The eighth and final day of Arum Taum had finally arrived. Two very contrasting moods clashed against each other. Radevic's citizenry, who were at the height of celebration yesterday, were now calm and well-mannered out of respect to Saint Rue, whose journey led to the founding of this great city. They filled the streets, waiting behind a cordone of guards to catch a glimpse of the Grand Eye and her Saint Priests passing by. Others amassed at churches and chapels, praying for better days.
To those who were suspicious of the Rook of Rotandrix, no one was more tense than Kanae and Esta. Right now, Aidenhall was at its most vulnerable without the Saint Priests, all eight of whom walked alongside the Grand Eye from the western entrance of the city. Kanae had her children stay inside the manor today. At least from the windows, they could still see the parade when her grace passed through.
"Ehhh? We really can't go out?" Teana sulked.
"No." Kanae sighed like her own disappointed mother used to. "I let you all play around freely the past seven days. Please, for my sake, stay inside today."
Always the perceptive one, Kanade hugged Kanae's leg. She clutched tightly, refusing to let go.
"I want to come with you," Kanade said to everyone's surprise.
"If Kanade's going, then I'll come with mom, too!" Suvee exclaimed.
"Girls…" Kanae put a hand to her face.
Gretchen picked up the kids and peeled them away. Their outstretched arms made Kanae want to change her mind, but this wasn't a situation to put children in. They were going to be in safe hands with Gretchen and Aisha here. Everything should be fine.
"Is it too much to ask that my mother truly came here to ask for my return? I hope to the Supreme One it's true," Esta said on the way out of the manor.
"Let's just be ready for anything. No way is anything going to happen to the Grand Eye with eight Saint Priests with her. King Turren is at the Royal Stronghold just in case, too. So, just what the hell is Avaline planning?" Kanae muttered to herself.
They stepped out into daylight in time to catch an injured guard, staggering backwards into them.
"We're under attack—"
Esta shoved Kanae away and ducked. A massive warhammer swung just over her head and missed. It smashed through a column instead. With her horns, Esta gored their attacker from below and sent them skidding back. Their assailant was a drakeling. Drakelings. Several had crossed the gate which surrounded the manor with weapons drawn. They were all heavily equipped and bore the same insignia with a dragon's skull of Rotandrix.
"What do you think you're doing, attacking Knights of Colors?" Esta growled, drawing her greatsword and Dragonhead Greatshield.
None of them answered.
"Don't feel like talking? I wonder…" Kanae tried to compel them to answer with charm, but the effects couldn't connect. "Thought so. You took those anti-succubus magic potions."
"Mama!" Teana rushed up to the door along with everyone else in the household.
"Stay inside!" she shouted.
The group of five drakelings fanned out to attack.
Some of them were going to get through. If that happened—
"Bang!" Clones of Renya manifested in front of each drakeling and opened fire.
They were too surprised to defend themselves. The powerful magical blasts knocked the helmets right off of the drakelings. Most of them crumpled to the ground. Esta shield-bashed one, and Kanae pounced on another with her tail to finish the remaining two.
"Renya, thank god!" The tension on Kanae's shoulders vanished.
"No time to relax. We got to move. My contacts in Brighton saw a large number of drakelings slipping into Aidenhall through an eastern sewer grate," Renya explained.
It was actually happening. Avaline von Cleisseldor wasn't here to just ask Estaline, her daughter, to go back to Rotandrix. They were after something else entirely.
"Eastern? Those sewage tunnels lead to the bottommost part of the palace. The dungeons are down there," Gretchen warned.
Kanae and Esta traded looks after coming to the same conclusion.
"They didn't bring thousands of potions for themselves," Kanae said.
"But for the prisoners from Gretchen's rebellion!" Esta concluded what they were all thinking.
"Even now, my sins continue to follow me and bear consequence…" Gretchen's face contorted with distress and shame.
Kanae fished out a teleportation pellet given to her by Eliza yesterday. "You're still atoning for it. Stay here and protect everyone. We're going to Aidenhall."
Esta, Renya, and Kanae dragged the unconscious drakelings into a pile, then activated the enchanted pellet. They teleported to the gargantuan gates of Aidenhall palace. Weary knight guards jumped when they appeared out of nowhere with a drakeling body pile.
"What in the Supreme One's beard?!"
"The Rook of Rotandrix is assaulting Aidenhall. Take arms and be on the lookout!" Esta ordered them.
"You heard, Silver! To arms!" They drew their weapons without question, ready now more than ever to defend their home after the last attack took them by surprise.
On their way to the dungeons, more and more Aidenhall knights joined them. Even students took up arms. They turned the corner and ran right into hundreds of armed prisoners being led by Vander Zolta, the former Knight of Azure.
