The Dragon Within
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Chapter 23: Pyra

Shadows, a thin black mist of dark energy covering the assassin’s body like a veil. They stepped out of it, appearing before the metal gate. Albeit the darkness faded from their view the energy still flowed about their body, like an aura it engulfed them.

“H-Hal-!” The guard tried to exclaim, two of them were standing at the gate. Crimson red armour trimmed with gold, wielding enchanted weapons held high towards them.

The assassin cocked his head, as suddenly two more of his own faded into existence behind the two guards. Red sprayed forth as their blades cut open the guard’s throats, making their words brief. The guards fell to their knees, choking on their own lifeblood as it pooled beneath them.

The assassin stepped to the gate, waving their right hand close to it, a barrier of blue shimmering over the iron bars with the proximity of his skin. Him and the two other raised both palms to the gate, three more shadows appearing by them doing the same.

Six of them now, darkness twirling about their fingers as the barrier twisted and cracked beneath the energy. Tendrils of shadow penetrated through the shimmering blue mana, bending it, cracking it further until it suddenly shattered.

The dark energy burst forward, blasting the gate wide open as dozens of shadowy figures rushed through. Ten times more than what was visible before, each one uncloaking and charging into the mansion’s yard. Streaks of black mist rushed over the moonlit grass, barely visible, each of their steps completely silent.

Each, stopping in their steps as a single man descended before them, the ground quaking as he landed. Blocking their path.

“Assassin’s Pact I presume?” the man asked with a raised brow. Tall with sleek white hair dyed back, bright green eyes and sharp features. The man wore his usual plain white suit and pitch-black glasses, alongside his impeccable, stern gaze. “The guild was expecting you, unfortunately it seems we misjudged your primary target. My men are still moving from the palace to this position.”

Kai Voltair, the adventurer’s guildmaster stood blocking their path. Some of the shadows glanced at one another, this person was an unknown even within their vast array of information.

“I’m afraid you’ll have to get through me if you wish for miss Selene’s life.” Kai pointed out, “I’ve also informed the crimson guard within the mansion, you’ll have a hard time in there as well so I would suggest simply lea-”

His words were cut short as several of the shadowmen charged at him, blades of rushing darkness appearing in their hands as many surrounded him, the rest dashing past them. They lunged at him, each of the five blades slashing or stabbing at a potentially mortal area, slicing through his clothing with ease yet…

The blades could not pierce his skin.

The assassins struggled briefly but backed away the moment they noticed something was off, but it was already too late. Kai’s form blurred briefly and he then stood outside their encircle, eyes closed as a mild glow escaped from below his eyelids. His left a blue light, his right a golden shine, both quickly fading as he opened them.

The shadowmen behind him flowed into a black fog, turning blood red as they dissipated with the wind. Utterly disintegrated within moments.

Kai sighed, “Why is this Selene girl so important that you’d send so many?” he mused, watching the many more assassins approaching him before glancing back at those that made it through him. He grimaced as he was once more surrounded, “This is going to be a frustrating night isn’t it?” Kai muttered while glancing about.

Then noticing more shadows rush by, surprising even those that surrounded him. A battle broke out around him, shadows clashing with shadows, unable to tell which was which but able to see that one side was overwhelming the other with more than just sheer numbers.

Go back to your people half-blood, this mansion is under our protection.” Said a cold feminine voice from his left, it surprisingly spoke elven. Kai followed the voice, seeing a dark figure fade in and revealing Pyra.

Ah the night’s fist, I wasn’t aware the Selenes bartered with bandits.” Kai mused in elven, meeting Pyra’s annoyed gaze.

Hmph, If I wasn’t busy, I’d kill you.” Pyra warned with widening eyes, anger flaring through them before she suddenly dissipated into shadows. “To the mansion! Leave the trash to this demi-alf.” Pyra ordered, more than half the shadows disengaging from combat and rushing to the main building.

Leaving Kai alone and surrounded once again.

He sighed, “Was it something I said?” he mused while fixing his glasses, the remaining shadows turning to face him.

 



 

Kayle woke with a start as her bedroom door burst open, “Miss wake up, we must move you to a safer location!” exclaimed the crimson guard officer.

