The Rogue's Steel-Chapter I
Published by T on Apr 20, 2022
"Get back here Mavros!"
Helios dodged a merchant and his cart. He huffed, as he glanced toward which direction he could go. He bolted towards an alleyway, skidding on the dirty cobblestone.
"Maybe I shouldn't have tried to join the Thieves Guild," he thought sheepishly.
"You can run but you can't hide!"
Running hard from the Thieves Guild of the city of Alofibhelm, Helios Mavros is in deep trouble. The city is one of the north, of the strong, giant, blonde Norrish people, mercenaries, and raiders with their giant axes and carved Gundir-headed ships. Since he’s a southerner from the Middle Sea country, Grakus, born with brown hair and light brown skin, immediately stood out in the crowd of pale, blonde sea wolves.
Helios ramped up some boxes, grabbed onto an awning, and hauled himself up.
"Where'd that brown, skrogskraper, swindling Grakius go?" one called.
Helios grabbed a windowsill and leaned out, calling in Trade Tongue.
"I'm just as swindlin' as you, Daminson!" Helios jumped to a crane, gripped the rope, and swung onto a roof, "This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught the debonair Helios Mavros!" He tipped his hat and disappeared behind the roofline.
He smiled running across the vaulted, slate roof. They'd never catch him now. He leaped over the gap in between the buildings, his brown cloak fluttering. Helios could discern shouting and horses in the street but sounds like those were always around in a busy city like Alofibhelm. All he had to do was reach the edge of the city, exit the gates, and reach his steed and his comrade, a Heggeh, and a Cycti respectively.
Helios slipped on a loose tile. It skidded down the roof, and out of his sight. He froze listening for someone to yell at him. Instead, he heard swearing in Norsh and a mention of fixing a brother's roof. Helios continued his silent journey.
The brown cavalier hat that he had stolen from a Frenk swordmaster shielded his eyes from the sun, his brown cloak that he had stolen from a ranger in Arlen helped him blend in with the wooden houses and his leather cavalier boots that were also pilfered from the Frenk helped him grip the slate shingles. Helios is a rascal and outlaw, he would steal things, kept those that he liked, and sold those that were worth a heap of gold. Like this sword.
The sword is the reason he’s here now. Supposedly enchanted, light as a twig, and made of nearly indestructible Ekselsioraem. Helios had no idea what the enchantments were but he could find out, or just rip someone off.
He stopped as a slate tile got dislodged under his feet. He watched it scrape down the sloped roof. He watched it disappear and heard as it shattered across the ground. He winced.
Suddenly an arrow missed his face by a finger width. He whipped to face his attacker.
A white and black cloth form aimed its longbow at Helios. Acting on instinct and muscle memory he unsheathed his sword. Helios tried to dodge but his arm pulled him back, slicing at the arrow, splitting the light stone, straight down the shaft and through the feather.
"WHOAH!" Helios exclaimed. He hadn't tried to do that. It’s almost as if the sword moved of its own accord.
The cloth figure now leaped high up into the air, higher than humanly possible. It raised its bow over its head, moving in for a killing strike. Helios raised the sword to block.
The metal bow and sword clashed together with a loud clang! surely alerting everyone in the area.
Helios had never been an accomplished swordsman. He had gotten lessons when he was younger when he was a son of a wealthy merchant, but that had been many years ago. He expected to be rusty since then.
But he isn't. He blocked the agile and strong attacks of the cloth form with ease. He continued to clash against the metal bow, mind racing about what to do next.
"I should attack him next. Can't block forever," he thought as he countered another powerful stroke. Helios, not sure what to do, kicked the form. The cloth form is surprisingly light for a human form, almost as if the form is made of air. But it still had enough weight for it to fall off the edge of the building.
"What, in the name of the Deaes, was that?"
Helios's breathing was heavy and ragged as fatigue rushed to take him. He hadn't fought like that for years. Helios preferred the shadows, knives, and fists as his weapons, but this sword! He could become the most powerful man in the world with it!
But first, he had to get out of this Deaes-forsaken city.
He started running again, slower though. He leaped between some buildings, and over the chimneys of others. Stopping on the last house before the wall he observed the gates. They didn't seem to be closed yet. Nor were any of the Guild's men there.
Helios grabbed the gutter on the side of the roof and swung himself over the side. After grabbing a flower box on the second story, Helios dropped to the cobblestone pavement.
A group of merchants was currency wheeling their carts towards the gates. Helios had his chance! He ran over and melded into the group of people. He eyed the city guards as they passed under the gatehouse, praying to the Deaes that he isn't seen, isn't recognized.
Luckily, he isn't. As soon as Helios had a chance he made a break for it. He ran down the twisting turns of the village homes outside of the city, turning down alleyways and back streets, hopefully confusing any beasts that they sent after his scent trail.
Helios spun a corner and ran right into a young woman.
Her eyes blazed with fire as she sat up. "Watch where you're going, street rat!" she yelled at him.
Helios offered his hand and immediately apologized.
"Sorry, ma'am. I've had a bit of a -"
There he is! Get 'im boys!"
Helios spun around, slapping the woman in the face with his cloak.
