Chapter 495: For Clypeus
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Chapter 495: For Clypeus

 

  …Hollow Shade… Commoner District…

 

  Nora Azol narrowed her eyes and smiled coldly, “I found you, murderer.”

  “Is that so…?” Nokti circled the young woman, eyeing her up and down. 

  “I had heard the rumors that the warlord’s right-hand was alive, but I wasn’t certain it was really you. I thought Stryg had torn your throat out.”

  The memory of that blue demon’s claws shredding through her Yellow protective scales and tearing into her neck flashed vividly in Nokti’s mind. “Have we met?” she asked cautiously.

  “Of course, you wouldn’t remember me,” Nora snarled. “We were just another group of bodies in your long campaign of war. But we weren’t warriors, we were students!”

  “Students?” Nokti furrowed her brow. Why did that sound familiar—?

  “I was there, at Widow’s Creek!”

  “So you were one of those kids,” Nokti muttered in confirmation.

  Nora glared at her. “And you’re the one who intervened in your precious warlord’s duel, you backstabbing bitch.”

  “My duty was to protect my warlord’s life at any cost. I am not ashamed of what I did. Wait—” Nokti cocked her head to the side and smirked. “Don’t tell me, was that vampire boy someone important to you?”

  Blue mana flared in Nora’s veins. Water formed around her arms and formed long-winding whips.

  Water materialization? Nokti looked on, surprised. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

  “I’ll kill you!” Nora’s water whips lashed out. Black tendrils emerged from Nokti’s shadow in a flash and blocked the whips with deft precision, outmaneuvering every attack the blue mage made.

  With a flick of her wrist, Notki channeled Yellow and blasted Nora away with a powerful gust. The small woman yelped and crashed into the ground, rolling several times before stopping.

  “You know, I’m starting to remember that night. There was a pathetic girl that couldn’t stop crying until the blue one ‘silenced’ her,” Nokti made a gesture of her hand, open flat palm, chopping the back of her neck.

  Nora glared at the vampiress. She really is a high-master. Nokti was still covered in Yellow protective scales, but she had no problem casting a shadow and wind spell at the same time. Then there was the sheer fluidity of her shadow spell. Nora hadn’t been able to get a single strike in.

  Torrent spells won’t be enough, Nora thought.

  “Come on, now, surely you’ve grown stronger ever since that night. Or are you still just a coward who will run away given the first chance?” Nokti taunted. “Aren’t you here to kill me, a ‘murderer’? Don’t you want to avenge your precious vampire boy?”

  Nora scowled at her with a spite-filled gaze. Electricity crackled at her fingertips.

  Good, Nokti thought, pleased. An angry mage was an unfocused mage. Spellcasting required a focused will, especially storm magic. One single mistake and a storm spell could easily backfire.

  The electricity flared over Nora’s trembling arms.

  Yes, there it is! Nokti smiled triumphantly.

  Nora glared and raised her arms, hands outstretched.

  Wait, what is she—? “Shit!” Nokti jumped to the side, narrowingly dodging a bolt of lightning.

  Nora diffused the electricity across her fingers and cast again. This time the lightning scattered across the street. There was nowhere to run. Nokti covered her face with her arms and was flung back into a wall from the web of lightning.

  The vampiress grunted in pain. Smoke arose from her armor, but the protective scales had held.

  Nora smiled shakily at the sight. Even if her spell had been diffused, storm magic was the most destructive of the spell forms. The barbarian should have still been hurt at least somewhat. The protective scales of a high-master were more durable than she had imagined.

  I’ll need to concentrate my power, Nora thought grimly.

  Nokti dusted herself off with an angry laugh. “You have incredible spell control. I didn’t think I’d ever meet a master so young in this stagnant, sorry excuse of a city. Impressive.”

  “Fuck you.” Nora poured her mana into a single spell weave and fired a powerful beam of lightning. The air ruptured in a deafening crack.

  Nokti condensed her mana into the protective scales in her right hand. The scales flared with power as she blocked the jagged pillar of scorching energy. Lightning crackled across her scales, spreading in glowing veins all around her. Nokti clenched her jaw and was slowly pushed back. 

  The lightning screeched to an end, but Nokti remained standing, her yellow scales untouched. She slowly clenched her right hand into a fist, smoke rising between her fingers. She turned to a stunned Nora with a deadly gaze and hissed.

  Nora immediately turned around and sprinted away. 

  “Run, little human,” Nokti chuckled under her breath and chased after her. The vampiress’ legs kicked off the ground with each step, quickly closing the distance.

  Nora turned the corner and ran desperately down the dark street. The glow of burning homes in the distance was the only light. She glanced back and gasped in fear when she saw two scarlet eyes right behind her. Nora tripped over her own feet and fell to the ground in a painful heap.

  Nokti hefted her two-handed ax and swung. A blue glint and yellow sparks flashed in the dark. Nokti reeled back and fell on her bottom. Pain blossomed in her left shoulder. She slowly looked down and noticed an arrow protruding from her shoulder.  It had somehow pierced through her protective scales.

