The Horde, Part Thirteen

Part 13 of 16 in The Horde

Part Thirteen: Old Man River

by Thomas K. Martin

 

Ornella sat atop the ruins of the tower in what used to be the capital of Dixieland.  She laid across Warcry’s lifeless neck.  She would stroke that neck no longer, would never again hear his savage cry of joy in battle.

 

She heard footsteps behind her.

 

“Begone!” she ordered without looking up.  “You cannot take him!”

 

“I am not here to take him, Commander,” a familiar voice said behind her.  Ornella looked up to see Loewanharde standing to her left, slightly behind her.  The warlord’s profile was caught in the light of the setting sun. With his sharp, straight nose, strong chin and chiseled features, he was a favorite among her ladies – and he knew it.

 

“Loewanharde,” she said, rising to her feet.  “You have my thanks for saving my life on the tower this turn.”

 

He smiled at her, and she was surprised to see what she thought was sadness in his smile.

 

“I believe you had a slightly more…enthusiastic thanks in mind earlier,” he said.

 

“What?  How could you have possibly heard…?”

 

“I did not,” he interrupted.  “But Willa heard you quite clearly.”

 

“If that is what you are expecting…”

 

“Of course not,” he again interrupted.  “Things spoken in the heat of battle are forgotten soon after.  I just came to see…how you fare.  You have lost a dear friend today.”

 

“I have lost many dear friends this turn,” Ornella snapped, more harshly than she intended.

 

“Yes, we all have,” Loewanharde agreed.  He stepped forward and placed a hand on Warcry’s still neck.

 

“But none as dear as this, I believe,” he continued.  “Do you intend to watch over him until dawn?”

 

“I do.”

 

“It would be my honor to stand the watch with you,” he said.

 

“Very well,” she agreed.  Ornella sat beside Warcry, with her right arm draped over the lifeless neck.  Loewanharde sat down cross legged in front of her.  For a time neither of them spoke.

 

“We have lost too much here, Eric,” Ornella finally said.  “I don’t see how we can continue on with this campaign.”

 

“I have news from the briefing tonight, if you want to hear it,” he told her.

 

“Was father upset that I was not there?” Ornella asked.

 

“A little, but I assured him that you had asked me to stand in your stead and that I would relay his words to you.”

 

“You lied,” Ornella said with a slight smile.

 

“It was only a small lie,” Loewanharde said, smiling back.  “Only a fellow hawkman can understand your loss tonight.”

 

“Well, you had best tell me your news, then.”

 

“Your father plans to claim this city at dawn for our new capital,” he said.  “Then he will send us with Khan to retake Summer Fort.  From there, the hawkmen are to fly southwest and reclaim all of our old cities.”

 

“How much did we capture from the treasury?” Ornella asked.

 

“Only forty thousand,” Loewanharde said.  “Your father was expecting more than that.  But we got another sixty from razing the city.”

 

“So, are we going to try and settle down now that we have an angry enemy?  That makes no sense.”

 

“Only long enough to rebuild our forces,” he explained.  “Our old cities will be popping twolls, after their initial creation.  River City, Summer Fort and Arborea will be upgraded to pop hawks.  During that time, Khan will attempt to take Dogwood and Emerald Coast.”

 

“Why raze the city if he intended to claim it in the first place?”

 

“So that the units we pop here will be Mango,” Loewanharde replied.  “We could not pop hawks if we did not first raze the city – or so your father explained.”

 

“And when we have regained our strength?” Ornella asked, quietly.

 

“Then we raze the cities and finish off the rest of Dixieland.”

 

Ornella looked back at the lifeless body of Warcry next to her.

 

“We have chosen a hard life, Eric,” she said softly.

 

“That is the price of freedom, Commander.”

 

* * *

 

Dale Ardent trembled inside the cage where the lookamancer had placed her once she had finished casting on her for the night.  Thank the Titans that the woman was not a true turnamancer, nor even a spookist.  She lacked the senses of a true turnamancer.

 

Even so, if Dale had been anything other than a dateamancer, her efforts might have been more fruitful.  The enemy believed her to be a signamancer, which Dale intended to keep them believing as long as possible.  As a dateamancer, Dale was able to focus on the cords that bound her to the people in her life.  Even without the ability to cast, that enabled her to resist the fumbling efforts of her novice captor.

