Umbra, Chapter 7

“Uncle… Uncle Aaron, wake up!”

Coming back to consciousness, Aaron found he wasn’t soaring above Angel’s Fall anymore. The scent of fresh grass was replaced by that of baking sand and salty water. He was laying on the beach, the gritty sand mixing into his hair and running down his shirt. The waves gently lapped near his naked feet, and the seagulls endlessly squawked and flew in circles overhead.


He could feel something small, wet, and scaley bounce up and down on his chest. Two little fists clutched at his shirt, tugging at his collar to gain his attention.


Looking forward, he found a child mermaid on his chest. No older than six, her short cropped hair and scaly tail were a seafoam green. Staring into her sparkling sapphire eyes, Aaron began tearing up.

“Hi, uncle!” she laughed.

“Cordelia… Cordelia…” Aaron sobbed, embracing her as tightly as he could without hurting her, “Please, forgive me…”

“Hehehe! Uncle Aaron, stop. You know I could never be mad at you. Of course I forgive you! But you’ve gotta let me go.”

Aaron choked back another sob, “I… I know. Please, just let me… just let me hold you for a little longer…” 

“I’m sorry, uncle. I have to go now. But please, don’t be sad…” the little monster pleaded. Sticking a delicate finger into each of his cheeks, she forced his frown upside down, “Smile, and be happy! Promise?”

Gently pulling down her wrists, a smile made it’s way to Aaron’s face on its own, “Alright, Cordelia. I promise.” 

Pleased with his answer, the mermaid softly hummed and snuggled back into his chest, “Thanks, uncle. I love you… now wake up, you sleepyheadddddddd!” 

Cordelia’s last syllable was stretched out an unnatural length, her cute voice deteriorating into a head-splitting shriek that rattled his skull. The vast sky above and the very earth beneath shattered like glass. As he fell into the black void below, his niece crumbled into gray dust and flew out from between his arms.

Grasping at the empty air, the panicked Aaron fell deeper and deeper into the dark depths below him, screaming all the while. 

A pair of clawed gauntlets, the same deep black as the ravine surrounding him, burst out from the bottomless depths, sinking their fingers into his shoulders. Hoisting him parallel to the shadow masking its body, it dragged Aaron ever closer until he was only a few inches away from it.

Then, emerging from the dark was a pair of curved, ivory ram horns. Soon following was a faceplate portraying the likeness of a devil. Fixed into a deep scowl, its nostrils flared up, glaring deep into his heart with its soulless purple eyes. Even with a faceplate blocking its mouth, it’s breath reeked of death and disease. Aaron flinched back, terror shaking him to his core as the beast spat into his ear.

Wake up, boy. Your time hasn’t come yet. You still have work to do.’

Being dragged kicking and screaming back into the real world in a cold sweat a few odd minutes later, Aaron found himself soaring several hundred meters off the ground, the harpies hoisting him to the top of the mountain. Whether it be from his horrid dream or suddenly finding himself higher off the ground than any human ought to be, the swordsman began tossing his body in random directions in a panic.

“Stop struggling, human.” the black harpy commanded him, staring blankly down at the top of his head as he flailed about in a hysterical fit.

Aaron tried to force his fidgeting body to calm down. She had a point there. Even if he somehow managed to break her titanic grip, he’d immediately fall to his death.

Don’t panic, Aaron. Valerie’s probably already searching for me. And even if these harpies’ have some kind of secret base, I left my claymore behind… enough of my palm sweat has seeped into the handle to retain my scent by now, right? It should only be a matter of time before she rescues me.

“Oops. I meant to knock him out for at least until we reached the nest…” the harpy who butted heads with him muttered in apology to her sisters.

“It’s quite alright, sister. We’re almost there anyway.”

As they rapidly approached the mountain, a deep chill pierced Aaron’s cloak and sent a shiver down his spine. Although they were dressed rather sparingly, the harpies flanking and transporting him didn’t seem bothered at all by the cold, crisp air as they neared the peak.

