They awoke at dawn to the morning bells. Leon rose easy enough, only a slight headache. Roger was a different matter. Sprawled across the open ground, only slightly stirring after the bell tone was well and over. Leon reached out for his waterskin fruitlessly.
Looking around he saw Roger finishing the last of its contents in a matter of seconds. Tossing the empty container next to an identical empty waterskin.
“That hit the spot, hurry up I need breakfast.” Roger said, rubbing his eyes.
“Fine. I gotta get a drink anyways.” Leon conceded, tugging on a linen shirt and trousers.
Leon started putting his armor in a rucksack, having difficulty without help. Though the residual alcohol in his system certainly wasn’t helping either.
“Here, I’ll give you a hand.” Roger gestured to Leon to hold open the bag, while he started to grab various pieces of armor. ''Hardly seen you with it off since we left Arotha.”
“That's the problem. I haven’t. Thing smells. With all the blood from yesterday, figured today’d be a good time to wash up.”
“God, that explains it. ‘Ere I was trying to think of a nice way to tell you ya’ reek!” Roger exclaimed, wincing from the volume of his own voice. “That all of it?”
“Yeah, ‘cept for the chainmail and helmet. I’ll wear the chainmail, helmet’s behind you” Leon told Roger, pointing to the makeshift weapons rack. The helmet was resting atop the hilt of Leon's sword.
Roger walked over to grab the helmet, cringing while picking it up.
“Ghastly thing, isn’t it?” Roger said as he passed it to Leon, keeping it at arm's length the whole time.
The helmet was an ornate piece, made to resemble a screaming demon. Fully colored and made with remarkable detail. You could even make out small wrinkles around the eyes. The face plate could slide upwards to reveal Leon's face. A small dent was present on the back, a testament to the battle that took place yesterday.
“Kinda the point. Strike fear into the hearts of my enemies and all that.” Leon said admiring the helm, a slight grin on his face. “Besides, it’s a present from the wife.”
After readying themselves for the day, the duo went to the camp cook. They had a simple meal of eggs and meat, having not yet started rationing. The meal seemed to do wonders for Roger. He perked right up, leaving no trace of his previous ailment.
Having gotten food in their stomachs, Leon and Roger went to the river. Roger decided to clean his gear as well. It wasn’t a long walk, their camp had been made nearby for easy sourced water. The river went through the walled town, both sides covered by a thick grate, and skirted the edge of a nearby forest.
The forest was around a kilometer down the river and stretched much farther than the eye could see, even if one were to stand atop the highest point of the wall. People treated the woodland with a healthy dose of paranoia. Many stories were told about the wood, many of them true.
Leon himself respected the woods, if only because he and the rest of the company had firsthand experience with what lurked amongst the thick foliage.
The water was cool but not uncomfortably so. Leon even had some soap, an expensive luxury. Although after wearing his plate for so long, it was a welcome relief. Dried off, he had Roger assist him put his equipment back on. Leons shoulder was still stiff, so Roger’s assistance was much more appreciated than usual.
Everything fit together like a glove. The armor was clean, yet not shiny. This was to prevent glare giving away his position. It was a darker matt grey, excluding his faceplate. Which was a bright red, with ivory white teeth. He strapped his scabbard on his left hip, where it felt familiar and comfortable.
Roger didn’t have nearly as much, only sporting a chestplate, harnesses and gauntlets over chainmail. His helmet strapped to his side with a leather cord. His weapon of choice was a war hammer that dueled as a warpick. He would sometimes use a shield if the situation called for it.
All and all they both made for an impressive sight.
Walking back towards the camp, a young man approached the two. Roger stood straight, having recognized the kid as one of the camp's messengers. While he didn’t report to the kid, it was always best to strike a regal figure with the newer recruits.
“Sergeant!” The messenger stood at attention, waiting to be addressed. The kid couldn’t help but shift his eyes nervously toward Leon's helmeted figure.
“Out with it. What do you have for me?” Roger ordered with a heavy sigh. This would most likely mean more work for him.
“Oh! Uh, the Cap’n wants to see you both. As soon as possible he said.” The messenger told the two men.
“Alright we’ll be there. Head on back.” Roger said, dismissing the private with a lazy wave of his hand.
The boy did so gladly, not wanting to be around his superiors as much as possible. Like any smart private he knew loitering was a good way to get extra work.
The duo quickly followed with a fast walk. Like any experienced soldiers they knew dragging your feet to an officer that expected you was a good way to get a lot of extra work.
“What do you think the Cap wants?” Leon asked Roger.
“Dunno, maybe he caught on to you pushing latrine duty onto that kid yesterday.” Roger said, raising his eyebrows sarcastically.
“I seem to remember you being all for that, sergeant.” Leon replied equally sarcastic.
“C’mon I was drunk, that doesn’t count!” Roger said loudly, raising his arms in exasperation.
“I don’t think that's how that works.” Leon chuckled, shaking his head. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter, no point in guessing on the way.”
