There were many things one would find interesting during a reconnaissance. Elias sure enjoyed them. He hid amongst the trees. Stood upon the uneven grassy earth. Appreciated the silent gentle breeze. Just silence. Even his own breathing was nearly inaudible. The owl roosting on the tree branch seemed to be cooperating as well. For a while, it had not let out a hoot, and instead had been staring ahead at the castle they were spying on.
The building was about a century old. Its murky walls still as mighty as when it was newly built. The gates was protected by iron grills, rust colouring the tips. Its doors were wooden. Most of them had become rotten with age. The only things that were new were the tall windows on the top floor. In contrast with the rest of the obsolete building, this row of windows was sparkling new, with their stained glass and black frames. Bright light shone from the inside. The castle was still bustling even though it was past midnight. There was no sign of the party concluding soon.
The man next to Elias yawned. That earned him a glare. Elias disliked it when one of his subordinates let their guards down during recon. Yawning signified boredom. Boredom led to carelessness. Carelessness tended to end in disaster. As the mission leader, Elias had the responsibility to keep his team out of trouble, ensure success and look after his team. He didn’t want to have to write a report full of tragedies. Recognizing the glare, the man realized his mistake and quickly hung his head down. That was not the correct course of action. They were in a reconnaissance, they were supposed to keep their eyes on the target. Elias let out a small sigh and returned his gaze to the castle.
The gate was still quiet. There were only two guards. They were only wearing a simple uniform made of cloth and carrying a pike. If he had wanted to, Elias could have knocked them out without drawing his sword. However, that wasn’t how he did things. This mission was just a simple arrest. Keep out of the crowd, avoid causing a ruckus and capture the prey. Simple.
Rather than boredom, Elias felt alive. It shouldn’t be long till their wait was over. Landlord Lobart normally left his castle before the bell toiled one.
Elias squinted his eyes when he noticed movement at the front gate. A man came out of the castle. His features matched Lobart’s. Wide girth, brown curly hair with a moustache and a beard. His clothing was decorated with glistening fur like a royalty’s. He walked hurriedly into a carriage in the courtyard. He walked fast for someone of Lobart’s size. If he WAS Lobart.
The commander had shown Elias a portrait of Lobart, but it was impossible to confirm a face in this darkness. Elias decided to observe the carriage instead. It was a black carriage with two black horses. A green coat of arms was displayed on the door. After the man got into the carriage, it began to move. Slowly at first, then faster after it had passed the gate. As the carriage passed him, Elias could clearly see the coat of arms. A green bird on a yellow shield.
The target had just left his nest.
Elias raised his left arm. Every member of the squad saw the signal and held their breath. Elias waved his hand. The hunt was on.
There weren’t that many of them, only six. Each was a royal knight. Their swordsmanship were unquestionable. Amongst them, Elias was the most skilled. His rank was also much higher than the other knights. To be honest, Elias preferred working alone. If only he could contest the commander’s decision.
The six knights moved swiftly amongst the trees. They were wearing enchanted boots. The enchantments allowed the wearer to move faster and jump higher. Catching up with a horse carriage was a matter of time. Moreover, they didn’t even need to stop the carriage; they only needed to tail it to their destination, the next party.
Their target, Lobart, was a small fry. Sure, he may be rich and owned plenty of land, but his crimes were an amateur’s work. If only he didn’t plan on getting his grubby hands on a Lord’s territory, the Kingdom would have let him be.
A smile bloomed on Elias’ lips. Their mission to catch Lobart red-handed, while he was planning the invasion with his collaborators, was like taking candy from a baby. They were no more than a group of greedy rich men. Weak and without magic. To protect themselves, they normally employed magicians. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong opponent. They forgot who they were dealing with.
While they were coming up with a strategy for the invasion, the royal knights had arrived at the front gate. It turned out the next party was held in Lobart’s own residence. It wasn’t that far from the castle. Elias was standing on a tree branch. His eyes were level with the second floor meeting room. One of the curtains was open. He could see Lobart laughing with his cronies. A few magicians could be spotted, each standing behind their employer.
