Fighting God Chapter 23: Bandits at Fortimer
It has been three days since Aldred left for the Demon Forests. Throughout his journey, he had hardly seen anyone. There were a few ruined villages here and there but judging from the burnt marks and damages, they were not done by demonic beasts…but by something scarier…humans. Bandits have pillaged and murdered through the villages. Aldred was curious…why were the bandits so active. Were they trying to instill fear? Or were they looking for something? Suddenly, Aldred saw smoke in the distance. He quickened his pace. He ran past some trees and into a clearing…to see a burning village. The fire was still burning, meaning the raid was recent. Aldred scanned the vicinity to look for survivors.
Aldred turned towards the source of the sounds – a man, blood pouring from his chest…a fatal wound. Aldred rushed towards the dying man and knelt before him. He asked, “What happened? Was it bandits?”
“…no…*cough* *cough*…it…was the Count…of Fortimer…he… *cough* *cough*…they…dressed up as bandits…. *cough* *cough*…I recognized one of them….” The dying man said. He grabbed Aldred’s sleeve, his eyes dazed and blurry. “Please…my son…find help….”
With his dying wish, the man breathed his last and died. Aldred sighed, there was nothing much he could do to help. He was after all only one person…and a child at that. Unless…it’s true he won’t be able to do a lot with his current abilities…but if he were to play it smart…maybe….
What will you do? Skaal asked Aldred. Although he did not trust humans and was disinclined to help them, however, he trusted Aldred and would follow him if he decided to help.
Hmm, I don’t know. A Count has his own army of 1,000 soldiers. That’s a lot to handle considering it’s only you and me. However, who said that we needed to attack head on. We can play it smart. Nevertheless, it’s best if we go check out on the situation first before deciding whether or not we should meddle. Aldred mused as he conferred his plans with Skaal.
Okay. As what I remembered before I was sealed, Fortimer Castle was located just a few kilometers west of this village.
Alright, let’s go.
The two changed their original destination and headed west. After an hour, they arrived at a small hill. Below the hill was Fortimer Castle. A few hundred houses surrounded the castle and a castle wall encircled the buildings. The guards at the gates were pretty lax and Aldred was able to easily enter without having to provide any form of identification papers. While in the town, Aldred had heard of many praises about how kind and generous the count, who was recently appointed to their place, was. If only those commoners knew the truth. Approaching the castle, Aldred saw that there were some guards on duty. Naturally, they would not let anyone in. So, Aldred told Skaal to infiltrate the castle and find any clues or information.
Skaal, while still in Small Beast Form, crawled out of Aldred’s pocket and scurried into the castle. As Skaal was in the castle, Aldred decided to look for an inn to stay for the time being. After searching around and asking for some directions, he finally arrived at a cheap inn – Rabbit’s Paw.
The bell rang as Aldred opened the door. A waitress smiled as she rushed towards Aldred. However, she frowned when she saw that Aldred was a child…not to mention, he was missing an arm. Nevertheless, she remembered her job and smiled, “Welcome. Little boy, where are your parents?”
“They have business to attend to in the castle. Mommy told me it was inconvenient for me to be there with them so she told me to get a room at an inn for a few days.” Aldred lied in his cutest voice possible. He gagged inwardly as he felt disgusted with his cute act.
“Oh, okay sweetie. Um…do you have money? It is 30 copper coins per room plus meals each day.”
“Ah, yes. Here you go.” Aldred replied as he took out 1 silver and 50 copper coins. One silver coin equaled 100 copper coins, 1 gold coin equaled 100 silver coins.
“One silver and 50 copper coins, that’s five days of room plus meals. Follow me to see the innkeeper.” The waitress said as she led Aldred to a counter. Behind the counter stood a middle-aged lady. She looked sturdy with brown curls and a jovial expression. Her body figure, though not voluptuous, was still curvaceous enough to attract a few stares from her lustful male customers.
“What is it Lila?” The innkeeper asked the waitress when she looked up and saw Lila lead Aldred over.
“This young boy wants a room plus meals for five days. Here’s the money he had paid.” Lila answered as she placed the coins on the table.
“Oh? Where are his parents?”
“He said they had some work at the castle and wanted him to stay at an inn for a few days.”
“I see. Well, you are a big boy now aren’t you, little one.” The innkeeper said as she patted on Aldred’s head.
“Ah…don’t!” Aldred replied as he pushed the innkeeper’s hand away. He was feeling uncomfortable already from acting cute, now being patted was making it worse. So, he had to come up with an excuse. “My daddy says patting on my head hinders my growth.”
“Ahaha! Your father’s right. Sorry, sorry. My name is Cayla, what’s your name?”
“Fine name, Aldred. Here’s your room key, it’s upstairs. Do you need help finding it?”
“No thanks, I’ll manage.”
Aldred waved goodbye to Cayla and Lila who both commented once more on how cute he was. As he walked upstairs and out of sight from the two women, he shuddered a bit and grimaced at how uncomfortable being cute was. Aldred walked down the hallway of the second floor and saw the room number of the room that he was given. Unlocking the door, he entered. The room was pretty nice…it was clean but smelled a bit like alcohol. There was a table, a chair, a candle in a candle holder, and a medium-sized bed. There was also a window that showed a good view of the castle. Aldred put his bag on the floor next to the bed, locked the door, and climbed on the bed. The bed wasn’t as soft as the bed at Caroline’s house…but it will do. Aldred laid in his bed, tired…and soon fell asleep.
In Fortimer’s Castle….
Wow, this place sure is nice…. For someone who was dubbed generous, he sure lavished on himself. Skaal thought as he darted through the halls of the castle. Hmm? What is that?
What caught Skaal’s attention was a door at the far end of the hallway that was cracked open with light slipping out. If there’s light…then there’s people. Skaal quickly dashed towards the opening and peeked inside. An old man of roughly 50 years old was discussing with another man of about 30 years old. The old man had bushy gray hair and an unkempt beard. He had a scar running from the right corner of his mouth all the way to the bottom of his right eye. He was dressed like a bandit…in leather armor and a metal breastplate. The other man was well groomed and carried an air of nobility. He had some loose fitted clothing on…it seemed that he had just woken up. In his hand was a cup of warm tea. This must be the Count. From his expression, Skaal could guess that the Count was not happy with the discussion.
“What do you mean you couldn’t find the child? The priests have predicted that a child with the so-called impossible Quadruple-Affinity will appear in this vicinity. That’s the whole reason why I chose to become the count of this godforsaken place!” The Count retorted angrily.
“We’ve searched everywhere but we couldn’t find that child. Could it be the child did not awaken yet?”
“That!…That’s a possibility….” The Count slouched as he stared at his cup dejectedly.
“What…what will we do with the kids we captured?” The old man asked.
“They’re of no use to me, kill them and bury them. Leave no trace that will connect them to me.”
“And keep searching! That Quadruple-Affinity will be of great use to me once the child is in my hands. Do not disappoint me again!”
And…that’s is my cue to leave. Skaal thought as he scurried away quietly.
Before he left the castle, he waited until the old man walked past him. Swiftly, he struck with his tail and pierced the old man’s skin. The strike was very fast and very precise that the old man only felt a slight itch of his skin. The old man stopped and bent down to scratch his itch only to further spread the poison. The poison was very weak and wasn’t strong enough to kill. The only purpose of the poison was to serve as a marking so that Skaal can track him later on. As the old man scratched his ankle, he did not look down as he was busy pondering about the order the Count had given him. After scratching a few times, the old man got up and continued walking. Skaal also hurried out the castle and headed towards the inn.