Maggie - Part 3

By: OldGoat | : 978

It began at the Ashford Gate in the Black Citadel.  Brightmane’s casket was pulled by six black horses on a black caisson and the funeral procession stretched the entire length of the mustering ground.  The casket was decorated with the hundreds of ribbons and medals presented to the Legionnaire during his service to the Blood Legion and the Vigil. The only sound was the marching of the legions, perfectly in step as they proceeded toward the Plaza of Remembrance.

Directly behind the wagon came Maggie and her parents, dressed in their Black ceremonial uniforms of the Vigil.  Following them were three companies, one from each of the Legions.  Slowly they marched at half step until they made the turn to the Memorial Quadrant.  From there the wagon made it’s way to the entrance of the Plaza where it stopped.  Six soldiers, three human and three charr, climbed down from the wagon and fell into place, three on each side.  

On Captain Swift’s command the six turned toward the casket.  Reaching out, they lifted it and held it while the wagon was pulled away. In unison they turned toward the memorial and lifted the casket to their shoulders.  Carrying it to the center of the plaza, then they lowered it onto a stand that had been placed there.  The six then moved off to the side and stood at attention while the “family” filled the plaza.

The bleachers that had been put up for the audience were filled within moments.  More onlookers stood throughout the Memorial Quadrant.  A group of well guarded chairs had been placed behind the casket and were soon filled by high ranking charr officials.  Five chairs remained empty.  Maggie and her parents marched around the casket and filled three of them.  

Maggie could see security personnel from the Vigil and the Seraph watching over the ceremony from many vantage points.  In the crowd she could also see armed charr and humans.  In the front row of the bleachers, she saw Terri and all her friends.  

Two Asuran’s came onto the dais with microphones and cables to set up for the speeches.  Shortly after, Queen Jennah entered escorted by Captain Logan and they made made their way to the remaining two chairs.  After they were seated, Almorra Soulkeeper stepped up to the microphones and began to speak.

“Today we say goodbye to a legend.  For sixty years, Brightmane Bloodaxe has fought beside us.  For forty five years he has put his life on the line to protect those in his warband.  For forty five years we have heard the norns sing his praises.  For forty five years we have told his stories to our cubs.  And we will continue to tell his story for generations.

“But today we have one final story left to tell.  The story of how our brother died defending those he loved.  The story of how he stood in the line of fire and continued fighting until long after he knew his wounds were fatal.  The story of how he smiled at the end and gave a last bit of council to a sister in arms.

“Today we say goodbye to Brightmane Bloodaxe, we will never see your like again.  Those of us here who have survived you will carry your memory into battle with us.  We will strive to hold ourselves to your example of courage, determination, and caring.  

“Good-bye, brother.”

With that, she stepped away from the microphones.

As the applause died down, Queen Jennah stood and put her hand on the casket as she walked by to the stand.  Turning towards the crowd, she waited a long moment before she began to speak.  

“The first time I saw Brightmane Bloodaxe was when I was a child.  It was the first time I was allowed to be part of an official ceremony.  Young Brightmane’s warband had won a competition and was being presented the trophy by my father, the King.  He was young and very sure of himself.  When I stood, I was so nervous I started to stumble, but he caught me.

“When the ceremony was over, I wanted to thank him and asked my father if I could invite him to dinner.  My father thought about it and said, ’Invite them all.’  As the dinner progressed, Brightmane and I had a wonderful time.  I didn’t feel left out like I usually did with the adults.

“When the dinner was over, and he had to leave.  He turned to me, kneeled on one knee and said, ‘If you ever need help, you can call on me.’”

The queen dabbed at her eyes with her handkerchief and continued, “I have called upon my friend Brightmane Bloodaxe countless times over the years, and he has always come to assist me, now he won’t.  We are all one less because he is gone.”

She managed to retain her poise as she turned back to her chair, so only those closest to her saw the tears streaming down her cheeks.

Then it was Maggie’s turn.  She had been asked by her warband to speak for them.   

“I was a typical rebellious human teenager when I met Brightmane.  He had been asked by my father to smooth out my rough edges.  After a few days of countless questions and exercises, I was afraid I would fail with him the same way I had failed with all my teachers and tutors.  I decided I didn’t need anybody to teach me anything.  I was going to fail anyway.

“The last night after the testing, we had all gone to the tavern across the way and I had drank just enough.  I stood to leave and told him, “I don’t want to be in your stupid warband.”

“Why not cub?”

"Because I'm smarter than you and I always will be,’ I flippantly told him. ‘I understand your parents may have misled you by telling you how smart you were, growing up. But the truth is...’

“I slammed my beer stein on the table and stood glaring at the Charr Warrior who was supposed to be judging me. Suddenly, my legs went out from under me as he used his cane to pull my ankles to him, and I fell right on my rump. The beer stein covered me with beer when it was knocked off the table.

“The laughter resounded throughout the tavern. Except for Brightmane. He sat quietly watching me. I sat there soggy with beer glaring back at him.

"’What are your choices, now?’ he asked me.

"’I can sit here and whine or I can get up and get another beer.’ I snarled back at him.

