Chapter 490: Children of Noir Part 2
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Chapter 490: Children of Noir Part 2

 

  …Hollow Shade… Western Wall…

 

  Blue flames lit the darkness in short bright bursts. Elzri and his sister, Una, battle the dragonbane Oshnyr atop the wall, slowly pushing the creature back, though they were struggling to deal any permanent damage.

  Meanwhile, Unalla quietly watched Loh, Maximus, and the rest of the soldiers attack a second dragonbane that was climbing up the wall to no avail. The monster’s physiology was impervious to every attack, even her mother and uncle were unable to burn the first dragonbane to ash. 

  Making up her mind, Unalla picked up Votum and dragged the giant sword across the wall right to the very edge. A few soldiers caught sight of her and stopped, puzzled by the sight of a girl hauling around a sword almost as large as she.

  Unalla paid them no mind. “Heed my call… Votum,” she whispered. The orichalcum sword hummed with power, growing lighter. She lifted Votum in front of her.

  Una spotted her daughter from the corner of her and frowned incredulously. “Unalla! What are you—!?”

  “Cousin, cover me!” Unalla said without glancing at Loh, then she leaned forward and stepped off the ledge. For a moment, she was weightless, free from gravity, and as it took her, she leaned into the fall, placed her feet on the wall, and kicked off it. Using her descending momentum, she dashed down the wall straight at the dragonbane Eldrak.

  The void creature saw the small figure charging down at him and he curled his snout and lips back in a hungry smile. His tail swayed behind him and it pulled back to strike, stinger glistening with a clear liquid. Maximus hurled a javelin with silent precision. The projectile flew true and stabbed Eldrak’s eye. The javelin glanced off the black sclera, the metal tip chipping on hit. Eldrak flinched in surprise, his tail stiffening in mid-strike.

  Swiveling past the outstretched tail, Unalla shouted a warcry and swung Votum in a large downwards arc. The blade sliced cleanly through the thick corded muscles of Eldrak, spewing ichor into the air. The dragonbane shrieked in pain, releasing its grip on the wall, and tumbled down. Arms flailing about, his claws reached for Unalla plummeting beside him. Shadow tendrils in the shape of a hand shot out from the wall and snatched Unalla’s waist and pulled her up. 

  She jerked at the sudden pull and coughed as the wind was knocked out of her. Her grip slipped and Votum dropped to the ground, dozens of meters below. Eldrak crashed into the cobblestone in a plume of dust and shattered rock.

  Unalla landed safely atop the ledge, next to Loh. The shadow tendrils faded away at Loh’s command. The soldiers cheered at the cousins’ victory.

  Loh grabbed Unalla’s shoulder and shook her carefully, “Are you alright?!”

  Unalla stared at the faint silhouette of the dragonbane amidst the cloud of dust. She clicked her tongue and frowned. “I was aiming for its head…”

  “Unalla!” Loh pressed.

  “I’m fine,” she answered, then glanced at her with a small grin, “Thanks for covering me.”

  She sighed, relieved. “Next time just tell me before you jump off the wall.”

  “Understood.” Unalla turned to the centaur standing next to them, his imposing height looming over every soldier there. “Thank you, Maximus, your shot was perfectly timed.”

  Maximus inclined his head, “I try.”

  Unalla laughed at that, but her laughter was cut short as the sound of scuffling resounded below. They all rushed to the edge and glanced down.

  The dragonbane was standing back up. His wounds from his battle with Holo still decorated his body, but no new wounds had appeared despite the fall, not even a scratch, save for the deep gash on his neck. 

  Eldrak held his neck with his paw-like hand, keeping the black ichor from leaking, while the wound sealed itself.

  “You really managed to injure it,” Loh muttered in surprise.

  “Not enough,” Unalla replied grimly. She stretched her hand out from the ledge, “Heed my call, Votum.”

  The giant sword flew off the ground in a twirling spin and landed in her hand in the blink of an eye. The soldiers and Maximus backed off in surprise. 

  Loh thoughtfully stared at the black glass-like blade. “That sword… orichalcum, right?”

  Unalla nodded faintly.

  Loh glanced back at the wounds covering Eldrak. Lady Holo had an orichalcum weapon too. A scythe… Lyrae.

  The wounds given by Holo weren’t healing, including the dragonbane’s missing right wing. Whereas the neck injury was slowly healing, still, there was no doubt Votum had been responsible for delivering their first true blow against the dragonbanes.

  Loh glanced at Unalla. We can kill them, with that sword of hers we can actually do it.

  Eldrak stared up at Votum and growled.

  He realizes it too.

  The ichor stopped flowing from his neck. Eldrak leaped back onto the wall, sending tremors up to the battlements. The soldiers shouted in a panic and some stumbled. Loh’s injured leg gave out underneath her and she fell towards the ledge, but Maximus caught her and pulled her back up.

  “Thanks,” she said gratefully.

  Maximus nodded without a word.

  A few dozen paces away, Una and Elzri fought off Oshnyr, their azure flames slowly burning its flesh. Una jumped away for a moment and shouted back at them, “Dammit! Unalla, Elohnoir! Get away from here, run, NOW!” Without waiting for a reply, she ran back into the fray with her brother.

