Even before its voice faded, dozens of crimson lights flew from its body and splashed onto the floor, rising up as smaller versions of itself. Seeing them coming, everyone tightened their grip on their weapons and got ready for the fight. Without hesitation, Ouroboros dashed forward and slammed his shield and sword together, roaring out a challenge that drew the spirits' attention. Jorge blurred through the air, targeting one of the spirits at the back while Velin began buffing Ouroboros, and Mina began sending shards of ice at the approaching spirits.
Behind them, Thorn leveled his arbalest but, after seeing his bolt pass through one of the red spirits without doing any damage, he could only accept his inability to help in this fight. Instead, he paid close attention to the way Ouroboros and the others dealt with their enemies. As Ouroboros had explained, against spirit enemies normal weapons did no damage. As he watched, Thorn vowed to get an enchanted weapon as soon as possible.
At first, it seemed like the battle was going to end quickly, but, as Jorge stabbed his enchanted dagger into the last of the spirits, the altar once again exploded with crimson flame, and a wave of bloody energy spread throughout the room, collecting into a terrifying figure in front of the party.
[KNEEL MORTALSS AND I SSHALL MAKE YOUR DEATHSS PAINLESSS!] roared the horned devil.
"Not likely," spat Ouroboros, slamming his shield into the ground. "Same plan as usual, folks."
Two hands grasping his sword, Ouroboros charged out as Velin stepped up to the shield. Behind her, Mina was getting ready to unleash her deadly ice spells, and Jorge had already disappeared. As holy light once again enveloped Ouroboros, he began to engage the devil in a deadly dance.
Spinning and slicing, Ouroboros seemed to slip past every strike of the devil's claws, returning long cuts that began to bleed thick, steaming blood. Bits of flesh and blood splashed to the ground after every strike, corroding the stone floor. Coordinating with the Holy Guardian, Jorge would appear and disappear, harassing the devil from the sides to keep him from bringing his full offensive power to bear on Ouroboros.
With a roar, the devil lashed out, trying to create some space. Under his wild swings, Ouroboros was forced to give ground, taking two steps back. But, before the devil was able to make a move, a sheet of ice appeared under it, growing as it wrapped around the devil's feet, trapping it. As soon as it was stopped in place, ice spikes and thick crossbow bolts slammed into it.
Roaring with rage, the devil covered its head and chest with its arms, trying its best to break the ice at its feet. Red flames began to lick around its body, and with a stomp, the ice melted away. As Ouroboros was about to charge forward to engage it again, the devil unfurled two large bat wings from its back and rose up into the air, heading for Mina.
Seeing that it was coming over, Thorn shot another bolt at the flying devil only to see it dodge in mid-air. Brandishing its claws, it dove toward Mina, intent on destroying the Ice Witch. Before it arrived, Velin chanted out a phrase and swung down with her staff.
In the air above the devil, a golden hammer of light materialized and swung down, bursting with a righteous aura. Smashing into the devil's back, the hammer let off a sizzling sound as it burned into the devil's skin.
With a force that shook the room, the devil crashed to the floor. Excited, Thorn was about to step forward and start pummelling the fallen devil, but Mina pulled on his arm, so he backed up with her. Seeing that Mina and Thorn were backing away, Ouroboros charged forward again, his sword cutting into the devil's side as it struggled to its feet. Corrosive blood splashed from its wounds, pitting the floor as it landed.
With each slash, Ouroboros had to dodge as the splatters of blood began to corrode his armor. His sword, protected by holy energy, sizzled as it ripped into the devil's flesh. Behind the shield that he had planted earlier, Velin continued to chant, filling Ouroboros with power as he chipped away at the devil, who was struggling to get to his feet.
[FOOLISSH MORTALSS! YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME!]
With a roar, the devil forced Ouroboros back, pulling a shield of flame from the air to block the ice spikes and crossbow bolts shooting toward him. Standing to his feet, he summoned a ball of flame in each hand, shooting them at Mina and Thorn as he spread his wings to fly up into the air.
"Mina, keep him grounded!" Ouroboros shouted at the sight of the devil trying to take to the air again.
