Ren pulled the reins, stopping the carriage right beside the wheatfield and the four elves jumped off quickly. Tycon tied the bandana over the lower half of his face, as did the rest of them. Within seconds, Glahir began placing the bombs within a linen sack, quickly pulling it over his large shoulders. He was surprised just how quick he was considering his size.
Ren leaned over the seat, looking back at the elves and his face serious, "You don't have long to cross the moat, so let's not screw around."
Tycon gave him a thumbs-up as he hastily passed the crossbow and rope to Sylaina.
She didn't say anything, only giving him a slight nod. First thing was first, they had to get into the city.
The wheatfield blew slightly in the wind. Despite that, the night felt still, like the whole world was stuck in place; comatose. Tycon took that as a good sign, feeling the breeze caress itself upon his neck, like the gentle touch of nature or the warm breath of a lover. He checked that he had everything ready, his sword was sheathed to his belt and his daggers on the back - He was set. He took a glance at Sylaina who held the crossbow in her hands with the rope slung over her shoulder. Her face was stern and focused, unlike both Glahir and Fayne who were quietly arguing amongst themselves on who carried the most bombs. Tycon shook his head and grinned.
"Everything ready?" Ren asked, still leaning over the seat.
The four elves nodded in affirmation.
"Good, I'll see you on the other side."
Ren gave them all a quick smile and turned his attention to the road before him. He flicked the reigns and with a rattle and clack, he was on his way toward the city gate. The four of them watched after him for a moment and then disappeared within the field thereafter.
The trip through the field was as it was before. Slow and steady, they tried their utmost to remain as quiet as possible, the wind helped make that possible.
Sylaina was ahead, keeping pace and her attention solely on the front. Tycon could feel the presence of both Fayne and Glahir behind him and as they grew closer to the moat, the sickly smell became more and more fierce.
For a moment, he saw Sylaina shudder at the stench. He tried his best not to chuckle at her reaction. From behind he heard Fayne and Glahir choke at the smell too. He couldn't wait for Glahir's reaction once they reached the sewer.
As they were reaching the end of the field and subsequently the moat, Sylaina stopped, holding up a hand signaling for them to do the same. She peeked outside and through the fence that stood before them briefly, then turned to the three of them.
"No guards," She whispered, "Lucky."
The three of them waited as she tied the rope around the bolt. He hoped it would hold, knowing that if it didn't, they'd have to wade through the moat yet again and that was something he'd rather avoid at all costs. Sylaina pulled the rope, double-checking that it wouldn't slip loose then loaded the bolt into the crossbow, the strings creaking as she pulled it back.
"Hold this," She whispered, passing Tycon the coil of rope, "Place it under your foot so it doesn't end up in a pool of shit."
He grinned and gave her a firm nod, holding the other end of the rope beneath his foot. She didn't grin back but instead quickly turned and raised the crossbow up onto her shoulder and took aim. He held his breath as he waited for the tune of the bowstrings release.
Tycon counted five seconds before he heard it fire, quickly followed by a crack and the sound of collapsing pebbles. He peered over her shoulder, checking if the bolt had stuck firmly within the aging stone. The scent of her perfume stung his nostrils, the perfect scent of roses - freshly bloomed.
At least it masks the shit.
The bolt seemed to fit snugly into the city wall, both Tycon and Sylaina pulled at the rope to make sure it wouldn't slip once they put all their weight upon it.
"Think it'll hold?" Fayne asked.
Sylaina didn't reply and instead tugged the rope again, raising an eyebrow.
Tycon tightly tied the other end of the rope to a weathered wooden fencepost and one by one they slowly climbed across the dimly lit moat below. Tycon was surprised they got across without incident, especially with Glahir. He had expected the rope to break or in the very least, loosen. Glahir was dangerously close to the water as he climbed across and it was clear that the large elf was shaken from the ordeal. It was only going to get worse from here.
Far, far worse indeed.
The rhythm of the hooves as they clacked against the stone road and the squeaking of the carriage were the only things Ren heard when the city gate came into view. The crumbling stone arch stood high and loomed over the plains of the farmland that dotted the exterior of the city. The remnants of a once-great city, now a dirty grey relic of a bygone era.
He wasn't familiar with the city's history, only what it had become infamous for in the past hundred or so years. A pit of corruption and criminality. From what he had heard from Tycon, the rumors were true. The place really was a shithole and the clear bigotry toward elves didn't help its image in the slightest.
