Purification episode 98: Grimswald

Lysara played some notes on her lyre, humming to herself as she did. Occasionally she’d stop, go back and try something different, replaying the entire melody up till that point.

Velvet was lounging in his wagon, feet in the air. His canine team pulled him forward, keeping pace with the others without any difficulty.

Lilly, Twila and Axra rode side by side, chatting as they rode.

Bonnie watched the road. It was true enough that they hadn’t had any problems in the days they’d been riding, but that could easily change at any moment. All it took was a group of bandits of sufficient size or remnants of the Hestial League seeking revenge. It didn’t help that they didn’t have too far to go until they reached Grimswald.

She sighed and rode her horse back towards Axra and the others. “Princess, if I may have a moment.”

“You don’t have to call me ‘Princess,’ you know,” Axra said. “What’s up?”

“It occurs to me that we could save time on our trip if I ride ahead to Grimswald, pick up the supplies and meet up with you so that we can pass through and continue on our way,” Bonnie suggested. “With your permission I’ll leave immediately.”

“Th… that sounds good,” Lilly said. “I… I mean, it will save time so… we might want to, you know, consider it.”

“But we’ll be passing through very near dark anyway,” Twila stated. “At least we will based on our present speed. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get the supplies after we arrive and sleep at an Inn for the night?”

“I’d have to agree,” Axra said. “If we just passed through we’d get, what, twenty minutes worth of travel time before having to stop anyway?”

“Those twenty minutes might prove valuable,” Bonnie said, her voice a lot softer than it had been.

“And it might be, you know, really nice to camp under the stars instead of, you know, sitting in a confined old room,” Lilly added.

Twila and Axra gave each other a knowing look. “All right, out with it,” Axra said. “What exactly are you two so worried about?”

“W… worried?” Lilly asked. “Oh, no… there’s no need for worry. N… none whatsoever.”

“You two do seem to be hiding something,” Twila said. “Wouldn’t it be better to tell us about it so that we can come up with a solution, or at least be prepared?”

“As Lilly said, it’s nothing,” Bonnie stated. “My apologies, I was overzealous.” She turned back and resumed her position at the head of the group.

“Hey, Bon,” Lysara said. “Which one sounds better. This…” she strummed a quick melody “or this” she played a similar but slightly different tune.

“Maybe asking another bard would work better,” Bonnie suggested. “Or Lilly, she knows plenty about music.”

“That’s okay, Bon, I’ll trust your judgement,” Lysara said. She smiled and stared intently at Bonnie.

I suppose the first one,” Bonnie said.

“Then the first one it is!” Lysara declared. “Thanks, Bon!”

*****

The group arrived in Grimswald in the early evening, the sun was just starting to show signs of going down. They didn’t have much daylight left.

The town wasn’t large, but it was busy. Guards patrolled the street. Peddlers lined the road, trying to sell some last wares before closing up for the night.

A guard stared at them with a vague sense of recognition. He seemed to be trying to focus and figure out where it was coming from.

“Velvet and I can grab the supplies,” Bonnie said. “You four can secure rooms for us at the Inn and get space for the horses at the stables. If memory serves, the two are  very close to each other.”

“Sounds good,” Axra said. “Just don’t take too long.”

“Azure Butterfly!” A young man ran out of a pub and moved directly to Bonnie. “It is you! I haven’t seen you since…” Bonnie ran through a complicated set of hand signals and he went silent. He quickly nodded. “I’m sorry, I seem to have been mistaken.” He bowed. “Excuse me.” He hurried back to the pub.

“Azure Butterfly?” Lysara asked. “Bon, what was he talking about?”

“W… we should get the rooms,” Lilly said. “And I’m sure that Velvet and Bonnie need to hurry, you know, before the shops start closing down.”

Bonnie nodded. “That’s true enough. We’ll meet you at the Inn. Let’s go, Velvet!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Velvet muttered. “I’m coming.”

The two hurried away, quickly fading from view.

“Lilly, you know something,” Lysara observed.

“M… me?” Lilly asked. “I mean, I do know some things, b… but that doesn’t mean I know anything about the thing you’re curious about, you know?”

“Uh-huh,” Lysara said. “You know, this city doesn’t look dangerous. It’s got plenty of guards, nicely lit streets and I haven’t seen so much as a pickpocket. So, what’s the real reason that Bon didn’t want to come here?”

“We… well it has changed a lot,” Lilly stammered. “An… and we are still in, you know, the good part of town. Y… you should see the slums.”

“Is the Inn in the slums?” Lysara asked. “Or really close to them?”

“We… well no,” Lilly answered. “B… but it’s co… complicated so…”

“Uh-huh,” Lysara muttered. “Complicated, I see.” Her voice grew louder. “I guess that I don’t need to know then. Come on, let’s get those rooms!” She memorised the location of the Pub while they rode away. It would still be open at night, she’d wager. She just had to sneak out and find her way back.

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Purification episode 97: Getting back on the road

Bonnie checked the area.There wasn’t much point to it, she knew. Axra had probably just been trying to distract her attention. Had Lilly told Axra about her secondary mission? Probably, that girl was far too nice. Still, Bonnie was determined to fulfill her duties. She examined everything for any sign of possible incursion. Once she had completed the task, she returned. Velvet was lounging near the fire and Lysara was near Twila’s tent with Fang flying above her.

“What are you up to?” Bonnie asked.

Lysara jumped, clearly startled. “I… I saw an interesting looking beetle so I started watching it.” She laughed.

“Is that so?” Bonnie asked. “I didn’t know you liked insects.”

“Oh, sure,” Lysara stated. “I don’t like the really massive ones, but some of the little ones can be interesting to watch. But what about you? Did you find anything?”

“Not a thing,” Bonnie said. “We should have a quiet night. I’ll take the first watch anyway, just to be safe. Velvet, you can take the second. We’ll leave the Princess and Twila alone and let Lilly recover from her broken heart, at least as much as a night of rest can provide.”

“But Lilly isn’t broken-hearted,” Lysara said. “She went into the tent with Twila and Axra.”

“She… What?” Bonnie asked. “Ho… how?” She looked up at the sky. “Was I wrong about what they were going in for?”

“Nope,” Lysara said. “It’s definitely what you thought. Twila even used some kind of noise blocking spell.”

“But… how… with three of them?” Bonnie scratched her head, looking confused.

“Told you so,” Velvet muttered.

“Yeah, I guess you were right,” Lysara conceded. “Calm down, Bon. It’s not that big of a deal. Hey, do you want to sleep in my tent tonight?”

Bonnie watched Lysara for a moment. It was a tempting offer, certainly. “No…” Bonnie answered. “Sorry, but I’m just not ready yet.”

“Still?” Lysara asked. “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to wait for you.” She hugged Bonnie. “Honestly, you’re so old-fashioned.”

*****

Axra woke up. At first, she thought that yesterday evening had been a wonderful, vivid dream. But she quickly grew aware f her surroundings. Twila was beside her, one of her arms resting underneath Axra’s hair. On Twila’s other side, Lilly was fast asleep. The two were holding hands. It had all been real.

Axra carefully got up and peeked outside of the tent. The sun was just starting to rise. Velvet was lying on his side near the fire, perfectly still. Axra went back inside. She hurriedly washed up as best as she could with water from her canteen and dressed before waking Twila and Lilly.

She woke Twila with a gentle kiss to the forehead. She was worried that the same would scare Lilly, so she put a hand gently on her shoulder and shook her slightly.

“Good morning,” Axra whispered.

“G… good morning,” Lilly returned. She smiled shyly.

Axra leaned over and kissed Lilly’s cheek. “You all set to get back on the road?”

“Oh, yes,” Lilly said. “I… I just know that it’s going to be a fun trip. I… I’m just a little worried that things might turn dangerous, you know? I… I don’t want to see you hurt again.”

“None of us want to see that happen,” Twila said. “We’ll just have to look after each other to prevent that as best we can.”

“Damn right!” Axra declared.

Twila looked Axra directly in the eyes. “That means that you’re going to have to let us protect you too. You do realise that, right? No charging ahead. No insisting on taking the full brunt of an attack just so that we’re shielded from it. You’ll have to treat both of us as equals in this.”

“I don’t…” Axra started to protest, but stopped mid-sentence. She looked down at the tent floor and nodded. “All right. I’ll be sure to rely on you both more.”

“Thank the Gods,” Lilly whispered, sighing with relief.

Once Lilly and Twila had washed up and dressed, the three left the tent. Bonnie was already up and packing everything up for the trip. Lilly, Twila and Axra went to work preparing breakfast for everyone.

The scent woke Lysara and she stumbled out of her tent rubbing her eyes. She looked around and moved to help Bonnie.

“Did you sleep well?” Bonnie asked.

“I had a little trouble falling asleep, but I managed pretty well.” Lysara answered. “What about you, Bon? Did you have pleasant dreams?”

“I don’t remember dreaming at all last night,” Bonnie stated.

“Really?” Lysara asked. “I remember all my dreams. For example, last night I dreamt…” She blushed and went silent. “Never mind, it’s not important.”

“Was it that embarrassing?” Bonnie asked.

“Oh Bon,” Lysara said, putting an arm around her. “You’re such a tease.”

“I don’t really get it, but I’m sorry if I teased you,” Bonnie said.

Lysara chuckled. “Actually, I did have a question.” Her voice was suddenly serious. “When Axra mentioned Grimswald you seemed upset. Is there some reason you don’t want to go there?”

Bonnie kept working in silence. It took her a couple minutes to actually respond to Lysara’s query. “Grimswald isn’t a very well regulated or safe area. It’s technically a part of Nervius, but it’s out on the edge and most of the governing is done by the aristocratic families. I’m concerned that it could be a dangerous place for the princess.”

“I’d never heard anything like that about it,” Lysara said. “But I’ve never traveled there either. I guess we’ll just have to count on you, huh?”

“As long as we get the supplies and get out quickly there shouldn’t be a problem,” Bonnie said. “If we’re on our guard. Come on, let’s get some breakfast. It won’t do any good to worry about it until we’re actually there.”

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Purification episode 96: Resolved Triangle

“You’ve gotta be kidding me?” Axel cried.

The group of them had found the site that their way gate led to. They’d come in, ready to deal with any resistance and found… another broken way gate.

“Careful bastards, I’ll give them that.” Isaac muttered.

“Cowards are only good at running!” Lennard declared.

“Where did this one take them?” Lexine asked.

“I’ll be able to tell you soon,” Moira said.

“They can’t run forever,” Lulu muttered. “We’ll catch up.”

“They may only be delaying us,” Shin observed. “I mean… so they can run away on foot or prepare something.”

“Come to think of it,” Reira stated “Twila’s mind did have something about a ‘sacred flame.'”

“Sacred flame?” Isaac asked. “Where have I heard…”

“The forbidden summoning spells!” Moira cried.

“That’s right!” Isaac snapped his fingers. “And in a cauldron deep and dark, the sacred flame shall burn bright. After it consumes a thousand souls…” He paused, looking like he was trying to remember more.

“The sacred flame shall burst,” Moira whispered. “And from Tartarus it shall bring, that which will grant its bearer’s boon. The great Typhon shall emerge.”

“Why does magic stuff always gotta be so flowery?” Lennard asked.

“That doesn’t matter,” Lexine said. “Moira, you said…”

“Typhon,” Reira finished.

“The deadliest Titan,” Florence muttered. “Could any of us stand up to him for even a moment?”

“We have to find their base before they can finish the spell!” Moira declared. “Come, I know where to go next.”

*****

“Sorry for holding everything up, Guys,” Axra said. “I should have been more careful during that fight.”

They were sitting around a campfire, with tents in a circle around it. They hadn’t gone too far from the battlefield, wanting only to get away from the sight and scent of the violence that had occurred there but not wanting to strain Axra.

“Don’t worry about it,” Bonnie said.

“Yeah, it’s not your fault,” Lysara stated. “In fact, both Lilly and Twila agree that you were really cool during that match.”

“I never said that,” Twila stated.

“I… I didn’t either,” Lilly said. “N… no that you didn’t look cool. I… I just didn’t say it like that.”

“Not in those exact words,” Lysara said. “but you definitely both had that sentiment when you talked about the fight.”

“The important thing is that we’ll be able to leave in the morning,” Bonnie said. “I’ve taken the liberty of planning the fastest route to Grimswald. I also had Velvet go into town to replenish our supplies in advance so that we can pick up what little needs replenishing at that point quickly and be on our way.”

“It was a hassle,” Velvet muttered.

“You’ve really got everything organised,” Twila said. “It’s an admirable trait.”

“Not at all,” Bonnie said. “I just did what needed done.”

“What do you think we’ll find at the Deflum Mountain?” Lysara asked. “Besides the staff?”

“Monsters and traps,” Bonnie said. “Possibly some other treasures.”

“I bet it’s full of really cool stuff that no one’s seen in a long time!” Lysara declared. “I can’t wait to describe it in song!” She started playing an upbeat tune on her lyre.

“Axra,” Twila said. “When Reginald was holding me in that cell he… he had some things to say about you. I think that we should talk, in private.”

“Sure thing,” Axra agreed.

“Lilly,” Twila said. “You should come along too.”

“M… me?” Lilly asked. “B… but I…”

“Please,” Twila said, looking directly into Lilly’s eyes. “It’s important.”

Lilly looked over at Axra. Then back to Twila. Then back at Bonnie. Finally, she nodded. “O… okay.”

Twila smiled. “Great. Bonnie, look after Fang for me for a little while, okay?”

