Chapter 39: Shadows and Their Wielders

Hunter fell to a knee as he reached the large heart, as it pumped furiously. “Mistress…Please…Mercy…” The Bestia asked, breathing weakly as he clenched a gaping wound that lay over his chest. His armour was in tatters, his body just as much, and his weapon was nowhere in sight.

Mercy?” Azkel chuckled coldly, as she bit her left thumb’s claw in annoyance. “But of course, I believe in second chances, Hunter…Or should I say, Sero Fao’lin? You’ll get your second chance, but the consequences of failing me will still be dire.

“Yes mistress Azkel! I shall not fail you again!” Sero promised.

No, you won’t.” Azkel stated plainly, as she lowered her left hand towards him. “Never, again.” She said, as the heart’s flesh beneath her illusion suddenly burst out towards him, tentacles of black flesh entangling themselves around his body.

The Bestia struggled, he tried to pull the fleshy limbs off him but they were too strong, pulling him into the heart as he screamed and shouted for aid.

Until the heart closed around him, the room going silent from his absence.

Umbra.” Azkel then said, the Head of Shadow appearing before her once called.

At your disposal, Mistress Azkel.” Umbra announced himself.

I can feel him.” Azkel said as she took a deep breath, “His consciousness lays within Hell’s clutches, my father made sure it would if Genova failed, which she did. I’m going to need a replacement for Beast and Soul divisions, tell the highest ranking alive within each of their promotion.

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Yes mistress, at once mistress.” Umbra replied.

Also, locate me that drake’s Lair, put all your resources up to the task.” Azkel ordered, as she returned to gnawing on her claw.

As you wish, although I will be unable to watch Ramzi’s every move if so.” Umbra pointed out.

As long as you keep tabs on his little…experiment’s situation, everything will go as planned.” Azkel mused, a wicked grin forming over her thin lips.

What have you planned then, mistress?” Umbra asked.

To take out our enemies, both of them, in one fell swoop.” Azkel said with a chuckle, “Simple, why waste our own energy when…they can take each other out? My foolish cousin will never see it coming, and those…’Heroes’ have utterly no clue what they will be up against.

Ah, transfer the problem and let it and our competition deal with one another. A brilliant plan as always, mistress.” Umbra said, kneeling lower as he did.

Indeed, but this time…I want further assurance.” Azkel then said, her smile widening further, “Lust.” She called upon the head of Hell, the succubus appearing moments later.

Yes?~” The demoness gracefully asked.

It is high time I entertain you a bit,” Azkel told her, “Tell me, how fluent is your Alf?

Lust chuckled, “To a fault, Mistress.” She answered in elven.

 

 


Two days later

Ai’Sen Outskirts

Bronze Plains of Lahihr


 

 

Kailu lay low within the grassland, blades of bronze-like grass surrounding him and his assigned group. They were twelve in total, which was mostly made up of Dune Dredge Pirate crewmen with Jin and Tania being two of them.

Three of his squad though were Dreadblades, their two officers and the squad leader, the information officer Kyrenic.

He was an older dark elf, and from his ageing skin, Kailu could tell the man was approaching his third century of age.

Each of them also wore cloaks to match the surrounding grass’s colour, making them invisible without the need for magic. This, was Kyrenic’s idea.

They were observing the eastern Ai’Sen gate, where a heavily guarded convoy was being gathered. The past two days the Lahihr and Abu Katra guard had sent reinforcements to scour the port city in search of them, but nothing was found.

How could they? Since, not even the rebels themselves knew where their base was located exactly, other than the small portals the strange Bestia known to them only as Kyllix had opened for their use.

But instead of continuing to reinforce Ai’Sen it seemed like the council had changed their plans out of nowhere.

They’re stripping the city of defences, needed resources and fighters.” Mused one officer in his squad.

Other than personal slaves, Ai’Sen has been freed, the show of force earlier was to ease the people of Sinbeni.” Kyrenic explained, “Master Ascal presumes they’re moving supplies to reinforce Lahihr, since it is a highly profitable mining operation for Sinbeni. Freeing the miners will mean a far fiercer fight than our last one.

