Sarfina blocked another blow aimed at her head, the edge of the dark blade barely coming short of her face. She didn’t feel any relief though, as another blow followed right after the previous one, and another after that one. She was under constant pressure, barely managing to keep the edge of the blade from hitting anything vital. Unfortunately she knew from experience that any hit from that dark blade, which seemed to suck in all the light surrounding it, was a hit to the vitals.
The blade carried a great corruptive force, and that corruption would spread from even a slight wound. Sarfina still had no idea where Dee had managed to find such an ominous blade. Her thoughts were interrupted as Dee’s foot lashed out at her own in an attempt to sweep them out from under her. Sarfina jumped slightly to avoid the sweep, but immediately regretted that choice as Dee slammed her with her shield, leaping from her crouched position. This had clearly been the girl’s plan in the first place!
There was little Sarfina could do to dodge in the air, and she couldn’t brace herself either. As a result, the only thing she could do was to lean back and try to get Dee off balance as well by altering the impact point. No such luck though, Dee had prepared her move well. Sarfina was sent sprawling on the ground, her shield being flung from her hand. ‘Gods the girl has become strong!’ She cursed in her mind.
In a rush Sarfina used her holy power to ward off the next attack that was surely coming. “’Shield of Fate’ ‘Smite’.” She gestured towards the approaching Dee and a golden shield appeared between the two, followed by a rapidly moving sickle of golden power.
Both spells were quick and neither was very powerful, but they were enough to buy a few precious moments, so that Sarfina managed to get up from the ground. ‘Shield of Fate’ was a simple physical barrier used to stop projectiles, or in this case Dee’s momentum. It couldn’t take much punishment, but still needed to be removed with either a spell or a sword swing strong enough to break it. ‘Smite’ on the other hand was an offensive spell which had the advantage of almost instant travel time. It didn’t have enough power to penetrate Dee’s defenses, but it was a decent distraction. In theory.
“’Spell Purge’.” Dee activated one of her favorite holy spells that dispelled hostile magic in her surroundings. Usually she would use ‘Spell Shatter’ which was the improved version of ‘Spell Purge’ and would cause the spells to explode, but she was so close that she would herself be caught in the explosions. Both spells were advanced level holy spells used especially against mages or other holy magic users. Neither spell was easy to use since you needed to know where to strike to unravel the spells or cause them to explode.
The two holy spells unraveled as if they had not even been there, and Dee once again renewed her assault on the still rising Sarfina, who only barely managed to ward of the blows that were oddly powerful for such a delicate weapon. Sarfina managed to ward off the assault however, at least for now. As the two pulled some distance to re-evaluate, Sarfina once again glanced at the dark blade in Dee’s hand.
The sword was a long an thin saber very similar in shape to the one they had seen used during their visit to the Cauldron of Blood such a long time ago. The whole blade was completely black, and had this eerie feel to it. The blade was rather long one handed blade with a very slight curve to the blade. It actually looked a bit like the blades forged by the elves if you didn’t pay attention to the dark color and aura.
The annoying part was that Dee could suddenly surround the blade in psionic energy, and the damn blade would cut through armor like paper. Only Sarfina’s sturdy and enchanted shield was able to take direct blows from the blade, and Sarfina suspected that the only reason that still held true was because Dee didn’t want to destroy her beloved shield.
The saber was something of a compromise. It was more suited to using the flowing style of battle Dee was so fond of when compared to the usual long longsword of the templar, especially when combined with Dee’s propensity of using her shield and whole body as weapons. The saber was also close enough to the standard longsword that she could also use the more standard sword and shield style of the templar, switching between the two and even combining the styles when necessary. Thus the weapon was well suited for the current Dee and her training.
The last few years had brought Dee’s skill and strength to a level that could rival Sarfina. Dee was not exactly small anymore either, with her height being barely shy of two mel. Her heritage clearly shone through. That increase in height had come with a corresponding increase in strength, and Sarfina was still unable to fully figure out how the girl could be so strong even without the holy spells to buff her strength, and still remain so slim.
‘Well the five tails waving behind her back might have something to do with it.’ Sarfina thought to herself. It was her understanding that those tails represented her power as a psion, which meant that Dee would now be a class 5 psion. That roughly matched Sarfina herself, who was also a fifth rank templar, most often called gold-ranked. To Sarfina’s amusement, the ranks of those serving the gods were named after precious materials like metals and gems.
