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Ruth didn’t know what he’d expected really. Sikes had not given any indication that he’d also thought of the communication problem beforehand. That made Ruth a bit suspicious. In the beginning, when Sikes was in the cell he had been much more agreeable. Every step away from that cell seemed to be revealing another ugly facet to the Durvgar’s personality. When Ruth had asked Sikes to relay the message of the taste of his sister, the guard had grown infuriated. What infuriated Ruth was that Sikes was willing to relay that message but not mention anything else that could make the situation a bit less hostile.

Ruth was beginning to suspect that Sikes was actually not a good person.

The guard with the hand axe moved toward him with cold eyes. Behind him, two of his buddies, unremarkable in their dull metal hats with eye hole slits, began to fan out behind the guy with the sister on either side. They were also carrying crude hand axes. A cursory glance revealed that through the iron-wrought gate bars there were a bunch of people going about their business on a semi-busy street. What was happening here didn’t seem to be important enough to the general populace to warrant any sort of reaction.

That, Ruth thought, will soon change.

Ruth stood up to his full height and hissed low in his throat, spreading his arms in a welcoming manner. The dangerous noise had been one of his first discoveries when he was put into this body and it served him well now because the men before him checked themselves slightly, even if they did continue advancing.

While he was standing upright and trying to intimidate them, the sassy tail was making plans of his own. It swooped down and flashed toward the ground and darted back up and behind his back. A quick look to his left revealed that Lord Rush was actually still napping on top of Sikes head. The Durvgar, for his part, looked content to let Ruth handle the wave of men alone.

A coldness began to suffuse the rage that Ruth felt inside of him.

Fucking fine.

“Show me my mana,” Ruth commanded calmly.

The men in front of him didn’t falter and were still advancing. It would be only seconds before the first one would step forward and engage in violence. Ruth could feel the anger and hate in the air almost as if it was something he could reach out and grasp.

The immortal and deadly text faithfully appeared in front of him and slightly to the right.

Planar Tiefling: Ruth (Level 11) (Young Adult/Lord Rush) (Lightning Specialized)

Mana: 20/20

★Lightning Ward: 25%

★Lightning Chain: 25%

2 of 5 spell slots

Ruth’s lips spread in a smile so wide his dry lips almost cracked. He could feel the pain that chewed numbly at both of his shoulders, the dry and tortured skin of his face because of the constant exposure to the elements and the lack of water, the unfamiliar pain in his calves from only having two legs to carry himself with, and as always -- the hunger. Ruth wondered if they would taste good.

Compared to everything he had fought from the heroic Goblin Kings to the Spectral Bear, what stood in front of him hurt his pride more than anything. Lesser beings should know better than to try a dragon when he is down on his luck.

Ruth lifted his hands and pointed at the two guards flanking the sister loving guard. Lightning leaped from his fingertips, causing the air to hiss and crackle and blinding everyone in front of him as they jerked backward from the sudden flare of light in a dark space. Sure there was the illumination from the mutant algae or moss, but compared to lightning?

The powerful bolts of energy struck their targets, pausing momentarily as if they were finding resistance, and then passed through the men and struck to either side of the gate behind them. While the long chain of lightning stretched out both men jerked and spasmed like puppets being shaken from a tangled marionette string. When the lightning finally ended both men fell to the ground smoking and charred, parts of their body appearing undamaged and pristine and other portions looking as if they had spent too long on the flame side of a spit roast.

The remaining guard in front, to his credit, did not flinch for long. He immediately forced his eyes open and started to push toward Ruth. A quick glance revealed that Ruth was still holding his arms out even if he was staring directly at him.

The guard held his axe and moved forward with silent purpose, his boots making scuffing noises. The scent of burned and cooked flesh was starting to make the place stink worse than it had when it had just been too many bodies in too tight of quarters.

Ruth didn’t immediately move. Ruth had survived a lot and understood his power now. Mages would always be weak to people who were faster than them. Isn’t this what most of the world believed? Ruth was uncertain. The uncertainty he had toward this notion came from the word instantaneous.

To a mage, and Ruth was no exception now, the word instantaneous was thought-provoking.

The guard was only a step away from being in his ideal range. He could throw the axe now if he had to, swing clumsily and overreach and maybe hit his target even. Ruth could see the sneer start to form on the guard’s face as he thought his victory was at hand. The concern and fear that had been there a mere moment before was replaced with derision and cruelty.

But instantaneous? That was faster than even a mere moment. So when the guard was lashed to the ground by a lightning chain and jerked off his feet as the tether pulled tautly, there was no change on his face. No confusion played across his eyes as he was pulled backward by the lightning chain. His arms flew forward and he almost lost his grip on his axe as he stumbled backward and onto his butt. The pain started to appear on his face and he howled, letting loose the axe and tried to tear at the golden energy that was leashing him to the ground from his ankle. The sizzle of flesh burned as he tried to pull it off his foot but only succeeded in further scouring his hands.

