Kirra was careful to avoid drawing attention to himself as he walked down the busy street. The entire operation hinged on keeping a low profile, and bolting down the street wouldn’t do at all, even if his news was urgent. Instead he kept his pace quick and pulled the cloak tight around him, giving the appearance that he was merely seeking a quick escape from the cold wind that swept through Pentalus.
He continued the ruse all the way to the top of the steps that led to Mister Swallow’s office. They had commandeered the space to serve as their headquarters for their stakeout of Sabreeza’s guild hall. Mister Swallow had been happy to serve, but he wasted no time in making it clear that he would have preferred a bit more notice than Lady Alsha had given him. They had arrived that morning with everything ready to go, and had Mister Swallow out the door within minutes. A short time later the soldiers left as well, heading for the locations that Alsha had worked out for them, to watch the guildhall.
Alsha was standing over the desk, carefully reading the observations that had been reported to her so far, when Kirra entered the room. Even though her soldiers would have made note of anything that stood out to them, it was her duty to follow up on their findings, and each sheet of paper might have the information she was looking for.
“How was the tavern?” Alsha asked without looking away from her notes. “Are the boys holding up?”
“They’re doing fine. The men at the stables and the women on the seamstress’s rooftop are also doing well,” Kirra reported with a salute, though he dropped it quickly when he realized that Alsha wasn’t about to look up and return it. “It’s been a long morning for everyone though. I’ve heard a few grumbles that we’re wasting our time doing it this way.”
“This is the protocol we are supposed to follow. You can tell them that those are my words if you hear any more complaints,” Lady Alsha replied with a dismissive wave, as if the grumbling of her soldiers was of no consequence. Kirra nodded and turned to leave, but before he could step out the door Alsha looked up, her demeanor becoming more serious. “This mission is important,” she reminded him, “We need to find evidence that Sabreeza is harboring a demon.”
“That isn’t what you told everyone else,” Kirra replied dryly, “You told them that we were looking for signs of ‘suspicious activity’.”
“As you know, the sanctioned purpose of this mission is to find evidence of Huzain Sabreeza oppressing the merchants in his district. That’s why it’s up to you to help me sort through the information the lookouts give me,” Alsha explained with a tight smile, “We’re the only two people here who know of our, more important, mission.”
“I see,” Kirra replied thoughtfully then asked hesitantly, “Don’t you trust the others?”
“Kirra . . .” Alsha began angrily, riled by the accusation, but then she took a breath and exhaled slowly before continuing in a calmer voice, “yes I do, or I wouldn’t have brought them here. But that doesn’t mean they won’t let it slip to the wrong person that I’m here hunting demons. If the council were to hear that I was pursuing that angle, we’d be pulled off this investigation instantly. The fewer people that know that, the better.”
They turned together as the door burst open quickly, and the large form of Judin Marro stepped into the room, breathing heavily. He looked as if he had run there, and the look in Alsha’s eyes said that he had better have a good reason for being so reckless.
Despite the daggers in her eyes Alsha asked calmly, “What is it?”
“We found something, something we think is big,” Judin replied between breaths. “It’s better if we explain when we get there.”
“Lead the way,” Alsha replied, dropping her papers to the desk.
Kirra and Alsha followed Judin down the steps and back onto the street. It looked like Judin might run again until he saw that Alsha had no intention of following at any pace other than a quick walk. She maintained her composure as Judin led them to the Forgotten Crow; the place Kirra had just returned from. They had chosen this establishment simply because the proprietor already knew them, and had as much to lose if their investigation failed as anyone did.
The owner had proven to be surprisingly cooperative, and had even helped them in other ways. He had a signal in place to let the Knights know if one of Sabreeza’s men entered the tavern or even walked by the window. The tactic had helped that post gain intelligence on the guild far faster than the others.
Judin led them straight up the stairs to the second floor. Once they were out of the dining hall he explained, “We found him sleeping on the rooftop when Fenri went up to take a look at the guildhall from a different angle. He almost got away before I made it up there to assist.”
“Found who?” Lady Alsha asked patiently.
