Scourge Forty-Nine – Commander
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Stray Cat Strut (A cyberpunk system apocalypse!) - Ongoing
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Lever Action (A fantasy western with mecha!) - Volume One Complete!
Heart of Dorkness (A wholesome progression fantasy) - Ongoing
Dead Tired (A comedy about a Lich in a Wuxia world doing Science!) - Hiatus
Sporemageddon (A fantasy story about a mushroom lover exploding the industrial revolution!) - Ongoing

Scourge Forty-Nine - Commander

Felix and I take one of the birds out to fly circles far above the road. It’s high enough that I’m pretty sure no one will notice us, and if they do, there’s not much they can do. Maybe a really powerful cultivator who uses a bow or something could harm us, maybe, but I kind of doubt it.

Below, the Templars and their formation of soldiers are heading out on the road towards Algecante. I’m no expert, but I have the impression that they’re purposefully moving slower than they can.

“There,” Felix says, she points to a blur moving far below us.

It’s the monster carrying my message. It flies straight towards the formation, then dips down and lands on the road a good hundred metres ahead of the foremost horseman.

The entire formation rolls to a halt. There are maybe twenty Templars on horseback, with twice as many soldiers behind them, and behind those are the wagons and camp people that a small force like that probably needs to keep things going.

The Templars pause. One of them pulls a crossbow off of his back, or at least, I’m guessing it’s a crossbow, it’s hard to tell from so high up.

Then one of them rides out ahead of the group at a slow trot. “They took the bait,” I say.

The Templar stops, probably once he’s close enough that my monster starts talking. I can tell that my monster has deposited my letter on the roadway. It turns around and flaps off back into the sky.

“Will he take it?” Felix asks.

We watch as the Templar dismounts from his horse, then carefully walks over to the letter and scoops it up. He gets back onto his horse and returns to the others a moment later.

“Oh, they’re reading it,” I say. The Templar has given the letter to another Templar, this one wearing armour that has glints of gold on it and a bunch of feathers atop his helmet.

The group stays still for a while, then the formation starts moving again.

“We should get back down,” I say. I don’t want to look wind-ruffled when the Templars come around. Image is important, as Mom says, and it’s hard to look intimidating when you’re a mess.

I pat the bird we’re riding on the neck, and it turns around and starts to spiral towards the ground and towards the little pavilion we’ve set up. We circle around the long way, so that we’re less likely to be noticed.

On landing, I hop off the bird, give its neck a few pats, then send it off to join its monster bird friends where they’re gathered by the edge of the forest.

There are a few more monsters around than when we took off. Mostly wolves and bears and a few other monsters that I’d expect to find in the woods. They’re lounging around, being surprisingly lazy. I guess there’s no reason for them to be nervous or tense. The monsters I ordered into the woods earlier are all by the edge of the treeline, hundreds of eyes watching from the shadows.

“Good, you’re back,” Esme says. “Did they take the letter?”

I nod. “They did,” I say. “I don’t know if it’ll calm them down or not. There’s a lot of them.”

“About sixty fighters,” Felix says. “Plenty of Templars. If it comes to a fight, we’ll be very outnumbered.”

I nodded. “We can probably take on two or three Templars all on our own,” I said. “That’s with all of us working together. Maybe more?”

“I don’t know about that,” Esme says. “Templars train for a long time, like Archivists, but instead of book learning they spend more time in the field and cultivating their Vigilance. We won’t have an easy time against even one if they’re not surprised.”

“I don’t like depending so strongly on diplomacy,” Bianca says.

“It’s not ideal. But we do have a lot of monsters on our side. If it comes to a fight, we run and let the monsters distract them. The monsters are disposable, none of us are.”

I cut myself off as I hear the distant thumping of hooves on gravel. “Time to get into position,” Felix says. She scoops up her staff and goes to stand behind the place where I’m meant to be sitting. Esme takes a seat to my right, and Bianca to my left. It’s not quite as fancy as it could be, but it’ll do.

