Chapter Cover

AUX 1 : Tessa Vivuk - Character Sheet (End of Ch. 30)

AUX 2 : Tolan Morndelen - Character Sheet (End of Ch. 30)

AUX 3 : H̵̱̎͌͜e̶̘̥͙͑̀̈́̈́i̷̺̤̊̋͘ ̸͍͍̠̲͂͛̃̀Z̷̳̑͋̏͘h̴̠͖͚͆̑̔͐a̶̪͎͎͐́͠ó̵̢̒͌ ̸̫̤̮͊̉͂̊-̴͖̿͝ ̵̢͚̌̒̈́͜C̶̢͇̞̣̾́h̸̖̖̦̪̑̔̉̋ã̶͇̲̯̣̽r̶͕̄̍͜ä̴͚͕͓́̾̃̎c̵̣͎͕̈́̔͐͘ͅẗ̸̤́e̶̦̝͓͇̿r̷̦̝̯̐ ̵̠̝͎̬́S̴͕̘̱̃̀̾h̴̛̗̬͜͝e̵̝̞̓̈́̽͛ę̵̞̪̆̈t̵̮͕̦̓

AUX 4 : T̶̬͍̳̳̫͐ơ̵̧̨̜͒͛̒r̸̢͖̥̤̝̟̂̈́͊́̓͝g̷͉̺̹̫͉̥͆̊̓̅r̴̛̺̪̳͖̔̎̿̕͜á̴̖̫ķ̵̨̮͎͎̼͛̈́̀̌̔̈́ ̵̼̱̙͑̑̈́͝͝-̸͓̝͌͝ ̶̨̢͕̦̞̩̿C̶̡̰̗̫̰͙̉͝h̶̛͍͉̞̘͍̣͊̃ä̴̪̍̊͒̂r̵̡̛̻̹̫͈̳̀̐̆̚͝à̶̖̺c̶̤̜͙̗̤̬̊͋̈ṭ̷̣̎̃̎̇͛͝è̴͚̮͜ͅͅr̶͖̦̣̺̝̪͗ ̴͇̳̗̳̾̔S̴̙̞̻͇͘ḥ̵̝͉̘͌́͛̿͋e̷̢̦̰̼̍e̴̩̓͌̑̔t̵̻̗͈͍̩̉̈́

Chapter 0 : The Hero and the Dragon

Chapter 1 : Dreams From Propaganda

Chapter 2 : Running Blind

Chapter 3 : Unmet Requisites

Chapter 4 : Not a Coincidence

Chapter 5 : Kneel to Fate

Chapter 6 : Saved and Sabotaged

Chapter 7 : Apprentice of Bastards

Chapter 8 : New Lessons to be Learned

Chapter 9 : Drilling in the Basics

Chapter 10 : Fanatic Extermination Preparation

Chapter 11 : A Few Moments Before Chaos

Chapter 12 : Never Wanted This

Chapter 13 : A Little Bit of Green

Chapter 14 : The Resistance

Chapter 15 : In Through the Front Door

Chapter 16 : Conversation Between Villains

Chapter 17 : Seeing What's to Come

Chapter 18 : Spark Amongst Flames

Chapter 19 : Everything Starts with a Big Bang

Chapter 20 : The Gun Goes Off

Chapter 21 : Miniboss Meeting

Chapter 22 : The Starting Light

Chapter 23 : A Convenient Opportunity

Chapter 24 : Unapologetically Breaking a Promise

Chapter 25 : No Rest for the Wicked

Chapter 26 : But It Was Me...

