The Southern Syndicate, Part 2

The clouds drifted with uneasiness as the Obsidian Army marched south along the primary road of the Arcane Plains.  General Arrys led the troops on his charger, flagmen at each of his sides.  Each flag depicted a white figure of a man wearing a red cape and resting a foot on top of a defeated chimera.  The image was engulfed in an all black silhouette.  Behind them, Commander Luk followed on his horse, all six of his colonels around him.  Each soldier of their battalion followed, broken into ranks.  The other commanders and colonels were divided together with their own battalions in equally spaced ranks behind them.

A few birds chased each other around the oak trees in the plains, chirping with a fulfilled satisfaction.  It calmed the minds of the nervous adventurers.  The sun had the perfect warmth to it and, combined with a gentle breeze, the Arcane Plains felt more like a tropical resort.  Many took note of the feeling it was providing them, thinking they might not have the chance to enjoy another like it.  Their two day journey was nearly complete and most were silent at the thought of what could be waiting on the other side of River Droon.

Colonel Khrys pulled his steed next to Commander Luk’s.  He was a unique fellow; some said he was quiet, others claimed he was personable, and some even labeled him goofy and obnoxious.  He kept short brown hair and his beady, gray eyes were like lasers, always catching the slightest inconsistency in the air or in someone’s movements.  He held a close friendship with Commander Luk.  “What do you expect will happen once we cross the Frayed Bridge?”

“It’s been a couple of days,” Luk said, “So hopefully General Anon will still be alive to welcome us.”

“And if not?”

“I think most of us choose not to consider that possibility.”  Luk laughed to himself.  “What about you?” he asked.  “What do you hope to find on the other side?”

“It doesn’t matter really,” Khrys said.

Luke examined him for a moment.  “Why do you lie to me?  I always know that when you’re this vague it means you’re lying.”  He cracked a grin.

Khrys laughed.  “Sometimes I choose not to say because I know you know what I want to say.”  He paused for a moment.  “Her.”

“How long do you plan on searching for her?”  Luk asked.  “You’ve already scaled the Towering Mountains, the first man to accomplish such a feat, scoured most of the major cities on all three continents, and even succumbed to walks around Crystell Castle on your sleepless nights.”  Luk scratched the back of his head.  “I never thought that a woman leaving her man so abruptly could have such an impact on him.”

“Yes, but it’s the reason why she left that has me in despair.”  Colonel Khrys knew his instinct was right.  Sorlyna didn’t leave because another man sparked her attraction or because she grew bored of his routine lifestyle (in fact, she enjoyed adding spice to it).  She left because she never felt an emotional connection with him.  He’d always been too busy forcing himself to make her laugh that she grew sick of his act – she was one of the people to identify him as goofy and obnoxious.  She opened up to him many times, but he was too ignorant to recognize her struggle to connect with him… until she bid him goodbye in anger.  He hasn’t heard from her since.  “She was the sun between the clouds of my life,” he continued.  “I really miss her.”

“You’re certain of the reason why she chose to leave?”  Luk asked.

“I’ve never had this much confidence for anything in my life.  She hated the jokester…,”

“And never met the lovable man we’ve all come to know,” Luk finished.  He paused for a second.  “How do you know she’d even take you back?”

“How do I know she’d accept that lovable man when he’s presenting himself to her out of context… away from the together, alone, and romantic setting?”  The situation left Khrys feeling artificial, like part of an imaginary whole.  And when the time came for him to fill the gap made by her absence with something tangible, there was only the illusory.

“I hate the parts of life that are so beyond your control,” Luk complained.  “So many people have so much good in them and the majority of us take it for granted.”

“Even I did with Sorlyna’s love.”

“Let’s just finish this mission and get back to Crystell Castle with as many men as we can.  The sooner this job is done, the sooner Arrys’s men will be at ease.”

“You know me,” Khrys said.  “When I feel like this, like there’s nothing to live for, it gives me everything to die for.  So I don’t fear death.”

The Obsidian Army turned a corner around a hill in the road and the Frayed Bridge came into sight beyond the trees.  On the other side, the sea crashed along the shoreline gracefully.  The smell of the beach began to fill the air and the soldiers inhaled a deep breath of it, hoping part of the smell would absorb inside of them and remain with them. 

As the troops marched forward, the highest lookout tower in Seaside Keep emerged behind the treeline.  The concrete architecture was a beautiful introduction to the lifestyle beyond the bridge.  The road continued to bend around and when the road straightened before the Frayed Bridge, the leaves of tall palm trees rustled in the breeze on the other side of the river.

General Arrys stopped in front of the bridge and turned to face his army.  “Seaside Keep is just beyond the bridge.  There, General Anon will brief us on what’s been going on.  Together, he and I will help devise battle plans.”  Arrys turned his horse around and began to cross.  His men resumed their pace behind him.

Khrys was still thinking about Sorlyna.  As his horse sauntered on, he turned his gaze toward the river.  Much of it was tranquil, hold for tiny little waves that rippled throughout in discordant patterns.  As he was about to turn his head, he noticed one of the waves moved against the current.  At that moment he realized that all of them did so.  He shot he eyes to the other side of the bridge and saw the same little ripples moving around in the water.

They weren’t waves.

Colonel Khrys opened his mouth to point out the strange observation, but before words could come out, a snarl roared about the air.  All of the soliders continued their pace, but looked in all directions to find the source of the disturbance.  It happened again, only this time it was much louder and much closer to all of them.  The bridge beneath them began to rumble from a hard smash.

“To the other side,” Arrys called and charged across the bridge.  His men rushed behind him as the smashing and rumbling came in more aggressive beats. When they turned to look at the commotion, they saw a massive number of the sea creatures Anon described through his messenger.  In a matter of seconds, the Frayed Bridge crumbled to pieces into the river and a massive number of foes began marching toward the Obsidian Army.  General Arrys looked toward the fortress, searching for a direct path to get his men within its walls.  As he looked around, he saw many of the monsters aiming crossbows at him and his men from the guard towers within Seaside Keep.

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