Blood Oath

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Departure

“Seamus? Seamus, speak to me.” Row taps on her servant’s shoulder as he lies on his back in the grass in front of their house. “Seamus, are you mad at me?”

“Whatever gave you that idea?” he asks sarcastically without opening his eyes. He has been sleeping in the grass for the better part of the morning. He has nothing to do all day anymore now that they are no longer fleeing through the woods or fighting ghouls and demigods. It has been almost two weeks since Sir Castine’s banquet and they have yet to receive any news from him about Louwits Sliverbane.

“I can tell when you’re mad at me.” Row puffs out her cheeks in annoyance. “Why won't you at least tell me what’s bothering you? You’ve been so cold since we came to Glass Gate.”

“How long did you plan to stay here, Row?” Seamus asks in a faraway voice.

“I don’t know.” She averts her eyes. “It’s not exactly how I expected. I thought it was supposed to be a haven for bloodsuckers.”

“It will be… after Sir Castine’s revolution,” Seamus assures her.

“You don’t think he’s doing the right thing?” She leans over him and lifts one of his eyelids.

“What I think doesn’t matter,” Seamus sighs. “With what little memory I have I can assume I would have disagreed in the past; now it means nothing to me. I exist to protect you. I am Champaign's replacement, nothing more.”

“Don’t say that,” Row snaps at him. “Neither one of you is replaceable. I will always value you both.”

“Even if you say that, neither one of us has a purpose without you.” He sits up, almost bumping her head as he goes. “The same way you feel useless in this world, so do I. I don’t know why I exist.”

“We’re the same,” Row mumbles while plucking a fistful of grass and tossing it into the air, letting the breeze scatter it about. “All I’ve ever wanted is to survive. I don’t know what it’s like to have actual desires. Is there something you wanted once?” she asks inquisitively.

“I suppose I wanted to remember my past,” he admits. “Now that I can I'm not sure it was for the best. I find myself wanting more and more. I want more thoughts about my mother. I want her to still be alive. I want to talk with Champaign more and learn what it means to be a knight. I want to be angry with her for killing my mother. I want her to know that I forgive her.”

“I can't imagine wanting any of those things,” Row mopes.

“It’s not hard.” Seamus drapes an arm over her shoulder. “Let’s try something simple; do you wish Champaign was still alive?”

“Of course I do.” She glares at him.

“That counts as something you want,” he informs her. “Do you wish your mother was still alive?”

“Are you trying to remind me how many people have died to protect me?” Row asks. “Is this meant to cheer me up or make me even more depressed?”

A guilty smile spreads across Seamus’s face. “Being depressed is just part of having emotions,” he assures her. “Being sad about something when it ends only serves as a reminder that it made you happy at one point.”

“Still not helping,” she groans. “You have to be the worst emotional advisor I know.”

“Do you want me to ask Nuve for his opinion; cuz I will,” he pretends to threaten her.

“Isn't it strange that we’re not alone anymore?” Row stares back at their house, which Nuve and Minto are still inside at the moment.

“I kinda miss the days where we only had each other.” Seamus closes his eyes while reminiscing.

“Really?” Row is skeptical.

“Well, getting chased by ghouls was never fun,” he laughs, “but it wasn’t as lonely as it seemed. I always had you. I didn’t need anything else in the world.”

Row’s cheeks turn red as she stares at Seamus’s pale face. She can remember the other children in Bos Stad calling him a ghost or a spirit whenever he would climb on fences or rooftops. He looks extraordinarily calm at the moment, letting his hair blow in the wind while barely breathing at all.

Suddenly he opens his eyes when he realizes that something is casting a shadow on his face. Row’s nose is a mere centimeter in front of his and their lips are almost touching. “What are you doing?” he whispers.

“I don’t know,” she whispers back. “You looked like you wanted me to kiss you.”

“I always want you to kiss me,” Seamus admits. Row can't help but punch his arm softly as punishment. She is fully aware that he finds her absolutely entrancing. Sometimes she whishes she were a normal girl so it would feel special whenever he looked at her this way. “Well?” Seamus seems almost impatient.

“Now, now, this isn’t good,” the booming voice of Sir Castine startles them both. “You can’t be doing things like this without being properly betrothed.”

“Sir.” Seamus leaps to his feet while pressing his right hand to his forehead the way a knight would when raising the visor of his helmet.

