Sacrifices Must Be Made
Inside the chamber, the trio could barely see using the light breaking in through the door. The torches that lined the wall and gave light to the room had all been put out greatly limiting the visibility. But, the smell of blood still wafted strongly into their noses. They were all accustomed to it from the many fights and battles each had been involved in or were around in the past so it didn't bother any of them; they assumed the stench had simply followed them from the clash outside.
Leon was the first to see anything. It didn't take long, but time always seemed to move slower in the dark. Alexander had been standing in the center of the room, adorned with all his fine jewels and precious metals, trying to adjust his eyes and Leon thought he glimpsed something via light refracted off the jeweled hilt of Alexander's sword. "Hey," Leon shouted as he turned towards the Prince, "stay there" he commanded as he placed a hand on Alexander's shoulder. The Prince, uneasy but confused, complied and moved along as Leon followed the small stream of light with his eyes, moving the Prince's body accordingly. As the whole picture finally came into view for him, Leon released his grip on Alexander's shoulder and turned to Bo: "Get us some light already, will ya?"
Bo had already started working on just that. He'd picked up his bow as they walked in and already had it restrung. After dipping an arrowhead into the flammable liquid he always carried, he pulled out a special rock that easily created sparks against the arrowheads and sure enough with one swift stroke, the tip of the arrow was ablaze in a bright reddish glow.
As soon as the fire was lit, Leon's initial thoughts of what he saw were confirmed: off to the side was the recently killed carcass of a man who looked to have been a fairly adept fighter. But everything else that assailed his senses was somewhat unexpected. Crumpled against the wall and on the floor near the wall, were nine other dead bodies. All of them were dressed differently and varied in size but they each had two similarities: a tattoo of a crescent moon on their upper bicep and drying blood pooled on their chests from similar looking slit throats, the only wound on any of them. Judging by the looks of either anger, terror, or confusion on the victim's faces, the killer completed the task with relative ease.
Leon's regular smirk grew wider as he admired the killer's handiwork. It had been awhile since he'd been in a challenging fight where he was pushed, and he figured this person might be just what he was looking for.
Bo noticed the glint in the eyes of his bloodthirsty friend but let it go in favor of turning to Alexander to ask a question. "What were you saying about 'the elite'?"
Bo's question pulled the Prince out of his reverie somewhat. He had been shocked to see such a sight and stayed standing in the center of the room dumbfounded. After a moment, Alexander stammered out, "These are, I mean were, the Elite."
"Yeah, I kinda figured that," Bo responded slightly sarcastically. "I mean 'how strong were they' supposedly?"
"Of the invading forces, they were likely third in strength as a group. From what we gathered, Hogg employed two full crews in addition to numerous mercenary and bandit groups. These ten were second-in-command on the larger crew. Each individual is a worthy adversary, but they truly excel when fighting in pairs. I fought some of them once. I defeated one pair of them, but barely held off a second two; in both cases, their teamwork was nearly impeccable."
Leon, having gotten over his the anticipation he was feeling and eager for a good fight, spoke up as Alexander ended his explanation, "Okay, okay. Now, let's stop talking and get this over with. My arms getting stiff and my sword's drying up."
Bo looked towards the door that would lead them out of the circular room and finally within the castle walls where it would be just a short jog to the palace and to ending all of this, returning the kingdom back to its rightful ruler- at least until the oldest brother could come back to usurp the throne from his father. "Leon's right, we've wasted enough time, we shouldn't stay on this island any longer than necessary." Bo stated as he pulled his bow up, the flaming arrow ready to be released at any moment.
With that the group walked out the door and into the open air, the bright sun beaming down on them. It was nearing dawn, but the sun showed few signs of being through and the change from the darkened chamber to this made it difficult to see until their eyes adjusted to the new lighting. Their adjustment period was cut short though as a voice spoke out to them. "I'm impressed you three have made it this far; you're obviously quite skilled. Unfortunately for you, the road ends here." The man speaking must've been one of the two captains; he was clearly very confident in his abilities.
After a few rapid, final blinks, Bo was the first to adjust his eyes and as soon as he could see the man speaking, he fired the flaming arrow at his chest. Leon and Alexander's sight cleared up as well just as the arrow launched towards the man. The arrow flew forward quickly, easily covering the distance between the two sides, but even as the arrow closed in on him, their opposition did little more than yawn while scratching the back of his neck. The reason for his assuredness became clear when he gripped the handle of the sword on his back and with a single movement struck the sharp edge of his blade against the tip of the arrow, fragmenting the arrowhead easily and sending flaming shards splintering around him.
Bo didn't let that little light show deter him in the least. Instead, he used the scene as cover to nock three more arrows and he was ready to fire them when the blade of a sword appeared right in his line of sight. Following the blade to the sword's wielder, Bo glared at Leon who wasn't even paying any attention to him.
"You two go ahead; this guy's mine," declared Leon as he loosened up his arms. "Let's hope he's as strong as he acts. Everyone else has been a grave disappointment."
But, their enemy wasn't just going to step aside. "I've already told you, you'll go no further. All three of you will die right here."
Ignoring the threat, Bo motioned to Alexander and with a quick "Come on, you're leading" the two dashed towards the door with no concern for the man wielding the large broadsword not three feet away from their destination. Alexander briefly reached for the rapier at his hip, but seeing Bo's calm expression convinced him to focus on running past this guard as opposed to fighting him.
