Chapter One Hundred Twenty-Six: ‘O, burning Sea...!’

Hector felt at once as if he were waking from a dream while also sliding off a cliff. Lethargic and rushing. Fleeting sensations of up and down movement. Both pleasant and uncomfortable.

Then reality came bleeding back in. Sight and smell. Taste and touch. Balance and sound and motion and pressure. Everything was there.

He had a body again. Or some of one, at least. A huge chunk of his torso was gone, as if some giant had taken a bite out of him, leaving a cavernous and bloody hole where his left arm, leg, and most of his rib cage should have been.

That wasn’t quite how he remembered leaving it.

But he was still regenerating. He’d become little more than a crumpled heap on the floor, but the vigor hadn’t worn off just yet.

The sound of fighting echoed distantly, shaking the floor, loosening dusty debris from the ceiling.

“Garovel?” he tried. It came out coughing, but he was still mildly surprised by his own voice. It sounded almost foreign to him. And he was pretty sure one of his lungs was missing.

I’m here,’ the reaper said. ‘You don’t look so good, friend.

He felt a shard in his one hand. It made him smile briefly as he wondered how the hell he’d managed to keep hold of it. He rolled over, trying to look around while he waited for his stomach to grow back.

He’d ended up in a cubbyhole of sorts. Whatever this room was before, it was so annihilated now that its walls were just piles of rubble. Maybe it wasn’t even a room. It could’ve been a hallway, for all he knew.

“Alright,” he said, tasting blood in his mouth. “Tell me what to do, Garovel.”


He was interrupted by Asad flying through a wall of debris.

Hector started crawling toward Asad through the shower of shattered stone, but the Lord Najir was already standing up again, visibly broken bones shifting back into place with the heightened speed of pan-forma.

The man’s tattoos, however, were flickering. The golden glow had been constant before, so long as Asad was sustaining damage, but now it seemed to be lagging. Fewer of them were leaping from his body, as well, and the look on Asad’s face spoke of disorientation.

And through the fresh hole in the debris, Hector could see the distant Marauder’s translucent form moving toward them.

Hector already knew he wouldn’t be able to do anything, but impulse told him to try anyway. He let go of the shard in order to thrust his hand out and concentrate on a barricade of iron walls. However, even his low expectations were not met, because no wall materialized. With a confused blink, he tried again, and this time, he managed to create a faint spray of dust.

His eyes widened as he realized. This was what Rasalased had meant by being weakened.

Garovel, you need to run,’ Hector thought.

Don’t worry about me,’ the reaper said.

And Hector was about to wonder where Garovel even was right now, but something else stole his attention.

Between Asad and the oncoming Marauder, a flash of brown swirled into existence, then promptly vanished, leaving three figures behind. Hector recognized them immediately.

Ibai Blackburn, Darktide, and the Seadevil.

Hector could only stare, but the two Rainlord juggernauts wasted no time. Billowing smoke and liquid metal charged headlong toward Caster.

Hector braced himself for another explosion, but Ibai was suddenly in front of him, grabbing him by the shoulder, and teleporting him away. Hector barely remembered to scoop the shard back up in time.

The brown shadow dispersed as quickly as it had come, but they were in a new room now. And the explosion did indeed arrive a moment later, shaking perhaps the entirety of Dunehall, but for once, Hector didn’t find himself getting caught in the blast radius.

“Hello again, my one black friend,” said Ibai. “You seem to be having a hard time.”

Hector grunted as Ibai set him down. His freshly regenerated lung squished against the stone floor, not yet having a rib cage to protect it.

“I’m sorry it took us so long to come help,” the aberration went on. “I’ve been a bit busy, what with all the sabotage and so forth. But now we’ve got a moment to rest.”

It made sense, Hector realized. “You’re the reason the Marauder couldn’t find Darktide and the Seadevil.”

“The Marauder?”

“That Caster guy.”

“Oh, him. Yes. I figured Abolish would go for them first. They are our strongest combatants, but they were also unconscious and vulnerable. If I didn’t hide them and wake them up, this battle would have been a foregone conclusion, I think.”

Hector understood. He wondered if Ibai’s sabotage hadn’t also had something to do with their assailants no longer being invisible.

“Where is your reaper?” Ibai asked.

Here.’ Garovel’s skull peeked up through the floor.

“Please come with me,” said Ibai.

Where to?

