Hunt - Chapter Seventeen
~ 17 ~
19 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres

The city of Kenabres was much quieter the next day. Which unsettled Shayliss to no end. Before it was expected to hear demonic screeching, yells, screams and burning buildings even if what remained in the city was those demons who just want to have fun with their prey. Now, those sounds could still be heard, but they were far off and sparse. Granted that did mean the citizens would be safer and the demons probably had their fill for now. But Shayliss could not help but feel a surge of apprehension shoot down her spine.

“You feel it too?â€

Shayliss nearly jumped in the saddle at Mordria’s voice. The tiefling woman was riding to her left, her eyes sliding left and right whenever they passed an alleyway. Her mount, a beautiful but ragged brown haired horse that looked more burly than the typical horse.

“Yeah.†Shayliss nodded, “It is way too quiet for a city besieged by demons.â€

“That’s a good thing.†Strune said from in front of Mordira, “It means we should be safe traveling to the next stop.â€

Kaira’s head turned to look at our surroundings, “Maybe. It could also mean that the demons are waiting.â€

Strune shook her head, “Demons are not that smart. I have never met a demon who actually plans out an ambush.â€

“You mean like how they did not plan out the attack on Kenabres?†Mordria asked in a low voice.

“We do not know it was planned.†Strune responded, “Demons have attempted to destroy Kenabres for centuries. It weakened the Wardstone to the point where they could attack.â€

Shayliss could not help but believe that Strune was just making excuses to comfort herself. Instead of fighting back against it, she just let it slide, “Whatever the case, we need to stay focused. Any opening gives them a chance to attack. We are not in the best shape to deal with a concentrated attack.â€

The others seemed to agree as they continued on in silence. Resting in Horgus’s vault was something that the group desperately needed. Yet, Shayliss could still see the dark rings around their eyes and their relaxed muscles. If a mob of demons attacked them, they would not stand much of a chance.

Shayliss halted her gaze onto Anevia. Of course, she was the same as everyone else, yet she was not paying attention at all. The scout’s gaze was ahead of them, but there was a glaze over her eyes, focused on nothing. Her mouth was curled downward slightly and it is fairly obvious what she is thinking about. Shayliss remembered seeing that kind of look from Valtyra when they first started talking.

She slowed Shadowshine down to match with Anevia’s speed, “Hey.â€

Anevia did not respond. She did not even flinch in reaction. There was no sign that she noticed Shayliss’s approach. That worried Shayliss more than the idea of a demon ambush. She turned to Snaga and grabbed his attention with an arm wave. At his questioning look, Shayliss tilted her head at the scout and mouthed, “Watch her.†The half-orc nodded and moved closer to the scout.

Shayliss nodded in approval and kicked Shadowshine back up toward the front of the group. Before she could reach it, the sound of shattering glass mixed with a woman’s scream resounded down the street.

“Strune! Mordria!†Shayliss barked.

Both women nodded sharply as they kicked their horses into motion. They raced forward, disappearing around a corner. The others followed behind, running into sounds of demonic screeching and human grunts. Shayliss watched as a rack of clothes is thrown from the window of a store. It crashed against the building across the street spilling the ripped and dirty clothes all along the sidewalk.

“Keep an eye on her!†Shayliss yelled to Snaga as she and Kaira dismounted.

The pair and Blueeye rushed into the front door of the store. Shayliss had to duck under another rack of expensive clothes as it was launched from the store while the other two sent themselves to the side to avoid it. When she straightened back up, she saw a giant hunchbacked half-rat spin to face her.

With a screech, it leapt at her with elongated claws extended. Metal slid against metal as she pulled her longsword from its sheathe. Sparks flashed from contact with the demon’s claws and she held them back with her arm. With her other arm, she slammed a fist into her opponent’s snout. While the blow did no damage, it stunned the creature enough for her to gain some distance.

From the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of red skin and black blood. Mordria managed to sink her own claws into the creature. It stepped forward to balance itself then twisted around to swipe at Mordria. She ducked the blow and slid deeper into the demon’s defenses. As the demon’s arm arced from its attack, the tiefling grabbed its wrist. Yanking with all her might, she tried to throw the creature’s balance off again, but it was not having it.

It planted one of its feet into the ground and used the other to kick out. Mordria had to let go of its wrist in order to dodge the attack. Letting out a laughing squeak, it prepared to attack a pair of elves who were cowering behind a register counter. Strune placed herself in between the pair and the demon, holding up her shield in defiance.

