Outside the brothel Lieut turned to Vythe. “You had a path in mind?”
“Indeed.” Vythe nodded. “We can follow the prison wall to the North, and come in behind Zairole, taking him completely by surprise.”
Lieut did not reply and simply headed off towards the western entrance of the prison at a jog. Moving by the houses he came upon a wide semi-circle devoid of buildings in front of two large gates where the outside merchants came to the prison to trade with the inmates. Giving it little thought, he turned north along the line of the high prison wall. The Fog trapped within the crystalline surface of the prison fortifications let of a soft glow that illuminated the path ahead of him, making the trek easy.
It was not long before he jumped the wall that divided the West Quarter from the North and began the steep climb up the Northern Hill. The path was hard going as he vaulted over large rocks and scaled small cliffs, but he was not fazed by the difficulty as his endurance and strength was unmatched by any. The same could not be said for Vythe and Fairris, as soon as the incline started they began to labour and Lieut was moving further ahead of them. He looked back briefly once or twice but continued to push on regardless of the fact that the other two could not keep up with him.
Lieut skilfully scaled the last small cliff and pulled himself onto a small plateau where a lone mansion stood with many trees and vegetable gardens surrounding it. The building was a relic from the Pine Vale days, and although it seemed as though the current occupants tried to keep it in good condition, the house looked quite derelict.
Lieut gave the mansion little thought as his golden eyes scanned the area. From the winding road leading up from the South the ring of metal could be heard, and many men now gathered around the front of the mansion.
He thought about simply heading over and killing them all before moving into the house to find his sword, but fighting them would take time, and in that time someone could escape the battle with his sword, and he would not take that risk. Lieut sighed heavily for as it turned out he needed to wait for Vythe to hear more about the man’s plan of attack. With a growl of frustration he waited impatiently for his two unwanted companions to reach the top.
Lieut was reconsidering charging in alone once again when he heard the heavy breathing of Vythe and Fairris as they rolled over the lip of the cliff and onto the plateau.
“You waited for us,” Vythe said with amazement between his laboured breaths.
“Because I need you to tell me the best way into the mansion,” Lieut replied simply, and Vythe let out a small laugh.
“It will be easier to show rather than tell,” Vythe replied and he took a deep breath. “There will still be guards about the mansion, so it would be best to take a stealthy route.”
Lieut did not reply and fell into step behind him as the three of them moved through the small field towards the back of the house where Vythe stopped at the base of a large apple tree. With a wink to Fairris, Vythe started to climb up the tree and make his way out on a limb before jumping easily to the second story balcony.
Lieut followed quickly and he and Fairris joined Vythe on the verandah, where the man was kneeling in front of a door and picking at the lock. The door swung open in seconds and Vythe led them into a bedroom and over to the large fireplace.
“Last time I came through here it was in the middle of the cold month of Winter.” Vythe smiled, but both Lieut and Fairris looked at him blankly.
With an exasperated shake of his head Vythe headed down the chimney.
The chute was narrow and the ash stung Lieut’s eyes and lungs, but the trip was quick and in seconds he moved out from a cold hearth and into the dining room of the house where a huge oak table sat. There were no guardsmen but he could hear their shouts coming from other areas of the house.
“Look at this mess,” Vythe remarked unhappily once Fairris had joined them, “My shirt is ruined. I do hope there is a change of wardrobe at the end of the night.”
Again, neither Lieut nor Fairris bothered replying, so Vythe sighed and moved through a door into the big kitchen.
Vythe gave this room little concern and headed through another door and down a flight of steps into a brightly lit cellar. Vythe did not pause and he walked over to a huge iron bound barrel which sat on its side up against the wall. The old oak barrel had a small brass tap at the bottom of its six-foot diameter and it seemed as if it held some sort of alcohol in its depths as it rested on two supports a few inches off the ground. Across the face of the barrel above the small brass tap it read: ‘Torpin & Co. Producers of the Finest Black Ale in All of the West March,’ and under the writing was an insignia of the company with a rather fancily designed ‘T’.
Vythe reached out and lightly pushed on the right side of the barrel’s face, and cleverly the whole thing swivelled on hidden hinges to reveal a secret passageway dug into the rock.
Motioning for them to follow, Vythe skipped down the passage where a flight of rough-cut stairs led down into Zairole’s hidden vault. The sound of voices drifted up from the cavern as Lieut headed down and into a small grotto with wooden beams holding up the ceiling. A few lanterns hung around revealing several men surrounding a few chests of coins, and they all jumped in surprise as the intruders entered.
