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The smell of incense permeated Tyris’s nostrils as her vision cleared. She instinctively sat up, her head pounding like bombs going off inside again and again. Her memory began flooding back; she was being pursued by the Vengeance Paladin across the rooftops and, left with little choice, elected to jump.

She tried to turn to examine her surroundings and was greeted by astonishing pain as one of her broken ribs poked at her flesh. The fall had shattered several bones and the slightest movement invited agony. Her prosthetic leg, though still intact, was a grimy mess of splintered steel. Tyris looked down to see that someone had removed her vest and bandaged her torso. 

She looked around; she was in someone’s basement, and not just any basement; an adjacent Buddhist shrine spelled certain death for its inhabitants if discovered by Holy Land inquisitors.  Suddenly, she heard footsteps above her and a hatch in the ceiling opened. A woman and a young boy who looked to be about 7 climbed down. “Who are you?” Tyris croaked.

“You fell outside our home. The Holy Land were looking for you, so we hid you in here. I am Aida, this is my son, Ezra.” said the woman.

“Th-thank you. My name’s Tyris…Ungg!” 

“You must lie down; you’re in bad shape.”

“How long was I unconscious?” 

“About two hours. Please, lie down…”

“Where’s, where’s my gear?” Tyris asked. Ezra walked over to a nearby crate and pulled out her vest and tactical belt. He handed the belt to Tyris, who reached into one of the pouches and pulled out two autoinjectors: one for the pain, and one for adrenaline. She injected both into her arm.

“What are you doing?” Aida asked.

“I’m putting you in danger by being here,” said Tyris. Within seconds, she felt the pain dull and her strength return. “I need to find my partner and-“

The ground shook. Dust from the floorboards above rained on them as an ominous rumbling sound growled outside.

“What-?”

Ezra swiftly climbed the ladder to investigate. “What do you see, my boy?” asked Aida.

“The sky!” the son cried out from upstairs.

Tyris donned her vest and stood up. Against Aida’s protests, she climbed the ladder to see for herself. It was every bit as horrifying as the terror in the boy’s voice conveyed; where the sky used to be was an entire city, suspended in the air, upside down. Veins of lightning infused with dark energy arced violently, setting the Verangian Quarter ablaze. 

As if things couldn’t get worse, several Holy Land dropships were now on approach towards the city. One of them was struck by the dark lightning, rupturing its rotor and sending it into a fiery collision with the ground below.

“What in the world?!” Aida exclaimed as she climbed out of the basement.

It looked like hell on Earth. As the dark lightning became fiercer, causing mass devastation, Holy Land shock troops began descending into the city from their dropships. Tyris, despite her injured state, knew that the longer she stayed, the greater the risk of being annihilated by an errant flash of dark lightning. She had to escape the old city and reach the rendezvous point, a sewer entrance on the outskirts, where she and Kane agreed to meet up at in case things went awry.

“We have to leave now,” Tyris said, “Pack some food and water, quickly!”

“What?! We can’t just-“

Tyris pointed at the horror show happening outside, “You see those ships? Those are Holy Land assault troops; they only send them to cull civilians. And I don’t know what’s happening with the sky, but it isn’t safe here. Please trust me!”

Aida was hesitant to leave her home, but she knew Tyris was right. She gestured to Ezra, who quickly emptied out their kitchen drawers and scooped tins of canned food and water flasks into his backpack. The ground shook again as the chaos outside seemed to get closer.

A few minutes later, Tyris, Aida and Ezra were navigating the claustrophobic alleys of the old city. Though they lacked weapons and Tyris’s damaged leg forced her to limp, Aida was able to show her a secluded shortcut towards the rendezvous point. The sight of terrified city dwellers begging the sky for mercy was unsettling even to the battle-weary monster hunter. 

“Have you lived here long, Aida?” Tyris asked.

Aida was about to reply when she yelped as a bolt of dark lightning exploded in the distance, “Four years,” she said, “We used to live just south of Hawkmor. I volunteered as a nurse, but when the Holy Land murdered my husband, my son and I fled here.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Tyris said.

