A Fell Omen 4.7

The air seemed to fill to the brim with strange tension as Edam got a better look at the vampire in the back ranks and her kindred – a pure potential energy of violence that permeated the very atmosphere. The vermin, just as the rumors had said, were fat gray ticks, seeming to pour from every corner and crevice of the barrow. They didn’t seem like much of a threat alone, but Edam could already tell that was the point. Their aggregate mass made swathes of the field more dangerous and harrying to run across. Their master stood in the shadowy mouth of the barrow. Edam’s eyes focused on her for a moment. She had let her flesh go just as mad as her decapitated brethren. Her bloodied dress stuck into unnatural crevices in her belly so deep as to not allow for any organs beneath the fabric. More ticks crawled out from under the dress. 

The blackbloods that flanked her looked like they were once young, healthy men – but that time was gone now. They had taken on the pallor of walking corpses, with blackened eyes and veins. They took their first steps, starting to try to flank Imera’s group. Their weapons looked aged, out-of-date – made for an era where firearms were less expected, and heavy armor was more common. Meanwhile, the blueblood had clearly taken interest in Shivyan. She spread her wings wide, and Shivyan began to mutter to herself. Edam couldn’t make it out wholly, but it sounded like a prayer. 

Edam rolled the chain up against her arm and finally untangled the spearhead from it. As soon as she had, chaos erupted. The first arrow whistled as it flew – a streak of dark green light spinning through the air. It blurred and crackled with potency, striking the tree where the blueblood had been. The air itself seemed to screech as the tree’s branches suddenly bent down and cracked, dragging towards the roots. Somewhere, Danza yelled, but Edam couldn’t make out what she said her over the din of rushing blood in her ears. Instead, she saw the blueblood rushed towards her, her jaw visible beneath the porcine helm, screaming. She’d pulled a hammer from her waist; one end blunt and the other with a heavy hook. She held it high to splatter out Edam’s brains with all the force of falling from a great height. Her wings were so enormous that they seemed to envelop Edam entirely in their inky cloak. 

Edam rolled out of the way, her view of Shivyan blocked by the dark force of her wings. Edam lashed out quickly with her flail, the metal head clanging against the armor. It left a heavy dent in the vampire’s right arm, but it didn’t seem to perturb her all that much. Edam lashed out again, and this time the vampire was ready. She beat her wings again, lifting her just out of the way of the blow before she advanced once more on foot, hammer raised. 

Through the dark leathery surface of her left wing, a green-white flame emerged – an arrow. The vampire shrieked in pain, and at once the wing retracted into her flesh. It stopped at the midway point, seemingly stuck on the arrow – in too awkward of a position for her to pull out, too. She shuddered backwards from Edam to see her assailant. Shivyan had already readied another focus arrow, one eye clamped shut, the other keen and ready.

The vampire raised her good wing like a shield against Edam’s next blow. It thudded, and Edam whipped it out again low as she saw an arrow fly far into the air, high up into the trees. She thought Shivyan had missed – now the vampire was nearly on her, and she wasn’t ready for a melee. Shivyan dodged the first blow as Edam tried to maneuver to catch the vampire around the legs. Then Edam heard it. 

Shivyan clutched at a small bracelet, covered in beads, and it glowed with verdure. Suddenly the air was filled with two high-pitched whistles. The arrow that had missed returned with a vengeance, striking the beast in the back and sending her stumbling forward. It stuck out of a gap in her armor, the verdure already fading from it. Edam took the opportunity, and lashed low towards the vampire’s feet. The chain cut a path through the underbrush as the head wound itself around one of the vampire’s legs. The head struck hard against the metal, and this time it dented even deeper around her calf. She pulled back, and the vampire resisted before her foot was dragged into an ivet in the ground.

Edam glanced at the rest of the battlefield.  

