Author Topic: Rust 2  (Read 157 times)

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Online Daen

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Rust 2
« on: October 10, 2022, 03:03:05 AM »
The plan was pretty simple. Whatever orders that butcher Governor Sterling had given, they were carved inside a message cylinder within the tent, in the middle of the camp. It was Lieutenant Marsden’s temporary quarters, and Esme could see at least a dozen guards in the area. This camp was the Governor’s forward position in the district, and had an appropriate number of men assigned to it. A direct attack would be suicide, despite Esme’s bow and my long experience killing Torgans.

Fortunately, we had other options.

One legacy from the ancestors that was well-known throughout the land was the network of tubes extending out from the Torgan western regional capital. It carried gas to far-flung settlements and towns, and was used to heat many homes during the approaching cold months. What wasn’t well-known was that Sterling had secretly been building more tubes, or pipes as the ancestors had called them, and connecting them to the previous network. One of them extended out here, providing heat and firepower to his forward base. Flame weapons had been mounted on the walls.

Flamers were very dangerous to use, at least for us normal folks. Esme claimed she would be able to turn at least one of the weapons inwards, though. For a sighted person, selective, uh, aim, was the word she used, was easy.

Belatedly, I counted the number of heartbeats that had passed. It was nearing a hundred, so I tensed myself to move. Right now, Esme was most likely crossing the tripwires I’d warned her about, and then climbing the outpost wall. She could pause for nearby patrols, and then move on. By the time she was at a turret, it would be too late.

Right on cue, a roar of flame echoed out past my position. Esme would torch the adjoining turrets first, and then aim inwards at the camp. A greater distraction couldn’t be asked for, and she did love the attention. She was a goddess, and not just because she could see.

As soon as the noise came, I started climbing. Guards would be repositioned at random intervals along the wall, but that would take time. I could hear Marsden’s voice barking orders over the wall right now, in fact. I felt a twist of anger in my gut at hearing him. Sterling had many pawns under his control, and Marsden was one of the more competent ones. We’d actually shared a childhood, for a time. I had expected better of him than to just swallow Sterling’s lies whole. No matter. Despite my grudging respect for his abilities, Marsden would die along with all the other Torgan leaders, if he got in my way.

I could hear one guard breathing tensely, at the top of the wall, but his attention was directed to the flames. Like a snake, I slithered atop the wall behind him. Grabbing his mouth from behind with my left hand, I jabbed a blade into his neck with the other, and held him tight as he struggled. Just like that kid had done to that other Torgan, though he’d lacked the arm strength and blade length to pull it off. Still, I had to give him credit. He was brave, to be sure.

As soon as my guard was dead, I lowered him quietly to the ground, found the stairs on the inside of the wall, and made my way down. There was no sign of alarm on this end, but they weren’t stupid. Marsden probably anticipated an attack on the south walls, but hopefully wouldn’t think they’d already been bypassed.

I heard the cooing of pigeons off to my right. Of course. A base this large would have been here long enough to have its own carrier nest. I was tempted to kill all the birds to keep Marsden from sending any quick messages, but that wasn’t my task for now. Fortunately they seemed agitated already from the noise of the flamer, and didn’t make any other noises as I passed them.

Finally, I was at the back of Marsden’s tent. It was staked to the ground, but a little knife-work was all that was needed to make another entrance. Crossing my fingers, I slipped inside.

Something solid, heavy, and moving fast, hit me right in the chest! Despite my armor, it knocked the wind out of me, and propelled me right back out of the tent. I gasped for a moment, and then rolled to the side as it came at me again. From the sound as it smacked the ground, it was some kind of mace or large hammer.

“Did you think I wouldn’t hear you coming, ghost?” Marsden’s voice grated out, as he moved again. The hammer clipped me, but this time the body armor absorbed the whole blow. “I’m no easy meat for the slaughter, like my colleagues you’ve killed!”

“Easy meat?” I taunted. “You mean like all the victims that Torgan soldiers have left behind them? Women, children? Prisoners, staked to the ground and left to bake in the sun? You might not be soft like them, but good luck killing a ghost!”

I was still reeling from that first blow, and he probably had reinforcements nearby. Taking in a breath, I let out a loud magpie’s call; a signal out to Esme letting her know that our plans had gone sideways. In response the flamer immediately ceased its melting roar as she abandoned it and went to plan B.