 

How had this happened?  They had only had one more shot left to fire from the tower and then she and Barkoff would have fled the rooftop to escape to the Magic Kingdom.  But then that hawk fell from sky, almost as if its rider had aimed for her.

 

That woman – as soon as Dale had seen her, she could sense the fading bond between her and Benjamin.  From that alone, she had known the warlady as Minghis’ daughter, even before she had delivered Dale to her father.

 

Minghis.  He was so much more terrifying than Dale had imagined, with his harsh features and burning eyes.  And there were so many cords radiating from him!  It was typical for a ruler to have more bonds than an average person, but she had never seen a man with so many connections to his people.  They had pulsed with life – Dale did not doubt that he knew the name of every warlord in his tribe.

 

His desire for her had been instant – she had seen it flare within him as soon as he saw her.  Nothing had filled her with despair as much as when he had asked Ornella what she wanted in trade for her – as if she were nothing more than property.  Ornella, however, had handed her over with only a request that her croaked hawk be spared from the cook pot.

 

In spite of herself, Dale could not help but feel for the barbarian warlady.  Her grief over the loss of her mount was a palpable thing, at least to a dateamancer.  The raw end of that bond had burned in Dale’s senses, as painful as a severed limb.  She could sympathize – she felt a similar burning in her own chest at the thought of Benjamin.  She did not know whether he had been croaked or captured and she dared not ask, lest she give her captor another tool with which to pry at her soul.

 

The lookamancer was easily as frightening as Minghis.  Dale had sensed only one strong bond from the woman, and it was not for her overlord.  Other than that, the woman was as cold and unfeeling as an ice hex.  If it had not been for Minghis’ orders that Dale was not to be tortured, she was certain that she would have felt the sting of the enchanted whip that hung at the lookamancer’s hip.

 

As long as Minghis’ order stood, Dale was certain she could hold out against the woman’s crude attempts at turnamancy.  For Dixie.

 

* * *

 

The sun had set several hours ago and there was no sign of Dale.  It was obvious at this point that they were not going to bring her to the prison yurt.

 

A dozen plans of escape and rescue had been discarded.  Even if he managed to escape this cage and his guard, any attempt to rescue Dale would almost certainly result in his recapture or croaking.  There were simply too many troops here and the prison yurt was near the center of the camp.

 

No, his best chance of escape would be to abandon Dale to the enemy.  The thought of that was almost more than he could bear.  However, staying here and waiting for Minghis to ransom him back to Dixieland wouldn’t do her any good either.

 

He could possibly escape with the prince, however.  No sooner had that thought crossed his mind then Duty clamped down and demanded action.  Gordon looked up at the stabber warlord and his men.

 

“No sign of Dale,” Gordon whispered.  He deliberately whispered loud enough that it would carry beyond the prince’s hearing.

 

“I’m sorry, Gordon,” Prince Murphy replied, much more quietly.  “These barbarians are worse than animals.”

 

“I hope King Condon butchers them all,” Gordon said.

 

“Be quiet,” Murphy whispered back.  “They’ll hear you.”

 

“No talking!” the warlord ordered, getting up to rap the bars of Gordon’s cage with the butt of his spear.

 

“As if I were afraid of a feral pig like you,” Gordon replied.  “You aren’t even a real warlord, just some grunting hog in…”

 

The rest of Gordon’s sentence was cut short by the butt of the warlord’s spear in his ribs.

 

“Gordon!” Prince Murphy said.  “Be quiet!  That’s an order!”

 

“Both of you, shut up,” the warlord ordered.

 

“I hope I’m still alive to see Dixieland’s men butcher you like the…,” Gordon began, but was again interrupted by the butt of the warlord’s spear.  Instead of flinching away, however, Gordon wrapped his arms around the shaft and drove the point up and into the soft flesh under the warlord’s jaw.  The other stabbers rushed to their warlord’s defense, but it was too late.  With another push, Gordon drove the spear into the warlord’s brain.

 

The rest of the guards vanished as if they had never been there.