“No need for formalities, boy,” Castine chuckles. “I'm merely here to tell you the good news. We have received word from Sliver Bay. His lordship Louwits Sliverbane is eager to meet his potential bride. He wishes you to journey to Sliver Bay as soon as possible. I have already put through the paperwork to allow you to leave Glass Gate. I assume your servants will be traveling with you.”

“Of course,” Seamus sputters nervously. Being practically caught in the act of flirting with Row has him completely shaken. Sir Castine may react indifferently but Corvic would not.

“Well then, I shall see you all at the gate in three day’s time,” Castine spouts before turning on his heels to leave. There is a hint of excitement in his voice. He is obviously overjoyed at the prospect of earning the support he needs for his rebellion.

“Well, what was that all about?” Nuve appears behind Row and Seamus a moment later. The messy nature of his light brown hair suggests he has only just risen. Minto is hanging off his arm as usual. Her unkempt appearance can be attributed to the obvious inability to care for herself. It would not surprise either Row or Seamus if both of them had only just awoken though. Without the need to work, both of them have become rather lax over the course of the past two weeks.

“Row’s meeting her fiancé,” Seamus answers Nuve’s question with excessive distaste in his voice.

“We’re not engaged yet,” Row whines.

“I still don’t understand why it has to be you.” Minto shakes her head in confusion.

“I'm not all that clear on this royal bloodsucker business either,” Nuve admits.

“It’s nothing you need to worry about,” Row does not feel like explaining it to them. She is not entirely sure why Louwits Sliverbane would desire another royal bloodsucker as his wife either.

“At least we are finally leaving Glass Gate,” Minto cheers happily.

“You may already hate it here, but the rest of us only just arrived,” Nuve reminds her.

“It’s a terrible city overrun by horrible creatures,” Minto shudders.

“I'm right here,” Row pretends to be offended.

“Aren't we heading to a city ruled by a bloodsucker,” Seamus recalls.

“I'm not talking about bloodsuckers,” Minto spouts. “I'm talking about the people in general. I haven’t met one nice person here. They all want to use you.”

“In your line of work, I'm not surprised,” Nuve snickers. Minto pinches part of the skin on his arm as punishment, causing him to yelp and Row and Seamus to laugh. Over the two weeks they have spent together, the four of them have become accustomed to each other. Minto had the most trouble fitting in but she had no where else to go after walking out of her aunt’s brothel.

“So I guess this won’t be home for much longer,” Minto sighs while sitting down on the grass next to Row.

“It was fun while it lasted.” Nuve shrugs while sitting down as well.

“We may be moving into a castle though,” Seamus reminds them.

“So basically, we are reaping the rewards of being servants of a bloodsucker,” Nuve surmises.

“It’s really odd, considering the fact that you’re a ghoul hunter,” Minto adds.

“You all owe me,” Row spouts in a serious tone. All three humans seem surprised until she starts laughing. Despite initial difficulties the four of them have learned to get along. Nuve and Minto remain prejudice against bloodsuckers in general but they seem to consider Row a special case. Perhaps they know better than to say anything in front of Seamus who is technically a demigod three times over.

All in all, it is not out of the ordinary for the four of them to spend time together like they are now. They have no one else they can consider friends and no reason to act poorly to one another when they are all stuck living together.


“Why are we here?” Seamus groans as he is jostled forward in the long line of people waiting outside the medical arena near the edge of the city.

“It’s merely a precaution,” Sir Castine assures him. “Many people who come and go from Glass Gate are potential carries of plague and other diseases. You missed your routine visit to your local medicinal shop during your first week so we will be giving all four of you thorough examinations before you are allowed to leave the city.”

“Great, they can tell me why I can't feel my right arm at all,” Nuve interjects in a mocking tone. “Maybe they’ll fix Minto’s vision while they’re at it.”

“What about me?” Row is practically trembling. “Won't they realize that I'm not human?”

“I’ve got that covered,” Castine assures her. “One of the resident healers in the arena is a supporter of mine. He will conduct your examination and make sure everything appears as it should.”

“You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?” Seamus mutters sarcastically.

“This has been my life’s endeavor for the past ten years, ever since I met my lovely wife. I would traverse the planes of hell for her and my children.”

“I see Corvic isn’t here.” Nuve glances around cautiously. “Is he still afraid of us?”

“Corvic isn’t afraid of anything,” Row interjects loudly. “He doesn’t like humans. He avoids them like the plague.”

“Then how does he feed?” Minto is curious.

