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Chapter 35 - Isha

Isha wasn’t very scientifically-minded, nor did she exceptionally enjoy debating over the details of Everspring’s destruction. While Anders waxed poetic about theories and speculation, his hands full of books and loose sheets of paper covered with scribblings, Isha was lost in thought, mulling over what her next tattoo should be. She had been through so much since leaving Everspring that it was difficult to think of something that was capable of encapsulating it all. These past few months might require a whole series of tattoos to do it justice.

“Maybe it was the real Drae!” Neera cheered, pulling Isha’s attention out of her own thoughts and back to the present. “They used their powerful nature magic to destroy the Empire, heroically sacrificing themselves in the process.”

“Sacrifice isn’t heroic,” Isha scolded her. She was lying, of course. Sacrifice is probably one of the most heroic decisions a person can make. Running into a fiery building to save a crying baby is heroic as all hell, but Neera was much too easily influenced and Isha wasn’t about to let the girl get any ideas into her head. “Don’t you dare go killing yourself to save anyone.”

She had plenty more to say, but stopped herself short as Kyrill raised his hand in warning, scanning the treeline. Isha pulled out her spear in anticipation of a possible animal or beast attack.

“So much for getting the drop on ‘em,” a voice called out from the trees. So not a beast, at least. It was a man’s voice, coming from the direction of Rotwater.

Which means we’d been followed.

“It’s the fuckin’ mud, like always,” a woman’s voice answered from an entirely different direction.

And they have us surrounded.

“Huntin’s shit this close to town.”

Isha scanned their surroundings, caught movement of at least three or four people, though she was sure there were more. None made themselves immediately known except their leader—who Isha recognized right off the bat as he slowly approached the group—his gaudy, ill-suited gimmick gripped tightly in his hand. The Hawk’s Roost had sent their golden children after them. Or silver as it were.

That means there are six of ‘em. An even fight then.

“You know, we don’t usually have the opportunity to persuade our quarries to lay down arms, what with the whole beasts not talkin’ and criminals not carin’ and all,” Samwell said. “Maybe we talk things out this time, save us all a whole lotta trouble. Name’s Samwell. And this here’s...”

Just like back at The Hawk’s Roost, the whole team bashed their weapons against nearby trees, two loud simultaneous thumps.

“The Silver Hammers!” they all called out.

Did they fucking practice this shit?

“Maybe you’ve heard of us,” he said with a smile.

“We have. You’re the crew that killed the poor, little house cat. Bet that made you feel like a big man, huh?”

He didn’t seem to like that, which only made Isha smile wider.

“Now I offered to talk things out, but if you’re intent on just insulting us—”

“Most don’t draw weapons when they’re just looking to talk,” Isha remarked.

“Precautions, you understand.”

“Is that why your five friends are hiding in the trees around us? Sneaking your way up to surprise us with some gripping conversation? Shiny, little hammers at the ready just in case we don’t like what you have to say?”

“Listen. We were tasked with bringin’ that one home,” he said, pointing to Anders. “If we can do that without a fight, all the better. Give us what we want and we let you walk, no harm done. But if push comes to shove... we won’t hesitate to kill you.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere! And quite the offer. We made quite the ruckus back in town. You’d let us just walk away?”

“Clean slate. Your ‘ruckus’ back in town was limited to a few broken bones and bruised egos, but that was all. From the sound of it, you had ample opportunity for a whole lot worse. Seems to me like you went out of your way to not kill anyone. Rhames appreciates that. That said, we will not afford you the same courtesy if you stand in our way.”

“Okay, okay,” Anders relented. “I’ll come. I surrender.”

He took a swig from his flask, returned it to his bag before dropping it on the ground and raised his hands above his head. Samwell snapped his fingers and one of the Silver Hammers, the bruiser of the group as big as Kyrill, approached from his spot amongst the trees. He slid his massive silver maul behind his back and pulled out a small length of rope at his side.

“The fuck are you doing?” Isha barked at Anders.

“You have your task and all the information you need to complete it. You don’t need me.”

“I was just starting to like you, too...”

The rest of the Silver Hammers approached from the trees, each carrying their personal choice of silver hammer. Samwell had kept things simple: a maul in one hand and a shield in the other. A scrawny-looking man held two smaller hammers in either hand. Another carried what looked like a long spear with a hammer at the end. The last two were the most interesting: both holding a hammer in one hand and a long spike or hiltless dagger in the other, with a length of coiled chain connecting the two.

