Stathis blocked a punch, impact stinging her arms and knocking her off balance, smacking into the wall of the narrow room. Her attacker squared himself up, readying himself for another attack, before getting blasted back as Janaxia flung a blast of energy at him, enough force to bounce him into the opposite wall, chunks of stone fragmenting to dust under the impact.
She had just enough time to draw her blade before they recovered, ready to attack again despite their injuries. Even facing an opponent with a sword didn’t deter him, while an ally of his was knife-fighting Parth, the two locked in tight, straining against each other for advantage enough to actually attack. Although the room was too short and cramped to allow for proper swings, being little more than a bed and a narrow walkway around it, she could at least thrust, keeping him out of punching range.
‘Kidnapping bastards!’, he yelled, as Stathis managed to open up some space between them, scoring him across the chest, blood seeping into his ragged clothing. Even as he ducked low to try and attack again, she jumped back to let Janaxia throw another blast – even though it missed, at least it keep him on the defensive.
Stathis risked a glance backwards – they’d just dumped Semari into the bed when the ambush started, and Janaxia had taken up a defensive position on top of her. The place was rough enough that they probably had time before anyone else would care about the sounds of violence, but why the hell were they being attacked?
A figure was climbing through the window behind Janaxia, hauling themselves inside. As Stathis shouted a warning, Janaxia spun, Stathis having to defend herself again, a kick knocking against her arm with bone-jarring force. A strangled gasp sounded, before the intruder yelled.
‘Stand down, or the Bloodwitch dies!’
Stathis made a wild swing to buy herself time and disengage – Janaxia was now being held hostage, a knife against her throat, one arm restrained. In that position, she’d be dead before being able to bring an arm around for another blast, and she wasn’t strong enough to break free. If she actually wore armour, like a sensible person, she’d be far less exposed to events like this! Or even some fancy collar or something! Parth had managed to overpower and capture her own attacker, slowly pushing a knife into them until they dropped their own weapon. That evened matters up, at least somewhat. Slowly, Stathis moved to a guarded position, less openly aggressive, but able to easily protect herself if needed, trying to reason with their attackers.
‘Now that we’re equal, how about we talk this out?’
‘Evil kidnappers, bringing a member of the Black Wolves here to sacrifice, and thinking to get away with it!’
‘You mean Semari? We were finding somewhere safe to keep her for a while.’ It probably wasn’t actually all that safe, but better than dumping her in the street, which had been a tempting proposition.
Still holding Janaxia hostage, they advanced, the process of stepping off a bed while keeping a knife to someone’s throat without killing them rather awkward looking. It was a young man, flashily dressed, their light armour bearing dozens of brightly coloured ribbons and streamers, all tipped with tabs of metal, flashing as they flicked and moved in the pale light. His thigh-length black boots were buffed to a brilliant shine, complimented by the rapier sheathed at his waist, a short sword on the opposite hip.
‘Oh? You bought an unconscious person to Karakani, not for sacrifice or sale? A likely story, especially considering that she reeks of booze! It’s unfortunate for you that she was recognised, and we were able to organise a rescue party.’
Stathis sighed. ‘She got really, really drunk at a party, and then drank a load of the ferryman’s crazy magical water, which knocked her out. Look, we’re just here for a job, I’ve no interest in selling her, and doubt she’s worth much for anyway.’ Parth was slowly backing towards the door, using her own hostage as cover, content to make her own escape. ‘Dammit Parth, help me out here!’ She at least had the grace to look mildly ashamed, but didn’t stop moving, edging away towards safety.
Semari mumbled something and rolled over, wrapping her arms around their attackers’ knees and pulling them together. Janaxia made a choking sound as the knife pressed against her neck, a trickle of blood oozing out before her captor regained control.
Stathis did what she could to defuse the situation. ‘I guess you know Semari? Then you should know it would take a lot of alcohol to knock her out, especially given the length of the journey across that damned underworld sea. This is a hell of a long way to drag someone, I’m sure there’s easier targets to go after!’
He blanched as Semari shifted her grip and began pulling herself up the man’s body, despite still being unconscious. From past experience, Stathis knew how strong her grip was, the experience quite unnerving, especially once she got high enough that she started using her legs as well, clinging on like an oversized, super-strong cat. Her head appeared over his shoulder, resting quite comfortably on his shoulder, eyes still shut, face in a vacant grin, dribbling slightly.
The look on his face was changing from easy confidence to increasing awkwardness as he tried to balance the increased weight on him with keeping a captive, without skewering his hostage by accident.
‘You think I don’t recognise a Bloodwitch when I see one? That clothing, the bloodstained face and crazy hair, you’re clearly in league with evil!’
Janaxia’s hair flared brightly, face angry, even if she was constrained by the knife worrying her throat, insult to her fashion sense apparently more than she could bear. ‘This is not how it should look, and was entirely the fault of a Stonefang bat! And the dress is a Daritha. An original Daritha, I’ll have you know!’
The man’s response came out as a wheeze, Semari’s arms now squeezing his chest, even as she shifted to make herself more comfortable. ‘If you know her that well, then’, he twisted, trying to avoid an arm crossing his windpipe and choking him, ‘what’s her favourite drink?’
Stathis tried to think of a specific drink – Semari normally drank whatever was on offer. ‘Beer? Uh, dark beer, I guess? She’s not very picky.’ Knowing how weak that sounded, she continued. ‘She’s dumb, but pretty observant, and good at breaking locks. I did once see her eat two entire chickens.’
As his hands were both used in keeping Janaxia hostage, he couldn’t pull Semari’s forearm off his own throat, as he started turning blue, unable to twist enough to breath properly.
‘OK, that sounds good.’ He started to sag, before shoving Janaxia away, yanking down on Semari’s arm and panting in air, although still unable to dislodge his passenger. Janaxia wasted no time in retaliation, slinging a bolt through the air and sending him flying back out the window with Semari still attached, even as Stathis caught Janaxia and stopped her bashing into the wall.
She sighed, thrusting the stumbling Janaxia to one side before running to the window and looking down. The man had fallen onto his back and was slowly climbing back to his feet, clearly injured, while Semari must have instinctively detached herself, as she’d landed neatly, on all fours. Those passing in the street gave them both a wide berth, clearly not wanting to get involved - this was obviously not a place where the forces of law held strong sway. And now she would have to speak to Janaxia about not shooting at teammates, and Parth about not abandoning them in the middle of a fight, but that could wait. Now they had the advantage, they pressed the attack, Parth now having decided to stay, as she bashed a dagger hilt into her hostage’s head and they crumpled to the ground, allowing them to gang up on the sole survivor, who was smart enough to surrender without additional fighting.
They went back to the street to reclaim Semari, now on the dragged out, eye-fluttering edge of consciousness, the locals remaining politely blind to any affair that involved multiple armed people. As soon as she approached, Semari latched onto Stathis, like an animal seeking shelter. At least having someone on her back might provide protection against being stabbed from behind? Now that everyone was calmer and willing to actually talk without violence, the affair became a lot simpler to resolve – apparently they were old compatriots of Semari, who had seen her being bundled through the streets and decided that she was being kidnapped. Not the worst reaction, given that Janaxia’s style did tend towards ‘evil sorcerer queen’ as a baseline – if she’d at least dress in white or brown, it would be better, but apparently that wasn’t acceptable to her refined tastes.