A Journey Home
Stacks woke up and could still feel the previous day’s fight in his bones as he woke up. His mouth was dry, he was hot and the tent he as in was sweltering from the suns continual attention. When he finally stood outside, the air still had a lingering smell of burnt wood, canvas and flesh, a constant reminder of the Cryx attack a day ago. He took in the camp scanning left to right and couldn’t help but notice the group of people gathering around wagons being readied for travel. He decided it was his time to be headed for home as well. He wrapped up his bed roll, checked his gear, dusted himself off and decided…he needed a bath. Five days in the Ditches makes a man awfully dirty and more importantly smelly, which can be a death sentence with some of the beasts out here in the Ditches.
Jack played cards by himself as he waited to see what the day would bring. He was tired, hot, he stunk and he was simply done with this place. Down to his last few rounds he needed to return to Bloodstone one way or another. When he saw Stacks walk through the dusty tent door opening with his gear and bed roll in tote Jack took that as a sign. Time to go he said to himself.
“I am with you Stacks. Just let me gather my things and talk to Marco.” Jack walked past Stacks and left the tent.
“Sounds good, I’ll meet you at the wagons over by Addlesmiths tents.”
Stacks looked around the tent and noticed it was unusually empty. He decided he would fill his canteen with fresh and grab and a shot of whatever they offered. He downed the shot checked his canteen, gave the tent one last look and stepped outside to figure out if he could get work escorting a group back to Bloodstone.
As he made his way to the group he noticed Professor Addlesmith in almost panic state talking to the group as they backed the wagons.
“Please don’t go.” Addlesmith said anxiously.
“We are so close and we need all the help we can get. Give me a few weeks to get some help; we are close to a major discovery I can feel it.” Addlesmith was reading each person loading the wagons. If he could get a few to change their mind more would stay. Just then a young student slowly walked up, looked Addlesmith in the face and spoke so all could hear him
“Professor Addlesmith, we have been here a month and have seen more death than some may see in the front lines. The cave collapses took our professor, the undead zombies or whatever they were killed 5 and with the Cryx attack we lost countless more”.
“But please…” Addlesmith knew he has lost them.
“No!” The student interrupted.
“I don’t know a lot about Cryx but from what I have heard they will return if they believe this an easy place to gather slaves for their foul magic and war against Cygnar.” The student was now standing directly in front of Addlesmith. “I beg you to come with us until the Universities provide us more protection.” The students face was calm but Addlesmith could not help but recognize the sorrow and loss behind his eyes.
“I understand.” Those were the only words Addlesmith could muster as Stacks approached the conversation.
“Hello,” Stacks said questioningly as he held out his hand to the student.
“Dorn,” “Blake Dorn” the student responded as he shook Stacks hand. He was taken back but still remained determined.
“I may be of some use to you. Do you need an escort back to Bloodstone?” Stacks asked
“No we are going with our two mercenaries our university hired but you are more than welcome to join us” The student responded kindly.
Stacks thought about and Jack gave him the not that simply said maybe now is not the time. “Let’s just get back home. “
Stacks, Jack and Addlesmith spoke briefly before the wagons took left and Stacks offered to help Addlesmith if and when he needs help escorting his people back to the Dig. Addlesmith thanked him and left to gather what was left and get back to work.
The trip was slow as the horse drawn carts were old and need repairs along the way. Stacks and Jack kept pace with the group flacking them when available keeping an eye out for trouble. They couldn’t help but feel they were being watched the whole time but never saw anything. They were actually surprised to see the watering hole around the corner just as the sun was about to settle.
The camp was quiet, the night air was cool and the area they camped in eh Crag Forest was extremely dark as the moon was covered by clouds. Stacks climbed up to the top of the craggy rock and lay down to sleep.
Stacks woke as he heard movement on the cliffs above the camp. Something was there but he couldn’t make it out. He lay quietly as he allowed his eyes to recover from waking. Suddenly in the distance the moon cut through the clouds and he saw a two headed wolf. Making it worse it seemed there a few and they were heading off; most likely to make their way down to the camp site. Stacks sat up on a knee and looked down to the camp site. The mercenaries were trying their best to stay awake but were of no use. Jack was sleeping next to the camp fire. Stacks concentrated on the magic that flowed through his body and called forth a small bit of wind. The spell was actually more difficult to cast as he only learned it as an offensive spell used to cut through people and push them back. As the spell went off the air around his hands glowed bright as the runes lit up the night sky. A strong wind flew forth and Jack was suddenly rolling back to the wagons.
Jack seemed to be ok as woke and looked around protecting his face. He could see very well but he must have noticed the light above him as and could see Stacks point off to his right. He stood and pulled his revolvers looking to the darkness off to his right and giving Stacks quick thumbs up.