Near the top of the mountain, a relatively flat stretch of ground lay before Aaron’s eyes. There, among a collection of teepees, numerous humans and harpies milled about performing rather mundane tasks, such as doing laundry, hanging up animal skins to dry, butchering meat, and the like. Aaron even saw a few cows and sheep milling about behind the butcher’s tent, eating from wooden buckets. It was almost like a miniature village.

Looking near the back, Aaron saw another tent, one he recognized as a yurt. The teepees were relatively sparse in decoration, only having a few colorful, zigzagging lines painted around their bodies. However, the yurt had all the colors under the sun painted around its walls, and there was even what looked like a buffalo skull hanging above the opening flap. A plume of smoke rose out from a hole in its top.

Must be the chief’s…

A tiny puff of black feathers and pale skin bounced before Aaron’s eyes, yanking him from his thoughts and back into reality.

“Sisters! Sisters! Did you bring back a new brother for me to play with?!” the little bird shrieked in excitement.

“We’re a bit busy right now, little sister. Why don’t you go back and see if your father needs any help, hmm?” the harpy carrying Aaron sighed, shooing the hatchling away.

With a cute pout, the happy dove back towards the little camp of teepees, landing on the butcher’s shoulder, playing with his neat little beard with her wings. The man laughed, wiping the blood off his fingers and tickling the little harpy’s belly in return.

Flying above the camp, the harpies dropped him before the dome-shaped tent. The other two flew back to the teepee camp while the one who ferried him stayed behind.

“So, what? Am I your prisoner here?” Aaron snapped at the bird woman standing before him. He swore he’d never hurt another monster again, but that certainly wouldn’t stop him from being pissed with them when the occasion arose.

“You’re not a prisoner here, human. You’re our esteemed guest, just like every other human we bring to our humble nest.” 

“Heh. That’s a good joke. If I’m such an ‘esteemed guest’, then you’ll let me leave this little party early, right?”

The black harpy shook her head from side-to-side, “Thats not possible. I’m afraid we can’t let you go unless no one among our sisters finds you as a worthy husband.”

A low grumble bubbled up from Aaron’s throat, “Oh, well in that case, its perfectly fine. I’m free to go unless one of you wants me as a housewife, huh? How generous.”

“Go pay a visit to our chieftess. You’d best not take such a sarcastic tone with her like you have with me.” the harpy warned him, pointing her right wing towards the flaps of the domed tent, “You’ll be sorry if you do.”

Aaron looked towards the skull hanging on the tent with a grimace, “I’ll… keep that in mind.”

“Where is he, old man?!”

“I… I don’t know! I offered him shelter until nightfall, but he just knocked me out and left! P-please, don’t hurt me!”

After hearing a blood-curdling scream from Aaron, Valerie burst into the town, not giving a damn about any human in hiding spotting her. Following his scent, the trail led her to a home where the only resident was an unconscious old man slumped in a corner, a trickle of blood running down his forehead. Valerie slapped him awake to interrogate him, but it was swiftly proving fruitless.

“Get lost, old man!” she barked, tossing him back into his chair.

“B-but this is my house…”

Snapping at him with her vicious fangs, the geezer cried in fear and jumped from his chair, scrambling to the back of his home and locking himself in his pantry.

“Hmph.” Valerie grunted, walking over the door she kicked down to get in. Dropping to all fours, she continued to sniff out Aaron’s trail.

A good distance away from the home, she found a narrow alleyway. Laying there in the shadows of a trash bin, a familiar item sat.

“Aaron’s sword…”

Picking it up, she took a deep whiff of the handle. It sure smelled like him. And now that she was picking up the fresh trail, her attention was brought to the mountain to the west.

Aaron’s scent wasn’t all that she had whiffed. The heavy stench of the swordman’s nervous sweat permeated the air, hanging in the breeze with three others she didn’t recognize as human.

“Those fucking harpies kidnapped my babe!” she concluded with a snarl. Clutching the claymore with a single paw, she stomped towards the mountain…

That’s when she smelled them.

