Blood Oath

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Rebellion

With Minto still not feeling well, she and Nuve stop in the first town they come across after leaving Saltzden. Though Minto is sad to be separated from Seamus and Row, who continue on towards Glass Gate, Nuve seems relieved. He is not sure having Minto near these two dangerous people is a good idea at the moment.

Seamus and Row ride day and night, resting their horse for only a few hours at a time in the safe circles created by ghoul blood soaked into the ground. Both of them are more concerned about the reason for Corvic’s sudden call for aid than anything else. His letter did not sound desperate. In fact, he seemed more excited than anything, like he had something he wanted to show them. Hopefully they will not regret their decision to return.

Even before the great sparkling wall that surrounds Glass Gate becomes visible to Seamus, Row can see it. “Oh no,” her voice sinks in fear.

“What is it?” Seamus asks.

“Glass Gate is burning. There is smoke rising from within.”

“I thought Castine wasn’t willing to start his rebellion without the aid of another territory like Sliverbane’s,” Seamus ponders out loud.

“Something might have forced his hand,” Row suggests. “Any one of his marshals could have turned on him and informed Lord Glasstien of his intentions.”

“We’d better hurry.” Seamus digs his heels into the sides of his tired horse, spurring it to go faster.

As they approach the tall wall, they are once again amazed by its shimmering white appearance. Unlike their previous visit, there is no one outside the gate to meet them. Luckily they know where the hidden entrance for refugees is.

Seamus stops the horse as soon as they reach the wall and climbs down before lifting Row off by her waist. She has already returned the Bronze Cognition to him and is the size of a fifteen year old again. They leave the horse a good distance away from the hidden entrance so anyone inside will not be able to see it. They do not plan to have it sold out from under them like their carriage was last time. They already own a house in Glass Gate and have no need to purchase another.

Seamus knocks on the small door that leads through the first of the two massive walls but no one responds. Last time there were two guards outside of it, waiting to let them in. “Try to open it,” Row suggests. Seamus heaves his whole weight against the wooden barrier but it will not budge. It seems to be blocked by something from the other side.

“You would think Corvic would be here to meet us.” Seamus crosses his arms in annoyance.

“He probably has his hands full,” Row surmises. “You can smell the smoke can't you? The whole city is burning.”

“My house better be intact,” Seamus grumbles while backing away from the door to a safe distance before taking Arma Sorn from his belt.

“What are you doing?” Row gasps as he flings the ball on the end at the wooden door. She covers her face to protect it from splinters as the ball grows large enough to smash the barrier into pieces. “Seamus, you can't do things like that. We’re going to be arrested by the guard for sure.”

“Look around you. There are no guards. If the city really is burning then they have far more important things to worry about.” He marches through the splintered doorway. Row clings to his sleeve as she follows close behind.

What they see when they enter shocks them. Rather than the lines of refugees they saw being herded through the last time they were here, there are several tents set up with campfires burning, though they are not the source of the smoke Row saw before. “What is this?” Seamus glances around at the miserable people sitting in their filth, waiting to be led through to no avail.

“More refugees?” a little girl shouts at a woman who must be her mother.

“Oh, I'm so sorry you came all this way.” She shakes her head sadly. “They are only letting men through, and only those willing to fight.”

“Fight what?” Seamus raises a confused eyebrow.

“Oh, it’s terrible. Half the marshals and their trusted guards rebelled against the inner sanctuary. Lord Glasstien and his few loyal guards have barricaded themselves in the grand bishop’s chapel.”

“So he really did it.” Seamus’s jaw drops. “Sir Castine really did rebel against his lord.”

“Anyone who doesn’t follow them is killed,” the woman starts to sob. “Civilians are forced to stay in their homes or flee to the outer wall like us. We don’t get any food unless we give them our men to fight. They are even taking refugees. You might be allowed in.” She touches Seamus’s face.

