Hello everyone, its been a while since I posted here. That’s because I’ve been working on this, the first in a series I’m working on. This is a novel set in an MGE inspired world, following one of four individuals who will be major protagonists in the series. The entire book is currently published on Amazon. However, I also just want people to read it and enjoy it. So I will be releasing a couple chapters a week here as well until the whole thing is posted.
I will happily take any and all criticism, but I will mostly be taking it to heart for the next book in the series, as I’d like to move on, rather than try and perfect this book.
The army was being destroyed. Trolls, ogres, goblins and orcs were swarming the far camp. General Skye could see the outline of men being torn asunder by the Monster Horde. Already he could see a red haze begin to linger in the air.
He stood atop a hill looking at the carnage with a glum expression, his own men held in reserve. Meant to reinforce the poor wretches being massacred below.
“General, I take it this was unexpected?”
Four young men stood behind him, a mercenary company comprised of four spell casters. Each as ridiculous as the last. All wizards were insane, he’d heard. Looking at them, he was inclined to agree. They wore bright-colored robes that matched no fashion General Skye knew of. One of them had a mohawk, black as coal, which matched a large and well-trimmed beard.
The first one was a head shorter than the average man, fair skinned and blue eyed. He had a youthful clean-shaven face. His hair was a dark brown, perfectly combed with a prominent widow’s peak. He wore a dark purple robe with silver stars stitched haphazardly on it.
The next one shared elements of the short one’s face but was much taller and had dark eyes and tanned skin. He was the one with a full beard and mohawk. He wore a red velvet cape draped over a forest green leather vest, and white tunic. Black breeches and brown leather gloves and boots completed the look.
The one after him had dark eyes, and flaxen blonde hair, and was of average height. He was clean shaven and wore a plain white robe with a gold cord wrapped around his middle. He had a half cape trimmed with black velvet.
The last one was from Zipangu, that he was sure of. He had a squarish face, and not even the smallest hint of facial hair. He had short spiky black hair and dark eyes. He wore a black and gold garment native to the Zipangu lands that Skye was unfamiliar with. He had a necklace made of large white beads strung around his neck and sandals on his feet made of wood. He wore socks with them, but the General was still amazed he could find wooden shoes comfortable enough to wear.
The tallest one, the one with the Mohawk, took the initiative.
“So, are we going in, or…”
General Skye gave an exasperated sigh.
“I take it you’re the Golden Cross? The mercenaries we hired?”
The tall one nodded once and then began pointing to each wizard in order, introducing them to the General. He couldn’t say he particularly cared, especially when his army was on the verge of destruction. But wizards were people you let ramble like Nobles and Mothers, and impaired children.
“Well the short one there is my older brother, David. I’m Devon. The one in the white is Kris, and the one in the Kimono is Danny.”
Skye raised an eye at that.
“He’s only half Zipangese. His Mother is native, his father came here for… what did he come here for again, Danny?”
“A big-tittied woman, he had to settle for my mother.”
Skye suppressed a scowl as they laughed. His men were going to die in minutes, and these idiots were joking.
General Skye looked at them with unconcealed contempt. He signaled to his men below at the bottom of the hill to advance with a gesture before turning back to them to speak his mind. The blonde one, Kris, spoke up before Skye could say anything.
“Hey, guys. We have a problem.”
Devon and Danny, the mohawk and Zipangese respectively, joined the other two in observing the battlefield. Skye looked as well, not noticing a difference. Not until a large mass of bodies emerged from the nearby forest.
The Monster Horde had reinforcements too.
He signaled for his men to retreat.
As he began to descend the hill, he was stopped by the short one, David.
“Wait, I thought we were reinforcements? You’re going to turn tail and run?”
“We have no hope of winning that battle. Best to take this chance to retreat and fortify someplace else. You wizards can do what you like.”
“They’re your men.”
“Dead men. Best to save who I can and regroup. You want to die here that’s your business.”
David looked at his comrades with a forlorn look as Skye retreated.
General Hugo was a large man, a head above most men, and twice as wide. He had a clean-shaven face and skull. He looked every bit the titan of war in his gleaming metal plate. Goblin and hobgoblin both, fell at the swing of his mace and the bashing of his shield.
The ogre took note of the creature decimating the Overlord’s forces and turned its large yellow eye to the man. Large he was, but to the ogre, he was barely waist height. Like all men before him, the human would die.
The ogre lifted his great oaken club in preparation but was unprepared for the speed the large man possessed. General Hugo lunged forward, covering the distance in a fraction of a second. His mace came down hard on the ogre’s unprotected foot, and broke flesh and bone open to the air. The ogre’s scream was heard by its brothers, nearly half a hundred of the creatures served in this battalion. A paltry amount for the Overlord, but an overwhelming force for the small human kingdom of Evergreen.
Hugo did not hesitate. He continued his onslaught, smashing the Ogre’s ankle even as he deflected an oncoming arrow with a quick swipe of his shield. The great beast fell on a good dozen of its comrades, Hugo swung his mace one final time, ending the ogre’s life as gore splattered his once spotless armor.
He made himself ready to take on the next foe. His heart sank as he saw a steel colossus wade through the Overlord’s army. He spared a glance at his men and found they too had ceased their battles. Even the Overlord’s forces seemed cowed by the creature. It was an ogre, surely, but one decked out in full metal plate. Hugo had never seen such a thing before. Such a feat of smithing wasn’t possible by any monster he knew of. Or at least it hadn’t been in previous eras.
The armored ogre wielded a large metal chain, a large spiked ball as large as Hugo’s torso dragged along by it. He swung it in a large arc, the dust kicked into the wind, and then exploded with the impact as it came down upon Hugo’s men. He briefly considered fleeing, even his own heart feared this monstrosity. But one look at his men steeled him once more. They would be unable to flee, they were too embroiled in the melee.
Hugo raised a hand to signal his men to continue to fight. The battle was lost, that he knew. They were outmatched and outnumbered. But they would not retreat. They would die with honor. And if God be with him, he would take as many of the fiends with him as he could. He raised his mace in challenge to the armored ogre. Fear or no fear, Hugo would fight. His honor demanded it.
The ogre bellowed a deep hearty laugh that seemed to shake the world. His comrades followed after, ogre’s with deep growls, orcs with their pig-like squeals, and goblins with high-pitched howls. Hugo held fast, but many men did not, and were not prepared for the ruthless rush of the enemy. Suddenly the Overlord’s forces seemed renewed and fresh and tore apart their opponents as if they were but paper.
Hugo rolled to the side, dodging certain death as the steel flail struck like lightning on his previous position. He ran forward, attempting to close the gap, but was thwarted by a line of hobgoblin spearmen. He dropped to the ground as the chain came by, decapitating the enemy soldiers. It seemed in the Overlord’s army; friendly fire was considered par for the course. Hugo quickly came to his feet and continued his charge, making his way to the beast before the chain could be pulled back.
He swung his mace down hard upon the creature’s shin, but to no avail. All that resulted was a deafening noise like thunder. Hugo’s arm was numb, and he just barely rolled to the side in time to avoid a kick from the deadly beast. Hugo was getting tired, his armor pressed down on him as he ran around the gargantuan creature, avoiding fists, feet, and steel. He struck whenever able, but the armor would not budge. Whatever it was made of was more formidable than steel.
He brought up his shield just in time as the steel ball finally hit home. He was thrown meters away, his arm in bloody tatters and his shield torn from his grip. He had survived the blow, but he wasn’t sure he would survive another. He laid on his back breathing heavy, his soldiers and the enemy’s not even noticing his condition. The one creature that did, the armor-clad ogre, slowly made its approach, the steel ball swinging from the chain it so casually twirled.
If they didn’t notice him, they certainly noticed the ogre making its way towards them. The goblins and hobgoblins pushed back his men as they attempted to save him. He was proud of them, but this was a fight they couldn’t win. He looked at his killer without fear and readied himself. Heaven awaited him.
Or so he thought.
A crack of thunder and a blinding red flash signaled a teleportation spell, a mohawk and red cape appeared in Hugo’s vision. Before he could say anything, the man struck out a hand, and torrent of red lightning hit the ogre square in the chest. Hugo averted his eyes, unable to stare directly at the attack. As the light dimmed, he could make out the smell of sizzling meat. He looked upon the armored ogre one last time. The metal, whatever it had been, was blackened, and smoke rose from the inside of it. The ogre stood perfectly still for but a second, before falling backwards in a heap.
The man who had saved his life turned his head, smiling at him. It was then that Hugo realized that this was one of the four wizards General Skye had summoned to aide him.
“Where are the rest of you?” Hugo growled, trying to ignore his mangled arm.
The man didn’t answer, instead he strolled forward, shooting lightning and fire at the Overlord’s soldiers. Very quickly, the tide began to turn. Hugo was startled at the touch of a stranger, but quickly realized it was another wizard. This one the blonde in white robe.
“We’re it, I’m afraid. Skye has retreated. Said he’s fortify someplace else.”
Hugo laughed, or rather, tried to. The adrenaline was fading quick and the pain of his arm prevented much more than a scream. The white wizard held a hand over his arm and began to chant something. A prayer? His pain began to recede, and he could see small gold flecks of light flit about his arm.
“Who are you?” said Hugo
“We’re the Golden Cross. Wizard mercenary group. So take all the stuff said about wizards and then take all the stuff about mercenaries, now imagine what that’d be like if they had a baby, and that’s us.”
“No, I meant what is your name.”
“And what of the man with the mohawk and beard?”
“That would be Devon. He’s sort of our leader. We never took a vote, but we generally just follow his lead.”
Hugo could feel his arm beginning to tingle, as if it were numb. The blood and bone and muscle reconstructed itself, and soon it was back to normal. The only difference being the twisted scrap of metal at his side that had been covering it. He wasn’t sure how to feel about the Golden Cross. But he was thankful to God that the Wizards seemed to have enough goodness in them not to turn tail and flee at the sight of the demon forces, unlike General Skye. He stood up, ready to fight once more.