“Please, Tyris, can you tell us what’s going on? Why are you hunted by the Holy Land?” Ezra said.

“My partner Kane and I, we came here looking for…some friends. We got separated when the Holy Land came for us; we angered them when we rescued someone they had kidnapped. That’s how I wound up at your doorstep. I wish I knew what was going on myself; we just need to get out of here first.”

It seemed like they were making good progress until they heard a commotion around the corner. Tyris gestured for Aida and Ezra to stay put and peered around the adjacent wall. A squad of Holy Land troops were rounding up a group of civilians, tearing children from their mothers’ arms and lining up the adults against the wall. 

“Where is the heretic woman?!” one of the soldiers shouted as he waved a photograph of Tyris in their faces, “We know you’re harboring her!”

The civilians, tears in their eyes, shook their heads and prayed for mercy. They really had no idea. Aida’s curiosity got the best of her and she snuck a look, immediately being struck with despair when she saw what was going on. “What do we do?” she asked Tyris.

The soldiers cocked their rifles and took aim at the adults while the children watched helplessly. “Let this be a lesson, younglings,” the squad leader said, “You help the heretics, you die like them. Soldiers! Make ready!”

Tyris felt her soul stir wildly. On one hand, she had broken bones all over her body and was in no shape to take on the squad in a frontal assault. On the other, she did have her combat knife, her strength had recovered somewhat from the adrenaline shot, and the squad leader’s back was facing her. If she was going to do something, it had to be now.

Tyris unsheathed her tactical knife. “You’re not actually going to-?!” Aida whispered. 

The soldiers, their rifles at firing position, were so fixated on the civilians in front of them that they didn’t notice a hobbling Tyris rounding the corner. 

“Soldiers! Take aim!” the squad leader said, “FI-“

“Drop your weapons or I kill him!” Tyris shouted. The soldiers turned to see the injured monster hunter using their leader as a human shield, her black-bladed knife pressed against his jugular. With her other hand, she filched the man’s pistol from its holster and aimed it at the soldiers. “Do it!”

With the soldiers’ attention diverted, the civilians scrambled away, picking up their children and retreating to unknown safety. “Nicely done, heretic bitch,” the squad leader said. He then looked at his troops. “Soldiers of the Holy Land, remember your training. NEVER negotiate with heretics. It was an honor to serve you. Now do your duty! Farewell!”

That didn’t sound good. The soldiers understood. Without hesitation, they raised their rifles and pointed them directly at their leader, with Tyris standing directly behind him.

“Oh sh-“

The soldiers opened fire, the high-explosive rounds of their rifles vaporizing his armor and obliterating chunks of bone and flesh from his hardy body. Tyris could only use him as a shield for so long. Suddenly a round penetrated the man’s skull, causing his entire head to violently explode. The force of the explosion splashed Tyris’s vision with blood and brain matter, throwing her to the ground. The soldiers adjusted their aim at Tyris. She had nowhere to escape now.

The air around them started to ripple. The soldiers looked around in confusion as a great portal materialized before them and a screaming young girl fell out of it. 

“Aaaagh!” the girl screamed as she fell on the ground next to the soldiers. The distraction was brief, but more than enough time for Tyris to whip out the pistol she stole from the squad leader. With stunning accuracy, she emptied the gun’s magazine into the bewildered soldiers in the space of a second. They convulsed momentarily, as if disbelieving that they had just been taken out by an outnumbered and already injured opponent, before dropping dead.

“Are you alright?! That was amazing!” Aida said as she and Ezra appeared and helped Tyris to her feet. “You need to rest; painkillers or not, you’re making yourself worse.”

Tyris dusted herself off and winced as she clutched her side. “Ung! Hold on. Let’s see to our unexpected guest.”

The trio walked over to the girl, who looked at them with great confusion. She looked to be a student of some sort and had a powerful looking bow strapped to her back.

“W-w-where am I? Who-Who are you people?” she said as Ezra and Aida helped her up. 

“I’m Tyris. This is Aida and Ezra. You’re in the Old City. We saw you appear through some kind of portal.”

