Chapter 7 – Raiders

This close to the capital, I knew it couldn’t be foreign troops or demons. It could only be one thing.

I needed to drop off my sack. Looking around quickly, I spotted a watchtower along the road leading to the road I had been following, and quickly descended to it. After dodging an arbalest bolt while letting out a very girly squeak, I dropped it next to some very surprised soldiers.

“Watch this for me, please,” I told them, then launched back into the air, drawing my blade as I flew.

Let me pause the action to say, in retrospect, that I’m really amazed at how easily Tiana’s perspective on violence and personal danger eclipsed Robert Stewart’s. Really. I was a very peaceful man…

Frankly, I was a wimp. The most manly thing I ever did was ride the bench in middle school football. The whole heroic ending must have been a momentary lapse of judgment, if one looks at it rationally. Nevertheless, the new me dove right into the fight with no hesitation.

I move much faster in the air than any mounted flight beast, and I’m wielding a longsword rather than a lance or a bow. A resource like me is immediately a highly unusual factor for any air cavalry unit to confront. I’m not unique, for certain, but still, highly unusual.

Although places in the far frontier give the impression of early middle ages, the technology of this world is more ‘Modern’ than ‘Middle Ages’, except with the gunpowder and science replaced by magic and alchemy. But in air-to-air combat, the primary weapons remain the lance of the rider and the claws of the flight beast. Bows are for air-to-ground. Of course, there are also mounted support mages, but there is rarely one for this size of lancer unit.

Fire-breathing dragons? Nothing remotely small enough to tame as a flight beast can breathe flame. The Wyverns of Huade are not related at all to the Dragon of Huade. Wyverns are Air attribute magic beasts. Dragons are Fire attribute demons. And size-wise, comparing dragons to wyverns is like comparing condors to crows. Or maybe, small aircraft to crows.

The identity of the wyvern riders wasn’t in doubt once I got close. A group of flying bandits had come raiding from their lairs in the inconveniently nearby Dragonsback range, and the badly outnumbered patrol from the RAL had tried to stop them. Judging from the number of hippogryphs with dead or incapacitated riders aimlessly circling, the RAL had not accounted well for itself. Only four were still fighting.

Why did I feel compelled to help the RAL patrol? Remember that I had been operating almost entirely on Tiana’s intellect when it came to journeying, flying and just living for a week. Naturally, I was responding as a Royal Knight to support the king’s military. Not to mention, flying bandits only came this deep into civilized territory for two treasures, merchant caravan gold and nubile girls.

Yeah, Tiana was standing up for her fellow women. You go, girl. Robert would have wimped out, dialed 911 and wished the victims luck. So, I accept no praise for ‘my’ actions over the following thirty minutes or so. It’s all to Tiana’s credit.

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I lined up on my first target, a bulky looking fellow with a second lance in reserve behind his saddle. The lance sticking up into the air served as a deterrent against close attacks, the only kind I could perform well. So I needed to take him out from the side, much harder to do if he saw me coming.

They still hadn’t noticed the newcomer, so I kept climbing past them for superior altitude, then circled around and made a diving attack. I needed the superior altitude so I wouldn’t run into the wyvern’s upstroke. If I hit it on the way out, no problem, but on the way in, it would throw everything off.

Dude never saw me coming.

Chivalry? What’s that? He was out to abduct girls, not do honorably knightly combat. I didn’t owe him any honor or respect, so a sneak attack was fine. Plus, he already had a girl bound and tied down across the back of his beast like a sack of loot. He was dead meat.

Tiana’s longsword, like her armor, is pretty amazing stuff. Her armor is a mix of the finest fairy steel (they call it steel, but I have no idea why; there’s no iron in it,) and sea-serpent skin, but her sword is mithril.

Yeah, actual, honest-to-god, freaking mithril. Silver gray, with a slightly glittery surface, never rusts, rarely needs sharpening, which is good, because only a magic blacksmith can do any kind of maintenance at all with a metal as strong as that. Mother extorted it and several other expensive items from the Fairy King as her price for cooperation after he was pressured into exiling me by the other fairy nobility. And, you well may wonder, why was her cooperation so expensive?

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Mother is strong.

Back to my attack. I dove into him from the side, timing my pass to cross in front of him while my wings were on the upstroke, hitting him in the neck with a slashing strike. Once I was past I beat my wings several times to come back around, and observed his head flopping against his back and blood spurting from his neck. I had cut the neck bone but some tendons had survived.

That was unspeakably gross, and there was now a girl in danger, tied down to the back of a riderless wyvern. I had to save her. Poor thing was absolutely coated in the raider’s blood, too. I sheathed my blade, dropped onto the back of now-confused wyvern, pulled out my fairy steel dagger (really a sort of Genoese knife) and cut the rope binding her to the back of the beast.

I figured the guys in the watchtower were smart enough to realize by this time that I was on the Kingdom’s side, so I wasn’t risking another arbalest bolt.

That was stupid of me. But I dodged it like the first, and deposited the still-bound maiden near my bag– which they had opened and gone through! My private stuff was out in the open!!– before returning to combat.

As I flew away, I did realize I had seen an older soldier battering the head of an arbalest man while chewing him out. Hopefully that meant I wouldn’t be risking any more anti-aircraft fire on my next return. I hoped not; every Royal Army watchtower also has a ballista for use against larger flying creatures. I wouldn’t want them to get the idea ‘Hey, if the arbalests aren’t working, let’s try the ballista!’ Ballista bolts fly much faster that arbalest bolts. Harder to dodge.

I took out three more raiders and rescued two more girls, (guess one raider hadn’t gotten his yet, when the RAL jumped them,) then they started realizing I was the real threat. Another pass, another girl rescued while they tried to put up a clever defense against me that was useless, then they recognized they were going to die eventually if they didn’t bug out.

Oh, foolish, foolish raiders. Who said I would let you get away with any girls at all?

- my thoughts:
Hm. Could Tiana be slightly badass?
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