“Oh, we’re allowed in alright.” Row’s face darkens. It seems she is not pleased with her brother’s actions. The pitiful woman and her daughter watch as Row and Seamus approach the second door that leads through the inner wall. Again Seamus knocks loudly.

“Be quiet,” this time at least they receive a response. Seamus knocks a second time while gripping Arma Sorn just in case. “Just wait until your husbands and sons return with your allotted food. If they die before they come back you’re out of luck.”

“Seamus, don’t,” Row squeals as he sends Arma Sorn smashing through the door again.

“What in the heavens…?” there are two shocked guards blinking at them when the dust settles.

“We need to speak to Sir Castine,” Seamus demands while holding Arma Sorn up threateningly.

“What kind of brute are you? You can't just go knocking in people’s doors!” The guards are furious.

“And you can't just go tearing down an entire city,” Seamus spits back. “Take me to see Castine now or I shall flatten you like a piece of paper.” He allows Arma Sorn to grow just enough so that they will take him seriously.

“Um, of course. Sir Castine is at the base of the chapel, strategizing with his marshals.” They quickly give up.

Row and Seamus follow one of the two terrified guards through the empty streets of Glass Gate. All of the markets have been abandoned and every building has its windows boarded up. With the natural flow of society halted, there is no telling how long the civilians of the town will be able to survive. Depending on when this all started, they may be running low on food already.

“Here we are.” The guard bows nervously as he stops just inside a large cobblestone plaza. There is a tarp set up to provide shade above a certain area where several men clad in armor can be heard talking amongst themselves.

“Castine!” Seamus shouts at the group of knights, unceremoniously.

“What? Who goes there?” the portly man, clad in armor for the first time in view of Seamus, responds in an annoyed tone.

“Castine, do you know where Corvic is?” Seamus asks bluntly.

“You will address me as Sir Castine, boy,” he snaps at him as he exits the cover of his tarp. “Who exactly are you?”

“Do you not recognize my mistress?” Seamus bows his head while presenting Row to the knight. “Lady Ironglave.”

“Preposterous,” Castine laughs. “I met the Lady Ironglave. She was older and prettier than…” his voice trails off as he realizes that he is staring at a younger version of Rowleen Ironglave. “Wait, how can this be?” he is utterly shocked.

“Sir?” His marshals quickly gather around him. One of them uses a rag to wipe the sweat pouring from the heavyset man’s brow in the heat of the sun.

“So these are the pathetic sods who agreed to start a rebellion with you,” Seamus scoffs.

“Still looking down on the revolutionists, eh?” Castine sighs disappointedly.

“You’re not revolutionizing anything. You’re just bullies stealing from the rightful lord,” Seamus spits.

“Rightful lord of what?” Castine laughs. “Do you even know how the twelve territories came to be?”

“King Doryan united the entire country three centuries ago and left it to his twelve sons when he died,” Seamus answers confidently.

“First off, King Doryan only had nine sons,” Castine corrects him. “He left two territories to the husbands of his two daughters and one territory to his most trusted knight, whom he designated a lord. Were you aware that no one in the Madine line shares the blood of King Doryan? I bet you weren’t.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Seamus is losing his patience. “I am here to see Corvic, not you.”

“On the contrary, boy, you are here to see me.” Castine is grinning his massive ear to ear grin like he always does when things are going well for him. “Corvic has promised your services to me. You are now one of my marshals. Those are your soldiers.” He points at the chapel in the center of the massive city where several members of the rebellion are fighting with spears and swords to push back the guards that remain loyal to Lord Glasstien.

“I'm not lifting a finger to help you,” Seamus refuses outright.

“Are you sure?” Castine turns his grin toward Row. “Perhaps you could convince him, Lady Ironglave.”

“I will not violate my servant’s trust in me.” She turns her nose up.

“Not even for your brother?” He grabs her chin and directs her gaze at the battle again. Even with her superior vision it is almost impossible to see him but there he is. Corvic is disappearing and reappearing in his signature fashion, helping out the rebel soldiers as best he can while trying not to get injured in the process.

“Seamus?” Row turns a pleading face to her servant.