“P-portal?” the girl said, looking around frantically, “I…wait a minute…this is…oh no. Oh no no no no no!”

“What?”

“That…up there,” the girl said, pointing at the upside down city in the sky, “I-I’m from there! I’m from another…another world! Just like this one, but different. My name’s Ruby.”

The ground shook once more. “We can exchange life stories later,” Tyris said, “Right now we’ve got to-“

Without warning, a bolt of dark lightning struck the ground next to the group, tearing it asunder. Aida and Ezra were separated from Tyris and Ruby as a massive chasm split the earth open. “TYRIS!” Aida screamed as she and her son were carried away by the shifting earth. Another violent tremor caused Aida to lose her footing and tumble down. She clung onto the edge of platform while Ezra tried vainly to pull her up, but the shifting earth was causing her to lose her grip.

“Save yourself my boy! Mommy loves you!” Aida said. Then, her arms gave way and she fell into the chasm below.

“MOMMY!” Ezra screamed as the platform collapsed, causing him to slide behind an avalanche of rubble. 

On the other side of the newly formed chasm, Tyris and Ruby found a secure foothold on a rooftop. The path to the rendezvous point was still present, but now Tyris was faced with a tough decision. Ezra was lost beyond the rubble, while his mother was somewhere in the chasm. Alive or dead, there was no way to know. Tyris had to decide who she should try and rescue first, assuming that was even an option. She was too injured to rescue either on her own and would need Ruby’s help.

We’ve got to try and save Aida,” Tyris said, slinging one of the dead soldiers’ assault rifles on her back, “I saw her fall into the chasm.”

“Wh-what?!” Ruby said, clutching her chest, “How are we supposed to-”

Tyris pointed at Ruby’s quiver of arrows, “What are they made of?”

“These? Reinforced titanium, but-“

“Give me one,” Tyris said as she retrieved two piles of rope the soldiers used to descend from their dropship earlier. Ruby obeyed, and with some zip tie and tape from her utility pouch, Tyris attached the first rope to the arrow. She pointed at a collapsed building on the other side of the chasm. “Shoot this arrow into that building over there. Make sure it’s low enough to that platform Aida fell from so we can drop down.”

“O-okay…” Ruby said. She aimed at the most undamaged surface and fired. The girl’s compound bow was every bit as powerful as it looked; the arrow soared through the air and punctured the concrete wall effortlessly. Tyris tied her end of the rope firmly on an adjacent fence post. They now had a makeshift zip line to climb across the chasm with.

“Look, miss Tyris,” Ruby said, “Is it really worth risking our lives to-“

“I understand if you don’t want to help. I don’t know your story, but right now I’ve got to help them. They saved my life from the Holy Land. I owe them.”

“Holy Land?! Here? So those men you killed are-” Ruby said.

“Yeah, why the surprise?”

“Where I’m from, the Holy Land were wiped out…by the vampires.”

Tyris gave Ruby a disturbed look before grabbing onto the zip line. “Come on if you’re coming.”

As Tyris hoisted herself up and climbed across the chasm, Ruby squirmed where she stood, but the crack of dark thunder nearby scared her into following.

Slowly pulling herself forward along the rope, Ruby kept her eye on Tyris. Her stomach turned when she briefly looked down at the abyss below. It’s hard to believe that anyone, let alone Aida, could survive a fall in there. 

When she was just above the platform Aida fell from, Tyris dropped down, with Ruby following suit. Tyris pulled out the second rope, tied one end around her waist, and the other around a piece of rebar sticking out of the ground. “You know what to do?” Tyris told Ruby as she handed the rope to her.

“We-we learn rock climbing in school, so..so…WAIT! I know!” Ruby said. Thinking quickly, she took her compound bow and removed various components, reassembling it into a different looking contraption, “I never thought I’d get the chance to use this.”

“Use what?” Tyris said as Ruby finished re-configuring her bow. It now looked like a sophisticated pulley machine, with the bow’s steel spools now able to support the rope and the hand grip converted to a handle Ruby would turn to raise or lower Tyris. 