As the men tried to adjust their eyes the mercenary to Jack’s right was attacked by something big. It hit the man with incredible force possibly breaking the man’s back. As Jack went to help the man he heard heavy footsteps behind him and side stepped just in time as an Argus snapped at him. He dogged the first attack but the send head, which he was not expecting, bit his side. Jack shrugged of the attack as it did not penetrate his armor and readied his pistol. Two blasts range out and Jack couldn’t believe he missed the beast right in front of him. Stacks sent a large blast of wind at the Argus just below coming up behind Jack and sent the beast flat to the ground saving Jack from a surprise attack. Two more Argus came in one jumping past Jack right into the group of the students behind him the screams of the humans was almost defining. The Argus was headed straight for Jack. Jack had no time to worry about the Argus behind him as he had not one but two heads in front of him. The Argus attacked with a hunger Jack could see in its eyes. Each of its head moved as one but independently. Jack just dogged both attacks and rolled to his side as he steadied his revolvers and sent three rounds at it. Two rounds hit the Argus and it rolled back with a gasp as it lost its fight. Jack rolled and pulled a bandolier to reload his rounds as he saw a flash of light above him and the Argus behind him was sent rolling. As the two men looked to see what was going on they saw the last Argus run off into the darkness. They remained vigilant for a few moments until they felt it was safe.
The students were screaming as they tried to save the people attacked by the Argus and Jack was quick to remind them that there were other things in the Ditches far worse than a large dog with two heads. The student who spoke to Addlesmith understood and told the other to quietly help the other and make ready. Stacks worked his way down the rock formation and checked on the horses. At least they were ok. Once calmed down the group decided unanimously they would prepare to leave as soon as possible as the sun would come in in few hours. Stacks knew the rest of the way well enough to travel in the dark and he and Jack knew at the pace they kept they would be ok.
As the group arrived in Bloodstone they broke up immediately. No one spoke or said bye they simply just left for their own destinations. Jack retuned to the inn and the gambling table and Stacks returned to his work with nothing better to do. As Stacks walked up to his office he noticed a friendly face, Alger Cobblewood, local messenger/fencer sitting on the rocking chair of the office porch.
“Hello, Mr. Cobblewood” Stacks greeted Cobblewood with a friendly smile. “Do you have anything for me?”
“Yep, a couple of things back at my place was about to leave then I saw you coming up the hill?” Cobblewood responded with a smile across his leathery looking face.
“Sure do let me put down my things and we can head into town”
The two men headed into town to Cobblewood’s small and relatively secure storage house. Cobblewood unlocked the locks and pulled on the heavy wooden door to his storage area reviling two wooden crates, 2×2×2 with only one oddly disturbing label burnt into the wood…To: William Robert. Stack’s real name.
The boxes were unusually heavy as they loaded them onto Cobblewoods small wagon and when they loaded the last box on the wagon Stacks suddenly stood and looked behind him. He couldn’t help but feel someone cast a spell.
“You alright hoss?” Cobblewood asked with a cocked smile on his face.
Stacks felt a bit embarrassed. He suddenly realized his actions may have looked a bit out of place or overly worried. “I am fine just had a one of those moments when you feel like you are being watched” he said to ease up the situation.
“Understandable, here in Bloodstone I get that feeling all the time. It’s not a bad way to act around here”
Once Cobblewood secured the crates they made their way back to Stacks place. Stacks couldn’t help but feel something was not right as he once again felt the presence of arcane energy creep into the air around him.
Once they reached Stacks’ office they quickly unloaded the crates and Stacks paid Cobblewood for his services even though he had no one to bill back at the moment. Something told him to act normal and not to attract attention to this odd situation and to keep act as if nothing was out of place. However, no return address made him a bit suspicious about what could be in these boxes and who would send something like this. Perhaps someone simply made a mistake. He decided to open the boxes to see what was inside as it was addressed to him. Perhaps this was a new way to get provision to him for his work he thought to himself.
When he opened the boxes his heart skipped a beat, his jaw dropped and he felt suddenly small and exposed. He was no expert on matters of jack construction but he was looking at what he thought were two military grade Cortexes. Something was certainly not right and he became nervous as he knew he did not have anywhere to put these devices.
Stacks lay in his bed staring at the ceiling trying to figure out his next move. With the recent and rather unnerving delivery he received the day before he was worried; best case someone made a mistake somewhere or worse case he was being played. In either case he felt a large target on his back and he didn’t like it. As the sun peaked up over the Wurmwall Mountains cutting through his window he decided he needed to deal with the situation rather than sit and worry. He quickly dressed and headed out to his office. He kept an eye out as he headed up the hill looking out over the town. His head on a swivel he kept looking for anything suspicious; anyone following him, undue attention, anything that made him feel funny. As he opened the office door he half expected the crates and cortexes to not be there. But there they were, he felt relieved and a heavy burned fall him at the same time. What in all the gods names am I going to do with these he thought to himself. The boxes sat there quietly, sitting, and staring at him from the corner of the room. Stacks was at a loss until he looked down and saw dirt through the floor boards. It hit him. He would bury the crates below the office. He locked up his office and headed into town to pick up some tools.
After nailing in the last nail to the floor boards his long day of cautiously digging out a shallow hole big enough for the two crates was near the end. He swept the office floor clear of dirt and dust as the sun was setting over Gulf of Cygnar. He felt a bit better knowing he did what he could for the time being. Now he had to figure out why these were sent to him; directly to him. More importantly he had to ensure they did not fall into the wrong hands.