The Kingdom of Avon has been engulfed by civil war. When the mercenary Antoine is hired for an important mission, he could not possibly know just how important it is. As he journeys through Avon, he will finally be forced to confront his past. How he does so will decide the fate of the kingdom...
The magical mercenary Antoine is hired for a dangerous job.
Antoine attempts to get along with Sonia, the knight assigned to accompany him, as they set out on their mission.
Antoine and Sonia seek out Ruby, Antoine's long-time friend and Avon's self-proclaimed best thief, for help.
Ruby and Antoine reminisce about their first adventure together.
Ruby leads them to the secret passage into the palace... But entering the palace is not that simple.
Ruby faces one of her toughest challenges yet, as she must steal a key from right under the nose of Neo Avon's ruler.
Antoine's group attempts a daring escape from Neo Avon Palace.
Antoine's group faces their most dangerous foes yet, in the final push to escape with the Lion's Seal.
As he returns to Avon, Antoine is offered a new, and possibly more dangerous, mission.
The group officially meets Silas van Rothsberg, Avon's legendary archer, and they ask him to guide them to the dragon.
Old enemies return, alongside a mysterious new foe from Antoine's past.
The Mists of Avon: Chapter 1
The Staruk tables available at the Dragon’s Den cantina could sometimes be a very lucrative venture, as Antoine was in the middle of demonstrating. His opponent, however, was in the middle of demonstrating why gambling could be so damaging to one’s available funds. At this point, Antoine wasn’t sure how he was going to even pay for his drink, though he was not exactly worried about it.
“And I win again,” Antoine said. “Are you sure you wish to continue down this path? I believe that even I’m becoming bored of taking your money, at this point.”
His opponent was a bulky man of about thirty years with a shaved head, whose large coat seemed unseasonably warm and only added to the bulky appearance. He had been staring at his cards intently, but now he dropped them.
“Drop the act. I know who you are,” he said.
“Oh, do you? Well, could you please enlighten me, then?”
“I know you’re the one who stole my most prized emerald from my vault just last week!”
Antoine remembered that job. The original owner had been named Alexander, if he remembered correctly. It had been quite a simple job. Apparently, he had been sloppy, however, if the former owner had tracked him down.
“Oh, yes. I remember that now. Perhaps, I should have just tried to convince you to wager it on a game of Staruk? It would have been a simpler way to go about obtaining it. So, is there any particular reason you’ve come to chat with me here?”
Alexander stood up quickly and pulled a sword out from underneath his coat and pointed it towards Antoine’s throat, the steel of the sword only inches from his throat.
“Who hired you to steal it?”
Antoine let out a small chuckle and said, “Now, you must know that I’m not going to divulge that type of information. That would be a horribly poor business decision on my part.”
The sword moved even closer to his throat, as its owner said, “I think you might want to reconsider that answer.”
Clearly, he did not understand the concept of employer-mercenary privacy. Antoine decided that it was perhaps time to enlighten him. In a somewhat painful way.
“Well, you do have me in quite the bind here, don’t you?” Antoine said.
Antoine wondered how much Alexander knew about his magical talents. Maybe he thought it was all sleight-of-hand like so many believed. Antoine was going to make sure he believed after this encounter, however. He concentrated for a moment, and suddenly sent a small lightning bolt out of his hand, towards Alexander. It might not have been the largest shock he could give, but it took his attacker by surprise, as his weapon fell out of his hand.
That was all the room Antoine needed to make his move. He leapt out of his chair in a flash, diving into Alexander and driving him back into a wall. Alexander finally seemed to have recovered his bearings and pushed Antoine away. He swung a fist at Antoine, but he simply sidestepped it, grabbed his arm, and twisted it around Alexander’s back.
“Are you done with this game? Because, I must say, it’s not going any better than the last game we played,” said Antoine, as he began to concentrate.
“What? You’ll regret that, you---”
Alexander was cut off as a sudden surge of electricity went through his body, rendering him unconscious. He would be perfectly fine once he woke up, though. It was a trick that was often useful for Antoine on jobs that involved capturing individuals alive.
Hardly anyone in the crowded cantina even raised an eyebrow at the commotion Antoine had caused. The Dragon’s Den had a reputation for being a particularly perilous place to stop for refreshment. You weren’t truly a regular there until you’d been in some type of skirmish. Antoine took his winnings from the table and stopped by the bartender to flip a golden coin worth 10 gilar to him.
“My apologies for the disturbance.”
“It looks like your reputation is well-earned, Antoine,” said a voice coming from behind him.
Antoine turned around to see a knight in full armor, bearing the House of Laurent’s symbol, the lion. The knight himself, however, did not look to be the most experienced of the knighthood. He couldn’t have been over twenty years old, and he was still definitely on the lean side.
Antoine said, “If you’re here to escort me to a dungeon, I do hope it’s more heavily fortified than the last one I had the pleasure to visit. I escaped in less than ten minutes.”
“N-no, I am not here to bring you to a dungeon! While I am a knight of Avon, I am just here to bring you a message from the Castle.”
“And what message is that?” asked Antoine, as he folded his arms across his chest.
“There is some type of job offer for you. I was requested to ask you to come to the Castle, so that you can be informed of the details in person.”
Antoine let out a sigh. This knight, if he could even be called that, was wasting his time. And now, he seemed to think Antoine would want to waste even more time going to the Castle when his commander could have just come in person to offer the job.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for me to come in person, just so your commander can offer me a job…”
“This job isn’t coming from my commander. The Princess wants to speak with you personally. She said that it is of the utmost importance that you meet with her in person.”
