Episode 94: Story revised once again

Turns out you can’t submit a play or something in play format to a short story contest. Here is the most updated version. I’m almost at the limit for word count but welcome any and all input. Much appreciated.

 

A Bridge Too Far

The light of the half-moon is barely noticeable next to the campfire. Three figures come together over a makeshift table to plan that with a bit of ingenuity and luck might just qualify as a suicide mission rather than a waste of time. Their de facto leader, Mikufu is the first to break the silence with a voice filled with hope and determination. “We’ve been planning this for days and considering our options, we have the best chance of anything if we follow the plan.” A second voice chimes in with a humorous tone to alleviate the tension as Juan tries to take the spotlight for himself, like he always does. “I know a one in a million chance is better than nothing but you have to admit that this will probably get us all killed.” The seriousness of Inamoca’s response brings them back on track with the subtlety of a guillotine. “Agreed. However, at least this way we die fighting rather than running, hiding, and waiting to die.”

The two men share an awkward glance as Mikufu brings their planning session to order. “On that cheery note, let’s go over everything once again. We need to make sure we haven’t missed anything. Juan, some magical visual aids, if you please.”

“You know I insist that you refer to me by my full title unless we are at a time of duress where syllable efficiency is required. Juan Antonio Vega de la Mancha, Sorcerer Extraordinaire. But, since you asked so nicely I will make an exception and let proper procedures of protocol lapse.”

The table fills with an incandescent light that aids in illuminating our protagonists. Juan’s clean-shaven face and well-kept golden locks shine brightly as his nimble hands shape the light into a model of the city’s bay with the bridge that connects it to the capitol’s tiny island. Inamoca’s eyes roll upwards momentarily as they usually do instinctively from many of Juan’s lines as she brushes her brown hair off her still muddy face. Mikufu surveys the illusionary model with care as his coarse dark curls almost reflect the additional illumination. He strokes the stubble of his chin for a few seconds before he gives his thumbs up and directs his attention to the other two.

“I see you are still wearing camouflage even in the safest camp we can find.”

“You didn’t mind it when it when it helped me evade and outflank those crazy bandits with those exotic weapons on our first mission as a team.” Inamoca’s sense of preparation often bordered on paranoia but the lives the trio led made it very practical. “Besides, Virgilio already told us that our recent fame has brought about unwanted attention.”

“Ugh. I still have nightmares about that ripsaw glaive echoing through the marsh. Besides, I think we are all forgetting that it was my sleep spell that incapacitated half of them.” Chimed in Juan.

“Let’s not turn into another night of the supposed ‘Amazing Adventures of Juan and friends’, as you like to call them, good buddy.” Said Mikufu as he tries to get back to the task at hand. “Okay, the bridge was finished a week ago but it does not become officially open for use by the public until after the ceremony with the governor. Luckily, he is still out of the island and in Spain.”

“Probably talking over with King Ferdinand how to impose more taxes and further limiting the financial growth of individual entrepreneurs.” Interrupted Juan once again, almost impressed with himself that his string of long words made sense.

“Juan, are you still mad about losing the gold mine? It was in my ancestral people’s homeland and I don’t even care that much about it.” Inamoca was not fond of pity parties. Her taíno warrior upbringing was largely devoid of complaints so they are still surprising to hear.

“The mine wasn’t that important but all the gold inside it was. Usually you go into the old abandoned caves, fight a few monsters, and maybe find a few things here and there but this was filled to the brim in that hidden chamber we uncovered. I was even going to do a fair split of 60/20/20 with you.” Juan’s arrogance was shortly exchanged with a sense of defeat. “Eminent domain laws don’t work like that.”

“Yeah, Bjorn Bjornson insisted the whole vein was worth at least 100,000 gold coins. Not to mention that magical artifact that we never figured out how it worked. Getting closure on that is one of the reasons we are we even considering this mission.” Mikufu segued the topic of conversation back to the mission.

“Regardless, without the governor present it falls unto Lieutenant Governor Pepe to do a final inspection of the bridge. Which he will be doing tomorrow.” Inamoca said this as she points at the illusory structure.

