“All done?” Patricia asked.
She was waiting outside the temple. Alone. It seemed her hunt for survivors bore no fruit.
The murderous ultimatum inside the temple was probably loud enough to be heard from the outside, but if Patricia heard it, she declined to comment on it.
As the demon walked down the stairs with Tanya in her arms, Amelia followed behind at a distance. Burdened with the knowledge that Lily could snap and go on a murder spree on a whim, she was starting to feel uncomfortable around the demon, hesitant to get too close. Patricia, on the other hand, didn’t seem to treat Lily any differently.
Amelia hadn’t noticed it until now, but despite Patricia’s apparently relaxed attitude, she never stood with her back to the demon. Not even once. Had she always done this? Amelia couldn’t remember a single instance where Patricia allowed herself to be in a vulnerable position near the demon, but then again, her memory wasn’t perfect.
“How much gold do we have?” Patricia asked, snapping Amelia out of her thoughts.
Amelia patted her pockets and pulled out a small coin purse. “4 silver pieces, and 19 coppers.”
It was 100 coppers to a silver, and 100 silver to a gold. Amelia’s stash of bandit gold was in her room when the fireball hit, and it was vaporized along with everything else she owned. Amelia only had her pocket change left.
“12 silver here,” Patricia said.
They both looked at Lily and the unconscious Tanya she was carrying. Lily wouldn’t bother with gold, and unless the panty-clad Tanya was storing her money somewhere unspeakable, 16 silver pieces was all they had to work with.
“I know a place,” said the dark elf, “It’s not luxurious but its cheap and clean. A lot of the patrons are… well they’re criminals, but I know the owner and it’s a deceptively safe place to sleep. Nobody is going to try to mug or rape us at least.”
“That sounds sketchy, can’t we stay in a normal inn?”
“At a price we can afford? No. Our other options in this price range are sketchier. Trust me, the place I’m suggesting is better. These are the sort of criminals that don’t like stirring up trouble. It’s a place meant for profit-motivated clandestine entrepreneurs to quietly discuss their business. They won’t cause problems inside their own safe space, it’s like the eye of a storm. Plus, I’m a dark elf and I have a certain amount of… let’s be generous and call it notoriety instead of infamy... Suffice to say, I’m fairly well respected among the other unloved members of society.”
Amelia sighed, she was too exhausted to argue, “Okay then, I don’t know this town as well as you do. We'll try out the criminal tavern. I guess we'll have Lily and Tanya to step in if there’s trouble.”
“I can handle myself too,” Patricia said, grinning smugly. “But like I said, there shouldn’t be any trouble.”
Midnight was approaching as Patricia led them through the shady part of town. They were in the same corner of the city as Elias’ house. Unlike his specific neighbourhood, the street they were walking along now was paved with cobblestone. Patricia led on with confidence, but Amelia found herself glancing nervously in the shadows of each alley. Lily was here, so hopefully she would scare off the dangerous folks.
They stopped in front of an old tavern. It looked like the oldest building on the street, with a frame of dark weathered wood and plaster coated walls covered in a spider web of cracks. A faint light was shining through the warped foggy windows on the main floor, but the overall building exterior didn’t look very welcoming. The sign hanging above the door read, ‘The Tarnished Blade.’
The foursome walked through the door, and Amelia quickly looked around. The whole place seemed to scream ‘secrecy.’ The lighting was dim, the tavern tables were spaced far apart, and any that were too close had wooden dividers between them. The few patrons awake this late (or this early) were keeping to themselves, sharing murmured conversations. Amelia noted the lack of a barmaid. It seemed patrons went to the bar to order drinks and took them back to their own private tables to drink.
The tavern’s namesake was displayed on a plaque mounted above the bar. There was… well… a tarnished blade. It was a two handed longsword, simple and unadorned. The entire thing was covered in a black patina, like an old tarnished piece of silverware.
The nighttime barkeep was another dark elf. Like almost all of his kind, he had white hair, a tall slender build, and youthful features. Compared to Patricia’s violet hued skin, this man had a darker blueish coloration. Just like Patricia, he too had golden amber eyes. Aside from being a member of a very rare subspecies of elf, he was otherwise unremarkable, wearing a brown vest over a white linen shirt and matching brown slacks.
“Well, if it isn’t Miss Patricia,” the barkeep said warmly. Amelia noticed a small hint of nervousness in his voice, “What brings you all the way to my humble little tavern? I’m afraid I haven’t found any more of those things your requested.”