We don’t have to wait all that long for the Templars to show up and slow to a halt. It’s only those on horseback, which means we won’t have to deal with all of the soldiers. Unless they’re planning to circle around us? But then they’d have to deal with the monsters in the woods.

I shake my head and refocus. Twenty Templars. That’s... a lot to deal with.

“Let’s go say hi,” I say.

Three of the Templars dismount. The one with the big feathery crest atop his hat and two others with some extra gilding on their armour. As I walk out of the pavilion, my friends gathering up behind me, I glance over to the other Templars too.

They look appropriately nervous, all of them eyeing the many monsters gathered in the clearing, monsters who are salivating and staring right back with obvious hunger in their eyes.

The templars all wear more or less the same kind of armour. A metal breastplate, greaves and vambraces made of metal and leather. The majority of them turn our way and focus on us.

The leader, golden feathers and all, steps up towards us. “I am Santiago Nunez, commander of this battalion of our lord Heroe’s Templars and seekers of justice,” he says. He has one hand on the pommel of his sword, but he doesn’t draw.

I take a step forward, keeping my back straight and head high. “Hello, Commander Nunez,” I reply. “I am Valeria Malveda, daughter of the Dark Goddess. I appreciate you coming here, and being so civil.”

The commander looks at me with narrowed eyes. “That is a great claim to make, Miss Malvada, can you back it up?”

“It’s you!”

We all turn towards the back of the formation of Templars where one of them jumps off their horse. The Templar is quite a bit shorter than the rest of them, and their armour is tailored to suggest a lot more... chest than the others. Most of the Templars have their armour carved to look like they have big pecs and six packs, this one is carved to hint at breasts and a slim figure.

She stomps closer, then whips her sword out, the tip pointing right at me. “You’re the one who stole Luna’s face!”

I recognize her then. The red hair slipping out from beneath her helmet, the voice which twinges my memory, that fiery anger.

“Oh, it’s Lily,” I say. “Hello! It’s been a while. Are you still unreasonably angry at me?”

“Initiate Schild,” Commander Nunez says with that growling sort of authority old men can manage. “This isn’t the place or time for one of your bouts of uncontained anger.”

Lily’s jaw works and she lowers her sword. “Commander, those three are the ones who assaulted the academy in Montele a few years ago. I fought them before.”

“It wasn’t much of a fight,” I say. “Besides, we were only there to take back some of the books Heroe had stolen.”

The Commander whips his head around. “So, you admit that it was you?”

I frown. “Are we really going to do this? Fling accusations back and forth? I invited you over to talk and be diplomatic. We have bigger problems.”

“You burnt down part of the academy!” Lily says.

I glare right back. She’s interrupting my plans. “You were the one flinging fireballs all over the place!”

“You summoned a big fat dragon in the middle of the courtyard! It ripped the roof off of one of the buildings.”

I gasp. “Livonas is not fat! She is merely big-boned and an accomplished huntress.”

Commander Nunez raised a hand, and both of us stop mid-argument. I can feel my cheeks warming a bit. That was probably not the best way to make a good first impression. There’s just... something about that Lily girl that really gets under my skin.

“I see that there’s bad blood between the two of you, and that is understandable. Our lord Heroe makes no secret of his enmity towards the Dark Goddess.” There’s some grumbling from the other Templars at that, and more than one shifts on their horse. “Nonetheless, we are here under the flag of truce, correct?”

“Yes,” I say. “We have two things that we need to discuss. First, is a book that’s in your possession.” I gesture to Esme next to me. “Semper charged us with keeping her vault in the region safe after Altum’s cultists stole from it. We’re tracking the books down, and we know that you have at least one.”

“Perhaps,” the commander says. I bet he’s a little more cautious now. Annoying one god is bad. Annoying two is just stupid.

“And second... what are your intentions with regards to the undead that Altum has summoned in this land? Because I think our goals might be the same.”

***

Are you Entertained?

Okay, break time! 
Prolly just gonna go insane. 

 

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