Wizardquest Chapter 12: Death Rides in Front

Once more, silence descends upon the wagon and you’re okay with that. Hala sits up front with Blake, occasionally glancing towards you, while Tabitha rests quietly across from you, sword held in the crook of her arm. Only Veronica seems to be okay with you and she sits next to you, looking around at the rest of the group, becoming more and more restless until about an hour later, she can’t help but sigh exasperatedly.

“Okay, what in the name of Solos happened back there?”

You turn your head to her and shrug, “She got the drop on us and I had to kill her.”

“…And that has everyone in a hissy because?…”

“Because the fool of a Wizard let himself get goaded into using his anger to blow her up.” Replies Tabitha in a monotone, her eyes still closed, cap over her face.

Both you and Veronica blink towards her for the very… Blunt answer. Veronica looks back at you and cocks her head. “You… Blew her up? With your magic?”

“Yeah, a [firebomb] to the chest.” You reply

Veronica seems to consider this for a moment before shrugging. “Sounds like she deserved it. I don’t see all the fuss.”

“Veronica, that’s not how we do things in the Order, not anymore.” Says Blake, eyes ahead on the road.

She frowns in consternation, “Maybe that isn’t what the Heroes do, but the Chantry would rejoice at hearing one of the greatest Monster Generals is dead. I praise Solos that none of us were injured and that we have triumphed this day.”

“Hey, speaking of injured,” begins Hala, looking back at Veronica, “Weren’t you in a coma or something?”

Veronica looks back at Hala before wiping some sweat from her forehead. “I suppose, after those things got ahold of me I….” She blushes for a moment before shaking her head and gritting her teeth. “Anyway, I’m fine now. Don’t worry about it.”

“Ooookaaaaayyy. Says Hala before snuggling Blake. Veronica looks at the wolfgirl with a mix of displeasure and… Jealousy? You figured it was present beforehand, but she sort of kept it a little more under control before. Her hand seems to shudder and drift towards her thigh before she seems to catch herself and jerk back to wipe sweat from her forehead.

“Look, we’ll talk about all of this later. Let’s get out of this swamp, okay?” Says Blake as he drives the horses. No one argues the point and you feel yourself slip into a slow sleep as the wagon crunches down the damp earth.

“Hey….hey…”

You open your eyes to find yourself standing in a dark room, light shining above from somewhere. You look around and see nothing but the one patch of light in the dark, and you just sort of accept it. Like, you probably should be freaking out or something but honestly you seemed perfectly fine here. Everything is fine.

“No, everything is not fine.”

You turn about to see Harmony, or at least Harmonius, standing behind you, wings folded at her side. This is the first time you really got a good look at the Thunderbird, and she was striking, with a slender body and brilliant blue and gold plumage that gently crackled with electricity. Her face was the picture of nobility and serenity and she wore a beautifully intricate tiara that only magnified her grace. When she opened her eyes, they were crystal blue and sparkled along with her sleek, golden hair.

“Oh. This is inside my head, huh?” You ask, putting your hands in your pockets.

“In a way. At the very least you’re asleep.”

“Huh. I mean, I guessed I didn’t have much going on in here, but geez, this is really kind of sad.”

“Wizard…”

You turn back to her and smile wanly, “Yeah, yeah I know, you wouldn’t be here like this if you didn’t have something important to say.”

She closes her eyes again and takes a slow breath, causing her adequate chest to rise and fall. “You really hurt me today.”

You blink and reel back as if you were slapped in the face. You expected something like this, but it still stung to hear it. You’re quiet for a long time before you reply, softly, “I’m sorry…”

She opens her eyes some and stares at you, and despite your heigh difference, she makes you feel small and inconsequential. “You don’t even know what you’re apologizing for.”

“It’s… Because I gave into my anger, and didn’t heed your warning.” You watch as her expression doesn’t change and you cough into your hand, “r…right?”

“Wrong.”

This time you are taken aback. You honestly thought that was what she was upset about! You flounder about, making random hand gestures as you feet your feet metaphorically taken out from under you.

“What was it then? Look Harmony, it was never my intention to…” She just keeps giving that imperious stare and you stop talking, licking your lips as you think things through.

Okay, so she wasn’t angry that you annihilated a captive enemy, which made sense, as she had no qualms killing a Sahaguin, and hell she annihilated an entire army once. So why would she be angry? You look at her again and see just a hint of sadness in her expression. Oh… Oh it couldn’t be…

“You… You’re angry that I didn’t try talking with you… That I used you as some kind of tool against your will, aren’t you?”

She nods her head slowly and shifts her stance. “Yes. In the end I am nothing more than a tool created to enhance the power of magic practitioners, but after you asked me before to work with you, to fight together, and then be relegated back into the role of merely an object…” She shivers and wraps her wings about herself. “It’s just like Gregory, he used and abused me, and when you did that I…. I felt so violated. I felt afraid that you’d become just like he was and… And I know I’m not living but…”

The spirit in the staff, Harmony, begins to cry, tears staining her otherwise gorgeous face and you feel a pang of anguish in your heart. You honestly didn’t consider her feelings beforehand and you had no idea she had been through this sort of thing. To treat her like a person and then suddenly rip that all away… By the gods, no wonder she didn’t want to talk with you. She was afraid.

You watch the try futilely to wipe at her tears, not really succeeding with her feathers, and before you can really comprehend the full situation, you walk forward and wipe her tears aside with your thumb, gently moving over her cheek, and her eyes go wide in response.

“I’m truly sorry Harmony. You deserve better than what I did. I promise you, it won’t happen again.”

She snuffles, and tries to put her normal regal face on but fails, settling instead to embrace you, and you feel a slight tingling sensation run across your body as she does so. It’s strange, but this mental construct feels so warm, and you feel comfortable holding her like this. It wasn’t so long ago that you would have dropped noodles everywhere if a woman was this close to you, but maybe it was just because if was a figment of your imagination, or because it was Harmony, but you didn’t feel any unease.

