“You’re sure of the numbers and positions,” I asked the street urchin boy and his three friends. They were sure, and they stated so, in their off hand and colorful way. The translation part of the transfer magic was handy, but whatever language it was, slang will always sound like jibberish.
I marked the info on the rough map in exes, and the number dwarfed the circles that had been made in accordance to the number of guards the prisoners told me about.
“Looks like our captives lied,” grunted Callic, his face in half shadow from the dim light the covered lantern cast in the blackness of the alleyway a few streets down from Nigeman’s mansion. The bastard had a large manor in the merchant district of the town, approximately the size of two modern houses from Earth, with just as many rooms, though it was only two stories.
“He prob’ly wuzzn’t lyin’, sir,” said an urchin. “Them mens is new ta’ us.”
“So he reinforced his defenses, tonight,” asked Gina, her slit pupil eyes narrowing in consideration.
“Prudent,” I offhandedly muttered. “A team of his gets jumped and dragged who knows where, he probably thinks a gang war is about to erupt. The truth is a bit worse for him than that, though.”
Gina’s smile looked predatory in the half shadows, Callic’s frown seemed sinister, Aase’s blank face appeared cold and emotionless, and my smirk probably looked like something else entirely. There were a couple of team leaders in the shadows acting something like bodyguards in addition to their duties. Once the final strategy session ended, they’d rejoin their groups for the raid.
I pointed at some points on the map and asked Callic and Gina, “Are these pathways still valid for these numbers, or are we going to have to get loud before we even kick in the doors?”
Almost feels like I’m planning out a mission in Rainbow 6, except I don’t have to bother with rescuing digital hostages.
“Oh, it’s definitely going to get loud,” said Gina, amused. “These guys were never trained to be quiet.”
And she was? I’d have to ask about that later. “If it gets loud, so be it. But can we subdue these numbers without significant losses?”
“If they fight like those turds in the basement, we won’t have any trouble,” sneered Callic.
“Okay,” I said in understanding, and then challenged, “Now let’s imagine they’re armed with weapons, and are as competent as a civilian can be in using them. What’s your opinion then, Callic?”
Callic was silent for a moment. He may have thought of going straight bravado for a split second, but he was taking the question as seriously as the lives of his men demanded he should. Guy has command potential, even if he is an enormous jerk. “We’re armored, and they’re not,” Callic said. “We can take them out without any real casualties as long as no one gets behind us.”
I nodded and said, “And even if they do, that’s when Gina and Aase come into play.”
Gina smiled while Aase nodded once, seriously. Aase was combat capable, but I wasn’t going to bring her in on the initial raid, for only one reason. Her magic was too damn powerful, she couldn’t control it in a fine enough way not to risk friendly fire in confined spaces. Her place in this operation was emergency backup, in case things went sideways. Should that happen, I wouldn’t care about property damage as long as we could get my people out.
As for why I’m not having Aase just bombard Nigeman’s house right from the start… well, I have my reasons.
So that’s why I assigned Aase, Gina, two soldiers, and Daphne to be the emergency extraction team. Mercy I left at the inn.
“Alright, the plan is unchanged. We go on the agreed signal, so keep your ears peeled, kids,” I said as I started rolling up the map.
“Us’s ears is a’ways open, sir. Is ‘ow we’s survive.”
I nodded and said to the soldiers, “Get back to your teams, and remember. Alive if possible. Dead, just as good. Your lives are more important than theirs. Go.”
The lantern in Callic’s hand was dimmed to almost nothing. The soldiers had their hands taken by urchins and placed on the kid’s shoulders so the men wouldn’t get lost while the boys led them through back alleys. I told Aase, “I’ll see you on the flip side,” as she and Gina left, Aase and Gina both moving unaided. One urchin took my hand but I said, “It’s alright, I can see just fine.”
And I could. The fine details of my surroundings escaped me, but I could see well enough in the cloying darkness of the night that people in my world normally don’t experience except during a power outage, or on a camping trip. A little part of my brain told me I should panic over how unnatural my eyes had to have become to be able to see this well, but that voice couldn’t hold a candle to my determination to abuse the reinforcement of my sight as much as necessary.
