Legends of Cobalt

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Lies and Plans

I swam through the frigid waters of Crescent Moon Bay until my hand scraped across smooth pebbles. I walked out of the surf onto the stone covered beach of Dawnsky Wharf. Salty water dripped from every inch of me, pulling what little heat remained in my body with it. Orange and red flames of the burning lighthouse on the cliff above illuminated the sky. Fayaad walked out of the water behind me and flopped down on an overturned rowboat.

“What happened?” Althaea hauled katsu out of the ocean.

“Percy keeled Sypax. One of hees expereements tried to keel us.” Fayaad wrung the water out of his cloak. “I had to eemprovise.”

Kastu hacked half a litre of water onto the beach. “We didn’t come here to kill Masinissa.”

Althaea helped Katsu to his feet. “We shouldn’t linger here.”

“I killed him?!” I rounded on Fayaad. “I’m fairly certain I remember you jumping on his back and ramming a knife through his spine.”

“Does it matter who killed Sypax?” Nellie appeared above us and floated out of our reach. “Whoever did it saved me some time. I should thank you for it. Sypax’s experiments started raising questions I didn’t like.”

I pointed my sword at Nellie and stepped between her and the others.

“No, silly.” Nellie giggled, “I’m not here to kill you and your new friends, not yet anyway. I’ve got all sorts of fun games planned for us.”

Fayaad hurled a knife at Nellie. She caught the knife and threw it back into the ground in front of Fayaad.

“Didn’t Percy tell you what happened to his last group of friends?” Nellie landed by Fayaad and ran a clawed finger along his throat. “Annoying adults brought their mutt and interrupted our playtime.”

I placed the blade on Nellie’s shoulder. “You killed my friends and tried to kill me, but I remember you running away from that fight.”

Nellie brushed my sword away and drifted back into the air out of reach. “Do what you want. I came here to tell you I know you’re hunting me, and I’m going to enjoy destroying that army on its way here.” Nellie locked eyes with me. “No worthless adults will ruin the Paradise I am building.” Nellie transformed into a bat and darted back towards the castle.

“That was Nellie? The adopted child of Sofka and the vampire child you’re scared of?” Katsu spit onto the beach. “She doesn’t seem that tough.” 

“You’ve never seen her rip out a man’s still-beating heart.”

Alarm bells further down the harbour joined the sound of pounding feet and cries of ‘fire’.

“We need to get back to the others.” Fayaad pushed past me and ran for the row-houses.

***

We pulled ourselves through the window into the secret library.

Phebes grabbed my arm and helped pull me up. “What happened?”

“Why is there a fire?” Wyanet asked.

I took a second to catch my breath. “Fayaad killed Masinissa and started the fire so we could get away.”

“Masinissa wasn’t supposed to die,” Serephina replied.

“Meestakes happen when we let the uneenitiated work with us.” Fayaad dropped his cloak and warmed his hands by the fire. “He keeled Sypax. One of Sypax’s creations tried to keel heem. I covered hees back.”

“Sounds like a botched plan to me,” Bucephalus snorted. “Which should all run now while we still have a chance.”

Fayaad unclipped his belt and dropped his weapons on his cloak. “We’ll be better off weethout you.”

Serephina scowled at Fayaad. “There is still more information you have not told us yet.”

Katsu fastened the window latch and sat down at the table. “Yes, Master.”

“She knows we’re here in the city,” I replied. “And she knows William is coming too.”

Wyanet asked, “How do you know this?”

“This Nellie came to us at the harbour.” Althaea shivered, “Master Seraphina, she appeared out of thin air.” 

“She let you live?” Bucephalus asked.

“She’s playing some sort of game with us,” I replied. “She must know we’re unprepared.”

Phebes asked, “Should we wait for William to get here?”

“Unless he’s got a legion from the Isle, bringing more soldiers here isn’t going to do anything.” Bucephalus sank into an armchair.

