Arwen, the only pure elf in the All-Treasure Pavilion, is no simple girl. Only Madame Sorena, the Mistress of the Pavilion, is privy to her secret. In truth, she has been with the Pavilion since its foundation and while she has lived here, she is not one of its ‘girls’.
All the women know of her presence within the Pavilion, but only few have ever gotten close with her. Some are distant due to her elven beauty setting her apart from most races, but mostly it was due to her being a taciturn person.
As with all elves, Arwen is gifted with the magic of Spirits, a magic that communes with the beings born of mana in nature. Elves in particular, are proficient in communing with Life Spirits, the spirits that thrive within forests and places brimming with life. Because the Pavilion is isolated in a wooded section of the city, Spirits were abundant and have even come to live within the wood that the Pavilion was made from.
With that said, Arwen can easily be surmised as the Pavilion’s watcher and guardian. With her ‘eyes’, nothing within the Pavilion and its surroundings can escape her watch… not even the ‘shadow’ within one of the rooms.
“I see… good work as always, Arwen.”
Hence, as soon as the intruder was discovered, Arwen had already informed Madame Sorena.
“It’s nothing… but… what should we do?”
“Hmm… for now, we should keep watching her. We don’t know her purpose for being here, but it can’t be anything good. From what you described, the magic she possesses is Rune Magic, one of the trickier kinds of magic… though nothing in comparison to your own Spirit Magic.” replied Sorena, while smiling towards Arwen. She turned her eyes away, though she visibly reddened at the praise.
Sorena’s expression turned serious once again as she continued, “If she’s what I think she is, then she’s likely one of the Serpent’s Night Fangs. Her ‘Cloak of Shadows’ is proof of that. They haven’t targeted us once during their stay here in Llorden, so we can safely assume they know nothing of us… however, the same can’t be said of our guest.”
“…what would you have me do?”
“As I mentioned earlier, keep watch, then warn the girls and avoid the room… be subtle so as our new ‘guest’ won’t be suspicious. It may become dangerous when she finds out we know and may turn to desperation. It’s highly likely she’ll be after Sir Camus tonight, so I’ll go and prepare the ‘welcome’ myself.”
“Very well… then, with your permission…”
As Sorena nodded in affirmation, Arwen stepped backed towards the wall… but instead of bumping into it, she gradually ‘melded’ into the wall as if becoming ‘one’ with it until eventually disappearing.
After Arwen left, Sorena calmly went out of her office to prepare her little ‘gift’.
Back in the depths of a particular dungeon, the pained wails have stopped, but the sounds of rending flesh still lingered in its halls.
From the hands of the tall man in black with the golden bird mask, extended long black tendrils with a ‘flowing’ surface akin to liquid. Whip-like solid darkness grew from each finger of his ‘blackened’ hands while dripping blood.
“Now that we’ve finished the ‘physical’ torture, it’s time to move on to the psychological. I daresay, even I hesitate to continue to this method interrogation… while you have resisted before, I’ll have to put in a bit more effort in this occasion due to a lack of time. There’s a chance of breaking the individual’s mind during the process, hence my hesitation, but I’ll have to put faith in your strength of will. Unfortunately, even if it doesn’t break entirely, I cannot guarantee your mind will remain whole after this ordeal…”
Just as the man finished his speech, the tips of the tendrils on his fingers transformed into ovals with sharp needle-like teeth as if the mouth of a lamprey. They stuck onto the sides of the Margrave’s head while pulsating. With a rude awakening, the Margrave began to scream once again, only this time, in madness.
However, as soon as he started, the man ended his torture of the Margrave due to the presence he felt behind him.
“What is it? I’m kind of in the middle of something.”
As soon as he asked the question, a humanoid figure with an unclear form appeared behind him while bowing on one knee.
“M’lord… your pardon… the order has begun to move…”
The humanoid spoke in hissing whispers… as if it were a serpent…
“… what? I thought we had an agreement that the target was too big an issue and that we would handle this together?”
“…we did… and they apologized… but… this decision… not theirs… made… by the one… they could not control…”
“Those damned faith-blinded fools… send the message to our Night Fang hidden at the target’s location. Inform them to move in conjunction with the Order’s men. While this does not coincide with the original plan, we have no choice but to make it work. If they fail, cut off the Fang.”
“As… you command… M’lord…”
As the humanoid received its orders, it slowly disappeared into the shadows once more, as if becoming one with it. After he could no longer feel the presence, the man turned towards his prisoner.