“The Princess? Now I must say I’m intrigued.”
As he approached Avon Castle, Antoine couldn’t help but be excited by the prospects before him. In his experience, the higher up the chain of command the contact for a job was, the more important the job was. And more important jobs were always worth more money. This job must be worth a small fortune if it was coming directly from the Princess.
The castle itself was an impressive structure. It was a massive building made of stone, with four towers at the four corners of the structure rising up above the main castle, which itself towered over most of the city.
Antoine made his way up the steps until he reached the double doors that marked the entrance into the castle, where he was stopped by a pair of guards, both clad in armor.
“Halt! What business do you have here?” asked the guard to his left.
“Business with the Princess. Apparently, she has some type of job offer for me. So, if you would kindly step aside…”
“You must be Antoine! I was instructed to bring you before the Princess,” said the guard.
He and his partner pulled open the doors to allow Antoine through, and the guard then followed Antoine through the doorway.
As the guard led him to the throne room in silence, Antoine thought of his most recent visit to Avon Castle. He decided that it should be a much more civil experience than the last time. He had been hired to help a prisoner escape the dungeon. This, of course, involved a fair amount of violence. This was a few years ago, however, during the reign of King Elias.
When they reached the throne room, the guard opened the doors for Antoine, allowing him through. The throne room was decorated as finely as would be expected of any throne room. Draperies hung from the ceiling bearing the symbol of the lion. A large painting depicting the Princess and her late father, Elias, hung up high on the wall behind the throne. The throne itself stood at the top of a small set of steps on the opposite end of the room from where Antoine had entered. Two more guards stood to the sides of the throne, where the Princess was seated.
Princess Beatrice flipped her long brown hair over her shoulder as she stood up from her seat on the throne. At the age of eighteen, she was the youngest ruler of Avon in history, and she had been ruler for two years already. She wore a dress that matched the deep blue of her eyes, yet she also carried a sword, as she always had since taking over for her father. Of course, being embroiled in a civil war for the entirety of her rule might give her reason to be armed at all times.
Antoine stopped just short of the steps preceding the throne and said, “Well, I’m a little disappointed I don’t receive this type of royal treatment for every job.”
“Maybe you would receive this type of treatment more often in a different line of work,” said Beatrice.
“I think I’m just fine with my current occupation, actually. Maybe we should just get down to business instead?”
She began, “Yes. You see, there is an object of great importance to me that I need you to steal for me. It is called the Lion’s Seal, and has been used to signify the rightful ruler of Avon for centuries, ever since the defeat of the Magi Empire years ago.”
“But you don’t have it?” asked Antoine.
“No. It was stolen shortly after my father’s death by his brother, Dmitri, who currently leads what he calls ‘Neo Avon’ against us in this civil war. He thought to use it to proclaim himself rightful ruler of Avon, and attempted to assassinate me.”
Antoine had also worked for Dmitri’s Neo Avon forces. They all said that they believed Dmitri was the rightful ruler of Avon. They had told him that they did not believe someone as young as Beatrice could rule effectively, so it was necessary for Dmitri to rule instead. Personally, Antoine really did not know nor care who should rule. However, he did know that obtaining the Lion’s Seal would be a very profitable venture for him.
He asked, “So, where is the Lion’s Seal, then?”
“In the Palace of Neo Avon, in the city of Ralingrad.”
“So, that would be why you thought it best to send in a… third party to get it for you?”
“Well, you see, my advisors told me that this was a ‘foolhardy quest’ and that I should leave it be. However, I could not do so. It is tradition for the rightful ruler of Avon to possess the Lion’s Seal. I knew that sending in a large force would not work, however, so I realized I needed to take a much more subtle approach. That is why only you and one of my finest and most trusted knights will go to obtain it.”
“I don’t think I’ll be in need of any assistance. I prefer to work alone,” said Antoine.
Beatrice responded, “Who ever said she was coming to help you?”
Antoine realized that she was sending a knight with to watch him and make sure he stayed loyal to Beatrice. It wasn’t exactly surprising, but that didn’t make it sit any better with him.
“Well, this is becoming quite the troublesome job. How much is the reward?” asked Antoine.
She said, “Ten thousand gilar.”
Antoine flashed a quick smile and said, “Forget I said anything then. I’ll have it for you within a week’s time!”
The Mists of Avon: Chapter 2
Many of the greatest heroes of Avon, including the archer Silas van Rothsberg and the paladin Soren van Lambert, had led the 8th Knighthood of Avon at an early stage in their careers. The position was now seen as a stepping-stone to greatness, and it was an honor to be selected for the position. But that meant that it also came with pressure. Both the honor and the pressure were even greater if you happened to be the daughter of Soren van Lambert, which was just the position Sonia van Lambert was in. However, she was going to pass the position to her second-in-command temporarily. She had an important mission to take care of.
Martin Alberts was her second-in-command, and he was a much more experienced knight than Sonia. She had been surprised when she was given leadership of the 8th Knighthood over Martin six months earlier. He was thirty-five years old, ten years older than Sonia, and had served in Avon’s military for seventeen years. He had come to the castle gates on Sonia’s orders, so Sonia could brief him on any important information before she left on her mission. He wore the dark blue armor of a Knight of Avon, with the symbol of the Lion on his chest-plate. He normally wore a helmet as well, but he had taken it off to speak with Sonia, revealing his bearded face.
“Make sure you have patrols cover the west end of the city. I’m sick of getting all these reports from the Dragon’s Den.” said Sonia.
“I heard your new… companion had a run-in at the Dragon’s Den earlier today, actually,” said Martin.
