Tales From Deleor: Guardian Angel


“Hey there beautiful, is your name Phallia?”

She didn’t look up as the man, voice slurred with ale, addressed her. Hand upon her mug, she brought it to her lips and took a large gulp, finishing the amber contents. The container made a soft “thunk” as she set it upside down on the bar, the motion slow and deliberate.

“Ahhh, quiet one eh? That’s fine, that’s fine. Spend a little time with me tonight and I’ll have you screaming at the top of your lungs, ehehe.”

She pushed the mug toward the bartender, who took it with weary hands. Rolling in his eyes, he grabbed the more expensive bottles of liquor from easy reach and backed away from the counter. The man had clearly been doing his job for some time if he could read the mood this well.

“Hey, you trying to ignore me? That ain’t a bright idea.”

The man grunted and placed a hand calloused from years working on a ship upon her shoulder. She didn’t so much as shift at the touch but merely said soft and slow, “You don’t want to do this.”

Despite not looking at the man she could feel his apprehension at her calm, yet forceful tone. Much against his credit, he redoubled his resolve and gripped her shoulder harder before spinning her about on her barstool. In the same, fluid motion, she grabbed another mug from the bar and smashed it into his face.

Perhaps to his benefit the glass didn’t shatter, but it was enough to stagger the man back into a table where two other sailors sat. He crashed straight into the table causing their food and drink to fly in the air, covering the surprised men in their meals. Cursing like, well, sailors, they stood up and glared daggers at the woman.

“You fucking bitch.” The first man growled, picking himself off the floor. His hair was soaked in ale and his white deck shirt was stained with gravy. Without even missing a beat, he charged at her, fist aimed at her face.

She dodged the blow with ease. Grabbing his arm in hers, she brought it in close and slammed her elbow down, breaking his bone before pushing him away. He screamed in pain while clutching his now useless arm. The other two men only hesitated a second before drawing knives from their belts and charging at her.

With a sigh, she slid off her stool and rolled to the side and avoid the blow. Her brown cloak whipped about her, showing off faded leather armor that accentuated her powerful, feminine physique. At her side hung a well-used mace though she didn’t make to draw it. Coming out of her roll, she grabbed a barstool instead and swung it into the nearest of the two men, cracking the wood against his leg. He dropped with a cry allowing her to drive the stool down onto his back. The man gurgled before falling still.

“Gods damned whore!” The last sailor cried, moving with more caution. The way he gripped his knife showed he was quite used to bar fights and various brawls sailors of ill-repute would find themselves in. She respected that, but it wasn’t going to do him any good. He may be brawny and have some low cunning, but she had been fighting longer than he’d been alive.

The barstool fell from her hands. The man’s eyes flicked to the falling stool, giving her enough of an opening to dash forward and grab the man’s knife hand. He let out a startled cry as she deftly twisted his wrist, forcing him to drop the knife. Without missing a beat, she leveled her elbow into his chin with enough force to toss his head back. Unconscious, the sailor became dead weight which she dropped without ceremony to the floor.

Wiping food off her clothing, she adjusted her cloak before walking over the conscious sailor. His screams had become dull whimpers and she could see fear in his eyes. Crouching down to meet the man’s eyes she asked, “Do you regret your actions?”

“I-I… yes.”

“Will you do it again?”

“N…no.”

She gave him a motherly smile and placed her hand upon his cheek. “If you truly mean your words, then may you walk in the light of Solos.”

“T-thank you Mis-“ He cut off as she struck him on the head with enough force to knock him senseless as well.

She shook her head as he crumpled. “Honestly. I warned you fuckers not to do that.” Rolling her shoulders, she turned to the bartender and said, “I apologize for the mess.”

“Eh, all things considered that was minimal damage for these idiots. Getting humiliated by a lady such as yourself should humble them a little, ma’am.”

“Still, I should pay something.” She said, reaching into a leather pouch strapped to her side. Fishing out a gold coin, she set it on the counter, much to the man’s incredulity. “This should cover it well enough.”

“M-Ma’am.” He stuttered, looking at the coin. “This is far too much for something like that. I can’t accept this my lady ah…” he stumbled over his words, gesturing at her.

“Be at ease.” She said, holding up a hand. “My name is Veronica. I am but a traveling priestess of Solos.”

This information had the opposite effect however. The man’s eyes grew wide, his jaw dropping. “Y-Y-You’re the… the-“

“The damn fool who’s blowing her cover!”

Both Veronica and the bartender turned to the entrance of the bar where a tall, surly looking man stood. He wore a set of heavy leather armor and an ornate sword at his waist though that drew people’s attention was the perpetual serious expression on his face. He grunted and closed the door before stalking over to Veronica, finger pointed at her in accusation. “You said you were going to go gather information and next thing I know, you’ve started a bar fight.”

“All things considered, they started it first.”

The man ran a hand through his short-cropped black hair and looked at the woman before him. Veronica was tall for a woman, almost six feet, and possessed a fit physique from years of martial training. Her face was attractive and framed by long brown hair that tumbled down her back, but not even her clear blue eyes could hide the signs of aging. At a little over forty years of age, she had wrinkles pulling at the corners of her eyes that gave her a motherly appearance, though she had no children of her own.

She gave the newcomer one of her motherly smiles, but he was aware of her nature. Holding up a hand he growled, “Spare me, Veronica. I know you curse like one of these sailors when you get angry, so you can’t pull this ‘holy mother’ routine on me.”

“Damn.” She sighed, rubbing at her chin. “I guess Blake chose correctly sending you, didn’t he Bardam?”

Bardam snorted and crossed his arms. “Yeah, because if I wasn’t here you’d probably get into more bar fights or end up attracting a crowd of people asking you to give your blessing. Remember, we’re on a mission.”

“I figured wearing light armor would be able to hide my presence enough. People are used to me wearing plate armor after all.”

“You know damn well you’re wearing that because plate mail on a boat is a death sentence.” Bardam groaned. Waving a hand at her, he continued. “Besides, you have the sun of Solos embroidered on your damn tabard.”

“Uh…uhm.” The bartender began, rubbing his hands together. “I’m sorry to interrupt but… it’s just… well, it’s not everyday you get a Hero here you see.”

“There’s two Heroes here, actually.” Bardam said, swelling with pride. “Cover is blown anyway, but as I’m sure you can tell, we’re both from the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood.”

“Ah, yes, but…” He looked uncomfortable as he waved toward Veronica. “She’s just The Ascendant and all.”

Bardman rolled his eyes. “Oh here we go.”

“Peace, both of you.” Veronica said, holding out her hand in placation. “It is true, I am called that now, but it does not make me more than anyone else.”

“Forgive me for saying, but it kind of does.” The bartender said, looking more resolute. “I didn’t really read Wizardquest, but even I know the stories about your divine blessings from Solos.”

“That was a long time ago. It is true that I possess such powers, but it is only because of my faith.” She nodded her head and placed a hand to her abdomen. “Such a thing comes with a price, however.”

Bardam clenched his jaw and looked away, giving the conversation a tense air. The bartender, no stranger to such things, cleared his throat and asked, “If I may be so bold to ask, but what brings you all the way to Dead Man’s Port? It’s not technically a Deleorian island after all.”

Veronica gave Bardam a short nod before turning back to the bartender. “True, but Dead Man’s Port is basically Deleorian based on population and serves as a very important trade hub between Ectria and Deleor. As such if there is a threat to it or the seas connecting to it and its trade, then it’s of interest to the Order.”

