The old knight laid in his bed. His breath was shallow. Gaylon knelt by his side. “I must finish.”
“Let me send for a healer. You are not well,” said Gaylon.
“The tale must be told. You must listen and remember. Pass it on.”
The group had been wondering the lower levels of the keep for nearly an hour and had yet to find Lady Shanna. Between Valcor and Jasmine a total of six guards had been killed. All asked only once where the Lady was. When no response came or one that neither liked the men were dispatched quickly, much to Falstaff disappointment.
When they encountered the seventh guard Falstaff counted him as another victim. But this guard gave them what they wanted and was spared his life by receiving a wicked blow to the back of the head from Falstaff. This was done before either of his comrades had a chance to dispatch the poor fellow.
Before becoming unconscious the guard told the group that the lady was being held one floor down. They quickly moved to a nearby staircase and moved to the next level. They were surprised to find this level well lit. Torches ran the length of the walls. Near the end Valcor could see movement in the flickering light.
“I will move as quickly as I can. You follow when I signal.” He whispered.
“Get out of the way you big oaf,” hissed Jasmine as she slid past. “I shall walk right up to them without them asking much of a question. But you running at them like a raging bull will bring the whole keep down on us.”
“And why do you think you can do this so much easier than I” he asked in confusion.
“Well, I am a woman.” And without another word the sea witch began to glide down the hallway as if she owned the keep and all inside.
Jasmine was three quarters down the hallway when one of two guards noticed her. She heard the ring of a blade being drawn and waited with held breath for the rumbling sound of armor from behind her. When none came she silently thanked Falstaff for keeping the Knights in the shadows.
“What do you want woman?” came a low growl from the guard with his sword drawn. “You don’t belong here.”
Jasmine put on her best smiled and kept walking towards the two men. “Why I’ve been sent to keep you company. This is the barracks is it not?”
“No, its not” said the guard coldly.
“But you can stay and entertain us anyway.” Replied the other guard as he moved from the shadows.
“I don’t think so” came the armed guard.
“Shut up Carlo. We’ve been on duty to long already and a distraction would not hurt.” The guard moved to Jasmine and put his arm around her shoulder drawing her close. It was then she could smell the spirits on the man’s breath.
“This is a bad idea I say.” Returned Carlos as he sheathed his blade.
“Now boys there’s no need to fight over me.” She moved to place her free arm around the neck of the man named Carlos. “I can entertain you both.” She whispered as she leaned into Carlos’s ear.
It was then that Jasmine struck. Carlos never saw the dagger appear from its hidden sheath on her arm. Before he could move the blade had laid open his throat. He gurgled and spun away.
“You bitch!” screamed the drunkard as he tried to escape her grasp. Sober he may have had a chance but being so drunk he could barely stand. He stumbled back and feebly grabbed at his blade. Jasmine turned and with a jarring force she drove her blade under the guards jaw and up into his skull. There was a slight yelp before the man tumbled to the ground.
Jasmine heard the jangle of armor moving towards her and like a cat she spun ready to pounce. She relaxed only after realizing the Knights of Day were running down the long hall towards her. Valcor in the lead with his large battle-axe gleaming in the torchlight.
“They gave me little problems. As I said let a woman work.” Said Jasmine as she wiped the blood from her blade.
Valcor looked around at the bodies and nodded towards her. “Well down sea witch.” He then moved on down the hall.
Falstaff stopped and looked over the scene. “You have trouble melting people I would hazard to bet.”
“You would hazard to ask personal questions knight.”
As she turned to walk away Falon moved to her side and grabbed her arm. Jasmine spun her hand up ready to strike but Falon caught it. “Are you injured? There’s enough blood on you I can’t tell if it’s yours.”
Jasmines eyes melted from daggers for only an instant and then they flashed back. “I am well. Worry about yourself.” She then fell in behind Valcor as they moved away.
“She’s a strange one my friend.” Said Falstaff
“She’s alone that’s all.”