“Ah, fuck.” she cursed, frustrated that she was so caught up in finding Aaron she had allowed herself to be surrounded on all sides. They hadn’t entered the town yet, but a scout must’ve spotted her and alerted the main force.

With nowhere to run, the troops poured in through each crossroad in town, and by the end of it, she was surrounded by at least one hundred men, a parma hanging off each of their backs and a gladius at each one’s side. But held in their arms, the main weapon of a crossbow was locked, loaded, and aimed at her head.

“Legionaries…” the hellhound muttered under her breath, seeing the yellow tabards and crimson hawks surround her.

A single soldier stepped forward, brandishing his crossbow skywards. Judging by the extra bit of armor on his shoulders, forearms, and calves, Valerie guessed that this man, like the one Aaron killed back in Tellum, was of a slightly higher rank than his peers.

“Drop the sword, monster. In the name of the King of Gods, Ganymede, and the Holy Emperor Maximus, I, Lieutenant Xander, shall grant you a swift death if you cease any resistance and-“

“Oh, shut your face, you freakin’ airbag.” Valerie interrupted him, “And you can go ahead and order your men to drop their crossbows. Unless you want to miss me and shoot yourselves.”

A low growl echoed from under the lieutenant’s helm as the monster called his bluff. Of course, it was foolish to try and surround an enemy when your men were armed with crossbows, but he couldn’t risk leaving any openings for her to escape.

“You… conniving little… dammit. Put up the crossbows, men. We can’t risk hitting each other. Draw your gladiuses and rush her!” Xander ordered, signaling towards the hellhound before him.

Retreating behind his men, eight legionaries at once shuffled towards her from all directions, their gladiuses, and parmas at the ready.

Valerie’s eyes ignited. Sheathing Aaron’s claymore deep into the soil below for safekeeping, the hellhound flashed her claws, “Oh, this should be easy~”

But deep in her heart, she knew she was lying to herself.

Pushing open it’s flaps, Aaron stepped into the yurt. It was dimly lit, the clouds overhead and thick linen walls blocking out any sunlight. A small fire burned in a pit at the center of the tent, causing strange shadows to dance around behind the various fetishes and knick-knacks stacked around.

The heavy scent of incense filled Aaron’s nose as he crept around the fire pit, the sight of two more harpies sitting on a scratched-up red rug filling his vision.

The black harpy sitting to the right of the rug looked… different, somehow. Stronger. While she wasn’t any taller or bulkier than her sisters, what little muscles she had were well defined. How much would that add to her otherworldly strength?

She had several ornaments adorning her small body… a few necklaces, belts, and bracelets made of vermilion beads. Aaron guessed it might have signified a higher social standing. With short and spiky hair and a mean glare, she leered judgmentally at him.

But the harpy at the center varied from her kin even more than the one at her side. While she was still lithe and short, she radiated a certain maturity. Despite that, she still looked gorgeous. Aaron would have to say she looked like a woman in her late thirties.

She practically sparkled with sagely knowledge and wisdom as she turned to Aaron, “Ah. Welcome, my son. I am Mother Ranna, Cheiftess of the Roaming Raven Tribe. Come, have a seat. We have matters to discuss.”

“Alright, what’s with all this extended family bullshit?” Aaron sighed, plopping down in front of the harpies, resting his right hand on his raised knee while he leaned his weight onto the left.

The younger harpies eyes sparked with righteous fury. Shooting up, she raised both wings into the air. While Aaron was fully aware she could most likely rip open his stomach with minimal effort, he couldn’t help comparing her to an animal that puffs out its chest to look appear larger and more threatening to any rivals.

“How dare you speak to mother like that, you cur! I ought to-”

“Calm yourself, Zoana.” the elder harpy ordered, holding up one wing to the youngster’s chest.

“Hmph. Whatever you say, mother…” grumbled Zoana, resuming her seated position.

