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The arrows hit the Scylla’s back, and her hound-heads let out a wail.

Kairos wondered if it was one of pain or surprise, for most of the arrows failed to do anything. As Nessus had warned, they bounced off or broke against the creature’s invulnerable skin… with one exception.

Kairos’ arrow had pierced the creature in the left shoulder, red blood dripping from the wound.

The Scylla Andromache turned around, the hound heads around her waist snarling at the raiders. However, by the time she did so, the archers had already unleashed a second volley. As per their orders, Kairos’ allies switched targets and hit the two harpies keeping watch over the tower. The first bird took two arrows, one to the chest, the other to the neck; the second harpy managed to fly away though, circling the battlefield from above like a vulture.

Nessus and Kairos, meanwhile, focused on the Scylla. The satyr hunter aimed for the open wound, the only area where he could inflict damage, while the pirate captain targeted the body itself. The Scylla raised a tentacle to block the surprise attack, Kairos’ arrow piercing the skin, while Nessus’ bounced off harmlessly. The woman’s eyes set on the Travian, identifying him as the real threat.

The Scylla raised her staff at the group and channeled magic through it. The tip of her weapon ignited, unleashing a fireball at the pirates.

“Disperse!” Kairos shouted, the group running away in all directions. The fireball hit the bushes and trees where they hid earlier, flames incinerating everything in the vicinity. Immediately afterward, the Scylla and her remaining harpy ally attacked the pirates with bestial ferocity. The harpy dived down and grabbed a satyr by the shoulder, lifting him above the ground; she would raise him up in the skies and then drop him from the ground to his death.

Another pirate’s death was far quicker. Showing speed worthy of a shark in the water, the Scylla grabbed one of the satyrs with her tentacles. The archer attempted to hit the monstrous maws with arrows, but his weapons bounced off harmlessly.

One of the Scylla’s hound-heads swallowed him whole in the blink of an eye.

Only Nessus and Kairos, who had high Agility scores, managed to escape the beast’s deadly attention. The other satyr rogue on foot, however, looked up at the beast in fear, before turning tail and fleeing towards the cliff. Did that fool think he had a better chance of jumping into the sea than standing his ground?

“Coward!” Nessus shouted at the deserter, trying to shoot the remaining harpy to free his teammate while Kairos faced the Scylla alone.

“Hydra’s venom.” The Scylla spoke in the old gods’ tongue; Greek. It sounded pleasant and wise, the complete opposite of her snarling hounds. “You use Heracles’ tools, yet you fight like Odysseus.”

Kairos didn’t bother to answer. Instead, he tossed his bow away and grabbed the [Anemoi Spear].

The Scylla expected him to engage her in close combat, but instead, the pirate unleashed a burst of wind at her hand. The surprise attack sent the witch’s staff flying away, disarming her. Kairos had the intuition that Andromache needed her magical weapon to channel her fireballs, and without it, she wouldn’t have any long-range attacks.

His intuition proved correct when the Scylla charged at him, tentacles extended, instead of incinerating him. Knowing it would be suicide, Kairos turned tail and ran away rather than engage the enormous abomination in close-combat. The creature’s hound-heads barked at him, but the pirate was faster.

However, he had nowhere to run. The original plan was to run through the forest if the Scylla gave pursuit, but her flames had spread through the trees. Instead of a path to safety, Kairos found himself trapped between the tower and a wall of flames.

Like a warning from the heavens, the last harpy crashed into the flames with her captive. Though Nessus had managed to shoot the flyer, he had only sent his shipmate to a worse fate; his ghastly screams echoing into the forest.

Kairos briefly looked over his shoulder to look for support, but his hopes were dashed. While Nessus didn’t abandon the hunt, his arrows failed to harm the Scylla, who covered her wounds with her unharmed tentacles. She ignored the satyr [Elite], focusing entirely on Kairos himself.

The only other escape route was the beach near the cliff, but he wouldn’t be able to swim away with the harpies in the area. The other feathered maidens had dispersed to attack the Foresight, and Kairos wasn’t sure how they would react to their mistress’ ambush. In all likelihood they would focus on the ship since the Scylla should be invulnerable; but if they turned around and joined the battle on land, then Kairos’ group would be quickly overwhelmed.

An idea crossed his mind.

When he had lured the Scylla as far away from the tower as possible and near the flame wall, Kairos let out a whistle. The creature looked at him with disdain. “No one will help, little thief,” the Scylla said, her hound-heads snarling. The hydra venom had tainted her flesh, but progressed far slower than it would with a human. “I will heal.”

A strident sound soon echoed from the tower, and the Scylla’s contemptuous expression turned to fear. Her hound-heads barked away, as the hidden raider had triggered the wards around the tower.

