Cracking the Rock
journal entry coming, but in the meantime…
The keep was ominously quiet as Mameha, Gian and Kaheed entered the barracks, dozens of rough cots left abandoned. The large hall beyond was equally deserted, though there seemed to be signs of damage on a small door across the tiled chamber. As the trio headed up the stairs they saw a gelatinous substance congealing in the corners.
“Looks like some kind of grease…” Kaheed said, crouching.
“I’d bet Jasper was here then, greasing the stairs seems like his style,” Gian answered, “though i’m surprised not to see any blood. Perhaps he got separated from Titus and Edward?”
“We’ve no guarantee that Titus is even here. But keep looking for any clues. They must be further up the tower, I can’t see any signs of fighting and none of them would go quietly…” Mameha said; her face was pinched with concern for the missing officers.
The followed the staircase, coming across a small prison which housed two, unconscious and semi-naked guards. Higher up they saw a small office, which appeared untouched. A side door led to the open roof but Mameha insisted that they check the top floor before leaving. With Kaheed in the lead they stalked up the stairs, unsure if they were going to meet friends or foes.
As Kaheed leapt through the arched doorway a man in the armour of the keep guards lunged at him with a large axe! Always on guard, Kaheed spun, catching the man’s arms and flinging him over his shoulder, he landed in a crash of metal on stone. Kaheed leapt over ready to deliver a stunning blow to the prone soldier’s unprotected face but suddenly hesitated.
“Goddammit Kaheed! I could have done without that!” Titus swore again and started to haul himself up. He looked like he’d seen heavy fighting, his shield strap was broken and hung awkwardly from his arm, his borrowed armour showed recent battering and blood leaked from a large slash across his shoulder. As he stood small flakes of charred materiel fell from his cloak. “What d’you have to say then?”
“You still can’t talk eh? Whatever.” Titus stormed back to the stairs, obviously keeping a vigil on the stairs for more enemies.
Edward and Jasper were sitting on a makeshift barricade watching a half-dozen unarmed soldiers. Both looked almost as worn as Titus, though Jasper showed recent burns and his left side was heavily blistered and lobster red. Leaving Kaheed to guard the door as well, Mameha and Gian headed over.
“Hey guys! What’s up? You get the Baron? We killed Blacklock or Blackwood…whositsface…” Gian was surprisingly upbeat considering the thick bandages across her chest and arm.
Edward answered, speaking loudly to cover Jasper’s hissing complaints as Mameha tended to his burns with magic. “Yeah, he had a bunch of guards; those Avocati dicks, I killed those two,” he pointed with his pistol, “while Titus chopped the Baron up.” He pointed to a well dressed man missing a large chunk of his head lying in an expanding pool of blood. “You said you killed Captain Blacklock?”
“Yep. We got attacked in the tavern, we legged it through the town but the guards got all split up and we were able to catch the captain more or less by himself and beat him up. Not before he got me a few times but Kaheed took him and a bunch of guards out as well. Are you guys taking prisoners now?” Gian asked, looking at the guards sitting meekly in a group.
“Titus was unconscious at that point.”
“Besides, now Jasper and I are marrying the new ruler they are technically our guards.”
Jasper and Mameha joined the others; Jasper’s chest and arm were vivid green as fresh skin pushed up from below the damaged tissue under Mameha’s magical encouragement.
“That looks like it hurts. Maybe next time you’ll dodge the fireball?” Edward said to Jasper with a smirk.
“Go fuck yourself…Captain.” Jasper replied and Gian sniggered. “How did you and Titus get burned after the wizard was dead anyway?”
“The wizard had a pet devil.”
“My arse! You sure you didn’t just trip over my wand trying to wake me up?” Jasper said incredulously.
“It was a devil! I killed it with my pistol and it died just over…” Edward looked at the floor where the devil’s body has dissolved into foul smelling ichor only minutes ago, leaving almost no trace.
Gian and Mameha started smiling. Jasper carried on, “Oh yeah, proof of a mighty battle. We’re all very grateful to the glorious devil slayers.”
Edward glared but changed the topic. “Gian said you had some luck in town, Mameha?”
“Indeed, we slew a handful of guards and the captain. They attacked us in the tavern but we got away and then attacked them in turn.”
“Thank Besmara for small mercies then. This could have turned into quite a mess…”
“I got set on fire!” Jasper interrupted
Edward pointedly ignored him, “…could have turned into a mess. We seem to have killed the two most important targets without loss of our own. Well done everyone. Though, it does seem that subterfuge continues not to be our strong suit.”
“You can say that again,” Mameha commented. “We managed to get into the town easily enough but perhaps we should have drawn fewer eyes to us so soon. I mean, brawling in the temple, joining up with the guard straight away. No wonder you guys got arrested.”
“It was part of a ploy…?” Jasper cautiously ventured.
Everyone just looked at Jasper, the room falling silent other than Titus’ verbal poking of Kaheed who was still under oath not to speak.
Mameha continued. “How did you get free anyway?”
“I picked the lock” Jasper replied
“Eventually…” Edward muttered under his breath.
“I assume you and Titus beat up the guards and stole their gear then?” Gian asked.
“Yeah, then Jasper created an illusion of the captain, we recovered our stuff from downstairs and then made our way up here.” Edward answered.
“And Jasper conjured grease on the stairs! I’m getting the hang of this tracking thing!” Gian was excited before looking around speculatively, “say, you guys checked these bodies for loot yet?”
Jasper answered, “not yet…here, I’ll help.” They moved towards the fallen enemies. Jasper shouting to Titus, “Hey! We’re checking these bodies for stuff, come move the bloody bits for us!”
“Give me two minutes, Kaheed is helping me get this damned breastplate off. He volunteered!”
Fifteen minutes later, the party’s wounds bound and dressed, still bickering, they headed down the stairs. The sound of Jasper and Gian arguing over the value of a purse of gemstones drifted back up…