Another chapter of Forged Destiny, and we have a new cover for the fic, it appears. Huge thanks to Dishwasher1910 for the amazing image, and you can see the full thing on his DA. It's well worth a look as the full image is astounding and I can only fit a fraction of that in here. I'd provide a link, but obviously I cannot with this site.

On the chapter, College Fool was involved in planning as always, but didn't have a chance to do a run over, so any spelling mistakes will be my own.

Beta: College Fool

Cover Art: Dishwasher1910

Chapter 26

A God? It was impossible to explain how much that concept angered me. Ansel had never been a particularly religious village, but even we knew a God wouldn't see the need to slaughter innocent people. My fingers turned white as I clenched the handle of Crocea Mors, wetting my lips and waiting for the first move to be made.

"What should we do?" Yang whispered, voice low and eyes locked on the cocky blonde woman who stood opposite us.

"Pyrrha?" I looked towards the Champion who had been elected in charge of any encounters like this. She was stronger than us, after all.

The redhead licked her lips and swallowed. "I'm not sure," she said. "Whatever that ritual is, I think if he wants us not to interfere, we should make it a priority to do so. I can try and tank the Lancer with Nora an-"

"That won't work," Blake interrupted. Even though none of us dared look away from the enemy, we all tilted our heads a little closer to the Assassin. "This isn't some mindless Grimm or aggressive animal. Fighting another human comes with its own set of rules." The black-haired girl crouched low, daggers drawn. "She isn't going to politely focus on our tank while everyone else attacks from behind."

Of course… we'd fought against people before, but that had been a chaotic skirmish on the open seas. It hadn't so much been a battle as a series of small skirmishes, and each opponent had at least nominally been on a similar level to ourselves, the Berserker I'd killed notwithstanding. This woman, this Hero, it seemed impossible that her level would be anything near ours.

"Be careful, then," Pyrrha said. "We still need to disrupt that ritual, even if it means we have to face the two of them at once. If we focus on the Lancer, can you disrupt the Sorcerer, Blake?"

I gasped at the idea. "On her own?"

"She doesn't need to fight him… just stop him from doing whatever he's working on. If the Grimm outside stop spawning, Kaedin and Viktor might be able to reinforce us."

"I can do it," Blake interrupted. Though she answered Pyrrha, her eyes were locked onto mine. "Trust me…"

What was I supposed to say to that? I hefted my sword and shield and nodded, and Blake slipped away from our group, to drift towards the edge of the circular room. The Lancer kept an eye on her, even if the ornate spear tip didn't move from its positioned aimed at us. That was fine. She'd struggle to follow Blake when we were on top of her.

"Weiss, stay back and support from a distance. Ruby, cover Weiss and protect her."

"What? I can fight!"

"Do as she says, Rubes," Yang hissed. "If she breaks through us for even a moment, Weiss is going to be dead. She can't hope to stand up to someone like this in melee." Left unsaid was that neither would Ruby in all honesty. Our only real hope was numbers. At least we had that going for us.

Why isn't she attacking us, though? I glared at the woman, who stared back with the kind of self-assured smirk that said she knew exactly what she was doing. If she's so sure of her success, it would be best to attack us now before we can think up a plan. Was she unable – or perhaps unwilling – to leave her Mage? She was a Sentinel, even if those two were as good as exiled for this. Did her oaths hold true even now? It looked like it.

The temple rumbled beneath our feet. Dust and a faint scattering of rock fell from the ceiling as another tremor struck. Of course, the ritual – it was still taking place and another pulse followed the summoning of the Grimm.

"Vol tar, ak-nagor daniik suul…" The Sorcerer raised his arms high, the chant echoing off the walls. It was that which began the engagement.

"Go!" Pyrrha roared and dashed forward, "Stop the ritual!" The others followed close behind, and me with them, as we let Nora and Pyrrha take the lead.

Glenn Vuori didn't lose her smile, even as we fell upon her. Her spear flicked up to deflect Pyrrha's sword, while her lithe form slipped past the head of Nora's hammer. Ren's blades cut through a few strands of hair as she ducked under them. Yang's fist struck off her shoulder with no real damage, while the woman caught my blade in her bare hand. Her face pressed up against mine.

