Mercenary: A Tale of Blood
By Adrian Chong
Edited by Kara McIlduff
Sliding the necklace over my head, I put my lock picking tools back into my bag. I sling the bag over my shoulder and take a step back, towards the exit. I spin around and strut back to the vault door. I put my hand to the vault crank and turning it, accidentally setting off a second alarm. The grimly sarcastic thought 'well crap' runs through my mind. Guards start turning the vault door on the other side of the vault. I form a knuckle-duster around my right fist with the shadows and start hammering the ground. The ground gives way to an underground tunnel, which I already knew about, for a second escape route.
I extricate high-powered torch from my bag and jump down into the tunnel. It is barely high enough for my head. The guards get the three tonne door open and four in total are on duty. They take seconds to notice the gapping hole in the pristine white floor. I drive my hand into the ground and stir up a dust cloud. The guards' pathetic torches don't put a dent in the darkness of the tunnel.
One of the group jumps down and pulls out a handgun from its holster. I don't mind, I know there's Korith scale armour underneath my leather mercenary gear. Just in case, I pull two Greek gladius from the shadows and slide them into sockets on my back, between the armour, underneath the bag but on top of my shirt. The syke daggers in my boots makes the run very uncomfortable coupled with the roman spatha thudding against my left leg. In the distance, I can spot the end of the tunnel. I check for the amulet and it's still around my neck.
I check my watch around my left wrist. It's eleven past midnight. Nineteen minutes to get to the beach and meet up with my client. I smack down on the watch and a small, round shield swirls out. The black metal of it makes it nearly invisible in the darkness of the night but the torchlight illuminating from my left hand makes it just visible. I flick the torch off and shove it into my backpack. Then concentrating with my eyes, I adjust them to the darkness so I can see.
I brace myself and then tackle the left wall, knocking the one brick thick wall down making an opening into the Core Caverns. The guards have given up but I've only got fifteen minutes now. I rush through the caverns, brushing aside vines and roots, finding an emergency escape route in one of the rooms. It leads into the sewers and right above the connection point is a manhole. I pause for a moment, listening out for vehicles. I don't hear any so I heave the cover out and climb into the street. I can see the island of Tirdum from where I stand, where father is guarding the Gates. So the shore can't be too far.
I sprint down the street, through a park and down a sand dune onto the beach. Two minutes early: good, my record, of being the best protection and retrieval mercenary, is safe. The client arrives one hundred and twenty seconds later, his black coat leaving trails in the sand. He keeps his hat low, hiding his identity, not that I mind. I just need to know if they have the money, asking, "You got the money?" The guy pulls several wads of twenty-dollar bills from his pocket and tosses them to me. I count them, four wads; fifteen bills each, one thousand and two hundred dollars. "Right, here," I take the amulet off and carefully hand it over. I spot someone standing in the shadows, further down the beach. The client leaves as quickly and quietly as he came.
As the other guy gets closer, I can figure out the 'guy' is an Aegios agent, a government funded demon-hunting agency, from the earpiece and a Korith blade bulging underneath his finely tailored suit.
"What's up?" I cry out to the new comer.
"You're Falkon Venator, protection and retrieval merc?"
"Yes sir, you guys want to employ me or something?"
"We've got a job for you."
"State the job and price."
"One of our raids on a werewolf den went horribly wrong," the agent informs nonchalantly, "our best fighter, Agent Nyion was killed along with half of his team although his daughter is still out there. We want you to find her, protect her and bring her back to this spot."
"Oooh, that's an interesting job, how much you offering?"
"One grand upon completion."
"Nope, my personal safety will be a big factor in this job. I took notice of one word in particular, werewolf, haven't dealt with them in a while. Two grand… take it or leave it."
"Very well, here's her old dagger, we know your capabilities," he explains.
"I'll be back in an hour. One of my friends is having a party in two hours."
I run my nose down the blade, taking in the smell and then stab the blade into the sand. Running off, with Ms. Nyion's scent in my mind. I run down the beach and past the wall, separating the wilderness and the city. Guards watch me run into the forest but don't call me out, as they know it's better to leave me be. I slow down when I sense a werewolf den, and large amounts of blood, human and demon. 'The daughter must be nearby.' I assume, not sure whether to be glad or wary – I decide on a mix of both. I climb a nearby tree easily and survey the carnage. There are several dozen werewolves and two agents dead, including Agent Nyion, I guess from the several badges on his shoulder. From experience, I know that a team is usually four members and a leader, so that means that the other two agents and the girl are still alive, or dead somewhere else and since I doesn't believe it's the latter option, I continue following the Nyion scent into vampire territory - marked by deep scratches on the trees.
The forest thins out into a ghost town. I can hear vampire screeches and shouting. I run into the ghost town and three vampires surround me. I try the peaceful approach knowing full well it is useless, "Come on guys let's not do this." The vampires look at each other and simultaneously lunge while laughing. I punch a first and spin, kicking a second. While still spinning, I pull out my roman spatha and cleave open the third vampire. I take a step back, avoiding the bloody mess splattering onto the ground. The other two become more cautious of me. I hold the spatha straight, leveling it with the face of a vampire. The demon's face shows fear and I take advantage of it. I holler at him and the vampire flinches. I lunge and swinging the spatha at an angle, slicing the throat of the other vampire. Blood sprays across my right shoulder, soaking through my clothing onto my armour.
