The Jukatha Assignment

The Jukatha Assignment

A Chapter by Brandon M. Whittaker
"

The Jukatha Assignment, one of the most notorious assignments in the Phoenixfire Mercenary Corps' history.

"
The Phoenixfire Chronicles
Entry #004
Year 10495 BR
Logged by Jeena Kethala


The wind blew coldly across the training field of the Phoenixfire Mercenary Winterquarters. Every inch of ground in the town that housed the company was covered in a thick coat of snow. The air was a crisp cold that stung the nostrils and gave goosebumps. This was what winters were like for the Phoenixfire Mercenaries, and Ryth knew it well. This was his second season with the company and he was, at the moment, supervising the training of the greens. The sounds of clashing blades, arrows being loosed and hitting their targets, and the clear, precise orders that were being shouted by the sergeants cut through the otherwise quiet air.

Ryth had never really liked standing out in the cold, simply watching. No, he preferred to be doing, watching was just boring to him. But, it could not be helped. Loraina had given him a direct order to supervise the training of the new recruits so that they would be sure the greens would be in fighting condition for their next job. Ryth was relieved that they had winters free of assignment and full of leisure. It was hard to do this when you kill for a living. Being a mercenary was a dangerous occupation to uphold, no matter who you were. A life is lost in every scenario, and there was nothing anyone could really do about it. There was always one merc who strayed from the group, then all it took was a simple arrow to bring him down.

Footsteps sounded in the snow behind the Vice-Captain, yet he didn't turn to see who it was. Ryth was aware of the person behind him and tried to identify him through telepathy, but he ran into a mental shield. This gave him all the information he needed. "Hello, Gorta," he said with a soft chuckle. The footsteps stopped briefly before Gorta, Ryth's good friend, came to stand next to him.

"You looked lonely out here, so I decided to come an join you," Gorta said, his eyes following the movements of the arrows being loosed by a group of recruits.

"Thanks, Gorta, I appreciate that," Ryth replied, he was always glad to see his closest friend. They were so close they were more like brothers than friends.

"So, any word from Loraina, know when she'll be back?"

"No idea, she said that the situation took 'family crisis' to a whole new level. I'm a bit worried about her." Ryth finally turned to look his friend in the eye.

"We all are, Ryth, she's never been absent during winter training this long before. Not that you know, you've only been with us for one season so far."

Ryth nodded his agreement at Gorta's statement. The Siren was right, Ryth had only been a Phoenixfire Mercenary for one season and he was already Vice-Captain, which was a higher rank than he could ever have asked for. "You're right, Gorta." He said, then was silent for a long moment. "You know, I figured I'd love the peace of winter training, but it's just not the same as when we're on assignment, you know?"

Gorta nodded and smiled. "I know what you mean, my friend. But, hey, it's not winter, without a little fun." He made a "humping" gesture with his hips and Ryth snorted with laughter.

"True, true."

"Oh, by the way, there are some rumors spreading about you and Jeena have a little bit of romance...what say ye about that?" Gorta chided. Ryth only chuckled.

"That is among the few rumors that are actually true. Jeena and I have a bit of romance going. Whoever started that rumor either has very good outter sources, or was spying on us at one time or another."

Now it was Gorta's turn to laugh. "Hm, well I can think of at least ONE person who wouldn't mind spying on something like that."

