Metaworld Chronicles

by

Wutosama

Chapter 416 - How to Flog a Dead Wyrm

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Amnesia: Memories Review – Visual Novel Reviews
The Raven's Wail
by  Aluminium Aligattor
(Image for eye-catch only :D)


 

It took just shy of two hours for the Rat-kin to gather once more, finding their Priestess in the middle of brushing the fine dust of spent HDMs from her all-black armour, looking regal atop her obsidian Afaa al-Halak.

"… You're all injured—" Gwen's face twitched as her mind drank in her mischief's vitality. "And your numbers are reduced. What happened? Strun? Stian? Ix?"

It took a great deal of will to stop her face from showing her fatigue. She hadn't even managed to find a solution to the "living" arse of the Sand Wyrm yet, and already the rats that she had risked her life for were diminished? Were it not for the image of an almighty, undaunted Priestess— she would have transformed into Yue there and then.

"We made it to Shalkar," Strun spoke in place of his grandfather, who wore his arm in a sling and was bandaged all over with filthy rags. "The Centaurs in the fortified encampment refused to let us enter. Then, when we tried to find shelter in the shrubbery outside the oasis, we were beset by the Qasqir Clan."

Gwen refrained from biting her lips. That her Rats travelled directly to Shalkar had been her directive. By her count, they were only sixty kilometres from their goal, and if Strun knew the landscape well enough to lead his people through goat-trails and parts of the shallow-Murk, a single Death March was more than sufficient.

"They refused to let your people enter?" Gwen asked as she searched her memory for mentions of this Qasqir Clan. Finding only vague memories, she motioned for Stian to come forward. "Before you answer, what are the Qasqır Clan?"

"Wolf-kin." Stian nursed his cracked lips.

Gwen raised both brows as the name clicked, recalling the conversation with Bekker. Wolf-kin were not Lycanthropes, who lived closer to where the Vampires made their home as racial foes. Instead, these were Beast-men like the Rat-kin, a variant of the dog-headed Kobolds. "Don't they range to the east and the north? Where Gora Boboiob rises and the deserts end?"

"We do not know." The pair of rats shook their heads. "Much has changed since we last returned to the steps. From Karagandy to Almaty to Semey, all the flatlands were once the domain of our people. Many parts remained contested until we lost our numbers and had to flee west. By then, our options were to perish by the hand of the Elementals or seek the protection of the Horse Lords."

Gwen grimaced. She could imagine the despair of a two-thousand kilometre Exodus ending at Nukus, only to realise that there was no Jerusalem nor salvation, only thirty years of slavery.

"Tell me about what happened at Shalkar," she implored her band of rats, then slapped her Familiar on its shiny hinny.

Surrounded by swirling motes of Void and with her eyes glowing vividly viridescent, the Devourer of Shenyang once more bestowed the boon of Death March. Now that the "Priestess" had recovered her wits, she once more possessed the mental fortitude to fine-tune the flow of Vitality from Cali to herself and the Rats. It was a necessary act, for Caliban's stowed vitality felt like a dam threatening to spill. Thankfully, the mechanisms for the floodgates provided by Life-Link, combined with the mass of bodies offered by Death March, were enough to exercise the desired effect.

On cue, Strun, Stian and her Centurions blazed with eerie emerald light, eventually passing the effect onto those with descending Essence-ties.

Gwen cocked her head.
Why did her mischief look so bleeding fiendish?
Understandably, the effect should possess the aural and optic verisimilitude of Al's genesis aura, considering the source of Gwen's Essence was a primordial bringer of life in a land of death. However, with the Shamanistic sorcery and Necromantic Sigils working into the process, she felt like the Overlord of a Void-worshipping vermin tide.

"Blessed Priestess!"
"Hail the Priestess of the Afaa al-Halak!"

Excess vitality did not equate to quick-healing, but it was enough to lift mood and add stamina, elevating the morale of her mischief to a reasonable standard.

