It becomes hard to tell how far you’ve gone since entering the forest rather quickly. All around the trees look the same, only changing by becoming a little paler, the leaves a little browner as you go further in. Despite the poor mood both you and Blake share, at least the road is still useable and free of hazard.
This forest is unsettling however. Even ignoring the fact that the trees do not appear healthy, you barely hear anything as you travel. Though you have limited experience with forests before, you could always hear wildlife. Even Bubs seems to appreciate how abnormal this is, popping his head out in worry every now and then.
Thankfully the canopy of the forest isn’t too thick to see the sky by and, as the sun starts to see its way out, Blake directs you down a side path, carefully navigating until you manage to find something akin to a clearing. It’s rough looking, but it will serve for the night.
You both dismount, tie up your horses, and break to make camp as you had before. Your meal is nothing very memorable, although you do find a fantastic selection of cheese in your pack. Well thank you kindly, Misha. You feed some to Bubs, who scurries around the ground happily before nestling in a pile of twigs and leaves, only his little nose poking out as he prepares for the night.
Initially Blake fretted over this broken ward, but you set him at ease by setting the [Hexagrammic Wards] around the camp. You carefully hide them in some refuse and other debris to form a much larger protective barrier. This should serve as excellent protection for the night unless someone manages to knock out one of the wards and ruin the entire structure- but that probably won’t happen.
With that thought, you lean back on a stump and extend your senses. Aye, there it is. Something DOES live in these woods it seems. Finding a pile of feces present, you use your power to draw it in and form the [Circle of Shit] outside the wards. Blake gives you an oblique look and sighs. “You can’t seriously be doing this.”
“I believe I seriously am.” As the circle snaps into place, you stare up into the sky, questions roiling in your head now that you had time to sit and rest. Though you’d much rather sleep, you ask, “Blake, why did you say you wanted me again?”
The man sighs and waves a dismissive hard, seeming irritated. “Why? Because, the Order needs capable warriors for the fight against the Monster Lady, I told you this.”
You put a hand to your head and sigh. “Come on, I know you aren’t exactly in the best spirits, but you said that you would be straight with me.” Looking at him with a knowing expression, the man’s gaze falls downward.
Blake is silent a moment before he kicks a rock and grumbles, “I said something last night then?”
He considers for a moment then shakes his head, gives an exasperated sigh, and says, “Fine, so be it. I was ordered by the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood to find a Wizard. The intention was to add their magical talents and expertise to the fight against the new Monster Invasion. That was no lie, there is an Invasion brewing and the Monster Lady is leading it, but beyond taking Galmathoria they haven’t made any moves.”
He chuckles dryly. “You know, I thought that finding a Wizard would be easy. Hells, I knew some sorcerers growing up, even in that relatively small town. But a Wizard? Oh no, you and yours are very, very difficult to find.” He shrugs. “I suppose that’s intentional though?”
You smirk absently but say nothing.
“Well, color me surprised when, after spending close to two months searching, I hear rumors that there is a Wizard right near my hometown! I dashed off to find you, and saw, well…” He gestures towards you.
“Oh, no, no offense taken at all, sure.” You say scornfully.
“Oh come now Wizard, I’ve seen your magic. It’s powerful, sure, but it’s base and crude, nothing like what stories of Wizards say.” He frowns. “Not that there are very many Wizard stories these days. But even still, I had to find a Wizard, or I couldn’t return to the Capital, not without shame so deep, I’d be never be allowed to rise in the ranks.”
“Why do you even care about the Order? Misha seemed to think it was a fool’s game, and everyone knows their power is waning.”
He looks up at the darkening sky and the anger begins to drain from his voice, leaving only the sound of a tired man. “Because someone has to stand up for justice. Not all Monsters are evil, I know that better than most, but those who are… Just wish to hurt people or enslave them as little more than sex farms.”
Blake turns and looks you straight in the eyes, a level of determination shining within. “I think Monsters and humans can live in peace, but it takes a strong hand to keep that peace in line. I want to be one of those who fights the dark, so the peace can blossom.”
Oh for fucks sake. You had your suspicions, but you never really voiced your concerns. You feared that you had been roped into this by some Solos inspired Paladin, but instead he’s a… a… well, Hero. That’s the most accurate description for him. Sadly, actual Heroes don’t last very long in this world and while their ideals are realized in some places even with supposed peace, the baser sides of Monsters and men still lurk.
For example, Feldergrod. All it took was one idiot sorcerer and one shit slinging Wizard to ruin a tenuous balance that lurked under the surface of that town. You shake your head and return his gaze. “Tell me and tell me true. Is Galmathoria lost to the Monsters?”
“Aye, last I checked with the Order, it is.”
“And does the Order capital have the Galmathorian glass?”
Blake pauses for a moment to consider. You don’t like that. “Why… Is it so important that you merely return to your home and sit at your desk all day? Why do you let that define your life when you could truly do so much more?”
“No, seriously, do they have the glass?”
He just kind of… stares through you. Not really at you, but like, his eyes just go right on past you to the stump you’re sitting on. He sighs. “It has only been a few days, yet you honestly can say that you’d rather just go home?”
You spy Bubs, his head peeking out of the refuse, little eyes intent on you. You feel a small twinge in your heart before replying, “Nope, I’m just here for the glass. If someone hadn’t have fallen on my Communion Glass, I wouldn’t be here.”
Bubs squeaks out something and scurries down deeper into the hole, obscuring him from sight. Awww. He- He’ll get over it.
