Orso staggered to his feet, his exhaustion taking its toll on his health. His sword dripped with blood and demonic ichor as he panted, his eyes staying sharp as the enemy quickly regrouped closer to the wall.
“Someone send a messenger to the refugees and Master Mary,” he ordered, “Tell them that our position will soon be overrun, and we’re going to have to retreat to the elvin palisade!”
“Yes sir commander!” a soldier saluted and leapt down. Orso watched as the messenger sprinted at full speed across Tent City toward the Iron Town gate. He wiped some blood from his eye and leaned against the battlements to gaze out at the enemy.
Seeing their lines restored, Orso brandished his sword once again and cried out, “Men, prepare for another wave. If they break the line, retreat to the Iron City gate!”
“Yes commander!” His tired men answered, their minds resolute in their decision to fight.
The demons and fleshlings attacked, and screams soon filled the air.
The devil sister, enraged beyond all measure, radiated magic power before the four warriors. Their bat-like wings grew sharp around the edges, and their nails sharpened into claws. The fangs within their mouths grew as well, giving their faces a predatory edge to it.
“You will all die painfully,” Michelle promised.
“I’ve heard that before,” Rowen rolled his eyes, “Skeletons, attack.”
At his command, the army of darkness covered skeletons advanced toward the sisters, their eye sockets a sinister black.
“Do you view us like those weakling adventurers?” Milda giggled shrilly, “You underestimate the power of us sisters!”
They vanished in a blur, and the skeletons exploded as wind tore through them. Rowen’s dungeon enhanced power couldn’t repair bones that were ground to dust by the sister’s attack. The boy himself had enough foresight to throw himself to the side, but was still injured as a wing spine sliced down his arm. He hissed in pain, channeling dark power to cover the wound. Milly ran over to help him.
“Dance my blades of blood!” Mary commanded, and she too vanished. A moment later, the sky was filled with metallic clangs as Mary engaged the eldest sister in a one on one fight. The speed at which the swords and claws clashed could be seen just barely by the naked eye.
“Alfred, stop playing dead!” Milda ordered, licked Rowen’s blood of her wing, “Take care of that fake princess or you’ll feel our punishment later.”
The ground rumbled, and Alfred reappeared, holding Annabelle’s unconscious body. The two had disappeared upon the arrival of the sisters, evidently relying on Alfred’s necrotic powers to hide within the ground.
“As you wish mistress,” Alfred bowed. He turned to face Anadine and glared.
“You should have stayed dead princess. Your death was the beginning of everything going wrong,” Alfred berated her.”
Anadine glared, “I heard you were the one who tricked my older brother into becoming a demonic sacrifice. Your treachery shall be answered by your death.”
“I won’t die,” Alfred laughed, his eyes aglow with evil magic, “my mistresses shall help me become a mighty lich, and I will live forever as a lord!”
“A servant lord, nothing more,” Anadine sighed in pity.
Alfred screamed in rage at her words. His undead magic pulled bones from the ground that covered his flesh, incasing him in a bone armor from head to toe. Wielding a bone sharpened sword, he engaged Anadine in a flurry of overhead attacks. The slime girl reshaped her shield into another sword and attacked in turn.
“Now, how should I handle you two?” Milda asked heinously. She flicked her claws, their tips dripping with a green compound. “I may not be as strong as my elder sister yet, but I am the more creative one. While I really shouldn’t kill you chosen girl, I suppose you don’t require all your limbs to be useful. That boy is completely unneeded though; oh, how about I kill him with you?” The devil girl blew out more mind-controlling fog toward Milly.
“You won’t take my mind again demon-spawn,” Milly growled, her daggers circling around her back, “I’ll make you pay for what you’ve done to my precious family.”
“Try me, if you can keep up!” Milda growled back.
The devil girl kicked off the ground, her wings sending her forward at Milly. Milly summoned a barrier with four daggers and blocked the attack. Her feet made small trails as she was forced back.
Milly clenched her right hand and sent the other four daggers still floating behind her after the devil. Milda giggled as she reappeared around the barrier, scratching at it repeatedly before disappearing as the dagger flew at her.
“Rowen, I can’t fight her on my own,” Milly hissed as her will shook from each strike on the barrier, “I’m not good against her speed. How much longer do you need to recover?”
