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Gambits - The Copper Knight III

The Copper Knight III

Jorden wasted no time explaining everything, soon as Derren and the other present captains were in his office. Including himself, there were only four other captains present, all of them had some sort of blood stains seeping into their white cloaks.

"The Baron made an all-out semi-coordinated attack against us," Jordan explained. "In the last hour alone we have lost over twelve-hundred men, about two-thirds of our entire forces. And we've lost total control of certain regions of the city. I've sent warning to the king’s hand, and a request for backup but I doubt we'll be getting any."

"So, for now, I sent emergency summons for all the guards on evening duties to be summoned right away, and the hundred or so men who were signed up for times like this. With their addition, we should be back to nearly half our strength, but we can't take another assault like that."

"What do you propose we do commander?" one of the captains asked.

"What I 'propose', is that we start kicking down doors, searching street after street until we find him!"

"Commander we don't have that sort of authority," Derren argued. "We need the king’s permission to invoke that sort of intrusion upon the citizens of the capitol."

"To hell with the king’s permission!" Jorden shouted with such fury his face began to turn a shade of red. "We've been begging for the king's help in these matters for weeks now with no reply. Well, it's not just "his" city that will burn if we don't stop this Baron, it's all of ours."

Derren knew he had to do something to stop the commander from ordering these actions. The man was overcome with rage he wasn't thinking clearly. If they started kicking down doors now then that would put more people against them, and with their forces divided so much, they could be picked off until even fewer remain than now.

"We don't even know what this Baron looks like, are we going to round up random people and interrogate them?" Derren argued, thinking quickly of how to convince Jorden to halt his madness for a time.

"If that's what it takes unless you have a better idea?"

He had nothing, he needed time. "Give us the room," he shouted a command to the other captain's. When they didn't move he shouted again, "Now!"

They looked to Jorden who nodded and said, "Go wait downstairs, see if any of the men have something to report. Come back when you’re done."

After the other captains took their leave Jordan crossed his arms impatiently and said, "I'm waiting."

Derren gave himself a short minute to gather his thoughts and form an idea before speaking. "Give it a day, just a day before you start busting down doors. This Baron caught us all by surprise with these coordinated ambush attacks, who's to say his men aren't waiting around to pick us off when we thin out our forces even further?"

"So you're saying we stay here, safe in our little fortress while they loot free in the city, our city?"

"I'm saying," he paused to think further for a moment. "What I am saying is that we should spend the day recovering from our wounds and rounding up what little men we might have left out there. And we pick off any stragglers of the enemies that think they won. And then in a few hours when the rest of our fellow guards have been summoned we begin taking back districts we lost in the city. Then we take as many of his men alive, some of them should know something about the Baron, who he is, where to find him, what he looks like."

Jorden gave him a long and scrutinizing glare. "You know you have the mind of a tactician, in fact, it's very reminiscent of a general I've had the pleasure of speaking to on multiple accounts. Except this general is also a lord, one who happens to be on the king's advisory council."

"Commander, is this really the time for this?"

"Lord Gerald Ironwroth spoke to me one night about an experiment to turn a street rat into a worthy disciple, or, at least, a good spy. Said he was against the whole thing, but his partners insisted he learn to train spies, and who better than the city rats. You joined the Sky Cloaks at a young age, but not the youngest, but the real surprise is how quickly you became a captain."

"Albert figured it out right away didn't he? That you were a rat sent to spy on him from the new advisers at court. Yea that's why he sent you down there to the South Gate, keep you busy and far away from him as possible."

Derren stared him down. While he was right, of course, but all of that was relevant now. He wondered if the old commander had lost his mind as of late, on top of his rash plan, bringing up the conspiracy of him being a gambit for Gerald at a time like this.

Derren let out a slow steady breath, the air in the room had grown tense. "Any moment now the other captain's will return," he said. "And then you will have to make your decision, commander."

They said nothing more until the other captains arrived, awaiting their new orders. Jorden took one last look at Derren before turning to them and saying, "Each of you take thirty able-bodied men and start searching out for any of our own that might still be alive. If you spot anyone outside tell them to return home immediately, if they don't comply consider them an enemy, armed or not.

"Take anyone you can with you alive, but if that proves too difficult don't hesitate to kill them. Regroup here within two hours, we'll coordinate our next move after the rest of our fellow guards have been summoned. For now, all of you avoid Wall Street, assume it's no longer safe to venture to. Same with the Traders Square, it's been lost to us, Derren you take Queen Street, we might still have some supporters down there."

Even the nicer street such as Queen Street saw its fair share of blood spill, in fact from the looks of things it was almost as if the ambushes started here. Small puddles of blood were spread about the street, dropped weapons and helms too. But something was missing, and it wasn't until one of the men pointed it out that Derren realized it, all of the bodies were gone.

Derren didn't like the way any of this felt. He went to one of the houses and pounded on the door. "This is the city watch, open your door," he shouted for anyone inside.

No answer, so he pounded the door harder. Still no answer, once more he banged his fist on the door, "Open up or we'll bust down the door and come inside."

This time when no one answered he turned away from the house and instructed two of his men to break it down. They ran at the door with their shoulders up, braced for impact. Soon as they hit it, though, the door flew open and they found a hard fall inside. They got up and searched the house for a minute before calling for Derren, "Captain, you should see this."

He entered the house and was speechless at what they found. Nearly a dozen dead bodies were piled inside carelessly. Two of them were old with wrinkled skin. The others were men, dressed poorly, along with a few in Sky-Blue uniforms. When he regained himself he looked to the men and said, "Search the rest of the house for any more bodies, when you're done return to the others in the street and await further orders."

Derren left the house and started calling out men in groups of five to begin searching out the other houses. "Pound on the door, tell them we're with the City Watch. If you get no response after a half a minute break it down and search the house. If you do get a response move on to the next house down the line. I'll whistle when I want you called back."

He sent off six groups of his men to check the houses and took three more men with him. The rest stayed in the middle of the wide street on the lookout for any trouble that may spring up. After what they just found in the house, he longer knew what to expect.

One by one Derren pounded on the residential doors and received no response. And one by one he kicked down the door, only to find, somewhere inside, another pile of recently deceased corpses. He had almost given up all hope when at the next house he heard a soft and frightened cry from inside. "This is the city guard," he shouted, "open up or we'll be forced to break the door down."

"Please," a woman sobbed, "Please just go away."

"I can't do that. Now open up or the door is coming down."

No response, he gave it a minute before kicking at the door. It didn't budge, this time, the door was bolted. With the help of his men, they rammed at the door with their shoulders until it flew off its hinges.

Inside the house, huddled in fear in a corner, was a woman with her two young daughters. They cowered when he approached. The whole scene reminded him of when he was a child, and the city guard came to take his home from him. 'Is this what they thought he was here for, to take them from their home?' Derren asked himself.

The men with him were much kinder when approaching the family; he left them to handle it. Outside he waited until the men returned. When they did they explained what happened from the family's perspective.

"The mother say's the armed men just poured out into the streets from nowhere and slaughtered anyone outside." The guard told Derren when he finished talking with the family. "After the fighting was done a handful of the men stayed behind and started busting down doors at random, they dragged the bodies of both the guards and their own men into the houses then left."

"Did she see anything else?" Derren asked.

He shook his head, "No ser, she closed her curtains after that and hid in the corner with her daughters. They were hoping her husband would returned by now; as he was out fetching supplies for some repairs. But they haven't seen him since he left. Before all the chaos."

"Chances are he's dead then, caught up in all of the bloodshed," Derren said grimly. "Time to regroup see what the others have to report." He turned from them and let out a sharp loud whistle that echoed down the street.

The other guards searching the houses came out, he was relieved to see none of them were missing, and returned to him with their reports. Most had the same thing to say, bodies dragged into the houses to hide, survivors hiding in their homes cowering in fear. No one knowing exactly what's going on.

"Alright we're pulling back for now. It's time to return to the barracks. I don't know what the hell is going on around here and I don't like it."

"What about the survivors of this street, we can't just leave them," one of the guards argued. Some others voiced their agreements with him."

Derren opened his mouth to speak when a massive BOOM sound erupted behind him from the other side of the city. They all turned around to see a trail of black smoke rising up from the South-East. With little thought they took off, heading to the rising smoke in the distance.

They made it to where the smoke was rising from to find hundreds of their fellow guards watching as an entire ward was ablaze. Derren recognized the area, it was the Rats Hobble. "Where's the commander, what's going on here?" Derren asked one of the men who was already there.

"Didn't you hear? Some bloody madman brought the commander a severed head of this fat man saying it was The Baron's. Then told us he had a huge storage of that candy in this ward. Took a few hundred men in there and found hundreds of crates full of the stuff. Commander then ordered it to all be burned. The entire ward too."

"Has he gone insane?" Derren asked aghast. "This fire could spread through the city! Where is that deranged old man?"

"Should be at the front, with the archers."

"Archers?"

"Yea, anyone who didn't take the chance to leave the ward before the commander set it on fire was condemned to die in it. The archer brigade has the entire thing surrounded so no one can get out alive."

Derren heard enough madness, he had to see it for himself. He pushed past the crowd of guards until he got to the front where he was blocked by a line of them. They had explicit orders from Jorden to not let anyone near the row of archers ahead, in case they had the same idea Derren did, which was to try and stop this madness.

He wanted to fight them, but when he was up front he could see it was already too late. The flames ran rampant through the segregated area, roaring fiercely and dancing wildly. A few men came running out of the ward, screaming in agony as their whole body was engulfed by the flames. They ran without direction or purpose, just with the instinct to get away from the flames.

And as soon as they could be distinguished enough from the fire behind them the archers let loose their arrows, killing the people just running for their life in an instant. Then they knocked, aimed, and waited for anyone else. Stricken with grief, terror, and many other emotions Derren turned away and got as far as he could from all of it.

With the Baron dead, the men serving under him were scattered and confused. Reclaiming the lost areas of the city was far easier than what they expected, given how well coordinated these men were before. But it seemed a guaranteed sign the Baron was indeed dead and there would be no one to take his place.

As much as there could be the city was at peace again, and Derren had his fill of it all. After finishing his report to the king's hand he went to his house and packed his things and purchased some extra items for the road ahead of him. He went to the stables where his horse, Raphael, was waiting for him.

While he held onto his armor, weapons, and uniform, Derren was done with the Sky Cloaks, and Commander Jorden, and Gerald, the city; all of it. He had his small fortune he'd been saving up over the years saddled in a couple bags on Raphael. He had all he needed now to leave and just as he finished, Lucas had come along.

A handsome man with a strong jawline, dirty blonde hair, and soft blue eyes, Lucas shot him a smile. "I had a strong feeling I'd be seeing you off here," Lucas said.

"It's time to move on, I've had more than enough of my fill with this fucked up city," Derren replied. He looked to Lucas, a yearning welling up inside him. "Come with me?"

Lucas smiled, Derren could see in his eyes he was sincerely thinking about it. "What would we do, where would we go?"

"We would go anywhere, everywhere. See the world. And there's always work out there for a pair of knights."

Lucas scoffed, "We're not knights."

"No one who matters will know otherwise. The only thing people look for in knights is how well they can wield their sword. If I was the best fighter in the world I could say I was knighted by some dead knight centuries ago, and no one would care to think twice about it."

"You do handle your sword pretty well, and that blade strapped to your waist also."

They both chuckled.

"So what do you say, travel the lands with me. There is so much out there for us to see."

He looked down, then out towards the gate, where the sun was falling low. Derren could tell he was truly considering it. But after the slightest shift on his face, Derren knew his answer. "No, my place is here, in the city. Who knows I may be a captain one day too."

Derren walked up to him, and pressed his lips firm against Lucas'. They held the kiss for a long moment before Lucas broke off. Derren turned from him before he changed his mind about leaving and hopped onto Raphael's saddle. "I'll write to you now and again," Derren said keeping his eyes out on the horizon. "Tell you all about my thrilling adventures."

"Maybe one day they'll even sing about you," Lucas japed, though he was a little sincere too.

Derren dug his heels into Raphael and trotted down the road. He left through the South Gate following the main road until it broke off into two additional paths. He looked around, unsure of which one to follow, the world was open to him for the very first time now.

A glare from the setting sun caught his attention. He looked down the East Road, towards the Riverlands. With little more thought, he turned Raphael East and began following the setting sun, onward to whatever may lie ahead of him.

END OF PART 2

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