“You have my thanks, Kris. Even if you are a lowly mercenary.”
Kris just shrugged his shoulders and walked off into the battle. Hugo watched with amazement as swords and spears seemed to miraculously just miss him by the barest of inches. With a quick glance, he found a new shield, an orcish one, by the look of it, and headed off.
Perhaps he wasn’t about to die just yet.
David watched his brother defeat the strange ogre in one overpowered strike. Even he was awed, in all honesty. He knew that ogre was clad in Demon-Steel, and such metal was immune to natural elemental magic. That red lightning must have some sort of supernatural property, but he had no idea what that might be. His brother wasted no time in returning to the melee and making quick work of the foot soldiers.
David decided to so the same and reversed his ethereal form. Several boar-faced orcs jumped at his sudden appearance, but they weren’t fast enough to deal with the sudden spikes of ice that were unleashed from his hand. He jumped back into ethereal form just as an arrow whizzed by, through his head. Melees were dangerous places, chaos reigned as the discipline of soldiers were broken.
David took a moment to appreciate Danny’s spellwork in the distance, a large ghostly warrior from Zipangu, a samurai, sweeping its sword clean through an enemy ogre. He couldn’t see Danny, but he knew he was close by, controlling the creature.
Suddenly David dropped to the ground, broken from his ethereal form, clutching his head. A massive headache ripped through his skull unlike anything he had ever felt. It was if his skull was an egg, and a baby chick had just broken through. But as suddenly as it had appeared, the pain vanished. He looked towards the ghostly conjuration of Danny’s make and noticed it had fallen to its knees. He had a sneaking suspicion that all four of them had experienced a psychic attack. None of them were well versed in the psionic arts. If the enemy had a powerful enough Psion…
He pointed a finger upward and shot a large blue spark of light into the sky. They needed to regroup. He vanished in a swirl of blue smoke and appeared back on the hill where they had agreed to use as a rendezvous point. Devon was already there, and in two flashes of light Danny and Kris joined them. Danny was the first to speak.
“The fuck was that?”
“Psionic attack my guess.” said David
Kris cursed in monotone, not easily impassioned. Devon ran a hand through his hair and looked back towards the battle. Despite their power, the Overlord’s army was quite easily winning. They outnumbered the humans by a factor of ten to one. It was hard to see any Evergreen banners. But the banner of the new Overlord was numerous and easy to see. A silver crown wreathed in green flame set on a black field. Devon spoke up, ready to take charge of situation.
“David, you’re the best we have when it comes to psionic power. Think you can tell where the guy is? If we go in blind again, he may be able to disable us enough for the soldiers to kills us.”
David was about to speak, but instead pointed across to the other side of the hill, where a large mass of black smoke had popped into existence. It crackled with purple energy, and the slightest shadow could be seen inside. The smoke blew away as quickly as it came, and in its place was an enormously tall black-skinned creature with glowing green eyes. It wore shimmering green robes flecked with silver, and a silver crown rested upon its shiny hairless head. Large emeralds were set in the crown and decorated the many rings and bracelets the creature wore. It had a toothy grin and seemed amused by their appearance.
David was quite certain that this was the new Overlord. He couldn’t place the species. It was nearly ten feet tall and had skin as black as midnight. It was hard to make out anything of its face, all David knew for sure was its glowing green eyes and abnormally white sharp teeth. When he heard it speak, all it did was confirm his suspicions.
“So, you are the four that’s been turning the tides of the battle. How quaint.”
Devon responded in a snarky tone he seemed to carry often these days.
“Oh? And what’s so quaint about it?”
“I can tell you four are nothing before my power. I am the Overlord of the East! The Silver Crown! The Viridian Flame! I had worried the chief God had sent a plethora of heroes to stop me before my conquest could begin! But it is nothing more than four foolish wizards with a death wish.”
A red bolt of energy screamed at the Overlord and in the blink of an eye, engulfed him in fiery blaze. David held back a laugh. He knew it probably hadn’t done much damage against the creature, but Devon had a way with this sort of thing that he admired. True enough a shockwave rippled through the air, dispelling the flames, revealing a relatively unharmed, but furious demon.
“Fine, a fight it is. I had thought to grant you mercy. But now you shall have no-”
David spoke a spell of his, a swarm of ghostly blue hands burst from the ground and held the Overlord in place. He seemed to be done talking as he began to counter, breaking the hands with concentrated psychic energy. It would be interesting fighting a Psionic Overlord. From what David understood, it had never happened before. David leaped to the side as a sparkling silver serpent burst forth from the Overlord’s mouth. Danny and Kris did the same, flinging powerful concussion spells at “The Viridian Flame.”
He withstood both spells quite well, causing David to worry. He hadn’t even bothered to counter. This time the creature lifted both hands high in the air, as if lifting something. David began to feel the earth below him quake, and quickly spread his arms out wide, encasing himself in a translucent purple bubble. The earth attacked him a moment afterward, attempting to crush him in a giant earthen hand.
The spell did not need the Overlord’s concentration as he directed his attention to Danny, who had conjured a giant spectral octopus to attack. Danny lay inside the beast, directing its actions, and immune from most forms of attack. The Overlord was forced to move, avoiding being crushed by the many tentacles.
Devon meanwhile took the opportunity to begin chanting his most powerful spell, and Kris stood by to guard him, his face impassive. David decided it was a bad idea not to use the advantage of numbers against this opponent and broke his bubble as he jumped away, allowing the earthen hand to close. He traced a glowing white sigil in the air, and with a wave of his hand, copied it over a hundred times.
Danny, meanwhile, had yet to make a mark on the Overlord. He not only seemed to wield powerful magic, and psionic ability, but was agile and athletic. As the Overlord slipped by yet another tentacle, he thrust an open-palmed fist at the spectral construct and caused it to burst. Danny quickly attempted to conjure something else but was overtaken by the much faster Silver Crown. A large clawed hand came down, but before it could end Danny’s life, a glowing white sigil slapped onto the demon’s hand, causing it to explode in a torrent of water.
The Overlord lost his toothy smile, and turned toward David, enraged. His anger turned to fear as he noticed the multitude of such sigils still floating in the air. Danny made use of the distraction to teleport to David’s side in a whirl of white smoke. With a flick of his wrist, David sent the sigils flying to the Overlord in rapid succession. The Overlord stopped a few with a telekinetic pulse, halting their advancement. But he could not stop them all. He waved his hand in a wide arc, and the earth shot up into a thick wall. The sigils exploded upon contact, soaking the earthen wall and turning it to mush. It didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough for the Overlord to escape the onslaught.
With a powerful leap, he cleared the remnants of the wall and came upon David and Danny both, a silver bow in his left hand and flaming green arrow in his right. With a snarl he let the missile loose. David and Danny both rolled to the side, as the arrow struck the ground and let loose a fiery green explosion. Both wizards were thrown in the air, their robes in tatters and their skin lightly burned. David looked up bleary eyed at the Overlord, who now floated in midair with four large bat-like wings suspending him aloft. Another flaming arrow materialized as he drew back his silver bow.
Before he could loose it, he was encased in a golden cylindrical light that had shot down on him from heaven. David looked over towards his brother, who had finally accomplished his spell. David smiled, knowing that it was over.
Devon’s ultimate spell was the Wrath of Heaven. Only the blessing of the gods could give a creature hope enough to survive it. Devon stood upon the earth his body shining bright like the sun. His eyes were as molten silver, and eight wings of golden light shown from his back.
He lifted into the air, effortlessly, his wings unmoving. It was impossible to see what the Overlord’s expression was inside of his prison, but David had the distinct impression it would be fearful. His younger brother was built like an Adonis and towered over most mortal men. In this form, seething with energy, he seemed to be the incarnation of wrath itself. He drew back both arms, as blades of gold materialized into his hands. As he drew back his arms, after images appeared of his strike, but David, knowing the many intricacies of the spell knew that these were in fact new arms.
Like Lightning, Devon struck the mighty pillar connecting heaven and earth, and each after image did the same. Thunder echoed among the battlefield, and David could see the fighting had stopped down below. It had slowed when the gleaming pillar of light had pierced the clouds and come to earth, but now with Devon’s strikes coming down like lightning, and even causing thunder to roll across the plains, it had left the lesser soldiers on both sides to stare in awe at this show of power.
As quickly as Devon’s strikes had come they ceased, the clouds overhead had darkened to a deep cobalt blue. True lighting began to form, and thunder continued to rumble. David could feel the air begin to chill. The finale was about to begin. The Overlord was still trapped in the pillar of light and was helpless as several thousand bolts of lightning struck, one after another. The pillar began to crack from the power and finally, after several awe-inspiring seconds, shattered. A noise louder than any peal of thunder shook the battlefield, and even David admitted that he felt no uncertain amount of fear from the display as he felt the earth shake below him.
The shards vanished as they fell to earth and Devon collapsed to the ground, his Spirit Energy, or Mana, spent. David stood up gingerly, his skin still rather raw from the flaming arrow. Humanity had been saved this day, quicker than ever before, to his knowledge. An Overlord had arisen, and a Overlord had falle-
David’s thoughts came to a halt as the last of the pillar fell away, revealing the Overlord standing upright and furious.
He was not unharmed; the spell had hurt him. His crown had melted onto his head, his jewelry had fused to his skin. His robes were shredded to pieces. Even his hand remained missing. But he was far from dead. All at once David’s heart sank. Devon was the best at wanton destruction, and that had been his coup de grace. David had no spells that rivaled it, and neither did Danny or Kris.
What kind of monster was this guy?
The demon’s wings unfurled, large intimidating black wings that made David’s heart shudder. His eyes ceased glowing green and began to radiate violet energy. David could see the same energy coming off the Overlord like steam. A light rain began to fall as the storm left-over from Devon’s magic began to take a life of its own.
“I am… impressed. I have decided that you four will become trophies, marking my first victory.”