The two made their way back through camp. As they went, every now and again someone would yell a greeting, or even congratulated them on yesterday’s victory. The walk was fairly short as the camp was not very large. Without waiting the duo walked straight into the command tent, knowing they were expected.
As they entered, the two saw Captain Garet talking to an unknown man.
He was well armed, and fully armored. The tabard he wore over his armor identified him as part of the church of Dorithe. Leon was puzzled for a moment, he had no idea that the church was even involved with this battle. He had just considered it a dispute among nobles and dismissed it as unimportant information.
“Ah, here they are.” Captain Garet said looking away from the other man and toward the new entries.
The Captain was an imposing figure, with an air of experience about him. He was dressed similarly to Roger, though the captain was at least two inches taller. His beard was long yet well trimmed with greying streaks. His head was bald, not from ageing, but being shaven. He looked knowingly, as if he was always judging your worth.
“Sir!” Both Leon and Roger barked snapping to attention. The unknown man then glared up as well.
“At ease.” The captain immediately said, waving his hand dismissively. He then turned back to the religious man, gesturing toward Leon and Roger. “This is them, two of my best swords, both are trusted.”
“By you maybe, Captain. But can the Church of Dorithe?” The stranger walked up to the pair. With a judging scowl, he inspected them.
“If your money's good, then yes.“ The Captain confirmed, walking up to stand beside the man.
“I suppose that is how you mercenaries work.” The man sneered, before taking a step back in acceptance. “Very well, they will do. I suppose I can always trust sellswords to kill for coin.”
“Uh, Captain? What’s going on? Who’s this guy?” It was Roger who first spoke, not at all offended by the man's common prejudice.
To Leon’s surprise it wasn’t Captain Garet that answered.
“Inquisitor Cli'ven, of The Church of Dorithe. As to ‘What’s going on.’ I have a job for the both of you.” Inquisitor Cl’iven said
“Well, you both had better come over this way.” Captain Garet said clearly annoyed.
He walked the group over to a desk, on top of which was a map, presumably of the town they were sieging.
“Now before we begin, the details pertaining to this mission are confidential.” Captain Garet informed the two, his tone held gravity. “Before you are told anything you need to accept the assignment, you’ll get your pay upfront.”
The duo scowled, this was very irregular. Leon ever so slightly turned his head to meet Rogers' eyes. They shared a look that conveyed more than words could.
“Sir, with all due respect you can’t expect us to risk our lives on something we haven’t even been told of, surely?” It was Roger who spoke, his rank over Leon made it appropriate to do the talking unless Leon was directly addressed. “ We may be Mercenaries but we don’t sell our lives.”
“I understand, and if you do decide to reject this offer, that’s your decision. Though I would ask you to trust me on this, I have already been informed of everything pertaining to the mission and deemed the money worth the risk.” Garet assured, nodding his head in endorsement.
“The money being fifteen ingots. Each.” The inquisitor interjected, believing money would solve the issue.
The room went silent.
Leons jaw dropped. He was thankful for his helmet, or else he may have looked as dumb as Roger. Who looked as if he witnessed his mother slap a noble.
The money was good. Very good. So good in fact it was unbelievable. It was more than Leon made in the entirety of last year. For perspective, in the siege tower offencive Leon had made 5 plates which was half an ingot. That was considered a great bonus. He only made that because of Count Kelos’ impatience in taking the town.
Before Leon could think about taking the money, Roger’s words from before came to mind. With a mental sigh, Leon took a step forward to speak.
“As generous an offer as that is. I don't thi-” Leon was interrupted as Roger grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
“So sorry Sir, but if you would give us a second.” Roger frantically interrupted, barely waiting for the Captain's gesture of approval, before dragging Leon off to talk in semi-privacy.
“What are you doing!?” Roger huffed in a whispered silence. He took a second to peer over his shoulder to see the captain and inquisitor discussing something.
“What? Exactly what you said!” Leon argued.
“ I know what I said! But come on, fifteen ingots!” Roger frantically insisted. “ This is what you’ve been waiting for! With your savings, that's enough for you to take a few years off the company! Get a start on that family you and Amelia have been talking about for years!”
Leon didn’t need to be convinced. The only reason he was going to turn down the job was Roger. There was clearly some hypocrisy with Rogers approval, Leon however didn't have any problem with Rogers dualism. The pay really did blind both of their senses.
“Fine. I get it, but man you really gotta pick a side.” Leon rolled his eyes. Roger just gave a sideways gin as they walked back over to the captain.
“We’re in. Now tell us what's going on.” This time it was Leon that spoke. His words were curt, only saying what needed to be said. If Leon was one thing it was not subtle. Cli’ven eyes brightened, an amused smile crossed his face.
“Perfect, and may I ask what your name was, again?” Cli'ven requested, victory carried on his every word.
If the inquisitor was at all put off by the one worded answer, it didn’t show. He walked up to Leon, having to look up to meet his eyes. That was much more difficult when you factored in Leons helmet.
“Unique, by that and the accent I’d say you’re not a native Arothian, are you?” Cli'ven inquired. Leon said nothing, hoping the silence answered enough.