"Not good enough." she whispered.

Pain flared through my cheek as she slammed the hilt of Crocea Mors back into my face. I fell hard, but twisted and cried out when she wrenched the sword from my hand. I cracked my eyes open in time to see her rear up and push Pyrrha away with the shaft of her spear. The Lancer twirled in time to strike Yang across the face with the butt, then catch Ren's blades on the flat of my stolen weapon. The Monk was forced into the path of Nora's hammer, which the Barbarian managed to turn aside at the last minute, even if it left her open. A foot caught her in the midriff and knocked her back. In that brief moment where Ren fell back to support his friend, the woman looked up and about the room.

"Blake!" I cried out in warning as her eyes zeroed in on the Assassin, half-way across the room and approaching the unprotected back of her prey.

The warning saved Blake's life. She looked my way for a second, then yelped and fell back as the lancer slammed into the ground between her feet. Her foot caught on the haft and she fell hard.

"Now," Yang yelled, "While she's unarmed!"

I was unarmed too, but no one else was. Pyrrha surged forwards and slashed at the woman's midriff. Glenn Vuori didn't even notice, nor look in her direction. The woman's green eyes remained focused on Blake. As the blade came down, those eyes flickered and glowed.

Pyrrha's blade cut through air. The Champion paused, unsure as to what had happened. I stared too, but a cry from across the room drew me back.

Blake squirmed under the woman's foot, which was placed on her chest as the Lancer gripped her spear, still impaled into the rock. She didn't need it, however, and I cried out a useless warning as she raised Crocea Mors like a dagger to drive down into Blake's heart.

A jagged spear of ice slammed into her wrist, knocking the sword aside at the last moment. My own steel pierced down into the stone floor beside Blake's ear. Another hail of frozen water rained down on her, and the Lancer danced back and out of range as Weiss summoned a wall of ice between her and Blake, saving the Assassin's life.

"She can teleport!?" Yang yelled.

"No," Weiss answered. "She can flash to where her spear is. I saw her move almost instantly, but she appeared with her hand around her weapon. It must be a Passive. No normal Lancer has anything like that!" If the Sentinel was worried about her trick being revealed, she didn't show it. The spear flickered as she twirled it, but she gracefully slipped back to stand between us and Merlot.

I growled in frustration. Teleporting or flashing, even if it was to her weapon – that was a pretty annoying Passive for someone to have. It would let her cover the distance between us instantly, and meant we couldn't really draw her away from the Sorcerer, since she could flash back to him with the throw of a weapon. Judging from her accuracy with Blake, she wasn't going to miss, either. "Blake," I called, "Scrap the plan. Fight together!" Pyrrha turned to me, expression worried.


"We can't split up for this," I explained. "She's going to murder us one on one, and if Blake is off on her own again, she'll be the first to be killed." That was something I wouldn't allow, not when we'd gotten this far and survived all we had. Thankfully, Blake seemed to agree, for she snatched up my weapon and rushed over, a wary eye on our foe lest she launch her spear once more. "Thanks," I whispered as I took Crocea Mors back and made a silent promise not to let her get hold of it again.

"She's powerful," Blake said, somewhat unnecessarily.

"We'll overwhelm her," Pyrrha returned. "She can't keep it up forever and there's eight of us."

"Should we still go for him?" I gestured at the Sorcerer.

"No. If this is how strong she is on her own…" The Champion left it hanging, but we all understood. If they fought anything like Kaedin and Viktor, especially with their teamwork, then we would have no chance.

"What about the ritual?"

"We'll have to chance it. If we can beat her fast enough, we might still be able to stop it."

I nodded and pushed myself up onto my feet, eyes locked onto the Lancer. We hadn't scratched her, although mine and Yang's attacks must have done something – Weiss' too. Just because she didn't show it, didn't mean it was worthless.

"Go in behind me," Pyrrha whispered. I nodded my head, and then whispered an assent when I realised she couldn't see it. The Champion loped forwards, shield and sword at the ready.

