[Vfw-times] MK story - Choices part 1

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Tue Oct 15 23:32:38 CDT 2002

 This story is something of a flashback. It takes place a few days after my 
Counter strike story, which is 2 weeks after Winter assault.


By Christian O'Kane

   The chapel was quiet. The pews so recently full of people were now empty. 
A soft stillness filled the place that gave it a solemnity and warmth that 
buoyed the soul. Only a solitary figure was in this place, enjoying and 
needing the solitude it gave. The man wasn't seated in the pews, instead it 
was kneeling in front of the altar. The tabard he was wearing over the armor 
was dark blue and had a huge, gold Follower cross embroidered onto it. He 
wore the tough and expensive plate mail armor of a nobleman but his belt and 
sword were as plain as any peasant's tools.

   Sir Edmund was tired, more tired then he had ever been before. An intense 
weariness that weighed down upon him, slowing his movements and his thoughts. 
The campaign north had been short, barely a week long but there had been an 
intensity about it that had surprised him. But the marching and even the 
fighting itself was the least of it. He had been through countless campaigns 
before, ones lasting months and years. Each had gifted to him with scars both 
physical and mental that would last with him till the day he died. Yet all of 
that seemed to pale in his mind. His thoughts didn't fall upon the fighting 
of less then a week ago. Instead his mind kept returning to those haunted 
ruins and the ghosts in it.


   The paladin was surprised, he'd thought himself alone. Looking around he 
found a small boy of around ten years old standing close to him. The child 
was dressed in the flowing robes of a Follower priest and had dirty blonde 
hair. His brown eyes seemed somehow far older then the youthful body they 
were a part of.

   "I'm Hough whom the Great One has blessed with leading this house of 

   "My name is Sir Edmond Delacot. Protector of the innocent and defender of 
the faithful and a Knight of the Order of the Protectors," he answered 

   "You're the paladin who helped Misha," the boy answered calmly and 

   The knight nodded in agreement. "I did little to help him, the fighting 
was over by the time we reached them. There was some tough fighting though 
and my people fought well."

   The boy nodded. "I heard that many good people died."

 "Too many," Edmund agreed. "What does it feel like to change?" the man asked 
suddenly in a quiet voice.

   Hough shook his head, "It is different for everyone.  For some, it feels 
like taking a warm bath.  For others..." he will paused for a moment his 
voice trailing off into painful silence. "It is very painful."

   "Should I stay?"

   The young looking priest shrugged and shook his head, "I don't know.  It 
is not an easy decision.  If you delay in making it, it will be made for you 
though. You're thinking of staying. Why?"

  "Father . . " Edmund started to say and hesitated at a loss for words. "I 
saw ghosts in the ruins."

   "I'd heard that the army had gone through Haunted Woods but what does that 
have to do with your staying and letting the curse take you?"

   "I don't know," the paladin answered bluntly. "But I cannot just abandon 
them. I HAVE to do something for them."

   "Well, if you feel that to serve them best you need to stay at Metamor, 
then you should.  But if that is merely a convenience to you, then you should 
carefully consider what you may be about to do."


   The audience chamber was still being cleaned up. The furniture was torn 
and battered. There were burn marks everywhere, and several ominous looking 
dark stains. Misha, George, Finbar and Lord Bidwell slowly filed in as a hush 
settled on the room. All four of them looked weary and exhausted, even the 
proud knight. 

   Thomas turned from talking to his aid and watched them approach in 
silence. The left side of Misha's face was covered in a bandage and he 
carried his battle axe in a hand that dangled almost listlessly. The ferret 
next to him walked with a noticeable limp in his right leg. The tall knight 
didn't look so resplendent. The rearing leopard adorning his helmet had been 
smashed and there was a large dent in the breast plate of his armor. Of his 
bright red and white tabard there was no sign. Only George looked unaffected. 
The jackal seemed unwounded and moved easily. The group stopped a few feet 
from the Duke.

   Misha lowered the head of his axe to the pavement. Then he wearily rested 
his head against the butt for a moment before looking at the Duke.

   "Lord Thomas," the fox said in a bone tired voice. "I report that the Keep 
has been cleared and there are no lutins left alive in the valley."

   The stallion sighed, relieved. "The cost?"

   "Not completely sure, Sir," Lord Bidwell answered. "The lower town is in 
complete ruins. The towns of Glen Avery, Mycransburg, Ellingham and Mallen 
have been raided and almost destroyed but most of the people are safe. Lord 
Barnhardt's castle, Loriod's fortress and the castle known as the Outpost all 
withstood attack and held out."

   "How many dead?"

   "At least eight hundred, perhaps a thousand dead," Misha answered. "At 
least twice that number wounded."

   Thomas closed his eyes and shook his head. "Gods protect us."

   "How many lutins?" Someone asked.

   "We've counted at least three thousand dead in or around the Keep," Misha 

   "We've seen lots of dead lutins between here and the Dike," George added. 
"There's no telling how many are lying dead under the snow. We won't know 
till the snow melts. I doubt we'll ever have an accurate count."

   "Could easily be another three or four thousand," the knight commented. 
"This is a great victory.  I've counted the standards of at least nine lutin 
tribes. Plus another thousand killed at the ford."

   "The cost was too high," Thomas announced.

   "No it wasn't," Misha said, speaking loud and clearly for the first time. 
There was a ring of determination and pride in his voice ins spite of the 
weariness. "We've killed six to seven thousand Lutins. Eight years ago Nasoj 
attacked with twenty five lutin tribes. This time he came with twelve. The 
mages hold over the lutins has been broken permanently."

   "But Nasoj is still alive," Thomas commented.

   "His days are numbered," the knight said ominously.


 End part 1
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