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Thread: [Open] Week ---: Misericorde

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    [Open] Week ---: Misericorde


    Misericorde
    Unto the Black Portal, Phase Two - Krevati Evimerias



    The dawn of the fourth day aboard the Hydrus was filled with trepidation. For three days straight, the small army aboard had made their preparations. Swords, spears, and axes were sharpened meticulously, obsessively, until the very idea of touching one would draw blood. Rifles were cleaned, taken apart, put back together, then cleaned and oiled again. Every round of ammunition was checked for imperfections, cartridges carefully loaded one by one, ball bearings stowed carefully in pouches. Every spell had been reviewed and memorized, words and gestures burned into the hearts of the casters.

    Prayers were on the lips of most, prayers to the Vis, to the spirits of the divine, to any unknowable being that might be listening.

    Through it all, though, the many men and women aboard the Hydrus, whether soldier or mercenary, scholar or civilian, distracted themselves from their own worrying with an uneasy camaraderie. As preparations were made, songs sprang up in different corners of the ship. Tales of past deeds and legends made the rounds while rations were cooked and choked down. The blood of daemons still stained many places on the ship, reminding them all of what was coming, but the fear was held at bay.

    The dawn of the fourth day was bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky, and yet the heavy dread in the air seemed to darken everything.

    They kept the coast of Secare on the port side, following the line of the mountains. The Hydrus cut easily through the cerulean waters of the Sea of Aquilonia, even after all the damage it had sustained. It was a quiet, tense morning, nearly silent, until suddenly a shout came from a lookout.

    "The sky! What's happening?"

    The horizon suddenly, and sharply, turned to black. As the ship closed in, the blackness spread, edged in a pulsing red glow. The temperature seemed to suddenly grow and heady pressure crashed down around the crew and passengers. When the ship crossed an invisible boundary, it was as if the sun died entirely. The sky was dark, and the air underneath was lit by an otherworldly glow, ominous and imposing.

    The mountain range suddenly turned away, turning toward the south, and there in the distance, they saw it: Krevati Evimirias.

    The ancient, tiered city was built into the side of the mountains and climbed half as high as the towering peaks. There, above the very top of the city, the makeshift crew of the Hydrus laid eyes on the Black Portal for the first time. It was like looking into the solar eclipse, frozen in its most dreadful moments, a blindfold over the eyes of Castus.

    Beneath the rift in the planes, the King stood, surveying his dominion spread out before him. The arch-daemon Malphas stood behind him, just barely visible to those on the ship. A sinister, sickly smile spread on King Mavros' decrepit lips as the ship came into view. "They are here," he said in the forgotten, forbidden language.

    Malphas needed no other direction. He roared with delight as the prey came to the slaughter. As if summoned by his malevolent laughter, daemons began pouring from the portal to fill the sky. Some poured out of the broken city gates and still others appeared in the great fields in front of the city.

    Aboard the ship, orders and shouts rang out. "Straight in, before they reach the shore!" The Hydrus cut sharply to port, engines thrumming loudly as they peaked, shaking the entire ship.

    Before they reached the shore the water in front of them shifted and churned. Something beneath the waters was moving, far larger than the ship. It burst from underneath, sending a massive wave rolling toward the Hydrus. The force of the wave lifted the battleship, tilting it nearly vertical as those aboard raced to grab hold of anything they could to hang on for dear life. The ship crested the wave and then it tilted forward, throwing everyone in the opposite direction.

    That was just the wave.

    The daemon in front of them -- for it could be nothing else -- was a serpent with three glowing green eyes, each as large as a basilisk. Its back was armored in a black and green carapace, with tentacles shaking and twisting wildly in the air behind it. The serpent's jaws opened, revealing its cavernous maw, large enough to swallow the entire ship whole if it wanted.

    "Fire!"

    The cannons on the front of the ship erupted with a deafening blast. The serpent recoiled and snapped its jaws shut as glowing green ichor burst from the scaly flesh beneath one eye. It quickly dove under the water again. The destructive waves of its passing set the ship tumbling, nearly spilling over to the port side while its engines still pressed forward at full tilt.

    Loud cries of, "Starboard, starboard!" rang out as the shore rapidly approached. Whoever was at the helm spun the wheel toward starboard, throwing the entire ship sideways just before it beached itself. The engines cut suddenly, and new shouts rang out. "Go now! Now! This is as close as it gets!"

    As one, the small army of Terminus' finest leaped overboard, splashing into the shallow water. The waves from the reckless maneuvering of the ship helped carry the first of the defenders all way to shore.

