Belon prayed there was no-one watching the bridge and the gates for sudden traces of magic. The clapping hooves and squealing carriage axles concealed the clanging of his metal boots and the scraping of the plates of his armour against each other. He had to half-run to keep pace with the dreadful convoy but he managed it, first across the bridge over the moat between the outer and inner walls, and then between the gatehouses into the fortress proper. In the open space of the inner ward, the convoy accelerated, and Belon chose not to pursue. Instead, he waited in the shadows, away from the hustle and bustle, and took his bearings.
The inner ward was a graveyard waiting for an army of undertakers to come and do their work. Of course, Belon didn’t expect the Molthuni to bury their dead there, but there were so many dead soldiers. The scene was like the aftermath of a great battle. The rumours had been true.
The sight brought with it the memory of the Nirmathi hamlet they had found, and the slaughtered villagers, their bodies torn to pieces. Old people, even little children, all dead. The all-present nauseous stench of blood, rot and excrement.
Was this just? Was Cael right? Did the Imperial Guard deserve this, for the horrors they had unleashed against the Nirmathi?
By the main entrance to the keep, the Chelaxian convoy halted. Arriving to a conclusion of the morale of the story had to wait.
Belon entertained no notion he could slip into the keep after the mysterious Chelaxian. The traffic in and out of the inner ward was hectic, as the soldiers tried tended to the wounded and organized the dead. Invisible meant no-one could see him – but all it required was one keen-eared guard, or one accidental contact, a bump, with a soldier and his cover was lost. So he had to find another way in. If he couldn’t go through the main door, he had to circle around the fortress. That meant getting into one of the towers, then sneaking along the massive curtain walls into the main keep.
It didn’t take long for the invisible warrior to spot an opportunity. Many of the tower entrances were kept open – closing them was now a inconvenience to the hurrying soldiers. Hugging the walls, Belon crept towards the closest tower, keeping his steps firm
and as quiet as possible, despite the chaotic surroundings.
No-one seemed to notice him, and he slipped into the tower.
And barely evaded an incoming servant carrying a keg of ale of all things in his lap.
Belon crashed into a wall as he pivoted away, but the servant was in a too much of a hurry to stop and wonder what had clattered against stone in the rounding staircase.
The half-elf sighed in relief and remained still to listen.
Echoes of barked command circled the tower, emanating from somewhere up, but no-one was moving up or down the stairs. They led down too, into the cellars, but Belon had had enough of the undergrounds for one night. Afterall, it could be a maze down there. He needed straight routes.
Rising two steps at a time, Belon seized his chance and hurried up.
The massive inner walls of the Imperial Castle were thick and tall both and hid chambers of their own – it was no little fort where the only way to traverse the walls was on them. One the first floor, Belon risked a peek into the main hallway that led through the wall toward the main keep. Beneath its arched ceiling was a bustle of commotion and armed people. There was no way the half-elf could get through unnoticed.
Belon cursed, and continued up. He had to hurry. Nyra needed his help. He was certain.
On the second level all the doors leading to either direction of the wall were open like slack jaws. Belon wondered about the lack of guards, chose to be thankful instead and checked the hallway again.
It was half-lit and quiet, the complete opposite of the level below, the only sound coming from a few crackling torches driven into sconces.
The warrior went on, still hugging the loop-holed wall, compromising between swiftness and quietness. To his right were closed spaces, hiding what he assumed were storages and quarters of the garrison force. Lack of any signs of activity was both relieving and unnerving.
He reached the second tower. How many was there left until the curtain wall connected with the main keep? Belon had made a quick count on the inner yard. Two, three perhaps?
Carefully he pushed into the second tower and immediately heard two guards talking a level beneath him, their voices echoing along the curved stony staircase. They were coming up.
Should he rush across to the next section of the curtain wall? What if they followed him? What if the next section wasn’t abandoned like the previous? Should he hold position?
Ultimately, his indecisiveness made the decision for him. Belon withdrew from the gap on the door and glued his back to the wall, became a hidden statue.
At the other side, the two soldiers arrived to the same level.
“I’m telling you, the traitors are caught and the rebels are gone”, said one. “We’d be better off out there in the city, hunting the bastards there.”
“The captain told us we guard this part of the the Castle so we guard this part of the Castle”, replied the other.
“The place is empty!”
“So what. We keep everybody out. Everybody.”
