Kelsandra, Chapter 13

Kelsandra thought she saw a figure move in the dark window of the otherwise well-lit Almuten Mansion and her gaze at the pane lingered for half a moment too long—

The Spider Queen shot webs at Kelly’s torso and wrapped her up in the sticky ropes. Her legs were free of the web; she tried to move those, but they were immobiled as well.

“Pay attention, Kel!” Valgar’s deep voice rumbled from the other side of the Queen.

Humiliated, she replied, “You shut up!”

An asura ran from Valgar’s side around the Queen while having his head turned towards her; he rolled to dodge another patch of webs, then shot a cone of fire out of his mouth right at the body. Sterjin, somehow excited by this, sunk his claws into one of the Queen’s legs and jumped up, landing a deep bite on the base of that leg.

Her fangs separated as she screeched at the midday sun. Kelly scrambled for her bow. She knew she had her shot, and she was missing it due to her own obliviousness only a few seconds before. The webs were much looser, with help from the fire that the elementalist had conjured. She staggered to the side and regained control of her legs; shaking out her arms, she held the bow and an arrow in both of them only an instant later.

Her shot at the Queen’s weak point was gone. Sterj had unhooked himself and was now trying for another shot at the base of another leg, to inflict yet another satisfying amount of damage, but Kelly whistled at him to retreat, anticipating the Queen’s attack. He sprinted towards his owner, and the Queen’s preparation to bite him ceased. It wasn’t worth the trouble. She took two heavy steps toward Valgar, whose clones were fighting off the last of the hatchlings while he shot spells at her. That was to be admired.

They’d spent the last week in the woods training together, trying different combat techniques, and this was supposed to be their test. With only the one asura there to help them, Kelly hadn’t been sure whether they’d be ready to take on the Spider Queen, and was mostly encouraged by the chance to see Almuten Estates, for the still-embarrassing reason that it had been the site of a rather nasty run-in with pirates in one of her favorite books as a child. Kelly never actually anticipated that they would be doing well against the Queen.

But it was obvious she was growing weary. She staggered on the leg that Sterj bit, and her aim for the webs was off. It was almost as if they were at victory already.

Kelly shot arrows in rapid succession at the Queen’s body, and she fell, flailing her legs around, determined to hit Valgar or the asura, the only enemies she could see.

Valgar sent out jets of blue smoke, which intermingled with the small shot of fire that the asura blew out of his mouth, just enough to ignite the Queen, and she turned over on her back and collapsed, completely motionless.

“We did it!” Kelly laughed. She swelled up with pride and put away her bow. She felt stronger now, the difference being more considerable than after any battle before this. She looked to her teammates, who were calmly and silently walking up to the Queen’s body to collect the spoils. The norn and the asura exchanged a few words. Kelly excitedly ran up to Sterj and hugged him. He grumbled happily. Or angrily; she couldn’t tell.

The asura bounded off, and Valgar pointed in the opposite direction, along the river. “Right down there’s Lion’s Arch,” he called out to Kelly. “He said we can’t miss it.”

They walked towards the river together, and Kel looked back at the Mansion. “Have you ever seen the Estates before?” she asked.

“Once, as a child.”

“It was scary to fight without masks.” She stroked her drake’s back as he kept up right beside them, excitedly anticipating the river.

“We’ll find a tailor. I think Belszarus can craft something like that. Definitely for you.”

Sterj swam beside them as they walked parallel to the river and soon saw the ruined gates to Lion’s Arch. When Kelly would look back on being at Lion’s Arch in its time of ruin, she would swear that there was fresh smoke coming out, from various sources, as if the fire that destroyed most of the region had only been freshly put out.

This was false, of course. It looked more like an ancient, dilapidated city, where one would have to watch their step.

The popularity of the region among all walks of life despite its pirate infestation and rundown appearance said a lot about the history of Lion’s Arch. Valgar and Kelly stopped at the ramp, and beside them, Sterjin leapt out of the water. He smelled strongly of fish, and Kelly hoped that meant he’d eaten for the day.

At the top of the ramp, they reached a pathway overgrown with bushes.

“Should we be worried about anything?” Kelly asked quietly.

“Just keep on your guard,” he answered.

They turned right onto the path, and after a minute, one of the bushes rustled, as both had anticipated.

A short, thin charr jumped out wielding a staff.

The two got their weapons at the ready, but the feline didn’t appear to be interested in attacking. “Friend or foe?” he purred out in a high voice, clumsily holding up his staff.

There was a moment. They kept their eyes on him. “Friend?” Valgar said.

“Oh!” Kelly said in her realization. “He’s a child, Valgar.”

“Right.” He squinted. “I think that could be—who we’re looking for.” He pointed up the path and both Kelly and the little charr looked. Valgar stepped forward and snatched the staff from his hand.

“Ow!” he said.

“Don’t play with that.” He put his other hand up in a wave to the charr running on all fours toward them. “Yes, that’s Belszy.”

They waited for her to reach them, and Kelly was to befriend a charr for the very first time.

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