on to suggest that they go out and take on the Black Death gang. “All the preparations to fight them off have been made here already. But it seems a waste to just twiddle our thumbs waiting for them to get here. Let’s take the fight to them, instead of just fighting them off. What do you think?”
“They’ve got, at most, sixty men,” one of the others chimed in. “There’s a pseudo Noble in the mix, but for the regular ones, the three of us could kill half of ’em if we had you on our side. It won’t take long at all. Hit ’em while they’re sleeping, take out as many as we can, then fall back. We’re talking a surgical strike here. They’d never expect us to come out and hit ’em while they’re still thirty miles out. It can’t fail!”
Three pairs of eyes bored into D. They weren’t thinking about the village. There was only one thing running through all three heads—winning in battle. And in that regard, they were true professionals.
“When do we go?”
D’s reply brought cheers from his visitors. The gorgeous dhampir was an integral part of their plan.
“Tonight, right away,” Gil replied, licking his chops. “Our cyborg horse could do the thirty miles each way in about two hours. Add in another hour for the wet work, and we’ll be back here in three hours, having ourselves another drink. We’re all set to go. As soon as you’re ready, meet us out at the north gate.”
The sound of a cyborg horse’s hooves grew louder and closer. It was by the north gate. The three large figures standing beside their horses turned in that direction.
“Did he come?”
“Yeah, it’s D.”
“Must be nice to see so well at night,” one of them growled in a low tone. If that tone were used in normal conversation, it would’ve seemed like he was spoiling for a fight.
Tonight was their turn guarding the gate. In another thirty minutes the next shift would arrive. It was for that reason they’d chosen to go out through the main gate instead of just sneaking out through the back gate to the south.
The hoof beats stopped. A handsome visage appeared, like another moon in the darkness.
“Okay, let’s move out!” Gil said, reaching up for the pommel of his saddle.
“Hold it,” said a voice, but it wasn’t D’s. It came from behind a flower-covered trellis to one side of the gates. Two new figures now stood before the trio.
“D, you dirty—”
“Sorry, boys, but he’s working for me,” Sheriff Rust said, scratching at the back of his head. After hearing about Gil’s plan, he’d set out on foot to head them off.
“You stinkin’ traitor!” Josh shouted.
“Simmer down,” Lyra told him.
D was on the back of his horse, completely unfazed, not moving a muscle, his face devoid of emotion. He seemed like a gorgeous god of fate in heaven above, coldly staring down at arguing dolts.
“Stop all this foolishness,” Rust said. “Right now, every fighting man we can get is worth more than all the Nobles’ gems. I can’t have you three getting yourselves killed. No ‘surgical strikes.’”
“You told him all about that, you bastard!” Gil said, his entire face swollen and vermilion.
“I’m working for him,” D said in his own voice.
The three mercenaries groaned, the sound of a curse that couldn’t be put into words.
“Swear to me you won’t try anything like this on your own again. If not, you’ll all be dismissed without pay,” Rust told them dis-passionately.
“Hey, we were just—” Gil began to protest futilely.
“Do you swear it, or don’t you?”
The matter was settled quickly enough.
“Okay,” Gil said, shrugging his shoulders. There was nothing a mercenary feared more than missing a payday. It was stipulated in their contract that payment could be stopped at any point if they didn’t follow the sheriff’s orders. “There was nothing in our agreement about any fines.”
“Good thing, eh?” said Rust.
Giving Lyra a wink, Gil said, “Be seeing