With Zoana settled down, Ranna answered Aaron’s question, “It’s because when I founded this tribe, my kind was swiftly dying out. We were never plentiful in the first place, and a solitary species to boot. So when the Legion started to develop accurate, long-range weaponry that any common man could use with just a bit of training, we were pushed to the barren northern mountains. I gathered the handful of my sisters that remained and taught them the strength of unity… the Roaming Ravens were founded on the principle of being one big family.”

“…so, none of them are actually related by blood?” Aaron inquired.

“Some of them… I have four daughters, three by blood and one adopted. The eldest two are in northern Terra, starting their own tribes. The youngest is Zoana here… the adopted one is out training, as she usually is.”

“Right. So you fly around stealing men and cattle to keep your kind from dying out?” Aaron asked. He wouldn’t exactly have a problem with their banditry if it were inflicted solely upon Legion personnel, but preying on his countrymen for mates and livestock didn’t exactly sit right with him. Even if the Ravens were doing it for their own survival.

“Well, that’s half the reason… we don’t just sporadically move from place to place on a whim. We have a clear destination in mind with each expedition. Otherwise, we never would have flown past the Legion’s borders.”

“Speaking of the Legion, what the fuck are we just sitting around for?” Aaron growled, sitting up, “They’re probably scaling this mountain right now!”

“I’m well aware, my son. But Zoana here will have it well under control.”

The young harpy lifted up her nose, a cocky grin on her pale face. Seeing that, Aaron suddenly had an urge to retract his self-imposed oath.

Having neither the time nor patience to argue with the wizened harpy, Aaron sat back down, “Well… is there anything else you need? No offense, but I really don’t want to be here right now. I’ll help you stop the Legion if you need it, but beyond that… I’ve got something I have to do.”

Scrutinizing him for a moment, particularly his face, Ranna leaned over to her daughter, holding up a wing before their faces to muffle the sounds of their whispers.

Aaron crisscrossed his legs, shuffling nervously in place. It was an odd feeling, having two monsters gossip about you right in front of your face.

Ranna looked back at him, staring him dead in the eyes, “You’ve fought for the Legion, haven’t you? And you regret doing so? I can tell you have many regrets.”

Aaron was nearly sent rolling back into the firepit behind him. Seizing up, he averted his gaze, “A-and what if I did?”

“Then before anything else, you must learn to forgive yourself.” Ranna answered with a wide smile, “But, I’m sure you don’t want to sit here and listen to an old bird like me prattle on and on, eh? But, if you’re willing to help us stop the Legion, then there’s something else we could use a human of your experience for.”

“Let me guess; I can’t leave until I at least hear you out.” an exasperated Aaron sighed with a roll of his eyes.

Not bothering to answer his question, Ranna turned to her daughter, “Zoana, go find your big sister.”

“Yes, mother.” said the spiky-haired harpy, standing to her talons, “Go wait out in the village, human. Get to know your new brothers and sisters… I’ll return with my elder sister, the White Lion, shortly.”

‘The White Lion’? Somehow, Aaron wasn’t looking forward to their meeting.

Lieutenant Xander gnawed his bottom lip, as he always did when he felt distressed. And he hadn’t had distress grip him with such gusto in a long, long while.

The lieutenant suddenly felt his heart jump in joy as one of his toughest soldiers rose from the dirt with a broken arm. Fighting through the pain, he rushed towards the hellhound, who was currently grappling another trooper in a fierce choke hold.

That fleeting moment of happiness was shattered when the soldier actually thrust his gladius at her. Dropping the other man and leaning her head to the side, all he managed to do was cut her cheek. Grabbing hold of his extended arm, the hellhound flipped the first man over her shoulder and slammed him down into the second with a loud crash and crunch. Bones and armor had both shattered beneath the titanic impact.

Dammit all…” Xander cursed. Broken, bleeding bodies were strewn out all around her, and all she had to show for it were several cuts. While she was losing a considerable amount of blood, the best of the men were already down. If she continued at this rate, they’d be all out of soldiers before she even started feeling woozy from the blood loss.

Xander spun around as he heard the sound of heavy armor smashing together. Someone was riding up behind him.

