Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 11

Continued from here part 10

The Capitol, near the Coast Wall.

Bartley along with the royal guard and several member's of Kearn's crew were engaged in a rather vicious battle. Bartley had found himself surrounded. He fought with all his might but was nearly overwhelmed when he saw several of his attackers fall before him. He let out a hardy laugh when he saw Vargas, "Look, boys it's the runt."

Vargas smashed the jaw of a bandit beside him before kicking him away as Bartley continued, "You've grown what an inch, two? Still a runt though."

Vargas chuckled, "Not too short to save your flabby ass."

As the two were forced back to back Bartley nudged him, "Dogs too tired to bark?"

Vargas gave a nod, "Give me a bit, I'll get a second wind."

***

The West Wall.

Alana was being treated by a field medic as Oleg and several other soldiers fought to keep the location secure. Sarah noticed her laying on the ground and knelt down, "How you feeling?"

Alana gave a hateful look, "Like some bitch tried to gut me. You?"

Sarah patted her on the head, "You'll be fine."

Oleg then yelled over, "We got more bugs, Chain girl might be coming to finish the job."

Sarah raised her blade releasing an electrical charge that took the swarm of metallic insects down as she stepped past the soldiers. Sarah then looked to Zhin who glared, "I will avenge Paimon."

Sarah shrugged, "You aren't capable."

Zhin gritted her teeth and moved to call another swarm. Sarah quickly appeared before her and knocked her blade to the ground, "A true warrior conserves her energy."

Sarah then backhanded her to the ground. Zhin then yanked her blade to her and launched it at Sarah. It was easily deflected. Zhin was enraged as she began flinging her chain. Sarah stood calmly as she deflected every strike until finally slamming the hilt of her sword into Zhin's forehead knocking her unconscious.

Sarah turned to Oleg, "Bind her."

He scratched his head, "You leaving her alive?"

"She's not worth killing."

***

A top the North Wall.

Dmitry stood amid several dead soldiers as he held a spyglass. He looked and noted Paimon, laying dead on the field. He then turned to see the shattered South wall and finally into the city where he saw Belial facing off with Kearn.

He then patted the Wind Slitter, "It seems we won't be getting paid."

Several soldiers then arrived. He turned, "Seems I no longer have a reason to kill you."

He then jumped from the top of the wall and seemed to disappear.

***

Near the center of the city.

Belial raised his blade to strike at Kearn but the admiral struck his blade. He fell back a step as Kearn struck his blade again nearly knocking it out of his hand, "You think you're a master, boy?"

Belial tried to answer but Kearn punched him in the face sending several teeth flying from his mouth, "A real master of the blade would have killed me already."

Belial fell to a knee as as Kearn stepped back. He pulled himself up and charged with the Reaper's Arm but Kearn side stepped. He then turned the Leviathan and it wrapped around Belial's body with crushing force, breaking several ribs and an arm before Kearn tossed him away.

He tried to pull himself up with the scythe as a crutch but Kearn kicked him in the chest, breaking another rib. Kearn then swatted the Reaper's Arm away as he spoke, "People like you disgust me. You think just being able to pick up a blade makes you strong. You ain't strong, you ain't nothing but one more would be conqueror that doesn't understand the power he tries to wield."

Belial sat struggling to breath as blood filled his lungs. He then tried to crawl toward the Reaper's Arm. Kearn shook his head, "Pathetic."

He then stabbed his sword through Belial's heart, nailing him to the ground. He then turned to Gunnar, "What the hell you still standing here for, we still got an infestation to deal with."

***

Near the Coastal wall, Vargus, Angus and Bartley were fighting all comers. Bartley looked over as the royal guard began pushing the attackers back, "Hey look, the royals aren't all worthless."

Angus was using whatever weapon he could pick up due to the Changeling being spent after overwhelming Bao. He fought until his weapon broke and then found another. At this point he was swatting attackers down with a large stick.

Some made their way near the civilian shelter but quickly turned and ran as Kearn's massive dogs fought back. Vargas was shocked to see dozens of men running away before seeing Menace charging after them.

***

As the sun set the few attackers who weren't dead or captured, fled. Paimon's men and the mercenaries had taken off as soon as it became clear they wouldn't be paid, leaving the bandits to fend for themselves. Soldiers began the task of clearing the dead from the streets as a crew of marshals searched the dropped weapons for powered blades.

Sarah ordered her men to aid the medics in getting the injured to the city's hospital. Kearn met with Vargas by the shelter as the people were being let out. Angus looked over the large man as he spoke to Vargas, "Why is everyone in your family two feet taller than you?"

Kearn chuckled, "His mother was a small woman, he takes after her."

He turned as a soldier approached, "I sent for my brother, where is Marcus?"

The soldier was nervous as he spoke, "His body was found just outside the North Wall, one of the prisoners indicated that he was killed by a mercenary called Dmitry."

Vargas sighed, "The Wind Slitter?"

The soldier nodded. Kearn's jaw tightened a bit, "Did he at least go down fighting?"

"He crushed several men with the Lion's Paws."

As he sat a soldier raised a hand, "What is it?"

He gulped before speaking, "We found the Blade Vault open at the armory, it wasn't broken into so whoever did it had a key."

The Admiral nodded, "So this , Dmitry is the prime suspect? How many did he take?"

"Half, sir, 37 in total."

Vargas shrugged, "Mercenaries always find a way to get paid."

Kearn took a deep breath before ordering his men, "On your feet, boys. We got a mess to clean up."

He looked to a young man, "Oliver go help with the injured, the healers will need all the help they can get. Bartley take the guards and check for stragglers and looters. The rest of you go help with the clean up and get these people home."

He then turned to Vargas and Angus, "What, you deaf? Move your asses."

***

As Vargas walked along he noticed Alana being carried to the hospital. He started walking toward her but Sarah stopped him, "She'll be okay, we need some help out here."

He sighed, "We got about 2 dozen powered blades, the rest is mostly scrap."

She looked over at the cart he'd been filling, "You sure that's all of them?"

"Trust me, I'd know if there were."

She gave a nod, "That's a useful thing to know."

"The Coyote senses their presence. That's why Marcus hired me to collect them for him."

***

Gunnar was called to meet with the council who informed him of Marcus' death. After they were done he nodded, "So why am I here?"

A council member stood, "He named you his second, that mean's you're High General now."

He had a grim look, "Fine, but no damned ceremonies. We got a city to rebuild and we ain't got time for it."

A priest on the council looked ready to say something but Gunnar caught him with a glare, "If the gods have an issue with it, they can take it up with me themselves. Other wise, I don't want to hear it."

(Book 1 to be concluded)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 10

Continued from here part 9

The Capitol, West Wall

Zhin managed to cut herself free of the vines and wiped the spores from her face. She noticed Alana fighting and launched her blade to eliminate her. Alana knocked it away the the Rose and slung a vine whip with the Thorn. She caught Zhin's leg and yanked her toward her. Zhin quickly pulled back her blade and cut the vine.

She began to get to her feet but Alana made it to her first. She kicked her in the gut. Zhin rolled away allowing for only a glancing. Alana was too close to use the chain as a whip so Zhin attempted to slash her with the blade. Alana blocked with one blade and moved to attack with the other.

Zhin wrapped her chain around her hand and punched Alana in the jaw. As she staggered back Zhin unfurled her chain again and called forth a new swarm. Alana saw this and surrounded them in a cage made of thorny rose bub covered vines. The rose buds opened and shot out tendril-like spores that snatched the insects from the air.

Zhin gritted her teeth as she charged at Alana.

While this was going on, a few yards away Paimon faced off with Sarah. He looked her over, "You really think your little flower can defeat a tiger?"

He then shot out a beam of red energy which she dodged. She then ran forward and swung her sword. Paimon moved but his cheek was slashed open. She pulled back, "A slow tiger is worthless against lightning."

The grin he'd held throughout the fight disappeared. He gritted his teeth and punched her in the face. He then delivered a savage kick to her gut causing her to spit blood. As he lifted his sword to finish her she stood up and smashed the hilt of her blade into his jaw. There was a horrible crack as it shattered. She then shoved him back.

As he stood with his mouth hanging open and now unable to speak she took a fighting stance. One hand behind her back with her sword aimed at Paimon, "I haven't got all day."

All he could muster was a hateful glare as he charged. She side stepped as he was about to connect. As he turned to fight she drove her sword into his heart. She then ripped off a piece of his shirt as he fell and used it to wipe her blade as she walked away.

***

North Gate

Belial moved to enter the city but Marcus attempted to punch him. There was a loud clang as Dmitry's blade blocked the Lion's Paw. He attempted to shove the High General back but he couldn't move him. Belial slipped in with the distraction but Marcus knocked Dmitry away.

Dmitry picked himself up and began to dust himself off as Marcus turned to stop Belial. Before he moved Dmitry called to him, "You killed my father, you know."