Elias squatted. One hand on a branch, while the other on his knee. His eyes were observing the front door. There were three guards, non-magicians. There was also an invisible barrier around the house. Elias could sense it even though he doubt his subordinates could. This barrier was roughly made and weak, as expected from amateurs. Normally its main purpose was to detect thieves or intruders. Definitely not to stop a royal knight.
Elias looked behind him to do a head count. After making sure everyone was present, he led the charge. “Time to work.”
They jumped into the front yard. The guards could only stare dumbfoundedly when they saw a bunch of black cloaked shadows passing over the fence. At a glance, they looked like giant bats. One of the knights knocked all guards out in one move. The other four followed Elias towards a window with open curtains. The window was locked. Using the frame as a foothold, Elias stood on it. His hand touched the window. Just a little magic and the window was unlocked and swung open.
“Good evening, gentlemen.”
Lobart’s round eyes widened. As were his cronies’. They could recognize Elias’ coat. A tall-collared long black coat with a big belt. Silver shoulder guard decorated with silver chains connecting to each button. A black necktie and black gloves. An ornamental sword decorated with magic runes. A metal brooch in the form of a winged star on left breast. That was the night uniform of the royal knights.
“H-how did you-“
Before he could finish, Elias had already whispered his commands. “Capture them all. Alive. We’ll talk about property damage later.”
Elias jumped in and triggered the mass panic. The magicians moved without command. They tried to protect their masters. One magician for one knight. Lobart led his friends out of the room. Elias stretched his hand in front of him, casting his magic, and the door didn’t budge when Lobart tried to push it open.
Lobart’s magician did not stay still. He attacked Elias with fire balls. Elias jumped back. In front of him was now a tall slender female on a long black dress. Behind the woman, Elias could see Lobart and his friends escaping. Due to the fire balls, he had to let go of his magic on the door.
“I hate fighting females,” Elias sighed.
“I also hate fighting knights,” the female magician retorted. “You are all just mock magicians. Hiding behind a sword because of your weak magical power.”
Elias didn’t argue. Royal knights were basically magicians. Some of them even fitted into the woman’s description. They wanted to become a magician but didn’t have enough magical power, so they chose to become a knight. The worst part was, they used patriotism as a cover up for their weakness.
“Well then, would you like to teach me how to be a proper magician, Auntie?”
The woman’s face reddened. She was taller than Elias, plus high heels. Her face was made-up prettily, but Elias took that as a sign of age. Elias could tell exactly how old she was, but she couldn’t guess anything about Elias. Most of Elias’ opponents were deceived by Elias’ one hundred fifty eight centimetre tall body and his innocent face. No wonder they ended up regretting having looked down on him.
The female magician created more fire balls, one on each hand. Most people would run away. But Elias stood still. His only movement was to bring his left arm in front of him. When the fire balls approached him, Elias used his magic to manipulate the air pressure. This changed the fire balls’ trajectory. Easier said than done. Not all magicians were able to do this.
The woman’s eyes widened in surprised. She lost sight of Elias. The knight had suddenly disappeared with her fireballs. She looked around the room, but no sign of Elias. When she finally noticed the slight cool breeze behind her, it was too late. Elias had used ice magic to freeze her arms, legs and body.
“Sorry Auntie, I can’t keep you company for long. The commander wouldn’t shut up if I failed to bring fatso there home.”
Elias exited the room. The fatso Lobart was already at the lowest step of the staircase. The other magicians had appeared from other rooms as reinforcement. One against many. Elias sighed lazily. Considering he didn’t even break a sweat when he beat that lady, he couldn’t imagine what those lowly guards could do. He was right, capturing them was like taking candy from a baby.
A knight came in from the front door to find a pile of magicians on the floor. His mission leader, Elias, was standing by himself in the middle of the room. Lobart and his cronies were hugging the wall. Their eyes radiated fear.
