The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 23
Chapter 23

"Oh, dear Lord," I said before I could stop myself. I could see Lord Niklaus trembling where he stood, and the face on the wall also seemed to boil with rage. "My lord, what do we do?"
He did not answer. Instead, he turned - I quickly lowered my gaze - and stormed from the room. I did not speak. I simply followed him up the stairs and to the second floor. Suddenly he started barking orders:
"I want five of the strongest warriors from each of our surrounding villages to come to the mansion immediately. Get the elementals, and every maid that is a Witch or a Triggersmith. Every man-servant will armour himself and meet me, along with everyone else, in the entrance hall in one hour!" He growled.
Maids and man-servants alike dropped anything they had in their hands and scuttled out of his way to carry out his orders. It was as though his words had turned the mansion into the likeness of an anthill.
"Sebastian and Claude!" Lord Niklaus growled. Two blurs appeared and manifested into the forms of the two butlers, "Get all the Yrie out of the forest and ready for battle. Armour them, sharpen their claws and leash them with the chains in my chambers. Armour yourselves, and pick decent weapons for once. Tonight, we go to war."
I knew this was serious. I could not remember Lord Niklaus ever taking the butlers to war. I remembered the white lion-eagle creatures Claude had shown me shortly after I had arrived at the mansion the first time, and was excited to see their beauty again.
"Sapphire," Lord Niklaus said once the butlers were gone, in a much softer tone, "Get yourself ready for battle, as well. But I want you and the other maids with guns to stay out of sight. Conceal your Ceilos. Everyone has to stay hidden until I give my signal."
"Yes, my lord," I said, "Do you not wish to inform the king of the situation?"
"No, he will want to join in the battle, but he will just burden me," he replied.
Just as I was about to turn away to get ready, an idea struck me, "My lord, what if I snuck into the hideout and retrieved Lady Victoria?"
"Morrow Obsidian can sense if someone enters the hideout itself."
"I have very good stealth skills, my lord," I pressed, eager to be of use, "Even if I fail, you will only lose one servant, and a terrible one at that."
"You have been very helpful these past months..."
"But once Lady Victoria has returned to the mansion, I would not need to help you with anything anymore, my lord," I said, "I would be happy to pay with my life if the reward is that Lady Victoria has returned to you."
"That is very noble of you, Sapphire," he said. He was silent for a few more moments before he added, "Very well."
"Yes!" I said, punching the air, "Thank you, my lord!"
I turned around and ran to my room. The training room did not have the equipment I was looking for: what I was going to put on was something I had hired someone to make for me years ago. It had cost me a small fortune, but it was worth it. It was an outfit of thin material that, when Ceilos was transmitted to it, it would blend with its surroundings. That, together with my stealth skills, would make for the perfect disguise to get me inside. However, just for safety, I put leather battle gear underneath, along with a pouch with my throwing knives attached to my upper thigh.
When I finished getting ready, I ran to the training room, dodging the servants running about in every direction, and grabbed two pistols and a sniper rifle before hurrying back to the entrance hall.
It was packed. I had never thought that Lord Niklaus's word would arouse so much action, but I recognised the themed gear of all the villages surrounding the mansion that protect it. I recognised a few servants here and there, as well, most of them I knew to be Witches, and a few Triggersmiths like myself. Lord Niklaus was standing on the staircase, overlooking them all. He was flanked by the two butlers, who were wearing black leather battle gear. Claude was equipped with a broadsword and Sebastian two daggers.
"That's quite enough," he said, holding out his hands. It was instantly quiet, as though he had flipped the switch on the sound of people's voices. "I want to thank you all for coming. I shall waste no time with a motivational speech. The purpose for this battle is simple: retrieve Lady Victoria from the leader of the Shadows' clutches. Understand me clearly when I say that, they are not opponents to be easily trifled with. The last time I fought them, the Shadows were a group of little more than ten people. They may have grown. I do not know.
"I do not want simply to barge into their lands. In fact, I do not even want them to see us coming. The moment you step out of these doors, you will mask your Ceilos signature and move out stealthily. Any questions?"
"Lord Niklaus," one of the men from one of the villages in the mountains behind the mansion, Efdar, said. Lord Niklaus turned to look at him, "How do you know where the Shadows' hideout is?"
"My dear gentleman," he said solemnly, "Where would I be if I did not know the location of my enemies? Follow me, and I shall do the rest. Let us go. Remember: during this invasion, stealth is key."
For a moment, I could have sworn his eyes rested on me, and before I lowered my gaze, I thought I saw him wink. I assured myself that the flutter in my heart was the anticipation building in the pit of my stomach.
In a flash, Lord Niklaus and his butlers were the ones at the doors, which they opened and led all of us outside.
"Sapphire!"
I turned to see Jayla catching up to walk beside me. "Hey."
"I'm just going to stay with you. I don't want to go with Alice and her band of bitches."
I smiled, "No problem."
I decided not to tell her about my plan to leave the army once we were in sight of the Shadows' hideout, and I found myself wondering how Lord Niklaus knew where exactly that was. He had not answered the man's question properly, and unless he had been there before himself, how else could he be sure?
On the other hand, how had Morrow Obsidian gotten through the defences, and a mansion that hates the very mention of him, to kidnap Lady Victoria? I wondered whether the mansion had been distracted: after all, it had a piece of Lord Niklaus's soul, so perhaps it had been just as excited as he was, and had let its guard down.
