‘What are those creatures, the radar isn’t picking them up as monsters… are they too small to be registered, or are they part of some kind of spell?’
Roland was above ground and looking through a ventilation opening down into a large chamber meant for occult rituals. One of these was apparently taking place, the whole area was riddled with passed out people and more figures from the Abyssal Cult that he was familiar with.
After making his way here to find the control item for the large-scale double helix device he found something he never expected to see. Small leech-like creatures were being inserted into people’s eye sockets. Just a few seconds one of them vanished into a guard’s eye and besides a little bit of blood, there didn’t seem to be anything off.
Instantly his mind went racing to figure out what was going on. After the run-in with the Abyssal Cult all those years ago he had gone through extensive research on the subject. Yet there wasn’t much information about their real purpose besides the usual disappearances and murders.
It seemed that the calling card of this cult was this double helix relic. With a magical device that could knock out even people at tier 3, it was easy for the cult to go unnoticed. Roland didn’t have access to much information, most of it was clearly being hidden away by the information guilds and other powerful existences.
They were not informing the commoners about facts concerning cults probably to not have widespread panic. Most of the second-hand information that was passed by word of mouth didn’t amount to anything. Even when some cultists were apprehended they were taken away by the governing lord's forces.
The only thing he could do was to spend large amounts of money at the thieves guild that sold information. Even with that, there wasn’t much on the cult, they mostly evaded curious gazes. Not even corpses remained in place and they vanished into the night after carving out their signature symbol. Without it most of the cases would not be identified and the afflicted would not even know if their loved ones had actually died.
Roland had witnessed firsthand what these people were capable of. That one warlock that could transform into a giant monster was probably responsible in some way. The merchant group that existed in Edelgard disappeared in a day without a trace. If he didn’t get out of the illusory world back then he along with his old boss would have done the same. Luckily the old gnome had some powerful bodyguards that could contend with the cult assassins.
There was no word of any incidents like that even when trying to get information through the thieves guild. Mostly there were just rumors of events happening that didn’t seem to be related to each other. There were many assassination groups working in the kingdom and the cult had a good reputation yet there was no mention of these wiggly things they were inserted into people.
‘That looks like some kind of parasite? What’s its purpose… take over the host body to produce more or is it something else?’
While observing the gruesome scene in front Roland came to a conclusion. He had heard about various ways of controlling other's minds and perhaps this was one of them. The way the little leech-like creature went through the eye socket without harming the person made it seem that the cultists weren’t aiming to harm the people.
If they just wanted them to act as some parasite breeding hosts then they were going through a lot of hassle. Why would they leave the whole caravan mostly untouched? They were probably going to place these people back onto the carts later on.
‘Is this some kind of body-snatcher scenario or something?’
While he did try to figure out what the purpose of those bugs was, this was not the time for his contemplations. Down below part of the adventurers and even regular travelers were already put through this dark ritual. If he didn’t do anything all of them might become his enemies.
If the parasites could actually control their hosts was a big possibility. His main plan was to get the control item and then free the adventurers from the illusion they were in. After this was done he wanted to use their help to take out the cultists. On the other hand, if all of them turned into some mindless zombies he would only back himself into the corner.
‘Those guys seem to be fine for now but…’
In the background, he could see some of the adventurers behind hauled over. Dalrak and his small group were sprawled out next to each other. Orson had a strange smile on his face, it was as if he was having the best dream of his life. Grisalde on the other hand looked to be next in line for the ritual and the Spirit Spearman was right behind her.
‘These guys are really convinced that nothing can awaken these people… I guess I should make my move.’
After going through the temples inside he had also discovered the item that he was looking for. The runic device outside was giving out strange mana patterns that he had stored. After a quick search, he had identified an item in there that he was looking for.
Lothor L 139
T2 Dark Shaman L39
T2 Dark Priest L50
T1 Dark Acolyte L25
T1 Cleric L25
It was in possession of this man, this seemed to be the leader of the group that they all gathered around. At first Roland thought that it was the occult-looking staff in his hand but it was devoid of any runes. The only item fitting the job was a strange medallion that he was wearing around his neck. It had a double helix symbol in the middle along with many tiny runes.
This would be his assault target which made things difficult. He was the person holding out the little parasites while the other dark priests chanted. What he needed to do was get to that medallion, through it in theory he should be able to send a signal to disable the large relic.
Roland considered blasting the large spire with spells and some enhanced magic but he wasn’t sure if he could blast through its defenses. The double helix tower was surrounded by some kind of mana shield that protected it from harm. The amount of mana he would need to put into a blast to get through it would be immense.
It would surely drain his reserves and put him at great risk if he failed. Thus he decided to go with option B. While this might have seemed like the more difficult task he had a few helpers to aid him. The two golems that he had taken along for this adventure were already getting into place.
‘Here goes nothing.’
Without further ado, the haphazardly created plan of his was triggered. The two shiny spider drones were quick to follow the instructions that their creator gave them. From within their bodies, pointy rods started to slide out. They had cylindrical shapes while becoming thinner at the end. They were all covered with runes that at this point in time were shining blue.
The drones lowered their center of gravity as they went low. Soon the runes traveled up the rod coming out of the top of their body to activate the spell effect. What shot out were simple mana bolt spells and while their aim was mostly to distract, killing some targets was not off the table.
On the outside of the temple, there were several cultists that continued to chant. But soon enough they awoke from their trance by having their bodies being punctured by concentrated bolts of mana.
One of the men screamed while falling down to his knees. The chanting cultists here were not of high level even a simple mana bolt from a spider drone was enough to maim them if the target didn’t move. None of them were prepared for this but there were far too many targets to shoot down. After the second cultist went to the ground there was an uproar which was followed by the emerging of more targets.
