Chapter 46: Prince of the Solune INew? Click here to go to chapter one!
Those who fight wars, study combat, use sidearms, or write the laws will properly understand the difference between a sidearm and an implement of war.
The sabre, rapier, and the longsword are all sidearms. They fit squarely on the hip or the waist, and can be drawn easily in case of a duel or for self defence. Sidearms are allowed in most cities, though some will force you to hold your weapons at the gate, perhaps with your mount, no matter the size.
Unlike a sidearm, an implement of war, a full-sized weapon too big to fit on one’s hip, is restricted in nearly all cities. Their use for self-defence is considered an excessive force. Implements of war include the spear, javelin, war hammer, battle axe, and the two-handed sword (sometimes called a great sword). Travellers carrying such weapons would be required to leave them at the gate. The Lussa City is no different. If someone was carrying for independent use an implement of war, that means they, likely illegally, found some way to get it past the city gates.
Chloe continued her swing after striking the edge of the man’s breastplate. He seemed unusually light—Chloe was surprised to see it was in fact a woman—and then more surprised when she managed to fling that woman forward into the wall. As Chloe’s parents had taught, she kept the weapon moving. It was her and Alexandre versus the world, and with each downed enemy, that world grew smaller. With her next swing, she dug into someone’s gut, cutting until she hit the ribs and launching them airborne a foot’s-length high. Alexandre slashed at the airborne man, and when he landed, he did not get up. Chloe took out a third, and Alex two more, before the leader stepped in across from Chloe.
She could see he had retreated to tie something, a belt maybe, around his wound. It seemed to primarily affect his off hand, and he looked as strong as before with his sword hand. Chloe stepped back form the skirmish and took an active stance against him.
The man’s dark skin shone for a moment as the half moon peeked out from behind the cloud cover. He was almost perfectly visible when he entered his controlled adrenaline rush. Like Alexandre’s had before, his hair became white, starting from the roots and working out until his whole head reflected the moon. But somethings strange happened to his eyes and on the edge of his cheeks. Are those markings? How long have they been there? And then, the heavenly sphere returned to hiding with the stars behind the clouds, and Chloe could only barely make out the man’s shape. his hair stood out not because it glowed—it didn’t—but because it reflected more of the moonlight, muted through the clouds.
In an instant, he was in front of her, sword pushing forward in a lunge. “Yes, it’s the harnessing of adrenaline,” he said.
Chloe swung her blade to meet his. “I know. The N’Tariel do it with ease. My friend is also doing the same as we speak.”
The well-dressed man stepped back, keeping his sword pointed ahead. “Oh, you’re both women? It’s hard to tell when one of you looks like a wraith. So many women fighting. What has this world come to.” His tone remained playful, but there seemed to be an unusual harsh dimension attached to it, like he had an extra vocal layer.
Again, he cut, the sword moving so fast it almost seemed to appear out of thin air. Somehow, Chloe was keeping up with his adrenaline. They went back and forth, achieving little for a while. Chloe wondered how he could move so quickly without tearing his muscles, and then after a while wondered how she could keep up with him even though she did not have the advantage of controlled adrenaline. Then, abruptly, the man stepped back.
“Hang on,” He lifted his off hand, apparently ignoring the pain from the wound Alexandre had given him. “What is your friend doing?”
Chloe did not move her head. She moved from an active stance to a passive one, sword trained forward and ready.
“No…this is…” He stepped back further and sheathed his sword.
Chloe glanced away, keeping her own weapon forward. The scene behind her was as strange as her opponent’s reaction suggested. Something uncanny was happening, Alexandre moved like something from a visionary nightmare. “What…”
When she stepped away, Chloe had irresponsibly left Alexandre alone to fight ten footmen. For some reason, she hadn’t worried about it; hadn’t thought about the numbers. Somehow, Chloe the feeling the mercenary woman would be fine. It was a strange unconscious moment of trust in the others’ ability, but it was clearly irrational. And yet, here she was.
Four men were on the ground, some writhing, some not moving. One sat up hunched over, eyes staring blankly forward, blood spattered from his abdomen across the wall behind him, trickling down the iron. He looked traumatized, but alive, the cut not as deep as the blood that issued from it suggested.
It wasn’t just the state of the enemies that painted the scene disturbing. How could anyone fight ten to one? The question issued from Chloe’s mind as her gaze finally turned to the manic Riley woman. Like the well-dressed man must have, Chloe doubted her eyes. Alexandre Dirge was dominating the remaining six opponents with furious speed and wild skill. She was slower, it seemed, than Chloe’s opponent but—
“There are two of her?” It was the well-dressed man.
“No, something is going on.” Chloe turned back only for a second. “Always. Always something strange from this woman.” She noted that the double, this second Alexander, remained very close and often inside the original image.
Very rarely did Alexandre or her second image dodge or block, instead striking enemy blades away, repositioning, and cutting forward herself. Neither were tasks delegated, there was no blocking image or fighting image; both were entirely devoted to mad aggression. Sometimes, the second image would scatter from reality, and it would just be the lone girl, but soon after it would return, a deadly strike thrusting, like an extra limb, forward from her shoulder, the rest of the image following out of her body and rejoining the fight. Only three or four of the enemy could get within reach of her without getting in the way of each other, so Chloe knew she wasn’t seeing the full potential of whatever it was she was currently witnessing. But Alexandre was blocking two opponents per image of herself, and managing to weave attacks in between. One cut hit its mark, and blood flew across Alexandre’s blade, splattering behind and would have landed across Chloe’s face had she not taken a hand off her weapon and blocked it.
