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“I’ve fooounnnd youuu!” A troll cried out with a dumb expression on its face as it lifted a massive club.

“Idiot!” Lady Kait cursed herself.

She had been watching Bloodbane like a foolish milkmaid while he did something would have called impossible. As a result, she hadn’t been paying attention to her surroundings. A well-placed strike from a skeleton had put her off balance even as she cut his skull, and with just her luck, a troll appeared. She stumbled back onto her butt as it raised its massive club in the air. As she saw the end coming, the only relief she felt was that she wouldn’t end up as her sister had in the end. A swift and messy death was a blessing in this world.

“Gehlk!” The grinning troll jerked just as it was about to bring down its club on her head.

She watched in slow motion as red sprayed out from its neck in a fine mist. The troll fell to its knees, its smile slowly turning from joy, the confusion. The troll died confused, falling to the side, and revealing a woman standing there. It was the maid from earlier that had given her such condescending glares. In her hands was a sword not unlike the one that Lady Kait used, although perhaps a bit larger and more designed for a larger person.

“If you wish to die, princess, I can fulfill that wish much quicker than these monsters.” She spoke in an insolent grin.”

“Y-you dare?” Lady Kait’s face turned flush, “Ah, look out!”

Two goblins attacked the maid, leaping at her with wicked poisoned blades drawn. This attack had been extremely well thought out, as at this exact moment, two other undead chose to lunge at her from the front. If she took care of the attackers in front of her, she’d be stabbed in the back, and if she took care of the ones at her back, she’d leave her front vulnerable. The maid showed absolutely no fear though. Rather, she seemed amused, as if this was all just a game to her.

She reached out and grabbed the wrist of one of the goblins without even looking, twisting, and sending the goblin plummeting in front of her. With her other hand, she had grabbed the chest of one of the undead, throwing it behind her. She had grabbed one undead and one goblin, and with a twist, she sent the undead ramming into the jumping goblin, while she sent the goblin she grabbed slamming into the undead. As she spun, it looked beautiful like a deadly dance.

She did another revolution, causing all four creatures to spin around her. They controlled their movements entirely, creating a shield of flesh that entangled with the other goblins coming in from under the flying ones that Lady Kait hadn’t even noticed. There were screeches of pain as she sent six monsters, flying away. Every single one of them ended up striking yet another monster as if they had been aimed. She had downed twelve enemies at once, and while they weren’t likely dead unless they were accidentally cut by their poison daggers, they were shoved out of the maid’s immediate area.

Lady Kate found herself speechless once again, her chin dropping as she stared at the beautiful fighter in front of her. Since when had the maid staff had such combative ability? Lady Kait would have been aware of the maid could fight many times better than even some of the knights under her. As if to slap her understanding of the world in the face, five other maids suddenly ran past the beauty, each one having secured a weapon that they used to cut down and eviscerate the enemies.

“Maid, who are you?”

“Hmph… I’m Andromeda. I am Master’s maid, and anything and everything else he wants of me.” She responded wildly. “And don’t forget it!”

She spun and began to hold the other maids. Lady Kait only realized then that their maid outfits had properties of armor, and the weapons they used must have been stolen off of slain enemies. These were just the normal maid staff… yet they were different now.

“Ahhhhh!” I roar sounded out across the outer courtyard, bringing Lady Kait to look at Bloodbane.

Between Bloodbane and maids, it was only the distance of maybe 200 meters, but hundreds of monsters separated them. Blood bane had no weapon on him, but he was using his fists to break bones and crack skulls. Occasionally, he would make a blade of earth to kill an armored foe, but not of his impromptu weapons seemed to be able to hold up to his attack, breaking as soon as the enemy fell to the ground dead.

With the door back up, the monsters had just enough intelligence to understand that this was bad news for them. The majority weren’t focused on Lady Kait or the maids. They were focused on the door. Bloodbane was single-handedly holding them back. Although the door was raised, it hadn’t been tied up but was being held up by the corpse of a giant. Some of the monsters were throwing themselves at the door, trying to use their weight to overcome the giant. Others were trying to directly push the giant aside, getting the chain free and allowing the door to slam back open.

I enough monsters gathered, it seemed feasible that they would be able to accomplish the exact goal they were aiming for. If it wasn’t for Bloodbane, now covered in the blood of his enemies, a shirtless rogue grabbing and crushing monsters left and right, they might have already succeeded. This is why the maids had promptly leaped the wall, coming to their master’s aid under Andromeda’s orders.

