Werst did not even have time to understand what had happened as he was pressed against the wall by Berg's strong hands, that was choking him. The old Captain's distorted with rage face was so close that the fat man seemed to be able to see the veins swollen on Berg's temple.
"The only garbage in the fortress that I am ready to throw right now at the feet of the Stone Beasts, head down from the wall is you," - Berg hissed into Werst's blanched face.
Paris wanted to rush to separate the two captains, but suddenly his back was soaked with cold sweat. The hair on the back of my head stood, forcing the young captain to stop in the middle of the movement.
Slowly, as if on the thin ice, Paris turned in the direction from which he felt danger and froze in confusion.
Next to the narrow window stood a gray figure of a man in a cloak. This man was so immovable and did not cause any sensation of presence that it was impossible to determine how long he was here.
It was as if a statue or empty armor stood in front of Paris. Apparently, the strange behavior of the young man attracted the attention of others. Since Werst with a nasty half-sob half-moan fell to the ground, and Berg almost silently moved to Paris, taking the stand by his right hand. The old Capitan positioned himself exactly as to be between a strange guest and Earl.
The silence stretched out. All stared expectantly at the gray cloak, but it did not show any signs of life.
It was so strange that a ludicrous idea flashed in Paris's mind to poke the clothes with something like a stick, or better with a sword or spear, to verify whether if it was really a person. Or they, like children in fear confused the usual cloak on a hook with a man.
Evidently, Berg had the same kind of thought, except his test version was somewhat different from the idea of the young captain.
In one motion, the old Capitan picking up a massive chair by the leg and hurled it into the immovable silhouette.
For a second, the chair blocked their view on the person.
Then a crash sounded following by splinters splattering in all directions.
Paris and Berg were forced to close their eyes at that, reflexively protecting them from small pieces of wood.
When the young captain looked again towards the unknown guest; the picture did not change at all; only at the feet of the cloaked figure now were laying pieces of a broken armchair.
"Who are you? Name yourself! "- snapped the earl, approaching. Berg without turning, moved again ready to cover his friend with his body in the event of an attack. But the cloak didn't react anyway.
Silence to Paris seemed unbearable, and he was all ready to approach the cloak himself but was stopped by a strange, flat voice. It was not loud but seemed to penetrate the very skin.
"We are not here to harm. If you don't leave this room, you won't get hurt. "
" What? "- Apparently Werst came to his senses, and finally assuming a vertical position, deciding to transfer his anger to the unknown guy. -" Who are you? "
The fatso seemed utterly unable to assess the situation. Looks like Berg squeezed the last beats of good sense out of Werst's head. Judging by his red face and rabid pig eyes, he was ready to throw himself at the newcomer, since the same maneuver with Berg would cost him a lot.
Only now Paris was not so interested in the fatso boiling with anger.
We! The man in the cloak said "we." It means either this is some kind of strange generalized appeal to oneself or he is not here alone.
Trying not to attract attention, the young captain glanced around the room. And indeed, as soon as Paris took a closer look, his gaze instantly stumbled upon four more figures wrapped in grey coats.
One near the bookcase, two near the entrance and another one right behind the earl.
Goosebumps ran down Paris's back. Human or nonhumans in cloaks did not hide at all, they just so naturally fit into the overall view, as if they merged with the stone masonry of the walls, that even a fleeting glimpse didn't at all catch on them.
The situation was utterly ridiculous. But Paris's feverish thoughts were distracted by Berg's muffled curses. The old Capitan also noticed other guests and now slowly moved closer to the earl, trying not to make any sudden movements.
Paris reasoned that this was the only correct decision and also began to move to the center of the room. The earl did the same, putting his hand on the sword hilt, which he had never removed from his belt.
"I repeat my question - who are you? And what do you want? "- the earl continued without losing composure, turning to the same man in a coat.
"Here we are called Stone Beasts," - the colorless voice whispered, - "We were given the task to seize the commanding staff of the fortress and hold you till further orders."
Paris caught his breath. Everything seemed somehow unreal, wrong. Fortresses are not taken like this. There must be an assault, the first attack, the second, battle, victory or defeat. But if these five now just slaughter them like a cattle, the fortress will be lost.
In each unit were other officers, even young captain had his two lieutenants. But they were only green recruits and exiled ones, who had never been in a real battle together with a permanent garrison that had not known attacks for fifty years.
Without saying a word Paris, Berg and the Earl stood in a circle, back to back. Wersts froze a little distance away. The dead gray voice knocked all the arrogance off the fat captain, and he was now huddling against the wall, trying to merge with it.
"Who gave you the order? What does it mean we will not be hurt if we stay here? "- after analyzing every word of a stranger finally squeezed out Paris, having received an approving nod from the earl.
Stretching the time was necessary. Any minute, some of their underlings should start looking for them. And then their chances of survival will increase significantly. Or not?
"The identity of our customer does not matter now. We must seize the commanding staff and hold until further orders are received. It's all. We were not ordered to kill you or cripple you. But if you try to leave the room, we will be forced to stop you by any means. We also were not forbidden to kill and maim. "
Paris did his best to cool his mind and adequately assess the situation. It was about an hour before sunset. Most likely the attack will begin soon.
