• Published 7th Jul 2017
  • 593 Views, 22 Comments

Hunter's Path - SwordTune



In a time long forgotten, unicorns and pegasi were nothing but mutants, and monsters ravaged the land as much as famine, war, and pestilence. The only hope for any pony's salvation was a professional. A monster hunter.

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Contracts in Bovinus

The place Lavender took them to was not what Fiora or Thesa expected. "It is so good to be safely away from the outside rabble!" Thesa called out, collapsing onto a soft couch in her aunt's living room.

The building was not in the dying neighborhoods of the city's edges, but rather a beautiful manse in its protected center. It had its own walls and guards, wards and runes set by trained magicians. Fiora looked outside the living room window. Even the front gardens was tended by six laboring bulls, watering and fertilizing carrots and grain.

Her house wasn't really a house. Fiora was trained in two monster hunter castles. She knew what a fortress looked like.

"Glad to see your suffering's made you more understanding," Fiora mumbled at Thesa.

The young mare's face soured and looked up from the couch. "I said you'd be paid for my safety, not to judge me, hunter. I doubt any peasant knows what its like to lose their home and be tortured under false accusations."

Fiora gave no response. Her father raised a sheltered child protected by walls, and instead of seeing the world outside, she just ran to new walls.

"Now, now," her aunt said sweetly, returning from her bedchambers with a fresh change of clothes for Thesa. She leaned in closer to whisper. "Never let any pony see they can irk you. If you make them doubt, then you've already won."

"Not that I don't appreciate the stay, Lady Stranglethorn," Fiora interjected, pretending her mutant ears didn't hear the advice, "but your niece said I'd be paid."

"Oh, well I have influence all over the city," she said bluntly as if that were all that was needed. When she saw Fiora wasn't pleased, she relaxed her position. Her sharp, piercing face turned, however, to a frown of slight annoyance.

She beckoned a servant standing at the door to bring a chest. "But hunters don't accept favors as payment. Gold, then."

The young stallion opened the chest and declared its contents. "Six golden plates, Master Hunter."

Bovinus plates were rarely used in countryside towns, who only traded with nearby cities. But it was a currency for Masters of Coin, bankers, and nobles. A single plate could replace nearly all of the equipment that Commander Crosscut's soldiers had stolen. The servant shut the box and placed it in Stranglethorn's hooves.

"But however much I love my niece," she said, locking the box, "she's yet to learn that she can't manage money that isn't hers. I did not agree to your contract with her."

Fiora frowned but kept herself restrained. Stranglethorn was not nobility of the city, that much was clear with how she handled the guards, along with the fact that she owned an establishment in the poorest boroughs. Regardless of how she came to money, however, she clearly used it to make herself a merchant elite. One not only very deadly, but probably dealing in illegal businesses. One accustomed to using leverage to her benefit.

"You will be paid, of course, provided that you can complete the contracts I have for you." She opened the locked sliding door to her personal study, a room adjacent to the spacious foyer, and retrieved a list from her desk. Fiora glared at Thesa for pulling her into her aunt's business, but the young mare paid more attention to the maid talking about how she'd have her mane styled.

"My associates value the safety of those who aid us," Stranglethorn said, running her hoof down the list. "And a few of these monsters threaten the ponies and bovines who work so hard for our business."

"Love to help," Fiora told her without any effort of concealing sarcasm. "But hunter's can't rely on magic alone, and I don't have the equipment to hunt anything more than a couple of corpse eaters."

She waved the problem away. "My personal blacksmiths are at your disposal, as is my private doctor. He's sure to have whatever ingredients needed for your potions and whatnot."

It was awfully generous for a mare withholding payment for her niece's safety. Money was never the problem, just Fiora's compliance. Hunters were in high demand and could refuse contracts too dangerous, or not worth their time. But she had nothing now, and Lavender Stranglethorn was not a mare to miss such an opportunity.

"Fine," Fiora sighed begrudgingly. "I'll look into your monster problems."

Stranglethorn gave her the contracts that threatened her business so immediately. "One gold plate per contract. The names of my associates who issued them are on the paper, if you have any questions it shouldn't be hard to find such notorious individuals."

She turned and looped her hoof around her niece's, taking her upstairs followed by maid. Fiora sat for a moment looking through the contracts while the two chatted over what makeup could cover her scars. It never ceased to amaze Fiora, how ponies could so easily run from their problems if they had enough money to cover the scars. But there's never makeup for the blemishes ponies don't see.