“Correct. If we want to be heard and make sure that real changes happen for the people of Puerto Rico, we need to talk to him, since he has power and he doesn’t have to grovel at Ferdinand’s table for a few more scraps.” Mikufu’s voice rose with disgust momentarily but he regained his composure. “Normally, he only goes out with a small squadron of elite crossbow men and infantry.”

“None of which can outshoot me and my bow.” Interrupted the female archer. “And yet, enough of them can prove to be deadly.”

“I still have the scars to prove it from our last skirmish with a few of them.” Juan reentered the conversation with his favorite topic, himself.

“I thought Ernesto healed you up with his divine powers or something.” Wondered Mikufu.

“First off, he did so reluctantly. He wanted to use all of his ‘lay on hands’ powers on little miss archery over here. Secondly, magic healing can’t cover up a whole wound, there is always a freckle or blemish at minimum. My flawless skin is getting one step further from perfection after every outing we go on.”

“Honestly, I’d prefer the squadron over what we will be facing. Pepe has a private meeting with some adviser to the crown.” Mikufu redirected the topic once again.

“Any reconnaissance on the old guy?” Asked Inamoca.

Juan responds in a rare moment of seriousness: “He is either a nobody or someone who takes careful measures that no one finds out anything. None of my contacts have a clue as to who he is.”

“He is an unknown threat to the plan but no worse than the one person whom we all have a grudge against. Elena and her giant bird are giving Pepe and the mystery man an aerial tour of the bridge before they land.” Mikufu said this with a combination of fear and hatred.

“I thought it was a dire eagle.” Inamoca inquired with an honest interest in ornithology.

Juan responds: “No, this is definitely a roc. You can tell by the fact that it’s as big as a house and the shape of its talons.”

“Are you sure?” Mikufu wondered.

“Come on! I’m the Juan man you can count on for all things about giant monsters.”

Inamoca sighs: “Are you still trying to turn that into your catchphrase?”

“That’s enough ‘pun’ishment from both of you.” Mikufu let a quick smirk escape his countenance. “Back to business. Rocs are big and bad but they aren’t invincible. Elena on the other hand might just be. I don’t have to remind you how lethal she can be.”

“She struck the ground and a column of fire appeared, killing Iñigo in one fell swoop.” Inamoca’s pride drooped as she relived the memory.

“Even if the guy was a selfish bastard that was certainly no way to go.” As shallow as Juan is, he is not immune to grief.

“If nothing else, we go to avenge a fallen friend. We are all a lot stronger and much better equipped than when she took him out.” Their leader’s voice boomed with reassurance.

“She has a lot to answer for. Killing Iñigo…” Her voice trailed off.

“Taking my, I mean, OUR gold.” Said Juan quickly correcting himself.

Mikufu’s gaze remains unsettled. “Putting all those new laws that make it so that native taínos (looks to Inamoca) magic users (looks to Juan), and even freed slaves (looks down at the chains that make up his armor) are legally treated even worse than they are now.”

“Not to mention that she broke your heart, buddy.”

“Juan?!? That’s when she was undercover as a barmaid. Long before we knew she was an Imperial Hellknight who thinks that the only way to bring order to something is by setting fire to it and then building from scratch on top of the smoldering ruins of what once laid there.”

Inamoca looks on quizzically: “Wait, I thought she was pretending to be a hooker?”

“A common misconception. We just assumed that whoever would want to voluntarily have sex with Mikufu expects to be paid for her services beforehand.” Juan responded in a professorial manner.

Mikufu shouts with noticeable blushing “Anyway! We all have plenty of reasons for wanting to take her out. Tomorrow might be our only chance to make some good for the island and get some well-deserved revenge in the process.”

“All we have to do is get to the middle of the bridge without alerting the forts at each end too soon and we will have a chance.” Said Inamoca.

“Right. One chance to catch them by surprise out in the open. All we have to do is kill a bitch with impenetrable armor and a super magical sword plus her monstrous feathered friend first.” Juan’s humor could not hide his worries. “Explain to me again how we aren’t going to die horribly before the rounds of combat even start.”

Mikufu responds with coy defiance. “By taking your dad’s boat, which you have so graciously volunteered, and pretending to be fishing at the mouth of the bay until the right moment to strike, go across the river and ram directly into the bridge itself.”