“Huh? What’s going on? Why is there fighting outside?” Kayle blurted out in confusion, clearly hearing blades clashing within the mansion.

“Assassin miss, the Pact is here for you. We don’t know why.” The officer explained quickly, grabbing her right hand roughly and pulling her out of the bed, Kayle left with nothing but her nightgown as guards surrounded her.

“The P-Pact? Here in Druvia?” Kayle asked as they ushered her through the corridor, “Why? Why me?”

“Ma’am we must get you to the below levels, thoughts of why can come later.” The officer said sternly, his fearful brown eyes briefly visible through their helmet as he glanced back at her. Kayle questioned him no more, understanding the situation needed as much calm as possible.

They rushed through the second floor, the sounds of battle and death surrounding them, passing by several guards fighting off shadow engulfed figures. Reaching the staircase though they were met with a blockade of the shadowmen, two dozen compared to the half a dozen that was Kayle’s escort.

“Miss stand back!” one guard said as each of the six stood before her, shielding her from view of the assassins.

Surrender the girl, and your lives will be spared.” Hissed one shadow as it stepped forth, violet energy surging through where their eyes would’ve been.

The officer snorted in amusement, unstrapping his dual axes. “Cultist scum, you’ll have to go through us first!” he exclaimed, a green wind forming at the edge of his weapons. The rest unsheathed their swords too, at the same time three more guards rushed from the corridor to join them by the stairs.

Yet still they were severely outnumbered. And the officer knew it, grabbing the closest guard by the shoulder and pulling him back, “Take miss Selene through the servant’s staircase! We’ll hold these here.” he told the young mercenary who saluted and pulled back.

“Come miss, we must go!” The mercenary said, grabbing Kayle’s arm and rushing back down the corridor they had just came from.

Well if you insist.” Then hissed the lead shadow, the assassins moving to surround the smaller group of guards while they slowly pulled back, barring them entrance to the corridor. “Cleanse them!” the shadow then hissed, and both sides clashed.

The officer swung his axes down to the sides, forcing one assassin to his left to parry and the one to his right to die as his axe slashed through the shadows and into the man’s face. Pulling his right axe out of bone by kicking the corpse aside, he pushed at the assassin to his left, ignoring as another slashed at his side.

With abandon he charged at the closest assassin, barraging him with attacks, pounding at the crossed blades as the shadow tried to parry his heavy blows. Yet the daggers weren’t shields, one breaking on the ninth collision with the enhanced axe blade.

The officer took this opening, slashing aside the last dagger with one axe and cleaving the assassin’s chest open with the other. Then he stopped, feeling a sharp pain in his right shoulder, feeling the crooked blade tear its way back out of his flesh.

The man stumbled forwards, falling to a knee as he felt the poison flow through his system, a tingling pain that was sure to kill him in a few moments. He glanced about, his men’s corpses scattered around him, the assassins moving past them and into the corridor they could not hold.

Hunting after the life he swore to protect.

The man stood back up, struggling to hold his weapons as he turned to face the assassins once again. His eyes widening through his helmet at the sight that presented itself instead.

The shadowy assassins lay surrounded as more shadows flowed around them, blades rushing out of the swirling darkness held by chains of lightning. The xilfir massacred the assassins within moments, a whirlwind of electrified blades shredding through the shadowy figures like heated knives passing through butter.

Fading in from the misty shadows as body parts fell to the bloody floor, the cloaked dark elves glanced at the surprised mercenary but gave him no more attention, turning about and changing back into streams of shadow. They rushed forth, a black mist flowing down the corridor.

He watched after them, struggling to remain standing as another shadow passed by him, Pyra’s brief form fading by and causing his eyes to widen further. “Pact…Dreadblades…What has this world come to?” he mused as blood leaked out of his mouth, he fell forwards, losing all feeling in his body as the poison acted.

The man lay there, surrounded by vulgar gore, dying.

Then shadows began to form around his body, covering him alongside every whole corpse around.

The corpses rose, their skin paling as shadows fully engulfed them, the dead were brought back to life.

 



 

Kayle rushed down the stairs following the mercenary, reaching the bottom he pulled her forward and took a stance. Meeting the assassin’s blades with his shortsword, pushing the shadow back up a step before lunging forwards himself.