The Lancer flicked her blonde hair behind her contemptuously and met us halfway. The spear lunged forward, in a way that forced Pyrrha to deal with it lest it impale me if she dodged. The Champion fell to one knee and held her shield with two hands, and deflected the attack with a mighty crash of steel on steel. The woman's spear was knocked aside, and I took the opening for what it was.

"Rargh!" Crocea Mors slashed down towards her unprotected head. All my fury channelled into a single strike that might cleave her head in two.

She batted it away with the back of her gauntlet.

The move was so quick, so simple, that I didn't have the time to react before that same hand caught my face and tossed me to the side. I crashed into something, which was quickly revealed to be Ren. We tumbled to the floor, the Monk weighed down by my armour.

"Ren!" Nora yelled, covering the distance and forcing the Lancer to leap back as she slammed her hammer down into the floor between us. "Are you okay, Renny?"

"Alive," he grunted. "Jaune's fine too, I think. He's heavy enough for it."

"Sorry." I rolled off him and dragged him to his feet. Back in the battle, Yang had closed with the enemy and had gotten past the tip of her spear. In any engagement against such a weapon, that should have been the end of the matter, but Glenn Vuori proved more than capable of holding the Brawler at bay. She parried one punch on the haft of her spear, pushed it forward to slap the steel against Yang's cheek, and then reached over to wrap the shaft behind her neck. Yang's face was dragged in and slammed against the woman's breastplate, and the Brawler slumped to the floor, dazed.

The woman ducked back and twirled, bringing the blade up and around to slice off the blonde's head. All she caught was a wall of ice, which her spear became lodged inside of. "Tch," she gritted and tore the weapon free, but when she kicked the obstacle down, it was to see Blake dragging Yang away by her collar.

The ice wall reformed into three jagged spikes, two of which the woman swayed out of the way of, and the final one she shattered with the butt of her weapon.

"This is insane," I said. "How is she holding up against all of us like this?"

"She's a Sentinel," Ren said. "She would have been picked for being strong, or maybe for her Passive. Either way, she's probably a damn sight higher level than we are." The Monk's face was grim as he readied his blades. "There's a reason people our level don't fight someone like this. It'll be a wonder if we can even hurt her."


Ren looked at me. "You and Yang have already hit her. I scored a blow too, but it's hardly slowed us down. I'm not sure we even have what it takes to get past her Constitution."

Her Constitution? My heart sank as I realised what he meant. What damage we could cause was determined by our Stats and weapons, but there was a good chance it would prove all but worthless against her. We just didn't do enough damage for it to matter, which was why she could shrug off our attacks and take us apart like this. It was like asking a baby to beat a man to death. Sure, they could throw their weight around and slap their fists against you, but it would never amount to anything more than an annoyance.

"This is fun!" The Lancer laughed, twisting her spear to break a lock Pyrrha had entered. The Champion managed to dodge the thrust that would have taken out her eye, but was left unprepared as it whistled back and scored a thin line across her brow. She fell back with a startled cry, one hand clamped to her face. Glenn Vuori didn't even bother to follow. "Come on, you arrogant fools. One at a time or eight at once – it matters little to me."

Afraid, despite my best efforts, I took a step back.

"We can beat her," Ruby whispered from behind me. I glanced to her, fear in my eyes, but she stared back with steely silver ones. "Even if she has more Constitution, she will still get tired," she said. "We can wear her down until she can barely move, then do whatever is necessary to knock her out. She isn't immortal… she's just strong."

Was that true? Could that work? I looked towards Ren with an expectant expression.

"She's right," he said. "She's human at the end of the day. Unlike the Grimm, she needs rest. If we can exhaust her, we can take our time dealing with her, or just toss her outside for the weather to finish if we're feeling particularly cruel." The look on his face said he might be, and given what we'd seen happen to the innocent faunus, I couldn't bring myself to disagree.

This woman deserved to die. No, she needed to die. The anger I'd felt at that Berserker came back, and with it, a haze of red that settled over my vision. What was I thinking when I backed up? What did I expect to happen? The Grimm were outside, and a mountain between us and civilisation. There was no retreat here. It was her, or us – and I knew which I'd prefer.