“A Shade,” Judin replied as he opened the door that would take them to the roof. Lady Alsha nodded as if the explanation had been expected, and moved past Judin to take the lead. Judin waited for Kirra to step up after her and then took up the rear.
Before they had even reached the top of the stairs they could hear the argument.
“Let me go, dammit,” a youthful voice demanded. “Whatever you think I’ve done, I haven’t.”
“I told you, we have to wait until my boss comes,” an annoyed Fenri replied. “She’ll make that decision. I can’t.”
“Thanks, Fenri,” Lady Alsha said as she stepped onto the roof, drawing the attention of her soldier and his prisoner. “I’ll take it from here.”
Kirra had never knowingly seen a Shade before, though from what he was seeing he couldn’t be certain anymore. From his perspective the youth looked like little more than a beggar, albeit a particularly dirty one. Though the quality of his clothing was certainly fine, it had the look of months if not years of grime built into it. The leather armor the youth wore was of a design he had never seen, with large flaps of material extending from his arms to his sides, one of which was tattered. All of the other details paled as he looked at the youth’s face, for despite the dirt Kirra could not deny that the youth was the most attractive boy he had ever seen.
Styx sat shackled to a laundry pole with Fenri holding his straight blade near his neck, watching him closely. It was clear to Kirra that the prisoner found the situation uncomfortable, but there was a look of challenge in his eyes as he regarded Lady Alsha.
“Finally,” Styx said indignantly. “Why am I being held? I was just sleeping when this jackass here came and shackled me to this pole. I don’t exactly like being restrained.”
“You do know where you are, don’t you?” Alsha asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Pentalus?” Styx replied sarcastically. “A rooftop? What kind of deep answer are you looking for, woman?”
“What business does a Shade have in Pentalus?” Lady Alsha asked, ignoring the insult. “You’re sleeping for free on the rooftop of a building that charges ten copper a night. I don’t think the proprietor would be very fond of that piece of information.”
“Hah, as if you would tell him,” Styx replied smugly. “You don’t want to make a scene out of this any more than I do. If you did, you wouldn’t be keeping your voice as low as you are. Now why don’t we do some negotiating; you want information, I want freedom.”
“Listen, punk,” Fenri said with a scowl as he pressed his sword against Styx’s throat, “We could kill you now and no one would be the wiser.”
“Let him go,” Kirra said suddenly, surprising everyone including himself.
“Excuse me?” Fenri asked, looking at Kirra in surprise.
“Let him go, I don’t think he’s going to run,” Kirra replied, his confidence growing. “Where would he go? Look how he’s squinting in the light. He can hardly see two feet in front of him right now I’d bet. We’d catch him easily if he made a break for it. There’s no reason to keep him chained like that.”
Lady Alsha barely contained her smile as she nodded and said, “Do as Kirra says.”
“Thank you,” Styx said with a nod, looking first at Alsha but then directed his attention to Kirra and asked, “Kirra was it?”
Kirra nodded and watched Styx silently mouth his name again. The way his name had rolled off Styx’s tongue stirred something inside of him. He watched with growing curiosity as the shackles were removed and wrists that had been too long without freedom were rubbed to regain their feeling.
“I think you’ll find me much more cooperative now,” Styx said with a nod. But then he inclined his head toward Fenri and growled, “Just keep that one away from me.”
“Done.” Lady Alsha waved her hand at the soldier who still had his sword at Styx’s throat and ordered, “Fenri, step away.”
Kirra sensed the movement before it occurred and was already charging toward Styx as he dashed to the edge of the rooftop. Styx took a quick step up to the ledge in preparation to launch himself toward the busy street below, only to be pulled back to the rooftop as Kirra tackled him. They landed in a heap, with Kirra rolling over on top of Styx and claiming the dominant position.
“Ouch,” Styx said as he regained his breath. He smirked up at Kirra and added, “You’re really quick.”
“And you’re exceptionally dirty,” Kirra observed as he stared down at Styx. “Now, if you’d like to avoid being restrained again, would you mind not making a run for it again?” With a half-smile he went on, “You’re making me look bad.”
