The small palisade was dark and quiet, and Shikira peered inside, her Elven eyes giving her night vision, taking in the bandits and their sentries and guards. She nocked an arrow, picking a target and looking back over her shoulder. Her words were barely above a hushed whisper, “I can take out several of them from here, you shou-” She cut off as she realized Sielic was already transforming and the shadows came to life around him, springing forward through the palisade walls. Within moments, two bandits had their throats torn from their necks, blood spattering quietly against the walls. Shadows were wrapped around a third as Sielic strangled him with a garrote. Shikira cursed quietly, letting her arrow fly and quickly drawing another. Her three arrows sunk into the eye sockets of three different bandits, pulverizing and destroying the brain easily and quietly.

      Shikira was confused. Sielic had chosen this target, but she was not sure what he was pursuing. He had been very zealous in prosecuting these bandits, some information he had gleaned from local contacts in the area. The remaining bandits on the palisade walls and outside the buildings were disposed of, with a combination of blade work and archery skills. Sielic stood on one side of the door to the small fortress, with Shikira kneeled down and ready to fire into the doorway.

      Sielic stepped into the open and reared back, lashing out with one of his powerful legs, crushing in the wooden door and blowing it off its hinges, into the room. He darted inside, ducking as Shikira fired an arrow over his head, following him into the room. Three men had been standing guard, two crushed to death by the door’s force and the third had taken an arrow to the throat, silencing him forever. The two of them rushed into the main room, and a bear of a man stood in the center of the room. A large two handed bastard sword in his grip. He wore animal pelts and was even larger than Sielic embracing his affliction.

      The bearman laughed, a deep throaty sound as if gravel and rocks jumbled together inside his throat. It sounded inhuman. He pointed the blade at Sielic. “Your father is dead, and you will be too!” Sielic visibly flinched as the brute charged him, blade slashing down in an overhand swing. Shikira ran up, and shoved Sielic out of the way, saving his life. They fell in a heap to the side of the room. Sielic jumped up, throwing a blade at the man. “I’ll have my father’s sword back, Jon!” He sprinted forward, long legs giving him a burst of speed as he launched himself through the air. Jon reared back, but Sielic managed to plant bolt daggers hilt deep into his chest. Jon swung at Sielic with all his strength as three arrows sunk into the man’s heart, piercing straight through and punching out the flesh of his back.

      Shikira ran over to the brute, ensuring he was dead before turning to Sielic. “There, took them out, now explain what all this was about!” Her eyes traced over Sielic’s suddenly human form, and she turned him over. The large bastard sword was stuck in Sielic’s gut, and he was bleeding profusely and near death. “At least… I got…. Father’s sword….back.”

 

 

Shikira frowned, panicked. She did not know the first thing about first aid. She leaned over and tugged the bastard sword out of the intestines of Sielic, laying it next to him reverently. It was the cause of all this, she knew, and wanted to make sure he could keep it with him. He reached out a trembling hand and grabbed the hilt tightly.

     Sielic grinned. He looked up at Shikira. “I was thinkin’ of draggin’ this on, but… it hurts a little too much.” Sielic’s hand rummaged through his pack, pulling out a bright red potion. He brought the bottle to his lips, pulling the cork out with his teeth. “All my drinking is finally paying off!” He drank the potion down, groaning with the pain. His teeth shone brightly as he grinned. “Bet you didn’t know I was an alchemist, eh, Shira?”

     Shikira rounded on the downed man, fury chiseled into every line on her face. She kicked him hard in the shins. “You bastard! I thought you were going to die!” She kicked him again. “Why did you need that sword, anyway? You could barely use the thing.” She folded her arms over her chest, glaring at him. She huffed, but was relieved on the inside. She’d known Sielic for awhile, and did not know what she would do without the sarcastic and cynical man.

     Sielic held the blade up, smiling. “It is one of the few possessions my father had that survived when the Trolls slaughtered him. I was young, too young to be a real fighter, but my brother was up there. I remember when he told me what had happened. A few sellswords and me and my brother set out for the old estate.” Shikira coughed. “Your brother and I.”

