Wayward: Chapter Seven

Kor-Kaine was days in the past as Sephera neared Port Ty’allin, the site of the nearest portal to her homeland. Even in all the time the portals had stood open, not more than a decade but still a substantial time, did she ever once go to see one. Of course, she rarely left Kor-Kaine if at all possible, and having held the position of Grandmaster for over ten years, she wasn’t often called away from home on jobs. There had been the occasional high-profile targets that required more considerable attention and the best skills available, but none of them had been in a city host to a portal. Though she had never been to a portal nor been about as they were opened by some current of Erkinan, a Lord of Verillia channeled, Sephera recalled when they were established. The wretched black-furred man, his race unfamiliar to her, had come sailing through Kor-Kaine from a rift of power. She had to figure that was what one of the portals were in reality, a manifestation of the young man’s gifts, but that was not her concern at that time. No, as that man fell out of thin air, she was embroiled in a conflict of her own, one that had been set for ages and only come to real blows then and there. 

The Rabbit had been a clever one, a very worthy foe with an interesting set of skills despite her handicap. In her younger days, Sephera would have found fighting a blind woman to be in poor taste and very much unfair to the girl, but with this one, she was mistaken. Mi’laynn Haven was the sort that kept fighting even when there was nothing left to fight for; had she lacked that spirit, she would not have been one of the last two living Lords of Metrux. Precisely that reason, had brought her into conflict with Sephera; she wanted to even the score for the others. Having taken out all of the Lords she could, excluding those who hadn’t already been eradicated by their own foolish whims, Sephera had made herself an enemy of the Rabbit. She was simultaneously overjoyed and underwhelmed by Haven’s final turn to aggression against her.

 Clacking along against the stone or piece of uneven ground here or there, Sephera began to daydream where she sat in the back of the farmer’s cart. Still as sharp as ever she could recall the hate in the Rabbit’s dull, washed-out green eyes, she was ready to kill. Where others with their eyes, and wits, would have been scared enough to surrender and accept death, Haven pursued. Dancing across the well passed soaked roof tiles atop the temple, she made lunge after lunge at Sephera. Striking with fists and kicks, chops, and the occasional burst Erkinan force, the Rabbit made herself more than a force to be reckoned with. However, Sephera wasn’t out to be bested, even as she repeatedly took the brunt of the Rabbit’s more powerful strikes, she had it plotted it out. She had held out long enough, as the storm reached its apex Sephera let herself become one with it. Lightning crashed down on Kor-Kaine, fires had begun to erupt where the violent streaks of power touched, and Sephera knew she had won, no matter the cost. The clash lasted only a few moments longer, during which the boy with the golden stripes fell from the sky only to disappear moments later. In the end, the Badger was nearly thrown from the rooftop, but as Haven landed that penultimate strike, she was dealt the final blow. Her greaves and gauntlets shown like stars in the pitch of night as they took in the full force of nature’s strength. As Sephera pulled herself back onto the roof, the storm began to calm, and very little could be gleaned from the corpse that had been her most worthy opponent. 

“This is as far as I’m going, Chei. I’m sorry I can’t bring you any further on, but my business is here,” the farmhand called as he hopped down from the wagon and began to tie off the brutish creature that had been pulling all those miles.

Sephera popped out of the wagon bed, making sure not to displace any of the emptied crates that had been stacked around her. Port Ty’allin was no more than a stone’s throw away from where the heavy-set Badger had stopped. She reached out a paw and set it on his shoulder before giving him a nod, not a sign of respect or honor typically shown some from her station, especially to one of his own. Even though she may have intended one, her expression didn’t work into a smile when she began to speak, “This is quite enough, more so than I should be asking anyone for without good cause. You’ve done well and served Kor-Kaine as a true son.”

“I do not deserve all that praise, not from another civilian and especially not from one as high as you, great Chei. It is less than the least I should do for you and your order after all I have received from you,” he fought to not make eye contact as she held the gesture. A tremble in his voice suggested more fear than a sense of humbleness.

 Sephera didn’t continue to put the man on hot needles, she let off and began on her way without another word. Passing by the wagon, she considered dropping a few silver pieces on the wagon’s seat; even if she hadn’t brought much, she would easily still have more than enough. But it struck her just how right the man was, she might have been lenient by the standards of a Grandmaster, or Chei as he insisted on calling her; however, that did not mean she needed to be overly kind. He was clearly well enough off with his farm and cattle that silver would only be unnecessary for someone with his wealth. After all, he had been right; his blood had been in debt to the Iron Talon since well before she was even a capable member of the order. If nothing else, Sephera was certain, leaving that kind of money for him would only put the man on edge. He’d sooner assume she intended more of him and would be coming to collect a favor by leaving those pieces for him. 