“I guess I don’t have a choice then,” Styx replied, losing his smirk as he searched Kirra’s eyes. Kirra wasn’t sure what Styx was looking for, but it appeared that he found it and he stopped struggling. He let Kirra pull him to his feet and they backed away from the edge of the roof. Though he didn’t think Styx would run again, he wanted to make sure he could catch him if he tried.
The whole exchange had had a different effect on the other three soldiers. Judin looked confused, Fenri looked angry, and Lady Alsha showed nothing more than amusement. “Good, now that we’ve squared that away,” Alsha said with a smile, regarding Styx with twinkling eyes, “Would you mind answering my question? What business does a Shade have in Pentalus?”
“If you must know,” Styx replied with a sigh, “I’ve recently escaped from the Shade. I don’t have any particular business up here.”
“You are not involved with Sabreeza?” Alsha asked neutrally.
“Wouldn’t you know if I was?” Styx returned with a raised eyebrow. “You’re working for him aren’t you?”
“No,” Alsha answered, eyes widening slightly in surprise. “What makes you think that?”
“You accused me of freeloading,” Styx explained with a shrug. “Some men I met yesterday accused me of being a beggar and said I needed to get out of Sabreeza’s territory. I figured it was more of the same.”
“No, we’re not working for Sabreeza,” Alsha confirmed.
“Then why did you ask about him?”
“That’s none of your concern.”
“Oh? From your expression I’d say you don’t care for Sabreeza. I don’t either,” Styx admitted with a grimace. “Perhaps we can be of use to each other.”
“We’re back to negotiating again, are we?” Alsha stated more than asked. “Okay, what do you know?”
“Well, perhaps you should tell me what you’re looking for,” Styx suggested, unwilling to give ground in the conversation just yet. “Then I’ll be able to tell you what will help you, but you have to promise to help me.”
“Promise to help you?” Lady Alsha echoed. “What do you need help with?”
Styx shook his head helplessly. “It appears we’ve reached an impasse in this negotiation,” he said with a grin. “One of us has to break first.”
“We’re the ones with weapons,” Alsha reminded him with a patient smile.
“You’ve got me there,” Styx conceded with a shrug. “Okay, I’ll give. I’ve got a friend who’s been taken prisoner by Sabreeza. I need help busting him out. There’s no way I can do it on my own.”
“A prisoner? Another shade?”
“No. He’s . . .” Styx hesitated as he decided how much information to give them. “He’s an outlander. He’s sick and injured, and I don’t think he’ll survive for long under their hospitality.”
“Okay, I will consider helping you,” Alsha replied with a nod, “but we can’t just barge in there.”
“So what are you looking for then? Maybe I can give you the information you need,” Styx suggested.
“We are looking into Sabreeza’s activities,” Alsha replied, “He has been oppress—”
“We’re hunting a demon that was freed recently,” Kirra interrupted his commander, drawing a bewildered look from Judin and Fenri. “We believe Sabreeza to be involved.”
“Kirra!” Alsha growled with a murderous glare. Kirra shrugged apologetically at her but then looked back to Styx. Something about Styx had told Kirra that he could be trusted, and that had been enough for him to risk addressing the issue head on.
“A demon,” Styx echoed. “Now that’s interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sabreeza’s involved.” Nodding slowly he confirmed, “A demon was freed recently.”
“Wait, you know about this?” Lady Alsha asked, turning a surprised glance his way. “I thought you weren’t involved.”
“I was far more involved with that demon than I would ever wish to be again,” Styx replied dryly. “But that is a story for another time. I can guarantee you a demon was freed though.”
“Can you believe this nonsense?” Fenri said suddenly, looking to his fellow soldiers for support. He turned back to Styx angrily and started to ask, “What are you—”
“Yes,” Alsha replied quickly, cutting him off. “That was the real reason I pushed for this assignment. Kirra and I found out yesterday.”
“If you believe it, then you must have a good reason. I apologize for my outburst, Lady Alsha,” Fenri said with a bow, though his apology didn’t completely clear the suspicious glare from his eyes.
“It’s all right. I was initially suspicious of the claim as well, but I’ve been otherwise convinced,” Alsha explained with a tight smile. “This boy here only confirms the facts I already knew.”
