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Idali drags the Lordling by the collar while I lead us deeper into the stone structure, past a dining hall and into an office with a desk as well as bookshelves. There isn’t anyone but the fireplace is burning so it’s likely the Countess ran off right before we got here.

We missed her, wake him up.” I tell her.

Alright.” Idali replies.

She throws Tolheim at the desk and starts slapping him with the flat of her boot while I go through the drawers. I find a pouch of coins. I cut the top off and steal all the silver and bronze from it, ironically there is more gold in it.

Jess.” She protests.

I’m running low on funds, Edusa may as well indirectly contribute.” I explain, slightly embarrassed.

“That’s fine but leave some for me.” She replies as she slaps the Lordling with the point of her foot.

Urh.” The Lordling groans.

I flip a few more papers on the desk as I search for clues but find naught of interest even after going through the drawers. It stands to reason they wouldn’t leave their misdeeds out in the open but still. I turn to Tolheim who’s currently being chocked by Idali’s right foot.

I said wake him up, why are you trying to knock him out again?” I ask.

Not sure, he looked at me wrong?” She returns with a grin.

Gh.” I choke a laugh and wave at her to let him go. “So, Lord Dolt, you know why I’m here so I’ll very much appreciate if you told me where the disappeared are… or I’ll end your life and there won’t be anything preemptive about it, just a lot of blood spilled because you’ve soured my mood.” I lie.

Wait until I back off first.” Idali hurriedly tells me as she steps back.

Tolheim stares at us with a dazed expression, seeming lost, frightened, and confused. I feel a touch of pity for him, especially since we don’t actually have much proof of wrongdoing so far.

I don’t know.” The man mutters.

With so many people missing, don’t try to bullshit me.” I coldly respond.
“They just vanish, we tried to investigate what’s happening but we never found any clues.” Tolheim hurriedly explains, raising his arms protectively.

I stare at the terrorized man and let out a deep sigh as I find no signs of deception. I throw a glance at Idali who gives me a shrug. I seize my umbrella to make it spin as I think things through.

Where did Matldia, or whatever, go?” I directly ask.

“Matilda? I’ll never tell you!” Tolheim declares with defiance.

Hey, I think I had all the letters right there in the name.” I cheerfully remark.

You did, congrats.” Idali drawls. The Lordling glares.

Look, Dolt, I’m not going to kill any of you without reason.” I seriously tell the man. “But the more you two hide or refuse to answer my questions, the more suspicious and eager to cut this trip short I get.”

She ran because you assaulted me!” The man protests.

“She ran long before that, don’t lie to me Lordling.” I counter with a dark tone.

“Where did she go?” I ask while spinning my flat umbrella over my head.
“I…” He starts.

Idali extends out her short Vuskyt spear and places the point under the man’s throat, instantly shutting him up. Tolheim gulps, his eyes flicker left and right to either of us as his traits turn desperate.

We don’t have anything to do with the disappearances, I swear.” He repeats with tears streaming down his cheeks.

Great, now I feel bad. I shape a messaging construct and pass it over to Idali through the ground out of the man’s sight, shortly telling her to get into a scuffle with me without context because I trust her and a delay might make a clever opponent suspicious.

Die then.” I coldly proclaim while letting go of my umbrella to grab one of the three broadswords at my waist.

Hey, cut it out!” Idali immediately exclaims. “It might be the truth!”

Silence, soldier! Do your job!” I bark.

While I draw the weapon, Idali shifts her weight from one leg to another, acting hesitant. She launches at me when I raise the weapon, forcing me to block her thrust.

Stand down, bitch!” I yell.

We’re not fucking murdering him, shortie!” She counters.

I scowl and launch a semi-serious hack at her weapon which she cleverly parries by receiving my blade at a thirty-degree angle before rising the weapon to avoid having her fingers sheared off her palm. As we insult each other, the Dolt scampers out of the office on all fours.

Keep banging weapons for a bit.” I murmur.

She holds back a little on the next blow and I take advantage to slam her spear away and hit her chest with my pommel. Idali coughs and bends in half to start wheezing.

Shit, Liz, what the damn!” She protests.

I’m slightly taller than average, thank you very much.” I pridefully respond.

Maybe in your dr…” She starts.

What’s that?” I cut her off by raising my weapon.

Nope, never mind.” Idali swiftly exclaims with a bitter smile on her twitching lips.

“Get moving, he’s probably stopped crawling by now.” I tell her.

I head off while trying to move as discreetly as possible. An attempt I immediately abandon as it’s literally impossible to even breathe without sounding like a damn box filled with nails because my riveted chain-mail keeps clanking inside my cuirass.

I follow the corridor until I find a half-open door and sneak in only to find an empty room. I didn’t hear any doors opening, no way I took a wrong turn so where is he. What do Nobles and rats have in common? A lot, too much to go through, really, but I get your point.

I send out a pulse of flow to scan the room as Idali walks in. I burn a whole dozen portions only to eliminate a passage behind a wall or bookcase. I sigh and look down to the rug.

Mind picking that up for me?” I ask the tall blonde.

Mfhr.” Idali grumbles.

She uses me as a stand to rest her spear on and seizes the rug with both hands. She starts pulling but it seems glued to the parquet so she fails. I frown and consider blowing the damn thing up.

“There’s probably a lever or something.” Idali speaks up.

No time.” I tell her.

I shape a sundering construct and cross slash at the floor before stomping down on the rug with a slight kinetic enhancement. The floorboards blow up into sharps that fall atop a staircase.

Quite the basement they’ve got.” I comment.

Bit of a waste of energy.” She notes.

Not as much as you think.” I reply with a thin smile. “Let’s go.”

Idali jumps down without giving me a shot at going first and seems to slide down the stairs rather than walk, causing a ruckus. As I make my way down, she lights up a fire construct just in time to witness golden runes activate on the walls.

Duck.” I murmur as I reach out with my sword.

Idali drops to her knees. I launch an assortment of constructs, from fireballs to air-blades and kinetic waves, even mixing a lightning sphere amidst just in case the rest is ineffective.

Luckily what assaults us are air-needles, which I easily divert with a slight kinetic push, and a curtain of fire that I smother by venting the air surrounding it, leaving a column of smoke behind.

That was scary.” Idali shudders.

You probably could have handled it.” I note.

I meant I thought you were going to hit me with all that wild energy.” She mutters.

Grow some ovaries, let’s go.” I tell her.

We rush downstairs and through a small room with suspicious mounts on the walls. Either for hanging harvests to dry or prisoners, and I’m pretty sure I know what they’re used for. Idali’s expression falls.

We’re switching to deadly take-down.” I utter coldly.

Why? Don’t we need to find out what happened?” Idali asks.

I’ve heard enough of this shit for a lifetime, I’m not sitting around for another degenerate tale full of self-righteous justifications.” I grunt. “Edusa can figure this shit out by herself, I’m only here to clean up.”

Idali silently nods and heads first into the next corridor. This time, no traps await us but a steel reinforced thick wooden door on the other side protected by a defensive construct.

I use a sundering construct to slice off the hinges, overwhelming the defensive construct such that it fails to reconfigure to concentrate its energy to block my blade.

Idali kicks the door open and, inside, we find a spectacle of horror. There is a stone altar with weird engravings in the center of a circular room with grooves in the ground coated in red flakes that can be naught other than remains of dried blood.

On it is Tolheim who is bleeding out from a gash in his neck despite his attempt to close the wound. His face is pale and he seems completely lost, as if he never expected what he found here. I find the man pitiful but not worth risking anything to save.

There is a black-haired woman standing next to him at the altar with her palms extended towards us. She’s wearing a pure white robe made of almost transparent cloth with no clothes underneath.

She is gorgeous with ample breasts, erect nipples, and black as night pubic hair. That fact makes the situation even more repulsive because her attractiveness puts her at sharp odds with the surroundings.

Golden swirling energy streams out of Countess Matilda’s hands towards Idali who slashes out with her spear to intercept the odd construct with a defensive one made of black-golden energy.

Expecting Idali to fail, I instantly shape a perception construct to launch another set of constructs. The air and kinetic ones manage to slow down her attack but they don’t actually overwhelm it so I focus my energy to create an intense blaze.

It causes her construct to flicker but it doesn’t slow down as a result so I conclude heat has some effect but not enough. I charge the air directly in front of Idali first as a last ditch measure but plan to use an air-shield to block the construct since it is tangible.

Iiikr. Idali’s Vuskyt spear impacts the swirling construct, causing a strident sound. As the weapon is almost ripped out of her hands, she decides to pull it back. The Countess presses down with her hands, giving her attack more speed.

Idali’s right thigh bends at an odd angle and the woman flickers to the side, almost impacting the left wall. I dismantle my protective measures and use the flow to support my friend with a kinetic burst to send her charging.

Idali slides past the threatening broiling energy and charges at the Countess who turns her attention my way, sending the odd construct after me. I narrow my eyes and launch a powerful air-needle at the Countess, enhancing its speed over anything else.

The Countess, aware she’ll be impaled by either Idali’s short spear or my projectile, dismantles the construct she sent after me to recall the energy, which consumes most of the energy so as to make it in time and leaves odd red curved blades hanging in the air where golden currents were before.

A blood construct? I want it! Not now, Liz. I flick my hand at the mass of blood, using air to send it splashing back. Clink. My air-needle slams into the curtain of energy Matilda rose and bursts, causing a red mist to spread out.

Idali’s spear impacts it as well and her defensive construct simply fades away while her thrust slows down to a crawl despite her pushing hard with her right thigh. I gaze at Tolheim whose arms are now hanging on either side of him.

There are now bloody rips in his clothes and tears in the flesh underneath. It seems the woman used his blood to defend herself but I don’t understand why he is helping her, and he has to be for my air-needle to have been snuffed as it was.

The golden curtain drops, leaving behind only the thick red mist which sinks to the ground. The Countess escaped. I reach to Idali to launch her after the woman but she’s already moving around the blood to try to save Tolheim which means she isn’t in any way ready to pursue.

Let him die.” I call out to her. “We need to end her.”

Why did you stop us? She was killing you.” Idali asks him, ignoring me.

My wife. Said…” His eyelids droop. “Give it back, if help.

Fucking idiot.” I swear despite understanding his choice and having made similar ones.

The Lordling’s head rolls to the side just as Idali arrives at the altar and he breathes out, having apparently exhausted all he had left to respond. Idali scowls and heads for the back of the room.

Crrrk. The loud breaking sound fills our ears as tears appear in the ceiling. Screw me, I should have just went for the kill. Couldn’t leave Idali out to dry, you’ll get her.

Let’s go, now.” I urge her.

Idali hesitates a split moment before turning away from the dead Tolheim and rushing at me. I blink as she pretty much tackles and carries me straight out of the room as pieces of the stone ceiling fall behind her.

Hey, cut this shit out.” I protest while bent on her shoulder struggling to keep my umbrella from bashing into a door-frame.

“Uhla told me not to let you exert yourself too much, blame her.” She responds as she rushes up the stairs.

You didn’t, have to, listen!” I stutter out because her shoulder is slamming into my stomach with each step.

When we reach the room, we find the walls already crumbling on themselves. She leaps, presumably towards a window, with her spear coated in silver energy held before her.

As we fly out of the building, I witness the hole she ripped into the glass and flaps alike with what must’ve been a shredding construct. It seems she has plenty of energy to spare, possibly half as much as me.

Let me down.” I coldly demand as I witness a few dozen guards standing outside turn to us.

Later.” Idali replies shortly as she kicks the ground with her right leg to propel us away through the town’s streets.

I grumble but don’t find much time to complain as an officer launches a blazing air-blade at us. Such a hybrid construct wouldn’t usually frighten me but the man assembled it quickly and threw it with a look of confidence.

I check my flow reserves, finding that I somehow burnt a good twenty during the short scuffle, likely from spreading my focus thin while using as much unstructured energy as I did.

I swipe a hybrid air-kinetic gust at the flaming air-blade, sending it flying into the ground. Kkrrbrrmmmh! It blows up, destroying a chunk of pavement and thus sending stone splinters flying into house walls.

Fuck!” Idali swears while pushing her ear against my side.

The destructive effect is relatively powerful but what baffles me the most is the deafening sound it made. I quickly notice that it was actually made by the Countess’ stone manor completely crumbling into a hunk of rubble.

What did you do?!” She asks.

Me? You saw her tear the basement down!” I protest.

Hrm.” Idali grunts, clearly disbelieving me.

The over-fed blonde quickly brings us out of the town’s bounds, bypassing the occasional guard and soldier as if they weren’t there with her speed enhanced by her symbiont.

She stops on a hill where she finally lets me down. I first make a show of soothing my armor before ostensibly ignoring her to enhance my eyesight and inspect the surrounding area for signs of a fleeing Countess.

A handful of minutes pass without a single carriage or horse leaving and, worse of all, it is clear that everyone wielding a weapon in that town has picked it up and gathered in two respective camps.

Doesn’t look like she left at all, in fact I’m pretty sure she gathered her army and is about to attack Edusa’s forces.” I comment.

That’s not good?” Idali asks with a bloodthirsty smile.

“It depends on your point of view, I didn’t want to turn this into a pitched battle.” I mutter. “How much was that crazed escape your call?” I clumsily ask.
“…” She falls uncharacteristically silent. “My symbiont was quite insistent.” She murmurs.

I assume collapsing tunnels could be quite dangerous, even for an underground creature.” I calmly note.

“The others are on their way.” She says, changing the subject.

I follow her line of sight to find Rowland, Nahl, and Uhla sneaking out of town from a small alley. I wave at Idali who nods and launches running towards them with lion steps.

A few arrows and constructs fly at their group but they manage to defend themselves. Idali meets them before they make it a third of the way here and helps them defend to run faster.

Meanwhile, there is quite the commotion happening in town. A small group of angry people seem to have gathered around Edusa’s people and appear to be attempting to besiege them, preventing them from retreating. I sigh.

I’ll have to end this before the evening because it’s only going to get worse when people come back from working boon-day to find out that strangers attacked their town.

Jessica! You destroyed a building without us!” Rowland calls out with an outraged tone.

What? It wasn’t me!” I cry out while glaring at Idali.

I didn’t tell them, they saw the building crumble.” She says, implying that I truly did this. “Everyone knows that’s your thing.” She unhelpfully adds.

You were there!” I exclaim in disbelief.

Yea, but I had my back turned… I’m pretty sure it was you.” Idali argues with a completely innocent expression which convinces me that she’s definitely messing with me.

Why didn’t you call me!” Rowland cries out like a spoiled brat despite his definitely not childish stature.

I don’t think we should approve of…” Nahl starts. I cut him off with a dark glare. “Perhaps we should discuss what happened first?” He offers with an awkward smile. “Then make a decision about what to do.”

Yeah, great idea.” I grunt.

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