And what of those cloaked soldiers?” Asked the other officer, as they noticed a large group of brown-cloaked men and women keeping watch alongside the rest of the guard.

Those are Sin Wyrms,” Kailu added.

Kyrenic glanced back at the boy, “What can you tell me about them?” he asked him and the pirates in common.

“Not much sir, they only operate under strict council rule, needing five votes at least to be deployed. Other than that, they guard the Capital, Abu Katra.” Jin explained.

“They only accept Human members, but some say that after joining they aren’t even that anymore.” Tania mused as she carefully watched the cloaked guards.

“I saw one up close,” Kailu said before changing back to elven, “They’re vicious, they fight with strange weaponry too, and their hidden armour is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

“I see about two hundred of them gathering around the convoy.” One officer pointed out, “They seem to be working in groups of three as well, see how they separate?”

Can you describe their equipment in some more detail?” Kyrenic asked.

Uh, like their name suggests it seems to be made out of wyrm materials, but the one I saw had magic just as strange. Their armour seemed too impenetrable to just be wyrm hide too.” Kailu explained.

Spread out along the fields in groups of two,” Kyrenic then said, “Jiel, report back to master Ascal. The rest continue to keep watch, I’ll go in and investigate.

They each nodded silently before separating, fading into invisibility as they moved off.

Kyrenic returned to gazing at the convoy, a dozen massive caravans of wood and metal with boat-like bodies and retractable wheels. Pulling these more than building-sized vehicles, were creatures just as huge.

Covered in black fur like a bison but long and reptilian in form, the beasts had three sets of feet, two bulky tusks growing out of their lower jaws and a long crimson-scaled tail which ended in a spiked sphere.

(“Dagen.”) He mused, recognising the draconic beast from its tell-tale appearance, other than the tail’s colouring.

A monstrosity when encountered in the wilds of Wyv’Nor, but in the towns of Dark’Mor they had been tamed and cared for like common cows, to then be sold off to Sinbeni where over many decades they were bred to withstand the temperature and adapted to the desert and dry plains.

Not only where they beasts of burden, but nowhere near the frightened creature a horse or bison could be. Dagen were predators, ones capable of fighting off anything but the largest and rarest of desert predators.

 


Just…felt right.


 

(“I wonder what Ascal will come up with, for those creatures, they’re trained to only listen to their trainers.”) Kyrenic mused before suddenly dashing forth, moving as fast as the wind around him, his feet barely touching the ground as he made not a single sound.

He cast no magic, no enhancement or bending of light.

Yet he seamlessly moved with the waving grass, his matching cloak invisible among it.

And as he approached the gate, his speed doubled.

Shimmer” Kyrenic chanted, and his form went invisible for the briefest moment.

And as he lay unseen, he ran across the now shorter grass and towards the convoy.

Approaching the perimeter of guards and Sin Wyrms, “Featherlight” he chanted beneath his breath, his body’s weight becoming magically altered to be as light as a feather.

Kyrenic leapt, soaring through the air and taking off his cloak as he did, turning it over and putting it back on. Now sky-blue, he released both spells as he soared forward. As they could be detected by the Sin Wyrms ahead, whose capabilities still remained unknown.

He faded back into visibility but as he soared over the guards he was unrecognisable from the sky above thanks to his clothing, yet he was falling now much faster than before as his body’s normal weight returned and gravity grasped him once again.

Kyrenic landed skilfully, rolling forwards to decrease the force of impact, soundlessly too and at the same time unclipping his cloak. Turning it over once more before coming to a stop face down on the ground with his cloak laying above him.

He peaked from beneath the cloth and through the short grass as he lay there, to get a lay of his surroundings. Kyrenic had almost made it to one caravan but was still a few meters short of reaching it.

He lay completely still as a patrol of guards passed by, grasping the front of his released cloak tightly as he did.

“Think we’ll get a budget cut cause of these council dogs being here?” One guard asked.