“What’s your name?” Kirra asked quietly while Alsha was addressing Fenri’s concerns.
“What’s it to you?” Styx replied with suspicion.
“You already know mine,” Kirra replied with a shrug. “I figure that you owe me.”
With a shrug Styx said, “My name is Styx. Now we’re even.”
Alsha heard Styx speak again and returned her attention to him. “Do you know anything else about what’s going on?” She asked calmly.
“Salidar’s planning on freeing as many demons as he can and setting them loose on the city,” Styx explained quickly. “He’s making a move on the Everbright City.”
“Salidar? The current Underking?” Alsha asked. When Styx nodded she slowly mimicked the action and said, “So that means the Shades weren’t working for Sabreeza, it was the other way around.”
“Lady Alsha, what are our orders?” Judin asked after silence overtook the rooftop. She looked to him thoughtfully as she puzzled through the new information. If Salidar were making such a move then they needed to find out more, but what she didn’t know was if it was worth the risk of trusting a Shade.
Kirra appeared to think so as he suggested. “We should break in and free the prisoner. It shouldn’t be that hard to find the information we’re looking for along the way.”
“But what if we don’t, Kirra?” Alsha replied with concern. “Do you think the council will take the word of a Shade when they didn’t take mine?”
“Do we have a choice?” Kirra retorted. “We know that he’s telling the truth, or at least that the information he has is in line with what we already know. If Sabreeza is working for Salidar, and the Underking intends to lead another assault on the Everbright City, can we afford not to try to stop him?”
“No, we need to do something,” Alsha agreed with a nod. “Run and get everyone else. We’ll make an assault by the end of the day.”
Kirra nodded and left the roof. Styx watched him leave, his eyes subconsciously drawn to Kirra’s back until it was gone. When he noticed that Alsha was grinning at him he turned to her with an embarrassed smile and said, “Thank you. Honestly I thought I was going to have to figure something out on my own. Who are you anyway?”
“The Knights of the Firmament,” Lady Alsha replied smoothly, the amusement of her smile reaching her eyes and causing them to twinkle.
“Great,” Styx replied sarcastically.
It didn’t take long for Kirra to bring the others to the rooftop, and for Alsha to explain the full situation. They immediately began to plan for their assault. Several ideas were proposed, ranging from attempting to sneak in through a window to returning to the Everbright City for reinforcements. It wasn’t until Styx chose to offer his suggestion that they were able to formulate a plan that they could all get behind.
Kirra was pleased to see that the other soldiers were willing to listen to Styx’s input regardless of him being a Shade. Even Fenri was nodding as Styx made his suggestion, forgetting his original suspicion. Within a few hours the plan was finalized down to the final detail. Once nightfall came, the group made their move and approached the guildhall.
~ ~ ~ ~
“Can I help you?” The guard asked, as he opened the door a crack to see who was there. Styx was standing in the shadows a few feet back from where he had originally knocked, making it harder for him to be made out. As Styx noticed that the guard was squinting to make him out, he took a step closer so that the lamp-light from the corridor behind the guard lit up his face and revealed him as a Shade.
Styx regarded the guard with contempt, making every effort to seem intimidating. “I was sent by Salidar,” he explained without preamble. “I have instructions for Sabreeza.”
“You were supposed to come by the north door,” the guard reprimanded, glancing around nervously. He opened the door wide and gestured for Styx to come through. “Quickly, get inside.”
“Oh, don’t mind if we do.” Kobek stepped through the door first and slammed the guard into the wall. Fenri and Kirra moved through immediately after and placed their drawn blades against the guard’s neck, daring him to move. The rest of the soldiers filed in with Lady Alsha bringing up the rear immediately after Styx.
“What!?” The guard cried in a mixture of surprise and anger, “What is this outrage?”
“Where is the prisoner?” Styx asked quickly. Waiting until nightfall had been arduous enough, and his patience was already gone. Something told him that if they didn’t get to Prism quickly then they might not reach him alive.
“Don’t test me!” Styx growled, drawing the knife he had been lent by one of the other soldiers and letting it join the other blades against the guard’s throat. Unlike the other blades that rested there, Styx pressed the blade in enough to draw blood, showing he was serious.
