Wizardquest 2: Chapter 10- Hard as Steel

Worried though you are, you decide on the safer course of action. “We should all go together to follow Zoras.”

“Mmm, I see.” Zoras says, smirking. “How about I put you behind me and…

“I believe.” Tabitha says, frowning. “He will Mr. Ed and in front of myself.

Alice and Zoras both look a little annoyed at this, and you see Ebe and Sylphie let out relieved sighs at the pronouncement. While you’d much rather have a nice, well formed, female ass in front of you, you’ll just have to deal with a horse’s ass in front of you. Actually, now that you think about it, you should complain to Tabitha about this. Maybe she can be before you and-

“Gods.” You say, shaking your head and scratching your arm. “Fucking Mummies.”

“Ha!” Zoras chuckles. “Well, let us be going then. We have quite the way to travel!”

The party starts moving toward the city, most of the group keeping a wary eye on you. One hand on your staff, the other is in your pocket, rubbing rocks together as a distraction. Despite yourself, you’re staring to pick up on the various smells around you. A mix of sweat and femininity that you don’t find unappealing, which scares you. If this keeps going, you might start to develop degenerate behaviors and THAT is the worst fate you can imagine.

“Rommel, are you doing alright?” Sylphie asks, looking at you with worry. “This isn’t… getting to you, is it?”

You blink and then smile at her, trying to reassure her. “No, of course not Sylphie. I’m fine.” You walk a few more steps before saying, unbidden, “You know, I never said thank you for your help in the crypt.”

“Oh, uhm. Thank you. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you avoid the bite though…”

“Nonsense!” You say, grinning despite yourself as you look at her beautiful face under her hood. Holding out your hand, you make to pat her head. She bites her lip and hesitates as you run your fingers through her hair, feeling the silky smooth strands under your fingers. Shuddering under your touch, she begins to breath a little heavier as you work your magic, rubbing her head better than you ever have before. The feel of her ears under your touch is wonderful…

“R-Rommel?” She says as you pull her in closer, running your hand down her cheek to cup her chin, tiling her face to look into your eyes. Blinking in confusion, she gasps and blushes as you look down at her, taking in the beauty of-

Something sharp digs into your arms and you gasp as you’re pulled back and away from her, staggering backward to fall into the sand. Sputtering, you get up and channel your magic, anger flowing through you under you see three bladed tails in your face. You blink a few times and look up to see Sophie standing before you, anger on her face. Sylphie stands behind her, blushing furiously and looking to the side, hand to her face.

“I…I…” You say, feeling a profound shame. It never even occurred to you what you were doing… Oh Gods. “I’m sorry.”

“This is going to be quite the problem.” Sophie says, looking very disturbed. “I think… we should keep going though-” She turns to Mr. Ed. “Can you please walk next to him and keep him in line?”

“Gods, what is he, a prisoner?” Sylphie says, still blushing. “He-he can’t help it, it’s a curse after all.”

“Sister…” Sophie says, looking at her twin askance. “You don’t…? No, no.” She shakes her head. “Let’s just go and find this Ammon, alright?”

“Hey! What’s taking you so lo-” Alice begins and then cuts off, looking at the three of you. She smirks and then puts a hand to her mouth. “Oh? Ohhhhhhh?”

“Shut it.” Sophie says, nodding to Mr. Ed who wickers and walks over to you, snorting hot air in your face. You lick your lips and nod your head, walking with the rest of the group and looking down at your hand. Gods above…
{You going to be alright?} Erwin asks.

{I hope so.} You send, leaving it there.

The trek around the city is annoying, if not particularly arduous, the grass much nicer to walk on than sand. Keeping your distance from the walls, you go about the south side before heading toward the city. An area of outlying ruins sits, grown over by the various plant life feeding off the spring.

“Hmm?” Zoras says as Tabitha asks about the place. “Well, this area used to be a garden, but it was destroyed by bandits many, many years ago. No one really felt it was worth rebuilding, and the guards come by every now and then so it’s not a good idea to set up shop here for long.”

“If they guards know about this place, then why are we going here?” Alice asks, pointing to the city far in the distance. “We’re kind of far away too.”

“Well, there is actually a few areas to exploit the walls themselves, but you’d have to make it there first.” The Girtablilu says, shrugging. “Good looking getting there unnoticed though.”

Alice raises a finger and then lowers it, frowning. You follow her gaze and then shake your head, turning to watch Zoras root around the stonework floor. She clacks and a grating sound is heard as she moves a stone tile made to look like the ruined area around you. Your group moves in close and looks at the area she uncovered.

A stairway leading down to a metal grate before a tunnel greets you. Just as Zoras said, it looks rather small, though that is compared to a Girtablilu and a horse. She smirks and waves a hand before it, as if showing it off in a ballroom. “Well, here it is. Bloody gorgeous, right?”

“It’s… a dark, dank, tight hole.” Ebe says, shuddering. Sophie almost vibrates keeping herself from telling a joke there, but she restrains herself and nods her head.

“Very well then.” Tabitha says, turning to face the rest of you. “It’s single file. Zoras at the lead, then Alice, then Sylphie, then Mr. Ed, Rommel, myself, Ebe, and Sophie. Got it?”

Everyone nods their heads in understanding. The Girtablilu shrugs and heads down the stairs, opening up the rusty grate before her with a little effort. It grinds open and slams to the side, making everyone look around to see if anyone heard. When Sophie nods her head at the end, Zoras shuffles into the tight confines of the tunnel. When Mr. Ed (who is very adroit at getting down stairs, apparently) walks forward, you take in a whiff of horse ass, try not to vomit, and move after him.

Not long after you start into the dark tunnel, you see Zoras pull out a torch from her bag and light it. The tunnel fills with light and the acrid smell of smoke, making your eyes water. You feel someone push your back as you stop to rub your eyes and you look back over to see Tabitha frowning at you. Nodding your head, you turn about to hurry after Mr. Ed.

Once more, the grating sound comes, and you realize that Zoras had Sophie close the tunnel, closing off the area behind you and making the torch the only source of light. As soon as the stone hits, Zoras chuckles, her voice echoing in the tunnel. Her torch suddenly goes out and your group gasps as she says,

“Are you afraid of the dark?”

“Not really.” Sylphie says, light flooding the tunnel from her staff. Everyone blinks at the sudden light, and you stagger backward, bumping into something.

Zoras pouts, crossing her arms as she looks down at the glowing blade mere inches from her face. “I was just having a little bit of fun.”

“Please give me a reason to have some fun too.” Alice replies, voice hard, face stern. The Girtablilu looks at her and shudders, rubbing her shoulders and saying,

“Alright, alright… geez.” She lights the torch again and continues moving, though Sylphie keeps her staff lit.

Sighing, you turn about and put your hand on Tabitha’s shoulder, shaking your head. “Sorry about that.” You say, smiling. “I didn’t mean to bump into you.”

“What are you doing?” Tabitha says, looking at you with flat eyes.

You blink and look down at your hand, seeing it rubbing Tabitha’s strong, toned arms. Smiling at her, you say, “Mmm, you’re certainly keeping quite in shape. How about we do a little wrestling practice when we get out of here?”

“Get your hand off me before you lose it.” She says in a quiet, yet terrifying voice.

You take a step backward and blink your eyes, looking at her in confusion and then shrugging. “Well, later then?”

“Good Goods.” She says, pushing you around. “You need to see a priest or something, you don’t even realize what you’re saying, do you?”

“Hmm?” You say, humming for some reason. Tabitha certainly does have a rather toned body, doesn’t she? Rough and rugged, you bet every part of her is muscle. Imagine that body, slick with sweat sliding across your chest and… and…

“Hum.” Scratching your chin, you wonder why you feel that thought is wrong. Can’t be terribly important you suppose. Still, best not to follow-up on it until you reach this Ammon, you do still have a job to do after all. Of course, you do try to hang back a little and stay closer to Tabitha, though she pokes you in the back with her sword hilt every now and then, which just means she wants it, right?

The walk through the tunnel is long and boring, the smoke of the torch making things a little difficult to breathe at times. Zoras says that the tunnel was originally built to travel between the areas during sand storms if someone needed to get between the city and the gardens. After the bandits destroyed the area, the criminals in the city quietly appropriated the tunnel for their own needs. Either the guard don’t know about it or don’t much care, but it makes your life easier.

Still, it does feel a little like a trap to you, but you’ve come this far, what are you going to do? Hold Zoras down and force her to swear that she won’t betray you? And while she’s down on the ground, you’ll push apart her thighs and-

A mop of horse hair slaps your face and you blink back to reality as Mr. Ed snorts, his tail waving before you. Wiping your face, you grumble and look over to Erwin, who is still in a saddle bag and shaking his head. You frown and keep going, muttering to yourself about being interrupted as you itch at your arm. Gods is this damn wound itchy, and it only seems itchier the longer it’s there.

After what seems an eternity, Zoras holds up a hand, slowing your group as she scuttles to a stop. Looking about, she walks over to a wall and shifts a brick before grabbing something, nodding, and pointing down the hall. Not saying anything, you look down the tunnel to find another grate, this one locked.

The item she pulled out was a key, and she opens the grate, this one much quieter than the other. Ushering all of you inside, you follow after her and up some more stairs to find yourself inside a large warehouse, filled with multiple crates made of metal.
Finishing the climb, you look about the room and frown as you scan over the boxes. While they’re in all different shapes and sizes, you do happen to see some of the crates used to transport slaves and you grip your staff, looking about for any signs of an ambush. The others notice as well and they turn upon Zoras who holds up her hands and says,

“Woah, woah woah. What’s all this about?”

“These are slaver crates!” You hiss, pointing your staff at her. “This was a damn set-up!”

“H-Hey! It wasn’t! This is just where the tunnel leads!”

“She’s quite right, you know.”

Everyone turns at once to find the source of the voice, finding nothing in the darkness of the night time warehouse. Sophie and Sylphie sniff, turning in unison to look at something, though they keep the sense to stay hidden. A chuckle comes from the darkness there followed by clapping hands.

“Oh my, Monsters from Deleor! How very interesting.” The clapping becomes louder as from the shadows a man appears, smiling with white teeth and reflect in the light of Sylphie’s staff.

He is a tall man with short, well kept black hair, wearing a suit that wouldn’t be out of place in Sanctifrond, yet looks so weird here. The jacket is missing however, but underneath he wears a dark grey vest and white undershirt, the sleeves rolled up. In fact, the only thing that defines him as an Ectrian is his accent and his bronzed skin.

“Ah, Zoras.” He says, nodding to the Girtablilu. “Was your trip successful?”

“Uhhh, not so much, Ammon.” She says, rubbing the back of her head. “It was a crypt, but it had a curse placed on it. Place had been raided quite a bloody long time ago by the cult. Managed to escape with this lot in tow though.”

“Unfortunate, but that’s the nature of the business. I’ll have to deal with that source…” He sighs and taps his head. “Anyway, so you’re the ones that the Royal Guard are looking for?”

Everyone goes rigid, hands going to their weapons. Ammon chuckles and holds his hands out in placation. “I suppose that came out wrong. It’s not hard to figure out that such an… interesting group might be the ones causing trouble. Of course, your reaction is what confirmed it.”

“Tch.” Tabitha grits her teeth. “Information brokers, always the same.”

“Ha! Yes, indeed.” He chuckles and walks closer to you. As he does, you notice something shifting in the darkness nearby, but when you look harder, it’s gone. Ammon rubs his chin and looks over you, shrugging and saying, “Well, I assume you came with my little Zoras in order to find me, yes? I think I have an idea what you’re-” He cuts off as he looks at you, walking forward placing a hand on your face, looking into your eyes.

“Twins above, you have the curse of the mummy.”

“U-Uh.” You say, stepping away from him. “How do you know?”

“Your eyes. They’ve have a golden sheen to them, characteristic of the curse.” He looks at your neck and pushes your robe to look at your shoulder. “Tch, the mark is there.”

“Huh?” You say, looking down at your shoulder and blinking in surprise. There, a black, reaching tattoo stretches up your arm and toward your neck. It doesn’t have any real form, but it’s disturbing to look at and makes you shudder. “Well that’s just… great.”

“Yes, indeed.” Ammon says, gritting his jaw. “Have you been having more sex than usual with your harem?”

Your party speaks out in a mix of outrage and disappointment at this to which Ammon blinks in surprise. “You mean to say this is not your harem? Are you only sleeping with one of them?”

“No! I am not sleeping with any of them!” You say, putting your hand to your head. “Gods, though this damn curse is making it hard not to!”

“Yes… that is what it does…” He says, rubbing his chin. “Well, because it kills you, anyway.”

The room goes quiet as everyone stares at him. Ammon shrugs and says, “It is rarely an issue, and most do not escape the Mummies, but it will eventually drive the curse bearer insane with lust and he’ll have to be put down.”

“H-How do we stop it?” Sylphie and Ebe say in unison, worry in their voices.

“Hmm.” Ammon says, rubbing his chin. “You see, I deal in information, and giving away my wares without anything in return is…” He rolls his hand. “Poor business.”

“You bastard…” Tabitha says, taking a step forward. The moment she does, two women drop down from the ceiling, knives held in hand as they hold them before Tabitha, keeping her in place. The Lizardman stops, looking around and growling.

“Ako, Sayaka.” Ammon says, waving his hand. The two women, who now that you look appear to be from the East, pull back, but stay near his side, holding the blades close to their chests which are quite visible under their black body suits. He chuckles and says, “I apologize for that, they are very protective.”

Adjusting his tie, he continues. “Now, I am a very reasonable man. I am quite willing to trade you for the information, either in coin or… a job.”

You frown and say, “What kind of job?”

