Bloodbane watched as the tentacled creature slowly died, making a gesture for his men to clean up what remained in the courtyard. Although he hadn’t lost any of his combat readiness in the slightest, this was the closest he came to relaxing before he made his next move. While he studied the tellaris with feigned interest, the beautiful soldier identified as Lady Kait stormed up to him.
“King Bloodbane!” Her eyes narrowed angrily. “What are you doing out here?”
Bloodbane turned to the girl, raising an eyebrow. “It appears that I am saving your pretty little ass.”
She blinked in shock, and then her face turned red with fury. “Why are you here? What do you think we’ve all been fighting for? It was for you to have time to escape! What do you think you’re doing? You’ve wasted the efforts of everyone here, you damned fool!”
The men who had been following Bloodbane and had gotten to know his new attitude turned rigid at hearing him being berated. The maids, on the other side, frowned, stroking their weapons as if they wanted to teach the Lady Kait a lesson. They seemed to hold no regard for her despite her rank. Andromeda had made it clear the second she had made them subordinates that their lives continued and ended with Bloodbane. Nothing else mattered, even former nobles.
Rather than fly into a rage like some of the men feared, Bloodbane grinned at her. It was an insolent grin of a man who didn’t take a woman seriously at all. In fact, he seemed amused. It had been a long time since Bloodbane had yelled at by a woman. Most women he had experienced were hardened criminals who were smart enough to stay out of his way or whores that were gifted to the gladiators. In the latter case, they typically shook like frightened kittens when they first met him. However, he could always make them purr eventually.
This only seemed to irritate Lady Kait more, her body shaking to the point some of those watching from both sides thought she might suddenly attack Bloodbane. However, Bloodbane showed absolutely no fear and put no defenses up as he looked Lady Kait up and down. Just when it seemed like she was about to explode, he finally opened his mouth.
“The reason I am here is that this is where the enemies are. As for why you have all been fighting, I’ve been wondering that myself, because it’s clear to me that you aren’t fighting to win, and that’s the only way I know how to fight. As for what I am doing, I’m currently working on a plan to win this fight.”
“Win?” Her face turned incredulous. “There is no winning. We have to fight to save as many lies as possible.”
“To achieve that goal, then it becomes even more paramount that we toss the enemy back and regain control of our fortification.”
“The castle is lost… the city is lost.” She snarled. “Why are you so foolish?”
“Heh, then get lost.” Bloodbane turned away from her.
“If you have no interest in fighting to win, and you’ve already decided you’re a loser, then you have no use to me. Do as you wish, it doesn’t concern me.”
“You bastard.” This time, she grabbed her sword and then gasped as Bloodbane’s large arms wrapped around her and pulled her to him.
He placed one hand on her sword hand. She tried to draw the sword anyway, but his grip was like iron, preventing her from pulling her sword. He looked down on her, and for the first time, she started to realize that there was something different about him that hadn’t been there before. She could sense the bloodlust coming from him. The Bloodbane she knew had always been gentle and peaceful, but this man gave off an aura of death and destruction. She inhaled suddenly, her anger giving way to confusion.
Bloodbane ignored the change in her reaction as he leaned closed to her. To anyone watching, Bloodbane and Lady Kait had inexplicably become intimately close. Lady Kait’s face turned red as he leaned to her ear, whispering something there. If everyone present didn’t know better, it would seem like a lover’s gentle flirting. However, the words that Bloodbane spoke cut into her like a blade.
“Do not press your luck. If you get in my way, you will be my enemy.” He stated.
He let her go as quickly as he had grabbed her. Lady Kait felt dazed for a second and then fell to her knees. She looked up again to Andromeda looking down at her. The woman sneered at her. She knew this woman to be a simple maid, but she seemed to be looking down on Lady Kait like she was trash. This only caused her to grow even more confused. Just what was going on?”
“Get the water out of this courtyard. We don’t need them dropping another tellaris in here.” Bloodbane let out an order. “Secure the castle while we can. We don’t want any enemies at our back. Begin barricading that portcullis. They’ll eventually realize they can hack through that tellaris.”
“Is that what that thing is called?” One man commented.
The majority of the others had already gotten to work. Most of them listened to the king’s orders. There were already several groups who seemed to be moving under him, and without anyone else speaking, it was easier to fall in line than to resist. However, a few knights working directly under Lady Kait held off as they looked toward the woman worriedly. She seemed to recover quickly, standing back up.
“My lady?” One of the men asked.
“Go!” She barked. “Block the portcullis.”
That was one of the orders Bloodbane had given, but she refused to tell them to follow the king’s orders, and instead gave them herself. Regardless of the situation, keeping any more of the creatures outside from getting inside would help give those retreating time to make some distance. If the king wanted to give his life in this falling castle, Lady Kait couldn’t care less. She cared about the women and children fleeing into the mountain. He wasn’t able to protect the city when he was king, so how would he be able to protect the women in children once the city fell. It’d probably be preferable if someone else took over. That was what Lady Kait thought.