Chapter 27 : Second Verse Same as the First

Chapter 28 : Ritual

Chapter 29 : That Lesson Paid Off

Chapter 30 : 30. The End of the First Story

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Chapter No11:A Few Moments Before Chaos

Deep in sleep, Tessa was completely relaxed. Then it felt like something shook her for a moment. Her mind groggily ignored what was going on, wanting to remain asleep. Then there was a brief cold breeze, the opening and closing of a door, a repeating clip, clip, clip, clop pattern of sounds that soon deafened themselves, and a sharp wooden creak every now and again. Rationalizing these sounds into a dream, Tessa believed herself to be in a fancy royal carriage headed to a ceremony where the Archbishop of Solis would award her some great honor. But the ride in her dream never seemed to end, and soon enough her eyes blinked open. At first, everything she saw was a blurry mess of colors drenched in the blues and oranges of the evening sun. Then she realized she was lying on her side atop a seat of some sort while the interior of whatever she was in shook slightly. Where am I? Pulling herself up and into a proper sitting position, Tessa rubbed her eyes and blinked a couple of times to figure out what was going on. Now able to distinguish her surroundings, she was sitting across from her mentors during a carriage ride. Oh. It’s Hei and Torgrak. What are they doing here? Hei had his elbow resting against the side of the carriage while his knuckles were against his head’s temples. He appeared to be resting, though it took Tessa a moment to realize he was in his full set of armor. Turning her head slightly to the right, she saw Torgrak messing with his weapon. Cloth in hand as he meticulously inspected and cleaned every inch of his rifle. Next, she turned her head to the left and noticed that there was a window that allowed her to see what was going on outside slightly. Concentrating her waking consciousness on it, she noticed they weren’t in Faethun currently. Outside the carriage were wide open plains with one or a couple of trees located here and there. Wait… where am I? Her mind started turning its gears when Torgrak addressed her. “Vell, glad ta see yer finally avake.” Hei’s eyes opened, and he spoke as if he’d been aware the entire time. “Get enough rest? You have a busy evening ahead of you.” Tessa absentmindedly responded, “I think so? Sleeping in this new armor didn’t help though…” She nearly forgot about what was going on for a moment. “Wait! Why are we in a carriage?! And why aren’t we in Faethun?! I remember falling asleep in the room you gave me, so why am I here?” Hei feigned ignorance for a moment. “Hm? Oh, right. You were sleeping, so we couldn’t tell you, but we’re currently on our way to Crimsonvale.” Tessa couldn’t tell what was going through Hei’s head. “Why?! Aren’t supposed to be undergoing combat training or something today?” Hei grinned, “Yes, you will be.” “Wait… what?” Abruptly, the carriage came to a stop. The coachman called out to them, but he talked with a rattle and had a slight hissing to his words. “We are at your desired destination.” Holstering his rifle on his back, Torgrak popped the door open and hopped out first. Then came Hei, followed by Tessa, as the three stood behind a thin treeline that bordered the edge of Crimsonvale. Thick shrubbery and the slowly setting sun keeping them well hidden. Hei tossed the coachman a coin Tessa had never seen before. “Give Mortaim my regards.” “Of course, sir.” The coachman took off his head as if to bow, revealing a cloth-wrapped head. Though Tessa couldn’t make out any facial features. She wondered if he even had any to speak of with how dark the coachman’s face was. “We look forward to another of your requests, Mr. Zhao. Until next time.” With a snap of the reins, the horses reared up and took off. However, Tessa noticed they didn’t make any sounds, nor let out the expected whinny or heavy breath. There was also how both the horses and the coachman were covered from head to toe. And she swore she could hear the sliding and clicking of one hard surface against another as the horses galloped away. Turning around to address her mentors, as Torgrak used a pair of binoculars to survey a stone wall that defended Crimsonvale. “May I ask why we’re out here in the evening?” Hei put a finger in front of his mouth, signaling her to be quiet for the moment. Quietly, Hei asked, “What’re we looking at here?” “Zhey’ve got lookouts stationed across da vall. Probably have zhem on da ozher sides, too.” “Any easy ways in?” “I’m seein’ a line of people entering