Ryth gave him a knowing look. "Hilrek," the two of them said in unison.

~~~~~~~

Jeena stood with her blade out, ready to defend herself. Her opponent was Hilrek, it was Drake'then versus Phoenix in this duel, and both of them would have several opportunities to pull off a win during this one. Jeena was dressed in her field armor, much like Ryth's own battle armor, only hers was much less...elegant, much less professional. Hilrek was dressed in the same attire as herself. However, Jeena didn't have time at all to think about the meaning behind their clothing, as Rek began a charge, catching her somewhat off-guard, but it wasn't enough. Jeena recovered from her temporary shock to flip over Rek's head, landing a kick to the back of his head while still in the air. Rek stumbled forward, giving Jeena plenty of time to come back around by disappearing and reappearing right in front of him. She even had time to bring her knee up into his gut before he fell, making him fall forward onto the ground.

"I win," Jeena said, panting a bit.

Rek coughed and rolled over onto his back, blood smeared his lips and nose. "It seems that you do," he said with a chuckle.

Jeena held out a hand generously to help him up. Rek took her hand with a smile and barely had time to stand up before the two of them heard footsteps heading in their direction. It was Ryth and Gorta, walking up in full armor with smiles on their faces.

"Well, I must say that your practice was quite entertaining," Ryth said, not bothering to hide his amusement. "I thi--" He was cut off as Jeena threw her arms around his neck.

"Heyla, Ryth!" She said and nuzzled his neck a bit.

"Hey, Jeena," he replied with a chuckle. "You did very well out there, but unfortunately I come with news from Loraina, and it's bad news."

Rek and Jeena both looked at Ryth and Gorta with equally troubled expressions.

"Well...what is it?" Rek asked, his anxiety betraying the straight face he was trying to keep.
Ryth and Gorta exchanged glances.

"She's been captured by a faction of bandits," Gorta spoke up. "She's being held in the old abandoned Jukatha Prison, which is apparently where the faction is holed up in."

The four of them were silent for a moment.

"Well, Ryth, you're the first in command now that Loraina's been taken hostage...what are your orders?"
Ryth sighed and looked very troubled at this. "There's nothing we can do...we've already tried negotiating with them since we found out about her capture. Every attempt failed, we even tried offering them money, but they wouldn't take it. Our only option is to launch a full scale assault against the Jukatha prison. We head out tomorrow morning, I will give out the briefing when we make camp. It's a two day journey there."

Gorta nodded, as did Jeena, but Rek sighed. "What are your orders then?" He asked.

"I need you to alert the rest of the company and give them the full report." Ryth handed him a piece of parchment.

"Will do, sir." Rek saluted, turned on his heel, and left the practice grounds.

"You'd best get some rest, Jeena...you're going to need it," Ryth said, planting a soft kiss on her lips. Jeena nodded and kissed him back before heading off toward the barracks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

A cold wind blew across the snow covered the Phoenixfire winter quarters once again, sending a chill down Ryth’s spine.  It was not usual for the company to be heading out for a job in the dead of winter, and when something unusual happened, it was normally nothing more than bad luck.  The only other winter assignment that they had before this was before Ryth was even a Phoenixfire Merc.

He’d heard the stories, however, and none of them were very welcoming to a recruit’s ears. But Ryth wasn’t a recruit anymore, no, he was the Vice-Captain, and he now had the burden of leading his company on this assignment.  He had gone over the operation with Gorta and Rek the previous night, and it came out rather simple.  They were to assault the prison from all sides, the majority of their forces would be “storming” the front as a distraction. Then, Ryth and Gorta would lead a group of mercenaries in to free Loraina, then they would call a retreat.  From then on out it would be a skirmish, hit-and-run tactics until they either whittled down the enemy force, or had outrun them completely.
This cold morning would be the most dull of the assignment, and Ryth knew it as he watched hundreds or horses, men, and women slowly walking out of the gates of the town of Freluna, and away from the quiet, relaxing barracks.

Ryth sighed and dug his heels into his horse’s flank, moving her into a canter.  It wasn’t long before he was at the back of the huge line of mercenaries heading out of the town.  Gorta and Jeena were back here with him, as they were the ranking members of the company.

“We’ve got everything accounted for, sir,” Jeena said, she looked tired, very tired.  Ryth wouldn’t have been surprised of none of his troops got any sleep at all.  He nodded to her and looked at Gorta.

“I take it Rek informed the rest of the company, then...they all look as if they’ve been wanting this more than they’ve been dreading it.”  Ryth stated, shaking his head as he rode between his friends.  “It’s a good thing we spend our winters keeping in shape and conditioning, otherwise we’d be walking into a massacre.”

“And we don’t want that at all.  We’re easily among the most respected Merc companies out there, it would be a disappointment to everyone who looked up to us if we failed an assignment so miserably.”  Gorta sounded as sleep deprived as Jeena looked, but Ryth knew the reason for his Siren friend’s fatigue.  “I’m also glad that you and I spent the entire night working out this strategy.”

“As am I, you briefed all the lieutenants and the squadron leaders, right?”

“Yes, sir, I also had them send out patrols every time we stopped to make camp, which is likely to only be once I assume.”

Jeena looked at Gorta and shook her head.  “It’s only a two day journey to the Jukatha Prison, Gorta, we’re traveling all of today and then it’ll only take us about twelve hours to reach our target tomorrow.”

“Depending on what time we leave, that is.” Ryth put in, nodding as Jeena spoke.

After only another half hour, the Phoenixfire Mercenaries were making their way across the snow blanketed land, chatting quietly amongst themselves, some laughing, some sleeping in the saddle.  To any passerby they were quite a sight.  It wasn’t every day that a civilian had the opportunity to see an army of mercenaries, fully armed and prepared for a job, heading off across the land.  There were around two thousand mercenaries in the Phoenixfire ranks at this point in time, and by the time they came back to Freluna, they would have to do some more recruiting, and he knew it.

