|Volume 8- To Take Over The World||
Chapter 67- Live By The Sword
The inside of the Shrine of Laug revealed another reason the Hageshoni defenses were so few. As far as Frank and Molly could tell, there were only two rooms- one for sleeping, the other for everything else. There wasn't even a makeshift mess hall or kitchen; they seemed to subsist on fruit the orcs would offer as tribute to whatever this Laug character was. Lord knows how they went to the bathroom.
This information came after exploring the entire corridor, and each of them made one conclusion. “There should be more to this place. It looked bigger outside,” Molly said.
Despite having already crossed it, Frank was cautious stepping out of the barracks and into the corridor. “You missed the important thing.”
Molly rolled her eyes, but they snapped open when Frank shot a fireball at the ceiling. A demon fell from it. He did not fall to the floor; he stopped three feet above it and seemed to bounce up as if there was a trampoline. He made a perfect landing above a ledge in the wall and smiled at his new foes.
“There were five cots in there and only four demons outside,” Frank muttered.
He released another fireball. With little more than a shrug, the projectile not only stopped in midair, but reversed course and went straight back at Frank. Molly threw up a shield to block it.
“Hmm... okay then.” Frank drew his sword and approached it. The demon let him get close enough to raise the sword and make an ambitious leap. Once in the air, a spell froze Frank, then slammed him against both walls before flying back at Molly.
“Having issues with the direct approach?” Molly deadpanned.
Frank got up. “Both at once. You go high, I'll go low.”
“You're the one with the sword. In the air, we can't-” Frank interrupted Molly by handing her his smiter. Molly grumbled to herself.
She took to the air, floating up to the ceiling and charging towards the demon on Frank's command. The demon saw both attacks coming and, just as Frank motioned for a fire spell, threw a gust of wind in front of him. By the time Frank released his attack, the demon had manipulated it into a full cyclone. Frank's fireball turned it into a fire spout that stretched to the ceiling and engulfed Molly.
Frank flew up and grabbed whichever of Molly's limbs he could reach first, pulling her out by the leg and retreating back to their corner. She did not have any severe burns, just a fit of violent coughing as she scrambled for oxygen. The demon tried to send the cyclone toward them and Frank tried to send the fire back, but the two elements had gotten so intertwined that neither would have an advantage. Frank maintained the stalemate long enough for Molly to recover, then broke up the whole thing.
As he expected, the demon followed immediately with a series of violent gusts. Molly, despite labored breathing and the occasional cough, was there with a shield. The demon persisted, but Frank didn't mind. It gave him time to think.
“A plan would be nice,” Molly spat. Between blocks, she realized that while she didn't suffer any major burns, parts of her shirt had and she was looking at a bare and slightly singed shoulder.
Frank did not respond. His eyes were closed and he was pinching his earlobe. She wanted to be angry, but as it was entirely possible that he was telepathically developing the requested plan, she channeled her frustration into shielding the attack.
“Keep your shield up and try to go forward and get the smiter back,” Frank finally said. She had dropped it in the cyclone and it was several yards in front of her. Shielding herself from the intense gusts while trying to move forward would require intense concentration. Molly was too tired, in too much pain, and too soaked from Troy's water attack and her own sweat to like her odds.
Molly tried anyway, bearing down like she always did and managing a few steps. She could sense her shield trying to buckle and put more magic energy into it. She was close to her limit, but knew she'd somehow need more to get to the sword. But by the time she got halfway, she was at her breaking point. Advancing was out of the question.
She saw motion out of the corner of her eye, but taking a longer look would break her concentration. Still devoting her entire mind to maintaining her shield, she darted her eyes at the motion, then immediately back to the demon. It was a trick Frank had taught her: with just a momentary glance, she could process the image in her head while still keeping her focus on her shield. To her surprise, she saw Frank himself on the other end of the hallway. Obviously his telepathic conversation had been to instruct Giles to momentarily drop his anti-teleportation spell.
If Frank was trying to sneak up on the demon, it didn't work. The demon knew and was able to send gusts of wind in both directions. Frank had no way of blocking it, and it took all of his willpower to withstand it and stay where he was. But the focus on this new target meant less of a burden on Molly and she was able to advance again. With her free hand and without looking, she reached for the sword and picked it up. Not that she'd be able to get up to the demon's position in order to use it.
That's when Molly realized that Frank had contacted someone else along with Giles. The demon was fending off targets to his left and right. The third attack was head on: a blast of ice came in from the entrance. Shifting both his wind gusts to block it, the demon was only partially successful. The ice split into a mass of shavings that pelted the demon everywhere. It was only a mild disruption, but it gave Molly the opening to switch off her shield, switch on a flight spell, and soar up to the ledge to eliminate the demon.
Troy came running up from the entrance. “How was that?”
“Excellent,” Frank replied. Despite taking the attack head on, he was upright and standing under the ledge. “Best part is that he gave away a secret.” He knocked on the wall. “He was standing on a door frame. You feel that?”
Molly put her ear against the wall under the ledge. She could feel the magic energy inside. It was immense. The only time she had sensed more was when Vincent had unveiled Grimoire 17, and that was when she was directly in front of it. This was behind a stone wall. “That's what we're looking for, isn't it?”
“See if you two can get it open. I'll watch the entrance.”
It took longer to open than the entrance, but Molly and Troy were again able to combine their magic to create a passageway. They were lucky sealing entrances were never the Hageshoni's strong suit. Once open, Frank rejoined them and they stepped into the central chamber of the temple. This room occupied most of the building's interior and explained why Molly found the outer hallways too small.
Still, as far as central chambers went, it was relatively cozy. The walls were unadorned and unremarkable and there were few decorations other than some pikes leaning in the corners. It was pitch black; Molly needed a light spell to illuminate the room. A circular section of the floor was lower to the ground. In the middle of it sat a small pool filled with still black water. A broadsword stood at the center of the pool, its hilt fastened underwater and its silver blade rising upwards.
“Is that it then? Did we win?” Troy asked, voice lowered to nearly a whisper.
Molly was awed by the place, the magic energy overwhelming her senses. But not in a good way. Whatever magic was in play here, it was dark. She sensed anger, suffering and impending danger. The tip of the smiter still in her hand started crackling; even the air in the room seemed filled with demonic power.
“This isn't right,” she said. “Orcs don't use magic. They couldn't have made this.”
“What about the Hageshoni?”
She shook her head. “This is beyond them. I don't know who built this, but I don't want to find out.”
Molly started to back away, but Frank barked, “Wait.” She froze. “Don't you see what this is?” He stood in front of the pool and was staring at the tip of the sword. “Of course this would be the key to controlling the orcs.”
He turned around and eyed both Troy and Molly. “This is a sacrificial altar.”
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