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The Burning Village is the seventh lore to be written. It was released on 23 Sep 2011. It can be found on the 8Realms website, here.

The Burning Village
Part 3
By Gabriel M

Two dozen villagers went into battle. Now we two dozen stand proud guard over our barbarian prisoners. The cage, repaired crudely with what few tools we had to hand, holds them as it held us. They strain against the bars to no avail; even with their barbarian strength, the repaired cage is more than a match for them.

"What now?" asks Merion.

"We wait. The barbarians were waiting for a slave trader. He won't care whether he takes a cage full of farmers or of barbarians. And there'll be money — money to help us rebuild the village."

The trader arrives at sunset, with horses and guards. He's a gruff, bearded man, with quick eyes that seem to take in the situation at a glance.

"I had my doubts…" he begins.

"What?"

He hesitates. "I had my doubts we'd be here by sunset. One of the horses stood on a sharp rock."

The man shouts over to his guards. They begin to fix the cage to a horse-drawn apparatus, ignoring the unintelligible babble of the barbarians as they fit smooth wooden axles and wheels to the cage for transportation.

"About our payment — " I begin.

The man leans in and lowers his voice. "I don't know who you are and I don't know what's happened here, but I know enough not to pry. A cage of farmers would have been worth something to me. A cage of barbarians is a problem. I'm doing you a favour."

"What do you mean?" I ask.

The man looks over to his waiting guards, casts a glance over the locked cage and shouts for them to get ready to leave.

"I'll tell you this. If you're not one of them — and you don't look like one of them — then tread carefully. They're as bad as each other, and they all have their own — "

"What are you talking about?"

"Listen, they'll be waiting for your true colours to come out. I'd keep out of it altogether if I were you, but — "

"Boss, they're getting rowdy!" One of the guards bangs on the cage bars, trying to settle the captive barbarians.

The trader sighs. "I'm sure it was once a nice village," he says. "I hope you hold on to it."

And he leaves.

I turn to my people. "They're gone," I tell them, "The barbarians are gone."

A cheer goes up among the crowd, then Merion steps out to face me.

"And the money, brother?"

I hold out my empty purse. "There was no money, Merion. He had none — not for barbarians."

"Then we have nothing, brother."

The crowd falls silent at the blow.

"But tonight," I tell them, "We need nothing more than we have. Tonight, we sleep under shelter, we eat and speak as free people. If this is nothing, let us celebrate nothing!"

"And tomorrow?" asks Merion, "The barbarians will return, somehow. They always return. Tell us, brother, will you evade them using your broken telescope, or will you fight them with your blunt dagger?"

"Or maybe he'll buy them off with his empty purse!" laughs a voice in the crowd.

"No," I silence them, "I'm a soldier. But I'm also a leader of people. I'm your leader, if you will have me."

The man stops laughing.

"And yes, you see an empty purse in my hands. And a blunt dagger at my side, and a broken telescope. But I stand before you a victor — we are all victors today — and I tell you I will sharpen this dagger. I tell you I will fix this telescope, that we may see our own glory far in the future. And I tell you that we together will fill this purse — with the work and sweat and blood of us all.

"And what of our village?" asks Merion. "What of our razed homes? What of our burned crops?"

"Our village will thrive once more, Merion — we will triumph over the hordes. We have triumphed today and we will triumph again — together, we will triumph over all who would aggrieve us!"

Merion strides up to me. I can't read his face, but he casts his great arms around my shoulders and thumps my back with his palm.

"Brother, welcome home."

End of series one Lores

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