Marcus turned, "You'll have to be more specific, I've killed many."

Dmitry chuckled, "About the response I expected."

Marcus sighed, "You after vengeance?"

"Nah, he was a jackass who got what was coming to him. But being a sell sword like I am, killing the High General of the Marshals would look fantastic for the resume."

Marcus chuckled, "That your way of saying you'll kill me when my back is turned?"

Dmitry nodded, "Without hesitation."

***

Coast Wall

Kearn and his men marched in with the royal guard following. He halted them as he noticed a few frightened guards standing in front of a large sturdy looking building. He turned to one of the guards with him and pointed, "That the civilian shelter?"

The guard nodded. Kearn gave a loud whistle and two dogs the size of rhinos jumped off his ship frightening the guards who stood by it. They charged into the city and stopped right before Kearn who patted them on the head. He ushered them toward the shelter. He looked to the men on guard, "These are Menace and Bedlam, they're gonna stand watch with you."

He looked to the dogs, "Anyone who ain't a friend tries to get in, you eat'em."

He then looked to the cabin boy, "Dory, stay here and make sure they can tell the difference."

They marched a few streets in before running into a few dozen attackers. A man aimed a sword with a golden snake head hilt toward Kearn. A chubby man in short pants and an ill fitting sleeveless shirt stepped in front. He held two scimitars resting on his shoulders with the blades crossed behind his head as if to form a head rest. He looked to the man, "Hey lads, that's a fancy looking pig sticker."

The man yelled, "Its the Golden Viper, even a scratch from it is deadly."

The man called Bartley grinned, "My blades ain't got no nifty name or fancy powers, guessing I'd have to be a fool to fight ya."

The man with the Golden Viper moved to attack but Bartley split open his chest before anyone had seen him move.

Bartley turned to Kearn, "I can handle this lot boss, go on and find your brother and that runt nephew of yours."

As he still rested one sword on a shoulder he raised his other and lifted two fingers off the hilt of his blade to beckon his enemies forward, "On with it boys, we're wasting daylight."

***

Toward the center of the city Gunnar and Ian stood breathing heavily along with many other soldiers amid a pile of dead bandits, some laying with half melted ice spears run through them. Gunnar looked to Ian, "You got any fight left, Old Man?"

Ian nodded, "You kidding, Boy? I can do this all day."

Gunnar then chuckled as he looked back to his men, "This area's clear, let's move."

***

North Wall

Angus stood with the Changeling in the form of armor with long claws. Bao looked him over, "There are a few minor flaws in that form."

Angus chuckled, "Is that so?"

Bao moved with blinding speed as he began slashing away with his blade. Angus was deflecting him as best he could but had trouble keeping up. Suddenly Bao changed position and aimed for a knee joint where the armor had to be weaker to allow movement. Angus realized this just in time to dodge.

He leapt back a bit realizing the armor was making him too slow for this fight. As Bao moved in for another attack the Changeling became a staff with a long blade at each end. Angus turned to hit him. Bao backed off but not in time to avoid being slashed across the chest.

Bao noticed a flaw in Angus' defense and charged again, slashing his hip. Angus gritted his teeth at the pain and jumped back. He then noticed Bao's eyes had a yellow glow. He figured out that his blade was showing him weak points.

Angus looked down to the Changeling, "All right buddy, we need to keep this fella's attention scattered."

As this was going on Harris and Vargas charged each other. Harris blasted a flame as Vargas' blade howled. The two attacks canceled each other out as the Wolf clashed with the Dragon's Tail. Vargas attempted to gut Harris with the Coyote but he caught his hand. Harris then headbutted Vargas sending him back. He then raised his leg kicking him in the chest.

Vargas hit the ground and rolled away as Harris swung his blade down. As he rose Vargas slammed the hilt of the Wolf into Harris' gut and then swung the Coyote around aiming for his throat. Harris dodged the blade and rammed a shoulder into Vargas' midsection lifting him off the ground and knocking the wind out of him.

Vargas pushed off and landed on his feet but Harris charged again. Vargas side stepped and grabbed his arm. He turned and flung Harris away. Harris noticed he was now past the gate but had little time to examine the situation. Vargas stabbed the Coyote into the ground ripping a crack that Harris barely avoided falling into.

He turned and spun the Dragon's Tail creating a flame in the form of a full dragon that flew toward Vargas. He swung the Wolf causing what sounded like a thunder clap that dissipated the dragon but covered the area in flame.

Harris pulled himself up on a staircase that lead up the wall. Vargas came at him coming a mere inch from slashing his throat as Harris rolled onto the stairs. Vargas then jumped up next to him and slashed. Harris blocked his blade, sending it into the wall. When the Coyote hit the wall it sent a shock wave through it causing it to crack. Vargas kicked Harris driving him further up the stairs as the wall began to tremble.

After a few minutes of swinging and dodging the two found themselves on top of the wall as it began to crumble. The two men were no longer paying attention to what was happening around them. Harris raised his blade covered in black flame and slammed it down to shoot a pillar of fire at Vargas. He dodged but the flame had destroyed a large chunk of the already fragile wall.

As Vargas released a Howl large portions of the wall collapsed leaving them standing on the bare wooden support beams that held together what was left. It reminded Harris of Victor's lessons with the poles. He looked to Vargas, "Looks like only one of us is getting cake."

Vargas gave a nod as they both squared off for an attack. Again the Wolf clashed with the Dragon's Tail but Harris had a pained expression as he looked down on the Coyote in his chest. He then looked up to Vargas with a grin, "You always were a sneaky bastard."

Vargas then pulled the Coyote from his chest and pushed him off the remains of the wall.

***

North Wall

A frustrated Marcus slammed a fist into the ground as Dmitry dodged with ease, "Stand and fight you damned jumpy bastard. Dmitry sighed, "As you wish."

He then took a fighting stance as Marcus charged. The High General winced as he saw one of the Lion's Paws hit the ground along with the hand that held it. Dmitry then turned and sliced his head off with a single stroke. He then gave a slight bow, "Rest easy old man, your fight is done."

***

West Wall

Alana stood across from Zhin in her cage of vines. She moved to strike but Zhin dodged. Smashed a chain wrapped fist into the side of Alana's head and slashed open her side. Alana fell to a knee as she held her side and Zhin was about to deliver the killing blow. The last of the spores was clearing up and out of the corner of her eye she saw Paimon fall as Sarah casually walked away. Her eyes went wide as she slashed open the cage and ran to him.

Alana tried to follow but dropped down. Oleg came up behind her and lifted her onto his shoulder. She looked down, "Don't be getting any ideas, fella."

He chuckled, "The Captain would make a woman of me if I tried."

He then carried her toward a few soldiers, "Get her to a healer."

Zhin stood over Paimon looking at his smashed face and chest wound, "That woman will pay for this."

***

Near the center of the city, Gunnar and Ian along with their men had strewn several streets with the bodies of their enemies and were feeling confident. As Ian turned a corner a blade came from the shadows and went through his back. Belial stepped out kicking the man off his blade. He then turned to Gunnar and his men as he swung the Reaper's Arm. Black energy swept over them but Gunnar was enveloped in white light that protected him as his men turned to dust before him.

He pulled the Angel's Wrath as Belial charged. Before the blades clashed a blade stopped the Reaper's Arm as a large hand caught Gunnar's wrist. Gunnar looked to see Kearn holding him. The Admiral roared, "What the hell do you morons think you're doing?"

He threw Gunnar to the side as he shoved Belial back sending him to the ground. He then stepped on Belial's hand as he reached to retrieve his blade, "You trying to kill us all? Every idiot knows those two blades can't touch."

Belial kicked his foot off him and grabbed the Arm, "They belong to me."

Kearn gave a wary look as he lifted his broad sword called the Leviathan, "Is that so?"

Belial gave a hateful grin, "You think you can beat my blade with that?"

Kearn shrugged, "Ain't about beating the blade, just the one who holds it."

***

The North Wall had just begun to crumble as Angus tried to figure out a way to defeat Bao who seemed to see through everything he did. An idea occurred to him. He then had the Changeling take the form of a ridiculous looking weapon covered in spikes and blades. Bao smirked, "You can't be serious."

As Bao looked on the strange mass of metal Angus held he didn't notice the thread like bit leading to the ground. Angus took a fighting stance as his enemy charged. As Bao came in striking distance hundreds of blades shot out of the ground. The shredded him before he'd had a chance to react.

Angus then dropped to the ground sweating as he talked to the Changeling, "You took a bit more out of me than you thought for that one."

He then sat up, "Yes, I know it worked."

As he pulled himself up Harris hit the ground. He looked up to see Vargas hopping down the broken chunks of wall. As he landed Angus shouted, "We ain't quite done here yet."

Vargas looked on the body of his former friend and sighed, "True, hurry up. If the Marshals are gone there'll be now one to pay the bounties."