It was chaos, but they seemed to have the upper hand. Qeqem and Manguyaat had successfully peeled one of the blackbloods off to the side, knocking him about with the skill of a practiced dancer. Before they seemed like an ancient force, a warrior emerged from the depths of time and death to guard their old masters, but now the shape of things was far more clear. The old armor and dress was a mere act – these were young vampires, freshly turned as a show of power and loyalty to the Erebists. Of course, they didn’t give that power to those among them who were sorcerers right away. Doing that might upset their authority. The sword seemed less like a weapon and more like a burden in his hands as he tried to keep Manguyaat and her wooden friend at bay.

The other seemed more competent. He stood close to the redblood, defending her as Imera and Danza advanced. He had been well-rewarded for the effort, too – his chest and arms were covered with cuts and open wounds, sluggish black ichor spilling out onto the ground. They danced in and out, doing their best to avoid the ticks that had blanketed the moss. Danza’s stave slammed into the foot of the once-pregnant redblood, and she cackled before preparing a counterattack Edam did not see.

The blueblood pulled back on the flail, but Edam was ready for it. She held her balance and her ground without even using her mask, the slight inclination of the ground keeping her at the advantage. Shivyan kept just out of reach as she touched another bead on the bracelet. The arrow that had taken so many branches off the tree broke away in a burst of verdure, whistling back to her hand.

“Keep her held!” Yelled Shivyan as the blueblood struggled even further, beating her good wing in an attempt to pull free of the flail. She shifted in the air before reversing course, suddenly making the chain go slack as she rushed towards Edam, hammer raised high. It sparked with a dark green mana, bordering on black, surrounding it like a fire. Edam sidestepped, and jabbed in with the handle of her flail, hitting the vampire square in her jaw. She squealed, but it wasn’t enough to deter her. The mana accreted dirt, moss and plant life as she swung it upwards, and before Edam could react, it exploded like a gunshot inches from her belly.

For a moment, she tumbled without gravity or sense, the world whirling around her in flashes of green and red. She tried to regain balance, instinctually letting ochre mana flow through her mask. Her limbs ordered themselves even as she flailed. It was too late, though. She slammed into a tree trunk and fell to the ground, and when her body tried to balance itself, she cried out as the pain hit her fully, exploding across her spine and belly. She felt wetness coming from the wounds as her eyes cleared out of the haze of pain. Her shirt and parts of her coat had been shredded by the force of the blast, and the flesh beneath it had been cut open in half a dozen places. She struggled to her feet to see the vampire coming at her once more, now free of the flail.

Edam ducked as she swung high. The hammer calamitously lodged itself into the tree in a spray of splinters where Edam’s head once was. She scrambled for the knife at her belt, unsheathing it and stabbing upwards with both hands into a gap in the vampire’s armor at her waist. The knife came away purple-blue, like a bad bruise. At once, she tried to buffet Edam with her good wing before dislodging the hammer from the tree. She swung again, and Edam dodged the wild swing behind the tree. It made a horrible creaking sound as it did – it was only a little thicker than Edam’s torso, and it had been struck quite severely in two places. 

Again, dark green mana started to accrete the things around the hammer, biting into the core of the tree and collecting shards of bark and wood. Edam hit the forest floor like a brick, watching as a cavalcade of splinters flew over her head. The tree creaked further, and then Edam realized her mistake. She narrowly rolled out of the way of the falling tree, then rushed forward, throwing all of her weight behind the knife as she jammed it up into the vampire’s jaw. 

The silvered knife seemed to blacken the skin around it as it entered. Edam wrenched it, and for a moment, she could feel the vampire gritting her teeth against the blade.

She then backhanded Edam with an iron fist to the belly right where her new wounds were. She stumbled away in pain, tears flooding her eyes without warning, the breath taken from her once again. Through the haze of pain and the coughing she saw the vampire dislodge the hammer from its place, now ready to finish the matter. Another arrow pierced her half-retracted wing, but it didn’t seem to dissuade her. She kept moving forward. Edam scrambled for some means of survival, but it seemed almost impossible. The flail was far from her. The blood weight wouldn’t work on a vampire, and the knife to use it with was still lodged in the vampire’s jaw anyways. She backed up, still trying to get up.

