Secret Meeting In Anvil Creek

From Charred Marble

A cloaked and hooded figure stood, leaning against a wooden pillar of a small veranda, his arms crossed. Ash's cloak was black as the night and he could barely be seen - only the dancing flames on the torch on the wall behind him gave away his position. It seemed that his eyes too had gained a stealth ability - not betraying their master by shining brightly in the night. Ash's eyes were cold, emotionless and serious.

He was looking at the town in which he resided for the moment.

A crude, dusty, dirty dwelling spot for its equally crude, dirty and dimwitted inhabitants, he thought with disgust. Still, it was quiet, unimportant and close to Thunderton, so it suited the Dragon just fine - for the moment.

Many people doubted that Ash is the fitting leader of the Dragon Battalion. He was cold, distant, emotionless and…boring. Pezza had been far more cheerful, dynamic and exciting. The current King of Photoshop has sparks in his eyes, caractising a true Dragon. If some members of the organization did not know better, they would mark Ash as a Serpent. The man's behaviour is much more like a serpent's than a dragon's - and that is why many wished to see someone else - like Jay taking leadership of the proud, yet secret organization.

Ash knew all of these things going on behind his back. It would be foolish to think of Ash as a stupid man. Quite opposite - the Omega Squad Leader is calm, sharp and strategical genius. Still - he was so paranoid, mistrusting and cold that people who saw him hardly believed him to be human.

Yet in times like this, no one wished to challenge his authority - and with the Battalion's current special tasks paranoia, mistrust and intelligence are hardly considered unwanted features.

Ash stood completely silent and motionless. Only his breathing told the single bypasser that it was a living creature.

"Hey you! Wanna have a pint at the pub? Our boys are going to war tomorrow and we will send them off with a bang! You know - ha ha ha!" the man from this town said to Ash merrily. Ash was completely silent and hardly looked at this dumb, tactless idiot who should mind his own business.

"What's the matter, lost your tounge?"

Ash still said nothing and remained still.

"Who the Oblivion are you anyways? What do you want here in 'Creek!?"

Ash moved his head slowly, his eyes now fixed upon the loud man. Still, the Dragon said nothing.

"Bloody fiddlesticking shite if you aren't a spy or somethin'!"

The man, clearly drunk drew out a dagger from his boot. Ash still did not move. He remained silent. The man now closed in on Ash and breathed loudly. Ash almost choked by the disgusting stench of mead that reached his nostrils as the fould man got closer.

"Answer me, freak!"

The man slashed after Ash, but the skilled Dragon moved with a swift motion and kicked the sharp weapon from the hand of the intoxicated man. Ash hit the back of the man's head with an open palm and the Anvilian fell to the ground with a loud thump. As Ash was about to remove the unconcious human with a disgusted mine, five horses could be heard approaching on the main street. Ash moved away from the man on the ground as four hooded riders and a much less stealthy man reached the Leader's position and dismounted. The four cloaked riders wore the same clothes as Ash and all of them gave their leader a small nodd. They got nothing in return. As Pezza was dismounting, Ash tried to remain calm. He had steeled himself for this, but still he felt a rush of awe through his veins.

Pezza approached Ash, but before he spoke he glanced at the body on the ground.

"Friend of yours, Ash?" Pezza asked with clear saracasm while nodding at the unconcious Anvillian.

"No," came the answer from a cold and calm voice, which pierced the evening for the first time. "We just met!"

There was a sudden tension in the small group, but the silence was broken by the slender female rider.

"Now boys, let us go inside. No reason to stay out here, lest Ash kills off half the city's population!"

She spoke with a cheerful voice as she gestured to the door behind her. She took off her hood and a beautiful face was revealed. Long, golden hair was set loose and it shone in the dark night. Kitty winked to Pezza, as Phil opened the door with a surprising finess compared to his gigantic appearence.

They all followed him silently as he entered the house.

Pezza walked through the doorway, taking in every detail as he entered. He looked around at the people in the room. There were three dragons, Pezza did not recognize them though and simply greeted them with a nod.

Slowly he walked towards the center of the room. He stopped and as he continued to look around, he pulled of his gloves and put them beneath his belt.

"How many of the Battalion are at Anvil Creek Ash?" Pezza asked turning to the current leader of the Dragon Battalion.

