Ardeshir tossed upright in his bed, panting and quickly gazing around the room. He wondered whether the scream was real or part of the dream he had. Lately he couldn’t be sure anymore, so he got out of bed, dressed and put on his boots. His body ached with the movements and fatigue still weighed heavily on him, despite having slept for hours. He shoved the curtains to the side, allowing warm sunlight to spill in through the window.
His stomach rumbled, and it reminded him of the fact that he hadn’t eaten since yesterday. He’d been too busy with Arch Mage Kyros trying to summon the remaining Battle Maidens that he had forgotten to eat dinner. He decided to stop by the kitchens on his way to the training grounds and pick up a nice breakfast. It would allow him to replenish his strength and practice until mid-day, but he still had to find a secluded area to summon. He needed to be wary of watchful eyes and he couldn’t call the High Mage an ally of his.
Ardeshir wandered down the bare hallways until he came across the empty Commons area on his way to the kitchen. On any normal day apprentices would fill every seat in the room and study their form of magic. He paused, taking in the vacant chairs, wondering where everyone had gone and if there was an event he had missed.
A shadowy figure shifted across the hall from the corner of his vision, but by the time he turned it was already gone.
The same sensation he felt the previous night in the Arrival Square lingered in the air and prickled his skin in the Commons area. Either his senses were becoming increasingly heightened or more magical residue was still lingering in the air. A shout echoed down the corridor. Ardeshir sprinted, but the brief outcry ended before he made it halfway down the hall. He decided not to summon and risk penalty in case it was a false alarm. He pressed his ear to the door and listened to the soft scraping noise coming from the inside. A deep, long sound that filled him with dread.
Ardeshir took a step back and kicked the door open. His body stiffened at the sight of the long, snakelike creature. It held the woman in its arms and buried its face in her chest accompanied with a slurping noise. The woman twitched, her eyes slowly shifting towards him. It forced Ardeshir to watch in horror as the woman’s cheeks sunk in and her body became slighter with every heartbeat. Within a few moments, the young woman turned into an aged husk of saggy skin and bones.
The snake pulled away from its victim and eyed Ardeshir with a bloodied grin. It wasn’t entirely snake but had the body of a woman from the waist up. Ardeshir had no idea what type of creature he was dealing with. He’d never heard of any studies nor had he come across it in his travels across the galaxy. It did however seem vaguely familiar with his dreams. The magical residue in the room was stronger than anything he had felt in the physical realm before.
“So you’re the one responsible for the chaos I’ve been experiencing these past two days. I can’t allow you to continue with this.” Ardeshir held out his hand and channeled magic through him to summon Vida at his side.
“It’s rude of you to interrupt me during my meal, but I guess I’ll make an exception for you.” She dropped the body to the floor and slithered in his direction, letting her tongue slip in between her lips. “You’ll have to do for now, my tasty little friend.”
Ardeshir moved aside and reached for the dagger in his belt, quickly drawing it. Vida was faster and darted in with her sword and bashed the snake in the head with the length of her sword. The snake reeled back, swaying from side to side as it reached up and touched the injured spot on its forehead from which a trickle of blood ran down her face.
“You ruined my beautiful face! Looks like I’m going to have to pull you limb from limb apart.” She jumped onto Vida, coiling around her arm and squeezing tightly. The sword fell out of her grip and disintegrated into a blue mist. Vida struggled against the pressure around her. “This is so much fun I’m so happy you joined me for this.”
Ardeshir charged, raising his dagger and brought it down but the tip chipped and broke off without penetrating the thick scales protecting the snake. Panic rushed through him at the sight. His dagger wouldn’t be enough, and he didn’t know where on the Guild grounds he could get a sword capable of slicing through her. The snake tightened her grip, eliciting a sharp groan from Vida.
“Wait your turn dear, I’ll get to you in just a moment.”
Ardeshir had to act quickly before it was too late. He didn’t want to see Vida in pain but knew that she would survive as long as he maintained control over the anchiti and could supply her with magic. He reached for the newly acquired jikka and channeled magic into it while calling upon the Maiden inside.
Ahzi appeared momentarily and took in her new surroundings, but it didn’t take long for her to hone in on her target. She drew her pistol out of thin air and leveled it on the snake, quickly firing the ball within. It surged out with a snap and buried itself into the snake. The snake’s eyes widened, jaw falling opening before dropping to the ground.
“Seriously, this is what you called me for? You really are pathetic,” Ahzi said, relinquishing her pistol and combing her fingers through her hazel hair.
The snake snarled, tongue hissing out of her mouth as she tried to raise herself up once more. Her blood-shot eyes wandered from Ahzi to Vida and landed on Ardeshir. Ahzi didn’t wait to see what happened next and quickly pulled out both pistols. The shots landed in the snake’s head, finishing her off.
“This,” Ahzi said, kicking the body on the floor, with a sense of disgust lingering in her tone. “Is a lamia. Half snake, half human hybrid and servant of darkness known as Khrafstra. They never travel alone, and wherever they are the leviathan isn’t far off.”