Edam had always expected to die at some point. It was a fact of life. Of all the ways to go, being brained while trying to fight a monster seemed like one of the more virtuous and easy ways to go. It would be a mess to clean up, but by that point it wouldn’t be her problem to deal with.

She stood, still backing away, ready to dodge away. Something in her doubted that she could avoid it, though. She had been battered and was on the verge of breaking.

Then, reprieve. Through the brush Shivyan rushed forward into the melee, no longer content to pelt the vampire from a distance. She had taken another arrow with a forked head in one hand and a sharpened stake in the other. The armor had slits to accommodate the wings of the vampire – and they proved just as accommodating to the arrow. Unbalanced, the two tumbled forwards towards Edam, and she fell out of the way. Though the wings made her more imposing the blueblood was still relatively small, and the sheer weight and mass of Shivyan bowled her over. The two struggled on the ground, Shivyan trying to wrench the hammer out of the blueblood’s hand with one hand. The other was angling the stake into the slit as it pinned her. It couldn’t reach the heart from that angle, but it was a start.

Edam scanned the field for a moment, trying to find something, anything to aid Shivyan. Other things were catching her attention. Dozens of splotches of yellow-green ichor dotted the barrow where the ticks had been stomped out, dead legs still twitching. The less-competent blackblood was much the same. He looked like a dark smear on the moss, a mess of broken bones. His forearm had somehow been severed, sitting a long ways away from him. Qeqem seemed to have also lost an arm, but that wasn’t worrying. The other two were doing well, in spite of being surrounded. The redblood planted a staff into the ground, and about it a nimbus of electric verdure seemed to permeate the air. Some kind of greater ward. The blackblood darted out for just a moment to strike at Danza, narrowly missing her to shear off cloth from her jacket. 

Her flail, though, was nowhere to be seen. She cursed her bad luck. Then, she looked at the groaning men, still collapsed on the ground. The one who had the spear had some use of mana yet. She rushed to him, pried the charm from his hand, and picked up the broken spear from the ground. It wasn’t much, but it’d have to do. 

Edam turned to see that the tides had turned. Somehow the vampire had escaped Shivyan’s pin. The two cautiously circled each other as Edam approached again. The blueblood charged at Shivyan, and made a slow, clumsy swing. 

Too obvious. 

Shivyan dodged under the blow, and realized her mistake a moment too late. The blueblood whirled around and brought the sharpened prong of the hammer down on her as she passed. It would have struck her in the head if it weren’t for her raised hand. It pierced straight through her wrist to the other side. Edam could almost see the blood drain from her face and out of the open wound. The blueblood took the opportunity to throw Shivyan to the ground and rip the hammer out, tearing through the space between her fingers. Dispassionately, she pulled the knife from her jaw before raising the hammer high again. 

Edam felt the backlash coming from using so much mana. Her skin itched and a slight trickle of wet, warm blood had started to trickle from her nose. 

Now or never.

She let the gate of her body open like a river into the charm and her mask. What felt like balance before now felt like flying, like walking on air. She felt power emerge from the open well of her muscles and reached the vampire in what felt like only a few strides. Around her, the forest melted into a sort of dream-time. The trees seemed to emerge from themselves into dark strands of air and energy, her some kind of luminous being of orange light controlling herself from afar. 

She opened herself to verdure too just as she brought the spearhead into the exposed part of her back. The vampire shuddered and faintly Edam heard her scream in agony. Something in her simply burst – a bursting, fiery force emerging from it. Reality seemed to peel away with the armor. Edam couldn’t see it, but it filled her mind and imagination. The armor dissolved into rivulets of liquid metal, pale and riven flesh and blue blood spilling forth as she twisted to see Edam. She swung, and this time it was truly, honestly clumsy. Or at least it felt that way in Edam’s mind. She simply stepped back, flying away. 

She felt her body, her wounds in the distance. Her skin felt as if it was on fire, particularly around her face, and her head was pounding; even the insides of her ears drummed to an invisible rhythm of pain. The vampire mutated further, all tumorous flesh and blue blood and shadow, and half of a porcine mask, half a face, a single piercing eye. Something was wrong. The charm – it seemed heavy in her hand, dragging her down, the one piece of weight in a world of light. She slammed shut all the gates, and she crashed back down into her body, her own skin. 