“I…see. Well they do. You’ll have it, and I’ll have brought a Wizard. They said nothing about him staying.” Blake says before returning to setting up his bedroll. He tests his sword in its sheath and looks around the camp.
“We’ll need to set a watch out while we’re here. It’s probably not so bad this close to the edge of the wood but these trees could hide anything.”
Well, looks like your little heart to heart is over. You shrug and pull a book out of your new [Sack of Holding +1]. [Plagata de Roux: A Translated Primer]- the little book on plagues. You turn it over in your hands before saying, “I’ll take first watch.”
Blake eyes you and then shrugs. “Fine then. Awaken me if there is trouble.”
“Mhm” you say, opening the guide.
Apparently the basis of Plagamancy is the manipulation of humours within the body. With careful direction of magic, you can unbalance these humours and cause a disease or, as a footnote seems to say, you can cure it. The trouble is, identifying these humours in any given person or Monster, it most certainly says Monster, can take time, and large scale Plagamancy is not something for amateurs.
You consider the reading thus far. There’s no specific spell formulae listed yet, so you begin to wonder how to apply this. Perhaps altering the humours in something, and then directly inoculating with something else? As you consider this, your brain manages to piece together a rather vulgar, yet possibly effective spell. There’s a possibility that by altering the humours of a given victim, you can inoculate them with vaporized feces, causing a nigh instant pneumonia! Or well, that’s the intention of what you call [Miasma] anyway.
Of course, you’ll have to try it out to test the theory and you’ll need some materials to work with, but you might be able to pull this off. The whole concept fascinates you, and you’re eager to try this out on something as you learn more about the discipline.
Wanting to test your theory before delving further into the little book, you put it away and take out your other text: [Defensive Magic: Volume 1]. Despite your excitement, as you begin to read you realize that the first chapters are all about self-defense: such as what to do if assaulted, etc etc. It’s dreadfully tedious, and you about fall asleep reading it. By the time you make it through that section of the book, and onto “Magic Circles and You,” you can’t read anymore. You just can’t. But at least you’re at a good stopping point.
Sighing, you look around for Bubs but can’t find him. Meh, he’s probably still hiding. It takes you a moment of searching, but you eventually find a vibrating pile of leaves and you strain to listen, hearing a frenzied chorus of squeaks. Well that’s weird, the last time Bubs freaked out like this was when Misha-
Oh Gods, it’s her.
You whip around in a panic and see nothing but when you turn back you about jump in fright. In front of the campfire crouches a tall, Goddess of a Monster, who gently puts a furred fingertip to your lips and makes a motion of silence while gesturing over to Blake.
You gulp as you finally behold your stalker in her full form and find her beautiful beyond words. You aren’t the best judge of these things but, once more from an academic sense, she’s gorgeous. Her skin is tanned a rich bronze that appears to be smoother than silk while her hair trails down the back of her neck, the strands a rich scarlet color that goes well with the pitch-black hair of her feline legs and clawed hands. Her ears are most assuredly that of a cat’s as well and they twitch in what you assume is amusement.
Her clothing is equally as distracting, consisting of two pieces cloth large enough only to cover her breasts and groin, each piece held in place with intricate, golden clasps. The rest of her is laid bare for you to behold. While her outfit is quite striking, what you find most alluring is her face, and her rich, almond shaped eyes. They’re a bright, almost unsettling shade of green, which glow unnaturally in the night.
As you watch in fascinated horror, a smile forms on her delicate lips as her large, black furred tail, which appeared mostly normal before, unwinds and splits into nine separate tails. To make things even more fantastical, each tail sports some form of wickedly sharp blade at the end, which seems wholly at odds with their fluffiness.
You try very hard not to hyperventilate and, fortunately, you succeed. So, this is what a Monster whose power is so immense that she is considered one of the Monster Lady’s personal lieutenants, a Temple Guardian, looks like? You slowly take in a shuddering breath and manage not to piss yourself.
She looks at you with her deep green eyes and smirks before casually kneeling on the ground, her tails making lazy arcs in the night sky, silent as leaves drifting in the wind. Smiling again, she cocks her head to take a better look at you, and then sniffs the air before speaking softly, “Oh my, you’ve grown a little since we last encountered each other.”
Her honeyed voice carries lightly on the wind. Even though it was given as a whisper, you can still feel its caress upon your ears, and your spine tingles in a not wholly unpleasant feeling. With a shudder, you try to whisper back. “Ah… Ah… T-thanks.”
Her grin widens and her eyes sparkle with laughter, although none comes from her mouth. “I wish I could have visited you yesterday, but that mean old snake would have made things quite annoying for us. Oh how happy it makes me to see you come out to a much more…” She licks her lips, “Romantic venue.”
You twitch at that last part and try, desperately, to keep from letting out a high-pitched squeal, not unlike that of a pig. It’s not as if you had any doubts that she was uhm, enamored with you, but it still doesn’t make it easy to hear that. At this point though, you need to do something to keep her from ah… “Getting romantic.”
It’s going to be difficult, considering who she is, but you have to try something. Maybe now’s your chance to try out the new spell? You focus inward as you stall for time by asking, “W-who are you?”
She considers this for a moment before speaking. “Most know me as Selene, I suppose. Legends would have me be called the ‘Third Guardian’ or ‘The Packmaster.’ I’ve also been known to go by Arianna, Fulsgrofa, and ‘She Who Hunts.’” She smiles. “I personally like the last one, but it’s quite a mouthful.”