“Captain Isaac!” the lieutenant greeted, quickly saluting his superior.

Hopping from his horse, Isaac placed his hands on Xander’s shoulders, “So, how many men have we lost, lieutenant?”

“S-so far? Over thirty, sir…”

“That’s more than a quarter of our men, lieutenant. All from a single monster?”

“W-we were expecting nothing but harpies, sir, and came equipped to deal with aerial foes… but the hellhound is on the ground-”

“I CAN SEE SHES ON THE GROUND YOU FUCKING DOLT!” the captain roared, throwing the lieutenant to the side, “That doesn’t make any of you idiots any less pathetic! Now, make way!”

The sea of troops parted before the hulking captain. Once again back on his armored mount, it trotted forward as he scrutinized the hellhound from his seat.

Grabbing the wrist of a legionary who had lost his helmet to stop his overhead swing, Valerie slammed her head into his face, shattering his nose and sending him falling backward. Kicking a dropped parma up into the air, Valerie grabbed hold of it, spun around, and lobbed it at the last soldier in that wave attempting to rush her. Both the shield and his helmet dented as it collided with his forehead and floored him.

Panting as she beat the last grunt that dared face her, Valerie turned to meet the boss. Just like the horse, the man atop was absolutely massive and covered in a patchwork of armor. To it’s side, a hefty iron warpick, wooden greatbow, and quiver full of large arrows hung.

The man atop the horse looked far different than his troops. Valerie didn’t know much about the Legion’s uniform policies, but she had to figure they gave some leeway to the higher ranks when it came to what they could bring into battle.

While he still had the yellow legionary captain’s tabard over a chestplate, he didn’t wear chainmail underneath. He wore a massive pair of gauntlets that extended over his forearms, plates of steel that were strapped around his biceps, and a heavy set of steel pauldrons that were set on his shoulders. For his head, instead of a galea helm like his men, he wore a steel barbuta equipped with a visor and set of yellowed bull horns.

“You’re pretty good, monster. Impressive that you’ve taken out more than a quarter of my troops without even drawing that blade of yours.”

Looking down at the handle of the blade stuck in the middle of the battlefield, a grin appeared on Valerie’s face, “Oh, that? Its not mine. I prefer fighting with my claws and teeth. I’m just holding onto it for someone.”

Chuckling from under his cold iron mask, the captain hopped from his horse, grabbing the warpick off from it’s side, “Aaron Axenus, right? Tell you what… tell us where he is, and your death will be quick… can’t promise it won’t be messy or painful, but you won’t suffer for long.”

“Nah. I’m good.” Valerie responded rather nonchalantly, picking out some earwax with her little finger before flicking it onto a broken legionary lying a few feet away.

Swinging around and slamming his warpick to the earth in a show of force, the captain cackled madly. Walking forward, he left a trail as he dragged it behind him, “Heh. Monsters love doing it the hard way, don’t they? Hehehe… wonderful! I wouldn’t have it any other way! That’s why making you whores gag on your own blood is just so much fun!”

Let’s see… Valerie can make the climb unaided, but I might need some gear to go off the beaten path on the way down… unless I want to be up to my ass in legionaries, that is. I wonder if anyone here has any rope or grapples?


The butcher he saw earlier walked up to Aaron. Still wearing an apron stained with blood, it swelled forward just a bit with his gut. His clean and neat little black beard was in stark contrast to his greasy and unkempt hair.

“I only had one brother, and unless he crawled out his shallow grave and got really fucking ugly, you ain’t him.” Aaron snarled at the shaggy-haired fellow.

“Whoa, harsh. But I guess some people just deal with tragedy with humor, huh?” the man muttered, giving his beard a few strokes in thought, “Name’s Harvey! I’m the villages butcher. Have you met my daughter yet? She won’t stop talking about you. She gets real excited whenever the girls bring us a new brother.”

“I’ve seen her around…” Aaron grumbled.