“I need a few minutes,” Rowen muttered, “she stuck some poison in when she scratched me. Whatever you do, don’t let her touch you. Poison strong enough to affect me will certainly kill you.”
“Alright, I’ll hold her off,” Milly said resolutely. She took a deep breath and chanted the strongest prayer she’d learned from Priest Horace.
“Temtra, goddess of desire, hear my plea. I swore to you and entered your service, please bless me with my desired form, protection. My will, my wants, and my needs unite together and humbly ask that you bless my shield so that no one will harm what is mine. Desire’s Fortress!”
A red beam dropped down from the sky, illuminating the barrier around Milly. What once was a dome of red light now morphed and changed into stone walls made up of the red light of desire. The miniature fortress stood tall around Milly and Rowen, shielding them from all attack.
“Fools, do you think Temtra’s power will stop me?” Milda giggled, “I once served as her priestess! Mistress of Desire, bless my claws so that I might rend my enemies!”
To Milly’s horror, red light blossomed onto the succubus’ claws, forming a gauntlet with three deadly claws at the end. Milda slashed through one of the red-light stones, rending it from existence.
“Impossible, why is the goddess helping you when you have forsaken her?” Milly gasped.
“Foolish girl, you don’t understand your mistress,” Milda destroyed another stone, causing the wall to shake, “the goddess is one of the chaotic and she cares nothing for right or wrong. All that matters to her is how strong you desire is! Nothing, else, matters!”
With a final cry, Milda raked through the stone barrier, collapsing it back into Milly’s original dome. The exhausted girl fell to her knees and wheezed as the magical backlash struck her.
“You can’t catch me,” Milda taunted, “and your barrier won’t last forever. Everyone here will die because of your weakness. That is my desire, and your destiny.”
“You talk too much,” Rowen hissed, leaning up with a clenched fist. A bone spike suddenly erupted from the ground, stabbing Milda in the arm as she reappeared. The devil girl shrieked and vanished, reappearing a few feet away.
“How . . .” she began to ask.
“I’m not stopping!” Rowen yelled, and Milda wailed as another bone shot into her left wing. Rowen moved his hand quickly, creating a bone spire wherever Milda stopped.
“You’re toying with me!” Milda whined, tears pouring down her face as her injuries accumulated, “Why are you so strong?”
Rowen said nothing, but continued to listen to Claire’s voice as she directed him.
“She’s coming up behind you now, five feet away,” Claire informed him, “Yes, now she’s heading to your right three feet forward, 3 feet in.”
With both Rowen and Alfred’s magic heavy influence affecting the battlefield, Doc had wormed his influence closer in the same way that he had upon the invasion of the Tomb of the Forgotten King. While unable to control the ground, he and Claire could feel the vibrations on the ground, using Doc’s swift mind to determine the devil girl’s speed and direction every time she kicked off the ground.
“Big sister, help me!” Milda cried out as another bone spire cut her leg.
“How dare you bully my sister!” Michelle roared from the air.
“You aren’t going anywhere!” Mary narrowed her eyes. The older devil girl was forced back by the blood swords, unable to assist her sister.
“Please, don’t hurt me anymore, I give up!” Milda begged as she fell to the ground, her arms, wings, and legs bleeding.
“Finish it Rowen,” Milly pleaded, her heart twitching at the sight of the fallen girl.
“Understood,” Rowen nodded, “it’s about time she got what she deserved. Bone Spire!”
Milda’s scream echoed through the battlefield as a final bone spire tore through her chest, impaling the girl off the ground. With a gurgle, Milda coughed out blood and fell silent.
“Milda!” Michelle wept in the air, but had no choice but to continue fighting Mary. Alfred heard the cry and resumed fighting Mary with increased vigor like a man-possessed.
“It’s finally over,” Milly sighed, her barrier disappearing.
“Look out!” Rowen roared, pushing Milly aside. Milda’s body vanished, and reappeared next to Milly, her claws impaling Rowen through the chest.
“That hurt!” Milda growled, staring into Rowen’s eyes, “and you made me miss. I’ll enjoy enslaving your soul after you die.”
Rowen tried to answer her, but all he could do was cough up more black, poisoned blood.
“No!” Milly wailed.
