The Brotherhood of the Blade
By Deuce Traveler
Gentle hands held him and
pulled him from the pile of trash. He regretted that instantly,
being packed in there was like being back in the womb.
Surrounded, safe, and away from the outside world. Could there be
a better place to die then back where it all started, in a womb?
Thoughts such as these kept him warm.
"Is he dead? Oh no, he looks dead." He heard a concerned feminine voice say.
"I think he is, love. I'm sorry, but he's not breathing and that wound looks like it pierced the heart or close to it." A man answered the woman.
"I'm alive, I'm just getting ready to die and I smell like a trash heap, but it's supposed to be a womb," Deuce answered and wished they would just let him be and stop asking silly questions.
"Wait! I just saw his lips move! Saint, he's alive!" The bothersome woman said again.
"Bye the gods!" The man spoke now, and started reciting words in a strange tongue. His hands touched Deuce, and Deuce could feel an energy flow into him.
As his life returned to him so did pain, and he almost went into shock again. "Oh, wow. That hurts," Deuce exclaimed in pain, gripping onto his now rebleeding wound.
"Hold on, Deuce, I've almost sealed the wound." Deuce looked up to see the middle-aged Saint standing above him, casting another spell. His fiance, Angeli looked over his shoulder concerned. "You should be dead, what the hell happened? Half the city wants your head, and I haven't been very successful in explaining that you're usually a halfway decent young man, just a little on the wayward side."
"Well if you put it like that to them, no wonder they don't think I'm the holiest of men," Deuce grunted as Saint continued to work.
"Heh! Ok, I'm convinced. He's fine." Angeli's worried face softened, "So do tell us what you were doing in a trash heap. When Saint and I heard that the Riversy guards were after you he cast a spell to find where you were and we both came looking for you."
Deuce explained everything that had happened as Saint worked on his wound. Every now and then Saint would stop to listen in surprise, or Angeli would ask Deuce to clarify something, but he was able finish his tale by the time Saint was done fixing his wound.
"Ok, I'm done with your wound, although it took a lot out of me. You're a very lucky man."
The rogue agreed with the priest on that assessment. "Luck of the devil, that's me. I've gone and gotten myself branded as an outlaw, I didn't get paid for my last job, I got stabbed by one of my oldest friends, but hey, I'm alive, right?"
"Right. What I'm wondering is what's in that drawer of Dr Jonas. You boys be good and rest. I'll come back with some information, and some water and food since I don't think Deuce can get up and walk around Riversy shopping right now," Angeli said and walked down the alley.
Forty minutes later she came back to see that Deuce and Saint were going through the garbage heaps, looking for disguises Deuce could wear. Although she was glad to see that desk work didn't stop her fiancee from getting his hands a little dirty when the need permitted, she really wasn't keen on the idea of his hands smelling like Deuce smelled right now. She liked his hands too much. Any disguise they would have found would be an improvement for moving around the city in the now early afternoon daylight (a man in a black skin tight suit in broad daylight attracts attention), but the smell would still be horrible.
Saint looked up at his lover. "Hey, dear. How did it go?"
"Not bad," came the answer as she tossed down a small bag filled with loaves of bread, wine, and some peaches, "although I am puzzled by the papers Dr Jonas' assistant was so kind to show me. "You see, Dr Jonas is in charge of setting up the schedule and seating arrangements for Mayor Bingle's Riversy Dignatary's Recognition Ceremony. The papers were just copies of Dr Jones work on who will sit where during the ceremony and its schedule of events."
Deuce pondered, "So if the part about the Brotherhood of the Blade trying to teach high level officials a lesson is true, but not by blackmail, what does this mean?"
Saint and Angeli looked in each others eyes for a moment, communicating mentally between themselves. Finally, Saint nodded and looked at Deuce, "What it means is that it's not a lesson using blackmail. They plan to kill one of the dignitaries to put fear into the rest of them. What a better lesson than to show them that they can strike anytime and anywhere, even during such a highly guarded event. The ceremony takes place right in the center of Riversy Castle, right in the King's garden."
"So my second job was going to be unlocking some of the rear doors in the guard towers and getting them inside Castle Riversy. Not an easy job, but I've done it before."
"The ceremony should be starting by now, Dr Jonas was heading to it," Angeli said in alarm.
Saint and Angeli were highly respected in the community. They could get into Riversy Castle with no problem, but wouldn't be able to identify Ratschoon. Deuce could identfiy Ratschoon quite easily, but would have a hell of a time getting into the castle since his was a known face and he was now an outlaw. "Why don't you two get into the caste and see if you can find anything out of the ordinary. I'll try to slip into the garden through a back way." Saint and Angeli readily agreed, and headed off at a run. There were two places to enter the Riversy river that flowed underneath the city from his area. One was safer and in the slums, but would take longer to work through. The other was a few houses down behind the Riversy Theatre. Deuce grabbed a smelly cloak, put the hood over his head, wrapped it around himself, and headed out into the Riversy streets.
