Small Packages: Valen’s Gamble
Adrenaline coursed through Jared’s body and for a few moments the pains of a hard life were forgotten. Perhaps all the responsibilities had aged him more than anything else. In the moments he prepared himself for a battle Jared felt younger and more alive than he had in decades. A part of him wanted to meet some great champion in a singular confrontation, preferably someone who was good enough to last longer than a minute.
Time was a funny thing in battle. Seconds felt like minutes, and the details outside of a foe seems to blur and fade into the background. To Jared they came out of focus but remained as facts. A compartmentalized part of his brain was always aware of details like terrain, allies and enemies, even as he achieved a hyper focus on the strengths and weaknesses of his chosen foe.
A single ship would not challenge the city, Jared was intimately aware of every deadly secret piece of defense Briar Hills had. The hidden skyships, the harbormaster’s chain golem, the kobold fireworks master’s invention called a nest of bees. The city had dozens of these nasty little cashes of the weapon hidden at every likely invasion point.
Jared’s troops drilled with a mantra; “Wizard, Officer, Healer, Exotic Mount, Legionnaire.” It was the priority of targets for every archer and slinger, it represented a cost sheet nightmare for the efficient orc logistics officers.
Starstones had a tattoo on the wrists FTFAC for Find The Flank And Commit. If the orc legions thrived on formations it was madness to oppose them in formations so Jared taught his troops to thrive on creating chaos. In a chaotic melee the orcs were just like anyone else.
Jared arrived at the docks just as the slaver galley was approaching, figures aboard busy at the mooring lines. He pulled a fireball wand from a secret compartment opposite of the blade’s as he drew his rapier dropping the wooden shell of his cane as he went. His brother died in bondage. Jared himself had been produced by rape for a slaver’s amusement, and the first two decades of his life were plagued by beatings and hard labor. A slaver daring to step onto the land Jared called home was a dead man walking.
As Jared prepared to throw a fireball, something slammed him from behind. Jared rolled with the momentum and flip spun to face his foe dropping the wand, then calling and throwing his returning dagger all in the space of time it took to land firmly on his feet and face his foster son.
Valen casually flicked the dagger aside with a snap from Defiance. He pressed a button and the middle finger of the clenched fist end of the mace rose into a sharp point dripping with a potent sleep toxin. The boy spun the weapon into an expert defensive spin that made the ends hard to track.
“Don’t make me do this father, we do not know who they are yet,” he spoke clearly and slowly.
Words were never his adoptive son’s forte and it was something he seemed unable to learn. The boy didn’t stand a chance, Jared had cast too many spells to enhance himself en route. Jared disappeared using vanishing trick, he’d end it quickly and minimize the damage to the boy.
A soft thud on Jared’s chest as a canvas bag filled with colored chalk struck him and provided the only warning before the boy charged his position directly. Valen spun and rotated his weapon at a speed that would have deadly consequence if Jared was slow. Of course he had earned his surname Swift for a reason as he dodged blow after blow.
Though with each pass the boy put out more chalk in the air, he used his staff swipes to keep the sack of colored chalk in the air like a hacky sack. It took Jared a moment to realize the purpose of this strange choice. The chalk clung to him and hung in the air long enough to foil both invisibility and illusions.
The boy had taken some potions and was using his ki wisely. He was putting up a frenetic pace to keep Jared moving, he was playing a game of endurance hoping to tire Jared. Jared would have to use deadly force and risk killing his foster son in order to win this conflict. The boy was betting his life against the balance of Jared’s hatred of slavers. For the first time his most calculatingly and cautious son was rolling the dice.
Jared spun back and released his sword and dagger. They clattered on the ground sounding his surrender. “Well played my son.” Jared had never been prouder of the boy.
Moments later as it become apparent the slaver’s galley was filled with slaves that had broken their chains and revolted against their captors he was even prouder of Valen, and his quiet wisdom.
Jared would have enough time to regain his dignity before greeting the new visitors. His wits returned well enough that he noted another winded messenger arriving. The old adage, “it only pours,” came to mind.