"’Get me one too, and clean yourself up, you look like a damned Flame Legion reject.’

“He helped me to my feet and silenced the room with a glare, ‘She hasn't got the social skills down yet, but she’s one of mine.  Don't think she can't take on any three of you right now and gut you.’

“And that was how Brightmane had announced that I had become one of his Warband.  He pushed me beyond what I thought were my limits.  He praised my efforts and ridiculed my  excuses.  I am going to miss you, you old wildcat.”

She then drew the dagger from her skirt and held it above her head, “I swear to you my brother, I will spill blood to avenge you.”

She pulled the blade across her palm, and as the blood dripped on the casket, she spoke in perfect Charr, “My blood for yours.  I will send your enemy to you in the mists.”

The silence was deafening, but lasted only a moment.  It started with one staff way back in the crowd rhythmically pounding on the concrete and steel.  Another joined it, then another.  Feet began to stomp.  Hammers began to tap.  Louder and louder it became until the entire city was filled with the sound.  

Suddenly the crowd began to move.  In unison they moved to the north and formed a line.  One by one, the legions all passed by the casket.  One by one, the legionnaires each drew a dagger and sliced their skin enough to draw blood.  They then dripped that blood onto the casket and pledged vengeance for their brother.  One by one, they walked by Maggie and saluted her.  

Finally, when they had all paid their respects and had returned to their formation.  Maggie stepped back up to the microphone and began to sing.  She reached into the depths of her sorrow to the ache in her heart and her words resonated throughout The Black Citadel. Her song told of the final homecoming of a hero, of the broken hearts of all who loved him, and of the emptiness that remained.

As the song ended, Maggie turned from the microphone and walked into the shadows.  No one noticed her disappear.  No one noticed the Queen or Maggie’s family disappear either.  What everyone did notice was the disappearance of the casket.  A sudden flash of light, the sound of thunder, and the dais was empty.  The funeral was over.  The legions began to march back out the way they came in and the onlookers dispersed.

Maggie exited the portal right next to the wagon, which had been brought by Mellen and Harry.  The Queen and Logan were next, then Maggie’s family.  Bones and Electra were in the wagon with the pets.  Berry was climbing in to join them.  

“I’ll take everyone home,” said Mellen. “Then we’ll deliver Brightmane to the crematorium.”  

At that moment, a messenger came running up and stood in front of Logan and saluted.  Logan took the message from him, opened it, read it quickly then handed it to the Queen.  She read it and gestured for Maggie to join them.  They walked away from the group.

“Our garrison is under attack.  Commander Foghladha has requested reinforcements,”  the Queen told Maggie.

“Is it Serentine?”  Maggie asked.

“I believe it is.  Maggie if you need anything, contact Logan.”

“Thank you your majesty.  I believe we are going to need all the Orders for this battle.” Maggie said.

Mellen spoke quickly, “I’ll have everyone ready.”

As they watched her ride off, they heard the Queen tell Logan, “Contact the Orders, we need them to join the Commander at the Garrison.  Make Haste!”

Later that evening, Terri stood at the Statue of Dwayna, waiting in the shadows.  It was very late and just before she was ready to give up and go back home, a quiet, woman’s voice said, “By the back of the bank, not down the tunnel.”

Terri moved directly to the spot indicated, followed by the shadowy figure of a Shrouded Necromancer.  Once they were together beside the bank, the shroud disappeared and a beautiful girl in a dark blue gown took it’s place.

“Kooshie,” Terri whispered, “we need to talk.”

“That’s what your message said.  Talk about what?”

“I’m leaving the order.”

“You can’t leave the order.  I was just told to promote you to Senior Field Agent!  You get to call your own shots, pick the jobs from a list, and finish them however you see fit.”

Realizing that their voices could be heard, Terri motioned for Kooshie to follow her.  Heading down the street, she soon found another secluded spot and they continued their conversation.

Terri couldn’t believe it, “What do you mean I’m being promoted?  Why?  I haven’t even been active for the last year.”

Kooshie looked Terri right in the eye and said, “Because you’re close to Maggie.  The Order sees her as one of our most valuable assets and you’re already in place to handle her.”

“I’m not going to ‘handle her’ for anybody.  I’m leaving the order.”

“She needs to be protected.”

Terri looked at her in disbelief, “Protected from what?”

“You mean who.  Serentine for one and Palawa Joko for another.  As a field agent you’ll be able to call for assistance at any time.”

“How do I get the list of jobs?”

“Here.”  Kooshie handed her a folded sheet of paper.

Terri unfolded it and began to read.

TO:  Agent Elemen Terri Watson (Lynn)

From: R. Darkwater

Terri,

I hope you’ll accept our offer.  In spite of your recent inactivity, your previous record is exemplary.  Agent Kooshie will be your contact.  Below is a list of the jobs we presently would like you to consider.  

We will expect you to complete these jobs in whatever manner you feel will best achieve the objective.  Any assistance or resources you require will be provided through your contact.

I am confident we have made the right choice.

Riel Darkwater

Protect and Assist Maggatha Lynn in her efforts to find Serentine and avert war with Palawa Joko..

“There’s only one assignment listed.”  Terri frowned.  “This feels like a setup.”

“Of course it is.  No one else can stay close enough.”  Kooshie smiled.

“All right, I’ll do it.  What happens if Maggie finds out?”

“It’s right here, ‘whatever manner which you feel will best achieve the objective’ is my favorite line.”

“So, I can tell her when and if I choose to.”

Terri circled the number 1 and signed the letter before returning it to Kooshie.  They hugged before leaving in separate directions.  Neither of them noticed the glint from something shiny on the roof of The Plaza of Dwayna as they rushed away.  

Commander Foghladha (affectionately known to his troops as Fog) was a really good officer, and once an officer gets that good they usually get a Staff Assignment (desk duty).  Sometimes his meetings lasted late in the day and this evening he was still in his weekly briefing with his Supply Sergeant when a messenger came running into the room.  

“Sir, I think we’re about to be attacked.  A large army has been spotted six miles south of here and they are moving quickly.” the messenger blurted out.

“Meeting adjourned, to your posts.” Fog barked as he stood and left the room.

Rushing down the hallway to one of the entrances, he opened the door and listened to the preparations being made for the upcoming battle mixed with the sounds of civilians streaming into the Garrison.  

“Crank up the Siege Weapons” he shouted, running up the stairs to see for himself. “Second Squad, man the south side mortars and cannons.  Third Squad West, Fourth Squad East.  Get on the horn to Vigil HQ and notify the other Orders while you’re at it.  This looks like a big one.”

As he looked south, he could see the the invaders coming. The largest army that he had ever seen slowly marching towards the garrison.  Taking a deep breath, he shouted more orders and called for movement of some of the siege weapons.  He called for the reloaders to be doubled on each weapon.  Suddenly the oncoming army stopped.  The sergeant in charge of the nearest catapult came over to the Commander.  

“Sir, they’re just out of range of our longest weapons.  We can’t do any damage from here.”  

“Sergeant, you just keep them ready and able.  We’ll have to see what they’re going to do,” Fog replied.

As he stood on the rampart watching the army below, he heard a familiar voice down below.   “I need to speak to Commander Foghladha.  It is beyond urgent.”

“Ma’am, the Commander has his hands full right now.  There’s an army at our gates.”

“That’s what I came to talk to him about.  Now get him or take me to him. Immediately. That’s an order!”

“Yes, ma’am, right this way.”  He started up the stairs with her following.

Commander Foghladha shouted down, “Is that Maggie Lynn I hear ordering my adjutant around?”

Smiling, the redhead answered him, “Yes Sir, it is, and I come with some important news.”

Fog jumped off the wall and landed in front of her, “And what kind of news do you have for me?”

Maggie stuck her hand out and gave the commander the secret Gaiscioch handshake to let him know she had to speak to him privately.  He understood and took her by the arm and guided her to his office.  As they walked in, he shooed everyone out and closed the door.

“So, what’s going on?” he asked pointedly.

“That army you’ve got staring at you?  Their leader is Serentine.  I’m going to bring him in, dead or alive.  We need you to keep his army occupied while I lure him away.”

“Hmm, have you seen the size of their force?”

“Yes, I took a roundabout way to get here.  The good news is that at least two thirds of what you can see are clones or minions.  Once I take Serentine out, we’re betting they’ll disappear.”

“All right then, let me get Gaiscioch rallied together for this fight.  I’m not sure how long we can hold them.”

“I understand,” Maggie said, then added, “It’s going to take us until tomorrow morning to get everyone here.  That should give the Legions time to arrive as well.”

As they discussed strategy, a single rider approached from the invading army.  He carried a white banner.  When he reached the Bauer’s Estate, he thrust it into the ground and sat staring up at the walls.

A knock came at the office door.  Fog walked to the door and opened it.  A corporal reported “Sir, there is a messenger from the invading army.  He’s waiting at the Bauer’s Estate.  What are your orders?”

Commander Foghladha ordered horses be brought and he left the Garrison with Maggie right behind him.  Arriving together at the Estate, they sat on their horses and waited for the rider to speak.  He stared at them for an extended time.  When he began to speak, it sounded as if he was being controlled in some way.  His words came out jerky and sounded mechanical.

“I am here to give you the conditions for your surrender to Palawa Joko’s army.  You will turn over the imposter Queen to Commander Serentine.  You will end all treaties with the Charr.  You will submit to the rule of Palawa Joko immediately.  You have until first light to fulfil these conditions or your entire army will be destroyed on our way to Divinity’s Reach.”

With that the rider turned and raced back to the the south.  Watching him ride away, Fog motioned for Maggie to follow him to the top of the hill.  Looking south they could see the vast army spread out in every direction.  Cold chills slid down Fog’s spine as he said, “We’ll hold them as long as we can.  Is there anything else you need?”

“No, thank you.  I’ll make contact with the Priory, Trahearne, and the Legions and I will return before first light.  We will be victorious sir, I promise you that.”

As she rode away, the commander watched her.  He couldn’t help but marvel at her confidence.  A spark of that mettle took hold of him as he rode back to the Garrison, giving him an idea.  He spent the rest of the day preparing an offensive strategy.  He wasn’t going to wait for the battle.  He was going to begin it.