Ash did not face the former Battalion Leader. Somehow Pezza always made Ash feel like Ash lost all authority and was a mere servant to this so-called King of Photoshop. Ash respected Pezza, but he hated the fact that he could never feel superior to this charming and will strong man. Kitty had never shown any affection to Ash and it made him furious some times. He put those thoughts aside. Calmly he answered, still facing a painting and not Pezza:

"Apart from the eight gathered here, we have two teams of two Dragons in the outskirts of this…town".

Jay grunted and shook his head at Ash's way of describing their location.

Ash added, now turning towards Pezza, trying to remain in control of this conversation:

"That would mean twelve Dragons, Pezza, if you should have forgotten your mathematics in your days of politics!"

Kitty's face became red, but she did not want to disturb this unpleasent conversation. It was better to have it over with quick. Instead she went to one of the unidentified Dragons and exchanged a few words with her.

Pezza returned Ash' stare for a long time before responding. He then looked towards some of the others, giving a short smile to brighten up Phil's serious, worried face. Then he turned to Ash again.

"I'm afraid I don't have much time Ash," Pezza said. "You all understand perfectly well what is going on in the Realm at the moment at the point I believe."

Ash laughed a short nervous laugh. He could feel this man undermining his Dragons' respect towards their leader.

"Of course we do, Perry!"

A surprised and slightly shocked mine rolled across the Dragons' faces. They had not heard anyone use Pezza's real name before. Only Pezza himself spoke of it once.

"And we have done a lot compared to others!"

Pezza himself felt irritated now, but he needed to control himself. He could not show anything here. But he promised himself, for the hundredth time he believed, that he would someday deal with Ash.

"You have done a lot." Pezza nodded. "Then tell me what you have done."

A smirk appeared on Ash's emotionless face. His cheeks were red. Oh yes, Pezza could always disturb this man's annoying calmness.

"Right! Xi found a necromancer dwelling near Spamith two days ago. They raided it - captured two necromancers, killed one. One of our Dragons died in the attack. Some Dragons from Zeta were ambushed and killed by Serpents in Ell, but the retribution came swiftly, we arrested twelve of those bastards! And most importantly, Omega has a lead on Fenix' location. We have sources pointing towards him being in Weissland! I think we should send a task force to that land and see if we can find him!"

Ash panted. He hated it, but Pezza always got his heart racing like a madman.

Pezza nodded slowly. To the men in the room every little detail of his body actions seemed to go slowly, as if every single was considered before fulfilled.

"What is this lead?" he asked.

Ash looked around him. His men and women were completely professional, yet their leader had lost control. Dammit! he thought and tried to return to his cold, calm and professional self.

"Some of my Dragons got the information out of a Serpent prisoner, using my methods!"

Pezza turned to the painting for a few seconds before turning back, "You have the Serpent prisoners at your headquarters I assume?"

"That is correct. We have had some fears about remaining in Miliath, Pezza! Are you sure the enchantment will keep it safe?"

"I trust her in this. After we lost both Almirith and the Overlord vanished Louise is the last remaining of that kind on the council. She knows her art."

Ash was far from assured, but moving the Dragon Cave now would be suicidal anyways.

"Pezza, do you authorize us to go to Weissland? We do need a so-called…"Knight's authorization" from your White Council according to the contract."

"You are right on that."

He scratched his cheek, ignoring Ash' request he asked for something else.

"What about the necromancer you captured? What have you learned?"

Ash opened his mouth at first, but closed it again. He did not have time for this. Ash's nature told him to get the job done no matter what. He would have a task force sent to this "elf-land" with or without authorization!

"Exitus Acta Probat" he mumbled to himself.

Then he spoke once more:

"Well - nothing. They poisoned themselves in prison. Nothing we could do about it. They must have conjured the poison somehow! We found a few documents in their hideout however. It stated that Shiverland's necromancers had some connections with the Defiled Kingdom. In the document, it was only economical connections however. Additionally we experienced that their undead creatures are far more resiliant than ever before. They are enhancing their skills. We must stop them before they let terror reign in the Realm. We believe their goal is to demoralize the citizens by making small midnight raids in the various smaller settlements. Pure speculations of course."

"Nevertheless this proves the Crusade truly must happen once and for all."

Then Pezza picked the gloves up from his belt again.

"I'm sorry about ignoring your request I just needed to clear the questions from my head. About Weissland, yes you may go.You have authorization. But bring with you Nar, the young one who knows how to use spell spheres. I want to communicate with you every day," Pezza's voice was strict and his eyes looked intently at Ash. "You understand the importance of that."

Ash felt this stare as a challenge.

"You do not trust me, o Knight of the White Counsil?"