"Blake," I called over to the Assassin. "You're our best bet for causing enough damage to get through her. If Ren and I give you the opportunity, we need you to take it."

The Assassin panted for breath, one hand on the floor as she steadied herself from the last failed attack, but she met my eyes and nodded nonetheless. From anyone else, I might have doubted that, but from her? She would make it work. I hefted Crocea Mors and my shield, nodded for Ren to follow me, and charged back in once more.

Our foe was a terrifying prospect. I saw her head tilt but a fraction in our direction, even as she held off Nora's war hammer. She pushed forward and knocked the Barbarian back, and turned to us in the nick of time to catch my sword on her spear and spin it in a small circle, forcing me to let go or have my wrist broken. I chose to drop it, then caught it in my other hand and swung at her legs with my shield. One metal-plated boot came up to meet and catch it, but I felt Ren's foot press down on my back as he leapt over me and towards her.

"Ugh." The Lancer grunted and fell back a pace, but sounded more surprised than hurt. Ren landed and spun about to drive his blades into her back, but she caught his wrist in one hand. The Monk smirked, even as Blake's shadowy form darted out from behind me, where she'd managed to hide, matching her pace to mine to conceal herself from view.

I didn't know her real level. I only knew that at the age of thirteen, she was the same level as Pyrrha coming into Beacon. I hoped she'd grown stronger since then, prayed for it, in fact. As the Assassin drove the dagger into flesh, it seemed me prayers were granted.

"Arghhh!" The blonde woman staggered forward, and then lashed out behind with, trying to catch Blake with her elbow. The Assassin was having none of it, however, and darted back to stand beside me. The Lancer panted and reached behind her, and the palm of her hand came back bloody.

"It worked," I panted.

Blake smirked. "When I hit, I hit hard."

"We need to do it again." I pushed myself up and readied my weapons. Blake nodded and stepped back. I could tell from the Lancer's eyes that she'd lost track of her, Blake using her skills to hide not in shadows, but behind six feet of plated armour. It wasn't perfect concealment, but our opponent wouldn't know which way to block until Blake showed herself. If she chose neither, I'd cut her myself. With a confident smirk, the two of us charged in.

It proved a mistake.

The Lancer took one look at us and charged forwards. I lunged with Crocea Mors, taking the blade in both hands as I speared it towards her stomach. Her spear came down to deflect it, and I felt more than I heard Blake slip by me on the other side, with me set to trap the spear between me and the woman.

Until she let go of it.

My eyes widened, a strange sense of weightlessness taking me as I hit not armour and muscle, but fresh air. I tripped and stumbled through, my posture not at all prepared for running into nothingness. My body crashed to the floor and slid a few paces, but I pushed myself onto my back with a panicked cry. "Blake, look out!"

She never had a chance. Blake tried to stop herself and pull back, but the Lancer went from standing before her to catching the spear she'd dropped behind where I'd been. She appeared on the Assassin's flank, spear tip glowing orange from the light of the torches.

"Die, Assassin," she hissed, and drove the spear at my friend.

A streak of red shot past her. More red splashed, both across the floor and the Lancer's back as she screamed in agony. Cloth fluttered in the wind as a small figure landed ten or more metres past the woman, a silvery scythe held in both hands. Ruby… she could hurt the Lancer!? I stared at her, even as another ice wall slammed into place between Blake and Glenn, cutting the Assassin off from harm. It wasn't necessary, however, since those green eyes were fixated on the girl who had just wounded her.

"How?" she gasped. "What the hell is a Reaper, anyway?"

"A Hero," Ruby answered, turning to face the woman. I staggered up to stand beside her.

"Surrender, Vuori," I gasped, not really thinking she would, but hoping it nonetheless. "You're outnumbered and now injured. You can't possibly think you'll be able to beat us." The blonde woman regarded me with an alien expression, then tossed back her head and laughed.

"You're really serious, aren't you? As far as I see it, there's only two of you even capable of harming me." She looked to Ruby, and then allowed her eyes to drift over to Blake, who had collected herself near the back wall. "If I take those two out, you're as good as dead."

