The last time we saw our brilliantly bearded heroes, the Inventor generously gifted our heroes with various updates to their gear, along with some new items too. Afterwards, the Scribe and Inventor continued on decoding the ancient book stolen from the University library. Believing that they had the proper course mapped out, the Scribe and Inventor give the word to make preparations to launch. The Barkeep and Captain Crimson took a last-chance inventory of the ship, and loaded the provisions onto the Captain’s newly renovated Mystic Wave. The other heroes have loaded their belongings onto the ship and prepare themselves to set sail….
The Marksman stares down the shaft of the arrow, drawing the fletching back to meet the corner of his mouth, his hands as steady as a statue. Suddenly, the Marksman lets the arrow loose, hurtling towards the target. The arrow makes contact with the straw dummy’s torso and then violently explodes, ripping the target in half and slinging hay everywhere. The explosion booms through the town, rattling the windows and townsfolk alike.
The Inventor chuckles, “Well we aren’t taking that one back to the guard barracks.”
“What was that?” exclaims the Marksman, shocked by the explosive power of the arrow.
“That was an exploding arrow. The tip sits forward of the main body of the arrow, but when the arrow slams into the target, the tip is jammed backwards. Inside, there is a pin that strikes an incredibly volatile compound I created. Don’t worry, it’s safe unless it is struck with a considerable amount of energy,” replies the Inventor.
“I have fired several arrows today and every time I fire a new one I believe nothing would surprise me. It never fails, however, that I am taken aback by the sheer genius of your creations,” laughs the Marksman.
“I want you to look into the pouch on the side of your new belt,” instructs the Inventor.
The Marksman looks into the pouch and sees little brown objects, shaped and sized like a chesnut.
“These are the same as the smokescreen arrows we fired earlier. Instead of firing these into something to create the smoke, you can just throw it down at your feet.,” says the Inventor as he throws one at the pair’s feet to demonstrate. A plume of smoke rises from the tiny sack, enveloping the pair in a haze.
“I like this. Is that all the arrows?” asks the Marksman.
“Not even close, but it is almost time for us to depart. I will demonstrate the other arrows I’ve created for you while we’re out on the seas. We’ll be out there for a while,” assures the Inventor as he turns to head for the docks.
“True, you go along, I’ll catch up,” says the Marksman. The Marksman unstrings his longbow. The longbow was good for messing around in target practice and he always enjoyed firing some arrows by this method. The Marksman puts the bow into the quiver with the arrows and picks up his belt from the hitching post, putting it on. His cloak and crossbow was already on the ship, as well as his knife sash holding most of his knives. The belt, along with the compartment that housed the smoke screen pouches, sports a fixed blade seax knife, a flask, and a couple vials of various poisons and tranquilizers in stone vials. The seax knife was brought into the Marksman’s secret order long ago, after a pair of members went on a mission west of Cremouth and brought these back. The blade is weighty like a hatchet, with a long cutting edge. The knife is a useful tool in the woods, but also provides a heavy blade capable of blocking and deflecting heavy sword strokes. Members often utilize the blade as a weapon in their off-hand.
The Marksman turns and walks through Franklin, looking at all the storefronts, wondering when or if he will ever see civilization like this again. Just then, the Marksman hears a whistling, and barely has time to dive to the right before an arrow digs into the ground right where he previously stood. The Marksman turns just in time to see a dark gray cloaked individual slink back from the rooftop of a store.
The Marksman thinks quickly, dropping one of the Inventor’s smokescreen pouches and steps on it, enveloping the street in smoke. He then runs and grabs onto a post on the general store’s storefront, pulling himself up onto the awning, and then climbing onto the slanted roof, making his way above the smoke.
The Marksman gets to the top of the roof and looks around for his assailant. The Marksman, not seeing anything, turns to look at the roof of the next building over, when the assailant surprises the Marksman with a haymaker, staggering him. The Marksman quickly recovers and blocks a jab, employing a jab of his own. The assailant slips the jab, and follows with a series of uppercuts to the Marksman's abdomen, driving the air out of his lungs. As the Marksman tries to recover the assailant follows with a hooking kick, throwing the Marksman off of the roof. The Marksman free falls onto the awning and bounces off, crashing onto the ground.