Sonia let out a groan and just shook her head. She was definitely not excited about working with a mercenary on this next mission. In her experience, mercenaries had no honor at all. She hadn’t met even one she could respect.
Martin said, “You don’t exactly seem thrilled to be going on this next mission. I thought you volunteered yourself for it?”
“I did. I don’t trust mercenaries, so I want to make sure I’m there, watching him. I’m not taking any chances when it comes to the Princess and her safety.”
“Well, good luck, Commander. I have heard that he is one of the best mercenaries in the kingdom, so---”
“I’m insulted,” someone cut in. “I am most definitely the very best in this kingdom. You may wish to find new sources of information.”
The voice came from a man who had just walked out of the castle, who Sonia guessed must be Antoine. He didn’t look like the most dangerous mercenary in Avon, but Sonia knew looks could be deceiving. He was about average height, maybe an inch or two shorter than she was, and of an average build, perhaps even a little bit on the lean side. He had brown eyes and short, brown hair on his clean-shaven face. He wore a brown vest over a white shirt with long sleeves, along with black pants. Some type of metal baton hung from his belt, which she guessed must have been his preferred weapon.
“I think we’ll take just about anyone’s word above yours, mercenary,” said Sonia.
Antoine stopped a few feet from Sonia and said, “No need to resort to such spiteful words. I’m here for business. Are you ready?”
Sonia had double and triple-checked her equipment since she had gotten outside. Her heavy, silver armor was in good condition. She didn’t use it very often, since it did not bear the Lion symbol of Avon. That was necessary for this mission, however, since they were going into enemy territory. She hadn’t brought her helmet, leaving her long, blonde hair to fall over her shoulders. However, she rarely brought it with on missions anyways. Some knights favored the added protection, but Sonia felt that a helmet took away too much flexibility, since wearing one made it just about impossible to turn your head. Her trusted lance had had its tip sharpened beforehand and was in prime condition for battle, so she felt as ready as she could ever be for the mission.
“Yes, so let’s get going then.” She turned to Martin and said, “You’re in control now. Just remember that the Princess’ safety is your highest priority.”
Martin offered her the traditional salute of a Knight of Avon, by placing a closed fist over his heart, and said, “You can count on me, Commander. I won’t let you down.”
Just outside of the castle gates was Louis Square. It was named after Louis Laurent, the first Laurent King of Avon who led the defeat of the Magi centuries ago, single-handedly defeating the Magi King, and freeing Avon from their cruel rule. He was a true hero to all the people of Avon, and his statue stood at the center of the square, holding a sword to the sky in victory. Her father had told her that seeing that statue everyday had inspired him to become a knight, and seeing him is what had inspired Sonia to become one herself.
Louis Square was the center of the Royal Capital, Dausten. It was always full of people, whether they were tourists seeing the sights of Dausten, citizens meeting to talk with their friends, or traveling merchants looking to sell their wares. Sonia was only looking for one thing, though. They needed transportation to Neo Avon, so the Princess had ordered that they meet a horseman she had hired ahead of time for them at the other end of the square. Sonia was glad that they would have transport there, since walking would take them over a week. And she did not want to spend a week with this mercenary.
“What a missed opportunity,” said Antoine. “The Princess can certainly afford to send us to Neo Avon by way of a Pegasus… but doing so would definitely be in opposition with our goal of entering Neo Avon discretely.”
“If you’re so disappointed, you could just back out now. I won’t stop you,” said Sonia.
“I’m glad you’re so eager to be rid of me, but I’m not really in a hurry to ignore the ten thousand gilar on the table, Miss...”
“Sonia. I am Sonia van Lambert, daughter of the great Soren van Lambert. But if you ever call me ‘Miss’ anything again, you will regret it.”
Antoine shrugged and said, “Duly noted. Soren was said to be one of the greatest knights Avon has ever seen. I do hope you actually have some skill of your own, rather than just riding his coattails to where you are today. I don’t wish to end up spending the entire mission protecting you.”
Sonia glared at Antoine. She didn’t want some mercenary trying to question her abilities. She may not have had the most battle experience, but she had been trained by the best and had led the 8th Knighthood to victory in both of the battles they had taken part in. And she wouldn’t have been promoted if she didn’t have any skills in battle. However, she didn’t intend to rise to his bait, so she didn’t respond.
“Did I strike a nerve? Well, I guess even knights can be sensitive,” said Antoine.
Ignoring his question, Sonia pointed towards the arched gate that marked the exit from the square and said, “Look, here’s the gate. So, that must be the horseman we’re looking for.”
She pointed to a middle-aged man dressed almost entirely in red, which Sonia always thought of as the color of the Neo Avon military. He was standing next to a large wagon loaded with supplies, which was led by four horses.
Sonia approached the man and asked, “So, Princess Beatrice hired you to bring us to Neo Avon? Why do wear their colors?”
“I am supposed to pretend to be from Neo Avon, returning from business in Avon. I was told that wearing red might help to sell that lie,” said the horseman.
“That is quite the collection of supplies,” said Antoine. “I don’t suppose it’s all for us?”
“You would suppose right,” answered the horseman.
“Well, thanks for your help. You’re doing a great service for the kingdom.” Sonia motioned to Antoine and said, “Come on. Let’s get going before we lose too much daylight.”
The ride in the horseman’s wagon seemed a metaphor for the mission thus far to Antoine. It was not exactly what one would describe as smooth, while being a little more crowded than he had hoped for, and it even felt just the slightest bit cold. The grassy Omra Plains, which stretched across most of the Western half of Avon were mostly flat, but there were occasional bumps, and each bump on the road was accentuated by the fact that crates full of food and medical supplies seemed to fall on him at each bump. However, the thought of ten thousand gilar kept Antoine from becoming too bothered by it.
