Yes, this chapter is pretty rough too. They are all rough. Also, Word seems to hate this version of WordPress, hence the barrage of formating errors.
The Princess seemed extremely dejected about something.
Royals were good at planning ahead but often as not the current moment could stump them rather badly. Just one of the reasons people tried to get them to delay their decisions whenever possible, Grod supposed.
Grod stepped in front of her and out of Cillian’s field of view. Then glanced rather pointedly at the painting of the full length portrait in the back of the cell of Bryan the Great. The one that was covering the tunnel entrance.
Honor appeared to remember that this cell was their way out at that point.
“Congratulations Captain. Well done,” the princess inclined her head slightly and the dark elf dipped his in mocking salute. “What was the proper response, by the way?”
“Tulips are in bloom,” Cillian stated with a self-satisfied smirk.
“They aren’t in bloom. They’ve been dead for months. The reply should have been ‘roses are in bloom.’”
How do we get rid of this asshole? Grod thought to himself urgently. They would need some uninterrupted privacy to get that scroll up and running.
The dark elf shrugged, “I know, but I didn’t think arguing with her was going to do my career any good.”
“And it’s not your wife’s birthday.”
“Our kind doesn’t like to observe the day of our birth, your Highness. Coming into this world is not a matter for celebration so far as we are concerned.”
She took a quick glance at Grod who only shrugged in a resigned, ‘it’s true’ manner.
“I suppose Persey isn’t really aware what flowers are in bloom and at what time of the time year. She’ll probably do better as man than she ever did as a woman.”
“I believe the official line is that she…uh…he has always been a man, your Highness”
“It would, explain a lot,” Honor said.
“If I may say so, your performance was superb your Highness. My suspicions were only aroused when you said something that contradicted a statement by…his Majesty.”
Honor closed her eyes and exhaled long and slow, “she said, ‘Bryan was only a bastard half brother correct?’”
“Close your Highness, King Perseverance said, “throw the bastard in the deepest pit you have. He’s no blood of mine!’”
Princess Honor’s eyes snapped open at that. Why was she so worried about what her sister thought of Bryan? Grod wondered. Although the pit thing did seem a little off. Royalty would kill each other at the drop of a hat. Giving a fallen family member the axe was one thing but giving them lousy accommodations in the meantime was another. It did seem out of pattern to Grod.
“I’ll have to leave that issue to King Perseverance, as well as final determination of your Highness’ own status.”
“Fine then,” Princess Honor tried shooing Cillian away. “You may go about your duties Captain.”
“I would rather stay here. His majesty is likely to be feeling generous today.”
“True,” she said and turned on her heel, although Grod was pretty sure she was thinking furiously. She gave him an apologetic glance before saying, “There is a complication. The good Banner Sergeant will need to be transferred before Perseverance gets here. She won’t want him here for her big confrontation, ‘our conflict ends here my brother,’ scene. I only picked him up along the way for window dressing. You should take him to the military penal barracks until things with him can be settled.”
Thank you, Princess Honor, Grod was only slightly mollified by the fact that his low opinion of all royalty had been validated once more. Then again, there wasn’t a lot to tie him to anything that happened today if they made their escape. Sure there are minotaur remains in the North wing courtyard but if the residents followed their ironclad tradition of hiding under their beds when someone was getting murdered then there weren’t any witnesses. I sure as hell can’t work that kind of next level magic. I might have to take a couple of beatings until Rauo springs me but I’ve been to SERE school, I can take it. Put on my best ‘me dumb orc’ act and I can probably be out of here in a couple of days with nothing but some bruises.
Oh wait, there is that Swamp Elf “Guard” I neglected to slaughter. Damn, what was I thinking? On the other hand once I’m in orc military custody, they are NOT going to spavin me on word of a swamp elf.
It turned out to be academic anyway.
“No, your Highness, I’d rather leave him here. It’s less paperwork for me if the King just orders him killed out of hand.” He met Grod’s eyes and smirked. “Orc. Strip the usurper of his weapons and hand me your own.”
If can get transferred maybe I can bust of the brig on my own. It’s possible depending on who’s on duty. Grod considered. I’ll try kissing his dark elf ass, he decided. It costs me nothing but dignity and frankly I’ve been all out of that for decades.
Grod sank to knees in front of the dark elf making a big show fumbling with his weapons belt, “Honored and Exalted Hundred-Captain, this worthless orc only asked to dine at your table because the Commanding General required it of him, as he must for all…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, orc. I’ve never set eyes on you before,” the dark elf made an airy wave.
Now what? Remind him that I’m Hoard Brigaider Rao’s pet Banner Sergeant? Nah, he wants to feel more important. He probably wants more groveling. Although, this one is a fifty-fifty shot.
“Honored and Exalted Hundred Captain, I have served in your household,” Grod pleaded with wide puppy eyes as he finally got his belt free although he had a deathtrap on on his tomahawk.
Cillian lifted an intrigued eyebrow inviting him to continue.
“It was this lowly one’s ever-lasting glory to serve as your lady wife Arialliana’s robe bearer when she performed the Going Forth by Night dance as Harvest Queen.”
The dark elf was coldly furious in an instant.
A-n-d the toast lands butter side down again, Kevo-Grod’s bad luck holds, the Banner-Sergeant thought to himself. The dark elves like to act like being chosen as Harvest Queen is tremendously prestigious for the family that coughs up said Harvest Queen. The fact that the clan chiefs get a good look at the hottest girl in town dancing nude is a meaningless detail. Unless, in this case, you are her husband.
That was where Grod had met Arialliana come to think of it. The dance had gotten the mad hellish bitch all kinds of fired up. I really need to break things off with her, he promised himself yet again. She is nothing but trouble.
