A few hours before the invasion.
Makaela walked through the camp alone, sending officers off left and right with a scowl to finish off their duties and make preparations as planned.
Her scowl, turning into a cold glare, whenever a poor soul was found procrastinating.
One such poor soul, was Jin the dune pirate, sitting around in the shade of a large tent whilst chatting with a few other of his comrades.
Their words froze in their mouths, as her eyes fell upon them.
Ten feet away, yet still they felt the piercing cold that her glare induced.
A chill crawling up their spine as she stopped in her steps, and turned towards them. “And what, were your orders, then?” Makaela hissed in elven as she approached the four men.
Jin immediately stood up at the sound of her voice, saluting flimsily as each of them turned to face her. “W-We’re just taking a short breather before continuing work G-General Ma’am!” He exclaimed fearfully, he had heard the stories and was very much not looking forward to challenging their validity.
But his words did nothing to shield them from her frigid glare, or her icy tone. “A breath takes a mere second, it seems to me that you’ve had enough. Get back to work, this is a rebellion, not a damn camping trip.” She chided in common.
Each of the men nodded furiously before turning away, rushing to continue moving crates of resources from the recent plunder off elsewhere to be sorted out.
Makaela continued to glare after them even as they left, annoyed, but not entirely at them.
She was frustrated and confused.
Frustrated at why she had to fall for someone who did not see her the same way.
And confused as what to do next.
Makaela always knew what to do next…And that she did not this time around, only frustrated her further.
“Well, aren’t you in a mood.” Ascal said as he appeared beside her, “Zentha and Pyra’s plunder have been sorted out, all that remains is my platoons’ and we’re done for the day.” He reported with a shrug, seemingly bored.
But Makaela knew better as she turned to face her youngest sibling, the curiosity in his eyes as he looked back.
And that damned smirk as he noticed that Makaela had seen his piqued interest.
“So, sister. How’d it plan out?” Ascal said with an amused tone.
Worsening her grimace, “Huh? Did you say I should smack you to sleep? I will.” She warned with wide dead eyes.
But Ascal just chuckled, gaining no such wrath from her. Being the youngest had its perks after all.
“Ah, not so well then.” He mused, leaning in with a smirk as he inspected her annoyed expression. “Let me guess, you’re looking for Pyra.”
Makaela groaned, “Y-Yes…and how did you know?” she asked, knowing he’d tell her whether she would have or not.
“She may be a branch born like myself, but by our common father she is still your sister and the same age as you. You trust her the most, so whenever you’re confused or need someone to talk to, you go to her, no?” Ascal explained with sigh, “You know sister, Pyra can’t really help you much here. Me and Zentha probably could give you a better answer.”
“And what exactly does that mean?” Makael asked with further annoyance.
Ascal shrugged as he stepped away, “You know exactly what I mean, My Priestess, I mean…Pyra’s still a vir-!” He whispered, chuckling as Makaela’s hand slapped onto his mouth, shutting him up.
(“Fine, damnit. She’d kill you if you ever said that out loud!”) Makaela exclaimed through their mental bond.
Ascal continued to chuckle even after she released his face, “Of course she would, or die of embarrassment. She’s always been so prideful.” He sighed, then gesturing her forward. “Come on, let’s walk. I can guess what happened, and I think I already know your problem.” Ascal said, before moving onward himself.
Makaela briefly stared after him with a frustrated look, before nonchalantly catching up. “And?” She asked, annoyance still present in her tone.
“Ah, hook, line and sinker.” Ascal mused, “Never have I imagined our Priestess would ask me for emotional advice! I mean, I do get around myself with the ladies but, how low must you have fallen oh General of ours.” He whispered in amusement.
“Step off the high horse you damn fool…” Makaela chided, but sighed afterwards. (“I…I don’t know what to do, not with what I feel…nor with how to move now.”) She whispered through their common bond, her tone entirely changed from her previous annoyance to the now sorrow-filled voice that matched her eyes.
