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 No27:Second Verse Same as the First

Tessa looked about the cavern as the cultists closed in around them. Tolan held his staff at the ready to cast as many spells as necessary to get out of here, but Tessa wondered if that was even possible. The only obvious way out was the way they’d come in, but it was an uphill run the entire time and the path was completely exposed. Wracking her brain she remembered Hei mentioned the spell Silence, but she didn’t know how to cast it or if it would actually help them. Especially with Tolan being a spellcaster himself. Tolan spoke to Tessa over his shoulder. “Looks like I might not be able to get you to your companions, Tessa.” And then, there was a booming and crushing noise. Tessa looked around, her head trying to find whatever the source of that noise was. Tolan saw her head moving about, eyes searching for something. “Don’t know what you’re looking for, but if it’s an exit I don’t think we’re gonna find one.” Tessa replied, “It’s not an exit, but...I think I’m hearing something.” “What, do you hear your memories before seeing them in your final moments?” Then there was another boom, this time accompanied with the sound of stone grinding against itself as dirt trickled down from the ceiling. Turning her gaze upwards, Tessa had a feeling about what was causing the noise. From above also drifted in the sounds of a sword scratched and clashing. Something was going on above her. Tessa whispered to Tolan. “I...I think there’s a way out of this.” “A way out? We’re surrounded! Unless you have some means of creating an opening.” Another boom rang out, but with a very loud crash that everyone could hear this time. Even the cultists’ heads turned about in the cavern, all of them trying to find the source. The Archbishop even turned his attention to spaces around the room before glancing up at the ceiling. Tessa, looking up to see what the Archbishop saw, noticed the stone bricks far above them starting to give way. Seeing things about to come literally crashing down, Tessa sees Tolan actively confused by what’s going on. Getting his attention, Tessa explains her hunch. “Remember my…’companions’?” “Yes. Why?” “If what I think is happening above us is happening, tonight might be far from over.” The ceiling begins to give, the stone bricks starting to loosen their grip on one another. Hearing the bricks begin to fall enmasse, Tolan is still uncertain but raises his staff defensively against the coming debris. Everyone able to cast a spell in the cavern creates their own barriers as everything above them comes crashing down. The stone grinds and breaks against itself as it starts to collapse, with one last boom sending it all downward. Some pieces fall in large chunks while others cause a couple large boulders to be dislodged from the walls, both crushing any unfortunate enough to be stuck in their way. A cloud of dust kicks up after everything hits the bottom of the pit, but quickly fades away. Lowering their barriers, Tolan and Tessa survive the rockfall and start looking around to see who else is still standing. While a good number of the traitors and cultists survived, it’s unfortunate that the Archbishop came out completely undamaged. Korlos isn’t seen for a moment, but then pops out from underneath a pile of rubble. However, Tessa doesn’t spot the two she expected to be responsible for this. But it isn’t long before she sees three figures descending from the floors above. With a slam onto the ground, they appear. Though one of them lays face first in the dirt with a sword impaled in his back. Immediately, the Archbishop turns his attention to the new presences in the cavern. All too eager to greet them. “Well, it’s about time you finally showed up.” Everyone turns their heads, paying attention to the two new arrivals who just wiped out most of the cultists here with death by falling rocks. Tessa takes a couple, hopeful steps towards the two. Both Tessa and the Archbishop ask, “What took you two so long?” Instead of responding, Hei raises a hand with one finger gesturing to wait. Atop all of the debris and broken stone, he is kneeling with one knee to the dirt and the other foot firmly planted in between Abaris’s lungs and crushing his heart. “Gonna need a moment. Doing the ‘hero’ landing wasn’t the best of ideas.” Torgrak chuckles, “It really be killer on tha knees.” The Archbishop can’t help but make a snide remark. “And here I thought you were one of the strongest entities in this world, Hei. Good to know that a high enough fall damages you.” Torgrak fires a round off at the Archbishop, but it’s quickly deflected with a barrier. “Ye try landing like this after ye get ta our age youngster.” The moment passes by as Hei gets back up to his feet, drawing his sword from Abaris’s mummifying corpse before addressing the Archbishop. “Now, where were we?” At the same time, Tolan watches as Hei and Torgrak make their first steps onto the scene. A confused look on his face as he looks at them from head to toe. Tessa starts walking over to Hei and Torgrak, uncomfortably glad to see them. But then something drips onto her cheek. It’s cold and wet. Wiping it with the back of her hand and taking a look at it, she sees that it’s blood. Drops of blood were falling from the upper levels as she stared at the back of her hand. Tolan follows after Tessa, coming