“He avoids it for as long as he can,” Row explains. “It’s part of why he is so strong. When a bloodsucker is on the brink of starvation they become more desperate. They become faster and more feral.”

“Isn't that how you act when you’ve just fed?” Seamus argues.

“It works both ways,” she informs him. “A bloodsucker is most like a human when they are neither starving nor full. They can function normally without succumbing to their basic instincts and attacking people. Corvic remains one step above starving most of the time. It helps him maintain a certain amount of speed and agility driven by desperation. He can move even faster than my mother could when his condition is perfect enough.”

“And that’s how he managed to fight Turok when your mother failed,” Seamus surmises.

“No, my mother was merely a normal bloodsucker. She was not a descendent of Doryan like Corvic or me.”

“Who is this Doryan person?” Minto asks in a whisper. She is not sure but their conversation seems to be one best not overheard.

“Ancient god banished from the heavens and forced to live life in exile,” Nuve gives a quick explanation. “He is supposedly the common ancestor all lords share. Apparently mixing his blood with that of a bloodsucker makes them more powerful. Even more so than a demigod it seems.”

Nuve is referring to the fact that Row managed to kill Lodar completely on her own. Of course, of the Nine, Lodar can be considered the weakest physically. His power was based on the number of people he could control at once. He never chose to sully his own hands with fighting, which is the main reason he survived for so long when so many other demigods fell. His only mistake seems to have been underestimating Row.

“So Row is like the child of a god?” Minto tries to follow Nuve’s words.

“At the very least, her blood is royal,” he assures her.

“So this creature is somehow of higher status than me in society,” Minto is visibly upset.

“Milady, everyone is of higher status than you,” Nuve responds bluntly.

“I wasn’t born a prostitute, you know!” she snaps at him.

“Even so, it might be best to have the healers check you for diseases.” Nuve pushes her through the doorway into the arena. The line has finally moved enough for their small group to enter. All around them they can see tables and tents set up on the grass inside the oval shaped stadium. There is a different white robed figure standing next to each tent, waiting for more and more customers to arrive.

“Here we are.” Castine pushes Row towards a tall man with spectacles and a slate in one hand.

“This must be our… special friend,” he emphasizes the word special as he drags Row into the tent.

“Where should I go?” Seamus asks Castine.

“I don’t care.” He waves him away. “Just find yourself a healer and get a mark on your hand that says you may leave the city. You need a red X not a black dot, understood? One means healthy while the other means sick. Plague ridden people will be quarantined and ferried to an island near Sliver Bay. You’ll spend the rest of your short life trying to avoid being eaten by fellow plague carriers turned cannibal.”

Seamus cringes as he tries to picture the thought that has just been described to him. He is finding more and more reasons to dislike Castine every time he opens his mouth. He does not understand how someone so passionate about his family and therefore ghouls in general can be so ignorant to the suffering of his own race.

Seamus is so busy thinking about the dissimilarities between him and Sir Castine that he does not pay attention to where he is walking. He struts straight past the healer outside the nearest tent and ends up face to face with the patient within. It is a young man no older than twenty with thick stringy sweat drenched black hair and a small amount of stubble on his chin. He is sitting on the edge of a cot with his shirt off while clutching at his chest. He seems to be in a great amount of pain.

There are two other people in the tent; a grey haired man with a prominent beard and a scabbard sheathed sword on his belt and a young woman the same age as the patient. She has light brown hair cut unevenly around her head, no longer than her ears; almost as if she got sick of it one day and simply chopped it off. There are dark rings around all three of their eyes, emphasizing a lack of rest amongst their party.

“Who are you?” The woman points at Seamus accusingly.

“Are you an assassin?” The man draws his sword, prompting Seamus to reveal Arma Scov under his sleeve. Since losing the scabbard to his broadsword, Seamus has been relying on the silver wire as his weapon of choice. It is much easier to conceal when traversing the streets of a city not used to seeing violence on a daily basis.

“My word.” The elder man gasps at the sight of the unique weapon. “Where did you come by that trinket?”

“Is that… Arma Scov?” The patient stretches his hand toward Seamus, who cautiously backs away from him. “No, don’t go, Wan.” The man stands up while spreading his arms welcomingly. “You don’t know me but I'm Genlock’s successor. You’ve taken the form of a child but I can tell that you are the Silver Shape Shifter, am I right?” Brand looks overcome with relief at the thought of being able to meet one of the demigods he had previously assumed to be dead.

