“What in the world happened here?”
Serilda had been in the process of dozing off to sleep when a loud commotion not too far away from her home stirred her from her impending slumber. She had sensed the simmering alarm from her hound, whose senses were much higher than her own. Though she probably could have just rolled over and gone right back to bed without any further thought on the matter, Serilda’s disciplined and dutiful nature forbid her from doing so.
Thus, she’d crawled out of her nice, soft, warm bed with only a mild growl and changed back into some regular clothes. With her sword strapped to her hip, she’d made her way down the street to the strip of shops and restaurants nearby, Xiuhcoatl at her heels. When she got there, she found that several of the shops had smashed windows and doors flung off hinges. One building was on fire, another looked like a tornado had gone through it. She stopped and stared in expressionless wonder before moving over to the nearest shop.
The owner had come downstairs from his apartment, which was a loft on top of his business, and was cleaning up the debris. Or at least, he was trying to. Most of the rubble was too heavy for him to move on his own even in the best of spirits, and he looked like he was having trouble keeping his sorrow in check. He looked up at Serilda when she asked her question, stepping up to help him shift a large piece of wood off of some of his remaining merchandise.
He shook his head sadly. “I don’t know. I was asleep when the place got hit. By the time I threw on some clothes and got downstairs, the store was already trashed and my most valuable items are gone.” The man sighed and looked down the street. “Was this some kind of guild attack? I can’t think anyone would be stupid enough to provoke Sabertooth, but to hit all these shops at once…”
The man certainly had a point, though Serilda didn’t answer right away. She was too busy frowning in thought. He was right that it had to be a group of people to cause this much damage so quickly, but if it was an attack on Sabertooth it was an odd one. “I’m not sure,” Serilda told him honestly, “But I’m going to find out. Will you be okay if I go do some investigating?”
He nodded at her and continued to pick through the rubble. Serilda made her way back down to the street and started working her way through the shops that had been hit, talking to the owners and seeing if they had any information that might help her figure out what had happened. Most of them had no clue. They had all been in bed at the time, and the attacks seemed to happen simultaneously. By the time anyone had managed to get out to the streets, the perpetrators were gone.
By examining the wreckage, Serilda was able to determine that this was definitely the work of mages, for the most part. Some areas looked like they had been broken into by more mundane methods, but there was evidence aplenty of elemental magic being used. There was still a fire being put out in one shop, and another had rocks and mounds of earth ripped from the ground around and inside of it. Most of the other shops did not have evidence of the type of magic used, but had sustained too much damage to not have been destroyed by magic.
Xiuhcoatl sniffed and searched around herself, to no avail. There were far too many scents for any one of them to stick out, especially when she didn’t have any kind of hint as to which she should be focusing on. The wolf whined sadly, lamenting her inability to be much help. Serilda sensed the frustration coming from her furred companion and took a moment to kneel down. Pulling Xiuh into a hug, she whispered, “I know, girl. I’m frustrated, too. But we’ll find who did this, and they will answer for what they’ve done. I promise.”
“But is that a promise you know you can keep?”
Serilda was on her feet, sword out in a flash. The wolf was right beside her, hackles raised and growling low. Both of them looked toward the direction the voice had come from: a darkened alley whose shadows flickered from the fires in the distance. She didn’t need to see into the dim hall, however, to know that no one stood there. Her sense of the Void told her that nothing of a sentient makeup was waiting out of eyesight. The alley was empty.
“Who’s there? Show yourself.” she demanded.
There was only a slight pause before the emptiness in the darkness shifted, and she felt a humanoid figure form out of nothing. When he stepped into the light, she saw a man with shaggy brown hair and light skin meeting her gaze. He was wearing an outfit of almost solid white, consisting of a trench coat over a long shirt and pants so baggy that she almost thought it was a skirt at first. Each garment was trimmed in black. The coat had a high collar that came up to the man’s chin, and secured around his waist was a red sash like an obi. His hair was slicked back from his forehead save for a single clump that rested down the center of his face.
He looked at her with dark, knowing eyes that set her on edge, and the barest of smirks rested on his lips like he knew that she was uncomfortable and was pleased by that. Serilda fixed her grip on her scimitar and pointed it toward him steadily, somehow managing to keep her body calm despite the fact that her mind was screaming. She did not miss the fact that, while he stood his ground, he did wince just a fraction at the sword, which glowed with a holy light. “I asked you a question,” she said, her tone even but deadly. “Who the hell are you?”
