Ronan, after checking the windows again, pulled Francis aside and I heard him begin what sounded like a detailed report of what he had observed outside. I stepped forward and raised my voice, “I think we can all assume that this attack is not yet over. There is something in this train that those orcs were after and they were willing to kill us to get to it. I don’t know what they are after or why, but I am not inclined to let them have it.”
Nodding his head, Ronan stepped forward and, for the first time, spoke. “So we have a choice to go to the baggage car or head towards the engine through the first class car, or hang out in our burning car… A couple of us could get to the roof to scout either way … maybe hit a motor cyclist or two… or we could just make a choice… We know that the first class car has a lot of moneyed people, and some pretty powerful dudes… If they are dead, we can relieve them of their gear… if they are in on the attack, we will have our hands full…”
He paced as he talked and had reached the other side of the car by this time. With a sharp spin to face us again, he continued, “On the other hand, there could be some nice valuables in the baggage car, and maybe any guards have been done away with… easy pickings? I am not sure if we can stop them from disabling the engine at this point, maybe it would be safer to be in the back of the train for bailing purposes, especially if the engine explodes. We could also disengage the baggage cart and coast off with the valuables in it… though most of it is probably raw material…”
His strange pauses made listening to him a bit difficult at times, but he had obviously experienced combat in the past and I felt his understanding of the situation could be vital.
“This attack,” he concluded, “is probably connected to the one that made the train we were supposed to catch ‘break down’. This would suggest an outside group probably doing raids on all the local trains… this probably means that they have large numbers to be able to do at least two such attacks on the same day. If we are left out in the middle of nowhere, we could be in big trouble… I want to go up on the roof and see if I can pick off a few bikers before the Engine is compromised… what do you say?”
I nodded my head, but waved Ronan back from the window as I addressed the group, “If they manage to stop the train, we’re in trouble. They’ll be able to keep throwing people our way until they overwhelm us. Our best bet is to get to the engine and make sure nothing bad happens to it. If we have to wade through the nobles’ guards to do it, so be it. I will not let their arrogance endanger my companion or myself. My companion and I can make it to the engine by ourselves, there is no reason for the rest of you to imperil yourselves.”
Keras, arriving at my side, leaned over and rumbled in my ear, “Vend, the Turnings.”
I bowed my head, “Of course, Keras. Thank you.” With a deep sigh, I turned to the elf. “I’m sorry to ask you this, but my friend here has just reminded me of the riders who were hurling fire pots into the train. If you are willing, we could use someone up top to pick off any extra riders who appear. It would be better if we had two people up top, one at the front of the train and one at the rear, but I’m not sure if we have anyone else capable of taking care of that. I hate to leave the cargo car unguarded, but I think our priority needs to be the engine. The rest of you can wait here while Keras and I clear the first passenger car. Once we have secured the area, you can move forward and make yourselves more secure in the stronger car while Keras and I move on to the engine. We will defend the engine and ensure that we make it our destination.”
Francis chuckled from the back of the group. The rest of the adventurers looked at each other and then, without a word being spoken, began to ready their weapons. I shook my head and began to move towards the front of the car. Ronan walked by Keras and reached up to tap him on the shoulder, “Can you give me a boost out the window? I’m going to head up to the roof.” Keras peeled off from the group to follow Ronan to the window. As I neared the front of the car, I leaned my head out the window to look forward for any other riders who might be nearing the engine. A sudden movement from the top of the next train car caught my eye and the fleeting image of a tail was left burned in my mind. As I jerked my head back into the car to tell the others what I had seen, Cora was pulling her head back in from the window across from me, her eyes wide. All it took was the word “tail” and she nodded her head frantically. We turned to tell the rest of the group what we saw when Odelle came running up from the back of the car, “There is a huge train behind us. It looks like it is going to eat this train.”
As everyone stared at her, Cora said, “There is a huge creature on the top of the next train car that looks like it could eat us.”
I looked at Keras and he simply nodded. “Where force is necessary, one should make use of it boldly, resolutely, and right to the end. We are now a part of this and I doubt they will let us walk away. If that massive train behind us is able to somehow connect to this train, we are going to want to be as far from it as possible. I say we move towards the engine and, having secured the next car, disconnect the rear two cars. It’s possible the collision could derail the train behind us. If nothing else, it will slow them down and speed us up.”
Francis stepped forward, “Shpeeding up might not be the besht option, lad. If I’m right about where we are, and I’m alwaysh right, there be a rather large bridge ahead. If they have taken that bridge out, we are merely rushing to our death.”
Placing his arquebus against the wall of the train, Ronan turned back to the group. “Whether or not the bridge is out, getting rid of the back two cars will help us. We can either speed up if the bridge is intact or slow down faster if it is not. Regardless, we need to clear the train ahead of us and reach the engine.”
His words met with general approval and so, as Keras boosted Ronan up to the roof, the rest of us stacked up outside the forward door. Bracing myself, I threw open the door, not sure whether I would find nobles lounging around drinking fine brandy or laying on the floor dead. In the dim light of the cabin, I saw my answer.