    Ahead of them lay the city of Krevati Evimirias, and between them and it was a horde of daemons of all shapes and sizes.

    The water rippled and undulated as the daemon serpent surfaced again, jaws closed but eyes brimming with wrath. This time, a small figure could just barely be made out riding atop the beast's head. Black robes accented in crimson just barely stood out against the deep green of the serpent's skin: one of Krevati's archmagi.

    A golden arc of lightning shot through the air, breaking upon the hull of the Hydrus, crackling over the railing and catching those too close to the edge.

    [1000/1000]

    Notes
    There will be two threads. This thread is for those staying to defend the ship and try to stop or take out Eleos, Archmagi Misericorde. No more than 10% of the group (50 or so) will stay behind on the ship.

    If anyone wants to start the second thread, it will be the attack on Krevati's main gates. The gates themselves are broken, but you'll have to get past or defeat Tharros, Archmagi Ferocitas and the daemons that are gathered there. 90% of the group (450 or so) will be going here.

    You are welcome to play as many NPCs as you would like in these threads, both enemies and allies.

  2. #2
    That One Guy Apeiron's Avatar
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    The arc of lightning raced in front of Ioannes, and brought the laicar gunsmith up short. The hairs on the back of his head stood on end, and a chill ran down his spine.

    He should have known he wasn’t leaving the ship. Not with Palamedes standing so defiantly, facing the giant serpent, and especially not when he felt the Call so strongly. It was no longer a whisper in his ear, a suggestion that he should find something heroic to do to satisfy the twins, but an order.

    Stay, Arduinna said.

    Before, in Navale, Ioannes had wanted to avoid drawing too much attention -- Palamedes was enough, usually -- but here in the now didn’t matter. He gave into the Call completely, letting the voices of a thousand legend heroes fill him and steady his resolve. Around him, the air warmed and filled with light as a golden halo enveloped him.

    Down along his arms, rising from the seemingly mundane pair of blue-lacquered bracers at his wrists, intricate lines bisected and converged into twisted geometric patterns that emitted an unnatural brilliant blue color.

    “That light,” someone behind him whispered, “I heard about a man who radiated like Castus had touched him back in Terminus, but….”

    A few of the others who had been cut off from jumping into the water turned then to stand with Ioannes, and the wanderer felt his nerves calm just a little bit. Maybe he should have said something heroic like, “Everyone go! I’ll handle this!” but he knew that something as unreasonable as that was suicide. The Call might want him to get into danger, but there was absolutely no reason for him to throw away his life.

    Besides, he was afraid that if he spoke, everyone would hear his voice wobble and break in fear. And when everyone around you had resolved to see things through to an end (be it success or death) it was probably better to stay quiet.

    Someone stepped up next to Ioannes and snorted, saying, “I’m taking that rifle back when that Janus kills you.” Turning to look over his shoulder, Ioannes saw the grizzled spurii woman, Flavinia. After the assault in Navale, Ioannes had found the woman and spoke with her briefly, hoping he could purchase the rifle from her. Flavinia was either one of the most sardonic people the wanderer had ever met, or one of the most terse. “I hope you do more than just glow, kid.”

    Her calm helped Ioannes nerves, and he found himself asking, the butt of his rifle coming up to his shoulder, “Not going to the beach?”

    “Too many people. Grenades might hit friendlies, but here…? Open season.” She pulled out a gun Ioannes wasn’t familiar with. The barrel was too wide to fire any normal bullet, and it had a revolving cylinder reminiscent of a revolver pistol. “You?”

    “Someone’s gotta be bait.”

    “Guess that makes two of us.”

    “I believe you miscounted,” came another familiar voice. Hidden behind Palamedes, on Ioannes’s right, Brother Paulus, a student of Aquila from the Arcanum whom the wanderer had shared a meal with the first night, was undoubtedly looking out at the serpent demon with contempt and irritation. His left eyebrow raised as if he expected someone to retort.

    “I count one, since you all make terrible bait.” Pushing past both Flavinia and Ioannes, wrapped in heavy armor and equipped with a shield and short-sword, the enlil soldier Kaeso cracked his neck by tilting it to one side in a lazy disregard for the opponent. Kaeso wasn’t exactly what you’d call a hardened veteran with the Conexus, but he had spent years fighting in a gladiator pit on Aridus. Kaeso had approached Ioannes on the second day, wanting to share with the wanderer the one fight he had with a vorax. Ioannes was certain it was greatly exaggerated, but he hadn’t been able to tell which parts were embellished .

