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Warrior of the Realm

Written by Shannon Curtis

Chapter Two

It looked like Halloween had come a day early. Covered in what looked like wolf pelts and leather pants, the men looked fierce and…wild. There wasn’t another way he could describe it. Each wore his dark hair long, with portions of hair braided at the temples, and carried a variety of costume weapons. One wore a sword, another a bow and a quiver full of arrows, and the third—was that an ax? Luke had to give them credit—the weapons didn’t look like your normal plastic costume accessories.

His lips quirked. “You guys really like to get into costume, don’t you?”

Moretti’s daughter, Anna, had been wearing what she’d called the sexy Morticia Addams costume when he’d left the big house—although he had no intention of playing Gomez with her, despite her obvious hints.

One of the men tipped his head to the side. “He sees us.”

Luke arched his eyebrow. “It’s pretty hard not to in that getup.”

“I think we have finally found him,” another one replied.

For what? Some sort of Lord of the Rings cosplay? “Yeah, I’m not interested.”

The third smiled as he unslung the bow and brought it around in front of him, an arrow appearing so quickly and smoothly it was difficult for Luke to track the movement. “Balor will reward us for this. Songs will be sung.”

Luke frowned. There was a lilt to their speech, but he’d managed to catch most of it. “Look, guys, I’m just going to leave you to it.” He turned to walk away, casually looking over his shoulder as the third man nocked his arrow. Luke’s frown deepened as the man raised his bow and took aim. What the—?

The arrow flew, and Luke whirled, lifting up a trash can lid like a shield. Something solid hit the metal lid, and his eyes widened at the tip of the arrow that just pierced through the tin lid. That wasn’t a damn cosplay accessory.

“What the hell are you doing?” He lowered the lid to glare at the men. He didn’t care who they hell they were, they could have killed him.

The man with the bow smiled. “We like to make it sporting.”

He raised his hand behind his back and withdrew another arrow. The other man withdrew his sword, while the third slid the ax handle out of his belt, hefting it with a triumphant smile on his face before raising it and hurling it toward Luke.

Luke ducked, and sparks flew as the ax head clanged against the railing of a fire escape ladder. That wasn’t a fake weapon, either.

And all he had was his damn slingshot. Luke turned and bolted to the street, his jacket flaring out a little as he turned left onto North State Street. There were people here—surely they wouldn’t attack in a public place?

A glass window next to him exploded. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the men stoop to pick up his ax as he ran past it. Okay, so maybe they would. Luke ducked and wove, calling out to people as he ran by.

“Out of the way! Duck!”

They all looked at him strangely, slowing to turn and watch him run by as the three men chased him, firing arrows as they went. Luke ducked, dodging the arrows that flew so close to his head he could hear the slight sigh in the wind as they whistled by.

Hands fisted, legs pumping, he ran down the busy Chicago street. His feet pounded the pavement as he started across the bridge, but all of a sudden something caught at him, something that sliced hot against his back, tugged at his coat and propelled him over the railing and into the gray waters of the Chicago River below.

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Shannon Curtis

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