Once again, Gregg Storm and the rest of the troop were prepared to storm an inn and capture the infamous Red Rodger. Creeping through the thick underbrush under the cover of darkness, the troop kept their eyes peeled for guards. The heavy rains recently had turned the firm ground into a thick mud that sucked at their boots. The fancy inn rose above the trees with a few stained-glass windows showing light and movement inside.
Sliding over to the ornate door, Sergeant Forn opened it slowly. Walking in quietly, the troop gazed around at the exquisite window and foreign helmet, their eyes finally resting on the pile of sacs on the chiseled stone floor.
Glancing around the well-lit room, Gregg could see no sign of Red Rodger or his compatriots. Sergeant Forn quickly organized them into groups of two.
“Gregg and I will head beyond the stairs; Pat and George, take that door; Gabriel and Bold, continue straight ahead; and Sam and Aidan, check the balcony. Go!”
Sam and Aidan started climbing slowly up the spiral staircase to the loft above, keeping to the side to avoid creaking boards. Nearing the top, a long creak broke the stillness. Whirling around, Aidan glared at Sam. Sam merely shook his head slowly and pointed to the balcony. Aidan waited on the stairs and was rewarded by another creak from above.
Without giving warning to Sam, Aidan dashed up the last few stairs onto the balcony where he saw Nodof Gailen trying to open the door at the end of the balcony quietly.
Aidan charged him. Nodof, hearing him coming, drew his sword and faced Aidan. Aidan swung his mace heavily at Nodof’s frightened face. Nodof quickly ducked the blow, but his sword got tangled in the chain of Aidan’s mace. Pulling frantically at his sword, Nodof was slowly pushed into the railing by Aidan.
As Nodof hung half over the railing, his own sword at his neck, Aidan heard a yelp from behind him. Glancing behind himself, Aidan saw Red Rodger, holding a sword across Sam’s streched neck.
“Let him go and drop your weapon, you golden ox,” growled Red Rodger threateningly. “Or your friend will have a new mouth!”
Aidan looked from the shadowy figure of Red Rodger to the frightened eyes of Sam. Dropping his mace, Aidan allowed Nodof to stand upright.
“Ach, spare the lad,” Aidan said sadly.
“Do you think I’m stupid,” Red Rodger laughed. “As soon as I let him go, he’ll go for the rest of your group. No, I think I’ll finish him later.”
As Nodof bound and gagged Aidan, Red Rodger brought the heavy hilt of his sword down heavily onto Sam’s head, knocking him to the floor. Sam’s vision blurred as he fought against the emptiness that was enveloping him.
Aidan stared balefully at Red Rodger as he swaggered over to where he lay bound on the wood floor. Balancing his sword on Aidan’s stomach, Red Rodger slowly leaned into it, enjoying the look of agony on Aidan’s bearded face.
Nodof glanced nervously at the main floor.
“Finish him quickly,” Nodof whispered urgently. “Those nosy twins are back.”
Red Rodger brought his sword up for a mighty stroke at Aidan’s neck.
“Say goodbye,” he hissed.
But the stroke never fell. Red Rodger’s face turned from a sadistic sneer to a grimace of pain as he slid off of Sam’s bloodied sword. Red Rodger was dead!
From his crouched position, Nodof stared in utter shock at Sam, his eyes drifting to his dead leader in front of him. Coming to his senses, Nodof grappled around for his sword. Nodof felt his foot make contact with a loose object and whirled to grab it. The sword slid painfully slow out of his reach as it plunged off the balcony to the stone floor below with a sharp clatter.
Nodof peered over the edge, seeing the twins sprinting towards the balcony stairs. Whirling around, Nodof threw himself against the door in a wild effort to get it open, thinking that Sam would attack him too. But thoughts of attack and killing were far from Sam’s mind as he bent over Aidan’s large coughing frame.
As Pat and George rushed past and apprehended Nodof, Aidan painfully beckoned Sam closer.
“Ah made a mistake,” Aidan gasped. “Ye’re nae a bad lad.” Aidan finished with a spurt of small coughs.
“I misjudged you as well,” choked Sam. “I thought you hated me and everyone. Forgive me!”
“Dinnae ask mah forgiveness,” Aidan said. “Ye’re a good lad; ye hate violence and killing. Ah wish Ah could go back tah the times ‘fore Ah was a soldier. Times of peace and happiness. Ah’d forgotten those times ‘fore ye came. Thank ye, Sam.”