The other of the soldiers pushed open the door before Belon and extended his neck.
Belon froze, the greatsword’s handle in his grip. He held his breath.
“Any lingering traitors or Nirmathi inside?” The man called as he peered into the half-lit hallway, looked around, through Belon.
“Fool”, came the comment behind him. “Move along.”
The first solder stepped in, ending up only half a stride from Belon but peering elsewhere. “Strange”, he murmured and didn’t move farther.
“Stop messing around and move along, dammit.”
“I think I saw something..”
The second soldier pushed the first forward. “Yeah, yeah, I’m tired of your jokes and attitude. We’ve got friends dead-”
That made the serious soldier pause.
“It’s just the torches making the shadows dance”, he sighed finally and shouldered past his brother-at-arms.
Belon’s grip loosened.
The first Molthuni soldier murmured something intelligible and followed suit. In silence, they traversed the long corridor and exited at the other end.
Belon let go of his sword and took a deep breath. Another close call. Another lost moment.
Out of the darkness of the corner opposite to him, a hooded warrior in black and darkest purple emerged.
“Gods!” Belon hissed in surprise and almost pulled out his weapon.
His brother brought his index finger over the grin of his skull mask. But the soldiers had gone.
“Couldn’t let you get killed”, Cael shrugged in a way of explanation after danger had passed.
Belon snorted. “I knew you’d come.” Yet he was pleased. Cael had made the right decision. Again. Belon hoped it would become a habit.
“I lost you once, won’t lose you twice”, his brother muttered. “But we’ve yet out of the storm.”
“Right”, Belon cleared his throat. “Lead the way.” Sneaking was more Cael’s line of business, and he had to admit he was happy Cael was finding the path for them.
The two made their way further along the fortress’s walls, the ghost and the shadow. In the last tower before the main keep, another pair of soldiers blocked their path. But they were not on patrol. Between them kneeled two figures, their heads covered with hoods and their arms tied behind their backs with heavy shackles. They faced the wall. Peering through a crack in the doorway, Belon could recognize the Molthuni officer’s uniform and the colours of an Iomedaen crusader.
“What do we do”, Belon whispered but Cael again held a finger over his death grin. His other hand was on the door, watching beyond.
“More on the way”, he whispered.
Belon picked out the whining hinges of a door pushed open and the steps, two or three. They stopped by the prisoners.
“The General Lord has made his decision. Kill the crusader and take the traitor to the dungeons”, one of the newcomers told the soldiers.
The captives began to shake, fighting their shackles, screaming incoherencies as if their mouths had been gagged under the hood. One of the soldiers nodded, moved behind the armored figure in the livery of Iomedae and produced a long dagger. He took a hard hold of the figure’s shoulder, to keep her still like the other did to the resisting Molthuni officer.
Belon unsheathed his sword and barged into the tower, almost taking the old door with him.
“Hurt her and you will die”, he bellowed, pointing with the greatsword and coming out of invisibility.
The dagger clattered to the shingled floor, as almost did the jaw of the would-be executioner.
“Coward”, screamed the man who had brought the commands, a captain of the Molthuni army in spotless half-plate. “More Nirmathi, kill them!” His hand went to his belt and the sword there. It was as far as it got before an arrow split his left eye, the tip bursting from the back of his head and dirtying the face of his bodyguard with crimson behind him.
“Anybody else willing to die for their superiors?” Cael asked over Belon’s shoulder. Eight hands shot upward. So much for famed Molthuni bravery.
“Release them”, Belon voiced the command, and the would-be executioner unlocked the shackles and drew off the hood of the Iomedan.
Jocelyn Rhediax spat the wooden gag out of her mouth and stumbled up with a furious face. “Bastard traitors-”
“At ease, First Lance-Commander”, said the other captive, a regal woman wearing the officer’s uniform, as she rose with care and dignity, dropping the bloodied and drooly gag as she did and flexed her jaws. She noted the one-eyed captain dead on the floor.
“I see Wallis already received his punishment for insubordination and treason.”
“We’re here to find Nyra Sunn”, Belon started, gazing at Jocelyn who hadn’t been Nyra after all. Then he frowned. “Weren’t you supposed to be peacefully surrendered?”
“Weren’t you two supposed to be with her”, Jocelyn spat back, and brushed old blood off her chin.