Clenching his sword with both hands the mercenary stabbed forwards, his eyes widening in surprise as the assassin met him with their open chest. His blade dug into the shadow’s abdomen and he pulled back from the confusion, unable to react as two shadows slithered by his sides, rushing at a defenceless Kayle.

Kayle watched as the shadows took form, crooked blades in each hand stabbing down at her.

Then blood.

Blood splattered across her face as a flurry of xilfir blades tore the shadows asunder, expertly avoiding the mercenary among their targets. The lightning held blades pulled back and out of sight, impossible to determine where their wielders hid in the dim staircase.

Only when they appeared could she, five dark elves materializing around her, each giving her their back as they stood solemnly with weapons in hand.

“Damn! Dreadblades too?!” the mercenary exclaimed, struggling with his sword proving fruitless as it was now stuck inside the assassin he let go and turned to face the xilfir. He unsheathed his side arm dagger, “Release miss Selene at once!” he demanded.

But the dark elves ignored him completely, even as he raised his blade towards them, he was not a danger in their eyes.

But the shadows that still lurked about them were, assassins suddenly rushing past the confused mercenary and clashing with the barrier of xilfir that now protected Kayle. Lightning enhanced blades sparked brightly as they clashed with the crooked daggers, shadow after shadow being dispersed as more and more flowed into the staircase from both the bottom and the top.

The mercenary was pushed to the side as he flayed his dagger about helplessly, like a wave of liquid the shadows rushed about. Tearing, slicing and stabbing at anything in their path, the mercenary had no hope, falling to the floor dead after the dozenth wound.

But the dark elves held, albeit being overwhelmed they took each wound with as little as a wince, for each one they gained something died beneath their blade.

Suddenly the dark elves moved to only holding the stairs taking downwards, revealing Kayle to the shadows that flowed from above, not stopping to ask why the wraith-like assassins flowed upon her.

When the ceiling above exploded upon them.

Pyra descended with the stone rubble, her golden gauntlet crashing down onto the flowing shadows, lightning surging from her fists and into her surroundings. The shadows lost their malleable form, several assassins falling to the ground dead, their bodies charred from the sheer energy that was sent through them.

Pyra stood up, her solemn gaze falling upon a confused and terrified Kayle. “Secure the girl.” She said while several more dark elves appeared behind her as more of the shadowy assassins leapt down the broken stairs. The two sides clashing once more.

Ignoring the fighting about them Pyra approached the dead mercenary, waving her right hand about the corpse as her eyes glowed gold. Tendrils of violet energy faded into existence about where her hand moved, revealing the magic that was once invisible. It flowed into the dead man’s body, the corpse’s eyes shaking briefly before the newly resurrected zombie turned to look up at Pyra.

Disgusting.” Pyra spat before slamming her right gauntlet into the undead’s head, bursting it like a bubble onto the wall.

“W-Who are you?” Kayle then stuttered out, crawling away from the tall and muscular dreadblade captain. A fearsome sight alongside Pyra’s oversized iron gauntlets and pitch-black leather armour.

“You are safe now, Kayle Selene, that is all you need to know.” Pyra said sternly, turning away from her. “Priestess Makaela wishes not a hair to be plucked off this one, destroy anybody that would wish her harm.” Pyra ordered her underlings.

Yes, Ma’am.” The xilfir bellowed in response.

Pyra moved to fade into shadows, “W-Wait!” When Kayle called out once more, having grabbed Pyra’s left leg.

Pyra glanced down at her with annoyance, “My men are dying for you, what else do you want?” she hissed in question.

Kayle shrunk beneath her gaze, “Makaela…Who is Makaela?” she asked with wide eyes, her voice a squeak. She let go of the xilfir’s leg and leaned away.

Pyra’s eyes narrowed, “Do you speak elven?” she asked, names sounded different when said in either common or elven and Pyra hadn’t said Makaela’s name in common.

“N-No, but I know both pronunciations…W-Who is this person?” Kayle asked again.

“Why do you wish to know?” Pyra asked sternly.

Kayle gulped down her spit as she clutched her chest, trying to ease her fear, battling the chill that flowed through her bones. Fear of the assassins that wanted her life was bad enough, but seeing the notorious dreadblades, meeting Pyra ‘The Night’s Fist’ up close like this made her heart race unlike anything else.