"So, Shalkar?" Gwen dispelled a prophetic vision of ten million rats swarming over the Steppes, hoisting glowing green banners and screeching for SPAM. Still, squaring her shoulders, she assumed an imperial air, then persisted in her query. "Tell me everything."

With the new vitality burning in their bodies, her Centurions spoke at once.

"Strun! "Gwen hand-waved the others into silence. Lacking the omniscience of a real God, she couldn't understand the collective voice of her whiskery worshippers. "You first."

"Beloved Pale Priestess." Strun fell to one knee. "Allow this one to speak of the injustices visited upon your flock..."

Gwen listened wholeheartedly to the story while keeping half a mind on the "living" body of the Sand Wyrm that remained thus far dormant.

According to the Centurion and his peers, her Rat-kins had taken a trail Strun used to traverse the desert safely in his occupation as a Shadow Runner, taking advantage of their endless stamina to cover the distance in just under three hours to reach Shalkar.

There, with the oasis in sight, the rats had emerged into the light of the watchtowers, hailing the guards with peaceful intentions.

What met them was a flurry of arrows that would have harvested a least a dozen rats if it not for their improved vitality.

Choosing to give the guards another chance, Strun, Stian, Ix, and a few others lit the Day Light Globes from Gwen's survival kits, then presented themselves once more, shouting that they have come at the order of the Khan.

A second volley of arrows came from the dark, this time with far more intent, near-taking their lives were it not for Strun's knack for danger.

After that, the Rat-kin retreated a distance to discuss how they would proceed.

The meeting never took place, for the three thousand rats huddled in the valley between two jutting plateaus, hungry, exhausted and tired, were ripe for raiding by the incoming Qasqiri wolf pack.

"The Qasqir numbered about three-hundred," Stian spoke with a pained solemnity. "We fought them the best we could, but the Wolves are born warriors, more so than we. Us Centurions could match one or two alone, but their pack tactics were beyond our ability to defend against."

"The Wolves slaughtered indiscriminately," Strun cut in with an expression of pain. "They will come back for the carcasses, but in a hunt, their prerogative is to kill as many as they're able until the pack grows exhausted and has to retreat."

Around them, the Rat-kin grew silent.

"We realised there was no hope within the confined space of the valley, so we lured them into the open desert, where the Afaa al-Halak nests lay..."

Strun then spoke of how the mischief retraced its steps, leaving behind a trail of bodies. It wasn't until a pack of twenty-odd Qasqiri warriors misstepped into the larval trap of a Sand Wyrm and perished that the wolf pack relented, leaving the rest of the rats to escape, hiding in yet another badlands canyon until they saw Golos flying overhead.

Gwen's jaws grew grim. "How many did we lose?"

"Two Centurions, Domi and Wex," Stian spoke before his grandson could. "And eight hundred and forty-two kin. The other mischiefs were luckier. Though harassed by surviving Harpy Vultures, their losses were within reason— about four hundred among the three packs."

Gwen's self-congratulatory euphoria from besting the elder Sand Wyrm evaporated.
Twelve hundred rats!
Mother of Christ! Her bunched fists struck Caliban so hard a blurt of grey goo squirted onto the sand. After all that! After everything she did, she lost over one-tenth of her flock?

And eight hundred of them! EIGHT HUNDRED!
Lost for no good reason other than— than what?
She had no idea.
Her rats had no idea.
Albeit she had a good idea which Horse-headed bastard would pay the price.

"I see." She dipped her chin at her rats. "Rest up. We will deal with matters here, and then I shall accompany you to Shalkar to air your grievances. There will be justice, mark my words; no horse shall go unpunished."

Her creatures gave thanks. She walked through the camp, comforting her flock and offering manna in the form of rations and pallets of SPAM, then called Golos to her side. Now that she was recovered and her rats were convened, it was time to inspect the spoils.

