Votum - Chapter Five
V. Under My Spell
The screams continued, an issue to the mages given which was to ‘join us or die’, but Aislinn couldn’t wrap her head around what was going on. Had things calmed down finally? Were the blood mages winning, or had the Templars? Was she dreaming the screams and chaos she’d heard? She wasn’t sure, she only knew that it had grown quiet when she finally managed to move more than a few inches and push herself up from the floor with a low groan. Reality was coming back slowly but surely, and so was her worries about what had happened while she’d been unconscious.
But she was moving, and her hands, from what she could see, appeared to be normal, so thankfully she hadn’t turned into an Abomination somehow.
“Ser! I’ve found a survivor!”
Aislinn barely had time to register what was going on after those words were spoken before she was pulled to her feet, immediately becoming dizzy in the process while looking up to see the unmistakable blood spattered helmet of a Templar staring down at her as he demanded, “Are you one of them!?”
She flinched, then asked, “Them who? A mage? Yes.”
“You know what I mean!”
Aislinn finally managed to see that whatever had happened after she’d blacked out, it hadn’t been their victory. Dead Templars - and some Mages - were littering the floor, so she knew it had been a defeat, at least, so far. She turned her stormy grey eyes back up to the man interrogating her in a confused fashion, her head throbbing painfully and her legs feeling like rubber, but she dared not try to use any of her magic to heal herself, otherwise the Templar might grow extremely suspicious. She couldn’t focus well enough at that precise moment to try it anyway, simply too dizzy to. All she wanted to do was fall into a soft, warm bed and sleep the rest of the night away until morning, then wake up to realize that none of this nightmare had ever happened.
So when the Templar told her to, “Answer me!,” she let a groan and tried to pull away unsuccessfully from him. His yelling had only made her headache worse, but thankfully, she heard another voice commanding him to back down sternly.
“That’s enough, Emin!”
Cullen had issued the warning while heading towards them both after walking in from checking the hallway outside with another man. He’d heard Emin saying he’d found a survivor and they both entered the room again where Cullen saw Emin holding onto Aislinn while questioning her demandingly despite the blood staining the side of her face. When this had all started, Cullen had been in the Templar’s barracks and was called out immediately, and the attacks had laid several of his friends to waste before the Templars that were left stopped the threat.
He was with a small party of five Templars now, and they’d come to the store room where several of the Tranquil mages had usually spent their time to find more of their dead comrades, and most of the Templars were highly up in arms about all of this, so Emin’s reaction to Aislinn didn’t completely surprise Cullen. Still, he walked over and grabbed Emin’s arm to get him to back down before he got even more out of line with her.
Cullen was the highest ranking Knight in the room, so as he got Emin to back off, he ordered the man by saying, “Go help the others. I’ll handle this.”
Emin had let Aislinn go and gave Cullen a respectful nod of his head, and once he’d walked away, Cullen turned and looked down to see that Aislinn was gingerly prodding at her temple where there was a gash, hissing over how tender it was. Despite the wound, seeing her alive was an immense relief to him, one which he tried his best to ignore for the moment.
Still, he asked her, “Are you alright?,” with more concern in his voice than he’d meant to have.
“Shouldn’t you be busy blustering about all of the dead Templars?,” she asked him in return before she remembered that Cullen wasn’t quite like the other Templars. She sighed at herself when she remembered that and apologized to him immediately, “I’m sorry, Cullen, yes, I’m fine, just dizzy.” Clearing her throat, she then added, “I was knocked unconscious in the fight, and I’m taking it the blood mages are getting control of the Tower now.”
“So far, yes, we think being led by Uldred. They’ve summoned all manner of demon and flooded the upper levels with them,” Cullen explained, adding, “but we’ve diligently been holding them off on those levels, trying to keep the infestation contained. What’s left of the Mages have been sent to the Library for now. You should probably join them.”
Aislinn had finally looked up at Cullen and noticed that he’d seen some fighting himself because he had blood spatters on his armor and face. She wanted to ask him if he was alright, but if he hadn’t been, he likely wouldn’t be walking. She also hadn’t been quite prepared for just how relieved she was to see is face in all of this. Trying to ignore that for the time being, she finally replied by suggesting, “I’m a healer. I could help here first if there’s need for it.”