“What would you have me do?” He kneels down in front of her.

“No one is allowed to enter the battlefield without a rank,” Castine snickers at Seamus. “Are you one of my marshals or aren’t you?”

“Tell me why?” Seamus grits his teeth at him. “Why are you doing all this? You have no right.”

“Right? You want to talk about rights? Who gave King Doryan the right to place his children in charge of an entire country he never set foot in before? Who gave him the right to use divine powers to interfere in the wars of humans?”

“Just because you don’t like what he did does not mean you get to change it,” Seamus grumbles.

“I never said I didn’t agree with him,” Castine cackles. “In fact, I'm simply following in his footsteps. If he is allowed to invade countries and conquer them, then why not me? I'm doing exactly what he did. I don’t need anyone to give me permission. It is not a matter of right and wrong, it’s simply a matter of power. And I have that power.” He grabs Seamus by the chin and lifts him to his feet. “Show me those silver eyes of yours, boy. Use them to help me. If you don’t, then this conflict will never end and more innocent people will suffer as a result. Are you willing to let that happen?”

“It’s not my responsibility to save them. I'm not a hero. I'm not one of the nine.”

“I didn’t ask you to do it just for them.” Castine turns his chin so he is staring at Row, whose face is trembling. “Do it for your mistress and her brother. You can save people along the way while still obeying your oath, isn’t that the perfect compromise.”

“You, you hinged everything on me helping you,” Seamus realizes.

“It was either that or die, and I’d rather die,” Castine admits. “I will not live the rest of my life in hiding because of a pathetic lord like Glasstien. He needs to be replaced and you know it.”

“I don’t care.” Seamus shakes his head. “I will do as you have asked only if my mistress tells me to.” He stares at Row, waiting for her response. She gulps back tears before nodding slowly. This is something she never wanted to do, to force Seamus to fight when he did not want to. She has just proven that he is in fact her servant and that nothing he says matters. He was always just a tool to her. “As you wish, milady.” He is smiling as he flickers from view, leaving a trail of light from his glowing green eyes.

At the base of the massive chapel, the fighting has only gotten worse by the time Seamus arrives. Neither side seems to be doing well and Corvic is still flashing about, trying to find and opening to slip past the chaos and into the building. Seamus is just in time to save one of the rebels from being skewered by a guard’s spear by flickering between them and stealing it.

“Where did you come from?” Corvic laughs when he realizes his backup has finally arrived.

“What kind of trouble have you started now?” Seamus is less happy to him.

“I’m just trying to live up to my sister’s standards,” Corvic assures him. “She said I was too focused on Iron Grove and she was right. I need to clear my head of my father’s territory for a while. I decided to try helping Castine achieve his goal and see how successful we are. If we can't win over Glass Gate like this then there is no way we can take back Iron Grove.”

“So basically this is just practice for you before you attack Iron Grove? You haven’t learned anything at all.” Seamus shakes his head disappointedly.

“Think what you like, but you’re in the thick of it now. You either fight or die,” Corvic laughs while flashing from view, only to reappear a few feet away with his fingernails already gouging out the throat of a guard.

“So, how is it going so far?” Seamus glances around at the battle, which is more of a scuffle.

“Well, how does it look?” Corvic’s eyes gleam as he spreads his arms to present the chapel courtyard to Seamus.

“It looks like you failed,” Seamus admits. “You’re stuck out here and Lord Glasstien is stuck in there. Did you really accomplish anything at all?”

“Actually, things went better than expected,” Corvic tries to assure him. “Our forces were numbered about even but the guards are better trained. We thought we’d lose most of our men in the first strike and end up on the defensive. Lord Glasstien prioritized his own safety though. He sacrificed quite a few guards just to escape the palace and reach the chapel. With all of the refugees and civilians willing to sign up in exchange for food, we now out number them.”

“As usual your way of thinking is cold and calculated.” Seamus frowns at him.

“I'm sure you’re used to it from my sister,” Corvic is not insulted in the slightest.

