Glen wasn’t allowed atop the wall as he wasn’t part of the military, but their reactions were all he really needed, and he could overhear some of the louder guards exchanging information.
Apparently, there was a group of somewhere around 150 soldiers in completely unrecognizable armor, all bearing a pair of long, sharp, tilted ears. They were marching west, slowly approaching the gates. They hadn’t arrived just yet, but nobody was eager to wait around.
They sounded unmistakably akin to the bizarre group that had passed him by on his way to Tabre. Considering that the group had been traveling west away from Tabre and that the fortress was still standing, he could only assume they had started their march a bit further west and fortunately managed to miss Tabre.
Though Tabre was almost exactly on the border… it was probably only a coincidence, but it was certainly peculiar that the group he spotted appeared so close to the border between Gevilia and Sangrea.
Shouts echoed from the parapet. Glen was reminded he had much better things to concern himself over.
Apparently, something was happening. Honestly, he was deathly curious and wanted to try to sneak up the stairs to catch a glimpse.
He was standing on the road a dozen or so meters away from the closed gate. Liam was behind him to his right, and Xerxes was next to Liam.
Liam had a look of intense, seething rage in his eyes like nothing Glen had ever seen. It was almost impressive how much the man seemed to hate these strange extra-palisadal people. He heard Liam call them ‘Elves’ a few times as they were rushing over to the edge of the city but it never quite stuck on account of the fact that Liam called them ‘sharp-ears’ in practically any other instance that he referred to them.
On the other hand, Xerxes had an extremely strange expression. It wasn’t exactly that Xerxes wasn’t afraid; they were definitely very anxious, but it looked more like they were waiting for something. They were hard enough to read to begin with already, so Glen eventually had to give up on trying to figure them out altogether.
Regardless, Glen at least got the impression Xerxes knew something that he couldn’t tell anyone else for some reason. As much as he wanted to know, it definitely wasn’t any of his business.
Everyone’s heads simultaneously twisted to the east as a booming voice speaking in a strange accent echoed over the wall.
“We approach you to represent the standing military of the Alphian Republic! If you are willing to cooperate, may your representative present themself!” As the voice resonated over the wall and echoed around the city, it was followed up with a uniform thump.
Glen figured they were showing off their coordination. As he was surprised by how complaisant they seemed to be, Liam dashed ahead in a hurry, shouting to the guard captain.
“CAPTAIN! DON’T TRUST THEM! GET YOUR MEN OFF THE PARAPET NOW!”
As Liam passed by, Glen caught a glimpse of the man’s expression. He seemed to be in a state of absolute panic. He was speaking as if he knew what was about to happen. The guard captain tried to ask why only to be shouted over.
“This is how they tricked us! They’re going to shoot as soon as you send a representative to speak! You can’t fall for it!”
The man was absolutely frenzied. He shouted loud enough that the entire guard heard it. Though the captain seemed to be suspicious of the insinuation, his men certainly weren’t. Several men scrambled to climb down the stairs, pushing others out of the way and starting something of a mass panic.
Glen could understand the sentiment, but it seemed to him like a refusal to send a representative may be taken as a refusal to cooperate in general. At that moment, he made up his mind.
He was going to speak to them himself if nobody else would; he looked up and saw the guard captain succumbing to the mass panic.
Glen had no backup plan; Tabre was his only hope of surviving the fall of the palisade.
He stepped toward the wall with a unique determination in his eyes. Most of the men were down already so there was a bit of space on the edge of the stairs he could use to climb up.
As Liam seemed to notice him he frantically shouted and reached out to grab Glen’s arm, but he couldn’t make it. Glen barely even registered that it happened. He couldn’t make out what was said to him. He walked like he was possessed, dodging descending guards and taking the most efficient route to his destination.
He never took the time to look back and see the dread in Liam’s eyes, nor that even Xerxes seemed to be panicking now. Glen reached the top of the wall and approached the edge.
He blinked a few times. He had no idea how he had already arrived at the top of the wall, but he decided there was no reason to bother thinking about it.
“I’ll represent this city.” Glen shouted to the group beyond the wall.
The group’s speaker looked to have already been conferring with her apparent assistants under the assumption that negotiation had completely broken down. She turned back toward the gate and Glen standing above it, clearly a bit surprised.
Glen didn’t look behind him, but he could imagine just how shocked and confused all of the town’s people were by the declaration.
“I see. Are you willing to negotiate?”
She still wasn’t certain if the city was deciding to cooperate or had sent forth a representative to declare the opposite.
“Well, that depends on what we’re negotiating. Can you tell us what you are doing here, accompanied by hundreds of fully armed soldiers?”
Glen was determined to resolve this peacefully if there was any possible way to do so. He had to, if he wanted to survive.
“Of course. We previously sent several members of our company as scouts in order to examine the conditions inside the human lands following the Interference Army’s invasion. After losing contact with one of our trusted scouts, we determined from their last message that they have been imprisoned in this city. We would like to negotiate their release.”
It was a concise and honest request.
