By: Brandon Dudley
Online Editor 

Ash, screams, and mechanical grinding filled sulfur infused air around Noldane as he dropped to his knees in defeat. Before him, down the slope of the hill, lay the husked ruins of the once grand capital of Menzysii. His kingdom and its people were now nothing more than scattered refugees driven out by a foe they could not even reason with.

Each breath came in ragged gasps as the High Justicar tried to process all that had happened. The strike had been so swift and unexpected; a devastating blow that crippled the nation’s beating heart.

Flying high above the ruins of Menzysii floated the mechanical city of Koropolis, a phenomenal wonder of engineering and magic. Between all the golden piping and sleek steel structures was a plethora of large scale inventions that the city’s owner, an inventor named Kor, had practically slapped onto the super structure randomly.

Without even realizing it Noldane had balled his gauntleted hands into tight fists, feeling the magic within the reinforced armor straining again his grip. Behind him gathered the remains of those who had managed to escape the besieged city; men, women, and children sprinkled amongst city guards whose eyes spoke the many horrors they had witnessed.

“We cannot let this go unpunished,” Noldane managed to growl out between clenched teeth, a bestial animal waiting to be unleashed. He felt a rage boiling up inside that had been previously quenched by the adrenaline of the moment.

Feeling a hand grasp his right shoulder, Noldane turned to see a man in the golden-white armor of a city guard. His helmet was held to his side revealing the face of a middle aged man older than Noldane, a scar across his right cheek. The symbol on his chest plate designated him as a sergeant.

“Sir” the sergeant started, gesturing at the crowd behind him, “we need to get the people out of here and away from the city”.

A snarl escaped from Noldane. “Sergeant,” he said, “we need to find a way onto Koropolis itself and take Kor out! If he is allowed to-”

The man cut Noldane off, rather brash for someone he outranked. “With all due respect, these people need to get to safety sir. If there is a follow up attack, we are all as good as dead!”  

Meeting the man eye to eye, Noldane met a stalwart stance that would not give way to even the most violent storm.  

The blinding fury that had consumed Noldane faded back to its normal calm and collected manner; the determined look in the sergeant’s eyes having melted away the anger.  

With a start Noldane looked toward the terrified expressions of the gathered Menzysiians and felt his heart sink. They were looking to him to lead them out of this and he had almost lead them all to a certain death. 

Taking a deep breath to calm himself Noldane spoke. “You are right sergeant. I was…” he trailed off in search of the proper words. “I was lost in my own grief. But we all have cause for grief on this day.”  

Standing, Noldane placed a hand upon the older man’s and looked him in the eyes to somewhere deeper.  

“Thank you. What is your name sergeant?”

“My name is Bran, sir,” came the reply. 

“Bran,” Noldane spoke the words with near reverence, “You have saved me from my own self-destructive path, and I cannot thank you enough for this.” He scanned the crowd, “We do need to get them out of here and as much as even I hate to admit it, we need to go to Ser.”  

With a nod, Bran called out. “You heard the High Justicar, we march north.” 

“And captain,” Noldane added before Bran could get any further. 

Bran’s expression was confusion before realization washed over his veteran face.  

“We will get these people to safety. Ser might not be our greatest ally, but if anyone weathered Kor’s storm, they will have,” Noldane admitted.  

With a nod, Bran turned back and began organizing the guards into escort positions for the coming refugee procession.  

Their people would live on. Perhaps Kor would not meet justice this day, but the countdown had begun.  

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