Sam felt tears running down his cheeks as he tried to comfort Aidan. Pat and George slowly walked over to Sam and asked, “Is he…?”
As Gabriel and Corporal Bold continued on from the door, the ornate hall grew smaller and dimmer. The floor had changed from the bright chiseled stone of the foyer to a dull wooden floor that creaked at every movement.
Coming to an intersection where two dark hallways crossed, Gabriel caught the flash of steel in the corner of his eye as a sword swung down on Bold from one of the gloomy entrances.
“Look out!” Gabriel cried.
Bold barely had time to react as he brought his own sword up quickly to deflect the blow. A grunt of exasperation and a dull thud followed the sound of steel on steel, still ringing in Gabriel’s ears. There, trying to pull his sword out from the oak beam it was lodged in, stood the man he had come all this way to kill. Gabriel let out a yell of rage as he charged madly towards this man who had ruined his life, Aidan MacBurl!
Aidan MacBurl, realising his sword was a lost cause, took off down the dark hallway. Gabriel and Bold quickly followed him. Aidan stopped at a door and started wrenching at the handle, trying desperately to open it. Turning to face Gabriel, who was quite a ways ahead of Bold, Aidan panted.
“Never,” growled Gabriel, advancing on Aidan, heedless of all else. “You killed my friend and now you must die, scum!”
“Ha, ye couldnae kill a squirrel if it fell on your sword,” laughed Aidan breathlessly, reaching down to scratch his calf. “Just like your friend.”
“He was twice the man you could ever be,” yelled Gabriel, moving closer.
“Then ye won’t be disappointed tah meet him,” said Aidan, bringing his hand up in a lightning fast motion.
Gabriel felt someone grab him by the shoulders and pull him out of the way. Breaking free from its grasp, Gabriel swiped with his sword and was rewarded by grunt of pain. As the tears of anger cleared from his eyes and he saw the still man on the wooden floor, Gabriel realised his horrible mistake. The man on the floor was Corporal Bold. In the wall, a small knife stood quivering in the planking. Realising that Bold had saved his life, Gabriel fell down beside him, cursing himself for seeking revenge and ruining all he had.
Hearing the floor creak, Gabriel waited for the blow of a sword from Aidan. No longer did Gabriel have the urge for revenge; he no longer had the will to live even. He realised that in his mad quest of revenge, all he had managed to do was hurt those closest to him and seriously injure a new friend. Gabriel bowed his head and wept with remorse.
Feeling a hand touch his shoulder, Gabriel looked up into the stern face of Sergeant Forn. Behind him, Gregg stood with a firm hold on Aidan MacBurl.
“What happened?” asked Forn.
“I was trying to kill that man there,” Gabriel said pointing at Aidan. “And Bold saved me from his knife. I thought he was trying to stop me and struck him in anger. I’m afraid I have killed him.”
Forn bent down and examined Bold. Looking at Gabriel’s sword, Forn stood up smiling.
“I see no wound,” he said with relief. “I believe you hit him with the flat of the sword. He is merely on conscious, and his only injury will be a headache when he awakes.”
Just then, Bold awoke with a groan. As he rose, Bold rubbed his head gingerly. Looking dazedly around, Bold asked, “What happened?”
“I’m terribly sorry,” apologized Gabriel, wiping his eyes. “I hit you with the flat of my sword and knocked you out. Please forgive me.”
“Oh no worries,” winked Bold. “I have a thick skull; or so some say.”
Arriving outside the decorated door, the groups exchanged stories. As they stood in silence, pondering everything said, Gregg turned to Forn and asked.
“How did you know where to find Red Rodger?”
Sergeant Forn stared at the ground for a few moments before explaining.
“I wasn’t entirely sure. I figured he would be staying at an inn; typical Rainosian! I wasn’t truly certain until we met Gabriel and I mentioned MacBurl. The MacBurls were a wealthy family who had quit pirating and built this inn. I know this because I used to farm cattle on this island. I guess it was a long shot, but this seemed like the most reasonable guess.”
As the troop digested this new information, the sun started rising golden through the breaking clouds.
“What will happen to us now?” asked George.
“I’m not sure, but I hope we can all return to our old lives,” replied Forn with a sigh.
“Not me,” said Gabriel determinedly. “I cannot return until I have made things right with my family.”
“I’m sure you will,” said Forn, walking towards the sunrise. “Now let’s catch a ship home!”
Love that room! Especially the interesting addition of the white modified 2x1s, I don't know the name of the piece, but it was a good idea for more wall texture. Also, I like the floor pattern, not overused in my book :)