“Makaela…She? She is xilfir isn’t she?” Kayle asked with struggling resolve.

Pyra turned to face her fully again, “Why.Do.You.Ask?” she worded out, a dangerous shine about her eyes.

Kayle met her terrifying gaze, struggling to hold eye contact as she answered. “She killed my mother, I need to know why.”

Pyra’s eyes widened in surprise, “What?” she unconsciously asked in elven, ”Does your sister know?” she then asked in common. Pyra wasn’t aware of this.

“Huh?” Kayle’s resolve turned to confusion at her question.

“Thea Selene, your sister. Does she know?” Pyra urged.

“N-No…at least I don’t think she does! I-I investigated on my own.” Kayle explained.

Suddenly the shadows that fought the xilfir below exploded aside, “Ladies…Is this really the time to chat about such things?” clearing the steps for Kai to ascend.

Pyra turned to see the guildmaster standing before her dreadblades, “Stay out of it, halfblood.” She spat at him, briefly glancing at Kayle she then turned to give them her back. “Protect the girl. And watch that filth.” She ordered her dreadblades, dissipating into shadows right then.

Kai sighed, “But I just climbed up here…” fixing his glasses before facing a very confused Kayle who stared at him. “I apologise in advance for the wall.” Kai said with a brief bow, turning to the staircase’s wall before walking through it. The stone turning to dust as it touched his form, leaving behind a hole of his shape.

Kayle stared into the hole taking outside, wondering if he had just leapt off the mansion’s second floor…

 


Outside the city,

The regrowing forest.


 

Miasma filled the air, violet tendrils corrupting the trees and brush which were purified only days before. The land was being drained of its energy, sucked dry by the miasma as mana flowed through it and into the caster. A tall cloaked man coated in flowing shadows, wielding a wooden stave, cracking with the violet energy that flowed through it.

Ah, you’ve found me.” The shadow hissed as Pyra materialized nearby, lightning surging through her entire body.

Alf? You…You’re no common necromancer.” Pyra mused, the shadow had spoken in elven.

The shadow chuckled coldly, “No sister, I am not.” He said, lowering his hood and revealing an old dark elf.

Pyra’s eyes narrowed, “Traitor.

The necromancer shook his head, “If betrayal was the price of freedom, then yes, I am indeed a traitor.” he said, wearing a crooked smile over his warped skin.

Freedom? Is selling your soul to demons for power what you call freedom?” Pyra asked, clenching her fists and causing the energy about her to focus within her gauntlets.

The necromancer chuckled once again, “The concept of freedom is to make your own choices, joining the Pact was mine just as many others’.

Then we must be both free then, I choose to follow master and mistress.” Pyra said, resolute in her words as she charged forwards.

I guess we are, we only chose different paths to freedom.” The necromancer agreed, turning and raising his staff towards her. “Rise and follow, march and obey! Dark Arts; Undeath School; Revive the fallen!” he chanted, the violet energy within his staff suddenly flaring a dark green as tendrils burst out of the tip and pierced into the ground.

Out of the dry ground emerged skeletons of old, some bare naked while others wielding weapons and armour. Dozens of them pulling themselves out of the ground, their eye sockets surging with green energy as they cackled in unison.

Pyra rushed by the surfacing undead, the skeletal minions too slow in their rise allowing her to run past. Only to be met with Pact cultists, the violet eyed shadowmen appearing in her path with blades of darkness at the ready.

Pyra slid to a stop, “Fuel, Burn, Surge and Explode! Draconic Martial Arts; Storm’s Strike!” slamming her gauntlets into the ground she chanted. The golden energy that had formed within her gauntlets flowing down into the dirt before her, suddenly sending the forest quaking as the ground rose and shattered beneath them.

The cultists briefly stopped in their tracks, struggling to keep balance as suddenly lightning struck from below. Several tendrils of golden energy rose from the ground beneath them, surging through their bodies and charring them alive before striking up into the sky. The tendrils merged together, forming the flapping of wings before dissipating into the air.

Pyra moved to rush at the necromancer once more but found that the dark mage was gone from her sight, in his stead were his skeletal minions joined by more shadowy cultists that moved to surround her.

