Bodies bleed. Some moan, most breathe, all are dressed in finery.
Colgrevance crouches over Beorn. A matching pair of shortswords stick out of the warrior’s gut. Blood leaks out like the sap of a tapped maple tree.
Clapping his gauntlets together, Colgrevance says in Celestial, “Stable.” The silver metal encasing his hands flickers a light green, and he uses its minor enchantment to stall the bulky half-elf’s bleed and ease his gasps.
“Sorry, I froze,” says Colgrevance. “I’ve never been caught by a hypnotic rune before.”
The hardwood floor creaks at the far end of the mansion’s hall, near a groaning minstrel that was clubbed with his own banjo. A couple dressed in blue stand there. A nobleman with a lantern held high and rapier drawn low, and a masked woman with a hood on, who glows like fog in moonlight.
Colgrevance clears his throat. “This isn’t exactly what it looks like.” He steps over the two women that stabbed Beorn before being knocked out. “Everyone is still…” He pauses at a guardsman with a broken neck. “Almost everyone—”
The masked woman touches purple lips with a white fingernail and vanishes.
The nobleman salutes with his sword. “I am Horton of House Kraken. Nothing said can excuse the indignities you’ve caused.”
Colgrevance puts his helmet on and jabs the air in front of him with his broadsword. “We were formally invited by Harmony Threehands.”
“Sure.” Horton snorts. “But your full plate is not currently trending as formal ball wear.”
Colgrevance gestures back to Jacob standing at the other end of the corridor. Spinning his staff, the bald man tumbles through the obstacle course of bodies to stand at Colgrevance’s shoulder.
The nobleman in silky blue attire sets his lantern down and shifts into a fencer’s stance. “And a street performer for a squire? How gaudy are you?”
Colgrevance slashes more empty air and readies his heater-shaped shield that’s decorated with a silhouette of a lute. “Careful, Jacob. There’s an invisible woman. She’s wearing a mask and looks like trouble.”
The tumbler scratches his smooth chin. “Um, Boss. If she’s invisible, how do you know—”
“I saw her disappear. So, stay on your toes and poke about with your stick.”
Horton chortles. “You fools. She is Sonnet. The most skilled—”
A blade replaces the nobleman’s tongue.
The masked woman appears behind him and whispers in his ear as his rapier clatters to the floor, followed by his body, and most of his head.
“You were right, Boss,” says Jacob. “She looks like trouble.”
Sonnet taps her lips and again disappears.
Colgrevance grunts and steps past Beorn towards where the woman was, shield forward and broadsword swishing wide with diagonal chops. “We must regroup. Where’s Messoack?”
“Looting a laboratory with Solaris.”
“In the basement. Solaris found it when she caught up. Must have mentioned it when you were hypnotized by that door.”
“Right.” Eyes averted, Colgrevance shuffles past the iron door’s mystic rune that had frozen him for precious seconds when he’d tried to enter. “Was that before or after she tried waking me with a shock and a tornado?”
“Before.” Jacob prods an unconscious guardsman with his staff. “But after we started brawling.”
“Drag Beorn to Messoack.” Colgrevance points back at the glow coming from an open side door, just visible around the corner. “Magicians always have an extra healing potion.”
Jacob grabs the collar of the bulky warrior’s armor and tugs. “Don’t know how you guys manage melee with so much metal weighing you down.”
Colgrevance sighs and guards their retreat with random sword swings.
“Boss, a caster!” Jacob drops Beorn and charges through a set of ornate doors that are open at the hall’s end.
Colgrevance turns and follows, running to the large opening for the mansion’s ballroom. A dozen nobles, servants, and minstrels hug the walls. Surrounded by candles at the center, an emaciated elvish woman waves dusky gray arms and chants.
Jacob leaps to kick her, but his foot bounces off a transparent shield of energy, encasing her like armor.
“Fall back!” Colgrevance points behind at the glowing doorway that leads to the basement stairs. “She’s a lich golem.”
The woman spins her hands and points a talon-like finger at Jacob. “Hold.”
A ray of darkness connects the tip of her long fingernail to the bald man’s head. With a roar, he shakes it off and sprints back through the doors.
Colgrevance shuts them, blocking the caster’s line of sight. “These Pit-cursed doors don’t have a latch.” He puts his ear to the wood. “No footsteps close.”
“Why’d you call a retreat?” Jacob rolls his neck. “I got sloppy with that kick, but no way she’d have been able to concentrate on casting with me raining fists upon her.”
Colgrevance shakes his head. “She’s like the one we faced at the docks, on that last black ship. Even distracted by her vessel aflame, her castings were knocking us out. Though we’ve grown since, I refuse to face another like her without our own casters.”
“Hail, fellow marauders.” Messoack steps into the lit doorway, a stack of books and a bundle of scrolls hiding his face. “See the value I’ve found under the detritus of lesser men.”
“Mess, give Beorn—”
Sonnet appears, dagger at Messoack’s throat. She knocks the books out of the short half-elf’s hands and slashes his gray neck before disappearing again.
“No!” Colgrevance swings his sword, cutting only air where she was as Messoack collapses.
Jacob slips his staff under the magician’s head, keeping it from smacking the floor. Messoack grabs his shirt and shudders.
“Poisoned!” Jacob cradles the small man. “He’s going unconscious.”
“Give him half a potion. Enough to keep him awake and walking.”
“Have a taste.” Jacob wets Messoack’s lips with the sparkling liquid.
Sputtering, the magician rouses and gulps what’s offered. “It’s gone.”
Jacob swishes the half that remains. “Your portion, perhaps.”
“No, you Circus Town reject.” Messoack holds up bare knuckles. “My ring! That masked daughter of death took my bat ring. Now, we’ve no defense against their summoned vampiress. Not unless demigods are called.”
Colgrevance slams hilt against shield, making a sharp clang. “My Lord Valor answers when I call because I don’t summon him idly.”
“Yeah, and we don’t need Beorn’s Lord Thorn either.” Jacob moves to the bulky half-elf, potion in hand. “Not to fight some stupid bat lady.” He dumps the last of the healing liquid down Beorn’s throat.
The warrior snorts awake with a burst of strength and then collapses.
“Where’s my hammer?” Beorn grips his stomach where two deep wounds have closed. “I need to smack skulls and crush bones.”
Solaris pokes her head into the hall with a pile of books and scrolls even taller than Messoack’s was. “Boss, Boss! You’ll never guess the spell I’ve almost figured out.”
Colgrevance herds everyone into the lamp lit side room, and then he closes and latches the door. “What Sol? What wondrous spell have you figured out?”
“I got the idea from seeing that vampire bat lady and the ghouls I’ve been dissecting.” Solaris wiggles her fingers. “Life sucking, it hurts someone and heals me at the same time.” She giggles. “And, if they’re wet, I can do it at range.”
“How very… economical.” Colgrevance takes off his helmet and wipes his brow. “But, will it work on an invisible assassin lady, a lich golem woman, or a vampiress?”
“To be honest, Boss.” She unloads her stack of books and scrolls into Beorn’s arms and dusts off her robe. “I’d rather use it on a man.”
Colgrevance, Paladin of Valor—Leads from the front
Beorn, Ranger of Thorn—Colgrevance’s right hand
Jacob, martial artist—tumbling scout with mystic fists
Messoack, magician—loyal explorer of madness
Solaris, sea witch—whimsical lover of the grotesque
Other flash fiction with this band:
Black Ships Before Dawn
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 1
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 3
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 4
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 5