Wednesday, June 17, 2015


The Heroes of Fannen-Dar, Chapter 13

Chester stomped out of the orphanage behind the matron, the last of the children having been evacuated. He held a hand up to his face, pinching is nose to stop the bleeding he suffered when a strange woman had punched him before jumping out the window. They ran to the far side of the street.

Several guards from the night watch were across the street as well. Darrik was with them, wearing his armor even though he had not been assigned to the night watch that evening. Chester also was not supposed to be on duty, but he wasn't ready to take any chances. Turned out, he had been right. Bandits of some sort had sneaked into the orphanage, probably to thwart any attempts to foil their unthinkable plan. Darrik had agreed with Chester after learning that the children were in danger, and summoned the night watch here at the last possible moment in order to prevent alerting Captain Ignatius too early.

Chester's heart dropped, however, when he saw that the Captain was standing with the guards as he fled the building. He was standing at the back, as far away from the warehouse as possible, Chester noticed. The sly traitor knew of the danger and still wouldn't warn anyone.

“This is the last of them,” Chester told Darrik as he approached. Darrik nodded and led them to cover. Before Chester could explain to the disgruntled night watch guards what was going on, Ignatius bellowed at him.

“What is the meaning of this?” he said, his eyes showing more anger than suspicion. “You would remove guards from their posts to, what, babysit for you? You wanted to wake up all the orphans for a field trip, is that it?”

“Sir,” Chester said, trying to hold back his sarcasm so that Ignatius would not realize the young recruit had discovered his betrayal, “I have learned of a plot to violently destroy this part of the town, and if we do not get to safety now, we could get caught in the explosion!”

The guards around them stiffened. “Explosion?” one of them repeated, and others began to ask each other if they knew what was happening. Captain Ignatius pretended to be caught by surprise as well, but responded so quickly that Chester knew he had made a new plan as soon as he saw the orphanage being evacuated.

“I don't know what gave you that idea, but it will be safer if we listened to such a claim, wouldn't it?” he said. He ordered all the guards to take cover and prepare for a fire, listing off the nearest wells so they could quickly form a bucket brigade. He didn't tell anyone to search for suspicious individuals fleeing the scene, as he should have, Chester thought. Chester followed the rest, though, and crouched behind the wall of a building on the opposite side of the street. He was right beside Ignatius.

Two minutes went by without a sound. One of the guards coughed.

Ignatius turned and bore his gaze down on Chester. “All this...for nothing?” he said.

Chester shook his head. “I'm sure of it,” he said, though he was starting to wonder if the plan had been canceled after all. Perhaps when they found the body of the half-dwarf, the Firemen had decided to go into hiding or postpone it. Chester wouldn't have a way of knowing what happened after, or even before, that discussion he witnessed.

“From what I see, you have brought us all out here for nothing,” Ignatius said, although a smile was trying to creep its way up the side of his mouth. “If you had learned of a plot to destroy town property, long enough to put on your armor and waltz out of the barracks, then you would also have had time to inform the rest of the guard, wouldn't you?!” The other guards watched Chester get chewed out, shuffling their feet and glancing sideways at the buildings that were supposedly supposed to explode.

“You clearly were wrong,” Ignatius finished. “But we must know for sure, since you have caused such a stir...isn't that the protocol?” He was staring sternly at Chester, his face a facade of the chess-master forced to make the choice between sacrifice his own queen or losing his king. Yet beneath, Chester could still see that grin wrinkled around the corners of his eyes. “Chester, isn't it? I'm going to have to ask you to investigate that warehouse which you think is about to combust...and that's an order.”

Chester swallowed as his heartbeat quickened. He couldn't go against a direct order from a superior without risk being arrested for treason. It would be the ultimate irony, wouldn't it, he thought. Going against a traitor only to be labeled as one. But the alternative would be dying in a fiery explosion and letting Ignatius get away with killing the only person who knew of his–

Chester glanced over at Darrik. Darrik's eyes were wide, staring directly at him, waiting to see what sort of decision he would make. Chester looked back meaningfully, trying to tell him with his eyes to continue the fight if he didn't make it. Darrik knew everything that Chester knew, and even though he didn't have the same undying urge to set things right, he would be the only one who was capable of it. Darrik saw something in Chester's glance and nodded. Chester looked back at Ignatius.

“Right away, sir,” he said.

“And take a cloth to your face. You've blood all over.”

Chester walked through the alley between the empty orphanage and the warehouse, to get to the door on the other side. He turned the corner and was surprised to see it swinging open under the light of the moon. He rushed over, thinking that perhaps the Firemen were still inside, and he could disrupt them before they lit the powder...and then would promptly get killed by them. He gulped as he sneaked closer.

There was movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked over to see figures running through the alleys away from the warehouse. One of them walked through a beam of moonlight before turning another corner. It was the woman who punched him. His heart sank; they had already left. But he still had time to stop the explosion, and save his own life.

He rushed into the warehouse, searching for the boxes with the purple symbols on them that he had seen in the Firemen's lair. It wasn't long before he found the stack in the middle of the room; it was the largest one, and whatever was supposed to be in its place had clearly been combined haphazardly with the other piles nearby. Anyone would have to be a fool not to notice something was amiss just by glancing at it. He then scoured the pile for the fuse.

When he found it, he breathed an enormous sigh of relief. The fuse was not lit. Perhaps his activity in the orphanage had scared them off after all...but then he noticed the gum that had been added to the wire.

He picked it off and twiddled it in his hands. Someone had been here first and sabotaged the Firemen's setup so that their plan would fail. That meant someone besides he and Darrik knew about the plan, had an insider's look at the Firemen's activity. And they also had a reason not to tell the town guard about the plan.

Which meant that, whoever they were, while they weren't on the side of the Firemen, they weren't on the side of the law either.