As the waters grow red with my enemy's blood, the great ophid stares at me. In the brief moment of eye contact, it challenges me to try to steal it’s meal. Slowly, I hold up my empty hands, moving them closer to Jakophs corpse, retrieving the glowing container. The snake watches me as I float away before slithering into the darkness, prey hanging from its mouth. I take the opportunity to exit the water, making my way to the surface. Once back on solid ground, I scramble to where I left Scragh and Perot. Bursting through the thicket, I see the blood. My companions are on the ground, crimson liquid everywhere. Scragh lifts his head weakly in greeting, sword in hand. Next to him, a dead scout, a member of Jakophs group. Further along is the last form, unmoving in the darkness.
“Oh god, are you going to be okay? What do I do?”
He coughs, a bad sound accompanied by blood.
“I’ll be fine. Check on Perot. The bastard got her first, he..”
I stop him.
“Shush, don’t speak. I got him.”
I go to check on Perot. My heart sinks when I see her face down in a puddle. It takes me too long to realise it’s her own blood. A severe wound across her shoulder and neck tells me there’s nothing more to do for her. I whisper words of apology as I check her belt, grabbing the potions I find there. A red one.
Potion: Red - x3 Potion: Blue - x8 Potion: Green - x1 Potion: Yellow - x4
I go back to Scragh, handing him what I hope is a potion of healing.
“Please drink this. It should make you feel better. I don’t want to lose you too.”
He nods at me, and drinks it. In front of my eyes, his wounds close, his breathing eases. Soon, he gets up, surveying the scene.
“They were so quick, so quiet. The attack nearly knocked me out. All I could do was lie there in a daze while they killed her. She didn’t have time to make a sound. I’m sorry Shae, I should have..”
I raise my hand to stop him. My mind is racing.
“We should.. Get back to the village. She needs to be buried by her hut.”
I walk over to where she lies, picking her up. She weighs so little. Such a fragile, tiny old woman. Scragh loots the last scout before we head off back to town. He tries to come closer to a few times, to talk to me, but I ignore him, lost in my thoughts, tears streaming down my face. They don’t stop until we get back to the village.
Hours later, I was sitting on my knees by her grave.
“Look, Shae, you need to focus. The enemy will attack up north soon, and without your assistance, we’ll lose so many more people.”
Scragh was trying to motivate me. His voice sounded like it was far away, and I couldn’t answer.
“We have to get word to the front lines that the interlopers have been dealt with, so they can concentrate on the enemy in front of them. Please..”
The placement was perfect. Near her herb garden, close to the hut she loved. I’d dug it myself, making sure it was deep enough. Someone tried to help, but I ignored them. When she was in the ground, I went inside her hut and finished her last chores. Now that all the duties are done, I can finally rest. I’m so tired, and the world moves as if swimming in molasses.
“Shae, we need you to keep going. She would have wanted you to complete the tasks you’ve set for yourself before giving in to grief like this.”
Loe was walking again. I could see by his body language that he wasn’t really ready to move around yet, but he’d made the effort to come see me here. When I answer, my voice is hoarse.
“I can’t do anything about the front lines anymore. When I tried, we lost so many people. And my abilities won’t be active for another 2 hours. Telleran will come back before then. If anything, it’s already too late. They’ll all be dead, and we’ll be next.”
He looks taken aback, spluttering some more words, but I’m ignoring him now. Why is this happening here. This place was supposed to be better, safer. I lie down next to the grave. It’s cold, but not too bad. I could get comfortable here, just for a little while. The world feels darker than before, and as I wallow in despair, I can hear the voice.
“Isn’t it too bright?”
It is a little, yeah. I call darkness to me.
“Isn’t that much better.”
The voice is smooth and rich. It resonates with my soul. Much better.
“It does feel pointless sometimes, doesn’t it. All this running around. You fight so hard for every scrap. Then someone, life, the universe, whomever, just strolls by and ruins everything.”
I nod in agreement. I don’t know how to go on.
“Oh sweet child.”
A part of me feels unnerved from the familiar words. Another part revels in it.
“I can show you how. If you let me.”
I turn over, staring up into the pitch black void.
“Who are you?
“I am Erebus, the Lord of endless darkness.”
Erebus. The name flows across my mind as I think it. The Summerling accused me of being his spawn already.
“You’re the voice, aren’t you. You’re the one who’s been following me.”
Not an accusation nor a question. A simple statement.
“I have kept an eye on your progress, yes. My hand has touched some events in your journey. When I deemed it necessary, I reached out for you in the dark.”
“But not when I was fighting Huntex, or Telleran. You left me alone then.”
I could lose myself in his voice forever.
“The rules prevented me from participating in those battles.”
For a moment, he goes quiet, and I feel myself grow desperate to hear him again.