(“Hmm, well from the sounds of it sister, this is more than the usual brief escapade or puppet. Isn’t it?”) Ascal asked, his previous playful demeanour suddenly changing entirely into one of stoic seriousness.
Unsure of how to answer, Makaela nodded silently.
(“Which, explains your recent behaviour.”) Ascal mused, causing her shoulders to slump. (“You’ve been trying hard, haven’t you? We’ve noticed, with every day you’ve been trying to act less and less like yourself and more like…Well, I would save you the words and say you’ve been trying to act more mature but…I’ll just be relentless then.”)
(“You’ve been trying to match Thea.”) Ascal’s voice said in her head, causing her to stop. Her eyes narrowing, as she clenched her hands. She couldn’t deny it, she didn’t even want to deny it.
Makaela nodded, (“At first, I hated her. I hated everything that muscle head stood for. A Human…as our master’s Chosen? And her?…Damnit it had to be her? How could I not hate her? After what her mother showed me…I…”) Makaela took a moment to sigh, (“I hated Thea, but after how she acted, even when I was the one in danger…I couldn’t hate her anymore. She…before I knew it she became my rival. And before I knew it still, she also became the person I looked up to. I couldn’t win, not with how…Not with how he looks at her.”)
(“So to try and catch up, you decided you should be more like her.”) Ascal said with a thin smile as he turned to face her.
Makaela nodded, and silence suddenly befell them. Ascal stared at his elder sister, cold eyes that took the very smallest of things into consideration. And as he stared, his smile widened into one of amusement.
Ascal was amused, but not because his personality had flipped again.
(“Idiot.”) He said, causing her gaze to rise and eyes to widen in surprise.
“W-What? Why?” Makaela asked out loud, coughing when she noticed that she had, but not having attracted any attention she returned to Ascal.
Who was still grinning widely.
Ascal shook his head, (“You won’t get anywhere like this, sister. So take some advice. That man is as dense as they come. And playing a facade you’re not used to wearing, won’t get you any further than this.”)
Makaela sighed as she leaned into a nearby weapon stand, (“Then what?”)
Ascal shrugged, (“Honesty. As difficult as it might be to believe? Just be yourself, sister. Be who you’ve always been. If you’re serious about him, honesty is the only path to tread. So be honest with yourself, just how Thea is being honest with who she is and what she believes in.”) He told her with a friendly grin.
(“Myself?”) Makaela repeated in question, glancing up at her brother with narrow eyes. “Who are you and what have you done with my step-brother?” She then asked him with a straight face.
“Geh! That hurts sis…” Ascal whined as he acted out being stabbed in the chest, not caring one bit for those who turned to see his dramatic behaviour.
For the first time today, Makaela chuckled. “Pull yourself together, but I guess I should tell myself the same…” she sighed, straightening herself before glancing at those who stopped to stare at Ascal’s childish performance. “What are you all looking at? Get the hell back to work, and if you’ve got nothing to do then grab a damn weapon and go to the training grounds!” She coldly exclaimed, and at the sound of her voice each Xilfir, Bestia or Goblin, staring or not…doubled their efforts.
Makaela turned to Ascal while he stood back up, tapping him on the shoulder as she smiled. “Thank you, brother. I’ll take your word for it.”
“Then what are you waiting for? Go make me an uncle!” He whispered with a wide smirk, bending forward violently then as Makaela’s fist planted itself into his gut.
“Don’t push your luck, little Ascal~” Makaela warned with a playful tone, stepping away as he fell to the ground, groaning in pain.
“Gah…Y-Yeap…Tha-That’s the Makaela I know…” He coughed out whilst clutching his stomach, with actual tears leaking out of his eyes, yet he smiled.
Makaela left him behind, moving on to continue watching over the camp. For hours she walked about. Seeing the dreadblades and rebels, the Bestia exiles and Goblin outlaws. Each working together, carrying their own weight for the same purpose.
The same dream.
(“That’s right, why am I giving up so easily? When these people…after years of despair they’ve finally found hope. What are my problems compared to theirs?”) Makaela thought as she tread the camp grounds.
Her previous cold and resentful demeanour, changed.
