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 No15:In Through the Front Door

In the streets of Crimsonvale, buildings burnt and charred to the left and right, a cultist crawled towards the cathedral. Each hand reaching out to the cathedral as he crawled forward. His right leg severed at the middle of his thigh, while the left was not much more than a mangled mess of torn flesh and shattered bone. “Nen… cog…” he gurgled. Unable to find the strength to move further, he reached out one last time to the cathedral. His hand covered in dirt and blood. And yet, the harrowing sound of metal footsteps grew ever closer behind him. “S-save me… Nencog…! Please…!” But his prayers proved futile as Hei’s cursed sword pierced through his back and heart, turning him to ash. Hei called out to Torgrak as the dwarf rifled through the non-ash corpses. “Are you done yet? I doubt they have much to offer.” “I’ll just be a moment!” Torgrak leaned over the body of a woman who’d bled to death from a shot in the leg. Lifting her cold, lifeless arm to pull back the sleeve, and reveal a gold bracelet tarnished with spots of dried blood. Torgrak chuckled, “Anozher treasure for my hoard.” Pocketing it, Torgrak stood up and left the body for the crows. Her lifeless eyes left open to stare at her own reflection in the broken glass of a window. Yet the dwarf only pulled out a notepad to estimate the value of his new findings. Smiling happily as he totaled up his treasures. Hei sighed as he waited for Torgrak to finish his math problems. “Done yet?” “Almost…” Torgrak scribbled a bit more and then dropped the notebook and inked quill into his bag, pulling his gun off his back and readied a fresh round. And with that, the two began walking towards the cathedral. “Still zhink zhey’re summoning an avatar up in zhere ta-be-looted church?” “It’s definitely the most likely possibility.” “Are ya cultists not all friends or somethin’? Thought ya’ll knew each ozher.” Torgrak couldn’t help cackling. Holding his stomach as he bellowed laughter from behind his burnt beard. “Just because I knew many of them, doesn’t mean I got to leave on friendly terms with all of them. Hopping between cults and such makes some people quite angry when you know all their secrets. Regardless, I doubt that it’s actually happening inside the church. Likely underground, considering the time they’ve had to summon an avatar.” “And ya know zhis how?” “Never attended a sacrificial avatar summoning before?” Torgrak laughed, “I pillage zha masses, not attend zhem.” Hei rolled his eyes. “Sacrificial rituals, especially for summoning an avatar, are delicate things. If something goes wrong, it could trigger it early and end up summoning much less powerful or just fail all together.” “Vhat is an avatar exactly? I’ve fought one or two, but never been able ta gazher any research on zhem.” “Avatars are difficult to describe perfectly. They can be anything from a holy sword to a giant demon. Usually, they’re powerful objects or creatures summoned through an exchange between the mortal and divine realms. There are other possibilities, but these are the most common.” “So some idiots high on magix feel like summoning somezhing. How’s zhat different from summoning a demon or making an enchanted item?” “There are some differences. The first is that an avatar is a direct representative of a god, and thus reflects them. Good makes good, evil creates evil. The second is that each god asks for different things. Good gods like Aeon or Myrin require mass prayers, acts of righteousness, and other good things. Whereas evil gods like Zenzor, Brynlyss, or Nencog accept acts that bring death, destruction, despair, etc.” “That at least tells us vhat zhese fools are doing. Any way to predict what the avatar will be?” “Considering that it’s Nencog, it’ll probably be a big demon.” “Got any more vague details ya vanna share?” “You can’t perfectly predict what an avatar will be, especially with Nencog. He likes chaos, death, and fire, in that order. And considering the cultists ‘have gone quiet’ as per the reports we skimmed, they’re probably using a good number of Crimsonvale’s citizens as sacrifices to keep other towns or cities from getting suspicious.” “Considering the size of zhis town, vouldn’t zhat take a vhile?” “Quite. Normally, whenever Nencog’s followers take over a town, they would just kill everyone inside and create an avatar if they can. Simple slash and burn tactics. So whoever’s at the top of this mess is definitely being careful. They’ve been making sacrifices over time and are going to use their accumulated favor tonight. Any other questions?” “Just one. How’s da summoned demon going to act?” “It’ll probably go on a rampage and destroy everything it sees, friend or foe. Easily terrorizing every nearby village, town, and city before a Hero gets