• Matt Brown

Chapter 55


Wulf tensed, Thulm looked ready to throw the table across the room.

“He’s serious?”


The disbelief in Thran’s tone was only mirrored by his disgust on his face. His lip was curled back in a familiar sneer.


I knew convincing him wouldn’t be easy…Wulf glanced at the stairs leading to the upper rooms. Two goblins stood at rigid attention at each banister. He felt a chill across his skin just looking at them. Their large yellow eyes were watchful of anyone who came too near to Eadra.


“Very serious,” Eadra replied. “I think Grenden is the best choice, both in taking the lead coordinating the attack and choosing who will be King.”


Thulm locked his jaw, his face turning varied shades of red. “I’ll not stand for this! I will not be ruled by anyone!” He stood, his chair falling over and away from him.


As quick as a snow rabbit, Eadra drew her Aetharian longblade and stabbed the table. The sword sank into it, stopping just shy of the guard. “Sit down!”


The moon in the room shifted. The tension was thick, like a fog. You could almost inhale it. Mrina sat at the table behind Thulm along with Issfang. She may have appeared passive, but Wulf knew better. If Thulm made a move, she wouldn’t hesitate to act.


Issfang appeared moderately amused. He swirled one of his fingers with the grain of the table as he watched. Unlike Mrina, he was more focused on everyone else.


The goblins by the stairs were like vipers, with daggers drawn, and bodies rigid. There was no question they were waiting to strike as well. It was a little frightening.


Thulm stood there, the disgust on his face fading as he stared at the sword. Shock and a hint of fear had taken its place as he stared her. Wulf found himself a bit remiss, the cold look in her eyes was reminiscent of Kala when she was furious over something.


“I don’t have time for idiotic quibbling over status and station! None of us do!” she said. “Drop your scrag laden pride and sit!


Thulm was beside himself and forgetting about where his chair had been flung, moved to resume his seat. One of his men guarding the door had to scramble up to grab the chair and put it underneath him before he embarrassingly fell onto the floor.


Shuet and Eirik looked on by the bar as quiet observers. Eirik wore a slight grin showing his approval. Shuet looked nervous. It was doubtful he had seen anyone brave enough to talk to Thulm as Eadra just had.


That’s the woman I remember fighting when we first met, Eadra.


Kala was also impressed. The subtle smirk she let slip was proof enough. She leaned back in her chair, letting her attention shift to the others as if reading them.


Eadra pulled her sword from the table, sheathed it and took her seat. “Shall we continue?”

Thulm reluctantly nodded. He was angry but compliant.


“The rangers are relaying everything according to Grenden’s instructions,” Shuet cut in breaking the silence. “Illhiem and Dag have their reservations but have agreed to go along with it. We are discreetly positioning ourselves throughout the city to create choke points for the initial skirmishes.”

Thulm looked concerned. “That’s bold. If Viktor or any of his men notice…”


“None have sent word,” Eirik commented. “We are using the taverns and inns as meeting points. On the surface, it will look like we are simply going about our business. We’ve had a couple ‘skirmishes’ with Viktor’s men and the Blades to make it believable.”


He still didn’t appear comforted. Wulf signed inwardly. “We’re also operating under the guise of taking contracts. Small things only, but like Shuet and Eirik’s Rangers, mine are keeping an eye out.”


Thulm frowned. “What of myself and my men?”


Wulf took a breath. “We received word this morning. Viktor is only allowing each faction five representatives. Simply put, we will be outnumbered at the Lodge.”


“So, myself and four others,” he commented. “This is looking less promising by the moment.” He sat back, crossing his arms, contemplatively. “The Blades number a little over a hundred men, Viktor has close to that in his own forces. Savar brought well over two hundred of his own.”


“Grenden is aware, he is making plans for that. As it stands, Illhiem’s riders will deal with the giants alongside Issfang. He has the numbers. A portion of them will support the rangers in the streets. Our first priority will be securing the towers by the main gate and the gate itself.”


He looked a little more reassured. Shuet seemed more relaxed as well. “Our frost giant friend will aid in securing the gate he said.”


“What…frost…giant?” Issfang cut in.


Yak Scrag! I had completely forgotten!


Wulf felt a chill run through him. Mrina instinctively reached for her ironwood swords. Eadra was glaring at Issfang warily. Everyone else, even the goblins, was staring at him as well.


Wulf turned to face the dragon. The sharp elven features of his Aetharian form made his expression more chilling. “Issfang, he fights for us, now. He’s been disgraced and cast out of his tribe.”


The storm of the fury, mixed with madness, in the dragon’s pale eyes relented slightly. “Disgraced? How?” he asked.


His tone left nothing to the imagination. It was firm, even and full of venom. One wrong answer and there was no doubt he would run off and kill Boru without a second thought.


Wulf took a breath to ease the tension he felt in his chest. “He is exiled and has no home or clan. To them he is dead.”


“And he is willing to kill his own, if necessary?”


Wulf nodded. “He is.”


Issfang cocked an eyebrow, suspicion written all over his elvish features. “Why?”


“Because he serves me,” Eirik chimed in. “He is under oath.”


The hard look the dragon wore began to crack. His pale eyes softened as he broke into hysterics. “A frost giant, serving a human and Pure at that! Oh, how he must loathe his existence!”


Eirik scowled. He had no love for giants, but to mock another’s plight, was unforgivable. Wulf could see where this was heading if things continued as they were. He opened his mouth to speak, but Eadra spoke first.


