Continued from here part 7
Several years ago.
Harris had just turned sixteen and was preparing to go to the Marshal's Academy. He was sitting in the outpost inn with Gunnar and Vargas who grumbled because the innkeeper had served Harris an ale but still told them they were too young. Gunnar complained that he was only two years younger but to no avail.
Harris looked down at his first ever pint of ale, "It smells kind of funny."
A voice from behind came up, "Drink it fast, only way to get past the taste of the rotgut this place serves."
The boys looked up to see Marcus with something wrapped in cloth strapped to his back. Vargas looked at it, "What's that?"
Marcus grinned a bit, "That's something your father and I picked up from a bandit. You want to see it?"
The boys nodded as Marcus sat down. He then unwrapped a scimitar. Their eyes went wide as Vargas spoke, "Is that...?"
Marcus nodded, "Yup, the Dragon's Tail."
Vargas had a bright smile as he looked it over, "This was the blade wielded by Darius the Bandit King. They say its flame is so hot it can melt steel and stone."
Marcus patted him on the head, "Been studying up on lore have you?"
Gunnar slid up nervously, "Can I hold it?"
Marcus chuckled, "Oh, what the hell, give it a shot."
Gunnar put his hand on the hilt but pulled away quickly and blowing on his burned palm. Vargas then reached over as if to snatch it but quickly yanked his hand away, "Ow, damn it."
He and Gunnar then looked to Harris, "You gonna give it a shot?"
"Sure, why not?"
He then grabbed the hilt, ready to get burnt but it didn't happen. He then gripped the hilt and lifted the blade. Marcus looked wide eyed, "It seems to have chosen a master."
Just after night fall, Magnus was at a table at the inn having dinner. As he ate, Victor walked in, Big Bear in hand. Magnus looked to the ax then to his son's hateful glare, "You have some business, Victor?"
Victor stared down at him, "Vargas and Gunnar ain't going anywhere with you."
Magnus waved him off, "The experience will do them good."
Victor stood his ground, "The Blood wood is no place for children, especially with some jackass running around trying to start a war."
Magnus gave a condescending look, "You have no say in the matter."
Magnus then picked up his fork to continue eating but Victor split the table with the Big Bear, "You ain't taking them."
Marcus grabbed Victor by the shoulder, "Don't. He is the High General."
Magnus shot a hateful glare to his brother as he bellowed, "Rank is no issue here, is that clear?"
The room went silent as Magnus pointed toward the door, "Outside, boy." At that Victor growled and snatched his father up before hurling him through a window.
The boys stood in shock as the High General landed on the ground before them. Victor charged out the door, arriving just as Magnus made it to his feet. He kicked him hard in the gut then punched him in the jaw sending Magnus back a step.
He gritted his teeth as he looked on his eldest son. He then punched Victor in the mouth and then planted another fist in his gut sending him down to a knee. Magnus stepped back but Victor grabbed the hilt of Big Bear and swung it toward his father's head. There was a metallic clash as the Big Bear collided with the Angel's Wrath.
Magnus shoved him off. Victor then jumped back and sent out a hurricane force blast of wind from his ax. Magnus waved the Angel's Wrath sending out a wave of bright white light that cut through Victor's attack and launched him into the air.
After he landed Victor pulled himself up on a tree. Magnus seemed to come out of nowhere swinging his ax. Victor dodged as the Wrath hit the tree causing it to explode into a rain of splintered wood and leaves. Victor raised his ax again but it was knocked from his hand. Magnus then kicked him in the chest sending him to the ground.
He then swung his ax. The blade stopped just above Victor's throat. A fist then blasted into Magnus' face sending him to the ground. Magnus looked up to see Marcus standing between him and Victor, "That's enough, you proved your damn point."
Magnus looked angry but when he looked on his bloodied son he calmed a bit. He then looked back to Marcus as he spat out three teeth, "Get the boys ready, we leave at dawn."
As Magnus stood to walk away Victor sat up and glared, "If you let any harm come to them, I swear to all the gods I will kill you."
Two days later
Harris stood before a large wagon with many boys his age heading to the Academy. Victor patted him on the shoulder, "You'll do fine. You were trained better than most of your instructors. Just remember, even if you're better than everyone there, don't let it go to your head. Vanity will get you killed just as quick as weakness."
Harris nodded, "You hear anything from Vargas and Gunnar yet?"
Victor took on a stern look, "Don't be worrying about them. They're strong boys, they can handle whatever they need to."
Harris sighed a bit, "Well, its time. Anymore parting advice?"
Victor just patted his head and walked away. He gave him a wave over his shoulder as Harris hopped on the wagon.
Paimon stood with a woman from his crew named Zhin. On her side she wore a strange weapon comprised of a chain with a weighted blade at its end. It was known as Silver Wasp. Paimon glanced down at her weapon,"I'm told you've become quite adept with that."
She nodded, "It took some time but I believe I've tamed her."
She then turned her eyes to Belial, "Do you believe that man can do what he says?"
He grinned, "Of course not, but that's not my purpose. Whether our attack succeeds or not doesn't matter. If we can breach the gates it will make the Capitol appear weak in the eyes of the world, rogue nations and rebellious factions will see an opportunity. The Marshals will be embarrassed, the Royal army will continue to appear pathetic and then there we'll be with our army of well trained sell swords to pick up the slack. We'll work for both sides, naturally and I'll retire richer than a king."
She gave a wary look, "And if he does succeed?"
"Then I'll be the right hand of a god and still retire rich."
Alana stands before High General Marcus, Gunnar and an assembly of Captains as she tells of Belial and his group. As she finished Sarah spoke, "Paimon's presence bothers me. Several of his known associates have been reported to be gathering forces for the last few days. If they're recruiting for him then we have a much bigger problem."
Marcus nodded, "Put all outposts on alert. I want scouts covering everything within twenty miles of the city. From here until further notice, no one goes in or out without an armed guard."
He then called in Ian, "We need to call in the city planners. There's a siege likely and I'll not have people starving if it goes on long."
He looked to the Captains, "You're dismissed, but stay close."
As they stepped into the hall Sarah stopped Alana, "Have you been told?"
Sarah sighed, "Victor is dead. He was killed by Harris."
Alana's eyes widened, "Does Vargas know?"
"Yes, he didn't take it well. He's staying with the High General at the moment."
Vargas laid on a hammock on a balcony staring at the sky as Alana stepped out behind him, "How you holding up?"
He glanced at her, "I'm just fine."
She nodded, " I know he was important..."
He cut her off, "Tears are worthless. It was one of my father's lessons. He said to me, tears don't make the pain go away and they don't fix the problem. All tears do is make your enemy harder to see. He said they're a weakness."
She sighed a bit and crawled into the hammock with him. She started to say something but let the thought go.
As the sun rose the next day Belial stood in front of his army. He told Paimon to get the men up for a march. He looked back to Harris, "I expect to be at the Capitol in three days time, is there anything I should know before you march with us?"
"Nope, all ready to go boss."
(To be continued)