 

“By the Titans!” Prince Murphy exclaimed in a hoarse whisper.  “What…?”

 

“The disadvantage of being a barbarian,” Gordon explained as he pulled the spear free of the warlord’s body.  “When the warlord paying your upkeep is croaked, you disband.”

 

Gordon placed the shaft of the spear between two bars of the cage door and pressed against it as hard as he could, prying the latch out just the barest fraction of an inch.  After a few hard kicks against the lock plate, the door popped free.  Gordon crawled out of the cage and moved over to where the prince was imprisoned.

 

“I’m going to pry the door while you kick the latch plate,” Gordon said.  “Then we can get out of here.”

 

“No,” Prince Murphy said.  “You need to get out of here before someone notices the guards are gone.  Leave me.”

 

“Your highness, this won’t take long,” Gordon said as he put the butt of the spear through the bars of the door.

 

“No,” Murphy repeated, pushing against the spear.  “For the sake of the side, I must remain here.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“If Minghis defeats Dixieland, he intends to use me to refound the side,” the prince explained.  “That’s why he’s kept me alive all this time.”

 

“That’s…I don’t understand.”

 

“If Dixieland falls, Minghis will leave me to refound the side while he continues on against other sides,” Murphy went on.  “That way, he can come back and ‘harvest’ us all over again.  But we’ll be ready for him.”

 

“That’s madness!” Gordon said.

 

“This is a mad enemy.  Count Gordon, I order you to leave me behind.  Find some place to hide until dawn and then get out of here.”

 

“I have no intention of waiting until dawn, your highness,” Gordon replied.  “And I have no intention of leaving you behind.”

 

“You must,” Murphy insisted.  “It is my Duty to the side, and it is yours.”

 

Gordon gritted his teeth, attempting to defy the prince’s order, but he could not.  His own escape would be much simpler alone and forcing the prince to follow him could very well get Dixieland’s heir croaked.  Duty would not permit him to disobey.

 

“Disband it!” Gordon whispered.  He dropped the spear and turned to the body of the croaked warlord.  He stripped off the helmet and upper body armor.  He could unbuckle the sides and get the upper body armor on over his shackles, but not the pants – or boots.  It wouldn’t be much of a disguise, but at night and at a distance it just might work.

 

“Good luck, Gordon,” Prince Murphy told him once he had donned his pitiful disguise.

 

“You too, your highness,” he said.  “Stay strong.”

 

“For Dixie,” Murphy said in agreement.

 

“For Dixie.”

 

Gordon lifted the flap of the prison yurt.  No guards waited outside and no alarm seemed to have been raised as yet.  He slipped out and quickly moved out of the light and around to the back of the yurt.

 

Minghis had made his camp along the river, just south of the palace.  Thank the Titans the barbarian had not waited until dawn to raze the city.  If he had left it intact, Gordon’s mad plan would not have been possible.

 

Only a few guards watched the perimeter of the camp.  Most of the barbarians were comfortably asleep in their yurts.  Gordon forced himself to walk slowly and calmly through the sleeping camp to avoid drawing attention to himself.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, he left the perimeter of the camp behind.

 

Once outside the camp, Gordon dispensed with the armor and weapons.  They would do him no good where he was going.  It wouldn’t be long before his absence was discovered.  There was no way he could hide in the ruined city until dawn.  So, he was forced to ride the one mount that could carry him out of the city off turn.

 

Gordon walked up to the edge of the stone channel and looked down at the river below.  Before he could change his mind, he leaped from the edge of the channel into the cold black waters beneath him.

 

* * *

 

“Light of the Dawn!” one of Minghis’ knights called, rudely waking him from a deep sleep.

 

“A prisoner has escaped!”

 

“The signamancer?” Minghis asked, hurling back the blankets and climbing from the bed.  Beside him, Sonja did likewise, completely unconcerned with her state of undress.  Both of them began putting on their armor.

 

“No, my lord,” Torquud replied.  “It is the enemy warlord.  The prince and the caster are still secure.”

 

“Rouse the camp!” Minghis ordered.  “He cannot leave the hex.  Bring the casters to the prison yurt at once!”

 

“Yes, my lord.”

 

“Gordon left his prince behind?” Sonja asked.