Down at the end of the alley were four Norsh, complete with their chest exposed under fur hides, a ton of muscle, axes the size of Helios's torso, and their large horned helmets.
"Get your cloak out of my face! When was the last time you washed it? It smells horrible!"
Helios wanted to fight them, and use the magical sword. But there is the problem of the woman who’s currently behind him. He pivoted, grabbed her hand and hauled her to her feet, and started running.
"You're coming with me!"
"Look behind you!"
"They're my people, they won't harm me!"
"They will if they believe you're working with me!"
"Just keep running!"
Helios knew that if she got caught, she would be tortured for him. He couldn't allow that to be on him.
They skidded around a corner kicking up the dirt. Helios started to stumble but the girl pulled him back up again.
“This way!” he hissed at her, pulling her into an alleyway.
The Norsh flew past them, not checking down any other routes.
Helios chuckled under his breath.
“Typical, stupid Norsh. Always rushing into things, never checking.”
The girl gave him a dirty look.
“You forget I’m Norsh, idjit!”
Scanning her up and down, Helios studied her physical appearance. He shook his head, “She’s too small.”
“I believe you’re only partially Norsh. You have the white skin, and the gray-blue eyes, but your physical build is more of an Arlenian.”
“Why do you think that?” she said indignantly.
“First of all, you’re small. You could argue that you’re just small for a Norsh, but that's rare. But you also have the powerful back muscles that they have for drawing their annoyingly heavy longbows. On top of that, your hair is blonder than these idiots.”
She sneered. “You’re right. I’m half-Norsh. But I’m not gonna let you insult my people!”
Helios sighed. This is a girl that is referred to, in his home country, as a Metitloena. Entitled ones.
“Listen, I believe we got off on the wrong foot. My name is Helios Mavros, also called the Black Sun in the criminal underworld. I’m 17, a hired thief and assassin. What’s your name, age, and whatever other tidbit you wanna share?”
“Like I’m gonna tell you!”
“Girl, I’m not gonna keep referring to you as a girl in my head. Unless you like being derogated,” Helios said sarcastically.
A loud huff of breath escaped her lips. “Fine. My name is Runa Grimhildr. I’m also 17 and my mother was a slave who got raped and I’ll kill anyone who tries that on me.”
“Note to self, if you want to rape a girl, do not choose the feisty ones,” Helios muttered jokingly.
That made Runa smile, if only for an instant. Helios leaned out of the alleyway to check if there were no more Guild around. He turned back to her, whispered, every word curt, and hissed.
“I was hired by the Thieves Guild of Alofibhelm to steal this,” Helios pulled out the sword, “from a rich dude. I then stole it from them and they want it back. Already they’ve sent a cloth man at me, and are chasing me with their entire force, and if they believe you are working with me then they’ll torture you and possibly kill you to find me. Savvy?”
Runa nodded meekly.
“So we’re gonna make a break for my Heggeh, Quar, and Cycti friend, Suwaro. If either one of us gets caught continue and get Suwaro. They’re in Jurgr’s Stables, the third stall.”
“Are you trying to kidnap-”
Helios fumbled for Runa’s hand, finally gripping it tight and pulling her along with him. They darted out of the alley, Helios’s mind had been thinking of routes he could take and now he had one.
One that could easily be stopped.
The white cloth figure dropped in front of Helios, rolling to a Hero’s Pose. Helios unsheathed the sword with a chilling ring. Helios relaxed his hand around Runa’s.
“Run, Runa. Go to the stables! Get Suwaro!”
Helios sprang forward, hoping to catch the figure off guard. The figure countered with a duck and a swing toward Helios’s legs. He leaped backward, grabbing the bow.
“This guy is light. Very light. I should be trying to throw him,” Helios shifted his weight to the ball of his left foot and started spinning like a deadly top. The figure’s feet almost immediately lifted off the ground, the centrifugal force pulling the low-weight form around. Helios, after six revolutions, finally let go, the figure flying away. It crashed into a house’s front porch roof, shattering it all, and bringing it down.
Helios winced, sympathetic to the figure’s current level of pain. All of the figure’s limbs were splayed at awkward, and impossible angles, broken and shattered.
“Well, it’s been nice fighting you, I hope to never see you again,” Helios bowed politely. Helios shook his head slowly as he walked away from the body. A creak stopped him. A short, very quiet creak of wood, as weight was lifted off of it, came from behind himself. He angled his head towards the body. What he saw scared him.
It was impossible.
The body of the figure was gone.
How could it, with its condition, be gone? It had been broken beyond belief. Helios gasped for air, as his heart rate rushed sky-high, adrenaline racing through his body. Suddenly sixth sense told him to jump to the left. A glittering axe replaced his body with a ring and screeched against the cobblestone. A Norsh was grinning maliciously at Helios. The cloth figure dropped behind the Norsh and pulled an arrow, ready to fire. Helios swallowed hard.
Leaning wildly to avoid the arrows, and ducking to dodge the axes, Helios didn’t know what to do. He wouldn’t be able to keep this up forever and he didn’t have time to reach for the sword.
A cracking roar echoed down the street. Helios’s face split into a grin that made him look maniacal.
