Hunt - Chapter Ten
~ 10 ~
18 Arodus, 4692 AR; Mongrel Base
18 Arodus, 4692 AR; Mongrel Base
Strune stepped forward and pointed her slightly glowing longsword at the human woman, "Stand down. There has been enough blood drawn."
The woman smirked, "You entered my home, and the home of my men, a mere two minutes ago. And you start making demands? How typical of such a noble holy warrior of Iomedae." As she said that last sentence, she rolled her eyes. Her voice dripped with sarcasm, "Please, give me more orders. Convert me to your righteous cause."
Strune narrowed her eyes, "You mock me." Shayliss could feel the anger pulsating from the strix. She almost took a step to the side to get away from the heat.
The human woman let out a bark of a laugh, "Of course, you arrogant child! You think that waltzing in here and killing my men gives you the right to force my surrender? Like I was an unruly dog that must be put down? I thought that Crusaders would have more sense than that."
"It is not that I lack sense." Strune said, "It is that I am merciful. I am giving you what may be your only chance to flee." To add a point to her statement, she deliberately stepped away from the entrance. However, with the mass of the group, there was no way the entrance would be completely open.
Seeing that, the woman laughed, "It looks like your allies do not agree. The teamwork in display is so dazzling."
Strune growled and started a heated response. At that point, though, Shayliss had stopped paying attention. Her attention had focused on one of the mongrelmen. Specifically, the one holding dual rapiers.
He was lean with sides that almost formed a feminine hourglass, Two legs were back-hinged and his shoeless toes were swollen with multiple blisters. Instead of arms, he had tentacles that wrapped around each other to make something mimicking arms and hands like an octopus trying to become a human. The rest of his body was one of a dwarf with scars and markings showing even more of his malformations. Half of his silver hair was just gone while the other half waved down to his shoulder. The cloth shirt and pants he wore were two sizes too large and hung down his frame.
Rapiers were very familiar weapons to Shayliss. These, however, were nearly memory inducing. Their blades had not been taken care of, and the only reason they still seemed sharp were because of the etchings set into them. Small light pulsed from the etchings and she knew that if she touched them, she could feel the tiny amounts of energy leaking from them. The etchings continued down from the blades and into the elegant mesh that curved down to form the handguards. While they would not have protected from thin blades such as other rapiers, they did well to protect against weapons such as maces and longswords. The handle was made from black leather wrapped around an elongated cylinder of metal and nothing on the blades were scratched or damaged.
Weapons with enhancements are not that uncommon, especially with adventurers. Nowadays, it was pretty much the standard when one gained enough money to do so as enhancing weapons guaranteed their indestructibility and increased damage as well as gain the user some fun abilities such as flaming weapons and the ability to use spells without years of study.
Why did this mongrelman have those specific ones, though? How did he get them? The implications that flashed through her mind made her torn between attacking everything in sight and curling up in a ball and crying. She was about to burst. Her grip tightened on her longsword and she subconsciously took a step forward.
Everyone's gazes turned to her and she jumped slightly when she realized it. So, she went along with it and growled, "Where did you get those?"
The room fell silent. Almost everyone in the room had expressions of great confusion which were all aimed at her. Only she, growing angrier, and Kaira, calmly holding her bow nocked and ready, were different. After a second passed, and she had gotten no response, Shayliss repeated while stepping forward, "Where. Did. You. Get. Those." With each word, she twitched her blade, now upraised at the rapier-wielding mongrelman.
The mongrelman audibly swallowed and stammered, "I don't know what you are talking about."
Shayliss snarled and stepped forward again, "Bullshit!"
The cultist woman interposed herself between the mongrelman and Shayliss. Before Shayliss could react, a fist slammed into her belly and forced the air out of her lungs in one large blast. Letting out a small gasp of pain, the red-haired woman was sent into the air about a foot before being thrown back down to earth by a hand on her back.
Shayliss, in an amazing feat of determination, did not let the flecks of blood shooting from her mouth stop her from thrusting her longsword upward at the cultist. The attack was not as fast as it could have been, but she felt the satisfying resistance of metal against metal and heard a couple of chain links hit the stone floor. Instead of following up the attack on her, though, Shayliss sprang from her prone position to charge the rapier-wielding mongrelman.
Surprised by the sudden assault, the mongrelman could only lower one rapier to block an upward arcing swing. Sparks flew and Shayliss tried to force her way further into the mongrelman's defenses. He had recovered, though, and held her back. With a growl, Shayliss pulled her other fist back, ignoring the swinging metal hook wrapped around it, and thrust it in one of her hardest punches.
The mongrelman ducked the blow and sliced the other rapier, she was not going to think of it as his, horizontally at her rib cage. She had to disengage from him in order to nearly throw herself under the attack which gave him the opportunity to stab downward. Pain flared in a line down her side but she largely ignored it as she twisted around to arc another swing at him.
