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I get back to my feet and move as quietly as possible, making my way to a chamber on the side. I enhance my hearing and eyesight with a construct, focusing on my surroundings, hearing rain more clearly. That’s not very useful.

Looking around, I find tracks of mud in the hallway, heading deeper inside the mansion. They’re rather discreet, whoever came in wiped their feet. I open every door, to ensure that I’m not missing anything.

The neighboring rooms are empty so I follow the footprints. There are a lot of them. A small group that headed towards the Lordling’s office. I grit my teeth to control my anger. Probably Crows, I shouldn’t pick a fight no matter how much I want to kill these murderers.

Wait, they’re mercenaries, they wouldn’t leave gold behind. I slow my pace down and walk closer to the wall, taking one step at a time and making sure that my chain-mail doesn’t make enough noise that it can be heard through the rain.

Crack. Wood breaks apart. It seems to originate from the entrance behind me. I freeze, crouching down. I turn my ear to the sounds to listen closely. Creak. Someone is forcing the door aside.

Fuck. I slip into a side room, finding a low table with two couches to either side of it. I close the door behind me, leaving a tiny space so that the voices of those entering the mansion can reach me.

Shit, the butler is dead.” Edusa swears.

Has been for at least half an hour, couldn’t have been Lady Elizabeth.” A voice that I recognize replies.

Who was it? He’s with Edusa, and she was with Templars. Of course, Emffrey! Fuck. I’ve seen him fight, I don’t think I can handle him.

Sergeant, split up your men and search this mansion.” Edusa orders. “Arrest anyone you find. Be warned, Lord Patrick may be here, he disappeared during the battle. Both Duke Meria and Master Amand want him alive, don’t mess up.”

We won’t, Lady Edusa.” A man replies.

Can’t stay here. I look around the room but find no windows. Fuck it. I suddenly open the door and rush into the hallway, planning to make a run for it.

By the Emperor’s name, I order you to stop!” Emffrey calls out. I pause, unwilling to disobey that a command made in His name.

I’ll answer as best as I can if you keep your distance.” I reply, turning around.

This isn’t up for debate, Lady Elizabeth, Master Amand wishes to question you personally.” Emffrey replies harshly.

Lady Edusa and the other Templar are standing to either side of him, six soldiers deployed at their backs. I hesitate for a moment, uncertain about what to do. I don’t want to challenge the Order, but in a way I already have. Surrendering now would only lead me to the chopping block.

The downpour recedes as I hesitate and voices reach my ears from down the hallway. Emffrey takes a step forward in my direction. I hurriedly raise my hand and signal him to stop. I then bring my index in front of my helmet to telling him to be quiet.

Get those spider webs off me!” Patrick orders in a rough voice.

We’re not your servants.” A woman replies coldly.

And not about to be after what we heard you do to the last one.” A man adds.

Where is our gold?” The woman asks.

It’s on the.” The Lordling makes a few wet coughs. “Floor in the.” Cough. “Entrance.”

Our contract will be fulfilled once you’re at the docks, Lord.” The man says.

Once I’m on the boat.” Patrick counters and the man stays quiet. “Help me out of my chair.”

I point behind myself, looking at Emffrey. He frowns, pondering my silent question. Edusa makes the decision for him, nodding. She approaches me quietly, a bit of annoyance on her youthful face. Her hard leather armor is much more discreet than my chain-mail.

I tense when Emffrey and the other Templar follow her, the soldiers on their tail. But they walk past me, heading towards the Lordling’s office. I don’t move, unwilling to give Patrick an advance warning by making too much noise.

Be careful, damn low-born!” He whines loudly.

Just lift the chair.” The woman mercenary orders.

Slowly.” Patrick groans.

My left limb shakes a little, reminding me that I haven’t eaten anything since noon. I should escape while they’re busy, as soon as the fight starts. I gaze towards the front door but my eyes stop on Sacit’s body and I feel fury, realizing only now that this maniac killed her.

She was only trying to save her own life, she wasn’t guilty of anything. I turn around and slowly make my way through the hallway. He isn’t going to escape the consequences of his actions this time, I‘ll make sure of that.

