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 No26:But It Was Me...

At the same time that Hei and Torgrak were tearing their way through the cult’s forces, Tolan, Xera, Tessa, and most of the Resistance’s members were moving from building to building in the streets. A small group of scouts sent ahead of the rest would signal when to move and when to halt, yet they only gave a constant signal to move. While they ran through the streets much faster than expected, Tessa could hear distant explosions still going on in the background. Flashbacks to Torgrak’s gun punching holes in people’s bodies, even a small burst of heat where she was shot, flowed through her for moments at a time. Tessa closed her eyes tightly for a couple seconds, to suppress her fear as she moved with the others. When next they came to a stop on their way to the Cathedral, Tolan put a hand on her shoulder. Looking her in the eyes, he gave her a nod and comforting smile so as to say that everything’s alright. Tessa looked back at him and nodded. Taking a deep breath in, she suppressed any reactionary wincing as eventually the constant booming started to fade further into the background. Thankfully, it wasn’t too much further that they needed to run as they came to a stop just outside the Cathedral. A fence made of tall, forged iron bars that curled in their direction and ended in a point. It didn’t help that the nearest building was several meters away with only a cobblestone road under their feet. Xera asked rhetorically, “So, does anyone know how to fly?” Tolan chuckled, “I do, but I don’t think one person is gonna be enough to stop the Archbishop.” Dropping down from the Cathedral, Damien appears and hurries over to them from inside the fence. Xera smirks at the sight of her Spymaster, resting a hand on her hip before addressing his appearance. “Glad to see you were able to infiltrate.” Damien responds, “With all the commotion going on outside, it was easier than expected.” “Did you see either of Tessa’s companions during your infiltration?” “No, just you guys rapidly approaching. But there is definitely a battle raging inside, along with plenty of signs someone tore their way inside.” “Well, that explains why no one stopped us on our way here. May as well break through the fence as well. Faster than sending everyone around.” Xera turns her head, locking eyes on Tolan. Tolan nods and makes his way to the front. Xera and Damien back away from the gate to give him some room. Taking in a breath, Tolan holds his staff ready to cast. “Flaming Sphere.” A ball of fire grows in front of Tolan, quickly expanding and engulfing a section of the fence. The metal quickly heats up, turning from a dull grey to a burning red. Holding the orb of flames in front of him for a short while, Tolan waits for the metal to get as red hot as possible before ending the spell and preparing to cast another. “Shockwave.” Suddenly, Tolan sends a thundering wave of sound and air at the red bars and begins to bend and force them further and further away from each other. Some give completely and break away until there’s a gap big enough for everyone to cross through. Once the bars are mostly cooled, Tolan relaxes and nods at Xera. Xera responds, “Good work.” Walking over to Tolan’s side, Xera faces all those that have followed her here. Addressing all of them as they’re about to enter the Cathedral and put an end to the cult’s chaos and tyranny. “For too long the Archbishop and his followers have held an iron grip on our city! For too long have they watched and judged from their Cathedral on high, dictating our lives in a way that suits them above all else! But now. Now is the time that we finally rise from the shadows and pull him down from his high seat, and smother out the ‘Great Flame’ he worships once and for all! For our friends! For our families! For Crimsonvale!” Tolan and Tessa stay quiet, but smile as those around them of the Resistance cheer loudly. With their morale at an all-time high, the Resistance charges through the entrance Tolan made and moves for the Cathedral. Damien, taking the lead to guide them, directs them towards what looks like a plain side to the building. Having the charging forces pause for a moment, he pulls on a well-hidden device and a panel lifts up and out of the ground. Revealing a way under the Cathedral. Damien turns to his comrades. “This passageway leads in the underground levels of the Cathedral. We’ll be able to strike right at the Archbishop this way.” Xera nods, “Perfect. Follow me!” Continuing the rush forward with herself at the forefront, Xera leads the Resistance down into the depths. As