zhrough da main gate, but zhey’re using some kind of identifier to pass zhrough vith ease.” “No side entrances?” “None zhat aren’t guarded.” Torgrak passed the binoculars over to Hei. Increasing the magnification of the binoculars, Hei watched to see what was allowing people to pass through. “The guards are all wearing well-disguised symbols of Nencog as necklaces. And the people entering are presenting ones of their own. Feel up to the challenge of recreating them?” Did Hei just mention Nencog? “You vant to get in tonight, or next veek?” Hei passed the binoculars back, and Torgrak continued to watch the situation. And then turned his attention to Tessa. “You may speak now.” “Okay. May I ask what’s going on?” “The Adventurers’ Guild assigned me and Torgrak a mission, and we thought it to be the best opportunity to train you in combat.” “But… I don’t even know how to fight, let alone how to defend myself!” Torgrak chuckled, “Ain’t no better place to learn zhan on a battlefield, I alvays say!” “That doesn’t explain why you brought me along with you! Won’t I be in serious danger if I’m brought along?!” Hei turned his eyes back to the wall as he responded. “Well, that depends on what you do.” Tessa stared at Hei, stunned in confusion as she tried to figure out what he meant. “If you listen to what we tell you to do and do it as we say, you’ll be fine.” “And… if I don’t?” “We’ll get to see what Fate has determined for you.” Tessa wasn’t sure how to interpret Hei’s words. Maybe he insinuated that she’d die if she didn’t listen to them, but why’d he mention Fate? Fate didn’t exist, it was just something people said when they left things up to chance. If it did, she’d probably be a Hero by now. “And I’m guessing I can’t go back to Faethun because we’re too far away?” Torgrak spoke matter-of-factly, “About two hundred and forty kilometers avay, ta be accurate.” “Two hun-?! How?!” Hei dismissed the topic, “Don’t worry about it.” Tessa relented, getting a feeling that she wouldn’t get a straight answer out of either of them right now that would explain things. “Can you at least explain why you mentioned one of the Evil Six earlier?” “As I mentioned earlier, the Adventurers’ Guild is having us handle a situation going on here. Some of Nencog’s followers took over the town and we’re here to free it.” “Oh. That’s… surprisingly heroic.” Tessa couldn’t help but feel like something was off here, but she had no proof. She hoped it wasn’t much more than what they just described. Torgrak spoke up, “Got an update on da situation. A traveling merchant just arrived at one of da ozher entrances. Seems zhey’re allowing outsiders in still.” Hei took an interest in the recent development. “Then I think I know of a way for us to get in. Get the robes out for us, the dark and heavy ones with hoods.” Torgrak did so, reaching into his bag and pulled one out for each of them. Tossing the other two over, Tessa caught hers and wondered what the plan was. “So… how are we getting into the town? I think you skipped a step in your explanation.” Hei and Torgrak already had theirs on, with all but the hoods up. Hei explained, “Don’t worry about that and leave the talking to me. Just get it on and get behind me as we approach the gate.” “O-okay…” Quickly putting the robe over her head and sliding it down her body, Tessa put her hood up and followed Hei as they approached the main gate. Hei stood in front, Tessa walked in the middle, and Torgrak followed at the end. Walking in a line and hands clasped together to make it seem like they were just a couple of traveling monks. And while Hei and Torgrak kept level heads, Tessa was shaking like a leaf during a windstorm. One mean stare would probably be enough to make her faint. Don’t panic, don’t panic! Just let Hei handle things, and it’ll be alright. It didn’t help that she was basically walking straight into enemy territory, both literally and in terms of faith. There has to be something I can imagine to calm myself! Uh… Oh! I’ll just think of this like being in line for food at the cafeteria! Just focus on moving forward and it’ll all go smoothly. Tessa’s thoughts helped. The moment the three of them were in line at the check point behind a traveling merchant and a couple of other people trying to get in, things progressed smoothly. Then one guard yelled. “Hey! Move up!” Her eyes shot open as she realized it was her turn to cross through. Hei was already on the other side, and all she had to do was calmly walk past the guards. But with how she paused, all the guards had their focus on her now. And with her focus broken, Tessa panicked