“Issfang…”


Her tone was neither threatening nor edgy, but stern. Issfang caught his breath, wiping his eyes. He didn’t offer any remarks but shook his head in annoyance instead.


Your obsession is a detriment to us, dragon.


“Huntsman,” Thulm said. “ As you were saying.”


“Boru won’t be alone at the gate. Kala will be directing two frost elementals to secure and protect it.”


“What of the other druids?” Thulm asked.


“Kala feels it would best if they set up a place to treat the wounded. A lot of people are going to get hurt tomorrow.”


Thulm nodded. “That’s wise, it also keeps them from being seen as combatants and preserves their neutrality,” he said. “Kala can be seen as acting on her own against the other Elders.”


“Grenden said the same thing.”


“Then the only magic we will have is the dragon’s,” he said.


“My hands will be tied dealing with the giants and their dragons,” Issfang commented.


Wulf raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you say you would make it a glorious slaughter?”


He smirked. “I did, but I can’t create such a masterpiece with dire wolves and humans running around their camp, now can I?”


Wulf went to say something when the front door of the Grey Beard opened and a messenger stepped inside. Upon seeing Shuet the messenger rushed toward him and handed him a small slip of parchment. Shuet gave him a couple shards in response and sent him on his way.


“Well?”


Shuet nodded. “It's as Grenden said,” he replied. “Savar’s men are taking over protecting the walls and the outer areas. The Blades are responsible for the interior. Viktor is keeping his own close toward the central parts of the city.”


“So they have already begun rotating them out?”


“They have,” he said.


“What about the market area?” Eadra sked.


Shuet glanced at the paper in his hand. “Only a handful of them are being sent there.”


Wulf narrowed his eyes at the concern written on her face. What are you thinking?


It was strange that some of the Blades had been assigned to the markets. Viktor wouldn’t normally allow it.


“Something bothering you, Eadra?”


She shook her head. “No, Wulf, it’s nothing.”


You don’t sound very convincing. He shifted his attention to the goblins, they were focused on Eadra, as if trying to get a read on her. One of them leaned over and began muttering in his companion’s bat-like ears.


His companion nodded and began walking toward the Grey Beard’s front door. He was cautious in his movements as if trying to avoid being noticed. Their behavior was curious.


What are you two up to?


“Wulf?”


He shifted his attention to the bar. Shuet was staring expectantly just as cold rush of air blew in briefly from the front door. No one seemed the give the goblin much notice as he left.


“Sorry, just thinking.”


“So we will have the gates and the outer wall in conflict and presumably within our control,” Thulm said. “The rangers will be in control of the streets. Does that mean our forces will be assaulting the hall itself?”


Wulf nodded. “The best fighters will be joining their perspective leaders. I will be coordinating the rangers while Eirik and Shuet fight on the inside with the rest of you.”


“We’re expecting at least thirty of Viktor’s own to be in attendance, along with Ylva, Bodvar and his best,” Shuet added. “The frost giant leader and Bodvar’s inquisitor will also be there.”


Concern wove itself onto Thulm’s face. “An Inquisitor?”


“He won’t be an issued,” Eadra chimed in. “He’s with us.”


Thulm seemed to relax. “That’s reassuring. The last person I want to fight is some damned Absionion. Let alone an Inquisitor.”


Wulf caught a slight smirk from Eadra. It made him wonder how Thulm might react if he knew she was raised in Absion. Still, it was good to know there was one more person on the inside fighting with them.


Illhiem was at a disadvantage. He had brought men, but his best fighters weren’t human. Viktor had no love for orcs or goblins. Hopefully, whoever came with him would be able to react quickly in the chaos.


The men he had brought would be securing the perimeter around the hall and assisting the Rangers. Jormund’s would be doing that same alongside Grenden and Dag’s. Wulf felt his stomach turn over.


This is going be brutal. We may have to fight the townsfolk in the confusion too. They could side with Viktor out of fear.


“Wulf, who will be challenging viktor once the fighting starts?” Thulm asked.


“It has been decided that you will.”


“What!?” Eirik’s shout was like the crack of thunder. “Who decided this? Viktor is mine by right!”

Wulf winced. I’m sorry Eirik, you’re too close to this. “The other Thran decided it, Thulm is the best swordsman among us.”


Wulf briefly glimpsed Eadra before turning his attention fully to Thulm. His eyebrows were drawn together in thought. In his heart he felt like Eadra was likely much better with a sword, but this wasn’t the time for debate.


“Be warned,” Eirik replied. “If I have a chance to kill Viktor I’m taking it. Anyone who tried to stop me will regret it.”


No one said a word, not even Thulm. It was as if taking on their target was first come first serve.

“Fair enough,” Thulm said. “Whomever can get to him first will fight him. Should they fall, then it will be up to the other to finish it.”


Eirik narrowed his eyes. “So be it…” he replied.


“Then we have an accord.”


What a mess we make. Everyone wants the same thing, but getting there is going to be a battle of its own. From what Eadra said though, Grenden was right. What comes afterward will be the true test.


“Then all that is left is to prepare and wait,” Eadra said.


“Wulf, you had best patrol the choke points and review the routes for our brothers,” Shuet said. “Eirik and I will head to the Lodge.”


“Try not to pick a fight with any of the Blades.”


Eirik sneered. “Wouldn’t that be a shame.”

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