Jean and Ayanna approached the town that was Dachaigh Gual, but their feet came to an abrupt stop upon noticing the several shadows that crept towards the dark town from the east.
Jean’s eyes narrowed as he tried to gather as much information as possible.
The shadowy figures were humanoid, but the darkness of the night prevented him from seeing anything else.
“Hey!” Jean called out in an attempt to start the coming encounter on a friendly note.
“Hey!” A rather familiar voice yelled from within the darkness.
“Are you friendly?” The voice asked, much to Jean’s bewilderment.
“As friendly as can be.”
“Is that you Mr Jean?” The figure asked as it got ever closer.
“Yep. What are you doing around these parts, Alex?” Jean asked.
Alex and his men came to a stop just in front of Jean and for once, their dark leather clothes weren’t drenched in blood.
“Oh, the boss figured that Dachaigh Gual was infested with beasts and so he sent us out here for a glorious purge.” Alex said with a gentle smile.
Jean frowned at this.
“Well, I can confirm that there’s beastly activity around here, but don’t go around killing innocent people, ok?”
“Sure,” Alex said causally before turning north to face Dachaigh Gual.
“Shall we?” Alex asked.
Everyone then made their way into the dark streets of Dachaigh Gual and it wasn’t long before they arrived at the town’s centre where countless rotting bodies could be seen scattered around a fountain.
Ayanna’s eyes narrowed upon noticing a certain familiar carriage.
A short and burly man stood beside it as well.
Jean and Ayanna walked up to the man, leaving Alex and his men to roam.
“Nice to see you made it here in one piece, hehe.” Jean said, but the man did not react as his cold black eyes scanned Jean and Ayanna.
“What’s going on here?” A familiar voice asked from the right.
Jean looked to find Fionn and her driver, Robert.
“Hey.” Jean greeted with an awkward smile.
“What are you doing here? And… who are those people?” Fionn asked as she glared at Alex and his men.
“We had to leave Sùith after a strange torrent of rotten flesh poured in. Oh and those guys call themselves the bloody numbers. They’re hunters-"
“This is quite the interesting place, no?” Alex asked as he walked over to where Jean was.
“Yes.” Jean said, but Alex had his attention focused not on him, but the carriage.
“Pardon me, sir, but I ask that you allow us some privacy.” Fionn said, her gaze a piercing one.
Alex ignored her before placing his hands on his waist.
“You know… I’d love to do as you ask, but something in my bones is telling me that there’s something unpleasant in there.” Alex said and almost immediately, Robert pulled out a small knife and pointed it at Alex’s neck.
The short burly man remained where he was, although his guard was raised.
“What are you doing?” Jean asked as he raised his hands in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
“Silence, worm!” Robert said as he shot Jean a rather unpleasant look.
Alex, on the other hand, remained completely calm.
In fact, he casually walked closer to Robert, who’s hands trembled.
“There. Is. Something. In. There. Right?” Alex asked in a taunting manner.
This was the last straw for Robert and so he lashed out towards Alex, but Alex was far too quick.
He grabbed Robert’s dagger wielding hand and twisted his arm in an awkward direction.
“Guys, calm down for a moment! Alex, what makes you so sure there’s something in there?” Jean asked.
“I can feel it,” Alex said as his men approached the carriage.
“We all can,” he said as he continuously bent Roberts arm.
“Unhand me at once, you-"
“Alex!” One of Alex’s men called, prompting Alex to look to the south where several people, dressed in strange grey clothing approached.
Alex let Robert go before walked towards the approaching people.
“Are you friendly?” Alex asked as Jean tried to help Robert, only to be completely rejected.
“Yes. Are you the only survivor’s-?” The man who was seemingly leading the people clad in grey turned his head and glared at Fionn.
“At arms!” The man yelled, prompting all of his followers to unsheathe swords of strange design.
“Whoa there! I thought you said you were-"
Alex tried speaking, but he was met with a volley of attacks.
Fortunately, he was fast enough to back away to a safe distance.
“Kill everyone last one of these bastards!” The man said, but Alex replied with a loud chuckle.
“That doesn’t sound very nice!” He said as he pulled out his great saw.
“Wait!” Jean cried from all the way back in the carriage.
“What?” Alex asked.
“Why are you even fighting?” Jean asked as he ran up to Alex and his opponents.
