Queen of Ashes

by

Desphinx

The Ruins of Arelia pt. 4

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Liri's first order of business was to find him. When she'd last seen the Grand King, she was laying on the floor, a broken mess watching her almost-killer apathetically walking away. It wasn't a memory she wanted to revisit but it did serve to provide some sense of direction. She'd have to go to the northern side of this labyrinth-like ruin, the only portion of the location that she thought she hadn't explored.

Wasting no time, she outright ignored any strange noises she heard that likely belonged to the creatures she'd been exterminating the past couple of days.

As she passed by strangely designed rooms and halls, no real thought came through her mind. Instead, it was like all she could focus on was her own breathing. A slow inhale, a slow exhale, an action she may not be able to take once this day is over.

After a long time of aimless walking, she was back in that chamber. The white crystal that had drawn her there was still floating up, the box, the prison, that contained the Grand King was still open. Just being here made Liri's skin crawl. Still, she searched for the direction her enemy may have gone. North, where there was a large, half-moon gate separating the chamber from a place Liri hadn't even noticed before.

She cautiously made her way through it, only to be stunned into stillness by what she saw.

The walls and ground went from stone to rocks and dirt. The blue-flame torches became glowing sapphire flowers, so large they could have filled several of the rooms Liri had walked through to get here. Whereas she'd been in a city, this place looked like an entirely different land hidden beneath a dirt ceiling.

An underground expansion.

Sprawled out, decorated meticulously, were hundreds and hundreds of graves. This was some sort of cemetery.

Ahead, Liri could hear something but only if she focused past the sounds of insects chirping away. And still, despite how otherworldly it was here, the same sense of dread remained. Like Liri could feel the anguish of each of the bodies resting in the graveyard before her.

She walked up to a few tombstones.

Leras of Arelia, Farmer 76 2E - 107 2E

Tol of Arelia, Butcher 67 2E - 107 2E

Artes of Arelia, Student 96 2E - 107 2E

"They all died on the same year. Same as the soldier from before." Liri said aloud, realizing the connection between each date. "But... How? Didn't they repel the attack?"

She stayed still until a small rumble behind her made her spin on her heel. When she saw the source, she gaped. Two things made her lips tremble, just one would have been enough to get the job done, but she saw both.

Level 1

HP: 87/87

A rabbit munching away at some exotic looking fruit, hanging from a bush that hugged one of the graves.

Liri almost cried.

The rabbit ate peacefully until a Fireball flipped it on its back. The next moment, there was a ravenous woman stabbing away at it with an Iron Sword.

Food. Liri thought as she dealt unrelenting blows on her prey. FOOD!

When it was clear the rabbit wasn't about to start moving again, she nearly ripped its leg off. A part of her didn't want to take the time to peel the fur off but she held on to what small amount of restraint she had in her before taking in the meal.

As blood flowed down her lips, dripping off her jaw, she did cry this time. She looked to her right and saw that there wasn't just one fruit, but many hanging off the same bush. She hadn't seen it before, it was brown and almost hairy, but the section that the rabbit had bitten off was what made her keep staring. Some strange liquid, like white water, was sliding off the edge. Liri halted her devouring of the rabbit to sip some of it. The white liquid became pinkish when it came into contact with Liri's bloody lips, but she'd be damned if it wasn't one of the best things she'd ever tasted.

Effect Gained: Well-Fed

Effect Lost: Starving

When she finished, she looked around. Quickly, she inspected each of the other bushes circling the tombstones only to find that yes, these had that same fruit as well. That, coupled with the fact that if that rabbit was here there were certain to be more around the area, made Liri fall to her knees.

Ultimately, she had no guarantee that killing the Grand King would cause the barriers at the city's exits to disappear, so even if somehow she managed to accomplish that impossible feat, she could have still died of hunger.

But now there was hope. The hope that even if she couldn't leave still, she may be able to survive for a few more days before finding another way out.

She stood, willing herself not to gorge on the rest of the fruits in the vicinity. She had to continue her mission. This would be for nothing if the Grand King killed her.

As Liri continued to walk, the sound from earlier began to grow increasingly loud. To the point where she could distinguish exactly what it was. Someone was crying. Sobbing, up ahead.

Liri's eyebrows furrowed. The path she was on extended all the way to one, glowing end. Illuminated by the rarest vegetation Liri had ever seen, ahead was a single tombstone, larger than all the others, with a nearly-giant figure hunched over it.

That was where the crying was coming from.

