Suddenly Alessandra’s hovel exploded. Alessandra herself was flung through the wall and landed about ten feet away, on the edge of the barren wasteland between the city and the barrier. Slowly she came to her senses and stumbled to her feet, and as she did so, she realized that a fierce battle was raging in the ruins of her shack. A figure in black and gold was fighting the demon with a huge sword, and they both were moving faster than Alessandra’s eyes could track. The demon had no weapon, but it was holding its own even with just its bare hands. Alessandra stood there, staring dumbfounded at the two dueling figures, feeling like she should do something to help, but completely clueless as to what that thing would be, especially since she had no idea where her daggers had gone after her shack exploded.
Just as soon as that thought flitted through Alessandra’s head, the battle was over. The black and gold clad figure slipped through the demon’s defenses and slammed its sword into the demon’s chest. Immediately, there was a flash of red light and the demon evaporated into ash. The figure in black and gold lowered its sword and turned to Alessandra, and for the first time, Alessandra could see that it was Ilimay Ladron, the same member of the Order of Sunaru who had saved her from a demon previously.
“We meet again, Alessandra,” she said in her resonant, commanding voice.
“You do seem to have a knack for saving my life,” Alessandra said weakly.
“Think nothing of it,” Ilimay replied, waving a hand dismissively. “It is what the Order of Sunaru exists for.”
“Even so, thank you,” Alessandra said, bowing. She hesitated for a moment, and then said, “If you don’t mind me asking, my Lady, what do you think that demon was here for?”
“Looking for mortal flesh to feast on, no doubt,” Ilimay said, and as she did so, her sword seemed to evaporate into thin air.
“Oh,” Alessandra said, transfixed by what Ilimay had just done with her sword. “Are you…are you sure? Because it talked to me for several minutes before you showed up, and it didn’t make any moves toward me, even after I attacked it.”
“It was probably trying to lure you into a false sense of security,” Ilimay replied, but Alessandra thought she detected a brief look of uncertainty on Ilimay’s face. She looked around for a moment, and then said, “Perhaps it would be wise for me to stay here for a moment, just to make sure there aren’t any other demons lurking about.”
“Oh, um, well, that would…that would be fantastic, my Lady,” Alessandra stammered, thoroughly flustered about the prospect of spending time with a member of the Order of Sunaru.
“Relax,” Ilimay said with a slight smile. “I’m not going to bite you.”
“Oh, no, of course not. I would never expect anything like that from someone like you, my Lady,” Alessandra rambled. Ilimay’s smile deepened slightly.
“Tell me about yourself, Alessandra,” Ilimay said, sitting down on a large hunk of stone that until recently had been part of Alessandra’s shack.
“I, uh, well…what’s to tell?” Alessandra stammered, taken aback by being asked such a personal question by a member of the Order of Sunaru.
“You’re a thief,” Ilimay said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Well…yeah. It’s hard not to be when you live in the slums,” Alessandra shrugged.
“Of course,” Ilimay said with a slight nod. “You must be an exile from your clan.”
“I am,” Alessandra said, trying, and failing, to keep the resentment out of her voice.
“Tell me what happened.” There was a hint of command in her tone of voice, so Alessandra told her the whole story. About Bezzum’s hatred of her. About Bezzum betraying the clan in order to set ambushes where she might die. About Bezzum blaming her for the failure of those jobs. About him throwing her out of the clan, and the Clan Leaders going along with it for the good of the clan. Finally, she finished her story, and fell silent, feeling slightly shocked that she’d been so forthright with a perfect stranger. Although, this stranger was a member of the Order of Sunaru, and she had saved her life twice now.
“You’ve had a hard life,” Ilimay said when Alessandra had finished. “Perhaps there is something I can do for you.” She pulled out a small, rectangular card from a pouch at her belt. “Take this. It will allow to travel into the city and gain access to the Avaroth. Come meet with me there, and I will be able to help you more.” Alessandra stared at the card as if it was made of pure mandyium.
“I…I can’t accept this,” she breathed.
“Nonsense,” Ilimay said. “Would you rather spend the rest of your life scrabbling on the edge of the city, desperately eking out a meager existence? You were meant for greater things, Alessandra, and I can help you achieve those things.” Alessandra’s eyes were as big as saucers, and her breathing was heavy. Slowly, she reached out a hand, and took the card from Ilimay.
“Thank you,” she whispered, her voice heavy with awe.
“You’re welcome,” Ilimay said gravely. She gave Alessandra a slight nod of her head, and then she turned to go.
A brief feeling of intense malice was the only warning they had, and the next thing Alessandra knew, the demon was grasping Ilimay tightly by the arms and sinking its fangs into her neck. She screamed, and her scream was one of the most horrifying things Alessandra had ever heard. Even as she did so, her sword was back in her hand, but with the demon attached to her back, there wasn’t much she could do with it. She struggled fiercely, but the demon’s grip on her arms and neck only grew tighter. Blood ran down her arms and chest, and Alessandra was powerless to do anything except stare at this grisly scene in horror.
To be continued…