“Two floors up,” the guard replied. To his credit he showed little fear as he said, “You’ll never make it out alive. We have people watching this building. You can’t beat them all.”
“We don’t have to,” Kobek said, baring his teeth in a sneer, “We just have to beat enough.”
“Where is Sabreeza?” Kirra asked, drawing a defiant glare from the guard. When he didn’t answer, Kirra pushed his own blade in farther and asked, “Do you need a reminder?”
“He’s in the basement.”
“Kirra, you and Kobek go with Styx,” Alsha ordered, “The rest of us are going after Sabreeza.”
“What about this one?” Fenri asked, nodding toward the guard. In answer, Kobek slammed the guard into the wall again, and then punched the man in the face with his gauntleted fist, dropping him to the floor, unconscious.
“That’ll do, I suppose,” Fenri said with a wry expression.
Kobek led the way further into the building with Kirra following behind and Styx bringing up the rear. It wasn’t long before they reached a set of stairs that took them up, and found themselves at the end of a long hallway with offices on either side.
Kobek waved for them to remain silent as they continued forward. As they neared the end of the corridor, they heard voices coming from the other side of one of the doors. Having the best hearing of the three, Kirra placed his ear against the door to listen more closely.
“So I told her that she better start putting out, or I was going to kill her mother,” one man said with a laugh. “She wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but let me tell you, man, it sure was what I needed!”
“Man, I need to get myself a girl!” a second man replied wistfully. “How do you find ’em?”
“Just look for a merchant that hasn’t paid his dues,” the first man explained, “and tell him you’ll forgive his debts if he sells you his daughter.”
“Does Huzi allow that?” The second man asked in wonder.
“No, but the merchant ain’t gonna know that at the time!” The first man replied with another laugh. Kirra raised two fingers to indicate that there were at least two people in the room, and then reached for the door handle. Kobek stepped into position to charge into the room and Styx readied his knife. On a silent count of three, Kirra opened the door, and the corridor was suddenly bathed in bright light.
Kobek charged inside, and Styx tried to follow but his eyes were slow to adjust to the change in illumination. He stumbled into the room and tripped up Kirra, sending them both to the floor. Kobek remained oblivious to the plight of his companions and went straight for one of the two guards standing in front of the cell door set in the corner of the room. Prism lay on a cot within the cell and he did not look well. Not only was he unconscious, but he also had numerous wounds he hadn’t had the last time Styx saw him, the clear signs of torture.
“Open the door,” Kobek demanded as he leveled his sword at the man on the left. Both of the guards regarded him with surprise, putting their own weapons between them and the large soldier. The one on the left held a metal-hafted spear, while the one on the right carried a straight sword of medium length. Both held their weapons the way a competent warrior would, though neither looked as if he would be a match for Kobek.
“Who the hell are you?” The guard on the right asked, and Styx instantly recognized the voice. It was one of the thugs who had accosted him in the alleyway before. There wasn’t a trace of fear in his voice, as if he knew that Kobek didn’t stand a chance of harming him.
“The man who’s going to kill you if you don’t open the door,” Kobek replied with a snarl, calling the bluff of the man’s bravado.
“Hah! You don’t know who you’re messing with!” The man replied with a cocky sneer. Before Kirra and Styx could regain their footing, a third man rushed out of the shadows behind the door, his large axe raised above his head. He hacked down with it as he reached Kobek, striking the large man hard across his back. The force of the blow was hard enough to cleave straight through Kobek’s armor, and both Kirra and Styx could hear the sickening crack of the soldier’s bones breaking underneath.
Before the axeman could turn to face them Kirra rose quicker than Styx imagined possible and leapt to the Kobek’s rescue. He went straight for a killing blow, cutting into the axe wielder’s neck. The keen edge of Kirra’s blade was made apparent as the axe-wielder’s head was cut cleanly from his shoulders, dropping to the floor with a sickening thud as Kobek collapsed beside it.
The two remaining guards watched their companion fall in horror but regained their composure in time to meet Kirra’s barrage of attacks against them. Kirra wasted no time in giving them what they expected and attacked them with enough ferocity to keep them fully on the defensive.
