A Hand-Woven Universe 171 170. An Inevitable Explanation

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"Spread the word and prepare everyone to retreat to the entrance posthaste. Have Unit 3 cover our retreat. We will reconvene with the general at the entrance." The dwarven officer's voice was strained, a clear frown painted his expression.

In the span of only a few dozen minutes he had received one piece of bad news after the next.

The dwarven officer could only shake his head and sigh. He was next in line for advancement within the army. This subjugation was supposed to be a small a.s.signment – a stepping stone to a greater goal. He had plans to mount the front lines against the oncoming epoch tribe.

But now it seemed like he would be stuck at the base of this G.o.dforsaken mountain rooting out dark-elves like gophers hiding in the earth.

The dwarf did everything he could to keep his temper under control.

Twenty minutes prior to this moment the officers simultaneously noticed a shocked hush which overcame their soldiers. It was quickly followed by the manic murmurs of disbelief which spread through the soldiers like wildfire.

The center of this attention was a young blonde-haired vengeance paladin named Sarah… and the corpse of a level 10 paladin of the Order of Life.

The dwarf rubbed his temples and he could feel a headache coming on.

He quickly grasped the situation when a young soldier who had been along the front-most line explained to him what occurred. A contracted militant – Noone – had returned to the entrance of the city carrying the corpse of the paladin over his shoulders and dragging the body of a drider behind him.

This was enough to shock the three officers into a stupor. A drider? Here? Were it not for the fact dozens had seen it they wouldn't dare to believe that was the truth.

And then there was the body of the paladin… Tobias.

A level 10 paladin was no doubt an extremely valuable a.s.set within the Order of Life. The officers wasted no time to send their fastest man to report this to General Armuu. If the Order of Life chose to take this death out on someone… it would end up falling onto the general's head.

Then there was the girl… Sarah. She had not moved from his body once yet, only staring down at it with clouded eyes. The soldiers could only guess as to her thoughts at this moment. Standing nearby was another vengeance paladin. Her eyes were soft as she looked at the young Sarah, but she made no move to approach either.

"And what happened with that Noone?" The dwarf thought. He had met Tobias and Noone earlier that week when they arrived in the encampment. They had been a.s.signed to his unit by the general, but he didn't really pay them too much mind apart from the niceties that a level 10 paladin had earned. Yet he felt they were certainly good people. But why had Noone returned into the city? According to eye-witnesses, his injuries should have put him on the verge of death.

It wasn't even two minutes after he sent a runner to report the paladin's death that he received a missive from the general. When he read through it, a cold chill crawled up his spine like the sharp p.r.i.c.ks of a thousand ants.

'They had underestimated the number of dark elves.
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They were outnumbered.

Retreat immediately.'

It was a simple order, and yet all the officers who saw it couldn't help but become extremely aware of how vulnerable they were in that moment.

At the entrance to the mountain, General Armuu was just receiving word of the paladin's death. Unlike the dwarf, the general was unable to contain his mounting tension and kicked over a nearby table.

"Useless!" He roared. He knew who the death would fall onto. If the country chose to not back him in his decision to send Tobias to the front – the paladin's death would most certainly mar the generals military record. This was especially true after the horrendous miscalculation in the scale of the engagement.

General Armuu's face had turned red from anger, but he quickly restrained himself, making no more outbursts.

"You. Go find the clerics which joined us a few days ago. There was an elf and two humans. They should be with the medical units. Bring them here. And then bring the body of the paladin here when Units 1 through 3 arrive." He pointed to a nondescript young man who stood silently near the entrance of the tent. The young man nodded quickly before scurrying off.

It took almost half an hour for the soldiers within the city to make their way back. Despite being an easy walk back on completely flat stone, tensions were at their peak as every soldier watched their backs, s.h.i.+elds being held at the ready.

The officers had tried to suppress the information of being outnumbered. However, it did not take to long for whispers to get the word out. Thus, every soldier was wound tightly – jumpy from every shadow and movement that looked out of place.

Sarah walked near the center of the migrating soldiers. Next to her, two soldiers carried Tobias's body in a stretcher. Despite Tobias's large form – the two soldiers did not complain. They did their best to keep their eyes forwards, giving the young woman the s.p.a.ce, she needed to grieve. Sarah's eyes stayed cloudy, her mind feeling like a cold gray ocean during a storm.

She wondered what Tobias's last moments had been like. What had he and Noone been through? Did he die in a way he wouldn't regret?

As a former acolyte in the Order of Life. She had a very specific view on death – especially a death in service to the good G.o.ds. Her eyes watered. This was her first time losing someone since… a long time ago.

She hoped the good G.o.ds would look kindly upon his soul. And her own – when the time came.

Soon the noon-time sun bloomed the entire squadron in bright light, forcing their eyes to adjust from the dark cavernous halls of Stone-Eye.

"Units 3 and 4! Cover the entrance and await further orders!" A shout from several officers caused the troops to begin reorganizing with practiced efficiency. "Unit's 1 and 2! Regroup, report any losses, and prepare to back up Units 3 and 4!"

