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A Dance With Demons - Chapter 38

A Dance With Demons - Chapter 38

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Published by screaminlemur
Chapter 38 of "A Dance With Demons" by Jeff Offringa.

Visit www.aromathus.com for more from Jeff.

Get the audiobook at http://www.podiobooks.com/title/a-dance-with-demons
Chapter 38 of "A Dance With Demons" by Jeff Offringa.

Visit www.aromathus.com for more from Jeff.

Get the audiobook at http://www.podiobooks.com/title/a-dance-with-demons

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Published by: screaminlemur on May 26, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/09/2010

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- 189 -
CHAPTER 38 - Of MEn And THE TOwER
 The world was painfully bright.It took him several seconds to realize that the brightness was not fromthe sun, but rather from the glow of many candles scattered about theroom. He groaned as his senses slowly came back to him, and as he felt the
cold stone of a oor below him, he shivered.
He looked around and, for a moment, he couldn’t remember where he was. This certainly wasn’t any of the rooms of Vale Keep. It was darker,that was for certain.
Where was he 
?Recent events came crashing back. He remembered riding Angel intothe battle outside the castle, smashing his way through an orc horde, andthen being stabbed by an orc spear…Stabbed! He felt down his chest to where the spear wound should havebeen. There was… nothing! A slight scar, perhaps, but nothing else. Hesucked in a deep breath, grateful to be alive. The spear wound he hadtaken should have left him dead. In fact, he’d assumed he was dying.He heard a voice. “Ah! You’re awake! Traalar be praised. I feared that you might not be able to accept the amount of healing it took to bring youback. But, I see you were able. So, how are you feeling?”He tried to speak, but the words simply wouldn’t come. His voice, whenhe found it, was a dry, cracked, croak. “I’m… okay.He looked up and saw a short, somewhat wizened man in clerical robes. The other man looked down at him for a second, then continued with a start.“Oh, my. I’m sorry young sir. You must be terribly thirsty. The amount of energy your body used in recovering from that wound… I’m surprised youcan even speak at all.” The man took a pitcher from a small wooden tableand poured him a mug full of water. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he wasuntil he reached up feebly and took the proffered mug in both hands, andhe forced himself to drink slowly so as not to make himself sick.While he drank, the other man pulled a stool over and sat down. “Isuppose I should introduce myself. My name is Brother Penteth, cleric of the Holy Purity of Mareth. I was, I’m afraid, stuck here when the siegebegan.” He smiled, clasping his hands together. “But I was able to heal you,and have already said prayers to the goddess for you.” He stopped to accepta plate of bread, meat, and cheese brought to him by a young page.“I can tell by the heraldry on what was left your shield, sir knight, that you hale from Vale Keep, but if I might inquire after your name?” The wounded knight looked up at the cleric and tried to sit up. “Youmean you don’t know? Didn’t any of my men tell you?”“Men? Oh, you mean the soldiers you rode in with? Well, let’s just saythat they really weren’t in a position to say much.”He pushed himself up a little higher with one arm, struggling in his weakened state the whole time. Realizing how ravenously hungry he was,he reached for one of the small loaves of bread on the platter. “How is that?”
he asked, stufng a large hunk of the bread into his mouth.
“Now is not the time for that, friend. We can talk of it later. Now, though,may I have the name of the man whose life I saved?”
 
