Delver Magic: Book 06 - Pure Choice (7 page)

BOOK: Delver Magic: Book 06 - Pure Choice
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"Get a tourniquet around his
arm and stop the bleeding!" Ryson yelled. He turned to the eastern squad
of soldiers that still held their net across the street. "Drop your net
over the rogue! Make sure it's secure and then get it out of here!"

Not one guard hesitated as the delver's
commanding tone echoed with authority. Ryson motioned to the guards that had
been under the corporal's command.

"Get him medical attention as
quickly as possible."

One of the soldiers didn't
question the directive but wondered aloud about a rather macabre detail.

"What about his hand?"

Ryson gave one last look to the
rogue that was being secured with the second iron net. It clasped the bloody
hand with desperation, as if holding some sacred religious artifact. Ryson knew
it was absurd to try and wrestle the dismembered body part from the creature.

"Nothing we can do about
it," Ryson advised. He encouraged all the soldiers to move with greater
speed. "Get them both out of here now!"

Just as the guards moved out,
Ryson took off at near top speed. It wasn't the most efficient way to scout the
town, but he was growing more concerned with the spreading turmoil. Sprinting
might cause him to miss small traces of another rogue, but time was running
short.

He took several glimpses at the
surrounding towers to glean additional information regarding the conflict to
the south. He realized the southwestern wall remained under fire. Though no
confirmed identification of the source had been made, the tower guards were
raising the alert. It appeared the soldiers in the area also believed goblins
were behind the attack, and they warned the entire town of a possible horde
assault.

As Ryson closed upon the eastern
gate, he paused to call out to the gatekeepers and the nearest watch.

"Signal that the three rogues
are all secured! I'm going to do a fast scout of the town to see if anything
else is inside. Then I'll head to the south."

Once a guard nodded in
acknowledgment, Ryson raced off and returned to his previous pace. He breathed
deeply and quickly through his nose as he sprinted from one street to the next.
He also concentrated on catching every sound that escaped each alley. The heavy
rain and the growing winds made his every motion that much more difficult, but
at least the residents of the town were all in shelters.

At the pace he set, he couldn't be
absolutely certain, but he was relatively sure that no other river rogues had
found their way inside the town walls. The scents he caught matched those of
the other three creatures that had already been secured. It was possible he
might have missed a small trail, but not probable.

Believing the rogue problem
handled, Ryson sped off to the southern edge of Burbon. He could hear the
conflict growing in the distance. It wasn't just arrows falling upon the
southern wall. The delver caught the sound of shouts and clanging metal.
Something other than a river rogue was already inside Burbon's walls.

 
 
Chapter 4
 

After Okyiq gave the signal to
fire, he led over a hundred goblins away from those that rained bolts and
arrows down upon the town's wall. With his hulking frame visible even in the
pouring rain, he brought the small horde around the base of a hill to Burbon's
south. Near the border of the clearing that they would have to cross, he bid
the pack to stop. Indiscriminately, he separated the group further, pulling a
small contingent from the entire force that followed. About a dozen goblins
surrounded him.

"You come with me. We get
gate open."

He then turned to the remainder of
the raiding party.

"You stay behind hill until gate
is open. When gate opens, run inside! Anyone that stays here..." he paused
to add emphasis, "...dies when I get back."

There was no "if" in the
statement regarding his return. Okyiq didn't think there was any chance he
would fall during the raid, and he would see to it that there would be dire
consequences for any that didn't follow his orders. By sheer will alone, he
would avoid death... cheat it, spit in its face.

The clarity of the order had its
desired effect. Any goblin hoping Okyiq's probable demise would allow it to
avoid retribution for misjudgments during battle quickly reassessed such
convictions.