When the barkeep noticed Amelia and Lily, his expression of forced friendliness wavered a bit, “And who have you brought with you today?”
“They’re with me, Nedrithel, don’t worry about it,” Patricia said, waving her hand dismissively, “I’m sure you heard the explosion. I’m not interested in dusty old artifacts right now. The four of us just need a nice safe room to stay a few days.”
“You want me to let them stay at my inn and not worry about them? I recognize who you have with you, you know.”
“Then why did you ask such a stupid question?” Patricia smirked.
“Because you were stupid enough to bring them here,” the barkeep sounded exasperated. “Yes I heard the explosion. It blew up gods’ know how much of the town. I’ve got businesspeople panicking, running around with their weapons drawn and accusing each other of breaking agreements, and now, in the middle of all this, you bring me the girl who was their target…”
“You don’t know she was their target…” Patricia interjected.
Nedrithel continued, “…and that’s not even mentioning the demon carrying a naked girl in an apron through my door…”
“She’s wearing panties,” Patricia said, as if that somehow made Tanya’s current state normal.
“Okay setting aside the exhibitionist and the monster, people are saying the Children are claiming responsibility for the attack. Who else could they be after besides the Chosen? Were there any other high status servants of the gods staying at the estate with you?”
“The Children of Kair Tarost are a bunch of idiots. They’re not the ones behind this, I assure you. Plus, you’ll have me staying here. I might be retired, but I still hear old stories about the Cerulean Witch from time to time. Nobody is going to stir up shit while I’m here.”
Nedrithel glared at Patricia for a few seconds, then he took his time to glare at Amelia, and Lily.
“Five silver a night, and you need to promise not to burn down my tavern.”
“That’s more than twice your usual rate Ned.”
“Five. Silver.” The dark elf said tersely. “You’re lucky I don’t charge you more.”
Patricia rolled her eyes and sighed, “Fine.”
The elf maid counted out ten silver pieces for two nights, and Nedrithel led them all upstairs. Amelia thought the room wasn’t half bad. It was spacious and clean, the straw stuffed beds looked to be in good shape. Five silver for a room like this was actually a good deal, despite Patricia’s complaints.
The room had four single sized beds. Lily immediately laid Tanya down in one, rolled her onto her side, and cuddled up behind her back. She wrapped her clawed arm around Tanya’s stomach, and nestled her head into the crook of Tanya’s neck before closing her eyes contentedly.
Patricia claimed her own bed and laid down above the covers. Taking a deep breath and finally allowing herself to feel her exhaustion, she stared at the ceiling in silence. Amelia laid down in her own bed and did the same. She was curious about Patricia’s ominous sounding nickname, but she didn’t have the energy to bother asking about it.
The girls lay in silence for a couple minutes before Patricia spoke, “So… who did you piss off?”
“Pardon?” Amelia asked.
“Two square miles of land burnt to ash in an instant with flames hot enough to melt stone. That’s ridiculous, even before you consider that the whole fucking thing was Witchfire… That’s… I don’t even know how it’s possible for someone to have that much mana. And to channel it into a single spell without causing it to go unstable? On that sort of scale, you couldn’t even use a focusing gem or staff without overloading it. This was done unassisted. So, yep, you pissed off someone powerful.”
“I butted heads with Captain Richter a bit…”
Patricia sat up, suddenly animated, “No, you don’t understand the magnitude here… you pissed off someone powerful.”
Amelia sat up too, while Patricia got to her feet and paced around the room nervously.
“I don’t think I have any enemies like that,” the Saintess said, “it could have been an assassination. Was Lord Roland the target?”
Patricia gave Amelia a dismissive wave, “Hah! Not a chance. This is bigger than some worthless little fiefdom on the edge of the Aldmerian Empire. A mage this powerful can’t be bought cheaply, and most would never stoop to mere assassination work.”
Patricia stopped her pacing and turned to face Amelia. She continued her rant.
“Do you know what spell the attacker used? A Fireball spell. That’s it… a simple Fireball spell with… oh let’s say, a few little tweaks and modifications. No complicated tricks, no resonance, no pseudoelemental combination buggery, not even a focusing gem to stabilize the spell, just raw fucking power.”
That mansion destroying meteor was obviously powerful magic, cast by a powerful… something, but Amelia didn’t really understand the significance of it being a Fireball spell exactly. Patricia looked annoyed by Amelia’s non-reaction.
“Boosting a simple Fireball up to that level is insane. Here, I’ll show you what I mean.”