“We need a new plan.” Althaea stroked her chin.

“We have one,” Serephina replied.

Fayaad argued, “You can’t be serious, master.” 

Aramil cracked his knuckles. “A full-frontal assault. What we should have done in the first place.”

“I will lead my students in a raid on the Iron Cloister. We will spend the day tomorrow gathering what allies we still have in the city. We will move with the parade of phantasms to where we need to go.” Serephina pointed at Wyanet. “You and your company will break into the castle while we fight in the Cloister. You will kill the vampire and end this for all of us.”

Bucephalus rolled his eyes. “Great, another suicide mission.”

Katsu got up from the table and stripped off his wet gear. “Everyone get some rest. Tomorrow will be a long day, and it might be our last.”

***

The latch on my cell door clicked open in the dark. The old heavy door creaked slowly on its hinges. I slid my hand under my pillow, the cold steel of my dagger caressed my fingers.

“Percy,” Phebes asked. “Are you awake?”

I released my dagger and sat up. “I am now.”

“Sorry.” Phebes closed the door. “I couldn’t sleep. I’m nervous about tomorrow. I don’t know what to expect. Part of me feels like we’ll be fine, but a bigger part feels like we won’t. I don’t want you… or Wyanet or Ceph to die. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want others to die for me.”

I sat in silence and listened.

“Please, say something.”

“What do you want Phebes?” I swung my feet over the side of the bed. The stone floor curled my toes.

“I want to get stronger, so I can protect my…” 

“Not why you’re here. What do you want?”

Phebes fell to her knees. “I don’t know. I want to be happy and to feel safe. I want to feel loved, and like I never need to worry about going hungry.” Tears ran down her face. “I want to feel like I won’t be abandoned again.”

I slid to the floor and grabbed her hand. Phebes brushed my hand away and buried her face in my neck. Her cheek felt warm against me. Her tears tickled as they trailed across my skin.

“I can’t say everything will be alright.”

“That’s not helping.”

“I know, but we’re here now and I’m not leaving yet.”

The story will continue, November 26th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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Leap of Faith

“Why did you kill him?” I demanded.

Fayaad pulled his hood down and shrugged. Sypax Masinissa’s blood pooled around his feet. “I saw an opportuneety and I took eet.”

“We were supposed to keep him alive.”

“Oh well,” Fayaad stepped out of the blood pool. “Eet’s too late now.”

“We should regroup with the others. We need to rethink our plan.”

Massinissa reached a limp hand toward the ceiling. A stream of arcane words flowed from his lips. His eyes flared green and faded. His corpse stared back at us with empty, vacant eyes. The vulture on the catwalk screeched and dove for the amalgamation of body parts on the table. The bird smashed into the table and exploded in a puff of green glittering dust.

 The clouds visible through the glass ceiling boiled and churned. Flashes of green lightning lanced through the tumultuous sky. The air buzzed. The hair on my neck and arms snapped to attention. Fayaad stared at the blue glow emanating from his dagger. The ceiling above us shattered. I shielded my head with my arms. Glass showered us, cutting up my arms. A bolt of green lightning pierced through the shattered room and struck the mound of cobbled flesh. The shockwave tossed Fayaad and I like rag dolls. The bubbling cauldrons erupted their contents and clattered to the floor. Innumerable glass vials throughout the room shattered, sprinkling their unknown chemical concoctions onto the floor.

I staggered to my feet. My head throbbed and a high-pitched bell rang in my ears. The smell of ozone and burnt wood filled my nostrils. Dim lights danced through my foggy vision. I closed my eyes and willed my eyes and mind to focus.

“Fayaad? Where are you?”

I opened my eyes again. Despite the dancing lights, I could make out a vaguely human figure braced against the lab table. I took a tentative step in that direction. My legs felt like jelly. The figure pushed off the table and stumbled a step in my direction.

“Percy.”

