Sradena wasn’t that big of a city, all things considered. It was the last stop on the border between Fepresil and Othya… but that was it. There weren’t any other officially sanctioned border crossings. However, for the most part very little traffic crossed the border anyway. The elves liked to keep to themselves, and Othya wasn’t interested in changing that.
Kantrilla and I stopped by the local adventurer’s guild. That was actually the reason the city was even as big as it was. There were still dungeons and monsters around, and they still needed to be dealt with… though if nobody lived nearby leaving wild monsters alone was fine. Dungeon monsters that left dungeons, however, would more actively seek out people to attack.
We checked at the guild to see if any messages had come for us… but there wasn’t anything. We also asked around to see if there were any people who spoke elven, but while a few did, none of them were interested in actually going into Fepresil- even if we could get permission. With that, we left information with the guild that we were heading back to Ekralas.
Most of the trip back to Ekralas was uneventful. We travelled part of the way with a caravan that was staying in Bolis- another city along the way- for a few days. Then we continued on without them. The roads were safe enough for us to travel alone anyway… it was just easier when we didn’t have to walk. We could have bought horses, but most of the time we didn’t do much traveling. That was only recently.
It was only a day’s travel on foot anyway, so we set out in the morning. By late afternoon, the skies were looking dark. “Ugh.” I said, “Do you think it’ll rain?”
“Hmm,” Kantrilla shrugged, “Not if we’re Lucky! We should be able to make it in time, if we hurry.”
I picked up my pace. My feet would probably be sore at the end of the day… I wondered if that meant I needed better boots, or more Toughness… or to be less of a pansy. They wouldn’t hurt bad either way, and I would take aching feet over not being able to walk any day. I would also prefer to put in some more effort than get rained on… especially since I didn’t have waterproof coverings for all of my weapons.
Even so, everything was going fine until we ran into the bandits. As two archers stepped out from behind some trees, I wondered what possessed them to attack the guy in armor bristling with weapons. Even Kantrilla was wearing armor, though hers wasn’t anywhere near as heavy. I could handle wearing full plate all day, but she needed something lighter if she wanted to continue for long.
What could I say about the bandits though? Maybe they just had bad Luck and picked the wrong target… or more properly Kantrilla had good Luck and considered other people not being in dangerous situations good. The archer on the left called out to us. “Just leave behind half your money and you can be on your way!”
I was considering whether I could pull my spear and hit the guy. He was maybe… fifty feet away? He had a chain shirt on, but my spear would go right through that. I could certainly do it- but he would probably get off a shot before he died. As for an arrow… his bow didn’t look like much of anything special, so it shouldn’t have been able to penetrate my armor at that distance unless I just let him hit me. Kantrilla might have been in a bit more danger, but knowing her the bowstrings would snap before she got seriously injured. More importantly, she did have defensive magic and a shield that could help. Even with two archers we would be fine. Still, it would be best if they didn’t have much chance to react.
“What are we supposed to do, then?” Kantrilla asked. “Do we just… count the coins one by one and leave them here…?” She reached down to her belt pouch. That was a good distraction, because she didn’t have any obvious ranged weapons but they would be watching her even more carefully because of it. “Okay…” she stuck her hand in her pouch and shuffled the coins about. “One… two… three…”
Going on three was a timing as old as… time. However, it was that way for a reason. It gave those who were ready just enough time to prepare. Kantrilla knew I wasn’t just going to sit around and let us be robbed… though if they had asked nicely I could almost see things going differently.
As soon as she said three, I reached for my spear and threw it toward the one on the left, the leader. At the same time, I saw and felt her shield spell surrounding us. My spear flew through the archer on the left, and I used Return Weapon to start it speeding back toward me, ready to face off against the other archer. That was where everything went wrong.
It was possible that, in optimal circumstances, I could have pierced clean through someone with a spear. With armor, that was a bit more sketchy… but there was no doubt about being able to get deep enough to stab through their heart. However, chain plus ribs plus muscle plus more ribs and chain… and then still having momentum? I wasn’t quite there yet.
I didn’t notice until my spear had come back and I threw it though the other guy, after narrowly dodging his arrow. He also immediately collapsed to the ground, and I used Return Spear once more. Then I collapsed onto my face, even as I watched his body fade into a pile of shadow and nothingness.
I coughed. Was that from the dirt in my mouth or…? I didn’t understand what had happened. My head hurt and I felt completely drained… like extreme mana exhaustion. I struggled to hold onto consciousness as Kantrilla fell to a knee beside me. How was I so far into mana exhaustion without noticing? More importantly, how could it have happened with two Piercing Spears and Return Weapons? A dozen full power shouldn’t have done so much.
While extreme mana exhaustion would explain the headache and the feeling of exhaustion… it should have made me unable to move. I didn’t use any mana for that, and while the side effects could be weird… they had never been like that before.
I didn’t even hear the people coming up behind us, only noticing when one of them hoisted Kantrilla over his shoulder. There were a handful of figures… probably. My vision was blurry, and my hearing wasn’t great either… but they said something to each other. I couldn’t make it out… and then I couldn’t stay conscious anymore either.