My eyes narrowed, and I stepped in front of Ruby. "You won't," I said.

The woman smirked and stabbed her spear into the ground beside her. "Won't I?" she asked, eyes glowing bright green.

"She's using a Skill!" Weiss cried out a warning.

Our opponent proved it pointless a second later. She held up a bare hand, and summoned an astral looking spear within it. With a great heave, she launched it towards Ruby. It flashed through the air like lightning.

"Move!" I gasped, and tackled her out of the way. It whistled by to lodge in the floor behind us, but the Lancer had already summoned another. She rained them down, not just on the two of us, but on everyone in the room, keeping us from approaching.

Ruby darted out of my hands, and then proved her speed by flashing between numerous projectiles. She made her way further away from the woman, to give herself more time to react and dodge. I tried to do the same, even if I had to hold up my shield and feel one explode against it. The force sent me sailing back, torn off my feet and thrown into a wall.

"Jaune!" Pyrrha gasped, rushing up to stand in front of me and block another while I pulled myself up. "Get moving," Pyrrha whispered. I wasted no time with that. The barrage lasted for what felt like minutes, but couldn't be more than one. At least ten came my way, mostly dodged with one scratching my leg and singing the armour, but not hitting me. The others had even less trouble, none as weighed down by armour as I, and able to dodge the projectiles.

Eventually, the storm came to a halt, the Lancer panting for breath as she glared at us. We were all still in one piece, albeit a little out of breath from the sudden exercise. All she managed was wearing herself out, I thought. This is our chance!

"Is that it?" I asked. The woman smiled at me.


Her eyes were locked behind me, and I turned to see a glowing yellow spear lodged into the stone. My eyes widened, but what I saw was soon replaced with a gauntleted fist.

Agony exploded as it struck me, followed by a knee into my back, and then the floor to my face. I panted and gasped, even as the boots before my eyes vanished in a blur. Someone screamed, followed by cries of warning and pain. I coughed and forced my head up, to look at the scene about me.

Weiss crumpled to the floor, bent double over a fist in her stomach. The armoured figure grinned and vanished before Ruby could cut her down, and clear across the room, Pyrrha tried to block an axe kick, but had her feet swept out from under her instead. The Champion landed poorly and tried to roll away, but a stomp to her shoulder prevented it. The woman raised her foot again, but flashed away when Nora approached.

She appeared on a spear lodged several metres up on a wall, and I watched as it shattered when she touched it. She fell a few feet, but teleported away before she hit the ground. This time it was Ren who cried out in pain and was knocked to the ground.

My eyes widened. She hadn't been aiming for us at all. That attack, which almost any other Lancer would have used to wound and drive an enemy back, had instead been used to set up the battlefield. Now that I realised it, the hundred or so spectral spears stuck across the battlefield were a terrifying sight. I didn't get to process the thought any further, for I heard a crystalline sound behind me, and then felt a heavy foot catch me in my stomach. The blow lifted me a good foot off the ground, and I rattled and clinked as I rolled across the stone floor.

"Jau-oof!" Ruby staggered as a fist caught her face, then cried out when the woman swept a foot up to crack against the back of her head. The Reaper went down in a tangle of limbs, and even when Yang roared and rushed in to protect her, the Lancer flashed away once more.

Weiss groaned and slammed into a wall. She didn't move once she slumped to the bottom.

"Get…" I swallowed. "Get together! F-Form a circle. Don't let her teleport to you!"

"Like I'd allow it," Glenn laughed, appearing before me and lifting my body up with one hand. She tilted her head to one side and smirked cruelly at me. "Lucky for you, I can't flash with my spear, boy. Still, I hardly need it for weaklings." Her fist slammed into my face and I saw stars. "Isn't that right?" She punched me again, then slammed me against the wall and left me there.

The massacre continued for a few more seconds. Through vision that darted in and out of focus, I watched her dismantle us one by one. Nora and Ren managed to get together, and to keep themselves away from any of the spears, but she didn't let any other approach them. When the two split ranks to try and rescue Ruby and Yang, they were caught half-way and knocked down. Nora struggled to defend Ren, but proved no match for the Sentinel's power.

