“You know, I had such a good day too. All the damage along my arms healed up, my neck stopped hurting, the breakfast sausage was absolutely perfect. I really had high hopes for today.” Sylver said, as he watched his shades lift the fake Yeva’s chair and move it to the middle of the workshop.
“And then you two just show up out of nowhere and ruin everything,” Sylver continued as he opened a sealed box and searched through it, pulling out a pair of wrought iron pliers.
“And I tried. I explained, I almost begged, I told you from the start ‘don’t lie to me’. I don’t understand it? What did you think would happen? I gave you a whole speech about why you shouldn’t lie to me, explained why it’s a bad idea to lie to me, and even went as far as to make sure you understood what the two people you have stolen from me meant to me.” Sylver said as he walked over to the fake Yeva and placed the pliers on her lap.
“At least you’re not actually pregnant. But on the other hand, this is going to take a while for me to forget. You look so inconspicuous, so fragile, both of you. And you even managed to get Ciege’s unrelenting stare down perfectly. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I just lost my mind,” Sylver said, gesturing at the fake Ciege with a slightly rusted file.
“Now I am not looking forward to this. I’ve grown to enjoy a good fight, but at my heart, I’m a lover, not a fighter. So I will give you both one last chance to end things peacefully, and possibly even walk away from each other as friends. Where are the real Ciege and Yeva?” Sylver asked, as both of the imposter’s gags were removed by shades.
The fake Yeva spoke first, immediately bursting into tears and rocking in her chair. “Why are you doing this! Please just take whatever you want, just don’t hurt us! Please I’m begging you don’t hurt my-” the shade standing behind her pulled the gag back up and forced it in her mouth.
“I don’t know what you were hoping to accomplish with that, but it all did was just piss me off. What about you fake Ciege? I’ll start with her if you at least drop the act.” Sylver offered to the fake Ciege, walking over to him and staring him right in the eye.
“There’s a chest full of gold hidden underneath a loose board upstairs in the bedroom. Please just take it and leave!” The fake Ciege begged, making Sylver surprised that they knew about Ciege’s hiding spot. Although they most likely found it by accident, given how that was the most generic place to hide anything.
“How about this. Tell me my name, and I’ll let you two go. If you’re the real Ciege and I’m just losing my mind, surely you’d be able to tell me my name? The letter didn’t address me by name, but surely you didn’t forget it?” Sylver offered, leaning closer to the fake Ciege and placing a hand on his shoulder.
The fake Ciege struggled against his restraints for a moment before settling down. He just stared at Sylver but didn’t say anything.
“So you’re not a changeling. Those normally get a few day’s worth of memories. It’s not an illusion either, at least as far as I can tell. I’m not feeling any more magic than usual emanating from your body, so that leaves either an elixir, or some sort of ritual. But since you don’t even know who I am, I’m struggling to imagine why you would go after this family in particular.” Sylver thought out loud as he walked back over to the fake Yeva and picked up the pair of pliers that were resting in her lap.
“Don’t worry. I have 100% customer satisfaction in the torturing area. I’m sure whatever the reason is, I’ll know about it soon enough.” Sylver said, as from behind four hands grabbed the fake Yeva by the head and forced her mouth open.
“Now then. Do I start at the molars or the incisors?” Sylver asked, as he reached into her mouth with the pliers.
In truth, Sylver was sick and disgusted at himself, before he even finished cracking the first tooth open. But he’d already decided on going for the calm and professional act, and couldn’t switch it halfway. He was no mister Dake, but he did his best, and given how piss soaked both of their pants were, he was doing something right.
Although that might have been from when he inserted needles made from ice into their fractured teeth and wiggled them around.
There was also the fact that Sylver might have set the bar way too high from the start. But it seemed to have worked, so there was no need to worry. If nothing else he could always break open the back of their skull and try his hand at poking their spinal column.
There was always room to go higher. But even though he understood on a rational level that these two had stolen away from the people they were impersonating, Sylver still couldn’t help but get a stomach ache from doing this to someone who looked like Ciege and Yeva. The fake pregnant stomach was also upsetting him, but for a wholly different reason.
Plus he despised using his skills for something like this. It was too in line with the stereotypes people believed in about necromancers. Fuck, Sylver had personally met several that wore necklaces made of human teeth.
“Now that everyone is nice and uncomfortable, I have two vials here,” Sylver said, with the same ice-cold calmness as he had used since the start of the interrogation.
