Thorn could feel the crimson tendrils of fury creeping up into his brain, driving their way into his head. Fighting back against the pain, Thorn gritted his teeth so hard he heard them creak. No matter how angry he was, no matter how much he wanted to get back at Ouroboros for sacrificing him to Karrandaras, Thorn had no desire to become a bloodthirsty monster like Gargish.
"I am more than my pain!" he growled, pounding a fist into the ground so hard his knuckles split open and blood splattered across the ground.
[WHY DO YOU FIGHT, MORTAL?! I WILL GIVE YOU THE POWER TO DESTROY THOSSE WHO BETRAYED YOU!]
"I am more than my body!" Thorn spat between gasps as he steeled himself against the bloody power trying to force its way into his mind.
[YOUR EFFORTSS ARE FUTILE, MORTAL! YOU HAVE BEEN SSACRIFICED TO ME AND YOU CANNOT ESSCAPE MY GIFTSS!]
"My body bends to my will!" Thorn roared.
As the crimson tendrils broke past his defenses and began to penetrate his mind, a loud buzzing burst forth from his bag, and the ancient inheritance token he had picked up from Gargish appeared in the air in front of him. With his failing strength, Thorn reached his hand out and grasped it in his large fist as a gravelly voice rumbled by his ear.
"Let the earth help you, little friend." An amber glow darted from Thorn's forehead, wrapping the silver token in a honey-colored light. With a bright pulse, the crack running down the token closed, revealing the unbroken wolf's head, howling in front of the moon.
A cooling feeling burst from the token, like billowing waves of refreshing spring water. The cool power washed over him, extinguishing the burning blood power in his body. Terrified, the tendrils of crimson power tried to fight against the waves released by the token but were soon drowned, freeing Thorn from their grasp.
[NO! NOO! NOOOO!] screamed the spirit, unwillingly. [HOW COULD YOU HAVE THAT POWER! HE SHOULD BE DEAD!]
Bloody, Thorn could only stare as Karrandaras began to swell and grow larger. The archdevil's form condensed, huge amounts of red mist streaming out of the red-veined stone. Soon a massive clawed foot appeared, smashing down off of the altar onto the floor. With a roar, Karrandaras condensed more of his body, as if he was forcing his way through a barrier into the world.
Completely drained and unable to move, Thorn wracked his brain for some way to stop the archdevil from manifesting himself. Already, the sheer pressure emitted by the archdevil's foot and calf was almost too much for him, causing black spots in his vision.
As he was about to pass out, Thorn's eye caught a glint of silver from his palm. “That's right. This is the ancestral inheritance! But it is also a symbol of Hati, the Moon Wolf. It is unbroken, which means it might be able to purify the altar, like Velin said. I need to get it to the altar.”
Taking a deep breath, Thorn called up all the reserves of power in his drained body and drew back his arm. Mustering everything he had, Thorn hurled the token forward, sending it blurring through the air at the altar. Furious, Karrandaras roared and forced a hand into being in front of the silver token, doing his utmost to catch it.
With a tremendous ripping sound, the token smashed into the archdevil's powerful hand and broke straight through, leaving a scorched hole behind. Smashing into the altar, the coin buried itself in the stone with a loud crack.
Instantly, the same silver power that had washed away Karrandaras' corrupting influence on Thorn burst forth in massive waves, washing away the red veins from the stones in the walls and floor. Howling, Karrandaras' hand and foot started to fragment, and his condensing form began to scatter.
[MORTAL, YOU WILL PAY FOR THISS WITH YOUR LIFE!] screamed the archdevil, turning his burning gaze on Thorn. However, before he could make a move, a deep growl alerted him that something was not right. Behind him, darkness gathered onto the altar and swirled together into the form of a massive wolf.
[YOU...YOU...YOU ARE DEAD!] stammered Karrandaras, his tone changing to fear.
Not giving him time to react, the giant wolf lunged forward, burying its massive teeth in the archdevil's blurring figure. With a scream of pain, Karrandaras faded, his figure blowing away like ash in a breeze.