“Alright then,” an astonished Tyris said as she began her descent. 

With each leap deeper into the chasm, Tyris felt her fractured bones shifting and grinding from the strain; she was growing weaker with every exertion.

Finally, she reached the bottom, where Aida lay unconscious on a bed of rocks. “Aida, wake up!” Tyris said, shaking the woman. Thankfully, she opened her eyes.

“Tyris! I…you…where’s Ezra? My son?” 

“We’ve got to get out of here first, then we’ll find him, hurry!” Tyris said as she felt the ground rumble. Aida nodded and grabbed the rope, but screamed in pain.

“Aaahh! My arm…it’s dislocated,” Aida said, “Tyris, Tyris, grab my arm please. Hurry.”

Tyris obeyed. “Now pull it hard! One quick motion!”

The ground shook more violently. “TYRIS!” Ruby shouted from above, “Can I pull you up now?!”

“Hold on!” Tyris said. Counting to three, she yanked Aida’s arm towards her. Aida screamed as the bone settled back in the socket with a sickening crunch. She thanked Tyris before grabbing the rope. “Okay, do it now!”

Ruby vigorously turned the handle as a dark storm cloud hovered closer to their position, arcs of lightning shooting from it. Once Tyris and Aida reached the top, Ruby hastily reassembled her bow.

“Everybody slide down the rope!” Tyris said as she picked up two sticks of rebar and handed one to Aida, “Ruby, use your bow, Aida use this!”

They ziplined down the rope to the other side of the chasm, with Ruby using her bow as a handlebar and Tyris and Ruby using the sticks of rebar. They reached the other side in the nick of time, just as the chasm floor caved in and a flurry of dark lightning annihilated the area behind them.

“EZRA! WHERE ARE YOU?!” Aida screamed as she frantically searched for her son.

“I saw him fall over there!” Ruby said. They scrambled over to a pile of rubble and found Ezra underneath, covered in dust. He was conscious, but groggy. 

“Where’s my mom?” 

“I’m here, my boy!”

There was little time to consider their next move. The shockwave from the chasm collapsing was causing more tremors. Cracks spiderwebbed across the floor they stood on. “Um, can I suggest we get out of here?!” Ruby said.

Tyris agreed. With dark thunder crackling furiously and rubble raining on them from nearby buildings, the group scrambled for safety, with Aida leading the way. As they proceeded down a deserted street, Tyris halted the group.

“Shh!” Tyris said as she heard something. It sounded like a horse neighing. They cautiously rounded a corner and found a horse carriage; its driver and occupants lay dead in pools of their own blood, riddled with bullet holes. The horse, meanwhile, looked unharmed. “We could use that!”

Ruby nodded vigorously, but they had to figure out which of them would drive the carriage and defend against potential attackers.

After ushering Aida and Ezra into the carriage, Tyris and Ruby hauled themselves into the driver’s seat, with Tyris taking the reins and Ruby readying her bow. “Hya!” Tyris cried as she cracked the reins. The horse did not budge.

“Giddyup!” cried Tyris once more. The horse was completely uninterested.

“What’s wrong with the horse?” Ruby asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe we should-“

An arc of dark lightning exploded behind them, startling everyone including the horse. It neighed mightily and got off to a running start, tugging the carriage along with little effort and nearly throwing both girls off.

It had been a while since Tyris rode a horse, but controlling this one seemed quite straightforward; it had clearly galloped through these streets many times before. Thanks to Aida’s knowledge of the town, they were making swift progress to the rendezvous point.

As the carriage rolled across the cobblestone at breakneck speed, Tyris found a brief moment to get to know her unexpected new friend. “You said that where you’re from, the Holy Land was destroyed?”

Ruby struggled to keep her glasses on from the bumpy ride. “Y-yes. We studied about this in high school! The vampires, led by Last, made an alliance with the Dark Tower and wiped them out. The few survivors have gone underground and no one’s heard from them in decades.”

“How’d you end up here, then?”

