Shadow's Ascendance

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Chapter Thirty-two

While there were times I resented the police station, especially if I had been stuck there for a couple of days working a case, it still was a sort of home for me and most of the officers. It was a place that we felt safe, that we felt secure, that we were reminded that while it could be a thankless job, all of us truly felt that it was one worth doing. Although we sometimes had to invite the violence in, as when we were preparing a criminal for transport or had to interview someone, the station was someplace that violence never stayed.

I don’t know if I would ever feel that way again. As I crouched behind one of the desks, Ivana pressed up against me, I tried to make sense of what I had seen but hadn’t really processed. The station, MY station, was under attack. There were some of my fellow officers slumped over their desks; whether they were dead, alive, or dying, I couldn’t say. And, as much as I wanted to check on them, the assailants standing by the doors leading out were doing their best to keep us survivors pinned down tight. As the lights flickered off and on, I did my best to study them.

This time, I had no doubt that it was the Blood Guild firing on us. There were four of them, all wearing their traditional blue and red garb with rubies embedded into their weapons. An Elven girl wielding two of the rarer pistols that didn’t use Steamtech but instead worked off of an explosive material that was used in fireworks. While they were much slower and didn’t shoot as far as a steam-pistol, they also worked around magic just fine; and, at this range, they didn’t have to shoot far to be effective at killing. She was tan and gold eyed, and had her red hair spiked. While she was busy reloading her pistols, she giggled to herself.

Next up was a large and pale Human male, head shaved bald, who wore a robe that was decorated in lots of symbols, but one more than any other, a fanged jaw opening wide. That would make him a priest of Iroth, the God of cannibals, gluttony, and power. Usually, the clergy stayed out of things like this, but obviously the man had his God’s blessing, since without it he wouldn’t be able to cast spells. The problem with that tradition is they were dependent on their deity approving of their actions, but I guessed that Iroth was OK with his priest making sure to keep the door shut tight behind a magical barrier, murmuring to maintain it. Lucky for us.

Then we had a dusky skinned Dwarven female sorcerer, long black hair braided into two tails that hung down her back and flipped around as she continually cut her arms and flung out her damaging spells at us. Eerily silent, her green eyes sparkled every time she cast a spell, and it seemed she had an affinity for acid, since that’s what bubbled on whatever surface she struck. I was just glad it wasn’t fire, since those of us still alive would be stuck with the choice of facing their spells and bullets or burning alive. Not much of a choice, when you get down to it.

And last but certainly not least was a Naga male, scales glinting blue and black, who was wielding a repeating crossbow that he was using to good effect. Most people usually took to the steam-pistol if they were selecting a ranged weapon; but, just like the Elven woman’s archaic pistols, the crossbow wasn’t affected at all by the amount of magic being tossed around so casually. Personally, I have a hand crossbow that I keep folded up and stashed away inside one of my duster’s pockets, as a just-in-case, and my partner does as well.

Speaking of him, I wondered where Dorf was. It wasn’t like him to miss out on a fight, and I would definitely have noticed if he was one of the slain officers. A part of me wanted to howl out for vengeance, but I made sure to keep that in check. We would avenge their senseless deaths, but not by going off half-cocked without a plan. Popping my head up briefly, I did spot the Chief in his office, lying on his back with a crossbow bolt pinning him to the ground. He must have passed out from the pain, not that I blame him; otherwise, I knew the gruff and stubborn Dwarf would have been out here, rallying the troops as it were.

Sean was kneeling down behind a desk across from me. Between all the yelling and the shooting, I don’t know if he could hear me, but I also didn’t want the Blood Guild to be able to listen in on anything we planned. Praying that his translation spell was still active, I got his attention and then shouted to him in Ronanese, “Does anyone have a plan yet?”

At first it didn’t seem like he understood me, but my fears were relieved a second later when he responded, also in Ronanese. “Sorry, the spell is almost expired. No, no plans yet. Do you know why they’re attacking us?”

I reluctantly nodded. “Yeah, a couple of days ago one of their people attacked me and Dorf, and we –well, I, if we’re being honest- managed to kill him.” That was all I had to say, since the Blood Guild’s policy about completing a job was common knowledge. “I didn’t mean for this to happen, though.” It was just luck that his partner was out on maternity leave.

Shaking his head, Sean tried to firm my resolve. “Not your fault! Besides, an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. They should know that!” I gave him a grateful smile. “I’m just glad that Tricia is out right now! Say, where’s Dorf?”

“Not a clue!” I shouted back. “So, why haven’t we attacked them back yet?”

“See that priest?” Sean pointed at the Human male, and I nodded. “Not only is that barrier keeping anyone from leaving or entering, it’s also protecting them by disrupting all the steam-pistols in the room.” That’s when I noticed a faint yellow miasma that seemed to permeate the entire room, which would also account for the lights having trouble staying on. “And, that crazy Elf bitch shot my crossbow out of my hands; I’m just lucky that she didn’t do any damage to them.” He held them up for my inspection, and I nodded in sympathy.

“Why don’t you cast spells at them? Aren’t you both full casters?” I had almost forgotten that Ivana was there, and both Sean and I turned to stare at her. “What? I think it’s a valid question. Are you both cowards?” I stiffened up at that accusation, but Sean just laughed.

“You don’t know the first thing about casting spells, do you miss? To cast a spell, you have to be able to see what you’re casting the spell at; if either one of us pops our head up long enough to cast a spell, one of them will blow it clean off. That’s what happened to Timothy over there, Gods rest his soul.” He pointed over to one of the desks where Timothy’s headless body was knelt behind the desk, as if in prayer. “Poor bastard never had a chance.”