Relieved, Thorn sat slumped on the stone floor. In his half-delirious state, he wondered if the red veins in the stones would be replaced by black veins. As his consciousness began to fade, he felt a warm breeze, and his muscles began to fill with energy. His mind cleared, and he found himself standing as if nothing had ever happened.
Facing a big wolf.
A really, really big wolf. In fact, somehow, its head took up his entire vision. Blinking, Thorn jumped to his feet only to realize that the stone floor he thought he was standing on was actually the rough nose of the giant wolf. Two massive silver eyes stared down at him, reflecting myriad thoughts and feelings. At times curious, at times cold and ruthless, at times warm and proud, the huge silver eyes seemed like giant moons rotating through their phases.
[Welcome, child.] A deep, warm voice echoed in Thorn's head. Instinctively, Thorn knew that the voice belonged to the wolf god whose nose he was standing on. [You have done well in breaking the seal of the betrayer. By slaying Gargish and repairing my holy symbol through the aid of Terberus, the Earth King, you gained my eye. By cleansing my temple from the corruption of Karrandaras, the Betrayer, you have gained my favor.]
"Thank you, uh, god?" Thorn did not know how he was supposed to refer to the wolf the size of the sky.
[Haha, you may call me Hati, child. Or Great Wolf.]
"Thank you, Great Wolf." This time Thorn bowed, his hand on his chest in the warrior's salute that Janus and Dovon had taught him.
[You have a powerful spirit, child. A spirit much stronger than most of the travelers we watch over.]
"We? Are there more gods than you?"
[Of course, there are more gods than me. While I am strong, I am not strong enough to care for everything in this great world. I rule over the night.]
"But I thought the gods were dead? Didn't they fall to the dragons at the end of the first era?"
[And who told you that child?] Hati chuckled, causing Thorn's body to shake. [The dragons were strong, for mortal beings, but they were no stronger than our avatars. No, we did not die, but we chose to step back from the world at the command of the High One to give the other species of the world the chance to flourish.]
"Is that why Karrandaras was able to take over your temple?"
[When I stepped back from the world, I left my avatar, Davyos, but as the years passed, the Betrayer corrupted his mind with dark whispers. Through an evil ritual, Davyos betrayed my favor, pledging himself to Karrandaras and turning his people against me. From then on, the corrupted wolfkin appeared in the world. Karrandaras gave them the power to assume human form, so they could mingle with the other races of the world while murdering and hunting their prey in secret. The beings you know as werewolves are corrupted wolfkin, remnants of Karrandaras' power in the world.]
"What about normal wolfkin? We fought some regular wolfkin in the tunnel leading to the temple. Are they corrupted as well?"
[No, child, those are remnants of my followers who still follow the old ways. They have hidden from the world and only appear to fight against the Betrayer's minions.]
"Oh." Thorn shifted. He had assumed that they had been enemies. "Sorry about that. I hope we did not harm you by killing them."
[Oh, child, I am a god. I do not need them to exist. Nothing apart from the High One can impact my existence. I am and will be. So long as this world exists, I will be here. The same is true for the other gods. Of course, I would rather you had not killed them, because I love all of my children, but it is not my place to question the will of the High One.]
"Who is this High One you keep talking about?" asked Thorn, relieved that he was not about to be eaten for accidentally shooting Hati's believers.
[That is not for you to know, child. It is sufficient for you to know that the High One is the beginning and end, and my master. Now, let us move on to more interesting business. I have watched you, and I am pleased. Therefore, I choose to grant you my essence. Henceforth, you shall be my presence on the world, my avatar. My fangs and claws will be by your side, my subjects will serve you, and my radiance will watch over you.]
"But didn't they steal my potential?" Thorn asked, downcast. "How can I be your avatar if I can’t master a class?"
[Child, no one can take your potential from you. Your potential has not been taken, it has been compressed. This makes it much harder for you to unleash it, but by no means is it gone. Do not despair, though the journey may be harder, though the road you tread may be longer, it is still possible for you to reach the peak. What I grant you is not a class. Rather it is a different path, a path that requires much of you.]