    With a smirk on his face, Kaeso jabbed, “Except maybe the wizard. He’s looking a little plump.”

    [670]

  3. #3
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    Deni was floored on the deck of the ship after all of the violent motion, but the deafening crackle of the lightning kept him down. For a moment, his teeth gritted together and he scrunched up his eyes tight. A single bright flash, however, and it was gone. The shivering velen opened his eyes and laid them upon the singed railing on the side of the ship. That was the second time he had escaped a vicious lightning strike and he still owed Ignis for the first.

    Deep blue eyes gazed around the chaotic scene on the ship. There was no sign of his enlil companion.

    No, he thought to himself. I need to focus. She can handle herself. I’ll find her later.

    Deni lifted the rifle off his back and used it as support to bring himself back to his feet. Most of the other fighters were already up. Some of them were staring at something. Deni halted when he saw it.

    “Is he… glowing?” the velen asked, to no-one in particular.

    “Yeah,” one soldier replied.

    The pelagic rogue wasn’t sure what to feel when he caught a glimpse of the light that surrounded Ioannes. At first he questioned its nature. Had the man been possessed by some foul magic? Unlikely. It didn’t seem malicious, though he couldn’t describe how he knew that. The energy did seem familiar, however.

    Deni’s eyes widened. A short smirk materialised and he saw an opportunity.

    “Looks like Castus is with us, boys and girls,” he called. A few devout combatants cheered briefly before continuing to rush about in preparation of the vessels defense. The pale velen, with auritium sniper rifle in hand, stormed towards the cannon.

    “Anyone know if we can swivel this thing?” he shouted. “I’m about ready to send that slimy bastard back to the depths.”

    [305]


  4. #4
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    He had snuck onboard after the demons had attacked the port town, doing what he could to try and help the guards deal with them. His determination and resolve to help out had been solidified by the assault on Terminus and now even further with their attack on the town.

    The athlete barely stepped out of the way of the crackling lightning, Of course there has to be a magic user, Dante frowned as he regained his bearings on the ship deck, making sure that his claymore was still firmly strapped to his back.

    ”Well, thats certainly a way to take the spotlight,” he remarked as his eyes landed on the light emanating warrior standing on the deck further away. Hearing a somebody shout about swiveling something, the athlete glanced over his shoulder to see who exactly, it was a familiar face. Dashing closer so that he would not have to shout back.

    ”Yeah, you can, see it's sitting on a platform right there,” he replied and pointed at the feet of the cannon, ”also nice that you're still holding together,” Dante smirked at him.


    [187]

  5. #5
    The Lurker <span style='color: #FFFFFF'><span class='glow_008080'>swaswj</span></span>'s Avatar
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    In front of the ship and its defenders, a vision took shape, shimmering above the crashing waves. Larger than the great serpent in front of them, the decrepit form of the archmagi stood haughtily over them, seeming as if he might brush the entire ship aside with one wave of his hands.

    Black robes edged in crimson covered his frail body, leaving his corpse-like arms bared. Black hair, long and greasy, fell down the revenant's back. His face was gaunt, skin dirty but pale except for the nose -- with no bone directly beneath it, it seemed nearly black. The archmagi's eyes were covered by poured lumps of gold.

    His voice thundered through their heads. "Pity to those who bring war to the steps of Krevati Evimirias! As Archmagi of this great city, I, Eleos, will turn back your foul aggressions! Yet, you will not be consumed in flames of wrath.

    "Instead, I offer you
    Misericorde."

    The image of Eleos vanished and then the great serpent was moving, rushing forward through the waves. The helmsman of the Hydrus tried to move the ship, but not quickly enough: the great daemon's body side-swiped the vessel, scales and carapace grinding against the port side.

    Only then did those on the ship realize that smaller daemons were clinging to the sides of the beast. They fell aboard the ship, dripping with seawater, some growling with animosity, others yelling out taunts and jeers as they rushed in with claws, tridents, and cursed swords leading the charge.

    [250/1250]
    Last edited by swaswj; 06-14-2017 at 11:18 PM.

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    Deni scowled as the vision faded.

    “Show off,” he uttered, just before the serpent scraped the side of the ship. The deck shivered beneath him and the rest of the crew. The vessel was merely made of wood, metal, materials of the mortal plane. It wouldn’t stand against a daemon that size. Not for long.

