This chapter contains no spoilers!
|"Having lived all my live in this city, without purpose - that is why I must go."|
Of all the districts that made up Divinity's Reach, the Eastern Commons certainly was the one Fujiko despised the most. She was pressed however, not wanting to waste any time since she had finally decided to venture outside the protective city walls she had grown so accustomed to.
“How can this abomination of an orchestra still exist?”, the young woman cursed while plucking some stray confetti out of her ashen brown hair, “That junk mountain just had to start blaring when people mentioned Shaemoor.”
The latest tune played by one of the Eastern Commons' greatest attractions, Uzolan's Mechanical Orchestra, just finished. Fujiko had already left it several streets behind her, and yet it still managed to block out most of the city's usual sounds while it ran. And sadly, a bright someone had decided to have it do just that non-stop. The little scraps of conversation she had been able to pick up earlier made her glad however to have chosen the shortest route, no matter the inconveniences. Confetti stuck in her hair and clothing, the obnoxious music... they all seemed like petty troubles now that Fujiko had heard mention of centaurs besieging Shaemoor.
Just my luck to have those horsemen attack when I decided to travel there, she thought while pulling more confetti out of her hair, I hope it hasn't yet been reduced to ashes, getting to Beetletun or Claypool instead would be considerably more difficult. She crunched a piece of confetti with her fingers and flicked it on the weathered cobblestone, Not like I would be able to arrive there anyway, with an army of centaurs setting up camp in Shaemoor. I could hardly outrun them, could I?
She smiled dryly, and stopped abruptly. In her musings she hadn't paid much attention to her surroundings, but now she realized that she had arrived at the Plaza of Dwayna. The great gates of Divinity's Reach were already in sight – and so were the Seraph guards arguing with several merchants. Unsurprisingly, the gates were closed.
“Just my luck”, Fujiko sighed.
By their very nature and by virtue of their trade, merchants make for excellent shouters. Their cackling voices mingled together made Fujiko yearn for Uzolan's orchestra's music instead – she felt sorry for the Seraph they had surrounded. While approaching the besieged soldiers, she noted a Seraph wearing a sergeant’s badge exiting the gatehouse and drawing closer. A huge warhammer resided on his back.
“Sergeant Saberlin, sir!”, the Seraph guards saluted, “we have-”
At the mention of the man's title, the attention of the tradesmen immediately snapped towards the new arrival. Before even finishing their salutations, the guards were shoved aside by the mob of upset merchants. Sergeant Saberlin, encircled by the merchants, kept the same grim expression throughout being swarmed by their questions and complaints.
“I'm sorry, but no civilians are allowed to exit through those gates right now”, a Seraph said to Fujiko when she drew closer, not without shooting a helpless glance towards his superior, “Shaemoor is under attack by centaurs.”
“I gathered as much”, Fujiko nodded.
She watched the scene playing out in front of her. The sergeant calmly stood amidst the merchants, letting their pestering wash over him seemingly uncaring. It didn't look like he was going to respond any time soon. Fujiko turned back towards the soldier next to her: He was wearing the typical Seraph plate armour bearing stylized wings in reverence of the goddess Dwayna, and his hand rested atop the hilt of his iron sword.
“Can you tell me more about what's going on at Shaemoor? I only heard people whispering of a centaur raid, and that's it.”
“I don't know the current state of battle, but it seems like we are mostly fighting Tamini forces. They usually raid the farmlands to the south-east of Queensdale. Them being here must mean that they have broken through our primary line of defence in the Krytan Freeholds...”
Fujiko mustered the guard, her head slightly tilted: “You seem troubled. Is it that bad?”
“I'm sorry, that's not – well, yes, it is that bad but... I was thinking, if the centaurs are here, what of the garrisons in the Freeholds? What – what of Beetletun?”
What a Seraph, Fujiko remarked snarkily, to so readily calm and comfort the citizenry. Though I guess that actually makes him a prime example of what a soldier of his order should be like.
“Don't worry too much,”, she put on a reassuring smile, “the centaurs probably just managed to slip by. I mean, when have they ever managed to break one of our garrisons' walls? As for Beetletun... it is heavily fortified as well, and remember: The Ministry Guard's presence is especially strong there.”
“The Ministry Guard? They won't set foot outside Caudecus' manor should the centaurs lay fire to Beetletun!”, the Seraph soldier spat, “Nobles are all they care about.”
He might be right about that, Fujiko thought. The Ministry Guard, while a well-armed force, usually cared little for the common folk. It still seemed unlikely for them to let Beetletun burn to the ground, though – after all, legate minister Caudecus had made quite an investment in turning it into one of Kryta's most influential settlements.
