The Last Stand (The Eleven Years War: Book One)

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Chapter Thirty-Eight

Olrick stood on the rain-slicked roof of Castle Matisse, tying a piece of rope around his waist and his legs. After talking with Finn for those few minutes, he’d ran to his room to get a change of clothes and some supplies. He’d ditched his formal uniform for a pair of well-fitting pants and long sleeve shirt, soft soled shoes, leather hand guards, and a half balaclava that covered his mouth and nose, all of which were a mottled gray color to help him blend in with the fog that often covered Caitha. He’d also grabbed a very long, thick piece of cord, some rope, strapped his short sword to his back and knives to his thighs, and attached his lock picking kit to his belt. All the while, he came up with ideas on how to break into Raul’s room and get Elise out. With what Finn had told him, he would have to get into Raul’s room without being seen (making the main entrance bad, since it was constantly guarded), grab Elise, then get out. Under those circumstances, using the servant’s passage seemed preferable, but he didn’t know the first thing about navigating them, and he didn’t think he had the time to learn; he could just use that as an escape route, once he had Elise to help him.

And that was how he found himself on the roof of the castle, getting ready to go down to Raul’s room.

It was a little nerve racking, to not have anyone with him as he prepared to go down from the roof to Raul’s window to break into his room; normally, when going down the side of anything with considerable height, he would have someone there with him, double-checking everything he did to make sure that he wasn’t about to do something that would get him killed and holding onto the rope at the top, just in case he did something while he went down that could cause him to fall to his death. This would be his first time rappelling alone.

After he’d finished tying the rope to his waist and the cord to the castle, Olrick pulled the end of the cord through the loop on the front of his makeshift harness and took a deep breath. Now that he was about to do this, he was starting to second-guess himself. This was insane; he should’ve had Eza or Silas come with him, at least for this part.

He walked over to the edge of the roof and got himself into position. It was too late for that, now; every second counted, and he didn’t have the time to run back down stairs to grab one of them. Besides, Silas wouldn’t let him hear the end of it if he told him he was too scared to rappel alone.

Olrick walked off the edge of the roof.

Just as it was supposed to, the rope kept him from falling down to his death, and he began to rappel down the wall. His confidence back after going over the edge of the roof (that part terrified him, even though he’d been doing this since he joined the Watch), he began to go faster, zipping down much faster than he normally did.

He was going fast enough that he almost missed Raul’s window. Once he was there, he stopped, tied the end of the rope above him so he wouldn’t go any farther, and tried to open the window. Sure enough, it was locked, and there didn’t seem to be any way to unlock it from the outside.

Olrick carefully drew his sword, making sure to keep the blade away from the rope that kept him from falling to his death. Polain would kill him just for this; forget about breaking into the room of a visiting enemy in order to get someone who’d been sentenced to death for espionage: this alone would be enough to make him want to skin him alive.

He smashed the pommel of his sword against the window, hard.

The glass shattered against the blow, sending sharp shards of clear glass across the floor in Raul’s room. He sheathed his sword and carefully brushed the glass off the window frame so he wouldn’t cut himself when he entered.

Now came the tricky part: getting himself off the rappel cord and into the room without falling to his death.

He untied the rope and moved to the side, so his feet were touching the wall of the castle. He jumped a few times to get some momentum, then moved to the side, allowing himself to swing inside the room.

To say the least, it didn’t go quite as he’d planned.

Luckily, he was in the room and not outside when things began to go south. Without realizing it, Olrick let go of the rope that was holding him up with one hand as he swung inside, making it slip through his fingers. The next thing he knew, he was lying on his back in a pile of glass, his back throbbing and the wind knocked out of him.

Olrick slowly got up, wiping the glass off of his pants. Gods, that could’ve gone so much worse.

After he’d taken himself off the rope, he began to look around. Obviously, nobody was in the room; there weren’t even any Giskens standing guard in front of the closet, where Finn said Elise was.

Olrick quickly drew his sword, suspicious. Something was up, he was sure of it.

With his sword at the ready, Olrick began to inspect the room, looking under pieces of furniture, behind curtains, any place that Giskens could be hiding, waiting to strike. Sure enough, there was no one there.

Finally, Olrick checked the closet, where Finn said they were holding Elise. When he tried the doorknob, he found that it wasn’t locked.

His grip tightened on his sword. The only reason they would leave a prisoner’s door unlocked was if they were positive they wouldn’t try to escape. There were probably some Giskens in with her right now, trying to get her to turn.

He opened the door, expecting to find himself in a fight-

Only to find that the closet was empty, just like the rest of the room.

For a few seconds, he stood in the empty doorway as his stomach twisted itself into knots. Elise was gone; he was too late to help her.

