Of Mortals: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Erkinan pulsed and quaked in Sirian’s veins until the throb of power was all that seemed to permeate the scene. The drums of war, the anxious heart prepared to kill and sure to die raging with all the intensity it could muster. Her eyes trained on her foes like a hawk on a prairie shren, its next meal, yet she hadn’t half the wiggle room for error as the bird would. Heat, the searing light racing within her, filled every inch of her flesh and fur, from the tips of her tails to the tops of her ears; Sirian wasn’t sure she could handle it. Were it to remain inside, the fox was confident she would erupt and end in a worse way than Shi’Karil was near enough to, yet that would not be a problem now. With a gesture, a directing of the flow, Sirian prepared to unleash all she had inside.

Light blossomed from the paws of the fox as she came into sight, the powerful current nearly blinding everyone who looked on it. Kovarlin had expected it, covered his eyes enough to block out the intense rays, but still, he could feel his fur grow hot. It wasn’t the type of heat that could burn, not to the cougar at least. It was merely that warmth the sun brings on long, lazy, humid days in the Summer. However, if the light were comforting and perhaps even relaxing for Kovarlin, it had the exact opposite effect on his associates. Mishonrayel howled in agony while Amirot shrieked with a painful rage, both shrinking away from the blast as shadows from the sun. Yet, while Amirot lurched backward to hid from the attack, Mishon instead moved to face it.

Kovarlin watched through half-shaded eyes as the coyote fought the fox’s attack as one would battle against a mighty current. His steps were gradual at first, as though having to find his footing. Once he seemed to have righted himself on his path, Mishonrayel continued at an increasing pace until he was at a full sprint. While bounding forward, the coyote sought and found that makeshift club that hung from his back. The stones crammed into it shined with a glossiness that caught the light and made the pieces glimmer like rare crystals. Beyond the studs of dense rock, the rest of the bat had turned a dark, nearly ebony shade as though stained thoroughly to its present state. It no longer looked like wood, and for what it felt like it may as well not have been, and what damage it could do would better represent the strength of iron more so than anything. Hesitant, then a touch curious, Kovarlin watched on, waiting to see the damage it would reap on Sirian.

“Kovarlin, this is no time to lollygag and gawk at our more maggoty-minded friend. Prove to us all your gasconade is more than just that, strike down that woman. Champ the skull clear off of her frail frame and conclude this brief confrontation!” Amirot hissed from a shaded place behind a grand statue of a prostate avian.
Regarding the man briefly before shifting his gaze to Sirian, Kovarlin calmly inquired, “That ‘en? Or…,” he set eyes on the space the lynx had just been laying, now even the heat was vanishing from that place. Before he could even conclude in his thoughts what the problem was, a gout of white, blazing flames shot past the cougar. His awareness focused on the singular blight on his existence, the priestess standing only paces from him. Kovarlin did not even pause a moment to regard the notion he had been spared any significant pain or at least the fact he did not feel any harm come to him. Instead, the cougar was so irate, so livid, that this woman would strike him of all people, without provocation that all else faded from his awareness.

The ever depleting well of Erkinan inside Sirian was nearing a threshold she could rightly guarantee the passing through wouldn’t bode well on her end. Yet, Mishonrayel, in contrast anytime before when exposed to the light, continued to charge forward. A roar was ever-present in the air since he honed in on her and the means by which the man sustained such a cry was beyond the fox. All she could do was continue to send streams of light in his direction until either he or she succumb to the other’s ambition. However, Sirian was not so quick and panicked in her thoughts to neglect that ax still slung across her back. All she needed was a moment to reach it but were she to drop the torrent of power, Sirian couldn’t be confident the man would not overtake her, no longer encumbered by the assault. There was little choice remaining to Sirian and far less time than she’d like to take note of to do anything within. Her next move would be the deciding factor, that much she knew, but if she were so confident of her own actions was another subject.

