A Storm of Shadows

Tor looked down, past the bloodied tip of his sword, at the body of the bandit that had been charged with guarding the entrance to Fera's safehouse. One safehouse of several, of course. The man lying sprawled at Tor's feet had barely known what was happening to him. But the men inside might prove less easy to fool or to sneak up on. Tor desired for Kierst to wait outside - perhaps for Tanz's friend to remain with her - but he knew he was simply being over-protective, and so she came along. 

Tor and Tanz cloaked themselves in shadow as the four travelers entered the crumbling wooden shack and easily killed the two other sentries who had been posted there. Tor looked around, adrenaline rushing through him already, searching for any other enemies. To his surprise, though, he saw none. 

"Look," Tanz said the others, "there. Do you see that loose floor board in the corner?"

"Yes," Tor responded, "what about it?" Then he caught on. A secret trapdoor, perhaps? "I'll investigate," he said, looking at Kierst. She seemed oddly calm, even though two men were walking around near her, completely invisible to the mortal eye. 

It was in these moments that Tor felt closest to Akoraan. In the shadows, only the Shattered One and other dark-stalkers like Tanz could see him.

Tor approached the loose floorboard, which was sticking up at a strange angle, and pulled upwards on it. Nothing happened. After several moments of yanking at the board, trying to unveil its trick, Tor let go of the plank. He crouched next to it, aggravated and beginning to grow tired of this. He decided to give it one more go, standing up and placing his foot gently against the board. He looked over at Tanz, who seemed curious, and pressed firmly down with his right foot.

He was almost immediately rewarded with a loud crack, and the boards surrounding the suspicious one - which Tor now realized must have been a lever - retracted beneath the floor, revealing an underground passage.

Tanz led the way down the tunnel, with Tor behind him. Behind Tor was kierst, and behind her, Reiher came last. He carried his bow confidently, searching his surroundings tirelessly.

When the four emerged from the passage, they found themselves faced with a wooden walkway that led out into the center of a large room. At the end of the walkway was a platform with a ladder reaching down to the floor of the chamber. A decent security measure against traditional assaults, perhaps, but Tor was no traditional soldier. Reiher moved in front of Kierst, crouching and drawing a shot on one of the men in the room below. Tor and Tanz both vaulted silently and invisibly over the edges of the walkway at once, and Reiher fired a shot at the bandit he'd targeted just as the man spotted him and was about to call out to his comrades.

Tor did not have the time to watch the shot. he dropped directly on top of a second man, dressed in leather with a fur collar. Tor put his sword into the man's back as he landed, and the brigand collapsed to the floor without ever knowing what was going on. A bandit nearby saw his partner go down and rushed over, drawing a greatsword and swinging madly at the spot where Tor had just been. Only, Tor was behind his new adversary by this point. Another second later, the man's head had been separated from his shoulders by a powerful strike from tor's blade.

The fighting went on for a few minutes in this way, with Tor and Tanz tearing through their enemies like a storm of death - Tor had to admit, Tanz's fighting style was very much like dancing - and Reiher continuing to launch arrows at the enemy from above with deadly accuracy.

When all of the highwaymen lay dead, Tor and Tanz left the shadows and Reiher descended the ladder to meet them with Kierst. 

Kierst locked eyes with Tor, looking slightly irritated. "I could have helped, you know," she said. "I could have handled myself just fine against the likes of them."

Tor rolled his eyes. "Against one or two at a time, perhaps - but do you really think your skill with that dagger would've held up against five or six enemies at a time? There were too many. And," he added after a moment's hesitation, "you're my charge. I'm to keep you safe at all costs."

Kierst laughed. "You have to protect me?" She said nothing more, but the amusement in her voice confused Tor. She shook her head and walked over to one of the bandits' corpses, lifting a short-sword off the ground next to a man dressed in black robes and removing the belt which held the weapon's sheath from the fallen man. She slid the sword into the sheath once the belt was around her waist, looking pointedly at Tor. Tor held his hands up and to the sides as if to indicate that he was backing off and she smiled. 

"Look," she said, "I know you're trying to keep me safe. I understand. But I can help." As she spoke, she glanced around at the other two as well, especially Reiher. The sniper still seemed doubtful - Tor would have to remember to thank the man for keeping her safe later.

Tor approached Tanz. "Well," he said, "We now have a base of operations, of sorts. Will this be suitable to you, for the duration of this mission?"

Tanz nodded. "Oh yes, oh yes indeed," he replied. "But first...we must get all of these bodies out of here."

The End

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