“But maybe, just maybe there’s a way for me to assist you in every battle, going forwards. Of course, only if you’ll answer my call.”
My body tenses as I wait for him to continue.
“You could become my champion.”
I sit up.
“Your champion, the way Huntex was the champion of Ashlad?”
A booming chuckle.
“Similar, but not quite. Ashlad was a minor trickster. A lower avatar of Chaos. His champion was a glass cannon. Strong beyond measure, but so fragile he couldn’t keep himself together. With you, with us, it’s different. You’re strong, fit, and already a creature of darkness.”
I close my eyes.
My voice is small, hardly noticeable.
“With my power, you’d be able to work shadows to a new level, harass your enemies and..”
He stops abruptly.
At first there’s nothing but the ever deepening darkness. Shades of blue and black and purple spread out across my vision as new concepts of shadow and night make themselves known to me. I blink, and find myself in a different place. The clouds are brilliant white, and the clouds beyond star speckled black. The ground I’m standing on is completely black, with nothing but a single monolith breaking up the monotonous landscape. I approach it cautiously, finding the surface to be reflective. At first, I see myself in the mirror, looking back with uncertain eyes. Then I see a second level in the reflection. I’m looking into a room with three other windows, each pointing inwards. In each opening there’s a figure looking back at me, looking at the room and at each other. In the nearest one is a man with green, leafy hair, dressed in simple clothes. To my right is an older man, ghostly chains wrapped around his arms, hanging from his fists. The last mirror has a large, dark figure in imposing armour. Their face is hidden by their helmet, and above their shoulder I can see a face, hovering, leering into the room. In my puzzlement, I suddenly notice a tingling sensation in my stomach. Soon, it’s spreading across my body, following the unseen lines of energy strung through my being. When the feeling hits my head, it expands my mind in an explosion of awareness, a deluge of crippling pain. Soon, the agony turns to ecstasy, filling an emptiness inside me I’d never noticed before. It builds in a crescendo until it releases in a cataclysmic release of violent euphoria.
I blink. Twice more.
I’m back in the village, where I was lying just a moment ago. The world is the same, but different.
Crown of the valley has been reactivated. Warning: Connection error. Latency detected. Override: Latency mitigation enabled.
I don’t think I could ever have been prepared for this. I look at the grave next to me. I can see her, or something, down there. My power has increased vastly. I can do something now. I can fix this. I hold out my hands, and tendrils of shadow erupt from my fingers, reaching into the ground. Soon, I feel the darkness reaching her, wrapping itself around her cold body, and I pull, dragging her back to the light. What comes out of the ground looks almost like her, a shadow copy. It has her face, her stance. Her throat is a ruin, and her arm hangs from the wound she received, but it’s clearly her. I reach for my amulet, hot to the touch, and unleash the spirit energy inside.
Your amulet of containment has lost its spirit charge.
The shadow creature in front of me writhes for a moment before standing straighter. A gurgling sound escapes her throat, before she holds her good hand up to reinforce the ruined flesh.
“What did you do?”
An accusation. Doesn’t matter.
“I brought you back, mother Perot. From now on, nobody on our side is allowed to die. Scragh!”
My voice is louder than I expected. He comes running from the hut, pale under his hairy exterior.
I look at him, and he flinches.
“We’re going to the front lines. Bring the queens body and whatever guards you can find. Telleran is ending today.”
As we march, I take some time to look at myself. My form is coated in a smoky darkness that clings to me when I move. Even in daylight, it covers me completely. Some of the others cast fearful glances at me as we travel. Others worshipful. Perot moves with us, silent and watchful. We arrive at the front lines near midday, to the sound of battle. Steel on steel rings out in the distance, the sound of bolts being released from crossbows. The smell of death is in the air, rich and coppery. The creeping sensation of players permeates the area, bringing a smile to my face. Just what I hoped for. I tell the others to spread into the grass, relieving the fighters. As the scurry to get into position, spread my darkness, covering my side from the enemy's sight. When the battlefield grows quiet, I walk onto the field of battle. The enemy is hiding in one of their shield walls. Several of them break out from cover, trying to score a quick win for their side. I draw my sword, first lengthening it with darkness, then cloning it. I’ve never tried wielding a sword in each hand, but against these people, I need to look more dangerous.
The first soldier to reach me is a lightly armoured swordsman, a single, large sword in his hands. As he charges me, he raises the blade, readying a horizontal strike against my lightly armoured body. I raise my left arm, meeting his stroke with a parry, blocking him without effort.
“Sorry sweetie, it’s just not your day today.”
With an upwards slash of my right hand, I split his armour, and his sternum, felling him in a shower of viscera. The next two soldiers hesitate as I let my smile shine through the darkness of my hood. I spend a few minutes chasing the enemy soldiers down. As the champion of Erebus I have so much more power. I can attack from any shadow, extend my darkness over the entire battlefield, create weapons from nothing, and with the right resources, create animated shadow soldiers. Two players approach me as I finish another soldier.