She nearly collapsed from the weight of it. She gritted her teeth, and stood tall. The vampire’s armor wasn’t completely destroyed as Edam had thought, but there were now vast gaps in it. It looked as if it was torn apart like a piece of paper. It peeled away from her blasted flesh like paper, revealing chain, then padding, then bare breast, and closer to the blast open ribs and parts of a lung, unbreathing and vestigial in a vampire.

Edam tried to run away as she approached. Her legs didn’t respond. Again, the impulse to run. Nothing. 

Ah-ha, thought a small part of her, disconnected from the terror, pain and rush of combat, Verdure backlash. Textbook. I’m having a partial seizure. Going to get my face bashed in. At least I saw Ana again.

She flickered in and out of consciousness as her eyelids twitched. The blueblood was three paces. Two paces. The clouds had parted a little, letting the sun through to give her an aura of ghostly light and power. Half of the helm had indeed been blasted away. Half of her lips, too, dreadful asymmetry having burned a path across her and gouged her eye into a bloody mess. Her flowing locks of hair glowed in the half-light. She was beautiful; she was hideous. 

Then, another flicker as a shadow appeared up from behind. A glimmer of surprise on the blueblood’s face; and then more than that, desperation. The end of an era. An aeon snuffed in an instant. She shuddered for a moment, and it seemed all the years caught up with her at once. Her mouth opened in a wordless, empty cry – her destroyed lung no longer able to draw breath. Edam saw just a glimpse of it, her saving saint. She had cleared a path through her body, and all that Shivyan had to do was angle the stake in between her ribs.

With the threat gone, Edam felt the rush drain from her. She flickered out of consciousness one last time, satisfied with a job well done. 


Edam’s head pounded with pain as she awoke. The rest of her shortly followed. It was so intense that her eyes watered and unfocused. She could barely move between the pain of backlash and her injuries. Her chest felt stiff and hard with tension; her back and belly a hot pit of fire. She heard a familiar voice, though she could barely understand the words. 

“Hush, hush, an’gorāmi. Drink.”

Something was put to her lips, a sweet-tasting liquid, and she drank. 

“That’s it. That’s it. Good woman.”

A hand softly touched her forehead before some interminable time passed. Eventually, she gained proper consciousness and found herself in the depths of a crypt. For a brief moment, she felt afraid that she had accidentally killed herself before she saw Manguyaat sitting not far from her, and Danza at the far wall. Towards the center of the room there were aged stone statues or sitting in chairs. They were startlingly realistic – a tall man with a braided beard; a heavyset woman with a soft smile; a young man bearing a sword and scepter. More stood further out, carrying spears and staring inwards. All of them were given a sudden animacy by the flickering light of fire; all of them wore horned crowns. She imagined that they must have sat here in the dark for hundreds of years, waiting for light to bring them life once more. 

As she got her bearings, it became more clear. It was like a dining hall, complete with a real fireplace. The dim light revealed that they stood around a table of stone. Beneath them, Edam saw that beneath each was a long slab of stone – the covering for a grave. There must have been eight or so of them in total, with only a single seat occupied by the living. 

Imera sat in it. As soon as she knew he wasn’t sleeping, she recognized what he was doing. He was brooding with his hat drawn low over his eyes, pointing himself towards the fire. He seemed almost as dour and still as the stones, only separated from their company by slow and steady breathing. Shortly after she noticed he rose, gave a wave to Manguyaat and Danza, and walked out of the crypt. Danza followed shortly thereafter. 

Blearily, Edam turned her attention to her side, where Shivyan sat. She was still unconscious, a bottle of medicinal liquor at her side. Bruised, battered, her lip split open by a stray elbow from the blueblood, she seemed close to death as a person could be. Edam’s eyes fell downwards, and she sighed in pain. The bandages on her arm extended down from her shoulder to a stub at her elbow. Edam tried to speak, and the words came out so scrambled that she wasn’t certain what she was saying or thinking of in the first place. Manguyaat’s voice echoed distantly in reply. 

