The March to Greenbriar
by David Sisson
The march to Greenbriar was long and arduous, many paths to civilization ended long before Greenhill County. I had come into the company of a few other travels making their way to Greenbriar for various reasons. The entertainer interested me the most; she was set to make an adventurer of herself. She told me that “an entertainer’s true talent comes not from study of the musical and performance arts, but the passion earned through heroics.” Too bad she was a cambion, dirty little half-demons.
The setting sun gleamed off my freshly shined breastplate as we crested the hill. Greenbriar came into view, though not as the peaceful little hamlet we were expecting. The village was ablaze, dark plumes of thick smoke rose from many buildings. From the half-mile distance, we could make out small shadowy dots running between the buildings, some fleeing in terror and others holding torches and sacks hoisted over their shoulders.
Then we heard it, a massive roar that thundered through the valley and drew our eyes towards the small keep in the distance. The silhouetted form of a dragon was encircling the fort, reigning bolts of lightning onto the ramparts.
“Really? A dragon?!” The gravelly voice of the cambion warlock came from behind me. I’d forgotten that she was even there she was so quiet. But when she opened her mouth, nothing but sarcasm came out. “This is how we’re gonna start our adventure?” She muttered a few words to a god whose name I didn’t catch.
“Wait!” The entertainer’s voice was muffled to me. Before I realized what I was doing, I took off full sprint towards Greenbriar. I was sworn to good and justice, I could not allow these people to suffer.
The half-mile between our hill and the outskirts of Greenbriar were uneventful. By the time I reached the first burnt down houses, the sun had all but set.
“Rand!” The entertainer called to me too loudly to go unnoticed. “What in the hells is your problem? You’re gonna get us all killed!”
“Keep your gods damned voice down! And you didn’t have to follow me. We’re not a team, you’re not my friends.” The words were harsher than I intended.
I looked over my shoulder to see the remainder of my travelling companions come up behind me. The warlock was about to speak, but the shrill sound of a woman’s scream drew our attention.
Three men were chasing her down. As they came into the clearing ahead, we saw they were all dressed in ruddy clothes dyed a haphazard purple probably signifying some sort of motley crue pretending to be an army. The woman tripped, busting her head open on the ground. The blood began to pool and the three men approached her. The rotten-toothed smiles on their faces told me more than I needed to know.
“Halt ruffians!” My voice boomed throughout the clearing.
They wheeled around on their heels and caught sight of me. With sword and shield in hand, I charged. The first was caught off-guard, I ducked his wild swing and slid my blade into his gut. He wasn’t dead, but he crumpled to the ground, moaning in pain. He wouldn’t be a problem.
The next two were shocked, they hadn’t met much resistance in this small village I’d wager. Hatred boiled in their eyes and they readied their weapons. One took a small, wooden buckler from his back and they circled me. I gripped my shield tight.
A bolt of magical blue whizzed past my head and slammed into the chest of the shieldless man, sending him flying backwards to the ground. The strumming of a lute and the angelic hum of the entertainer told me that I wasn’t in this fight alone. I turned my attention to the man with a shield.
“You have a chance to flee,” my voice little more than a whisper. The hatred in his eyes melted into fear, he had heard me.
He slowly backed away, not taking his eyes off me. Losing his footing on one of his downed mates, he tripped backwards. Dropping his shield, he scrambled to his feet and fled between the buildings. A dagger between the ribs of each of the downed men sent them to their fates.
As the last light of the sun faded, the town was lit by burning builds and torches. There were many innocents to save, my fate was set. I could not flee. I would be Greenbriar’s champion, or another nameless victim of a dragon. I hoisted my shield and started towards the fort.