Tales of the Watch


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Poll ended at April 06, 2020, 05:43:33 AM

An Unexpected Discovery
0
No votes
City Inspector
2
40%
A Perilous Job…
0
No votes
Home Alone (a lot)
1
20%
The Watch
2
40%
 
Total votes : 5
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Post March 23, 2020, 05:43:33 AM

Tales of the Watch

We have five tales of the Watch.
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Post March 23, 2020, 05:44:54 AM

An Unexpected Discovery

By Dan Rice

On a dark street populated with pleasure houses and inns, Sarge listened to the red-faced nobleman. They were illuminated by candlelight spilling out from a raucous tavern and light from the lantern held by Em, a watchwoman-in-training.

“Sold me this garbage,” the nobleman slurred, breath stinking of alcohol, and brandished a palm-sized rectangular object. “Called it a phone. Said I can use it to commune with the gods,” he threw the phone onto the street. It cracked against the cobblestone. “Trash.”

Sarge winced when he heard Em giggle. He glowered over his shoulder at Em, who stifled her laughter, then turned his attention back to the lordling.
Fortunately, the lord appeared to have taken no notice of Em’s mockery. Perhaps he was too drunk to realize he was being laughed at or couldn't hear the giggles over the bawdy ballads coming from the tavern.

“Threatened me. Threatened me she did,” the lord declared.

“She, m’lord?” Sarge said. “The rogue is a woman?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Threatened you, m’lord? How?”

The lord screwed up his face in a look of deep concentration. “Some contraption. A gun, she called it.”

“A gun?” Em said and laughed.

Sarge ground his teeth.

“Aye, a gun. Never seen one before. I named her a cheat and tried to take my gold back. Then...a deafening sound like a dragon roaring. I threw myself to the street and when I looked up, she was gone. I want that woman’s head on a pike.”

“We just need you to give us a few details, and we’ll see about tracking down this rogue, m’lord,” Sarge said.

***

As soon as the lordling stumbled off into the night, Sarge rounded on Em.

“Keep your mouth shut next time. If a noble complains to the guard captain about us, it’s my head,” Sarge said.

Em met his gaze. “Contact the gods with a phone? A gun? Everyone knows working old tech is a myth! He has dragon dung between his ears.”

“A nobleman with a sense of humor is a myth too. Just because he's not from around here, doesn’t mean he can’t cause us trouble,” Sarge said and knelt down to pick up the so-called phone the noble had discarded. It looked like many of the artifacts tinkers hawked as relics from the ancient times. “We’ll take this to Gram. She might have heard about a woman toting a gun and claiming to have artifacts that can contact the gods.”

“Sarge, there ain’t no such thing as a working gun. You know it and I know it. Chances are that dung eater ran afoul of a rogue magician who did some magic to make flash and a bang. We don’t want any part of tracking down a rogue magician.”

Sarge squared his shoulders and straighten his stiff back to tower over Em. “You're a member of the city watch now, young lady, and unless you want your head locked in the pillory, you jump to it when your superior gives a command.”

***
In the cramped interior of the covered wagon, the wizened tinker elder known only as Gram sat upon a wooden barrel with the bearing of a queen. She held the phone up to the flickering flame of a candle.

“Claimed this can contact the gods, did she?”

“She did,” Sarge said.

“And he believed it,” Em said with a laugh.

“Not a laughing matter,” Gram said. “Such claims give my people a bad reputation. Had a gun, did she?”

“So the noble claims. A working gun we were told, although I suspect that is untrue,” Sarge said.

“There is a young woman by the name of Chi who sells items like this,” Gram said, hefting the phone. “Carries a gun too. Doubt it works, her gun, but take caution apprehending her, she’s a wild one. I hear she haunts the Flying Pig.”

“I know that inn. Popular with merchants. Men with coin to spare,” Sarge said.

***

A bard strummed a lute in the common room of the Flying Pig. Only a few patrons graced the tables and bars, and most of them were passed out drunk or nearly so. Sarge stopped a barmaid burdened with a pewter mug filled to the brim with a frothy brew.

“We’re looking for a young tinker woman. Claims to have trinkets that contact the gods and might be carrying a gun. You see her?”

