I open the roof’s window, Ulf climbs up and I help Teva after him. I squeeze her hand a little and she smiles, patting my hand. Ulf jumps over to the other roof.
“Be careful.” I tell her. “Don’t show yourself if you can help it.”
“You too, don’t risk yourself to stop these bandits if they’re doing something stupid.” Teva replies, worried.
“I was supposed to keep them under control, I have a responsibility to see that through.” I shake my head. “I am in a better position to affect the course of the war than anyone else in Caeviel. I have a duty to save as many lives as I can.” I shiver at the words, almost hearing the distant echo of my Lady’s voice. “Take care, Teva.”
“You don’t need to carry this war on your back, Elizabeth. The Rykz and Caeviel’s Nobility are to blame.” She hurriedly speaks up as I close the window.
I head out of the room without looking back, Ulf will keep her safe. I walk downstairs, the tables are almost filled with clients. There aren’t any peasants here, the Inn must be too expensive.
I make my way outside, heading south at a fast pace. The darkness of night finishes taking over the streets as I reach the southern part of town. I can see soldiers on the sea wall, carrying flow torches as they patrol the rampart walk.
Fenyz’ army must already be surrounding the castle’s walls, I’m glad that she hasn’t attacked. She must be waiting for us and doesn’t want to lose too many warriors by assaulting the walls. The Rykz might never even try, they could be fine with besieging this castle until their full army walks down the mountain.
I search the entire area, looking mostly for Hurb. I come across a few town guard patrols as I make my way through the streets but no one else. I’ll just have to hope that Ulf and Teva have better luck.
I engage in a side street to head north and run head to head with Hastia, the mercenary. She is wearing a town guard’s tunic.
“Come over!” She whispers urgently, heading towards a tiny alleyway between two houses.
The woman doesn’t seem surprised at all to find me, she must have been observing me for a bit. I assemble a lightning construct and anchor it inside my right forearm before following her.
“Where is Hurb?” I ask.
“Warehouse district, patrolling it with the other two. We bought drinks to some guards yesterday night, we stole their uniforms when they were knocked out.” She explains.
“Good.” I sigh in relief, at least they seem to be on schedule. “What about the bandits?”
“We don’t know but we spotted them in the area a few times. Let’s hurry, Hurb is worried that they’re going to get caught and expose us all.” Hastia explains.
Alarm bells resound in the distance, punctuating her words in the worse possible way. The sound is different from the one I heard yesterday, the one that warned that the Rykz army approached the castle.
“Too late. Those are fucking fire bells.” Hastia swears.
“Go back to Hurb, tell him to get on the roofs and meet up with my group.” I think and talk quickly. “I want you to use this mess to start demolishing buildings, block the streets around the granary. Supply Teva with your reserves if she asks. I’ll go take a look at how bad the fire is.”
“What?! Are you trying to get us caught? The streets will be crawling with patrols!” Hastia protests.
“They’ll be busy fighting fire! This is our only chance to do this, how do you think it’ll end if we try to do this tomorrow night when the whole fucking castle will be on the alert for more saboteurs?” I glare at her through my helmet. “Go!” I order in a harsh tone.
I stare at her until she folds and departs at a jogging pace. I run alongside with her for a minute but we part ways when Hastia heads north-east while I keep going north, following the alarm bells towards the north.
I run across a lot of town guards hurrying there along with me. Some salute me but most ignore me as they are focused ahead. I spot Baroness Kieft standing in the middle of a street crossing with four other Nobles, including Matfrid.
Behind them is a tailor’s shop. There are remains of burnt fabric bundles laying on the floor inside, soaked with water. I slow down and do my best to look casual as I approach them.
“Greetings, Baroness.” I bow down, bending at the waist.
“I’m busy.” She replies shortly, barely turning to me before looking back at the others. “This isn’t the only fire. There were six others spread out over the block. I suspect a delayed fire construct, we don’t have time to inspect every little thing so I want you all to…” The Baroness interrupts herself. “Do you hear that?” She asks.
I quickly assemble a construct to enhance my hearing but don’t notice anything other than the constantly ringing alarm bells and the occasional yell to bring water.
“Those are warning bells for an attack. The damn creatures are using this distraction to attack the walls!” Kieft rages. “Matfrid! Take this outsider and find the saboteurs. Jonas, I need you to get to the keep and grab everyone you can find.”
“Wait, Lady Baroness, what if they really set fire to the town?” I ask, distraught at how quickly she changed focus.
“Make sure they don’t. We can weather a fire but we can’t lose the walls. We can see torches on the horizon, Meria’s army is close!” Kieft replies with a look of disdain.
She doesn’t care about the town. Fucking Nobility. Kieft waves her hand to signal the other two Lords to follow her while the one named Jones departs in a hurry.
“Let’s go, Lady Elizabeth.” Matfrid presses me as I watch the Baroness leave with hurried steps. I follow him a bit reluctantly, recognizing that arguing here would be pointless.
