Tuesday Fiction! A day late! We’re totally doing the timewarp here as we pretend it’s yesterday, and continue the story of a Quack that’s gone to the dogs… wait, no, that’s Pigs In Space. This is the ongoing serial tale of Capt. Elizabeth Lawley and her pursuit of a mysterious killer, and of Ioryssa who is certainly a mysterious killer, but possibly not the same one Capt. Lawley’s looking for… or is she? Read on, good Losties. Our esteemed author Ben has more words for you…
- Part 1 can be found here: Link!
- Part 2 can be found here: Link!
- Part 3 can be found here: Link!
- Part 4 can be found here: Link!
- Part 5 can be found here: Link!
Spare Bedroom, Kerenov’s Estate, Merywyn.
Captain Elizabeth Lawley was fluent in Cygnaran, Llaelese and Ordic. She also knew a smattering of the other common languages of the Iron Kingdoms. She definitely understood the Khadoran word for ‘alarm’ when it was bellowed by a uniformed guard holding a gun on her.
Damn it all. Ioryssa had finally made a mistake, and given Liz something to incriminate her. After all her protests that she wasn’t a Mage Hunter, Liz had caught her trying to infiltrate the home of the Greylord Kerenov. Perhaps the Iosan hadn’t come to murder him, but there was no way her presence here was entirely innocent. Unfortunately, the likelihood of Liz being able to make the arrest was dropping by the moment. She certainly wasn’t trading her life for it.
Sometimes Morrow gives, and sometimes Thamar takes.
Liz turned slightly. She needed a glimpse out the window, but she wasn’t about to turn her back on the guard and his gun. She just needed to see the roof she’d been hiding on before, and she could teleport back to it and be safely away from the brewing violence. The spell coalesced at the front of her mind, and the room around her lit up as pale blue glowing runes began to spiral about her body. Move. Too bad for Ioryssa. Liz was getting out of here.
And then she wasn’t.
A firm hand caught her by the arm, fingers like iron digging into her bicep. An irresistible weight yanked her down. The bedroom spun. The guard’s blunderbuss roared. Liz couldn’t see the rooftop anymore. The glow of the runes around her faded as her concentration shattered like the window glass as the Khadoran’s bullet hit it. No teleporting out now. Ioryssa had stopped her from escaping.
Unless it had already been too late. Liz could have been too slow. She could have been hit. Ioryssa could have just saved her life.
That momentary relief faded as the tall Iosan dragged her to the floor. Ioryssa continued her dive into a roll, not letting go of Liz’s arm. Liz released a squawk of half-stifled outrage as Ioryssa’s momentum dragged her off her feet. Morrow, but the elf woman was strong. Liz was airborne, tumbling across the room towards the frantically-reloading guard. He shouted again as she touched down and half-stumbled, half-landed against the wall near him. The man dropped his gun, going for a sword at his side. Liz instinctively pulled at her own blade, raising her other hand to cast a spell. Which spell was a decision to make when her head stopped spinning.
Ioryssa hadn’t paused. She was on her feet again, sword in her right hand and pistol in her left. She flashed across the room in a blur, blade tip leading. The Khadoran’s yelling cut off in a squeal and he ducked back through the door. Liz’s rattled brain finally decided in favour of defense rather than offense. Armour, she thought, and draped herself in arcane protection. Ioryssa had not stopped, following the guard into the hall. It was definitely time for Liz to be leaving. She turned back towards the window.
“I don’t think so,” said Ioryssa, and Liz caught a flash of movement out the corner of her eye. She turned to see Ioryssa’s left hand, still holding the pistol, swinging towards her face. She stiffened, eyes bulging, but the pistol did not connect with her skull. Instead, Ioryssa’s elbow wrapped around the bottom half of her face and pulled. Liz was dragged along into the hall.
Ioryssa dumped her to the floor in the dim corridor. “You’re the reason I’m stuck here, Lizzie, so you are not getting away that easily.” More guards in red uniforms were thumping up the stairs, lit from below by warm lamplight and from above by moonlight from a high picture window. Ioryssa was hammering the first guard back towards his reinforcements, keeping his body between her and their notoriously-inaccurate firearms. She wasn’t even breathing hard. “After all, if I’m worthy of suspicion just for being here, what does that make you?”
