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Shadow Slave - Chapter 287

Published at 8th of July 2022 06:13:53 AM


Chapter 287: Lonely Star

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Chapter 287 Lonely Star

The outer settlement had changed from the time Sunny saw it last.

At the point where the white road widened into the vast platform that the settlement stood upon, a tall stone barricade was built, with watchful sentries observing the approach to the crest of the hill. Each of them was wielding a Memory weapon and a sturdy armor, their faces full of dark determination.

The makeshift watchtower constructed on the roof of Neph's lodge loomed above them, with several archers ready to rain arrows on any Nightmare Creature that wandered close.

The slum itself was much the same, but the people populating it seemed different. Many of them were bruised and bandaged, but their eyes shone with the subtle light of hope that wasn't there or as strong before. That hope was contrasted against the suffocating feeling of tension that hung in the air. From time to time, someone would glance toward the castle and frown, a dark expression appearing on their face.

There was another detail that surprised Sunny. On the sleeves of many slum dwellers, a piece of pure white cloth was tied, as if announcing their allegiance to some god or goddess.

There had been none of that when he left this place a few months ago.

There were also graffiti drawn on the walls of the most derelict hovels, some of them depicting a shining star, some the image of a beautiful bronze spear.

'...What is that all about?'

The white armbands and the star were, obviously, meant to represent Nephis. But when had Effie suddenly become an apostle?

Glancing at the voracious huntress, he raised an eyebrow.

"Anything you want to tell me?"

She scratched the back of her head, then shrugged.

"I've become a bit of a folk hero, apparently."

Sunny shook his head and didn't press the issue.

'Whatever...'

When the sentries saw who was approaching, their faces first became shocked, and then lighted up with intense jubilation.

"Lady Nephis! It's Changing Star!"

"Lady Nephis has returned!"

"She is alive!"

The hum of voices spread through the entire settlement in an instant. If Gunlaug had not known that they were back in the Dark City, he would have learned of it now.

…But he knew, of course. He knew it long before the people of the slum ever laid their eyes on their supposed savior.

Sunny looked past the outer settlement, at the mighty walls of the Bright Castle.

How long before its Lord throws them a welcome party?

…Soon, the cohort was surrounded by a crowd of exhilarated people. Everyone wanted to see that Saint Nephis was alive and well with their own eyes. The other members were bathing in attention, too. Especially Effie.

"Effie!"

"Huntress Athena!"

"Welcome home, Effie! Show them!"

The huntress grinned in bewilderment and kept quiet.

In the crowd, there were a few faces that did not share in everyone's joy. They were the leaders of the outer settlement's hunting parties. The gazes they threw at Nephis were grim and full of meaning. She gave them a nod, letting the experienced hunters know that she understood the message they were trying to relay.

Then, Changing Star faced the inhabitants of the slum and took the bag that Effie handed her. Slowly unclasping it, she spoke, her calm voice effortlessly making the crowd grow silent.

"I am not good with words, so… please accept my gratitude, Dreamers of the Dark City. The past few months have been harsh on me and the members of my cohort, but they must have been equally as harsh on you. However, we have persevered. You here in these cursed ruins, and we out there in the ghastly depths of the Labyrinth. But all of it was not in vain."

With that, she took something from the bag and tossed it to the ground. Suddenly, a deathly silence settled over the crowd. Everyone was staring at the object laying on the stones, expressions of fear clearly written on many faces.

It was a terrifying, jagged black talon, which was as sharp and long as a sword.

And then, another one fell near it, and another, and another.

Eventually, thirty-eight of these dark blades lay in a pile in front of Nephis — thirty from the six front limbs of the Spire Messenger, and eight from the two hind ones.

Closing the bag, Nephis put it on her shoulder and said, her tone dark and piercing:

"Out there in the Labyrinth, we have fought and slew one of the cursed Messengers of the Crimson Spire. I bring you its claws as a gift, to become your weapons."

Stunned whispers ran through the crowd. The Messengers were both a symbol of terror and a symbol of hope to the people of the Dark City — terror because of their horrifying power and appetite, as well as their connection to the dreaded Spire, and hope because of the legends that once, a long time ago, a group of powerful Sleepers had managed to kill one.

And now, the legend came alive right in front of their eyes.

Nephis lingered for a moment, and then sighed, a somber note appearing in her voice.

"Many years ago, we, those who were sent to the Forgotten Shore, weren't yet imprisoned by fear. Enthralled by the sin of those cowards who had forgotten that they are, first and forever, humans. Back then, there were people among us willing to risk their lives to conquer this hell. Escape it. The First Lord and his companions were the greatest of them. And now…"

Brilliant sparks of light suddenly appeared around her head like a sacred halo. Changing Star's eyes shined with pure white radiance, and, as the Crown of Dawn weaved itself from light and fell upon her head, she spoke.

She didn't rise or even strain her voice, but the impact of her words only grew because of it.

"...I have brought his legacy back to the Dark City. This is the crown of the First Lord. We have retrieved it from a place of eternal darkness where he had fallen in battle. He died trying to find a way out of this cursed land for all of us to follow."

She paused for a moment and then said, her face illuminated by the brilliant white flames that burned in her furious eyes.

On her forehead, the single gem decorating the Dawn Shard shone with that brilliance, too.

Almost like a third eye.

"And with it, we will finish what he started!"



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