Ngaire looked at the little demon girl in front of him. Well, little was the wrong word, as the girl was almost two mel tall and had as much muscle as a girl could and still look attractive. As they were used to being the tallest and strongest people in the room, Dagon usually thought members of other races as ‘little’. Even as tall as the girl was, Ngaire was still almost a full head taller, so she was still smaller than him.
Moirai was out trying to figure out what was going on with the attacks, and had left instructions for the two to have their first fight, even without her doing her part. Even though the fights were meant to test the girl’s ability to do some psion thing in combat, the guardian though it wise if they had their first bout without that added complication. Two unknown opponents fighting each other and testing each other out was complicated enough, without the added hindrance of some psionic mumbo jumbo.
The guardian had also left very clear instructions to Ngaire. “Don’t hold back!”
He guessed this was supposed to be another lesson for the girl. A lesson in humility. That was something many young people never learned until it was too late. The girl didn’t look like someone who was used to losing. The speed and agility types never were. They thought themselves as untouchable. They flitted around like faeries or birds, so certain in their ability to remain unharmed. Until someone clipped their wings and showed them what it was like fighting against someone who could just overpower them with strength and fortitude.
‘That’s most likely the lesson the guardian wants me to teach the girl. Humility and what it feels like to be overpowered.’ Ngaire thought his victory was certain. He knew he was almost two full ranks above the girl, so his confidence wasn’t unfounded.
“Don’t you want to pull out your weapons?” Ngaire asked a little baffled as the two squared off against each other on the training field.
The other people had all stopped their own training, and were now gathering around to watch the fun. Ngaire could see bets being made, thinking no one would be stupid enough to bet on the girl winning, so the bets were most likely about how long she could put up a fight. It was rare for the others to see Ngaire fight, and the new disciple of Moirai had roused the interest of nearly everyone among the sub-community, for multiple reasons.
“Don’t need them. If you two want me to go through this, I refuse to be a punching bag and play by your rules.” Dee replied a little gruffly.
Ngaire frowned. “What do you me…” He didn’t have the chance to finish the sentence as the girls form changed into something rather monstrous that he didn’t have time to observe properly, as it dashed straight at him with a blinding speed.
Ngaire barely managed to lift his two handed blade to protect his chest from the paw that slashed at him in an almost uppercut manner. “Son of a bitch!” Ngaire cursed as he felt his feet leave the ground as he flew backwards. His flight ending with a splash of water and a fervent struggle towards the surface of the pond he had ended up in. He wasn’t injured, aside from his pride.
Dee gave a vicious grin of satisfaction as he watched Ngaire splash into the pond. She might only be a relatively newly minted class five psion, but she was physically very strong for her rank, already matching someone at the peak of the fifth rank. That was before she shifted into her nine-tailed fox form which multiplied her physical attributes in exchange for not being able to use weapons. Combine that with the full power strength buff Croestia had just given her, and the result was as everyone could see.
Dee had actually held back a little in her first blow, not coating her claws in psionic power, since she didn’t want to accidentally kill Ngaire while he was still unprepared. The man’s touki, a protective layer of ki on his skin, had prevented her claws from actually hurting the man. Didn’t protect his pride though, which was her aim. She wanted him angry. She wanted to show she wasn’t going to take her beatings meekly, and wanted to establish what she could do while not distracted by Moirai’s psionic attacks.
Ngaire threw away his soggy shirt and brandished his sword after reaching the ground. “Alright girlie, let’s have it your way then. I hope you like it rough, because this is going to get very rough.” His ki suddenly burst out to surround him like plate armor, strengthening all his muscles. His skin also started to slowly turn scaly, showing the supposed draconic heritage of his race.
‘I wonder if the two have already started.’ Moirai wondered as she walked back towards the training field. Today’s investigation had given disturbing results so she returned early.. She was also curious to see the fight between Ngaire and Dee, as they should be rather closely matched when nothing else was interfering with Dee’s concentration.
‘I just hope Ngaire took my warning seriously. He could get in trouble if she thinks Dee isn’t up to the challenge.’ She had given the warning; the rest was up to him.
‘What’s going on here?’ She wondered as she got closer and saw the cheering crowds around the training field. Normally only the guards and some warriors used the field, but now there were thousands of people jumping and cheering and making bets, ranging from the rowdy Dagon to the diminutive but excited Meilin. There were even three Anshar watching with stoic faces, fiery glow shining between the cracks of their black leathery skin.
No one stopped her from pushing her way towards the center of the commotion, they all recognized Moirai after all, and soon she was staring at a sight that made her eye twitch. There was blood on the ground, and the ground itself looked like it had gone through a magical bombardment, there was very little left of the training ground that had been here before.