His smirk deepened just a touch. “I asked you one first. But no matter. You may call me Arthas.” He bowed low to her, turning his head up to look her in the eyes as he said, “And it is a pleasure to meet you, Lady Sinclair.”
Serilda’s blue eyes narrowed at him. As nobility, she was of course used to people knowing who she was at times, but mostly that was in places that actually had nobility, such as Clover and the country of Minstrel. It was less common for her to be recognized in a town like Ace of Spades. “Are you a mage, Arthas?”
He straightened himself up. “No, though I have control over some magicks.”
It was a confusing answer to say the least, but Serilda chose not to ask for clarification. She could sense that he was an enigmatic man that wasn’t going to give her any straight answers about himself. “And why exactly are you here?”
Arthas chuckled. “So many questions, and you’ve yet to answer mine. One might call that rude.” He gave her a look that told her without words that he wasn’t going to give her any more information until he’d received an answer of his own. “You promised your stunning companion there that you’d find the ones responsible for this wreckage and theft, and bring them to justice. That’s a lofty vow to make for a woman that doesn’t know who she’s even looking for.”
“Innocent people under the protection of my guild had their lives and livelihoods placed in jeopardy tonight. I will find them, because I must. Be it a week, a month, or a year, those degenerates will understand what it means to cross Sabertooth.” It was as simple as that to her. She had a duty, and it would be fulfilled no matter how long it took.
He smiled a bit, though the expression did little to put her more at ease. If anything, it made her skin crawl. “I like your determination, my lady. There’s a spirit of fire simmering deep within that icy shell of yours.” Before she could say anything about his cryptic comment, he went on. “You shan’t need to wait so long to apprehend this group, however. I know who they are, and where they are.”
“How do I know that you’re not one of them yourself?”
“You know I’m not,” was the calm response. The two of them stared at each other, neither of them wavering in their gazes. Unfortunately, he was right. Serilda had no evidence to support that he wasn’t one of the ones responsible, but something deep in her gut told her that he was here for an entirely different, and much darker, purpose. “They are a group of five. Four of them are elementalist wizards that control fire, earth, air, and wind between them. The fifth is the leader, and she specializes in weapons requipping. Currently, they are making their way out of the city through an underused path into the wilderness in the east, by the park where you trained your wolf.”
Well, that was unsettling. This man had been watching her for some time, she realized. Xiuh hunched a little lower to the ground, keeping her place though she longed to lunge at this evil person and snap his neck between her jaws. He turned his gaze upon the animal. “Your pet does not like me,” he stated with some amusement.
“Neither do I,” Serilda told him flatly. “And I’m inclined not to trust you or your claims.”
“That’s a good inclination to have.” Arthas returned his gaze to her, not bothering to hide the dark intentions within them. “However, my being untrustworthy doesn’t mean I’m incapable of telling the truth. Whether or not you choose to listen is up to you… but they are getting away, and if you would like to catch them while the crimes are still fresh, then I suggest you get a move on. Until next time, Serilda Sinclair.”
With one final smirk and bow, he vanished before her eyes. Serilda stood there for a long time staring at the spot where he’d left, fighting to keep her nerves under control. She didn’t understand what had just happened, nor did she like it. Intense emotions of fright and rage clawed within her, fighting for dominance. Somehow, she managed to keep them at bay. Making a decision, one she wasn’t happy with, the woman turned and started making her way to the place he’d indicated.
When she got there, it was not difficult to determine that a small group of people had, indeed, come this direction. The park was small and not heavily used, so the tracks of a group of people making their way through an overgrown dirt path were difficult to miss. Xiuh was already sniffing the air, catching whiffs of human scents that did not belong in this woodland area. With a quiet wuff to indicate she had enough of a smell to follow, the wolf lead Serilda through the dark wilderness.
They moved at a swift pace for close to two hours before Xiuh finally slowed down, indicating they were close. Sure enough several meters ahead there was a glow from a campfire where the group had stopped to rest. Serilda and Xiuh slowly snuck up to the edge of their encampment to find five wizards sitting in a circle around the fire, eating dinner. Each of them had a bag or two beside them that were overstuffed with stolen goods, and Serilda only needed to listen briefly to overhear them discussing the success of their conquest.
Focusing her magic, the Voidmage dropped her silencing spell centered dead on the camp. Almost instantly the criminals leaped to their feet, alarmed and disoriented by the sudden absence of all sound. Serilda stormed into the small clearing, sword in hand and a determined grimace on her face. Only two of the wizards saw her right away, and their mouths moved along with their arms as they attempted to cast spells at her. To their horror, nothing happened. Spells that were dependant on incantations or sound were useless in her her Dead Space.
