Chapter 9 - Visit to a Priestess
A Shadowkind is a creature of darkness. During the day, they look like people, they act like people, but their hearts are black. No matter what they do or how they treat you, even if they offer you friendship or save your life, always remember - Don’t believe a Shadowkind’s tricks.
- From The Memoirs of Lord Mathusaleh, 800 years ago
I’d never been much for reading or history, but somehow I recalled this passage as the night fell for the first time in my new body.
My skin grew dark and grey. My hair turned pitch black. My ears grew larger and black fur sprouted on them, and I felt my canines elongate and grow sharp in my mouth. My eyes changed from blue to golden and shone in the dark like a cat’s. My vision seemed to change as the world became less saturated. I could see better in the dark, but in contrast direct light from fire hurt my eyes.
The process was uncomfortable, but not painful. The colour of my skin was the first to change, beginning right when the sun dipped below the horizon. When the light from the sun had completely vanished, the rest of the changes only took a minute to come through.
All in all, my actual body did not change that much in shape. Aside from the ears the appearance changes of night form was basically a palette swap.
What surprised me was how alive I felt! Despite having had a long and exhausting day, as the night fell I became energetic and restless. I felt more impatient and emotional. It was as if my body ‘woke up’ after the sun set.
But I was still me, thankfully. I could still think clearly, I didn’t gain any evil thoughts or desires. Was this the benefit of being a reincarnator? Or maybe I just hadn’t spent enough time in the body to experience their bestial instincts and tendencies.
I pulled the cloak I had picked up out of my pocket dimension and wrapped it around my shoulders. Then I took off into the night.
Grace Village was a half day’s journey away from the Treace, the capital city. I reached it in the late afternoon on the next day, taking shelter in the shadow underneath a merchant’s cart where I rested during the late night and morning.
The village was built alongside a river and was surrounded by endless fields of wheat. Although it was primarily a farming village, it was also known for its production of charms. This was solely due to the fact that the famous adventurer Yylisie lived and worked there.
Yylisie was an S-Prestige Priestess and an A-Prestige Engraver. Priestess was a female-only support class that specialized in ward and protective magic, and Yylisie was well reknowned for being one of the best ones in the world. This was partially due to her proficiency as an Engraver, which allowed her to make charms imbued with her Priestess magic.
The village had a small, selective school of magic where Yylisie taught the art of engraving. It sat in a curve of the river, a smooth white circular building with three stories and a red clay shingled roof. I sat in the cafe on the other side of the road, discreetly scoping out the premises. It had a well maintained garden in the front full of flowers and manicured hedges. One side of the building was covered in vines and had a large cherry tree growing directly out of it.
The building was open and inviting, but I knew that the grounds were protected by all sorts of magical wards. If I tried to infiltrate into it as a shadow I would likely find myself captured before I made it halfway through the garden. No, the easiest way would be to just walk in through the front door in a disguise.
As I watched the students stream in and out of the doors, I noticed that they were all wearing white robes with blue ribbons.
Since I had the body of a young girl, wearing one of those robes would let me blend right in to the rest of them. Then once I was inside I could shadowmeld, since it was highly unlikely that there were wards inside the building. The question was, where could I get a robe.
I scanned the robes with my tailor’s eyes. The robes were fairly simple in construction, though there was some embroidery and accents. Using my tailor skills I could probably put an exact replica together in an hour.
Screw that! Like I was ever going to sew something together.
It was mid-afternoon when I finally spotted the familiar, petite form of the Priestess. She was dressed in the same white robes as her students, though with a light blue sash that indicated her rank. She had childish features, light blue hair in a long, loose braid. If not for her sash and fame, she could have easily been mistaken for one of the other students.
She took a walk through the garden, talking with several of her students, then gave a class in an open area on the grass. After the class was finished she re-entered the school.
I waited patiently, pretending to read one of the books lying around the cafe for customers. Yylisie was a person who liked her routine, so I knew that she was not likely to go anywhere. She’d most likely stay late in the school, studying or practicing her magic.