“To gather the non-combatants. I would like to take as many as I can to safety, and your help would be appreciated.”


He’d just about finished regenerating and was trying to find his footing again. In truth, he still felt a little woozy. His thoughts were largely clear, but there was a certain light-headedness that was throwing him off. “Sure,” he said.

“...Are you okay?” said Ibai.

Hector closed his eyes, concentrating. “Yes,” he said. When he opened them again, Ibai had no pants on.

The aberration stood there in his underwear, offering his belted trousers to Hector. “You should have these.”

Hector’s own pants had been shredded, of course, along with his shirt. The left leg was completely gone, and Hector didn’t need to look down in order to tell that half his junk was hanging out.

He decided to accept Ibai’s offer. He had a bit of trouble with the left leg. The whole left side of his body still felt a little sluggish and weird, but he powered through.

Ibai didn’t seem too concerned about having to run around in his underwear. If anything, he looked happier.

Before Hector even realized it, they’d teleported again, and he saw a group of vaguely familiar faces huddled in the corner. Non-servant Rainlords, they were. Sebolts, he was pretty sure.

“By the way,” said Ibai, “I wanted to ask. You seem fairly experienced. Have you been on many adventures?”

The question might as well have been in another language for all the sense it made to Hector at the moment. He just concentrated on gathering the Rainlords around Ibai.


Xuan Sebolt could not have been more disappointed.

When he’d heard Ibai talk about how Caster Egmond was in the building, he’d immediately gotten his hopes up. The famed Marauder of Calthos? Opportunities like that didn’t come along every day. This could have been his most satisfying fight in a dozen years, especially since he wasn’t even fully recovered from Marshrock yet. The desperate and exhausting battles were always the best.

If only the Marauder hadn’t turned out to be a destruction user.

Xuan almost pitied the man. It wasn’t like destruction was a categorically inferior ability or anything. Obviously, it was very potent and deadly, and most servants were right to fear pan-rozum users who had it. But none of that applied to the Seadevil.

Caster hadn’t even seemed to realize it yet. But then, that wasn’t so surprising. There weren’t very many servants in the world who could wield a gas the way Xuan could.

The continuous streams of destruction were certainly impressive as far as demonstrations of skill went, but the thing was, they couldn’t actually destroy smoke. The concussive force of the destruction type was certainly powerful, but it was also slow by comparison to, say, a soul-empowered explosion, which could disperse Xuan’s smoke very rapidly in all directions and thereby shred his soul.

Essentially, the only thing a destruction user could do to Xuan was push his smoke around. The molecular structure of gaseous matter made it a perfect counter to everything the Marauder wanted to do.

And that wasn’t very exhilarating.

The only obstacle to victory here was reaching the Marauder’s mind. Since he’d more or less become a being of living destruction, his one weak point in pan-rozum was going to be well protected.

But that wouldn’t make much difference, either, so long as Xuan kept him smothered.

And so the fight unfolded. Xuan and Duvoss’ two minds sat there in the phosphorus fumes, examining Caster’s body, searching for the weak point. Caster could send waves of destruction through the smoke, which certainly still threatened Zeff, Asad, and Melchor, but Duvoss had them covered. A blatant, arrow-shaped smoke signal would shoot out and warn their comrades whenever an attack from Caster was imminent.

And soon enough, Xuan found the weak point. A speck in the Marauder’s soul. Xuan could attack himself, but Darktide could hit harder, so he created an opening in his smoke and pointed the old bastard to it. Sure enough, soul-empowered javelins of frozen mercury flew into the opening and smashed against the Marauder’s body.

But even with Darktide’s help, this would be slow going. Caster had been declawed, but it would be a while before his defenses crumbled.

Which was why Xuan grew bored so quickly. This wasn’t a fight so much as an exercise in tedium. It was enough to make his mind wander in the midst of it. Duvoss was still there anyway, and he’d always had more patience for these kinds of things.

The fight with Darktide had been much more satisfying. Now there was a well-rounded opponent. And that name. A bit superfluous, really. “Melchor” was intimidating enough already.

As Xuan recalled, Melchor had gotten that name after going on a number of vengeful killing sprees many years past. For his fallen brethren. That was the kind of man Melchor was, the kind he’d always been. Even as a child. Xuan had only met him a few times in those early days, but he remembered that same severity, the same humorless demeanor.

