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Hunt - Chapter Fourteen
~ 14 ~
18 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres

Their footsteps thudded against stone as the group marched from the smoldering remains of the Blackwing Library. After two hours of work and tons of magically conjured water, they had all managed to get the building from an inferno to ashes and scarred ruins. Seeing that their work was done, the group had decided that they needed to move on. Horgus had been practically chomping at the bit to get home and Anevia, while not outwardly agitated, kept to herself.

"Finally that suspicious mongrel dog is gone." Horgus muttered.

"Since we have now met a race of people calling themselves 'mongrelmen,' it may be a good idea for you to change your insults." Anevia answered with heat.

"I could go back to the insults I was using before you freakish wh-"

"Let's try to keep quiet while we walk down the streets of a demon occupied city, please." Shayliss shot back. She aimed it mostly at Horgus, but Anevia got some of it too. The woman forcefully shut her mouth while Horgus continued to mutter, under his breath this time.

Strune, now hovering above the stone street so she did not have to walk on her now splint and wrapped foot, whispered, "Are you sure it was alright to leave Aravashnial there?"

Shayliss glanced back at the group, then up at the library. When they had finished calming down the fires, the librarians all begged for Aravashnial to stay. Without his eyes, he could not fight, but Shayliss figured he would be more like a security blanket to the frightened men and women. A man who could lead if needed, and direct them to safety.

"You saw them." Shayliss whispered back, "They could barely keep from just hanging onto him while we dealt with the fire. And after nothing would keep them from him. It was better to leave him there where everyone was comfortable rather than try to force all of them out into the horrible open."

The strix seemed to think about that for a second, "I guess. But I still don't feel alright with it. I would have liked to guarantee their safety."

"We could not have no matter what. A smaller group can move through the city much quieter and faster than a large group. And while he may be blind right now, Aravashnial can take care of himself as well as others."

She sighed, "Fine."

Shayliss looked at her, "How are you holding up, by the way. That fight took a lot out of you."

Strune flinched with some kind of emotion that Shayliss could not place, "I am fine."

The state of the woman's armor and body said otherwise. They did what they could for her, but everyone's reserves were running dry, and after taking care of the worst wounds, there was not enough healing magic or potions to go around. Strune and Kaira were both magically tapped and overall their mundane healing skills were not the best. So, while she could move, there was still every chance that Strune would just fall to the ground limp as her body gave out.

The armor she wore, that was once pristine and shone against the sun, now was bloody, bent and holed, even after they took the time to straighten out all of the dents with Chaleb's mace. Numerous wounds still oozed blood through cloth wrappings, and those wrappings were nowhere near safe as they still had the soot of the library. And her leg would be out of comission until they could get some sort of priest to restore it. Shayliss asked if she could do it herself, but Strune had said she could not since she does not have the energy nor enough grace from Iomedae. Shayliss had no idea what she was talking about, but she did not push it.

"I am sure." Shayliss' tone said clearly that she knew the opposite.

Strune sighed, "There is nothing we can do about it now."

"True." Shayliss nodded, "So, you will be in the backlines if we have to fight again." At Strune's sudden glance she raised a hand, "You are at the point of exhaustion and you will not be able to fight well with your injuries." She pointedly looked at Strune's leg, "Don't try to be a hero. And don't let your pride rule your actions. We need you alive and whole."

Like she had room to talk when it came to being prideful. But she decided at this point it would be better just to tell her not to do it, rather than listen to that advice herself.

As if reading her thoughts, the strix woman gave her a small smile and said, "I'll take it into consideration."

"Good." Shayliss said loftly, "While you rest, Snaga will take your place on the front lines." She turned to look at the very quiet half-orc, "Is that alright?"

Snaga's eyes widened for a second like a deer in the path of a runaway wagon, but nodded.

Shayliss nodded back, "That's settled. Where is the next place to go?"

Strune thought about it for a second, "Horgus's manor."

The nobleman behind them let out a soft breath and Shayliss could barely hear, "Finally" hiding within it. Shayliss ignored it, "Will we make it before nighttime?"

While the sky was covered by black storm clouds and smoke, it was not hard to tell that the world was growing darker by the second. If Shayliss's guess was correct, it was about an hour or so before dinnertime. And her guess was only partially determined by the rumbling in her stomach. Only partially.

"Barring any other distractions, yes." Strune said, "Even at our slower pace it should not take more than an hour."

Before Shayliss could answer, a mass of horse whinnies cut through the air in pitches that contrasted against the low hums of fire and battle further into the city. Seconds later, five horses rounded the corner of an intersection a block away and charged like Hell itself was chasing them.

The breed and sizes of horse was varied among the group. However, the lead horse, running as if it was directing the pack forward, was very familiar. Black hair was turned even blacker by the fires and red lines of blood shone on its sides. Lean muscle showed against skin held tight by malnutrition and even from so far away Shayliss could hear the pumping of air in and out of its nose. Yet, it was the eyes that told Shayliss who it was. Those red eyes belonged only to one horse.

"It's Shadowshine!" Shayliss breathed in shock.