In a sudden turn, the entire moment seemed to halt, and every action, each individual second of movement drawn out to hours in length. Seemingly faster than she had ever moved before, Sirian allowed her Erkinan to dissipate and reached for the ax. While the fox, who was now little more than a blur before him, ceased her attack, Mishonrayel, or at least his body, flung ever forward. Within, some vestige of the man himself remained, but he could only be aware of himself when compared to the tremendous aura the Goredrinker had forced in place around him. It was more the will of that ancient one now causing any action in the flesh than any will the coyote could ever have held. All that was Mishon had played itself out the second the light struck his body. Yet, as the blood-eyed behemoth charged on, to his rear, there was another untoward scene unfolding.

Kovarlin had launched himself forward at the lynx, who was not quick in fleeing from the cougar, indeed not hasty enough to not find a blade run into her calve. Instead of bolting for the door, Shi’Karil more or less threw herself across the floor, her body slamming hard before sliding across the smooth surface. As she attempted to conjure another attack, perhaps an arrow that would fly more true than the sacred flame, Kovarlin closed in; however, the cougar was halted by what he saw. Just beyond the priestess, the shadows fell away, the light no longer pulsed outward, and the tendrils of Amirot’s power lurched forward. Something of instinct drew the man to action, forcing him to go forth with an intent he did not know he possessed. With alacrity, Kovarlin seized the woman by her injured leg and slid her past him, beyond the reach of the dark, still regaining in strength. After he had removed Shi’Karil from the path of destruction, Kovarlin’s eyes met those two pale pinpricks wavering in the dark, hiding behind the statue of another great bird.

As one coward behind the visage of a creature lost to time, another attempted to fight off a similar such likeness. Before Mishonrayel could reach Sirian, amid her struggle to free the ax from where it was stuck on her pack, the coyote was apprehended. Taking action, as though it were its purpose, the cardinal knight flew and toppled Mishon. Both the coyote and fox seemed shocked beyond belief at this development, yet in the heart of it all, both were forced to reset themselves to the task at paw. Mishonrayel threw himself back into a rage and pounced forward, ready to strike as Sirian again changed course and redoubled her efforts with Erkinan. The new assault of light was a distraction for Mishonrayel and a hindrance on Amirot; however, the automated bird soldier seemed to only be emboldened by the intense power. It was as the cardinal proceeded forward, overtaking Mishonrayel even as the hearty coyote attempted to overpower it, that a realization came to Sirian. The bird had sprung to life when the light had struck it in that deep earthen pit lit only by some ethereal braziers. Perhaps it was what gave the cardinal the ability to move. There was no way to prove it, but the might that the Erkinan seemed to bestow upon the knight was enough for Sirian. She would continue to pump her power and hopes into the bird until her last.

Infuriated with the decision of his colleague, Amirot struck out against Kovarlin, the very obvious upstart among his supposed allies. However, in his weakened state, the blades and tentacles of blackness Amirot was capable of wielding were far too insignificant to do any kind of harm. In fact, with his knife, Kovarlin was able to slash down those feelers that would attempt to strike long before they could make themselves whole. Focusing in on the caribou, that one who had dared steal his prey away and then try to strike him down, Kovarlin set his mind to that one’s destruction. As the light erupted once more from the fox, Kovarlin regarded the woman laying just paces from him, curled in a tight ball of fur and robes, trying to assess her injuries. With a low rumble, he insisted, “Go, get’n upn’ run, girl, ya’ll be next, but not ’til I got ’em.”

Lurching away from the intense beam that shot through the cathedral, Amirot made no hesitation in fleeing from his attackers. There was no need to hide behind some facade for Kovarlin. If only he could escape the cougar now, hide away deeper inside the shadows, he could recover and strike from a secluded space. That would still leave two, perhaps three of his pursuers, but they were of no account to him. What came first was that cougar, his deceptions would be his undoing, that much Amirot could guarantee, but once he was dealt with there lay a greater struggle ahead. Somehow, someway, Amirot would need to knock off the fox who had so quickly sunk him to such a low state. She had been the great thorn to his paw that Pai’gen had made of her, if not more so. And now the whole of this operation, his life, and that great cloud were at risk with her running free. He could only hope that as he vanished once more into the dark of the cathedral that Kovarlin would turn on them as well if Mishon could not handle the task, that was.