“Vythe,” a short fat man in fine clothes exclaimed as he pushed past his bodyguards. “You bastard, you told me no one was planning on attacking me.”
“Not so, Zairole,” countered Vythe. “I said Argyle had no intentions to do so. Those are Aurora’s forces winning above.”
“Aurora.” the fat man blurted. “That whore of a bunny. We had an agreement.”
“One easily broken it would seem.” Laughed Vythe. “And there is no need to be rude, she is a yineth not a bunny. Such derogatory terms upset my sensibilities.”
“Damn it Vythe, I need your help,” Zairole replied desperately.
Vythe smirked. “There is no chance I am boarding a sinking vessel.”
Zairole’s face turned red. “Then damn you to the Abyss as well,” he shouted and turned to his bodyguards. “You three, kill them.”
“Finally,” muttered Fairris, and she moved to face the oncoming attack.
Lieut also moved to kill the bodyguards, but his eyes fell upon the giant of a man that had stayed beside Zairole. Rather, not the man, but the silver lion’s head pommel that could be seen over his shoulder.
Lieut never took his eyes off the man, even as the two bodyguards moved in he continued to glare at the thief. Without blinking he quickly stepped inside a bodyguard’s backhand swing with a sword. Grabbing the wrist of the bodyguard he snapped the man’s elbow and wrapped his arm around the man’s head bending the bodyguard backwards and breaking his neck.
As the man fell Lieut pulled free the short sword and stepped over the twitching body. Never taking his deadly stare off the large man, and with his new sword, Lieut moved towards the next bodyguard who came at him with a few sweeps of a small mace. Lieut easily dodged the clumsy swings before blocking one swing solidly and stepping forward to shove his sword through the man’s throat.
“That sword belongs to me,” Lieut said calmly and he pointed the bloodied sword towards the large man.
“Tarris, kill him,” Zairole squeaked to the large man.
But Tarris’s face was pale and he darted towards the side of the cavern where a secret passage opened up.
As soon as Tarris moved, Lieut sprinted forward, but he was too far away and the stone doorway slammed in his face. He slid to a stop and turned and sprinted back up the stairs into the cellar. Picking up speed he lunged up the short steps and through the kitchen where he knocked the side door off its hinges. His thoughts were only for his sword as he took off in the direction the secret tunnel should have followed, he would not let Tarris get away.
A smile appeared on his face when he noticed movement amongst some large rocks ahead of him; it was Tarris. The fool thought he had escaped. Acquired sword still in hand Lieut pulled out the dagger belted at his back and launched it at the head of Tarris. He would have killed the man right then if Tarris had not seen him out of the corner of his eye and stumbled on a rock in his distraction. Lieut’s dagger flew harmlessly over Tarris’s head and ricocheted off the wall of the prison.
With a frustrated growl Lieut jumped ahead, his short sword leading the way. Somehow Tarris managed to bring Lieut’s own sword down from his back and intercept the strike. Their swords locked and Tarris pushed forward trying to out muscle Lieut. But Lieut did not give the bigger man any ground and he held firm.
With a sudden shift of his feet and a twist of his hips, Lieut caused both swords to fly out wide and out of the grasps of both combatants. The swords untangled in the air and collided with the wall of the prison where Lieut’s sword with the lion’s head pommel embedded itself up to the crosspiece, whilst the other blade bounced off and landed in the dirt without leaving a scratch on the glass surface.
With the blades now gone Tarris looked confident and readied his fists. Lieut smiled as he quickly darted forward landing two heavy blows into Tarris’s stomach. But the bigger man grunted away the pain and swung a heavy fist toward Lieut’s head. Lieut stepped back easily from the slow strike and let it sail by before stepping to the side and slugging Tarris in the ribs and kidneys.
The huge man could take a hit, and again he grunted away the pain. Lieut lightly danced away from another wild swing by Tarris, a smile upon his face at the unexpected challenge. Lieut skipped back in to the fight and landed a solid kick to the inside of Tarris’s leg, which dropped the bigger man to his knee. His next kick came in just as fast, heading for Tarris’s head. But it did not connect very well as Tarris fell backwards with the kick and rolled to his feet.