Cullen hated to deny her help, and wasn’t going to, but he had to remind her, “I’m not certain they’d be too receptive of that right now, not with everything going on.”
Aislinn took in a deep breath for patience, informing Cullen, “Well, they can rest assured that the assistance is one hundred percent free of blood and demons and will continue to remain as such for as long as I’m drawing breath of my own accord.” She then looked over at the injured they’d found in the room along with her, and turned to walk in that direction a few steps, gently pulling away from Cullen while trying to keep her gait as steady as possible with each step she took. After all, her legs still felt like rubber beneath her, and she knew she’d wobbled when she felt Cullen taking her arm again to steady her.
“I’m not certain you’re–,” Cullen started, but she interrupted him.
“I’m fine, or I will be once I can get this going.” Aislinn patted his hand on her arm just for a little extra reassurance and then drew her arm away from him slowly, continuing to move toward the injured that some of the Templars in the room were trying to bandage on their own.
As she went, Emin, who’d heard this, walked over to Cullen and asked him, “Do you really think this is a good idea? Look what they’ve done, we can’t trust any mage right now!”
“Calm down, Emin, I think it’s apparent she was hurt trying to defend us with the rest of the dead mages in here when the attack occurred,” Cullen reminded the Templar softly. “We’d be foolish not to accept help for the injured and increase our capabilities for handling this situation.”
As Cullen spoke those words, Aislinn had closed her eyes and summoned up all of the energy she could muster in her current state of being to heal everyone about her - including herself - with a low swept wave of her hands. The blue light it evoked washed over all of those in need, taking care of the smaller injuries more quickly, and the bigger ones faded over a slight bit more time, before the blue glow of magic faded away in a wash of light. Upon reopening her eyes, she reached up and touched the side of her head again, feeling the tenderness fading away completely before nodding in approval at her own good work, glad she’d given the Templars here another chance to get this problem taken care of again.
She then turned and came to a stop when she noticed that in the opposing corner of the room, there were quite a few bodies strewn about - including body parts. Some were mages, but most were Templars, and a stone of grief hit the pit of her stomach as she took the sight in, humbling herself before it and offering a few quick words in her head to the Maker even though she wasn’t the religious type because she knew several of these people were.
Whoever was behind this - Uldred or some other person - they had to be stopped. Aislinn kept remembering the words ‘Right of Annulment’, wondering if the point of this was just to get everyone killed.
Cullen had noticed where her line of sight had gone, and he stepped in the way to block the images on purpose, making her look up at him instead as he said, “Lady Aislinn, please, come with me now.”
“Was I the only mage to survive this without…abduction?,” she asked instead of being sheltered from the truth, needing to know the answer to that question, giving him a serious look that told of that fact.
Seeing that she wasn’t going to let it go without an answer, he nodded, “In this particular chamber, yes.”
Aislinn released a breath that she seemed to use to try to steady herself and her emotions, then nodded at him. “I’m lucky then. They must have overlooked me completely, thought I was dead laying there. I’ll have to put that luck to good use.” Getting her thoughts right about everything, she finally looked back up at Cullen and apologized by saying, “I’m sorry, you wanted me to go to the Library with the others?”
“Yes,” he replied, “if you would please come with me.”
Aislinn turned to do just that, but she asked as she moved, “Don’t you need to stay here?”
“I’d rather not risk letting you go alone in this situation. We’ve lost enough mages as it is. Anymore and the Circle will be lost, Right of Annulment or not. So you need one of us to escort you in order to ensure no unknown corruption occurs on the way there.” Cullen didn’t want to admit that also, he didn’t trust any other Templar to take her safely to the Library just then either because of how they were all up in arms over their lost comrades - not that he wasn’t, but Aislinn had nothing to do with this. She was just as much a victim as they were.
Thankfully, she didn’t question it further, only walked along with him to the door. Once they’d gotten into the hallway, moving in silence for the first few moments, Cullen considered her state of dress and supposed she’d been asleep when all of the trouble had started, briefly wondering what her own night might’ve been like. She’d probably been rushed from her room without the time to even dress properly, and he felt badly for that. It was a cold night, after all, and her lower legs were showing, a sight he diligently kept his eyes from less he forget his purpose.
