Everyone but Vulrick, who knew this sort of thing was bound to happen, realize that they’ve been too loud, and that they’ve not only kept themselves dull to hear the enemy, but also loud enough to be detected.

The knob turns, and Rayull scans the situation:

They have enough time to either grab the nearby and get to a long-range cover or go straight up to the door and fight at melee. Leading a squad is so different from fighting magical foes like in the more traditional sorts of missions a Knight of Old Reined might find himself in.

Regardless, he is a warrior, and an experienced one at that.

Rushing for the side of the door, he thrusts his arm forward in command. With three to a side, they close into the shadows as the knob turns fully, the door giving way.

The easterner at the other side coos out a bored sentence to the two dead in the room. The room is dark in comparison to the bright outside, so it takes his eyes a moment to adjust. Two more enter the room with the front man, and then he realizes they’re dead.

The man screams “help!” in the Eastern tongue just as Carl leaps out from the side.

Bitch!” the Whihelmishian shouts with a cutting grin. His drawn sword skews the man (Utra Illenmard, age nineteen, blacksmith’s apprentice, enjoyed his grandmother’s cooking so much that he wrote a poem for her about it) and pushes him to the side as the two others draw their guns.

With a visceral movement that Cet can hardly even register, Garl thrusts his gaunted hand right into the left man’s chest (Bolnar Illenmard, age nineteen, blacksmith’s apprentice, budding music writer), the singular moment Hoss’Rayull tears the right man’s head (Johk Retannahay, age twenty four, son of a merchant, spent most of his time watching birds) asunder as if it were a melon.

A hail of confused fire smash into the deep foyer from the open doorway- at least a dozen easterners screaming as they reload and waste their shells in a manic horror.

Ando! Ando!” A particularly deep-voiced easterner yells.

Vulrick skews his breath and reflexively crouches.

Rayull looks over. “What?”

Cannon!” Vulrick shouts.

In a time-removed second, a large artillery shell glides through the solid brick to the right of the door. It travels right past Rayull, and over Cet’s head.

Bayl stares as the hailing gunfire continues to the unprotected Rayull, who just barely kept his balance from the shock. He takes a deep breath. “Front, go!” he yells to the three.

Vulrick and Carl move out of the frame cover and charge the easterners. The mass of them were still reloading or mentally recuperating, but three are aimed for the door. As Awnway readies from range, Vulrick raises his thick, battered shield and draws his sword. With Carl right behind him, Vulrick is smashed by a blinking mass of rifle-bullets.

Bayl, shakingly loading his crossbow, watches Vulrick and Carl rush mercilessly into the party of the enemy.

Vulrick slams an easterner (Mard Hanstell, age sixteen, obsessed with martial arts) and skews another (Boldar Yyll, age twenty-two, painter, two kids) as Carl splits through three in one stroke. There are so many dying, it’s hard to keep track of them all. One easterner was prudent enough to use the often-belittled bayonet attachment- he thrusts forward and marks Carl in the shoulder.

Carl turns right around and punches him before delivering a long, razor-edge cut to his skull.

Bayl, wide-eyed, and Awnway, knowing his weapons would be of no use at this range, watch in awe as the two utterly churn the fourteen easterners into a bloody mass of gore.

Not all of them will be immortalized in this book.

Carl laughs, smashing his foot down into the bodies while Vulrick scans the area to make sure there’s no more surprises waiting for them. One of the Ulterians had a small, back-packable cannon that they set up to fire through the door. This would explain the small size of the munition in comparison to the usual, field-artillery variety.

Vulrick turns around and speaks to Rayull.

“They’re cleared out, sir,” he says.

Rayull takes a breath.

A note from KellInkston

Enjoying it so far? That Carl's quite the wild one, isn't he?

About the author


Bio: Hey, traveler!

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