Guard Dog

From Runt to Top


Plot: While tracking down an assassin a meteorite explodes in mid air, the lone survivor begins to exhibit increased strength, healing factor, libido, better senses, and increased cognitive abilities. He must use his new abilities to protect the keep from other creatures that changed due to the effects of the strike.


We had been tracking the assassin since the early dawn, he had had a head start, but we knew we were closing in, moving stealthily and leaving little trace took more time than tracking by a professional who had no need to be subtle. No one kills a member of the royal family and lives. I was the lead scout, fast and attuned to the woods of the pale north, and I was the one that would have the honor of cornering the [expletive deleted].

“Tell the commander,” I whispered to my apprentice, “There is a cave just past the glen, the assailant cowers at our approach.”

The youth slipped back toward the line formed to keep the coward from escaping. It felt odd referring to another as a youth, though he was a teen, I was barely a tween myself. I was still a little lanky; though if my father was anything to go by I would sadly never really fill out. I was a little short of stature, my muscles were average, and my dark hair was shorn close so that it wouldn't interfere with my work. My woods colored clothes were snug so there was less chance of them getting caught on anything and leaving a trail. I carefully crept to the cave, making sure I was not seen so that I could catch the man unaware. This was the Earl’s favorite hunting spot, all his guards, myself amongst the top, knew the ins and outs. I knew the cavern had no other way out. I carefully entered, whereupon I was ambushed.

It was a short tussle, he had desperation on his side, and I wasn't a trained close quarters fighter, nor was I desperate, so he managed to overpower me, a little embarrassing; but since I was not a guard it was almost forgivable.

“Traitor to the crown!” called the guard captain to the assassin, “You are to surrender yourself to justice!”

“I’ll do no such thing!” he called, urging me forward with a knife to my throat, “You let me go, I let your scout live.”

“It doesn't work that way, and you know it.” I gagged, knowing archers were already lining up their shots, even though we weren’t even outside the cave, our archers were that good.

“Shut it, I’m not negotiating with you.”

“You’re dead either way.” the Guard captain shrugged, “Let him go and the gods may have mercy on you, the crown won’t.”

“Then what’s another murder.” the assassin plunged the dagger into my chest, perforating my lung, and just missing my heart.

As I collapsed to the ground the archers loosed their arrows, and the assassin was dropped like a pincushion. The Guard captain dismounted his horse and approached as I felt the life dripping from my breast.

“There is no medicine that can save me, sir, I am sorry for the trouble I caused.” I coughed as the guard captain came to check on me.

“You did you duty, and you will be credited with his finding.” He returned solemnly, “No one out side this party will know of the specifics, that is all I can offer.”

“That is enough. It has been an honor.”

The guard captain reached for his dagger, he would not leave one of his men suffering. As I waited for the darkness, commotion sounded outside.

“A mountain has exploded in the sky!” someone called, then the ground shook, knocking everyone down that I could see.

As the guard captain turned to issue orders a cloud of dust approached. As it overtook us, the earth started to quake violently. With a knock to my head, all went dark.

At some point I must have awaken and began to make my way back to the keep, because the next thing I knew, I collapsed on the road and some townsfolk rushed to figure out what was going on and how to help.

“...We have no reason to suspect you, Scout Kerry, but you are the only one to return and we all know a mountain exploded in the sky in the area you were allegedly searching for the assassin.” the castle healer soothed as I returned to consciousness, “What can you tell us?”

The healer was in his almost white robes smelling of the incense used to promote healing, his wizened face was full of concern.

My throat was dry, my mouth didn't want to work, after a few attempts I finally managed, “We found the traitor, justice served. Then... then the sky exploded.”

“What of the others?” the princess asked, aloofly, appearing in my view.

She was the most beautiful woman in the land, her curly carrot hair was bouncy and full of life, even as her perfect jade eyes filled with concern.

I was stunned, never had I seen her so close, hers were the third tier elite, only the king's personal guard and special services were higher. I had only just made grade 6 of the Earl’s own. Why was she here Why was I in the king’s castle, why couldn't I concentrate...

“Highness, I don’t even know how I got back.”

She stood over me, her eyes quaked in growing worry, but why?

“You’re a hero, my brother is avenged.” with that remark, she must have remembered some important thing she had to do, because she rushed out, and the keep knight commander stepped into view.

“Rest, recover your strength, we’ll figure out what to do with you later.”

