Chapter 38:

35 - Untying the Divine (v2)

The Fallen Diadem

“Looks like it came to rescue its master!” Claire said, jumping away from the Chimera as it swatted at her. She had no armor on, just the day's clothes. Her backstepping almost looked like full on flight as she tried to keep distance between herself and the chimera as it thrashed about the arena after her. The one time it got close to her, she stuffed the end of her sword into its nose. Blood splattered across her as it stopped and snorted. Then it looked at me. She only let it take one step before she cleaved through its shoulder. “At least the guards can stop their search now; it came to us.”Bookmark here

“No! That’s a different one. The one I saw had a snake body. There are two of these things now,” I shouted, leaning against one of the pillars that ringed the arena. They were outfitted with loops and braziers, neither of which had been used for my duel but now they acted as a modicum of cover for me.Bookmark here

Overhead, I could see Virgil shouting at the guards, throwing his hands around like some archaic sign language. Telling them to slay the beast certainly, but the chaos of the arena grew like a wildfire. People had been trampled, halls overflowed, and panic would spread throughout the city. Bookmark here

I wetted my lips and watched Claire fight for a moment longer. I had somehow stopped the bleeding from my leg, but my vision kept narrowing to a throbbing pinprick. My head ached for the lack of blood. I knew I needed food and rest, but I didn’t have the time for something like that. Brekhart’s conspirator had unleashed the chimera. Perhaps to make sure Brekhart took his secrets to his grave, maybe to scare the city as a diversion for something else, or more likely to kill me. Claire was the one line of defense I had between me and it, and for some reason I decided I should head down the pit the chimera had come from and try to find the conjurer.Bookmark here

The beast did not like me getting closer to the pit. It tried to attack me, but a volley of arrows ripped into its side as guards finally made themselves useful. It snarled and spun, both hands throwing spit across the arena as blood dripped down. Then two armored men emerged from either side of the arena with spears in hand, swords at their hips. The jogged across the sand and surrounded it, lifting up the points of their spears as the creature spun back and forth. I saw each had snap at their weapons. The gladiators easily avoided the maws, and any moment the creature didn’t look at them, they lunged forward to slice through its hide before jumping back once more.Bookmark here

They must have been the champion and the challenger; the two greatest fighters of Port Pelagus. Bookmark here

I took the opportunity and ran down the ramp to where the pit animals were kept. The stench of piss and hay filled the dark complex. I smelled blood too. Taking a candle off the wall, I proceded through the path of destruction the chimera had wrought. There were corpses; human, animal, and draconic. Iron cages had been ripped apart and the body within shredded. I wondered how no word of the attack had gotten out, but the trail of corpses answered that.Bookmark here

The first one I saw in full light was a girl about my age; thin with blonde hair tied up in a bun and a glossy gaze to her eyes. The apron she had worn to work with the animals was torn through at the middle. The state of her body was… incomplete.Bookmark here

My stomach revolted. I had to throw myself up against a wall as I vomited. Heaving until nothing more would come up didn’t help. I still trembled through my entire body and my heart pounded inside my chest. I could smell the death around me. I marched deeper into the pens. Bookmark here

I felt eyes on my back, the same chill goosebumps across my neck as the night before. I didn’t even have time to turn before the swath of blackness enveloped the pens and me in it. Hellsing lingered around me, inhuman eyes appearing from the dark as it looked me up and down. Bookmark here

“It wasn’t me, you useless god!” I shouted at it, wiping my chin off with my sleeve.Bookmark here

“I concern myself with monsters, not with the works of men,” the god responded, and surged forwards. It left me behind with no choice but to chase after. Bookmark here

The chamber at the end of the hall, at the end of the bloody massacre, had been cleared out. Tables were tossed to the walls and animal feed spilt across the floor. I could see harnesses and chains for restraining the beasts hung up along the walls, and in the middle I saw a man. As thin as a rod and clad all in black, I could barely pick out his features amidst the shadows. I could, however, see the sword in his hand. It was a huge weapon with a wide blade that arced back from the edge. I could see ripples like flowing fire across the backside of it and when he lifted it up the room reflected back at me off the mirror surface.Bookmark here

It looked like the sword in my dreams; the one hanging over Vichtstein.Bookmark here

“Why have you done this?” Hellsing demanded, swarming over the ground towards the figure.Bookmark here

“Finally, I found the right bait!” the man declared as he swung the sword sideways. Rather than at the god, he cut through a rope. What I had thought was an unlit chandelier plunged down, the chain rattling madly as the anchor-like hook dropped to the floor, and then into the floor. The darkness glowed and I heard some kind of screaming as inch after inch of chain sank through the shadow and into the god. Bookmark here