dispatched to deal with it.” The two finished chatting as they left the streets of Crimsonvale. Severed limbs and viscera hung about as if someone had made the neighborhood into a destroyed feast for cannibals, while blood ran down the drains like wine. Soon enough, the two arrived at a guarded gate just before the cathedral. A metal fence enclosed it with a good fifty to hundred foot gap before someone could get to its courtyard. Immediately, the guards stationed there ordered them to stop. Unlike the cultists from before, these were actually decently armored and held proper weapons. “Halt! Outsiders are forbidden from entering!” Torgrak laughed, “Seems news of our arrival hasn’t gotten everyvhere just yet.” They stood in a v-formation with halberds at the read. But Hei and Torgrak stood there unflinchingly. Then the guards noticed several bloody footprints that trailed all the way back from where they were. A few realized what was going on, and the rest caught on when Hei tossed an eyeball that had gotten caught on his shoulder armor. Noticing their sudden fear, Hei took advantage of the situation. “If you don’t want to end up like everyone else, I suggest you let us pass.” Nervously, the guards looked at one another and silently agreed on what they preferred. Stepping aside, they let them pass. “M-may the Great Flame, bless you…” Hei smiled graciously, and the two passed by them. Though Torgrak couldn’t help but toss something behind him as they made their way past the gate. A heavy iron ball with a short fuse protruding out of it. The guards noticed it, staring both curiously and fearfully. And as a flash of light filled their eyes, it filled their bodies with shrapnel. Disabling them instantly as they died a slow and painful death. “Padding your numbers there?” “An easy kill is an easy kill. If I didn’t, you vould’ve. Can’t have you catching up now.” The two laughed as they moved from the gate and fence to the courtyard. Ascending a tall flight of stairs that led up to a small open area just before the cathedral’s large wooden doors. And just as they took their first steps into the space, a fireball flew at them. Torgrak dodged out of the way at the last minute, but Hei took it head on. Shield raised, but hair slightly singed. Hei took a bit of his hair between his fingers and gave an annoyed sigh, and Torgrak couldn’t help but chuckle. “Gonna have ta see yer stylist again?” “Unfortunately.” Then three more came at them. Though, this time, Hei and Torgrak spotted the attack as it came down from the cathedral’s roof. One at Torgrak, crashing into the ground just before the dwarf, but he was always more agile than people gave him credit for and got out of the way. Hei, however, blocked one and counterspelled the remaining. “If throwing fireballs at us in the streets didn’t work, what made you think it’d work here?” Jumping off the cathedral’s roof and down onto level ground with them, twelve new and well-armed enemies appeared. Torgrak wanted to laugh, but facepalmed instead. Dragging his hand down his face. Hei snickered, “Angry there, dwarf?” “No. Just disappointed.” Each one of them wore breastplates and chainmail, with capes flapping in the wind. Sigils of Nencog patterned everywhere possible and a large gear emblazoned on their chests. Hei looked them up and down before commenting. “I’m guessing you are… ‘gears’?” The one at the front of the twelve stomped in protest. “Cogs! We are Cogs!” He had hair similar hair to Hei’s, keeping it up in a ponytail but with a bit draped over his right eye. Hei and Torgrak both raised their left eyebrow at him. Torgrak whispered, “Ya zhink if ya cut off zhat bit of his hair, it’d flop to da ground like a slab of meat?” Hei responded, “Maybe? Not even I use that much hair product.” Noticing how Hei and Torgrak were staring at his hair, he brushed the flap of hair covering half of his face in what he believed to be a “stylish” manner. “You two must be the ones who have brought chaos to our town, and so the Archbishop sent us to make your deaths as painful as possible.” He looked down his nose at them. But Hei stabbed his sword into the ground, looking absolutely confused. “I’ve met a lot of cocksure characters in my life, but I don’t know if you’re the best of the worst or the worst of the best.” Torgrak asked, “Vhat’s it matter? Zhey’re goin’ ta die just da same.” Hei shruged, “Fair enough.” With that settled, Hei took his sword back in his hand and began walking straight at them. “I’ll handle these idiots, Torgrak. You can take the time to check your ammunition and such.” “Aye, I’ll leave ta ya.” Torgrak started walking off to the side, sitting in a corner of the area, and began servicing his rifle and checking his ammunition. Furious at how they were being looked down on, the Cog’s leader addressed Hei directly. “You