all over again. Hei stepped in, “My apologies for my nervous friend. The monastery adopted her when someone left her at the door and this is her first time away from it. Do forgive her.” Tessa stared at the ground, praying to Aeon that Hei’s lie was convincing. The guard responded, “That so… Well, just hurry along. The city is under a curfew order, so everyone needs to be inside before the gate falls.” “I understand, and thank you for your patience.” Hei turned his attention to Tessa. “Do come along now, sister. We still must find a place to stay while the sun remains up.” Hearing Hei’s words, she nodded and carefully walked through the checkpoint. And just as she was about to cross, the guard Hei talked to stopped her for a moment. Putting a hand on her shoulder, Tessa nearly screamed. Her heart was now beating in her ears as she cautiously turned her head to face him. He said, “No need to worry, fair sister. All are welcome and safe in the light of the Great Flame. None shall harm you here.” Tessa shakily replied, “Y-yes. Th-thank you, sir. I appreciate y-your reassurance.” With that, the guard let her continue on through to the other side without issue. After that, Torgrak continued on through with ease, and they took a moment for Tessa to calm down. She gasped for breath as her nerves calmed. However, Torgrak gave her a soft pat on the back with one hand while keeping his face hidden as he stifled his laughter. Hei looked off to the side, doing the same. “Never thought I’d see someone try so hard to not be noticed, and nearly fail horribly.” “Aye, zhat vas priceless! Ya looked more rigged ta explode zhan any bomb I’ve ever made! Between ya an’ my explosives, I think y’ad go off faster zhan my shortest fuse. The two couldn’t contain their laughter well while Tessa’s face puffed up in embarrassment. “Can we just move on… please?” “Yes, yes, child.” With their moment of fun over, Hei and Torgrak refocused on the objective at hand and began walking through the town. Though Tessa wondered if they had a plan going forward. “So… what’s next? Split up and search for clues?” The moment Tessa suggested it, both of her mentors stopped walking to look back at her in concern. “Do ya have brain damage?!” “Either that or she’s read too many mystery novels and not enough horror.” Tessa stood there confused, wondering what was so wrong about her statement. “Isn’t that what you do in this kind of situation?” Hei and Torgrak looked around. They appeared to be in a quiet part of the town and began speaking in whispers. However, few people to none were ever around as the three moved through the streets. “Aye, ya could do zhat if yer plan is ta vind up isolated an’ murdered in an alleyvay. Whomever put zhat idea in yer head has more screws loose zhan a zhief trying to steal from a dragon, an’ should be drawn an’ quartered.” (Yeah, you could do that if your plan is to wind up isolated and murdered in an alleyway. Whomever put that idea in your head has more screws loose than a thief trying to steal from a dragon, and should be drawn and quartered.) Noticing the change in how they talked, Tessa kept her voice down as best she could. “May I ask why?” Hei explained, “We’re in the middle of enemy territory at the moment, which means it’s very easy for them to gang up and take down someone who’s isolated than someone in a group. There’s nothing worse than being cut off from your party when in unfriendly territory.” “That does make sense. My apologies for jumping to an ill advised conclusion.” Torgrak reassured her, “Don’t vorry about it. It’s somezhing we failed to teach early on. Ve should’ve brought it up before.” Hei agreed, “Yes, that is a failure on our part as mentors. It’s a mistake many unfamiliar with being in a disadvantageous area make.” “Why’s that?” Torgrak elaborated, “You remember vhen I mentioned preparing as an important part of adventuring?” “Yes. I’m guessing this would fall under that?” “Aye. Zhis is a part of that. Specifically, information. Enemy territory is alvays dangerous ta enter. It’s rarely familiar ta ya, could be trapped, and might have hidden areas ya can’t predict. Vhich makes it easy ta get picked off one at a time vhen separated.” (Yes. This is a part of that. Specifically, information. Enemy territory is always dangerous to enter. It’s rarely familiar to you, could be trapped, and might have hidden areas you can’t predict. Which makes it easy to get picked off one at a time when separated.) Tessa spoke with an alarmed but hushed tone. “But aren’t we currently doing what you just described?!” Tessa feared that for all their lessons, the