Tarris came back with a smile on his face, but Lieut was hardly worried. Tarris attacked with several measured jabs all of which Lieut easily dodged, and when the big hook came, he spun under Tarris’s arm and launched himself off a nearby boulder. As he came down from the jump his fist connected heavily with the side of Tarris’s head, dropping him to one knee. As quick as lightning Lieut stepped on Tarris’s bent thigh and sprung upwards, his knee slamming Tarris under the chin and sending him sprawling and dazed on his back.
Hardly finished with Tarris, Lieut landed lightly and spun down low, whipping his leg around so that his heel catapulted into Tarris’s face and shattered his nose as the man tried to sit up.
Lieut finished his spin and jumped back to his feet, a victorious smirk on his face. Without another thought for Tarris he happily strode over to where his sword was embedded in the prison wall. As Lieut expected all around his sword the crystalline surface had turned a dull grey colour and the Fog was gone, his sword completely undamaged.
Lieut heard footsteps as he neared his sword, and he did not need to turn to know it was Vythe and Fairris, he quietly let out an irritated sigh.
“Impossible,” he heard Fairris gasp as they jogged up to him.
This time he did turn to look at them, and saw their bewildered expressions at the sight of his sword impaled in the wall.
“No weapon has ever, can ever, damage this wall,” Fairris said with a stunned expression. “How is this possible?”
Lieut did not reply.
“Can you get it out?” Vythe asked, his expression the same as the one Fairris wore.
Again Lieut did not reply, he simply reached up to the hilt of his sword and with a twist and a tug the wall shattered like glass and he pulled his blade free. Where his sword had been was now a gaping hole in the wall, as wide as it was deep. But as quickly as the shards of the wall dissipated, the edges of the hole began to mend, creeping back over the area like a pond icing over in the cold. In seconds the hole was gone and the wall returned as if nothing had ever damaged its smooth surface.
“Perfect.” Vythe breathed, and a smile crept across his face.
Lieut sighed again and began to return his sword to the specialised clips at his shoulder, but movement from Tarris stopped his hand. Casually Lieut walked over to the dazed man and waited for Tarris to regain his senses. As Tarris opened his eyes Lieut lowered his sword towards the man’s head, causing Tarris’s eyes to widen all the more and the man scrambled backwards away from the sword tip. A large rock stopped Tarris from going any further and Lieut’s sword tip rested just below his chin.
“Did you steal this sword from me?” Lieut demanded, his arm holding the large blade steady.
“What? No,” Tarris stammered, his voice deep and rough.
“How did you get it then?”
“Zairole, the Faction Leader, he gave it to me as payment,” the large man replied quickly.
“And you did not wonder how he came by such a unique weapon?” Lieut pressed.
“Listen, mate, I’m just a sword for hire tryin’ to make a livin’ in this hell hole,” explained Tarris desperately. “I don’t ask questions, I do what I’m paid to do, an’ that’s it.”
Lieut was about to run the man through, but he paused, confusion suddenly clouded his thoughts. Was this man so different from him? The parallels were unsettlingly similar, so much so that he found himself slowly retracting his sword. Tarris did not miss the opportunity and he quickly scrambled to his feet and hobbled off into the night.
“You were a fool to let him live, one day he might seek vengeance,” Vythe remarked as Lieut returned his sword to its rightful place at his shoulder.
Lieut’s thoughts were still clouded when suddenly the wound on the side of his head began to throb and pain shot through his body, forcing him to his hands and knees. He growled away the agony as best he could but it was no use. Blood began to flow from his gash and run down his cheek to drip onto the dirt between his hands. The intense pain was blinding him but he saw clearly the colourful cloud of Fog begin to swirl before his eyes.
“Not. Possible,” Lieut growled, his fingers digging into the ground.
None of this made sense to him. The pain increased and he gnashed his teeth and shut his eyes in an attempt to push it away, but it did not work.
Gradually the acute ache began to subside, his breathing became normal and he found the strength to stand. Groggily he wiped away the blood from his cheek with the light gold sash that he had wound around his belt. Shaking the clouds from his mind he turned towards Fairris and Vythe who were both looking at him with an expression mixed between horror and intrigue.
“I need to get to Port Na’brath,” Lieut mumbled, as he pushed past the still stunned pair and headed back towards the house, his mind swirling.
“Wait,” Vythe called after him. “You are breaking out, are you not?”
“Our time together is finished,” Lieut replied simply.
“You are not the only one that wants to get out of here,” Fairris retorted as she too caught up to him.
“I am sure everyone in here wants to be out,” replied Lieut, “but I will be going alone.”