Slowly, she releases you and nods her head, a warm smile on her face, and you smile in return. “Better?”

“Yup.” She snuffles again before taking in a deep breath. “Okay… Right. Glad we got that resolved. Just talk with me, okay? I want to work with you Wizard.”

You nod your head. “Yeah, me too.”

She smirks before she seems to remember something and her expression becomes worried, “Oh, and when you opened your bag earlier, you felt something, didn’t you? Some kind of… Dark sensation?”

“Yeah, I guess. I thought it was my imagination, I mean, I have some really bad stuff in there.”

“Hmm… I suppose. Just… Keep an eye on that. I’ve been… Sensing something, something sliding about. When you got attacked by those swap horrors it started shifting more. I don’t know, maybe it’s nothing.” She shrugs and then looks off to the side, annoyed.

“Ugh, the vermin is trying to get in our little talk. I’m just going to wake you up instead.”

“Aww, but what if he has a really cool astral form?”

She sniffs, “I don’t care to deal with such trash.”

You laugh and raise your hands, “alright, alright, point made. You two are going to have to get along someday you know.”

“Perhaps, perhaps not. Well, happy awakening Wizard.”

“You too, I guess.” You pause for a moment and then a goofy smile breaks over your face. ” Oh, and Harmony, I was right, you do have a great ass.”

Her face goes bright red and she looks away, swinging a wing in a wide arc and suddenly your eyes fly open to the waking world to find Bubs right in front of your face.

“Big guyyyyyyy, come onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.”

You jump and the rat scurries off your chest to look back at you. “Aww come on, I wanted to get in on that too! No fair that it stupid bird staff gets to get into your head for secret talking times and I’m just chopped liver.”

Harmony seems smug in the crook of your arm, but when you focus on her she seems very embarrassed. Teehee.

You look around and see that the sun was starting to set in the distance. You had made it out of the swamp, for the most part anyway, and the vegetation was becoming sparser and the sky open in the distance. Veronica was staring at you with an odd expression and Hala was snickering at you. Apparently she gets over things quickly, the dumb bitch.

“You okay there Wizard?” Asks Veronica.

“Yeah… Yeah just a little startled is all. What’s going on?”

“Blake thinks we should camp for the night. Traveling the roads is pretty dangerous at night and finding this plaguebearer might be difficult anyway. Besides, everyone’s a little on edge and beat up I think…”

You ponder the conundrum. Yeah, you could use real sleep and maybe work on some experimentation, but if that man made more ground… The logical place to go was Cair, and if he traveled in the night or found someone to transport him, he might beat you there. Hmm.

“While I think we can agree that we are tired and maybe a little sore.” You stare at Blake for a second before continuing, “But we can’t afford to lose time on this. We need to track down this man before he reaches Cair.”

Your party looked among themselves with worried expressions. You could tell that thy understood the danger, but it was well known that traveling at night invited monsters to attack and despite your position of having some powerful fighters, it would be dangerous. Still…

You sigh and shake your head, “Look, I know we’re all still shaken up from the swamp, I get that, I really, really do.” You lean forward, looking amongst everyone, “but can you really sleep knowing THAT is out there?”

That seemed to really strike a chord and even Hala’s resolve was hardened. Blake studied your expression one more time before nodding and snapping the reins, spurring the horses onward as the sun began to slip down below the horizon, heralding the oncoming night.

You lean forward and think about the coming task before you. The man probably couldn’t have gotten too far, depending on where Victoria left him, and he was likely scared and tired, unless the plague managed to give him super strength and vitality or something. You snort at that thought. What, would it also give him a longer, thicker dick and the ability to fuck all night? Pfff, like that could happen.

No, no this probably wouldn’t be too hard to catch up to him, assuming he didn’t find some sort of transportation. The hardest part would be finding him, especially in the dark. Chances were good he’d use the road, but if he needed to rest, using one of the nearby hedges or something could be smart, and if may have been threatened to run from people matching your description. Of course, that was unlikely since Victoria probably never even considered dying, she probably just let him loose because she wanted to take her time with you, the sick bitch that she was.

So that meant… You needed some eyes ahead of you. You could probably sense the plague with your [mage sight] but you’d want to have a jump on him beforehand. It was times like these that you wished your [remote sentry] could work further than 100ft, but that also begged the question of how you’d even get it somewhere else since you were in motion.

You ponder this thought for abit as you reach into your [sack of holding +1] to take out your [pipe] and some [green leaf]. As you search through, you notice the third pouch, the [sack of shit] and a brilliant idea comes to you. Of course, it was ingenious!

You eagerly stuff your [pipe] and light it up, forming in your mind how you would do this. Veronica looks at you oddly while Tabitha kept up that “sleeping but not sleeping” thing she was doing. You take a few puffs, and then clench the stem in your teeth, smiling like an idiot.

“What the hells are you doing?” Asks Veronica, unable to contain herself any longer.

“I’ve got an idea for a new spell to help with this.”

“Does it involve shit?”

“I may involve shit, yes.”

“Here we go.” Bemoans Blake.

You wave your hand, “Oh cry me a river, this shit has saved your life many times.”

“Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.” He relents, eyes forward on the road.

“What’s his deal?” Veronica asks, looking back at Blake.

You shrug and open your bag again, “He’s just mad about something some ghosts did to him once.” Veronica opens her mouth to question it, then thinks better and becomes quiet, a look of bewilderment on her face.

You just let it slide and go back to the [sack of holding +1] when that familiar, yet filthy feeling comes back to you again. You feel Bubs shudder and awaken at the feeling, and becomes restless in your pocket.

“Woah, Big guy, what’s in your bag? Something feels… Dark.”

