From his place in the room where Melyda was kept, the mage looked out at the fireworks and chuckled. "Typical." he said. "She must think I'm not much of a mage if she thinks this trifling bombardment is going to get past my Wards. Well, I'd better go out there and have a chat with her, don't you think, young lady? It may prove interesting."
Melyda chuckled to herself. 'At least he's being a typical villain in one way--he can't resist using me as an audience for his posturing.' She considered needling him with that, but decided to save it for later. Instead, she replied dryly, "By all means. You hardly need my approbation."
The seeingly calm ninja studied the wall and waited patiently for Chaer's report on the moat. Takayoshi knew that they would have to make their move soon, and that he might have to go in ahead of the others in order to weaken Kieraan's forces. However the situation will be, the black clad terror at night was thirsty for some action.
"I just hope that the moat is safe," he thought to himself, "I don't want to swim over to the wall when there is danger down there."
Yet, he contiued to study the wall, and found a couple of possible places to climb. He then walked over to where Karyn, Sammel, Breannyn, and the rest are at.
"Any news from Chaer? Oh, By the way, Karyn, I think I have found some possible Climbing routes, even one by the drawbridge...of course I am still looking." the black-clad oriental reported.
Brea finally tore her eyes away from the bursting rockets, as Takayoshi began to speak. She could still see the eagerness for action in his dark eyes, and found that it was beginning to rub off. She wanted to do something to help out, but was unsure exactly what to do, never having tried to enter a locked-up castle before. She and her father had always just snuck in somehow, following behind someone else or entering some kind of disguise.
She almost laughed aloud when she found herself wishing that her father could be there to help. "Oh, he'd help all right," she thought to herself. "Help himself to everyone's purses before he'd help get into the castle. And he'd only do THAT so he could get his greedy hands on more." She bit her lip then, and looked back up at the rockets.
Takayoshi saw Breannyn looking up at the rockets, he walked over to her.
"Back from where I come, our neighboring peoples,the Chinianese were on the verge of creating these rockets..." the ninja paused, "...of course, my original clan found out about the rockets. Then we set out to destroy the rocket and to kill all involved in their making. Those rockets were never heard from or about again. Yet, we still wage war on the Chinianese." He took off his hood which revealed his 3 in. scar, that laid under his right brown-colored eye.
The ninja shook his head as of to rid of the bad and evil memories of his past. The memories of the tragic death of his parents and the destruction of his by Chinianese-paid mercenaries loomed strongly in his head for 29 years. Ever since his tenth birthday, his life was changed dramatically... the tragic death of his parents, his family, and his village...on the other hand the emergence of a ninja.
He remembered running from the mounted horrors, then blacking out only to find himself in a strange room a moment later. The room was adorned by many exotic wepons, and a large symbol made of solid gold hung on the wall in front of him.
He then remembers an imposing figure looming over him, Yamashita. A very powerful Samurai, from which rumors spread that he is actually a lord of a very powerful ninja clan, located in the locale. That is were he got his start as a ninja. Proudly, he put his hood back on.
"I will avenge your deaths, Mother and Father," the faceless ninja whispered underneath his hood, "and to find and unite my brothers and my sister."
The fire now burned more strongly in his eyes. He looked over at Breannyn and spoke to her in a firm, yet slightly emotional voice.
"Thanks to my Master Ikashi, I can control my bloodlust and anger through Kung Fu and by redirecting my chi. However, for me, my anger will always be with me. Please, do not pity me, I will eventually get to my destiny, and when I do. Then, my anger will be resolved and will flow though my viens instead."
Sammel paced by the shore of the moat, trying to work off some of his excess adrenaline. They were so close to being able to rescue Melyda, but still separated by so much. It seemed like the night was speeding away, though he knew there were still a couple of hours until dawn, and Chaer had been gone longer than he had thought the survey would take.
Suddenly, Chaer erupted out of the water in front of him, leaping high like a dolphin. Instead of diving back down, however, he remained upright and landed on his feet in the shallows. His customary grin was even wider than usual.
"Chaer have good-good luck! On warm side of castle--"
"He means the south side," Sammel interjected.
"Find tunnel leading from moat into castle. Tunnel mouth covered with grate."
"That can't be much help, then," Sammel said.
"No grate *now*," Chaer said, giving Sammel a look that clearly said, "Let me finish!" "Chaer find metal stick at bottom of moat. Wedge in grate. Pull-pull-heave--Pop! Off comes grate." Chaer pantomimed his actions, deliberately running--almost--into Sammel. "Castle not in good repair there. Swim quickly up tunnel. Leads to pool in armory-forge. Room being used, but was empty when I look."