Kirra attacked like a man possessed, and each successive swing seemed to come faster than the one before it. As Styx rose to his feet he watched in amazement as one strike flowed into another, a deadly dance of metal that threatened at any given moment to end the life of either of the men Kirra fought.
Styx jumped to his feet and rushed to assist Kirra. The opportunity presented itself when Kirra managed to shear off the head of the spear. The warrior stared at the broken weapon in disbelief and Styx stabbed forward with his knife, ramming his blade into the guard’s chest to the hilt.
The other guard took a stab at the now unarmed Styx, only to find Kirra waiting for the strike. With a quick series of slashes he first sheared off the guard’s arm at the elbow, and then cut into his chest with two wide cuts. The guard fell to the floor, screaming in agony.
As soon as he was sure that neither man was going to move again, Kirra looked back at Kobek and crouched down to examine his wounds, only to find his worst fears confirmed. The strike from the axe had severed his spine and had killed the large man instantly. As Kirra continued to survey the grim wound, Styx crouched to retrieve a large ring of keys from the spear guard’s belt and began searching for the right key to unlock the cell door.
Kirra yelled in alarm as he pushed Styx roughly to the side. Styx stumbled into the corner of the room and fell as a kris blade stabbed forward where he had been crouching. The axe-wielder’s headless body rose from the floor, kris held in one hand as he picked up his head with the other and set it back on his shoulders. The head reattached itself to the man’s neck as he looked at Styx and sneered.
“I thought you might attempt a rescue,” the man said as his face shimmered and changed, becoming the image of a person that Styx had thought long dead, no matter how many times Prism had told him otherwise.
“Fasha,” Styx whispered, horrified. “How . . .?”
He didn’t get an answer, and instead Fasha moved toward him again, his kris blade leading. Kirra met him halfway, his sword cutting into Fasha’s stomach. Fasha stumbled forward but continued his thrust at Styx’s face, but his change of momentum from Kirra’s attack gave Styx the time he needed to move out of the way.
Fasha seemed unaffected by the large gash in his side, and when Styx tried to roll past him he shifted his feet and planted one squarely on Styx’s side and pushed him up against the wall. Fasha ignored Kirra completely as he prepared to stab forward with his knife, only to find that his hand was no longer attached to his wrist.
Before the kris had even hit the ground, it flew to Fasha’s other hand, which stabbed down at Styx’s neck. Styx leaned to the side as the kris moved in and the waved blade penetrated the wooden wall next to him. Before Fasha could retrieve the kris from the wood, Kirra had sheared off his other hand at the wrist, and then hacked at Fasha’s thigh, severing the leg that was holding Styx against the wall.
Styx pulled away as Fasha collapsed to the floor, turning an annoyed eye on Kirra. “Fine, if you’re so insistent then I’ll kill you first,” Fasha growled as he attached his severed wrist to the hand that still gripped the knife in the wall and the limb reattached itself. He quickly withdrew the blade even as Kirra slashed him across the chest and drove him back into the wall.
“What kind of monster are you!?” Kirra screamed as he pulled back and caught his breath.
“Let’s see, your people called me a Vhor,” Fasha said with a sneer as he crouched down and reattached his thigh. “I’m getting tired of this game. How many times are you going to cut off my limbs before you tire out?”
“Styx, get your friend out of here,” Kirra said neutrally. Styx opened his mouth to protest but Kirra had expected it and he shouted, “Now! Get out of here now!”
“Ah . . . You’re the martyr type,” Fasha said with a chuckle. “My favorite kind to kill.” He lunged forward as Kirra met him with his sword. They clashed together as Styx turned his attention back to getting the cell open.
Styx managed to find the right key and then rushed to the man lying on the cot, shaking him gently. Prism’s skin was warm and sweaty, and the only response he received was a light groan. He put his arm under Prism’s and struggled to lift him up. After draping Prism’s arm around his shoulder, he dragged Prism from the cell, but then paused to look at Kirra and Fasha before continuing to the door.
