“It appears that whoever ‘Gunther’ is depends on whose compound it is,” Yulen commented. He signaled to Lala. “Continue with your story. Tell her the rest of what you told us.”

            The woman bowed her head to collect her thoughts. “Uhhh, well, he evoked the Three Laws, so Ismeris felt he had no choice but to let them inside.”

            “With or without their wagons?” Atty questioned.



            She sighed. “At first, we didn’t see or hear anything suspicious, but Ismeris had sent out an advisory for everyone to keep their eyes and ears open with regards to the strangers. They tried to barter for goods to replenish their supplies, but our merchants weren’t…cooperating.”

            “Why not?”

            “They were trying to barter their weapons for the goods. Guns. Those ancient guns and ammunition for them. Our merchants tried to tell them weapons were not considered barterable, and they got mad.”

            “Did they threaten anyone with the weapons?” Yulen broke in.

            “No.” Lala added a shake of the head. “They were just mad. They yelled at us. And called us names and shit.”

            “What happened?” the battle lord asked. “Enraged customers shouldn’t have alarmed the Mutah council.” He chuckled. “That’s almost a weekly event here in my compound.”

            “We didn’t think much of it either,” the young woman admitted. “It wasn’t until they were going to leave that they threatened us.” A trace of fear crossed her unique features. Everyone remained quiet yet attentive as they waited for the woman to continue.

            “They returned to their wagons and hitched up their horses. They started to move out. Nobody thought anything of it until one of the wagons began backing up. It stopped less than ten yards away from the main gate, and that’s when Gunther called up to the guards. He said he was going to give us one more chance to be hospitable, and he gave us a list of items he demanded we bring outside.”

            “Food items?” Atty clarified.

            “Yes. Mostly food. Some clothing. And milk. They had a baby with them.”

            “Did you relent?” Yulen queried.

            “No. Not…at first.”

            Reaching over, Atty placed a comforting hand on the young woman’s arm. “What did they do?” she slowly asked. When Lala continued to hesitate, she nodded. “They fired their cannon at you, didn’t they?”

            Lala nodded jerkily. Her eyes went blank and her entire body trembled at the memory.

            Atty squeezed her arm. “Okay. They fired the cannon. It went boom. It terrified everyone. Did the shot kill anyone?”

            “Y-yes. It killed Petter and Morten. Aggela. Candela. Mihari and her son, Nishet.”

            “Did it destroy the compound?” Yulen softly asked.

            “It destroyed the front wall and gate, and several homes and stores.”

            “What happened then?” the battle lord continued. “Did Ismeris consent to Gunther’s demands?”

            Another ragged nod. “He g-gave them every…everything they asked for.”

            “And then what happened?” Atty pushed.

            The woman turned haunted eyes at her. “Nothing. They left, like they said they would. We watched them go and noted in what direction they were heading.”



            “That still doesn’t explain why you came to warn us,” Yulen noted.

            “After they left, the council called for a meeting of everyone in the compound,” Lala went on. “Ismeris called for volunteers to go to all the Mutah and Mutah friendly compounds in that direction to let them know what had occurred.” She looked directly at Atty. “That’s why I’m here. I volunteered to come tell you.”