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A note from KellInkston

As they travel into the long, green plains of the middle territories between the East and West, Rayull gives the order to group in a modified shell-wedge, the most common tactic of the West to prepare against the firearms of the East. At that, Vulrick, Carl, and Rayull, the most heavily-armored of the six, take the front, as Awnway and Bayl take to the sides just behind them to provide ranged support.

Little Cet is given a bow by Awnway, saying that he’s too scrawny to be a front-man. Cet is about to punch Awnway in his face, but because Cet is short and Awnway is tall, he lets it slide and ranks up in the back with the other two rangers.

The group starts up a ridge as they near the sounds of deep, obliterating magical charges and gunpowder explosions. The trek is only five minutes until they get to the top and see, looming on for at least a hundred miles: the battlefield.

Rayull takes a deep breath of the air, and scoffs. “I remember when this was a fishing village,” he says with a smirk.

Vulrick, his dense armor and gear weighing him down as much as Cet with the uphill hike, peers over the horizon and scans over the various groupings of buildings in the valley below. “This war’s been going on about two and a half years now. This village, Paitan was among the first destroyed, and it took only a day for it to be scorched clean.”

Bayl scoffs like a Kanvanian noble, complete with that quipping “pweh” sound that is overused so lovingly in satire performances. “A fanciful thought, though the war isn’t two years old yet even.”

Vulrick calmly shakes his head. “It was considered a minor conflict and not worth the people’s attention until the Ragnivanians became officially involved. Months before then the Royal Knights and threatened villages were fighting. It was only after the villages were destroyed and their populations wiped out or enslaved that the king took notice.”

Bayl smirks, raises his brows, and nods down a bit in a condescending fashion. “And just who are you to be so well educated?”

“This was close to my hometown. I visited it often,” Vulrick says as he continues to look over the ruination below.

There is a collective silence, and Bayl clears his throat. “Well, excuse me then. I did not mean to come off as insensitive.”

“None taken,” he says laxly as he points out a group of small blackish dots in the distance. “A patrol of Easterners,” he says.

They can see them down there. Brown-skinned, a rifle to each of them, and all wearing those mass-produced, conservative gray or brown uniforms; a far cry from the wild armor, mantles, and cloaks of the West.

Vulrick looks to Rayull. “Orders, sir? Are we going to do this as a play-by-play, or will we have a set way of doing it?”

Rayull squints downwind and spots the group, they seem to be scavenging around a nearby manor. “It should be obvious: we get in, kill all of them. We’re not here for prisoners,” Rayull says, motioning with his hand for them to duck down with him. “When they’re all inside we’ll run to the wall, get into close quarters, and pick a fight. Got it?”

Everyone makes a complimenting gesture, and the squad waits for about half a minute. The time comes, and the six rush downhill. The sprint is hard because of the distance, but especially so on Bayl who is well-fed and of an untrained, luxury-loving physical consistency, and Cet, who is under-fed with his bones scraping under the stress.

The six reach the side of the ruined manor, its roof half-destroyed and its northern wall missing. They enter their stances, and Rayull signals them in.

The gusting winds of the outside grow into woeful howls as they enter the manor, the smell of dust is replaced with the aromas of carved rich wood, old vanilla-scented books, and rotten stone-staining fish oil. Just faintly, there is also the stench of blood, that vital crimson fume that a warrior begins to connect the thrill of life itself to once they’ve smelled enough of it.

“Stay quiet,” Rayull growls, huddling up with the others in the small servant’s kitchen. Cet hushes up on the order, but Bayl and Carl’s breathing do not quiet up. A quick glance at both tells Rayull that Bayl is frightened and Carl is excited, almost steaming at the mouth.

Rayull gestures again for them to quiet down, and finally they hush up. “We have one shot. We need to kill as many of them we can without them finding out. Bayl, open the door,” he says, gesturing at Bayl.

“A-are you sure, sir? I don’t know what to-” Bayl is pushed forward by Cet. “Don’t be a coward, man.”

Bayl takes a deep breath, and slowly creeps to the door leading to the main foyer of the manor. He reaches for the knob but takes a sharp breath as he veers away.

Please. What if they’re looking at the door? I’ll get shot!”

Rayull sighs with Cet, and Carl nudges Rayull. “I can do it. Don’t let my sword’s size fool ya’, I’m quiet as a mouse.”

Very stealthily, Vulrick also nudges Rayull. With all gazes but Rayull’s pointed at the confidant Carl, Vulrick very lightly shakes his head “no”, and then gestures over to Bayl, Awnway, and Cet; as if to designate them as the best three for the job.

Rayull snuffs out a light bellow of smoke in thought. Could it be that Vulrick has a talent for measuring people? It only takes a moment for the dragon-half to decide.

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About the author

KellInkston

Bio: Hey, traveler!

Get the first book in Courts Divided for free here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/lxsfw9icf9

Join us at the discord for fun, memes, and literary analysis! :
https://discord.gg/VmMdUA3

Thank you for your readership!

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