“Threat? Wait a minute, you don’t mean…” The bartender’s face went pale. “The Ghost Raiders?”

Both Veronica and Bardam perked up at this. Bardam held his hands toward the man, “You know of them? Ah, what fortune, what can you tell us about them?”

The bartender clearly looked uncomfortable, but at a reassuring smile from Veronica he grew a little calmer. “Well… I don’t know that much, but no one really does. There’s always been ghost stories in the waters out around here. Mostly tales of dread Captain Merlock after all, but most people chalked it up to sea Monsters looking for an easy score, you know?”

His expression grew grim. “Recently though whole crews have gone missing. Survivors, few though there are, talk in hushed whispers about a rotting ship glowing in the dark. Most people are afraid to sail these days.”

“I see.” Veronica said, crossing her arms under her breasts. “Well, Ghosts are real, of course, so it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for this to be true.”

“It fits with the information we had already.” Bardam said. “Explains why the Lord Commander sent you out here.”

“Mmm.” She mused. “Tell me sir, where have these Ghost Raiders been seen?”

“You’re not seriously thinking about-?” He began before cutting off and shaking his head. “Of course you are, Gods protect.” He wiped at his forehead. “One of the survivors of an attack who drifted back into port half-dead whispered over the rim of his ale that there’s a small island to the north by northeast of here where they saw a cave large enough for a ship or two. Before they could explore they were attacked and he was sent overboard.”

The man shook his head. “Whether or not it’s true, I don’t know if it does any good. No one, not even one of the Monster Captains out here would be crazy enough to sail toward certain doom.”

Bardman and Veronica’s expressions met. Smirking, the woman said, “Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

—————————————-

“Oh ho ho, so you know where those fuckers are, eh?”

Veronica chuckled at Captain Larnstrider’s jovial nature. Despite having a large coastline, millennia of invasions from the landlocked north and a good (Compared to the Monster Nation) relationship with the Monsters of the Sea meant that Deleor had little use for a navy. Add to that the recent tensions with Galmathoria and it that there weren’t any naval vessels to spare who would aid in the censure of these “Ghost Raiders.” So, it fell to Veronica and Bardam to find a Captain with enough balls to take on such a mission

That person, while lacking in the testicle department, was Captain Larnstrider- A Kobold.

The heavy-set Monster leaned against the railing of her ship and rubbed her chin. It wasn’t to say that she was fat, the vast majority of Monsters had this odd habit of never seeming undesirably large, but she certainly had a little extra. She was covered in black fur that ran along her whole body, exposing skin only on her shoulders and face. Floppy dog ears blended into short, black hair that seemed comical on such a large Monster.

Waving a furred hand, she asked, “I think I know where you’re talking about. If we have favorable wind means it shouldn’t be too far away, but if we get fog rolling in it would be an easy place to get ambushed.”

“Are you saying you’re backing out?”

“HA!” The Captain guffawed. She slapped the railing of her ship hard enough to make Bardam, who was leaning on it jump. “Ol’ Captain Larnstrider never goes back on her word. Besides, I have a score to settle with Captain Merlock.” Her expression darkened for a moment before her jovial smile reappeared.

“Right then, we’ll be ready to set sail at dawn”

“So soon?” Bardam said, surprised. “I figured it would take longer to get the ship ready.”

“Ah well, when you do the work I do, you need to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice you see.”

The man’s eyes narrowed. “Right… smuggling.”

“Peace, Bardam.” Veronica said, placing a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not like there’s really any semblance of law in the waters around Dead Man’s Port. It will gain us nothing to antagonize the one person willing to help up.” Her eyes flicked to the Captain. “If she slips up while in Port Dorning however… well, that’s for the authorities to decide.”

“Uh, aren’t we sort of authorities?-“

“Not today we aren’t.” Veronica said, placing a hand over his mouth to cut him off. “We thank you again for your generosity.”

Bardam grunted and pushed aside Veronica’s hand. “As for our accommodations, I trust you didn’t set us in the back of the hold or something?”

“What, and discomfort a great Hero of the Order? Ha, no, we have something special planned for you.” Her shit-eating grin made Bardam grimace while Veronica could only smile in return. Patting the man on the back she chuckled,

“Come now Bardam, we should thank Solos for whatever blessings we can get.” Pushing him forward to cut off any further protests they walked up the plank onto the ship.

The deck of the Fool’s Errand was clean all things considered, but small. Masking itself as a merchant vessel, it was fast along the waters while boasting two masts. Speed was a necessity for the line of work that its crew was employed in. Of course, given the lack of true naval policing, a silver-tongued captain and a few coins in the right hands held far more weight in a successful venture.

Like most ships it held little in the way of weaponry, giving more credence to the apperance that it was a simple merchant vessel. Few vessels in Deleor possessed any weaponry as it stood and only those which were incredibly wealthy or part of the military would include any kind of Magitek weaponry. The few crew members she saw around the ship- a mix of Monsters and human men, had swords at the belts or easy access to weapons on racks. Just because they paraded around as a merchant ship didn’t mean they couldn’t defend themselves, of course!

The crew gave their passengers glances of curiosity as they went by before going about their work. Clearly they’d had stranger passengers, or were at least inured to such things. Veronica paid it no mind, hoisting her few belongings in a sack with her. She’d never been one for many possessions, even in her youth. Some would consider it a virtue but she merely considered it convenient. Bardam, on the other hand, hauled a large backpack filled with various items and equipment for their mission.

A crew member pointed them down the cramped hallway of the second deck where they soon found themselves before a small door. Bardam frowned and put his hand on his sword, the other moving to cautiously open the door. Veronica sighed and pushed it open, rusty hinges creaking as it swung inward.

Disregarding all sense of caution now, the two looked about the room with surprised expressions. While nothing about a ship this size would be large, it was surprisingly roomy. Two small, wall-mounted cots with fresh blankets awaited them along with a small cabinet attached to the floor. All in all, it was nothing special and yet more than they’d expected.

“Well I’ll be damned.” Bardam said, setting down his pack and sitting on the bed. It creaked under the weight of his muscular build. “She wasn’t lying.”

“Of course she wasn’t. She needs us as much as we need her. Besides, the accommodations are merely temporary.”

“Fine, fine.” He sighed. “You think the barkeep was correct?”

“As far as he knew, yes.” She said, sitting on her own bed. Rummaging through her bag, she pulled out an ivory comb and began to run it through her hair, a decidedly feminine gesture that seemed odd on her.

Bardam watched as she combed her hair, humming a soft tune. Shaking his head he leaned back and said, “I still can’t believe it.”

“Hmm?”

“This.” He waved his hand. “I mean, I’m not a member of the Chantry, or what used to be the Chantry anyway. So all I really knew about you were the stories people told and I always figured that…”

“That?…” Veronica asked, not stopping her grooming.

“Well, you know…” He coughed into his hand. “You did sort of beat up a bunch of sailors.”

“There is nothing wrong with self-defense.” She said, shaking her head. A moment of silence passed between the two, the only sound the gentle rocking of the boat at pier and the soft swish of hair being combed. Eventually she sighed and put the comb back in the bag. When she looked up at him she wore a tired expression.

“People change, Bardam. When I was young I was too rigid in my ways, my heart too filled with unrequited love and hatred. Fulfilling one brought me nothing but guilt while the pursuit of the other cost me my fertility.” She placed her hand over her abdomen again in what seemed an unconscious gesture.

