Velry widened her eyes at the mention of the Blood Court. A memory from what felt like another life bubbled up and the girl bit back rising panic. At the campsite, Niek had said that Fai's court was made up of thirty of her most trusted nobles, all of them tasked with aiding in the torture and sacrifice. Niek had exorcised three of them at the palace, but Velry felt her chest tighten when she realized that the Keeper had sent them here. Now, those same terrors were racing towards them with horrific reinforcements.
The girl clenched her jaw and looked back at Niek. "Get us out of here," she said sternly, green eyes boring into Keeper with steely resolution.
"What about Kelida," Niek asked, ignoring Velry and tossing her hand in the air towards Gahdur. "I am not leaving her."
"Leave the child to me," he said and in a swirl of gray smoke, he was gone, leaving nothing but lazy wisps in the doorway.
"Fat bastard," Niek mumbled before turning to look around the room. She appeared to be searching for something. Her eyes alighted on the three barrels in the corner, beside the staircase leading downstairs. She smiled grimly and pointed. "Help me barricade the door with these."
"You think that's going to stop them?"
The two ran quickly over to the heavy barrels and as Niek pushed one over onto its side and began rolling it, she replied, "Not at all. But it'll hold them off until I can figure out how to get out of here."
Velry stopped and stared at the woman. "You mean you don't know?" Her voice was strained and slightly angry.
The woman stood the cask upright after she reached the door with it and motioned Velry to hurry up with the other. Once it was in place, Niek went for the last one and with the girl's help, managed to stack it on the other two. "You know, I'm sorry," the Keeper said with obvious snark. "This is entirely my fault. If I hadn't been forced to think on my feet, hadn't been forced to save you from angry villagers and insane Guardians, we wouldn't be in this mess. So please, accept my apologies for doing the only thing I could think of to get out of that chaos."
"Save me from the villagers? Save me? If I recall, you're the one who set the Guardians off in the first place! I could have handled myself, but you showed up they went into that hive mind rage! It's because of you Mathias turned against me!"
Niek raised a hand, a silent rage burning in her eyes. Velry could see the woman was seething, but she was equally enraged by the Keeper's lack of foresight. However, Velry bit her lip when the woman said, "We don't have time for bickering. We have to-"
Velry jumped backwards towards the opposite wall, but Niek stayed put beside the barrels. The Keeper's eyes flared blue for a moment while she looked at the door, but Velry felt a twinge of panic when she saw the woman begin to back up. "There's so many of them," she murmured. The way the power dimmed and vanished from her eyes, Velry could tell that Niek was taken aback.
"A certain Goddess told us that our plaything had come to visit and that she'd brought us a Keeper as well." The thing on the other side of the door chuckled darkly as Niek came to stand beside Velry at the back of the inn. "Normally, we only take orders from our Queen, but when a Goddess tells you to play, you tend to follow the order." A loud bang echoed across the large room and the barrels shook as something beat against the door.
"What are we going to do?"
Niek paled, her escaped brown hair hanging frantically in front of her face. "I don't know," she whispered. "I've never- I've never felt so many spirits at once. And the demons… Velry, I don't know. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."
Before Niek could mutter another uncertainty, Velry reared back and slapped the woman across the face with surprising force. The girl narrowed her eyes and said, "Now is not the time to give up." Another thud reverberated across the room. "What happened to the woman who went into battle against the Blood Court with a wild smile and a massive sword? What about the Keeper who fought against a feral feeder, despite being drained of energy? What happened to her?"
"Don't play that game," she replied darkly, clearly aggravated by Velry's implications. "Things are different. We're stuck here and I have no idea how to get out. Being reckless now will get us both killed."
The stacked barrel teetered dangerously as the door was shoved open by a small crack. Fingers and claws wiggled their way in. Velry turned to stand directly in front of the woman who seemed to be breaking down. "What about your two warriors? Summon them. Make them fight for you like you have before."
"I don't know how to do that here. The method is different here," she replied shakily.
"Niek, you are a Born Keeper. You told me that things just happen, that you don't need rituals. If there was ever a time, now would be the best time for things to just happen. Summon your warriors. Now." Velry felt like she was suddenly talking to Sarry. Despite Niek being at least seven years older, it was as if she were the responsible one. "Come on, Niek, they're forcing their way in. If you don't do something soon, they're going to kill us both and you're never going to see Kelida again. If you give up, Fai is going to reach Arcinthium and summon this entire hoard to swoop down upon the city. Do you want that?"