“You and your group seem to have a set of skills that could be quite useful. You see, I have need of something, an item known as the San’ha urn. It has recently been found during an exploration and is being stored inside the Stables.”

Spreading his hands out, he says, “I want you to retrieve it for me. I’ll even lend you Zoras.”

“And if we don’t?” Sophie says, a frown on her face.

“Well, we can work something else out, I suppose, though if you do this for me, then I will help you with what you’re really here for.” A knowing smile comes onto his face, though he does not say it.

A long sigh escapes your lips as you put a hand to your face and slide it down. “Why? Why is everyone here some kind of wheeler and dealer? What’s so special about this Urn?”

“I’m afraid that’s not part of the deal here.” Ammon says, shrugging.

“Wait, you’re lending me to them?” Zoras says, looking aghast. “W-what? Why?!”

Turning away from Zoras, you look at the rest of your group, keeping yourself from itching your neck. It’s possible you can find some other way to find the way to remove the curse in a city like this, but he also knows how to get into the Palace in the capital. The fact that he knows why you’re here though, and you’re certain he’s not bluffing, is also concerning. How could he know that? What else does he know about you and your group?

“Well?” Ebe says, looking a little scared. “What do we do?”

As you look at her luscious lips and wonder what it would feel like to lose your breath kissing them, you think the exact same thing.

>Story continue

>Story Continue

“What do we do indeed…” You say, rubbing your chin while your gaze is locked upon Ebe. The Gandharva blinks a few times, a look of concern on her face as she pulls away from you. Feeling like you should comfort her, you take a step forward and hold out your hands, smiling at her. Before you can get close, however, you feel a firm hand on your shoulder and turn to see Tabitha, a scowl on her face.

“Rommel.” She says. “Where are you looking?”

“Ah, of course.” You say, shaking your head, feeling your shoulder burning. “You’re right, I should have been looking at you this whole time. How blind I have been to-“

“Stop.” She says in a harsh voice before turning about to face Ammon. “There is no way he will be able to keep himself together on an infiltration mission inside the stables. The moment he steps inside, the cloying scent of horse pussy will make him explode.”

“In more ways than one, I would suspect.” Ammon chuckles. “But the deal is as the deal is.”

“Then I suppose the deal is off. If you do not have a way to subdue this behavior then we will find it ourselves.” Clacking her tongue, she says, “Unless, you really don’t need that urn?”

“Mmm, someone who likes to barter, how very… Ectrian.” He rubs his chin. “Very well, I suppose having him trying to stick his dick inside of every Centaur he sees would quite lower the chance of this succeeding.”

“I have a question.” Sylphie says, holding up a hand. “Why do you need us to do this when you have those two? They’re pretty good at sneaking around.”

“I’m afraid I do not wish to be away from my bodyguards. It would break my heart if anything were to happen to them, right Ako, Sayaka?” He pauses when he gets no response and looks at the two, who stand stock still, faces red.

“M-Master, may we will this man?” Ako says, looking very embarrassed. “He is very… free with his hands.”

“Come now.” You say, holding up your hands as she backs away. “I was admiring your physique. Such firm, toned buttocks speaks of an incredible devotion to your work and I felt it would be an affront not to pay tribute.”

Both the Kunoichi blush furiusly and turn aside, much to Ammon’s humor. He laughs with great mirth and says, “Oh ho! This certainly won’t do! Very well then, I feel we can work well together, so consider this an advance.” Coughing into his hands, he says, “I do not have the materials on hand to cure the curse, however there should be a way to at least dampen its effects. Are you a religious man?”

“I worship ass.” You say without thinking. “Or uh… no. Hmm.”

“I see. A blessing from the divine is likely to dampen such spirits. In such a case, a priestess of the Twins would be your best bet. Casting a blessing upon you should halt the advance for now and keep your mind out of the gutter, or so I believe they say in Deleor?”

“Hmm?” You say, looking back up at him, hand outstretched, though you don’t know why. “Oh, of course.” Putting your hand back in your pocket, you hear Alice huff, the swordswoman having moved rather close to you in the interim somehow. “Is there any other way?”

Ammon shrugs, “I don’t know. I would suppose releasing some of your semen might help, though it might also make it worse.”

Alice slaps a hand to her chest, “I would be honored to help my dear friend Rommel in these trying times.” She rubs her hands together and walks toward you, licking her lips. Before she can reach, Ebe places a wing on her arm in what appears a gentle motion, yet it stops Alice in her tracks. The swordswoman turns her head to regard the Gandharva and you feel a palpable sense of menace coming from the two of them. Gods that’s hot.
“So, we should find a temple then?” Sophie says, watching the two.

“Indeed. I’ll send Ako with you, once you have received the blessing, then she will tell you more about the stables and how best to proceed.”

“Very well then.” Tabitha says, nodding her head. “We will all go then. Oh, and if you’re thinking about betraying us…” She looks over at Zoras. “We can’t guarantee her safety.”

Ammon’s face shifts for only a moment before he smiles again. “I am certain that there will be no cause for such a situation. Zoras is quite dear to me, and I would certainly be must aggrieved if anything were to happen.”

“Wait, but don’t you send her out to crypts with mummies and-” Mr. Ed cuts Sylphie off by flicking her face with his tail. She sputters and pouts at him before folding her arms and grumbling to herself.

“It’s dark out, all the better to do this. You must be tired, but as you have put it yourself, time is certainly of the essence.” Ammon says, waving to Ako. “Go forth and may the Twins smile upon you.”

“Heh, wouldn’t that be nice.” You say, looking at the two. Gods, they’re pretty, have you ever noticed that before? Tabitha grabs you by the arm and pushes you forward, the rest of the group and a dejected Zoras following in suit.

Exiting the warehouse, you find yourself inside the city proper. As Zoras stated before, none of the buildings have narrow alleyways, if they have them at all, and all the streets are rather large. Here and there you see by an oil lamp the sight of people and Monsters chatting or walking to various places while the clip-clop of hooves on the stones laid out for streets echoes around you.

Square, sandstone structures line the pathways as you walk, doing your best not to attract attention. Everyone who has a hood has them up, leaving Tabitha, Ebe, Zoras, and yourself exposed. Passersby don’t seem to care much about the Monsters, but they give you a little pause at your tanned, though decidedly NOT Ectrian skin. Feeling you should just play it off, you instead flash them smiles every now and then, which makes a pair of two young centaurs blush and trot away, giggling to each other.

Ako, who had donned a robe herself, much to your disappointment, leads your party with swift motions through the streets. Despite the fact that you want to snuggle up with Tabitha and her strong arms as you walk, the pace is too quick and she keeps you at arm’s length, quite literally using her arm. You should just use magic on her to keep her in place. She’ll like it once it starts, right? Yeah that might work…

Contemplating something that you seem to KNOW is a bad idea, you jerk as Tabitha stops you in place. Thinking of a smooth line to woo her, you instead look up to see why you’ve stopped. In front of you is a large building that is more ornate than the others. Ramps lined by stairs lead up to a wide set of doors upon which are flanked two statues of two beautiful women. One draped in vines and leaves, the other with bestial features, it’s obvious that they’re depictions of Phallia and Dollora.

“Here we are.” Ako says, walking up the stairs. She knocks on the doors and says something as your group forms around her. A moment later a little hatch opens and a pair of green eyes look out over your group.

“May I help you?”

“We have one here who seeks the blessings of the Twins.” Ako says. “He has been afflicted by the curse of the Mummy.”

“Twins be…” The voice behind the door says.”Please, come inside.” The sound of latches lifting are heard, followed by the doors swinging open. A wind blows over you as the open and you’re ushered inside before the doors are shut once again. Looking about, you take stock of your surroundings.

The Temple to the twins is far less ornate than the churches of Solos in Deleor that you’ve seen, but it has that same sense of reverence all about it. Lining the sandstone walls are depictions of the twins, Phallia on one side, Dollora on the other side. Certain paintings adorn the walls as well as statues, pottery, etc. The center of the room hosts a few benches while the majority of the space are cushions designed for Centaurs and Lamia to sit during worship.

A clip-clop sounds behind you and you turn to see that the woman who had attended to you beforehand is not a woman at all, but a Centaur! Her black haired horse body has a few spots of white here and there, creating an interesting picture that goes well with her bronzed, human-like torso. She smiles and adjusts the brown robes he wears, which oddly enough still show plenty of cleavage. Not that you’re complaining.

“Good evening, I am Priestess Finap. I am quite well versed in Deleorian, so please speak freely.” Her smile turns to a frown then as she looks at you. “However, we have important matters do discuss, I believe?”

“How about we discuss those matters over some wine and a nice dinner?” You say to her, eyes twinkling. She blushes furiously and says,

“O-Oh my. Y-You’re quite the attractive man and while I think that… Ohhhh.”

“Priestess.” Tabitha says, glaring at you. “This man is afflicted by the Curse of the Mummy, he will flirt with any woman.”

The Priestess’es horse-like ears droop and her shoulders sag. “Ah… yes, of course, the curse.” She sighs and shakes her head. “I am afraid it is beyond my power to cure him of this. I can, however, allow him to receive a blessing that his soul may be at some ease so that he may be given to Nerg’s realm as he is rather than as a lust filled… beast.”

“That last part won’t be necessary!” Sylphie chimes in, voice worried. “We ah… just want the blessing.”

Finap looks over everyone in your group but says nothing, only pursing her lips before nodding her head. “Of course. Well then, if you would follow me, my child?”

Without needing to be much told, you follow after the Centaur as she makes her way to an altar at the back of the room. Tabitha follows close next to you, and you’re beginning to wonder if she’s guarding people from you, or if she’s guarding you from others.

The altar is a flat section of stone where two statues of the Twins stand, one to either side. They each clasp a hand together, forming an arch over the altar, the other hand holding a whip for Phallia and a sword for Dollora. You frown at this particular depiction of the two of them, never having seen it put that way before. Given all the various statues of the Gods, you wonder which ones are real? They’re pretty hot though, maybe you could make your rock friends look like that… ah but then you’d have to rename them.

{Hey Erwin, what are you naming your rock?}

{Rommel, is this really the time?}

{It’s always the time for rocks.}

{Fuck, I don’t know. Phallia?} He sends, seeming annoyed.

{Interesting choice, but I’ll take it.} You send back to him with an internal smirk. He groans back in reply.

>The [Limonite] has been named “Phallia”
>Feels like you kept forgetting to do that for the longest time.

“Sir?” The Priestess says, drawing your attention back to her. You smile and she blushes again before coughing and saying, “P-Please, to the altar.”

“Mmm, before the Gods themselves. I like how you’re thinking.” You say, chuckling to yourself. Tabitha forces you to kneel before the altar though and you wince before smirking. “Ahhh, rough, but I kind of like it Tabitha?”

“Degenerate.” Sophie says from a few yards away.

“Now then.” Finap says, clasping her hands together. “Blessed be the heavenly Twins, daughters of Solos and makers of life, mothers of our flesh and of our meals, without whom nothing would thrive. We beseech the blessings of one or both, together as sisters though you may be apart, grant this man relief from his affliction.”

Nothing happens at first, and you find yourself more than a little annoyed. Sure, your neck is itchy now but honestly, you feel pretty good. In fact, you feel like you could plow all of the women here and they’d thank you for doing it. Honestly, you think they only thing keeping them from doing the same to you is this stupid sense of modesty that came about after the fucking Grand Wizard fucked everything up! Fuck that guy! Fu-

Something tingles on your arm. You pause in your anger for a moment, looking over at your neck and feeling a sense of darkness descend upon you. Shivering for warmth, it feels as if a cool touch caresses your arm, drawing away the burning heat of the itch and clearly away the fog from your mind you didn’t even know was there. Now that it’s gone, however, you remember what you’ve been saying/ doing and feel a profound sense of embarrassment and regret wash over you. Oh Gods, what were you thinking?

“Ah…” Finap mutters. “Dollora has chosen to pay heed to my prayer. Can you feel the touch of darkness upon your soul? It is not as scary as it sounds, for though she is a Goddess of darkness, she is also a Goddess of life. Let it resonate in your soul, LISTEN to the words of the Mother of Beasts!”

Closing your eyes almost unbidden, you search within yourself as the soothing touch sinks into your bones. When you concentrate, you can feel it, almost impossibly faint for anyone without magic. There, however, you feel something and can swear you hear something. A voice? A female calling to you, as if from a great distance. You’re unable to make the words out, but something about it fills you with an unexpected warmth, like being in the arms of your Mother so very, very long ago.

When you open your eyes, the others are standing around you, hesitant looks on their faces. Blinking, you say, “Uh, hey there.”

“His eyes have changed.” Zoras says, nodding her head. “It seems to be under control for now.”

“Yes, but if you wished for a ritual knife all the same, I can provide one.” Finap says, looking grim. “This blessing should last for a few hours, but if there was a great temptation, I do not know if even this blessing will keep the Curse at bay.”

“I thank you.” You say, bowing to the Priestess. “Truly, it is good to be myself again.”

She nods her head and ushers your group outside, where you take in the fresh air. Ebe nearly knocks you over and asks, “Oh Twins, are you alright?”

“Of course I am.” You sigh, looking at her and her ah… her revealing outfit and ah- Your arm burns a little and you turn away, grimacing. “Maybe you shouldn’t… stand so close to me. The effects are still a little present and I don’t want to hurt any of you.”

Everyone nods their heads except for Alice who scoffs and Ako who doesn’t care. She looks around you and, finding no one of much consequence, says, “We have helped you some. Now for the deal.”

“Right, right.” You sigh. “Tell us about this urn first.”

“The San’ha urn is an ancient piece of pottery painted purple and lined with depictions of various snakes. We have knowledge that it made its way from a dig to the stables until the royal guard arrive to take it.”

“And it’s special because?…” Sylphie says, waving a hand.

