Chapter 17

Chapter 17

A Chapter by Johnzo
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In order to ensure safe passage north for his friends, Langhorne meets the pursuing Outcasts head on. He negotiates with them for a meeting with Rott, but finds they are not at all what he expects.

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A sound like a thunderclap rang out in the night sky over Mez, but on this night the sound emanated from something more terrestrial bound. 

“Haz!  To one side!”  Marshal Langhorne shouted as he readied his heavy six chamber rifle for another shot.  He took aim and the solid metal chamber began to turn on it’s axis and the ignition hammer drew back. 

Haz was still running towards Langhorne and Hildegras at full speed, the ravenous mowgul behind him snarling.  He had only another forty paces to go, but he hadn’t really figured out what he would do then.  Just keep moving!  He thought.

“Haz, now!”  Langhorne called again. 

Haz muttered, “I’m doing the best I can.”  Then leapt and barrel rolled to the right out of Langhornes aim. 

BLAM!  Another shot rang out, the bullet streaming straight towards the advancing beast.  This time it found it’s intending target, but the bullet deflected off the creatures stone-like dome, creating a new gash and scar in the process.  While not stopped, the mowgul was certainly slowed and distracted for a moment. 

Haz took the spare moment to resume his sprint out of town.  The mowgul called out behind him, a hint of pain and disappointment now mixed with it’s malicious snarls. 

“Aim for the neck this time, the heads on those things are rock solid.”  Said Hildegras. 

“So I’ve seen.”  Said Langhorne taking aim.  He may have rolled his eyes were they not busy looking down the scope at their intended target.  “You could find something useful to do.” 

BLAM!  A bullet scratched another gouge on the creatures hump.  It barely paused this time and continued gaining ground on Haz.  The creature then made a lunge at Haz and caught him by the leg pulling him down.  Within a flash Haz was on his back using his own forearm to block the creature from clamping down it’s teeth on something more vital. 

“Right!”  Said Hildegras grabbing a knife off of Langhorne’s back.  He ran at the creature while Haz was yelling in pain.  Twenty paces, sixteen paces…  Hildegras counted down silently. 

Haz used all his might to keep the creature at bay, crying out through the agonzing pain as the creature again bit down on this forearm. 

Hildegras came upon them quickly, he could see the moonlight relfecting off the monsters stoney grey features.  He took the knife and made a swipe under the creatures chin pushing it back off of Haz.  It was a sloppy blow, but effective enough giving Haz a chance to get to his feet. 

The mowgul now had a few small lines of blood dripping down onto the ground, but stood it’s ground ever snarling with it’s guttural tones. 

“I can give you one more shot, make it a good one!”  Hildegras called out over his shoulder. 

“Go!”  Langhorne shouted and took aim. 

Hildegras spread his feet out taking a low stance, keeping the knife to one side waiting or the creature to strike.  It brandished it’s teeth for a moment shaking it’s head to each side.  It’s white teeth were showing in an otherwise all-black mouth.  With a growl, the creature leapt at Hildegras.  He deftly got under the beast and rolled it over his head.  The mowgul and Hildregras rolled for a moment on the ground, until he was able to stop their momentum with the creature’s underbelly facing Langhorne.  He took the blade and ran it along the creatures neck again making a deep cut, but the skin was too thick to fell such a beast. 

The mowgul tried to buck Hildregas off it’s side so it could again stand and a shot rang out.  BLAM!  In the briefest of moments, Hildegras had a chance to think, please don’t miss.  The bullet this time found it’s intended target and sunk into it’s softer underbelly.  Hildegras jumped off and rolled away to a safe distance. 

The mowgul struggled to get up and began walking drunkenly this way and that until finally collapsing on the ground.  Haz came up next to Hildegras and looked on, his arm was bleeding fairly badly. 

“Next time we meet, why don’t you bring a little better company with you.”  Said Hildegras wryly and still breathing heavily. 

Langhorne came close to the seen and examined the mowgul to ensure it was dead.  As he rose and turned to speak to this comrades, he was given pause.  He looked back towards the town, but could see only darkened shadows. 

