Revis and Matticus exchanged a confused glance. “What do you mean Jaded is just a soldier,” Revis asked. “From everything we’ve heard, she’s the one in charge.”
Len shook his head. “She told me that there was someone above her, someone who kept sending her minions. I never heard her say their name, but there’s definitely someone else.”
“Either way, we still need to find Jaded,” Matticus stated. “Tell us where she is.”
“I was supposed to meet her back at her fort once I had captured you. I would assume she’d be there.”
“Thanks,” Revis smiled as he flourished his daggers. “Now that you’ve told us where she is, we don’t need you anymore.”
Len looked to Matticus for help, but the Jester merely shrugged. The Knight slowly brought his weapons closer to Len’s face. When the daggers got to within an inch of his cheek, the foreman’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he fell to the ground. The two men looked at each other… and laughed.
“I can’t believe he fainted,” Matticus said when they had finished their chuckle.
“It probably had as much to do with his injury and blood loss than his fear at what I would do to him,” Revis confessed.
“What do we do now?”
“It looks like we’re heading back to Jaded’s fort.”
“Oh goody, more walking.”
“Hey, I’m not enjoying this wandering around anymore than you are. If Jaded would come out and face us, that would be just fine with me.”
“I know. It just doesn’t feel like we’ve accomplished a lot. And we are a long way from home.”
“Buck up, Jester.” Revis clapped Matticus on the shoulder, “The sooner we capture Jaded, the sooner we can learn what exactly is going on here, the sooner we get to head home.”
“Fine, let’s go.”
Matticus began to trace their steps back to Jaded’s fort, cursing under his breath at every tripping root and snagging branch that reached out at him.
Seeing that, hearing that, and remembering the Jester’s range of emotions from the quick burning rage to come to his rescue, and then the depths of fear when Len mentioned his wife and child, Revis determined that his liege could use a bit of a pick-me-up. “And, if we run across any vampires on our way, I’ll let you take care of them. How does that sound?”
The Jester smiled darkly, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword. “Yes, that would do nicely right about now, thank you.”
Jaded’s fort came into view just before dawn. Unlike their last trip here, which was less than a day ago, the fort was heavily manned this time. Sparkly vampires were everywhere. Revis turned to the Jester, “I don’t think invisibility will work this time. There’s just too many of them. There’s no way we’d make it inside without running into at least one of them.”
“Good,” Matticus replied. “I didn’t want to go through that again anyways.”
“Time for the backup plan,” the Knight sighed as he pulled a few pieces of Len’s armor out of his pack.
“That’s your plan? Dressing up as Len?”
“Shut up. Do you have a better idea?”
“You do realize that Len is a head taller than you, right?”
“I’m hoping that Jaded’s lowly gate guards don’t know that.”
“This is one of the worst plans ever.”
“So what? If it doesn’t work, we’ll just have to kill a bunch of them to get inside. I figured you’d like that part.”
Matticus couldn’t argue that point, so he went along with it. Revis wrapped a length of rope around Matticus’ wrists, but didn’t tie it, leaving the Jester able to get his hands out. They reached the front door with Revis standing behind Matticus, holding the flaming sword at his back.
Yawning, and rubbing sleeping from his eyes, one of the gate guards bent over the side of the wall to peer down at the duo. “Len, what took you so long? Jaded has been waiting all night for you.”
Not wanting to attempt sounding like the foreman, Revis merely grunted and jostled the Jester a bit to show his impatience to get going.
The guard yawned again, chuckled to himself, and righted himself off the edge. His voice still carried clear enough in the morning air so that Matticus and Revis could hear what he said. “Go on, open the gate then. She’s already pissed with the foreman, we don’t need to face her wrath too.”
A moment later, a grinding of gears signaled the portcullis’ assent into its housing. Knowing the noise would cover his voice, Matticus said, “So far so good.”
“Yep, hopefully they won’t need to escort us to her chambers and we’ll be able to walk through without further scrutiny.”
The gate lifted high to clear their heads and Revis pushed forward on the Jester to get him moving. Matticus, never afraid to play a role, played it up a bit, “Watch what you are doing there, idiot! I know you know who I am! When I get free, I’ll have all your heads!”
“Simmer down,” Revis whispered, “we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves.”
It ended up not mattering though, because once they were through the gates, they found the grounds crawling with the sparkly vampires, including a patrol specifically to take them to Jaded. The group stepped forward and Revis and Matticus both tensed for the inevitable fight. They were too close not to see that Revis wasn’t actually Len, and that Matticus’ hands weren’t really tied. The latter became apparent when the rope around his wrists simply came loose and fell off.
Cursing, Revis tossed Matticus the flaming sword and pulled out his daggers. The closest vampire, still confused as to what was happening, didn’t get his sword up in time to defend himself. Each of Revis’ daggers stabbed through one of its eyes, blinding it. In one fluid motion, the Knight sheathed his daggers, grabbed the sword out of the vampire’s hands, and chopped its head off with it. He briefly considered dropping the sword and switching back to his daggers, the weapons he was most comfortable with, but they were too short to cut through a vampires neck in one slice. That was key, because decapitation was the only thing they had found so far that killed these things quickly.
The vampire closest to Matticus was not as slow to react as the one Revis had killed. As soon as he caught the sword, he had to use it to block the vampire’s first swing. Matticus ducked under the next swing, stabbing his sword into the vampire’s leg as he did so. Looking down at the sword in its leg, the vampire laughed. “Is that really supposed to hurt me,” it asked.
“Nope,” Matticus answered. “This is. Futbol rules!”
His sword erupted in flames. The vampire let out a screech of pain. Distracted by its burning leg, it didn’t notice that the Jester had pulled the sword out. Before it knew what was happening, Matticus separated the vampire’s head from its body.
The Jester and his Knight quickly dedused there were too many vampires to simply stand and fight out in the open and they kicked and slashed a hole wide enough to race towards Jaded’s quarters. They had to hope they could either use her as leverage to get out of the compound safely, at best, and at worst, use her has a human shield to slow down the onslaught.
As his flaming sword cleaved air, sinew, flesh, and bone, leaving traces of orange and yellow scarring his vision, Matticus began to feel another berserk rage come on, he fought against it as well as he could, knowing that he would need to keep some semblance of rational thought if they were going to survive. He caught glimpses of Revis, always from the corner of his vision, as his Knight and he swirled around each other. At times they were leading the charge, at times they were covering their backs, and always they were advancing towards their target.
With a mighty kick, Revis knocked down the door that would lead them into the main part of the compound. The tight quarters of the hallways would bottleneck the fighting and make it easier for them to fight the superior numbers. He pulled the Jester away from a group of slashing blades and hurled him inside, then used his stolen sword, and a few well placed strikes to open up a space between him and the nearest vampires. He turned to follow Matticus down the hall only to find that the Jester hadn’t advanced very far. Then, through the rising tendrils off the flaming sword, Revis saw why.
“Hello, Matticus. Hello, Revis.” Jaded stood at the end of the hall, calmly blocking their path, eyes blazing.