- 190 -
He swallowed the rst mouthful and said, “I am Sir Morris Blanesdale
of Vale Keep, commanded by my Lord Father and Earl Stoutheart to lead amission to relieve this castle. Now,” he paused, clutching at Penteth’s arm,“Tell me about my men.”Penteth placed his other hand on top of Morris’s, and tried to smile atthe young man in the most fatherly way he could. “I really do not think youshould be discussing this now, milord…Morris tightened his grip. “Now, Master Cleric. Tell me now, I pray, or
by the twelve gods, I will tear this place apart until I nd out, starting with
 you!”Penteth turned away. “There were, milord, very heavy casualties. Manyof your men were wounded in the charge. We’ve been able to help some, butmany of them now dwell with the twelve.”“How…. How bad is it?” Morris clutched his arm still tighter, looking inhis weakened state like an emaciated scarecrow, his voice taking on a noteof begging. “How bad is it, Master Cleric?”“Milord, I swear we did all we could. If Sir Alec hadn’t led the sortie outto save you and yours, none of you would have survived.Morris loosened his grip and sat back, breathing heavily. “My LordFather did not send us on a suicide mission.”“No, son, he did not,” another voice spoke. “At least, he could not haveknown it was when he dispatched you here.”Penteth turned to face the other man. “Sir Alec, I must insist. Now isnot the time!”Alec whirled, his armor clanking as he did. It was then that Morris sawthe blood on that armor, and the exhaustion on the other man’s face. “No,Penteth.
must insist. Now is the time more than ever, for the boy has aright to know what happened.Sir Morris, it is my sad duty to inform youthat, in spite of your leading one of the most glorious charges I have everseen, only a score of your men remain alive this morning.”Morris lurched back, dropping his food to the ground at his side, andcollapsed against the stone wall.
Only a score? How is that possible? My plan was working! That means…
 That meant over two hundred of his father’smen were dead!
 
His voice came out in a croak again. “How… I mean, myplan was…”Alec placed his hand on Penteth’s shoulder. “The boy has a right to facethis like a man, Penteth. If he can survive this, he can survive anything.As I have.” He looked down at Morris, compassion evident on his face. “Youand I have something in common, son. I too have lost a host to these green-back bastards. I was the only man to survive from a party the same sizeas your own, slaughtered by the same chief who commands this horde – ‘Ten-Kill.’ I share your desire for vengeance, and so I now have somethingto offer you.” Morris looked up at him, and Alec could see a tear slidingslowly down the young man’s cheek. “Morris, I have need of an aide toshare command of this garrison with me. With the death of so many of mylieutenants in these last months, you are now the senior surviving noblebesides myself and, of course, Lord Aahron. I can’t promise you much, but
 
- 191 -I can offer you the chance to exact your vengeance. Will you help me? Will you be my second?”
Morris looked away. “I’m not t to do anything right now. I’m so weak Icouldn’t ght a newborn kitten!”
Alec suppressed a laugh. “Oh, I know that. You need time to recover. Time, in a siege like this, is one thing we have in abundance. Take sometime, rest. Eat heartily and regain your strength. Thanks to you and the
sacrice of your men, we now have enough food on hand for a while, at
least. So what say you?”Morris picked up a chicken leg as thoughts swirled through his head.
So many dead! So many… What would my father have me do…? What would 
 they
have me do? 
A voice answered him, echoing in his mind.
I’d kick your ever loving arse, boy! Those men gave their lives for you! Don’t dishonor them by taking the coward’s way out! 
Morris heard the voice of his father, and as Sir Alec stood staring athim, he realized that the voice was right. “I would be honored, sir, to aid you in anyway I can.”Penteth looked from one knight to the other. “Good, good. Now, I mustinsist, Alec. He needs to rest and recover!”Alec smiled at them both. “I know. I know. But I think he’s just taken
the rst step down that road to recovery.” With that, he turned and strode
off, and the more Morris thought about it, the more he realized the olderknight was correct.* * *Alec Neuvall trudged up into Orc Spire Tower. His legs felt like lead,and each step he took only served to exhaust him further. He heard LordAahron coming up behind him, pulling himself along even more than he was. The two days since the arrival of the riders from Vale Keep had beeneven more tiring than the rest of the days since the siege started. Aleccontinued to thank the twelve gods that he had been up in the tower andable to witness the charge. As a result, he had been able to scrape togetherthirty men to ride out and meet the young knight’s charge halfway. Had itnot been for that,
none 
of the men from the Vale would have survived.As it was, Alec had arrived just in time to save Morris from an orc warrior’s axe. His lance had taken the huge orc in the chest right beforethe greenback’s axe would have taken off the other man’s head. Thinking
back to the ght now, he wasn’t sure how he’d managed to pull it off. He’d
had to dismount, pull a wounded man in full armor up onto his horse, allthe while dodging an orc army... He said another quiet prayer to Voluge,thanking the god for his protection.Ascending the top step, he grabbed the wooden bar that latched thedoor and pulled it up and off as Aahron came up to the step behind him, yawning. With a wave of his hand, Alec motioned him to proceed.“I still say that Morris’s charge proves that we should send out a sortie,Alec! Look at how much his charge accomplished!”

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