I’ve been thrown into a world of monsters, dragons, and crime lords. It’s survival of the fittest time.
Somehow, it felt like the corners of my mouth lifted a bit at that thought. Once again, I wondered what my smirk looked like to other people as I stalked through the darkness.
Keeping my emotions under control is usually easy. I feel my emotions deep and strong, like a subterranean river, but I leave them riding sidecar to logic and necessity. At that moment though, I was working hard to keep my burning feelings of anticipation and aggression in check, because as the other soldiers in my assault group notified me, they were causing my eyes to smolder like coals in a campfire.
Maybe I should just close my eyes until everyone is ready. Let’s try that.
GUH! Crap, I think I was starting to drift off a little.
The street urchin’s ears perked up to the sound of a bird and he said, “ ‘At wuz tha las’sun, suh.” The kid couldn’t have been more than six years old. He had one big front tooth, and the other was an empty gap that was just starting to grow in. I nodded and said, “Alright. We’re moving. You stay here, kid. You know the signal.”
The kid nodded his head and I stepped out of the shadows.
Not all that far ahead was a team of two guards on one of the perimeter lengths of the estate. The house and yards were built with the beauty of unscientific workmanship, so there were a lot of odd sides and angles meaning these guys were in a blind spot from the others on outside watch. They saw me pretty quick, and gave me a hail of challenge. They asked who I was, and I just kept walking towards them. Then they pulled out their swords when I got to within twenty paces of them. When they did, I lifted up my hands and froze the movement of all air around their heads.
The two guards fell into panic as their ability to breathe or call out for help was cut off. One of them lost his head completely, dropped his sword, and started thrashing about trying to free his airways. The second one determined that I was the cause and came at me with his sword. I flicked a hand sideways in a subliminal gesture to strike the man hard in the gut with a solid air sphere. He fell to the ground and didn’t get back up before the rest of my team was on top of him, and he was clobbered with swords that were still inside their scabbards. When they were confirmed unconscious, I released my magic on them. They started breathing again while the magic soldier of my group started binding their hands with some prepared cords. She was a tall, thin blond with her hair in a ponytail that was what Gwyneth Paltrow would look like if she were more Heartland than Hollywood. What was the name? I’ll remember it later.
I was given the signal that the hands and legs were all taken care of, and I signaled to the street urchin. In reply, he uttered a whistle that sounded like a loud chirp, followed by a trilling bird cackle. That was the sound for the other teams to begin preliminary approach, and wait for our entry.
I walked over to a wall, motioned the soldiers to either side of me, and waited a moment to gather my resolve.
I flicked my fingers forward and created a shock wave, blasting into the wall of the house that was constructed of wooden siding, what looked like straw for insulation, and plaster for the inner wall. I could tell all that because the entire section of wall exploded into the house when it was struck by the shock wave. The plaster disintegrated a bit, creating a cloud of detritus floating in the air that almost made the image seem as though it were a hallucination. But the explosion of the shock wave and crashing of the wall was too loud for there to be any doubt. My soldiers were slack jawed by the sight, though.
“Well? Get going, guys.”
At my gentle hint, the four soldiers in my team breached the entry like they were late for a class period. The magic soldier, was it Dolly? She stayed behind with me as her specialty wasn’t going to come into play here. I cleared my throat to grab her attention and said, “My staff?”
“Oh,” she exclaimed, and held it out to me. I took my quarterstaff and said, “Shall we?”
I stepped through the hole in the wall and saw my soldiers ganging up on the guards, two on one exclusively, and then pummeling them with their shields and swords. The soldiers were now wearing their full battle gear. It was their normal armored uniforms with pauldrons, breastplates, and greaves on the upper thighs, but with the addition of gauntlets and elbow pads with strips of ring mail backed by leather connecting all the different parts into place, and hardened leather helms with plates of steel over every applicable surface, including face guards. Even the magic soldier to my right who followed me in had a guard over her face, which I could only see her eyes and the bridge of her nose through.
No, her name wasn’t Dolly; sounds kinda like it though? Damn, this was gonna bug me.
