Friday, November 28, 2014

Page 891

As Xuan eyed the apparent gunman, he burst into a laugh that had the deep rumble of a man thrice his size. “I’ve never had the honor--no, the pleasure--of meeting House Blackburn in real battle. And seeing as you’ve refused every chance at clemency, I hope--” He paused, perhaps to see if someone was going to shoot him again. “--I hope you won’t disappoint me. I haven’t had any good mayhem in a while, and I hate when my opponents die too quickly.”

That made Hector blink, along with everyone else in the room--including Melchor, Salvador, and even Dimas, the Seadevil’s own cousin.

They did not have long to be surprised, however.

Xuan and Duvoss chose that opportunity to converge. In an instant, the little Rainlord’s body disappeared within a column of white smoke, billowing up and out in a way unlike any smoke Hector had ever seen.

And chaos erupted. Gunfire rang out from all around, as did the piping reverberations of destruction users, and Hector decided that staying in one place was a bad idea.

Stay close to Asad,’ Garovel told him coolly.

Hector concurred. The lone Sandlord launched up to the second floor’s gallery amidst a flurry of bullets, explosions, and shattering quartz, and Hector followed.

Their first opponent, Hector recognized straight away. That was the face of Ismael Blackburn, Lord of Marshrock. The man’s file had said his ability was potassium transfiguration, which manifested now in the violet flames leaping from Ismael’s body and shooting toward Asad like a volley of arrows.

Rather than stopping the flames with a wall, Asad doused completely them with a blanket of sand, allowing Hector to push closer with shield and materialized spear in hand.

Ismael severed a forearm and retreated, and Hector certainly did not need to be told why.

The shield took the explosion well, though the force still sent Hector flying. He grabbed the guardrail to catch himself, but it snapped right off and came with him, all the way to the other side of the chamber where his armored body left an impressive crack in the far wall.

For a second, he didn’t know where Garovel was, and then he realized that the reaper had somehow wriggled into his armor and latched onto his back. ‘Er--you okay in there?

It’s actually quite cozy,’ said Garovel. ‘Wish I’d thought of this earlier. Careful on your right.

Lord Salvador was there, dealing with three Blackburns all by himself.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Page 890

Hector saw the other man standing there on the second floor, watching them from over the hefty guardrail. “Hello, Seadevil. And company.”

“I see you have decided not to ambush us,” said Xuan. “That is appreciated.”

“I figured you would want to talk,” said Melchor.

Xuan chortled. “I’m surprised that you would.”

“I am in no hurry.”

Dimas took a step forward. “Only to tell us more lies, I imagine.”

Melchor made no response.

Xuan picked up the slack. “How’s about we stop all this nonsense, eh? Return the Elroy kids to us, and we’ll leave you alone.”

“I doubt that,” said Melchor. “I’m sure you have pressing questions now that would keep you here, regardless. Not that it makes a difference. I cannot give you the children.”

“Why not?” asked Xuan.

“I cannot tell you.”

Xuan pursed his lips. “Are you sure? Because I really hate having to fight scary guys like you.”

“Same old Xuan. I always did enjoy your ability to speak plainly. I would prefer to avoid this as well, if I am honest.”

“Then why are we doing this?”

“Because your loved ones wish to hurt my loved ones,” said Melchor.

Xuan frowned. “I don’t think that’s quite right.”

“Unfortunately, it is.”

Why can’t you tell us?’ asked Duvoss. ‘There must be a reason.

“Of course there is. And I cannot tell that to you, either.”

Several more people entered the foyer from the second and third floors. Hector recognized some of the faces from the photographs Lady Amaya had shown everyone.

Nine new souls,’ Garovel told him privately. ‘Melchor makes ten. I also sense the woman from the other day.

Hector remembered her. The cesium materializer, Silvia Blackburn. Already, Hector was wondering how much use he would be in this fight. He felt Asad touch his left pauldron and realized the man had soul-strengthened his armor for him again. He gave the Sandlord a grateful nod.

Lord Xuan pulled off his small coat and began rolling up his sleeves. “Well, then, if that’s how it’s going to be, then I hope--”

A gunshot cut him off, and Hector saw Xuan’s head twitch and heard the ping of the bullet’s ricochet. Xuan looked up to their right, but rather than looking up as well, Hector noticed the tiny bruise on the Seadevil’s temple where the bullet had struck him.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Page 889

Hector hadn’t wanted Garovel to join them on the mission, but the reaper insisted on it.

It’s fine,’ Garovel had said. ‘If we find Chergoa, I need to be there to talk to her; otherwise, she won’t know she can trust you.

I could just tell her I’m your servant.

Could you, Hector? Could you really?

...Y-yeah. I mean, probably.

Well, even so, I’m sure you’ll have need of my observational support.

Hector couldn’t tell if Garovel was being brave or stupid, but he knew that he didn’t have much room to argue about it. He wasn’t exactly an expert on how much value one should place upon one’s own life.

The group proceeded on, making slow progress. With the stony walls all soul-empowered, the reapers couldn’t sense where the enemy would be coming from, so they had to be cautious each time they entered a new room. Hector consulted one of the maps he’d been given and noticed they were coming up on a large complex of rooms which had been collectively marked as a foyer. It seemed to be the center of transit in this area, bearing two staircases, two elevators, a pair of bathrooms, and connecting three major hallways and a massive auditorium.

And when they approached its double doors, they found that the foyer’s lights were still on.

Xuan waddled through them without much care, and everyone followed.

With only Xuan’s exceptionally modest stature ahead of him, Hector got a clear view of the room. Spacious was the first word for it, bearing rectangular chambers on the first floor and staircases that led up to a second and third. Ornate was the second word, though perhaps not in the conventional sense. Polished rock was the theme of this place. The floor, the walls, the stairs, the guardrails, the chandeliers, even some of the furniture had been constructed from stone. The handful of chairs and sofas at least had darkly green cushions to go along with them, but it truly seemed like stone was utilized in every conceivable manner, save only where sheer practicality required otherwise.

The room reminded him of Warrenhold, actually--like what Warrenhold might have looked like in an earlier era, all furnished and obviously cared for. The only real difference to Hector’s eyes was that the shadowy stone still didn’t have quite the same pitch blackness that nightrock did.

Xuan stopped abruptly. “Ah. There you are, Darktide.”