  Unalla and Loh stared at Eldrak, scaling the wall towards them. 

  “You can hurt it, it knows that now,” Loh said quietly.

  “Yeah,” Unalla replied.

  “It won’t stop until it kills you.”

  “Yeah.”

  “We should listen to your mother and retreat to the north gate where your father’s at.”

  “...Yeah.”

  “But.” Loh clenched her fists, “If we leave—”

  “My mom and Uncle can’t fight them both off.”

  Loh recalled the duel between her cousin and Stryg back at Undergrowth’s tournament. “How long can you hold out before you can’t bear the pain of that sword?”

  Unalla smiled bravely at her, but she could already see the pain in her expression. “My body will give out long before my will.”

  “Is that so?” she replied wryly.

  Unalla didn’t respond and walked back to the ledge. “I’m jumping.”

  Loh stared at her back. “Soldiers! Ready your bows!”

 

~~~

 

  …Between the Southern and Western Gates…The Molten Breach…

 

  The red-hot magestone was flowing down the sides of the breached wall in cascades of lava. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd divisions of the valley armies marched to the molten breach, weapons at the ready, voices strong with battle-hungry excitement.

  As they neared, Nokti stared up at the towering walls on each side of her, the lava magestone still flowing hot from dragonbanes’ flames. The once impenetrable ebon wall, the might and pride of Hollow Shade, had been destroyed.

  Notki smirked to herself, how their people must cower in their homes now.

  Her Master, Caligo, had told her the magestone would have cooled down by the time they had arrived, though only the bottom, where the mage stone pooled, seemed to have reverted to its usual cold transparent form. She supposed they had rushed here too quickly.

  “We’re making good time,” she muttered.

  “Not good enough,” said Marek walking up beside her.

  “Lord Marek,” she bowed somewhat stiffly. Her Master had entrusted her with the 1st and 2nd divisions, so when she saw the 3rd marching up beside them she had guessed it was the warlord himself.

  Marek ignored her gaze and pointed to the darkness beyond the molten breach, “The enemy is waiting for us,” 

  Hundreds of dark silhouettes in a half-circle barricaded the breach. A wall of men and women, ready to fight off the invaders. Though Marek’s human eyes could not see more than silhouettes, Nokti’s vampiric vision could make out the faces and expressions within the darkness. 

  These were not the eyes of brave soldiers, no. The trembling. The sweat-covered skin. 

  Nokti’s lips curled in a grin. 

  These eyes were the eyes of cowards.

  “They will fall like their precious wall,” said Nokti in satisfaction. She raised her hand, signaling her soldiers to stop about a hundred paces from the breach. 

  The soldiers halted their march and waited for her command.

  Marek grabbed his orichalcum spear from his back and gripped it tight. He wasn’t certain before, but now there was no doubt, he could feel the faint energy humming within the weapon as if the weapon was stirring awake for the first time in millennia. Dawn had told him of the signs; the time when the spear would finally reveal its name to him.

  How ironic, he thought bitterly. He had needed the power of the spear to change his fate, the fate of Dawn and her twin brother Vaughn. To change Notki’s fate…

  But it was only at the end, when everything that mattered to him was lost, did the spear choose to acknowledge him.

  “Marek, are you alright,” Nokti said softly.

  He glared at her. “Oh, now you suddenly care if I’m alright? Right before we charge into battle?”

  She bit her lip. “Marek…” 

  “What?” he snapped.

  “...I never stopped caring about you,” she admitted.

  “Really?” he laughed coldly. “Did you care about me when you were fucking that beloved master of yours?”

  Nokti frowned, “We never had sex.”

  “What?”

  “He —if they even are a he— is a god. I don’t think my Master has any interest in sexual matters, at least not with me.”

  “But…” Marek shook his head, “You slept in the same tent. Many times!”

  “Yeah, we slept. That’s it.”

  “But he made me think—” Marek clenched his jaw. “That fucking bastard! Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

  “It was your punishment. After what happened at Widow’s Crag. He wanted to take away what was most precious to you.” She smiled weakly, “Me.”

  “And yet you still went along with him?”

  “I was at death’s door. He gave me a second chance. He showed me things I never thought possible, you have no idea. I am forever grateful to my Master. I will follow him until the day I die.”

  “Do you— Do you love him?”

  “I am devoted to him, body and soul. So yes,” she admitted. “But not in the way I loved you.”

  “Heh… I see. None of that matters anymore,” he said tiredly and walked towards the breach.

  “Marek, wait—!” she called out.

  He stopped and glanced back at her, “You waited this long to tell me any of this… Why now?” 

  “Because—” she glanced at Alessandra Helene’s head, hanging from a banner at the front of her soldiers. “I’m worried that you’re going to do something stupid, right when we’re so close to the end.”

  “I’m only here to do one thing; end the line of the Great House of Helene.”

  “But the nobles are no doubt hiding in the Villa District, that’s near the center of the city. Lord Caligo gave me explicit orders to destroy the barracks lining the western wall, and then attack the medical encampments behind the northern gate. I cannot spare my warriors to charge blindly all the way into the Villa District.”

  “No need, I have enough warriors of my own,” Marek raised his hand and gave the signal. The 3rd division shouted in acknowledgment and charged the molten gate.

 

 

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