“Still, the fact remains that he is in there and you are out here,” Seamus returns to the topic of battle. “He probably has enough food stores to outlast a siege. The only way you are going to be able to maintain one is to continue trade with other territories and to let the civilians in the city return to their lives of producing food.”

“Easier said than done,” Corvic sighs. “As soon as word gets out that we have rebelled, other territories will probably cut off trade with us. We need to eliminate Lord Glasstien quickly so peace can settle and the people can start supplying themselves again while we establish Castine as ruler.”

“Are you really okay with that?” Seamus is skeptical.

“With what?” Corvic pretends not to understand him.

“You aren’t the type to yield rule to others,” Seamus responds bluntly. “How do I know you won't seize power of Glass Gate for yourself?”

“If it were as simple as killing Glasstien and becoming the new lord I’d probably do it,” Corvic admits. “However, you’d actually need a legitimate claim for the people to follow you.”

“Castine has that claim?”

“More than I do at least.” Corvic nods.

“Then I guess we’d better get to work on finding a way into this chapel.” Seamus stares up at the massive building, comprised of dozens of separate bell towers and levels of courtyards leading hundreds of feet into the sky.

“Wait, who put you in charge?” Corvic sputters.

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you, Castine made me his top marshal. I now outrank you.”

“What?” Corvic’s jaw drops. “But I was doing so well.”

“Leading this assault?” Seamus can't help but snort. “Have you even come close to penetrating the chapel?”

“Well no, but what other choice do I have?” Corvic almost seems to be pouting. It is made that much funnier but his feminine voice and appearance. He really does remind Seamus of Row. “Stop laughing at me,” Corvic whines. “I put a lot of thought into this.”

“Really?” Seamus is genuinely surprised. “It’s no wonder Castine is the strategist. What was your actual plan once you breached the chapel? You can barely hold your own out here and there are better guards inside, right?”

“Well… I was waiting for you,” Corvic admits.

“Now I get it.” Seamus pinches the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “Honestly you people are complete imbeciles. Imagine what would happen if Row didn’t order me to help you.”

“That’s just it, I knew she would.” Corvic smiles proudly. “She’s my sister after all. She adores me.”

“And if I were late?” Seamus modifies his threat.

“Um…” Corvic has no response this time. It is true that he had no idea where Seamus and Row were when he sent his ghoul pet to deliver his message. Had they been in one of the bordering territories like Lord Goldfrey’s they would have never arrived in time. He really was making a risky bet. “Luckily you weren’t late,” he tries to laugh it off. Seamus shows no signs of forgetting though. “So, what exactly is your plan for getting inside?” Corvic wrings his hands greedily.

“For now we retreat and try to wait out Lord Glasstien’s men. Once they are complacent with their predicament you and I will try to sneak into the chapel on our own. If we are discovered we’ll split up and try to open the front gates to let the rebels in. If we make it through we can try to assassinate Lord Glasstien while he sleeps.”

“Wait, you’re abandoning my assault?” Corvic continues to whine. “After how far we came? Do you know how many of my men died getting us to this point?”

Seamus winces in annoyance before responding. “I would have thought you would have even half of your sister’s intelligence. It seems you can't to anything but attack things head on. Think of this like your vanishing trick that you use to attack people from unknown directions.” Seamus flickers for a moment with Turok’s power to gain Corvic’s full attention.

“Oh, bravo. Did you learn that from Turok?” Corvic is impressed. “With the both of us, I feel like we can actually do this.”

“You didn’t think that before?” Seamus shouts at him. “Was your whole plan to die on Lord Glasstien’s doorstep and hope he would die of shock or something?” Seamus’s annoyed rant is interrupted by the sudden tolling of all twenty bells in the chapel. “What is that? What’s going on?” He twirls around in confusion. Up above he can see a shadow growing in front of the sun. A massive flock of white doves and pigeons is soaring away from the chapel, spreading out in all directions. “What’s happening?”