Okay, you think you know what you need to do to make the spell go off. First thing is to identify her humours, which you believe you can do with [Mage Sight]. Trying not to be detected, you covertly open up your sight aaaaaand…
You shut it off. Dear Gods you shut it off fast. It was like opening the curtain in a dark room to have the sun waiting outside with two scoops of pain. Her aura is so intense that it’s physically painful to look at.
Dazed, you do the only thing you can as you think of what else to do: keep up the small talk. “Ah, ahem, erm, there was a bug in my eye you see. S-So you’re a Kitsune?”
She pouts at this, but instead of seeming petulant, on her it looks almost sexy. You guess, not that you’re an expert here.
“Well, I suppose that you would come to that conclusion on account of my tails and the magical talent I possess.” As she says this, she smiles knowingly and caresses a tail against her cheek. You can quite clearly as she does this that the blade on the end is not metal, but instead serrated bone. Some of the blades are in different patterns too, one even looking like a hook.
“While they are quite fluffy, I have no relation to those incessant foxes. I am more related to the Cat Girls.”
You blink your eyes. Huh? You’ve perhaps heard of two tailed Cat Girls, but nine? That’s just… ludicrous. Such things did not exist!
“I see you’re a little perplexed? Ara, ara that expression is just so wonderful upon your face. Oh, if only I could squeal in joy at having seen it!” She closes her eyes and shudders.
Okay, okay, okay. You uh, you need to focus again on what you’re doing, despite those little moans she’s making. If you can’t find her humours with your [Mage Sight] then you’ll have to manually search for them. Easy, right? Despite her doing everything possible to make this difficult, you focus upon her and, as stealthily as you can, probe out with your magic.
When your senses reach her you feel, well, nothing. As in, no resistance at all. You just kind of slip in. She doesn’t even seem to notice, the loose bitch. Okay, time to keep up the questions while you get searching. “I…yes, I am a little confused I suppose. I didn’t know that Cat Girls uhm… Came in your ah… variety?”
She opens one eye and gives a sad smile, “Most do not. In fact, my species is all but extinct. I am the last of my kind, a Cat o’Nine tails.”
What a fucking retarded name. Couldn’t have been any more inventive at all, could they? Now that you think about it though, it fits very well with the current usage of the term which is a weapon of torture. Absently you notice that the blades on her tail match perfectly with the common types of implements found on the ends of these whips. Huh, perhaps that’s where the tool came from?
“Oh, w-well then. Uhm.” You fumble around for words and end up blurting out, “Okay, I have to know, why are you following me?”
She closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath before speaking. “Love at first sight my little Wizard. Since I first saw you with that vile moth, I knew I had to have you. I was content to merely watch you grow, but now I think I enjoy our little talks, though this being but the second.”
You gulp as she slides a hand along one of her tails. Keep it cool, keep it cool, let’s just keep working the… Oh, now what’s this? You think you feel something like these “humours.” Let’s just examine this for a moment. “W-why haven’t you just uh, well… Gone ahead and done it?”
“Would you like to touch one of my tails?”
You almost lose your concentration at the question. “Uhm, wha?”
She extends one of her tails toward you, the one with the hook, and slides if gently in front of your face, waving the soft part before you. It’s very distracting because it’s just… Just so fluffy and… And… With trembling hands, you reach up and touch-
A Gods damned cloud. There’s no good way to describe the feeling of this tail; it’s quite possibly the softest thing you’ve ever felt. Distantly you can feel the ridges of the vertebrate, but holy hell, the hair is like jumping into a bag of silk and rolling around in it while someone pours spun cotton all over your face and tells you that you’re a pretty man.
And then, it’s over. You slowly come back into focus and see Selene’s face mere inches from yours. Oh dear, her eyes are very green and slit like a cat’s, a fact you can appreciate that now. Not that you’d want to, because you’re screaming internally. You would scream externally, but she put that finger to your mouth again.
“Oh my love, how it fills me with joy to be caressed by your hand as such, and to know that you tried to go even deeper still.” She licks her lips. “But we can’t have that just yet. However the fact that you even thought you could twist my immune system has made my heart nearly burst!”
Oh okay. So she knew you were using magic the whole time.
You’re going to be raped at her leisure, aren’t you?
She looks over her shoulder and scowls, muttering under her breath. “It appears our third wheel is stirring. A shame, but it’s too soon to collect you, and I’d rather not make a mess of him yet. Oh but do be a good boy and try to get some sleep. You should work on those bags under your eyes.”
She leans forward and kisses you on the cheek before pulling back and jumping up into a tree. One of her tails wraps around a branch and propels her into the forest and out of sight. Just, you know, ignoring your wards again which didn’t even flare into power or give you any warning.
A few moments later Blake awakens, looking about while strapping on his sword belt. “Any problems on watch?”
“Problems?” You ask before chuckling. “Of course not, no problems, not at all, went perfectly, nothing happened, that’s not fur on my sleeve!”
Blake cocks his head at you. “Are you… Feeling hale Wizard?”
“Yep, fine and dandy, just tired, you know, long day.”
Blake blinks and then shrugs before stretching out and taking a seat on a nearby rock. He looks around the encampment, then shakes his head at your wards before picking up a nearby branch and whittling with a small knife he produces from his pocket. “Very well then. Go to sleep, you’ll need your wits about you in the morn.”
