B.3 Chapter 44: Fly, Ravens!
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Aksel yawned as he kicked over another of the corpses, his spear poking at its ribs. He needed to make sure this bastard was dead already. It would do him no good if he allowed any survivors. The last thing he wanted was to deal with more resistances like the one he and his squad had encountered back in the marketplace. 


“How does Deimos expect us to watch out for ships if this fucking mist is in the way?” a fellow marauder, Jakob, called out from the harbor’s edge. “Can barely see shit.”


“Probably for the best,” Aksel answered as he stabbed another of the bodies. “If we can’t see shit, that means outsider ships can’t either.”


“So what’s the point of sending us here, then?” Alexi, another marauder, asked. “We’re supposed to be watching the ports, but there’s fuck all to look after.”


Deimos and his right hand, Ivana, had given this particular group of marauders the simple task of clearing out the ports and watching out for outsider ships. It seemed easy enough, but Aksel soon grew bored with the simple job. He wanted to be out in the city, burning buildings down and taking what he wanted. Just like his fellow raiders. 


“You know, even if we did spot an outsider ship, what are we supposed to do?” Jakob asked. “We have no call crystals or any way to tell the rest of our guys. This sucks.”


“Maybe they sent us out here to be nothing more than fodder,” Alexi agreed. 


“Shut up, the both of you,” Aksel called back. “Be glad that Deimos didn’t shove us into the center of this city. It could probably be worse.”


He was sort of right. The marauder knew how dangerous this battle had already become. There was already talk of Lumen soldiers showing up somewhere in the eastern part of the city, which meant that this takeover had turned into a three-way shit show. He counted himself lucky that he wasn’t in the midst of all that chaos. 


‘I’d rather have us stay here kicking rocks until the smoke dies down.’


Aksel was thankful for where he had ended up. By the empty harbor with a sizable group of marauders. He was as safe as he could be.


“Oh, it could definitely get worse,” a triumphant voice called out from behind the marauder. Aksel quickly turned to see another group emerge from the city. He didn’t even notice their arrival because of the thick mist that had made itself present on the docks. 


“Shit,” Aksel cursed to himself.


“I would offer you a chance to surrender, but our orders are to execute anyone non-Lumen on sight,” the stranger said. This man wore an orange and blue tabard over chainmail and partial plate, his lack of helmet revealing light brown hair and bluish eyes. He was a Lumen soldier. The ones following him out of the mist were also lumen, judging from their similarly colored tabards and shiny gear. 


Aksel gulped loudly, his hands reaching for his ax. His men all tensed up at the same as he, their hands reaching for their weapons. Everyone was at a standstill for that moment, their gazes all locked onto each other. 


Aksel took this time to count their odds. The marauder group outnumbered the Lumen bastards three to one. Yet the marauder knew numbers weren’t going to help much when it came to their gear. These men were properly equipped, their armor well maintained and their weapons sharp. Half of Aksel’s group didn’t even wear armor outside the occasional helmet and shield.


Still… if they could organize together, perhaps there was a chance—


“Attack!” a random marauder, Wheeler by the looks of it, shouted out a war cry before he charged headfirst into the lumen soldiers. After that, all hel broke loose.


Aksel prepared himself as he watched his men clash with the soldiers, their weapons flailing around as they shouted incoherently. Surprisingly, Wheeler’s surprise attack had managed to catch the soldiers off-guard, giving them an edge in this fight. 


A couple of the Lumen idiots weren’t wearing helmets, so it gave the marauders a vital chance to take them out with ease. Which was what exactly happened. Not even a minute into the fight and the lumen side was slowly getting overwhelmed. Perhaps their numbers were enough. Perhaps Aksel had underestimated his own marauders. Maybe they could get out of this alive. 


‘Something’s not right…’


Aksel stopped midway through his fight to back up. He stepped away from the battle and surveyed his surroundings. The mist was getting thicker. To where it felt unnatural. Something was wrong.


‘But what is it?’


The moisture in the air seemed to be much more prevalent. It made him uncomfortable. This fog had been around for far too long. It should have at least dispersed or lessened by now. Yet it only grew in size and intensity.


It got to where Aksel could taste the air, his tongue clicking as the scent grew much more intense. It almost tasted like… strawberries.


“It’s a fog spell!” Aksel realized aloud. But why would the lumen bastard cast such a spell? Now that he thought about it…




Aksel searched for the battle in front of him. Just as he thought, there was no spellcaster among them. Which meant only one thing.