“I heard it too.  On the west side of town, I heard voices.  Outcasts.  That’s when I was running back… the mowgul found me.”  Said Haz between gasps of air. 

“We need to move.”  Said Langhorne and immediately they set north towards the meeting point with Jaxet. 

No sooner had they reached the edge of town and began climbing the hill, the voices grew louder and more directed.  Langhorne knew they had been noticed, he would have to think quickly. 

They sprinted best they could up the rock hill and found Jaxet waiting behind a large boulder.  He had his scoped rifle armed and ready, but was clearly eager to leave.   “What took you so long!”  He strained his voice, tying to keep quiet. 

“Get the medical supplies, we need to wrap Haz’s arm.”  Langhorne spoke sternly. 

“So, any thoughts?  They’ve at least heard us, but may not have gotten a visual count.  They won’t let us go so easily now.  And we can’t move too quickly in this terrain.”  Hildegras gave a quick accounting of the unfortunate situation they found themselves in. 

Jaxet was already halfway through wrapping Haz’s arm.  Langhorne spoke again.  “Hildegras, give me back that knife.” 

Hildegras handed it over, Langhorne examined it and sheathed it, without wiping off the stained of blood. 

“If only we could give them something they want, they might leave us alone.”  Said Jaxet, cutting off the excess bandage from Haz’s arm. 

“I think you’re exactly right, Jaxet.”  Said Langhorne.  “We left a mowgul with bullet and knife wounds behind.  I’ve got a rifle and a bloody knife, maybe I can convince them I was here alone.  That could dissuade them from persuing the rest of you.”

“That’s crazy!  We just came here to get Hildegras, and for what, just to trade lives?”  Haz voiced his obvious disagreement.

“It is risky, I’l give him that.”  Said Hildegras.  “What’s the focus here, you’re looking to learn more of their motives?”  He squinted looking at his comrade, discerning what Langhorne may be thinking. 

“Partially.  Now that you’re free and we know the scope of the situation, you can go back to Smisom and make a plan for resistance.  Whatever that will look like, I don’t know.  I’ll go, and try to barter with them.  Try to get a meeting with this Rott we’ve heard about.”

“Sir, what’s to stop them from just killing you?  I mean these are the Outcasts, I’ver never heard them to be much for diplomacy.”  Jaxet said in alarmed. 

“You are right.  But I think I have enough to at least get them to be interested in further conversation.”  Said Langhorne. 

“Do you really beleive-”  Haz was interrupted. 

“No time scouts, we move north now.  The plan is set.  Good luck Langs.  I’ll expect a good report... As soon as your able.” 

“Take care of Smisom in my stead.  I won’t be gone too long.”  Said Langhorne.  He wanted to smile, but knew too well the danger he was walking into. 

Hildegras led the two scouts north in silence.  With Langhorne providing the distraction, they didn’t have to move as fast, and they could focus on stealth. 

Langhorne stood behind the boulder that was Jaxet’s lookout point for a moment.  He took a few intentioned deep breaths then set out back south towards Mez. 

It didn’t take long before he was spotted, the Outcasts had nearly been upon them as it was.  As he entered their line of site, he called out, “Hold there friend.  I’m not here to harm.” 

“Save your talk, we might spare your life.”  One of them grunted as two more armed men ran up on either side of Langhorne.  Langhorne was quickly disarmed of his gun, knife and pack with other supplies.  One of them brought all his gear back to only Outcast who had spoken yet and set it at his feet.  The other suboridnate Outcast stayed and held a curved blade at Langhorne’s through that was jaggedly serrated on the inner curve. 

“This looks like a marshall’s gear.  What do you want?”  Said the ranking outcast. 

“I came to see the situation at Mez, nothing more.  It seems you’ve busy here, I barely recognized the place.” 

“That dead mowgul was your doing too then?”  The Outcast’s interrogation continued as he seemed to get more and more irritated. 

“I’ll defend my own person when forced to.”  Langhorne tried to choose his words carefully, he didn’t want to say anything exacerbate the situation. 