He noticed two guards posted by the archway of the gate, leaning casually with their arms wrapped around halberds. From where he was, they looked more like thugs than the official city guard. Wearing simple chainmail with a tattered tabard of the city's crest sewed on it, two swords crossed and a shield with a star. He half expected to be mugged or coerced into paying some sort of toll. He was willing to do anything they needed of him, so long as he got into the city without much trouble.
One of the guards noticed his approach and pulled himself from the wall, leaving his halberd leaning against it and took a few steps forward to greet him. The other, however, remained leaning, playing with the loose skin hanging from his fingernail and casting casual glances his way.
The guard who approached halted him and put his hands on his hips.
"You, state your business here in Halcyon," The guard's voice boomed from behind a thick greying mustache.
Ren pulled at the reigns, waiting for the horse to hold still before replying, "I'm here to pick up a shipment," He lied.
The guard looked Ren up and down and then patted the horse on its nose before circling around the carriage to check the back for contraband while the other continued to watch on. Seemingly satisfied, he returned to the front and scratched his chin.
"How long will you be here?" He asked robotically. Ren guessed it was just protocol and the man didn't really care in the slightest.
"For the night," He replied, "I set off at dawn tomorrow."
The guard nodded, "Go on through then and don't cause any trouble."
"I don't intend to," He bowed and slapped the reigns, squeaking through and into the city.
It was just as Tycon had described to him. The city was, for a lack of a better word, a shithole. The dirty streets were silent but an odd stench lingered like a fog hovering above him. On occasion, he would see men and women that sat in makeshift shelters prop their heads up at the sound of the carriage and horse curiously. The people almost completely blended into the shadow of the night, if he were carrying anything with him, he wouldn't be surprised if they would have ambushed and robbed him, though a preconceived notion, it wasn't outside the realm of possibility.
As he studied the buildings and the sturdy blocky architecture, he wondered what the city had been like once. Was it a beacon within an endless plain, standing as a monument to humanity's prestige? Or was it always a filthy breeding ground for rats? Perhaps someday he'd look into it, but for now he had to reach the alleyway near the upper-class district and meet with the others.
The moonlight was reflected upon the puddles that dotted the dirt road from the storm that had recently passed, he was glad for it. The streets were so dark, he was likely to get lost but he was lucky. Slowly pulling the horse to a stop next to a nearby building, he craned his head forward, peering into the dark and then glanced around, making sure he was alone. As far as he could tell, he was. After a few moments, he climbed from the carriage and slipped into the alleyway behind the building, leaned against the wall and waited for the elves to show up.
After what seemed like forever, Ren began to hear hushed voices and several footsteps. At first, he reached for his sword, gripping the hilt, waiting. Then he saw where the voices were coming from. Four familiar hooded silhouettes quickly slipped in the alley with him, they stopped for a moment, all falling silent and studying him. Ren heard Tycon's hushed voice come from the darkness.
"Yes, it's me."
He heard several sighs of relief come from the group and they all approached him.
"So what's next?" Fayne asked, putting his hand on his hips.
"You stay with me," Ren replied, "Cause a commotion at the gate, leaving fewer reinforcements for Keo once the bombs go off. I trust you know how to hide?"
"Did a whole lot of that when the humans invaded my home," Fayne said bluntly, "I can handle it."
"Good because once you feel they've lost your trail, return here for the escape."
Ren glanced down to the floor of the alley, seeing a rusted metal sewer grate sitting in the middle.
"I'm assuming that where you three will be heading?"
"Yeah, let's go now," Tycon replied, grabbing at the grate.
"Slowly now," Glahir grunted as he joined Tycon in lifting it.
As they lifted it up, Glahir's grip slipped and the grate dropped momentarily, hitting the stone of the alley with an echoing crash.
"Shit!" Sylaina exclaimed, "Go now, c'mon. We better hope no one heard that."
The three elves slipped into the tight space and began clambering down the metal ladder, their steps echoing as they descended. Ren turned to Fayne who was watching them and clasped his shoulder.
"You sure you're gonna be fine?"
He heard the elf chuckle from behind the darkness of his hood, "Absolutely, don't worry so much."
He trusted that Fayne would be fine but was concerned nevertheless. If anyone were to die or be captured, he knew for a fact that it would be his fault and other than blaming himself, he'd hate to see someone of such talent be wasting away in a gutter or prison.