“Oh, and you plan on changing that?” smiled the older knight.
Falon shot him a quick look of disapproval. “You need to worry about Valcor. He’s become a mad man. He seems to have forgotten is virtues.”
Falstaff shook his head. “Don’t assume so much my young friend. Valcor lives by the Virtues more than most. But this quest has hurt him more than most.” Falstaff stood looking after his friend of some many years. “But you are right. A man may need at times to wander from his sworn path but when he does he could become lost on the way back.” Falstaff was shook from his thoughts by a whistle from up the hallway.
Moving down Falstaff and Falon found Jasmine standing next to an oak door using her dagger to pry the lock. “The Lady is inside.” Said Valcor in anxious tones. There was a pop and Jasmine tossed the now useless lock across the hall.
Valcor shoved on the door and it swung open exposing a dank stone cavern with hay strewn on the floor. Valcor grabbed a torch and stepped through the door,
Inside he found the Lady Shannon lying on a hay mattress. Her dress was ripped in places and dried blood ran down one corner of her mouth.
“My Lady,” Valcor cried as he feel to his knees next to her.
Lady Shanna slowly raised her head and looked up at the Knight. “Lord Valcor? You have returned.” The Lady began to cry as the knight lifter her in his arms and moved her out of the cell. “We must get her to Raest. She has been injured.”
Falstaff could see the Lady’s pale skin and the stains of blood on her clothes. “Come then quickly.”
“Where is your servant Lady Shanna?” asked Falon as he dropped in behind Valcor who was already moving down the hall.
“Lost” she sobbed. “I have not seen him since we were attacked on the dock.”
“Very well then, let us get back to the portal and hope they have not been discovered.”
The group returned to the portal room with they’re prize just as horns began to blare and the sounds of alarm began to ring throughout the keep.
“We’ve been discovered!” cried Falstaff as he moved towards Raest. “Is the portal ready?”
“Yes, but there’s no way of stopping them from following unless someone stays to destroy the rune.”
“I will stay” said Shock jumping forward.
“Take her,” said Valcor handing the Lady to his squire. “I am entrusting her safety to you.” Valcor then turned to Falstaff. “It is my duty as I am the one that brought us here. Go through the portal and see that the Lady is taken to Nujel’m as we were asked to do.”
“Valcor there must be another way.” Said the guild master
“There is no other way. See that you return my honor by fulfilling my quest.” He then walked to where his wife stood crying. “My wife you of all know it must be done.”
“Curse you and your virtues.” She cried.
“You are my love. We have lived a life of great joy. I shall miss it.” Valcor turned away and hefted his axe as he moved towards the hallway.
“You shall be honored.” Said Raest still crying as she grabbed Shock by the arm and they walked through the shining portal.
“I shall stay too.” Said Falon as he moved to follow. Falstaff grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back.
“Your time of honor will come but this is Valor’s. Get through the portal.” The young knight looked after the man he had never understood. At that time, he wanted more than anything was to stand by his side. Turning with effort he stepped through to the other side.
“That leaves you witch?” asked Falstaff already knowing the answer.
“I have lost my ship and most of the people I called friends. He will need some help.”
“And what do I tell Falon. You look at him just as he does at you.”
Jasmine stood and considered her words. “Tell him it would never work as the only honor I know comes from gold.”
Falstaff smiled and turned to leave. “There you are very wrong my lady. You would have been well received in the guild. You shall be honored.” And with that Falstaff, Guild master of the Knights of Day, left his closest friend and a young woman he had grown to like in just a day to die at the hands of assassins.
There was a sharp crack as the blue light from the gate faded. Valcor watched his only means of escape disappear with a heavy heart. Anger was growing inside him as the thought that his end had reached him burned in his mind.
“Well, where to” asked Jasmine? “No reason to remain here to die since the gate is shut. I don’t know about you, but I want to take as many of these bastards with me as I can before they kill me.”
