Chapter 230: We’re Getting Closer
Zone 19 was a dark faerie wonderland, outside instead of underground. That unhelpfully added a lot of twisted dark magic plants, fey, animals, magical beasts, scattered undead, and various undead capering around, all with a huge amount of Unseelie Court and demonic influence competing to see who could be more wicked.
They weren’t happy to see us cutting through miles of animated corpses caught in an eternal Danse Macabre; burning through an entire forest trying to maze around us; slicing through an abattoir that specialized in flesh of sentients, artfully prepared; torching a choir-woods of elves, humans, fey, and others melded into trees and forced to sing of their pain and suffering for the idle relaxation of their noble listeners; hewing through battlefields literally thigh-deep in bones where necromancers raised armies over and over again to duel one another with undead warbands in endless variations of battles; chopping our way through a blasted tor where cambions and alu’ri led slave armies of fey against Unseelie Sidhe-led armies of demon minions, and drow cheered at the side…
We did learn from some gossipy demonic korred that the Brotherhood of the Void had swept through here several years ago, and slaughtered their way through the noble houses in an orgy of violence that was still talked about to this day. The fighting between the various noble families had never really stopped since then, factionalizing for fun, profit, and entertainment value.
There was too much crap in every direction, and teleporting demons could indeed hound and intercept us. Ergo, we moved much more slowly than we would have liked. Forests of animated trees didn’t help, especially when we ignited all of them…
I heard someone clapping slowly, and turned around.
She was standing up on a balcony, leaning over to give full view of a pair of Succubus Standard Issues. She was making absolutely no effort to hide her identity, as she had a set of ivory-white horns curling back from her temples and around her ears, almost the same silvery hue as her hair, which was set off against skin like polished jet. Her eyes were glowing pale white, and the dress she was wearing was shimmering like phantom moonlight and snowflakes in the flames accompanying our passage through the area. The bat-like wings rising up behind her were shadow chased with silver, as were her fingernails, even her lips.
She was also so damn beautiful that every man behind me swallowed at the same time.
The manor yard of this Hoary Hunter, his pet Hunt, and personal guard of Sidhe and Banshees were all burning right now, adding some billowing foggy remnants to the falling ice and snow. She was leaning out from an upper balcony, having watched us slaughter everything down here without lifting a single finger.
“Are you taking passengers out of here?” she asked directly, and even Ancientaxe swore at the sound of her voice. You couldn’t put that much syrup and honey into words, could you? Even I was impressed. She definitely had Ranks on me in all the appropriate Skills.
And she was looking right at me when she was talking. Not AA, not Briggs, not the dragons, or the knights atop them. Which meant she had identified me as the heart of the company here while watching me during the fighting, despite no vocal orders being given.
“Interesting.” I met her glowing eyes without any trouble. “I gather you had no attachments to the dead lord here?”
“If by attachments you mean a frozen ball and chain, I did. But after a few centuries of being his little prize songbird, well, it’s time to move on… and I believe you can take me out of the zone.”
“My lady-” Sir Harbrom began, and I just held up a finger in his direction. If he thought I didn’t know about succubi wiles, then he was a fool. He clamped up.
I sheathed Quaver, Tremble was already doing her healing circuit, and my Arms faded after I hooked down Stand and holstered Fall. “Come on down. Brother, give her a swirl.”
She slid over the railing so gracefully it might have not been there, and more men swallowed at the sight of some extremely exquisite legs, flashing high heels… and four slender tails behind her, all black of scale, and tipped with hooked jetsilver scorpion tips.
Not a succubus, a lilithi. The Priestess princesses of the succubi…
She glided down with one flap of her wings, alighting with weightless grace just a couple steps away from me. Brother AA’s Helices swirled out and through her, and she just raised an amused eyebrow as they danced through every part of her, lingering only a moment on the glittering diamonds and black sapphires on the jewelry at her slender throat and wrists. She looked and held herself like a noblewoman and a queen, and even the elves couldn’t deny that she fit the bill.
I didn’t see him pop any personal Wards on her, so she wasn’t carrying any magic spells ongoing. “Ah, Sama,” he murmured, his crimson eyes a little wide. “She’s not a demon priestess. Her Domains are Travel and Stars…”
“No shit?” I vocalized for just about everyone. “Errant!?” I demanded.
“She’s True Neutral, right there in the Green,” he said, not failing to hide how impressed he was. “I do not even want to know what kind of willpower it would take a lilithi to turn from The Dark…”
She favored him with a smile that could melt a glacier. He looked away and coughed despite himself.
“Very brave of you to come down so readily.”
She met my eyes, amused. “I watched you specifically wade through Lord Geunheff’s magic like he was tossing air at you. I watched you carve him apart, while your allies chewed through his pet Hunt, his house guards, and destroyed a score of banshees made from the women who had failed to amuse him down through the centuries. I find myself incapable of actual flight, I am definitely not faster than people who can outrun a Huntsman’s Horse, and I am not Lord Geunheff’s equal in magic.
“So, bravery, or knowing that the only way I was going to get out of this through talking, not fighting?”
Well, it was most definitely one of her strong suits… “Being a captive must have been quite the test for a Travel priestess…”
Just a flash in her glowing, icy eyes. “Well, I would occasionally amuse myself by running away. However, one does not just lose a Hunt, and when one’s area of travel is limited, the time free is not overlong.” She sighed, and all the guys went weak in the knees.