“Milord!” Gall pulls him back by the shoulder. “Do not be fooled by this imposter. Remember the rapture.”

A pained expression replaces the smile on Brand’s face. Seamus is trembling too much to move anymore. “You must be the one I’ve been searching for,” Brand mutters under his breath. His breathing is becoming staggered as he struggles to remain calm. It is no use though; rage is already boiling deep within him. His demigod blood is telling him to take revenge for his fallen comrades.

“Who… who are you?” Seamus stares at him in utter confusion. Rather than answering, Brand extends his arm, punching Seamus in the right eye, which explodes in a shower of blood. Seamus lurches forward covering his damaged socket and screaming at the top of his lungs. Prain turns away, unable to stomach the sight before her. Brand isn’t done though. He promptly punches Seamus in the forehead, sending him flying backwards through the entrance of the tent, somersaulting multiple times along the ground before he comes to a stop resting against the wall of the arena.

Several people crowd around him, only to rear back in horror when they realize there is a dent in his skull. Brand’s punch was enough to create a hole in the bone beneath his flesh. Seamus’s head rolls around as he tries to regain his vision. Wan’s power is already working on restoring him to his proper appearance but it is taking more time than usual. Somehow the damage is more extensive than it has ever been before.

Brand emerges from the tent a moment later, already wearing his iron chest piece and his red cape again. Seamus’s eyes, the right one only just having healed, are spinning in his head. He has just stood up when Brand punches him again, this time in the stomach. He keels over and vomits a large amount of blood onto the ground in front of him.

Brand raises his leg as high into the air as it with go before bringing it down on the back of Seamus’s head, snapping his neck as he crushes him into the ground. “That was far simpler than I imagined,” Gall mutters suspiciously while approaching to examine the apparent corpse.

Just then a small bag of powder hits Brand in the back of the head before exploding in a cloud of black smoke. When the demigod turns around to look at Nuve, the ghoul hunter is shocked to see no damage to his face at all. There is not a single hair out of place on his head. “Impossible.” Nuve gawks at him. “I nearly killed a royal bloodsucker with that move a few weeks back.”

“Who are you?” Brand frowns at him. “Where is your arm?”

“I am his vassal.” Nuve gestures to Seamus who is still lying on the ground, twitching ever so slightly.

“I feel sorry for you,” Brand sighs.

“I'm guessing you are the Red Warrior,” Nuve surmises. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I knew the Silver Shape Shifter and the Bronze Cognition personally. I am sorry for your loss.”

“If you’re sorry, then help me avenge them,” Brand snaps at him.

“Alas, I am bound by Husk’s final words. I must obey the new Bronze Cognition.”

“What?” Brand turns to stare at Seamus again. He is rising off the ground stiffly like a scarecrow. “He killed them both?” Brand is shocked. “What about Lodar?”

“Guess!” Seamus shouts at his eyes pop open. They are blazing bright yellow. As usual the horn shaped remains of Arma Venture appear on his forward a moment later. Every civilian within his range of sight is immediately under his control.

“Don’t,” Brand is suddenly scared. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“I'll do whatever I have to,” Seamus’s voice deepens like Lodar’s.

“I'm begging you, these people are innocent.” Brand is genuinely terrified; not for himself but for the lives the people he may have to fight. He knows he could destroy every last one of them by himself if need be.

“Oh this is rare,” Seamus laughs, “a demigod that actually cares about human beings. I thought all you overpowered freaks were just out for yourselves.”

“How dare you?” Brand’s eyes flicker bright red. “We are the noble defenders of humanity.”

“What pathetic stories have you been listening to?” Seamus scoffs. “Your kind is nothing but a plight on this world. You abuse your powers while claiming to be noble. You don’t know the first thing about nobility.”

Brand is struck by thoughts of Turok and his recent quest for power. It does not surprise him that this boy believes the demigods have lost their way. However, killing three of them simply because he believes they have become corrupt is still a heinous offense. Brand’s task is clear. He must punish this abomination who dares to use three of the Nine’s powers for his own selfish reasons.

Seamus raises his arms as he directs his puppets to converge on the demigod. Brand is faster though. He kicks off the ground, leaving a crater in his wake as he sprints toward his target. Seamus tries to move but it is no use. The Red Warrior is almost as fast as Corvic. He grips the sides of Seamus’s head and plunges two of his fingers into his eye sockets, gouging them both out this time, effectively ending his use of Arma Venture, which immediately retreats back into Seamus’s head.

