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A Duke's Dilemma, A1C3
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MrDumbass
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A Duke's Dilemma, A1C5

chapter_5.doc
Keywords human 61058, angel 5525, war 1466, slightly damned 106, jakkai 93, fire demon 57, buwaro elexion 53, rebellion 39, rhea snaketail 37, water demon 24, kieri suizahn 23, earth demon 23, wind demon 16, iratu 8, peaceful protest 1
As her vision returned to her, Kieri saw a Wind Demon, green-scaled and arguing with Iratu – he looked to be the one that had glared at her and Buwaro yesterday, before the Earth Angel had arrived.  She didn't hear anything, though – her ears were ringing too loudly.  She realized that, during the bickering, Kazai had landed and was healing her, his hands pressed into her fur.

Wait.  Fur?

She blinked, looking up at him with her bunny eyes as he shrugged helplessly.  It seemed he didn't care about her curse.  Better yet, he had already healed the worst of the damage she'd taken.

At that moment, she clearly heard Iratu shout desperately, "If we can stop this war without fighting – "

"Do you really think that's possible?" the Wind Demon asked cooly.  "What Angel would willingly listen to us?  And with a Duke working for the enemy, we're screwed if we don't fight back harder than ever."

"We have quite a few, Tsavo!" Iratu snapped back.  "Is it possible, at all, that we're just making it worse for ourselves?  Did that ever enter your head?!  Hell, it didn't even hit me until now, but at least I'm trying!"

{I assume the Earth Demon isn't an enemy?} Kazai asked quietly, watching them yell back and forth.

{Yes,} Kieri managed, before, with a poing, she returned to her true form.  {The other one seems to be hostile.}

{Got it,} her brother stated, conjuring a great chunk of ice around the Wind Demon.  He held his axe defensively, but prepared to strike either way, growling in anger.

Literally growling, Kieri noted, and she saw his tail pop out.  There were more important matters at hand for now, but she definitely had to ask later, when the excitement had died down a tad.

{Do you see, General?} the Wind Demon snorted.  {This is how they deal with anyone they don't like.  Death and murder for all who are different, that's all they care about!}

{How am I supposed to like someone who hurt my sister?} Kazai challenged.  {Wouldn't you do the same for your family?}

{My family is dead!} he roared, the ice shattering from a burst of electric might, shocking Kieri out of her reverie.

"Tsavo, no!" Iratu shouted, and got blasted with lightning himself, then again, then a third time, all in rapid succession.  The Earth Demon groaned as he stumbled and fell to the ground, convulsing slightly.

Kieri's eyes narrowed at that – this one wasn't willing to talk.  Glaring at Tsavo, a plan took shape, and she sprung into action, heading towards Kazai.

With a poing, she lunged between her brother's legs in rabbit form and hurtled towards the Wind Demon at a greater speed than she might normally have moved.  With another poing, she leaped up and swung her blade, the shocked Wind Demon barely able to dodge the worst of the blow – he ended up with a gash on his chest, deep enough to scrape the bone.  He roared in pain, and Kieri saw a shape move out of the corner of her eye.  With a third poing, she dodged the Fire Demon's breath with ease, though she was a bit winded from the exertion of her furious assault and the constant form-changes.

By then, Kazai had recovered from the shock of seeing a Demon turn on his leader, and had moved behind the Fire Demon.  With a swing of his axe, he slashed the Fire Demon's side, not doing as much damage as he could have, but still hitting his foe hard.  "Fuckin' Angel asshole!" the Fire Demon snarled, blasting the young man with fire this time.

As Tsavo recovered, Kieri slipped between his legs to get behind him and returned to Angel form again.  He didn't have time to realize she was there before her blade sank into his back, barely missing his spine.  Quickly yanking the blade out, she lunged at the Fire Demon, busy with her brother, and was struck by a wave of water, sending her sputtering back.  A Water Demon, looking like an angler fish, lunged at her, claws flashing, and she blocked his attack before backing up a step.  "I've got your back, Azurai!" he said.

"Fuck off, Abyset!" was Azurai's only response.  Abyset merely rolled his eyes in exasperation.

Kazai had gone into defensive mode, blocking attacks from Azurai and waiting for an opening in the Fire Demon's insane need for blood.  An opening finally came, and he swung, clipping his foe's thigh.

