Book II - Chapter 25

Chapter 25

 

[Farstrider Guild]

 

BOOM

With a rumble, the Guild hall shook beneath the pressure of a distant explosion, windows rattling and dust falling from the ceiling with a quiet resistance.

BOOM

From where she sat, Eveth watched the dust as it fell. Fragments and pieces twirling and spinning off into oblivion like a semi-invisible snow.

How long had those tiny portions of dirt and grit waited there, up among the rafters? Had they been here as long as she had, only now choosing to free themselves? Or were they falling against their will: wishing only to remain in the safe places they'd once resided.

Though the answer was uncertain, if she listened closely Eveth was almost certain she could hear them scream.

BOOM

She shook her head and closed her eyes as the room's spin settled, vision no long filled with dancing fragments or imagined assumptions. Of all people, she was the last one to be interpreting signs of fate among the mundane.

Especially on this night.

BOOM

The windows shook again, pressure difference stirring in the air. Rattling ornaments and shutters alike. She watched as a few of the older pieces rattling, violently shaking with thick glass of printed runesmoke. Low drumming beats that almost resembled music, eventually finding themselves muted against their cages of wood and stone-strand composite.

BOOM

The rest were far less elegant. Those cheap shutters of iron bands and discolored frames violently smacked against their hinges, throwing a riot of their very own to go along with whatever madness was occurring outside.

BOOM

On and on it went: an unholy racket and symphony, all together enough to drive a person crazy by noise alone.

Truthfully, Eveth felt she wasn't all that far from seeking solace within the welcoming arms of insanity. Seated far beneath the rafters which traced along the ceiling, or the neighboring shutters alongside them, at the center of the Guild's hall Eveth waiting on a stool. Her elbows leaned upon a long-emptied bar, and in her hands, she nursed a large glass of lukewarm ale. Idly content to spin and swirl its contents, off and on into a quiet spiral between deeps sips.

BOOM

“Will they shut it, already?” Eveth muttered. “For Light’s sake.”

BOOM

Another blast answered her question, almost immediately. This time, powerful enough to shake the glass- spilling some of its contents, much to Eveth’s displeasure.

“Shit.” She grumbled, pulling free the now-soaked parchment. The ink was already starting to blur together.

Calling All of The Magic Arts: The Chance to Serve!

Licensed or Unlicensed: By Emperor’s Decree and Sponsor!

For All Those Who Provide Their Service for The Empire-

Bleeding together, the next lines were ruined. She’d read it already, of course. At least a dozen times over, perhaps more.

It wasn’t like she was going to accept it, anyways.

BOOM

Eveth grimaced. Not even the brew was helping, now. This particular batch was from the second to last keg she'd tapped, dragging it out of the cellars by her own hands with only a small amount of magical assistance.

Though it had never been intended for domestic use, her personal take on the form of [Create Golem] had been more than adequate. Over engineered, perhaps, considering the task she’d set it to. Several drastic modifications from the tolerance of Empire texts weren’t exactly necessary for moving kegs of ale, but that was neither here nor there. It had moved the keg, all the same.

Just because it could have also done in a well-prepared enemy with brutal efficiency, as well, was just an added bonus.

BOOM

“Will you stop, already.” Eveth grumbled, as she cleared whatever residue was left in the glass. "Dhut up."

Window shutters, dust… and now her head. With so much spellcasting in the air, it was bound to raise the ambient concentrations, eventually. The inevitable pain behind her temples was inevitable, in these conditions. Drink in hand, or not.

BOOM

"Light help me, my aching skull." Eveth growled. "When will it end?"

BOOM

The pounding bravado of artificial thunder smashed down from its far-off sources, waves of sound and air shaking the very timbers above her head.

BOOM

It continued.

BOOM

"Gods and blood, damn them. Don't tempt me to go back for the second keg, you Royal-bastards..."

[Create Golem] was already on the brim of her mind's eye by the time those far-off impacts subsided. Her eyes darted to the doorways around her. The hall to her right, a pantry and maze of rooms to her left behind the bar. Beyond that, a large elevated floor in the open hall, above and to far back. Railing curving around in a horseshoe-like shape that widened out to either side.