After a little moment of silence, the Seraph continued grimly: “Also, the centaurs have breached the walls of Shaemoor garrison. Otherwise, how could they have entered Shaemoor itself?”
“Horses still can swim, can't they?”, Fujiko said, slightly frowning. Maybe it actually is the time to start worrying.
“Some of them crossed the stream, surely, but the gates of Shaemoor garrison were torn down by their catapults. It was through there that the bulk of their forces could enter Shaemoor”, the Seraph grimaced, “They could have hardly slipped by our defences to the east while transporting siege engines, could they now? Probably they brought down the eastern garrisons just as easily... and I doubt they were lucky enough to have a captain close by to turn the tide, like in our case.”
Intrigued, Fujiko asked: “A captain? Does that mean that Logan Thacke-”
Her question was interrupted by a loud cracking noise. Startled, she noticed that the merchants had gone silent.
A single voice rose up: “Everyone of you is free to leave this city. Know that I would gladly hand each of you a weapon on your way out – however. since you will die in a matter of seconds once outside these gates they would just be looted off your mutilated corpses by our enemies. I'd rather not hand them our steel as easily.”
The merchants had backed off, giving Fujiko a clear view on the sergeant in his winged Seraph armour. He held his warhammer in his hands, his grim stare bearing down on the merchants.
I wonder if that's how he keeps himself steeled for battle, Fujiko thought when she noticed the broken cobblestones to his feet, They certainly seem more solid than centaur skulls.
Either intimidated by his words, or frightened by his display of strength, the merchants held their tongues. Some of them grumbled inaudibly, but none raised their voices again.
One of the Seraph guards stepped forward: “Uh, I want to add that this situation will be under control soon.”, she said shyly, “Captain Thackeray himself has joined battle. Just stay calm and wait. I'm sure you will be able to leave shortly.”
“And then there's that, too”, the sergeant nodded, “There's really no need to make so much noise about leaving the city – unless you have a death wish, that is.”
“And then there's that, too”, Fujiko grinned widely, striding towards the sergeant, “however, I would still like to take you up on your previous offer. I even have my own weapon, you see, so there's nothing for you to lose.”
Sergeant Saberlin mustered the young woman who had suddenly spoken up, and who was now walking towards him – of Canthan descent, she had ashen brown hair which was cut short in the front, and then fell down to her chin at the sides. The hair at her back was bound in a single ponytail, which protruded slightly to the left. She wore plain leather garments – with the odd addition of a heavy hood –, and on her hip she carried a dagger sheathed in a simple scabbard.
“Even with your own weapon you will hardly survive.”, he scoffed. She was at least two heads shorter than him, with a rather scrawny physique.
“But I'm free to leave anyway, right?”, Fujiko responded defiantly. She might have to look up to him, now that she was standing in front of him, but she wouldn't let herself be intimidated either way. Most of all not by a Seraph. Besides, I have an audience to please, Fujiko smirked, aware of the bystanding merchants' and Seraph's gazes.
“The centaurs won't die just because you pester them, girl. There are other places to play smart. Leave.”
“But they will die when I stab them. And even if they don't, who knows, I could always try to outrun them. 'Outrunning a centaur', sounds good, no?”
The sergeant clenched his jaw, and gripped Fujiko by her shoulder: “Girl, having lived your life in this city you don't seem to understand that we are at war.” Fujiko squirmed, but the sergeant strengthened his grip: “To you, this is all just a joke, right? Well, it isn't. But since you are so intent on leaving the city – I don't care anymore. Go out there and die. That will make a great joke, right?”, he released his iron grip and shoved Fujiko towards the gates, “People like you disgust me.”
Fujiko caught herself and spun around, teeth gritted. Her right shoulder had almost gone numb from the sergeant's grip, but she would never show him her pain. “People like me? What do you know of people, cobblestone-slayer?”, she hissed, “I will go out there: Having lived all my live in this city, without purpose – that is why I must go! And I will come back! I -”
Stupid, Fujiko cursed at herself, stupid, pathetic! Getting all riled up by a Seraph warmonger! You want him to sympathize with you, to understand? Just shut up!
Sergeant Saberlin remained silent for a while, mustering Fujiko's now impassive face. Her dark, slanted eyes revealed her inner fury, however, though at who it was directed he couldn't tell. He spoke, softly this time: “Come, I will tell the guards to let you outside. But first, calm yourself. Fighting in anger is the surest way to Grenth's realm.”