“One is a powerful healing potion that will completely repair every tiny bit of damage you’ve incurred, and the other is a special kind of acid. Ciege used it to clean up tarnished gold, but it works just as well on bones. Or teeth in this case. If you think it hurts now, just wait until there’s nothing but nerve left,” Sylver said, taking the two vials out of his robe and holding them up to the dim light of the forge.
“They melted. And evaporated,” Sylver said with wide eyes as he walked out of the workshop and into the kitchen.
“I know. Ours did the same, we were hoping you knew how to stop it,” Whiskers said with a serene calmness in his voice.
“I’m not fucking omnipotent. I don’t even know what they were. They kept up the facade to the bitter end.” Sylver said, baffled by the whole experience. The souls might have been hollow, but those were perfect imitations. Even knowing what to look for, the fake Ciege had copied every single physical aspect perfectly.
“They replaced 3 of mine, that’s how they were able to slip past us. We think,” Whiskers explained, as Sylver stared off into empty space.
“What was the point? Who would be fooled by them for longer than a few minutes? And if they took them to get to me, where’s the note? Why not just kill them and leave for me to find? How did they even know to come here? Were they just decoys meant to stall me? Did they melt because of the damage, or because of a timer, or why?” Sylver asked, pacing around the room and thinking out loud.
“It does seem strange when you put it like that. But as far as we know, this could have been a plan months in the making.” Whiskers said.
“Ciege has only been back for less than a month. How the fuck would they plan for him?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you find any clues or anything that would tell us where they were taken?”
Sylver slammed his hand on the table and caused the cat to jump. “Then what the fuck are you going to do to get them back! I left them in your care, where are they!” Sylver shouted, his anger bubbling over for a moment, and causing Whiskers to back away to the very edge of the table.
As if a candle was snuffed out Sylver calmed down and composed himself. The sharp edges that formed all over his robe receded back into it, and the shadows stretching all over the room went back to their regular length.
“Alright, so our only leads turned into mush and evaporated leaving nothing behind, now what do we do?” Sylver asked calmly, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes for a moment.
The black cat continued to sit at the very edge of the table, its hackles raised, and its back bend upwards. It took a while before it relaxed and went back to how it normally looked.
“We’ve already called for experts. They’ll be here in half a day or so. They might be able to find something,” The black cat answered uncertainly.
“Too long. Then again, they could both be dead already, so it might not even matter.” Sylver said going back to pacing around the room.
“Can’t you do some dark magic and find them? Summon the ghosts of the imposters or skin a bandit alive and make him track them down?”
“Sure I can. But I’d need a twice fucked goat, a cup full of a virgin woman’s blood, and lastly a finger taken from a man that died under a full moon,” Sylver said with a cheerful flair.
“While I am glad to see you recognizing the versatility and power of dark magic, I can’t just pull miracles out of my ass. You need a piece of something to find something. A drop of their blood, a chunk of flesh, something. If they were nearby I could make do with hair or nail clippings, but I’ve already tried and neither of them is within a kilometer of here.” Sylver explained as he continued to pace and look around the room.
As if reacting to an attack Sylver turned on his heel and started ripping through the boxes stacked on the kitchen table, searching and searching until he found a small enough bowl and brought it back to the table where Whiskers was sitting on.
Sylver held his wrist over the bowl and sliced it open, letting the blood trickle down his fingers and into the bowl. It filled up almost to the brim before he pulled his hand away.
“I’m such a fucking idiot! Why didn’t I think of this sooner! I’ve got all the blood I need in my own veins!” Sylver said as he tightened the darkness around the wound and sealed it shut.
As Sylver held his hands over the bowl of blood, it started to spin and condense, floating up into the air and forming into a perfectly round sphere. The sphere glowed a bright yellow light as it gradually became faster and faster and finally seemed to implode in on itself, leaving behind a tiny red gem, barely as thick and long as a large sewing needle.
Sylver patted down his robe for a string, before one of the shade handed him one. Whiskers just looked on at the sight and chose to remain quiet.
Sylver lifted the tiny needle off the table by the string he tied to it, and held his breath. The needle sparked ever so slightly from the inside, and an extremely dull and pale yellow light formed at its very tip. Very weakly and slowly the needle moved towards Sylver and the light gradually got brighter and brighter, until it was almost bright enough to be seen in broad daylight.
For a full minute, Sylver and Whiskers just sat there, staring at the dark red needle, each waiting for something.
After what felt like an eternity the needle sparked ever so slightly from the inside, and the same pale yellow glow formed at the end of the needle.
It swung once towards Sylver before falling back down and swinging once more to the left of him, and only lifting higher and higher, glowing brighter and brighter.