She'd almost done it, then. Knowing full well someone else might waltz right in and catch her smuggling the last of the Guild’s alcohol out of the basement. Trouble just waiting to happen, considering she wasn’t the only one here tonight. Still, there were other uses for magic. Considering the ample supply of it floating airborne, the room was over saturated, and she'd been sitting here, unable to escape it for taking it in for hours now.

Burning some of residual mana was perhaps the simplest solution her problems. Cautiously, Eveth glanced about the room. Bad as the pressure building up behind her temples, seemed to be, it never hurt to check.

BOOM

Every detonation lighting up the sky beyond the Guild walls was further motivation to throw spells about, though. Light help her: if it got any worse, Eveth might actually consider taking one of those damned contracts to wander the sewers and trim-back the ever-swarming number of crypt rats. Flesh-rot wounds and stray ghouls be damned. She'd throw the coin down a dried out well, and it would still be worthwhile- if only to get rid of this migraine.

Contract like that, one a night like this? There was so much mana in the air, Eveth was certain she could blast spells until the sun came up, and still have reserves left over. Or she would, if the Soldiers already outside weren't all but guaranteed to have instructions to kill anyone stupid enough to be wandering the streets on-sight.

While rats and the occasional half-decomposed ghoul were Eveth's definitions of acceptable risks, Imperial soldiers were not.

With a long sigh, she let her shoulders slump back over the bar. Decisions like that were meant to be made sober, anyways. There would be no adventuring tonight, even if the Guild could use the coin. Eveth wasn't about to die over a headache.

Beside her, worn down stools of antique wood and chipped splinters waited quietly, each more in need of a dust-rag's attention than the last. A theme at seemed to remain consistent, no matter where Eveth let her gaze wander.

BOOM

Another blast, noise building up the steady pressure within her skull. The sounds were bad enough, but she knew that it was the mana getting to her now. The drink was failing to hold off the worst of the oncoming symptoms.

BOOM

Ambient and airborne: plain and simple density. The City of the Emperor was famous for higher gradients than normal. Famed for it even, finding few rivals in human controlled territory unless one counted the general radius about the Northern Continent's dungeon entrances or what had once been the Forest territory, should someone be stupid enough to try and go there.

She'd never heard a terribly convincing pitch to go and pay the region a visit, personally. Beasts, dangerous enough to lock the Empire's Westernmost Garrisons into a complete standstill, and just recently: disaster of an entirely different variety- or so some said. Reports from across the ocean were few and far between, these days. Rumor and fact were mixed together and jumbled up, until she couldn't be sure of much.

"Problems over there, can stay over there." Eveth muttered. "We've got enough of them here, as it is..."

She stopped, her words trailing as a feeling of unease settled over her, prickling along her scalp as if something were watching. Her hand reacted as she summoned a small orb.

[Light]

Wordlessly summoned, the spell flashed into a tiny brilliant sphere of warm yellow and white,

Simple, weak, but perfectly executed. No verses recited, no choice phrase or shortcuts: just willed into existence. Eveth felt the pressure within her skull lessened, however slightly; dimness of the hall seeming to retreat off into the distance beyond the bar.

Looking up to the wall behind the old wood and stools, Eveth's eyes narrowed to see the Guild's crest, same as always. The large portrait of metal and faded coloration, it seemed to stare at her from its perch, eight eyes glaring with expressions that fell beyond any ordinary human comprehension. Even after years, she still wondered about the blasted thing.

"Why, of all the creatures in the world?" Eveth asked, as she returned its stare.

Never blinking, never turning away, the paint and steel seemed to see right on through her, down the way towards the barred doors at the hall's entrance. The longer she watched it, the worse it seemed.

"Of all the beasts they could have picked, you would have thought they'd go with something a bit more... traditional." Eveth sighed, letting her spell flash out with a sigh. The thin drain on her reserves ceased, quickly filling back to that unbearable pressure behind her eyes. "What are you looking at, that you'd need so many eyes, anyways?"