But considering the situation and the severity of what lengths the mages in the Tower were going to now, he didn’t find that hard to do at all in that moment.
It was a thankful distraction still when Aislinn asked, “Do you think this had anything to do with Driana? I haven’t seen her.” That had been a major concern on her part.
When she didn’t get an immediate response from Cullen, she looked up to see him hesitating. Dread clutched in her gut until he finally told her what she wanted to know. “Driana is dead. I saw her fall not long after the Abominations first began attacking. A Templar killed her for utilizing blood magic. However,” he finally looked at Aislinn and added, “I don’t know if it’s related to the story you gave me completely or not.”
She let a little sigh out, taking him at his word when he said he didn’t know if the issues were connected. She felt he might have tried to shield her from any harsh truths, but the way he’d spoken just didn’t say he’d been dishonest at all. So Aislinn believed him, and only mentioned, “Then I suppose she was lying about Ser Kethran after all.”
“Maybe,” Cullen replied without giving further explanation on anything he’d learned about Kethran in particular during the last few days. As they drew closer to the doors leading into the stairwell, passing a few other doors on the way there, Cullen changed the subject entirely because of the things weighing on his mind. “Whether she had anything to do with this however, someone has to breach the upper levels soon or I fear Greagoir will call for the Right.”
“I know,” Aislinn replied, then asked him, “is that where everything is coming from? Where all of this originated?”
“From the upper floors, yes. The Harrowing Chamber in specific. It’s been completely sealed off with powerful magic that we’ve been unable to dispel. Uldred, Irving, and a few others are still unaccounted for.” Once he’d stopped speaking, she noticed he seemed to go a bit tense, and as soon as he noticed it, she heard a sound from behind them at the same time denoting why. The both of them stopped in their tracks simultaneously in order to look back down the hallway behind themselves.
It sounded like whisperings, and a door suddenly bursted open with Shades emerging from a chamber behind them along with four blood mages who’d apparently been hiding out, waiting for some unsuspecting Templars to pass by that they could attempt to take down in an ambush.
Cullen drew his weapon to the ready without hesitation, but even he knew that five shades and four blood mages would be a bit too much for the two of them to handle alone. So instead of turning to retreat downstairs - the Library being the only place so far that Abominations and demons hadn’t been seen yet - he reached for Aislinn with his free hand and tugged her toward the opposing chamber door across from the one that led into the stairwell, telling her, “This way.”
Aislinn knew what he was doing, she didn’t have to ask, turning to head in the direction he’d prompted quickly and in being closest, grabbed the door to open it. As he came in behind her while she held it open for him, one of the Shades grabbed Cullen’s arm in a tight grip, the arm he held his sword in, which left the weapon useless for the moment.
In response, Cullen tightened the fist of his free arm and turned, slamming it with as much force as he could muster into the side of the Shade’s head before rearing back and repeating the action, then lifted his foot and kicked it forward. The force of the blows made the creature effectively loosen and then release its grip on his arm. Once it had reared back momentarily, Cullen didn’t linger to finish it off because the others were getting closer, and instead he moved quickly inside of the chamber and allowed Aislinn to slam the door shut behind them.
Following that movement, Cullen turned to press against the door with Aislinn as it began shaking with the force of pounding from the other side. To top it off, they kept grabbing the knob which didn’t have a lock and tried to turn it.
“This isn’t going to work!,” Cullen grunted out as they both continued pushing against the door.
Aislinn knew he was right, and so she reached for the knob and grabbed it, then used her magic to heat it up. The hotter the knob got, the more it began to melt, until it was jammed and wouldn’t turn at all, effectively sealing it from the inside for the time being.
“There,” she breathed out, backing away from the door, “that should keep them out for a while without any magic to be dispelled.”
There was a chance that the blood mages would be able to counter any spell Aislinn cast with their strengthened magic, so she wanted to make sure they couldn’t by simply altering the physical state of the door from the inside. It would take breaking the knob completely to get back out again, but that wouldn’t be hard to do.