“I wasted so much fucking time! Are either of Yeva’s parents inside their house right now?” Sylver asked, as the needle only got brighter and brighter, now parallel with the table and pointing roughly southeast.
Whiskers disappeared from the table for a moment, before reappearing. “Her mother is home right now, she’s alone.” The black cat said, as Sylver ran out of the door, hiding the glowing needle inside his robe.
Whiskers appeared inside Yeva’s house, just as Sylver made a shallow cut on the inside of the passed out woman’s elbow. The blood moved unnaturally and floated out of the cut into the same wooden bowl. The cat watched as he poured a liquid out of a small vial onto the cut and it disappeared before he even got up from the floor.
“She’ll be fine in a few minutes. Gather everyone you can and come with me.” Sylver ordered as he walked out of the front door, being careful not to spill a drop from his bowl of blood.
“You know where they are?” Whiskers asked running after Sylver and disappearing for a few moments while he worked on making the Yeva tracking needle.
“I do,” Sylver said, as he pulled out the glowing needle from inside his robe and was relieved beyond words when the two pointed in the exact same direction.
“How the fuck did no one notice this many cats suddenly appearing in the village?” Sylver asked, as he looked out on the giant amount of cats sitting on Will’s back and staring directly at him.
“Most of them are outside the village.” Whiskers answered, as he sat next to Sylver and looked up at him.
Both of the needles were moving ever so slightly, meaning they were getting closer and closer.
“With teleportation, there’s no telling how far they got. How long until Tolga gets here?” Sylver asked, tapping on Will’s back to make him adjust course.
“He’s waiting for the go-ahead from the Cord. They’re also sending some people, but they need time to get ready.” Whiskers said, as both of the needles suddenly twitched and changed their angle very suddenly.
“Teleportation, fucking knew it. At least this probably means they’re still alive.”
“All these do is track their bodies. For all I know, we’re all chasing after corpses. I realize it’s too late to ask, but can these guys even fight?” Sylver asked, gesturing at the clowder of cats. They all did the cat equivalent of raising an eyebrow at him, which in this case was more of a change in body language.
Whiskers spoke while suppressing a laugh. “You’re the lowest leveled person here. And the next weakest is level 62.”
“So every single cat here,” Sylver said as he gestured with his hand towards the, at a minimum, 100 cats sitting on Will’s back, “Is stronger than I am?”
“Not necessarily. The combat specialists probably are, but a good half are reconnaissance and other miscellaneous specialties. But level wise, you are the lowest here.” Whiskers explained, gesturing from one cat to another, with Sylver having difficulty discerning which one he was pointing to.
Sylver adjusted Will’s course again and again after this, as each time the needle twitched further and further west, causing the wyvern to fly nearly in a circle.
The group flew for several hours, and reached what the needles said was their destination right as the first moon started to rise in the sky. In the dark of the night, Will was nearly invisible against the dark clouds above him.
Not to mention Sylver got to watch as one of the cats, a hairless cat called Mau, flicked its tail all over the place and managed to somehow cast a near-perfect camouflage spell. That small act of professionalism raised the opinion Sylver had of Kitty and her group by a few rungs.
It also slightly decreased his worry that he was about to go up against an unknown threat, with only cats acting as backup.
The area was somewhat strange. The mountain had enough holes in it, that Sylver compared it to a giant termite mound. The rock looked to be granite, but it was a very dark variant, that Sylver hadn’t seen before. Standing at the base of the mountain, Sylver looked down at the two needles as they split and pointed in two different directions.
One was pointing towards the top and to the left, and the other towards the bottom and to the right.
Ciege was underneath the mountain, and Yeva was somewhere higher up and inside.
Sylver didn’t need to think about who to save first, because Ciege’s life was tied almost directly to Yeva’s. So she would be the one Sylver would be accompanying the cats to save. Because if alternatively he only managed to save Ciege, Sylver couldn’t even begin to guess what the man would do if Yeva was dead.
Whiskers took charge of a small group of cats, while a slightly larger group was given to Sylver. The rest were ordered to spread out and secure the perimeter, to make sure no one escaped while they were inside the tunnels. There was also the fact that they were still waiting for Tolga, and only 1 of the cats could do whatever it is he needed to be able to teleport here along with the backup from the Cord.
Sylver placed Ciege’s needle tracker into a small box and tied it to the back of one of the larger cats going with Whiskers. The sides of the box were see-through enough that the light at the tip of the needle was clearly visible, and they could consult the box and needle whenever they needed it without having to open it.
