Hunt - Chapter Thirty-Two
~ 32 ~
27 Arodus, 4692 AR; Grey Garrison 1st Floor, Kenabres

After an hour of rest, the group continued their assault on the Grey Garrison. Despite being prepared for more opposition, when they reached the stairs up to the second floor there was nothing ready to do battle.

"Did we kill all of them, then?" Strune asked. Like the rest of them, she was doing her best to stand up straight, but exhaustion was clear on her face. Her longsword was held lower than normal and she was not even trying to hold her shield up to a guard.

"Maybe all of the weaker prey." Kaira answered, "But the commander still stands."

Shayliss started up the stairs, keeping her blade across her body in a casual guard, "There is no doubt about that. They will have strong demons protecting the Wardstone fragment."

Strune followed, a dubious look on her face, "Are demons really that smart? All of their attacks from the initial assault on Kenabres to now have been aggression and little else."

"Don't underestimate our prey." Kaira said, one hand on her quiver, ready to pull out one of her few remaining arrows, "They are smart enough to try and turn the barrier against the Crusaders. Do you think that they would not try to defend the fragment as much as possible?"

There was a moment of silence, "Fair."

Shayliss had reached the top of the stairs. They led to a long hallway with six doors, three of them open. Immediately to her right was a closed door that was hastily reinforced with metal fittings. Next to that was an open door that led to a barracks. While it remained mostly in order, blood stains on the beds and floor gave Shayliss the impression that the guards who used them before the demonic attack were killed in their sleep or where pushed back to that room.

Across from the barracks was a war room. A circular table with eight chairs pushed into it had piles upon piles of papers scattered on top. Just with a quick glance, Shayliss could see that they were written with demonic handwriting. If the group survived this encounter, then they could point the Crusaders to it. That would provide much needed information to the hurting fighting force.

At the other side of the hallway, a door led to a library. The bookshelves were in tatters, the books that were once held there ripped to shreds, burned, and otherwise defaced. Small smoke trails still rose from some of the ash piles. The last door remained shut.

Irabeth stood next to Shayliss when she was done with her cursory glance and nodded to the closed door next to her, "According to the map, that room is a scrying chamber. It has the stairs to go up to the last floor."

Shayliss nodded and reached out to open the door. As she expected, it was locked shut. She took a step back and tried to kick it down, but the metal fittings held fast.

"We don't have time to try and find a key." She growled and turned toward Mordria, "You think you can break it down?"

The blind tiefling's eyebrows rose in surprise, then in a slight mocking expression. But, she still stepped up to the door and braced herself. Again, Shayliss felt a strange force, this time emanating from Mordria. It was obvious that she felt it too, as her mouth opened in shock. As it did, she raised a shoulder into a tackle and rushed the door. The ground vibrated with each step and she blurred into motion. Her shoulder did not crash through the door so much as ripped it apart as if the door was made of paper. Wood splinters rocketed into the room and bounced around a bit from the energy before falling to the ground in hundreds of clatters.

The tiefling looked back at the group. Shayliss could see the scars under Mordria's blindfolds pulse with a dark red light before return to their normal, non-illuminating state.

No one spoke for a moment. Then Shayliss moved to her side, "Do you feel alright?"

She nodded, surprise and confusion evident on her face, "What was that?"

"It happened to me as well," Shayliss responded, "During the fight with the Alchemist. I have no idea what it is."

Irabeth and Strune were both giving them a narrowed eyed look, calculation running in the backs of their heads.

Shayliss sighed, "No. We were not given power by any kind of god or goddess."

Strune snorted but did not say anything. Irabeth shook her head and moved toward the center of the room. There, a pool of water was set into the floor. Body parts, organs and other matter were dumped into it, leaking blood and worse. The water was a dark red-brown color and was no longer translucent but almost opaque with spots of transparency left. Both warpriest and paladin stepped into the water, their bodies glowing with holy light.

Immediately, the water seemed to clean itself, the red-brown color evaporating into the air. Opaque cleared into translucent and the limbs were clearly visible. The holy warriors bent into the water, the liquid reaching their chests in those poses, and began tossing out the body parts. Watching, Shayliss could see that the aura around Strune was twice as bright as the one around Irabeth, making it difficult to look directly at her. Were they all given extra strength? Was it only within the confines of this building? There was a part of her that told her it was nothing but an illusion created out of fear for the future. As it whispered those words, the brand on her chest seared. Used to it, though, she simply gritted her teeth against the pain.

Minutes later, the scrying pool was clear. Before the pair could climb out, it started glowing. The light seemed to be drawn into their heads and they stood rigid with mouths open wide in confusion. And a second later, the light blinked out and the pair staggered slightly, fighting to keep their feet.

"Are you two alright?" Shayliss asked.

Both of them nodded and climbed out of the pool. "It gave us a vision." Strune said, letting out slow calming breaths, "Of the Wardstone fragment."

Shayliss blinked, "Since you are not panicking, I assume that it is still alright."

"It is." Irabeth answered, "There are two demons guarding it. They were talking to an illusion of a third. We could not hear what they were saying, but it is clear that they are not ready yet."

"Well, that's good." Shayliss said, "Anything else?"

Both shook their heads.

"That's helpful." Shayliss sighed, "Alright. That does not change our task. Let's get it done."
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