There were six towers spread throughout this prison valley, and we had to deal with each of them one at a time. Which meant that there was absolutely no time to waste. We had to get this right, and do it as quickly as possible. Not to mention silently, since if even one distress signal got out before we were gone, Radueriel would be right on top of us almost instantly. We had to do this perfectly, not just once, but all six times.
We started with the nearest tower, crouching at the base of it as the spotlight moved over the prison camp itself. I touched the base of it testingly before nodding to Roxa and Isaac. It was wood, which meant that our first plan would work.
Roxa, in turn, tilted her head to the side and listened for a few long seconds. Then she held up two fingers and wiggled them. Two guys up there in the tower. Great. It could’ve been worse of course, but I had kind of been hoping that these guys were alone in these towers. No such luck.
Still, we had our plan, and two would work just fine. So I nodded to Isaac, who put his hand on Roxa’s arm and nodded back. Then I reached out and touched the base of the wooden tower, focusing on transporting myself up through the wood to the stand at the top.
Roxa and Isaac beat me to the top. The latter’s teleportation ability allowed him to transport instantly anywhere within his line of sight, but he could only take one other person with him at a time. Fortunately since the towers were made of wood, that meant that we could get all three of us to the top almost at the exact same time.
The two black-armored and masked guards were still reacting to the sudden appearance of the other two when I popped out behind them. Without wasting an incident, I swung my staff up and to the left. Gus was already attached to the end of it in his grapple form, and the blades of the grapple went straight into the nearest guard’s throat. With my strength, I tore right through his armor. There was a brief play of blood, and a gurgle as the man’s cry of surprise was cut off.
Roxa, meanwhile, was already lashing out at the other one. Her fingernails had turned into long, black, wicked looking claws, and she used them to literally rip the second guard’s throat out.
As our two victims were choking on their own blood and dying, Roxa and I quickly grabbed them and dragged the pair to the floor of the guard tower to get them out of sight. A second later, the pleasure from the kill washed up over me as both of our auras filled the area. I was, yet again, really glad that only Heretics could actually see those auras.
They were dead, and as I peeked up over the edge of the tower to look around, I saw nothing amiss. We had done it, that was one tower down. Which meant that we still had five more to go. Still, it was a good start.
Oh, Tabbris interrupted. Oh, hey, you got something from that guy. It’s um, kinda weird. If you’re touching an object when you hear any sound, even your own voice or someone else’s, you can sort of embed that sound into that object as long as it’s only a few seconds long. From that point on, until you embed sound in a different object, anytime you think about it, you can make the object generate that sound. So if you were touching a rock and heard someone say, ‘Howdy doody’, you could embed that into the rock, and then make the rock say those words anytime you wanted to. Even after you stop touching it.
Wow, I replied, sounds like that might end up being pretty useful at some point. Distractions, in putting voice recognition codes, all kinds of stuff. Thanks for the heads up.
I felt her beaming inside me while Roxa reached out to touch my arm, whispering, “You okay?”
I nodded, figuring that I could tell her about the new power later, once we weren’t around Isaac. There was no way that I was going to try to explain to him how I instantly knew what my new power was. Sure he was helping out with this, but I just wasn’t ready to trust him with something that important. It wasn’t going to happen.
The boy himself was grinning. “One down,” he whispered. “So do I get to actually help with the next one, or what?”
Roxa gave him a look. “We need to be fast and quiet,” she pointed out, “not get into a long, drawn out fight. These guys need to go down immediately. And call me crazy, but I think your little drones flying around shooting lasers everywhere might attract some of the attention that we’re trying to avoid.”
“Don’t worry Isaac,” I assured him. “You’ll get your chance. But we can’t screw this up right now. There’s too much riding on it.”
It didn’t really seem like the boy was that satisfied by the answer. But he didn’t say anything else about it. Instead, he raised his head to look out toward the next tower in the distance. “Guess we do the next one then?”
I nodded, and told the others what I had in mind. They seemed to like it, and Isaac once again touched Roxa before focusing on the other tower. Meanwhile, I straightened up and took aim with my staff.
The other two vanished from beside me, reappearing immediately on the other tower. They appeared directly between the two guards whose figures I could barely make out through the darkness.
As soon as she appeared there, Roxa grabbed the first guard by the throat with both hands. At the same time, she lashed out with her foot to hit the second man, knocking him backward.
Meanwhile, I had already launched the grapple from my staff. It whistled slightly through the air, before the blades tore into the back of the guard’s throat as he stumbled from the kick. He was yanked backwards off the tower, the grapple through his throat ensuring that he couldn’t cry out. He swung through the air toward the tower that I was in before I let him drop to the forest floor below, into some bushes.
Again, I waited until the pleasure had washed over me before letting myself believe that he was actually dead.
Minor regeneration boost, Tabbris whispered. Nothing big, but hey, every little bit helps, right? She sounded hopeful.
