War wears on everyone differently. Some rise to the occasion, some flee. Some are energized by the danger, others withdraw. Traius, a young castanic mystic, is stuck in Chebika, waiting for orders. As any veteran will tell you, the waiting is the worst part. Traius is a castanic and a soldier, so patience is definitely not one of his virtues. A call to arms is just what he needs to get back into fighting form.Hopefully his skills can get him out of trouble faster than his exuberance gets him into it.
Slaughter is the Best Medicine
By R. K. MacPherson
"Traius! The prefect wants to see you."
Traius glanced up from his cup of wine. One of the new soldiers, armor not even knicked yet, stared back at him. The youngster fidgeted as he waited for the castanic to say something.
"He, ah, said it was important," the keener added.
Traius drained his mug. "It always is." He grabbed his scepter and flipped a gold piece to the popori bartender, who wagged his tail.
Traius jogged up to the prefect, saluted smartly, and stood at attention. The prefect didn't look up, but kept his nose buried in his scroll. Traius tried to wait patiently, but it wasn't in him. He bit his lip. He cracked his knuckles. Twice. Finally, he gave in and coughed sharply.
"Traius, I know you won't believe this, but I really did notice your presence. I'm trying not to screw up this report to the Justicars in Velika." The prefect muttered. "Of course, I apologize for making you wait a whole minute. Someday, when you're all grown up with prefect's pips of your own, you can make your subordinates wait. It'll be the highlight of your week."
"I received word from Velik's Vigil. The refugees at Lee's End reported seeing strange humanoids helping the Free Brotherhood. The troops at the vigil are stretched too thin to investigate, so I'm sending you. Judging from your hangdog look, a little exercise will do you some good. Besides, the refugees could always use someone to heal their hurts. Find out what you can and help the stalwarts."
"As ordered!" Traius barked, happy to have work.
"You're going alone, Traius. Don't enrage everything you meet. Be discreet."
Traius nodded, wearing his most somber expression, but his steel-gray eyes gleamed. The prefect must have noticed the glint because he glared down at the young mystic.
Lee's End was a farming community at the eastern end of the Freeholds. While independent from the Valkyon Federation, the farmers of Lee's End were at least friendly, unlike the rest of the farmsteads, which were loyal to the Free Brotherhood. The entire region had erupted into chaos a few weeks ago when the harvester golems went berserk, along with most of the beasts. Dozens died, and the farmers of Lee's End were pushed back into a tiny encampment where they held the line.
Traius had been to the encampment a fortnight ago when his squad took a shipment of supplies in. He knew the way. It was dangerous, but only if he was foolish. He timed his sprints when his foes' attention was elsewhere, rested behind concealment, and handily jumped past the wooden walls of Lee's End without getting caught.
He did, however, get unlucky. An enormous creature, rippling with muscle and fangs, snarled as it raised a greatsword over its head and attacked with a thunderous roar.
Traius ducked under the swing, then hopped back and cast two quick bolts reflexively. "What monstrosity birthed you?"
The creature snarled and slashed again. Its massive blade missed and sank deep into the dirt. Traius cast a quick curse, then smote the brute a mighty blow of his own. A howl of pain erupted from his enemy, who abruptly turned and fled.
"Hah! That's right! You'd better keep running!" Traius sneered. He felt much cheerier after days of inaction. A little scuffle was just what the he needed to work out the malaise. He watched the bizarre opponent race away, then stop near the fence line. Two more heads popped around the corner, then all three charged towards him.
"Ishara's twisted tongue!"
Power surged through him as a he cast a snare on the trio. The creatures stumbled and lurched as their feet refused to obey their commands, and they howled all the louder. Traius tossed them a cocky salute, then dashed towards Lee's End.
At least, that was the plan.
Traius bounced off the growling hulk of another massive swordbearer. He managed to avoid a strike that shook the ground, then teleported past his attacker.
"Time for a little help!"
Traius summoned an avenger to inflict some pain on his foe. He tossed a curse into the fight, thenran off. Overcoming four-to-one odds was possible, but not smart, and Traius was no fool. He pushed himself to reach the entrance to the tiny redoubt where the stalwarts were holed up.
Traius hurdled the wooden spikes and plowed into a very large baraka. "Good day, little man," the baraka rumbled.
Traius whirled around just as the four foes reached him. His avenger was gamely slashing at one, but the enraged monster ignored it. On the encampment side, Traius saw a sorcerer casting a spell and quickly stunned the abominations.
A column of flame erupted beneath them, the conflagration consuming their bodies. The sorcerer, a cute redhead, winked at Traius, who grinned back. Yes, boosting the refugees' morale was going to be his first order of business. And perhaps his second.
The baraka clapped Traius on the shoulder. "Are you all right?"
Traius took a few deep breaths to get his wind back as he thought it over. He looked at the smoldering piles of ash, at the lovely red-haired sorcerer, then back to the baraka.
"Actually, I've never been better."