“You still owe me for the information I gave to you about the sword,” Vythe said sternly.
“I owe you nothing,” Lieut replied angrily.
“Have you no honour?” Vythe countered angrily. “We had a deal.”
“Do not speak to me about honour.” Lieut whirled to face the man. “The only reason you claim I have none is because I have a means of escape and you want to be rid of this place. The only deal between us was that when you gave me the information about my sword, whatever payment you wanted could be taken from Zairole’s stash. I owe you nothing, Vythe, and neither do I owe Fairris anything.”
“You saved my life,” the elf spoke up. “The least I can do is help you escape.”
“You assume I need help.” Lieut scoffed as he continued at his swift pace.
“What about getting to The Port?” Vythe called out, making Lieut stop and turn back around. “You wish to get to Port Na’brath, correct?”
“Maybe,” Lieut replied, his eyes unblinking.
Vythe smiled widely. “Once out I can open a teleportation gate that will get you there in seconds. I can save you a lot of time and money.”
Lieut stared at the man in silence, his jaw clenching. “Fine,” he decided.
“And the lovely Miss Fairris here will join us.” Vythe crossed his arms in front of his richly designed vest.
Lieut narrowed his eyes at the man, but eventually he nodded his head in agreement.
“Thank you,” Fairris said quietly to Vythe, and the two of them moved to join Lieut.
“I also have another friend, Legin-” Vythe began.
“No,” Lieut cut in angrily. “I have agreed to the elf. There will be no more if you wish to see the outside of these walls. You need me, I do not need you. Remember that.”
“I cannot leave him behind,” Vythe replied desperately.
“You will, if you want to be out of here,” Lieut said simply, his eyes cold.
“Alright,” Vythe agreed hesitantly. “What is your plan of escape?”
Lieut stared hard at the man for a few seconds. “The walls are too thick to cut through, but the door to the guard’s barracks is not.”
“That’s suicide,” Fairris remarked with disbelief.
“The guards will pose little trouble,” Lieut replied calmly. “And with luck I will come across the Regional Commander.”
“I guess we will have to go that way then,” Fairris replied, her expression suddenly hard.
Lieut regarded the elf curiously, but he quickly dismissed his thoughts.
“If you go through the barracks the whole region of Gaianaus will be after you very quickly,” Vythe said seriously. “Which would make your time in The Port ten times harder.”
“You seem to have all the answers,” Lieut remarked dryly. “What do you propose?”
“The Water Gate in the South Quarter,” Vythe stated with a smile. “It is thin, and I know that the magicks in it require it to be so. We create a distraction and then slip away with the currents unnoticed.”
“What form of distraction did you have in mind?” asked Fairris curiously.
“What is the point of a distraction?” Lieut cut in. “Why not just go down to the river at night?”
“My friend, this prison is run how the guards see fit,” Vythe explained. “Nothing happens without their knowledge or approval, and as such many of the inmates spy for the guards. They also run this place like a business. The inmates mine, craft, and farm produce which is then sold to outside merchants with a big cut of the proceeds going to the guards. They have a great investment in this place and strictly control all within. Almost nothing you do will go unnoticed, even if there is unrest happening. But at least it will be longer before they realise you have escaped.”
“Word of a trio jumping into the South River would quickly find the ears of the guard.” Fairris nodded in agreement. “It is something they would want to know, for they would have to fish out the drowned bodies of the prisoners stopped by the Water Gate.”
“And if there were no drowned prisoners found …” Vythe let the thought hang in the air.
“What kind of distraction were you thinking?” Lieut asked irritably.
“A riot.” Vythe’s eyes lit up. “And I know just the person to start one.”
“Let us be quick about it then,” Lieut said, decidedly.
Vythe smiled sincerely. “Finally we agree on something.”
Lieut shook his head in frustration but he followed Vythe and Fairris back towards the mansion where the victory celebrations had already begun. The triumphant Western Quarter combatants had found Zairole’s hidden cache of wines and were merrily dancing and singing around bon fires that had sprung up over the plateau the mansion was built on.
Lieut followed Vythe through the merry groups and past several prisoners throwing away the earned coin for some time with the whores. What made it worse was that they had not even bothered to find some privacy.
Trying to ignore the entangled forms, Lieut followed Fairris through a side door and into the main hall of the mansion. The room was crowded with prisoners lining up to be paid for their services and aid in capturing the Northern Quarter. Lieut gave it little thought though and continued to follow Fairris as she trailed after Vythe into the dining room where the large oak table stood.