The maid casually held out a hand, palm upwards, and a spark of magic appeared above her palm, igniting and bursting out into a swirling ball of flame the size of a human head. Startled, Amelia scurried backwards in her bed, pressing her back against the wall. Even from halfway across the room, Amelia could feel the flame’s heat on her face.
“You’re a mage?” Amelia gasped as the fireball burned in front of her.
“Retired mage,” Patricia corrected, “But yes, I’m a mage, and a rather capable one, if I do say so myself.”
Now that she thought about it, Amelia really shouldn’t have been so surprised. One wouldn’t earn themselves a nickname like Cerulean Witch, if they weren’t known for their magic.
“Anyway, this is a Fireball spell,” Patricia announced proudly. “Easy peasy, intermediate level combat magic. Conjure an explosive ball of fire and fling it at your enemies. Enemies go boom. I learned this spell when I was twelve.”
“Okay…” Amelia prompted Patricia to continue, wondering where she was going with this.
“This spell can be modified. For example, one can make the flame hotter…”
A small tinge of blue appeared in the center of the otherwise orange fireball. The blue flames burst outwards from the core, and within half a second, the blue flames had overtaken the orange. Patricia’s cocky smile, now lit with bright blue light, never left her face. As Patricia promised, the radiant heat this blue fireball gave off was terrifyingly intense, far hotter than the previous regular fireball.
“Blue flame variant spells are something of a specialty of mine. They’re about three times as hot as normal, but that’s still not enough to instantly melt stone.”
Patricia’s cocky smile vanished as she diverted all her attention to the blue fireball swirling in her hand. She’d conjured the fireball and turned it blue with apparent ease, like snapping her fingers, but now her eyes were intense and focused, lost in deep concentration.
“Let’s try this…” Patricia mumbled.
Slowly, the head sized fireball compressed in on itself, becoming smaller, denser, and swirling faster. As Patricia crushed it further, the center of the blue fireball started glowing white. The fireball continued to shrink as the core grew brighter. A small arc of lightning appeared, grounding itself in the floor with a loud snap. Gradually, as Patricia concentrated, more and more blue flame turned white.
After several seconds of silent effort. Patricia held a smaller fireball, only about the size of her fist. This one had a glowing white core and a wreath of blue and violet flames surrounding it. Unlike the loosely flickering flames surrounding it, the core itself was perfectly spherical and looked almost solid, like a miniature little sun.
The heat radiating from it was staggering. The Saintess was bathed in its blinding radiance. It was far too bright to look at directly, and she felt like she was starting to get a sun burn just from being in the same room as this tiny mote of light.
Patricia gave Amelia a strained grin, still cocky, but tense from the exertion of maintaining the spell. Small beads of sweat appeared on her forehead. Having finished her demonstration, she allowed the fireball to return to a blue color and shrink until it flickered out of existence.
“Whoo… that’s harder than it looks you know, it’s hard to keep it all contained once it turns into plasma.”
Amelia didn’t know what plasma was, but Patricia looked quite proud of herself for managing it successfully.
“Anyway, that is one type of modification. It makes the spell much harder to cast, and it consumes far more mana than a normal fireball. That was my absolute limit without using a focusing crystal to stabilize my magic. If I tried to feed it any more mana, it would go unstable and blow up in my face.
“Back in the bad old days, I could fling around normal fireballs all day without running dry on mana. If I wasn’t involved in a multi-hour battle of attrition, I’d usually default to casting blue flame variants. With blue flames, I couldn’t sustain combat indefinitely, but I could easily keep up my assault for long enough to get the job done. That tiny little white fireball I held though? That thing was about a quarter of my entire mana pool.”
After seeing that demonstration, Amelia was officially impressed. She supposed the blue flames were where the Cerulean part of the ‘Cerulean Witch’ nickname came from. Amelia listened to the lecture politely, but she was starting to wonder how a relatively powerful mage like this ended up as a working as a simple maid.
Patricia continued her lecture, “Another type of modification is making the fireball itself larger and increasing the radius of detonation. I won’t be showing you that, because playing with fireballs indoors is already risky and Ned would kill me for sure if he knew I was playing around with magic that could potentially consume the entire tavern in a single large explosion. To put it simply, it has the same drawbacks as the heat upgrade. It costs more mana and makes the spell less stable. For reference, ignoring the effects of air pressure inside a confined space, the danger zone of a regular fireball detonation is about the size of this room.”