“Behind us!” Aksel turned to the end of the docks, where the sea was clouded by a thick fog. “We’re being ambus–” 


He would be cut off as a ship suddenly burst from the fog wall. Its ram crashed into the harbor at full speed, embedding itself in the platform. Aksel fell back from the sheer force of the impact, his body nearly becoming cleaved in half by the ship‘s ram.


The marauder had found himself face to face with the visage of burning runes embedded in the ship’s hull, accompanied by the painting of a blue skeleton.


Men and orcs in mismatched armor jumped down from the deck, their shouts incoherent as they charged forth into the fray before them. Aksel wobbled as he tried to stand, his vision disoriented as he tried to figure out what was going on. 


He watched on as the strange men and orcs fought against his marauders, their weapons cutting them down. Aksel would try to intervene, to shift the battle.


“Group up! Get to me—”


He was interrupted when a man in steel armor jumped down in front of him. The marauder stared at the man, whose eyes burned a bright blue. Even under the helmet, Aksel could see his skull. Fear engulfed the marauder, but he forced it down quickly. He needed to take this harbor.


“What are you?!” Aksel charged at the man, his sword swinging. The stranger dodged the attack in record speed, almost as if he had perfect reflexes. Aksel tried for another swing, but was interrupted when the man grabbed his arm. Unbearable cold spread from the stranger’s hand, freezing the marauder’s arm in place.


Aksel tried to pull away, but it would be for naught. The man’s sword came in as a flash of steel, its pointed edge burying itself into his throat. Aksel coughed blood, his eyes watching with fear as the blade was forced deeper. The draugr before him only stared at the marauder, his burning gaze sticking with him to the end.

James wretched the sword out of the marauder’s throat, his hands shaking as they did so. The body fell to the platform, bloodied and limp. James looked at the surrounding battle, watching as orcs bashed in skulls and guardsmen cut down marauders. He watched one marauder become unceremoniously decapitated by Malik, his hair becoming stained with red as his body fell forward.


Haggard crushed in the chest of another marauder, his hammer imbued with a power strike casting. Helen covered Kate as she gutted a man with her spear, her shield rasing as she blocked an incoming attack. James watched as the fighting slowly died down, the only ones remaining being the people the marauders were fighting against. 


There were only a handful left in their group, half of them injured and the other half barely holding up. James was about to ask them if they were alright before he noticed the emblems they wore on their chests. 


“What the hell?” James muttered. His stomach sank at the sight of the phoenix emblem. The same emblem that was supposed to be the coat of arms for soldiers of the Lumen Kingdom. 


‘Oh shit.’ 


One of the soldiers that was able to stand stared at James with a look that told him he, too, had come to the same realization as he. 


‘They aren’t friendly.’




The soldier rushed at James with a swipe of his sword, his strike aiming for his neck. James quickly blocked the attack with his shield, the sword bouncing off the vern wood surface. He retaliated with a bash, his allies all coming to assist him.


James had no choice to talk this out. It was the soldier or him. He could see from his peripherals how his allies clashed with the remaining soldiers, their shouts and screams sounding out into incomprehensible noise. 


The soldier in front of him tried to go for another slash, his sword going for James’ neck. The young Jarl felt his body jerk back from the attack, Faust’s spirit saving him once more. He watched as the sword swung by harmlessly, missing him by a hair. 


James shifted his center of gravity towards his opponent, his sword aimed for a thrust. He could see how the soldier’s eyes widened at the sight, his arm raising in an attempt to block the incoming attack with his steel vambrace. 


“Power Strike!” James felt his body grow in heat, his ley lines expending the cost of the casting. His sword gained a red hue as it thrust forth, its tip rushing towards the soldier’s own neck. The magically enhanced blade was enough to pierce straight through the steel vambrace, warping the steel as it punched through. His blade only stopped when it met soft throat flesh, pinning the soldier’s arm to his neck. 


“Augh!” the soldier gasped out in pain, blood sputtering out of his lips and nostrils. Guttural croaking followed the sound of choking, and James was certain he would never be able to rid of the experience for as long as he lived.


The young Jarl was silent as he stared into the dying man’s eyes, who stared back with a look of accusation and shock. Almost as if he was asking him why. Without a word, James drew his sword back, ripping its length out of the dead man’s throat and arm. The body fell to the ground unceremoniously, his blood mixing with the pool of red that had collected on the platform. 


This was not James’ first kill, but it still rocked him to his core. 


‘You’re going to need to get used to it,’ Faust muttered. ‘This will not be your last.’


James was silent as he averted his eyes from the body, his gaze moving to his breastplate. Tucked in between the armor and gambeson was the blossom Iendis had gifted him. He could see how the blackened part slowly grew over the pink.


‘As long as they live,’ he told himself internally.


“The harbor is ours!”