This time, the attack landed, drawing a line of parted flesh and blood across the mongrelman's torso. He stumbled backward and Shayliss took the opportunity to flick her grappling hook foward. It slammed into his chest, sending him further offbalance and leaving bruises forming under his cloth shirt. Shayliss pressed the assault, swinging both blade and hook at the mongrelman, try to even further imbalance him and eventually kill him.
However, the mongrelman knew it. He kept interposing the rapiers in her way until he could recover his balance. At that point he then started to turn the fight against her. What advantage she had was lost and then returned as he sent attack after attack at her. While she technically had two weapons, they were not effective together. Those rapiers, though, were and he knew that too. The barrage of attacks pushed Shayliss further and further back until she finally hit one of the stone walls. And the attacks just kept coming.
Not even Valtyra went for the brute force side of her fighting style. She kept it fast but precise, attacking at obvious weak points until the enemy weakened then made one final, fatal attack. Granted, it had not always worked, but that was her prefered style. The mongrelman, though, just swung the weapons however he pleased and if he could draw some blood, so much the better. It was brutish and rather effective.
Shayliss took a quick glance toward the others, hoping that one of them was close enough and willing to help her. She found, though, that they all were focused on the other three in the room. Mordria and Snaga held the attentions of the human cultist and the tiefling while Strune held her ground against the other mongrelman trying to take precise shots at those in the rear guard. Those in the rear guard just peppered whoever they could shoot at the moment. And none of them even looked her way.
Gritting her teeth, she knew that if she was on her own, she could only push forward. She had to be aggressive in her attacks as well. But she could not be careless about it either. Carelessness would be her downfall just as swiftly as if she just kept doing what she was doing now.
So, Shayliss studied her opponent. After a couple of seconds, she realized that her original thoughts about this mongrelman's attacks were wrong. While he was brutish about it, it was not just random swinging. She was not sure if he even noticed it, but there was a pattern to his seemingly erratic attacks: Up-left, down-right, middle, middle, uppercut, thrust, thrust then right back to Up-left to repeat the cycle again. Sure, there was the occasional change in pattern, but he would then go right back to it. Now that she saw his pattern, she could exploit it.
With a grunt of effort, she slid one attack aside, ducked under another, getting a neat slice across her shoulder as she did, and then threw her whole body forward. It was something that the mongrelman was not expecting. In order to make sure he was not thrown to the ground by her attack, he had to take a few steps back which halted his attacks. Letting out a snarl, Shayliss thrust forward. The mongrelman was not ready when the blade slid neatly into his chest. He gasped out a couple of puffs before his body went limp, the rapiers falling to the ground.
Shayliss took a second to breathe from the intense struggle before turning to join the fight happening on the other side of the room. She found, though, that the others were just finishing the fight themselves and were wiping blood off of weapons or searching for missing arrows. Seeing that, Shayliss returned to the mongrelman and started pulling the weapons belt with the rapiers' sheathes off of the corpse. Looking closely, she could now see that she was indeed right. They were the rapiers she recognized. The crest she had placed on the butt of each handle was there as if they were just carved.
She heard footsteps behind her. The metallic clinks and whisper of air were enough for Shayliss to know that it was Strune stepping up to her, the woman's wings flapping slightly with each step.
"Can you tell me why that could not have been a civilized discussion?" The strix asked, her voice hard and tinted with anger.
"You know she was not going to just back down." Shayliss answered as she tugged one last time. The weapon belt scratched against the stone and flesh before flinging upward with momentum.
"That is not the point." Strune nearly growled, "I could have made sure that no more bloodshed happened if you did not just up and attack that man."
Shayliss wiped off the dirt, grime and blood from the weapons and sheaths with a cut scrap of her shirt sleeve, "Do you know what these are?"
Some of the strix's anger shifted into confusion, "Uh. They are weapons. Rapiers. So/"
Shayliss stood up, sheathing the weapons and showed them to Strune, "These are not just rapiers." She took a deep breath to control her emotions, "They are the first signs I have had in almost three years. They are Valtyra's."
It had been awkward to do it, but a minute later, Shayliss had the rapiers attached to her waist, both blades at her right hip.The weight of all of the weapons were trying to pull her down, but she knew that it would only take about a day before she got used to the feeling. Besides, it was worth it.
That done, she helped the others look around. They were looking at the room to the right of where they came in. From the brief glance she got, Shayliss thought that it was a small kitchen or butchers area. She figured they had that side taken care of, so she moved to the other side of the meeting room where another door stood, cracked open. Shayliss opened it the rest of the way to find that it was a bedroom.
A crude bed stretched from the back left corner toward the center of the room. The frame and spring box was simply a slab of stone rising from the ground that was naturally made rather than being carved out. A mattress that used to be white but was now completely caked in dirt sat on top with a simple blanket and pillow on top of that. It was wrinkled and dirty from constant use and no washing.