The ranking official seemed to be puzzled, he paused for a moment in thought.  Langhorne could just make out some basic features in the low light.  He was a large man, at least as tall as Langhorne, and at least fifity pounds heavier across.  “Mez is now part of the Wastes.  It’s ours now, you can’t have it.  You are trespassing on Outcast land, punishable by death.  This discussion is over.  Kill’em.” 

The one Outcast with the jagged and curved sword reached back ready to strike.

“Hold on!”  Langhorne raised his voice.

“No more talk!”  The ranking Outcast yelled in return. 

“I know what it is you want!”  Langhorne said. 

The Outcast’s sword hesitated and held back.

“I at least knwo where it is.  I just want to talk to Rott.  If I’m right, you know he’ll want to hear this.” 

“How could you possibly-” 

Langhorne used his leverage to guide the conversation.  “My name is Langhorne, marshal overseeing the town of Smisom.  You’re friends came to pay me a visit not too long ago, said they were looking for something.  And I know exactly where it went.” 

“If you’re lying-”

“Take me to Rott.  Let him be the judge of how truthful I am.” 

Another voice rang out in the darkness.  “Kill’m anyway, ain’t noways a marshal is privy to Rott’s search.”   

“Hold on!”  The ranking Outcast shouted.  He let a pregnant pause linger as he looked to one side as if deep in thought.  “We go to Rott.  If Marshal here is right, it’s important.  You know Rott’s search takes first priority.”  He paused briefly again.  “Bag him.  Rott is waiting.”  He bellowed. 

The sworded Outcast spoke, “On your knees.”  While kicking Langhorne in the back of the legs.  He was quickly bound with his arms behind, and a dirty canvas bag was placed over his head.  The world disspared with darkness taking it’s place.  Langhorne heard mfuffled voices and movement, then felt a heavy blow to the back of the head and quickly collapsed to the ground.  Before completely losing consciousness, he heard one more thing. 

“Take him south, travel through the night.  Rott will be waiting.”

The black world grew to silence as Langhorne drifted to sleep. 

 

 

“Wake him up.”  A cold voice spoke. 

Langhorne felt himself being picked up and braced against a wall.  He tried to stand up, but slid down back to a sitting position.  His head ached and he felt as if there was a large bump and bruise on the back of his head.  His head was still covered, but by the minimal dull light breaking in through the bag on his head it wouldn’t have made much difference.  From what he could tell, he was sitting in a room built out of cut stone.  The floor and walls were mostly flat, but had the texture of natural stone.  It was cool, so he wondered if he were underground, but then again he had no idea how long he had been out.  It could be the middle of the night…

As he tried to decipher his surroundings, he felt a hand grab him by the chin.  “You wanted a chat with Rott, you got it.  So go on spill it.”  Langhorne recognized this voice, it was the ranking Outcast from outside Mez, only now more venomous and agitated. 

“Rott?”  Said Langhorne, still in a daze. 

“Yeah he’s here, just get on with it!”  Said the ranking Outcast. 

“Get out.”  The voice spoke again.  The tone was clean and average in pitch for an man, but there was a definite chill and resoluteness. 

Langhorne heard some shuffling and footsteps and then the sound of a heavy clanging door. 

“You asked for an audience with me, you now have it.  Let’s make it good.”  Said Rott. 

Langhorne heard footsteps again, it seemed like Rott was walking closer.  “I’ve been told you are the marshal from Smisom, what were you doing in Mez?” 

“Simple scouting.  I heard there was some commotion, thought I should check it out.”  Said Langhorne. 

“Mez is now part of our Wastes.  You were tresspassing in Outcast lands.”

“I meant no offense.  You can imagine we would grow curious after losing contact Mez, it was only natural-”

“Enough chatter.  Get to the point.  The only reason you are here is that you claim to know something.  Something potentially valuable.” 

“Very well…”  Langhorne adjusted his sitting position and tried to stretch.  While doing so he tested the strength of his bonds, but they were tied firmly at the wrist.  He knew he wasn’t going to be able to slip out so easily.  He drew a breathe and continued speaking  “Some men of yours came to visit my town not too long ago.  I’ll spare you the full details… I’m sure you’re aware.” 

Rott huffed out a breathe of indignance, but did not speak. 