But now that he was thinking about it, Xuan had been that way, too. They all had, really. Back then, the life of a young male Rainlord was even harder than it was now. None of this waiting until adolescence to become a servant. If you could walk, you could fight. And all the rituals. All the trials. Drowning, studying, fighting, training--all while maintaining the appearance of a sophisticated gentleman, of someone with high moral fiber.

And of course, they had to watch their elders fall in battle. One after another. Year in and year out. Death upon death. Some sacrificed themselves, trying to secure the next generation. Some died honorably in glorious battle. Others were simply murdered in cold blood.

Melchor hadn’t changed. He was a product of his time--perhaps made a bit pricklier by his kin frowning upon homosexuals during his formative years, but still a product of his time nonetheless.

No, it was Xuan who’d changed. And he wasn’t sure when that had happened, exactly. Or why.

Oh, but he was getting lost in thought. He checked back in on Caster.

Eh, it was the same as before. Duvoss was doing a fine job.

Maybe it was just all the loss, Xuan wondered. It certainly made life easier to just embrace the chaos and the blood, rather than letting it bring him down again and again. And again. And still again.

So many friends, he’d had. A hundred years’ worth.

This was why he was unfit for leadership, Xuan knew. He didn’t have the temperament. Or rather, he didn’t want it. He could keep calm well enough. Think clearly well enough. But the fight was all he really cared about. Because that was what it always came down to. In the end, the fight was what mattered most. Diplomacy might win the day, but there was always tomorrow. The fight was inevitable.

And that was why, he realized. That was why he’d changed. He remembered that lesson well. Field Marshal Kane had tried to teach it to him. It took Abolish for him to truly understand, though.

Quite possibly the greatest diplomatic victory of his life. Working directly under Kane. A very delicate mission in Hoss, Vantalay, and the recently-emerged state of Steccat. All three countries had been flirting with war for a good five years or so, and Abolish had been doing its damnedest to help them make the final push.

Kane’s task force grew by leaps and bounds during that time, learning new tactics, relearning old ones, refitting itself to become one of the most flexible paramilitary units in the world. By the time all was said and done, Xuan had fought Abolish in almost every conceivable manner--as a counter-terrorist, as an ambassador, as a bodyguard, as a propaganda officer, as a spy, as a negotiator, as a mediator, even as a mailman and a deli shop employee.

It was some of the hardest, strangest, and most rewarding work he’d ever been a part of. Without a doubt, Kane and his men saved tens of thousands of lives, if not more.

And the very next week, after returning home to Waterbreak in Roth for the first time in over four years, Xuan heard the news.

Lac’Vayce. A million dead in less than three days of fighting.

Xuan had known people there, of course. He’d visited Melmoore several times in his youth. He’d been fond of Lac’Vayce in particular for its combination of lush tropical vistas and ancient cultural heritage. Sure, it had been something of a tourist trap, but that was probably why the locals were so absurdly welcoming and friendly.

He visited the battleground afterward. The Vanguard had walled the whole island off, but Xuan managed to get inside for a look.

Only a smoldering wasteland remained. Where once had been dozens of skyscraping hotels and office buildings, only a few piles of rubble stood. The very ground itself was mushy under his feet, even smoking and oozing in places. And the stench.

Indescribably awful.

He didn’t know why he was thinking about all this now.

No. On second thought, he did know. This was exactly why he hated being bored. It made him introspective; it brought out the old man in him. And all in all, there just weren’t enough good memories--not when compared with all the bad ones.

What a sour old fart, he’d become.

But wait.

Wait a minute.

This wasn’t supposed to be happening.

His mind was joined with Duvoss’.


It was perfectly fine to multitask.

Concentrate on two things at once.

But drifting like this.

These thoughts shouldn’t have felt so far removed.

This wasn’t right.


Where were Duvoss’ thoughts?

At this very moment, what was the reaper thinking?



Xuan seized control again. Smoke gathered, swirled, and his hand formed. It found his point of control, his merged mind, and pulled.

Duvoss came free, exhausted and unconscious.

The smoke shuddered and dispersed, giving way to Xuan’s small frame. He hit the floor with his reaper in hand and struggled there as his body refused to listen to him.

Xuan tried to concentrate, to understand what was happening, but it was a challenge even to stay conscious. Every muscle felt numb and sluggish, and his vision kept blurring in and out.

