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Monday, 18 June 2007
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Prelude to Death: part 3
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Prelude of Death

Third part of my marienburg series, the biggest chapter so far and probably most entertaining one.



Somewhere, above the tree line a crow landed on top of a pine. His dark feathers lustrous and reflecting the colour of the dusk and the last rays of light disappeared, slowly leaving the dark forest, and in a way, it seemed as if a shadow moved in from the east, the shadow of night. Minutes passed and the crow stood there, its intent obvious, its patience little. Finally, as in a last attempt for glory the blood red rays of the sun flashed, before being utterly conquered by the growing darkness. He cawed, tonight, there would be a feast.

Maya grumbled: she was tired, hungry. It had just started raining. "Not MY idea of an easy job..." she commented to herself while thinking of the Captain's words. She quickly enveloped her guns in waterproof bags, something she had learned from her years in Estalian mercenary companies. "Worse than jumping in front of an opponent, pressing the trigger and missing, is jumping in front of an opponent, pressing the trigger and nothing happening: then its death AND humiliation." was a common Estalian saying, but she was sure that although her companions had never been to Estalia-with the possible exception of one or two- they knew better than to let gunpowder get wet. Her legs hurt with the effort of just crouching in the middle of the woods for hours. Eventually she had decided to sit on a nearby tree root, yet it was too late, and already the pain made its way up her thighs. And now the rain was soaking her; she felt far from the warm bed she had been promised for the evening.

She looked at Maria to her side, who showed no signs of being tired, bored or anything at all, just watchful. For a few moments Maya stared at her, wondering just how this woman, who was comely enough, had chosen the mercenary path instead of whoring, or some other more dignifying job. She herself had her own reasons of course, but still she delved on it until enough time had passed for Maria to look back and cause an awkward silence followed by the barely audible question in the rain: "What?" "Oh, nothing, was just wondering." Maya quickly answered, thanking the lack of light which provided a poor vision or Maria would see her face blush. "Yes, I can see that, you were wondering about something, and I was in it." Maria said, with a tone of voice that demanded a quick answer. "Just wondering about your mercenary life and all..." she said, avoiding the whoring part, which Maya was sure would enrage the Tilean woman to the point of a slap. Maria grinned, obviously amused by something. "Well, I realize that it's not exactly what most people expect a woman to be doing, but as long as it puts food in your plate, you can't really complain. And, I admit that I like the adrenalin." Maya had once heard from Lorenz, that when Maria started talking, you better stuff your ears with cheese because she wouldn't stop anytime soon. And true to her reputation Maria did go on and on about the perils and benefits of the mercenary job. How she had been raised on a Tilean farm by her grandfather who taught her how to fight. Eventually she had left and met Lorenz, who she became friends with and after some years of fighting they had found Clark, who had created the small mercenary group. The story wasn't that interesting to Maya even more due to the fact that it resembled her own story in many ways, yet it did keep boredom away. Then out of curiosity she couldn't help but ask Maria: "Don't you ever feel guilty about all this? Killing people?" It was a question Maya often asked herself and she prayed that her daughter would never learn of how her bread was bought. Maria stopped and turned to face Maya, her dark eyes glinting in the night. She couldn't help but think of all the people for who those eyes had been the last thing they had ever seen. She turned away, unable to face those eyes. "Ah, you ask that question, but you fear it too." Maria's comment came, as cold and vicious as the dagger stuck in her belt. "Yet, I'll answer that question, you're a nice enough person, and I trust you won't be going around telling this to other people." The Tilean continued, which only roused Maya's curiosity even more. "There was one time, 8 years ago would be a guess, when our group had Jakob and Michael instead of you and Marvin. One day, we were starving, literally: the lack of war and conflicts in the past couple of years had allowed for a more constant patrolling of the areas in which we worked and so our jobs were getting harder until the offers just ceased to come. One day, we were at an inn on the side of the road near Nuln when a tall man, covered in a long leather coat and wearing a capotain hat opened the door not too subtle. He spoke in a clear and loud voice, filled with authority, asking for the services of "honest soldiers" with the promise of rewards. Suffice to say that half the inn offered itself. But since we were the only actual group there, we managed to beat our way to the front and the job was ours. We learned that he was a witch hunter and had found a couple living in a cottage near Drachenfels that were had been found guilty of heresy many years ago. He needed our help to seize them. In the middle of the night we burst through the frail door. The man put up a fight, picking up a woodcutter's axe and trying to hit Clark yet he was no match for the captain as he dodged the swing and plunged his own sword through the man's chest. The woman instantly fell to her knees next the body, crying and sobbing. To our surprise a boy appeared from the other room, about 12 or 13 years old was my guess seeing his size. The boy nimbly jumped at the witch hunter, punching and biting. Yet it was useless as he was grabbed and dragged outside by Jakob and Michael, who held him down, while the witch hunter burned a brand into his back, denouncing him as suspicious of heresy. A not so common practice but I'm guessing he just didn't want to kill the boy. He had no such qualms about the mother though as he went back inside and beat her half to death with all of us just looking. Then he proceeded to tie her to a chair and light the cottage on fire. The screams from the woman were enough to freeze your veins. It is useless to say that I deeply regret it but the money from that one job kept us alive for the next months." She sighed and for the first time in the past hour she didn't keep on talking until Maya asked: "What happened to the boy?" "Oh, we never found out, though Jakob said that-..." Maria suddenly stopped and quickly hushed Maya.

A moment passed, followed by another, while around them the forest seemingly stopped breathing together with them. Until the sound of an owl echoed through the forest: Rickard's sign that the convoy was here. Suddenly, at the end of the road visible to them, a light came into view and then another one until at least half a dozen lights lit a carriage with several soldiers carrying lamps. Their progress was slow with all the rain making the path muddy. Just for the best for the mercenaries yet rain also meant that they could only loose one shot as it was useless to try and recharge during rain. The carriage meanwhile was slowly moving towards the two of them. Maya remembered the plan: Maria and Maya would stay on this side of the road with Rickard farther down while Clark would be in the position opposite to them both, Lorenz would be with Marvin, both opposite to Rickard. Marvin would fire first, calling the attention of the guards to him and allowing for the other groups to move in silently in their rear. All seemed to be going according to plan as the carriage moved ever slowly towards the ambush until Maria and Maya heard a cough to their right.

There, barely 20 feet away from them, was a soldier: this one didn't have a lamp, which together with the rain and darkness accounted for how he managed to get so near. He was moving ever closer to the forest but clearly wasn't aware of them. Yet if he got any closer, he would soon stumble on one of the women. The two of them held their breath as they unsheathed their daggers and took out their pistols, still covered in their waterproof bags. Luckily the man stopped just before he got within 10 feet, and proceeded to lower his trousers and relief himself. But in one of fate's cruel jokes Maya slipped from her now wet root and fell backwards. Even with the rain this was enough for the man to hear and he quickly lifted his trousers. He cocked his head towards the noise, trying to listen. He was close then and as he got even closer, Maria had hid herself behind a bush catlike. There was no way out for Maya since she was still on her back on the ground. Luckily enough the man -who was now only 5 feet away- still didn't see her. The man looked around and asked: "Who's there?" To which there was no reply as Maya prayed for him not to look down. What seemed like an eternity passed and at last with a grumble, he was about to turn away when her hand snapped a twig and this time, he did look down.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 30 June 2007 )
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