“But Drew, you need to stop. Think about what you are doing. We will follow you into that prison if you ask it of us. But some of us will probably die and we have to ask ourselves, is it worth it?” Saron looked at me with eyes haunted by death.
“We can’t leave a little girl in that prison. I may not be from around here, but even I can guess about what happens to a slave girl, in a prison, surrounded by unsupervised guards and an evil noble.” I continued in a louder voice for the benefit of the other freemen in the room. “Any man who doesn’t want to join us in her rescue can stay behind without judgement. Maybe you are right Saron, maybe I should go alone. I will do that, if that is what you think I should do.”
“No, I will join you. Despite my reservations, I agree with you. We can’t leave one of our own behind and I can’t deny anyone the right to join us.” Saron sighed. “I just hope that we won’t have to pay too heavy a price in blood.”
“Me too.” I paused for a moment, wondering at the change that had overcome me. I was always a good man with strong morals, that was part of the reason I had gone to med school. But ever since I had created a connection with Maria, a pressure to do the right thing had overcome me, almost to the point of idiocy. I wanted to feel anger at this pressure and at Maria. But I knew, that if I could choose to go without the pressure, I wouldn’t.
This pressure allowed me to ignore my worries and do what was right.
I looked into Saron’s eyes, an unspoken understanding passed between us. I nodded.
Saron turned to Christopher “Have everyone gather here as soon as darkness falls. Send an extra message to Shay, telling her to come here immediately.” He added the next sentence for my benefit “Shay is the one with the necessary skills to scout out the prison.”
The day passed slowly. Shay was a quiet young woman, with soft features and a small frame. She didn’t stay long before leaving to complete the mission we had given her.
“So Christopher, how did you learn these magics?” I asked after she left.
He looked at me with a little bit of hesitation. “I-I was an apprentice at the Mage’s tower. My specialty was mind magic, but I can’t affect anyone’s mind unless they let me, s-so there is no need to worry.”
“I am not worrying, I was just wondering what other skills you had.” I replied, smiling at his response to my question.
“Well… if someone lets me into their mind, I can help them remember things, or if they are asleep, I can enter their dreams. I don’t have many other uses unfortunately, I was only an apprentice and they only teach the more powerful mind skills at the master level. No one wants another Drythan around.” A small spark of fear entered Christopher’s voice as he spoke of Drythan.
“Who is Drythan?” I naturally asked, curious about why Christopher was afraid.
He looked at me in shock, “I guess it is natural for you to not know, living with other beastmen.” He continued slowly, “Drythan was a mind mage about twenty years ago, he took over the mind of the king and terrorized the land. It took ten Master rank mages from the tower to kill him, but by that point, our whole country was in disarray. Without the tower, we likely would have been taken over by another kingdom.”
We didn’t have mind mages in the game, so the idea of them was fascinating to me, but this also told me something else that I should have already guessed; the people here had skills and abilities that my game world didn’t have. Which meant I was at a serious disadvantage in combat because I couldn’t know my opponent's abilities.
I talked with the freemen in the room until the sun left the sky, at which point, we all traveled down to the tavern waiting room.
The freemen trickled in to the tavern in small groups.
Shay arrived a little later than we had planned but looked to be without injury.
She walked up to us and unrolled a map pointing at various spots as she spoke “there are fourteen guards in the prison at any one time. What we truly need to worry about is a bell in the east corridor,” The prison had a simple design, looking almost like a cross with four corridors all meeting at one point in the middle “The bell is behind the entrance and a guard station, as soon as someone rings that bell, you can expect the whole city to come down on us. Catherine is in the north corridor over here, four guards will be standing in the intersection at any point in time, while two guards are always patrolling each corridor. The last two guards will be guarding the entrance. I believe the best plan would be to-”
She is cut short as the doors to the tavern swung open. All of the freemen in the room unsheathed their weapons as four hooded figures walked into the room. I gave a start as I recognized the robes they were wearing, a serpent was wrapped around their robes in various designs.
I walked forward from my position, my tail swishing from a mixture of emotions. “Good evening gentleman, what can we help you with?” I ask with a slight bow of the head.
“We understand that you are about to storm the prison gates. Some fellow mages of ours have been imprisoned there and we would like to join you.”
Saron tensed as him and five others knocked arrows on their bows.
I watched from my spot nearby, waiting for the signal the mages had promised.
Two guards left the insides of the prison, switching with the two guarding the entrance. Suddenly, one of the guards grasped his chest and fell over. The other three gathered around him, then six arrows were loosed, all of them enchanted with some kind of “finding” enchantment. Two of the arrows were blocked by the guard’s armor, but the rest found their home, killing all three of the guards.
One of the mages from earlier turned to me “We have set up a silencing ward, no one will hear the bell even if it does ring. Alas, that is all we can do for you, that damned anti-magic field prevents us from offering you any more help. Also, be careful, there is at least one priest of Dios in there.”
I nodded my head in thanks and then signaled Christopher to give the go-ahead. We quietly entered the gate into the prison, I checked the guard’s pulses. They were all dead.
Saron and some other men grabbed the keys. Each of the freemen had a list of the cell doors we wanted to open, after all, there were some actual criminals down here that we didn’t want to release.
Quietly, we snuck towards the center of the cross, the resting place of the guards.
“Hey, David, I swear I heard something over-” A guard opened a door, getting full view of us.
Saron quickly shot an arrow at him, but some kind of magical ward blocked the arrow.
The man ran shut the door and screamed “Intruders! Intruders have entered the prison!”
I ran to the door and kicked it down, casting [Barrier] right as two crossbow bolts were fired at me.
We couldn’t be caught in a chokepoint like the doorway, so I pushed my barrier forward allowing freemen to stream in through the door behind me.