“Glasstien is calling for aid,” Corvic answers. “Each of those birds has a plea for help. We can't even let one of them escape.”

“How do you plan to stop them?” Seamus is at a loss. Corvic directs his attention to the city below them. There are a great number of black ghoul birds already gathering on the rooftops of the buildings. Suddenly they begin shooting up into the sky like arrows, targeting the white birds. Seamus watches in awe as the sky above them becomes a battle of its own as the white birds try to flee while the black birds pick them off by the dozen.

The guards retreat to the safety of the overhanging walls of their chapel while the rebels take cover under any roof they can find. Dead birds are raining from above in droves. Seamus is actually terrified by the sight of it. It is as if the sky itself is falling.

Corvic is watching the birds diligently as they rip each other to shreds. “There it is.” He points up at the sky. Seamus squints to see better but it is too far. “One of them escaped,” Corvic sighs.

“So what do we do now?” Seamus is shaking.

“We can't afford to wait. We have to get into that chapel now,” Corvic surmises. Seamus glances back at the overhanging wall where the guards took cover. They are still there, waiting for the birds to stop falling from the sky. He nods at Corvic before stepping out from cover and charging toward the chapel alongside the bloodsucker.

The guards raise their weapons in preparation to defend the chapel gate to the death. It does not matter though. Just as Seamus and Corvic reach them they both vanish into thin air, reappearing behind the guards already in the act of smashing through the gate with Arma Sorn. The guards look absolutely terrified by the power these two hold but they chase after them regardless.

Seamus flickers again, disappearing into the shadows of the first courtyard. Corvic does the same but heads in a different direction. The guards have lost sight of the pair that is now lost in enemy territory. Neither one knows how long it will take to reach the top level of the gigantic chapel, nor how long they have until the few birds that escaped manage to deliver their messages. All they can do is keep moving.


High in the Raldesh mountains, safe inside her cozy three room cabin, the demigod Brecha has just sat down in front of her fireplace with a bowl of warm soup made from a fox or a wolf or some other fury creature capable of surviving in the frozen expanse that is her home. Before she can even take a sip, the sound of someone knocking at her door startles her into dropping the wooden bowl on the floor. She is far too timid after her near death encounter with the Violet Champion.

To her horror, when Brecha answers the door, she finds the very same demigod waiting for her. “It’s been a while.” Maumolla grins at her. Her face is red with ware from being constantly pelted by snow and ice but it is fading fast. Her increased vitality really is amazing.

“Wha-what do you want?” Brecha stutters nervously. “Weren’t you going to leave me alone for fifty years or something?” She is gripping the fluffy collar to her orange fur cloak tightly.

“I was going to do that, wasn’t I?” Maumolla tilts her head in thought.

“What? Did you forget already? It’s not even been a year yet.” Brecha resorts to screaming at her.

“I’ve come to take your power away,” Maumolla admits. “Please make this easier on both of us and comply.”

“You horrible wretch,” Brecha spits angrily. “You promised to leave me alone.”

“I changed my mind.” Maumolla shrugs. “A person has to be free to change their mind, you know. You can't very well expect me to wait fifty years can you? What happens if I die in the meantime? Is that what you were hoping for by chance?”

“Get out of here.” Brecha slams the door in her face. In the short amount of time it takes Maumolla to draw her staff and slice the wooden barrier apart, Brecha has retrieved her Arma from above her fireplace and is now holding it in one hand and the scabbard in the other.

“Do you even know how to use that thing?” Maumolla mocks her. So far she has no idea what Arma Fathra even does. It was not a weapon the previous Maumolla ever encountered and therefore she has no memories to draw upon.

“Why don’t I test it on you?” Brecha returns her insult.

Maumolla rears back just in time to avoid getting slashed by the rapier only to be shocked when Brecha’s orange aura becomes visible and extends along the blade, slicing open her left cheek. “Well that’s an interesting ability,” she admits. Of course her bleeding is kept to a minimal by her increased vitality. Against a demigod no wound is fatal unless it kills them instantly. The moment they are injured they are already on the mend.