"Hey, shouldn't you all be serving out the rest of your sentences? Bad behavior will just tack on more years," Renya chided while channeling magic into her flintlocks.
"Our freedom is past these traitors to the empire, brothers and sisters!" Vander rallied the prisoners into a frenzy.
An all-out brawl broke out in the corridor.
Kanae leaped back to avoid a swing from Vander's axe. She tried to place a charm on him, but he shook it off.
The prisoners drank the anti-succubus magic potions. Great…
"Not so tough without your succubus wiles, huh? It just so happens we have a benefactor high up in Ortesia," Vander taunted.
Kanae clamped her tail on the former Knight of Azure's face and flung him all over the place. When his body went limp, she let him go and burped.
"Why do people keep forgetting that I have more than just my succubus powers?" Kanae groaned.
"Master, we don't have time to waste here. I don't see my mother or the Rotandrix dragoons among them!" Esta shouted after bashing a few prisoners into the wall.
Then the prison break was a distraction! But a distraction for what? They wouldn't risk besieging Aidenhall for nothing. Think… Think!
Wait. There was something. Two, in fact, that stuck out to Kanae.
"For whatever reason, Avaline visited Lapis at the Illuminant Repository the other day. Before that, she tried to make some sort of bargain with Minestra and Hilde. I think that's our best bet," Kanae said.
"What does she want with a living sex doll, a demon, and a succubus? There's got to be a bar joke somewhere." Renya blasted a prisoner running up to them with a sword.
"Your guess is as good as mine. It's one or the other, or both. We're going to need to split up. It'll be faster for me to fly to the Illuminant Repository. Esta, Renya. You two check the prison!"
Before Kanae could fly off, a Renya clone grabbed her arm.
"Take me. I can relay anything prime Renya sees," she said.
The four of them split ways. Renya and Esta pushed through the blockade to get to the high-security prison. Meanwhile, Kanae soared over the fighting with a clone of Renya in her arms. She flew out a window and straight to the library in upper Aidenhall.
Its halls were a mess. Scholars and students were buried underneath mountains of tomes. Bookcases were knocked over. Guards helped each other to lift the wounded away.
"What happened here?" Kanae asked.
"It… It happened so fast!" a guard answered spitefully. "Avaline von Cleisseldor and her dragoons came through. I think they were headed to the lab!"
Kanae and the Renya clone made a run for it to the laboratories. The doors had been broken off their hinges and laid flat inside.
"Amethyst!" Eliza shouted from within. She was holding an unconscious Marwin. They were both heavily wounded.
"Where's Avaline? Lapis, too?" Kanae kneeled down and placed a finger to Marwin's wrist. He had a pulse, but it wasn't looking like he would be getting up soon.
"The Rook took her… snatched my teleportation pellet, too… You have to go after them. Before they left, I heard them… talking about the vault. They must be… bringing her to the vault… You understand what that means?"
Lapis' anti-magic would nullify the protective barriers, giving Avaline access to impossibly dangerous magical items inside. The efficient tactician. She intended to checkmate Aidenhall with those things.
"Ah, shit. This is bad." Renya lifted her cap with the barrel of a flintlock. "The drakeling and I made it into the dungeons. Minestra and Hilde are missing. Oh, wait— fuck!"
The clone vanished.
"Renya? Uh, oh." Kanae gulped.
Something serious had to have happened to them if the clone just up and disappeared.
"It's up to us." Eliza rested Marwin on the floor, then popped a healing potion into her mouth.
"Are you sure?" Kanae helped steady the sorceress.
"The Grand Eye and her Saint Priests have a teleportation pellet, but they don't know what's going on. By the time a messenger's reached them, Avaline will have won. We need to do something. I'll be damned to the three hells if Ortesia thinks they can get away with this a second time," she said, climbing onto her flying broom.
They hurried to the vault. Fortunately, the fighting was sparse. It was mostly prisoners who strayed from the main group and were easily subdued. As they neared the vault entrance, Kanae and Eliza grinded to a stop. A lone, blindfolded elven woman with black hair and a small, black spot for eyebrows, spun around to face them.
"Dalu?" Kanae squinted.
Rotandrix dragoons, armed to the teeth, poured out of the vault.
"What are you waiting for, prisoner? Time to earn your place," a male drakeling ordered.
Kanae clicked her tongue. Just as she thought they were about to fight, Dalu'luna Mello dealt an open-palm strike at each drakeling. They fainted and collapsed into a pile, squealing in pain.
"The last time I fought for Ortesia, they left me to the wolves. I'm not going to stop you, but neither am I going to help you fight the Rook of Rotandrix. I'll be in my cell." Dalu walked past them and waved.