The task left for Mishonrayel was one he could have contended with, perhaps,

had he known what was coming or could separate the aggressors from one another. Sirian’s light was burning deep into a great chasm within him wherein it seemed most of his strength dwelt and was now passing out of reach. While his grasp on Erkinan slipped further and further away, Mishon tried to turn to that resilience the Goredrinker entwine in his flesh; however, that blood remained dormant, stilled, or dead. Even as the razor-sharp feathers, truly dull spades in contrast to the talons or beak, tore flesh from bone and open every vein they touched, the blood would not respond. Instead, Mishon found himself quickly bleeding out as the last touch of Erkinan expired in him. Terribly he wanted to surrender, to flounder on the ground begging for mercy, but he knew he would not be granted such a kindness, nor would he take it wholeheartedly. In his mind, he saw what he would do, were he let free of his torment, and it began with cauterizing the bird’s skull closed and then doing very much the same to Sirian, the lynx, and then Kovarlin. Suddenly, Mishonrayel was broken from the momentary rage that enflamed his mind while thinking of the cougar. What consumed him next was the eruption to his side, the sound, and force that threw him far from the vicinity of the fox.

With such a drain of Erkinan hitting her suddenly and the preoccupation with forcing back Mishonrayel, Sirian hardly had a second to toss her arms up. Just barely in time did she move enough to catch the exploding sharpnels of armor with her limbs rather than her throat. An enormity of light filled the main chamber of the cathedral, banishing all shadows, leaving not one portrait or trinketed mounted on the wall unilluminated. Had Amirot lurked any longer, he would have found himself decimated in a matter he could never have anticipated nor been expected to endure. The evidence of such destruction, such fruitless toil, was apparent in those villagers who had charged into the cathedral in the final moments of the struggle. Perhaps they had sensed their master’s peril, or he had beckoned them in as a distraction; either case, they were now little more than bone and clouds of haze not unlike freshly turned ashes on the breeze. The rest that had been in the path of the eruption were far more lucky, if only for the fact their wounds were not fatal, aside from Mishonrayel.

Wincing as she pulled free the shards of metal in her arms and torso, Sirian regarded the motionless form of Mishonrayel not far from the statue Amirot had vanished behind. She moved her gaze from the coyote to the core of energy that hung in the air where the automaton had just stood. It was like a star the size of a basket, floating freely, slowly dying, the last rays of its power dissipating by the second. Sirian moved closer until she was within reach of that light before pressing a paw to it, allowing the currents of Erkinan within to blend back into her body, along with what lingered deep inside the cardinal. It was indecipherable at that moment, but it was slowly unencrypting within the fox’s mind. What means she had to decode the message, what felt like memories and mixed emotions, wasn’t quite clear, but it wasn’t relevant then, Sirian fixed on Shi’Karil.

Lamely the priestess moved to Sirian’s side, a hollow cast to her eyes at this otherwise joyous reuniting. Though it had only been an hour or two at best, it felt to the fox that she had laid eyes on Shi’Karil last some days ago and the regrouping long overdue. The moment was cut short, however, as that one, almost a perfectly living shadow, again produce himself. He came to the side of the wasted coyote, showing little empathy for what had transpired or his wounded cohort. Instead, he looked to Sirian and Shi’Karil with obvious intent. The dagger in his paw was poised over Mishonrayel, ready to strike as the stinger of a carrion wasp, waiting for an unlucky wanderer to disturb a grotesque carcass. There was little power left in Sirian’s reserve now, even with the reclaimed Erkinan from the core of the cardinal, and likely less potential remaining within Shi’Karil, still they stood at the ready, for the fiend’s next deviant act.

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