Unbreakable: Part Three
Brynn sucked in a heavy breath and forced herself to ignore the pain from her harsh landing. She scrambled up and, before the intruder could catch his bearings and run off again, grabbed him by the collar and shoved him up against the wall. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Techo guard land a few feet away and continue to stand there uncertainly. She could only guess that the other guard had shown up to help in response to her shouts for Rallon's aid, but she had more pressing questions at the moment.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" she snarled at the intruder. He took a moment to catch his breath, but then he smirked.
"My own identity isn't that important, and you should really have no trouble guessing who sent me, but judging by this unpleasant treatment, I think you misunderstand my purpose here. I am not General Hirok's assassin, but his messenger. I was instructed to relay a message to your dear Queen Fyora or the Battle Faerie. So if you'll excuse me, I really need to go see one of them."
Brynn's eyes narrowed. "You aren't going anywhere, other than the palace dungeons for obstructing the law. I am the Captain of this guard; whatever you were planning to tell the Battle Faerie you can tell me."
The other Kougra replied with a dry chuckle. "Oh, really? You're no Faerieland guard; you aren't a faerie, you aren't a native, you weren't even able to catch a winged pet without the help of a wet-nosed lackey." He smirked again and ruffled his wings as he added, "I'm more of a Faerielander than you are, Brightvalean!"
Brynn grit her teeth, but she wasn't about to give this guy the satisfaction of any real reaction. "If you know where I'm from, then you know just who I am. You will start to cooperate, or else your situation is about to get a lot more unpleasant."
The messenger's smile disappeared. "Fine, Captain," he spat. "General Hirok wanted to inform the lot of you that he is not easily swayed. Your negotiators are wasting their time, and if Fyora really wants to make a deal with him, she will have to see him personally on the battlefield in two days' time."
Brynn gave him a sceptical look. "Two days?"
"Don't underestimate the speed at which our army can travel. After all, magical enhancement isn't a skill limited to your people..." A wicked grin stretched across the intruder's face. "Oh. Right."
Brynn had had enough of this. Seeing that he had given his little message, she wordlessly moved to cuff the intruder and take him away.
Before she could, however, the other Kougra lashed out. Apparently lacking an actual weapon, he instead whipped around and bit her hard in the left hand. His long fangs pierced straight through the glove and into the skin, and she hissed and pulled back in spite of herself. He immediately took advantage of this by shoving her away and darting out into the street.
Brynn recovered from the shock in an instant and took off after him, the Techo guard not far behind. They rounded a corner into a dead-end alley just moments after the intruder...
...And he wasn't there. The Techo quickly considered the possibility of flight and took to the skies, but Brynn doubted that the messenger would let himself be caught off-guard in the air again. She searched through all of the nooks in the alleyway, in case he had opted to hide. Nothing.
Defeated, she let out a low growl and slammed a fist into the wall, only to cringe and draw back at the painful reminder of her damaged paw.
* * * * *
"Wait, so does this mean you're gonna turn into a vampire or something now?"
Brynn shot Hanso an incredulous look. It was the next morning, and the two friends were taking a rare chance to catch up after the events of the past few days. They stood just outside the border of a large training arena, which was mad with activity as guards and Unis attempted to get in some last-minute practice before the looming battle.
"Hanso, being a Halloween pet isn't the same thing as actually having a vampire's or Werelupe's curse. Even if it was, that Kougra didn't resemble either one!"
The Ixi huffed. "I was just trying to make a joke," he muttered.
Brynn allowed herself a small chuckle. It was nice having him back – the three days that had passed since she'd last seen Hanso felt like ages.
"Sorry. I guess I'm just stressed out," she sighed, pulling the glove off of her hand and inspecting it as she flexed her fingers. The bite marks were still there, but they were faint – she'd been to a healer earlier that morning, so it no longer hurt enough as to hamper her swordplay. She frowned.
"In any case, I'm not really too worried about him. He seemed to be true to his word – he wasn't lying about the army moving more quickly than we'd originally thought, and there were no other incidents last night, so it looks like he really was just a messenger who went crawling back to Hirok after he got away." She hesitated, and then looked back up at Hanso. "It's his words that are still bothering me. I know it sounds childish, but I just can't get them out of my head."
Hanso raised an eyebrow. "What, all that stuff about you not being a true Faerieland guard? Come on, Brynn, that guy was just trying to get under your skin."
Brynn leaned on the wooden fencing that surrounded the arena and began to drum her fingers on its surface. "I know, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a point."
Hanso opened his mouth to protest, but she continued. "Think about it – by far, most Faerielanders are able to fly, and quite a few of them can use magic as well. I'm not exactly familiar with either ability. Should I really be the one leading this sort of guard?"
Hanso shrugged. "You've done a pretty good job of it so far."
Brynn took a deep breath. "Yeah, so far..." she closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them and took a step back. "Anyway, not much we can do about it now. Sorry for cutting the conversation short, but I really need to smack something around right now."
* * * * *
Hanso frowned as he watched his closest friend vault over the fence into the arena and grab a practice sword from a nearby rack.
This really wasn't like her, he considered silently. The Brynn he knew had always been confident in herself – not to the point of arrogance, of course, but even as an exceptionally young squire she had known better than to draw back out of insecurity. That was an attribute that Hanso had learned pretty quickly upon their first meeting. This messenger guy must have been either really bright or really lucky to have found her weak point.
Don't worry about it, he reassured himself. It's just nerves from everything that's been going on. She'll bounce back soon enough.
Even so, there was still something else bugging him – something that didn't just have to do with Brynn, but with all of the guards he had befriended over the past couple of years.
The sound of heavy steps took Hanso's attention and he looked over to see another figure approaching. It was Corin, a relatively young brown Uni training under Rallon as a cavalry squire.
Corin stamped up to the fence and cast a sour look out over the arena. Hanso eyed him for a moment, eyebrow raised, before finally asking, "Uhh... You all right?"
The Uni cast him a glance and snorted. "Sir Rallon's so worked up over losing track of Captain Brynn last night that he cancelled our training session to run an extra patrol today. Don't ask me how that's supposed to help. It was the only chance we had to train since Hirok's guys started coming, too."
Hanso couldn't help but crack a smile. "Come on, give the guy a break; he's kind of got a lot of work to do right now. Trust me, once they toss those Haunted Woodsmen back into their forest, he'll be back to running you through drills in no time." He leaned back against the fence. "If I were you, I'd take advantage of the time off."
Corin frowned. "That's just it, though – I can't just be sitting around, I need to do something!" He turned back toward the arena. "It's bad enough not being able to go out and fight with the full-fledged soldiers... Just having to stay here and watch them go..."
Hanso's smile disappeared, and he let his gaze drift off towards Brynn, who was busy making short work of a practice dummy. "You too, huh?"
Corin followed his gaze and let out a low whistle. "Are all Brightvaleans that tough, or just her?" he asked.
Hanso winced a little at the Uni's choice of words, remembering the conversation he'd just had with the Kougra as he replied, "She was their Captain, and now she's the Faerieland guard's Captain. It's part of the job description."
The conversation trailed off as the two looked on, but their attention was soon taken up by the arrival of a uniformed faerie – Hanso thought she must be some kind of scout – who immediately made to approach Brynn. Corin's ears perked in hope of some good news, but thanks to the confrontation Brynn had relayed to him, Hanso already knew that nothing in the situation had changed for the better.
Hirok was still coming, Hanso's friends would still be going out to meet him, and there was nothing the Ixi could do to help.
To be continued...