"Can the rest of us make it through there?"
"With *my* help." Chaer thumped his chest with pride. "Can only take one at a time, though."
"Hmmm..." Sammel pondered the news for a moment. "I'd hate to rely on that for our escape route. Perhaps Takayoshi could climb the wall and take a rope ladder with him, while some of us take the tunnel route. What do you think, Karyn?"
"That would make sense." Karyn agreed. "But I don't want you going alone, Takayoshi. Brea, go with him. Make your way into the castle and see if you can arrange a few distractions. Maybe you two can reach the drawbridge and lower it or something. The rest of us will go in through the tunnel and try to rescue Melyda."
As the Bardmistress spelled out her plan the bombardment of the keep ceased. The last flares died out, leaving the entire structure bathed in darkness.
"Now's your chance, you two." Karyn said. "Get going. Chaer, can you lead them across the moat?"
"Sure-sure-sure." He turned to the two Karyn had indicated. "Which side you go to? Chaer take you there quick-quick."
After getting the directions from Takayoshi, Chaer beckoned them to wade into the water with him. "Hold tight-tight to belt," he said. "And take deep-deep breaths. We go underwater--no wake, no splash, we get there unseen." He turned to the others. "Go to warm side, wait for me."
When Takayoshi and Brea were ready, Chaer dove under with powerful kicks from his legs, dragging them down with him. Sammel and the others watched as they were quickly lost to sight.
The elf-maid stepped up to her megaphone device and spoke in clear, commanding tones.
"Kieraan the Sorcerer! This is Elwynn Evindem speaking. In the name of the Queen of Havenwood, and as a duly appointed representative of the Montfort Citizens Emergency Council, I hereby order you to release your hostage and surrender yourself and your men immediately. We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands high!"
"Oh yeah that ought to do it." Sindella said with a wry smile. "Thanks, coz."
From the castle walls, a most unpleasant, mocking laugh echoed down to the besigers.
"Well put!" the voice said, "I expected no less from you, Ms. Evindem. Very well. I have no intention of releasing the bookseller or the book to you. If you attempt to take this keep by force I shall see to it that Ms. Melyda is the victim of a most unfortunate and quite painful death. You will withdraw your forces immediately."
"What do you think, coz?" Elwynn asked.
"He won't kill Melyda until he gets her to dispel the wards on the book." the Queen said. "If she'd already done it he would have used the spells in the book on us by now."
"I was thinking the same thing." Elwynn said. Turning back to the megaphone, she spoke again.
"Kieraan, we will not withdraw, nor will we accept any terms less than unconditional surrender. If we begin the assault, we will not stop until you and every last one of your men are dead. If you have no concern for your own safety, then think of your troops. You may survive our attack, but none of them will ever leave this keep alive."
"You're bluffing, right?" Sindella whispered.
"Yeah, but he doesn't know that." Elwynn replied quietly.
The disembodied voice spoke again. "I will not surrender. You will withdraw your forces immediately and allow myself and my men safe passage from this keep. Once we are free and safe from pursuit we will release the bookseller. You have until sunrise to make your reply."
"Hmm..." Elwynn said, "He's playing for time."
"Yeah I can see that." Sindella said. "Think we can get him before the sun comes up?"
"I don't see why not." the sorceress said. Turning to a nearby Ranger, she said, "Prepare for Phase Two."
Chaer had gained enough experience with drylanders over the years of his adventuring that he knew he'd have to surface at least once to allow the others to breathe. He was pleased to see that they were more than half-way across before he sensed their growing need for air. He kicked up to the surface, then cautiously poked his head into the air.
"Half-way there and more," he said to the others, who had followed his example and were now straining to keep their breathing quiet. "You do well. Only one more swim." When they indicated their readiness, he slipped back under the surface, then dove deeper, kicking strongly toward the castle.
This time, they reached a shallow shelf of land before they needed to surface. In front of them rose the imposing wall of the keep. Chaer helped Takayoshi and Brea onto the shelf, then backed away a bit.
"Chaer bring others to tunnel now. You have good-good luck." He waved, then silently dove and disappeared into the darkness of the moat.
Finally back on dry land again and on the other side of the moat, Brea rubbed at her eyes to clear away the remnants of the rocket glare.
"You go ahead first, Tak," she whispered to her dark companion. "If you don't mind, that is." She chuckled softly under her breath, and peered up at the castle wall. As her vision cleared, she began to notice the chinks and cracks in the stone. Still staring up at the wall, she whispered again, "Been a while since I've done this sort of thing. Need to get my bearings first."