Running from the dump he headed at a run towards the Riversy Theatre. He got through unmolested from the crowd, who wanted to stay away from what seemed to be a bum that smelled of the slums. A few guards noticed him close to the theatre, however, and started to follow him, being naturally suspicious of any man that day who covered his face and ran through the streets like a bat out of hell. Deuce reached the entranceway to the Riversy Theatre, however, threw off the cloak, and quickly purchased a ticket to go in. Deuce looked back to see that the guards got into the entranceway right when he started going through the doors. The ticket seller was giving them a hard time, telling them he didn't care who they were and what they were doing, they weren't going to get in without buying tickets.
The show had reached intermission, and Deuce pushed through the crowd of play critics, families, and even ignored the occasional pick pocket. He pushed himself to the front of the audience and leapt onto stage, causing gasps from some in the crowd, and started to head backstage. A stagehand put a hand up to stop him, and got a punch in the nose for his trouble. Deuce got to the dressing rooms unmolested, opened up a rear door, and stepped up to a river. This river flows underneath Riversy and from Laketown to the east, and towards Rodby to the west. It also flows from the Riversy Theatre to the Riversy Castle gardens. Deuce jumped right in, figuring he needed to do something for his stench anyway.
He floated down river, trying to keep his head down near posted guards. From the theatre it only took ten minutes to silently flow into the gardens. Pulling himself gently onto the shore, Deuce slipped into some thick bushes. Peeking from the his hiding spot he could see that the ceremony was still going on. Mayor Bingle, Doctor Jonas, the High Priest, and other noblemen were all present. Some unknown nobleman was giving a speech. Angeli and Saint had punch in their hands and looked to be just mingling. However, Saint looked directly in Deuce's direction.
"Deuce, glad to see you could make it," Saint's voice suddenly sounded in Deuce's head, "Angeli and I haven't found anything, but can you somehow sneak up to the castle wall and towers? No one except the guards are allowed in there, so we can't investigate it without causing a scene." Deuce simply started moving towards the stairs, not having the telepathic abilities of Saint. The voice sounded again, "Ah, I sense you are moving towards them, good man."
Deuce found the stairs to the top level guarded by two soldiers with pikes. However, they were a good ten feet in front of the door to the guard tower, and distracted by the ceremony. Deuce slipped behind them and started climbing up the tower. He reached the second floor without incident, but as he climbed up towards the third, some guards came from a door on the second floor door and happened to look up. The Riversy guard in the front gasped, "Oh my lord. That's him! It's Deuce Traveler!"
"Oh hell," Deuce yelled as he ran up the stairs and burst through the third floor door. And he ran right into five members of the Brotherhood of the Blade disguised as Riversy guards, led by a speechless Ratschoon. The five of them were forty feet away from the door he just came from, two of them loading crossbows. Before they or Deuce could act, the five members of the real Riversy guards finally made it up the steps.
Ratschoon grinned at Deuce's misfortune, "It's Deuce Traveler," he yelled to the real Rivery guards, "the madman plans to kill the guests! Get him!"
Eight men began to converge on Deuce as two others continued to load their crossbows. The rogue whipped out his two slim dark daggers and did the only thing he could think of. He yelled at the top of his lungs, "Saint! Help!" A sword slashed at him from behind, and he dodged it while he parried a slash from in front of him with a dagger. A third blade got through and grazed a rib, leaving a thin red cut.
Suddenly, the air shimmered in front of Deuce and Angeli and Saint seemed to appear from nowhere. Deuce immediately yelled, "The guys in front of me are Brotherhood, the guys behind me are real Riversy guards!" Saint stood in front of the Riversy guards and with the force of his prestige alone, was beginning to order them to stand down. Angeli simply nodded and waded into the fray in front of her ally. Together Angeli and Deuce started to push Ratschoon and his two henchmen with swords back a few steps. The two men behind them had finished loading their crossbows, however.
Ratschoon yelled behind his back at his crossbowmen, "Fire at the target, damn it! Make the kill and we can get out of here!" The two crossbowmen started raising their bows to a firing position.
Angeli, the Golden General, roared in anger, and slammed the Brotherhood rogue to the ground. Ratschoon was hit with such force that he slid past his bowmen on the tiled stone floor. One of his henchmen slashed her in her shield arm as she pushed past him, but ignoring the pain, Angeli reached the closest bowman on her next bound. Panic filled his eyes as he saw her barreling down upon him. He raised his crossbow up in a futile attempt to block her warhammer. Her hammer crushed the crossbow, knocking it out of his hands, continued, and split his skull. The second crossbowmen hesitated for a split second, but that was all the time Deuce needed. Blocking a swing from the second sword wielding henchmen with his left hand, Deuce threw his second dagger with his good right hand at the remaining crossbowman. The aim was true and pierced the man's neck. He died gurgling, trying to pry the slim dark dagger from his throat.