“Ask them.” Alex said.
“Well?” Jean asked.
“We don’t have anything to say to your kind!” The leader of the grey clad strangers barked.
“What? What do you mean “our kind”?” Jean asked, his hands raised.
“Just die, damned Crucible!” The man said as he lashed forward.
Alex skilfully evaded getting cut as he dashed across the stone paved streets, while Jean simply ran to a safe distance.
“We aren’t Crucibles! Those guys are.” Jean said as he pointed at Fionn and her men.
The grey clad people turned to face where Jean pointed.
Their leader then glared at Jean before glaring at Alex, who casually leaned against a nearby empty carriage.
“If… if you’re not all Crucibles, then who are you?” The leader asked, his face red with fury.
“My name’s Alex, these are my men and we are the Bloody Numbers. We live to hunt the beasts that roam the night.” Alex said.
“And you?” The leader asked.
“My name is Jean and I have no affiliation with either of these groups. Well… I know Fionn and Alex, but just barely.” Jean said.
The leader dropped his hands before sighing.
“Drop your weapons.” He barked and all of his followers complied.
“And what’s your name, hot blooded one?” Alex asked.
“Pavo. I’m an Awning. I have come to this land in search of survivors.” Pavo said, his hand still tightly wrapped around his recurved sword.
“What are Awnings?” Jean asked from a safe distance.
Pavo crossed his arms before raising his nose slightly.
“We are a tribe of people who live entirely in the Dubhar mountains.” Pavo said.
“And you’re looking for survivors because?” Jean asked.
“Because Gi' Kolarum weeps. He is in our village and we want to show him that not all of humanity is…” Pavo shot another glare at Fionn and her companions.
Jean exchanged glances with Alex momentarily.
“So… you’re going to go around gathering humans. How many do you need?” Jean asked.
“As many as it will take to sate Gi' Kolarum’s rage.”
“Why is he angry again?” Jean asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure- no. I’m certain it was them who brought about his wrath and caused this endless night." Pavo said with narrowed eyes.
“Mmm…” Jean let out a monotone drone before Alex playfully poked his shoulder.
“What are you guys talking about?” Alex asked.
Jean took a deep breath before summarizing all he knew about Gi and the concept of higher dimensions.
Alex stood, mouth agape, as his mind proceeded the information Jean had dished out.
“Anyway, now that greetings are out of the way. I suggest that you move aside while we… handle the Crucibles.” Pavo said.
“To that, I will not argue.” Alex said, but Jean once again raised his hands.
“Wait! Why do you want to attack them?” He asked.
“They are definitely hiding something and I don’t need to be a genius to figure out its something evil,” Alex said, his eyes narrowed to a slit.
“Mr. Alex is right. The Crucibles are nothing but a pest to be exterminated, lest they doom us all.” Pavo said.
“Come on, can’t we talk about this? I’m sure there’s a way the Crucibles can atone for whatever sins they may have committed against your people.”
“Our people? The Crucibles are on a mission that will end in our collective doom,” Pavo said.
“How? I thought they only wanted enlightenment for themselves,” Jean asked, but Pavo raised his sword and pointed it at Fionn.
“Have you ever wondered how all of this began? Don’t you think that if those dogs wanted enlightenment, they’d have simply asked Gi for it?” Pavo asked.
“But no. They just had to drag us all down with them.”
“He does have a point.” Alex said, much to Jean’s dismay.
“Grr, fine. But give me a moment to talk to Fionn.” Jean said as he walked towards Fionn, who stood behind a wide eyed Robert.
All the while, Ayanna stood near the carriage. Her hands on her waist.
“Fionn, Alex and Mr. Pavo are really serious about attacking you. I suggested you hop into your carriage and make a break for it. Ayanna and I will hold these maniacs back-" Jean stopped as both Alex and Pavo's people gathered around the carriage.
“Dammit.” Jean cursed under his breath.
“Alight, Mr. Jean. Get out of the way.” Alex said as he lowered his stance.
Jean’s heart almost dropped to his knees as he looked into Alex’s fiery eyes.
They seemingly glowed a little, but Jean didn’t have time to admire them.
“What’s in the carriage?” Jean asked rather loudly, his eyes shifting from Alex to Pavo.