Patricia gestured around the room. It wasn’t a large room, by any means, less than half the size of the mansion’s individual bedrooms, but an explosion that size would still be devastating, especially if it was as hot as the blue flame. Amelia saw Lily in the corner, still snuggling Tanya, but watching Patricia’s demonstration with childlike fascination.
“Okay, so the fireball that hit us was both big, and hot? Two modifications?” Amelia said, trying to distill meaning behind Patricia’s obvious attempt to show off.
Patricia once again gave Amelia an exasperated stare, “Yeah. That’s kind of a big deal, you know. The cost is multiplicative. If a white fireball costs a thousand times the mana, and a fireball large enough to engulf the estate costs a thousand times the mana, then both of them combined are… uuh...”
“A million,” Amelia helpfully interjected.
“Yeah, a million times the mana. And this guy used a third modification too! And this third modification is the really scary one.” Patricia coughed nervously, “Uuh… it’s a bit tricky… give me a minute.”
The dark elf held out her hand again, closed her eyes and focused. Just like before, a spark appeared in her hand and a bright orange fireball burst into existence, floating above her open palm. Patricia glared at the orange ball with disappointment and it popped like a bubble, sending small licks of flame in all directions.
“That wasn’t it… hold on,” Patricia grumbled.
The second attempt resulted in only a shower of sparks. But they were green sparks, so… that was progress at least.
“Having trouble?” Amelia asked with feigned innocence. She knew that Patricia was struggling but was unable to resist the urge to tease the cocky elf.
“Shut up, the Cerulean Witch is retired, okay?” Patricia said, blushing slightly. “It’s been 80 years since I last used magic for anything more than lighting a fireplace. I’m a bit rusty.”
“80 years? How old are you?” Amelia asked, amazed.
Elves were blessed with eternal-ish youth. They aged into adulthood at the same rate as a human child, but it was only during the waning years of their lives that they started showing any further signs of aging.
Patricia looked like a mature teenager, or someone barely into her twenties. She was as slender as Amelia, but taller than Lily. And, much to Amelia’s chagrin, despite her slender build, she had a perfectly filled out figure with rounder hips and bigger breasts than the Saintess… Amelia was struggling to rationalize the Truth that the impossibly pretty, young, Patricia was at least as old as her grandmother.
“It’s rude to ask a lady her age,” Old Granny Patricia replied in a huff.
For attempt number three, Patricia, once again, closed her eyes to focus. She stood in silence for almost a minute before she took a deep breath. A flash of bright green sparked in her hand and flared out into a swirling green globe of ghostly fire. Patricia kept her eyes closed, breathing slowly, as the emerald globe swirled in her hand, bathing the room in an eerie green glow. Finally, she opened her eyes, and gave Amelia a smug grin.
The swirling globe suddenly bulged out and warped. Patricia’s eyes went wide. She focused on the spell again, and a bead of sweat appeared on her forehead as she flexed her mental muscles and wrangled it back into a spherical shape. Then, carefully, she slowly drew the mana back inside herself, shrinking the fireball away until it blinked out of existence. She resumed her smug grin, pretending like she hadn’t made a mistake that nearly incinerated everyone in the room.
Not knowing what else to do, Amelia clapped for her.
Patricia coughed, to hide her awkwardness, “So yeah, that was Witchfire. It’s a cursed flame, invented by the less than friendly Fae of the Unseelie Court to bypass magical protections and kill… other Fae mostly. It burns like normal fire, but it also uses active mana as fuel. It eats spells, and chews through wards and magical defenses like they’re not even there. That’s the really tragic part. The mansion was warded against hostile magic and accidental fire. I wrote most of those glyphs myself and they were solid. A normal fireball, even a big one, would have just bounced off.”
“I see,” Amelia replied.
Patricia narrowed her eyes, staring at Amelia, “This is high tier magic… you should be a little bit more impressed than that. I’m not even using a focusing gem to cast it. Before I found my happy home with the Montagne family, I was a considered to be a master pyromancer, you know. I was, and still am, the deadliest mage in this town by far. And, aside from our magical assassin, I’m probably the only mage within a thousand miles that can conjure genuine Witchfire.”
“Oh, that’s… good?” Amelia said. Patricia was telling the truth, or at least, she thought she was telling the truth. This wasn’t empty boasting, at least.
“Can it burn me?” the previously quiet Lily suddenly asked.
“Is your heat immunity magical or natural?” Patricia asked.
“I don’t know what that means,” Lily replied.
“If you’re not consuming mana to maintain your immunity then it’s natural,” Patricia explained. “If you’re Lust, Greed, Wrath, or corporeal Sloth, then you’re naturally immune, and have nothing to worry about from Witchfire.”