Milda threw Rowen aside, flicking the blood off her claws. Milly’s eyes followed Rowen’s body as it tumbled across the ground, before finally stopping with his back turned to her.
“Now that that’s settled, it’s time I take you back,” Milda turned to Milly.
Milly’s response was to glare, her hands shaking as such an immense fury filled her. Her daggers vibrated in response to her will, shooting up twinkles of red light intermittently. Milda, releasing something wasn’t right, backed off quickly.
“Rowen!” Milly screamed, and her entire body erupted in light. Her daggers shone, growing from small weapons to the size of long swords. They dance in the air around Milly, who had been covered in a red construct. The construct took on feminine features, becoming a beautiful red woman with flowing hair and immaculate grace.
“Goddess,” Milda whispered in horror.
The visage only smiled and pointed a palm at Milda. The succubus girl reacted quickly and decisively, breaking a rune stone from her pocket. In an instant, Alfred had replaced the her, and the man stared up in horror.
“No, my destiny,” he whispered, before a magical beam of red energy obliterated his entire existence.
Milda reappeared next to Michelle, whose eyes widened at the sight of the construct.
“We’re leaving,” she said, and she too cracked a rune. In the sky, the sisters disappeared, retreating back to wherever their base was.
The construct vanished as well, revealing a collapsed Milly. She crawled over to Rowen and hugged him, before she too fell unconscious.
Anadine and Mary ran over to the two, checking their condition.
“She’s just collapsed,” Mart reported shortly, “Rowen . . .” She shook her head.
“Don’t worry about him,” Anadine, “His life has already been set forth on the path, same as mine.”
Mary stared into the eyes of her lost apprentice, “I’ve missed you.”
“and I you,” Anadine nodded, “Unfortunately, we don’t have the time to reminisce or for me to explain. There is still a battle going on yes?”
“Master Mary, report from the battlefield,” a voice echoed in the distance, as if the universe was answering Anadine’s words.
Mary got up and stared at the approaching messenger.
“Word from Orso ma’am,” he saluted. The man was clearly shocked at the sight of so many downed adventurers, but kept his professionalism., “The enemy is too strong and will soon overrun our position. Knight Commander Orso is retreating to the elvin district.”
“Understood,” Mary frowned, “Return. These men are only downed, but will be up shortly.”
“At you command!” the messenger saluted and left.
“How do you plan on rousing so many?” Anadine asked curiously.
“The same way I roused you and you fellow apprentices after collapsing from training,” Mary chuckled, sending a chill down Anadine’s non-existent spine, “Just, a ,little, injection.” The three blood swords morphed back into the three receptionists, each wearing a smile and holding a needle.
“Ah, but if your ‘friend’ could send us another pink slime, that would be appreciated,” Mary smiled sweetly.
“I like her,” Doc rumbled in Anadine’s ear, “We share a love of poking sharp things into adventurer bodies.”
After sending the lone pink slime to Anadine, Doc sighed sadly as he watched it dissolved quickly in the air, lasting just long enough for the adventurer leader to take some of its slime and quickly poke every unconscious person with it.
“It seems that our role is done here Claire,” Doc sighed, watching the crowd of adventurers leaving the noble district, “Strong as they are, I can’t see them lasting under that demon army’s attack.”
“That’s how time goes Doc,” Claire comforted her partner, “Eras end, and new ones begin. Still, we really should prepare the floors for a sudden demon invasion once all the adventurers die. I doubt they’ll let us just exist here.”
“What are our chances?” Doc asked.
“We have no chance,” Claire admitted ruefully, “Their numbers tactics greatly outmatch ours. Not considering how you’d react with all those summoned demons, the warlocks just have to stay at the entrance and summon until you run out of strength. Without adventurers to absorb mana from, you’ll waste away until you lack the power to even summon a small slime.”
“What if I go corrupt?” Doc questioned, “I could kill all the warlocks that way.”
“Yes, but then you’d go crazy and our lives would be ruined forever,” Claire shook her head sadly, “Really, there is no good way out of this for us.”
“That’s not quite true little dungeon pixie,” a sudden voice echoed through the heart room, startling both Doc and Claire and filling their spirits with fear.
“Who’s there?” Doc commanded, “Show yourself!”
With a soft chuckle, a man appeared before the crystal and pixie. Holding a small hammer, he bowed low.