Plan B was risky, but that’s usually how last-ditch options go. I just hoped I’d told Esme enough about how the tubes worked to give it a chance at success.

Marsden came at me again, grunting with the effort of his swings, and again I caught the edge of one blow, spinning me around slightly. I had to get past him! Fortunately for me, his breathing was ragged and clear. I knew exactly where he was, and charged into him. Knives would be of little use with him, with his officer’s armor on.

The impact was staggering, to both of us I thought, as I bore him to the ground with a thud. I grabbed for his throat but was too late, as he gave me a returning crack on the head. My helm absorbed most of it, but my ears rang from it anyway. Then rough hands were upon me, as two of his men joined the fray. An arm wrapped around my neck, and hands gripped my wrists to pull me off him. They hoisted me to my feet, choking off nearly all my air in doing so, though I struggled mightily. How could I get my vengeance, if these people killed me, here and now?

“I commend you, Rustle,” Marsden said raggedly, standing up himself and breathing slowly through the throat I’d bruised. “I set a trap for you, and you almost got me anyway. A worthy attempt.”

“This isn’t over,” I grated out, despite the arm still around my throat. What was taking her so long, anyway?

“Yes, it is,” Marsden responded, with some anger this time. “You’ll be taken to the Governor, and he’ll pronounce judgement upon you. Most likely, you’re a Queensland agent, sent here to disrupt our way of life, but there is something… familiar about you.” He paused his words briefly, and came a bit closer. Then I heard a slow inhalation of shock.

His next word was just a whisper- barely able to be heard. “Timothy?”

The distinctive noise of an arrow incoming was a welcome reprieve, and the guard holding me loosened his grip with a gasp of pain. Esme’s shot had probably taken him in the throat or shoulder. Ready for it, I snagged his sword right out of its sheath, and plunged it into the other guard’s midsection, underneath the breastplate. I aimed it upwards, towards his heart, and he fell like a stone. Blood sprayed out from him, but only for a moment. The dead didn’t bleed for long, as I’d learned long ago.

I didn’t have time to pull the sword free and block Marsden as he came at me, but it didn’t matter. Another arrow whistled through the air and pierced him, probably in his sword arm. He dropped it with a cry and a clang of metal on stone.

Already I could hear light footfalls as Esme ran towards us. She would be pulling her bow back again, so I held out a hand. “Wait! Don’t kill him.”

She was probably thinking I’d lost my mind, but mercifully, she waited. We’d agreed that no one should hear her speak, so people would have the wrong idea about any helpers I had in this fight. There were some female warriors in the Torgan ranks, but a sighted one? That would be unheard of!

“I’m going into the tent to get what we came for,” I said, massaging my throat for a second. “If he tries to escape, then you can kill him.”

She clicked her tongue at me to let me know she understood, and I hurried inside. Part of me was hoping Marsden did try something stupid, so I wouldn’t have to kill him later. The other part wanted to do it myself, with my bare hands. Neither was useful now, as I was feeling around his tent for the message cylinder.

Finally, I got it, and made my way back out. She clicked at me again to let me know everything was still as it was, and I approached Marsden one final time. “You know who I am now,” I said quietly into his ear. “So you know why I’m doing this. What you don’t know is that your Governor has been lying to you this whole time. He’s not what he claims to be. If he really did order you to seek out the Sanctuary, did you ever stop to think about why?”

“You’re a traitor!” He exclaimed, the contempt evident in his voice. “Why should I believe anything you have to say?”

“I don’t care if you believe me or not, Lieutenant,” I responded scornfully. “We both know the horrors the Torgan army has committed. One day, I’ll put a blade in Sterling’s throat, just as I have so many others who have murdered in his name. As for you, we can settle things between us after that.”

Shouts echoed down the narrow gaps between tents, and I realized more of his troops would be here shortly. Before he could make any kind of self-satisfied boast, I slammed the hilt of my pilfered sword down on his head, dropping him like a sack of potatoes. He’d have a wicked headache upon waking, but he would wake.

Esme gripped my arm comfortingly, knowing at least a little of the hatred and grief I was feeling right now, but we just didn’t have the time. With her leading the way, and us being able to move much faster because of it, we hastened out of the camp, and up into the hills.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2022, 03:06:44 AM by Daen »