“Not a problem,” Bonnie stated. Fang flew over to her.

“No fair,” Lysara said. “I want to watch the cute little dragon. Hey, Bon, let me hold him too okay?”

Twila smiled and led Axra and Lilly away from the others.

*****

She didn’t lead them too far from the encampment, just far enough away that their voices wouldn’t carry to the others. Then, she turned to the two of them. “Axra,” Twila turned to her. “Do you know why Reginald was so certain that you’d come for me?”

Axra quickly looked away from her. “It’s because I’m a hero, of course!”

Twila sighed, heavily. “We need to be honest with each other.” She put a hand on Axra’s shoulder and pulled her closer, turning Axra to face her. “He said that you were in love with me.”

Axra froze, she felt like her entire face must be red, although in truth a blushing dark elf was barely noticeable.

“I see,” Twila said. “So it was true. And Lilly, you’re in love with Axra, are you not?”

Lilly’s face actually did turn a bright crimson. “I… I… I… Th…. I… I…”

Twila released Axra and put her hands on Lilly’s shoulders. “You don’t have to say it in words. Just nod or shake your head, okay?”

Lilly looked down and nodded.

“Huh?” Axra asked. “Since when?”

“That isn’t important,” Twila said. “What is important is that we be honest with each other and settle this.” She looked from Axra to Lilly. “And since I called you both over here it seems only fair that I tell you my own feelings in full.”

*****

“What do you suppose they’re doing?” Bonnie inquired.

Lysara was beside her, rubbing Fang’s scaly belly. “It has to be that,” Lysara said. “Right?”

Velvet nodded. “Yeah. Definitely.”

“Okay, I’m confused,” Bonnie said. “What in Tartarus are you two talking about?”

“Lilly loves Twila,” Lysara said. “But Axra also loves Twila. So she took them over there to fight for her hand!”

“Lilly loves Axra,” Bonnie stated. “Where re you getting the idea that she loves Twila?”

“In any case,” Velvet interrupted. “That’s what they’re talking about, almost certainly.”

“Poor Lilly,” Bonnie muttered. “She’s going to get left behind.”

“You think?” Velvet asked.

“And what do you think is going to happen?” Bonnie countered.

“Axra’ll accept Lilly’s love and the two of them’ll be together,” Velvet answered.

“No way!” Lysara declared. “Axra’s indecisiveness will catch up to her and Lilly and Twila will live happily ever after!”

“Won’t happen,” Bonnie stated. “Twila and Axra are both aristocratic ladies. A servant like Lilly will be left behind.”

“But Axra and Lilly have history,” Velvet said. “A lot of it.”

“But Twila and Lilly have the most chemistry,” Lysara stated. “They’ll definitely get together.”

The three of them argued , speculating about how events might unfold.

“What are you three doing?” Axra asked.

“Talking,” Bonnie answered.

“Not about anything in particular,” Lysara added.

“Is that so?” Axra asked. She turned to Bonnie. “Bonnie, I need you to patrol the area real quick. I thought I heard something while I was over there. You can leave Fang with Lysara.”

“Understood,” Bonnie said. As she walked away she noticed Twila lurking in the shadows near Axra. “So, I was right,” she muttered.

Axra watched Bonnie fade into the distance. “We’re clear.”

“I’ll make this fast,” Twila said.

“You’re sure it’ll soundproof it?” Axra asked.

“I am,” Twila stated. “I use it all the time… when I don’t have to worry about something attacking. There, it’s done.” Twila and Axra shuffled into the tent. Lilly stood at the entrance. She looked nervously over at Velvet and Lysara.

Axra reappeared at the entrance. “You nervous?”

Lilly looked down and nodded. “I… I haven’t ever done any… anything like this.”

“Neither have I,” Axra said. “And I’m pretty sure Twila hasn’t either.” She held out her hand. “Let’s learn together.”

Lilly took Axra’s hand and the two went into the tent, sealing it behind them.

“You can do that?” Lysara asked.

“I suppose so,” Velvet stated.

“If I’d known that I wouldn’t have given up on Twila when I got together with Bon,” Lysara muttered.

“Somehow I don’t think Bonnie would have gone for it,” Velvet stated.

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Purification episode 95: The Groups Split

Axel hurried over to the tent where his daughter had been taken. Velvet was sitting near the entrance. Axel noted, with pleasure, that the half-dwarf was fully aware of his surroundings and could respond to any attack quickly. He had always liked that about Velvet, his ability to look completely harmless and unaware while staying vigilant.

“Keep up the good work,” Axel said. Velvet gave him a half-hearted salute, maintaining the illusion.

Inside, Axel found Twila and Lilly. “W… we we…” Lilly stammered.

“We were just keeping watch,” Twila whispered. “Making sure her wounds were okay and that she’s comfortable. Please excuse us.” Twila took Lilly’s hand and the two shuffled out.

Axra was fast asleep, her chest bandaged and her sword left by her side. The bandage was clean, at least it looked like the bleeding had stopped. Axel took his daughter’s hand, gently.

“I should have never let you wander around on your own,” he whispered. “I thought it would be a good experience, but look at where it’s gotten you. And what good has come of it?”

He felt her hand squeeze his and snapped from his reverie. He took a good look at her. Her eyes were open and focused. “Don’t cry, Papa. I’m okay.” Her voice was low and weak. She looked around. “What happened to Twila and Lilly? Were they hurt?”

“They’re fine,” Axel said. “They just left.”

Axra let out a sigh of relief. “Thank the Gods. If either of them had been hurt I’d never forgive myself.” She closed her eyes and went back to sleep, her hand dropping away from his.

*****

Lennard brushed his horse. It always took a while, but his charger had carried him through some tough battles.

“Lennard.”

“What do ya want, Lulu?” Lennard asked, not bothering to turn around.

“I won’t tell you not to come on this mission,” Lulu said. “But it might be better if you stayed back during the heavy fighting.”

“My daughter always tells me the same thing,” Lennard muttered. “Don’t you worry, I have no intent on dyin. Not on my last adventure.”

“Last?” Lulu asked.

Things were quiet for a moment. The sound of the brush momentarily dying down. “My wife’s been wantin me to retire for a while,” Lennard said. “I hate to admit it, but she has a good point. I’m gettin old, can’t move as fast as I used to. Can’t go as long either. Funny isn’t it? I’ve fought and won so many battles against fearsome enemies. Always thought I’d meet my end that way, takin on the greatest enemy yet but I’m gonna be done in by old age.” He put down the brush and turned to Lulu. “What about you? Ever think of settlin down and livin in peace with your beautiful wife?”

“My problem isn’t age,” Lulu said. “Even if I do decide to stop fighting, exploring and going out into the world I’ll still run out of time at the same pace.” He burst out in a coughing fit, spitting up a mixture of blood and saliva. He continued once his body’d settled. “I used this orb’s power and that’s what’s going to do it. If it’s going to kill me anyway I’d rather spend my last years going out in the world.”