Nuve is just about to toss another bag of black powder at Brand when Row grabs his shoulder. “What is going on? Where is Seamus?” she asks with a worried look on her face. Nuve gestures to her servant rather than answering. Seamus is crouching on the ground with his arms covering his face defensively as he lets Brand punch and kick him repeatedly while waiting for his eyes to heal.

“Leave him alone!” Row shouts while rushing toward them.

“Who are you?” Prain blocks her path with one of her two curved scimitars.

Row is undaunted though. She leaps into the air and somersaults, landing far behind Prain and out of her reach. “I said, leave him alone!” she repeats while grabbing Brand’s shoulder and attempting to dig her claws into his flesh. It is impossible though. He almost seems to be made out of stone. “What are you?” a look of genuine fear spreads across her face as she backs away from him.

“Bloodsucker!” he gasps as he turns around. She moves to cover her face just as he attempts to punch her. There is an audible snap as both her arms break at their joints. She is still knocked backwards by the momentum of his fist. She kicks off the ground, scampering backwards as he brings both hands down where her legs were a moment ago.

“Help!” she screams at Nuve who can do nothing but toss his black powder. Again the explosion does nothing to faze Brand. The black streaks of ash on his face is merely soot from the remains of the bag. His skin is too strong. It is impossible to damage him.

“The Red Warrior.” Nuve shakes his head in disbelief. “Capable of controlling his own body without limit; skin as tough as rock, legs as powerful as an ox, bones like iron, fists like sledge hammers. He’s unstoppable.”

“Are you, Genlock?” Row stares up at Brand as he raises his foot high into the air, preparing to crush her skull the same way he did to Seamus.

“No.” He shakes his head. “I'm your worst nightmare, little bloodsucker. My name is Brand. I'm your executioner.” Row tilts her head to the side just in time. The bone in her shoulder practically shatters but her head remains intact. Brand raises his leg again but she kicks off from the ground like before, scooting backwards several feet. When his foot lands a crater the size of a circular well forms, with cracks reaching out in all directions.

He promptly begins to stomp towards her, breaking the ground beneath him with every step. Her eyes are wide in frozen fear. She has absolutely no idea how to defend herself. He is more powerful than all three of the demigods she has faced so far. Is it even possible for one man to hold such power? Despite the fact that nine separate demigods have survived the past two hundred years, they are nowhere near each other when ranked by power. Somewhere along the way this practically invincible demigod became the last of its kind; perched on a level far above all of the others.

When Brand reaches his cowering target he lifts her to her feet by her shoulders. “Are you ready?” he asks, to which she responds by shaking her head. He doesn’t care though. With an audible crack their skulls collide as he head knocks her. Of course he takes absolutely no damage while her forehead caves in. Blood pours from a wound created by her own bones splintering out and piercing her flesh.

She falls flat on her back, having been knocked out cold. “Gall, finish her,” he gives the task of actually killing the bloodsucker to his armed vassal.

Several of the people he freed from Seamus’s control have taken notice of Brand by now. “Is that a demigod?” they begin to whisper amongst themselves.

“Is he here to rid the city of the bloodsuckers infesting it?” they all appear excited for his arrival.

“I wouldn’t count on him being here for long,” a pompous yet elegant voice rings out above all the murmuring.

“Corvic?” Brand immediately recognizes the new arrival.

“It’s been a while, vassal.” Corvic lands on the top most pole of the largest tent in the arena. He seems to have fallen from no where in particular.

“Why are you here, Corvic?” Brand is actually trembling.

“I couldn’t just let you beat up my little sister, now could I?” He feigns disinterest.

“Another bloodsucker?” the people in the arena are still talking amongst themselves.

“Kill him. Kill the bloodsucker.”

“You can take him, Mr. Demigod,” they all begin to cheer for Brand.

“Wow, what an audience.” Corvic glances around. “We can't disappoint them, can we?”

“Shut up.” Brand’s eyes flare dangerously. “I haven’t forgotten what you did to Genlock.”

“I did you a favor,” Corvic scoffs. “You were nothing before I ended that foolish old man. Look at what you’ve become. Can you honestly say there is anything you could have aspired to be that would not pale in comparison to becoming a demigod? You should be thanking me on your knees.”

“Shut up!” Brand stomps on the ground, creating another massive crater.

