Chris got some odd looks as he strode back toward the wall. Many people had seem him carried armless into the building. When he walked out, he was as fit as a fiddle—arm and all. How many times had he lost his arm, anyway? No wonder he got some odd stares. It wasn’t every day you saw someone regrow a limb within a couple of hours.
At least he thought it was a couple of hours, the sun had lowered in the sky, but the battle beyond the walls raged as furiously as ever.
As they arrived before the walls, the signs of the battle made themselves manifest. Gnoll corpses lay splayed upon the road—thrown from the walls. The cobbles and paving of the roads had been torn up in places and stacked upon the wall walk where defenders cast them down into the fray.
The Gnolls’ lack of weapons was to their detriment. They lacked the intelligence to use them, so they bashed themselves against the wooden walls with animalistic futility. A few defenders nursed cuts and scrapes, and one a long laceration from thigh to torso, but otherwise they seemed mostly unharmed—a benefit of fighting from a defensive emplacement against enemies that could or would not use projectiles.
Until the Gnolls breached the walls, the battle would be mostly bloodless on the human side.
Chris scaled the walls, and the defenders atop gave a small cheer when they saw him, then continued throwing down stones, or stabbing at out-of-sight Gnolls with long spears or polearms.
His eyes roved along the curve trying to find what he was looking for, one of the System generated guards. Chris approached the walls and saw that what had once been an endless tide of monsters had been significantly thinned. Good.
He continued looking along the walls, but saw nothing. No guards. No distinctive armor. No colorful tabards. Just the normal, starter clothes—significantly more dirty than before.
Where were the guards?
There were people bringing food and water to the defenders, along with the occasional bandage or stone to throw—but they were humans, regular Earth humans.
Bruce had been shadowing him, so Chris turned to him. “Where’s Gregor?”
Bruce shrugged. “Somewhere on the wall, I guess.”
Chris chose a direction and began walking, getting halfway before he was stopped by one of the volunteers bringing food and water along the wall. He had a bright smile, blue eyes, and dark brown hair. He quickly shifted his load to one hand.
“Hi! Uh, sorry if this is weird, but I’d really like to shake your hand,” the volunteer said. “I’m Dylan by the way, Dylan Blake.”
Chris looked at him, confused, then held out his hand. “Christopher Hill.”
Dylan’s hand was sweaty when Chris gripped it, Dylan cringed and gave a weak smile. “Sorry, I was never very active before this, haha. Turns out that keeping everyone hydrated is thirsty work.”
“Yes?” Chris asked.
Dylan chuckled awkwardly and let go of his hand, then gnawed on a fingernail. “Bad habit,” he said with a shrug, when he saw Chris looking. “Oh, I just wanted to say thank you for helping us. You were epic out there. It was like watching a top budget fantasy movie. Best CGI, epic SFX, the works. Just incredible.”
“Uh, thanks, Dylan. Appreciate that.” Chris smiled, and then edged around him.
Dylan moved aside and a hunk of bread fell from his arms and rolled off the edge of the wall. “Oh, uh, sorry about that. I’m, ah, sure you’ve got things to do. And I’ve got to get water to everyone. Not energy drinks or isotonic solution, but it’ll do. They never mention this sort of stuff in most video games, right? Thank you again!” Dylan waved, then hurried off, juggling supplies in his arms.
Chris stared after him. “That was weird.”
“Why? You’re like a hero?” Bruce said.
Chris winced, then jiggled his hand around, shaking his fingers free of the beads of sweat Dylan had donated to him. He could have just had his arm absorb it, but that would have been icky. He didn’t want Dylan’s sweat in his bloodstream. That was practically second base. Okay. Not really. But still. Gross.
He inconspicuously wiped off the clinging sweat onto the back of a defender, under the pretense of a pat on the back. The defender startled, glancing back before his gaze brightened and he straightened. “Sir Christopher. Thank you. We’d have been… well, down there,” he gestured toward the heaving field of Gnolls below, “if it weren’t for you.”
“You’re, uh, welcome.” Chris scratched his head, looking away, redness rising to his cheeks. He hurried away. Gah, compliments.
And where were those guards?
Bruce suddenly perked up. “That’s Gregor, over there.”
Chris jogged over, trying to keep as neutral as possible, just in case another weirdo tried to waterboard his hand.
The man, Gregor, was well built and sturdy, with features and a complexion that would make an Aryan jealous. He’d managed to get his hand on a length of chain, maybe the same as Bruce had used when he was doing his best wrecking ball impersonation. Unlike Bruce, Gregor had affixed a large two handed battle-axe to the end of the chain and continually cast it out like a deadly fishing lure, before reeling it in, letting it scythe through the teeming Beast Horde.
Gregor looked up and smiled at the approaching pair, just as he was in the midst of pulling in on the chain. His technique was certainly effective, but everyone nearby had given him a wide berth. The chain continually splattered blood nearby, resulting in everything within several meters’ radius of the blond haired, blue-eyed man being covered in specklings of blood and gore.
“Aha, and you must be the famous Sir Christopher.” Gregor lifted the axe, not minding the chunks of viscera that slumped off its edge, then he slung the weapon and chain over his shoulder, making him look like some mad, cannibal butcher. “What may I do for you?”
“Are the guards safe?”
“Straight to the point, eh? They’re safe. Why do you want to know?”
“They might be in danger.”
“I doubt that. I’ve got three of them here.” Gregor gestured to two guards on his left, one on his right—all three clear of the copious spray of vicera the sturdy man’s weapon produced. “And one over with Philip, since he was so worried about you natives. Better not to have ‘em all in one place. Why? Do you know each other.”
Chris looked at the three men. Those weren’t guards. Then it clicked. Gregor had put them in the same clothing as everyone else. They’d be impossible to discern from anyone else. “No, we don’t. Good thinking though.”
Gregor puffed out his chest and grinned, then tossed his axe lazily into the Beast Horde behind him, keeping ahold of the chain. “That was Philip’s suggestion.”
Chris nodded, just as he saw one of the disguised guards slump forward and tumble over the wall. The Gnolls howls below and the man let out as choked gurgle as the sounds of him being torn to shreds rose to the top of the wall.
“What the hell!” Gregor shouted, turning to follow Chris’ sudden look of disbelief.
Then the second went over. Gregor lunged for him, but he wasn’t quick enough to catch the falling man. Chris and Gregor shared a look, then went for the third guard, catching him just as he keeled to one side. Gregor turned him over, then shook his head in disgust as he saw the man’s glassy and blood-shot eyes.
“What the hell?” Gregor said. “What the actual hell?”
Chris whirled around, looking for someone who could have killed them from close by—maybe with a curse of something. Damned if he knew.
There was no one around except the growing crowd of defenders that paused fighting to congregate around the first three casualties of the afternoon. The first three casualties of Hartshire.
“What the hell?” Chris echoed, under his breath.