"We wait five minutes and then you make the distraction. I'll prep the cart for escape, that all sound good to you?"
Fayne lifted his arm from behind the cloak, in his hand was a small cylindrical bomb. It was much smaller than the ones he had made for blowing through the wall. Ren glanced back up to his hooded face and briefly through the moonlight, he could see Fayne smirking.
"What the hell is that?" Ren asked slowly, glancing back at the bomb Fayne presented.
"A distraction. Just in case."
Ren rolled his eyes, "Care to elaborate?"
"Four words," He replied, Ren could tell it was coming through a smile, "Magnesium and Potassium Nitrate."
Though Ren wasn't particularly familiar with the intricacies of building a bomb, Fayne did teach him a thing or two during his time in the forest. He thought for a moment on what those two ingredients could be used for but he was stumped. Seeing that he wasn't about to figure it out any time soon, Fayne said it for him.
"Produces a sudden burst of light on detonation. Enough to blind someone temporarily."
"A flash bomb?"
Fayne clicked his fingers and pointed at him, "Correct! So if worst comes to worst, I've got these little guys to help me."
Ren was admittedly impressed, he made a mental note to learn more from him the next time he had a chance. So far things were looking like they'd unfold according to plan, though he wasn't entirely counting on it. There was still much left to do and the escape, he guessed would be the hardest part.
All that was left was for Tycon and his crew to do what they had to do without a hitch. He hoped for their sake that things would go smoothly, the same for Fayne.
We're so close.
The sewer was almost as it was before. The stench was as strong as ever and the moonlight pierced through the grates above like a heavenly glow, in between each was nothing but a shadow. The sound of flowing waste masked all sound from above, even their own footsteps as the three waded through quickly. Time was short and once the wall was blown they'd have to haul themselves a lot faster than they did now.
The remnants of the monsters that once inhabited the place were still strewn across the sewer, beginning the stages of decay and the smell of death molded well with the waste, both equally disgusting and repulsive. Some of the monsters corpses looked as if they had been eaten, small chunks were missing from them, whether by a sword or the rats, Tycon wasn't sure but he guessed it was both. He knew he had to be cautious in case they had missed a few on their first expedition in the moist tunnel.
"What are you really here for?" Sylaina suddenly asked from behind him.
She had caught his lie several days ago and didn't want to pry, he remembered that. Tycon debated internally once again whether to tell her the truth or evade the topic altogether. They had gone through a lot of trouble to break into the vault and he somehow felt he owed her the truth, but the truth was dangerous, very dangerous.
"I can't tell you."
"Why?" She insisted.
Glahir remained silent, listening to the exchange intently as he followed them.
"Because you'll likely become a target," He replied.
"I don't care. It's clear there's something bigger going on, we're all here to help yo-," She cut herself off and paused, sighing she spoke again, her tone softened, "I've seen how Alietah has been acting, somethings wrong and now... I feel like we deserve to know."
Tycon didn't immediately reply, letting the sound of the rushing water fill the void of silence. Finally, he sighed and composed himself.
"I'm here for a gem." He said.
She snorted, "A gem? Really?"
"Not just any gem," He replied quickly, "One that holds magic and the power to control monsters."
His confession was met with a cackle, even Glahir chuckled. He almost felt mocked but he didn't blame them for not believing him. After a moment her face suddenly stiffened and her eyebrows arched.
"You're serious aren't you."
"Dead. What do you think happened at Winter's Peak? The sudden appearance of monsters? Sylaina, they're all connected. I was there and I saw what happened."
There was a long silence as they waded through the sewage. Tycon wasn't sure what both Sylaina and Glahir would make of it. A part of him wanted them to believe him but another part didn't care. All that mattered was getting the gem before Zeke did, he didn't know how many there were, only that he needed to hoard as many as he could.
"I believe you." Glahir blurted.
Sylaina craned her head toward him, "What?!"
"How else do you explain Winter's Peak getting wiped from the map?" He argued, "Or that we're even here? Tycon doesn't come across as someone to resort to crime for no good reason."
"No, I- It's impossible. For all we know he just wants the coin," Sylaina said in disbelief.
"I'd rather speak for myself," Tycon said, "I am here for a gem. You asked for the truth and you got it, whether you believe me or not doesn't matter. You get what you want and I get what I want."