“I take you are the Greymarsh brothers”, the dark-skinned Molthuni officer said and pulled a longsword off the scabbard of a soldier next to her. The man kept his hands up and did nothing but flinch. The sword went to rest into the woman’s empty sheath and she let out a relaxed breath.
“And you are?” Belon continued the stream of questions.
“Castellan Pia Hemdor of Canorate and the Imperial Castle”, she replied with her deep voice and her chin rose a fraction.
“Why were you bound and facing swift deaths?” Cael joined the conversation, the bow and arrow still ready.
“It appears we are in the midst of an insurgency and a coup both, or a coup veiled in an insurgency. I thank you for your assistance but I must find loyalists and save all I can.”
She acted professionally but there was no hiding her distress and boiling anger.
“Where is Nyra”, Jocelyn almost growled and followed the Castellan’s lead, relieving her would-be slayer from his longsword, causing yet another flinch of healthy fear of death.
“She’s here, meeting whoever is in charge and reporting of the treachery and defeat of Lord Horryn”, Belon said.
“So you attacked him..”
“And saved your fellow believers, and Abadaran clergymen from captivity. And halted an invasion of devils.”
“What in the name of Iomedae is happening here?” Jocelyn half-shouted, namely to Hemdor. But she remained composed and focused on Belon.
“Sunn is in danger. General Lord Davonnii, the Imperial Governor’s second-in-command is behind the coup. We need to get to him, quickly.”
“What do we do with them”, Cael nodded at the soldiers, who were still holding their hands up.
“Strip them of their weapons and shackle them to the wall”, Hemdor said. “Justice can wait for them.”
The last betrayal unfolds.
This is the end game.
Or is it?
Nyra had her shield, but her sword was in its scabbard, awfully far away. The Molthuni soldiers rushed to form a circle around the woman, but didn’t attack, daring her to make her move. Part of her wanted to believe they were afraid of her.
She stayed her sword-hand.
“Why?” She only asked.
Davonnii rubbed his palms together. He seemed to enjoy his moment.
“Though you stopped our allies from entering Canorate, you were a literal godsend. You and Horryn’s little wife are two perfect scapegoats to clean up the mess that was that fool Horryn and take the blame for all this. A shroud to cover what really happened.”
Nyra resisted the urge to reach for her sword. She had to stall for time, so she could come up with a plan. “What happens then?”
“A new order takes command in Molthune, of course. One that is more decisive, and able to produce results quickly rather than only long-winding visions and grand schemes that take generations to achieve.”
“Hell, that devil, Galicus?” Nyra spat the name.
“Not him. With his assistance, I will.”
I could take out the knights between me and the doors.
How far could I get? How could I organize whoever was left of the 126th?
“So the shapeshifter made all the others run in circles, only for you to swoop in and take over. Horryn was a puppet. Your facade all along.”
Davonnii flashed a smile.
“What about Teldas? Hemdor?”
“Teldas is dying. Shielded by his most loyal warriors and mages in his chambers, he still lingers but the poison will overcome soon enough. Your and the rebels’ poison, or Horryn’s. I haven’t yet decided who to blame yet. Maybe the rebels – they were the ones who attacked after all. Just before you so conveniently escaped. And Hemdor was last seen disappearing from the Imperial Castle with a group of her loyalists and a number of rebels. Hunting them, but I think a narrative where she helped you escape and the rebels to plant their bombs and poison our water is much more suitable. She of course, is already caught.”
“Bastard! You’d betray and kill hundreds of your own?”
“My division is marching from the border, Commander. These are not my men who are dying.”
“They’re your brothers..”
“They’re a sacrifice, for the greater good of the nation.”
Her plan for retreat crumbled. Bolstered by the overdose of crystals, her honor demanded her to slay the traitorous General Lord.
Her cheeks reddened and her voice faltered momentarily. “So much death and havoc, only for a simple coup. Your treachery will be revealed, you will pay-”
“Ah, Commander, spare me the righteous talk. The winners decide what is the truth, and your transgressions here will be remembered as an unlawful attack against a lawful government. Your company will join the list of rogue elements of your cult harassing the region, just like your brethren in Cheliax undermining the infernal rule of House Thrune.”
The circle of blades closed a step around Nyra.
“Leanna of Druma will know of my fate, and your treason.”