However, when she turned to glare at Bloodbane, she only saw the maid who had been giving her such a hateful look. Even that woman was ignoring her now, ordering some other maids to clean up the last of the nearby undead before she glanced up with adoring eyes to the top of the wall. Lady Kait followed her eyesight, and that was when she realized that Bloodbane was standing on top of the wall. She let out a noise.
The stairway that led to the top of the wall had collapsed thanks to that tentacled creature, what did he call it? A tellaris? Either way, how did he get to the top of the wall so quickly? He would have had to climb. Feeling irritated, Lady Kait pulled off her plate armor and then did a running jump, pushing off the creature and grabbing onto the portcullis. She began to scale the cross beams, and then leaped to the wall, grabbing a piece of stone and using it to swing up onto the wall.
Once she reached the top, she looked in the direction Bloodbane was looking. It was a city on fire. Thousands of monsters of all types were spread as far as the eye could see. The majority of them were undead types, but they were fortified by goblins, kobolds, trolls, and various other monstrosities. Typically, armies of different species didn’t get along. The trolls would eat the goblins and the kobolds, and the goblins and kobolds would fight over resources. However, it seemed like the presence of undead had acted as a buffer that kept them all in line. If any of them killed each other, they were just turned into the increasing hoard of undead. It was enough to keep any of them in line.
“So, this is only the inner courtyard. There is an outer courtyard to this palace as well.” Bloodbane spoke, seemingly to himself.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Has your brain turned to shit? We grew up playing out in that grass. My sister and you shared your first kiss just under that tree.”
She nodded to a tree nearby. That tree had no leaves anymore. It looked like it had caught on fire at some point. The fire had been put out, and perhaps the tree would survive eventually, but at the moment it was mostly just burned wood. It fit the skeletons, kobolds, and other creatures that were filling the courtyard at the moment. Even at that moment, more were filing in from the city. Immediately below them on this side of the portcullis, some goblins had already begun hacking away at the creature.
“They’re no trying to go over the wall.” He made another observation that Lady Kait considered obvious.
He had gone foolish.
“They’ll need ladders to get over this wall. There is a razor-sharp blade along the edge here, if they try to climb it, just about any rope would cut easily. That’s an invention of yours. One of the few graces you have ever shown us. The outer palace walls are even better designed. You can’t even get a ladder up on those.” She had started to realize she almost sounded like she was praising him, but she had no desire to show this man even a bit of kindness after everything that had happened.
He had only stood there and watched as her sister had been raped to death by monsters on the walls. That was something she refused to forgive. Of course, she didn’t know about her sister’s betrayal. That was something that only a select few knew about. Bloodbane, the other Bloodbane, had gone out of his way to keep that secret, feeling like it would only be another blow that the city couldn’t afford to take. If they learned that a general and the queen had conspired to give the city to their enemies in exchange for their own lives, they’d lose all hope. They had already had a weak King, but a traitorous Queen could break them.
“The telluris opened up the inner courtyard gate,” Bloodbane spoke again. “But who opened up the palace gate.”
The city truly had been built to be defensive. There was the outer wall, which had been breached by the Queen’s betrayal. There was the inner wall, which had been breached by a battering ram. Then, there was the outer castle wall, followed by the inner castle wall, and then the castle itself. At the moment, they were on top of the inner castle wall. Bloodbane looked over the momentous task in front of him, although he felt no fear or worry. It was merely a task that must be done. He would either do it or die. He had just wanted to get an eye on it himself before making his next move.
“A traitor.” Lady Kait said in a tight voice. “After the inner city fell, we had hoped to be able to hold out for at least a week. However, this morning the outer gate inexplicably opened, allowing them to pour any. Anyone in the outer courtyard that might have witnessed what happened is now a corpse. Thus, it had to be some kind of traitor.”
“Since the gate opened, we’ll close it again and retake the outer courtyard.” Bloodbane declared.
“What? No! There are at least five hundred in here.” She responded. “Besides, there is a giant right in front of it.”
The giant was the biggest fear. It was as tall as the inner wall and had at one point tried to climb over it. This had cost it some of its fingers. Ever since it had relegated itself to protecting the entrance to the courtyard. If it wised up and thought to kick in the portcullis, they would have already been dead.
Furthermore, the way the castle was set up, while the inner gate was a portcullis, the outer gate was a drawbridge. There was a moat around the castle. This is why ladders couldn’t be used around it. However, the drawbridge had been let down and the doors busted through. It would take two strong men five minutes to lift the drawbridge, and that was with monsters standing on it.
“You said it yourself. You can hold off a week with that gate. You couldn’t even hold off a day with the inner gate.”
“That… they surprised us.” She blushed.
“It’s damaged now, so we’ll be lucky to get an hour with it.”
“You could fix it though.” She shot Bloodbane a challenging look. “You can shape metal, remember?”