Hound smiled towards Ash, but his eyes gave him a sharp, cold look. "Whether I trust you or nut Ash is irrelevant as you know. I'm not allowed to trust you. My duties, above or else, is to make precautions that things does not get out of hand."

He sighed, then shook his head.

"Damn it Ash. You understand how this works. You must understand that I need to know what is going on. Weissland might be far from safe for you at the moment."

Fury filled Ash. All the anger he collected when he was "calm Ash" exploded now:

"LISTEN, PEZZA! My men are giving their lives for this foreign Realm! Omega is almost entirely consisting of old dogs from before this "great white" Realm! We have no duty to this place! I am a professionalist - I want the job done, but I want to have my own rules if I am to risk my own and my men's lives for this stupid land! I have never liked it, Pezza! I am doing it because of the contract, not because I want to! And…"

he stopped midsentence. He had made a colossal mistake. How would he gain trust by spilling his guts like that. WHY DID THEY SEND PEZZA! He could handle anyone but that git!

"FINE! We will do it by your rules! Get back to your castle, Pezza! Get out of here!"

He waved at the four, who had brought Pezza to Anvil Creek. They were shocked. Never had they seen Ash like this.

Pezza slowly rose. He was not smiling anymore. He shook his head. Pezza nodded to his companions who followed him towards the door. However Pezza stopped in the doorway and turned towards Ash.

"There are two Council-members from the White Realm in Weissland at the moment Ash. Hound and Ariakas. No more mistakes. Every day Ash."

With that Pezza left the building.

Ash hid his face in his hands. This had been a complete disaster. His hands were shaking, but as he heard Pezza's footsteps disappear, he calmed down and a smile appeared on his face. The Dragons still inside stood silent, still petrified by the aggressive and heated conversation.

Ash finally ordered:

"Paul, I want the best of Omega to be prepared for our quest to Weissland. I want a team of 14 Dragons in total. You are going to be one of them, James!

Paul nodded and waited for more instructions:

"And Jay, Phil, Ghendo and…Kitty…will not be considered for this task! Go, Paul! Ride to the Cave. Gather me this special team. I will wait for you in Port Village. Be silent and careful, James!"

James bowed and started to walk towards the door.

Ash stopped him:

"And James! Make sure the Dragons you gather can be trusted for very very real!"

This awkward sentence made the remaining Dragons look bewildered at each other, but James nodded and exited the house.

Ash then seemed much more calm than before. We will bring this Nar fellow with us. I will show Pezza that finally I will have more influence than him. Oh yes - Fizban will award me generously! Ash thought with a broad smile. He waved and his remaining Dragons exited the house too.

Pezza shook his head as he and the Dragon Battalion escort walked further away from the house in which he had seen a former friend corrupted - by jalousy, hatred, anger or power, Pezza did not know, but Ash had changed to something very bad.

"Cheer up, Pezz! I will watch his every move!" Kitty said merrily to her former love interest.

Pezza shook his head once more and then looked at Kitty's beautiful, winking face. He made a quick, sinful glance towards her breasts and turned his head away in shame.

"Nah, Kitt'. He wouldn't let you lot close any longer. He has become more paranoid than ever before!"

"You are right," Jay said, "he must think we are on your side!"

"But aren't we on the same freaking side," Phil asked sharply.

No one answered. They all knew that they were on the same basic side, but within it, there had become a gap. Ash saw Pezza as a competitor and the pity, Pezza expressed just angered him even more. Pezza rightly felt that he had reasons to not trust this man one hundred per cent any longer.

Jay broke the sad silence as the company entered the stables:

"You lot remember our good old adventures? When we didn't care that much, when not so much was at stake? When Pezza was one of us!"

His tone was happy and challenging in a childish way. Pezza smiled and nodded. Kitty replied:

"Hell yeah I do! Those were awesome times. No fear of backstabbing bastards like that Serpent scum and…" she paused, blushing, "…yeah…good times with Pezza still around."

Pezza looked her straight in the eyes, but quickly looked away. He had had his reasons to leave her, but he could not help loving her - the way she ignited a sacred flame inside him.

"Times change. When this war is over, I promise we will be together again!"

A few bewildered looks penetrated the dark stable, and Pezza quickly added:

"You know - do some adventuring together!"

No one spoke as they prepared the horses, but Kitty smiled as she turned away. A tear trickled down her blushing cheek.

Fifteen minuts later, Pezza and his old friend left Anvil Creek. Pezza felt doubt - doubt in Ash.

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