The door continued to shake for a few moments afterwards as the Shades were apparently trying to break it open while Cullen and Aislinn both watched, but it finally stopped after several moments.
Aislinn looked over at Cullen when everything grew quiet again as he muttered out angrily, “They haven’t given up, simply gone back into hiding for the next unsuspecting victims of their blighted magic.”
Aislinn agreed with that, and she looked back into the room in the meantime to see where they’d ended up, which was really nothing more than a storage room with a single window in the back that wasn’t big enough for anyone to fit through, and no doors that led out except for the one they’d just jammed shut for the moment.
So she sighed and stated the obvious, “Yes, and we’re trapped.”
Cullen looked back to see what she meant, and when he noticed that they’d chosen a storage room of all things, he let out a sigh of frustration. “They won’t be content to wait for us for long either.”
Aislinn went rummaging through some of the things in the room to see what might be about as he mentioned that, and she found the simple staff of an apprentice, plucking it up while muttering out, “This will have to do for now,” before she turned around to look at Cullen again who was definitely not happy with the situation. In response to his statement, she told him, “Oh, I think their arrogance will buy us some time. If they’re stupid enough to use blood magic, then they’re of course stupid enough to overestimate their abilities to some degree and think they can afford to allow us to stay locked in here for a little while. Long enough for us to come up with some kind of means for escape into the library anyway.”
He thought about that, deciding to say, “You might be right. But the two of us against four of them and their blighted pets aren’t good odds, even if I dispel their abilities. That would only silence your own magic, and we’d need it here.”
“I know,” Aislinn nodded, understanding his meaning. While a mage had the ability to pick and choose the targets of it’s magic, a Templar’s abilities were an area of effect type, which was why the two groups didn’t often fight together, or if they did, why the mages stayed a good reach away from a battle if they could - saying, that was, that their enemies were mages as well, otherwise the Templars abilities were mostly useless and there would be no need.
So, if Cullen were to invoke a Holy Smite on the mages outside of the door, Aislinn’s energy would also be muted for a while. It could work - four mages with probably little physical fighting ability wouldn’t stand up to even a single Templar for long. But if the timing was off and one of the mages managed to summon more Shades, or if the Shades were still out there, it would be a disaster.
It seemed like it was time to get creative, Aislinn thought to herself. “Four blood mages, one Templar, and an ordinary mage,” she mused aloud, trying to think of a way to fight out of this situation. Then she snorted, “It almost sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Four blood mages walk into a tavern, or however such a story might go,” she snorted.
“This is no time for jests,” Cullen pointed out seriously.
Aislinn had gone a bit blank in expression, having gone off in thought about potential stories, and she looked at Cullen suddenly and lifted a single brow, saying, “No, but it gives me an idea.”
Cullen looked at her curiously in response, asking, “What’s that?”
“Well,” she started, and gave him an explanation of the plan she’d thought up while considering her little joke, which Cullen was thinking might’ve been too risky, but it was definitely the best shot they had at making it out of there in one piece without having to face a very unfair fight.
Even still, he absolutely couldn’t help but consider that the plan was extremely ironic considering the situation. With some disbelief, he asked her, “This all came to you just now?”
“What?,” Aislinn asked in response. “Too random?”
“Something like that.” He shook his head and let out a sigh of breath, adding, “Let’s just get it over with.”
Only a few moments later, the door to the storage room opened after Aislinn had broken the knob off, rendering the door completely worthless now, and walked out into the hallway confidently, a devious smile on her face. The same four blood mages were still there, minus the shades however, and they took defensive stances at first but hesitated when Aislinn took to the role she had to play quickly and looked into the storage room she’d ducked into with Cullen before.
“Come along,” she said on a sweet voice, and she walked toward the mages who were eyeing her, and then eyeing the Templar who came trailing out of the room behind her suspiciously.
“What’s this?,” one of the women standing there asked as she turned to face them completely.
As Aislinn got a little bit closer, she said, “I hope the four of you don’t mind if I infiltrate the Library now, see what the story down there is, do you? I have this one under enchantment, so it’ll be perfectly easy for me to do.”
