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Immortal and Deadly Text

 

Ruth glared daggers at the immortal and deadly text. It had abandoned him in his moment of need and only now appeared after the battle had resolved itself in his victory. Ruth felt betrayed deep inside. They had been through so much together in the past day or three and he thought that should have meant something to the immortal and deadly text.

“I’ll deal with your treachery in a moment,” Ruth did not have time for a wall of immortal and deadly text, especially when some of it was interesting.

“Alright, you, talk!” Ruth walked over to the goatman who was staring upward in what Ruth thought might be abject terror. His tongue was making little desperate licking motions around the inside of his mouth as if his mouth were dry. Little funny wheezing noises were also present.

The goatman clutched his side and finally seemed to be able to focus on Ruth. Okay then, it hadn’t been abject terror but pre-death. Ruth had seen pre-death many times. It occurred when a creature was mortally wounded and the body prepared to offer the mana inside to the world. It did this, as far as Ruth understood the process, by shutting down the body parts.

“I don’t have time for this. Tell me who sent you? How many of you are there? What am I doing? What is the possibility of you understanding my beautiful draconic,” Ruth realized the futility of what he was doing about ten seconds into the advanced interrogation. Pre-death would turn into real death any second. The idea of poking the thing and causing it distress before it perished was briefly toyed with but decided against. Ruth didn’t believe in the pointless torturing of creatures.

The immortal and deadly text stirred behind him and briefly showed him an image of him stoning a goblin and kicking a small furred creature that had stabbed him.

“Those don’t count. That was glorious combat,” Ruth snapped.

Why?

“No, shut up that’s why.”

Ruth turned back to the goatman and just started saying words. “Number? Name? Species? Where? Home? Tamara?”

The goatman died. Moment of silence for the goatman. He had been a ferocious enemy who was obviously an elite sent by a devious foe. The web of lies and scandal and sheer cunning of their organization must be tremendous and vast.

The immortal and deadly text box showed another picture. This one was of Ruth standing in front of a forest being set ablaze right after a less than subtle light show in the sky. His head was thrown back in laughter with his hands placed triumphantly at his hips. The shot panned out and showed a forest on fire with lightning dancing in the sky. Amazingly you could still hear his laughter from the distance the scene was shot from.

“What is your point?” Ruth did like to see the part where the forest got set on fire again. Also, he got a pretty good look at his new body this way. “Hey, show me again!”

No.

“Traitor.”

No.

“Where did you go?”

No.

“We’re not done.”

Yes.

Ruth started to step over the goat and then decided to take a slightly longer route around. Sometimes things only looked dead, and prudence was rewarded with survival. At least, until he figured out how to breathe lightning breath from the sky like his dream. Then the only prudency would be to get the hell out of his way.

Ruth picked up the bow and pulled on the line experimentally. Obviously, this was only handed out to the best. He pulled it back a little and released it a few times, his concern for this imagined vast shadow organization growing. The aching of his wound was dulled a bit. Every time he thought of the spots on his shoulders the scales of his clothing pressed down a bit more. Cold sweat as he stilled for a moment to make sure that it wasn't trying to eat him. Nothing happened.

Back to the arrow. The arrow had hurt quite a lot. It was impressive that there was a weapon that could harm him. The concept of being harmed by tiny things was new to him. Of course, when he had been a fledgling dragon without wings that could lift him he had encountered many dangerous foes. He had still been the size of the cow and had large scales on him. Honestly, he didn’t remember much about those days in the beginning because it had just been frantic running and eating.

Ruth had an arrow now and decided to mimic what he had seen. He held the wood part of the bow with his left hand and carefully nocked the arrow into the string. This weapon was ridiculously intuitive! The stick butt part even had a groove carved into it! He pulled the string back and immediately dropped the arrow on the ground.

Okay. He would hold the nocked part of the arrow and the string at the same time on this attempt. He was briefly puzzled because there appeared to be feathers attached to the shaft. Perhaps it was to instill terror on creatures that it was fired toward? It had killed before, it would kill again? More likely, he reasoned slowly, it helped with the flight of the arrow in some fashion. Feathers and flight made sense to him.

The immortal and deadly text box behind him made a picture of two hands clapping together.

Ruth paused for a moment, startled by the reaction. This immortal and deadly text seemed different somehow. Could this be an imposter? It would explain why it had disappeared for a time. It had been eaten by an imposter immortal and deadly text. No matter. If he were being perfectly honest with himself, this new immortal and deadly text seemed like the better version.

Ruth pulled the arrow back against the string a bit, about half-draw, and released. It flew a pathetic three feet. He had six more arrows on the dead goatman before he had to go chasing arrows. Sadly the one he had used to kill the other goatman had broken at some point in all that mad stabbing.

Ruth smacked himself in the face with the string on his first full draw attempt, howling in pain and dropping the bow while he danced around and tried to ineffectually rub his face to make it stop hurting. Upon reflection, he was lucky his horns had caught on the string.