“Eos, smash the egg!” Kairos shouted in Greek at his ally. “Smash the egg!”

His crewmate frowned upon hearing his name. But though he didn’t understand the order due to the foreign tongue, the Scylla did. “A diversion?!” Her eyes widened in fury, and she dropped everything to pursue the tower intruder. Her reaction told Kairos that Nessus’ story about a phoenix egg might have some truth to it.

Speaking of Nessus, Kairos noticed the satyr raising his bow at the Scylla, but he couldn't find a good angle to hit the creature’s weak point. His captain would give him one. Raising his spear, Kairos directed a burst of wind through the flames, aiming for the panicked Scylla.

He wondered if she was immune to her own flames.

The wind went through the fire and turned into a stream of flames that swallowed the Scylla whole. As he expected, Kairos’ [Heroslayer] skill allowed the inferno to bypass the creature’s invulnerability, incinerating her. The fire melted the flesh off the hound-heads, leaving only skulls, and seared her pristine skin.

The creature let out a scream of pain and agony as the flames devoured her flesh, but Kairos’ voice carried farther. “Nessus, cripple her!” the captain shouted. “Eos, grab her staff!”

“On it, my captain!” Nessus raised and fired his bow and ruthlessly hit the Scylla in the throat. With her skin burnt away by her own flames, the arrow hit her soft flesh like butter. In spite of her upper body seeming frail and helpless, the creature survived the attack, but not without damage.

Strength down, Agility down.

 

Nessus’ [Crippling Shot 2] had worked its debuffing magic. Kairos doubted these debuffs would stack if Nessus kept shooting at her, but it certainly slowed the beast down. The pirate captain kept incinerating his target, while Nessus bombarded her with arrows. Eos, meanwhile, grabbed the Scylla’s staff laying on the ground and moved out of her way before she could trample him.

Now a living bonfire, the beast hurriedly retreated to her tower.

“No, do not pursue her!” Kairos ordered as the Scylla managed to cross the stone archway leading into the lighthouse. “She knows her lair!”

Instead, Kairos directed the flames through the archway and into the tower. Soon, flames spread inside the lighthouse, smoke coming from the window holes.

“What are you doing?” Nessus asked his superior.

“Cooking her alive,” Kairos replied ruthlessly. Even if she survived the heat, it would hasten her death by passive [Poison] damage. “Or make the structure collapse on her head.”

Nessus looked at him with a mix of fear and awe. “Have you no shame, cruel one?”

“Victory is all that matters.” Shame and honor had no place on the battlefield. Those who lived to tell the tale could say whatever they wanted afterward; you couldn’t argue with the dead. “I told you, this is a hunt, not a fight. And she cost us two men.”

Well, two and a half if they included the deserter.

“Point,” Nessus replied, while their last surviving ally returned to them with the Scylla’s staff.

“Captain!” the raider Eos told Kairos, pointing at the skies with the stolen staff. “The harpy ladies are coming back!”

Kairos raised his eyes at the skies, four harpies flying from the sea towards the tower. The others had probably perished fighting the Foresight’s crew. The flock let out fearsome screams and growls, showing their sharp teeth at Kairos’ group.

Kairos didn’t say anything.

Instead, he silently glared at the monsters, daring them to do anything.

The [Terror] debuff from his [Raider 2] Skill spread among them, as they saw their mistress’ home set on fire by the pirates. The harpies wisely flew away through the smoke rather than fight, leaving the Scylla to her death.

“I told you,” Nessus said with cruel laughter, “vultures, not hawks.”

Good. Kairos would rather avoid fighting flyers. “Just like your man,” Eos told Nessus with a snarl. “Abandoning us in the middle of a fight… I should have known you couldn’t trust a satyr.”

“If he lived through this, then I shall kill him myself,” Kairos told his last soldier with fury. “Nessus and I will take care of the beast. Go to the cliff and signal Cassandra to make landfall. Bring reinforcements.”

Eos nodded and immediately bolted away, while Nessus raised his bow, ready to attack the Scylla if she emerged from the fiery trap. By now, the stone walls had started to crack, the weaker supports inside the tower consumed by the flames. The Scylla’s lair would soon be her tomb.

“What were their names?” Kairos asked Nessus.

“What, my merry men?”

“Yes,” Kairos replied. Since they were new, he hadn’t memorized their names yet. “We’ll have to raise a stone for the dead.”

“Who cares?” Nessus replied without any emotion whatsoever. “They’re dead, they don’t care. It’s the living who need something to complain about.”

