Chronicles of Noctra: Age of Legends

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Chapter sixteen

She didn’t see herself getting out of this one, not with her overstuffed pack at least. The bag brimming with a lovely array of pastries, meats, trinkets, and coins taunted her from under a nearby bench. Her bleeding in the weeks before had left her even weaker than she should have been and Heria was not relenting; obviously well-fed and rested under Mezir’s command, she propelled herself with excessive force, using her huge arms to swing or turn mid-air. Meaning Amberosin was stuck on the defensive.

Whether where they stopped had an official name or not she didn’t know or care, it was an open space that was used as a training area at one point or another before the northern districts became nobles only. It made her miss the alleys and rooftops where she could hide and strike much easier but she knew Heria wasn’t going to stay lagging behind for long and had decided she wanted to be the one to pick their battleground. Amberosin hoped the open space would boost the Alta woman’s confidence and cause her to slip up.

An event that seemed less and less likely as the night dragged on.

Already the bare, lightly brown ground sported at least six small craters where Heria had slammed her fist, backed by a hearty supply of essence behind each swing. The casting made the long hair on her arms look like iridescent vines and Amberosin noticed a small reserve stayed near the end of each dread. Heria was fighting smart.

Rage swelled behind the woman’s eyes but somehow she had rationalized enough to prepare herself. Those bright sections of thick, hair-like fur foretold an unknown doom for Amberosin, perched in a small tree at the edge of the courtyard. Heria saw her there, stared at her with a knowing smile as she caught her breath. The branches were pitiful and lifeless, unable to hide the smallest of vermin.

Heria was like a circling hawk who could see it’s prey tiring. The sharp-toothed woman spouted blood from an obscene amount of cuts and gashes spread about her beast-like appendages but she smiled all the while. Completely unfazed by the raw trenches dug into her face by her own fangs, Heria only swiped blood from her chin and slowly stalked towards the courtyard’s edge.

Amberosin’s growling stomach sent a wave of weakness to her limbs and loosened her grip on the quaint tree. Heria took this as a sign the next bout of furious blades was coming and without hesitation pulled her massive arms before her face and neck jumped from where she stood. The large-armed woman sailed across the courtyard with inhuman speed and before Amberosin could blink there was an oversized fist smashed into her abdomen. She could do nothing but let the force of the hit carry her backward and brace for the oncoming wall.

She felt blood on the back of her lips and smiled to herself, awaiting the peace the stone wall behind her may bring; though peace never came. Instead of her head slamming into marble and being scrambled like canary eggs on a noble's plate, Amberosin hit a soft mesh of warmth before lowering to the ground slowly. A soft tingling on her back told Amberosin it was in fact a wall of essence, gentle and unseen. She’d never felt the sensation of casting without malice behind it, save for Mezir’s tricks when she was a child. Every other instance of essence touching her always felt like a searing vice, Amberosin’s attackers burning bloodlust.

Before she could fully recover from the sense of uncomfortable compassion, like a questioning embrace, he was ahead of her; the bandaged man stood with his hood drawn back, a wrapped head exposed under Luna’s glaring sapphire light.

From where Amberosin was she could tell there was a long mane of hair beneath his bandages. Men and women in Blancana typically kept their hair shorter, even the beggars and vagrants in the south sported near buzzed cuts. There were few exceptions to this societal rule, and one was behind her, red-faced and gasping with a hand on his chest. Sweat ran in streams down Patri’s face and his long thin hair was matted, sticking to his neck and shoulders.

“Oh… Oh fuck, Am… wow.. Amberosin..” the gray-haired thief had both hands on his knees, shaking his head before falling backward with a winch as his bony ass dug into the ground that had been hardened by myriads of mock battles. She couldn’t help but smile seeing him. Amberosin felt disappointed now more than angry about the Patri's Synth-es induced rage those weeks ago.

“You’re clean?” Amberosin smirked at him. She could feel blood running down her chin and wiped it with the back of a bruised arm. “Though clearly in no better shape for it.” She struggled to get up from the ground and every limb mutinied against her turning towards Heria but she forced through. She pushed everything to the back of her mind and watched; if there was an opening she would take it. Amberosin would take that Alta bitch down for good.

Amberosin clenched aching fists, took a step forward, and once more blood spewed from her mouth, soaking a small dark puddle below as she fell to one knee.

She could see Heria smile.

“Oh, you cu-” a savage, wet cough broke her voice again.

Heria laughed, a deep, hollow sound as Amberosin’s head heaved. “Alright. Alright. I’ve had my fun. Count us even.” The Alta woman turned, and seemingly more to herself muttered, “He’ll be worried anyway.” Gruff, muffled, animalistic behind her teeth, Heria's words sounded like a blessing to the bleeding Amberosin. She hoped the bandaged stranger would accept the concession. Tension sat heavily on them all for a moment before he stood straight and nodded.

Thank the Legends. I can finally eat.

Amberosin let out a small, wet laugh herself, and collapsed. Darkness took her instantly and the world around her grew distant. “Amberosin?” She could feel Patri’s thin arms pulling her to the courtyard’s edge and she welcomed them graciously, collapsing fully into him. Into a blissful nothingness, for a moment.

Tearing through the utter black that engulfed her was a cool sapphire glow. It lasted only a few seconds before waning and she heard rustling, scurrying. Amberosin could catch sounds but couldn’t make out the words. She wanted badly to beg them not to forget her pack. She needed her pack.

After ebbing in and out of existence for what felt like hours, she saw it once more. A cool, welcoming light accompanied by that familiar tingle of essence; warm instead of burning. Caring instead of violent. Amberosin allowed it to guide her back to consciousness, slowly, painfully ripping through the veil of slumber. When her eyes finally opened she saw him once more, closer now than she’d seen him before, a young bandaged man with his metal hands outstretched over her abdomen and his head bowed.

Amberosin saw no telltale sign of casting, no glow or shine of any sort, but she felt it. Felt him send the waves of Luna’s rays throughout her body, piecing her shattered ribs and crushed intestines back together. She could see the blue when she closed her eyes. Patri didn’t say a word but she knew he was there. Amberosin recognized the shop she’d hit earlier in the night and was certain he led the silent man to it. Slowly, so slowly, she felt her muscles relax, her bones shifted back into place, and a warming numbness seeped into her core.

As the pain faded, so did she. Too broken to dream.

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