The two fighters didn’t seem all that much better off. Ngaire was covered in bloody gashes, his sword having snapped before, losing its point and about a palm’s worth of its length and several of his scales were scattered on the ground. There was also very little left of his clothes, which had been shredded. Dee, still in her more feral form, was also covered in bruises and gashes that would’ve bled profusely, if they hadn’t been in the middle of regenerating. One of her paws had clearly broken at some point, and only barely managed to regenerate at this point.
Moirai’s eye twitched some more as the two once again clashed, pummeling each other with all their strength. There was no finesse in this fight, this was a brawl pure and simple. There was no technique, no feints and parries, no dodging or any attempt to avoid the blows. This fight was all about their ability to give and take hits.
Dee’s claws slashed at Ngaire, her claws glowing with psionic power. Most of it was stopped by Ngaire’s touki, but one of the claws managed to leave a nasty gash on his thigh, as he replied by slamming his blade into her side, throwing her sideways due to the power of the blow, the ground breaking under the pressure of Dee’s rapid deceleration as she lunged again at Ngaire.
It was clear both of them had some trouble getting through the other’s defenses. Ngaire was a defense oriented warrior with thick touki, while Moirai noticed that Dee’s fur hardened under every blow, turning into something rivaling armor. That armor prevented most wounds but that didn’t mean the impact went away, so every blow left bruises and jangled her insides, but that was mostly countered by her regeneration.
“How long have they been at it?” Moirai asked the nearby Mina, who was cheering at Dee.
“I came here twenty minutes ago, when Tuana ran to get us. I guess the fight had gone on for a while before that.” Mina replied, blushing with excitement. There was something about a good old slugfest that got people going.
Moirai didn’t know if she should join the cheering or cry at the two idiots going at it. She was about to interfere and spoil everyone’s fun, but the fight came to a surprising conclusion before she had the chance. The two had moved closer to the pond again, and Dee got an idea from her initial attack. She suddenly charged at Ngaire, ramming the man with her whole body, bringing both of them into the water.
Unlike Dee, Ngaire wasn’t expecting this and didn’t get a change to take in much air; in fact Dee’s sudden blow had pushed most of their air out of his lungs instead. This became a much bigger problem, as he could feel Dee’s jaws clamp around his neck and drag him deeper underwater. He struggled of course, but Dee had gotten behind him, and was now dragging him deeper, not allowing him to come up to the surface.
The audience watched in silence as some time passed, and finally the surface of the pond was disturbed as Dee swam towards the shore. She dragged the thoroughly drowned Ngaire to the surface, still holding him by the neck, though much gentler now that the man’s touki was gone. As they got back on the ground, Dee kicked Ngaire in the ribs for good measure before collapsing right next to him.
“Might want to get all that water out of his lungs. Also get a healer here. I’m too tired to cast any healing spells on him while I regenerate.” Dee said with a tired voice, which spurred everyone into action.
“Having fun, are we?” Dee heard a chilling voice above her, and found her master staring at her with a decidedly unhappy face. The diminutive woman could look quite menacing with her hands planted on her hips like that.
“Well…” Dee hedged, not really willing to admit that the fight had actually been rather fun.
“Second tail!” Moirai commanded with a cool voice.
Dee silently obliged by placing a second tail in her lap. Moirai had already been petting the first one for an hour as a form of stress relief. Petting something fluffy seemed to calm her down. Dee herself lay on the floor, regenerating all the damage she took in the fight against Ngaire. Outwardly she was fine, but it took a little time to get everything to perfect working order inside her body.
Moirai had been rather displeased with their little bout. Dee had tried to disarm the situation by shrinking down and acting cute, but the only result was Moirai dragging her back indoors by her neck. Dee had looked a little like a kitten being carried by her mother, except by hand and not in Moirai’s mouth. Dee had been too bloody for that. Otherwise Dee wouldn’t have put anything past her master, as Moirai had looked ready to chew iron and spit nails. The barely contained mirth from the gathered crowd had been somewhat humiliating.
“So. Care to explain what happened there?” Moirai finally got to a point where asking questions was possible. No one was stupid enough to mix that with a real question though, as it was clearly a demand for answers.
“I’m not sure I can give a proper rational explanation.” Dee mumbled.
“Try.” Moirai said simply.
“I wanted to wipe that smug smirk off his face.” Dee said simply, as if that explained everything.
“Ngaire doesn’t smirk. I don’t think I’ve seen him smile more than once since I came here. That was when you were helping with the security and he was sure he got you with the waterways. And that barely qualified as a smile.” Moirai immediately rebutted. Describing Ngaire as stoic was giving him too much credit expressions-wise.
“It was in his eyes.” Dee said a little defensively.
“Let’s say it was. Since when have you started to care what others thought of you?” Moirai asked with a frown. Dee was almost remarkably unconcerned about the opinions of anyone but those close to her. Mainly Moirai herself and Mina to be exact.
