Level 28 ~ Andrew

The world had changed. Evil was still everywhere and the ruins of the Silver Temple remained profaned, but since the defeat of Letemra it was harder to find the evil. That didn’t do anything for Andrew’s mood, so he was really hoping the lead about the Klurichir in Norel Forest was accurate. He needed a good fight, and Oracle indicated he had good odds on finally getting one.

They’d left Calon about a month ago, still with a lot of unresolved tension between him and Vixie. Vixie had come with him, which he counted as a small blessing however much it hurt to have her so close and yet still not know if there could ever be anything between them. He’d messed up that night in Pender and kept going over the scene in his head since he learned the truth. He should have known better; “Vixie” had come into his room as soon as Patricia had left after he rebuffed her advances. Oracle could have revealed the illusion, but even more embarrassingly he should have been able to see through such low level deceptions with his demon eye. But he’d wanted to believe, so he didn’t question what should have obviously been a trick.

The party was back up to four for now. Taecendar wouldn’t leave Vixie the same way Vixie wouldn’t leave Andrew. The kid wasn’t as powerful as Feanthar, not quite as skilled as Sheya, but he was holding his own even in the tougher fights and honestly had saved them all a lot of pain and trouble from his brilliant performance in Calon and on. Vixie could do worse than Taecendar; and though he couldn’t say it, Andrew had to at least admit to himself that Taecendar could offer Vixie a much better life than Andrew could. Could he set aside his own mission? Was it possible that by helping defeat Letemra Andrew had already done enough to earn his own measure of happiness? He wanted to say yes, but no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t. He couldn’t stop. His mission wasn’t over.

And Naomi… She was a good kid. He actually liked her in spite of himself, and they were starting to make a damn good team on the field. Andrew didn’t want to get her hopes up about having any kind of future as a demon, but he knew she could read him and she’d been so cheerful since he’d started to accept her. Damn it. What did it mean for his mission that he cared about a demon goddess? She was a literal manifestation of evil. The only evil aura he’d ever encountered that was greater than hers was her father’s—not even Carnagia had come close.

“Everyone ready!” Andrew reflexively smiled as Oracle detected the klurichir demon just past the trees ahead. This is why he couldn’t stop; his greatest joy was still the eradication of evil.

Taecendar moved to cover Naomi as she got ready to begin casting spells, and Vixie disappeared into the foliage as Andrew set Oracle into Banisher and took point. The evil of the world knew he was hunting for it, and it was afraid of him. When all other sources of evil went to extraordinary lengths to hide from him, this klurichir was taking no such care. It was an enforcer, specially selected by the god-like demon princes themselves to eliminate the threat Andrew posed to them all.

The beast waiting for them was massive, easily thirty feet tall and flying out over a cliffside dropping off into the ocean. Its four muscled arms twitched as its mad eyes seemed to search for where to begin to slake its eternal bloodlust. Roaring from multiple mouths it sacrificed its flight advantage to rush Andrew.

Smiling grimly, Andrew received the charge with a holy counter-strike. Soon Vixie was on its back digging for vital spots with her claws while dodging the kluricher’s twitching counter-attacks. The fight could have easily taken an hour with the demon’s incredible endurance if it had just been Andrew and Vixie—and they would have come out of it pretty severely bloodied even with Vixie’s lycanthropic regeneration. This thing was pretty well out of Taecendar’s league, but he still managed to intercept any shots meant for Naomi, leaving the succubus-goddess free to heal their wounds and level devastating magical wrath upon the unfortunate demon enforcer.

It was over in one minute, and the essence of the most powerful non-divine fiend Andrew had ever encountered was sealed securely within Oracle.

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