Behind the pack, shapes turned the same corner and charged down the same street. They wore the very stereotypical outfit of robbers: leather armor, leather pants, hooded cloaks and daggers or bows as weapons. Normally they would not be able to catch up to the horses, but all of the beasts were injured and exhausted. While fear was giving them (except for Shadowshine, who may not be able to feel fear) energy, that energy would run out soon. She had to do something fast.

Before she knew what she was doing, she rushed toward a pile of debris fallen from one of the nearby buildings. Taking the pile as fast as possible, she grabbed and flicked her grappling hook at a hanging support or signpost, she could not tell which. The hook latched on securely and she took a leap off of the top of the pile. Shadowshine saw her and raced forward even faster so that he could be ready. At the bottom of her arc, the support broke with a crack and flung the woman more forward than upward. Yet, it was enough for her to reach the horse.

She landed hard and could feel the vibrations race up her body. Grunting in pain, she spun herself on the saddle so she faced forward and drew her longsword. The robbers stopped and stared at her in surprise and a couple in lustful admiration.

"Back off." Shayliss growled, twitching her blade menacingly.

The robbers all stared at each other. Only a second passed before they all seemed to come to a silent agreement. They stepped forward.
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Shadowshine was not having any of it. He let out an angry whiny and rushed forward head down. The robbers line was broken by the horse's charge, and Shayliss swung her longsword by her side, trying to get one of them on the way. She felt her blade hit something but did not have the chance to see what before Shadowshine was at the other side of the line about to make a second pass.

When the horse galloped for the group of robbers again, she was ready. Raising her blade and rotating it so it pointed toward the ground, she waited for the right moment. However, the robbers were smart this time. None of them got close enough to the rampaging horse for her to attack any of them.

But it did make them good targets for Kaira and Blueeye. Arrows sailed through the air, slamming into the robbers with thuds and cries of pain while the blur that was Blueeye crashed into one robber, sinking his fangs in deep. Blood flowed as the wolf then chose a second target. With a bark, he sank claws into the straps of the robber's armor, sending the leather to the ground. Two more swipes and the robber followed his armor.

Shadowshine, not to be outdone by a dog, leapt forward toward a robber and then began to brutally stomp down upon his body. Shayliss could not pay attention though as two of the robbers reached out toward her to pull her off the horse. She cracked the hilt of her sword against the head of one, sending familiar vibrations of shock up her arm, but the other succeeded in throwing her off balance. The saddle prevented her from falling off, but she had to fight to keep straight on the horse. Shayliss threw elbow after elbow against the robber pulling her down. Eventually she was able to stun the now flailing robber enough to make him let go as Shadowshine continued running around the field of battle.

The woman straightened herself just in time to duck from two arrows aimed right at her face. They sailed past her and sank into the ground between her and her charging allies. Mordria, with her fiendish legs, leapt clean over both horse and rider to land like a harpy on one of the robber archers. Blood flowed from her claws raking against skin and spun in the air as she roundhouse kicked the next in one clean motion. Without missing a beat she lunged for a robber exacting revenge and pulled his arms back in a complex grapple.

The hold prevented the robber from being able to avoid a spiked gauntlet to the face. Holes were punched into the man's cheek, but that did not stop him from rotating, using Mordria as a brace, and slammed two feet into the half-orc. Liquid exploded from Snaga's fusion and Nephalim's mouth curled into a snarl. Snaga stepped forward and sent a right hook into the man's belly. The pure power of the blow surprised Mordria and she let go of the robber. Showing some kind of sense, the man bolted at the first chance.

Unfortunately for him, Shadowshine was not one to let a threat escape.

With the cry of a banshee, the black beast spun around and sped forward, fast as any demon. The robber knew what was after him and Shayliss could hear cries of panic between hoof-beats and her own heavy breathing. However, he was smart enough to duck within an alleyway too narrow for Shadowshine to follow. Not letting a mere inconvenience stop him, Shadowshine continued forward and around the corner to a street that paralleled the alleyway. The horse's speed and injuries made it so that Shayliss could only hold on while the beast directed where they went.

"I now know how Val always felt." She muttered, the words clipped by the horse's up and down motion.

She turned her head and watched the burning and destroyed buildings whoosh by her, looking for the robber. There was no sign of him, and she despaired that he had somehow managed to get away. Yet, two steps later, she saw a black shape out of the corner of her eye. Shadowshine saw it too. For some reason, the man lost his sense and decided to cross the street a dozen yards ahead

He reared up, angled himself toward the robber, and charged. Again, Shayliss could only hold on as the beast moved like one of the creatures flying above. This time, the robber did not see his death coming. It was only when the horse was a couple of feet away that he turned and watched as hooves rose and crashed down upon his skull. Shayliss did not want to see the bloodstains on his hooves.

"You know, we really need to work on your self-control." She muttered.

Shadowshine let out a half-snort and shook his head.

Shayliss sighed in defeat, "Let's meet up with the others and see about your injuries."

She tried to grab at the horse's reins, but found that they had been torn apart. The leather straps fell down only a couple of inches from the bridle cleanly. During the initial invasion, they must have been sliced by a blade of some sort. It explained in part how the horse was still alive. So, she had to make due with grabbing ahold of the horse's mane. But before she could direct Shadowshine, a screech barely discernable has human shot through the air like a lightning bolt.
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