Crouching in a ditch in the peak of summer was not how Ezekiel Wrayburn had expected his night to go and his temper was suffering greatly.
“If your foot touches my face one more time I will personally hand you off to the chaos clan in nothing but your breaches,” he growled to his second in command from where he was pressed up against one of the dirt walls.
“Oh please if they caught one glimpse of all of this,” Zachariah struggled to gesture to his cramped body. “None of these ditches would be necessary anymore.”
Both Cassiopeia and Zakia let out snorts and struggled to find comfort once again.
“Stop moving,” Zachariah groaned. “Your knee is digging into my side.”
“Stop whining, your voice is digging into my nerves,” Cassiopeia returned.
Now, there was a perfectly justified reason Ezekiel had hauled his clan to a ditch in the middle of the night, or at least that was what he’d been told when the prince had come banging on his door flapping around a letter that informed Diana Strande was back in Pendilor.
Why can’t people just commit crime during the day?
“Zakia, this would be a wonderful time for you to say your bird has spotted the chaos clan.”
“Luna’s still flying over – wait,” she stood up from the ditch, struggling to upend the copious amount of arms and legs that had been resting on her. “Three figures just slipped into the right side of the manor.”
The building that stood before them was twelve stories, each level delegated to a member of the prince’s staff. It was full of splendour and one of the only buildings besides the castle and order keep that stood straight in the city.
Ezekiel used Zachariah’s face to help lift him up from the circle of ground, ignoring his flailing arms and curses.
“We need to go, Chief Kaori resides there,” he informed, dusting off his clothes. “Cas, vine please, quickly.”
She put her hands into the dirt, a light green glow was the only indication of her magic before four thick vines grew from the ground lifting them all up.
“If this is what humans feel like in old age I have suddenly gained much more appreciation for my immortal life,” Zachariah rasped as he stretched out his back.
“Zakia and Zach to the right, Cass to the left and I’ll take the centre” Ezekiel hurriedly informed, mind only on the opportunity of what the night could bring as he prepared for action. “Diana Strande is the priority; capture her by all means necessary.”
Diana Strande had been wondering when the clan of order would finally leave their ditch and was not disappointed when they so quickly fell for her trap.
A bunch of heroes they are, can’t even count three from four.
Her nostrils flared as she scented them, a warlock, twin witch fae and, the most unusual, a Seraphian fae.
Soon she would wet the grounds of their kingdom with their blood, but for now she would have a little fun. A blood curdling smile lifted her face at the thought.
The leader would go down first; maybe she would end his life personally. She quickly dismissed the thought; the warlock would not be worth the effort. As much as she wished to enjoy picking his rag tag team off one by one, she had to be smart about this, or all her plans would be ruined.
A large flame arose on the rooftop of the building her three closest companions had entered just moments ago, the diversion was in place.
Hope they packed their flame retardant.
She put her half mask on her face, the black accentuating her gleaming eyes, one silver, one gold and the signature of her flattering reputation.
Standing from the adjacent building she had been perched on she leaped from the edge and gracefully landed on the concrete of the manor’s roof.
As she rolled to a stop she let herself dissolve into her shadow form and made her way to the real target, not Chief Kaori, who she was sure was only a couple years from dying himself.
No, her target was the Assassin of Pendilor, Igor Yugogi. The only one foolish enough to have attempted to kill her third in command just two months ago.
Mazikeen had awoken with a knife to her throat and the shock of the intrusion had almost cost her life. Their keep’s location was well known by the citizens of Pendilor, but even Prince Casiel knew that if Diana was formidable in person, she was unbeatable on her own grounds.
The only terms on which entrance was permitted into her keep was if the individual was part of her clan or, if they truly had nowhere else to go, and even then their entrance had a steep price set. An entrance on any other terms was a death wish, which had been granted to the few who were stupid enough to even attempt to near her home.
This particular assassin had somehow managed to escape before her security magic had sensed his presence though the failure was most probably her own fault.
Even so she bid her time, and let him believe that he had gotten lucky, that he had gotten away with his life and as all of the chaos clan was aware of his and all the other staff’s dwellings, finding him hadn’t been a problem.
What kind of fool keeps all his most valuable assets in one building?
Diana had to exercise great self restraint to not kill any other besides Igor, she could only afford to kill one tonight. Showing up so close to the castle could be seen as a terrible strategy and that was because it was, but what was life without risk?
She travelled through the walls and the shadows cast by them. As a child the motion used to be disorienting but now it only gave her a sense of excitement. The looks on her victims’ faces were always a deep sense of amusement to her, the fear and dread in their eyes as they looked towards her, a living nightmare.
Finally her shadow form rose from the dark cast of a stray chair in the Assassins living room. Idly she looked around.
What a waste, I might actually send someone up to clear the blood off the floors afterwards.
Her train of thought cut off when she noticed the open door that gave way to the main bedroom, she shook her head in disappointment.
Cocky little bastard.
She noticed no traps or alarms besides a light magical sensor for movement, luckily it was the weakest spell for security and she was well versed in runes.
The prince really must employ better staff.
She walked over to the door, her soft leather boots silent on the wooden floor, and drew a dagger from her belt. Swiftly she sliced into her left palm and used her blood to draw two simple runes, the jagged marks absorbing into the floor and taking any trace of security magic with it.