"On it!" Gritting her teeth at the incoming fireballs, Mina lifted her wand to point at the devil, chanting an arcane spell. With a thunderous crack, large ice spears attached to chains broke out of the ground, stabbing into the devil's legs and wings. By the time the chant finished, the fireballs were too close to block, leaving Mina nothing to do but close her eyes in resignation.
Hearing the explosion of the fireballs but feeling none of the pain that should go with it, Mina opened her eyes only to see Thorn's broad chest. At the last moment, Thorn had stepped in front of her, blocking the fireballs with this back. Thorn, seeming unharmed, was already loading up another bolt in his arbalest to shoot at the trapped devil.
"Weren't they hot?" Mina asked, confused by Thorn's unchanged expression.
"Huh? Oh, yeah," Thorn glanced down at his back, where his armor was glowing. "It stings quite a bit."
"Ah!" Mina chanted, sending a frozen breeze wrapping around Thorn to help cool his scalding armor.
"Thanks," said Thorn with a smile, shooting at the devil.
With the devil chained down, there was no way for him to dodge Thorn's bolts and Mina's ice spikes. The only thing he could do was try and block with a fire shield. Unfortunately for him, the fire shield could not eliminate the ice chains, but he could not drop the shield for fear of the team's projectiles, so the fight settled into an uneasy stalemate.
"Velin, how long do you need to end this?" asked Ouroboros, resting for a moment, his eyes locked on the struggling devil.
"Two minutes. But he has to be still."
"That’s too long. Let's deal with his wings first. Jorge, get that shield down!"
Standing up, the Holy Guardian lifted his sword in front of his face, murmuring a prayer. A glow began to build along the blade, sending rays of golden light shooting around the room. When he was done praying, Ouroboros dashed forward two steps and, with a powerful jump, launched himself into the air at the trapped devil.
Snarling, the devil focused all his energy on his shield, sending the flames into a frenzy. From a thin shell, the raging flames grew into a thick burning layer, completely hiding the devil from view.
As the shield grew stronger, Thorn stopped firing in frustration. His bolts were getting burnt up by the fire shield, so there was no point in continuing. Putting his arbalest down, he was about to charge forward and try to beat the devil to death when Mina grabbed his arm again.
"Stay back, this is an AoE attack!" Mina shouted, lifting her wand again.
In front of the sneering devil, Ouroboros was still flying through the air toward the fire shield. As he was about to hit it, Jorge appeared next to the shield, slashing out with the thick dagger in his left hand. With a loud cracking sound, a fissure ran through the shield in time for Ouroboros' sword to cut past it, cutting deep into the devil's shoulder.
Ignoring the devil's roar of rage, Ouroboros grasped the hilt of his sword, channeling holy energy into the devil's body. In an instant, the energy overflowed from the sword, burning through the devil and everything around. Even the stone floor underfoot caught fire, melting into a puddle.
Jorge, who had shadow jumped to safety behind Velin, wiped his forehead. He had been caught in that attack once and he never wanted to repeat the experience. Currently, the devil was undergoing the very experience that Jorge wanted to avoid, and his screams proved that Jorge's choice to move was the right one.
Standing amid the burning holy light, Ouroboros experienced none of the pain the devil was experiencing; instead, the light seemed to heal him of his fatigue, boosting his strength and encasing him in a formless armor. With a shout, the Holy Guardian pulled his sword out and sent slash after slash at the devil, who was trying to back up.
The holy energy had evaporated the ice chains holding the devil down, but despite being free, the devil lacked the energy to fly. His wings hung behind him, dragging on the ground. One of his arms was almost detached, and a giant gash ran from his shoulder into his chest, corrosive blood streaming down to join the melted stone on the floor.
"Mina!" Ouroboros shouted, taking a large step back. Mina, already ready, completed the chant she had started before Jorge had broken the devil's fire shield. With a whoosh, a blast of freezing air whipped around on the struggling devil, almost instantly dropping the temperature surrounding him to almost sixty degrees below zero.