“It is an honor to finally meet you,” the man greeted them, “My name is Olaf, a humble blacksmith.”
“How did you get here, and how can you here Doc?” Claire asked, holding a hand up to stop Doc.
“If you’ll allow me, I can answer those questions for you if you’re willing to listen to a proposition of mine,” Olaf smiled.
“Proceed,” Doc rumbled after a moment’s considerations.
“My patron wishes you to stave off the demon army for a short time. In return, she will grant you the one time ability to teleport to anywhere you wish on the continent,” Olaf revealed.
Claire twitched so hard her wings stopped moving, almost landing on the floor her shock was so great. Olaf held out a hand, forming a warm white light that caught the pixie.
“How can you and your patron offer this?” Doc asked curiously, intrigued by the offer, “Besides, I’d rather not become corrupt if I can help it.”
“Through my patron’s power, she’d grant the space for you to summon your slimes. It would require no effort from you save that of the mana needed to create slimes, and the space would disappear upon completion of your task,” Olaf answered.
“Goddess, your patron must be a goddess!” Claire gasped, finally free of her reveille, “There is no other force save a great demon lord who could offer such power!”
“Indeed,” Olaf winked at the little pixie, “My mistress is the goddess of law, Kira. And it was by her hands that you came into being Doc.”
“Then, that slime invader,” Doc thought of Grecian, “it was telling the truth, that it was the original dungeon mind!”
“Yes,” Olaf agreed, “My patron needed a body, and as the dungeon mind you know as Grecian was at the time, she could move it without consequence. It was, however, a surprise that it persisted and, through you, gained its own soul.”
“But how could the goddess do something like this; move a soul into a body? That doesn’t fall under Goddess Kira’s purview of law does it?” Claire wondered.
“It is because of that man, Erikir,” at this, Olaf finally frowned, “by recreating the forbidden corruption magic, he violated the fundamental balance of this world. You see, true corruption magic requires the sacrifice of the user’s immortal soul. It is split, shattered into pieces that are then planted within other beings. The soul shards grow like weeds, enveloping the mind and soul of the host until only the parasite’s will remains. Erikir remains immortal so long as a shard exists, but his soul is forfeit as he destroyed it by his own hands.”
“This however,” Olaf continued, “left a void in the balance, and a new soul was needed. With her sisters Jura of Judgement, Turan of Duty, and Dietre of Truth, my patron found a soul in a separate plain of existence and brought it here. However, in order for the soul to acclimate to this realm, it needed to be incubated with this world’s magic.”
“Are you here to remove my soul?” Doc asked wearily.
“No, for you have created your own,” Olaf chuckled, “Haven’t you and your friends noticed your mental changes over this past year? You’ve grown and matured your own way, separate from the original soul. Think of a soul as a snowball, growing as it rolls over lessons and experiences. That soul at your core is no longer needed as you have created your own. Once it is gone, you will fill up your core with your own essence and finally be complete.”
“What will happen to the soul once removed then?” Doc wondered.
“It shall be released to Eatrus, god of death, so that it may be reborn into this world properly. Will you accept my patron’s offer?” Olaf asked.
Doc looked at Claire. Claire looked back.
“I think I’m ready for a new adventure Doc, how about you?” she asked with a smile.
“Sir Olaf, you may proceed,” Doc turned his attention to the man and nodded.
Olad bent his head and blew onto his hammer. The small tool glowed white, and produced a beam of white light that entered Doc’s crystal. Doc felt nauseated for the first time as a tiny part of him was removed, but the feeling passed quickly, and Doc felt more alive than he had ever before. The beam withdrew into the hammer, drawing a tiny pinprick of light with it.
“Thank-you,” Olaf bowed to the two.
“Answer me this last question,” Claire flew to eye level with Olaf, “Did the goddesses plan for the events of this past year to happen?”
“No, but Jura has always been a good gambler,” Olaf chuckled, “She predicted events might go this way, and it was their and my hope that you’d be good. When it is time, you will feel the ground open up to your power. When your job is finished, your ability will make itself known within you.”
Olaf turned to leave before pausing.
“Ah, and a message from Goddess Jura. She says, ‘Thank-you for taking care of my chosen’.” And with that said, Olaf vanished, as if he had never been there to begin with.