Delver Magic: Book 06 - Pure Choice (3 page)

BOOK: Delver Magic: Book 06 - Pure Choice
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"I still can't get over how
fast he can move," Klusac blurted out as he watched the glowing sword
become a streaking flash through the night.

"It
is
amazing," Sy allowed. Then the captain offered a relevant
consideration, for his benefit as well as Klusac's. "Maybe if he wasn't so
blasted fast he'd understand why the rest of us are a bit more willing to
remove these threats completely rather than playing around with them,
especially at night.
I
wouldn't want
to go running after rogues alone, but then again, I can't move like he
does."

Klusac didn't verbally agree with
the sentiment, didn't want to simply admit his own fears, but he knew he
wouldn't want to chase river rogues hiding throughout the town in the dead of
night, either. Rather than dwell on his own misgivings, the sergeant turned his
attention to his duties.

"What do you need of me
now?"

"I've got foot patrols
waiting at crossroads throughout the town. Make sure they're armed with chain
nets and they know to capture these blasted things as opposed to killing them.
There should be plenty of nets in every armory. They'll get signals from the
towers on what they need to do, but I'd feel better if you delivered the
message personally to as many as you can."

"Done."

While Klusac mounted his horse and
rode off into the darkness, Sy resigned himself to simply watching and waiting.
He stepped back through the barracks entrance but stopped after only a couple
of steps. He stood under an open trap door that led to the roof, and he turned
to get a clear view of the nearest tower through the front entrance. Despite
the delver's speed, he knew he would have at least a few moments of quiet.

The guard captain actually
embraced the momentary silence that washed across the empty barracks. As he
became more of a leader of the entire town and less of a soldier, hushed
moments of contemplation grew in importance. He used such time to weigh his
decisions, those already made and those he still faced. Finding the right
balance between benefits and hazards became a greater part of his duties than
facing down goblins, shags, and river rogues.

He considered Ryson, pictured him
racing across the town—a blur of motion and a flash of light. The delver was
doing what he loved to do, and Sy couldn't deny the advantage of having a
purebred delver available to him; to scout the surrounding lands, to uncover
enemies, and to help protect the town. Unfortunately, Ryson's unyielding moral
compass created certain risks that potentially offset such advantages.

Sy silently cursed the situation.
It would have been easier if it was just one or two rogues. He wouldn't have
had to ask for the delver's help. His soldiers could have found the creatures
and dispatched them. Problem solved. He just wasn't that lucky. There were too
many confirmed sightings and too many unknowns.

He had given in to Ryson because
he wanted the delver's help—needed Ryson's keen senses—but keeping rogues alive
to release them down river began to sound like far too great a concession. The
question he faced centered on the benefit of having the delver's aid versus the
compromises he had to make, compromises he believed increased the risk to his
town just to keep dark creatures alive.

It didn't make sense, not to a
soldier and certainly not to a captain of the guard. He would have to speak
with Ryson, and friend or not— delver or not—Sy would make his growing concerns
known.

As for Ryson, the delver brushed
the brief disagreement with Sy from his mind. He concentrated almost entirely
on finding the river rogues as he raced away from the barracks. During his past
scouts, he had come across several rogues in the course of his travels, but he
always kept a safe distance. His remarkable memory and mind for detail allowed
him to recall an accurate description of the monster.

They were odd looking beasts. He
always thought of an elongated lake trout with arms and legs whenever he
pictured one. Of course, it also had fangs and claws, and a viciousness that
made it extremely dangerous.

A clear visual image of a rogue,
however, was not essential in locating the ones that stalked the town. Holding
the brightly glowing sword in front of him, Ryson relied little on what he
could see. Instead, he focused on what he could smell. The scent of a river
rogue was strong and obvious, more so than that of a shag. Even as the smells
of burning lanterns and late night cooking fires filled the air, he knew the
rogues would not be able to hide their scent from him.