"Being an avatar is not a class?"
[No, anyone might be an avatar. It means that the essence of a god resides within them and that they are qualified to speak on behalf of that god to the world.]
"That means I can get a class, right?"
[Yes, child. Though, due to your unfortunate experience, you will be required to walk the path of mastery one step at a time.]
"You mean I can only take a single category class at a time? Doesn't that mean no mastery bonuses?"
[In a way. The strength of mastery is dependent on how well suited you are to a class. Say, for example, if you were to become a tailor. Your body is not suited for fine needlework, so even if you mastered the class, your mastery would not be as strong as if you were to master smithing. The same is true for a multi-category class. Because multi-category classes come with other people's mastery, they will never be as strong as abilities from classes you mastered yourself.]
"That makes sense, I guess. So it’s a quantity versus quality question. I mean, if I have a multi-category class, I can get one additional ability, but my abilities will not be as strong."
"Do you have any recommendations for what sort of class I should try for?" Thorn asked. "You're a god, so you should be able to tell what I am good at, right?"
[You are correct, I can see what you would be best at. However, it is not my place to interfere with your future in that way. All I can say is that patience is the key to choosing the best class. Now, it is time for you to return. Let us begin.]
Under Thorn's watchful gaze, the massive eyelids closed.
As the light from Hati's silver eyes grew dimmer, Thorn could feel power flowing into his body. Unlike the aggressive, invasive power Karrandaras' had tried to force into him, this power was warm and comforting, growing and strengthening him. His skin took on a silver sheen, and his muscles tightened, growing even stronger than they were before.
The silver light continued to stream toward him, wisp after wisp curling around his body until no more could force its way in. The extra energy began to gather around him, changing his equipment. His black armor glowed as the silver wisps remolded it.
Claws grew from the fingers of his gauntlets, as sharp as razors. The curling silver mist landed on his chest plate, engraving silver motifs of the phases of the moon. Around his head, wisps of energy condensed into a wolf head helmet.
Once the armor was formed, the rest of the silver energy condensed into ethereal forms of wolves and wolfkin, shifting and changing. Above his head, the phases of the moon formed. As Hati's eyes closed completely, and the world went dark, his deep, warm voice rang out in Thorn's mind.
[Wake, my champion!]
With a gasp, Thorn's eyes opened. He was back in the temple, slumped down on the floor in front of the altar. Vestiges of the multiple battles lay around him, and the broken altar was quiet. Tired beyond belief, Thorn struggled to keep his eyes open. Finally, he collapsed backward onto the cold stone floor.
When he woke up a few hours later, the room had reverted to its original state, the black stone altar shining dully now that the red streaks were gone. There was no sign of Karrandaras or anyone else, and even the marks of the battles they had fought were gone. The only things letting him know that his experiences were not a dream were the absence of Mina, Velin, Jorge, and Ouroboros and the deluge of notifications flashing in the bottom of his screen.
Title: Moon Wolf Avatar
Having cleansed the altar of Hati, the Moon Wolf, you have been granted a portion of his essence. Your Bloodline advances.
Ability: Avatar of the Wolf
Ability: Call the Pack
Ability: Blessing of the Moon
Title Advancement: [Moon Wolf Avatar] + [Lord Greymane (locked)]
Because you possess two associated titles, they have combined to form a new title. Title Abilities have been updated to reflect the new title.
Title Gained: Lord Greymane, the Moon Wolf
Title: Lord Greymane, the Moon Wolf
Having cleansed the altar of Hati, the Moon Wolf, and been granted a portion of his essence, you have met the conditions necessary to claim the title of Lord Greymane.
Ability: Avatar of the Wolf
Ability: Call the Pack
Ability: Blessing of the Moon
Ability: Presence of the Wolf Lord
Titles: [Battle Mad], [Wolfsbane], [Lord Greymane, the Moon Wolf], [Friend of the Earth]
Abilities: [Wolf Lord's Howl], [Avatar of the Wolf], [Call the Pack], [Blessing of the Moon], [Presence of the Wolf Lord]
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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.