Carlisle Part 3
With the Templar knight, Sebastian leading the group of escapees across the stream to the far bank, Raphael and Berenguier slowly back off faced by five seemingly impenetrable globes of darkness clearly inhabited by a Sithe Hand.
With his arms folded and a gleeful look on his face, Conlai begins to commentate from his position in front of the sewers.
‘Delicious irony this. I’m guessing from your description boy, that you are the Vesuvian…the one known as Manzio. A little pet of the Archbishop they say. You’re wanted upstairs very badly so I can only imagine you’ve been meddling in affairs that don’t concern you and which are above your station. I’m guessing the knight is the Templar, Uther by any chance? Your big, dumb accomplice.
Let me introduce you to the ‘Shadow Hand.’ I believe you are already acquainted as they attacked you once before but failed. So this is what will happen. They have one more chance to finish you off and if they fail, I’ll do it myself.’
Reaching the far bank, Raphael urges Sebastian to lead his group to safety just as two globes of darkness make for him. Two do likewise with Berenguier whilst a fifth globe detaches itself from the group heading for the escapees as they flee for the hills.
Without time to think, Raphael darts into the first globe, slashing wildly before trying the same in the second but to no avail. Hearing words of magic from within the furthest away globe, he is suddenly gripped by a wracking spasm of eldritch magic, his muscles momentarily convulsing before shaking the effect off albeit with some sharp, painful aftershocks. Buying some time, Raphael grabs for his crossbow aiming a wild shot at the globe furthest from him but to no avail. From the corner of his eye Raphael also spots Berenguier aiming huge two handed blows at his adversaries but similarly failing to connect. He is then driven backwards when a crossbow bolt hammers through his armour piercing into his body.
Entering into the closest of the two globes, Raphael takes a different tact, pressing his two blows both at the same adversary rather than dividing his attack. With the second blow, he has the satisfaction of feeling his sgian dubh connect, a gasp of pain from his Sithe adversary. However once again he is then affronted with a spasm of pain but this time unable to shake off the agonizing weight bearing down on his limbs. Slowed by the pain, his legs feeling numb he backs away from the globe unable to press his advantage. Grasping quickly inside his robes he hurriedly gulps the vial of holy water afforded him by the Archbishop. The warmth of the potion spreads through his body lessening the pain from the sorcerer’s attack though his body still seems unable to respond in its usual high speed manner. Meanwhile Berenguier has taken a similar approach, locked inside one of the globes wielding massive two handed blows, one of which knocks his attacker backward. However, blindsided to his second attacker he succumbs to a deadly stealth attack, feeling a short gladius sliding in between the gap of his breastplates and biting deep into his flesh. Screaming in pain, Berenguier stumbles back outside of the darkened globe only to be pummeled by another crossbow bolt, which catches him in the neck. Staggering to the ground his armour glows a deep golden hue breathing much needed life back into his battered body. Standing a little uncertainly at first, he once again bravely faces off against his two opponents.
Fearing that the battle is slipping away from the duo, Raphael launches a blinding ambidextrous attack on his enemy. Once again closing with the globe of darkness closest to him, the Inquisitor stabs with his dagger before diving low with his hook blade, catching the Sithe elf a horrible, debilitating blow to the calf. Hearing his enemy fall, Raphael then attempts to tumble to safety. In a whirl of motion he spins to face the globe from which the sorcery is emitting just as a crackling ball of eldritch energy is hurled in his direction. Slowed by the effects of the earlier spell, the Inquisitor is unusually slow to react and takes the full impact of a midnight blue explosion which sends spidery veins of arcane, electrical energy scuttling across his body.
In agony and now perilously injured, Raphael begins to back off, his boots quickly creating clear space between the Inquisitor and his attackers. As he does so he is aghast to see a similar grenade of negative energy enveloping Berenguier. Screaming out in agony the brave knight falls to his knees with all three of the four globes converging on the stricken troubadour.
In fear for his own life, Raphael ignores the muscular agony caused by the Sithe sorcery, using his boots to sprint clear of the melee following in the direction taken by Sebastian and the other escapees. As he climbs a trail leading into the hills surrounding the city, he hears an enormous sonic explosion, followed by a flare of golden light from the site of Berenguier’s battle. Turning and shielding his eyes from the bright light, he turns his head and notices a trail of dead bodies. 4 in total, with slit throats and crossbow bolts embedded in the back of two. Cresting the hill, he sees the fifth globe of darkness closing on Sebastian. Three men are backing off fearfully whilst the big priest stands close with only his bare hands to protect him. Only 5 escapees remain. Seeing his chance and desperately wanting to strike back at the hated Sithe, Raphael makes his way slowly behind the globe of darkness, silently entering the dark space and listening carefully for noise betraying the position of the elf. As the Sithe strikes out at Sebastian, Raphael likewise strikes at the elf, driving his sgian dubh through the back of his assailant. The globe dissipates revealing a pale skinned assassin breathing his last.
Still fearful of pursuit from Conlai and the remaining members of the Shadow Hand, Raphael urges the group to keep moving. However the big priest who introduces himself as Luke, points out that the cloak worn by the elf is magical and may offer some form of protection. Raphael quickly takes the cloak and hands the two daggers used by the Sithe to Luke and a former guardsman, Aegar. With the 5 remaining escapees, Raphael reluctantly leads the men back towards camp.
After a fearful cross country slog, the men constantly looking over their shoulder for signs of pursuit they arrive exhausted at the deserted camp site. Whilst the rest sleep Raphael sits watch fretting about Calais and wondering what has become of Berenguier although fearing the worst for the Spaniard. Cursing his luck, he waits for the return of the Scian.
It is nearly 4hrs later when Calais appears, emerging from the early morning mist like a phantom from ancient history. Striding into camp it is clear from her unusually filthy appearance and bruised arms that she has been in a fight. Dried blood has coagulated on a nasty head wound whilst the distinctive Scian eye blazes red hot. As Raphael begins to explain what befell Berenguier and many of the escapees, Calais lifts her hand for silence.
’No self recriminations are necessary Inquisitor for it was my plan that led you into danger. The death of Berenguier is on my hands, not yours. I was able to drive the cursed Fiddler back into the sewers like the rat he is and have killed the remaining three members of his shadow hand but I have shown my true hand much earlier than I had anticipated in this terrible game spun by the dead 3. The Scarack will be aware of my return, whilst the element of surprise is no longer with me and I fear he will stop at nothing to hunt me down. Away from the city, without Sithe reinforcements from Carlisle will be my best chance to strike, though the full Filidh may accompany him.
Get the men ready and mount them up on our spare horses. We ride immediately and must leave Carlisle far behind by nightfall. I will tell you of further developments as we ride.’
Bruised and battered, the Scian and Vesuvian mount alongside tired and frightened men, either by the sight of Calais or the shock of their ordeal Raphael cannot say. With thick coils of mist swallowing the group whole, they set out for Hadrian’s Wall.