think you can take all of us on by yourself?! Fine! It shall make it all the easier when we go after the dwarf! Cogs! Charge!” Hei chanted, “Epsmel ard cur ut Darkness.” Immediately, a black smoke leaked from the front of Hei’s shield and flowed all around him. As he approached the Cogs, it turned from a smoke into a sphere of void-like darkness that engulfed them all. Hei’s eyes glowed green as it finalized before disappearing completely into the shadows. The Cogs’ leader laughed at the darkness, his eyes closed as he remained confident. But upon opening them, he noticed he couldn’t see anything but the surrounding darkness. It was too dark to even make out his hands. If not for knowing he had them, his mind would probably forget they were even there. “What the hell is this?! Cogs! Are you there?!” “I’m still here, sir.” “Same over here.” “Still with you.” One by one, they called out in the darkness. Unable to see each other, but confirming their presences. “Well, at least in this kind of darkness, not even he could fight properly. Attack carefully and call out if you hit him! It’s just be a matter of keeping track of him!” Then, one screamed as Hei’s blade forced its way through his armor and chainmail all at the same time. “GAHHHH!!!” The metal crunching loudly before falling to the ground in a clatter. Trying to come to their ally’s aid, two Cogs swung in the darkness but only clashed swords. “Avoid swinging wildly! You might hit one another!” Then there was the sound of a blade through flesh and bone. A warm liquid hitting the Cogs’ leader cheek just before the body fell to the ground beside him. “Dammit! Where is he?! Can anyone find him?!” One of them responded, “This darkness is too thick to see through, sir! He’s picking us off one by o-!” Stabbed through the back, his last breath whimpered out as another joined the piles of dust on the ground. And at this, one of the remaining ones fell into a panic and started casting a spell. “Gamtan bel…!” “Wait! Stop! Don’t cast i-!” “Ard Fireball!” The leader felt himself bathed in flames, though the two nearest to the caster flailed as they died from the impact. And it wasn’t long before Hei took the caster was down in the darkness, three more now removed from what were twelve. Soon enough, those left fell into panic and frenzy. Striking and swinging at anything they could, even their own allies. One tried to run away, but Torgrak shot him the moment he left the darkness. One Cog hit their leader in the back. Unable to tell friend from foe, the leader grabbed his ally and thrust his blade just beneath the breastplate. And once it was just down to the leader of the Cogs, Hei dismissed the spell over the area and stood before the exasperated and former leader of the twelve. “Looks like you’re the only one left.” “Y-you bastard!” He gripped the handle of his sword with both hands and stabbed wildly at Hei. But Hei parried and disarmed him before bashing his head in with his shield. Crushing the Cogs’ leader’s face into the ground and turning it to pulp. Hei asked, “Good to go, Torgrak?” “Heh. Finished before ya.” Hei laughed, “As does every woman I’ve met.” Putting his hand to his shoulder, Hei rotated it. Then the other. Stretching lightly before they continued. “I assume Kegz is handling the town’s occupants with ease?” “He and da ozher goblins should have everzhing sorted by dawn.” “Good. Now, let’s get go-” Just as Hei put his hand on the cathedral’s door, a loud and furious cry came from behind him. Looking over, Tae’Lyn ran at him and jumped. Crashing down with both hammers where Hei was. Hei dodged out of the way and jumped back to get a bit of distance between himself and her. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THEM?!” “Excuse me?” Hei asked confusedly. Tae’Lyn seethed with hatred. Unhooking the second hammer on her back, she lowered her grip on both of them until her hands were at the bottom of each hammer’s shaft. Leaning forward and ducking her head down, she charged at Hei and swung one of them up at his head. Hei dodged backwards, avoiding the blow. But with her continued momentum, Tae’Lyn followed up on her first strike with the second hammer. Pulling it up and under her and catching it against Hei’s shield. Slamming it hard with the hammer’s head and causing Hei to get pushed back a good distance. Torgrak loaded his gun. “Seems ve got a live one. Took long enough.” Hei shook his left arm. “If not for being who I am, that might have broken my arm.” Seeing Hei seemingly undamaged, she charged at him again. This time swinging to the left with one hammer and following it up with the other. Quickly spinning round and round with her hammers as Hei had to dodge. Though he playfully stepped bit by bit towards Torgrak, dragging him into the fight. Torgrak laughed, “Ya tryin’ to get me involved in