After "lunch", it took the healthiest of her rats another half-hour to excavate enough of the buried Sand Wyrm to reveal the portion that had escaped Caliban's ravaging hunger. Its frontal facade had already scabbed over with pink flesh, though from what Gwen could see, there was no telling if the thing was capable of regrowing itself entirely like sliced Flat Worms she once saw on Youtube.

Of course, the Afaa al-Halak was no minute flatworm; even the tail-end of the monster she had fought was forty-plus meters or just under the length of half a football field. Its circumference was likewise imposing, measuring some six to seven meters wide. Considering that this was where the Wyrm's "waist" tapered off into a narrowing tip, Gwen could only imagine how the creature would have looked if laid head to tail in plain view.

After a thorough inspection, Stian, the oldest of the Elders, stated that records existed which spoke of this particular strategy used by the Afaa al-Halak. In the days of yore, when "Big Birds" still ruled the skies and the Rat-kin and other predators were plentiful, a distressed Wyrm would break off segments of its lower body as a "tribute", allowing its head and torso to escape into the depth. It was a strategy that worked well, though this was the first time Stian had ever heard of a behemoth-sized Sand Wyrm performing such a feat, leaving behind at least two hundred years of segmental growth.

"Stand aside, slaves!" Golos commanded the rats.

The meek rodents obeyed without delay.

"YARRR!" With Gwen and her Familiars watching, the Wyvern swung its tail-club, striking the shell with the sound of a hammer hitting a petrol tanker. The surface cracked, as did the layers beneath.

The arse-end did not retaliate.

However, undulating movements from the mutton-jade flesh beneath the shell visibly contorted, growing a new under-layer.

"There's no Wyrm inside." Her Wyvern sniffed the giant section that was almost as tall he was, then tapped the shell. "Here's an idea, Calamity. Why don't you claim it."

"Can't fit living things in the Rings." Gwen shook her head. "And it's too big. I guess we'll have to get the rats to dice it for Wyrm steak."

"FOOL!" Her Wyvern huffed in her general direction, forcing her to dodge the globs of sparking spittle.

"I said you must CLAIM its flesh, silly Calamity!" the Wyvern gave her the most disappointed look. "Have you not been usurping the bodies of others by polluting their Essence since your invasion of our mountain?"

"You mean—" Gwen put two and two together very quickly. "You want me to feed this thing Al's Essence?"

Golos' feathers bristled. "If your Fiend is insufficient, then use your Soul-claiming sorcery while this segment's Astral presence remains fragmented!"

"Oh— Soul Tap?" Gwen looked to her next victim.
Though horny, a broken Gogo was right twice a day.
If she wanted her ultra-rare loot to be anything other than meat, then the best course of action was to make use of it somehow. Earlier, it hadn't occurred to her to claim the still-living arse because the butt, if revived, could be more dangerous than a livid Gogo.

But what if she Soul Tapped it?
The thing was alive, so it isn't Necromancy.
It also possessed no free will. Hence there was no ethical dilemma.

Gwen wetted her lips.
And if Soul Tap worked, then Hallelujah.
If it didn't, or if the body died outright from shock, then she still had a mountain of meat.
The situation was win-win, and she was a girl who liked winning only a little less than she hated losing.

"You don't want to… have a go?" Gwen eyed her Wyvern in case Golos was looking to use the tail for evolutionary purposes. "Is there a Core inside?"

"I do not desire a minion that crawls," Golos declared with complete confidence. "And no, though it should generate one if you revive it. Else it will remain dormant until a new one forms."

Gwen snorted. If Gogo got lonely enough, she wouldn't put it past the Wyvern to start to take an interest in the perfectly cylindrical Sand Wyrm. "Alright, step back."

Gwen drifted closer to the pink, puckering flesh, then placed a hand against the pulsing tumour.

