It took several minutes for the Jester’s vision to clear after the blinding explosion. When it was finally clear, he saw that Revis was standing over him. His knight’s lips were moving, but he didn’t hear anything that was being said. Gradually, the silence was replaced by a ringing noise.
“What did you do,” Matticus asked loudly, so he could hear himself over the ringing.
“I didn’t do that,” Revis answered. “For once, your silliness worked in our favor. If I didn’t have to come back and warn you about touching my things, I’d have been in that explosion.”
“How unfortunate,” came a voice from behind them. Turning, the two men saw the man who was leading the meeting, the man they assumed was the foreman, Len, standing there with a loaded crossbow leveled at them.
“Are you Len,” the Jester queried.
“Yes,” he replied. “Before we get to the rest of your Q & A, there’s something I have to do first.” Focusing on Revis, he added, “Sorry, but my orders are him alive, you dead.”
In the second it took for Len to aim, Revis used his ring to turn invisible. Len fired anyways. The crossbow bolt stopped in midair, followed by a grunt from Matticus’ knight. It fell towards the ground, stopping, with a thud, right before it hit. As Matticus watched, blood began to pool underneath the arrow.
Without thinking about what he was doing, Matticus yelled, “Futbol rules!” as he drew his sword from his scabbord and swung in one motion. His flaming blade cleaved through Len’s crossbow and the foreman screamed in pain as the crushing blow shattered his fingers. Broken and twisted, he held his hands in front of his face, his mouth flapping noiselessly, and he stumbled backwards until a tree stopped his progress.
Matticus levelled his sword, the flames rising in tendrils and licking out at Len, “Don’t move.”
Len’s gaze lifted from his fingers to the deadly serious expression flicking beyond the burning steel, and he nodded in understanding and agreement.
“Revis, are you still with us?”
Matticus wanted to cleave the foreman in two and be done with the man so he could focus all his energy and attention on his knight, but he needed Len alive. He needed information from him he may not be able to get anywhere else.
“Revis, now would be a good time to let me know if you are alive or dead?”
A groan was the Jester’s answer, but that was enough. He’d seen Revis pull through in impossible situations before, and he knew his knight certainly wouldn’t let anything like a crossbow bolt keep him from seeing his wife and child again. As if to prove his point, Revis suddenly let loose a stream of curses so long that Matticus was surprised he didn’t have to stop for air.
When Revis turned off his invisibility, the crossbow bolt could be seen sticking out of his right shoulder. He held up his hand, a hole right through it. “Apparently I can’t catch arrows,” he grunted as he pulled the bolt out with his uninjured hand.
Revis grabbed a vial out of his pack and quickly drank it. Len gasped in amazement as the Knight’s wounds healed before his eyes.
Nothing Revis did amazed him anymore, so Matticus ignored him and turned his attention back to his prisoner. “What was Jaded looking for here,” he demanded. “What is she after?”
“Isn’t it obvious,” Len retorted.
With a slap to the back of Len’s head, Revis interjected, “Just answer the question.”
“Fine,” the foreman sighed. “It’s you, Jester. What Jaded is after is you.”
Matticus took a step back, and his sword dropped from the foreman’s throat, “Me?”
Len watched the Jester back away and his eyes darted around hoping to see an opening to try and escape, but before he could remove his back from the tree, Revis unsheathed his own sword and pressed it firmly into his chest.
“Why is Jaded after Matticus?”
“Don’t you two have a brain between you?” Len exasperatedly quipped.
While Revis was impressed with the foreman’s bravery, he pressed his blade a bit more firmly into Len’s chest. His wounds may have healed with the potion, but he could still remember the pain and his mood certainly hadn’t improved.
“Okay, okay, okay. If we capture the Jester, we will hold the heart and soul of the kingdom, right? We can either bring him to our side, or we can use him to make sure the rest of his subjects do our bidding.”
“And, what is it that you want with the kingdom?”
Len didn’t answer immediately. His legs had begun to tremble from the strain of having the point of Revis’ sword pressed into his chest, and the pain in his hands was reaching an intolerable level.
Matticus stepped forward again, sword still aflame, “Revis, if they can’t capture me directly… What about the Queen and Little Prince?”
Emboldened by Matticus’ concern, Len taunted, “Is there anything they wouldn’t do for you Jester? Wouldn’t the Queen give up the Kingdom itself to keep you safe?”
Anger rose up inside of him. The thought that they would use him against his family made him step towards Len with murder in his eyes. Before he could act on those feelings, a blur passed in front of Len’s face. When it was gone, the foreman’s nose was bleeding and his eyes rolled back into his head. Len dropped to the ground, momentarily dazed. Matticus looked at his Knight with his eyebrow raised.
“He deserved that,” Revis answered the unspoken question. “Besides, I couldn’t let you kill him yet. We still need to find out where Jaded is and he can’t tell us if he has a flaming sword buried in his chest.”
Matticus shrugged and walked away to try to calm down. Revis slapped Len hard across the face. “Is your head working again yet,” he asked.
“You don’t need to keep hitting me,” Len complained.
“Until you answer my questions, I do. Just be glad it wasn’t my family you threatened. If I were Matticus, I’d take that sword, hold it up against your skin, and activate the flames. Then I’d repeat the process until either you told us what we want to know, or until your whole body was burned.”
A look of fear crossed Len’s face. “But he’s a jester. He wouldn’t do that.”
“You’d be amazed at what people will do to protect their family.”
“Fine, I’ll talk. Jaded isn’t paying me enough to take this kind of abuse.” Len’s eyes flicked longingly towards Revis’ satchel, “Any chance I could get some of that healing potion?”
Revis curtly shook his head no.
Matticus, still fuming from the threat against his family but with enough rational thought having crept back in to not do anything too foolish, extinguished the flames on his sword first and then swung the blade through a thicket of long hanging branches. He had to work off his anger and fear and if he didn’t lash out at a tree or two he wasn’t certain he could keep from attacking the foreman and then continuing on a berserk rage to wipe out every vampire and vampire supporter left on the island.
Len and Revis turned to watch the Jester hack away at the tree until Matticus was panting from the exertion and sat down amidst the pile of debris he had created. The foreman had been tempted to say he wasn’t going to be able to think clearly enough to give Revis everything the knight wanted to know because of the pain coursing through his hands, but having seen Matticus outlet his fury, the foreman decided he didn’t need to play anymore games with the duo.
“You aren’t even asking the right questions,” he started. “Jaded isn’t even who you are really after. She is just a soldier in this war for the kingdom, like the rest of us.”