I wished I had a bow, not just my sword. The thought of taking him on made my legs tremble. The person before me was some kind of mage. I couldn’t think of any other way for a chain to plunge through solid stone and pierce a god’s flesh. I didn’t want to even consider if he was another diadem holder. Somehow, I found the strength to call out, “What are you doing?”Bookmark here

His glee vanished as he looked at me. I saw his eyes narrow and he brushed some of his long hair back out of his face. “Shouldn’t you be dead? I sent the Catdog to get you afterall.” The toothy grin he had made me step back. “Did you like that little art project? I really thought the drakes would win out, but the lizards just couldn’t hold a candle to the lions and wolves it seems. They must have been starving the little wanna-be dragons. So I turned the ravenous victors into one great beast and set it loose. A new apex predator or well, that was the idea. If you’re here, they must be killing it right now.”Bookmark here

“And that, all this killing, was bait for the Everhunting?”Bookmark here

The man spread his arms, holding up his sword with ease. “It’s the only kind of bait that works. And now! And now and now, this is the best part. Watch, you’ll get to see a theft of the gods! Straight from the divine armory,” he said, and leapt up to grab the dangling end of the chain. Using his own body weight, he yanked it back down, digging the iron barb through the flesh of the Everhunting like he was reeling in a fish.Bookmark here

The screeching grew. The edges of darkness began to recede and contract into the center where the hook bit and dragged. It vibrated and thrashed as darkness itself dragged up along the chain like an anchor that had been cast through weeds. Bookmark here

I didn’t know how he had the upper hand, but I knew I had to do something. I had to try at least. The faint echo of my own name behind me, Claire searching for where I had gone, spurred me on. Dropping the candle, I walked towards the mage. The man had both hands on the chain, using his whole weight to pull on it. He was stuck in place and unable to defend himself without relenting on the Everhunting. Bookmark here

So I charged at him.Bookmark here

Brekhart’s conspirator, his arcane backer, had unleashed a man-eating monster in the city. His chimeras had tried to kill me twice. And if he was a diadem holder, he would be coming for my life eventually, so I acted first.Bookmark here

The moment his gaze turned to me, I knew I had made a mistake. My charge had carried me too close, I couldn’t stop before his sword swung around on me. It was all I could do to grab my blade and brace myself for the impact. The blow knocked me off my feet. The weapon crashed into the steel of my blade so hard it bent, and threw me across the room. My back hit the wall, my skull cracking off the stone before I slumped over.Bookmark here

I couldn’t breathe. I knew the cut wasn’t too bad, just a bit of stinging across my side, but it felt like half my ribs were dislocated. With no breath came no strength. I laid there on the ground as the mage ripped the Everhunting in half with his magic. On the chain was the darkness, like a clot ink. On the ground was the glowing form of a man, the core of the god, seemingly gasping for breath the same as me.Bookmark here

“I bet you thought that was bravery instead of stupidity, didn’t you, kid?” the mage asked as he sat his blade down and took hold of the darkness with both hands. His hands sank into it like mud. “It’s a thin line, isn’t it? Hard to tell which side you’re on sometimes. Next time, you should have a trump card up your sleeve. Something to help you get away. Something like this; the Cloak of Shadows.”Bookmark here

The Everhunting pushed himself up to his knees. “You rotten thief! Despoiler of the ages, vandal of history! You spit on the graves your ancestors!” the god declared, but he didn’t even have the strength to roar at him. Bookmark here

The mage laughed. “Come now; there are no rules in a fight. The last one standing wins. That’s all there is to it,” he said, and pulled the darkness over himself. It swallowed him whole, enveloped him and draped about his frame. Then, just as the god had done, he sank into the floor, no more than a shadow and as quick as a bird. With his prize acquired, the mage vanished from the chamber and left us behind to die.Bookmark here

“Mark! Mark what happened?” Claire demanded as she saw us. Her gaze shot between me and the Everhunting, and she ran to my side. Bookmark here

I grimaced as she touched me, something shifting in my chest painfully. “You missed him,” I gasped out. “Brekhart’s backer.”Bookmark here

She licked her lips and looked me over. “Come on, I need to get you to a doctor.”Bookmark here

“He’ll be fine. That much isn’t enough to kill him,” the Everhunting said, staring at the door the mage had fled through. “I suppose I need to go see Brother Helios. After so many centuries I have to grovel at that bird’s feet and beg for help. Brother Helios will laugh at me, but I vow, I will rip that man’s bones from his body and leave him to beg for help.”Bookmark here

“Who are you?”Bookmark here

“The Everhunting,” I answered.Bookmark here

The god nodded and walked to the door. He could barely use feet. Swaying from side to side as he moved, he reached out for the handle. It broke apart in his grasp. His hand pushed the door open. He looked over his shoulder at me before leaving, and Claire clutched me to herself. “Next time you won’t be so lucky as to get overlooked.”Bookmark here

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