She spoke the invocations in a low, nefarious tone suitable for the dark purpose, flooding her eyes with obsidian mana so that her aura grew ghastly and her appearance gothic. Different to her usurpation of Snut, she shifted a significant portion of vitality from her bloated Caliban, maximising the potential of her spell's penetrative invasion into the Sand Wyrm's Astral Body.

"SOUL TAP!"

The final Svartálfar syllable of the Dark Elves' unique sorcery left her tongue as a coil of shadow. The air around her formed a hollow depression, warping the space around her figure, drawing out that which was immaterial and quintessential.

Gwen sensed something akin to a tendril of heat leech from the Sand Wyrm's incorporeal existence into herself, flowing down into the well of her soul to mingle with her Astral Body. The Essence was muddy and possessed a wilful touch of the Draconic, though the moment its rebellious body sensed Almudj's Essence, it grew pliant and placid.

Was this the natural supplication of a lower Draconic Essence to a higher one?
It was an interesting thought that belied the assumption of free will in Magical Creatures— if so, was this a manifestation of existential "Chain of Being" unique to Elemental creatures? Or was anarchy distinct to Humanity?

In the time it took for her to masticate her thoughts, the incomplete "Soul" ripped from the remaining half settled, becoming one of the many layers of sediments in the stratum of her Astral Body.

"Okay." Gwen withdrew her hand. "Now what? It's still a blob of meat."

"Are you not the Calamity?" Golos directed her eyes to the taller of her rats, her dear Ascended. "The Kirin says you usurped a rainbow-hued feathered fiend while you were living in the Western Empire?"

"Ah, Dede, yes." After so long, Brown had ceased questioning the fact, and Dede had settled down as a staple feature of Emmanuel's College. From what she had gleaned, fighting the duck to gain access to the Old Court was now a part of the first year's initiation ceremony. They had even given the practice the name "Slaying the Drake", though arguably, a more accurate title would be "How many first-years could Dede fleece if First Years did have fleece?"

Grinning, the Thunder Wyvern patted the Sand Wyrm's "butt" with a clawed wing.

Observed by a ring of Centurions and their followers, Gwen gingerly laid a hand against the pink, puckered flesh wound there, where the Wyrm's gut would have closed up in its bid to escape the Hydras and the lampreys.

She closed her eyes, then worked what little Essence she had collected through her conduits before forcing the viridescent energy to gather on the palm of her hand.

The flesh beneath her palm pulsed until it grew soft like a marshmallow, then enveloped her hand.

Fighting the instinct to withdraw her limb, Gwen sent a warning to Ariel and Caliban to assist if necessary, then continued to release her Essence into the rotund segment of flesh.

Slowly, her arm sunk to her elbows.

Inside, she could feel the susurration of the Sand Wyrm's flesh absorbing her Essence, kneading her fingers, gnashing her dainty digits. Perhaps Golos should have tamed this creature; an obscene thought came to mind as she gazed at her Wyvern, who was staring back with dumbfounded anticipation. When she refocused, her arm was down to her shoulder inside the Sand Wyrm; any more was undesirable. Any more, and she would have to feed it a Void Bolt.

One because it had sucked her Essence drier than the Sawahi.
Two because she was the "usurper", not the other way around.

Abruptly, the nudging of her finger ceased.

Could the thing read her thoughts? Gwen wondered. To test her hypothesis, she commanded it to eject her hand.

To her fascinated horror, the mindless lump of meat did precisely that, pushing her hand outward until she could extricate her limb out of its limy, oozy orifice.

For a few seconds, she stared at the calcifying goo, wondering how she should next proceed.

Then, as the Sand Wyrm began to quiver, something in her Astral Body informed her of the transmutation at hand.

"Out!" She commanded her rats. "Everyone! Get clear of the trench!"

The Rat-kin were experts at traversing the sand with their lightweight bodies, successfully clearing the dig site as the Wyrm began to turn its body.