The Overlord smiled widely, seemingly unfazed by his injuries. He rose his remaining hand and fixed his gaze on Devon’s prone form. It lifted into the air, and with a jerk, he flew across the hill and was seized by the much larger demon. The creature held Devon by the throat, studying him. David had had enough. Whatever the “Silver Crown” wanted to do was not going to happen. He shot a hand up into the air and pulled it back violently. The rain in the air stopped falling and formed into a twisting vortex of destruction. It struck quick as a snake at the demon’s midsection… but was merely batted away by the Overlord as if it were nothing.
David’s blood ran cold.
The Overlord chuckled. A bluish light washed over Devon’s form as he cried out in pain. As the Viridian Flame let his quarry go, David realized what had happened. His brother had been turned to stone.
Kris and Danny finally made their move with the Overlord distracted. A succession of bright beams of light escaped Kris’s hands as he chanted continuously and without ceasing. The Overlord did not bat these away. He flew into the air, weaving and turning every which way, dodging them with frightening ease. But just as the Overlord seemed ready to counterattack with a ball of mysterious black goop, Danny made his appearance. He flew inside the spectral form of a giant eagle, his body once more inside directing the action. David turned his eyes from the Arial battle to his brother.
He limped along, careful not to do anymore harm. He could hear the sounds of battle above him, but he ignored them. He needed to get to his brother. He couldn’t really be dead. He was just…stone? David had no idea what the implications were. He knew nothing about petrifaction spells. But he had to make sure.
He reached his brother just as the rain began to fall in earnest. He wondered briefly how the fighting was going down below. He and the others had been too busy fighting the Overlord to spare them much thought. David pushed his hair to the side as it became damp in the now free falling rain. Ahead of him he came face to face with the twisted face of his brother.
Devon’s face was twisted in pain, wrought in a stone that David couldn’t identify. He ran a hand over his brother’s temple. He muttered a spell under his breath as it misted in the rain. His brother’s forehead glowed a brief red light. David dropped to his knees in relief. A red light signals life. His brother wasn’t dead, only… in suspended animation. He rose from his muddy resting place and turned his eyes to the battle overhead.
He wished he hadn’t.
Danny dropped before him like the stone he now was. Kris was in the Overlord’s grasp, already half-turned. David sent forth a telekinetic blast as powerful as he could, the only spell he could cast near instantly. It was futile. The Overlord batted it away like it was nothing, and in the next instant Kris fell to the earth next to Danny, both of them now nothing more than the trophies the Overlord said they would be.
David stood in silence as he looked upon all three of his friends, the most powerful people he had ever known, defeated and powerless. The Overlord came down from on high like a god next to David’s kneeling body. A throaty chuckle escaped the demon’s throat.
“Did you ever think you had a chance, mortal? I am nearly a god, and you fools are nothing but common mercenaries. You four, what did you think would happen? Only the gods’ champions have ever managed to defeat one such as I.”
A final kick to the head brought stars to David’s vision. But at last he found his tongue. The Overlord could not hear him, his voice was so faint. With a rough jerk the Silver Crown hoisted the defeated wizard by his purple robes up to his face. David dangled like a rag doll, his already short stature exaggerated by the ten foot tall monster.
The Overlord cast his spell. David the Purple was the last of the Golden Cross company to turn to stone. There he sat for over a millennium, as Overlords rose and fell, as kingdoms came and went.
An old elf climbed the scattered ruins to the top of the hill with no small effort. He was a collector of legends and a lover of myth. He was also one of the last male elves in existence, the current Overlord having seen to that.
He wore a long green robe and had a long flowing white beard. His pointed ears sagged, as most elf’s ears did when they reached his age. He used a long gnarled staff to support his weight, the youth of his prime long since gone. As he stepped past the ruined pillars of what was once a grand archway, a young girl with short-cropped blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes finished her ascent up the ruins breathing hard. She wore the trappings of a knight of Lancaster, a bastard sword strapped to her slim waist. Her clothes consisted of a royal blue tunic under a gleaming steel breast-plate gilded with gold. Her skirt was white and royal blue, trimmed with gold at the bottom. All in all, her outfit seemed more fashionable than functional, but in truth the outfit allowed a good blend of protection and maneuverability.
Silas, the wizened old elf, still thought it was silly. The fashion nowadays was so bent towards the sexual it was obscene. Even the Order was far more fashion conscious this century. As his companion demonstrated.
“Silas! are we there yet? I’m getting tired of all this running around. You promised the Order-“
“Yes, yes! I know. Do shut up about it already. I told you this would be difficult! You humans, always so impatient.”
“I have a name you old badger! Use it!”
In truth, Silas had long forgotten her name. He just called her human or girl. He came into a central chamber that he believed must have once been the throne room of a long since forgotten Overlord. But he had a good guess as to who it might have been. The chamber was round, open to the sky, and half the walls were missing. The other half were in disrepair. Four round pedestals three feet across were by the sides of the wall, evenly dispersed. None had anything on them, but Silas thought they might have at one point had statues adorn them.
Moss and lichen covered the ruins, a musty wet smell wafted into his nose. With a small thud of his cane a large tome came into existence floating before him, leather bound and wrinkled. The girl made it into the chamber as he began flipping through the pages of the ancient tome. She looked among the scattered rocks as if impressed. Silas sneered as she stood next to him
“Man, what a wreck. What is this place?”
“This is the throne room of an ancient Overlord, from before our modern problems.”
“Yeah? Which one?”
Silas slapped her forehead.
“What do you think I’m looking up you silly girl!”
She scowled at him and rubbed her forehead. But she knew better than to retaliate against the old coot.
“You’re an insufferable old elf, you know that?”
Silas sneered and went back to his book. From the stone used, to the location, and the styles of the ruins, he had narrowed the candidate down to about a dozen Overlords from about 3000 to 4000 years ago. As he continued his search, the girl began poking around the ruins, moving the moss and lichen away from the small friezes in the stone. Silas watched her with a wary eye. She wasn’t the delicate sort. She enjoyed fighting, booze, and generally being as unattractive as possible. At least to his old eyes, it seemed that way. Women weren’t meant to act like men. Oh, her form was pretty enough, but beauty was more than what a creature looked like.
As she came to the pedestal in the far right of the room, the one covered in the most vegetation, she called to him.
“Hey Silas! I found something! It’s a statue of some guy!”
Silas put a bookmark in his tome and let it vanish. He hobbled to the girl, curious.
“Where? I don’t see anything.”
She grabbed at the vegetation and pulled. It fell to the ground like a curtain, surprising the old elf. He hadn’t realized the vegetation was so thick. In a niche, as if hidden, was a statue of a short man in swirling robes. He had a pained expression on his face, as if defeated. His posture was slumped, as if about to fall.
It was exquisite work, at least to Silas’s eyes. It was obviously the work of a master artisan. The expression, the pose, it was so lifelike it seemed as if it any moment the man might collapse to the floor, defeated and broken. It was obviously meant to look like a fallen enemy of a Overlord.
The girl spoke up, ruining his musings
“Why do you think this guy is back here? I mean, instead on one of those platforms.”
“That…is actually a good question.”
“So do you know why or not?”
“No, I don’t”
“Well, some wise old man you are.”
She narrowly dodged Silas’s reprimand. She grinned at him, amused. God, how insufferable! He closed the gap towards the statue and began to study it in more detail. It was far more intricate than he had first assumed. He was surprised it wasn’t more eroded. He could pick up the weave of the fabric and the hair on his head! It was almost as if a Medusa had petrified a living man…
A horrible realization struck him.
He jumped back so quickly the girl drew her blade in reflex, thinking they were being attacked. When she saw Silas wave his hand and bring forth his tome again, she realized there was no danger.
“By Ares, I thought the man had come alive. Don’t scare me like that.”
Silas’s face went pale as he responded.
“I think he is.”
Silas finally found the Overlord who was the owner of these ruins once upon a time. He had been in the pool of suspects before, but with the new information of petrified opponents, it significantly reduced the amount of individuals. And there it was. A powerful Overlord that lived 3700 years ago that primarily used goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, and ogres. He had been a triple threat, apparently. A warrior, a sorcerer, and a Psion. He self-styled himself as “The Silver Crown” and the “Viridian Flame”. Though his true name had been lost to history.
“Alright girl, step away from that man. He’s most certainly alive.”
“Geez, how long has the poor guy been here?”
“About three millennia.”
The girl’s eyes shot open wide as she registered what her aged companion had just said.
“Three millennia?! Did I hear that right?”
“Yes, you harpy! now stop yelling! I’m looking for a way to reverse the petrifaction.”
“Who did this to him? Why?”
“From what I can gather, a Overlord with a dozen titles and no real name. Defeated rather quickly, funnily enough. Took just a decade from his appearance to kill him. The hero Hugo Riverweed of Evergreen was the one to defeat him.”
“An old kingdom that doesn’t exist anymore. Now shut up, I need to concentrate.”
Silas began to mutter the incantation he had found in his book. It was long and awkward sounding, with an excessive amount of hand gestures. But at the end of it. an orange glow overtook his hand as he continued to wave it, and shot out in a wispy cloud at the statue of the defeated man.
Silas saw the girl strike a pose, her sword at the ready. The light wafted over the man for a few harrowing seconds before his stone became flesh. Silas had to concentrate to keep from holding his breath. The girl held hers anyway, ready in case the man was an enemy. Silas hadn’t really thought about that. It was obvious to him the man had fought and lost against a Overlord. That made him a good man in his eyes.
The man’s return to life completed, and he fell in a heap within the niche he had been hidden.
Silas laughed. His companion was unamused.
“What’s so funny?”
“That we expected a man that looked like he was about to collapse, to do anything else.”
David awoke to the smell of burning. He shot up in a panic, confused and somewhat delirious. He was met with a soft hand pressing on his chest and gently pushing him back down.
“Silas! He’s awake!”
David made out the voice of a woman, and as he looked blearily about his surroundings he found a blonde woman with very short hair sitting beside him clad in strange blue, white, and gold garments. It seemed a mix of a high lady, and military soldier. Her skirt was short enough he could see her knees, but she wore boots practical for combat, even if they were excessively decorated.