(To be continued)

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Cutlery: Blade wielder index

Vargas (First appearance Book 1: Part 1 )

Blades: The Wolf (Broad Sword) Powers- Sonic manipulation, capable of producing a wide range of sound frequency. Up to and including sonic booms.

The Coyote (Short Sword) Powers- Vibratory manipulation, capable of producing vibration of various scales from small tremble to mid level Earthquake.

***

Victor: deceased (First Appearance Book 1: Part 1)

Blade: Big Bear (Large Battle Ax)

Powers- Wind manipulation, up to and including hurricane force.

***

Magnus : deceased (First mentioned Book 1: Part 1)

Blade : Angels Wrath (Large Battle Ax)

Powers- Various types of energy manipulation including light and heat, one of the 2 most powerful blades in the world.

***

Belial (First Appeared Book 1: Part 1)

Blade : The Reaper's Arm (Scythe)

Powers- Shadow and Dark energy manipulation, capable of rapidly decaying matter as well. One of the 2 most powerful blades in the world.

***

Reeves (First Appearance Book 1: Part 1)

Blade: Stone Crusher (Bladed Large Mace)

Powers- Earth Manipulation of unknown degree

***

Harris (First appearance Book 1: Part 2 )

Blade: The Dragon's Tail (Scimitar)

Powers- Produces and controls black flame, capable of producing heat intense enough to melt steel.

***

Angus (First Appearance Book 1: Part 2 )

Blade: The Changeling (Pocket Knife default form)

Powers- Size and shape shifting abilities of unknown limit.

***

Gunnar (First Appearance Book 1: Part 2)

Blade: Angel's Wrath

Powers- (See Magnus entry)

***

Marcus (First appearance Book 1: Part 2)

Blades: The Lion's Paws (Bladed Cestus)

Powers- Massive physical strength upgrade for their wielder.

***

Alana (First Appearance Book 1: Part 3 )

Blades: The Rose (Dagger)

Powers- Creates rose buds that release spore clouds for various purposes.

The Thorn (Dagger, the Rose's twin)

Powers- Creates thorny vines used primarily as snares and whips. When used in conjunction with the Rose it makes an excellent trap.

***

Bedo: deceased (First Appearance Book 1: Part 3)

Blade: The Cobra's Fang (Cutlass)

Powers- Summons giant ,demonic snakes with venomous bites. The snake's skin burns whatever it touches as well.

***

Paimon (First Appearance Book 1: Part 3)

Blade: The Red Tiger (Katana)

Powers- Energy manipulation to various effect

***

Ian (First Appearance Book 1: Part 3)

Blade: The Frost Bite (Giant Ice Pick)

Powers- Creates Ice, freezes things on contact.

***

Hana (First Appearance Book 1: Part 4)

Blade: The Starburst (Shuriken)

Powers- Multiplies, wielder can control its movements while airborne.

***

Sarah (First Appearance Book 1: Part 6 )

Blade: The Lightning Lily (Rapier)

Powers- Summons lightning, controls electricity to an unknown degree)

***

Zhin (First Appearance Book 1: Part 8)

Blade: The Silver Wasp (Bladed Chain Whip)

Powers- Creates a swarm of metallic insects. Wielder has total control of the swarm.

***

Bao (First Appearance Book 1: Part 9 )

Blade: The Falcon's Eye (Pata, A sword with a gauntlet as its hilt/hand guard)

Powers- Sensory enhancement for its wielder, other powers not yet revealed.

***

Dmitry (First Appearance Book 1:Part 9 )

Blade: The Wind Slitter (Pandat , see here for description of the type http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandat )

Powers- Channels air into blade like forms to cut through almost anything.

***

Kearn (First Appearance Book 1: Part 9 )

Blade (Yet to be revealed)

(That's it for now, Index will be updated as necessary and specifics will be added as they are revealed.)

3 Comments

Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 9

Continued from here part 8

The Capitol

A scout is spotted running toward the wall by a gatekeeper. A guard at the top of the North wall kicked down a rope ladder for the man and waited for him to get up. As he reached the top Gunnar reached over the edge and yanked the man up, "Report."

The man was a breathing heavy as he spoke, "There's a massive force heading this way. They split up and it looks like they're going to attack all three gates at once."

Gunnar then looked to some of the gathered guard, "Go see if any of the scouts have come back from the coast wall."

He looked back to the panting scout, "Go rest up, it's gonna be a rough day."

***

Sarah stood on the West wall with a spyglass as a guard ran up to inform her of the situation. She put up a hand to silence him, "Its a siege, right?"

The guard nodded, "Looking that way."

***

Marcus stood on the South wall as Uri came up with a yawn, "Why can't these things happen after breakfast?"

Marcus shrugged, "Just damned rude of them ain't it."

He then looked on Uri's weapons, "These good to go?"

Uri nodded, "They'll be giving the enemy nightmares for years, if they survive."

***

Alana sat up from bed and noticed Vargas putting on some light armor, "That's new."

"Picked it up from a shop a few streets over."

She stood, "So its starting?"

"Its just about to."

In the other room Hana was giving Angus a hateful look, "I will not go hide with the children."

Angus glared, "We can't be watching over you."

She crossed her arms, "I've been in fights before."

Vargas stepped up behind her, "This isn't a fight, its war. You may be good in a scrape but you aren't ready for this."

She then stomped away angrily.

***

Paimon stood within sight of the West wall of the city. He sent Zhin to watch for the signal to attack. Harris stood at the North wall with a portion of their army. One of Paimon's men, named Bao stood with his blade that was attached to a gauntlet. It was called the Falcon's eye and one of its abilities granted Bao a visual of the entire battle field which he was using to watch for their signal.

Belial stood next to a man named Dmitry who had a type of sword known as a pandat called the Wind Slitter at the South wall. Belial gave Dmitry a nod and he raised his blade. He swung it down causing a massive plume of dust to rise, signalling the attack.

Bao tapped Harris' shoulder. He nodded and raised the Dragon's Tail, he shot out a flame that smashed through the first wall of the gate. Suddenly flame seemed to pour out from the wall. Bao pointed, "You seem to have triggered a defense." The fire had ignited oil Uri had planted. As the burning oil poured down it ignited a hidden moat of the same. A huge wall of flame suddenly surrounded the city.

Catapults and ballistas began firing from the walls causing the attackers to fall back. Marcus patted Uri on the back, "Maybe you are a genius."

At the West wall Paimon had fallen back but looked to Zhin, "We need to disarm the wall."

She nodded as she unfurled the Silver Wasp. She then cracked it like a whip causing a swarm of small silver insects to appear from her blade. They flew over the walls and began attacking the weapons. They clogged the gears and chewed through the wood.

Paimon then nodded back to one of his men who twirled his blade causing rain to fall. Paimon then unsheathed the Red Tiger and blasted the gate. His men looked ready to charge but he halted them as a large cast iron plate covered in spikes slammed down. He then slashed again to breach the wall.

The soldiers at the wall were under attack from the insects but a series of vines sprung up from the wall. It shot out thorns that tore through the swarm. Sarah gave Alana a nod, "Decided to join us?"

Alana smirked, "Can't let you hog all the fun."

She then looked down as Paimon's men rushed forward, she noticed Zhin preparing to launch another swarm, "I should probably stop that."

She raised the Rose and the Thorn. She called up vines that sprung from the ground snaring attackers. Zhin began slashing at the vines but rosebuds appeared all over them. As they opened they released clouds of spores that quickly became too thick to see through.

Sarah then stood on the wall with her Lightning Lilly pointed to the sky. She then lowered it sending a lightning bolt toward Zhin. She barely avoided it but was caught by a vine. Alana rode down to the field on her vine and immediately began fighting. Sarah caught a rope and followed suit.

As Alana began slashing away at his men while using her vines to slow them down Paimon turned to attack her. Before he could swing a bolt of Lightning flashed before him. Some of his men stopped for a moment but he shook his head, "Hurry along boys, this one is mine."

At the South Wall Belial raised the Reaper's Arm and sent out a wave of black energy that caused the wood on the gates and weapons to rot and the metal rusted. He then order Dmitry to cut down the gates. He sent out a wave of wind that formed a blade that shattered the weakened gates.

As the men began to rush in several of them were launched back out. Marcus stepped forward with a pair of bladed Cetus called the Lion's Paws. He slammed a fist into the ground. The resulting shock wave sent cracks through the ground tripping up attackers as they ran.

Dmitry looked to Belial who seemed shocked, "The Lion's Paws are said to give a man strength that would rival a god. Did you assume, they would cower in fear of your blade?"

***

At the North wall Harris watched as the wall of flame died down and then lifted his blade to strike again. As he blasted a wave of flame toward the gate there was a sound of a piercing howl as his flames were shot back toward Harris and his men. Several were instantly ablaze as they ran away screaming. A massive cloud of smoke was now between the wall and its attackers.

From the smoke Bao heard a yelping sound, "Is that a dog?"

Harris' eyes widened a bit as he roared, "Fall back!"