It was then that another Wind Demon and a female Fire Demon came out, a blue fox with horns and wings for the former, and a stocky ferret with small antlers for the latter.  She lunged at Kazai, and the Angel found himself hard-pressed to defend.

By then, though, Iratu had recovered, and he slammed his paw into Azurai and the female Fire Demon to knock them into the wall, before shouting, "Enough!  They're only attacking because Tsavo attacked her!  Stand the fuck down!"

"You might want to listen to my brother," a voice said, bubbling with anger as its source landed by Kieri.  Zahariah had landed by Kazai, the two backing away in defensive positions.

All eyes present, save for Kazai and Zahariah, turned to Buwaro.  A single wing was flared out defensively in front of Kieri.  Not far behind were Heathcliff, Rhea, and Jake, though neither Rhea nor Jake were entirely sure what they were doing here.  Rhea wasn't sure anything good would come of this mess, and Jake didn't think even his overpowered Fire magic could do that much.

"Honest question: what is wrong with you people?" Buwaro asked, his tone bubbling with restrained rage – Kieri thought back to his fight with Denevol, and she shuddered to think that he might snap on these Demons.  "I thought I was supposed to be the dumb one," the boy quipped.  His eyes swept across all the Demons that were present, who shivered lightly from fear.  Tsavo backed away from the boy.  Even Iratu felt the oppressive aura of his little brother's anger – the wrath of a Duke.  "Iratu," Buwaro finally asked, looking at the stunned Earth Demon, "what's going on?"

"Long story," Iratu said, looking away, one clawed hand drifting to the opposite elbow, "and not a good one."

"So you're part of some attack here, or something?" Buwaro asked.

"I'm supposed to be in charge."

Iratu felt almost as hurt as his brother looked.  "Maybe we should continue this elsewhere," the Duke said quietly.  "Somewhere where no one else is going to overhear and freak out."  He glared at the Demons again.

At that point, Azurai lunged at Buwaro.  "Fuck you, you're not the boss of me, I don't give a shit if you're a Duke or not!" he snarled.

Buwaro hadn't come to hurt anyone, but this one looked like he wanted blood.  With a few dodges, the young Duke determined his foe was basically a berserker, more concerned with causing damage than hitting.  He swiftly locked his hand around a wrist, stepped forward and turned his back to Azurai's stomach as he grabbed the Fire Demon's elbow and slammed the joint inwards, towards the Demon's body.

A snap filled the air, and Azurai screamed in pain and fury.  "Leggo, jackass!" he snarled, his voice an octave higher, trying to throw Buwaro off.  Buwaro's response was an elbow to the nose.  A moment later, he grabbed Azurai's wrist and hurled his cursing foe over his back and to the ground, before hopping forward in about three-quarters of a spin.

Azurai felt something crack in his chest as just over 100 pounds of Fire Demon weight slammed into him butt-first, sandwiching his precious ribcage and organs between that sudden pressure above him, and the cobblestone path below.

A crunch and a squeak of pain sounded from the crushed berserker, his eyes crossed, and he passed out a moment later, his eyes rolling back in his skull.  Kieri noticed that he was starting to foam at the mouth from sheer shock.  {Right,} Kieri murmured, speaking Angelic in her shock, {I did teach him to fight, too.}

Iratu sighed in exasperation at Azurai's attack, luckily unsuccessful.  On the one hand, he was proud of his brother – on the other, he knew that Azurai would not be happy when he woke up.

Not that the murder-happy Demon was ever happy without someone to kill.

Finally, he made his decision.  "Get inside," Iratu growled at his fellows.  "The attack's off.  I'll be back soon."  Most of the watching Demons jumped and followed orders, while Abyset dragged Azurai in quickly, staring at Buwaro warily.

Tsavo, however, watched his general as he left with Buwaro and his crowd of friends.  "With all due respect, sir, you're making a mistake," he warned.

Iratu turned to face Tsavo.  "I'm not sure I am," he replied quietly.  "I'm not sure I've been doing the right thing, anymore."  He turned away again, grimacing as he followed his brother.

When they were far enough away, Buwaro said, "I forgive you."  Iratu stared at his little brother in surprise.  "You were willing to listen.  You were willing to admit you might be wrong.  And that's hard when you feel like you have to fight for your life.  Denevol was like that too."