It ended as it began, with the woman flashing back to the final spear – her own. She appeared on her knees, two fingers touching the haft. With a dark chuckle, she picked it up and stood. To add insult to injury, she flicked away a small amount of sweat from her brow and cracked her neck to the side.

"I'll admit, more effort than I expected to put in." She twirled her weapon and leaned on it. "That's the difference between me and you, though, children. You get more than Stats with a high level. You get shiny new Skills to use as well. Maybe you'll earn some one day." She paused, then laughed. "Well, maybe you might have."

The pain… it rocketed through every bone and muscle, even as my head rang like a bell. My vision blurred, my breath came out in harsh pants, but I pushed myself back onto my feet, albeit with difficulty. Crocea Mors felt heavy in my hand, but it was more the anger that kept me going than anything else.

She was going to kill us, just like she and her partner killed those people. My eyes strayed to the small, sorry, pile of bodies that lay beside the altar. That robed monster continued to chant, as though he didn't even notice them.

Those people, those innocent faunus, women and children alike, butchered like animals for this bastard's vaunted ritual. My teeth ground together and I staggered forward once more.

The others were in a similar state, scattered across the room on their hands and knees, some bleeding, others bruised, but none uninjured. I saw Ruby, crouched by Weiss with one hand on the Mage's shoulder. The white-haired girl looked to be alive, but her slumped posture spoke of how few spells would be helping us out. I wouldn't give up, though. Not like this.

The Lancer was engaged with Blake, one of the few of us who seemed able to do any real damage to the woman, and the only one who'd been able to remain unharmed from the final attack, too fast to be caught – or maybe she'd hidden.

The Assassin swayed agilely beneath the spear and tried to slash up into the woman's wrist, only for her thin blade to be caught on the Lancer's vambrace and torn out of her hand. Vuori leapt up and planted a foot in Blake's chest, pushing her back – but I struck forward before she could follow up and wound her.

"Tch," the Lancer gritted out. "You just never stop, do you?"

Rage burned away within me. I tried to push her spear back as it locked with my sword, but her strength was too much, even for mine. What use was a high Strength score when she was three or four times my level? She could have a D score in it and still be stronger than me. My shield fell, released as my other hand came to settle on the flat of my blade and push it even harder against her. Sweat dribbled down my brow, but through the haze of exhaustion, I thought I saw the same with her. "We'll never stop," I growled.

"You will when you're dead, fool."

"Not even then." I gave up on the contest of strength but angled my sword to the side, causing her to overshoot and lunge past my head. Turning, I rammed a shoulder into her chest and carried us both a few paces forward. I wanted to turn and cut across her chest, but I was too slow and she caught my wrist before I could. An armour-plated knee drove into my stomach, once, twice, it was the third time when I buckled and fell to my knees.

"Jaune!" Blake cried, but her attack was thwarted when the Lancer caught her by the throat and lifted her up into the air. The Assassin's feet kicked weakly against the woman's chest, but her face slowly turned blue.

"You are the worst," Glenn hissed. "Fucking assassins, I swear. Your kind are a blight on this world. It will be my service, nay, my pleasure, to free you from the pain of your own tortured existence!" Blake's struggles grew weaker as the air was choked from her lungs. Her hands fell limp to her side and her daggers clattered against the stone floor.

I didn't even think. I dived to the floor, breastplate scraping against stone as my fingers closed around the handle of Blake's dagger. Gripping the Lancer's armoured boots with one hand, I reared up and drove the blade into her thigh, in a space between her steel greaves and leather skirt. She roared, and a knee struck my face reflexively, knocking me back down as Blake was tossed aside, to choke and hack for breath several feet away.

My relief was short lived. Her hand struck me across the face, my cheek splitting as steel struck, but it was as my vision cleared that I gasped. I barely had the time to reach out and grip the blade of her spear as it pierced my chest.

"Jaune!" Ruby screamed.