The ground rippled like water until a crack opened up. Several men fell in. As they tried to crawl out the smoke enveloped them. They began to scream for a moment but suddenly went quiet. As the smoke began to dissipate Harris looked on Vargas standing with both the Wolf and Coyote bared. Blood dripped from both blades.

Bao leapt over Harris to attack but was batted away by a long blade. Angus stepped out followed by many soldiers and marshals pouring out of the gate. He yelled to Vargas, "We'll deal with the little guys, but you're splitting that bounty with me."

Vargas gave a slight nod as he glared at Harris. Harris sighed, "We don't have to do this."

"Shut your mouth, traitor."

Harris began to speak but recognized the look in his former friend's eyes, "Well I guess we do."

***

As the land gates were under attack a guard noticed a ship on the horizon from the top of the coastal wall. He nudged his partner with a spyglass, "Do we have trouble?"

The man hopped up on the wall to get a better look.

***

Marcus fought with all his might at the South wall but the enemy managed to get past him. The same was happening to Alana and Sarah's men on the West. Paimon and Sarah were engaged in their own battle.

***

As this went on Gunnar prepared to lead the forces inside the city. Ian stopped him, "I'd wager, they're after the Wrath."

Gunnar nodded, "I agree."

"Wouldn't it be wise to hide it?"

Gunnar glared, "I won't use it if I don't have to but it stays with me. Why aren't you in the shelter with the rest of the counsil?"

Ian huffed, "Boy, I was a marshal longer than you've been alive, I won't hide with the women and children when my city is attacked."

Ian put his hand on the hilt of a weapon that looked like a giant ice pick called the Frost Bite, "The old boy is looking forward to a fight."

***

The city erupted into chaos as the army of bandits and sell swords made their way past the walls. Hana paced in the shelter as the civilians of the city cowered at the sounds of clanging blades and explosions from outside.

***

At the pier beyond the coast wall a ship made port. Guards were present as the first man stepped off. Their eyes went wide as the mountain of a man stepped down the gangplank. He stopped in front of a guard, "Sorry we're late, had some pirates to deal with."

The guard was nervous as he replied, "Admiral Kearn?"

He nodded as he looked back to his men on the ship, "Looks like the Navy is gonna have to show these marshals how to defend a city. Where's my brother?"

The man straitened up a bit, "The High General is holding the South wall."

The guard asked as Kearn turned away, "Is the rest of the Navy coming?"

He gave him a wary look, "This ain't the only war going on boy, you're lucky you got us."

He looked over the guards, "You royal army?"

They nodded as he sighed, "Guess you'll have to do."

(To be continued)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 8

Continued from here part 7

Several years ago.

Harris had just turned sixteen and was preparing to go to the Marshal's Academy. He was sitting in the outpost inn with Gunnar and Vargas who grumbled because the innkeeper had served Harris an ale but still told them they were too young. Gunnar complained that he was only two years younger but to no avail.

Harris looked down at his first ever pint of ale, "It smells kind of funny."

A voice from behind came up, "Drink it fast, only way to get past the taste of the rotgut this place serves."

The boys looked up to see Marcus with something wrapped in cloth strapped to his back. Vargas looked at it, "What's that?"

Marcus grinned a bit, "That's something your father and I picked up from a bandit. You want to see it?"

The boys nodded as Marcus sat down. He then unwrapped a scimitar. Their eyes went wide as Vargas spoke, "Is that...?"

Marcus nodded, "Yup, the Dragon's Tail."

Vargas had a bright smile as he looked it over, "This was the blade wielded by Darius the Bandit King. They say its flame is so hot it can melt steel and stone."

Marcus patted him on the head, "Been studying up on lore have you?"

Gunnar slid up nervously, "Can I hold it?"

Marcus chuckled, "Oh, what the hell, give it a shot."

Gunnar put his hand on the hilt but pulled away quickly and blowing on his burned palm. Vargas then reached over as if to snatch it but quickly yanked his hand away, "Ow, damn it."

He and Gunnar then looked to Harris, "You gonna give it a shot?"

"Sure, why not?"

He then grabbed the hilt, ready to get burnt but it didn't happen. He then gripped the hilt and lifted the blade. Marcus looked wide eyed, "It seems to have chosen a master."

***

Just after night fall, Magnus was at a table at the inn having dinner. As he ate, Victor walked in, Big Bear in hand. Magnus looked to the ax then to his son's hateful glare, "You have some business, Victor?"

Victor stared down at him, "Vargas and Gunnar ain't going anywhere with you."

Magnus waved him off, "The experience will do them good."

Victor stood his ground, "The Blood wood is no place for children, especially with some jackass running around trying to start a war."

Magnus gave a condescending look, "You have no say in the matter."

Magnus then picked up his fork to continue eating but Victor split the table with the Big Bear, "You ain't taking them."

Marcus grabbed Victor by the shoulder, "Don't. He is the High General."

Magnus shot a hateful glare to his brother as he bellowed, "Rank is no issue here, is that clear?"

The room went silent as Magnus pointed toward the door, "Outside, boy." At that Victor growled and snatched his father up before hurling him through a window.

The boys stood in shock as the High General landed on the ground before them. Victor charged out the door, arriving just as Magnus made it to his feet. He kicked him hard in the gut then punched him in the jaw sending Magnus back a step.

He gritted his teeth as he looked on his eldest son. He then punched Victor in the mouth and then planted another fist in his gut sending him down to a knee. Magnus stepped back but Victor grabbed the hilt of Big Bear and swung it toward his father's head. There was a metallic clash as the Big Bear collided with the Angel's Wrath.

Magnus shoved him off. Victor then jumped back and sent out a hurricane force blast of wind from his ax. Magnus waved the Angel's Wrath sending out a wave of bright white light that cut through Victor's attack and launched him into the air.

After he landed Victor pulled himself up on a tree. Magnus seemed to come out of nowhere swinging his ax. Victor dodged as the Wrath hit the tree causing it to explode into a rain of splintered wood and leaves. Victor raised his ax again but it was knocked from his hand. Magnus then kicked him in the chest sending him to the ground.

He then swung his ax. The blade stopped just above Victor's throat. A fist then blasted into Magnus' face sending him to the ground. Magnus looked up to see Marcus standing between him and Victor, "That's enough, you proved your damn point."

Magnus looked angry but when he looked on his bloodied son he calmed a bit. He then looked back to Marcus as he spat out three teeth, "Get the boys ready, we leave at dawn."

As Magnus stood to walk away Victor sat up and glared, "If you let any harm come to them, I swear to all the gods I will kill you."

***

Two days later

Harris stood before a large wagon with many boys his age heading to the Academy. Victor patted him on the shoulder, "You'll do fine. You were trained better than most of your instructors. Just remember, even if you're better than everyone there, don't let it go to your head. Vanity will get you killed just as quick as weakness."

Harris nodded, "You hear anything from Vargas and Gunnar yet?"

Victor took on a stern look, "Don't be worrying about them. They're strong boys, they can handle whatever they need to."

Harris sighed a bit, "Well, its time. Anymore parting advice?"

Victor just patted his head and walked away. He gave him a wave over his shoulder as Harris hopped on the wagon.

***

The Present.

Paimon stood with a woman from his crew named Zhin. On her side she wore a strange weapon comprised of a chain with a weighted blade at its end. It was known as Silver Wasp. Paimon glanced down at her weapon,"I'm told you've become quite adept with that."

She nodded, "It took some time but I believe I've tamed her."

She then turned her eyes to Belial, "Do you believe that man can do what he says?"

He grinned, "Of course not, but that's not my purpose. Whether our attack succeeds or not doesn't matter. If we can breach the gates it will make the Capitol appear weak in the eyes of the world, rogue nations and rebellious factions will see an opportunity. The Marshals will be embarrassed, the Royal army will continue to appear pathetic and then there we'll be with our army of well trained sell swords to pick up the slack. We'll work for both sides, naturally and I'll retire richer than a king."

She gave a wary look, "And if he does succeed?"

"Then I'll be the right hand of a god and still retire rich."

***

The Capitol

Alana stands before High General Marcus, Gunnar and an assembly of Captains as she tells of Belial and his group. As she finished Sarah spoke, "Paimon's presence bothers me. Several of his known associates have been reported to be gathering forces for the last few days. If they're recruiting for him then we have a much bigger problem."

Marcus nodded, "Put all outposts on alert. I want scouts covering everything within twenty miles of the city. From here until further notice, no one goes in or out without an armed guard."

He then called in Ian, "We need to call in the city planners. There's a siege likely and I'll not have people starving if it goes on long."

He looked to the Captains, "You're dismissed, but stay close."

As they stepped into the hall Sarah stopped Alana, "Have you been told?"

"Told what?"

Sarah sighed, "Victor is dead. He was killed by Harris."

Alana's eyes widened, "Does Vargas know?"

