Things were tense as a group of twenty people walked down a mountain trail, silhouetted against the mountain slope the trail hugged against, in the raking sunlight. They were still far off when it became clear that it was a scouting party followed by twelve Nemi Rangers. I was standing next to Elida when it became, to my eyes before his, clear that we were about to meet the Nemi. Elida retreated to his tent, which had been set up by a few guards while he went to hear the reports of the scouts and the meeting place. One of those guards camp out spreading his orders that none approach the incoming group, that together we would all await them at the meeting point.
When they arrived, our whole crew was assembled, and at the front stood Elida, Dald, and Trul. It was Grand's group which had gone to witness the Southern pass.
Grand stopped before the three, his scouts behind him and the Nemi Ranger standing silently and proudly behind them. "I witnessed their battlements along the pass, and saw clearly that the only way through it was with the permission of the Nemi. Our group requested passage, hoping to scout the far side for you, but we were delayed slightly when they questioned our purposes. Um... they would not grant passage to our group, but offered to come speak to the whole group, to negotiate."
Grand bowed out, and a man who did not offer his name came to the front. Tall and strong and wearing a kind of plate armor uniform of a material unlike any I have ever assayed. This is what he said
"You seek to cross our territory on a mission of war against a neighbor of the Nemi. We would be with in our rights to let you waste yourselves against our citadels, but your peoples and ours don't need war, and your scouts have petitioned in your favor, and speak of the danger of the darkest enemies of our shared ancestry. I am willing to escort you to Moft where we can receive your army as guests, and discuss certain misunderstandings that are at the base of your mission."
"Misunderstandings?" started Dald "Star's Reach has been found, as long as it exists it is a danger to all the worlds lands! What if the old war is brought back? We must go there, and ensure that the danger is settled!"
"I have heard about your mission, and your courage and character have been recounted to me as well. Still, you come from a place distant and there is much news you should learn at Moft before waging war, I am willing to advocate that the group from Towalk may be granted a visit to Star's Reach, that you can return to your families will reassurances based on your own experience and not hearsay. Those who now control Star's Reach have since finding in sent emissaries of peace, and have been active in reassuring those very same fears in my peoples hearts. I am surprised that these emissaries haven't connected with Sky Prairie."
Elida hissed "Haven't you considered that you could have been deceived, we cannot hazard being stopped in your capital, for offers that amount to being taken to the Greys in chains. And, I gather that your capital will not let us cross."
Grand guess the violent intent that two tongued Elida was about to loose, and screamed warning. I ducked down as warriors all around me flashed to fire guns. To me the battle was a chaos of guns and screams. Many many Sky Prairie shots did I hear 'toooof, toooof, toooof' of the air rifles and much more horrific power as powder guns and the Nemi blunder busses went off. I laid on the ground, shaking until the last shot, a execution shot, powder rifle had long since stopped echoing and a bleeding young mad of the Begorn turned me over to check me for life.
Even as I was sitting up I could hear Elida barking orders, trying to get our mission together to rush the Southern Gates. Countless voices were yelling depute. Smoke of powder guns slowly drifting up the mountain side Grand and the seven with him were dead among the twelve Nemi they stood with. Dald was being helped up, his right arm mangled by a shot gun blast. Tral was on the ground, bleeding out.
Nemi shotguns only got off nine shots, compared to a hundred rounds they received. Though their armor deflected some air bullets, the limited coverage was no help against a concentrated barrage. The last of them, who had tried to crawl away, had been shot close by a Canyoner.
It was almost dark as we had recovered from the disorder. Elida was in a frantic and pointless rush, preparing us to make all haste to the Southern Gate at the first hint of light in the morning. Meanwhile Dald, was passed out from pain, his arm having been amputated. With Trul dead the Canyoners were leaderless, five bands had each lost at least one life. In a daze we made a mess of a camp for the night, resigned to a forced march at first light for what we imagined to be an almost certain death.