Chapter 2, Scene 3
Lodaris gritted his teeth, looking out over the canyon. â€œAre we sure they came this way?â€
â€œThey seem to have.â€ Mirron looked up at the Immaculate with a smirk. â€œYouâ€™re not afraid of a little height, are you?â€ He waved at the shifting rope bridge. â€œItâ€™s less than twenty-five feet to the bottom. You could probably hop it.â€
â€œThatâ€™s fine, but I donâ€™t feel like climbing back up.â€ Lodaris looked at the bridge dubiously. â€œItâ€™s easy for you to smile; you donâ€™t even need the bridge.â€
Juani shook her head, starting across the bridge. â€œWeâ€™ll cross one at a time.â€ She strolled forwards, and the bridge swayed alarmingly under her weight as she walked across. Reaching the other side, she turned and called to the others. â€œSee? Nothing to it.â€
â€œHm.â€ Lodaris hestitated for a moment, and Mirron rolled his eyes, striding forwards. â€œHonestly, Lod. Itâ€™s a bridge, not a deadly monster. Itâ€™s not as thoughâ€¦ did you hear that?â€
Lodaris was already turning northwards, where the canyon walls turned and curved around the bend of the hill. â€œIt sounded like water. Maybe something the Anathema is doing? There arenâ€™t any clouds.â€
â€œHmmâ€¦â€ Mirron leaned out over the handguards, causing the bridge to sway alarmingly, and peered northwards. â€œI think I see something flickering up there. Lights in the treesâ€¦ Holy dra-â€
As he spoke, a wall of water sixty feet tall roared around the canyon wall. Mirron grabbed the bridge, slashing at the ropes with his knife as the water slammed into him. Carried forwards on the pounding waves, he hung on for dear life, wrapping Essence around him to ward away the worst of the water and sending a prayer that he could make it to shore.
Standing on the side of the canyon, Lodaris stared in shock as the waters flowed, rapidly subsiding to their original low rumbling. He looked ahead to Juani, who looked as shocked as him, northwards, south after where he had last seen Mirron, and northwards again. Finally, he yelled out. â€œWhat in the hells was that?!â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Some sort of powerful magic.â€ Juani frowned. â€œIf Mirron hadnâ€™t stopped to look at it, he wouldâ€™ve been fine. Iâ€™m going to press ahead; come around and try to catch up. Many more displays like that could destroy the townâ€¦â€
Lodaris nodded, turning to find a way around the canyon. â€œBe safe, Juani!â€ He began to walk, as quickly as his armour allowed. Their foe was stronger than anticipated, and time was of the essence.
Sesus Mirron walked down the natural pathways of the woods, dripping water and muttering imprecations against this entire expedition. A flood like that was powerful magic, and one that had nearly swept him away entirely. Rubbing his aching shoulder, he considered his situation.
The flood had carried him downstream for almost a mile before petering out, at which point he was still stuck in the river. Swimming to shore had been aggravating in his armour, and once he got out, he was leery of simply walking back up the canyon. Instead, he had attempted to cut directly across the woods, an act that hadnâ€™t worked out as well as he had hoped. Instead, he was fairly certain that he was lost. When he caught the Anathema responsible for this, he would make them scream for the indignities that had been heaped upon him.
This pleasant line of thought was interrupted as he spotted something in the foliage ahead. Slowing, he slipped a pair of poisoned knives from his belt. It wouldnâ€™t do to hit one of his companions by mistake, especially not with the arrow frog venom that he typically coated his blades in. Instead, he waited, slipping closer in silence until he could see who was standing nearby.
At first glance, it was no one important. A girl, northern by the look of her, with dirty blonde hair hanging around her shoulders as she fidgeted in the woods. Unarmed, unarmoured, wearing nothing but hundreds of strands of white paper wrapped around her body like a shroud. However, he recognized her description â€“ she was the younger of the Anathemaâ€™s companions, and she was watching for him. Most likely a scout sent to survey the results of the disaster the Anathema had created. She would do, for a start. Mirron smirked, and stepped out from hiding, his knives hidden behind his back. â€œWell, well. What have we here?â€
The girl started, leaping as she spun, her hands coming up into a defensive posture. Mirron noticed with amusement that she was trembling like a leaf, and took a step forwards. â€œYes, Iâ€™m still alive. Sorry to hear it?â€ She didnâ€™t respond, and he chuckled again. â€œYou should be afraid, little girl. You should know better than to play with your betters.â€ As quick as thought, he threw a knife, one coated with a paralytic poison. This girl could provide useful information, and she would. End over end, it sailed easily towards the frightened girlâ€™s leg.
But equally quickly, the papers around her coiled and tightened. The knife hit them with the sound of metal striking stone, and sailed into the underbrush. Mirron started in shock, and began to channel Essence into himself. This was more dark magic, unless he missed his guess.
When the girl spoke, her voice was faltering. â€œYouâ€¦ you think Iâ€™m afraid of you?â€
He chuckled again, his composure returning. Calling upon his Dragon Shroud, he let Essence fill him, and the leaves rustled as he faded from sight. â€œI am death upon the wind, and pretty tricks given to you by Anathema will not save you.â€ He dashed to one side, leaping into a tree as he launched three more knives in a spread towards her head. No more games â€“ these ones had the deadliest of his poisons in them.
Impossibly, the papers around her sprang to life, coiling up around her head as she spoke. The knives bounced off the almost featureless woman, and she looked around. â€œIâ€™m not. Afraid of you. I have seenâ€¦ been throughâ€¦ things that you canâ€™t imagine. Things no one should be able to imagine. Youâ€™re nothing.â€ As she spoke, she looked around the forest. The leaves rustled as Mirron slipped behind her, his teeth gritted in frustration. He pulled Essence into a single vicious blow, leaping at her back, but it was turned aside by the armour encasing her. He bit off a curse.
â€œYou donâ€™t know the sorts of things I can imagine, girl! What is this?â€
She chuckled, faintly. A flick of the wrist sent a tendril of paper slashing through the air where he had stood mere moments before, and a small tree collapsed under the impact, scythed in half. Mirron shifted his grip, throwing a knife with his full might, but another tendril of paper caught it in midair as she turned towards him. â€œItâ€™s sorcery. Have you never seen it before?â€
He was caught off-guard â€“ he had known that she might spot him eventually, but had trusted in his magic. Perhaps too much. The tendrils from her arms spun loose, wrapping around him, cutting through holes in his armour to draw blood. He tried to reach for his knives, but they were out of reach. His anima flared, the winds cutting leaves from the trees, but the ribbons were relentless, and blood began to drip from him to spot the ground. â€œWhat are you? Another Anathema?â€
â€œNo, Exalt. I am something outside your experience.â€ She bit her lip. â€œBut I owe Kieran a very great deal. I wonâ€™t let you hurt him.â€ And then the ribbons constricted again, and more blood flowed. Mirron tried to struggle, but the pain overwhelmed him, and he sagged into deathâ€™s embrace.
Nia let him fall to the ground, her ribbons falling limp around her as the conditions of her magic collapsed. Her clothes faded into existance as the ribbons faded out, and she fell to her knees, fighting back vomit as she turned away from the ruins of the man she had slain. After a few moments, she looked up at the sky. â€œAnd that is all I can do, my saviour. The rest will be up to you.â€