yer lover’s quarrel?” “Just thought you should get your fair share of the action.” Ending her spin, Tae’Lyn jumped high and came crashing down like a meteor at the both of them. “DIE!!!” Hei and Torgrak moved out of the way, jumping to the sides but in opposite directions as pieces of stone flung out from her point of impact. A slight smoke came up, hiding her for a short while. This time, Tae’Lyn came after Torgrak. Both hammers raised above her head as she aimed to squash him into a dwarven pancake. But Torgrak scoffs and takes the offensive. Rather than moving out of the way, he dashed towards her and bashed her with his shoulder. Forcing her back and stunning her for a moment. Pointing his gun at her head, he pulls the trigger. Tae’Lyn uses her hammers to defend. She’s successful, but loses one of them in the process as the bullet shatters one of the hammer’s heads. “Heh! One of ya pathetic vhelps can actually put up a fight!” Torgrak readied another shot. “Don’t disappoint me now…” He pulls the trigger. She dodges, but just barely, as the bullet grazes her armor. Tae’Lyn swings with her hammer, trying to catch the dwarf on his side, but Torgrak jumps over her swing. Then Hei comes in behind her and stabs at her while she’s still mid-swing. Letting go of her weapon, she lets it fly off to the side so she can avoid Hei’s attack. Her hammer crashes loudly into part of the cathedral as she’s forced to be unarmed against Hei. She growled, but Hei cut and slashed at her. Yet, unlike when he was with the much weaker fodder, he wasn’t aiming to kill. Hei was more like a cat playing with a mouse it’d just caught. Batting and smacking it around for fun. His blade cutting Tae’Lyn’s body with every swing as he grinned. Hei aimed for the sides of her body and arms, limiting her movements. Then Torgrak called out to her, holding her hammer in one hand. “I think ya dropped zhis.” Her eyes went wide as Torgrak threw it at her like a javelin. Hei took a quick step back as Tae’Lyn got hit in the chest with her own hammer and knocked to the ground. It sent her flying a good bit in the air, but she landed on her feet. Hei, however, didn’t give her a moment to recover and rushed at her. Slamming her head with his shield and knocking her back again. But with her hammer now within reach and she ran to grab it. Torgrak had his next shot lined up. And just as she reached the shaft, he shot and took her out with one bullet to the head. Hei stood over her body. “What a shame, and she was a looker, too.” “Like ya vouldn’t kill her regardless.” Hei shrugged, “I’m allowed to dream, aren’t I?” Torgrak laughed at the idea, “Vhen vas da last time ya had a dream at all?” “Fair enough.” The two approached the door and opened it. Strutting into the halls while Crimsonvale burned to the ground. The scattered cries of civilians shot dead or cut silent. Distant gunshots leaving none alive. * * * * * Abaris stood at the head of a large chamber, hand gripping his staff. Before him was a circle of stone beds with a different person atop each one. Their eyes closed and bodies relaxed as if they were sleeping heavily while cultists hovered about them with hands outstretched. They spoke an unintelligible chant and drew forth a blue, wispy essence from those that slept and channeled it into a glass orb resting atop a golden rod just behind their heads. The bluish wisp concentrating within the orbs and forming into a white flame that grew the longer it went on for. But the bodies had a limit and began withering away until they were not much more than unwrapped mummies. Once the transfer was complete, the cultists collected the orbs and placed them in a wooden cart. Then they wrapped the bodies in oil soaked bandages and piled them onto a cart of their own. Once it was all done, a different group transported the carts into the depths of the cathedral before it all started again. However, unlike the previous times he presided over the ritual, suppressed explosions went off overhead. Bits of rock and dust fell from the ceiling and walls as the booms grew closer and closer. Abaris hoped they could make it through to the end of their sacrifices, but it seemed unlikely as each explosion grew closer and louder. His hand tightly gripping his staff in preparation to attack whatever trespassers appeared. His eyes paying special attention to any shifting shadows just outside the door that lead into the room. Readying himself to cast a spell the moment it opened. And just as he heard the scraping of armored feet approach, the door was blown off its hinges and something was thrown into the room. Rapidly, the object expelled smoke to make it as difficult to see as possible. Taking his chance to strike before things got worse, Abaris cast roughly at where the entrance was. “Betan bebel Scorch!” Three screaming spears of