This is a profoundly stupid way to conduct an assassination, Grod thought to himself as he gouged the Swamp Elf’s eye out his skull.
Grod had crossed his middle-finger over his index and used his thumb to keep the rest of his fingers down and out of the way. His hand had lanced quick as a cobra strike. It doesn’t take much strength to pop an eyeball. Speed is everything.
Using archers? Indoors? Especially when a dagger would work so much better for an elimination. It wasn’t just tradition, Grod considered in the back of his mind as he absentmindedly, made a smoothly elegant left hand draw on his gladius, (his right hand being a little busy and gooey at the moment). Practical is tactical and a dagger is much more tactically sound for this kind of op.
The first Elf screamed high as he dropped his bow and staggered backwards clutching his hands to his ruined eye. Grod ignored him for the moment as he gripped the cross guard of his short sword’s pommel for added, if uncomfortable leverage. He jerked his hips as he stepped into his southpaw sword slice. His blow chopped so deeply into the second archer’s neck that his head remained attached only by a flap of skin. That one hit the ground like a puppet whose strings had just been cut.
Less than a second had passed.
If either of them had bothered with or been aware of uniform regulations this might have been difficult. The reason The Guards wear gorgets around the neck is to prevent being murdered like this.
One was dead and the other was now an archer with no depth perception…and he was screaming a lot. No discipline at all there, Grod thought to himself in disgust. You wouldn’t catch an orc sobbing like a baby because he’d had a leg or two lopped off. Regardless he didn’t have time to kill him He knew that when he half blinded him.
Speed was everything right now.
Hopefully the noisy one didn’t have friends nearby. Grod hadn’t seen any on his way to Bryan’s chambers. There probably wasn’t any help coming for them. This little operation smelled of the hip shoot mission, no real planning. Which meant no back up.
Good. This was going to be dicey enough as it was.
Four hostiles left. One potential ally being pinned down by three of them while they were trying to chuck him out a window. Also, the primary objective of this mission, Crown Prince Branadoc looked like he would be breathing his royal last shortly. There was one Swamp Elf masquerading as a Guard shortbird colonel, that looked ready to speed that project along.
Oh… Him, Grod thought to himself sourly as he recognized “the Colonel.” The quotation marks around “the Colonel” were now mandatory so far as Grod was concerned. Grod’s instinct was to ignore that one and rescue the man he rather presumptuously called his friend. Although as a (nominal) subject of the crown his duty was clear. Save the prince.
Alsoooo, there was the matter of being caught on the wrong side of a palace coup, which he most certainly would be, if his side’s only available monarch was taken suddenly dead.
Besides Grod had had some run-ins with Ruyined and while not at the top of Grod’s list, he was most definitely on it.
The orc had already worked out these details when he was busy pointing out to the archers that he was not actually in the service industry. He had now targeted the Swamp Elf “Colonel” and was approaching him at a dead run. Bryan, he hoped, could take care of himself for the few necessary seconds Grod would have to invest in butchering El Ruyined.
El Ruyined for his part, looked back and forth between Branadoc and Grod in fatal indecision. The sword was poised for the death stroke. The orc couldn’t reach him time to save the young king. But the Swamp Elf wouldn’t be able to save himself after that. He’d be physically over committed by murdering Branadoc. And he knew Grod would chop him into pieces before he could pull his weapon out of the fat slob.
From a mission oriented standpoint there was nothing that resembled a choice. His only reason for existence at that moment was to kill Branadoc. It wasn’t just a duty for his new
queen king. It wasn’t just a favor for his super hot half-sister. It was a legup for his entire people. King Perseverance would seriously owe them for this. And Perseverance always paid her debts, she was legendary for it. If he got killed doing the job that would be icing on the cake. King Persey was born a daughter of the regiments, dying in her service would mean a lot to her.
El Ruyined Prince of the Methaphelian People, made the only decision he could, the one that he had been born and bred for.
“GET THE ORC, YOU STUPID ASSHOLES!” Ruyined screamed frantically at his remaining men. Clumsily drawing his own falchion, while he trippingly backpedaled away from Kevo-Grod.
Swamp Elf fatalism was almost instantly apparent in Ruyined’s serfs.
