With the arrival of dusk and the absence of the horrors that the curse normally haunted them with; The group had decided to stay the night within the village. The previous tavern had explained they did not have the room for them and directed them to the best tavern in town. While Cyril was quite unhappy to change locations, Randol had to explain the concept of the common folk never wanting to offend those with power. The tavern looked like it would only have straw beds in one common hall. It would have been okay if they all didn’t look nobles – Especially Cyril.
They parted with the tavern with that tavern’s owner as a guide. He led them, nervously, towards the center of the village where the market stood. Despite Quinn’s Wood being a countryside village, situated in a fief no one wanted to be, it was surprisingly thriving. With the last bit of light, the market bustled with life as people went about their last-minute shopping. They were lead to a large timber-framed building on the southern end of the market. The building was situated next to the large bridge that spanned across the river, with a sign that said “Ironhorn”, and an arrow pointed to the east across the bridge.
With the bit of coin they had managed to scrape from the guards of the keep, they secured rooms for each of them within the tavern. During which, Cyril had noticed the curse had fully repaired itself and had adequate mana stored to continue its torment. It never activated out of the bounds of the forest, so she surmised that it wouldn’t activate outside of them. She brought this information forward once they were all together in private, which somehow, ended up being her room.
“Ah.” Desmond muttered as he leaned back in one of the chairs beside the frosty glass window that overlooked the dying market. “It’s a conditional curse then.”
“Mm.” Cyril nodded as she laid back on the queen-sized bed. It was quite plush. She had half expected the mattress to be filled with hay or something of the like. It wasn’t as large or springy as the mattresses from her childhood, but it was quite comfortable. Several pillows occupied the bed and she had managed to only get two of them before Priscilla laid next to her and stole the rest. She wasn’t going to argue as the child rolled side to side.
Randol slipped out of his armor, the metal clang noisily as he set them on a table beside the door where a lantern sat. Soft orange rays filled the room as a knock sounded from the door. The prince opened the door slightly, sure to block the view of whoever was on the other end from seeing inside. “Yes?” He asked.
It was one of the barmaids. “Y-Your drinks.” She said as she held a wooden tray with five wooden mugs.
“Bring them in,” Randol said as he pushed the door open, but made sure to only step back enough to allow the worker to set the drinks upon the table. She tried to walk further in the room to hand the drinks out personally, but by habit and training, he blocked her. “Set the drinks on the table, we’ll get them when we’re thirsty.”
The barmaid looked dejected momentarily before she smiled. She nodded her head and quickly set the mugs on the table. She wanted to see the pretty white-haired lady again with the exotic eyes. It wasn’t often a beauty came around, but when they did, they quickly became the talk of the town; and she wanted to be one of the few would say she had seen her. From where she stood, she only saw two humans and the beast girl, but the snowgirl and the raven-haired girl were out of view. Then that girl’s voice called out from behind the handsome man.
“I just remember!” Cyril snapped her fingers.
Randol turned to face Cyril, and the barmaid saw the snowy maiden sitting on the bed, her eyes locked on the man beside the fox girl. The next moment, Randol ushered her out the door. The barmaid was too stunned to protest. The woman’s eyes were burned into her mind. Two glowing golden eyes… She quickly scurried away, nearly skipping down the steps with the latest gossip.
Once the room had been resecured, Desmond spoke up.
“Well?” He asked.
“I just remembered I had an item that could deal with conditional curses.” She beamed as she tore a hole in the fabric of time and space, opening her spatial storage. The sudden use of that magic chilled everyone’s spine. Spatial magic, outside of enchantments and prepared rituals was a near-impossible task. Yet, Cyril did it as easily as she breathed. Desmond only wondered why she hadn’t fully grasped the use of her magic yet if she could cast.
She rummaged around with her hand. After a few moments, she became agitated and stuck half her body in the tear. That scared everyone, but before anyone could pull her out, she plopped back out with a frosty crystal fashioned in the likeness of a human skull. The tear shut itself and faded away with a sigh.