“Ooh, someone’s got a temper,” Corvic continues to mock him, which serves to buy time for Nuve to check on Seamus, who has finally managed to heal himself again.

“I’ve been waiting ten years for this.” Brand charges forward, leaving Row open for retrieval by Nuve and Seamus.

Gall reaches her first though. He stabs his sword into the back of Row’s neck but it only sinks in about an inch before Seamus is able to stop it with Arma Scov. Slowly the silver wire works its way up the blade of Gall’s sword until it reaches the hilt. “Back away,” Nuve warns the old man.

“Death to all bloodsuckers,” Gall whispers while leaning forward, putting his entire weight on his sword. Arma Scov digs into Seamus’s hand painfully as her struggles to keep the weapon from penetrating Row’s neck any further. With no other choice, he resorts to wrapping it around the old man’s hand and slicing through his fingers.

Gall grunts while falling backwards. He scampers away along the ground before either Seamus or Nuve can kill him though. Seamus pulls the sword out of Row’s neck before collapsing beside her. He places his head against her chest to make sure she is still breathing, which she is. Nuve watches cautiously as his master attempts to push his arm against Row’s fangs, trying to force her to feed on him. It seems to do her some good but as she is unconscious it is obviously going to be a slow process.

“Father, what have they done to you?” Prain gasps when she sees Gall crawling towards her. He is missing the last three fingers on his right hand.

“I'm fine,” he grunts. “Go protect Brand.”

Prain wraps a length of cloth around her father's wound before running toward the clearing where Brand is now facing off against Corvic. It is a pathetically one sided battle though. The demigod is running in circles, leaving cracks in the ground at every turn while the bloodsucker is barely even revealing himself. He appears for only a moment before vanishing again, forcing Brand to run himself ragged just trying to catch him.

“He’s baiting you,” Prain warns her master. “He’s trying to tire you out so you can't use your power.”

“Is that what I'm doing?” Corvic appears behind Prain and shoves her into the clearing. Brand stops running to catching her and sit her down at a nearby table. “Ah, how sweet. Are you two betrothed?” Corvic mocks them.

“Stand still!” Brand bellows angrily while leaping after him again.

“Why would anyone simply let you kill them?” Corvic appears in front of him again just to shake his head disappointedly. “Have you learned nothing from your predecessor’s defeat? You may be invulnerable to physical attacks but you still need to catch me before you can defeat me.”

“I'm getting wise to your tricks.” Brand spins around, snatching Corvic out of the air just as he is whizzing past, too fast for the eye to see.

“Oh, almost too close for comfort.” He quickly vanishes again. “Not bad. You knew where I had been and where I needed to be. All you had to do was guess the path I’d take.”

“I told you, I'm not like Genlock.” Brand snatches Corvic out of the air a second time, only to have him vanish again just as quickly. “I can do this all day if I have to.”

“You won’t.” Corvic almost seems to let Brand grab him this time. He doesn’t even try to escape. Instead he presses his hand against Brand’s nose, covering his nostrils so he can't breathe. When the demigod opens his mouth he shoves his hand down his throat. “What’s that? Can't breathe?” Corvic asks in a mocking tone while bobbing his head from side to side. “I'm sorry.”

Brand’s eyes bulge as he tries to close his mouth. It is impossible though. “That’s right,” Corvic laughs. “Why constrict your airway with hot lead when I can simply do it myself? I’ve killed many people through suffocation before. All of them had soft squishy throats I could squeeze though. You’re my special case, Genlock. Oh, I'm sorry; I don’t even know your name. I'll call you the fake Genlock, is that alright?”

Brand screams and wails in response while punching Corvic in the stomach and face. The sound of his bones breaking is unmistakable but he somehow manages to hold himself steady. “Do you know what I'm going to do when you’re dead, fake Genlock? I'm going to stand inside the rapture and take your power. That’s right; I'm going to become as invincible as you. How do you like that?”

Brand’s eyes are fluttering as he struggles to remain conscious. “It’s almost time,” Corvic whispers menacingly as Brand’s arms fall loosely at his sides. He is too weak to continue punching Corvic. “Just about done.” The bloodsucker is not dumb enough to move just yet. Suddenly Brand’s right hand shoots up one last time. Rather than trying to hit Corvic again, he pushes three of his own fingers through his own throat, creating a separate hole for air.