  She’d been hit, but from where? There was no one around. Nokti grimaced and plucked the arrow out. The arrowhead was made of a metal with a strange swirling pattern, enchanted steel. It gave off a faint blue glue glow. Arcane sigils had been carved into the steel. A small magestone had been embedded at the base of the arrowhead.

  This was more than some enchanted arrow. These were carefully forged, designed, and enchanted. A single arrow like this would have taken weeks to make. They were incredibly expensive and time-consuming to create.

  Where in all the bloody Realms did this come from? Nokti wondered, a chill creeping up her spine. The crackling of lighting caught her attention. Glancing up, she saw the human girl smirking maliciously, lightning flowing through her hands. 

  This was her plan all along! Nokti looked around anxiously for the assassin. The girl had wanted to be chased. She had lured her here.

  Nokti tossed the arrow to the ground. “You think an arrow can kill me!?” she growled.

  “How about this?” Nora hurled the ball of lightning.

  Nokti charged her scales with more Yellow mana and threw her arms up to block. Needles of pain shot up her left shoulder and she flinched. The lightning splashed over her, blue tendrils burning her scales. The sound of lightning roaring in her ears was deafening. The bright glow blinded her.

  A sharp pain stabbed Nokti’s right thigh. She cried out in pain and fell to one knee. The lightning dissipated and her world grew dark once more. Nokti stared down at her thigh and saw another arrow protruding right through the muscle. It had pierced through her protective scales again, even after she had reinforced them.

  Her warm brown skin was covered in cold sweat. Nora was already forming another storm spell. Nokti hissed at her and channeled Black. Her shadow darkened and exploded, covering the entire block.

  “Shit!” Nora cursed and released the storm spell. She quickly formed a torrent weave and a protective dome of water emerged around her.

  Nokti took a deep slow breath. She needed to finish this quickly, a shadow dome of this size would drain her Black mana reserves very soon. Her hands were slick with her own blood, she could feel the warm liquid seeping into her clothes. She was losing too much blood, if she didn’t patch herself up she wouldn’t be cast any spell at all.

  Using what little Black mana she still had, she formed another weave into her eyes. The mana flowed into her irises and bestowed her ‘dark vision.’ She spotted the human girl hiding in her watery shield not far from her. It didn’t matter. Nokti ignored the girl and quickly searched the area for the real threat.

  All the buildings on the street were single-story, except for a garrison at the end of the street. The four-story garrison seemed to have been emptied, the soldiers were most likely stationed at the wall or one of the four gates. Nokti’s eyes flitted through the dark empty windows. A small glint of blue in one of the fourth-story windowsills caught her sight.

  There you are. Nokti smiled viciously. She broke off the arrow lodged in her thigh and staggered to her feet. She released her protective spell and the scale crumbled into yellow dust. Yellow mana flowed around her, manipulating the wind and forming a powerful gust beneath her. She soared into the air and flew straight towards the garrison.

 

~~~

 

  In the dark alcove of the garrison, Kegrog sat crouched patiently. His amber eyes were focused, his red fingertips holding the enchanted arrow over his bow. Brown mana flowed through his arms, covering his skin in a thin metallic bronze sheen. The dome of shadows had abruptly formed before he had gotten a chance to fire the 3rd arrow.

  He kept his eyes peeled, searching the corners of the black dome. The moment he’d spot her making a run for it he’d shoot her in the heart. This time he wouldn’t miss, he’d make sure of it.

  The vampiress suddenly burst from the darkness like a bird, soaring straight at him. He jumped back in surprise as she flew right through the window.

  “Hello, big boy,” Nokti grinned.

  Kegrog didn’t hesitate. He notched his arrow, aimed at her, and fired. Shadow tendrils snapped out from her wrist and knocked his bow away mid-fire. The arrow missed her and tore through the wall behind.

  Kegrog drew his dagger. Brown mana surged through his body, strengthening his muscles. He shouted a war chant and charged at Nokti. She looked at him pathetically and blasted him away with a powerful burst of wind. He slammed into the wall and fell with a heavy thud. 

  “Ugh,” Kegrog groaned and spat a glob of blood and spit on the ground. He wiped the blood off his mouth and glared at her with deadly determination.

  Nokti licked her lips, smiled, and stalked towards him.

 

~~~

 

  The shadow dome slowly fell apart in tatters, like black tapestries falling from the ceiling. Nora looked around anxiously, searching for the vampiress, but she was gone. 

  Had she run away?

  A crash in the distance echoed in the empty street. She turned to the direction of the source, the garrison.

  She gasped in horrid realization. “Kegrog!”

  The water dome splashed to the ground around her and she sprinted to the garrison.

