Great [Monster] Journey 13

Dec 21st, 2013
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  1. He clamped a hand over his heart to keep it from beating out of his chest. The lamia’s eyes and his met and froze, almost as if locked together. Memories came rushing back to him, carried along a current of fear and pain. Their bodies were unmistakable. One, shorter than the others, had a spear on her back that reflected a glint of moonlight. Galen felt the most intensity from her gaze, but the others were hardly docile. The tallest, her skin dark as tree bark, stood at the front of the trio with her arms at her sides. The last appeared almost amused, her arms crossed and mouth twisted into a grin. All three had the light armor and well-built figures her remembered, as well as those threatening tails swishing about. Those were the weapons that almost killed him last time.
  3. His mind shifted from hazy to crystal clear in a second. A hundred possibilities ran through his head. He tried his best to filter out only the important ones. Should he run? Act like nothing had happened? Let them interrogate him again and pretend he didn’t know Seira? In a city like this, there would have to be some witnesses if they started fighting. Maybe they wouldn’t got that far?
  5. Their charge forward answered that questions rather decisively. Galen froze up, his limbs shivering with fear, vision blurring at the onslaught before him. It was odd, watching them move with such speed but hearing no footsteps. Their snake bellies scrapped against the cobblestone with a sound like clothing against skin. Their bodies swayed back and forth with their movement, hypnotizing Galen as he watched.
  7. “What are you doing?” asked Sybyll.
  9. “Wha?” Galen shook his head, snapping out of his trance. “I, uh, I dunno. Do you think we could outrun them?”
  11. “Not for long. Lamia are faster than humans.”
  13. He looked up and down the street for an escape route, but found nothing. The only ways out were through the lamia or back the way they came, into the alleyways. Just the thought of going back sent shivers up his spine. “Well, um, what if we could find guards?”
  15. “They would not help us right away. Guards are more interested in their own lives than settling the squabbles of monsters and men. Only if they had numbers would they try to interfere.”
  17. “So we’d have to wait until they brought backup?”
  19. “Assuming the guards on duty tonight care about their duty enough to do so.”
  21. “Dangit!”
  23. Galen looked back to the alleyways once again. They were thin enough to force the lamia to fight one at a time, and with their snake bodies it’d be harder to maneuver, not to mention he might just be able to lose them in the maze of passages. However, at this time of night, he wouldn’t be able to see a thing, and the alleyways were far from empty. A fleeing human would make an easy target to anyone--human or monster--prowling the darkness..
  25. Gritting his teeth, he faced the lamia and drew the broken Toneruth sword. Real heroes didn’t run from challenges, right? They stood their ground. He’d been running from these three since the start of his journey and he was sick of it. He had time only to plant his feet before the lamia surrounded him. He kept a careful eye on their tails, his gaze flickering away from them only long enough to catch where the lamia were looking as well.
  27. “You say you did not know the manticore, but it’s an awfully odd coincidence to find you in the same city her tracks led,” said the lead lamia, her gaze thick with anger. “And even more interesting is the fact that there were human tracks alongside manticore tracks the entire way.”
  29. He swallowed, but kept his face even. Sybyll drew her own sword.
  31. What was the point in that? She couldn’t touch these lamia.
  33. “Unfortunate we have to involve a monster in this. I would ask you to leave, lizardman, but I assume you would take it as an insult.”
  35. “You have it correct.”
  37. Galen threw a look over his shoulder to Sybyll. An insult? His face soured at being reminded how little he truly knew about monsters.
  39. The lead lamia pointed her weapon, a short sword, at Galen. “This needn’t be painful as it was last time. Tell us where to find the manticore and we will be done with you. But be warned--feigning ignorance will only aggravate me and my companions further. Our journey has lead us far and we have little patience left.”
  41. Then he just wouldn’t feign ignorance, then. “I’m not telling you anything.” He raised Toneruth a bit higher in an attempt to be intimidating, but the broken blade felt like little more than a twig in his hands. Against the orcs it had proven useful because they were overconfident and slow. These lamia had no such weaknesses.
  43. “And you’re going to defend yourself with that? A broken sword? It only has a blade on one side.” She brandished her buckler and short sword. “Very well. We will try to avoid breaking bones until the interrogation starts. Gueriel, take the lizardman. I will handle the boy.”