Davonnii’s gaze was almost compassionate. “I will have to explain to her family how she died in your and the brothers’ attack, and it will be a sad story, I imagine. Or I can blame you two for collusion with the rebels. So many options…”
“But enough with the wordplay”, he gestured with a lazy finger at Nyra. “Kill her.”
Seething righteous anger, Nyra went to her sword and pulled it out from its scabbard. She had to resist. She was ready to fight until her last breath.
But her death lingered.
Doors to her far right, across the round chamber, opened violently.
“Wait”, a powerful voice demanded. The knights complied as if they had suddenly frozen, but Nyra spun towards the newcomer.
At the doorway was a handsome, bald-headed and clean-shaven man, wearing the finest silks of indigo and a blood-red cloak. There were diabolical tattoos on the right side of his forehead. He went unarmed but was accompanied by two black-plated hulking warriors.
He was smiling at Nyra, and his regal, timeless face morphed to resemble someone else. Older, gentlemanly and scholarly. Someone Nyra recognized immediately.
“Ah, the paladin of the 126th Augustana. We meet again, if so soon. You’re foolish to come alone, but perseverant”, Aeshmakar said. “The latter a trait I admire. General Lord, she’s all too valuable to die so quickly.”
Davonnii crossed his arms across his chest.
“Aeshmakar”, he spat the devil’s name, one of many, “she’s dangerous, and must be dealt with.”
“Oh that she is, and she will be.”
Attack, attack, the words hammered her reason.
What about Tresh and the others, waiting in the lobby behind her, she asked herself. Where was Edvor, her invaluable if young advisor? Where was Jocelyn, her unbending iron, who thought she knew best thinking she wanted just the best for her commander? They were all in the dark of the extent of the treachery. Waiting to be ambushed and slaughtered, if not dead already.
Step aside, girl, she recalled a rainy day at the docks of Augustana, the thuggish guard threatening her, the laughing seagulls circling above her. How she had failed Jak. The first name on her shoulder.
Nyra straightened her back and lifted her shield a bit higher. Held on to her ancient sword that much firmer.
“Surrender and you will be spared”, Aeshmakar offered, taking the reins of the matter just like he had from Horryn, leaving Davonnii vexed and scowling.
Nyra tried to call forth the powers of her goddess, but the sea of holy energy was at low tide and out of her reach. She had wasted her reservoirs trying to save Shevar. She knew Iomedae was watching her from her golden throne.
The devil’s offer tasted sweet yet was venomous. Amidst betrayal and evil, she was truly alone.
Yet she wasn’t. She still had her faith. Her tenets.
“I won’t surrender.”
“You’d rather let your friends and brethren-in-arms die?”
Nyra was quiet.
The devil kept teasing her, but added bile to his honey.
“Just like the tigress? The mind of your friend was easy to open up. Just a whisper of what a threat Cael Greymarsh posed, and she was ready to sacrifice herself for you.”
“You bastard!” Nyra howled, fought the overdosed urge to attack with every iota of her being.
“I’ll turn you eventually too. I can smell how you are already straying from your holy path.” Aeshmakar smiled. “You’ll be another addition to my collection.”
Nyra’s eyes thinned. Enough talk. No hesitation.
Putting all her might behind her spin, her shield slammed the sword of the knight in front of her away, leaving his plated chest exposed. Nyra’s ancient sword rammed through it like paper.
Using her momentum and keeping her head down she barged past the dying, crumbling knight and his fellows, towards the devil.
The devil became the mantled iron monster. And it slashed with its claw.
Nyra went flying back, all the way to the doors, through them like the tip of a battering ram.
With an oomph she landed, skid a stride. Her helmet was gone. Her vision swam but she saw well enough. The strike had made her really see.
Davonnii’s men surrounding Tresh and the others, ready to put them to the sword.
All my decisions leading to this point, made in a haze.
I’ve failed myself.
The realization that followed was as painful.
They’ll all die. I did this to them.
With a desperate roar, she pulled herself up and killed the nearest Imperial guardsman just for the spite of it, lopping his head off. He didn’t even see it coming.
This was truly her last stand. She’d die alone, cast out from the warmth of her goddess. But she’d die trying to slay a monster.
Then someone called her name, a friendly voice.
Down the main corridor came running no-other than Belon Greymarsh and his brother. And with them came two people Nyra would not ever thought to have come to her aid, not then.
Both battered and angry, Castellan Hemdor and Jocelyn Rhediax charged like their lives depended on it.
Nyra turned back towards the war room.