they run, Tolan asks Damien a question. “How did you find this?” “One of my men did. They’ve also gone on ahead of us to handle any potential resistance and clear a path.” “That’s certainly convenient.” Tolan’s eyes glance at Damien for a moment, but then he returns his focus to keeping up with his fellow Resistance members. Though slowing down a little to keep pace with Tessa in the back and distance himself from Damien and Xera at the front. At the same time, Tessa is keeping up as best she can. Catching her breath when they come to stops before moving around corners. However, she is relieved that this won’t be too rough of a ride. But taking a look up at Tolan, he looks concerned in the torchlit passages. Tessa whispers to him, “Something bothering you, Tolan?” “Not sure, but I’ll let you know if something does.” Things continue to move very smoothly for everyone as they start moving full-throttle further and further down into the Cathedral. And while everyone seems to be ecstatic about what’s happening, Tessa instead feels warmth and a slight tinge of pain from her healed injury. Her right eye wincing slightly. Tolan looks at her, but returns his gaze forward as they run. “Something in your eye?” “No, just something about this situation we’re in feels uncomfortably familiar and very wrong.” “Seems your gut and my instincts are sensing similar things.” Tolan moves closer to Tessa, trying to keep others from hearing them. Tessa looks up at him with confusion. Wondering why he isn’t ecstatic like the others. “Shouldn’t you be glad that you’re about to free your home?” “I should be, but this all feels too easy. Also, it’s much too clean down here. Damien said his spies took care of any potential threats, but there aren’t any bodies, signs of struggle, or even tiny splatters of blood anywhere.” Tessa looks at him even more confused. “Couldn’t they have cleaned it up or something? You know, in case someone checks for a missing look-out or something?” “If we were trying to get in and get out, that would make sense. But we’re just charging in, so no reason to.” “I see…” “I haven’t said anything to Damien or Xera, but best to keep your guard up in case something happens.” “Do you think we’re running right into an ambush?” “Can’t say for sure, but I’ll stay close by. If things do go South quickly, I’ll do my best to get you back to your companions at the very least.” After much marching through the underground passages, the Resistance finds themselves at the top of a pathway that circles down into a massive pit. Stone brick is far above them as they go deeper. At the center of the pit is a red and black altar just before a roaring fire at the center of everything. Around it are several cultists, each one passing orbs filled with white flames towards the altar. All while mummified figures are tossed into the fire. And just before the altar, staring into the fire, stands the Archbishop. Xera draws her sword, signaling for everyone else to do the same, and starts running faster. Creating a charge headed straight for the Archbishop. Quickly, the Resistance floods the space in front of the altar and Archbishop. Weapons drawn and ready for a brawl. But the Archbishop remains with his back turned to them. The cultists only continue to move in sync, performing their ceremony as though some flies had entered the room to buzz about. Xera calls out to the Archbishop. “Archbishop! We have come for you! Turn and face us!” Slowly, the Archbishop turns around. His beaked mask half-lit and red robes darkened as the fire roars behind him. He gives no immediate reaction, only staring down at them from his position at the center of everything. “Today is the day your fires and watchdogs no longer hold any control over the people of Crimsonvale! You’ve been left in power for too long and now we shall reclaim it for us! For the people! I hope you’ve given your last sermon and prayer, because now you shall be struck down and cast into the cauldron of Nencog yourself! And with your death, a new dawn shall rise on the city and it will be remembered in legend forever!” However, her speech appears to fall on deaf ears before the Archbishop and cultists. The crackling and flickering of the fire are the only applause Xera receives after her long-winded speech. Now turning to give her their attention, the cultists all face Xera. Giving her the attention she seemingly craves. Then, the Archbishop leans his head down and clears his throat. Hand to the tip of his beaked mask. Taking a breath in, he speaks. “Oh whatever shall I do! The mean leader of the Resistance has come to send me into the depths of despair! Her