“So, I have to ask. What type of salary does a knight such as yourself get paid?” asked Antoine.
His new companion did not seem the least bit amused by this question. She let out a long sigh and shook her head.
“Is money all you think about?” asked Sonia.
“Oh no, of course I think about other things. I also think about ways I can get more money.”
Sonia shook her head and said, “I just don’t understand how you can be so selfish. You’re just profiting off of this war. You don’t care about honor, and you don’t even care who wins! You just work for whatever side offers you more money.”
Antoine chuckled and said, “You do understand that you just defined the term ‘mercenary,’ right?”
The horseman yelled back to them over the grinding of the axles, “We’re going into some light Mist, so keep an eye out for monsters!”
Antoine was slightly surprised that the horseman hadn’t tried to avoid the Mist. Perhaps he simply thought that he would be safe with a knight and a mercenary accompanying him. As Antoine peered out the back of the wagon, he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Besides the eerie, blue glow emanating from the droplets of Mist in the air, of course. They would be able to spot any monsters coming from behind easily, as the Mist was decidedly not very thick. However, it would be up to the horseman to spot any monsters coming from the front, as Antoine and Sonia could only see out the back of the wagon.
Sonia had her attention completely focused on the Mist outside. She seemed intent on avoiding any surprise attacks, even though the chances of anything being able to hide in the Mist seemed awfully low to Antoine. He wasn’t sure if this intense focus of hers was simply a part of a knight’s training, or if she was genuinely worried about an attack.
“Is the great and honorable knight afraid of a few monsters of the Mist?” asked Antoine.
Sonia continued to stare out the back of the wagon as she said, “No. I’m always prepared for battle. You can never take Mist too seriously, though. It’s just so unpredictable. For centuries, we’ve tried to figure out how it works, but we still don’t understand it.”
She did have a point. There were many theories all throughout Avon and the surrounding countries about Mist, but none of them had much proof to validate their claims. There was obviously a connection between monsters and Mist, since monsters only appeared near Mist. However, there was much disagreement even about what that meant. Some thought that the monsters were created by the Mist, or that they were animals that had been transformed by exposure to Mist. Some even thought that the monsters could be the ones generating the Mist, instead of the opposite. Antoine thought that the debate could go on for centuries more without any real progress.
Antoine was suddenly pulled away from his thoughts, however, when the wagon lurched forward and came to a stop.
“A monster!” cried the horseman.
Sonia seemed to bolt out of the wagon instantly, so Antoine decided to follow suit. She might not want a mercenary’s help, but he wouldn’t be able to abide the manner in which she would mock him if she defeated it without him.
As Antoine ran around to the front of the wagon, he pulled his metallic staff off of his belt. It was more similar to a baton as it hung from his belt, at a length of about one foot. However, he extended it to its full length of about five feet with just a thought. He was glad he had his weapon with him, as the monster in front of them was much larger than the average Mist monster. It was a huge four-legged beast, larger than the wagon that had brought them there. It had a thick, brown hide to protect itself, along with a pair of horns atop its head.
The monster gave out a loud snort and charged at Antoine and Sonia, who both dove out of the way in opposite directions. As they regrouped, it turned back around quickly, possibly to come back for another pass. Antoine did not intend to give it a chance for that, however. He formed a fireball in his hand, and hurled it towards the head of the monster, but it had little more effect than a snowball would have.
The beast stomped its hoof into the ground and charged at them again. Antoine simply dove out of the way to his left again. However, Sonia seemed to be standing her ground for some reason. At the last second, she sidestepped to the right and thrust her lance towards its head. However, it bounced off of it as if it were plated in armor, unable to pierce its thick hide. It swung its horns at Sonia, sending her skidding over the grass. Instead of charging at her, though, it backed away, seemingly trying to keep its eyes on both Antoine and Sonia. Antoine rushed over to her to attempt to regroup.
“It seems that you just made it angry,” said Antoine.
“Must’ve learned that trick from you, I guess,” said Sonia. “But that is one thick head. My lance couldn’t even get through it. I’m lucky it didn’t charge… Wait… that’s it!”
“If you’ve suddenly had some type of breakthrough, I would much appreciate you sharing it with me.”
“It’s only built for a frontal assault. That’s why it let us regroup. It didn’t want either of us getting behind it, so it must not be as well protected in the back.”
“Well, I suppose I could distract it for you then, so you can slip in behind it to deliver the killing blow.”
Antoine saw that the monster was readying itself for another assault at that very moment. As Sonia took off to attempt to circle around the monster, he summoned multiple fireballs into the air above his head in preparation. The monster charged, and Antoine sent the fireballs down in its path, one at a time, generating a smokescreen in its path and making its footing perilous by creating miniature craters in the ground with each impact. However, Sonia was taking longer than Antoine had anticipated, and it began to close in on him, horns lowered to impale him. The beast was much faster than it looked, but Antoine used his staff to divert the horn away from himself and hold the beast at bay for a moment.
That was all Sonia needed, as she flew in from behind and landed a blow right through the center of the monster’s back. The monster could not maintain its form any longer and turned to pure Mist, as all monsters of the Mist do. Clearly, his knight companion was stronger than her slender frame would suggest, though Antoine did not plan on telling her that.
“Thank you for your help, mercenary… Antoine,” said Sonia. “Maybe having your help on this mission won’t be so bad.”
