The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 24
Chapter 24

I did not know whether the creature busy attacking Lord Niklaus could sense me running right for the door in the middle of the battle. I just knew that I had to hurry, no matter what. I had to count on the fact that perhaps my camouflage gear, concealing techniques and Lord Niklaus as an opponent was enough to blind him.
My peripheral vision revealed that Claude was fighting another Shadow, but it was too horrifying to focus on the details of its appearance. Sebastian was fighting another Shadow to my right. The Yrie were each a decent match for the Shadows: I could not see how Morrow Obsidian would win this fight.
However, just before I was at the door of the hut, I saw a man whose head had been cut off, standing up.
When I reached the door of the hut, I slowed my pace to a cautious walk. My heart leapt with excitement when I saw that Morrow Obsidian was still busy fighting Lord Niklaus. They seemed to outmatch each other perfectly, which was exactly what I needed.
I dwelled for a moment on the thought that perhaps the creature did know that I was here, and he was allowing me to enter because he had laid out a trap for me.
But that was a chance I needed to take, and I could waste no time being a pessimist.
Careful not to touch the door at all, I slid in through the opening and turned around to look at where I am.
"Hmph ..."
It was a seemingly insignificant hut that could have belonged to any village outcast that made a living as a hunter. The only thing that was out of place was the floor mat in the corner: it was shrivelled up and revealed a trapdoor. I approached it and lifted it open, and saw nothing but a stepladder enveloped in darkness, and once again my mind saw the pessimistic side of things: there might be some creature down there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for someone it does not recognise, someone to eat--
No, I told myself firmly, I have to find Victoria, for Lord Niklaus's sake.
I took a deep breath, making sure all my concealment techniques were still in place, and lowered myself into the opening with a firm hold on the stepladder's edges.
I lowered myself slowly so as to not make a sound. The journey downwards seemed to take forever, but finally, I reached the ground. The moment my feet touched the hard stone floor, my surroundings seemed to light up.
It was a massive circular room. All around me, lanterns lit themselves to reveal table upon table, stacked with millions of sheets of paper. Armchairs were clustered in groups all about the room and, in the centre of the room was a shrine-like pedestal of pure silver, and I recognised the sword I had seen in books. They called it Lumen Vesper, but the last I heard, it was in the Village of Water.
I shook my head at myself. There was no time to think about such trivial things. In the distance, I could see a single counter that served as a kitchen: beside it stood a fridge and a stove, and atop it, a coffee-maker. I nearly snorted with laughter at the banality of it. I had never thought of the Shadows as humans.
My judgemental thoughts were cut short, however, as I noticed a sofa not far from the kitchen counter, and Victoria sat on it.
I shunned any resentful feelings I had toward her, stopped transmitting Ceilos into my suit, and ran.
"Lady Victoria," I whispered. Her head turned toward me and her eyes were empty as they looked into mine. "We have to go."
To my surprise, she got up silently and looked at me expectantly, as though waiting for me to lead her away. I testily took a few steps back toward the stepladder, and she followed.
The only logical explanation for this is that Morrow Obsidian gave her some form of drug to make her compliant to any command she was given, I thought to myself, just for the sake of not freaking myself out.
I ran toward the stepladder, hearing her follow, and started climbing it.
When we reached the top, I hurried to the door and slid outside again before looking back at her. To my horror, she grabbed onto the handle of the door and wrenched it open, sending a mighty creaking sound through the clearing.
Time itself seemed to stop. No one moved. Without hesitation, both Morrow Obsidian and Lord Niklaus ran toward us in blurs. Lord Niklaus, to my relief, had the con because of his vampiric speed and Morrow's limp, but only by a millisecond. I felt him grab onto my collar and saw him do the same to Victoria, and the world around me warped and faded, but not before I felt something claw into my stomach.