Peering around the edge of the
hill, the huge goblin spied the wall. He could make out only a dim outline. The
darkness conceived of the cloudy night sky and driving rain seemed to cover
everything like a heavy wool drape that wavered only slightly against a fierce
wind. Though Okyiq could not be certain of the guards' positions, he could see
their signal torches. The fires remained lit despite the pounding rain,
protected by canopies strung across the tops of the towers. The presence of
humans remained apparent as shouts and screams from the wall followed the twang
of bowstrings from the goblin ranged assault.

"We go now!" he shouted
and took off in a furious sprint.

A dozen goblins followed Okyiq as
they rushed toward the nearest gate. The goblin leader urged them forward
through the clearing. The hail of arrows and bolts from goblins in the hills
filled the air and continued to come down alongside the raindrops, falling hard
upon the wall and guard towers. The projectiles were well off to the raiding
party's left flank, creating no risk of the raiders falling to friendly fire.
The same could not be said for arrows that might come from the human archers.

The driving rain, however, grew
even harder, fell like glistening sheets across the clearing between the hills
and Burbon's wall. The goblins' gray skin and dark metallic armor allowed them
to blend in with the night storm. Even as they raced across open ground, not a
single arrow flew in their direction. They reached the base of the wall
slightly to the side of Burbon's southern gate without a single casualty.

"Up wall!" Okyiq
whispered, but it still held the growl of authority and not a single goblin delayed
in beginning the ascent.

They climbed over each other like
excited ants on a pile of sugar. They were far from graceful or silent. During
a clear and quiet night, several tower guards would have spotted them
immediately, but the soldiers were not looking for goblins on that particular
evening. If anything, a small goblin raiding party was the least of the guards'
worries. What goblin would be foolish enough to call for a raid when a number
of river rogues hunted for prey both inside and outside Burbon's wall?

The hail of bolts and arrows that
came from the hills confused the human sentries, and held their attention. As
the guards dropped low for cover, they tried to ascertain the source of fire.
They struggled against the elements and risked injury as they peered over the
edges of the wall. Unfortunately, they could not identify the threat.

Even at the top of the hill, the
goblins' short stature worked to their advantage. The surrounding tall grass
bent and buckled with the wind and rain, but it swirled about and masked the
silhouettes of their forms. They fired over and over again, unable to target
their foes, but knowing they were expected to continue.

The most experienced soldiers of
Burbon recognized the bolts that fell from the sky and quickly associated them
with goblin crossbows, but even they failed to look to the base of the wall for
an initial raiding party. The tactics didn't fit with usual goblin activity.
Never before had the little cretins unleashed a continuous hail of fire for a
simple raid. Why would they offer a warning?

Worried far more about a full
scale attack from an overwhelming force, they looked to the hills for signs of
a great horde. They listened for the thunderous rumble of a great host that
could not possibly hide their numbers, even in the darkness and heavy rains. To
their confusion, no such goblin army stood in sight, and beyond the pounding of
the rain, no riotous commotion could be heard.

Struggling with the darkness and
the volleys from the goblin archers, the human soldiers battled uncertainty. A
goblin horde would rush its prey with near disregard, and yet the hills offered
little more than shadows in the grass. The prospect of a major goblin assault
seemed to dwindle, but the soldiers could not totally dismiss the possibility.
The southern tower guards sent warning signals, revealing the ranged assault
and placing the town into a stage of higher alert.

Okyiq's ploy worked far better
than he could have imagined, but if he knew the facts, even the boastful goblin
would have had to admit that fortune played a greater role than his simple
strategy. He did not know about the river rogues incursion into the town, had
no idea that soldiers were placed at crossroads to deal with a breach that had
already occurred. The soldiers on the walls were looking for rogues, not a mere
dozen goblins brazen enough to cross the open ground to the south. The rain and
the rogues—even the delver's trek through the town with his sword blazing a
trail—forced the soldiers' attention away from the southern gate, but it was
there that Okyiq broke through Burbon's defenses.

At the very edge of the gate, the
goblins crossed over the top of the wall and slid down the inner wall planks
like snow ogres gliding down an ice covered mountainside. They hit the ground
hard, but seemed to bounce, almost as if their bodies were made of some rubbery
substance. They drew their short swords and immediately attacked the
gatekeepers before any of the guards could call out for help.

