“Knight Vigilant?” Kasu’s eyebrows furrowed, and she blinked. “That’s impossible.”
The belgar snorted. She didn’t turn to her. “Is it really?”
“The Knights Vigilant aren’t sellswords,” she said. She found that her voice quivered. “They’re, well, Knights. They follow a Code, and they… they’re not bad.”
Rexza raised an eyebrow. “Bad?” She shook her head. “You know what’s bad, Magicker? Is that if that rogue Siddivata isn’t brought back to that chimerical shithole she came from, or killed from the face of the Mund, it might very well spark the most intense wars between the Mund and the Realm of Avalon. We wouldn’t want that would we?”
Kasu still furrowed her eyebrows, but she didn’t say another word.
The Daystar dawned.
“And the thing is…” the Knight stared at the horizon: orange melting the deepest purple into lead. “…this really isn’t a job for just anybody. Other people? They’re just trying to get along, trying to get their jobs done, or trying to survive. It’s my duty, as a Knight, to do what others cannot, what others will not, what others must not.
“That is my Code.”
Kasu swallowed hard. She hadn’t moved from her spot, and she felt miniscule compared to this large hunk of muscle.
“Then if you’re so attached to that Code,” said Kasu, then she stopped herself. She did not go further.
The winds of the morning howled. It was not a welcoming howl. It was an angry howl. A distraught howl. A howl that seemed to grow louder and louder. Moaning deeper and deeper.
Then a cold gust of wind slammed against Kasu, and pushing her back onto her butt. The gale swept across the rooftop, bringing with it loose residue from yesternight’s rain, leftover plastic wrappers and tin can neon pops. Gray dust danced to the tune of the wind.
And then, the wind tightened, spiralling into a smaller, tinier spiral until —
A Rift in Reality EXPLODED into existence, sending Kasu forward, her body slamming onto the concrete parapet. Rexza rocked off of the parapet, but her nimble body turned, and she caught herself before she could fall, pulling herself onto the roof.
Out of the portal leapt out a myriad of figures. Firstly, two Huntsmen — their cloaks and robes and garments slashed and ripped and torn. Secondly, Chrys popped out, hitting the ground knees scraping the concrete floor, but she rolled and got her feet under her.
That same Chrysanthemum — her knees bleeding and scratched — turned around and reached out into the rift. Kasu blinked, finding herself moving too slowly.
Then she pulled someone out. Or more accurately, something. The body was vaguely human, albeit devoid of feet, and one could see straight through his visage. He seemed to be made of glistening, burning starstuff.
Right as the Portal closed, an arachnid… thing blurred out at a speed her human eyes couldn’t register. The blurring arachnid slammed against the block of concrete where their door to escape — to freedom — would’ve been.
The arachnid stopped blurring, and it showed itself… and all Kasu could understand about it was that it looked like a solid, moving shadow with a carapace of clear glass.
She shook her head.
She closed her eyes.
She didn’t open them.
* * *
Rexza dropped onto the concrete floor, off of the parapet, when that arachnid thing bolted out, just as the Rift sealed shut with a minor pop. Vaguely arachnid, with seven heads — each with 3 eyes and only one with a mouth — and seven appendages, signaled to Rexza that this was no normal Avalon dweller.
It was a Hunter of the Wild Hunt.
“Shit.” She dashed forward, past the two savaged Huntsmen, her target, and the Burning Soul of a Magicker. “Get back! This is too dangerous.”
Rexza watched the arachnid closely, as it examined her with its seven heads. It moved, and it was on the floor immediately, appendages digging into the concrete like dreorg-forged blades. It spoke, but it was incomprehensible.
Rexza let in a breath. It was fast.
But she could be faster.
She crouched low, going into a savage martial posture. One foot forward, another behind her, and both paws in front of her. Her claws, like every other “civilized” belgar, had been plucked off.
“Seven-Headed Dragon Style,” she breathed out, and the world tensed, like a strummed string. She shouted the next few words: “Head 5: Most Excellent Alacrity!”
“Wait!” shouted a voice behind her. It had the burning echo effect of one who spoke from the Soul. “Stop!”
She decided to surprise the the protean beast.
