"It's a Sword of Air Faerie," Payne breathed, "It has
The two stopped before the two Eyrie statues,
their stone paws holding the sword horizontal at eye level, the strange silver
light casting shadows in the grooves of the rock. Blank eyes were raised reverently
to the blade, a thin piece of silver-blue metal, two white wings forming the
guard, a blue tinge to the grooved hilt.
"The Sword of Wind and Rain," Mia breathed,
"I still don't see why it's so important to have people to protect you. Why
would this prevent you from defending yourself? It's a…"
"No. Wait. Look at the edge."
The duo peered closer at the sword, Payne hardly
moving, her ears drifting before her eyes until Mia finally let out a deep breath.
"It's blunt. Completely blunt."
Payne nodded and reached out to it, one finger
resting just inches above the blade that held no edge, that was never designed
to hold an edge. She ran her paw down along the length, finally closing down
on the hilt, cold and heavy in her palm, lifting the sword with a sound of metal
on stone in the air and before her. The deep part of her mind had steeled itself
for some tremendous event, some resounding declaration that a Gray had taken
the sword. There was nothing, just a dimming of that strange silver light. But
as the League gathered into the room, staring at the sword, at Payne, she realized
that there was something. That her, small and quiet Payne Rain Gray with her
loyal sister was meant for this sword, and this sword was meant for her. And
that was all the reassurance she needed.
"There's no sheath," Mia said in mild irritation,
inspecting the base of the statues.
"Doesn't need one," Payne replied, draping the
sword over her shoulder, the cold metal of the blunt edge resting against the
thin fur of her neck.
"So. Now that we have the sword," Maria said
from the doorway, "I have to ask. Why do you need Payne to save Eric?"
Jessica laughed and dipped her head, catching
Maria's meaning immediately.
"Because if we rescued Eric ourselves this would
still be going on. The campus hasn't flooded yet, Grievm is still in the running
for the sword. Now that Payne has it the matter has been settled. All that remains
is to save Eric and summon the wind."
The League stayed quiet, just watching Payne.
She glanced at Maria who slowly nodded at her, then BlazeFast in turn did the
"No," she whispered, "Don't do this. I don't
want to be the leader here."
"You're the head of the League now," someone
replied, "That's how it works. We betrayed Grievm a long time ago, now we're
just throwing our lot in with you. It's not such a drastic transition."
"I'm not a leader."
"Then learn," Jessica replied, "Ah, there. Anry
Everyone swiveled to look at the small creature
that stood in the doorway, a shadow in shadow, illuminated only by the silver
light and orange flare of lanterns. A shadowed Draik, water slowly sliding off
"They've taken him to our campus house," he
said, dropping to all fours and moving to stand before the entire group, "his
thugs are all staying inside because of the room. Not really keeping a watch
out. They're probably counting on the late hour to keep us uninformed until
they break Eric."
"Did you see him?" Jessica asked in a small
"No. But I saw Grievm through a window."
The girl let out a heavy breath and slowly surveyed
the group as the Draik moved to stand by a small red Shoyru.
"This is what we do," she murmured, "with your
"By all means," Payne replied in obvious relief.
"We need to hit them en masse. Grievm's thugs
are heavily armed and well trained. We know that house better than anyone since
we use it all the time. Payne, Mia, it's just a house that the League purchased
a long time ago, very close to campus. We use it for meetings and just as a
place to hang-out in between classes. Anyways, I want three groups. Go now,
divide yourselves into groups. Ahhh, no… Deft, stay out. I want you and Anry
to take the roof. Alright, good. You all - you take the back. You guys - the
side window, the one with the broken lock. And the rest of us, Payne and Mia
included, will take the front."
"Is it really smart to swarm them with so many
people?" someone from the back door group asked.
"If they're vastly outnumbered they'll hopefully
give up without a fight," Jessica replied, "otherwise, weak fighters stay out
of the way and let those like Mia, Anry and Deft take them out."
Anry winked at Mia who merely glared at him
hard. The Draik looked slightly put out and leaned against the red Shoyru's
back and started tossing a dark battle duck from hand to hand. Deft elbowed
his friend and took out a small container of black powder and started smearing
it liberally across his exposed skin.
