Echoes of Invasion: There’ll Be Heledd to Pay | Scene 25

After much patient waiting, the ambushers observe shadowed movement at the front arch. The three people entering into the courtyard are clad in dark clothes, but in the moonlight, Sleidr’s shock of gray hair stands out. He and his two companions creep quietly toward the base of the tree. A knife glints in Sleidr’s hands, while his lackeys carry blackjacks. When he reaches the supposedly sleeping servant, Sleidr jabs his knife down. The straw collapses in a way flesh would not, and he realizes he has been set up. “Damn mages!” the elves hear him mutter under his breath.

From up on the roof, the archers observe the attack on the dummy. “All right,” one of them says, “that’s our criminal.” They line up their shots and launch a volley of arrows, one of which catches the thief on the arm.

Although Tric thinks pouncing down on the villains would be the coolest thing, he realizes that the bow is probably wiser. He shoots down at Sleidr, but it is a tricky maneuver when balanced in a tree; his arrow hits only the ground. Tric glances over at Mate and points down at Sleidr. “Stupid!” he says. The magpie yodels back and swoops down at the thief, wings flapping in his face.

Sleidr hisses in pain as an arrow slashes a deep gouge in his arm. Based on the angle, that must have come from the roof. Now he is positive this is a trap, especially when just a few moments later, more arrows come down at his group from directly above them. Glancing up, he sees two figures up in the tree, but then a bird of some kind comes right at his face, and he jerks away. “Gah!”

This is pretty dangerous! Heppa realizes when she sees the group below her impacted by missiles. The time has come to put this ruby to the test. She wills it to activate, and once again feels her heart jitter as the world around her slows. From her experimentation earlier, she knows the effect will not last for long, and that she is liable to crash later, but these conditions seem to merit the risk. Heppa brings her bow to bear, pointing it down at the ruffians below her. She cannot bring herself to actually kill another person, though, and instead aims at legs, hoping to prevent their foes from escaping. Her arrows nick at them. Then, realizing how very close she is to their enemies, she shifts her position in the tree to be better concealed from below by the newly grown leaves and branches. We’re learning right now, she reassures herself. New experiences.

Sleidr waves his left arm up around his head, fending off the bird. With it out of his face, he flicks his right hand across his chest, snatching a knife from his bandolier. The archers on the roof are too far away for him to deal with right now but not the shadowy one in the tree who also shot at him. He hurls the stiletto up and feels some satisfaction at the gasp of pain he hears in response. But then a voice shouts at them from the ruined house, and a crossbow bolt thunks into one of his footpads, who collapses with a gurgle. Given this turn of events, Sleidr chooses to fall back, diving for cover behind the old well.

“You’re under arrest for assaulting a visitor to South Tower!” Sergeant Henrick yells from inside the manor as he fires his crossbow. He then carefully clips it back onto his belt. Before he can draw his sword though, a morningstar smashes down at him, its points piercing through his chainmail as the head bruises his shoulder. 

The muscular woman looming out of the darkness behind him growls, “How about for attacking the law?” She is clad all in black like the targets out in the courtyard but is at least a head taller than they are—than Henrick is, too. 

The javelineers hear the sounds of combat from within the house. Through gaps in the walls, they see their superior scrambling for his sword. Precision is a javelineer’s pride. Even with the darkness and the detritus in the way, they send a volley at the attacker from their current location and then rush at her as they rearm themselves from their quivers. 

“Very good, very good,” Henrick encourages them. “Excellent work!” This is not his first time in a scrape, and he keeps his cool even as he takes another hit from the morningstar, this one impacting his helm. “Outstanding job!” he shouts to the approaching javelineers, knowing the importance of maintaining troop morale. Finally gets his sword in hand. His senses a bit scattered from the most recent blow, he does not manage to land a strike of his own. However, he keeps the villain’s attention focused on him, allowing the javelineers to get close enough to jab at her.

“We’re here for you, boss!” they encourage Henrick back.

A few loose stones clatter down from above, and the upper reaches of the building groan. Unbeknownst to the guards inside, the bandit’s underlings are at the peak of the roof, hurling stones at the archers with their slings. With their rooftop support now turning arrows toward the new threat, the elves in the courtyard are left to fend for themselves.

Tric gasps as Sleidr’s thin knife sinks into his chest making every breath he takes painful. “Ugh, that’s not good,” he groans. It has been more than half a day since he and Heppa imbibed the fortifier against cuttlefish poison. While it would have protected them from an attack in the afternoon, it seems to have worn off by now, based on the spasms that Tric is beginning to feel in his chest muscles. He is about to say something to Heppa about it when the whole tree shudders. 

“Come down from there, cowardly bowmen!” the remaining ruffian below shouts.

Tric throws out an arm and catches himself while also retaining a grip on his bow. His cousin’s instincts are not as swift though, and she falls down to the ground, landing with a thud at the feet of the fellow who has just thrown his shoulder into the trunk of the tree. He is armed with a blackjack and raises it to smash down upon her.

Hepalonia crashes into the ground, a little freaked out and a lot injured. Frightened but also amped up from the ring, she looks up at the man poised to attack her. Something makes him jerk his hand suddenly, and his weapon falls from his grasp as he curses. Heppa hears the call of a falcon somewhere nearby. The sound reminds her of Alric, and despite the madness of the situation, she is reassured a bit at the thought of him.