 

“Apparently,” Minghis said.  “I did not think him a coward.”

 

“He is not,” Sonja agreed.  “I saw him at the battle for the tower.”

 

“I am going to skin the men who were guarding them.”

 

Minghis strode from his yurt and out into the night.  The camp was rapidly waking from its slumber.  Khan came up to him.

 

“Gordon has escaped?” he asked.

 

“Yes, organize the search while I question the prince,” Minghis ordered.  “Get the hawkmen in the air.  I want him found!”

 

“Yes, father!”

 

Minghis walked to the prison yurt and entered to find the warlord in charge of the guards.

 

“How did this happen?” he shouted.

 

“I do not know, Light of the Dawn,” Belgutai said, dropping to one knee.  “We came to relieve the guards and found no one here guarding the prisoners.”

 

“You were not here when he escaped?”

 

“No, my lord.”

 

At that moment, Klytus, Kala and Cashcarry came into the yurt.  Minghis turned to face them.

 

“Lookamancer, find Gordon!” he ordered.

 

“My lord, I am spent,” Kala replied.  “I used all of my juice attempting to turn the enemy signamancer.”

 

“Tell me she is still secure,” Minghis said.

 

“Yes, Sire.  She is in my yurt, guarded by a twoll.”

 

“Good.  Klytus, I want a stack of stabbers guarding that yurt.  Gordon may try to rescue her.”

 

“Yes, Sire.”

 

Minghis turned to face Prince Murphy.  The prince looked up at him, obviously pleased by these developments.

 

“What happened here?” Minghis demanded.

 

“I have no idea,” Prince Murphy replied.  “I was asleep when…whatever happened.”

 

“Do you think me a fool!”

 

“Well, at the moment…” Murphy began.  Minghis kicked the side of the prince’s cage.

 

“Lady Kala, I don’t believe you need juice to perform a basic interrogation, do you?” Minghis asked.

 

“No, Sire,” the lookamancer replied with a cruel smile.  “If you will allow me to summon a couple of twolls, I can get the prince onto the interrogation table.”

 

“Do so,” Minghis ordered.

 

“Okay, okay,” Prince Murphy interrupted.  “It’s not worth getting tortured over – mainly because it won’t do you any good to know.”

 

“You are trying my patience, prince of sheep,” Minghis said.

 

“Gordon croaked the guards and escaped,” Murphy replied.  “Simple as that.  Not bad for a sheep, eh?”

 

“You expect me to believe that he croaked eight men single handedly without drawing attention?”

 

“He didn’t have to,” the prince replied with a laugh.  “He only had to croak one.”

 

For just a moment, the prince’s meaning was lost on him, but then Minghis realized what he was saying.

 

“He croaked the warlord,” Minghis mused aloud.

 

“That’s right,” Murphy replied.  “The rest of the guards just disbanded after that.”

 

“From now onward, the warlord in charge of guarding the prisoners is to stand watch outside the yurt!” Minghis ordered.

 

“Yes, Sire,” Klytus replied as Minghis stepped outside the yurt.

 

“Find him!” Minghis shouted as loudly as he could.  “Find him before dawn!  Search the entire hex.  No one rests until he is found!”

 

* * *

 

Gordon kicked violently, trying to keep his head above the water against the weight of the shackles trying to drag him to the bottom.  This may not have been the best plan.  The slow current of the river carried him southward toward the ruins of the river gate.  He was close enough now to make out a few twisted bars of iron sticking up out of the water.  If he got caught on one of those, this was all for nothing.

 

Swimming in chains was no easy task.  Every breath of air was hard fought before the waters closed over his head again.  Then he would kick his way back to the surface for another gasp of air.  If he didn’t make it out the hex soon, he would drown.

 

The current carried him past the twisted bars of the river gate.  Just beyond the gate, Gordon felt the pressure of the hex boundary against his body.  He kicked upward for another gasping breath.  The pressure of the river forced him against the hex boundary like the hand of a Titan, making it almost impossible to breathe.

 

And then it was gone.  The manacles vanished from his wrists and ankles and the weight of the chains was no longer trying to drag him to a watery end.  Gordon gasped in several deep breaths and turned to look behind him.