to a stop beside her as she stares at the smear of blood on her hand. Unresponsive, Tessa seems frozen in her own thoughts. “Hey, you alright? A shard of rock cut you or something?” The blood from the upper levels trickled down, forming small puddles on the ground. Tolan held his hand out, catching some of it and making sense of what’s going on. Wiping the cultists’ blood away on his robes, Tolan’s face turned relieved. “Well, good to know that your companions killed off the cultists above us. Definitely explains a lot of things. Makes cleanup after this is over easier too.” Tolan’s words began to fade away as a white noise filled Tessa’s head. She couldn’t help but stare at the blood and recall Hei’s words from before the whole fiasco started. The words about how he promised not to kill echoing in her mind. Why’d he go and kill all of the cultists? Couldn’t they have been disarmed and apprehended? She understood self-defense, but killing was a step too far! It shouldn’t matter who it is, to kill is to murder! Tessa’s mind raced as she felt betrayed by those who swore to teach her. She couldn’t think clearly and stared up at Hei, calling out to him with pure anger in her voice. “Hei! Torgrak!” Hei’s and Torgrak’s heads turned to face their apprentice, looking down on her from atop the rubble. “How fortunate, you’re alive and in one piece~!” “Heh, looks like we won't have ta go look for her now. Eh?” Torgrak elbowed Hei lightly in the side, but Tessa just grit her teeth and ran up to them. Her hands clenched themselves into fists as she charged at Hei, ready to do...something. Tessa didn’t know what she was going to do, but she needed to do something. Something that would express her hatred of their ways. Raising a fist, she tried to hit Hei’s chestplate. But he caught her arm by the wrist. Attempting the same with the other arm, she tried to hit him again. The result was the same, though Hei looked impressed at her. Yet his smile only made Tessa want to do something, anything that would wipe that smile away. “Why?! Why did you kill them?! You promised you wouldn’t!” Hei raised an eyebrow while looking Tessa dead in the eye. “Oh! That promise! I do remember saying ‘I wouldn’t kill anyone’, or something to that effect, to you.” “So why?! Why did you kill them?!” “It’s simple! I lied~.” Tessa’s fury turned to confusion. It didn’t make sense that someone would just make a promise and break it so flagrantly. People need to work together, to trust and act in everyone’s best interest. Don’t they? Promises need to be upheld, things need to make sense and be logical. So why? Why didn’t anything either Hei or Torgrak do make sense? Why don’t they care about how they’re seen by others or follow any kind of expectations the world has about those within it? People like them aren’t supposed to be as powerful as they are, are they? “But it is good to see you in one piece Tessa~.” Tolan made his way up to Hei and Torgrak, his confusion at an all-time high as he watches the drama before him. “And seems you made a friend~! How nice~.” Hesitantly, Tolan greeted Hei back. “Yes. It’s...nice to meet you as well. I’m...Tolan. I’m guessing your her, Tessa’s, companions?” Torgrak responded in Hei’s place. “Mentors, actually, but close enough.” Tessa pulled herself away from Hei’s grip, demanding his attention. “Don’t change the subject, Hei! Why did you and Torgrak both promise not to kill anything if you planned on doing it in the first place?!’ Tolan only grew more confused, interjecting himself to try and figure things out. “They promised not to kill anything? I think I understand what you mean, Tessa, but that’d be a tall order for anyone. Especially here. Everyone in the Resistance has...had blood on their hands.” Torgrak spoke up for himself, “I dinna promise anything. Hei was tha one with his shadow's fingers crossed.” Tessa only started boiling over more. “Then what was the point of bringing me along with you?! I despise killing! Aren’t you supposed to just make me stronger?!” Hei’s face turned from smiling to annoyed. “As your mentors, it is our job to make you stronger. However, as your mentors we also need to destroy your foolish and naive notions about the world. Starting with your reservations over violence.” Tessa goes from being infuriated to confused. “What? What do my ideals and beliefs have to do with this?” Hei starts taking steps towards her. “You want to be a Hero, don’t you?” Tessa stumbles backwards, losing her footing and falling down as Hei now glares down at her. “Y-yes, what of it?!” “Heroes bring down justice upon those that commit evil. And yet, you refuse to do so. The cultists before you are indoctrinating and sacrificing people before your very eyes, and you believe it right to arrest them rather than put them down?” Tessa stammers out an argument as best she can. “They can be reformed! No one is outside the light of Aeon’s forgiveness! If we just apprehend and talk to them, I’m sure we can...” “‘Can’…what? Set aside their acts of murder and move on? Sorry to say this, but the world doesn’t work that way. People will lie, cheat, steal, and kill to get what it is they want. And unless you have the strength to back up your ideals, you’ll end up a victim of the world’s ways.” “But...but this is crossing the line!” “What ‘line’? As far as I can tell, you don’t even know where my own ‘line’ is, child.” The Archbishop