Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for violence.
*I changed the name of the Archives, due to the fact that I finally decided a name that I liked as much as Stormlight. (There is a book series by my personal favorite author, Brandon Sanderson, called The Stormlight Archive. I knew about him when I wrote this--I'd read Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians & Mistborn--but I didn't know that They Way of Kings and Words of Radiance were called the Stormlight Archive, I swear!) They're now the Goldstorm, Whitefrost, Blueblaze, and one unknown Archive.
Dead Man's Footsteps
Count Vincent Einzbern, Ryall Manor, Whiteridge
Count Vincent Einzbern had watched the entire fight from the shadows.
The man in black pulled the knife from Elden's body.
"Poor bastard. Just wanted his family back. . ." Vincent said.
The bounty hunter whirled around, preparing to throw the knife as he turned, though its power was useless--used up on Elden.
He sighed, shoulders dropping slightly. "It's you." His face contorted for a moment, returning to a long chin with sharp features. His hair darkened from short, straight, and pale to shoulder-length and curly black. His eyes morphed from red to gold.
The late Count Ien Einzbern's red-and-blue-eyed son, Vincent, walked out to face the gold-eyed bounty hunter.
"Took you long enough to kill him, Blaise," he said softly.
"Don't call me Blaise. It's been years since we talked--you hired me as Phantom the bounty hunter."
"The others I've hired took substantially less time," Vincent continued, ignoring him.
Blaise glared at Vincent. "Shut your damn mouth or I'll shut it for you," he said. "I'm not reckless like them other bounty hunters you've hired." He lit another cigar by snapping his fingers. "I'll get the job done, and I'll get it done right." He puffed out a breath of smoke.
Wish I had the strength to kill the bastards myself, Vincent thought.
Vincent was never the healthiest of men. Due to a multi-system medical condition--called tuberous sclerosis--he had one eye red and one eye blue. His hair was pale, tinged blue. He couldn't do physical labor since he'd break out in seizures if he did. He had to wear somewhat loose clothing--usually a black tailcoat with gold and red lace on the lapel--as opposed to the tight form-fitting uniforms that were in style these days. Vincent also carried a mahogany cane with a silver handle.
Though he wasn't the best for physical work, he was brilliant.
"Time to continue the framing of Visermann Ryall, Blaise."
Prince Edmond Ryall, Whiteridge
Elden returned some time later.
"Took you long enough," Lionel said. "I was starting to think you'd been murdered or something."
Elden stared at him flatly. Myles chuckled.
"So, what's the game plan?" Edmond asked.
"Lord Alexander ordered me to take you here and hide out for a span of two days, to make sure the palace and manor were safe," Elden said. "We've been here almost a full day."
Edmond nodded. That sounded like something his father would do.
"What are we supposed to do for these two days?" Myles asked, strolling over.
"Stay safe, I assume," Edmond answered.
"Most likely," Elden said solemnly. "My Lord Ryall didn't give any more instructions than to take you here, but I imagine he'd want you to stay safe." Elden began to remove Frost's tack.
"How on Selphen do you get good at this!?" Richard muttered, frustrated at being unable to win a single round of Snake.
"You gotta flick your wrist and let the stone slide from your hand, like this." Lionel picked up a stone, tossing it into the ring. Richard tried to copy the movement, but failed, the stone flying wild and missing the ring completely.
"Ather's Gates, I give up!" Richard stood, stretching. "You're back, " he said, finally noticing Elden. "Do you have any pointers on how to get this--" he gestured toward the ring and Lionel's twelve-pointer "--Snake?" he asked, throwing his hands up exasperatedly.
Elden stared at him blankly. "What?" he asked, turning back to currycomb his mare.
"See?" Richard told Lionel. "Even the skilled Elden doesn't know how to get that Snake!"
"Vincent, what are they talking about?" Elden muttered under his breath. He stopped brushing Frost for a moment, as if expecting a reply.
Edmond assumed that Elden thought he couldn't hear him. He also assumed he was the only one who noticed.
"Snake," Edmond said slowly, his hand creeping to his sword, realizing that something was very wrong.