I threw a thumb at the sky, naturally diverting her attention to The Wake. “That’s a spatio-temporal intrusion into this place from true reality. This realm is a temporally-accelerated, spatially expanded dreamworld. If you were trapped by the zone before, you can follow the pathway out, and it will eventually take you all the way back to reality.”
The glow of her eyes sharpened greatly. “Ah, that explains a great deal…” she purred. “You have been able to destroy the Obelisks set up by the great Hags…”
Given, we hadn’t talked much with those we killed, but it was still interesting to hear the Hags mentioned so casually.
Her eyes flicked down to me. “You are going to… destroy more of them?” she asked directly.
“Only the ones that are in our way,” I admitted, and she lifted another eyebrow, smiling slightly down at me. Yes, she was taller than I was.
“One would be amiss not to notice that your tear in this false world is pointing almost directly at Crysindrala’s personal domain,” she observed with rather dire interest.
“She and the other two Hag Domains in this spatial shard do happen to be in our way.” Her eyes lit up at my words.
“I have been waiting three thousand years to get out of this zone, and I am far, far from the eldest of those trapped here. Lord Guenheff had been here for at least a hundred millennia.” Her delicate nostrils flared the slightest bit. “I should think some repayment is in order.” She stepped and curtsied to me, as beautiful as a dark ice flower, and most of the men had to find somewhere else to look. She was just too easy to stare at. “I should like to get what revenge I might, if possible, if you might take me with you.”
I’d just given her the way out, and she knew it. However, she’d been a prisoner for three thousand years in this zone cut out from the spatial shard, maybe a few hundred miles on a side. She would definitely be pissed at whoever trapped her here.
Still, a lilithi priestess? The mind boggled…
“She is a Sorceress and a Bard as well,” coughed AA. “All at Twelve.”
My turn to lift an eyebrow, while her nose came up slightly. Demon or no, that was impressive. Lilithi got the Favored default to Twelve for free as part of their evolution. She’d earned the rest on her own.
Granted, she had at least three thousand years to do so, by her own words. And probably didn’t have to deal with the Second Ceiling…
“I’m not sure you’ll be able to enter another Zone until we take down its Obelisk, if we do at all. I’m fairly sure they both keep new arrivals out and bind those within inside.”
She glanced up at the sky again, then off in a certain direction. “The Obelisk for this area is not too far from here, if you would like to remove it,” she smiled cheerfully, and yes, she had noticed that the men were moving to keep a distance from her, checking the dead for loot more than anything. “As for the next zone, I am certain I could simply ride someone through.”
“Something as simple as a Circle of Protection from Evil would keep you out. Do you really think the Obelisk effect is inferior?” I rolled my eyes at her.
She did look somewhat thoughtful. “Mmm, yes, I suppose I was being too hopeful. I suppose I shall simply have to follow if you topple the Obelisks…”
“You’ll fall behind and not catch up. You won’t be able to teleport past us with the dimensional uncertainty, space is roiling as we punch forwards.”
She tilted her chain. “You have something in mind?”
“I’d have to Bind and Seal you.”
Her expression froze despite herself. I smirked at her, daring her now. From a cell in a prison, to a cage… but the prison would be broken.
“For how long?” she asked, after I did not turn my eyes away.
“I will release you the moment you ask me to.”
She actually blinked. “A fine promise.” Her tone was absolutely neutral.
The Marks around my waist lit up, black on white.
Around me, Marks lit up, everyone turning to look at me, shining through armor, reacting with Soul magic, impossible to miss or conceal.
“Indeed it is. Why don’t you tell me how many of these magnificent souls behind me are here under compulsion?”
She had been able to see the Marks before, and the fact I held the Master Marks, and what it meant. She was effectively treating me as a master succubus, a manipulator of the highest order, even if I wasn’t a demon at all. I had replicated their power, and exploited it.
Her eyes lingered on my little sisters, who stared right back at her, nine Marks burning on them. “What race are you four, bearing so many Marks?” she asked curiously.
“Hagchildren.” Her eyes went wide. “Verd and Amber’s grandmothers are the Hag Queens of two of the realms we have to clear. Tusk Annie is my Hagmother.”
We all smiled, and dual sets of canines gleamed perhaps a bit too much.
Greatly daring, this drow-succubus reached out, touching the blue-black of the Curse’s mottled touch, and I felt it churn at the contact with her. Evil, without evil… born of sin, but not Sinful. Not enough to grab and punish, only taste and twist impotently.
“How many?” she asked, staring at me. “How many have sworn to the child of a Hag?”
“Would you like to be Marked and see?” I threw it right back at her.
“Marked? I? You cannot…” she trailed off, as the corner of my lip turned up, and her breath hissed out softly, seeing I already knew the answer. “You would need my True Name to Bind and Seal me…”
“Freely given, or not taken.” I waved my hand. “If you wish to travel a new road, you must find new ways. Trust will have to be one of them.” I pointed over my shoulder. “Or you can just leave.” Behind me, the men parted in a straight line, leading right to the gates out of here.
“Choice is all yours.” I turned away, pointed for the lads. “Pick that manor clean of anything usable, and let’s get out of here.”