  45. He knew she called him ‘boy’ to get on his nerves, but he couldn’t help his anger. His hands tightened on the hilt of his hilariously-short weapon, digging into the grip until his palms burned. The air stood still. Galen’s gaze locked with the lamia’s. He pushed out every thought but those of the opponent in front of him. He could afford no distractions. This was it. His first real fight, a fight for his life. This wasn’t Seira playing around with him, this wasn’t his father sparring with him, this was a true enemy who wanted to incapacitate him by any means necessary. There would be no mercy.
  47. His eyes went to her tail. That short sword was one thing, but he was still about two body lengths away from her. Her tail would be her primary weapon until he got in close. It would move like lightning when it struck. Last time, he was caught unaware, but if he could just keep his attention on it…
  49. ‘Lightning’ was the correct comparison, alright.
  51. It struck with a surprising silence as it tore through the air. One second it was hovering off the ground behind her, the next it was in his face. He choked out an awkward grunt as he flung himself away. His movement was no graceful dodge, no practiced motion, nothing he’d ever do in training without being criticized. It was a desperate lunge in pure reaction to the presence of danger. The wind blowing off her attack brushed his shoulder. His dodge had been just enough, but it threw him off balance. He stumbled a couple steps, turning back to the lamia as soon as he regained his footing, only to see the tail coming at him again, this time in a sweep instead of a stab, aimed right for his ribs.
  53. Blocking it would’ve been useless. The momentum could very well be enough to break his arm. He had to dodge again. He jumped as high as he could, leaning his body toward her tail. It passed underneath him--mostly. His legs couldn’t come high enough off the ground and her tail swiped them, though at an angle, so the impact wasn’t as brutal as it could’ve been. His lower legs exploded in pain, forcing a grunt from Galen as the hit threw his jump into a flip. His rear hit the ground first, sending a second explosion of pain through his body. The landing knocked the wind from him as well, throwing his vision into a daze. He hadn’t even stood up when a blur appeared above him: the lamia’s tail about to come down for a final blow.
  55. Was this it? Would he really lose a fight so pitifully? Even against Seira, he was able to block a few blows and fit in some jabs. But this… this was pathetic. He hadn’t made the lamia break a sweat. Toneruth still burned in his hand, the broken sword looking much like Galen felt. All that time training, the advice, practicing positions and swings, taking each moment to heart, all made useless by one monster opponent with strength, speed, and range far superior to Galen’s own. What would his father say to the boy groaning and helpless on his back?
  57. He wanted to be strong, damnit! The Kraken, Seira, Sybyll, and the orcs all showed him what a poor excuse for a warrior he was. He couldn’t accept this!
  59. “No!” yelled Galen. He rolled to the right without a second to spare. The tail struck the ground so hard the echoes of the impact rattled Galen’s ears. He threw his weight forward and tucked into a roll. It was only a guess, but that should’ve sent him right next to the lamia. Rushing to his feet, he started bringing up his sword again, but the moment he saw how close he’d actually gotten he took a buckler to the face.
  61. He cried out, stumbling backwards and doing everything to tone out the pain emanating from his nose, wave after wave of it buffeting his brain and threatening to make him fall over. He finally caught himself, shook his head, and charged back in, Toneruth once again at the ready. If he could just land one good blow, take her by surprise, the fight would be over. The trouble was her superior speed and range, but with that last roll, he had gotten in just close enough to force her to use her hand weapons. Now all he hand to do was strike!
  63. Yelling out his exertion, Galen swung Toneruth in a mighty sideward strike, putting his entire body behind the blow. Such an act would surely have disappointed his father and sword teacher, but he couldn’t give himself the time to set his feet. He had to attack now, with everything he had.
  65. The short, light blade moved at an impressive speed, whistling through the air, heading straight for the lamia where her human body met her snake body. He would’ve preferred to strike at her head or chest, but she was too tall for that sort of attack to be reliable.
  67. Toneruth froze as if the air had turned to stone. The collision jarred Galen’s body hard enough to knock his teeth together. The lamia’s short sword had come down to block. Galen briefly wondered why his sword hadn’t gone straight through hers, but didn’t have time to contemplate it. Her buckler came forward again to smash his face, but he ducked under it just in time, pulling Toneruth off her short sword. He struck again, this time a stab, and again his attack was knocked away. The following counterattack grazed his shoulder, sending him off-balance. He hardly had time to get his bearings before she descended on him, blow after blow coming in blurs. Galen could do nothing more than parry and dodge, his footing insecure as she pushed him further and further back.