As for Bloodbane, he was slick with sweat and had seemingly already exhausted his mana. At the very least, he was using it much more sparingly now in leu of striking enemies down bare-fisted. Lady Kait wasn’t able to understand what was keeping him standing. She knew her limits, and the king she knew was far under such limits. He had to be exhausted, yet he was still fighting on, killing creature after creature.

Lady Kait snapped out of her daze. Barely a minute had passed since she had first leaped down from the wall, but now she was standing alone while the maids were cutting a path toward Bloodbane, who was trying to push back the undead, who were growing denser and denser as they flooded around him. A group of goblins was trying to use leverage to move the giant over, and they had succeeded in getting the giant upon his side. Was that door fell again, there was no chance that they would let it be pulled up again.

If they did nothing else, all they had to do was allow a giant to sit on the end of the door, and no man would have the strength to pull it up again. Lady Kait’s expression turned frustrated. The fate of the very castle rested on these moments, and she had been gawking like a young lady in waiting. She lifted her sword, but rather than the maids who were doing a direct attack down the center impulsively, she took a moment to survey the landscape.

Although Andromeda was powerful, she was just a maid. She knew nothing of battle tactics or reading a battlefield. She may be ranked as Bloodbane’s warrior with her own subordinates, but she was no general. Her style resembled the only example she had seen, Bloodbane. Of course, Bloodbane knew battle and also knew strategy. His kills were very deliberate to impede the process of them reopening the gate. However, the untrained eye of Andromeda had gained was an appetite for a battle that involved throwing her strength repeatedly at anything in her way until it died.

Meanwhile, Lady Kait mapped out the path of least resistance and then broke into a run. Her sword slashed out as she passed an undead, taking its head with a single swipe. She hadn’t slowed but only increased her speed, using the momentum to down two skeletons along the way. She ran along the edge of the enemies, running behind, dodging, or completely ignoring any enemy that didn’t deliver any threat. She quickly overtook Andromeda.

Andromeda’s eyes widened and then immediately narrowed as she saw the other woman gaining ground on her. However, she was in the process of fighting twenty enemies on six and was pinned down. She couldn’t afford the other woman any time, and could only watch out of the corner of her eye as Lady Kait ran straight into a group of undead goblins backed by skeleton knights. She sheathed her sword smoothly and kicked out with her foot.  

The flat of her foot landed in the first goblins face, but rather than kick him, she stepped on his face. As he fell back she rose and shoved off his face. Her next foot landed on a skeleton’s shoulder. The skeleton swiped its blade up to strike her, but she shoved away again, walking on two other skeletons before leaping off. Several monsters lunged for her, but her feet planted on the wall, and she started to run over the monsters. The ones leaping for her ended up slamming into the wall all while she ran over their heads.

She bent her knees and her feet suddenly began to glow with yellow light as she shoved off from the wall, leaping ten feet into the air and falling into a roll. When she came up, she was only ten meters from Bloodbane. She grabbed her hilt, still in her sheath, and pulled it into a slash. At this point, her sword shone with the same light that she had used on her feet. An arc of yellow light burst from her sword, and it bisected every creature in front of her.

As it turned out, that was every creature between her and Bloodbane. She immediately ran up to Bloodbane. The man didn’t even take one look at her as he continued to kill, but she had a sense that he was extremely aware of her presence and was moving in a way that protected her as well.

“Get the door, you need to use Earth Manipulation to keep them from opening it.” She declared.

“As you say!” Bloodbane leaped back suddenly, and a surge of enemies moved forward.

Lady Kait was surprised that he had listened to her plan so reasonably and carried it out without any argument. However, Bloodbane wasn’t the kind of person who wasted time. If she had a plan, then she had a plan. He wasn’t going to be caught arguing about specifics when it would just be quicker. Besides, he had to agree with her. He didn’t have the time under the pressure of the monsters to use such complicated magic, but somewhere in his predecessor’s knowledge, he had such ability.

Lady Kait knew of this ability as well, so she had come up with him altering the entrance in some way so the door couldn’t be brought back down if the chain gave out. It was something she had already considered when she decided a traitor must have been involved in opening the door. They needed to make it so that no one could open that door. It was the only way to guarantee their safety.

Lady Kait immediately began to attack, cutting down undead and monsters alike. Her arms were quickly growing heavy as she slashed, but she kept moving, her attacks wicked fast and nearly like a dance. With Bloodbane behind her, she was also unwilling to yield. If she failed, then the door fell, and there wouldn’t be a break until every man fell. The two spells she had already used getting here already had exhausted her, especially when combined with nearly a day of fighting, after weeks of battle.

