(Patreon) Strength Chapter 26

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I didn’t have an alarm clock… in fact I didn’t have any sort of clock, but I still woke up on a regular schedule. The city itself had one giant bell, which tolled at dawn and regular intervals after that. If I wanted to, I could easily ignore the bell, but I usually woke up at dawn. It was nice, and I went to bed early enough anyway. When it got dark, there wasn’t much else to do, though during the winter I had stayed awake longer past dark because I wasn’t particularly tired. The adventurers guild had magical lights so many people would hang out there- though they still effectively shut down later into the night.

One particular day I woke up before the bell. Since I was awake, I got up and started my day. There wasn’t much to it- a simple breakfast made by the innkeeper who had woken up even earlier and I was out the door after I put on my equipment. Then I went to find Kantrilla. I often found her eating breakfast, though sometimes she had finished when I arrived.

Today, she was waiting outside. Kantrilla was the enthusiastic sort, and sometimes I felt she was overly enthusiastic. I wasn’t surprised when she immediately started running toward me and waved when she saw me. Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy the smile on her face before a dark shape fell from a rooftop to land… right where she had been a moment before. Kantrilla turned around at the sound of the falling- and the cussing… and I started rushing toward her.

The figure had almost crumbled into a heap on the ground, though in their defense they were back on their feet in only a second. How could they have expected that someone who had probably been standing still for several minutes would suddenly start moving? Of course, this was all speculation on my part… but I was immediately reminded of another morning. I couldn’t tell if it was the same assassin as before, but I didn’t have time to think about that as he stabbed out with a dagger.

Kantrilla threw her arm in front of her face as she cried out in fear, not that it would do any good. However, she also backed away and tripped over her own feet at the same time, falling on her rear. This meant that the dagger went straight into her arm instead of her abdomen. There was a very unpleasant squelch sound, which coupled with Kantrilla’s scream spurred me on to further speed.

I ran forward with my halberd, and arrived about the time the assassin pulled his dagger back. Fortunately he wasn’t on the opposite side of Kantrilla, so I swung down vertically toward him. There wasn’t enough room to get a good swing to the side… and I would have a greater risk of hitting Kantrilla if I did a horizontal swing. However, all the assassin had to do was take a step to the side to dodge.

That was all he had to do, but he didn’t make that choice. Instead, he crossed his arms above his head. His forearms met the haft of my halberd just below the head. It was expertly timed so that I hadn’t gained the maximum momentum from my downswing… but unfortunately for him I had nearly 400 Strength and was striking with all of my power. His arms only slightly slowed the halberd, and the tip of the blade dug into his skull… then out of his skull and into part of his neck, his ribcage, and through his abdomen… There was a horrible cracking sound, coincided by a smooth slicing sound… and then the ring of metal on stone as my halberd impacted the cobblestones.

My momentum carried me another step forward, as I prepared another move… but it wasn’t necessary. The man fell backwards, dead. I don’t know whether he was dead instantly, but with so much of his insides… outside… he certainly didn’t last long. Regardless, he wasn’t in any state to do anything.

Kantrilla shrieked more… and I can’t say I wasn’t thinking of doing the same. However, somebody had to act calmly and rationally. I looked around to see if there was anyone else- especially up- but I didn’t see anyone. “It’s okay.” I reached out my hand to pat Kantrilla on the shoulder, “You’ll be alright.”

Kantrilla threw herself on me, and I barely managed to get my halberd out of the way. She was enough taller than me that she only put weight on me when her knees gave out. “It was so scary, Llyr!” She said between sniffles, “I almost died! You saved me again!”

There were some incomprehensible words between the sobs as well. I just continued to pat her head. “There there. Everything will be fine.” Those words were for me too. My heart was still beating rapidly, almost in a panic. I just reacted differently. This was completely different from fighting wolves in the forest. This was the city… it was supposed to be safe. I knew that wasn’t entirely true, but my thoughts were all jumbled up and I couldn’t think clearly about it with the adrenaline pumping through me.

It seemed like quite some time but was probably less than a minute when a number of people came scampering out of the church. Among them I recognized Father Thomas. “Kantrilla my girl! Are you okay? How about you, Llyr?”

“I’m fine.” I said. The only blood on me was… Kantrilla’s, actually. “Kantrilla got stabbed in the arm.” I realized I should have done something about that earlier, but I hadn’t really been thinking clearly after the short moments of panic.

“Let me see your arm.” Kantrilla didn’t respond right away, so I lifted her off me and turned her.

“Huh? Father Thomas?” She seemed to come back into focus when she was moved, then grimaced. “My arm… hurts really really bad.”

Father Thomas half smiled. “Of course child. Show it to me.”

I immediately saw the glow of Father Thomas using magic, and his presence helped my mind calm down and think again. It was strange how a body could work. A few moments of panic, and then it took minutes to recover. My body still wanted to fight, or run… but there was nothing to do anymore.

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