“It was only by the grace of Solos and the Wizard that I am even here today. I was given a second chance, a new lease on life with which to see the world through unclouded eyes. It would be the ungrateful soul who would throw away such a gift to make the same mistakes again.”

Bardam looked down, chagrined. Contemplation came over features as he held his hands in his lap, making him seem like chastised child. Veronica just smiled, for she knew she had that effect on people. Weariness dissipating, she took his hands with her and gave her most motherly smile.

“Come now, there’s no need to dwell on such things. We have a purpose to fulfill here and it wouldn’t do to brood over the past when we have ghosts to kill, hmm?”

The man’s eye twitched. “How can you say that with something like that with smile on your face?”

“Because, Bardam, something I learned over the past twenty years is a fucking sense of humor. Now then,” She closed her eyes. “Join me in a prayer to Solos, that he might bless our venture and this crew.”

Sighing, he closed his eyes and followed Veronica, the Ascendant of Solos, in prayer.

———————————————

Bardam awoke with bleary eyes. He felt like he’d slept on a plank of wood all night and, to be fair, he did. Groaning, the man picked himself up and rubbed his back before stretching. With a yawn, he called out, “Veronica, wake up.”

No answer.

Blinking, he turned to the opposite cot to find it empty and perfectly made. A quick look about the room showed that Veronica’s armor and weapon were gone while her other belongings were stowed in the little cabinet. He clacked his tongue and readied himself to head up to the top deck where he found a surprising sight.

“Some question how benevolent Solos can be. How can the God of Gods allow such suffering to exist within this world? Surely, he must not be so kind if he allows these things?”

Veronica stretched out her arms, addressing the assembled crew as she gave her sermon. Bardam shook his head and leaned against the mast. While he already knew what she was going to say, he was always captivated every time she said it.

“It is not from a hatred or a disdain for the affairs of mortals. Through him and the other Gods, life itself was created! What Father hates his children?” Her words seem to resonate even through the Monster crew who muttered to themselves and sometimes to men who were obviously their husbands.

“Just as a Father must shepherd his children when they are young and weak, so too must he take a step back when their child begins to walk on their own. To interfere would ruin the accomplishment that they themselves have done. Perhaps, at first, it would be a blessing, but in time the child would seethe with resentment. ‘Father did this for me again. I have no will of my own,’ they might say.” She shook her head.

“Such things lead to people become servile and angry until their rage boils over and it leads them to ruin.”

Folding her hands together she spoke in a softer voice. “Know that Solos refrains from interfering in our struggles not out of spite, but concern for our wellbeing. Perhaps, if circumstances were too dire, he may intervene, such as had occurred in the distant past, but now he is content to watch over us from afar.” She pointed up to the sun hanging in the early morning sky.

“It is not a coincidence that the sun is his symbol. Shining overhead, he basks us in life-giving warmth. Cherish it and know that no matter who you are, human or Monster, you all have a spark of the divine within you and the eternal love of a father. May the Light shine upon you.”

“And on you.” The assembled crew said in reply.

“Alright, alright, back to work.” Captain Larnstrider said, clapping her hands. “I ain’t paying you to sit about.”

The crew grumbled and went back to work aboard the ship. Veronica merely chuckled while Bardam walked up and crossed his arms.

Veronica shrugged. “I was saying my prayers and the others wished to join in. I suppose it is not every day that they have a Priestess aboard.”

“Certainly not one of Solos.” The Captain chuckled, her tail swishing behind her. “I’m surprised that half these louts even knew the proper response to the end of prayers. You certainly do have a silver tongue.”

“It is no more than is the truth that I share with others.”

Bardam rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes, it’s inspirational, but just make sure you’re not interfering with the operation of the ship, okay?”

“Bah, it’s no problem.” Captain Larnstrider replied. “A little spirituality every now and then won’t hurt them, though if you were a Priestess of Dollora that would have been preferable. Still, I suppose Solos is fine enough.”

“Fair.” Veronica replied. “Now then, how long until you think we’ll reach our destination?”

“About a day or two. It’s not terribly far away, it’s just the seas out here tend to be a little hard to navigate.” The Captain frowned. “But we’ll reach the place in the daytime if we keep this favorable wind. Wouldn’t do to be caught off guard at night.”

“She’s a night light, all things considered.” Bardam said, thumbing over at Veronica.

“Oh, so you do have a sense of humor?” She replied with a wide grin.

The Captain just laughed in response.

—————————————————-

The remainder of the day was filled with the usual monotony of being aboard a ship. Though Bardam trained his normal routine on deck, he soon found himself with little to do but watch the waves. For her part, Veronica merely meditated and spoke with the crew with the air of a priest, which she was. Despite himself, Bardam envied how she could answer even the oddest requests with that smile of hers.

As night settled in the crew were still working upon the deck, which was a surprise considering how most sailors would prefer to drink and play games rather than work. Around the ship the dark water beneath them was calm and flowed in such a way that looking down you could almost imagine the ship was gliding along nothingness. The sky was clear though the moon gave off little light, waxing into being as it was.

Bardam leaned upon the railings, a tin of water in his hand. Taking a small sip, he let it rest atop the rail as Veronica walked up beside him. She leaned on the rails as Bardam shook his head. “No evening prayers?”

“People like this can only stomach so much piety for one day. Besides, it’s not the amount of prayer we give but our actions which Solos judges.”

“Sure, sure.”

“You seem a little troubled. Want to talk about it?”

“Am I confessing my sins here or something?” Bardam asked, giving her a sidelong glance. Shaking his head, he sighed and spoke again. “No, it’s nothing much. Just thinking about what you said yesterday- about people changing is all. Made me think a little bit about the past and what’s going on these days. Being a Hero used to mean just protecting people from Monsters but now… well, we’re chasing after Ghosts.”

“Ghosts are classified as Monsters by some.” Veronica said, smirking when Bardam shot her a flat stare. “But you’re right. With the Wizard and Selene’s changes to the world, our tasks have been altered but our purpose has not. Heroes exist to protect the people of Deleor. Once, it was from Monster Invasions, while now it is from smaller, if no less important tasks.”

Nodding back toward the crew, she said, “Do you know why the Captain took our request so eagerly?”

“Ghost Pirate treasure?”

“Bardam, please.” She said, slapping his shoulder. “You should have noticed that the crew here seemed a little eager too, right?”

“Sure, I suppose.” He said, frowning. “I guess those raiders took something important from them?”

“Yes. Captain Larnstrider’s husband, the first-mate.”

Bardam’s eyes widened. “Oh hells. That’s certainly a reason to want revenge.”

“Indeed. One of the crewmen told me about it, how they were set upon by the raiders while making a smuggling run. The Captain’s husband and a few other sailors boarded the pirate’s ship and bought time for the Fool’s Errand to leave.”

Veronica shook her head. “They’d made a few voyages searching for them again but haven’t been able to find them.”

“I see.” Bardam said, folding his arms on the railing. “So she jumped at the chance to have two Heroes join her. Convenient for us, I suppose.”

“Or perhaps, divine purpose.”

“Don’t go telling me that Solos made this tragedy occur as punishment for being smugglers? That’s too cruel.”

She chuckled. “No, you misunderstand me. I mean to say that it could be his will that placed US here to help them, not the other way around. Remember,” A smile appeared on her face. “Heroes protect.”

Bardam frowned and went to take another drink of his water but paused, looking down at the railing. He couldn’t see his tin through a haze of white that only grew thicker and thicker.

