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Hunt - Chapter Twenty-Seven
~ 27 ~
27 Arodus, 4692 AR; Grey Garrison Courtyard, Kenabres

"I must say, Irabeth," Shayliss whispered, crouched in the mouth of an alleyway looking out onto the Grey Garrison, a squat grey stoned building that lived up to its name, "when the Crusaders need to, they can turn the heat up."

Seconds before, Irabeth had given the Crusader groups her signal: an arrow, lighted with a spell, shot straight into the air. Shayliss had watched its progress, sailing up for dozens of feet before curving back down to sink into the ground a few feet away. Once the arrow connected with the ground, holy energy spread out through it, aiming for the partially destroyed Clydwell Cathedral across the district from the Grey Garrison. It raced with crackling energy up the charred stone, weakened wooden supports, and into the golden shine of the Symbol of Iomedae stabbing into the top of the dome.

The Sword of Valor was missing half of its hilt and all of its handle, yet when the energy reached into it, the whole structure flared up with golden light. The light formed in a way that completed the rest of the Symbol, as if it had been untouched by the demons. Golden radiance filled all of Kenabres, letting all within it, both demon and mortal, see its brilliance.

Irabeth stared up at it, eyes widened, "That... was not me." She blinked, "She's watching over us."

Before Shayliss could ask what she meant by that, a huge explosion shook the city, nearly knocking her down. Then a series of battlecries overlapped each other, originating from multiple areas of the city, letting the demons know that the Crusaders meant business. A loud response arose from the Grey Garrison and Shayliss watched what looked like a legion fly out from the building as well as flashes from teleportation spells.

Irabeth muttered, "Give it a few seconds. Make sure that everyone that is going to leave, leaves. We cannot afford to get flanked or face an overwhelming force."

Shayliss nodded and held a hand up with all fingers outstretched. She counted down slowly. Once her fist closed completely, Irabeth, Mordria and Snaga all rushed forward with their weapons or limbs ready. A second later, Shayliss, mounted on Shadowshine, and Strune, with her wings, followed suit. Soon after, Shayliss could hear the massive storm of footfalls as Kaira, Blueeye, and an army of Mongrelmen archers follow. As they moved closer, Shayliss could get more and more of the details around the Garrison. Including the two human-seeming demons standing guard.

They were both inhumanely obese, skin stretching farther than skin is supposed to. Not only that, but they were only covered by the scraps of pants and holding glaives. Something about them were familiar, but she could not figure out why before the frontliners crashed into them.

As the group approached, they clanked their glaives over the front doors, gave them a disgusting grin, and the right demon asked, "Are you here to turn yourselves over to Deskari?"

Irabeth ignored them and started the fight by ducking below a swing of the right demon's glaive then sweep her blade upward as she bounced back up. She then tried to bring her weapon back down upon its head, but metal met wooden staff. By the effort the paladin was exerting, the demon was stronger than its appearance explained.

Snaga came in from the side and slammed a spiked gauntlet into what would have been the ribs of a normal person. The force of the blow staggered the demon, allowing Irabeth to recover her weapon and step safely back. A glaive comes down in a crescent arc aimed at Snaga. He raised his gauntlets, blocking the blow, and sending both sparks and magical liquid into the air. The form around the half-orc faded a bit from the impact.

Mordria, however, was handling the second demon all on her own. Instead of going on the offensive from the outset, the tiefling went in low, keeping her body as small as possible to dodge the first attack of the demon. She received a gash on her shoulder, but it gave her the chance to reach up and grab at the glaive. Once her grip was set, she twisted her body sharply trying to disarm the demon. However, instead the strength of the pair fought against each other until the weapon itself split in a shower of wood. Hesitating for a split second, Mordria slid away from the next attack which would have split her like the glaive and sunk her claws into the demon's wrist. She then used all of her strength to get in close and stab into its other wrist. Successful, she held the demon there, visibly shaking from the exertion.

Shayliss knew exactly what she was doing and spun in her saddle toward the archers, "Archers, aim at the left demon!" She then turned to Strune, who was floating next to her trying to find an opening, "Do you have any offensive spells?"

The strix shook her head, "I only prepared support spells."

"Alright. Then stay back. I don't want any of the arrows to hit you and Mordria both."

Strune gave Shayliss a sharp look, "You are intentionally harming Mordria?"

"Do I want the arrows to hit her? No. But look at her. She is intentionally holding the demon in place to give us a chance to hit it without worry."