She smiled, and charged.
The girl-paladin had company.
Cael halted briefly, and let one arrow fly, past Nyra, and it burrowed into the neck of the closest knight trying to get to her.
Both the Castellan and Belon had been right – she was in trouble.
And it was exactly the sort of action that would end up killing them all – open combat in the heart of the fortress. The queen bee was in danger and the workers would soon know. There would be dozens of Molthuni sprawling the corridors and hallways after Cael and Belon. After the damned crusaders.
One thing at a time.
The Molthuni keeping an eye on the bearlike cleric and the half-dead captives ran before Belon’s charge, sheep like their brothers-in-arms that had guarded Hemdor and Rhediax. Cael dismissed them and shot another arrow into the mass of Imperial knights pouring out of the massive doors after Nyra and was awarded with a pained grunt.
“Stand down, in the name of the Imperial Governor”, Hemdor screamed as she ran. The knights didn’t seem to hear her – two became locked in melee with the paladin, four more streamed past, shields up, challenging Belon and Rhediax. Belon hesitated, but the Iomedaen filled with pent-up anger didn’t. She clutched her stolen longsword with two hands. As if it had done something bad to her. She charged, as if the knights had killed her family. She howled Nyra’s name.
“Davonnii, you traitor”, Hemdor snarled over the little line of battle and the clamor of combat into the massive chamber beyond. Inside, safely removed from the struggle, Cael could see another Molthuni officer, serious and armored in elven mail, carrying a curved blade.
“I should’ve killed you immediately, Castellan”, the officer shouted back. “The brothers are here”, he said to someone who Cael couldn’t see.
“Surrender now and your death will be merciful”, Hemdor barked, but the man smiled.
“Your end is now.”
And two hulking, snorting creatures stepped into view. Cael knew who the Molthuni officer had been talking to.
“Galicus”, Cael bellowed and started to pace the corridor towards the melee. The veins of his bow erupted into a searing glow. He felt the heat on his brow, the rune awakening. “This time you will not run!”
They were not many but the knights were a barricade of steel and flesh on the doorway. But as if cue, they started to step back, allowing the attackers in.
The cornugon devils waded into war once more. As they loomed over the doorway, the tips of their folded wings almost touched the curved ceiling.
Jocelyn’s bullish charge faltered when she saw the monstrosities, but Nyra and Belon went at them, side by side without fear.
“By Gorum..” Hemdor muttered.
“Where are you”, Cael bellowed anew as he strode past the shocked Castellan.
The grinning old man, visible beyond the line of Molthuni. Then a flicker, and he was the faceless knight with armor that seemed to be alive and claws long as swords.
The orb of two shining stars was still on the chest of the creature, on a thin chain and hanging there by magic alone.
Cael’s jaws could’ve pulverized stone. The fucker flaunts it.
Cael could see nothing else. He stepped over dead or dying knights. He forgot about helping Nyra. By instinct, he put two flaming arrows into a knight who tried to get to him.
He recognized the voice now.
“Out of my head, devil!”
Challenge me and lose your loved ones forever.
The Mark felt like a slab of molten rock on his forehead. His muscles burned with mythical energies.
In his madness, he missed the warrior who came roaring and stabbed him in his side, making him lose the grip of his bow.
The pain lancing across his torso offered a second of clarity. Before being struck with a shield, he became incorporeal, leaped through the knight, the two gladii already in his hands. Then he spun and stabbed the man with both blades, through his heart.
He heard the devil’s laughter.
I would have some much use for you. For both of you. For all three of you!
Something heavy, coated in black and gold, went flying through the chamber and slammed against the floor, shattering tiles of marble beneath. The horned devil that had thrown Belon joined the knight-devil’s glee with a laugh of its own.
Cael saw Nyra fighting on, but something was wrong. No holy light spilled from her. Each cut, parry and blocked maul strike was accompanied with a high pitched scream, and each sounded more tired and desperate and defiant than the last.
Belon struggled up to his feet as his diabolical opponent stomped towards him, eager to finish the fight. He had lost his greatsword.
The offer still stands, Cael of Greymarsh. I can make it sweeter even. I’ll let you all live.
He heard Aurora humming a love song, then giggling, as if she was right beside him.
Cael roared to block the devil’s magic, to drown the lies whispered to his ear.
