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The Book of Algheri – Chapter 3 – Dirge

An hour into the fierce battle on Freedich, I had become deafened by all the magic flying around us. Commands were muffled, the clash of steel on steel was faint and I could hear the rapid pumping of blood coursing through my body. All around me lay both Haranyan Pirates and a mix of Immortal and Company members. Most were dead and those who had escaped Death’s icy grip, faces contorted in excruciating pain, appeared to be screaming in agony.

Amidst the battle and between engagements, I found my gaze wandering to Our fallen. I felt a pang of regret due to the thought that I had led them to their deaths. I quickly talked myself into dealing with those thoughts over a mug of Whatnot when we were safe and sound at the Iron and Wine Cantina in White Arden. [i]This battle wasn’t supposed to turn out this way[/i].

That’s the thing about warfare; it’s unpredictable. One could take days to prepare for an engagement and, in my experience, along comes Murphy to fuck things up. This was supposed to be a simple Merchant Escort and we had not expected such a large Haranyan opposition. The Company held the field for a large majority of the day, but between skirmishes our strength had begun to waver. The pirates managed to call in reinforcements and every ten to fifteen minutes a new wave of opponents would rush out of the jungle towards The Company’s position in the clearing located at the center of the isle.

Due to the fierce pirate advances, our healers could not perform their jobs, which consequently led to many deaths. The coppery smell of blood and the pungent smell of burnt flesh permeated the air and mixed with the salty sting of the tropical breeze to create a new odor that stung the nostrils and brought tears to the eyes. If there was a Hell, this was it.

A Firran warrior rushed at me, the look of unbridled rage in her eyes, and repeatedly swung her blade with such fervor and strength that I found myself slowly losing the advantage. Each blow upon my shield, each parry by my sword, each attack from that bitch of a Firran whittled down my defenses and forced me to drop to a knee while still attempting to shield myself from her advances. [i]This is it.[/i] I thought, [i]this is my time to join the dirt[/i]. I hadn’t given up, by any means, but her continual attacks had quickly become too much for me to handle. She roared ferociously and jumped into the air, sword held high, ready to bring it down upon me with the intent to dispatch me in a single fell swoop. 

Combat is a strange thing. At times, battles slow down to a crawl, particularly when you believe you’re about to die. I raised my shield as she bared down on me in slow motion. Suddenly, in the middle of her forehead, a crimson bloom appeared with two more bursting through her chest. I rolled out of the way, over a screaming body, and stood up just as the Firran slammed into the ground, lifeless. I turned my gaze towards the direction of the bow that killed her and saw Tempa launching another arrow into the face of a Harani at point blank range.

My strength was renewed, mostly due to the extreme amount of adrenaline coursing it’s way through my veins, and I bull-rushed towards the closest enemy. I heard the crunching of bone as my shield crushed the skull of a Harani. I blocked a blow with my shield, deflected another with my sword, and toppled a Firran onto his ass with a slam from my shield. Two more Harani rushed at me and I swung my sword in a wide arc, cleaving then in two. Blood splashed onto my face, obscuring my vision and as I went to wipe it away I felt a sharp, excruciating pain in my lower back, which radiated to just below my stomach.

In shock and disbelief I looked downwards at the foreign object what found it’s way into my flesh, and I saw a small metal point protruding to the right of, and below my navel. I felt a strong, clawed, Firran hand grasp my left shoulder and watched as the small metal point elongated into a thin, slightly curved blade; a Katana. I wanted to yell. I wanted to scream in pain. Yet, all I could muster was a weak and guttural [i]ugh[/i] as the Firran let out a growl of satisfaction directly into my right ear. I could [i]hear[/i] his fanged smile of victory. The blade was ripped out of me the same way it was thrust into me and I fell to my knees, grasping at the gaping wound, unconsciously attempting to put the oozing blood back where it belonged.

I knew I was in shock and I knew that I was dying. My extensive anatomical knowledge clued me in to the fact that the Katana had pierced not only my kidney but also severed my lower intestine. I felt the burning sting of acid leaking into my insides. I frantically prayed for Waam’s healing spells but none found me. I tried to call out to the Lieutenant, but my mouth refused to form anything coherent and I screamed nonsense instead. I looked for First Sergeant, in a panic, but could not find her. My vision had gone dark and I began to wonder if it was due to the sun setting or if Death was reaching it’s bony hand for me. 

