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Heart of Iron, Shield of Glass

Chapter Text

 


 

Though it was becoming easier to accept Fray’s tutelage in the ways of an art she had no intention of learning, still she refused to succumb to their bouts of righteous indignation.

That was not to say she lacked the want to simply smite those who did wrong, merely that it was rarely such a black and white situation; redemption was ever her goal. Execution was oft the end result, despite her best efforts.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

“What more proof do you need to sate your own guilt?” Fray snarled from somewhere behind her. 

“I would be certain that I am attacking someone who deserves it, Fray.” Serella sighed, crouched down and rummaging through the refuse pile as she was. “I would not bring my steel to bear against an innocent man.”

“If you fear tainting innocence in this mount of sanctified shite, I assure you that your hands are clean.” They let out a snort. “And your time searching for all of this wasted.” 

Ignoring Fray for the moment, as she was often wont to do when they devolved into sputtering rage, she thumbed carefully through the charred letters, the singed journal entries, in the vain hope that she would find something that would redeem their target. 

Entry upon entry upon godsforsaken entry was filled with the details of the assaults, the murders, all done in the name of “cleansing the sacred ground of the Fury.” Itemized, as though it were a shopkeep taking inventory.

“Well?” Fray prompted in a huff.

Serella stood, but did not face them. Ignoring the distant migraine already thumping against the back of her skull she let the physical world blur in favor of the ethereal — and ah, but there it was, a faint trail of silver, aether rapidly fading. The author of such morbid scribbles had left some time ago. 

A dark, feral grin tugged at the corner of her lips.

“I am on the hunt. And my prey is not far.”

Her temples throbbed with the ache of seeing both the solid stone of the Pillars lest she lose her footing and the aethereal trail of her mark lest she let him get away, but she bade it no mind. Though she had only just begun to work alongside the Lord Commander to pursue those who labored at the detriment of the people, still she was starved for justice. She had not truly tasted it since Ul’Dah. 

And she was voracious.

Though her soul demanded nourishment in the form of retribution she was a patient predator, and stalked her prey as he bumbled about the stalls of the Crozier. 

“Now.” Fray demanded, their voice a low hiss that filled her head like smoke.

“Too many people.” Serella replied, and she all but felt the curse her mentor spat upon the stone.

She ignored Fray — she was good at that — and let herself melt into the crowd to better track her target.

“Tracking your mark like a bloodhound in the forests.” Fray mused with a huff. “Not exactly the skills of a Paladin.”

“Wasn’t always a Paladin.” She replied without removing her gaze from the back of her mark’s head. 

Her headache eased as she let go of the ephemeral trail his aether left behind. With visual, she didn’t need it. Scrawny little pig of a man he was, so cocksure that he didn’t have a mark upon his head that he not once looked to see if he was being followed, bought his cough syrup — a heavy dose of it, just like in his journals — and began to saunter toward Foundation. His own hunting grounds.

“He seeks a new target.” Fray warned.

Serella’s pace quickened. 

When they were in the stairwell, in light shuttered enough he could not anticipate her, Serella closed the distance. With a shuddering gasp she gathered the dark, spiteful rage within her, the need for justice and the want to protect, and pushed them out of her palm. The aether that formed from that manifested will, purple and pulsing and angry, found its mark square between her target’s shoulder blades. He tumbled down the steps, crumpled like discarded paper. Trash, beneath her power.

He whimpered and whined at the bottom of the steps, alive. Just as she intended.

“Wha — who goes—!” The monster cried.

“Was this what your victims felt like, I wonder.” She mused darkly when her feet hit Foundation. Fray hung back in the shadows, watching their pupil. “Caught unawares, ne’er seeing their demise coming before it struck.”

“You know nothing, villain!” The hog squealed. “I am the arbiter of the will of the Fury! My fire is the cleansing—” 

He scrabbled for his staff— ah, a thaumaturge. That would explain the fires. 

The heel of her boot met his wrist and pressed hard enough she felt his bones crunch beneath her. His wail pierced the stillness of the night. It would doubtless alert the guards; she had to be quicker than she liked, but such was the price of silencing him for good.

“The righteous need not fear death, for the Fury will welcome them into Her halls.” Serella recited the scriptures she had only recently learned. “If your crusade is as holy as you claim, then look forward to your just reward.” The Claymore, Dainslaiff, upon her back was unsheathed with a long, high note that sang a requiem for all those she was not quick enough to save from this filth. “You’ll be receiving it soon.”

“The guards approach!” Fray snarled, and there was a tone of panic she had not expected from them. “Let us be about it!”

“Help! Guards, help me!” The pig wailed. 

“I’m giving you the one mercy you don’t deserve.” She swung her blade high over her head. “A quick death. So start praying, and be grateful.”

Dainslaiff drank deeply of his blood as it sank into his throat, into the stone beneath him hard enough to sever his head in a meaty split of flesh from bone. The squelch was satisfying in a morbid sort of way, the soft noise a darkly pleasant contrast to the heavy clank of her blade digging into the stone, the wheezing scrape of its steel as she removed it. The rivulets of blood began to flow out from the body, and she stepped back to avoid it seeping into her greaves.

She watched him twitch in his death throes, and feasted upon the sight.

“We must away!” Fray seized her by the arm and ripped her away from her trophy — in time for the sound of many armored footfalls approaching to grow distant once more. Just as well, lest her soul glut upon her delivered retribution.

They split at the bottom of the bridge from the Forgotten Knight — Fray ducking down into the depths of the Brume to hide in the shadows, and she moving up the ramp, past the tavern, and back into the Pillars.

She didn’t stop moving until she was upon the Last Vigil, until she could catch her breath and walk at a leisurely pace, as though she had been nowhere else but right here and now. She took the time to clean her blade — a bloody cloth in her possession would hardly go amiss, hunter and fighter for justice that she was — and stepped into Fortemps Manor, and stole herself into her quarters to clean up. 

Despite the sweet taste of justice upon her tongue, she felt ill. For what that monster had done. For those she could not save. For who would doubtless be branded the heretic between the two of them, for no other reason than their methods.

“Ah, welcome home, my dear!” Count Edmont greeted her once she had stepped out from her room. “I must have missed you at the door! Come, come, are you hungry? Dinner is to be served.” 

“Ah, thank you my lord.” Serella smiled and bowed — in part out of respect, in part to hide what guilt she felt for lying. “But rest assured: I am full.”