"Soot," he explained to those looking at him,
"you can get it around the kitchens. Don't know how long it'll last in this
rain but until I get a shadowed paint brush I have to improvise. Anyone else
There was a great collection of no's and Deft
shrugged and continued camouflaging himself for the night.
"We good?" Jessica finally said, "Then let's
go then. Everyone, split up once we get outside of the library. If campus security
sees us they'll start asking questions because it's so late. We move in ten
minutes exactly. Shutter the lanterns and watch the time."
Everyone nodded in assent and the group started
to trickle out and up the stairs to the main floor of the library. Anry slipped
out first, signaled the all-clear, and then everyone moved out into the rain
again, each lantern quickly blown out as they moved out into the open, restoring
the world to shadows and the numbing drum of rain on the pavement.
"So what do I do?" Payne whispered to Jessica,
aware of the other members of the League around her, along with Maria and BlazeFast,
"Tell Grievm that you're taking control of the
League and that he's relieved of all his duties and ties to our organization,"
Jessica replied. "That'll all you'll need to say."
Payne nodded mutely, feeling her fur slick back
and plaster to her skin, turning a deeper blue, another darkness within the
night. Oddly enough, she didn't feel anything. No emotions whatsoever. She'd
come to terms with the strange turn that her life was taking tied up there in
the dark, her fear sliding away to leave just emptiness behind. What would happen
would happen. It did not bother her anymore. And now she stood there with a
sword across her shoulder and a dozen expectations heaped upon her shoulders.
She would have been terrified before. The darkness had changed her, the darkness
and lonely wait for what was to come. It was a courage of sorts. Payne accepted
it without question, knowing she'd need some sort of strength for what was to
The house was across the main street that ran
along the edge of the campus. Here were the campus houses owned by various organizations
and the occasional private home by students wanting to live off-campus with
their pets. Older buildings of white and pastel blue siding, green slate shingles
sliding off the roof in patches. A couple painted signs on some. Jessica led
them across the street then down the sidewalk, taking them off onto the sodden
grass and the deeper shadows as they neared a house that was painted a gray-blue
that seemed utterly dismal in the darkness. The shingles were black and as Payne
stared at them she thought she saw some move. It had to be Anry and Deft. Apparently
those two were the main battlers of the group.
Jessica stopped and checked a pocket watch.
She sighed, ran a hand through her soaked hair, spraying out a couple drops
of water that landed in the puddles with the rest of the rain.
"We ready?" she whispered.
"I was ready from the beginning," Mia growled.
"Besides, VerdeVer is in there and I need to give him what he deserves for what
"He didn't want to," Jessica replied, "we were
running out of options. Please, don't blame him."
Mia didn't reply, just shook her head so that
the werelupe's claw clattered in the night.
"Time to move."
The group dropped low and spread out, running
in a half-crouch. Payne found herself at the back, Mia at her side, her fur
bristling. This was it. This was it.
They hit the front of the house and flattened
against the wall, those under the windows glancing up to ensure that no one
had seen them. Someone nodded to Jessica and she in turn nodded to her aisha
who produced a key and slipped up the steps to the door. A quick twist, then
she carefully swung the door open, easing it slowly so as to not make a sound.
There was darkness inside, and beyond that, from the back of the house, light.
And voices. One by one the members of the League eased in, careful to not make
a noise. Payne strained her hearing and tried to stifle a gasp at what she heard.
"Do you want us to kill you also?" a voice snapped,
haughty, arrogant, and disdainful.
"Where is he?" another voice gasped, one that
Payne recognized from her first day at the college. Eric.
"Where is the girl?"
"What have you done with Verde!?"
There was the sharp sound of something impacting
flesh, then a sharp cry of pain and the heavy thud of Eric falling to the ground.
Between his labored breathing Payne could hear footsteps. Jessica motioned the
group forwards, checking her watch one last time. They stuck to the wall, moving
slowly, moving silently.
"Where is she?"
No answer, just a jagged cough and a deep intake
of breath. Another blow, a crash, and then a cry of pure rage.
"Stop it!" someone screamed from the room and
there was the sound of two people crashing to the floor, then Jessica leapt
forwards, bursting into the room, followed by everyone else.