“Yeah…” You mutter, looking through the bag carefully. Your samples of plague and swamp horror are tightly sealed, and your [matango spores] are also well preserved with none of this feeling to them. [Victoria’s head] is fine, your other equipment is good, this piece of bone is…

Your eyes go wide and you quickly drop the bone, reeling back out of the sack as you sort of choke on your [pipe]. Your heart starts to beat quickly and both Harmony and Bubs start frantically worrying in your head. You look up and see Tabitha peering at you with one eye under the cap and you gulp, then take a shuddering breath before calming yourself or at least appearing to. You give Tabitha a weak smile, taking a puff, and she narrows the eye before tipping her cap back down.

Shit. Shit shit shit. You had thought that Selene destroyed all of the [Lamia tail bones] but one was left! No wonder you felt such dark energy from the bag. You were concerned that it managed to hide for so long and you think desperately back to the night when Selene destroyed the bones. You remember scooping them out of the bag, and… And one falling back in.

You don’t know why you had forgotten that, but now that you think on it, it’s clear as day. You saw it fall into the bag, and you just… Forgot about it. It makes your spine crawl as you come to one conclusion.

Chakrandas’s spirit MADE you forget.

But why show itself in such an overt way now? It was almost like it was begging for your attention, like it was trying to get you to use it again. It should know that you’d just destroy it, be done with the snake and her dark magics for good. And yet…

“Harmony” you hiss mentally to the staff and she immediately comes to attention, “Is something trying to influence my thoughts?”

The staff seems to frown in concentration, “N…no, I don’t think so? But that bone, it’s… It’s wrong. Why do you have that? I feel some malign force in it and it’s scary.”

“Fuck me, you kept part of that damn snake?” Asks Bubs, butting in on the conversation. “I thought you got rid of her!”

“Snake? What snake?” Asks Harmony, concerned.

You mentally sigh, “I took some vertebrate from a lamia named Chakrandas that we slew before we met. She was a monster witch with powerful dark magic.”

“By the gods…” Whispered Harmony. “You should know that powerful creatures can leave residues in their bodies, especially if they’re magic users!”

“Wait… Are you saying that Victoria’s head might be..”

“Probably not since she didn’t use magic, but I wouldn’t rule it out.” She quickly goes back on subject, “Anyway, please, don’t mess with that bone, just destroy it. You don’t know what it could do.”

“Would you protect me again if it tries to get into my head?” You ask of Harmony and she seems to inwardly blush.

“W…well, of course I would! I’d do anything for you.”

You close your eyes and take a deep breath before you pull some shit out of your [sack of shit]. “Thank you Harmony. Look, we’ll leave it alone for now, and… Deal with it later. We have bigger things to do.”

“Whatever you say Big Guy…” Says Bubs, clearly skeptical.

You clench the stem harder in your teeth before looking at the shit hovering over your hand. Darn rat and his… Well placed caution. You shake your head and focus on the task at hand. Right, okay.

You breathe out and slowly form the shit into a large disk. Then, with deliberate care, you cast a thick layer of [ice] over it, making a nice, hard surface that hovered in the air. Nodding, you then cast [remote sentry].

One of the small little magical constructs appears on the disk and you tap into its sight, seeing yourself smiling. You nod and then slowly move it around the wagon. Veronica seems startled, but then glares at you as it comes her way. It drifts into the front of the wagon and Hala raises an eye brow before going to touch it. Blake slaps her hand as she does and she pouts, looking away and mumbling about no fun.

Good, it looks like it was working well enough and didn’t seem to slide off, which was perfect. Okay, let’s send it out then. With a gesture, you send the device out wards and devoting some of your mind to controlling the magic and the other to seeing through it, you’ve made a mobile remote sentry!

>You learn <UFT>

>A mobile [remote sentry] on a [Defense of defecafion] platform

>It stands for unidentified flying turd

>Don’t judge.

You keep it within the range of the spell by feeling it’s strength and clarity, but the added height really helps see wide swathes of forest and land, and despite the darkness, you can get a good picture of things ahead of you.

“Mmm, there’s a copse of trees farther ahead. He might have hidden in there for shelter.” You say and Blake looks back at you, skeptical.

“How do you know?”

“Magic.” You say, and puff from your [pipe]. Being a wizard was just the best.

“I see… We’ll keep a lookout then.”

“You do that. Oh, and when we find him, wear your [plague doctor mask]. Don’t want to catch this thing.”

“Aww, do I have to?” Asks Hala, her expression pouty still. “It really irritates my ears.”

“Yes Hala, you have to.” She probably didn’t have to actually, but it was fun to bully her at times. Besides, you had yet to invoke your holy revenge on her, praise beith Jackor, that piece of shit.

She groans and then lays down in Blake’s lap, huffing. You briefly wondered if she was ever sucking the man off when she laid down that. The answer was probably, but you didn’t want to know, although seeing Veronica get into a tizzy about it might be amusing. You actually look over at the Aspirant and she her fidgeting as she watches the two. Her hand rests uncomfortably close to her crotch and you see her holding it with her other hand, restraining it. Man, she was really pent up you guess.

You return to scanning around and you see very little of much value beyond some frolicking saytrs, a kitsune or two, the dumb one tailed ones, and a squirrel. Just a normal squirrel. No boobs, which was starting to seem like a rarity or something.

As you start to ponder if sleeping wouldn’t be better suited, you notice something in the periphery of your mind. A slight movement in the trees you mentioned earlier, which were fairly close now. You send the <UFT> to investigate and see a vaguely human-shaped figure shuffle through the trees. It stops and turns back to you, and you can make out what looks like a man with short hair plastered to his head with sweat, who stares at your device before running back into the trees.

You sit up straight and everyone comes to attention. “I found him, trees up head.”

Everyone nods and puts their masks on, even Hala, who complains about it, but does so anyway. As you approach the trees, you send your construct into the trees further, but can’t see anything much of value. You frown deeply and look to Bubs, who nods.

“I think I can track him down boss.”