"A vampire problem?" she said to herself at the last contract. The others had suspected monsters, but this was the only one that was certain of what monster was causing problems. It was unfortunate that knowing about a vampire didn't help much to deal with it.

"Let's hope this smith knows how to work with night silver."

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Despite her resources, the best Stranglethorn's tailor could produce was a black gambeson covered by a dark blue wyvern hide jacket. The wyvern hide was durable, but as a single thin layer it would not protect much from a knife or spear thrust. But what the tailor lacked in inventory was well made up by Stranglethorn's spectacular blacksmiths.

Fiora felt a certain comfort working by the forge again. She was by no means a master, but despite the experience of the blacksmiths employed by Stranglethorn, neither husband nor wife of the "Bloody Iron Workshop" knew how to incorporate night silver into their weapons. Few did, in fact, since it was one of the many closely guarded secrets of the hunters. Only renowned weapon smiths were ever taught the secret, and those masters were sworn to equal scrutiny of whom they passed their knowledge to.

Because Fiora did not need a horseshoe attachment on her grip, it left a lot of room for detailing. The husband polished the carved pommel. The steel and night silver mix took the form of two heads facing away from each other, a hawk and a wolf, and symbolized the cynogriffon discipline of monster hunting.

The wife worked on the wire-wrapped handle, twisting twelve individual golden wires together to form a thicker cord to go around the grip. The piece of wood, hollowed to fit around the tang, took the wire in its grooves, carved out to hold the wire in place until it was tightly bound.

Fiora watched the blade rest in an oil bath as they worked. They may not have known the secrets of night silver without Fiora's help, however, their craftsponyship of steel was marvelous. She wasn't keen to judge on looks alone, but given their skill with metal and their black manes with a grey, coal-spotted coat, she guessed they were from farther north.

Iron and coal mines were rich in the northern coast, a good thing since it lacked many farms, and dozens of clans were raised on money made from mastery over metal.

After seeing them twist and hammer steel, and as she kept an eye on the temperature of the oil the blade rested in, she couldn't help but imagine the blade that would come out. And in a day's time, she fantasies were realized.

"Zlotamesser," the husband said as he presented the sheathed weapon. "Ts'an old name from bovine legends, a hero's tale about killing giants. But you have equally dangerous monster, aye?"

Their heavy accents were rare, but not unknown in the north. Many ponies still hailed from tribes in unconquered lands, where languages and cultures mixed with that of yaks and goats.

"What do you know about the vampire?" Fiora asked as she took the weapon, feeling its balance.

"Stranglethorn and her partners say he is big threat," the wife spoke, her accent slightly less but still distinguishable. "He is known as Island Hopper--he sails to his privately owned islands routinely."

Her husband waved his hoof in disapproval. "They found ma friend, known 'im my whole life, drained on the coast outside the walls. Naught but a messenger, and he's still dead." He scoffed in disgust. "Terrible zchist."

Fiora practiced her strikes while they talked, testing how well she could change the direction of her strikes. Zlotamesser did not disappoint. "This Island Hopper, he have a place to stay in the city?"

The two looked at each other for a moment, and the wife took a deep breath as if to steel herself. "We take risk to tell you, but for my husband's friend, we want you to know. Island Hopper owns a big inn by market. Uses poetry meetings as front to mark new prey."

"A vampire poet," Fiora mused, sheathing her new sword. "This guy keeps getting better. The bodies?"

"All buried," said the husband. "Except the ones he killed last night."

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The Golden Hills Song and Dance Inn was situated beside the market square. Fiora sniffed the air and listened to the sounds of merchants and craftsponies selling their wares. The description of the vampire's pony form was clear, black mane with a light orange coat and a lute cutie mark, however if he could hold another form in daylight then he was a strong vampire indeed, and capable of taking other forms as a disguise.

But first she needed to track the scent of the victims, and to do that, she needed to find them. The blacksmiths, Mr. and Mrs. Bellow, said Island Hopper had killed two workers at one of Stranglethorn's warehouses, one containing certain goods she did not want the city guard to find. So the bodies were left there, untouched by the authorities.

The building was close, an easy target for a concealed killer, but completely sealed off. No pony outside the walls of the warehouse could hear the dripping inside. Fiora followed the sound through a small crack in the back, forcing her way through a wood panel that had come loose.

Inside, she saw the two victims hanging by their hindlegs, necks ripped open and dripping red into porcelain bowls. She uncorked a vial, one of many medicines given to her by Stranglethorn's personal herbalist, and drank the brown fluid. She gnawed on a drukivac fang, swallowing the powder she ground off it.