    “You,” Deni said, pointing at Dante. He hadn’t recognised his voice amidst the chaos, but he knew his face instantly. “What in Infernalis are you doing here?”

    The velen shook his head quickly. He didn’t have time to waste on asking unimportant questions.

    “Nevermind. Ignore my poor choice of words. I’m going to get that sexy beast of a cannon firing. Think you can wrangle a few toughies together to keep the little blighters at bay?”

    Without waiting for a response from the kinner, Deni darted towards the triple cannon that he and Aelflead had helped salvage. Clammy hands grasped at the metal door and dragged it open, allowing him to climb into the firing area.

    One armoured man lay lifeless next to the loading chamber. Atop his head was a huge crimson stain. He must have been hurled against the wall by the lurching of the ship.

    “Aquila’s arse,” Deni hissed. He turned to the other side. Against the wall of the firing pit lay a woman in full Fraternitas gear, complete with insignia. Her face looked like that of a laicar, but she bore short green feathers atop her head. She began to stir.

    “Come on, naptime is over,” Deni said as he leaned down to move her. “What’s your name?”

    “Effie,” she responded in a groggy voice. With the lean velen’s help, she managed to make it onto her feet.

    “Alright, Effie, we’re in a bit of a tight spot here. Think you can load this thing?”

    “Yeah, I watched Darian use-”

    She gasped at the sight of her dead colleague at the other side of the room.

    Ahh, shit, Deni thought. I probably should have moved him.

    “Effie,” he began, stepping between the spurii and the deceased gunner. “I need you to focus so we don’t end up like Darian okay? We can mourn for the lost later.”

    “O-okay,” she finally replied. “I’ll... start loading shells. Do you know how to calibrate the firing system?”

    “I’ll figure it out,” Deni said quickly. The pelagian slipped into the gunner’s seat and glanced through the scope. Then he grasped a lever to his side with both arms and pulled.

    The room jolted as the cannons began to turn. Deni’s eyes widened.

    “Uhh, wrong way.”

    Instead, he tried pushing against the lever with his body weight. The room jolted again and the cannon began turning the other way. He pushed and pulled, twisting the ballistic weapons this way and that, while Effie ran back and forth with the shells it used as ammunition.

    “Are they all loaded up?” Deni asked as he glanced through the scope once more.

    “Yeah, she’s ready to fire,” the spurii confirmed.

    With the trajectory set slightly ahead of where the serpent was heading, Deni looked down to the controls in front of him.

    “Uhhh…”

    “The two red levers!” Effie yelled.

    Without hesitation, the velen pulled both of them with force. Unlike the lever that shifted the room, they clicked in place instantly. Deni immediately regretted not covering his ears. The ear-splitting roar from above him left a loud ringing sound that drowned at all other noise. The shells that Effie had loaded into the cannons hurtled towards the serpent at tremendous speed.

    [593/898]



  7. #7
    That One Guy Apeiron's Avatar
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    Chaos erupted across the deck of the Hydrus. As the demons touched down, their hideous bodies a mocking parody of the velen, the defenders surged forward.

    Ioannes, himself, wasted no time taking a shot at the first demon who was too close while the rest of his party did their own thing. Palamedes surged forward, the voraxes’ monstrous weight proved to be a challenge for some of the demons, and his claws didn’t help.

    Kaeso wasn’t far behind Palamedes, the enlil warrior taking advantage of any demon who was too focused on the vorax, or any demon so unfortunate enough to have been knocked down. And when demons rushed him, they were met with his shield, either in defense as he brought it up to block their attacks of their too long arms; or in offense as he brought the chunk of metal across their face -- stunning them.

    Brother Paulus and Flavinia stayed near Ioannes, and the three of them worked their way forward to make sure Kaeso and Palamedes couldn’t be surrounded completely. Flavinia took her place near Paulus, gunning down any demon who thought themselves brave enough to attack the brother. Along with a few well placed grenades, the spurii veteran kept the demons from grouping up overrunning the party.

    Though they worked to their own rhythm, Ioannes group was suffering less damage than some of the men who had decided not to band together -- either through stupidity or arrogance.

    One of the cannons fired from the port side of the ship, and the force of the explosion shaking the very air on the deck.

    The shell hit the serpent with a sound like a dull thunderclap, and the enormous demon jerked violently to one side, and screamed an otherworldly sound.

    “Those cannons are going to draw a lot of attention from those two,” Ioannes said. As their fight continued, more and more demons had begun to focus on him. The bright light that emanated off of him acting like the beacon it had back in Terminus. Good. He’d rather be their focus instead of the others. But no amount of shining was going to stop the serpent and the archmage from attacking the cannons themselves. “We need people to get in one of the other cannons!”

    “Who?!” Flavinia shot back. In theory, anyone could do it, but someone also had to load the shells, and that meant at least two people per cannon.

    “Anyone! But whoever we put in there needs to know how to fire. Even then, we still have to worry about that mage.”

    “And what do you propose to do about that?” Brother Paulus asked. A demon lunged for him and Flavinia shoved the barrel of one of her shotguns down its throat before pulling the trigger, letting the brother chant a prayer that protected Kaeso from an attack.

    Ioannes turned around at the sound of something heavy hitting the deck behind him, and came face to face with another nightmarish velen form. “Working on that!”

    [1172]
    Last edited by Apeiron; 06-12-2017 at 05:24 PM.

  8. #8
    The Lurker <span style='color: #FFFFFF'><span class='glow_008080'>swaswj</span></span>'s Avatar
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    The serpent's pained bellow was deafening, even over the roars and jeers of the daemons, the clash of their weapon. Glowing blood sprayed from the wound into the sea before the beast disappeared again beneath the waters, ripples and waves following its momentum.

    Even with all the chaos on the deck of the ship, the helmsman never slowed, increasing power to the engines even as he tried to cut hard to port. The prow of the ship blasted high into the air, riding a wave from the serpent's passing, only to tilt downward. Torrents of seawater splashed across the decks, throwing many of the occupants to the deck, daemons and crew alike. The ship was tossed up and down, tilting so far to port that it threatened to throw everyone into the frothing waves.

    The Hydrus rocked back to starboard before that happened, though.

    Serpent scales littered the deck, each bigger than a man, and daemons with them. Many of the fiends were covered in slime, brandishing claws with webbed digits, bulbous heads filled with gnashing teeth. In some ways, they looked like velen that had half-melted, like candles. Other, brawnier beasts with thick scales shoved their lessers aside as they lunged for the pockets of resistance.

    Some daemons, too, seemed to fall under no clear classification, unique -- and not always powerful -- beings that were as likely to taunt the men and woman aboard the Hydrus as to attack them.

    Emboldened by Ioannes and the ferocity of his vorax companion, the crew of the ship tore into the ranks of the fiends without hesitation, battling the shaky footing of the ship as it himmed and hawed through the waves as much as the claws, swords, and spears of their enemies. Black and green blood spilled over the decks, but crimson was far from absent. Pleas to Castus were drowned out in the melee, but golden light proved that they were being heard.

    Still shaken by the first blast, Deni and Effie scrambled to reset the devastating primary weapon recovered from the Arma Bellica. It was a great three-tiered, cannon-powered ballista, designed for massive bolts but more than capable of firing cannonballs and explosive shells. Spurred on by Ioannes, four Conexus soldiers peeled away from facing the daemons head-on, splitting into pairs and running toward some of the lesser cannons that had survived the ship's reckless maneuvering.

    Across the deck, where the fighting was thinnest, a white glow appeared, familiar to at least one person on the ship. The light came from a halo, jagged and saw-like, that floated over the head of an unusual, feminine daemon, no larger than an average laicar woman. She seemed at once naked and clothed in some alien substance, a skintight carapace that looked mechanical in places or like an insect carapace in others, even soft skin in a few places. All of it was a blend of browns and greys. Her body was that of a young woman, with curvy hips and chest, but her feet and hands had been replaced by viciously curving claws. Around her head, her skin-suit spread outward into a spiked collar or crest, like the open jaws of a carnivorous plant. Within the jaws of that carapace, though, was the pallid face of a drowned laicar corpse with short hair that once was blonde, now dirty and bedraggled.

    Glowing silver irises reached across the deck and the multitudes of fighters, meeting those of the velen that she had encountered before. There was no malice, no unnatural allure, just curiosity. Still trying to heft another shell into firing position, Deni barely had time to acknowledge the sight before the ocean in front of them swelled upward. "Brace for a wave!" the helmsman shouted, his words echoed onward by everyone who could hear them.

    The daemon serpent erupted from the swell, and another series of powerful waves buffeted the ship. The wounds were still prevalent on the beast, brightly glowing in the dim, and atop its head, the spindly form of the Archmagi, Eleos, spread its arms wide. Before the ship had even stopped rocking, stark white mist appeared over the entire deck. The mist abruptly crystallized in a twisted approximation of a snow flake, edged in red light. A storm of jagged hail rained down on the deck, battering the ship and hammering into flesh, mortal and infernal alike, shattering bones and splitting flesh.

