were. The dead were motionless.
“Someone left us another message.” Volker points out.
A.L.A.N.Z.A--HA.S --B.E.E.N-- A.V.E.N.G.E.D
“God, please receive her soul my lord…” Trish prayed out.
“Rankivol… of course.” Volker’s remark just made more questions.
“Who’s Rankivol?” I’d forgotten Verza mentioned him.
“He’s a Fate too. Explains his code, explains his scribbling and all that. But Notice we don’t see a third body. Verloren, check the surface, look for blood up top.”
I nodded slowly. Anything to get out of this death pit. I scurried up the ladder passed the murderer impaled upon it. He’d have been hit in his spine and stood there paralyzed.
A sprinkle here, a drop or two there. They moved to the right of the door but prints showed up, just boot prints. And a long line of blood followed them. Just a trickle making it a thin line but the line faded into mere drops.
“I’ve got prints and I’ve got blood up here.”
“Prints, Rank could walk after getting shot?” Trish responds
“He was shot?” I shouted down from the ladder hole in the ceiling.
“Verloren, there is a hole behind the back wall, a metal rod is in there. Just near the weapon’s rack, there is also a dead raven. Someone entered in as a Raben Marshal, stabbed Alazna from behind, and into her chest cavity. Good old Rankivol snapped back and responded, he got two shots off at Gardener here. But Pox shoot a rod through his leg. Rankivol scrambles to this first aid kit on the ground. See this bloody needle? He sewed up any injuries he could, but he might need more for a wound like that. Only thing is, there is no way he got up that ladder by himself.”
“So it seems.” Trish sais. “Verloren follow the prints but be aware of any traps. He’s a fate. But he has lost a lot of blood, he’d be tired.”
I popped my head back out from the hole to the post. I’m was swimming on the air up here, it was a bit light and huffed. Two breaths for one lung full of air. But the stink arrived again when I removed my helmet. I heard a grunt and a snarl. I twisted with my cloak spread out in every direction. The cape flashed out and around me with the edges of my gear poised. My hand reached into my vest and frees my Revo.
Fired my revo squeeze a trigger. The metal dart shrieked into the fiend at the knee. I click another time with an adjustment. The dart sent its neck into four pieces that dribbled to the ground as a single wheeze escaped it. The second blast finally arrives.
That phantom blast lingered echoing around us every where, the target was already painted with gore before I even heard the sound.
“Just a fiend! It’s dead now.” I shouted to the others. "Are we all this fast?”
“Your first kill?” Trish shouted. “Welcome to the Tribe sister. I wish it wasn't this early or at all but you're a Rabeness in full."
Volker chipped in. "Wait till you meet Nadel, a speed demon, that one.” Her voice echoed from the post’s interior. Sunlight coming through two windows in the sides of the post. “If only Alanza could rejoice with us.”
“Loren, Volker. We'll begin tracking Rankivol."
Volker interrupted. "I need a hole dug for Alanza, a grave. I’ll take care of Gardener and Pox, they used to be Rabenites so I wouldn’t want Verloren handling these two pukes.” Volker grabbed the two dead traitors off the walls and carried them one at a time when he reached the ladder and found a solid branch to mount their corpses on outside. Each hung off the ground by a few feet.
Trish and I use her spare spade in her gear to get a shallow grave ready. We wrapped Alanza in her cloak and place her down carefully.
I had tears but I’m not sure why. Too much death? Not likely. Grief? I never knew Alanza, but I feel disturbed that I was supposed to know her, she was supposed to be family. And that’s why I’m hurting, it made sense. I’m crying because I lost family.
“No! No!” Trish shouted as we marked the grave. “Volker get your weapon. Verloren get your talons ready, have that revo loaded.”
I opened my weapon and place two more darts into the chambers. Three shots, and my knife: accounted for.
“What’s the matter?” Volker asked.
“Alanza and Rank were mostly here to watch a convoy. We had reports of a fiend incursion coming soon, Roost was supposed to be on this pass right beside the convoy. It lines up with Arbiter’s movement through the territory, their convoy could have been struck or at least threatened. And if we have Fiends moving thought the area, it means either the Roost tribe’s guards are dead, or never came.”
“No!” I shouted out. I beheld another scene down the hill. The leftovers of fiends litter the trails along the peak. Blue feathers float in the wind, and metallic vehicles were flipped and smoldering.
“It’s one of Arbiter’s caravans.” Volker says his voice growing almost throttled out.
I used to help load their wagons with food and extra things to distribute to the other tribes. They were the traders, the distributes and the negotiators.
“No survivors here.” Trish fell to her knees as the sun sets low and orange fades to crimson light. “I was once an arbiter… These were my people. Who left them to die and killed their guards? Who has stooped to killing wise and peaceful Arbiters with fiends?”
“Someone must have helped Rankivol right?” It dawned on me. “We have strange prints still, and small prints, then massive prints. I input to lift Trish. It’s the only way I haven’t snapped yet.
“This convoy would have a Cataphract correct?” Volker asked Trish.
She stood up and rejoin our focus, “Yes, there would be an armor model, male and female, especially if they are traveling between Roost, Raben, and Bedded."
Volker pulled her up. “We must have had Arbiter survivors. Arbit would run in an emergency. They can just head across the pass and back into the valley. They’d be safer and it's directly against the where the fiends came from. Fiends don't advance after the ones that flee. They secure their territory first. The loose ground in that direction would have something as heavy as fiends rolling down the rock faces.” Trish pointed out. But the Cataphract suit is different.
“Good thinking but listen closely Verloren. Each tribe has a core of very elite members, typically it’s the Knights, or council, whatever. Those top dogs know about Raben, and we agreed in absolute emergency there will be a model of Cataphract armor for each clan in tribes, male and female. It’s been a life saver. Roost, Bedded, and Raben hold several of these models.” Volker interjected.
“Look there! That’s it.” Trish motioned.
She pointed out a low blue light emanating from one of the toppled wagons. We moved down the hill and found the cliff barren. A few corpses, both fiend and Arbiter, lay on the ground. Volker lifted a metal door away.
“Empty... Someone found it. It’s activated.” Volker said.
“Perhaps this Armored Arbiter found our missing Rankivol?” I proposed. Trish pondered after that.
Volker announced his thoughts, “We can guess but honestly we’ll have to track it. Something that big doesn’t move fast, and doesn’t hide well. My only worry is, if we have traitors lurking about, we are in jeopardy of an ambush. And if a hostile is piloting the Cataphract armor, then we’re royally screwed Trish.”
"Volker track the Suit's steps, I bet they lead to the post." Trish ordered. "Verloren we're going to move out soon. We'll take to the green again."
Ferns grow down hill and the pine needle dirt packed under my boots. A slide or two has my leggings coated brown. The knee guard was worth the awkward tightness. I changed direction pretty quick heading down hill.
Volker found the prints that led up to the post then out the hatch and back down the hill with something being dragged. Trish and myself were brown from the waist down from sliding on the loose rock. We tended to have more water in these areas from mists in the altitude. But a few areas above us had the last melting from the snow leaving us very cold.