Antoine gave a bow before saying, “I don’t know if I’m worthy of such high praise as this. Truly, that a valiant knight such as yourself would deign to compliment me so is simply astounding.”
Sonia folded her arms across her chest and said, “Your company, however, I could still do without.”
“Then we’ve finally found something we have in common.”
Sonia half-smiled and shook her head, “I guess we have.”
Antoine retracted his staff and hung it back on his belt, as they headed back to the wagon. Their next destination was just across the border, in the town of Wolt.
You did a really good job with the first scene introducing who Sonia is, how she’s gotten to where is in life and hints toward the type of baggage she lugs around in regards to her father’s legacy. I also liked the little conversation with her second-in-command Martin with the nod to the Dragon’s Den from chapter one and showing the respect she has from someone that knows her well. You also did well in showing the conflict between Sonia and Antoine with the clash of her nobility with his cockiness. I liked that you got a lot more descriptive with the town square and a little history behind the name as well as addressing my comment from the last chapter about wanting to know more about the appearances of the characters.
But as good as the first half was, you fell off the rails a bit when it came to the second half of the chapter. The story itself was good, you got the journey going and advanced the strained relationship between Sonia and Antoine and the brought up the mystery of the mist. Your delivery wasn't as strong in comparison to the first half. You got too wordy in a way that made you sound very unsure of yourself when the writer has to have conviction in what they say.
Take the sentence of “However, Sonia seemed to be standing her ground for some reason.” It’s filled with uncertainty because of the use of ‘seemed’ and ‘some reason’. I get Antoine is confused by her action, but there’s much better ways of delivering it. You could’ve said she was (bravely) idiotic in standing her ground or that Antoine thought she froze insinuating fear or uncertainty. So try to use more expressive words and careful not to get bogged down by empty phrases that don’t add anything to the narrative. Especially the word “However” which I noticed ya really used a lot in this chapter.
The overall chapter was a lot of fun though, I liked the way that Antoine and Sonia played off each other and the direction the story is going. The action fit nicely into the story and it was fun seeing the two work together to take down the monster with a brief truce. Keep up the good work!
Wow, that's a nice, big review, Hawk! Thanks! I was definitely trying to make sure I explained a lot about the world, since I definitely could've done more of it in the first chapter. And I definitely wanted to make sure I kinda established Sonia as a character, and set up the starting dynamic between her and Antoine. So, it's good that it sounds like you think I did a decent job of that stuff.
Looking back at the chapter, though, I agree that I could be more assertive, basically, in the way I write it. And I like the word "however" almost as much as I like commas, so I need to work on doing better at avoiding rambling and using those unnecessary phrases.
So... yeah, thanks for the review, Hawk!
Yup, Sonia came across very well! I competely got the character and it's gonna be fun seeing her and Antoine argue back and forth, haha.
Haha, commas are fine. It's kinda hard to write without em. It might be helpful to play with the "find" function in Microsoft Word (click on Edit at the top of the screen and "Find" is on the drop down menu). It lets you type in a word and it finds all the times you use that word and it can help you see if you're using that word maybe more than you'd like and delete it or replace it with something else. Often when you reread something you just wrote you can gloss over mistakes or tendacies another person, or a computer, will notice.
Cool. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of opportunities to see them argue, I'd say. Taking down one monster doesn't exactly turn them into best friends.
Well, yeah, commas are definitely important, but there is a such thing as too much of a good thing. Unless it's about Chrono Cross. Then you can't ever have too much of it. Thanks for the tip about using "find." I never really thought about using that for my writing before, so maybe I'll try that out on the next chapter.
The Mists of Avon: Chapter 3
Sonia had never felt dirtier in her entire life. And this included the time she had fallen into that giant mud pit, when she was five years old. Her mother had brought her to visit her father at the Knight Training Grounds, where he was helping to train some of the new recruits. She had wandered away from her mother and wanted to prove herself a knight by going through the obstacle course. Somehow, she managed to climb to the top of the first wall, but she met her match when she attempted to swing across the mud pit on a rope. Her father had to fish her out of the mud, but he wasn’t even angry. He had joked that she did better than some of the new recruits. It took her nearly an hour to clean up.
But even that couldn’t possibly top how she felt when she needed to answer one question from the gate guard.
“So, you two are mercenaries looking for work here in Wolt?”
She couldn’t bring herself to answer out loud, so she simply nodded. It wasn’t even just the lying that she took issue with. The fact that she had to pretend to be a mercenary was what really disgusted her. She was a commander in the military of Avon, and she had always been commended for her sense of honor! Now, she was forced to pretend to be a member of the least honorable sort of people she had ever met.
Of course, Antoine did not have the same issue. He said, “Yes. We’re looking for a rather large job, actually, as long as it comes with equally large compensation.”
“Well, we are always looking for mercenaries to fight on the front lines, with the war going on,” said the guard with a smile.
“I prefer a job where I am likely to live long enough to spend my money… so I think we’ll search a bit more.”
The guard’s smile turned to a frown quickly, “Then maybe I’ll just inspect the goods in your wagon, so you can get out of here.” He asked the horseman, “Are you here to trade?”
“Yes, I’m actually a merchant, by trade. I just picked up these mercenaries on the way to pick up some extra money. I’ll show you what I’m bringing in.”
As the horseman brought the guard around to the back, Sonia whispered to Antoine, “I can’t believe I have to pretend I’m a mercenary.”
“Can you think of another way to explain why you’re entering Neo Avon so heavily armed?” whispered Antoine.
“Besides the truth?”