‘Nevertheless, her rise in power is astounding. For someone who just turned fourteen to already be at the fifth rank…’ Sarfina once again thought with a sigh. ‘No wonder she wants to find a teacher as a psion.’
A year ago Dee had mentioned her desire to find a psion teacher, and the details of her visit to the Threads of Fate. Sarfina had not been wild about Dee going away for such a long time, especially since she was still kind of detained by Radiant Sun, but had seen the necessity. She had set some conditions though. Dee had to be able to meet the standards set by her three teachers before being allowed to go. It would be foolish to run around getting more training in another field if the previous training had not been adequately absorbed. Sarfina would also worry if Dee wasn’t able to defend herself.
Mazatl had trained Dee in holy magic used by priests and clerics, and Dee had passed those tests with flying colors. Although Dee’s skill in healing was not among the greatest, she did excel in removing diseases, curses, poisons and other effects that could hinder people. She was also fairly proficient in the more complex priestly spells ranging from buffs to especially spells that hindered her enemies. Mazatl wasn’t all that happy with Dee’s affinity with such negative spells, but it made sense considering her background.
Taeral had trained Dee both in the use of a bow as well scouting abilities and tradecraft. Bow was a natural fit for someone who could calculate trajectories as well as Dee, and she had already shown her skill with scouting skills during her first trip to the great forest. Additionally, Taeral had done his best to teach Dee in the use of the flow style as well as the very basics of control. Unsurprisingly both styles fit Dee like a glove.
She had already absorbed what she could from Taeral, and she was now at the stage of perfectly controlling her own movements and anticipating both her own and her enemies’ future positions. She still couldn’t direct the movements of her enemies, which was the true heart of the control style, but she knew enough to excel in the flow part. That already showed in her everyday movements that perfectly flowed from one movement to another with efficient pathing. It had this weird grace to it, as if watching someone dancing.
Sarfina taught Dee in the use of sword and shield, as well as the holy magic of the templar. Thanks to her ability to read magic, Dee naturally gravitated towards spells that made her a sort of mage hunter. She could shatter the spells of her enemies and turn that power against them. She naturally knew the best ways to cleave magical protections with the least possible effort. On the flipside, holy magic designed to protect others wasn’t really her strong point. It’s not like Dee was weak with those spells, just thoroughly mediocre. She wouldn’t make for a great paladin. She was good at protecting herself though, so that suited a templar just fine.
She was also a real menace in close combat, where she could combine quick holy spells with her fighting skills, resulting in a constant barrage of attacks that wore you down with distressing certainty. She on the other hand seemed to have an endless well of power and stamina. Sarfina could only blame herself and the stringent stamina training she had forced on Dee.
This current fight was the final test before Sarfina would allow Dee to leave to find her psion teacher. She already knew that Dee had the strength and skill to match a full templar, but she didn’t want to be separated for such a long time. She had started to think of Dee as something between a daughter and a little sister in the last few years. She couldn’t help but worry. Hence the difficult tests.
‘If Dee keeps improving with speed like this, once she returns in two years, her official training period in the order might be the shortest on record.’ Sarfina thought to herself. Dee would still have to go through the basic training, as all new recruits did, even though she already knew all the things taught.
The current fight was also something of a show of skill on Sarfina’s part. Or at least it was supposed to be. Dee already had enough skill to defeat Sarfina nine times out of ten, even when both did their best to use holy magic in addition to their combat skills. The show of skill part was due to the fact that there were some holy spells Sarfina had been unable to use before because they would result in either Dee’s death or serious injury. She wanted to regain some of her honor as a teacher and a senior templar.
Mazatl was observing the fight from the side with Taeral, having yet again erected the grey dome that made it impossible for the two fighters to die or really get hurt within the spell. “So which one do you think will win?” Mazatl asked dangling a small coin pouch in case the elf wanted to make a wager.
“Depends on what happens next. Faylen is about to pull out the big guns. If Dee can stop those, then she’ll win.” Taeral replied.
“So who are you betting on?” Mazatl prompted.
“Logically Faylen should have the edge, since it will most likely turn into a test of power and Dee will be on the defending side. It always takes more power to defend than it does to attack. However, I’ve learned never to bet against Dee.” Taeral said with a small smirk.
“Tch, you’re no fun.” Mazatl clicked her tongue, refusing to bet on Sarfina either. She still hadn’t figured the limits of Dee’s holy power, and she had been testing that limit for years now. However, she knew enough to not bet against Dee in a test of power.