Wood and glass shifted to my left. I looked in the direction of the noise. The edges of my vision began to sharpen.

“Percy, I’m over here.” Fayaad whimpered.

My vision snapped into focus. Fayaad leaned against a broken drying rack. A spindle as thick as my thumb protruded above his pelvic bone.

“Can you stand?” I crouched at Fayaad’s side.

“Keell me and go, we can’t get captured.” Fayaad tried to push me away.

“That’s not how I do things.” I wrapped Fayaad’s arm around my neck and hoisted him to his feet. “I don’t abandon people.”

“Then you’re a fool.”

I half pushed, half dragged Fayaad to the stairs. “Maybe, but I’m still alive. We can argue about it later.”

A barrel sailed over our heads and exploded against the wall. An angry moan followed the barrel as a sweet-smelling liquid sprayed everywhere. We looked for the source of the barrel.

A towering approximation of human flesh lumbered toward us. The grey flesh around its eyes and teeth pulled taught into a toothy, unblinking grin. The wire sutures holding the abomination’s body together emanated a violet glow. Sparks jumped from the creature’s various metal infusions at random intervals. The abomination moaned again and lumbered toward us with purpose. Its heavy footfalls vibrated the entire floor of the tower.

Fayaad tried to push me off. “Leave me, I’ll buy you time to get away.”

“I’m not doing that. “My eyes darted around the room. “We need another way out.”

“The ladder.” Fayaad pointed at a ladder behind the abomination. “It leads up to the catwalk. You can climb out a window and jump down from there. Go, I’ll try to draw it away.”

“I told you.” I grabbed the spindle protruding from Fayaad’s abdomen. “We’re leaving together.” I yanked the wooden shard out with a quick motion.

Fayaad screamed. The monster screamed louder.

I clapped my hand over Fayaad’s stab wound. He gritted his teeth against the pain. Divine energy flowed through me and healed his wound.

“That’s a neat treeck. Where did you learn eet?”

“Family secret.”

“Look out!” 

Fayaad shoved me backwards. The monster smashed its meaty grey fists into the ground where we had stood. The floorboards splintered and cracked. The monster bellowed in frustration and turned toward me. 

I scrambled to my feet, sword in hand. Fayaad did the same behind the monster. It swung a fist at me. I turned the blow away with my sword. Blue-green liquid spattered the floor.

“Try to get to the ladder.” Fayaad backed further away from the advancing monster. “I’ll see you outside.”

The monster swung its other fist at me. I ducked the swing and punched up toward its trachea. The monster staggered back a step. Slashing at its legs as I passed, I sprinted for the ladder. I launched myself forward and landed halfway up the ladder. 

Fayaad heaved himself onto the catwalk. He pulled an egg from his bag and hurled it in my direction. The egg flew by me and hit the ground. Liquid sprayed from the egg and ignited into flames.

I scrambled the rest of the way up the ladder and chased after Fayaad.

Angry, panicked moans climbed with the fire. The orange glow licked at our heels and the heat tickled our necks. The clay shingles clacked beneath our feet.

I panted, “What was that thing?”

“I don’t know. We need to get out of here.”

“What about Katsu and Althaea?”

“They’ll catch up.”

Fayaad dropped off the roof and grabbed the gutter. He skipped from windowsill to windowsill until he reached the ground. I backed up a step and took a running leap. The ground hurried to meet me. My feet pushed into the gravel. I leaned forward and rolled out of the landing.

“Keep up, we’ve still got another jump.” Fayaad jogged past me toward the cliff.

We ran past the rotten larder beneath the light tower. Katsu and Althaea sprinted out the door. An uncoordinated mess of undead creatures chased the assassins. Althaea sprinted past me. Katsu fell in step beside me. Fayaad’s silhouette ahead of us vanished over the edge of the cliff.

“You’ll need to trust yourself,” Katsu called over the crunch of gravel.

Althaea vanished over the cliff.