Angeli yelled, "Deuce, go get Ratschoon, I can handle two of these bastards!"
Deuce nodded and ran past her towards his nemesis. Both Ratschoon and Deuce reached the corpse of the second crossbowman at the same time. Deuce reached for his embedded dagger, and Ratschoon for the second chance to use the loaded crossbow. As Ratschoon lifted the crossbow, Deuce reached out with a kick in between his legs. Ratschoon's shot went wide as his eyes widened in surprise, doing no damage to anyone below, but causing a lot of chaos to erupt below as the bolt embedded itself into a garden table. Guards were beginning to be heard coming up other towers. Angeli stood off against Ratschoon's henchmen , Saint still tried to convince the Riversy Guards not to join the battle against Deuce, and the two rogues battled.
Ratschoon slashed Deuce across the chest, recovering from the kick to the groin that he had received. Deuce returned his slash with a punch that rebroke Ratschoon's recently set nose. Screaming in outrage, Ratschoon blindly slashed at Deuce and was easily dodged, as Deuce drove a dagger into Ratschoon's ribs. Ratschoon screamed in pain, dealt Deuce another gash across his chest. Behind Deuce, Angeli made two expert swings and caved in the skulls of both her opponents and began to run toward the fighting rogues. Suddenly, six Riversy guard archers burst from a tower in behind Ratschoon as the two former friends continued to wrestle one another. The guards were led by the guard Ratschoon and Deuce ran by the last night.
"There they are, both killers who assassinated poor Private Allan last night! Kill those bastards!" On his command, the six archers knocked arrows and aimed at the two rogues.
Deuce naturally started leaning away from the archers and towards the wall. Ratschoon smiled, grappled a shocked Deuce closely, and threw his own weight towards the wall, causing both rogues to start going over the wall and towards the rocks below. "Ha! I'm going to die anyway, I'll see you in hell Deuce!"
"Deuce!" Angeli screamed. She saw two arrows slam in the tangle of rogues as they went over. Saint was already transporting himself to the outside wall of Riversy.
Deuce was falling, and as the ground rushed up to meet him, he punched Ratschoon in the face, untangled himself from the other rogue, and kicked off the wall. He thought he would never forget the look of shock on Ratschoon's face as Deuce sailed slightly past him and into the moat. The cold water slapped against his body, stinging his face and chest, and for a moment he blacked out.
Deuce came out of the moat choking and splashing. He winced as he climbed to shore and realized the impact with the water still caused him to break two ribs. His breathing labored, Deuce walked over to where he thought Ratschoon fell. He found him, bones shattered, two arrows lodged in his side, bleeding from his ribs, and the life in his eyes fading fast.
"Goodbye, Ratschoon. The only thing I wish is that you could have been the type of man whom I would have mourned your passing," Deuce Traveler said and watched the light fade from his enemies eyes.
A voice sounded behind him, "You're still alive? And walking? Don't tell me you made the moat? Luck of the devil!" Deuce turned to see a smiling Saint, and couldn't help grinning himself.
"Luck of the devil? Definitely. I just got shot at, fell off a castle wall, broke some ribs, I smell like a cross between garbage and moat water, but hey, I'm alive."
Saint, Deuce, Rook, Esk, and
Angeli sat around a table at the Griffin Lounge Inn. It wasn't
Deuce's favorite place in Riversy, but at least the company was
good. Saint, Angeli, and Deuce had finished telling Esk and Rooks
about all the fun they had missed. Rooks had spent most of the
day checking up on his lemmings, and Esk had just come back from
an expedition in Quilininn.
"So," Esk began to ask, "you have no idea who the Brotherhood of the Blade was trying to kill, so you don't have anyone you can question about what they did to tick them off. You have no idea where their homebase is or who works for them. And you can't be sure what this killer said was true, and even if the Brotherhood of the Blade is a real organization. On the plus side, the Riversy guards have forgiven Deuce, and he won't be hunted down anymore...until he finds trouble again."
Deuce smiled, "Right! But you also forgot that Saint, Angeli, and I did get paid a few hundred coins each, by Mayor Bingle for 'risking our lives for the city' or some such nonsense. What this means is that I have enough money to either live comfortably for a week, or get trashed for the next two nights... hmmm, decisions... decisions...."
"Now be good! You got to take better care of yourself since who knows when you'll get a job again," Rooks began. "Nah, who am I kidding, I'll match you beer for beer tonight."
"You're on, Rooks. And I deserve to party it up anyway. I fell off a friggin' castle a few days ago, for goodness sake. As for money, something always comes up. And you only live once, unless you got the luck of the devil."
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