Damn it! He managed to restrain himself from punching a wall. He’d already let Milo’s father die after telling him he would protect his family, and now, it seemed that his sister was going to die because of him, too.

“I was wondering when you were going to show up.” Olrick turned around, pointing his sword in the direction of the voice. Bram was leaning against the doorframe, his arms folded in front of him and a smug look on his face. “I was beginning to think that you guys really were going to leave her out to dry; I can’t even imagine how Elise must have felt when you didn’t come to save her as we were taking her away.”

“What did you do to her?” Olrick growled, his grip tightening on his sword. Bram began to laugh.

“Gods, aren’t you blunt?” he asked. “It’s no wonder you don’t have a woman; you have no talent for foreplay.” He looked past Olrick at the shattered window and the rope. “Now, was it really necessary to break the window? Those things are a pain to make, you know.” He began walking towards him, his hands shoved into his coat pockets.

“Elise is in the dungeon, by the way,” Bram said. “I think they were planning on interrogating her, but I didn’t stay long enough to find out.”

Olrick tried to keep himself from killing Bram. He was a monster, just as bad as Blair and maybe even Raul, himself. He wanted nothing more than to rid the world of him, but he couldn’t. He didn’t have time to deal with him; he had a job to do.

He tried to step past Bram, but he wouldn’t let him. He stepped in front of him, pulling a newly made long sword from his hip.

“Oh, I’m afraid that I can’t let you go that easily,” he said. Sparks began to fly up and down the blade of his sword as Bram forced his energy into it. It seemed that the Giskens had managed to get their Oraniomancer a sword made of pure zinc, a metal that was known for its sensitivity to magic. “You see, General Raul has given me strict instructions to kill anyone who tries to help the little whelp escape; try not to take this personally.”

Bram launched a bolt of lightning at him.

It caught Olrick right in the stomach, launching him across the room, through the area of shattered glass, and almost out the smashed window. Thank the gods, it didn’t feel like it was at its full power; if it had been, he doubted that he could’ve gotten to his feet so soon after.

Olrick held his sword out in front of him. It looked like he would get to kill Bram that night, after all.

He lunged.

Bram was ready. He knocked the sword out of the way and sliced upward with his sword. Olrick stepped out of the way, narrowly avoiding the electrified blade. Was it him, or had Bram gotten worse with swords since they last fought? He let the tip scrape against the stone ground, dulling the edge, and wielded it as if it wasn’t even sharp.

“Come now, Olrick,” Bram said as he swung at Olrick’s neck, like an executioner swinging an axe. He swatted the sword out of the way. “Stop playing hard to get.” He swung the sword at his head again, but Olrick blocked it, again. He was getting really tired of playing around.

Bram swung at him, again, but this time, Olrick parried and cut Bram’s hand. With a curse, he dropped the sword, recoiling and grabbing his hand.

“Stop wasting my time,” Olrick said, pointing his sword at Bram’s throat. Bram held his hands up in mock surrender, a smug look on his face that made Olrick extremely nervous.

Olrick ran out of Raul’s room.

Just as he began to leave, he could feel another bolt of lightning slam into his back, sending him into the door on the opposite side of the room. This time, the lightning had zapped the strength from his muscles for a few seconds, rendering him paralyzed on the floor.

“Like I said, Olrick, General Raul has given me orders to kill anyone I find trying to assist in Elise’s escape,” Bram said as he picked up his sword and walked towards Olrick. He tried to get back to his feet, but he couldn’t seem to do it; that last bold of lightning seemed to have done him in.

However, he realized as his death came towards him, he wouldn’t need to get back on his feet; not yet, anyway.

Olrick grabbed one of the knives he’d strapped to his legs and took aim at Bram. He couldn’t seem to get a clear shot, though; the world was spinning a little too much.

Bram began to laugh as he stopped walking. Olrick’s vision was beginning to steady, now, to the point that Olrick began to trust in his own sight. “Oh, Olrick, you’re too funny; what makes you think you can beat a sword-wielding opponent with a little knife? I think that last little bolt may have fried your brain a little-“

Olrick threw the knife as hard as he could.

Bram let out a shriek of pain as the knife stuck in his knee. Olrick had been aiming for the stomach, but he didn’t care; at least a knife to the knee would keep Bram from following him.

He slowly stood up, using the wall and his sword as braces. His legs felt a little wobbly beneath him, but they were strong enough to run.

“Don’t go too far,” Olrick said, sheathing his sword. “I’ll be coming back for that knife.” He began running down the hall, praying to the gods that he hadn’t just made a huge mistake in leaving Bram alive.

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