“Make a leap of faith and trust that you’ll make it.” Katsu surged ahead and followed the other assassins over the cliff.

I kept my pace. A mound of dread grew in my gut. The edge got closer. I swallowed my fear. I closed my eyes. A warm breeze on my neck pushed me forward.

I jumped.

The story will continue, November 19th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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Decay

We scaled the small cliff below Masinissa’s tower house. The ghastly green beam of the lighthouse passed over our heads every few seconds. We reached the top of the cliff and hauled ourselves over the short brick wall crowning it. The four of us crouched in the bushes against the wall. The scent of wet soil and rot overpowered my senses.

“Fayaad and I will start at the top of the tower and work our way down.” Katsu pointed to the lantern room of the lighthouse. “We’ll take out the watchman up there so you two can enter the main building.”

Althaea and I nodded that we understood. Katsu tapped on Fayaad’s back and the two darted out of the bushes. I watched the two assassins pick their way across the failing garden and scamper up the side of the lighthouse. A dark figure outlined by the spinning green light shuffled around the catwalk. The two assassins slithered onto the catwalk, flanking the guard. The guard brandished a weapon at the assassin he could see. The second assassin stabbed the guard in the back and shoved them over the railing.

Althaea and I slipped from our hiding spot. We followed the stone paths to a door at the base of the tower. Two guards in full-face helms and chainmail stood on either side of the door. They carried long halberds and an axe hung at their hips. A green-flamed lantern hung on a hook above the door.

We laid bellies concealed by a thin wall of tall grasses. “Are they White Guard?” I whispered to Althaea.

“They are. Hit them quiet and hit them quick. We can’t let them raise an alarm yet.” Althaea slid her elven daggers from the scabbards on her back. “You’ve got the left. On my mark. One. Two. mark.”

I sprang from my hiding place. I charged forward and drew my sword. My sword plunged into a guards abdomen with a forward lunge. I pulled back and followed through with a heavy overhand slash. The strike cleaved through several metal rings. I trailed the slash with a spinning kick. My heel landed on the guard’s clavicle. The stutter of breaking bones vibrated through my body. Taking a deep breath, my chi flowed through my body and I unleashed another flurry of attacks. I pushed my foot through the guard’s knee. The guard moaned as his leg snapped and he fell forward. My knee thunked against the visor of their helmet. A dull pain throbbed through my leg. The guard hit the ground while I spun away. I pushed off with my other leg and slammed my sword into the guard’s spine.

“Did you need to be so excessive?” Althaea flicked the black gore from her blade. 

I pulled my sword free and wiped it on a rag tied to my belt. “You said hit them quick. I didn’t want to give them a chance to get back up.”

Althaea shrugged and put her daggers away. “The night’s not over. Try the lock, I’ll keep watch.” She turned her back to me and watched the dark garden.

I shook the door handle, the lock bolt rattled against its box. “It needs to be picked.”

“Switch me spots.”

Althaea knelt down and fiddled with the lock. An icy gust of wind off the bay shook the grasses and flickered the lantern light. The door moaned open on rusty hinges.

“We’re in.”

The smell of salt, rotting flesh and mouldy grain stormed through the open door. We covered our mouths with our hands and forced our way through the stench and hanging bodies.

“What do you think this place is?” The bile climbing from my stomach burned my throat.

Althaea wretched, “It smells like an abandoned larder.”

The door slammed shut leaving us in total darkness. I forced the chunks of my dinner back down.

“One second I can give us some light.”

“Don’t,” Althaea wretched again. “If it smells this bad, I don’t want to see it.” A strong slender hand latched onto mine. “I think I saw the door over here.” Althaea tugged me with her.

We fumbled our way through the dark room. Our hands caressed many slimy corpses and our shins uncovered several crates.

“Found it.” 

Althaea threw open the door. The stale air rushed in and pushed back some of the stench of rot. We tumbled into the kitchen gulping mouthfuls of the cleaner air.

“Do you smell that?” I whispered.

“If it’s death and vinegar, then yes.”

“No,” I took a deep breath. The ever-present scent of decay made me gag. “Incense. It’s faint, but it’s there, below everything else.”

“Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter.” Althaea pointed at a narrow staircase. “You clear this floor, I’ll do the next and meet you in the other tower.”

I left the kitchen through the service door into the dining room. Dust flitted through the air and clung to the box-littered dining table. The smell of sour meat filled the air, undercut by the growing scent of incense. I passed out of the dining room into the entry foyer. Green lamp light silhouetted a pair of guards outside the front door. The wooden floor creaked beneath my feet, but the guards didn’t move. A staircase clung to the wall of the foyer and another door stood opposite the dining room. I turned the handle and eased the door open.

A fresh wave of decaying flesh curled my nose hairs. Pale green light glittered through the cracked door. I held my breath and slipped inside. Pine boxes six to seven feet long sat in ordered rows and stacks. A spiral staircase of wrought iron poked out of the stacks of boxes near the outside wall. Green-flamed candles burned steadily on the walls. I took two more steps into the room. The flap of feathered wings startled me and I dove behind a stack of boxes.

A small vulture glided down the stairs and perched on another stack of boxes. The vulture’s head took in the room, it jumped to another stack and looked again. I watched the vulture repeat its actions four more times before it swooped back to its first stack. The vulture locked eyes with me, cawed once and flew back up the stairs.

I left my hiding spot and followed the vulture up the stairs. The staircase terminated in a library. Magic orbs of sun-bright light bumped against the ceiling. Incense smoke clouded the air and warded off the smell of rot from below. A second spiral staircase between two bookshelves ascended another floor.

I climbed the stairs. My feet made no noise on the heavy iron steps. My head rose above the next floor. A wooden catwalk circled the room halfway to the glass ceiling of the tower. Magical equipment, bubbling cauldrons and racks of spell components covered the floor. The bulky, scaly form of a lizardman hunched over a table. I inched from the stairs and hid behind a rack of drying herbs.

“You can come out. I know you’re there. My familiar sssaw you in my morgue.” The lizardman hissed. He turned and watched me emerge from my hiding spot. “I need a fresssh brain for my exsspiriment.” He patted the mound of stitched-together body parts on the table behind him.

Movement on the catwalk overhead caught my eye. “I’m not giving you anything, Masinissa.” I settled into a defensive stance.

“You act like you have a choicess.” 

Masinissa grabbed a rod off the table and muttered in the language of the arcane. A figure launched itself from the catwalk. It knocked Masinissa to the ground and rammed a blade through his skull.

The story will continue, November 12th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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http://bit.ly/2tUG9va

Creating original content in an online space is a time-consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. Thank you, you are appreciated!

Show us your fan art at us with the hashtag #CobaltLegends on Instagram and Twitter for the chance to be featured on one of our posts.

Legends of Cobalt

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Skyway Road

“How do we get to Dawnsky Wharf?” I stood in the assassin’s armoury with Fayaad, Katsu and Althaea.

“We’ll use the skyway road.” Althaea slid a matched set of stilettos into her boots and synched a brace of throwing knives to her waist.

“The streets get dangerous at night,” Fayaad dabbed oil into the joints of a wrist-mounted crossbow. “The skyway road ees just as dangerous eef you don’t know where you are going. Eets not too late to back out.”

Katsu stepped around a rack of spears. A long sword with a gentle curve hung at his hip. “He’ll manage. It’s time to go.”

“You’re only bringing one sword?” Althaea slid two more slender elven blades into scabbards on the small of her back.

I shrugged, “I don’t need more than one.”

“Don’t beg any of us for a spare eef you lose eet.” Fayaad shoulder checked me as he walked out of the armoury.

