Be ready for the Queen of Rocks.
It was finally time. Time for Amber to get justice on the man who had ruined her life. It had taken a long time, but she had finally found out where her order to demolish a town filled with innocent civilians had come from. It hadn't come from the higher-ups in the Rune Knights, as she' thought. Or, well, it had. But it had originated from a source above even them. A year of investigation, tracing the paper copies of the order and interrogating Knights, had turned up the name of the man who had initially signed the order, which had been redacted on all later copies. A man by the name of Leonarde Clement. A politician known as the Lionheart, who ran on a campaign that presented him as a sympathizer for the poor and middle class, a voice of the masses. And, as the job stated, who was making a nuisance of himself for some people with deep pockets and shadowy connections.
Amber could hardly believe it when she'd caught sight of the job request on Errings Rising's mission board. A B-rank assassination request, featuring a picture and the name of the man she had been hunting, barely even a month after she had learned his name. She had snatched it up in a heartbeat, even though it was beneath her rank. A chance for revenge was great, but getting paid for it was even better.
Now, she lurked upon a roof in the capital of Fiore, the Flower City of Crocus. She had been following the movements of the man known as the Lionheart for a week now. Using her shapeshifting, she had even infiltrated his campaign office a number of times, gathering intel. It would have been easy to take him out there, or even slip into his manor home and murder him on the toilet, or something. But the job specified that he was to be killed in a public setting, and that she was to take responsibility for it, in order to deflect suspicion from the requesters. She didn't mind. Even if the job hadn't stipulated that, she probably would have done it that way. She wanted to make it known what this man had done, and why.
It had taken her even longer to root out the secret of why Leonarde Clement had ordered the destruction of the nameless little village, and paid handsomely for it. Off the books, of course. When Amber had ferreted out the truth, it had made her laugh even as it made her furious. It was simple, really. A political rival of his had been visiting the village, and was counted among the dead of the incident. Not only that, but Leo had been quietly circulating the story among his allies, pointing out 'corruption' within the Rune Knights and how fraught with danger it made life for the average citizen. In one fell swoop, he had removed a threat to his campaign and gained political capital that advanced his designs. All by ruining the life of one Amber Stone, who was clearly insignificant to him. She had even discovered that he had ensured that she would be blamed for the event and disavowed. No one even suspected him of foul play.
It was time for justice to be served, and for the truth to come out. Leo was planning a rally on the next day, where he would garner support for his run for Secretary of State. That would be her chance to strike. She would trap the audience, disable Leo's bodyguards, incapacitate the politician himself, then use the public setting to spread the truth. She would then turn the head of the man who had ruined her life to a paste with her hammer. Everything was in place, save for one thing. She had to set the trigger for the trap she would spring. She had already laid the foundations. The rally was to take place in front of Leo's campaign building, which had a set of steps leading up to it. The platform on which the podium was set was already built and in place, covering a portion of the lower seven steps. The courtyard was ringed by other buildings, with wide thoroughfares allowing foot traffic to the south, east and west, and two narrower alleys to the north, on either side of the campaign office. Amber had spent the last three days working by night and underground, drawing up veins of granite from the bones of the earth and shaping them into layers of iron-hard stone, worked through with threads of actual iron that would make them resistant to all but siege weaponry and high-grade destructive magic. These layers were positioned at the exits from the courtyard, buried beneath and hidden by the cobblestones.
The final piece of the trap was in her hands. An orb of crystal about the size of a tangerine, dark yellow and cloudy. It fairly thrummed with power, which she had been pouring into it for almost an entire day. It was very nearly a Lacrima of her own creation. When she smashed it on the stones during the rally, it would pour out that power, which would follow the veins of manite, a magically-conductive mineral, that she had embedded in the earth below the courtyard. That power, distilled earth magic, would flow into the secondary triggers, orbs of black marble roughly as large as a watermelon, shot through with veins of gold and rusty iron buried beneath the layers of stone she'd placed. When activated, these secondary triggers would work the magic that would raise the stone into immense walls that completely blocked off all access and egress from the courtyard, trapping the audience and her intended victim completely and blocking the rapid-response units of the Rune Knights and ordinary police from entering. Each wall would be about a foot thick and nearly twenty feet high. Under ordinary circumstances, it would take her roughly ten minutes to raise such walls, during which time she was vulnerable. The preparation she was undertaking now would mean that at the time, the walls would be raised in mere moments, with no effort from her except smashing the orb.