The combination with the medicine sharpened her eyes, and in the darkness she could see better than a cat. Her eyes trained on the bodies, and with her magic assisting the potion's effect, no detail escaped her. Their necks were crushed by a powerful force, then gashed open with a bite.

They still dripped slightly, but the blood pooling in the bowl was shallow. The vampire had already drunk the rest. One of the workers had fractures in his back, all throughout the thick parts of the ribs; the damage was mostly internal, but left minor damage in the skin where blood had tried to clot in the capillaries. Fiora looked at the plank she squeezed through to enter. He must have been thrown with deadly force against the wall.

Even if they had died quickly, blood should still have pooled and clotted in parts of their body from the thrashing the vampire inflicted on them. He must have used a blood thinner, one he could hide in the wines that was served at his inn.

"It's been too long since they died," she said, sniffing around them. "No trace of the blood thinner."

She circled around the warehouse, examining the damage caused by the vampire's attack. A chest's lock was cracked open, and a few shelves had dropped their canisters, with the contents spilled on the floor. Bottles of various acids, hydrogen peroxide, and other elements Fiora couldn't make sense of. Despite her knowledge of potions, the detail of the components in both the chest and on the shelves were chemicals produced by mages, likely also in Stranglethorn's employ.

Fiora picked up one of the dropped canisters and checked the label. She thought she recognized the smell; it had held pure sulfur, and the stench of that element wasn't hard to miss.

"Now I know what I'm looking for," she said, leaving through the way she came.

She entered the Golden Hills Song and Dance Inn with her senses extended, but it was nothing like the Weeping Whale. Drinks were served all around, but the air was completely dominated by a single scent. Incense burned at every table like candles, calming the air and the ponies enjoying their evening. Hoofs clapped as one poet stepped off stage and more took the spotlight.

Fiora honed her senses with magic, focusing on sulfur and trying to block out everything else, but the incense smoke was simply too powerful for her to detect it from such a distance. She'd have to search around the crowd to find where the vampire had hid himself. He had to have been in the audience, if he was tracking another victim. Unfortunately, with the night performances beginning, the vampire would surely spot a hunter snooping around in the middle of a song.

She ordered a bottle of Bovinus Spiced Spirit, a popular drink exported from the city, and took a table in the middle of the audience, keeping her senses on a swivel around her.

A small band of a few drummers and vocalists accompanied the two poets on the stage, who sat upon a stool at the edge, facing away from the crowd. They were in full view, all except their faces. Fiora had known performers before, all with a gimmick of their own. She had never met performers humble enough to hide their faces for mysterious effect. The audience, too, was drawn in by this entrance. Silence fell upon the crowd as one poet, a stallion, sang the first note.

S'ae mo laehk mo gihla mar,

S'ae mo stat'esair, gihla mar,

Ni fhar-sefein ne tiuahn aon faine,

Yh cueihg-i-gaen, mo gihla mar.

The drummers began beating and all together the accompanying chorus broke into a perfect unison. Their voices were raised a few notes more than the first poet, matching the uptick in the rhythm of the song.

S'ae mo laehk mo gihla mar,

S'ae mo stat'esair, gihla mar,

Ni fhar-sefein ne tiuahn aon f'aine,

Yh cueihg-i-gaen, mo gihla mar.

Dying down, the chorus and drums gave room to the audience's ears as the stallion returned his voice to the air. Now, even Fiora had her attention grasped, though she hardly noticed.

Gimse aon bua biur'd gach li,

Ach cueihgs ocua s'a tiuoir na-nir

Mha scueihaedh uaim nu buerchaihl bih

Ueis-A-riom'tar tueirsc uerdh, mo laehk.

The switch repeated itself as the chorus and drums took over once more, repeating a few times the pained words of a pony letter his lover sail away. Fiora wasn't literate in the Northern Yak-Bovine creole. But what she did know, the words "S'ae mo laehk mo gihla mar," spoke to her. Sail my love, my gallant star. After a few repeats, the stallion's warm voice of bittersweet pain returned for the final stanza.

Ni heobun couhk A suaer garn m'iorn

Thahd feorchorn ueis laer uthe vort

Taed sehait suaite i muaerb ids miuorn

Yh scueihaedh uaim nu buerchaihl bih

The closing voices was the whole group, repeating the chorus a few more times to the captivated faces of the crowd. But, as their voices quieted, away, Fiora's senses returned to her. She still sensed nothing of the sulfur, but the voices of the singers held something more in their voices. Honing her magic on the sound, it was like listening through water, a thickened hum of magic that ponies couldn't hear.

