Hello, reader. In this chapter, I introduce some of the most dangerous enemies our enterprising heroes will face–Enforcers. Our heroes will meet an old friend of Rent. They know what Rent wants, but his plan has not quite unfolded yet. You will see plenty of carnage and mayhem, and the plot will quicken soon! And dialogue in the beginning hints to the existence of other races. Interesting… As always, I hope you enjoy this chapter, and do feel free to share it with your friends!
Chapter 4: Embers and Mayhem
Deep gray clouds hung menacingly over the sky, dyeing the sky and the mountain range and the ground a dull shade of ash. A light drizzle was already gently spraying Raychel’s face, lightly coating her face and dress and the world with a caress. The horse, a docile palomino, nickered, trotting cautiously through the soupy mud, each hoof stepping in and out of the mud with a light squelch. Raychel patted her horse’s side, like she had done in her youth with so many other horses, and she rode on, following Rent who stared at the horizon with cold intensity. “Where are we going?” Jack asked again, with Rebecca’s face buried in his shoulder. Rent said nothing but spurred his horse into a gallop.
Raychel glanced at the sky as she also spurred her horse into a gallop, and saw a single black hawk soaring in the bleak sky. Scrimm said behind her, “That type of hawk isn’t native to this area. Perhaps it is lost?”
They arrived at the small town of Maris by noon. They had a quick meal at the tavern and stayed silent throughout the lunch. After they finished, Rent vanished in the crowd to look for lodging and Jack motioned for Raychel to keep a lookout. As Raychel wandered through the streets, she observed the uniformity of each brick house, squat, shamefully huddled together. The crowd throbbed with life, and the chatter of excited people filled her ears.
These were people, Raychel noted, whose hearts were far removed from the humans of her youth. The most well-off men were dressed in black coats over bright white shirts and black top hats with shined shoes, and their partners were clothed in billowy dresses of many colors, and bedecked in fine and gaudy jewelry. Those lower on the social scale wore worn shirts and boots of rusty brown.
“Did you know it’s a sale today at the square? Apparently some bears from over the mountains are trading with us!”
“I need a new pair of boots.”
“It’ll be really packed in there, though, but we need to buy something from them!”
Raychel observed a caravan squat at the edge of the courtyard, where a large crowd of people had gathered. She glimpsed a massive shadow inside the caravan, and a hooded stranger stepping out. Suddenly, she felt like someone was watching her. Quickly glancing around, she noticed a gray haired figure duck into the crowd. Raychel stepped toward the place she had seen the gray hair, but decided to hurry back to Jack.
Meanwhile, Jutgard weaved his way through the crowd, and found two of his former comrades waiting on a bench. A flame haired woman with a smoldering glare, and a blond northerner with a withering stare. He was once a bond brother with them, but with Jutgard’s failure to take care of his target, his wolf modification was reversed, and his partners viewed him with nothing more than contempt.
Can’t trust you now, Jutgard, you know-An arrogant voice echoed in his head-The King only left our telepathy intact, but you can’t defend yourself anymore. If you fall, we won’t pick you up. But even if you get back, you’re dead.
Tybol and Jutgard left the bench and walked the streets to the Center Square. Even though they tried to blend in with the motley crowd, something about their miasma of hate repelled the merry townspeople. Tybol motioned to Jutgard to hide himself and walked off.
Jack scanned the crowd with concern, Raychel’s words echoing in his head. We’re being watched. The wolf is back. Left to right, his eyes scanned. Left to right. Watching. A flash of yellow eyes and he gripped his gun tighter. “He’s here. Be ready,” he said to Rent, who nodded and disappeared into the crowd again. Jack muttered to himself, “Fearsome fighter indeed!”
Should you transform?
A horrible keening shriek filled Jack’s ears as a woman leaped out of the way of a bear that was as immense as any of the carriages lining the street, and tinged in a bizarre explosion of brown and green. The bear’s jaundiced eyes scanned the crowd, and settling on Raychel, roared and leaped at her. Jack stepped back and fired a round into the bear’s chest with a percussive report, but then ducked as a hawk swooped past him, grazing the back of his neck. The bear raised a paw and swung, but Raychel quickly stepped in and blocked the strike with her bare arm. In a flash of steel she had drawn her sword and slashed at the bear.
Deafened by the bear’s roar of pain, Jack turned and barely dodged a long knife tearing a gash in his jacket. As his pistols clattered on the cobbled street, a pale woman with flame red hair and a hateful pair of golden eyes drew her knife back and struck again, the knife gliding through the air and entering just shy of Jack’s neck. Jack seized her arm and twisted it, forcing her to drop the knife, but she quickly kicked him away. They quickly exchanged a few blows, and Jack found himself on the ground, with her glaring at him without so much as a stray lock of hair on her face. Rent leaped out of the crowd with a shout, his sword shining gloriously in the noon sun, and she kicked at him. He dodged and swung at her with his sword- she ducked and knocked him away with a well-placed strike to the chest.