fire soared through the air and at the entrance. They pierced through the smoke, but didn’t find purchase in anything other than the wall. But, whether in response or as a follow-up, several bombs with hissing fuzes were thrown into the room. Abaris tried to command the others to raise their defenses in time. “Everyone! Barriers!” Holding his hand out toward the bombs, Abaris quickly created a barrier of flames before him. “Gamtan def Barrier!” Exploding just a second or two after he got his barrier up, the bombs left everyone who survived a ringing in the ears. It dazed him, but he could shake it off. But looking around the room, few others could do the same. And perhaps it was the ones who were dead that were lucky. Carnage painted the room from wall to wall as the smell of sulfur and iron filled Abaris’s mouth. Some cultists lay face first on the ground while others had limbs torn from their bodies, both probably dead the moment the bombs went off. Yet others drowned on their own blood from punctured longs or suffered permanent loss of sight and hearing. Abaris was about to call out to his subordinates when he spotted a glint at the entrance. Quickly, he attacked again to suppress whoever was there. “Deltan bel Scorch!” Five flaming spears shot at the entrance and the glint disappeared behind the entrance, and Abaris ordered the others to run. “Take what we have below! I will buy you the time we need to complete the ritual!” Those that were still standing immediately did as ordered, but Torgrak took advantage of the moment he was looking away to fire off a shot. Knocking one of the still standing cultists to the ground with a bullet to the spine. Abaris then raised a wall of fire behind him to cover those fleeing. “Gamtan def ard Wall of Flames!” With their progress stalled, Hei charged into the room and quickly closed the distance between himself and Abaris. Cutting at him, but Abaris dodged and repositioned himself as far away from Hei as he could within the room. “How unexpectedly Heroic. Can’t say I expected you t-” Then Hei noticed the stone tables, broken orbs, and golden rods. “Now, this is a surprise. I didn’t think anyone was still using this old method.” The smoke cleared and Torgrak entered the room with his rifle shouldered. “Somezhing from yer past?” Hei smiled, “In a way. Didn’t think anyone still knew about this method of soul extraction.” Abaris held his staff defensively, though his face let on that he was confused. “How do you know the purpose of these tools?” Hei was all too happy to answer. “That’s what I should be asking. Who taught it to you?” Abaris retorted, “Answer my question first, and I might be inclined to answer yours.” “Very well then. A long time ago, some colleagues of mine and this method of extracting souls to create near perfect sacrifices for our patron. It was akin to making charcoal from wood. It requires a certain spell that makes little sense to those that don’t know the language, but it coaxes the soul from the body and transfers it into a container, much like a lich’s phylactery. As for the rods, they’re a means of substituting what’s lost in the transfer. All correct so far?” Abaris’s eyes narrowed. “Uncomfortably so. And as you requested, the one who taught us this was the Archbishop.” “Archbishop… Archbishop… can’t say I know that name. Perhaps he goes by another?” Abaris kept buying time. “Perhaps, but he has not shared it with anyone within our religion.” “How unfortunate. But may I ask why you deem this method to be from long ago? You appear younger than you let on, half-elf.” “Well, we created it some three to four hundred years ago to harvest souls and sacrifice them. The same as you’re doing now. Though we did it as a kind of experiment to see what was more efficient. In the end, it proved to be a failure for our purposes.” Abaris doubted Hei’s statements. “That’s hard to believe, given most elves rarely live to two hundred and fifty years.” “Just one more benefit of being a Fateless.” Even though Hei was being honest, Abaris didn’t let his guard down for a moment. His eyes letting on that he didn’t understand what Hei meant, but he didn’t need to. “Regardless, I cannot let you pass. You shall not stop our ritual, even if it costs me my life.” Hei raised an eyebrow. “Stop the ritual? Why would we do that?” Abaris asked, “What do you mean?” “Why would I want to stop you from summoning an avatar? If it goes as I expect it to, I’ll be able to present it to my patron as a gift.” “You make it sound so easy to destroy. It’s quite arrogant to assume yourself to be amongst the strongest on the continent, though you deserve praise for making it this far.” “That’s a fair assumption. And while I could get rid of your wall of fire, I feel like humoring you more. Hopefully you’ll fare better than that woman with the hammers.”