“This!” She laughed. “I’m such an idiot! I have so many things that it all gets jumbled together!”
“That is…?” Randol asked.
“It’s a Curse Breaker.” Cyril beamed. More proud that she remembered what the item was than actually having a solution to their problem. “It sucks away the negative energy out of the curse completely. That destroys the curse and bam! You’re free!”
“By the gods!” Desmond cried. “When we get somewhere safe, we’re going to have to sort through your stuff!
“Mhm.” She smiled. “Now, come here. Everyone place your hand on the stone because it only works once per day.” And everyone did so. The stone pleasant to the touch. Its texture course and cool to the touch. The feeling of summer came, and everyone felt something begin to slip from their bodies…
× ♥ ×
“And one!” Edward’s disembodied voice called out. Cyril’s eyes were wide and childish joy burned in them. A large white wolf, the size of a lion, and fur pure as clouds towered before her. Beautifully crafted amethyst eyes stared unblinking forward. After her father had finished his count down, the wolf’s head slid silently down to hers. The wolf bowed with a knightly grace before it returned, then it laid down on before her. Its head held up as if it awaited its new master’s commands.
She finally had a pet!
“Say hello to your new friend!” Her father laughed. “It’s a learning AI that’s mainly here to help keep you right.” That was an understatement. Humans were designed to go long periods of nothing, which was the state their VR technology was at.
Edward looked down at the screen were a finely crafted model of his daughter stood as she clung to the wolf’s fur. The collision boxes and graphics had been fine-tuned, but her world was still just some pretty meadow that was only half a mile in diameter. Devoid of life, and human interaction aside from talking to disembodied voices, Cyril was slowly going insane inside that world. They were in the process of developing more VR capsules for him and her mother, but in the meantime, he had his company “Comendeer” an AI from one of their sub-companies that worked for the military.
He had them repurpose a copy of one of their smart AIs to be a welfare monitor, and friend, for his daughter. He hoped it would help lighten her days from now one.
“Hello!” Cyril beamed, that small nine-year-old model was vastly different from the husk that laid in the VR Pod in front of him.
His hands gripped the edge of the console, his hands turning white. His eyes stuck on his daughter’s real body in front of him as she clung to the wolf and touched his fur. She could only register pressure, and yet, she seemed so happy about it. It pained him. A primal rage grew inside when he thought about how he failed to protect her. A failure he would never let happen again. He finally tore his eyes from his sweet little caged bird, and turned to the doctor.
“Do you think this will be enough?” Edward asked.
“It will have to be.” She said. “For now at least. I still stand by my recommendation to have either you or Mrs. Bailey here to talk with her. I don’t know if its the lack of physical human contact or parental love, but we don’t have any historical data to go off of. Your daughter is the first human to live within a virtual world. We can only move forward by trial and error.”
“So I give her a damn virtual puppy?” He sneered in his heart, more at himself. He blamed himself for this. Every day he relived what happened. To his daughter. To his wife. Why was he the only one spared from harm… He restrained the rage as he let go of the screen. Cyril’s innocent and joy filled the room once again as she tried to teach the wolf how to fetch. She had been asking him for a puppy that year too…
“You’re doing all you can do.” The doctor said as she pitied the poor man. “I’ll say it straight, you’re the only rich parent I’ve seen try and turn the world on its head to get their daughter back because of how much you love her. Most of the time, its because they don’t want to be embarrassed, or put caps on their care. Some times, they just open up foundations. If you need something to be proud of, be proud of that.”
“I don’t need too,” Edward said as he stepped away from the screen. “That girl… She is my pride and joy. My reason to live. My purpose.” The microphone had already been muted, so she couldn’t hear their conversation. He only watched her try and teach a computer how to act like a dog. She even got on her hands and knees to teach her how to bark. Of course, the program already knew all that. He chuckled to himself.
“I see.” The doctor said no more. There was nothing to add. The pain was as clear as the rising sun. The old man’s face gaunt and tired, as a few tears streamed down his face.
“I’ll name you Fenrir!” Cyril exclaimed. “Yeah! Just like that wolf god Jax keeps going on about! Dad said you’re going to be my best friend forever and you’ll never hurt me! I’ll hold you to that!” She laughed as she tried to play with its paws, only for the wolf to prance around her playfully.
“That’s a stupid name,” Edward said as a tired smile bloomed on his face.
“Not very creative.” The doctor commented as well. “But regardless, Fenrir is apart of this place now.” She turned to the newly added console that sat beside her VR pod. It was rugged and modeled to fit right into a military base. A status screen above it displayed the AI’s designation. “Guardian SAI IV”. The name then disappeared, replaced with its new name. “Fenrir”.
“You’re going to be my best friend, but you can’t replace Jax. Dad said when the new pods come, Jax will get to play and you can’t hurt him either! He’s my best friend too!” Cyril began to prattle off about the boy she liked. A child of one of his friends.
“I should have gotten her that puppy…” Edward broke down. Old and worn, it couldn’t keep it together anymore.
For his regrets.
His heart lived in a virtual cage.
Out of his reach…
Out of his touch…
Out of this world…
“If she gets out… I’ll get her every fucking puppy in the world…” Edward whispered as he seemed to grow smaller before the doctor’s eyes.
× ♥ ×
The cold autumn air kissed Priscilla’s nose as she took a whiff the tolerable village air. Unlike the Capital where you could often smell human excrement and other pollutants on the air, the village took a crisper – more farm-like – smell. Her mother often complained of the stench of villages, but she couldn’t. It was a much more pleasing smell than everything smelling like one large chamber pot. She sat outside the tavern at one of its many outdoor tables, and a nervous barmaid swiftly came by. She didn’t bother with anything fancy, and just ordered bread, cheese, and any fruit there was to be hand.
After Cyril had lifted their curses last night, and a small meal, everyone had slept like rocks. Not knowing when the curse was going to lash out again had been a weight lifted off their shoulders. Sleep was the best thing they could do afterward, and sleep they did. The dark rings that had haunted Priscilla had faded enough that a light coat of makeup could have easily done away with them. That was if she had any. She had elected not to bring any on the behest of her maids, one of them being a retired adventurer. She had told her that most women in the trade never wore makeup on their missions because the smell could attract monsters.
The tavern door swung open again, its iron hinges sang in protest as a pretty beast woman walked out. Priscilla looked to her with the hope that it was the barmaid with the food but became dejected when she saw it was only Mai. The vixen planted herself across from her with the grace that most beast folk from the bestial planes had; like a brute. She plopped down with a groan and ordered a mug of ale from the barmaid as she appeared after her with plates of food.
“You know.” Priscilla began. “I would have thought that having spent so much time in our capital, you’d at least learn some of our etiquettes.” Her voice was light as she teased her. Still in a good mood from a peaceful night’s rest.
“Eh.” Mai said. “I have, just it’s a pain to act so strung up all the time.”
“Oh?” Priscilla smiled and leaned forward. “Then why did you sleep in Desmond’s room?”
“Why did you sleep in Cyril’s bed?” Mai smiled back.
“N-Not fair!” Priscilla blushed, but the smile remained. “We’re both girls!”
“And Randol is a man, yet he–” Mai covered her mouth. “Nevermind. Desmond and I sleep together a lot when we’re on expeditions.”
Priscilla’s curiosity was peaked by her half stated sentence, but the latter half smelled too juicy to just leave well alone. Her eyes went wide, and they sparkled with a young noble woman’s curiosity that often plagued them in regards to any aspect of romance.
“Have you–” Priscilla was cut off by a quick wave of Mai’s hand.
“Nonsense!” Mai laughed. “As much as I cling to the man, Desmond hasn’t laid a finger on me. Which is one of the reasons I like him.” She leaned forward. “The chase is quite fun.”
Her smile was ear to ear as she sat back just as the song of the door sounded. Both the girls turned to the door as Randol came out. He was flanked by Desmond and the barmaid. The girl held more mugs as the boys planted themselves at the table. Desmond on Mai’s left and Randol on Priscilla’s right. Unlike Desmond, however, Randol kept a more appropriate distance from the young girl; practically on the edge of the bench.
In a time before, if this had happened, Priscilla would have been bold enough to close the gap and pester the prince. Now with that brutal experience, she had wiped away that childish inclination. She still liked the prince, but more as a… Something… She didn’t know, but it wasn’t that infatuation that had afflicted her in the years before. She held a deep respect for the man, for what he was, and what he could do. Once thought upon, she didn’t actually like him for who he was. Just who she believed he was.
She greeted the princes formally for once in the past two days. A good night’s rest did well to put someone back into their right state. The boys, however, didn’t care for it. Randol smiled at her, but not that fake smile – a real smile. He told her to just address him by name, as did Desmond.
“We’ve all gone through that horrible event, and lived,” Randol stated as he pulled apart the loaf of fresh bread in front of him. “The way I see it, you’ve earned my respect. And more. If you will have it, I wish to count you as a good friend. Many would never rise to the call of battle, even when their lives are at stake.”
Priscilla blushed and nodded. A testament to her sudden growth as a person, she didn’t pretend to act embarrassed. It was expected for a noblewoman to act shy and adorable when complemented by someone they liked. If it was just someone on good terms, you were expected to act with grace and accept it. If you disliked them, you were to ignore it. Now? She openly blushed, rather than hide behind her hand, or a fan.
The thought had crossed her mind to follow these strange rules of gender interaction. She thought better of it and just allowed herself to live in the moment. She had stared down death and lived. Even if by the skin of their teeth.
“I agree,” Desmond said as he slid Mai her mug and he took one for himself. “You are quite extraordinary. I won’t lie, we both abhorred you on the journey, we never thought you’d be someone to rise to the occasion.”
“I’m sorry about that.” She deflated a little. The happiness from the compliment diluted by the truth of her previous conduct. “I’ve–”
“Don’t take it the wrong way, Pricilla.” Desmond cut her off before she could finish. “We’re glad you rose to the occasion. If you hadn’t, we all may have died on that mountain; but we didn’t. You helped us live. You fought. We may have not won, but we survived!”
Desmond rose his mug in the air. Randol followed suit. Mai had her face in her mug as she chugged it and both the boys looked to her, waiting for her to join in. She finished the drink in seconds and was about to slam it down with vigor. Then she saw everyone’s eyes on her. It took a second for her to process before she rose the now empty mug up with a toothy grin.
“To you, Lady Priscilla of House Hammel!” Randol said. “You survived. Revel in it.”
Despite the intent behind the toast, she felt bad. She survived. Her friends did not.
“But my friends didn’t…” She became small in her seat. She looked down at her food, then to Randol. “Is it okay that I survived, but they didn’t?”
The joyous atmosphere that had begun to build between the four died quickly. Randol gave her a knowing look, while the other two took pity on her.
“As a Knight.” Randol stopped and amended the thought. “As a warrior, I’ve lost countless friends. What happened up there… None of us could have known. Desmond and Mai have both delved into many of the ancient ruins in the country. From the reports, there was never anything worse than a few monster nests.”
“It was something I’ve been wanting to ask Cyril.” Desmond joined in. “Just what in the hell was that thing.”
“Depends. ” A soft angelic voice chirped. “What was this ‘thing’ you wanted to ask me about?”
Cyril appeared out of nowhere and took the gap between Randol and Priscilla. They weren’t sitting shoulder to shoulder, but she did fill the small gap quite well. Somehow, she seemed more beautiful today. Her snowy hair glistened in the morning sun as it began to climb higher into the cloud spotted sky. Her lips were pursed as she took Randol’s mug from his hand and took a gulp.
She cringed at the taste, but only stuck our a small pink tongue in disgust. She had already swallowed the ale. It was not to her tastes.
“Now what in the hell is that?” She handed the mug to Randol. He probably would have laughed if not for suddenly feeling ashamed for talking about her.
“Ale.” Desmond spoke up. “It’s not great, but it’s definitely a local brew.”
“You guys really drink this stuff besides water?” Cyril asked.
“No,” Desmond responded. “We drink water too, but beast folk love their beers and ales. They have it throughout the day. Mai here doesn’t actually hold true to her race’s customs, but she does enjoy it at least once a day. Often for breakfast.”
“Ah.” Cyril smiled. “That’s nice to know. So what was did you want to ask?
” A lot of things, actually,” Mai spoke up. “First off, about last night.”
“Sorry,” Cyril said. “Classified.”
“Wait!” Mai’s eyes furrowed. “What does that mean?”
“Officially a secret and open to those on a need to know basis.” She repeated the words from a movie Jax had shown her before.
“Well, I need to know.” Mai said.” You were cr–”
Cyril shot her a warning glare. That was something very personal, and if she could have stopped it, she would have. Her sudden breakdown after she used that artifact last night was not something she intended. It was a lessoned learned though. Take the flavor texts seriously. Mind’s Lullaby was a shop item that was used to break illusion curses. When used, it was supposed to show the bearer a happy memory, one that would overpower a curse with goodness.
Unfortunately, Cyril’s good memories were far few between. Despite her demeanor, since she had been here, she actually thought about the past a lot. What she would do, how would she live… Why would she live… Among other things people often thought about when they questioned their existence in the universe. It was just after a few experiences within the last year, she just more…
“The black monster with those massive tentacles,” Desmond said. “It went on a rampage in the city below your mountain.”
“So a Kraken appeared in the city?” Cyril’s eyebrow rose in visible disbelief. “Out of water.”
“No!” Desmond paused. “Krakens exist?!”
“Of course they do.” Cyril rolled her eyes. “Okay, just once exists.”
“The number isn’t the point!” Desmond said as he leaned in. “A massive monster squid as large as wagon! The danger in the sea!”
“As a wagon?!” Cyril laughed. “Don’t be stupid! The Kraken is bigger than that keep back north!”
“W-What?!” Everyone gasped.
“Those squids the size of wagons are its children,” Cyril said. “Only one Kraken can exist at once. Think of it as a beehive, just less hivemind like and sprawled out across thousands of miles. One queen, and when that one dies, another should take its place in a few hundred years.”
Or so the lore stated. Silence fell upon the table and the few merchants at the surrounding tables.
“Madam.” One spoke up. “Do you speak the truth?”
“Mhm.” Cyril turned in her seat to face the tavern owner who had just seat down another customer’s plate.
“Then how would they be able to sail the seas with such a monster about?” The owner asked the question everyone else had.
“Have you guys gone to the bottom of the sea?” Cyril asked.
“No one at the moment has ever been that deep.” Desmond finally spoke up.
“Then, of course, you won’t have to deal with it.” Cyril rolled her eyes again as if this was common knowledge. “By rite of ancient laws, until transgressed by the souls who swim upon the dry land, will the Queen of the Murk stay within her palace. When those who defile her kingdom become known, only then will she rise to torment those above.”
Cyril recited a piece of lore by heart. It was easy when it was only a small passage about a raid level boss. If you asked her about small fries, it was a hit or miss.
“If the seas aren’t being torn up by a giant ass squid, then no one has broken those laws of the sea again.” Cyril shrugged.
“What do you mean ‘again’?” Randol asked.
“Yeah, we entered her kingdom and she found out,” Cyril shrugged. “Then she tore about the eastern seaboard. Tens of cities were torn down.”
Well, she was the one who created the monster and the storyline for that particular event. She grew tired of those cities and wanted to change their layouts. Jax had argued with her for half a day saying she “Couldn’t just replace tens of player cities” on a whim. So, in spite of him, she created the Kraken and the Kingdom of the Deep Sea before she had said monster destroy all those seaside cities. While Jax had been shocked by her antics, the event itself had been widely received since she had talked to the programmers about an underwater raid.
It had been quite a refreshing raid compared to Jax’s obsession with nordic stuff and moldy dungeon crawls.
The original question that they had wanted to ask her about was long forgotten as Desmond was quick to dive headfirst into this new discovery of a kingdom under the sea. While Cyril had created the whole event, she had only dabbled with the major points and none of the small things, unless it was something she wanted a detail modified or completely removed. Eventually, Cyril had to cut the Q&A session off because she was annoyed by just how knowledge thirsty the prince was. Mai had to explain that he got this way about new things.
They paid for their meal and mounted their horses, brought to the front by the stableboy. They purchased a few supplies for the journey ahead as Randol said only a few hamlets along the road to the next city would have anything to spare. He had no desire to just take what he needed from those who could spare nothing. It was fine with everyone else, and everyone had a saddle pouch full of their own supplies. Cyril still had her own supplies, something everyone had forgotten about, but she seemed to enjoy following their lead to their surprise.
They followed the river south. Their horses trotted at a leisurely pace and while the events at Fable’s End had left deep scars in the survivors, they left with a Goddess and a new lease on life. Not exactly something comparable in gold coins, and definitely something they weren’t going to tell the others, but to them – it was a story worthy of a song. Then again, they all agreed to keep the part about awakening the Creator of the World. Not even they had completely digested that bit of their journey.
Ten minutes later, they saw the end of the village as they followed the river as it curved to the left. There was also a large group of mounted men on the road as they galloped towards them. Randol, who took the lead, was about to have everyone dip onto another road to let them pass, but then he saw who was leading the host. Earl Assem. He didn’t look like he was here to give them a warm goodbye either.
Randol sighed and had everyone stop. It only took a less than a minute for the group to come to a stop before theirs, and man, Assem was burning with rage.
“There you are!” He snarled as he pointed a bare steel saber towards Cyril. “I’ve come to pay you back for what you did to me.
His nose was discolored where the mug she had thrown at him struck. It looked strange, and funny, that he’d appear in public like that.
“Dear cousin…” Randol wanted to sigh again, but he wore his armor. After he had paid the stable boy to clean it up, it shined under the sun with the colors of the Royal family. He still had his pride and honor to uphold now that he didn’t look like a vagabond. “If you wish to make a formal complaint, you can send a raven to Father Emperor.”
“Fuck your father, and fuck you!” Assem roared. “I want that bitch on her knees now! I want her to beg for her pathetic life, and when I and the rest of my knights fuck her stupid, I may spare her!” Some spit came out with that last word. His eyes burned with a fury Randol hadn’t ever seen in the man before.
“I don’t care what you will! “Assem’s voice whipped across the group and cut Randol’s words off. “This is my fief! My lands! And yet, she dared to humiliate me in my own land! She isn’t apart of the royal family, so give me to her!”
“No.” Randol disregarded any notion that he could defuse the situation. Assem had always been a prideful weasel, even when he was struck down by his betters. He would always lash out at whomever he could wield his titles and little authority over. But he couldn’t hand Cyril over.
“I do not care what you want!” Assem barked again. “Hand her over, or-” He turned the point of his sword to Randol. “I’ll take her and the rest of the girls!”
Everyone, besides Cyril, sucked in a breath of air at his declaration. Even his own knights. It was a capital offense for someone to turn their blade again someone belonging directly to the Royal Family, even by an Earl connected to the family itself.
“I’ll give you one chance,” Randol’s eyes narrowed and his voice became dangerously cold. “Sheathe your weapon and return to your keep. I will forgive this transgression only this time but continue… ” He pulled his sword from his side. “And I will met out punishment for this.
Cyril tightened one arm around Priscilla, who slowly pulled her wand out of the new leather belt she had gotten early. Before, she would have shaken at the thought of an actual fight. Now though, she was ready. Assem and his shit-eating knights were nothing compared to death incarnate. Mai also brandished her sword and Desmond his wand.
Assem dismounted his horse, along with the rest of his host, and he gave Randol a sinister smile. “I have lived under your damn boots while I was in the Capital, but I thought I finally became free once I got this backwater land. It turned out, I quite like it here, no dear Randol, or Father here to tell me what to do. Even if that damn maid is here, but I’ll change that today. If I can’t do what I want in my own lands, then I might a well-cut that pretty head of yours off and declare war on Uncle!”
In spite of the dangerous situation, Randol was perplexed by how crazed this man was getting over such a simple knock out. Just how hard had she hit him to make him this crazy? He dismounted his horse always, and the others followed suit.
“And do you all agree with him?” Randol turned his attention to the knights behind Assem.
All of them shook their heads and stepped back, but the crazed Earl didn’t notice. They all held their hands up while they guided their horses away from the host. They had also attracted quite a crowd around them and even more, people gathered on the other side of the river.
“Back up.” Desmond said to Cyril as he also backed away from the confrontation.
The girls followed suit as Assem suddenly thrusted the tip of his saber at Randol’s exposed head. While Randol was a trained warrior and an official Knight, he barely avoided the sudden attack due to the lapse in his attention. He leaned to the side and brought his sword up.
Steel on steel sang as sparks flew from as Randol deflected the blade away. Assem quickly stepped back, brought the sword with him before he thrusted again. This time, he aimed for the small opening just below the lip of his breastplate. Randol was surprised by his quickness. Last time they had spared ten years ago, he could barely hold the sword properly. Now, he moved with some proficiency.
Unfortunately for Assem, some was not enough to beat Randol.
Retaliation came too quick for Assem to pull away as the prince sidestepped the stab. He stepped in as he threw a heavy punch towards Assem’s chest. The metal-covered hand-hammered the man, who’s only protection was his finely made golden doublet, and he reeled away foaming with anger. The hit must have hurt as Assem clutched his chest, but he kept his sword up.
“You’ll pay for that!” He roared like some cookie-cutter bad guy and lunged at Randol with a slash from the right. The attack was easily deflected as Randol parried the blow, reached out with his free hand and grabbed his shirt. Once he grasped the fabric, he pulled Assem around and ran him nose-first into the brick foundation of a raised house. Randol let him go and made some distance while keeping his back towards his group.
Blood was smeared across the stone where Assem had been struck against. The sound had made a dull slap and the sound of his nose breaking. Assem curled up on the dirt road as he wailed in pain as blood gushed from his nose.
“Give up!” Randol said. He’ll admit, the man had improved in his swordplay, but it was still like fighting a child. He didn’t want to take the life of this scumbag. It wasn’t worth it, and him being an Earl was enough of a political issue. He just wanted this farce to end. Assem slowly struggled to his feet, and nodded, still attempting to stem the blood flow.
Randol sighed in relief and sheathed his sword. “I apologize for the offense Lady Cyril has done to you, and I’ll make it right,” Randol explained. “But this is now how it will happen, and it won’t end with you making her a slave. Wait until I get to the capital and I will send remuneration.”
Assem only nodded. They stood in their respective spots for a few awkward moments before Randol gave his partings and gestured for his group to follow. Cyril was behind him while everyone else had decided to lead the horses on the river’s side. Things looked to have been settled as Assem finally managed to stop the blood and glared at Randol as he passed. When Randol passed, Assem suddenly whipped his sword around and pierced towards his unplated back. Steel rings only protected his back, and that was only for slashing. The saber was sharp and its tip truth. It would never have the ability to stop his thrust.
“Look out!” Priscilla cried as she tried to form a spell along with Desmond. Mai rushed forward, but she would never reach him. Assem was only a couple feet from Randol…
Blood arched through the air as screams reverberated in their ears.