Finally, she was finished. The crystal had taken all the mana it could, which would have to be enough. She hoped it would be enough. The lioness tucked the orb into her pocket, then leapt from the rooftop down to the street below, under the cover of night. She made her way out of the district, into the outer area of the city that was little better than a slum. Checking to make sure no one was around, she jumped down into an empty well, the earth at the bottom opening up and swallowing her silently. A few minutes of navigating completely blind, and she emerged into her current hideout - a small cavern underneath the city. It likely had once been filled with oil, but was now empty save for a lining of faintly-glowing crystals. She laid down in her nest of soft sand, reaching for her pack. A quick meal of bread, cheese and water followed, then sleep.
The next day found Amber waiting patiently for the rally to start. She had used her shapeshifting to disguise herself as a young woman with short blue hair and a petite figure. She stood in the center of the gathering crowd, watching the doors of the campaign office with keen purple eyes. A young man had tried to hit on her earlier, and now stood several feet away, rubbing between his legs and glaring at her every now and then. She now stood in a small open area, everyone giving her a bit of space instead of rubbing shoulders with her like they did with everyone else. Perfect.
Finally, the doors opened and Leonarde Clement, the Lionheart, walked out, flanked by six bodyguards and accompanied by cheers from the waiting crowd. As the speech started, Amber looked over the man she hated above all others, cataloging his features and then dismissing him, turning her attention to his bodyguards instead. Four of the six were the stereotypical bodyguard - hulking men with bulging thews and thick necks. The other two were of a different flavor entirely. Two women who looked identical enough to be twins, tall and whipcord thin. If Amber had to guess, those two were the more dangerous of the guards.
The speech dragged on and on, and eventually reached a high point. Amber chose this moment to act. She pulled the crystal orb from her pocket and held it aloft, holding it for a moment as she sent a pulse through the earth below her feet that caused those around her to stumble, clearing even more of a space around her. Leo's speech stumbled to a halt as he stared at her, and the two female bodyguards started towards her. The hands of the one on the left began to glow red, while the hands of the one on the right began to glow white-blue. Fire and ice, maybe? It didn't matter.
"Leonarde Clement!" Amber thundered, then smashed the orb into the ground between her feet. There was a crack, then chaotic and violent rumbles as the pulse of magic traveled through the veins of manite and contacted the secondary trigger orbs. A moment after the primary trigger smashed against the cobblestones, the layered stone walls began to rip their way out of the ground, blocking all the exits. Everyone stopped and stared, even the bodyguards who had been making their way towards Amber.
Smirking, Amber gestured and her hammer exploded from within the earth where she'd hidden it, landing in her outstretched hand. Slamming the haft into the ground, she sent a more forceful wave of energy through the earth in front of her, knocking people out of her way. She leapt forward and landed in a crouch in the middle of the empty spot, just in front of the stairs. As she landed, she shapeshifted back to her true form, lion's ears and tail exploding from her body as it changed, gaining rondure and figure, her hair and eyes burning to gold.
"Leonarde Clement!" she shouted again. Why don't you tell these people the truth, for once? Tell them what happened to the village outside the Neutral Grounds!" As she turned to engage the two female bodyguards, she had the pleasure of seeing Leo's face turn bone white as he stumbled backwards from the podium.
The bodyguard on the left threw a fireball at the lioness, confirming at least half of her theory. She met the fire with a twirl of her hammer, sending it spinning out to the side into the screaming crowd. Before the woman could throw another, Amber lunged forward, swinging her hammer. The woman formed a lash of fire in her hands and whipped it forward, wrapping it around the haft of Amber's hammer in an attempt to redirect it. It was too late, however, as the head of the hammer impacted the ground at an angle, sending a pulse of magic into the earth, which responded by sending forth a spike of solid rock, directly into the gut of the fire mage. Even as the woman bled and more than likely died, Amber turned to engage her maybe-sister, just in time to duck an icicle. Theory confirmed. She batted another icicle from the air with her hammer, the kicked her heel into the cobblestones. A ripple traveled through the ground and a hole opened beneath the ice wizard's feet, sending her tumbling down. A gesture of Amber's hand caused the hole to close around the bodyguard's body, leaving the woman's head poking out. "Sorry, darling, but you and your sister were in my way." Amber said, just before bringing her hammer down in a full-body swing, crushing the ice wizard woman's head like a grape.
Next came the hulking bodyguards as they ran at her, pulling conventional weapons from underneath their jackets. Two pistols, two swords. Easy peasy. She ducked under the bullets and twisted, spinning in a complete circle to give her hammer momentum before swinging it out, catching the first man's legs directly in the knee with a sickening snap-crunch. He screamed and crumpled, and a blow from the hammer staved in his chest and put an end to his misery. The second guard managed to get a shot on target, ripping through Amber's left side, low on her belly. She growled in pure anger and threw her hammer directly at him, taking him in the gut and sending him toppling to the ground. She leapt atop him like a feral lion, beating his head into a bloody pulp with her fists.
A shout from behind drew her attention, in time to duck a sword swing. She snatched up her hammer, using it to block the next cut. With an animalistic roar, she thrust the head of her hammer directly into the guard's face, cracking it like an egg. The next guard looked at the bloody carnage she had caused, with one wizard guard impaled on a spike of rock, the other buried in the earth with her head smashed in. His three peers lay dead on the ground, in various states of mangled. His sword fell from his trembling hands, and he turned and ran towards wall to the east.
Amber smirked, straightening up and turning to the terrified politician. He got to his feet and tried to run, but a gesture of Amber's hand caused the earth to fold around his foot and trip him. He turned over onto his back to regard Amber with fear, and shackles of rock clamped around his other ankle and both wrists, locking him in place halfway up the stairs. The lioness grinned, then walked up to the podium and tapped on the Lacrima mic, making sure it was still on. It was.
"Sorry about the mess, everyone. And for locking you in here. My name is Amber Stone, and I'm from the guild Errings Rising. I came here to kill this prick because of what he did to me. Roughly five years ago, I was a member of the Rune Knights, in their Demolition Squad. I used the earth magic you saw me use here today to shake down old buildings and villages that were unsafe. I enjoyed it. I was using my power to help people. Then, one day, I was sent with my team to a village just outside the Neutral Zone. I had orders to tear it down, so it could be rebuilt. I had confirmation from my superiors that the village was abandoned, and that no one lived in it anymore. she said, then shook her head.
"As it turned out, my superiors were lying. The village was full of people, who were in the middle of their daily resting period. My team and I located a fault line just outside the village, and used it to destroy the entire place with an earthquake. The final death toll was just under two hundred. When I found out, I brought it to my commanding officer. That same officer disavowed me, branded me as an outlaw and kicked me out of the Rune Knights. A few days later, after I'd escaped, they put a bounty on my head, blaming the disaster on me and making me out to be a rogue. After living underground for a few years, I came back to learn that my entire team had been executed and my name was on the top of the Rune Knight's Most Wanted list. I found my way to Errings Rising, who I knew to be anarchists, wanting to remove all laws and governments from the world. I knew they would help me get my revenge. And over the last few months, they have. I tracked down and killed a few of those responsible for betraying me, but I wasn't finished. I wanted the one who signed the order. It took me a long time, but finally I found them."
She pointed forcefully at the trapped and quivering Clement, who had tears trailing down his face. "This son of a bitch did it. He signed the order, and paid off the Rune Knight director to make sure it went through. He even made sure I was thrown out, and provided the money for the bounty. All so he could remove a political rival and garner sympathy for his bogus campaign platform. This man doesn't give a shit about the common people. All he cares about is power. Power and money. And that's the kind of person we of Errings Rising despise. So I'm going to remove him for you." With that, she turned and hefted her hammer, lifting it over her head. "You should have just hired a professional assassin, you dumb piece of shit." she said to Leo, who opened his mouth to speak. Whether it was an excuse or apology or whatever else, Amber didn't let him get it out. She brought the hammer down, turning his head into a bloody paste. "Justice served." she growled, satisfied.
Just as a Rune Knight strike squad bust through the west wall, Amber made her escape, running through the campaign office and through the secret exit Leo had had installed. It was a tunnel that lead out of the city, but the earth mage made a left turn at some point and opened her own tunnel, sealing it behind her so she couldn't be followed. As she continued to move, heading to her hideout, she allowed herself to smile. Finally, after all this time, her vengeance was fulfilled.