The sudden change in temperature dealt massive damage to the devil, freezing its corrosive blood and locking its movement as the liquid stone froze around its feet, trapping it in place once again. Attack after attack rained down on the devil as the whole team started to go all out on offense. Even Thorn picked his arbalest and started firing again, sending bolts ripping through the air into the trapped devil.
Within only a few moments, the crimson devil finally fell, and the team moved back into their original formation in front of the altar. Thorn was once again astounded at how efficient their teamwork was. From beginning to end, they took everything in stride, adjusting their roles and abilities as needed. He was daydreaming about one day being able to work that with them when a voice brought him out of it.
"Thorn, can you come up here, please?"
The spirit over the altar had begun to boil in a weird way, so Thorn hurried over to Ouroboros, who had called him over. Reformed in the center of the altar, the bloody spirit they had seen when they first entered the room appeared and once again began to laugh.
[AHAHAHA! I TRULY UNDERESTIMATED YOU, MORTAL! BUT NO MATTER, YOU HAVE PASSSED MY TESST AND YOU ARE WELCOME TO THE REWARD! WHAT IS IT YOU WISSH FOR?!]
With another gleeful laugh, the spirit waved its hand, and a giant magical circle appeared under the five adventurers who were still standing in front of it. At the same time, five crimson flames flew out from the spirit and burrowed into Thorn, Ouroboros, Velin, Mina, and Jorge. Wrapping around and through them, the burning flames formed chains that did not keep them from moving or burn them.
"You are Karrandaras, correct?" asked Ouroboros, watching the blood spirit.
[SSO YOU KNOW ME! THEN YOU SSHOULD KNOW MY MIGHT AND POWER!]
"And I know your character," stated Ouroboros.
[AHAHAHA!] Karrandaras laughed, leering at Ouroboros as it swayed back and forth. [MANY HAVE CLAIMED TO KNOW ME, AND I HAVE FEASSTED ON THEIR SSOULSS! ENOUGH! WHAT ISS IT THAT YOU WISSH FROM ME?!]
"Knowledge and a boon." This time it was Velin who answered, her notebook in her hand. "I want the knowledge, and he wants the boon."
[KNOWLEDGE ISS A COSSTLY THING, ELF!] The spirit floated to face her. [WHAT YOU SSEEK MAY COSST MORE THAN YOU CAN AFFORD!]
"I am willing to trade a name," Velin flipped her notebook to an empty page, writing something down in an arcane script. "Will this suffice?"
[AHAHAHAHA! YESS! YESS! IT WILL SSUFFICE!] Twirling in glee, Karrandaras motioned, and the page was ripped from the book, flying through the air. Opening its mouth, the spirit extended its long, prehensile tongue and snatched the note from the air. [AHAHAHAHA! DELICIOUSS! ASSK YOUR QUESSTION, ELF!]
"I wish to know where to find the seed of the world tree," Velin said, her eyes locked on the spirit's fluttering form.
[VERY WELL, ELF! THE KNOWLEDGE ISS YOURSS!] With a flick of his finger, Karrandaras conjured a bright, bloody light the size of a marble, sending it flying at Velin, who caught it. Holding it against her forehead, she closed her eyes and concentrated. After a moment, her face paled, and she opened her eyes. Nodding at Ouroboros, she put the red marble away.
[AND YOU?! WHAT BOON DO YOU WISSH FOR?!] the spirit asked, turning its burning eyes on Ouroboros.
"I want the power of the Devil Blood Berserker," stated Ouroboros.
[YOUR WISSH IS GREAT, MORTAL! BUT EVERY BOON REQUIRESS GREAT SSACRIFICE! WHAT WILL YOU GIVE TO ACHIEVE YOUR DESSIRESS?!]
For a moment, Ouroboros stopped still, not moving. He could sense Velin's intense stare and, beyond it, Thorn's interested gaze. Closing his eyes for a moment, Ouroboros steeled his resolve and, his face white and his jaw clenched, pointed at Thorn's massive figure.
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Bio: My name is Seth Ring and I am a writer. I create worlds and tell the stories of those who inhabit them. I love exploring these new worlds with other people. I post a chapter every Friday around 12 pm EST. To get advanced access to chapters you can support me on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/SethRing.