 

~~~

 

  Nora ran up the stairs with desperate breath and burst through the door. “Kegrog!” she yelled.

  Her friend was lying on the ground, the collar of his shirt stained red. Nokti stood over him, her mouth covered in blood.

  “No… No!” Nora cried.

  Nokti turned to her and licked the blood off her lips. “You know, orc blood is too sweet for my taste. I much prefer humans.”

  “DIE!” Nora screamed and flooded her arms with Blue. Lightning surged across her body, her veins glowing with energy.

  Without warning, black shadows gripped her ankles and pulled her feet from underneath her. Nora yelped in surprise and fell back, hitting her head. She lost focus and the spell weaves crumbled. The lightning forked out and scraped across the room, burning the walls, floor, and ceiling. Nora spasmed as her body was hit with the backlash.

  “You’re strong,” Nokti noted and picked up her ax with her good arm. “But you lack true control. Even with all that power, it means nothing if you can’t anticipate your opponent.” 

  Nora’s head lolled to the side. She looked around, dazed. The world was a blur. Nokti dragged the ax across the floor and made her way over. The few protective scales left over her skin were cracked and falling apart. Her shoulder and thigh kept dripping blood. Her breath was ragged with exhaustion, but her scarlet eyes were filled with burning rage.

  “I admired that vampire boy,” Nokti recounted. “He was skillful and brave. Marek foolishly underestimated him and that blue demon. There was a chance they’d actually overwhelm Marek. I couldn’t take that chance. So I did what was necessary. I struck that vampire down with my ax.”

  Nora groaned and tried to get up, but her limbs were sluggish and she barely managed to get on all four.

  Nokti stood over her and kicked her down. “I do not blame you for seeking revenge, in fact, I respect it. We all do what we must.”

  Nora moaned weakly as she saw Nokti raise the ax. All she could think of was the smile of her baby boy and the sound of his laughter. “Kamilo,” she whimpered.

  “AHHHH!” Kegrog appeared behind Nokti and wrapped her in a bear hug.

  “Get off me!” Nokti dropped her ax and thrashed around.

  But Kegrog’s grip did not budge. Brown vigor magic surged through his body. He squeezed tightly. Nokti howled in pain as her remaining scales cracked and crumbled apart. She channeled Black and summoned shadow tendrils to rip his arms away. He gritted his teeth and held on, and slowly walked backwards.

  Nora struggled to her feet. “Kegrog,” she called out weakly.

  He glanced at Nora and nodded with a small strained smile.

  Nora’s eyes widened, “No, don’t—!”

  “For Clypeus!” he roared and jumped out the window with Nokti in his grip. She screamed in terror and disappeared off the ledge.

 

~~~

 

  Pain radiated across Nokti’s entire body. She clenched her jaw with determination and used her good arm to drag herself across the cobblestone, away from the body of that damned orc.

  She needed to get up, she needed to regroup with her battalion. But her right leg had lost all feeling and her left ankle was twisted in the wrong direction.

  The front door of the garrison swung open and Nora emerged from the darkness. Her movements were sluggish and she swayed from side to side, but she put one foot in front of another, and kept walking. The sound of metal grating on the ground echoed loudly in the air.

  Nokti turned and saw Nora dragging her ax across the cobblestone. The vampiress’ eyes widened in despair. “No… no, no!” she gritted her teeth and tried to stand.

  Nora reached and stared down at her with cold blue eyes. “For Kegrog.” She swung the ax down and cut off her foot at the ankle.

  Nokti screamed and collapsed. “Stop!” she held her hand out, in a futile warding.

  “For Clypeus.” Nora swung the ax down and cleaved her hand down the middle.

  “GAAAAGH!” Nokti thrashed on the ground and held her wrist as it gushed blood. “My lord, save me! Smite her!” she shrieked frantically. 

  “For my classmates, for my professors, for the caravaneers… for all the lives lost at Widow’s Crag!”

  “CALIGO!!”

  “Die!” Nora screamed and swung the ax down over and over. Nokti’s screams died out, but Nora didn’t stop until the ax got lodged in Notki’s ribs.

  Nora panted heavily and pried her fingers off the ax. She fell to the ground and cried, her voice raw with bitter catharsis.

  A weak groan sounded behind her. Nora spun around, “Kegrog!” She scrambled over to him.

  A long gash ran across his shoulder from where the vampiress had torn into him with her fangs. Blood dripped from his forehead and various gashes and scrapes across his body. Nora placed her ear over his chest. It was faint, but there was a heartbeat.

  She gasped and fresh tears welled up in her eyes. “Hold on, my friend. Hold on. I’m going to get you help.” She threw his arm over her small shoulders and slowly stood to her feet, but she collapsed immediately from the weight.

  “No… no…” Nora bit her lip. She wasn’t going to let him die, not now. She channeled what little Blue mana she had left and wrapped a narrow water whip around his torso.

  “Stay with me, Kegrog. Freya… she… We’re going to see her. She’s probably at the medical encampment waiting for us right now.” Nora smiled weakly, “She’ll kill me if you die, so please, please,” her voice broke, “don’t die.”

 

 

 

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