Lights dazzled, a burst of bright white faded into a clear picture of a woodland scene. Weeping abounded through a group of Morrowan refugees as some mumbled through their sobbing to curses of the Harbinger. The light was fading, and a priest straddled a large, moss covered rock as he cleaned relics denoting his faith. As the darkness crept in on the beleaguered group one of their number let out a shriek. She pointed into a group of bushes were two malicious, green glowing eyes peered out. The eyes did not move, instead suddenly another set and then more appeared from all directions. The air had an aura of dread, and the stench of death began to pervade the area in a thick musk. The Morrowan priest rose, his heart heavy with fear. He approached the southern end of the clearing with a quaking heart pounding in his chest.
“Show yourselves, foul filth, we do not fear you!” His voice did not betray his own anxiety. Suddenly a ripper burst forth and took out the priest’s legs. He was thrown to the ground bleeding from stumps where his legs had been mere moments before. His cries swelled into a cacophony as the rest of the entourage were torn limb from limb. The look on the priest’s face suddenly became oddly serene, and his features twisted into that of a child. It was Golsphan, and he raised his head and cried out for Menoth’s forgiveness as a slayer bounded down with violent intent. The Harbinger’s mind screamed back into reality and jolted her into the present.
She rose up, still only floating a few feet above the ground. Was Menoth trying to tell her something? She felt a slight surge of power as if the Creator’s presence was with her. This same power had dwindled in the weeks passed with no communion with the Creator, but oddly it was almost a blessing. She could guide herself through the air now, no longer needing her trusted acolytes to drag her to and fro. She shook the frightful scene from her memory and turned to exit her command tent.
Outside the meeting ground looked much different than before. In a matter of but an hour it had filled with soldiers destined to accompany the Harbinger on her quest. As the tent flap swung back, a tuft of dust drifting off the end of the fabric as it hit the outside of the tent and spiraled off on a gust, a large cheer arose from the amassed interdiction. She could sense no fear in those assembled, and joined the Testament, Amon, Dartan, Iago, and the Covenant on the platform.
“Soldiers of the Creator, willing faithful handpicked by our God, hear me now” the Harbinger proclaimed, arms raised up in a motion to silence the assembled. “We embark on a great journey, to Ord we will travel. I require nothing short of your faith and willingness to lay down your life to accomplish Menoth’s will. You have been chosen because of your faith and pure spirits. I promise you, they will be tested” the Harbinger paused.
“Do not fret, friends, for as long as you do your duty you will have solidified yourselves a place of honor in the halls of the City of Man. If any of you harbors fear in your soul, let it be known your cowardice and leave this place at once!” Not a soul so much as took a breath.
“Very well, your orders are set, your hearts are strong! Let us fulfill our destiny! Unit commanders, I urge you to meet with the head of your columns respectively. We move out at first light.” A cheer erupted from the Menites, the Temple Flame Guard waved their spears in the air, spurts of fire erupting from the tips. The Harbinger turned to face Amon and the Testament. They nodded their approval and exited down the ramp to gather their forces to finalize the marching orders. The Harbinger floated down the ramp as well, quickly joined by Iago as the Covenant read rousing scriptures over the hustle and bustle of soldiers forming up for the march ahead.
“My lady, the mercenaries are assembled in the courtyard just beyond your tent there,” he waved in the direction of the meeting place, “I will ensure your orders for the march are understood. Dartan, Cadwgan, and Delwynn are waiting for you at the mercenaries sides.” The Harbinger clasped a hand on Iago’s shoulder and nodded as she took her leave to join the assembly which now required her attention.
As the Harbinger neared the courtyard, she heard laughter as a male voice told drifted along in the night air. She came around an ornate marble pillar with ivy dripping from the top but not quite gracing the ground, and could see that even Dartan was smiling as the Piper wove his tale. She took great pleasure in seeing his happiness, but the smile which graced his lips quickly faded as he noticed the Harbinger enter into his sight.
“Harbinger, we are honored by your presence.” The Harbinger nodded to Rhupert, who still clung to his bag pipes. There was an aura of sadness around Rhupert, one that sapped the very air of happiness. She was taken back by the intensity of this emptiness, but was glad that his skills could also be put to use to raise moral and not just languish in torment of the soul. Anastasia, Eryiss, and the other Paladins stood nearby.
“Gorman, I trust you have not befallen any unpleasentries following your transgressions against the Protectorate.”
“No, Harbinger, I have not. I was thankful that my plea bargain met with…kind ears. My services are at your disposal,” Gorman’s voice, though seemingly confident, could not hide his suspicions of the floating girl which appeared before him. The Harbinger chose to ignore this and instead turned to the last person yet to be acknowledged.
“Madelyn Corbeau,” the Harbinger struggled to keep disdain out of her voice as she addressed a woman of whose morals were fairly loose, “I do hope our envoy had no problems finding the place. I am grateful to you and your king, Baird, for allowing us safe passage into the lands of Ord. Beyond this small allowance, I am further grateful he has lent us your services as a personal liaison,” the Harbinger had to check herself as she spoke, knowing that liaison also most likely meant keeping tabs on the Menites. She had accepted Madelyn’s requested presence graciously only with great trouble. It seemed almost a punitive measure by Baird for coming into his lands.
“It is my honor to accompany this fine army on its venture, and do not hesitate any inquiry of my knowledge of Ord. My services are at your disposal” Madelyn said with a sly smile, knowing full well her presence caused the Harbinger consternation. She spoke truthfully, and knew her enjoyment of the Harbinger’s discomfort was not going unnoticed. Tales of the Harbinger’s powers were well known all over the Iron Kingdoms. She smiled at the Harbinger sheepishly and gave a curtsey, which the Harbinger felt obligated to respond to.
“Honored souls, I take counsel with you now to ensure your loyalty. I will hear any grievance you have regarding assisting our actions.” The Harbinger could sense no qualm from any of the Mercenaries, no hint of fear or questioning graced their lips.
“I am truly glad to have you working with us now, Rhupert, Madelyn, Anasatsia, and Gorman. You three will accompany me. Eryiss, you have your orders. I trust they will be seen through with the efficiency which has been told me on all accounts. If, at any time, you have a moral qualm please do not hesitate to speak with me.”
With that, the mercenaries all left, the Harbinger biding each farewell for the now in turn as they passed out of the courtyard to situate themselves in the columns assembling. Dartan and his fellow paladins approached the Harbinger after they all left.
“I really cannot stress how grateful I am for your dedication to my safety” she said.
“Harbinger, it truly is our honor. You will never need to thank us for looking out for your wellbeing” Cadwgan asserted, bowing.
The Harbinger returned the bow; the interdiction was finally under way. The unknown quest gnawed at the edge of the Harbinger’s mind as she floated out of the camp ground, bidding the Testament farewell and wishing him safe passage. She was surprised to find Gravus with the Exemplar contigent, but could not deny his presence for she knew that Kreoss would take it as a personal insult to turn his services away. It was all in Menoth’s hands now, or at least the Harbinger wished so, for the unknown was not something she was accustomed to dealing with.