“I’m going after the left flank!” Zaniyah pushed a mist charge into her axe as she ran. Her feet hit the slick of slime that was coating the grass and she let out a squeal as she began to skid uncontrollably towards the massive salamander.
The tainted beast was projectile vomiting the stuff everywhere, making it difficult for Trewarne’s unit to approach. Zaniyah gave a hefty swing and a blade of wind flew soared towards it. It also forced Zaniyah in the opposite direction, sending her screaming as she slid backward. A screech escaped the creature as the blade hit it, cutting through part of its flesh and snapping its bones in the process.
“I got you!” Kahtia positioned herself behind Zaniyah. One slammed into the other and bowling the both of them over.
Kahtia Byrdene was a member of Trewarne’s unit. He had found her wandering about Carapace. Her past times included fighting and general troublemaking. She was a young woman who was barely twenty, with a head of light brown hair and tanned skin covered in pale stripes. Her teeth had small points to them, and they were often visible due to her constant cheeky grin. Despite her overall attitude, she was a good enough fighter to peek Trewarne’s interests.
Trewarne growled at the two. “Keep your guard up!”
“But it’s everywhere!” Kahtia slipped and skidded as she struggled to stand. The thick slime was coating both her and Zaniyah and now they were flailing about as they attempted to keep their balance. Zaniyah let out a series of curses as she attempted to figure it out.
Both women let out a surprised cry as the salamander’s body began to spark up. Behind them, Dodo Tuma slammed his axe into the ground. Spikes of stone shot up from below and twisted together to form a protective barrier around the women. Both Trewarne and Dodo were lifted up on pillars as the slime below them erupted with electricity.
“A’h tha two of ya a’ight?!” Dodo called out.
Zaniyah braced her shoulder against the wall so she could stand up. “We’re good! What’s the plan from here?!”
“Keep uzin’ tha wind, child!” Dodo cried back.
Climbing up to the top of the ridge that Dodo had created, Zaniyah continued to slash at the air. Blades of wind continued to carve out chunks of the beast as Trewarne moved forward. Dodo raised stones up through the ground for Trewarne to balance on and a final pillar shot him up into the air.
Trewarne’s blade clearly cleaved through the salamander’s neck as he neatly landed next to it. He flicked the slime off the blade and gestured for Dodo to come over so they could begin harvesting the blood iron. Flat rocks appeared out of the ground, acting as a trail for Dodo to safely cross.
“Good wo’k, Hi’am,” congratulated Dodo.
“The kids helped as well.” Trewarne frowned at their appearance. Both Kahtia and Zaniyah were standing there crying about the muck they were covered in. “We’ll spend tomorrow morning going over the basics again. Their movements need to be tighter.”
Just as they discussing leaving, a series of dog-sized bats started to fall from the sky. Trenchall’s coins were blasting the beasts out of their domain as the rest of Horsetalon sought to meet up with Trewarne’s group. They had been responsible for destroying the aerial beasts while Trewarne’s unit took care of the salamander.
“Are we done here?” Pegasus called out to the other two knights. “I would like to finish this as soon as possible!”
Kahtia and Zaniyah held out their arms obediently as Trenchall’s coins began to spiral around them. They squealed as jets of ice cold water started to blast them clean. Chickadee then conjured rings of fire to help dry them off.
“We’ll work on harvesting anything useful. You can carry on from here, Mordiern!” Trewarne called back.
Pegasus waved as a sign of appreciation before addressing Anais. “How has your messaging network been faring? Have we gotten any requests?”
The first year group from Braytons had been within Carapace for a week now. Chickadee and Zaniyah had spent that time doing daily hunts, and so far, it had been going well. Anais had developed a network of birds that she was using as emergency messengers. Ever since then, they’ve been able to respond quickly to reported sightings.
“Nothing has come in yet. I’ll let you know if anything does,” replied Anais. She then jogged over to Zaniyah, trying n. ot to slip in the slime as she did so. “Do you want to go home together? I can wait if you’re still working.”
Zaniyah didn’t want to go. She hated it at the Highland estate. Alton’s mother, Iofea, was essentially a saint. His brothers and father were also nice. Vincent’s family was cold and distant. They were almost like Vincent, overly reserved and professional, but at the same time, they were mean. They were quite mean to Zaniyah. His older sister, Philomena, was less mean and more the type to run off whenever Zaniyah tried to say hi. But his parents, oh, they were openly rude.
Kahtia patted both Zaniyah and Anais on the backs. “I can help Hiram and Dodo cut up these guys. Are you and Chi coming over for dinner?” She had been staying with the Cully family, who was also hosting Zaniyah’s mother and her brother Zyris. The shop was quite a cozy place at the moment.
“No… I think I’m just going to lie down. Lie down for a long time, and uhm… Ignore everything in the world.” Zaniyah got a far off stare in her eyes. “Everything.”