 

The light of the enemy camp lit up the sky.  They had discovered his escape.  It didn’t matter, he was outside the hex.

 

“I’m sorry, Dale,” he said.  “I’m so sorry.”

 

Then he laid back on the water and let the river carry him away.

 

* * *

 

The river had carried him three hexes downstream by midnight.  Now Gordon sat, treading water and studying the dark shape in the middle of the river.  There was no way he could be this lucky.

 

It was definitely a ship.  She was low to the water, with an open lower deck and a closed upper deck.  Two masts without sails or crossbeams sat amidships side by side.  Gordon let the slow current carry him to the stern of the vessel.  He smiled when he saw the great wheel at the back of the ship.  It had to be them.

 

Gordon swam back to the center of the ship.

 

“Ahoy the ship!” he called.  “Ahoy!”

 

Powerball lanterns were immediately aimed in his direction and someone began ringing a bell.

 

“Ahoy!” Gordon called again.  The light from a powerball lantern found him and the bell fell silent.

 

“I say,” a familiar voice called out, “who goes theah?”

 

“Benjamin Gordon!” Gordon called out.  “Formerly Chief Warlord of Dixieland.  I need help!”

 

“Man ovahboahd!” the voice called out.  “Let’s bring him in, boys!”

 

Soon Gordon was being hauled into a small dinghy by a group of barbarian seafarers.  He fell on his back in the bottom of the dinghy, gasping for breath.  Thank the Titans!

 

The crew of the dinghy handed him up to the crew of the river boat.  Gordon was deposited on a bench and draped in a blanket.  Someone pushed a cup of hot liquid into his hands.  Gordon looked up as the master of the ship approached him.  His dark curly hair and thick moustache were unkempt from being awakened so late at night.  Beside him stood the captain, a level seven ship’s officer.

 

“Thank the Titans you were here,” he said.

 

“Indeed,” the barbarian caster replied with a friendly smile.  “Mahk Twin, at your service, suh.  Now, please, tell me how you have come to find yourself in such a predicament.”

 

* * *

 

“I can hahdly believe my eahs,” Mahk Twin exclaimed.  “Rivah City has fallen?  And the lovely Miss Dale is now a prisonuh of these barbarians, along with your prince?”

 

“It’s true,” Gordon assured him.  “He’s insane.  You’re lucky I found you before you sailed up to the city.”

 

“Indeed,” Twin agreed.  “At dawn we will raise anchor and reverse course back to Nawlins.  But first, Captain Morgan, would you be so kind as to lend me your sword?”

 

“Sword?” Gordon asked as Hank Morgan drew his sword and handed it to the dittomancer.  Suddenly, Mahk Twin was holding the borrowed sword at Gordon’s throat.  Every seafarer on the deck had also drawn their weapons.  Was Twin betraying him?

 

“You are my prisonuh, suh,” Twin told him.  Gordon had no chance against this many enemy units – not being led by a level seven warlord.

 

“I surrender,” Gordon said, glaring at Twin.  Immediately manacles and chains reappeared on his wrists and ankles.

 

“Thank you kindly,” Twin said, handing the sword back to Captain Morgan.

 

“I am now responsible for your upkeep,” Twin told him.  “And if you fail to make upkeep, this barbarian will not be informed of your location.”

 

Gordon relaxed.  Twin was capturing him to remove him as Minghis’ prisoner.

 

“Now, once we arrive at Nawlins, I will release you to your side for a ransom of, shall we say, fifteen hundred shmuckers?” Twin went on.  “Does that seem reasonable?”

 

“Very much so,” Gordon agreed.  “Why wait until dawn, though?  Can’t you just raise anchor and let the river carry you away from the city, like I did?”

 

“Absolutely not!” Hank Morgan interrupted.  “Does the idea of running aground on a sand bar, or breaching the hull on a rock sound good to you, lubber?  Because it doesn’t sound good to me.”

 

“We would be at the mercy of the rivuh,” Twin explained.  “The ship cannot maneuvah until our turn begins.  Howevah, I can send word to your monarch that we have you and will be delivering you to Nawlins.  We should reach Nawlins in two turns.  Is there anything else we can do for you?”

