Needle Ash – Chapter 18, “Face to Face”

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents Chapter 18: Face to Face Each day, more men came, much to the surprise of Michael. Almost his entire legion returned, some three thousand men, along with many knights from the western half of the country, who had to travel further than the others to reach the camp. These men brought news with them, that King Johan was assembling an army to march on the rebellion in Calasora, but that it was taking longer to organize due to substantial desertion. A large number of knights had failed to show up, and most of…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 17, “A River Flowing Swiftly” part 1

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents Chapter 17: A River Flowing Swiftly In order to reach the temple section of the citadel, Michael, “The Badgers,” and the fifty-odd loyal men had to run through the second ward, a narrow “U” shaped space of dirt and grass that housed the stables, barracks, smithy, and general workshops. In the dead of night, the area was deserted save for the barracks. With as much speed as they could muster on foot, the troop ran past the entrance to the Barracks, which were manned by a pair of night guards. These saw the…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 16 “The Ends of Victory,” part 2

Back to Needle Ash Table of Contents Michael did not want to open his eyes. He heard voices around him: voices he could not understand, but who seemed familiar and comforting. A face disconnected to those voices drifted by. A round, sweet face, with rich dark eyes… The eyes became shining eyes, or just one, great and fathomless, the eye of a monster, but the other always returned. It was a woman’s face, and he felt in the darkness for it. His visions twisted. A deep laughter, part sardonic and part authentic, rumbled in his heart, echoing a message he…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 16, “The Ends of Victory,” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 16: The Ends of Victory Michael moved silently through the halls, followed closely by Nit, Langelo, Aarne, and Mondal, who had covered his face once again, along with another mercenary, a young half-orc named Peterus. Clad in mail, the dark elf somehow did not jingle. The rest of them wore only gameson. Michael held up a hand, and the group stopped silently. He pulled a hand mirror from his pocket and held it past the wall. He pointed around a corner at a guard, who was talking casually with a female servant, dusklight streaming through the…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 15 “The Gambit,” part 2

Back to Contents The boat rocked slightly as they drifted into part of the city where its shores became lined by stone retaining walls, creating small eddies. Michael stood on the prow, watching for guards and hoping they all reached the citadel before the sun rose. Thokar was sitting down on a bench beside him, his cloak covering his ashen face, like all the other orcs. His old attire was gone, replaced by a gambeson and a coat of plates, similar to what Michael knew the citadel guard would wear. It wouldn’t fool anyone when they got close, but with…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 15, “The Gambit” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 15: The Gambit Michael found Sharona sitting on a low hanging branch of an oak tree, seemingly staring at her feet. The light of the day was almost gone, but beside Sharona something glowed very faintly, like fire. “Sharona?” Michael said. “Hello Michael,” she replied, without inflection. “Are you alright?” “I’m whole and uninjured.” “That’s not what I meant.” “I know.” She looked up at him, and despite the low light he could tell she had been crying. “You were eavesdropping on me,” Michael said. “Weren’t you?” He stepped closer and saw next to her a…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 14 “The Conspiracy” part 2

Back to Contents Michael stood on the balcony, watching the vineyards and fields in the valley below. He rested his sword on a wooden rail, richly oiled, and worked the edge carefully in the bright sunlight. It was an old ritual of his, one that most officers and knights foisted onto their squires or other subordinates, happy to give up the tedium of maintaining equipment. Michael, however, knew that his equipment was his last and best defense. A dull sword could mean an opponent living long enough to kill you. Poorly oiled armor could limit your range when you needed…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 14: The Conspiracy, part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 14: The Conspiracy The Dolanari Estate was a wide stretch of land at the base of the gold mountains, composed of rolling, grass-filled hills dotted with trees that gradually transitioned into a hardwood forest. Farms stood out among the sparse oaks and wild olives as either cleared patches, irrigated most often by channeling a stream from uphill, or neat orchards of fruit trees. The vast majority of these belonged to Freemen, former enlisted soldiers and other citizens, who owned their plot and payed a direct tax to the family Butler Dolanari. Closer to the estate proper,…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 13 “In the Shadows” part 2

Back to Contents Michael stared in shock, but felt himself being turned away. A hand was on his face, and he saw Sharona leaning over, nearly falling off of Rabble-Rouser, drawing him toward her. Then they were kissing, and she grabbed the front of his shirt with force, holding him in. When the released she was already turning Rabble-Rouser, and Michael’s horse Turner was wanting to follow. Michael looked back to the street to see the back of his brother, and the unmistakable profile of the queen. “What was that?” Michael said. “You don’t think your own brother would know…

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Needle Ash – Chapter 13, “In the Shadows” part 1

Back to Contents Chapter 13: In the Shadows The way down was easy going, though slow, for the path took many switchbacks from the pass, descending into a rolling rocky highland. A few scattered farmhouses stood watch over the empty wastes, manned by free men and women and their children, who took little notice of the travelers except to wave from their work. Plots of wheat and barley were ripening in the new sun, fed by the previous night’s brief rain. The road was muddy as it wandered the hills, and the horses would occasionally do a stumble-step over a…

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