88 The Carnage of Gluttony*
The River Market where Aegin had left Phillip was nearly overrun by the time he returned. Some guard patrols were putting up a fight around the edges, trying to prevent the beasts from going any further, but their efforts were barely making a dent.
Aegin himself had abandoned his horse and scaled the three storey buildings surrounding the square, trying to get an optimum position for his bow. He'd even stolen two additional quivers of arrows from a guard station, not that they'd been around to protest. He'd fired off countless arrows at this stage, exhausting his own quiver and making a dent in the second. The good news was that the arrows were quite effective. Despite the creatures' rabid behaviour, they were still human-like when they took damage. To add to Aegin's advantage, they all seemed far more concerned with satiating their hunger than organising any kind of strategic defence. Because that was what it was. Pure and unrestrained hunger was the only thing that seemed to be driving them.
Aegin nocked another arrow and drew back the bowstring, aiming at one of the many rabid creatures below. Just as he was about to release, he sensed something approaching from behind and turned rapidly to fire. A few metres away, stood his father.
Raymond Shadowsmith barely recognised the young man before him. Not only was his son older, but the Aegin he'd exiled would not have been able to sense Raymond so far away, let alone had the discipline to stop his attack right as it was starting. The two stared at one another for a moment, then Aegin turned back to face the square and fired his arrow.
"Don't just stand there," Aegin growled, "Phillip is down there. Do your duty".
His father was silent, but after a few seconds, Aegin could no longer sense the man. He released a breath, unaware that he'd even been holding it. After not seeing his father for two years, Aegin had expected...well, he honestly wasn't sure what he expected seeing as he'd never thought he'd see his father again. But still, even if Aegin had only seen him for a moment, the respect he'd seen in Raymond's eyes was more than enough. Did it make up for the years he'd spent as nothing more than a soldier? Perhaps not. But it was something he had never earned before, and that was enough.
Aegin focused back on the battle happening before him, and loosed another arrow.
Phillip had to admit, although his time as a knight had only been brief, he had never been in such a high intensity fight for a prolonged period of time. He hated to admit it, but age was beginning to wear on him. He dodged left and right, striking and slashing with his longsword whenever he got the chance. He didn't know how many he'd actually managed to kill, but he did know that they died, their still bodies were more than enough evidence for that. But their rabid nature...it reminded Phillip of old fears. Fears he thought he'd buried with that mass grave of rabbits he'd found near a fallen tree. When he'd thought that his son had turned into a monster, and he'd tried for hours to come to terms with it. Unlike his son however, these creatures could not be reasoned with. The only thing that existed to them was blind, unrestrained gluttony.
He had no problem deciding whether or not to kill these creatures.
Another thing he'd discovered watching those innocents who ran in vain? If the blood of those creatures mingled with someone normal, or if the blood was ingested, and it would be the end of them. They'd join the gluttonous ranks. Such a fast-spreading phenomenon, it was no wonder this portion of the city had been pushed into absolute chaos so quickly.
Phillip turned, swinging his sword at waist height and stepping forward to stab another before rounding his sword around his head and turning back. They just kept coming. He could barely pause for a breath. He kicked out towards another, then swung his sword down, a cool chill spread across his neck and-
It was gone in an instant, and Phillip turned to see an individual he didn't think he'd ever lay eyes on again beheading the would-be murderer.
"So, you trained my son?" Raymond's daggers were lethal, he barely paused to say that much as he twisted and turned to finish off a few more.
Phillip frowned, then looked up to the rooftop where he'd long ago realised Aegin had made his perch.
"He had the basics trained already," Phillip replied, turning back to the battle.
"Thank you," Raymond replied, "For not giving up on him like I did".
Phillip glanced briefly at Raymond, "You're not the only one that gave up on his son".
"So, you do have a son?"
Phillip smirked, "Still not asking questions are you? I told you that's a bad habit".
He swung his sword once more, then was pushing into Raymond's back, the two men holding each other up.
"Gods, shut it with your nagging," Raymond snapped.
Phillip grinned, he hadn't realised how much he'd missed this. He'd grown up with the Ridge Men by his side, far closer to them than he had been to his ever-ambitious brothers and sister.
They fought by the moonlight and the small spot fires that had broken out from dropped torches. It was difficult in the darkness, but they were both trained warriors, they wouldn't let something as silly as darkness stop them.
Suddenly, the moonlit darkness seemed to fade further, and Phillip took the chance to glance upwards. What he saw was the first of many incidences that would later earn the Lord of Night his name.
A shape greater in size than any bird plummeted to the ground, bat-like wings spread far enough outwards to block out the moonlight.
It was only when Rassa was approaching the market square on the north side of Fountain Ridge that he realised he hadn't practiced landing. Still, it was a little late to worry about control, and if he had any broken bones from the fall they'd heal anyway.
He let himself fall, then, metres away from the ground, spread his wings wide to catch himself, and rapidly clapped them down. The sound that rocketed through the square was like thunder.
Rassa landed hard, then rolled to absorb the impact, he immediately folded his wings and willed them to vanish into the shadows as he stood and drew his short swords.
The square had seemed to pause with his arrival. All those creatures born of his blood, they sensed what he was, who he was. And in that instant when Rassa stared all of them down, he let them know exactly what the punishment was to giving in to their desires.
All except one, who in the stillness, crashed into a warm body hard enough to crush bone. The body went sailing across the square, and rolled to a stop in a clearer area. Rassa froze when he saw that face, that hair, those eyes. Then he watched as his father coughed up blood.
Rassa's grip on the stolen swords tightened, and his gaze turned to the culprit.
The shadows swallowed the night.