I screamed at the searing pain and my hold on Lord Niklaus's shoulder intensified out of instinct. I had never felt something burn so much in my life, not even the acidic properties of those Spirit-forsaken herbs in the Village of Water.
Finally, I was set down on something soft, and I opened my eyes to see that I was in the entrance hall of the mansion. Victoria was staring at me with empty eyes.
"Oh, Spirits," Lord Niklaus said, kneeling beside me.
He placed his hand over the wound on the lower right of my stomach and a greenish glow enveloped it. I felt the warmth of the healing Ceilos at work, and fidgeted uncomfortably as I felt my skin sew itself back together. However, the burning continued and I found it extremely difficult to breathe: a searing pain exploded in my chest every time I took a breath.
"He pierced your lung, Sapphire," Lord Niklaus said gravely, "I can mend the tissue, but even after all these years, I have no cure for his venom."
Tears stung my eyes, but I forced myself to keep breathing. With cruel irony, I was going to die the same way Luka did. But I needed to see Victoria have emotions again. I wanted to know for certain whether she really felt remorseful about my Luka's death. I wanted to see Alexudo in her eyes.
I felt Lord Niklaus mending the hole in my lung, and my breathing became slightly easier, but my body still screamed with pain with every breath. I tried to speak, but my voice came out in rasps.
"Do not talk."
I frowned in determination and tried again, "Please - cure - Lady Victoria."
I gasped and pain burned in my chest again. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Lord Niklaus frowning. I knew that I was going to die: his expression had told me that much, but I did not want to die in vain. I wanted to see that my hard work these past months paid off.
"Sapphire, look at me," he said softly. I took another, painful breath, and, my heart hammering furiously, looked up into his face, admiring his eyes as I always had. "I want to thank you for all your help. If it had not been for you, Lady Victoria would have been dead by now. You put your own life on the line for someone who has been nothing but cruel to you. For that, I want you to take this, as a token of my appreciation."
I said nothing, only listened to my raspy breath as his ice cold hand was placed over the hole where my other eye should have been. I felt an uncomfortable tingle along with needles-and-pins, and my vision became strangely darker. I blinked.
I gasped.
I could feel my eyelid close over another eye, and Lord Niklaus loosened the bandage and took it off.
I blinked several times. For some reason, the entrance hall was suddenly lit to an amazing degree. After several more blinks, I opened both my eyes and could actually see on the left side of my face, finally resting my gaze on my master's face.
"Thank - you - my lord," I rasped. It might just have been my imagination, but I could feel the pain in my chest worsen with every breath.
"You are welcome," he said before standing upright.
"My lord," I whispered, not even trying to use my voice anymore. He turned to face me again. "Why is - Lady Victoria - like this?"
"I'm afraid that, for some reason, she has completely lost her will to live," he answered, "She will not do something unless she is told to. But I shall fix that now, thanks to your help."
I felt my heart starting to hammer even worse. All other thoughts lost, I watched as Lord Niklaus went to stand directly in front of Victoria, take a deep breath, and start forming seals with his hands faster than I could ever dream of doing. I lost count when the speed reached such a point that his hands began to blur. On the floor at his feet, purplish sparks started shooting, and on the ground, strange patterns in black started forming. Despite the searing burn in my chest, I forced myself to sit a little more upright.
The black patterns followed the purplish sparks in strange patterns until an ornate circle had formed around Victoria. Lord Niklaus started muttering under his breath, but I was sure that, even if I could hear him properly, I would not have understood what he said.
As I watched, the purplish sparks started climbing up Lady Victoria's bare legs, and the strange patterns followed. Eventually she was covered from head to toe in them. Suddenly, Lord Niklaus stopped chanting and forming seals. He held his hand in front of him, palm up, and more of the purple sparks gathered in his hand.
I coughed up blood, but sat upright still, holding my hand to my mouth. The pain in my chest was worse than ever, but I forced myself to focus on the technique Lord Niklaus was performing.
Suddenly, he took a step forward and pushed the ball of purple sparks right into Victoria's stomach. Purplish sparks enveloped her and formed and faded in the shape of wolf ears and a tail. She screamed worse than I had ever heard her scream before, and I could hear both the Dark and the Light scream along with her.
As I watched, I coughed up blood again, and my vision blurred for a moment. As I breathed, I saw black smoke escape along with my breath.
Only a few more moments.
All the patterns, both on the floor and on Victoria's body, started to move and snake up her legs or down her arms to the direction of her Mark. As the ball of purple sparks disappeared in the depths of her skin, Lord Niklaus stepped back and watched her with wide eyes.
She writhed and screamed and clawed at her thigh, where her Mark was, ripping away the flesh to reveal the three water droplet likenesses in the form of her special tattoo, swirling and spinning about on her skin. The strange spikes that had grown out of the tattoos seemed to jump from her skin and land on the floor as blood.
When all the marks that had been on the floor and her skin was absorbed by her mark, they seemed to explode from her body again, and she stood upright in the puddle of her own blood.
I tried to take a deep breath, but it hurt too much, and a lot of smoke escaped out of my mouth. My vision blurred even more.
"My lady?" Lord Niklaus said softly.
Suddenly, her head whipped up. She looked about her wildly, as if not knowing where she was. Then her eyes rested on me. In them, I could see the brilliant green that had once belonged to Alexudo, and in the blur of my vision, I could see him briefly.
"I - I'm so sorry," she said with a shaky voice. My vision blurred even more, but now from tears.
I could feel my limbs becoming numb, and my lungs seared more than ever with the burning of Morrow Obsidian's venom. Finally, I stopped fighting, my vision darkened, and the pain was gone.

 

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