Elden turned sharply. Edmond drew his sword.
Lionel, seeing Edmond draw his weapon, instinctively grabbed his bow and notched an arrow.
"Who are you?" Edmond asked, his voice shockingly calm. He fell info left wolf, holding the sword in front of him with both hands.
Edmond slowly looked around, though not turning his back to his foe. The twins had their swords out, though they chose full wolf--holding their swords with their dominant hands and their daggers in the other, with their feet shoulder width apart. Lionel stood behind Elden, holding the shaft of his bow in the crook between his thumb and forefinger.
Elden smirked. "Well damn," his body said. The voice had change to one very different from Elden's--this was a deep, almost lazy baritone, opposed to Elden's stiff alto. "You're a sharper kid than I thought!" He calmly, confidently drew his sword, holding it out to his side.
"Come at me!" he dared. "You'd probably become the most renowned man in history for killing Blaise Fiston. Though you may know me as. . ." he flashed a carefree smile at Edmond, as if they were old friends out for a drink.
Lionel fired his bow, the arrow going straight through Phantom's heart. Edmond charged, impaling Phantom through the solar plexus with Darkheart.
"Seems you don't like me. . ."
"You tried to kill the twins!" Edmond growled, removing Darkheart and jumping back.
Phantom stretched, shoving his chin to the side and cracking his neck. "That was years ago, my young prince," he said with a flourish. "I'm working for a new employer now."
"What-did you do-with-Elden?" Edmond growled through gritted teeth.
"Nothing, my boy!" Phantom smirked.
"It wouldn't be wise to deny my brother. . ." Richard muttered. Standing behind him, Richard's stallion Shade shifted from foot to foot nervously--but held his ground as he was taught.
"Nothing, my boy," Phantom repeated. "I simply killed him, and am now using his dead body to do the same to you."
Lionel loosed another arrow, but missed. Edmond threw himself forward, going for a powerful upward slash.
Phantom blocked the attack and made a stab of his own, clipping Edmond's side.
Edmond yelped momentarily in shock, but soon recovered from the blow as he realized it wasn't serious--just painful.
I'll have to watch for signs of poison on that blade. . . he thought.
Myles and Richard came in on Phantom's flanks. Lionel fired two more arrows, both soon sprouting from Phantom's shoulders.
Phantom blocked Richard's attack and and did a sweep kick that threw Myles off his feet--but even so, Myles managed to get his dagger into Phantom's left thigh.
"You're gonna have to do better than that, kid!" Phantom said gleefully, charging Edmond.
"No!" Richard yelled, stumbling forward. He threw his dagger--as he'd been taught, by Edmond himself--into Phantom's heel, slicing the Achilles tendon.
Phantom staggered and fell over. "Dreok's beard. . ." he muttered, standing up with some difficulty.
"Aim for the joints!" Edmond shouted frantically, realizing how they were going to defeat their friend's dead body. "Tendons, ligaments, places you can hit to incapacitate his limbs!" he yelled.
"Got it!" the twins shouted in unison.
Edmond charged forward with a slash aimed at Phantom's shoulder joint, hoping to destroy Elden's sword arm.
Phantom blocked the strike and tried to do a sweep kick as he'd done with Myles, but Edmond expected the strike and jumped back, Elden's foot missing him by a mile.
He knows we know. . . Edmond thought. So how do we get him now?
Richard charged Phantom from behind, hoping to get a stab in on his shoulder blade, but Phantom ducked and Richard missed, almost running into Lionel's horse, Cobalt.
The kensin, Edmond realized. My knives! He began to make his way to his pack. Phantom, crossing swords with Lionel--who'd finally realized his bow was useless in this fight--didn't notice Edmond.
They might spook the horses, but. . . Edmond grabbed two of the amber-colored knives and prepared to throw one at the muscle that connected Elden's shoulder to his neck.
"Lionel!" Edmond shouted. Lionel glanced at Edmond momentarily before parrying another strike from Phantom.
"Duck!" Edmond threw the knife. Phantom, not yet realizing what was going on, turned his head--only to see the blade sink into the base of his neck.