Anders held two fists together as the bruiser approached him, waiting to be bound. Isha really was disappointed he was giving up so easily. She had gotten more used to the idea of this ragtag group of strangers working together. The shy gladiator and his hunter best friend, the enthusiastic but haunted little girl who wields magic, the thief bent on revenge against the descendents of the Empire, and her, the reluctant leader with a varied past just trying to do the right thing. Her found family. It had seemed as if Anders was fitting right in, the last piece to their puzzle. Yet here he was, giving up.

The bruiser draped the length of rope over Anders’ wrists. Quick as lightning, Anders pulled his hands apart, wrapped the rope up and around the bruiser’s wrist and spun the man around, his arm pulled up against his back.

So maybe he wasn’t giving up.

Anders held the rope in one hand and wrapped his other arm around the man’s neck, bracing his arm flat against the man’s throat. He cupped his hands, holding the rope to secure his arm in place while the man gasped and gagged for air. Samwell rushed to his companion’s aid, but in a matter of seconds, the man had already lost consciousness. Anders let go of the bruiser, braced his foot against his back and shoved the man’s dead weight into the charging Samwell, causing him to stumble and stagger.

Isha sprung into action and not a moment too soon. She turned just in time to duck away from the piercing head of the strange spear-hammer being thrust towards her. She’d never seen such a weapon before and wondered if it even had any tactical benefit over a normal spear. The head of the hammer would kick like a godsdamned mule when swung with the length of the spear, but the hammer’s head surely threw off the weight of the weapon. A hard hit is worthless if it can’t be accurately wielded.

The man behind the weapon took a long lunge forward as he swung the hammer wide. Isha jumped backwards to barely avoid the attack, feeling the rush of wind as it passed by her.

Maybe accuracy isn’t quite that important.

“Ah, but she is quick on her feet!” the man said. “Has Ronan Lucerne found himself a worthy adversary? It has been too long.” He lunged once again, but Isha deflected the attack with ease. He was testing her. And she him. She was also judging the shit out of the man who thought talking about himself in the third person like an asshole somehow made him more interesting. “A duel it is then.”

It seemed as if the rest of the Silver Hammers were just as quick to react as Ronan. Before Moswen was able to even pull his bow free, he saw a hammer hurtling through the air towards Kyrill, arcing wide. “Kyrill! Look out!” It was too late. The chain it was connected to snapped taut and wrapped around him just as another hammer came flying in from the opposite angle. The chains held his arms to his sides as they were pulled tightly against each other. The metal spikes were jammed into the ground, holding Kyrill hopelessly in place. The man and woman on either end of the chains took out a second set of their chained weapons and used the hammers to drive the spikes deep into the soil.

Moswen was unsure what to do. Bow in hand, arrow nocked, but he held off from firing. None of the guards in The Hawk’s Roost had been fair game. Were the Silver Hammers? He could always try to just shoot them in the legs, he guessed, thought it would be a whole lot more helpful if he was just given the go ahead. They did say they wouldn’t hesitate to kill them. But Kyrill was out of commission. Isha was busy going toe to toe with an unfortunately talkative man. Aoife, daggers drawn, sparred against the man with two light hammers in either hand. And Anders was ducking and dodging a whirlwind of attacks from an enraged Samwell. He had no one to look to for guidance.

Moswen’s indecisiveness got the better of him as the woman with the chain hammer flung hers in his direction. The pristine weapon hummed as it arced through the air.

“The fuck?!” the woman gasped as her hammer was stopped dead in its tracks, suspended in the air, before plunging off into the trees and yanking the chain out of her hands. Behind the woman, Neera held a large chunk of coal in one hand and her golden idol in the other, her knuckles white as she held on tight, a strained expression on her face. The woman, now weaponless, moved to charge Moswen. He raised his bow, an arrow trained directly at her.

“I think not, lady.”

The man with the other chained hammers took notice of what Neera was doing, but by the time he moved to raise his hammer, Neera had already turned her attention to him. The coil of chain he held in his offhand wrapped and tightened around his arm like a snake. The spike at the end was driven into the soil, pulling him to the ground. Neera kept her attention on him as she spread her arms wide, palms facing up, and slowly raised them. The theatrics weren’t necessary, but it looked cool. Behind her, the two spikes keeping Kyrill subdued raised out of the ground and his chains loosened. He squirmed free and a look of relief and joy spread across his face as he grabbed his shield and joined the fray.

“Ah, but she still struggles to make contact!” Ronan teased Isha. She was having trouble dealing with the man. She hadn’t encountered many capable spear-users. The weapon proved just as annoying to deal with as she imagined her past opponents had felt. The reach it was capable of provided an inherent defense purely due to the level of offense it was capable of. Ronan seemed to have garnered quite the ego from his time using the weapon. “She handles herself well, but well enough to defeat Ronan Lucerne? He thinks not!”

