The horn’s haunting called echoed in Issfang’s sharp ears. He spun his head in its direction scanning the streets and avenues, then it all made sense. Like snow leopards stalking their prey, packs of goblins struck from the shadows.
Both Savar and Viktor’s men were already embroiled in a fight they hadn’t prepared for. The goblins struck like vipers, then faded, leaving the dead, maimed and wounded in their wake.
In the confusion, some of the Rangers had already joined the fray. Unlike the goblins, they were more focused on protecting the innocent who got in the way of Savar’s men as they attempted to defend themselves.
In a matter of moments, the streets had devolved into chaos. Horns from the towers along the walls sounded and when he turned to the frost giant camp, the brutes were already mobilizing. Their riders making way to their dragons.
Volkin, what have you done!
As if to mirror in perfect precision, horns from Grenden, Dag, Jormund, and Henrik’s camps followed. Each had begun a mad scramble to form ranks, with Henrik’s riders already on the move. The old Thran broke off from the main group with thirty riders in tow. Jormund’s men followed at a quickened pace on foot behind Henrik, taking up the rear.
The remaining seventy riders continued in the direction of the giant’s camp with Jormund in the lead. The giant’s leader sprang into action, barking orders, kicking, and backhanding his warriors, to get them moving. His expression was grim and full of rage. Clearly, he felt betrayed and understood what was coming.
Issfang reached for stone sill along the ramparts as the wall was rocked with explosions down by the gates. He turned to see two huge frost elementals burst from the earth. The Blades didn’t hesitate to open fire on them as more poured from the guardhouse.
Kala’s preparation’s suddenly made sense. The elementals weren’t like the ones summoned earlier. Their humanoid features were more defined and the thick ice covering them was fashioned to resemble armor. These were crafted to last in a prolonged engagement.
A battle cry sounded in the giant’s tongue from the inner gate. Issfang craned his neck, Boru had intercepted the Blades leaving the guardhouse before they could step through the gates. For a young giant, it was impressive to watch him wade through the mercenaries with his large warhammer. Still, with so many, the fight wouldn’t be easy.
Don’t die on me yet, boy. We haven’t finished our chat.
He turned back toward the giant’s camp. Their riders, save for one dragon, the female, were atop their mounts.
Now, now, we cannot have that.
He glanced at his feet and reached down taking up a small handful of snow. Placing to his mouth and whispering to it as one would a lover, it took on a soft blue hue.
Issfang raised his hand into the sky a soft wind blowing catching the snow in his hand, dispersing it. He then took a deep breath and blew. A thick fog billowed from his mouth expanding out around him as the wind picked up.
The clouds overhead thickened, expanding like the fog. The intensity the wind grew and moments later snow followed.
“You say I come to your isles like the darkest of storms, Boru,” he mumbled under his breath.“Then it is fitting that I conjure one to announce my arrival.”
He leaped over the wall, swinging around, and embedding his claws in the stone. Releasing his grip just enough, he slid down its rough surface and turned toward the camp after reaching the bottom.
With his eyes on the dragons, and their riders, a dark smile crossed his face.
Today, your slavery ends. In death, you will be free.
Issfang closed his eyes, releasing the magic binding him to his elven form. The sensation was similar to shedding one’s skin. He spread his wings, relishing the feel of the wind against him and roared. He smiled inwardly as the wind carried the sound into the city.
“Death comes on the wind, Noren’s, and I am the Keeper’s emissary!”
Eijar panted in desperation, his left shoulder screaming in pain. The Flame had overtaken him and the market was in chaos. The Blades along the perimeter and at the entryways were engaged with a band of goblins that had struck out of nowhere.
They overtook the walls, some of them dying on the process. A few of the crossbowmen had managed to pop a shot or two off before getting cut open. The goblins were quick to take up the crossbows and turn them against their enemies.
One of them had been shouting: Red mean dead! over and over before falling victim to the irony of his statement.
“Something wrong Eijar?” Methias called, a wicked grin on his face. “Surely a quarrel to the shoulder wouldn’t slow down such a prodigious Inquisitor as yourself.”
Eijar smirked. “Surely such an infamous assassin isn’t so terrible that he cannot even kill a lowly inquisitor.”
Methias sneered, tightening his grip on his on the pair of curved daggers he wielded. “Keep talking,” he replied.
The assassin stepped in daggers whirling in a flash of steel. Eijar reversed his gladius parrying the assault backstepping to keep him from closing in. Even with his arm cradled against his chest, it felt as if the assassin had already driven in one of his blades in.
Methias was relentless and quick. A master of his art, like any Absonian. Eijar fought to keep pace, but wounded, he knew his only chance was to wait for an opening. His sword was his shield.
One touch is all I need…I’ve waited a long time for this Methais. You may have hidden from the Inquisition and changed your name, but you will not escape me.
“So disappointing!” Methias screamed. “You took down Arald as if he were nothing, yet here you struggle.”
He reversed the dagger in his right hand, stabbing upward while guarding with his left. Eijar parried down slapping it away before it could sink into his gut. Like serpent poised, Methais closed in followed up with a slash angled at Eijar’s chest.