“We managed to catch one of them while he was still alive… but barely.  He was the one that told me you were looking for something.” Langhorne paused for a moment, but there was no response so he decided it best to continue.  “He said you were looking for something that was in the possession of a local courier.  I happen to know this young man personally, for better or worse.  His name is Trede, while he is a local he travels extensively, and is never home in Smisom for long.  I’ve had my eye on him for some time now, it’s been more than once where he’s been suspected of traveling with… curiously procured goods.” 

“Really Marshal, this is what you had me pulled out of bed in the middle of the night for?!  So far all you’ve managed to tell me is that you’ve confirmed that several of my men died at the hands of your citizens and nothing more on Trede than our surveillance has already found!”

“I can find out where he’s been last, that’s probably where he found the item you’re after.”  Said Langhorne.

Please.  What this boy has is not some trinket to be found in the dusty corners of this broken rock of a world.  Regdor!  Get back in here!”

Langhorne kept his calm saying, “There is one other thing.  I can tell you where he is right now.”  He heard the door creak open, but then nothing.  He assumed he had regained Rott’s interest.  The sound of shuffling feet came even closer. 

“Well… That could be useful information after all.”  Said Rott putting his hand on Langhorne’s shoulder. 

Langhorne, surprised by this recoiled in response. 

Rott let out a mild laugh.  “Relax Marshal, it appears you are of use to us after all… Do go on.” 

“Before he left town he was seen in the company of a Cytech recruiter.  The carrier he left on was heading straight for Sedenza.  I guarantee you he’s holding up at their main guild house in Sedenza.” 

“A guarantee?”  Rott’s voice seemed almost playful for a moment, as his casually paced footfalls echoed in the stone room.  “Really Marshall, such a thing should not be thrown around lightly.” 

“He felt he was in danger in Smisom.  He was probably right… and I think you’d agree.  The Cytech’s have a veritable stronghold just on the north edge of the city. There’s a high wall, an armored gate and dozens of guards well-trained and rightly armed.  What place better to seek refuge during these chaotic times?” 

Rott’s footsteps continued for a moment in silence.  “Regdor.  It appears I’ll be going back to Sedenza much sooner than I planned.  Prepare for travel.”

“Right away Rott.  Uh…  What about the Marshal?”  Regdor responded. 

“Take off his bonds, find him a room at the compound, lock away his belongings.  And get him a change of clothes.  I’ll want to talk to him more… in depth when I return.”

Langhorne, though appreciative he was still alive was curious as to what their plan was for him.  “You’re not going to lock me away in a cell or…”

“Or what?  Kill you?  Well Marshal, what do you take me for?  For a group of people you’ve come to know as Outcasts, we can be quite civilized.  Superseding all that…  It is my experience that those who have proven themselves useful have a tendency to do so again.  For your sake I hope you are found to be in this select group of exceptional individuals.  You’re knowledge of the scout network and northern terrain may yet prove useful, but time will tell.  You may as well get comfortable for now.”

“Ah…  And what do you plan to do with Trede when you find him?”  Langhorne took a risk of pressing in a bit, now that his life seemed out of immediate danger. 

Suddenly Langhorne felt a solid hand forcefully push his shoulder back into the stone wall.  “Don’t press your luck Marshal, but rest assured we’ll speak again.”  Said Rott, who then began walking towards the door.  Langhorne then felt another set of hands grab him by the collar and hoist him up to his feet.  “I have enjoyed your noble chatter, pompus though it is at times.  Be sure to stay well until my return.”

Langhorne then heard some voices talking the hallway outside the room, though he could not quite make out what they were saying.  After a brief moment, he was led out of the stone room, arms still tied behind his back, and a bag still over his head.  He made sure to make the most of the walk though, making mental note of even the slightest detail.  He knew any bit of information could be very useful if was to survive here for any length of time. 

He noticed they went up a flight stairs first, which sounded to be made out of metal.  On that next floor there were some odd sounds, some sounding mechanical while others completely foreign.  Up yet another flight of stairs and felt as if he were walking on a thin worn carpet before quickly finding himself outside.  He felt a breeze of cool very moist air pass by and there was a chill in the air.  The aroma on the wind was a mix of smoke, steam and swamp.  It’s likely before sunrise still.  He thought.  The ground outside was odd, under his feet he could tell it was solid and smooth like sheer rock, yet it was loosely broken and crumbled in spots.  In fact he nearly tripped and fell more than once on the short walk. 

