Hunt - Chapter Twenty-Eight
~ 28 ~
27 Arodus, 4692 AR; Grey Garrison 1st Floor, Kenabres

With a loud boom, the doors of the Grey Garrison closed. And the place was silent. Not even the sounds of war outside could be heard. Shayliss had expected the demons to be pouring in through the woodworks to try and get at them. But after waiting a full minute in tense anticipation, nothing happened. It made her nervous, like a mouse who knows it had just walked into the cat’s den but could not find the cat.

“What now?†Strune asked, sword and shield at the ready.

Shayliss glanced around the tiny foyer, trying to analyze the possible entrances and working to ignore the two bodies of Crusaders pinned to the wall in front of her by blades. There was, of course, the exit back outside, but there were also two doors. The left one led to a meeting hall where she could see portraits of people slashed and a table flipped over. To her right a door led into some kind of shrine.

“Keep your guard up and move toward the shrine,†Shayliss answered, referencing the mental map of the Grey Garrison Irabeth showed her before the attack started, “There should be a set of stairs beyond it that will lead upward.â€

The group moved to head toward the shrine when Blueeye let out a loud bark of warning. Shayliss turned in time to see six tieflings round the doorframe leading into the meeting room with shortswords and axes bared upon Kaira and Strune. The pair were too slow to react and could only feebly get their weapons ready and watch the blades fall.

Mordria and Snaga, however, were able to throw themselves in front of the tieflings and deflected the attacks away. Snaga took a couple of hits, more of that magical aura dissipating, but he returned the favor with a punch to two of the tiefling’s bellies. Mordria managed to hold back one blade but two more descended upon her and bit deep.

Blueeye rushed into the fray, latching his fangs into the calf of a tiefling, nearly sending them both to the ground. With an angry yell, the tiefling swiped his shortsword into the wolf, but only met air as Blueeye circled to his back to attack again. As her partner did that, Kaira took two steps back, carefully aimed her bow, and fired. The arrow soared the five feet and cut across the tiefling’s neck, leaving a black line of blood.

Shayliss was about to join in the fight but heard Strune yell, “Shayliss!â€

She did not need any more warning than that. Combining a duck and side step, she avoided the claws that were aimed for her head. Without looking where she was aiming, Shayliss arced her longsword upward hoping to sever the arm the claws were attached to. Her attack missed but it gave her a chance to rise back to a standing position.

In front of her were two Abrikandilus, the same kind of rat-faced demon who attacked the tailoring shop. They let out hoarse cackles before raising their claws to attack Shayliss and Irabeth, who were closest to the right door before the ambush started.

“Strune, help the others! Irabeth, we need to keep these two in place.â€

The paladin of Iomedae was already holding her shield up to block the claws as she said, “Understood!â€

Shayliss again sidestepped the demon’s attack but not fast enough to completely avoid it. Two of its claws managed to leave long gashes down her arm, shriveling the skin around the injury. With the attack she could feel some of her confidence drain out of her body as if it was pulled by the claws.

Ignoring the strange sensation, she let out some of her grappling hook’s rope and swung it upward. The metal hook crashed into the underside of the demon’s snout, sending it reeling backward stunned. Shayliss followed up with a quick thrust to its neck. Her blade left a line of blood running diagonally upward from its chest to the back of its ear, but it was not a debilitating injury.

While flailing to recover its stance, the demon swiped at her chest and arms. Most of them were weak and unaimed which allowed Shayliss to deflect them off of her armored coat and blade. Yet, one left four shallow streaks across her belly, shriveling the skin and weakening her further.

She pushed through the discomfort and pain to attack with an upward arc at the Abrikandilus’ center of mass. Her blade left a shallow cut in its chest, dealing superficial damage. Shayliss tried to go in for another attack, but was pushed back by two quick claw attacks that threatened to sever her neck. She managed to get her longsword up in time to deflect both attacks, but she was pushed back a couple of steps in the process.

“Hold your ground!†Irabeth called to her, “We just need to hold for a few more moments!â€

“Easy for you to say!†Shayliss growled, her body tensing under the force of another claw attack.

Using the momentum of the last attack, she bent at the knees and surged forward, thrusting her longsword out to stab into the demon’s thigh. It struck home. However, the demon reached down to the blade, grabbed it, and pulled it out. While Shayliss was not forced back by this, it did cause her to hesitate. She had never seen a creature anywhere decide to just grab a naked blade and pull at it.

The demon did not waste any time. With blood splattering against the stone of the Garrison, it raised its clawed hand and prepared to slice Shayliss into pieces.

An arrow sailed over Shayliss’s head and slammed halfway into the demon’s hand. Trailing right behind the arrow was a white furred blur that then crashed head-first into its chest. Shayliss, recovering from her surprise, slid to the side of the doorway, allowing Snaga to enter the space she had occupied.

“Stay.†He whispered in his hardly heard gravelly voice.

Nodding, Shayliss leaned against the bloodstained wall and fought to catch her breath. The foyer was littered with tiefling corpses all with wounds that would have killed any normal person three times over. She was not sure if it was just that tieflings can withstand more pain or if the demons were enhancing their troops, but it was something to consider in the future.

“Let me heal you.â€

Shayliss looked up to find Irabeth standing before her with injuries of her own slowly closing up. She nodded and Irabeth started praying to Iomedae under her breath. It was hard to understand the words themselves, but not to understand the meaning and passion behind them. Holy energy coursed through Shayliss’s body and she could feel some of the gashes in her skin close up. However, the shriveled skin remained.

“We can take care of that when this is over with.†Irabeth explained, “Those can only be healed with higher level spells and we cannot afford to use them so soon.â€

“Fair enough.â€

“The room’s clear now!â€

Shayliss and Irabeth entered the shrine. Both Abrikandilus were dead on the ground in pieces. On the wall, above a small altar was a metal bracket that would have held a longsword. Behind where the longsword hilt and handle would have been was the etching of a sunburst. On either side of the sunburst were strange runes carved into the stone. Covering all of that was dried bloodstains and something of dark brown color that Shayliss did not want to think about, but knew of by its awful smell. The only other exit besides the one she just crossed was a closed, reinforced door that led to a hallway.

“They dare desecrate a shrine of Iomedae?†Strune snarled under her breath.

“Whatever they can do to reduce the power of her followers.†Kaira answered.

With a short snort of anger, Strune walked for the shrine and pulled out a cloth that she doused with water. Irabeth followed suit, mirroring her counterpart. Both of them muttered prayers as they started rubbing off the dried stains. As they did, holy energy glowed from their hands, casting shadows behind them and onto Shayliss.

“Do we have time for this?†Shayliss asked, “We do have demons to take care of.â€

Both holy warriors ignored her, continuing their consecration.

Shayliss muttered something dark and turned to the others, “Defend this room. We cannot let th-â€

The reinforced door buckled under the force of an attack. From beyond it, Shayliss could hear the battlecries of even more demons.
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