On reflex, the Inquisitor tried to parry but there was to time, the assassin outpaced him. Eijar turned at the last moment, allowing the blade to cut a gash into his forearm. Methias’ malicious smile grew impossibly wide as if he suddenly won the fight.
The assassin stepped back, his body tensing for another assault. Eijar responded by changing stances and pressing his gladius flat against his chest. It lasted only a moment, but Methias showed a hint of hesitation as if expecting something.
When it passed, he came in, his assault renewed. The assassin was pressing hard trying to force an opening. He knew he had the advantage up close. Eijar smiled. Methias would find no opening.
Keep pushing, get angry.
With each parry, the assassin gave in little by little to frustration. His jaw was locked in determination, eyes narrowed in hatred. Eijar kept the gladius close, falling into a rhythm against Methias attacks. The assassin’s style showed he was used to short engagements, not prolonged fights.
You’re becoming easier to read…
Eijar changed stances, going on the offensive and stepped around Methias as he committed to his next strike. The assassin overextended, leaving himself open, but was quick enough to recover and sidestep before the gladius could fully connect.
Instead, he was only grazed, clipping the fur-lined chain mail he wore. He looked appalled, touching his side where the sword had cut. There was no blood, but even well made, woven links wouldn’t hold long against Absonian steel. One good thrust would end him.
It must have been a long time since anyone has done even that to you.
Eijar panted, it was getting harder to breathe. The Flame still raged. He dug his heels in, tightening his grip on his sword. Methias regained his composure, pressing the backs of his blades against his forearms, extending right foot slightly forward.
Eijar came in, angling his gladius across Methias midsection. The assassin countered, shuffling forward and closing the gap, catching his arm with the sharp edge of the dagger in his left hand to block. It cut deep as he pushed Eijar’s sword arm away.
Keeping in step, Methias’ other hand was already in motion bringing the dagger in his right hand to bear across Eijar’s chest just underneath his nursing arm. It was a quick strike, but the dismay written across the assassin’s face was satisfying when he was rewarded with the sound of metal scraping against metal. The blade had been deflected.
Eijar locked his jaw as Methias jumped back, and pulled his other blade free. Fighting through the pain in his shoulder, he reached for the cut on his chest, tearing the fur hides he wore free. Methias broad cut has already sliced through most of the straps keeping the padded chest piece in place. The sneer on the assassin’s face made up for the pain of pulling it free.
With the furs no longer a hindrance, Eijar breathed a sigh of relief. The cool Sokoran air helped in relieving the inferno raging inside.
“You have no idea how much aggravating it was to wear all that just to keep this concealed.”
“You kept your armor…Even after all this time,” Methias replied.
“One day, I will return to our homeland, Methias. I will find the truth.”
“Truth?” he scoffed. “What is truth, inquisitor? An inane word for those who think they know better than us lowborn nothings.” He was trembling, his face wrought with disgust. “Your inquisition is the height of hypocrisy and thus easily manipulated by those who decide what is true.”
“The Eternal Flame teaches us what’s true Methias, it reveals the darkness in one's soul.”
“Yet, here. You. Are…Inquisitor!”
Whether by madness or hatred, he came, daggers promising death. Methias was like a torrential storm, chaotic, but controlled. He continuously changed his rhythm, coming with one blade while attacking at an opposite angle with another.
Even without the hides covering his chest, limiting his movement, fatigue from blood loss was setting in. Eijar knew he needed to act fast, before his wounded arm and shoulder did him in, granting Methias what he wanted.
Another cut on his left arm, followed by a graze against the padded mail on his leg. The dagger only glanced off, but some of the links were cut.
I can’t keep fighting like this…
In a desperate move, Eiajr stepped in, creating an opening. He angled his steel breastplate into the path of the dagger in Methias’ right hand. In his frustration and anger, Methias was too slow to react fast enough and divert the blade to a more vital spot.
On impact, the dagger was deflected, snapping the blade off at the hilt. He screamed, stepping back, cradling his right hand against his chest after his knuckle collided with steel. Eijar seized the moment, not giving the opportunity to recover.
He swung his gladius at the assassin’s left wrist, severing his hand and reaching out with his wounded arm, Eijar took methias Methias by the throat. The Flame surged forward like a wave, smoke rising from his grip as it seared the assassin’s flesh. The stabbing pain in his shoulder numbed and Eijar squeezed tighter.
“How…ironic…” he wheezed. “I killed your reason… for being… and you… in turn, take my life.”
“What are you are you talking about?”
Methia laughed hoarsely. “Who…do you think…assured your disgrace…so long ago?”
“Who ordered it?! Tell me!” Just holding him, was becoming unbearable. He had killed so many. Done so much. The Flame demanded penance.
Methias laughed. “You…can never go home…”
As if the assassin’s words were the final nail in his coffin, The Flame took over. Eijar fought it, straining to keep it at bay, but it was like trying to stop a wave on the sea. The answers he sought were so close, yet the very thing that guided him was about to take them away.
“Be purged…” he whispered and the assassin screamed.