“Last years?” Jayko asked. Lennard turned harshly, he hadn’t heard the rogue creep up. “Just how long do you have?”

“Anywhere from two years to a decade,” Lulu answered. “No longer than that.”

“Far too short of a span for a half elf,” Lennard muttered. “Dammit, there’s somethin in my eye.”

“Who else knows?” Jayko asked.

“Elaine, Reira,” Lulu said “and the other clerics who have been working with me.”

“You haven’t told Isaac?” Jayko asked.

Lulu shook his head. “He was the one who sealed this thing inside of my eye. If he found out just how much time it’s stolen from me he’d never forgive himself.”

“I think he’ll notice in ten years when you…” Lennard stopped, unable to finish the sentence.

“He won’t,” Lulu said.

“You’re going to disappear on an adventure?” Jayko asked. “Is that your intent?”

Lulu nodded. “Let whatever dangers I might face on that journey take the blame from him. He can still have many good years ahead of him with Moira and the kids. So, keep this a secret, okay?”

Lennard and Jayko nodded.

*****

When the morning came around the group ate a hurried breakfast and prepared to go. Lennard, Jayko and Florence all went ahead, taking separate routes out.

“Take care of yourself, Twi,” Shin said. “Don’t do anything reckless.”

“Unlike some people, I think before acting,” Twila said. “I won’t be reckless.”

“I’m counting on you all to take care of my daughter,” Axel said. “I’ll be counting on all of you to insure that she doesn’t wind up in this kind of state again. Oh and Bonnie, remember your secondary mission.”

“Yes Sir!” Bonnie declared.

“Secondary mission?” Lysara asked.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Bonnie stated.

“Well, we’ll be going information gathering,” Lulu said. He, Shin, Axel and the troops that they’d brought hurriedly headed out.

Moira and Isaac were the next to go.

“I look forward to hearing all about your trip when you get back,” Moira said. “We’ll be at the academy.”

“Be sure to dress warmly and don’t stay up too late reading,” Isaac added. The pair hugged their daughter and started their trek towards the academy.

“Stay put for a few days,” Reira said. “Give Axra a chance to rest and recover. After that she should be fine. If she should strain herself and re-open her wounds then head to the nearest town as quickly as you can. ”

“We will,” Twila said. “You two be careful. I look forward to hearing about what kinds of adventures you have.”

“And I look forward to telling you,” Lexine said. They went on the road, waving goodbye. After they’d traveled for a good ten minutes Lexine turned to Reira. “Do you think she suspects?”

Reira shook her head. “I think she would normally suspect something, but she’s a bit distracted right now.”

“Distracted?” Lexine asked.

Reira nodded. “Strong emotions will do that to you, after all.”

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Purification episode 94: The Pursuit Party

Reira stepped away from Axra. Looking back, she noticed both Twila and Lilly watching her intently.

“She’s still asleep,” Reira said. “But why don’t you two come over and keep an eye on her until she wakes.”

Reira hurried over to Lexine, Florence, Lennard and Shin.

There’s something we should all go discuss. The four of them heard her voice clearly in their heads.

She turned to Axel. “You can follow us too.”

Axel jerked up for a moment, surprised, but quickly followed after them.

“Where do you suppose they’re going?” Lysara asked.

“To a meeting,” Bonnie answered. “They’ll tell us what they’re discussing if they think we need to know.”

“Aren’t either of you curious?” Lysara asked, looking from Bonnie to Velvet.

Velvet barely looked up and mumbled “no.”

“It’s not that I’m not curious,” Bonnie said. “But I’m also used to his Highness holding meetings in private. I’ve even guarded the door for a few. I guess I just don’t see it as anything worth getting excited over.”

“Think they’d be mad if I eavesdropped just a little?” Lysara asked.

“Don’t you dare,” Bonnie stated, pulling Lysara close to her.

“When you hold me like this I don’t even care anymore,” Lysara said. “So… when are you going to kiss me?”

*****

“I’m not Zero,” Axel said. “I don’t care about some broken magical whatsit.”

“It’s not the device itself that’s important,” Isaac said. “It’s what it does.”

Axel looked over the rubble. A way gate, Master. Prey yet remains for us to feed on! Blutrünstig’s voice echoed in his brain. He kept a cool facade, not wanting any of them to notice. Only he and his family needed to know about the blade’s quirks, after all. He briefly wondered if Reira could still read his mind, and had a strong feeling that she couldn’t. Blutrünstig was something beyond what her powers should be able to affect, and the blade guarded his mind. He knew hat much for a fact.

“How many of them got away?” Axel asked.

“Quite a few, judging by the power that remains,” Moira said.

“It’s worse than that,” Jayko said. “Look at the condition of this base of theirs.”

“In short, this isn’t their main place,” Lexine stated, she kicked a piece of rubble across the room. “So, how do we find them?”

“I know where the gate took them,” Moira said. “If we stop by the academy there’s a public use way gate that will take us to a day’s march from them.”

Isaac took her hand. “Moira and I are going, of course. If any of you want to come along, we’d welcome you.”

“No,” Reira said, putting her hand on Shin’s shoulder.

“Reira,” Lexine whispered.

Reira looked around at the perplexed faces. “He didn’t say that aloud,” she observed. “Oops.”

“What did you have to say, Son?” Isaac asked.

“I was just going to ask if we should tell Twila and the others about this,” Shin said.

“And I was saying we shouldn’t,” Reira explained. “Those girls, and Velvet, have their own journey waiting for them. We should let them continue on their way and deal with the remnants of the League ourselves.”

“I agree,” Axel stated. “No point putting my daughter in further danger. As for me, I’ve been hunting these bastards for a while now and I intend to be there to end them personally.”

“I’m coming along as well,” Lulu said.

“Me too!” Shin declared. “I started this journey with you guys and I can’t leave it half finished!”

Lexine looked back at Reira who nodded.

“We’re coming too,” Lexine said. “These guys tick me off. Not only are they moving against half bloods for no good reason, but, more importantly, they’ve threatened people I care about.”

“I thought I was done with big quests,” Florence said, his voice quiet. “After the whole Gauntlet thing, I thought that I could live a life of relative peace, telling the story. However…” his voice grew louder, more commanding. “I refuse to let these guys do what they want. I’ll come along this time as well. Who knows, maybe the story of this journey will prove to be as rousing of a success and being able to tell it first-hand will be good for me.”

Lennard laughed. “Honestly, you Pups are all getting ahead of yourselves. Giving your answers before I have the chance.” He looked around. “I’m coming too!” He held out his Zweihänder and looked a the others expectantly.

“Really with this?” Isaac asked.