“Works for me!” You look at the rest of The group and nod. “Veronica, stay here while we go into the woods, alright?”

She grimaces, “I can fight too!”

Blake shakes his head. “No, your armor makes too much noise and we need someone to guard the wagon.”

She sighs in her mask, but relents, taking her mace into her hands and siting up at the front of the wagon, looking around. The rest of the party disembarks and you head into the trees. They were a small little copse, not too thick, but it provided adequate protection for this man and didn’t seem inhabited by anything that might rape him. Bubs quickly catches onto his scent and leads you down a path towards him.

You rush through the trees, staff at the ready as Hala bounds forward, her hunter’s spirit coming into full force. She dashes out of sight, clearly having heard the man, despite her mask, and you hear a muffled curse from ahead of you. You, Blake, and Tabitha pick up the pace and run after her through the thinning trees, obviously reading the edge.

“Big guy…” Asks Bubs, hesitating as if listening for something. “Do you hear that? It sounds like… Hoofbeats?”

You blink but no, you can’t hear anything but your own breathing and the sound of leaves underfoot. You are about to ask Bubs what he meant when you crash out of the trees and find yourself into a large field of grass, open of the expanse of the sky. Star and moonlight twinkle down over you and you see Hala siting on the man, pushing his face into the dirt. You bet she was smiling like an idiot in her mask.

“Caught him!” She yells as you approach. You quickly scan with your [mage sight] and find him to be riddled with this plague. Beyond being out of breath though, he looked fine, and his humors were riddled with plague, but not out of balance enough to cause any clinical disease… Does this really not hurt men? Or has it just not been long enough?

You take a step toward him when Bubs starts trying to get your attention frantically. You look down at the rat before you hear something muffled in your mask. A faint clip clop that increases in intensity as it approaches. You turn to look at the source of the sound when Hala jumps and pushes you and Blake down to the ground. As you fall, you see a shining blur split the air in a line.

You gasp and roll to your feet, staring where the blade came from. The man was pulling himself up from the ground but your eyes were locked onto the form before you, which was slowly turning around after its charge. Despite the darkness, in the light of the moon you could make out a humanoid figure on a tall, black horse. The horse rears its front legs up into the sky and let’s out a furious neigh as the rider leans into it and stares directly at you.

It takes you a moment, but you adjust to see it is a woman, clad in black, baroque armor with accents of red and silver. In one hand she carries a large scythe, which was the source of the glinting in the dark you saw earlier. As the horse reared back though, she let go of the reins and put a hand to he head. When the horse came back down however, you are shocked to see that the head was no longer connected to her neck.

“By the gods…” Mumbles Blake. “It’s a Dullahan….”

The rider drove her horse forward again, this time at a slow trot and she came to rest in front of your party. Her body held her head in her hand and it moved the severed body part about, staring at all of you. Now that she was this close, you could clearly see that she had a beautiful face with sharp features and flowing golden blond hair. Infact, you never could have guessed she was a monster until she took her head off. Oh, and the glowing red eyes and black sclera, but that’s a minor detail.

Delilah

The head looks about and then focuses on you. “Ah. A kindred spirit of death. I see you seek this bearer as well.”

You fumble for words. ” Uh… What?”

She looks at you dispassionately before taking her head and reattaching it to her body with a sick squelching sound before looking back at the man who has begun to try and crawl away. Her scythe comes down before him and he freezes, muttering prayers to Solos in his terror.

“W..wait, you’re going to kill him?” You ask, confused.

She shakes her head, “No, I have come for him to fulfill his purpose. If you are true to your calling, you will give me no grief.”

“Hell no we won’t give you grief!” Yells Hala, coming to a crouch, ready to spring. The Dullahan ignores her and adjusts the scythe in her other hand before reaching down and grabbing the man pulling him up onto the saddle with little effort. As she does, Hala jumps at her.

You didn’t even see the scythe move, but next you knew, Hala was thrown to the ground, clutching at her abdomen as a trail of blood began to flow from her. You curse and start to raise Harmony, but the Dullahan stares at you and you feel… Nauseous. Like, like you could see your own death before you. You stagger, mind reeling, and you barely register as Tabitha moves to engage the monster while Blake protects her flank. There is a furious clash of blades before the Dullahan makes an annoyed sound and raises her free hand, firing a jet of darkness out at both your companions.

The Lizardman catches the power on her blade, but is pushed away while Blake manages disperse the attack with his shield, but not in time to protect himself from the horse slamming its hooves down on him, catching the shield, but knocking him to the ground.

You shiver and try to shoot out a [fireball] with Harmony as you come to your senses, but the Dullahan is already in motion, barreling away from you into the darkness and your shot goes wide. You shudder and fall to you knees as Harmony tries to calm you down. But you couldn’t be calm, because a specter of death had just taken a man riddled with a virulent plague. And she was heading straight towards Cair.

“By the gods, Hala!” Shouts Blake as he runs over to the injured wolf-girl. You stare off as the Dullahan fades into the distance on her horse, a faint cry of terror echoing from the man on the back.

You put a hand to your head and try to slow things down. What the hells just… It was so quick, and that stare…that gods damned stare. It still made your bones shiver in your skin thinking about it. It wasn’t even anything concrete, just pure, unadulterated terror.

“Wizard… Wizard, are you okay?” Asks Harmony, concerned. “I felt something pierce your mind and I just couldn’t do anything, it was so quick.”

“It’s… It’s fine.” You reply, slowly picking yourself up. “She caught us all by surprise.”

“I… I guess.” Replies Harmony, not convinced.

“Damnit, Wizard! I need you!” Shouts Blake again and you jolt your feet into responsiveness, jogging over to the recumbent wolf girl.

There was a fair amount of blood staining her clothing, but as you observe, you notice the wound is wide, but shallow over her abdomen. You quickly place Harmony over her and cast [mend], sealing up the wound quickly. The wolf squirms before settling back down, her eyes flickering open.