“What?” Fionn asked as her entire body trembled with fear.
“What’s in the carriage?” Jean asked as Alex’s men crept ever closer.
“My… my mother!” Fionn said before falling to get knees.
“Lady Fionn!” Robert cried as he turned around to attend Fionn.
In the following moment, one of Alex’s men grabbed Robert before forcing him onto the cold damp ground.
Pavo’s men then gave the same treatment to Fionn’s other companion before the rest of them swarmed the carriage.
They roughly pushed Jean to the side as the tore open the door to find a wheelchair bound person, but the carriages two doors wouldn’t be enough to remove the person.
Jean bit his teeth as he thought about telling Alex and Pavo about the secret door at the back, but before the thought could even complete, Alex’s men violently tore off the doors before forcible winding the frame.
Jean’s face twisted into a frown as he watched Alex’s men pull out the person from the carriage, their entire body hidden beneath a beautiful black veil.
Alex’s men then placed the person on the ground before stepping to the side, allowing M Alex and Pavo to approach.
Alex knelt and slowly lifted the veil off of the sitting person, revealing an old woman with surprisingly dark black hair and fairly wrinkled skin.
No one spoke as they’re eyes all focused on one particular facet of the woman’s appearance.
They were closed shut.
“Ma’am. Could you open your eyes for a moment?” Alex asked.
The woman slowly nodded before opening her eyes revealing a countless number of pupils.
Jean’s mouth hung open as he noticed that there were so many pupils in the old lady’s eyes, they almost seemed purely black, which they would have been if it weren’t for the constant swirling of the pupils.
Alex raised his great saw only for a cry to pierce the air.
“Please! Don’t do this! I’m sure lord Gi' Kolarum can fix her. I’m sure he can help her, so please…” Fionn begged as tears streamed down her face.
Alex ignored her and swung his massive saw downward only for him to completely through himself to the side, changing the saws direction.
Everyone watched in awe as Alex tumbled to the side.
“What are you doing? Kill her!” Pavo yelled.
“I’m trying!” Alex said as he regained his balance.
He then walked up to the old lady before swinging his saw again, horizontally this time, but just as the thought entered his mind, he violently kicked his right leg, causing him to fall backwards.
Pavo let out a grunt before running up to the old lady while raising his sword, but as he lowered it, his legs buckled, forcing him onto his knees.
However, his attack from before hadn’t stopped and so the tip of his sword buried itself in Alex's chest.
Gasps filled the air as Alex bled.
His men immediately ran to his side before turning hateful gazes toward Pavo.
“No! It’s the lady! Kill her!” Alex said as the old lady stood up.
Alex’s men all raised their weapons to kill her, but they all clumsily hacked away at each other instead.
Jean’s eyes trembled as he watched Alex’s men kill each other as the old lady walked towards him.
She closed her eyes for a moment and seemingly followed her nose as she walked.
Pavo’s men ran in to kill her, but-
“Stop!” Pavo yelled, stopping them in their tracks.
The old lady then inched towards Jean, who stood completely still.
“You… smell good.” The old woman said before turning to Ayanna.
“You both smell good.” She said in a voice so raspy, it was as though she hadn’t had a sip of water in days.
Jean grabbed his dagger, but just as he thought of stabbing the old woman, his dagger inched ever closer to his temple and so he stopped moving completely.
The old woman reached out to touch Jean, but in a split second, Ayanna cleaved off the woman’s arms partway through with her claymore.
The old lady stumbled backwards as her arms bled and even though she had just lost two limbs, she didn’t scream.
Ayanna didn’t hesitate as she dashed forward and in a single motion, she swung her claymore across the old woman’s neck, separating her head from her body.
Everyone watched in silence as the old woman’s head and body fell to the cold ground.
Ayanna let out a deep sigh before turning to face Fionn, who had passed out.
Alex’s people, or those who were still alive, gathered the bodies of their fallen comrades while Pavo and his people gathered some pieces of wood which they used to burn Fionn’s mother.
Speaking of, Fionn was being nursed by her two companions.
Ayanna turned to face Jean to find that he was holding his dagger dangerously close to his temple.
“Jean!” Ayanna wheezed, snapping Jean out of his trancelike state.
A tear then rolled down his face before he dropped his dagger.
“Why do I hate myself so much?”