Excerpt from Secrets Revealed
“It looks like we have trouble,” Vindicar said.
Sir Angelo gave a casual observation of the Evanien troopers and the surrounding activity swirling around the party. The horsemen moved to block off the intersection, eliminating possible paths of escape.
Out of the corner of his eye, Courtar caught Azin slowly reaching for his weapons. His eyes bulged in fear, wanting to grab Azin’s arm and stop him. Instead, Isaac grabbed the assassin’s wrist, impeding the partly withdrawn blade. A small snarl curled Azin’s upper lip as he glared at Isaac.
“Not now…not yet,” Isaac whispered, eyeing the Evanien soldiers.
Azin’s lips mouthed a smart retort. Nevertheless, he released the blade and relaxed under the soldier’s observation.
“Everyone hold,” Jaspar said.
No weapons were drawn as they approached the alert guards. As the group neared the intersection, a loud command bellowed from a mounted officer. “Halt!” The horsemen moved into action, surrounding the alliance with swords and short lances drawn. Civilians scattered.
Courtar gulped. E’Umae looked at him. “Hold your composure. Now is not the time to get nervous.”
As E’Umae shared her words of encouragement, Courtar’s attention focused down one of the connecting cobblestone streets where he spied a large wooden gallows guarded by Evanien troops, the nooses full of motionless civilians. Next to the apparatus stood a cart choked full of newly slain commoners of all ages.
Courtar tugged on E’Umae’s sleeve, directing her gaze down the dreadful road. “Yes, it is.”
“What is the problem, sergeant?” Sir Angelo asked with a calm disposition.
“You and your misfits are under arrest,” the sergeant said. No smile broke his rugged, short-bearded face.
Sir Angelo stood with both hands up in a submissive gesture. “Under what charges?”
Foot soldiers now moved in to help surround the group. The crowd had circumvented a large area around the confrontation, keeping the alliance centralized under Evanien scrutiny.
Courtar watched the sergeant’s grip on the horse’s reigns tightened—the leather creaking under the strain. He slipped behind E’Umae in order to hinder the officer’s field of view.
The sergeant spat onto the ground at Sir Angelo’s feet. “My men overheard your group speaking on forbidden topics, poison in this realm.”
Sir Angelo’s eyes showed a hint of narrowing, and his jaw muscles flexed.
“Oh, oh. He’s getting mad,” Courtar whispered.
E’Umae shoved her elbow back into Courtar’s stomach. A small gasp hushed him.
“Like what?” Jaspar asked.
The sergeant pointed at E’Umae and Courtar. “Those two miscreants spoke of Sovereign and prayer. Filthy talk such as theirs is grounds for the gallows.” He directed one of his foot soldiers to shove Jaspar out of the way, exposing Sir Angelo’s attire. “Heh, another knight who believes in ghosts.”
The Evanien soldiers laughed; others spat on Sir Angelo.
“Taking the blood of a knight of Temple Sovereign without justification has harsh repercussions. I suggest you conjure a more effective charge against us, or let us pass.”
A malevolent stare burned in the sergeant’s eyes. “Your insolence will be paid with your life, you foulskin misbreed.” Several of the horsemen moved in, tightening their noose around the party with looming iron spear tips ready to thrust, allowing two men to move in and grab E’Umae, one by the back of her cloak, the other by her hair, and drag her violently out of the streets.
E’Umae screamed as she fought against her captors, yet to no avail.
Courtar slipped by Boren’s grasp and moved toward the soldiers. “In the name of Sovereign, I command you to stop!”
In an instant, the Evanien troops focused on Courtar and stopped for a moment. Perfect for the alliance to shift into improved angles of attack.
The sergeant growled. “Take that boy and stretch his scrawny neck as well. Use it as a lesson for anyone else who wants to shoot his mouth off.”
“Eh, we can take ‘em,” Boren whispered.
“Hold, Boren,” Sir Angelo replied in a soft tone.
With reluctance, Boren obliged as Courtar and E’Umae yelled and struggled against their captors.
Sir Angelo didn’t move. He smiled with his hands folded loosely in front of his belly. The alliance mimicked him.
The sergeant’s fist slammed his saddle in anger and spittle flew. “And take the pompous knight as well. For him, tell the men to ready the axe. His head will serve as a nice trophy to our collection.”
Two Evanien spearmen moved toward Sir Angelo. The paladin lowered his head, his gaze fixed upon the approaching troops. His arrogant voice bellowed in confidence. “I think not.”
A crossbow string thwacked. The commotion forced the soldiers dragging Courtar and E’Umae to stop. Courtar could see a bolt embedded up to the fletching through a horseman’s throat. His gasp for air was blotted out by gurgling blood as he fell over dead on the cobblestones.
Sir Angelo’s effective parries from two different foot soldiers allowed him to slash the face of one soldier then finished him with a thrust through his chest. Isaac stepped beside him and split open the second soldier’s side in a bloody repulse.
Dreg lunged toward the sergeant and grabbed his lance. With a mighty roar, the barbarian yanked him off his horse. The sergeant crashed onto the street and rolled over onto his back long enough to look up and see a longsword punch straight into his chest. Jaspar removed his blade and continued the fight.
Vindicar flowed with Alkanien grace as he unsheathed his bastard sword and splintered the lance of another horseman in one smooth, fluid motion. When the lance shattered, the soldier sat but a second before Azin flipped a front hand spring over the back of the horse, and landed with his blade red. The cavalier teetered for a moment before slumping onto his horse’s neck, coating the mane with blood.
With Boren cleaving the front limbs off one horse, the thrashing mount crushed his rider underneath and kicked another foot soldier and snapped his leg at the thigh, thus buying the alliance a moment of time.
“Run!” Sir Angelo said. The entire party broke from the encirclement, running pell-mell for Evershaw.
Courtar took advantage of his guard’s diversion, whipped out his mace, and smashed the soldier in the back of the head. The spray of blood and flesh startled him and drew the attention of E’Umae’s guard.
Courtar ducked as the soldier lunged with his spear, missing the cleric, yet stabbing a bystander through the chest. E’Umae ran behind the man, grasped his temples with both hands, and yelled an unusual phrase. In a flash, a light spell burst forth from the man’s eyes, forcing him to drop his spear and drop to the street, clutching his eyes and face in agony.
E’Umae looked to Courtar. “Run!”
Another soldier jumped in front of Courtar and E’Umae, blocking their path of escape. The man’s snide grin faded as his head flew off his shoulders, the lifeless body teetering before falling to the ground.
“Let’s go!” Boren yelled in front of them. All three ran and caught up with the others fleeing through the crowded streets.
Courtar looked up and made out the parapets of Annotin’s eastern gate looming far off in the distance.The alliance ran from the reverberating alarm of blaring horns. Evanien soldiers poured out of side streets like roaches, scurrying after the alliance amid the scattering crowds.
Courtar smacked into someone’s shoulder and bounced off another’s chest. An elbow thudded into his torso before he knocked down an unsuspecting patron. He saw Sir Angelo, Vindicar, and Dreg hammering people over in their hectic pace. Several small food carts and cloth canopies were overturned, crashing down with their goods sprawling everywhere as the alliance fled.