The next morning after a night of smoothing things over I woke up to Almina’s, and Amber’s smiling faces. After making me swear that from now on I involve them in my decision-making when it came to potential partners they got over being mad at me. Getting up to eat breakfast, and then leaving the inn for the last time we made our way to the blacksmith shop. Parked out front was my baby…the Excalibur Mark 3. The Mark 1 had been a small motorbike I tried to build, but failed. The Mark 2 was the now retired motorbike I had melted down for parts. Running my hands along the exhaust pipes that appeared out of the engine bay I was excited to drive it. This car had a V20 engine, and thanks to no emission laws in this world I vented exhausted almost instantly as it left the engine through the pipes.
Inside the vehicle was furnished with wool carpet, Gran Bull leather hide, and dragon hide covering the dashboard. I had chosen Gran Bull leather for the seat due to its ease of cleaning, and the fact it wouldn’t crack in hot temperatures. Thanking the dwarves again for their help we set out immediately. Starting the engine the surrounding area was filled with the bellow of the V20 engine. People from all over were looking at us in shock as I put the hammer down in the car. Speeding off instantly we cleared the city gates moments later.
“Why are we in such a hurry!”, Almina said watching the scenery pass us by like a blur.
“Atlas has a policy that when high-ranking military officials fail their jobs their families pay the price.”, I said.
“I thought he didn’t have any family.”, Amber said.
“When I saw him last he mentioned finding someone special in the capital. If in fact they did become a couple her life is in danger. I am not about to let the women he loved die because of the Heroes screw up!”, I said.
“Aren’t you afraid you will pop a tire like before?”, Amber asked.
“No, this time we made the wheels out of Dragon Muscle Tissue. This stuff will last us at least two hundred thousand miles before needing replaced.”, I said.
Smiling I rolled the windows down using magic to let fresh air in. Enjoying the very smooth ride I explained the car to them. This car, or should I say cargo van was something I dreamt up after watching a tv show as a kid. Seating sixteen people comfortably we could all stretch out comfortably. Making the van wide enough to seat four people wide, and four people back I made sure no space was wasted. As we had a magic bag to store our unneeded gear in we had no need for storage in here. The eight wheel drive system meant I would have nearly unlimited traction which was necessary with an engine like the one I made in use.
Traveling at just under the speed of sound we would reach Atlas’s capital city in a few hours. To pass the time both women took naps since the new suspension made it feel like we were floating on air. Passing the border guards before they could react I smirked at their faces. Both guards looked ghost white seeing us fly by. Reaching the outskirts of the capital by late afternoon we put cloaks on as to hide our identities. Working our way into a large crowd I found that my worries had been well founded. On the stage for everyone to see was a middle-aged woman, and a young boy. Boos from the crowd rang out loudly as they threw stones at them.
“This woman was the late General Verwest’s wife. For his failure to complete his task, and duty we the jury have decided to execute both of them.”, he said reading his scroll.
“They are to be stoned to till they draw no breath. Any further than that shall be seen as desecration of a dead body. This rule has been given by the Temple of the Light Goddess.”, he read.
The humans in this world worshipped six Goddess which were Light, Dark, Fire, Water, Earth, and Wind. Even though it was proven there were more deities at work than that humans refused to acknowledge them. As the demi-humans worshipped all the Gods, and Goddesses it was natural that humans would despise them. Now this wasn’t the case for all humans, but the number that got along with demi-humans was small. The only reason most accepted them now was because humanity couldn’t win this war without them.
Looking back at Amber, and Almina they knew to stick close to me during this next bit. The thing about being a Hero was that in addition to being given a skill we could also call upon the powers of the deities that blessed us. In my case it was the God of War, and the Goddess of Annihilation. The other Heroes were blessed by two of the Goddesses that the humans here worshipped. For some unknown reason I was an irregular which I was fine with. In my time traveling the continent I had found out just how twisted these religious people could become.
“…If any here believe these two be spared speak up, or forever-“, he started to say.
“I object!”, I said climbing the stairs onto the stage, “These people nor General Verwest are at fault. The one’s responsible for this famine, and the soldiers Atlas lost are sitting their in their comfy booths!”
Pointing at the Heroes the crowd started shouting at me.
“Who was it that was entrusted to wipe out the plague in Flamoria? Who was it that failed their task, and then turned a blind eye on Flamoria when they called for aid?”, I shouted, “It wasn’t General Verwest! It was those lazy, good for nothing Heroes that can’t seem to do anything without sacrificing the lives of normal soldiers! Those are your children, husband, and wives that die so they can look the part!”
The crowd quieted down thinking about it. They couldn’t argue the common knowledge facts I rattled off. Even beggars knew whose fault the loss of Flamoria was. No amount of religious mumbo jumbo was going to cover that up. Stepping down from their booths two of the Heroes approached me. One of them took a swing at me, but I causally brushed the blow aside. Launching my own punch I sent him flying off the stage, and into the booths. Seeing his comrade unconscious the other man rushed forward. Before they draw their weapons I slammed my shoulder into him. Knocking him off-balance I threw him off the stage onto his comrade.