“I sure hope not, but they’ll do anything to cut on costs cause of this f****** mishap.” Another grumbled.

“I wouldn’t be too surprised, although I’m more curious about where the hell those slaves disappeared to and who the f*** those shadows were that night.” The third one said.

“S*** yeah, you were there, weren’t you? What’d they look like?” The first guard then asked as they walked off.

When they turned away from him, he made his next move.

Quiet as a passing breeze, Kyrenic suddenly rushed forwards, leaping with every bit of his strength but keeping low as he soared through the grass. Rolling when he reached one caravan, to finally find himself laying beneath it.

Above him was solid wood and no way inside, but the boat-like caravan’s size gave him a shadow to fade into and hide within as he walked silently, moving towards the caravan’s nearest wheel.

He considered a levitation spell at first, but the Sin Wyrms were still too close, and he didn’t know if there were any inside nor if magic detection spells were erected over the caravans themselves.

So instead he stepped closer to the reinforced wooden wheel, putting his back to it. Kyrenic folded his cloak before strapped it to his side, he’d need his full range of mobility for this and it would only get in his way.

Revealing the assortment of strange equipment that lay strapped to his many belts. From dwarven to even goblin made mechanisms attached to his suit, he also had many others for all kinds of situations.

But as a weapon, he only had one.

It was strapped to his back. Long and curved, a single-edged blade. Sheathed in a black scabbard with the golden design of claw marks riddling it just like the sword’s square guard. The grip who’s cord wrap was gold covered the actual black beneath, while the pommel was flat and thin.

His magical capabilities were limited, having been born with magic deficiency. But It did not stop him from becoming the best at his line of work.

Kyrenic had spent his long elven life training elsewhere.

He grabbed a hook from his belt and attached it to his thick left gauntlet, sticking the back inside a barrel that lay protruding over his wrist. Making sure it was correctly in place, he glanced around while aiming his left hand up.

Seeing no eyes on his position, he clenched his left hand, and the hook suddenly shot upwards. A thick string trailed behind the hook, unreflective and strangely transparent.

The hook flew up as high as it could, reaching the large wheel’s hub, its centre. Soaring over the hub, it found its place beside one of the spokes, the metal poles that kept the wooden tire attached to the hub at its centre.

Making sure the hook was sturdily in place by pulling a few times with his full weight, Kyrenic then flipped a switch on the side of his gauntlet, and the thick string started to be slowly pulled back inside the barrel.

Kyrenic rose slowly with the mechanism in his gauntlet, at the same time using his clawed right glove to grip onto the wheel’s wooden tire and climb, reaching the closest spoke and then beginning to climb that. His claws couldn’t grip onto their metallic make, but the magnetic material inside his glove allowed him to climb steadily anyhow.

Swinging from side to side would have been a recipe for disaster, while climbing in line with cover made him invisible to watchful eyes.

Silent moments went past as Kyrenic kept his body still and straight, climbing higher and higher, until he finally reached the wheel’s half height. Pulling himself onto the nearest flat surface, he switched his gauntlet off and recovered his hook whilst laying low and out of sight.

He dashed across to the wheel’s mechanisms, a gaping entrance laying all around the machinery that he knew would retract the wheels for when the caravan reached the desert. He snuck inside, walking over the thinnest of ledges, climbing ropes and bulky mechanisms.

Until he reached the highest point within the caravan’s bottom deck, standing at the top of one of the wheel’s machinery. The deck was dimly lit by magic crystals, allowing Kyrenic to scour his surroundings and keep out of sight.

The inside was slightly larger than your average transport ship, allowing for a massive storage space where from his position he could make out most of what inhabited it. But a few of the largest wooden crates caught his attention.

The wooden storage was large enough to be a small room in of itself, and several of them lay tied to the deck’s ceiling with metal chains.

Beneath the large crates was nothing but flat ground as if they expected the things to fall, and if they did Kyrenic was sure the shoddy woodwork would shatter on collision.

Making him wonder, just what in the world they were storing inside them.