As she drew closer, Liri stopped. She recognized its back. She'd seen it once before, walking away after nearly killing her. It was the Grand King.

A choked breath escaped Liri's throat. Her hands were shaking, her legs unsteady, her head slightly dizzy.

This was it. With a thought, she checked her information.

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 109/109

Mana: 55/55

Stamina: 62/ 62

[Effects]:

Well-Fed (HP regenerates moderately faster)

[Attributes]

VIT: 3

END: 3

INT: 11

STR: 3

DEX: 12

AGL: 0

L: 3

[Traits]

Waste of Space

Slow Learner

Skeleton Hunter

[Skills]

Block (has a chance to miss or be ineffective based on opponents AGL, DEX and AD rating)

Heavy Attack

[Spells Learned]

Oakheart, Shadowform, Soft Heal, Fireball

She looked down at her weapon.

Kairo (Unique, Enchanted): 33-49 AD

Requires 12 DEX

(Sneak Attacks leave any enemies damaged at half health. Enchantment still occurs without minimum Dex)

(1/6 Charges)

Liri gulped.

Okay. I'm here. She thought. What do I do? Of course, initiating the fight was as simple as walking up to the large being and saying "hey, I'm still alive", but what Liri meant was her strategy.

Even though it was all she could think about on her way here, like, when to attack, how defensive should she be, which spells to use and when she was still at a loss due to one simple fact.

Their first "fight" had ended so decisively, Liri did not know exactly what this monster was capable of.

As far as she could tell, it could easily wipe her from existence with just a glance in her general direction. Liri had to sneak up to it to get Kairo's effect off, but if she failed, that was probably the end for her.

But it was time. She was here, and she was as ready as she was going to be.

I'll stay back. Let him show his hand. When he does, I'll deal back anything that could be effective. He can kill me in one hit, but maybe with Oakheart I can extend that to two. With Shadowform, maybe I can get out of a few tough situations.

She stepped forward, as cautiously as she could, trying her hardest to level her feet in such a way where her footsteps went unheard. Immediately, something appeared over the monster.

Level 60

HP: 515/515

As she cautiously kept going, the crying ceased and the Grand King turned slightly. Liri froze. Every hair on her body was standing as the King went back to crying (over what? Liri had no idea).

I wouldn't stand a chance without Kairo. Because I have it, I can start this fight off with him at around 200 HP. At that point, if each attack of mine deals between 33 and 49 AD, it should take around eight hits to bring him down. That's without counting the Skeleton Hunter trait, but I don't know if that applies to him.

Liri, dressed in bloody, damn near torn off sleepwear, gripped her small sword tightly. She let at least a few seconds pass between each step she took. And still, she wondered if that was enough.

The Grand King's back was directly in front of her almost before Liri could even register. Its cries were ear-shattering now, haunted by some long passed trauma that apparently, the skeleton still felt.

This was it. Now was the time. Liri took slow, deep breaths. The fight would start as soon as she made the decision to plunge Kairo into this thing. A slightly cynical voice in her mind whispered that maybe, just maybe, her blade would slip between bones and be utterly ineffective.

But, raising the sword up, she brushed that thought off. She'd fought skeletons before. That hadn't happened yet, that wouldn't happen now.

She stabbed him.

A piercing roar was let loose and a burst of blueish haze sent Liri back easily. However, as Liri fell, she made sure to keep her eyes open, trying to see whether or not her attack worked.

Level 60

HP: 252/515

The Grand King, still raging at the sheer disrespect of the attack, looked up between itself and Liri in a clear double-take. Liri smirked.

He began floating in the air and suddenly, its black robe raised as a blue aura exploded out of him. It pushed Liri back a few steps once more, forcing her to her knees as her bare heels slid across the dirt floor. Looking up, she saw the same weapon that was already terrifying enough, ablaze in a blue flame. The Grand King's eyes were on fire in much the same way.

Liri raised herself just as she noticed that her enemy had raised his weaponless hand. She'd fought enough skeletons to recognize the mannerism. She jumped to her left, just in time to avoid a blue Fireball, larger than any she'd seen so far. The heat as it fell on the ground to her side was enough to get her sweating without even having taken the hit.

The Grand King didn't stop there and Liri was forced to run around, hopping and rolling her way out of several of the same projectiles.

The barrage stopped, Liri looked up just in time to see the Grand King literally flying towards her. She yelped and threw herself back, narrowly avoiding having been decapitated.

She was genuinely considering running away, back to the safety of the Library in the city behind her, but once she looked back, she noticed that the same barrier that had prevented her from leaving Arelia was now preventing her from leaving this fight.