“What the… fog?” He asked, turning to look up at Veronica but found she was hazy and indistinct as well.

“This isn’t natural. It wouldn’t have rolled in this thick, this fast.” Veronica said, hand going to her mace.

A cry of alarm came up from the deck with the sound of feet thumping up the stairs coming soon after. “Torches!” The Captain cried, though Veronica couldn’t see her. “It’s those bastards! They’re getting the jump on us!”

“What?!” Bardam shouted. He searched beyond the ship for signs of their attackers but could see nothing through the fog. “How?”

“Likely a sorcerer or Monster witch among them causing this.” She replied, grabbing his arm. “Come on, we need to get to the others.”

“H-Hey!” He cried, stumbling along in her wake. They met up with a group of sailors armed with cutlasses or clubs, the light of their torches cutting through some of the fog. As the two approached Captain Larnstrider walked forward, a magitek rifle in her hands. It looked strange in the hands of a Kobold, but no one questioned the rage in her eyes.

“They want to play rough? Fine, saves us the trouble. This baby was worth every copper coin.” Patting the gun, the Captain growled. “We need to stay together in groups. They’ll come from the side and board us soon so we can’t afford to get separated in the fog, which will be our greatest hindrance.”

“Is that so? Very well then.” Veronica said, letting go of Bardam’s arm.

“Veronica, what are you-?” Bardam began but cut off as she drew her mace and, placing both hands upon the grip, closed her eyes. A moment later a soft, yellow glow began to emanate from her. It was nearly indistinct at first but slowly grew more and more intense until the light was nearly blinding. When she opened her eyes, the same light glowed there, giving her an otherworldly appearance.

Breathing out, she raised the mace into the air. The light which suffused her body raced up mace and from it a stream of yellow shot up from it into the fog. Shocked, the crew looked about as the fog rapidly began to dissipate into nothing, revealing a ship off the port side.

The other ship was still indistinct in the distance, but it was rapidly gaining on them. It was a vessel of comparable size to their own but the construction of it was strange, as if it shouldn’t be seaworthy. Untended holes lay open like wounds, rotted wood held together by sea life growing along the timbers. Even from this distance a soft, green glow could be seen about the ship, making it seem like it sailed up form one of Nerg’s hells.

Dirty sails caught a wind which had abandoned the Fool’s Errand and the ship gained at frightening speed, coming up alongside their vessel. Upon the other deck could be seen a motley assortment of men and Monsters, their attire and weapons all different. The only thing which tied them together was the glow they gave off, like that of ship itself.

“That’s them!” Capatin Larnstrider shouted. “It’s those bastards! Prepare for boarders!”

The crew rushed to the side of the ship, weapons in hand. Bardam could see bloodlust within them that Veronica had noticed before. They were eager to fight, to enact revenge for their past suffering. But what could they do against ghosts? Even Bardam knew that non-magical weaponry had no effect on them so-

“They aren’t ghosts.” Veronica said, body still glowing with holy power. “It’s merely a charade they’re putting on somehow.” She smiled the whole time while saying this, as if being suffused with her God’s might made her feel ecstatic. Or perhaps she was merely confident.

“So they’re just louts scaring people into an easy fight?”

“Yes. We’ll have to show them that this is not as easy as it seems.” Striding forward as the other ship came closer and closer, Veronica stood out like a beacon, backlighting the assembled crew. “Know that Solos watches over us! Bring these so called ‘Ghost Raiders’ the justice they deserve!”

The crew, even Captain Larnstrider herself, gave a cheer as the ships grew close enough for the raiders to throw grappling hooks. A wave of rope and metal flew between the two ships, becoming caught in the railing. The crew tried their best to remove as many as they could, but it was enough along with an unnatural shift in the speed of the enemy vessel, to drag it in close enough for gangplanks to be put between vessels.

The two ships squeezed neatly near each other as the first wave of boards charged across. They crashed into the waiting crew who met them with eager vigor. Sword clashed upon sword while clubs smashed skulls as more and more boarders came over.

Bardam was in the thick of it soon, his ornate sword drawn in his hand. It was a weapon known as Conviction, a short sword with magic woven into its very metal. Where other such swords like Energieschwert gained increased penetration or became indestructible like Lionsedge, the enchantments on this sword were much less pronounced, but often more useful. He was trusted with the sword not only because it could be able to fight ethereal foes, but because only someone like him could wield it properly.

Releasing himself to the magics in the blade, Bardam felt the true nature of Conviction within him. The tides of battle began to slow for him, his movements becoming more precise, while each swing struck with maximum efficiency. No move was wasted, not while under the influence of Conviction. It was not a sword that slowed time nor made one superhuman, nothing so grand. It merely cleared the wielder’s mind of unnecessary thoughts and honed their purpose.

A green skinned Ogre wielding a massive club, roared as she charged him. With a swift motion, he slid past the blow and delivered a slash at her gut, a stream of red blood spraying out as he did so. She fell to the deck with a grunt of pain. He turned to look for another attacker when his focus snapped back to the Ogre. Crying out in rage, she dashed for him. Unable to stop her in time, he did his best to move out of the way but with his battle senses honed he knew he wouldn’t make it.

Like a beacon in the night, Veronica’s mace shot forth and struck the Ogre between the horns. The Monster threw back her head and toppled backward, knocking down two other raiders in the same motion. Shaking his head, Bardam looked up to see Veronica sauntering forward in a cool motion, her cape trailing softly behind her. She looked like a guardian angel at that moment and Bardam had to focus himself to remember that she could still swear worse than a sailor if she needed to.

“Are you alright?” She asked, holding one hand out to Bardam while the other lashed out and jabbed another raider in the gut. He nodded and took her hand, allowing himself to be pulled up.

“Guardian Angel, huh?”

“Please, as if one would arrive for scuffle this minor.” Grabbing her mace again, she pointed at the battle. “Look, the tides have turned in our favor so soon.”

It was plain to see that the raiders, unused to fighting on equal terms and against fighters such as Veronica and Bardam, were losing ground. They were being pushed back toward their ship at a quick rate, which made the crew of the Fool’s Errand fight all the harder.

“That’s right you bastards! Run like the dogs you are!” Captain Larnstrider cried, discharging her weapon into the chest of a raider. It blew a fist sized chunk out of him to which she let out a triumphant bark. “Take their vessel! We’ll scuttle it and bring back a trophy for what they’ve done!”

The crew let out a triumphant cheer and made to push further when a chill wind rushed over them. Their advance faltered in the face of it, allowing the raiders to regroup at the edge of the ship. From aboard the enemy vessel a tall Monster made her way to the side of their boat, giving off an almost malevolent aura.

“Do you think you’ve won, so soon?” The newcomer said in a deep, feminine voice. “True, you have us on the backfoot with your little light show and have thus forced my hand this day. But it this ends here. I will not allow myself the shame of losing this miserable vessel again.”

“YOU!” Capatin Larnstrider barked. She raised the magitek rifle and pulled the trigger but he weapon’s cooldown cycle hadn’t finished yet, so nothing happened. She cursed and slapped the weapon as the other Monster shook her head.

“A new toy! Dangerous, but…” She flicked her wrist and a gust of air shot forth toward the Captain. Unprepared, the Kobold yipped and flew backward into a mast, making a meaty, “thwack!” as she crashed. Rifle tumbling from her hands, she slumped forward, unconscious.

“Oh! That was easier than expected. The man put up more of a fight.” She said, shrugging. “Now then, to clean the rest of you up.