Iratu only became more depressed-looking, and Heathcliff shook his head.  "I'm not there yet," he admitted, "but Buwaro's right.  You're not just a kill-happy asshole, you want to protect people you care about, and you didn't know another way."

"Basically," Iratu mumbled, though he still looked worried.  Rhea frowned as something began to itch at her mind.  She decided to wait to confirm her suspicions, for now, but one thing was for certain.

She knew that Kieri had been captured by Lazuli and Talus, using those weird grey cuffs.  Iratu seemed to be in charge of an attack on St. Curtis, which seemed more a lethal attack – but were they really unconnected?  Were they originally planning to use the chaos to capture more Angels?  If so, why?

And did the assassin – the one who attacked Melli, and who might have attacked her – somehow fit into all of that mess?

@@@@

No one spoke until they'd gotten back to the wagon.  During this time, Iratu had popped his pendant free, in order to keep from terrifying anyone – Buwaro had been surprised at his brother's "true size," but he wisely said nothing about the change.  When the group arrived at the Sinclair wagon, Buwaro asked Heathcliff, "Would you mind if we all went out of the city's boundaries to talk about this?"

The middle-aged man was silent for a moment.  "I can't take my wagon out into the fields, if that's what you're asking," Heathcliff replied.  "I've got sales to make."

"Fair enough," Buwaro nodded.

"I'm gonna go check on Fritz and Sugar," Jake called, already several good strides down the road.  "Be back soon."  Rhea frowned, but waved as he left, hoping he'd be alright.  Meeros called a Mortori Bird to fly after him, just in case.

"...wait, where are Lakritz and Sahne?" Buwaro asked, noticing that the two Demons were gone, but Kinako was in the wagon with Tirol, Miranda, and Flo.

"They left not long after you did," Kinako piped up.  "I think they went looking for you."

"I hope they're okay," Buwaro sighed.  "If they come this way, tell 'em to head to the south end of town and up the mountainside."  Buwaro then began walking down the main road.

Kieri gently grabbed his shoulder.  "Um, Buwaro?" she began.

"Lemme guess.  I'm heading north?" he asked.

"Yeah."

"Figures," he smiled with a roll of his eyes, turning to head the right way this time.  "What would I do without you?" he asked quietly.

"Probably no one," Kieri said in a faux thoughtful pose.

Buwaro blinked, tilted his head, then blushed as he got it.  "I'd expect that from Rhea," he chuckled as they walked down the road – the crowd included Rhea, Buwaro, Kieri, and Iratu.  Kazai and Zahariah stayed with the Sinclairs, in case something went seriously wrong, such as the assassin returning for Melli.

Kieri thought about what Buwaro had quipped and turned pale at the realization.  "My parents are going to kill me if I come back a foul-mouthed Angel," she bemoaned.

"Never mind with a Duke of Hell for a boyfriend," Buwaro teased, before remembering that her mother might actually do that.  "...I'd hope not," he muttered finally.

"Okay, what's going on?" Iratu asked Rhea quietly.

"Kieri and Buwaro done did the dirty deed of dickings," Rhea grinned.

Iratu stared at her as the lovers looked away from the conversation.  "...I mean the sudden depression.  Nice alliteration though."

"Oh," Rhea replied, looking away.  "Uh, let's just say Kieri's mom is a jackass.  I've never seen Buwaro so mad as when he heard about her mother's...vicious tongue, and violent hand.  And he once saw someone actively try to kill her."

The Earth Demon stared blankly at Rhea, as if trying to comprehend what she'd just said.  Kieri's head ducked slightly.  "Are you seriously telling me," Iratu finally asked, "that that young lady's mother was abusive?  Like, in every way you can think of?"

"Not every way," Rhea said, "unless Kieri has memories of a dildo or strap-on."

Kieri, Buwaro, and Iratu all balked at Rhea's words, growing bright red at the suggestion.  "Sh-she didn't do that!" the Angel girl protested.  "I can't – but – where would you even get such an awful idea?!"

"Well," Rhea shrugged, "there are some, uh, historical incidents of that.  Laws punish 'em good though."

"That last part is a relief, but again, why would you say that?!" Kieri shouted.

"Because he asked if she'd abused you in every way I could think of."

"D-don't drag me into this!" Iratu yelped.  "I wasn't even thinking of that crap!"

Rhea rolled her eyes.  "You asked, you got an answer," she smirked.