“You do not need to know that.” Ako says, pulling out a map from… where the hells was she storing that? “This is a layout of the stables. We suspect it is being held in one of the dungeon chambers, here.” She taps the page showing a lower floor schematic. The building itself is a large, rectangular structure with 3 different levels, with the middle level being the barracks area where all the Centaurs (and their husbands if they have one), sleep. The top floor appears to be for administration in the city, and ramps are shown to lead up between levels

“Entering into the Stables from the Centaur side themselves are unlikely to go unnoticed, however there is a connection between that and the horse stables which is often unguarded. Entering there may be your best bet.”

“How deep down is this dungeon?”

“Likely not terribly deep. Loud noises are likely to be heard on the upper floors if you’re not careful.”

“I see.” You say, rubbing your chin as your mind works clearly again. “So we get the urn and then what? Return to the warehouse?”

“Correct. I will monitor your progress from the shadows and return to bring you back to Master Ammon.”

“Do we have to go through the stables?” Alice asks, scratching her chin. Ako shakes her head.

“Master Ammon does not care. He only asks that you deliver the urn or to not to say anything if you’re caught.”

“Sounds simple enough.” Sylphie says, shrugging. You groan and she asks, “What?”

“You just had to say it, didn’t you?” Grumbling, you say, “Well, I guess we know we need to do and where to go.” As Sylphie says, this doesn’t seem like it will be horribly hard, you think your group might have the skills to do this, though you may want to leave some behind. Feeling pretty good about your decision, you watch as Ako takes her robe off and shows off that tight body of hers. Finding yourself unable to pull your eyes away from her, the tingling on your arm makes you think that maybe this isn’t going to be as easy as you thought.

“I ah-” You begin, shaking your head and looking away. “I’m sorry, did you say something?”

The others blink and look at each other in confusion before turning to you. Sylphie says, “Uhm, no?”

“Oh, right.” You sigh. “A little out of it still, being blessed by a Goddess and all.”

“You’re okay though, right?” She asks.

Looking out over the rest of your group, you feel something stir in your chest and you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say, “Yeah, I just need to focus on the task ahead is all.” Feeling a little embarrassed, you say again, “Sorry about all of that beforehand, I didn’t mean to get so… handsy.”

“They say the curse first lowers inhibitions and unmasks that which is already there.” Ako says, and you glare at her, though you can’t tell if she’s smiling through the mask. Given the twinkle in her eye, you think she is though.

“Reaaaaallly now?” Alice says, swaggering up to you. “You mean to say our little Rommel isn’t just a golem and has emotions?”

Groaning, you roll your eyes and shake your head as Ebe taps her chin, looking a little flushed. “S-So that means uh… uhm.” She blushes a little harder before stammering out, “B-But you didn’t hit on Sophie once!”

Everyone goes quiet, beyond Erwin who is laughing in your head. Mouth dry, you turn to look at the Cat o’Ninetails who looks at you with flat eyes. In a cold, dispassionate voice, she says, “I am not the least bit bothered by that. It shows that I could at least act the adult on our agreement.”

Part of you wants to say something to the contrary while another part of you wants to push her down and show her how wrong that is. You decide to listen to neither parts and merely shrug. “Quite… now then, we have a mission to accomplish.”

“I will be waiting.” Ako says, leaping away faster than you would expect and blending in with the shadows of the night.

“Where did he even find those two anyway?” Sylphie says, rubbing the back of her head. “I kind of get the creeps around them, like she’s watching me.”

On the wind you hear, “I am.”

Sylphie yelps and says, “Okay, okay, creepy. And I know you heard that!”

The wind says, “Thanks.”

“Come on, let’s get closer to scope out the area.” You say, and the others nod their heads, following after you. The area is the same as before, and yet as you walk you feel somehow more conflicted than you did before, like you have to watch your back all the time. It’s not that you fear Ako or anything, but more that you feel like something is gnawing at the corners of your attention, like the freedom to say things like, “I worship ass,” wants to break through again.

That’s silly, of course, because you’re into hips. R… Right?

No, wait, you’re not into any of this! Shaking the thoughts out of your head, you steel your resolve and rub one of the rocks in your pocket, using your magic to smooth the stone. You’re pretty sure it’s Midas, which is confirmed thanks to your spells. Feeling a little more calm, you say to the others, “Some of us should remain on the outside.”

“Why?” Ebe asks, cocking her head.

“For one, you’re not a fan of tight spaces, and two, the more people, the harder this will be.” Looking over the group, you say, “I think we should take Tabitha, Sylphie, myself, and…” You point your finger. “Zoras.”

“What? Bloody hells, why me?” She says, looking surprised.

“Because your skills will be useful here, and that’s about all.”

“Oh for the love of the Twins, you get cursed by a mummy and take on some job and now you think you’re the bloody boss?”

“Actually.” Tabitha says, smirking. “Your boss made him the boss.”

Zoras blinks before groaning. “Ugh, not that you all aren’t lovely and all, but I didn’t want to be a part of this. Twins, why did there have to be Mummies?”

“Well, this would have been easier had you not injected our friend with fluid from your long appendage.” Sophie says, an air of annoyance in her voice. Zoras raises a claw and begins to say something. “I know what I said.” Zoras lowers her claw and closes her mouth.

“So it’s settled.” Looking over the group, they nod their heads, though one of them is fairly solemn.

“What about the rest of us?” Sophie says, still looking a little perturbed.

“Hmmm.” You say, rubbing your chin while looking at her. She is kind of pretty isn’t sh- no, not again. Closing your eyes you say, “I need the rest of you to keep watch in case things go south.” Turning to Ebe, you say, “Can you sing that Lullaby?”

“H-Huh?” She says, blinking in surprise. “I… yes, I can. I practiced some, and I think it might work!”

“Might?” Sylphie asks, looking nervous.

“I mean uh… It will!”

While Sylphie and Ebe talk to each other, you move in close to Alice, who smiles broadly and says, “Oh-ho? What’s all thi-“

“Shush.” You say hurriedly, trying to make it seem natural, though her breath tickles your ear and feels… nice. Concentrating again, you force out, “I want you to keep an eye of Ako.”

“Mmm?” Alice says, pulling you in close to you and whispering into your ear so close you can feel the moisture in her mouth, “Sure thing.”

Shuddering, you pull away from her and give her a strange look to which she giggles and makes a lewd gesture. You blink at her in confusion for a few moments before it dawns on you what she’s doing. Oh! Her being a slut and you being awkward looks natural, so it wouldn’t attract as much attention from Ako. Good thinking! Maybe you should do it a little mo-

Turning on the balls of your feet, you wave to your little infiltration party and continue toward the stables.

The walk isn’t far, despite it being a larger city in the wastes. As you approach, more people, and Centaurs, are present, going about their business with the great stables. Men and Centaurs in town guard livery speak with each other as they walk around the facilities. Most of the men you see seem to be in normal clothing, making you think them as husbands to the centaurs. Given the nature of what Centaurs need to live with, having a building like the Stables works like a barracks and an apartment system you figure.

Pausing, you think this over. If that’s the case, then there would be families in there. Looking about, you find a few younger Centaurs, one little filly even being walked holding her parent’s hands side by side, a smile on her face as they enter into the facility.

With a gulp, you turn to the others and see they’ve seen the same thing. While you’d kill a guard if you have to, harming children, even Monster children, is an anathema to you. The thought of going into their home and taking their parents from them is…is…

“Rommel?” Sylphie asks, placing a hand on your back. You stiffen and snap your head to her, seeing the Cat o’Ninetails stagger backward in surprise. She blinks and stutters, “A-Are you okay?”

Blinking, you find tears in your eyes. Surprised, you rub at them and look at the wetness for a moment before saying, “I… yeah, I am, I just lost a little control again is all.”

“Are you sure?” She asks, looking rather concerned. “That didn’t look like a, ‘I want to bone someone,’ look.”

“It’s… Look, I don’t want to talk about it right now. We have bigger things to worry about.” You say, waving a dismissive hand. “Let’s get back the job at hand. We need to find a place to tunnel.”

“Tunnel? Look, I don’t think we can really dig through all this hard earth and the stone of the basement.” Zoras says, shaking her head. “That’s going to take way too long and someone is going to notice.”

“Uh.” Sylphie says, tapping her staff. “Magic?”

Zoras raises a claw, thinks it over, and drops the claw. “Well, fair enough then.” She looks about and then cocks her head, thinking. “Hmm, oh!” She looks about and nods to an alleyway between two buildings near the stables.

You give a little farewell to the group staying behind and follow Zoras down the path. Once the four of you are gathered, you wait until she decrees the coast clear and says, “Alright, if we tunnel in here, it’s not very far and if you’re quiet about it- oh what the hells!”

Zoras throws up her hands as both you and Sylphie begin digging, using your magic to [Trench] a hole. The two of you working, an opening large enough is made and you both jump in, displacing and reinforcing the earth around you to make the tunnel. Thankfully it’s mostly sand in the lower levels, however it’s also a pain in the ass to keep stable, and you find your mind wandering a little as you dig. The others jump in after you and after a sufficient distance, Sylphie collapses the tunnel behind you.

Feeling out with your [Survey], you get a good idea what’s head of you, feeling for the structured feeling of a basement. Unfortunately you have to tunnel around another basement in a building, and you get a little turned around until Sylphie grabs your wrist and says, “You’re going the wrong way.”

Blinking in surprise at her use of [Survey] to get her bearings over you, you find yourself staring at her face and feeling that burbling sense of wanting to just… get close to her, rising up again. Licking your lips, you say, “Ah, thank you Sylphie. I should thank you for being so reliable.”

“Aww, you don’t have to do-” She cuts off abruptly as her cheeks heat up. “O-Oh no!” Snapping her fingers, you feel a sharp, cold sensation near your crotch and you gasp, pulling away as ice forms on your robes. Looking at her in surprise, she gulps and says, “P-Please don’t do that here!”

“What are you two doing?” Tabitha asks, looking worried as the tunnel shakes around you, sand falling down. Sylphie gasps and stabilizes the tunnel as you massage your ice cold balls. It feels like your manhood just slipped back into your damn body, holy fuck. At least you’re focused now, but GOD DAMN.

“T-Thanks.” You say, shaking your head.

“Uh, no problem?” Sylphie says, looking a little concerned.

“Bloody hells, Deleorians have the strangest ways of flirting.” Zoras mutters as the two of you begin to dig again. Tabitha eyes her as she says this but doesn’t reply while you continue digging.

Thankfully, nothing else occurs of the like and by the time you reach the sandstone base of the basement, you’re reasonably certain no one knows you’re here. Both of you feel the wall and cast [Survey], doing your best to visualize if anything is in the room. Getting a decent layout for the walls and not feeling any tremors from footfalls, you bore a little hole into the stone and take a look through it.

The basement dungeon is larger than it feels, a room lined with multiple cells which are filled with various items. A few which should hold prisoners are empty from what you can see in the lanterns hung on the wall, though that isn’t very much. Throwing out an [Audio Tap], you listen for any talking or hooves and hear nothing of the sort. Feeling more relaxed because of this, you look to the others, nod, and open a hole into the dungeon.

With your magic, the stone shifts as if melting, thanks to the ease at which sandstone can be manipulated. Tabitha enters the room first, sword drawn, looking for signs of enemies while Zoras slips in after her, going through the storage cells. Sylphie and yourself walk in behind the two of them, some of the tunnel beginning to collapse as you take your concentration from it. It holds, mostly, and will be easy enough to escape through if you need to.

Zoras moves between the different cells, looking over things while Tabitha takes point at the entrance, a large ramp that curves, allowing Centaurs to enter and conduct their duties. Her ears twitch but nothing comes down to disturb you. Thankfully no one is in the cells or else there would likely be a guard down here. Of course, that begs the question of WHY there is no one in the cells.

“Hmm.” Sylphie says, looking over some documents. She frowns and then sighs. “I can’t read this.”

Zoras peeks her head out from a cell and scuttles over, looking at the list and frowning. “That explains that… they recently executed all the prisoners.”

“Why would they do that?” Sylphie asks, looking aghast.

“One would assume they wanted it to look nice for the royal guard when they arrived. Prisoners are a bloody eyesore afterall.” She clacks her tongue and reads the papers again. “They did receive the urn and placed it…” She looks around and scuttles to a cell, opening it. The metallic grate made a screeching noise as it opens and she pauses, petrified as it happens.

Both you and Sylphie quickly cast [Privary Barrier] as she does so, dampening some of the noise while Tabitha checks for anyone coming. No footsteps or hoofbeats are heard and you all sigh a collective sigh of relief. Zoras enters the cell as you expand the barrier to the whole room, cursing yourself for not doing so earlier. She grunts and walks out of the cell, a large crate packed with straw in her hands, using her claws for support. Setting the box on the table in the room, she opens the lid and you gather around to peer inside.

In the crate sits a large urn, maybe two feet in diameter and three feet in height. As was described, it is a shade of purple and decorated in snakes painted with painstaking care. The top of the urn is firmly in place and despite the movement it doesn’t so much as shake.

The urn doesn’t look like much but it feels… malevolent for some reason. Despite this, you have a deep urge to know what’s inside of it, and you feel your hand hovering near the lid as you stroke the urn. What’s so important about this that you have to break in to get it? Why would they kill all the prisoners before the royal guard appear just so they can hand this over?

“Someone’s coming!” Tabitha hisses, and your group looks at each other, hurriedly placing the urn back into the box and hiding in one of the other cells behind boxes. Tabitha stays near the entrance, hiding where she can watch the door, blade ready as the rest of you look about for whoever is coming down the ramp.

