This is an action scene I wrote for fun to give myself a break from plotting for my NaNoWriMo novel (the sequel to the YA steampunk novel I wrote last year) and preparing for Halloween (my favorite time of year). This is mostly for entertainment purposes, as it is not a polished work, but comments are, as always, welcome. Happy Writing!
Missed Asoka dug her spurs into the stallions steaming flanks. The animal lunged over a pile of stone and she leaned into it, the power of his momentum sweeping through her body and down into the balls of feet settled precisely in the stirrups. To either side of them, beyond the meandering wall’s crumbling parapets, the world fell into darkness. Under the salty tang of the horse’s sweat, she could taste and smell moisture rising from the river that raged alongside the wall below and the thunder of a waterfall overwhelmed the clatter of unshod hooves on stone.
They fast approached another tower arch. This one would have a guard. Only every third tower on the west approach was manned these days, even this close to the Storm palace. Another Inan stormer would fall.
She jerked on the weapon, making sure the frame that held it to the saddle remained secure. Shifting her weight, she pressed one shoulder against the butt end of the gun and sighted down the barrel. Her finger hovered above the trigger, steady despite the movement of the horse. Rain began to fall, heavy drops splattering the hard surface of the gun and spraying back, making her blink. A figure in matte black armor stepped out of the shadows of the tower arch. In the gun sight, she saw the stormer’s eyes within his helmet widen and she smiled, delicately adjusting the aim. He was shorter than the last. She pulled the trigger.
The saddle jerked with the recoil and the stallion stumbled this time. He was getting tired. The stormer flew back and landed with a solid thump, his armor grating over the stone. He lay still as the wall itself when they passed a few seconds later.
Eight, she tallied in her head.
The stallion’s strides were shortening, becoming less sure and strong. Rain pounded down now, making the stone slippery. Clouds obscured the light from the half moon and the horse tried to slow, unsure of his footing in the dark. She spurred him hard again, determined to take at least one more stormer the easy way. That would give her nine.
Crumbled parapet flashed past along the sides. They swept under one tower arch then another. The next manned tower rose up ahead. The river didn’t rage as loudly here and it would soon veer away from the wall. That would make it hard to get this close without detection, but stealth would be the order of things when she lost her mount anyway and his faltering strides warned that it wouldn’t be much longer.
She checked the gun again. One of the attachments shifted a fraction, in need of tightening. No time now. She shifted in to position and sighted. The guard was already in the path and raising his own weapon. His gun didn’t have enough range to be a threat yet. She peered down the sight and carefully adjusted the aim. Chill drips of water ran down the back of her neck. He had lovely light hazel eyes. She pulled the trigger just as the stallion slipped, losing sight of her target. The animal righted himself quickly. Her stomach tightened with a sick sensation.
Had she gotten her shot or would she feel his bullet ripping though her any second?
A quick glance down the sight showed the stormer flat on his back, his weapon lying a few feet away.
The next tower swept past. Another became visible just ahead. The stallion slipped again and there was a horrible lurch as his attempt to catch himself failed. The hard stone of the wall swept toward her. Asoka jerked her feet from the stirrups and pushed off from the saddle, tucking into a roll to get clear of the falling animal.
The air whooshed from her lungs when she hit. Light flashed in her eyes, pain blasting out from the point of impact. She skidded several feet and slammed into an intact section of parapet, twisting quickly to see where the stallion would land and if she needed to get clear. Where the stallion fell, however, there was no parapet remaining and the whites of his eyes flashed in the dark as he tumbled over the side.
Her gut twisted. This had been a one-way trip from the start, but the stallion had been one of Gaben’s best.
I’m so sorry, Gaben-den, but he would have ended up a stormer’s mount one day. This is a better end than that.
She got up onto her hands and knees. Her side burned with pain. Bruised ribs for certain, maybe cracked. Not enough to stop her, but certainly enough to slow her down. She hung her head, trying to catch her breath. Some hair had slipped free of the band, the black locks sticking to her rain soaked cheeks.
Slowly, she clambered to her feet, each breath bringing more pain. Her right cheek stung and moisture, much warmer than the rain, ran down her face. Another injury from the fall. She let the blood run and checked her weapons. Five daggers tucked in discreet sheaths over the fitted Koteki armor and one pistol. She already missed the bigger gun. For a crack shot like her, there were several ways to kill a man with one hit, but the pistol didn’t have the extended range of the saddle-mounted weapon. She would have to get closer to her targets now. The dark and the rain might work in her favor though.