Sylaina pouted but didn't reply. Resting her hand on the pommel of her sword, she continued to follow him in silence.
They soon reached the large chamber that connected the several tunnels, spreading across the city like snakes made of brick. The eggs were all still destroyed and the smell of rotting fish lingered. Tycon, shin-deep in guts and excrement listened intently, searching for an echo of footsteps. He wasn't sure if they had completely eradicated the monsters that festered there and he felt a little at ease when he heard nothing.
"What the fuck is this!?" Glahir exclaimed, kicking at one of the broken eggs by his feet.
"There were monsters breeding here," Sylaina shrugged, "You saw the bodies on the way here."
He nodded and darted his eyes anxiously, "T-There aren't more of them, right?"
"Can't hear any," Tycon confirmed, "C'mon, there isn't much time."
They arrived at the wall and began setting up the bombs. Tycon helped Glahir lift one to the left side and subsequently the right. Glahir reached into the pack he carried and removed two small rocks, he tossed one to Tycon.
"What's this?" Tycon asked as he caught it.
"Flint," He replied, "Strike it on your dagger to light the fuse. It'd be best to get them lit at the same time unless you want to end up in chunks."
He wasted no time getting to his knees and pulling a dagger from the back of his belt. Tycon glanced to his right to see Glahir's face glowing orange with each strike and Sylaina stood back, visibly afraid of the incoming explosion. He flicked the stone quickly upon his dagger, watching the sparks fly toward the fuse and after three or four attempts, he found himself sprinting away with Glahir by his side.
"Get back!" Tycon shouted at Sylaina.
The small woman took a few panicked steps back and fell into a run with the two men. They waited for what felt like an eternity, he didn't expect the fuse to take so long to burn. He silently counted the seconds as they ticked past.
One, two, three...
There was a loud crash that rumbled the streets below like an earthquake, Fayne almost lost his footing as he darted across the streets like a cat chasing a mouse. The two guards were at his tail but he had an advantage, wearing light armor allowed for more mobility. With the guards clad in chainmail and plate, it wasn't likely they'd keep up for long. He made sure to slow down every few seconds to keep them on his tail but so far he wasn't challenged in the slightest.
He made his way through a tight alleyway between two buildings and hid by the wall, waiting for the thudding sound of plated footsteps. Fayne pulled one of the tiny flash bombs from a pouch beneath his cloak. If he were to throw it hard enough into the ground to produce a spark, it would activate and luckily for him, the part of the city he found himself in was full of stone.
Despite the lack of challenge, he found himself thrilled and full of adrenaline. Each heartbeat seemed as if it were to burst his chest and his breaths short and choppy. It was the most fun he'd had in a long time and a great chance to use the bombs he'd been working on for so long.
It didn't take long before he heard the guards coming down the alley, he peeked from the other side, seeing the two silhouettes doused in the moonlight like wolves on a hunt, with a flash they'd soon be howling. He waited until they got close when suddenly he heard more footsteps behind him on the road.
"Hey you, what the hell are you doing?"
Fayne glanced over toward the voice to see another guard with a crossbow in hand, followed by three others.
"He's behind the explosion," A guard in the alley called, "Arrest him."
Fayne didn't have time to think, his first instinct was to flee but he decided to wait until they approached. He curled his fist tightly around the bomb in his hand and closed his eyes, sighing. He knew he had jinxed himself. He felt the guard clasp his shoulder and that's when he sprung into action. He leaped away from the six of them and slammed the bomb hard into the stone road below, he heard the pop and a ring in his ears, he quickly opened his eyes to see the guards shielding their faces and groaning. Not waiting long he fled the scene as fast as he could but he heard a spring and quickly found himself face-first into the road with a searing pain in his calf.
He glanced at his leg to see a bolt protruding from his calf and the sticky crimson liquid that quickly soaked his pants. The guards were still stunned and the crossbow was empty. The guard seemingly fired randomly.
He didn't have time to think, Fayne quickly climbed to his feet with a groan and began limping away as fast as he could before the blood began to leave a trail.
He clenched his teeth with each step, the pain would fluctuate every time he took a stride forward, like a sharp needle stabbing him in constant motion. He knew he needed to get back to Ren, he couldn't risk pulling the bolt from his leg at the moment in the case of losing too much blood. For now, he had to keep it in his leg no matter how horrifyingly painful it was. Through the pain, he couldn't help but smile to himself.
That's what I get for being cocky.