A flash in the night as a glint of moonlight caught an exposed axe edge. As quick as it appeared it was gone, hidden under the swathe of black cloak and grubby rags that formed the Halfling. Quick and quiet as a stalking cat ghosting through the night.
Stupid cat, Titan recalled that was the whole reason they were in this mess. Some pet delivery to some lunk too witless to protect his own house. Titan had no clue why the man even wanted it back, it wasn’t even a kitten…
And now they were under attack by Ogres. Ogres! Although truth be told Titan was glad of the interruption, it wasn’t as if he was getting much sleep anyway, not with a bed full of chilli dust that only stopped stinging long enough to itch like balefire.
That only proved it worked though! Gormless as the nature-addled human had been, he’d made an absolute weapon of a fruit; he’d only got a few specks of up his nose and thought his skin might blister right off then and there. Titan laughed abruptly as he thought of himself emptying the whole bag right into the eyes of Kagan Smyth. Why, he’d probably go completely blind! That would teach him.
Laughing made his jaw hurt, Envar had clocked him good it had to be said. Envar the awkward. There was one who said little and struck often, and Titan liked that about him truth be told. Korotir was the same, lunkheaded though he was. Once those guards had laid hands on Korotir, you knew what you were going to get. Murderous rage. No fists, no warnings, just mashed bones, impaled torsos and a hefty great shield in the teeth of any enemy. He was no giant but he was the next best thing, a hulking great tower of violence that Titan knew, absolutely knew, was squarely in his corner.
It has surprised him how angry he’d gotten when the guards had tackled Korotir, he hadn’t even thought how to react, just that they were enemies and he had to kill every last one of them. He’d of done it too, he remembered the guard’s stupid-eyed shock as he’d stabbed his sword right through his neck, the blood bubbling up, the human’s mouth opening and closing mutely like a landed fish. Envar had saved the man’s life for sure. Well, him and Natalia of course, that magic of hers seemed to be able to undo even the handiwork of a great artiste such as himself. It they hadn’t of done what they had, if Atarah hadn’t of done….whatever it was that she’d done, Titan knew he would have buried an axe in the skull of every one of those guards. It was so strange how he’d stood up for his party members…he was sure he’d never been so quick to violence before…and it wasn’t even him that got attacked. They’d of done the same for him though…probably. Titan had to admit this whole ‘comradery’ thing was an odd feeling, but not a bad one.
Saving your enemies was a ridiculous concept, but Titan had to concede that Natalia’s way had worked out OK. The Ogres would smush those guards for sure, they’d never get the chance at revenge and they were too useless to succeed at it even if they did. Not only that but now Titan was racing to break someone out of jail instead of being there himself…which was nice.
He was in his element now. He leapt from one rooftop to another, rolled and regained his feet in one fluid motion, the slippers on his feet making nary a sound as he patted across the tiles. There was a large gap to the next longhouse, too long to jump but with two slender shop signs spanning the distance. Titan balanced across them nimbly, a hop between the two landed with extreme confidence. The he was across, racing down the next roof, the cool night air feeling wonderfully soothing against his chili scorched skin.
Titan imagined himself returning triumphantly with the devil thing, saving the entire group with a stunning jailbreak that only he could have pulled off. Oh how they would laud him. Natalia would shower him in gold, Atarah would start telling legends about him like she did with her ghost-father, Korotir would swear some blood oath of loyalty, Envar would…well Envar would probably just be all awkward about it and hardly say anything, but you couldn’t win them all. It would be easy, he was making excellent time, just one more corner and he’d crack whatever pitiful shack these bumpkins called a jail and show Nano who was the real technician around here…
But it wasn’t a shack. Quite the opposite in fact, it was a fully-fledged fortress keep built to house hundreds, looming menacingly into the night. Where there was supposed to be a dilapidated wooden wall Titan saw a sheer face of thick mortared rock. Where there was meant to be a single drunken watchman sleeping his shift away on a rocking chair, Titan saw regular patrols of steely eyed soldiers. He considered just turning around and going back to the inn, after all it wasn’t as if he actually wanted Tranled out of jail. The psychopathic devil-thing could rot as far as Titan was concerned. But then he thought of Natalia’s face as he told her of this failure. That vague look of skeptical disappointment she got sometimes (often), the single raised eyebrow and exasperated sigh. He thought of Oren changing the words to his song, for the worse, of Natalia asking Nano next time. Plus, as an afterthought, there was the small matter of the horde of murderous Ogres that they’d have to slay without spells. No it was too much, this would be done and done quickly and all glory and riches would be his. He spat on the ground.