“Oh, you boys are screwed now! AH!” he yelped as he ducked another arrow.
A tall green and brown creature with big teal eyes, little needles covering its body, and branches extending from its back with pointed leaves, ran down the road, destroying any minor inconvenience in his way.
A mix of a cactus, Joshua tree, and gorilla, Cycti were made by desert wizards who wanted to protect their lands from the armies of the Gattardian armies. The wizards lost but the Cycti remained, wandering the desert followed by the desert tribes who revered them. Suwaro, Helios’s Cycti companion, had wanted away from the sand people. Helios had helped him with that, and Suwaro claims he is forever in debt to Helios.
“Good to see ya, buddy! I need help here!”
It made squishing and reverberating sounds from deep within its chest. Since Cycti had no mouths they communicated with others with specialized organs. One was shaped like a heart and made squishing and squelching noises, the other was a taught fiber that hums and sounds like a low guitar string, and the other made roars and grunts by scraping two fibrous inner branches together. The only real way to understand them was to guess. Of course, if you're around Cycti enough it'll become easier.
Suwaro swatted at the minuscule, compared to him at least, Norsh. The northern man flipped head over heels, crashing through the wall of a shop.
“Kill it first!” a Norsh commander yelled as he rushed into the street with another three men.
Three more men joined the fight.
“You’re surrounded Mavros-son, and more of my men are on the way! Surrender now!” the commander ordered.
Helios was about to refuse. He’d never surrendered before and he wouldn’t now. But the heat in his chest forced him to pause.
“No! Not again!”
Helios tugged his glove partially off, peering at his hand. It wasn’t there yet. He turned back to the Norsh thief.
“I shall not surrender. Give up and turn away. I won’t be able to help you if you don’t.”
The commander laughed. It was a gravelly chuckle, not at all nice.
“Help me? With what? Giving my Guild the sword back?”
The commander was silent after that.
“Kill him,” he said simply. The Norsh spread out trying to encircle the two warriors.
Helios unsheathed his sword with a satisfying ring. The evening glow made the blade look fire-red. Suwaro grumbled. Helios
“You’re right Su. FOR CACTUS AND GLORY!”
Helios leaped for the thief soldier on his right, swinging the sword in a glittering, graceful, downward arc. The muscled sea wolf used the flat of his axe to block the strike and counterattacked up with a powerful overhead stroke. Helios knew he couldn’t block a blow like that. He slid to the left and stabbed at the man’s ankles. His opponent roared in pain. The Guild soldier pulled a small bottle out of his purse, popped the cork, and inhaled deeply.
“Unholy Leisiphlorn! Not these!” Helios muttered darkly, “Now I have to kill him.”
He checked his hand again. It was starting to glow.
Meanwhile, Suwaro had merely stepped to his left and kicked the two soldiers, and was watching the fight with mild interest.
The sea wolf, now turned into a berserker by the herbs, grunted, picked up his axe, and tried to stomp on Helios. Helios rolled, got onto his right foot, and tried to do a sweep with his left leg. His leg just stopped when it collided with the berserker's ankle. The man just looked down at his with red eyes and growled. Helios gulped.
The berserker brought down the axe, again and again. Helios pulled his legs into his chest, rolled, got up and ducked, and jumped to avoid the strong, and fast swings. When he could he stabbed the berserker but it was fruitless. The berserker just didn’t feel pain.
Finally, Helios’s hand was tingling and seemed as hot as the sun. Helios pushed his hand out and forced the heat to leave through his open hand.
Little lights left his hand, leaving trails of light behind them.
“What? Last time it was a beam of pure energy!” Helios exclaimed.
The little balls of light flew around, circling the berserker. His eyes changed from red to his usual grey, to gold. He reached out for one of them, but it evaded his grasp. He cooed and tried to chase it. He followed the lights down the streets and out of sight.
Suwaro made a squelchy hum noise.
“I have no idea. It appeared to be some sort of Will-O’-the-Wisp. C’mon, we gotta get outta here.”
Helios knelt, grasped the magic sword, sheathed it, and ambled towards the stable that he sent Runa to.
Then the cloth figure dropped from the roof again.
“Okay, I’m done with this Rolglu dung,” Helios growled. He lunged at the figure and seized its robes, and cut its throat.
“You think that can kill me?” it whispered.
“Who are you and what do you want?!”
“I am just a hunter. And it’s not what I want. It’s what he wants.”
The uncounted Norsh dragged his body out from behind the crates.
“Kill the Eowiz, Mavros-son! We may want to kill you but what it wants is much worse!”
The Eowiz shot an arrow into the man’s skull. Helios took advantage of this distraction to pull out the sword and slash the figure to bits.
The hood turned its head and barked a laugh.
“I’ll be back.”
The cloth surrounding the figure fell to the ground, with no trace of anyone inside. Helios stood, eyes, wide and mouth hanging open.
“W-What in… What, in the name of Deaeslorn?” Helios finally managed to stammer out.
“No, I don’t know what an Eowiz is. If I did I wouldn’t be so shocked. Let’s go get Runa and Quar and get out of this Stalgurdishly confusing place.”