I was left mostly alone, with no battles occurring and the summer being a season of health, the wards, especially in the tower were mostly empty. While I did have nightmares, and my stomach nearly constantly growling with hunger, it was assumed I just needed more food to properly heal. It took a few more days, but I was soon better than ever, I didn't even have a scar where I was stabbed, with no evidence it happened, I wasn’t going to volunteer that I had almost been killed. With my whole group having been killed, I had to be put into another. As I was a hero to the crown, the princess insisted I be placed in third tier, to replace some of those lost during the pyrrhic hunt of her brother’s killer, over the Earl’s objections. The king gave his blessing, so long as I passed an entrance qualification, after all, no one as young as I had ever been made a tier 3. As a normal schedule for the qual was only a week from now, I had been given leave to use the time to train, I would need it.

The training yards were always a bustle of activity, blades clinked, shields smacked, and men yelled. The scent of blood and sweat, and other smells I prefer not to mention, permeated the air.

During my stint in the recovery wards, I had lost a lot of the surface layer of fat, and so my muscles showed through, almost impressively, and somehow, I was far stronger than I had ever been. I trained with a heavy oaken practice blade, swiping at and stabbing practice dummies to get my arm strength up. I thought I was doing pretty good, I was an archer and normally trained on the range, and if I did train with blades I was usually out of breath a few minutes into it. But today I was barely breaking a sweat.

“Oh, look, it’s the scout that thinks he's a guard.” one of the princess's own mocked, they were a prideful bunch, “Let's show him what he’s up against.”

There was no use trying to tell them I didn’t want keep duty, that I would have been perfectly happy staying on the outside, in service to the Earl and his hunts the rest of my life. So, I just resigned myself to getting beaten, but making them work for it.

The group of 3 of the Princess's own surrounded me, and some of the others in the yard formed a circle around them to watch. The aggressors began to circle like buzzards, brandishing their heavy, but blunted practice weapons menacingly. As I watched and waited, time seemed to slow down, much as it did when I was aiming for a long shot, but this sensation lasted far longer and was much more intense than it had ever been before. Even before I saw the movement, I knew which one was about to attack me. He charged, his war cry, somehow mellow, even in my heightened awareness. Casually, I swung my practice sword to hit his chest with the broad side. I connected with the left side of his rib cage and distinctly felt and heard the cracking of bones, as he was knocked back a good distance, despite not having swung that hard. I had never broken anyone’s bones before, I could not marvel at this as I was being rushed from the other side. The attacker had his stick above his head, intending to swing down at my head. I noticed that, even as he saw what happened to his companion he redoubled his effort. I blocked the blow by raising my mock claymore above my head with both hands on the hilt, dropping to my knee and deflecting the energy away as I had been trained. After the blow had dissipated I punched with my closest hand and connected with his stomach, knocking the wind and lunch out of him. As I turned to the final man in the trio, my eyes caught movement in the crowd, two more of the princess’s own were rushing in. That distraction was enough that the last attacker managed to hit my wrists with his practice blade and knock the weapon out of my hands.

He took a few more swings, but eased up as his new compatriots approached and I was able to recover from the beating and knock his weapon out of his hands. Time snapped back to normal and I was overcome by blows. Thankfully, they didn’t hurt as much as I anticipated, and though I was beginning to bleed I managed to block some blows and return a few of my own, even as the one that lost his lunch recovered enough to participate again.

Soon, we were all bruised and banged up, but they relented first.

“Wow.” I marveled as the last fell, “I’m better than I thought. Thank you for the practice, I think it’s time I hit the range.”

The archery range was on the far side of the keep, well away from the commotion at the training field, it was a relief to be in a familiar place. I grabbed one of the bows and a quiver and made my way to the far end of the firing line.

After only a few shots, Trevor, one of the Keep’s patrol supervisors approached, “That week in bed appears to have made you a better shot, if that’s even possible. I mean, the entire quiver bulls eyed on the furthest target, whew.”

Trevor, like me was ahead of the game, though we were both young, our responsibilities were impressive

“Hey, Trev, You know us archers of the north, there ain’t nothing we can’t hit.” I shrugged, though I have to admit, even I was impressed, “But look at you Shift Patrol Sup

“You're right, you boys ain’t much for trading blows, but you are quick on the draw.” He chuckled, “I know you like to be busy and you’ve been laid up for a while. Speaking of added responsibilities, you interested in a patrol tonight?”

“Maybe, why, I have been ordered to train...”

“Oh, you're the one, wondered why you were here after the Earl left.” He grimaced, “But anyway, some new beast has been seen in the alleys of the market district, got a few of the residents too, and it’s too quick for our archers, Guard captain wants it disposed of before it sets its sights higher... But I see you have been training hard, maybe I shouldn’t have asked...”