I slumped forward and twisted my body so that I would land on my back. I wanted to at least watch that Firran bastard lay the final blow. What I saw instead was Laotzu, my bodyguard and The Company’s Standard-Bearer, straddling the Firran on the ground and beating the life out of the furry little shit with his bare hands. Laotzu’s quiver was empty and his bow was not on his person. I looked away and towards the sky, contorting my face in agony and taking my last few heaving breaths. I closed my eyes. My hearing faded completely. [i]I’m not dodging death twice today, it seems[/i]. My final thought. 

Yet, I was wrong. A smack across my face brought me back to the land of the living, or at least made me conscious enough to open my eyes. Laotzu was huddling over me, yelling something that I could not make out. He looked up, past my head, and shouted something else while pointing away, towards the direction of my feet. I felt the vibration of hooves on the ground and saw several Company members, First Sergeant and Lieutenant included, race past us. Laotzu looked down at me, and I couldn’t tell if there were tears in his eyes, or if sweat had found it’s way into them. [i]It can’t be tears. That man is tough as nails.[/i] He grasped my shoulder tightly and I felt him try to sit me up.

I felt the gusty [i]whoosh[/i] of a spell and within the blink of an eye, Laotzu was ripped away from me. I followed his body with my eyes, slowly turning my head and watched him fly like a rag doll through the air until he made impact with a palm tree. I rolled over onto my stomach in the most gut wrenching pain I have ever endured and began to claw my way over bodies, blood and mud towards my ever vigilant Standard-Bearer. I knew I couldn’t save myself and I knew I would not reach Laotzu before the inevitable, but I was overcome with an impulse to die next to my Brother. 

I had clawed my way through the debris of battle for about five feet before I was violently halted. At first, I thought I had snagged a piece of my armor on something, until I was jerked rearwards. I tried kicking in an attempt to fight off my attackers, but the pain had become too much for me to bear. My body had given up, but my mind had not. Now [i]that[/i] is a strange feeling; not being able to control your own body, despite your brain commanding your muscles to move.

I was rolled over onto my back and found myself staring up at the toothy grins of three Firrans: two in plate armor and one in leather. One Plate turned to the Leather and said something in a dialect I was not familiar with. I strained my ears into regaining at least enough hearing to try and catch an inflection in their voices which might help me key in to what they were saying. It appeared that they were arguing. Plate shoved Leather, Leather roared and tackled Plate and a fight ensued. Plate number two looked at them, shook his head and looked down at me. I had lost all of my faculties and was paralyzed looking upwards as I could feel myself being bound with rope. Utterly helpless, I frantically moved my eyes all around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Death’s Head hiding in the jungle, waiting for it’s time to strike. That time did not come.

At this point, a Harani wearing cloth appeared in my peripheral and had begun chanting the incantations to a spell of some sort. My pain had slightly subsided and I felt a tinge of feeling reenter my limbs. I used this small surge of strength to feebly try to break through my bonds, to no avail. The Harani chanted yet another incantation and I was overcome with the desire to sleep. I tried to fight it as best I could, but my willpower was just too weak. Sleep sought me, despite my efforts to evade it. Sleep found me. 



I had no idea how long I had been the Pirate’s prisoner, no idea where I was and no idea what their intent was. I awoke from sleep several times to different scenes: Firran, Harani, Nui and Elf engaged in fierce discussion, a caster of some sort keeping me under a sleep spell, a healer mending my wounds, being kicked and beaten by Firran, another Firran attempting calmly to communicate with me. Try as I might, I could not piece together any link between those memories that could clue me in to where I was or how long I was there. 

I had nightmares. Hellish dreams of creatures from the Abyss, the undead and all manner of gruesome fiends ripping me apart over and over again. One of those nightmares caused me to awaken, screaming and drenched in sweat as I violently sat upright. When I had realized it was just a dream I looked around at the inside of my cell.

I noticed that it wasn’t a cell at all. I was in a hut made of wood with a dirt floor and a thatched roof of palm fronds. Rays of sunlight tore through holes in the thatched roof, illuminating dust particles and a slight breeze found it’s way through the small cracks in the walls causing the dust to dance ever so gracefully. For a moment, I was mesmerized by this sight and made calm. My sweet bliss was interrupted by what sounded like a lock being opened and my door slowly opened, letting more light than my eyes could handle into the hut. When my eyes adjusted I found that the door was left ajar, inviting me to investigate the outside world. 

I stood up and began to walk towards the exit but I tripped over something and fell flat on my face. I spit dirt out of my mouth as I stood up to confront the foul contraption that tripped me and realized that it was my armor and weapons. I thought this incredibly strange; was I a captive, or not?