Ivana turned a little green, but she pressed on. “OK, fine. So then, Detective Jonas, since you’re so clever, what do we do?” As she said, this, I pulled out and unfolded my crossbow.

“I honestly have no idea,” I told her bluntly. She looked like she wanted to say something back, but didn’t get the chance since the young Elven assassin began to speak.

“Listen, officers, not that we’re not enjoying getting our chance at a little payback for all the oppression you’ve done, but you all don’t have to die.” While she was talking, I took out my hand crossbow and began to set it up. “Our contract states that as soon as you surrender Detectives Jonas and Waldorf to us, you’re free to leave. And no, not in a body bag. So, what do you say, do we have a deal?” For a response, I leaned out from the desk, took aim, and fired. My aim was a little off, since instead of shooting her right through the head, my bolt took off the tip of her left ear. She put her hand up to the wound and, after feeling it, screamed in rage.

“How’s that for an answer?” I shouted to her from behind cover.

“You must be Detective Jonas. I will enjoy watching you killed,” she hissed at me.

“Such a charmer you are, and what a way with the ladies,” Ivana whispered in my ear, and I couldn’t help but chuckle softly.

“Say, since you plan on killing me anyway, how much is my life worth, and who hired your Guild to kill me? You know, just to satisfy my curiosity.” As I shouted this out, I tossed my crossbow over underhanded to Sean, who then began cranking it back for another shot.

The Elven woman, still bleeding from her ear tip, began to laugh. “The person who hired us? Couldn’t tell you, but their money was what got our attention. The Guild is getting a whole 50 platinum for you and your fat partner’s corpses.” I couldn’t help but whistle lowly in appreciation. Most assassinations were bought for at most a few gold, unless the target was highly dangerous, in which case it might go as high as ten. Since the exchange rate was roughly 100 gold for every platinum, whoever took out the contract really wanted us dead.

“I feel so loved!” I shouted back. “Don’t suppose I can make you a counter-offer, can I?”

Except for the Human male, the assassins began to laugh uproariously, even the female Dwarf who made no sound while she did so. After a minute, and wiping tears from her eyes, the Elven female spoke up again. “On a detective’s salary? Unless you got rich parents, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. Besides, you know our code, don’t you?”

“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” I said.

“Now, if your cowardly partner would just come join you, we can be on our merry way.” The Elven woman smiled after she said that, but she wasn’t smiling as I heard the angry wasp hum of a steam-rifle being fired from down the hall behind me, blowing a hole the size of my fist right in the middle of her face. She rocketed backwards, striking the barrier that the priest was enacting, which caused her body to twitch and jerk before disintegrating right before our eyes.

“I’m no coward, you fucking bitch!” Dorf’s voice rang out, and I had never been happier to hear his gruff tone. Right then, Sean chose that moment to pop up and fire at the Naga, the bolt ripping through the side of his cheek and destroying his breather. The Naga dropped his weapons and fell to his knees, trying in vain to make the breather work again, but it was no use. Within a few seconds, we all watched as he choked to death, unable to breathe our air.

While this was going on, I made my move. Standing up, I cast my infamous gut-wrenching spell at the Dwarf sorcerer, who saw my motions and deflected the spell behind her –which was what I was counting on. See, in the heat of combat, a good full caster can, if prepared, take the energy that a spell contains and push it away from them in some fashion. May not make sense if you’re not a caster, but think of it as seeing someone throwing a rotten apple at you and having a trash can lid close at hand. If you have time to grab the lid, you can swat the apple away from you. You can’t absorb the apple, cuz that makes no sense, and you can’t hit the apple hard enough that you can bounce it back at who threw it. But, you can basically dodge it.

Of course, since the Human priest was right behind the Dwarf sorcerer, he became the target of my redirected spell; and, as the barrier turned to wisps of energy that faded away into the ether while he emptied his stomach in both directions, my fellow officers wasted no time cranking their steam-pistols to life and firing at both of them. Their bodies riddled with holes, the two casters finally stopped twitching and dropped down to the ground.

In the plays and the coppertales at this point, having vanquished their enemies the heroes would let out a resounding cheer. As I helped Ivana to her feet and I surveyed the wreckage of a place that used to make me feel safe and important, I certainly didn’t feel like cheering, nor did anyone else. There was a lot of groaning in pain, someone was sobbing quietly, and the lights began to hum as they got to power on fully. To be honest, I really didn’t need to see all of the desks that were destroyed, the bodies lying in repose, the aftereffects of our brief battle. But, wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one gets filled first. Another brilliant Dwarven expression that summed this all up perfectly.

Dorf came up behind me and clapped me on the shoulder. “You OK, partner?”

I turned and nodded to him. “Never better, Dorf. Well, you know what I mean.”

He nodded morosely. “You didn’t think I’d abandoned you, did you Jonas?”

Smiling, I shook my head no. “Never in a million years, partner.” I gave Sean an appreciative nod as he handed me back my crossbow, already folded up and ready for storage. “Well, I guess going to have a talk with Mama Crea will have to wait for a while, since now we gotta clean this place up.” Without saying a word, Ivana stood up from where she was sitting and went over to some of the officers and began helping them, even with her hands still cuffed. At that moment, she wasn’t a prisoner and we weren’t her captors; instead, we were all just living beings, trying our best to deal with an unexpected tragedy. Feeling me looking at her, the beautiful half-Orc met my gaze and nodded to me. Then I went to join her, and we all got lost in taking care of those of us still alive and those who were once our colleagues and our friends.

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