“So slow.” Elias interrupted his subordinate. “It took you this long to take care of the guards outside?”
The low-ranked knight bowed nervously. “Sorry, Sir.”
Elias glanced at his preys, then back to the knights. “Tie them up. We’re taking them home.”
As Elias loosened his tie, he contacted the commander. His right index finger drew a simple magic circle in the air. The magic circle glowed briefly, then blackened with smokes pouring out around it. Finally, it turned white. A moment later, the commander’s face appeared. Instead of appreciating a job well done, the commander scolded Elias for contacting him before daybreak. Even though had Elias failed to report to him now, the commander would have scolded him for taking so long to report.
Not even a minute had passed and the commander had cut down communication. The magic circle turned dark, floating aimlessly in the air. Elias waved his hand through it, dispelling his magic. His brows were furrowed, annoyed. The commander always found fault in everything he did.
“Excuse me, I have a question, Sir.” One of Elias’ subordinate approached him.
Elias turned to look at him with raised eyebrows.
“How do we take all these people back to the headquarters, Sir?”
Teleport? Of course not. It may be a simple magic. Most magicians know it. The problem was, moving one person was different compared to moving multiple people at once. Using teleport to transport all these people was a waste of energy. Elias didn’t want to waste precious energy. So he had already thought up a solution before they had started the mission.
“The carriages,” was his answer.
“The carriages, Sir?” His subordinate knew they didn’t use carriages during recon. Forget about carriages, they didn’t even have a horse. Of course, they were magicians. Everything was done by magic. But, their prisoners weren’t.
“There are many horse carriages in front. Just take one and stuff them all in there.” Elias ordered. “Not later than five a.m. though. I don’t want to attract too much attention in the city. Understand?”
Elias probably should be worried. The carriage could be attacked before they reach headquarters. If these people escaped, Elias would have to work twice. Elias almost scoffed at the idea. There were only two types of people who would do this. One, powerful magicians. Two, reckless idiots.
The first option was very unlikely. His prisoners were mere merchants. Elias doubted they knew any of the big name magicians. Most great magicians were not interested in their money. The second option was more likely. Elias would laugh out loud if that happened. The royal knights were no joke. Just one of his subordinates was enough to go up against a hundred normal people. That is, if their enemy could gather enough to make up a hundred.
“Excuse me, Sir.”
Elias turned back again. His subordinate was still there. His brows were furrowed deep, with his gaze casted low. His right hand was rubbing his chin. He was muttering something incoherent.
“What now?” Elias replied impatiently.
“Do you know any horse charming spell, Sir?”
Elias brows were now also furrowed. “Let me guess, you don’t know how to drive a horse carriage.”
“Wow, so you know some mind-reading spells, Sir.”
This kind of thing didn’t require a mind reading spell. His intuition told him. Luckily the other knights were able to drive a carriage. So he ordered two of the knights to take the carriage back to headquarters. Meanwhile, he would go on ahead to get a head start on his written report.
Without a team, Elias could now move freely. He dropped into a stance at the massive front yard. His right foot tapped the ground a few times. His lungs took a deep breath full of air then let it all out in one go. This was an effective method to restore his energy and prepare himself before a flash trip. Elias looked up. The starry night sky looked back.
The star was shining bright above him. It shared its name with the highest rank of the knighthood. Everyone wanted to reach the rank Sirius. Not just for the material gain, but also for the honour. Elias also yearned for it. From when he joined the royal knights, this had been his desire. Elias was sure he could reach it. His magic and swordsmanship had garnered the admiration of his colleagues. His age was only twenty four, but many important and big missions decorated his records. It was a matter of time. He just needed to prove himself a bit more.
Elias shut his eyes, imagining the star, Sirius, twinkling closer. A smile bloomed on his lips. His right foot stomped on the ground. His magic propelled his body towards the night sky. The glow from his magic stroke through the dark sky like a shooting star.