Yup, I agreed easily. Especially right now, out here. We need every single advantage we can get.
The other two were waving at me as I picked up over the edge of the tower. Looked like everything was good there. Two down, four to go. I just hoped that Jazz, Sands, Gordon, and Jokai were having as much luck as we were.
I gave a quick wave back, and Isaac almost immediately appear next to me. He was holding his hand out. “All aboard the Isaac express,” he announced with a sly wink. “That is, if you’re sure your girlfriends won’t get jealous.”
“Oh Isaac,” I replied as sweetly as possible. “Trust me, there is absolutely nothing for them to get jealous about.”
His face flushed slightly before the boy reached out to take my shoulder. A second later we were back over on the tower with Roxa.
As we appeared, the other girl looked to me and whispered, “You see anything wrong?”
Before answering, I pointed down at the figure slammed in the corner of the tower. He was still breathing, just unconscious. Raising an eyebrow I turned to look at the other girl questioningly.
“He might be useful,” she pointed out simply.
She had a point, and I nodded before taking a minute to scan the dark camp below, and the other towers. Most of them were simply indistinct, vague shapes from this point (at least wherever the roaming spotlight wasn’t currently shining), but it didn’t seem like anything unusual was going on.
“No,” I finally answered with a shake of my head. “It looks good. What about you, Miss Werewolf?”
She returned my head shake. “I think we’re okay for now. But we’ve still got four more of these things.” After a brief pause, she added a little more quietly, “I wish we knew how the others were doing.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “we really need to deal with this lack of radios thing pretty soon. The mice are good for emergency contact.” My hand wandered down to Gus in his grapple form on my staff so I could scratch him a little bit tenderly. “But for details, we need to be able talk to each other.“
“If you girls are done stating the obvious and patting each other on the back over how well we’re doing,” Isaac muttered under his breath, “we kinda need to finish this before the whole camp wakes up. Because I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want to be anywhere within twenty miles of this place when that-“
Abruptly, Roxa’s hand snapped out to cover the boy’s mouth. At the same time, she raised her other hand to put a finger in front of her mouth as she looked to me. Her head was tilted slightly to the side, as though listening. She had heard something.
Isaac made a brief muffled noise before going to silent as he realized what was going on. Together, the three of us sat there and listened.
Nothing, there was nothing. After about a minute of that, Roxa slowly leaned up and peeked over the edge of the tower. Her body stiffened briefly, but not enough for me to think that we were in immediate danger. For a moment, she just knelt there and watched, before turning back and gesturing for us to see for ourselves.
So I did. Slowly, I leaned up and looked that way. Far below, maybe a hundred feet from the base of the tower, there three figures standing there, illuminated by small lights attached to their belts. Two were the same black armored guard that we had been dealing with. But the third one, was an unmasked figure who looked like a human, if a rather attractive one, with his close-cropped black hair and aristocratic features. He was clearly giving orders to the two that he was talking with. Every so often he would gesture with a hand, as if telling them something about the camp.
The fact that he didn’t set off the Stranger sense at all only confirmed what I already knew. “Seosten,” I whispered under my breath, barely audibly.
“We can’t do anything to him,” Roxa quietly reminded us. “Not until we know where the other four are, and if they’re awake.”
She was right, as we had already discussed this whole thing with the others while planning this out. The five would be connected, the same way that Charmeine and her team had been. Any of the bastards who were awake would be able to know what happened to each other. So we had to avoid them completely. Unless, as she had said, we happened to know where they all were, and hit them all at once. But that seemed a bit unlikely. Mostly we just had to avoid them. Which, to be honest, seems like the smart idea anyway. Even if they were rookies, they were still Seosten.
Luckily, it didn’t seem like this guy or his companions were actively looking for us. From what I could tell in my position at the top of the tower, it seemed more like this guy had gotten a bug up his ass about how a certain patrol was supposed to go, and was micromanaging. Inconvenient for us, but not the end of the world. At least, as long as he didn’t decide that the people up in these towers were doing something wrong. If he did, things might get a bit complicated.
Unfortunately, just as I had that thought, the figure turned to look toward our spot. The three of us quickly dropped back down, and I swore I could hear our hearts beating.
Any wish that I had had that the man would simply walk away was erased as I heard a voice call up toward the tower. It was a short string of words that I didn’t understand.
He’s asking if everything is clear up here, Tabbris informed me.
Just as I was starting to react to that, I felt Roxa’s hand on my leg. When I turned that way, she was pointing at the guard in the corner of the tower. The one that she had knocked unconscious.
Instantly, I knew what she wanted. Rolling over, I reached out to put my hand against the guard’s arm. Tabbris also knew what to do, and I found myself in darkness once more as I possessed the slumbering figure.
Giving him a bunch of adrenaline, Tabbris informed me quickly. It should wake him up.