 

“Well, I need a new messaging hat,” Gordon said.

 

“I’ll get Finn on that, fuhst thing in the morning,” Twin said with a smile.

 

“And you might want to ask King Condon if he would like any more of those mobile ballistae you made for us,” Gordon added.  “This enemy is a strong air power.”

 

“Always a pleasure doing business with you,” Twin said.  “I hope Dixieland endures this time of tribulation.  You have always been good customers.”

 

“I hope so, too,” Gordon agreed.

 

* * *

 

Once the Dixieland warlord had been placed in quarters, Twin lounged in the sitting room of his own cabin.  They had suffered many close calls in the thousands of turns since Arago had fallen, but this may have been the worst.  If Count Gordon had not escaped and found them, they would have sailed straight into this barbarian’s camp.

 

His two fellow casters, Finn Huckster and Sawyer White sat with him, as well as Captain Morgan and Lieutenant Mulberry.  All of them, including Twin, were wearing their thinking caps.  According to Gordon, these barbarians had a thinkamancer among their forces.  Finn and Sawyer’s caps were wide-brimmed straw hats, suitable for working on the deck in the hot sun.  Twin’s own cap was a white, felt boater.  Morgan and Mulberry both wore tricorns.

 

“We should throw him back in the river,” Finn Huckster said.  “Keeping him will just draw fire from Dixieland’s enemies.”

 

Twin took a sip of his sherry.  The carnymancer was the only elite unit on the Queen who was not originally from Arago.  He had, in fact, been their prisoner aboard the ship when the side had fallen.  Of course, he posed as a hat magician during their dealings with various sides and his hats actually brought them quite a bit of income.

 

“Oh now, Finn,” Twin replied.  “That is no way to treat a friend.  Besides, Gordon has done us a great service by warning us of this danger.  If he had not found us, the Crescent City Queen would be lying at the bottom of the rivuh next turn, along with our croaked corpses.  We all know how desperate barbarians fighting for their upkeep can be.”

 

The carnymancer did not seem pleased by that answer, but Sawyer nodded in agreement.  The master turnamancer and Twin had both been involved in the construction of this vessel when they were with Arago.

 

“Dixieland has only lost two cities,” Sawyer said.  “We wouldn’t want to lose a valuable customer over this.  And it’s not like we aren’t going to get paid.”

 

“Exactly,” Twin agreed.  “We ah a friend to all.  That is how we, ourselves, have survived this long.  Or would you rather try your luck in the Magic Kingdom, Finn?”

 

There was a long silence at that.  All three of them had agreed after the fall of Arago that the Magic Kingdom was the last place they wanted to go.  For Finn, it had been the fact that carnymancers did not do at all well there.  Sawyer could have done well there with his additional skill in dollamancy, but he had no desire to subject himself to the control of the guilds.

 

For Twin, it had been much simpler.  He had no love for the guilds, either and, like Sawyer, would have been forced to rely on his skill in changeamancy rather than his true discipline to support his upkeep.  But, for him, it had been the desire for freedom that kept him away from the Magic Kingdom.  Grand as it might be to visit, the Magic Kingdom was only a single hex.  Aboard the Queen, Twin and his compatriots had an entire world to explore.  After all, in the Magic Kingdom he never would have seen the lancers of Calaveras on their mighty war frogs.  That had been another close call for the crew of the Queen.

 

“I will ditto the crew in the morning,” Twin announced.  “We need to put as much distance as possible between us and River City as quickly as we can.”

 

“That will get us another six move,” Sawyer agreed.  “I should be able to get us another three by casting on the wheel.”

 

Twin nodded.  The Queen had twelve move, normally.  However, sailing up the Must Hurry, robbed them of six move.  Sailing with the current next turn would grant them a bonus of six move.  With the combined efforts of Sawyer and himself, they would be able to make twenty seven hexes along the river – over two thirds of the distance to Nawlins.

 

“Well, then, gentlemen, I bid you goodnight,” Twin announced, draining the last of his sherry in a single swallow.  “We have a busy turn ahead of us tomorrow.  Sawyer, could you tarry for a moment?  I want to discuss our casting tomorrow.”

