Day 16 – 1757 words and a total of 26 969 words! Just the smallest bit over what I needed to do.

Stikky hurried out of the tunnel into the castle grounds and looked around him, the twins, Leddy, and Steik not far behind.

The sun had not yet risen, but they could see its golden rays just beginning to show on the horizon.

Turning, Stikky was glad to see the walltop guards he had posted last night were still on duty.

“Are you guys hungry?” he called, his voice echoing around the courtyard and up onto the wall.

Spinning around, one of the guards noticed the group below them, waved, and nodded, calling, “Obviously! We need breakfast! Even if it is a bit early”

Grabbing Stif and Stib, he quickly instructed the two on what to do. “McRhoddy is already in the kitchens—he got up early—making breakfast as usual; I want you two to go and help him, and as soon as its ready, bring out something for those guys on the walltops. Got it?”

As the twins grumpily mumbled, “Whatever,” and began to walk off back down the tunnel, Stikky, Leddy, and Steik hurried up onto the walltop to question the guards.

“Anything to report?” Stikky asked the nearest one, who shook his head and saluted, switching the lantern he held to his other hand.

“Nope, nothing,” he replied. “Everything was as quiet as normal, even though it’s actually pretty loud at night with all these mountain crickets everywhere!”

Leddy nudged Stikky. “Maybe they’re not the kind of assassins who would try and use night as a coverage; if they didn’t do anything in the night, I expect they won’t try anything before dawn. Maybe we’ll be expecting them sometime today…”

Stikky nodded, turning back to the guard. “Thanks,” he added, nodding. “You’ll be getting some breakfast coming up soon, and I’ll get some others to take shifts with you, so you’re not up here all the time.”

Saluting once more, the guard turned away and began to march once again along the walltop, no doubt following the same routine he had been using all of that night.

Walking along the walltop, the three asked the rest of the guards the same question, each time receiving the same answers.

“It looks like you’re right…” Stikky decided, after they had questioned each stickman and made their way down the stairs into the courtyard, making way for Stif and Stib as they carried trays of delicious plates of food carefully up onto the walltop.

Leddy nodded, grinning as he watched Stif throw a candied cherry into the air and catch it skillfully in his mouth without spilling anything. “Well, we’ll just have to be on our guard today… great. I was hoping we could do some more exploring of the island, but I suppose we can’t. Anyway, it’ll probably be both exciting and boring; boring if nothing happens, and exciting if something does.”

Making their way across the courtyard, they looked once more up at the walltop as Stif and Stib began serving out breakfast, before disappearing into the middle tunnel to go and look for their own.

Drayde’s stomach was gurgling as the Guerdon Gang finally reaching the plateau, but he knew better than to complain.

“I’ll just go and scout ahead,” Giabrel muttered, waiting the split second needed for him to see Wyllum nod before he activated his cloak, the curious bubbles covering it somehow creating the effect that you could see right threw him, making him technically invisible.

Waving an invisible hand, Giabrel hurried silently off across the plain to get a closer look at the castle, creating a ripple-like effect in the air as he moved along.

Hurrying behind a set of rocks as the three noticed the lanterns atop the walls—no doubt of patrolling guards—Wyllum muttered something angrily, drawing his sword and sharpening it with a rock for something to do.

Peering cautiously over the edge of the boulder, Drayde looked around for a moment, quickly spotting the ripples in the air as D3-RP cautiously pointed it out to him—only possible to see if you knew what you were looking at.

The three waited—D3-RP and Drayde watching while Wyllum muttered to himself about why they would post guards on the walls—as the ripples made their way silently around the perimeter of the castle, and finally back towards them.

Uncloaking himself as he sat down behind the rock, Giabrel breathed a sigh of relief. “It’ll be easy getting in there with stealth!” he explained quietly, looking over his shoulder back at the castle. “If Drayde and me take out the guards while we’re invisible—we’ll have to do it quickly before the sun rises—then we can get in and catch the rest of them unawares.”

Wyllum nodded, grinning evilly as he pulled his bandanna up further over his mouth and nose and sheathed his sword. “C’mon! We don’t have much time!”

As Drayde pulled the hood of his pitch-black robe further down over his face and Giabrel reactivated his cloak, the two stepped out from behind the rock and began to make their way back towards the castle, the sun just beginning to show above the horizon.

 

Stikky, Leddy, and Steik entered the kitchens just in time to catch McRhoddy carrying a tray of hot pasties from the ovens to a table.

“G’morning, m’laddies!” he exclaimed, throwing his arms wide. “Come in and ‘ave some breakfast!”

