Chapter 91: The Raid pt. 2
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Like an angel of wrath, Seyari tore into the room, steps bolstered by her wind magic. Beams of holy light fired from her hands, burning holes through the immense limbs where they struck.

An ear-shattering screech tore through the room and back into the halls. Reflexively, I put two hands to my head. Seyari didn’t so much as stumble, circling the opening, trying to burn away the limbs as more and less humanoid-looking ones began to shove through. The scream split into a keening wail of discordant voices that carried on breathlessly and grated against my consciousness.

Taava, wide-eyed, retreated to the doorway where a grim-faced Salvador had his bow drawn. The tip of his arrow glowed magic, but he surely knew how little it would do against something so massive.

While they were elsewhere in the base currently, Fira’s team would be arriving soon. We were certainly a distraction, but as I looked at the cracks running through the ancient ceiling, I worried this whole place would come down on top of us.

I pulled myself out of the rubble and stood on shaky legs, tail behind to balance me. Seyari glanced at me and I nodded, pushing off the rubble I was stuck in and running full force at the twisted limbs protruding from the tear in space.

Thrusting forward, I drove my spear into the nearest limb with all my strength. The tip bit and sunk in, but I met resistance—my own strength didn’t have as much weight against something that likely had me beat. I poured white-hot fire from my unoccupied hands and seared the intruding limbs. Not all demons were quite so immune to heat as I was.

“Focus on the smaller ones!” Seyari shouted.

I yanked my spear out, narrowly evading a questing limb, and thrust it into an insectoid claw-like appendage, shattering chitin and shoving the twitching limb back through the rift. An arrow from Salvador whizzed above me, striking a tentacle and causing it to coil back. A thrown knife impacted another small limb, then another as Taava, circling, drew two other blades out.

Together, we all did our best to assault the limbs pulling their way through the rift. I thrust and clawed and slammed and tore and burned. The tear wavered, but the more we all hacked, the more appendages were shoved through the rift. It wasn’t long before the shouts and sounds of another group echoed our direction.

“Enchanted weapons and magic can stay!” I heard Fira’s voice from the doorway in. “Everyone else—out!”

A torrent of boiling water surged past and cooked a claw-like limb. Fire from Tren washed past me, and several figures, Drin included, ran forward.

“Keep at it!” Seyari shouted, jumping back out of the fight to the edge of the room. “Stand back when I say!” She started to glow, her voice shifting in timbre and regaining its unnatural echo.

I kept at it with the others, trying my best. My best was only a single demon—a powerful one for sure, but even if I risked burning everyone here, I hadn’t the first clue as to how to close the rift. Without Seyari, we started to be beaten back. The large limbs were almost through to the shoulders, and I could see flashes of what they might be attached to through the mass of roiling magic and flesh.

Seyari gathered power above herself into a blinding orb of light that the limbs seemed to sense, increasing their pushing to a frenetic pace. The energy bathed me in a caustic, familiar warmth, not unlike an over-spiced Navanaean dish. My girlfriend’s eyes began to glow the same bright gold-white hue, solid and narrowed in focus. Strands of silver hair rose around her, each outlined in burning brightness.

Now!” Seyari shouted, voice amplified and echoing.

“Fall back!” Fira shouted right after.

I kicked off a limb and grabbed a company member who’d gotten caught in the tangle on my way out. A quick look showed everyone had gotten clear, and the tear was thrumming, vibrating in the air and seemingly forced open by the demonic horrors of the other side.

And then, the mass of frenzied flesh was impacted by a sun.

The flash burned my eyes, blinding me, and setting my fatigued magic to rectify my mistake of looking at my girlfriend’s most powerful spell. At least, I assumed it was her most powerful.

Could I do something of that magnitude? The thought flitted through my mind for an instant and I latched onto it. Maybe—but of fire and great risk.

