“Most wars aren’t won on the battlefield.”
I sneak closer to the window, but the guards who are positioned all over the area make it hard to do so. Fortunately, there is a convenient spell which solves the problem of listening in on the rebels. It enhances all sounds which reach my ears. To my utter dismay, even the spell doesn’t help much in this case. The two men inside the cottage are always whispering.
A bush just ten metres from the shed’s window is the only hiding place which provides at least a little cover. So it’s hard to get close enough to listen in on their conversation.
It took me long enough to reach this spot and to find out who is leading this rebellion. After my arrival in this village, my special talents made it easy to identify the rebels' command staff. They are taking great pains in keeping it a secret, but not all of the villagers in this town wear the slave collars which hamper my investigation.
Even after learning about the old man who is organizing the rebellion, I resisted the urge to take him captive. While he is clearly the one who is in charge, he also wears a slave collar, which must mean that he is yet another puppet. I have no interest in catching yet another middle man.
I can't be sure of it, but I have a feeling that he would simply be replaced. And while he is one of the commanders, there is no guarantee to get worthwhile information from him. More than one slave died during the questioning without giving away a single word, even when I used all my power.
No. If interrogation isn't a foolproof way to get to the bottom of this mess, then I need to identify someone who can lead me to the solution.
Now, I'll finally learn what's going on. A quick check reassures me that the patrolling guard isn’t in sight. I get up and sprint towards the cottage. Reaching the window, I drop to the ground beneath it. A peek into the small cottage allows me a glance at the dark figure. A dark cloak is hiding most of his body. He arrived in the village this evening and immediately paid a visit to the rebellion's leader.
The old man receives a pile of notes from the hooded figure. Are those instructions for future operations? If so, then it would be a big achievement to get my hands on this information.
They are talking, the old man mentions orks more than once. Straining my ears, I edge just a little closer to the glass. Why do they have to whisper? Aren't they in a small shanty at the edge of town? They are far too cautious. Are they under instructions to stay vigilant at all times?
Just at that moment, the hooded figure jerks his head up and looks at the window, directly into my eyes.
“Spy!” the hooded man screams.
My whole body tenses in anticipation. I have to get them before they can escape.
But the hooded man doesn’t act according to my expectations. Instead of fleeing with the old man, he charges directly at the window. He raises his hand and I notice the spell just in time. Surprised, I step back and try to avoid the pieces of shattered glass.
I roll backwards over my shoulder and get back to my feet just as the hooded figure jumps through the window. He draws a sabre and the silver blade blurs. It parts the air just an inch in front of my eyes.
“Hahaha. Look at the rat. It’s the elves’ spymaster! I expected more from someone like you!”
He knows about me?
The man follows me and I draw my own blade. He probes my defence with a few quick strikes and jabs. My sword repels his attacks and I evade where it isn’t practical to block. His inhuman speed doesn’t give me the opportunity to talk. It takes me somewhat off-guard to fight someone who can match my ability with the sword.
He weaves his attacks together as if sword-fighting is an effortless dance for him. Nobody has such speed! Slowly, he is forcing me backwards. Step by step I lose ground. Yet, his technique seems crude and brutal. It’s as if I am fighting an untrained peasant with vastly superior speed and strength. The situation is a conundrum to me.
Given the chance, I strike at his blade to stop his playful combination of attacks and use the chance to gain some distance. “We don’t have to do this. There is another way.” I lay as much power into my voice as I can.
The man grunts and reaches for his head, lowering his sword. I can only see his mouth, which parts to reveal a row of perfectly white teeth. He is gritting his teeth. The rest of his head is hidden by his hood.
Grinning, I step forward to finish it.
“No!” His sword rises and blurs.
By pure instinct, I return my own weapon to a guard position and avoid the fatal blow just barely. The sabre still bites into my flesh, creating a nasty wound from my shoulder down to my elbow. Grunting, I use his lowered guard to kick him. My booted foot lands in his belly and drives him back. “What the fuck are you!? How can you resist my ability!?”
He grins and shifts his blade around. “Call me Kerrigan. I exist to give people like you a few headaches.”
The man launches himself forward, but I am prepared. Our swords clash and I quickly draw the dagger from my belt, ramming it into the man’s side. He doesn’t cry out. Instead, he simply takes the wound and headbutts me.
I feel one of my teeth break and stab him again, infusing my mana into the knife. Electrical energy surges through him, but this time, he cries out.
Revealing an egg-shaped device from under his coat, he throws it onto the ground and suddenly everything is covered in smoke. I swing my blade, but it connects with nothing. No! I can't lose them like that!
“I think that I bought them enough time. Let’s adjourn this duel for now.”
I follow the voice and leave the smoke, but there is nobody. Crying out in anger, I spit out blood and stomp my foot onto the ground. “This isn’t over!” There is no sign of my targets, so I choose a random direction and start jogging. Maybe I can find their tracks.
A look at my dagger reveals deep, dark blood. “Whatever you are… you aren’t human.”
I draw in a deep breath and try to calm down. Next time I won't be caught off guard. Still, it's worrying that the rebels have people who have the ability to delay me. Maybe I should go back to the king and call for reinforcements in this matter.