Redcastle 9: Lighting the Sky
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Stathis was surrounded.  She backed away, glancing around, hoping for an opening.  There, if she was quick – she stepped forward, but her avenue of movement was blocked.  Semari was just as pinned down, unable to lend her support, completely surrounded.  She stepped back, feeling the stone wall behind her, at least providing some protection, a long dark drop down to the street on the other side.

A hand reached out from the crowd, sharply-pointed nails a vivid, crimson red, as it reached towards her, grabbing her arm.  She groaned in expectation of suffering, as a figure pulled itself from the crowd, far too close as they pushed up against her, a head-clouding scent coming with them, nails slightly grazing her skin, eyelashes fluttering as they stared up at her with a smile, squeezing her arm.

‘Such a brave warrior, to fight that demon.  And to return with Lady Seyroon as well.  So unexpected, for any of her family to come back after all this time.’

The noble, from some wealthy division of the Kamarni clan to judge by the colours of her jewellery, had attached herself to Stathis early on, finding her again even after Stathis had thought she’d lost her in the crowd.  From her chatter, of the romance of the road, the bravery of adventurers and the appreciative way she squeezed Stathis’ arm muscles, her preferences were fairly obvious, despite Stathis’ obvious lack of interest.  They were leaning on the balcony wall, Stathis absently nodding along as she watched the crowd, a few other nobles currently making their way across a rope bridge that joined this roof to the opposite one.  It had been made to look appropriately wealthy by the addition of gold leaf and bundles of roses.

Do at least pretend to be interested.  The third heir to the baronetcy is not something to be sniffed at, despite her… questionable choice of partners

Stathis choose to interpret that as a reference to some piece of gossip she didn’t care about, and not an insult.  Janaxia was now able to refine her mind-speech, broadcasting more selectively, meaning she could drop commentary in unexpectedly, without drawing attention to herself.  Mercifully, she showed no signs of being able to receive thoughts at all, as Stathis thought a few cursewords towards the cluster of dilettantes, coquettes and wastrels that Janaxia had surrounded herself with, a cloud of perfume accompanied by the gleaming of jewellery and silk in the firelight.

A gasp spread through the crowd, necks craning upwards, fingers pointing at the sky.  A shadow hung in the night air, a nightmarish whorl of wings flapping and squirming as the Lithmara screamed in anger, surrounded by a haze of blue fire.  The sound of a bell rang out, chiming and resonant.  The background chatter was silenced, as a circle of blue fire sparked into being on an dark and abandoned patch of ground.  A solitary figure stood there, loose robe hiding their frame as they gestured, a circle of fire forming itself into runes and glyphs, a stream of energy connecting the circle to the Lithmara. 

A few spell-bolts and arrows shot through the air, but the creature was too far away for them to have any effect.  As the energy cascaded onto the runes, they burned brighter, enough that Stathis had to look away, before exploding into a blaze of energy, countless sparks shooting upwards into the night sky, hanging for a moment before plummeting back down. 

One of the sparks fell towards them, growing rapidly as it fell, smashing into the roof, the building shaking from the impact.  Stathis staggered as the balcony wall crumbled beneath her, Lady Kamarni’s expression changing to terror as she fell into the empty air, her hands grabbing at emptiness, powerless to stop herself falling. 

Stathis threw herself forward, knees scraping the ground as her hand connected and she caught hold of a trailing sleeve, arresting Lady Kamarni’s fall for a brief moment, the shock of the impact running through Stathis, before the material ripped, moment of safety gone.

Lady Kamarni plummeted.  Hitting the street from this height would maim her, at best.  Something shot past her, as Semari flung herself downwards, grabbing her around the waist with one arm, the other finding a flag pole, shifting her momentum to fling herself back upwards.  She landed back on the roof, carry Lady Kamarni in her arms. 

A growl came from behind Stathis; as the blue flame died down, a beast appeared, a roughly humanoid monster of ashen mud, talons growing out from giant fists.  A knife stabbed it, slicing into its reeking flesh, bright steel coming out tainted, even as the wound healed.  Slits opened in the things head, eyes burning with cold blue light, a gaping hole of a mouth appearing, ringed with crooked and jagged fangs. 

Stathis drew her sword and stabbed at it, the blade sinking deep, mud steaming and hissing.  A lance of fire streaked in from behind her, the beast screaming in pain, part of its body steaming away.  A yell came from behind her and she spun, to see Semari, with Lady Kamarni still in her arms, jump up, bringing her heel down on the creature's head, cleaving through it, body melting away into reeking goo.

The streaks of fire continued to fall, each and every one blossoming into an explosion, leaving behind one of the creatures, panic already spreading through the crowd.  Stathis ran onto the rope bridge, mercifully now empty, already shouting orders.

‘Fighters to the front!  Semari, go roof-to-roof and clear them off, try to get them contained!  Anyone with ranged attacks, keep them pinned down!  Anyone with magical attacks, finish them off!’

On the opposite side, another of the creatures was being forced back by weight of attacks, tumbling down into the street, body splatting before starting to reform, already slumping towards a new victim.  She took a tight hold and then sliced through each of the ropes supporting the bridge, sudden lurch as she dropped, jumping clear just before slamming into the wall.  As she charged towards the half-formed creature, cleaving through its mass and banishing its essence, she shouted up. 

‘Janaxia!  Tell me where to go!’

Two streets over, by the fountain.  There’s several there

This was followed by the sound of Janaxia’s spell-casting, something else that apparently got broadcast, a sort of white fuzz intruding into her own thoughts. 

Stathis ran forward as a crowd surged towards her, having to push through it, heading towards the screams.  Another beast loomed at her, blood soaking from its claws into the seething mass of its body, several bodies scattered around.  She charged, blocking a strike that targeted an entertainer, using swift strikes to dismember her opponent before she claimed its head.  Next was tending to the wounded – a young man was bleeding out, his groaning getting rapidly weaker.  She crouched, carefully touching his forehead, allowing the barest trickle of golden energy out, healing the worst of his wounds.  His ashen pallor lessened, a healthier tone coming to his face.

She checked the other injured, splitting her limited energies as best she could, healing only the worst of injuries.  The others, she did what she could to bandage their wounds, or shout orders at the uninjured to carry them to safety.

Terinth rushed past, arm flashing as a flurry of knives cut through the air and into the warped flesh of another beast.  His rapier flickered and sang, puncturing it, a burst of foul-smelling liquid splashing to the ground even as the wound healed and it swung back.  The clumsy strike was easy for him to evade, but at the cost of his weapon, now firmly stuck into the thing’s torso.  It moved forward, arms spreading to try and grapple him.

Stathis moved to support, slipping on a puddle of something and mistiming her swing, scoring deep into an arm but unable to kill it, even as the other arm came around, grabbing her shoulder.  Searing pain flared through her, a deathly chill even on top of the claws savaging her flesh.  As she killed it, it’s body rapidly faded away, chill diminishing although the injury remained.  She checked her arm, making sure there weren’t any more serious injuries, as Terinth reclaimed his blade. 

‘I can still fight.  You good to keep going?’ Stathis checked, wanting to make sure her ally was functional. 

The night devolved into a series of fights, close quarters combat against the demons.  Individually they were weak, but they couldn’t be killed without magic, no matter how beaten down they were.  Keeping close of allies was all-but-impossible, Janaxia’s mindspeech intruding dimly, Parth’s arrows shooting down and slowing attackers, even if they couldn’t kill them, occasional shot laced in green energy doing more severe damage. 

After what must have been hours, the chaos started to ebb, to be replaced by the more terrifying, but more mundane, confusion that followed any crisis, as the injured were taken for treatment and the dead for their final rites.  The last few beasts were hunted down, every corner scoured until the town was cleansed. 

Stathis staggered back home, body aching, just as sun started to creep over the horizon, fully revealing the mess and chaos left in the streets.  She directed a group of healers towards a tavern that had been repurposed for the wounded, before she stumbled against the front door, pushing it open, barely inside before Misutira caught her, allowing herself to be supported upstairs, collapsing into bed and letting darkness take her, without even changing first.

 

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