“Naw, Trev, it’s good, I could use a good hunt, meet you after dinner?”

“Sounds like a date.”

I got a few more quivers down the range before my stomach started to growl, and I decided to head down to the pub for a nice filling dinner. As always the pub was lively and the delicious aromas filled the air. Whenever I had been at the keep in the past, I had stopped here, the food was decent, and some good scenery was occasionally witnessed, but normally I was not a fan. But this time, it felt warmer, more comforting, the aromas more alluring... more like I belonged.

Rather than find a table in a corner like I would have done in the past, I bellied right up to the bar, “Anything special on the menu tonight?” I asked of the barkeep as he passed.

“We got some nice mutton and potatoes,” He shrugged, “And the cider tonight is tops.”

“Bring it up.” I dropped some coin on the counter.

“Looks like you’ve had a tough day, tiger.” one of the barmaids remarked.

She was aggressively average, her long brown hair in a pony tail. While I was not normally assertive when it came to relations, I decided, why not.

“Well, it’s certainly looking up.” I smiled.

After I had finished with my dinner and dessert, I headed to the outer bailey barracks where the nights patrol was to depart from.

“Oh, so you did decide to show,” Trevor smiled knowingly, we got word that Rita was going to keep you company...”

“Well, She was finished, I was finished, and I did say I was going to help, so here I am, perhaps a little late, but you haven’t left yet.”

“You arrived just in time,” Trevor nodded, “You’ll join me in the lead team, I’ll fill you in on our way to the beat.”

We were organized into a blade, or, five teams of five, or daggers, I was lead dagger, bravo, LDB, or the fifth person of the lead team, a more permanent team would have a cool name, but that was not the case for an impromptu assault team. Lead dagger, Lead (LDL), was Trevor, LD1 was the second in command, a good Keep guard named Lynda; next was LDA(lpha), who was an acquaintance of mine in the Keeps Guard name Phil, and LD2 was a young lady I never met named Stefany, apparently she was an archer’s apprentice.

Turns out, there may be more than one of the beasts, but no clear sighting has been made to determine what it was, tonight we were on a mission to catch one, or failing that kill one and have it dissected by the Keep’s Ministry of Alchemical Studies (KMAS), the big brains of the kingdom. The Market district, where the majority of the incidents occurred, was a hodgepodge of buildings, shops, stalls, tents and the residences of those that ran them. The stone and wooden structures were of no standard size or shape, so the streets were more suggested paths.

As we entered the district the blade split of into daggers, “Weapons at the low ready, be ready for anything.” Trevor re-emphasised, as he drew his long dagger.

I nocked an arrow, but kept my bow down, as did Stefany, Lynda, a trained dual wielder drew her Katana and wakizashi, and Phil, the heavy of the group drew his claymore

“Remember Sweetie, sorry Steffany, your best quick aiming will require both eyes.”

“Yeah, you just keep yours on the distance like the pro I’m told you are.” she tried to sneer but I could tell she was considering other things.

“We’ll all be professional.” Lynda called out after she caught herself checking me out, “Use designators not names.”

“Alright, Lead Dagger, Chatter to a minimum, only operationally needed noise.” Trevor sighed, “Let’s keep our minds on the mission.”

Sounds of activity in other districts and the nightly activities in the market were a little muted as we carefully searched everywhere we could think of, all the while keeping an eye on the distance lest something sneak up on us.

“Lead!” Called Stefany, “Movement down the alley!”

This was one of the paths that had many different entrances and exits, after Lynda blew some notes on a signaling whistle to let others know we found something, the team started down the alley, Stefany keeping an eye on the distance, as I watched our retreat.

“Two, did you get a good look at it?”

“One, it was the size of a big dog, quick as a blur, though, fur black as ink.”

“Matches earlier descriptions.” Trevor returned, “But be weary of civilians or other daggers.”

We all acknowledged as we continued down the dark alley. As we looked over every square inch, we heard others whistling signals, either this thing was very fast, or there was definitely more than one.

Phil got body slammed as he passed a cross alley, his claymore taking a big chunk out of the beast, it’s howls sending shivers through our spines. After it lashed back a few times and brutal blows were exchanged it bounded off, Stefany’s arrow grazing it and mine sticking true to its flanks.

“That was like a bear!” Phil coughed up some blood and clutched his mangled arm.