“I was at the Trial of Rifts…it’s an archery competition sponsored by the Dark Tower at a place they call the White Tower. Then we heard a loud explosion and this same lightning started raining down on us; our instructor said something about a ‘violation’ causing all this and that we were colliding with another realm. We tried to run, but next thing I knew I was falling through space and that’s how I got here.”

Tyris could only listen and nod. It was a lot to take in; the existence of a parallel world that has somehow merged with hers. Worst still: this entire disaster was likely the result of her and Kane’s mission.

As they rounded a corner that would take them closer to their destination, Tyris could barely make out a faint buzzing sound above them. She arched her head, and it was just as she thought: A Holy Land strike craft had found them and was zeroing on their position. 

“We’re in trouble!” Tyris said as she cracked the reins harder, forcing the horse to gallop faster. Ruby looked up at the ship and panicked.

“Oh n-n-n-NOOOO!”

The strike craft fired one of its missiles. Tyris cursed and made a sudden sharp turn into a different street, nearly causing the carriage to tip over on its side. The missile exploded close to them, turning a massive chunk of the street into a fiery inferno while showering the group with rubble.

“Are you two okay in there?!” Tyris said.

“Yes!”

The craft fired a second missile.

“Hold on!”

This time Tyris steered them under a bridge. The missile struck it, but the horse carriage managed to escape from under it before it all came crashing down. Ruby screamed as she covered her head with both hands.

Tyris had managed to dodge two missiles, but she knew her luck was running out; there was just no cover in this town and the craft still had plenty of ammunition. Her heart beating rapidly as she drove the wheels off the carriage, she could hear the strike craft getting closer to them.

The craft swooped over them and made a quick 180-degree turn. It was now hovering only a few meters above the street and its anti-armor Vulcan cannon was pointing in their direction.

“Oh NO!” Ruby shouted, “WE’RE DEAD!”

“Not yet!” Tyris said as the carriage sped towards the craft. In the space of a second, there were three options to make.

“Shoot the pilot!” Tyris said as the strike craft steadied itself for the kill shot. 

“What!! I shoot target boards, not people!“

“Does it look like you have a choice?!”

“AAAGH FINE!”

Speeding towards a gunship with their names written on every one of its armor-piercing shells, Ruby stood up and struggled to balance herself on the rocky carriage. Her nervousness was overwhelming; the ship had stabilized and was ready to obliterate them. 

“HURRY!” Tyris shouted as they literally got closer and closer to their destruction. Ruby summoned her training and, in a rare moment of clarity, steeled her nerves and let an arrow fly.  Propelled by the insane strength of her German-made compound bow, the reinforced titanium arrow streaked through the air and punched a clean hole in the glass cockpit. From there, it shattered the pilot’s visor, bore itself into his eye socket and emerged through the back of his skull. 

The pilot maintained his composure. He tried to take aim once more at the speeding carriage, but with his targeting visor damaged and his depth perception out of whack, it was easier said than done. He pulled the trigger, unleashing a hail of devastating cannon fire, but the shells missed and blew apart the surrounding buildings instead. The pilot tried to correct his aim, but didn’t realize that his tail rotor had collided with an adjacent tower, ripping itself apart and sending the craft into an uncontrollable spin.

“Down!” Tyris yelled. Both she and Ruby ducked their heads as the strike craft swooped mere inches above them. Its frayed tail rotor slammed into the roof of the carriage, shearing it open and snapping all four wheels off. The horse panicked and tore itself free, galloping away from the danger.

“AAAAIIEEE!” Ruby shrieked as the carriage barrel rolled, throwing her and Tyris off. The strike craft continued its wild death spiral, slicing into a row of houses and spraying the area with debris and shrapnel before burying itself in the side of a building. 

Once the dust settled, Tyris and Ruby slowly pulled themselves off the ground. “Ohhhh,” groaned Ruby, “I think I broke something. I hope the pilot is okay!”

Tyris struggled more, thanks to her previous injuries. She had cut her face pretty bad from some shrapnel and, when she stood up, discovered a shard of metal embedded into her side. She screamed in pain as she ripped it out from her flesh.