Their voices were talented, she wasn't disputing that, but a weak effect added an enchanting effect on any listener. The magic was too weak and uncontrolled to be any kind of hypnosis or illusion spell, but the sheer presence of magic put her on edge.

Finally, with a standing ovation from the audience, the two poets rose and bowed to the crowd. It surprised Fiora that one was a mare, when the dominant voice of the song was a male's. She must have been the prevalent female voice in the chorus, though why she didn't stand with them was a mystery to Fiora.

Something in the mare's look caught Fiora for a second. Masked by her stunning beauty, Fiora could feel the resonance of powerful magic. The mare was looking, she realized, straight at her. No, it felt more like straight through her. Drawing attention was expected as a hunter, a mutant, and a pony wearing a sword among common folk. But this not a fleeting glance, but a knowing look, and it has always been said that knowledge is power.

Fiora remained in her seat but watched as the poets and other vocalists joined the audience. Her training kept her calm outside, but inside fear stirred. It wasn't fright, but rather the anticipation of coming to blows with something powerful. Would the vampire disguise himself as a mare? Fiora shook that pointless question out of her head. What mattered was if he would threaten her in public.

But she only walked by, passing a whisper. "Second floor, room six." Fiora turned to grab the mare to ask more, but even though it was immediately after, the mare was no where to be seen. No other pony seemed to be bothered, or even notice, her vanishing.

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Fiora kept her senses sharp as she approached the room. There were two distinct voices speaking inside, whispering, but her ears could still pick them up. She guessed it was both poets from the stage.

"There she is," the mare pointed with her hoof as Fiora entered. Her wing was tensed and wrapped around her sword, but the two didn't seem to be bothered.

The stallion stepped forward, putting himself between his partner and Fiora. "You must be the other hunter they sent. Yes, I am the vampire you seek."

Finding a clue to her target was expected, but the blunt revelation that Island Hopper performed at his own inn disguised as a poet jarred Fiora. Vampires were notorious masters of deception. So why was this one, who could so easily evade her, presenting himself before a monster hunter? He had no safety in public. If killed by her blade, the magic sustaining his pony form would fade away, and no pony would complain about a dead vampire.

Fiora's eyes darted to the mare. She considered the possibility of high hypnosis, a spell vampires often used to surround themselves with loyal followers. But simple servants did not have the magic she let out.

"The other hunter?" Fiora asked, realizing what the vampire had said. "What are you talking about?"

The vampire turned to his partner. "A member of the Dragon Arts came after my Loralae, hired by a very close associate of your employer, Miss Stranglethorn."

"How did you guess she hired me?" Fiora asked, wary of the vampire's knowledge. Simply by hunting him he had gathered information about her, a small task given the experience he had from immortality.

"I know she has a bounty for my head," he answered. "But there is one on my partner's as well."

"From her husband," the mare, Loralae apparently, continued. "They enjoy dividing tasks to conquer this city's businesses so that no pony realizes that their circle of friends owns nearly everything but the council palace. And I doubt that will stay so for long."

Island Hopper moved to his desk on Fiora's left and took a thick book down from his bookshelf that made the desk croak in agony trying to support it. "We are the one loose end that Stranglethorn cannot get her enchanted vines around. She covets the six inns I own across this city, which take in more than half the merchants and traders and travelers. My business lies at the heart of this city's economic power."

Loralae looked Fiora in the eyes. This time her magic didn't stare daggers through her. It was pleading and caring, almost charming Fiora to listen to her just to keep looking into her eyes. She would have succumbed, too, if she wasn't protected by her own magic and mental fortitude.

"You must know something of the mare Lavender Stranglethorn is. Her husband Karam Bit is known as the King of Thieves for a reason. Their marriage puts the city's criminal and manufacturing businesses in their hooves, and their ambition nearly got me killed by a hunter like you."

"Is he dead?" she asked Loralae. She received lowered heads.

"I-" the vampire's voice was caught in his throat.

"Hopper killed him to protect me," Loralae answered for her partner. "He's lying dead at the bottom of the Divide, where he attacked me."

The Divide was a narrow river that cut through the peninsula that Bovinus sat on. It wasn't far from the city, but there was still a couple miles of farmland to get to the nearest bend of the river. "What were you doing there?"