Sure enough, the man’s eyes opened, just as I heard the Seosten below call up a second time. His voice was agitated.
Quickly, I forced my temporary host to stand up. Moving to the edge of the tower, I looked down at the figure below while hurriedly asking, Quick, how do I respond? And what’s the right salute for this guy?
I felt Tabbris scanning the guy’s relevant memories quickly. Then she took over, making the man’s left arm raise. She held three fingers (index, middle, and ring) flat against his left eye, palm inward. After a few seconds of that, she turned the hand so that the index finger was against his eye, with the ring finger facing out. Then she snapped his hand out and down, like a regular salute.
At the same time, the man’s mouth opened, and he let out a string of Latin.
Once she had stopped, Tabbris quietly informed me, I um, I just made him say that everything is fine and that he and his partner are j-just trying to fix the light because it’s stiff. He reported something about it earlier, so the guy should um, he should know about it. And I um, I asked if he wanted to come up and look at it.
Quickly, before I could ask why she had done that, the girl explained, H-he’s a Seosten. I figured he wouldn’t lower himself to simple maintenance like that. And I thought if I made the guy act like he wanted him to come up, he wouldn’t think anything was wrong. Did I… did I do something wr-
No, I interrupted. You did just great. Now let’s see if he buys it.
The man below had been squinting up at us for the past few seconds. He seem to be considering. Finally, he just called up a single word, while giving a dismissive wave of his hand. Then he turned and started walking off with the two normal guards that he had been talking to.
Once he was gone, I let Tabbris knock our host unconscious again, before stepping out of him. In front of me, Roxa and Isaac both let out audible breaths. They had clearly been holding them.
“That was close,” Roxa muttered. She looked at me then, voice softening. “Are we still good?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure. But we need to get this done, like right now. Because I really don’t want to have to do that again.”
Isaac was grinning at me. “Hey,” he replied, “at least you’ve got that super spiffy possession power. We would’ve been screwed without that. You’re just all kinds of useful to have around.”
Something about his words made me feel uncomfortable. But I shook it off, telling myself that it was just the situation, and Isaac’s general lack of understanding of boundaries. Clearing my throat, I nodded. “All right, four more to go.
“Let’s finish this.”
A relatively short time later, it was finished. All six towers had been dealt with, and the bit with that Seosten on the second one was the closest call that we’d had. We had dealt with the rest slowly, and patiently, picking our attacks at just the right time while keeping an eye out for more roaming Seosten. Most of them however, seemed to be sleeping, because that first one was the only one we actually saw.
Now, the three of us were crouched in the last tower. Below, a quiet, steady stream of prisoners were making their way past the tower and into the forest beyond. Sands was back in the slave quarters, ushering everyone out one at a time. Meanwhile, Gordon and Jazz were out in the forest itself with Jokai, directing the escapees on where to go. Our job, while they were doing that, was to keep an eye on the rest of the camp and make sure that we weren’t followed too soon.
“That’s got to be almost all of them, right?” Isaac asked under his breath. “I mean, how many slaves could these assholes need, anyway? It’s not like they’re building a pyramid or something.”
Before I could respond, Sands emerged from the nearest little cabin. She raised her hand waving up at us before nodding toward the forest where the last of the slaves were disappearing.
“That answer your question?” I asked Isaac before waving back at the other girl. “Let’s get down there.”
Roxa simply hopped off the ledge and dropped, while I hitched a ride down with Isaac. As we arrived next to Sands, the brunette girl whispered, “We’re good. Things got a little hairy in there when they saw us and thought that we were, you know, bad guys. But that Jokai guy talked them around. They’re still pretty suspicious, but frankly, I think they’re too desperate to escape this place to worry about it too much. Especially once a few of them started to believe it. That kinda started a snowball effect thing.”
“Okay,” I replied simply, “then let’s get out of-“
That was as far as I managed to get before the relative silence of the night air was shattered by the sudden deafening scream of a siren. The alarm. Someone had pulled the alarm. And already, I could hear people shouting, there were guards rushing out into the darkness, weapons raised as they sought the source of the alert. Lights were coming on everywhere throughout the camp.
“What the fuck?” Roxa blurted. She snapped her head around to look off in the darkness where the slaves had gone. “They’re not far enough away yet. Those fuckers will find them in no time.”
“No, they won’t,” I retorted, turning to give the others a push that way. “Go, get them out of here. Keep moving. I’ll find you by letting Gus lead me to Jaq. But those prisoners out there need you guys to protect them, so move. I can catch up. They need you, so go, hurry, now!”
“What?” Sands’ eyes were wide. “What the hell are you going to do?”
“Me?” I turned to look back at the chaos in the camp as all the guards started to get the idea of what was going on. “I’ll do what I’ve spent my whole life perfecting.
“I’m gonna go piss a bunch of people off.”