"I think it's best we just drop it," Buwaro said quietly.  "Snowy explained 'that concept' to me before we, you know, so I'm really not comfortable with it."

"You're not alone in that," Kieri replied softly.  "A-anyway, where are you thinking of going?" she asked in a stronger voice.

"I'm thinking the statue of Melli, actually," Buwaro replied.  "Hopefully there won't be as many people there."

It took a while to get to the statue, but they arrived finally, and found it nearly deserted.  Buwaro finally took a deep breath.  "Okay," he said, "start talking.  What is this attack about?"

Iratu sighed.  "We're...we're up here to capture live Angels, for a ritual that involves them as a sacrifice."  The three friends stared at him in shocked silence.  "The ritual allows for Demons to come up to Medius, and for every Demon called up, an Angel is dragged down.  The idea was for Hell to take over Medius."

Kieri shivered.  "I see," she murmured.  "Then that's why Lazuli took me prisoner..."

"That's what the cuffs are for, yeah," Iratu murmured.  "But there's more.  We have a guy with us, someone who's killed Moku and taken his powers."

"That Jakkai we were chasing," Kieri frowned.  "The assassin."

"Wait, what?" Buwaro asked.  "Chasing?"

"He's still alive?" Rhea groaned.  "...wait, how?!  Didn't you stab him through the skull?!"

"Guardians are tough to kill," Iratu replied, "and he technically is one now."

"Fuck me," Rhea growled, her face dropping into her hands.

"And his purpose?" Buwaro asked.

"He's...basically killing the Guardians off and leaving no one to gain their power in response to their deaths.  It'd leave us with uncontested run of Medius."

Buwaro frowned, and they could all see the gears turning in his head.  Rhea was sure he'd caught on too.  "You agree that he's probably the guy that killed me," Rhea said softly.

"Probably, yeah," Buwaro replied.

Iratu sighed, facepalming.  "Well isn't this a fine kettle of fish."

Buwaro stared at his brother, obviously confused.  "Do I even want to know where that one came from?"

"R-regardless," Kieri piped up, "we can't allow this to continue.  We have to find another way."

"Agreed," Buwaro said quietly.

"And what would you propose?" Iratu asked his brother pointedly.

"I'm still working on that," Buwaro replied, "but I'm open to ideas.  I just don't want to see this end like it's already about to."

"And that is?"

"In the death of everyone."

Iratu grimaced.  "You think it's that bad, huh?"

"And you don't?" Buwaro shouted, suddenly furious.  "For crying out loud, Iratu, you're talking about killing off an entire people!  You're talking about killing every Angel, and they're talking about killing all of us!  You know what I say?  I saw 'nuts to that!'  I say we stop the killing before we both end up being wiped out!"

Iratu sighed.  "It's not that easy."

"Why not?!" the Duke roared.

"Let's just say," the elder brother said quietly, "that there's a lot of very powerful Demons running the war on our end.  They're too entrenched in the systems of Hell to just fall like that.  And according to an...insider of ours, Heaven is the same way."

Buwaro blinked, but then he snorted.  "You're giving up that easy?" he asked sourly.  "Fine, be a coward, brother.  I'll go do it myself."  He stood up and brushed the dirt off of his pants, walking back towards St. Curtis.

"B-Buwaro!" Kieri yelped, hurrying after him.

"Come on, everyone," he called back, "let's at least try.  I think I know where to start, now."

Rhea blinked at that, glancing at Iratu in confusion.  He merely shrugged back.  The two finally took to the road after the lovebirds.  "So they really...?" Iratu asked Rhea.

"Yeah," she responded.  "He loves everyone, but he loves her more than anything."

"I wish him the best of luck," Iratu replied sadly.  "I really do."

@@@@

Once the group had arrived back at the wagon, Buwaro went inside and began scrawling on some paper with a pencil tied to his claw, barely noticing that Sahne and Lakritz were finally back.  He didn't speak to anyone for some time, writing out notes on more and more paper.  It was almost half an hour before he looked satisfied, and slid the two pieces of paper he hadn't crumpled up to his right.  He then began sketching a fairly poor drawing.

Kieri watched over his shoulder the entire time and, when she saw what he was doing, began to give him advice – as well as point out spelling errors.

