Chapter 32: The Vanishing Window

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23,105 AE

“To save many lives, sometimes one must be taken.” - Cassyva Starstrider

In Aestaria, Consular Draug remained sequestered in a heavily guarded palace. While overseeing the crystal mining operations in Ixus, however, he was much more vulnerable. Cassyva and her sisters decided that was their only hope of getting to him. They stowed away on a supply ship to Shar, and under cover of the bloodmoon night slipped into the unfamiliar shadowy ruins. Setting camp on a ridge overlooking Draug’s fortified compound, they planned to spend weeks studying the surrounding geography and Draug’s daily routines. Early the first morning, however, Cassyva watched another nearby dock and realized their window was vanishing — Draug was leaving. She woke her sisters, and as they watched Draug prepare to depart on a massive warship, soon realized that this might be their best chance to remove Draug from power — even their last chance. Now was the time to act.

With deathstrike-imbued blades and mana-rich crystals hidden beneath elegant gowns, they hurried to the dock. They were among the most skilled fighters in Akram, but here they were vastly outnumbered. The sisters knew surprise was their greatest weapon, and their incongruous appearance would make their attack even more unexpected. From the moment they entered the camp, each man they passed turned to stare at them. They reached the dock just in time to see Draug and his cadre of Sworn Defenders at the top of the walkway. Hundreds of Draug’s soldiers were watching the sisters. Scores stood between them and their target.

“Consular Draug!” Cassyva called out as he was about to disappear into the ship. He paused at the sight of five distant beauties in resplendent gowns approaching the blocked walkway. There was no time for Cassyva to use the Star Crystals, to consult with her sisters, or even to think things through. There was only time to act. In a single motion she pulled five blades hidden in her sleeves and cast them with as much magical force as she could summon. They spiraled and sliced through the air with deadly accuracy toward Draug...but at the last moment ricocheted harmlessly off an invisible magical barrier surrounding him. As it was, he watched impassively as the magically siphoned blades instead skewered his elite Defenders as they crumpled into the water with unceremonious splashes. Draug smiled and said, “Kill them.” Then he was gone.