At the same time, three forms blurred from either side of the demon. Two arrows from Shayliss’s left sunk into the demon’s side while a white wolf from her right bit down hard and pulled at the demon’s forearm. The squeak became a screech and the demon raised its other hand to claw the wolf.

Shayliss had no time to think. She leapt onto a still standing clothes display and launched herself into the path of the claw. Her blade managed to catch the hand, but the force of the attack slammed her into the floorboards.Yet, her daring move prevented the wolf from being skewered. With a blast of breath shooting out of her mouth, she forced herself to scramble back from a second attack. The wood between her legs splintered from the demon’s claws and a sudden spasm of fear shot through her body.

A soft thud and whine came from the other side of the store. Kaira let out a growl and Shayliss watched three arrows sail over the demon. She was about to call out to Kaira to focus, but those arrows let her see something that would help.

“Strune, stay where you are and shield them!â€

Before waiting for a response, she pulled her grappling hook off of its clip and awkwardly flung it up at the ceiling. It took her two attempts, but she finally succeeded in wrapping the rope around one of the horizontal support beams. Praying to whatever god was listening that it was not a load bearing support, she pulled as hard as she could.

The cracks already formed in the wood expanded even more, the lightning shaped lines shooting through the rectangular beam completely. With a loud pop, the beam tilted and fell at a diagonal toward the ground. Crushing displays lined up near the register, it grazed the demon’s back before slamming into the floor. While it dealt no significant damage to the demon, it blocked the way to Strune and the elves.

Screaming, the demon reached out to the beam. Yet Mordria, claws extended, grabbed its robes and hauled. The demon was way too heavy for her to pick off the ground, but she was able to put enough force to make it stumble away. As it did, it struck out, leaving gashes into the tiefling’s shoulder.

Shayliss rose to her feet and felt her right knee buckle. Fighting to stay steady, she placed herself in front of the fallen beam. Behind her, Strune whispered, “A little more warning next time?â€

“I did warn you.†Shayliss hissed back, “Do you know what this demon is?â€

“An abrikandilu.†Strune answered almost immediately, “A grunt in a typical demonic army. The only things to know are that they hate beauty and their own reflection as well as their attacks can mar beauty and destroy a person’s self-worth.â€

“Now I understand why it’s here.†Shayliss muttered.

Her gaze shot up as a display was flung into the air toward her. There was no time to think. She raised her blade toward the display, aiming its tip right for the wooden support pole. Wood splintered as the blade wedged itself into the pole. The momentum was too great, though, and Shayliss was sent into the beam behind her. Yet, she was able to redirect the pole from landing onto Strune and the elves.

“Is there really no weakness?†Shayliss asked.

The strix shook her head, “No. Its one of the reasons that the demons use them as front line forces.â€

Shayliss cursed under her breath. She then called out, “We have to flank it! Kaira and Blueye, together. Mordria, pair with me!â€

Kaira and Blueeye were already flanking the demon, the archer standing against a cracked wall shooting arrows made of magic and the wolf latching onto the demon’s robes. Mordria, however, was on the same side of the demon as Shayliss. Black blood was flowing down her back and she seemed as unsteady as Shayliss felt. Yet, when she noticed Shayliss approaching, which still confused the woman, Mordira gripped the demon’s hunchback and flipped over it.

As the demon recovered from that maneuver, Shayliss rushed in and slashed upward. Its robe ripped and black blood started flowing down its body. With a scream, it spun around to claw at her face. That gave both Mordria and Blueeye the opening they needed to attack in unison. Fangs and claws sunk into the demon’s flesh and it let out more screeches of pain. It was certainly weakening, but that does not stop it from reaching out to grab Shayliss.

Its clawed fingers gripped a couple of plates within her armored coat and lifted her off the ground. Before she could get her blade up to attack, the demon spins around and sends her flying at Mordria. The tiefling was about to move in for another attack, but she skidded to a stop in order to catch the flying woman. She was not able to keep her balance, though, and both toppled to the ground. Shayliss got to her feet as fast as possible and only had a second to raise her blade. She felt an impact against the metal. With a grunt of effort, she worked to keep the claws from reaching the still prone Mordria.

As she did, the other two fighters rushed in to attack. Shayliss could feel the demon’s strength weaken as the others took that chance. She was surprised when the demon only fought to push her down. It no longer tried to attack any of the others. So, the rest of the fight was a simple matter of her holding back the claws. Within half a minute, the fight was done and the demon fell to its side.
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