The Guild's crest didn't answer. Not that she truly expected it to, even after several glasses of ale.

"You're an ugly son of a bitch, you know that?" She added.

Again, the Guild crest took the highroad, of silence.

BOOM

BOOM

BOOM

Her head was fit to burst, or so it seemed.

It was a taste on the air now, mana so dense she might as well have just found a hole down to the upper dungeons. Something had to be done, and soon.

[Light]

Another orb floated into the air, replacing the first.

Eveth glanced about, casually searching the room and confirming her solitude.

[Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light]

Five more orbs burst into the air around her, each silent as the first, wordlessly cast with the barest gesture from Eveth's hands. The pressure beneath her temples lessened again, prompting a long breath of relief.

"Thinking they can ruin my night off." Eveth let a grin reaching her face, pointing towards the Guild’s crest. "Watch this, you four-headed bastard."

The magic began to spin.

There were reasons she shouldn't have several glowing orbs of refined air and soul magic floating about her person. Quite a few of them, actually- many more than most trained mages might have to worry about. None of those mattered to Eveth in the slightest though. Not while she was alone behind closed doors.

The orbs began to dance.

It had been a long time since she played this sort of game, but the ale was in her blood now, and no one was around to judge her for it. Besides that, in theory, the Guild's Mage License held effect while she was in the building, contract or not.

Probably.

It was a noted legal grey area.

[Light] [Light] [Light]

Nine of them now, each floating about among the ceiling and rafters like paper lanterns on the wind. Eveth pressed and spun them about with her mind's eye, letting the colors swirl and adjust. Then came the shaping, to spears, to swords, to shields: the basic sequence of any normal mage in training, multiplied by several levels of difficulty. Simple air magic, with the shaping of soul laid atop it- within it. To pass a second year's examinations, an aspiring mage would need to be able to do this for a single orb.

 [Light]

Eveth had ten going now, and she still hadn't reached her limit- not just yet. Twisting them together, she made them run and form more than just static shapes.

A glowing wolf ran along the wall, bursting into several more, leaping and rolling with no care for the constraints of gravity. Ten wolves running along among the dust that fell from the rafters, as if a pack through snow.

[Light] [Light]

Two more and her limit was almost up, but with so much mana she might do just one more. She might just crack through past the limits.

Perhaps on a night like this, and only this.

[Ligh-

BOOM

The sudden sound made her jump, spells fluttering as her concentration lapsing as the lights and colors wavered and failed. The wolf of glowing blues and silver scattered to a rainbow of specks, then mist and then...

Whatever had been in that moment, seized and held with a glint of something more, was left behind.

Plain old dust quietly fell from its distant perch upon the rafters. Dim and grey as it always had been, while the impacts continued. The noise pushing away all traces of what had transpired

BOOM

BOOM

BOOM

From outside, further explosions shook the air, reverberating through the antique wood and new-age composite alike. Apparently, the riots in those slums had spilled out further than normal.

BOOM

A large round of riots.

BOOM

Very large, it seemed.

In all of the years she'd been a resident of this city, Eveth couldn't remember another evening quite on par with this one. It gave her a bad feeling.

BOOM

Perhaps those explosions off in the distance were a mixed blessing.

BOOM

Still, Royal orders or not, Eveth wished that those damned Impiral Mages would let up with it soon. Each blast that echoed through the walls was enough to make her head spin, and that was without the alcohol's help. How many glasses had she partaken in, now? Four... no, five?

Enough for her to notice it, at the very least.

BOOM

Not nearly enough for her to escape that ungodly racket.

BOOM

The pressure had returned, as if it never left.

"Make it bloody stop." Eveth growled, fists forming on the growing urge to smack the bar. It wouldn't help her situation one bit, but it was still tempting. "Damn it all, you're just wasting the spells! So, the sky needs to be lit up! You could do twice as much with half, if you were smart about it." Her let her palms flatten out, cooling on the once polished wood beneath them.

How quickly it came back to haunt her. Her head ached.