“In the alley. Head through the kitchen,” the barmaid said.

They passed through the kitchen that stunk of grease and the unwashed body of the cook who sat in a corner, snoring loudly. At the back door, Sarge heard a man scream and what sounded like a scuffle.

“Come on,” Sarge shouted at Em, who had stopped to sample a side of ham sitting on a counter.

Sarge threw the door open, by from the light of Em’s lantern saw two figures struggling.

"City watch!” Sarge bellowed.

An orange flash and a loud crack filled the air. Sarge cowered. Em screamed. The smaller of the combatants, a young woman, dropped to the alleyway.

“By the gods,” said the other figure, a man in the now blood-spattered yet elegant attire of a merchant. He was trembling and held something in an outstretched hand. “I didn't mean to. I didn’t know,” he looked at Sarge with wide eyes. “She threatened me with this. Tried to take my gold. I...I...”

“Never suspected it was a real weapon,” Sarge said and held old out a hand. “Best give me that now. It's a gun. Looks like a working one. Em, shine that lantern on the body. Suspect we have our rogue right there.”

The merchant handed Sarge the weapon with a trembling hand. For once, Em did as she was told and shined the lantern light on the body. Sarge grimaced when he saw what the gun had done to the young woman's face.

“By the gods, she did have working old tech,” Em said.
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Post March 23, 2020, 05:46:02 AM

City Inspector

by Jason McGraw

The city inspector woke up before the sunrise every day, no matter when bedtime was. It was like the morning had a smell and, like a dog smelling the master, it woke the brain. On this day, a courier arrived at the door as morning tea was being brewed.

“Inspector, they need you in the palace,” the courier said, without giving details.

The inspector had more fingers than the times that the palace called for a visit and the last visit was many summers ago. The palace had its own guards and inspectors to do the work. So this novelty promised to make this string of dull and overcast days a bit more exciting.

“I’m glad you are here,” the inspector’s palace counterpart said. “We need information as fast as we can get it.”

The palace inspector led the city inspector to the hippodrome where they hang food from trees and the dragons land and eat in front of the king and as many spectators as can fit on the rising steps around the feeding ground. On clear days, fragrant meats, fruits, and grapevines were hung over the tall branches of the trees in the field. Bowls of mixed grains and sweet vegetables filled the natural low spots. The sight and scent of the food attracted dragons from the mountain to come down, land, and eat. The dragons seemed to like being admired by the king and the citizens. It’s been told that during harvests when the citizens were occupied in the fields and there were few spectators in the stands, that the dragons circled but didn’t land. After that, it became a requirement for everyone to attend dragon feedings.

The palace inspector was very secretive about details until the two inspectors were on the field and far away from anyone else. “Someone attacked a dragon,” the palace inspector said.

This statement would be shocking to anyone with ears. But the city inspector was analytical by nature.

“So you’re worried that the dragon, after eating the attacker, will be made sick?”

The palace inspector made a look of shock at the indifference of the city inspector. “Neither the attacker nor the dragon has been seen.”

“How are we supposed to believe that there was an attack?”

The palace inspector pointed to a shallow pool of blood and some food hanging from branches of the center tree.

“Whose blood do you think that is?” the city inspector said.

“I don’t know. Do you know?”

“The way to test it is to dip a finger,” the city inspector said and, with a hand, invited the palace inspector to do so.

The palace inspector took a knee and reached down.

“If your finger blisters, it’s dragon’s blood.”

The palace inspector was shocked. “You were going to let me! And how do you even know that?”

“Anyone that travels the mountains knows not to touch anything that came out of a dragon. Vomits, urine, excrement, saliva, blood. All of it blisters bare skin.”

The palace inspector nodded. “That is why we sent for you. You know things that only foreigners would know.”

The city inspector analyzed the intended meaning of “foreigners” and decided it meant “non-palace people.”

“I see traces of what the attacker wore,” the city inspector said. Scraps of furry animal flesh were scattered around.

“I thought those were remains of dragon food.”

“No, that’s what passes for cloth among some of the barbarians. They’re terrible at tanning pelts.”

“Oh.”