Bardam watched in surprise as the woman rose into the air without wings, giving off that same, green glow. As she rose he noticed with surprise that she didn’t possesses legs below her waist and instead had eight, squid-like arms and two tentacles of pale grey-white color. She could only be a Kraken

Long, beautiful lilac hair framed by a black squid mantle draped down along a tattered Deleorian naval officer’s uniform whose buttons seemed ready to burst from trying to keep her massive bust in check. Like all Monsters, her face was beautiful, yet the smug confidence present on those features did nothing more than make Bardam furious.

“She’s the Monster witch.” Veronica said, sparing a glance for the fallen Captain. Had she been more seriously injured, Bardam was certain she’d have run over to help her by now. “An aeromancer by the looks of it.”

“Great, ghost practioners.” Bardam grunted. “Yes, I know they aren’t ghosts.” He quipped before Veronica could correct him. “What do we do about her?”

“She’s clearly the ringleader.” Veronica said, flexing her wrist which still glowed yellow. “We defeat her and the other’s morale will crumble.”

“Easier said than done.”

“Just have faith.” She said before charging forward. Both sides were momentarily stunned at her sudden action, allowing her to batter aside a raider and leap across to the other boat, shouting a battle prayer to Solos.

Bardam could only shake his head and follow suit, such was her charisma. “Take them!” He shouted, charging into the raiders. As if time snapped back to normal speed, the battle suddenly began again with both sides crashing into each other.

The battle was much less one sided this time. Both sides having a moment to take a breather and starting on equal footing made the fighting much more of a stalemate. This suited Bardam, who knew that he only needed to buy time for Veronica to subdue the Kraken. Slashing the leg of a glowing Wolfgirl, he kicked her in the head, dropping her unconscious. With a moment of breathing room, he looked over toward Veronica and immediately had to shield himself as a gale of wind pushed everyone backward.

A slimy hand reached out and stabilized him as he slid back. Turning, he saw the crew’s Troll giving him a reassuring nod. Her beautiful features did not fit with the stench and the slime on her hands, but now wasn’t the moment to complain. They both turned to the other vessel to see a surprising sight.

Floating in the air was the Kraken, her squid-like arms and tentacles flashing toward Veronica. Two of them seemed to hang limp, bruised and purple from the mace blows he suspected. Rope, rigging, and sails fluttered about as random gusts of wind generated by the Kraken blew them around. The whirlwind of magical power pushed at Veronica, who dodged the strikes with what seemed to be unnatural skill. Such was the strength of the magic though that the planks around her shattered when they were struck, throwing up a hail of splinters which joined the tempest about the Monster.

“Why won’t you just die!”

“Until Solos calls me, I have no intention of dying, bitch!” Veronica shouted back, smacking aside another arm with her mace.

The Kraken cried out in pain and rage, throwing back her human arms and shouting, “I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS!”

Bardam’s eyes went wide as a massive ball of turbulent wind began to form between the hands of the witch. Even Veronica with her holy magic couldn’t manage to stop such an attack. The man tried to cry out to her but found himself beset upon by two raiders. With nothing he could do, he was forced to slip into Conviction’s power again and fight his own battles.

“Faith, huh?” He said, parrying the blows of his foes.

The Kraken let out a cackle of laughter before releasing the massed-up wind. It flew toward Veronica with shocking speed, a torrent of shrapnel and gale-force winds. Veronica merely stood firm however, her cloak flapping behind her as if trying to escape the oncoming devastation.

Thrusting one arm forward, she concentrated the light that suffused her there until it glowed like the sun itself. Blinding light seared the vision of all who looked upon it, but they wouldn’t be able to look for long thanks to what happened next.

As the wind struck the ball of light it split apart. Like bees released from a jar, devastation wracked the boat around Veronica, indiscriminately destroying the deck and even crashing into the Fool’s Errand as well. Cries of agony sounded from the raiders, the closest to the destruction, though some of the crew were wounded as well. Bardam managed to hide behind one of his attackers, their back riddled with pieces of wood shrapnel. Shoving them aside once it was over, he looked to Veronica, eyes wide.

The glow about her was greatly diminished, but the fire in her eyes was lit stronger than ever. Her cloak was in tatters but otherwise there was barely a scratch on her, the lighter armor still managing to keep her safe. With slow, deliberate steps, she walked away from the crumbling section of the vessel and toward the Kraken who had begun to sink down toward the deck.

“H-How.” The Kraken said, voice choked. “That was all my remaining mana.”

“I had faith.” Veronica said, grabbing her by the scruff of her tattered uniform. “Surrender.”

“I… I surrender.” The Kraken said, shoulders slumping.

“Wise.” Turning back to the Fool’s Errand Veronica began to cry out their victory.

Bardam sighed in relief as the remaining raiders dropped their weapons and held up their hands, defeated. Sword still in hand, he turned to Veronica and gasped. “Look out!”

One of the Kraken’s remaining tentacles had grabbed a piece of jagged wood and was in the process of driving it straight toward Veronica’s back. Without even looking at her, Veronica batted aside the attack with her mace before headbutting the Kraken. The Monster cried out in agony as her nose began to bleed, but that was the end of it. All the fight had gone out of her.

———————————————-

“How are you feeling?”

Captain Larnstrider grunted and rubbed at her back. “I’ve been better. A damn sight that was, getting taken out like that.”

Bardam shrugged. “She was a very well-practiced Monster witch. It would have been difficult for most people to fight her off.”

“Hmph, but said you managed to take her alive? Is that going to be a problem?”

“Not unless you have fresh semen in your brig, no. She can’t use her magic without it.”

The Kobold chuckled. “Well, that’s fine then. At least I… at least I avenged him. Took down those damned raiders once and for all.”

Veronica and Bardam shared a look between each other. The woman nodded her head and spoke. “I have good news and bad news, Captain.”

“Bad news first then.”

Bardam shook his head. “The Kraken wasn’t Captain Merlock. She won’t say much else except that she let the Captain down. One would assume this isn’t the only vessel either.”

“How is that damn thing seaworthy anyway?” The Kobold growled.

“It isn’t.” Veronica cut in. “One of your sailors found an orb in the Captain’s quarters which was filled with magic. When it was removed from the ship, the whole vessel began to come apart. Unfortunately he dropped the orb in the sea as well.”

“It’s at the bottom of the ocean now.” Bardam finished.

“So it was being held together by magic? Hehn, I’d like something like that. Save on repair bills.” The Captain shook her head. “So this means the Captain is holed up somewhere?”

“Yes, likely our original destination.” Bardam said. “Which brings us to the good news…”

“Your husband may be alive.” Veronica said, nodding her head.

Larnstrider’s eyes grew wide. “W-what? You… you’re not joking with me, are you?”

“Not intentionally, no.” Bardam said. “The Kraken let it slip that he’s been… used by them. To produce…”

“Bitches are milking him eh? Fuckers, he better not be enjoying it at least.” The Captain growled, though it was a little more good natured. Bardam couldn’t help but notice her tail wagging furiously behind her either.

“Worst case scenario he was sold as a slave to Ectria.” Veronica said. “But hopefully that hasn’t occurred if he was a good… well.”

“Oh aye, he can produce alright.” The Kobold chuckled. Taking a deep breath, she rose from the bed and said, “Well, let’s get things underway to head straight there!”

Veronica and Bardam exchanged looks before smiling. The woman said, smiling,

“Already ahead of you, Captain.”

“Eh?” She asked, confused. “How long was I out?”

