Hunt - Chapter Eighteen
~ 18 ~
19 Arodus, 4692 AR; Kenabres

As it turns out, Snaga is very particular when it comes to his fashion-sense. At least when it comes to noble fashion.

Once the body of the abrikandilu was disposed of, the elven pair, who owned the store Fine Fittings, invited the group to choose one of the surviving outfits for each of them. It was their way of saying thanks for saving their lives. When Strune tried to argue, they would not take no for an answer. So, she relented and the group took about half an hour to make their choices. About twenty of those minutes was taken up by Snaga.

Shayliss, a girl who grew up in one of the most rural settlements in the nation of Varisia, never knew clothing other than dirty aprons and linen shirts. That is why, when the store owners pulled out the three remaining clothes displays, and she saw the quality of the clothes, the air left her body. The cloth nearly shone in all colors of the rainbow and more. And she was the first one to choose.

Overwhelmed, she had trouble deciding. Yet, she did find an outfit that Valtyra would definitely love, a black coat, white shirt and black tights. Next to that was a black dress with silver trim and elegant design that reached her ankles. So, with as much of sleight of hand as she could manage, she snagged both of them. She believed that she succeeded, but the looks from both Kaira and the female shopkeeper told her otherwise. No-one said a word.

Strune did not take nearly as much time. She approached the display, glanced at it, and pulled out a beautiful knight’s finery of blue and gold. Kaira did the same except pulling out an unexpected blouse-skirt combo of green and brown. With Anevia, she just pulled out a random shirt-skirt combo of red and blue. Mordria had similar enthusiasm when she picked a blouse-tights outfit of red and black.

Snaga, however, walked around the display. He stared at it with a concentration only seen when he works on his diagrams. Muttering to himself, he circles the display over and over and over again. After ten minutes of this, the elven pair step forward asking if he needs assistance. In a shocking action, Snaga holds his hand up for silence. When Shayliss was about to burst from impatience, he finally picked out a knight’s finery, similar to Strune’s, made with dark red and gold fabric.

With outfits in bags, Strune steps up to the elven couple and asks, “Would you like to accompany us? We will be able to protect you until we get to safety.â€

The man shook his head, “We will be fine. Waiting for assistance will be better than burdening you with our presence.â€

“We do not mind, really.†Strune answered, “We can-â€

“Do not worry.†The woman interrupted, “We were just caught off guard when that demon attacked. Holding off until the Crusaders come will not be an issue.â€

Strune’s glance shot down to the ground. It took her a minute to say what was obviously difficult, “Until we learn more, you cannot trust the Crusaders. We have met with at least one who…â€

The elven pair’s eyes widened at her clenched teeth, “Understood. We will be careful.â€

With that, they bowed and moved to the back of the store. Seconds later, Shayliss could hear a door closing and multiple locks clicking shut.

“Come on guys.†She said, glancing at Anevia, “We have another stop to make.â€

Anevia’s house was a simple one floor construction at the southern edge of the Gate District. Grey stone was supported by wooden beams reaching from floor to roof. One window was on the front side of the building yet the inside of the house was dark. A corner of the roof had been destroyed by some kind of blast but the rest remained intact.

When she saw her home standing relatively strong compared to the others in her neighborhood, Anevia let out a loud sigh of relief. Yet, Shayliss could see the cords of tight muscle running up and down the woman’s neck and shoulders. The fear of what she is about to walk into was plain in her body.

Shayliss, who had been riding next to Anevia since they left Fine Fittings, put a hand on the woman’s arm. She squeezed the tight, tense muscle underneath and asked, “Will you be alright?â€

Anevia looked sharply at Shayliss’s face and swallowed hard, “Yes.â€

Shayliss did not believe that for an instant but nodded, “Stick by me.â€

Anevia’s eyes widened, “Do you think something is in there?â€

“No,†Shayliss let out a small and meaningless chuckle, “But we don’t want to have gotten you to this point only to be careless.â€

Another swallow and nod.

“Mordria, Snaga.†Shayliss said in a low voice, “Go first. Strune and I will take rear guard. Kaira, Blueeye and Anevia, take center. Remember, this is a tight space, so be careful if something does happen.â€

Without another word, everyone dismounted and drew their weapons. Matching Anevia’s slower speed, they stepped up to the front door and Mordira reached out. With loud creaks it opened into a L-shaped dark room. It was a nearly bare sitting room with a round table around the right corner. Five chairs surround it with a tall candle set inside of a rusted gold candle holder and a placemat was at each chair. The candle would have been the only source of light if it had been lit.

To the left, set against the wall were two doors. Both were cracked open with one leading to a bathroom and the other leading to a bedroom. The bedroom was trashed. Papers strewn all over the room, more candles tumbled over and out of their holders, the bed in disarray and wood from a broken chair splintered all over the floor surrounding a wooden desk.

Seeing the bedroom, Anevia sharply inhales, “Irabeth?â€

Mordria and Shayliss exchanged a glance. Shayliss nodded and both Mordria and Snaga stepped into the bedroom. Before they completed their fifth step, an invisible force barreled into them both, throwing the pair backward. Shayliss found a flash of red rush by her before a form stopped right in front of Anevia.

A scream pierced the air as Anevia fell back in shock. Blue-grey metal raised upward and then shot down toward the prone woman. Golden light shone as Radiance came up from below to block the halberd. Recovering fast, Mordria reached out, gripped the back of a dark red chestplate, and threw the person inside the armor away from Anevia. As the form stumbled back and forth, trying to regain their balance, Shayliss caught brown-green skin and rotten yellow teeth.

“You.†Anevia huffed out.

The armored half-orc chuckled with the deepest voice Shayliss had ever heard, “You recognize me. That’s nice of you.†He stood up straight, “I just hope your bitch of a wife will as well when she finds your body.â€

Mordria and Snaga returned to their position between the half-orc and the rest of the group. Shayliss gritted her teeth, her anger radiating.

“Such anger.†The half-orc muttered, “I know that feeling well.†The hand gripping the halberd tightened, “And now,†he launched himself forward, “You’ll feel it with your blood!â€
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