Hunt - Chapter Sixteen
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18 Arodus, 4692 AR; Horgus’s Manor, Kenabres

The rest of the trip to the Horgus’s Manor was relatively uneventful, not that Shayliss was really paying attention. She watched blindly as the group easily dealt with a couple of robbers and a demon that managed to sneak up on them. Her blade had not risen to do battle but Shadowshine did. Shayliss could feel every impact against flesh vibrate through her body but did not react to it. The thoughts running through her mind were trapped within that square.

So, it took her a couple of seconds to realize that the group had stopped. In front of them was a metal gate that reached from one side to the other and then sharply turned forward. It was designed in a style that had only just recently appeared in the world’s eye which meant that the owner paid a lot to redesign what was there before and to have it done very quickly. If it was not for the demon attack, the black metal would have been gleaming beautifully. Now, though, it was coated in a layer or two of dirt and scorch marks.

The manor the fence surrounded was enormous, even in terms of other manors Shayliss had seen. The largest before this was probably the manor of a noble turned ghoul that Valtyra and her allies raided. Shayliss had not physically seen it, but Valtyra’s description of it made it seem impressive. The manor in front of her could have held four of the nearby homes in their prime.

What was stranger, though, was the fact that it was virtually untouched. The buildings neighboring it had been burnt, cratered and otherwise damaged. Yet, the manor had some scuffs and the occasional missing brick. It was as if the demons did not think it was worthy to attack despite its scale and arrogance.

Seeing this, Horgus immediately fell into a tirade of cursing and insults. However, he opened the gate and allowed the party on their horses to enter the grounds. His voice more than his actual body led them up the path to the front door and then inside. Even more grumbling could be heard about the fact that the horses were brought in, with some coaxing, as well. But it seemed not even the self-centered noble would turn away the injured and exhausted beasts. Shayliss was reluctant to give the man some respect for that.

The inside of the place was arguably less flashy and impressive. A red carpet covered the floor and gold detailing poked out from under the walls. Bright white paint covered every wall and ceiling and was almost flawless. Chandeliers hung from expensive golden bases and the chains reaching down from the bases swayed back and forth almost imperceptibly.

“Of course no one’s here,†Horgus muttered, “Because why would they do their damned jobs and keep this place safe? I hope they are not hiding in the vault, or else there will be hell to pay.â€

“Would you rather them stay here and die or ensure their safety by running?†Strune asked.

“Also,†Mordira added, cutting off the angry noble’s next retort, “your manor is only standing because of the fact that they all took off.â€

Shayliss blinked, “What do you mean?â€

Kaira snorted, “The demons left behind only want to sow chaos. They cannot do that if there are no people to witness it.â€

The white furred wolf next to her let out a sneeze as if to confirm what she said.

Horgus opened his mouth to argue, but then shut it again. With an annoyed grunt, he continued moving forward. His comments and opinions of the people around him became barely audible mutters and whispers as he led the group further into the manor.

Like he said, the manor was completely devoid of other people and it unsettled Shayliss. Not because the place was abandoned, but because it looked as if the owners had just stepped out to have dinner out. The furniture, decorations and curtains were all untouched by the conflict outside. Only a thin layer of dirt and dust showed that there has not been people in this manor for a few days now.

That became more prominent the further down the group went. At least, until they reached the massive metal door of a vault. Just by looking at it, Shayliss could tell it was an expensive metal that would be hard to break through. Granted, it was not the blue tinted adamantium, which was literally impossible to destroy, but the vault’s metal was probably as close as a noble could get to it. That vault would certainly be able to hold off any straggling demons in Kenabres.

Pulling out a key from his pocket, Horgus walked over to the bottom right corner of the door and inserted it. He then twisted something that appeared. Sliding metal, clacking locks and spinning gears vibrated the room. After half a minute of that, the vault door split into two and both halves slowly parted to the left and right.

From behind the doors, a golden glow shone and it was not hard to tell what was behind them: mountains of gold, valuables and more. Shayliss did not think she had ever seen as much gold, even when Valtyra came back on her quests for Sandpoint. It was unbelieveable. The piles towered over her and the end of the vault was covered by even more. Not only that, but there was space to spare for the whole group and their horses with extra.

Horgus stepped inside, pulled out a pouch, and knelt down at one of those piles. A few seconds passed before he stood back up and handed the pouch over.

At Shayliss’s confused gaze, he said, “Your payment.â€

With a soft â€~ah’, Shayliss took the pouch and put it with her other belongings.

“Now that you have done your job, go.†He said as he turned back for the vault.

“Wait, Master Horgus.†Strune called, “I have one last request for you.â€

The nobleman stopped in his tracks and turned slightly to face the Strix. It was as if he already knew what she was about to ask.