“Oh, here we go.” Taeral pointed at the two.
“’Chains of Retribution’ ‘Wrath of Heaven’.” Sarfina once against cast two holy spells at the same time. This time the two were much higher level though.
‘Chains of Retribution’ sent several chains of golden energy to surround Dee and bind her in place. ‘Wrath of Heaven’ called several golden lightning bolts down from the skies to strike at Dee, now that she was unable to dodge. In addition to being powerful spells, Sarfina also knew that they were both high enough level that Dee couldn’t yet simply use ‘Spell Purge’ on them. Maybe in the future, but not yet.
“‘Hallowed Ground’ ‘Shroud of Saints’ ’Flash’.” Dee quickly replied with three spells of her own. A dome of golden energy rose around her to block the lightning, while a protective cloak of golden energy surrounded her body.
‘Wait, why ‘Flash’?!’ Sarfina though with surprise as a blindingly bright flash of light forced her to close her eyes for a moment. She quickly opened her eyes after the brief brightness dimmed, just in time to see both the golden dome and cloak buckle under the bombardment of lighting. However, the golden cloak was empty, held aloft by the handle of the black sword stuck in the ground..
Suddenly Sarfina felt a dagger pressed against her throat. Dee had used the golden dome to push away the chains binding her, and escaped the barrage of power during the flash. The cloak had been a distraction. “I surrender.” Sarfina muttered faintly. A very Dee-like way to end the fight.
Dee let go of Sarfina with a faint smile. She was happy to finally officially surpass her mentor, and was glad that she had passed the test. Now Sarfina would most likely feel more at ease to allow Dee to go out into the world. She also felt wistful because just like Sarfina, she didn’t want to be separated from her. The two had grown close over the years, and Sarfina’s care and worry over her wellbeing had been like a healing balm after all that had happened with Zabaniya. Sarfina had become something of a big sister to Dee.
Yet she had to go. This mansion and the templar order were not her ultimate goals. They were simply stepping stones on her path, and she knew it was time to take another step. Besides, it’s not like she wasn’t coming back in the future. She still had a lot to learn, and she also needed experience. It was all well and good to get great training and have power, but it would do her little good if she didn’t get used to using those skills and power in life-threatening situations. As an assassin, she had gotten used to danger and her life hanging by a thread, but her current skillset was still untested. She was getting complacent in this peaceful environment.
Dee considered her progress over the last few years. Despite all the training Sarfina and Taeral had given her, she still maintained her mindset and skills as an assassin, as shown by the ending of that fight. Surprise, distraction and a quick and decisive end were still among her arsenal of skills. Just that now she had other skills as well. She also had the holy power gained from the blessings.
The dark blade in her hand was part of the blessing she had received from Umbra. She still hadn’t figured out all the benefits from the blessings. Especially the blessing by the old man was hiding its mysteries well, but she had figured some things out. She had tried hiding some of those gifts, but she had to practice their use at some point. She had decided that the dark blade was something she should reveal, so that she could learn to use it.
In addition to the dark blade, the blessing of umbra improved her ability to hide in the shadows and to a slight extent control them. That control was still strenuous at best, but she was improving. Another thing she had improved was the psionic ability to clad her weapon in her power and even form weapons out of pure psionic energy. As she had such a great sword already, it was more useful to just clad the weapon in her energy instead of trying to make another weapon, but she did have the ability if it became necessary.
A much more productive way to use that particular ability was to form arrows from her psionic energy. Taeral had taught her archery, and the psionic arrows were perfect as their penetrative power vastly exceeded normal arrows, and she didn’t have to carry around a quiver. She couldn’t match the elven ranger with the bow, but she did hit what she aimed at nearly always. That was another thing. Since the arrow was made of her own energy, she could still control it to an extent while in flight. The fact that she had four arms also allowed her to use the heaviest of bows with relative ease.
Not that she had any lack of strength to use those bows even without that added bonus. Her heritage and the modifications made by the assassins were finally starting to kick in. Despite not looking like it, she had significantly more strength than any girl her age should. That was shown in her ability to overpower Sarfina, who was significantly older than Dee. Beowulf, Rakshasa Rani and angels were all known for their physical strength, and that was starting to show. Dee could probably arm-wrestle a fomorian or a vampire at this point. Maybe not a full-grown one, but one her age at least.