You stare flatly. Not like your wits really helped you all that much with Selene, but for now you think you’re safe. You get into your bed roll and try to calm down. Bubs scurries forth and snuggles into your bedroll between your feet as soon as you do, but you don’t mind. It’s a comfortable feeling.
As the soothing sounds of whittling fills your head, you ask, perhaps a little too quietly, “Blake, have you ever heard of a Monster know as, ‘She Who Hunts’?”
Blake stops whittling abruptly and goes very quiet. The silence seems to stretch for quite some time before he licks his lips and then answers,
“That is rumored to be the name of she who destroyed Fellreach eight centuries ago. She was said to have been one of the Temple Guardians, but if she was real she shouldn’t be alive today.” He starts to whittle again, “Where did you hear that name by the way?”
“O-oh, just in one of these tomes somewhere… Books can be very old and such you know, saying all sorts of uhm… Things.”
“Go to sleep Wizard.”
You try your best to comply.
So, walking is boring, but did you know that horseback riding is boring too? You certainly didn’t notice yesterday due to the panic of escaping Feldergrod and all those other… lesser emotions, but yeah, it really is boring. Groaning, you lean forward on your reins to which your horse, which you have named Mr. Ed, snorts but doesn’t seem to mind terribly much.
Bubs crawls out of your pocket and scurries up your robes to sit on your hat. You smile at the little guy and sigh. If only you could read while riding, but chances are that’s a great way to fall off a horse and die. You assume anyway, not being an expert equestrian, or else everyone would do it, right? As you consider the notion of mounted Wizards, you look over toward Blake, who has produced the flute he managed to whittle last night from his pocket, eyeing it. He gives a look around the forest, and then, with expert horsemanship, lets go of his reins and puts the flute to his mouth. Closing his eyes, he starts to play a tune.
You feel a deep sense of longing and sorrow in the music, something akin to a dirge. It should rattle your bones, but for some reason, it just magnifies the environment, makes it feel more… solid, more real. It’s like the music, the trees, and you all belong here together in some kind of depressing harmony. But you don’t feel sad, you just feel… Aware.
When the song ends, you look to Blake and open your mouth, but before you can speak, another melodious sound echoes in the trees. Both of you rein in your horses immediately and look around the environment, Blake drawing his sword while you ready your staff. Well, ready is a very subjective term for how hard you struggle to get the damn thing out of the straps you applied to tie it to the saddlebags, but you free it eventually.
As soon as you do, you look up and notice… Nothing. At all.
An eerie silence permeates the forest around you. Blake narrows his eyes and pulls out the flute once more, blowing a short note. The sound gets lost in the forest, and you strain to listen. Ah, there it is. A few moments later a return song comes from the trees, this time louder and more complex. You didn’t realize it before, but it sounds like… birdsong?
You exhale your pent-up anxiety and slump in your saddle. Just a bird, eh? Phew, and here you thought it was a Monster. Blake doesn’t seem to feel the same, however. He gives one more return tweet of his flute and again it’s answered, this time sounding incredibly close.
Blake swears and stows the flute, readying one hand on his sword, the other on the horse’s reins. You barely have time to register what’s going on before you hear a crash of leaves and out from the treetops bursts a winged creature who dives straight for Blake, a shrill cry issuing from its mouth!
He nimbly dodges by side stepping his horse and tries to give a return swing, but it’s just too fast. You barely get sight of blue wings and scaled legs before it’s gone, swooping back into the tree line. You hear faint birdsong again and turn your horse around in panic. “Hero, what in the hells is that?”
He grunts and readies his blade. “Harpy, Wizard. It appears our first inhabitant wants to try and play.”
You don’t have the heart to banter with him about how this is not playing. But what you do have the heart for is thinking, and you think quickly as the sounds of rustling leaves come to you again. You whirl around, trying to intercept the attack, and from the trees bursts the Harpy, coming for you this time!
You snap fire a quick [Lightning Bolt] but the shot goes wide as the Harpy spins mid-air and flies past you. The wind of her passing throws your robes into disarray and sends Bubs squealing down into your pocket before she vanishes again.
“Hero! What should we do?”
Blake looks about nervously and then sets his jaw, his nerves settling back in. “Summon forth your lighting, Wizard, and I’ll point you in the direction of the Monster.”
You nod then concentrate, building up your will. Bubs squeaks in your pocket, and Mr. Ed steps nervously to the side as you wait. You pull the horse in slightly to keep him from dancing and whisper what you assume are soothing words to him.
Blake’s head whips up and he points to the northwest. “There Wizard! Now!”
You snap forward your staff, crying out, “Tweet tweet Muthafucka!”
You send a steam of electricity forth and, as it reaches the tree line, the Harpy bursts out, flying straight into the magic. She gives a sharp, high-pitched scream, and crashes into the dirt road, throwing up a cloud of gravel and dust as she slides through the rough earth.
Blake spurs his mount into motion and rushes forward, bringing his sword in for a low arc. Just as he’s about to connect however, the Harpy pushes forward with her wings and gets her legs beneath her, using them to propel herself into a jump which quickly becomes a mid-air hover. Blake stays his sword and reins in his horse, the gelding stepping back and forth, neighing as his charge was arrested. The Hero stares up at the Harpy and scowls as she flaps her wings in place.