“Cutest little thing, ain’t she? Just hatched five years ago! I tell ya, blink and they’re already-”

“Look, just get lost. Unless you’re handing out climbing gear, I’m not in the mood to deal with you right now.”

“Jeez, you really are harsh… but I dunno, man. If you’re looking for anything, you might wanna talk to our new shopkeep. Just arrived a few days ago. He’s a bit of a slacker, but he’s also a real whiz at keeping stock and counting cash. Ah, there he is over there.”

Turning to meet this shopkeep, Aaron’s eyes shot open.

It was Timothy, the wiry man who questioned him near Sable with his friends. It looked like he was goofing around and playing dice with a new duo of pals. Shoving Harvey out of his way, he stomped closer and closer to Tim.

“Hey! You!” Aaron barked.

Blinking, Tim looked up from his game. Unlike Aaron had expected, instead of squealing like a pig and scrambling away, Timothy looked up with a bright smile. Standing up, Tim walked forward and waved at him.

“Yo, Aaron! Long time no see, brother. Hows the wife? You both come to live with the tribe, or-“

Thrusting his fist forward, Aaron had punched the lights out of his second person that day. Sent flying back to his ass, Timothy grabbed his broken nose and groaned in pain.

“I don’t know what the fuck is going on here… but I’ve had just about enough!” Aaron screamed, going red in the face.

“Fuck…” Timothy cursed, his two new friends squatting by his side to check on him, “What the hell, Aaron? Everyone here is brother and sister. There’s no need for pointless violence like that…”

So flabbergasted that he forgot to ask how Tim even got here, Aaron simply blinked. He just broke a man’s nose. A man who, not even a week ago, was talking about slaughtering the harpies and just about to throw him into the mix for lying with a monster. But now Timothy was lecturing him about nonviolence?

“Alright, I’m out of here.” Aaron spat as he walked away. They had to have some sort of rope somewhere around the camp… he didn’t care if he had to rip apart every tepee in the whole damned tribe, he was going to find it, and he was going to fashion it into some climbing gear. Valerie would sniff him out along the way and carry him the rest of the way down.

Well, he could hope, at the very least.

Valerie dodged yet another swing of the warpick. The captain was good. Very good. Even stronger than his already massive frame suggested and far faster than what you would have expected from his bulk. And with the heavy armor covering his vitals, Val was having a hard time finding a spot to dig her teeth or claws into.

After yanking the point of his weapon from the ground, the captain smiled down at Valerie, “Ya know, I could’ve easily become a paladin. Never had the talent for holy magic, but I was far stronger than any of the other candidates. But, before my initiation, I just had to go and kill one of my comrades.”

“What’d he do?” Valerie asked, trying to staunch the flow of blood from a gash in her arm.

“Cheated me out of a lot of money, is what the little fuck did. So, naturally, I crushed his skull and took it back. Ohoho, my superiors didn’t like that, lemme tell ya.”

Twirling his warpick around in a single hand, he lashed it out at Valerie, who ducked under the blow. Isaac carried his momentum and spun his entire body around, bringing his weapon with him and slamming it down on her position. The hellhound just barely dodged, flipping away right before her skull was punctured and smashed.

Settling down, Isaac went on, “Nasty rumors spread about me after that. Some even said I was a heretic! Can you believe that?! Like I’d ever lay with an animal like you.”

“Feelings mutual, pal.” Valerie grumbled under her breath, the two starting to circle around each other.

Taking the insult in stride, Isaac giggled like he was a kid at the candy shop, “Still, after all my good work for the Legion, I had a few friends in some high places. They pulled some strings, ya see. I got to keep my job, but they still had me moved to an outpost in the boonies to keep me outta the public eye.”

“Poor you.” Valerie spat.

“Ah, you’re right. I really shouldn’t be whining. If I was just a grunt, they would’ve chopped off my damn head. Still, there wasn’t much to do out here except practice my archery… you can work out your muscles all you want, but there ain’t a replacement for real combat to keep your edge. So, I’m afraid to let you know I’m a bit out of shape.”