She took them down swiftly, her scimitar a blur as it struck again and again, pushing them back and forcing them down with several well aimed strikes that wouldn’t kill them but would certainly put them out of commission. As they fell, a barrier of rock came up around her like a cocoon. Even though all light was shut out and it was pitch black inside, Serilda’s Void sense still informed her of the location of those outside.
Calmly, she walked right out of the stone like it was only an illusion. Though her natural ability to pass through solid objects only applied to non magical barriers, the magic from the spell the earth wizard had cast ended once the sphere had been formed, leaving it nothing but rock once more. The man’s satisfied smile wiped away as he watched her step through his rocks and back into the open. With a frustrated grimace, he shifted his feet along the ground and drew up several more small boulders, throwing them at her.
With a flick of her wrist, Serilda procured her own boulder from the ground, manipulating the particles of empty space between the matter to shape it and drag it to the surface. She directed it with her hand as she stepped forward, using it to bash the other wizard’s attacks out of the way before they could hit her. The man was greatly confused by her ability to also control the earth, or at least that was how he had interpreted it.
In the corner of her eye she saw the two remaining wizards flanking her wolf. The fire wizard, who also did not need to speak to summon many of his spells, was hurling flames at the animal. Due to her breeding, the fires did not harm her as much as they would other creatures, but Xiuh was still being wounded by them. A final flick of Serilda’s wrist sent her boulder flying toward that mage, who had zero warning of his impending doom without any noise to hear. The boulder knocked him clear off his feet and flew with him several meters until they both fell, the boulder pinning the dazed fire mage to the ground.
Thinking her distracted, the earth wizard threw another rock at her. This one was bigger than the others. Unfortunately for him, it passed harmlessly through her body and she turned to pierce him with her cold gaze. He faltered. Serilda stretched her palm toward him, manipulating the empty particles in the air until they formed dozens of needle sharp points of pressurized air between them. Her wrist flicked downward, and the points buried themselves into the ground, piercing his body in several places like shrapnel along the way. He cried out in pain, though the noise could not be heard by anyone within or without the sphere of her silence.
Fear overcame him as he trembled before this terrifying mage that seemed to control several elements. Scrambling, he turned to make a run for it. Serilda made a gesture to Xiuhcoatl with her free hand, and the wolf immediately disengaged her current opponent to chase after the man, knocking him to the ground and latching her teeth into his flesh to drag him back.
The woman that had been fighting the hound attempted to strike the animal with her sword as she ran off, only to find her attack parried by a glowing scimitar. The two women locked their swords together, lingering face to face as they each tried to press their advantage and gauge one another’s strength. There was a brief look of… something… in the thief’s face. Recognition, perhaps? Serilda didn’t get a lot of time to process it as the other woman reached up a foot and kicked the Voidwalker back from her.
Serilda’s feet dug into the ground to keep herself from sliding too far back. She already knew from Arthas’ information that this lady was a requip mage, and she had no intentions of giving her time to pull out a new weapon. Unfortunately, the other woman was quick. By the time Serilda stabilized her footing, the bandit’s sword had already been replaced by a shotgun. She fired off a shot and a handful of magic buckshot tore through Serilda’s body. The Voidwalker cried out in pain, her voice swallowed into nothingness as soon as it left her lips.
She bit back the pain, overwhelming it with her discipline and determination. Blue eyes latched venomously on the other wizard, and Serilda focused her attention on the shotgun. She grasped hold of the empty particles between the matter of the weapon and forced them outward violently, causing the gun to crumble in the thief’s hands. The woman stared at her empty hands in absolute shock for only a moment, and Serilda used that time to spring forward.
But again, the requip wizard was fast. By the time Serilda’s scimitar was bearing down on the other woman she had managed to bring up a new sword in the nick of time to block the blow. This time, Serilda pushed forward to keep on the offensive. Though she wasn’t nearly as strong in that regard, she caught the woman off guard with a punch to the stomach, following it quickly with another downward strike of her sword.
The two women parried back and forth like this for some time, exchanging blows and keeping on relatively even footing. But with each strike of Serilda’s sword, Moonlight drained the other wizard of more and more of her magic power and it wasn’t long before the other woman started to feel it. Her eyes flicked briefly behind Serilda, and the Voidmage wouldn’t need to turn and look to know what had drawn her attention. The fire mage, beaten and bruised but not out of commission just yet, had managed to throw the boulder off of him with a burst of flames.