The outdoors were surprisingly quiet.  The Wastes had always been referred to in terms of mysterious horror, yet so far it was quiet and calm.  Eventually he was led inside another building after about a fifteen minute walk.  Should be less than mile from Rott’s building.  Thought Langhorne processing each detail.  He felt he was being led down another hallway and was halted suddenly.  He heard a door open and was more or less shoved inside.  The door slam shut behind him with out a word. 

Langhorne stood there a moment not really sure what to think.  Boy do I hate being out of my element  He was not accustomed to being in situations beyond his control, and here he was, completely vulnerable and helpless in every definition of those words.  He sat down, noticing the carpet was pretty soft and in good condition. 

After a few silent moments the door opened.  “Ah.  Marshal Langhorne is it?  My name is Bregory, let’s get you situated a bit, hm?”  Said the entering voice. 

Langhorne felt his bounds being untied from behind, and his hood was finally removed.  He glanced around quickly as he stood up, he was in dimly lit windowless room, but it was surprisingly quaint.  There was a well-made bed with fresh white linens, and cherry stained side table and a bronze colored lamp.  A leather high-back armed chair and coffee table adorned with a few small stacks of books were at the opposite end of the room.  Near the apparent “reading nook” was a partway open door that lead to a bathroom.

“In the bathroom there is a closet, you’ll find your proper attire there.”  Said Bregory as folded up hood and coiled the rope and then placed them both under his arm.  Langhorne looked at the man, he was mid-thirties, clean cut, very short nearly black hair and was wearing a matching maroon dress shirt with high collar and slacks. 

Proper attire?”  Asked Langhorne.  So far his experience of the Wastes and the Outcasts did not at all live up to expectations, and he was greatly perplexed.

“Yes, for the dress code.  Well I suppose Rott didn’t mention that… not that he ever does.  Well, we’ll go into more details in the morning.  There’s still a couple of hours before even sun up, I suggest you get some rest.  I’ll be by again before eight for your orientation on the way to morning meal.”

“I… I’m sorry.  Orientation for what, aren’t I a prisoner here?”  Asked Langhorne. 

“Only if you feel like one and well… there is the fact that you are not allowed to leave.  But that shouldn’t mean you should find your time here rewarding.”  Said Bregory. 

“I thought this was the Wastes…  Where am I.”  Asked Langhorne sternly. 

“That geographic region is correct, but this building specifically is The Trust.  You’ll have your time for more questions and answers in the morning, now I really must be going.”  Bregory opened the door to leave. 

“W-wait, hold on-”  Langhorne said, but was cutoff. 

“Eight AM, please be ready.  Good slumber Mr. Langhorne.”  And with that the door was closed and Bregory was gone. 

Langhorne walked over to the door.  He tried the handle but it was locked.  He ran his fingers along the heavy door frame and examined the lock and bolt.  It’s solid.  He thought.  Langhorne knew it wasn’t even worth trying to force his way out.  He walked over to the bed and sat down.  As he did, the dim light from the nearby wall sconce went out completely.  There was the slightest bit of light shining out of the bathroom, breaking the otherwise total darkness. 

With a great exhale of breathe he thought.  What have you got yourself into Langhorne?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



© 2010 Johnzo


Author's Note

Johnzo
Another quick sloppy first draft. Here the Marshal's story finally thread intersects with the main plot line. Does it make sense to people? Also the first appearance of Rott, who will have a much larger role later on. For now I tried to portray him as a intelligent and a little unstable, but probably thinks he's smarter than he actually is.

All comments welcome!

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Added on September 6, 2010
Last Updated on September 6, 2010


Author

Johnzo
Johnzo

Bridgton, ME



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For more info on my little world, visit: www.echowake.com -Latest post: 2nd Draft Preview My favorite stories are usually ones that have a bigger world behind them, a story behind the story that.. more..

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A Chapter by Johnzo