Valcor nodded and hefted his battle axe. “Let’s make our deaths count for something.”
The two warriors moved silently down a long hallway. So far the few guards they had encountered were quickly dispatched. Even though the alarm had been sounded it appeared the guards didn’t know where they were. Valcor was thinking this could be luck or fate waiting to pounce.
As they turned a corner both froze. Before them stood a single figure in polished armor holding a broadsword. “I’ve been waiting for a chance to cut one of you down to size,” hissed Gaden as he readied his sword.
“I never trusted you,” growled Valcor. “Wass it money, land, or just the chance to betray the Lady Shanna and everything you swore to uphold?”
“I have been protecting that little bitch since she was born, just like her father before. And just like her father I will see her die at my hand. But not before I rid the world of the self-righteous scum that is the Knights of Day.”
“Who the hell is this,” said Jasmine as she stepped forward.
“He’s mine,” said Valcor. “You find an escape. I’ll be busy killing him.”
Jasmine laughed as she moved off down the hallway. “Die well Sir knight.”
Gaden was watching Jasmine depart when Valcor jumped forward with his axe in a wide swing. The air whistled as Gaden dodge the attack bringing his sword up to deflect the blow. The two danced in a circle the sound of blade meeting blade echoing down the halls. Gaden charged to the left of Valcor while bringing his blade in low. Valcor easily turned the strike with the grip of his axe then spun and was satisfied by the wet sound of his axe slashing through meat.
The bodyguard stumbled as he clutched for his side that blood was pouring from. At the same time Valcor moved to end the fight but Gaden recovered and dodge off to the side. His blade singing as the tip cut a grove in Valcor’s right cheek. The knight never slowed but spun away and readied for another strike.
There was a sound coming from down the hall. Jingling chainmail and swords clanging as guards rushed towards the sound of fighting. Gaden smiled “this is the end for you.”
“Then I will die with honor. Something you have no understanding of.”
Gaden and Valcor both moved at the same time. Two dancers moving to a deadly melody. Gaden’s sword was a blur as it spun to attack, searching for a weakness in Valcor. At the same time the large battle axe of Valcor’s cut the air blocking each blow.
Valcor ducked under a wide arching swing and drove his axe deep into Gaden’s guard. A startled scream rang out a Gaden stepped away. Blood not only ran slick down his side, but his chest plate was carved at an angle exposing raw flesh underneath. Blood began pouring from the gaping wound and he growled before dropping his sword and falling to his knees. Without a moments hesitation Valcor swung the axe a cleaved off Galen’s head.
“Heal from that, traitor.” Valcor kicked the still kneeling torso over and moved off down the hallway towards the oncoming guards. “Who’s next.”
Jasmine was not thrilled at leaving the big knight to fight alone but he was right. She would only be in his way and she did not count herself as dead yet. She’d managed to fight her way up two levels and found herself in a courtyard. Three guards stood before her. One was young and looked scared to death. The other two were older and battle hardend.
“Gentlemen, there is no need for you to die this day. Just kindly show me to the gate and I’ll be moving along.”
None of the men spoke as they slowly began to circle Jasmine. The two were smiling which made Jasmines blood boil. When number one charged forward Jasmine easily dodge the attack and brought her sword round, blade bouncing off the armored helmet he wore. The man stumbled forward his ears ringing. But she had no time to follow up as the second man shot to her side with a vicious swing. Jasmine blocked the blow and side stepped his blade then she struck back with a thrust at the man’s face. He tried to move back but his feet had already committed to one direction which was towards Jasmin. He gave a gurgling attempt at a yell as the blade pierced his throat and a spray of blood covered Jasmine.
“Attack her you fool,” growled the first man at the boy with a blade. He was moving in again with the same clumsy attack as before. This time Jasmine slapped his blade away with the flat of her sword then spun and drove blade into his back right below his upper armor plate. The man gasped and fell to the ground, blood pooling under him.