Making sure none of the guards patrolling where looking up, he stepped to the very far edge from the nearest crate. Taking a deep breath, he focused briefly, before suddenly dashing forwards.

Kyrenic leapt off the machinery, briefly soaring through the air beside the crate before starting to lose altitude, grabbing onto the crate right then and there as he levelled out. Making absolutely no sound as he did, and transferring no force onto the crate as he grabbed on.

Using his clawed glove and gauntlet he climbed up the wooden crate, reaching the top where he found enough room to stand above it. He crouched down, pulling out a handheld mechanism.

The tool had a long saw-like blade with short teeth, but was very thin and definitely not usable as a weapon.

Putting the saw down beside him, he then also took out a piece of flat metal.

The crate was made of many thick planks held side-by-side to make the floor, walls and ceiling. So to look inside, he needed to make a hole.

Kyrenic carefully entered the thin piece of metal in between two planks, making sure half of it was inside before bending the metal over one plank, giving it a ninety degrees bend before letting go. He placed his left foot over the visible half of the metal strap before removing his clawed glove, revealing a thin metallic glove beneath the cloth. He then carefully placed his right hand upon the other plank, resting his palm where the metal piece was entered.

Slowly he then moved his right hand away from the rod, hearing a low squeak inside, telling him the metal was bending towards his magnetic glove.

He pulled his hand away from the plank, slowly until barely audible the sound stopped.

Putting his cloth glove back on over the magnetic one, he then grabbed a strange crystal out of one pocket. It was jade green in colour and roughly shaped.

Kyrenic placed the crystal over the metal strap, watching as the metal suddenly changed from iron grey to dark green. Briefly he removed his boot off the metal and tried to bend it back with his hand, but it was now too hard to bend back.

He placed his foot back on the metal, then retrieved the saw-like tool he had taken out earlier.

Holding the thin fanged blade in between the two chosen planks, he pressed its fanged side towards the plank away from his left foot, the one that lay over the metal piece.

As he held the tool with one hand, he then began to pull on a string with the other, and as he did the saw began to quickly move back and forth at great speed.

Kyrenic began to cut, the wood seemingly softening further at the saw’s touch as the blade itself glowed a dim blue. He cut one line a few centimetres away from the metal piece, and another on the opposite side, separating a section of the plank from the crate.

But the piece of wood did not fall inside, as the hardened metal strap was keeping it from doing so.

Putting his saw away Kyrenic then carefully stepped off the metal piece and grabbed it with his left hand, placing his thumb over the crystal to make sure it did not fall off and away from the strange metal.

He raised the metal band, and with the wooden section rose. He grabbed it with his free hand, silently placing it nearby before separating the crystal from the metal band.

The metal suddenly lost its dark green colouring, regaining its iron grey as he did. Then bending the metal piece back as well as he could, he put both away into his many belts before retrieving something else.

Kyrenic held up a strange monocle to his right eye, strange as in the lens was pitch black on one side but clear and see-through on the other. He held the clear face to his eye, and looked inside the crate, allowing him to see even through its dark interior.

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His eyes narrowed at what he saw within.

Dozens of Xilfir slaves, a single thick metal chain going through each of their cuffs and holding them from going too far from another. Each of them was naked, not a single piece of cloth over them as they lay about. They all seemed to also be starving from the hunger.

But what truly made his blood boil, were their injuries.

Tortured to death’s door, scarred beyond recognition as they had been visibly put through beatings and whippings. All of them, men, women and children were also fully shaved bald while their scale patches were seemingly burned off their skin. Dry blood was splattered across their bodies too, almost hiding their dark skin which lay bruised into a purplish colour.

If it wasn’t for said skin and golden eyes, Kyrenic swore he could’ve mistaken them for demons.

And if he focused his ears, he could hear them. Weeping silently in the dark, as they trembled within their own blood, sweat and tears.

He looked away, storing his monocle before standing up. Taking several deep breaths to calm his nerves.

Kyrenic was trying very hard to relax his rising anger, fearing that if he saw that harrowing sight for another moment, even he would’ve had no reason or control over his next actions.

