Peasant Problem: InterludeNov 15
[Before the story reaches its senses-shattering conclusion next week, enjoy a brief interlude with the enemy. New to this story? Catch up from the beginning.]
The Following Morning
Sunday morning was cold and foggy. The Hawk, driving Darren’s golf cart, could barely make out the path ahead. They drove in silence as Darren texted furiously. Overnight, two-thirds of his Council had vanished and wasn’t answering text messages or returning calls. They were ghosts, and that just wasn’t possible. He tried to gather whoever he could find and summon them to the Lodge.
The orcs’ rebellion was getting out of hand, and he had no idea how it had gotten to this point.
The cart crested a hill, puttering on its electric motor. “Sitrep?” he asked, glancing at his Captain of the Guard.
The Hawk, his features truly aquiline in profile, began his report, not taking his eyes off the dirt road. “Town guard is at half capacity. Two permanent deaths resulting from the overnight fighting, several poisoned and magically weakened knights who cannot fight effectively, and three disappearances with no contact. Guilds and mercenaries have either declared neutrality or sided with the Seven Skulls. Sixty-six percent of the Councilors have also been disappeared. A dawn patrol found the Arbor Elves gagged and bound to trees near the creek. Perhaps most distressingly, sir, the launch has disappeared from the lake. If it is not returned, we’ll certainly be on the hook for the cost of a replacement.
“The event ends in four hours. I don’t need to remind you, sir, that calling a stop right now would be disastrous for the game setting – the downtime between events would be anarchy.” Dazed from lack of sleep, Darren said nothing for a long while. The Battle Country was falling apart. His councilors had abandoned him. One of his oldest friends had betrayed him. His players were in open war. This was supposed to be a game.
“What?” The cart had stopped and The Hawk was looking at Darren oddly. He’d been talking out loud, he realized. He needed sleep.
The pair were across the parade green from the Lodge. Tired and unfocused as he was, Darren didn’t notice the flag flying. It was red, with six small skulls surrounding one large skull. The standard of Wayne’s orcs. As he reached mid-field, he noticed that the Lodge’s windows were all open. When they’d met a day earlier, those windows were closed.
The THWANG of a bowstring broke the silence. An arrow, tipped with foam and tape, droned past Darren’s head and plunked into the earth behind him like a lawn dart.
For a moment, Darren and The Hawk stood there, stunned. After a beat, a hail of arrows came from the open windows. Arrows came close to hitting them, but none struck home.
Suddenly, The Hawk dove in front of Darren, pushing him backward and down to the ground. Two arrows took The Hawk in the upper chest and a third caught him in the cheek. From the Lodge, three bowmen each shouted out, “Three damage!”
The Hawk was not wearing his bulky combat armor; nine damage was too much for the guard captain to withstand. He collapsed to the ground, slain.
Darren inched toward him, but his guardsman whispered, “Get out of here!” With a salute, the Count turned and scrambled back across the parade field to his golf cart.
The seat of his kingdom had fallen.