She was looking away from him, towards an inky blackness. At once he knew it was night, and the smell of burning came from a small campfire a few meters to his right. He began to smell other things, a sort of stew with a beefy stench that made his mouth water. He felt incredibly hungry, as if he hadn’t eaten in days.
A wizened old man with a long white beard that nearly reached his knees appeared in the firelight. He was obviously an elf, his long pointed ears jutting out from his head, and his eyebrows growing past his face made it very clear. David got a sense that he was not particularly kind, though not truly cruel either. His face was a hard one, set somewhere in-between a grimace and concern.
“How do you feel?”
David took a moment to realize the elf was talking to him.
The elf, Silas, gestured to his companion to fetch a bowl of the stew.
“We have a nice rabbit stew for you, fixed it myself. The girl doesn’t know any proper women’s craft, unfortunately.”
“I’m a soldier, old man. Get it through your head.”
David ignored their bickering and took the bowl graciously. He could smell the rich spices inside and it was driving him mad. The elf and the girl sat beside him, waiting for him to finish. He was thankful. He imagined they had a lot of questions, but he was so hungry he couldn’t think straight. He downed the first bowl without a spoon, eagerly gulping down the spicy meaty broth. A bit dribbled down his chin before he could wipe it away. When he finished his first bowl, he politely asked for another. The girl took it, though not without complaint. As he took his second helping, the elf broke the silence.
“My name is Silas, I’m an adventurer seeking lost treasure and artifacts. This is my companion, an Order knight-to-be.”
“I’m Bernice. I’m here because the old man promised the Order a way of dealing with monsterization if we’d give him a mark of free passage.”
David was already lost. But he gathered their names at least.
“My name is David. I’m with the Golden Cross company. Tell me, has the Overlord been defeated? Have you been able to recover others like myself? Stone men?”
Bernice was about to say something, but Silas covered her mouth with his hand and interrupted her.
“The Overlord you know has been defeated for a long time. You were the only stone man we found at the ruins of his palace.”
David found himself both happy, and fearful. It was a strange mixture of emotion that was as unpleasant as it sounded. He still did not bother to stop eating as he spoke.
“How long has the Silver Crown been dead then?”
“About 3000 years.”
David nearly choked on his meal.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right. Did I hear 3000 years? Three millennia”
“You heard right. Most people don’t even know he existed. Until today, I didn’t either. You should be grateful I was the one who came upon these ruins. Others might not have had the ability to un-petrify you. Then you might never have woken up.”
David found the old elf annoying but couldn’t bother himself to make a retort. He had been frozen in time for 3000 years? He could only imagine how much of the world had changed.
“Where am I? Norwich? Evergreen?”
Bernice spoke up this time, much to the annoyance of Silas.
“Those countries don’t exist anymore. You’re in Lancaster, the edge of it anyway.”
David nodded his head, feeling numb. He had lived longer than not one, but two civilizations. Perhaps even more. By the gods. David looked up into the eyes of the woman, Bernice. She wasn’t unattractive. Her eyes were like sparkling sapphires and put him at ease. Even if her hair was greasy from travel, and her nose was a bit crooked. Perhaps it was time to learn about the here and now.
“You keep referencing an ‘Order’. What is that? Some type of guild?”
“You’ve never heard of the Order?”
Silas laughed rather cruelly, apparently finding the response entertaining.
“Of course he hasn’t you dunderhead! The Order is only 1,000 years old. He’s older than it by 2,000 years.”
David wasn’t the most skilled creature on earth when it came to women, but he imagined they like being insulted about as much as men. He decided to diffuse the subject.
“Well it’s an honest mistake. As far as she knows, the Order is eternal. Now why don’t you just tell me what it is? Maybe let me know if we’re at war with a new Overlord? Or maybe I’m lucky and we’ve gone back to fighting each other?”
David’s tone was rather light, but Bernice’s response was not
“The Order is the militant faction of the Church. They’re often used as interchangeable terms nowadays. Things are…bad, David. The current Overlord has reigned for a millennium, and she’s changed the world you know beyond recognition.”
A female Overlord? That was rare. Though apparently, she was worthy of the title. David had heard tale of the hundred year war, a sordid affair where all humanity was nearly wiped out by a devil who had claimed the title and rallied a force of pure demons and a variety of undead.
“So, nothing much has changed then. A new Overlord reigns, my friends are gone, and no hero has yet been chosen. What has the Chief God doing this whole time? Twiddling his thumbs?”
The woman’s face scrunched up in confusion.
“The chief God is female, and she did choose a champion. He betrayed her, and that’s why everything’s gone to shit. The Overlord… she’s a succubus. She used her power to charm him, and together they were able to use the Demon Throne to…to… ugh, it’s too disgusting to mention.”
“The chief God’s female now? Huh, I wonder what happened to the previous one.”
Silas’s eyebrows shot up at the comment, obviously finding it far more interesting than Bernice, who seemed even more revolted than before.
“The chief God has always been female, you heathen.”
Silas bopped her on the head with his staff.
“Quiet. I want to learn more from our friend here.”
Silas turned his ancient green eyes towards David, motioning for him to continue. Bernice stared daggers at him, obviously not wanting the same thing. David scratched at his chin, not really moved by either of the strangers. Apparently the Church had either revised its teachings or this girl was ill-informed. He had the feeling Silas was the irreverent sort, and he did not want to strain their relationship further. He decided to avoid the topic. He was more concerned with a Overlord who could defeat a Chief God, no matter who held the title at the moment.
“My mistake, a slip of the tongue. I meant her, naturally. But tell me more about this Overlord. You’re telling me that she was able to defeat the Chief God? How is that possible?”
Bernice seemed to calm down, but at the same time still refused to speak. It was Silas that broke the silence.
“As a succubus she gains power through spirit energy. Through intercourse she devours a man’s spirit energy. The more powerful the man, the more powerful the energy. Normally, after a succubus drains a man, he’d die and she’d be off to the next one. But this particular succubus is a bit sentimental. She changed how things worked with the power of the Overlord’s Throne. Instead of draining a man to death, the man just creates more spirit energy to replace what he’s lost. She made Succubae the new ruling class overnight. When the Hero fell into her arms, the Chief God didn’t act fast enough, and her power had swelled to that of a god. Some gods have even gone to her side.”
“Wait, some of the gods have taken her side? Are you telling me I’ve awoken to a war between Heaven and Hell?”
“You could call it that.”
David couldn’t take it. Bernice was right, the world as he knew it was gone. His friends were gone, his brother was gone. By the gods, everything was gone! And nothing had gotten any better. The Silver Crown was long since dead. But a new, more cunning, more powerful enemy had arisen. Even Heaven was under threat. He was a powerful wizard, but how was he going to compete in a world like this? And Devon, Kris, Danny, all of them were still out there somewhere, not lucky enough to meet a wandering sage and his body guard.
Silas seemed to read the mood and motioned for Bernice to get another blanket. She went without muttering and brought it to David. Silas waved a hand and extinguished the fire.
“I think it best we all go to sleep. It’s been a long day and our new friend has a lot on his mind. Bernice, tomorrow we go back to the ruins and see if we can’t find what we were looking for in the first place. David, was it? You can do what you want, but I suggest staying with us for a bit before you get your bearings.”
David nodded and let his two new acquaintances get to sleep. The night was cold, but the blanket helped fight it. He questioned extinguishing the fire, but if they were at the edge of… whatever this new kingdom was called then he supposed it was wise not to attract undue attention. He fell asleep quickly despite his thoughts. All jumbled with the last moments of his consciousness. The Silver Crown defeating his brother, defeating Kris and Danny at the same time, and finally the feeling of his body becoming lifeless and dead.
He woke in cold sweat to an empty camp. His two acquaintances gone. He blinked his eyes hard, still thinking about the strange dream he had had. The sun shone overhead, revealing the meager camp he had spent the night in. He could see the remains of a fire and small pot nearby, a sack a bit to the left large enough to hold some basic supplies. There were no tents or sleeping mats, Silas and Bernice were gone. Though, he imagined they weren’t far. Not if they left their things here.
He got up out of his sack and looked more intently at his surroundings. It was familiar, he thought. The thick forest across a wide plain, He apparently hadn’t moved very far from where he was petrified nearly 3 millennia ago. He still couldn’t quite wrap his head around that. He saw a new feature in the distance, a kind of body of water, the light dancing over the surface.
As he turned, he found the hill he had fought on so many years ago behind him, but it wasn’t just a grassy knoll anymore. A stone tower had been built on top of it, and other walls and buildings surrounded the hill. It was in such a state of disrepair that all at once David’s situation hit him full force. He was a relic from another era, transported through strange circumstances to an older world he was a stranger in.
He decided not to dwell on it for the time being and started his path towards the ruins, remembering that Silas had said they would be going into the ruins today. He had nowhere to go, and he was hopeful for finding his friends somewhere in the bowls of the ruins. If he had survived, then he was sure they had to.
He climbed the crumbling steps with a sure foot. The moss and lichen covered the walls, but had left the floor relatively clear. He came to top of the ruins and heard a rustling up ahead past the crumbling hall and archway. As he made his way to the source of the noise, the sun was covered by dark clouds. The ruins had no roof, and he briefly wondered if it would rain. His thoughts left the weather as he saw Silas looking down a hole muttering to himself.
“Good morning.” said David.
Silas looked up at him with an eyebrow raised.
“Its past noon. Tell me, have you decided to stay?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t know where to go anyway. Not if what you said is true.”
“Think I’m a liar, do you? Don’t blame you. It was hard to believe myself.”
David didn’t feel like causing a scene with the curmudgeonly old elf. He looked about at the ruins for a sign of Bernice, until he realized where she was.
“Did you send Bernice down that hole?”
“I did. I found a secret passage a few hours ago and Bernice offered to explore it for me. Unfortunately, she hasn’t returned yet. I was actually beginning to think of going in there myself.”