The Templars lead the way, their kite shields raised in front of them, Edusa and the six soldiers form a column behind them, hands on their swords.

I assemble a few lion strikes as we approach the Lordling’s office. I don’t have enough flow left to play around with lightning constructs, they’re not always effective and I only have enough energy for two full powered ones so I can’t risk it.

We have company.” A deep voice speaks up. It resounds through the mansion, making it hard to find where it came from.

How?! They should still be buried in the rubble!” Patrick exclaims, throwing himself into another coughing fit.

Lord Patrick is wanted for questioning in a matter of rebellion, mercenaries!” Edusa calls out towards the office. “Surrender him to our custody and you will be rewarded.”

Two Templars, two Nobles, six soldiers.” The deep voice adds, unperturbed.

Kill the Templars first, we can deflect it all as long as they die.” The woman orders.

The two temple guards rush towards the office’s door but it is slammed shut in their faces and barred with a heavy object a moment later. Four doors open on either side of us, revealing a short spear and buckler wielding mercenary behind each one.

The Crows throw lightning fast stabs, instantly taking two soldiers out of the fight by crossing their attacks. I look over my shoulder while their squad reacts, finding one running at me.

I activate a lion strike and spin around, throwing a sweeping blow aimed at his center mass. The hallway is so narrow that the scythe’s point extending out of the hammerhead brushes against the wall, splintering the wood, but it doesn’t slow it down much.

The man doesn’t try to attack, he angles his buckler and takes a knee to deviate my blow. Clang. I don’t let it bother me, taking a step back as I pass the hammer around my back, activating a second lion strike as soon as the first runs out.

The mercenary stands and leaps forward, throwing a jab at my thigh in the same movement. He fails to realize how quickly I am in time to pull back his weapon and I cut his spear’s shaft in half with my weapon’s blade.

I spin my hammer around once more, activating a third lion strike. The man widens the distance between us, drawing a long knife from a sheath behind his back. I follow him, focusing on his buckler.

When my swing draws in, he hunkers down and angles it one more time over his shoulder. I compensate in the last second, using all my strength to deviate my swing downward.

Sh…!” He yelps, but is cut off by my weapon’s impact.

The mercenary is blasted down and away. He rebounds against the floorboards and hits the wall with his head, directly passing out. I turn to the battle, assessing whether I’m needed or not.

There are three more mercenaries than before. Two soldiers fell, their chests pierced in several places. It cost the Crows one of their own but they did injure the other Templar.

Emffrey and Edusa are fighting back to back while the last couple soldiers are retreating down the hallway, towards me, chased by mercenaries. I don’t have enough flow to fight through this but I need to help or they’ll get slaughtered.

I assemble a signaling construct to tell my left arm to fight for survival, not cutting it in half this time. My limb and, as expected, I lose control. It starts swaying back and forth as the cool feeling or whatever it injects me with spreads through my torso. I send the broken food signal, just to be safe, make it understand that it isn’t time to eat despite our hunger.

I head out towards the two Crows battling the soldiers. I modify my last two lion strikes, shrinking the timer segments until they’re back to their original size.

Step aside.” I utter with a mad giggle, feeling bloodthirsty.

The soldiers are too busy saving themselves to look back but they do move closer to the walls, leaving enough space to walk in-between them. I trust the limb’s ability to defend me and raise my hammer over my head with my right arm.

The two Crows glance at each other, taking a second to synchronize their attacks. I take advantage of that to throw my overhead lion strike. They counter-attack instantly.

I avoid one spearhead with a sidestep while my left arm slaps the other aside. They were quicker but my swing’s speed catches the one on the right by surprise. It lands on his shoulder with so much force that it turns the entire area into a blood and bone mush.

His comrade launches a second jab as soon as he pulls his spear back. I leap backward, recovering my hammer. He follows through with the attack. It hits me dead center but lacks the power to pierce my chain-mail.

I bring my weapon around to launch a swing as I prepare to activate my last prepared lion strike. My limb moves to intercept another stab from the mercenary. I leap forward, activating the construct. My attack accelerates and the hammerhead impacts the man’s buckler, crushing the arm holding it.

