Walner was a massive, slightly balding man of surprisingly tall height for an Arian man. Cali knew that he was the nephew of Parsif. But since polygamy and the slave trade were allowed in the Arian Ligarkhat, Wallner was the son of just a concubine and didn't have any rights for the family fortune. That's why he tried his best to stand out any means possible.
Coming close to the fire, Cali and Konrad froze, waiting for the merry company to notice their presence. There were about six Arians in the group at about the same age. Lounging on small rugs, they chatted enthusiastically.
"Did you see their leader?" - The man near Walner drawled mockingly. - "Bro, are you sure that they are real, and not just some mummers?"
"Well, I did see this hotty leader! If my uncle had not warned me beforehand that they only look like a human, but inside it's like they are made of granite, I would sure have a taste or two! But sadly, they are real! You wouldn't even ask if you knew how much money uncle Parsif gave for them. That's just crazy! " - answered Walner, causing a new burst of laughter from his friends.
" Even if they real. They look more like bullshit road jesters. Freak show! I almost barfed seeing some of them. Ewww!"- A short guy that missed a few front teeth hurried to chime in. The most beautiful elven silk on him looked like a crown on the hog.
"Oh, Yea! Besides their leader, there are two more women, and the rest is like a parade of freaks. Even her right-hand man without a right hand! What the hell?! I think, your uncle was deceived. They threw at him the worst garbage!" - added another man, who was fully armored in golden mail and now sweated as a pig, but still proudly kept it on.
" Should we really care? If at least they'll open the gates to us, they already work out what was spend on them. And if they are slaughtered on the way, the loss is not great. We'll have less work after. They were needed only to show our guys how to act anyway!"
After Walner's words, the whole gang burst out laughing again. But the fat captain in gold armor quickly cut off his giggle when his eyes focused on Cali. He grunted loudly, choking on his own laugh, and started shoving his neighbor's side. The others cursed, but still turning to look at this guy, that suddenly became pale as a ghost. The fatso mumbled something and pointed his shaking finger at Cali.
Walner turned in the right direction and recoiled at first, but quickly pulled himself together. After a brief silence, the Arian commander cleared his throat and greeted the intruders.
"Lady Calisto, it's a pity that you were not present at the war council," - he stated confidently, trying not to let any panicked notes in his voice. Although Walner felt like cold sweat was dripping by his back. He fixed his gaze somewhere at the girl's chin, afraid to meet her eyes.
"What brought you here? Do you have any questions? "
" No questions." - the quiet even voice of the girl made the whole six shudder a little. - "I would like to clarify our position to you so that afterward there will be no misunderstanding. May I?"
Neither the tone nor the face of the girl reflects a single emotion. If the statue suddenly came to life, it would look exactly like this.
For several weeks, Walner has been closely watching this group, but he could not understand what was going on in their heads in the end.
Despite his look, he was not a simpleton like some of those sitting around a fire.
Even thought Walner was a lousy offspring of the mere concubine, he still was able to become the trustee of Parsif himself, one of the wealthiest merchants of the Arian Ligarkhat and the third seat in Ligara. For that Walner needed all his intelligence, resourcefulness and ability to read people.
But if the motives of all ordinary people were quite plain and easy to determine, be it greed, fear, hatred, or lust. These people, it seemed, did not want anything. He didn't find a single weakness and not a drop of interest, absolutely nothing. Like they were merely existing, nothing else.
And now the question, or rather the statement of this girl with empty like that of a corpse eyes again made him puzzled.
Flames from the fire played on the face of a very young lady. Exceptionally precise, thin features and big blue eyes that looked so much like that of Riolian aristocrats did not at all fit with the weathered tan skin and grayish hair under a layer of road dust that was pulled back at the nape in a lousy ponytail. On her face did not flinch a muscle, she just stood and waited for an answer.
"I'm listening to you, Lady Calisto." - finally squeezed Walner out.
"Your uncle, Ar Parsif, has signed a contract with us to fulfill the task. According to it, our task is to train your soldiers, lead them during the attack, capture the commanders of the fortress and hold them until further commands arrive. We received the task. This task was given by Parsif, and the contract was signed by him. Thus further guidance should come from him and him alone."
"That's right, dearest Lady Calisto," - broke into a sly smile Walner, with interest searching for a shadow of emotion in her eyes or in her movement. But the girl's face stayed cold and impassive. She didn't even move her lips much while speaking.
"The plan has slightly changed. The only difference is that we will attack at night and you will be the first to attack, as true leaders. As soon as your team let us into the gates, I gladly listen to your every command. And by the way, my uncle sent a letter. He wanted me to pass on you that the commanding personnel does not need to be captured alive. All that is required from your team is to find them and kill them. So as you can see, I was just trying to make your task easier. We will attack right after you to divert attention to ourselves. What do you think?"