Gwen, Golos, and her Familiars held their breaths as a plethora of gurgling, shifting flesh and re-organising organs resounded from inside the enormous sushi roll.

Two minutes.
Ten minutes.
When close to twenty minutes passed and the flesh continued to churn, Gwen resolved to sit once more on Caliban and meditate. Meanwhile, her rats returned to their units, leaving only four of her favourite Centurions to attend to her questions and needs. Whatever the future held for the regenerating Wyrm, it would take time for nature to traverse its new course.

In the interval, Gwen questioned Stian and Strun once more regarding matters at Shalkar, concluding that she would attend to the garrison in person. From their collective tale, she did not doubt that the Centaurs there were responsible for the loss of some eight hundred lives for no good reason. Despite the implied diplomatic alliance, she wasn't opposed to teaching these arrogant colts that actions have consequences and that every slight against the Devourer of Shenyang would elicit an equal or greater reaction.

 

It took eight hours for the Wyrm flesh to settle into its new form.

At its conclusion, the peace of the impromptu Rat-kin encampment evaporated as the earth-shaking body of their Priestess' new super heavy-duty earth-moving equipment came to life.

Golos and Gwen, joined by Ariel and Caliban, watched their Wyrm take in its bearings, stretching its new form. Compared to the original Sand Wyrm, the creature's nouveau appearance was very distinct.

"… It has… two arse-ends?" Her Wyvern was impressed, mistaking that Gwen had remained displeased with the Sand Wyrm and so decided to create a creature that was an Ouroboros of butts. "Calamity, your cruelty knows no limits."

"Thanks, Gogo." Gwen studied her new minion, recalling seeing such a creature in Australia when she had studied at Sydney Tower. In a continent inundated with deserts and badlands, the Down Under likewise possessed a facsimile of the Mongolian Death Worm. At any rate, considering that her Essence was arguably thrifted from Almudj, an Aussie Land God, it made sense that the "usurped" flesh with the mutated Essence would manifest as fauna from down under.

Therefore, the double-arse ended Sand Wyrm wasn't a practical joke taken too far, but rather a local species named the Shingleback Shale Wyrm. It was a creature that possessed the surreal means to traverse forward and backwards, with both ends capable of "tunnelling" with equal ease. Of course, it had only one head, and its butt-end still dispensed Elemental Ooze when required, but its unique physiology could indeed fool the casual observer.

"Hello there!" Gwen raised a hand in greeting.

"GUAARRRP!" The enormous tri-petal maw opened, made a sound like blowing raspberries, then shut seamlessly. Unlike the variant in Australia, her creature remained a Sand Wyrm, possessing no eyes.

Was that a "Hi?" Gwen simultaneously spoke and thought aloud. "Can you understand me?"

"GARP!" More splutters darkened globs of sand. In this regard, the Wyrm resembled an early Cali.

Gwen floated closer.

The overlapping scales of its mouth parted, distending a thigh-thick tentacle in pink, covered with thorny white growths that resembled the teeth-daggers she had seen in the mature parent of her "young" adult Sand Wyrm.

As its Soul-linked Master, Gwen implicitly understood the Wyrm's desire. Extending a white hand, she produced what little Essence she had managed in the last few hours, then allowed the tongue to wrap around her hand and fingers. Though her Wyrm remained immobile, its taste organ was fully mobile and wholly prehensile.

"That looks like a—" Golos' voice possessed a tone she recognised.

"—Gogo, shut it," Gwen warned her Wyvern, then turned back to the happy Wyrm. "What do you want, Wyrm?"

"Garp!" The wriggling Wyrm barked.

"It says it wants to follow you," Golos translated, affirming her imperfect, empathic understanding. "Well done, Calamity, you've tamed a Wyrm of the Sawahi."

Then, for whatever reason, Golos' last words were spoken so that her followers could also understand. Instantly, eruptions of "Priestess!" and "Wrangler of the Afaa al-Halak!" "Whisperer of the Black Worm" resounded from the crowd.