Grod’s thoughts were interrupted by Honor barking at Saluriman, “Are you going to do anything? Grod and I were trying to get you some prep time!”
Oh, that’s what was going on, Grod thought to himself. He was mentally apologizing to the Princess as Captain Cillian was missing the implications of her demands on her “servant.”
“Sorry,” Sal replied with a shrug, “the bars have a Malexandrite core. They’ll interfere with my vocal resonance. Not a lot I can do without special equipment.”
“As soon as King Perseverance gets the news of your party’s capture,” Captain Cillian raised his voice to just under a frustrated shout. He wasn’t following along but he was trying to regain control of things, “she…”
“He,” Fannita cut in helpfully
“HE will be coming here with HIS entire retinue. I should be a full Band-Colonel by evening,” the dark elf was too angry to successfully gloat but he was trying hard. “Orc, hand me your weapons, NOW!”
“Including her new court wizard, Ashtay?” Sal asked Cillian.
“What?” The Captain was too taken aback that a servant had dared address him to answer. But his body language said, yes. Visiting a fallen usurper was a formal occasion.
Sal turned back to Honor, “that’s a problem in this cell. Time to trot.”
“Fuck it,” Honor’s eyes rolled in exasperation. “So much for a clean escape! Grod, kill the son of a bitch!”
Grod rose and spun on his heel in one movement. His arm was a blur. A flash of steel streaked from his hand through the bars and into Captain Cillian’s neck. The dark elf staggered backward, pulling Grod’s tomahawk from a point just below his ear. Blood was already flying out in abundantly copious spurts.
“Okay, he’s out,” Honor faced Sal. “We got to get Bryan up. We have twenty minutes. Maybe. Is that enough time for a healing spell?”
“No, I’d have to sing it and that takes an hour. I don’t have one stored on my rings. And once I start casting that, I’m committed to doing nothing else. Stop in the middle of one of those things and both of us would die. There’s a reason we charge the Wide Earth for them.”
Bryan picked that narratively convenient moment to open his eyes and groan.
Fannita’s stepped over and looked him over. “Pupils are neither fixed nor dilated. If the Duke has had a concussion it isn’t too bad, and his skull isn’t broken.”
There was the rasp of steel against steel. Captain Cillian had drawn his blade and was staggering toward the cell door.
Fannita, glanced at him dismissively, “Carotid artery. He’ll be dead in a minute don’t worry about him.” The dark elf tried to take another step but his knees buckled and he came down on them squatting on his heels wobbling. “See?”
Grod was fine with that but then something crossed his mind. Something deeply frightening. Banner Sergeant Kevo-Grod was genuinely terrified for the first time in his life.
“Craagguck,” Bryan gargled in pain.
“You said he was all right!” Honor snapped at Fanny.
“I never said that,” Fanny replied.
“Is it his speech center? Is it his brain?” Honor fluttered brainlessly.
“Ecks ma jaw,” Bryan slurred.
“How do you know any of that medical stuff?” Sal asked Fannita.
“I’ve been playing a nurse off and on for fifty years. The real money is in authenticity.”
“Honored and exalted Hundred Captain,” Grod said in a shockingly respectful tone of voice. “Eternal night shall shortly embrace you as it must all who draw breath. You should consider that most important thing a member of the Truest Race can. Revenge. If you don’t sheath your sword, this might be construed as us having dueled. I know what that means for me and for the glory of the Truest Race, I will accept that punishment willingly. But I beg you not to disgrace your own memory for having died hand to hand with a child of my caste.
The dark elf looked to be trying to sheath his steel.
“That’s it, sir, you can do it.”
But Captain Cillian was wobbling badly now, he finally went too far over to his right and fell on his side.
“DAMN IT! Okay, okay. You can still make it sir. Just stick the tip in and push.”
Grod cursed himself, for his abject stupidity. Arialliana was always saying the exact same thing and it was going to have life-shattering consequences now for Kevo-Grod. The comment got through to Cillian ///fullname/// when nothing else did. Possibly there had been too much blood clogging up the arrogance nodes of his brain at the expense of neurons assigned to logic. Possibly, he’d never trusted his bride and not without damn good reason. But now his eyes narrowed as for the first and last time in his life, the dark elf experimented with intelligent thought.
Keeping a literal death grip on his sword, Cillian dipped one finger of his free hand in the growing pool of his own blood and began writing in battle glyphs. Orc combat language where each glyph was one word.
“Sir, if you would just…No-no-NO-NO! YOU COCK SUCKING SHIT GOBBLER!! Grod screamed in rage and threw himself at the bars. He had one hand outstretched trying to get a hold of the fallen body of Captain Cillian. The dark elf was just out of range, so Grod changed tactics and tried to retrieve his tomahawk, which was just barely in reach.
With the last of his strength, Cillian kicked the tomahawk a few inches away from Grod’s fingers.
“F-U-C-K!!!” Grod roared in impotent rage.
“What the hell is your problem?” Honor rounded on him.
“That is my issue tomahawk! It’s on my CMR card!” Grod wailed.
“I’ll buy you a new one. I promise.”
“I don’t give a glutching crap about that! There will be no question that I killed him!”
The dark elf’s hand finished the last of its calligraphy and slumped bonelessly to the floor.
“What does that writing say?” Fannita asked Sal.
“Roughly translated, ‘I died in a legal duel with Kevo-Grod.’”
Grod slumped to the cell floor in despair.
“So? Doesn’t that mean you’re off the hook for murdering an officer?” Honor asked.
“Et meebs that Grob jus’ gop marri’ed” Bryan started to give a very pained laugh as Banner Sergeant Kevo-Grod gave his friend the fallen Duke a heart-felt middle finger.
“Revenge” Captain Cillian whispered with a smile on his face as he died.