“Just, where do you come from then?” Apparently it didn’t.
“North.” Leons replied, again curt.
“Really? I’ve been north. I can’t say I’ve heard an accent quite like that.”
There was a pregnant pause as Cli'ven locked eyes with Leon. They both stood there, neither willing to concede. The moment was broken by a laugh, the source unexpected.
“Haha! Good, you can keep a secret! That's exactly what I’m buying.” Cli'ven laughed, wiping a non-existent tear from his eye. “With that out of the way, lets begin.”
Roger let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding, and quickly took his hand away from his hammer when he noticed he was holding its handle. He took a quick look around to see if anyone else noticed. The captain did, although he just shrugged his shoulders, turning back around to the desk. They circled the Captain, waiting for the inquisitor to speak.
“First of all, allow me to reiterate the importance of secrecy this dictates. You are being paid not only for your skill, but to keep your mouths shut.” Cli'ven glanced at everyone present, receiving nods in agreement, before continuing. “The mission will entail not only myself, but five paladin of the order, and you both.” He stated, raising his head to make sure they were following along.
“The main objective is to secure a VIP, who is residing here.” He pointed to the map, more importantly the center of the town’s keep.
The nobles residence.
“Why would your church want to kidnap a noble? “ Roger asked the question Leon was thinking.
“First off do not interrupt. Second, you don’t need to know the ‘why’ only the ‘how’. Lastly we’re not after a noble.” Inquisitor Cli'ven said irritatedly. “No, this is far more important than some backwoods noble.”
Leon and Roger shared another look. This was very sketchy. It sounded as if they were after someone comparable to a royal, and it seemed any more questions would go unanswered.
“Fine, do you have a description at least?” Roger conceded.
“Young male, perhaps 15 to 17, blonde hair and on the shorter side of average.” Cli'ven confirmed, nodding in approval of the question. “My sources say he goes by the name ‘Petey’ as strange as that sounds.”
Leon glanced up yet again hearing the description. Roger did as well, not at all liking the idea of kidnapping some prince.
“Midday tomorrow Count Kelos will be launching a full assault on the secondary wall, during which time our team will infiltrate the keep. Are you following so far?” Cli'ven asked Roger in particular, sarcasm rolling off his voice.
“Wait, you plan on launching an assault this soon after we took the wall? No way we have the siege equipment built yet.” Roger stated as a matter of fact, not at all put off by the church official talking as if he were an idiot. “A lot of men won’t come back if they charge that wall with just ladders, it would jeopardize the whole siege.”
“Sergeant. If we secure the target, then there would be no need for a siege.”
The room yet again went silent. Leon crossed his arms, while Roger had a look of disbelief.
“You orchrestrated all of this for one man? Is that why Kelos pushed his men so hard, you pressured this on him?” Roger asked, shaking his head in sustain. So many lives had been ruined this past month, for just a single man.
“Count Kelos was not pressured in the slightest. He is a pious man who stands with our church. If you’re put off by his actions, then remember the moment we take this ‘Pete’ into custody, the siege ends.” Cli'ven promised.
“There will only be eight of us, so we will need to wait for the majority of the guard to join the battle. Count Kelos should push hard enough they’ll have too.” He pointed to the very side of the keep, directly next to the wall. “We’ll enter here. I had a specialist brought in, he’ll get us past the wall without trouble.”
Cli'ven grimaced before finishing his thought. “Just a quick warning, his methods are… unique to say the least.”
“How unique?” Roger was not looking forward to crawling through a sewer. One time was enough.
“Nothing to worry about, I assure you. Just that it may be slightly… jarring.” The inquisitor did not seem to be looking forward to whatever this ‘specialist’ had in store, he shook his head to rid himself of the thought before wrapping up the briefing. “You’ll meet us at Lord Kelos’ camp. Wear something discreet, the men don’t need to know something is up, there are eyes everywhere.”
“If you have any other questions I’m sure your captain can help. I have some final preparations to arrange with my men. I would advise you do the same if you wish to come out of this unscathed.” With that Inquisitor Cli'ven abruptly left the tent, not evening waiting to hear their responses.
At Cli'vens abrupt departure, captain Garet coughed to gain the duo's attention.
“He may seem apathetic, but I have worked with him before. If he can, he’ll make sure you get through this alive. Leon, how's the shoulder?”
“Stiff, but usable. I shouldn’t have much issue.” Leon rolled his shoulder, wincing slightly as it raised.
“Mm, grab a bottle of drought. Best to play this safe.”
Leon grimaced, visibly recoiling at the idea of having to drink drought.
“Sir, do I ne-?” Leon started to complain, before summarily being cut off by the captain.
“That's an order. Don’t worry, it’ll come from the company coffers. “ The expression on Garets face said the issue was not debatable.
“God knows what Amelia would do if she finds out I sent you on a job injured.” The captain chuckled.
“Understood.” It seemed Leon's wife had taken it upon herself to give Garet a good hounding before they set off from Arotha.