“They died fighting for us,” the pirate captain pointed out, the archer’s casual disregard for his men’s lives infuriating him. “When we join them on the other side, they certainly won’t have forgotten us.”

Nessus shrugged it off, keeping his eyes on the tower. Why did the Scylla retreat to her lair? Did it give her an advantage rather than fighting in the open? Kairos raised his eyes, at the burning sun atop the lighthouse.

The pirate noticed a great shadow at the summit, cast by the light.

Nessus immediately raised his bow and sent an arrow, but the sun prevented him from aiming well. Kairos couldn’t tell if it hit, but just in case, he interrupted his attack and leaped away alongside his fellow raider. It saved their life, as a fireball fell from the skies and blew up the spot where they stood a minute ago.

“She has a back-up staff!” Kairos shouted to Nessus, noticing another fireball falling down on them. This time, the pirate captain raised his spear and unleashed a blast of wind. His stunt deflected the projectile back to the sender, the top of the tower exploding in a fiery blast.

The walls shook, and the fissures inside widened. And soon, they started shaking.

Kairos and Nessus quickly ran away towards the cliff, as the lighthouse collapsed on itself. The old scriptures and symbols on the walls shattered into pieces, while smoldering stone fell in a rain around the area. The sun at the lighthouse’s summit was cast down the earth, like the dead [Hero] Icarus.

When the dust settled, Kairos and Nessus faced a pile of smoking rubble.

“Well, my captain, I hope you build your houses better than this one,” the satyr said, whistling. “Shame though. She probably kept a hoard of treasures within that tower.”

“If a fire could destroy it, it wasn’t worth much,” the captain replied. “That phoenix’s egg though…”

The rubble pile moved on its own, both pirates standing still. Kairos immediately raised his spear and unleashed a blast of wind, clearing the way.

The Scylla had survived.

Her tentacles had shriveled into black, dead things, and the hound heads around her waist had turned into skulls. The rest of her body suffered from third-degree burns everywhere, disfiguring beast and beauty halves both. She kept her hands around a smooth, ruby-colored egg the size of a cart.

“A phoenix egg…” Nessus whispered, astonished by the sight. The egg produced a brilliant light, making it hard to look at it directly; such an item was a prize without equal. They would have to go to Lyce or Alexandria to find a merchant capable of buying something so precious.

Kairos was more concerned by its guardian, who struggled to breathe. She was still alive, in spite of the poison and fire damage? Either the Scylla had regeneration of some kind or her Vitality stat was off the charts. Anyway, she was in no shape to defend herself, so Kairos raised his spear to finish her off. One last blast of wind would snap her body in two.

The Scylla raised one hand at him, perhaps to cast one last curs—

“Mercy!”

The word, spoken in Greek, truly took Kairos by surprise. “Mercy?” the pirate repeated in Greek.

“Mercy...” the Scylla croaked, a hand raised. The pirate wondered how she could even talk in her state. “For the egg...”

“I don’t understand what she says, but I hate seeing a poor beast in pain,” Nessus told Kairos, raising his bow. “Allow me.”

“No, wait.” Kairos forbade the hunter to act in Thessalan, before speaking back to the Scylla in Greek. “Why the egg?”

“It… almost hatched…”

Kairos looked at the blinding egg, and much to his surprise, the light source inside seemed to shift slightly.

Had the Moira foreseen this?

“Oh, my captain?” Nessus asked, bow raised. “What do we do?”

Instead of answering immediately, Kairos glanced over his shoulder. His crew had made landfall and started climbing the cliff. “Tell Rhadamanthe to prepare his best healing spells and strong chains,” the young raider said. “I will give the Scylla the hydra venom’s antidote. We will keep her alive for interrogation.”

“What, you want her to take the oath next?” Nessus said jokingly.

“Yes.”

The satyr froze an instant as if he had misheard. “Yes, what?”

“Yes, I’m going to make her take the oath if she wants to live,” Kairos replied, looking at the burnt husk and the egg she desperately defended. “The quest was to defeat the Scylla, not to kill her. After slaying two of our recruits, she has many years of service ahead of herself.”

As an ancient creature from before the Anthropomachia, she could prove a tremendous asset if properly managed.

Nessus looked at him as if he had lost his mind. “You want to enslave a Scylla.”

Kairos didn’t think the word enslave fit the situation. “She asked for mercy and she will get it,” the captain said, looking at the husk, “but not for free.”

Travians didn’t do charity.

Nessus lowered his bow and shook his head. “Alright, you’re madder than the Furies,” he said, “but I still get my celebration party, right?”

“Yes.”

“Good. That’s all that matters.”

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Void Herald

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending half my time writing and the other half managing magical websites.

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