Kimberyâ€™s Dawn darted and wove through the waves as the Essence cannon roared from the shore, arcs of energy flattening the waves. Aboard her, combat raged.
Nganto ducked and spun, a whirlwind of silver devastation. Claws lashed out, taking off skulls and arms as she dove forwards, rolled past a flurry of blows, and sliced through two more enemies. The blood apes swarmed around her like ants, with less effect. Dukantha raised an eyebrow delicately as claws slid off her scales without impact, and teeth failed to find purchase.
â€œYour crew is nothing to me, Infernal.â€ Ngantoâ€™s smile was sharp, and she dove forwards, her claws coming around towards Dukanthaâ€™s head, heedless of the acidic spray fountaining from his body. A simple back-step, and he brought his sword around in response; the blow chipped the hard surface of the deck as Nganto danced backwards away from it, skipping across waiting claws as though they were there to support her, not destroy her. One foot slammed downwards, crushing another ape that tried to take advantage of the movement to pull her to the deck, and she ended up leaning against the mast. â€œIf this is the best that you can field against me, I am far from concerned about facing you alone.â€ She smirked. â€œOr do you really have no power outside of your twisted patron?â€
â€œHmph.â€ Dukantha frowned darkly. â€œI will tolerate much, Lunar. But you will not mock my Mother in my presence.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s to mock? I just mean that she was twisted. When we defeated her.â€ The smirk grew, and Nganto gestured. â€œAnd I donâ€™t see her here to help you.â€
â€œYou â€“â€ Dukantha broke off the words with a snarl, and gestured. â€œI do not need my Mother to destroy you, you idiot child. You think that your Charms protect you from my sailors? You think that they canâ€™t hope to harm you? You. Are. Wrong.â€
As he bit off the last word, the blood apes leapt into motion. Every one was a blur as their own magics flared to life, leaping forwards a half-dozen times each to grab at Nganto and pull her down. Caught off-guard, the Lunar leapt upwards, but more apes flickered up the mast and jumped out, grabbing at limbs and bearing her downwards. Even falling, in mid-air, she darted and slipped, pushing off one ape to avoid its thrusting grasp while hopscotching over two more, but the sheer mass of enemies was pulling her downwards. Within moments, there was a pile of blood apes on the ground, as Nganto found herself pinned down by a dozen of the most tenacious of her foes. Grunting in annoyance, she brought her limbs towards one another in a single, vicious motion, cracking four apes into one another with a sickening sound and throwing them aside as she attempted to pull upwards.
As she did so, Dukanthaâ€™s daiklave slid easily into her chest.
Ngantoâ€™s gasp sent a small spatter of blood across the deck as Dukantha twisted the sword in her gut and pulled it free, smiling maliciously. â€œYou have no concept of what I represent, little girl. I wish that you did.â€ He shook his head. â€œWhy are you doing this? Wasting your gifts helping these worms? You â€“ you alone of the defenders might be worth saving. You have lived a life of blood and pain â€“ how can you not see that this is what the world is meant to be?â€
â€œYou never understood me.â€ Nganto shook herself, glancing down as the gaping wound began slowly closing, and pushed free of the blood apes, charging forwards. â€œMy life was lived to end that pain, not spread it.â€
â€œYou did a damned poor job, then. All you ever did was spread pain.â€ Dukantha laughed. â€œAnd now this? Why help these scum? They are of the people that have hunted your kind.â€
â€œThey have a kindness I did not imagine possible.â€ Nganto swiped at Dukantha, but the swarming blood apes reached her and began to pull backwards. With a muffled curse, she slashed backwards, but they were all around her. â€œThe world is a better place with them in it. And a better place without you.â€
â€œAnd will it be a better place without you, I wonder?â€ Dukantha grinned triumphantly as the blood apes bore Nganto down. His first blow slammed home, slashing across Ngantoâ€™s body and severing both her lungs. His second drove through her skull, pinning her to the deck, and Dukantha shook his head sadly. Such a waste.
And then Nganto drove upwards, along the sword, leaving pieces of brain behind her as her claws raked across the shocked Infernalâ€™s face. Dukantha could feel his Charms straining to turn the blow, but it was too sudden, too unexpected. He stumbled backwards, and she flipped backwards. The gaping holes in her chest and face were filled with shining silver light, creating a perfect replica. â€œI ask myself that question every day. I suspect that it will.â€ She grinned again, and drove forwards.
â€œStop her!â€ Unsettled, Dukantha gestured, and the blood apes swarmed again, pulling her back down. He reached up, feeling the bloody rents in his face fading away, and nodded approvingly. â€œEven death cannot slay you. I think that I approve.â€ He glanced over her, seeing the silver light pouring from her body. â€œBut it is too late. I need only wait for your energy to wear out, my dear, and it will be over.â€ The apes were blurs of energy as they piled on, holding her still. Nganto struggled, but there were too many.
And then the wind died. The seas grew still, just for a moment. And a dark shadow passed across the deck. Dukantha started to glance upwards, realizing even as he did that the shadow was not being cast from above. It was being created from within. And then, a moment later, it touched on him, and the sound of steel on steel rang across the deck.
As one, the blood apes reared in confusion. As one, they looked down at wounds blossoming across their bodies. And across the deck, outlined in a fountain of red and black blood as every ape on the deck died at once, Twice-Forged Steel locked his sais with Dukanthaâ€™s blade, the completion of the dance that had just claimed his crew.