  69. Eventually he was too slow. His parry was awkward, knocking her sword away but leaving him wide open. Her bucker rammed into the side of his head, igniting his vision with red and sending him to the ground. He expected to be pierced by her weapon in the next second, but a clang stole his and his opponent’s attention.
  71. A short ways away, Sybyll and the other lamia were fighting. No, ‘fighting’ wasn’t the word. That would imply the lamia was somehow holding ground or involved as an equal. It was an absolute rout.
  73. Galen saw Sybyll as he had never seen her before. Her body was like water, flowing along a current of lightning-fast strikes, hips, legs, and feet moving in a perfect system. Her eyes never left her target, like an archer focused on her prey. Galen couldn’t hope to count the number of blows she unleashed, only gape as her advance overwhelmed her enemy.
  75. But she couldn’t land a single strike. Well, it wasn’t that she couldn’t, it was that she had to chose to miss in order to maintain the façade. Every attack was just wide of connecting. Sybyll allowed the lamia to think her weapon could parry Sybyll’s blows and therefore send them off-target. While to the lamia it may have looked as if she was barely holding Sybyll off, in truth, the lizardman was calculating exactly how to divert each and every strike, giving her opponent just enough time to retaliate with a block or parry. The skill to do such a thing was staggering--far more than required to simply defeat her enemy.
  77. “Belvedan! Help her out!” The shout came from the lamia he was fighting.
  79. Belvedan? Galen stumbled to his feet, blinking his eyes in an effort to clear his vision. His opponent was facing away from him, but pointing toward Sybyll. He directed his attention along her gaze.
  81. The third lamia.
  83. How could he have forgotten? The group had always numbered three. One for him and one for Sybyll had left the third on her own. Had she attacked earlier, in the midst of his fight, he never would’ve even gotten close.
  85. The lamia Belvedan’s hand had begun to glow. Her eyes narrowed and her lips were moving in an unending stream of silent words. Galen swallowed. That’s what she’d been doing the entire time: readying magic. It must not have been something she could do instantly for her to have removed herself from the fight for so long, but from his opponent’s urging, Belvedan must’ve been ready.
  87. He surveyed the scene. His opponent stood only a few strides away. The two of them were almost right between Belvedan and Sybyll, though Belvedan was much further away than his opponent. Attacking the lamia in front of him would be his best bet, especially with her attention on Belvedan for the moment, but it wouldn’t do anything for Sybyll. Then again, did he even need to do anything for Sybyll? She was a phantom, unaffected by the world. The spell would pass right through her, right? He gritted his teeth. The decision seemed so obvious. Tightening his grip on Toneruth again, he lunged at the closest lamia.
  89. His first footstep gave him away, but all he’d needed from the beginning was one slip-up from her. With Toneruth as his weapon, their difference in physique didn’t matter as much as the lamia thought it would. His heart thudded like a resounding drum with each step, muscles exploding into action into that tiny opening. On his third step, she’d turned to face him and was bringing her sword and buckler to bear, but the distance was already zero. He launched himself as high as he could, giving him access to those vital areas, and brought Toneruth down with all his might, the slash aimed at her heart.
  91. In some extraordinary feat of speed and focus, the lamia brought up her short sword in time to deflect the blow, but only a slight amount. The purpose with which Galen swung would not be denied. Her sword took the strike far too near the hilt, tossing her hand out of the way and absorbing the blunt of the force. Ordinarily, such a tactic would be effective against a broken sword swung by a weak human at a lightly-armored chest. The blade would scrape against the armor, but not find skin.
  93. But Toneruth was no ordinary blade.
  95. The jagged edge passed through armor, skin, and muscles as if it were little more than air. The hilt froze on contact, biting at Galen’s fingers as the blade ripped through her will. Galen couldn’t stop himself from grinning, his eyes lighting up in delight at seeing his first successful cut. While the minor deflection prevented the blow from incapacitating the lamia in one strike, from her gasp and subsequent collapse Galen could tell she was in no shape to fight for the moment.
  97. He gave himself no time to celebrate, however. He spun around and sprinted toward the invisible line between Belvedan and Sybyll. Belvedan’s hand was up now, palm facing Sybyll and her eyes were alight with the same purple glow. Whatever she was casting, the spell was igniting now. He had no more time to interrupt her; he could only block it.
  99. Her final word was shouted and the light on her hand exploded outward, launching a deadly violet missile at Sybyll’s back. With a shout, Galen threw himself in its path, blocking the spell with Toneruth.
  101. …Sort of.