And the beast lunged at her as well.
The dust kicked up behind her, gray motes of dirt flurrying upward. As she burst forward, the motes of dust stayed up there, falling as if in slow motion.
She and the arachnid Hunter met and the world shook. Her right straight broke through the hunter’s defense — that is, it didn’t exactly focus on keeping itself alive — and crunched against one head.
Two blade-appendages of the Hunter moved, trying to pincushion her from both sides. She dodged backward, retracting her paw, and meeting both blade-like appendages with a foot and another paw.
Cursing, she twisted, bringing her foot up with her, and that slammed against the Hunter’s abdomen.
The two blades pulled back, and she let the momentum of that kick carry her, flipping herself backwards and a good amount of space in between them.
She landed on four arms, looked up to see the Hunter stopping itself from falling over. It looked up, and exploded into a mad dash for her. She burst into a dash as well, running to the right, aiming to perform a circle to avoid him, as well as look for an opening. She summoned her Gawa — the personal, potential form of Diwa, and — and pooled it into her legs, sending her faster and faster. Her legs pumping like bellows. Even faster despite already being in Head 5 of this Mystical Strife.
The arachnid saw her movement, and didn’t even stop. It simply used another set of appendages and moved the other way. She saw the subtle weavings of destiny and probability and chaos around it, shimmering glass spiderwebs, as it moved towards her at a blinding speed.
The Hunter cut in front of Rexza. With her Gawa-empowered legs, the Knight Vigilant launched herself into the air, flipping over the arachnid. It lunged at her with an appendage, and two heads. Her leap cleared over two heads, but the blade-appendage ripped into her, impaling her right stomach, skewering her like a delicious barbecue.
Rexza grimaced as the Hunter hurled her to the ground. She cursed as she hit the ground, and the bleeding hole only widened. She skidded across the ground, gray dirt intermingling with blood red globules, kicking up into the air, but never dropping.
She slammed against the door, and the pain exploded. Behind her, the door creaked, only a little. She barely stifled a scream. She couldn’t show weakness. Not now. Not ever.
Do what others cannot.
She rose to her feet, leaning against the wall. It stained with her blood, which immediately froze onto the dirt on the wall. The dirt puffed out sluggishly.
She allowed her scream to come, but she only allowed it to be one of defiance. Fueling her pain with her anger, she juiced up her legs with her Gawa, and hurled herself at the arachnid.
She shot through the air like a hairy, beastly bullet. The Hunter twitched a blade-appendage it was supposed to move, and then slashed two blade-appendages upon her. Rexza twisted in mid-air, allowing the Magick to take hold of her for the shortest while, allowing her to ignore the pathetic rules of Mundic Physics. She twisted as two blades came down upon her.
One blade cut only air, the other cut cleanly a gash on her upper back. She grit her teeth. Her maneuver was unhindered.
She slammed onto the Hunter’s black, arachnid chest. She raised a paw, and let her Gawa pool into the fist. She shouted and slammed it against the arachnid’s abdomen.
All of creation vibrated from the impact.
Rexza saw the ripples of power radiating from the points of impact, but no discernible damage had been done unto the arachnid. The Knight looked up, and saw that the Hunter looked down upon her, the strangest expression on its not face. The expression of confusion. It expressed it, somehow, by communicating its thoughts to her nous.
She let this be the opportunity. She slammed her empowered fist onto the Hunter’s speaking head, and it screeched, clawed at her and threw her away.
Rexza landed on all fours once again, looking up at the arachnid Hunter.
The Hunter’s speaking head shook, and looked about. It looked over to the right, and then to the left. As it did, most of the other heads simply looked up and down and left and right, and its seven appendages clacked and stomped against the hard, cold concrete.
Do what others will not.
Rexza moved in. She channeled her Gawa through her, and then let it pool into her fist and then let it overflow. It exploded in Diwal power, white and red energy bursting into flames. They trailed behind her, flaming brush strokes from a master scripter.
She launched herself toward the confused and dazed Hunter, reached up, and screamed bloody defiance one last time as she let her fist loose. It slammed against the speaking head, and the head burst into a vast cascade of red and black and iridescent brush strokes, streaking across the sky.