"Yes, he didn't take it well. He's staying with the High General at the moment."

***

Vargas laid on a hammock on a balcony staring at the sky as Alana stepped out behind him, "How you holding up?"

He glanced at her, "I'm just fine."

She nodded, " I know he was important..."

He cut her off, "Tears are worthless. It was one of my father's lessons. He said to me, tears don't make the pain go away and they don't fix the problem. All tears do is make your enemy harder to see. He said they're a weakness."

She sighed a bit and crawled into the hammock with him. She started to say something but let the thought go.

***

As the sun rose the next day Belial stood in front of his army. He told Paimon to get the men up for a march. He looked back to Harris, "I expect to be at the Capitol in three days time, is there anything I should know before you march with us?"

"Nope, all ready to go boss."

(To be continued)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 7

Continued from here part 6

Several years ago

Victor had finished his requirements as an academy instructor and taken command of an outpost many miles from the Capitol. It had been a little over a year since he had taken Harris and Gunnar into his care. Marcus had come for a routine inspection.

He approached Victor in a field just behind the outpost, "How are the boys doing?"

Victor turned, "Pretty good. Gunnar and Vargas are progressing well, but that Harris is a damn prodigy."

The men looked out on a series of logs the boys had been placing in holes Victor had dug. As they finished Victor walked over and ordered them up the poles with their wooden swords. He then looked up, "Last one standing up there gets cake for dinner."

Vargas looked down, "What do the losers get for dinner?"

"Beans and water."

Vargas looked to the others, "Guess I'll be sleeping outside tonight after I've had my cake."

Harris chuckled, "Is that so?"

Gunnar charged without a word but Harris easily deflected his shot and tripped him sending him to the ground. Gunnar angrily punched one of the poles cracking it. Marcus looked to Victor, "Did you see that?"

Victor nodded, "Yea, Gunnar's strong as hell."

Vargas attempted to attack but Harris dodged and struck him in the back. Vargas lost his footing but caught the pole. He launched himself into the air and attempted to kick Harris down, only to get the flat of a wooden blade across the gut.

Vargas fell between two poles but spread his legs to lodge himself. Harris looked down to gloat a bit but Vargas was gone. Suddenly Vargas' blade smacked against his ankle sending him over. Harris caught the top of a pole to hold himself up as Vargas jumped up with a grin.

***

Their back and forth battle went on for over an hour. Many of the marshals and workers from the outpost made their way to watch. They began placing bets on which boy would fall. The boys paused for a moment, staring each other down as the sweated and panted. As they charged warily at each other both slipped and butted heads as they tumbled down.

Victor stood up, "Looks like we got a draw folks."

The men grumbled as Gunnar collected Victor's winnings for him. Vargas and Harris sat up and in unison yelled, "Who hit first?"

Victor grinned.

***

As they sat down for dinner Victor relented and gave each a slice of cake. Gunnar slid his away, "I'll eat it when I've earned it."

He then dug into a plate of beans. Vargas looked to Harris, "He's sleeping by the window tonight."

The two chuckled a bit but a glare from Victor shut them up.

***

The Present

Belial and Paimon walked alongside as their forces marched. Paimon gave a wary look toward Harris as he spoke to Belial, "You sure he's got the stomach for this?"

Belilal looked curious, "You doubt his courage?"

"Not courage but his resolve. He is said to be one of the world's greatest swordsmen but when he fought Victor, he flailed about like an angry child. To be sure he wanted us to believe he wanted the man dead, hell he may have wanted himself to believe it, but combat never lies."

Belial shrugged, "All that matters is that he's dead. Now to the matter at hand, where have you lead us?"

Paimon grinned a bit, "I sent a bird to inform my old crew of my freedom. This miscreants you've gathered will serve as nice pawns but we need power if we want to win. I instructed them to gather every bandit and sellsword they could find with a grudge against the marshals."

They came over a hill and looked down on hundreds of men gathered behind Paimon's crew. Belial smiled, "We can work with this."

***

As they joined the camp the bandit Erick looked on Vargas as he sat alone by a fire, "Why haven't you joined with the others?"

He looked up, "There's a man we may encounter, he will not be pleased with some of the things I've done and I must make certain I'm prepared to kill him."

***

The Capitol

Gunnar stands next to Ian on a city wall as workers buzz about, "What's happening up here?"

Ian turned, "This man, Uri, has had every blacksmith, carpenter and engineer in the city working for two solid days. Said our defenses were pitiful."

Gunnar looked at a line of catapults connected by a system of poles and cogs. Ian pointed out, "He says we only need two men for every five catapults. He's even devised a system for automatically firing ballistas on the East wall."

Across the city Hana sat next to Sarah while trying to attain a meditative state, "How is this supposed to help me master the Starburst?"

Sarah cast a weary eye on her as she picked up her rapier, "This blade is called the Lightning Lily, she chose me when I was younger than you. The reason our blades can choose us is simple, they are living things with a voice of their own and you will never master yours if you can't hear it."

She looked to her shuriken, "Can Vargas hear his blades?"

Sarah nodded, "He claims the Wolf sounds like an old man who's overly fond of ale and cigars while the Coyote is like an angry boy who's voice cracks when he gets excited."

"Is that true?"

Sarah shrugged, "I don't know, only he can hear them."

Hana then looked to Angus who was eating a bag of mixed nuts as he watched some street performers from the balcony, "Do you hear the Changeling?"

He nodded without looking back, "Yappy bastard never shuts up. Plus side, he's funny."

***

Vargas stood with Marcus as a large vault door slid open, "I'll be glad to get rid of a couple of these."

He handed the bag from his back over to Marcus who opened it as he put a metal gauntlet on. He pulled the Cobra's Fang out, "I've heard stories about this nasty piece of work."

Vargas nodded, "Luckily I don't think Bedo had it long. Only really knew two moves but the second was pretty much a variation on the first."

Marcus placed it on a table with other blades with snakes craved on their hilts before pulling the next blade from the bag, "So, I assume you'll be wanting to add the Dragon's Tail to the collection. Are you prepared to take it?"

Vargas nodded, "He's never been able to beat me before."

Marcus nodded, "This is true, but you've never been able to beat him either."

"Those were different times. As far as I'm concerned my friend died on the battle field with my father. I'm just doing away with the thing using his name."

***

Alana stood in front of the North gate of the Capitol, "Hey, Gatekeeper! You there?"

A man poked his head out, "We're a bit busy up here."

She yelled back, "Why's the gate closed in the middle of the day?"

"We're on high alert."

She sighed, "Can I get in?"

"What's your business?"

"Can you just let me in?"

"I can if you tell me your business."

She gritted her teeth, "My sister is Marshal Captain Sarah of the Lightning Lily."

He looked unimpressed, "That's nice, what's your business?"

She huffed a bit, "I have information about the guy with the Reaper's Arm and the army he's about to march on to this city."

"Give me a minute."

She listened as the gates unlocked and began to open. She muttered to herself, "I hate this place."

(To be continued)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 6

Continued from here part 5

Many years ago, Marshal's Academy at the Capitol.

A young Victor stood before a group of new recruits doing an amount of push ups that bordered on abuse. As they counted off The then High General Magnus along with his brother and second in command Marcus approached. Victor turned and gave a nod, "Morning Marcus."

Magnus rolled his eyes a bit, "No greeting for a superior?"

He glared to his father, "Morning, you rat bastard."

Magnus had a slight grin, "Better."

Marcus cleared his throat, "We have business."

Victor sighed then patted his underling Reeves on the shoulder, "If they loose count, make them start over."

Victor turned and followed them. He entered a room where two nervous looking boys sat. One was a ten year old Gunnar and twelve year old Harris. Victor looked them over, "Bit young for service."

Magnus nodded, "These boys need someone to take care of them."

Victor gritted his teeth, "I'm already raising one son for you...."

Magnus cut him off, "They're war orphans, they have no place else to go and I don't want them in the orphanage."

Victor growled, "Fine, under one condition."

***

The boys stood out on a field as Victor stood behind them. Magnus and Marcus watched from a distance as Victor called, "Vargas, get your ass out here."

An eight year old Vargas wandered out, "What?!"

Victor tossed his little brother a wooden sword then handed one to each of the boys, "If one of you manages to land a hit on him, you both can stay."

Gunnar looked hesitant, "You want us to beat up a little kid?"

"You don't need to beat him up, just hit him once."

Harris didn't question as he ran headlong at the boy. He was caught by a foot to the chest as Vargas leapt up. He then landed behind Harris and slammed the wooden sword across the back of his knees. Gunnar ran up and attempted to catch him off guard but took a knee to the gut for his trouble before Vargas brought the hilt of his weapon down on his head.

Gunnar got angry and began wildly swinging his blade as Vargas easily dodged. As he backed up he suddenly stopped as he felt the point of Harris's sword poking his back. Victor caught Gunnar's hand as his blade nearly crashed down on Vargas' head, "Your buddy already got a kill shot. You're good."