Sylphie’s ears twitch under her hood and soon enough you hear soft footfalls as someone turns the corner of the ramp. The newcomer hunkers low to the ground, peering around corners as if looking for some danger. While obviously a female, they wear black clothing meant to blend into the night, though it is distinctly different than the clothing worn by the Eastern kunoichi.

The woman looks around and then enters the room, searching for signs of occupants. Feeling satisfied no one is present, she sheathes a wicked-looking dagger into her belt and undoes the covering around her head, letting loose a full head of long, brown hair. Her green eyes look about critically as she does so, scanning every nook and cranny.

She is not a young woman, perhaps in her mid thirties, but age doesn’t seem to have touched her much and her figure is quite alluring. She clearly isn’t Ectrian either, though her face is golden from days out in the sun. Looking upon that face, you feel like you’ve seen it before, though you can’t for the life of you say where you’ve seen it. Still, it bothers you watching her as she walks directly to where the urn was being stored, vanishing inside the cell and out of sight.

A few moments later, she walks out of the cell in a hurry, replacing the mask over her head and cursing as she runs up the ramp. Looking about in confusion, you make to leave your hiding spot when you hear a loud, ear-splitting scream from above.

“THEEEEIIIVVEEESSS!”

Eyes going wide, your group looks between each other and breaks cover, Zoras hefting the crate with the urn as you book it for the tunnel. Above you, sounds of hooves on stone echo, and you throw up a wall to block the ramp. Cries of alarm and the sound of weapons striking rock come next, though you bail for the tunnel before hearing much more than that.

“Who the hells was that!” Sylphie cries as the two of you tunnel back the way you came, collapsing the tunnel behind you.

“I don’t know!” Zoras shouts. “Clearly, she was after the same thing as us though! She was no guard!”

“Less chatting, more digging.” Tabtiha growls, and both you and Sylphie continue to dig until you reach your entry point, coming out to the sounds of shouting coming from the Stables. Centaurs gallop toward the stables and people nearby look about in confusion as they do so. Outside the tunnel, standing near where you entered, you find Ako, Alice, Sophie, and the familiars.

“What did you do?” Ako asks, looking perturbed. “Do you have the urn?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Zoras says, hefting the crate. “Some thief came in after us, saw it was gone, and raised the alarm!”

“Thief? Who else would… no, never mind.” She says, shaking her head. “We must figure out how to transport this back unnoticed.”

Sophie looks at her bag of holding and frowns. “Too large to slip into the entrance of the bag… We’ll have to carry it.” Digging into her bag, she pulls out some cloth and drapes it over the crate in Zoras’s claws. “There, that should do if no one looks close.”

“Good, let us go.” Ako says, slipping out from the mouth of the alleyway. Your party look at each other and slide out from the alley exit and follow behind her as she walks through the crowds of people come to see the commotion, trying to look like she’s not fleeing from any crime, which is what you end up doing, though not as well. Thankfully no one seems to care, however.

“Alice.” You ask as you move toward the warehouse. “Where’s Ebe?”

“She uh… said she was going to calm down the situation? She took Erwin with her and…” She trails off as she turns and looks behind you. “Oh for the love of the Gods.”

{Hey Rommel, she kind of tricked me with her hips and the warm breasts and stuff.} Erwin sends, sounding nervous. {She wants you to cast an [Amplify] through me.}

{What?! No! Tell her to get away from there right now!}

{Yeeeaaaah, she’s kind of insistent.} Erwin sends back. {Please?}

{Fucking hells.} You sent, feeling incredibly nervous. A knot tightens in your stomach at the danger Ebe is putting herself in and you cast an [Amplify] through your Familiar Bond before asking Sylphie to cast a [Privacy Barrier]. Everyone turns to face Ebe atop the stables building as people and Monsters all point at her in confusion. No sound comes to you, but you can feel Erwin’s concentration fade as he falls asleep.

Everyone around you wavers on their feet, looking dazed and then, with smiles on their faces, collapse to the street in sleep. Ebe’s song echoes through the majority of the town, knocking all but the hardiest asleep. Sylphie holds up the barrier until she sees Ebe take wing and fly toward you, landing with delicate taps her of claws on the street. Out of breath but smiling, she asks, “So, how did I do?”

Before you can answer a howl echoes out from the Stables. Ebe’s spine goes rigid and she turns her head toward the source, cold sweat beading on her brow. Her breathing increases as the howl comes again, and she holds the ghitar close to her chest. She whispers, “Oh Twins, why here?”

An explosion sounds as something leaps into the night sky and lands on the open boulevard nearby, crushing a poor, sleeping soul as it does so. In the soft lantern light of the street you see a feminine form of faded red metal. From a ruined chest piece you see a sticky, black substance spreading forth, consuming of the arms, forming inky muscles that attach to the metallic arm at random intervals and ending in long claws.

Odd as it is, the most disturbing part is the face. Half of a construct faceplate still remains where a purple light emits, but from the other side a mass of the same, black material covers the head, forming a single, wicked horn while a purple eye stares at you with malign intelligence. The thing before you cackles with mad glee and shouts, voice heavily distorted, “THE COVENANT MUST BE KEPT!”

“W-What the bloody hells is that thing!” Zoras says, scuttling backward, holding onto the urn as the cloth falls to the ground

“Something I thought was gone!” You shout, summoning up your magic. Doing so reduces some of your control and you feel the impure thoughts press in on your periphery again, but you don’t have time for that! You can hold Tabitha down and lick her abs later!

Wait! Fuck!

The thing… so much as you can call it, looks at Zoras and sees the crate in her arms. The purple eye enlarges in recognition and it points a hand toward her, the darkness splitting with a popping noise as a smile of sharp teeth, white as daylight, appear. “Ahhh… you h-have what I seek.”

“Why the hells would you want this!” Sophie shouts, claws outstretched.

“B-Because.” The thing says, smile unnaturally wide.”I m-must fulfill my covenant.”

Ako curses and draws her knives. “Do you know what this thing is and what this covenant is?”

“No, we don’t.” You say, fantasizing about Ako’s thighs and how muscular they probably are. “But this thing is deadly, and will kill Ectrians without a second thought.”

“It’s different than last time though!” Sylphie says, drinking a mana potion with no apparent distaste as she watches the construct… thing. “It seems focused as opposed to wanton destruction!”

“But why…” Sophie mutters.

“Doesn’t matter, we have to deliver that urn.” Tabitha says, holding out her blade.

“No! You cannot lead it back to the master!” Ako shouts.

“Guess we have to destroy it then.” Alice says, shrugging. A wide smile appears on her face, “Works for me!”

The thing cackles and the claw arm swells in size, the hand becoming large enough to grab and Ectrian nearby around the waist. Screeching out loud in a cacophony of feedback and otherworldly laughter, it throws the person at you with blinding speed, only narrowly avoiding hitting Ako as the woman leaps over the person who hits the ground so hard they bounce, creating a furrow of incapacitated souls.

The few people who resisted the song scatter, and you notice a familiar form of the woman from before as she staggers out of the street and down another, side street close to the Stables. No time to care about that however, you need to figure out what to do about this situation!

“We have to move to better ground!” Tabitha says, looking about to point to a side street.

Following her gaze, you nod in agreement. Fighting here in such an open space may end well for you in the end however, especially due to all the civilians knocked asleep by Ebe’s song. The various, sleeping forms of men, women, and CHILDREN, lay strewn about the ground and you feel your stomach turn looking at them. The bloody smear made from the body this thing threw reinforces this.

The others nod and start to run in the direction Tabtiha indicates, the Lizardman staying in place with sword drawn. Alice stands beside her, sword glowing blue. Given that her sword is likely quite useful against something like this, there’s no quarrel about disobedience.

For your part, you try to reach out to Erwin and find him still asleep, but he feels as if he’s with Ebe, who has taken wing to get closer to your group. Feeling some relief there, you grab Sylphie’s arm as she moves past with Mr. Ed and say, “I need you to bury that crate!”

“What?” She says, looking confused. “Bury it?”

“Yes! Deep! Get Zoras to go with you and bury it, we can’t lose that urn, but we can’t fight with it! Go with the others and bury it!”

“I- Okay!” Sylphie says, nodding her head, though her eyes are wide.

“Good girl.” You say, leaning in close for a kiss before stopping sharply, your eye twitching. She stares at you with extreme confusion and gulps before pulling away at Sophie’s call, backing away a few steps while looking at you before turning to Zoras.

“W-Where are you going?” The Thing says, the discordant voice speaking out again. Gritting your teeth and ripping the thoughts of her soft lips out of your head, you slide your attention back to the Thing as it leaps into the air, landing yards in front of you and crushing another poor soul. It looks up at you with that wild eye and smiles. “What are y-you doing with the urn?!”

“Who are you?” You ask, doing your best to buy some time for the others to get in place. Really wishing you had Erwin handy, you do the best you can by sending something and hoping that Sylphie can read your thoughts. Of course, if she could on demand, she’d know exactly what you’d like to do to her supple body and-

“I?” The Thing says, cocking its head. “Who am I?” It pauses, seeming to think this over. “I am… I am… I am the one who rules over nature! I shall destroy… and hate Ectrians!”

It’s smile widens again as it says, “I am, Hent-ateh!”

Oh Gods, this thing is Hent-ateh? The creature summoned by the ancient Apophis to destroy the Pharaoh? The creature that they were forced to seal away instead of banishing? Feeling despair enter into your stomach, you find your hand shaking until Tabitha says,

“So what?”

Both you and Alice look at her with surprise at those words, and so does Hent-ateh, who blinks the one eye in surprise. It cocks its head again before smiling and laughing that eerie, synthetic laughter. “You are i-interesting! You are n-not Ectrian, but I will destroy you to fulfill my covenant!”

“What coven-?” You ask, but before you can finish, it leaps again, diving at you with the large, black arm. Staggering backward, you throw up a wall, which it crashes through with little effort, scattering rubble everywhere. Without delay, you ring it in with more walls and then shout for the others to follow you down the street. They do without hesitation, and you dimly notice that Ebe and Erwin are gone, good.

The sound of exploding stone sounds behind you as you run, and you hear metallic feet crashing against the stone street. Turning about as you run, you find Hent-ateh running at you full bore, far faster than you can. Crying out, you pull chips of stone from around you and fire in a concentrated blast a [Shotgun Pebbles].

In the confines of the alleyway, it’s unable to dodge the rocks, but its reaction time is insane, throwing up its arm to block the pebbles, most of which sink into the black ooze on the arm, doing no real damage, but others dent the twisted metal of the arm, breaking its charge as it staggers backward, allowing you to book it after the two swordswomen.

The street you come into isn’t nearly as crowded as the main avenue, but there are still some unconscious souls too close to Ebe’s singing to avoid falling asleep. What’s really odd is that most of them are pushed up against buildings, as if placed there by haphazard in an effort to clear them out of the like snow from a plow. Snapping your head over, you see Sylphie and Zoras appear from an alleyway, the two running to meet Ako, Sophie, and Ebe as they stand around Mr. Ed, prepared to battle.

Waving your hand at them, you shout, “Get Mr. Ed and Erwin out of here!” The horse spares no time, Erwin already in the saddle bags, and he retreats, knowing that he’ll do little good here. While the old horse isn’t afraid of anything, you know that he’s hurting from not being able to help his bonded. With that settled, you make it to the others and turn about, weapon ready.

Nothing follows you out of the alleyway. Breathing in the delicious smells of your comrades all around you (also air), you find your thoughts getting hazy as you wait for something to happen. A few seconds go by and nothing happens. Looking about in confusion, you’re about to ask what the hells is happening when a discordant shriek sounds and Hent-ateh leaps out from the alleyway, arm raised to strike at you.

Taken aback once again, you try to summon a wall but are unable to as it lands before your group. The only ones with enough reaction time to counter the creature are the two swordswomen and Ako, the former slicing with their swords at it while the latter begins a complex series of hand signs that you have zero idea how they work, but you can feel a draw of mana.

Hent-ateh blocks Tabitha’s flaming sword with ease, the inky blackness absrobing the blow and allowing the sword to hit the underlying metal, bouncing off with little damage. Energieschwert, on the other hand, bites deep into its chest, causing the darkness to sizzle while a furrow is cut into the red plating. It lashes out with its arm, sending the two swordswomen flying with cries of alarm, but opening itself up as Ako finishes her hand signals and shouts,

“Kasai-no JUTSU!”

A gout of red-hot flame gushes from Ako’s mouth to engulf Hent-ateh, which screams further, under the blaze. It lasts longer than you’d expect, and by the time Ako is finished, she’s out of breath, her appealing chest heaving with exertion. Holding out a hand to stabilize her shapely chest, you pause as you notice your foe moving again.

Red armor scorched by the flames, it stands up on shaky legs as the blackness shifts and reforms, still steaming some from Alice’s attack. It staggers and stares at Ako, an otherwordly rage in its eyes. “Y-YOU! H-HOW DARE YOU!” Giggling with maniac glee, it raises its arm, the claws extending into dagger-sized talons as it rushes her.

Ako leaps over the charging construct, forcing poor Zoras to skitter away, using her legs to take purchase on a nearby wall as it digs a furrow into the ground. It turns and in a complete motion throws rocks at you and the two Cat o’Ninetails, giving your small cuts on your face and stinging your eyes with sand. Crying out in pain, you pull the sand from your eyes and throw up a few walls, which it has to smash apart.

Over down the street, you see Tabitha helping Alice up, the human coughing as she shakes her head. Feeling a sense of despair from the seeming impervious nature of this thing you desperately think things over. First off, why is it still using the construct body? Surely this creature doesn’t need something like that in order to sustain itself or… does it? The thought of a power core reminds you of constructs like Chaika, and how other revenants can be made. If that’s the case then… you could still maybe destroy it?