With her in the air like this, you finally get a good look at her. She’s fairly short, maybe 4’8″ if that, and she has hair the pink color of healthy gums. Her body is lithe and fairly lacking in curves of any sort. There is a decidedly feminine gesture to her however despite the multitudes of lacerations and abrasions that covered her from the crash. You notice also that her legs terminate into scaly talons, which gleam wickedly in sunlight, and you’re glad she missed you with those because damn, that would have hurt.
The most important features however are the wings and feathers. She has a tail of feathers which forms from a ring of down around her waist, but where her forearms should be, large, very powerful wings flap to keep her aloft in the air. Her feathers are a rich blue with a stripe of black and white and you distinctly get the impression of a giant blue jay.
“Raaaaa! Damnable humans! You would dare attack your better? You will submit to me now or face my wrath!”
Her high-pitched voice rings in your ears and you have to squint at the slight pain it elicits. You have a feeling that if you had tried the [Irate Frog Song] she might have thought you were flirting with her. Blake nudges his horse forward, despite it’s rather… strong… protests to the contrary. You obviously were not given warhorses, but at least it hasn’t bucked Blake off yet, so either he’s a damn good equestrian or his mount has a tough spine.
Blake growls, “Leave us be or feel the bite of my blade, Monster!”
You can tell he’s hesitating, but it seems to do the trick. Not the one trick where the Harpy leaves you alone, but the one which makes her very angry. Case in point, the Harpy screams in rage. “I will rip you from your steed and rape you until I have sucked the last drop of semen from your corpse!” And with that, she charges Blake in a furious dive, her talons flashing.
Blake tightens the grip on his sword and spurs his horse into a dash, raising the blade while uttering a battle cry. The two meet with blurring speed and you can see Blake swing his sword while the Harpy extends forth her talons. In moments they pass each other. Blake wheels his horse around, and it neighs in a mix of terror and adrenaline while he surveys his opponent, looking none the worse for the exchange
The Harpy drops to the earth opposite of Blake, a pool of blood slowly forming around her body. You notice with grim objectivity that the blade had managed to sever one of her legs, and she cries in pain as she desperately tries to staunch the bleeding but fails miserably due to her wings.
“Crrreeaaaahhhh! What have you done? It…it hurts! It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts!” She flails like this for a few moments, then becomes very quiet, then falls over into a pool of her own blood.
By this point, Blake has already dashed forward to help and is about to leap from his horse when Mr. Ed gives out a terrified scream, almost bucking you off. The ground rumbles, and a massive, chitinous form with many, many legs dashes from one side of the forest, slams into the unconscious Harpy, and continues forward into the brush on the other side, taking the Monster with it.
You stare in mute horror at the speed of what just occurred and you look to Blake who is equally as shocked as you. All that’s left of the Harpy is a pool of blood, a severed leg, and a trail of many, many bloodied prints. You shake your head and ease yourself down from Mr. Ed, legs totally not shaking as you hit the dirt. Slowly, you walk over to the remaining Harpy leg and, hesitantly, pick it up. It’s still warm to the touch. Blake trots his horse up to you and shakes his head, “Leave it Wizard, that thing is likely eating her right now. We’d best use the opportunity to cover more ground.”
You blanch and drop the limb. The thought of that psychopathic, homicidal rape machine being eaten alive is disturbing. Sure, she attacked you first but it just seems… wrong. Blake is right however. It’s best to leave it.
Blake sighs as he mounts his horse again. “That was probably some kind of Centipede Girl. They live out in forests like these, but to run up against one so soon…” He shakes his head. “Perhaps it was a mercy that there was an easier meal closer by.” Blake starts to ride at the pace you were going before, but he decides to slow down after a moment of thought, which you and Mr. Ed are quite grateful for. Bubs climbs back out from your pocket and squeaks towards you. You gently pat his little ratty head before asking,
“Can we expect this kind of treatment the entire way through the forest?”
“Almost certainly. At least that Harpy had the decency to make itself known before striking.”
You ponder this for a moment and then growl something about heated bread pouches and comfortable slippers.
“Feeling hale, Wizard?”
You rub your eyes and yawn, picking yourself out of your bedroll. Thankfully nothing else molested the two of you throughout the rest of the day and you managed to camp without issue. Blake took first watch today allowing you to get some much-needed rest.
“Yes, yes I feel fine. Is it my turn for watch?”
“Perhaps you should rest more for the evening. You did not seem well through the day.”
“Well, it isn’t exactly uncommon to feel out of sorts after being attacked and seeing a scene like that. It amazes me that anyone would choose to live so close to such creatures.”
Blake sighs and rubs his head. “To hear it true, this place was not always as feral as it is now. There are stories which speak of it being a beautiful place, where humans and Monsters of the forest lived in a true harmony. As far as I know this ended maybe twenty years ago, although I do not know why. It is not as though Varruck doesn’t allow travelers, but as you have seen…” He waves his hand. “It is not very amenable to them.”
“Why did we take this path again?”
“Because you detonated a petty sorcerer and started a war in my hometown.”
“Oh yes. Right.” The campsite grows very awkward. You cough into your hand. “I uhm. I’ll just take my turn on watch.”
“You do that.”
Blake stretches and gets ready for sleep. You take up your staff and take his spot, which he warmed for you very nicely indeed, before rummaging in your [Sack of Holding +1]. You pull out the defensive magic book and sigh before opening it up and continuing where you left off.
The next part is much better than the beginning section, but you know most of the basics here about how to form a circle and infuse it with your will. The material used to create the circle generally doesn’t matter, but some are better than others. Of the listed materials, shit was not mentioned. A shame.