She turned back towards the Grand King, only to see that he had closed the distance and was now raising his sword above her.

"Shadowform!" She yelled, the sword passed right through her, but the Grand King was raising his sword again in preparation of another attack.

He was timing her exit.

Recognizing this, Liri ran into him, using the last second of her spell to pass behind him. Immediately, he swung his sword in a backward spinning attack, but Liri had already created a fair bit of distance between them. She stumbled back, falling on her butt as she stared at the raging figure. Hoping for the briefest of respites, she raised her arm and threw a Fireball in its direction. The attack landed but made no real difference in her opponent's posture. A message appeared.

Mana: 20/55

The Grand King stomped towards her, charging with his sword raised. Liri was on the floor. She stared at him with wide eyes as he brought his sword down. With no time, all Liri could do was raise Kairo and hope to block it.

The sheer force of the strike pushed Liri's arm back, dipping Kairo and allowing the Grand King's blade to embedd itself in her left shoulder. She had just narrowly gotten her head out of the way.

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 50/109 (-1)

Effect Gained: Wounded (-1 HP per 3 seconds)

Liri screamed in pain. She swore she could hear the Grand King laughing. He raised his sword up, about to deliver another strike, but this gave Liri the time to get up and sprint away.

The Grand King briefly did not chase her, watching her instead like a large animal that knew its prey was already defeated.

"Soft Heal." Liri spoke and a white light enveloped her left shoulder.

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 70/109

Effect Lost: Wounded

She continued running, knowing the Grand King could fly to her at any moment.

She ran out of space when she reached the coffin he had been crying over. Liri turned, watching as he slowly made his way up to her.

Mana: 12/55

Shit! My mana is almost gone, what do I do! Her eyes widened as she remembered the belt around her waist. Wasting no time, she reached for one of the two remaining blue potions.

Mana: 55/55

As she finished drinking, the king was right in front of her. Again, it raised its sword. Does he not know I just used this thing? Or maybe... He doesn't know what it does. Liri wondered as she whispered the same spell as before.

"Shadowform". And the blade passed by her all the same.

However, this time, it plunged into the coffin behind her.

Immediately, an explosion happened that knocked the Grand King all the way back to the barrier.

What? Liri watched as the Grand King groggily got on its knees. Liri turned, finding that in the now-broken coffin was the body of a beautiful woman, preserved even after what Liri assumed were hundreds of years. What the...?

She shook her head though. The king was weak. Now was her chance.

She ran as fast as she could. Raising Kairo into the air, just as the Grand King got on his feet, she stabbed the small sword into his back.

"Ahhhhh!" The Grand King screeched in pain.

Level 60

HP: 213/515

Liri didn't stop there. She was surprised to find out how light Kairo was, a lightness that allowed her to continue with a second and third attack.

Level 60

HP: 189/515

Liri was bloodthirsty. She could end this right now with enough quickness. All she needed were around four or five more hits. But, before she could continue further, the Grand King spun with an attack that launched Liri all the way across the room.

She slammed into a dirt wall, sliding down inelegantly.

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 10/109 (-2)

Effect Gained: Grievous Wounds

Liri felt that the right side of her abdomen had been cleaved open. She looked down to find her blood pooling beneath her.

"S-Soft Heal." She muttered.

[Status]

Level 13

 

HP: 30/109 (-1)

Effect Lost: Grievous Wounds

Effect Gained: Wounded

Again, she whispered.

"Soft Heal."

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 50/109 (-1)

Effect: Wounded

Wasting no time as she saw that the Grand King was about to fly towards her, eager to finish the job, she drank from her last blue potion.

"Come on." She muttered. "COME ON!" This time, her voice reverberated around the cemetery. The Grand King raised his sword as he flew towards her, meeting her challenge.

Liri closed her eyes.

This was it. She had one more trick up her sleeve. Something she thought of literally a second ago. There was a large chance that it would not work, especially if the Grand King saw fit to simply throw more of those blue Fireballs at her, but the way it flew, at that moment, with what looked like a hungry grin, Liri guessed the man was simply too crazed at this moment to think about it.

Maybe when he was alive, Liri wouldn't have been able to perform what she did next.

As his blade went up, she spoke.

"Shadowform." Predictably for both parties, the blade passed by her, this time the king took a step back, anticipating her escape. Only, Liri didn't escape. Instead, as her "Shadowform" faded, she shouted. "Oakheart!"