David rubbed his forehead in frustration. Where was this elf’s sense of honor?
“You sent a woman to do your work for you?”
“I’m just a delicate old man, thank you. She is a very capable soldier, as she is so very fond of reminding me.”
“How long has she been down there?”
“I just said it’s been a few hours. I don’t know the exact time.”
David rolled his eyes at the man. This was going nowhere. He walked over to the hole and peered down. He could see the floor at least, it was the same grey stone as the rest of the place.
“I’m going down there and getting her. Do me a favor while I’m gone and see if you can’t find any more statues like I was. My friends were turned to stone by the same creature who did it to me. If I survived this long, I have no doubt they did too.”
“I’ll see what I can do. But it’s possible your friends were looted. These ruins have been ransacked over countless years by Monster and Human alike. And Monsters are very fond of human trophies, especially these days.”
“All I ask is that you try.”
With those final words, David dropped into the hole and made his way through the subterranean labyrinth. He conjured a small red flame as the light began to dim the further he got from the hole. He wasn’t a master of Pyromancy like his brother, but he knew some small useful spells. He held the light in his upturned left hand, leaving his right hand free in case of danger. He didn’t expect anything, honestly. But it was better safe than sorry.
As he continued down the long passageway, he was struck by the multiple niches in the wall, each adorned by a statue of a man frozen in despair. He had looked closely at first, thinking they might be like him. But the erosion and lack of detail convinced him that these were actual statues, and not petrified men. He passed by them and came to stone steps, leading into an inky darkness. He could hear his own breathing it had grown so quiet.
David wasn’t easily frightened, but there’s something about a true, total darkness that brings out the primal fear of a man. He did his best to ignore it, and descended down the steps, his flickering red flame lighting the way. He called out to Bernice, hoping to hear her respond. But all that greeted his ears was his own echo.
He expected the cavernous underground ruins to be cold and wet, but they were not. They were in fact, surprisingly warm and dry. But they were still incredibly dark. as he exited the stairway he came to a large central chamber with friezes, bas reliefs and fresco paintings numbering in the thousands. They all depicted battles and kings, and great beasts he’d never seen before. The monsters were the focus of the paintings, the heroes. All lead by a Overlord of some kind. He saw liches, wights, vampires, demons, fiends, devils, and more adorned in royal finery leading a charge of monstrosities against the humans. But he saw no succubus. This place had been a ruin before the current Overlord’s rise to power then.
He walked along, passing by several rooms, the openings free of doors in most cases. He looked in each one for Bernice, but the rooms were bare. He called out again, but again, he heard no response. He continued down the large chamber until he came to a room which still had its door. The wood was rotten and shriveled, but it still hung on its hinges. It was slightly ajar too, which was, to David’s mind, an indicator that Bernice had passed by here. He slipped past the doorway and found himself in a long hallway.
The floor wasn’t bare stone like the previous chambers, but was adorned with a posh ruby-red rug, a gold patterning along the sides. The walls too, held cloth tapestries of red and gold, the texture seeming to his eyes, a kind of velvet. Oil paintings of more battles and legends graced these walls, of a craftsmanship that would leave even the greatest human artists envious.
David had a feeling all of this would make spectacular treasure. He was tempted to stay behind and try and carry it all away, but ultimately decided to find Bernice first. He couldn’t forgive himself if he left people in harm’s way when he could help them. Besides, maybe he could claim some of this as payment for services rendered?
He walked along the hallway sparing a glance here and there for bright depictions of Demon Realms. The infamous forests of tentacles, varieties of poisonous mushrooms in sickly greens and purples, and even the occasional lounging succubus draped in silver satin cloth were popular subjects.
He called for Bernice again, emboldened by the warmer atmosphere of the hallway. He paused when he heard something in the distance. He couldn’t make out exactly what it was, a scuffle maybe? Was she fighting something? He hurried his pace towards the sound, down the hallway. He came to a fork in the hallway fairly quickly. He took a right toward the sounds, and called out.
This time there was a response. The noise, which sounded rather like wet cloth being hit against the walls, ceased. David grew cautious and raised his right hand to prepare for a battle. But as he continued down the hall he heard nothing. Finally he came to a wooden door. To his surprise it was devoid of rot, and even smelled as if it were freshly cut. He heard a moan.
“Bernice? Are you in there?”
There was another moan.
David increased the size of his flame and opened the door, ready for what might be on the other side.
It was dark, but what he could see struck him dumb. This room was paneled with rich polished wood, inlaid with gold. The walls were decorated with enormous oil paintings of Demon Realms and Under-Sea palaces reaching up to the incredibly high ceiling. A magnificent crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, unlit. The floor was also a polished wood, and on top of it was a large plush rug a color so dark David couldn’t quite tell what it was in the low light. It was a large room, and he couldn’t see to the other end of it with the meager flame in his hand.
He heard the sound again, this time quite distinct. It was definitely a woman, and she was moaning softly as if being stirred from sleep.
“Bernice! Is that you?”
The sound stopped, but he was finally met with the woman’s voice.
David was undeterred and continued forward. His robes swayed behind him regally, as if there were a wind, but he could feel nothing. Suspicious, David stopped. Why did she want him away? Was this place haunted or bewitched?
“What’s happened here? Are you okay? Silas said you’ve been down here for over an hour.”
Again, there was silence. David waited a moment before taking another step.
“Please, don’t come closer! I’ve been infected, if you get any closer, I-I don’t think I can restrain myself.”
That piqued David’s interest. Infected with what? He took another step.
“Tell me what’s happened. I might be able to help. I know a few healing spells. Kris even taught me how to banish curses and hexes.”
As he stepped closer, the light began to fall onto a creature balled up on the other side of the room. It vaguely looked like a woman, it glistened as if wet, and David was worried she might be bleeding out.
“Bernice, let me help you. I can get you back to Silas.”
There was no response except a soft gurgling sound.
Without warning, the creature dashed to him with frightening speed. Out of reflex he shot forward the flame, singing the carpet. In a panic, David cast a water spout spell, extinguishing the flame. But Bernice was gone, he had never come close to hitting her. Which, honestly he was glad for.
“Bernice! I’m sorry. That was a reflex. I’m still… out of sorts. My mind hasn’t really caught up with everything that’s happened.”
This time there was a response, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from.
“That’s okay. I know you didn’t mean it. I don’t know you very well. But you had to have been a pretty good person to take on a Overlord out of duty like you did.”
“How did you know I did it out of duty?”
“I found records down here, of every statue in the halls, and in the throne room. You and your friends were prized possessions. Worth your weight in gold among the Demon Realms. Your story was recorded too. Hired mercenaries that fought to protect the other side when the demons arrived. It was very noble.”
David was a little disturbed at the tone of her voice. It was changed, somehow. But he couldn’t put his finger on it. She spoke again.
“Nobility like that ought to be rewarded.”
“Perhaps. But part of nobility is doing the right thing without expecting reward.”
“Spoken like a true hero.”
She said that with more sincerity than David would have expected.
“Why don’t you come into the light? Let’s see how bad this infection of yours is.”
“Well…okay. But I have to warn you…”
David’s breath caught in his throat as a slimy pink goo slowly stretched down from the ceiling. Caught in the clutches of the slime was Bernice, in a rather compromising state of dress. Her armor was gone, her tunic half removed, a single shapely breast bare to the air. Her legs were enveloped in the shiny pink gunk, but he could still see her lower garments were gone from the silhouette. But the goo was not inert, nor it was flailing wildly, her blade was in one tentacle, only the hilt open to the air. A slimy pink tentacle dripping with ooze lazily drifted towards his face. He backed up, slightly terrified of the display. A rudimentary face, two dots and line, smiled at him through the tentacle. He could make out the reflection of his own haggard face in its surface.
“…I’m a little different now.”
The goo was alive, he could see, it undulated and moved against gravity whenever it came close to hitting the ground. It shimmered and flowed in the meager light he provided, like water. He almost wanted to touch it, to see what it felt like. And then there was Bernice, now that he could see her better. Her hair, already rather pretty, was lustrous. It had been filled with grime and grease last he checked, as was common when people trekked in the wilderness away from the comfort of civilization. Now it looked so soft and inviting, even if it was cut short.
Her face too, rosy and pink, was devoid of dirt and even blemishes. He had only paid her a glancing look yesterday, but he remembered that despite her handsome looks she had a smattering of youth pocks on her chin and neck. Not to mention a mole on her right cheek, but all of that was gone. Her skin was flawless, and seemed to glow with health.
She stretched out her arms, as if inviting him to embrace her. The strange face of the tentacle multiplied, seemingly by Bernice’s will, and stretched out towards him.
He shook his head clear, and took a step back. This was strange. This was really, really strange.
“What happened to you? What is that thing!?”
“Do you like it? I’m so pretty now. I always wanted to be pretty, like my mom. But I was a soldier. So I couldn’t be pretty, not really. I had to fight. I had to save everyone. The monsters were taking everyone away.”
“You aren’t coherent. Is that thing… manipulating you?”
David shook the last bit of fogginess from his mind. She said that she had been infected. It was obvious now what she had been infected by. Some sort of strange… slime parasite. It was feeding off of her insecurities, maybe? It was obviously changing her behavior. David’s initial reaction to her too had been altered, that was not normal for him. He should have been cautious from the beginning. He had a feeling the room was enchanted somehow, or the creature was.
Either way, he needed to separate her from that thing. But how? Was it only covering her, or had it slithered its way inside?
David shifted into a battle-stance, preparing himself. He had some telekinetic ability, he might be able to use that without hurting her. He wasn’t sure any of his other spells would be able to subdue her without harm. He spared a glance at the chandelier, an idea forming in his mind. He extinguished the flame in his left hand and brought the room into darkness. He could hear Bernice coo, apparently amused at the events unfolding. He waved his right hand and the flames of the ancient candles came alive.