clears his throat, reasserting his presence. “Are you done with your lover’s spat? I’d like to finish my ritual before dawn, if you don’t mind.” Hei moves away from Tessa, leaving her on the ground as he pays attention to the Archbishop. “Yeah, yeah, sure. Must say it is good to see you again after...wait a minute.” Hei looks the Archbishop up and down. “Is that you Juvi?” The Archbishop takes a bow, “Is there any other? And it is good to see you again as well, Hei. And the same to you,” Juvi looks at Torgrak, unsure of who he is, “whoever you are. Anyways, it is a surprise to see you again.” “The feeling is mutual, you old clown.” Korlos looks up at Juvi, “Are you...familiar with him, your Holiness?” Hei smirks, “Familiar?! More like long lost former friends. Wouldn’t you say so, Juvi?” “Yes, that we were. But back in those days, I was still learning how to be an entertainer from you. After all, what good is a Jester that doesn’t know any tricks?” “You definitely weren’t good at anything that wasn’t injuring yourself back then. So, why are you at the head of the cult now? Did the old leader get overthrown or something?” “It would’ve been nice to put the knife in his back, but no. After you left, it wasn’t long before Heroes were at our door with nothing to repel them. Knowing my chances, I hid and used my fire magic to disguise myself while everyone else was slaughtered.” Hei comes to a stop just before Juvi’s spot at the altar with Torgrak behind him. At the same time, Tessa is on the ground trying to make sense of what to do and think. Tolan stands near her, protecting her, but is trying to make sense of everything going on in front of him. Absolutely bewildered by how Hei and the Archbishop are friends, or maybe were? Tolan speaks up, wanting some answers. “Hei, was it?” “Yes?” “How are you and the Archbishop, I mean, Juvi related exactly? Did you defect from his cult or something?” “I was an ‘honorary member’ of their cult some couple hundred years or so ago. They gave me shelter, and I gave them protection.” Tolan’s eye twitches slightly as things seem to only be getting more confusing for him. “But, didn’t he say that Heroes were the ones who toppled the original cult? Wouldn’t that mean that you were fighting…” “Fighting Heroes? Yes, actually. Made for good exercise and entertainment all at the same time. They were annoying, but I did have a reputation to keep at the time.” At the mention of “Heroes”, Tessa starts to come back to reality and listens to Hei’s heretical words. To her, there shouldn’t be anyone able to fend off a Hero. Let alone multiple. So unless Hei is lying, how is it that he’s stronger than multiple? Tessa interjects herself without thinking about it. “If you had so much power, why didn’t you use it to stop the cultists yourself?! Why didn’t you use your power to help others?!” “Oh, so the child is finally awake from her nap. You’re right, I certainly could’ve toppled the cult from the inside, and it would’ve been a cake walk. But it’s just easier to blend in with fellow birds of a feather~.” Tessa is stunned by how Hei so easily threw his lot in with the obviously evil side over using his power to benefit more than himself. Juvi finds it a bit funny, even laughing slightly at it. “Evil knows evil. I’m guessing that’s why you’re also with the Dwarf, Hei?” “Kind of, but back to the topic at hand. Why’d you take your former leader’s mask? Wouldn’t you have Heroes after you all over again, Juvi?” “Well, after you carved up his face the mask became partially imbued with his power. Which was a perfect jumping off point to gain my own strength. Once I had enough power, I decided to rebuild the cult from the ground up.” “But not in the brazen way the former leader had?” “Quite. I decided to take a page from your cult’s old methods and went for a much more subtle means of establishing myself. That way it would grow in the darkness and away from prying eyes. I don’t need random Heroes appearing as they please all over again.” Korlos chimes in. “And it worked perfectly, your Holiness! All of Crimsonvale is your servant, and we are but moments away from carving ourselves into the face of the world itself once the ritual is finished! “Your minion is right, Juvi. It certainly went better than most any other cult or evil organization has in the last century. Being evil just ain’t what it used to be, you know?” “Yes, Hei, but you and your dwarven friend are unaccounted variables. When it was announced you’d been executed, I thought every possible loose end had been tied up. So how did you find me after all these years?” Hei can’t help but state it matter-of-factly. “Adventurers’ Guild quest, it was assigned to me against my will.” “That’s a bit disappointing, but makes more sense than randomly stumbling upon me. Regardless, your appearance is perfect! Your soul, and the others with you, will be the icing upon my proverbial cake.” Juvi summons a ring of flames behind him while Hei readies his sword. Torgrak reaches into his bag, pulling out a fresh bullet while ejecting the brass casing of the last from his gun. Korlos lights his sword ablaze with blue flames while holding a fireball in the other. Tessa is uncertain of what to do, but Tolan stands in front of her. Ready to protect her as the battle looks ready to kick off at any moment. “I’m going to miss your ugly mug, Hei.” “Can’t say the same about yours, Juvi.”