BOOM

"Damn it all, damn it all, damn it all..." Eveth muttered as she reached for her glass again. "They're just wasting mana stones at this point. Wasting stones, while torturing me."

When she had been in the Academy, one of her instructors had done a lecture on the very spell they were likely casting off in the sky, no doubt. The proper [Night-Sun] spell was done by a calibrated mana crystal and firing rod. Something which had the force to match whatever caliber and density stone was used. Of course, she'd found a better way to perform the spell during her second year, but-

BOOM

She gritted her teeth. None of that mattered now. Who in their right mind would listen to an unlicensed mage speak of magic theory?

Still, Eveth could only imagine what crude spell was used to launch that casting airborne, somewhere high overhead. She could picture the abomination clearly. Some horribly inefficient rune-set, laid into some god-forsaken press to be mass produced on the premise of functionality and assembly-line methods alone. Just staring at the froth on her glass she could think of ten different ways they might achieve the effects above, most of which were no doubt superior to whatever method was actually in use at the current moment.

BOOM

The arrogance of it all.

Not only did her skull ache, but each crashing blast in the sky above the city was followed by an ungodly sum of wasted mana. Even from a distance, locked away behind walls of stone, the taste of the air was making her teeth itch.

How many stones had they wasted tonight? Just because they had control of the Dungeon entrances- what kind of money had been spent just in the last few hours? How many breakthroughs would she have made with that kind of capital funding her?

BOOM

Eveth wasn't sure that she even wanted to know. It was a daunting figure, no doubt.

BOOM

One dungeon harvested gemstone overhead was probably worth a decent fraction of every asset the Guild still had its hands on, and at the rate those shots were going out...

BOOM

Taxes might be going up.

As if that would solve anything.

BOOM

The gift of her bloodline, rare for someone of common birth: one of the few downsides to being an [Adept] Mage, to be in the presence of saturated mana and not casting something was a struggle.

BOOM

"I've had enough! When in the First King's name will it end?" Past the point of preserving her dignity, Eveth shouted loudly, rubbing once more at her temples as the urge to cast something- anything, grew. "Stop this misery already-"

BOOM

[Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light] [Light]-

[LIGHT]

"Ha!" A hoot of laughter broke out from somewhere above, followed by cheerful encouragement. "Go Eveth! Go! Make another one!"

The voice stopped her short, her hand drawing to a fist that snuffed out each one of the casts with an immediate cut as she turned towards the source of the laughter. Her eyes keened in on the chuckling figure, and even in the sudden dimness of the Guild hall, she could make out the pale face and gleaming white teeth now leaning over the rafters above.

 "You know, you're really quite talented. I don't think I've ever seen a mage cast so many of those in one go, and I some rather impressive tutors when I was younger."

Younger. Eveth snorted at the notion of it.

"How long have you been hiding up there Dren?" She replied, annoyance clear as she turned back towards the bar. "I thought you'd have been in your bunk hours ago."

"Well..." The youth paused, raising a hand to his plump chin in mockery of thoughtful composure. "I've been here long enough." The boy swung forward, then backward with a foolhardy motion beside the balcony as he grinned wide again. "Say, how exactly did you make that wolf look so real-"

"What wolf?" Eveth gestured to the empty hall. "I don't see anything."

"Oh, come on now! Don't be like that Eveth!" Dren's cheeky smile faded somewhat, disappointment clear. "You were doing some real magic a minute ago. It was quite impressive."

"I never cast a thing, Dren." She replied bluntly. "You're mistaken."

"Sure, I won't tell a soul- but did I hear you, earlier? You actually want this to stop?" The youth disappeared momentarily from her view. "I'm right about that much, at least."

"Stop?" Eveth scowled. "Of course I bloody do, there's so much mana on the air right now I'm choking in it." Spinning her stool, she pointed towards the ceiling. "They keep this up, and I'm going to start blasting it back at them."

"Well that would be a sight. I certainly look forward to it. Especially, if it turns out to be anything like those wolves." Distantly, now Eveth could hear wood creaking from the far back of the second floor Dren replied with excitement. "But, I'm sorry to say Eveth, this night is only just getting started!" The familiar clatter of shutters opening "clacked" as a swell of night air rushed though, filling the hall with a faint scent of smoke. "Ha! I knew it, they've called in the fleet reserves!"