“A licensed officer of the law,” Liz muttered, climbing to her feet. The rain must have been slackening off, considering how much light the window was letting in. She could have made a break for it. It was tempting. But Morrow wasn’t the patron of the cautious and cowardly. Keeping a portion of her mind focused on maintaining her defensive spell, Liz levelled a hand at the cluster of men in the hallway and began releasing bolt after bolt towards them. It wasn’t easy with Ioryssa in the way, but Liz did her best to keep the Khadorans off-balance.
Ioryssa swung a roundhouse with her sword hand, cracking her opponent between the eyes with the pommel, finally dropping him. “Took you long enough!” Liz called. Without missing a beat, Ioryssa raised her pistol and put a bullet into the grizzled woman next in line. The woman fell back, yelling. Even at this range, the Iosan couldn’t seem to make a kill shot. Still, she gave Liz an opening to blast the third guard, narrowly missing the pointed tip of Ioryssa’s ear.
“A bit close there!” she snapped back.
“Oops,” Liz muttered unapologetically. She should really be leaving the fight behind, leaving Ioryssa behind, getting as far away as she could. Instead, she gritted her teeth and kept firing.
The fight seemed to go on for an eternity. In truth it couldn’t have been more than a minute. The hall was just too narrow for more than one of the Khadorans to come at Ioryssa at a time. When they did try to mob her, their packed-together bodies were easy targets for Liz’s bolts. One on one, they fell to Ioryssa’s sword in a few easy movements. The elf woman was so superior to the Greylord’s guards it was almost laughable. They couldn’t even touch her. Try as they might, none of the Khadorans could overpower her, nor slip past her fluid defense. Three times, a man would put all of his efforts into defense, assuming that no woman, no matter how tall, would be able to break his guard. Ioryssa did, all three times, and all three times Liz caught her smiling. She was so fast. So strong. Liz had never seen a woman fight like Ioryssa.
Mage Hunter or not, she was terrifying.
And then there were only two left. Both backed towards the stairs, ruddy faces white. Eight of their companions lay dead, unconscious, or moaning on the floor, and these two had figured out just how overmatched they were. Ioryssa stalked towards them, that fearsome smile stuck across her face. Liz stayed back. There were still sounds coming from below. Kerenov had more than ten guards.
Ioryssa moved to engage the first of the Khadorans. She was a good fifteen feet or so ahead of Liz, who hadn’t moved far from the spare bedroom she’d arrived in. She was tired, her arcane reserves running low. She barely had enough left to be certain she could teleport out. She knew what she should do. She grimaced. If Ioryssa was in fact the Mage Hunter, Liz needed her alive for questioning, not dead in this hallway. If she wasn’t, then it might well be true that she had been driven to this point by Liz’s relentless pursuit.
One of the Khadorans yelled as Ioryssa put her sword through his shoulder. The shouts from downstairs continued. Alarmed men and women, the rattle of weapons, and one deep booming voice overwhelming all the others. That had to be Greylord Kerenov. Liz was out of time.
“This is over, Ioryssa! You need to get out of here before you make things any worse!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ioryssa wrenched herself back out of the reach of the last guard’s wildly swinging axe. She kicked him back down the stairs and shot a glance at Liz. Liz tightened her lips and gave her head a small shake.
“They can’t be allowed to capture me, Ioryssa. I have to leave, immediately. If you want me to believe you, you need to leave too. Prove to me that you’re not trying to add to my problems.” With that, Liz turned and bolted for the window.
Moonlight beamed down through a break in the heavy clouds, setting the rain-wet rooftop next door glistening. Liz tightened her mouth and focused her thoughts. Move.
As soon as she materialized on the roof, she started running, fighting for footing on the slippery shingles. She’d meant what she said. Khadorans wouldn’t take kindly to finding an agent of the Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service in their midst. She hoped Ioryssa had gotten out as well, but the time for prioritizing the Iosan’s well-being had passed. If Kerenov got his hands on the elf, Liz’s mission would get a great deal more complicated. If he caught Liz instead, she would die. At times like this, an agent had to look out for herself.
Elizabeth Lawley slunk away into the dripping Merywyn night, more frustrated than ever.