As the king, notably confused, brought the blade down on her, Liri raised Kairo with her left hand, her off-hand.

It stopped the blow.

"Agh!" Liri still fell on one knee, she was sure her left arm was broken, but both parties stood still. The Grand King gazed down at Liri.

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 21/109 (-1)

Effect: Wounded

Liri smiled. Using her Heavy Attack, she switched her blade to her right hand and plunged Kairo into the monster.

Level 60

HP: 159/515

It yelled, raising its sword high, but Liri didn't stop. She was going to die now, but she'd take this bastard down with her.

She stabbed him once more.

Level 60

HP: 124/515

The Grand King dropped his monstrous blade. Liri attacked him twice, before finally, with a roar that could have been mistaken for having belonged to the Grand King himself, Liri stuck him one last time.

HP: 0/515

He stepped back, gazing at the sword that was still in his bone gut. A blue aura began to circle him. His view never strayed from Kairo. The aura continued swirling around him, until it picked him up, carrying him in the wind.

Liri watched with a smile as the Grand King began struggling against nothing.

Something appeared to her right, and Liri glanced to find a ghostly, feminine figure calmly floating towards the Grand King. The woman in the coffin.

They made eye contact and soon the undead king was trying to back away.

Once they were in each other's breathing space, the woman hugged him. However, rather than being an endearing act, it made the Grand King explode.

His bones rained down on the surrounding area, a few falling near Liri's legs.

It was over, he was dead. And well, so would Liri, in a moment. Satisfied, she closed her eyes, not even bothering to check her status and simply waiting for it to happen.

"How ironic." A voice said. Liri slowly opened her eyes to reveal the woman from the coffin, kneeling right in front of her. Liri would have scurried backward in fear if she could have. "That one of your kind, the same that made it so, would be the one to free Arelia from its shackles."

Liri tilted her head.

"Hm? Nothing to say? Sad. I hoped for just a little conversation. This is a rather strange situation. In different times, someone like you would be executed for being in my presence. Now, I come to you willingly. It is very poetic."

Liri's eyes closed.

"Hm... As much as my intuition tells me to leave you to die, I fear that times have changed if they, maybe our sister city in the south, have brought one of your kind to be a real human's savior. Which would mean that I would be committing an act of evil in leaving you, this of course, in addition to the fact that you saved us. All of us. So take it, young one. Enjoy this second chance. You have earned it."

A blue sphere circled Liri.

She gasped.

[Status]

Level 13

HP: 109/109

Mana: 55/55

Stamina: 62/ 62

"Yes, that will do." The woman said. "Now that the undead are free to rest, any of them you kill from here on out will remain dead. Arelia... It could be rebuilt. But, that is your matter to pursue should you wish. I go with my husband, and together, we will finally rest. Oh, one last thing. In my coffin should be my royal weapon. You can't use it, most likely, but it should serve you well in the future. Goodbye, peculiar hero."

With that, the woman's figure disappeared. Liri stood up. She was fine. Her wounds were gone, but not her scars. Still, she shed many tears at the revelation.

She looked to her left and saw two things that stunned her. The barrier was gone and from the tombstones, hundreds of souls were flying into the air, disappearing through the dirt ceiling. Liri laughed. How? Why? She barely registered any of what the woman had said, she had been too busy dying.

In front of her, the Grand King's pile of bones sat on the ground. She stood above them, and a "!" popped up.

Important!

For defeating a foe that was vastly superior to you, EXP gained will continue past your next level up, meaning you have leveled up more than once! Check your [Attributes] now to see what you can do!

From the Grand King's body, a blue thread formed between Liri and his bones.

Spell Learned! Flame of Arelia

Launches a blue-flame Fireball

50 - 60 MD

Liri remembered the last thing the woman said and quickly raced to her coffin. Where a beautiful figure had slept, now ashes remained. And sitting on top of them were two objects. One, a thin, elegant sword and the other, a sort of black outfit.

Arelia's Grace (Unique): 60 - 80 AD (Requires 30 DEX to use)

Liri gaped.

She grabbed it and tied it to her belt, though she certainly could not use it, and looked at the other object. She raised it up, showing off a black, long-sleeved shirt and a black dress.

Arelia's Veil (Unique, Enchanted)

Enchantment: Shields you from any spell that costs less than 15 mana

"YES!" Liri yelled out at the empty cemetery.

She had done it, and if that barrier that disappeared was any indication, she was free to leave the city.

 

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About the author

Desphinx

Bio: Hey there, if you are at all interested in slightly above-average work then, you have come to the right profile!

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