Only Fools Complain
Chapter Twenty-Two

Planning for the End

I woke up feeling the effects of the alcohol, but having two lovely ladies caring for me definitely helped me get into the mood to start my day. Where usually it was the other way around, I found it enjoyable to watch Aden move around naked while Mersidda was dressed. Finally feeling myself shake the effects of the alcohol, I let the ladies know my plans.

“There are things that I want to do, but I cannot say that any of it is exciting. I won’t refuse either of you coming with me, but it should be a boring day if you do.”

Aden asked, “What are your plans, Berair?”

“Well,” I pointed while saying, “I need to do something with your boxes. Whatever happens when the shell comes down, it will be time to leave. I am thinking of a wagon.”

“Of course, I should have thought of that.”

“I will probably also go out to the shell and fight an ooze or two just to check on things.”

Mersidda said, “I was out at the shell with you the other day, and you did not fight an ooze.”

I kissed the young lady while saying, “You can certainly come watch if you desire.” I had an odd thought, and went ahead and voiced it. “After that, I believe that I will simply return here and relax. It is my bet that the baron will show up.”

Aden said, “I don’t see why he… why, yes. Considering your plans for the wagon, he might come to me however. I thus will stay here and wait for your return.”

“Well, honestly, what I am planning to do should not take that much time. Hopefully, I can be back to meet him with you.”

My little wife asked, “What? What are you expecting?”

Aden replied, “My first husband enjoyed pranks. I thus found myself watching and being the victim of numerous mischievous acts. While our husband is much more honorable, and kind, it seems that he can work some tactics based off the thinking of others.” She came to kiss me before saying, “I believe that you are right. The baron will want to know some things.”

I added for the benefit of Mersidda, “And considering that we are planning to leave, the baron should be anxious that things are going to occur quickly.”

She asked, “Are they?”

“Let us see how things go today, but then I will probably spend time later today again in thought.”

Aden replied, “I agree, Berair.”

After breakfast, I left with Mersidda to first go down to the stables. As we went I asked my little wife if she could ride a horse. She said that she could, as the animals were used about her father’s property. It was an enjoyable conversation, and put me in the right mood to speak to someone in charge of the stables.

“You can have a wagon, Major,” the sergeant replied, “but not any horses. All are to be prepared to rush in a charge when the wall comes down.”

“A charge?” I asked letting some surprise show in my voice. “Who are you going to be charging?” When he did not reply, I added, “Shouldn’t your superiors be the ones to have forces present?”

He looked at me, then fell into his military discipline. “Such are my orders, Major.”

“Well,” I said trying to show some disappointment, “one should not complain about a morsel when the feast has been denied. I will choose a wagon. At least I can have my things ready.”

Showing his understanding of the adage, the sergeant replied, “The belly ends up not being empty all the same. Let me show you where the vehicles are stored.”

Mersidda mentioned never hearing the adage before. While I did speak, I mostly let the sergeant talk with my young wife. I figured that he would tell her things a lot easier than he would tell me, and what I heard helped support that belief. While I heard nothing of specific plans, I heard the sergeant quote enough adages and give enough advice that I felt able to make certain assumptions about what his private thoughts actually were.

With the wagon chosen, I then escorted Mersidda back to the wall of the city. This time I did not have her stand on the levee, but allowed her to walk out with me. I had her step right near the shell, then drew my sword as I stood behind her. I had her place her hands on the hilt, and with my own hands covering hers I asked her if she felt my body around her.

“Oh, yes, my lord.”

“So you feel safe?”

“Yes, my lord.”

I made certain that I was as close as possible, then I had our hands direct the point of my sword at the shell. I heard her gasp, then felt her body back against mine. Considering that I also viewed the same threatening scene of a horde of oozes rushing toward us, I understood her reaction. I then pulled the sword back, and moved her behind me and away as I gave some understanding.

“Now, let us see how many actually show up and how soon.”

She actually backed up a few more feet while saying, “They should be here.”

I was watching the shell as I replied, “Yes, they should. But they aren’t. Oh, here is one.”

The fight was tough, as I did not have a sturdy surface to use to help force my blade into their slimy, slippery skin. I ended up falling to the ground and using the stony soil to help me work my damage on the monster. The style of fighting I knew did not look the best, but it did assure my success in the fight.

I rose to dust myself off while asking my little wife, “How many oozes was that?”