two were a pair of hypocrites. Hei explained, “No, or at least not quite. When the mission was assigned to us, the Guild gave us documents that showed everything we needed to see. Everything from important buildings to where our target gathers. The number of followers in the town, however, is unknown. So they could number as low as fifty to well over a hundred.” “Isn’t that a problem?!” Hei’s eyes scanned the streets, but what people were outside now began heading into their homes. “It seems the curfew is setting in. Let’s find an inn for now.” “Aye.” “Isn’t that a terrible idea if traps are a possibility?! And you still haven’t addressed the issue regarding their numbers!” “We’ll talk more once we have a place to set down for the moment.” Tesa sighed, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer just yet. Just as the sun set under the horizon, Hei and Torgrak opened the door to the nearest inn. With a quick bribe, Hei convinced the innkeeper to allow them to stay the night. Once the three entered their room, Tesa rested on the edge of the nearest bed. Though Hei and Torgrak became even more on edge. “May I have my questions answered now?” Torgrak nodded to Hei as he started digging through his bag, pulling things out left and right. “To explain why we’re not concerned, it’s that Nencog’s followers rarely do much more than overwhelm with power and numbers. And while they have the numbers, they aren’t more powerful. Nencog’s influence corrupts those of weaker wills and often makes them into mindless killers.” Tessa raised an eyebrow at Hei’s confidence. “How can you be sure…?” Hei chuckled as he went over to one window and scanned the alleyways below them. “Much like Torgrak, I’ve been around for a long time. I’ve… infiltrated many organizations in my life, so I’ve become familiar with how a good number usually functions. A cult devoted to Nencog is nothing new, and shall fall the same as all the others I’ve handled.” Hei’s words made Tessa shiver for a moment. There was something about how he said it that just felt brutally honest and evil. Yet, he was convincing. “Okay… but what of the inn we’re in potentially being a trap?” Torgrak answered, “Oh, it definitely is! But we’re walking into it on purpose.” His logic befuddled Tessa. “Why?! Wouldn’t it be better to track them down and apprehend them while they’re unaware of us?” “If it were a small organization, aye it vould be. But in zhis situation, doing so vould be vasting time ta achieve da same result.” As Torgrak continued to pull out a couple more things, he also took out Tessa’s staff. It was definitely hers, but something about it was different. “That’s my staff…” “Aye. It vas broken, so I repaired it an’ also modified it ta amplify yer miracles.” “I… didn’t know that was possible. Thank you.” “Don’t lose focus now. Ve have preparations ta make.” * * * * * At the same time that Hei, Torgrak, and Tessa briefly explored the streets of Crimsonvale, a separate pair of eyes lurked within an enormous cathedral Nencog’s minions had built. Wearing crimson robes adorned with Nencog iconography, a blue dragonling kept his gaze low and ears up. Walking through the interconnected halls, Tolan listened for any valuable information he could leak. Today was just another day in the life of a mole for him. Cultists passed by him, walking from one sermon or library to another. However, many spoke in hushed tones or huddled groups about how eager they were for tonight’s ritual. Unfortunately, this information wasn’t particularly useful. He was already aware of it and leaked it to the Resistance’s forces. Right now he hoping he’d be able to get even a fraction of information that came from closed-door meetings between the cult’s Archbishop and his three disciples. Tolan, with the aid of his affinity for fire, infiltrated the cult as a scribe. He wanted to move up into the higher ranks of the cult, but doing so would make it harder for him to leak information. Due to his efforts, his allies in the Resistance found an opening to sneak out a letter addressed to the lord of the territory. He hoped the letter made it, but the clock’s been ticking for a while now. If something wasn’t done soon, Crimsonvale would become the first of several towns to fall. Tolan wanted to take action himself, but a single sorcerer can only do so much against an overwhelming number of crazed cultists. Wandering into the main hallway of the cathedral, Tolan came across the Archbishop and Bishop Abaris discussing something. He was too far away to hear what they were saying. Quickly darting behind a column nearest the