Sergeant Klusac had informed the
delver of the locations of the rogue sightings, and Ryson rushed to the first
location, near the northwestern section of the city. He found the scent trail
immediately and he raced onward knowing the rogue was close by but probably
waiting in some dark corner hoping to ambush its prey.

Sy's orders for the citizens to
find immediate shelter as opposed to heading home probably saved at least one
life. With no one on the streets, the rogue would be disappointed.

Careful not to step near any
potential hazard, Ryson stayed to the center of the streets. After a few turns,
he located a dark alley behind a candle maker's shop. He knew the rogue was
hiding behind two waste barrels. The creature probably hoped the scent of the
discarded oils and fat would mask its own presence, but Ryson had no such
difficulty in locating the beast. He could hear its labored breaths.

Keeping his eyes on the alley,
Ryson waved his sword over his head three times and waited stone still until a
group of soldiers arrived bearing a long and wide net made from iron chains.
The delver knew it would be dangerous for any of the guards to attempt to
capture the monster in the narrow confines of the alley, and he didn't wish any
injury to befall either the soldiers or the rogue.

"Let me bring it out in the
open," Ryson offered before any of the soldiers could move into the alley.

The corporal in charge of the
squad immediately disagreed and offered his own approach.

"If we stretch the net across
the alley, we can rush in and wrap it up before it has a chance to move. That
alley's a dead end. It can't escape."

"But if it runs up against
the back wall," Ryson countered, "it's going to know it's trapped and
it might panic."

"Let it."

"And if it flails out in that
narrow passage? What then?"

"We know the risks."

"Why take any risks?"

"It's what we do."

Ryson didn't care for the
soldier's disregard for danger and unwillingness to consider safer
alternatives. He decided to paint a clearer picture for the corporal.

"You mean your job as a
soldier? One that takes orders from Captain Fenden? He put me in charge of
finding the rogues. I would think that means you need to defer to my
judgment."

It was not quite an accurate
statement. Sy Fenden had told Ryson to simply find the rogues and allow the
guards to handle the capture. Ryson had no authority over the corporal, but he
was not against taking on more responsibility.

The corporal appeared uncertain,
clearly not wishing to bow to the orders of the delver. He also, however,
understood that Ryson—though not an official member of the guard—held a special
relationship with Burbon's captain. The corporal had hopes of obtaining the
rank of sergeant, and falling on the wrong side of the captain's wishes would
not aid that cause. In the end, the soldier decided it was wiser to allow a the
delver a measure of latitude.

"Fine. You force the creature
out here in the streets, but once it's in the open, let us handle it."

"You're not to injure
it," Ryson reminded.

"I know my orders," the
corporal grunted.

Peering into the alley, Ryson watched
the dancing shadows created by the surrounding torches and the much brighter
light reflecting off his sword. The creature remained well hidden and
apparently somewhat secure in its place of hiding. Perhaps it felt as if it was
nestled under some fallen tree across a dry creek bed. It made no movements and
showed no undue concern toward the gathering of soldiers just beyond its reach.

Ryson decided to use his speed to
dash past the waste barrels and into the back of the alley. He did not leap. He
simply burst into motion and raced past the rogue before the creature even
realized the delver had entered the alley. As Ryson turned swiftly about at the
back wall, he held the Sword of Decree out in front of him to ensure the
monster would not lunge. He didn't want the rogue to think it suddenly obtained
an easy meal.

For its part, the river rogue
remained crouched behind the barrels but clearly confused at the drastic change
in events. The shadows and darkness it used to conceal its presence vanished in
the glow of the enchanted blade held by an invader to its sanctuary. The
trespasser moved faster than the beast's limited mind could fathom and it
appeared uncertain of its security. It did not charge the delver, but its
agitation grew as it realized it stood trapped between a grouping of soldiers
and the armed invader.