They’d pushed themselves too hard, his brain finally realized. He and Duvoss had known this might happen. Of course they had.

But that was how hyper state exhaustion worked, subtle and creeping and numbing. A quiet crevice between the two minds would form, and it was only too common for neither one to realize what was happening until it was too late.

And because he’d drifted, he didn’t know how much time had passed since the fight began, either. It could have been one minute; it could have been twenty.

It couldn’t have been that long, though, because he was still himself. Mostly. He hadn’t totally lost it and started attacking his own comrades, at least. That was something.

But that was definitely where his mind had been headed. He could still feel the lingering weight that had been growing in his soul a moment ago. A twisted mixture of despair and rage. If it had progressed to hunger, too, then...

He didn’t think about it. He needed to focus. What was happening?

He looked around. Everything was a mess. The room was unfamiliar. Had they moved? Of course they had. Where were they now? Too difficult to tell. Who was still fighting?

Asad and Qorvass were down, Xuan saw. The reaper was bleeding out of the Sandlord’s torso.

Zeff and Axiolis were on one knee--still alive and covered in thin trails of fog and ice. But they were struggling to hold it together. Their merge was probably going to end soon, if it wasn’t already happening.

Dimas? Xuan couldn’t see--no. There he was. Him and Iziol. On the ground behind Darktide.

Darktide was still standing? Still fighting? Of course he was. That ridiculous bastard.

Xuan writhed on the floor, gritting his teeth as he tried and failed to stand. He hated this. More than anything. Only being able to watch? No. He had to get up. He had to fight.

Liquid metal splashed across his vision as Darktide clashed with Caster. But it wasn’t just Caster, he realized. More Abolish trash had arrived. A half dozen unfamiliar souls were in the room with them now, all behind the Marauder. Xuan hadn’t even sensed them. What a failure, he’d become. Useless.

Four of them attacked alongside Caster, flanking Melchor. The lone Rainlord grabbed two and tore them both to pieces, but Caster barreled through the mercury like a bull.

Then came a flash of light. An explosion. Xuan couldn’t hear it, but he could feel it. The ground lifted out from under him, and a vague sense of movement enveloped him. He hit something. Probably the ground again. And when he looked out another time, he saw smaller figures.


His vision focused.

The Elroy kids. They hadn’t gotten out? No, there was a wall of debris in their way. The older girl was trying to punch and claw through it, but she looked unsteady. The younger girl was injured, and the boy was trying to set her down, probably to help the older one.

They needed help. But Xuan couldn’t provide it. He could only lay there, watching.

Darktide came splattering into view. Splotches of mercury hit the broken floor and puddled together, struggling to make their way back to the main body mass.

Zeff, Asad, Dimas, and all of their reapers oozed out of Darktide’s liquid form. Xuan had no idea how Melchor had managed to keep them safe. All but Zeff were unconscious.

The Lord Elroy punched the ground, trying to stand. He’d separated from his reaper, who now sat on his shoulder, apparently out cold like the others.

Darktide was having trouble getting back up as well, now. His mercury bristled like fur, trying to retain its shape.

The Abolishers arrived through the cavernous hole in the far wall, even more numerous than before. They moved to engage again.

But then everyone stopped. All at once. And Xuan saw why.

A new figure was standing there in the middle of the chamber. Pitch black and tall. Too tall. Taller than any person should be. And bearing a tail. Along with eyes that glowed deeply crimson.

Primarily, though, it was this pressure that had halted everything. This presence. How had Xuan not sensed it sooner? He should have been able to sense a soul this powerful from a mile off.

Caster was the first to break the silence. “What are you doing?” he asked with two voices. He sounded as confused as anyone.

The figure didn’t respond.

But he didn’t really need to. The Seadevil knew who this was. Practically anyone would. That inhuman physique. This imposing pressure. Those black scales. There could be no doubt.

This was the Monster of the East. This was Gohvis.



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George M. Frost


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Sagaaa ago

Moreeeeeee pleaseeeee no clifffffffff

erocommander ago

So he is the demon Dry God talked about.

Noizce ago

So gohvis was the illusion emiliana was seeing

Nakkus ago

Thanks for the chapter!

Damn! :D

namesarehard ago

Man that ending made me feel dumb. The whole time Parson was talking about the "monster" Gohvis being a member of their house, of course it would be Emiliana who has the same power as him.

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