He then looked to Vargas, "You still ain't watching your back boy."

Marcus noticed the faint grin on Magnus' face, "Careful, they might find out you give a damn."

Magnus noted the sarcastic tone as he turned to his brother, "Their hate'll make them hard and strong. They'll need that."

"If you say so, still sounds like a terrible idea though."

He nodded, "Has to be done. You'll understand when its time."

***

The Present, The Capitol

Gunnar still fumed in his chamber as Marcus spoke, "I sent out riders to confirm it, if Victor is dead they'll bring him back to be buried with honors. I have to ask, would it be wise to tell Vargas. We want him to stay for a bit."

Gunnar glared, "The Wrath showed me an image of a Reaper, a Tiger and a Dragon marching on the Capitol. If he knows they're coming he'll wait, trust me on that."

Marcus sighed, "You say the vision showed a dragon striking down a bear, you know what that could mean?"

Gunnar silently nodded.

***

Belial stood next to an angry Paimon, "You should have let me kill them."

Belial rolled his eyes, "You still on that?"

Harris seemed a bit sullen before noticing many men marching toward them. He yelled to Belial, "We have company."

***

Several men broke away from the large group and approached Belial. One called Erick stepped forward, "Rumor has it, one of you managed to take down Victor the Bear."

Belial nodded and pointed to Harris, "The blood still stains his blade."

Erick gave him a nod, "His brother killed our leader, I figure that means we owe you for the small measure of vengeance."

Belial grinned, "We aim to exterminate the marshals, if you march with us you may consider your debt paid."

Alana watched as she hid in a nearby tree. She sighed as she muttered to herself, "This doesn't bode well."

***

Vargas nervously boarded Uri's machine as he began to wind it, "I don't think a full wind will be necessary this time."

Uri shrugged as he stopped at a quarter wind, "If you say so."

The machine then launched down the hill as Hana, Angus and Vargas clutched the sides of their seats.

***

A couple minutes later they found themselves speeding toward the city gates as a royal guardsman raised a hand to stop them. Uri's eyes went wide as he kicked the break lever. The guard barely managed to dive out of the way. The machine screeched to a halt as Uri began to apologize profusely. Vargas stepped down and the guard gave a hateful look, "You can never arrive like a normal person, can you?"

The guard then glared up to the gate keeper, "Its just Vargas."

A massive stone wall lowered into a cut in the ground as several locks sprang loudly. Uri watched as several massive wooden planks slid away as the main gate opened, "Marvelous, but still nothing compared to my machinery."

As they entered a woman armed with a rapier, Sarah stood before them. She looked on Vargas, "The High General needs to see you immediately."

"Can't I get lunch first."

She gave him a blank look, "No."

Angus and Hana's eyes went wide as they saw the city for the first time. Angus turned to Vargas, "Meet you later, gonna go waste some money."

Vargas then tossed a small purse of coins to Hana, "Go get yourself some cloths that fit, grab a bite or something."

A man with Sarah called named Oleg leered at Hana, "Allow me to escort you, mi'lady."

Vargas gave a fake grin and a nod as he pulled Sarah over, "Tag along, and tell Oleg if he lays a hand on that girl, I'll remove it from his body."

She chuckled a bit, "Will do."

He then looked to Uri, who was already happily boasting about his machine to whoever would listen. he shrugged and headed toward the Marshal's Headquarters.

***

A mile from the Capitol riders came upon Clive carrying the Big Bear to deliver to Vargas. After a quick exchange of words Clive agreed to carry out the confirmation as they proceeded in their task to retrieve the body.

***

Vargas had become sidetracked on his way to the headquarters but eventually made his way there. As he arrived an aide ushered him into Gunnar's quarters. He looked around the room, "This is quite a few steps up from the crap holes Victor raised us in."

Gunnar had a stern look as Vargas noticed the Big Bear sitting on the desk. "Is Victor here?"

Gunnar shook his head, "We need to talk."

Clive nervously entered the room as anger started to form in Vargas, "Why the hell is the Bear here without Victor?"

Gunnar motioned for Clive to sit down, "We're both about to find out."

Clive sat and told his story. Vargas and Gunnar listened intently to every word the nervous young marshal uttered until he'd finished. Gunnar sat back, "So he died fighting?"

Clive nodded. Suddenly Vargas stood and flipped the desk sending it crashing through a window. Clive looked frightened as Vargas turned and kicked open the door nearly taking it off the hinges as Gunnar ordered, "Vargas, stop."

Vargas gripped the hilt of the Coyote, "This can't go unanswered."

Gunnar stood, "It won't. His killer is marching here. Aside from that he's with the man who wields the Reaper's Arm. We both want Harris to pay but I also need to protect this city. With you here we can do both."

Vargas took a breath, "I brought a man with me, find him and bring him to the city's engineers. Perhaps he can help with defense, if he refuses just stroke his ego a bit."

Gunnar sighed, "Can I trust you to keep your head on straight? You know him as well as I, one mistake, one second of hesitation and he will kill you."

Vargas gave a nod, "I know."

***

Angus sat at a small table outside a restaurant. The waitress commented, "The marshals seem on edge today."

Angus nodded, "Fight's coming."

She looked down to him, "You know something?"

"Nothing specific, I just feel it in my gut. If you'd been in as many fights as me, you'd see the signs too."

The Changeling had been vibrating in his pocket off and on since they'd entered the city. He knew something bad was coming.

***

Several royal engineers approached Uri. One spoke up, "Sir, we were told you were a man of great skill and we'd like to have your aid."

Uri smiled, "Well of course you would, a man of my genius is rare indeed."

One of the men rolled his eyes, "That was easy."

(To be continued)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 5

Continued from here part 4

Vargas walked with Angus and Hana for quite some time before the group was stopped by an odd sound of clanking metal and wood. The turned and walked toward a large lake and saw a strange looking machine dragging a pole over the water with a rope hanging down.

The rope began to tug from under the water and the pole raised and a man came up holding the rope. He had an odd looking helmet made of metal and glass over his head with a tube coming from the top and leading back to the machine.

As he came to the shore he removed the helmet and picked up a note book that sat on a plank on the machine. The man muttered to himself for a moment before seeing the others, "I've got no gold and I doubt you could sell my machine for much."

Vargas looked it over, "What the hell is that?"

The man smiled, "This is my mobile laboratory and defense system."

Angus huffed, "Doesn't look mobile."

The man grinned and yanked a lever. A wall on either side spun around and spring loaded wheels popped into position as a wood block pushed the body over on them. He then pulled down some folding stairs and flipped another lever that revealed a seat and pedals in the front. He then attached a set of handle bars to the front, "I wind it up with the pedals. It will go 25 miles in just under an hour before I need to rewind."

Vargas stepped up to look it over more thoroughly, "It's all clockwork, right?"

The man nodded with a grin. Angus whispered to Hana, "Don't know what's stranger, that contraption or that mustache."

Vargas looked back to the man as he stroked his absurdly long mustache, "You have a name?"

"Euripides Maximilian Marcum, friends call me Uri."

***

Many miles away Victor stood holding the ax Big Bear as he glared on the traitorous former marshal, Harris. Paimon looked to Belial, "Hold the men back, my Tiger is hungry."

Harris charged toward Victor and moved to slash with the Dragon's Tail but Victor knocked it away with his ax before delivering a hard punch to Harris' face. He staggered a bit and spat some blood. He again moved to attack but Victor drove his ax handle into his gut flinging him back several feet.

While this was going on Paimon unleashed a blast of red energy hoping to kill the marshals in one shot. Suddenly the land ripped upward and blocked his power. The marshal called Reeves pulled his large mace from the ground. It had five long scythe like blades protruding from the large metal ball at the end. Paimon looked stunned, "What the hell?"

Reeves smiled, "This is the Stone Crusher, I can split a mountain with this. Your skull will be no trouble."

He yelled back to the marshals, "You fellas clean up the riffraff, this one's mine."

Belial smiled as they rushed on. He ordered his men to fall back a bit. Meanwhile Harris made it to his feet and raised his blade as it became covered in blue flame. As he brought it down a rush of wind knocked it from his hand. Suddenly Victor had his hand around his throat and smashed a fist into his face before slamming him to the ground. Harris held his side as he looked up, "You intend to avenge you're old man?"

Victor spoke in a voice that was almost a growl, "You should know me better than that, boy. I'd have liked to kill him myself, but I will have justice for the fifty marshals that died to line your pockets."

Victor then kicked him in the gut, sending him a few feet in the air. Reeves again slammed Stone Crusher into the ground sending several large chunks of earth into the air. He then struck them, sending them flying toward Paimon. He twirled the Red Tiger in front of him making a shield of energy to deflect the stone. A grin began to creep over his face but a stone spear raising from behind ended it. He dodged but caught the edge as it slashed across his side. Reeves then charged, intending to end the fight.