two, Tolan hid himself as he listened in. Bishop Abaris was an older human with dark-brown hair and a short, rough beard. His robes were similar to everyone else’s, but he wore a few additional ornamental layers atop the base robes made of gold and black thread. The Archbishop, however, wore lavender robes with red vestiges and trimmed with gold. And while his robes were simple yet elegant, it was the long-beaked mask he wore that identified him best. Tolan had never seen him without it, and neither had anyone else from what he’d gathered. Then there was a sudden bursting open of the cathedral’s wooden doors as rapid footsteps ran towards the Archbishop and Bishop. Wondering what was going on, Tolan peaked from behind the pillar and watched as an Inquisitor of the cult kneeled before the two. The Archbishop turned to Abaris and nodded. Abaris spoke, “Raise your head, Inquisitor. What has brought you before us?” The Inquisitor slowly raised his head and spoke once his eyes met his superiors’. “Y-yes. Thank you, your graces. A report has come from the Watchers regarding three individuals who have entered the city this evening.” Abaris was dismissive, “This does not seem worthy of your time, Inquisitor. These three may be new members of the faith come to join us.” “I-it is possible, Bishop Abaris, but the report submitted is alarming at the least.” Abaris and the Archbishop looked at each other for a moment before Abaris inquired. “Do share the details, Inquisitor.” “O-of course. As per the Watchers’ report, a young, human girl, a gruff and burnt-smelling dwarf, and a half-elf with an odd aura of charisma have entered the city.” Abaris interrupted, “All races are welcome to bask in the light of our Great Flame. Is this not great news as it means the words of our Lord are spreading further?” “I beg you, please wait until I have finished the report, your grace. M-may I continue?” Abaris paused for a moment. “… You may.” “Thank you, your grace. While the girl and dwarf do not appear to be noteworthy themselves, the half-elf has put all Watchers on edge. All who have observed him feel as though something is staring back at them. Something powerful and incredibly unnatural.” Leaning down, Abaris put a hand on the Inquisitor’s shoulder. Attempting to calm and reassure the man. “The watchers seem to need rest. I shall request that the-” The Archbishop stepped closer to the Inquisitor, addressing his follower personally. “Is there an ample description of the half-elf?” Abaris, the Inquisitor, and Tolan all shared a moment of stunned silence. The Archbishop asked again, “Inquisitor, have the Watchers provided significant information on the half-elf’s appearance?” Snapping out of his stupor, the Inquisitor responded. “Y-yes, your Holiness. They have reported that, while wearing a dark and heavy robe, they caught sight of bits of his armor and saw one moment where his hood fell back enough to reveal his face. His armor appears to be black and gilded with gold, and his hair is long and kept in a ponytail with a small, gold crown.” Tolan wondered why the Archbishop was asking about the half-elf specifically. “Inquisitor, pass this order on to your fellow Inquisitors, the Watchers, and those of the lower ranks. Monitor the half-elf and his companions for now. Ignore all else.” “Do you have any other orders for us? I shall deliver them posthaste.” “Yes. Strike them down with the full force of the Great Flame at the first chance you see. Assume them to be a threat to our way of life and the Great Flame.” “I shall inform the others immediately.” With that, the Inquisitor stood up, bowed, and took off running back out the main entrance. And seeing this as the best opportunity to leave, Tolan stuck to the shadows to leak this new information. Using the Inquisitor’s echonig footsteps to cover his own. Then, after a moment had passed, the Archbishop spoke to his disciple. “Abaris, put all combatants on high-alert.” “As you wish, your Holiness. But, if I may ask, is this half-elf truly so dangerous to warrant our full power?” “If it’s who I think it is, then tonight will be more destructive, raging with flames, and bloody than any other since our founding.” Abaris bowed, “Yes, Archbishop. It shall be done.” Leaving the Archbishop to himself, Abaris disappeared into the depths of the cathedral. And in his isolation, the Archbishop couldn’t help but briefly laugh to himself, mumbling with fury and excitement in his voice. “Finally… You’re back.” * * * * * Tessa turned her staff around in her hands, quietly happy about how she finally had it back. Though she wondered how