Corvic’s eyes widen as the demigod manages to start breathing again. He has no time to remain in shock though as the next thing Brand does is reach through the hold in his own throat to grab Corvic’s fingers and twist them, snapping them like twigs, before removing the unwanted appendage with ease.

“Wow, I did not expect that.” Corvic vanishes into thin air again. “Congratulations, fake Genlock. You might actually be better than the original. I’ll have to postpone our fight though. I haven’t fed recently enough to recover from this injury on my own. We’ll meet again though. I want your power even more now than before.”

As soon as Corvic is out of earshot, Brand collapses on the ground, coughing and sputtering while trying to keep the blood pouring from his wound to an absolute minimum. Prain rushes to her master’s side as she always does when he is in pain. This is the worst she has ever seen him though. He is actually physically injured for once. Strangely enough it seems he is the only person who can actually inflict damage upon himself.

While Prain tends to her master and Gall nurses his injured hand, Seamus continues trying to force Row to feed. Being blind again, Minto has been no help at all throughout this entire ordeal, leaving Nuve as the only person still able to fight. He is eyeing Gall with an excessive amount of malice for no apparent reason. As a ghoul hunter he should be fully aware of and supportive of the demigods’ crusade against bloodsuckers. Perhaps Seamus’s loyalty to Row is rubbing off on him. All he feels right now I rage directed toward those that would do his masters harm.

“What are you gonna do?” Gall spits at him while propping himself up against one of the tables. They are in the middle of a medicinal arena, meaning the moment the fighting stops, they will all be able to receive healing. Of course, until it actually does stop, none of the healers will be willing to approach them.

“We’re leaving,” Nuve informs him. “Do not follow us.”

“That is not for me to decide.” Gall gestures to Brand who is still struggling to maintain his breathing and blood loss.

“I'm warning you, I could kill both of his vassals right now and he wouldn’t be able to stop me.” Nuve’s eyes flare angrily.

“Do that and you will never know peace,” Gall scoffs. “He will hunt you down and tear you into pieces with his bare hands. Look at this place, boy.” Gall spreads his arms to present the destruction of the arena. “He was holding back because of all the civilians. Imagine what he’ll do when he has nothing left to lose.”

“When Husk and Wan killed my father I was not angry,” Nuve sighs. “I was enamored with them. I admired someone able to carry out their job no matter what. I wanted nothing more than to support either one by becoming a vassal. I understand what your loyalty means but I can not abide by it. How can you support a monster like that?”

“Brand is the kindest and most compassionate demigod you will ever meet,” Gall assures him. “Do not make him angry though. We fought our entire way here through the forest, boy. Do you know what that means? Hordes upon hordes of ghouls defeated by him without so much as a single weapon in hand. He crushed them like bugs with his fists. I challenge you to fight him one on one.”

Nuve is slightly taken aback by the image described to him. He can hardly imagine someone fighting of a horde of ghouls without a weapon but he has seen Husk do it with Arma Sorn. The mass of ghoul blood left behind becoming a reddened circle of rot in the forest which no other ghoul would approach.

Stories claim the forest is littered with them; areas safe from attack where demigods have fought and destroyed dozens of ghouls at once. How many more have been created only recently as Brand carved his path from Massmede to Glass Gate. How many more refugees will now be able to brave the forest when fleeing their homes? How many people has the Red Warrior unknowingly helped? This is the power of the demigods that people revere. This is why they are treated like heroes.

Nuve can't help but feel admiration to the Red Warrior at this moment. He is starting to question why he is loyal to Seamus; a usurper of demigod powers who defends the very creatures that hunt and feed on humans. “We’re leaving,” he repeats in a less angry tone. He does not know if he would actually follow Seamus if he waits much longer.

Castine is already waiting with the entourage from Sliver Bay outside the arena. He has the paperwork necessary for them to leave the city and all of the supplies they will need for their journey. Row is still unconscious when Seamus loads her into the back of the first stage coach. He then seats himself on the bench next to the driver while Nuve helps Minto to a separate vehicle.

Without being able to actually see the city behind her, Minto glances back at what has served as her home for the majority of her life. She is not sorry to be leaving. Her existence here has been a miserable one.

Despite having been excited when he first arrived in this city, Nuve is beginning to share her negative opinion. Since coming to Glass Gate nothing has gone well for them. Even the act of leaving is not of their design. How long will they be puppets in the schemes arranged by more powerful men? How long will they have to wait before they are masters of their own fate again?
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