“I actually think they leave the fat on the skins on purpose in case they get lost and need a source of food.”

“I see. So a barbarian attacked the dragon.”

“That’s my guess right now. A dragon probably ate a relative and this was an act of revenge.”

“How uncivilized! Don’t barbarians know what a court of law is?”

The city inspector let that comment go unanswered and turned up to the sky. “The clouds are clearing. I think I see something in the air.”

Three winged creatures with long necks and tails were circling overhead. One head shook and a light-reflecting speck fell to the ground. It was a sword and it stuck half in the ground, point down. A thick but broken leather lanyard was attached to the handle.

“Ah, see that? That’s a tendon cutter,” the city inspector said.

The palace inspector looked confused.

“We call giant-slaying swords ‘tendon cutters.’ See how wide the blade is? Dragon swords are narrow, needle-like, to get between the scales. This poor bastard didn’t stand a chance.”

“So the blood isn’t from a wounded dragon?”

The city inspector stooped and dipped a finger. “Correct.”

The palace inspector said a prayer. “Now we must clean this up before anyone sees.”

“Call in some stray dogs. They’ll lap it up before you can kick them away. They’ll take care of the furry flesh, too. You’ll need a pole to get those fragrant vines down, but I suspect you have those already.”

“Stray dogs?”

“We use them to clean murder scenes in the city. They smell blood from across the metropolis. I bet some are scratching at your doors now.”

The palace inspector made a face of disgust. “I will order it done.”

The city inspector nodded, “Until next time!” and turned to exit.

The palace inspector said something that sounded like a prayer but contained the words, “Please never again.”

Then one of the dragons swooped lower, the mouth opened, and the dead barbarian dropped onto the field.

The city inspector called out, “Dogs can clean that, too!”
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Post March 23, 2020, 05:48:17 AM

A Perilous Job…

By Sergio Palumbo

Among the various jobs that the men of the King’s Militia had to do within the famous seaport of Klevrt, there was one that guards found more difficult and perilous than all the others.

Of course, everyone knew that Klevrt was one of the wealthiest cities of the Nine Kingdoms of the West, which had led to it being besieged many times throughout its history by armies and fleets. This was why, in a world where sorcery ruled and where there were a multitude of sorcerous schools attended by evil foes, procedures had been put into place to prevent the locals of Klevrt from coming into contact with cursed creatures and objects.

This was similar to the way most countries prevented strangers from entering their cities, especially spies or other suspicious individuals. Of course there was some merchandise that had to enter, which was what the King’s Militia was most afraid of. In order to keep out plagues or other troubles, the wares that came into town were subjected to routine procedures that took place in a site outside the city itself: in the case of Klevrt it had been built on a small island. In that secluded area, goods underwent continuous ventilation, while wax, for example, was immersed in running water for 48 hours to avert any infection.

Anyway, these procedures weren’t enough in a Fantasy world like this to keep out magical dangers that might cause problems in the seaport. This was why a subsequent process called ‘Holy Fumigation’ took place in large storehouses built on the same isle, in order to check if the incoming merchandise had been cursed by someone.

This was the perilous job the armed men of the King’s Militia feared most - because anything could come out of those crates once Holy Fumigation started…

There were some who reported small demons being forcibly removed from an object and running away in fear, never to come back to town. Others remembered strange evil creatures that had died bloody deaths, which had saved the urban area from their wickedness.

Of course, the worthy goal that Holy Fumigation was designed to achieve didn’t make those men forget about the very bad consequences that could result from the process. This was why 23-year-old Eklew didn’t feel confident as he and the other guard Fhlev were ordered to be on watch at the entrance of the first storehouse where some strange goods - recently arrived aboard foreign galleys – were scheduled to undergo Holy Fumigation that day. The crates were supposed to contain some ancient religious vases that had been sent as a gift to a rich member of the King’s entourage, but this was also what made them suspicious, certainly.

Actually, many guards tried to escape this duty. But they were ordered, in turn, to stand watch and refusing to do so meant being sent to prison for life. So it was better to take their chances than to die imprisoned, due to noncompliance…

As Eklew approached the entrance with the other guard, they both imagined the worst that might happen. The fact was that, at times, there had been demons that had escaped from cursed objects, trying to run away from the isle itself, before being cut to pieces by the powerful defensive sorcery at work. But some of them proved to be strong enough to survive for a while before being destroyed, which was what worried the men.