The mechanical part Titan’s mind engaged and the keep became a problem to be cracked rather than an opponent to be feared. In a moment he scanned it, seeing points of ingress, guard’s lines of sight, good hiding spots and open ground he would need to dash across quickly. Then he spotted where the jail actually was, not buried deep in the bowls of the castle as he feared, but right there in front of the gate, barely more than a raised hole covered in iron bars, a pit of shame open to the entire town.
Titan cackled. Tranled’s time here must have been supremely uncomfortable and utterly humiliating. Perfect. This wouldn’t be as bad as he feared but he could still see a half a dozen guards watching over the cell. What he needed was a diversion…
Luckily there happened to be just the thing in motion, the town was under mortal threat. Titan sunk into an ally.
‘Attack, Attack, everyone to battle stations, Goldenfields is under Attack!!’ He yelled at the absolute top of his lungs, before darting through shadow to a pile of barrels at to the other side of the street, as far as possible away from the source of the sound.
The peace of the night was shattered, but nothing happened immediately. Titan saw a few of the guards outside the gate look at each other bemusedly, totally unsure what to do. As luck would have it, just then a bell on the other side of town began to ring urgently, once, twice, three times. It fell dead but others began to answer it, the keep began to ring, the walls began to ring. Shouts rang out and all of a sudden, everywhere the night was a cacophony of sound. Guards in full armor began to pile out from the keep and towards the center of town, calling to each other with fear in their eyes, unsure of the threat but carried along by the momentum of their colleagues. Titan watched from the shadows as the stream slowed to a trickle, then nothing at all. He emerged from the alley and headed to the cell.
Tranled looked haggard and tired, but disappointingly not completely miserable. His robes were still in good condition for example, and his skin glowed dull red beneath them.
‘Listen up and listen well Pinky Devil. I don’t like you, in fact I can hardly stand you, but right now the town is under attack by Ogres and we need your magic. I’m here to break you out but there are TWO conditions, non-negotiable.’ Titan hissed the words too fast; he’d gone over the speech many times in his head and now found he wasn’t savoring the moment. Tranled merely blinked up back at him, his eyes glowing beads of red. Titan pressed on.
‘Condition one, if you ever, EVER burn me again, I’ll bury an axe so deep in your skull your head will split right in half. Condition two, I broke in to your stupid house, past your pathetic locks, me, Titan, ME! I did it and robbed you and there is nothing that you can do about it. Everything I found there is mine now so you need to drop all thoughts of revenge right now and forever or you’ll stay here for good. Is that agreed?’
There was an achingly long silence as the Teifling blinked coolly back up at him from under his horns. As if Titan was a piece of meat Tranled was deciding how to best barbeque instead of a friend risking his neck to spring him from jail. For a moment Titan considered bolting away from the cell before some dread devil-magic came rushing up and burnt him to a crisp, but Tranled only put one hand behind his back and said.
That would have to do for agreement. Titan fished a pick from a pouch in his cloak and set to work on the heavy lock. It was a crude, clumsy thing and it shouldn’t have been a problem for a master such as himself. His skin still itched though, and the devil Tranled kept staring at him, making him feel even more uncomfortable. Tranled started to grow agitated, obviously painfully aware of how long this was taking in full view of any guard who happened to look this way. He started to pace in his cell like a caged beast. Minutes passed, Titan began to fear that he would fail, be humiliated after that whole speech and all his efforts, that he’d have to admit defeat and slink back to Natalia empty handed. Just as the tension was no longer bearable, just before Tranled’s patience ran out, before Titan’s nerve broke, the lock popped open with a tiny sigh.
Tranled exploded out of the cell, shocking the Halfling utterly and hauling him up against a wall by his clothes.
‘Listen, I need my things! You understand me? I can’t cast spells without my things and you, you’re going to get them for me, understand? If you want me to kill these Ogres, you have to go in there and get my stuff and you have to do it right now.’ Tranled hissed urgently, inches away from Titan’s face, pointing towards the tower.
Titan came back to his senses and wriggled free, rearranging himself as coolly as he could. ‘Sure, no problem’ he said with as much nonchalance as he could manage which wasn’t much at all. He was inwardly dreading the fact he would have to break into the imposing tower after all…
The Halfling took a few steps towards the tower and looked it over again. He wanted to convey the impression he was formulating a cunning plan rather than simply shitting himself with fear. He looked behind him to see if Tranled was paying attention. He was, unfortunately. Actually that was a massive understatement; Tranled was following Titan’s every move with rapt expectation, as if his very life depended on Titan’s quick success. Perhaps it did.