It fell backwards, its useless blade-appendages clicking against the concrete.
Do what others must not.
Rexza fell to the ground, looking away from the Hunter, and saw the rest of them safe, watching. One of them was stuck in mid-surprise, slowly moving backwards and stopping himself.
She let out a breath.
Behind her, one of the arachnid Hunter’s heads split open, revealing a large grin. It screeched. Its blade-appendages moved.
And all the dust kicked up, all the blood spilled, all the things hit, moved.
The dust fell onto the floor.
The blood splashed onto the concrete.
The door cracked open.
* * *
Quinen’s soulstuff shouted a burning word. “Wait!” And as he lunged forward, to try and stop what she was going to do, she disappeared. A billowing cloud of dust behind her.
All he saw were two blurs. Quinen saw in his periphery, in the split second they fought, Thackeray stepping forward as well, his mouth opening to say a word.
The besouled Warlock felt three gigantic vibrations that felt like it shook all of creation. He turned around to see what had happened.
The dust fell to the ground. A door shattered open. Bits and pieces of red splattered everywhere, intermingling with more motes of dust.
The Warlock and the Huntsman stopped, as they saw the belgar on the ground, in front of a Hunter missing a head.
They saw the belgar sighing. They saw her gasp for breath.
They saw the blade-appendages of the Hunter move, inhumanely quick.
They saw the belgar — the Knight Vigilant — fall to her knees. Defeated, and headless.
“Shit!” The Warlock eloquently put. He turned around, shouting at everyone to move. He reached for Chrysanthemum, but his hand passed through her.
His eyes widened, his Soul burned bright fire.
The arachnid Hunter’s now six heads turned to him.
* * *
Kasu saw Rexza, the Knight Vigilant, fall to the ground without her head. She blinked, and she pounced into action then, scrambling up to her feet. The sight of the dark blood splattering onto the floor shook her and chilled her spine.
She saw the Soul of the Warlock. She saw the arachnid thing turn to him.
She had to save him. He must be Quinen.
She reached for her palmnode and activated a protocol. Then, she reached deep into her Soul, and brought forth her Dataturgy. The palmnode exploded into colors — multiple blue gray lights streaming out of it like hazy, fizzing vapor. She ran forward, lifted her palmnode toward the Soul’s direction, and tapped something on the palmnode.
There was a sound reminiscent of a glass shattering. The vapors solidified, turned to Quinen, and reached for him, grabbed him, caressed him and then embraced him. Slowly, the Soulstuff of Quinen turned gray, and turned into little blocks of blue-gray data that surged through the streams and into Kasu’s palmnode.
“Wh-what the…?” His voice resonated throughout all the realms, burning soulfire.
She winced, the veins on the back of her neck throbbing as if she had an intense migraine. She held her ground, feet apart, one hand holding the arm that held the palmnode. The Datal energy seemed to push her back, as she bobbed back and then forward. Her legs shook.
The arachnid Hunter lunged forward, toward the burning Soul of the Warlock… and passed straight through the blue-gray fog of Data, slamming into the concrete of the roof.
“Quick!” The girl that wore the tattered clothes dashed toward the open door. “Through the door!”
The tattered man — his rock hard abdomen peeking through his ripped shirt — turned to the six-headed Hunter. One of the Hunter’s heads laid limp now, like a deflated balloon.
“Six Sacred Sacraments!” His hair burned golden white in an instant, and four extra arms erupted out of his back, materializing like an igniting fire. Kasu turned and ran straight past him, all the way to the door. Chrysanthemum was being carried by the black-haired girl with the tattered clothes.
As they ran through the shattered door, Kasu saw the black-haired girl turn around right at the last minute, raise her Scepter, and shout, “I call thee, Niveus!”
Everything around her suddenly felt chilly. Kasu, even in her warm sweater, shivered. The Dataturge peeked out of the doorway to find ice congealing about the Hunter’s seven blade legs, holding it in place, as the golden-haired boy flung himself toward it, swinging his six arms.
“Quick,” the woman said again. Kasu nodded, and they hurried down the stairs. The woman carried the unconscious Chrysanthemum.
The sounds of fighting and of an otherworldly echoing bounced off the walls.