The guard and horseman came back around the wagon, preventing Antoine from making whatever immature remark he had prepared.
The guard said to the horseman, “It looks like everything is in order. You have a large stock of medical supplies, so I think you’re in the right place. We’re always looking to buy more medical supplies, with this town being the first line of defense for Neo Avon during this war.”
The town definitely looked to be built to be that first line of defense, on the outside. It had high stone walls all around, with towers situated at the corners of the city. These towers would be the perfect place for archers to spot the enemy and take out many soldiers before they even reach the town. The gate was made of a very thick wood and was so heavy that it took more than one person to open them. The gate generally stayed open during the daytime, though, so that wasn’t an issue at the moment.
“Thank you. I will look into that,” said the horseman, who then turned to Antoine and Sonia. “I will be leaving for the capital by sunset. If you are going that way, I would be willing to take you… for a fee, of course.”
Sonia began, “That would be very help---”
“Perhaps,” Antoine cut in. “But there may be better jobs here in Wolt, so we may have no need to travel to Ralingrad. And there may be cheaper horsemen, as well.”
Antoine started to walk away, even though their conversation was definitely not over. Sonia knew that mercenaries were rude, but there was no reason for Antoine to act this way. And it was simply inefficient for them to find a new horseman to bring them to Ralingrad, anyways. But she had to follow Antoine into the city.
“What was that for?” she asked.
Antoine spoke in a low voice, “It would arouse suspicion if we simply accepted his offer. Two mercenaries traveling together is a strange enough occurrence. Mercenaries usually try to avoid having too many attachments.”
Sonia couldn’t believe that showing a little common courtesy could somehow blow their cover. However, she didn’t want to waste time with another argument. They had work to do.
“I guess we might as well try to gather some information while we’re here. Getting into the palace is going to be difficult, so we could use every advantage we can get,” said Sonia.
“I’m already a step ahead of you, actually. I know a thief who should be able to help us. When last we talked, she had been bound for Neo Avon. She probably came through here.”
Sonia let out a sigh, “A thief? Why would we possibly need the help of some thief?”
“We are attempting to steal a very valuable item from the palace. And Ruby is the only thief to ever have made it into and out of the palace without being caught. If anyone has valuable information about the palace, it’s her.”
As they walked down the main road, Sonia noticed that the streets were nearly empty. There were no merchants out in stalls, no crowd of people gathering to gossip. Most of the people on the streets wore the armor of a knight of Neo Avon. The others scurried along on their errands, trying to stay out of the way of the knights. Most of the buildings were boarded up. It was as if Wolt had ceased to be a town and had become a fortress for the war effort.
“I don’t see how we’re ever going to find her in a place like this. It’s almost deserted,” said Sonia.
“There’s one place in any town that’s never deserted.”
“I can’t believe you actually dragged me to a cantina,” said Sonia.
The cantina in Wolt was fairly small. It probably couldn’t hold any more than fifty people, Sonia guessed. It was pretty bare-bones with simple wooden chairs, tables, and bar stools. Even still, the cantina was nearly full, mostly with knights, even though it was still day time. This didn’t bode well for the knights stationed in Wolt.
“You aren’t the biggest fan of cantinas, I take it?” asked Antoine with raised eyebrows.
“I’m not really into drinking. My father has told me plenty of stories about a friend of his with a drinking problem. He pretty much scared me right out of drinking.”
“Fair enough. I don’t necessarily need to drink today, then. It would be bad for business. But cantinas can be a great source of information, in my line of work. Or, I guess that would be our line of work now.”
Sonia shot Antoine a glare, “If you ever call it ‘our’ line of work again, I swear I’ll make you regret it.”
“Of course, of course. Perhaps we should find someone who might have seen Ruby. We’ll start with the bartender,” said Antoine.
Sonia and Antoine approached the bar and sat down, and Antoine signaled for the bartender. He was a middle-aged man with a shaved head, who clearly also drank his fair share, based on his large gut.
“What would you like?” asked the bartender as he waddled over.
“I’ll take one Mistmaker, and I’d also like a bit of information,” answered Antoine as he placed a 20 gilar coin on the bar. “Keep the change.”
Sonia had absolutely no idea what a Mistmaker was, but she knew that Antoine had just blatantly lied to her face. Dealing with a mercenary was bad enough, she really didn’t want to deal with a drunk mercenary.
“This information isn’t going to get me in trouble with all these knights here, is it?” asked the bartender as he placed a large glass of some type of bubbling, blue liquid in front of Antoine.
“Not at all. I simply would like to know if you’ve seen a certain young lady recently.”
“And how would I know her?”
“She’s a short girl, about eighteen years old, with black hair, usually tied into a ponytail. She wears a green bracelet on her wrist.”
“Does she have a short temper?”
Antoine chuckled a little, “So, you have indeed been acquainted with her…”
“Yeah, I saw her. Though you’ll have a tough time meeting her. She picked a fight with a knight and was thrown in the town’s prison.”
“I guess that’s it. We’re not going to be able to get her help now. Might as well move on to the next town,” said Sonia.
“Where’s the prison?” asked Antoine.
“Just down at the end of this road the cantina’s on. But you better not be planning on any kind of breakout. I can’t be connected to anything like that, in this town.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not thinking about any such thing. I simply want to see if I can arrange a meeting with her. But we must be going now. Thank you for your help.”
Antoine and Sonia both stood up and walked towards the door, as Antoine left his drink untouched. Maybe he hadn’t lied to her. He had a look in his eye, though. Sonia could tell he wasn’t just going to the dungeon to meet with Ruby. She stopped Antoine just short of the door to question him.
