Qinlana looked at Sarfina from the doorway. Sarfina was sitting on her bed, holding her knees to her chest with her arms. There were tears in her eyes, and her expression was a mask of confusion and mixed emotions. She looked almost like a little girl who had just lost her toy, or a young woman who had been rejected by her first crush.
Qinlana gave a small sigh. ‘I guess I really have to do this.’
She walked into the room properly and spoke with a clear and wry voice. “Well that was a very interesting conversation.”
Sarfina looked up sharply. “You were listening?”
“Yes, quite interesting I must say. Well at least we me might now be able to get rid of her.” Qinlana said with a callous voice. “Good riddance I say. She was such an eyesore if you ask my opinion. Such a mix-breed living in the house of a member of the Arazana family is a travesty.”
Sarfina reflexively took to defending Dee. “Watch what you say Qinlana. You’re talking about someone who I love like a sister. Certainly more than my actual family.”
Qinlana continued is a similar tone of voice. “But surely you must feel so betrayed. All this time and she kept a secret like that.”
Sarfina scoffed, not quite even realizing the significance of her defending Dee. “We all have our secrets. I certainly haven’t told her everything about my mess of a family either. She certainly had enough reason to hide things.”
“But she’s a killer. She has killed hundreds of people.” Qinlana pointed out.
“Then I’m a killer as well. I’ve killed more than enough in my life to qualify, and my whole family is filled with killers. I wonder how many thousands of lives my brother dearest has reaped in his rise to fame and power.” Sarfina voice had taken a dark tone at this point.
“Surely you don’t want to see her anymore after this?” Qinlana asked incredulously.
“Of course I want to see her!” Sarfina yelled. “She’s important to me! So what if she didn’t tell me before?! She told me honestly when I actually asked! She hid nothing when I actually confronted her.” Sarfina’s voice got a little quieter as the situation started dawning on her.
Qinlana’s voice then changed and became completely serious. “Then what are you doing moping around in here? Are you a templar or a little girl?”
“Qinlana…you…” Sarfina had trouble speaking as a sudden realization hit her.
“You already knew that she’s important. All you needed was a reminder.” Qinlana said softly.
“Thank you.” Sarfina managed to say, her voice filled with emotion.
“Well, do remember that gratitude, because there’s another reason I’m here. I have to report what happened here to the main house.” Qinlana said with a grimace.
Sarfina looked at the head maid seriously. “You do know the significance, right? I told you all years ago that you had to make a choice. You chose to remain. This is pretty much the equivalent of becoming an oathbreaker.”
Qinlana shook her head sadly. “I’m aware, but I’m also afraid you misunderstood me. When I said that I have to report this, I mean that literally. I have no choice in this matter. You lived in House Arazana for years. You should be aware that the servants who might gain any access to important information all have to sign binding magical contracts. Did you think the head maid sent to watch over the daughter of the house was any different?”
Sarfina’s eyes narrowed. “You’re magically bound?” The practice was not rare but not exactly common among the elven court either. The contracts placed heavy magical bonds on the subject, something heavy enough to be almost impossible to dispel by outside forces. Otherwise there would be no point. “What is in your contract?”
“Among a few other things, I have to pass on any information that could be important to the House Arazana, as well as do my utmost best to work to the benefit of the Arazana family, unless it places my life or the lives of my loved ones in imminent danger” Qinlana replied.
The only reason the part about danger was included was because no sane servant would sign a magical contract that forced them to sacrifice their lives for the house. They might choose to do so out of loyalty, but being magically compelled to do so was too close to being forced to become slaves or puppets.
“That’s why you stayed. That was you working to the benefit of the house.” Sarfina realized. The contract would compel Qinlana to stay, as that was clearly beneficial to both Sarfina and the main house.
“Not the only reason, but let’s just say I didn’t really have that much choice in the matter even if I didn’t have other reasons.” Qinlana shrugged.