“I’ve never done something like this,” Moira said. “It sounds fun!” She put the tip of her staff against Lennard’s sword. Isaac sighed and put his own sword in. It was followed by Lulu’s scythe, Lexine’s sword, Reira’s bagh nakh, Florence’s whip sword and Shin’s blade.

“I was planning on going back to the forest,” Jayko said. “Getting back into the routine, but I can’t pass up the chance to travel with you lot one more time, after all.” He thrust his katana into the circle of weapons.

“Isn’t this a sweet little party?” Axel asked. “Two healthy women, an elderly crippled human, four middle aged humans, a one-eyed half elf, a dying half elf, and a whelp.” He put Blutrünstig into the other weapons. “Well, I guess that just makes it more interesting.”

“They don’t stand a chance!” Lennard declared.

“They might if Lexine, Lulu and I each tie an arm around our back, Jayko, Moira and Isaac go blind-folded and Lennard & Lore hop on one foot,” Reira said.

Axel noticed that he and Lulu were the only ones who didn’t laugh at Reira’s joke.

“I would like to spend a little time with my daughter before we go,” Axel said. “Just until tomorrow morning.”

“We do need time to prepare the coalition troops to move again,” Lulu stated.

“I was going to suggest waiting too!” Moira exclaimed.

Reira nodded. “Well, I’m sure we’ve all had enough traveling for the day, what with the rush to get here.”

“Then it’s agreed,” Isaac said. “We leave tomorrow.”

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Purification episode 93: Late Arrivals

“It looks pretty clear,” Lysara stated. “Maybe Axra and Lilly rescued Twila already!”

“Perhaps,” Bonnie said. “But why haven’t we seen them yet?”

Fang led them through a corridor filled with rubble and corpses and down a staircase. The little dragon turned the corner. Bonnie froze for a moment. In the middle of the corridor, Lilly and Twila were kneeling over Axra. Fang flew over and gently perched on Twila’s shoulder.

Bonnie hurried forward. “Is the Princess okay?”

“Sh… sh… she w…” Lilly struggled to get the words out.

“She’s injured but alive,” Twila said. “We managed to stop the bleeding, but it’ll be bad if we don’t get her to a cleric soon.”

“I’ll carry her,” Bonnie volunteered. “We’ll put her in Velvet’s wagon and get her to town.”

The group hurried back up the stairs, Bonnie moving carefully so as to avoid jostling Axra.

They were in the corridor when Twila stopped. She looked like she was concentrating for a moment and smiled.

“happy about something?” Velvet muttered.

Twila nodded. “It’s all going to be okay. We’ve got help waiting outside.”

“You mean the forest demon and Mister Lennard?” Lysara asked.

Twila shook her head. “No, my aunt Reira is on her way. She’ll be here sooner than it would take us to reach the nearest town and we won’t find a better cleric around!”

They hurried outside. Bonnie noticed a third person talking to Lennard and Jayko, a human with blonde hair that had grey streaks throughout.

Bonnie set Axra down away from the battlefield and Lilly went to work making sure she would be comfortable.

“How soon will your aunt Reira be here?” Bonnie asked.

“Fifteen minutes or close to it,” Twila said.

Lennard, Jayko and the third member of their entourage hurried over. “Twila, did those animals do anything to you?”

“No, Uncle Lennard,” Twila said. “I was just bait so that they could instigate a war between the dark elves and Nervius.”

“I’m ashamed of myself,” Jayko said. “I let them set up camp so close to my territory and did nothing.”

“It isn’t your fault,” Twila said. “You had no way of knowing what they were up to.”

“Why don’t you tell us all about it while we wait for the others,” the newcomer said, taking a seat.

“You and your stories,” Lennard muttered.

“Why not?” he asked. “Reira is on her way to help Twila’s friend and there’s really nothing to be one until everyone shows up.”

“He has a point,” Jayko said. He turned to Twila. “Why don’t you tell Florence and Lennard all about it. I’ll scout the area, just to satisfy myself.”

While Twila spoke with her uncles, Lilly watched over Axra. After a short time, Isaac and Moira arrived, hugging their daughter.

“I was so worried about you,” Isaac said.

“I’m fine,” Twila said. “Thanks to Axra and Lilly.”

“I hate to interrupt,” Jayko said. “But there’s something you two should look at.” Isaac and Moira followed him, heading inside the building.

After that, Reira and Lexine finally arrived. Reira went right to work.

“Yes, I can heal her,” Reira said, not giving Lilly a chance to actually speak. “She should probably rest for a couple days to regain her strength, but she’ll be just fine. Just wait with Twila while I work. I promise that I’ll call you both over as soon as I’m done.”

Lilly was hesitant, but she listened to the djinn woman and moved beside Twila. Twila clasped Lilly’s hand. “She’s going to be just fine,” she whispered. “Trust me.”

Lilly nodded. “Y… yes. I do trust you, Twila.”

Florence looked back. “Looks like the last of the gang’s here,” he said. He waved. “Hey, Lulu! Shin!”

Lulu nodded, walking over. “Twila, looks like you came through okay.”

“I did,” Twila said. “Thanks to Lilly and Axra.”

“I see,” Lulu said. “Guess I owe that girl a retraction.”

“What?” Twila asked.

“Nothing important,” Lulu said. “Excuse me.” He headed inside.

“I was worried about you, Twi,” Shin said. “It’s not like you to get captured like that.”

“I was taken by surprise,” Twila said. “It won’t happen again. Unlike some people, I learn from my experiences.”

“Says the girl who set the house on fire five times practicing spells,” Shin said.

“I was eight the last time I did that!” Twila declared. “And it only happened thrice.”

“Still counts,” Shin said.

They heard a loud cough behind them. “I hate to interrupt,” Axel said, his voice low “but will someone explain how that happened?” he gestured at Axra.

“Bonnie, perhaps you can explain how you let my daughter get that wounded while you’re barely scratched?”

“It was…” Bonnie began.

“It was my fault!” Lilly interrupted. “I… I went with her but I… I couldn’t protect her… I…”

Axel moved his hand back as though preparing to hit the young ranger.

“No,” Twila said. “It was my fault. If I hadn’t gotten captured then none of this would have happened.” She lowered her head. “Please, forgive me.”

“Leave it at that,” Lexine said. Axel turned to face her. “Your daughter is going to be okay, Reira is tending her wounds. So, don’t say or do anything you’ll regret, ‘King’ Axel.”

Axel glared at her for a moment before looking away. “Very well. I will let it go this time.”

*****

Isaac, Moira and Jayko stood in a circular chambre, examining a half-collapsed arc-like structure.

“A way gate?” Lulu asked, approaching them.

Isaac nodded. “It looks like they destroyed it during their escape, though.”

“Can you find out where they went?” Lulu inquired.

“I couldn’t,” Isaac said. “But there are stronger mages than I. Mages who could.”

“You could if you hadn’t wasted so much time learning and practicing swordplay too,” Moira said. “but don’t worry, I’ve got it.”

