The Twelfth Knight Part 6

Pain ripped across his shoulder blades from the unblocked attack. Roscoe had moved quickly enough that the wound wasn’t deep, but it still hurt worse than any other that he’d ever received. He kept moving forward toward the sound of the whimpering wainwright. When he was close to where he thought Worram was, he swung his sword in a wide arc in front of him.

He cursed the magical darkness as his weapon struck nothing but air. His shoulders burst into new waves of pain, but he took a step forward and swung again anyway. This time he was rewarded with the feeling of his sword digging into the flesh of his opponent. He shouted, “Worram, run! Run for your life!”

Roscoe heard the sound of the wainwright scrambling along the floor just as he felt the blade of his other opponent enter his back, halfway down the right side. He stumbled forward, trying to escape from his attacker, but his energy was depleted and he grew weaker with each uneasy step. Determined to keep fighting, he was betrayed by his body, which fell to the floor. He heard Merlinus yelling to his people to let the wainwright go. With his last ounce of energy, he smiled because he had accomplished saving the man.

The next few moments were a confusing rush of images. First, the darkness was replaced by an almost blinding light. Then, he saw his cousin, Conroe, floating over him. Next, stars swirled around his vision. The darkness came back momentarily before the stars returned.

“Such strange things to see when you die,” Roscoe thought to himself.

“Don’t you dare die on me,” a voice responded.

Roscoe wondered where the voice came from. It wasn’t his. Before he could find the answer, he felt himself slipping away. Just as he was about to fall completely, an electrifying jolt shot through his whole body. More stars danced in his view. Images from his life passed in front of his eyes as another jolt shook him. A warmth began at his chest and slowly spread throughout the rest of him.

That warmth went away in an instant when he felt a hard slap across his face.

“Wake up!”

He opened his eyes and saw his cousin standing protectively over him. Eyes darting, he saw a few of his fellow Knights in the warehouse, fighting against Merlinus’ people. “We’re not done yet,” Conroe yelled, parrying a sword thrust from an enemy. “Now, get up and help us out!”

Roscoe tried to rise, but couldn’t find the energy. He took a few deep breaths to steel himself for his next attempt. A flash passed over top of his face from the swords of the duo fighting above him. His hand ran back and forth over the floor around him until it found what he was looking for. Fingers wrapped around the hilt and he raised the blade until it hit the belly of the man fighting his cousin. It didn’t do any harm, but it was enough to distract the man for Conroe to finish him off.

He reached out, Conroe grabbed his hand, and helped him to his feet.

“How…” Roscoe began.

“Later,” Conroe cut him off. “We’ll talk when we don’t have people trying tokill us.”

Just then, a dagger flashed out at him. Roscoe managed to push it out wide, but just barely. “I’m still weak,” he said to his cousin. “Don’t go too far.”

“Don’t worry,” Conroe laughed as he stepped in to dispatch the knife wielder. “I didn’t save you just to let you die again.”

The two cousins fought back to back as more of Merlinus’ people came at them. The Knights of the Kingdom were outnumbered, but they were better trained and had fought together before. Merlinus’ people were mercenaries who might’ve been good fighters on their own, but hadn’t fought with each other before. They often stepped in front of one of their compatriots, ruining an attack opportunity or throwing one another off balance. Even though he wasn’t at full strength, Roscoe was able to keep up with them, although he had Conroe there to back him up perfectly. Any time his condition put him in harm’s way, his cousin stepped in to save him.

Roscoe turned just in time to see Conroe block another attack aimed at his backside. While his cousin had the attacker engaged, Roscoe delivered a killing blow to the man’s chest. He swirled back around to check for any other hostiles. Not seeing any, he went to thank Conroe for his assistance. The look on Conroe’s face when he did, though, was odd. It was a mix of confusion and pain. Before he could ask what was wrong, Conroe dropped to his knees, then fell face first onto the ground.

Standing behind Conroe was the man who had brought Roscoe to the meeting. In his hand was a bloody short sword. The eerie feeling that the man instilled in him on the way to the building intensified. “You’re going to die for bringing the Knights down upon us,” the man said with a menacing tone.

Roscoe inadvertently shivered because he knew that if looks could kill, he’d be dead already.

The Twelfth Knight Part 5

“You want me to kill a sniveling unarmed man?” Roscoe asked in what he hoped was a dubious voice. “That doesn’t really strike me as a good use of my talents.”