Unbridled enthusiasm: not usually something Eveth could appreciate, even on the best of days- and certainly not now.

Somehow it seemed that for some, unlike herself, the imperial's [Night-sun] casts outside were having a profoundly opposite effect.

"Gods above, help me." Eveth half muttered a response as she turned to slump back over the bar. "Dren, if you've got even half a brain in that head of yours, I'd get down from there."

"Down? Down and miss the show? Half the Fifth district is up in smoke right now!" Rushing back to the railing to stare back at her with a wide grin, the boy looked as far from saintly as Eveth could possibly imagine.

An odd appearance, especially for the only remaining user of faith magic of the Farstrider Guild.

"Shouldn't you be outside tending to the wounded then, your holiness?" She growled, leaning back. "Take your training and go out to care for the wrenched masses, healing the injured and feeding poor?"

"Me?" The boy laughed aloud as he turned another look towards the opened windows behind him. "Oh, heavens no, Eveth. Empire reserves have been pulled in by now, and honestly from the looks of things this might go until morning." Leaping back away, the youth pulled open another set of shutters, peering out through an angle with wide eyes. "I think those soldiers would probably put me on a spike, or shoot me full of arrows just like the rest of them. If they didn't burn me, first-"

The boy's reply came as he reeled back, turning towards the window just as another flash of light burst in, gust of wind smacking the shutters both wide open with a loud "Slam."

BOOM

"Woah!" Dren shouted, hopping back to the window with renewed passion. "Did you see that Eveth! That was a big one! Come on up here, you really should see these!"

"Dren, you're a damn fool." Eveth replied, turning back to the bar. "I'd close the shutters and get away from the windows before someone who actually cares sees you."

"Close them and miss this? Light, I think that was right outside the building!"

"You're asking for it Dren. If you don't get down from there and lock those back, you're going to be in a world of trouble."

"Trouble? From you?" The cheeky response followed with another cheerful grin from the balcony. "Me, trouble?"

"Not from me. I'm just telling you how it is."

"Well I'm telling you Eveth, by Gods and thunder, you should come up here and watch this yourself. I mean, have you honestly even looked outside? I count three- no four Royal ships airborne! Four of them visible in full battery: and they're still casting! That's part of the most powerful fleet in the world out there!" Dren turned back towards the window down from the main hall's balcony, shoulders leaning in beside the wooden frame of the second-floor's open shutters.

As if on cue, a loud "Crack" sounded, simultaneous with a blinding flash of light that sent the youth stumbling from his perch with a hoot.

BOOM

"Holy hells! It's like green daylight-"

Hiiiisss- BOOM

The next sound wave knocked him to the floor, rolling back with a shout. "That was close! Really close!" Scrambling, the youth forced himself back to his feet. "There's someone outside Eveth!"

"DREN!"

Eveth flinched from the unexpected shout, almost knocking her glass to the table as a door behind the bar flew open with a horrible crash.

"What in the name of dead gods is that window doing open!" The deep voice shouted, emerging from the shadowed threshold to reveal an angry face- very angry.

The kind of rage that came with a purple sort of hue.

"DREN! You damned fool!" A large-framed man in leather armor barreled his way through from the stockrooms so fast he almost seemed to generate his own wake in the air, moving towards the stairs as he shook a thick fist of deeply tanned skin. "I thought I told you to close those blasted shutters! In fact, I know I did!"

“Alem! Hold on-“ Dren was far too slow.

“I will not!” The large warrior was already up and past the stairs with speed akin to some sort of earned skill, unnaturally loud voice booming just as loud as the magic outside. "Close these damn shutters!"

"But, wait Alem! Hold on, the skyships are just starting to summon another round of castings, and I think there's a-"

"I said CLOSE THEM!" Dren's resistance was swept side by massive arms.

SLAM

The force of the shutters closing shook the Guild hall almost as much as the [Night-sun] casts had, and Eveth couldn't help but wince as she saw the man turn on the unfortunate Paladin, simmering rage painted clearly on his expression.