Hent-Ateh turns upon you, half-smile wide, eye manic as it searches your group. A spike of fear courses through you and you hear Sophie let out a gasp as well, to which you instinctively shoot out a hand to pull her close to you, feeling her tight, delicious ass under your fingers. She lets out a yelp and stares at you in surprise as you say, “Don’t worry, because I am here.”

“Oh fucking hells!” She shouts, pushing your bodily out of the way as the blackness shoots out from Hent-ateh in a line between the two of you, the arm retracting into place after missing.

Picking yourself up, you find everything still feeling off and murky. Gritting your teeth, you know you can’t figure out a way to beat it, let alone fight this thing, without getting yourself under control. To that end, you shoot your head to Ebe and shout,

“Take off your bra!”

“What?!” She squawks, looking mortified. When you realize your mistake, you shout again,

“Gah! Sorry! Get out Sveth’s guitar!”

She nods this time and leaps into the air, landing on the roof of a nearby building. Pulling Sveth’s guitar from her back, she takes in a deep breath and, while Hent-ateh turns to look at her, she begins to play.

Sounds as hard as the earth suffuse your soul, and even without the power of [Amplify], you feel the weight of the earth shudder with the [Crusader’s Call]. Your blood begins to pump faster in your veins, your concentration going from tiddy to tactics, the call to break your opponent into pieces and let the earth scatter the remains.
The others feel it too, even Ako who looks about in confusion for a moment before her eyes grow resolute. In the area where her song touches, civilians stir from their slumber, the sound reaching their very souls, and they look about in surprise, yet don’t break and run. The only one who does not seem to feel it is Hent-ateh, who turns to stare at your group with confusion.

“We must destroy the core!” You shout, feeling your magic flow through you. “It’s how she’s bound to this thing!”

“How?” Sophie says, blush still on her face. She doesn’t seem angry at least, except toward Hent-ateh thanks to Ebe’s song.

“Electricity seemed to hurt it well last time!” Sylphie shouts, gathering magic about herself.

“But we need to clear whatever that is around it first.” You growl, looking over at Alice. “She needs an opening!”

Hent-ateh laughs maniacally. “Y-You’re not getting th-that opening!” It dashes again toward you but as you fire another [Shotgun Pebbles], it flips backward, twists in the air and then leaps toward Ebe, who is caught in a trance as she plays.

Watching it happen in slow motion, you make to cast a spell at the construct, but know you’re going to be too late! Hent-ateh’s arm lengthens again, and it reaches out to impale Ebe. Despite the music, the strength of the soul-wrenching fear in your chest makes you cry out in panic, knowing you would fail to keep your promise to her Mother.

“AHHHHH!” Zoras shouts, leaping from her position on the building as Hent-ateh jumps at Ebe, and collides into the construct’s side, sending the two crashing out of the sky to land in a heap on the stones, eliciting cries of alarm from the nearby people.

The Girtablilu stabs with fear and song stoked fury at the prone construct, but her blades and tail do little to Hent-ateh, and in a flash it grasps her around the waist and squeezes, sick sqeulching sounds coming from the Monster as she screams. The construct throws her moments later and turns to parry a blow from Tabitha, who leaps away to avoid a counter stroke.

Zoras hits a wall and crumples to the ground, breathing in short gasps after the attack while Tabitha presses the advantage. Turning to Sylphie, you ask, “Are you ready to throw a lightning bolt?”

“No.” She says, planting her staff and closing her eyes. You feel mana channeling around her as she does so. Looking at her in confusion, she says, “I’ll be ready.”

“Alright.” You say, trusting her to whatever she’s casting. Considering the large amount of mana powering into her, you assume it’s something powerful, but you haven’t seen her do anything like that before. Has she been practicing or is the song giving her the courage to do something she hasn’t done before? Either way, you let her to it as you dash back into the battle proper.

Throwing up a wall between Hent-ateh and Tabitha as it strikes, you give the Monster time to back away and reposition. The construct reacts in fury, and you cast [Ice], doing your best to freeze it into place. The ice seems to selectively form around the blackness, but it shrugs it off before it can form anything lasting, allowing no openings for Alice, who is breathing heavily, to strike.

Seeing you as both a threat and the ringleader, Hent-ateh dashes toward you, arm out retched as it strikes. Tabitha lashes out with a vicious kick as it runs past her, making the thing stagger before turning and striking at the Lizardman who catches the blow on her sword, but still pushes her back.

Taking advantage of the opening, you cast [Ice] again, firing off a blast of [Shotgun Pebbles] at near point blank range. It staggers and shudders at the repeated blows, huddling up as it breaks from the ice and charges at you again. You fire blast after blast into it, throwing up multiple walls before you to blunt its charge, but even as you back up, it keeps coming, raising its arm and cackling as it drives it straight into your chest and-

Shattering the plates of stone you build around your body.

The talons dig deep into the multiple layers of sandstone you used to shield yourself, forming a suit of armor about you to protect from attacks. Sweating with concentration, you grunt as the rock is pushed into your abdomen with some extreme force, more and more of the stone shattering from the incredible force, but thankfully you made it out of multiple, ablative pieces. When it’s momentum is no more, you smile, feeling utterly sick from the pressure, and say, “H-How’s it going?”

Hent-ateh tries to pull back, but you trap it’s arm with more and more stone, making it scream in annoyance just as Alice steps in delivers two, precise blows. One takes off the un-corrupted arm while the other slices a massive furrow into its chest, revealing an orb that shines with purple malevolence.

“NOW!” You shout, droppging the stone and leaping out of the way, Alice doing the same. Sylphie’s eyes snap open and she slams her staff, holds out an arm, and shouts as the power she channeled explodes from her hand as she casts [Thunderstrike].

The ground shudders as raw electricity surges from her in a near solid beam, making your beard stand on end at the passing. You’re blinded for a second looking at it and you have to look away before blinking vision back to see the effects of the magic.

Hent-ateh stands motionless before you, a smoking crater where the center of the construct used to be. Behind it, a statue in the street lies ruined, the magic having stopped as it destroyed it. Inky blackness drips down around the wound, and the purple glow in its eyes is gone. Slowly, it sinks to its knees and sits there, staring at nothing.

“I… Is it dead?” Sophie asks over Ebe’s playing. Nothing but the shouts of people in the city and the Ebe’s guitar sounds as you stare in amazement at what just occurred. Did Sylphie manage to do what ancient Wizards could not? Is she such a powerful being that she was able to banish whatever this is with a single blow?

“Sylphie I-” You cut off as Hent-ateh’s eyes flare purple again, the mouth opening and letting out a scream so loud it knocks Ebe off balance and snaps her out of her playing. Staggering backward, everyone looks at the construct as it rises, the blackness swirling around it filling in the hole and spreading to form a new, more feminine arm where the last one was destroyed. A greater semblance of a face appears, taking on female features as it stares at you with unfocused rage.

“That’s enough! The covenant demands you leave!” A feminine voice cries from behind you.

A chill runs down your spine at the voice, some memory from many years ago making you turn about with apprehension, but you see nothing behind you. Feeling an immense feeling of regret for some reason, you turn back to look at Hent-ateh whose face is one of consternation. It raises it’s arm and looks at you before gritting its teeth and leaping away, leaving faster than you could, or should, do anything about.

With whatever it is gone, the world comes crashing down upon you and you feel your stomach ache. Gripping your abdomen and knowing you’ll have a bruise there, you thank the Gods that the ploy worked. Having something like that in the future is going to be very useful, but maybe from a little distance. If you could form a box of stone which you could attack from… but that’s something to think on later, for now you need to tend to your friends and get out of here.

>You learn [Rock Solid]

“Are you alright?” You say to Sylphie, making to grab her. Sophie stops you with a cold gaze and you blink in confusion before nodding your head. “Right… sorry.”

“I… I’m fine.” Syphie says, shaking. “I’m just… tired.”

“She probably has casting sickness, she got it a lot when we were kids using more magic than she had mana. She needs to rest.” Sophie says as Mr. Ed gallops in. “Look to Zoras!”

Nodding, you run over to her, noticing Tabitha helping Alice up. Ako is standing next to Zoras, shaking her head as the Girtablilu gasps, her vision cloudy. You hurriedly pull out a [Health Potion] as Zoras says, “I… I paid my debt to her… sorry.” She coughs up some blood and her head lulls to the side as you force the potion down her mouth. Some of her wounds begin to heal up, and she coughs, but quickly passes out again, her breathing a little more steady.

Ako curses in her native language. “We can’t carry her back to Ammon and people are looking and watching. We will have to leave her here.”

“She saved us!” You say, shaking your head. “She deserves to get medical care!”

“She is a tool, just like all of us!” Ako growls, “Now get the urn or the deal is off!”

“I have half a mind to push you to the ground and rape you in front of this whole town!” You shout, feeling the rage flow through you, making you say something horrific, yet seems correct here. She stares at you in shock and surprise before anger fills her eyes and she draws one of her daggers.

“Don’t.” Tabitha states, interposing herself between you and her. “Rommel, get the urn.”

“I don’t know where the damn urn is!” You shout, to which Tabitha narrows her eyes.

“Then use your magic to find it!”

As more and more voices sound around you, you growl and close your eyes, using [Survey] to find the crate buried nearby. Nodding your head, you run into the alleyway where it is, wheezing from your bruised belly and prepare to pull up the urn when you find someone there, the woman from before. She looks up at you as you enter the alleyway, her hands covered in dirt as she tries to dig up where the urn is hidden.
Raising your staff, you shout, “Who are you? What do you want with the urn?”

The woman blinks at you before standing slowly, her hand reaching behind her as her eyes stare into yours. Your mind digs at you, telling you something about this woman, but you can’t place it, making you grit your teeth in pain as you try to reconcile this. She licks her lips and says, “You don’t know what you’re getting into with this urn, just let me have it.”

“I’m not in the mood for this shit! Who are you and why are you so fucking familiar?”

“Familiar? I don’t…” She begins when Tabitha shouts,

“Rommel? Hurry it up!”

The woman blinks once before her eyes go wide. “No… no it couldn’t be… Not all the way out here and-“

“What are you talking about?” You shout, feeling frustrated.

“I… I don’t…” She says, taking a step toward you. “Is it really you? But… but how?” She holds out a hand toward you and stops when she sees Tabitha and Alice appear, pulling back from you to gulp. Looking more than a little distressed, she backs up and says,

“You’re on the wrong side of this, Rommel. I hope you come to see that soon.”

The two swordswomen run at her but she turns tail and runs down the alley and into kicks down a door before running into a building and escaping. Alice and Tabitha stop at the doorway, shaking their heads and returning to you, the Lizardman asking, “Who was that?”

“I… I don’t know.” You say, putting a hand to your head. The way she said your name… the react she had and those eyes… no, that would be absurd for her to be…

“Fine, we can talk it over later.” Tabitha shouts. “Get the urn!”

“R-right!” You reply, hurriedly pulling it from the ground. Tabitha grabs the crate, her legs humming to let her move with her heavy burden. She runs out of the alley and both you and Alice hobble after her. Ako sees you and nods, heading down to another side street as the sound of hoofbeats from Centaurs sound.

With a flick of your wrist, you pull a section of sandstone from the fight up and use it to <Rock Slide. with Zoras through the streets using your last burst of energy until you find yourselves before a building that Ako leads you into where she instructs everyone to hide. You stay there for a long time, the sound of shouts and screams echoing outside.

Zoras and Sylphie sleep as you tell the story of what happened to Ebe, the Gandharva gasping and looking after Zoras after finding out she saved her life. For your part, you rest away from the others, feeling sore and tired, but afraid you might try to take advantage of the others, despite your pains. Besides, you have to think over that woman. It’s impossible to believe that she could be out here, it just defied comprehension. Even worse, to be part of the Cult of the Violet Sands…

“We will stay here until morning.” Ako says, shaking her head. “It is too dangerous to move otherwise. Ammon will meet us here and we will transport the goods.”

“Fine by me.” Tabitha says, shaking her head. “The rest of you, get to sleep, I’ll keep watch.”

Ako bristles at this, but you don’t need to be told twice. Feeling exhaustion grip you, you slip into a deep sleep.
—————————————————-

“Well, well, well.” A male voice says, waking you from your sleep.

Standing before you is Ammon, his suit looking the same as last night, just in a more burgundy color. He chuckles and waves a hand at you, to which you shudder and look about in a stupor. Tabitha is still standing, talking with Ako about something as the other Kunoichi wakes up the rest of your group, though Zoras doesn’t look terribly much better than before. The urn is still in its crate it seems, so you look at Ammon and say,

“One curse removal, please.”

Ammon blinks a few times before laughing heartily. “Ha! Well, I’m one to keep my end of a bargain if you keep yours! Of course, you did cause quite the disturbance in town here, making things rather… difficult for us, but nothing I can’t handle.”

Rummaging at his pocket, he pulls out a vial of a murky liquid and hands it to you. “Had to find an good apothecary for this, but it should work. Purges the body of the curse, so I’m told.”

“This better work…” You say, taking the potion and drinking it with a glug. It tastes like concentrated shoe polish and you gag as a searing pain runs up your arm and neck, making your cry out. Your party leaps up, but you hold up a hand, panting as it gets less and less painful. Blinking a few times you groan and push back your robe to see the markings gone.

Sinking back after the pain, you see Ammon chuckle and clap his hands together. “Oh, it worked! I didn’t actually think it would, but hey, that’s alchemy for you.”

“What the fuck?” You growl, “You gave me this not knowing it would work?”

“Well, do you feel like fucking those girls anymore?”

Looking over at your party, you appreciate that they are attractive, but you aren’t really driven to think of them as sexual partners… you think. You feel something in your chest, but it’s not an unnatural drive, and you shake your head. “No, I guess I don’t.”

