1. Red Sky At Morning

 

I’m supposed to write about the fall of the Chain. About the rout. But all I see when I close my eyes is my friend dying. Probably have nightmares about it the rest of my life. I guess that’s the good news. Life is short in the Chain.

Red was the Commander to me long before he ever earned the rank. We were going to go to Rask, see the place he called home someday. The place he left behind. We both knew it was bullshit but…

I watched Red, I was right there next to him, when Commander Trip died at Morning. After Xorn gutted him. Red picked up the Commander’s sword and that was it. He had the standard in one hand and the dead Commander’s sword in the other and now he was the Commander and everyone knew it. Red was a natural.

Red was the one sponsored me into the Chain. He asked a lot of questions, questions I didn’t want to answer. I thought the Chain was about leaving your past behind, I said so. He sort of... he laid it out. No past meant no loose ends. “We got enough to worry about,” he said, “without assuming your debts.” I got it.

So I told him everything and when I was done talking, I was in the Chain. I’ve learned a lot since then, seen folks join up and you learn sooner or later, you gotta tell someone, at least one person, everything. Red was that person to me.

You want to give some kind of meaning to events. That’s my job, I’m the Chronicler. I write it here, and then it’s true. But I don’t know what the meaning of this was. We were set up. There was some kind of rivalry between the elf vampire and Ajax and we got caught in the middle. It was almost the end for us.

I asked Red. What’s this about? Since when are we in the fight against Ajax? He said, I mean he was right, he said the fight was gonna happen sooner or later. It wasn’t a question of “if,” only “when, and which side?”

He was Vaslorian, watched everything go down from the front row. “You don’t know what it’s like,” he said, “to see an entire way of life destroyed.” He’s right. Higara is still free. I think.

Lotta the regulars, they don’t care one way or the other. Especially the ones we picked up back in Alloy. I know how I feel, but I thought I should let Red know, not everyone in the Chain thinks like us.

He said, “Yeah but I want to sleep at night.” “Me too,” I said. That was six hours ago.

We didn’t know the mission was happening this morning. Probably smart, to keep us in the dark. Most missions are secret. But I guess I thought I thought there’d be more time. Me and Cook and Angel figured we had a week at least. We were talking about what there was to do in Blackbottom. Turns out the only thing to do was watch it burn.

Anyway, I have an entry to write.

The job was assassination. Our employer... I guess I saw one of them this morning. Elf named Sariel. I didn’t know anything about her but she looked tough. It looked like she might have been able to stop Ajax, but he surprised her with that hand.

Sorry, getting ahead of myself.

The officers were supposed to assassinate Ajax’s wizard. Mortum. Chief Wizard Asshole for the Lord High Asshole. Maybe it could have worked. She gave the Commander five red arrows. “One should do it.” he said. It might have worked.

But the whole thing was a setup. We know that now. I think Nails was the first one to say it. Mortum wasn’t even at the church. It was Mandrake, Ajax’s chief knight. They were waiting for us.

We weren’t the target though. Ajax was trying to flush out Sariel and it worked. When our plan went south, she showed up to finish it. I don’t know if she ever had a chance, maybe she didn’t either. Probably figured it was never gonna get any better than this. Might as well take the shot.

Of course, Ajax didn’t get where he is by stumbling around in the dark. He was ready for her. She had a sword, or two swords? Accounts differ. But they were artifact swords. She made her play and Ajax broke the sword. Someone said he had the Hand of Kukai. Had to look that one up. The Chronicle is a useful book.

Meanwhile Ajax’s pet demon, a thing called Relg, showed up and just

He ate the Commander. I mean we could see it coming. Tough watching the officer corps all trying to do something, desperate, even when they knew it was futile but, I guess, the good news is only Red among all the officers died. And we saved four of the red arrows. Should come in handy. If they work at all.

Relg seemed to surprise Judge. Ajax summoning demons. Need to talk to Judge, see what he knows about this. He’s our expert after all.

I think once Relg grabbed the Commander, we all knew that was it. But we were all waiting to see what Sweet would do. Do we stay and fight and die, for the Commander, even with no hope? Not a bad way to go, I don’t think most would have minded. And Sweet has a reputation for going back to get our dead and wounded. I thought maybe maybe he’d refuse to retreat.

But he’s an officer through and through. I think he called the tune before Red was dead. I knew it was a rout and my job was to try and wrangle as many regulars as possible. Stop the entire Chain from disintegrating.

Then it was just “get to the docks.” I got to watch Commander Sweet just punch a city gate and the thing exploded. Then the streets choked off, demons everywhere, and Copper waved the standard and jumped into a sewer. When it comes to getting out of tight spaces, trust your goblin.

In the end, I think we got about 60 to the docks. Stole a ship. Well, I think we stole it, things aren’t clear yet. Maybe we bought it, I dunno. Boots did a lot of fast talking and Judge is hard to say no to.

Guess we’re going to Capital. Maybe some others survived. We’ll see. Lot of ocean between us and there. And Ajax is pissed.

Reading this back... I’ve been in the Chain too long. I was raised a noble. I don’t think I could even do the calligraphy now if I had to. Reading what I wrote, I sound like any other soldier now.

I guess this is home.

The Commander's Fall