"But there's someone out there Alem!" Dren protested. "I think they're fighting!"

"What's outside, stays outside." The warrior growled, not slowing in the slightest to close another set the youth had opened.

SLAM

"But Alem, I-"

"No, Dren! I thought you were finally past taking these kind of risks!"

"But there's no harm in it Alem, really! I was just taking a look-"

"Just taking a look were you? What if someone decided to take a shot at you? Eh?" A shaking fist unfurled to point at the closed shutters, spittle all but flying now as the warrior's shout grew louder. "You remember what they did to old Drothers, don't you? You been with us long enough to remember, haven't you? Streets aren’t safe, especially not now!"

"I... I do." The reply came with a sudden lack of intensity, voice faltering. "I remember."

"Do you?"

"I do." The boy seemed to shrink beneath the onslaught of words. "I really do Alem."

The man sighed, scarred hands settling down upon the boy's shoulders as he spared a glance down below at Eveth, displeasure clear.

"You're still young Dren, and in youth we all make stupid choices. I remember it." He spared another glance at Eveth.

Quite a dismissive look, if she had to put a trait on it.

"But now's not the time to be taking risks. Especially not on a night like this." Eveth watched the larger man pull the youth up, hand settling on Dren's shoulder to push the youth towards the stairs with a solemn grimace. "Nights like this get people killed." He muttered. "Just because you can heal a wound, Dren, that doesn't make you invincible. Faith's full of dead men."

It was true, and Eveth knew the youth certainly needed to hear it, for all the little good it would probably do. Still, sitting on the outside of this mess, she found herself looking away. Her eyes quickly fell, seeking towards her glass as further stern words continued.

It wasn't quite right, but Eveth couldn't shake the impression that that she was on the bordered edge of eavesdropping now. An innocent bystander who just happened watching something unfortunate and embarrassing.

"This Guild's a fucking disaster waiting to happen." She whispered, quietly reaching back towards the glass of ale. "Complete, fucking, disaster." She frowned, disappointed, as she found it empty. Of course, she'd known it would be. If there was ever something to be called a tragedy…

Perhaps she really might find reason to draw up another Golem-

KNOCK KNOCK

Eveth froze again.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.

Now there was a noise which didn't fit the night's theme.

Slowly, her head turned- seeking out Dren and Alem as they reached the bottom steps before her head half-turned towards the entrance of the hall. Thick iron bands holding solid cut timber. Dren and Alem looked as well, Dren uncertain, and Alem with a curious expression.

"Expecting someone, Eveth?" Alem asked quietly. "Late night company, perhaps?"

"No, unless you think it's one of yours." Eveth didn't entertain the warrior's humor for even a second as she reached over the bar for the staff propped beside the empty barrel. "Besides, I don't court madmen."

"Aye..." The Dark-skinned man rumbled his reply, pushing the younger man behind the bar with a light shove as he too retrieved a large hammer from its resting mount beside the stairs. "I suppose you wouldn't."

KNOCK KNOCK

"Someone's out there, I told you." Dren muttered from behind the bar, stating the obvious as he stared at the Guild doors with wide eyes. "What do you think they want?"

"To come inside I imagine." Eveth muttered, her staff lifting to point at the door. "What else?"

"There's the question, isn't it?" Alem's voice rumbled, war-hammer settling in quietly on his broad shoulder as he took a slow step forward. "Think it might be Ral and Tuth?" He asked gravely. "Or Varar?"

"No, they're still out on a contract. Two days until they're back." Eveth replied. "Sent a bird back three days ago, they were still with the convoy, and Varar's been gone for even longer."

KNOCK KNOCK

The doors kicked the slightest layer of dust from their wide beams.

"What should we do?" Dren asked nervously. "Should we open it? They might need help."

KNOCK KNOCK

"Are you daft?" Eveth spit back. "No, we're not opening it."

"I'm not daft Eveth, what if they need help?" Dren hissed. "What if they're from a Guild? Doesn't Farstrider have sister Guilds on the coast? What if it's one of them?"