“The family,” Tyris said, limping towards the overturned carriage, 

“Got to…get them…”

Tyris and Ruby grunted as they both ripped open the dislodged carriage door. Inside was Aida, cradling an unconscious Ezra. “Ezra! Is he-“

“He’s alive, but I need to get him help!” Aida said.

Just as they were helping the two out of the carriage, the sound of many footsteps caused Tyris to grab her rifle and prepare for the worst.

Alerted most likely by the strike craft pilot and the ensuing chaos, a platoon of Holy Land troops had arrived. Leading them was none other than Tyris’s unrelenting pursuer, the Vengeance Paladin.

“You see?” Vengeance said to her troops, “First they turn the world into an utter hell, then they try to run from it.” 

The soldiers slowly advanced on the injured trio. The Vengeance Paladin uttered familiar words that sent an icy chill down Tyris’s spine. “At last. You shall know what it is to be blessed.”

As if through some kind of ironic divine intervention, a horde of civilians appeared from the other side of the street and marched aggressively at the troops. They were armed with sticks, kitchen knives and other improvised weaponry. The hatred in their eyes suggested they had nothing to lose anymore. Aida recognized a member of the mob. “Skar!” she cried as she hobbled to a heavyset middle-aged man with her son in her arms.

“Aida! You’re safe!” the man, named Skar, said.

“Please, my son suffered a concussion-“

Skar immediately gestured for two men to come over and help. 

“My sons will take you somewhere safe. Go!”

“Wait!” Aida said, pointing at Tyris and Ruby, “These two, they saved us. They need to get to the storm drain entrance. We must help them.”

“The heretic woman and her ilk brought this devastation on your town,” Vengeance Paladin said in an unusually loud voice from the other side of the street. “They meddled where they shouldn’t have, and look where we are now.”

Skar lost interest in Tyris and Ruby and shouted at Vengeance.  “Get out of our city and don’t come back!”

“Watch your words, old man,” Vengeance replied in her steely cold voice while pointing at Tyris and Ruby, “We have come to purge your town of the heretics before you. THEY are responsible.”

Another man in the crowd spoke up. “They saved my family from being executed by YOU people!” He said as members of the crowd shouted in agreement, “We’re tired of you pushing us around; the Holy Land does NOTHING but DESTROY!”

“Enough,” said Vengeance as her troops readied their rifles. 

“Leave now, or there will be no mercy.”

“TO HELL WITH YOU!” Skar said. The mob roared in approval.

This was a powder keg ready to explode. The mob had numbers on their side, but the Holy Land had guns. Tyris had to decide what was the next course of action.

By this point, Tyris just wanted to lay down and die peacefully; her senses were being bombarded with pain from every part of her body. However, she realized that this catastrophe was probably her and Kane’s fault, as Vengeance said. She owed these people. 

“Ruby, help me up into that building there,” Tyris said, gesturing to the second floor of a nearby building.

“What for?” Ruby said while the crowd behind them moved closer towards the Holy Land troops.

“We’re going to give them cover fire.”

“You mean I have to kill more people??”

“Just the bad ones. Come on!” Tyris said as she hoisted her arm over Ruby’s shoulder.

The painkillers were slowly wearing off and Tyris was struggling to resist the delirious pain. Climbing up a flight of steps, the two of them arrived at a blown out window; a perfect vantage point. Right then, someone in the crowd threw a Molotov cocktail at the Holy Land troops. The soldiers quickly adopted a testudo formation and the improvised fire bomb exploded harmlessly against their shields.

“Fire at will,” Vengeance said. 

The soldiers unleashed the force of their firepower just as the mob charged at them. Their gunfire ripped through the mob’s front line, with Holy Land snipers appearing on the rooftops to pick off its key leaders.

With a perfect view of the battle, Tyris aimed down her rifle’s sights and methodically picked off the snipers with single shots, depriving the troops of their critical long-range firepower. She tried to find Vengeance, but realized that the Paladin was surrounded by several bodyguards who were using their shields to deflect the rain of rocks and Molotov cocktails. 

