Reckless Advance

How about you let me go in first?” Wolf said, his hand on the door of the small, ground floor apartment.

What makes you think I’d let you do that?” Frige replied, a hand on her hip.

Rouda told me what you’re like. If you burst in with that attitude of yours, it’s liable to silence the poor fella quicker than any snake-inked thug ever could. If that polished breastplate of yours doesn’t completely blind him first.”

I see your point.”

Just give me a few minutes to get him into the right mood. Let ‘em know we’re here to help.”

Are we?”

The question hung in the air, as Wolf turned away from her and pulled the door open, shouting the owner’s name, “Holger! You in there? I’m a friend of Rouda.” The big man passed through the entryway, the door closing behind him.

Frige didn’t like being left out in the cold. Literally. The crisp autumn air found its way under her armor, attacking her skin with little icy spears. She wrapped her arms around her chest, trying to hold in the heat, then her hand dropped instinctively to the handle of her longsword.

Movement. She was sure she had seen someone, hiding around the corner of the building. Whispers floated on the wind. Her sword hand tensed.

Who the…” A muffled shout came from inside the apartment. Followed by several loud crashes.

Hey, buddy,” Frige knocked on the door. “Everything alright in there?”

She heard several more crashes inside, as a group of men came around the corner of the building—five in all, each bearing steel. Before she could shout to Wolf again, the apartment door burst open, a twisted body tumbling into the dusty street. The Baron’s enforcer stood in the doorway. Frige wasn’t sure if his expression was one of anger or satisfaction.

Looks like we’re gonna put some things in order right now today,” Wolf bellowed to the group of men.

Wait!” Frige said, holding a hand before him, as if that would be enough the stop the brute. “We need to give them a chance to retreat.” She looked him in the eye. Wolf shrugged his shoulders with a smirk.

Frige turned to address the group, only to find the point of a dagger coming for her face. She dodged the strike and delivered a swift knee to the attacker’s groin. She heard Wolf chuckle behind her, before he lunged at another thug, his massive hands out like an attacking bear.

Drawing her sword, Frige turned her focus to the two rogues closing with her—one man and one woman. The man had a sword about as large as her own, and he swung it with full force. It may have been of similar size, but Frige could tell with a glance it was not of the same quality. She crossed her own blade in front of her, bracing for the blow, which came like a clap of thunder. Frige, with her quality gloves and well-constructed handle, weathered that storm. Her opponent was not as lucky. The repercussions of the man’s own attack pulsed through his hands and into his arms. She was surprised he didn’t drop the sword outright. No matter. A kick to the inner thigh loosened the rogue’s grip and a slash across the wrist opened it completely. There was a sharp cry of pain and the clang of falling metal.

Another kick sent the man back and away, allowing Frige to deal with second threat. The woman closed fast with her, as Frige brought her sword back up defensively, expecting another clumsy strike. But instead of a slow, forward attack, the woman ducked underneath Frige’s stance and, before the watchman realized it, got behind her. Frige twisted right, knowing to protect her kidneys, but she was greeted with sharp pain in her lower back anyway. Lunging backwards, Frige used the weight of her armor to shove her assailant, before turning about.

In the corner of her vision, Frige could see Wolf on top of one of the thugs, pummeling the man in the face. Another grabbed Wolf from behind, but the rogue’s arms would not reach around the enforcer’s broad shoulders. Even so, the thug had a strong enough grip that when Wolf stood up, he was lifted from the ground. Wolf reached an arm back, grabbing a handful of his attacker’s hair and pulling. Hard. The man screamed. Wolf reached back again and grabbed the man by the neck, tossing him over his own back and to the ground. Then the enforcer proceeded to deliver another round of pummeling.

The female rogue was crouched down in front of Frige, a bloody stiletto dagger in her hand, shifting from side to side, looking for an opening that would allow her an angle of attack around the watchman’s armor. Frige could see the woman favored her left side. She dropped as low as her opponent, holding her sword crosswise, before kicking off with her right leg, driving her left shoulder forward. As expected, the rogue twisted to Frige’s right, bringing the stiletto around high to try to get in through the collar. Using every bit of finesse she could muster, Frige twisted her torso left, extending her right arm out at the same time, horizontal to the ground, catching the rogue’s dagger and neck all in one momentum-driven movement. She felt the impact of the rogue’s body on the ground, heard the breath leave her in a guttural bellow. Sharp pain crawled across Frige’s arm where the stiletto had made its mark. She ignored it, bending down to look the other woman in her panicking eyes.

Hey there,” Frige said, slapping the woman on the face. “You okay? You’re turning blue. Thought you were quick, didn’t you? Not quick enough.”

Frige heard the sound of blows, of Wolf shouting, almost delighted.

That’s enough,” she shouted to him. “They’re all beat. Anything more is just excessive.”

Maybe excessive is what these idiots need,” Wolf said, rising to his feet. His hands and face were covered in blood, but he didn’t seem to notice or care.

I’m still a watchman over here. I’m not going to let you kill these men.”

Whatever. They’ll be dead in a day. This new boss doesn’t seem like one who forgives failure.”

No,” the woman on the ground said, coughing up blood. “Reaper is not a forgiving man.”

Reaper, eh?” Wolf said, walking over to join them. Frige could still see the animal in his eyes, see him fighting it, trying to restore his calm.

You’re right,” the woman rogue continued. “We are all as good as dead now.”

Well then,” Wolf said, “spill your guts. Lighten your soul for its passage to the next world.”

I’m not going to let anyone kill you,” Frige said.

What are you going to do? Throw us all in a jail cell?”

If I have to, yes.”

What’s the deal with this Reaper, huh?” Wolf said, kneeling next to the woman. He reached out a finger to push some strands of bloody hair from her eyes.

I don’t know much about him, just that he hates the Baron. He wants to take over the city, but mostly, wants to make the Baron suffer.”

The Baron doesn’t suffer for long,” Wolf said.

The Baron hasn’t faced an enemy like Reaper.”

Look,” Frige interjected, “help us take Reaper down. Then he’ll be no threat to you.”

The woman’s only reply was a bloody chuckle.

Tell us what you know,” Frige continued, “and I’ll get you out of the city. You can be on a caravan to Kingston in the morning.”

The games…” was all the woman managed to say before she finally passed out.

What in Raza’s name is the deal with these games?” Frige shouted in anger, jumping to her feet.

Gambling tournaments,” came a voice from the apartment door.

Silhouetted in the door frame stood a man on a stout crutch. His face was young, but his spirit looked beyond broken.

You must be Holger,” Frige said. “Sorry for the mess.”

Nothing to be sorry for. It appears you’ve saved my life. If I had to guess, I’d say these men were coming to kill me.”

Why would Reaper want you dead?”

I owe him money. A lot of money. The games. First his men broke my leg, as a warning. But I had no way to pay them back what I had lost at the tables.”

This needs to stop,” Frige said, glancing at the carnage around her.

When’s the next game?” Wolf asked suddenly

What makes you think I’d know?” Holger said, trying to act offended. Wolf gave him a sarcastic look. “Okay, there’s one coming up. Not that you’ll be able to play.”

I don’t intend to play,” Wolf said.

What do you intend, then?” Frige asked.

To find out if Reaper’s dealers like hobbling around on one leg.”


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