"Except the worry of harming our companion."

"She made her choice and is doing so to let us get through the front doors." Shayliss answered as arrows arced up over the pair's heads and toward the demon.

It saw the rain of destruction that was coming down upon it, but was unable to dodge it. Dozens of arrows sunk into skin and all of them passed through it. Which grabbed Shayliss's attention. With bodies, both demon and human, there is way too much material in them to allow for arrows to just pass right through unimpeded. Meat, bone, skin and blood all stand in an arrow's way and stop it within the body. Yet, these arrows acted as if all the bodies had in them was blood, which was now splatting like rain into the dirt.

Strune noticed it too and halted whatever she was going to say to Shayliss, "That's not right."

"Do you know what these things are?"

"I..." She hesitated, "I don't think they are demons."

After giving the archers the order to fire again, Shayliss gave her a side-glance, "What do you mean?"

"I'm not too sure. But I've heard of demons that can use bodies to hide themselves. I wonder if these are just meatshields for them."

Metal screeched and crunched as the right demon sent a fist into Irabeth's chestplate. The damage was not enough to poke a hole in the armor or pierce her skin, but the blunt impact of the blow would have certainly cracked a rib or two. Snaga rose to his feet from where the demon had slammed him seconds before and barked out an arcane word. A glob of acid formed in the cup of his hand which he then pressed against the demon's skin. Instead of yelling in pain as Shayliss expected, it just gave him an ugly and unnatural grin. The demon on the other side of the front doors did the same thing with Mordria.

Their heads exploded.

Out of the fountains of blood lunged two worm-like creatures. They worked their way out of their hosts and splatted upon the ground. Then they charged forward toward Shayliss and Strune, ignoring everyone and everything else.

As if excited to finally be a part of the fight, Shadowshine rose onto his hind legs, let out a loud whiny of challenge, then rushed forward to meet the two worms. Shayliss let him, preparing her blade and hook for combat. Seconds later, Strune followed, keeping low to the ground with blade and shield aimed forward.

One of the worms leapt up into the air, its jagged toothed mouth open to bite down into Shayliss's shoulder. She twisted her body in the saddle and swiped her blade at a diagonal over Shadowshine's head. However, Shadowshine moved at the same time, spinning around to kick out at the worm. This caused Shayliss's attack to miss, but his attack hit. She felt the impacts race along the horse's body and up to her head aggravating her headache.

"Damnit, Shadowshine!" She growled.

The horse gave an unapologetic snort as he completed his turn and ran forward to stomp the worm into the ground. It recovered quick, though, dodging his hooves and lunged up toward his side.

Hesitating for only a second, Shayliss slashed out with her longsword, creating a deep gash in the worm's skin. Her attack sent it off-course and it instead landed under Shadowshine. Before the horse could try his stomping routine again, the worm rushed out from under him and prepared to attack again. This time, an arrow thudded into the ground next to it, prevent its next attack.

With a tiny yell, it lunged for Kaira. Blueeye met it halfway and took it to the ground, rolling a couple of times. They landed with the worm on top and it latched its teeth into the wolf's shoulder. Blueeye yelped and bucked the worm off of him before returning the favor. They went back and forth like that twice before Blueeye leapt backward, allowing Kaira to loose the decisive arrow.

Shayliss turned around to find Strune slicing the other worm in half, "We're clear out here."

Shayliss nodded and dismounted. Before she could start ordering, Irabeth yelled out, "Shayliss, over here!"

Shayliss ran up to Irabeth to find her kneeling next to the two human bodies that the worms burst out of. One of them looked very familiar. It took her a second to realize, "That's Lord Hulrun, isn't it?"

The half-orc sighed, "Yes. The vermleks took his and Nyserrian's bodies to use as a sick prank." She gave Shayliss a significant look, "None of the Crusaders should or need to see this. We can tell them once the battle is over."

"Agreed." Shayliss turned toward the mongrelmen, "Could we have four men to help us move these bodies?" As four volunteers step forward to comply, she adds, "Take care with them, and make sure no one else sees them until the end of the battle. We will have a funeral for them then."

The mongrelmen gently pick up the bodies and move them away, "The rest of you, guard the door. Make sure that we are not flanked and that we have a secure escape route just in case." At her group, she said, "Let's go. Snaga and Irabeth in front, Strune and I in the middle, and Kaira and Blueeye rear. Remember that we need to punch a hole in their defense and reach the top of the Garrison where we are sure that they are holding the stone."
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