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A note from puddles4263

Finally, we get some flashbacks.

Also, I need to spend some more time writing today. I don't have as much of a buffer as I'd like. Which is why this chapter is early.

Randidly and the Yeti looked at each other. Randidly glanced down at the broken shaft of his spear, and then shrugged.

Almost disappointed, the Yeti nodded slowly. “It was… as good of a match as could be expected in a place like this.”

“Fighting… is fun,” Randidly said, almost to himself, causing the Yeti to burst into a fit of low chuckles, blood dripping from his mouth.

“Yes… it really is…If you insist on walking down this path… we will meet again. I look forward...to…..it…..” The Yeti muttered, slowly falling backwards, the top half of Randidly’s spear buried into its chest. The shattered armor fell to pieces, slowly melting. His broken hammers of ice dropped to the ground with a dull thump.

Randidly, regretfully, turned away, and looked towards the fake Yeti, which had split into 4  human sized Yetis, which waved their hammers at him. Randidly simply raised a stamina potion to his lips, considering.

“Perhaps it’s best to just hurry back…?” Randidly muttered.

“As if I’d let you,” The Yetis spat, rushing towards him. Randidly shrugged, leaning down and removing the top half of the spear from the Yeti’s chest, placing it into his satchel. Then he used Phantom Half step to move past the Yeti’s towards a random scout sent by Franksburg, and immediately began sprinting North.

****

Lyra was always beautiful. And her parents always complimented her on it. Her father was a screenwriter turned amateur director, and her mother was just pretty enough to be arm candy in b-rank flicks. But from the day Lyra was born, the pair of them both were seized by a shared delusion; that their daughter would be the what they never could be.

A star.

Perhaps god had felt sorry for them for a life of mediocrity, because they turned out to be right.

Acting lessons, singing lessons, dancing lessons… Lyra’s life was a merry go round of lessons, preparing her to be an actress. And at every lesson, Lyra excelled.

It was when she was 7 that this finally paid off, and Lyra was recommended by her acting teacher. It was only a role as an understudy, but her parents were ecstatic.

And then, when on the first day, the original girl for the part was sick, Lyra stepped forward and performed the scenes, with her own unique twist. The director, slightly nonplussed, had looked at Lyra and said. “That was really good, but I’m not sure if this is what the producers had in mind.”

Lyra simply shrugged. “That’s how the character would have done it.” For several minutes, the two just stared at each other, the director struggling with how he should view this tiny actress, Lyra profoundly sure she was right.

Helpless, the director showed the producers the first day’s footage. They fell in love with Lyra’s Jen, and needless to say, even after she had recovered, the original girl was told very politely that her services were no longer required.

Because when you looked at Lyra, it was very hard to look away.

Later that year, late at night, when the resounding success of Lyra’s movie became public, and her having no small role in that success, Lyra found herself staring at her reflection in the mirror.

She reached out and dragged her fingers across the smooth surface of the mirror, not admiringly, but wonderingly.

“Is this… what it means to be beautiful?” The 7 year old asked the hard mirror with a soft voice.

****

Donny looked on at the blood soaked ground, shock clear on his face. Even the Raid Boss lay dead and groaning on the ground. Like hollow eyed ghosts, Decklan’s squad walked among the bodies, slicing larger gashes in some cyclopses, removing projectile weapons from others.

All the while, the seemingly infinite vines of Thorn moved, picking up and squeezing bodies dry.

“Uh… Decklan…” Donny said, unsure of how to proceed. He had come to reinforce them, but when he’d arrived, the cyclopses had already been practically bled to death…

“Oh?” Decklan looked up, blinking. Then he raised a hand to his mouth and shouted. “No rest for the wicked boys, looks like there are more monsters to kill.”

Donny took several steps backwards, because not 3 seconds later, he was surrounded by Decklan’s squad, all of them covered in blood, most cradling broken arms, drinking health or stamina potions.

“Another day in the life,” Terra muttered, producing an apple and biting into it.

“The…. the next order of business is moving to reinforce Dozer’s division against the Tier II Raid Boss.” Donny said, recovering from the shock. He grinned at the tired looking squad and turned and walked away. “We’ll head over now, but… just show up after you shower, alright? We have standards, in Donnyton.”

****

Annie had worked frantically the past hour keeping Dozer and his little friends alive, not even bothering to tease Dozer. She just darted from rampart to rampart, using her height and archery to control the number of beetle things that could come towards the squad at once. Even so, they seemed endless.

But Dozer showed no signs of slowing, even getting himself worked into a fever pitch, green ichor covering his club and part of his body.

Annie wrinkled her nose. She would definitely make him shower before giving him his reward tonight.

Well, probably.

Annie allowed herself to admire his shoulders and arms for a second. Normally she would carefully control herself about such things. It would do no good if he knew how strongly he could influence her. But now was a safe time for two reasons: One, Dozer seemed quite distracted, and two, it appeared the cavalry had arrived.

“Aegis!” Donny’s familiar shout sounded out, and a group began ripping into the back of the beetle formation, cutting swiftly forward to alleviate some of the pressure from Dozer’s squad. Decklan’s squad moved like hungry ghosts, stabbing their sharp weapons around the hard shells, aiming for the soft fleshy joints.