"It's my-" Loralae began.

Island Hopper reached out and held her shoulder. "Lora, she doesn't need to know."

Loralae smiled but her eyes looked firmly back at her partner. "She came here for you. If we want her to help us, she has to know that we trust her before she trusts us."

Fiora wasn't about to help them do anything, especially not a vampire who still had to answer for two dead warehouse workers. They already admitted to killing another hunter.

"I know you can sense the aura I put out," Loralae continued. "I was visiting the Divide because it is my home, though when I was young I knew it as S'noa Ghila, The River that Shines."

Fiora tilted her head at Loralae. Her mind raced through tomes of river monsters capable of polymorphism. Then her thoughts fell onto the sound of the singing. A powerful river monster similar to nymphs and sirens, and almost godlike in magical ability, that was her.

"You- you're a Nixe?"

She nodded. "Chorus was my voice. Our singers are good folk, but without my blessing they couldn't hum an army tune together."

"Enough," Island Hopper said, his soft voice belying his true power. He pointed to the book on his desk. "This ledger contains notes on all of Stranglethorn's business, and that of her associates. She wants me dead because I have leverage against her. I will pay you the agree amount for my head if you simply walk away."

"You murdered two workers at the warehouse beside the market," Fiora retorted. "I found their bodies battered and drained, not to mention a fellow hunter. You can't expect me to forgive that, regardless of her intentions."

Island Hopper scanned Fiora's face for any sign of deceit or jest, but found neither. "You're serious? I never leave the Golden Hills, we perform here every night. When would I find time to traipse around committing murder?"

Fiora began to grow furious. "Then how do you explain two grown ponies being thrown around like dolls, then drained of blood?" At the very least, sentient monsters had the decency to admit to a crime when a hunter had found them out. Ignoring the ponies he had killed simply vexed her further.

"Only with my word, however much that's worth." he admitted, walking up only a couple inches away from Fiora, speaking into her face.

She smelled him, but there was nothing except the strawberry scented soap he must have used. "So if you want to kill me, fine. Call me old fashioned, but there was once a law in this land that forbade stallions to take up arms against guests. I will give no struggle, just leave Loralae alone."

It'd probably be her easiest contract. But she couldn't do it. Something seemed off. Vampires had varying personalities like ponies, and some have been discovered receiving donations of blood from friends or partners rather than drinking from the source. But, Fiora pondered whether a vampire violent enough to attack two stallions go through the trouble of drinking them from a bowl?

For that matter, there was not trace of the chemicals anywhere in the inn. Even if Island Hopper had cleaned himself, there should have been a trail from the warehouse to his inn. If not sulfur, then some other chemical. But there was nothing.

"Let's say I gave you a chance," Fiora looked him in the eye. A liar might have a moment of relief that their deceit worked, but his eyes were a tired hope, not one of success but a look of a cornered animal spared by the wolves. "There are two murders that need to be answered for."

Island Hopper hung his head, pacing the floor in thought. "Unprovoked murder isn't really her husband's scene, but Stranglethorn has used the benefits of killing to frightening efficiency. Simply sparing some pony's life sometimes grants her their favor. Two deaths made to look like a vampire's doing frames me perfectly if I was exposed. At the very least it puts my streets on surveillance from the guard, damaging business for a few days."

"Assuming you're telling the truth," Fiora reminded him.

Loralae stepped forward to challenge the hunter's accusations. "He's not lying, he'd never hurt an innocent pony. He swore to me."

Fiora raised a brow. "To you?"

Island Hopper, hearing Fiora's tone, gave her an incredulous look. "I know mutants are different, even more so than regular hunters, but don't tell me you haven't figured out we're more than stage partners. I'd give my life for Lora."

It's the kind of thing felt, not seen or heard or touched. A feeling of love Fiora had not felt for a long time, not since she lost her home and every memory of her family with it. Perhaps that spiral began when Ripe Apple died. Her husband gone, and now she didn't know love when it hit her in the face.

Finally, she relaxed her muscles. "Alright fine. Believe it or not I know something about love still. Vaguely."

"Thank you," he said as if he had been holding onto those words, lifting them like sacks of grain on a saddle. "I promise, I won't forget this."

He said something to Loralae in their tongue, the one sung in their poem. She moved to the drawer by the bedside and pulled out a small box barely bigger than her hoof from the beneath the folded towels.

"Tiuahn, treasure," she opened it.

Inside was a silver key, but looking with her enhanced eyes, Fiora noticed that the tip was a different colored metal.