The women of your party all look at each other and shake their shakes, sharing some kind of inner, female emotion. Well… whatever. Sighing, you turn back to Ammon and say, “Alright, so that’s done. Now about the capital…”

“In due time.” He says, holding up a hand. “You should rest first, and we each will have more questions for each other. Besides, many people saw you and when the Royal Guard arrive tomorrow, I assure you, there will be some trouble.”

“Tch.” You say, shaking your head. “Fine then.” Nodding to the urn you ask, “What’s so important about that anyway?”

“Hmm? Oh.” Ammon taps the urn and chuckles, “It’s supposed to carry the spirit of one of the ancient Apophis, but that’s just a legend. Some people believe it however, and thus it’s valuable. I have a buyer coming to purchase it soon so it will be out of our hands.”

“So we went through all of that so just you could make some money?”

He raises an eyebrow, “Just so I could make money?” He shakes his head and smirks, clearly not telling you something. “Well then, I had better be going, if you have any questions, you can field them tomorrow. Do not worry, I am not the kind of stab my clients in the back, especially not after one of my most precious assets was hurt.” He nods to Zoras.

“I’ll send a healer over soon to tend after her, though I am not certain what tombs will be robbing soon for me… ah well, keep her company, will you?”

He nods his head and walks out of the building, the Kunoichi behind him carrying the urn. You watch him go, feeling a little uneasy about how casually he told you what was behind the urn, and the malevolent force you felt from it. But as it stands, attacking him with those two nearby in such an environment with everyone tired would have been difficult and even still, you NEED him… you think. Sighing, you look to your party who all nod their heads, the same question on their minds,

“Wonder if we’re being watched.” Sophie muses, leaning her head back, cloak removed. She sits in a chair around a small table, next to her sister who looks exhausted. Sighing, she pats her sister’s head and says, “I would, if I were them.”

“Best to assume they are.” You say, leaning back while casting, [Audio Tap] into the rafters. You actually don’t hear any breathing there, nor does your survey show you any holes that you can’t see already and no one is present. So… they actually are leaving you alone? Still, best not to mention it to anyone else, just in case.

“Unngghhhh.” Sylphie groans, rolling her head to look at you.

Alice giggles and leans over, saying “You look like you had one too many to drink and fucked the biggest, fattest, ugliest-“

“Shut up you whooooorrreeeee.” The Cat o’Ninetails groans back before putting her hands over her ears. “Fucking hells, I haven’t done that in a loooong time.”

“I figured you’d have done that beforehand with all the magic you cast at Blackfire Reach.”

“Mrmph… it’s easier when it’s a little by little drain.” She sighs and closes her eyes. “This was a full on blast of Fulgromancy, took everything I had left to do it. Kind of makes me uh…ungh…” Her face turns pale and she turns to the side, her sister patting her back as she shudders.

“She just needs a good breakfast and nice bottle of semen.”

“Oh Gods.” Sylphie burbles.

“Well… that’s something.” You say, looking at the others in your group. Alice snickers at Sylphie, walking over to sit at a chair while Tabitha stands, crossing her arms and looking down at Zoras who is sleeping in the corner, curled up on herself. Ebe sits next to her, strumming a little song on her ghitar while sitting next to the wounded Girtablilu. Her breathing is a little ragged but not terrible, and you look to Tabitha who shrugs.

“She doesn’t seem to be too bad, but I don’t really want to wake her.” Nodding your head to her, Tabitha continues. “Honestly though, I thought she’d find a way to betray us. I didn’t think she’d protect Ebe like that.”

“Honor among thieves?” Alice says, shrugging before rummaging through her bags for food.

“Right, breakfast.” Sophie says, leaning her sister against the table. “I suppose I should make something. Wish he could have left us some food, but at least there’s a hearth here.” She looks around and frowns. “Honestly, this place looks much like a house. I wonder if it’s a kind of safehouse?”

“Possibly.” You say, rubbing your chin. “I suppose we should stay here for the time being, although…” You trail off as you look at Mr. Ed who stands next to Sylphie, nuzzling her head. “This place is going to smell, isn’t it?”

“Rude…” Sylphie murmurs. “He says that’s really rude…”

{Is that correct?} You send to Erwin, who saunters over and hops into your lap, yawning.

{Yeah, that was really rude. I never complain that your feces smell.}

{Oh come on, that-} You cut off, thinking it over before huffing. {Stupid animal noses.}

{Hurr, hurr, hurr.} He sends, shaking his head. {So… what is the plan?}

{We rest, I suppose.} You send, leaning back in a chair yourself as you smell the fire Sophie is making and-

“WOAH.” You say, standing up in a hurry. Everyone jumps, hands going to weapons or yelping. Sophie turns to look at you as you point your staff at the fire, casting [Ice] to snuff out the flame. She blinks and looks at you with surprise as you sigh and say, “Smoke.”

The Cat o’Ninetails cocks her head and looks utterly confused before her eyes widen. “Oh. Ohhhh.” She stirs up the ashes to cover the fire before shaking her head. “I had forgotten, sorry. Such a little thing, right?”

“It’s the little things that get you.” Tabtitha says, nodding to you. “Good call, wouldn’t have potentially drawn authorities to us.”

“Speaking of that.” Alice says, leaning back. “He said the Royal Guard were coming soon… and he had a buyer, yeah? Who do you think wants to buy that stupid urn?”

“I don’t know.” You say with honesty. “Given the feeling of it though, and the fact that he doesn’t want the Royal Guard to have it… I’d have to say cultists.”

“Fuck me.” Alice groans. “I meant that both literally and figuratively, but that’s not important right now. I don’t understand why the cultists would send someone to steal the urn and another to buy it?”

“We don’t know for certain that the cultists are the ones who even tried to steal it.” Sophie says, shaking her head. “It could be a coincidence, you know?”

“No.” You say, looking down. “That thing called itself Hent-ateh, something the Apophis summoned and was sealed away ages ago. This covenant it spoke of… it has to be the same one with the cultists.”

“How could it still have a covenant with them?” Alice asks, cocking her head. “They’re all dead.”

“I know a creature of the other plane whose master is dead, yet she is still bound to this world.” Tabitha says. “One wonders why she hasn’t just had those children draw something to unbind her though, they practically worship Xanthia.”

Both Sophie and Sylphie shudder. The sick Cat o’Ninetails murmurs, “I don’t know how Saya stands her… she makes my spine chill.”
“Anyway…” Tabitha continues. “So it and that woman were related to the cultists then? I doubt they’d allow something like Hent-ateh to go on a murder spree if they planned on a sale anyway, but that would assume that they knew it would be stolen by someone for Ammon?”

“Makes no sense.” You say, nodding your head. “Which means either the buyer isn’t part of the cult or… the cult isn’t very unified.”

“Hmmm.” Sophie hums. “Rommel, did you know that woman?”

Everyone goes quiet and turns to you, making you blink in surprise as you look about at them. A sense of stage fright grips you as you clasp your hands together. Taking a deep breath, you say, “I told you, I don’t know who she is but…”

“But…?” Sophie presses, leaning toward you.

“But she felt familiar. Like I should know who she is.” Frowning, you say, “That’s all, I don’t really want to talk about it.”

It’s everyone else’s turn to blink in surprise, looking at each other before frowning. They don’t say anything else and you don’t either, thinking more about it yourself. It’s not that you don’t WANT to think about it much, more than you’re scared as to what it would mean if your hunch is right.

You’re not sure how much time passes before Sophie places a tin of food before you, cold, but edible. Blinking up at her, smile gives you a soft smile and then pats your head, fingers running through your silver-blond hair, their tips sighing against your scalp. Confused, you look over to your turban, which you just realized you haven’t been wearing this whole time, before looking back at her. She chuckles and moves to eat her own food while the others munch, smirking at you. Blushing, you dig into your food.

“Wonder when he’ll come back to see us?” Alice asks, chewing without manners until Sophie slaps her hand.

“Probably after the deal is made.” Tabitha says. You can tell she wants to say more, but she doesn’t, so you roll your eyes and tell them that no one is watching. Everyone glares at you, afterward which Tabitha says, “Well, then I would personally like to know more about the end result of our little escapade.”

“Going outside is likely to truly be dangerous.” Sophie says, nodding to her sister. “A lot of people saw us, and Sylphie isn’t in a good place to cast spells right now.”

“I feel… better.” Sylphie murmurs before sighing. “But a [Trick of the Light] is too much right now, sorry.”

“Think Zoras could get info for us?” You ask, to which Ebe shakes her head.

“No… she’s still asleep, and I don’t want to push anything else until a healer sees her.”

“Well… maybe we can send Mr. Ed?” You ask, shrugging. The horse looks at you with one of those looks that only a horse can give, you know, the look that says, “Your soul is nothing in the greater scheme of it all, for I can see into eternity.” Basically the answer is no.

Erwin stands up and hops on the table, shaking his head before giving the most dramatic fox sigh. {I suppose you shall ask me next, shall you?}

Sylphie snickers while you roll your eyes. {Well… it would help.}

{Oh, WOE IS ME. SO ABUSED.} Erwin sends, rolling over on his back, legs in the air. {I shall work for my Master, ohhhh!}

{Yeah, yeah, ham it up.} You send, grumbling.

Something shifts in your mind then and you blink in shock as Sylphie’s voice sends in your mind, {Oh come now, he’s just having fun.}

Snapping your eyes to her, she slides her tired expression at you, to which you see a smugness there hiding underneath the exhaustion. Narrowing your eyes you send back, {How are you doing this?}

{I’ve hacked into your connection using maaaagggiiicccc.}

Erwin mentally chuckles, {Oh hey, you’re here. Can I sleep on your lap?}

{Oh my, was that Erwin or Rommel? I can’t tell!} Sylphie sends back, to which the two laugh, leaving you frowning.

{Sylphie, you’re going to teach me how to do this, because I’m tired of you listening in on me.}

{What, you want to listen in on me talking with Mr. Ed?} She sends, a smugness in her voice that she normally doesn’t have. {He won’t like that.}

{Let him learn.} Erwin sends, being serious for once. {I’ll get ready to go be a spy again. Wasn’t doing anything here anyway.}

{Fine, fine, once I’m feeling better.} Sylphie mentally sighs. She goes back to eating and you frown, still feeling really worried about her ability to talk with you like this. Still, everyone goes back to eating, talking over small things until you’re all fed and Erwin shrugs, making for the door.

“Hey, wait a second.” You say to him, pulling out one of your friends. Looking at the small piece of gold in your hand, you attach an [Audio Tap] to it and tie it around Erwin’s neck. He stares blankly at you before you inform him, “So I have other options to listen while there. Be kind to him.”

{You could have tied Phallia to me…} He sends, to which your eyes sparkle. Cutting in before you can speak, {ON SECOND THOUGHT I’M OUT OF HERE.}

With that, he leaps out of the door you open, and rolls around in the dirt before sprinting off into the town. Sending him a farewell, you return to the others and sit down, shrugging.

“Guess we have some time to kill now.”

————————————————————–

“So… I do this and… then that?”

The pieces of iron ore roll over each other and form into the shape of a man, though it is still made of little pieces. Smoothing it out with some of your magic, the little golem becomes cohesive and turns to you, saluting before walking over to the [Danuki Knife] and picking it up. It looks over the knife, which seems oversized in its hands, and then makes a few practice thrusts before turning to you for more orders.

Clapping your hands, you chuckle at the actions of the Golem. Forming two others of copper and tin, you make them do similar actions, giving them multiple commands at once which they perform in order, even the vague ones you give. Greg walks up to Alice, who watches with amusement, before he pokes her breasts, making her sputter and blush.

Stan, on the other hand, pats Sophie on the head while Ronnie goes through the motions that Tabitha is performing, mimicking her sword thrusts with his little dagger. Ebe giggles over her ghitar while watching the whole scene and you nod your head, happy with the results.

It’s been about two hours since Erwin left, sniffing his way around town to find the warehouse again. Apparently things are very hectic around town, but no one seems terribly interested in a fox running around beyond a butcher who keeps appearing out of nowhere trying to catch him. Something feels horribly cliched about all of it, but it’s amusing and scary nonetheless. Still, you keep praising him and telling him to be safe, especially after that happened beforehand, which is why you’re studying more of this particular book.

[Clay in a Sculptor’s Hand] sits before you, open to a page on giving multiple commands to golems. Your attention isn’t split as bad as you’d expect, and you feel this could be super useful in the future. What really catches your eye, however, is the page in here about imparting awareness to a Golem, to give it rudimentary ability to think and reply, in a similar way to a construct. The more you read actually, the more you begin to realize this is the basics of construct theory.

>Your [Imbue Golem] has increased in potency, about to give more complex orders

>Your control over Iron has increased. <Iron Manipulation is now Proficient>
>You can freely manipulate iron and have some control over steel.

“Having fun?” Sylphie says, nodding to you. Looking up from your handiwork, you say,

“Yeah, you feeling better?”

She shrugs. “Yeah, I guess so.” Stretching, she looks at you and says, “You want to learn about familiar bonds, huh?”

Blinking in surprise, you nod and wave to your golems to stop their actions, falling apart into their constituent pieces and returning to you. Putting them away, you sit down next to Sylphie who sighs and stretches.

“Alright so… Familiar bonds… You know the basics, you did the ritual, but you’ve never really done much with Erwin beyond speak with him, yeah?”

Frowning, you say, “I suppose not.”

“Mmm, a shame.” She sighs. Turning her gaze to Mr. Ed, she smiles and says, “Familiars are not just a means for us to improve our magic, they’re also our friends and confidants, those whom we literally share a bond with.” The horse walks up to her (which you still find weird inside a house) and nuzzles her cheek as she continues,
“It takes an implicit trust between the two of you to get the most out of it. If either of you are uncomfortable about it, then you can’t cast the spells appropriately.”