Cullen stayed quiet, pretending to be under some kind of enchantment spell which Aislinn had supposedly cast on him with blood magic so she could pretend to be one of them in order to slip past the threat with ease and into the Library. Cullen stared off into space as blankly as he could when the four mages looked at him and then back at Aislinn again, one of them asking, “Uldred told us to watch and wait for someone to come up from the Library, not barge down there and interrupt.”
So, Uldred was behind this, Aislinn thought to herself, but she just smiled despite the implication of the woman’s words and nodded at her, “I know, but it’s been too long with nothing happening. He figured having one of us ushered down there under the guise of being saved would be a good way to find out if things are going as planned or not, keep the ball rolling as it were.”
After Aislinn informed them of that well crafted lie - a lie that Cullen was surprised she could muster so quickly - came the suspicious question, “If that’s the case, then why didn’t you just explain so to begin with? Why’d you duck into that room?”
Aislinn rolled her eyes at the woman and replied, “For one, I don’t have to explain myself to you as if you’d given me a chance to before you’d jumped me anyway, and for another, I hadn’t yet gotten this Templar completely under my spell. I was still working on him when I was so rudely interrupted. Now that I’ve had time to finish though, as you can see,” she turned around and said to Cullen, “stand on one leg.”
Cullen complied without hesitation, feeling like a fool but he figured he felt like a fool around Aislinn most times anyway so now was no different. Once his foot was off the floor, Aislinn looked back at the mages, adding to her previous statement, “I’ve done that now.” She gave them all a proud look while they just grinned and chuckled.
“I still haven’t learned how to enchant that way,” one of the mages said. “You’ll have to show us how to.”
“I would love to order those Templars around like this constantly,” another added.
Cullen wished he could roll his eyes just then. Or grab his sword and use it, either way.
“It’s handy,” Aislinn agreed, thinking that in her case it’d taken a Templar who was willing to act, but she didn’t mention that of course. She then looked back at Cullen who was still on one leg, blinking over the sight of it. “Oh right, you can put your leg back down.”
Cullen did just that without question while the mages snickered softly. Maker, hurry up with this, Aislinn!
Thankfully, the next line their leader spoke was, “I apologize for the interruption then. We’ll make sure no one else goes down there who isn’t supposed to until you arrive with news.”
Aislinn smiled deviously at the woman and nodded before turning around and saying to Cullen, “Come on, we’ve much to do.”
“Yes, Mistress,” Cullen replied on a deadpan tone - not a difficult feat when you’d heard the Tranquil mages speaking so often - and he went to follow her to the stairwell, staying a few feet behind her constantly as if completely subservient. As they made it into the stairwell, and down the steps a good ways, Aislinn looked back to see that Cullen was being his normal self again - the look on his face was completely distasteful - while moving along ahead of her.
Aislinn let him pass while she said while they went, “Uldred must have been planning this for a long time now.” With a sigh, moving along down the stairs, she added, “Tricking this many mages into using blood magic doesn’t happen overnight.”
“I agree, and I’m worried about what those mages said, that they were to wait and see what came up from the Library, which means someone down there is working with him already,” Cullen replied, and reached for the knob of the door at the landing when they got to it, pushing it open slowly.
When it wouldn’t open straight away however, and he had to give it some effort, Aislinn narrowed her brows over her eyes and asked him, “What’s wrong?”
“Something’s against the door,” he said, moving to step through what he’d managed to get open of it while Aislinn watched as he peered around to the other side. She had no clue what he saw, but his face became grim as he breathed out, “Oh Maker…no…”
“What is it?”
On the other side of the door was a dead Templar laying on the steps who’d apparently died trying to escape something bad, books laying across the floor, the library mostly in disarray from what he could see. Cullen didn’t explain the sight to Aislinn, simply walked into the room as she followed, coming to stand near the downed Templar while sighing out the name, “Janson.”
As Aislinn got into the room and saw the man laying dead on the floor, she let a groan out softly before telling Cullen, “It’s everywhere now. Just like those mages told us.”