The cheers of orcs and the yells of guards accompanied Haggard’s shout. They had all finished off the rest of the soldiers, none of whom had surrendered. 


James turned to the ship behind him, his focus on the burning runes that were embedded into it. Back at the island, Falrick had revealed to the clan leader that Frostbite was the host of gate runes, ones that were dormant until the wizard came along. It was why they were able to reach the city in time.


As for their surprise attack, Dahlia and Falrick were the ones who had come up with it. Both shaman and wizard combined their magic and form a much more powerful version of fogcloud, one that could blanket an entire harbor side. James could still feel the whiplash of the gates, his body jet lagged and his knees still wobbling. However, after the harbor engagement, he wasn’t sure if it was a result of the gate or the nerves.


Falrick stepped down from Frostbite’s deck, his hands carrying a staff embedded with a spell gem.


“Why are there Lumen soldiers here? I thought the marauders were raiding?” James asked. He gestured to the bodies of the soldiers they had just killed, their symbols being that of the phoenix.


“This is new to me as well. When I scried the city, it looked as if both lumen soldiers and marauders were raiding it,” Falrick explained.


“They’re both here?”


“It seems so. I’m willing to gamble that someone is leading them on.” The wizard gestured to the city ahead. “Someone has orchestrated this and I believe that they’re still in the city.”


“Where do we need to go, then?” James asked as he wiped the blood off his sword, his gaze avoiding the ground.


“There are three main points we’ll need to go,” Falrick started, his hand unfurling a roll of parchment. It showcased a rough map of Vindis, points of interest marked with stab marks. It was the same map James had procured back when he had encountered Malik for the first time. “The first is in the gold district, near the center. It is where the totems are controlled. I will need to go there to reactivate them. Second point is a summoning circle somewhere in the iron district. Not sure how it came to be without the use of ley lines, but it is there and is possibly sending more reinforcements through.”


“How’s that possible?” Dahlia asked. “Summoning circles need a constant connection with ley lines. Anyone who can activate them, regardless, must be a master spellcaster or a champion.” The last word perked up Harald, who tensed at the mention.


“What’s the third point?” James asked, trying to hurry it up.


“Third point is the communication circle in the copper district. I believe it to be a Lumen base. It could be well guarded.” Falrick turned to James. “We’re going to have to split up if we want to get this done soon.”


“I’ll go with Falrick to the first point.” Dahlia sounded off. “I can help with the totems.”


“I’ll come with you. Make sure both of you get there safely,” Helen added.


“Good idea.” James nodded. “Lilith, Archibald, Harald, go with Falrick and Dahlia to the first point.”


“I’m not going,” Harald suddenly answered. “I’m going to the second point. Haggard can take my place.” The veteran sounded insistent, his gaze almost burning into James’ skull.


“Do you need backup?”


“No. I’ll go alone.”


“You’re not going unless you have backup.”


The veteran stopped in his tracks, his teeth visibly grinding. “Fine. Squads one, three, and four! You’re with me!” His voice boomed like thunder and the guardsmen quickly moved to follow him.


James looked at Felix, who sighed. “I’ll go with him, make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”


“Thanks,” James murmured as he watched the archer jog to catch up.


“As for point three, I’ll be heading there,” James called out to Falrick. “Malik, Silas, Horuk, and the orcs will be with me.” He turned to the rest of the men around the harbor, the ones who weren’t picked. “Squads two and five will go with Falrick and Dahlia to ensure their safety. Squad six will come with me. As for the rest of you, stay here and search the docks for any survivors.”


The guards all moved to follow his order, most of them with stricken faces of fear. Still, they did their job diligently. James felt his guilt spread as he saw the guardsmen drag off the bodies of allies. James expected there to be deaths, but the sight of it hit him harder than he thought possible.

‘I’m responsible for their deaths.’


“James,” Falrick’s voice called out to him, snapping the blond man out of his thoughts. “There’s something I need to tell you.”


“What is it?” James furrowed his brow, almost scared to see the wizard so worried.


“When I scried Vindis, I caught something unusual. Someone who didn’t belong. I thought for a second it was you, but after focusing, I realized it was coming from the slums.”


“What are you talking about?” James could feel his heart sink.


“There is someone like you here in Vindis, one that is hiding out in the Lumen base you’re going to.”



Deimos looked up at the sky, watching how the smoke rose and collected into blackened clouds. The taste of ash and rain was in the air, and it was almost intoxicating for the marauder. He grinned as he looked ahead, his gaze focusing on the bloodied street. Marauders were burning and pillaging the city, taking what they wanted and destroying what they could. Deimos cared little for the destruction. The platforms were the only things that mattered and even then; he was only planning on taking the center of the city. The rest of Vindis could burn and sink for all he cared.


Ivana was somewhere in a different district of the city, her focus being on taking care of the lumen soldiers that had appeared on the north-eastern sides. Deimos sent her off along with Cecil to investigate. Still, he doubted they’d find the lumen spies who brought them here. Lumen dogs were clever like that. They hide and scamper away, only coming out when the time is right and victory is absolute. The thing was, however, Deimos was not so easily fooled nor wronged. He was dead set on finding the bastard who had summoned the lumen soldiers and showing him the errors of his plan.


The Red Death stopped for a moment, his focus moving to the spire at the center of the city. Eli was over there, using his talents to keep the totems dormant. The marauders were also burning half the city down, their supplied runes more than enough to get the job done. A few lumen rats wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.


“Just need to capture the center and all will be done,” Deimos muttered to himself. Once the city was his, the marauders will have their own floating fortress.


“You there! Stop!” a voice called out. Deimos raised an eyebrow, his focus broken. He turned to the source, which was a young man in leather armor. He wasn’t alone either. This man had an entire party, which comprised a mage, archer, and a spearman. The one who yelled looked to be their vanguard, his purpose being to fill the gaps in their dynamic. They were adventurers, possibly from Azurvale, judging from the blue eyes and lightish brown hair.


The Red Death stepped forward, his hand gesturing for the surrounding marauders to back off. “How cute.” He chuckled.


“We’re not afraid of you!” The vanguard shouted as he brandished his sword.


“You have some balls, I’ll give you that,” Deimos admitted. “But courage can only get you so far…” The chieftain equipped his long ax, its silver edge glinting in the light of the flames. The vanguard seemed to hesitate for a moment, but he rushed ahead, his mage casting a buff soon after.




“Arcane Bolt!”


Deimos interrupted the mage with a spell of his own, his left hand forming the rune. The purple bolt formed and shot off before any of the adventurers could react. It whizzed through the air like an arrow before colliding with the mage’s arm. The magical bolt sent bits of flesh and viscera flying, leaving the young woman with a mangled arm. Her scream was enough to make the vanguard falter, his head turning back to the party member.


“Don’t lose your focus!” Deimos shouted as he lunged forward. His ax swung at the young man, its edge cutting through the air at incredible speed. He never had a chance.


Deimos’ ax buried itself into the vanguard’s unarmored head, sending bits of brain and skull everywhere. The party nearby all stumbled back in surprise, their faces stricken with fear and horror. Deimos wretched the ax out of the man’s skull, his boot kicking the corpse back.


“Too weak,” he muttered. Deimos turned back to the rest of the adventuring party, who all stared at him in silent terror. The Red Death shook his head as he chuckled, his left hand moving up to clean the viscera that was stuck on his helmet.


“How disappointing.”



“He’s here?” Arthur raised an eyebrow at the sorcerer.


“Yes, James Holter is in the city. He somehow found out.” The spellcaster sighed and stood up from his kneeling position. The rune circle around him turned dark, signifying that its magic was dead. “This is exhausting Clarke. I cannot solely perform rituals with only my ley lines. I need Azura’s natural connection.”


“I know. It is a tiring task,” Arthur muttered. “However, you need to keep it up. Your reserves are higher than the others and the men out there need guidance. The marauders are getting closer to the center. Once they’re there, this battle will be at its end and we can go home.”


“What about the outlander?” The sorcerer asked.


Arthur hesitated for a moment before he answered. “I can take care of him, but not now. I need to be careful with how I go about it.” The outlander instinctively grabbed at his sword’s guard, his thoughts going back to that golden bitch and her heavenly words. “I need time to set up,” he added in a murmur.


“Clarke!” Lydia’s voice called out to the outlander.


Arthur sighed and turned to meet the witch. “It can wait until after we’re done here,” he called out.


“I don’t care about that!” Lydia shouted. “Deimos is in the fucking city! He’s traveling through the silver district as we speak.”


“We’re going to take care of him once he gets to the center,” Arthur explained.


“He needs to be killed now!” Lydia insisted. “He’ll see through your plan and he’ll back out! You need to kill him now!”


“I’m not doing that.” Arthur shook his head. “He’ll fall into our trap, regardless if he finds out about it.”


“Are you delusional?” Lydia asked in disbelief. She shook her head before turning around. “Damn you and the gods! I’ll take care of him myself!” The witch walked off, leaving the outlander and sorcerer alone.


“She’s going to get herself killed,” the sorcerer mumbled. “Would it be so wise to allow her to face off against Deimos alone? If he catches a sense of what we’re doing, he might call his marauders off or worse, hunt us down.” The aged man’s words gave the outlander some thought.


He rubbed at his chin, his frown turning into a scowl.


“Fine,” Arthur answered. “Vanguard squad.” The outlander looked to the nearby group of Lumen Knights.


They had been the squad sent by the capital to assist Arthur in his mission. The four knights were said to be some of the new blood, their skill enough to gain admiration from the goddess herself. Handpicked by Commander Michaels himself, these knights’ purpose was to seek Deimos and kill him.


“Accompany the witch and assist her in killing Deimos,” Arthur ordered


“This soon? Before he reaches the center?” One knight asked.


Arthur shook his head. “Lydia is going to fuck this up if she attacks him this early. I’m sending you to make sure she doesn’t.”


The lead knight nodded and gestured for the rest to move. Before long, the group of knights were off, on their way to cross off one of the most dangerous men in Valenfrost.



Johan sprinted to the next tunnel, his arm hurting like all hell. He had been shot by a marauder archer back on the surface. The young thief was lucky to be alive. The city was going to hel, and everything they were doing was failing. Any sensible man would have given up. But Johan was not sensible, and he was certainly not without hope. The thief had heard word of soldiers and orcs arriving at the harbor, their swords cutting down Lumen forces like nothing.


Johan would have dismissed it as more marauders or raiders, that is, before he heard of what they wore. According to the scouts, the soldiers all bore the symbol of the white raven and were led by a terrifying man with undead eyes. Johan could feel an ounce of hope flair up in his chest at the thought. Holter was here, and he had brought his forces to help fight the marauders and lumen bastards off.


The thief skidded to a stop, his ears picking up the sounds of talking in the other tunnel. He quickly brandished his dagger, his head turning to the source.


‘Did they find their way into the passageways?’ He thought in terror. Johan stepped back, pressing his body against the wall of the tunnel. He listened to the voices, contemplating whether he should use his shadow step. The thief only had three castings left and wanted to save them for emergencies.


“How much longer until we make it?”


“It shouldn’t be too long…”


The voices were muttering, their volume almost to a whisper. Johan furrowed his brow, leaning in to listen much more intently.


“Seamus, we’ve been walking through these winding tunnels forever. Time is not on our side here!”




Johan blinked in surprise.


‘It’s them! That guy and dwarf that came from Holter’s clan!’


The thief peeked from the corner, confirming his suspicions.


As expected, Seamus and that dwarf Bjorn were there, followed by a group of strangers. Johan didn’t recognize them at first, but his memory soon clicked when he saw that pointed hat. It was that weird wizard, the one that hid deep in the silver district’s back streets. Nathan Arkanus was the name that popped in his head. The wizard had a group of gnomes following him, as well as an old dwarf with graying hair.


The wizard stopped in his walk, his eyes narrowing as he turned to Johan’s position. The thief instinctually pulled back into the shadows, his quick action enough to catch the wizard’s ire.


“Hey! You! Come out!”


“I’m friendly!” Johan quickly yelled back before he stepped out. He raised his empty hand, his left one unfortunately too hurt to move.


“It’s you,” Seamus sighed in relief.


“You do not know how glad I am to see you,” Johan admitted in a breath. “It’s been a nonstop shit show since those damned marauders and lumen soldiers showed up.”


“Lumen?” Seamus asked.


“You don’t know…?” Johan stared at the young man. “Lumen soldiers are in the city. They’ve been completely dominating the east side of the city whilst the marauders decimate the western side.”


Seamus stared at the thief, all the color in his face draining. “They’re here? Oh, gods…”


“There’s some good news,” Johan added right after to quell Seamus’ fears. He could swear the young man was about to faint out of shock. “There are witnesses that say your leader made a landing at the southern docks! He brought his soldiers to fight the marauders and lumen invaders off!”


The entire group before Johan all stopped dead in their tracks. Nathan and his group of gnomes looked shocked and surprised. Seamus’ own expression was the same as before, his eyes staring at the thief in disbelief.


Bjorn, on the other hand, laughed heartily. “That man is insane! He’s here! He actually made it here!” The dwarf turned to Seamus, his hand smacking the young man in the back. “James is coming, Seamus! He’s going to save us and send those marauders back to the shithole they came from!”


While the dwarf was merry and excited, Seamus looked the opposite. “Johan…” the young man started. “Where is he? Where is James now?”


“I’m not sure, I just heard it in passing while I was on my way to the guild… Markov might kno–”


“Then take us to Markov, now.” Seamus stepped up to the thief, his hand grabbing the man’s collar. “We need to regroup with them as soon as possible. Otherwise, they are all going to die. Do you understand?”