When the sun began to wane in the sky, the students began leaving the building as the last classes for the day finished. I went for a stroll along the river bank, never losing sight of the school grounds, just in case Yylisie decided to leave. A flicker of lantern light in one of the rooms on the third floor lit up the window, and I could see Yylisie pacing around while reading a book.
My body changed once again into the Shadowkind’s dark form as night fell. I stayed out of sight, waiting for the rush of energy to buzz through my body, when my powers as a Shadowed would be strongest. My eyes were the last to change as the darkened streets lit up in my night vision, brightening as if it were day time.
I approached the school carefully from the riverbank. I knew that Yylisie had set up numerous wards to protect the school from intruders. Some of them were alarms that would ring out loudly, some were traps that would paralyze the trespasser. There were various wards that watched out for different types of magic - shadow, dark, invisibility, teleport.
These wards took energy and effort to maintain, and they couldn’t be placed too close to one another or the magic would cancel out. This meant that wards were most effective if they were placed intelligently in places that the intruders were either unable to avoid, or wouldn’t expect.
As a Shadowed with an intimate experience with Yylisie’s wards, bypassing these defenses was simple. I slipped in through an open window into a darkened room on the second floor and quietly made my way to the room on the third floor. The school was empty and quiet. In a few minutes I was standing outside the room.
I melded into the shadows and slipped under the door.
The room was a mix between a study and a workshop. Half of the room was filled with shelves of books, while the other half had work benches, tools and numerous half-finished items. Yylisie was sitting at one of the work benches engraving a piece of metal underneath a magnifying glass. The only light in the room came from a lamp on the workbench, leaving most of the room in darkness.
She was so immersed in her work that she didn’t notice when I materialized out of the shadows across the table from her. I stepped forward into the light, placing my hand on the desk. She froze, a look of surprise on her face as she looked up at me.
“Where are Ezra and Ramp?” I asked.
“Th.. They’re not with you?” She replied with concern. She didn’t seem intimidated or worried by my presence, but she was extremely cautious with her words.
“The mission failed.” I said, playing up the story that had worked with Duke. “I need to find them again.”
“What went wrong?” She asked, “You didn’t make it into the castle?”
A warning went off in my mind as I realized that she was purposefully avoiding my question to test me. Although I expected her to trust me on sight, just like Duke had, I wasn’t surprised by her caution. I didn’t know whether the assassin had told them that he was trying to kill me or swap bodies, so I had to account for both possibilities by being vague.
“I did, but Yuto surprised me with a teleport spell before I could get him.” I said.
The tiniest of frowns tweaked on her face before her expression returned to neutral. Shit, I’d already said something wrong?
Yylisie set down the charm in her hand and started to stand up, “I see. I don’t know where Ramp is, he never tells anyone where he’s going.”
She made a motion like she was casually smoothing out her robe, but with flick of her fingers she activated a charm that was hidden at her waist.
The shadows in the room disintegrated as a dozen bars of light shot down from the ceiling around where I was standing. This was Shrine Maiden’s Level 170 Light Prison. There were no shadows left to merge with as the light emitting from her spells filled the room. I had seen it coming and could have leapt away in the split second before she trapped me, but I didn’t bother as I stood casually in place with a frown.
Without hesitating, Yylisie traced her fingers in the air, muttering a series of short incantations as her blue hair glowed brightly. A shimmering sphere of protection enveloped her body and she pulled back her sleeves as many bracelets of various shapes and colours materialized on her arms. These bracelets were all engraved with various spells that offered protection and utility.
Priestesses and Shrine Maidens were specialists at protective magic, but they did have several powerful offensive spells. However most of their spells required preparation or rituals. The Engraver secondary class allowed Yylisie to do her preparation ahead of time, cutting out the Priestess’ glaring weaknesses. Yylisie was truly a powerhouse.
She had a look of victory in her face as she stepped around the table to face me.
“You’re trapped. There’s nowhere for you to run!”