Cullen had knelt down as she spoke, and he reached over to shut the eyes of the young Templar he knew fairly well who’d died trying to escape his attackers apparently, saying softly to the lifeless young man, “May you find your place at the Maker’s side, my friend,” offering a short prayer. Once he’d finished, he rose back up and stared down at Janson remorsefully. Janson was young, a new recruit into the Order, and he didn’t deserve this. None of them deserved this, and Cullen wanted to make every mage pay who’d brought this down on their heads.
Finally, he replied to Aislinn’s comment by saying, “Yes, it’s looking more and more as if no mage can be trusted anymore.” Somehow, it hurt Aislinn to hear him saying that, and she glanced down at the floor, trying to think of a response. But before she could, he looked over at her and added, “Except for you.”
Somehow, she felt flattered by that, and Aislinn wanted to comment, but she decided that now definitely wasn’t the time. Instead, she just said, “I’m glad you think so, but now what? The Library isn’t safe anymore, and who knows what’s laying in wait around the corner.”
“I’ll have to go back and get the men down here. But those mages are still up there. They’ll know if we return that something’s amiss.”
“No, going back is out of the question,” Aislinn nodded in agreement. “But we can’t stay here either. Not alone.”
There really was only one way to go, and Cullen told her, “We’ll have to see for ourselves, and hope whatever we find isn’t something we can’t handle. There’s still a chance someone’s survived, and that’s important.”
When he said that, Aislinn looked ahead, knowing he was right because they already knew what lay behind them, so going forward was the only option. She walked the rest of the way down the steps and into the room with the thoughts in mind, pulling the staff she’d snagged from the storage room off of her back on the way. Candles flickered against the walls in the room, but most were burnt out, offering a dim lighting in yellow tones against the granite walls that wasn’t powerful enough to warm the stark cold chill of death in the air surrounding them both.
With every step they took, Aislinn knew they would make it to the corridor and into the main part of the library only to be ambushed by Abominations. Whatever had happened before though, it was very recent, because the scent of blood still hung heavy in the air. But they came to a stop when they heard chanting coming from around the corner just ahead of themselves, apparently a ritual of some type being performed. As they stopped at the corner, Cullen slowly turned and looked around the wall to see mages and Abominations in said ritual, watching one of the mages being transformed, and Aislinn managed to peak her head past the Templar she was with to witness it as well.
Once the images her eyes gave her told her what was going on, she turned and pressed her back against the wall quickly, not afraid of the monsters in specific, but afraid of becoming one as these mages were becoming.
Aside from that, Cullen noticed that there were Templars in the room with them as well, but apparently, they’d been enchanted, turned under the spell of a desire demon present with them. Cullen stood back when he saw this and then looked at Aislinn, seeing that she was a bit startled by it all, clutching her staff in her hands tightly. Her face was a mixture of sorrow and determination, and when he put a hand on her shoulder, she tensed and looked up at him.
Whatever he’d been about to say to her, he was interrupted. When Aislinn looked up at him, she noticed movement, and glanced to the side to see that an Abomination had come wandering their way. It looked up and saw them, then began heading toward them quickly without question. Being that it was behind Cullen, he didn’t see it right away, so Aislinn said, “Cullen, watch out!”
He turned around quickly to meet the threat she’d just warned him of, and as he did, the monster had already reached a large hand out and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him from the floor with what looked like all the grace of ease. Aislinn tried to intervene but a quick swipe of the Abominations free arm easily knocked her to the side and into the bookshelf where she stumbled onto the floor.
Cullen sputtered for breath as he was raised into midair, grasping the monster’s wrist with one hand while lifting an arm to his blade with the other. Just as the monster was about to lift its opposing arm after knocking Aislinn over and attack Cullen, Cullen grasped and tugged his sword from his back and then slung it to the side, slicing through the Abomination’s neck with ease before falling to the floor again along with the creature’s body, which toppled over on top of him while he tried to catch his breath.
Grunting with a little effort, then pushing the creature off of him, he looked up to notice that Aislinn had gotten back up and was preoccupied with casting a spell, an ice spell that had a gust of frost blowing forth from her free hand to freeze three more of the creatures that had come their way before they could reach the area. The small corridor they were standing in which lead into the main room of the Library seemed to be a good defense for Aislinn and Cullen as there was no way in for more than a few monsters at a time. Of course, they were only safe unless someone came down the stairs from behind them, but with what those blood mages had said, they were waiting for someone to come up, so for the moment, they were fine.