" We got a task once "- Cali's colorlessly voice sounded again, without any slightest changes in tempo or tone. - "The customer can only cancel it personally. It is not subject to change by the customer or by anyone else. If you and your people refuse to attack under our command, then we will only fulfill that part of the contract that does not require your participation. "
" Girl, wait! "- putting his hands forward in a pacifying gesture, Walter grinned, carefully studying the reaction to such a brazen treatment, which however did not follow. - "Let's not get excited. The contract states that you will lead the troops during the attack, but the troops are subordinate to me. I am sure that you have a great experience in commanding your troops. Only here are almost eight hundred men. And all of them will carry out my orders. Just tell me now all those stuff that you wanted to command there during the attack, and I will do everything myself, deal? Then everything will be fair. After all, I control the troops, and you kind of instructed me. Will it do? "
Seeing that the stone Capitan didn't react at all to such an offensive tirade, several men braved themselves and giggled into fists, but the laughter quickly died down as soon as they caught the gaze of the man who was standing motionless behind the back of this strange girl. As if he noted with his eyes each of them that allowed themselves to mock his leader.
"This interpretation does not correspond to our concept of how to lead an attack." - in the meantime stated Cali, still looking straight at Walner.
" But it fits my concept perfectly."- Barked Arian man, starting to get angry from all this nervousness that caused this little b*tch. - "And since my uncle has entrusted this company to me, and it was he who hired you. Then it is I who should decide what corresponds and what's not. I heard a lot about your brethren. And, of course, I have no doubt that you are brave and skillful enough to crank up this trivial matter. I hope that we are arguing now not because you were just scared to go first. "
" This statement has nothing to do with reality. "- said Cali flatly, without even blinking at another insult. -" We are not debating. I have come to stat our position and further actions, in case you refuse to obey. We will not be able to control the actions of the troops if we go first. This action will not be appropriate and will not bring the desired result. By signing the contract, I calculated our chances for success and based on this I gave my consent to our participation. Fear, hatred, pride, and greed do not matter to us. Just like your goals. You have already deceived us, instead of fighting training you demanded from us to teach your troops Stone Beasts' habits. We are fully aware that this company is just a red herring, and I don't have the right to put at risk my own people just because you decided to get rid of unwanted witnesses. "
With every word, Walner's face grew paler, the lips stretched to the line, and a muscle started to tick at his chin.
"Now listen to me, b*tch! If you refuse to carry out my orders. I will kill you and all your freaks here and now and give your girls to mercenaries for some fun. Believe me, no matter how strong you are, we have enough people to tear you to pieces. "
As he spoke, Walner got up from his seat and slowly, like a predator without taking his eye off his victim, approached Cali. The last words he literally exhaled in her face, hovering over the girl shorter than him by two heads. But the young leader of the Stone Beasts did not even move, just lifted cold, and lifeless eyes staring straight at the face of the Arians commander.
Walner suddenly felt chill spreading somewhere in the chest and rising to the throat. In these eyes, he saw the endless emptiness and his own death. Instinctively he backed off a step but didn't look away, clenching his teeth.
"We accept your threat as a final rejection of the original plan. In this regard, we will execute only that part of the deal that is available to us. Following the current situation, the command staff will be held by us until we receive further orders personally from Parsif or if the fortress is not taken by you within 3 days from now. That is, until the end of the term of our contract."
Her voice, hard and rough as a whetstone, reached all those present around the fire. Walner merely narrowed his eyes, gazing intently at Сali's face and pondering what he had heard, but not all of his subordinates were equally intelligent.
Three of them were pretty drunk already that's why all the good sense flew out of their heads as soon as they felt the possibility to show off before their master. Among them were a sweating fatso in golden armor and a toothless guy in elven silk.
They charged forward, raining curses at the "b*tchy lowly whore," and getting out their short swords with crescent-shaped blades. Walner wanted to stop them, but further events developed so quickly that he froze with his mouth open.
As soon as the first of the attackers entered the strike zone of Cali, the silhouette of a girl seemed to dissolve in the air. The barely noticeable movement and the head of the first Arian man flew off to the side. The long, flexible, narrow blade uttered a mournful moan as it was sent by the young captain for the new strike.
If Walner had not seen this weapon before, he might have thought that the girl was waving a silver ribbon. The blade twisted smoothly in the air, obeying the tiniest movements of its owner.
Two more strokes, visible only due to the flare on a narrow blade, and the last two attackers settled on the ground. The first one had a face slashed across and a second one had a deep wound through the part of the chest and stomach. They did not even make two steps to approach Callisto. And their faces were frozen in a surprise as they didn't even understand what happened.
With one swift swoop, the Stone girl shook the drops of blood from the blade on the rest of the Arians and hid her sword in the strange sheath entwined around her calf.
She was still looking Walner directly in the face. It seemed only an instant had passed and the girl only slightly stirred not even glancing at the attackers.
Those sitting around the fire stiffened in astonishment, they couldn't tear their eyes from their three comrades like broken dolls lying near the fire. Cali, on the other hand, did not wait for a response and turned around walking away.
Her lieutenant lingered a little, his cold eyes slid around those present. But in the next moment, he too turned to follow the girl.
Walner, afraid of losing the last opportunity to use this squad, tried to call Cali.
"How do we understand that you captured the general and the rest? When will you go to the Fortress?"
The girl didn't slow down and threw a sharp reply over her shoulder.
"However you wish. And now. You want to know for sure, you will enter the fortress yourself. "