"So, why were you here with them?" Eliza asked.
"They needed a guide and threatened me. You can punish me later. Or not. I don't care anymore." She shrugged.
Kanae and Eliza agreed there were more important matters to address. They let Dalu go and descended into the vault depths. Many of the barriers were down, a sign that Lapis had come through, but the magical items within remained on their pedestal. Farther in, a squad of drakelings flanked Avaline, who was holding a struggling Lapis by the neck.
"Avaline!" Kanae boomed. "Let Lapis go!"
"Oh, Amethyst! Elizabeth, too. Sorry for busting into the vault. Stay right there. I just need to pick up one thing, and we'll be on our way," Avaline said casually.
Two dozen drakelings turned to face them. Together, they lifted their helmets and breathed fire down the corridor.
"I don't think so!" Eliza willed the flames into a ball, transforming it into a fire elemental to attack the drakelings.
Avaline pushed her people aside and brandished Lapis like a weapon. The elemental's flames sputtered out and extinguished into itself.
"Guh… Kanae… help!" Lapis pleaded tearfully.
"I'm coming to get you!" Kanae drew Lust, but Avaline dipped behind her wall of drakelings before being struck.
The one hit cried out in pleasure as Lust's effects went through armor and defenses to inflict pleasure directly. However, the disciplined drakeling didn't go down easily like others Kanae had attacked before. Ejaculate oozed past the gaps in his plate armor, but he was still ready to fight.
"I'll stop Avaline. Take them, Kanae!" Eliza polymorphed into a cluster of ravens and slipped past the drakelings.
"If this was an orgy, I might be able to. But it isn't!" Kanae cried.
Left with no choice, a battle ensued in the narrow corridor. Kanae battered the small army of drakelings with her whip. They moaned and squealed in pleasure, but were otherwise undeterred from fighting. A few of them piled onto her to stop the assault.
"Get… off me…" Kanae switched on Futanari.
The giant club of a dick bludgeoned the helmet of a drakeling backwards.
Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk!
"What manner of weaponry is that?" one asked.
"Grab it!" another exclaimed.
They reached for Kanae's dick. The thing was so hard and thick, neither their claws could shred it nor strength could tear it off. One after another, she struck them using Titanic Blow. When she crawled out of the pile of bodies, the other drakelings traded strange looks.
"Get out of my way if you don't want this dick!" Kanae barreled through them, knocking the rest away like a bowling ball striking the pins.
As soon as she caught up, Eliza crashed backwards into Kanae and jolted.
"Am… Amethyst… I'm glad you're happy to see me, but could you put that away?" Eliza asked shakily.
"You defeated them all with your dick? Am I getting too old for war? Oh, well. You're too late anyway," Avaline said, raising Lapis up to the barrier and nullifying it. She tossed the sex automaton back to them.
Kanae's Futanari switched from Lapis' proximity, and Eliza slipped off her dick.
"Are you okay?" Kanae asked, lifting the automaton's head.
"I'm sorry… for being used against you again…" Lapis wept.
"Don't think like that! It's not your fault. Just sit tight, and we're going to make this right."
Avaline entered the vault and picked up what looked like a cross. "Here it is. Ortesia's beloved relic, the One-Eyed Cross."
"Those fools! Why would they want something as cursed as that?" Eliza shouted.
"It's not my place to care or know, only to do as they ask. Though, I have heard it was one of two pieces of a powerful weapon. So… the One-Eyed Cross is actually a crossguard and grip? It must form a sword then," she mumbled to herself.
Kanae and Eliza stepped ahead to confront Avaline, but she faced the wall and blew into a horn.
"That's the Horn of Glentir! Get down!" Eliza pushed Kanae down next to Lapis.
A massive, rippling wave of vibrating energy demolished the wall. Avaline jumped out. Stone and debris came crumbling down. Kanae grabbed her companions and flew out the same hole just as rubble buried the vault. They tumbled out, rolling to a stop in the training fields below.
Kanae tried to get up, but a hard kick to her side sent her rolling again.
"Master!" Esta drew on her mother, but the older drakeling disarmed and overpowered the daughter.
Renya duplicated dozens of clones, only to be frozen Avaline's azure breath of cold before taking form.
"Is it too late to stop fighting? Wanna talk it out like last time?" Renya asked, forgoing the clones and unleashing a barrage of gunfire.
"You talk too much!" Avaline took the blasts in stride, advanced upon Renya, and slugged her across the jaw.
The Rook of Rotandrix was too strong. Her raw strength was immense and keen sense for battle made her all the more deadly.