Torgrak changed it. Perhaps it would help relieve the toll that came with channeling the light, or maybe it amplified her powers and strengthened them. Her mind began wandering what what potentials her staff might hold now. “Oi! Vee lass! Get off cloud nine, vill ya?” Tessa snapped out of it. “A-ah! Yes! What were we doing again?” Torgrak let out an annoyed sigh and walked over to her with a couple of vials in his hand. They all had a vibrant red color to them, but looked a little off. Moving to the left side of her waist, Torgrak adjusted part of Tessa’s armor to reveal some leather slots designed for the vials and popped them in. “What are those for?” “Zhey’re healin’ potions. Use zhem vhen ya need zhem.” Torgrak then tossed a couple Hei’s way before equipping himself with some. Next, he gave everyone a bottle filled with an orange liquid that fizzed and hissed. Immediately, Hei popped the cork off it and downed it all at once. Torgrak did the same. Following what her mentors did, Tessa drank hers and noticed it tasted very sweet and fruity but burned going down. She half-wanted another one. A small burp came up, followed by a burst of warmth flowing through her body that quickly faded away. “What was that, Torgrak? Tasted better than I expected.” “Fire resistance potion. It’ll help mitigate zhese cultists’ main source of damage.” Hei chuckled, “Just don’t ask for a second one. One potion is good, a second will have you spiting up fire, literally.” Turning back to the window, Hei kept watch while Torgrak made his final preparations. Putting the rest of his things away and quickly. “Looks like we’ve been found out.” Torgrak inspected his rifle one more time. “Got a count on zhem?” Hei chuckled, “A lot.” Breaking his rifle open and loading a round, Torgrak was locked and loaded. Tessa wondered what kind of weapon Torgrak wielded exactly, but the sound made her apprehensive. Her wound had mostly healed, but she felt a kind of phantom pain. It burned for a moment, but quickly faded. Shaking her head, Tessa believed it to just her nerves kicking in before things got hairy. An eerie silence fell upon the room as Hei watched and Torgrak loaded slots on his belt with bullet after bullet. Tessa felt the atmosphere quickly becoming tense, the sound of her breaths becoming the loudest noise in her mind. Suddenly, there was a knock at the room’s door. Tessa nearly jumped out of her own skin as everyone’s eyes turned to stare at the door. Then came the welcoming voice of the innkeeper. “My apologies, if I’m disturbing you at all. Just wanted to offer some food in case you missed dinner.” No one moved, and the innkeeper wondered if anyone was present. “H-hello? Anyone there?” Hei nodded to Torgrak, and the dwarf silently answered the door. Torgrak didn’t share any pleasantries and took the food in. It was a pot of stew and three plates. They could hear the innkeeper returning to the lower floors and Torgrak set the stew on the ground. The smell of the stew filled the room. It was intoxicatingly pleasant, and Tessa reached for a plate. Her stomach rumbling from how she hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Immediately, Torgrak stopped her. He said nothing and took out a piece of the same fruit from yesterday. Tessa was disappointed, but had a feeling Torgrak did it for a reason. Quickly eating the fruit as she watched. Her making embarrassing noises the entire time the stew was in the room. Dipping a finger in and tasting the stew, Torgrak tasted it. Hei asked, “Poisoned?” Torgrak spat out what he’d just put in his mouth. “Aye.” Torgrak put a plate on top of the pot to keep the smell from tempting Tessa further. “Any updates on vhat’s going on outside?” “Well, it could just be me, but I think the giant orbs of flame being summed on the roof next door might be a good indicator.” Torgrak kicked the nearest bed over, creating some makeshift cover, and pulled Tessa behind it. “Hit zha deck!” All at once, multiple fireballs smashed into the room. Demolishing and scorching the floor Hei, Tessa, and Torgrak were on. Burning much of the wood and cloth away. And while the bed served as cover for a moment, it was now naught but ash. Torgrak and Tessa popped up from behind the burned bed, looking around as the cult surrounded them on all sides. Hei, however, had protected himself with his shield. His armor appeared a little burnt now, but Hei laughed, “Well! I must say they know how to start a party!” Torgrak took a deep breath in, enjoying the burnt smell as he raised his rifle. “Some of da best hosts ve’ve ever had! Even know how ta remind me of home.”