Okyiq moved with unfettered
determination to the center of the gate. A heavy wooden post crossed through
iron brackets and held both doors locked in place. With far more strength than
an average goblin, he took hold of the bar handle and wrestled against the
weight of the post. The crossbeam fought against the pressure, and at first
refused to budge. Eventually, Okyiq's own determination surpassed the stubborn
shaft. The beam creaked and crunched, but began moving in its track. Struggling
and snarling, ignoring the pain in his back and hands, the fierce goblin lunged
forward and slid the post beyond one of the brackets.

Three goblins ran to the freed
gate section and yanked at the handles. They struggled against the weight as
the iron hinges seemed to fight against their desires. When Okyiq joined them,
they were able to force the gate open enough for the goblins still under the
protection of the hills to see a clear passage into town.

Nearly a hundred goblins rushed
across the clearing. They moved in one great mass, like a patch of filthy oil
rushing forward upon the surface of an otherwise pure river. They did not try
to hide their presence from the towers, did not try to mask their numbers. They
simply drove toward the opportunity the open gate presented.

The racing pack did not go
unnoticed. The tower guards, desperately searching for an answer to the odd
assault, spotted the raiding goblins as they broke out from behind the
hillside. Signals were sent of the attack, and several of the human soldiers
fired their arrows, placing themselves in jeopardy from goblin archers who
continued their bombardment.

Several goblins dropped from the
counterattack, but the vast majority made it to the wall and threw themselves
against the partially opened gate. The force shoved the door open wider and the
full raiding force poured through the entrance. They were not surprised to see
their commander alive and ready to order them into battle.

"Breakup! Swarm area and find
cover! Force humans to come off the wall and then attack! When they are dead,
take everything you can!"

As the goblins rushed passed him,
Okyiq took the time to raise his pudgy distorted nose to the air. He sniffed
several times and then gauged the wind. With a clear direction set in his mind,
he took hold of one goblin after another and threw them to the side of the
gate. Once he had another dozen goblins, he pointed to a building at a nearby
corner. He could not read the sign that held the establishment's name of the
Spruce View Tavern, but he knew it was a place that held the food he craved.

"You will come with me!"
Okyiq demanded of the goblins he pressed aside.

The dozen creatures agreed without
hesitation, their goblin blood flowing briskly from the excitement of the raid
and the initial success of their endeavor. They hissed and snorted, chuckled in
glee as they bounded after their leader.

In near unison, the small pack
sprang across the road and toward a large wooden door at the front of the
establishment. An even larger picture window stood to the side of the entrance,
but the inside of the building was dark—all lanterns and candles within had
been extinguished.

Despite the darkened interior, the
goblins noticed movement inside the building. Humans appeared to be clamoring
in all directions, but the apparent mayhem did not for one moment melt the
goblins' desire to get at the food within.

Okyiq pushed at the entrance, but
it held against his weight and his will. He pounded and kicked at the door, but
it held firm. He cursed, but wasted no more time or effort on the futile
attempt. He knew he was fighting more than a simple lock, and he decided to
take a different approach. Grabbing hold of one of the goblins waiting
impatiently at his side, he lifted the smaller monster off its feet and flung
it violently through the center of the front window.

Suffering several deep cuts from
the razor sharp broken glass, the smaller monster looked back in shock after it
hit the ground and rolled to a stop. At first, it couldn't understand why its
leader had taken such an aggressive action against it, but it would soon
comprehend.

"Clear the door!" Okyiq
bellowed to the stunned goblin inside the establishment.

Before the goblin could get to its
feet, Okyiq threw three more minions through the busted window, but they
suffered no cuts as their bodies cleared the broken glass strewn across the
tavern floor.

BOOK: Delver Magic: Book 06 - Pure Choice
5.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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