“More like a mad alchemist merged a bear’s body with the head of a fox!” I heard Stefany return as I darted down the alley to follow the beast.

I heard Lynda signal what happened, and Trevor call for me to come back, but I was focused, I had prey. Despite the pitch darkness my eyes made out detail I wouldn't have noticed on a bright day, I could smell the animals blood, and it was energising. Though it was quiet, I could make out as much sound as a busy crowded day, but my ears focused on the sounds of my prey. I nocked and released arrows as fast as lightning, and even though I was running faster than ever before, I hit my target several times.

Again, I noted time slowing, but it didn’t help me catch the beast. Each wound I caused, caused more scent to emanate, energizing me more. But my hyper focus turned out to have a downside. I was blindsided by another, bigger beast, with claws of a tiger and bulk of a steer. I lost my quiver and bow, all I had was the emergency dagger in my belt. We grappled and broke off attacks several times, each one of us in turn running, charging, and using weapons of opportunity.

Soon we found ourselves on the walls of the outer bailey, I knew there were other archers and guards hoping to find an opportunity to attack without risking me, but they were no archers of the north, and few found targets. Finally, I found a coup-de gras, I stabbed upwards towards the bottom of its snout, and my blade pierced its brain, killing it instantly. Unfortunately, we were on the edge of the wall, and we fell. But at least I had killed my prey.

I woke with a start as I felt a cold compress be laid on my forehead. The sudden movement caused something to twist in my gut, but I managed to hold my vomit until I was handed a bucket to use. After I was finished I looked up, and to my shock, I recognized the girl sitting on the side of my bed.

“Swee...Stefany, I thought you were an archer's apprentice?”

“I am sir,” her concern fell a little overwhelming, but I didn’t want to object, “And in all but name, you were my master last night, I, I had to know you weren't...”

“Well, um, well It takes more than a grand beast to take me down...” I was uncomfortable but oddly...

“What did I tell you!” Demanded the voice of one of the apprentice healers, I think her name was Deborah, “Didn’t I tell you to stay away from my patient, you know nothing about healing...”

Stefany stood to confront the healer, “He’s my trainer, and...”

“Hey, hey, hey, I don’t know what this is about, but I think we can talk it out, no one needs to get hurt...” I sat up straighter in my bed.

The two stared each other down for a moment before their eyes returned to me, an odd level of concern covering their faces, “Sorry, but there are rules, the only apprentices allowed are healers,” she looked back at Stefany, “Unless they’re injured...”

“Try it blondie, lets see if you can heal your own nose...”

“Woah!” Called Trevor, “Both of you calm down, Apprentice Archer Bowmen, you missed turn over, you need to report for remedial duty... No buts, now!”

Stefany looked at me smiling weakly, “I’ll be back...”

“Like he...”

“Apprentice healer Geylynn, I think you need to find your superior and let him know the patient is awake.”

She thought long and hard about refusing, but in the end, she relented, placing the breakfast healer’s broth she brought for me on the end table.

After she left Trevor looked me over and shook his head, “Man, what has happened to you, Rita last night, two apprentices this morning, I know we’re young and studly...”

“I’ve never felt like this before.” I shook my head, and grabbed the broth, “I’ve always had drive, but not like this, and despite almost getting killed last night, I’ve never felt better...”

“Well, maybe you’re a late bloomer, and as such...”

“Got a lot of ground to makeup, huh, sure.” I slurped some broth, “But it happened so sudden...”

“That’s how it goes sometimes, you don’t care until it hits ya, and that’s all you think about... But you kind of put me in a bind.”

“How so?”

“Like the entire keep knows I asked you to help out with the business last night, and a lot of them know you disobeyed my orders, and we’re not exactly friends, but...”

“It looks bad, hunh...”

“At least, your actions got a few of them, KMAS is happily dissecting two previously unknown beasts.” He shrugged, “You got the job done, but...”

“Rules are rules?”

“Yeah, officially I’m here to reprimand you, so bad boy, don’t do it again.” he shook his finger at me, “Be glad it wasn't an official posting and no one died...”

“Oh, I heard you had been nearly killed!” The princess’s voice announced, “Guardsmen, he is not to be reprimanded, he save us all, so I hear...”


“You may not be my guard, but you will still listen to me, understood? Good, leave us.”

“Uhh, yeah, Good luck, Scout.”

I was shocked, my body was responding, but my mind said NO!

As she sat on bed, the Head Healer cleared his throat, “Highness, come to thank the keep’s hero, again?”

