Bhir slipped back down the hillside, out of sight of the old keep on the next hill. He was careful not to disturb Bhudrinaksi where he sat in meditation position, eyes unfocused and distant. Dhasus sat quietly beside him, looking nervous.
“You think this will work, Captain Bhir?” Indrati asked. Again. Like the flame Jitadi he had a preference for, he had little patience for the slow and methodical.
“It had better,” Bhir replied. “The Pashumar understand tactical value as well as we do. That fort used to be on a border between the two kingdoms, so it is on the highest hill around here. Granted those towers don’t look too stable, but even if you have only one person in tower as lookout, they’ve got a good field of view. And since we’re hunting Warlocks, I’ve got to assume they’ve established some monitoring on the routes up to the fort.”
“They won’t be able to cover the entire perimeter,” Indrati observed. “These rogues we’re after aren’t supposed to be….”
“Your underestimation of your opponent is his greatest weapon,” Bhir reminded them of an old adage. “They only need to watch the most viable paths uphill; forcing us to take the more dangerous paths where an accident might reveal and delay us.”
“That is dangerous?” Indrati asked, eyeing Bhudrinaksi and Dhasus, “You’re planning on having Bhudrinaksi teleport us into the fort based on his memory of the place the last time he tracked a rogue here!” His tone bordered on insubordination.
“When you get to be Captain, you can take that chance,” Bhir growled angrily at Indrati just as Bhudrinaksi stirred and came out of his trance. “A Warlock died and another was injured during that termination because they attempted to take the fort by force. Bhudrinaksi says he remembers the place and it has remained abandoned since that time.”
“Are you ready?” Bhir asked as he turned to them.
“Fort is traditional layout,” Bhudrinaksi said, leaning forward and waving his hand over the ground in front of him. Ridges of dirt piled themselves up, taking the shape of a miniature fort. “There is a square tower at each corner. The main gate is in the center of the western wall, with barracks and storehouses backed up against the opposite wall. The wall facing us has collapsed so we can see straight into the main yard. That yard will lead us to the barracks which should be where the rogues are. I am proposing that I a portal us to that open yard.”
“What if there is some debris in the yard that was not there before?” Indrati asked. “We will end up being portaled into some rubbish!”
“I have taken that into account. I will have the exit portal exiting about three feet about the ground. When you step through, be prepared for a big step.” Bhudrinaksi replied.
Bhir nodded and rose. The rest of them readied their Mahazis and returned to the top of the hill. There Bhudrinaksi generated the teleportal. Being able to both visualize the distant fort yard and see his generated portal, he created a shimmering thin oval both in front of him and in the distant yard.
With a gesture with his chin, Bhudrinaksi motioned for them to go through.
* * *
They recovered from the teleportal in nimble fashion. Their physical training being more than adequate for them to drop the almost three feet from the floating shimmering oval. Bhir, Indrati, and Dharsus immediately setup a periphery as Bhudrinaksi jumped through, landed, and then closed the portal.
All four cautionously moved towards the barracks, the door of which was wide open. No sign of the rogue Warlocks. Bhir motioned for Indrati to take point. They put away their Mahazis. This would require their chosen weapon of Jitadi.
The door was closed and assumed to be locked. Bhir silently motioned for Dharsus to smash it down. Dharsus nodded and dropped into the stance to begin pulling Jitadi from the surrounding elements. Conducting a weaving form while swaying in a bow stance, the Warlocks could almost feel him drawing the energy from the air.
Stiffening his hands into claws, he thrust straight out towards the door which was five feet away. The door exploded into five pieces as the invisible force blast smashed into it. The crash was met with a shout of surprise on the other side.
Indrati and Bhir rushed in as soon as the door smashed apart. Bhir was the first one to spot one of the Rogues who had begun to dive behind a solid desk. Bhir quickly created a form and stance and launched a force blast at the desk. The desk was thrown into the Rogue, who was knocked backwards into open view.
Indrati was generating a Jitadi to finish off the rogue, when he was suddenly struck in the head by a thrown piece of debris. The surprise and impact knocked him to his knees.
The thrower was the female rogue who was to the rear of the room and obviously was not prepared to respond with Jitadi. It was a sign of her inexperience. An inexperience that lead her into this fatal showdown.
Bhudrinaksi had anticipated that the second Rogue would need to be dealt with. His low stance and arm form brought Jitadi from the ground upwards and towards his taret. To generate the ice he would need, it would need to come from the coolness in the water tables far below their feet.
Ice crystal suddenly materialized from beneath the female rogue and cycloned around her form. Within moments, her torso, arms, and legs, were covered with ice that slowed her into frozen action.
Dharsus had stepped from behind Captain Bhir and was prepared with his own attack. As soon as the male Rogue was on his his feet, he generated a Jitadi lightning strike that launched from his outstretched palm straight into the chest of his target.
The male rogue screamed in shock and fatal pain as the massive electrical current coursed throughout his body. His lifeless body convulsed as it flew backwards against the wall.
The female rogue made a cry of grief, fear, and anger as her mentor was taken from her.
Indrati had regained his feet and looked to Captain Bhir, who nodded to him to proceed. Indrati pulled out his Mahazis and walked towards the frozen female.
“Novice Warlock. For the crimes of following the teachings of a known renegade, generating Jitadi without proper instruction, leaving the Sandhoa without permisssion, and striking a superior…” Indrati flicked his bruised cheek toward her. “You are condemned to the most severe punishment.”
As the word left his mouth, he grabbed her hair and yanked her head backwards to expose her throat. A deep slash of his blade wetly drowned her pleadings for mercy.
Captain Bhir surveyed the scene.
“Our mission is complete. Bhudrinaksi, I want you to make a schamatic of this fort. This is the second time that rogues have used this fort as a base. It is easier for us to deal with any future renegades if we know one of their settings. We can anticipate that future renegades will consider this fort when they abandon the Jitadara.”
“Why don’t we just destroy this fort and take away a place where the rogues can go?”, Indrati asked.
“It is better for us to know where they are are so that we can deal with them, then having to track them across the wilderness or more hostile settings. As long as there is an Order, there will be renegades. I would prefer to see the Order have an additional advantage in its battle.”
Captain Bhir did not voice his thoughts. The incidence of renegade behavior is increasing. This is the third incident in the past year. I can only think that it is a symptom to a larger problem within the Order. Perhaps, we have too much internal bickering. I will speak with my brother, Andri. He understands people better than he understands Jitadi. Perhaps he has some ideas about what can be done.
Captain Bhir motioned to the others to begin cleaning up the deceased rogues. They needed to properly dispose of the remains if they did not want to alarm future renegades from staying in this convenient hunting ground.