She glanced down at the dead cultists, kicking off one of their hoods revealing another dark elf, beneath the rest she also recognised some bestia. “So it is true what they say about the Pact, traitors and slaves making up the lower hierarchy.” She scoffed, “Is it true that your masters are demon bound too?

Still trying to make conversation captain? Did you truly come here alone? Oh how foolish, you underestimated me didn’t you?” The necromancer asked, its voice echoing throughout the dying forest.

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Its cruel chuckle wafting with the breeze.

As the undead approached her, the assassins awaiting an opening behind them.

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Alone? No, you’re the one who’s underestimated me. I simply arrived first.” Pyra said with a cold smile, a mist of shadow flowing out from the surrounding forest, blades of lightning suddenly arching about the assassins.

The shadowmen tried to parry and evade but there were too many weapons flying about, the minions too slow to even try, each being torn apart as xilfir fell upon them like a sudden storm.

Pyra chuckled, shaking her hands freely, her gauntlets rattling as she shook off the numbness of her previous spell. “Beside Zentha, The Poison Queen. Deadliest among us. Beside Ascal, The Moon’s Tactician. The smartest among us. How do you think I stood out among those monsters of nature?” Pyra asked calmly, closing her eyes as she stood amidst the massacre.

Why was I special? Why was I our priestess’s favourite? Why was I given Druvia, its King and that girl to protect all at once? A simple reason, as my worth is a simple one.” A golden light engulfed her body, ”I am, The Night’s Fist. I am everywhere. I am every shadow beneath the moon’s glow. And nothing, nothing can escape the night.

Briefly she paused, clenching her fists before disappearing completely.

Her words still filled the forest as she lay invisible, “I am the hunter of hunters.” Pyra chanted, “The predator of those would think me their prey.” her words flowing with mana reaching the necromancer as they made their escape.

”Lord, one who I would call master, lend me your strength!” Pyra shouted, appearing before the dark mage as they raised their staff up at her, tendrils of violet miasma rising from the ground all around them.

For I am your hound.” Pyra said, opening her eyes and revealing a violent golden glow surging through them.

Hell School; Miasmic Summon!” The necromancer quickly chanted, the tendrils of miasma merging and thickening into blade ended tentacles, seemingly not so ethereal anymore.

The miasmic blades numbered in the hundreds, and as the necromancer clenched their staff, his skin seemed to age with each passing moment. Yet they smiled, “We made the pact, there is no return! There is no hiding! There is no esca-” he tried to speak.

But every sound was muted out beneath Pyra’s voice.

Draconic Martial Arts; Custom Art; Light’s Shadow.” She finished her chant, her body turning into a blur of white light that flowed amongst the miasma, each summoned limb of hell’s energy being torn to shreds at the passing light’s touch.

The necromancer struggled with his staff, green energy flowing out of his body and into the violet flames that burned within his casting weapon, as it cracked and shattered within his hands. The violet energy exploded outwards meeting the golden light that was Pyra, the two energies clashing for several moments before the golden light pierced through, scattering the miasmic flames.

Pyra took form before the now kneeling mage, golden streaks of lightning engulfing her entire body, markings of gold flowing through her skin like tattoos. Her armour previously common iron and dark grey in colour, now pitch black with the runic tattoos flowing through it as well.

The necromancer chuckled coldly, his eyes were blacked out as violet energy pulsed within his veins.

Fool, this is the price of hell, body and soul you’ve sold to the Devil.” Pyra said, “And for what? For a brotherhood who care not for their own, for a creed of maniacs who lack any sort of morality. Tell me traitor, I set you under trial before our lord’s mercy, I shall be your judge and jury. My fist, your executioner.

Pyra grabbed the dark elf by his throat, her gauntlet larger than even his head. She held him up, raising him off the ground. “What say you!?” She asked with fury in her eyes.

But the necromancer only laughed further, “We made the pact…There is no return! There is no hiding! There is…No…Escape! Custom Magic; The Pact!” he chanted, laughing maniacally as the violet energy that flowed through his veins suddenly flared all over his body, his eyes shining out with rays of violet light that then escaped his mouth, ears and nose too.

