As was the custom for such things Colonel Drendler was somewhat anxious about having to deliver bad news to the Grand Marshal. Lord Verrat was already aware that something had happened due to the magical nature of his tactical wall map, but Colonel Drendler had the unfortunate duty of filling in some of the details. And these details were not promising from the point of view of the Lotharingians.
After entering the hall Colonel Drendler clicked his heels smartly and stood at attention. This was standard procedure for anyone who sought to deliver a report to the Grand Marshal. Lord Verrat was going through some documents on a large table in the center of the room and glanced up enough to see who had entered. “Colonel Drendler, deliver your report.” he said brusquely.
There was a half second of hesitation before the colonel replied in as calm a voice as he could manage. “Our garrison at Fort Bedrohung has been attacked. A returning patrol discovered that a majority of the soldiers were killed, including the commander and a general on an inspection tour. A number of fires had been started and all wooden structures have been destroyed. The main keep has been gutted, but can be restored with a minimum of effort.”
Lord Verrat straightened up, and turned his attention fully to the colonel. He seemed to be lost in thought for a minute before asking, “How many were killed?”
The colonel cleared his throat and said, “358 confirmed dead, most by archer’s arrows. Many of them had been burned in the fires, but we counted the skulls and our necromancers have managed to make a number of positive identifications.”
Lord Verrat waved his hand dismissively. “Tell the necromancers to stop that nonsense at once and return to the duties assigned them by the Green King. We’ve no time to waste on this. Have the senior officers all been accounted for?”
“Yes, my lord.” replied the colonel.
“What of the visiting general? He is confirmed as a casualty?” Lord Verrat asked somewhat impatiently.
The colonel took a deep breath and answered, “Yes, my lord. His body wasn’t badly burned. We haven’t yet confirmed his identity by magical means, though.”
The Grand Marshal turned and scoffed. “A waste of time, I’ve already told you. He is dead and that’s well enough for us. Have the necromancers animate the bodies and add them to the legions to march in our campaign.”
“As you command, sir.” the colonel replied, doing his best to hide his disgust at the mere thought of these once proud soldiers being turned into mindless undead minions. “Shall we continue to search for clues as to who is behind this?”
Lord Verrat went around the table and resumed rummaging through the documents. “I already know who did it. This is an inter-lodge rivalry. I have given orders to have the Shadow Doom thoroughly investigated. They are the only ones capable of carrying out this massacre on such a scale.”
The colonel was perplexed and before he thought about the wisdom of the inquiry he heard the words spilling out of his mouth. “Why are you so sure it wasn’t those Maelonbourgers?”
Lord Verrat paused and looked at the colonel. With a chuckle he said, “The Green King watches them closely. They haven’t the manpower or the skill to carry out something like this. Their archduke is a man of action who kills with his own hands, he doesn’t farm out such assignments. His general is a paladin and wouldn’t condone a cowardly commando attack. Plus they were all in Slothjemia when this happened visiting the archduchess’ family. They haven’t anything to do with it. We must take into account serious threats, Colonel Drendler. Let’s not waste time pondering the exploits of buffoons. Get the necromancers back on track. Dismissed.”
The colonel clicked his heels again, and smartly turned and left the room. He couldn’t help but feel as though Lord Verrat was making a mistake. But that was the folly of power. If a man thought he knew the answers he was unlikely to seek the truth. Colonel Drendler felt the truth was more dangerous than the Grand Marshal wanted to admit.