The keening screaming from beyond the rift reached a crescendo and, with startling suddenness, cut off. Blinking, I cleared spots from my vision as my hearing returned to shouting and chaos. Someone—Drin—was helping me up. All around us, chunks of the falling ceiling shattered on the cracked floor I could barely make out with my damaged eyes.

“Retreat!” Fira shouted. “Grab Seyari and Zarenna and go. Oh gods it’s coming through!”

Oh no.


Vision clearing, I pulled myself out of Drin’s grip and stood up. In front of me, the tear had closed around several of the largest limbs, charred nearly to bone. Those charred limbs weren’t still; they were writhing.

And with their frenzied motions, as flesh and muscle started to regrow, the tear pulled open with a horrifying roar. I threw my magic at the limbs again, burning into them. Stalling them, hoping to see them cut off as the rift finished closing. Fira and the others pulled back further, their last spells and magicked arrows flying into the limbs.

For a moment, whatever demon was trying to pull through stopped. I held my breath and, for the span of a thought, dared to hoped we’d done it.

And then time resumed.

With a roar that shook more of the collapsing ceiling loose, the limbs all surged at once and something massive pulled through. The rift slammed closed soundlessly behind it, crackling the air with dispersing magic.

The demon looked like two and a half people had grown and fused together, and all of them wanted out of the deal. Complete asymmetry was the only way to describe the demon’s form: one head jutted out where a limb maybe should have been and a third head seemed missing from a torso that sported more than enough limbs for it. Crimson skin, spikes, unnatural joints, and bent digits all flexed as the partially burned monstrosity rose up and through the ceiling. The scale of the demon before me was massive.

I stood still, frozen in fear until the first chunk of the roof landed on top of me. Stone cracked over my horns, sending my head ringing, and I stumbled. With a hand and my tail I caught myself and stood up, throwing stone and dirt off myself. Above me, the room started to collapse, and the sound was horrifying: a groaning, cracking, roaring slide of earth and stone and brick and wood undercut by a horrifying roar-screech from the screaming, humanoid heads of the demonic monstrosity.

Its aura looked like a kaleidoscope of all the most aggressive colors—with a hint of pastel yellow that hurt my brain. Is this thing a reaver?

I didn’t have time to think further as a chunk of the city above rushed down to meet us below.

“Out! Run!” Fira had shouted, and my brain just now registered.

I did just that, grabbing the last few stragglers and tossing them back through into the hallway behind a retreating Fira who held an unconscious Seyari. I nodded at them, hopefully slow enough for them to comprehend, and then ran as fast as I could back into the collapsing earth. A last glance at the tunnel showed the others retreating safely—the old stonework holding blessedly well as the exit we’d just parted at was buried.

Debris battered my body on all sides, but I pushed forward and clawed my way up through the dirt and stone toward the keening roar of the demon that Garvin—and by extension all of us—had just unleashed on Lockmoth. Around me, in the compressive darkness of the slide, I heard the first of the human screaming—hardly audible over the crash of a city block collapsing into the hole I was struggling out of. I kicked off stone and brick, clawed through dirt, and used my tail to bat aside crossbeams and chunks of foundation. I headbutted stone aside, ignoring the ringing in my head from my horns breaking through.

The screaming. I was heading through the morass to the screaming. I didn’t reach the first person in time: they were crushed right before my eyes.

Fury. Rage. White hot anger. How dare this insane monstrosity, this other demon of wrath!

My magic surged, and I tore off to the other screams I could hear as the slide started to settle. Somewhere nearby, the awful, massive bulk of the demonic monstrosity was climbing its way out of the hole it had made. I had seconds before it would start a rampage.

I reached an older man, and pulled him out. Then a young woman, then a child. Those who were conscious, screamed when I grabbed them with hands bereft of claws. I didn’t say a word. I dug up and out, onto the edge of a crumbling street and set them there.

Then I went back in, sparing a glance at the monstrosity that was still pulling free, writhing and roaring under the starry night above. Lights had flickered on in nearby windows, the quake and the roar waking the city around the crater now in its midst.

Wordlessly, I pulled a dozen other people from the rubble. Fury was spread across my expression and fire bubbled just below the surface, hot enough to nearly burn those I was trying to save. And then, with a final pained roar, the monstrosity, tall as the nearby buildings, pulled itself free into the middle of the crater. I was out of time. Now or never.

With a silent prayer to Dhias for the poor souls who may still have been buried alive in the crater, I raced toward the monstrosity in its center. The demon noticed me right as I threw myself, spear first into its flank.

Hot, black blood poured out of the wound and I leapt on top of my spear, wrenching it free with my tail and clawing my way up into the thing’s bulk. Two hands held on while my tail, spiked rings missing many spikes, carried my spear.

My other two arms I held in focus, forcing a deep breath in, then out with a jet of flame. I opened my eyes wide, taking in the size of the crater—a little more than a city block—and I pushed my magic into the formation, begging it to work. This was the spell I’d worked on using what Tren had shown me, what Seyari had shown me, and the advice of all the others who’d helped me realize my own potential.

My formation completed with a thrum of magic. My mana surged out through the formation in a torrent. The burning demonic magic spilled over in places and wasted precious energy, but my wrath went farther than I ever would have been capable of without training. Fire erupted out into a glyph across the crater.

Green-lined, crimson flames flared to life all around me and all across the monstrosity, boiling its flesh away. Wood turned to ash and stone slagged as the air itself seemed to burn with my fury.

At the edges, the heat was contained, fire racing to cover myself and the other demon in a dome. The heat reflected and bounced inward, surging again and again, flames filling my vision. Everything burned away in one glorious, horrifying moment; the metal of my breastplate ran down my skin like rivulets of water as my magic incinerated all it touched.

And then, in a crater of smoking ruins, it was only the other demon, myself, and the partially-melted head of my spear held tenuously in the tip of my tail.

The other demon was charred and horrifying. Its eyes had boiled away, and its flesh crumbled away, mixing with the still-burning ash underfoot. Black, twisted bones had shattered open from the heat, but the demonic monstrosity’s core was somehow still pulsing with life; red, bloody, and furious.

Exhaustion hit me hard, and with my waning strength I kicked off the monstrosity, sending it tumbling down into the ruins. My clawed feet, now bare like the rest of me, dug into the soft, half-melted, half-burned floor of what was now an arena. Flickering crimson flames ringed the edge of the crater—a lingering effect of the sheer power of my spell.

As the rush left me and my wrath cooled into simmering anger, the sounds of the city came back all at once. A moment of silence stretched itself and snapped. Screams once again tore through the night, raw and awful. I forced myself to glance at the people I’d saved, who had been out of my spell’s radius. They were shocked: most collapsed, having stumbled back from the edges of the fire and the echoes of the heat within. I probably killed some of their loved ones. I… can’t dwell on that right now.

I… felt tired for the first time in recent memory. I was drained, nearing mana exhaustion, and I hadn’t killed my enemy. I’d killed innocent people to try to stop its rampage before it started and I hadn’t killed it. I just had to hope it lacked to power to regenerate from that. As it was, it could barely move its blackened limbs. All I need to do is rush in and finish it off with my bare claws.

Oh, how wrong I was.

I had just enough time to dodge partly out of the way before the mass surged at me with speed that beggared belief, flailing ruined limbs and screaming soundlessly with heads burned so completely they resembled warped skulls.

The weight of the monstrosity slammed into me and I flew backwards, crashing into the edge of the pit and tumbling down. I dug my tail in, losing the spear tip somewhere, and landed in a stumbling half crouch.

I glared up at the monstrosity and roared out my own, much more audible challenge. I will destroy you.

Boss fight? Boss fight. Cliffhanger? Cliffhanger. It's not often Zarenna gets to act like a raging wrath demon. Will it be enough?

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