Donning my armor, slinging my shield on my back and limping outside while sheathing my sword, I found myself on a beach. I saw a small gathering of people near a rowboat on the shore and began to approach the gaggle in the hopes that I could find out where I was and why. As I limped slowly towards them, I heard footsteps behind me. Placing my hand on the hilt of my sword, I slowly and weakly turned around to see that I was being followed by an old looking Firran. He stopped in his tracks, and with a face of stone nodded towards the gathering of people, signaling me to continue my advance. I did. 

The closer to shore I got, the more I was able to identify that the group of people were Nuian sailors. They ceased talking as I drew near and all stared at me. There was not a hint of ire among them, or so I assumed, judging by their body language. They weren’t even armed. One of the sailors, clad in a military waistcoat that I figured was stolen, approached me. He had a black piece of fabric draped over his left arm and as he came closer to me, he tossed it at my feet. I immediately knew what it was and picked up my cloak off the ground. I shook it out, removing the sand from it as best I could and draped it over my shoulders. The cloak slid off my shoulders and fell into a wad of fabric behind me. 

Staring at the man, I raised an eyebrow and feebly spoke. “You’re forgetting something.”

He smiled, reached into his belt pouch and flipped a coin-like object in my direction. I snatched it out of the air and beheld the image of The Death’s Head belonging to The Captain of The Black Company in my palm. I marveled at it’s craftsmanship and was immediately relieved that it had found it’s way back to me. That small piece of pewter had become a part of me, and I didn’t realize that I had felt empty without it until it had been returned to me. 

The old Firran that had escorted me to the sailors pushed past me and a leather pouch of coin was slapped into his paw by the sailors’ captain. They exchanged whispers and I was able to catch the name of Dewstone. The captain motioned for his men to load up onto the rowboat and turned to me.

“We ain’t got all day, pisspot. Get in.”

Seeing no other option, I clambered aboard the rowboat and we shoved off in the direction of a nearby Cutter. Upon boarding the Cutter, I noticed a familiar insignia which identified the company I was in. The East Haranya Trade Company. The Black Company had gotten into a few scrapes with them a few times before, I remembered. The captain motioned me to the helm as his sailors prepared the ship’s sails to catch the wind.

Not a word was said between him and I for a great while. We left the beach shortly after dawn and it was near dusk before the captain said anything to me. I was sitting on a barrel near the railing, looking down at the water and longing to be reunited with my Family.

“Do you know why you’re here, pisspot?”

I remained silent.

“Do you know where we’re going?”


“Do you know who we are?”

More silence.

“Algheri, it is quite rude to ignore someone.”

Now [i]that[/i] piqued my interest. He knew my name. If he knew my name, he knew what I was.

“Dewstone.” I muttered.

The captain moseyed over to me and plopped down on a barrel next to me. “Say again?”

“Dewstone. You’re going to Dewstone.”

The man nodded. “Aye. Do you know where [i]you’re[/i] going after that?”

I met his gaze. “Home.”

“Home,” He chuckled “indeed.”

I cocked my head to the side, slightly. 

“I don’t know anything about the beef between you and the Haranyans. They don’t normally take captives, you know. But, for some reason they thought you would be more valuable alive than dead. Do the math. And pray to your gods that you didn’t say anything that could betray your friends.” 

My gaze returned to the ocean. It was getting dark now, and a sailor had begun to go around lighting the various lanterns. Bells were sounded, indicating a changing of the guard and a sailor began to climb down from the crow’s nest while another began to climb up. It was relatively quiet and I found the snapping of the canvas sails to be rather soothing. Or maybe I was just tired. 

Another couple hours had passed before the captain spoke to me again.

“You must be tired, pisspot. Go to the hold, secure a hammock and get some sleep. We’ll arrive in Dewstone in the morning.”

Grunting, I slowly stood up and winced as I began to limp my way to the hold. My wound, though healed, still hurt. The pain wasn’t serious. It was more annoying than anything and I feared it would be with me for a very long time, if not the rest of my life. Eventually, I found my way to a hammock and laid down.

Thoughts of what had transpired after my capture occupied my thoughts until I fell into a deep sleep populated with yet more horrendous nightmares, this time of the men I had led to their death. I repeatedly saw Laotzu’s body smash into a tree with a bone crunching [i]thud[/i]. I saw Tempa’s lifeless eyes staring into my soul, pleading with me to tell him why I killed him. I saw the faces of young men locked in agony. Young men. They were boys in age but men in The Company. Men who died in service to The Company. What I’m trying to convey here, is that I slept like shit. 

