Under a warm noon sun, Lowtide Mansion is more awkward than intimidating, a gothic structure with the moody style of a past age. Colgrevance gathers his raiders, four familiar and one fresh.
“We’ve rested, recovered, regrouped.” Colgrevance pats the top of a little blue man’s head. “And now we are informed. For those that don’t know, this is Kiv.”
“Kriv,” says the thigh-high man. “And, oh wow, can I tell you about vampires. They don’t like garlic, mirrors, running water, or puns done by miss-stake.”
“Right.” Colgrevance clears his throat. “He’s the brilliant little beebo that Solaris’s friend had doing all our research.”
Solaris adjusts a fur cloak, dyed an icy blue to match her sleeveless tunic and short skirt. “Don’t have to pay the master, if we steal the pupil.”
“Yes.” Colgrevance frowns. “But more accurately… His master harassed Solaris. She responded perhaps too harshly and deprived young Kriv of employment.”
Solaris leans down and hugs Kriv. “You don’t mind, do you?”
The frog-skinned beebo blushes purple. “Not at all, Mistress.”
Colgrevance puts on his helmet. “He is a talented illusionist with the will to join us, if not the experience to make survival likely.”
He waves his plated arm at an alleyway to the slums, and his fat squire steps out. Long lance on his shoulder and the reins of Rocinate—Colgrevance’s armored stallion—in hand, the man waltzes over and drops to hands and knees.
With a grunt Colgrevance steps on his broad back and climbs into Rocinate’s saddle. Claiming the lance, he trots ahead of the others and onto the northern grounds of the mansion they’d retreated from more than a full day before.
“Hey, Boss.” Beorn points his warhammer at the mansion’s clay-tiled roof. “Are those ugly statues new?”
“Oh, Sir.” Kriv hops under Colgrevance’s heel. “They could be stone devils from the Desert World. They make great guardians because you can’t tell they are alive until they move.” He squeaks. “Over there, that could be a huge one in the yard—”
“Thanks, but stay behind Sol and Mess. Learn how to be a casting adventurer from them.” He tugs on Rocinate’s reins and waves at his squire already back in the alley. “After I bust in, Jacob, then Beorn follows. Casters, wait for space to come in after.”
Heels digging into his horse’s ribs, Colgrevance charges the mansion’s tall side-door. A yank and Rocinante rears up, shattering the stout wood with a pair of enchanted hooves. On the other side a large reptilian hound rises from the floor, and Colgrevance skewers its shoulder with his lance.
“Drakewolf!” He drops the weapon and dismounts. “For Valor!”
Rocinate gallops away as the pony-sized drakewolf rakes claws across Colgrevance’s breastplate before he can ready his shield. He stumbles, and it snaps needle-sharp teeth in his face as he draws his broadsword.
“Boss,” says Beorn, “the statues are alive!”
Colgrevance grunts and hacks the drakewolf’s neck as it retreats, lance still stuck deep and black blood flowing free. A grim gray-faced man in red and black robes steps into the room behind the beast and starts to cast a sphere of dark magic.
“Golem necromancer!” Colgrevance knocks a claw aside as he pushes past the drakewolf and interrupts the caster with a sword thrust. “Die, again!”
The blade pierces cloth, but no flesh, and the necromancer points a finger covered in mystic shadows. “Cry.”
The word commands shadows to surround Colgrevance, and a pressure builds upon his will.
“I’ve no tears for you.” He dodges the drakewolf’s claws and swings again at the necromancer, slicing more than cloth. “Eat this sorrow—”
“Boss,” says Solaris, “we could use some help!”
The drakewolf shudders and collapses. Jacob stands on its other side wiggling his quarterstaff in its eye socket.
“There’s a dozen of them,” says the bald martial artist. “Stonehard hide and they fly.”
The necromancer raises a shadowed hand, and Colgrevance cuts it off. The golem hisses as his stump oozes dark ichor. Colgrevance stuffs a foot of enchanted steel down his throat and twists.
“Jacob, get the others in here.” He kicks the limp caster off the end of his blade. “I’ll hold the room.”
A roar shakes dust from the ceiling as Jacob goes back out.
“Boss!” Beorn and Solaris say together.
Colgrevance growls at the door the necromancer had come in from and follows Jacob outside. “Oh.” He blocks stony claws with his shield and narrows his eyes at a circle of nightmarish figures dancing between Messoack and a half-dozen of the stone devils.
“Don’t mind the madness I’ve summoned,” says Messoack in Colgrevance’s mind. “Do mind the chaos you’ve ignored.”
Solaris cradles Kriv in her arm and blasts several flying devils with summoned snow balls. Beorn whacks another living statue with his warhammer as one of the creature’s wings is gripped by the ranger’s pet wolverine, and Jacob tumbles in front of a roaring devil twice his height as it snatches after him like a pouncing panther after a bounding rabbit.
Colgrevance salutes the field of battle with his broadsword and cuts into the nearest devil. “Next time, let’s not interrupt Kriv.”
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
Kriv, illusionist—cheerful researcher of adventure
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 2
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 4
Crashing a Vampire Ball at Lowtide Mansion: Part 5