Edmond turned away and put his hands over his head as he heard the loud bang! of the kensin blade exploding and destroying Elden's shoulder and, hopefully, incapacitating his arm.
Edmond turned around to see a snarling Phantom, his head lolling to the side without the muscle to hold it in place.
Cinder reared, finally losing his nerve, and crushed Elden's arm and upper thigh.
"Well, this battle is useless now," he muttered, struggling to stand back up.
He finally stood, only to turn pale and collapse.
"Hail and farewell, my friend," Edmond said quietly before wiping off his sword and sheathing it.
"What do we do now?" a battered Lionel asked.
"First," Edmond said tiredly, gently grabbing Elden's ankles, "we get him on Frost."
Lionel nodded, roughly picking up Elden's shoulders and helped Edmond heave his limp body on to Frost's back.
"We'll let the priests take care of him once we get to Ryall Manor."
Lionel began jerking the arrows from Elden's body. Edmond eyed him.
"I'm trusting that you wouldn't disrespect the dead without reason, Lionel," Edmond said softly. "Don't betray that trust."
Edmond sighed, absently placing his hand on the hilt of Darkheart and looking at Richard. "We ride at midday. Get packing--we have to get to Father, quickly." He gently removed his silver crown, placing it inside his bag. "And it would be best if onlookers didn't know we hail from Stowerling Palace."
Visermann Ryall, Ryall Manor, Whiteridge
"Al," Visermann inquired with mock innocence, "where are the Ryall princes?"
"Um, eh, er. . . " he stuttered. "I do not know, my Lord."
"Well," Visermann said darkly, advancing on his guard head. "I know you have a talent for breaking things--but surely you couldn't have broken a piece of paper with a wax seal when giving it to Elden Drusillus, could you?"
"N-no, my Lord," he stammered. "I delivered it to the Lord Provost undamaged, my Lord."
"I see. . ." Visermann's eyes narrowed. He turned around to leave. "Back to work," he barked. Al yelped and hustled out of the room.
Then where are the boys? Visermann wondered furiously. I cannot unlock the Archives without those boys!
Okay, I understand that you may not have a family full of auto immunes and other various medical problems. You may--unlike me--not want to go into the medical field and become a doctor. That's fine. But, for those of you who want it, I'll go a little more into explaining tuberous sclerosis.
Tuberous sclerosis is a rare multi-system condition that causes benign (non-life threatening) tumors to develop in the brain and other vital organs (eyes, liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, et cetera).
It most often affects the central nervous system and causes combinations of the following symptoms: Seizures, skin and eye coloring abnormalities, pale or silver hair, delay in the developmental process (should the condition be contracted within childhood), behavioral issues, and kidney disease. In some cases--depending on where tumors are located--unnatural stoicism (lack of emotion) and sociopathic tendencies can occur.
V-EYE-zer-men. It's a hard v. Vi is one syllable.
This is a German name. (It could be German or French, depending on your pronunciation. I'm going for the German form, since I've used enough French names in this series already.) It isn't super hard to pronounce, but I thought I should put it here anyway.
SO-lar PLEX-us. It's in the center of your chest--you can't miss it. It's right between your ribs--that little gap between them. The spot is very sensitive, often a target to attack in hand-to-hand combat. (Try pressing your fingers around there--you'll know what I mean.)
(In theory) with enough skill, you can stab someone right through there and have much less resistance, and also hit their spine. Right between one of the discs--so it's pretty much an instant killshot. However, it's a terrible spot to attempt to attack because it's usually heavily guarded--but Phantom allowed Edmond to get that shot in. Edmond missed his main target--the left kidney area. (Take out the stomach, liver, pancreas, and kidney all in one shot if you're lucky.)
The Achilles tendon is the tendon on the back of your heel connecting your gastrocnemius (big, somewhat flabby muscle on the back of your leg) to your calcaneus. (A central bone in your foot.)
When the entire tendon is severed, there is nothing left to connect your foot to the rest of your body save for a slim flab of skin. It takes a considerable amount of time to heal, if it ever does.