“What say you Heroes? Let us hear why these people’s families have to suffer because of your inability to do your jobs! You have been here four years yet not a single one of you can claim to have killed a Decay by yourselves.”, I said.
Shouts from the crowd rang out once again demanding answers. The Heroes looked irritated by the sudden aggression against them.
“Only one of the Heroes has fought the Decay!”, Amber said, “Only one Hero has fought on the frontlines for the free people of this world. He fought the Decay in Flamoria, and saved many civilians. This country turned their backs to him, and enslaved those people without a second thought! Can you trust them enough to believe that it is General Verwest’s fault for the recent loss?”
“You mean the Rogue Hero?”, the man with the scroll laughed, “He left this country soon after being summoned. Sure he has fought the Decay himself, but he won’t bow his head to any of the six Goddesses. The man is no better-”
“I am no better than what!”, I said removing my hood.
His smug expression vanished as he stumbled backwards. Looking at him with my golden eyes he must have felt like a moron. Sweeping my wavy brown hair to the right I looked at the crowd.
“My friend General Verwest died because of these failures! Just like the soldiers that died with him he left behind a widow, and his son. If these two are to be punished for his failure those Heroes must also die for their failure as well per the law, right?”, I said looking at the nearby jury.
They were now stuck because should they say that the Heroes were exempt from the law people would stop supporting them. These people all know what losing a loved one in war was like, and they felt for the widow. Should the jury side with me they risked angering the royal family. Their only safe option was to drop charges against the widow, and child which thankfully they did. Sending them to Almina, and Amber I continued my speech.
“I have stuck to the shadows for the last four years fighting the enemy head on.”, I said, “All that time I have honed my skills for the time when the promise I made with General Verwest would need to be upheld. As a man of my word I hereby announce that I will official fight the Decay on behalf of the people of Atlas. I will not swear my loyalty to the King which turned a blind eye to his ally, and now hunts the remaining Flamoria royal family. I swear on the pledge I made to Verwest that I will fight for the people!”
Cheers broke out throughout the crowd as the people celebrated. Though I was considered a Rogue Hero by the government to the people I was their beacon of hope. This was all well and good, but it meant my life of taking it easy would have to be put on hold. As the word spread across town like wildfire it wasn’t long before the royal family heard of my arrival. Rushing to the area they made their appearance.
“I am glad you came to your senses, and joined-“, the King said trying to gain my favor.
Putting the cutlass a mere millimeter from his nose he stopped.
“The reason those men were sent there was because they wanted to help Flamoria originally. You sent them to die like dogs because they were an inconvenience to your reign!”, I said, “Almina toss the papers out.”
Throwing vital information out into the crowd the people began reading. By the end of the paper they were all fuming with anger. Shouts of violence filled the streets as the public learned the truth of why General Verwest had perished.
“Did you think that he wouldn’t share that information with me?”, I said narrowing my eyes, “Both of us trusted each other like brothers, and that is something you have never reached with your subordinates.”
Backing up he was now much more cautious. As it stood with me being here the people could get rid of him in a mere instant. He knew the other Heroes wouldn’t last in fight against me so he chose a different strategy.
“I presume that you will recapture vital land we need for crops?”, he asked, “The people are starving after all.”
“That’s because their fat ass King eats the food that their children need!”, I snapped, “I do however intend to retake part of Flamoria. In exchange for my services the former Flamoria citizens are to be freed from slavery upon completion!”
“You can’t demand payment!”, he snapped.
“I don’t work for Atlas, and I don’t work for the temples either.”, I said, “If you decided that you can’t do that I can always execute you here. I will accept your head as payment if freeing the people of Flamoria is too much for you…”
He gulped before saying he would free the people.
“All of you have heard your gracious King pledge himself to freeing the enslaved Flamorians.”, I shouted, “In accordance with Atlas law should he break his pledge as King he shall be executed!”
I reminded everyone of that law as insurance. To prevent a cowardly king from ruling this nation the first King made a law that should a ruler of this nation back out of a pledge to his people he would die by beheading. This was to prevent the King from becoming to power-hungry like this current one almost is. He had somehow managed to escape it when double crossing Flamoria, but now he was stuck. Waving to the people I left them with one parting statement.
“In six months time I will retake a third of Flamoria. I will leave the rest to those responsible for this disaster in the first place. With just a third of Flamoria under our control we can avoid starvation next winter!”, I shouted.
Again the people started cheering with excitement. As the crowd spread the news rapidly I turned to the Heroes.
“The ball is in your park now. Should you fail to reclaim your dignity I suspect that the people won’t hesitate to stone you.”, I said narrowing my eyes, “I would suggested learning how to properly fight before I return.”
Turning away I walked off the stage with my companions in tow.