167 166. Mosty, he felt weak.

A Hand-Woven Universe

Noone's divine sense condensed around the drider like charcoal being crushed into diamond. The creature's mind recoiled from the sudden pressure and the dark-elf face scrunched up in intense pain.

Blood began to flow from Noone's nose and eyes as his brain throbbed violently, threatening to burst through his skull.

Finally, Noone released his divine sense completely. Instead he chose to dash forward towards the creature's torso. Having no front legs anymore, Noone took no precautions and instead swung his axe with enough strength to cause his bones to pop in rejection to the abuse.

The axe struck into the creature's side and embedded itself firmly into the blood-slicked black carapace.

Noone steadied his feet and twisted his whole body, pulling the axe through the side of the drider's abdomen. A large gash was ruptured into its side. Blue and black guts spilled out from the side of the creature as it thrashed away.

Noone's expression had become dangerously cold, and his eyes did not flicker even slightly when the blood-curdling screeches filled the cavern.

Another quill was thrust like a spear at Noone's body. Instead of retreating though, Noone stepped forward again – like Tobias had done before – and grabbed onto the handle of Tobias's axe and – muscles bulging under his flesh like iron snakes – lifted the entire drider's body into the air. An inhuman roar escaped from Noone's mouth as his muscles and bones threatened to collapse within him.

Even louder screeches filled the air as sharp black legs flurried about looking for the ground. Noone's muscles tore with vicious tremors. Without hesitation, he launched the drider into the closest wall, crushing its exoskeleton under its own weight.

Using all the muscles in his arms, Noone gripped the handle of Tobias's axe and ripped the head of it out the spider's body as the spider crumpled against the wall.

The sound of blood gurgling out of a broken creature and the smell of guts filled the cavern, however Noone didn't notice as he looked at the drider.

At this point, only the vague twitching of life still existed in the creature. However, Noone raised Tobias's axe in one hand, and his own in the other.

He stood in front of the creature for a few moments, unsure of his own thoughts. His mind felt all at once cool and collected – and so noisy he was unable to think straight.

And then – without ceremony – Noone swung both axes – decapitating the dark elf's head from the body.

By this point, there wasn't enough blood pressure left for any spray of blue-blood. Instead a stream trickled out from the stump where the head had been.

The room was silent for several moments. Finally, Noone breathed out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding.

His muscles twitched, and his body trembled, but despite all odds – Noone stayed standing. He was in a daze, looking off into nowhere.

"Noone…" Suddenly, a familiar wizened voice called out within his mind. It took Noone a moment to collect himself, but he quickly responded.

"How long do I have?" Noone said evenly. There was a short almost awkward pause, as though the gnome didn't know what to say. Presumably he could see everything that was happening. But 2000 years of life, didn't necessarily prepare someone – even a wizard – for what to say in every situation.

"30 minutes… Hurry. But be careful." Alaviv said, Noone wondered what his expression was.

Noone didn't waste any time responding. Instead he walked over to Tobias. Noone paused for a moment. When he had returned to Tapestry… everyone had already become bones.

Seeing someone Noone considered a friend not only protect him... but die in the process.

He wasn't sure what he was feeling. He didn't feel alright.

Mostly, he felt weak.

When Noone exited the cavernous room with Tobias on his shoulders, and the corpse of a drider being dragged behind him, the first thing he heard was shocked harsh whispers.

Immediately without much thought he used his free hand to throw a bottle of liquid fire. In less than a second the cave lit up with harsh light and sickening screams could be heard as an entire hallway was set aflame – and with it a whole party of dark elves which had been sneaking in the shadows.

Noone gave them a cool glance as he continued to walk past. Right now, Noone couldn't fight back. His body was tired, and his muscles ached. The floor under him would become slick with blood as he walked – much of it his own.

The large archway and tunnel that made up the single exit to the outside was now being barricaded and obstructed by several hundred soldiers. Like a wave in the ocean the entire first and second units were lined in defensive positions.

Somewhere within the organized armament of soldiers were 3 officers, planning the next step.

"Due to the traps and despicable underhanded means of the dark elves, we have no choice but to make a slow advance. This will set back our schedule by at least two days, however we will have a low-level scout or mage paced every 20 feet in the line, checking for traps at every step." The dwarven officer in charge of Unit 1 spoke, heavy accent echoing deeply within the cavern, even despite his hushed tones.

Officers of both Unit 2 and Unit 3 nodded in unison. For this, Unit 2 would team up with Unit 1 for now, while Unit 3 held the exit.

Mixed in with Unit 3 was Sarah, who stood at the front most lines of the congregated mass of soldiers, staring right out into the dark and cold city of Stone-Eye. Right now, compared to her usual level-headed and cool demeanor, she shifted from foot to foot, eyes darting into every shadow or slight movement.

Ever since joining up with Units 1 and 2, she had been looking through the mass of people for Tobias and Noone, but even after 15 minutes she had failed to find them. Her heart beat furiously but she bit her lip and did her best to remain calm.

She had heard from the other soldiers how they saw giant pits open up in the earth sending party after party tumbling to their deaths. But… Not Noone and Tobias, Sarah was sure not them.

And yet, she couldn't find them.

Several soldiers noticed Sarah's lone figure standing at the edge of the group nervously looking around. They could understand why she was looking frantically at each shifting shadow, but no one had moved to comfort her. This was the reality of war after all, even in a small subjugation mission – death was never an impossibility.

"Sarah?" A lone braided-blonde figure patted Sarah's shoulder – causing the young paladin to shudder slightly. Without her knowing, the vengeance Paladin she had met within the subjugation force had appeared at her side. The two shared a deep look for a moment, blue eyes meeting like ocean tides.

"Your party, right?" The older paladin said.

From behind, the two looked shockingly similar, both having bright gold hair braided back in a single thick tail. Their builds were similar although it was clear that the older paladin had quite a bit more bulk from years of battle hardening combat.

Sarah wasn't sure why she trusted this woman so easily despite only meeting her a few days ago, but something inside of her told her that this woman could be trusted. Sarah prayed to her god – Hoar – every night and morning, and yet she had received no response from Him.

Eventually she chose to believe it was because they followed the same path.

"Yes…" Sarah's eyes calmed slightly as she spoke. "Tobias and Noone, they were with the first unit, and yet they aren't back yet…" She let the thought trail off, feeling no reason to explain her fears.

"Mmm. I see." The older paladin looked out into the city. She didn't want to say it, but they might be dead. Instead she chose to keep that to herself though. "You said that Tobias was a level 10 paladin?" The older woman clarified.

Sarah nodded once, biting her lip.

"Then you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Even a Paladin of the Order of Life won't go down easily. Especially not one of his level." In a slightly awkward gesture, the older woman put her arm around Sarah's shoulder and gave her a quick single armed hug as if to say, 'don't worry, everything will be fine.'

Despite her attempt at comfort though, she couldn't hide the fact that she was quite bad at being comforting.

Sarah appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

Suddenly, a lone set of heavy footsteps echoed down from an alley only a few meters from the group of soldiers.

Everyone, including Sarah and the other paladin tensed and prepared the weapons. The soldiers quiet murmur quickly became and gentle hush as shields were brought up to the ready.

Sarah and the paladin quickly retreated behind the barricade of shields, however they didn't go too far, wanting to be ready for whatever it was coming their way.