Another half-hour had passed before he was satisfied with his work, and he walked outside with the papers.  Lakritz, Sahne, Iratu, Kinako, Kazai, and Zahariah were all talking quietly in Angelic, but they all glanced over when he came out.  "What was that about?" Sahne asked.

"Had to do some writing," Buwaro said.  "I'll look at it again in a while.  In the meantime, Iratu, could you tell all the Demons to meet at the Melli statue tomorrow morning, an hour after dawn or so?  And Kinako, can you and Kieri do the same for the Angels?"

Iratu blinked.  "...okay," he said quietly.  "Why?"

"I need to talk to everyone," Buwaro said.  "I need to make an offer."

Heathcliff sighed.  "I can't take an entire army with me, Buwaro," he said, "much less an army and an army's worth of refugees."

"I'm not asking you to," Buwaro replied.  "I'll ask only for a few supplies, at most.  I want to set up a place for anyone wanting to leave the Stupid War."

Heathcliff slowly nodded, already realizing – likely ahead of Buwaro – that he'd need more than "a few" supplies.  "Okay.  Where would you set this up?"

"No idea.  Know any places that'd work?"

The middle-aged man frowned.  "Maybe talk with the local mayor," he said.  "I'm sure he could get you in to see the Fragarian Council, if you were polite enough."

"Then I'll need some help with that," the young Fire Demon said, looking to Kieri pointedly.  She nodded in understanding as Iratu left with a wave, while Kinako left with Lakritz.

{So what's happening, exactly?} Kazai asked.

{It seems Buwaro wants to create a third group,} Kieri said, {one of Angels and Demons who don't want to fight in the Great War.}

{Admirable,} Zahariah said, {but I'm not sure if it'll work.  I'd like it to, but...}

{Wouldn't we all,} Sahne replied quietly.

For Buwaro, the rest of that day was spent reviewing and redoing his notes.  Kieri helped him sketch a better version of his drawing, and with his approval traced it so that they had several copies.

Heathcliff was feeling generous, and only made them pay for the crumpled papers.

@@@@

The next morning, Heathcliff woke the two lovebirds early, so that they could make it up to the statue in time.  Rhea elected to stay behind with Melli, Meeros, and the Sinclairs, while Jake took to the road with Buwaro and Kieri.  He intended to relay the message back to Rhea, and to keep an eye out for trouble.

Fritz and Sugar were both faster than he was, so in a worst-case scenario, he had a pair of notes he'd scrawled, saying that they were in trouble, to tuck in their collars.

Finally, the group made it to the statue.  Now, it was just a waiting game.

Buwaro quickly discovered that he hated waiting games.

Eventually, the Demons meant for the attack began to arrive.  All of the Angels showed up, as well – it seemed Kazai, Kinako, and Zahariah had spread the word about the young Duke and his meeting.  Buwaro grimaced as he saw Lazuli and a few other familiar faces show up – most of them Demons from yesterday.  And now that he thought about it, he recognized Azurai from Hell, too.

More odd was that an Earth Angel arrived with the Demons.  Was she the "insider" that Iratu had mentioned?  He grimaced at that.

Finally, counting at least thirty people, Buwaro decided to start.  "Thank you all for coming," he said finally, trying to speak as loudly as he could.  Hopefully he wouldn't choke too badly.  As he spoke, Kinako translated to Angelic.

"I have been, at best, frustrated by what most people think of as the 'Great War.'  I can't imagine a war being great," he began.  A few chuckles rippled through the crowd, even as he continued, "Especially one that, according to my brother Iratu, has reduced the number of living Demons to five digits.  Only tens of thousands at most.  My friend and girlfriend, Kieri, says that Angels aren't faring much better, either."  The chuckles died completely as they began to realize the seriousness of the situation.  "I wouldn't know in either case; I basically grew up isolated, away from any knowledge or understanding of what I've been calling the Stupid War.  But what I do understand is this: we can't continue like this.

"To that extent, I want to end the war, without more people dying in it.  I don't know if I can even do that, but I'm willing to try."  He took a deep breath.  "Iratu told me that there's some politics in this war, too.  That there are Demons who are in charge, who want this war to continue until their 'enemy' is gone, and who can't be easily overthrown.  And that there are Angels like that too, too busy trying to kill their 'enemies' to save their friends.

"So rather than deal with them, I want to, as Sno – Kieri, put it, undercut them entirely.  If there are so few Angels anymore, and so few Demons, then there shouldn't be that many Demons and Angels willing to die for some jerks in charge who don't care about the people they're sending off to die.