"I have to give credit where credit is due, Amethyst. Defeating my dragoons is no simple accomplishment. Each one has the strength of twenty Aidenhall knights. This is just from Rotandrix, by the way. Magisters from the Empire of Ortesia are made from tougher stuff though. I'll put you out of your misery. It's in your country's best interest after all," Avaline said, putting her mouth over the Horn of Glentir.
"You're not taking my mom from me!" Kanade snarled, holding the toy sword at Avaline.
Kanae's daughter stood between her and Avaline. It couldn't be. Not now. Not here. Not Arenade's only daughter.
"Kanade… What are you doing here?!" Kanae lifted her head and cried.
The girl shook her head. She planted her feet steadfastly to the ground.
"This is your daughter, is it not? A high elven succubus. I'm finally seeing her in person. The imperial lords lost their shit when they first heard about her. Nice to meet you, brave one. Your mother committed a grave sin— for giving birth to a half-succubus, half-high elf. There's an entire empire that finds you repulsive," Avaline provoked her.
"You can tell them that I find them repulsive. Holy Shock!" Kanade thrusted the toy sword forward.
To the shock of everyone who saw, it glowed and fired out a blast of divine energies, knocking away the Horn of Glentir. Avaline flinched. The spell had taken her by such surprise that she recoiled.
"K-Kanade… you're…?" Kanae was at a loss for words.
"Crowned at birth? As a priest? Ahah… Hahahaha! A succubus priest!" Avaline put a hand over her eyes and laughed heartily. "If the imperial lords went crazy over a high elf succubus, I can't wait to tell them that she was crowned a priest! Sorry, kiddo. You're coming with me—"
Avaline leaped back as two giant death knights dropped to the ground, separating her from getting to Kanade.
"Death knights?" Avaline was on guard now.
There was only one person who could have summoned them. Seeing the giant, hulking undeads left tears in Kanae's eyes, because it could only mean one thing…
"If you lay a single hand on the munchkin… I'll grind your bones to dust and raise your soul to join my undead army!" Edina landed atop the shoulder of one of her death knights.
"Auntie!" Kanade jumped for joy.
"Hey, Kanade. Kanae, too. I'm still a little woozy after being asleep for so long, but… It's good to see you guys again!" The squirreling smiled.
"Who are you?" the Rook of Rotandrix demanded.
A question that Kanae knew all too well how Edina would answer.
"Me?" Edina scoffed. "I'm the greatest mother-fucking necromancer in the world! If you survive after I'm done fucking your scalie ass, you better tell everyone and their grandmas who I am before I fuck them, too!"
Despite those threats, Kanae saw how much it was taking for Edina to even stay conscious. She was still weak, having only recently come back to consciousness. It must have been a godsend then, when a large, swirling portal to Port Kandis opened up behind Avaline.
"No, it seems we're done here. I have what I came for, and the ones holding my leash want me gone. Before I leave, I must make one final declaration— On behalf of the Empire of Ortesia, I, the Rook of Rotandrix, formally declares war on the Commonwealth of Sin and all her vassal states. Tell the Grand Eye that Radevic is not to intervene. Do so at your own peril. With that, I bid you farewell." Avaline bowed and proceeded to the portal.
"Mother!" Esta shouted. "Is this what you want? To be a tool to Ortesia?"
"I told you before, daughter. We're all tools," she said.
Kanae stood up and planted a hand on Esta's shoulder. "You're wrong. Esta made her choice to stay, as well as her choice to become my servant. It's not always about blindly following your master's orders. You should try it sometime."
"If only it were that easy…"
Something was holding Avaline back. Did she truly want to serve the empire? Kanae couldn't be sure, but there was distress in those words.
"I… also have one more thing to tell you before you leave, mother. I thought you should know." Esta faced Avaline with a look of conviction.
"What is it, my daughter?" Avaline gave Esta her full attention by turning around.
"I'm pregnant. I'm holding my master's unborn child," she said.
"WHAT?!" Kanae and Avaline's jaws dropped.
"Your ladyship, we have to go!" Rotandrix dragoons pushed her into the portal.
"W-Wait, if it's a girl you have to keep with tradition by ending it with -line! Do you hear me, Estaline? It's trad—"
They entered the portal and just like that were gone without a trace. Unfortunately, the adrenaline of learning that another child was coming— with war against Ortesia over the horizon— has left Kanae in a deep state of shock.
"I'm going to have another baby sister?" Kanade asked, tugging happily on Kanae's arm.
"Whew. I'm glad that bitch didn't call my bluff." Edina landed gingerly on her feet. "Anyway, damn! What's up with me being gone and you knocking people up? One more time, and it's a pattern!"
"Ugh… I need some time to sort all these confusing feelings out…" Kanae buried her face into both hands and groaned.