“Long enough for us to be close enough, at least according to your navigator.”

Excited, they made their way to the top deck to look out across the morning sea.

The bartender did not lie when he said the island was small. From a distance it appeared to be no more than a collection of rocks jutting out from the sea, inviting a ship to run aground on them.

“There it is.” The Captain said, handing a spyglass to Bardam. He took it gratefully and looked through the relatively archaic item toward a cave in the island. Sure enough he could see signs of life inside the cave.

“I’m still surprised no alarm has been raised.” The Captain grunted, taking the spyglass back.

“It’s those spores.” Bardam said, thumbing at the deck. It glowed a faint green, much like the ghost raider ship. “Found them on the other ship before it sank. Looks like they scattered this about to get that glowing going on. They wouldn’t expect another vessel in these waters, so it works for us.”

“Hmph, now that’s thinking like a smuggler.” She chuckled. Sighing, the Captain folded her arms and winced. “I can get you in there but it’ll be difficult to weigh anchor without being caught. That being said…” She looked at a report handed to her by a crewman. “Thankfully only one casualty, but we’re in no condition for another fight like that. The ship needs more repairs too after that magic blast tore a few holes in the port side.”

“That’s fine.” Veronica said. “I couldn’t ask more from you going forward.” She thought about it for a moment. “I trust you have a smaller vessel we could take inside?”

Captain Larnstrider frowned. “Hey now, I can’t go asking you to do this by yourself! Besides, my husband could be in there and- GAH!” She let out a cry of pain and turned about barking as Bardam poked her back.

“Sorry Captain, but you’re not really in a fit shape to fight.”

The Kobold rubbed at her sore back and growled softly. “Fine, I hear you…” Sighing, she said in a softer voice, “Please… please bring him back if he’s there.”

Veronica nodded her head. “By Solos, we will.”

Bardam could have sworn he saw a tear coming down the smuggler Captain’s cheek.

—————————————————

The rowboat slid into the cave without concerns. The watching raiders within the cavern thought nothing of the small vessel coming from their ship, nor the two passengers covered by cloaks. Between them sat a crate, probably filled with good cargo for the Captain, as was the usual.

The soft glow of luminescent mushrooms and their spores permeated the cavern, coating everything with a green glow. The Ghost Raiders had kept this title since antiquity due to the glow they always had because of them. It added to their mystique and made them greatly feared by those they preyed upon. In all the years of their raiding, not a single time had anyone foolishly tried to attack them.

Bardam and Veronica, unknown of this knowledge, still took full advantage of it as their boat slid into dock. Cloaks fully obscuring their bodies, they climbed up the ladder as the other crew took up their crate. A tall woman wearing what would be scandalous in human society and moderately revealing in Monster society sauntered up as they began to walk down the deck.

“Well now, where’s ol’ Beaty? Usually she can’t wait to come up here herself.”

“She took a swim.” Bardam grunted, voice deep.

“Ah, right. Squid tits likes to wash this shit off” The woman said, scratching her head while showing off a ridiculous amount of faintly glowing cleavage. Bardam, a trained Hero of the Order, was not distracted, but thankfully the other raiders were. Shrugging, the woman said, “Well, Captain will want a report and since you’re the only two here, might as well get going.”

The two nodded and began to walk away when the woman called out again. “Hey wait a second!”

Gulping, Bardam turned about as the woman stalked up to him and narrowed her eyes. “Now that I look at you I wonder…”

He began to reach for the sword but stopped as the woman spat to the side. “Why the hells didn’t squid tits just bring the ship in to dock?”

“She… wanted to be ready to leave soon after delivering the cargo. Didn’t want to be stuck in here. You know. The spores.”

“Bah!” The woman said, throwing up her hands. “I swear, if not for her damn magic I’d be the one crewing that ship. Gods know I’ve got more seamen than her …”

“Only semen you have Viccy is all of it you’ve guzzled you whore!” Someone shouted in the distance. The woman turned and shouted at the other raider, allowing Bardam and Veronica to make their escape. They slipped inside the entrance to a smaller cave before pausing to look behind them. A full-on brawl had begun amongst the raiders, spurred on by the scantily clad woman. Shaking their heads, they continued forward through the complex.

A pervasive aura of dampness filled the place as the glowing mushrooms illuminated their path. Water dripped down at intervals upon their cloaks, but they barely noticed it. They ran into no one as they moved through the tunnels, following the paths where the most spores were disturbed. Neither had a good sense of where they were going, but it seemed the best bet.

Veronica halted as they turned a corner, placing a hand over Bardam’s chest to stop him. The man cocked his head in concern but said nothing as a voice rang out in a chamber down the hallway.

“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me! Ahahaha!”

Bardam frowned. The voice sounded like that of a young woman’s but that couldn’t be right… could it? Perhaps the pirates here had children, especially seeing as some of them were Monsters, it could make sense. The thought made him feel uneasy, but at a nod from Veronica he steeled himself.

Creeping forward, the two came to the mouth of the cavern to find it filled with a massive, natural pool. Multiple stalactites dripped water into the dark basin which rippled at every drop. While the cavern was sparsely furnished, at the shores of the pool was a pedestal upon which a fist-sized orb sat. Before it, bathed in red-light and with hands outstretched, was a curiously dressed woman.

She was short and wore the most outlandish set of stereotypical pirate clothing one could imagine. Large, black boots sat over tight fitting red and white striped stockings exposing a fair amount of skin between the short skirt she wore. A loose fitting blouse that exposed too much of a modest-sized bust sat upon that while an eye patch with a skull on it and a tricorne hat finished the ensemble which would have looked comical on anyone who wasn’t so beautiful.

Humming, she looked up from the orb and cocked her head. “Hum? I mean uh, yarrr! Avast, what are ye doing here?”

Bardam frowned at the forced terms. She was clearly the one who was singing before, but the captain of these raiders surely couldn’t be so… comical. Turning his head to Veronica for guidance, he froze when he saw how tense she’d become. Worried, he studied the woman again and realized something was off.

Her skin was pale, unnaturally so. Her medium length, raven black hair that ran down her back highlighted this in her face and drew his attention to her eyes. They glowed a soft, yet violent red and her sclera were pitch black. It wasn’t until he noticed the ornate scythe leaning next to her that it hit him exactly what he was looking at.

“Dullahan.” He whispered.

“Hmph, that’s what I’d like to know.” A more mature, deeper voice came from the side. Both Bardam and Veronica turned to look at the lake where the torso of a Monster bobbed up and down.

Her features were lovely, as most Monsters were, and she had long, black hair and pale skin that looked slick to the touch. It was hard to judge her height but by her impressive bust she likely had to be fairly tall for whatever kind of Monster she was. Her eyes, which looked about with a calculating glare, glimmered yellow and also had black sclera, but what really told of her species was her mouth of sharp, powerful teeth.

“And a Mershark.” Veronica said, shaking her head. “An odd combination.”

“These two look weird.” The Dullahan said, pointing at them. “Are they new?”

“I’ve never seen em before.” The Mershark growled. “Take your damn cloaks off if you have the nerve to come before Captain Merlock.”

The two looked at each other and shrugged. Unclasping the cloaks, they fell to the floor, exposing them in their light armor. The Mershark furrowed her brow while the Dullahan’s eyes went wide.

“Woaaaaah, that’s so cool! You two look awesome and- Oh, wait, is that a sigil of Solos on your tabard?”