Cullen took advantage of the spell Aislinn had cast before it broke away and stood up, turning to swing his blade at the first Abomination which ended up shattering to frozen pieces under the blow. The other two were a bit further out however, but Aislinn was using her staff to attack from a distance, bursts of energy flying out of the magical weapon as she slung the bottom of it up from the floor, slamming a blast of energy into one of her currently frozen enemies to deal more damage to it before she turned and drew both of her hands together to follow up her cold spell with a shock of electricity.
Without wasting any time, she turned and threw her hands out, sending bolts careening into both of the creatures. The ice they’d become incased in shattered away from their bodies, and they both jolted under the magical electrocution, one of them toppling to the side while the other fell to a knee.
The vulnerable stance caused it to lose its’ head to Cullen’s sword as the Templar moved in and took advantage, decapitating it with a deft strike before spinning around and stabbing his blade into the second one with a harsh jab before the creature could regain its bearings. But of course, more were already heading toward them by that time, including Shades and the enchanted Templars, which was a much worse and unfair fight than the one they’d faced upstairs.
Quickly, Aislinn grabbed Cullen’s arm and tugged, saying, “Come on, I have a plan.”
Cullen decided to listen to her in that moment since her plans seemed to be fairly clever, and he turned to head back toward the stairwell with her, stopping only once to grab the side of a book shelf in passing it. With a grunt of force and a good amount of strength, he pushed the shelf over to buy them both some time. The shelf didn’t fall completely because of the small corridor it was located in propped the upper half of it up at an angle, but the books went flooding the floor, giving their enemies something to climb over before they could reach him or Aislinn.
She’d looked back when she heard the crashing while reopening the door to the stairs. As she did, she spotted Cullen moving toward her from the shelf he’d knocked over, glad he’d done so. As he passed her, she’d briefly wondered about casting a fire spell in the corridor to cause their enemies further damage when she suddenly felt Cullen grabbing her wrist and tugging her along behind himself. The sudden jolt made her gasp, but she began moving regardless.
“What’s your plan?,” he asked on the way up the steps.
“Pretend the Templars got the upper hand in the Library,” she rushed out back to him. “You know, we’re retreating from attack literally, just…from Templars, and not demons controlling Templars.”
Cullen might have argued that it was a bad idea because they were just leading more monsters upstairs, but it was a spur of the moment plan for one, they didn’t have much of a choice for another, and lastly, there would be reinforcements waiting for them in the stock room, so he didn’t complain. Instead, he got to the door on the upper level with her and simply pushed it open, deciding that fast and frantic would be more convincing regardless of if they believed he was under her spell or not.
The doors were flung open and the blood mages turned around to see Aislinn and Cullen in full sprint. To the blood mages, Aislinn called, “Hide! Templars arrived from across the lake and got the upper hand! They’re on the way up right now! They’re initiating the Right of Annulment!”
“Damn!,” one of the mages yelled as Aislinn and Cullen simply ran right past them and continued going even though the same one called out, “Wait! You can help us!”
Neither Cullen nor Aislinn stopped running or looked back, only disappeared around the corner as fast as they could go. As soon as they’d made it back to the chamber where the other Templars were waiting, Cullen rounded the corner into the room to find it…
Aislinn literally slid to a stop across the marble floor and bumped right into Cullen who barely budged in reaction, looking around the room frantically before she asked quietly and breathlessly, “Where are they?”
Cullen shook his head, uncertain he wanted to answer that question, and neither did Aislinn when she saw one of the Templars, Emin, on the floor dead. Figuring out they must have been attacked, Cullen and Aislinn both heard a few shouts down the hallway, and knew they didn’t have the time to piece together any puzzles just then.
Instead, Cullen reached over and took Aislinn’s hand, saying, “No time to look for them right now, come on.”
Aislinn didn’t question it, only went along with him as the mages they’d tricked came running down the hallway with the mob Cullen and Aislinn had attracted earlier just behind them, almost literally right on their heels.
But by the time their enemies arrived in the stockroom, their quarry was nowhere to be found.