“Ha… well, I’m not exactly fresh either. Ya know, on account of beating thirty of your dudes before this. Uh… it was thirty, wasn’t it? Hey, you!”

Pointing to the nearest legionary, the young man flinched as he righted himself, “Y-yes?”

“How many of your buddies did I beat down before I took on your captain here?”

“T-thirty eight.”

“Hmph. See! Twelve more, and I would have taken out an entire half of your goons! Bet ya couldn’t do that, ya big-”

While Valerie was distracted, Isaac lashed out one of his giant fists, the hellhound just barely leaning her head back to dodge. The captain then shot his leg out, kicking her ribs and sending her stumbling back.

Still stunned from the kick, Valerie spoted his massive warpick as it swung by, nearly ripping open her stomach. Jumping back at the last second, she landed on her front paws and hopped back onto her feet.

“Hey! No fair! I didn’t interrupt you when you were blabbing on.”

“Life’s not fair, bitch. Moral of the story.”

“Actually, considering how much of an asshole you are, I think life didn’t pay you back enough.” Valerie snarled, “But I’d be more than happy to pick up it’s slack.”

The earth below shook as the two warriors rushed each other once again, Valerie’s eyes leaving a blazing trail behind her as she barreled forward.

Ducking over another one of his blows, Valerie lashed out another claw strike at his chest, nearly puncturing the armor and taking the captain’s breath away.

Quickly going back on the offensive, he tried to hammer a hefty gauntlet down on her head, but the hellhound held up both of her forearms and blocked the blow. Before Isaac could retract his arm, she used it to swing herself up and kick off his chest, sending him flying onto his back.

Twirling around, the hellhound sent a rain of her own blood splashing against the ground below before gracefully landing on a single paw in a pose. Holding it for a moment, she suddenly felt light-headed and just caught herself from falling forward.

Ugh… I’m… I’ve lost too much blood…‘ 

“Captain Isaac!” cried a jittering Xander from the side, shocked at seeing his invincible captain suffer such a blow.

“Hahaha… you might have cracked one of my ribs there.” the captain chuckled, standing to his feet as crimson ran from his mouth, “Been a long time since I’ve been pushed into a corner like this.”

Her eyes darting to his left hand, Valerie saw he was clutching a long red cloth. Feeling a brisk wind blow against her neck, she felt around and realized that the captain had grabbed hold of her scarf before she knocked him down.

“G-give that scarf back to me!” she barked at the mountain of a man.

Xander didn’t respond. Stepping back, he folded the scarf in two. Valerie, shivering with rage, watched as the lieutenant ripped it in half, splitting it into four pieces.

“Whoops. Guess I don’t know my own strength. Sorry~” Isaac laughed, tossing the quarters of the scarf to Xander, “Be sure to rip that into little ribbons, lieutenant!”

“Yessir!” the soldier cried in response, following his orders and tearing it apart with his bare hands.

Valerie watched in horror as Xander began shredding her precious scarf into irreparable little pieces, wadding them up and tossing them to the wind.

“You… bastard…” Valerie snarled. Tears formed at the corners of her eyes, only to be evaporated by the raging infernos beside them, “That was made from my babe’s first gift to me… it took me all day to knit a scarf out of it… I’ll… make you pay for that!”

The flames around her eyes blazed outwards, the streams shooting several feet up into the air.  The legionaries to each side doubled back, feeling the scorching heat of her anger threating to roast them.

“I’ll kill you!” Val roared, her eyes glowing like two blazing infernos. Grinding her fangs together, she opened up her maw, a harsh glowing light bubbling up from her stomach. Along with that harsh glow, another two jets of flame burst from the sides of her mouth.

“Alright…” Isaac roared with a thundering chuckle, “Playtime is over!”

Swaying back and forth, the flames around Valerie’s eyes died down just as quickly as they appeared.  A fresh torrent of blood began seeping from her wounds.

I… I can do this.’

Gritting her fangs through the pain, she lifted her paw, motioning for him to come closer with a single finger.

“Bring it on, asshole.”

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