She turned towards the final guard just as he dropped his sword. “Mercy,” he cried as he dropped to his knees. He was shaking all over. Jasmine moved towards him as the ground began to shake. The boy looked behind Jasmine and let out a startled yell. Then he jumped up and ran in the opposite direction.
Confused Jasmine stopped and slowly turned towards the sounds. Perhaps if she had moved faster, she would have dodged the huge mace as it drove through the air and connected with her mid-section. Jasmine moaned as she was tossed off her feet and tumbled through the air before landing in a pilled across the courtyard.
After a moment Jasmine was able to catch her breath and slowly, she stood, sword at the ready. She grimaced as her eyes looked up at her opponent. The Ettin stood nearly ten feet tall. Its face was etched in rage and its bare torso was a map of scars. In it’s large paw hung the mace that Jasmine had felt only moment’s ago.
The two stood starring for only a second then both moved as one. The tree sized mace crashed to the ground where Jasmine had been only moments before. In response she dodged under the mace and cut at the creature’s chest. There was a howl of pain as the flat of a beefy empty hand connected with Jasmine and for the second time today, she found herself spinning through the air like a rag doll.
She landed with an audible thud and rolled before recovering to her feet. The Ettin was already charging towards her. Jasmine launched at the giant’s feet narrowly missing another blow from the mace. The blade of her sword swung wide and cut at the monster’s leg just below the knee. It stumbled and dropped to a knee.
Jasmine was quick to recover and cut another gash across it’s back. The Ettin roared and swung the mace behind it’s back blindly. Jasmine easily dodged the clumsy blow. This time in retaliation she cut at the beast’s hand clutching the mace. She nodded in satisfaction as she saw a finger fly off and the mace dropped to the ground.
The Ettin went into a berserker rage and smashed a closed fist from his unwounded hand down towards Jasmine. She side-stepped but was caught off guard as the monster backhanded her in the left arm and sent her skidding across the ground. Her arm instantly went numb as shooting pain coursed through her body.
Her good arm still clung to her sword and fighting past the pain she twirled the blade left and right striking with each turn. The Ettin ignored the minor blows and limped over to retrieve it’s mace with it’s one good hand. “Oh no you don’t” cried Jasmine as she rushed forward and swung at the reaching hand. The Ettin let out a yell as it lifted the deeply cut hand and glared at the blood.
Jasmine saw her chance and with all her strength she drove the tip of her blade deep into the Ettin’s chest. It moaned as it fell backwards. The sword still sticking out of it’s chest. Jasmine held on tight and rode the creature down. When it landed on it’s back she pulled the blade and the Ettin cringed. This time she drove the point into just below the chin pointing straight up. The giant gave a sigh as life escaped it’s towering form and it’s head slammed into the ground. The battle lost.
“Damn,” hissed Jasmine as she retrieved her sword a slowly moved off the chest of the Ettin. Her breath was raged, and her left arm screamed in protest as she moved across the courtyard. To her right she could hear the sound of armor getting closer. As she turned and prepared for the next threat, she was startled to see Valcor step out of the tunnel doorway.
“What the hell happened here,” said Valcor as he moved towards the wounded woman.
“Just an Ettin,” she said as Valcor took her sword arm and supported the woman. “You don’t see those in the ocean. Never fought one and don’t care too again.” Jasmine let Valcor take her weight as the fight and the blows she had taken caught up with her. “Can we get out of here now or do you still think you can fight everyone?”
For the first time Valcor gave her a smile. “Let’s find the gate.”
Valant fell silent and drifted off to sleep. Gaylon checked to make sure he was still breathing then moved off towards the stairs. “I will tell the tale my friend. Just as you told me. The people will know of the Knights bravery.”
Gaylon wasn’t sure but he thought there was the briefest of smiles across the old man’s face then it was gone. The tale was nearing it’s end and so was Valant.