burly and misguided men shall surely rip me limb from limb and cast me into my own fire! This truly is the worst day ever, how unfortunate my existence is…” The entire time the Archbishop is talking, he seems to be giving a half-hearted performance. Gesturing with the back of his hand to his forehead, acting as if he were about to faint. “Was that what you were expecting?” Tolan’s eyes narrow and Tessa grips her staff nervously at this, both of them keeping their guards up now. Xera, on the other hand, is furious and demands that the Archbishop explains what he’s doing. Pointing her sword at him as though ready to strike. “What are you doing?! Is this some kind of joke to you?!” At the mention of the word “joke”, the cultists around the room all begin to chuckle and laugh. The laughter slowly builds up until it can be heard all around the cavern. The Resistance members, Xera, Tolan, and Tessa all look around the room confusedly. But the Archbishop just slowly raises a hand, quelling their laughter. Xera focuses her attention on the Archbishop in case he casts a spell. The Archbishop speaks down at Xera, “Oh please, like I’d waste any of my magic on you.” Putting his hand back down, the Archbishop continues. “I’m not sure what you were expecting, but with how you monologue I thought you wanted to make a show of this.” Xera asks again what the Archbishop thinks he’s doing. “This isn’t some play, so stop acting smug and aloof and fight us!” Xera’s words strike a chord with Tessa, but in a very unpleasant way. Hei’s and Torgrak’s faces, smirking, flash through her mind and she feels sick to her stomach. Even mumbling to herself about it. “I think I’m gonna be sick…” She even chokes back the urge to puke on the ground as the feeling from before only worsens. The Archbishop responds to Xera’s demands. “No, I don’t think I will.” Turning back away from Xera, the Archbishop seemingly dismisses her presence. Seeing this as an opening and a slight against her pride, Xera leaps at the Archbishop. Swinging her arms back with the sword in both hands, prepared to rend the Archbishop’s head from his shoulders. But then, a snap of the Archbishop’s fingers can be heard and suddenly Xera feels something pierce through her heart. Her breath quietly and suddenly escapes her as she falls to the ground, sword clattering on the ground as she now lays face to the ground. Bleeding out. Trying to see who it is that attacked her from behind, she watches as Damien slowly walks up and pulls his sword out of her back. At the same time, Damien’s spies all begin to kill and backstab any of the other Resistance members who weren’t prepared for an ambush. The number of her men beginning to dwindle until only Tolan and Tessa remain. Xera calls out to Damien, coughing between words. “Why...Damien...why did you...betray us…?” The cultists and traitors begin to encircle Tolan and Tessa. Yet the Archbishop sighs, sounding annoyed and begins to explain how this was such an easy matter for them. “I knew someone would dissent and form some kind of rebellion against us, so we took precautions. We let you all gather under one banner, and then slaughter you wholesale. But I must thank you for bringing us more sacrifices.” Damien bows graciously to the Archbishop, “I always deliver, your Holiness.” Xera tries to reach for Damien’s throat, wanting to choke and kill him, but her arm falls limp as she loses the last of her strength. Damien turns his attention to Tolan and Tessa, resting his sword on his shoulder. “I must say, tonight was definitely unexpected. I didn’t expect any of you to make it any farther than the gate to be honest. Seems Tessa really did bring some monstrous distractions after all.” Tolan nearly growls at, but needs some answers. “Why did you turn on us Damien? Why did you sell us out?!” Damien looks confused, but then realizes something. “Right, you all still think I’m Damien.” Moving his hand over his face and clothes, Damien’s appearance shifts into that of Korlos. “Sorry, but I was never your friend. And as Xera’s Spymaster, who better to pull off a hoodwink like this?” The Archbishop yawns, miming a hand over where the end of his beak is. “It’s getting late now, and I’d like to have the ritual over and done before dawn. Kill those two if you don’t mind, Bishop Korlos.” “Yes, your holiness.” With that order, the cultists and traitors begin to close the encirclement on Tolan and Tessa. But now, Tessa understands what the gut feeling she felt before was warning her of. That this would be the Bandit encounter all over again. Only, this time, she will die. They won’t afford her the mercy of being a prisoner.