Ruby, after some initial hesitation, began shooting arrows with deadly precision at the rear guard, thinning their ranks substantially. “I’m going to hell for this…” she muttered to herself as one of her arrows pierced through a trooper and continued to travel, killing another trooper behind him.

At that point the mob had closed the distance and smashed into the troops, locking them in a bloody melee. No longer able to distinguish friend from foe, Tyris got up and slung her rifle. “We’ve done all we can for them. Let’s get out of here.”

On their way out, Aida spotted them and ran over to help Ruby hold Tyris up. “It’s this way!” Aida said as she held onto Tyris’s left side, while Ruby propped up her right side. 

As the din of the battle grew more distant, the pain all over Tyris’s body multiplied with each agonizing step. After the most excruciating twenty minutes of her life, they managed to reach the outskirts of the city. Tyris fell to her knees, nearly dragging the two women with her.

“Tyris, come on, we’re almost there!” Aida said. Tyris said nothing back; she had barely any strength to speak, let alone walk. Still, she took a moment to gather her strength, and slowly rose to her feet once more, screaming in pain as she did so.

As they neared the entrance to the storm drain, a figure appeared at the top of the stairs and Tyris felt she was finally free. It was Kane.

“Ty!” Kane shouted as he sprinted to her. Tyris broke away from Ruby and Aida to embrace her partner after what had to be their most hellish mission yet. Kane was on the brink of tears.

“She’s…coming with us,” Tyris groaned. Kane was about to respond when he felt Tyris lean heavily into him. She had lost consciousness. 

“Stay with me Ty!” Kane said as he carried her down the stairs, where a rowboat with Elder Eunice and the Exiled woman awaited. Ruby and Aida followed behind awkwardly. Kane pulled out an autoinjector to administer it to Tyris, but Aida interjected. 

“She’s already had a shot of adrenaline and painkiller!” 

Kane paused and turned around. “Who are you?”

“I am Aida, this is Ruby,” she said. “Tyris, she saved my family. She helped the people here.” 

Kane put the autoinjector back in his pouch. “Thank you for helping her,” he said, “But we can talk later. Get in the boat if you’re coming.”

“I must go take care of my son, but Ruby?” Aida said. Alone and stuck in a world she didn’t recognize, Ruby had little other choice.

Kane set his partner down in the boat while Ruby clumsily climbed in. A quick examination of Tyris revealed a myriad of injuries Her collarbone and ribcage were fractured. Her abdomen, face, legs and back were deeply lacerated. Several of her wounds were showing early signs of infection. She had helped the people of the old city, but at what cost to herself?

“Oh, sorry, excuse me” Ruby said. She then saw Elder Eunice and gasped. “Are-are you…Elder…Eunice?”

“I am,” Elder Eunice said. “Do I know you?”

“I…No, but where I’m from, there’s a huge bounty on your head!“ With everyone on board, Kane unmoored the rowboat and rowed them to the safety of the storm drain, with Aida waving goodbye before she returned to her people. “A bounty? Surely from the Holy Land, no?” Elder Eunice said.

“Uhm, no...the bounty was put out by the leader of the Vampires, Last,” Ruby said to a stunned Elder Eunice.

Amid the whirlwind of the past three hours, the unexpected clash of realms forced Kane to rethink his slowly burgeoning group’s next move. In addition to himself and Tyris, they were now joined by Elder Eunice, Leah and her brother Leia, and Ruby. What was to be the next step?

As the boat carrying Kane, Eunice, Ruby, Tyris, and the Exiled woman floated out the exit of the storm drain and down the lake, Ruby told Kane everything that had transpired.

“This is bigger than the Holy Land now,” Kane said, pointing at the hellish sky, “We’ve got to regroup and figure out what’s going on with this.” 

“I agree,” Elder Eunice said.

The old city burned brightly like a candle in the night. Dark lightning continued to strike furiously, and the storm that hovered over it was spreading outwards to the surrounding cities. Kane’s head was a mess of questions with few answers, but in a moment of clarity he steeled his resolve to regroup at their hideout and begin the next stage of their mission.

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