We met a regional war hero and he helped us fulfill our mission by arranging an excellent price for all the equipment required to field a hundred men (soldiers not included)…
And we lured a “beginner in all arts” into our company when Sir Macfiercest offered him patronage and a workshop once we reach Rainos. Ah, the liberty that comes with great wealth!
~ ~ ~
All of these events were noteworthy indeed, but the true action began AFTER we hired the tinker.
~ ~ ~
“Sorry I was late – I wasn’t sure what to bring.”
“I was once told that wizards are never late; they always arrive precisely when they mean to.”
“And I told you that I’m not a wizard! I have a few tricks, that’s all.”
My master, Sir Ducan MacFiercest of Greater Winey, was waiting for us further along the street. He seemed oddly interested with the foundation of the house next to him.
“Les, Albertus – we have an extra task to accomplish. Do you feel up for saving a damsel in distress? If so, look little farther than where your feet now rest.”
Surprised, we looked down.
The quest was a simple one, once it was explained to us. Rostra, the “damsel” in question, claimed to be a priestess and a Nerogue spy who had been captured by the very bandits she had followed to Worsan – Bella Strongarm, a gang-leader from Rainos rumored to be invincible. Sir MacFiercest, being the nobleman he is, agreed at once to help the spy.
“You should hurry,” the priestess cautioned. “Divine grace has sent you in the hours that the bandits devote to rest, so there should be only one conscious guard for you to slay.”
Albertus, a natural skeptic, made a face at the assumption of holy intervention, but he said nothing.
“Thank you, madam,” my master replied, “but I’ll think of something to do the trick.”
“Watch and learn,” he said to us a few feet away. “This is called the, ‘smoke out’. Behold, a simple wine bottle with a rag in it…”
“What are you doing! You’ll set the city on fire!” Albertus nearly shouted, and he blocked Sir MacFiercest’s pitch.
“Well, how else are we going to smoke them out and save the lady? I’m not going to sneak in like some sort of thief!”
It turned out that Albertus had a perfect solution. Sir MacFiercest and I watched with some caution as he mixed chemicals that he said would produce a huge cloud of noxious smog inside the house. It was hurled through a window with some speed, trailing vapor behind it.
We quickly assumed our positions to our not-wizard’s consternation.
“Why are we sitting here? Shouldn’t we be around by the back door so we can go inside when Bella is out here?”
This notion amused my master greatly, and he explained – to Albertus’ further discomfort – that it is impossible to hold an ambush and evade the enemy at the same time.
Behind us, white mist seeped from the hideout’s windows and muffled coughs reached our ears. I concentrated on my lunch.
Three seconds… five seconds… fourteen seconds later, the heavy front door was all-but-dislodged from its hinges by the wheezing gangsters. I savored the sour taste of the green tree-fruit in my mouth.
Someone was forcing her lungs to rasp orders. There she was – the ‘invincible’ bandit. I swallowed hastily.
Like the good tacticians they were, the outlaws formed a perimeter, menacing bystanders. Like the overconfident fool he was, one of them decided to menace Sir MacFiercest, no doubt mistaking him for some mercenary or raider. He should have remembered to put on his helmet.
The distinctive clang of my master striking something with the hilt of his sword started the battle. Blue sleeves – the stricken man – tried to parry with his sword but cut himself in the process. Pedestrians ran and the entire gang turned to face the threat.
I learned why Bella’s unit was considered invincible: they were excellently drilled, and as Blue Sleeves staggered back to examine his would two of his allies closed in front of him and engaged Sir MacFiercest. An archer took a position on the steps to the porch and waited for an opening. Clashing instincts stalled my next move – there was a hammer-wielding murderess rushing my master on his right, but my native ways were not accustomed to those of Mythron, and I could not drive myself to attack a woman.
Fortunately, Albertus knew how to use his staff, had the muscles of a smith and possessed no petty qualms. Meanwhile, Sir MacFiercest managed to force his opponent back with his shield and fend off the swordsman with a dart of his own blade. Everyone was fighting except for me.
I met with an adversary at last as Albertus pulled out a small red pouch. More outlaws were pouring off of the porch and I tried frantically to strategize – excess thinking has always been my fault in the field.
Lightning crackled to my right - mortally terrifying a heavily-armored bandit - but my eyes switched back to Sir MacFiercest. He had an opening to slay his foe, but instead he pulled back and let the tip of his blade pass inches from her face. This was the signal I was waiting for – my knight thought we could take our enemies without casualties on either side. I was not so confident, but I decided to follow his lead.
Then the matter was taken from our hands. It was as if the bandits were puppets and the puppeteer suddenly dropped the strings. One second there were four men thirsting for my blood, then I knew with an eerie certainty that they would never thirst for anything again. Even the archer on the porch had been stilled by the unseen hand.
Dazed, Bella took three fatal steps back. Something glinted through the air, and both she and Blue Sleeves fell for the last time.
With a mighty oath, my master checked his adversary for a heartbeat, but the chilling silence of the street had already told me what he would find. I chose to scan the rooftops rather than the dead.
I caught one glimpse of an archer in white and black before he withdrew from sight, and informed my master in a breath.
“That’s it!” he roared. “No one interrupts my battles without giving a good reason for it. Get up there and see if you can find anything out, will you?”
Compared to the treacherous mountains of my distant home, the buildings of Worsan were as easy to climb as a stepladder. I knew that there were stairs inside the house, but I reckoned that it would be faster to take the first path that presented itself.
Across the street, I saw that Albertus was keeping pace – no doubt with some clever little device that gripped the whitewash for him. I redoubled my efforts and hurled myself to the gutter.
When I looked over the summit, I endured yet another surprise – the sniper was reclining against the wall with his bow in his lap, waiting for me!
With a swipe of his weapon, he sent me back to the very edge of the tiles.
In the next second, I saw Albertus knocked from his handhold by a well-placed arrow. The porch trellis cushioned his landing, but the look on his face was priceless.
By that time, the mysterious bowman was on his way to the gatehouse parapet. He moved like a spring, all compressed potential energy at one moment and motion at the next.
All his speed, however, could not save him from the embrace of Sir MacFiercest, who pounced from the tower window to pin the intruder. I suppose there was something to be said for taking the stairs, after all.
The two men righted themselves as soon as they landed, one with a sword in hand and the other with no (visible) weaponry.
“Hold now,” my knight began. “I was in the middle of a battle and you took my sport away. I may decide to overlook this offense, but first I must know: Who are you?”
I wasn’t sure what happened, but somehow the two warriors shot off of opposite ends of the crenels, one in a graceful run and the other in a decidedly less comfortable manner.
~ ~ ~
Less than a minute later, we were gathered among the corpses with the liberated Nerogue. Albertus, as a result of his “beginner’s knowledge” of physic, was checking over the outlaws to see if any had lived.
“Do you know who the man in white was?” I asked. The priestess shook her head.
“An ally, perhaps, or merely an enemy’s enemy. He does not matter. We must hurry – awful events are afoot, and only with godspeed may we prevent the Kingdom of Mythron from falling into darkness forever!”
To the woman’s great surprise, my master started off toward our ship.
“Pardon me, madam, but Mythron is no concern of mine. I may be a knight, but from last week forward, my true nation is Rainos.”