Just one hour before the initial raid on the castle of Exercitus, the castle town and its surrounding areas were winding down for the day as the orange sunset signaled to the citizens sleep. As the farmers rounded up the last of their cattle just outside the walls of the castle town, one young man was overlooking the beauty on a tall hill. Unlike everyone else, this man was wide awake and ready to use the darkness and the silence to do his job.
This young man's name was Landon. Sitting atop his white horse, Landon overlooked the castle with the last amount of light he had left. Though he considered the sun his enemy, Landon could at least give it recognition for helping him watch his next target and scan the area copiously. Receiving a map from his client, he knew the ins and outs of the Palace of Kings. He knew where the king slept, where the guards took a shit, where the maidens bathed, and knew of all the secret passages littered throughout. Those were a thief's best friend.
To calm his nerves before the robbery, Landon reached down to his satchel and pulled out a box of cigarettes. Being a thief, he was able to get his hands on illegally imported goods. Seeing how the continent of Antiquus was thousands of years behind the continent of Novus-and planned to stay that way-goods that were produced there were deemed illegal. Most were utter junk, like light bulbs and cell phones, but some would pay high dollar for the mass amount of weapons the continent had.
Landon lit the cigarette with a plastic lighter that was supposedly powered by something called gas. He just assumed that someone farted in a canister and sold the suckers for a pretty penny. All he knew was that the little lighters were better than lugging around a huge torch and would provide him with some light when he needed it.
Sucking in on the cigarette, the chemicals worked to calm her nerves, though he was unaware that it was destroying his health in the process. He exhaled the smoke and continued to look at the castle. The sun was almost done bowing its head to the moon, so he had a couple of minutes to spare. He took that time to reach in his satchel and look at his notes.
He received word of a stone from an anonymous client. Evidently, King Aramis always wore this stone around his neck. The drawing, done crudely with colors, depicted the stone as a tint of blue. There were lines swishing around the inside. He figured that he would take it from the king as he slept. If the king kept it on his dresser, it would be an easier task, but he made sure to bring a small knife in case he had to cut it off while the king slumbered. After that, he was going to do some embezzling for his own collection. It wasn't everyday he got to rob a castle.
When the sky became dimmer than the tip of his cigarette, Landon decided it was time to go. He stuck the drawing in his satchel and rustled around until he felt some soft fur. He grabbed the creature inside and held it up to his face. The creature was a black ferret that had a little black pattern around his eyes. This pattern made him look like a small, fuzzy thief.
"Are you ready, Ponzi?" Landon asked the droopy ferret.
The ferret responded only with a long yawn that exposed his white teeth and pointy tongue. Landon rolled his eyes and put the ferret back in his satchel. He knew that Ponzi was very good at the thievery business, but he wasn't a very talkative animal.
Giving his horse a slight kick, he traveled quickly towards his destination. He was entering through the exit of the town's sewer. The entire town and the castle were hooked up to this intricate system. The exit was surrounded by a sewage pond and was barred off to the public. Dismounting his horse, Landon unbuckled the filer he kept on his tool belt. He worked at the bars for several minutes and finally broke through.
The sewer was marked off by sections, which made it easier for workers to upkeep. It also kept them from getting lost. Using the map he already had of the sewers, Landon made his way to a place titled Section C-13. Using a rusty ladder, he made his way up.
Using all his might, he pushed up the metal hatch that waited for him at the top of the ladder. He moved it to the side to discover that he was in the food storage room, which was in the basement.
Infiltration objective is complete, Landon thought as he marked it off his mental checklist. He pulled out a map of the castle and Ponzi along with it.
"Ready boy?" he whispered to the little ferret. Ponzi responded by stretching out and yawning, but gave Landon his attention afterwards. "Okay," he said as he unfolded the map in front of Ponzi, "I will be going after the target for our client. While I'm doing that, I want you to go find some spoils just for us. We should meet in the commons. Let's meet up in twenty minutes or so, okay?"
Ponzi stared at him blankly. He understood everything Landon said, but, as an animal, ferrets didn't really make noises to respond or wag their tails. Ponzi just liked his lips.