"Don't move!" The Lancer roared. She pushed me back, tipping me down and onto my back as she placed a foot on my stomach and leaned down on the haft of her weapon. I gasped for breath, prepared for agony or worse, only to realise with surprise that it hadn't killed me. My hand felt about the blade, which had punctured my breastplate, but not gone deep enough to pierce my heart.


I gasped as she dug a little deeper and the tip scraped through my leather jerkin and against my chest. "You're all quite the persistent little pests," Glenn said. "Most people would realise when they're outclassed, especially a bunch of brats like yourselves." On the edge of my vision I saw Blake creep to the side, but the Lancer dug the spear a little deeper and the Assassin froze. "I said, don't move! You might be a filthy Assassin, but are you willing to kill someone who just saved your life?"

"Blake, do it!" I yelled. The girl looked at me, amber eyes wide, and then – to my frustration –dropped her weapon and raised her hands into the air.

"Good girl." The Lancer chuckled and shot a glance over my head. "You can stop as well, scythe girl. I've no idea what a Reaper is, but you won't be reaping me today."

"Let him go," Ruby demanded, and I could hear her scythe – Crescent Rose – being readied.

"Why? Is he important to you?" Glenn leaned on her weapon a little harder, and smirked as I groaned in pain. My fingers tightened around her weapon, the bladed edge cutting into the palm of my hand. "You tried to kill the one I love. Should I do the same to one of yours?"

"Do it and we'll kill you," Blake whispered. "You're already injured. You can't hold up against us all."

"She's right," Yang chipped in. "You should back out. If you and your boyfriend give this up, we'll let you go. Just give us back our Guildmate."

"Just like that?" Glenn asked.

"Just like that," Yang agreed.

"Heh…" The Lancer wrapped both hands around her weapon and grinned down at me. "I think I'll take my chances."

"NO!" Ruby screamed, right as the woman forced the spear down.

I coughed and gasped for breath as the impact hit me, but there was no blood, no scream and no death. Spots danced in my vision, but that was about it. The woman recoiled, then wrapped her hands a little higher and tried again – this time with all her strength. I groaned at the force and wheezed for breath. She gasped.

"What? What's happening?"

"Problem…?" I laughed, voice tinted with pain. I opened my hand, the one that had been wrapped about her weapon. "Maybe you should see your Blacksmith."

The woman stared down at me in horror. Her weapon was lodged into my breastplate, but the points at which weapon and armour met had blurred and run together. The blade had finger marks burned into it, but it was the pool of cooled steel that forged the blade to my breastplate that caused her to swear angrily. She didn't have a weapon anymore… she had a long, metal stick with a suit of armour forged onto the end of it. Melting it into my armour and forcing it to cool… the process would have killed any other person.

A shame for her I was immune to the heat from my own forging.

The Lancer cursed and tried to drag the weapon out of me, but between the weight of my armour and body and her weapon, it was the already half-melted and weakened spear tip that snapped off. I laughed at her horror, only to go silent as she kicked my face. Her foot then stamped down on my wrist and slipped under my sword as I instinctively released it. She kicked it up into the air and caught it with one hand, drawing it above her head. I saw nothing but death in her eyes.

"Die, you bastard!" she roared.

Red filled my vision, but not the red I expected, even if it splashed across my face. Cloth fluttered, and the crimson material settled over me, followed by a loud `schink` sound and then a scream of agony. When the cloth was torn aside, it was to find Ruby stood above me, Crescent Rose held before her, and the Lancer staggering back, gripping the stump of her severed arm.

"Get away from him!" Ruby roared, tears in her eyes. "I won't let you hurt him!"

"Ruby…" I tried to say more, but Pyrrha and Ren knelt behind me and quickly helped me back up onto my feet. It was difficult. Even though her spear hadn't pierced my chest, the force of her ramming my own breastplate into me left me winded and short of breath. My ribs felt bruised, maybe even fractured, but it was nothing compared to what might have been.

"You broke her weapon," Pyrrha whispered. "That was incredible, Jaune. I didn't even realise a Knight could do that."

"Ah, yeah," I winced. "Kind of a special Skill." I shook my head. There wasn't any time for this. "Where's my sword? We need to finish this."