As she now walked with purpose, her expression one of energetic resolve.
A resolve, that allowed her to continue smiling.
Even as the ground quaked…
Even as she saw, four rifts tearing open in mid-air and on the other side of the camp.
Even as an army of demons suddenly rushed out of them.
Hearing the demonic bellows, and feeling the overwhelming rush of miasma that came with, the rebels stirred into action.
The camp was sent into chaos, the invasion had come out of nowhere and the rifts opening directly into their midst was unexpected.
But they were ready…
They had been ready for a while.
Even as tents burned and the demonic army rushed into their unorganized numbers, the rebels fought. Tooth and nail put on the line, armoured or not the rebels grabbed the closest weaponizable object and clashed with the agile Imps, lumbering Fiends, swarming Furies and sly Wraiths.
As the front lines lay in disarray, as dozens died in the demons’ path, Makaela had already begun ordering Dreadblade officers around to gather fighters and prepare an actual defensive formation for the rest to fall back to. As she did so, she saw Zentha and Pyra’s magic already raging through the demonic lines.
Yet still, the flood of demons seemed unending, as more and more rushed out of the four massive rifts that blocked their way to the rest of their own rifts. Seemingly opened, with the thought of blocking their escape in mind.
“This will be bloody…” Makaela mused in elven, as she saw Daemons step into the cavern, and roar out their hunger. She unstrapped her whip, and a shimmer of green light ran through her Slayer armour.
Makaela smiled, a cold smile quivering with excitement. “Good…I need bloody right now.” She mused.
Sending a shiver through her own men who had lined up on either side of her.
(“Retreat the front, we’re ready!”) Ascal’s voice exclaimed moments later within the minds of nearby Xilfir. Then Makaela watched as a Dreadblade close to her unstrapped a long winding black horn from his waist. The Xilfir raised it to his mouth, taking a deep breath before blowing into the strange instrument.
A deep sound played out, like rumbling thunder, it resounded throughout the entire cavern.
Hearing the sound, the front lines that lay across the camp from their gathered position, began to fall back.
The demons followed, chasing after them and throughout the entire camp like the maddened beasts that they were.
Hungering for more, blinded by their bloodlust, they followed.
And as they reached the other end of the camp, what they were met with were not the unorganized blacksmiths, crafters and trainees they had been facing thus far.
Instead, a straight formation of white-armour clad knights stood ready, as the last unarmoured and unprepared rushed through openings in their formation. The openings then suddenly closing up, the Dreadblade knights moving in perfect unison. Like a single mechanism, not a second behind nor a second ahead.
They each moved as one, orders being shouted directly into each knight’s mind, a cohesion that no other race was capable of.
As the demonic army rushed out of the camp, unorganized and split, they flooded out from between the large tents and wooden buildings. The larger Fiends rushed ahead of the rest, growling and snarling monstrously.
And as the first of them came within ten feet from the line of soldiers…
Spears, which the front line of knights held, suddenly lowered.
Then the line behind that, rested their spears over the shoulders of the first line. And the third, alongside the fourth, who wielded even longer spears…planted them into the ground and held them high.
Blinded by their hunger, still the Fiends continued their charge. Hundreds impaling themselves into the wall of spears. Some dying, some surviving, but even the survivors ended up trapped in the formation of spears.
A wall of flesh forming in between the charging army and the defending Xilfir knights, forcing the Fiends behind the first clash to leap over their trapped companions.
And as the first Fiend did so…
“Lightning School; Greater Bolt!” The front line chanted in unison, and a surge of golden energy ran down their spears and into the impaled Fiends. The trapped demons wailing in agony as their bodies were suddenly sent flying out of the wall of spikes and tumbling back into the rest behind them.
And as the first leaping Fiend soared over those being sent flying back, a bolt of the same golden energy struck it in mid-air, sending the goliath flying back alongside the rest.
Over and over pulses of lightning surged into the charging army, firing off out of the spearmen as mages in the back chanted longer spells.
