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Chaos bustled around us in eerie silence. Freed slaves looted their house and its storerooms for anything weapon like. I dropped the flap to the rear entrance.
“Watch his back. Do not dare abandon us again.” Wyanet ordered.
“I’ll manage if she does.” I added.
Rolen approached Wyanet, Kalista, and I. He handed Kalista and I both an unlit torch. “Do not forget to signal us when you finish.”
I stuffed the torch into my belt. “We’ll be as quick as we can.”
“Everything rides on you three. If even one of the Watchers survives, our plan will fail.”
“Us three? Wyanet isn’t going with us.” Kalista said.
The man in the turban with the glowing tattoos stepped up behind Rolen. “I will be assisting you.”
Kalista and I glanced at each other.
“Three will make the work go faster.” Rolen interceded. “And make me less nervous about failure.”
“It also makes it easier for us to be discovered.” I countered.
The man stepped past Rolen and addressed me directly. “I was born in a world of shadows and darkness. I no more increase the risk than the chance of success.”
“What is your name, friend?” Wyanet asked.
“I am Naal.”
“You need to go. If we debate this any longer we’ll be out of time.” Rolen declared.
“Let’s go.” I conceded.
“Be careful.” Wyanet said.
“You too.” I replied.
Kalista, Naal, and I slipped out the rear entrance into the artificial night.
“I’ll take the first one. Spread out and get the others. Meet back at the gate when you’re done.” I ordered.
The three of us jogged into the grain fields. I stopped after a short distance, the other two continued to tear deeper. Two minutes passed in silence crouched amongst the barley. My sword slept in my lap. A Dark Elf carrying a lance atop a strider ambled past. I crept from my hiding place and out of the field. I tiptoed, as quiet as a cat on a rug, behind the creature. The strider stopped and cocked its head to the side. It let out a small chirp. The guard whispered something in his native tongue and patted the beast’s neck.
I leapt onto the strider’s back behind the guard. My hand clapped over his mouth before he could shout. My sword sliced through his throat with ease. The guard gurgled twice and slumped from the saddle. The strider thrashed and cawed. I climbed into the saddle, gathered up the reins. I stroked the scaly neck of the frightened beast with my free hand, calming it down.
I urged the strider forward, digging my heels into its sides. I found the main path, and followed it. I passed over a dead strider, a bolt protruding from its head. A dead Dark Elf bathed in a pool of her own blood nearby. I guided the strider down a diverging path. Four hundred yards later, my mount stumbled over two more dead guards and a shattered lantern. Further down the path in front of me, a guard charged toward me on a strider.
“Ongeya Kengele!” The guard shouted. “Kumekuwa na mauaji!”
I kicked my strider into a run. I raised my sword.
The guard figured out my intent, and leveled her spear.
A single heartbeat.
I knocked the spear away, opening the guard’s defense.
I twisted my wrist into an uppercut strike. My blade kissed the hollow of the woman’s exposed throat.
The guard jerked the reigns of her strider into mine. The beasts collided, mine yelped and tripped. I jumped from the saddle and tumbled into the flanking cornfield, like a squirrel that missed a branch. I scrambled to my feet and retreated deeper into the ordered rows of corn.
“I do not know who you are,” The guard said in common with a thick accent. “Surrender yourself now, and I may let you live.”
I made myself as small as I could and wove my way through the stalks, parting them with excessive care. A single rank of eight foot tall leafy stalks separated me from my opponent. Her gaze settled on me and she smiled.
I sprung from my hiding spot. My sword plunged through the strider’s body until half the blade had vanished inside it. The creature squawked and cawed in pain. It thrashed back and forth, jerking my sword from my hands.
The guard struggled to control her dying pet. It stumbled about and crumpled to the ground beneath her. The guard got back to her feet and locked eyes with me. She gave a mighty battle cry and rushed me, on foot, with her lance.
I shifted my footing into a horse-back stance. The guard thrust her lance at me. I blocked it with my arm and grabbed onto the shaft before she pulled it back. I stepped forward and broke the lance on my left forearm. I stepped again, and rammed the lance head into the guards thigh.
She grunted and swung what remained of her lance like a club.
I grabbed her wrist in my left hand and twisted under her arm, pulling the lancehead with me as I went. I summoned all my strength, and plunged the broken weapon into the woman’s back. The lancehead punched through her armour. She coughed once, spit a glob of blood onto my shoes, and slumped to the ground.
I took a few deep breaths and retrieved my sword. I looked around for the strider I had been riding, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Corn lined both sides of the path, blocking my view in almost every direction.
“Gazer, can you help me out a bit?” I said aloud in Sylvan.
Stargazer, the warrior Sprite, jumped from my back and became visible. He floated two feet in front of my face. “What do you need, Ceannaire?” He replied, also in Sylvan.
“Fly up above the corn and tell me if you can see anymore guards.”
“On it.” Gazer zipped into the air, vanishing from sight as he went.
A second, lighter, weight lifted off my other shoulder. I held out my hand. A Pixie wearing a green silk corset dress with silver brocade landed on my palm. A silver circlet, matching the pattern of her butterfly wings, held her well cared for hair in place. She wore no shoes, but carried herself with dignity and pride.
A broad smile crossed my face. “What can I do for you Silver?” I asked in Sylvan.
Silver puffed out her chest, clasped her hands behind her back, and tilted her chin up. “I wish to help you, mo chorí.”
“Of course, I could really use it. I’ve lost my way in this field, and need to find the gate.”
Silver gave a little nod and fluttered out of my hand. “I would be happy to find it for you, mo chorí” Silver fluttered away, a trail of shimmering dust following her.
Gazer floated back down. He watched Silver as she flew away, his eyes wide and his jaw a little slack.
“Gazer?” I sung.
Gazer spun around, his cheeks flush.
“What did you see?”
“Uh.” Gazer glanced back towards Silver. He shook his head to clear it. “I didn’t see any other guards, and the rude one with horns is waiting by the gate.”
Silver fluttered back towards us. Gazer winked out of sight and hid behind my neck. Landing in my outstretched palm again, Silver pointed towards the back wall of the cavern. “The gate is that way. The devil girl is there already.”
I moved my hand to my shoulder. Silver stepped off and grabbed onto my shirt before she turned invisible too. I jogged down the paths in the direction Silver had pointed. I emerged from the last of the crops into the freshly tilled and planted fields. Kalista waved me over when she saw me.
“You’re still here?” I teased.
Kalista shrugged. “My date got kidnapped, and I didn’t have anything better to do. How many guards did you get?”
“Two.” I replied. “Both of them were riding striders.”
“I got ten.” Naal declared. He walked past us carrying a severed head in one hand and a heavy curved sword in the other. He planted the sword tip into the ground. “This one had the guts to beat me last night.” He held up the severed head by a long white braid before chucking it against the wall. “He couldn’t even scratch me in a fair fight.” Naal walked towards the head, fighting with his belt.
“Does anyone have a flint and steel, or a match?” I asked, staring at Kalista.
Liquid streamed onto flesh. Kalista’s mouth clenched into a thin line.
“I thought you did?” Kalista said, turning away from where Naal stood.
“We were barely allowed tools.” Naal said as he shook off the last few drops. “The Watchers lit our fires for us when they went out.”
“Guess we’re doing it this way.” I mumbled and grabbed the head of the torch in my belt. I muttered some arcane words and magical light flared between my fingers. I let go of the torch head and waved it in the air above me. I buried the torch in the soil, and sat down away from the urine soaked head.
“What now?” Kalista asked as she sat down beside me.
“Now we wait.”
The story will continue, August 8th.
Written by: Sweeney
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