Zero wrapped his robes more tightly. A statue of Lilly being preserved by a slow but constant snowfall.
“Please, Highness,” the dwarf woman said “If this keeps up we won’t be able to move about outside for much longer.”
“Don’t worry,” Zero said. “It may be a strong spell, but I’m no slouch in that department. I’ll have this dispelled quickly.” Zero raised his staff and began the counter-spell. He finished, slamming the bottom into the ground.
The snow kept falling.
“Stronger than anticipated,” Zero muttered. “How about this?” He cast a stronger counter-spell. Once again slamming his staff to the ground to finish.
The snow kept falling.
“Absurd!” Zero cried. “This much power on a simple weather control spell?” He was through playing around. He cast the strongest counter-spell he knew, pouring all the considerable power at his command into it. He slammed his staff into the ground, but couldn’t tell if the snow was still dropping. His vision was blurred, his senses leaving him. He lost consciousness, falling into the snow.
Axel watched Rachel’s room. The castle guard had been halved under the excuse that they had to restructure after the peace envoy left. If the league struck, it would be tonight. All he had to do was wait for them to finish their business and tail them.
Three shadowy figures moved silently and purposefully to her door. Axel watched and waited. One of them was picking her lock. The door opened and the three hurried in. That was when Rachel screamed. Axel heard the sounds of vases and such being broken. She was struggling, fighting for her life.
He grabbed his blade and ran inside. Rachel was against the wall, throwing everything she could get her hands on at her assailants.
Axel slashed the nearest one’s back open and hurriedly moved to block the other two from reaching Rachel, taking a blade to the shoulder as a result.
He barely winced, stabbing the assassin thrice in the face. He caught the final man’s weapon in mid-air and felt the blood flowing down his wounded hand. He gave the man a headbutt, knocking him senseless.
“Are you okay, Rachel?”
“I… I’m fine, Daddy Dearest, but you… you’re hurt.”
“It’s nothing,” Axel said. “Follow closely behind me. We’ll find the guard captain and a cleric.” Axel tied up his only still living opponent and led Rachel to the central guard outpost.
“Ian!” He cried. “How the hell did three assassins manage to get inside my home?”
“I… I don’t know, Sir,” Ian said, briefly looking away from him.
So, Zero had given the guards instructions to make sure the League would get in. “No matter,” Axel said. “I want three guards near Rachel at all times from this moment on. If anything bad happens to her, those guards and you will share her fate. Understood!”
“Yes Sir!” Ian declared.
Axel nodded. “Dispose of the bodies, searching the remains for any clues. I also want the palace thoroughly searched, just in case. Take the live one down to the dungeon. I’ll deal with him personally once I’ve gotten my wounds treated.” He dug through his pouch and produced a small green orb. “Take this,” he told Rachel. “If you’re in trouble, smash it to the ground and I’ll be teleported to you in seconds.”
“I understand,” Rachel nodded. “But do you really think more of those… brutes will come?”
“I don’t know,” Axel answered. “But we can’t be too careful.”
He went to have his wounds looked at.
“I can’t believe someone actually tried to attack your palace,” the cleric said. He was a young gnome with bright red hair.
“Thanks,” Axel said. “Come with me. I have another task for you.”
“Someone else hurt?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Axel answered.
Zero regained his senses to find himself in a small room.
“Your awake,” the dwarf from before was ministering to him. “We were worried.”
“The snow?” Zero asked. He looked over at the wall opposite him. His staff was in two pieces, propped up against the wall.
She shook her head. “Still going, I’m afraid.”
“Still…” Zero couldn’t believe it. “That level of power is insane. I… I failed? Me?”
“You gave it your best,” she said, kindly. “Here. Have some soup. It’ll help you regain your strength.”
“I’m going to try again,” Zero said. “I’ll replace my staff and I’ll find another mage to assist me. I will not leave your town like this.”
“I’m sure you won’t,” she said. “You are the great mage king, after all.”
Axel splashed water on his prisoner’s face, watching as the man sputtered and flailed as much as he was able.
“Awake?” Axel asked, looking the man in the eyes. “Good. I’ll give you one chance and one only, tell me where the Hestial League’s hideout is.”
“Go to Tartarus!” the man spat. “You damned Hybrid sympathiser.”
“You know,” Axel said. “Before I became one of Nervius’ kings I was a mercenary in the employ of Queen Zenas. Before she hired me, I did a lot of jobs. Some of which I’m really not proud of.” Axel ran his finger along Blutrünstig’s blade. “One of those jobs was… let’s call it information gathering. I was quite good at it. Super proud of my skills too. I never failed to learn what I wanted. I thought I’d given it up forever, but I’m willing to make an exception for you.”
He held up two vials. “This is a truth potion. Once you drink this, you won’t be able to lie.”
“I don’t have to tell you anything,” the man said.
“Indeed,” Axel agreed. “You could simply remain silent. That’s what this is for.” He pointed to the second vial. “A lot of folks use this little beauty as an aphrodisiac and why not? It enhances your senses quite a bit. When you feel pleasure after drinking this thing, it’s an ecstasy beyond all others. However, it isn’t just pleasure it enhances. You get hurt wit this in your system and it’s absolute agony. Naturally, you have to be careful with it.”
Axel moved his face close to his prisoner’s. “Cuts, bruises, they’ll all be agony beyond what you can imagine. I could slice off chunks of your flesh. I could open you up and take out a few organs. I can pull out your teeth and make you suffer like you’ve never imagined possible. The whole time Ben here,” he gestured to the gnome “will fix the wounds just enough so that you won’t bleed to death or die from complications. You know, a half-orc, half-elf once managed to stay quiet for eighty seven hours, twenty five minutes. I really respected her. She was tough.” Axel glared at the man. “I wonder if you can even come close to that.”
He held out Blutrünstig and closed in on the prisoner.