"No…. You're right," she said, opening her eyes. She was tapping into Saryle's power. The Keeper's eyes were fierce and blue once more, a cold vapor flooding the floor. Mist snaked and whirled around the table legs until it reached the door and roars and hisses erupted as the beasts came in contact with unnatural fog.
Niek stood up a little straighter and squared her shoulders back. Velry could see her lip trembling a bit, but the creatures could not see that trace of uncertainty. They only heard the woman's strong voice shout out. "My name is Niek Morenta, daughter of Genora Morenta and Lord Gahdur." The onslaught paused outside the door. "You have taken my sister's soul and I warn you now, I am not about to let that go unpunished. Whatever power Saryle has over you, I assure you it's nothing compared to the wrath you'll face if you come through that door."
"Pretty words, Keeper. But I think we'll take our chances." And with that, the windows blew out, sending glass spraying into the room. Velry dropped to the floor and covered her face to avoid the shards that exploded into the inn. She looked up to see Niek standing tall, pulling a piece of glass out of her arm as if it were nothing. Her face seemed different than before. Her brows here furrowed and her nostrils flared as the air became frozen with misty anger.
The intruders paid it no mind as the most horrendous creations in the world began climbing through the two windows. They appeared human upon first glance, but their faces were distorted. It was as if some of them were blurred beyond recognition, as if Saryle had taken her thumb and tried to erase who they'd once been. They didn't even have mouths. Others were completely intact, only exaggerated. Their face was too angular, too pointed as if a force constantly pulled at them and tugged their skin in one direction. Even their lips were pulled back until they were left with a permanently deranged smile and their eyes wildly open at all times. There was no question. They were demons.
Velry jumped to her feet and pressed herself against the wall of the rising stairs. She watched as the mist retreated from the monsters. After at least six of them had entered, creating a wall in front of the door, the spirits entered close behind. Velry didn't know what to expect. She didn't know what a soul would look like. Once the vapor was far enough away for them to safely enter, she saw that they looked surprisingly normal- except for the gaping wounds all over their bodies. Velry presumed it was from their slaughter at the palace. The only other tell-tale sign was the ethereal quality to them. They were opaque with swirling, icy orbs in the center of their chests. It was as if that was the true soul and their bodies were merely an outer shell, a projection for the world to see.
From her vantage point, she could see dozens more demons and Blood Court waiting patiently outside the window. Velry looked over at Niek and nearly jumped when she saw the woman's hair floating, suspended in the mist. The aura had returned and the Keeper had a cocky smile, though she could see the rage building with the way the edge of her lip twitched and her eyes glinted just a little too wide.
What was going on with the Keeper? She'd changed so drastically that she could feel the woman's emotions smothering the room. The creatures paid it no mind. Instead, one of the Blood Court spoke up. A woman with her throat sliced open, though in this world, she spoke quite clearly and with great malice. "This little show will not save you. I think it's time to put you in your place."
With no other warning, the demons lunged forward and Velry screamed as she dodged right to avoid a chair flying through the air. The monsters were throwing furniture out of the way as they barreled forward. Velry yelped and ducked, quickly taking to the stairs and heading up to the lofted area that looked over the main level. From below, Niek screamed and her aura extended throughout the room, weaving around the demons that seemingly repelled it. As it snaked around, the misty energy rolled straight at the Blood Court. They howled with pain and rage. In a familiar explosion, Velry saw the warriors appear from the fog in the same ancient armor. In this world, they did not smell of decay and Niek took the spare sword and the three of them ran into the fray, ready to decimate Saryle's servants.
The warrior with the partisan used his weapon in a grand sweeping motion to knock many of the demons away while Niek and the other used their long claymores to follow up on the prone monstrosities. The way they yowled in agony, Velry felt certain that they were made of some sort of flesh and blood and not quite as ghostly as the Court. Perhaps they were living, physical humans who'd spent too much time in Saryle's realm? If Niek couldn't get them both out, was that their fate? She prayed it wasn't the case.
As Velry watched with noxious anticipation, the conflict below unfurled with dangerous ferocity. While the inn was quite large, it was not enough for an overwhelming battle. Niek and her mysterious warriors were not enough for the encroaching undead. The Blood Court could not fall and the demons, despite being wounded over and over again, continued to get back up and fight. Niek was swinging the sword as if it weighed nothing, and as it ripped through the air, Velry realized that the Keeper's efforts would not be enough. Velry was going to have to take things into her own hands.