“Alright, listen up!” Sergeant Vott’s voice boomed through the watchhouse break room, the walls resonating out of respect. “Everyone needs to be on their toes. This is not gonna be easy. We’ve finally tracked down the thieves who raided the mining company warehouse two nights ago. It seems the reason they grabbed so many crates of copper ore is because they have a smelting operation in the south west alleys of the Lows. Now, we are gonna to hit them fast and hit them hard. If anyone raises a blade to you, drop ’em. Is that clear?”
A chorus of fiery grunts sounded in reply. Most of the men were seated at the large meal table in the center of the room. Those who arrived too late to get a seat stood. Vott stood on the table, bearing down on them all.
“For this operation,” Vott continued, “young Iric will be Bjorki’s replacement on my team with Frige and Pyri. We will be the ones to go in first.”
Iric straightened up at the unexpected mention of his name. He was going to be with the lead team on the raid? Why hadn’t Sergeant Vott told him.
“Gunnr’s team from the Central Watchhouse will hold the perimeter while we are inside,” Vott said. “So, give them a little thanks for the help.”
Some of the men nodded and shuffled about, slapping their new comrades on the back.
“Any questions?” Vott asked. “Good. Then get dressed.”
As the other men wandered off to the armory to get their weapons and armor, Iric quietly slid to Vott’s side, the big man crawling down from atop the table with an audible groan.
“Sarge, why me?” Iric asked.
“Why not you? You’re a watchman, ain’t ya?”
“Yes…but there are other guys with more experience than me.”
“And how do you think they got that experience? Twiddlin’ their thumbs in the break room? You gotta start somewhere.”
“What’s up with Bjorki?”
“Something happened to his wife. I don’t know the details, just that it was important for him to go. Yes, as watchmen we take care of this city. But we also take care of our own. Right?”
“Go get your sword. I imagine you’ll get a bit of practice today.”
After several minutes of preparation, the watchmen–six men and two women–were ready and armed. They broke into two groups of four each and headed down the road towards their destination. The whole while Iric’s thoughts were occupied with the question of how only a handful of men could haul off crates of ore in just a few hours of night. It didn’t seem possible.
As they neared the target, Frige pulled Iric to the side. She was taller than him, one of the bulkiest women he had ever seen. Perhaps only Vott was more physically intimidating. She had a scar along her jawline that was more feminine than any other part of her face. She grabbed at the straps of Iric’s breastplate, checking if it was secure.
“You alright kid?” she asked is a surprisingly deep voice.
“Yeah, I think so. It’s not my first fight.”
“But your first raid, right?”
“The trouble with raids is they tend to go bad real fast. Keep your wits and stay with me. Let Vott draw their attention like the bear he is. That will allow us to move and strike more freely.”
The watchmen crept down the narrow alley, stopping just before the old wooden door of the target building–which was sandwiched between two taller structures. Gunnr sent two of his men around to the back of the building, requiring them to go back the way they came, through the alleys and around the cluster of buildings. A bird-like whistle echoed in the morning air and Gunnr gave a nod to Vott.
The big sergeant kicked the door in, which–instead of swinging inwards–fell straight down off its rotten hinges. Vott and the three watchmen in his team charged into the building, swords drawn.
Immediately past the door was a large room with several tables in the center. A stack of crates took up much of the space to the left, and a large smelting fire burned to the right. Four roguish faces turned to the door in surprise.
“I am Sergeant Vott of the City Watch!” the beastly man growled. “Lay down on the floor and surrender!”
The four men wasted no time in rejecting the order, grabbing swords and tossing the tables sideways to make an improvised defensive position. Vott kicked the table closest to him, which sent it skidding across the ground. He and Pyri met their still shaken enemies in melee, while Frige dragged Iric to the right.
The clang of clashing steel filled the hot room. The two vanguard watchmen traded blows with their opponents over the tipped tables. Frige gripped her sword in both hands, readying a thrust to one of the unsuspecting men. Suddenly a side door swung open; Iric hadn’t even noticed it. The door slammed into the crates at the side of the room as a man stepped out holding a staff. With a flash of light, Frige was lifted off her feet and thrown towards the fire. There was the hiss of a burn and a deep scream.
This left Iric staring at one of the rogues, the man’s attention now fully fixed on the young watchman. The grungy man stepped forward and swung his sword at Iric in a sideways arc. Iric jumped back, avoiding the blow, and readying his sword to parry the next. It came, followed by another, and another. It was all Iric could do to keep standing as the furious strikes pressed his own sword back against his breastplate.
The man drew back for one final strike. Iric stepped back again, trying to fix his stance, but instead tripped on a loose object on the ground. His foot flew forward and his body back, hard into the ground. But the rogue was already too invested in his attack to stop, the momentum of it spinning him around and to the floor. Iric seized the chance, rolling on top the the man and pummeling him until he stopped moving.
Through the corner of his eye, he saw Vott and Pyri strike down their opponents. Then he saw Pyri fly through the air into the far wall. Iric tried to get to his feet but a firm hand held him down. It was Frige, the side of her neck and face burned, fury in her eyes. Pushing Iric down with one hand, she hurled a blacksmith’s hammer with the other, letting out an animalistic yell. The flying chunk of iron smashed the staff-holding rogue in the face, dropping him to the ground.
Iric heard the loud stomp of footsteps entering the room. It was Gunnr and his man coming in for support, but they were too late. The fight had been started and ended in a matter of seconds, faster than the men waiting outside could respond to.
“Everyone alright?” Vott asked.
“The bastard with the staff messed up my face,” Frige said. “So I returned the favor.”
That made the big sergeant smile. “You’re prettier this way,” he said.
“Fuck you, Sarge,” Frige said.
“Not that pretty,” Vott said.
Vott signaled to Gunnr to take care of the two wounded rogues who were still breathing, while the sergeant’s weary team gathered in the center of the room.
“Well done, lads,” Vott said.
“Sarge, they used magic on us,” Iric said.
“Yeah…I was guessing they had a staff or something,” Vott said. “How else could they carry all that ore out of the warehouse in one night?”
“You knew and you didn’t tell us?” Iric said, growing angry.
“I didn’t tell you,” Vott said. “Pyri and Frige knew. I didn’t want you spooked on your first raid.”
The other two watchmen nodded at Iric, then slapped reassuring hands on his shoulder.
“You did good, kid,” Frige said.
“Good thing you caved that magic thief’s head in,” Vott said to Frige, putting a big arm around her shoulder and leading her out of the room. “Otherwise he would have been left waiting weeks for it to be cut off. The council doesn’t play around with unregulated magic use. Now, lets get that face of yours looked at, eh?”
Vott looked back at the rest of the watchmen in the room. “The captain will call in the council inspectors later today. For now, let’s have a break. Beers are on me.”
Another chorus of cheers echoed back to the grizzly man. But Iric was still too shaken to cheer. He quietly followed his seniors out of the dark and bloody room, into the sunrise shaded alley.
*Previous volumes of “The Adventures of Iric” can be found here: