The night was dark and the whole city was lit up by the light of the lanterns. The winds had picked up and it started to drizzle. It looked like it would be a cold, stormy night. The guards that were patrolling the city moved slowly, mostly keeping to the buildings and hiding from the rain.
In one of the better-off sections of the city was Exeor’s Magic Emporium. It was late and close to 9 pm now. Almost everyone had left the store and was now either at home or out in the pub. However, there was still light shining in the building, mostly through one window in particular.
This very window was getting closed by a man in a black robe. There was a collapsed gnome in the room next to some alchemy equipment. By the entrance door to this lab, there was a female elf. To normal people, she might have looked like a sun elf but this man saw through her disguise.
The man placed a double helix looking magical device on a nearby table after closing the window. The artifact gave off a red glow and the helixes revolved around each other while this item was active.
Besides these three there were two more people in close proximity. One was a tall human youth that was passed out close to the female elf. The other was another woman in a black robe that was similar to the one this man was wearing.
She was now bringing the passed out woman over. She did this by dragging her by her long hair. Her legs were dangling and her arms were flopping around without any strength in them.
“That toy always makes things so boring~”
The woman said while sighing, she tossed the passed out Zilyana into the room while complaining.
“Do not talk about our lord's artifact in such a way! It is a blessing from the Lord of the Abyss.”
The man replied in a monotone voice while glaring at his partner in crime. The woman had her hood down so you could see her smiling widely after the man got mad.
“I wouldn’t dare, our Lord is truly merciful”
The woman shrugged while replying, her tone indicating a hint of mockery. The two clearly had different views about this lord they were speaking of.
“Can we at least take their bags, they won’t be needing them.”
The woman smirked while pointing to the bags that both the gnome and the elf had on their sides. The man didn’t answer and that was enough for the obsidian skinned elf to move closer. She took out an intricate-looking dagger and pointed it towards the unmoving bodies of the gnome and elf.
Unbeknownst to the two the third person that was there was quite awake. The tier 1 class holder that was there didn’t seem like a threat to these two assassins. They were preoccupied with the target and his hidden guard to pay attention to the sleeping youth. This would turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes that they could have made.
Roland waited patiently, he started moving his hand towards his belt where he had one of his magical wands attached. They still looked like pieces of wide metal with a handle. After getting the knack of steel weapons he had created one that could support his fire arrow spell.
There were some downsides in making a weapon like this. The charges a regular steel weapon could hold was limited. Even with the highest rune quality and the help of the rune compression skill at most he could squeeze out ten charges.
The runic components would erode afterward. That is also why he kept the paddle-like design, with the added thickness and wide shape he could repair it more often. After each repair, some of the material would be lost but these wands didn’t need to keep an edge so it was fine.
Finally, he saw the opportunity to strike. The woman pulled out her dagger and started going for the bags of holding. He grasped his weapon and was ready to point it at the strange artifact that was radiating with an unusual mana signature.
The man in the black robe didn’t look like he would be waiting much more. He moved his hand up and Roland could hear some strange cracking noises, it was as if bones were being broken. He had to act now, he knew that this was probably the only way he would survive.
These two were far above him in levels, he didn’t think that he would be able to make it down the corridor if he ran. He would probably get stabbed by the strange black looking elven woman. She looked like the speedy type and agility was the stat that Roland lacked the most.
He knew that Zilyana wasn’t what she seemed. She was the only person that could get him out of this bind. He also wasn’t sure how strong the gnome was in a fight but he also could have a trick up his sleeve.
There was a slight delay with the spell activation. To be on the safe side he needed to inject his mana before aiming with his steel wand. The downside of this was that he couldn’t focus on his target before activating his weapon. He had no choice though as otherwise, he might lose the element of surprise.
A large thick tentacle rose from the man’s long sleeve but stopped midway. He was about to devour the gnome that was on the floor. He had carried him over here and placed him next to the elven woman. He wanted to order his accomplice to carry the last person over here but before that could happen he noticed a new mana signature. Someone was clearly activating a spell or a magical item.
The man’s class was an Abyssal Warlock, a prestige class that needed some special steps to unlock. He was someone that was proficient in transformation magic, he could transform his body into many abyssal monstrosities. He was also someone that started just like every other magic caster, as a tier 1 mage.
He possessed all the magic-related skills and traits. He had noticed the shift in mana around Roland’s body but it was already too late. He had believed in the artifact, it had never failed him before. Even this tier 3 elven woman and gnome had fallen to its might.
