Chapter Thirty Four

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Dunmont had morphed from a city that once housed inns and brothels, smithies and tailors, and houses and manors, to a city suffocated by death, marked by destruction. It had been almost a moon’s turn since they had taken the city, and it was not long after the initial raid that Lord Idris made his men burn the bodies that had been left to rot within the city walls. The smell had turned so horrid that even the lord could not stand to walk outside any longer. It took them four days to move all of the bodies to the fire pit they had constructed outside of the city walls, another two days to burn them all. Shortly after, a messenger from Garr arrived with word that the Merchant Lord was gathering a force large enough to take back the city and liberate those that still lived.

Lord Idris only smiled at the messenger, an odd look of calm upon his face. “There is no one still alive here. Those that survived the initial attack perished shortly after by one means or another.” He rose from the desk he was sitting behind and moved threateningly close to the man. “There is nothing left for your lord here, nothing left for anyone. I would send you with a message back, but no one leaves these city walls alive that is not part of my host. I am sure that you understand.”

The messenger’s eyes widened as he noticed the three guards closing in around him. “But…but the Porrile Decree states that messengers are to be given freedom of passage, room and board, and food to sustain them.” His voice shook with fear as he attempted to present his case to the mysterious lord.

He was a large man, and young, the messenger from Garr, with wavy blond hair and the stature of a boar. He wore mail armor under a black surcoat complete with the tower sigil of the Merchant Lord Victor Grey. The sword at his hip was of better quality than most of the lord’s men, and he assumed he could say the same about the man’s horse. The messenger stood in front of the desk of Mayor Prichart’s large, opulent office with a few guards around him and the general look of panic from someone who just realized he was no longer protected by messenger’s rights.

“As you are no doubt aware, this camp operates free of any laws or decrees. The king does not give me orders, and your Merchant Lord most certainly cannot command me. Dunmont is mine for the time being, and when I am done with it I will leave it in little more than coals and ashes with nothing left for even the crows to pick at.” The lord’s face had remained stoic, his demeanor almost untouched by normal emotions. He straightened noticeably in front of the messenger. “How long until the Merchant Lord and his host look upon Dunmont’s walls?”

The man stumbled through his lies, all the while trying to convince the lord that he was not privy to any battle plans or movement orders. That he did not know how long it would take the Merchant Lord to prepare a host. He even went as far as to say that the Merchant Lord hated him, explaining why he was sent and not a knight or at least someone higher within the inner circle of the Lord of Garr. All the while, Lord Idris let him tell his stories. He would follow the man along until he found a hole in the story and blew it wide open. It must have happened four times before the man slumped forward, his determination leaving along with his strength. He began sobbing then, pleading for his life. “Please, my lord, please just let me go. I will tell you anything you want to know, please.”

Lord Idris sat the man down in a chair against the wall and pulled another close. He sat in front of the man and leveled his eyes with the messenger’s. “Tell me everything and I give you my word, I will set you free.”

“Yes, alright,” the man said as he straightened up and tried to wipe the tears from his face. “The Merchant Lord sent out messages to his companies throughout the empire. Mayor Prichart was not only his nephew, but also his favorite. When I was riding from the city over three hundred of his fighting men had returned. I am sure that number has long since tripled. He will be ready to march in a fortnight, maybe less. I would guess with a host closer to a thousand men.” The man took a moment to clear his throat before continuing. “No one has ever seen him so angry. He was hanging men in the streets that he thought were involved with the prince in any way. He was sure that it was him and his Silent Brotherhood that were responsible.”

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