“Pour upon my enemies, like the breath of a Dragon as it soars overhead! Rain upon them, and set it all ablaze! Fire School; Purgatory!”
Finishing their chant, and suddenly raining down a storm of flame upon what survived the lightning.
But while the lightning killed some Fiends, and the flames burned the rest and the Imps. The Furies were too agile, and evaded each spell with ease. The Wraiths too, were completely unaffected by the flames and easily dodged the bolts of lightning.
And as the swarm of Furies flew through the Xilfir’s attacks, they were met with an army of archers. Furies rained down upon them, but not the living sort. As hundreds of arrows flew up into the cloud of demons, not a single arrow missing its mark, corpses fell back down for each one loosed.
“Now then…” Makaela said with a smile, as she walked out of the front line and towards the mess of dead monsters, with thousands more still alive ahead. Running her sharpened and gold painted nails along one spear, whilst dragging her Slayer whip behind her. “Xilfir, Drakon!” Pyra’s voice spoke out, and from the back over a hundred Dragon Knights leapt over the army’s formation, coming to stand by Makaela’s side. With Pyra, and Zentha, standing with her too.
As she walked forth, Makaela stopped a few steps ahead of the Dragon Knight’s small formation, where before her lay a groaning Fiend. Half-dead but still struggling to fight, a growl rising up its throat as she came before it.
The demon tried to rise, snarling ferociously as it met her face.
Then its expression froze, as Makaela’s hand suddenly lay inside its throat.
“Remember now, always clean up after yourselves.” Makaela said, “Other than that? Let’s have some fun~” She giggled, feeling as if a weight had been taken off her chest.
As finally, after the confusion, the anger and frustration.
After the guilt and fear she felt before.
Makaela finally felt free.
She finally, as she pulled the demon’s throat out and poured blood all over the ground, Makaela finally felt like herself again.
Smiling coldly, as her Dragon Knights charged to face the army of demons that still poured out of the rifts and into the camp ahead.
As Pyra’s form faded into a rush of bright light, searing a path through the demon’s numbers.
As Zentha disappeared from sight, and her serpentine summon of golden smoke, suddenly burst into existence amidst the rifts at the very back.
Makaela grinned, as her gaze rose to meet the first Daemon.
She chuckled, as she sent her whip ahead. The weapon elongating impossibly, reaching the creature’s chest and piercing into the molten hide. Then suddenly, the weapon began to shrink back, pulling Makaela up as a blade of golden ethereal energy formed in her free hand.
Makaela laughed now, as she pierced through the Daemon’s chest, coming out on the other side and soaked in violet blood.
Yet still, she laughed.
“My sharpness is unmatched. My balance un changing. First a tool, then a weapon. I am the origin of murder, the beginning of the sword and the end of death’s scythe. Who am I? I am the blade.”
Chanting as she descended down on her next prey.
“Soul School; Custom Cast; Blade Queen!” She exclaimed with fervour, as golden spiritual energy rushed out of her body and engulfed her like a raging blaze. The flames though, then suddenly warping as she landed, taking shape and forming hundreds of jagged ethereal blades all around her.
The blades, moved to her will.
Spinning and slashing, rushing a stabbing. A whirlwind of golden sharp ends and violet blood surrounded Makaela as she ran through the army of demons, alone, and like the incarnation of death itself. Her ethereal blades slicing through both flesh and bone, and her blazing draconic whip breaking and burning what remained.
Her laughter, reverberating along the battlefield, as she tread it like it was her playing field. Every step, she slew demons by the dozen. Her frustration and annoyance were all but forgotten, as she smiled and laughed.
Amused by the destruction she rained upon those who dared stand against her, wickedly Makaela laughed.
And that laughter.
Her voice, her power.
The very sight of her.
Brought out a primal fear within the demons, as they fled her wake.
And surfacing a fearful respect within those who watched.
For Makaela, the Xilfir Priestess.
The DreadBlade Commander and General of this rebellion against Sinbeni.
The Queen, of Thieves.
And now, the Queen, of all Blades.
Was a bloody, and un-ignorable sight in everyone’s eyes.
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