 

* * *

 

“Do you consent to turn to the side of Mangolia with all the troops under your command and serve me until the end of your turns?” Minghis asked the warlord kneeling before him.

 

“I do, oh Light of the Dawn!” Belgutai answered fervently.  Minghis touched his blade to the warlord’s shoulder and felt him and his units join the new side.

 

“We are all one side again!” Minghis announced to his assembled warlords.  He had claimed the ruined capital at dawn and refounded the side of Mangolia.  The only change he had made to the city’s original signamancy was the addition of the aerie at the top of the level three tower.

 

“We hereby appoint Khan Mango as our chief warlord!” Minghis announced.  “Chief Khan, have you selected the forces for your offensive against Summer Fort?”

 

“I have, oh Master of Horses!” his son replied.

 

“Then march!”

 

His son saluted with his fist to his chest, bowed and left the throne room.  Once Khan had left Minghis silently ordered the remaining Mangolians to their posts around the city.

 

“Ornella, with me,” he commanded.

 

“Yes, father,” she said.  He turned and headed for the stairs to the casting room where Kala and Klytus searched for their escaped prisoner.

 

“Have you selected a new hawk?” he asked her.

 

“Not yet, father.”

 

“You must see to that as soon as you are dismissed,” he ordered.  She felt the weight of the order settle on her – a feeling she had not experienced since they had left Mangolia behind.  Part of her resented it, and yet another part found it comforting.

 

“Yes, father,” was all she said.

 

“Our turn did not begin until noon, so we know there will be some form of engagement or encounter,” he explained.  “I need you in command of my hawkmen.”

 

They arrived in the casting room just beneath the aerie.  Kala and Klytus were linked, holding hands, with glowing eyes.

 

“Have you found him?” Minghis asked.

 

“We have, Sire,” the two said in unison.  “He is thirty hexes from here on the river.”

 

“Cashcarry, show me,” Minghis commanded.  Although not part of the link, Klytus was able to project the information into Cashcarry’s mind.  An image of Count Gordon appeared in midair.  He was sitting and talking with a man with dark, curly hair and a thick moustache.  Minghis assumed him to be a caster since he was completely unarmed.  What was more interesting was that Gordon was in chains.  Apparently this man had captured Minghis’ prize.

 

“Show me his location.”

 

The image reformed and Minghis found himself looking down on a ship anchored in the river.  There were no sails, but there was a large, bladed wheel on the back of the ship.  A magical craft of some type?

 

“Who are these people?” Minghis asked.

 

“We do not know, Sire,” the link replied.  “They are shielded from thinkamancy just as you are.  It is clear they are not of Dixieland.”

 

“Thirty hexes, you said?” Minghis mused aloud.  “Show me a route for the hawkmen there and to a safe place to camp on the return.”

 

A hex route to the ship appeared on the table.  After a few moments another route appeared back from the ship to a hex twelve hexes away from River City.

 

“Map out those routes,” Minghis told Ornella.  “That is your target.  Eliminate this enemy and bring Gordon back here alive.”

 

“Yes, father.”

 

“Teach them not to steal from Minghis Mango.”

Part 13 of 16 in The Horde

Comments

  • ArkenSaw (Tipped by 1 person!)

    Okay, before I get a dozen comments about how riding the river out of a hex off turn is not canon, I am aware of that fact.  However, it hasn't actually been prohibited in canon yet, either, and I thought it was a cool idea.  I hereby invoke Artistic License, lol.  I hope you all continue to enjoy the story, despite this small liberty.

  • Salvage

    There is nothing wrong with making a decision on Canon when it has not been stated. The river trick made sense to me. 

    Another great entry, by the way

  • ArkenSaw

    Thanks! Glad you're enjoying it.

  • Silverfox

    The water breaks the hex boundary rule.  He "mounted" it, thereby, through natural carnymancy, "riding" his "mount" downstream.  No issues with canon there.  He wasn't ON the water, he was IN it.  Well done on his part.  Who would have thought a southern gentlemen would have a carny streak in him. :)

  • ArkenSaw

    Sorry for the delay on the next chapter.  Things have been crazy around the house lately, but I should have a new chapter up next weekend (by 4/30).  Again: Thanks for reading!