    As the frozen missiles fell to the deck, a dull concussion pounded suddenly in the chests of all aboard. The drowned one at the prow had one clawed hand against the back of a larger daemon that had been brutally battered by the ice shower. The larger daemon's body turned red before darkening to black... and scattering to sand. The white halo turned red, pulsing rapidly.

    She began to walk, slow and unstable, lurching side to side. It was as if she didn't know how to move outside of the sea. Yet she did move, without falling and seemingly untouched in the storm. Other daemons scrambled over each other to get away from her, sometimes straight into the waiting weapons of their enemies.

    [850/2100]

  9. #9
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    The roar of the ancient cannons had briefly deafened the kinner but he was shaken out of when the waves hit the ship again and again, knocking him off balance. He had been thrown about on the ship even if Dante was used to shaky footing of the kinchaa fields it could not be compared to a rocking boat. Pushing himself up on the deck, the athlete saw the battering hail on the ship's deck, that cant be good for us in the long run, and so he dashed towards it, with both his arms close to his chest, manifesting a metal ring, that glowed with heat. Flames erupted from Dante's left hand as he struck the portal, point his flaming hand at the threat.

    He held his hand up high towards the hailstorm trying to melt as much of the it as possible. The bright red flame obviously made him a sort of beacon flame as well, naturally attracting more demons towards him. Weaving in some spinning motion he guided the flame around and above him, making it seem like the athlete was practicing some ancient dance with fire. Combined with the surrounding hail this made the lesser daemons hesitant on advancing too close to the kinner.

    ”Are you afraid of little flame you bastards, this should make you feel very close to home!” He taunted the daemons with a grin.

    [233/420]

    Spell used
    FLAME BURST
    Basic - 100 Vigor
    Flames erupt from the user's hand, reaching up to 2m in length. These flames burn continuously for one round. Augmenting with Terra Regia increases the duration by 1 round per grade, to a maximum of 6 rounds.

    Portal: The portal has the appearance of a ring of metal that glows with heat. The magic is pushed out by striking the back of the portal.

  10. #10
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    Effie and Deni hit the floor as soon as the gargantuan serpent re-emerged. They were lucky that neither of them had been holding any ammunition when the beast reared its ugly head again. Just as Deni lifted himself onto his knees, Effie let loose a shrill cry.

    “Get down!”

    The icy shards broke against the ship, but the two gunners were fortunate enough to be sheltered by the cannons size. Yet as he dropped down to the damp wood of the main deck, Deni returned his eyes to the light that had caught his gaze moments before the aquatic monster had surfaced. The gunslinger crawled away from the cannon and towards the chaotic bloodbath that had erupted on the deck. He narrowed his eyes to focus. Then they widened.

    It was her. The female daemon from beneath the sea. Besides Ego, she was the only one he had met and not come to blows with. The velen’s countenance grew even more pale at the sight of her. Even with other vile creatures on the ship around her, in the heat of battle, she continued to remain an anomaly.

    Deni took a few steps closer to the collision of bodies and the misshapen hybrid. He couldn’t deny that he too was curious as to why she had not shown him hostility.

    “...hey!”

    The velen swivelled his head back and glanced at the spurii woman behind him.

    “What are you doing? We need to get this thing reloaded!”

    Deni turned his head again and stared out into the battle raging on the deck. The daemon woman still hadn’t killed any of theirs. He elicited a grunt as he forced himself to make a decision.

    “I need to be out there,” he said, turning to face Effie briefly. “This range seems unsuited for the shells. Start loading bolts, I’ll make sure you’re not left alone here.”

    “What? No! Come back here!” the green-feathered spurii shouted, but Deni had already fled the firing area. He flinched as the first chunks of hail beat against his skin, but the flames emanating from Dante seemed to lessen their impact. With auritium pistol in hand, he strode towards the clawed mockery of a woman.

    “Someone get in there and help with the cannon!” the velen shouted, unleashing a round from his pistol into the nearest slimy abomination he could see. Then he aimed straight below the radiant crimson halo.

    “I know you love me, beautiful, but this can’t end well.”

    She grew nearer. One webbed thumb cocked the hammer on the serpent’s kiss. Despite the freezing hail, sweat dripped from his forehead. She was a daemon. So why did he hesitate when he saw that silvery gaze?

    “So what are we going to do here, my dear?”

    [460/1,358]

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