Scrimm melted back into the crowd, Rebecca behind him. They watched in fear and anxiety as the others fought. Rebecca peered out from behind Scrimm, her eyes taking in the violence and carnage, and she could not look away.
The goblin bear towered over Raychel, pushing her down with one arm with immense force, even as he growled from the bleeding gash across his chest. Her feet were on the verge of sliding underneath her, and she knew if she didn’t end the confrontation now the bear, as heavy as it was, would simply crush her. Raychel braced herself and quickly stabbed the bear in the heart with her sword. He roared and collapsed with a final thud.
Jack clawed at the ground, rolling from side to side. Suddenly a shot rang out, and the woman fell to her knees with a shocked expression on her face. Rent stood behind her, a triumphant glint in his eye, and Jack’s pistol in his hand. Jack glanced at Raychel, who stood over the corpse of a pale blond northerner. The flame haired woman gasped and said, “You will not escape us. Our comrades will hunt you down, not matter how far you travel.” She collapsed face forward with a mundane thud.
A scream of denial echoed through the center square, and Raychel spied the gray haired assassin in the frozen crowd. She leaped after him into the crowd, shoving aside confused bystanders and racing after the assassin.
They hurtled through street after street, and in a few seconds Raychel ran foot by foot along with Jutgard. He screamed in panic, and veered off. His fear had dulled his normally acute senses, and he found himself facing a dead end. Raychel stood behind him, and he backed away into the corner, trembling. “Don’t kill me! I’ll do anything! What can I do?”
Raychel quickly replied, “Nothing.”, and ruthlessly thrust her sword into his chest. He fell down, silent forever, and Raychel returned to the square.
“We cannot stay here.” Rent said. “Word of this will reach the law soon enough.” Avoiding the stares of the passerby, they quickly rode out. Minutes outside the gate, Rent stopped and jumped off his horse. Taking all his possessions, he let the horse trot off. He then asked the others to do the same.
“I have a friend here who can help us. He is a fellow revolutionary, and he lives here quietly. We should not miss his company.” With that, he stepped into the town, his back slouched, and his eyes dulled. They weaved through street after street, until Rent paused in front of a house slightly smaller than the others, made of faded red brick, and windows staring blearily at them like an invalid with glaucoma. Thinking for less than a second, he stepped forward and rapped smartly on the door. Raychel spied movement behind one of the windows, and then the door opened. A man with a face like dying embers stood before them, jet black eyebrows jumping on his face from annoyance.
“Rent! What the hell are you doing here? The Enforcers were just looking for you!” he whispered insistently.
Rent replied, “And we killed them. We need shelter before people can find us, Dominic.”
Dominic nodded and stepped aside. “Fine. Come on in.”
Raychel glanced around at the nondescript dining room with relief and examined the dining table in the center. Purely functional, it sat squat, with roughly hewn legs and a splintered surface. The walls of weathered stone, cold to the touch, were stained with grime. Dominic, who stood a full head shorter than her, darted amongst them, muttering to himself, peering through the windows. He rapidly fired off orders, “In the next room, take a left, go to the cellar. Rent knows the secret door.” He quickly bought out some food and pushed them further into the house. The sounds of doors shutting in the streets echoed through the door, and Dominic hissed, “Go! They’ll be checking every house!”
As they hid in the cellar, then pushed inward to the secret room in the cellar, they heard the front door open with a drawn out creak. A voice like cold gravel rolled through her ears. “Were you at the town square this morning?” Rent started violently besides Raychel.
“I know that voice…” he muttered.
“No, sir. I was just here by myself.” Dominic replied to the Enforcer.
“I will confirm that.” A chill crept through Raychel’s spine. Heavy footsteps shook the dust in the cellar, and Rebecca had to stifle a sneeze. “What was that?” the cold gravel said. “I heard a noise…” Raychel heard quick strides across the floor and then the creak of the cellar door that they had closed a minute ago. The Enforcer was maybe five feet away from them.
“Is there really any need, sir?” Dominic said. They both are in the cellar too, Raychel thought.
“Two of my Enforcers have just died. I am responsible for them, and I must find the perpetrators and bring justice.” the Enforcer replied.
Dominic replied with benign acquiescence, “Very well, Enforcer”
“I smell blood. Recently spilled. And sweat. Is there something you need to tell me, Dominic, old friend?”
Raychel almost recoiled. Is he going to give us up?, she thought..
“Your nose is probably filled with that from the courtyard.”, Dominic said. He continued, “And besides, I’m in the middle of cooking a pig for lunch.”
“Why a whole pig?” the Enforcer asked.
“I was planning to take it over to some friends this afternoon.”
“Really now…” A pregnant moment passed, and the footsteps receded until thankfully the front door opened and closed again. The cellar door opened and Raychel grasped Dominic’s scarred but strong hand and stepped out into the house.