Only people with specialized classes that were resistant against abyssal illusion magic would be able to resist it. The youth that was there didn’t fit the criteria, he didn’t even have a tier 2 class. Yet somehow there he was, pointing a piece of metal at the artifact that this man was so proud off.
The Abyssal warlock’s eyes glowed in a crimson color and he pointed his large tentacle at the magical device. He was trying to defend it, what the youth was planning was clear.
The thick tentacle flew to block the path of the fiery arrow but it was too late. The mass of fire elemental energy slammed into the double helix-shaped item. The artifact wasn’t built with defensive measures in mind so it shattered into many tiny pieces along with the table that it was on.
The man wailed in a strange deep voice as he watched his artifact being destroyed. The woman that was with him was already next to the perpetrator. She had vanished from her spot and instantly appeared with her dagger above him, ready to deliver a killing blow.
Without giving him much time to react, Roland turtled up. Right after firing the fire arrow spell he instantly activated every protective item on his person. He had many magic shield type runic spell scrolls on himself just for such an occasion.
His body was covered by various elemental shields, fire, wind, water, and earth. He was encased in many layers of common grade magical shields. The woman didn’t falter with her attack, her face showed a ghastly wide grin.
The dagger flew down and started going through the protective barriers like through butter. Only after passing the fourth one did it start slowing down. Roland continued activating more shields in hopes of stalling her. His true objective wasn’t to defend himself from this attack, it was to give the people in this room time to react.
The biggest problem was that he didn’t know how long that would take. He was putting his life in other's hands yet again. He had a theory that Zilyana wasn’t just a simple shop clerk. She stuck too close to this gnome and he never saw any bodyguards around. Either the gnome was strong himself or this woman was the one defending him. His theory would be now put to the test and he really hoped that he was right.
The last barrier finally shattered and the dagger poked through. It went right into his shoulder as he was given enough time to shift himself to the side.
The pain was excruciating, he couldn’t help himself from screaming. The woman’s eyes turned into two crescent moons and it looked like she was enjoying herself.
She said while twisting the dagger that had cleanly penetrated through Roland’s scapula bone, it had even reached the floor behind it.
|You have been poisoned.|
|You have been paralyzed.|
|You have been cursed.|
|You are bleeding out.|
A myriad of notifications sounded out. His HP had dropped by a third just from this one hit and if he looked he would see it ticking down continuously. The weapon the woman was using was clearly meant for killing, even if she didn’t finish the job the poison and curse status would probably be his undoing.
Luckily due to the woman’s nature, he wasn’t quite dead yet. She wasn’t like the Abyssal Warlock who did his killing proficiently. No, she on the other hand liked to toy with her targets.
“Naughty children need to be punished~.”
She yanked out the blade from Roland’s shoulder and aimed it for the other one. Now that she had the chance, she would play with her prey.
The warlock had also momentarily spaced out. The shock of losing a holy artifact, a symbol of his faith wasn’t something that could be easily forgotten. But, it was gone and the targets hadn’t been eliminated yet.
“Kill him now! We can’t waste time!”
He shouted while turning his tentacle towards one of the bodies on the ground. To his dismay, both of them were missing. He quickly looked around, his skin shifting color as he got ready to receive an attack. Then he heard it, the voice of his accomplice shouting.
He turned his head to the door where the youth that destroyed his magical artifact was. His partner in crime had been attacked from behind, she was too focused on the boy to react fully. She now had a large gash on her side, obsidian colored blood coming out of it while she backed away.
The Warlock heard her shout but turned to another location. He had his own problem to combat, the gnome he was here to kill was now missing. It was as if he vanished but he clearly wasn’t someone versed in teleportation magic. Even if the boy and that elven woman survived it wasn’t a problem but if the gnome got away they would fail their mission.
The man quickly activated various detection skills and spells that he knew. To no avail, this wasn’t his forte; he was more of a fighter. The gnome had to be here, he was probably using some kind of skill or item to hide his presence.
The man moved his hands forward, tentacles shooting out and splitting into many smaller ones. They looked like long whips with pointy claws at the ends. If he couldn’t see him he would destroy this entire room and the whole building with it.
Roland at this time was coughing up blood on the floor. Zilyana had swooped in for the save at the last moment but he was having a hard time staying awake. The moment the dagger was pulled out the paralyzation effect subsided but the curse and poison status didn’t. He did the only thing that he could and started crawling down the corridor a trail of his blood following him.