I told myself to stop thinking such things: it would turn me insane.
We ran for what seemed like hours, but I could not be sure. The Yrie had joined with us on the way, and were armoured in silver, and moved more silently than any of the humans.
We ran north east, in the direction of the Forgotten Countries right in the middle of the continent, where I grew up. When the sun started setting, we made camp and rested for around two hours before continuing to run, now with no Ceilos in our legs.
Soon, a looming forest came into view, and we were glad that we could hide in the cover of the trees.
"We are close," Lord Niklaus announced in a hushed tone. I had done my best to keep as close to him as I possibly could.
The minutes passed slowly. We slowed our pace to lower the volume and finally Lord Niklaus slowed even more and came to a stop at what seemed to be near the edge of the forest. He turned to face me, and I lowered my gaze, but then he moved to look at the other warriors.
"This is it," he whispered to those of us at the front of the crowd, and I knew that they would simply pass on the message to the ones at the back. "When I give my signal, and only then, will you reveal yourselves. I first want to try and sort this out diplomatically. Butlers, follow me."
"Yes, my lord," they chorused in whispers.
We all watched as the three vampires exited the cover of the trees. I also neared it, ignoring the protests from my fellow servants, and performed my hearing-enhancing technique, as well as my sight-enhancing technique. The gaps between the leaves revealed a small, wooden hut. I stared. This could not be it, could it?"
"Is the hideout as magnificent as ours?" Jayla asked me eagerly.
"No, I ... it looks like something a village outcast would live in," I replied, "What the hell?"
"Really?"
"Maybe this is a disguise," I suggested as I continued staring, "Perhaps we are in a field of Ceilos where anyone not belonging to it, sees it as this hut where it's really a magnificent building ... or maybe the real hideout is underground."
I secretly hoped with all my heart that it was the latter. If I had to search through something I could not properly see, for a person I quite detested at the moment, I did not know whether I would succeed. I went nearer to the edge of the forest, being careful not to be visible, but my view was much better.
As I made myself comfortable on the branches, I saw that Lord Niklaus and the butlers had stopped walking; they were now facing the hut as though waiting for someone to come outside. Once again, I wondered how Lord Niklaus had known where to look.
Moments later, the door to the hut opened.
I put my hand over my mouth to stop myself from screaming in terror.
The thing that came out of the hut was not human.
It had the basic figure of a human, but skin covered the places where its facial features were supposed to be. Where lips should have been, there were none. Instead, a hole was visible in the shape of a manic grin, the skin grown over it in strips. Its skin was grey and it wore nothing but leather pants and boots, and walked with a slight limp. I could hear its ragged breath even from this distance, and it filled my body with cold fear. Judging by the rest of the warriors in my view, they felt the same.
"Morrow Obsidian," Lord Niklaus said, his voice simply dripping with contempt.
"I have waited long for you to come out of your hiding place," it said. Its mouth did not move, and its voice seemed to come from inside my head. Instinctively, I performed my concealing technique, and transported some Ceilos to my clothes. I could see the rest of my body take on the moss green and mud brown qualities of my surroundings.
"Return Victoria to me this instant."
"You know, I was just about to start purifying my lost sword," Morrow Obsidian said, "You have interrupted me in a very important order of business."
"I am glad," Lord Niklaus said coldly, "If you return Victoria to me, I shall cure her emotional state and the prophecy will carry itself out, like you want it to."
"Oh, but it will not. My way, the girl will not have emotions blocking her way. She will not have feelings or care for the people around her. She will truly be powerful that way, and a worthy Shadow."
"Not if I can help it."
It was now or never, while they were stalling. But just as I was about to start moving, the creature in front of us said something that nearly made my heart stop beating.
"You have seventy-eight humans hiding in my trees, and twenty-three of your pathetic experiments, along with two vampiric lab accidents. I have thirty-two people who carry the title as Shadow, and you know how high my standards are. Do you really think you can win this fight?"
My breath caught in my throat. Could he sense me even through all my concealments? I had no way to be sure. I never did a freaking head count of how many we are.
"These people are some of my best warriors," Lord Niklaus said, "None of my experiments can die, thanks to you."
What was I supposed to do? Morrow's attention was on Lord Niklaus. Did I dare try to enter the hideout? What if he sensed me?
Before I could reach a decision, a painfully high-pitched sound rang through the air. I pressed my palms to my ears to try and block it out, but to no avail. Just when I thought that my brain might explode, it ceased, but what followed was even worse: the door to the hut opened once more.
Out of it came a collection of the ugliest figures I had ever seen before. All of them wore leather pants and boots. After a careful check, I noticed Manson among them, and wondered how on earth he was going to act now: whose side was he truly on?
"Show me, Niklaus, how much you have grown since I created you..."
"Come!" Lord Niklaus called, and all of us were sure that he was calling for us.
After a simultaneous cheer, all of his warriors ran forth from the cover of the trees. Jayla briefly looked around her in search of me. When she failed to locate me, she also started running.
In the ensuing chaos, I ran for the hut.

 

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