Things had been going well for them for quite awhile. That meant something horrible had to be on it’s way. Life in the Grand Delta Swamp does not breed optimism. It breeds nearly everything else, Malaria. Dengu-dengu flu, Yellow fever, Red fever, Black fever, monstrously disgusting Corpse Flies, rabid Swamp Dingos, the amazingly inbred Swamp Elves themselves and the only happy thing in those swamps in first place, the joyfully ravenous Raptor-Gators that continuously feasted on all of them. By the time Banner Sergeant Kevo-Grod had pulled his tomahawk out belt. They had begun mournfully singing their death songs.
El Ruyined had gotten far enough away from Branadoc that he had took up a cross guard stance with this swords.
Swamp Elves favored that school but Grod found it a ridiculous affectation. The real elves… The High Elves had been said to favor it those techniques. So the Swamp Elves tried to ape them. Cross guard was only useful if you were inhumanly precise, lightening quick and wanted to make beautiful scarlet spraying dance out of dismembering your opponent. So far as a the orcs were concerned the High Elves had been sadistic assholes and they didn’t miss them in the least.
What Grod found more ridiculous than a cross guard stance, was the idea of hurling your tomahawk in the middle of a fight. Brilliant method of disarming yourself as Grod leaned hard over and disarmed himself.
His tomahawk whirled viciously across the room on a diagonal slant and buried itself in tendon cluster of the now clinically depressed would be assassin pinning down Bryan’s right arm. That Swamp Elf collapsed before he could even scream as his leg collapsed beneath him.
Grod’s own hipshoot mission was doing better than theirs. That particular Swamp Elf abandoned his grip on Duke Bryan’s right arm. Bryan did that elf the limited favor of wrenching Grod’s tomahawk out of his knee.
Duke Bryan was now armed.
Grod could now focus his full attention on the Swamp Elf “Colonel.”
Grod snapped his sword over to his strong hand and pulled his dagger out of his boot. He closed in hard on El Ruyined.
The Swamp Elf Prince for his part tried to get his subordinates back on mission, “FORGET THAT ONE! ATTACK THE ORC NOW OR HAVE YOU ALL FLOGGED TO DEATH!!!”
But his reinforcements had problems of their own. One was down with a destroyed knee. And the other two hadn’t had weapons to hand when they were trying to persuade Duke Bryan to take a walk off the balcony. Bryan had already gotten in a chop deep into the shoulder of the one that had been holding his other arm. He was frantically wrapping an arm around the Duke’s neck, using all of his strength to choke the human out.
Grod advanced on El Ruyined. His dagger held in an “ice pick” in the orc’s armored gauntlet in front of him ready to parry the first of Ruyined’s strokes. His short sword was pointed to the rear in a full trailing guard. It wasn’t that effective of a guard position but it played hell with Ruyined’s mind. It said, I can not only kill you whenever I like, I can afford to use dumb flashy shit to win cool points doing it.
Ruyined had the sense to keep jogging backwards. It wasn’t cowardice… It wasn’t just cowardice. The orcs always fought at close range. It was why they used gladiuses and tomahawks. A long sword has a minimum engagement range of about one and a half arm lengths. When a gladius wielding orc got into bad breath range, half of a long swordsman’s tactics were rendered useless, simply because he couldn’t swing his sword and thrusting wasn’t going to happen at all. Short sword on the other hand can do all kinds of nasty damage when an orc was up close and personal.
If Ruyined could keep the range long enough for…well long enough. His men could get on with protecting his life. After that he could have them tortured to death at his leisure for not obeying him instantly.
The Swamp Elf that had his arm around Bryan’s neck had finally given up trying to choke him out due to the fact that Bryan, (being of sound body and paranoid mind), had not neglected to wear his gorget. That Swamp Elf finally jumped backwards to get enough space to draw his own long sword.
Duke Bryan stopped chopping up the Swamp Elf on his right side and skipped sideways like an electrified crab, planting a solid thumping side kick on the chest of the third.
The Third Swamp Elf on the Balcony reared backwards to take as much energy out of the Duke’s kick that he could. And then was suddenly and forcefully reminded that he was The Third Swamp Elf on the Balcony. The beautiful and ornately carved marble guard hit him mid thigh.
