The first Red Death Cultist to reach him was smashed sideways by the butt of Randidly’s spear, sending it careening into its buddy, both of them stumbling at the sudden force. With a quick spin of the spear, Randidly positioned himself to stab twice, very quickly, right into the rib cages of two other Red Death Cultists, ending their lives.
But as the second thrust was withdrawn, one of the swiftly dying monsters desperately reached out and latched onto the spear, using its body weight to delay Randidly’s move by just a split second. Five more Red Death Cultists approached in that space, rapidly closing the distance between them and Randidly.
Randidly’s hands tightened on the spear shaft. These fuckers…!
But at the same time, Randidly’s pride burned bright and hot, keeping him standing in the same position, holding his ground before their assault. If they wanted to bet it all on this moment of weakness, he would show them their folly. Even though his spear was delayed, it still had plenty of time to make it back into a serviceable position and begin to lash outward.
Once, twice, three times… almost 9 times, his spear slashed in front of him, causing a spray of hot blood over the wooden floorboards. And each time, the Red Death Cultists would scramble to grab his spear, holding it still, or would just jostle the weapon, but each time they came just a bit short.
Until Randidly thrust at a particularly large and ugly member of the race, aiming for its heart, and a smaller Red Death Cultist leaped, not towards Randidly, but in the way of the spear, allowing it to impale him, gripping tightly on the shaft. Taking advantage of the small opening, the ugly fucker ducked around and swung its huge arms to crush Randidly.
A swift twist and shake weren’t enough to dislodge the small Death Cultist that had sacrificed itself to buy time, which caused Randidly to grimace. There were still too many of the surrounding Red Death CUltists for him to waste time on this. Again, he smashed his Willpower against the strange prohibition he felt against using Skills and felt it crack, just a little.
But then the big fucker was before him, and Randidly expertly flipped the spear to put his smaller bodied fellow bat in the path of his attack. This didn’t even phase the big fucker, and if anything, he howled and attacked faster, a murderous gleam in his eye.
It didn’t help Randidly that four other Red Death Cultists were coming at his sides, seeking to strike while this apparent crisis consumed Randidly’s attention. Hotter and hotter Randidly’s rage rose, consuming all other emotions that were in his chest until that heat was the only remaining sensation that he could feel. The base emotion of Wrath made him blaze intensely, and his passives all activated, pushing his strength to its current limit.
‘Do you think this is enough?’ Randidly thought, every syllable cast in molten metal and fire.
The big fucker’s strike descended, ripping through the body of the impaled Death Cultist, killing him. It continued downwards, and Randidly shifted his weight forwards, then shrugged his shoulder, knocking the blow harmlessly aside. Although he couldn’t use the Skill, he smashed the slightly off balance Red Death Cultist with a roundhouse kick, throwing his body aside.
Then the spear blurred, flicking back and forth, reducing the four other attackers to ribbons. The final 10 or so Red Death Cultists bellowed, and all of them rushed towards Randidly at once, their eyes making it clear that they were betting it all on this final attack. Randidly’s wild grin curled upwards. Perfect.
For the third time, Randidly smashed his Willpower against the silence, and this time he felt it shudder and shake, knocked from its moorings. But just as quickly, the Grey Death Cultist forced it back down, keeping him from unleashing any of his Skills. The bodies had thinned out immensely, and Randidly could now clearly see the Grey Death Cultist standing there, about 30 meters away.
Around his feet a magic circle glowed, Mana revolving rapidly around where he was standing, keeping the Skill active and in place, even as Randidly struggled against it. But apparently, the struggle was not without cost to the Grey Death Cultist. It swayed on its feet, and a thin, very visible, trail of crimson fell from its mouth, dripping on the fur of its chest and stomach.
Randidly’s smile stretched, reaching as wide as was physically possible, his intent clear. I will break you.
The Grey Death Cultist seemed profoundly weary and closed its eyes. We already knew we two couldn’t both leave this room alive. Why speak of it now?
Swinging his spear, Randidly killed the first 5 Red Death Cultists attacking, instantly reducing their numbers by half. The fiery warmth of violence had Randidly quite pleased with himself, but then his senses screamed at him, and he twisted to face the ugly fucker, who had stood back up from the kick, and was now spear tackling Randidly.
Roaring soundlessly, Randidly brought his spear down like a hammer. The big fucker was faster than he looked, and had gotten within the range of Randidly’s spear, but Randidly didn’t pull back. Instead, he just slammed the weapon down more viciously, hitting him with the pole. The strike took the big fucker in the collarbone, which cracked with a satisfying snap.
Still, the monster’s eyes were animated by hatred, and the weight and momentum kept the body moving, slamming into Randidly. Such was the force that even Randidly grunted and swayed on his feet, his eyes narrowing. As he went to raise his spear the big fucker flailed, grabbing the shaft, holding it still.
Randidly’s face fell. One of the attacking Red Death Cultists reached him and stabbed him with their sharp claws. Emerald blood spurted outward.
There was a dull recognition of pain, numbed somewhat by Randidly’s repeated exposure to the Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil, but it plunged Randidly’s burning rage into frigid waters. It was… an extremely surreal experience. To realize that even here, a single mistake meant death. Yet he had challenged the Death Cultists on their terms.
It was only a flesh wound to his shoulder, but…
More than that, the strangeness of the situation was compounded by the fact that emerald blood burst from his shoulder, spraying the attacker. Instantly, the attacker withdrew its claw and howled in pain, as every spot where Randidly’s blood had touched him began to smoke, the ichor of the Tree of Enmity ate its flesh.
Randidly’s Willpower slammed for the final time, and the Skill holding him silent shattered. The Grey Death Cultist swayed and collapsed, falling on its knees, before finally letting its face hit the ground with a dull thunk.
“I’m done playing.”
Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil expanded rapidly, reducing the survivors into a screaming mass. Very quickly the attackers were dispatched, until everything around Randidly was still, except for the slowly expanding pools of blood on the ground around him. In the time it took for him to slaughter the remnants of the Death Cultists, the flow of his emerald blood, dried to a trickle, and the wound began to scab.
He smiled bitterly at the ground, where a few drops of emerald sizzled, disintegrating the red blood around it. “I’m… really no longer human… am I…?”
Randidly had never really thought much about what it meant to be human, nor what the recent changes to him meant. Even now, faced with this reality, he couldn't’ really find it in himself to feel one way or another about it. He just felt tired.
But he still had a job to do.
After walking slowly over the Grey Death Cultist, he flipped the creature over with his foot, checking it. To his surprise, it was still alive, and it actually smiled at him after he flipped it over. It began muttering in its strange language, and thin wisps of Aether floated upwards. Randidly took a step backward, fearing another spell, but the creature just continued to look up at him and murmur.
Then something occurred to Randidly, and his face twisted with something much colder and more vicious than fury. Gently, Randidly reached out and followed the thin wisps of Aether, cautious, but with a growing sense of foolishness. As he followed them, they led upwards, and outwards, outside of their current dimensions settling on something just… around their dimension, that seemed to govern the world.
There, it was very clear that those wisps connected to something that had been added to an incredibly complex system of Aether. Calmly, Randidly smashed it to pieces, freeing up the original Aether device that was there.
Instantly, the monster’s words shifted, and Randidly could understand it.
“...it was truly an honor to be slain by you, Messiah. It has… brought great honor to my family… Please… free us…”
“What do you mean?!” Randidly snapped, some of his inner hatred and helplessness spilling over into his voice, but the Grey Death Cultist simply sighed, and then died, leaving Randidly in silence. There was no sound around him, save for the sizzling of his emerald blood.