For a moment it was like she didn’t hear him, then she shook her head and her eyes focused back to reality, “Oh, um, Healer, See to it he is, seen to.”

As she guiltily and quickly departed, she glared at Deborah and smiled at me.

“What is going on, Doc?”

“Sometimes people’s desire to help is, complicated, you know nothing can happen, right?”


“Well, then, Apprentice,” He turned to Geylynn, “Take the bucket to KMAS and have them run some tests on it, make certain our hero is not infected or otherwise impaired, and I’ll see to getting a blood sample.”

He pulled out a knife and some bandages and setup to bleed me from my arm. As Deborah fought the urge to disobey, he pulled out a vile.

“This is a tonic that should help.” He poured the black liquid into my broth, “You need to take some daily until I tell you otherwise.”

After the tonic, I was under less pressure, the Healer mentioned something about humors and I didn’t press him on it. Thanks to my displays the first day and night of my training, I was not challenged by others and was able to train without further interruption. The compulsion I had felt that first day was not nearly as strong, though it was starting to strengthen again, the training helped, but finally it was the day of the qualifications tournament. I had alternated evenings with Rita and Stefany, and I had never felt so alive as I entered the grand arena.

We had already finished the preliminaries, I shot better and from a greater distance than any in history, but I was an archer of the north, I was that good. And the previous green matches had ended with cheers erupting from the audience, I was the youngest and an underdog, so it must have been that connection they felt. I was already scored enough points to be assured a place in the tier 3, but now it was for bragging rights. The finals was a melee, the last one standing would be the grand champion.

Time had not slowed down for me during the tournament, perhaps because I was just having a good day and hadn't needed the boost; but then again, I hadn’t felt a rush from the combat as I had the first night, the entire rest of the time leading up to the qualifications. Whatever the reason, I felt I didn’t need the boost anyway. Now, though, the overwhelming adulation was starting the rush again; my heart started racing and my focus narrowed, I felt the thrill of the hunt start to well up. Unlike that first day, I welcomed it, like an old friend I hadn't seen in awhile. As the gong sounded, the 6 of us rushed each other, our practice weapons at the ready.

In the back of my head I knew a blood lust was wrong, and though it was tough, I restrained myself; pulling punches, kicks, and other blows so as not to break bones. I knew I was getting hit, but I also knew it wasn't slowing me down, so I ignored the blows to focus on not killing anyone.

In the end, I was the last standing, the one that had the least chance as I was the youngest and most inexperienced in the tournaments, but I still won. I later learned that, despite reservations to the contrary, I was placed in the princess’s own, only because they didn't want to trust the protection of the king to a young man, no matter how great I was. It was trusted that I would remain a professional in this duty, and I was not going to let anyone down.

After a night of frivolity to celebrate, I reported to the command post of the Princess’s own deep within the keep. I had only rare occasions in the past to venture this far into the castle, an archer of the Earl’s hunting and tracking team, I was only seldomly allowed in the back halls. Brilliant tapestries added color to the walls, draperies decorated the stained glass, rugs along the floor helped to mute the incessant steps on the stone floors, and fine chandeliers hung from the high vaulted ceiling. While the castle and even other important places in the keep were decorated similarly, this was far more guilted, it was certainly a wonder to behold, and a shame more didn’t get to see it. But security of the sovereign and their family was of paramount importance, and we may have to show off to other kingdoms, I guess.

The watch commander’s office was simple and spartan, a stark contrast to the halls outside.

“I expect my guards to be professional and do their jobs, other than that, I hardly care, normally.” The guard commander announced as I walked in, her wizened voice was loud and firm, “And normally I don’t allow non-castrates into my team, especially given your recent record. But, these new beasts are baffling KMAS, and you have already shown ability to dispose of them.”

There was plenty of room for a few teams to stand in ranks and receive tasks, though currently, there was only three of us here.

“So, probation then?” I tried to joke, she wouldn’t have it, “Look, Ma’am I do my job and I do it well, no harm will come to the princess while I am on guard.”

“It’s not what happens while you're on guard that concerns me.” She harrumphed, “The creatures attack at nights, you will be teamed with Corbin, one of my finest castrates, so I know nothing will happen, your watch will begin at 6 tolls, you will be on a 3/4 day rotation, three on, four off, four on, three off, until further notice. Dismissed.”

The other man, obviously Corbin, nodded as she mentioned his name. After we were dismissed he stepped forward and indicated I should follow.

“I have heard of your skills with a bow, and apparently, if the talk around town is anything to go by, your sword skills are impressive as well.” He remarked as we exited the office.