"I think she's finished already," Ren said. I followed his eyes towards the Lancer.

"Merlot," she gasped, and limped over to stand before the Sorcerer with the remnant of her weapon in hand. "Merlot, my love. I… I've failed you."

"Hmm?" The man didn't turn. "You have, Glenn? Fear not. The ritual is all but complete. I asked you to delay them and that you did. There is no failure here."

"There isn't…?"

"There isn't," he agreed. The Sorcerer chuckled darkly and turned around. "No Sentinel of a God could fail, my love. You have not, either." The Lancer sagged in relief.

"I-I'm glad… but the ritual?" She swallowed and refused to take her eyes off us. "Why is it not working?"

"Those worthless NPC's were lacking," he sneered. "We should have known. They're naught but chaff and chattel. We need something stronger, we need Heroic blood – more negativity, more than even those animals could generate watching their families slaughtered." The man looked over us, and my hands curled into fists as I snarled at his words.

"I'm too weak, though," Glenn whispered. "I can't fight them all, let alone capture one for you."

"There's no need, my love. We have everything we need right here."

The Lancer, Glenn Vuori, opened her mouth to speak, but no words came forth. Her eyes drifted down, her head unable, to appraise the jagged blade that protruded from the front of her throat. Crimson fluid poured from her parted lips as she hacked and coughed for air. Disgust welled inside me and I recoiled, as did those around me. The Sorcerer, however, drew his Sentinel swiftly onto the altar, laying her feebly struggling body down atop it. He tore the knife from her throat and raised it above him.

"Daniin volar, luk thuul toh agar-"

Panic gripped me. I staggered forward and nearly fell, but threw out an arm before me. "Stop him!" I screamed.

Blake reacted instantly, diving across the floor and rolling as her shoulder hit the stone. She caught one of her weapons half-way, flipped back onto her feet and launched it at his unprotected back. A shard of ice followed, whistling through the air.

"Thaluuk agor, for suul Salem!"

It was like a thunderclap. The noise deafened me instantly, robbing balance entirely as up became down and my face became one with the stone floor. Through hazy vision, I saw wind explode out from the altar. It struck the dagger and shard of ice from the air, and then lifted me up from the ground and slammed me against the back wall. The others joined me, and Ruby crashed into my chest, driving what little air I had left out of my lungs.

We collapsed in a heap a moment later, as sound and sight slowly returned. My limbs already felt tortured, but I forced my hands beneath me and pushed myself up, just enough to raise my head and look towards the Sorcerer.

"It is done!" he screamed. "Behold, she who will make me a God!"

The man cackled and fell to his knees, both arms raised as he stared at an ethereal woman who floated but a metre or two above the altar. Her black robes and white face already gave her a fearsome visage, long before the blazing red eyes and pulsing veins were considered. Merlot laughed and turned to us with a victorious smile.

"Salem," he crowed. "Queen of the Grimm. Harbinger of the End Times!"

Eep. Well, guys, no one ever said the Quest would be dangerous or easy. In fact, I seem to recall plenty of people saying otherwise. I've not actually played Grimm Eclipse, but I gather Merlot was responsible for the Mountain Glenn disaster, so having him sacrifice his own Sentinel seemed perfect here.

Most likely caught the obvious name, but Vuori is also Finnish for `mountain`, so that was the other addon.

Again, the new cover art is available on Dishwasher1910's Deviant Art profile, so feel free to check it out if you like. It's very nice.

Also, I know I capitalise a lot of things in this fic, but that's sort of on purpose. It's meant to denote titles or actual things that in this world might be capitalised, such as a Class. Sometimes that might mean it is and isn't capitalised, however, kind of like how if a person says "Knight" then they mean the Class, but if they said "knight in shining armour," then they mean the concept of a knight, and not the Class of Knight. Similarly, if I say "Strength" then I mean the stat, but if I say "strength" then I mean just someone referring to strength as in power, not the specific stat. I know it sounds complex, but it's just for the one or two who have asked me before.

Next Chapter: 24th April

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur