Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day Eight-Eighty-Six: The 'ol Heave-Ho

“This is far from over.”

Dragomir cracked his knuckles, mainly because he didn’t know what else to do. “Yeah, I know. Pretty obvious it’s not over. What are you getting at?”

General Landry scowled. He rubbed the stump of his left arm with his right hand. It was still heavily bandaged. “I’m saying that you can’t be leavin’. Not now. We need your help out here. They’re runnin’ roughshod over our lands, ’n you have an obligation to stop ‘em.”

“I’m not sure I see how,” Logan cut in. He was sitting across the table from the two older men, fingers steepled. Dragomir could barely tell that he had no legs below the knees. “We came in and saved your butts. We don’t have an obligation t’do anything. Can’t you handle the rest yourselves?”

Landry shook his head, huffing. He looked to Dragomir as though he was having trouble containing his irritation. “Without the masters… wherever they went… we’re lackin’ in coordination, all of a sudden. The lack ‘o dragons doesn’t help matters much, either. We’re hurtin’ bad, and we need help to keep those bastards contained. You’re the only ones we can ask. As for obligation…”

Reaching beneath the meeting table - it was still a struggle, Dragomir could tell, for the general to live with only one arm - Landry grabbed at a sack. Hefting it onto the table, he rooted through it, producing a small bundle of papers. It took Landry only a moment to sift through the papers and find what he was looking for.

“‘The ‘Non’, as we have learned they are called, originate from a small, independent castle with an ever-changing name,” Landry said, his slight country drawl disappearing as he read from the parchment. “‘We have determined that they were released from some form of captivity vis a vie the actions of the castle’s administrative staff, as well as the Non’s current leader, the penguin Kierkegaard. The extent of human culpability in the appearance of the Non is, as of this time, unknown, though the king is suspected to be involved.’”

A loud silence followed. No one quite looked at Jeffrey - he was sitting in a chair, off to one side of Logan - but everybody seemed to be observing him, all the same.

“I take it you don’t deny these reports, then?” Landry eventually asked, waving his papers. “They’re pretty reliable, far as I know. M’men aren’t usually wrong. Besides, the masters… er, sorry, the rats… kinda hinted at traitors being responsible for the release of the Non.”

“It’s not completely wrong, I guess,” Dragomir admitted, biting his lip. He wondered how long there had been Imperium spies among his people, and who they might be. He supposed it didn’t really matter, though. “Still, you’re asking a lot, here. Everything we’ve got? We need to protect Pubton, too…”

Tossing the parchments aside, Landry slammed his fist down on the table. “T’hell with one city! It’s not even under siege! Kierkegaard’s entire damned army is strollin’ ‘round the Imperium like they own the damned place, and if we let ‘em continue they may just get their way! Hell, given what I’ve heard ‘bout that penguin, there might not be an Imperium left by the time they’re done their grand tour! You stand to lose just as much as us by holdin’ back! I don’t know why we’re arguin’ over this!”

The thought of his friends and family unattended in Pubton made Dragomir want to speak up. Landry was asking for virtually every single fighting man and woman at Dragomir’s disposal to come out and battle the Non. The general’s argument would indeed leave Pubton utterly undefended, as every guardsman in the place - and there were already too few - would get shipped out to join the war effort. He was on the verge of stepping up and speaking, too, but weighing the general’s position against his own tripped up Dragomir’s mind…

… and Logan beat him to the punch. “We’re not saying we want to withdraw, general. But it’s unreasonable for us to commit everything we have to you. We need t’hold some back, in case of emergencies.”

Landry rolled his eyes. “I’d say the state of the Imperium qualifies as an emergency right now, lad. Last I checked, the Non have sacked twenty-two communities, ’n they’re on their way towards twenty-three as we speak. We’re runnin’ out of places to live.”

People are going to die, Dragomir thought. And that’s the way war works. “Uh, I’d like to add - “

Logan held up a hand to stop Dragomir. “One second. I’d like to add that we have our own issues that could pull us out of helping you period. There’s a power-hungry goblin king sitting in Pubton right now, for example, who would probably make a grab for control of the city if all our guards up and left. There’s also several zombie clan leaders in the city, and if they, er, died… you know what I mean… their troops might squabble over leadership status and give up on us. We’re already having to hide the fact that the rats are out of the picture, and I’d rather not make that situation even worse until we know where the rats went.”

Dragomir winced. He knew exactly where the rats had gone, and Logan, though he didn’t remember the fall of the tower, more or less understood the facts through post-battle briefings. The rats were just rats again. Clearly no one had told Landry yet. “I guess we could bring up the fact - “

Logan threw Dragomir a warning glance and shook his head sharply. “The only fact we need to bring up is the fact that we’re hurting from that last battle. Our werewolves got out in one piece, more or less, but we lost a lotta zombies during the Non retreat. They rammed right into our net of the guys ’n decimated most of ‘em. We’ll need time to get more from the eastern lands.”

Landry cocked an eyebrow, looking from Logan to Dragomir. “I thought you were in charge, ‘ere. The masters always called your lot ‘Dragomir’s army’. Were they wrong?”

Dragomir pursed his lips. “I’m not sure I know any- “

“Don’t change the subject,” Logan pressed. He was leaning forward on his elbows, now, concentrating fully on the general. “You’re asking for almost seven thousand soldiers. We don’t have that many. You also want Eve - “

“Yes, I’d like her,” Landry pressed, turning back to Logan. “She’d be an asset. Though I’m concerned - “

“I appreciate that,” Logan countered, “but we can’t - “

“Well, then,” Landry shot back, “maybe you - “

“No, that’s impossible - “

“But - “

“If we - “

Dragomir quickly lost track of the conversation. Eventually, virtually unnoticed, he got up and left the meeting. Only Jeffrey noticed, and even he missed the slight slump in Dragomir’s shoulders.

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