“Where are you leading us?” I ask.
“The last fires happened near the warehouse district, we’ll go there first.”
“It’s probably a distraction.” I hurriedly speak up. “Why would the traitors remain near their last misdeed?” If the bandits are there, I can count on the others to handle them. We don’t need a Noble calling attention to that area.
“What do you think their goal is, then?” Matfrid asks.
“Coin. You don’t work against your own race out of conviction.” I answer quickly. “They’re baiting us towards a sensible area while they go somewhere else to steal valuables, they’ll probably set a huge fire behind themselves to cover their escape.” I explain. “That’s what I would do if I was a ruthless greedy traitor with no qualms.”
“That makes some sense, but our coin is all held in the keep, there is no way for…” He pauses. “The artisan’s district, there won’t be any patrols there, it’s the ideal target for both theft and arson.” Matfrid yells at a patrol of six guards running past us. “You, follow us!”
“That’s all we’re taking with us?” I ask.
“There can’t be that many of them and we can’t take more with us without affecting the effort to combat the fires.”
I follow Matfrid as he hurries along a wide street. I prepare a couple of lion strike constructs over my legs, just in case I need to catch up with someone or make a quick escape. My stomach feels queasy, what if we’re too late?
If they set fire to the town with the Rykz attacking the walls, it’ll be disastrous. The population is probably already panicking inside their homes. We arrive in a part of town with a good amount of large sturdy buildings with large doors and smaller shops.
“Split up, knock at doors and break them if no one answers.” Matfrid stops to order the town guards.
“I’ll check this one.” I tell him, headed towards what seems to be a jeweler’s shop in the darkness.
I push the door, it opens a little but hits something and stops. I use my left arm to push and something wooden breaks on the other side. I step in, finding a broken wooden stick and a lock that was ripped off the door when it was forced open.
Pretty sure I didn’t break that lock. I assemble a fire construct and make it hover over my right palm, adjusting my left hand’s grip on my hammer. I walk into an overly decorated room, throwing a quick glance inside before moving on.
The next room I check seems to be a supply room, there are shelves and chests but they’re all empty. I approach the chests and find more broken locks. They definitely came here, the question is when?
I head upstairs, as I climb the stairs I hear something hit wood and head towards the sound. There are people tied up in a bedroom. At least they don’t look injured.
They’re fine, the guards will free them. I move on, finding no one in the other rooms. I find a window and look outside.
“There are people tied up here!” I call out.
“You two, go.” Matfrid orders two guards.
“Do you see anyone on the roof?” I ask.
“No, get down, we’ll check further down the street! You four, with us.” He calls the others in the street.
I hurry down and follow him towards a weapon shop. The front has a large drawing of a sword painted over it.
“This is the workshop of the best smith in the castle, it would be a ripe target.” Matfrid explains, pushing the door. It opens without resistance.
He slowly sneaks it, pressing a finger against his lips. I nod and follow him. Matfrid engages on the stairs directly, they creak under his steps. I hear small sounds upstairs. Steps and voices that I somewhat recognize.
They’re too busy arguing to pay attention to us. The Noble points at a wall in front of us, repeating the motion a few times. I walk up to it, it’s thin and the bandits are definitely on the other side.
“Wh… id you… l him? The f… do w… now?” I hear Brie’s voice, a chill runs through my back.
I extinguish my fire construct and tap my leg a few times to bring his attention to me. I take a few step’s distance from the wall and Matfrid nods in understanding, approaching the room’s door.
Let’s hope that this works and that I’m not gonna splat against the wall like an idiot. I tense my leg’s muscles and take a rushing stance. I glance at Matfrid and he nods, hand on the door’s handle.
I rush forward, gathering as much speed as I can. I activate the lion’s step constructs on my legs and jump forward with both. I put my hammer in front of me and cover my helmet with my right arm.
I crash through the wood, two large chunks of splinters off, one hits my chain-mail hard enough that I feel the blow to my stomach. I grit my teeth and land.
I bring my hammer back and swing it wildly with all my strength towards the first silhouette I spot, Yan. His eyes widen, utterly taken by surprise. My weapon hits him squarely on his left shoulder.
The bandit is projected sideways, his feet lift off the ground as the man’s body impacts the nearby wall. That’s one down. Matfrid is already inside, exchanging his first blows with Gael.
“Yan!” Brie yells out, her head snaps my way. “You!” She spits out, furious as she unsheathes her weapon.
I rush her without a pause, can’t let her talk too much. I swing my hammer and she avoids it with a step back. I keep pushing forward as I make the weapon’s handle pass behind my back.
Brie throws a stabbing attack, too quickly to be dangerous. The point of it is probably to force me backward. I step into the blow, angling my torso so that it hits my left side where I’m already a bit injured.