The normal soldiers were using their physical reinforcement that was trained by a professional army to instantly overwhelm their enemies. Since they were going for non-fatal attacks, they were parrying with the short swords, and then slamming faces with their round shields that were somewhere between medium and small shields. The guards inside the house were popping up quickly in response to the noise of the explosion, and the resulting melee. Before more than a couple could enter the fracas I heard the front door, back door, and side door for the kitchen get kicked in and the house was being filled with armored green uniformed bodies.
The other three teams had finished jumping the outside goons and binding them while my team acted as a diversionary assault squad.
It’s her last name that sounds like Dolly though. Has to be. But what’s the first name?
I walked past my team’s soldiers who were busy binding the pummeled guards when a wild eyed man with a naked blade in his hand rushed through a door way and instinctively attacked me in his fear fueled state. Unfortunately for him, my Identify Friend / Foe filter is nonexistent in a situation like this, so I just instinctively jabbed the end of my staff into his chest the moment I noticed him coming at me quickly. With the tip of my staff coming to something of an abrupt halt, I lifted the end to snap upwards into his jaw, flicking his head back. I followed this up by swinging the back end of the staff down and into his genitals now that his eyes were elsewhere, namely looking up at the ceiling, and executed a spinning backward strike to the side of his head. The man dropped senseless to the floor as my trailing magic soldier was shouting for me to “Look ou-… oh.”
I was surrounded by shouting, cries of pain, dull thuds and the shattering of furniture and knick knacks. Doors were being kicked open to the sound of splintering wood and the panels impacting on the inside walls. The cries of kitchen staff and house servants echoed as they were being told to get on the floor. Lights were being turned on, flooding rooms with illumination, and some lamps were being shattered, creating uneven pitches of darkness here and there.
I pointed at three men and told them to come with me as I stomped up the stairway. When we reached the top of the stairs, an armed man rounded a corner and charged us. One of the soldiers counter charged and struck the man hard enough with the shield to bodily plunge the guard halfway through a wall of plaster and wooden slating. The guard fell downward where he took a solid kick to the face, and my magic soldier advanced to bind him while he was down.
“Essay,” I asked to the empty air. One of the soldiers advancing with me inquired with a “Sir?” I lightly replied, “No, no, don’t tell me, I’ll get it.”
It might be the video games, or the movies, or the fact that I’m surrounded by a crack squad of military killers, but I’m feeling oddly comfortable in this raid. I was enjoying the chaos around me, picking out the dozen or so mini stories being relayed to me by sound. The adrenaline and excitement was there, my smashing the roaming crazy to pulp was proof of that, but it was now little more than an undercurrent to my living in the moment, interweaving myself into the fabric of everything that was happening around me. I was passively a part of everything, while actively being a part of whatever I chose to be. It was like… yes. It was like I was back on stage again.
It was the exact same feeling as being in a play. That restless surety that anything and everything could go wrong at any moment, but having absolute confidence that I could adapt and roll with the disaster. That my ability to think on my feet could turn accidents into accolades. I recalled that addictive feeling, one I’d been missing for years, as a door opened beside me and I snapped at a vague human shape with my staff. A person staggered backwards holding their blood streaming nose and I walked, my pace uninterrupted.
The number of my soldiers on the second floor was nearly in the double digits now, the rest sitting on captives and civilians downstairs.
Not Essay, but close. Really, really close.
Then there was Callic, rushing forward. There was blood on his sword, though not a lot, and another splash of blood on the surface of his shield. Callic reached the bedchambers of Nigeman before I could and gave the knob of the double doors a hearty kick that broke the lock, wood and everything, rocketing the doors open like they’d been struck by a battering ram.
Inside was Nigeman, standing and holding a sword. He was wearing a pair of pajamas that consisted of a shirt and trousers. He had on a quickly fastened leather and metal full torso breastplate and a hard leather cap that was not fastened into place; the leather thong was hanging loose by the chin. Nigeman himself was pretty tall, though a few inches shorter than me. He had a rough scar crossing his lips under his nose, as though he’d taken a brick to the face in a fist fight and it had been fixed with stitches instead of healing magic. The rest of him was pretty nondescript except it was apparent that he had the muscular frame of a fighter and a face that was used to being in control, as Nigeman did not show any panic for being raided like he was.