“I don’t know what to say.”  Frieda Lamented.  “She is obviously in great pain, and I can’t do anything about it.”

Her husband, Willem put his arm around her and said quietly, “Welcome to the club.  I’ve known her since she was born and I have never known what to say when she’s like this.”

“What did Brightmane do?”

“He always took her hunting.”

“Then, maybe that’s what you should do.  Take her hunting.  Willem, she needs to get this out of her system.  This hatred will eat at her.”

“No, maybe YOU should take her hunting?”

In that moment, he saw the glimmer of understanding in her eyes and he remembered once again why he never found another lover.  She was his one and only and no one ever came close to making him feel the way she did.  He stood, pulled her to her feet and kissed her.  

“You always know the right thing to do to help me,” she whispered.

A moment later the door to the den opened and Berry poked her head in, “Have you seen Terri?  It’s getting late and Maggie’s worried.”

“We’ll help you find her, I’m sure she’s around here somewhere.”  Frieda answered.

With that, the couple went outside and moved toward the garden to look.  Before they could get the gate open, they both saw Terri walking back down the road from Divinity’s Reach.  As she neared the white picket fence they could see a very serious frown on her face.  She opened the gate and saw them.

“Hi,” she said quietly. “Is Maggie home?”

“Yes, and she’s worried.” Frieda replied.  “There’s something wrong, isn't there?”

“Is it that obvious?”

Willem stated simply, “Yes, it’s that obvious.  I promise, we won’t spill our guts to Maggie.”

“I just have something I need to tell her and, well, it’s complicated.”

“Spit it out then, you should know by now that we’re family here.  No excuses.”  Willem smiled.

Looking at Frieda, Terri blurted out, “I’m in the Order of Whispers.”

Willem stifled a laugh, “Maggie already knows that.”

“I never told her, she’s Vigil not Order, how would she know?”

“Sweetheart, will you come stand between us a moment?”  he asked Frieda.  “I’m not sure how Terri is going to react.”

Turning to Terri he explained, “I did a background check.  I had you investigated when Maggie was considering her proposal.  I’m a nosey father-in-law.”

The load had obviously been lifted as Terri stood on her tiptoes and hugged her father in law.  She then turned to Frieda and hugged her.  

“Thank you.  It will be much easier now.” she smiled.

They walked up the stairs and sat on the porch swing to enjoy the evening.  As they chatted away about nothing and everything, the door opened and Maggie stepped out to join them.  She had a tray full of drinks and passed them out before she sat next to Terri.  As they continued talking, the moon began to rise above Lake Delavan.

When the moon was at it’s highest point, Maggie stood and said, “It’s time to get ready.  We leave in two hours for the Garrison.”

The scramble began immediately.  The wagon, having been loaded already was brought out front.  Mellen and Harry were on the front seat.  Maggie and her parents joined Berry and Terri in the back.  They would pick up Bones and Electra at the Asura Gate in Divinity’s Reach.  

As the wagon began the journey, Maggie briefed everyone on the plan and gave each of them their own instructions.   They would join Commander Foghladha at the Garrison.  Once there, Maggie and the two mesmers, Berry and Frieda would work together to separate Serentine from his army.  Once they had him away from the rest, Maggie would attack.  Once she struck, the rest would reinforcer her attack in a coordinated effort to end the fight quickly.  They all knew that the longer it took, the stronger he would become.  They also knew that should they fail, Foghladha’s army wouldn’t stand a chance.  

Willem watched his daughter and saw the clenched jaw and steel in her eyes.  He was not a betting man, but he was willing in that moment to bet everything, including his own life on his daughter.  He took Frieda’s hand and could see she too was measuring their daughter’s resolve.  She reached across and took Maggie’s hand as well. Eye to eye, mother and daughter stared for just a moment. Then Maggie went back to sharpening her axes.  Precious lay next to her on a cushion, seeming oblivious to the danger that threatened them all.

Shortly after midnight, Ziegen was the first agent from the Order of Whispers to arrive at the Garrison.  He was alone except for the carrier griffins in his wagon.  As the workers unloaded ammunition and weapons, he went searching for the Commander to report in.  Climbing the stairs to the battlements, he could see the army they were facing.  Turning around, he could also see what looked like marching torches coming down from the north.

“Those are the Charr Legions.  Over to the east you can see the Vigil with the Priory is right behind them.  You’re with the Order of Whispers, I believe?” the commander asked him.

Ziegen went right to business, “Yes sir, reporting in.  I’ve brought some supplies.  I’ll be moving out shortly to reconnoiter the enemy.  I need you to connect with these griffins so they’ll come directly to you when I send reports.”

Foghladha followed him to the wagon and placed both hands on the cage filled with griffins.  They jumped and licked his hands through the mesh and then settled down.  The men then walked silently to the commander’s office to discuss strategy.

Once inside, Ziegen asked directly, “I know you’re planning on attacking before first light.  Where should I look for weakness first?”

“It would be helpful if you could point out the real enemy as opposed to the phantasmal enemies.  We need to hit the live targets and not waste time on shadows.”