She stood in front of it and chanted, eyes closed for several minutes. Finally, a light blue energy trail appeared in front of them, vanishing in seconds. “I know where their base is.” She said.

Lulu nodded. “Good, let’s finish them and be done with it.”

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Purification episode 92: Clearing the Field

“Looks like Reginald failed,” Richard said.

“And Jade might not make it either,” the dwarf added. “Should we intervene?”

“I say no,” Richard stated. “We don’t need him.”

“He’s more useful than you,” the dwarf muttered.

“Either way,” the human stated, loudly enough to command their attention. “It’s too dangerous at this juncture. We’ll fall back to our other location, prepare our final gambit.”

“The sacrificial flames,” the dwarf muttered. “So, it comes to that… But Jade’s mages might be hesitant to evacuate without him.”

“We’ll leave a few behind, just in case he escapes,” the human said. “For the moment, let’s withdraw.”

*****

“Axra! Axra!” Lilly held Axra close, tears clouding her vision. Oh Gods… the bleeding… she had to stop the bleeding.

“Calm down!” Twila’s voice rang out. “She wasn’t hit anywhere vital. We just have to stop the bleeding.”

“Bu… but…” Lilly struggled to keep calm. “Sh… she… she’s lost so… so…”

“Listen to me,” Twila said. “We will save her. Just let me out of this cell.”

Lilly set Axra down gently and opened the door, releasing Twila. Twila immediately hurled a bolt of light down the hall and nodded. “Okay, my magic will work outside of the cell. That’s good.”

“I… I th… thought you di… didn’t know any…” Lilly began.

“I don’t know any clerical magic,” Twila confirmed. “I can’t heal her, but I can seal the wound, prevent any more bleeding.” She pulled Lily close to her. “I need you to hold her still. This is going to be painful for her, but she has to be kept absolutely still, okay?”

Lilly nodded. She held Axra in her lap, tightly to prevent her from moving.

Twila positioned herself over Axra, pulling open her shirt to get a clear shot at the wound. She looked over at Lilly. “I’m going to cauterize it with a low power fire spell, keep her still.”

“Is… is that safe?” Lilly asked.

“It might scar,” Twila admitted. “But it will stop the bleeding. Give us a chance to get her to a cleric.” Twila’s hand ignited after a quick chant and she went to work.

*****

“Where are the others anyway?” Lennard asked, scattering a pair of enemy soldiers who were too close together. “Shouldn’t they be here by now?”

“Florence was the closest aside from us,” Jayko said, hurling another trio of kunai. “Wouldn’t be surprised if he shows up before long. Who knows how close Isaac and Moira are with their magic shortcuts. Lulu and Shin are bringing a regiment of dark elves and Axel with his goon squad.”

“Why is Lulu with Axel?” Lennard asked, his enormous sword swinging in a wide arc and splitting open a nearby soldier and her horse. “When did that happen?”

“Axel’s daughter came to save Twila,” Jayko said, parrying a blow and counter-attacking. “Or maybe it was Zero’s daughter. Either way, guess they became friends. So he has a vested interest in this mess.”

“I don’t like the idea of Twila keepin bad company like that,” Lennard said. He held his sword in front of him to block some arrows.

“I reserve judgement until I meet her,” Jayko said, thrusting his blade into a nearby opponent. “She might be nicer than her pedigree suggests.”

Lennard made a loud scoffing sound in response.

*****

Jade swung his blades, aiming one for Bonnie’s gut and the second for her neck. The bottom of her axe shifted the lower one safely away from her while the other scraped against the head of her axe.

He quickly backed away from her, narrowly avoiding a follow up blow from her. Then he pivoted, attempting to jab his scimitars into her. She leapt up, spinning in the air and moving forward, taking him by surprise. His left hand soared through the air, landing on the ground.

Bonnie tried to finish him with a follow up swing, but his remaining scimitar moved up to block the blow, sparks flying from the collision of the weapons.

Bonnie somersaulted back away from him, easily evading a sloppy counter-attack.

“Surrender,” Bonnie said.

“You can’t be serious,” Jade muttered. “Like I’d surrender to a thug.”

Bonnie sighed. “There’s no point in fighting anymore. The match is decided. Surrender, give us information on your compatriots and I promise that we’ll spare you.”

“I’m no traitor!” Jade cried, as loud as he could manage. “You… you’re a traitor. Betraying your own kind and for what? Some spoiled little hybrid who’s just playing around? Or is it for the love of the bardic brat?” He looked up at her, a slight smirk on his face. “Does she even know about your time with the Masqueraders? Maybe I should tell her, at least get the satisfaction of your heart being broken.”

“Is that your weasly way of trying to provoke me into killing you?” Bonnie asked. “It won’t work.”

Jade lunged forward without warning. Bonnie barely had time to react, his scimitar sliced into her armour, grazing her flesh but just barely.

Bonnie reacted by instinct, her axe cleaving into him. “Damn,” she muttered.

She turned to survey the battlefield when she felt a slim pair of arms around her. “Bon… Bon…”

“Lysara,” Bonnie stated. “Are you crying?”

“Does it hurt?” Lysara asked. Bonnie looked down, Lysara was looking at the slice in her armour.

She smiled and put her arms around the other woman. “It’s okay, just a scratch. You don’t have to worry.” She hurriedly scanned the battlefield. It looked like Velvet, Lennard, Fang and Jayko were clearing the few remaining opponents from the field.

She heard Lysara sniffle slightly. “Really?” Lysara asked, sounding uncertain.

“Yeah,” Bonnie said, patting Lysara’s head. “He barely grazed me.”

“Thank Goodness,” Lysara said. “I saw you bleeding and I thought… I thought…”

Bonnie made her voice as soothing as she could. “I’m fine, really. What about you? You weren’t hurt, were you?”

Lysara shook her head. “I’m a bit sore, but I’m not hurt.”

“Then let’s grab Fang and Velvet and find the Princess,” Bonnie said.

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Purification episode 91: Duel Interference

The battlefield had been a cacophony as Bonnie, Lysara, Velvet and Fang struggled against a veritable army. Now… now the sound had diminished significantly as they and their opponents watched the duel between Lennard and Jade.

Lennard executed a quick series of slashes. Jade backed away from him, blocking a few that came close.

“He’s on the run!” Lysara exclaimed. “Mister Lennard isn’t giving him a chance to do anything!”

“No,” Bonnie whispered. Jade wasn’t on the run. He was biding his time. He’d noticed the weakness in Lennard’s technique. Of that much she was certain. Lennard had two, maybe three minutes to finish this before he found himself at a disadvantage. She was less certain on that one, but it was her best guess based on their match thus far.

*****

Axra and Reginald circled around each other, slashing,swinging, blocking and parrying. Trying to gain the advantage.

Lilly watched them anxiously, wincing every time it looked like Axra might be hit. Sighing with relief every time she wasn’t.