“I apologize, it seems you do not know. Regardless, we must continue. I hope you understand, I cannot have you holding me here much longer.”
It was true, both of them knew at this point that it was him, and not Chloe, who was trapped in the battle and would not be allowed to leave without resolution. She nodded and turned back, returning her second hand to the hilt. The blood oozed down the back of her hand, but she didn’t have time to clean it before the man lunged forward. Chloe blocked and then he followed up with a long string of six well-trained moves, each at the speed of adrenaline lightning. She blocked all of them, but one slid past her sword hand and cut through her sleeve, nicking the clean unblemished skin of her forearm.
Chloe Rhye stepped inward and, pushing her hilt up and forward, smashed her pommel into his chin and then pulled it down aggressively, cutting down vertically. The huge movement was easily dodged even after the disorienting blow, but it was a mighty swing and clearly would have caused major injury if it hit. The well-dressed man followed up with a thrust and then a cut. He nicked a finger on her left hand as she blocked in the wrong way. Chloe pulled down on her hilt again, this time, because the blade wasn’t all the way behind her, it landed, cutting through his shoulder pad and drawing blood.
“Kchhh!” The man stepped back and raised his hands, fingers open except for the three holding his sword, which Chloe now realized was fairly short. “Please!” His face showed a sort of fear; not for himself, but for those behind the Solune woman which stood before him. All this time, he had simultaneously kept watching his companions fight and lose against a seasoned warrior using an alien technique.
Chloe didn’t look back at whatever was happening, instead she raised her sword until it was two hand-breadths from his neck. “Then drop your weapon.”
“You can’t! You know it!”
Chloe’s expression hardened, and he finally realized, after all this time, exactly who stood before him. This giant of a woman was no mere aristocrat, neither was she some careless young noble who had stepped into the wrong battle on a whim. She had come knowing the risk, even the potential for reinforcement and hostage taking, and she had entered anyway. He saw the serious expression she held, an expression that now looked almost too weathered for her age.
“Can’t…” He said, defeated.
He considered, then read her glaring eyes, glancing past at her partner as he did. He returned the sword to its scabbard.
Then she grabbed his arm, the one wounded one, and pulled him around with her as she turned to see what Alexandre had done.
There were still two of her, and now sometimes a third would appear briefly to block something, or even just stand for a moment with a savage expression. Only three mercenaries remained standing before her, although there was a fourth who had apparently stepped back, red oozing down his chest, staring in horror. One of the three in the fray was bleeding from somewhere in her hair. But again, there was a change in Alexandre. Her hair seemed to be shimmering, patches returning to the natural black and then back to white, light the flicker of firelight cast through the swaying trees. It seemed the well-dressed man thought this was part of the technique, but Chloe knew what fighting hard far far past one’s limit looked like. She needed this to end too, though she gauged, not nearly as much as he did, and certainly not as much as Alexandre’s opponents.
One of the fighter stopped for some reason, and so did one of Alexandre’s images. The rest soon, for some reason unknown to them, also stopped. Alexandre dashed out towards Chloe, two images bolding forward and becoming one as she took up position at the Prince’s side. Her hair still flickered madly.
“What is all this?” Chloe said.
Alexandre smiled, teeth bared wide. She spoke fast. “Oh, I had an idea on the field so I tried it and now I’m not really sure how it’s going but I think it worked I’ll need to try again I think.”
“Fine. We’re going. Get Ammelia.”
The people Alexandre had left behind were moving to pursue her, but the leader, still in Chloe’s grasp, motioned for them to stop.
Alexandre seemed to evaporate, leaving a weak image behind, which also faded soon after. After a moment of looking around, Chloe saw her walking across the road towards Ammelia. Then she heard footsteps, and looking down the alley, saw more fighters marching forward.
“You knew they were coming.”
“Perhaps it could be victory, but victory at what cost?”
“Would it be? Do you really believe that?”
The well-dressed man looked blank. “I have doubts, and yet…”
Chloe let go and stepped away, walking with her sword in hand. She reached Alexandre and Ammelia. She didn’t look, but did not hear the remaining fighters approaching. Chloe, in a sort of grandstanding display that her mother had taught, continued to ignore the fighters behind her and led Alexandre, who was carrying Ammelia, further down the street. After a couple of blocks, they turned left, away from Lilllich’s.
When they were far away from the Lussa attackers, Alexandre said, “Where are we going?”
“We are taking the long route.”
Alexandre understood, and nodded. “Sure.” The word had that dual edge to it again; a mean edge. The women walked for a while and then turned around, heading back towards the Tower. Then, Alexandre, her hair still flickering, said, “Take her, she’s extremely heavy,” abruptly pushing Ammelia into Chloe’s arms. “And make sure they don’t see us, see where we live…and find a room for the little one…she…” Then her eyes deadened, her hair turn blacker than the night, and she fell forward onto Chloe and Ammelia.
Sorry for the late delivery! Last week was very busy, so there was no post.