The Fall of Magnus Hahndor
I have been fighting my entire life. I was given my first knife at age 6 and I was taught to use it. You must close the distance with your enemy; use it on their weak points. Find the spaces between their armor, that soft part of their flank, and drive it in with all of your might. Strike quickly. I killed my first boar at age 10, tackled it to the ground and drove my crude weapon into its flank. My father roasted it over a fire. I remember what he said about killing: I'd rather have you alive than with cold, clean hands. I am very much alive. I received my first sword when I was 13, a broadsword. The sword was different; there was an art to it. It was a game you played with your opponent: push his weapon away; knock at the shield to keep him off-balance, cut at his legs. It was versatile. In the right hands, a sword could kill quickly. The first Draksar I killed was named Romdel; I know this because his friends called for him when he didn't return from his patrol. They were invaders. I was protecting my home and my family. If Romdel had seen me peeking over a rock at a village of Draksar, he would have driven his sword into my back. Then, his village would have called him a hero. They would have told stories about his exploits. But, it was my blade in his back and the stories were mine.� I was the hero.
When I was older, I was conscripted into the Ironfist army as a foot soldier. I fought in Thoringard and along the Coward's Pass. Long days of fighting ended with forced marching and sleepless nights. The enemy always surrounded us, always watched. They were Draksar and Voil, then Undead and Demons, but they all carried the same fire. We fought them at every turn, and each battle dragged into the next. I remember Zedin would make a notch in his Halberd, for each Draksar he felled.� Then, when he had reached the blade, he stopped counting. But, he would always boast about how he had felled a hundred Draksar in a season; in reality, it was many more. We had slain a legion, and another, until each Wrath nation had lost countless to our blades. Then, the dwarves took us to their king and presented us with medals. They said we were the first humans to enjoy such an honor. Then, they released us to the Sarnghaver, where we were given a hero's welcome. We were made Elders, the highest honor before Chieftain. Many came to welcome me, to congratulate me on my many honors, but they did not comfort me. Since my leave, my father had died and my mother had left years before him. My little sister, Isran, was off to the Stronghold; they would make her an Interrogator, then an Inquisitor. I was left with more glory and an empty house. Zedin said it was in our veins, the art of war. Each muscle moved to wield a sword, and each bone was made to carry a shield. Battle was something a Hahndor was born for, something my father lived with, something my sister inherited. It was something I didn't want, but I fought on. I wanted to rest, just to be with my family again. When I came home, I was 30 years and my house was empty. I was very much alive.
After three seasons rest, I returned to the Stronghold to join Isran in the Inquisition. She led small campaigns into the Forsaken Wastes and the Sundered Lands; skirmishes that ended in a fortnight. She kept her soldiers well fed and clothed. We always had proper rest. But we were still fighting. I was tired, even after a full night's sleep. It was a deep fatigue; one that reached beyond muscle and bone, into spirit. I wanted an end. When I was told to go to Maljara, I knew I would be fighting again. Zedin joined me on the journey. Maybe he wanted to relive our glory days. I went for Isran's sake. I didn't fight for the Stronghold or for glory. I didn't want to be the hero of any village. I killed Romdel, and his innumerous allies, because I wanted to protect my family. It was why my father fought, why my sister was an Inquisitor, and why all Hahndors were good warriors. We were fighting to protect our kin. We did what was expected of us, what was necessary. I am doing what is necessary now. That is why I am here, Korin. I do this to protect my family.
You would hold your saber out in front of you and you never drew it close. You swung in wide arcs, never struck at specific places. This was not how you were trained, not in the Inquisition. I knew why you fought this way. You've been fighting as long as I have. I know you're tired of it, because I am tired too. But, we've been offered freedom. If we follow the Stitched, we can be at peace. Join me, Korin.
You don't understand. They want to rebuild the world. They have seen our scars, our broken cities, our shattered lands, and they can fix them. We can return to old world. Imagine it, Korin. My grandfather told me stories of it. Houses as tall as spires and roads that reached into the horizon. A merchant on every corner, selling food or drink; anything you ever wanted was available. Elsarin was once as large as two Strongholds! And all of its people were happy. A child did not learn to fight with a knife; children played in the street, they learned to become artists or merchants. They learned to live in peace. And we can live in that world again!� The Stitched can help us achieve this. Sarinda can help us. Please, Korin.
"They've deceived you."
Have they? How?
"You're under their spells, Magnus. They have total control of what you see, what you think. You are their puppet."
I have been a puppet for Ironfist. I spent ten years on their battlefields, fighting for their prosperity. The dwarves never promised me anything. I have a chance to end what those poxxers started. I can end all of these conflicts! Draksar and Dwarves? I can make a world where they live in peace. If you join me, you can be a part of it.
"Do you really think these creatures can rebuild the world?"
I don't think, Korin, I know. I have seen what she can do with very little. The Leoss left behind fragments of statues, pieces of stone you could hold in your hand. And she built a city for her Stitched. Sarinda built the Necropolis Assembly from a pile of stones. The Kanen left their dead behind and now look at them! Just look around you. A legion of soldiers, built from corpses! Can your king do that, Korin? Imagine what she could do with a mountain or with K'thir! If she had more materials, she could build entire worlds! We can help her. Come here and let me show our new world.
"Stay away, Magnus! Don't come any closer!"
Korin please, we are your friends. Take my hand and I will take you to her. You will see for yourself.
When Admiral Deblin Redjaw entered, he drew his flintlocke at whatever waited. He scanned the room, but found nothing. All of the lavish furnishings: the paintings, the wardrobe, the ornate chest, the elven full-length mirror, the bed and the girl laying in it; all were gone. He couldn't figure how they had managed to do it, but they did. The poor lass, and all those belongings, were probably in the Ruined Shores by then. Gone, for good.
"Admiral," called Tremir Craghide, "We've looked all outside and we can't find the lass."
"She isn't here, Mr. Craghide. She's nowhere near Gharivol by now."
"She was squallin' no more than a few minutes ago. She has to-"
"This was Stitched trickery, not Kanen," said Redjaw, gesturing to the empty space.
They both looked around for a means of entry, Redjaw's eye fell on the window frame. He noticed small marks towards its center, where the Stitched had to pull it out.
"They nearly tore the wood out of the walls, Admiral. And all those furnishings! These little buggers are getting expensive," said Craghide,
"Nevermind the losses, mate. The dwarves will want to know where our guest has gone."
Redjaw turned to Craghide.
"They'll be here at the end of the week. Let's make sure we have their Inqusitors waiting for them when they get here. I want you on the search, Mr. Craghide."
Captain Craghide sheathed his saber and saluted. A tortun never received orders with his weapon drawn and he always saluted when he did.
"Aye, sir. We'll start the search immediately."
"Wait 'til morning. It's best to have fresh eyes and daylight. I want you to start in Dog Meat Pass and work your way into the Wilds. And if you don't find them-"
"We'll find them, Admiral. My tortuns always find what they're lookin' for," said Craghide, tipping his tri-corn hat.
"For her sake, let's hope you do."
They both left the room, captain before admiral. The girl was long gone, assuming that the Stitched were involved: and all the evidence pointed to it. Redjaw hoped that they kept her in the Wilds. Reports showed more Stitched and a few in the Snarling Tangle. Wherever she was, the girl would not sleep that night. He patted Craghide on the shell, to get his attention.
"Perhaps you should talk to a Favored before you go. I've got a terrible feeling about this one."