“Then yes, we are willing to cooperate. Would you mind describing their appearance so I can identify and return them?” Glen asked what he could assume was the most rational follow-up, only to be met with a soft chuckle from the three or so leaders of the company.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to comply. This particular scout is a shapeshifter. They have probably been afraid of being targeted and slain and are thus most likely trying to blend in.”
Glen was shocked. So they really weren’t detaining everybody for no reason, there truly was a shapeshifting spy in their midst.
But… he didn’t feel especially surprised for some reason. There was something in the back of his mind guiding him to an answer.
“Alright. I believe I know who it is, and I’m willing to fetch and return them safely. I do have one price I would like to request in exchange for disturbing the peace in the city.”
Glen prepared himself to name it.
“We are willing to pay within reason. What would you like? I do not believe we use the same currency, so a monetary exchange would be–”
Glen had been thinking a lot over the past few minutes. Honestly, his mind was practically answering on autopilot while a million things ran through his head.
And he had come to a conclusion.
“Let me join your company, at least temporarily.”
The company leader raised her eyes in surprise.
Glen had come to the conclusion that Tabre was already not a very welcoming place; would it not be safer for him to simply gain the favor of his opponents and defect?
Even if some may see it as permitting whatever atrocities they may commit, he was under no oath nor allegiance to protect the human race. He had lived the past several years suffering in the slums and personally experiencing the worst that humanity had to offer; and that was just a baseline.
He had to ask himself if maintaining his humanity was worth it, and he concluded that it was not.
“Oh? If that is all you ask, then we accept. We will of course ask that you assist the company to the best of your ability, as you requested to be a member rather than an escort. Are you comfortable with this?”
And so, Glen would take advantage of the fall of the palisade to explore what the greater world had to offer.
Perhaps some would call him selfish, but he would say that they had nothing to blame besides mankind’s own hubris. He didn’t think that the human race was something worth sacrificing himself to protect when the outside could offer him a better life than the inside ever had.
“I do. I will fetch your scout and exit through the gate.”
Glen smiled, satisfied with himself. He made the decision that was best for himself, and he was content with it.
“See you soon, then. May we ask your name?”
Glen had already begun turning away, now facing down the Parapet. He thought for only a brief second before replying.
“Just call me Glen. I don’t have a last name.”
They didn’t answer, but he could spot them picking up a notebook of some sort, likely recording his name in it.
And so, Glen descended the stairs and looked over the former inmates. The voice in the back of his head was louder; he knew who it was. As he reached the ground, he took a few steps forward, about to open his mouth and address his suspect–
Liam Broderick spoke first, dashing faster than Glen could think, sword drawn. His face was painted with an unspeakable fury.
“Liam, what are you–!”
Glen tried to respond, confused by the outburst only to realize that Liam had already arrived before him, as if he teleported.
The older man leaped into the air and brought his sword down upon Glen like a meteor descending from the heavens. Somehow, Glen was able to draw his sword in the split second he had and use it to guard against the blow…
The collision of metal against metal reverberated through the entire plaza. It sounded like lightning had struck. The sheer force of the strike blew Glen’s hood off his head.
He clenched his teeth, trying his hardest to endure it.
“Liam, let me explain! I–”
The man refused to let him finish speaking. Liam had somehow already rebounded from the blow and was about to strike at Glen’s right shoulder.
He dodged to the right, just barely out of the range of the blade as it swung, leaving a trail of light. Liam was absolutely out of his right mind.
Fortunately, Glen had realized fast enough that the man was attempting to back him against the wall with the practically un-parryable blows, so he focused on getting out of the way.
Where had all the confidence he had while fighting the guards gone?
He only managed to make it a few meters away before the knight lunged again, practically teleporting in front of him. The speed was unfathomable.
Another strike from above.
He only had a few options in this situation; he could attempt to parry it and almost certainly fail due to the force of gravity and the full weight of a larger man in full plate steel armor.
He could attempt to strike at Liam’s waist as he came down, which was practically the only way he could deal any damage to the man.
Or, he could guard again, holding his blade over him and letting his sword take the brunt of the hit at the risk of getting forced to his knees.
He had no choice but to take the last option.
He couldn’t take the risk of parrying, and letting Liam’s blow hit with the second option could split his skull open. In the split second he had before the strike landed, he tried his hardest to keep his eyes open and make sure he was able to block the strike.
But he couldn’t do it. Glen blinked…
And something about his eyes changed.
A smirk formed on the younger man’s face. As Liam's blade came down, Glen’s eyes were wide open, seeing the world in slow motion. He tilted his blade and prepared to strike at the necessary angle…
He perfectly parried the blow.
“You fool! Did you think I would let you–”
It didn’t sound anything like Glen speaking from Glen’s mouth, but as the younger man looked up at the face which he expected to be twisted in shock, he saw a shit eating grin.
At that moment, he realized what happened.
Clang, cling, cling…
Liam had anticipated the parry and released the sword, letting it fly away, all for one ridiculous gamble.
Both of his hands were, rather than resting on the hilt of his blade, on Glen’s gauntlets. He pulled as hard as could.
“SHIT! NO, W-”
An electric shock exploded around Glen’s head as Liam ripped off the gauntlets. Then, the younger man fell to the floor, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
He was completely unconscious.
“I was right. I don’t know how, but I was right.”