Adding in junction sites with items specific to whatever you want to keep out will also improve effectiveness. Things such as blood, hair, body parts, etc. These would have to be specific for the entity you wish to keep out (or in), and the book doesn’t go much into detail on this point, since it’s a generalized. The next chapter goes into shielding magic, but you need a change of pace because this is soooo dry.
You think about improving your circle now, but Blake is in the middle of where the focal line should go and you’re fairly certain it won’t end well if you place your materials upon him. It’s highly unlikely that the “ghosts” excuse will work twice. Considering what you could possibly do with your [Crushed Wizard’s chalk], you hear the soft sound of a twig snapping.
With a sigh you put your book back into your bag and pull out the one on familiars, speaking without turning about. “You’re losing your edge Selene.”
There is no reply. Furrowing your brow, you look up toward the sound, and flail backwards in surprise at what you see, falling off your rock onto the ground. You scrabble back up and wonder how in the hells Blake didn’t hear that before staring at what you see.
Outside the [Hexagrammic Wards], which flared to life at sensing an intruder, stands an almost luminescent woman, her skin and hair a pale white so pure that it vaguely glows in the moonlight. She’s stark naked, yet she wears it so well, that it doesn’t seem to bother you as much as it should. Her expression is muted, yet her large, glowing red eyes watch you intensely. She takes a step forward, her gaze locked onto yours, and slams into the wards forcing her shapely figure to press up against the invisible barrier. She blinks and slowly pulls herself away from before putting a hand to the wall and staring at it, then to you.
Okay this is getting creepy as fuck, but she doesn’t seem to be able to get past your first line of defense. Guess you might as well just ignore her then. Something is clearly wrong here but if she can’t reach you then you’ll just worry about it later.
“Piss off” you say as you nonchalantly ignore her. Yeah, you totally showed her! Chuckling smugly to yourself, you open the tome before you: [Familiarity with Your Familiar: A Guide to Companion Magic].
Okie dokie, so let’s read. Boring introduction, poor humor, animal rights, usefulness of familiars, yadda yadda… okay here we go. You eventually find a chapter called, “What can your familiar do for you?” Good question, good question.
“Familiars are animals or spirits which act as assistants, companions, or tools for the workings of magics. Often times restricted to sorcerers and occasionally Monster witches, a familiar can be a powerful tool for the right practitioner. The first question is, what can be a familiar? In this regard, anything with a semblance of intelligence can work, however animals often make the best familiars, because they have a spark of life unknown to constructs or spirits. Though any creature can be bound to become a familiar, those with strong bonds with the practitioner are the most useful. That being said, a human or Monster could become a familiar, but they are often referred to as ‘thralls’ and in the process of binding often lose part of what made them useful in the first place. For this reason they are outlawed in the entire realms of man. This book will speak no further on the subject.
“Once bonded, a familiar will be able to accept commands from the practitioner via telepathic link, which often works in two ways, however until a deeper connection is made over time, very rarely are the thoughts of the familiar understood by the practitioner. In this early state, a familiar can understand, apply, and think about commands given, assuming they have the capacity. In fact, there are cases of some familiars increasing in intelligence over the course of their bond.
“After some time working together, the practitioner and the familiar will be able to find each other anywhere via this link and communicate over long distances. Depending on the familiar, the practitioner can arc spells though them! As this tome will describe, there are many other uses for familiars in improving a practitioners power.
“As a final note: should a familiar or practitioner die, the other will experience a psychic backlash that can often debilitate the other or, in some instances, incapacitate them for a time. Deaths have been known to occur from this backlash as well, however the familiar is often the one which suffers this way.”
Well! That certainly was an interesting indeed. You look at Bubs who is currently sleeping in a little ball, totally unconcerned by the thing that is… You look up at the barrier. Yep, still standing there, staring at you.
Let’s uhm, return back to the book. The next chapter describes the bonding ritual, which requires a circle of chalk,
Drop of blood from the practitioner and the familiar, or if they don’t have blood, part of their essence,
An item or food which is beloved by each,
Check and check. Heated bread pouches and cheese, great.
Annnnnd, the last dying rays of sunset,
Ch…oh. Well, guess you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
Closing the book, you smile at Bubs. Such a cutie.
A scraping sound catches your attention and you groan, looking back at your guest. She’s still on the other side, staring at you. Honestly this is annoying now. Tapping your knee, you sigh, stretch, and put your book away before walking over to the wards where she stands. You quite deliberately do NOT cross the circle and maintain distance from her.
She follows you with her eyes though her body does not move. You watch her for a moment, and not because of her nudity. It doesn’t even phase you. Much.
Yeah might as well wait for Blake in the morning before killing her. Who the hells even knows what she is, but she obviously isn’t human. Not anymore anyway, as she could be some strange “turned” Monster. One of the undead that you hear about in hushed whispers or read in spooky matrices. You figure most are just rumors, however.
Eh fuck it, she wants to sit there, fine whatever, but you really need to take a piss. You whip it out start to release your urine when the creature snaps her head towards your cock. Her eyes grow very wide before glowing far brighter than before. She opens her mouth, far past that of what a human should be able to and lets out a bone chilling scream.