Walking into the kitchen, Stikky sniffed deeply as an aroma of delicious smells greeted him, grinning as he did so.

“C’mon, try one of these ‘ot pasties!” he added, holding out the tray to them. “Fresh from tha ovens!”

As the three hungry stickmen each selected a pasty, took a big sniff of the smell rising off it, and took a bite, McRhoddy looked at them hopefully.

“Do they taste okay?” he asked hopefully, eying the three with great concern. “They’re mushroom and turnip, if you’re wanting to know.”

Stikky nodded, taking a second bite. “They’re better than okay!” he exclaimed, his mouth still full. “They’re excellent?”

The other two agreed. “Can we have another?” Leddy pleaded as he took his third and final bite of the mushroom and turnip pastry, licking his lips greedily.

Suddenly a stickman burst into the kitchen, almost-collapsing on the floor as he collided with a table and clung to it, gasping for breath.

The four looked at him in surprise and bewilderment.

Stikky helped him to his feet. “What is it?” he asked, recognising him quickly as one of the guards who had been on the walltop previously

The stickman shook himself. “There’s been an attack… on the walls… two people; they came out of nowhere and started attacking us. One of them was shooting these… anyone who got hit by them was dead in less than ten seconds… we have to stop them!”

The four listened, their mouths wide open with shock as the stickmen held out a small dart, its tip smeared with something green…

“Poison,” Stikky said flatly, taking the dart from the the stickman and studying it in shock.

Leddy drew his sword. “What are we waiting for?!” he exclaimed. “Let’s get rid of these intruders!”

Drawing their swords, Stikky and Leddy charged off down the tunnel, yelling at the top of their voices, leaving the other three to look at each other.

“I’m not one for battles…” Steik explained nervously, polishing his glasses with the piece of cloth he kept tucked in his pocket. The other two nodded in agreement. Turning around, McRhoddy shuffled back to the ovens and began unloading some more trays of food, the others sitting down to watch him.

Sprinting down the tunnel directly behind Leddy, Stikky managed to sheath his sword after realising it was more annoying to carry it.

As the light at the end of the tunnel grew brighter and brighter, the two stickmen ran harder. Then they emerged out into the castle grounds, the light blinding them momentarily.

It was chaos. Stickmen lay everywhere, darts sticking out of them. Stikky wasn’t sure whether they were poison or just tranquilizers, but they were deadly nonetheless.

A few brave defenders were still trying to fight the intruders, but most were either crumpled up on the floor, or running for their lives towards the tunnels.

Zzzzzz… Thunk!

A dart pinged off the wall beside the two stickmen, making Stikky jump in alarm as a second one quickly followed it, narrowly missing his leg.

Drawing his sword, he looked around wildly, identifying the person shooting the darts as a third projectile hit his outstretched blade and rebounded in a random direction.

“Aaahhhhh!!”

A stickman came running down the staircase from the wall, panicking as he looked around, spotted the three tunnels to safety, and sprinted for them.

Thunk!

A dart came flying out from nowhere, hitting the stickman in the back. Instantly he fell to the ground, wailing for a few seconds more before he stopped and lay still.

Looking around wildly, Stikky and Leddy stood back to back, gulping as they realised they were the only ones left.

The four members of the Guerdon Gang materialized out of their hiding places, Giabrel’s stealth cloak deactivating as the peculiar ripples flowing through the air transformed into a strongly-built stickman.

As the four assassins circled around the two remaining stickmen, Wyllum smirked victoriously, sheathing his sword once more. “Go on, D3.” he commanded, the cyborg raising his gun obediently.

Whizz!!

Stikky ducked—purely by instinct—as the dart flew overhead, embedding itself not in its intended target, but in Giabrel’s leg.

“Arrggghhhhh!!” The poison-specialist bellowed, hopping up and down as he pulled out the dart and stared at it wildly, but it was too late. The sedative quickly took effect, dropping him to the ground where he began to snore gently.

Drayde whipped an arrow out from his quiver and had aimed it at the two stickmen in an instant, narrowing his eyes as he muttered, “Go on, try and run. I’ll shoot you if you do…”

Leddy did run. But not away, no, he ran towards Drayde, ducking the arrow that whizzed over his head and bouncing off D3-RP’s metal chest, knocking him to the ground with an heavy “Oof!”

Spinning around as Drayde raised his bow in defense, Leddy cut clean through the bowstring of his weapon and knocked him senseless with the flat of his sword.

Turning, he watched as the rest of the battle unfolded between Stikky and Wyllum as the two swordsman circled slowly around each other, eyes narrowed and blades at the ready, each waiting for the other to make their move.