“Owwww, owwww, owwwwwww.”

Blake sighs in relief before offering a prayer to the gods. “Thanks be Wizard, I was afraid there…”

“No time for that, we have to catch that Dullahan, now.” You say, standing back up and turning back to the trees.

“How do you plan to accomplish that? We are not as swift as she.” Interjects Tabitha, sheathing her sword as she snarls off in the distance.

“It’s a good point she has Wizard…”

You sigh in exasperation. “We have two horses of our own, but if you keep talking we’ll never catch her.”

Blake and Tabitha look between each other and nod before the Hero helps Hala off the ground. She grunts some in pain, but gets back to her feet in short order. He starts to move with her under his arm, but you hold up a hand.

“Didn’t your hear me? We don’t have time for that!” You point to Tabitha. “You can take her, the hero and I need to hurry.” To emphasize the point you start jogging through the woods.

A few seconds later you hear the heavy footfalls of your local Hero, easily catching up to you. He looks into your eyes as you both run and you nod in unison before increasing the pace. It doesn’t take long to arrive back at the wagon, and you both beeline for your horses, unhitching them from the cart.

You barely notice Veronica’s little squeak of surprise and you spare a moment to look, seeing her back inside the wagon instead of at the front. There’s a quickly rustling of cloth and metal and she pushes her head out of the front of the wagon, face flushed.

“Wh..what’s going on, are we under attack?”

“The plaguebearer got away, we have to chase him down.” Says Blake as he finishes saddling his horse. He hurriedly starts helping you with Mr. Ed, not even paying attention to the Aspirant who was hurriedly rubbing her mace with a cloth.

“Where are the others? Did something…”

“On their way back!” You shout finishing with the tack. You quickly swing into the saddle as Blake does the same and you kick in your heels, sending Mr. Ed jolting forward with a loud neigh.

“Onward Gallahad!” Cries Blake as he Spurs his horse into action as well. You both bolt out into the night towards Cair and the Dullahan. You’d probably have had little chance at catching her, but you had the benefit of being on a road, and compared to the grass, your horses were able to transverse the terrain which much more ease than the field.

“Wizard!” Shouts Blake as he rides closer to you, trying to shout over the wind. “When we get close, I’ll harry her flanks, I need to you stop her magic!”

“Uh…ye…yeah.” You say, a little flabbergasted by the sudden demand. You had no idea how to combat her. Maybe harmony could be prepared to shield you from her mental attacks now, but the darkness was just out of your league. As you have this thought however, your [sack of holding +1] pulses another wave of that dark feeling.

You spare a glance to the bag and your eyes go wide. You don’t know what to do about this, but you know something that does…

“Wizard… Wizard what are you thinking? Don’t do this…” Pleads Harmony, pulsing concern from the staff.

You bite your lip and think it over. It could be such a mistake to reach out to Chakrandas’s spirit, but at the same time, you couldn’t let that Dullahan reach the city. If you remember your obscure stories on the communion matrix’s more spooky matrices, then these monster appeared when someone’s death was approaching. You never figured them to go and actively bring death though, which either meant she was in collusion with Victoria before she died, or…

The prospect of so much death demanded intervention.

You shudder. No, no you couldn’t let this happen. Desperate times, desperate measures.

“Sorry Selene…” You whisper as you reach in and grab the [Lamia tail bone].

Everything seems to pulse for a moment and your vision goes purple as an echo of laughter flushes through your mind, heralding a mocking, imperious voice.

“Hora hora, I knew you’d be back.”

You grit your teeth and push back against the force in your mind and the feeling recedes, restoring your vision, and you quickly steer Mr. Ed back into position, seeing that you had drifted a little. You shake your head and nod to Harmony who pulses with you, determined, but disappointed.

“Hello, Chaika.”

“It’s Chakrandas you fool.”

“No, you’re just the vague memory of the living being known as Chakrandas.” Says Harmony, echoing in your mind. “You’re now Chaika.”

You feel as if something was sneering. “Don’t you dare presume to speak with me about who or what I am.”

“I’m a talking magic staff, I think I can talk about this perfectly rationally you insipid twat.”

“Girls, you’re both pretty animate objects.” Bubs chimes in. “But stop bickering, the Wizard has shit to say.”

“Of course…” Says Chaika, clearly unamused. “Whatever could have brought my dead murderer to seek to my help after so cruelly denying me beforehand?”

“First off, Blake was the one that killed you, second off, you’re a crazy bitch.”

“True, but here we are, no?” She seems to grow smug. “You wish to know how to resist dark magic attacks, hmm? Oh it’s not so hard, I’m sure that even in this ridiculous state I could protect you.”

“There’s a catch to this, isn’t there?” You think, gritting your teeth.

“How darling, you and I will get along so very well. Yes, I do demand a price, your semen and an interment in a new body, I’m sure you can figure something out.”

“How about, I don’t crush you into bone powder?”

“Hora, hora…you drive a hard bargain. Fine, for now I will deign you to carry me about about as an implement as with this..” She seems to search for words, “Stick.”

“Just destroy her wizard, I’ll annihilate her, it will be easy.” Pushes Harmony, almost staining to destroy the wicked bone.

“Wizard!” Shouts back Blake as he points off in the distance. You see backlit by the moonlight the shape of a figure dashing forward on horseback. Damnit, time was up.

You growl. “Fine. Whatever, just help us out here.”

You feel a distinct sense of smugness, as if this was the only logical conclusion to the negotiation. “So it is, so it shall be.”

You return your attention to the road ahead. You and Blake begin to veer your horses off into the grass of the plains in an intercept angle to the headless horsewoman. You push Mr. Ed forward, and he responds, his muscles straining as he works up a good lather. Despite your edging on though, Blake manages to outrace you, his expert skills in horsemanship coming to play.