“Oh good,” Lily said, snuggling back into Tanya’s shoulder.
Amelia remained quiet. She’d been more impressed by the super-hot fireball. The green fireball was a little underwhelming. She didn’t know what to say to Patricia. It would probably be impressive to another mage, but to Amelia is just looked like a fireball, but green. Plus, she’d seen a much larger green fireball demolish a mansion and kill everybody only a couple hours before. But then, she supposed, that was the point of what Patricia was trying to say.
“So, the person who attacked us was a very powerful mage. More powerful than a ‘master pyromancer’ like yourself, is that right?” Amelia summarized.
Patricia looked a little dejected, “Yeah, I guess that’s basically what I’m saying.”
“They weren’t after you, were they? Some sort of old enemy?” Amelia asked. A Master mage hiding herself as a maid didn’t seem normal to her. Was Patricia hiding from someone?
“Nope,” Patricia replied, “I didn’t really make that many surviving enemies. The few enemies I did make during the bad old days would have died of old age by now. Also, I’ve only ever met one person that could cast magic at this level. He was my old master, the one that taught me my craft, and he’s been very thoroughly dead for… has it been? Yeah… a little over 200 years now.”
Amelia snapped her fingers, she realized the obvious, “Elias.”
“The stinky guy?”
“The smell wasn’t his fault…” Amelia said, in a sympathetic tone. “Anyway, he told me a very scary story about how he discovered a mage he called Master Tyren who was killing children and trapping their souls. He said that this guy, or at least the people backing him were very influential. They were able to ignore the law and frame Elias as traitor. It could have been this Master Tyren guy…”
“I doubt a human did this…” Patricia said, suddenly looking awkward. “I mean, no offence, but… humans don’t really live long enough to reach the level of what we saw. It took me a solid century of hard work and practice to get even halfway to where I am right now. Now, a really exceptional genius human might surpass me within their lifetime, but they could never surpass my old master. All flavours of elves, wood, high, and dark, rarely live long enough to die of old age, but if we manage to avoid getting ourselves killed, we have a natural lifespan of about a thousand years. That’s the sort of time you need to achieve a true mastery of magic.”
“Okay, so the attacker was an elf? Perhaps the shadowy conspiracy people hired the elf?”
“Yeah, that’s… plausible, I guess. If there’s one thing that humans have plenty of, it’s money. Hiring a mage of this level to go blow up a mansion would cost a king’s ransom in gold though. Also, I’m not saying it was necessarily an elf. It’s probably an elf, yes. It could also be Unseelie Court Fae. They’re usually banned from exerting their power on the mortal plane, but they’ve been known to break the rules if properly bribed. It could also be an unusually powerful undead spellcaster like a lich or vampire specialized in magic.”
“What about another demon? Or a dragon? They live a long time.”
“Demons have their own flavour of cursed flame they call Hellfire and they don’t really use anything else. And Dragonfire is too perfect to mess with. It’s pretty much the pinnacle of… fieriness. To taint it with a Witchfire curse would be… No proud dragon would ever do that.”
Amelia considered Patricia’s words, “Okay, so the assassin was an elf, dark fairy, or vampire… We still don’t know why they attacked us. You’d think Mister Super Powerful Mage would have something better to do with his time. I mean, couldn’t they have just sent a regular assassin?”
Patricia sat on her bed again, resting her chin on her hands, “The attacker clearly did their homework. The Lord and Lady were well-aware of my past. It was a secret, but it was the sort of secret that everybody knew but nobody said out loud. In fact, I was paid a little bit extra to maintain the wards and act as a deterrent and final line of defense should someone overcome the normal guards. If you factor in Lily, who has unusually sharp senses, even by demon standards, the two of us would’ve been able to foil most assassination attempts. I guess somebody really wanted us dead.”
“I still can’t figure out why though... there’s got to be more to this than just some shady mage in Dursten trying to cover his ass, but that’s the only motive I can think of right now,” Amelia lay back, settling onto her bed.
“Yeah. This whole situation is thoroughly fucked up,” Patricia groaned and laid back in her own bed. “In any case, I’m done for tonight. We can speculate some more tomorrow.”
The tiny blonde digested what she’d heard. Lily, closed her eyes again and appeared to sleep. Within a few minutes, Amelia could hear Patricia’s breathing change. The elf was asleep, but Amelia still lay awake in the darkness.