The room was lit for the first time in what must have been centuries. Its grandeur was greater than what David had originally assumed. There was not a speck of dust to be seen. David found that curious, but didn’t dwell on it. Instead he focused on Bernice, and the curious pink goo that had possessed her. She had attached herself to the high ceiling, the goo suspended her, as if she were sitting in it, and it were nothing more than unusual hanging chair. She stared at him, her face in a state of rapture. She seemed to not be altogether in the present.
David swallowed, nervous. He hoped this was going to work. He drew back his hands, and thrust forward.
A sudden invisible blast hit the slime that was connecting her to the ceiling. Startled, she fell to the floor, looking about disoriented. David cast another spell, a blue sparkling light overcoming the pink slime on the ceiling as it began to freeze. Bernice gained her bearings quickly as she reached out with the slime that still covered her, attempting to reach the other half of her parasitic captor before it froze solid.
She was able to save a large chunk of the goo, bringing it into herself. But the fact remained that a good portion remained frozen on the ceiling in enchanted ice.
“What the hell was that!?”
David blinked a few times at the question, surprised at Bernice being so much more like her old self.
“Are you deaf? Why the hell did you attack me?”
The slimy face embedded in her tentacle was scowling, two lines had formed as rudimentary eyebrows, in a roughly V shape. Its smile had curved downwards.
“Bernice, is that you? Are you… you again?”
“I never stopped being me you idiot!”
David stayed in position.
“You’ve got pink slime coming out your… everywhere. Last I checked that’s new. And you weren’t acting right. It was different from before.”
Bernice gave him a smirk as her face flushed crimson.
“I am different. But I never stopped being me. I’m a better me. I didn’t really get that at first either. But if you calm down, I can show you. I’m still a little mad, but I guess I can forgive you. After all, you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Bernice was standing tall, her body silhouetted in the slime that now acted as her clothing. She was slender, slim-waisted, and delicate looking. The opposite of what he imagined a warrior to look like. The slime was worn like a skin-tight bodysuit, a single tentacle sprouting from the back like a tail. David blushed at the indecency. He couldn’t make out anything specific, but the state of dress, or lack thereof, left little to the imagination. Her eyes bore into his as she stopped a few feet away. Her eyes were blue, like his, but they were much lighter. Her eyes were like ice, his like storm clouds. His hair, wavy and unruly, was dark, contrasted with her flowing golden locks.
God she was beautiful.
“Don’t come any closer. I’ll rip that slime right off.”
“Don’t be like that. I just want to talk. Why’re you here anyway? Checking up on me? Old bastard too uptight to do it himself?”
“He was worried, yes.”
Bernice gave a chuckle at that.
“He was worried he might have to explore this place himself without his human meat shield, you mean. I’ve put up with that curmudgeonly old elf long enough. I only ever did it for my duty to the Order anyway. And honestly, I think I’ve had a change of heart about where I stand in regards to the Order.”
She took another step.
David let loose another psychic blast, sending Bernice flying. She stayed together this time, and used her ooze to catch the floor. It stuck and held her as she slung herself back. David rolled to the side as she landed by him. She gave him a wink and did a high kick in his direction. The slime covering her flew out like a battering ram and hit him square in the chest. He flew back and landed on his rump. Bernice wasn’t far behind as she leaped to him in a fantastic display beyond the capabilities of a mere human, a foot landing on either side of him.
She looked down at him amused, and sat down straddling his stomach. He thrust a hand forward to prepare another psychic blast, but it was caught by a slimy tentacle and pulled to the floor before he could. The ooze covering her then began capturing him, sticking him to the floor. He struggled to free his limbs, not wanting to resort to spellwork. But he found it was useless. Bernice took his face in her hand and forced him to look at her. He did his best to focus on her eyes. The feeling of her near-naked body on top of him was provoking a very unwelcome response.
“You’re a bit feisty aren’t you?” said Bernice with a grin on her face that made David question what exactly was going on.
“Bernice, please, if you’re still in there somewhere… tell me what this thing is. I don’t want to hurt you.”
She sighed, annoyed.
“I told you I’m fine. Better than fine. I’ve never felt better!”
“Then tell me what this is.”
David kept his eyes trained on her. This time it was her turn to fidget. But eventually she returned his gaze.
“It-it is called a parasite slime. But it’s not bad, I swear!”
David looked over her face, admiring the improvements that had been made aesthetically.
“Look, I can see that it has a trade off. It did…enhance your looks somewhat. But at what cost? When I got here you were acting very odd.”
“We’ve known each other for two days. How do you know that’s not how I normally act?”
“You’re a terrible actor.”
Bernice made a cute pouting noise and put her hand to her chin, making a cute pouting face to match. David almost felt bad for what he was about to do. He began whispering a special spell. Bernice perked up at the whispering.
“What? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
David continued his whispered incantation.
Bernice gave off a seductive smirk and laid a hand on top of David’s chest. David’s face turned crimson but he continued his chant. He lowered his voice even more as she came closer, licking her lips.
“You know, you’re a very handsome man.”
David stopped his chanting. Bernice closed the gap, brushing her lips lightly against his. David regretted what he was about to do, but knew he had to do it regardless. Bernice leaned her head back slightly as she snaked a hand behind David’s head and leaned her body onto his.
“Now, what where you saying?”
“I said, sleep,” David opened his mouth bellowing out a stream of pink fog.
Bernice seemed amused at first, before the magic began to spread through her. And like a candle in a snowstorm, she was out. The magic ran its course and she fell on top of David in enchanted sleep.
The slime seemed to slump as well, and became unresponsive. It still stuck to Bernice like a second skin, but the ooze she had used to restrain him softened, and he was able to scoot out from under her. He ran a hand through his hair and tried to calm down. His male-hood had stiffened to an uncomfortable hardness from the close proximity. He hadn’t been that intimate with a woman since…ever.
He sat down to process the events. He’d fought a lot of creatures in his time, but he’d never fought one like this. Hopefully Silas would know how to cure Bernice and they could get him to a town.
He looked over to the unconscious form of Bernice and felt his loins stir again, he ignored it and turned his eyes to the frozen chunk of slime on the ceiling. David was a low-level Psion, and could use telekinesis only with the use of his hands. With some effort he got the slime off the ceiling and floated it down next to him. The chunk was as big as a horse.
Next he turned his gaze once again to the warrior woman. He suppressed his apprehension and with a few quick motions bore Bernice naked, her slime floating above and around her as David froze it as he did with the others. He took off his cloak and laid it on top of Bernice to preserve what little modesty she had left. He imagined when she came to she’d be as shocked as he was at her behavior. He quickly looked about the now bright room and gathered what articles of clothing of hers he could find before putting them in a pile near her.
He gave a long hard look at the slime, unsure of what to with it. He knew very little about slimes, let alone this strange pink version. It may very well have mutated her, addicted her to it. If that was the case she could die without it. Obviously he couldn’t let her live like she had been before, but he didn’t want her to die. He decided to place the frozen slime in a pocket dimension for safe keeping, in case it was needed in the future. With a wave of his hand the frozen mess rippled like water on a pond and vanished.
With that done he turned to the now naked Bernice. He swallowed his apprehension and decided to dress her. He was glad Devon and the others weren’t here. They would have enjoyed this. He found the hardness in his pants not going away. Not surprising. This wasn’t his first naked woman, of course. In his line of work, he had come across the occasional succubus, siren, or dryad bothering a local lord and his peasants. They paid good coin for David and his band of friends to take care of the creatures. Truth be told the Golden Cross would do near anything for the right price, so long as it wasn’t against the gods.
But he had never known a woman carnally. Wizards weren’t the most loved creatures, and it didn’t help that he had no idea how to be charming. Hell he didn’t even know how to flirt. His brother was another matter of course. Tall, handsome, and daring, with a charisma that you could spy from a distance. David had no idea the number of his brother’s conquests, but he did know he had courted at least a dozen women.
As for Kris and Danny? They were even more hopeless than himself.
He sat back after he was done and caught his breath, taking in the room’s surroundings. The room actually looked somewhat smaller in the light. Still large, but not mysteriously so. At the far end, where Bernice had hid from him minutes before, were large bookshelves and a desk, as well as other furniture he hadn’t seen elsewhere in the ruins. Like the rest of the room, it was free of dust and seemed as if someone had been living here until recently.
David made his way over to check on it, remembering that Bernice had said she had found papers and documents about the statues. With any luck he would find a paper trail to his friends and be able to go on his way.
As he came to the desk he found his own papers already scattered about, with even a charcoal portrait of him (though as a statue) and even a rather faithful adaptation of his defeat at the hands of the former Overlord. Of course, it did seem to gush on the Overlord a bit, but David had expected that. He found nothing on purchases or relocations, so moved on to other papers.
Apparently The Silver Crown had started a trend. Several Overlords had, over the centuries, turned failed heroes and champions into statues. The records stopped about 500 years on, and as far as David could tell, that was when the building had been abandoned. He found nothing about purchases or trades, or anything about moving goods. He cursed quietly and turned his attention back to Bernice. It was time to go.
Or not. David was surprised to see Silas approaching through the doorway, dripping wet. David raised an eyebrow, wondering why he was here.
“Silas, you missed all the fun.”
“Its begun storming outside, and you were taking too long. What happened in here? Why is she in an enchanted sleep?”
“It’s an… interesting story. Find what you were looking for in here?”
“No. It must be here somewhere, in this room, or in a chamber adjoining it. Have you found anything?”
“Paintings mostly. I imagine they’d be worth something to someone.”
“We aren’t here for paintings.”
David watched as Silas began looking over the room, brushing a hand over everything. He ignored his sleeping companion. David wondered if that was trust in him, or a complete disregard for Bernice’s health. He decided to dismiss the thought. He already didn’t like the elf, there was no reason to add to the fire.
“What exactly are you searching for?”
The wizened old elf gave off a smug look before turning back to the nearest wall and began prodding. Just as David thought the elf was going to ignore him, he spoke.
“Tell me what happened to the girl, and I’ll tell you what we’re looking for. Fair?”