     “What did you and my brother do, Shira?” Sielic used the blade to push himself upright, standing unsteady. He chuckled as she huffed up, ready to berate him. “I will speak how I want!” He snapped, before his head filled with feeling of dizziness. He dropped to his knees rather quickly. “Jon, there… was one of the men that stayed with my father. They had a rivalry, Jon had a lot of hatred for my father. Position of power and all that. The Shadows are safer than any amount of power.” Sielic coughed, blackened blood spattered on to the floor. His body was still, clearly, healing. “I had heard that the sword had made it out of my old home, escaping the Trolls. I didn’t know Jon had it. I was told he was tryin’ to sell the damned thing. That’s why we had to move.”

     Shikira yawned. “Sie, I asked a question and you gave me a -book-! Simple answers, next time!” She sighed, squatting down next to him and looking him over. “You scared me, damnit. You almost died. Was the sword worth that?” She frowned, both at the man and herself. She had known him for awhile, but he was not that important… was he?

     Sielic smiled and nodded. “Getting it back? With my dying breath? Sounds like a pretty good trade off for me!” Shikira growled at the man, her foot sweeping out in a low kick, knocking his legs out from under him.

     “So selfish!” She huffed, stomping out of the small fortress and taking in the night air. It took several minutes, but Sielic soon followed her outside and then started the long walk back to town. Sielic had his father’s sword strapped to his back.

 

 

   Sielic and Shikira rode into Everlook quickly, the greedy eyes of the Goblins turned and watched as they did so. Sielic glared, his hands on his blades as he walked. The city was not really neutral, like everyone labeled it. Allegiances were based on money, and deep pockets. If you had gold, then the Goblins took good care of you as they hoped for you to spread your wealth. They knew Sielic had pursued a valuable treasure in that sword on his back, and he had returned with it. Sielic approached the innkeeper, and his eyes flashed gold with thoughts of theft and greed running through his mind. Gizblin smiled, showing too many teeth and Sielic flashed his fangs back at the Goblin, giving his knuckles a good crack.

     Shikira and Sielic settled into their shared room. Sielic groaned softly as he settled into the only chair in the sparsely furnished room. Shikira sprawled herself out on the bed, and Sielic sighed. “You’re being indecent and un-ladylike again, Shira!” He threw his boot at her with a tired groan. Shira bounced up, a wicked smile on her face. “You like it, grumpy! Otherwise you would not look!” She fired back quickly, her own boot thudding against Sielic’s forehead hard. He tumbled backwards, the chair falling out from under him.

     Gizblin listened to the couple through the door, his grin widening. He nodded to the three thugs he had hired moments earlier. Burly for Goblins of their size, they brandished a wickedly curved sword, and two large maces between them. One had a small contraption in one hand, paired with the small sword. It looked like a small rifle of Goblin engineering. They closed the distance to the door quietly, flanking it on either side as Gizblin kicked the door in. The Goblin aimed the contraption, and a loud bang thundered out from the room, a blinding flash stole the vision of everyone.

     Sielic’s ears had twitched as the Goblins positioned themselves beyond the door. He had primed the grenade, of Gnomish make, and thrown it at the door. He aimed it at just about chest height for the Goblins, and the door slammed open, just missing the grenade. It exploded as the Goblin raised his right arm, aiming something. It detonated whatever was being aimed, and shrapnel filled the air. When Sielic’s vision cleared, he vaulted towards the thugs. They were blinded, bleeding, and Gizblin had lost his arm from the shoulder down.

     Sielic’s blades left his hands immediately, both sinking into the neck of the thug recovering the quickest. The thug’s mace fell to the floor, laying atop the thug who had brought the contraption. The remaining thug stepped forward, swinging his mace low. Sielic leaped high, tucking his legs in and flipping over the Goblin, landing softly. His hands flowed quickly, drawing two new blades as he kicked in the Goblin’s knees, both blades driving down into his chest from above and behind him.

     Sielic stood up, fur quickly covering his body as his bones twisted and he took of his afflicted form. “Gizblin, you’ve made a mistake. You gained no gold, only lost your already meager supply.” Sielic’s jaw spread wide as he howled, his nose wrinkled from the smell of those freshly slain. He stepped forward and Gizblin fell over, scrambling backwards away from Sielic. Suddenly, a soft hand laid itself on Sielic’s shoulder. He calmed, and returned to his human form. “Well, seems… you’ve been spared my fury.” Sielic smiled, turning away and stepping back into the room.

     Gizblin stood up, bleeding down his side. He wept, and his pants were soaked from fear. He turned away, and managed to step twice before two arrows buried themselves in the back of his head. Shikira quietly turned back into the room, and began packing with Sielic.

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