“He’s upset that you’re coming with us.” Katsu offered me one of the assassin’s blowpipes and a dozen feathered darts. “He spent fifteen years training and he still isn’t allowed out on solo missions. Don’t worry about Fayaad. He’ll get over it.”

I refused the offered weapon. “I don’t want to join your secret society. I’m here to help my friends do what they need to and leave.”

“We know that,” Althaea smiled. “But Fayaad thought Aramil and I should have killed you in Ringtown.”

“That’s not reassuring.” 

I followed the assassins up to the hidden library. My friends and the other assassins sat in near silence attending to personal distractions.

“What are we doing back up here?”

“The skyway road doesn’t run along the ground.” Katsu unlatched the floor to ceiling window. A gust of damp air flickered the fire and the candles. “Fayaad, go.”

Wyanet grabbed my shoulders and pulled my forehead to hers. “Be careful. I will not be there to get you out of trouble.”

Fayaad launched himself out the window.

I winked at Wyanet. “I’ve got a few extra tricks up my sleeve.”

“Althaea, go.” Katsu waved at the sea elf.

Althaea stared at me. “This is the fun part.” She sauntered to the window, crossed her arms and fell backwards out of it.

“Percy, your turn,” Katsu ordered.

I approached the window and stuck my head through it. The flat-topped roof of the next building stretched up from the ground. Fayaad and Althaea waited fifteen feet below on the neighbouring roof.

“Don’t worry,” Katsu clapped me on the back, “The ground will catch you.”

“Not helpful.” I kicked off the window sill. Cool air rushed past me. The roof hurried to meet me. I braced for the landing. My foot connected with something soft. I tucked my head and dropped my shoulder to roll out. I pushed again with my front foot. Whatever I had landed in slid back and I flopped onto my face.

Fayaad snickered. Althaea gasped and offered me her hand.

“Did you think we risk breaking a leg every time we leave?”

I brushed myself off and made sure none of my gear broke. “Hard telling.”

Katsu landed behind me. “I’ve never seen anyone so graceful.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Come on, it’s a half-hour jog to Dawnsky Wharf.” Katsu jogged to the edge of the roof and hopped onto the ledge. “Last one there has cleaning duty.” He jumped to the next roof and continued running.

Fayaad and Althaea chased after Katsu. I chased all three of them south-east along the rooftops. We dodged crumbling chimneys, vaulted over pungent alleys and scaled walls where we had to. The flap of our cloaks, the creek of leather armour, and the slap of our feet marked our passage through the grave silent night. The stench of brine and rotting fish filled the air the farther we ran.

Katsu and Althaea sprinted up the sloped roof of a rowhouse and vanished over its crest. Fayaad wheezed on my heels. I reached the peak and stopped. Wind-tolled bells and ship rigging whispered in the wind. The first two assassins waited on top of a monger’s pavilion thirty feet below. A wide cobblestone road made a chasm between us.

A swift blow blasted into the back of my knee. My legs buckled. I twisted and landed on my back. Clay shingles broke beneath me and dragged me toward the roof’s edge. Fayaad jumped over me, a smile on his face.

My hands scrambled over the clay shingles. I tipped off the roof. Shingles smashed on the dark road that hungered to grab me. I calmed my panicked and racing mind. I focused my chi and fell into the plane of shadows. I ran as far as I could the dark plane and forced myself back into the material plane. I landed in a three-point stance behind the assassins.

Katsu caught Fayaad’s armour and hauled him the rest of the way onto the pavilion. “What happened?”

“Percy tripped.” Fayaad took a few steps further onto the roof. “I tried to catch him, but he fell too far for me to do anything.”

I pushed katsu and Althaea out of my way.

Fayaad’s eyes expanded in the gloom. “Percy! How did you…”

I jabbed my fist into Fayaad’s nose. “I didn’t trip, he pushed me.”