“Oh great.” Bardam sighed as Veronica looked down again at her clothing. “I told you it would attract attention.”

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” The Mershark demanded, swimming closer to the shore. “This is my island and you better have a damn good reason for trespassing.”

Veronica nodded her head and drew her mace, pointing it at the Mershark. “We have come at the behest of the Lord Commander of the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood to end the piratical nature of the Ghost Raiders once and for all.”

“Hey!” The Dullahan said, pouting. “That’s not nice! I made these friends and now you want to take them away? I even made their ships super spooky too!” The scythe next to her wobbled and flew into her outstretched hand.

“This does not concern you, daughter of Nerg.” Veronica said, not looking toward the Dullahan. “I have traveled with your kind before and mean you no ill will if you leave this be. I know not what designs Nerg has with these raiders, but it ends now.”

“You’re not exactly in the best position here.” Captain Merlock said, crossing her arms under her naked breasts. Long, blade-like fins sprouted from the arms, furthering her dangerous apperance. “With a word, I can have my crew descend upon you and tear you to shreds.

“I doubt that.” Bardam sighed. “They’re fighting because of some whore on the dock.”

“Damnit Viccy… The Captain growled.

“What will it be?” Veronica said, eyes never leaving the Mershark’s. “Will you come quietly, or will judgement be brought upon you here and now?”

“Hey, don’t ignore me!” The Dullahan shouted. “I might be the youngest, but I’m still a spooky Dullahan too! Look!” She removed her head and a stream of smoke issued forth from the neck. Head still speaking she said, “Looook. Spooooky!”

Veronica didn’t so much as glance at her.

Sighing, the Dullahan replaced her head and took her scythe in both hands. A moment later her eyes flared red and she vanished in a cloud of blackness before appearing beside Veronica, scythe swinging in an arc.

Veronica immediately stopped the blow with her mace as yellow light surged about her body. The Dullahan pressed inward, a smile on her face as the pirate clothing changed into black, baroque plate armor. “Papa Nerg asked me for my first task to aid these pirates, and so I shall. If it means killing a blessed of Solos, then so be it.”

“Veronica!” Bardam shouted, drawing his sword. He charged forward to intercept the Dullahan but was swept away by a wave of water that threw off his balance. Crying out, he hit the floor and rolled, pushing himself up to see the Mershark rising from the water. Her long, shark-like lower body that extended from her torso was riding atop the surface of the water by her tail. Jets of highly pressurized water kept her in place as she did so and was likely the only thing keeping her afloat though how…

“Oh hells, you’re a witch too?”

“I said you were a fool. Now you’re a dead fool.” Pulling her hand backward, the water around the man grabbed at his leg and yanked him down into the lake.

Darkness filled his vision as he hit the water with a shuddering “thwump.” His ears rang from the impact and he could feel his air burst out of him. He felt panic rising within him and only managed to keep from screaming thanks to Conviction’s magic. Calming himself he swam toward the surface, breaking for air in the damp cavern. He only had a moment to witness the shattering power of yellow and red light before something grabbed at his leg and dragged him down again.

Veronica deflected another blow by the Dullahan who smiled wickedly as she swung her scythe. She was hoping that the undead Monster would have left her alone, but it seems it wasn’t to be. If Nerg had tasked them with something, then nothing short of sending them back to his side would stop them. Unfortunately, this meant that she couldn’t go assist Bardam until she was defeated. Veronica prayed to Solos that he would be fine, though with an aquatic Monster who was also a hydromancer as his enemy… he was in trouble.

“What is your name?” Veronica asked, knocking aside the Dullahan’s scythe with her mace. A blast of black magic kept her from advancing further, however. Taking the moment to adjust, the Dullahan replied,

“It’s Violet!”

“You’re not one of the Dullahan I know of. There is a set number, no more, no less.”

Violet frowned. “True but big sis Heather double died… so Papa Nerg made me and- hey!” She shouted as Veronica leapt in again with a flurry of blows from her mace. The Dullahan managed to block most but one smashed her squarely in the chest and she gasped before shadow-stepping backward. Touching the dent in her plate her pouted. “I just got this armor too!”

“You’ll get it fixed in the hells.” Veronica said, channeling holy magic throughout her body. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for you right now.”

“Hmph.” Violet said, channeling magic of her own. “Don’t worry so much about the guy, I’ll visit both of you in the hells soon enough!”

Bardam looked down to see that something that bitten his leg. By something, he meant the Mershark.

Sharp, powerful teeth dug into the leather of his tall boot, piercing it with little difficulty. He was certain that had it not been so thick, he would have lost the whole foot to her bite. As it stood, she savaged the leg, tossing him about in the water until he swung his sword at her in what seemed like a slow, clumsy motion.

Merlock dodged the sword with contemptuous ease, pulling away from him and leaving a cloud of his blood trailing into the water. Bardam inwardly cursed, knowing that such wounds could be fatal in this environment in just a short period of time. Of course, running out of air would happen much sooner and leave him no less dead.

Swimming upward again, he found his motions even more sluggish than before, as if great pressure was being exerted upon his body. His magically calm mind realized that it was due to her magic applying the pressure in the water. She probably could have crushed him easily, but instead she was just keeping him in place. For what purpose though?

Something swam up behind him and he felt hot breath on the back of his neck. Even though it should be impossible to speak underwater, the Mershark whispered with perfectly clarity to his ears, “You think I’m going to let you go so easily? Oh no, a man like you would be a waste to lose. I’m going to milk you dry day after day until the mere sight of me makes you cum.” Something sharp brushed the skin on his neck.

“But first, let me get another taste of you…” She said as she sank her teeth slowly into his neck.

Veronica charged at Violet. Her whole body was suffused with the might of Solos. His light fueled her muscles, making her feel as if she was driven by his own hand. Her opponent, glowing bright with the magic of death came at her without fear. Why should she have any? She was already dead.

Their weapons clashed in another bright spark of magic and it was soon clear that Veronica was the more experienced fighter. A rain of blows from her lighter weapon knocked the scythe out of the Dullahan’s hands, sending it tumbling through the air where it vanished into smoke. With a cry, Veronica smashed her mace into the side of Violet’s abdomen, crushing both armor and internal organs. The Dullahan hit the ground and rolled, her head becoming detached and sailing across the room.

Veronica charged forward again, intending to finish the fight by crushing the Dullahan’s head. As she approached, the head turned to her. The once childish expression was replaced with a cold, calculating rage that simmered in those red eyes. A surge of magical power flared from her as the ground about Veronica erupted in a sea of clawing, black hands.

The spectral arms grabbed at Veronica’s legs, digging into the leather of her armor and tearing it in places. With her plate armor she could have probably waded through this with no trouble, but the lighter armor offered no such luxury. She could feel the arms trying to drag her down and her current strength wasn’t enough to stop it.

Gritting her teeth, she watched as the headless body picked itself up. Leaking bodily fluids from the armor, it reached out a hand and the scythe materialized there. It began to walk toward her like a construct, intent solely on reaping Veronica’s life.

Bardam could feel a surge of strange, euphoric sensations washing over him. Her bite initially hurt but that soon faded away to a bliss that he couldn’t describe. Monsters, while fully capable of killing humans, often used their abilities instead to entice or capture a mate. Something in her bite then was influencing his humours, driving him to be filled with an indescribable lust.

Even though his lungs burned he could barely feel it, instead focusing on the stiffening in his pants. It wouldn’t be so bad to let loose here and allow her to keep doing this, right? He’d done a lot for the Order, for the Lord Commander. He deserved something nice, right? Someone else could come stop these raiders someday, someone else could protect people.