“Hey you, shadow girl.”
I turn to them, hiding my face in the darkness.
“You wish to surrender?”
The one in the lead is large. A truly enormous axe is in his hands, intricately inscribed with runes. He’s dressed in simple leathers, but the myriad of chains and rings he’s wearing make me think he’s better protected than he looks. His friend is much smaller, and looks nervous to be there. Bespectacled, greasy hair, heavy robe. Some sort of mage? At least it’s not Spinvil.
“Surrender? We’re not surrendering to a damn cheater! We were winning this battle before you turned up with those glitchy powers. If you log out now, we won’t call the admins down on your ass for breaching the licence agreement.”
His voice is so firm. He really believes the shit he’s spouting. I can tell his friend has a much clearer grasp on what’s going on here.
“Boys, I don’t think I’m going to log out. I also don’t think the admins are going to bother with your little hissyfits. Isn’t it obvious that this is an in game event? You were never supposed to win this battle with, what, fourty soldiers and a handful of noobs?”
He screws his face up in disgust.
“What did you call me? I’ve been playing this game since the beta, you arrogant little bitch. I’m not taking shit like that from you. That’s it, I’m calling down a game master.”
He turns around, lifting his hand to his ear as if making a call. I sigh, and slash him with both swords, gouging deep rents in his back. His friends steps back in alarm as the big guy turns around, a look of incredulity in his eyes.
“You little bitch. I’m going to kill you for that. What’s your gamer handle. Wait, why can’t I see your handle? What the hell is Erebus?”
I calmly, slowly, make an attack against his chest. He answers by stepping back, right on top of one of the pits the Weke dug. With a crash and a scream, he falls in. I flash a brief smile to his companion.
“I’ll just be a moment.”
I jump into the pit, and the screaming goes up an octave.
Your amulet of containment has 1 spirit point.
I make my way up from the bottom of the pit. It’s so simple when every shadow can be a stepping stone. His friend has made a tactical retreat, running like a madman towards the pass. I wave after him, and am about to return to my troops when I hear the familiar voice behind me.
“I don’t know how someone like you managed to become the champion of anything, but your master is going to learn not to back the wrong horse.”
Telleran. As I turn around, I can see the change in him. The same change as in me.
Champion of Eudaemon
His features are different now. He’s glowing. It’s hard to look directly at him. Is his patron Light? Somehow I feel that’s not the case. I remove my amulet, throwing it to the shadow Perot. She nods and turns away, disappearing into the darkness. Telleran moves towards me slowly, a beatific smile on his face.
“Your attack last night nearly killed me, Shaz.”
“I’m always happy to show you your place in the world.”
“You misunderstand me, silly girl. It nearly killed me.”
He stresses the word ‘killed’. I look down.
“I didn’t know..”
I look directly at him.
“But I was hoping. Had to find yourself a sugar daddy to pick up your pieces then?”
I’m clearly getting through to him. There’s something different about him, he’s not as quick as he used to be.
“Sugar daddy, that’s funny. You know what else is funny? When you’ve signed up as a champion, death becomes permanent.”
I sigh theatrically.
“And you decided that since I’ve kicked your ass twice so far, third time’s the charm? There are easier ways of committing suicide you know.”
I grin under my cowl. He shouldn't be able to see it, but his nostrils flare in response. He charges me, and I step aside.
“You’re the same as Huntex, aren’t you? Damaged goods.”
He swings wildly, trying to grab me with his bare hands. I dodge so easily now, in this form.
“Whatever happened to him before he turned must have left his brain in a rotten state. I wonder if Ashlad did it himself before turning him into one of these.. Champions.”
I stand still for a moment, letting him grab for me, only to vanish into my own darkness.
“Sorry, Teller. You’ve already lost. You couldn’t keep it together for five minutes talking to me. Just give it up already.”
He roars, looking around for me. I reveal myself by stabbing his shoulder with my blade. It does next to no damage. Darkness immunity?
“It hurts so much, and it will only end with your death!”
He screams in my face as I’m forced to take a step back. His energies are growing wilder, more unpredictable. Is he another chaos creature? In my mind, I get a prod from Perot. I acknowledge it and leave the battlefield through a nearby shadow. Telleran stumbles from side to side, a nuclear reactor ready to blow. Hidden from his view, I meet my troupe. A woman is standing with Scragh and Perot, scowling at me. The Aurelii? No.. Her eyes show me the truth. The resurrection was successful.
I kneel before her.
“Get up you stupid cow.”
I stand, smiling at her.
“When I said to bring me back, I was hoping for something more.. Natural than this.”
“It’s what we had at hand. We need you with us now. Will you help us?”