“Wait, don’t you think reporting information like this about one of the best assassins around would place your life in danger?” Sarfina noticed a possible loophole. “No offense but Dee could tear you to shreds and make it look like an accident.”
Qinlana gave another sigh. “She would not kill me to hide the secret. In fact, I pretty much have her permission to report this to the main house. She doesn’t care.” This was one of the reasons Qinlana had shown up in front of Dee and prodded her. If Dee had made a credible threat on her life, she could’ve avoided reporting this to the main house for the time being at least. Alas, Dee had chosen not to go in that direction.
Truth be told, Qinlana didn’t really have anything against Dee anymore. Having spent years under the same roof had had that effect. She wasn’t exactly fond of her, but she didn’t hold any sort of grudge either. “Just go find her. She flew off in a huff. Go fix things between the two of you.” She said to Sarfina instead.
Dee was quickly flying out of the city. Her emotions roiled but she lacked a proper outlet for them. Her time with the Zabaniya had thoroughly squashed her ability express emotions by crying. One or two tears was just about all she could do nowadays. There were rare times of exception, but this wasn’t one of them. Instead she felt like a violent reaction was more appropriate. The best way to vent would be to find some sorry refuse that passed for criminals around these parts, but killing was what had gotten her into trouble in the first place. Trying to vent by killing more seemed inappropriate. Talking things out with a friend didn’t even occur to her.
As a result, the best thing that came to her mind was trying to push her body to the limits. Flying as fast as possible and as high as possible seemed as good a way as any other. For a rare change Dee was in her angel form as it was simply the best for flying. So far the usefulness of this form had been limited as she could materialize her wings in the other two forms.
If asked, she wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone how far and how high she flew. She had crossed to flying above the cloud cover a long time ago, and she couldn’t see the ground beneath. She had picked a random direction and wouldn’t have recognized any landmarks anyway. It must have been hours before she finally felt fatigue gathering in her wings. She didn’t actually use any muscles to fly as her wings were anything but natural, but that didn’t mean the wings themselves didn’t get tired at certain point. This was simply the first time she had flown far enough to notice.
Slowly she started drifting lower towards the ground. “Feeling any better?” Croestia asked.
“A little.” Physical exertion actually had a pretty good effect on her emotions. Not that that they were all that much calmer. She still didn’t quite know what she was even feeling. Just…pain. “I still feel like killing something though.”
“To vent, or because of your little problem?” Croestia asked.
Dee was about to reply when she noticed something odd. “This is weird. I don’t feel that compulsion towards taking the lives of others. I mean the feeling is there, but only in the sense that I know it’s there, like I know that you are there. I don’t actually feel the urge. It’s like there’s a wall between me and the feeling.”
They were both quiet for a moment. “You reckon it’s due to your form?” Croestia asked.
“That seems like the most likely explanation. I actually haven’t spent enough time in this form to know how it affects me.” Dee replied distractedly. This was a topic for another time. Her whole focus wasn’t in it to speculate accurately.
“Look below, between the mountains to your left.” Croestia suddenly pointed out, a little alarmed.
Dee looked towards the instructed direction. There she saw a creature she had only read about. It was slightly reminiscent of centaurs. Except the lower body looked closer to a four legged lizard, covered in scales that you could see on dragons, albeit much smaller. The upper body was that of a dragonling, a humanoid shaped creature descended from dragons. The creature was also apparently gathering strength and readying for an attack. An attack aimed towards Dee most likely. The creature was carrying a large maul made of some ferrous metal, with the power of lightning surging around it.
“A dragotaur?!” Dee asked surprised and shocked. She felt relatively safe still considering the distance, but that safety might be an illusion depending on the attack.
