The Followers of Armageddon

Jasper McCarrin

UP: Britannia

    While waiting at Lord British's castle, I saw a small company of guards enter the courtyard surrounding a strange little man. The guards only appeared to be escorting him, but I had the distinct feeling that he would not have been allowed to leave. Intrigued, I followed at a safe distance.

    They went south past the stables, then up into a guardroom. The man was brought back to the dining area and sat down on a bench. All of the guards then left but two. I caught the attention of one as he was leaving and asked him who the man was.

    "Who, him?" He asked pointing toward the dining area. "He was a member of that group who caused those earthquakes. He left the group and asked us for protection." I asked if I could speak to him. The guard hesitated, then said that he saw no harm in it. I noticed he remained to keep an eye on me though.

    As I entered the dining area where the man sat, I looked him over. He had dark hair that had grown to a long, unkempt length. Short whiskers adorned his chin. He wore simple clothes that would have allowed him to blend with your average city crowd. He watched me warily as I entered and sat down across from him.

"Who art thee?" he asked.
"Just someone who's curious about things," I replied. "I was wondering if I could ask thee about thy..."
"My what?" he interrupted. "If ye mean the Followers of Armageddon, I'm no longer with them."
"Followers of Armageddon? But I thought..."
Again he interrupted me, anticipating my thoughts. "Nay, we changed our name a full cycle ago. Just didn't bother to announce it, 'tis all."
"Why the change?" I asked.
He shrugged. "It has something to do with wisps. And that they were the ones who brought the armageddon spell into Britannia. Makes no real difference to me any more what they call themselves."
He reached across the table and pulled a bottle of ale closer to him. This is when I noticed he was missing the thumb and index finger from his left hand.
"Aah," he said, "I see ye've noted my hand. 'Tis why they call me Branson One-Thumb. Lost it when I was a mere lad. I was in the smithy with my father. He was crafting some daggers to sell at the market. I remember him telling me to sit still. I reached up onto the anvil to try and see what was happening. My pappa didn't see my hand until it was too late. They had to remove what was left of the thumb and the finger."
I winced in sympathy as he told this. "Why did ye leave the Followers of Armageddon, Branson?"
He suddenly looked embarrassed. "Well... uh... I... um..." He looked around as if trying to find an escape route, but a guard blocked the one door out. "I..." he started again, "I fell in love." He looked sheepishly towards anything but me.
I have to admit, I was a bit nonplused. Of all the possible reasons I had considered, this was not remotely close to expected. "You fell in love? Why did this cause you to leave?"
"Well," he responded, "I don't exactly want her to be smackered when they cast that spell. What kind of love would that be?"
Difficult to argue with such logic. "Tell me more about the Followers of Armageddon," I asked Branson.
"There's not much more I can tell ye. I know they want to cast that spell, but I don't know why. I never thought much of it - there aren't many who will give work to someone with only half a left hand. But they did." Branson paused, looking at his mangled hand. "Few indeed. I learned to hide and spy on those they told me to watch. Quite easy work."
I nodded understanding. 'Tis often a cruel land, and those who miss a single step can easily stumble and not get back up.

    At this point, a guard entered the room and spoke in whispers to the other guards. He then walked over to me. "Thou hast had time enough to ask thy questions. I must now insist that thou doth leave."
I nodded and stood. As I did so, they began to usher Branson out of the door. I quickly called out to him, "Branson! Who's the leader of the Followers of Armageddon? Who's behind all this?"

    "W..." he began. Without warning, he stuttered a bit and his eyes flew wide open. A trickle of blood formed on the corner of his mouth. He collapsed, and then I saw the kryss handle protruding from his back. The guard who had come in at the end was fighting off the other guards and then disappeared with "Kal Ort Por" echoing off the walls. I stared at them all in complete shock as understanding began to worm it's way into my head. Kneeling down beside Branson, I slid his eyelids down over his eyes. He was now truly free of the Followers of Armageddon. I felt an intense chill run down my spine as I walked out of the guardroom and left the castle. I needed an ale as quickly as possible...

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online, Wednesday, August 19th 1998