Ichabod always ends up in the top tier of characters. It’s always strange since people love him on the blog, but the book never sells. Maybe this will Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks a little bit of a charge.
“Is this any way to treat your employer?” Orson asks as he struggles against the stronger man’s grip. Once he is released, the indignant noble falls to his knees and feigns having an injured ankle. “Now it looks like you will have to carry me. This is what you get for handling me like a piece of luggage.”
“Actually, I treat my luggage with care, so I’d say you were dragged like a sack of reeking garbage,” Ichabod retorts with a grin. Feeling a numbness in his hands, the adventurer calms down and massages his fingers until they recover. “The fact that many have never made it through the door is a reason for us to be careful. Your people could have gotten themselves killed by setting off a trap. Have them stay out here while we go inside. This many people is just asking for disaster, especially since none of you have any experience with ruins, traps, ancient artifacts, and whatever else is in there.”
“They are my servants to do with as I see fit,” the noble replies loud enough for the others to hear him. He is too busy watching them for signs of anger, so he never sees Ichabod’s punch coming until the solid fist is hitting his stomach. “Uncultured ruffian! It is not your place to tell me what to do with my property. Be thankful that I don’t treat you the same. Now, do your job and help me revive my sister. Otherwise, you will die here and your wife will drop where she stands. Be a shame if that happens when she is with your son.”
Leaning closer, the adventurer practically hisses in Orson’s ear. “I will make you suffer before you die. That’s a promise.”
Satisfied with his threat, Ichabod storms across the alcove to where the servants have gathered. After hearing about the potential danger, they keep their distance from the five doorways. Four of the shadowy entrances are open while the fifth one is closed, a bronze key sitting in the tarnished lock. Sitting above them are a collection of gargoyles, which range from small imps to a towering knight with wings. Most of them are made of the same dark red stone as the city wall, but there are a few that appear to be forged of black metal. Ichabod watches the statues for movement, his experience with such creatures more extensive than he would like to admit. The adventurer paces in front of the doors while putting on leather gloves, which he wishes he was wearing hours ago to avoid getting poisoned.
“I have an easier way to do this,” Orson declares, startling everyone. Pulling a coin pouch out of his pocket, he holds it out to his servants. “There are seven of you and five doors, which means two of you will be left out. Whoever finds the right door will get this money and their freedom. You can go even back home and leave before my sister and I return. Everyone else will be expected to stay for the duration of the adventure. Furthermore, if you stay behind then you will be released from your employment contract. I guarantee that nobody will ever hire you again.”
“Something really isn’t right here,” Ichabod mutters under his breath. He watches the servants look from their employer to the doors, fear and helplessness in their eyes. “Nobody do anything. I need more time to look around. Anyone who goes through with this idiocy will have a one in five chance of surviving. That’s if one of those doors doesn’t awaken those gargoyles, which will kill the rest of us. You hired me to get us in and out of the city alive. Let me do my job or none of us are surviving.”
The instant Ichabod turns his back to the group to check the ivy, Orson shakes the money pouch and scowls at his servants. Before the adventurer can stop them, the seven men and women rush toward the doors. Two head for the locked door, which swings open before they can turn the key and sucks them into a howling whirlwind. Refusing to let their friends’ deaths stop them, the remaining servants charge into the shadows. Screams erupt from all of the entrances, two of which burp out the clean bones of those who entered. Monstrous roars shake the alcove and Ichabod fears that the gargoyles are about to awaken. Instead, two of them fall off the ledge and shatter against the ground. The remains are blown into the moat by the doorways, which gives one of the servants an opportunity to escape. Missing an arm and his back shredded, the man lurches out of the shadows and gasps as if he has been underwater. Before he can get away, a skeletal hand bursts from the entrance and smashes him into the ground. Ichabod and Orson can only stare in horror as the boney fingers drag the remains away.
“At least we know none of the doors are safe,” the noble calmly declares. The man yelps when an arrow skims his cheek and leaves a small cut. “Kill me and you will never find the antidote. Besides, all of those servants made the choice to go on for money and freedom. If they had stopped to think then they would have realized I could never prevent them from getting hired in another city. Now get us inside.”
“Threatening you at this point is a waste of breath,” Ichabod says while making sure he does not get angry.