Unlike Bloodbane who had only started using his muscles seemingly hours ago, Lady Kait had been battling nonstop for weeks, taking her body past exhaustion and into a state where it wasn’t clear how she was standing anymore. Yet, she had to hold out for just a little longer. Another second. Another minute. Bloodbane needed the time to do what he was doing.

As for the king, he busted several heads until he was the only one around the door. He then put his hand on the rock scaffold the drawbridge was wedged in. He’d need to rearrange the stone that he couldn’t see on the other side of the wall, essentially creating a lip that would block the drawbridge and prevent it from falling. This was easier said than done, not just because he couldn’t see what he was doing, but also because he needed to maintain the integrity of the wall. It would do no one any good if he managed to keep the drawbridge up, but the walls next to it collapsed.

Thus, he had to send his senses out through the wall, getting a feel for the weaknesses and fissures deep inside. He had to map out the wall in his mind. To the gladiator Bloodbane, this would have been an impossible feat. However, he had the memories of a scholar at his fingertips, and he was using everything that man knew to do what he had to.

Slowly, the rock began to move, and he started carving a lip around the door. The bigger the lip, the more difficult it would be to knock it down. He slowly worked his way around the edge, warping the gate a little at a time. Halfway through, the chain suddenly gave way, and the drawbridge fell. The door fell, but it only made it a few inches before thudding against the rock. Bloodbane could hear some cracking. He wasn’t confident that the door might not fall eventually. He had to create more lip. As he became focused on his work, he trusted Lady Kait to cover his back.

Lady Kait became all too away of this, and her lips tightened as she noticed Bloodbane entrusting himself to her. It left her feeling complicated. She hated this man who had led the kingdom to failure, but at the same time, he left his back to her and trusted her with his life. It was a strange feeling. It felt warm to be trusted, and it made her all the more persistent that his only line of defense not fall. She was so tired though, and all that went through her mind was to keep swinging and to protect him.

That’s why she swung one more time and didn’t meet a body, but the blade of a certain maid. She blinked at the sudden appearance of Andromeda. The other maids were a bit farther back, but Andromeda had fought ahead, barreling through the enemies and accumulating wounds all so she could reach her master faster. Andromeda looked at Lady Kait, but rather than show her previous snobbish arrogance, she instead gave a single nod. Gasping for breath and covered in sweat, dirt, and blood, Lady Kait nodded back. At that moment, there was a roar, and Lady Kait spun around as Andromeda looked past her.

The giant that had been holding the rope down had gotten up. He took several steps forward and went straight for Bloodbane. Bloodbane had his hand on the doorframe and was channeling magic when he was suddenly grabbed.

“It’s still alive?” Lady Kait hissed.

“No, it’s not!” Andromeda replied.

Lady Kait looked again, and she could see the destroyed face of this monster. It didn’t even have eyes to see, but it had still managed to stand and immediately grab the unmoving Bloodbane. The damage it had already received was easy enough that it should have died. It had died. This was now an undead giant. Lady Kait began to realize why the enemies she had been fighting felt endless. Every monster she cut down rose back up as an undead. She had been having to put down every creature twice.

Bloodbane was snow in the grip of the monster. It seemed to be holding him with two hands, trying to squish him to death. Blood bane had his hands out, and with his sweaty muscles flexing, pushed back against the hands. His body shook and his face was red with exertion as he fought back against the giant.

Lady Kait had gone far past her limit, but seeing Bloodbane fighting, she suddenly moved without thinking. Her body glowed with a yellow light, and she used her innate magic, sunlight, to infuse her sword with a powerful strike. She ran forward, but as she attacked, she realized a woman was attacking right next to her. She twisted her blade toward the other woman, causing their weapons to cross, and sending some of the sunlight magic from her blade into Andromeda’s weak goblin steel sword.

The swords erupted in light, and the two women passed each other in a crisscross pattern and sliced. A massive light shone out in the style of an X right across the back of the giant. It let out one cry, and then its arms fell off. Bloodbane fell to the ground. As soon as he hit the ground, he pulled up, creating a blade of earth. However, before he could lunge forward, the rest of the giant fell into three distinct pieces. It unceremoniously died right in front of him. To either side of Bloodbane, two women were facing the other direction, their hands on their blades, bent in a poststrike pose, a golden light slowly dimming from around them.

If another man had seen two such fairies glowing with light, they might confuse them for angels, dancing for glee at their luck. Bloodbane, on the other hand, stood up, his arm blade crumbling to dust.

“Secure the courtyard.” He gave the order.

This battle was over, but the next would be starting soon.

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