“That’s just my own ability,” Brecha informs her. “I can control my aura and apply it to objects and people. When I use it on my sword it becomes almost like a solid blade.”

“What happens if you use it on something else?” Maumolla’s face reflects excitement. Despite the seriousness of her self assigned mission to end everything demigod, it is hard to push back the memories of her predecessor, who enjoyed the thrill of fighting and killing for no reason at all.

“How about I show you.” Brecha dips her hand in a basin of water sitting atop a small table. It starts to glow orange immediately and swirl around in much the same way Kalina would control it.

“I hate water,” Maumolla groans. She leaps backward while crossing her arms defensively but it does no good. The water shoots out of the basin and latches onto one of her trailing legs, which quickly becomes encased in the orange glow. She can feel her normally limitless energy dissipating as her purple aura is replaced or transformed.

“Now I can cut you and you won't be able to heal it,” Brecha informs her while demonstrating by slashing her leg open.

For the first time in five years Maumolla is forced to actually feel the entire effect of being injured. Normally her body powers through the pain and simply begins to heal immediately. “Alright, I'll admit I mistook you for an easy target, but we don’t have to fight,” Maumolla decides to try reasoning with her. “You hate being a demigod, don’t you? I merely want to grant your wish to be rid of your accursed power.”

“By killing me? No thank you,” Brecha scoffs. “Just keep bleeding like you’re supposed to. When you pass out I’ll pack my things and leave this place. My sanctuary is no longer safe.”

Maumolla glances down at her leg which would normally be healing by now. The orange glow around it is not fading. In fact, it seems as if it might be growing to encompass more of her leg and perhaps her thigh and waist. Brecha is still in control of it. “Crafty little witch,” Maumolla spits while extending her staff toward Brecha’s face.

Rather than blocking Arma Vec with her rapier, Brecha simply extends her aura along the blade, which again takes a solid form capable of deflecting the staff. “Don’t think I don’t know what that thing does,” Brecha laughs. “Sorry but you won't be absorbing my sword any time soon.”

“Did you forget its second ability? Maumolla smirks as the orange aura is drawn into the staff. “Arma Vec is made with a fang from the energy draining leach Burach Bhadi. Using your aura as a weapon was impressive. It just wasn’t impressive enough.” Maumolla quickly touches her leg with her staff, absorbing the orange glow around it so that her purple aura can finally begin healing her.

Brecha starts to scream through gritted teeth at the top of her lungs. She almost seems to be throwing a fit. Maumolla is not surprised. This lazy coward of a demigod finally thought to stand up for herself and was instantly knocked back down into her place. It is so pitiful it is almost laughable. “Now, can we please have a proper talk? I'm sorry I judged you unworthy before and tried to kill you. I was trying to test Brand. I wanted to see if Arma Tua really could injure him.”

“What do you mean you’re sorry?” Brecha frowns at her.

“Exactly that.” Maumolla bows apologetically. “I have come to relieve you of your burden, nothing more. Allow me to touch you and I shall remove the power of the Titian Witch without bringing you harm.”

“Do I look stupid?” Brecha scoffs. “I'll have you know, I may well be the smartest of the nine. Last time I attended a summit, all you people did was chatter about leadership and power. There is more to life than destruction and murder.”

“I agree completely.” Maumolla nods vigorously. “I just need to be sure you won't hand your power over to someone else who would use it wrongly.”

“I have no plans of handing this power over to anyone, least of all you.” Brecha wrinkles her nose at her.

“What if the next person who comes to find you isn’t me? Anyone could kill you and take your power for their own nefarious purposes.”

“How weak do you think I am?” Brecha is only growing more annoyed.

Maumolla’s patience seems as limitless as her stamina though. She does not care how long it takes, she will not be leaving without the power of the Titian Witch. “Can I please at least try to explain my intentions to you?” Maumolla extends her hand politely. “I promise, no harm will come to you.”