A roar sounded out, and a huge beetle with huge chittering legs reared up, revealing itself in the middle of the horde. Annie sighed, watching Dozer’s eyes begin to glow as he cut his way forward. Of course he would challenge it.

Dozer added weight to his challenge by crushing several nearby beetles, clearing out a small area. Incensed, the Beetle charged, heading directly towards Dozer’s wild swing.

Annie breathed in, then breathed out, her focus narrowing as she activated her snipe ability. The two forms, Dozer ¼ the size of the beetle rushed towards each other, positively crackling with force. Annie loosed her arrow.

The arrow slid through the air, whistling so fast, at such a high frequency, that it was practically silent. You would only know it was coming from the prickling on the back of your neck.

The arrow struck the Beetle in the eye, but it didn’t even seem to care, crashing into the full strength swing of Dozer. Grunting, Dozer was immediately forced backwards as his swing didn’t even slow the beetle. It crashed forward, lashing out with its legs.

Dozer managed to get his club up in time to block the leg that swung towards him, but his club splintered slightly, a long crack appearing it in. The other nearby Classers weren’t as lucky, and their armor was simply smashed apart before the fearsome power of the Tier II Raid Boss.

Bringing its body around, the beetle prepared to strike, but as it launched itself forward, Donny was suddenly there, his shield smashing it backwards. Although he wasn’t nearly as strong as Dozer in terms of stats, and especially in ability to deal damage, at the 6 inch distance, Donny was king. His shield bash knocked it off balance, stunning it for a short moment.

The beetle hissed in annoyance, but as it struggled to regroup, the Heavy Mage Corps unleashed a barrage of fire and ice that smashed against the Raid Boss’s shell. It screamed in pain as the shell shattered, struck by spell after spell.

Although they were strong against physical attacks, magic ripped right through them. The Magic Corps launched another barrage, this one less focused, ripping through all of the beetles in the surrounding area. They died in a series of hisses and screams.

Then the mages parted, and to Annie’s surprise, the gangly, slightly creepy Glendel walked forward. But unlike his normal bobbing self, now his posture was very straight, his eyes stern and serious. With an imperious gesture, Glendel raised his hand, and in the sky above the Raid Boss, a ghastly wooden door, wrapped in chains, appeared.

Glowing eerily green, the door ratted, and then sprung open, long green arms rushing down to grip the body of the beetle. But instead of its physical form, the arms simply seemed to sink into the beetle,rummaging around.

Then they began to retract, dragging with them the strange, ghostly soul of the beetle, glowing that same strange green color. The beetle ghost, for its part, began to panic, gripping tightly onto its body, but more and more hands rushed downward from the door, grabbing and pulling away all of the legs of the beetle, one by one.

Finally completely bound by those spectral hands, the beetle ghost was dragged upwards, into the door, which swung silently closed.

As Annie watched Glendel, he closed his eyes, seemingly concentrating very hard on something. And then behind him, floating in the air, the beetle condensed, its eyes glowing white. Smiling, Glendel opened his eyes, revealing eyes glowing with the same white color.

‘So this… was the Sovereign of Ghosts’, Annie thought wonderingly.

But then she was distracted by Daniel’s arrival, who hurried up to the panting Donny and Dozer, a worried look on his face. Annie just rolled her eyes.

“What now?” She muttered, annoyed.

****

Paolo and Kayle stood opposite each other, a chalk board in between them. Behind them were their individual squads, and behind the squads were neat piles of bones. If one were to look closely, one would notice that these bones were neatly sorted, and would probably would have formed the skeleton of a horse before they were smashed to pieces.

Behind the piles of bones were the other squads, which were shaking their heads at the actions of squads I and II.

Kayle grinned, pointing to the carefully made tally marks on the chalkboard. “The recount is in, and the result is still the same. Your squad killed 91, and mine killed 117. I think it is clear who is superior.”

“But we killed the Raid Boss,” Paolo said, crossing his arms.

Kayle shrugged. “So what, it had two heads and breathed fire. Whoopyty-doo. Could it fly? Use magic? Do anything but charge in a straight line? You can have 25 points for it, but that still only puts you at 116-”

“Ha! That raid boss is worth at least 50-”

One of the women from the other squads leaned over to the woman next to her and whispered. “Why doesn’t breathing fire count as magic….?”

And was quickly shushed by her fellow squadmate as Paolo continued to speak. “-And we arrived first, softening them up. If you want to be the 2nd best squad forever, feel free to keep mopping up after-”

But then Paolo stopped speaking, his hand going to his chest. He winced, then shook his head.

Heartburn, at his age? Paolo supposed he needed to lay off the rich cream sauces with his wolverine meat, but to his surprise, Kayle also had a similarly unpleasant expression on his face. So did all the members of both squads.

“What… what is this… it… feels terrible.” One of Squad II muttered, but Kayle quickly shushed him. Then Kayle turned to Paolo and the two leaders shared a glance, all traces of banter gone.

This feeling… did not feel like an isolated thing. It was likely related to the village. To the fate of Donnyton.

****

Sam frowned down at Nul, whose skin was slowly turning grey.

“What’s wrong?” He asked the village spirit, shaking him slightly. He had never touched Nul before, and was surprised at how light his body was. And how cold his skin was.

“How…” Nul muttered. “How is it so strong…?”

Far away, a creature isolated by a powerful barrier slowly opened its eyes.

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