Pyra’s eyes widened as she slammed the man to the ground, kneeling before him as he choked under her clenched fists. “Lord grant me the strength!” She chanted with urgency, as the golden light flowed out from her armour and skin, down into her gauntlets before forming at her finger tips. “Empower my hand to become your shield! Infuse my body to become your armour! Xilfir Text; Erikathyr; Moon Barrier!” Pyra screamed as her body blurred, golden energy flowing out of herself and into the laughing necromancer beneath her.

No you wont! This city is under my protection! I’ll die before I let you destroy it!” Pyra exclaimed, sinking the man deeper into the dirt as the ground around them seemed to lose its gravity, stones and chunks of earth floating up into the air around them.

Pyra screamed as she felt her body being torn apart, golden energy flowing out of her and into the necromancer. A dark violet miasma flowing out of the necromancer and into her own body.

The dark energy of hell filled her, burning agony flooding every surface of her body as she resisted the cultist’s suicidal spell.

But it was too much.

The miasma was too much for even her to handle.

She felt her mana reaching its limit, she felt her soul suddenly closing up to her connection with Erikathyr. She couldn’t ask for more strength from their bond, she had already taken too much upon herself.

And it was too late, the other xilfir were too far and wouldn’t make it in time. (“Don’t come, leave immediately.”) she ordered them through their common bond.

The city would be saved, her comrades would survive the minor blast that would occur. She was sure of that much.

She was also sure, this was the last night she would walk with the living.

(“I regret nothing”) She thought, making peace with herself as the miasma approached her mind.

Screaming in agony all the while as she shut her eyes, Pyra then felt her thoughts separate from her body. (“I am Xilfir. For this world’s survival. For master Erikathyr’s resolve I harden my own. This life I give in sacrifice!”)

She prepared herself for the void that was sure to follow her death.

Heaven was out of reach for her actions. She was sure.

Hell was only assured to her people.

Yet death, did not come.

Pyra was confused as she felt her mind reconnect with her body, the agony that briefly resurfaced was quickly fading away. The miasma that filled her body flowed out, gushing out of her, as if something was forcing it out.

Until she felt empty, void of energy as she opened her eyes.

Pyra glanced over the ash beneath her unclenching hands, the necromancer’s burnt remains falling off her gauntlets as she moved.

Hm, I presumed the leader to be strong but I never thought they’d be a Pact priest. To use such magic…” Said a voice from ahead of her. Pyra looked up, meeting Kai’s glowing eyes. Ice blue shimmering within his left, golden light surging within his right. “Putting aside all the confrontations between your people and my association of adventurers. It seems we stand on the same side at the moment, and I’m afraid this world will need all the help it can get its hands on.

He smiled, an empty smirk beneath his calculative gaze. “Even if that aid is murderers and thieves.

Y-You…saved me?” Pyra asked with wide surprised eyes.

Kai nodded.

You? A half-blood? Saving me?” Pyra repeated in disbelief.

Kai rolled his eyes, “Yes fool.

A-And I’m going to have to live with that on my conscience?” Pyra mumbled, glancing down at the ash before looking back up at Kai. “Have mercy and kill me.

Kai sighed while turning away, “You’re delusional from mana exhaustion, it’ll pass.” he said as he walked away, “I’d rather not have that xilfir bounty on my head anyway.

Pyra grimaced in annoyance, she wasn’t joking although she did feel dizzy. She watched the adventurer’s guild master walk off into the forest, a mystery that man was, even to the xilfir. All they knew about him was his parentage. Which in of itself was a tightly held secret.

(“Kai Voltair, Son of Alan the immortal and a Dark Elf mother…”) Pyra mused as she struggled into standing up, several dreadblades fading into existence before her right then.

Three of them kneeling beneath her tired gaze.

The target is secured. The enemy has fallen, we have several prisoners.” One reported.

Free the prisoners, follow them to their hideouts.” Pyra ordered, pausing to take a deep breath and gather herself. “Once there, kill them and all inside. Collect anything potentially useful, then burn it all down.

The one xilfir nodded before dissipating into the night.

You, contact priestess Makaela’s unit and report this event.” Pyra told another, the dark elf also nodding before disappearing.

She then turned to the last one, “Take me to where Kayle Selene is. We have much to talk about…

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