Thinking they had her caught, he summoned his deadliest fire spell at his fingertips and hurled it at Serilda’s back. The fire mage was weaker than she was, though, and his flames were made of physical matter that she could sense. And between that matter, existed the Void. Slapping the other woman’s strike away with her blade, Serilda turned her free hand behind her and took control of the Void particles in the air outside the fire, twisting them until they took on the suctioning properties of a black hole and pulled the flames out of their trajectory.
With one hand, she continued to volley strikes with the other woman, who tapped into her requip magic to summon a second sword to dual wield. Serilda accepted the temporary disadvantage, blocking and deflecting the attacks as best she could and pushing herself through the new wounds she received so she could focus on her empty hand. The enemy was completely oblivious to Serilda’s intentions, already seeing herself as the victor.
The sound spell wore off just in time for the fire mage to cry out a warning to his leader, but it was already too late. The woman turned and had barely enough time to widen her eyes in surprise as her ally’s flames consumed her. Serilda had redirected the attack to hit her instead. The woman’s screamed filled the air as she dropped to the ground to try and put the flames out. Xiuh snarled and attacked the fire mage, biting into his body and shaking him like a rag doll until he finally could take any more pain and collapsed.
Serilda kicked the woman on the ground hard, having no pity about inflicting further pain upon the criminal’s singed flesh. The thief screamed again. “I surrender! Please, I surrender!” she cried, her weapons disappearing into the extradimensional vault they were kept stored in.
“You’re damn right, you do,” the Voidmage told her coldly. Once the flames were finally out, Serilda gripped the woman by the front of her shirt and lifted her up toward her face. “The next time you think about causing trouble in Sabertooth territory, you would be wise to remember this night.”
Throwing her roughly to the ground, Serilda whistled to get Xiuh’s attention and made another gestured command. Slowly, the wolf set about the business of dragging her prizes over to the Voidmage, who tied up their captives securely before using her iLac to call in reinforcements. It wasn’t long before backup arrived.
As the authorities collected the criminals and confiscated the stolen goods, Serilda caught sight of the other woman watching her intently. She had the gall to smile when the Voidmage caught her eye. It was an ugly, arroagnt expression that Serilda rather felt did not belong on a recently captured criminal. “You’re looking rather smug for someone that's about to be hauled off to jail,” Serilda commented evenly.
“That's because I figured out who you are. Lady Sinclair,” she said, with an added sarcasm to emphasize her disrespect toward Serilda's title. The woman laughed bitterly. “How ironic. You are exactly how Hugo described you.”
Serilda froze, a bad feeling rolling over her as she glared icily at wizard. “You knew my husband?” she asked, despite her better judgement.
The smug smirk grew. “Oh yes. Quite well. I was his girlfriend, after all. And no, I don’t mean from before your marriage.”
The Voidmage looked at her hard for a long moment before scoffing out a laugh. “Please. Like I'd ever believe such drivel from a common criminal.”
The woman shrugged. “Suit yourself, princess. I'd expect nothing less from you after everything he told me. Ignorance always was your forte, he claimed. Guess that's true.”
Before Serilda could stop herself, she slapped the woman hard across the face, sending her sprawling onto the ground. Blood leaked from her mouth and nose, and everyone in the immediate area stopped to stare. “Let’s get one thing straight, you lying piece of gutter trash,” the Voidwalker said, leaning down real close and speaking to her in a low, dangerous tone. Her blue eyes were simmering with rage. “Whoever you are, you know nothing about my husband. He was a kind hearted man that supported me in everything I did, and he certainly never would have lowered himself to hooking up with a dirty tramp like you. So I suggest you shut your whore mouth and stop talking about my late husband like you knew him, before I send you to prison without your tongue.”
She refused to listen to this nonsense another minute. Knowing that people were watching, she stood back to her feet and started walking away before she could be tempted to do anything that might tarnish her or Sabertooth's reputation. This foul woman, whose name she wasn't even going to bother to learn because she wasn't important, was just trying to get in her head. It was the desperate ravings of a beaten woman trying to regain some shred of dignity after being soundly beaten by a superior wizard.
And yet, as she walked away, Serilda couldn't get the sound of the woman's fading laughter out of her head, nor her final words as she left. “Whatever you want to believe, princess. Whatever you want to believe…”