Danica was dead. Acolyte Joffrey was dead. Those nice maids were dead…
Amelia sat up again and watched the others sleep. She felt tired, but she knew that she wouldn’t be sleeping anytime soon. She sat in silence for a few minutes, then she stood and left the room.
The Saintess quietly snuck down the barely-lit hallway, hoping to avoid notice. The tavern was surprisingly modern, it had the luxury of running water, a new design trend from the snootier corners of the capital, and indoor flushing toilets. There were two shared washrooms for the upstairs floor. Amelia chose one and locked the door behind her.
Finally… now that she was alone… she let herself cry.
Amelia woke up to the sound of knocking.
“Hello? Anyone in there? Hurry up, I gotta take a leak!”
After a moment of disorientation, Amelia realized she fell asleep. Shaking the grogginess out of her head, she muttered an apology, and opened the door. She ducked around an impatient, shady looking potential criminal, and scurried back down the hall to her room.
Amelia saw the early morning sun outside the inn’s window. Patricia was still out cold, sleeping off some of yesterday’s trauma. Tanya still seemed to be unconscious, and Lily opened her eyes as Amelia entered the room but closed them again once she realized Amelia wasn’t an intruder.
The Saintess was still tired, but she felt much better after letting out some of her tears in the bathroom. She laid on her bed, and a hard lump poked her in the side. Oh right, the book.
Amelia took the ominous evil book out of her robes and inspected it again. Curious, she flipped it open to read more. She pinned down both sides of the cover and allowed the pages to part randomly in the middle. Maybe some ‘fate’ bull-poop would guide her to the page she needed. The page she arrived on was a wall of Infernal text, written in large runic letters that took up most of the page.
Everything that is, was once dust, and in the fullness of time, it shall return to dust. A great work of creation might last a thousand years, but no amount of mortal effort will preserve it forever. All lives will come to an end, and all legacies will some day be forgotten.
Sloth is not inaction, it is not laziness, it is the understanding that nothing you do matters, no change you create is meaningful. Futility is the true essence of Sloth.
A spell of destruction is also meaningless. Fire, ice, lightning, are all wasted effort. Everything will become dust, given enough time. If you understand the true nature of Sloth, then you may skip all those tedious intermediaries and simply hasten your target's inevitable return to entropy.
In the end, all that which is created will turn to dust. Embrace the futility of creation, the futility of existence, and watch your foes turn to dust before your eyes.
Amelia’s eyes were watering, but she successfully made it to the end of the page. She gently turned the leathery velum to the next page and revealed a diagram of a magic circle. This was the shape of a magic spell. In order to cast that spell, the mage first had to memorize, and fully understand the underlying shape. Depending on the mage, it might take days, or it might take years to make a breakthrough.
But not for Amelia… She glanced at the circle for only an instant, but in that one sublime moment, she understood.
Demon Lord Occulith, the all-seeing watcher and collector of secrets, was completely right. Everything was meaningless. Danica had a future, she was going to be a mage, she was going to have babies with a noble lord’s son. Now… she and her dreams were dust. They were never going to happen. All her hoping and dreaming, all her laughing and crying… all of it… her entire life… was wasted. She was only dust now.
Amelia felt herself being shaken and saw Patricia standing in front of her. When did she wake up? She was sleeping. How did she walk across the room so fast? Amelia looked at the window again. And wasn’t it dawn? Why was it suddenly noon?
“Amelia, say something.” Patricia’s face was concerned.
“It’s all meaningless you know… Everything is dust,” Amelia heard herself mumble. She spoke in Infernal. It was easier. It didn’t really matter if she said something or not, and it didn’t matter if Patricia understood her words or not. She could die now, or she could die later. It would make no difference in the end.
Patricia nervously reached out, gently closed the book, and took it out of Amelia’s hands. Amelia didn’t bother resisting.
“Ssh… relax, lie down,” Patricia cooed, “You’re incredibly stupid… you know that?”
“Maybe, maybe not. Doesn’t matter…” Amelia mumbled.
The Saintess laid back on her bed and looked into Patricia’s eyes. And then she looked into the milky white eyes of the tall shadowy man standing right behind the elf. The intruder was an intangible creature formed of smoky shadow, gaunt and long limbed, taller than any man. It watched Amelia attentively. Its eyes never blinked.
Part of Amelia’s brain wanted to scream out in terror, to warn her friend. But she also knew it didn’t matter. Everything was dust, including Patricia and herself. Struggle was meaningless. Amelia closed her eyes and fell asleep while waiting for the monster to kill her.