It would have been an even match if not for Axra’s wounded shoulder, which Reginald was happy to exploit. He kept aiming his slashes at that side, forcing her to use her injured arm more heavily.

Reginald flipped against the wall, kicking against the stone to propel himself forward. Axra blocked his blade, but he twisted his body around, kicking her right in the shoulder. Blood squirted from the wound and she visibly grimaced, but recovered quickly, counter-slashing at him.

“Axra!” Lilly cried. She dropped Zerstörelicht  on the ground, making sure that the enchanted bow made a loud sound as she did so. Then she stepped several paces away from it. “D… don’t lose.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Axra cried, blocking several swings from Reginald. “Pick that back up. You may need it.”

“I won’t!” Lilly cried. “If… if you fail then I won’t have any reason to keep living anyway so… so I’ll bet my life on your victory.”

“Lilly…” Axra muttered. She parried a thrust from Reginald and pivoted, kicking him in the chest. “All right. Now that both Twila and Lilly are relying on me I really can’t afford to lose.”

“What a coincidence,” Reginald said. “Neither can I. For the future of this land and for my father, I shall not, I must not fail!”

*****

After nearly three minutes of defending, Jade went on the offensive. His scimitars moving quickly and ferociously, trying to bring down the one-armed veteran. To make matters worse, Lennard had visibly slowed down, his movements more subdued than they had been.

Bonnie’s prediction, it seemed, had been spot on. For all of the old man’s strength, his style was predicated upon finishing fights quickly. When it took too long, he was left tired out and vulnerable.

Bonnie grabbed Velvet’s arm and pulled him over. “Guard Lysara for me,” she whispered.

She didn’t wait for a response, Velvet would follow orders. She hoisted her axe and ran towards the duel. Lennard’s sword was wrested from his hand and Jade went for the kill, only to have Bonnie’s axe knock him back.

“Leave it to a petty thug,” Jade rasped. “Sullying the honour of a duel like this.”

“Say what you like,” Bonnie said. “I won’t watch one of my comrades die. Not if I can prevent it.”

The silence was quickly broken. The soldiers who had been engaged in watching the match began attacking. Lennard was able to get back to his feet. Several enemies moved to block him from retrieving his sword, only to suffer severe burns when Fang rained fire down on them, clearing a path for the old man.

Velvet stayed by Lysara’s side, grabbing two nearby opponents and smashing their skulls together. Lysara lashed out with her chakram, decapitating a man who got two close and slicing another open.

“The forest demon!” someone shouted. Bonnie glanced over. Several enemy soldiers had fallen with kunai in their backs and a masked man was advancing with a drawn Katana.

“We haven’t gone into the forest so why?” Jade muttered, quickly slashing at Bonnie.

The demon reached his free hand to his belt and hurled three kunai in a single smooth motion, he made his way over to Lennard, cutting down anyone who got in his path.

“Lennard, you’re here already.” The masked man said. “Are you actually having trouble with these guys?”

“Shut up, Jayko,” Lennard muttered. “We’ll see how you manage in thirty more years.”

“You won’t,” Jayko said. “You’ll be gone.”

“Shows what you know,” Lennard countered. “I’ll still be goin when I’m a hundred.”

Jayko laughed. “I’ll look forward to seeing that. You ready?”

“Always,” Lennard said, reclaiming his sword.

The two charged down the field, side by side. The sight was too much for some of the enemy soldiers, causing them to turn and flee. Bonnie couldn’t tell how many left the field. She was occupied with her match against Jade.

He brought one of his scimitars down and tried to jab Bonnie with the other when she blocked the first. She was able to twist around, dodging it handily.

“You’re quite skilled,” Jade said “for a thug.”

Bonnie swung her axe, aiming for his neck, but he was able to turn the blow aside with one scimitar, slashing at Bonnie’s chest with the other. She moved back, evading the blow.

*****

Axra was getting tired. Even worse, her vision was starting to get blurry. Maybe she should have let Lilly treat her shoulder. She had to end this soon.

Reginald lunged, slashing with his blade. Axra let it cut her in the chest, thrusting her own sword into his chest. They both stumbled backwards. Reginald coughed up blood and fell to the ground.

Axra reached down and grabbed Todberührung, sheathing it with an unsteady hand. She was vaguely aware of someone screaming around her and then she felt Lilly grab her, trying to stop the bleeding.

“Don’t worry,” Axra muttered. “I’m fine. Perf… perfectly fine…”

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Purification episode 90: Unforgivable

“I know him!” Lysara cried. “He was an exiled knight recruited to help find the gauntlet of Zeus. He lost his arm against a famous elemental mage before he killed her. He also fought Queen Zenas after she unlocked the gauntlet’s power and eventually returned from his exile a hero.”

Bonnie nodded. She’d heard the stories too. She’d never quite believed them but, considering he still had this much strength at his age, maybe they weren’t as exaggerated as she’d always thought.

The field had gone silent, with several of their enemies stepping away from the old man.

“Bon, we might just win,” Lysara whispered, moving close.

Bonnie nodded, uncertainly. The man was strong, but there was a weakness in his technique. One that would quickly put them back at a disadvantage unless their opponents surrendered or fled.

The fight resumed, their enemies were slower, more cautious and pre-occupied than before. Lennard’s enormous blade cleaved through lines that grew more and more hesitant. Lysara almost got hit, but Bonnie noticed the blade, turned it away wit a quick stroke of her axe and severed the arm that held it with a quick upward slash.

“Stand your ground!” A commanding voice rang out. Bonnie looked in the direction of the voice. A dark elf with regal looking armour marched forward, confidently.

“I can’t believe this!” He exclaimed. “Are you really letting a puny dragon, two hybrid brats, a common criminal and a human in his seventies hold you at bay?”

“But, Sir,” a nearby soldier protested. “His strength… it’s beyond us.”

He looked from the woman over to Lennard and sighed heavily.

“I suppose it can’t be helped. I’ll deal with our” he cleared his throat “‘legendary visitor’ myself.”

He drew two scimitars from his belt and bowed cordially. “I am Jade Thurok, former captain of the Underground corps, current general of the Hestial League. My apologies, but I will be growing my own legend off of the end of yours.”

“We’ll see,” Lennard said. “I’m not keen on dyin’ here so I’ll have you take a message to Thanatos for me.”

Jade smirked. “And what would this message be?”

“Tell him to come for me if he dares,” Lennard said.

The two circled each other, warily. Lennard tried an experimental slash, only to have it turned away by Jade’s scimitars. To Bonnie’s surprise, Jade didn’t try to follow the block up with an attack of his own. Had he noticed?

*****

Reginald stepped closer to Twila’s cell, startling her.

“Can you really afford to do that?” he asked in a loud, clear voice. “Have you learned such fine control of that thing that you can fire it at me without hurting her?” he nodded towards Twila. “Suppose I dodge? Of course, I won’t stop you from making the attempt. We’ll make it a game. See if you can hit me without harming her.”