To the other side of the room, set against the wall, was a desk. It was made of hard wood that was also covered in dirt. Only the surface used for working was kept relatively clean. Papers were strewn on top of it and a pen and inkwell sat to one corner. They both look rarely used.
Looking through all of the sheets of paper and parchment on the desk, Shayliss found none that were relevant to what was going on. At least, until she reached the very bottom. There, a letter address to 'Hosilla' sat bent, creased and ripped. Yet, it was still legible. Whoever 'S. V.' is, his handwriting was rough, hastily done, and in all capital letters which gave the impression that either the person was in a rush, or was an aggressive writer or person.
YOU WILL REMAIN, FOR THE TIME BEING, IN KENABRES. BUT KNOW THIS, THE CITY'S DAYS ARE NUMBERED. SEEK A PLACE OF SAFETY - THE UNDERGROUND DEN OF YOUR MONGREL LACKEYS SHOULD SUFFICE TO KEEP YOU SAFE FROM THE DEVASTATION TO COME. I SHALL ASSUME COMMAND OF DREZEN SHORTLY, AND ONCE VORLESH HAS FINISHED WITH THE WARDSTONE AND KENABRES IS NO LONGER OF INTEREST TO US, YOU ARE TO RETURN TO MY SIDE. EXCELLENT NEWS REGARDING THE SALVAGE OF YANIEL'S SWORD AS WELL AS THOSE OF OUR NEWEST PRISONER. BRING THEM WITH YOU. WHILE THE PRISONER'S BLADES ARE NOT OF HOLY MAKE, THEY WILL JUST BE AS USEFUL AS YANIEL'S WHEN WE CORRUPT ALL THREE. BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR DREZEN, STOP BY THE THREE SAFE HOUSES (NYSERIAN MANOR, TOPAZ SOLUTIONS AND THE TOWER OF ESTROD - THE PASSPHRASE REMAINS 'I'VE NEW MATERIAL FOR THE ARCHIVES,' FOR NOW) TO ENSURE NO EVIDENCE REMAINS BEHIND.
MAY LORD DESKARI AND LORD BAPHOMET WATCH OVER YOU!
By the time she finished reading the letter, the others were either in the room or right outside. Turning around, Shayliss could see that they were all looking at her questioningly. She handed Strune the letter who read it aloud for the others. As the strix read the letter, Shayliss bent down to look under the desk. There, she found a large wooden case. It was heavier than she expected and she let out a grunt as she dragged it out and placed it on top of the desk.
It was a very elegant and expensive case. Dark wood sheened in the little light they had in the room and gold clasps could be seen holding the case shut. Examining it closer, Shayliss could see a lock keeping the clasps in place. Her mouth opened to ask about a key when she was interrupted by Anevia.
"We have to bring this to the Eagle Watch. If we can get to these safe houses, then we may be able to learn more."
Aravashnial nodded, "I would be interested to learn what could be found at the Tower of Estrod. It is interesting that they would choose that location for a safe house."
A small sound of shifting stone made Shayliss turn to look at Horgus. She noticed that he was hiding a reaction to the note. However, she was not about to get him talking. He would just throw insults left and right without giving much help.
"Did anyone find a key?" Shayliss asked, "This case is locked."
Kaira pushed her way to Shayliss from the rear of the clumped group and held out a dirty gold key, "From the woman."
Shayliss nodded and took the key. As Kaira returned to the back, she fumbled at the lock. The thought that the key was the wrong one crossed her mind when the lock did not pop after a couple of seconds. But then, there was a snap of suddenly disappearing resistance and the metal of the lock sprang open.
Excitement shot up Shayliss's body as she grabbed the lid and slowly pushed it open. Inside were piles of different coins: gold, silver, copper as well as some platinum, some magical scrolls, and some gems. However, the most impressive item was another case. This one was undeniably a sword case because of its shape and relative size to the outer case.
Shayliss pulled the sword case out and opened it. Inside was a sheathed sword of elegant and masterful make. It was a longsword with a curved silver hilt. Inset in the center of the hilt was a diamond and the leather wrapping of the handle was painted gold. Its sheathe was not any less elegant with spiral and curving gold metal pieces set onto dark leather.
At seeing the weapon, Strune stepped forward. With a stunned expression, she reached out and grabbed the handle of the blade in shaking fingers. The sheathed blade came out of the case easily and Strune stared at it closely.
"Strune?" Shayliss asked.
"Radiance." Strune responded in a quiet voice, "The blade once held by Yaniel." She pulled the blade out of its sheathe. The weapon came out smoothly and with barely a sound, "It would have been great to see it as it shone with Iomedae's grace." Her lips curled down into a frown, "But why is it here instead of the Grey Garrison?"
"It must have been taken." Anevia answered, "Keep it for now. If the letter is to be believed, they were going to corrupt it. We cannot let that happen."
Strune nodded. With little effort, she attached the blade to her weapons belt. It was as if the blade was meant for her.