Fasha was a pile of limbs and chunks of flesh, though his eyes were still staring at Kirra, and his mouth still held the same evil sneer. Kirra kicked him in the face and then glanced once more toward Kobek’s corpse before moving over to assist Styx. Together they were able to move much faster and moved into the hallway.
“He’s burning up,” Styx explained between heavy breaths. “We have to get him to a Fedain as soon as possible.”
“A Fedain?” Kirra asked with a raised eyebrow. “Do you know any nearby? I sure don’t.”
“There has to be one somewhere,” Styx replied in desperation.
“They tend to avoid Pentalus,” Kirra said with a shake of his head. “Too many people force them to heal against their will.”
“I know of one,” Lady Alsha said as she appeared at the end of the hall. “I don’t know if we can persuade her to heal him, but we got what we came for.” As Kirra and Styx looked past her they saw a man being escorted by the rest of the soldiers. Styx recognized him as the same merchant who had been visiting the drop point where he first became involved in this mess. “I’ll do what I can to help your friend, even if it means calling on the last favors I have left.”
“You can’t mean . . .” Kirra began in disbelief.
“Yes. The Oracle,” Alsha answered with a nod. “But first we have to get him out of here. Where’s Kobek?”
Kirra looked back down the hallway toward the room and said, “He’s dead. He was killed by . . .” He stopped as Fasha stepped through the doorway of the room and grinned at him wickedly. “No time to explain. Help Styx and run!” He shifted Prism back to Styx and then ran back toward Fasha.
One of the female knights stepped up to assist Styx as Alsha dashed past them to assist Kirra. “Get out! We’ll follow as soon as we can!” She ordered, and though Styx looked back worriedly to see her engage Fasha, he was led on as the knight assisting him began carrying Prism forward. He fell in step beside them and kept moving, glancing back until Alsha and Kirra were out of sight.
They continued until they reached the outer door of the guildhall, and the Knights stepped outside and found a crowd of people waiting for them, many of who were holding torches that broke the cover of darkness they had hoped to slip out under.
“Heya, what’s this?” Fenri called out to the crowd, and a man stepped forward. He had dirty blonde hair and was carrying a makeshift club, and he gestured to where a number of men were being held by the crowd. Two were thugs that Styx recognized from the alleyway where Prism had been taken.
“You have Sabreeza?” the blonde man asked, then glanced at the prisoner held by the Knights. “Are you Knights?”
“Yes,” Fenri answered cautiously. “Let us through so that we can bring this man to justice.”
“Mister Kimbler,” Alsha’s voice said from behind them. Styx turned to see her and Kirra coming out through the doorway. “Please, let us take him with us.”
“So, it was you. The Knights actually did something,” the blonde man replied. “Let them go and take the others with them . . .” he began, but then one of Sabreeza’s thugs screamed as a knife took him in the chest. More knives followed, taking the other thugs in vital areas until Sabreeza himself grunted and fell forward between the Knights holding him, a knife protruding from the back of his skull.
Fasha jumped through the second story window from which he had thrown the knives, and each of the knives he had thrown were drawn back toward him by some supernatural force. He dashed across the cobblestones, heading straight for Prism and Styx. Kirra stepped in the way, shaking his head at Fasha as he raised his sword and prepared to defend them.
“Give me a torch!” Kirra shouted, and when no one responded, Fenri ran to the crowd and retrieved one before tossing it to Kirra who caught it out of the air.
Fasha eyed the torch and slowed his approach, then glanced at Prism and Styx before turning on his heel and running the other direction. He ran straight into the crowd and before Kirra could call to let him through Fasha had already slit the throats of several of the peasants before moving past their corpses and disappearing into the night.
“How did you know he was afraid of fire?” Styx asked when Kirra turned back toward them. Kirra shrugged as he stroked the hilt of his sword and then sheathed it at his side.
“Let’s just say I heard it from someone who knew what he was,” he said with a frown before turning to Alsha. “Can we get out of here? This man needs help.”
Alsha nodded and turned back toward the blonde man. “Mister Kimbler, thank you for your assistance. I hope you’ll make yourself available for questioning.”
“Of course,” the blonde man replied with a smirk, “I’m always happy to help the Knights.”
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