Fayaad staggered back to the precipice. His eyes rolled around and snapped into focus. Tears and snot rolled down Fayaad’s face. He balled his hands into fists and took a meaningful step toward me. Rage burned in his eyes.

I slid my right foot into a fighting stance, narrowing my body.

Katsu stepped between us and put a firm hand on Fayaad’s chest. Althaea wrapped an arm around my abdomen and pulled me back.

“Enough.” Katsu turned his head to look at me. “Whatever issues are between you can wait. Right now we are a team and need to work together. If we don’t, none of us will survive the night.”

“I’m sorry,” Fayaad relaxed. “I did try to catch you.”

I shifted back into a normal stance.

“That’s settled for now.” Katsu pointed at a building to my right. “Masinissa is up there. Let’s move in for a closer look.”

Katsu and Fayaad ran together across the monger pavilions and boat sheds lining the shore. 

“That’s an interesting trick you did.” Althaea ran beside me. “I know magics for teleportation exist, but I thought only wizards, druids, and the arcane gifted could use them. How did you do it?”

“Like I said, I’ve trained for years to fight from and manipulate shadows.”

The story will continue, October 8th,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Legends of Cobalt

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Plots and Plans

“Thees weell be diffeecult no matter how many allies we have.” Fayaad unrolled a gridded map of Spinel castle and the surrounding grounds.

Aramil sharpened a knife by the fireplace. “The keep is always crawling with White Guardsman and that’s on the one day a year when the gates are open.

Althaea said, “We can sneak in. We’ve done it before.”

Katsu shook his head. “It won’t work again. Master Orryn and I found one way in, but they blocked it up after they killed him.”

“Besides,” Bucephalus added, “Not all of us are as quiet as a pixies fart.”

“Why do we not attack the castle head-on?” Wyanet pointed to a drawbridge on the castle. “With some help, Bucephalus and I could pull that down and we rush in.”

“You want to storm a castle keep,” Aramil buried his knife in the floorboards with a well-practised motion. “With only nine warriors.” He took several intentional strides toward Wyanet. “Against an unknown number of hostile individuals and no clear exit.” Aramil put both hands on Wyanet’s shoulders. “That’s the kind of reckless plan I can get behind!”

“Despite Aramil’s enthusiasm, a frontal assault has too many variables to be anything but mass suicide.” Katsu sank into a chair.

Wyanet braced herself on the table opposite Katsu. “What is wrong with my plan?”

“Many things,” Katsu rubbed his temple. “For starters the aforementioned unknown hostiles. Second, the iron portcullis behind the drawbridge. Third, we wouldn’t be able to fight for long. We’re assassins, not soldiers like you and the priest.”

“Then we will start a rebellion.” Wyanet slammed her fist on the table. “If the people suffer as much as you claim, they will fight beside us.”

“How would we feed and equip a rebellion?” Katsu mirrored Wyanet’s posture. “Not to mention training a rebellion. Have you ever seen what happens when a mob tries to fight disciplined soldiers?”

“We can train them.”

“Enough,” Serephina snapped from the corner. “We are not enemies.”

Katsu fell back into his chair and Wyanet took a step back from the table.

“If we wanted to try forming a rebellion,” Phebes interjected, “How hard would it be? We’ve done it before and won.”

Katsu remarked, “Not well enough to matter.”

I studied the map. “It would take time we don’t have. William is at most five days behind us.”

“The White Guard are trained like the Draconic Legions,” Althaea added. “With what we have, any rebellion we start would be like throwing a jellyfish at a kraken.”

“The White Guard is only one obstacle.” Serephina cut in, “We also face a vampire lord. How do you intend to beat them?”

“Percy will…” Phebes started.

Bucephalus interrupted, “We have a way around that. Don’t worry about the details.”

Aramil wagged a finger. “It’s not nice to keep secrets from friends.”

“Especially when those secrets could kill your friends,” Althaea added.

“How can we weaken the White Guard?” I asked, “Is there another person or place we could attack and draw them out first?”