“I will make that a priority.  You should hear from me within an hour, sir.”

Placing his hand on Ziegen’s shoulder, Foghladha said simply, “Stay alive.  We’ll need everyone for this fight.”

They left the office and Foghladha returned to barking preparation orders.  Ziegen stopped at his wagon and removed two griffins from the cage.  Placing them carefully into his pack, he whispered quietly to each of them and they fell asleep.  Taking his staff, he silently left the garrison and slinked into the shadows to the south.

He worked his way through the underbrush until he had a clear view of the enemy.  Travelling east and west he surveyed the line and found a number of weak spots.  Travelling back away from danger, he quietly whispered to the first griffin and sent it on it’s way.  As he watched it disappear into the darkness, he heard a single twig snap behind him.  Turning quickly he took a blow and everything went black.

The griffin made it’s way directly to the Commander’s office and flew in as an orderly opened the door.  Landing on the desk, the griffin began to dance.  Fog whispered into it’s ear and put it’s mouth up to his own ear.  

“The east side of the line is made up of mostly phantasms and a few mesmers.  It is by far the weakest.  I will send another message after I find a suitable lookout position.”

Fog went to the door, opened it and shouted, “Mission briefing, five minutes.”

He then went back to his window to stare at the daunting task ahead.

The sky in the east had just begun to lighten as the wagon crossed into the Citadel from Lion’s Arch.  Directly behind them was another wagon, driven by a young woman.  Maggie sat up, stretched and looked out the back.

“I know that girl.” she stated.  “That’s Ziegen’s daughter, Tonia.  Mellen, stop.”

She didn’t wait for the wagon to stop, she jumped out the back and waved down the horses pulling the girl’s wagon.  Calming the horse, Maggie smiled at the girl and said, “Hello Tonia, is your father with you?”

“No, actually he’s missing.  He was supposed to send us a message last night, but we didn’t get it, so now we’re going to go find him.”

“Is your mother with you?”  Maggie’s suspicion began to grow.

“She left before we did.  I know she told us to stay, but if they’re in danger, we can help.”

“I don’t think they would want you to put yourselves in danger.”  Terri piped in.

“Parent’s don’t always know what’s best.  They need our help.”

Terri whispered to Maggie, “Let me talk to her.”

Maggie nodded and Terri stepped closer to the girl’s wagon.

“You aren’t going to change my mind,” Tonia firmly said as she crossed her arms.

“I wasn’t going to try, I am going to give you an order.  Because as an acolyte you must obey an officer.  Your order is to get these children to the hospital tent where they can help with the wounded.  If your parents come that way, they can notify you.  Then you are to report to Commander Foghladha at the Garrison.  Is that clear?”

“Yes ma’am,” Tonia replied respectfully.  “I will take the children to the hospital tent, and then I will report to Commander Foghladha.”

“Very good, carry on.”  Terri smiled at the young woman.  “You’re going to be a fine addition to our order.”

“Thank you ma'am,” The young woman said, “I will always do my best.”

With that, she snapped the reins and passed Mellen and the others who had gathered to watch.  Maggie and her party climbed back into their wagon and continued to the battle.  Soon they came to the north gate of the Garrison.  It stood open, a company of troops on either side to deter any enemy activity.  Wagons streamed through with ammunition, supplies, and soldiers prepared for war.

A single Charr Legionnaire stood at the gate mechanism, Maggie recognized him as a member of her warband.  She waved at him and he snapped to salute.  The two companies on the ground, upon seeing his reaction, snapped to salute as well.  Shaking her head, Maggie saluted back.  

As her wagon passed through and made the turn to the south entrance, the Charr shouted, “If you need someone to cover your back Maggie, I’ll be glad to.”

“You’ve always got my back covered.  Congratulations on your promotion.”

“You as well, Primus Centurion Maggie.”

Turning to her father with a puzzled look, Maggie said, “When did I get promoted in the Legion?  And what do I do now that I outrank myself?  I’m only a lieutenant in the Vigil.”

Mellen slowed the wagon to a halt.  Two soldiers began taking the horses to be brushed and stabled.  Maggie and her party exited the wagon and entered the courtyard.  Small groups of soldiers were scurrying about preparing for the attack.  Almorra Soulkeeper was conferring with Commander Foghladha and his officers.  When she saw Maggie, she waved to her over to join them.

Maggie and her father joined the group.  Almorra turned to Maggie and said, “I see you got your warband drunk again.  They’ve promoted you to Primus Centurion.  I hereby grant you a field promotion to Captain of the Vigil.  Congratulations Captain, now I need you to give us your plan, so we can start this attack.”

“It’s simple, my mother, Berry and I are going to the ruins.  We will draw Serentine in, then Berry and my mother are going to portal us both down below into the catacombs.  I will kill him, his phantasms will disappear, and you will defeat the rest.”

“He’s got Ziegen.”  Foghladha interjected. “We don’t know where or in what condition he is in, but he hasn’t returned and his last message said that the east is mostly phantasms.”

“That means Serentine is on the East side of the line,” Willem thought out loud.