The green recruits were left behind because their trainers reported to Ryth that they weren’t ready for a job yet, which was just as well.  I don’t want to lose more mercenaries than is necessary.  Hopefully we won’t lose more than ten or fifteen. We’ve taken on worse than a faction of bandits in the past and lost less than twenty mercs.  The thought only lingered briefly in his mind before it was interrupted by the sound of hoof beats in the snow.  Rek came riding up to him with a slight smile on his face.

“Sir, we spotted a small group of the bandits heading in our direction.  Apparently they received word, or rumors that we were on our way to take back our captain.”  The Drake’then said cheerfully.  “We’ve just engaged them and have taken one of their members captive.”

“Did you interrogate him?”  Jeena asked quickly, Rek nodded.

“We also had him under careful mind-watch to make sure he wasn’t lying about anything.”  Rek’s smile widened before he continued.  “The bandits in this group are the only ones that know of our little raid.  We caught their runner before he got very far at all, the others at the prison don’t know that we’re coming.”

Ryth and Gorta exchanged glances and both smirked.  “This adds a better twist to our plans, sir, now we can use the element of surprise.”  Gorta said, a grin slipping onto the Siren’s face.

Ryth nodded and chuckled.  “Well, then we should pick up our pace, we don’t know how many other patrols are out there, if we’re lucky, this was the only one.”

“And if we’re unlucky?”

Ryth looked at Jeena, a look of concern replacing the smile. “Then there will be more than one and one of the patrols might get a runner in.  But let’s hope that isn’t the case.”  He smiled as Rek made his way back to his position.  Soon, they would be stopping for the night as the sun was already setting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was quiet at the Jukatha Prison. Not even the guards that patrolled vigorously around the premises made noise, silently walking with their eyes constantly darting this way and that way. The inhabitants knew that their prisoner's followers wouldn't let her sit out here for very long before trying to get them back.

One guard was more on edge than everyone else, he'd run into their prisoner's kind before, the people who she led. They were ruthless, but they were somehow silent at the same time. But this guard was determined to catch them in the act this time, let them know that not everyone is oblivious. It must have been small operations, because no one could hide an entire army in a forest and NOT be seen. Someone would mess up and make noise, someone would end up without a place to hide. There was no way that is was possible to hide that many people in such a small area.

There. A shadow in the trees. The guard stepped cautiously toward the tree-line, blade silently drawn. They were here, they had to be. Unless it was just an animal and his imagination was escaping from him again. A few inches closer and he could catch the b*****d, so close he could taste it. So, with his mind clouded with illusions of victory, he guard took one more step.

Suddenly there was a sharp pain on his neck, then his breathing cut out and warm crimson flooded into his mouth. Shaking hands came up to the area of pain only to find the shaft of an arrow protruding from either side of his neck. This was it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Nice shot," Vice-Captain Ryth whispered to the archer to his right. He watched the curious guard fall sideways into the grass and disappear into the brush as the mercenaries waiting there pulled his body out of view. Before he could drift off into some random though like he tended to do recently, Ryth turned to his immediate strike team. First the archer to his right. "When I tell you, give the mind-signal to our tree-top boys to take out the guards in the towers, tell them to mark their targets now, but do not fire. And tell them to call their targets so we don't get two guys shooting down the same guard and leave one wondering what the hell just happened."

The archer simply nodded as Ryth turned to Jeena and simply nodded. There was no need to say anything, she already knew what he wanted. "Foot-mobiles and cavalry are ready to charge whenever the guards go down, sir," she whispered.

"Good. You ready, Gorta?" Ryth whispered, mimicking the siren as he silently drew his blade.

"As ready as I'll ever be, sir."

Ryth smirked at that and nodded to the archer to his right, not even five seconds later the guards on their high perches went down quietly. Then the foot-mobiles let out a great battle-cry and burst from the brush, taking the remaining guards outside off-guard. The cavalry rushed in on their mounts right behind them as a runner came running  BACK out of the prison with what looked like could have been the entire enemy force at his back.

The Vice-Captain smirked. All according to plan. Gods I love my mercenaries. At the end of the thought came a primal desire to sit back and watch the mayhem unfold as his fighters caused it, but he knew there was a job to be done. "Alright, Gorta, let's get in their and save our leader!"

"One step ahead of you!" Gorta called from the edge of the battle.

"You son of a b***h, wait up!"

"Too slow!" Gorta chanted until Ryth caught up to him. The front door was clear of any guards. All the ones that were going to come out were already out, that meant that the two of them only had to worry about the resistance inside.

"Oh yeah! They must all be out there! Look at all this open space!" Gorta turned around to see one energy blast on each side blow past him and he heard two screams and thuds. When he turned around there were two enemy soldiers laying dead in the hallway. He looked back at Ryth who had an amused smirk on his face. "It's never empty is it?"

Ryth only shook his head and walked past Gorta chuckling. "Come on, we gotta get her out of here, and this is a big prison, we got a lot to look through."

"And probably not a lot of time, the leaders probably know what's going on. If they see they're losing they'll execute her without thinking twice about it," Gorta put in, quite seriously. Ryth stopped dead in his tracks at that.

"You're right. We don't have much time, let's go."