"E-Excuse me? The general told me to bring the paladin to his tent…" A young man spoke hesitantly to Sarah who was standing over Tobias's body. He made eye contact with the two soldiers carrying Tobias giving them a 'will you take him there now?' look. They exchanged a glance and began to walk towards the general's tent. Sarah merely followed behind, unsure of what to say.

At the general's tent, Sally stood to the side with her arms crossed, a growing feeling of anxiety building in her stomach. Next to her, Feylin s.h.i.+fted from foot to foot, the palpable tension in the room growing quickly.

"General Armuu, there are many injured returning from within Stone-Eye, why have you called us here in such a rush?" Raelith Ringflower had her usual unreadable smile, her thoughts completely hidden from her face. She couldn't help but observe General Armuu's expression – quickly realizing that something major had happened.

General Armuu sat exhausted in a large chair, his hands crossed in front of him as he searched for the words to say. Depending on how he handled this, it could spell the end of his glorious military career.

In truth, death in battle was inevitable. No one would deny that in their hearts. However, that doesn't mean the country and the Order of Life wouldn't try to find someone to blame.

If the order of Life chooses to call him out for incompetence and demand some kind of recompense from the country, he may very well be tossed to the chopping block in order to keep up good relations. It would all be for show of course, a play put on by the upper echelons. But as a puppet in this game, General Armuu knew he couldn't afford to have his strings cut.

Suddenly the entrance flap to the tent was thrown open and a young man appeared. He met the generals gaze immediately, giving him a single curt nod.

The general exhaled a deep sigh, doing his best to relieve the tension that had built in his shoulders.

"It would be best for you to hear it from someone who was there." The general finally spoke, causing tensions to rise even higher. "Bring him in." He nodded to the young man.

Just as he said that, two soldiers marched into the tent, between them a long stretcher was being carried.

Everyone felt their stomachs fall as the blood-soaked stretcher was gently rested on the floor. The two soldiers quickly stepped to the side, not wanting to be in the middle of whatever was about to happen.

Behind the stretcher a lone figure walked in with her head hung low. Her eyes were like distant storm clouds. As soon as she saw the others in the room, she couldn't bear to look at them, biting her lip she stared at the floor.

The entire room was deathly silent. No one was sure what to say or do. Even Raelith's unshakable façade cracked in this moment. Her eyes scanning over every inch of Tobias's body. His Cracked and shattered armor. The two deep holes in his abdomen. The countless bruises and lacerations. She couldn't have imagined what could have done this to Tobias.

To everyone's surprise, Sally was the first to react. Her eyes immediately lit up like the fires of h.e.l.l and she hissed through clenched teeth. "Where. IS. NOONE." She demanded, immediately noticing his absence.

As she said these words, Feylin and Raelith realized that in their shock, they had completely overlooked the other obvious question which hung over them. Noone was nowhere to be found… so, where was he?

Sally's heated gaze burned, and she immediately stomped towards Sarah who was still standing dejectedly by Tobias's side. By her movements it was clear that she had been completely overcome with anger. Only a few feet away from Sarah now, her well-muscled hand lashed out, grabbing Sarah by the jaw.

Sarah had no time to react. Her eyes widened in shock, but she made no move to stop Sally.

"WHAT HAPPENED!" Sally roared, fingers tightening around Sarah's face. Everyone was shocked by Sally's sudden outburst. Raelith quickly moved forward to remove Sally's hand. However, being yelled at so suddenly along with the growing pain in her jaw caused a flash of clarity and loathing to course through Sarah.

Her eyes hardened and she grit her teeth as she met Sally's hate-filled gaze. Before Raelith could do anything, Sarah lashed out. Using her longer reach she planted her feet in the ground and sunk her knee deep into sally's stomach causing the older cleric to collapse back.

Sally immediately recoiled but only by a few steps. She was about to charge at Sarah again however Raelith moved in between them.

"Sally! Stand down! NOW!" Rae's harsh gaze was backed by almost two centuries worth of experience. Sally flexed her hands for a moment, fighting down the urge to attack Raelith as well. It was one thing to lash out at Sarah – a vengeance paladin no longer related to their order – but a completely separate issue to strike Raelith.

At this moment. Raelith was the commanding senior.

Once it was clear that no one was going to make any more surprise moves, Raelith let out a strained sigh.

"Sarah. Can you please tell us everything you know? I know this must be hard for you right now, but we need to know what happened so we can report it and figure out how to proceed." Raelith spoke calmly, but it was obvious that having the sudden responsibility of the party laid on her shoulders had shaken her.

Sarah was staring daggers at Sally. However, the suddenness of Sally's actions had been more than enough to shock her out of her Stupor.

She merely nodded her head, and with a slightly shaky voice she began explaining everything from the moment Noone had appeared badly injured in front of the soldiers.

A Hand-Woven Universe 171 170. An Inevitable Explanation

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A Hand-Woven Universe 171 170. An Inevitable Explanation summary

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