"Don't worry Brea, it's just like riding a horse," the shadowy figure softly told her as he put on his nekode, "No matter how old you are, you will never forget."
Looking at her uneasiness, he took off his pair of the spiked climbing gloves, and gave them to her.
"Here you might need these," the ninja whispered, "just think of it as a little present. All you have to do is climb like you normally would, but to make sure you get a good grip. Once you do, the weight will shift onto the gloves. Thus, making it alot easier on your legs and hands. Just follow me, and make sure that your hands and feets are in sync with mine. Got it?"
"I say the first place we go, after we get on top, is the drawbridge. Then we can cut the lines in order to lower it. About Kieraan's men...", the ninja contiued to whipered, "...well, we should try to avoid bloodshed for the time being. Instead, we will sneak around until we find the main ropes to the drawbridge. If we happened to be spotted, then you should know what we have to do...kill them. The price of our lives is much greater than the price of their deaths. If you have any questions or any other plans/ideas, then by all means please tell me. Don't worry, I will protect if you have any problems."
The shadowy figure then patiently waited for Breannyn's answer.
"Thanks," Brea whispered as she accepted the gloves, "for your words, and for the gloves." She smiled in the darkness and placed the gloves on her hands. "I owe you one."
Then looking up at the wall again, "Okay, to the drawbridge first. I'll be just fine sneaking around once we're inside, it's what I was raised to do. Just remember, if I fall behind, go on without me. If I get into any trouble that I don't think I can get out of, I'll whistle for you."
"Could I be falling for this woman? Could she have a similar past as I? Could she be interested in me? Could she further help me with my past?" the ninja thought as he saw her smile, "Too many questions and not enough answers. No matter now, we have a job to do, and we've got to it well."
"Alright then let's begin the climb," the ninja said, "Just follow my lead. Oh, another thing, I never leave a partner behind." On that, the ninja began to scale the walls of the castle.
"Chaer was right," the ninja thought as he scaled the wall, "The castle IS in needs of repair. Too many cracks and crevices. I wonder how Brea's doing, because we are almost half-way there."
Looking down in between his body and the wall, he checked to see if Brea was alright and/or if she needed any help.
"How ya doing down there," he whipered to her, "Just like riding a horse, huh?" His hidden smile shone from underneath his mask. As he waited for Brea's answer, he looked up the wall to make sure no one heard him.
Brea watched for a moment as Takayoshi began to scale the wall, then took a deep breath and began to follow. She focused herself on the wall, as her mother had told her to do so many times in her youth, and paced herself with her breathing. She was so focused on the wall, in fact, she barely heard Tak's whispering. She nodded before realizing he couldn't see her, then whispered back, "Right behind you and doing just fine. Kind of like climbing a tree, actually. Seems to be more cracks the further up we go."
"True, but we should be quiet now," he whisperly answered her back, "because we have another 30 feet left. Don't be surprised if climb ahead and then disappear once I get closer to the top. It's because, I am going on ahead to secure the top for both of us, Okay?"
His rate of climb started to increase, and true his word the shadowy ninja dissappeared, as he got within 15 feet of the top.
He then peeked over the top of the wall and saw only a couple of guards posted. Two of them posted 50 feet to the left of him. While one of them started to walk away from him. He had a smile on his face, because the last man was to Tak's immediate right...he fell asleep on the job.
"Interesting, only four guards?" the slightly baffled ninja thought, "Being on the verge of attack, and only four guards? How peculiar." He then looked over the wall and saw Brea just reaching the top.
In a soothing, non-startling invisible voice, Takayoshi told Brea, that we have to move fast before the other guard heads back our way. With a helping invisible hand, Takayoshi helped Brea up and over the top. The ninja reappered, and hid in the nearest shadows, hopefully with Brea behind.
They saw some spiral stairs that lay behind the sleeping man, a good 30 ft. away. However, upon looking down the cat walk that adorned the inside of the wall of the keep, Takayoshi estimated it to be about 30 to 40 feet to the nearest rooftop, and a good 60 feet to the ground. However, the ninja's keen nightly tuned eyes saw alot of movement on the ground. "Where to Brea?", Takayoshi quietly whispered to her.
"Well, look's like there's some movement down there below," Brea said softly over Takayoshi's left shoulder. "If we can get to the top of the draw-bridge, I think that'll be our best bet." She carefully drew her sword, just in case, and looked back to check on the sleeping guard. "I'll be right behind you."
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