“Only one, my lord.”

“Yes, which tells you that there really aren’t that many of them. I also get the impression that they are not being replaced.”

The voice of a lieutenant sounded as he approached, “Give us the word, Major, and there will be every available man to charge through with you.”

“I don’t know if that is wise,” I replied. “It might only open up in one place, but this is magic. Break the spell and the whole thing should collapse. You might need to have men in a number of places.”

“I will inform my superiors. How soon do you expect to act, Major?”

Sounded like my plan was working, so I started attempting to figure out the schemes of others. “Have there been men out here taking on the oozes, or am I having to do this myself?”

“There was a general order allowing experienced soldiers to challenge the oozes, but none that I know of have actually taken the initiative. Seeing you in action will hopefully inspire a few.”

“With their help, maybe in two days, Lieutenant.”

“Those sound like good words to me, Major. I will do what I can to encourage certain soldiers into action. Might have a local hero or two try their hands.”

I did what I could to give some advice to the minor officer that he could pass on to others. Again, since I had her go through the initial motions with me, I was able to have Mersidda join the conversation. Having a lady in a discussion of combat fascinated the lieutenant, and again I got a feel for some hidden instructions that would not have been related otherwise. When I finally took Mersidda to escort her back to the castle, I felt as if I had some understanding of my situation that I did not have at the start of the day.

My little wife had been quiet on our walk back, but once in the apartment she began to speak all about her experience holding a sword and having it contact the shell. I felt that I had said the very same words after my experience with the shell, but Aden and Tamesa listened to Mersidda as if hearing the words for the first time. I simply sat back and watched the ladies. The sight of them I found to be like beautiful flowers and the sound of them like glorious music, so I found myself highly entertained.

The scene was broken by a knock on the door. No sooner did Tamesa open it than the baron strode in. Since the ladies were standing and I was sitting, I was not immediately visible. I however stood up to hopefully prevent the baron from making a scene of wondering where I was.

“Berair, I apologize for my command calling for all my horses. I authorized four to be assigned to pull your wagon. Load your stuff and take your ladies when the shell comes down. Thank you much.”

I bowed to the man hoping to keep the conversation rational before saying, “Can’t do that, Baron.”

“What do you mean, ‘You can’t do that?’”

The way his body moved told me that he expected to simply say his words and leave. I took that to mean his words of inviting me to supper were really not something he wanted to happen. I however spoke to let the man know that he was going to have to learn to live with me.

“Mersidda is a daughter of one of your gentry. Aden is from a nearby kingdom. My home might be across the Mazuron, but I still have ties around here. I thus want to settle things here.”

“What? Listen, Berair, you are a newly married man. Take your wives and settle into your new life. Come back and visit later after things have calmed down.”

Having expected those words, I had a response prepared. “You did not hire a mercenary. You got a soldier. I did not come in to simply do a job, but to be part of a campaign. I will see this thing through.”

“You’re a fool, Berair. Take your wives and leave.”

“No. I will not gain the reputation of leaving in the middle of a situation. I am not a quitter, but will see this thing through.”

I actually was surprised to see the man pause. It told me that at some level he understood what I was saying. I thus waited while he paused to consider what he might say next actually wondering what words would come.

“This war is not yours, Berair. Stand down.”

“Sorry, Baron, but you made it my war when you gave me Aden. Whoever made this shell around us wants her. Considering that he made the shell, I really don’t want to face him alone. I thus will remain under your protection.”

“Berair…” I could tell that the monarch wanted to say something, and waited for him to find the words, “you don’t understand. He – the one that made the shell – is a mercenary. Take Aden, and he will have no reason to do anything.”

Now my mature wife joined the discussion. “What? Fa… Baron, are you saying that I am the prize? I know that is what my…”

The man interrupted the lady. “Listen, Aden, you are a rare lady. I really don’t know how Therlik got you. He did however, and his antics only made you more desirable by others. He then had to go and get himself killed, making you available.”

“But I was preparing myself to again be courted.”

“I don’t want to get into it, Aden!” I saw that the monarch was agitated as he turned back to me to declare, “It is best for all that you take your ladies and leave, Berair – SO DO THAT!” He displayed no shame for his outburst as he added, “If you are a soldier, act like one and follow orders.”

Sometimes it is a fine line between obeying superiors and doing the right thing.