Based on what he knew about the legendary mercenaries, they carried out orders to the t. And if he adds to this the fact that they almost never showed any emotions, neither good nor bad, moreover, they mostly didn't lie. Then the situation no longer seemed such a stalemate. But he had to be extremely careful in every maneuver.
"So we just need to sit here until someone gives you a new order, right?" - carefully asked Paris, starting to prob.
"Yes," - came a reply.
"Who has the right to give you an order?" - carefully, as if examining each word, continued Paris.
"Only our employer, personally."
Something was wrong. Paris always could asses other people excellent. What happened to him in the past spurred this talent even more. And the last word of the Stone Warrior started up a heap of goosebumps on the neck of the young captain.
That guy was not obliged to tell them anything. Every word of a man in a coat was verified, no emotions or sentiments. Paris was sure that the last question would get a completely different answer, but the stranger seemed to have specifically shown him a loophole.
"What if your employer does not come?"
"In this case, our contract expires on the ninth cycle of Amaris."
Paris, Berg and the earl exchanged wary glances. Yes, they can not leave this room, but apparently, they are not in danger of remaining here forever.
And yet during the attack, they should be on the wall with their fighters. Only in this way can they adequately assess and control the situation.
"What if we give up the powers of the commanders?" - Paris continued to pry. He was always better at mind games than training.
"If you continue to lead the garrison even if you give up titles in favor of someone else, then you will still be our goal."
"What if we don't? I mean, won't command at all?"
" Then you are of no interest to us."
The situation was bizarre. Why send a detachment of Stone Beasts before the attack if they are so easy to get around? How an unknown employer, probably from the tops of the Arian, did not understand that his plan was full of holes?
The Stone Beast also behaved strangely. Even considering their well-known eccentricity, they could have just suddenly attacked, tie them up and quietly wait for said order. On the contrary, they openly announced their presence and explained everything about their plans. They may be insensitive, but rumors also circulated about their extraordinary intelligence.
"What about our subordinates? Can we communicate with them while we are under your care? " - could not resist a slightly quipped question Paris, for which he immediately received the displeased look from the Earl.
"We are ordered to restrict your movement. It would not be advisable to let someone in because of the threat of an attack with the aim of your release." - the stranger spoke colorlessly.
Paris looked expectantly at the earl. He in turn thoughtfully wrinkled his forehead without taking his eyes off the man in the coat.
After a brief silence, the Earl finally turned his eyes to his friend. Berg shrugged in confusion. Then they both looked at Paris, who all this time was trying to turn the situation around in his mind, so-and-so, deciding whether they should seize the opportunity.
And what should they do with this opportunity next?
Write an order each that they are no longer in charge, and then find a way to continue commanding their troops when Stone Beasts will take control of those to whom they are supposed to transfer their duties? So what? To stand on the wall and whisper orders, fearing that the five mercenaries will stab in the back? It was hard to think up more stupid situation.
Another option is to try to hint a servant to gather people and bring here some help as soon as they are out. But the room is too small, and the mercenaries are certainly well trained. How many people will they kill before they are stopped?
His thoughts were interrupted by the raspy voice of the fat captain.
"How much will you take?" - apparently, the enthusiasm that had faded in him since the name of the Stone Warriors sounded woke up again sensing the opportunity to wriggle out of a hot mess.
Having received no answer, Werst did not give up.
"I asked, Stone guy, how much your services cost?! How much do you want to start serving me?" - It seemed that Werst completely lost all judgment from fear. Even the earl shook his head in bewilderment when he heard the fatso's last words.
"We have no right to take a new order until the previous one is completed. The cost of our services is negotiated with the Elders. Orders that have not been approved cannot be accepted."
"I don't ask you about the Elder, stone head. You, personally, how much do want to become mine? " - snapped Werst, clearly not in his right mind. His eyes were bloodshot and from the corner of his lips started to drip saliva. All around this fortress he always received anything he wanted. But then came the earl and his underlings, taking what righteously belonged to him, mocking him and ignoring like a mere fly! Now he felt that this was his chance to show them all finally.
But the cloaked man kept silence. And it made Werst snap, bursting into a raging speech.
"What the hell?! Can't you decide for yourself?! I feel sorry for you. To be just a slave to some filthy Elders? How much do you have from all this? "- Continued to attack Werst.
Perhaps this way of provoking and acting could work on an ordinary mercenary, only they did not deal with ordinary people right now.
Paris tensed with every word of the hated captain at any second, waiting for the most unpredictable reaction. Maybe it was actually their chance, to sacrifice this fatso and escape themselves?!
A sudden breeze burst through the gap between the open windows on the shutters, played with the folds of the gray cloak, allowing others to see better the outlines of the intruder.
Stone Beast never moved during the whole conversation. Even Werst's provocation didn't work in the end.
Paris wanted to get back to thinking about his previous plan, as he noticed a movement from the side of his eye.
The figure, slightly shorter than the one that stood in front of them moved forward just a step from the wall. But even such an insignificant movement seemed to have launched a chain of events.
As if the one they spoke to had instantly come to life. With a fluid movement, he flung the hood of his cape from his face and turned in the direction of his fellow man.
Paris barely restrained a surprised cry.