- December 24, 2022
Raydorn: The War in the Black (Chapter 36)
“The generals get all the credit for winning battles they watch from the sidelines.”
Henry Lockley, the Bard of the Song, 445 A.C.A.
As Regalic Sol erupted in violent cheers, Malum knelt down and quickly laid Foster on his back. Foster could hear the cheers, but not the small footsteps racing toward him.
He was blind to the crowd as Malum lifted his lips towards a vial.
“What is that for?” Foster asked.
“Surely you know that most of these cuts aren’t worse than a papercut, they’re not what’s keeping you from moving.”
Foster was quiet as Malum helped him to drink the antidote. The taste was putrid, first like piss, then something more flavorless, like the worst alcohol. It took everything Foster had just to keep it down.
Though its effects were immediate.
Foster was quick to sit up and truly take inventory of how little blood he had actually lost. The poison had been affecting his mind, hiding what Malum didn’t want him to see, and amplifying what he did.
As soon as he got up, Foster found himself nearly tackled by Tempo. Foster’s open cuts stung a bit, but not enough to keep him down. He wrapped his free arm around the young lord and held him tight.
Malum stood up and tried to give them some room, but Foster had a few choice words.
“How long before your poison killed me?”
“Hmm? Oh, it was only a paralyzing poison that you kept bleeding it out. It’s not that strong, and…” Malum looked to his sword waved it around, “this is only a prototype.”
Foster shook his head as Tempo released him from his grasp. “Hah, I could have bought myself time.”
“Maybe,” Malum said with a shrug, “but then I really would have had to kill you.”
“This is an outrage! How dare he use poison to win the match!” They could hear the archmage screaming as he came barreling Malum’s way, several Zhuhous and Andy following behind him.
Andy asked Lord Weisheng, “Is poison against the rules?”
Lord Weisheng told her, “We let them fight in a mirror room, and in the dark, this was the fairest match of the whole Solistan as far as I can tell.”
“This cannot stand! This will not stand!” Hùnxiě continued to shout, aiming to walk right up to Malum’s face.
Until Andy stepped in the way.
“My employee won fair and square-for this tournament anyway. Is there a rule that he can’t use poison?”
Hùnxiě stopped pushing ahead, brought his hands to rest in the sleeves of his arms, and he turned his icy glare down on her. Through sharp muttering, he spit nothing but bullshit through his teeth, “It is not a matter of using poison but deliberately hiding it’s existence.”
Andelyn dropped several octaves to match. “Well, unless you have a fucking rulebook, you lost… bitch.”
“She’s quite right you know.”
The archmage spun around with his mouth open before his tongue could start wagging, but Lord Weisheng had Zhuhous by the dozens at his back, the nobles who gave the archmage his power.
“You cry about the rules all you want, Hùnxiě, but there’s a team of rule-makers and witnesses to row you home through your tears.”
Hùnxiě towered over the old man, but he cast no shadow as he looked down at him. “You do not have the power to remove me.”
“Why would we?” the lord said with open arms and a toothy smile. “This is wartime, we need you!” He clasped his hands together and tilted his head to the side, making his smile seem all the more cruel. “We need you to keep making your weapons, how else are we going to cull these pale-faced dogs?”
Hùnxiě’s face couldn’t help but twitch, even in front of all the Zhuhous.
How embarrassing for him.
“Yes, yes you will,” Hùnxiě said, “and yes, we will.” He moved beside the lord, being sure not to bump into him, but shoved aside everyone who stood in his way as he made his leave.
Then the crowd started to dissipate, and he had his time with the fighters.
Foster held the boy to him tighter, and Andy shot her hand behind her to keep Malum from moving to stand beside the Jitari Artist.
Weisheng set his eyes upon Foster, and the Jitari Artist knew that he was looking at a man no different than the archmage. All of the old, undying dogs were the same. They were all hoarding power and control just for the moments like this when they could lord it over people.
“Your recovery will, of course, be paid for,” the lord told Foster, “your fighting ability and leadership will be instrumental to our continued war effort. You are a great hero, this loss notwithstanding.”
Tempo loosened his grip on his protector as he turned to look up at the viper whose eyes and jaw sought to swallow him whole.
“What of my ward?” Foster asked him.
“I imagine he’ll go to Regalic Nyl, with the others of the Tǔdì bloodline. He will live out the rest of his life there.”
The statement alone made Foster gnash his teeth.
“Please keep us updated on your recovery, now, I bid you a good day.” As Lord Weisheng waved off the Jitari Artist, his eyes glanced over to Andy and her sword, to which she nodded him forward.
Andy walked to stand beside him, as they showed their back so the Jitari Artists.
“Do you know what you’ve done today, miss?” he asked her, his chin raising above his head.
Andy raised her finger to her chin as she mocked ignorance. “Hmmm, why don’t you tell me?”
Lord Weisheng was stern, as he informed her, “You have given our Regalic the keys to controlling all of Susanna, and you did so unprompted by anything other than ambition and wealth. We no longer fear consequences, and we no longer have a challenger who can threaten us. Regalic Sol holds the throne of Susanna to give to whom we wish for a lifetime…”
As the lord trailed off, Andy’s mocking demeanor hardened, as everything he said sounded little different from a threat. A threat isn’t something you want to hear before you get paid.
A cloud passed before the moon as Andelyn’s lips formed a fine line, and her eyes formed an even harder stare that forwent the soul. It stood in opposition to the expression Lord Weisheng wore every day as his dry lips slowly opened to make his new decree.
“We reward that here, you will receive what you were promised and more.”
Andy’s eyes blinked several times in response.
Lord Weisheng began to laugh, holding his stomach and his forehead as if he was trying to keep his old guts from spilling out. “Ah, the look on your face! There’s no need to be so serious!
“We are businessmen at Sol, and if we went back on our deals…” he lowered his hand to look her in the eye, “who would trade with us?”
Andy smirked. “I appreciate the gesture, but I did say all the gold my ship can hold, any more and it will sink. I still need to live to spend it.”
When Weisheng began to smirk in turn, the two began to look like two rabid raccoons using their final moments of sanity to plan a raid upon the greatest trash in the world.
“The more does not have to be gold, legionnaire,” he told her, “once we’re instated, an enemy of the state you will no longer be. A mistake our predecessor made in trying to attack you, a mistake we would like to rectify with a partnership and investment.”
“Hmm…” Andy mumbled, trying to hold in her smile, as she tapped her lips and mocked consideration, “a partnership is something we would be very interested in.”
“I hear the Black Legion has been regrowing its numbers.”
“You heard right, and with time and resources we can be a turning tide in this war again.” “We will speak more of these resources… but tonight we celebrate!”
Lord Weisheng threw up his arms before offering his arm to her as if to lead her away. She took it, and followed him to the party, leaving Malum with Foster Lao and Tempo Tǔdì.
“Did…” the assassin muttered to himself, “did that white lady just steal all the credit?”