  103. Toneruth certainly had an effect on the spell on contact, but not exactly what Galen had expected. Instead of being neutralized or knocked away, it actually split in two. One half of the spell went straight into the ground, ripping up the street and sending debris into the air while the other half veered off and struck Galen in the shoulder. He shouted in pain, the bright light swallowing his sanity as it tore at his body. It felt as if his arm had been blown clear off. A hundred years of ache and pain compounded on his shoulder in an instant. The impact sent him spiraling through the air much like the debris from the other half of the explosion. He landed on his stomach and slid a few feet, scraping up his nose and arms.
  105. A biting numbness enveloped his entire left arm where the spell had hit. His right hand, still holding Toneruth, slapped over to his shoulder and squeezed, assuring Galen it was, in fact, still there. He let out a strained groan as he flipped over onto his back. Sitting up took every ounce of his strength. He winced when a bolt of pain shot up his arm, but he shook his head to clear his vision and refocused on the enemies. The fight was far from over.
  107. Sybyll had pushed her opponent back long enough to disengage and run toward Galen. Even in the midst of fighting, her face held its typical silent intensity, though if Galen looked close enough, he could’ve sworn he saw the taint of anger. Her legs carried her to Galen like a leaf along the wind. Galen struggled to get to his feet, but the moment he put his weight on his feet, his arm throbbed again and forced him to his knees. He gnashed his teeth not in pain, but frustration. Frustration for being so weak, for falling to one blow, for managing nothing more than a lucky strike on an unaware opponent. He could even see the lamia he’d cut getting upright again, albeit slowly and clutching her chest.
  109. Belvedan’s hand was still up and glowing, this time pointed at Galen. His throat caught, preventing him from cursing himself and he once again pumped strength into his legs. Sybyll wouldn’t make it in time. He had to dodge it himself! The pain from his arm exploded, almost making him black out. While he held onto consciousness, he couldn’t bring his pathetic body to move. All he could do now was hope that spell wasn’t meant to kill. Breath left his lungs.
  111. “You should watch your back, snake-ass!”
  113. All attention jerked to the voice, a holler coming from the air above and behind Belvedan. She spun as fast as she could, the violet light in her hand dying as she did, only to receive a face full of paw, delivered by a mid-air kick from a rapidly-descending Seira. The kick connected with such force Galen could hear the thud of paw-on-face from his spot down the road. Seira’s paw seized Belvedan’s face dragged it all the way to the ground. From the way the lamia’s body went limp, she was at the very least unconscious.
  115. Seira tossed the lamia aside, holding out her paws and extending the claws as she walked toward the lead lamia. Her face was alight with a grin and her hips swayed with her stride. Her eyes diverted from the lamia only for a second to check on Galen and Sybyll, her mouth twitching when she saw him on his knees.
  117. “What is this, the third time I’ve caught you girls unaware? I would’ve thought you’d caught on by now.” Her voice oozed confidence to the point of arrogance. She continued to alternatively curl and then straighten the digits on her right paw as she strutted forward.
  119. “And three times we defeated you, though I see that wound on your wing has healed, Seira,” replied the lamia, her voice as rigid as iron. She was once again standing upright, but Galen could see her chest rising and falling in uneven breaths. That earlier blow was still affecting her.
  121. Seira’s eyes narrowed. “It’s convenient you three are here, really. I was just thinking about how I would pay you back for it!”
  123. She launched herself forward, her foot-paws inches from the ground as her wings pumped. The injury must truly have healed for her to be using them like that. Her right paw clenched and opened, taking the first strike at the lamia. Claws, sharp and fierce, flashed in the moonlight, but were deflected by the lamia’s buckler. She stabbed with her short sword in a counterattack, but Seira side-stepped it and swung her left paw at the enemy’s face. Their speeds were incredible, especially with the lamia bearing such an injury.
  125. Seira’s attacks came in a blur, seemingly unconcerned with the lamia’s short sword. Her paw pads and fur must have offered enough protection to combat the bare blade. Galen would’ve kept watching, but Sybyll grabbed his attention when her fingers wrapped around his uninjured shoulder and pulled him to his feet. Pain assaulted him yet again, but with Sybyll there, he didn’t fall back down. When he looked up to give her a smile of thanks, he saw a strain in her countenance, like she was holding something within.
  127. There were more important things to worry about, though. Seira was engaged a fight, one which Galen figured she should’ve won right away, but the lamia was still in it, if only just. Her willpower must have been countering the earlier cut by Toneruth. Furthermore, the other uninjured lamia was now speeding toward Seira. A two-on-one battle would end poorly for the one. He had to help!