“Brothers and sisters, we are being attacked!”
While some of the cultists remained kneeling on the ground some others emerged from the side. The sound of shouting and screaming soon got loud enough to reach the ears of the people inside of the temple. This caused the dark ritual to be paused right before a certain parasite made its way inside of a large muscular woman’s eye socket.
“Who dares interrupt the secret baptism! How could anyone get through the dark lord’s blessing? Is it someone from the golden order?”
The main dark priest started shouting while the outside was being bombarded with mana bolts. The other acolyte's that were there abandoned the sleeping bodies and turned to their leader. Even while the shouting was happening outside they didn’t seem to react as they just waited.
“We do not know…”
“Fools, go outside the baptism can not be interrupted!”
While the few priests on the platform remained in place the others started rushing out. There they saw two hard-to-spot shiny spider golems. The two medium-sized constructs were hard to spot due to the various enchantments that kept their bodies somewhat shrouded in the night. Yet due to the constant mana bolt salvos, they could be recognized even by these priests.
But as soon as everyone rushed out the golems halted with their assault and quickly retreated behind the evil spire. The dark acolytes quickly followed after, in their hands they were mostly holding daggers, bows, and various other light weapons. While not many, there were some with magical staves that were able to protect their allies with some quick mana shields.
The spider drones weren’t as fast on foot as the people chasing them. They were soon discovered on the other side by the maddened cultists. Everyone here was quick to charge before the enemy constructs could continue with the magical assault. However, the first cultist had a rude awakening from his angry charge, as the moment he was a few meters away from the golem an explosion occurred.
A large loud bang shook the area as the man’s whole leg exploded along with the patch of earth under it. This man might have been the first casualty of the trap but he was not the only one. The maddened cultist had not paid attention to where the spider golems were leading them. Now they found themselves around a hidden minefield and soon enough the first explosion was followed by a second one.
It was a strange sight to see, part of the cultists didn’t seem to care for their health at all. They continued to rush towards the escaping spider golems and stepped into the placed runic mines. Only a few of the higher-ranked ones quickly stopped as they saw the carnage unfold before them.
“Stop you fools!”
The mindless charge caused a lot of casualties but as soon as one of the few dark priests shouted the others instantly halted. It was as if these lower leveled acolytes followed through with their orders blindly even if their lives would be ended in the process.
“Use your bows!”
The man in charge was holding a magical staff in their hand. The moment the dark acolytes stopped with the advance the golems started attacking them with mana bolts again. But the leader was quick in reacting, while chanting he produced a barrier between himself and his people to block the incoming projectiles.
Even when the smaller golems performed strange maneuvers there were unable to evade that many projectiles going their way. Spears, arrows, and even some explosives were coming their way and soon enough they were down on the ground. Even then they continued with their assault, the mana bolts only stopped after the last blow was delivered.
The victory was assured, the mechanical contraptions had been defeated. Yet as the dark priest was looking at the destroyed automatons he felt that something was wrong. This was quickly followed by a revelation as he looked towards the dark temple in which a light show was taking place.
All of them quickly rushed back while not even caring if some of the mines took out another batch of acolytes. When they arrived on the scene they were greeted by a large magical orb that was formed at the top of the ceiling. This orb was spinning around and constantly releasing magical bolts of energy.
The dark baptism had been clearly interrupted, the dark priests performing the task were chanting out loudly while protecting themselves with magical shields. Everyone was in disarray as the constant bursts of light were making it hard to see.
“It’s coming from there! Quickly my brothers and sisters, protect the temple of the Lord!”
There was clearly a mage sitting up there and casting this spell. It looked like a magical staff was above them and someone was holding onto it. Thus after a few shouts, everyone took aim for the area above their heads to bring down this intruder.
Dark orbs of energy formed around the dark priests that took the shape of skulls. With their enemy now identified the magical projectiles quickly made their way up towards the target. The skulls promptly exploded bringing part of the roof along with them. Their victory was assured as the orb of light above them quickly diminished in size and vanished.
But instead of the body of an enemy hitting the ground there was something else. It was clearly a magical runic staff with a large gem on the end but it had a strange apparatus attached to it. The shape was rectangular and when it fell down to the ground the inside produced some cylindrical-shaped objects that did not explode.
“Wait… where is the Head Priest?”
Everyone looked around but to their surprise, their leader was down on the ground. There was a wound in his back which indicated that he had been stabbed through it.
‘Well, that seemed to have worked but I probably don't have much time before they find me.’
Roland was now hiding within one of the abandoned buildings. In his hand was the runic medallion that he had taken from the body of the head priest. The plan was simple, while they spider golems distracted the cultist he would take the item in question.
This was easier said than done as even after they had started the distraction a lot of people remained inside the dark temple. While he could have jumped down and battled it out he would not have any time to work on this medallion. Thus he had used a second diversion that utilizes his previous mass guiding spell.
After marking all of the remaining cultists he had lodged the magical staff into the wall. In his backpack, he had a spare battery pack to which he could connect this staff. While it continued to churn out spells he quickly made his way towards the second ventilation opening on the other side. Then during the chaos that ensued, he sneaked up on the priest to take him out. The man did not expect to get stabbed from behind.
‘I got their attention now…’
Roland could hear various maddened shouts outside. His deception had been discovered and they were now looking for him. It was time to quickly decipher this contraption, if he was unable he would need to go against a small army of angry cultists.
With how they were able to protect themselves with magical barriers they would not be easy targets for someone like him. Without the aid of his ranged spells to clear out the large number of meat shields, he found it unwise to confront them just yet. But he did not panic, the runic medallion in his hand was already being deciphered and soon enough he would wake his companions…