“It’s not really that. In general I don’t care, but I’ll be fighting Ngaire a lot in the future. And I will be losing, due to the mental attacks. I just wanted him to know I could beat him without that interference.” Dee explained further.
“Then why a brawl like that? Don’t try to tell me you normally fight like that, I know better. You’re an assassin, not a brawler.” Moirai asked further.
“Several reasons. Firstly because he’s strong enough that I can’t pull my punches. Like you said, I’ve trained as an assassin, and even though I also have templar training, my way of fighting focuses on killing my enemy as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s much harder for me to fight someone and let them live, than it is to kill them. If I had tried to fight him normally without killing him, I would’ve lost.” Dee explained after gathering her thoughts.
“Ok, I can see how that could work. You said there were several reasons.” Moirai prompted her to continue.
“Well, I don’t really have that much experience fighting in my other form, so this was the optimal opportunity. Also my physical ability increases significantly in this form.” Dee was still in the nine-tailed fox form.
“And?” Moirai prompted.
“Well I just felt like brawling for once. I’m always holding myself under such strict control. It felt good to let go for once.” Dee rubbed her paw at her nose. “I also feel like something more savage is waking up inside me. I think that clouds my judgement somewhat.”
“Ah, you told me about your heritage. You think something new is waking up?” Moirai asked suddenly more curious.
“I’m pretty sure, though it feels it’s still a fairly long time away. This might have something to do with my sixteenth birthday.” This wasn’t the first symptom. The desire to take lives of others was another, though that need was sated for now.
“That doesn’t sound very promising.” Moirai frowned lost in thought.
“Enough about me. What did you find during your investigation?” Dee asked, knowing Moirai had been searching the surroundings of the city with the scouts of the sub-community.
“Right, we did find things that suggested rather hostile preparations. It seems the attack really was meant to pen us in. We dealt with the enemies we found, but I’m pretty sure those were just a minor part of their preparations. The real problem was the nature of the enemies.” Moirai’s frown remained.
“Well, out with it. Don’t keep me in suspense.” Dee prompted.
“We found undead. Low level undead, but rather numerous.” Moirai said simply. They had mostly found simple skeletons and shambling dead.
“Oh. That’s a problem.” Dee replied simply.
“It is. However, I want to make sure we are thinking about the same thing. Why do you think it’s a problem?” Moirai asked, thinking Dee might have noticed different trouble that she might have missed.
“Well, most undead aren’t smart enough to hire assassins. Not to mention that most assassin guilds don’t deal with undead. That suggests the presence of either very powerful undead or a third party.” Dee explained.
Most undead were not intelligent enough for even basic communication. They had been brought back to life by negative energy very similar to the one contained in the power Dee had gotten from Umbra, except much more diluted. That’s why holy power was so effective against all undead, as it was this negative energy that held them together. That also made dark priests the people most suited for necromancy.
There were some more intelligent undead like liches that were the gathering point of large amounts of negative energy, but they were rare and usually hunted on sight before they became a real problem. Few of the vampire types also qualified as undead, although most did not. Vampires were also trouble, though the non-undead types were rather well liked in the Night city.
“Hmm, two out of three isn’t bad, considering you probably aren’t aware of the workings of the inner circles.” Moirai mused.
“I’m missing something?” Dee asked with slight surprise. “Do tell.”
“Well, I hope were not dealing with the servants of the Cult of Great Mother, also known as the Spider Cult. They are a cult of necromancers and worship the Spider Goddess of Death and Poison. That goddess is a rather special deity in the sense that she is one of the few who have several physical avatars that are worshipped as the living idols of their faith. The Great Mothers bestow the kiss of death to those willing and deserving, who then become Death Lords. They are the greatest necromancers in the universe, and wield the power of death and decay. They are also the most powerful undead as they straddle the line between living and undead, functionally immortal.” Moirai tried to remember the details. Cult of Great Mother had always been rather secretive.
“I’ve never heard of gods having living manifestations like that.” Dee mentioned half to herself.
“I’m not surprised. She isn’t the only goddess to do something like that but it is extremely rare. It’s rumored that they are her daughters, though that might be baloney. She’s also one of the ten strongest deities in existence, so there’s that. All of the ten have their quirks. Anyway, the cult is ranked as the fourteenth community in the Night city. We really don’t want them around here. They are bad news.” Moirai gave a small shudder.
“What would someone like that want in this area anyway? For that matter, what would any undead want in this area? Not to sound to mean, but the most remarkable thing about this place is the sub-community of Four Winds.” Dee asked.
“That remains to be seen. I doubt one of their Death Lords has come here, as even us guardians would be powerless to stop them, but one of their acolytes might be here for some reason.” Moirai suggested.
“Well, that would explain why some of the attackers I killed seemed to have some sort of buff spells cast by a dark priest. I thought maybe the assassins had one in their ranks, but an acolyte of the cult would be another explanation.” Dee suggested, both of them hoping that was not the case.