“See, if you are going to describe sailing into our probable demise you need to say it with a bit more dramatic flair. It’s what separates the eccentric underdogs from the crazy idiots who won’t last six seconds.” Juan said as he regains his signature smile.

“Shame we can’t use Captain Correa’s boat.” Stated Inamoca with disappointment. “A galleon like that would cause some serious damage to the bridge and give us a fighting chance.”

“Maybe, but its size would also give us a way too quickly. The bigger the boat, the harder it is to be inconspicuous.” Said Mikufu reminding everyone that strategy trumps brute force.

“That’s right, buddy. Keep telling yourself that size is inversely proportional to performance.” Said Juan reminding everyone that low brow jokes trump everything as even Inamoca can’t help but giggle at this comment.

“We can get official confirmation about that from your mother later. Right now, we have a mission to plan.” Mikufu’s verbal riposte was immediate and silencing to the point that Juan only did a slow clap of respect.

“We’ll be going upstream to get there. We can’t count on natural wind. Good thing we still have those fan feather tokens from those pirates we stopped a while back.” Inamoca knew how to make her arrows get to their intended destination, no matter what. When all you have is a bow, your problems start to look like targets.

“Their magic is temporary but it will be more than enough for us to get some decent speed in no time.” Claimed the sorcerer as if this were elementary arithmetic.

“Once we see that the eagle has landed we make our run for it. With any luck, the surprise and confusion will be enough for them to not fly off or give the forts a speedy counter attack opportunity.” Said the chained warrior with trepidation.

“Then we kill Elena and the bird.” The archer continued with a hint of bloodlust.

“And I use my gift of oratory to convince Pepe and the old man that we are on their side. He’ll then give the order for the soldiers to stand down and we can talk about reversing some laws over tea.” Juan mentioned this with the pride of being the most important cog in the process.

“But if your silver tongue can’t do the job, we’ll just have an old fashioned hostage situation where we can escape with our lives.” Responded Inamoca as if the danger meant nothing.

“Come on. Did I or did I not single handedly convince that girl to be bait for that masquerade party where we killed those vampires?”

“Juan, please stop referring to that poor girl as “bait”. Her name was Betty and she almost died in the process. Plus, I’m still convinced you used your abhorrent magic to do the job.”

“Everyone calm down.” Said their leader as he tried once again to keep the trio’s emotions in check. “First off, I got to give it to Juan, that move was pretty sweet. Second, I know you have never really cared about the anti-magical sentiments of society but shouldn’t you be more worried about the whole ‘all magic is from devils and mages should be jailed’ mentality and laws that are coming out?”

“Hey, I can be naturally enchanting as much as I need to. Besides, magic comes up in a lot of ways in people. For most, they are born with it, having been descendants of something beyond the Material Plane that manifests itself through being able to use magic. My bloodline is particularly awesome and that is the root of all my powers.”

“That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Trust me; I’ve known him since we were both kids.”

“Fine.” Groaned Inamoca. “So, we have a boat, the means to move it, the three of us, and some kind of plan. Any other resources, at our disposal?”

“Ernesto is still helping Ana at the cathedral. Even after we stopped that zombie outbreak the people are still close to a collective panic. At least, they sent their whole supply of healing potions.” Mikufu pointed at a satchel full of oddly shaped bottles. “Ina, were you able to convince any of your tribe’s people to join the cause?”

“No, they are now more entrenched than ever to make a stand at the mountains if any Spaniards are stupid enough to try to take away what little lands we have left. I heard Bjorn has offered his services to them. First time taínos and Prussians have worked together in recorded history from what I can figure. Juan, any news from Virgilio?”

“Not since he left the island with Carmen. Imperial soldiers already consider him a traitor for helping us out before so I don’t blame him for leaving. Besides, the man is on his honeymoon. I can’t in good faith ask him to fall short on his marital duties to help us.”

“And every mayor we helped before is too scared to repay the favor after they signed those petition amendments to change the laws without bloodshed.” Mikufu slammed his fist into the makeshift table, almost splintering it. “It’s like we gave the governor a list of everyone in power that he can’t trust.”

Inamoca sensed his anger and wanted to end their meeting. “So it’s settled. At dawn, we take the boat and begin our mission. We may die, but we’ll take as many of those Spanish bastards as we can.”

“Normally I’d take offense to that but I will make another rare exception.” Said the sorcerer with clear Spaniard ancestry. “With wanted papers of us everywhere on the island, it’s only a matter of time before they catch us. And if we survive, we’ll be heroes to all. Classic case of high risk versus high rewards.”

“If we die, we will still be heroes and our example will inspire the people regardless.” Mikufu regained his hopeful demeanor. “Let’s get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day.”

The next day, our not so merry band of protagonists try their luck at feigning to fish as the noon tropical sun and humid air make it so that sitting in the shade is sweat inducing labor. Their small sailing vessel lies anchored at bay close hand to the river. Any captain worth his sea legs knows this is a horrible place to catch dinner, but these three are casting their hooks out for something far more important.

Mikufu stares attentively at the horizon but takes a moment to relax his gaze and wipe the sweat off his brow. “Anything on the lookout, Ina?”

“Bridge is clear and no activity on either side.” She takes her keen eye off the spyglass and looks back towards her shipmates, making sure not to lose her balance from the current position of almost being the figurehead. “I still can’t believe you stole this boat.”

“Look, the boat is my dad’s, I just didn’t know that he used it as collateral for some card game and he lost it.” Juan adjusts his oversized sombrero, revealing his face and overly blinking eyes as he looks about. “Temporarily, I may add. Besides I didn’t steal it, WE commandeered it in the name of the magnificent revolution that is soon to come.”

“Revolutions are built on a foundation of blood and destruction. We are not here to force feed nobles to the guillotine. Just taking some momentary extreme measures to get the hearts and minds of the people ready to make about their own change.” Mikufu’s grip on the wheel slackens as he notices that Juan has a mound of trash next to him. “Please tell me those aren’t spell components.”

“No, I don’t even need those. This is just what I’ve caught today.”

“You’ve actually been fishing?!” Inamoca said being unable to hide her surprise.

“What? You said to act casual. I am a method actor and take my roles seriously. Thus, I cast my hook and see what bounties the sea bestows upon me. Mostly it’s just old boots, some tin cans, and this shell. And yes, I detected magic on all of them just in case, no dice.”

“Look alive, boys. I think the bird has reached the nest. Juan, hoist that anchor. Miku, get those fan tokens ready.” She gave the orders, moving swiftly on deck and unfurling the sails as her nimble yet calloused hands effortlessly undo the knots.

“Armor and weapons ready.” Mikufu pats the sheathed daggers, counts the potions in multiple pockets, and has his trusty flail at the ready. He pulls the tiny fan figurines from a murky bracelet. “The second we hit the bridge it’s going to be a brawl.”

Juan responds while struggling to pull up the anchor, his soft grip barely holding on to the rope. “Magical buffs already up. Urgh. Screw this.” He let go of the rope, and conjures some acid to splatter on the heavy bindings to burn them away. “Like we really needed an anchor.”

Mikufu turns the vessel into the river and throws the magical tokens upwards. The ship rapidly gathers speed as enchanted winds spur the sails onward. The natural movement of the water does little to impede their progress.

“We probably won’t make it through this so I should say this quickly before I no longer have a chance. Juan, I hate you. Miku, you are tolerable. But you have been good when things get tough and dangerous. Gentlemen, it’s been an honor.” Said Inamoca as the boat was getting to its target.

“Awwww. Ditto, darling.” Responded Juan in typical joking fashion.

“Save those last words for later. Everyone hang on, this isn’t going to be pretty.”

“And here I thought you were gentle when it came to ramming maneuvers.”

The ship barrels up the river. The three people on the bridge start realizing that something is about to go wrong. Even the gargantuan bird recognizes that danger is afoot as it starts taking flight. The impact from the boat shakes the foundation of the bridge, making all those standing lay flat on the ground. Elena, the woman in the heavily spiked plate armor, tumbles through the fall and is quickly on her feet. The bridge looks scratched and bruised as the boat crashes and becomes debris. Mikufu and Juan leap at the right moment and maneuver acrobatically through the air, the former landing awkwardly but without injury. Inamoca just hops off from the top of the mast right before the crash.

“Stay behind me, gentlemen. This trio of criminals is here to hurt you.” Elena warns them as she draws her claymore with her right arm and brings a bottle to her lips with her left. Having drunk its contents, she throws the bottle off the side of the bridge and adds to the flotsam of the wreckage.

“Actually, we just want to have a civil conversation.” Mikufu dusts himself off, adjusts the shield on his left forearm and readies his flail.

“But only after we hurt you, Elena. Time to pay for what you have done to us. As quickly as Inamoca said these words, she pulls two arrows from her longbow’s string and hits the roc.

“So, Mr. Lieutenant Governor Pepe and Mr. Mysterious Old Man if you give us a moment, we will take care of this little situation post-haste and then we can speak in private. Please stick around in the meantime. Now, if you’ll excuse us this kind of reunion requires something to start a celebration.” With a snap of Juan’s fingers a minor explosion of confetti bursts in front of the bird and Elena. Colorful scraps fly through the air and get stuck to all those present.

The roc is surprised and blinded by the chromatic explosion. It remains in flight, hovering off the bridge, but unsure of where her targets lie. She barely picks out the scent of the descendant of Africa as she lunges her massive beak at Mikufu. He barely dodges the attack but is able to counter with a heavy blow to the side of the beast’s head.

“No one hurts Miss Pitirre. No one!” Elena grips the hilt of her large sword even tighter as the pitch of her voice drops several octaves. Her armor, sword, and herself swell and expand until in a matter of seconds the almost petite woman is now the size of a small giant. “Prepare to die.” She charges directly at Mikufu, the blade finds a gap in his chainmail from which he starts bleeding in his side. “Burn!” The blade burns in a red light that explodes in a column of flames. Only Pepe and the mysterious old man are not caught in the area of effect. As quickly as the fire came it disappears.

Mikufu’s wound has been cauterized but is now covered in burns. Juan seems to have also taken the full force of the flames but his body barely shows any signs of damage. Elena shows similar singes but is mostly unhurt, an amazing sight considering that she was at the center of the blast. Miss Pitirre was also affected by the vertical dimensions of this flame strike and has taken some damage to its massive frame as well. Inamoca looks unscathed as she barely jumps out of the way at the last instant.

“Somebody enjoys a little too much collateral damage.” She sends a triple volley of arrows straight at her adversary but they all bounce off her white enameled armor. “I’ll get you for what you did to me, to my friends, and my people you ethnocentric imperial swine.”

“I cannot believe that you actually got a potion of ‘enlarge bitch’. That’s a pretty rare spell. Plus, you used the same tactic you used on Iñigo, that won’t work on me. So why don’t you just stay still and let’s just say you lost now. Deal?” Juan moved his hands as if to enrapture Elena’s mind and body. She shudders but is able to turn right at her magical aggressor and give him an intimidating glare even through her helm. “Oops.”

Pepe and the still unidentified man keep their distance from the melee as the younger of the two looks at the edge of the bridge as an invitation for a possible escape route. The other grabs his arm and motions him to stay still. The jovial old man in a barely audible whisper compels him to stick around just a little bit longer and not to worry. The roc flies into the river, for even in its relatively shallow depths it can ease the burning and wash off whatever colorful fragments impede its vision.

“You thought you could invade my mind and stop me!” Her booming voice makes Juan’s knees buckle with fear and his guileful grin now quivers with fear. “You mages once held so much power and you almost blew up half the planet in your quest for more. Your magic can let you resist fire, let’s see if you can resist steel as I smite your chaotic mind back to the hells your powers come from!” Completely ignoring Mikufu, Elena charges with towering blade overhand directly at Juan. Putting all her weight behind the strike, the edge cuts down from his right shoulder and halfway down his torso. Had the slash been a bit to either direction he would have lost his arm or his skull cleaved but Juan was lucky. He was injured grievously but he was still alive, for now.

“That was my best friend you slaving tease!” Mikufu was still reeling from his own wounds as he shouted in vain. He took a healing potion from his belt and drank it. The bleeding had stopped and the pain had dulled but he knew that one good enough strike from his armored adversary would leave him even worse than Juan.

“You may kill all of us but I will take you down with me.” Inamoca focused on her hated enemy with one arrow and is able to get a direct hit to a small armor gap in her right hip. “Why not try taking a stab at me?” She said this with defiance as she walked further back, stretching the distance between the two.

Juan coughs up blood before falling to his knees and eventually collapsing face first in silence. Pepe no longer cowers as he sees that this new bodyguard that the higher ups commissioned for him would get the job done. His mind wanders and he asks out loud what Elena said about blowing up half the planet. Again, the answer comes with a whisper. “This new generation is so quick to forget. You know how the lands of the Germans, Prussians, and Ottomans do not expand east for there is a vast wasteland of shadows and death. Thousands of years ago, the most powerful mages went there with a mystical artifact. Their experiment went horribly wrong and the arcane apocalypse almost killed everyone and left that land and neighboring ocean in ruins. If memory serves, they called that place, Asia.”

“And so ‘princess Inamoca of the natives’ remains unhurt. You think your precious ‘baira’ or whatever you call your archery can get you out of any trouble.” Elena shakes off Juan’s excess blood from the blade as she turns to face Inamoca “Why can’t you recognize that you should just stay down and accept that the colonizers now rule you no matter what you do? Pray to your false mountain gods and witness how they fail to save you. Time to exterminate another pest!” She charges recklessly once again but her blow misses any flesh as Inamoca barely dodges the blow. “You can evade steel but do you have the same luck with talons?”

Elena whistled an odd tune. Within seconds the roc flies up and snatches Inamoca from the ground. It continues its upward trajectory. She remembers when her father taught her how eagles eat tortoises. They pick them up, fly to the sky, and let them fall unto the sharp rocks, to then feast on the shattered remains. She believes that this is now her destiny.

“Don’t think you’ve won just yet.” With Elena being distracted, Mikufu runs at her. Rather than strike her directly, he aims for large sword, and disarms her of it. He uses the momentum of the flail to swing the sword into the river. “Hope it doesn’t rust.” He started to chuckle but was immediately punched in the face by Elena. Several other blows rain down upon him but his armor absorbs most of the impact.

With reinvigorated anger, Elena proceeds to give him a physical and verbal beatdown. “You think that some cross breeding a few generations ago between your slave grandmother and some misguided Spaniard makes you special? No matter how light a shade of black your skin may be, you are inferior and your whole race is meant to be subjugated. You might be able to buy your freedom, turn your old chains into your armor, and even change your name to rope or binds or chains or whatever Mikufu means in your accursed tongue. I know everything about you, even what your old master named you, Tobias. Once I kill you, I will make sure these new laws become permanent, just like how your people will stay forever under my heel.” She spewed her hate filled speech without stopping to take a breath as furious blows are sent one after another at Mikufu.

The roc continues to take flight upwards with Inamoca still in tow. She has stopped struggling now that she realizes that even if she slips the bird’s grasp the fall would not be pleasant. Mikufu tries to measure a counter blow but Elena’s punches and kicks are so fast that he can only put his shield forward and hope for a miracle. The silence of accepting an imminent death is broken when a familiar whistle pierces through the sky, though not from Elena’s lips. With it, the roc begins to glide gently down.

“After all we’ve been through you’d think to remember that I’m the Juan man you can’t count out of a fight.”

“You will fall!” Elena suddenly stops her vicious assault to realize that the tide of battle had suddenly shifted. She looks around to realize that the man she had almost cut in half was now standing there smiling and that her ravenous mount was now docile. “How did you…?”

“You mean the old, pretend to be dead, drink some healing potions, and then cast charm animal on the humongous beast? It’s one of my preferred tactics. Someone remind me to send Elena my manual/biography to her grave later.” Juan whistled once again. The roc now floats close to the bridge and gingerly lets go of Inamoca. It then flies out into the bay at full speed. “Oh, and I sent your pet out to sea for a vacation, figured she earned a break after carrying around your fat ass for so long.”

“I don’t care how many tricks you use, none of you will escape my wrath!” The once invincible opponent screamed.

“We’ll see about that. Team, focus fire on the target.”  The trio’s leader deftly maneuvers to place himself in front of Elena whenever she tries to go for his friends as he shifts towards defensive tactics.

“With pleasure.” Inamoca rubbed her heavily bruised ribs, still hurting from the talon’s previous death grip. “I’m glad you are going down fighting. I hate to argue with Miku again as to whether or not enemies who surrender deserve some mercy.” She sends another volley of arrows towards her quarry.

“Your armor may block a bunch of things but can it deal with a barrage of magic missiles until I become bored of zapping you? Spoiler alert: it can’t and this is really fun.” Juan almost cackled as spheres of forces are evoked from his fingertips and hit Elena point blank every time.

The combination of the ancient skill of baira and the tried and true method of spamming unmissable attacks takes its toll and less than a half a minute later their giant enemy collapses and returns to normal size. Her wounds are numerous and too many for even this fierce warrior to survive. The trio turns their attention to the Lieutenant Governor and his elderly associate. The venerable man chuckles, applauds his hands, pulls out an envelope, waves goodbye, and then disappears to the surprise of all.

In utter disbelief, Mikufu cries. “What just happened? Did he turn invisible or something?”

“No, we still have this weird confetti on us. It’s impossible to hide with this stuff on you.” Inamoca knew about all stealth related things and was still confused.

“I think he teleported.” Juan responded with an uncharacteristically sobering voice.

“You told me that involved a lot of arcane power, the kind the world hasn’t seen in millennia.” Mikufu’s understanding of magic was limited but his eyes still widened at the thought.

“True. Maybe he had a scroll; they are rare but not unheard of. Regardless, whoever he was he probably had some spell power and could have handpicked the winner easily.” Said a still serious Juan.

“But he just stayed there, as if we were here to entertain him.” Inamoca felt even more fear now than before.

Mikufu took the reins of the situation once again. “Well, that’s a mystery for another day. For now, we need to speak with you Pepe. We are going to be surrounded by an army in a couple of minutes and it’s in everyone’s best interest if we just had a nice chat together instead. Deal?”

“Please don’t hurt me.” The middle aged man had already been sweating from being under the Caribbean sun for so long. Witnessing the intensity of the battle had let him drenched from head to toe and all those fancy clothes in between. He stumbles back upon realizing that his elderly companion really had left him alone. Being now surrounded by a fighter, an archer, and a sorcerer, his proud shoulders and chin of aristocratic origin fall. “I’ll do anything.”

“Good. Because we’ve got soldiers coming on both sides that need those orders to kill us to be rescinded.” Juan’s anxiety was audible.

“Exactly. There has to be at least a hundred infantry and dozens of elite warriors closing in on us. Not to mention the glass cannons, they could incinerate all of us before we even got a good look at them.” Inamoca quickly surveyed the incoming threats.

“You know, I really hate when you people use that term. They are just nerdy guys and girls who developed some magical talent and where pretty much chained to libraries. When they are not forced to throw fireballs at potential enemies, they make them craft magic items. A wizard is only allowed to sleep eight hours a day because his magic would get all screwed up if he didn’t.”

Mikufu and Inamoca almost simultaneously respond to Juan. “What do you mean, you people?

“Non magical folk. You think it’s really easy for us to be around being able to reshape the building blocks of the universe but it’s really hard work. And a lot of us, not me because as you know I’m awesome incarnate, but other mages get treated like lepers or something.”

“It’s because you blew it up. Pepe’s voice had found some confidence, but his quivering body still betrays his frightened state. “That whole continent, and who knows what more of the world is gone because of you.”

Juan shakes his head in disbelief. “What is he blathering on about now?”

Inamoca responds immediately. “The arcane apocalypse. Most of the life on the planet died that day.”

“Not to mention that the lands over Asia are now over linked with the Shadow Plane, the Indian and Pacific Oceans are a colossal maelstrom, and no one even knows what happened to Australia.” Mikufu added.

“How is that relevant?” Juan rolled his eyes. “It happened thousands of years ago. Besides, I thought pagans and whatnot were the ones responsible for that.”

“Please!” Inamoca scoffs with disgust. “Everyone knows it was the gypsies that took us over the cliff. They kept using magic even when there was a moratorium right after the catastrophe.”