All the cats in Sylver’s group were fully black, with the exception of the one that was the leader, who had white patches on all four feet. Understandably his name was Socks.
Sylver sent his shades out towards the direction the needle was pointing, but called them all back almost immediately.
“There’s a distortion inside the caves. Don’t use any magic that needs more than 3 seconds to travel. And don’t teleport any distance longer than 8 meters.” Sylver whispered as he and the cats walked silently inside the dark tunnels.
The perk Kitty had given him was proving its usefulness once again, as all the other cats also didn’t need any light to see and just silently followed after him.
Sylver moved his head to the right at the very last second, as an arrow whizzed past, and was surprised that he didn’t need to say a word as all the cats disappeared and spread out around the walls and ceiling.
The next ten arrows all went directly for Sylver’s head, making it easy to dodge every one of them, as he quickly ran towards the source. One arrow split into 4 as it made its way towards his face, and Sylver’s choice to crouch to the floor turned out to be incorrect, as the next arrow was just barely caught by his robe. It was quite literally less than a hair’s width away from directly piercing his skin.
Half running, half crawling, Sylver’s robe shoved him out of the way of 2 more arrows, before he arrived just in time to see the bow and arrows that had fired at him, evaporating along with the dead body. The cat who had killed the man, looked perplexed as it stared down at the disappearing puddle.
The arrows curved. And the enemy could see where I was without sticking his head out. Do these things have the same skills as the people they’re copying? A variant maybe?
Sylver looked back and saw that some of the cats had gathered behind him again, but the rest were spread out all over the area, some going ahead, some lagging behind just to be safe. Whiskers had dumbed down their way of communicating with one another as telepathy, but it was far too quick to be that. At this speed, the closest comparison Sylver could make was a hive mind, except he chose not to make such a comparison, because the thought disturbed him greatly.
And he had bigger things to worry about right now, and had decided a long while ago not to dig too deeply into the cats.
Walking through the tunnels, Sylver kept an eye out for traps, sensors, alarms, just about anything, but found nothing. He heard the sounds of fighting up ahead, but Socks told him they handled it. There were more absolutely identical archers strewn all over the places, and a few assassin types, that the cats handled effortlessly.
Sylver kept trying to send shades out, but each time they took too much damage to travel more than a few meters away from him. They could solidify perfectly well, but even in complete darkness, anything other than Sylver’s shadow was too unstable for them to move through.
Following the needle, they made guesses as to which tunnels to follow, and hit a dead end twice, all the while the cats up ahead took out the things waiting in ambush, before Sylver so much as saw them.
Being semi escorted like this, almost made him remember when he had his kings and queens looking out for him. Sylver pushed down the warm, turned sour, emotion, and brought his mind back to the situation at hand.
“There’s a barrier. And it’s a closed-off sphere, there’s no way to go around it,” Socks said, jumping up and whispering in Sylver’s ear. Sylver followed the cat’s direction, going opposite the way the needle pointed for a few minutes, before arriving at the aforementioned barrier.
Sylver moved the needle left and right, and each time it adjusted the angle significantly enough that he was certain Yeva was just behind the barrier.
“Can you do something?” Socks asked directly in Sylver’s ear.
“I can try, back up a little,” Sylver whispered back, as the cats behind him all backed away from him and hid behind the corner.
If he didn’t know any better, he would think they were afraid he was about to blow himself up.
His initial attempts to feel the barrier without touching it proved fruitless, and he even made several shades touch it before he attempted to. When none exploded, and Sylver couldn’t feel a reaction from the barrier, he walked closer to it.
Sylver very gently placed a hand on the barrier and was about to close his eyes to concentrate, before he was blinded by a bright red light. He struggled against whatever was happening, but felt the difference in power and came to the decision to reserve his mana for whatever happened next, instead of trying to resist it.
He dodged to the left as something passed nearby and missed him, and felt something traveling towards his head, as the robe pulled him down to the floor and then flung him up in the air to dodge the next projectile.
With tears in his eyes, Sylver couldn’t even see what was happening around him, before a single open palm descended down onto the back of his head, and rendered him unconscious.
Regaining consciousness, Sylver gasped at the pain in his stomach. He reached down with his hands and felt a giant spike sticking out of it. In a momentary fit of confusion, he tried to pull the thing out, but was pushed backward instead. It was only when his swollen head hit the wall behind him, did he realize he was pinned to it.
His eyes adjusted to the light far too slowly, making Sylver worry the bright flash had damaged his sight. But thankfully after a whole lot of tears and his left eye remaining blurry, Sylver could see well enough from his right. It didn’t feel permanent.
