Levinia awoke with a start, her mouth opening with a gasp as her lungs took in a deep feel of air. The air felt witheringly hot, causing her to shield her face with her hands as she sat up. Her bandages hung off her body in tattered strips, reminiscent of a battered mummy, but they still managed to cover her entire body, except for her face. For a moment, she remembered the weird "dream" she had had, but her eyes rested on a kneeling Andhaft with his sword held aloft, and she forgot all about her visions. She noticed that the elderly man's blade had projected some sort of force field which kept the elemental barrage at bay. Andhaft suddenly looked over his shoulder and smiled, but she could not return the expression, for to her alarm, she noticed that his face had been severely burned. Still, the man held the burden, only allowing his hand to drop when the attack ceased.
Uncaring about her safety or state of body, Levinia lurched forward to catch Andhaft's body as he fell. She succeeded, but it was a little awkward, as her body felt different, perhaps somewhat lighter, but her fear and grief did not permit her to dwell on this fact, and on the possibility that she had been healed. Andhaft had been very badly injured by the power of the Godling Dragon, and she knew that his life was surely slipping away."No, no, no, no, no... please stay with me. Don't die. Not yet..."
she murmured, as tears filled her eyes and she cradled his body, her mind desperately trying to remember the spells she had accessed in her vision. She was sure she had seen something about healing somewhere, but it seemed like there was a shroud over her mind that made thinking difficult, possibly a side effect of the cure, or perhaps something else. She was suddenly distracted by a hand softly caressing her cheek. Her prosthetic hand grasped it tenderly as she opened her eyes, to see Andhaft regarding her with a weary smile."Don't worry, Levinia. Let me go. I've had many regrets, but this... this is the best I've done."
He laughed, then coughed. Levinia shook her head vigorously, unable to say anything as tears filled her eyes and choked her voice; she couldn't give up without trying. She was barely aware of the runes that had formed around her, and currently encircled the both of them, glowing faintly as they revolved, like the lights of a psychopomp that were meant to ease Andhaft's passing into the afterlife.
Determination suddenly showed up in her teary eyes. She remembered the grimoire! Quickly, she placed a her other hand on his cheek and focused, her runes glowing a bright golden as they began congregating, but Andhaft shook his head wearily but firmly."No."
The tears began to fall freely down her face. "Why won't you let me help you? I can. I can!""Perhaps, but this is what I want. My life was about ending anyway, but yours has just begun."
He smiled. "It worked. You've been healed. Now, survive the night..."
He coughed again. "Survive, Levinia... and live."
His eyes faded, but the smile remained. Levinia bit hard into her lower lip as her body shook with sobs, as she tried so hard not to bawl into the night. She could have saved him, but he refused, and she had not enforced her will on him. Perhaps she should have, but if there was anything she never wanted to do, it was force what she wanted on others. There was still a part of her that blamed her for letting him slip away, but she knew she had honored him by respecting his wishes. She briefly wondered what he had done in his life that would have made him embrace death so readily, perhaps as penance for his past sins. Perhaps he had wanted to prove to himself that he was not all bad, and a sickly, deformed child had been directed to him as his act of redemption. Well, he had succeeded in lifting her curse, so she hoped that whatever redemption he sought would be given him. She tenderly laid him on the stone floor and closed his eyes.
And then it came. A wave of anger so intense, it almost threatened to halt her breathing. She was certain that the attack on the fortress had been mostly targeted at her, and had placed her friends and herself in mortal danger. If she had her way, she would find out who was at the bottom of this, and she would avenge Andhaft. She rose to her feet, instinctively stretching out her hand for her mask. Drawn by an unseen force, it flew through the air and planted itself in her palm. She placed it over her face, being more comfortable behind its visage especially when she was fighting, and strode outside the ruined laboratory, her eyes smoldering.
It was not hard to locate the Godling Dragon; the beast was so huge that it virtually filled the courtyard. Beira had done a good number on it, and she was holding her own against such a being of might. It was a good thing she was here, otherwise, Levinia might not have had a fighting chance to see the dawn. Noticing that the monster had received serious damage to its side, Levinia attacked that point, just as Beira shoved a spear into one of the creature's heads. Wreathing her prosthetic arm in a bright golden flare of energy, she put all her power into a closed fist blow that virtually sent her flying through the air."Ryūseiken!"
She punched clean through its side, and found herself in the body of the Godling Dragon. Disgusting, slimy, bloody innards were all around her, but still the dragon thrashed and began to lift itself off the ground, despite its many injuries. It was expected that wherever it wanted to escape to, Levinia was neither interested in following it there, nor was she intent on even letting it get there alive. Thrusting out her palms on either side, as far as they would go, she released a massive burst of destructive chi."Kakushō!"
A blue-white explosion ripped out from within the Godling Dragon, bursting its torso and flinging rusty gore in all directions. The monster managed a feeble croak, before it fell back onto the courtyard, shaking the earth with the power of its fall. It twitched one or twice, then was still. The Godling Dragon had been slain.
Levinia picked her way out from within its corpse, thoroughly drenched with its blood, and looking like a strange creature herself. A bath would be in order before she could actually see what she looked like. And then she saw Merise. The woman looked shocked to see her, then a dark, upset expression came next, as she slowly drew her sword. Was it bitterness Levinia had just noticed? Why did the woman hate her so much?"This is all wrong! It wasn't supposed to end like this,"
she muttered. "You're supposed to be dead!"
Supposed? That meant what, exactly? From what Merise had just said, she seemed to have known that the attack would come. Levinia said nothing, just watched her as she approached slowly. "Now Andhaft and Dorn are dead because of you!"
She raised the sword, but Levinia threw up a hand and stopped her in her tracks. "Because of me? You seem to have been aware that this would happen, and yet you didn't inform anyone. And I'm to blame?!"
Her voice was rising, as her mind considered many options. Merise struggled against the unseen power that held her in place, but it was futile.
Levinia took a deep breath, and when she spoke again, her voice was calmer. "Who is responsible for this, Merise?"
But the woman only screamed at her. "You're a monster! A demon! A destroyer! He was right about you...""Okay, this is crazy and uncalled for. I'm 'a monster, a destroyer'? She's either run mad, or..."
Levinia focused on Merise, as she reached out with her mind into the other woman's thoughts. It was almost instinctive, almost so easy to the point it was frightening, but Levinia had to know exactly why the woman detested her so much, and what she knew about her...
Ah, there it was! Merise had been contacted by a creature which had called itself a god, and got her into believing so. It had filled her mind with terrible visions of the future, of the mayhem and death that would be unleashed if the "Godling" was to be awakened. The Godling had to be killed in incubation, before its powers were restored. Big surprise, Dorn was also in the know; that would explain why the wards had not been working, if he had disabled them himself. Looked like both of them had been informed of the attack of tonight, and when everyone was distracted, the deformed creatures would kill Levinia. However, Beira had not been included in the plans. Levinia pushed further, intent on finding out who this "god" that had appeared to Merise was, when she suddenly sensed an eerie but familiar malice. It filled Merise's mind and spoke through her mouth."The Godling has finally been born. Humans are rather disappointing, can't get anything done right..."
Merise raised her head, her eyes filled with a strange, evil light, as she peered at Levinia. "That mask... I should have liked to see..."
Levinia recognized it. It was the same robed humanoid she had seen in her last dream, the one with the tentacled horror, the one who had possession of her right arm. "You!"
Whatever it was, it seemed very surprised and disturbed that she could recognize it, and it tore away from Merise's consciousness with a jerk. However, it did more than just leave, as Merise's body shuddered violently before hanging limp. There was nothing there anymore. The woman was dead. Shaking her head slowly, Levinia dropped the body gently.
She could sense Beira was alive and around, but the resultant debris and corpse of the dragon obstructed many things. The sky at the far east was already turning purple, dawn breaking out against the darkness of night. Levinia's mind was filled with questions as she sought out her mentor to ascertain the older woman was fine. She wanted to leave this place of death and mayhem immediately, but first, she had to see to the burials of Andhaft, Dorn and Merise. For Andhaft's sake, she would not leave their corpses out in the open.
After that, she would find out the extent of her new powers... and hunt down this so called god who feared a girl barely more than a child. He had a lot to answer for.
And she would get her arm back. Definitely.