The way was open, a part of the dark-eyed half-elf realized. The knights had fallen, Galicus waited alone, the emotionless mask watching, clawed hands waiting by his sides, a sick call to an unholy embrace.
The other cornugon, one that had flung Belon across the domed chamber, swung its mace down at his brother. But Belon was still quicker, and the weapon struck the conference table with a map of northern Avistan, scoring a massive crack on its surface. But without his sword, he was only postponing the inevitable doom.
A woman’s growl of anger was cut short by another thundering toll of the mace. “Jocelyn!” Nyra’s voice called in horror.
A wordless command urged Cael to forget them all, to rush the devil. To tear the soulstone off the its chest. To save Aurora and Gabriella.
Say I submit, and all will be spared.
Another crack of thunder, mace splitting marble floor. Belon’s roar of empty defiance. But all Cael could focus on was the soulstone and the two stars within.
Again, he was faced with two options. And as always, he really had no choice.
Prone, Belon made the last desperate lunge at his greatsword. His fingers brushed the hilt before the general of Hell planted its clawed foot on his arm. Hundreds of pounds of weight made him groan and the shock lanced across his arm to his back.
“You fight well, little mortal, all too well for your age”, the horned devil of screaming red hide growled at him. “I can sense the magic you’ve been imbued with and the one of your gear. Old magic.”
It applied more pressure, drawing a pained gurgle from the half-elf. “But I have not been defeated in five hundred battles.”
Belon forced his head around, and for a moment could appreciate the wounds he had inflicted on the monster. The many deep grooves across its torso. The ruined left wing, like a ripped sail. The blood-covered face and feet. Then he saw the smoking mace rising anew, and knew he had scored one blow too little.
He had a second left to live and he worried about Cael and Nyra.
Then the mace dropped to the floor, as did the fist wielding it. The devil howled in rage as black ichor splurted from its severed arm.
“I can’t let you do that”, said Cael and ducked beneath the angered swipe of the hellforged shield.
The foot left Belon’s broken arm. Despite the pain, Belon reached to his sword with his good hand, then pushed himself up. He spared a glance at Nyra yet fighting, her ancient sword a blazing source of light, guarding a heap of armor that was her former First Lance-Commander.
Galicus’s voice filled the war room.
“I grow tired of your insolence, slave.” The devil swiped its clawed hands, as if brushing aside something.
Cael screamed in pain, and fell to his knees.
The one-handed devil chortled at Cael, then slammed him aside with its shield, black liquid still spluttering from its stump.
Belon howled a denial, took one step forward.
The cornugon started to turn. Belon swung the greatsword one-handed, putting all his strength behind it.
The devil never had the time to raise its shield. Headless, it crashed backwards like a torn-down statue.
“Don’t let.. him get away”, Cael managed to mutter to his brother.
“Know that they will suffer because of you”, Galicus-devil said, its rising anger apparent. Its claws started to cast magic.
More than ten strides away, next to his twin, Belon was too far from the devil. He could not stop him even if he tried.
“You will never see them again”, Galicus made the final promise.
Nyra had never been so tired, never so worn-out by battle. She had fought with only her skill and mortal endurance and the might of her weapons and armor. The light of her goddess had forsaken her. She had never before fought for her life without Her.
Nyra felt Her eyes on her, but they were only watching. Judging.
And now even the lent strength of the crystals was waning, and with it came the fears and doubts, an avalanche over the physical pain. The ghost pain of losing Shevar twisting her soul. The creeping panic of realizing the full extent of the implications of her choices.
Her opponent, a sullen and silent cornugon if there was one, had stepped back and was mouthing a spell, again trying an escape.
Over her shoulder, she saw Cael on the floor, Belon clutching his sword one-handed, the other a useless limp. And between them the mind-controlling shapeshifter, its back to the paladin.
It was getting away. Nyra could not let that happen. For all her mistakes, she had to stop it and make it pay for its sins.
So she spun and sprinted forward. The air around the lord of Hell flickered with colours of dark magic.
Nyra knew then she was too late but she still reached and swung once, overhead, at the devil. She felt the utmost tip of the blade hitting something metallic, breaking through something thin.
But then the devil was gone.
For a split second, there was a complete absence of sound in the domed war room.
Nyra slumped to the ground as her body finally gave in.
The silence was broken by a glassy sphere as it rolled across the marble floor gently toward Cael. Within it, in an ash-grey cloud, shone two star-like lights.