His words taunted Isha, begging her to take out her growing aggression, to make a mistake. She swung her spear wide, only for the attack to be deflected. Ronan used the momentum and whipped his hammer around again for a follow up. Isha raised her spear and blocked the attack, but fell to one knee. The momentum of the heavy hammer gave his blows a powerful impact. He whirled the hammer back up and around to come crashing down. Isha rolled backwards, narrowly avoiding the attack. She reached to her side and quickly flung her dagger at Ronan. He avoided it with ease, but it at least allowed her time to recover her composure.

How the fuck do people ever deal with my spear?

The answer was, of course, they usually didn’t.


She swung her spear low, an easily blocked attack that Ronan caught with ease. Just as their weapons made contact, though, Isha rushed forward, leveraging her spear against the shaft of his hammer, holding it to the ground. She hoped the move would pay off as she let go of her spear, forfeiting the weapon to ensure she closed the distance between them before leaping into the air. She didn’t have a shield like Kyrill, but sending a knee into the man’s chest had just as potent an effect. He hit the ground hard, the wind knocked out of him. She pulled out her concealed blade and held it to the man’s throat.

“It seems she does handle herself well enough to defeat Ronan Lucerne,” he said, catching his breath, both disappointed and intrigued. “He thought wrong.”

Aoife was having a similarly difficult time dealing with the man dual wielding light hammers. While Isha and Ronan had been trading blow after blow, Aoife and her counterpart shared a more hesitant back and forth. Jab, retreat. Swing, retreat. Dodge, dodge, dodge, retreat.

“C’mon, bitch,” the man goaded her to attack.

You come on!”

Aoife had never been in a knife fight before. Mostly because the concept was near non-existent. While the man standing in front of her wasn’t wielding any blades, his choice of weapons still lent themselves to a similar fighting style. Fast, up close, and preferably without your target’s knowledge. They simply weren’t weapons made for toe-to-toe dueling.

There were likely a few dagger aficionados out there with expert-level proficiency, but in her experience the vast majority of knife-users weren’t. Knives are not noble weapons. They’re the tools of assassins and cowards. None who actually use them are looking for an evenly-matched duel. They’re looking to end the fight before it begins. You don’t wield a dagger because you’re looking for proper and honorable combat between two civilized aristocrats. You do so because you want to gut your target before they realize it’s even happening. Quick and dirty. Kind of like how Kyrill came rushing in from behind to bash his shield into the man’s back, sending him arching backwards as he fell to the ground.

“Thanks, big guy.”

“My pleasure,” he said with a wink.

Nearly all of the Silver Hammers had been taken out of commission. The only one left was Samwell, the group’s eponymous leader, continuing his assault against Anders. He hadn’t been able to touch the man. Anders barely avoided every swipe, his hands never leaving his sides, making it look effortless.

“It’s over, Sam. You’ve lost,” he said between swipes of Samwell’s hammer. “Lay down your weapon.”

“Bullshit!” he screamed, swinging his hammer wild. “I ain’t done with you yet, boy.”

“Boy?” he asked, confused, dodging another swing. “Aren’t we like the same age?”

“Quiet! I may not be allowed to kill you, but I’m sure a few broken bones’ll shut that mouth of yours!”

“Please. Sam. I don’t want to hurt you...”

“You arrogant cock!”

Anders quickly stepped to the side, barely avoiding another attack as Samwell’s hammer was plunged straight towards him. This time, however, his hands left his side as he grabbed Samwell’s wrist and twisted it behind his back. In one fluid motion, he wrapped his leg around Samwell’s and the two fell to the ground. Their combined weight was focused on Samwell’s knee as it hit the ground first with a wet snap.

Holy hell that was brutal, Isha thought, frightened but impressed with Anders’ fighting capabilities. After the encounter in the library and now this? The man had some definite skills. But where the fuck did a junkie bookworm like him learn all that?

The man’s screams were deafening. Isha knew the knees were a common target amongst more malicious criminals, usually as a means of torture. The pain was said to be unbearable. It seemed an odd choice for Anders, especially considering he had just said he didn’t want to hurt the man. The rest of the Silver Hammers laid on the ground, already defeated, but none dared to move after Samwell began his cries of pain.

Isha walked up beside him, the man’s screams quieting down but not ceasing.

“That was a bit much, wasn’t it?” he asked.

“Yeah, maybe. Good to know you can hold your own in a fight, though.”

She gave him a firm slap on the ass as she turned to face the others.

“If you’d prefer to not end up like your friend here, or worse, I advise you to do as I say. Moz? Any of them make a move, you have my permission to shoot them. Kyrill, tie ‘em up. We’re gonna have a little chat.”


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