There had been soldiers who had been assaulted, losing an arm, or some fingers, before the creatures dropped dead.

“Be careful, Fhlev,” a wary Eklew told the other man. “Anything might come out of that crate.”

“Do you think I don’t know that? But we have no way to get out of doing this…”

“I know, I know! But I just wanted to remind you: be careful, and we will live to see another day.”

There was a quietness around the warehouse. But it didn’t last long. Almost immediately they started hearing screams and yelps coming from the inside of the storehouse and soon they saw some small horned blueish demons racing out of the building. They were aflame and it was obvious that the sorcery protecting the place had been activated to kill those creatures once they were found out.

Eklew knew what they were and he didn’t like them.

Of course, those demons might have been brothers to the fingers-cutting monsters that they had seen last week, or the ears-takers from one month ago, and Eklew and Fhlev had survived those assaults by using their military abilities, of course.

But there were others that looked precisely like those small horned creatures, that enacted a very detestable vengeance: they were ‘The hair-pullers’…

Such little monsters couldn’t be killed by metal weapons, only being destroyed by magical incantations. But the process required time… And in the meantime, they assaulted anyone they found in front of them, which caused many problems.

As the first two demons moved against Eklew, followed by the other three, he knew what to expect. Those hellish beings climbed onto his head and started pulling out all the hair they could, while screaming at him. The same happened to the other guard, Fhlev.

The man tried to defend himself, but those creatures quickly removed his helmet, pulling paw-fulls of his hair out.

In the end, as the little monsters finally died, poor Eklew sadly touched his head and looked dejected. It was strange to remember that he had been called ‘the most beautiful blond-haired man of the King’s Militia’ only a few years ago. Now he only had three curls left from his once thick head of hair.

Now many called him simply, ‘Three Curls…’ and the hair he had on his head regretfully decreased month after month.

However, maybe he was better off than Fhlev who stood next to him and also had so many scars that he had been nicknamed ‘Once he had skin”… Don’t you think so?
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Post March 23, 2020, 05:49:02 AM

Home Alone (a lot)

By Michelle Dutcher

Long long ago in a magical kingdom beside a beautiful crystal sea, the rank and file of the French Fairy Legion received some disturbing news.

“Soldiers,” said the mid-rank officer as he paced back and forth, “we have run out of wars to fight.”

There was an audible gasp among the elves and fae soldiers in the room, who were seated comfortably on several dozen folding chairs. “But how about the Prossies?” asked a fae recruit. “Surely there are some Prossies to be killed?” This was followed by a positive nodding of many of the creatures on the chairs.

“Nope, nope...the Prossies are fine and they all send their best. No need to kill any of them this week.”

“If not the Prossies, how about the Bossies?” asked another soldier eager to get back to doing his job on the battlefield.

The officer shook his head again. “Sorry, my inferior, but the Bossies are also doing just jolly and have requested not to be bombed out of existence this month as well.”

“Well that’s particularly disappointing, isn’t it,” added an unusually large leprechaun three rows from the front. “So noone needs to be killed then? No cities to plunder? No countries to invade?”

“I’m afraid not. Which leads me to my next topic of discussion: self-isolation. The general and I have decided to send all of you home BUT - and here’s the real kicker - each of you must keep entirely to yourselves as the French Fairy Legion doesn’t want the public to find out their army has run out of foreign creatures to kill. You all are hereby ordered to go home and hide out for eight weeks, more or less. DISMISSED!”

There was a look of disbelief on each soldier’s face as they exited the military hall, but there was no point in arguing with the logic of the Legion’s officers.

Olloff McCreight had signed up for the FFL a few years earlier because he liked to keep busy. He was a rather cumbersome fairy, his fragile wings not being able to lift him off the ground in over a decade. After eating breakfast, and then another breakfast, he decided to watch daytime game shows before eating lunch. In the afternoon he was able to spend some time on FaeBook, but was a little angry when he realized he couldn’t answer all the STUPID comments people were making. He felt better after he warmed-up some brownies - (the cake treats not the creatures) - which made them soft, and gooey and even more delicious.