Within a yard of the next manned tower, however, it became apparent that a knife might be more useful. The now pummeling rain and the dark worked against her as much as they worked for her, reducing her vision and hearing. The guard would be under the arch in one of the small side alcoves, sheltered from the weather. She holstered the pistol and drew the knife. The smell of unwashed male, thick and sour, stung her nose. This man didn’t care much for hygiene and… was that snoring!
Asoka’s lip lifted in a sneer of disgust and she crept into the tower arch, following the stench and the growling snore. The guard sat slouched in a chair, his feet up on a stool and his head tossed back in oblivious slumber. Abandoning stealth, she swept forward and slid the well-honed blade across the exposed skin of his throat. The guard jerked, knocking the chair and stool over as he crashed to the stone, making wet gurgling sounds. One hand reached out toward her weakly. She kicked it away and continued down the wall.
She stepped back into the rain. Something struck her in the back and she found herself face down on the pavement. A heavy weight pushed into her spine. The dagger had flown from her hand with the impact and now lay well out of reach. She had others, but a point of cold steel touched the back of her neck, keeping her still for the moment.
Death had come calling, but at whose hand? She’d killed all the guards along the way.
“Who sent you?” A demand. Angry, but also curious. He wanted information and that gave her time.
She laid her palms flat to the stone on either side of her head in a gesture of surrender. Her injured side burned with the weight of his knee pressing into her spine.
“No one sent me.”
“Liar.” He pulled her pistol from its holster and tossed it over the side of the wall. Then he coughed and a small groan escaped him.
The pressure on her spine eased and the point moved away from the back of her neck. He grabbed her arm roughly and yanked her around. Using that momentum, she twisted a little further, bringing her leg up in a fierce kick at his head. He jerked his shoulder back, blocking her foot just shy of its target. She rolled away and sprang to her feet, drawing a dagger as she came up. The stormer surged up after her then stopped, his gaze wandering from the dagger to the unmarked black outfit she wore.
“Koteki assassin.” He frowned, adjusting his stance and the dagger in his hand, preparing to face a more dangerous adversary than he’d initially expected.
Not an assassin really. She hadn’t actually earned her blacks yet. These belonged to one of her instructors. She stared back at him, unmoving, not about to correct him.
Thunder rumbled overhead, the rainstorm graduating into something more violent. A flash of lightening lit the night, creating reflections in the wet and illuminating the pale hazel eyes that stared back at her.
She drew back slightly. “I killed you once.”
“You did a poor job of it.”
“I promise to do better this time.” She sprang forward, nimble and deadly, but somehow he wasn’t there when she struck. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye warned her in time to duck his counter attack and she darted away, reconsidering her opponent.
The stormer armor was light and perfectly articulated, but still far heavier than what she wore. He shouldn’t be able to match her agility. Another flash of lightening revealed a dent in the armor just below his throat where her shot struck when the stallion stumbled. The power of the gun must have dropped him and left him stunned. She should have checked before moving on. Careless.
They moved again and she swept in close enough to nick his chin with her blade tip before he caught her arm and twisted hard enough to make the dagger fall from her fingers. She twisted back the other way, using his grip to yank him in as she jumped up and kicked him in the chest with both feet, sending him stumbling back. A second single kick sent his dagger flying and she leapt back to draw her next blade. Before she could close again, he was back in fighting stance with another dagger in hand. Perhaps stormer training wasn’t as pathetic as they suggested in the Koteki School.
She darted in again, this time feinting to the left at the last moment and sweeping past to spin around and land a kick to his ribs. The satisfaction of his pained grunt lasted less than a second before she felt his hand close on her ankle. He yanked her around, kicking her other leg out, and she landed face down on the stone again, tasting blood this time.
His knee came down hard on her back, the sudden burst of pain stealing her breath away. Then she brought her dagger around behind her and felt it sink into hard flesh. Despite his cry of pain, the pressure on her spine didn’t ease. If anything, it got worse, grinding her breasts and ribs into cold unforgiving stone. He grabbed the knot of her hair in one hand and jerked her head back. Sharp steel pressed against her throat.
Nine. She had only managed to take nine of the bastards with her. What kind of revenge was that?
Her muscles trembled with exhaustion as they tightened, bracing for the final strike. The blade jerked away suddenly. Something struck behind her ear, plunging her into darkness.