Did you say bone chilling? Actually, it’s more like bone hardening, because you realize with mute terror that you’re now fully erect. Which… Isn’t right at all. You have no reason to be like this, unless that sound somehow…
It’s your turn for your eyes to grow wide. Quickly pulling your trousers up, you back away as the creature begins pounding at your wards. Her blows are ineffective, but she keeps doing it, over and over, her perfect arms becoming bruised, but never slowing. It’s about this that you notice she isn’t breathing. At all. Your head whips about as more screams fill the forest, getting closer and closer. Your groin throbs in pain at the sound, which is now very, very uncomfortable.
You turn to toward Blake to rouse him, but he’s already up, armor donned and sword drawn. “Wizard! What is happening?”
“I uh, I think I made this thing horny.”
Blake gives you an incredulous look and you both stare in horror as more of these things shamble forth from the brush, each a delicate shade of alabaster, their eyes glowing bright red as they scream. They all converge upon your barrier and began beating upon it. There’s no way your wards can survive this for long.
“Wights? Why would there be undead here?” Blake growls, tightening the grip on his sword, “Damnit, they must have sensed us in the forest. If we can hold out until sunrise though, it will scatter them.”
Well, at least you know what these are, but sunrise has to be a few hours away, and you don’t know if you’ll have a chance at survival if they manage to get past your wards and circle. As you think on this, more pour from the forest, their cacophony growing all the louder.
Okay, things aren’t looking too good. There are dozens of raving, dick hungry undead all around you, your wards are about to be torn apart, oh and your dick is harder than diamonds at it all. Neat.
You close your eyes and take a deep breath. You just have to survive until sunrise, but if those wards fall, all you’ll have is your circle but it’s untested. Well, except for Selene, but she doesn’t count because she just bypasses everything like the queen bitch she is.
Unwilling to drop your wards, this might as well be the perfect opportunity to out your [Miasma] spell. What else do you have to do until sunrise?
You raise your hands and concentrate on a Wight before you. Alright, let’s just slide your will on in… And huh, no resistance. Must not have much willpower or defense, what with being undead and all. You concentrate and look for humours to screw with.
Despite not ending terribly well last time you tried it, your experience searching for Selene’s humours made the process much easier. This allows you to perform what you like to call a, [Fast Scan].
Unfortunately you fail to find any that aren’t already diseased. It should have occurred to you that the Monster is undead, she can’t be infected by anything that isn’t flesh eating. Hells, you might have even found something you think might actually BE flesh-eating, but somehow the skin is still smooth and delicate, like a porcelain doll. Obviously whatever fell magic animates them also gives them this innate resistance to the powers of decay. At this point, you just aren’t strong enough to tamper with that.
“Wizard… Do you hear that noise?”
Your eyes come back into focus, and you turn to Blake. “What noi…” Then you hear it. A low cracking sound, like glass being fractured.
The [Hexagrammic Wards] overload and the invisible barrier shatters as the projectors fizzle out and fall to the ground, lifeless. The horde falls inwards, and you tentatively take a step back as they swarm towards your circle. When they reach it, a bright light flashes and an ungodly smell fills the air, reminiscent of your incident with the campfire on the first evening of your adventure.
Blake looks like he’s about to retch at the smell, but you just take a deep breath with your mouth. Just… gotta… get used to it for a second. Gotta keep from vomiting, but holy hells, that’s rank.
It’s working though, you can feel the power in the circle holding them off. But you can also feel it starting to wane, slowly but surely. It will not last until sunrise on its own.
“Twenty-Seven, there are twenty-seven of them.” Blake says through clenched teeth. “Though I could kill a few, I do not believe I could slay them all Wizard.”
You nod your head. Looks like the only thing for it is to make a new defensive line and step back. You’re loath to do it, but what else can you?
You rummage through your bag and hand Blake another set of wards, telling him to set them up inside the circle. He does so quickly, keeping an eye on the screaming Monsters. Once he finishes, he comes back to you, panting from the stench. “I-It’s done, but will this work until sunrise?”
You shrug, “Probably not, but it wasn’t meant for that, it was meant for this. Oh, and I’d duck if I were you.”
Taking a deep breath, you gather your will, then drop the [Circle of Shit]. The horde falls in again, but before they can take a step, you unleash a torrent of [Fireballs] from both hands, twirling to spray in a circle. Blake ducks quite swiftly to avoid being incinerated although the horses do not enjoy the light show.
The majority alight immediately, only a few spared, but you can smell the burning flesh as it reaches your nose. You smile in delight, activating the next set of wards. They flare to life and another invisible barrier separates you from the now burning terrors.
You stand there, looking smug as hell. Aww yeah, why didn’t you think about this earlier? That should take care of…
Why are they still attacking your barrier? And why are they still screaming in the same tone?
You look closely and see that they do not give one fuck about being on fire. As their flesh is consumed, they continue forward, some becoming eyeless as their globes sizzle and melt down their faces, others burning to the bone, their skeletal forms pounding on your newly activated wards until they can pound no more.
Maybe a few burn something vital and can’t continue the assault, but the majority are now undead, on fire, and still want to rape you. You only have two sets of [Hexagrammic Wards] left. Certainly, you could continue to box yourself in, but it would fail just as surely as it’s failing now, and soon you won’t have room for the horses, who would likely be set ablaze and die. Which would not be good.
Speaking of blazes, you realize that you’re sweating profusely. All the heat being generated by the burning Wights is being concentrated, and you’re slowly being cooked in an oven of your own design. Fire… what the hells were you thinking?