Olloff concluded that maybe being at home a lot wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
8 weeks later, when the platoon was called back to base, Olloff almost had to be carried in with a wheelbarrow.

“Good Morning Soldiers!” shouted the same mid-level officer that had allowed them to hide out in their homes instead of admitting to the general public that the army had run out of people to kill. “I trust that everyone has been spending their time wisely over the last 2 months.” His eyes immediately fell on Olloff who had unwisely sat on the front row. “Private McCreight. What were some of your most notable accomplishments during the time spent away from base?”

Private McCreight looked a little embarrassed, his eyes shifting around the room quickly as he tried to think of something. “I refilled my salt and pepper shakers…” he managed to squeak out.

The officer shook his head with obvious disappointment, which made Olloff visibly angry….

“Anyone else refill their salt and pepper shakers?” asked the officer sarcastically. “Did anyone do anything constructive?”

A hand went up on the second row, not far from where Olloff sat. “The first morning I was home I saw a group of ogres on the village green who were doing the Tai Chi each morning. So I began following their movements and learned the discipline. And after becoming so closely acquainted with the culture that produced the Tai Chi, I was inspired to learn Mandarin and then two more languages from the eastern provinces. This led to online studies in culinary arts and at night, I finished reading War and Peace…”

Which is when Private McCreight could bear it no longer and threw a chair out of the way so he could get to Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes….And that, children is how the decades long war between the Average Joes and the Goody Two Shoes started. And it has lasted even until this day. History class dismissed.

And all the children ran outside into the sunshine to play.
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Post March 23, 2020, 05:49:41 AM

The Watch

By Jontrue

I pause as mah fingertips run across the cool smooth metal of the hilt. Nothing has prepared me for what I must do next, although, in truth, muh life has run me down this muddy cattle path fur years.

It was mah cousin’s idea that I go into the guard, called it the family business he did, and I’m the worse fur it. Seemed like a good idea at the time, Gran Pap was a guard, Pa was a guard, even that good-fur-notin’ Uncle Ryan was a guard up until last year when he fell drunk like a great steamin blootered into a well. By the time they found him… OH the bloat! Never seen notin’ like it. They had to seal the well, no savin’ that water.

The pay’s not great, but the benifits’ ain’t bad. Everyone wants one of the Guard as their friend, an’ no one wants us again’ em. That’s where the game is, innit? Take a roll for meh’ breakfast or a sip o’ brandy to keep me warm on the night watch, just a taste. It gets painful dull up on that wall and gods forbid if ya fall asleep on duty, ya’d never hear the end of it. But whater’ ya do, dunnah cross th’ unspoken line where ya take too much. The nobles turn a blind eye ‘til folks start complainin’.

A few years back, I fell into another of the fringe benefits. The ladies can’t keep their hands off of a man in uniform, you know. I was a strapping young lad, mustache as thick an’ fiery red as any you’d e’er seen. As soon as Kathrin saw me she dinnoh have any control o’er herself. I mean, who can blame her? I’m quite the heartbreaker. Now, me days of drinkin’ with the lads an’ quickies with tha wenches is out… Kathrin would kill meh dead. That woman can be powr’ful frightinin’ in her own wee way.

So that leaves me in mah’ current predicament, taxes to pay an’ mouths to feed. Not tah mention me lads look up ta me. I cannou let ‘em down. I dun fight for glory, I fight because mah clan would ne’r look at me the same if I ran. I fight to put food on’ tha table an’ keep a roof o’er their heads.
The uniform feels a bit like it’s gotten a wee smaller. Not as easy to squeeze mah’ gut intah mah armor ya know. Me mates McGonnal, Drogah, and even ‘lil weezy have already run out the door, toward the clangor. But I… I’m no ready. The fire’s brilliant an’ me shift is almost over.

I breathe deeply, an’ take a second longer before I make myself go out. The sweet smell of pine smoke is thick. It’s a scent you grow accustomed to when you’re indoors durin’ the cooler months, the smell of home and laughter. The smell of comfort, an’ I’ll miss it terribly.