As you approach, the Dullahan places a hand to her head and spins if about 180 degrees. Your stomach groans a little at the grotesque display, but you keep forward as she increase the pace of her own horse. The extra burst of speed keep Blake from immediately catching her and you grit your teeth, raising Harmony and pointing in front of your prey’s horse.

It’s some effort to do while riding Mr. Ed, but you push out [Vine whip] in a burst before the charging horse. While there is little vegetation, the spell pushes the ground up into a block, designed to make the horse stumble and fall. But as your spell take effect, the Dullahan quickly evades, either anticipating your spell, or judging where it would fall.

You throw more and more out, but the Dullahan quickly and accurately guides her horse through the veritable minefield and you growl in anger. In sync with Harmony, you push more energy out and form a solid, 2 foot high wall in front of the horse.

As the Dullahan approached full speed towards the barrier, you prepared to watch her hit the barrier and be flung out into the field. You push Mr. Ed further, readying yourself to see the Dullahan tense and then effortlessly drive her horse to jump clear over the obstruction, sailing in the air and landing softly before continuing in one stride.

You blink and then realize that the wall was quickly approaching. Blake clears it without issue, but you panic. You think about pulling on Mr. Ed’s reins and stopping him, but it would have ended with you sprawled on the ground, possibly with a broken neck. Oh gods, here it goes then…

You drive Mr. Ed faster and you crouch low into him, closing your eyes and nearly willing the horse to clear the obstacle. He lets loose a furious neigh and you feel yourself pushed tightly onto the horse as everything becomes weightless for a moment before you feel a jarring sensation and you slip off the saddle.

You shout out and watch as you tumble out of the stirrup on one side and you feel everything shift to the left, where your hand was gripping tightly, your other hand bone white on Harmony. You feel your weight pulling on Mr. Ed and he protests while running forward and you can feel yourself screaming as you slip even further.

“Wizard! Use me!” Harmony shouts.

Your eyes snap to her and then to the saddle horn. With a swift effort, you swing harmony about and latch her behind the saddle horn, arresting your fall. You breathe in relief as your terror starts to subside and you quickly pull yourself up back into the saddle, seeing that you has lost ground in your little endeavor.

“Oh my, that was amusing.” Says Chaika. “Can you do that again? Your terror was delicious.”

You ignore her and push Mr. Ed forward and survey the situation. Blake has gained ground but was still behind her and doing his best to keep pace. She was maybe 85 ft away and… And you had a trick up your sleeve.

You quickly form a disk of stool from your [sack of shit] and freeze it, making its edges sharp. You raise the disk to spin over and over again, and then you fire it forward. The disk shoots forward toward the Dullahan, quicker than you could expect and as it approaches her body, she turns and readies her scythe. But you’re ready for this, and with a quick effort, you throw it down low, avoiding the scythe blade and zipping ahead of the horse.

She barely has time to respond before you pull it back, zipping at the kegs of her horse. You hear a snarl in the wind before the quickly moves to the right to avoid it, but her effort to do so had given Blake plenty of time to catch up to her.

She whirls about, her head twisting in strange ways as she barely parries Blake’s sword. He is fighting with sword and shield, driving Galahad forward with only his legs like some kind of professional equestrian and keeping pace with her. As she a blast of dark energy, he swings in close and stops her swing cold on his shield, and delivers a blow to her midsection.

Lionsedge glows brightly and you see pieces of armor explode into the night before an earsplitting cry of pain comes from her horse and both rider and mount spill to the ground in a heap, sliding across the earth in a series of jarring bounces and cracks of bone.

You see the man on the back of the horse be tossed out into the dirt and he rolls forward, landing in an unmoving heap, and you wonder if he’s dead. No time for that of course, as you quickly catch up you in Mr. Ed so you can assess the situation.

Blake was doing circles about the crashed horse, looking for signs of movement. The horse was clearly dead, with fragments of armor embedded into its neck, which was at an odd angle, and at least one broken leg. You’re kind of glad it was fast anyway because it was certainly messy. You look over to the Dullahan and see its head lying over about 10 feet away, lying on its side, staring off with an expression of annoyance, despite being scratched up to hells by its slide through the dirt. The body lay down in a heap, the torso covered in multiple lacerations and shards of metal covering a barely decent looking set of undergarments which were keeping a fairly sizable bust from slipping out into the cold air of the night.

You ride close to the head and point your staff down at it, growling, “It’s over.”

She rolls her eyes before looking at your flatly. “So you say. You have certainly stopped my advance, for now. But why?”

“Why what?”

“Why try and stop me? He carries with him death in concentrated form. So many bodies, such plague. With little effort, thousands will die and he will be pleased.”

“He? Who are you talking about? Are you in league with Victoria.”

“I am in league with none but death itself, and though you may not know of him, he knows of you.” She blinks dispassionately. “And he’s disappointed.”

“I don’t…”

“Enough. If you will not help me, then I suppose I will just deal with you.”

You hear a noise of alarm from behind you and you turn to see the torso drag itself up from the ground in a swift, fluid motion and slash at Blake with the scythe. The poor man was caught off guard, and the weapon bit into his armor, digging in and dragging him forcefully from his saddle and tearing his shield away from his body.

You whip about to see the eyes of the head glow bright and another wave of terror strikes towards you. Before you can fully feel the effects though, you feel two forces slide before it, one raw and powerful as a thunderstorm, the other dark as night. The psychic attack is rebuffed and the head raises an eyebrow.

“Interesting. You’ve learned, although not enough.”

You feel a hand grab you and forcefully drag you from your saddle, and you cry out in alarm as you hit the dirt, hard. You groan and watch as the headless body straddles you, her undergarments sliding off, revealing an attractive, if maimed, torso backlit by the moon.

You clinch your teeth as one hand slams into your shoulder, pinning you in place as the other raises the scythe high into the air, poised to strike you you down. It doesn’t though and you feel the body shudder, as if resisting the effort somehow before the scythe slams down toward you.