Bloodbane realized that’s why the walls had such defenses that made them difficult to overtake. His former self must have used Earthly Manipulation and his knowledge from another world to make them difficult to handle. If that was the case, then Bloodbane also had such an ability. He hadn’t thought to use it and had mostly been battling with his strength up until now. However, magic was also a strength he could pull from.
As a gladiator, he lived in a world without magic or monster. He knew nothing about either of these things. However, he still had access to the old Bloodbane’s memories, so after perusing them a bit, he had an idea of how they could be used. Regrettably, the other Bloodbane had never used this earth manipulation in combat. His uses had always been preventative. Everything else was merely theoretical. However, a difficult battle wasn’t what Lady Kait was asking. She just wanted him to repair the portcullis.
Even if she did, they were probably bringing ladders this very moment. Once the ladders reached the outer courtyard, the inner courtyard would be as good as captured. No, the only choice was for them to get that gate close, and closed as quickly as possible. He could have explained all of this to Lady Kait, but he wasn’t a person who liked explaining himself. Once he decided on a course of action, he felt there was no time like the present.
He took a step and then leaped off the edge of the wall. Lady Kait let out a scream of shock. In her mind, the king had decided to kill himself. Once on the other side of the wall, he would have no chance to get back on the right side. It was just him against nearly five hundred enemies. What was that if not suicidal? When he struck the ground, he was already running. The Lady Kait’s scream had attracted most of the eyes to her, and few of the monsters had even realized that there was a human near him until he had already raced half the length of the courtyard.
When the creatures around finally did become aware. They all let out cries and began to race at him. Bloodbane made a fist and punched the ground. As he did so, a stream of spikes erupted from the ground in front of him. The closest creatures ended up racing right into the spikes, impaling themselves. He kicked down to the side, and a wall of earth rose, he then kicked the wall, causing it to fall forward. About five hundred pounds of solid rock landed on a few unsuspecting goblins, crushing them. He gestured up, causing more spikes to raise, and then with a wave, he caused them to go flying, striking a half dozen undead and causing them to stumble to the ground.
“Fool!” Lady Kait hissed. “You can’t use magic so recklessly!”
Magic could always be powerful, but it was also exhausting. For someone who didn’t cast magic often like Bloodbane, his tolerance would be exceptionally low. It was well known that the energy required to kill a weak monster with magic far exceeded the energy needed to slash it down with a blade. Magic was for an area of effect, distance, and large otherwise unkillable enemies. To use magic recklessly to kill little goblins that could just as easily be knocked down with a blade would be like using a twenty-pound sledgehammer to build a birdhouse.
Just as she had feared, Bloodbane was quickly getting overwhelmed, and the sweaty appearance on his face said he was getting mana exhausted as well. As he died, it would be the end of an idiot who had only caused this kingdom suffering. Lady Kait could only say good riddance.
That’s what she wanted to say, but as she saw him fighting on with a roar, her heart clenched suddenly. As much as she hated the man, he was still her sister’s husband and the king of her nation. Let out a feral roar, she also leaped off the edge of the wall into the inner courtyard. She wasn’t able to leap directly like Bloodbane, so she instead had aimed for a bush. She landed in it with a thud, but quickly leaped and began racing toward Bloodbane.
At this point, everything in the courtyard had focused on Bloodbane, and the inner door was being forgotten in the name of a fresh kill. As a result, the majority of the enemies we’re facing away from Lady Kait. As she raced to Bloodbane’s defense, she began to cut them down one at a time. It wasn’t very knightly to cut a creature down from behind, but she no longer concerned herself with such things. After everything that she had witnessed these last few weeks, she hadn’t the slightest sympathy for any of these creatures.
However, she quickly was finding her sacrifice to be pointless. There were too many monsters between her and Bloodbane. As soon as she cut one down, another appeared. Worse, they had realized she was here now, and while she might be taken a bit of pressure off of Bloodbane, her pressure was starting to increase. Soon, she’d be just as overwhelmed as him.
Suddenly, there was an eruption of dirt. It came like an explosion, causing many of the monsters to stumble. Bloodbane flew out of the crowd of monsters, and a massive pillar erupted under his feet at an angle. His arm had become a giant stalactite made of earth. As the platform he created extended out, just as it began to break apart, he pushed off of it with all of his strength. Lady Kait watched with wide-eyed wonder as Bloodbane flew up through the air. The giant that had only been watching with interest flinched back as it was suddenly the target of an assault. Bloodbane slammed right into his face. He didn’t hesitate to slam the blade directly into the giant’s eye, boring it directly into his brain.
The giant let out a roar, its hands flailing. As if Bloodbane had planned this from the start, the flailing arm caught on the chains that attached to the drawbridge. As the monster collapsed, its weight pulled down on the chains. The gate was suddenly jerked up, slamming close as the wait of the giant collapsed on the chain. Lady Kait stared in wide-eyed wonder. Bloodbane had done it. He had closed the outer gate.