Feeling uncomfortable, you say, “Look… Sylphie… I-“

“Hush.” Cutting you off, she puts a finger to her lips and sighs. “You and Erwin remind me a little of Dad and Bubs. They didn’t really know each other before they bonded, but from what he told me about Bubs, the two of them trusted each other with their lives.”

Leaning forward, she asks, “Do you trust Erwin with your life?”

Hesitation fills your voice as you say, “I… yes, of course.”

Mr. Ed snorts and shakes his head while Sylphie sighs. “That’s why you haven’t pursued anything further. You’re still not trusting him. Do you even trust me?”

“Of course I do, we’ve saved each other’s lives before.”

“Then why do you hesitate to trust him?”

Growing quiet, you look down and think it over, speaking your thoughts as you piece them together. “I think… the reason I hesitate is that… I’m afraid. To be honest, he was my only friend for a long time, even if I somehow knew he was only there for the food I left out. Even though I was very much on the path of a Wizard, I still wanted a friend, you know?

“So when I made him my familiar, I thought he’d be happy, overjoyed even! But part of me was afraid that he resented me for it, for giving him the intelligence to realize how ignorant he was.” You sigh and say, “I suppose I’m hesitating in that I need him, but I feel like I’m using him.”

{Man, you’re retarded.}

Your eyes widen as Erwin’s voice cuts into your mind. {Really? You were worried that I’d be mad that I can tell you how stupid you are? Dear Gods, what an idiot.}

Sylphie shrugs when you glare at her and you sigh, sending back to Erwin, {I didn’t mean to offend you I just-}

{Come on man, we’re friends, right? I’m actually insulted more than hurt that you thought so little of me. Sure, I didn’t know much as a fox, but I’m your friend damnit! Did you know that a familiar can reject the bond?}

Blinking in surprise, you look to Sylphie who nods her head. “Yes, if a familiar doesn’t respect the person, the bond won’t take hold.”

{See? So let go of your hesitation and listen to the pretty girl. Do some crazy shit an- oh fucking hells, he’s back}

You hear via the [Audio Tap] the sound of a large man shouting something in Ectrian. Erwin stops sending beyond some laughter and you sigh, turning to Sylphie who had her hands in her lap, giving you wry smile.

“Fine.” You say, rubbing your head. “You made your point.”

“Nah, you made it for me.” She chuckles and leans back. “So… now that that’s out of the way. The bond. You can flow magic through him as you’ve done before, but flowing magic into him is important to. You can turn him into a Dire Fox if you wish.”

“What about a fire fox?”

She pauses and then cocks her head. “Uhhh, sure, whatever you want. Look, it’s all about your intention and his trust. Give it a try later.”

“Can you show me an example?”

Sylphie sighs and turns to Mr. Ed who shrugs and walks to an open area of the little house. She closes her eyes and you feel a surge of power come before Mr. Ed swells in size, his hair turning dark black, yes glowing red, steam flowing from his nose. He lets out an incredibly low neigh, yet it makes your skin crawl. The transformation only lasts for a moment before he returns to his normal form, snorts, and then goes to eat some oats.

Groaning, the Cat o’Ninetails shakes her head. “Alright, not good to cast that spell right now, ugh.” She gulps and then says, “Get it?”

“I… think I do.” You say, nodding your head. “I’ll try it later.”

>You learn [Metamorphosis]
> Change your familiars appearance and-

“Oh and he really needs to be in sync with you or he might explode.” She adds.

>Change your familiar’s appearance and physical strength, need to be in synch or he could explode. Maybe.

“Right, well you have that. Try out other things with him too, I think you guys can do great stuff.” Stretching, she continues, “Well that was touching and all, but you want to know about how I can tap into your link, yeah?”

“Yes.” You say, expression going grave. “I would really like to know.”

She chuckles, “Well… it’s a secret!” When you frown she shakes her head, “Ah, joking, joking. Look, I got better with it because I grew up around this stuff, but basically it’s just finding the magical frequency of the familiar bond and then matching it.”

“It’s… that easy?” You send, blinking in surprise.

“A lot of magic is actually easy if you think about it.” She says, shrugging. “Anyway, while it’s hard to form mental links between people and Monsters without creating thralls, you can tap into existing ones.”

“Well then.” You say, closing your eyes and feeling for the magic of the link between Sylphie and Mr. Ed. It takes you a few minutes, but as you’re looking for it, you find something… nebulous, yet familiar. Pushing further into it, you feel an opening and slide your consciousness in and-

Hot air blows on your face and you push back in surprise as Mr. Ed’s face appears before you. Arms flailing, you fall back from your chair and hit the ground, much to Sylphie’s laughter. She shakes her head and says, “Sorry Rommel! He doesn’t want anyone getting into my head it seems or… maybe he just doesn’t want someone else to hear his voice.”

Mr. Ed snorts again and turns around, flicking his tail. Watch him go, you shake your head and say, “I think that’s enough of that for now.” Groaning, you send to Erwin again and find that he’s found the warehouse, and is about to look for a way to slip inside. Wishing you would have put a damn [Audio Tap] on the urn itself, you sigh and continue to wait, returning your rocks to your collection and noticing one particular one.

Pulling out the [Rutile], you look it over and say to Sylphie, “Catch!”

Surprised, she fumbles the thrown ore and cocks her head, looking it over. “Uh… Rommel, I don’t want one of your rocks.”

“It’s not for appreciating, actually. I think it’s aspected to electricity, might amplify your magic.”

Sylphie looks at the ore and then closes her eyes, channeling magic. Opening her eyes in surprise, she says, “Woah, it does!” She takes out her staff and looks it over before saying, “Well I know what I’m doing now.”

“Eh?” You say, cocking your head.

“Dad taught me a few things about enchanting!” She says, smiling. “I best get to work, thanks Rommel!”

“Yeah.” You say, feeling kind of happy for some reason. Leaning back in your chair, you listen via your [Audio Tap] as Erwin sneaks into the warehouse. Listening intently for signs of the two Kunoichi, you hear nothing in particular beyond the shifting of boxes and some mild chatter between people. Fearing to control Erwin at the moment, you trust him to get closer until he sends,

{Hey, can you send this rock into the crate? I think those booby ninja are after me.}

Thinking it over, you figure that you can and he allows you via your bond to manipulate the piece of [Gold ore]. Erwin makes it to an area to see the crate the urn is in. No one is around except for Ammon, whose back is turned to the crate, drinking something while reading papers. Magically tossing the item into the crate, you pause and then channel a [Magesight] through Erwin. The effects aren’t as powerful as it would be through your own eyes but you only look for a second before shutting it off, rubbing at your eyes.

The urn… that damn urn, seethes with violent magic. You can’t even pull it all apart, but something, SOMETHING not right lurks within it, something which you feel noticed you looking at it. Sending to Erwin to leave, he doesn’t argue and escapes outside, leaving your only recourse the [Audio Tap]. While fainter than you’d like, it still works, thankfully.

“Hmm?” Ammon says, chair shifting. “Ako, is that you?”

“No.” Ako’s voice comes. “I think we had a pest problem.”

“Rats?”

“It sounded four legged, and is no longer here, my master.”

“Mmm I see.” He goes quiet before continuing a few moments later, “Is our guest here yet?”

Sayaka speaks up next, “She is here, my master.”

“Ah, excellent!” Ammon says, standing up and clapping his hands. “A pleasure to see you again, welcome, welcome.”

“This place is crawling with guards and the Royal Guard isn’t even here yet. What did you do getting this?” A familiar, yet hazy voice says.

“Another interest wasn’t happy that I got the job done.”

“I see. I had expected it to take longer, you must have found good help.”

“Someone you’re familiar with, actually.” Ammon says, smugness in his voice. “A particular Wizard and his group.”

“Is that so?” Qi says, her voice becoming clear. “I had thought they would do some interesting things when I met them, and I was right. The sands of time are changing, hmm?”

“That’s not really my problem.” Ammon chuckles. “I will do business with whomever is paying, and at the moment, the Khepri covens pay quite well.”

“Won’t even ask what the urn is for?” Qi asks.
“Come now, we deal in the same thing, don’t we? Such information can’t be free and I quite like gold instead.”

“Indeed!” Qi laughs. You hear a shuffling around the crate as it’s lifted out and placed on a table. “So, he didn’t cast any spells on it, right?”

“Of course not.” Ammon says, waving his hand. “We checked it as soon as it got here, we’re clear.”

“Good, good. I don’t need him knowing about this quite yet. We still have a use for those two girls and I’ve heard a rather interesting rumor considering the Wizard.”

“I know.” Ammon says. “I’ve heard the rumor too. Given what happened last night, I think things will be VERY interesting moving forward.”

“Very interesting indeed!” Qi says, amidst the jingle of coins. “Afraid I must be going though, we will have to dine together soon.”

“Of course, I always enjoy your company and your information.” Ammon says. “But I too must be going, one of my subordinates needs a healer and I should speak with our friends, can’t keep them waiting too long, can I?”

“Of course not, they need to be moving anyway or nothing will get done.” Qi sighs with content. “As your two bodyguards say, ‘May we live in interesting times.'”

With that, her chitin on the floor sounds and she quickly leaves the area. Ammon begins to talk about getting healers together, but by that time you’re done listening, telling your party what you heard.

“Qi?” Ebe says, looking distraught. “Qi is the buyer? I don’t understand…”

“I do.” You say, rubbing your head. “Anyway, Ammon is coming, we should be prepared.”

“Do we let him know that we know?” Tabitha says, frowning. “Or do we pretend we haven’t heard anything?”

“Mrmph.” A voice calls from the corner. Turning to face it, you find Zoras groaning and rubbing at her head. “He sells information… use that how you will and- gah!” She holds her ribs and coughs. “Ouch.”

Ebe stands up and walks over to Zoras, helping the Monster with a gentle wing. She winces and then thanks the Ghandarva before speaking up again. “Gah, you know, at the time I thought I was acting bloody cool, but this really hurts.”

“Can you move your legs?” Tabitha says, a look of genuine concern on her face.

Zoras winces and then wiggles her scorpion legs, all of them and the claws moving. Her tail is a little stiff, but she sighs and says, “Bloody hells this hurts.”

“Take it easy then!” Ebe says, bapping the Monster with one of her wings. The Girtablilu blinks in surprise at Ebe, who puffs her cheeks out before saying, “You need that healer that Ammon is bringing!”

“Healer? Oh… well… alright then.” She sighs and shakes her head. “Well, can you tell him you know his buyer or whatever after I get patched up?”

“Your legs work, you’re fine.” Tabitha says, to which Zoras frowns and then looks at the Lizardman’s legs. Clacking her tongue, she concedes the point.

Stretching, you stand up and say, “We’re not going to tell him.”

“Eh?” Sylphie asks, cocking her head. “Why not?”

“Because, dear sister.” Sophie sighs. “Having information he doesn’t have puts us at an advantage. Cornering him with such knowledge off the bat will not end well for us.”

“Correct.” You say, nodding your head as you listen via your [Audio Tap]. “He’s moving.” After saying this, you focus your attention to Erwin and channel though him to retrieve the piece of ore, the fox cursing at you for trying to get him killed by “those booby ninjas.” You tell him he’s a good boy and you believe in his strength.

{But seriously, be careful.}

He mentally sighs in return,{Yeah… I know, I know. He took the titty twins back with him anyway, I think I’m good.}

{Might want to hang back for awhile anyway, they’re probably watching for pursuers.}

{Heh, alright, alright. Geez, have one little heart to heart and you’re a worry wart.}

Rolling your eyes, you turn your attention to the others and tell them that Erwin will be delayed some. Everyone nods and goes back to what they were doing, though there is a palpable sense of unease, especially from Ebe who can’t keep secrets very well. The longer you wait, the more nervous she gets, biting her lip as her wings shake on her ghitar.

When Ako appears at the door, the Ghandharva nearly leaps into the air with a yelp, which causes the Kunoichi to give her an odd look as she enters the building. Scanning about, she nods her head and waves in Ammon, who steps in with his suit, taking his hat off and nodding to you.

“Ah, sorry to keep you waiting, but things concluded smoothly.”

“Things? Your buyer?” You ask, cocking your head.

He chuckles and says, “Yes, indeed. The Urn is gone and I am richer, everything concluded just as planned.”

“I see.” You say, nodding over to Zoras. “Did you…?”

“Ah, of course.” He snaps his fingers and Sayaka enters, another woman in white, dust stained robes following behind her. The woman pats the sand off herself and sighs, pulling a wand from her pocket and walking over to Zoras. She looks tired, but doesn’t say much of anything as she begins to examine the Monster.

Ammon smirks and waves a hand. “She doesn’t say much, but she’s a great healer, patched up my girls a few times in a pinch.” Ako and Sayaka look at each other before shrugging as he sits down at the table and stretches. “Sooooo, the Royal Guard are just arriving from what I reckon, here quite quickly actually.”

“Interesting.” You say, face impassionate. “It will be difficult to leave the city at this rate.”

“Indeed, I don’t think they’ll investigate a few of my holdings, but the streets will be difficult to traverse. As it is, it’s difficult for even a fox to travel…”

He trails off, looking at your eyes as he does. You feel that his gaze is boring into you, looking for a sign that you’ll betray that Erwin is gone. There’s no choice but for you to believe that he doesn’t know Erwin was spying on him, but that he knows Erwin is gone. Choosing to ignore the jab, you say, “So, you have some more information for us, right?”

“Mmm.” Ammon says, shrugging. “Yes, I suppose so. You wished to know a way into the capital, yes? Mind if I ask what you’re going to do there?”

“That will cost you.” You say, to which he smiles.

“Well of course! Although knowing where you’re wanting to go would be quite beneficial to getting you in.”