You close your eyes and tense, feeling a whoosh of air and then the sound of the ground being pierced next to your ear. You blink and look over to see the scythe Impaled into the dirt, before the other hand of the dullahan grabs your other shoulder and picks you up, pulling you into a tight embrace with against her buxom chest. You feel one powerful arm crush your back into her while another grips at your clothing.

“Mmmm, apparently my body has taken a liking to you, that or it needs to replenish its energy. Annoying, but perhaps necessary.” Her cheeks color slightly. “A temporary setback.”

You feel Chaika smile wickedly within you for some reason as she tries to get your attention.

The Dullahan’s body was doing a very lousy job of getting you in the mood, unless by mood it meant, “crush your ribs.” If that was the case, then golly, it was sex on ice.

You struggle fruitlessly while Chaika needles you. “Hehehehe, oh wizard! She’s killing you! Hahaha!”

“Not…helping…” You think as another spike of pain goes through you. You gasp as you realize that she’s removed one of her arms from your torso and is now ripping at your pants, trying to force them off your waist. Despite the failings of many other monsters with perfectly good heads, this one is doing a fantastic job getting to yours and your fear rises, in more ways than one.

“Hora hora, I know just the thing to help in this situation.” Chaika goads, delighting in seeing you squirm.

“Well fuck, why don’t you do it already?” You counter, fear leading to anger.

“Oh but I’m but a weak little bone right now. Give me some of your energy and I’ll…”

“Fuck off snake! I don’t need your help that bad!” You reply as you fumble toward you [sack of holding +1]. Damnit there had to be something in here you could use, if only you could reach…

“How DARE you!” Chaika replies enraged, but you’ve already forgotten her. Useless trinket, you should have just destroyed her again.

The Dullahan’s head watches as you fumble for your bag and she rolls her eyes again. “Please, do be more careful and not allow him access to his tools.”

The body stops tearing your undergarments off and grabs your bag, sending it tumbling away. You give a small cry of alarm before she pushes you back down to the ground and finishes her dark work. You gasp as your lower half is suddenly exposed to the evening air and your flag is at full mast. The Dullahan’s body immediately seized upon it and begins to delicately stroke you.

You shudder as her deceptively soft skin rubs against you. This wasn’t at all like you’d imagined it being like, no, it was better, and the thought terrified you. You tried to struggle out of her grasp and raise your hand to cast a [fireball] at her, but at a word from the head, the body slammed her free fist into your wrist, causing you to scream in pain and sending a jolt of numbness up your arm.

You unable to properly reach out and cast a spell, the Dullahan goes back to her wicked work, each stroke faster and faster as it glided across your member. You tense up, trying not to acknowledge the feeling going through your body. You were a wizard, and this was not on your terms! You did not enjoy this, the way she payed attention to your head before curving back down, tickling the gentle underside of your cock before gripping and sliding upward. No, no this was not pleasurable, you wouldn’t…

You could feel your body rebelling against your mind as you shudder from the pleasing sensations. If you let slip anything here, it would be over, the body would mount you and your life as a wizard, or otherwise, would be over. The thought gave you so much terror that you struggled intensely, but only succeeded in making the Dullahan work faster.

“Should have taken my offer Wizard. Ah well, maybe this Dullahan will be more accommodating to me.” Mocks Chaika softly, as if from a great distance.

“Just give in. Your little struggling is… Amusing… But futile. Release and submit so that this can…” The head trails off for some reason before letting out a disgusted sound. “He should have been out for longer considering that fall. Finish quickly!”

She lowers her torso onto you, pressing her full breasts together against your shaft with her hands and their firm warmth sends a shiver up your spine which wasn’t just because you could now see the cross-section of her neck. This wasn’t good at all, no not at…wait a second.

In her hurry to finish you off, which was working, oh ho ho, was it working, she free’d your other arm. Quickly seizing the opportunity, you point at the torso and cast [Lightning Bolt].

Now, some would say this wasn’t a smart move. Some would say you would be caught in the blast too, be electrocuted and die or something. But that’s not how magic works, you see, magic works by…

Oh who are we kidding, doing that hurt like fucking hell, and you feel your body tingle in pain as the power you discharged ran up you as well as the Dullahan. Both of you seize up and you feel your jaw clench together, keeping you from letting loose your scream that boiled up from within. The Dullahan on the other hand twisted and writhed, falling off you as it squirmed in the dirt, it’s impulses firing off.

“D…damn y…you.” Stutters the head, one eye twitching from the pain. “I was c…careless.”

Great, you had the Dullahan off you and you didn’t blow your load, although to be fair you dribbled all over yourself from the sudden electrical stimulation. Not that that mattered, no, you needed to get Harmony or something to help finish this wench off, because no way were you doing that with magic on your own. Of course, that was easier said than done, as moving seemed quite beyond you at the moment. You gasp for air and turn your eyes toward something moving in the periphery.

The damn plaguebearer was slowly getting to his feet as he rubbed at his head, looking about the scene. His eyes lock onto the half naked Dullahan, then to you and Blake and he gulps, staggering some before sluggishly beginning to move away, toward Cair.

You groan and do your best to roll over, which seems to take all your effort, and you lay there, panting. Your notice before you your [sack of holding +1] and you painfully drag your body forward with your one good arm, grass furrowing under your hand as you pull yourself.

“Af…after the wizard!” The Dullahan head screams and you hear the body start to slowly scrape against the ground after you.

Panic gives you wings and you scramble desperately. The bag was mere feet from you and you with every handful of grass, you feel yourself closer to freedom. One more handful and you’re…

You feel a hand grab your leg and you curse, knowing that the body caught up to you. The additional weight upon you was too much and you collapse, breathing heavily as you stare at the bag. Damnit, it was right there! You could hear Chaika’s mocking laughter as you fingers were mere inches away!