“Oh, we’re not testing your talent. Not yet, anyway,” Merlinus answered cheerfully. “We’re testing your loyalty, your willingness to do whatever we ask you to do. So, is there some reason why you aren’t killing that fool right now?”

Roscoe pulled out his sword and began advancing toward Worram. The wainwright backed away slowly. Behind him, and a little to Roscoe’s left, a tall stack of wagon wheels stood. It gave him an idea. With his eyes, Roscoe tried to direct the wainwright to back up into it. For a moment, Worram appeared to be confused as to why Roscoe’s eyes were moving oddly, but he eventually caught on and turned into the stack.

Once Worram backed into the wheels, Roscoe raised his sword, gave a yell, and smashed one of the bottom wheels with his blade. He heard the wood crack and the stack began to teeter. Roscoe pushed the wainwright away from the falling wheels, pulled on it to ensure that it did fall, and followed Worram away from the crash. All around him came shouts of alarm. He heard at least a half dozen distinct voices, including Merlinus. The mercenary leader was ordering his men to capture the two of them alive.

Roscoe cursed. He had known that Merlinus had people stationed around the warehouse, but he hoped it was only one or two. The number of voices he heard meant that it was highly unlikely that he would make it out of this mess alive. That thought was quickly pushed out of his mind. It was ok if he didn’t make it out. All that mattered was getting Worram to safety. Protecting the citizens of the Kingdom was his primary responsibility as a Knight of the Matticus Kingdom.

Worram cried out when Roscoe caught up to him, but to the wainwright’s credit, he kept running. Roscoe tried to pull him towards the closest door, but Worram wouldn’t quit heading in his original direction. Since it was his warehouse, Roscoe assumed that Worram knew something that he didn’t. It wasn’t worth fighting him over, so he continued to follow him down the rows of wagon wheels.

Suddenly, everything went dark.

Worram let out a panicked cry and fell to the floor. Roscoe had too much momentum built up an couldn’t stop in time. He fell on top of the cowering man and nearly lost his sword in the process. A yelp of pain told him that he probably had cut the man as he fell too. He didn’t have time to worry about it, however. There was a noise off to his left alerting him to a nearing enemy.

Roscoe took a deep, calming breath and struck out at the noise. He felt his blade sink into flesh and heard a cry of pain. In his mind, he tried to picture his surroundings from the moment before he lost his sight so he could at least have some idea of the landscape around him. He stood up, taking the blade with him. The person he had stabbed cried out again as the wound was opened further. A quick kick pushed the injured opponent off his sword and further into the blackness.

Another sound, this time coming from the opposite way, had him turning around with his sword ready. A whoosh of air alerted him to oncoming danger. Roscoe barely got his blade up when the hilt started ringing in his hands. Whoever had attacked him swung their weapon so hard that it almost knocked the sword out of Roscoe’s grip. Stubbornly, he held on. He tried to launch an attack of his own, but he went back on the defensive before he could. This time, he didn’t hear the danger coming as much as sensed it.

His intuition saved him, but it didn’t protect him fully. His sword didn’t block the next attack. It redirected it. Unfortunately for Roscoe, his arm was still in the path.

Fiery pain wracked him as his opponent’s weapon dug a deep cut into his left forearm. The only thing that kept him from dropping his sword was the knowledge that, if he did, he was going to die. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, strengthening the grip he had on the sword with his uninjured arm. Luckily, he was righthanded and he had practiced using his sword with only one arm.

Unfortunately, all the practice in the world wasn’t going to help him if he didn’t know where his opponent was. Worram cried out again. This time it sounded more like a mixture of fear and pain. The wainwright was in trouble. So was Roscoe. Whichever one he decided to help would have the best chance of survival. As far as Roscoe was concerned, it wasn’t a choice. He didn’t hesitate.

Roscoe turned his back to the danger coming at him to try to save the helpless man.

The Twelfth Knight: Part 4

Roscoe had patrolled these streets for years and thought he knew every inch of the city. As he followed the man after leaving the tavern, he found that he still had a lot to learn. There were times he would see a familiar landmark, and he would recognize the general area he was in, but it was at an angle that he had never looked at it before. He was confident in the tavern because he thought he would know where he was going. Now, he might be heading into the unknown.

That wasn’t a pleasant thought to him.

Still, Roscoe knew he had a job to do, so he trudged on. The menacing man didn’t say a word as they made their way from one back alley to the next. Roscoe wasn’t about to complain. There was something about the man that frightened him a little. While Roscoe was both taller and more physically imposing, there was something about the other man that was unnerving. As far as he was concerned, the less interaction he had with the man, the better off he would be.