“Then that’s where they’ve taken Ziegen.”  Maggie blurted, “That’s where we’ll draw him from.  We’ll get set up in the Askalion Hills.”

“Sounds like you know what needs to be done.  Let’s go.  I will start the attack once you’re in position.”  Foghladha was ready for the talking to end and the action to begin.

“Start it now Commander.  It will provide us cover.”

“Done!” he replied, then shouted, “To arms!”

Frieda stepped up to Willem and seeing the look in his eyes said, “I know, me too.”  She embraced and kissed him. Then turned to the others and said, “I’m getting a hot bath after this.”

They left by the northern gate and immediately turned right to head to Askalion.  Staying away from the road, they remained hidden and took a longer path.  They could hear the battle raging as the sun began to rise.  When they reached higher ground, they carefully looked to see how the battle was going.  It appeared that Foghladha had ordered a third of his troops to attack the enemy’s left flank and the rest of his soldiers were fighting in the center.  The enemy had moved both ends of the line to the north and that meant Maggie and the others were now behind enemy lines.  It was time for them to initiate their plan of distraction.

They began by charging up the hill screaming, then they turned east and ran until they reached Askalion Hills.  The gate had been deserted when it had been overrun by the invading army the night before.  It seemed empty as they reached the top of the stairs. When they reached the Northwest entrance they heard shouting and it sounded far away.  Frieda knelt down on the step and placed her ear to the stone.  

“It’s coming from under here, there is someone in the catacombs,”  she told the others.

Standing back up she climbed past the top step to the gate and began to mutter a spell.  Berry caught on right away and joined her.  Terri and Maggie came and stood before them questioningly, when the ground seemed to fall out from underneath their feet.  They came to rest gently on the floor of a very dark place.  

A spark emerged from Terri’s hand and with it’s light Berry was able to spot a doorway.  Opening the door revealed a room and Ziegen, his back against the wall, holding a chair between himself and two of Serentine’s men.  He was bleeding from the forehead, but the two separatists were bleeding from many more places.  

Without a word, Maggie jumped through the doorway and tackled the one closest to her.  Berry mumbled and waved her hand and a protective bubble wrapped around Ziegen.  Frieda and Terri joined in the fray and the men were finished in moments.

“I owe you for my life.”  Ziegen whispered just before falling unconscious.

Terri said, “He needs a doctor.”

“Yes, but we don’t have time to take him back right now,” Maggie replied.

Berry spoke next, “I can get him back for medical attention.  Frieda can do the portal without me and Terri can help you both fight him.  I can use my phantasms to help carry him to the hospital where his children are.”

“We don’t know where his wife is” Terri stated.

As if on cue a moan was heard from the other side of the room.  Walking over to the wall, Terri saw another door and she could hear that the moaning was coming from inside.  She looked at Maggie, who simply pulled out her bow, notched an arrow, pulled the string back and nodded her head.

Opening the door, she found it was a closet with a solitary female curled up on the floor.  Reaching down, she gently rolled her over, the woman’s eyes opened wide in fear.  Terri calmed her with, “It’s okay the bad man are gone now.  We’re here and we’re going to get you to safety.”

“Ziegen?” the woman moaned.

“He’s is injured and we need to get you both to a hospital.”  Frieda said.

“How bad is it?”

“He’s been wounded.  When we got here he was fighting off both men with a chair.”

“Yes, he managed to free himself while they interrogated me and he went after them.”

Maggie asked, “Are there any more guards?”

“There were three, my husband killed one before I was captured and the other two are over there,” Mrs. Ziegen replied.

Berry and Frieda began mumbling again and soon they were all back outside.  Berry then activated a handful of phantasms and ordered them to carry Ziegen and follow her.  She and Mrs Ziegen left quickly with a wave to the others.

Maggie and Terri moved closer to the battle to see if they could see Serentine.  He found them instead, out of nowhere he appeared behind them.  Maggie, sensing danger pushed Terri out of the way and rolled back with her axes flashing.  Serentine easily dodged her attack and she started to run back to the stairs.  The mesmer followed and Terri stayed behind him.

Maggie quickly went up the steps, taking two at a time, moving towards where she could hear her mother mumbling.  Serentine stopped once and turned toward Terri, but Terri dodged right by him and joined Maggie at the top of the stairs.  Serentine followed and suddenly they all found themselves inside the catacomb.

Commander Foghladha had caught Serentine’s army by surprise.  He attacked the left flank first to draw Serentine in closer and give the women a better chance to get in position.  Then he sent the Charr and the Priory troops to the center of the fight and hit them just hard enough to stun them, all the while they were pulling the enemy back and into catapult range.  Serentine’s troops fell for it.  

As soon as they were in range, the catapults opened up and the Charr and Priory fighters pushed through the enemy line, then turned around and forced the Separatists closer to the Garrison.  Effectively trapped, they soon found themselves outnumbered, outfought, with nowhere to go, but still they wouldn’t give up.  

Foghladha waited until just the right moment, then called for Gaiscioch to mount up and head west.  They attacked with speed and force and soon had the entire enemy army on the run toward the estate where they were met with a company of Norn rangers.  The fight lasted for hours.  Rangers picked their targets well.  Warriors drove directly up the middle.  Casters stood high on the ruins.

