When the city walls were breached and the Jarl's garrison scattered, no one was ready. Roses had been under siege for only a month when Imperial forces succeeded in puncturing the city's defenses with horrifying siege engines that no subject of the Crown had ever seen before.
Sir Herod Brevon had been on the walls when that initial volley came from the Empire's gargantuan siege cannons. He was a witness to an encroaching sea of gunmetal-grey soldiers and felt musketballs whiz by his head and watched many of his comrades die trying to repel the overwhelming assault. In the course of the battle, ordinance would explode directly in front of him; Herod was thrown off the walls into a free fall to what he was sure was death.
But he did not die.
He awoke at the base of the fortifications, the sound of gunfire and metal-on-metal had ceased. He risked opening his eyes to take in his surroundings and was horrified by the sights they saw.
The walls had been collapsed around several sections and the dead were everywhere, indeed the only reason he had managed survival (by his reasoning) was his fortuitous landing upon another man who had fallen from the wall before he did.
He immediately scurried off the dead man in a panic, the corpse's vacant eyes staring at nothing but its face twisted with fear and terror. He wasn't sure what was happening or just who's hands the city currently lay in, but he wasn't going to lay in the rubble forever and he figured if any Imperial soldiers had spotted his return to consciousness then he would have already received a bullet for his stubborn refusal to die when a man ought.
Gunpowder, smoke, and death filled his nostrils, nearly gagging him as he retreated towards the center of Roses, being sure to stay in the shadows of alleys and avoid any major roads.
He heard music, triumphal tunes he didn't recognize as he neared the city square and as the full horror of the situation started to dawn,
What if we lost?
Indeed as Herod emerged, despair choked him anew. A flag flew in the square; the image of a screaming, twin-headed eagle flapped in the wind confirming his fears.
Only the gods knew if the Jarl had managed to escape to safety, though Herod would be surprised if that were the case.
This was it, he was on his own now; the war was over, at least for him.
About a month passed since Roses had been wrested from Damocles and Sir Herod still lived. It hadn't been hard to blend in with the peasantry, finding refuge with a farmer and his family. It also wasn't hard to find work with one of the Masonic Guilds that were still permitted to operate by the Empire, being as there was no shortage of rubble to clear or stone to set and without support from the church. The reconstruction process would slow to an agonizing crawl if the Guilds couldn't operate.
Many of the commanding officers seemed a reasonable sort, typically leaving the common man alone and severely punishing the abuses of their own men when they were brought to light; Herod would still slit their throats given the chance. He watched with anger burning behind his eyes as survivors from the garrison would be found out and hung for all to see from the Jarl's palace as a warning to those that would think to still resist.
He shook his head, burying the memories and hefting the mason's hammer, readjusting its position on his shoulder; the weight of it was a minor inconvenience, though its utility more than made up for that little flaw. The sun was beginning to set and he was the only one in the street, his duties as a guildmason partially exempting him from the military curfew enforced by the Empire.
That's why Herod was so surprised when he heard the scream of a woman a little up the road. His curiosity and concern outweighing his caution, he jogged toward the source of the commotion and knew that there was some sort of struggle.
His investigation brought him to a decently-sized, respectable home with its door off its hinges.
"Damn it woman!" He heard a man's voice with a thick accent just inside. Imperial accents.
"Get a hold of her Sig!" Another voice.
Herod glanced cautiously through the remains of the entrance; two men in Imperial uniform held down a woman, one had a hand clamped hard over her mouth.
For a moment, Herod considered fleeing; his survival dependent on laying low while he waited for the King's armies to retake the city. His original plan being one where if he dies, it's a death that might do some good in the long run.
But seeing this scene unfold, he knew he couldn't just walk away and leave this woman to her fate. Something in him broke, a floodgate of repressed anger opened and he allowed himself to be carried away on its current.
He charged into the room raising his hammer high and dropping it hard on the helmeted skull of the man currently not astride the woman. His skull simply evaporated under the weight and power of the blow, his compatriot turned in time to see the Sigil of the Guildmasons hurtling toward his face before seeing nothing else ever again.
With both her attackers neutralized, the woman scrambled to her feet; a wild fear in her eyes as she prepared to scream once again.
Realizing she was preparing to scream once more, Herod clamped his hand over her mouth; she kicked and clawed at him as a result.
"Shhh! You're safe now, m'lady!" he spoke low and tried his best to sound non-threatening, "But if you want to live through the night you would do well to calm yourself. We need to leave this place now."
Her struggles became less vicious when it seemed to dawn that this man wasn't going to try to use her in an unsavory fashion like the ones immediately prior. After a few moments of relative calm and tense eye-contact, Herod tentatively released his hand from her mouth.
"Are you all right? Are you hurt?"
She eyed him with suspicion before answering, "Yes."
"No. They almost did...they meant to..." She glanced nervously at the corpses on the floor.
He raised a hand meant to comfort, but she avoided it; the shock of her experience seeming to sour her about physical contact. Herod retracted his hand.
"Do you have a name m'lady?" He asked
"Eryn." She offered with a sad smile, "And do you, mason?"
"Saul. My name is Saul."
Herod had been living under a false name since beginning his days in hiding, fearing that he may be identified as a member of the garrison at Roses. A new name was one of a few precautions he had taken to remain undetected.
"Well...I guess I should thank you Saul. If you hadn't come around..." she shuddered at the thought of what her life might have been like.
He smiled, "Think nothing of it. I was here and I acted."
"Regardless, thank you."
He glanced at the corpses, "I doubt you're going to be thanking me at the end of this. You're coming with me, we're burning down your house."
At first Eryn seemed confused, then realizing what he meant she cringed. To her credit (and his surprise) she didn't protest this decision though it clearly wasn't something she wanted to do.
"Did anyone else live here with you?" he inquired
"Do you have any other clothes?"
Her face grew stern, "And if I don't come with you?"
He sighed, "I won't make you do anything, but I ask that you come with me. For better or for worse, two soldiers are dead on your floor and you better believe there will be consequences for that if they're found."
And with that, whatever meager defiance she had mustered had left. She felt deflated as her life was suddenly hijacked and taken out of her control.