The last vampire is on its knees with its eyes closed, awaiting death. I hold the roman blade up like a samurai and let it fall downwards. The vampire suddenly flicks out its claws and tackles me. It is on top of me before I can react and the vampire is tearing at my leather mercenary piece frantically. The mercenary leather chest piece is torn to shreds and the vampire stops, astonished by the armour. I smile and the face of the vampire greeted by my right fist. The vampire falls back; its flailing arm leaves three cuts in my left arm. 'Should have worn the arm guards' runs through my mind. Underneath, I only have lower leg bracers and a chest piece, including the back.
The vampire still dazed has its life ended a second time by the tip of the spatha. For one to become a vampire, they must be bitten, then die and returning as a vampire. I wipe my sword clean on the tatters of my shirt, completely removing it and revealing my battle-toned arms. I slide the spatha back into its sheath, dropping my bag on the floor and take one of the dual gladius from its holder. I spin it around, testing my skills. I then proceed to run up one of the abandoned houses and onto the roof.
On top, I spot one very pale and dead agent about three hundred metres away and down below me in the dusty street is the final agent struggling against four vampires feeding ravenously on him to heal their wounds. A teenage girl in Aegios battle uniform comes to his belated rescue. Slashing at the backs of the vampires with a short, twenty-five centimetres, Korith blade, killing two by severing their spines and in turn angering the others. They stop feeding and stand up straight, blood streaming down their front.
She starts backing up, wildly swinging her blade. The vampires dodge it easily and one of them pulls a blade of their own, twice as long as her short sword. He knocks the girl's blade out of her hand and lands a blow on her cheek, leaving a small gash. I check on my wound as I leap down, it's gone. As I land, I kick the unarmed vampire. The armed vampire swings his blade and the iron deflects off my Korith scale armour. I flick the gladius up lazily and disarm the vampire. The vampire lunges with its claws but I sidestep and shoving the gladius up his ribcage and into its heart, instantly killing it.
The vampire stirs, but the girl has already retrieved her blade and beheads it with a dull 'thunk!' before it realises what has happened. "You the daughter of Agent Nyion?" I ask while cleaning my gladius.
"Yeah, thanks for the help. Name's Tefris, yours?" she answers, blushing at my half-naked state.
"Falkon and we should get going. Just let me get my bag." I quickly scale the building to the other side, swing the bag over one shoulder and return to Tefris. "Another Aegios agent waiting for us on the south of the beach. Let's go."
As the moon pierces the clouds of the night, several wolf howls emit from the forest. I can pick out the brown fur of werewolves scampering around the undergrowth. I keep my gladius and spatha sheathed but I slam my heels into the ground forcing the Sykes daggers to spring up into my open palms. The werewolves get brave and leave the, slightly more safe, forest line and into the open. There are a total of six of them and half have a crossbow - that's all I manage to collect before they start pelting arrows at us. I throw both daggers, one is knocked off course by an arrow and the second breaks the firing mechanism of one of the crossbows.
I'm forced to start catching the arrows with one hand as I bend my other to my back to retrieve the gladius. I manage to pull one out and use it's blade to whisk its brother out. I deflect, break and dodge all the arrows as I make my way to the werewolves. The four have to reload their crossbows but I am given no chance to attack them as the other two charge at me, unarmed but with claws stretched out and baring fangs. I parry to claws of one and send my gladius down its throat. The second scratches its claws against my armour and clamps it's maw down on my right arm, making me drop the gladius. Tefris tackles the werewolf off my arm and I pick up my gladius. The four others start firing again and I quickly jump in front of the two wrestling on the ground. I deflect most arrows, but with having to also protect Tefris I have to extend my perimeter of defense with the expense of leaving the smallest gaps in my own personal barrier.
An arrow flies low and my blades are occupied with those higher. I kneel down quickly and the arrowhead sinks into my thigh. Grunting as I stand up, Tefris has managed to remove the gladius from the first werewolf's mouth and has torn through the chest of the werewolf. I throw one gladius and as I run to the archers, I rip the arrow out of my leg. The flying gladius cuts two of the werewolves' firing arms off and sinks into the third, killing it. I run the fourth through. The mutilated werewolves are rolling around in the dirt howling. Their arms start to grow back but with a quick flash of my roman blade, I end their misery. I shake both demon blood and mine, off my body and put away my blades.
I grab her arm without thinking and we start running, not sprinting but not jogging either. Tefris clings to my arm as we run, fast enough for either not to see each other blushing. We cruise through the forest and down the beach. The agent is nowhere to be seen, as we wait, both clean ourselves of demon blood with salt water. As I clean out her cut on her cheek, she asks, "What about your injuries?"
"What injury?" I reply, checking my arms and legs.
"You fought several vampires and werewolves. One even gnawed on your arm."
"Umm, well, fine I admit it, I was injured, several times in fact, not sure how many, but they're gone now."
"Prefer not to talk about it." I say, silencing her by putting my finger to her lips.
The Aegios agent arrives half an hour later. I had started to worry because there was about half an hour for me to get to my friend's party and I desperately need to get away from all this slaughtering. The agent hands over a briefcase with money and asks for Tefris, "We should get back to the barracks."
After a short moment of deliberation, I ask, "Tefris, would you rather do something more fun? Like going to a party?"
"Are you asking me out?"
"Sure, let's say that," I answer.
"We aren't dressed right and you're covered with weapons."
"If we both look odd, it'll be fine, everyone there knows how I roll," I assure, dropping my weapons into the shadows, transporting them back to my room on Tirdum, "but if you are so concerned."
I yank two denim jackets from my bag, passing one to her. I leave my bag in the sand, lying on top of the brief case of money.
"Shall we?" I smile, holding out my hand. She takes it.