~~~~~~~~~~

"Hilrek, behind you!" Jeena yelled over the noise of the battle. The Drak'then turned and cut down the extra assailant Jeena had warned him about, then turned and blasted a few more.

"Your lover-boy better make this quick or I don't know how long we're going to last here. Now they're bringing in forces from outside the prison and patrols are coming back and jumping in."

"Ryth isn't exactly a time-oriented man," Jeena replied, now back-to-back with Hilrek now.

"Let's hope he learns!" Hilrek called striking down an enemy.

~~~~~~~~

"Oooh, I got some sparks on that one!" Ryth yelled with a laugh as he parried an enemy blade strike.

"Awww, all I got is blood!" Gorta put in as a splash of crimson doused his face.

"Yeah, but this guy has magic! Not fair, you get all the easy guys!"

Ryth's enemy swung harder this time. "You know it's know like we speak different languages!"

"Oh, I apologize, I usually just see enemies as emotionless, faceless, no-family, losers."

His enemy was silent for a moment before dropping his blade. "Well, I DO have a family."

"You're lucky you said that, I was about to cut your head off."

"This is ridiculous," the bandit threw his hands over his head. "You may as well just kill me! I obviously just failed my family."

"Or so you think!" Ryth stated, putting a finger in the air at just eye level. "Ever thought of becoming a mercenary?"

"I thought mercenary and bandit were the same thing!"

Ryth let out a serious sigh at that and looked at Gorta. "He's young."

"Sir, if I may make a suggestion,"

"Go ahead."

"Let's just get our captain and worry about this later!"

"Yeah, you're right. Come, on, rookie, you're with us, we'll get you somewhere you can support your family better than this."

"The main office. They're in the main office."

Ryth and Gorta stopped, turned, and looked at the new member with eyebrows raised. "Lead us there."

~~~~~~~~~

"I say on three we send a mind-message to all our forces to make a push for the inside," Hilrek yelled, firing an arrow through the back of a bandit attempting to climb one of the watch towers.