David nodded, though Silas didn’t see him.
“She was… in a state of undress, covered in a pink goo. She was acting differently from before. I managed to induce an enchanted sleep, and while she was subdued, I removed the gunk. I didn’t know how it might have altered her physiology, so I left her asleep. I planned to awake her when I brought her back up to you. There, you’re all caught up.”
Silas turned back to face David with a serious look on his face. He gave a quick glance towards Bernice and then back to the purple-robed mage. He spoke in a serious tone, abandoning his search.
“I see. I was afraid of this, but the Order thought women more easily able to overcome the monsters I’d find.”
David found that curious.
“Why would they assume women make better warriors? Biologically, a male is always going to be a physically superior specimen. That’s simply non-debatable.”
“Do you remember when we spoke about the current Overlord being a succubus? And that she had altered all of monster kind?”
David gave a nod of his head.
“Well, the change practically created a whole new world, far different from what you remember. Monsters don’t eat men these days. They mate with them.”
Silas motioned for David to sit in one of the ancient chairs left in the room. David complied, though with a look of confusion. What on earth was Silas talking about? He gave a look in Bernice’s direction, but did not let it linger. He saw Silas doing the same.
“When the new Overlord rose to power, it wasn’t more of the same. She is an idealist, a dreamer. She desires peace between monster and man. But, being a succubus, she sees ‘peace’ a bit differently. She used her position to fundamentally transform all of monster-kind into pseudo-succubae, some into literal Succubae. For the past few centuries monsters have required other males to proliferate and in some cases simply survive. They live off a male’s mana, in a process not fully understood even now.”
David listened, but had a hard time believing. The massive ogres he’d seen only recently slaughter men by the dozens had become succubae? He didn’t know whether to laugh or hide in horror.
“But that’s not all. Besides kidnapping men to reproduce and attain sustenance, they often… rape women as well.”
“Your time was one of killings. Ours is a time of, well…rape.”
“No. Not at all. The monsters of today seek out and rape men and women to proliferate their numbers. Men give them children, women turn into monsters. Either way, their numbers increase, and ours decrease.”
David ran a hand through his hair, and furrowed his brow. What kind of weird perverted nightmare had he awoken to? Silas continued on, ignoring David’s incredulous looks.
“Some of the creatures are benevolent, or close enough to it. But even they’re dangerous. Because they don’t cut off limbs, lop off heads, or eat small children people didn’t see the danger until it was almost too late. The entire dwarven race is now nothing but monsters. All the men have died out, their ancestors preferring the monsterized version of their women more than the natural. They paid the price, and now not a single dwarf male exists in the world. We elves came close to that fate ourselves until we started banishing any women defiled by a monster.”
“You just abandoned them? Just like that? Couldn’t you have helped in some way? Even back in my time the elves were renowned for their magical abilities.”
“We still are, for the most part. But there is no spell that can reverse monsterization. Not that we’ve found at any rate. And besides, it barely saved our race. There’s may be a handful of elf males now. Myself included. We’ve had to resort to polygamy to survive. Even still our numbers are dwindling.”
David rested his head in his hands. Even at the most perilous of times whole races had never been wiped out. settlements, and cities yes, but not a whole race. He kept silent, burying his face deeper. That was until he thought of the other races.
“What of the Dark Elves and Fairies? Or the Centaurs?”
Silas gave a single humorless laugh before shaking his head.
“The Dark Elves fell centuries ago, even before the dwarves. The morons didn’t see the danger. The Fairies have always been like children, easily fooled by pleasing forms and flattering speech. I hear not all of them have been monsterized, but they’re definitely on their way. The Centaurs seemed to always be monsters, they were just more civilized than most. They were transformed a millennia ago, along with all the other monsters. The Order that our dear Bernice is a member of is a last ditch effort by your race to prevent the extinction of everything. Human males are now essentially our last hope.
The monsters need them to survive too, of course, but they’re short sighted, just like the woman who rules them. It’s funny in a way, the one doing the most damage is the woman who wanted peace with us.”
David couldn’t take it anymore, he stood up and began pacing about the room, taking in all that Silas had said. What was he supposed to do? Could he do anything? Had what Silas said meant that Bernice had been altered completely? Did that mean he had only delayed the inevitable? He thought he was in trouble before when he found he was transported to a war between heaven and hell.
Now he was in the middle of an extinction level event.
“How did things get this bad?”
“We reared a generation of good men. They find it hard to slaughter what seems to be innocent women eager to please them.”
David sat back down in a twirl of his purple robes and cast his eyes on the silver stars stitched therein. He didn’t want to think about the implications of what Silas was telling him. It was one thing when fighting an encroaching evil. It was another to fight a good, or even neutral people who only meant to do good, but were doing quite the opposite. What was the saying? The road to hell is paved with good intentions?
He sat in silence for a few seconds, Silas not bothering to break it, before he realized something.
“Silas, you never said what it was you were looking for.”
The elf looked up at him from under his long bushy eyebrows and gave him a smirk.
“No. I didn’t. But I said I would didn’t I? Very well then.”
Silas stood, his robes twirling about him as he did. David thought it his imagination, but he could have sworn that the curmudgeonly old elf was actually smiling.
“Like I said before, the Order of the Church is a last ditch effort to stop the Overlord from causing mass extinction. But so far the only way to accomplish that is sending men to murder women and children. The monsters of today aren’t malevolent, so the men, taught by the church from boyhood how to be good upstanding creatures, can’t bring themselves to do it. Thus they get captured, thus they make more monsters.”
David watched in silence as Silas began to pace back and forth as if he were giving a lecture.
“What we need is a way for men to fight the monsters and defeat them without murdering them. We need a way to reverse monsterization. The monsters have a curious metal called Demon-Realm Silver, that they use to craft all their weapons. It doesn’t cut the body or produce any sort of harm. Instead, it drains a man of his stamina, causing him to fall down exhausted and made easy prey. I believe I’ve found the counterpart to that metal, Heaven’s Gold, a metal that was used in an ancient hero’s spear.”
“And what, exactly, does this metal do?”
Silas smiled at him plainly then. It was obvious to David that Silas had become excited at getting to explain this to someone.
“It steals away all the magical power infused in someone. It was gifted to the hero to defeat a powerful lich who had attained the power of the Overlord.”
David stayed silent then, thinking.
“So, say you find this spear. Then what? You return these… monster women back to normal one at a time? While thousands get turned or born daily? You still don’t think that’s a losing prospect?”
“There are more artifacts that I seek that circumvent that little weakness. But the point is, I need you to help me find it. I know its here. I just don’t know where. If we can find it, we can cure the girl truly. You did well, but a Parasite Slime changes the host’s innards as much as it changes her appearance. She’ll grow the slime back in time if we can’t find the spear.”
David didn’t like the sound of that. He spared a glance of pity her way. She looked normal enough sleeping peacefully on the posh carpet. But David was a fairly good judge of character, and he didn’t think Silas was lying or mistaken. He swallowed hard as he came to terms with the fact that this was his world now. He couldn’t afford to be a mercenary any more. The world was in crises and it needed heroes. Even heroes like him, short purple wizards with little social ability.
David gave a long sigh. He was willing to be the world’s hero. But he was not willing to do it for free.
“Look, I appreciate what you did for me. But I need to find my friends and do the same. The world might have changed, but I doubt everything’s free. To find my friends I’m going to need money. And If you want me to help you with this whole spear thing, then you need to incentivize me.”
“Are you telling me I need to pay you?”
“Or get someone else to. Point is, I don’t work for free.”
Silas’s cheer seemed to melt from him, and his hard exterior returned. Though as he stroked his long beard, David saw something else in his eyes. Though, what, exactly, he couldn’t say.
“So am I to expect that you went after Bernice to pay us back for releasing you from the petrifaction?”
David shook his head.
“No I did that out of charity.”
“Hmph. So you do work for free. You just happen to only do it when a pretty young girl is in danger. Typical. You have a nearsighted vision of the future. Not surprising really, expecting more out of you was a waste.”
“So I’m a little hypocritical. Aren’t we all? The point is I haven’t a penny to my name and I happen to need money to live, just like the rest of God’s creatures. You’re being funded by someone, or you wouldn’t have been given an escort. The church is charitable, but not that charitable. So share the wealth and I’ll help. Otherwise I’m going to teleport to the nearest town and leave you to your quest on your own.”
Silas gave a steely glare to David, who took it without much fuss. He’d been stared down by much worse than an elven wizard. After a few seconds of scowling between the two men, Silas stuck out a hand. David grasped it, and with a single shake, David began looking for the Heaven’s Gold spear. David knew he’d have to discuss price in more concrete terms later, but he preferred to show what he was worth beforehand.
But he was trying to distance himself from his mercenary background. The fact he was even willing to help without discussing price fir-
David’s thoughts came to a halt as he found a raised panel next to a painting of a lich surrounded by legions of the undead. Curious, he pressed it. As he did. the painting began to…melt. David took a step back as the colors dripped onto the floor, leaving a pool, not of oil paint, but of the entire painting, frame and all.
Behind the painting was what seemed a very large metal vault, with runes etched haphazardly over it, and several chains both large and small bolted into it. despite that, he did not see a single door or hint of one. Silas came up behind him, stroking his beard in thought.
“You found that quickly. Good job checking the lich’s portrait. I should have thought of that. Now, what to do about the protections… hmm.”
David wasn’t even a novice when it came to runes. He was blind in this area. Sometimes it fascinated even him on just how many branches of magic there were. Still, to an elven mage, such a thing would be child’s play. At least, David assumed. The creatures were exceptionally long lived, and had a natural talent for magic.
Silas didn’t disappoint. He let go of his staff, which still stood straight up in an impressive display of tacit casting that would have been lost on the layman, and conjured a large tome. As he began to read, David took the time to look back on Bernice. Strange feelings came over him as he did. It seemed to be a mixture of pity and awe. He briefly remembered their tussle, and the comments she’d made about her mother.
