Hi guys, sorry for the lack of posts recently, but I’ve been suffering from a serious case of writing block. However, here is the third chapter of my fantasy story, the Order of the Blade. And I am working on the next installation of Nightmare and The Dark Menace, so don’t worry.
It was not long before the four travelers reached Gawic. There they split, after preparing a rendezvous, Davian and Markul going off in one direction to find lodgings, William heading into a tavern to gain information, and Ian blending in with the crowd to watch for their pursuers.
“Why canst thou give me something more benefiting for our cause than following thee around?” Davian complained, as Markul led the way to a respectable but not overly luxurious inn.
“Because it is from me that thou canst learn most.” Markul told him, entering through the front door of the inn.
“Well how will I apply any of the things thou hast taught me if I am not permitted to go on missions by my own?” Davian persisted, as Markul led the way through the crowd.
“Thou knowest as well as I do the reason your life must be protected at all costs.”
Markul held up his hand.
“Fine, thou wishes to prove thy worth? Then show me what thou hast learned by renting a room from the innkeeper over yonder.”
Davian looked to be on the point of declining Markul’s offer, then realizing this was probably a test, he began thinking about the best way to accomplish the task Markul had appointed him. Markul had high standards, and Davian began thinking about all Markul would criticize him on if he just walked up to the innkeeper and rented a room. Markul would probably want him to get the cheapest price possible, and the best way Davian knew of doing that was to read the innkeeper’s mind and see the lowest price he was willing to let a room for.
Following this train of thought, Davian began searching for the phrase Markul had told him about; the one that allowed him to read a person’s mind. Thirty seconds, later, he focused as hard as he could, and muttered the words:
“Vrós Nrstódreqc (pronounced: vray-ouse nursed-ow-drack).”
Two things happened.
The inn was filled with shouting and screaming as the innkeeper’s hair burst into flame and he began running around like a madman, and at the same time, Davian collapsed as if he had just been hit on the head by a sledgehammer. When the haze cleared from his eyes, he realized that Markul was slapping him in an effort to wake him from his daze.
“What happened?” Davian murmured, putting a head to up to protect his reddening face from any more of Markul’s administrations.
“What seized thy mind boy?” Markul asked. “‘Fire head’ be not the same as ‘read mind’. How many times have I told you that pronunciation is essential! It is ‘Vros Nrstódrc’ (pronounced: vray-awese nursed-ow-drok). And whatever would thou have wanted to read the man’s mind for anyway? Mind reading takes even more energy than a simple thought like setting the man’s head on fire, an’ the price be right up there on the board.”
William entered the tavern, and instantly, the smell of cheap wine and whisky hit him like a blow straight from the shoulder. He stood for a moment, searching the room for a likely candidate for information-giving. Eventually, he settled on a group of gamblers who sat around a table, laughing loudly and gulping ale down noisily.
He settled down on an empty seat and loudly called for the barmaid to bring ales all around. The drinks arrived, and with a loud cheer, the five men at the table and William smashed their tankards together. Then they each took a long draught. With the first mouthful, William nearly choked, but he managed to gulp it down. Then he played a few rounds of dice.
William was fortunate, and earned for himself ten gold pieces. He drew one out from the pile, the other gamblers eyeing him greedily. He spun it in the center of the table, and for the span of time that it remained spinning, the six men were silent. Then it teetered slightly in its spin, and finally settled on the table.
Before any of the men spoke, William picked up his remaining ten gold pieces and spun them in the center of the table as well. As they were spinning, he spoke up.
“Ten coins; two for each of ye for the most recent news in Gawic.”
The men were silent until the coins stopped spinning then they all looked to the tallest man among them. The latter leaned forward and began speaking a voice so soft that his previous boisterousness seemed an impossibility.
“Strange things ‘ave been going on ‘round these parts. If me an’ my partners had any advice for ye new folks, we’d say to get out of this city as soon as possible. We’d do the same ourselves, if it weren’t such good picking here. Thou performed excellent sleight of hand back there, but I wouldn’t recommend thou attempt it on any other experienced gamblers.”
With that, the five gamblers each took their money and fell back to their original occupation, completely ignoring William.
William absorbed this information carefully. He detected no trace of lying, and the men had been the first gamblers who had caught him cheating without instantly starting a fight. Lazily, he scanned the tavern, then his eyes focused on the barkeeper whispering urgently to a man; the Captain of the Guard.
Hurriedly, he rose to his feet, knocking back his chair as he did so. Without so much as another glance, he left the tavern through the back door. However, he came walking right back in when he noticed a patrol milling around in the streets. A peek out the front door satisfied William’s suspicion of the existence of another patrol.