Dragotaurs were powerful and feral creatures that were very territorial. An adult dragotaur was the size of a house and was considered to be an equal opponent to a rank six warrior about to advance to rank seven. The problem with the dragotaurs was that they were immortal, and they kept growing through their whole lives. Growing in size, power and intelligence. A normal dragotaur was much dumber than your average intelligent species and very feral. A millennia old dragotaur could rival dragons in intelligence and cunning. A dragotaur that old might be able to match a dragon in sheer power as well, assuming a young dragon. A benefit of being the size of a small mountain.
This dragotaur was not much bigger than one that had barely reached adulthood, but its ability to use weapons implied certain amount of intelligence. Intelligence that should’ve indicated to the creature that Dee was too far to hit properly. There was one thing that Dee didn’t take into consideration though. Lighting moves very fast. There’s no need to fear that your target will dodge when the attack arrives almost instantly. As happened in this case as well.
Dee managed to barely place her lavender wing in front of the attack to block. If her black wing was great for attacking with the razor sharp feathers, the lavender wing was matchless in defense. It had managed to defend Dee against the magical attacks of the powerful lich that otherwise would’ve gutted her, and the wing managed to block this stream of lightning as well. At least to a point. Dee was still zapped when the wing conducted some of the power of the lighting into her body, but it was something that would regenerate quickly. It did make her pissed though.
“Fine then. I was just looking for something to vent on. I suppose you just volunteered.” Dee grumbled, although her sudden grin betrayed her complaint. “Croestia, full speed and defensive buff if you would. I’d rather avoid more of those lightning bolts. Swap to strength when I get closer.”
Dee dove straight for the creature. A nosedive provided so much speed that the dragotaur didn’t manage to chuck another bolt of lightning at Dee, but the power of lighting did gather around the creature surrounding it in a field of power. Dragotaurs were beings of lightning. They liked to climb the highest of mountains to bathe in thunderstorms and throwing great bolts of destruction against each other in a territorial rivalry. Luckily for Dee it hadn’t stormed here in a fair while. That made the dragotaur weaker. It also made the creature cranky.
Dee had switched shapes in midair into her four legged form that excelled in physical confrontation. Her claws struck home into the scaled hide of the large creature. Her claws rent scales and flesh, though the tough hide and hard scales managed to defend against most of the attack. The creature roared more in annoyance than pain, and swung its large weapon in retaliation. The speed of the weapon was much faster than its large size suggested. Dee barely managed to avoid the wide swing with a flap of her wings. The pressure generated by the swing of the huge weapons tossed Dee around in the air.
Dee growled at the creature with her fangs bared. She tried to quickly cast a life draining spell while extending her reach with a psionic hand. To her surprise the lighting surrounding the creature struck at the gathering power, causing the spell to dissolve and fizzle out. Unperturbed Dee dove back towards the creature, slashing at its flanks that were open to attack. Once again her strike had barely managed to break the scales protecting the creature.
“Annoying. That lighting keeps interfering with my psionic power.” Dee growled. She had covered her claws in energy to increase the power of her attack, but the energy had dissolved just like her earlier spell had. Higher level creatures had multiple ways to defend themselves. This one was a fairly simple but effective nonetheless.
Dee dodged another attack from the maul, when suddenly the dragotaur reared on its back legs and clawed at Dee with its front legs. As Dee was in the air and relatively unused to aerial combat, her reactions were not quick enough and the claws of the dragotaur cleaved four rather deep gashes in her back. Dee roared in pain, but luckily the force of the attack threw her away from the following swing of the maul.
“Now I’m getting mad!” Her wounds were rather serious, although they were regenerating. The lighting energy managed to mess even with her regeneration as it was slower than normal. This wasn’t working quite as Dee had planned.
She shifted her form in the air, back into her normal form and once again slashed against the wounded flank of the creature. This time however, she used the dark saber that carried the power of Umbra. The saber fared a little better, cleaving at the scales and hide beneath, leaving a relatively decent wound into the flesh beneath. However, the wound was far from deadly. The inevitable counter came immediately. The large maul crashed into the shield that Dee managed to raise in defense, bracing the shield with three of her hands.