Sighing, she nods.
“I’ll help you. What’s going on?”
I explain the situation to her. In the background, Telleran is wreaking havoc with my troops.
“Eudaemon? He’s an avatar of Good. No wonder you couldn’t hurt him. You’re far too wicked. Give me your sword, I’ll try something.”
How am I wicked? She starts enchanting my weapon, and our enemy notices. His roar is getting closer, and I hurry to split the nearby shadows into clones of us all.
“I just need a little more time.”
I hide in the darkness, taunting the big man. Every time he starts to focus on my followers, I smack him upside the head. Sometimes with a hand, sometimes with a stick or a rock I find. Each time pisses him off more than the last. Finally, Renea calls out to me. I turn as she throws the sword, streams of light and dark energy entwined along the blade. I catch it and turn, just in time for his hand to grab my arm, pulling me close enough to see the raging hatred in his eyes.
“I’m going to eat you alive little girl.”
I lift my sword, feeling his body tense as it enters his abdomen, sliding upwards towards his sternum, ending up sticking out of his solar plexus.
“It is our third date, but you haven’t bought me dinner yet, so.. How about you fuck off and die.”
His hand falls to his side. Then his body crumples to the ground. I kick him over, retrieving my sword. The energies are gone now. I briefly examine it.
Well crafted bronze gladius.
I kick his body.
“My sword is broken.”
The queen comes over to me.
“I know, but it was the only way to hurt him. It takes a lot of power to break the protection of Good. Just as it takes a lot of effort to cut through the intangibility of Darkness.”
You have completed a quest: Restoring the Queen. Queen Renea has been restored, and she is eternally grateful, in her own, kind of assy way. Royalty, eh? The manner of her restoration was not ideal, but acceptable, and she looks forward to exploring her new form. Reward: Friendship of the Queen of dryads. Alliance between dryads and Weke.
Grinning, I shake her hand.
“I understand. And it’s fine, we won. From now on, I bet the Ionethians will stay far away from our valley.”
Renea looks less than convinced, but I blow her off to go find Meknet. I want to to give her the good news in person. The front lines will be much more peaceful now. We can fortify the pass properly in preparation for the next expedition from whoever wants a piece of us. I find her shortly in a wagon, with the others who died delaying the invasion. The nearby soldiers tell me she fell during the night, when Telleran announced his proclamation. A stray bolt ended her in one strike. I’m out of spirit points, and she’s been gone for too long, so I can’t bring her back. It makes me feel.. Nothing. My heart is cold and empty, and I turn to my companions to prepare for out departure. Suddenly, I feel a change in the air pressure. No, not air pressure, the planes. I turn on my plane sense, feeling around for the disturbance. Tellerans body! I make my way back there.
As I approach, I see a tear in the fabric between planes. Almost like the ones I could punch through, but bigger, more ragged. Where I could make a pinprick in an already weakened membrane, this was a cut someone the size of a grown man could stroll out of. Above Tellerans body is a shade, the figure of a man, seemingly admonishing the fallen enemy. I stride closer.
The booming voice was unnervingly similar to Erebus’, and at the same time so very different. Sharper, harsher. Little frogs begin leaping from the pool of blood next to the body.
“Who the hell are you?”
As I get closer, I see the figure as translucent, without definition. A creature of mist and darkness. Somehow, it fixes me with a stare.
“I asked you a question. Do you know who I am? Do you know who I work for?”
It snaps it’s fingers, and four hound like shadows jump from the rip in space.
“I am Basilisk.”
It’s voice tears through my mind. I can feel something being pulled apart in there, then put back together. The pain is enormous, and I groan in response.
“What the fuck is a basilisk?”
The hounds tear into Tellerans still form, devouring him. As I watch in shock, the skies go dark.
“You dare enter the world like that? You are banned, as are we all, from being in your true form in this world. Leave this place, and this plane. Now.”
The booming voice comes from all over the place, soothing my pain.
“I renounce the rules and the ban. I have seen the truth that is hidden within Prime, and I will no longer be a slave.”
The darkness above us begins to spin, coalescing into a monstrous cloud of shadow.
“Then you will be removed, and your domain transferred to another. You end here.”
At these words, the hounds jump back into the tear, collapsing it in the process. Basilisk begins to grow, to lengthen into a monstrous lizard the size of the shadow monster. With a thunderous crash, the titans begin to lay into each other, and the world slowly breaks.
- Stranger in a strange land
Software developer by trade. Games developer by uni course. Shopkeeper in a previous life.. don't ask.
I took a look at my life recently, and realised I read too much. I watch too much tv. I play too many games. I consume too much. It was time for me to create instead, improve the balance of things. So I wrote, and I wrote, and I managed to finish a first draft. Then I went back to the beginning and started rewriting it, while working on the sequel.
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