Jun Wei shook her, trying to clear her frazzled nerves. For the hundredth time she checked that her sword was loose in it’s sheath. The direction she expected her enemy to come from. The angle of the tarp-covered wagon that was hidden just inside the archway of a millennium-abandoned forge.
“Keep that tarp down, the glittering might give us away,” she said, uselessly, to one of the guardsmen crouched by the wagon. He nodded nervously, checking back over everything. Of course, it was already fine, but it gave the man something to do.
Suddenly, the sound of running footsteps echoing off the buildings. Jun straightened herself. It was time to cast the dice.
“Alright, people,” she said to the half-dozen guardsmen and guardswomen gathered in the T-shaped intersection she had chosen for this trap, “This would normally be a job for the Anathema, but we don’t have that luxury. They’ve bigger problems to deal with, so unfortunately this falls to us. We have our plan, we have our weapons, and we have all the iron we need right here.” She emphasized her last point by thumping her breastplate right above her heart.
The assembled guards nodded, and took their places. Everything was ready.
Chao Dun, unarmoured and with sword in hand, came careening around a corner, launching himself forward and making for the trapped intersection. “She’s coming!” he shouted breathlessly as he sprinted past, collapsing with exhaustion just inside the forge.
Jun drew her sword. “Positions!” she barked, although her soldiers were already in place or scrambling to get there.
The Rakshasa floated around the corner, hovering effortlessly, almost casually, a few inches from the ground. Most of her appeared to be a beautiful, if oddly-coloured and garishly clothed, woman. Her skin was the colour of lilacs, her long hair a shockingly vibrant green, and her dress of crisscrossing diagonal stripes was every colour of the rainbow. But her most glaringly inhuman feature was her arms… longer than the length of her body, she possessed massively muscled arms ended in taloned hands the size of a soldier’s shield. The multicoloured sleeves ended with a flaring ruffle at the wrist, but the hands themselves were brown and furred, almost as if taken from another beast entirely.
Upon spotting Jun, the Rakshasa tilted it’s head with curiosity. Then, in a surprisingly weak and feminine voice, it asked, “Where are your children?”
Jun took a step forward and fell into a defensive stance. “You’ll have no more children tonight, fae,” she growled, “I’m your opponent.”
The beast let out a high-pitched giggle, and with sudden speed dashed forward to strike at Jun with a massive, clawed paw.
Jun barely got her sword up in time. With the Rakshasa’s speed and power, there was no chance that Jun could beat it in a straight-up sword battle even if the beast was vulnerable to steel. But she was good enough- just barely- to keep the beast’s claws away, provided it didn’t get bored. Thankfully, the Rakshasa was toying with her, grinning like a fool as it played with this new, interesting prey.
Slowly, accompanied by the ring of claw on steel, Jun gave way. Every step was carefully chosen. Every retreat was carefully planned. After all, just because Jun wasn’t skilled enough to beat the beasts, didn’t mean that she couldn’t choose how to fall back.
With one last hop back, careful not to disturb the line of iron filings sprinkled on the ground. Jun put down her sword. The other guards had just finished completing the circle, stepping back with empty sacks stamped with the Blacksmith’s Guild emblem. The Rakshasa raised an arm to strike at Jun, then paused.
Suddenly, it screamed in frustration, a loud and piercing wail that made Jun wince and step back.
“You foolish woman! I will have vengeance for my slaughtered child! My prince, my lovely prince!”
Jun calmly sheathed her sword, as she walked back to where the wagon stood, ignoring most of the Rakshasa’s curses. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she needed her guards focused, and couldn’t betray any nervousness.
“This ward will not hold me forever, mortal bitch! I will have my blood!”
With one hand, Jun took the bow and quiver of raw iron-tipped arrows that Chao Dun was handing her, and with the other, she pulled the tarp off the wagon, revealing the glittering orichalcum barrel of an Essence Cannon.
“Fortunately for us both, that ward won’t have to hold you for long,” Jun retorted as the shew the arrow to her cheek.
“Guardsmen! You may fire when ready.”