All of Vincent’s squad, including Sir Moss, were staying at his family’s manor. Zaniyah was there as well but she was the only one of them to be stuck staying in the servant’s quarters. Supposedly they didn’t have room for her elsewhere because they needed to keep space available for more important guests. Vincent was purposely being kept away from her.
Not to mention that Vincent was forced to go out for dinner every night. The excuse was that he needed to represent the family and their endeavors with their church and hospitals, yet these meetings were flooded with eligible women of marrying age. His parents were also strongly encouraging him to quit Braytons so he could court a woman of their choosing because apparently, that was the Highland way.
Philomena was engaged to a prominent doctor. She had once dreamed of being a doctor herself, but also had the duty of someday raising a family. At her father’s request, she became a nurse so that she could quit her job more easily later on. Vincent was expected to handle the Highland’s religious pursuits while Philomena’s soon to be husband inherited the hospitals.
All of the stupid lessons and studying that Zaniyah had put herself through had meant nothing. She didn’t even have a chance to demonstrate that she could be a lady. There was definitely a chance that Zaniyah could help out with all of the church stuff that they wanted her to, but none of them would even speak with her!
She and Anais rode back to the manor and they stopped in the stables to put the horses away. This had become a hiding spot for Gwyn and Ivy after they had returned from their own duties. It was better to wait for Vincent here rather than anywhere else. Magdalena had been encouraging them to act as his escorts and both of them felt bad enough for Zaniyah that they had been making up excuses as to why they couldn’t.
“Where is he?” Magdalena charged in after the Anais and Zaniyah had entered the stables. “Where is Vincent?
“... Uh, what?” Zaniyah looked between everyone present before giving a shrug.
“I have received word that he has missed all of his appointments today. I demand to know which one of you is hiding him! Did he put himself in danger? I specifically told him and Sir Moss that he was not to be allowed to hunt down those monsters!”
Gwyn greeted her with a polite curtsy. “Lady Magdalena, I assure you that Vincent left here upon Rux some time ago. He had mentioned that he wanted to check on Mister Tuton’s progress at the hospital. He is still our commander and his main priority is to manage our responsibilities. It’s likely that he was caught up in business and will arrive at city hall shortly.”
Magdalena let out a scoff. “If I find out that any of you has been lying to me, I will have all of you out on the streets.” She turned and left in a huff.
Gwyn rolled her eyes as she pulled out her letter. She needed to inform Veximarl that she had used him as an excuse for Vincent’s absence. Behind her, Vincent peeked his head above one of the stall doors.
“Has she left?” Vincent then sighed with relief as Ivy gave him the thumbs up. “Thank goodness. I had thought I would be allowed to return home as a squire, but my mother has forced my hand. Socializing has never been my forte.”
Ivy didn’t mind the trip so far. Her family had fallen from grace when she was a child and all this wining and dining felt like one big vacation. “It’s not so bad. Last night, they had this dish called groduab at a party and it was the most interesting tasting animal I have ever eaten.”
“Vincent!” Zaniyah did a running leap over the stall door so she could slather him with kisses.
He hugged her tightly in return, tilting his head to the side as though he were being licked by a dog. “I have missed you as well.” Vincent grasped her by the shoulders and pushed her away. “I have done some thinking… I have decided that I must impregnate you immediately so that we may elope.”
Zaniyah’s face flushed red as she gave a bashful nod. “I-if you think that’s what we should be doing, I’m fine with it.”
Vincent kissed her forehead gently. “That is exactly-”
“What you two are not going to do,” argued Gwyn in a hasty fashion. “Save it for when we’re back at the barracks.”
Ivy leaned over the stall barrier. “I don’t even like you two as a couple. We’re only doing this because Lady Magdalena is in the wrong here.” She shuddered at the thought of Zaniyah and Vincent together. “Krogastein, go to her bedchamber, knock on her door, and explain yourself properly.
You love Vincent, and you’re going to do everything in your power to make the Highland family proud. She’s only acting apprehensive because she’s attempting to do what’s best for her family, and you’ve got to prove to her that you mean no harm.”
“You’re right!” Zaniyah stood up and made a fist. “I put so much effort into this! I can totally fit in and do noble things!” Gwyn and Ivy shook their heads at each other but then smiled and nodded when Zaniyah looked to them for guidance. “I’m going to march up to her door right now and talk to her woman to woman!”
“I would suggest against that,” muttered Vincent.
Zaniyah clasped her hands upon his shoulders. “My beloved, it is time that I fight for our chance at true love. I will hold my ground. We will have the right to be together.”
“Well, uhm… Good luck?” Anais wasn’t convinced of this plan.
Zaniyah gave Vincent a final kiss on the cheek before rushing off to fight her biggest challenge. Talking with Magdalena took a lot of courage. Courage was something Zaniyah had mountains of. Nothing was going to stop her as long as she was in the right and the power of love was there to guide her!