Ryson did not wish to antagonize
the beast, but he knew the situation turned critical. If he allowed the rogue's
uncertainty to swell, it might make the wrong choice and create an unhealthy
situation for them all. He wanted the creature to move out into the open
street, not further back into the alley. He worried the corporal might order an
immediate attack if he saw the monster charge backward. With all of them
gathered in such close quarters, the chances of an unnecessary injury to any
one of them would expand greatly.

With another decisive flash of
motion, Ryson sprung forward. He swung his blade with force, but it never
touched the river rogue. Instead, he used the speed of his movements to add
power to his swing. He knocked the waste barrels over and sent them rolling out
into the street. He created a clear path for the rogue to escape and then
shouted a command to the soldiers waiting just outside the alley.

"Back up! Give it room to
come out!"

Every soldier quickly acknowledged
the order, except for the corporal who hesitated, but even he complied as he
saw the wisdom in the strategy.

The quick strike to its cover
startled the rogue. It initially prepared to fight off its attacker. As the
delver shouted words it could not understand, it readied its claws to slash at
Ryson's throat. It never found the opportunity as its intended victim sprung
out of reach far too quickly.

With the barrels rolling out the
front of the alley, the river rogue peered over its shoulder to see the
soldiers backing away. Moving surprisingly fast and with determination to
escape, the beast bounded after the barrels, extricating itself from the alley.

The rogue almost found a path to
freedom. Seeing the guards give way, it remained behind the still rolling
barrels. When the containers slowed to a near halt, it leapt over them before
the soldiers could close ranks. The monster saw a clear lane down the open
street and moved with haste to find new refuge.

Breaking from the alley, Ryson
took a path around the soldiers and simply rushed to a spot beyond the monster
and blocked the once clear path of retreat. Still holding the Sword of Decree,
he never stopped moving. He used his great speed to add to the dazzling glow of
the enchanted blade that he twirled about in his hand.

The swerving, flashing light
confused the beast, and the rogue lost any sight of escape. Its uncertainty
brought it to a complete halt.

The soldiers did not delay. They
had the rogue on open ground and momentarily disoriented. They threw the iron
net over the creature and circled about it to wrap and entangle the monster.
With the heavy iron chains draped about the rogue's arms and legs, the guards
pulled tight at the net's edges to bind the creature within the folds of the
mesh. With one coordinated tug, they succeeded in dislodging the rogue from its
feet and rendering it completely bound and helpless.

"That's one, at least two
more to go," the delver acknowledged with a smile. He thanked the guards
and then dashed away, lighting up the darkness with his enchanted sword like a
shooting star darting over the empty streets.

 
 
Chapter 2
 

"More on the wall," the
goblin scout relayed to the taller and significantly bulkier goblin named
Okyiq.

Okyiq had taken command of over
two hundred goblins in Dark Spruce
Forest. He did so in a very short
amount of time with a force of will and the threat of physical punishment. He
ordered those same goblins to prepare for a raid of Burbon. He directed them
out of the trees and to the hills that covered the grounds just beyond the
town's southwestern wall.

The large goblin didn't like
planning and preparation—it was not a natural instinct—but he discovered that
threats weren't the only way to control his army. Goblins enjoyed mayhem and
chaos, but they also responded well to the orders of a disciplined leader. In
order to maintain control, he found it necessary to utilize certain strategies,
such as sending out scouts rather than blindly assaulting a target.

"More of what?" Okyiq demanded.

"Humans."

Despite his intended efforts to
reveal the enemy's strengths and weaknesses, Okyiq only sent scouts to explore
the southern portion of his target. He knew nothing about the river rogues at
the northern edge of Burbon and beyond. He only knew he was hungry for human
food. He could smell it—far more appetizing than anything the goblins could
scrounge from the forest dirt—and additional humans at the top of the wall
would not keep him from his intended prize.

"So?" was Okyiq's rather
apathetic and somewhat annoyed response.

BOOK: Delver Magic: Book 06 - Pure Choice
10.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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