I step away from my injured foe. The soldiers can deal with him. Edusa and Emffrey are holding their own against the last three Crows, but the other Templar is on the ground, immobile and likely dead. They don’t need me to finish this.

I‘m going to make sure that he doesn’t escape.” I tell the soldiers.

I make my way back to the front door, stopping in front of the Sacit’s body. I put the gold and jewelry away inside the sack, tying it to my belt before walking outside.

It’s still raining but not as much as before. I hurry along the mansion’s wall, headed towards the building’s right wing to look for the office’s window. I turn the corner, finding Patrick’s carriage speeding up towards the street behind me.

The woman driving pulls on the horse’s reins to try to run me over, or force me to move away at least. Shit. I step back and assemble a signaling construct, sending the food message to the limb.

I regain control of it at the last second, just in time to bring the arm back and plunge it through the carriage’s wooden partitions when it rushes past me.

The vehicle pulls me off my feet with so much force that I feel the tendrils yank on my ribs. My body impacts the side of it. I black out for a second but don’t lose consciousness as the substance my limb injected me with is still flooding my system and smothering the pain.

I let myself dangle on the side of the carriage for a few tens of seconds as I secure my grip. I then look for a way to use my hammer to stop it other than destroying a wheel.

I hear movement inside, metal dragging against wood. Fuck. I assemble a skin hardening construct and activate it without waiting. A moment later, something sharp and pointed pokes at my limb.

My flow runs out with this and the construct dissipates. I don’t have time to find a better option. I bring my hammer back and jam the handle inside the wheel in front of me.

Crack. The wooden spokes break, tearing my weapon out of my hand and sending it flying ahead of the carriage. I let go of my grip and jump away just as the carriage starts dipping sideways.

I heavily impact the ground, rolling on myself several times to absorb the momentum. Screech. Metal and wood scrape against the pavement. I get back on my feet, ignoring the dull pressing coming from my new bruises.

The carriage slides as the horses turn to avoid a building on the other end of the street, it crashes against the wall. The woman mercenary that was driving is projected into the wall, making a small scream.

I run up to my hammer, taking it out of a small gutter on the side of the road. I shake it a few times to get rid of the water and make my way to the wreckage.

The other Crow steps out, alone. He walks up to the woman and helps her climb down. Window slaps open all along the street, heads peaking out as they look for the cause of the ruckus. I keep walking on, staying focused on the fight ahead of me.

A few people walk out, hurrying towards the carriage when the woman points at it. The Crows then turn to me, splitting up to take a position on either side of the street.

As I approach, they fall into low stances, short spears coiled and ready to strike. My stomach and limb grumble in unison. I bring my hammer back, reading myself to take a wound if it means I can take one of them out.

You‘ve lost.” I utter coldly. “Your friends are dead.”

Fuck you!” The man replies angrily.

Ill let you go, just walk away.” I frown, losing patience.

He is worth something to the Duke, let us take him.” The woman tells me.

No.” I reply, rushing her.

She hops away, avoiding my swing. I dodge her counter by using my hammer’s momentum and throw another blow that she easily avoids. The man catches up with us, sneaking around my back.

I pretend not to notice, letting him get closer. Come on, one more step… now! I jump backward, slamming into the mercenary and sending him sprawling to the ground.

However, the woman doesn’t give me time to take advantage of it as she launches a flurry of weak jabbing attacks, forcing me to retreat. None of them would pierce my chain-mail, but I’m not fully protected either.

Let go of me, dirty peasants!” The Lordling yells.

Are you crazy?! We’re helping you!” Someone replies.

Attack her! I am a Lord and I order you to kill that woman!” He screams madly.

The crowd is parting, putting some distance between themselves and the maniac. I widely swing my hammer to force the two Crows back. The mercenaries avoid it and hesitate, no doubt feeling like they’re losing control over the situation and wondering whether they’d be able to discreetly handle Patrick.

We’ll recoup our losses with his scarf, Joeri.” The woman tells the man.

We need him to get cleared now that the carriage is ruined.” He protests.

Templars might be alive so that probably won’t work anyway. We’ll have a better chance of escaping by leaving now for the docks.” She counters and turns to me. “You’ll let us go, right?”

Sure, I don’t care about you.” I reply, keeping an eye on them.

They start walking backward on the street, towards the Lordling. My left limb trembles as they depart and my hunger intensifies. I take a deep breath and follow them, keeping a safe distance so as not to frighten them.

Patrick is making a disgusted grimace as an older looking man helps him stand and walk out of the carriage. He has a bloody slash on his face, half his nose is missing.

His red tunic has a large tear in it, from Master Amand’s air blade construct, but it doesn’t seem like he’s injured under it. There are spider webs in his hair and his movements lack energy, he has a sword at his waist when he was unarmed back at the rebel mansion.

I stop moving, allowing the Crows to turn their backs on me. The crowd parts in front of them, many had been observing our fight and are now staring at us with suspicion and curiosity.

What are you doing?” Patrick asks, confused.

Getting paid.” The man replies, seizing the purple scarf and pulling it off his neck.

You dare!” He yells, clumsily seizing his weapon’s handle.

Don‘t.” I tell the Crows who react to the threat by raising their short spears. I make my way through the crowd. “You got what you wanted, he’s mine now.”

The Lordling turns to me, staring with wide scared eyes. He fails to draw his sword several times, succeeding at the fourth attempt. The mercenaries walk away, picking up their pace as soon as they’re clear.

It wasn’t my fault! That treacherous servant betrayed me!” He exclaims.

Your rebel faction is destroyed, surrender and face the consequences.” I reply in a harsh tone, letting my anger take over.

My hunger seems to meld with the fury, and I almost unconsciously raise my hammer, approaching him. He weakly waves his sword between us to hold me back, gripping at the old man who is now trying to let go of the Lordling.

I can still be useful! I can help you with Lady Lance, I know her!” He desperately cries. I ignore him, taking another step.

He walks back, dragging the old low-born that helped him along to use as a shield. The man tries to shake the arm off but Patrick places his sword over his throat. Cries of fear and panic rise from the crowd.

Don’t move!” He yells. I freeze, caught by surprise and unsure of whether he’s talking to me or not. “It can’t end here, this isn’t my destiny.” He adds, wailing, before noticing that I obeyed him. He stares at me for a few seconds, a wicked expression takes form on his face. “You’re like her!” He exclaims, laughing. He stops abruptly. “Drop your hammer or I’ll kill him.” He barks.

I drop my weapon, hoping that he would relax. He doesn’t, he pushes the old man forward instead, approaching me with his sword at the ready. People start shouting and throwing stones at the Lordling.

Let him go!” A woman yells.

He helped you!” Another adds.

Insolence!” Patrick seethes. “Ah!” He yelps as a pebble hits his forehead. “You dare defy me!” He screams at the crowd with a crazy look in his eyes. “See what happens when Nobility isn’t given the respect it is due.”

No!” I exclaim in panic.

I leap forward to tackle them both but fail to reach the maniac in time to stop him. He slices the old man’s throat in one go, without even a moment of hesitation. I crash into them, pulling the injured man away from Patrick during the fall.

I start pummeling Patrick with my fists. My limb is obeying me but with a delay, each blow is thrown slightly out of sync with what I’m ordering it to do. The discrepancy pierces through my bloodthirsty haze, awakening my fear of losing control.

His head moves with each punch, he doesn’t react. The Lordling is unconscious, maybe dead. I shake the red haze covering my thoughts, as it dissipates, hunger takes over, a feeling of starvation that weakens my focus and distracts my mind.

My fury gone, I try to stop, but my left arm disobeys to keep bashing his chest, shattering ribs with disturbing wet sounds.

The limb coils back and I use the opportunity to seize its wrist with my right hand, locking my articulations to restrain it. It uncoils all at once, the blow is so strong that it easily shakes my weak grip off, piercing through Patrick’s chest, impaling him to feed on his blood.

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