He toppled gracelessly over the edge of the side.. His sword which he had finally managed to draw went flying uselessly out of his hand as he frantically grasped for the edge of the rail. And caught it! He was holding on to it only by his fingertips but he had it.
His elation dimmed upon seeing the form of Duke Bryan tomahawk in hand, closing in and focusing in on his fingers.
El Ruyined fumed as fe heard The Third Swamp Elf on the Balcony become the Swamp Elf No Longer on the Balcony in Any Significant Way Unless You Count Dismembered Fingertips. Thanks to his incompetent subordinates, this fight was getting close to one on one and those are always terrible odds for any Swamp Elf.
El Ruyined now had to fight an armed and able combatant for the first time in his life and he didn’t really care for that at all. But with nothing to lose and certainty that Grod wouldn’t accept his surrender he attacked.
El Ruyined had heard a story that the greatest swordsman in the world doesn’t fear the second greatest, he fears the worst because that one is the least predictable. With that nugget in mind he spammed Grod. He was a completely unpredictable whirlwind of sword strokes. Striking high, slashing low. Making frantic cuts with the Duke’s straight edged longsword and nearly useless thrusts with his own curved falchion. In that moment El Ruyined felt utterly alive and in the moment. He knew the orc couldn’t predict where his swords would come from because he mostly didn’t know himself. He saw Kevo-Grod take a step backwards. And then another.
The joy of combat, (which to his surprise turned out to be completely different from the joy of murder), filled his heart. This was so much better than cutting the throats of those unarmed villagers from Leighland Province. He felt a surge of joyful power as he pressed forward. El Ruyined actually began to dream of victory. That he was going to be the first of his people who wasn’t lying about it to actually win this kind of a one on one fight. Hell he had witnesses and everything even though one of them only had one eye and wasn’t paying enough attention to him.
Slash. Slash. Whirl. Charge. Thrust.
He was going to have to forgo executing them now but he could live with that. Well maybe later after they got the word got out.
Slash. Whirl. Charge. Thrust. Thrust.
The problem was that Grod had heard that story about the worst swordsmen in the world and knew it was bullshit. Everyone had a rhythm to how they fight. Even the world’s worst swordsman. On El Ruyined’s next pass. Grod dropped down to one knee while whipping his sword into around into a flat overhead guard. Then hooked his dagger behind the Swamp Elf’s knee as stepped forward to thrust.
Slash. Thrust. Hack, “FUCK!”
The hamstrung Ruyined crashed face first into the polished marble flooring, screaming and cursing Kevo-Grod for having cheated in a way that he simply could not.
Grod’s sword crushed it’s way through his back ribs and into the Swamp Elf Prince’s heart.
His prince’s death cry was enough to fatally distract the already badly wounded second Swamp Elf. Duke Bryan closed in on him and wrenched his sword arm into a straight lock. Using his greater weight and muscle mass he pulled his would be assassin down to the ground and torqued the shoulder joint in the wrong direction with a muffled crunch. Before he could even scream, Bryan landed the tomahawk into the back of his neck.
Grod and Bryan both looked over at the door when the screaming, half blinded archer rather too abruptly stopped doing that.
That archer had gone from clutching his eye to clutching his throat. He collapsed against the doorway and bonelessly slid down it’s frame. Revealing behind him a profoundly unattractive young man and his too hot for him girlfriend.
Grod looked at him and said, “You said you were a magician! And you had to use a knife for that?”
Saluriman shrugged which always made him shudder a bit in this body because of the hoop expanders in his ears. “A dagger is better for this kind of work.”
Grod shrugged in agreement, “okay where’s the…”
Before Grod could ask, his question was answered. A trim young girl with strawberry blonde hair, flew into the room.
“Princess Honor, it’s a little… messy in here,” Grod tried to warn her off. There was no reason a girl like that needed to something like this. Time enough for that later in life but that kid was just starting out.
She ignored Banner Sergeant Grod completely as was her royal prerogative and ran with her arms outstretched for Duke Bryan.
Honor stopped cold, her eyes going wide as she took in the half-brother shaped form gasping on the floor. “Oh god Bran, what did you do now?”
Branadoc roused himself. Gathering every ounce of strength he had left in his dying body and managed to moan, “it’s…all…his…fault.”
Grod looked at Bryan, “does he mean you or me?”