Protect

Something flashed in Bardam’s mind at that word. In the back of his head, a familiar voice… Veronica? Through the haze of ecstasy, he felt those words grew louder and louder in his mind. Heroes protect people- Monster or Human. Heroes don’t give up until the very end. Heroes do what others cannot.

And he was a Hero.

Conviction’s magic jolted his body from his euphoria like a bucket of ice water. The irony of finding himself surrounded by a cold lake was not lost on him, of course. The Mershark let go of his neck, dropping her magical hold on him and swimming about to come before his face. Placing her hands on his cheeks she smiled that shark-tooth grin and asked, “Are you ready for your new life?”

“Glub.” Was all Bardam could say as he rammed Conviction through her chest.

Captain Merlock’s eyes went wide at the sudden shock. She pulled away from the blade and Bardam was all too happy to oblige her, sliding the sword out from her chest and filling the water with the crimson of her blood.

He swam to the surface, vision going black as he raced for air. Face bursting from the water, he took great, deep breaths of oxygen which tasted sweeter than even whatever the Mershark was doing to him. Swimming sluggishly to shore, he pushed himself onto the beach by his knees and fell forward, panting for breath.

“Ver…Veronica.” He said through mouthfuls of air and water. “Veronica!” He shouted. “You better not die here!”

Bardam’s words rang through the cavern. Veronica’s eyes widened as she heard them and she risked a glance at the man who looked like, well, shark bait. Seeing the man, broken and abused, yet still defiant filled her with a renewed determination. Despite the clawing arms digging at her, she closed her eyes and began to pray.

“Solos, dear Father in the Heavens, grant me your strength with which to smite these evils.”

The clanking form of Violet’s armored body drew close, drawing back the scythe. It didn’t pause before slashing it at Veronica with speeds that such a body should not have been able to while leaking such fluids. Before the blow could be struck however, Veronica burst with light.

The spectral hands pulled away as if burned, melting down into the earth before vanishing. A ringing sound echoed in the chamber as the scythe rebounded from its strike, throwing the entire headless body stumbling backward. In the wake of this confusion, Veronica surged forward with her mace and slammed the body with such force that the chest piece exploded in a shower of dark armor and light. The body, chest a ruined cavity of flesh and twisted metal, collapsed to the ground.

“U-uh.” Violet said, expression leaking away to concern. “H-How did you? What the-?”

“You… have much to learn, young Dullahan.” Veronica said, walking slowly toward the head lying on the ground. Yellow light streamed off her body like the dying embers of fire, yet the cold expression in her eyes made her look like an avenging angel this time. She stood before the head and raised her mace with both hands.

“Say hello to Delilah for me. Tell her that Veronica would like to invite her over for tea.”

“Uhm. I’ll relay the message to big sis.” Violet said, readying herself for the blow. “Is this the part where I do the death scream?”

“You’ll figure it out next time.”

The mace came down in a neat arc and burst the Dullahan’s head like a ripe melon. The cleanup was minimal however, as it turned into smoke, vanishing along with the armor and scythe back to the hells to await a stern lecture from Nerg as she waits to return to the mortal realm.

Taking a shuddering breath, Veronica allowed the magic within her to bleed away while uttering a prayer of thanks to Solos. Her body feeling almost sluggish without the power, she turned and walked to Bardam, helping the man out of the water.

“Have a good swim?”

“Yeah, yeah…” He coughed, rising to his feet while wincing. “You alright?”

“I believe I should be asking that of you.” She said, looking at his leg. “You can’t walk or fight on that.”

“What are we going to do then? We’re going to need a miracle to get out of this.”

Veronica looked at the lake as something bobbed up in the water. She regarded the corpse of Captain Merlock and devious smile spread on her face as she said, “I think I can scrape together enough holy magic for one little miracle.”

———————————-

Captain Larnstrider shook her head as the last of the Ghost Raiders were tied up. Her crew went amongst the raiders and made sure they were compliant, the raider’s expressions defeated and hollow.

“I can’t believe you went in there by yourselves and not only defeated their captain but got all of them to surrender.”

“Well, it was kind of easy when someone glows with Holy power and holds up the head of their leader, shouting like some kind of angel here to deliver justice upon them. They just sort of… gave up.”

Veronica rolled her eyes at Bardam’s words. “Please. I told you that angels have better things to do.”

“I’m just glad they saw the signal and pulled into the dock.” Bardam said. “Couldn’t have done it without your help, Captain.”

“Bah, we didn’t do anything.” She said, shaking her head. Her ears went down as a worried look came over her face. “You didn’t happen to…”

“Find me?” A voice said from the tunnel entrance.

The Kobold’s ears perked up and her tail began to wag furiously as, with tears in her eyes, she ran toward a ragged looking man. She nearly bowled him over with a tackle and began to lick his face while letting out small barks of joy.

Sailors from the Fool’s Errand appeared with more groups of ragged looking men and women- prisoners of the raids. Some were reunited with loved ones on the ship while others just seemed thankful to be rescued.

Bardam and Veronica watched the scene unfold with warm smiles. The man let out a content sigh and shook his head. “Well. Still not sure what to make of that Dullahan being here or why she was helping these raiders. I thought they only appeared to create disasters?”

Veronica nodded and looked down at the orb in her hand. She took it from the pedestal after Violet had died, and it still glowed with a red, malevolent light. A sickly vitality flowed from it, trying to attach itself to her like it did the ship and empower her body while degrading her soul. Imagining what would have happened to Bardam if Captain Merlock had something like this on her was a sobering thought. Whispering a prayer to Solos, the light in the orb diminished and she put it in a bag, sealing its light.

“I believe she was trying her best to do that. Granting magic power of the hells to these raiders to cause more bloodshed was causing terror on the seas. Had we not stopped her, no one would or could have crossed these seas between Ectria and Deleor. Halting trade would have its own effects on food, not to mention other items, while increasing tensions between the two nations when there’s already hostility…” She shook her head and smiled instead.

“Well, maybe in the end Nerg just wanted her to have fun on her first assignment.”

“Huh?” Bardam asked before wincing as Veronica slapped his back.

“We need to get home and send out report to Blake! All’s well that ends well, right?”

The man rubbed at his back and surveyed the tender scene before him. The looks of relief and joy on the faces of those they’d saved were all the confirmation he needed to know he was in the right job. Nodding, he put his hand on the hilt of his sword and smiled.

“Yeah. Let’s head home.”

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3 thoughts on “Tales From Deleor: Guardian Angel

  1. “or Veronica to subdue to the Kraken. ”
    I think you meant: to subdue the Kraken.

    Typo:
    pool was a pedastel upon which a fist-sized orb/ pedastel = pedestal
    She nearly bowelled him over/ bowelled = bowled

    You know, I’m firmly of the opinion that Wizard’s Quest would make for an excellent TV series.

    1. Thanks! A few people have told me about the typos so ill fix them when I get home.

      As far as a TV show… well, maybe a side show on ScyFi if anything! I have started the process of trimming down and editing the first story tho so hopefully its more readable when im finished.

  2. Loved reading the Tales of Deleor series as it further characterized side characters and simply made the whole Wizardquest-verse seem bigger and richer.

    Another thing to commend your writing is how various ‘Good Guys’ get permanent injuries/scars despite attaining victory over incredibly powerful bosses. That rare touch of realism is great.

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