The previous Sassy Saturday post can be read here: Dangerous Grunt Work
The context for this post is that Eric has finally reached Roalt, Ataidar, and reunited with his school friends. When the school day is over, Eric learns that an ordercrafter has been stalking Annala. To assure him that she has it under control, she brings out a special weapon.
“I guess that would be useful for evasion, unless he used Interdict to prohibit such casting, but I doubt he has the power or authority to do that on his own. In any case, it would be a useful set-up.”
She reached into a pocket and pulled out a charm shaped like a quiver. She said the words “heavenly change” and it became a full-sized quiver filled with arrows. She pulled out a second charm shaped like a bow. She said the words “heavenly change” and it transformed into a full-sized longbow. It was gleaming white from end to end, with golden runes engraved on its surface and wrapped along its length.
“This is a Death Killer bow. It works as a function of channeled life energy infused with chaotic energy; the first is in opposition to death anti-energy and the second is the primordial energy of which the universe is made and can be destroyed. The filigree work as compressors for the instant rune algorithms that control the energy flow when the string is pulled. Said algorithms are braced by information slots that can be filled and cleared as needed based on the enemy involved and, in doing so, bypass a number of defenses that could otherwise allow the target to negate the arrow's force or otherwise hinder its trajectory. I created it to destroy reapers and so it should prove effective against a mere divinely enhanced human.”
“Eric, translate!” Revas demanded. “She's explained five times and I still don't get it.”
“It uses special energy to attack its weak point.”
Annala wrinkled her nose. “‘Special energy' is a gross over-simplification but correct.” She cleared her throat. “Revas, Oito, as you can see, I have this situation under control, so you can go to the chem lab. I bet Norej has set a welcome prank for you by now.”
“That two-faced jerk! I’ll get him for that!”
Revas ran out the door with Oito quickly following.
Annala giggled. “Shall we go?”
Eric placed his hand over his heart and bowed his head. “Rest assured, Lady Annala. This mercenary will escort you safely home.”
She giggled again. “I’ll withhold your pay if you don’t.”
They left the school side by side and mingled with the other couples. The fact that they were together was a bigger topic of discussion than the fact that they had weapons out. Eric kept his staff ready and Annala kept her bow in hand.
There was no trouble for several blocks, not even traffic. Crowds parted when they saw The Trickster's Choice guarding a female elf. This picture joined the others on the Internet and a couple Chaosians declared it an omen and threw up their arms in prayer. All the attention made Annala uncomfortable so Eric sought to divert it to himself. Holding his staff high with one hand, he demanded peaches and noble titles for his service in escorting the priestess of Lady Chaos, Golden Cicada! This made Annala smile and she paused her scry conversation to add something.
“For the record,” she said to the crowds, “I am not seeking any scriptures on chaotic enlightenment.” Then to the person on the phone, she continued, “That's your job, Auntie H...”
When they were five blocks away from the school and seven from Annala's apartment, the trouble began. Eric felt it as a wave of intense spiritual power. It made his hair stand on end and opened the pores in his skin. He never felt something this powerful; not from Basilard, a veteran mercenary, and not from Dengel, a legendary elfin mage. He gulped and held his staff in a defensive posture. After two more blocks, they found him. Nulso Xialin stood between them and their destination.
He was a middle-aged human man, but his sickly pale skin made him look undead. He wore his platinum blonde hair in a low ponytail and it draped around his neck like a collar. The irises of his eyes were pure silver grey, and the eyes themselves were sharp and focused on his elfin prey. He stood a good foot taller than she. His clothes looked stiff enough to serve as armor and an old-fashioned camera rested on top of his coat. He was further protected by a bubble of eldritch light encompassing his body and soul. It made Eric’s skin crawl. Annala cowered behind him.
“You can't hide from me, Golden Hair. Today, I will solve your mana mutation problems.”
“Her only problem is you,” Eric declared.
“Don’t you know? Elfin shapeshifting is a controlled mana mutation and she can’t do it. She hides from this problem like she’s hiding from me.”
Annala stepped out from behind Eric and notched an arrow. It pointed at the ground, not at Nulso. Nevertheless, the bow glowed as it powered up and a magic circle appeared beneath her feet. Eric recognized only a handful of the runes, and they were “bypass defenses,” “empower,” and “kill.”
At once, the street cleared as civilians moved into buildings and off the street. Nearby stores closed and homes locked. All of them knew that a fight between an elf, the Trickster's Choice, and an ordercrafter was bound to be destructive. Others watched from windows and balconies. They knew that such a battle was bound to be entertaining. The only business still open was a popcorn vendor.
“Who’s hiding? Leave me in peace!”
Nulso spread his hands in an open gesture. “Your arrow can’t hurt me. Come with me and I can help you. Otherwise, something bad will happen to your mortal friend.”
Annala smirked. “Thank you for threatening him. Ataidar has very good self-defense laws.”
She released the arrow and it pierced Nulso’s bubble like a shroud. It lodged in his chest and discharged its payload of magic power into his body. While he didn’t shout, it was clear he was in great pain from the grimace he made.
“Cute and Intelligent Elf Girl: 1. Lame Order Drone: 0.”
Looming Shadow, and the rest of the Journey to Chaos series, is available for purchase at Amazon
To learn more about the heroines of Journey to Chaos, visit its Tvtropes character sheet.