The resulting tremor from thousands of rats was enough to send the Shingleback swinging for the dunes, where the Rat-kin fled before its cresting head, breaching the lip of the dune like a frigate.

"Hey-hey— Oi!" Gwen floated just out of range in case the sudden movement of the giant Shingleback swatted her like a gnat. "Wyrm! Obey me! Stop! Rats are friends."

"GARP!" The eyeless Shingleback Wyrm barked with what she hoped was an affirmation. Below its belly, its scales bristled, sending its freight train body effortlessly up the trench to coil atop the sandhill.

"Strun, Stian, get the mischief to stay at a safe distance," she shouted at her Centurions. Once the Shingleback settled, she drifted closer, feeling its amicable feelings transmuted through their soul bond. Calling the creature "You" "Oi", "Wyrm" was a hassle, Gwen decided, thereby offering to give the Wyrm a name.

"How about—" Golos said a rude word that inferred "brown log" in Draconic.

Gwen glared at her Wyvern until he ceased his stupid "Hur-hur-hur—"

"How about Sandy?" she said to the Sand Wyrm. "Ariel. Gogo. Cali. Dede. Sandy."

Gwen felt pleased with Sandy. She was, after all, terrific at naming things.

Golos grimaced. "At least use Draconic, Calamity. I think it would prefer 'Turd' at this rate."

The Shingleback shook its head, steadfastly refusing both "Sandy" and "Turd".

"GARP!"

"How about Garp?" Golos informed her. "It's low-Draconic for… stone."

"Garp— According to Garp," Gwen cited a rather famous novel she was partial to from her old world. Garp the Sandworm was no John Irving, but if it wanted to name itself after a titular protagonist with a staunch feminist as a mother, who was she to fight fate? For a monster that looked the part of priapism personified, the name was apt. Indeed, if anything, Garp was a genius for choosing the name, even it didn't know it. "Very well, your name is Garp."

"GARP!" With her holding onto a literal portion of the creature's soul, her Shingleback could only agree wholeheartedly.

"Good, good." Gwen nodded, seriously pondering the PR potential of Gwen, Gogo and Garp, marauding across the sand, the "three Gees" of the Sawahi, legends sung by the bard Peaches.

"Garp!"
"EE-ee!"
"Shaa— Shaa—!"
"Another slave for the Calamity!"

Her minions greeted the newest addition to her menagerie.

After relaying the Shingleback to her Rat-kin, the Prefects managed to worshipfully beckon the Wyrm to dig a defensive trench around their encampment four meters across and three meters deep.

The mischief prayed as the Afaa al-Halak passed. A few of the Elders wept bitter tears for a vision their progenitors could have seen.

Gwen's glee lasted until the following daybreak when she fully recovered her mana pool and some Essence. In the golden hour, watching the dull glow of a thousand Maxwell's Camp Heaters suffuse the Rat-kin's open camp, her mind once more shifted toward the betrayal at Shalkar.

"Strun! Stian! Ix! Skaz! Prefects!" Once the camp broke fast, she motioned for the rats to ready themselves. "Pack the supplies! We make for Shalkar!"

The Rat-kin hailed her with a mix of salutes, bows and kowtows, quickly reforming into ranks.

"GARP!" In the distance, an armoured Tunneling Engine raised its eyeless head.

"Garp! To the east!" she commanded her newest minion, growing pleased when it began to fluidly traverse the compacted sand with the ease of a carrack slicing through open water. Commanding Cali to follow and Ariel and Golos to scout, she cautiously landed on the Shingleback's head.

The Wyrm's velocity couldn't match her flight speed, but neither were her rats any faster. Besides, she had no reason to rush, for the Centaurs weren't going anywhere.

"Clamber up the sides," she permitted a few of her favourite Centurions to join her, naming those having exhibited the highest ardour for public service to mount her tamed worm. "Learn to work with Garp, for it shall be your guardian in the future; in my absence, it will protect our people from the Wildlands."

