Reynauld the CrusaderAs the stagecoach wheels clattered along the cobblestones leading to our venerable house, I held the note loosely, hoping that the pored-over words would shake into a more enlightening alignment. The lanterns held back the darkness, but offered little comfort to my wandering mind. Memories of playing in the cavernous halls of that old house flooded back.
An unearthly howl pierced the night and broke me from my reverie. The startled horses bucked out and couldn’t be contained by the driver’s whip. We left the road to an even bumpier excursion before clattering to a halt minus a wheel and our means of locomotion. Dismas and I were unscathed, but alone as the coach driver scurried after the fleeing mares, a torrent of cursing that trailed into the blackness.
“I guess this means we are on foot?” Queried Dismas.
We left the luggage for a future return and headed East. Ever East. The hamlet is just ahead.
A grizzled thug stepped out to block our path, but we were in no mood to talk. Dismas, good with a knife, opened his veins while I landed a pommel strike to daze him for a moment. He recovered quickly though and still managed a slashing uppercut that caught my brow. Move quicker or die. Dismas dispatched him with ruthless efficiency to bring the tempo back to an eerie night’s walk. The gold will help, if only to make the tavern that much more enticing upon arrival.
A disheveled tent came into view, but no movement betrayed its owner. Possibly the lowlife bleeding out back on the road? Dismas wasted no time in claiming the additional gold and misappropriated onyx.
Another ambush! We’ll send them a message that the rightful owner has returned and there is no place for these vermin. Dismas was quick to shoot, but the grapeshot missed both the larger, whip-wielding brigand or the fusiler toward the back. I landed a stunning blow to curtail the bloodletter’s flaying, but couldn’t escape the blanket fire that erupted into the night. Back to the knives for Dismas as we focused on the heavy-set villian to drop him quickly. The whip was our concern, but a point blank shot drove me away before returning with my own justified strike. Prodigious size alone does not dissuade the sharpened blade.
Pelted with blanket fire, Dismas and I took shelter behind the fallen mass, but the rain of shrapnel didn’t cease. Exploding through the bloodied carcass, we set upon the rifle-clad bandit with steel. As the fiend fell, a faint hope blossomed.
Portraits, deeds and crests of my heritage lay with the fallen, but I will make something of them in time. More gold to be relieved too, but the hard-won chest held nothing but blight.
My return was not met with adulation. These squalid lands, these corrupted hovels are mine to rebuild, but the populace remain ambivalent. I, too, fear they may be right. Stress rises when I see their downcast husks.