The morning could not have come any faster. When I had tired of tossing and turning, grunting and sweating, I made my way up top. I was greeted by the cool spray of salt water and the sight of Dewstone off in the distance. I approached the nearest railing and, leaning over it, blessed the ocean with my stomach acid. I could not remember the last time I had eaten anything, and that explained why I felt so weak. As if he heard my thoughts, the captain called out and tossed a bit of hard tack towards me. 

Hard tack is an absolutely foul bit of sustenance that can barely pass for bread. But to me, at that moment, it was a whole chicken and I scarfed it down like it was. The hard tack not only renewed my energy but immediately dried my mouth out. Looking to my right, I saw a sailor sitting on a crate drinking something out of a mug. I shambled over to him, grabbed his mug and downed the foul tasting rum in a single gulp. The ocean was blessed once more.

Two more hours passed and it was roughly ten in the morning by the time the Cutter dropped anchor off-shore in the waters of Dewstone. The captain and The Captain made our way in the rowboat to the beach and on the approach I was filled with elation at what my eyes beheld. First Sergeant, The Lieutenant and The Standard-Bearer atop their horses in front of a formation of Veterans awaiting my arrival. The rowboat collided with the wet sand and I immediately rolled out of the rowboat, struggling to gain my footing while trying to not look like a fool in front of The Company. The captain placed his hand on my shoulder and I turned to face him.

“Welcome back, friend.” He said with a wink while removing his tri-corn hat. 

Gods! It was Godrica, of the Immortals! 

“You son of a bitch.” I said with a smile, offering my hand for a firm handshake. Godrica gripped tightly, shook and then stood next to the rowboat.

I slowly, and with much difficulty, limped through the sand towards my men. First Sergeant, the Lieutenant and the Standard-Bearer dismounted and met me half way, smiles on their faces. That’s when I noticed it.

Things had changed in my absence. Bastet, my former First Sergeant, was wearing the stripes belonging to The Captain. Laotzu was displaying the stripes of First Sergeant. The Lieutenant, well, he was the same old, crusty bastard he had always been. 

My military bearing kicked into gear and I offered a crisp salute to The Captain, which was instead returned with a hearty handshake. The Lieutenant shook my hand as well, and then I turned to First Sergeant Laotzu. Words didn’t need to be exchanged. He was glad to see me alive and I was glad to see the same of him. I offered my hand to him and was instead embraced in a bear of a hug. The formation behind them let out a ground shaking ‘YAR!’ followed by various hoots and hollers. 

“I suppose you’re going to want this back then, Cap'” I said, removing the Captain’s Death’s Head that I had been wearing.

The Captain reached into the wrist of her gauntlet and produced a Soulcatcher’s Badge. “Here Patches, I’ll trade you.”

Observing the badge, I saw that it was the Annalist’s Death’s Head. I graciously accepted the pseudo-promotion and the four of us made way to our respective mounts. 

The journey from Dewstone to White Arden was a long one, but it gave me plenty of time to find out what was what within The Company. I had been missing for approximately three months before former Recruit, now Brother, Santa acquired intelligence from one of his many Haranyan contacts as to my whereabouts. It took another month to get a definite bead on my location and The Immortals volunteered to transport me to Dewstone, under the guise of The East Haranya Trading Company, soon after. 

Along with the promotions, The Black Company’s structure had changed as well. The rank of Brother was no longer in use, nor was the rank of Veteran. They had been changed to Soldier and Veteran Soldier. Conscripts had also been changed to Prospects, due to the fact that The Black Company no longer conscripted people into service. The Company itself had established a foothold in Nuia and had garnered quite a reputation among Nuia and Haranya alike. 

The Company arrived at our Headquarters in White Arden near late afternoon and after The Captain handed command of the soldiers to First Sergeant, she showed me to the upstairs terrace, where my desk and writing materials awaited. I sat in the wooden chair, marveled at the craftsmanship of the oak desk and fingered the leather binding of the books placed upon it. I was interrupted by a dull [i]whump[/i] of a stack of papers that The Captain had dropped onto my desk. 

“Got some work to do, Patches.” She said, pointing to a large bookshelf full of even more unbound papers. “Company Roster and the Log of Brothers needs updating. Also, check on everyone’s awards and get a list to me of who has what and who needs what. Oh, and you should probably get something written up detailing the contract before you were taken captive. A lot of our history is floating around, just waiting to be put on paper. You’re going to be a busy man.”

I smiled. “I can’t wait, Cap’. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I first joined The Black Company.”

























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