Eventually, the survivors threw down their weapons and begged for their lives.  Commander Foghladha called Captain Swift to take control of the prisoners and arrange for their shipment to Vigil prisons.  This left the phantasmal army to the east.

After a quick regroup, the Commander had the bugle sound the rally.  Everyone picked up and began to form into battle lines.  Charging directly into battle, the Gaiscioch, the Vigil, the Priory, and the Order of Whispers exploded with action.  Over and over  again, phantasms would disappear as they were being destroyed by the pact.  

After a while, Foghladha noticed something was wrong.  Serentine’s phantasmal army was standing still, staring vacantly.  Then for a few moments, they all jerked into motion and took a few steps, raised their weapons, and then wilted again in place, staring into space.

Colonel Lynn rode up to the commander and said, “Looks like the women have his attention, perhaps there is something else we can do to help them?”

Smiling, Commander Foghladha barked a command, “Ready.”

Exhausted arms snapped weapons into ready position.

“Two columns, left and right.  Hold position until I give the order.”

Two columns separated and took their positions on either side of the phantasms, which had started moving again.

“LEAVE NONE STANDING, CHARGE!”

Foghladha was the first to strike.  Using his greatsword he bounced a clone weapon that struck the nearest three phantasms.  Each of them jerked when hit, but continued to stand still.  He thrust his greatsword into the ground and watched the three he had previously struck disappear.  Two others jerked as if hit and then continued to stand still.  

The rest of his troops waded in and began the task of cutting the rest down.  Every so often, they would run into a group that was able to fight back and it would last a few minutes, but they gradually worked their way through the enemy.  Suddenly, the battlefield exploded into a major fight.  Every phantasm seemed to come alive and began to fight back in earnest.  

Frieda jumped in and blocked Serentine’s attempt to create a portal to escape.  He directed his own attack toward her with his staff.  She felt the beam strike her picking her up and throwing against the wall, but Terri quickly cast an armor spell on her that deflected his next attack.  Maggie drew her bow and fired three arrows directly at him while Terri imprisoned him with wind.  

Frieda got to her feet, holding the spell on Serentine by sheer force of will.  Maggie and Terri could both see she was losing energy quickly.  Maggie pulled her axes and dove directly at Serentine who seemed distracted and she was able to strike him multiple times, when he staggered, Terri dropped an avalanche of stone on him and he went down.  

His attention shifted back to the fight and he drove all of them back into the wall with push from his greatsword.  Maggie shrugged off his attack and dove directly at him, once again striking multiple blows.  Terri recovered and surrounded him with a wall of flame, and Frieda not to be outdone sent in her phantasms in to apply stacks of torment.

Suddenly he change tactics.  Putting away his greatsword, he enclosed himself in a protective bubble, that try as they might, their attacks couldn’t get through it.  As they watched, they could see that his eyes were closed and his lips were moving.

Maggie switched back to her bow and tried to set fire to the air around him, but the bubble reflected her shots back at her.  Frieda mumbled incantation after incantation, to no avail.  Terri struck him with everything she had, then conjured up a flaming sword which seemed to jar him for a moment.  But Serentine continued to mutter and stare straight ahead.

Frieda shouted, “We need to all hit him at the same time.  I will throw my sword, Terri use your lightning, and Maggie hit him hard with those axes.  On three.  One.  Two.  Three.”

The three women attacked at the exact same moment.  For just a second their adversary seemed oblivious, but he fell to the floor clutching his head.  Frieda and Terri kept up the attack as Maggie continued to pound on him with her axes.  Serentine waved his left hand and Maggie flew out of range striking the wall and crumpled in the corner.  Terri was the next to be driven back and she found herself unable to move just a few feet from Maggie.  Frieda countered his sweep with one of her own and the room began to glow with energy.

Suddenly, Serentine cursed and dodged out of his circle.  Maggie was able to get to her feet in time to trip him as he tried to escape through the door and Terri dropped a pile of rocks on him from above.  Frieda sensed another mesmer coming within range, her own power was waning so she could only hope it was Berry.

The room began to glow and it became extremely difficult to breathe.  Serentine was trying to suck the air out of their underground battlefield.  Terri’s fiery sword was almost instantly snuffed out so she quickly conjured her ice bow to use instead.  Her first shot struck the mesmer in the chest.  She then sent a volley of frozen arrows at him, each hit caused him to weaken.  

Suddenly, he stood up and turned his full attention toward the fight at hand.  His eyes filled with golden fire as he stared directly at Frieda.  Muttering under his breath, he raised his hands and suddenly they contained a greatsword.  Pointing it at Maggie’s mother, he forced her backwards into the opposite corner.  She struggled to free herself but the harder she struggled, the weaker she became until she fell unconscious.  

Terri threw a circle around him and filled it with a static field.  He immediately conjured phantasms and clones.  With a single shout he drove them toward Terri and snapping his fingers they exploded.  Terri became confused and began to run away.  Serentine then threw his greatsword at her.  Hitting her, it bounced and hit Maggie, hurting them both.  He then directed an illusionary wave that drove her fully into the wall where she slid unmoving to the floor.