All around him were men and women, pinned against the wall by a single lead-coated spike, inside what appeared to be a large dome. Looking down Sylver couldn’t see the end of the drop below him, and focused his eyes on the large stone platform island in the very middle of the dome-shaped cave.
Once again giving Kitty a mental thank you, Sylver’s eyes tightened and focused, and he saw in perfect detail what exactly was happening on the platform.
Yeva was tied to a tall wooden pillar and unconscious. Sylver also saw that there were several women in a similar position strewn all around the place, arms tied above their heads to a pillar, and all with a noticeably extended stomach area.
Two other people walked around the platform.
One wore a deep red robe that covered his form entirely, and even with Sylver’s night vision, he couldn’t see underneath the magically enhanced darkness hiding his face under the hood. But there was something weird about the way he was walking, and his arms seemed too short for his height.
The other looked like he could have been a pub owner, but Sylver recognized the slightly off-balance way he was standing as a sign of advanced martial art training. He had short and combed black hair, was a little shorter than Sylver, and if the way his hands were naturally hanging perfectly straight, he was the one who had knocked Sylver out.
[Human (Demonic Warrior) – 88]
The man Sylver had used the skill on turned around immediately and made eye contact with him. Even though he didn’t so much as blink, Sylver didn’t see the man move, and only saw him standing on the edge of the capped spike sticking out of his stomach. Unsurprisingly the spike didn’t so much as budge from the newly introduced weight.
“Sorry about… well this, but we need you to sit tight for a while longer. I would offer you some poison to knock you out, but we’re all out. And I’m worried if I try to use dwarven anesthetic on you, you’ll die.” The man said with a faint chuckle, gesturing to Sylver’s left where a bunch of people were still dripping blood down into the abyss below, unlike Sylver whose wound had dried up and was in the process of healing onto the spike inside of him.
“Please don’t kill me. I’ll help you with whatever you’re doing, just please spare me.” Sylver begged, being careful to sound calm and collected, but adding an undertone of panic to his voice. Scared but competent was what he was going for.
“Do you need any help?” the man shouted, his voice echoing around the room.
“What’s his level?” the man with his face hidden by the hood shouted back.
“Level 40, mage. Exactly 1,000 MP, 300 HP, and his strength and dex are in the low tens,” the warrior near Sylver shouted back.
“Did he shit himself?” The hooded man asked, as the warrior standing on Sylver’s spike raised an eyebrow at him. Sylver shook his head no.
“What number?” The hooded man asked, as the warrior standing on Sylver’s spike leaned back to look at the cap.
“117!” The warrior shouted back.
In another blinding flash of red light, Sylver suddenly found himself on the floor, and mere inches away from Yeva.
He slowly got up as the man with the hooded face walked over to him and brought his face within touching distance of Sylver’s ear. There was a faint sweet smell coming off him.
“If you try anything funny, you’ll go right back on that spike. Got it?” The hooded man asked, as Sylver said yes with a contained panic.
“Good. I’m pretty they won’t take a coward like you anyway,” The man said.
Although Sylver was pleasantly surprised to find that he knew this man. Because it was very rare that he forgot a soul such as his. Not to mention they’ve been through so much together.
As Sylver carefully and stealthily let his robe come alive again, he was upset to see that all his weapons were gone, even the darts hidden in his boots.
“There’s an outline on the floor. Go get the crystals out of that bag and fill it up. The sooner we’re done here, the sooner we can all go home,” The hooded man said, gesturing first to a massive heptagram carved into the stone, and then into a bunch of bags that Sylver didn’t notice before.
As Sylver silently walked over to the bag and the crystals, he was a little surprised at what he found inside.
So this is what the Black Mane was doing with all of Tuli’s crystals.
Sylver walked around and one by one placed the crystals along the carved lines, as he thought about how best to handle Nautis and his teleporting warrior companion. He was surprised to see that the teleportation ‘expert’ was no longer under the Cord’s lock and key, but put that question on hold for the time being.
On the one hand, he was amazed that the man hadn’t learned his lesson about underestimating low-level mages. He was also amazed Nautis didn’t learn his lesson about getting involved with things far above his ability level. First the Black Mane, and now this. But he was glad to see he was still blind from when Novva ripped his eyes out, and his hands were still nothing but stumps.
Sylver decided to play along and wait until he saw whoever the third person here was, the one who had made the fakes, before doing anything.
But on the other hand, Sylver recognized the sigils on the floor all too well, and couldn’t believe he was about to help summon a fucking demon.