It’s a risk to do that but I trust my chain-mail, hard leather armor, and helmet. The point of her sword is caught by one of the links and is stopped short. I absorb the hit in my stomach, the force of it cuts my breath a little and it’ll probably bruise but it’s a small price to pay.
I bring my hammer back around and swing it mercilessly towards her torso, Brie’s eyes are wild and panicked as she realizes that she’s not in a position to block or dodge.
“Wait, no, don’t!” She tries to plunge to the side as a last resort, yelling short panicked words.
I lean into the strike to follow her movement, hitting her square in the back, right in the middle of her shoulder blades. I hear bones being crushed, sharp wet sounds. Brie crashes into the floor, twitching for a few seconds before turning immobile.
The weight of her death hits me, taking me completely by surprise. Guilt and anger at having taken a life. The fact that their motive for doing this is so petty makes it worse.
The four town guards enter the room, using the door and the hole that I made in the wall. I glance around and find Gael, the last bandit, pinned to a wall through the chest by Matfrid’s sword.
His eyes are closing, he is bleeding profusely, dying. I look away. There is a fourth body in the room, that of a muscular man wearing a thick leather protecting apron with dark burn marks.
His neck is twisted in an awkward direction. He’s dead too. My stomach lurches and I turn away again. Making my way to Yan, the bandit that I hammered first.
I push a guard away to kneel at his side, checking his pulse with the tip of my fingers. I feel a slow beat. I should kill him before he can talk. No. He probably won’t wake up in time and I refuse to murder someone unconscious.
“Lord Matfrid, this one is alive if you want to question him.” I speak up.
“You two, guard him. The rest of you gather the bodies downstairs.” He gives his orders and then turns to me. “Lady Elizabeth, can you…”
The sound of a loud explosion interrupts him. Fuck. I hope Teva didn’t mess up.
Boom! Boom! Boom!
I sigh in relief, that’s louder than I expected but those several explosions in close succession probably mean that they’re demolishing buildings. They must be doing what I told them to, that’s good.
“What now?!” Matfrid exclaims with concern.
“Don’t know, I heard it coming from the west.” I lie.
Hopefully, Teva will have a plan that goes beyond because I don’t think we can keep hiding for long and they were likely spotted sabotaging. We need to breach the wall tonight.
“I’ll make sure to find out what’s happening, Lord Matfrid.” I tell him in a tight voice.
I rush out of the room without giving him any time to protest, leaving the building with hurried steps and departing at a running pace as soon as I hit the streets.
I head towards where I heard the explosions coming from, north. I assemble a strengthening construct to go faster and anchor another two lion’s step to my legs. I make a turn at a corner, entering a residential area.
There is chaos in the streets, there are guards and people outside passing buckets of water in a chain to throw them over the fires. Fuck. Should have tried harder to ditch these bandits, I knew they were bad news, this is my fault.
I see a cloud of dust at the end of a street and make the turn. I push myself to go faster but am forced to stop as I run into a pile of rubble blocking the way forward. I can’t climb this safely, it looks way too unstable.
There are doors to either side of the street. I slam my hammer into the nearest and run inside, climbing upstairs until I find a window that opens on the roof. I stick the hammerhead in a corner and use that to lift myself up.
I walk carefully on the tiles until I reach the edge of the building and hop over the small interstice between this house and the neighboring one. I take a deep breath and assemble another two lion’s step constructs.
I depart in a sprint, preparing myself to jump all the way to the other side of the rubble, hoping to land on a relatively clear area. Once at the edge of the roof, I activate the constructs, boosting my legs.
I project myself forward into the air as far as I can. I feel weightless for a short second before gravity catches on and pulls me down. I struggle a little to move in midair so that my legs stand between me and the ground.
There are a lot of small stones on the pavement where I’m headed towards, I grit my teeth. This is going to hurt. I activate the last two lion’s step constructs and crash on the ground.
My legs absorb the initial impact, my knees bend painfully but manage to mitigate the damage. The issue is that I fail to control my momentum and it drags me, pulls me forward.
I almost flip over, reflexively using my hands to break the fall and protect my face. I finish crashing my rolling on my side a few times, the stones spread over the pavement hit my ribs painfully but I get out of it without any major injuries.
“Ha! That was fun.” I giggle on my side.
I sit down and take a deep breath, savoring the pangs of pain. Yea, I’m fine, let’s go. I get up to my feet and look around, finding another pile of rubble blocking a street but no one around.
The middle street is blocked by a few carriages, I engage on it and avoid looking too closely at the dead town guards on the ground as I make my way around them. Three were killed by arrows, the other three died by the sword.
I keep heading north, the roofs seem empty but I can’t really see much. They’ll speak up if they see me. I hear clear sounds of battle coming from the top of the walls now that my surroundings are silent.
Fenyz decided to attack the walls after all. That’s a bit reckless with Meria’s army so close that they could see their torches on the horizon. I suppose she had to choose between retreating and making use of the chaos inside the walls to pressure the defenders further.