They fanned out, Payne still in the back, trying
to see over the shoulders of the taller members, Mia sliding out into the front,
tackling a burly Skeith and sending him crashing to the ground. Anry was clinging
to the shoulders of a Lupe who was vainly trying to rid the draconic bundle
of fury, who was raining insults upon his opponent. It was he who had triggered
the rush, diving down out of the stairway on the near side of the room.
"What is this?!" a silver Cybunny in the center
of the room roared, a cane planted near the electric Kougra who was curled up
in a ball, his arms wrapped about his stomach, his muzzle contorted with pain.
"Give it up, Grievm!" Jessica cried, "You betrayed
the Rain family a long time ago. Well, you're getting your due now."
The Cybunny drew himself up, his gloved hands
impeccable upon the cane, his tailed coat unruffled.
"Don't be stupid. You're traitors too, every
single one of you. You betrayed the Rains not once, but twice, and now are betraying
"But at least we corrected things in the end,"
Jessica said grimly, stepping aside to reveal Payne who found herself being
nudged to the center of the room.
In the corner was Mia sitting triumphant on
the unconscious Skeith, in the other was another unconscious pet, an Eyrie,
and someone from the other group sitting nearby and nursing a wound. Anry had
finally bludgeoned the last of the bodyguards into unconsciousness and was now
crouching by Deft's side and whispering insults at the resolute Grievm.
"So the sword has been claimed," Grievm mused,
his eyes meeting with Payne's.
She felt a chill as they rested upon her and
she tried not to look down at Eric who was now struggling to his feet, one hand
still wrapped around his stomach. She could see a small trickle of red from
his mouth and from a cut on the forehead. Jessica hesitated only a moment, then
rushed forwards to help him stand and limp away from where Grievm was.
"Verde," he whispered and a couple pets detached
from the watching group to scour the house.
"Stand down," Payne said calmly, as if she were
detached from this moment and only watching an actor play herself, "I am head
of the League now. You are no longer part of us."
"So be it," Grievm replied, just as calm. "So
be it. Go summon the rain Gray… if you can."
He chuckled and made for the exit, only to have
it blocked by some members of the League.
"Don't be foolish," the Cybunny snapped, "I
have infinitely more power and resources than you. And I am not the only one
engaging in illegal activities here - I'm just the only one that will be able
to get away with it. Now let me pass and I'll forget to report any of this."
Payne nodded at them and the League moved aside,
allowing the Cybunny to vanish out the back door which stood broken on its hinges
and out into the night.
"What did he mean?" someone asked, "Summon the
rain if she can?"
"What he means," a voice said darkly, "Is that
he's got one last trick up his sleeve."
Everyone turned to look at the ragged green
Lupe who was making his slow and painful way down the stairs from the second
floor. Eric raised himself halfway to his paws, turning his head away to hide
the small tears that were building in his eyes.
"I thought they had killed you," he whispered.
"And I you," the Lupe replied, "But tender moments
can wait. Payne."
She fixed her attention on him, his eyes bright
"Grievm has hired a whole slew of thugs to do
his bidding. He expected violence on a larger scale from the League and has
come prepared. I bet you anything he's gone to get them to find and kill you.
You've got to summon the rain first. Once you've done that the power of the
sword will be complete and even Grievm's little hired army can't touch you."
"How do I summon the wind?"
"Get to the roof of the library. The sword will
guide you from there. Now go. There isn't much time."
Jessica moved closer to the two and her eyes
indicated that she was staying with them.
"I'll get these two to the hospital," she whispered,
" the rest of you with Payne. Go, hurry."
Payne nodded and turned to head for the door,
back out into the rain. Mia stood and followed, Maria and BlazeFast trailing
close behind. Just as they reached the main hallway a voice called out Mia's
name. The white Gelert froze.
"I'm sorry," VerdeVer said, "I didn't want it
to be this way. I'll understand if you hate me."
"But I can't," Mia replied, "And that's what
I find so aggravating about this. I can't hate you at all."
And she bounded out into the night, into the
rain, leading the way to the library and to a beginning and end of everything.
To be continued...