“Put down the bow,” Axra commanded.

“But I… I think I can…” Lilly began.

“It doesn’t matter,” Axra said. “I’m looking forward to this.” She drew Todberührung and approached him. “You bastard! Pretending to be a friend is one thing. Betraying my trust, I can handle that. But capturing Twila, causing Lilly to get hurt… That’s absolutely unforgivable! Even if you beg, even if the Gods themselves ask me, I definitely won’t ever forgive you!”

“Can a woman who doesn’t even know who her father is really call someone else a bastard?” Reginald asked.

“At least her fathers are renowned for their strength and courage,” Twila countered, loudly. “Neither of them is known for being a pompous joke.”

Reginald looked back at her, his calm facade twisted momentarily into a hateful glare. He quickly turned back to Axra, regaining his composure. “Just stay in your cage, Little Bird, I’ll kill these two and take you to a nice new cage.”

Axra lunged at him, Todberührung slamming heavily against his blade. He tried to counter with a quick strike but she spun backwards, parrying his swing with a quick thrust.

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Purification episode 89: Cavalry of One?

“Do you think we’ll get there in time?” Lexine asked.

“Probably not,” Reira answered. “But I’ll contact everyone else. Maybe some of them will be closer.”

“It’s a pity,” Lexine said. “It would be nice to fight together with everyone again.”

“We’ll get there as fast as we can,” Reira said. “It’s all we can do.”

*****

“Keep behind me,” Bonnie whispered. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Fang flew above them and hurled fire at the oncoming enemies, forcing them back.

“I won’t,” Lysara said. “I’ll fight by your side.”

Velvet grabbed a couple arrows out of mid-air and tossed them to the side.

“They’re shooting at us,” Velvet said, sounding almost bored.

“How did he do that?” Lysara asked.

“Just let him handle the projectiles,” Bonnie said. “If they stick to those we should be able to…”

Several soldiers broke away and rushed at them.

“Dammit,” Bonnie muttered.

*****

Axra drew her sword and hurried. So far, the corridor had been clear.

Lilly followed closely behind her. She kept her bow ready, waiting for any sign of opposition.

The two reached a corridor with a flight of stairs going down at the end.

Lilly put her arm out to stop Axra.

Axra looked over at her, quizzically.

Lilly nodded towards several doorways. There were three on each side. She carefully fired an energy bolt from Zerstörelicht. It slammed into the top of one of the doorways, collapsing it. They heard a shriek from inside and noticed some bodies in the rubble.

Lilly hurriedly fired at another doorway, collapsing it as well. Then a third, but soldiers were already pouring out of the doorways, weapons at ready.

Axra ran into the fray, slashing as many down as she could, carefully staying close to the corridor entrance to keep her back away from them.

A couple of enemies behind her fell to Lilly’s arrows. She pivoted and cut down a nearby opponent, pulling her sword back in time to block a swing from another.

More arrows came from Lilly, bringing down enemies near Axra.

Axra stabbed an enemy behind her and noticed several heading towards Lilly. She ran to intercept them, ignoring those still behind her and earning a nasty cut on the shoulder in the process.

Todberührung impaled one. The second moved back to try an run Axra through before she could remove the blade, but Lilly tackled Axra to the ground, out of harm’s way. Axra regained her feet and brought him down, noticing the blood on his sword as she did. Lilly fired an arrow at the remaining enemies. It shattered into several small pieces in mid-air, raining energy fragments on all of them.

“Awesome,” Axra muttered. “I didn’t know it could do that.” She looked over at Lilly. “You’re hurt!”

“I… it’s just a scratch,” Lilly said. “I… I’ll be fine, really.”

“That is not just a little scratch,” Axra said. “Here. Let me treat it.”

“B… but you… you were hit too,” Lilly whispered. “And y… you’re more important.”

“Sit still,” Axra ordered. “I’ll patch you up and we’ll keep going.”

“Bu… but you…” Lilly began.

“Shush!” Axra said. “We aren’t worrying about me right now.”

She sponged some water from her canteen onto Lilly’s back. It was a deep cut, but it didn’t look like anything vital had been hit. Axra proceeded to tear some cloth and used it as a makeshift bandage. Hopefully, it would stop the bleeding and they could get Lilly to a cleric when all of this was over.

“That should do it,” Axra said. “Make sure to hang back from this point on. If you get hurt again I’m going to be really mad.”

Lilly nodded. “Le… let me treat your injury too. It… it would be a problem if it got infected.”

“No time,” Axra said. She grabbed Lilly’s hand. “Come on, let’s move!”

*****

Lysara and Bonnie stood back to back, slashing into any opponent who came too close. Fang flew overhead, periodically hurling fire down at the enemy line. Velvet stood nearby, grabbing any projectile weapons that came near and quickly bringing down any opponent who got close to him.

“We’re holding out,” Lysara said. “We can do this!”

“They’re trying to tire us out,” Bonnie observed. “Make us easy pickings when they come at us seriously.” She glanced over at their line. “If we could just disrupt their formation… but we can’t get that close.”

“Maybe if they insulted Velvet’s mom he’d do it,” Lysara stated.

“Yeah, but they’re never going to do it,” Bonnie said. “They’ve probably been warned not to taunt us like that.”

“Hold on just a moment,” Lysara said.

“Hey, isn’t that the half-dwarf with a whore of a mom?” A voice rang out.

“Yeah!” A similar but slightly different voice responded. “I’d bet she’s had the entire continent.”

Velvet ran into the part of the enemy line where the voices seemed to be coming from. A six foot tall human was lifted by his leg and dashed into the rocks and several more enemy troops went flying in all directions.

“Lysara, you?” Bonnie wasn’t sure how to finish the question.

“I’ll apologise when this is over,” Lysara said.

“I can’t fault its effectiveness,” Bonnie said. “But we should help him before he gets killed.”

Bonnie squeezed Lysara’s hand before running into the fray. Thanks to Velvet, their line was chaotic enough to allow her and Lysara to run in.

The fight lasted for a while when a loud horn sounded over the battlefield and a single black horse galloped over. Fang started grunting excitedly. Its rider, a one-armed man clad in black armour dismounted, hoisting a heavy looking sword over his shoulder. The man had pure white hair, features that were grizzled and wrinkled.

“All right you Bastards!” he shouted. “Bring my niece out safe and sound and hand her over to me before I send all of ya to the underworld. I’ll give you sixty seconds.”

“Like an old cripple can handle us!” one of the enemy soldiers shouted. Three rushed at the man, only to be quickly transformed into a pile of severed body parts by a swing of his sword.

“Don’t underestimate the elderly, Pups!” he shouted. “But if you think you’ve got what it takes then General Lennard of Maero will be your opponent!”

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