“It seems your luck has bought you more time, Margrave. Unfortunately for you, not a lot. I’ll need to leave for a time, but after I deal with the damnable heads of the Lionhawk Order, I’ll be back to continue our little play.”
As the man turned to leave, Gaspard appeared lifeless and unmoving. As soon as the man in black left the dungeon, an eerie silence filled its halls. Several hours flew by as his form continued not to stir, when suddenly he flipped his legs above his head with nimbleness unbefitting for a man his size and current state.
Catching the wall behind him with his feet, he planted them firmly as he pushed while forcefully pulling against the chains on his wrists. The chains tensed and strained under his might until eventually he managed to tear apart the stone upon which the ends were nailed to the stone wall. There he stood, the fire in his eyes ever burning and his rage close to erupting.
Margrave Gaspard Cromnis Harkwall… the First Guard of Argodia… once its strongest knight and greatest guardian… a titan among men and Argodia’s greatest general… he was a man who would not wait to slowly die. Renowned for his power that rivaled even Gren’s, he bided his time until the one that chained him had left, or else he’ll be caught again by the ‘monster’ on their side.
But now that he knew his captor had left, it was without a doubt that the ‘monster’ followed, so now he could free himself at last.
Of course his enemies wouldn’t simply leave him unwatched and soon he was surrounded by tens of humanoid shadows. Unfortunately, the chains that extended from his arms had the stones stuck to where it once served as the roots of his binding, and have now become his greatest weapons.
Leaving a trail of savage destruction, Argodia’s Shield and First Guard has been freed from his prison at last.
Ca… mus… aw… k… n… w…
Hrmm… this voice… again… who… is it?
Camus… you… … st…
What… are you trying… to say?...
…must… a… ken… NOW!
I woke up with a start. If I could sweat I’d probably be sticky all over right now. I wonder how dragons regulate their temperatures without sweating and such, but I guess this isn’t the time to think about such things.
I sit up from my bed as I wondered what the hell was that dream all about. At first it was just me lying in an open field while watching the sky, then the night and its stars when a great shadow descended. I couldn’t feel malice but I was cautious, though it did try to say something.
As I sat and pondered about the dream and the message, the door to my room suddenly opened. At the opening, stood a tall cloaked figure that audibly gasped as it saw me. Were they surprised I was awake? If that’s the case, then this must be someone who’s trying to do me no good. Since they didn’t immediately attack me, it could also be one of the girls under Miss Sorena’s instructions, but whatever the case, I started raising my guard against this intruder when suddenly… they threw down their cloak.
There stood a tall, lean, and stunningly beautiful bunnykin. Her ears were much longer than any of the bunnykins I’ve seen, and her limbs were much longer and her body much more sinuous so it’s hard to say if she was a bunnykin at all. Thought the room was dark, my vision was not impeded and I could see her hair was a beautiful black and was short except for the strands at the side of her eyes that were longer reaching all the way to her chest with a shade of purple at the ends.
She had the figure of a supermodel but not too skinny and, not including her ears, had a height that almost rivaled Ellen’s. The thought of Ellen almost brought me out of my trance, but her long fingers caught me under my snout and while gently caressing it, brought me back to face her.
Her face was a cute oval in shape with a slightly tall nose and her eyes were a light shade of pink. Below all that she wore what was akin to a one-piece swimsuit with an overly exposed abdomen. Before I could appreciate her body’s entirety, she brought me back to face her once again.
It was getting hard to regain control over myself. The events of the day and the exhaustion my mind felt drew a wedge in my reasoning. I almost lost myself to the desire building up in me when a sharp pain on my back brought me back to my thoughts.
It was painful, but nothing too bad, like the sting of a bee. I narrowed my eyes when I looked back to the girl and on her face I saw obvious panic and confusion.
Before any of us could say anything, the door burst open with three women coming in, one of them being Miss Sorena and another being Azula.
“!... Sir Camus!”
Miss Sorena pointed her palms facing towards the bunnykin in front of me. She tried to move out of the way, but with my thoughts back, I caught her ankle with my tail to keep her from moving.
Three diagrams of light appeared surrounding the bunnykin woman. From them, golden light chains sprung forth and coiled around her. She struggled but it seems her bindings were solid.
After confirming she was bound, Miss Sorena turned towards me and bowed.
“I’m terribly sorry this happened… we’ve detected an intruder and tried to capture her without alarming her, but she eluded us with a decoy… I have no excuse for this blunder.”
All three of the women bowed before me in apology. I know I should be upset since my life was the one in danger, but… I really can’t bring myself to get mad at these girls.