"So, this is my plan," he said, then took a deep breath, while Kieri, Zahariah, and Kazai began to hand out the drawings – drawings of a banner.  The picture was of a Demon's clawed hand, with an Angel's halo wrapped around its wrist, reaching towards a four-pointed star.  "I want to start a completely separate group.  One of Angels and Demons, working together to defend ourselves, our friends, our families.  My hope is to draw the support away from the Stupid War, enough to make it impossible to continue – and impossible to attack us for so-called 'betrayal' of these 'war hawks.'"

A murmur went up at that – to Buwaro's untrained ear, it seemed positive, so he took heart as he continued, smiling hopefully.  "This would be, in a way, a revolution.  A protest of the War, right in our own homes, and taking refuge somewhere we could be safe from the War as a whole.  Friends, family, anyone and everyone is welcome, if they can stomach not killing their so-called enemies.

"You will notice some pages being passed around," he added.  "These are a rough idea of the banner we would use – the clawed hand of a Demon, with the halo of an Angel, reaching to the stars.  The two of us, united in the desire for hope, for a future – not just for ourselves, but for our children, and their children, and theirs.  It was the best idea I had at the time," he chuckled, and a few more chuckles rippled through the crowd.

"I am serious, though," he added.  "I want this War to end, and I want it to end with as few people dying from it as possible.  I want to know who is with me in this endeavor.  I intend to do this, as the Shadow that Dances With Light, and I intend to protect you all should it come to that."  Silence slowly overtook the meeting as the weight of his vow as a Duke settled in.  Buwaro finally stated, "You don't have to decide right away.  But I would like to know where you stand sometime soon."

The crowd began to shift and part as Lazuli moved forward.  She glared at Buwaro, who tried to remain stoic.  "You really think this is going to change anything?" she asked angrily.  "Your damned girlfriend killed my friend, my ally.  Talus is gone because of her."

"And you attacked her right before that, right?" Buwaro replied cooly.  "I'm not saying you have no reason to grieve.  I am saying you have no reason to be angry with her.  War kills people.  That's why I'm against it."

The Water Demon hesitated, until Kieri came forward and stood before Lazuli.  She then sat down on her legs and bowed her head.  "If you intend me harm, do it now," she said quietly.

"Kieri?" Buwaro asked, having not expected this.

"I truly mean to apologize," Kieri said, her head not lifting.  "I did not come here of my own volition, and I certainly did not come here to hunt Demons.  I was originally terrified of you, and I lashed out unthinkingly because I feared my death."  She hesitated.  "Buwaro loves me, and I love him.  I don't know if you and Talus felt the same way, but regardless of your feelings for each other, I truly apologize."

Silence reigned as Lazuli's face turned stony.  "I've been hunting you for months," she growled lowly, "trying to avenge him...and you tell me now that you're sorry?  That you're willing to let me hurt you, just to show how sorry you are?"  Kieri only nodded.  Several tense seconds passed before Lazuli sighed, her guard dropping, her expression exasperated.  "You're sitting there, like you're begging for me to take out my anger on you.  Why?"

"For sincerity," Kieri replied.  "Though, it would likely not be the most painful thing I have endured anyway."

"Why's that?" Lazuli asked.

"I would rather not say publicly," she murmured, "but..."  A moment of silence reigned as she hesitated.

{In short,} Kazai said, having gotten the translation from Kinako, {her mother – our mother – is a monster worse than anything we'd even dreamed you capable of.  Considering Heaven's official stance on Demons, that should say a lot.}

Murmurs rippled through the crowd again as Lazuli's eyes widened.  {What?} she choked.  {What'd she do, beat the girl daily?}

{Nearly,} he snorted in reply.

That almost caused an uproar.  Outraged Demons began talking in loud, shocked voices, and Angels shouted in equal anger.  "P-please, calm down!" Buwaro shouted.  "The issue of Kieri's mother is neither here nor there.  I have my grudges, you have yours.  We all have our issues with each other.  But we need to put them aside, if this War is to end."

"I agree."  All eyes turned to Lazuli, who stared at her feet, her clawed hands balled into fists.  "I think you're right," she continued, her head raising again, showing tears in her eyes.  "She's right, much as I hate to admit it.  It's not her fault we're at war.  It's not mine either.  I wish Talus hadn't died, but I can't do anything about it now."  She swallowed, taking Kieri's hand and hauling her up.  "I don't think I can forgive you just yet.  But I'm willing to hold back my wrath, at least.  Especially if it means no one else dies."