A building came into sight that he recognized. It sat on the outskirts of town. The building was a storage facility for the man who made and repaired all of the wagon wheels for the castle and the surrounding town. Roscoe had known the wainwright for years and couldn’t believe that he was involved in something like this.

A shudder ran down his spine.

He had known the wainwright for years. If the wagon maker was involved in this, he would be in the building and would recognize him immediately. His plan to infiltrate the mercenary group of Merlinus might be over almost as quickly as it began. Then again, he still wasn’t sure if he was going to Merlinus’ group. It was possible that the group he was on the way to meet was being led by someone else.

Roscoe shook his head slightly. It was times like this that reminded him why he was still the Twelfth Knight of the Kingdom. If he was a better planner, he might’ve moved up by now. If he got out of this mess, he vowed to spend more time studying strategy instead of using all of his time practicing swordplay.

“What?”

Having been paying attention to his own inner monologue, it took Roscoe a few moments to recognize that the question had been directed at him. The menacing man had stopped and was staring right at him. “What?” Roscoe echoed back.

“Why were you shaking your head?”

He put on a look of defiance. “It’s none of your concern.”

“I’m about to introduce you to some very dangerous people,” the man said, slowly moving his hands toward the small of his own back. “People who could make both of us disappear very easily. You’re not worth dying for, so your business is now my business.”

His mind racing almost as fast as his heart, Roscoe somehow remained calm on the outside while he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head. “Look, I know you’re just being careful, but this maze you have us running is getting ridiculous. I just want to get where we’re going and get this over with.”

The man eyed him suspiciously. Roscoe couldn’t tell whether or not the man believed him, although his gut said that he didn’t. Still, all the man said was, “In this business, being careful rarely gets you killed, but being sloppy always does.”

The man walked him over to the door on the wainwright’s building and opened the door for him. He walked in, but not without keeping the man in his sight as he did so. There was almost no light in the area he was in. No windows could be seen. All he saw was a lantern hanging from a stack of wagon wheels off to his left. An indistinguishable figure stood at the edge of the light. Not knowing what else to do, Roscoe walked toward the lantern.

As he got closer, the figure at the edge of the light was revealed to be the wainwright, Worram. Fear covered Worram’s face. Obviously, the wainwright was being held here against his will. The amount of fear radiating from Worram was almost enough to make Roscoe run up to him with a comforting hand, but he caught himself before that happened. If he did that, they were both dead.

When Roscoe reached the light’s edge, more lanterns flickered on all at once. There were no people standing next to them, meaning that they were lit magically. It was a move that he knew was meant to put him off balance and, unfortunately for him, it was working. With magic in play, almost anything could happen. There were too many variables to even begin to formulate any kind of plan. All he could do was hope he could improvise a way out of this situation.

Worram looked at him and the recognition lit up his eyes. Roscoe winced, thinking that the wainwright would blow his cover, but Worram surprisingly stayed silent. Standing next to Worram, just inside of where the darkness was, an older man looked Roscoe over, sizing him up. Apparently satisfied, the older man began to speak.

“I hear you wish to join my crew,” the old man said.

“No,” Roscoe responded. “All I wanted was a job. Maybe if it goes well, we’ll talk about me joining permanently. Until then, I’ll stick with just one job.”

“Sorry. We don’t do just one job. You’re either all in or all out. And people who know about us have to be all in or they’ll become all dead.”

“Merlinus,” the menacing man said as he gestured for the older man to lean down.

Roscoe couldn’t believe his luck. The old man was Merlinus. He had done it. He’d found the mercenary leader that Revis and Matticus had been looking for.

Then he remembered that the assignment was only to find out if the rumors of Merlinus being in town were true. He wasn’t supposed to make contact. And here he was, in a storage facility with the mercenary leader and at least one of his henchmen. Who knew how many others were hidden in the building? All he could do now was keep himself in Merlinus’ good graces until he saw a chance to escape.

“So,” Merlinus began after the menacing man was finished whispering in his ear, “do you want to join my crew or not?”

“It doesn’t seem like I got much of a choice, does it?”

“Excellent,” Merlinus exclaimed happily. “In order to join my crew, you have to perform a task.”

“He already told me,” Roscoe said, pointing to the menacing man. “I’ve got to fight one of your other hopefuls.”

“Oh, no. I’ve got something different in mind for you. Call it a test of your commitment to our cause.”

“And what is this test?”

Merlinus smiled widely. With a flick of his hand, he pointed at Worram. “Kill him.”