The second time he was more cautious and held it far away from his face. The arrow shaft was held on the right side of the arrow resting point of the bow and before he finished letting go it had wandered off to the right and sped haphazardly into a tree, shattering on impact.

Two more times this way with the arrows veering off in an outward direction.

Out of exasperation he tried feeding the arrow point in through the left side of the arrow rest and had much better results(after he hit himself in the face with the string again because he was focusing too hard on the arrowpoint).

He practiced like this for an hour, ruining three arrows. It was getting to the point where he could hit things that were within about 5 meters as long as they were the size of a goatman or a cow. Killing smaller creatures would be impossible for him. He also decided that if the thing was moving he probably wouldn’t be able to hit it. It would be like that time with the rock.

Unwilling to give up on the bow, however, he looped it over his shoulder and also slung the quiver from the dead goatman over his back. He reached behind him to see if he could draw the arrows with any sort of speed. A quick few turns in a circle as he had trouble as they caught on the quiver -- nope. This would not be an emergency weapon. Maybe he could practice using the tail to move it efficiently? Sassy tail swished, seeming somewhat opposed to the idea.

“Alright. I’m going to eat now.” Ruth turned and moved to the dead goatman and sniffed. “Or not.”

A quick move to the one who was not electrocuted and a sniff later. “Bad.”

Much like the goblins, these goatman smelled off to him. The spider had been delicious, if crunchy and hairy. The marrow inside had actually been pretty good too, if slimy. It sort of reminded him of egg yolk.

Ruth was still salivating when he turned to the immortal and deadly text box. Or the imposter of the immortal and deadly text box. He scrutinized the information, focusing for a moment on the word ‘frail’. Ruth did not like this word one wit.

His number had gone up by two. Dragons were very good with the idea of quantity. He could have told you where every single piece of his hoard was(barring the pet beetles, they sometimes needed fetching) and would know instantly if a piece was missing. Dragons also knew that more was better. Since his number was ‘bigger’, or at least that was the sense he got when he focused on the number, that meant it was better.

“Why does this number go up?”

No.

Ruth sighed, and crouched down, drawing lines in the dirt as his tail twitched behind him. He closed his eyes and tried to will the anger to go away so he could think. The box had to be tricked and deceived in order to help him. He would find a way to ask his question better.

“This number goes up and down based on mana I use?” He pointed at the mana readout. The box blinked a yes and he continued to ask, “so this one is how many spell slots are left?” A yes again.

Ruth stood up and pointed at the number by his name. “Explain the purpose of showing me this number.”

The box stilled. Ruth began to smirk triumphantly. The immortal and deadly text box turned slightly, almost as if it were looking away from him. Ruth blinked, some of the smile leaving his face. Was this thing hesitating? It looked really reluctant no matter how Ruth saw it.

The immortal and deadly text box finally started to provide text.

Your body breathes in mana from external sources. It cannot retain all the mana but endeavors to do so naturally. A result is that as time passes your mana circulation and body become more robust in order to retain more mana. When a creature dies and you are in proximity your body is overloaded with mana and breathes in as much as it can. The resulting mana inflation feeds into your soul space, improving it and feeding your soul shape. The effectiveness of this process is increased if your body is under extreme mana pressure.

“Wait.” Ruth made the box send pictures into his mind until he had only the basic idea of what it was trying to tell him. Ruth had a body that ate mana. It ate mana and he got bigger and stronger. It would do this naturally using mana in the world. It would do it faster when there was a source of free mana nearby. “What is extreme mana pressure?”

Life or death situation. Strenuous activity. Your mana circulation can be thought of as a muscle.

“I will get stronger without fighting though?”

Yes.

“Slower?”

Yes.

“Is there a way to make it faster without fighting or killing?” Ruth didn’t like the idea of being weak and didn’t like the idea of just going on a killing spree either.

Long hesitation from the immortal and deadly text box.

Many.

“Show me?” Ruth stood up, excited, not even bothered by the fact that the quiver had struck him on the back as he straightened too fast.

Images of sparring with other strong opponents. Images of strange and sweet-smelling foods. Images of lightning dancing in the sky atop a mountain. Images of small gems embedded in creatures.

The list went on for some time. Now Ruth realized why it had hesitated. There were many.

“Okay. Last question for now. What is a King Rush?”

No.

Ruth sighed.

“Wh--”

You said last question.

Ruth began to fume and was about to tell the immortal and deadly text box exactly what he had meant with a bit of dirt throwing when he paused and tilted his head to the side. There was a weird buzz in the air. It sounded like the distant hum of a swarm of flies.

↢↦

All across the Ten Year Wood creatures large and small stopped what they were doing as the hum began to grow in pitch and intensity. Younger denizens looked around curiously, some of the smarter among them already starting to look alarmed. The older ones, be they Slothen, Mongeese, the Haberdasher, and many others all froze in various states of disbelief.

The Ten Year Wood was named just that because a calamity fell upon the forest and the inhabitants at almost precisely the mark of every ten years.