The boy out there, aye just a lad, he’s angry at the world. I suppose he has not had his fair share of warm hearths and hearty stew. I’ve heard the rumors. Everyone says he’s stronger than an ogre and twice as fast. An’ what’s more, they say he’s got a fearsome hatred of the nobles. The very same rubes who fill muh purse. It’s mah duty to protect them no matter what those whorrin’ buggers have done. I have no choice, a guard who runs from a fight would never work a day again.

I’ll have nunah that. Not fur meh boys and not fur Kathrin. One last look around the bunks. That’s when I spot it. Muh trusty bow. Hasn’t been shot in probably three summers. But the string still looks like it’ll make a pull er two before she snaps. The wood feels supple enough. I feel a smile run across mah lips and I chase it away. Reminds me uh Kathrin. I miss her even though I jus’ saw the blasted woman this morning, complainin’ at me about bringin’ home some goat’s milk from the market. The chill in the air this mornin’ was enough that I could see puffs of muh breath caught in the yellow dawn. I remember how cold her nose felt again’ meh cheek when she kissed meh goodbye. I shoulda kissed her back. If I see her again, I promise I’ll always kiss her back.

The door is still wide open from where the lads ran out. Animals. Always leavin’ it open. I sling a quiver over meh shoulder an’ rush out, making sure to close it behind meh. The day is bright, and although there’s still a nip in the air the wind is still an’ the sun is hot against meh uniform. I can tell already that I’m gonna start tah sweat if I have to do too much in this fuckin’ stuffy getup.

As meh eyes adjust to the light muh knees start to buckle. It’s a scene of chaos and war. Alluh’ the guards are dead. Cut down, ripped to bloody pieces. I’m not sure who is who. Mah eyes follow the trail of death... and I see the boy. He’s running toward the great hall, toward the nobles. There’s no way I can catch up to him now. Meh only chance is the bow. Fur a moment I fumble, reaching over muy shoulder for an arrow, the feathers between meh fingers, they seem to purr as muh finger runs along the fletching. The bow flexes as I notch an arrow and pull it back. The string resists, more than I remember. Mah muscles are not as young as they used to be, but I line up the shot and let it rip. The arrow whistles and is true to its mark, but the lad must be made of lightnin’ ‘cause outuh nowhere he turns and plucks it from tha air. He frowns and his eyes fall upon me.
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Post March 23, 2020, 07:17:18 AM

Re: Tales of the Watch

My vote is in... :)
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Post March 24, 2020, 10:01:52 PM

Re: Tales of the Watch

And mine. Tough choices this month.
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Post March 25, 2020, 12:36:47 PM

Re: Tales of the Watch

I cast my vote. A lot of fun Tales of Terror this time...well, more like Funnels of Fun...anyway. I cast my vote.
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Post April 15, 2020, 12:03:57 PM

Re: Tales of the Watch

critiques:
An unexpected discovery: A fine story focusing on working old tech. Really, this story has been done before, the most exaggerated case was Planet of the Apes and the Atom Bomb they worshipped (classic version) - and the gun was worshipped by Charleston Heston in the 2nd Planet of the Apes (NRA president) The gun became the main character, taking away from the humans around it.
City Inspector - I liked the inspector and his blatant disregard of others around him. It's been done before, certainly, but to put the overworked inspector in a fantasy piece, I thought it was funny and almost voted for it.
A Perilous Job - I thought this story answered the challenge the best. Some poor average Joe trying to do his best on the job, always getting the short end of the stick, due simply to the nature of his duty. The plot was inventive, cleaning freight from other realms of magic. I could easily have voted for this one - but there were a lot of good stories this time and my vote fell elsewhere.
Home Alone (A lot) - my story. I usually write about what is in front of my face, and our voluntary imprisonment was right there. I thought the sentence about "a brownie...not the fantasy character but the hot googey treat" was hilarious.
The Watch - I voted for this one. Interesting language accent incorporated into script, great details, I liked the open-ended last line "He frowns and his eyes fall upon me."...the guy on the watch gets slaughtered.
Since the house is on fire - at least let us warm ourselves.

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