Deciding not to say a word about this to his colleges until he reported back to captain Ascal, Kyrenic turned to leave.

Oh, what do we have here, a little rat found its way inside.” A voice said in a chilling whisper, as a shadow with violet eyes formed nearby.

Kyrenic turned to face the shadow, immediately unsheathing his katana and entering a defensive stance.

Umbra chuckled, “A feisty one, or was it the view? Lust’s handywork I’m afraid, that bitch is more than a few marbles loose.

Kyrenic’s eyes narrowed as he suddenly lunged, rushing through Umbra as the shadow dispersed into smoke, his body and blade passing right through the being before it reformed behind him.

Umbra’s smoke-engulfed right hand suddenly pierced through the xilfir’s shoulder, seemingly disintegrating his flesh and bone, as his arm fell to the floor.

Kyrenic held in his screams of pain, resisting as to not set off an alarm and call upon him more enemies.

Interesting, I sense barely any mana within you, mana deficiency? A man of your capabilities? Very intriguing.” Umbra mused, as he hovered away from the xilfir.

Kyrenic turned on him, slashing his blade in a wide arc, but missing entirely as the shadow moved all too fast.

“I don’t need magic to accomplish my mission.” Kyrenic said with a weak smirk, before rushing the shadow once more. Feinting the attack as the creature dispersed into smoke once again, but this time Kyrenic was beelining for the edge.

Kyrenic leapt off the crate and back towards the mass of machinery, landing through a roll before continuing his escape.

Oh not so fast.” Umbra coldly said, as he appeared beside him. A tendril of shadow suddenly grew out of the being’s form, slashing through Kyrenic’s left leg and cutting it right off.

Kyrenic groaned in agony as he lost balance, stumbling over from losing a leg and falling to the ground. He bit onto his hood, still resisting the pain, as he tried to stand back up.

But Umbra’s foot stomped down onto his back, pushing him to the ground and keeping him there. “I have a message, for your Priestess.” Umbra said, as suddenly their surroundings blurred into a mixture of colours for several moments.

When Kyrenic’s view disentangled, he noticed that they were now back outside in the high grass. “A…message?” He managed to ask through struggled breaths.

Call it an…act of good faith.” Umbra said, before stepping off the dreadblade. “You’ve been seeking Ramzi’s little playhouse, but you’ve been looking at the wrong place. Sure the entrances lay all over Sinbeni, there being two or three within every city. But only those he wants to enter may use them.

“Why…are y-you telling us this?” Kyrenic asked, as he turned himself over.

Umbra chuckled, “Because the fool is in our mistress’s way, anyway, you’ll find Ramzi’s true location here.” He said, as a small grey scroll fell out of the mass of shadows and beside Kyrenic. “Give that to your little Queen of Thieves, and tell her, your master lays in warm hands.

Umbra laughed wickedly, as his smoke covered form suddenly dissipated out of sight.

Kailu appeared where the being once stood, slicing his blade through empty air. “Damn, he’s gone.” The young xilfir said before turning to his injured squad leader, “Y-your arm and…leg” his eyes going wide.

Kyrenic groaned as he sheathed his blade, then taking the scroll into his remaining hand. “Gah…that doesn’t matter right now boy! Bring me Velk!” He ordered, breathing heavily as he quickly lost blood.

Obvious panic across his face, Kailu nodded before turning away. “Y-Yes, sir!” he said, rushing off without another word.

Kyrenic briefly watched him leave, as he stored the scroll into an empty pocket. “Not bad kid…anybody else would’ve insisted on…Ah…helping with my injuries.” The man chuckled as he reached into another pocket, taking out a strange silver herb. “Maybe it’s time I retire.” He mused, dropping the plant into his mouth before starting to chew.

Yeah…From information officer Kyrenic, to Teacher.” The dreadblade mused, trying to distract himself from the pain that engulfed his injuries, as the bleeding stopped and both stumps suddenly began to close with forming skin.

Hah…Teacher Kyrenic, I like the sound of that. It’ll give miss Zentha a good laugh for a few years too.

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