For a moment, he was at a loss as to what he should do. Then he heard a loud clatter from the direction of his recent drinking companions. He looked toward the table, and noticed their leader glance meaningfully at the stairs. Then he returned to his game of dice.
William needed no further prompting. He dashed towards the stairs, shoving past tables and complaining drinkers. A shouting rose up from behind him as the Captain began pursuing him. The whole group of people in the tavern realized the case instantly, and they opened up a path to the stairs for William while blocking the Captain as inconspicuously as possible.
In a flash, William was on the second floor of the tavern. He glanced hurriedly around, then dived through a window into a farmer’s hay cart. The hay cart however, was barely around the front corner of the tavern, and with their captain shouting at them, it did not take the patrol long to spot him.
Then followed a chase down the streets, with William dashing through side alleys and upsetting a miscellaneous assortment of people. All roads may lead to Rome in the real world, but in Gawic, all roads apparently led to the palace, because that was where William found himself after twenty minutes of running. He paused for a second to assess his situation, then sped off again in the only available direction, straight past the two startled guards and into the heart of the palace.
Ian skulked around the city, his dark eyes constantly scanning the area around him. Nobody took notice of the inconspicuous archer, and he was able to watch the people as they hurried about on their daily business with relative ease. Then his sharp eyes caught sight of a dark figure disappear behind a fruit stand. In an instant Ian was all attention.
He hurried to the spot where he had seen the figure disappear and just managed to catch sight of the same cloak disappear around another corner. A few more such sightings and Ian began to have an idea of where the person he was tracking was headed; the palace.
William had no idea where he could run to. The palace was bound to be crawling with guards. Then a plan crept into his mind like so quietly, that for a moment, he did not realize it was there. The sound of running guards however, seemed to push the idea foremost in his mind, and after assessing it, he dashed off again.
As Ian approached the palace, he heard a loud commotion. Skulking forward, he ducked into an abandoned storehouse and sat behind a barrel, peering through the crevices in it. Palace guards were running around shouting, at the same time blocking a squad of city guards who wished to enter. Ian scanned the are as well as he could from behind the barrel, but could see no sign of his quarry.
Then suddenly he whirled around, at the same time allowing a slightly curved knife to drop from its sleeve holster into his hand. As he came to the end of his spin, Ian released the blade. It arced its way through the air and then disappeared behind the shadow of a crate. Cautiously, the archer made his way to the crate.
Behind it was his knife, covered in blood, and a rat which had been sliced neatly in two. Shaking his head slightly, Ian bent down to retrieve his knife. Then his keen sense of hearing caught a silent swishing. He twisted, just as a short throwing knife whizzed past, cutting his arm when it would have skewered him in the back before.
“Narl mek,” a gravelly voice cursed. Ian had only the time to recognize the assassin dialect of Denise, the language spoken by the Wardens, before a black figure swathed in robes was on him, attacking the archer with twin scimitars.
Three minutes later, Ian cleaned his knife on the black corpse and wiped the blood away from a slight gash on his forehead. Then grabbing a looped rope from a shelf in the storehouse. He tossed the loop onto one of the crenelations on the ten foot wall and used it to help him scale the barrier.
William had been in this palace only three times, but the last time had been pungent enough to imprint in his mind the location of the throne room, and that was where he was currently headed. If he could reach there before his pursuers, then he might stand a chance of escaping with his life, as he would then have the ultimate hostage, the King.
He ascended a flight of stairs, working his sword out of its swinging scabbard as he did so. At the top of the stairs, an armored guard barely had time to turn before William’s flashing blade entered his side.
The sound the dead guard made as he rolled down the stairs William had come up from alerted the other two guards to William’s presence. One drew his sword while the other guard ran off to raise the alarm. The two swords met twice, before William pulled a backhand that decapitated his opponent, then taking up the weapon of his fallen rival, William ran after the fleeing guard and threw the sword spear style into the back of the running guard.
William barely took the time to draw a breath, before he turned and faced the thick, heavily decorated doors that stood before him. Sheathing his sword, he pressed a hand on each door, and pushed. The two doors swung open, slowly at first, but speeding up until they hit the walls with a resounding bang.
A hunched figure on the throne straightened a little and called out in a wavering voice.
“What doth thou wish with me now William?”
“I–” William began, then he realized something was very wrong. The King was blind, he should not have known that the person who had just invaded his palace was the right-hand man he had exiled a year ago.
A look of determination pushing away William’s confused appearance. The disgraced knight drew his sword and began advancing towards the King. He had hardly gotten more than ten paces before twenty guards ran out from behind the pillars they had been hiding behind and surrounded William, all their pikes pointing menacingly at him.