Maggie rolled behind him and jumped directly upon his back, he slammed her back into a wall and she seemed stunned.  He stood surveying the three women and began to laugh.  Maggie not completely finished, picked up a rock and threw it right at the Mesmer. When it hit him in the forehead, he reeled and began to fall.  At that moment, the wall behind him crumbled.

The fighting on the battlefield lasted until every phantasm was spent and every fighter was exhausted.  Foghladha allowed everyone to catch their breath then announced, “Don’t get too comfortable, we’re not finished.  We’ve got to find Maggie Lynn.”

A young captain rode up, “Sir, I’m Captain Swift and I think I know where she is.”

“Captain, where is my daughter?” queried Colonel Lynn.

“We found Berry helping get Ziegen and his wife to the hospital, and I sent men to help get them there safely.  She told me the locations and Sir, they’re under the mound at the top of the stairs.”

“How do we get in?” asked Harry, who had just arrived.

“We dig if we have to.  Shovels to the front,” shouted the Commander.

A group of soldiers began to climb the stairs.  Foghladha stood on top and closed his eyes for a moment.  Then he said, “Not here, it’s blocked, we need to move south a bit.”

He walked south, coming to rest on a spot surrounded by trees, “Here,” he shouted,  “Dig here!”

The first soldiers to arrive belonged to Maggie’s Iron Legion Warband.  They didn’t have shovels, but they soon had their uniforms off and were digging on all fours in a perfect circle.  Deeper and deeper they went until they found solid stone.  The Priory took over at that point and began to demolish the wall that had been uncovered.  Three Asurans and a Sylvari set up explosive charges and once they scrambled out, Mellen pushed the button.

The explosion was rather anticlimactic and sounded more like a dud.  But that wall had been breached and they could see another wall ahead.  The Order of Whispers then took the stage and sent in their keenest eyes, ears, and noses to find out which way they should go next.  It was soon determined that there was a tunnel leading in the proper direction.  

Foghladha sent his best Vigil troops into the tunnel to clear any booby traps.  They found several and it took a few minutes to remove them, but once the hall was cleared, Mellen, Harry, Bones, Electra, and Colonel Lynn all rushed to the end.  Mellen and Bones planted six more charges and waved to the Commander.  Foghladha gave the order and the tunnel was once again emptied.  Mellen pushed the button.  Dust and dirt came boiling out of the hole and as soon as the air began to clear, everyone rushed down the tunnel.  Somehow, Commander Foghladha was the first to push through the wall.  

The wall collapsing was enough of a distraction to allow Maggie to get to her feet and make a leaping attack with her axes.  Serentine dodged at the last moment and turned his attention on the unconscious Frieda.  Maggie dived between them and with one final flurry of blows drove him down to the floor.  His greatsword slammed back at her, but she stayed the course, growing weaker and weaker, but continuing to drive him down.  Until finally, she reached for her ceremonial dagger and plunged it deep into his chest.  He gasped his last breath and lay dead at her feet.  But the damage he had done had taken it’s toll, Maggie fell on to his body and lost consciousness.  

Harry, Bones, Electra, Mellen, and Captain Swift all burst into the room to find their friends unconscious.  Precious and Simon darted in immediately to find Frieda and Terri.  The warmth of the pets bodies along with Mellen’s healing soon had the women awake.  

Maggie was more difficult to revive as she was barely breathing.  Captain Swift barked an order and four men came and moved her away from her vanquished foe.  Bones rushed in and immediately opened his Tome of Courage.  Muttering and slowly moving his hands above her prone form, he began the task of reviving her.

When Mellen finished with the others, he joined the Guardian.  He called to Precious, who came and lay beside Maggie, purring loudly.  Then Mellen conjured a well of blood, slowly a slight change could be seen in the color of Maggie’s cheeks.  It seemed like hours, but eventually her chest began to rise and fall more normally, and a while later she woke up to find herself surrounded by her family and friends.  

A few days later they were almost fully healed and the women were finally ready to go home.  As they gathered their things, Maggie heard a familiar voice behind her saying, “I think you girls need a bath.”

Smiling, Maggie turned to find Captain Erica Hartmann, “Sounds great, do you know anyone who can get us to some tubs?”

“I just so happen to know of a whole airship and it’s crew who would fly through walls of fire to be at your service.”  Erica smiled back.

The four women walked out of the hospital and over to where Captain Swift was briefing Colonel Lynn and Commander Foghladha on the dismantling of the hospital.  Maggie and Frieda both put their arms around the Colonel and Terri was holding Maggie’s hand.  

Colonel Lynn asked, “You girls all better now?”

“We will be, for now we’re off to take a bath.”  Frieda replied,  “We’ll meet you back in Shaemoor in a couple of days. Berry, Electra, come join us!”

The men just looked at each other puzzled by the conversation.

Colonel Lynn mused out loud, “I think my life has just changed again.  For the better,  Thank you Commander, and Captain.  I owe you both for the lives of my wife and daughter.”

Foghladha smiled at the Colonel and said simply, “No thanks required, that’s just what families do.”

The End

Published: July 27th, 2015

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