“You know it’s not going to work, right?” Brecha crosses her arms. “You won't convince me.”

“Just let me talk. As you said, you are not short on intelligence. This may even make more sense to you than it does to me. It’s about the power of the Azure Savior.”

“Ardine’s power.” Brecha nods.

“Yes, Lady Ardine’s power is…” Before Maumolla can complete her sentence she is interrupted by something smashing through one of the glass windows of the cabin and landing on the floor in front of her.

“That’s a peculiar thing, isn’t it?” Brecha reaches for what seems to be a white dove, now red with blood. It has an envelope tethered to its leg with a wax insignia on the front. “It’s Wan’s symbol but it’s meant for any demigod to respond,” Brecha mumbles as she reads it to herself. “Oh dear.” A look of fear quickly spreads across her face.

“What? What is it?” Maumolla snatches the letter and begins to scan the words. It is a quickly scrawled plea for help from Lord Glasstien or at least someone in his service. “We have to go, now!” Maumolla turns toward the broken door with her staff still in hand.

“I'm not going anyway,” Brecha snorts pompously.

“Do you not understand? Glass Gate is under siege.”

“Glass Gate is none of my concern.” Brecha shrugs. “There is no reason I should bother risking my life for a lord who has done nothing but spit in the face of demigods for decades.”

“Oh, that’s right.” An eerie calm overtakes Maumolla. “I don’t need to bring you with me. All I need is your power.”

“Which you’re not getting,” Brecha reminds her.

“I'm done asking nicely.” Maumolla spins around, extending her staff faster than Brecha can react. It stabs through her right ankle and slices outward until it hits her left one as well, effectively crippling her. Brecha falls backwards onto the floor of her cabin, screaming in pain while trying to grab her wounded appendages.

Maumolla promptly sits down on her chest and touches her hands to the sides of Brecha’s head as her eyes begin to glow bright blue. “What are you doing?” Brecha wails as she tries to break free. She can feel a massive amount of energy being poured into her body. In fact, the fresh wounds on her ankles begin to heal almost immediately as her orange aura focus on them, letting the rest of her body age slightly.

Suddenly an orange light shoots down from the sky, encompassing both women. The glow in Brecha’s eyes flows out and into Maumolla’s as her power is successfully transferred. “What did you do?” Brecha pushes the taller woman off of her. “What have you done?”

“I told you I wouldn’t kill you,” Maumolla reminds her. “Have a wonderfully normal rest of your life, Brecha.” She stands up and strides out of the cabin. She does not even bother to absorb Arma Fathra with her staff. She has no idea if it has any adverse effects like Arma Driv and does not want to risk it.

“Where are you going?” Brecha chases her to the doorway. She stops just short of stepping out into the snow. “You can't just leave me like this.” She gestures to her aged face. She does not quite look forty though. Perhaps having the power of immortality has kept her body from deteriorating as quickly as it should have. That would certainly explain why Ardine only appears to be in her nineties and not two hundred. “Give me back my power,” Brecha pleads while sinking to her knees. “I don’t know what to do without it.”

“Go visit your daughter,” Maumolla suggests. Brecha blinks back her tears as the idea sinks in. Perhaps this is not such a bad thing. All she ever wanted was a normal life and now she finally has it. She also still has her Arma, meaning she is not completely defenseless.

Maumolla is smiling to herself as she trots down the winding path that leads to the bottom of the mountain. There is something more satisfying about having been able to restore Brecha to the state of a human rather than having to resort to killing her. She knows it will not be as easy with Brand or Seamus but it is still a good thing.

As she passes the second curve in the path, something catches her attention out of the corner of her eye. There is a tombstone sticking up out of the snow. The title across the top reads, “Gall, father to Prain, vassal to Genlock.”

A sudden bolt of pain shoots through her chest as she realizes what it means. She is not personally sad for the old man’s death, as she barely knew him, but it is still a painful reminder of how fragile human life is. She is the farthest thing from human right now and she knows it. How long will it be before she can call herself a human again?
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