"Perceptive," the vampire saw her looking at the end of the key. "It has a magnetic tip. I had it custom made by a locksmith who frequents my inn down by the docks. It's the key to a chest I keep on my boat."

"Thanks, but the city still has a killer loose and even if you suspect Stranglethorn had a hoof in it, there's no evidence." Fiora removed the key, tying its string onto a loop on her jacket.

"I never thought a hunter would be interested in law enforcement," Island Hopper mused.

Fiora fired back with an annoyed scowl. "I have my morals too, vampire. I won't go out of my way, but I won't do nothing if I see any evidence of who's responsible."

"I suggest going to a friend of mine, if you have the time," Loralae interrupted their discourse. "I healed a fisherman's daughter who works at the warehouse you mentioned. She gathers information on Stranglethorn and her associates, so she might know something about the killings."

"And if you need an incentive to 'go out of your way,'" Island Hopper hinted, signalling to a heavy coin purse at his side. "Clearing my name for good would be something I'd pay for. Guards are bound to find that body if they haven't already. Best to catch the culprit first."

"Bodies, hun, there were two." corrected Loralae. "You said 'that body.' One."

"Luv, you know my memory's not perfect anymore," he smiled back, happy that some pony was there to catch his mistake. He pecked a light kiss on her forehead.

"I'll be watching the performances if I find anything you could clarify," Fiora turned, leaving their suite. She took the path further upwards to the balcony, spreading her wings and diving off onto the street. She walked down the street, crossing the market but ignoring the cries of the nighttime merchants, who were no better than the daytime ones.

Going through the list of contracts mentally, she picked something that seemed, compared to the rest, fairly straightforward and simple. Angry Ankho In My Granary! the contract read. It was signed by Grain Rye, a tycoon of Bovinus' farms and granaries.

An Ankho was a deadly specter, and despite her new sword and filled herb pouch, she was poorly equipped to handle it. Fiora looked down at the key dangling from her jacket. Hopefully, whatever treasure Island Hopper wished to share could buy her proper armor for a hunter and some rarer monster organs from the city's mage stores.

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Click. She inserted the key.

Island Hopper's personal quarters on his ship was better equipped than Bach Kha'mohrgen's armory. Glass cabinets with etched runes, wards, and glyphs displayed perfectly crafted weapons. Fiora examined some of the swords and daggers. The edges of the blades were made from a metal similar to night silver but far harder to produce: black platinum.

Runes storing magic ran along the hardened edge of the blade. Normally even minor runes could warp or ruin the geometry of the edge, dulling its cut, but the black platinum held its shape, strengthened by the magic stored in the runes. The other weapons, axes and arming swords, crank bows too, they were all made from high carbon steel and decorated with patterns of gold. Some were flowery like articles of high fashion, while others were symbols of power but still very deadly, like a general's weapon.

Fiora tested the key on all the glass cases, but finally came to a locked dresser. It was made of lacquered elm,standing before it still gave an impression of awe. The black cabinet was magically protected like the rest, but its wards and runes were not etched or made from gold leaf. Black diamonds studded the cabinet, forming a net of magic powerfully charged by the gemstone's own enchanted properties.

Click. Fiora turned the key slowly, peeking inside as if not to disturb the masterpiece inside. But when she caught a glimpse of the armor, she couldn't help but open it up for the full view.

The peytral, the section covering the shoulders and chest, had dragon scales studded onto wyvern and manticore leather. The material was similar to what she wore now, but thicker and definitely better hemmed. The tail guard, too, was made of dragon scale plate instead of steel.

Dragons were hoarders of metal, for their scales were made of the stuff. But their bodies not only refined impure ores and ingots, they also formed the metal differently. With a laminated structure, dragon scale was more than a match for tempered steel, but far lighter and easier to move in.

Underneath were two layers of interlocked chainmail. Holding it to the light of her horn, it looked darker than typical chain. Each was made from black platinum, and then coated with night silver dust using high heat and pressure. The result was a sparkling grey finish that was as protective as it was dazzling.

Fiora smiled to herself, tearing off her jacket and wearing the armor over her gambeson. It was loose around the legs, but fit firmly around where it needed too. A tailor could change the dimensions to give a better fit, but it would only make a minor improvement. For the first time, Fiora found herself thankful for having a body type similar to a vampire's disguised form. It wasn't a thought that really ever had to come to mind.

Author's Note:

Inspiration for Sail My Love (S'ae Mo Laehk)