 Under the twilight sky, a mix of mauve, periwinkle, and fuchsia, Sephera began up the road to the port town. Capping her ears off with her hood, she worked away the chill that had gotten into her bones after having left the warmth of the wagon. At that moment, Sephera was wishing she had waited to answer the call of Narothepp. Had she left later, she wouldn’t be forced to wander on into the cold of night and could have soaked up the warmth of the sun. However, she was equally aware that if she hadn’t left when she did, there would have been no way to hitch a ride thus far. It was as she thought on Narothepp that Sephera had to wonder just what her stake was in this. Rare was it that the voice from beyond would call to her, evermore the oddity she asked Sephera to take a life. Not only was she asked to take a slay, but that of one on the other side of the portal. Immense and dangerous power, she said… I wonder, does she think I will not take it for my own? She claims to know me, know my thoughts almost as well as I do, but does she think I would abstain from taking that kind of tool? Spit and cinders, I can’t help but think this a bay shark all primed and ready for dinner, and I’ve yet to see the hook still in it. 

 Taking a mental check of her gear as she entered the city, Sephera wasted no time in seeking out the portal she would need to travel through. For a fact, she knew she couldn’t count on many here to help her on her way. Even being a mixed city, Port Ty’allin seldom had Badger residents. To be so close to the homeland, one would rather live in Kor-Kaine than be amongst the rabble the port town brought in. More troubling than a lack of familiarity by race, Sephera was aware of the contempt her order garnered outside of Badger territories. It was very much wise to watch her steps and keep her mind focused on everything of value on her person, if the markers on her coat didn’t giver her away than jagged white stripes running down her face made her at least an easy mark for thugs. Even only barely into the city did she begin to see those eyes take her in, and the greasy grins that stretched the mugs of multiple races made her blood boil. If they thought they had found themselves an easy target because she was traveling alone in a city less than kind to her people, she would give them quite a startling truth. Had she the time, or less discipline, Sephera would have begun down the first alleyway she could find to see what urchins would take up her trail and then turn that trail into one marked by blood. 

Where one unfamiliar with the port town, the blending of so many races, and the innumerable exports and imports, would have been taken by all the sights, smells, and sounds, Sephera was indifferent. The candlelit paper lanterns in their various colors were no more enticing than the queer smell the cooked meats of the vendors in the lower district gave off. Foreign spices wafted such potent aromas her tongue began to spark at the odors, but she wouldn’t let her aim wander. Passing street performers with peculiar instruments that boasted strings that let out odd shrieking harmonies would not sway her to stop as she kept on her way through the city. Thinking to herself for a moment, Sephera began to realize that she hadn’t the slightest idea what this portal should look like or where it would be. Worse still, she couldn’t even be sure it was something that would be out in the open like the port itself or a stable for mounts. After another couple hours of pacing, enough time for most of the vendors and merchants to turn in for the day, Sephera had broken down and decided she would have to swallow her pride and ask for help from a local.

The task had been one more laborious in practice than it was even for Sephera to finally decide to undertake. Most of those she came across were unwilling to help, her baring giving nearly all of them reason enough to distrust and put the Badger off. Those who would attempt to oblige gave rather ineffective direction, if any at all. Any who were kind enough to talk but unable to provide guidance often enough gave her the same line about needing proper authorization to cross the portal. The last couple of citizens Sephera had deigned to ask gave her more rushed answers. One of the merchants had been honest enough to explain to her that she was in an unfortunate position to be out on the streets at night in Port Ty’allin. By her admission, the street of the city were run by the thugs and killers, not the type any, let alone a woman, would care to come across. However, as wary as the girl had been of Sephera or the criminal element that evidently lurked in the shadows, she had been the most help. From their brief encounter, Sephera was left with a better idea of where the portal was and the consideration that it would be hard to miss. After draining what information she could from the woman, Sephera let her on her way, less out of concern for the Bear who bobbed and weaved her way back through the streets but more concerning her own aims.

 Heading north from the market district, Sephera began to enter the side of the city more populated by the warehouses and inns. It all sat very close to the harbor, meaning it was a high traffic area for any sailors but, more importantly, those traveling to and from via the portal. Along with those types, any heavily trafficked area connected to the sea trade was likely littered with the city’s scum. She could feel eyes upon her as she made her way with haste through the district, a lack of consistent light making the trek feel all the more uncomfortable. As Sephera rounded the corner of an inn that sat looking onto the harbor, Sephera was nearly certain she had found what she was looking for. An otherworldly silverish light gleamed from a surface that fluctuated like the water of a reflecting pool but stood like a wall encircle by a stone arch. All around it was some form of encampment, something not quite makeshift but not solidly constructed either as though city planners were uncertain if they wanted to establish buildings around the obstruction or not. 

Dropping any concern for her surroundings, Sephera found her feet and began at a good clip towards the arch. Not a thought in her mind had started to work out how she would get around the fortification. Maybe they were only there to vet those coming in, perhaps they wouldn’t care at all if she left, or possibly she’d have to use a little of the old Erkinan to make her way through, but she wasn’t quite worried that she wouldn’t make it. Only halfway to the spot did Sephera catch the sound of footfalls behind her, initially thinking them her own echoing back, but as their rhythm faltered, she became fully aware they had to be those of another. Twisting back to face the person head-on, Sephera was overcome with an immense wave of force that tossed her from her feet and sent her spinning back to the ground, paces away. Leaping back to her feet with lightning speed, Sephera was confused but ready to go war with whoever had struck her.

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