“Is it really so important that we get Ruby’s help? Wouldn’t we be going too far out of our way for this to even be worth it?”
“It won’t jeopardize the mission in any way. I’ve performed similar jailbreaks countless times.”
Sonia folded her arms across her chest, “I’m not helping you break a thief out of jail, Antoine.”
Antoine didn’t even waste time on one of his irritating remarks. He simply walked out the door, leaving Sonia behind in the cantina.
Sonia was surprised to see Antoine so committed to this. She had never seen him, or any mercenary, go out of their way unnecessarily like this. Usually, they would just do what the job required and nothing more. Maybe Antoine just couldn’t stand the thought of his friend being locked away in a dungeon? That thought clashed with the selfish Antoine she knew, but she just couldn’t shake it. And now that he was finally doing something that wasn’t completely selfish, she hadn’t been willing to help him…
Wolt had never been too large a city, so the prison had also been kept to a reasonable size. That changed when the war started. Antoine had heard that it had been expanded, so it could serve as a place to hold some of the prisoners taken in the war. Not much had changed on the outside, as it was barely any bigger than the cantina, so the changes must have occurred on the inside. As Antoine stepped through the doors, he was immediately stopped by two armored guards who each bore spears.
“What business do you have here?” asked one of the guards.
“I was recently hired as a mercenary by the Neo Avon military,” said Antoine. “I’ve been sent to interrogate some of your prisoners. It’s a… specialty of mine.”
“And why should we believe you?” asked the other guard. “How are we supposed to know you’re really on our side?”
“I could bring the Commander down here,” answered Antoine. “I’m sure he would be thrilled to waste his time dealing with such a minor issue. And I’m also sure it would in no way affect your chances of ever being promoted to the front lines.”
The two guards shared a look. Clearly, Antoine had struck a nerve. Most guards had deluded dreams of making a name for themselves on the battlefield as a knight. It was what made their mind-numbingly dull days bearable.
“Y-You can go in. No need to bother the Commander.”
“Thank you. I knew you gentlemen were reasonable.”
As Antoine proceeded towards the prisoner’s area, he discovered what additions had been made to the prison. They had dug tunnels underground and built cells down there, rather than attempting to find more space aboveground. It made the prisoner’s area an even less pleasant place, being dank and damp throughout, but that was of little concern to them, of course. Antoine didn’t see any guards right away, and the first few cells he walked past were empty as well.
The next one was a different story. The door suddenly swung open, and Ruby stepped out from it as she tied her hair back into a ponytail. She seemed to be doing just fine, with no noticeable injuries. She still wore the red vest he had given her years ago, though she had most definitely outgrown it, over a sleeveless black shirt and black shorts. Her bracelet, on the other hand, was missing. Antoine knew she was not going to leave without that.
Ruby smiled as she saw Antoine, “Hey, ‘Toine! Decided to drop in for a visit, huh?”
“Dungeons do seem to be a common meeting place for us, so I thought I should continue the tradition. Did you steal a key from a guard?”
“Nah, not this time. Figured I’d just pick the lock with my hairclip,” said Ruby. “But, before we get outta here, I gotta go get my bracelet and my equipment. They got it stashed away in the armory. That’s where they’re keepin’ all the prisoners’ stuff.”
Antoine knew that getting to the armory would be a bit more complicated than entering the prisoner’s area was. Guards would attempt to stop him to question him… unless he was escorting a dangerous prisoner…
“Almost there. But, what are we gonna do about the guard at the armory door?” asked Ruby.
Antoine had led Ruby all the way from her cell to the armory, with her hands tied up behind her back. Only one guard had even asked where Antoine was taking her, and he left without an answer after Ruby had spit on him and made a few insulting remarks about his mother.
“The angry prisoner act may not work, so we may need to improvise,” answered Antoine.
“Halt! Who are you, and what are you doing with this prisoner?” asked the guard.
The guard did not wear armor, just as the other guards in the prisoner’s area did not wear armor. He wore a red tunic instead and carried a sword in a sheath at his hip.
“I am a mercenary hired by your government, and I am here to interrogate this prisoner. She has a map that gives the location of all of Avon’s military forts, which she says she hid with all her equipment that was confiscated.”
“Good riddance, I say,” said Ruby. “They sold me out and left me here to die, so I might as well sell ‘em out.”
“Why wasn’t I informed? What commanding officer are you working for?”
Antoine had hoped he wouldn’t ask too many questions. This put them in a bit of a bind. He knew he was going to need to pick his words carefully now.
Ruby clearly had a different idea. She lowered her shoulder and rammed into the guard. Then, she leapt into the air and delivered a kick to his face. He slumped to the floor, unconscious.
“That’s not exactly what I meant when I told you to improvise,” said Antoine as he untied Ruby.
“Hey, I’m a dangerous prisoner, ya know? Just playin’ the role.”
Ruby picked the key off of the guard and used it to open up the door. She ran inside quickly and located her equipment quickly as well. She fit her bracelet back on her wrist and strapped her brown belt across her waist. This belt was not exactly made for fashion, however, as it contained many different gadgets she used regularly, such as smoke pellets and a small grappling hook, and even had a small sheath for her dagger.
“There’s a whole lot of nice stuff here… Think we got time to grab some of it?” asked Ruby.
She had a point. Various valuables taken from the prisoners, from jewelry to pouches full of money, were piled up in one corner. Not to mention how valuable some of the weapons in the armory could be as well. But they didn’t have time for that, and Antoine was headed for a large payout anyways.
“The guards could be here any minute. So I would suggest that we make our escape before that happens.”
