Refuges of War
Those members of the Petala militia devoted to Womb struck at darknail. They killed the rightful Baron, then turned on his court and militia who were loyal to The Crown. Womb arrived and inspected the bodies being piled up in the stronghold's courtyard. He nodded his head, went to the audience hall and sat in the high chair he had once occupied. His senior officers accompanied him.
He cast his gaze among the men. "A new order rises. The weak will be crushed. Only the strong will survive to build a Carandir that will regain its place in the world. The foreigners who suck upon the teat of our nation will be cast out along with the New Nobility, the usurping shopkeepers. Only true Carandirians will live among us. Our race will expunge the filth. Form bands of men loyal to our cause. They are authorized to take any action necessary. I must send terecs to Baroness Luja and Baron Gilyon. We now secure Petala, Eel and Shenan, but there are many in the other western baronies who share our vision and await the signal for war to begin."
In the early hours of morning, gangs of men with torches, clubs, swords and knives broke down the doors of shops owned by those deemed contaminated by parentage, origin or beliefs. The owners and their families, who often lived above their businesses, were driven into the streets. Homes were invaded and torched. Many were beaten or killed while the official militia stood by.
Screams echoed down the streets and alleys of cities, towns and villages. Children were slaughtered before the eyes of their parents, then the adults put to death. People fled to the countryside, the hills, the forest, anywhere out of the melee.
Marawee woke to someone pounding on his door. He opened it to find He opened it to find his son-in-law's father, Len Gento, with a lantern in his hand. Len stared down the road, then turned to Marawee. "Quickly. You have to leave now, your whole family. Hebra is bringing a wagon with Keetala and the baby."
The light from the lantern reflected off of Marawee's dark skin. "What is wrong?"
"Villagers and outsiders are raiding the homes of everyone not born in the barony. "
"Doesn't the militia stop them?"
"They stand and watch. One declared that Womb is baron again and has ordered the expulsion of all easterners and foreigners. Hurry. They will be here in moments."
Marawee spread his hands to indicate his property. "This is our home, our land, given to us by The Crown."
"Womb is in revolt against The Crown."
A mob ran up the street carrying torches, pitch forks and scythes. "Get them," cried voices. "The maggots."
They reached the doorstep. One of Marawee's neighbors, a man whose barn he had helped to rebuild after a storm, said, "By order of Baron Womb, the lands and property of all easterners and foreigners are confiscated. You must leave at once."
Marawee looked around to the faces of men he had worked beside and drank with at the tavern. "What are you doing Entar? We have all shared a life here. Many of us fought the Barasha together. Why do you come to my house with threats?"
Another said, "This land is for Carandirians."
Marawee took a step forward. "I am Carandirian. I swore an oath to this monarchy. I chose to be here."
"Well, now you can choose to leave quietly or be burned out."
Umera joined her husband. "You have no right to do this."
A man in the back of the mob shouted, "Silence. Women have no voice in this barony. Men will decide who has rights. You have none."
Marawee stood tall. "My wife and all other women have the same rights as any man. What are you saying? There are only twelve of you. Where are the rest of the villagers? You do not speak for them."
Entar held his torch like a mace. "They stay in their houses and let those with the courage to act cleanse the land of scum. They know their duty to the baron and the consequences for those who speak out against him."
A voice came from behind Entar. "Len, you and your son can stay. We have no quarrel with you for befriending this immigrant. You are true Carandirians. But Hebra's black wife and the abomination she bore must leave."
Entar looked behind him with a scowl, then turned to Marawee while averting his eyes. "Because you have been a good man, we will allow you to take a wagon with your personal belongings and any coins you have, but your lands are forfeit to Baron Womb. Head east and find passage back to Huron where you came from. Return to your own kind."
Marawee slowly shook his head. "I fought the sorcerers and freed all of you. I can still fight."
"Tell him, Len. Tell him that the militia are just down the road with a bigger mob. Tell him to get out. We can hold them back for a span, no more. Tell him!" Entar turned and led the mob away.
Marawee stared after them with his fists clenched. Umera stepped out into the road. "What are we to do?"
"I don't know. I can't believe this. We have lived with these people for nearly two decades. Everyone welcomed us. We laughed and ate together. How could this be happening?"
Len said, "We must flee, all of us. We are family, you and Hebra and Keetala and Marshala. I have already decided to leave. Hebra and Keetala will have finished loading our belongings and will be here any moment. We must all travel east or they will kill you. I will stand with you and they will kill me."
Hebra pulled a long wagon up to the house. Two lanterns had been attached to the front to light their way. Keetala sat beside Hebra on the driver's bench with Marshala in her arms. The young mother stared straight ahead, her mouth slightly open, her eyes wide. They quickly loaded clothes and coins and lanterns and food. Eight tespans later, they were riding quickly down a road leading east.
It took over a span for them to reach the foothills of a mountain range and leave the vineyards behind. Marawee looked back for a final glance at the home he had lived in, where his daughter had grown up, where his granddaughter had been born, where he had known the greatest joy. Then, they entered the trees of a forest and the valley was cut off from sight.
The road rose steeply. There were many switchbacks. Hebra slowed the horse to navigate a road that sometimes became so narrow there was just enough space to keep the sides of the wagon from brushing against trees. Keetala crawled into the wagon bed and slept with her daughter in her arms. Len fell asleep next to Umera.
Marawee took the reins from Hebra, who stretched his legs. The young man said, "I have never been out of the valley. Do you know how far Meth is?"
Marawee urged the horse forward. "Many long weeks travel. I'm not even certain this road reaches the city. We will take it as far as possible. Hopefully, it leads to a barony that is still loyal to The Crown."
They continued in silence. After a while, Hebra said, "Do you think we have gone far enough to make camp safely?"
"I'd like to get a little farther away. Dawn will come soon and we should find a place to hide. I don't know how far Womb's power reaches."
"He joined the Barasha, didn't he?"
Marawee turned his head toward the young man. "Yes."
"Was it terrible, this war?"
The former solider looked back to the road. "All wars are terrible. Some are necessary. Neither of us would be here if the Barasha had won. Baras would have destroyed everything."
"Do you mind talking about it?"
"There's not much to say. I spent most of my time marching behind our prince, Udalla. He is a great leader in my homeland. We all loved him. When we were not marching, we were waiting. The battle was quick. Not a one of us would be ashamed to say we experienced terror. Many did not return from that field, many friends. All of us pledged our lives to defeat the Barasha. It was necessary, but there was no glory. Only fools find glory in war."
"Have you taken up arms since?"
Marawee gave a short laugh. "You are a man of many questions, Hebra."
"I'm sorry. I will be quiet."
"Don't be. It is because people in our village were quiet tonight that we are here. I don't know if it was from fear or a deep-rooted hatred of those who are different that they have hidden all these years."