Dee still wasn’t all that happy with being part angel. She still considered angels as her enemies, and while she understood the use of having a part of her come from the enemy, it still grated on her. At least part of that angel blood was Fallen. She had learned to materialize just the wings in her other forms, and as a result didn’t spend too much time in her angel form. She did suspect that the form would become more useful when she wanted to hide her identity.
Her angel form had only become more striking and attention drawing as the form changed from a little girl into a something more womanly. She herself didn’t have much understanding of those matters, but both Sarfina and Mazatl had assured her that her angel form was very beautiful. She wasn’t all that happy with that fact though. It became obvious that trying to avoid attention in that form was impossible even when she hid the halo and wings. At least males seemed to spend way too much time gazing at her. Probably something to do with those new womanly parts. Incidentally, her nine-tailed fox form had mostly just grown larger. She did look weird with the different colored wings on that form, but at least she could make them disappear when necessary.
At least her original form drew less attention. She had managed to avoid the curse of cumbersomely large breasts that would hinder her movements, and Sarfina had declared her decidedly average in that field. Apparently her behind drew some attention though, which was probably due to her stringent physical training. She also favored rather tight pants that didn’t hinder movement. At least she could hide that part of her body with her tails when necessary.
Speaking of her tails, those were the only physical change beyond growing up in the last few years. She now had five of them, signifying her rank as a class 5 psion. That said, she only had the prerequisite power and none the skills and abilities usually found in a psion of that rank. That’s why she needed a teacher. She had gained a lot of experience with the technique she had gotten from Croestia, and could now use that skill to a much greater degree, but that was almost the entirety of her repertoire. Most of her time had been spent learning the skills and abilities of templars, priests and scouts. That didn’t leave much time for anything else.
Besides, she thought it best to leave her psionic learning to her future teacher. She might learn bad habits if she bumbled around in the dark by herself. Croestia held a couple of other abilities, but Dee decided to push learning those to a later date. Even the power she had gained was mostly the result of her growing up. The last few birthdays had not brought physical changes, but had brought large boosts in her power. Somehow she had the feeling though, that the explosive growth would end once she reached her sixteenth birthday. It had already slowed down significantly.
The four people decided to celebrate Dee’s departure with a small party. Fimul was invited as well, and they all gathered at the restaurant that had become their usual haunt. Fimul had brought the other dwarves from the forge, who all would miss their little mascot, though Dee was far from little nowadays. As a result, food and drinks were flowing freely, and the mood got a little rowdy. The other patrons had already gotten used to this, as this was not the first time something like this happened. Taeral and Fimul made jibes at each other as always.
Mazatl and Sarfina still couldn’t get over the shock of seeing Dee eat, as she had only become more gluttonous as years passed. She didn’t have to worry about getting fat with the amount of energy she burned, and she really enjoyed good food. It was one of her guilty pleasures. Food and good music. While the dwarves did their best to drink all the ale in the restaurant, Dee did her best to eat all the food.
Mazatl leaned to whisper in Sarfina’s ear. “Maybe all that food is the reason for her outrageous growth in her angel form. I mean the growth in that area.” Mazatl gestured towards her chest. She was a little bit jealous of Dee’s angel form.
“That and her ridiculous height. Who else beyond the giant races grows to two mel before age fourteen?” Sarfina didn’t really care about Dee’s development in the breast area, as she was an elf and already unusually ample for her race. She was a bit jealous of Dee’s strength and height though. Height provided an advantage in battle.
Dee added another empty plate on top of the growing pile. She gave a very unladylike burp before standing up and waving to get everyone’s attention. “First of all, I’d like to thank all of you for giving me a home, where previously I had none. You gave me friends, and even something like a family.”
At this point the dwarves all banged the table in applause, while the others just had a sad little smile. Dee continued. “I want you to know that I will miss all of you while I’m away. If the fates are willing, I will be back in a couple of years, so this is not a goodbye. Nevertheless, I am very grateful since I’ve felt happier here than I can remember ever being. So thank you.” Dee’s eyes misted a little as she finished.
Sarfina and Mazatl pulled her in for a hug. “Take care of yourself. Keep your head straight and you’ll do fine.” Mazatl whispered.
Sarfina squeezed Dee even harder, whispering in her ear. “Come back safely. The light shine on you and bring you hope in dark moments. May that same light lead you back where we wait to welcome you home. You will always have a home here with us. Become strong, like I know you can! Make us proud.”