Jeena finished up with three enemies at once and flipped over Hilrek's head to stand in defensive stance at his back. "I don't think that's a wise idea, if we all storm that thing, the enemy leaders might just decide to kill our Captain."

"Can't have that now can we?"

"Nope."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You outdid yourself on this one, Rookie!" Ryth cried over the energy explosion that rocked their barricaded position. The main office was guarded by four battle-mages all of whom of equal magic prowess to himself.

"They're stronger than me, sir, if I go in there I'll be a pile of dust before you can say cheese."

"I'm sorry, I forgot they were battle-mages."

"Things happen, Rookie, now do you know any of these guys very- cover your ears-" Another explosion rocked the hallway. "-well?"

The rookie shook his head. "Not at all."

"Wait, how fast do they cast?"

The rookie motioned to the next magic bolt that came flying into the barricade. "They're at their fastest."

Ryth and Gorta both smirked and exchanged glances. "I'm faster," Ryth said simply and leaped over the barricade. Zipping in and out of flying magic bolts faster than the eye could even see. Over the distance from their small magic barrier to where the farthest mage was, he had time to gather his surroundings as if everything were moving in slow motion. He had time to view each of the mages' preferred hand motions before unleashing a spell. Finally, he spotted their Captain, seated and bound to a chair, mouth bound as well so she couldn't yell.

The whole thing was over in an instant, though it seemed like forever to Ryth. As he approached the first mage he noted that before unleashing a spell he slid his back foot further back. So Ryth ended his charge next to him and kicked that leg all the way back, putting the mage on his knee. This put him at the perfect angle for Ryth to make one simple backward slash with his blade, thus taking his head off with a clean cut.

The second mage was a little more difficult, as he hardly moved as he cast his spells, but he always closed his eyes when in the middle of an incantation. So, Ryth took his time, hiding behind another magic bolt while the mage charged up another one. Then as he loosed the second bolt, Ryth popped out from behind the first one, ducked under the second and brought his blade upward through his stomach, then ripped it out again before slamming him down on the ground with a hard front kick.

The third mage was overly simple. She had a simple casting movement that involved gathering her energy direct center in front of her, then transferring it to one hand before loosing it, the other hand came back to her waist. Ryth made his way toward her and ducked just as she loosed her next bolt, then brought his blade up, severing said arm from her body. Then, with utmost control, Ryth twirled his blade after following through only three inches and removed her head from her shoulders.

The fourth mage was the fast caster, but her spells lacked in power. Ryth simply stood for this one and deflected each bolt with his blade with great ease. His adrenaline disappeared as the woman now stood there staring at him.

"Fine," she muttered and began to charge up another very powerful bolt. "Try this one."

Ryth didn't say anything, only held up a hand as if to say stop, but a huge energy bolt easily four times the size as the ones he had faced. When the dust cleared there was nothing remaining of the woman.

"Okay, sir, mind untying our Captain now!?" Gorta cried from the barricade, the Rookie laughing next to him. Ryth looked over at Loraina who was currently looking at him with an eyebrow raised, a lock of hair over one eye.

"Right, sorry, ma'am." Quickly, he untied Loraina and sheathed his blade.

"That, Ryth, was quite a performance. Can we go home now?"

"Certainly, ma'am."

~~~~~~~~~~

Hilrek put down one last enemy before looking around the battlefield. There was nothing left to fight.

"Hey, Captain! How you feel?" Jeena cried, Hilrek turned around and about died laughing.

"Just fine, Lieutenant. Ryth was pretty amazing in there."

"Nuh-uh! I had teammates! Like the Rookie!"

"You gave me an opportunity to protect my family, of course I'm going to help you!"

Ryth chuckled and patted him on the back


© 2012 Brandon M. Whittaker


Author's Note

Brandon M. Whittaker
This took me a while... several separate writing sessions, and the skill in writing is varied, you can definitely tell which are the earliest.

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Added on April 24, 2012
Last Updated on April 24, 2012
Tags: mercenary, mercenaries, mercenary company, battle, war, phoenix, siren, jailbreak


Author

Brandon M. Whittaker
Brandon M. Whittaker

San Diego, CA



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