On top of the table sat half a dozen plates of food and several pitchers of drink, and at the head of the table Aurora sat happily with a chalice of wine in one hand. The yineth had now changed from her battle leathers into a no less revealing gown of steel grey satin that reflected the green of her unusual eyes.
“I was hoping you would join me Vythe,” Aurora remarked happily when she noticed them enter.
Reluctantly Lieut sat down at the table and poured himself a mug of water.
“How could I pass up such a lovely feast?” Vythe smiled at Aurora as he sat at the other end of the table. “Or such lovely company?”
“It is the least I could do for you in aiding my victory here in the North,” Aurora replied.
“What is the most you could do?” asked Vythe coyly, making the smile on Aurora’s face widen.
“Vythe,” Lieut cut in angrily.
Vythe shot him an annoyed look. “I would be remiss if I did not mix business with pleasure.”
“Keep to the business, or forget our agreement,” Lieut was quick to reply.
Vythe let out a deep breath. “Aurora, my dear, since my associate is so insistent perhaps I can ask a favour of you?”
The yineth’s eyes darted curiously between Lieut and Vythe, but she nodded for Vythe to continue.
“Would you be so kind as to start a riot for us?” Vythe asked sweetly.
Aurora looked at him curiously, “Tis’ an odd request. May I ask why?”
“No.” Lieut jumped in before Vythe could say anything.
Vythe glared at him. “Best that you do not know, Aurora.” Vythe smiled weakly.
“Another escape attempt?” Aurora inquired sweetly.
“Best that you do not know,” Vythe said again.
“I suppose you will have more luck this time now that Captain Fairris is one of us,” Aurora remarked offhandedly, causing Fairris to look up from her empty plate like she had just realised there was a conversation going on.
“Can you do it or not?” Lieut asked seriously.
“I can.” Aurora nodded to him before turning to Vythe. “Perhaps we could go somewhere more private to discuss the details, Vythe?”
“I would love nothing more,” Vythe replied sincerely. “Perhaps we will find someone who appreciates the enjoyment of an intellectual conversation.”
“I am certain we shall.” Aurora rose from her chair and she and Vythe left the room and headed for the stairs.
“You should see the size of Zairole’s bath tub,” Lieut heard Aurora remark.
To which Vythe replied with a laugh, “Lead the way.”
Lieut let out another sigh and stretched the stiffness out of his neck. This was going to take longer than he had hoped, but at least when they get out Vythe will open a teleportation gate and he will be in Port Na’brath in seconds. Then he might find some clarity in the confusion he had been feeling ever since the crash.
Lieut had another big mug of water before he rose and left the dining room. Fairris had left shortly after Vythe and Aurora, and he was thankful for that, because with the blood elf around his confusion became greater.
As Lieut moved slowly out onto the verandah that ran around the whole house, Inüer just crested the eastern horizon casting golden light over the region. The merriment of Westerners had halted and their celebrations stopped due to most of them passing out from excessive consumption of alcohol and who were asleep on the ground around the ashes of the fires.
Lieut moved through the unconscious and half naked crowd and headed to the edge of the hill that overlooked the dusty road that wound down the hill and through the many different tiers before moving out into the rest of the prison.
The aptly named Northern Hill was covered in blossoming fruit trees and large vegetable patches. The air was alive with the sound of birds greeting the morning light and the buzz of bees searching for pollen. But none of the beauty interested him as he looked out over the prison, for his golden eyes were fixed on the area where the South River washed under the prison wall. That was his goal and nothing else concerned him at that moment.
Annoyingly the shimmer of blood red hair caught his attention.
Lieut turned his gaze from the South to see Fairris who sat further along the cliff top similarly staring out into the morning as she hugged her legs close to her body as if to ward off a chill wind. Lieut tried to look away and forget about her, but he found that he could not, and again the strange feeling stirred within him, making him clench his jaw in confusion and irritation.
A rumble of distant thunder grabbed his thoughts and he turned to see dark clouds looming over the great peak of Gaiagus, the largest of the mountains that made up the Gaia Mountains. Lightning flashed and the wind picked up. Although the storm was still a ways off Lieut knew it would come fast and hard when it did hit. He looked away from the squall and turned his thoughts back to his objective.
“Escape is the only thing that matters at this moment,” Lieut said softly to himself in determination.
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