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A note from NoDragons

Got a late start today. Still six chapters, but they'll probably be posted after midnight.

I've also decided to keep the white font. For the record, if this is ever a problem for you, there's a button on the same bar as the light/dark mode switch. It's shaped like a slashed-out teardrop and pressing it will decolor all text on the screen back to the default of black for light mode / white for night mode.

also never ever press that my gods need their pretty coooolors.

1/6

It was a good day. A peaceful moment. It couldn’t last.

In the distance, the barrier shifted and a rolling wave of nausea hit me. For a moment the relaxed air of the oasis turned sickly, the light that saturated the water and the gardens beyond dimmed, my guests reaching for weapons in alarm as they felt the wrongness in the air.

“No, no. We’re safe. I’ll be-” That was an absolute lie. “I will be right back.”

Abyssals had breached the barrier. They could, of course. Anything beneath Bronze-rank could no longer be kept out, but the enemy had held back, unwilling to feed me the Mana from their dead and the knowledge of their forces. I’d already proven I could repel a Bronze-rank assault on a small scale. Likely if they managed to gather enough bodies they would try to overwhelm me by numbers-

But this was a pair of creatures. Just two.

I found them in the dry riverbed that ran through the desert like a bled-out artery. A small team of goblins had caught a huge, four-armed mandril with cold grey fur and a leathery face covered by bright orange and blue markings above its tusked mouth. They’d worn it down with poison darts and strapped its shivering body to a sled. Even then it took six of them to haul the sled along unders its muscular weight.

And I could see a second mandril, creeping along behind the goblins. The first one had clearly entered the divine protection against its will, a captive - the second was likely its mate and had disobeyed orders to follow.

 

Sage-Lotus Mandril

[ Abyssal-Bronze ]

Kingdom Animalia

Age - 27 Years

Physique - Unranked
Arcana - Silver
Psyche - Bronze
Diet - Spirifage
Biome - Tropical Rainforest
Cycle - Flexible

Named for the pink-white shade their fur will display only once in a hundred lifecycles, these four-limbed jungle creatures survive by a mix of wits and climbing skill, evading predators to eat the fruits of the high braches. They possess unusually powerful souls, capable of reincarnation, and they mate not for life but for eternity.

Unfortunately, this specimen's soul is badly damaged. The power of the Abyss has entered its body and tarnished a pure heart. Driven to wild rage by this corruption, the mandril now feeds on souls, consuming them to strengthen itself.

Notable Features - Eternal soul, bonded telepathy.

 

Interesting.

I still remembered the battlecries of the Lyassains. The desperation in their voice as they called to be remembered for what they were before the Black Wolf’s corruption took them. A scholar. A father. A jeweler, a wheelwright, a poet.

I hadn’t saved them. No time, and little understanding of how Abyssal energy worked.

This time I might have a chance; the mandril’s dedication to its mate showed there was something there that mattered more than Arak’s command to hold the siege.

The goblins marched, straining against the ropes to bring the sled along. The day was hot, the sun beat down, and the sweat on their skin made pale red dust cling to their faces. Malnourished and sick with radiation I didn’t see much chance for them to survive an ambush.

But there were other predators.

My mind poured down into the soil, finding a hideous flatworm lurking below. It was the descendant of a burrowing grub that lived in the belly of a leviathan, a parasite capable of strangling a horse, and over the years since the death of their ancestral home they had adapted to the sands.

Its mind was dull and coarse, hot with sparks of hunger. Taking over a creature I hadn’t poured Mana into was generally difficult, and something with a full mind would shrug me off easily, but the low beast’s intellect had little chance of resisting me as I sank my mind into the uncomfortably wet, soft skin of the worm. For a moment there was struggle, the idiot beast trying to comprehend what was happening as I pushed it slowly into a half-sleeping state and took control.

The mandril was close on the hunting party’s heels, darting between rocks in a four-armed knuckle walk that reminded me of a scorpion’s movement. As it trailed the goblins, it gave up chance after chance to make its move. Embedded in the slow-thinking worm I could only stare in stupor as it gave up a position on a ridge that would give the perfect ambush.

Ah. It was waiting for its mate to recover. The stalemate held for a moment, and the mandril shifted, readying itself to leap.

We lunged from behind. The sand poured from our back as we flung ourselves forward, body straightening from a coiled shape to produce a spring-like throw that carried our weight into the enemy. The fight was quick. It clawed desperately in our grip but couldn't recover from the ambush, not matched by our raw strength - we had the dominating position to crush the air from its lungs. Our skin dripped with an ooze that carried paralytic and digestive agents, and our body was long, looping, a weapon made for strangulation.

The goblins never even saw the conflict above as I drew the worm’s body over the mandril, burying its limbs and letting our poisons finish the task.

I left the worm’s body there and the beast’s own mind surfaced from dreams, realizing it had somehow lucked into a meal while it slept. As for the unfortunate mandril- Trying to save both would have meant overextending myself, and I had no delusions I could spare every enemy in this fight. Instead, I’d take on its last request and save its mate.

That’s how I rationalized it.

But as I separated from the worm and its overwhelming hunger faded, I felt less certain.

For the next hour I followed the goblins as they dragged their prize home. The whole tribe was within my sphere of influence now, although the goblins themselves had too much intellect to be possessed, and true mortal souls that ‘anchored’ their inner Mana against interference. Even with Shine-Catch who’d absorbed my energy through her stay in the oasis, my powers were limited to healing her wounds.

As they arrived they were greeted by their spouses and children, the tribe pouring over the strange creature on the sled with fascination as the hunters boasted. Their chieftain was a bulky, scar-faced goblin with a protruding lower jaw, the teeth on the right side malformed and spilling out past his lips. I got the impression he was new to this; he felt the need to swagger and push aside his subordinates, bleeding the insecurities of a fresh leader.

He drew a knife and lifted it over the mandril. The beast had recovered enough to fix its eye on him in rage, drawing back its lips to bare long fangs in defiance.

“STOP.”

I spoke with the voice of the caves, sending airwaves resonating up from within so the whole cliffside shook under my words.

“I HAVE NEED OF THIS ONE. YOU WILL DELIVER HIM TO ME, AND REAP THE REWARDS OF MY GRATITUDE.”

To make myself clear I gripped the sled with my Mana, ethereal flames forming as the dead wood of the frame began to grow at alarming speeds, cracking and groaning as it came to life and pale green shoots pushed up from within, forming branches and vines that spilled across the ground.

The tribe fell silent and, one by one, began to bow.

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NoDragons

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Comments(11)
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N33 ago

When in doubt. Go full throttle on showing off your power. Some will be cowed, most will follow those who act first. The rest, your on your own.

rarrar ago

Thank you for the chapter!

Audumn ago

Playing god huh? Thanks for the chapter!

Draith ago

Possible typos

It couldn’t lasted.

Either, it couldn't last, or it couldn't have lasted.

the hunting part’s

Party's

clawed in desperately our grip

Words, backwards they are

Thanks for the chapter. Was so engrossed I almost forgot to post typos.

P. S. Where are the dragons?

SJ Reaver ago

... You killed it?! What the hell, core?

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