William slowly spun around, his sword coming into contact with each one of the pike heads as the guards slowly tightened their circle. When William had made one full revolution, his eyes came to rest on the King once again, and the tall man that stood beside him.
“So Richard,” William called out, filling his voice with as much spite as he could. “Be thou enjoying thy new position? Thou had better watch out, thy master could just as easily discard thou as he did me.”
“Silence!” the tall man commanded, while one of the guards hit William behind the knees with the haft of his pike, forcing the proud man to kneel.
It was at this moment, as it always was with William, that he saw his chance, and without thinking twice, he took it. When he had been forced to kneel by the guard, the pikes of the guards in front of him had not lowered as fast as he had. So leaping forward, William ducked under the pikes of the men ahead of him, his sword swinging from side to side as he separated feet from legs.
William’s charge became a roll, which he used to bring himself to his feet. Then he rushed at the King, hoping to still carry out his original plan, but the tall man beside the King dashed a hand forward, palm facing towards William, while he said the words: “Le Vástra (pronounced: lay vees-traa).”
William went flying back and landed on top of the two guards who happened to get in his way. Standing up, William reversed his blade and ended the groaning of the guards he had landed on with two quick thrusts.
“What, be thou using black magic now, Richard?” William said, spitting blood out of his mouth as he groggily brought his sword to attention.
“Le Vástra (pronounced: lay vees-traa)!” Richard repeated, moving the hand that pointed at William to the right.
William flew from the ground in the direction Richard had gestured and smashed bodily into a pillar. His sword clattered to the ground, and he slumped to the floor. Slowly, the guards began to gather themselves from their confusion. Everything seemed to slow down for William, then he heard voice.
In his dazed state, William was unable to discern what the voice said, but it was like the crystal clear tinkling of a brook on stones to William’s ears, and shaking his head, the exile managed to clear his vision. What he saw was his second key to escape. The only hostage equivalent to the King was his daughter, the Princess Katrina, and it was she who stood in front of him, asking about the commotion and the guards’ disheveled appearance.
William quietly drew his knife, then leaped forward, putting his left arm around the Princess’s neck while pressing the point of his blade against her throat. Instantly the guards surrounded him, but when William pressed a little harder with the knife, Richard hurriedly began telling the guards to step away from William.
Slowly William began backing away, ignoring Katrina’s struggles as she tried to elbow him. When she switched to scratching however, William bent down and whispered.
“I have nothing to lose killing thee, an’ I shall if I have to, so don’t make me.”
This quieted the Princess, and William left the throne room unmolested. The instant he was out of sight of the guards, William released his grip from the Princess’s neck, but quickly grabbed her wrist so tightly that she winced.
“Do not even try,” he warned her, then he set off at the best run he could manage, considering his wounded condition.
Inside the private chambers of Richard, right-hand man to the King, the former stood swearing and cursing, while a Warden assassin stood impassively before him.
“Thou told me thou would handle William!” Richard said.
“Ney rack ka,” the assassin said, wincing as Richard backhanded him.
“What doth thou mean thou could not? There were two of thee! Surely two Warden assassins be more than a match for a petty exiled knight?”
“La kar dredeck.”
“Another? What doth thou mean?”
“Lek Warden– Lek Wardek.”
“Ian? Ian Fletching? And Markul?”
The assassin nodded.
“So they hath joined forces with this knight. It be a small world be it not? But I care not. Find thyself more assassins. Call more of thy brethren to join you. Ian and Markul may be legends but they be mortals, and a sword, like this one,” at this, Richard picked up from his bed William’s sword, “Can kill them. Take it, and return to me with William’s blood on it.”
The assassin reached forward and picked up the sword, but as he turned, a black feathered shaft whizzed by Richard’s head and embedded itself in the assassin’s back. Richard instantly ducked, just as second arrow flew through the air his head had so recently occupied.
Another arrow came whistling, and would have skewered Richard’s head had he not shouted the word: “Elrst (pronounced: a-lurst)!” As it was, the arrow shattered into shards. Five more arrows came flying, and for each one, Richard repeated the word he had successfully used to defend himself the first time. But at the end of it, he was so weak from the physical strain destroying objects caused that he had sunk to the floor and could not move at all.
Then Ian climbed in through the window, and seizing Richard, tied the latter against the bed with the sheets. Then Ian picked up William’s sword, tied it to his back, and leaped out the window; well, that was what he appeared to do. In reality, Ian caught the dangling rope he had used to enter Richard’s room and swung himself onto the roof of a nearby house. Then quietly, he made his way to the rendezvous.