Tabitha cuts in, “The dungeons.”

A silence pervades over the room at her words and Ammon clears his throat before speaking again, “The dungeons, you say? Interesting. You can get into the dungeons quite easily without my help, all you have to do is step outside.”

Waving you hand, you say, “We’re looking for someone in the dungeon.”

“Someone? Or perhaps, a pair of someones?” Ammon says, folding his hands. When you narrow your eyes at him, he shrugs, “Oh come now, we all know you’re here for the Grand Wizard and the Monster Lady.”

Sophie and Sylphie look at each other, the two furrowing their brows as they think over the situation. Ako and Sayaka shift, hands moving toward their weapons, but Ammon holds up a hand to keep them still. “Now, now, no need for violence. It’s a simple enough thing. There’s only three Cat o’Ninetails after all and we know who the Pharaoh has in her dungeons.”

Shaking your head, you say, “Let’s imagine this was true. What would you know about how they ended up there?”
“They got caught, that’s how most people end up in a dungeon.” He says in a flat tone, though at your annoyed look, he shrugs. “Buuuut… one would assume it would have to do with the Rites of Pah’Sen.”

Nodding for him to continue, he sighs, “Very well, you do have a boon from me after all.” He rolls his shoulders and says, “The Rites of Pah’Sen are quite real. This is from a second hand source, of course, but some kind of disturbance occurred in the throne room causing massive damage to it. Shortly after a battered and bruised Cat o’Ninetails and human male with silver-blonde hair appeared within the dungeon.”

“So…” Ebe says, looking worried, “Then the legend is true? She has unlimited power?”

“Nothing is unlimited beyond our imagination.” Ammon chuckles.

“So then… that would make the other part true?” Alice says, clacking her tongue. “These grape snakes are back in the world hmm?”

The information broker nods. “One would assume that to be the case then.”

“Are there any Apophis though?” You ask, to which Ammon shrugs.

“There are things even I don’t know.”

“Or won’t tell us.” Sophie sighs. Ammon nods his head,

“She’s rather astute! Must get it from her Mother, yes?” When she only frowns at him, he chuckles, “Don’t give me that look. As a freebie, I’ll tell you that your parents are alive, though I’m afraid I can’t say for what purpose.”

“Politics most likely.” You sigh, shaking your head. “Now then, about the Rites…”

“Ah, of course.” He says, coughing. “The Rites of Pah’Sen as far as I know was a ritual magic which called upon Dollora to give strength enough to bind the Apophis to the staff, and end their reign of terror. I’m no magical scholar, but I would assume it required an enormous amount of effort and the channeling of many Monster Witches to perform, but clearly it worked.

“As to releasing the magic, however? One would assume it was a much faster process to unleash the magic.”
Surprisingly, Sylphie speaks up, “But wait, if the Apophis was released, then how does she retain the power? There’s no way she could just… store it in herself or the staff anymore? The only way she could maintain such a thing long term would be to suffuse herself with most of the Apophis’s strength, but even then it would probably bleed away unless…” She frowns with consternation and asks, “Is there an Aether transformer in the palace?”

Ammon’s eyebrows shoot up at the question. “An aether core? What does a young lady like yourself know about Aether transformer?”

“Please.” She says with disdain. “Who do you think my Father is?” At Ammon’s conciliatory gesture, she continues. “An Aether transformer could contain the bleed of such mana if it’s attuned to it. I’d imagine that it would be nearly impossible otherwise to contain the power. If it were to fail, it would likely all dry up rather quickly, yes?”

“My oh my.” Ammon says, smirking. “I must confess, I do not actually know what an Aether transfomer was, but now you have me curious. What would one look like?”

“Depends? They were ancient inventions and the replicas we have today are rather shoddy and expensive to make, useful only in magitek workshops. In the past though, some shrines would have them.”

“Shrines you say?” Ammon muses, rubbing his chin. “Shrines indeed… You know, I’ve heard a funny rumor recently…”

“Such as?” You ask, narrowing your eyes. He looks at you and waggles a finger,

“Not so fast. This is a rather important piece of information, I’d expect compensation.” When you sigh, he continues, “Tell me about your family.”

You blink in surprise. That’s not… the question you thought you’d be asked. Hairs prick up on the nape of your neck as you feel like everyone in the room is watching you, keenly interested in your answer. Now that you think about it, you really never brought it up with anyone, which you’d rather have kept to yourself. Memories of last night flashing through your head, you grit your teeth and say, “Can I answer something else?”

“Mmm… no.” Ammon says, predatory grin widening. “No, I am quite interested in this information. It’s quite the simple question, you know, especially in regard to what I think you’ll find interesting.”
Feeling nervous, you look around at the others to find your suspicions are correct. Everyone seems hesitant to intervene, though Ebe seems torn between wanting to hear and telling you not to push yourself. Sylphie licks her lips and says,

“It… could be important for Mom and Dad…”

Gripping your hands you take a deep breath and sigh. “Fine…” Taking a moment to collect your thoughts, you begin:

“My Father was a scholar while my Mother was a housewife. As far as siblings go I have… had, one older sister, Helene. We lived out on the Eastern border, a little south of Borne, and although I never left the town much, I remember it being nice enough.”

Frowning, you continue, “I was eight when it happened. A group of Monster bandits raided the town in an effort to drag off mates. I had never met any Monsters before and was terrified by them. My Father tried to fight but was soundly beaten and captured while my Mother was taken as a slave. I remember hiding with my sister as we heard everything. We thought we might be free, but we heard one of them outside our door. I figured that would be it but she… she sacrificed herself for me.”

You put your hand to your forehead and grit your teeth. “She crawled out from under the bed and pretended no one else was there. They captured her too and… I wanted to stop her but I… I couldn’t. I couldn’t move until it was all over.”

Taking a shuddering breath, you look up with haunted eyes and say, “There you go. That’s my family, taken by slavers, or close enough years ago. They’re all probably dead by now, are you happy?”

Silence pervades the room as everyone stares at you with surprise. Even your friends have shocked expressions and you realize you haven’t quite shown this kind of emotion before. Gritting your teeth, you grip your staff in your hand and say, “Well?”

“Oh Gods Rommel I…” Sylphie begins before gulping. “I didn’t know.”

“Hells…” Sophie murmurs while Ebe looks at you with horror. You didn’t really even say that much but it was enough, you guess?

Ammon licks his lips and then adjusts his suit. “Well then… that’s a little bit more than I was expecting to hear, but it does answer the question, thank you…” He coughs and says, “Where were we… ah, shrines, yes.”

His efforts to get back on track feel hollow following your story. You feel drained, as if you ran ten miles in the sands, and can only look at him with hollow eyes as he continues. “There is a rumor that more of the Queen’s personal guard of Anubis are guarding the Holy Altar of the Twins in the capital. All manner of ancient artifacts are there, but none so more than the Mirror of Heaven, said to allow you to see the Goddesses if you are pious enough.”

He looks to Sylphie who is still staring at you until he clears his throat. She blinks and then jumps, “Oh-Oh! I… yes! That could be… an Aether transformer.” She coughs, “Yes, well… if that’s the case then destroying it could rob her of her power?”

“Good for both of us to learn!” Ammon chuckles, trying to clear the mood. “Now then, as to entering the city, the easiest way is via one of the cargo caravans. It’s easy enough to smuggle something in with the right bribe and there are plenty of caravans that enter all the time, but you’ll want a man named Kuhalik. He does business in a town named Jahordin to the southeast of here.”

“What do we do once we get in?” Tabitha asks, back on track.

“Well, that would be arranged with him, I should think. He should know how you may reach another informant in the city named Polah, who I have worked with before. She’s a little hard to work with, but… well, you’ll see when you meet her.”

Alice snorts, “Can’t be harder to work with than I am.” When Tabitha eyes her and she still hasn’t realized what she said, it’s assumed she knows EXACTLY what she said. The Lizardman merely sighs and asks,

“This Polah inside the city, she’ll know how to get into the dungeons?”

“If Polah doesn’t, then no one does.” Ammon says, rummaging in his suit. He pulls out two coins and hands them to you. Looking them over, you see their made of rough iron and have a large letter “A” stamped on them. They look well used.

“These.” He continues. “Will show you’ve met with me. Unfortunately I have no reason to leave here so I can’t come with you, but those are as good as gold here, use them wisely.”

>You obtain 2x[Ammon’s Marks]
>Given to you by Ammon, these show that you’ve met him and work as an introduction.

“Thank you…” You say, stowing away the coins. Still not feeling 100%, you begin, “Well-“

An unfamilar voice cuts you off. “She’ll live. A few broken ribs set straight and some wide scale bruising, but she’ll live.”

Everyone turns to the healer who puts away her wand and waves to Zoras. The Girtablilu stretches and then winces, rubbing at herself before standing and turning about. Grunting, she says, “Bloody hells, I’m not going to be doing any acrobatics for awhile but at least I can walk.”

“Ah, pleased to hear!” Ammon says, smiling. “I’ll need you to rest for awhile before your next job, hmm?”

“Yeah, yeah…” She says, sitting back down. “Anyway, you lot leaving?”

“In a moment.” You say, getting back on track. Setting your jaw, you ask, “Is that everything?”

He searches your eyes before saying without any falsehood, “Yes, that’s everything you get in regards to entering the city. It’s out of my hands now.”

“I see.” You say, nodding your head. “Could you answer me one more question then?”

“Depends, but shoot.”

“What do the Khepri want with that Urn?”

Ako and Sayaka’s hands go to their weapons awhile Ammon stares at you with a calculating expression. He makes no movements and tension rises in the room as everyone prepares for conflict. When it nearly becomes palpable, he asks, in a deliberate voice, “The fox?”

“The fox.” You say, nodding.

Ammon’s lips draw tight and he closes his eyes before taking a deep breath and then… smiling. “Ah well, no harm done here. I know you’re familiar with the buyer then, yes? She and her coven are how you found me, after all.”

“They promised they wouldn’t sell us out!” Sylphie says, looking aghast.

“I have no comment on that other than the Khepri are not united.” He says, brooking no argument. “As to what she intends, I cannot say, but they are known to trade with many people. Maybe they’ll sell it to the royal guard? Maybe they’ll sell it to the Violet Sands? I don’t know, nor do I care, and that’s about all you’ll get of that from me.”

Feeling a danger in his tone, you nod your head. He smirks and then asks, “So… did you hear the other part then?”

“The rumor about me, yes.”

“Curious?”

“Should I be?”

He chuckles and claps his hands together. “A man who knows what he wants, I like that. Well, just because of your heartfelt story, I think I’ll tell you.” He leans in close to you and says, hand cupped,

“I knew your story before you told me. It’s the same story told by a member of the Violet Sands, a one former slave named, ‘Helene.'”

He pulls away from you and stands, leaving you with wide eyes. He adjusts his suit and waves to his bodyguards, who walk over to him as he makes for the door. “I’ll give you some time to process all of that. Don’t worry, I have no reason to sell you out, there isn’t a good price for such a thing at the moment and chaos breeds more business. When you’re ready to go, just let Ako know.”

Ako looks surprised for a moment but then bows her head and steps into the corner, watching all of you. Ammon chuckles and says, “It’s about two days by foot to Jahordin. You could try to get some horses and make it all easier but… well, the guard are in force. Not certain how patrols will be out there, so I’d be careful if I were you.”

“It’s an open desert, how are we supposed to hide?” Sophie asks, frowning.

Ammon thinks it over. “I suppose… you don’t! Going off the beaten path might be easiest you think? There’s even a small settlement named Tet’ahn a little off the main trails but… well, of course, just because you evade attention of one party doesn’t mean you’ll avoid attention of others? There’s many dangerous things out there but…” He chuckles, “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

With that, he waves and walks out of the room with the healer and Sayaka, leaving a sullen looking Ako to watch over you. As the door closes, Erwin slips in, his tail almost getting caught in the door. He sniffs and then saunters over to you, nudging out the piece of gold ore for you.

{There. It’s back. What did I miss?} He sends, knowing exactly what he missed.

“Rommel…” Sylphie says, and you realize everyone is looking at you with concern. She holds her hands together and says, “I… I’m sorry to hear about your family and-“

“Nevermind.” You say, not wanting to think on it at the moment. “What’s done is done.”

“What did he tell you at the end there?” Sophie asks, looking concerned. “Your face went pale.”

“I… I have to think about it some.” Feeling a little sick, you take a deep breath to stabilize yourself before saying, “Come on, we need to prepare ourselves to go.”

“…Sure.” Sylphie says, clearly wanting to dig more into it but refraining out of respect.

“Well, that certainly was one hells of a bloody adventure.” Zoras says, rubbing her face. “But I suppose this is where we part ways then, yeah?”

“I suppose so.” Ebe says, bowing to the Girtablilu. “Thank you again for saving me.”

“Aww hells, you’re making me blush.” Zoras says, trading thanks with Ebe.

Tabitha walks over to you and plants a hand on her hip, reptilian eyes looking down at you as she asks, “Well, what do you intend to do with this information?”

You can tell it’s a loaded question, not nearly as simple as it seems. But with Ako in the room, answering straight may be hard. Still, that would give you some time to think it all over and provide a more proper response. Do you let your friends know more about your past? Do you even dare bring up what Ammon told you that your sister is alive? Even worse, do you act upon that information? Or is it best to just continue forward, trusting that he told you no falsehoods, despite giving up information incredibly easily.

Scratching your head, you sigh and lean back, all the while time slipping away. Gods above…

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One thought on “Wizardquest 2: Chapter 10- Hard as Steel”

  1. Baaaahhhh hahaha damnit you did it again! In the last wizardquest, the wizard did something funny with shit that made me spit my drink lol, and then the ICE balls hahaha oh man 5*!

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