“You mean to tell me there more of these things out there? If that’s the case, then we need to see the High Mage and organize a search party,” Ardeshir said. He tossed his broken dagger aside and moved to the door. “Just how many are we speaking of here?”
Ahzi shrugged, dispersing her pistol. “Five or six, maybe ten. It’s hard to tell because the encounters I had with the lamia were limited. The ahura were capable magi in their own right, and could defend themselves against these creatures. Humans on the other hand are hardly more than meat shields.”
“Ten. They must’ve been hiding in the cave when the thieves settled in. The thieves were the first victims until we arrived and let them out.”
Ardeshir marched back down the hallway and took the nearest exit onto the courtyard, where he crossed over to the main building where the High Mage had his office set up. It was awfully quiet and he began to wonder just how much damage had been already done and if he was perhaps too late.
The inside fared little better with piles of clothing littering the corridors. Dozens, if not hundreds, of people must’ve already fallen victim to the lamia. Ardeshir opened the door up a notch and carefully peered inside to make sure they weren’t walking right into a trap. He saw the High Mage sitting at his desk, head lowered to his chest and what looked like the deep sleep.
Ardeshir sighed and stepped inside the room clearing his throat to hopefully get the attention of the High Mage without having to waking him. “I apologize for interrupting, but it appears we have an emergency on our hands. The Guild is under attack from a group of lamia and several people have already fallen victim. We need to organize the strongest fighters here to search for the remaining lamia while we bring the survivors to safety.”
Bayat groaned softly and bobbed his head but his eyes didn’t open. A figure stirred from underneath his desk and rose. She wiped the blood off her mouth with the back of her hand and grinned. It was the girl from his dreams and Ardeshir felt his heart pause at the sight. He was struck in awe by her beauty, mixed together with fear of what she was and what she had done.
“There you are, sweetie. It’s me, Sahmara. I was hoping we’d get to see each other again because the only way for me to save you is if you stay by my side. Not all of my sisters have grown so attached to you as I have.”
“You’re all killing innocent people. I can’t let this go on.”
The lamia frowned and gazed at him with a concerned look in her eyes. “I don’t want you get hurt, it’s why I let you live. But you can’t blame us for what we are doing as little as we blame you for the food you eat. It’s all just part of the natural order, but I admire your concern.”
“You can’t compare the two. And don’t come to me about how you are trying to help me. I still remember the things you did to me.” Ardeshir turned to Vida and then to Ahzi. “If the lamia are servants of darkness, then we have to defeat them.”
Vida moved in, thrusting her sheathed sword at the lamia with a force that was strong enough to have the air crackle around her. As the side of the sword swung it came to an abrupt halt at her neck. Vida struggled, attempting to apply more pressure to finish the task.
“You’re seriously having trouble killing off a snake again? Ugh, I guess I’ll just have to do everything then.” Ahzi reached for both pistols and released their thunderous content upon the lamia but the balls ricocheted off an unseen defense and then bore into the wall. “Impossible, I never miss!”
Ahzi continued to fire a barrage of balls at the lamia while Ardeshir moved in from the side, grabbing the chair and slamming it against her back. The chair snapped apart before it was even able to touch her. Ardeshir had never seen such a protective spell in action before, especially one that was able to cover her from all sides. Some magi were able to cast barrier spells that would act as shields and cover their front.
“This could have been so much easier. We were meant for each other but you just had to go and mess it up.”
“I’ve had enough of this. It’s time for me to get serious with you!” Ahzi began demanding increasing amounts of magic and channeled them into her pistol. The wood and metal frame began to glow brightly until Ardeshir felt blinded just by looking at the pistol.
Sahmara grimaced and released her grip on Vida. She slithered away and crashed through the window. Ardeshir ran after, but she’d already put a hundred feet between them and was on her way to the Arrival Square.
“Out of the way,” Ahzi said butting herself in between Ardeshir and the broken window. For a moment, Ardeshir thought he could smell the fresh ocean breeze in her hair. She held her arm out and took the shot. The jolt sent her back a step and into Ardeshir’s arms.
The ball whizzed across the courtyard with ferocity. If it weren’t for the trails of blue and red magic streaking the air, he wouldn’t have been able to follow its trajectory. Sahmara turned around and raised her arms to cast the protective barrier but it soon engulfed her in the explosion. Ahzi holstered her pistol and lingered in his arms a moment longer than he would’ve thought. She grinned sheepishly until she noticed Vida approaching from the side and hurried away from Ardeshir’s embrace.
As the dust began to settle a silhouette remained standing. Sahmara stared back at them. Dozens, if not hundreds, of figures emerged from the sidewalks and gathered at her side.
“So much for ten,” Ardeshir said.
Sahmara was not alone, she had an army of lamia at her disposal.
“What?! No ordinary creature has stopped a shot like that before. Looks like I to have to go all out on this next one. No more holding back.”
Vida turned away from the window and brushed a bang of blonde hair to the side. “These aren’t the same lamia we fought before. This one’s enhanced herself with the help of a powerful mage.”
Next time on Magefall …
Episode 11 – Revelations