Opposite me, a priest dressed in robes yelled “[Barrier]!” Just as the freemen started firing arrows back. At that point it became a game of “who’s barrier will break first”.
But I could see it. The priest of Dios was channeling more energy into his barrier. Mine would fall before his. I searched the room, looking for a way to win this losing battle. A table was lying on the floor where the guards had been gambling and drinking. No help there.
There were three entrances to the room, but flanking the guardsmen was practically impossible. Eventually my gaze drifted to my sword. Maybe.
I unsheath my sword. And cast “[Dash], [Pierce]” My dash made me leave my barrier, but my sword miraculously pierced through the other priest’s barrier.
I rolled away from the arrows that I knew would be coming for me. An impact and pain in my shoulder and my leg told me that I wasn’t fast enough.
The freemen took the chance I gave them, and rushed the guards, slaughtering them.
Saron approached me cautiously, “Drew, are you alive?”
“You think a couple of arrows could kill me?” I spat out. “Hurry, pull them out so I can heal myself.”
Saron obliged me. Tears rolled down my face from the pain. “That was really stupid of you.” Saron said, irritation clear in his voice.
“[Heal]” I said, closing my wounds. “Yeah, but the other priest would have won a stalemate.”
A frown appeared on Saron’s face.
“Saron? Just a warning. I only have enough energy for one more Heal. Two, and I pass out.” I spoke with seriousness evident in my voice.
The rest of the freemen finished up our job in the prison while I felt the power of a level up flow through me.
Not bad, one more level up and I should get new abilities for both of my classes I thought as I lifted myself off of the floor. The freemen unlocked the cell doors and we started walking a group of twenty or so former prisoner out of the prison.
Luckily, we didn’t encounter any more resistance as we left the prison and lead the prisoners to the inn. The streets were quiet thanks to the mages who made sure that no one would disturb us as we left the prison.
Leon walked up to me with Catherine asleep on his back. “With your permission Drew, Timon and I would like to take little Cat to her mother as soon as we get back to the inn. She has had a long day.”
A small smile touched my face, “Of course Leon. Go ahead.”
By the time we got back to the inn, I was ready to drop myself in a nice bed. But other matters required my attention.
The mages watched us carefully as we entered.
The former prisoners in our group ran to the mages, practically tripping over themselves in their haste.
“Thank you for your assistance.” Their leader bowed to me and took off his hood, revealing a mane of gray hair and two large Lion ears. “My name is Tal. Tell me, what is a large group of humans, led by a Black Cat doing in our city?”
“My name is Drew. They are just passing through on their way home, and I do not lead them, I am simply helping them on their way home.” I responded, being as polite as I could.
“Interesting. Before you leave, I was wondering if you might be open to a proposition?” Tal keeps his face mostly unreadable, but a slight frown appears on his face, “Unfortunately, these are not the only people that have been taken in by The Church Of Dios. There are others, kept in a dungeon underneath the church itself. Perhaps you would be willing to help us free them?”
I glance over the freemen before responding, “I am afraid that we cannot make a decision like that without discussing it amongst ourselves.” I kept my face carefully neutral, doing my best to copy Tal’s poker face. But even in my old world, I was terrible at poker, so i’m sure he could easily read my expression.
“I see, I see.” Tal said quietly to himself, “Very well then. We shall wait patiently for your answer. In the meantime, you have our gratitude.”
After saying that, the mages gently excused themselves. Most of the freemen followed them, heading back to our camp. Christopher stayed behind with Saron and I.
I sighed as we walked back to our room in the inn. “What do you think Saron? Should we help them?”
Saron answered almost immediately. “No. I don’t think we should.”
“Why not?” I asked, my mind barely working from exhaustion, spells took a lot out of me mentally.
“For one, we have no reason to help them, we don’t gain anything and it is very likely that our next battle won’t be as bloodless as this one was. all we are doing is making us a bigger target for the church, which we definitely don’t want. Yes, what they are doing to their mages is horrible, but it is also stupid as hell. All they are doing is making themselves weaker, and making these mages join their enemies, like Baron Luthor. They are setting themselves up to fail even without our help.”
“I don’t think Baron Luthor has as much power as he wants people to believe,” I responded as I sat down on my comfy cot. I closed my eyes for a moment before I continued. “Why else would the Church Of Maria be gone from this city? No, this battle isn’t as one sided as you want to make it seem. The Church Of Dios is still strong and can likely win against the mages, especially with the mages reduced numbers. And Charlotte Luthor was almost killed while surrounded by a contingent of guards. From what I understand, that is ballsy, even for a noble as powerful as Blackwell.”
Christopher spoke up as well, “You don't know that much about noble’s games Drew.” Christopher’s face reddens as he realized what he said, “I mean, assassinations amongst nobles happen all the time, at least in our kingdom. It isn’t that ‘balsy’ for Blackwell to try an assassination. Though, for him to get the Black Cats to help him... from what I understand, that is quite an achievement.”
I smiled at Christopher to show that I didn’t take his first comment personally “Still, our interference could change who wins this battle. And if humans were to help such a powerful noble, it could help relations between your two countries.”
Saron snorts “I am confident that our kingdom has agents here already and our joining one side could completely topple their plans. Who is to say that Baron Luthor would accept the fact that humans helped him win a battle, when he should have been able to win it on his own. But that isn’t the main focus of our conversation anyway. Should we help the mages? I don’t think so. Fighting The Church Of Dios and Lord Blackwell to save one of our own is one thing. But choosing a side in a war between lords and mages? That is something completely different.”
I yawned, “You make a fair point, but it is not up to us alone.” I spoke making the exhaustion clear in my voice. “Tomorrow, we shall ride to our camp and have a vote to see what we should do.”