The assailant drops onto the awning, and then jumps down onto the ground, drawing two talon shaped knives to finish the Marksman. The Marksman rolls over and pushes himself up, drawing his seax. He kicks himself mentally, for putting his knives on the ship and not keeping them on his person.
The assailant approaches. This is the first time the Marksman gets a good look at him, and he realizes he knows the figure. The dark cloak, the fighting style, the dark mask. This wasn’t any assailant, this was one of the Order. The one who hunted down the remaining members. It was him.
The assailant begins swinging his hooked knives at the Marksman. The Marksman uses the seax knife to block several of the incoming attacks, but the opponent is so swift, the Marksman cannot block them all, forcing him to dodge and cede ground to his opponent.
The Marksman knows he can’t get driven all over town. He blocks a swing from the left using the seax knife, then blocks a swing from the right by striking the assailant’s wrist with his forearm. Simultaneously, the Marksman kicks at the inside of the assailant’s forward leg, knocking him off balance. The Marksman follows by swinging the butt of his seax knife into the left side of the assailant's face. Then, the Marksman executes a spinning kick that connects with the assailant’s sternum. The assassin falls backwards, stunned. The blow from the seax knife smashed part of the left portion of the mask, revealing an angry eye glaring back at the Marksman.
In a flash, the assassin rises and renews the attack with a furious flurry of swings. The assassin’s motions are both fluid and vicious, alternating between forward and reverse grip attacks. Because of this, the assassin’s strikes are unpredictable and diverse; it is all the Marksman can do to keep up with him. The speed and ferocity of his attacks make blocking with the seax impossible, despite the leverage gained through the seax’s extended handle. The best the Marksman can do is to deflect the attacks and stay on the move, but he’s wearing down and wearing down fast.
Suddenly, a low swing catches the Marksman’s thigh, followed by an upswing with the talon slicing into the Markman’s shoulder. The Marksman’s shoulder is ablaze in pain, as is his hip, causing him to fall and grasp his wounded thigh.
The assassin flips his talon knife into the forward grip orientation, bending down to finish the Marksman. The Marksman holds his breath prepared for the pain of what would come next.
The Marksman rolls over, throwing sand with his wounded arm, screaming in pain. The now distracted assassin feels a burning in his calf as the Marksman sits up, and drives his boot knife into the assassin’s calf. Then the Marksman uses his last remaining bit of strength to send his foot driving into the assailant’s crotch. All the air escapes the assassin’s lungs as he falls over, gasping like a fish out of water.
The Marksman staggers away, making a break for his friends and safety.
The Marksman makes it to the docks and begins to climb about the Mystic Wave, crying out for help as he pulls himself up the rope ladder with one arm and a leg. His tunic is soaked in blood and his injured shoulder wound has immobilized his arm. His thigh burns with every step he takes. The Scribe, on deck, rushes to the edge to help pull him up.
Just as the Scribe pulls the Marksman over the rail, a whistle pierces the air, and the Marksman screams in agony as searing pain envelops the Marksman’s lower back. The pain causes darkness to lurk at the edge of the Marksman’s vision, creeping ever-increasingly in. The Scribe sets him down and the world starts to slow down for the Marksman, the dark has almost taking his vision.
He sees men rushing to the deck guns. Captain Crimson shouts to hold their fire, as the docks had civilians around. Dr. Wolf stands over him, yelling for the table to be cleared in his room. Dr. Wolf reaches behind the Marksman’s back. An explosion of pain covers the Marksman’s back. Dr. Wolf holds a familiar looking arrow in his hands now.
“That must have been what got me when I was crawling onto the ship,” thinks the Marksman drowsily.
The Marksman can’t hold his head up now. The pain is overwhelming. The Marksman gives up and greets unconsciousness...