None of the Rainlords seemed to realize that Hector’s resilience was all the shield’s doing, but Garovel wanted to keep it that way, lest they decide that they needed it more than he did. Asad might have known of its power, being the crafter’s brother, but if he did, he wasn’t saying anything.
And so here Hector was, having somehow lied his way into a situation where no one in their right mind would want to be. He felt like the most ridiculous member of their party, too, clad in full plate armor that clinked every time he moved, while everyone else hardly even bothered with bulletproof vests. At least it wasn’t a mission that required stealth.
Their purpose here was to draw Melchor’s attention so that Lord Abel and the rest of their forces would have time to rush in and seize the castle. If they defeated Melchor, then that would mean instant victory, since no one else would be able to stand against Lord Xuan; but even if they somehow lost, Lord Abel’s forces would have already gone through and neutralized enough of the other Blackburns that they could simply focus on the weakened Melchor and overwhelm him with numbers.
As far as plans went, Hector thought Lady Amaya had come up with a pretty solid one.
The first corridor they found was completely dark. Lord Xuan lifted a burning hand and illuminated the way forward with a greenish light. At first, it only flickered faintly, and then it became bright enough to reveal even the high ceiling.
‘Is that really necessary?’ said Duvoss. ‘You have a flashlight, you know.’
“Yeah, but how often do I get to use my glowy powers to actual effect?”
‘You’re hurting your hand for no reason.’
“You’ll fix it for me, won’t you?”
‘Use your bloody flashlight before you fill the air with toxic smoke.’
“C’mon, I have more control than that.”
Lord Dimas intervened. “I do smell garlic...”
“Really? Shit!” Xuan’s hand dimmed suddenly and flailed up and down, apparently having trouble undoing his own work. “Eek! Ow! Ah...! Whew... that was close...” In total darkness again, there came a clearing of a throat, and Xuan’s flashlight clicked on. “Not to worry, everyone. I meant to do that.”
Hector no longer felt the most ridiculous. ‘I don’t want to be rude, but... this guy is our ace in the hole?’
‘I... I’m sure we’ll be fine,’ said Garovel privately.
Qorvass and the others looked similarly dubious, however.