Buwaro waited for the murmurs to die down.  "Thank you for your time," he said.  "If you have any questions, or want to help me set this up, please, come to the Sinclair wagon.  I'll be there for the time being."  He bowed deeply, as he'd seen Kieri do, and the huge crowd dispersed.  The boy held onto Kieri the entire way back to the wagon, clinging to her like a life raft.

Perhaps she was, with the winds of change blowing as hard as they were.  And he'd been the one to set them into motion.  He wasn't sure he was really ready for the responsibility, but he had to try.

For his sake, and for Kieri's.

@@@@

The day didn't see many visitors.  Buwaro began to get nervous, and when no one had shown up by nightfall, he was visibly stressed, pacing and drinking water to wet his dry mouth.  Kieri was able to calm him by saying, "They may be working on their questions.  It's alright, Buwaro – what will happen will happen."

He still didn't sleep well that night.

The next morning, about a half-hour after the sun rose, three Demons approached him – a goat-like Earth Demon, a bulky, lupine Fire Demon, and a lupine Wind Demon with bat wings.  The Earth Demon was the first to speak.  "We did some talkin'," he said, "and we might have some ideas, dependin' on how you wanna do this."

"Alright," Buwaro said, "just a moment."  He quickly got some paper and a pencil, and began scribing for them at a separate table.

One thing that would be important was a place to base their operations from.  With skilled Earth mages, they could form stone bricks to make into walls, and construct the walls with those bricks and stones.  Plenty of lumber would be needed for homes, as well.  "It might be best to make an outright town or city, and make it well-fortified," the Wind Demon shrugged.

"A good idea," Rhea nodded as Buwaro wrote it down.

"And we'll want a good neutral territory to stake out," the Wind Demon continued as the Fire Demon made some motions with her hands.  "Most Median governments wouldn't take too kindly to a sovereign power like this in their land."

"Fair, I guess," Buwaro muttered.  "Rhea, any ideas?"

"Heck, go back west to Farun and stuff," Rhea shrugged.  "There's plenty of unsettled land out that way.  Make a trade deal with Fragaria maybe?"

"Sounds good to me," Buwaro smiled.

At that moment, a small contingent of guards approached the wagon from down the street.  They looked to be well-armed and armored, and Buwaro grimaced at the sight.  "You might want to leave," he told the three Demons, standing up and walking out to meet them.  The three Demons took his advice, nervously glancing back at the guards and their hopeful leader.

A woman stood at the front, armed in breastplate with thick chainmail underneath.  It looked heavier than most armor of the same style, but it looked well-made as well.  "Are you the Shadow that Dances With Light?" she asked, her voice strong and clear as she came within easy speaking distance of Buwaro.

"Yes ma'am," Buwaro replied, his voice barely clear of tremors.  "And you?"

"I'm the one putting you under arrest," she replied.  "We are under orders to take you to Ghardin City for questioning."

Buwaro frowned, trying not to panic.  "Is there a reason for that?" he asked shakily.  "I don't recall committing any crimes, unless you count a couple fights I got in."

She blinked for a moment, surprised, and said calmly, "I'm just following orders, sir.  Please come with us."

"May I have some friends come with me?" he asked.  "Without putting them in chains?"

"...fine," the guard-woman said.  "Anyone who wishes may come with us," she called to the surprised wagon of friends.

Heathcliff sighed.  "So much for enjoying the festival," he said with a shake of his head.  "Kinako, Sahne, Lakritz," he added, "tell everyone that we're going to be gone for a while.  We'll be back as soon as possible – promise."

"Yes sir," Lakritz nodded seriously.

Within five minutes, the wagon was packed up, and the guards were escorting the Sinclair wagon down the road.  Kieri was concerned at the interruption – why would Buwaro be under arrest?  It didn't make sense.

Unless...did it have something to do with that dreadful assassin?  She hoped not.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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A Duke's Dilemma, A1C3
Last in pool
And so it begins...hopefully, to not end too soon.

After all, that arrest isn't going to help matters.

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Type: Writing - Document
Published: 3 years, 8 months ago
Rating: Mature

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