And if things go well, Gwen surmised in silence, Garp held infinitely more untapped potentials.

Her Prefects obeyed with misty eyes green with worship.

Gwen turned her Essence-infused eyes to the fore, enjoying the iconic moment of a popular science-fiction made real by her sorcerous efforts, savouring the rare, meta-textual moment.

Several hundred meters later, Golos circled back to intercept her sand-surfing Wyrm.

"Calamity..." The Wyvern said without expression. "Shalkar is to your right."


Shalkar.
The Sawahi Desert.

The oasis at Shalkar wasn't large, but it had been a staple waystation for travellers through the Sawahi basin for aeons, possessing a deep and near-endless aquifer sheltered by a tiny opening no larger than a block of flats. Around the oasis, a dense wall of palms, olives, apricot and fig trees had been cultivated by Rat-kins from generations past, though all had been left to ruin by the Centaurs who used the oasis only as a walled watering hole.

Around Shalkar, thanks to its uncharacteristic inundation of Elemental Water, shrubbery and scattered trees dotted the oasis's surrounding for kilometres, providing shelter against the Afaa al-Halak, whose young shied away from such Elemental compositions, preferring the deep dunes of the inner desert.

But Gwen did not have eyes for Shalkar's rare beauty. Along the way, her resolve grew strengthened by the carcasses of her Rat-kin, scattered like rag dolls, strewn about the sand and the badlands like plastic cups in the aftermath of a frat party. The fallen she had ordered her Rat-kin to collect, consigning their remains to the Void, playing her part as their make-belief Priestess.

Closer to Shalkar, Gwen sent out a dozen of her Centurions to find the Qasqir Clan's dens, then floated atop the tallest of dunes overlooking the oasis to gain vantage over the low-lying "Billabong".

Seeing the Centaurs milling about within their private paradise in their sheltered barriers, eating melons and drinking what passed for wine, her anger simmered like the summer heat on golden sand, distorting all thoughts with her undisguised bloodthirst.

"Bastards..."

Undoubtedly, she would get her Rat-kin the justice they deserved, but first, she would show the Khan one last respect, considering the Horse Lords and the Mageocracy's alliance. Either way, those responsible would pay— but as a collective, the unaware may yet survive.

Making no show of hiding the rats now lined up as a sea of refugees westward of the oasis' "fort", she took her time walking down the dune, Stain and Strun on either side, slowly approaching the twin watchtowers with their slanted platforms for the horsemen's easy entry.

At a distance from the entrance, she channelled mana into a Clarion Call to declare without ambiguity that she was the "Emissary from the Khan," in charge of these "Tasmüyiz", victims of the Elementals' devious, diseased designs. As the nominated Mingat of the Khan, she demanded immediate command of the outpost and that the Centaurs "vacate" lest they become vectors for the Blood Fever's spread.

PING! PAK—!

Arrows clattered against her invisible shield, turning the barriers milk-white.

Gwen closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. In the next few moments, more arrows and even a pilum of "fifty people" made their purposes known, turning her complexion paler than the fat under Garp's armour.

"Mistress..."
"Priestess..." Strun held a recording device in one hand. The Lumen Recorder Richard had argued she should keep in her Storage Ring always blinked as it took in the scene with its crystalline eyes.

"Pack it away," Gwen commanded her Prefect.

The footage was no longer of use, for she no longer anticipated witnesses. Simply put, there were insufficient Centaurs to match the losses suffered by her whiskered paw-pals.

"Gogo," she commanded her Wyvern, who was already salivating over the prospect of horseflesh. "Go knock."

TINK! Pak—PING!

With every other arrow bouncing off her shield, her resolve amplified. Her Babulya once said that she would walk the Path of Violent Reckoning. Unlucky for these Horse Lords, Klavdiya Song was a very, very foresightful woman.

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