“Will you allow us to rest up in your vault for the night?â€

The man narrowed his eyes, “Why?â€

“It is getting close to sun down, even if we cannot tell it. Not only that, but this is the safest place we’ll be able to get to. It is just one night and we are out of your hair.â€

His mouth opened up to immediately deny us. Yet, his narrowed eyes tracked to behind the group where the horses were barely holding together as they had not been able to bind the beasts’ injuries. He snarled but tilted his head toward the vault inviting them inside.

Four hours later, the group found themselves sitting around a set of three lanterns in the most clear spot of the vault. With their injuries treated, the horses all stood to the side asleep while Shadowshine guarded them. His eyes darted between all of the two-legged occupants and the door of the vault as if he was ready for anything to attack.

Shayliss, leaning against one of the many piles of platinum coins, could not help but smile at that. She felt that she learned a little more about the horse in that moment. Maybe he was just a house-dog, protecting the homestead for his master. In his case, though, he was probably his own master and he just took the other horses under his wing.

A small yawn from right in front of her jolted her thoughts back into reality. Mordria, her head resting on Shayliss’s crossed legs, clicked her pointed teeth together as her mouth closed. Seconds later, she pushed herself onto her side and curled up a bit. With a smirk, Shayliss patted the tiefling’s head.

She expected Strune to make some sort of comment. However, the Strix woman had been silent since the vault doors closed. Shayliss turned to look at the woman. Her white wings folded back and her head was bowed. At first, Shayliss thought she was asleep like most of the room, but the corners of Strune’s mouth would occasionally move with mouthed words.

“Praying then.†Shayliss muttered while absently patting Mordira’s head.

Looking around, she realized that besides her, there was only one other person awake. Kaira and Blueeye were curled up together across the group of lanterns from Shayliss, their bodies slowly rising up and down with their breaths. Anevia was using a tiny pile of coins to brace her leg as she made a pillow of some of the group’s supplies. Horgus sat just beyond the ring of light and finally left his stubborn pride enough to fall asleep.

The only other form was the one of Snaga, ever silent but, as he proved below Kenabres, ferocious. It was different from the typical idea of magi Shayliss had since childhood. While he could use magic, it seemed as if it was holding him back more than anything. She watched as he scrawled upon multiple sheets of parchment. The light was not strong enough to show her what he was working on, but his mutters and expression told her that he was concentrating with all of his mind.

Suddenly very curious, she gently moved Mordria off of her lap and slowly inched her way toward the half-orc. He did not notice her approach until she was almost right next to him. When he did, he flinched hard and Shayliss scooted back a couple of inches, “I’m sorry.â€

Half a minute passed before Snaga relaxed again and shook his head.

Taking it as a cue, Shayliss scoots even closer to the man. She glanced toward the parchment pile next to him. There were diagrams, arcane writing and notes written in a rough and harsh language. While she could not understand it, she recognized the symbols of the orcish language. It would not have helped even if she could have read it. Everything on the pages were chaotic. She was surprised that he could understand it all.

“What are you working on?†She asked with genuine curiosity.

For a while, nothing but the sound of pen to paper and breathing could be heard within the vault. Shayliss waited for his answer, but eventually figured that he was not going to say anything. Right before she finally gave up, his rough voice muttered, “Device.â€

She nearly flinched in surprise. Her gaze shot toward him and she asked, a little too enthusiastically, “Device? A device for what?â€

The twitch of his mouth into a smile surprised Shayliss again, “Secret.â€

Her eyebrows shot up. Maybe she had not gained his trust yet? Without realizing it, she was looking up and down his arms, seeing all of the scars built up onto his dark skin. She should not be surprised. If his past was what she expected, then it will take a long time before she gained it.

“I’ll leave you to it then.†She said as she started to get up.

However, a hand reach up to grip her forearm. Shayliss stopped and looked back at Snaga. He was avoiding her gaze, but muttered, “Hook.â€

Shayliss blinked, “Hook?†She looked down at her grappling hook, “Do you want to know why I use it?â€

Snaga shook his head twice, “See?â€

Her mind raced trying to figure out what the man wanted. Realization dawned on her a second later and she reached down, “You want to see it?â€

He nodded as she pulled the loop of rope from her side and passed it to him, “Here.â€

The shy and quiet half-orc nearly snatched it from her hand and stared down at it. Shayliss sat down again and watched as he turned the rope this way and that, narrowed his eyes at the thin lines of magic running through the rope, and pulled the metal hook open and let it close itself with a snap. Every once in awhile, he would make a note or two on his parchment before continuing to examine the tool.

It was amazing to Shayliss how fast his attitude changed. Just a few minutes ago, he was nearly paralyzed by her presence. Now, he was furiously writing down various things about her hook while constantly muttering to himself. She tried to hear what he was saying, but even the words she caught sent her head spinning in confusion, so she stopped trying.

She did not notice when her eyes closed to the sound of pen on paper.

It sounded like her old life.
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