“Please stand Miss Sorena… you girls as well… it’s fine. I’m still alive and well after all.”
Saying I’m well, I remember the dull pain behind me, so I reached for the object sticking on my back with my tail. After pulling it out, the pain finally subsided. Taking a look at it, it came to no surprise that it was an Obsidian knife. It seems that at least an inch managed to penetrate my back when the woman from earlier struck me.
I truly almost lost my life here had she been more knowledgeable about me. So far, I could tell my life was saved due to two reasons.
One was while it was true that Obsidian can harm dragons, it’s not really a weakness. It’s more like how a man can stab another man with a regular knife. It’s not their weakness, but they can hurt each other with it. Had she put in any mana into the blade, she might have been able to drive it in deeper, but doing so would have made me sense the object at hand so her best attempt would have been with a sharper knife and more power.
Although, even if she had the strength of an ogre, it still wouldn’t have worked, which brings me to the second reason. I was currently shapeshifted to a leaner and much denser form. After experimenting with it, I was always reminded that shapeshifting isn’t as simple as it sounds. Basically, I normally have a larger body, but because of shapeshift I can shrink it. Thinking about it, where did the extra mass go? The answer is that it simply condensed itself becoming much more compact.
My overall weight hasn’t changed, but my body has become much denser and thicker so it becomes much harder to penetrate my scales, skin, and muscles altogether. While it sounds that my blows have become much heavier and my hide much thicker, in truth, it also has a downside in that I can’t move as freely. In other words, it’s like trying to move while wearing weights all around your body alongside movement restraints.
While looking at the knife, I suddenly felt warmth on my back surging from the area where I was stabbed. I turned around to see Miss Sorena casting some warm magic onto me.
“I see that the wound has already healed, but this magic can also help you to relax. This isn’t much, but I want to do what I can to help make up for our mistake.”
The warmth was comforting so I let her continue with her magic. I was just about to relax and let my mind wander, when one of the girls suddenly called out in panic.
“Madame Sorena! This… is terrible! Almost thirty men… in robes…and masks… are coming here!”
It was the third girl who entered alongside Miss Sorena and Azula. She had pale blonde wavy hair and a very statuesque figure. She wore green clothes akin to what rangers or archers in fantasy wore, and seeing her long pointed ears, I was sure she was an elf. At least I felt sure she was, if elves had glowing pale-green eyes.
“What!? It can’t be! If they were to attack us without a formal consensus from the King, they would be making their religious order an enemy of the Kingdom and true heretics to the Church of Seraphaem! This… this is an act of complete foolishness!”
“Perhaps it is, Mistress, but reasoning and logic is never strong with those ensorcelled in madness.”
We all turned towards Azula, who spoke out.
“Do you mean…?”
“Yes… I think they’re spelled… when we fought those two earlier in the day, I could sense traces of Dark Magic when we made contact. At first, I wasn’t sure since they were so-called holy men of this land, but now I remembered that the people here don’t have churches under the so-called Dark Gods.”
The way Azula worded that was strange, but if what she says is true then…
“Then the Lionhawk Order must have been under the control of someone with Dark Magic all this time… I see… so if this is true… then our findings will have borne fruit. They’ve been a suspicious bunch all this time, but if we can play this right, we’ll finally have a lead…”
…ok, now even Miss Sorena is saying weird things. Being the only one out of the loop, they all gave me a worried look as Miss Sorena turned to speak.
“Sir Camus… I’m truly sorry to have dragged you into this… but I promise you that after this incident is dealt with, I’ll explain everything to you… but for now… even though it’s shameless… I beg of your assistance. I’ll be sure to pay you the appropriate Adventurer’s commission afterwards of course. And should you want more…”
At this point, I stopped her since I can obviously see she was blushing. If anyone’s to blame, it’s me for attacking those bastards earlier. I’m pretty sure she could’ve protected herself, but I acted anyway to protect her. Of course, fighting an army of scum is a small price to pay for protecting these women, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Thinking about what Azula said earlier… I realized that I failed to detect the traces of magic in the men I fought… I also failed to reign in my emotions… I then almost cheated on Ellen… and once more, I failed to keep my guard up and almost lost my life…
I’m a wreck… I don’t know if it’s what Miss Sorena mentioned earlier about my draconic biology, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m currently a wreck… I need to get my act together and turn all my frustration towards the bastards that are coming.
For taking me in and not shunning me, and for helping me despite the trouble I brought, protecting these women has become an obligation… It’s most definitely not because they’re all beautiful women and me being hopeful… most definitely not.