Chapter 12: Indra on the Offensive

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We took Alchemy, and instead of curing diseases, instead of making the leper clean, we used it to kill. We poisoned our enemies with wild abandon. How many died because of our murderous deeds? How many men did we kill? How many women? Children? Will we ever be able to wash the blood off of our hands?

***

Laidu followed behind Indra, Plow very observant of the reins. The horse was a good helper. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said about Indra. She grumbled, squirming in the saddle. It was obviously clear that she was not one who belonged outside of a university. Indra probably was talented, but her talents were useless.

She can probably prove herself some other way, the voice said in Laidu's head. But it was different. It seemed...happier. Cheerful, even. Not the morose, self-guilting, and depressed voice before.

Of course I'm not depressed! Why would I be depressed? the voice asked. It's a wonderful day! The autumn air is just perfect! And oh, it looks like there are some new people over there! We should make friends! Laidu looked up.

There was another party, up ahead. Immediately, the training Laidu received began to kick in.

First, assess the situation.

The six other travelers were armed to the teeth. Four of them had swords, the ones at the front. Two held crossbows at the back of their little posse. The swords were unsheathed. The crossbows were nocked. All of them wore armor dented and scarred with dozens of nicks and scratches.

Second, extrapolate and infer.

They were obviously waiting for a fight. Bandits, maybe. But why here? Why now? Were they lying in wait for Laidu and Kyra? No one knew they were here. So, maybe it was just bad luck.

Third, form a plan.

Flick the reins, send Plow forward. Ignore Skaria and Karik'ar, they could handle themselves. Indra wasn't suited, Kyra was to be protected at all costs. He would negotiate. Keep Kyra and Indra behind him, make sure that, if those crossbowmen let loose their bolts they'd...Indra, what were you doing?

It does appear as if she's going to attempt diplomacy, the voice said. But I doubt we'd need it. I mean, all we have to do is be their friends!

Doing that will get you killed. Some people don't want friends, they just want you dead. Laidu watched her. She rode up to the front of the group. "What do you want?" Indra asked.

"Nothing much," the lead bandit, a man with close-cropped dark hair, said. "We need all your valuables." Thieves. Great. But, at least they were thieves.

"And that girl," the man said, pointing to Kyra. "Her too. And then, we might let you live."

Indra fumed. "Do you have any idea of who you're dealing with?" she asked. "You really don't do you?"

She's bluffing them, Laidu realized. I hope it works! the voice said. Tell her I hope the plan works, alright? Wish her good luck from me!

Laidu closed his eyes. This was ridiculous. She was never going to manage this. The two bandits in the back -a man and a woman- tensed up, their hands reaching for the crossbows.

"I don't care. Just hand over the girl and the valuables." The leader brandished his sword. "And we might just let you live."

"Fine," Indra said. "You want something valuable?" She grabbed something out of her pack. "Here!" She threw a vial in the face of the leader.

He screamed, the sword falling from his hand, clutching his face. Laidu growled and leaped off the horse, drawing his sword. "Indra!" he snarled. Karik'ar and Skaria instinctively drew their weapons, Karik'ar a sword, Skaria drawing a crossbow.

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