The problem was it had only been seven years since the last one. Something was wrong, and that would have to be investigated. Now was not the time though.

Now was the time to hide.

↢↦

Ruth had briefly considered investigating the noise but then decided that he hadn’t met anything in this fucking place that hadn’t tried to stab him, bite him, poke him, chase him, shoot him, or eat him.

He turned around and started running through an unburned portion of the forest off to his right. It was somewhat adjacent to the path he had been traveling. At first, Ruth had been quite cautious as he made his way quickly through the dense foliage. There were still natural dangers to be aware of after all. That quickly faded when a spider that was twice his size exploded from the undergrowth nearby and ran right past him.

Several minutes of running later, the humming was getting to be an irritating sound.

Ruth rather abruptly found that the trees ended in front of him against a wall of rock. He placed his hands against it and looked up. He was fairly certain he could climb it but was also fairly certain that had been the destination of the giant spider. He turned and started feeling his way along the wall, using the space between the rock and the trees in order to move hurriedly. The path started to lead downward at some point.

The humming increased in pitch.

Ruth was a little alarmed now. He started running as best he could without falling. The sound shook the air and was almost deafening. He covered his ears and was just resolving himself to turn around and fight when he saw it. Low to the ground, dark opening in the rock. It was a shallow indent that only went in about two and a half meters and was only about half a meter high.

Throwing caution to the wind he went prone and crawled feet first into the hole. He arched and bent and just barely fit. He felt much safer.

He felt much safer for a moment. He crawled back out and frantically pulled leaves and branches together and pulled them toward the hole in the wall. He backed in again, only this time he pulled in branches and leaves and piled them high in front of him. Despite his desire to just hide, he did leave a little crack between some branches so he could see what was going on outside. Somehow the idea of being able to see his doom was more appealing to him than lying in the dark and waiting for it.

↢↦

Wilkeena smiled. She could feel the fear of the forest. It was a little early to reap, but it wasn’t a bad time. She was awake. She smiled wickedly again, a large sharpened spider leg scraping a gash into the earth below her.

If the chosen of Tamara just happened to die?

She would enjoy the mana and express her condolences to the slaughter god later.

↢↦

Ruth wasn’t sure what he was watching. A ‘cow’ had lumbered in from the trees nearby, grunting with great effort as it swung it’s rack around in front of it. Huge hooves pounded the dirt meters away from his hiding space. Dark little lights flittered around the front of the cow, making little tinkling sounds.

What are those? The immortal and deadly text box appeared beside him, darkened so it didn’t display any light. It was a nice gesture, Ruth thought. He was fairly confident that he was the only one that could see it. It was still nice that it had dimmed itself. Even if nothing else could see the light, Ruth probably would have flipped out at the thing turning itself on right in front of him while he was hiding.

Cannibal Pixies.

Cannibal Pixies? Pixies that ate one another? Why would they do that if they were capable of killing a co--

His answer came a moment later.

The monster moose had been putting up a valiant struggle against the half-dozen dark lights that fluttered in front of it. It had been doing a pretty good job and it would still be a long and difficult fight if the pixies wanted to take it down. At least until the other several hundred arrived. The noise of their wings was horrifying. They danced around the monster moose and bit at it, small wings beating furiously. They looked, to Ruth, like small naked humans as far as bodies went. Small breasted and nude. That was where the resemblance ended. Their hands ended in little clawed hooks and their mouths were full of sharp teeth.

Once the rest arrived, the monster moose fell within minutes. The sounds of them eating was terrible. When there was no more moose the swarm fell on the pixies who had been injured. More were injured in their internal struggle and were quickly fallen upon by others. The cycle of cannibalism went on for a minute and then ceased as if an invisible signal or truce flag had been raised.

They swarmed in spirals and immediately dispersed in different directions. They flew through the leaves both on the ground and in the trees, spun up around tree trunks and tree stumps. Several still gnawed the bones of the monster moose.

They were getting close enough to make him nervous. Their flight made it impossible to determine if they had any sort of plan. It was likely that they would miss him. Just as likely as one suddenly veering into his blind.

Though he was a little reluctant, Ruth narrowed his eyes and decided that it was better to be cautious.

Yes. He would be cautious. He would attack them rather than wait for them to find him.

He pushed an elbow in front of him and pointed toward the monster moose cadaver and began to channel Generic Thunder Struck. Cloud cover began to darken the sky around the cliff base and the treeline. The smell of ozone filled the air…

Ruth was fairly confident that he would live through his own spell even though he was about to blast it a few meters away.

↢↦

Tamara smiled.

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About the author

Fool

Bio: I'm not by nature a very courageous person. If you have been around enough you might have surmised as much on your own. I started writing these gaming books because I was frustrated, and in desperate need of a way to give voice to the ideas and concepts that I hope to see in a game some day. I'm also trying to write a book about a former dragon without making him into too much of a murder hobo. I hope you enjoy them. If you don't, that's alright too. :)

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