"Good enough," Landon said. He rolled up his map and looked back to find Ponzi had already left. Alright, Landon thought, try to remember twenty minutes.
Landon usually had the trouble of being late, even though he was the one who set the time. He was just very forgetful and the thrill of the heist made him lose track of time as he entered some slow motion atmosphere as he tried to be extra careful. Every step he took was a liability, especially if he walked over some creaky floor boards.
Unbeknownst to Landon, the allotted time he gave himself would be drastically reduced. Just five minutes away from the drawbridge to the castle's town was the battalion who pledged loyalty to Lord Icis. But he expected his mission to go uninterrupted as he made his way to the royal kitchen.
No one was in prepping any food, so he knew it would be safe to walk in. There were several tables that belonged to stations. The biggest table belonged to the meat cutting station, which still had fresh meat sitting on a cutting board. A fire was also lit which seemed to be cooking something in a pot. It was only a small fire, so Landon figured they were roasting something over night or keeping a stew warm.
Landon climbed the stairs out of the kitchen and he arrived in the dining room. It was like any castle dining room: a long table with candlesticks and many chairs. There were clean plates and silverware waiting for the next lunch or dinner that would be served. The royal family and their guests were served breakfast in bed every morning, therefore the dining room table was useless until late in the afternoon.
Landon whisked over to the door all the way on the right side of the room. He wanted to stop and look at the starry sky through the big windows in the dining room, but knew that would only delay things. He entered a waiting area which had nothing remarkable inside it, so he went to the next room. He found himself in a big foyer, but no guards were present.
You would think there would be guards stationed here at every corner, Landon thought. Maybe they're on holiday?
With the lack of guards, Landon loosened up. The foyer contained a huge double staircase and in the middle it contained the door to the throne room. That was where King Aramis sat down with the council and addressed the concerns of the citizens. He figured nothing of worth would be in that room.
Landon walked past the left staircase to enter the commons. A light fire was the only noise present and crackled calmly. Where is everyone?
Landon took a small spiral staircase that went straight to the royal quarters. It wasn't long before he reached the door of the King's Chamber. The door was usually guarded, but not that night. This made Landon a little nervous. Carefully, he turned the handle of the big brown door and pushed it open quietly. With the tad bit of light that bled in their room, Landon saw the king and queen in a deep slumber. He could also see the stone glowing from the king's neck.
Landon approached the bed; sauntering by furniture. He came to the king's side of the bed and was about to cut the string on his neck when someone burst into the door. This prompted Landon to hide under the huge bed.
"King Aramis!" a man shouted. He was a guard clad in heavy armor. He was bleeding, but Landon couldn't tell from where. "He made it past our men. You have to-"
Then, in an instance, his phrase was interrupted by a gunshot to the head. The bullet penetrated through the guard's helmet and killed him instantly. This caused the queen to scream and the king to jump up. Landon saw him grab a sword as he peered from under the bed.
"Put it down," a cool, crispy voice said.
"Get out of my castle," the king stated grimly. Landon looked up to see the stone he had wrapped around his neck. It was so close to him, but he didn't dare to reach out and touch it. His hand would surely be shot off.
"Even a fool knows a sword cannot win against a gun," the voice said again. Landon heard two guards pick up the queen and then heard a screeching princess enter the room. She was only twelve and was extremely frightened.
"What do you want from me?" King Aramis asked. His voice was a defiant as ever, but he was fooling no one. He was terrified.
"Put the sword down and we'll talk," the voice said. Landon was trying to read the voice, but did not recognize its owner. He figured its owner was unsympathetic and emotionless.
There was a long and intense pause, but the king eventually dropped his sword. As its blade hit the ground, it made a terrible sound of defeat. "I did as you asked. Now let go of my wife and daughter."
"Who said I was going to do that?" the voice said. He then added, "Lyone," and Landon heard two screams that were shortly interrupted. The guards dropped the limp bodies of the queen and princess who had their throats slashed.
The king dropped to his knees started to cry. Landon could see his tears soak into the crimson carpet. It was so weird to him, seeing his king a broken man. All the while, the stone hung down his neck.
Am I about to witness the death of the king? Landon asked himself. He wanted to do something, but he couldn't. He left his rapier on his horse and only had petty thief tools. He could probably lock pick some eyeballs out of some skulls, but that wouldn't get him very far.
Landon watched as the black, tall boots of the mysterious voice walked over to the king. The air seemed to get a lot colder underneath the bed as this man got closer to Landon. He knew at that moment that he wasn't any ordinary man. Landon saw the man lift King Aramis by the necklace.
"For years you ignored my army and wrote us off as insignificant bandits," the voice said. "You scoffed when I proclaimed myself to be Lord Icis nineteen years ago. Many times I demanded you hand over that stone to me and you refused. Now I will take that stone and your kingdom. Tonight, you shall pay for your ignorance."
Landon heard a gunshot and this Icis guy laugh. He then heard another voice speak up.
"You got what you wanted, my lord," the voice said. It sounded timid but fearless at the same time. "Let us leave this broken kingdom in peace."
"Leave it in peace?" the Lord snapped. "This is our kingdom now. I'm just getting started."
"We've done enough here," the voice said. "Let's go back home. Now."
There was an uncomfortable pause between the two men. "Are you telling your lord what to do Raphael?" Lord Icis snapped. "After I clothed you, fed you, promoted you? You had no friends in the world. Hell, even your brother and parents hated you. But now, you stand here and tell me what to do?"
"I'm sorry, my lord," Raphael said and Landon could see his boots approach Lord Icis.
"Good boy," the Lord said.
But, in an instant, Landon saw Raphael lunge forward to grab something. There was a sharp gunshot, but the Raphael character moved fast. He was out of the room before Landon knew it.
"He took the stone!" the Lord shouted. "Get that stone and bring him to me alive!"
There was a shuffling of many feet as Landon watched the party leave the room. After a couple of minutes, Landon left his hiding spot.
I have to find this Raphael guy and get that stone from him, Landon thought. Everything was just going so wrong, but he tried to keep a clear head. He ran out of the room and down the hallway. He could hear men shouting and a bunch of footsteps coming from the spiral staircase, so he quickly ran down them.
Landon took the door by the fireplace, which was the opposite of what the men took. This led to an outside breezeway. Running down it and turning the corner he ran right into the Raphael character. He pushed Landon out of the way, but Landon wasn't going without a fight. He charged right into Raphael's back and struggled to keep him down.
"What's your problem kid?" Raphael shouted.
"I need that stone," Landon said as he tried to keep Raphael pinned.
Raphael stood up with ease and threw Landon off his shoulder. Landon was able to get Raphael to turn and face him and that was when Landon punched him right in the mouth.
"Kid, I'm not playing games," Raphael said as he pushed Landon with force. Landon landed on the wooden ground and heard behind him, "There's the pest! Get him!"
The men completely ignored Landon and ran over him. Landon suffered from a kick to the head, but came out mostly unscathed. He watched the men chase after the Raphael guy and decided to check his pocket watch.
"Dammit," he muttered under his breath. He only had ten minutes left. Suffering from a bad headache, Landon decided to wait in the commons for his ferret friend and get the hell out of the Palace of Kings before things continued to get worse.
"This is the kitchen," Raphael said to Luxina as soon as they made it upstairs. Lux watched as Raphael used one of his matches to light a small fire. He kept the light dim. "I'm sure that they have a first aid kit somewhere."
"You guys have first aid kits?" Lux asked him while she scanned the room. Only the dim light of the fireplace lit the room and created a somber tone amidst the chaos.
"Of course," Raphael said as he searched some drawers. "Why wouldn't we?"
"This place just seems so…medieval. Back at home, er, my home, we had stuff called electricity instead of torches and guns instead of swords."
"So I take it that you're from Novus then?"
"No, I'm from Newark, Ohio." And then it occurred to Lux that something was very wrong. Toying around with different knives, Lux asked this: "By the way, what planet are we on?"
"We are on the planet Canada," Raphael said just before he pulled out medical supplies.
"Oh, that must explain it," Lux said to him as he strung out the supplies. "I've never been to Canada, though you guys share the same continent as the United States."
"No, no," Raphael said and he looked at her. He was severely confused. "The continent you and I are on right now is Antiquus. The planet that this continent is on is Canada." Raphael skimmed Lux's face as she processed this information. Her expression was blank as she returned eye contact to him. "You're not from around here, are you?"
Lux slid down against a cabinet and just stared into space. "No," she finally answered. "I'm from the planet Earth. Does that ring any bells?"
Raphael shook his head and added, "No. No it doesn't." Raphael rummaged through a box on the counter and pulled out a glass jar, some cotton balls, and some gauze. He kneeled down beside Lux. Lux immediately spread out her right arm so Raphael could mend it.
"What's that stuff?" Lux asked him with an exhausted tone.
"It's peroxide" he replied as he dabbed some on a cotton ball. Lux watched the liquid soak into the ball and made it expand. She could already feel the stinging sensation that would occur once the ball of fluff touched her open wound. Raphael sat down the jar and held the cotton ball close to her arm. "This will sting," he said.
"I know. We have that stuff back at home." Lux was feeling remotely numb inside after the harsh news that she was no longer anywhere close to home. The peroxide ripped through this numbness and created a searing pain which caused her to shuffle around. She didn't dare cry or show a sign of weakness.
"Hold still," Raphael said. He was extremely nervous performing this simple procedure. He was never given the responsibility of taking care of someone else. Usually he tended to his own medical emergencies. Seeing how much pain Lux was in made it that much more nerve-racking. He grazed over the other line that was part of her V shaped wound and quickly prepped the gauze. The wound itself was still bleeding badly, so he knew it needed to be wrapped.
The gauze looked to be fifty years old. The fabric was brittle and a sickly brown color with splotches throughout. It still wrapped around Lux's arm perfectly. He used a knife to cut off the rest of the gauze and finished the wrap. "All done," he said nervously and put on a meek smile. Lux just dropped her arm like a lifeless zombie.
This stinks, was the only words that came to mind when Lux dwelled on her predicament. There were so many things she would miss about Earth. Butters, definitely, and vanilla Coke, too. Though I wouldn't miss work, or my family, or school…in fact there are more things that I hated than things that I will miss. This revelation caused Lux to rethink her situation. No more medicine, no more failed semesters, no more work. The list went on and on as she decided that maybe being on the planet Canada wasn't too bad at all.
Raphael just stared at her while she pondered. He wasn't sure what to do next, but he was certainly getting weaker. He clutched his side and leaned on one arm.
"Shit," Lux said and she quickly got up. She helped Raphael move over to the side of the cabinet so she could treat his wound. To be able to heal his injury Lux needed him to remove his tailcoat, waistcoat, and dress shirt. It was a slow process, but it still made Raphael exhausted.
Lux found it weird that she was alone with a shirtless stranger in a dim lit room. Though he appeared scrawny with his uniform on, Raphael looked to be very fit. With his short, but still flowing blond hair and his soft blue eyes, he would have been the perfect cover model for a cheesy romance book. He would definitely rustle the jimmies of several grandmothers who liked that kind of literature.
"Alright, get ready for some peroxide," Lux said, but Raphael grabbed the bottle from her.
"Not yet," he said. He bent over with much toil and took out the knife that was hidden on the side of his boot. Holding the tip of the blade, he handed the hilt side to Lux. She stared at it briefly with a look of total perplexity.
"What do I do with this?" she asked him.
"You have to remove the bullet first."
"Remove a bullet?" she stammered and looked around nervously; hoping that maybe someone else would volunteer. Seeing how the room was empty, this was useless.
"I was shot."
"By a gun?"
"Yes Lux, by a gun," Raphael said and he let out a sigh. "Lord Icis shot me with a gun."
"You have guns here?"
"No. They were smuggled here illegally from Novus. Antiquus doesn't have weapons of Novus's caliber."
Lux shook her head and said: "What's Antiquus?"
"It's the continent you and I are on now. This kingdom, Exercitus, is a small portion of the continent Antiquus."
Lux rose up to grab a cloth from the counter and dunked it in a bucket of water. She rung it out until the towel was damp and slowly rubbed away the blood on Raphael's wound. The wound started just above the left side of his pelvis, but was just on the edge. Any further right and the bullet would have ruptured something for sure. Lux then checked his back.
"There's no exit wound," he said to her. "That's why I need you to remove the bullet before you close it up."
Luxina grabbed the hilt of the knife and gripped it as firm as she could. She had suddenly become tense which was more or less expected. She had never cut into human flesh with a knife before, let alone perform surgery. She brought the blade closer to the wound, but Raphael put his hand on the hilt.
"Be careful," he whispered. "I know you can do it." He then rested his arms at his side and put his head back. He closed his eyes as he prepared for the intense pain.
With sweat rolling down her nose, Lux tried to concentrate on the opening. The blood was still flowing out at a steady pace, but it had slowed down quite a bit since the bullet first pierced his skin. She knew that one slip could potentially cause her to cut an organ, which didn't make her job any easier. She had played surgery video games back at home, but was terrible at them.
Lux rested the tip of the knife on Raphael's skin. He felt the cold blade and tightened his eyes to get ready. Once Lux inserted the knife in his wound, Raphael inhaled a sharp stream of air. This caused her to panic and shake even more. She removed one hand from the knife's hilt to wipe off the sweat that slowly beaded down her face.
It didn't take her long to get to the end of the wound. The blade stopped at a solid object. She maneuvered the knife a bit so that she could use the serrations on the blade to roll the bullet out easier. Raphael balled his hands into a fist but would not move. This made the procedure almost effortless. Using her free hand, Lux cupped it under the wound so she could catch the bullet.
She expected a small pellet to emerge from the bloody mess, but a modern bullet revealed itself to her. "Whoa," she said and she quickly grabbed the bloodied towel to wipe it off. Though she was no expert on firearms, she recognized the bullet in her hand to be that of a 9 millimeter. "What kind of gun did this guy have?"
"Less talking, more mending please," Raphael said bluntly.
Lux dropped the bullet and used the towel to wipe away more blood. His blood was now flowing faster which meant that Lux had to get him wrapped up post-haste. She wadded up a couple of cotton balls to make a super cotton ball of sorts and poured on the peroxide.
"Here goes," she said just before she swabbed the super ball of fluff on the wound. Raphael remained quiet and calm through all the stinging and burning. Lux watched in awe as the peroxide foamed and bubbled. It was sort of like lava.
Lux grabbed another clean towel and folded it over Raphael's wound. She used the gauze to put pressure and hold the towel in place. While it was a little weird and embarrassing, Luxina reached around Raphael's body and finished the job. She then assisted him in dressing himself again. His clothes were still wet with his own blood but he had no other choice but to wear them.
Raphael, with the aid of Lux, cautiously rose to his feet. He was still feeling feeble, but he knew he had to get out of the Palace of Kings. If not, he always had Lux to escape with the stone.
"Now, to answer your previous question," Raphael said, "I have no idea. I guess it's a standard law enforcement pistol from Yousa."
"What's…Yousa?" Lux said.
"It's a country on the continent of Novus. It's probably the most progressive country, but it's controlled by corporations, money, and something called media. Anyway, Icis received this pistol as a gift from some politician over there. I have no idea why, however."
"Yousa sounds a lot like where I lived on Earth," Lux said. "Did this politician give out any more guns? I mean, essentially Icis could supply his entire army with modern weapons and destroy this place."
"He could, yes, but importing masses of weapons from Yousa would throw up a red flag over there. It's also illegal to bring a variety of goods over here from Yousa. And I could see firearms being a harsher import punishment than something like cigarettes or those silver, helical spring objects that bounce down the stairs."
"You mean a Slinky?"
"I think that's what they're called," Raphael said as he put his knife back in his boot. "I don't see what all the fuss is about with those things. I could certainly never get mine to descend a staircase"
Lux smiled and said, "Are you a Slinky smuggler?"
"If you're implying that I smuggle in illegal goods, I'm afraid not," Raphael said with an offended tone. "I just came from a very wealthy family where money bought objects abroad. Between the hundreds of Slinkys and the thousands of pills my parents bought to keep me sedated, they could have served life in prison if they were caught."
"Usually it's the poor that run off with hordes of bad guys," Lux said, mostly without thinking. "Why would someone like you run off with Icis?"
"I'd rather not talk about it." Now the girl was getting annoying. Raphael was starting to regret bringing her along. While it might seem odd to you, my reader, Slinkys brought back horrid memories that Raphael always kept at the back of his sick, fragile mind. And reminders of his parents? Doubly so.
"Where did you live?" she said.
Raphael turned to face her and snapped, through gritted teeth: "I said I do not want to talk about it." He turned around immediately to avoid any more questioning. Lux just remained hushed and glared at Raphael.
I need to learn everything about this man, she thought. Luxina had always had an intense curiosity in the lives others had. She knew that everyone had a story to tell, a secret to say, a memory to express. She herself knew that all too well there was almost never someone who wanted to listen.
After a brief pause of gauche silence, Raphael finally said: "Come. We need to get out of here as soon as possible." Lux lined herself up behind Raphael as they approached the hallway with caution.
"Where are we going?" she asked quietly as they scanned the hallway for any guards.
"We need to get to the commons," he said as he exited the kitchen left. He kept his back to the wall, so Lux decided it was probably best to do the same. Raphael peeked over the corner and saw that the Great Hall was devoid of any life. He motioned Lux to follow him and they quietly walked down the huge hall.
Raphael ducked behind a statue and faced Lux. "We have two choices here. We can take this hall all the way down into the foyer, or we can take the breezeway. You watch the hall while I go out on the breezeway and investigate."
Lux nodded her head as Raphael took off through a door. He kept himself crouched and stayed against the wall. The moon was shining so brightly, which made Raphael thankful that the breezeway had a ceiling above it. He hugged the wall and kept weary of the huge windows that exposed him in the throne room. It was pitch dark in there, but Raphael knew too well that Lord Icis's men were trained to hide out in the shadows.
Noises were echoing throughout the breezeway, so he treaded carefully. He discovered that the noises were cheers that came from the big gazebo. He got closer to see Lord Icis and his brother on stage. The battalion was seated in front of him. They must have been celebrating their victory.
"Quiet down," Lyone said. "Lord Icis would like to speak." The battalion became silent in an instant. Lord Icis walked up center stage with an arrogant expression on his face. Raphael had a burning desire to punch it, but he also knew that would cause a multitude of inconveniences to his plan (not that he had much of one, anyway).
"Gentlemen, tonight is a benchmark in the future of Exercitus," Icis said. Hearing his cold, but boisterous voice gave him a warm feeling inside. It also expanded his ego to be the size of a blimp. "Tonight, a new world order will emerge. While there is only two hundred of you here tonight, rest assured that the rest of the men when be arriving at some point. Regardless of size, you are all a big part of this formula."
The men began to cheer and Lord Icis soaked in the moment. Soaking in the ovations like water, Icis's ego became the size of a Graf Zeppelin. He held up his hands and commanded silence once more, which he received immediately. He turned to Lyone and asked: "How many casualties do we have on record?"
Lyone looked to the side in disgust. Just thinking of Raphael made him want to throw up. "We had no deaths, my lord. We did have one defect, as you know."
"While I want you to rest easy tonight, my men," Lord Icis said with a serious tone, "I need all of you to keep on the lookout for Raphael Versailles. While we succeeded in slaying King Aramis, we lost his stone. If you do find Raphael, kill him straightaway and then take the stone. Do not touch that stone with your bare hands for it will cause a slow and painful death."
This, my reader, was a blatant lie. Raphael even believed it, which is why he kept his gloves on when handling it and wrapped it for Lux to hold in the prison cell. Only Lord Icis knew the truth about the stone and, in time, you will as well, reader.
"Of course, I do have a gift for all of you," Lord Icis announced to his men. Lyone disappeared for a second behind the stage and emerged with an object that was wrapped by a cloth. He handed it to Icis.
"Like I said, today is the beginning of a new world order," he said to the men while holding the object. "But, it also means that today is the end of a monarchy put in place by petty gods. I believe that this will help us reflect on this victory."
Lyone walked over to a short flag pole which flew the flag of Exercitus. He removed the flag and burned it with a lighter. Icis then removed the cloth from the object and it was revealed to be King Aramis's head on a pike. Icis placed the spike on the flag pole while his battalion cheered. Raphael watched his brother in disgust as the flame illuminated his eyes.
Then it happened. The two brothers made eye contact. This caused Raphael's heart to jump and he took off. Lyone just watched in the distance and said nothing.
Luxina had been watching for any sign of the enemy carefully. She was so entranced in this job that she jumped when Raphael finally showed up. "What took you so long?" she said to him. He looked terrified.
"Nothing," he said and he grabbed Lux's wrist. "All I know is that we have to go."
"Were you spotted?" Lux said with some difficultly. Raphael was practically pulling her for her feet would not move fast enough.
"My brother saw me."
The two continued to run down the hall until they came to a turning point which led straight to the foyer door. Lux looked at the extravagant architecture, but she didn't have much time to revel in it. Before she knew it, the two were in the commons. It seemed like a cozy place.
Raphael stopped suddenly, which caused Lux to ram into his back and fall over. "What did you do that for?" she asked and she rubbed her head. She regained sight and saw a young man standing by a statue. He was glaring at Raphael.
"You," the young man said. The young man had brown hair that hung just above his eye brows. His eyes seemed to be an unremarkable brown color, but Lux found him a little attractive. He also had an accent that would have been an equivalent to that of a British gentleman on the planet Earth.
Raphael unsheathed his rapier, which indicated to Lux that shit was about to get real. The young man just stood there and seemed petrified. He took a small lock pick off his belt.
"Don't come any closer, boy," Raphael said.
"I won't," he said, but added: "At least I won't if you hand over that stone."
Lux got up and tried to look as courageous as Raphael. "What do you want that stone for, huh?" she said sternly. She didn't know what stone he was talking about, but she definitely didn't want to miss out on the action.
"I need that stone for a client," the young man said. Though he was aware of how foolish he looked wielding a tiny lock pick, he knew that he still had a job to do.
"Who are you?" Raphael said.
"My name is Landon Strider," he replied. "I'm a thief. Now give me that stone!"
In a fearless move, Landon jumped up on a couch that separated the two from his and leapt on top of Raphael. Being in a better situation than they last met, Raphael moved out of the way. He grabbed Landon's shirt collar and slammed the thief on the floor. Using his foot to keep him pinned, Raphael pointed the blade of his sword towards Landon's neck.
Raphael's plan was to slit his throat, but Lux grabbed onto his left arm to keep him from offing the boy.
"Don't kill him," Lux said and looked up at Raphael. "We just met the kid and your first instinct is to kill him?"
"But he tried to attack us," Raphael said and he removed the blade from his throat.
"The only weapon he has is a pointy stick thing," Lux said and she smiled at Landon. She held her hand out to Landon and helped him stand up.
"It's actually a lock pick," Landon said to her, but his words were lost in the argument.
"He could be working for Lord Icis," Raphael said through gritted teeth. "Hell, his client could be an even viler man than Icis."
"That doesn't matter," Lux replied. "We can just sort all that crap out later. Seeing how he's stuck here with us, we should all help each other out."
"Great idea," Landon said. While he didn't have a desire to follow around the weird girl and the angry man, he did want to stay alive. He figured that they were his best bet in doing so.
Raphael knew he was the minority in this one, so he gave in. By nature, Raphael didn't take being wrong very well, so he said nothing to admit his defeat. He simply sheathed his rapier at his side and crossed his arms.
"Let's go then," Lux said with enthusiasm.
"Uh, not yet," Landon said as he put his lock pick back on his tool belt. "I have to wait for my ferret, Ponzi. He should be here any minute now."
"You have a ferret?" Lux said and her eyes lit up. Back at home, Lux had four ferrets, all of which she loved. She couldn't wait to see Landon's. It would be the first familiar thing she would have seen since arriving there, besides the bullet.
"Yeah," Landon said and, right at that moment, he saw Ponzi come from upstairs. He was carrying a felt bag that looked to be filled with contents. He scooped up the bag and the ferret crawled up his shoulder. He eagerly opened the bag and started to examine the contents. Inside were several jewels and an odd looking gun. He pulled it out to get a closer look.
"Another gun?" Lux said. It looked rather odd to her. Unbeknownst to her, it was almost exactly like a Mauser, an antique German gun one can find on Earth.
"This must have been the King's," Landon said as he remembered how defenseless the king was against Lord Icis.
"If only he had that," Raphael interjected, "then he might have had a chance against Icis."
Landon inspected it closer. The gun was odd looking, with a long, thin barrel and a broom handle. There was also a red V on the grip. "It looks like something from Urpae."
"What's Urpae?" Lux asked.
"It's an alliance of different countries, Lux" Raphael said. "It's way northwest of here." The Urpae Union was also the location of the country Raphael was born in. That country was called Virnum. Though not as advanced as Yousa, Virnum and the surrounding countries were years above Exercitus in warfare, education, and literature.
Landon found a couple of clips with bullets still present on them. "Do you want this?" he asked Raphael.
Raphael shook his head. "I have no need for one," he said. What the other two didn't know was that the gun Landon was holding was Raphael's father's gun. In fact, it was the gun Lyone would usually tote around. It was even the gun that someone used to kill their father. Lyone asked for the gun in exchange of allowing Raphael to join Icis, rather than rot in a Virnum prison.
"I'll take it," Lux said. "It looks neat." Landon handed her the gun and the clips he had. She shoved those in her back pocket and held the gun in her hands. Landon emptied out the spoils Ponzi had brought him and handed her the bag.
"Here," he said, "use this to hold the gun in."
Luxina stuffed the gun in the bag and used the ties on the end to fasten it to one of her belt loops. She would have to find a gun sling later.
"There should be a secret entrance here somewhere," Landon said and he swapped the contents in his bag for a map.
"It's under the statue there," Raphael said and he pointed at the marble statue Landon had been standing in front of moments ago. Landon put the map back in his satchel and walked over to it. The others followed.
Landon tried to push the statue aside alone, but Raphael aided him when the job seemed too difficult. Not wanting to be left out, Lux joined them in maneuvering the oversized ornament. What was underneath was a wooden door. There was a lock on it, which Landon sprang on straightaway. It was compromised in a matter of seconds.
Removing the door revealed a ladder, but the group could see nothing else. Landon untied a small lantern he kept around his waist and used a match to light it. He could now see a solid terrain below, but nothing else.
"I'll go first," Raphael said. "Landon, hold the light out for me so I can see a little." And thus, Raphael descended the ladder. Once he made it to the bottom, he lit his own match. Raphael scanned the room the best he could and found no issues. He motioned the duo to come down. Landon let Lux go first.
While nervous, Lux slowly went down the ladder. It wasn't the sturdiest thing in the world, but she made it safely below. She looked up to see Landon with his lantern tied around his waist. He had already started to make his climb down, but he made sure to close the door first.
Once they all were on the same level, Landon removed his lantern once again. "Do you know what's down here?" he asked Raphael.
"No idea," he answered. "We were just instructed to take this route if we ran into problems during the raid." He blew out his match once he felt the blaze's heat graze his fingers.
"On the map my client gave me, this route just goes straight," Landon said. "After navigating through the sewers, this place should be a piece of cake."
"Where does it lead?" Lux said.
"It leads to the Temple of Raidan, ones of the divines," Raphael said. "That's also where I need to return the stone."
"But I need that!" Landon shouted.
"Don't you understand, boy?" Raphael said and he grabbed him by the collar and looked him straight in the eyes. "That stone is supposed to be in that temple. If you or I touch it with our bare hands, we would die instantly. It needs to be taken to the temple so it can be put in its place and never bothered again. If Icis was able to drain its power the way he did one of the other stones, he could become unstoppable."
Raphael dropped Landon who just stayed quiet. Landon was frozen in fear. Raphael just cleared his throat and said, "We need to get going before we get caught."
Raphael began to walk towards the darkness and drew his sword. Luxina nudged Landon and he recovered from his frozen fear. Following closely behind the swordsman, our hero and the thief walked forward to uncertainty while Lord Icis prepared his next move.