Titan had no clue how best to break in but a small window was ajar ten feet above the floor and that was as good a place to start as any. Titan motioned his head and Tranled look the hint. He hefted the Halfling up to his shoulders, and then, with much bickering and complaining, onto his head. The Teifling was all wiry and lean under those robes, with none of Korotirs towering strength. He worked as a ladder well enough though and Titan was able to grab with lead lining of the window and haul himself up.
‘Third door on the left’ hissed Tranled. ‘Here, take this’ continued the Teifling and thrust a pouch into Titan’s palm just as he was about to swing himself through the window.
As luck would have it the other side of the window revealed a small, unmanned mess room. Flagons lay overturned on the table and there was a still steaming plate of stew, obviously abandoned in the haste of the guards. Titan clambered down and went to the door, opened it a crack. Clear. He eased himself though the door and padded down the corridor which was disappointingly well lit and worryingly devoid of cover.
‘Speed, speed, speed’ thought Titan, as he scampered along. Where exposure was unavoidable, best make it as short as possible. One door passed, two. He could see the left that should be the impound coming up, just a few more steps-
Right then a guard rounded the corridor and abruptly stopped looking right at him, shocked. There was a supremely awkward moment as they both regarded each other, each wondering how to react.
Titan had no plan. Out of instinct rather than design, he flung the pouch that was in his hand, the one Tranled had given him, towards the guard.
Disappointingly, it was a cloud of beautiful glitter that flew out rather than a blinding acid or cunning smoke or any of the half a dozen other things Titan might have hoped for. The guard was obviously anticipating pain, but as the flecks settled all about him and he inspected himself, he found himself completely and worryingly unharmed.
Well that was just perfect; he had the initiative and all he’d done with it was make the man look fabulous. Titan made a note to kick the warlock in the shins when, and if, he got out of this. With a triumphant yell, the man drew his sword-
And began to float…. Titan’s mouth was agape. The guard was just as gobsmacked as he worked his feet furiously but without traction, trying desperately to regain directional control. Titan turned and ran but he hadn’t got far before the guard worked out his new physics, he lunged forward bodily, sword held ahead of him like a lance. Gathering speed faster and faster, he careened towards the Halfling with a shout, anticipating a swift and imminent victory. Suddenly, Titan swerved and flung open a door in the man’s face, he was moving far too fast and with too little control to avoid it. With a sickening thunk, the heavy wood connected with the guard’s skull, instantly knocking him cold. He floated past Titan with an odd serenity and came to a heap at the end of the corridor.
Titan was almost too stunned to laugh. Almost. Why break into an impregnable fortress crawling with guards when you could break into an impregnable fortress crawling with flying guards? Titan cackled to himself as he made his way to the third door.
Just as Tranled had said, this was the impound. It was supremely disorganized, a total clutter of weapons, scrolls and knick-knacks that Titan hadn’t the first clue how to make sense of. There openly on the table though was a gnarled twist of wood that Titan supposed constituted a wand.
Briefly, Titan again considered the wisdom of arming the Warlock. As it was he was as helpless as a babe, he’d said so himself. With this though…Titan well remembered the searing, indescribable pain of the fire that Tranled had so carelessly hit him with, the fire that Titan was sure he had dodged, but that seemed to hungrily seek him out anyway. He remembered the horrible psychobabble of that demonic voice in his head that probably only lasted for seconds but felt like hours. He knew those flames would have killed him if it hadn’t been for Natalia’s intervention and a terrible death it would have been too.
Was it really wise to give up his only leverage and take the word of the devil-thing that he would act peacefully? To blindly hope that he was somehow grateful enough that he wouldn’t seek revenge for the little break in? Titan regretted admitting it now, it was sweet at the time but it had put him in a terrible positon.
But he had seen how destructive the Warlock could be. If they were to prevail over the Ogres and get out of this accursed town alive they would need his magic, simple as that.
And as for leverage, Titan ran his thumb over the edge of one of his axes, wicked-sharp; it drew a bead of blood immediately.
‘Here’s your leverage’ he muttered to himself before opening his sack and indiscriminately bundling every object on the table within it.
When in doubt, put it in the sack.