Harris crawled to his blade but Victor stepped on his wrist before he could grab it. Before the marshals delivered their killing blows a wave of black energy swept the field. Reeves barely managed to raise another stone shield to save himself and two others and Victor managed to evade it. The rest of the marshals on the field where wiped out instantly.

As Victor looked on in horror Harris grabbed his blade and drove through his back to the hilt. He then twisted it and yanked it free. He then limped away. Belial turned to leave but Paimon attempted to finish off the few survivors. His energy lashed out but a burst of wind blocked it. Victor had used the last bit of his strength to save his men before falling over.

Paimon gritted his teeth but Belial yelled back, "We need to move."

He sheathed his sword and left with them. The three surviving marshals ran to Victor's side but he was beyond help. Victor looked up to the one called Clive,"Don't leave the Bear here."

He nodded as Victor's eyes closed. He went over to the ax and attempted to lift it but it burned his hands. Reeves took on a stern look and ripped the blood soaked shirt from Victor to wrap the ax in, "This will protect your hands."

Reeves then stood up with hate in his eyes as he spoke to Clive, "Go back to the outpost and grab the fastest horse you can find. You take the Bear with you to the Capitol and when Vargas arrives you tell him what exactly happened here, who did it and how. Don't leave out a single detail."

Clive had a grim look, "And what then?"

"Get the hell out of his way."

***

Back by the lake with Vargas and company, Angus looked out on their path, "If Uri was telling the truth that machine of his could shave a few days off our journey."

Uri looked up, "That all depends on where you're headed."

Vargas noted the hesitation in Uri's voice, "We're headed to the Capitol. You know the gates to the city are clockwork like your machine."

Uri seemed to have his interest piqued as Vargas continued, "They claim its the finest clockwork machine on Earth. Every time I'm there I hear someone claim no other could compare."

Uri looked back at his machine, "Is that what they say?"

Angus looked ready to chime in but Vargas waved him off, "It'd be a shame if someone did manage to out do them and nobody knew."

Uri then stroked his mustache in thought before proclaiming, "Well, I was heading there anyway, so I may as well let you tag along."

Hana fought back the urge to chuckle.

***

The Capitol

Gunnar sat in thought as he puffed away on his cigar. He casually laid a hand on the hilt of the Angel's Wrath and saw a vivid image in his mind of a bear falling to the ground. His eyes went wide as he yelled to the aide across the room, "Get me the High General."

The aide gave him a curious look. He bellowed, "Did that sound like a request, boy?!"

The aide leapt to his feet and hurried out the door as Gunnar angrily kicked his stool across the room.

***

Marcus entered Gunnar's chambers, "What in the name of the gods possessed you....."

He noticed the stool embedded in the plaster of the wall and the fuming anger on Gunnar's face, "What is it"

His voice was like a low growl, "Victor is dead."

***

Several hours later on a hill over looking the Capitol Uri's machine came to an abrupt stop. Uri had a wide grin as he looked over to Vargas, Hana and Angus clinging to their seats. Angus blurted out, "That was a hell of a lot faster than 25 miles an hour."

Uri sat his feet on the pedals, "One quick wind up and we're there."

Vargas jumped out, "No!...I mean, rest your legs, we'll camp here for the night then ride the death traa.., machine into the city tomorrow."

He then looked to Angus, "Can you help me peel Hana off her seat?"

(To be continued)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 4

Continued from here part 3

Vargas sat by a fire as Angus boiled something he'd bought at the outpost. He looked up to Vargas, "I assumed your girl would be joining us."

Vargas grinned, "I'll see her again. She goes where ever the wind blows her."

His eye then moved left, "You notice our tag along?"

Angus nodded, "He still there, figured he would have wandered off by now."

Vargas shrugged, "Wake me up if he decides to rob us or kill us."

Angus nodded, "Will do."

***

After he finished eating Angus seemed to nod off as Vargas snored away. What appeared to be a boy, thinking he'd remained unnoticed crept to their camp site and attempted to grab Vargas' bag. Suddenly the blade of the Wolf was resting on his shoulder as Vargas stared down at him, "Why don't you head back home. I don't relish the idea of beating on a twelve year old, but I won't let you rob me."

The boy's eyes went wide. Suddenly he rolled away and hurled a shuriken at Vargas. He struck it away but it multiplied. He then went on the defensive as the began chaotically flying at him. He managed to dodge them effectively but the boy grabbed his bag and tried to run.

Angus locked a hand around his ankle causing him to slam into the ground. The boy raised a hand and the shuriken flew toward Angus. The Changeling grew into a large shield that blocked them. Vargas snatched the bag away from the boy and grabbed the shuriken out of the air with a gauntlet covered hand, "The Starburst, I've heard of this. Too bad you haven't mastered it, they say it can multiply a thousand times and appear as a rain of steel."

The boy yelled, "Give it back."

"This isn't a toy, kid."

"I'm not a kid! I'm 16."

Angus patted him on the head as he stood, "That's still a kid."

Vargas looked him over and noticed his tattered cloths, "What are you doing out here?"

"I'm hunting a bandit named Bedo. He killed my family and burned my village to the ground. I'm gonna find him and kill him."

Angus chuckled, "You're a little late kid, we collected his bounty a couple days ago."

He glared up, "He's in jail."

Vargas shook his head, "By now he's probably in an ash pile somewhere. Marshals don't waste good land burying bandits."

"So he's dead? Who killed him?"

Angus pointed, "The guy you just tried to rob."

"I was just looking for food."

Vargas sighed and looked to Angus. Angus nodded and pulled a loaf of bread from his pack, "Have a seat kid. You got a name?"

"Hana."

Vargas looked confused, "That's a girls name."

"I am a girl."

The two men looked surprised as Angus replied, "Its hard to tell with the baggy cloths and dirt."

She got a stern look, "If you killed Bedo, I owe you a debt."

Vargas shook his head, "The bounty covered it."

"No, I am in your debt and I will stay with you until its repaid."

Vargas shrugged as he tossed the Starburst to her, "Go where ever you want kid. We're heading for the Capitol, you could find some work there if you like, but get that debt nonsense out of your head."

***

Belial stood with Harris and Paimon in front of several dozen men. The crowd was mostly bandits and wanderers. Paimon looked on the crowd, "There are a few blades of minor power among them, most are just rabble with common steel."

Belial shrugged as he used a small stick to clean dirt from under his nails, "They'll serve their purpose."

Harris crouched down as he looked on them, "Pitiful, the lot of them. If this is the caliber of men you seek, we'll need a lot more of them before we can take on the Capitol."

Paimon looked over, "I heard Bedo was killed, we could move to recruit his men. Rumor says he had numbers in the thousands. I doubt that's exactly true but he's sure to have had at least this many given his reputation."

***

Victor sat on a porch at his outpost beginning to nod off as a rider approached. He looked up as the man jumped down, "This better be important."

The man nodded nervously, "Scouts spotted a large gathering, mostly bandits. Paimon and the Traitor Harris were among them and he swears he saw a man holding the Reaper's Arm."

Victor picked up Big Bear, "Gather the men. Looks like we're gonna have a fight on our hands."

***

The Capitol

Gunnar stood next to Ian as they looked down on the city from the balcony of the Marshal's head quarters, "Been having a bad feeling lately."

Ian nodded, "I'd say it started about the time you picked up the Wrath. Magnus used to say the ax carried a hint of prophecy in it."

Gunnar leaned on the ledge, "It be nice if it was more specific."

Ian nodded in agreement, "I'll put the royal guard on alert."

Gunnar chuckled, "Oh, that eases my mind."

Ian gave a shrug, "At the very least they make an effective alarm until we get the Marshals rallied."

An aide came up, "We've received a message from the Twain outpost."

Gunnar took the small scroll from the aide and opened. He grinned a bit, "Vargas killed Bedo. Apparently he's also got a few more additions to Marcus' collection."

Ian seemed to have a thought, "When he arrives, try to get him to stick around for a few days."

"Why?"

The counselor shrugged again, "Couldn't hurt to have the Wolf and Coyote around, just in case."

***

Vargas stretched as he woke and looked around, "Where's the girl?"

Angus took a break from breakfast, "I bought some soap at the outpost, I sent her down to the stream with it."

Vargas reached over and grabbed a few slices of bacon, "Figured she'd have taken off by now."

At he took a bite Hana returned and sat on a nearby log. She stared at the food but didn't take any. Angus rolled his eyes, "Just get a damn plate. Them sad dog eyes are annoying."

Vargas laughed a bit as she quickly gathered up a mass of bacon and eggs and began wolfing it down, "Ease up there, girl. It ain't gonna run away."

She had a sheepish look as she wiped a bit of egg from her mouth. As she swallowed she asked, "What is our business in the Capitol?"

"Well my business is making a delivery. Angus here, just wants to see the place. Also I just gotta see how Gunnar acts with all those priests and royals fluttering about. I'll be shocked if he hasn't knocked someone out yet."