Right on cue, a pair of guards rounded the corner and spotted Antoine and the open armory door. They rushed towards him, swords drawn. He knelt down and placed a hand to the ground, as he concentrated. He was able to cover the ground in front of him in a sheet of ice, causing the guards to slip and fall.
Antoine and Ruby took that opportunity to sprint in the opposite direction. Antoine had noted the path they had taken to the armory, so he guided them back down that path. It didn’t take too long for another guard to step into their path.
“Great, looks like our pals from back there don’t know how to take a hint…” said Ruby.
She was correct, as the guards had pursued them all that way. Antoine drew his staff to handle the one in front of him first. The guard swung his sword, but Antoine deflected the blow with his staff. He followed up by striking the guard in the face with the staff, rendering him unconscious.
Behind him, Ruby had two guards to contend with. She drew her dagger and used it to block the first guard’s sword swipe. The other guard followed up with a swipe of his own, forcing Ruby to flip backwards to avoid it. As she landed, she sprung forward into a kick, knocking out the first guard. Antoine had already overcome his opponent, so he assisted Ruby by firing a bolt of lightning to shock the second guard.
Antoine knew that they were nearing the exit as they ran back up the stairs. The two armored guards Antoine had encountered earlier barred the exit, providing one final obstacle.
“What? One of the prisoners is free? You tricked us!” said the first guard.
“Brilliant deduction, gentlemen. I do believe a promotion is in store for both of you, on account of your amazing intellect,” said Antoine.
“Maybe we will get promoted once we take care of you,” said the second guard.
They did have the advantage of being heavily armored, which could make the battle a bit trickier than the previous battle had been. Nothing that Antoine couldn’t handle, but possibly enough to force him to break a sweat. That changed when Sonia burst through the entrance.
“Step aside now,” said Sonia.
They clearly did not intend to take her advice. One guard stabbed at her with his spear, but she deflected the blow and followed up by striking him with the blunt end of her lance in the face, knocking him out. The other also stabbed at her, but she sidestepped the attempt. She retaliated by plunging her lance through the side of his knee, where the armor would be weakest. While obviously not a killing blow, it was definitely a crippling blow that would prevent him from following them. He fell to the ground in pain.
Ruby turned to Antoine, “Please tell me she’s on our side.”
Antoine nodded, “Some introductions may be in order. But, we may want to save them for later.”
“I can agree with that,” said Ruby. “’Specially since I heard some big-shot general’s on his way into town. So I don’t think we wanna hang ‘round here too long.”
“Which general was it?” asked Sonia.
“I wanna say his name was… Lorenzo… or somethin’ like that.”
Antoine saw Sonia grimace at the sound of that name, which puzzled Antoine. The only general named Lorenzo that he knew of was Lorenzo van Roux. He was famous for his exploits in the most recent war against the neighboring country of Jamasca, which ended thirteen years ago. He had been part of a great trio of knights, which included Sonia’s father, Soren. But, Lorenzo had been close friends with Soren. There was no reason for Sonia to have any issues with Lorenzo, other than Lorenzo’s decision to follow Dmitri to Neo Avon. Maybe it was simply that. After all, most knights could not separate business from personal matters.
Sonia knelt down next to the one still-conscious guard and asked, “When is General Lorenzo going to be here?”
“He said he should… be here… by nightfall,” said the guard, through the pain of his wound.
“That settles it,” said Sonia as she stood up. “We’re waiting here until nightfall, and I will battle Lorenzo.”
Ruby grabbed Sonia’s arm and said, “I’m not sure if you’re new at this whole jailbreak thing… but usually ya don’t wanna hang around town too long. Especially when it’s a town full of knights.”
“I don’t care! Lorenzo killed my father! I can’t let him get away with it…”
“Oh…” said Ruby, as she let go of Sonia.
That cleared up Antoine’s confusion quickly, though it didn’t exactly help matters any. Sonia was a stubborn woman, and she wouldn’t be easily dissuaded from her plan to battle Lorenzo, especially with such a strong motivation. But, Antoine knew that attempting to fight a general in a town like Wolt, which was practically a fortress full of knights, was a losing battle. Of course, Sonia wouldn’t listen to that line of reasoning. She would stay to fight her “honorable” battle, no matter how utterly stupid it was. Antoine had to try a different angle to persuade her, then.
“What about your responsibility to finish the mission? It’s almost sunset. Our transport will be leaving then, and we will have no way to complete the mission.”
“I don’t take orders from mercenaries, Antoine.”
“How about the princess, then? She was the one who ordered you to undertake this mission.”
Antoine knew that Sonia felt some rule of honor bound her to follow the Princess, so he hoped that would overrule her desire for revenge, at least for the moment. He did not wish to be sidetracked from his job… and his compensation.
Sonia sighed, “Fine… I hate it when you’re right.”
“That explains the sour mood you’ve been displaying constantly…”
Sonia glared at Antoine. She may have admitted that he was right, but Antoine knew that her pride would not allow her to let him bask in the glory of that achievement for too long.
“I guess I could stand a little company, ‘specially since you two got a ride, so I’ll come with you two for now. At least ‘til we get away from this mess of a town.” said Ruby.
“Let’s not spend any more time in this dungeon, then,” said Antoine. “We have places to go and valuable objects to steal.”
Awesome new issue, Rogue! I should have a review for ya Monday or Tuesday and ya can expect it to be very positive. This one turned out great.
Thanks, Hawk! I thought this chapter was a whole lot of fun to write (and not just because I got to introduce a thief character), so I'm glad it was fun to read, too!