He heard two women shouting profanities behind him and strange whip-like noises. His plan of waking up Zilyana and the gnome had worked but he still got stabbed. He needed to get an antidote and find a priest to remove this curse, if not he would die.
He had some healing potions in his own bag but the lesser antidotes weren’t working. Luckily this was a shop owned by an alchemist, there were more powerful potions downstairs.
He managed to crawl up to the stairs, even while drinking his potions constantly his health was still going down. His legs felt like they were made from lead as he slowly wobbled down the stairs, almost falling down at the last step.
He stumbled and ravaged through the glass cases. There were various potions out behind this glass so that the customers could look over them. He didn’t care if he would need to pay for it later he needed to survive first.
When his health was at about 20% he finally got to the antidote section of the store. He tried bashing the glass open but his attack bounced right off.
He backed away and took out his wand, this glass wasn’t something that would easily break. He had forgotten this fact while panicking downstairs. He needed a key to get there but he didn’t think that he would find it.
He pointed at the case with the potions in them and a fire arrow spell rushed forth. It collided with the glass but didn’t shatter it. Roland continued pelting his target with his spells while his health continuously ticked down.
The steel paddle wasn’t designed to take this much mana and the metal started heating up. He bit his bottom lip and continued, finally after the sixth try he had managed to melt a hand-sized hole through the partially magic resistant glass.
He frantically lunged forward and grabbed one of the higher grade antidotes. The purple-colored liquid made its way into his mouth. Following this, he swallowed another healing potion before collapsing to the ground.
He slumped back while looking at his status screen. He could barely make out the numbers but his decreasing health started to slow down.
He didn’t have much time to rest though. A large number of tendrils burst through the ceiling and started wreaking havoc on the level he was on. The whole building started shaking as the battle upstairs continued.
“I need to get out of here…”
His shoulder didn’t stop hurting and his knees felt weak. He had gotten over the poison part and the bleeding was slowly stopping thanks to all the healing potions he had drunk. The only problem was that the wound was starting to take on a black coloring.
The curse still remained and he needed to either find himself a priest or a blessed elixir. Curses like this one varied and most of the time worked at a slower rate compared to poisons. They could cause various effects like dementia and madness to boot.
He started walking towards the exit while at the same time trying not to get impaled on the tentacle whips. It looked like the warlock above was really going after the gnome. The continued tentacle strikes indicated that he was proving to be a hard target to hit.
Roland finally reached the door outside and tumbled down to the ground as his legs gave out. He clutched his injured shoulder that was still hurting and looked at the store.
It looked like a horror show, there were massive squiggly tentacles bursting out through the walls everywhere. Monstrous screams filled the surroundings and made his whole body shiver in fright. The whole building was coming down, he could only watch and hope that the people inside would be alright.
The screaming and shouting finally brought the city guards over. They were a lot faster this time around compared to when he got his old workshop invaded. Probably because this was a better part of the city.
They were just in time to behold the Abyssal Warlock in all his glory. The person bursts out through the ceiling without looking like anything human. He had a vaguely humanoid shape, his hands had turned to claws and his shoulders were bulky. On those shoulders were massive eyes that blinked and twitched in every direction.
To Roland’s surprise, the man wasn’t chasing after Zilyana or the manager. There was someone similar, a moon elf male battling this gruesome monster. The two left a partially collapsed building and their battle continued outside.
He couldn’t see Zilyana and the other woman anywhere. If they were battling in the shadows someplace else or were still in the building was a mystery.
The guards surrounded the area and even more, people started appearing. The company probably had some backup henchmen for such an occasion.
Roland just felt like a deflated balloon. He felt the adrenaline leaving his body which made it hard to stay awake.
He had somehow survived this but he was left with a bad taste in his mouth. He felt like if he was stronger this wouldn’t have been the case.
There was one big thing on his mind now.
'I need to leave this city…'
He had been involved in two assassination attempts now. None of them were directly his fault, they were all squabbles between other people.
This was unacceptable, the lack of control over his own life was pushing him in a certain direction. He needed personal strength, he didn’t think that he could depend on others anymore.
Luckily this was a clear breach of contract. The company had failed to protect him and this wound was proof. Where he would be heading was still up for consideration but he had a couple of cities in mind. All of them, ones with dungeons and new opportunities.
First, he needed to get this curse in check. The veins on his neck were turning black just like this wound, he was in dire need of a high priest.