Baen rushed in, gripping her hatchet near the blade and slashing with it like it were some obscene cleaver. Tatianna wove back from the first swing, ducked under the second, and caught Baen’s wrist on the third. My partner immediately brought her free arm about, punching her opponent hard in the jaw before stepping into her guard and smashing her elbow down onto the arm that held hers. The necromancer winced, her grip loosening, and Baen slammed her elbow into Tatianna’s face.
I came in as Baen wrenched herself free and slashed at the staggering Tatianna’s thigh. There was a flash of green light, and my sword glanced off of the hardened bone that sudden covered her bare thigh like scales. She caught me by the collar and, with a hoarse shriek, hurled me overarmed across the courtyard. Two clones caught me, keeping me from hitting the ground, and Tatianna blinked in surprise before Baen’s renewed assault seized her attention.
I had seen my partner take down a drunken norn twice her size in a brawl before, but as I watched Tatianna knock the axe from her hand and the two start trading blows I knew that whatever the necromancer was, she wasn’t going to go down quite as easily as that.
Grapple darted in, thorny teeth flashing as she closed her jaws around Tatianna’s ankle. Baen caught the necromancer across the chin with a hard cross, smashed her across the jaw with a heavy left, then grabbed her head in both hands and leapt up to smash her knee into the captain’s face. Tatianna staggered back, blood spurting from her nose, but she managed to force Baen back with a wild swing, kicking Grapple off.
I came in then, ducking another swing from Tatianna and darting forward with a slash to the leg that she only barely managed to avoid. She wasn’t particularly well trained, I realised. Perhaps Levaunt or even Sahir had given her basic instruction, but it was obvious from the way that she moved that she was more of a brawler than an actual warrior. I remembered her charging the Lionguard, remembered her wild shrieking, frantic stabbing, and recognised the recklessness in it. She’d likely coasted by on her special abilities, relying on whatever necromantic powers she had to carry her through any tight situation and therefore not needing to be too careful.
I clung to the solace of cold analysis, using it to keep the fact that I couldn’t deny that I liked this woman at bay. Things were far too confusing right now, far too mangled and raw in my mind. Better I slip into that pleasant void that combat inspired.
I pressed her, driving her back with two, then three, then five clones shimmering into view around me. Her eyes widened as the number grew, and as Baen circled to flank her with Grapple on my left, she turned and bolted.
The move took us by surprise, but as Tatianna sprinted towards the kitchen doors it took us only a moment to begin our pursuit. Grapple led, snarling, a green streak.
“She armed!” I shouted as the necromancer snatched a butcher’s cleaver from a counter top and kept running, rushing into the hallway with Grapple only a few steps behind her.
I kept pace as best I could, but my aches and pains were starting to take their toll on my body, and while my clones weren’t hampered by such infirmities, it felt as though each and every one of my muscles was starting to burn. Baen was surging ahead.
Grapple nipped at Tatianna’s heel, and she tripped and went down, coming up in an clumsy roll. Baen slammed into her in a full tackle, bearing her back to the ground and slamming her into the carpet with a shout. Tatianna cried out, lashing out with the cleaver, but Baen was already rolling clear over the necromancer and came to her feet a few paces away, cutting off her escape.
My clones leapt on Tatianna, one of them slamming a boot down on her wrist and another slashing at her thigh with an illusory blade. The necromancer screamed as blood welled up from the shallow cut, kicking at the illusion. It spun across the room, slammed into the wall and dissolved into a burst of violet light. She pushed the other clone away, forced Baen back with a wild slash and came unsteadily to her feet just as I arrived.
Caught between Baen and I, Tatianna glanced back and forth between us, eyes wild and teeth bared in an expression of bestial desperation. The fierce, mirthless rictus of a cornered jackal. Her free hand was pressed to her wounded thigh, blood seeping between her fingers, and I felt an surge of involuntarily terror at the thought that I might have mortally wounded her before I forced the thoughts away.
“Stand down.” I said. “We’re not suppose to kill you.”
“Don’t start.” She hissed, staggering and catching herself on the wall with her bloody hand. “I’m not listenin’.”
“You’re losing a lot of blood.” Baen said, her tone hard. “However powerful you are, you’re going to die unless you get that looked at.”
“Stand down.” I repeated.
She looked between us again, her eyes finally settling on me. “This is all your fault.” She said, almost a whisper. “All your fault.”
“Come with us, Tatianna.” I urged. “We were under orders to find out who you were, not put you down. You don’t have to die here.”
“I’d rather just kill you.” Baen said, bluntly.
“Shame.” The Misericorde said, still looking at me. “You… maybe you could have understood.”
Then I saw them, looming up behind Baen, gleaming bones and wet, bloody flesh. Shamblers, dozens of them, cobbled together from the remains of Ingesbror’s pirates, lurching into view at the end of the hall at a horrifying pace. How they had managed move so quietly I didn’t know, but as Tatianna pulled away from the wall I saw the bloody smear she had left there was glowing with a faint but unmistakable light. She’d been stalling, and like rank amateurs we had fallen for it.
Baen whirled to meet them, throwing a final glance back at me as she snatched a candlestick from a cabinet and brandished it as a club. The veritable tide of dead flesh closed in on her, Grapple snarling and barking beside her. I screamed denial as my partner threw herself into the impossible fray, her vision becoming a blur of dead flesh and reaching claws.
I gritted my teeth and lunged for Tatianna, three clones joining me to assault her from all sides. She whipped her bloody hand through the air, leaving a trail green-black smoke in its wake that lanced out like a thing alive and swatted me from the air.
My head banged against the floor, shattering my clones as my mind swam into blackness for a moment. Tatianna grabbed me by my collar, lifted me easily into the air and slammed me into a wall. My sword fell from nerveless fingers, and she stared at my face for a moment before hurling me back into the kitchen.
I rolled along the ground, knocking over a set of chairs before skidding to a hard stop against the far wall, gasping in pain.
“This is your fault!” She said, throwing aside a table as she strode back into the kitchen, pointing an accusing finger at me. “If you hadn’t shown up then none of this would have happened! Get up!” I had made it to hands and knees, my head swimming, but she grabbed me by the back of my blouse and threw me across the kitchen to crash through the glass and land in a heap back in the courtyard.
My body screamed in protest, and I felt something in my left shoulder pop. A nauseating wave of agony rippled through me. I coughed, blood and bile burning my throat and flecking my lips as The Misericorde pinned me down on my back, one impossibly strong hands pinning both of my wrists above my head as she straddled my waist.
“You did this!” She screamed into my face. “You brought this down on me ‘n mine! You killed Darrus!”
“You…” The words died, too weak to break free of the bloody prison of my mouth.
“You lied to me, all this time!” She was crying, her words halfway between a wail and a scream. “You’ve ruined everything!”
I struggled to speak, struggled to conjure a clone or mount some defence, struggled to even think, but everything was too chaotic in my mind. Any and all attempts at reaction were swept away in the sickening pain and screamed accusations.
“But I’m going to move on, you can’t finish me! Do you hear me!? I’ll move on!” She shouted, her hand closing around my throat. “You wont’ be the end of me!”
“No.” The words slipped out, trailing from my bloodied lips as a rasping whisper, and Tatianna stopped screaming, possibly in surprise. “They will be.” She looked up.
“Captain Tatianna Aurcattio.” Tianne Moravel stepped into the courtyard, pistol aimed at The Covenant’s captain, a dozen agents seeming to materialize at the windows with rifles up and ready. “I recommend that you stand down.”