She had her serious look again, "You shouldn't speak of priests and Royalty in such a manner. They hold the honor of our world."

Angus and Vargas burst into laughter. After a couple minutes Vargas finally settled a bit, "You really are a child."

She gritted her teeth at that and turned away from them, "You are awful men."

Angus nodded, "You got us there, girl."

***

Belial and his men stopped their march as they noticed men on horses ahead. Across the field Victor stared on the enemy as he pulled Big Bear from his back. He pulled out a spyglass and looked to Harris, "I'll personally see to it that the man who brings me that traitor's head will be a colonel by the end of the week."

Paimon looked on, "I wish to see the Big Bear in combat."

Harris had a hateful glare, "That man is mine."

He already had the Dragon's Tail bared with blue flame sparking around it. Paimon nodded, "As you wish."

(To be continued)

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Cutlery Book 1: The Sword collector part 3

Continued from here part 2

Vargas and Angus had been walking for two days when they came across a huge net made from thorny rosebud covered vines. Angus grew a bit anxious, "This looks familiar."

Vargas sliced the nearest vine and pulled Angus back as a tree dropped right where he was standing," Alana loves her traps."

Angus looked around at some strange markings on the trees then back to Vargas, "We're in Bedo's territory. He's got a damn army with him. If your girl is fighting them she's as good as dead."

Vargas thought about it for a moment, "You know, Bedo's bounty could probably buy a lordship. It'd certainly keep me well supplied for the road."

Angus shook his head, "What you're paying me ain't worth dying for."

Vargas then pulled out Bedo's wanted poster to show the bounty, "I'll give you half."

Angus looked at the amount with a nod, "Alright, lets go kill us some bandits."

***

A woman with bright red hair and emerald green eyes stared hatefully at nearly a hundred bandits being temporarily held at bay by her mesh of thorny vines. She held her daggers tight at the center as she looked for an opening to attack or flee.

A large man holding a cutlass yelled to the men, "I'll give triple rations to the man who brings me her blades."

As she prepared for a rush she heard a whistle from behind her. She turned her eyes in its direction to see Vargas giving a wave. She yelled back, "The bounty is mine!"

"Doesn't look like it."

Alana sighed as he and Angus stepped up. She glared at them, "You gonna help out?"

He gave her a blank stare for a second before she growled, "Fine, three way split."

Vargas looked to Angus who nodded, "A third is still more money than I've ever had."

Just then several men broke through the vines. One stood ahead of them all, "You should run fellas, or face the wielder of the Wolf and Coyote."

Vargas got a grin as he put his hand on the Wolf's hilt, "Is that so? If that's true then we should be worried."

Alana chuckled under her breath as Vargas turned to face the bandits and continue his speech, "They say the Wolf can shatter steel like glass and the coyote can level a forest. With their power combined, rumor has it they can split a mountain."

The bandit nodded, "All true."

Vargas shrugged, "Not sure about the mountain thing."

He then pulled the Wolf from its sheath and shattered both the man's swords in one stroke while the sound of a howl echoing through the forest. He then aimed the sword at the man, "This was just bad luck for you all round, fella."

Bedo gripped his cutlass tight as he shouted, "I knew that son of a b*tch was a liar, but the Cobra's Fang is real enough."

Angus pulled out the Changeling and it grew to a broad sword. Vargas then waved the Wolf toward the crowd of men sending out a wave of energy followed by a growl that sent them flying, clearing a path between himself and Bedo.

Bedo aimed his cutlass toward Vargas sending the form of a coal black snake. Vargas struck its head away before it could bite but left himself open for a hard strike to the face from Bedo's ham like fist. Vargas staggered back a few steps, "You're quick for your size."

Bedo nodded as he swung his blade. The Cobra's Fang clashed with the Wolf as Bedo looked down at the sheathed Coyote, "Aren't going to use that?"

Vargas pushed him back, "If I have too."

He then slashed across Bedo's chest but he managed to avoid a fatal injury. Bedo looked down on the blood dripping from the wound, "You'll pay for that."

As this was happening the rest of the bandits moved to attack Alana and Angus. Alana pulled her blade back and flung her vines like bullwhips into the crowd. As the vines hit her attackers they wrapped around and crushed them. Angus was immediately overwhelmed but his sword expanded to shield him. Spikes then emerged killing those in front of him. More came forward but the Changeling suddenly seemed to become liquid before enveloping Angus.

Angus looked down as his fingers became metallic talons, "This is new."

He then charged into the crowd to test out his new armor. Bedo saw his men falling and grew angry. He began spinning his cutlass creating dozens of coal black cobras that shot out in all directions. The mass of snakes crashed down toward Alana, Angus and Vargas like a tidal wave.

Angus was unharmed but knocked away by sheer force. Alana quickly wove her vines into a shield but one made it through. It missed its bite but burned her arm as its tail lashed. Vargas was nearly swept away but raised the Wolf just before being hit. He shouted the word, "Howl," as they came down.

The Wolf's howl hit the wave with a sonic blast that destroyed them instantly. The remaining bandits were hurled away and Bedo was launched back into a tree. The last sound he heard was the sound of his skull crunching against the trunk.

***

As the surviving bandits crawled away, Vargas started walking around collecting their dropped weapons. When he came to the Cobra's fang he pulled a gauntlet from his bag. He could still feel the heat from the hilt and had to quickly stow it to keep it from melting through.

The Changeling shrunk back to a small pocket knife. Angus walked over and tossed Bedo over his shoulder, "Nearest Marshal outpost is three miles that way."

Vargas looked to Alana, "You coming?"

She nodded, "A third of the bounty is mine."

Vargas then chuckled as he looked to Angus, "See, she can't resist me."

***

Belial and Harris found themselves outside a small Marshal's outpost. Harris looked the place over, "I got a bit of a bounty. This may not be a great idea."

Belial rolled his eyes, "There is a prisoner in there who took down six entire divisions of the royal army alone. If they hadn't caught him in his sleep he'd have never been captured. I intend to enlist him."

Harris shrugged as he unsheathed the Dragon's Tail, "You're the boss."

He swung his blade sending a wave of dark blue flame crashing through the gates. The few marshals inside ran out to defend the place but Belial waved the Reaper's Arm causing them to rapidly decay into dust. The two then casually strolled to the cells.

A tall thin man with long braided blond hair sat on the cell cot with a foot propped on a small stool as the two approached. He sneered a bit, "Hello Belial."

"Paimon, my dear friend. I've come to free you. That is if you agree to join me."

Paimon sighed, "You found the scythe. Very well, but I expect to be entertained. They're keeping the Red Tiger in a safe two floors up."

***

As the three left Paimon unsheathed his katana Red Tiger. He turned and slashed toward the outpost. A red beam of pure energy swept across the place destroying everything it touched. He then kissed the hilt, "Good girl."

***

The Capitol

Gunnar and High General Marcus stood before the crown prince, Edwin who gave them an eye roll as Marcus spoke, "The reports have been confirmed, their is a new wielder of the Reaper's Arm running free. I suggest you put the royal army on high alert."

The prince gave a yawn, "That sounds more like a Marshal problem. The royal army has more important matters to attend to, now move along. I've got important business...."

Gunnar stepped up to the prince and back handed him hard across the face knocking him from the throne, "I'm tired of your s**t boy. Maybe your father didn't tell you, but your position is ceremonial. Your job is to wave at parades and let the people have something to gawk at, this meeting was a courtesy. I ever hear that disrespectful tone in the High General's presence again, I'll cut out your tongue."

The prince had tears in his eyes as he wiped blood from his nose, "You can't treat me...."

Marcus cut him off, "You don't need a tongue to wave to a crowd."

A royal guard whispered to his partner, "Should we arrest him."

"You can try if you want, I ain't doing it."

The head of the ruling counsel shook his head as he walked past the guards, "Well this seems to be going wonderfully."

Gunnar looked back, "He'll be fine."

Marcus looked back, "Morning Ian, Gunnar was just explaining politics to our young prince here."

As the prince ran out Ian sighed, "He's gonna be crying about that for a month. Just got a report that Paimon has escaped from Marshal custody. He was aided by two men, one of my men told me all signs point to the Reaper's Arm being used. It isn't confirmed but they believe the Dragon's Tail was there too."

Gunnar dropped into the throne, "That's no good."

***

Vargas and Angus sat at a table in an outpost inn with a large meal in front of them. Angus looked over after swallowing a bite, "I think bounty hunting suits me better."

Vargas put down an empty mug, "Glad to help you find a new calling."

As they ate Alana sat down and looked to Vargas, "Where are you heading?"

"Nowhere in particular."

She sighed, "Well, I have a room for the night. I'm still not gonna marry you but if you're interested I'm heading up."

He grinned, "You think I'm that easy?"

She gave him a wary look as he continued, "You're right. Good night Angus."

Angus nodded as he dug into his plate.

(To be continued)

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