He came to regret that decision as the swordsman let out a sigh and muttered "Fools," before moving to intercept them, his sword positioned to simultaneously lop off Bo's head, who was still paying him no mind, and severely wound the Prince effectively halting their escape attempt. With little effort, he quickly closed the gap to intercept them and brought his sword crashing down.
This was almost too easy. Neither of the fools trying to escape him were even looking at him. They clearly didn't know the basic rule of combat- 'never look away from your opponent'. The swordsman smiled as his blade neared its target, its weight and sharpness more than enough to cut through such weaklings. However, just as he was about to finish his swing, he twisted his body and repositioned his sword, the cost of cutting the two down suddenly too great.
While the swordsman was focused on intercepting Bo and Alexander, Leon decided to use the opportunity to kill him. Just as his sword would have finished cutting through the layers of bone and flesh and decapitating Bo, Leon's blade would have cleaved him in two leaving two dead and possibly only Leon standing.
The move caught the stranger, who was now skidding backwards using his free hand to balance himself after being blown back by the force of the powerful attack that he just managed to twist around and get his sword in position to block, off guard. Most people would have moved to block the attack from hitting their unsuspecting allies and the mercenary swordsman would have been ready for that- he may have been able to break right through Leon's sword; it looked fragile enough-, but to let your comrades die just to win a fight, what kind of animal would do that?
Bo and Alexander made it into the castle thanks to Leon's interference, leaving Leon and the mercenary outside staring each other down. Leon actually paid attention to the man's appearance: he was slightly smaller than Leon, though still very muscular, and wearing a brown leather vest with some chain wrapped wrist bands over a pair of black pants and boots. Leon also noticed the tattoo running the length of his non-dominant arm and, most importantly, a crescent moon mark below his eye. This was clearly the captain of the dead men they'd seen before.
The mercenary used the chance to ask the question bugging him, "Why?" Leon merely raised an eyebrow. "Why would you risk your allies' lives just for a chance to kill me?"
Leon couldn't hold back his laugh at the question. He completely dismissed his opponent as he let out a hearty laugh. Once he calmed himself, Leon inhaled a few deep breaths and regained his composure enough to answer, a process that annoyed his adversary greatly, though he didn't go ahead and kill him since he felt he could do that anytime and he still wanted an answer to his question in order to better understand his opponent. "Risk. I didn't risk anything. If you'd paid yo life for his, you'd have been givin' ya life away. That dude you were aiming at ain't gon' die that easy. 'Sides, it'll be my blade that finishes 'im."
"You plan on killing your superior?" the man asked questioningly.
Leon simply chuckled, "Whether he dies or not is irrelevant. But, I will be the strongest on these seas and I'll beat him to get there."
It was now the other man's opportunity to release a light laugh. "You are an animal. I guess that makes me the Hunter that will end you."
Bo was following Alexander through a series of hallways lined with suits of armor and exquisite paintings of various scenes as well as ones of the royal lineage as they ventured deeper inside the palace to confront and defeat Hogg. Bo was briefly mesmerized as he looked around him due to having never seen anything even remotely as extravagant on his home island, but he was brought out of it when he noticed Alexander seemed rather pensive as if he had something on his mind as they ran. "What's up?"
Alexander looked ahead as he spoke: "Are you sure? You and Leon are putting your lives on the line for this kingdom you've never been to. I know you two aren't Marines, so why?" Alexander waited for a retort before continuing and Bo could have easily come up with one, but he decided it was pointless at this juncture, so Alexander spoke on. "I've been around many Marines in my life, both good and corrupt, and you two are neither.
Bo let a small smirk grace his lips. He was impressed; the Prince had apparently been using them even more than they had used him." Your concern is kind, but misplaced," Bo spoke in a calm, yet forceful tone. "We won't die here; I just can't stand people who take advantage of the powerless... that includes your father. Seeing an expression on Alexander's face that asked 'how can you be so sure', Bo asked, "Could you defeat Leon's opponent?"
I've never faced him in battle so I can't be sure, though I'd venture to say I could even though he has a tendency to toy with his opponents."
"Leon doesn't hold back in a fight. If he messes around too much, Leon will just be more upset afterwards."
After running for a while, Bo realized that the path they were following was rather straight and was questioning why there was no opposition so he decided to ask: "Where are we going?"
"To the Grand Hall. That's where he'll be; he's trying to trap us."
Bo didn't too much care about it being a trap, just as Alexander obviously didn't, since he was confident that based on what they'd run into so far, they could easily handle whatever was waiting for them. But one thing was still nagging him about the answer though. "How can you be so sure that he'll be there, though?"
"Because… he was my -'' Alexander cut himself off as the door to the Grand Hall was finally in sight. His anger boiled to a rage as he was finally about to take back what was rightfully his and rid his father's kingdom of such a treacherous traitor. He didn't even slow down as he ran at the door. Instead, he pulled his rapier from its sheath at his hip and just as he prepared to attempt to cut the door, it opened on its own so he charged in, followed immediately by Bo.
Bo could hear a low growl escape from the Prince's lips as he glared daggers at the man in front of him. After a while, he piped up, "I presume, that's-''