“What? No. I saw what you did. She’ll recover. You saved her life. You’re already injured. Don’t worry yourself with such things.” 

Edam tried to move, and it felt like every joint in her body popped at once. She gasped in pain, and fell back. She popped her jaw again, and then managed to speak some sense.

“What happened? Did we win?”

“The battle, not the war,” said Manguyaat, “The redblood pulled a dirty trick when you stabbed her mother. Threw some kind of charm that blinded us and fled before we could get her. She cut me as well.”

She lifted up her sleeve, revealing some bandages of her own. 

“I looked at that charm you picked up,” she said, “Strange little thing, that. Makes things look odd.”

“I noticed,” said Edam weakly, “The Erebists?” 

“One got away, we think. Another was hit too hard on the head. I got to him late and he didn’t wake. We’ve bound and gagged the rest. I assume Imera is checking on them.”

She sighed.

“We found a stash of old pre-war weapons. Foci, armor, weapons, even a little stash of gunpowder. Useless at this point, but they were there. Caught the donkey, too. They were carrying better powder, preparing for some kind of attack.”

Edam thought over the implications and groaned.

“Do you think they reached out, tried to make contact with other cells?”

“No way to be sure,” said Manguyaat. The fire flickered in her eyes. 

Edam leaned her head back, staring up at the ceiling. The fire had a strange effect on it. Burnished pieces of crystal had been emplaced into the ceiling. They shimmered by the light, giving the sense that the ceiling had been covered in little golden lanterns. It must have taken ages to put all of them in.

“Two left,” she groaned, “We’ve got to track them down.”

Manguyaat shook her head.

“You’re going back to Kallin,” she said, “I- As I understand it, Imera says that we’ve done well enough, and another team of Inquisitors will take it up now that the largest threat was dealt with. That they need to finish up the business with your partner.”

“What? But you… what will you do?”

“I don’t know,” said Manguyaat, turning away, “All of the ones who killed my family are gone now, as far as I know. That battle is over, and now the long war begins.”

Edam knew what she was saying. She had said it before earnestly, but now the extent of her grim and resigned determination was clear. She had given herself to a truly impossible task: to completely and totally exterminate each and every. To aid in bringing all of their long lives to an end. To spend her time chasing after just one was too small-minded in the long-term. She gritted her teeth as she finally managed to properly pull herself up. Manguyaat frowned at her.

“Don’t move too much. You might reopen some of those wounds. You’re lucky I could get all the splinters and rocks out of you, and that she didn’t spill out your guts.” 

“Don’t remind me,” said Edam, switching to Agoran, “Imera… fucking Saint’s holy wounds. One case at a time.”

“Mm,” grunted Manguyaat, “I think I’m coming with you.”

“Why? Not that I won’t appreciate the help, but…”

“I need names, and Mr. Allatsha has them. I need to pay him another visit. Plus, I like you.”


“You’re charming,” said Manguyaat, “You remind me of myself when I was younger.”

Edam squinted in the dark, trying to get a better look at Manguyaat’s face.

“How old are you?”
“A score and quarter.”

“You’re only three years older than me,” said Edam. 


Edam was too tired to protest that the difference between twenty-five and twenty-three didn’t seem that broad. It was a compliment, and she took it in gently. She nodded slowly before cringing at the pain in her neck and back.

They’d killed the blueblood. That was a great victory in and of itself, and they couldn’t have done it without the strange pagan girl. If they did, they might have come across a group more readily armed and prepared for them, and they could’ve come away with more severe casualties. Imera had made the decision while she was sleeping, and she felt a seed of resentment from that. She tried to quell it. He had a duty to focus on the enemies of the Church that had emerged within the Inquisition and the clergy. The confrontation between her and Ana was inevitable, and though she ran from it at the party, Imera would force all of their hands.  

She dreaded it now. Once betrayed, and then a meeting by coincidence, and now a preparation for a meeting by force. 

It felt like a bad omen. Or a divine one.

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