There’s just nothing for it. You have no choice any longer: you have to force a breakthrough. As you look over to Blake, he nods his head in agreement. You quickly move to gather your things, wincing in pain as the screams still pound your brain. It doesn’t take terribly long to scoop things together and tie them haphazardly to Mr. Ed, though the horse stares at you with a terrified expression. You’re quite amazed he hasn’t keeled over from all this “excitement” in the forest, but good for him. Blake’s steed is in a similar situation, dancing nervously at the flames. It’s going to be a hells of a time getting a good path out, but what else can you do?
You haul yourself into the saddle and nod to Blake. Bubs cowers in your pocket, but at least he’s safe. Patting your robes and wiping your forehead, you nod and look at the wards. One, rather skeletal, but functioning, Wight has her hands on one of the ward stabilizers somehow and, with a sickening crunch, it snaps.
The whole field seems to flicker before you, then vanishes. With it down, the flaming horde descends once more upon you. Blake shouts a battle cry and throws his panicked horse forward, his sword raised high as he moves to plow through the Wights. With two, quick blows he parts the heads of two flaming Monsters but is forced to rein his horse backward as another pair fall in, panicking his horse further. It takes him precious moments to get his beast in line, moments you do not have.
With a groan, you look around and snap cast [Ice] to trap three of the Wights near you as you look for a way through. Sadly, the heat makes the [Ice] rather unreliable, and they break through it unnervingly quickly, their eyeless forms aimlessly shambling toward you.
Mr. Ed gives out a loud neigh and rears backward, trying to throw you. He’s almost at his limit, and these things are closing in fast. Shit, shit, shit, it isn’t supposed to end this way! You aren’t supposed to die being cooked alive by undead monstrosities that want to rape your burning corpse. It just isn’t fair! And the worst part is, you’re still really fucking aroused! Gods! Damnit!
You grit your teeth in rage and scream out the [Irate Frog Song] to no effect but to add more discord to the cacophony all around you. Blake winces, but looks ready to charge again, even though he knows it will spell his doom.
In desperation, you forge the tempest within you into the concentrated power of a [Lightning Bolt] and fling it forward. You know it won’t matter, but you don’t care. At this point despair is the only emotion you feel.
A blinding light engulfs your vision.
You close your eyes reflexively and hold up your arm, but even with your eyes closed, you can still see the white light before you. Then, a moment later, a sound like a thunder crack hit you full force, deafening you and nearly sending you tumbling from your incredibly panicked mount.
The world becomes a silent, white mess for what seems an eternity. Blinking your eyes open, you look about, color beginning to return to the world. Blearily, you see Blake, pointing towards something and… shouting? Who is he shouting at though, you can’t tell because his voice is muted. The only person around is… oh, right, you.
You blink and look to where he is pointing. It takes a moment to realize that it was where you fired the [Lightning Bolt]. Only pieces of maybe fifteen of the Wights remain, their bodies horrifically fused and melted by something, chunks still on fire as they lay strewn across the ground. You’re not certain what even happened there but… But it’s a way out!
Your heart begins to beat very quickly and you shake your head, things coming into focus. A powerful urge pulls at you, or perhaps you just have some mental disorder, but you hop off Mr. Ed’s saddle and push him in the ribs. He rockets forwards without any hesitation. Blake already his horse out and is on his way back to the road before he notices what you’ve done. The remaining Wights mill about in aimless confusion as their bodies burn, not seeming to care that their corporeal forms are being torn asunder.
You can dimly hear Blake calling you a damned fool, but you don’t really care. Running to the nearest pile of corpses, you root through the more intact bits and grab a foot, a heart, and a hand, shoving them into your [Sack of holding +1].
As you stand to go, Bubs squeals in your pocket and trashes violently. You blink and turn around to find one of the flaming Wights behind you, her eyeless gaze locked onto your body. Her mandible is exposed to the bone, barely held together by straps of burning muscle. She raises a beautifully sculpted arm, her burning hips swaying as she tries to embrace you. You stand in horror, seemingly unable to move as she draws near, the sounds of her wail coming out as a sick gurgle. Oh… Oh Gods, why did you have to gather body parts? You were home free! You could have escaped!
You start to mentally break down again as the heat and horror comes for you, but before the hand can reach you, it suddenly jerks back. The Wight tries desperately to pull toward you but it can’t. You look up, shaking, and see the back of the thing’s head impaled by a spike attached to a long, black, fluffy tail.
Selene waves a finger from her perch in a tree and makes a silent, “tsk tsk” before retracting her tail, the Wight included, and savagely tearing its head off. The body collapses to the ground, but the flaming head merely continues to try and scream. Selene scrunches up her nose and, with a delicate effort, crushes the head in her hands, seemingly unfazed by the fire. With a shrug, she tosses it away into the night.
You blink and shake your head. W-what? Selene smiles and mouths “Good show,” before she bounds away, back into the forest. You stare after her for a moment, then stagger to your feet, taking stock of the other Wights. As you do, Blake rides up, Mr. Ed’s rein’s in hand. “What in the hells is wrong with you? Damnit, get mounted and ride Wizard!”
You do that. You do that real fucking quick. Without further preamble, you leave the charnel house of flaming horrors and get back onto the road. It isn’t much longer until sunrise casts its first rays upon the forest, allowing the two of you to blearily blink away the terrors of the night.
You managed to survive, somehow. That blast saved you, but where did it come from? Your [Lightning Bolt] isn’t that powerful so perhaps Selene saved you? All you know is that you still have many days left of travel and you really, really hope nothing will fuck with you tomorrow.