  129. He stepped forward, towards the fight, but the second his foot came down, the pain in his arm and shoulder ripped through him again. A flame scorched him under his skin. His blood felt like it would boil and explode. Only by depending on Sybyll’s support was he able to stay upright.
  131. He could hardly stay conscious, much less fight. He would be of no help to Seira like this. He kicked at the ground, only to be rewarded with another nauseating wave of pain.
  133. “Sybyll, go help her. I can’t,” he grumbled, letting his head sink in defeat.
  135. “I am afraid my use has expired as well.”
  137. “Huh?”
  139. “In my last exchange with that lamia, she threw out a couple of test blows and lunges. I was unable to account for them and revealed my state. If I were to attempt to engage her again, she would ignore me.” Her eyes closed. “She was a worthy opponent.”
  141. “Damnit!”
  143. Galen let the curse loose from his lips, about to stomp his foot again before realizing the consequences of doing so. He settled for a grimace. All that work, the surprise attack, blocking the magic, taking that brutal first blow--all pointless. He started limping towards Seira as fast as his could, breaths loud and heavy as he fought to push the pain from his mind. Not even halfway there, however, his wearied legs missed a step, taking him to a knee and sending fresh pulses of agony through his arm. He tasted bile in the back of his throat. Raising his head, his wavering eyes witnessed Seira giving everything she could to fight off the two lamia.
  145. This was it. Seira was going to die here and Galen would be able to do nothing about it. He would watch as his first friend from the mainland was butchered for protecting him. It wasn’t supposed to end like this! He screamed at his inadequacy and lowered his head.
  147. “Stop!”
  149. His head jerked back up, gaze locking on the owner of the voice. A group of about twenty guards had entered the street, all armored and bearing weapons. The lead, standing just in front of the group, repeated his command, but the blur of combatants did not stop or slow. To do so while engaged as they were would mean death.
  151. Galen’s mouth finally remembered how to grin. While his arm and shoulder still roared at him, it took a backseat to enjoying the sight of guards. The leader charged forward, shouting for his guards to help him. They closed in on the lamia and Seira, surrounding the three and drawing weapons before taking any further action. The leader shouted something at the combatants, but Galen couldn’t make it out. He was too busy smiling.
  153. That vanished when the guards struck.
  155. The first two to enter the fray tackled Seira, completely ignoring the lamia. While one guard wasn’t enough to pull her down, the second’s momentum did the job. At the same time, a larger group rushed the lamia, holding their swords out and bringing the points within inches of the lamia’s skin. The lamia drew their bodies up, looming over the guards with weapons still out. Were they really planning on taking on such numbers? Did they think they could win?
  157. Or was killing Seira that important?
  159. Letting out a grunt, Galen forced himself back to his feet, his fingers digging into his injured shoulder.
  161. “Wait! The manticore isn’t who you want!”
  163. The guards gave Galen no attention. The lamia were a far greater threat. Even as Galen struggled his way toward Seira, the lamia continued to hiss and feint at the guards, pushing them back. The leader and the two who tackled Seira were binding her squirming form up despite Galen’s constant protests.
  165. “She didn’t do anything! The lamia attacked us!”
  167. Even with her struggling, the guards managed to tie Seira up and drag her away. She flashed Galen something between a glare and a plea with her eyes before the leader stepped in front of Galen, filling his vision.
  169. “Any monsters that are going to be picking fights and making trouble in the streets of Fullsburg will be held accountable. Even monster sympathizers too, if they don’t stay quiet,” he said, a sneer marring his face.
  171. “But you haven’t tied those lamia up!” Galen said, pointing.
  173. The leader glanced over the lamia, seeing his guards were still having trouble with them. “Lamia are almost impossible to tie up. There’s not really much to bind, anyways.” He turned to the lamia, throwing out his chest. “You two are to leave the city straightaway! And take your friend with you. We don’t want your kind here!” He gestured to several of the guards. “These men will escort you out. You are henceforth banned from the city until you can offer appropriate compensation for your disruption.”
  175. The lead lamia rushed up to the lead guard, stopping her face only a few feet from his. “We are here on orders from the monster lord herself. Do not dare to--“
  177. “I couldn’t care less what some monster half the world away wants. In Fullsburg, monsters are punished when they act out. Be smart and take my generous offer. I won’t extend it again.”
  179. Hissing, the lamia retreated, pushing through the line of guards surrounding her and her ally to pick up the third, unconscious, lamia and leave the scene, her ally right behind her. Before turning the corner she paused, narrowing her eyes at Galen. The message was clear.
  181. He would have liked to say he just shrugged it off, but from the ache on his shoulder and the chill growing deep in his chest, he could tell he wouldn’t soon be forgetting that glare or the intent behind it. Swallowing, he laid a hand on his chest and took several even breaths, trying to calm his wild heart. Only when he was sure it wouldn’t explode in his chest did he look back to the lead guard. The leader’s interest in Galen and the lamia must’ve waned, for he was already on his way back with the group that had stopped the fight. Stumbling forward as fast as his burning shoulder would allow, he caught up to the leader.
  183. “Hey, what’s going to happen to Seira?”
  185. The leader threw Galen a look over his shoulder and scoffed. “She’s going to a holding cell where she can think about picking fights for a while. One or two of the jailers might have a chat with her, too. Depends on how fast she comes up with the fee to get out.”
  187. “But she was only protecting me.”
  189. He spun around, grabbing the front of Galen’s shirt and shoving his face into Galen’s. “Look, kid, if it were up to me, she’d rot down there, so don’t give me any more reason to make this worse for her. And stop wasting your breath on defending her. She’s a monster. She attacks men and rapes them. That’s what monsters do. I don’t know what you think you’ll get out of being nice to her, but I can tell you that from her, it won’t be anything but a good raping. And if you’re into that kind of filth then I just might take you in, too.” His grip tightened. “Understand?”
  191. Galen’s breath came out red hot from his nostrils, his teeth grating together to keep him from saying something he’d knew he’d regret. How could this guy possibly have become a guard? Weren’t they supposed to protect people and monsters? He didn’t feel very protected.
  193. “Fine. Where is the jail?”
  195. The leader threw Galen back a few feet, flaring up the pain in his arm and almost causing him to fall on his back. “Like I know. Follow me if you want, but I don’t want to see your face any more.”
  197. He left Galen with a grimace, meeting up with the rest of his group before disappearing around a corner.
  199. The weight of the evening crashed upon Galen’s shoulders, sending him to his knees, then the ground. The stone bit his face with cold. The torches that lit the street licked at him as if laughing. Even the crisp, thick wind seemed to mock him, battering his bruised and beaten body while he was down. He stared at the ground, eyes blank, their blue sheen dulled. When saliva filled his mouth, he made no effort to swallow, letting it drool onto the uneven stones pressed against his face.
  201. So this is what failure tasted like.
  203. The only grace he was afforded was an empty street. No one was around to witness his pathetic state, only himself and the night, and even it turned a pitying eye to him. The wind let up as if to apologize and the shadows took him in. Galen thought back to his father, waving at him from the pier, calling for him to return. Maybe he had seen this coming.
  205. His brooding was interrupted by Sybyll when she grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back up to a sitting position, her gleaming eyes inspecting his body. She patted certain spots on his body to check for bruises. When her claw grasped his injured shoulder, he gripped her claw, wincing.
  207. “What were you thinking, blocking that magical attack? Nothing affects me, you know this! And now your shoulder is injured!”
  209. Galen let out a weak cough. “It’s the thought that counts.”
  211. Sybyll’s face betrayed the tiniest frown. She stared silently at the foolish boy before her, her eyes losing that razor edge she so effortlessly maintained. The wind blew her golden hair across her face, but even then she didn’t blink. Galen wanted to wilt beneath that glare, but at the same time he wanted to brush that hair from her eyes and look at them more clearly. He heard her take in and release a deep breath before finally blinking and shifting her weight. With a shake of her head, she helped Galen up.
  213. “There are more important things to worry about. Seira is in the hands of the guard, and those lamia now know we are with her, though we have bought some time by inflicting such injuries.”
  215. “I helped!” said Galen, raising his hand with a smile. He rubbed his shoulder again. “But aren’t those lamia banished from the city now?”
  217. “I would not put much faith in the guard’s ability to keep them out. Once their companion recovers, they will likely return for Seira.” Once she was sure Galen was steady on his feet, she turned to the spot they’d last seen the guards. “And you do not need to hide your disappointment.”
  219. His smile flickered, but he kept it up. “Disappointment? This is just another adventure! Another challenge! All we have to do is get Seira out of there before the lamia come back, right?” He gave Sybyll a rigid thumbs-up. “No problem!”
  221. Never had his tongue tasted such hollow words.
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