"Destitute lots that are even worse off than we are? Sure." Eveth hissed, hands flexing along the staff, fingers feeling the familiar polished grooves her hands hand run into the wood. "They would have sent a messenger."

KNOCK KNOCK

"Dren... get back." Alem's hands wrapped around his own weapon, posture shifting as his eyes set themselves upon the door. The war-hammer lifted until it was in position for a heavy downward stroke. "Now."

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK-

The knocking stopped, resolving to an eerier silence.

"Have they left?" Dren asked quietly, feet still glued to the floor. "Maybe they've gone?"

"I highly doubt that." Eveth muttered, spells floating to the front of her mind's eye. "You think it's a Ghoul, Alem?"

"Maybe."

"Shit." She replied.

Trained, honed, sharpened- like a warrior's skill, her spells were ready, now. Air and soul seemed promising, but the impacts on the door had her doubting those would holding a threat capable of shaking such a thick door like these. Someone with strength would push right through them. She could go with Earth, but there wasn't much material to work with unless she fetched another [Golem] from the basement's foundation.

"I told you to get back, Dren." The warrior moved further in front of them, hammer still readied. "Behind us."

"But what if..." The young healer's question faded to nothing as they all stared, and the doors stared back.

Silence.

Behind Eveth, she felt the eight eyes of the crest drilling into her back, as if the metal and paint were actually bearing witness to the strange scene unfolding. She'd never hated the guild's outdated mascot more than now.

The silence lapsed, stretching onward until Eveth felt like dancing on her toes. The other two seemed equally disturbed.

"Are they-"

KNOCK KNOCK - KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK – KNOCK KNOCK

The doors shook, iron bound wood trembling under the heavy hits, effort from the opposing side redoubled. Just watching those old hinges creak, Eveth felt unease.

The doors had to be half as old as the Guild, made of real wood. If her memory served, age was rarely kind to such material.

"Dren, go get the Guild Master before-"

CRACK

The wooden piece barring the threshold splintered, then broke entirely as the doors to fly inwards with a final and massive impact.

"Son of a Dwarf." Alem uttered, as the tempest outside ushered in with winds and lights flashing. “What do you want!” He shouted. "State your business!"

Standing on their doorstep, someone waited.

Alight in the sky, the tempest was flashing with thunderous magics and horrible fires. The few clouds among them scattered to the detonations high overhead, brilliant strikes of artificial lighting: but before it all, a lone figure stood, cloak rippling in the wind.

“What do you want?” Alem shouted again, stepping forward.

Silently, fearlessly, the newcomer stepped into the hall, eyes dead set and forward without the slightest care for the staff and hammer pointed in their direction. In the glowing street behind them, Eveth could see green flames burning. Bodies… ghouls?

Truth be told, she was more worried about whatever magic had been cast. Licks of green flame still sparked and shuddered in the wind, feeding on it until even the bones were wasting to ashes in the wind.

Before she'd realized it, the trespasser had closed the gap between them.

"STOP" Eveth ordered in a panic as she summoned her full array to visible space: twelve spells of light, soul and air flashing to lances above her head: [Barrage] attacks readied to solidify at any moment. Her own terror had undoubtedly reached her face by now, gaze fixing itself about the rag wearing person before them. Searching out upon the stains of blood and gore, of wounds and evidence of combat. More than anything else though, Eveth felt her eyes fixated upon the figure's shoulder, locking onto the glowing blue form of a serpent that flicked its tongue in Eveth's direction while callously letting out a long hiss.

“Ssssss…”

The sound drowned out the storm, overreaching even the heavy impacts of the city outside as slowly, the doors swung shut, weighted hinges pulling the separate halves back to a whole with a resounding:

SLAM

There they stood: Alem with Warhammer readied, Eveth with her magic wavering- not unlike an archer held back to loose. Before them the lone stranger stared back, expression alien and indifferent to the danger before them.

Then, in the most horribly broken excuse of dialect Eveth had ever heard, the figure spoke aloud.

"We're here to join."