Creeping into the room she lightly lifted herself onto the bed straddling the heavy sleeper. Only when she had her knife to his throat did his eyes open wide with fear.
“Did you really think when you left my keep that you would not suffer the consequences?” She questioned, genuinely curious. The response was a series of gurgles and bulging eyes, she loosened her grip on her dagger only by a millimetre.
“The death of any of your band of freaks was well enough to pay with my life,” he hissed.
“Oh well at least you’ll die with dignity,” she drawled. “Pleading for mercy must be out of fashion with you assassins.”
“Why plead to someone who does not have mercy?”
“Why do you think so?”
“Do what you must already, my time has come.”
“Pretentious aren’t you, couldn’t you let out a small squeal to set the mood?”
The assassin made to respond to her, indignation in his eyes but she had already drawn the tip of her blade across his throat, the conversation quickly getting boring.
She continued speaking to him as she got up from the bed and wiped her blade.
“You attacked a member of my family, and I will not lose any more than I already have.”
Using the edge of her cloak to wipe the spray of blood that landed on her face she addressed his grotesque corpse.
“It wasn’t personal and if it’s any consolation, none of your blood landed on the floor so I’m sure the apartment will be in use by the month’s end.”
She peered over at his dead body and sighed.
“Oh well your dead anyway, I doubt you care too much,” and with a shrug she shifted into a shadow to exit the building in the same way she entered, but as she reformed to her human form on the rooftop she was met, not with the three companions she had come with, but with a very angry purple eyed warlock.
Ezekiel was seething with anger as he finally managed to dislodge himself from the three devils that had attacked him and his team the moment they stepped into the building.
A diversion, of course she wouldn’t just waltz in because god forbid if Diana Strande ever made it easy.
He reprimanded his optimism as he ran up the many stairs to get to the rooftop.
He had glimpsed a lone shadow in the shape of a woman gliding over the wall as he fought against Julian Strande, the elder brother of the she-devil herself, and had quickly signalled Cassiopeia to take his place.
Her life magic had the highest chance of success against his death magic and the look of surprise that flashed across The Reaper’s eyes at her first wave of power was something he would cherish for a long time to come.
Ezekiel didn’t bother to check on the inhabitants of the building as he understood whoever Diana Strande had come for was most likely already dead. Instead he gathered his magic and prepared himself for the fight that was likely to come, and prayed that he would finally be able to bring his nemesis to the prince at last, he did not crouch in a ditch to go back empty handed.
His arrival on the roof was just in time as Diana Strande materialised into solid form. Her eyes didn’t widen with surprise or even the slightest hint of fear as she came to see the sight in front of her, in fact Ezekiel was rather annoyed by the look of amusement that was portrayed by her mismatched eyes.
“If you were so eager to see me, you could have just sent a note, a nightly rendezvous could be held in many more ways,” she purred, stretching out her arms over her head.
He blanched at the insulation in her words.
“Who did you really come for tonight?” He questioned, deciding to ignore her previous comment. Her lips lifted into an amused smile at his obvious avoidance.
“I’ll be honest with you warlock, I came here tonight to repay a favour to your assassin. The idiot tried to kill a member of my inner clan a month or two ago.”
Igor really was an idiot.
Every citizen knew the rule of the chaos keep, to even attempt to enter was a death sentence. He then remembered that the smirking villain standing mere steps away was the most wanted criminal in all of Pendilor and tried to think more kindly of the deceased assassin.
“His murder is still on your hands and you will suffer for your crimes,” he stated. “You will come with me to the castle and pay for your actions.”
Diana let out a cold laugh, eyes glinting in the low light.
“Unexpectedly wise of you to assume that he’s already dead, but if you believe that you can capture me then you’re sorely mistaken.”
She threw a dagger, the steel barely a blur as it whizzed past his face and used his distraction to run past him, leaping onto the roof of the building next over.
Ezekiel sprang into action leaping after her as he realised her trick, his wild magic came to form into his signature purple lightning.
He aimed at her back, but just as he sent the first bolt towards her Diana abruptly swerved to the right, and then to the left as he attempted to shoot at her again.
She jumped over to the next building, letting out a joyful laugh and clearing the four meter gap with ease. Ezekiel was not as talented as he was forced to use a gust of air to aid him leap across.
Skidding to a halt as she realised there were no more buildings to aid her in her attempt to flee, and Ezekiel allowed himself a satisfied grin, she was cornered.
But when she turned her expression was bright and menacing. His smile fell.
The tip of Diana’s right index finger touched down on the floor in front of her, and from the spot a shadow grew, and grew, and grew until it was four times the width of the villain standing behind it.
From the shadow emerged a scaled, ugly winged beast, with teeth like needles and shimmering with blood.
Ezekiel took a faltering step backwards, shock and fear flashing across his eyes.
How the hell did she summon a Zarc beast?
“What form of the devil are you?” He questioned, not to the grotesquely large Zarc, who he was sure was speculating the best way to suck his sorry carcass dry, but to the women dressed in leathers behind it.
Diana Strande shrugged once then swiftly pivoted on her heel. With a blow of a kiss from behind her shoulder and a blue lipped smirk, she jumped off the side of the building.
As she departed, any restraint she may have been holding on the beast she summoned broke, and the creature lunged towards him, claws aimed to rip out his heart.