He wondered how the mundane sort of life had changed. Silas had painted with a wide brush when he described the world’s changes. All the most important things of course. But David wondered how the small things had differed. The culture was obviously different. The dress had altered into a flashier, almost extravagant look. He wondered if he’d fit in more now than he had. He had mixed feelings about that.
On the one hand, he had liked standing out in a color normally reserved for royalty. On the other, he had been fairly lonely in his time. If it hadn’t been for his brother and his friends asking him to join the Golden Cross he wasn’t sure what kind of life he would have had.
He came back to reality as Silas began chanting. Both hands began waving about in curious fashion. David had no idea what this spell was and was surprised at its complexity. After a few seconds Silas’s eyes glowed bright and his hands stretched outward. The chains seemed to fade into mist and the runes gave off a simple orange glow, before turning to blue and fading away. A single slit came down the middle.
Silas waved a hand and the tome vanished. He grabbed his staff and turned to David, a smile on his lips.
David smiled and gave a nod. It had been a harrowing day, but this was definitely a bright point.
With a wave of his own hand the doors to the vault swung slowly outward, revealing a cloth wrapped pack roughly a meter in length and a small note beside it. He ignored the note and grabbed the package, interested in seeing if this was the weapon. It seemed small for a spear.
Silas grabbed the note, and brought it to his face squinting hard. David glanced at the note and was surprised at the smallness of the font. With a shrug, he turned back to the package and began to unwrap it.
He was awestruck.
The package contained the blade of the once noble weapon, an ornate blade made of lustrous gold and decorated with intricately designed crosses and elaborate Celtic knots. At its base it was attached to a polished wooden pole that had been snapped about a foot and a half from where it was attached to the blade. It gave the appearance of being a sword without a pommel. As David was admiring the artistry, he ran a hand along the blade, which still after all this time seemed to luster and shine, the edge still sharp as ever.
As he touched the metal, he found himself growing very tired. His eyes drooped, and his vision became blurry. He dropped to the floor, the spear alongside him, clanging on the wooden surface. He could hear the muffled voice of Silas in the distance, but soon that faded as he slipped into unconsciousness
David woke up with a gentle nudge to his shoulder. He opened his eyes slowly, rubbing the bleariness from them. By the gods, why did he feel so tired? He sat up from where he was and saw Bernice looking over him, worried.
“Oh thank Ares, you’re awake. Silas was afraid you might not wake for a few days.”
Briefly, David panicked when he saw that the blonde woman had awoken, but her tone and dress made him calm down. She still retained that unearthly beauty from before, but she seemed decent again. Her odd piece-meal armor and fashionable skirt and blouse seemed much more comforting than the semi-transparent pink slime that had clung on her before. She stuck out a hand and David took it as she helped him to his feet.
“What happened to me? And where is the old elf anyway?”
“After he woke me up. He told me what happened, said you should have let him translate the note, and you weren’t going to be happy. He wouldn’t tell me why. After that he left to go prepare our things, said we needed to move on, left me to take care of you.”
David got his bearings quickly. Silas had left him where he lay. He was still in the room with the exceptionally large paintings and the crystal chandelier. He looked around for a bit before he noticed that the painting of the lich and his legions had been restored somehow, the vault once again hidden from view. He gave a lethargic sigh as he eyed the desk where he had failed to find information on his friends. Bernice must have seen him eyeing the desk.
“I’m… sorry for earlier. A parasite slime had hidden behind the desk. I should have been more careful.”
Bernice ducked her head as her ears flushed red with embarrassment. David smiled involuntarily. She looked cute when she did that.
“It’s not your fault. And everything turned out well in the end. I just wish we could have found something about my friends in the documents. We got your artifact, but I’m still at square one.”
David quirked an eyebrow.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s a secret compartment in the desk. I was about to open it when I was attacked. And… you know the rest.”
David was glad to hear that. Maybe there was hope after all. He yawned one last time before sauntering over to the desk. Bernice followed behind him and pointed out the compartment at the side of the desk. She got under the desk and fiddled with some sort of mechanism before the side of the desk dropped hard onto the floor. A loud echo sounded in the room and in the abandoned rooms beyond. David knew the place was void of residents but still felt uneasy about the echo. Without the excitement of a fight or an artifact hunt, the place seemed eerier than ever. He thanked Bernice as he crouched down and looked through the compartment.
Very quickly it became apparent why these papers were hidden. They were a very detailed record of business dealings that weren’t exactly fair. It seemed that demons and monsters weren’t very honest businessmen. Who knew?
Bernice grabbed some documents still left in the compartment and began perusing at a moderate pace, still avoiding eye contact with David. He let her be, figuring he might be a bit bashful if he had been in the same situation. He briefly remembered that Silas had said the slime would live on inside her, changing her back into the lustful creature from before. Unless of course they used that Heaven’s Gold spear. He cleared his throat as he flipped through a few pages.
“So, um. Did Silas wake you up?”
“Hmm? Oh. Uh, yeah. Then the old fart ran me through with that gold sword. He didn’t explain why until after, so you can imagine I was a bit startled.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet. I just touched the thing and fainted. How long were you out the second time?”
David looked up from his papers to see Bernice dutifully ignoring him.
Bernice blew a strand of her golden hair away from her face and scratched her cheek, which were red as tomatoes.
“I didn’t faint. That was just… you. Silas said you should have waited for him to translate the note, though with a few more insults peppered in.”
“Oh,” David was curious. What was on the note? He asked Bernice, but she didn’t seem to know.
“Silas said he’d talk to you when he got back.”
“When’ll that be?”
“pretty soon I th- Hey! I found something!”
David leaned in over the document Bernice was holding. She pointed to a line that showed three statues sold under the reign of the Viridian Flame. He looked over for names, but couldn’t see any. Instead all he had was locations. They had been sold all over the world, apparently, for very large sums. One had been carted all the way to the Mist Continent, one had been sent as far as Zipangu, and one had even been sold and sent to the desert region.
“Oh sweet heavenly Poseidon, they’re all across the world!”
David sat up with the documents in hand and ran a hand through his hair. Damn it! How was he going to make his way across the world with no money? Devon was the only one who could access the pocket dimension they’d set aside for their funds. He had promised Silas he’d help him, but he had thought to do so for rather cheap. If he had to travel all the way to Zipangu and the Mist Continent…
Bernice laid a hand on his shoulder. He had been pacing.
“Relax. You helped me. I’ll return the favor. The Order will help you I’m sure of it.”
He gave her a weak smile.
“Thanks. But I’m not sure it would be in their interests. From what I can tell, they’re in a bit of a war. I doubt they’ll be interested in just four men.”
“Wizards you mean,” Silas said as he entered the room.
David stole a glance towards Silas, who returned the glance, but only briefly. He turned toward Bernice with his typical demeanor, the excitement from before long gone. David wondered if it had something to do with his little episode.
“Bernice, gather whatever you need then get topside. We need to reach Vasherton as soon as possible. Within the week if we can.”
Bernice shared a look with David before departing without a word. She seemed cowed. Probably still embarrassed she had been subdued by a monster. He didn’t think it was that big of a problem, but she was taking it to heart.
As she left, Silas spoke with a stern, but concerned tone in his voice.
“You shouldn’t have touched the blade. That was very stupid. You didn’t strike me as an idiot, so I’m hoping it was a onetime affair.”
David gave a shrug. With everything else happening around him, it just didn’t seem like a big deal. Silas snorted in disdain.
“You’re taking this fairly well.”
“Why shouldn’t I? After everything else, a little fainting spell doesn’t seem so bad. It was probably a defense mechanism I couldn’t sense. But I’m awake, safe, and so are you and Bernice. All’s well it ends well, wouldn’t you say?”
“Cast a fireball at me.”
Silas didn’t repeat himself a second time.
David rolled his eyes and ran off a simple fireball spell, thrusting forward his hand. But no fire came out. Not even a puff of smoke escaped his hand. Startled, David tried again, and again. Still, nothing happened. He tried other spells, spells he was good at, ice spikes, snow angels, water-balls. Nothing happened. David’s hands were trembling now, and he looked to Silas with horror etched on his face.
“What…what happened to me?”
Silas spared him a look of pity, and spoke with a softer voice than he had with Bernice.
“The spear should work by cutting out magical energy from those it pierces. That is, it separates ones spirit energy from their body. For male magic users this causes an immediate slip into deep sleep. For women, less so. Women absorb the environment’s spiritual energy to replace their own, whereas men have to restore it themselves. It’s just one of those things that separates the sexes…”
“So… why can’t I cast anything?! Why should that matter? I’ve restored enough of my mana to become conscious, why can’t I cast anything?”
Silas scowled and gave out a heavy sigh.
“Because that’s how it should work. How I thought it worked. I was wrong, which funnily enough, helps us out. Though it makes your predicament a little strange.”
David had had about enough of Silas’s lecturing. He thought it amusing before but this was no time to pontificate.
“Spit it out already! I need to know what’s wrong with me!”
“Your innate ability to control your spirit energy was sucked out of you to power the spear.”
David calmed for just a moment before he processed what Silas had just said.
“What? How is that… how is that possible?”
At this Silas shrugged, Infuriating David even more.
“I think, though I don’t know how, it reduced the amount of mana you produce. Meaning you don’t have enough to power spells. I could be wrong, but, I don’t know what else it could be.”
David stood still for a few moments, unbelieving. What was going to happen now? Silas didn’t even know. David kept silent as Silas escorted him out of the ruins and back outside. The clouds overhead were heavy with rain, but it wasn’t storming just yet. Bernice sat atop a horse, heavy saddlebags strapped to the beast with another beside her. David didn’t question where the horses had been kept, he couldn’t bring himself to care in the wake of his…predicament.
He nodded in silence as Bernice offered to share her horse, and only partially paid attention as she helped him mount. He sat behind her, gripping her waist as they trotted off. He looked back at Silas who brought up the rear. His horse seemed to know to follow Bernice’s, as he let the reins loll about. He was engrossed in his tome, hopefully searching for something to help David recover.