The thrill of a kill seemed to diminish under the weight of a notched arrow. But, considering the mission a compromise had to be made for Lieutenant Mune directions.
“There are a group of seven bandits that have roamed dangerously close to Prakashi population. As you know our goal is to purge the land of those who seek a lesser existence than we offer. Our priorities have changed considering our preparations.”
“War time preparations sir?” The question was rhetorical.
“Of course Elias. Lord Praevus requested this mission be yours specifically. We are only sending you.”
“It will be a test of sorts. Because of the unique situation, we need to know what of your skills remain.”
Perhaps this would rid their insecurities. An opportunity to prove oneself.
Five hours of tracking brought three of the seven raiders at the end of an arrow. Moonlight peeked through the lush vegetation, speckling their faces with light. Elias led their steps with the short bow through the trees. There were two Caligas, one here and the other ahead with the other four thirty paces off. The others were mixed or Cleland; except one that seemed peculiar. A Northerner, the Vayr were the mighty men of Fray. Those born heroic leaders. It was in their blood to rule and war. This one was a foot taller than all the others and wielded a long sword single handed and a buckler. The others would need to be dispatched first if possible; facing the two Caligas and the Vayr was not ideal.
The arrow loosed silently through the brush and under the arm of the Caligas who took up the rear. Before his body crumpled mid step Elias nocked another arrow and let it fly into the chest of the next raider in line. With two down the third spun around to see his comrades lifeless in the dirt. The other four blazed the trail putting space behind them and the stunned man left behind.
The raider’s wide eyes peered into the brush. He bolted, but another arrow was in the air. Elias cursed as it missed its mark, landing in his target’s shoulder slamming him into a nearby tree. He let out a cry just before Elias drew and thrust his two curved long daggers into his chest.
The quiet rustling from the other raiders was silenced. Without a sound a dark figure slipped onto the path with a glimmering short sword in his hands. He inspected the three corpses from a distance then slipped back into the cover of brush.
Elias knew if either of them had Ether it would be near impossible to hide if they knew how to use it. Along with several other restrictions, the use of Ether had been among them. Whether this was a test of pure skill, or another check and balance was irrelevant. After this there would be no feasible reason to be baby sat.
Elias waited above in a tree. The Vayr stood facing ahead still, but readied. The other had panned out in each direction and the Caligas was still missing. A slight whir sounded before a thud behind Elias’ head just as he ducked out of the way. His hand found a throwing dagger and pulled it out of the tree. His eyes traced the line where the dagger was thrown. A form darted away and two other daggers whirred past. He dropped down a branch and spun around the tree.
A clicking sound betrayed the Caligas’ presence. Before Elias could close in on him the other raiders regrouped towards their position. The massive Vayr worked as a spearhead for the group as they pierced the forest.
Elias leapt through the trees forcing the other Caligas back. His one short sword couldn’t work fast enough to fend off both of his long daggers. The Caligas’ hand went down for another throwing dagger to and Elias locked his sword with both blades. He cast the sword out from his body and plunged one long dagger into his chest. It hit light armor and the sword came frantically to fend off Elias’ attacks but it was repelled again. He pushed the Caligas back against the tree and buried the dagger through the armor. Elias cocked back and pushed his other blade in to secure the Caligas’ fate.
His body slumped forward and Elias loosed his long daggers sending him down through the branches to the ground. The others were on top of him now. He thew the throwing dagger and the first man who climbed up towards him. It punched into his shoulder causing him to lose his grip and fall back down. The Vayr pulled him on his feet with one hand and started laying into the tree with his sword.
The tree shook violently as they tried to uproot Elias from his perch. The other two stood on the other side swinging at the base of the tree as well. The Vayre cocked back and swung hard. His blade stuck in the tree sending sending it shaking all the way up. Elias took his opportunity. He stepped off the branch and fell directly over the Vayre raider.
Elias landed on his shoulder putting both long daggers halfway into his flesh then launching off into the brush. The Vayr howled ripping his sword free and spinning half circle trying to slash at Elias. He was already hidden amongst the vegetation. The other raiders moved to each side of the giant and started clearing ahead of them. The Vayr’s heavy breathing and growling, along with the swoosh of vines and branches under their blade’s colored the night sounds.
Darting around to the flank, the fifth fell under the subtle edge of his long dagger. The raider coughed and gurgled as he collapsed next to the Vayr. His growl turned into a roar as a smokey blue light erupted out from within him. Everything within ten feet was leveled. Elias and the other raider were caught in the blast. The raider hit a tree in the center of his back and crumpled on the ground dead. Elias flew further before hitting a tree with his shoulders spinning him into the dirt and knocking the wind out of him.
The Vayr growled, charging towards Elias’ prone form. Elias rolled away from a downward slash. He rolled backwards onto his feet with both weapons in hand. The brute’s buckler met him as he caught his bearings slamming him back against a tree. Trying to regain some ground Elias slashed a shallow cut across his opponent’s stomach. A grunt game in reply.
His long sword chopped at Elias’ neck, just missing over his duck. The sword was stuck again and Elias lashed out. Anticipating a kick he thrust one of his long daggers into the Vayr’s thigh and the other into his forearm. Another howl came in reply. His grip loosened on the sword and Elias twisted his blade. He withdrew the long dagger in his thigh and ran it all the way through his forearm
The Vayr wrenched his arm free, pulling one long dagger clean out and the other one pulled from Elias’ grip. Blood poured out of the Vayr’s shoulder wounds and his arm onto the debris below. They say a Vayr has ten times the amount of blood as a normal man. That they can fight til there’s no blood left. Elias had no intention of finding out.
The giant was in a blind rage. He threw his buckler off his arm and ripped the long dagger out of his other arm. He was going to tear Elias apart with his bear hands it appeared. He charged in again, rippling muscles bulging like a crazed bull. Missing Elias, he nearly toppled the tree crashing into it. Elias ducks out of the way and punched his long dagger in twice into the Vayr’s side. He backed away wary of what he might do next. The raider’s breaths were ragged and blood dripped down both sides of his mouth. There was internal bleeding, he was slowing down.
In a final effort the Vayr lurched forward reaching his arms out. Elias leapt back and slashed his long dagger across his throat. He crashed to the ground like big game tired to fighting death. Elias knelt just out of arms reach listening to the last haggard breaths of the massive man, and catching his own.
In a whoosh of air the man was dead. Elias leaned back against a tree looking up into the Miasma filled sky. Now the trek back.