“Ha…again, another temporary setback, but I’ll recover shortly and catch the bearer. Thank you for providing me with a new mount however, I will take care of him well.”

Aww naw. Aww hells naw. Did she just threaten to take Mr. Ed? Did she just threaten to take your horse?

You’re not certain why, but that burst of anger gave your the strength to reach out and grasp your [sack of holding +1] and pull it close to you. The head shouts out an order, but you quickly open up the sack and pull out the first thing your hand comes on, the [wightsbane].

You twist around in agony and breathe out, clutching the intricately carved handle, “A temporary setback? No… This is a permanent one!”

You slam the blade into the arm of the Dullahan and it immediately a spider web of black veins appears, coursing through the body. The arm fails in panic and the body writhes in agony as you twist the dagger. The blackness creeps up the arm and into the body, slowly destroying the undead body.

The head lets out an ear piercing scream, one that shakes your very bones as it attempts to peel the very fabric of reality apart by its very power. You gasp and try to cover your ears, but with only one good arm, you fail miserably and blood begins to trickle down your ears. The plaguebearer collapses, vomiting, and you feel your vision begin to slip before suddenly the noise is cut off.

You blink up, eyes tearing and see Blake, panting heavily and holding his hand to his shoulder, his boot planted firmly on the head of the Dullahan. He grits his teeth as he growls, “Shut.. Up.”

You shake your head and drive the stupor from your head as the Dullahan’s death scream still echoed in your head. Guh…. You turn and look to find the monster’s body half dissolved into blackened flesh, organs sloughing in the windows where flesh cease to be. The body had stopped moving, and you were certain it wasn’t going to do so every again.

“My head…” Mumbles Blake as he reaches down to pick up the Dullahan’s head by the hair, staring into it’s eyes. You couldn’t tell if it was devoid of life or just unconscious, but regardless, it wasn’t moving and you didn’t think it would be anytime soon, if ever.

“A… A little help here?” You ask of Blake and he looks down to you, nodding. He stoops down and picks you up, grunting some at the effort. You shakily come to your feet and sway some on Blake’s shoulder before stabilizing yourself. He grips your shoulder and you groan. “What the hell was that?”

“Death scream. Some undead monsters will try to take others with them when they go by letting loose a howl that rips into the Netherworld. Not really certain what happens if you cut if off mid-scream though…” He shakes his head. “Regardless, it’s thanks to your masks here that we weren’t killed outright.”

“Is… Is that so?” You say before slowly moving to pick up Harmony who is just fluttering up a storm in your head. You retrieve your bag as well, pulling your pants up as you realize they happen to be still be down. Bluh, it’s sticky.

You rest on Harmony for a moment before looking back to Blake who was staring off at the unconscious man in the field..at least, you think he was unconscious. He walks up to him cautiously and pokes him with his sword before grimacing. “He’s dead. Didn’t get far enough away before the scream went out, and he was too weak to resist it.”

You sigh and scan the body with your [mage sight]. Sure enough, he was still infected, although Blake was clean, thankfully. You rub at your head and then gently lift yourself off your staff, your balance wavering as you point her at the body.

“We need to burn the corpse, to make certain the infection dies with him.”

Blake looks back at you, then at the body. “Why does it have to be this way?”

“Because Blake, that’s how this fucked up world works, alright? Sometimes innocent people die.” You start to channel flames through your staff, Harmony attuning the flames into a purifying lance of power. Blake hangs his head and steps back.

“Sometimes… We have to do distasteful things, because it’s only thing we can do.”

You let loose the flames and the body alights, showering the night in brilliant red flames. You and Blake watch the body burn, silently contemplating the events which lead up this happening, your fatigue, mentally and physically finally catching up to you. It’s a long while before you finally saddle your horses and ride back to the wagon, taking the head of the Dullahan with you.

Veronica, Hala, and Tabitha fuss over Blake as he returns and he quickly eases them with that ungodly charisma of his before Veronica gently rests him in the back of the wagon, her hand lingering on his chest before Hala swoops in over him. The aspirant glares at the wolfgirl before sighing, and taking the over the reins of the freshly hitched horses. You just sit back in the wagon and don’t say a god damn word as you start to move again, opting to reach the safety of the town instead of resting the rest of the evening off the road.

You watch the Dullahan head, which was laying across from you next to Blake, but it made no movements. Apparently only Tabitha found it creepy or disturbing and decided to stay away from it, but you felt that burning it would have been preferable. Still, pushing Blake’s buttons about killing another weakened doe would have been too much for you. You just wanted to sleep for a week and forget about everything. Unfortunately, you arrive at Cair before that happens.

Cair was a rather large town that was a central hub for trade and entertainment before one entered the wide expanse of the border mountains. It’s buildings were a varied mismatch of stone, wood, white and yellow, honestly whatever color fit the owner’s fancy. The town had many trading halls for the various roads that spanned it and when traders came into town, they usually made a beeline for the coliseum to spend their hard earned coin.

The central structure did not dominate the town from its size, but merely its reputation, and all the best bars, eateries, and whorehouses were lined around it. Many mercenaries, Warriors, and even sorcerers visited it’s halls and it did not exclude monsters from its ranks, which explained how the town survived the last monster invasion, despite its proximity to the border. Offer the monsters free reign to bash others to bits for sport? Bring it on!

You sort of knew of these these from what you’d heard from Blake and Tabitha talking about the town, but you’d never really seen it for yourself. Honestly, at the moment, you were basically dead on your feet, and the only thing you cared about was the inn you pulled up to. You barely recall, staggering off the wagon and into your room after whatever witchery occurred to obtain a key. You fumble at your clothing to strip, fail miserably, then fall onto your bed.

As you drift asleep, you feel Chaika try to bother you. “Harmony, shut that bitch up.”

She does, with much prejudice, and you quietly drift off to sleep, awaiting the next bullshit adventure you’d find yourself in as you dreamt of soft, fluffy tails.

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