Despite that, she was once again tossed away like a wet rag, and she felt at least two of her hands breaking on impact. They too would regenerate in time, but did she have time for that? This was the first time she had faced an enemy that was this much stronger than her physically. Her life so far hadn’t really prepared her for the experience. Most of her enemies had been humanoid before this.
The dark power of her weapon would kill her opponent eventually. The power of corruption had already entered the beast’s body, but it was dangerous to assume the dragotaur couldn’t use either its ki or the power of lighting to suppress the corruption. Who knew how long that would take? Her previous attacks had barely wounded the creature.
She shifted back into the kitsune form as she needed the extra speed to dodge the incoming attacks. Clearly blocking them was a bad idea. She dodged another swing of the maul, and hastily avoided a burst of lightning that followed in its wake, and dashed under the creature’s belly. She clawed at the underbelly, hoping the scales there would be softer, no such luck, and used her telekinesis to slash at the enemy with the dark saber. The results were unsatisfactory to say the least.
For the next two hours the two played a dangerous cat and mouse game. Dee made small wounds on the creature’s body, half hoping to bleed her enemy out or wishing for the corruption to do its job. No such luck so far. She on the other hand managed to avoid most of the counters, but not quite all of them. And every time she was struck, the damage was much worse than what she caused to the dragotaur.
“I think it’s time to consider retreat.” Croestia suggested. She could feel Dee growing tired, and her dodges were slower than before. Granted the enemy was slowing too, but not as noticeably.
“I don’t think so.” Dee growled, as she dodged another swing. Her pride was once again getting in the way. Or the pride of the dragon inside her to be more precise. How could a proud dragon give up against a runt of a mutation only barely related to the great dragons!? There was a slight red haze of battle setting in her mind.
“Be reasonable. At least take some distance to regenerate some of the damage you’ve taken.” Croestia suggested a compromise.
Despite the red haze, Dee was smart enough to understand that she couldn’t continue things as they were, and grunted in assent. She shifted back into the angel form for easier flying and took some distance. As a distraction she used her telekinesis to throw one of the psionic daggers at the dragotaur. She didn’t expect much, but maybe the dragotaur would at least flinch.
Imagine Dee’s surprise as the dagger bored straight into the front leg of the beast and exploded, completely mangling the limb. The other front leg also took some damage, both from the explosion and the shrapnel. The Dragotaur collapsed forwards, suddenly losing the support of those legs.
“What the heck?” Dee wondered, with a confused expression.
Something felt odd. The psionic power within her was flowing much better than she had ever felt. Before it had felt like wrestling a river of power into submission, but now the power moved like an obedient pet.
“Did its defenses fail?” Croestia asked confused, not feeling the change in Dee.
For an experiment Dee threw another dagger at the torso of the dragotaur, this time without the explosion. The defensive electric field was still there, but the psionic blade sliced through it like it was a sheet of paper. It wasn’t the defenses that had gotten weak, it’s just that they seemed to have little effect. Dee felt the need to finish the fight while her luck lasted, and another blade entered into the forehead of the creature, destroying its brains and killing it instantly. It was almost anticlimactic. After hours of trouble, she had won the fight like this?
Dee landed next to the large creature and followed her instinct, drawing in a big gulp of breath. Along with just air, a hazy grey form separated from the creature and entered Dee’s mouth. It was like she had drawn in smoke, without the resulting trouble with breathing and coughing. “So this is what it’s like to eat a soul.” It also happened to coincide with what Moirai had taught with her about eating the power and essence of her enemies.
She felt a sudden influx of power, and her wounds started to regenerate rapidly. Although the end of the fight had been anticlimactic this had been one of the hardest battles in her life. She felt like she had to honor her victory somehow. Still in her angel form, Dee looked towards the sky and released a long and powerful howl of a wolf that was bubbling in her chest. As the howl carried on, the howl slowly turned into the roar of a dragon.