Serephina slid from her chair and pulled a stack of papers bound in twine from a shelf. She sighed and set the papers on the table. “I fear our enemy is more hydra than serpent.”

Wyanet unbound the papers and lifted the top sheet. “Who is Sypax Masinissa?”

“Sypax Masinissa is Sofka’s principal advisor and archivist. He’s a lizardfolk shaman who fled The Cradle after Drako and the Serpent-folk went to war. Masinissa is the one who closed the ports.”

“Why close the ports of a starving city?” Phebes read over Wyanet’s shoulder.

“He claimed sheeps brought the blight,” Fayaad explained.

“The White Guard will protect this man?” Bucephalus rounded the table to see the dossier.

“They already do.” Althaea grabbed a leather map case from the mantle. “Masinissa is one of the two advisors who don’t live in the landing district.” She rolled out a map of Spinel and its various wards. Althaea pointed at a section near the harbour labelled ‘Dawnsky Wharf’. “Masinissa lives here in a light tower house overlooking the merchant docks.”

Phebes tugged at the map to get a better look. “Where are we?”

“We’re here in Trader’s Alley.” Althaea moved her finger on the map.

‘You said there are two people who do not live near the Duke.” Wyanet asked, “Where does the other one live?”

“They’re in the Iron Cloister.” Althaea stood up and crossed her arms.

“Can we attack them both?” Wyanet leaned over the map looking for the ward. “Spread the White Guard even more.”

“That’s not a good idea,” Fayaad replied.

“The Iron Cloister is a fortress.” Aramil elbowed Fayaad and his sister out of the way and traced the outline of the district. “It’s the barracks, armoury, training ground and storehouse of Sofka’s standing army. The entire district is separated from the city by a separate defensive wall. The White Guard never goes there because it is better defended than the palace keep.”

“Even if we could get into the Iron Cloister,” Katsu stated. “We can’t assassinate someone we’ve never seen.”

Bucephalus snorted, “How do you not know what a politician for your city looks like?”

“No one has seen the true face or heard the true name of the War-minister,” Serephina interrupted. “The people of Spinel call them Ironhelm because they never remove their great helm. Ironhelm doesn’t leave the cloister, but when they do, they terrify all who witness them.”

Aramil pulled his knife out of the floor and slid it into his belt. “If you want to live, avoid Ironhelm and the cloister. Let your friends in the army you allege is coming deal with them.”

“It’s settled then.” Katsu crossed his arms and made eye contact with Serephina. “Tonight, I’ll go with two of my brothers and assassinate Sypax Masinissa. Tomorrow, we’ll combine our strength and assassinate Sofka and the rest of his house.”

“That will not work,” Wyanet replied.

“What’s wrong with it? It’s basically your plan.”

Serephina smiled. “Think it through again, Katsu. What is our goal in attacking Masinissa?”

Katsu thought for a moment and looked at the map again. “To pull some of the guards away from Sofka and his keep.” A torch blazed behind Katsu’s eyes. “New plan. Tonight we’ll raid Masinissa’s tower house. Once we do enough damage and spook Masinissa, we’ll pull back and regroup here.”

I stood up beside the table. “I’m going with you.”

“No,” Fayaad blurted out. “You don’t know our ways.”

“We’re assassin’s, not babysitters.” Aramil started for the stairs. “You’ll get in the way and slow us down.”

“I’ve trained for more than half my life to be able to manipulate the shadows around me,” I protested. “I’m just as skilled as the rest of you.”

Serephina returned to her chair and stroked her chin. “Katsu, Percy will join your raiding mission. If he trained in the way he claims, you might learn something from one another.”

Katsu grinned, “Try to keep up.”

The story will continue, October 1st,  2020.

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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)

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Creating original content in an online space is a time-consuming process. If you find it in your heart, please donate a few dollars at the link above. Thank you, you are appreciated!

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