“Essea,” I said to the air. Essea Dahley, with a hard ‘e’ and a hard ‘a’ at the end of the first name. Wow, that was bugging me.
“Yes, sir,” Essea nervously asked in response to the calling of her name.
“No, it’s nothing,” I muttered offhandedly. Ah, Callic was wasting no time, he already charged Nigeman before I could give him an ultimatum to surrender. Maybe it was for the best as I was a little distracted.
Callic struck out with his short sword, but Nigeman parried it with his longer blade. Nigeman’s weapon looked like a long sword and had a hilt that could be used one handed or two handed. He was opting to go two handed style, probably since he didn’t have any kind of shield to use on the off hand. Or that was just his original style. I wasn’t really interested in which it was, though. I was just taking in the fight scene before my eyes, waiting for the resolution.
Callic was showing his mettle as a power based fighter. His timing on his attacks were not meant for using wide swings with his full power, but the extra strength of his frame just naturally made his normal attacks heavier and harder to deal with. I’d seen him exhibit that strength of his in many a sparring practice in the camp, so it was no surprise to me. Callic was working hard to press Nigeman, to try and fatigue the crime boss into showing an opening that Callic could make use of for a finishing blow. The fact that Callic had not overpowered Nigeman already was a testament to the older man’s strength and technique.
Nigeman was not receiving Callic’s strikes head on, instead he was deflecting and parrying away the attacks, letting Callic’s own innate strength throw off the timing of his strikes. Nigeman was also making use of his longer range to push Callic onto the defense, forcing my sergeant to use his shield for defending instead of attacking. They seemed oddly evenly matched, even with age and preparedness seemingly supposed to be granting an advantage to Callic. Was Nigeman really just some random crook who rose to power? His combat technique was too clean, to refined, for him to not have been trained. And if the sweat on Callic brow was an indication, Nigeman’s physical reinforcement was at a pretty decent level.
“No, no, I want to see how this plays out,” I said, stopping a soldier from rushing in to attack Nigeman from behind. I know it was against my own orders, but this had peeked my curiosity.
Ah, they entered a deadlock, Nigeman’s sword against Callic’s shield, with Callic holding it with both hands to brace.
“Stoke the forge and light the furnace of my soul,” said Nigeman, with meaning.
Just as I tilted my head a little in confusion like a dog that was trying to figure out human speech, the edge of Nigeman’s sword turned crimson and the wooden body of Callic’s shield where it touched the sword burst into flame. Callic was understandably surprised, his stance wavered just a tiny bit, and Nigeman used that opening to strike upward, catching the cross guard of his longsword on Callic’s shield, and lifted the shield and Callic’s arms overhead. Nigeman followed through with a quick side slash to Callic’s torso.
Callic jumped back as much as he could, but he was still cut deep as the sword penetrated the uniform and chain mail like it was slicing bread. It would have been a death wound anyway if I hadn’t reactively fired a hefty air bullet against Nigeman when I saw Callic’s shield get tossed upward. The shock striking Nigeman pushed him back a little, ending up with Callic’s wound being just a deep cut instead of a disemboweling. Even so, Callic was bleeding profusely through a tear in his uniform that was also on fire. Callic patted the fire out, burning his hand in the process while shouting in pain from making his gut wound worse from the repeated impacts. If Nigeman wasn’t wary of me then he’d have had all the time in the world to perform the coup d’grace on Callic.
Brandishing my staff, I inched around and let Nigeman inch around as well to get some distance between him and Callic. From the sound of things behind me, Iyleen Burkt must have been doting on Callic at the moment, so I called out without turning any of my attention away from Nigeman, “Iyleen, Essea, get Callic to Daphne. Everyone else, form a perimeter and stay frosty. And you Nigeman… who are you really?”
Tonight’s performance just went way off track.
This chapter was very nearly a completely different chapter. But I was enjoying the journey to get to Nigeman too much, resulting in Xander hijacking my tentative plans to turn it into this wonderful journey. Even I am under the sway of the Demon King…
I am still collecting questions for the Q & A.
I now have a Patreon for BakaPubs. Please support the sight. Even 10 cents a chapter per person adds up in the end, and I would be very grateful, and inspired to write more.