Ruth took one careful step backward and slowly brought both his palms together. To Ruth, time was passing far too slowly.

It took far more than a mere moment for the guard to put aside the pain of his leg and his now burned hands and remember that Ruth was still there. It took even longer to watch the slow dawning realization on his dumb face when he noticed that Ruth was pointing both of his hands at him.

“I just wanted to walk through a door…” Ruth mumbled.

The man couldn’t understand him and began crying. He started to hold up his hands in a pleading gesture and babbling.

“Boy--” Sikes finally started to speak. To tell him to show mercy? Probably not. Sikes was probably going to tell him that Ruth should finish the man. The man was a threat to Sikes too, after all.

Sikes never did finish because the short report of another two lightning blasts crushed the lightning leashed guard into the ground. The violence of the two strikes so powerful they had pushed the guard's whole body into the ground and caused it to bounce nearly a meter in the air.

When the echoing sound faded, the silence seemed more profound somehow.

Ruth walked toward the smoking corpse and gently pushed the handaxe to the side with his foot so he could step closer. Ruth looked up and noticed that the busy street through the iron-wrought gate was still. Dozens of eyes trained on him solemnly as they watched him bend over the still smoking guard.

The sound of a crunching rip. The sound of teeth tearing flesh.

Ruth chewed on a piece of the guard he’d torn off near the unfortunate cadavers bicep and swallowed it.

He turned around and met Sikes's silent look with a look of his own. “Call me ‘boy’ again.”

Ruth continued to chew the guard while he watched the Durvgar’s expression. Eventually, Sikes shuddered and looked away, the first to capitulate in their quiet war of wills. Lord Rush had awoken and was slowly paddling through the air toward another one of the dead guards. He looked curiously at Ruth and thought good taste?

“Yes.”

The two crouched down over their respective guards and started to eat in earnest. The crowd remained still. This was not a good place. The Under Arch certainly didn’t have the oceans of blood that Kitvalka boasted, but it was still a place where the lawless, the murderous, and the ambitious all sharpened their blades to use on one another. That didn’t mean it was a normal scene to watch someone casually kill the guards at the gate and then eat them.

The guards may have been low-ranking dregs sent by the castle beyond the lake, but they were still castle guards.

It was no great surprise to them when they saw Solace and Merriweather approaching with a complement of grim-looking castle guards and fiends.

“What goes on here?” Solace asked playfully, her eyes dancing over the cowed crowd. She was about to start investigating when she realized that her usual appearance hadn’t captivated her audience. Normally when she appeared the men and women would be clambering over themselves to be near her, to speak to her, to try to gain her attention or favor.

That goes on here,” Merriweather said with a marked disquiet in her voice at what she had just seen.

“Why do you sound as if--” Solace trailed off and her eyes widened slightly.

Ruth didn’t look up. There didn’t seem to be any reason to deal with anything until he was done with his meal. He did casually glance to the side and command, “mana…”

Planar Tiefling: Ruth (Level 11) (Young Adult/Lord Rush) (Lightning Specialized)

Mana: 12/20

★Lightning Ward: 25%

★Lightning Chain: 50%

1 of 5 spell slots

Feeling much better after his quiet meal, Ruth finally stood up again, brushing some of the dust that had gathered near his legs off.

“Sikes, how do we proceed?” Ruth turned his attention back to the Durvgar and froze. The facial expression Sikes was making made Ruth feel cautious. It wasn’t the horror of watching him eat. It was some other kind of terror. Maybe one of the new people at the gate was dangerous?

Ruth turned around and froze. Time seemed to come to a complete stop for him. A memory surfaced unbidden from the deepest and darkest recess of his mind.

The blonde woman who seemed impossibly clean for the circumstances. The sword that was half again her size resting casually across her shoulders. The mischievous eyes and the daring eyebrows that were even now narrowed in a meaningful sort of way.

“Hello, Ruth.”

The excitement began to flood through his body. Sheer thrill adrenaline coursing through his veins. The memory of her taking his head was finally clear. She had been the one to kill him when he was a dragon. She was the one who had dumped him into this body. She was the one that was making his life miserable.

TAMARA!” Ruth chewed the word before he spat it out, a low growl began to surge in his throat afterward. Sassy tail immediately whipped from behind his back and sent a blurred projectile straight toward her face without hesitation.

Tamara lowered her hand from in front of her face and opened it. A sharp piece of rock was laying on her palm. She looked up and smiled. “Cute. I’m guessing you have some sort of grievance with me you’d like to share?”

“When you’re dead…” Ruth was trembling badly now, a mixture of pure adrenaline and terror warring as the fight or flight instinct rumbled ruthlessly in his mind. Was it close? Did he almost run? No, he did not. There could only be one outcome. “...I’m not even going to eat you!”

“I’m a kind and generous soul. Hug it out?” Tamara lifted her two-handed sword off her shoulder and held it up. It slowly disappeared from her hand starting to vanish from the tip. When it was entirely gone she held both of her arms open to him in a welcoming gesture.

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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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