“Calm down, all of you.” Mikufu once again refocused their attention. “Wizards, clerics, sorcerers, druids, warlocks, and every other type of mage from every race and country back then were part of the group that started the disaster. They got power hungry and the world paid the price. So, Pepe you see what happens when multiracial groups band together against powerful ignorant bigots. Care to enact some changes to the local government?”

With his lips trembling, the Lieutenant Governor struggles to form an answer. Before he can say anything. A magically enhanced voice coming from the Western side of the bridge orders everyone to surrender before lethal force is used against them. The trio gives each other a nod as they drop their weapons and raise their arms.

“The soldiers hear you now, but the people are tired of listening.” Inamoca said with insight.

“Plus we are pretty much the local heroes of just about everywhere. Friend of a friend, and all that.” Juan winked.

The armed guards rush over and quickly bind the hands of the attacker’s behind their respective backs and Juan is gagged to avoid any possible spellcasting. Crossbows are aimed at their faces with the invitation to give them a reason to be fired. They are shoved away until a voice of authority commands them to stop.

“By the powers of my office as acting governor of the island, I declare that these three be released from custody and all charges against them dropped.”(The air of leadership is once again clear in Pepe’s voice and mannerisms. Several cries of doubt and resignation are heard amongst the soldiers. “Are you questioning a direct order?! These people are hereby pardoned from any so called crimes that have been attested by baseless claims and unjust laws.” A few grumbles of disdain are heard throughout the now disempowered military force. They put away their blades and crossbows as they give their former prisoners some space. “Untie them at once.”

“Actually, we’ve got that covered.” With a loud grunt, Mikufu breaks the binding ropes with a burst of strength. The show of force is only matched by the dexterous expertise of Inamoca slipping her hands out as if they were covered in grease. Juan takes a deep breath and summons some kind of spirit, to whom he gestures to undo the knot and remove the dirty handkerchief from his mouth.

“That will be all, Jeeves.” The unseen servant bows and then disappears. “And you guys said figuring out how to do cantrips without verbal or somatic components was a waste of time. So I assume we will be having afternoon tea at your place then, Pepe.”

“Yes. You are all my guests. We have much to talk about.”

“Guys, I think we’re forgetting about something. She walks over to the almost forsaken envelope left by the old man. She picks it up and hands it to Mikufu. Care to read it for us o’ fearless leader.

“Okay, there’s some really fancy parchment here. This is some really elegant handwriting and wait is that the King’s seal and signet?”

“Let me see that.” Juan grabs the paper away. “It’s a royal proclamation, signed directly to us? Huh, it says that we are officially the new ‘Defenders of the Colony of Puerto Rico’. He’s relegating the entire island’s defense to us and that if we do a good job he will grant us a personal audience with him next month to discuss its political future. Guess your prayers have been answered, Miku, we just got a promotion in the hero business.”

“More like a death sentence. Take a look at this.” Mikufu pulls something else from the envelope, a note on fairly crude paper that read as follows: “Thanks for the show kiddies. Let’s see if your luck holds out. As you may know, a hurricane is coming for the island in less than a week, and it’s a big one. What you may not know is that an English upstart commodore is sailing behind it with the purpose of capturing the island after it’s been thrown into a state of chaos. Stop him, and the King will be happy to hear your pleas. Fail and you will pray for Spanish rule after some time under British occupation.”

“Please tell me this is a joke. There is no way that can be true.” Juan said throwing his hands in the air in frustration.

“That is a risk we can’t take. We need to check with some diviners, now.” Inamoca and the rest had no time to celebrate.

A few days later, Inamoca and Mikufu are at port loading provisions into Captain Correa’s galley. Familiar and unfamiliar faces help them, as former teammates of previous adventures, a score of imperial soldiers, and another score of taíno archers are preparing the vessel. This new enemy is only bringing a small elite fleet and they will answer with the same, hoping to stop him at sea, hoping to catch him by surprise. After all, no one would be crazy enough to cut through a hurricane to engage in naval combat. They all stop what they are doing once they notice that Juan is walking towards them with what can only be dozens of zombies and skeletons shambling behind him.

“Good news everybody! I convinced the Spirits of San Juan to come help us.”

 

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