“The archery is just practice.” I shrugged, “As far as the rest, I have no idea how I blossomed so quickly.”

The next few days was a buzz of training, learning the ins and outs of the posting, though I was essentially barred from turnovers, Corbin passed along any needed information. Tonight was the last night of the rotation. I walked the parapets with Corbin and we chatted while keeping an eye out to the horizon.

Suddenly, a ill feeling filled my heart, “We have to get to her highness’s chambers!” I called darting off to run across the roof.

“That is not a good way to advance!” Corbin called after, as he took a less treacherous route.

As I approached the windows of the princess’s chambers, her scream filled the night. I smashed through the glass with an arrow nocked and scanned the room. I couldn’t see anything, including the princess, but a foul stench filled the air. After I scented the air, I knew she was under her bed, she had been injured, I was compelled to check her out, to help her, but I pushed myself to find the beast.

“He’s in the sitting room!” The princess called from under the bed.

After a moment’s hesitation, I smashed through the door to the sitting room, where the princess would entertain guests.

As I entered, the beast, another one of the steer sized man-tigers attacked.

It spoke no words, but somehow communicated to me, “Ah, I knew I would find you here, one the men that survived the impact. Only a few could turn the energy and virus to survive, especially on their own. You could join us, rule this pathetic place...”

“What are you waiting for!” Called Corbin as he shot the beast, “Nothing attacks the Grand House and survives!”

Snapped out of my stupor, I shot a few arrows into the flank of the retreating form. This one was faster than the last, as I chased him, my focus narrowed again, the will of the hunt was strong, and I liked it, perhaps too much. We ran across the rooftops of the keep, sometimes I was forced onto a different one than he ran across, but I did managed to keep up, barely. In order to gain some ground on him, I abandoned my bow and quiver and began to lope on all fours.

Finally I caught up with him; as he jumped an impossible distance between roofs, I intercepted and we tumbled to an alley. As we exchanged blows, time again slowed, but I felt I had more of a handle on the intensity of the shift, and I was able to use that as an effective tool, something I had a feeling he was much better at than I was. I also began to notice my limbs taking on more of an animal form, my nails grew to claws, my fingers elongated and other joints and bones repositioned themselves. It should have hurt, but my focus was on my prey.

At times the fight broke up as we dodged and grabbed weapons of opportunity, and he tried to get away. We inched toward the edge of the keep, and again, I found myself on the outer walls. Suddenly, something small but powerful struck me in the side, seconds later thunder clapped. I collapsed and the beast bounded off as I passed out, pain filling my body.

I could smell where I was before I even opened my eyes, “This is starting to be too familiar.” I groaned, eyes still closed.

I thought I was mistaken, but I was surrounded. Deborah was dabbing a wet rag on my forehead, Stefany was holding my shooting hand, the Princess my steady hand, and Rita and Corbin were trying to be useful in the background. I opened my eyes and took a deep calming breath.

“What's going on?”

“You were comatose for the last week.” Deborah soothed, “Hey, can you bring the broth...”

“The Master Healer had to remove that metal slug from your side that the thunder put in...” Rita continued as she brought over the warm bowl.

“And it seems there was some kind of poison on it,” The princess smiled weakly, “A poison that only affected you...”

“We were hoping you could shed some light on that, if... when you woke up.” Stefany soothed.

“Nice to see you, all, getting along...” I struggled after some slurps of broth.

“This was too important to fight about...” Deborah acknowledged for all.

“You do realize,” Corbin started, “That broth is tainted with unicome. Yeah, pretty sure, people like me are quite familiar with that substance.”

“Impossible, he’s been taking doses for...” Deborah’s jaw was on the floor.

“And despite its effects weakening, he will continue to take it, until we figure something else out.” The Master Healer announced, “That way, things don’t get more out of hand. I’m certain you all have things to attend to, Highness, your mother requests your company, it looks as if the celebration will happen tonight, and she wishes you to help direct the preparations.”

Slowly, reluctantly, the group departed, once they were out of earshot, the Master Healer began again.

“We have problems, in not just the keep, but the kingdom.”

“I don’t know what...”

“As KMAS is clueless, you are not expected to know, But you are the only one that stands a chance to help curtail the threat, and get the info KMAS needs to solve the myriad of problems we now face.” He was a no nonsense kind of healer, “That is part of the festivities tonight, the people need to know the king sees the problem and is doing something about it, you are to be made a team leader of a new task force headed by the Keep commander himself. Drink your broth, we can’t afford problems tonight.”

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