“Tell me human, what is your name?”

Marcello stayed silent, spooked by the fact that a voice spoke from within the bonfire flames themselves.

As he lay silent, he felt an intense mental pressure extend itself from the flames towards him, forcing him to speak.

“Tell me…” the voice requested, echoing with mana.

Unfortunately for the voice, Marcello had an inherent resistance to mental afflictions.

Your inheritance has recognized an intruder within its domain.

Your inheritance is attempting to dispel a strong foreign influence.

Marcello felt a searing headache as he sank to one knee, his hand gripping his head in intense pain. Whatever this malevolent being was, it had one of the most powerful mental manipulation abilities that he had ever faced thus far, and he could barely keep himself balanced as wave after wave of mental assault crashed into the walls of his mind.

He felt his mind battered and bruised by the aggressive, penetrative mental lance of the voice from the bonfire.

Your inheritance is faltering.

Intense pain erupted across his entire body, his limbs and his soul both alight with the flames of resistance against this foreign force.

Suddenly, he was flooded with strength from deep within, the kind of power he had only experienced a few times before. He felt a vital force enter him, flooding him with warmth, before pushing away and neutralizing the burning that had seized him. But the pain was only getting worse by the second, and he felt like his mind was about to be overwhelmed and taken control of by the foreign presence.

Marcello coughed violently, blood spilling out of his mouth. He was fighting for his life with every fiber of his body.

Marcello got a sinking feeling that this was not the way forward.

When Marcello thought he could bear no more, the pain became nothing more than a burning ache within his bones and the burning eventually died away, the bones settling back into their usual stillness.

“How can a mere human…?”

“What is this power?”

The voice was deeply taken aback by Marcello’s display of raw talent, and his ability to repel its mental ability.

“Even through the ritual bonfire, such power should be more than enough to squash the resistances of a mere human like you. And yet you did not fall, and managed to repel me as well. What an interesting human…”

Marcello simply shrugged. “Maybe you’re just weak.”

He said that, but he could barely move his own body.

The voice laughed, as if amused by its prey.

“A human capable of oraculism… how very interesting… it appears that even ants can display some skill!” the dark voice said with a laugh.

“Why don’t you show your face to me, and I’ll bash your skull in. How about that?” Marcello taunted. There was just something about the influence of his armor and his class that made him a bit more aggressive and risk-seeking than he normally was, and he kind of was starting to embrace it. To a reasonable extent, of course. Insulting some kind of human-like god type creature was probably not the best idea, now that he thought about it. But gods were very prone to hubris, and so maybe taunting could yield some information.

“Don’t worry. You will be seeing me sooner or later. But by that point, you will be hung on a hook for me to consume, human! So relish your freedom while you still can. My minions will locate you, and my brethren will hunt you down personally when they find you. Count the last few days of your life as a blessing, and try to hide as best as you can!”

Marcello had to resist laughing out loud while listening to the voice monologue. It just felt so absurd to him, how this world was so far removed from earth. No person on earth would ever speak like that, but he was dealing with some kind of evil creature or something from this strange new world, so he had virtually zero context as to how these creatures were supposed to sound like.

He found it equally amusing and horrifying how real these threats were, and yet how nonchalantly he took them because something like that would just be some kind of baseless internet argument threat a thirteen year old in an online game chatroom would say to another back on earth, with a bit more of a fantasy twist.

Marcello smirked. There was a way to leverage this situation in his favor.

“You know, going after me is a waste. What you really want to do is go after my master. It’s a guy called Eric. He’s way stronger than me.”

The bullshit flew out of Marcello’s mouth faster than he could make it up in his head. This kind of killed two birds with one stone, in a more literal sense than usual.

“Ho? You say that you have a master that is stronger than you are? Is your master a sprite?”

“Nope. Just a regular human with an eyepatch, called Eric. You can find him a bit further due south of here, with a whole entourage of humans under his command. He’s so much stronger than you, that it makes you look pathetic. Eric could easily bend my mind, and you can’t even do that. Eric would kill all of your kind with his sword, and he has his entire camp rallying behind him. You stand no chance against Eric, you know that? What should I call you? The goblin calls you the Old Ones, but maybe I’ll just call you old farts instead? So listen up old fart, if you know what’s best for you maybe it’s better that you just pack up and move to a different forest, because Eric and his men are coming for you, and you better run–”

Marcello continued on a neverending tirade as the voice in the flames got visible more and more agitated with every passing second, the very flames themselves seeming to flare up in agitation as Marcello painted an incredible fantasy about how Eric was a human savant that would bring down evil beings and how Eric was so much stronger than he was.

Of course, every single word that left his mouth was complete and utter bullshit, but it wasn’t like the voice knew any better. If anything, the voice took him a lot more seriously since he repelled its mental probe.

“–so if you know what’s better for you, you better get the hell out of here old fart. This forest isn’t yours anymore, it belongs to humans like my master!”

Marcello didn’t know for sure, but he could sense that he tripped more than a few wires with his monologue. For instance, claiming that the ancestral home of this being was now being claimed by humans.

Or insisting upon the fact that a human was more powerful than the entity behind the voice. From what Marcello knew about the entity thus far, it was clear that it felt itself to be well above humans.

“You will all die for your transgressions, humans. You and your master alike. After the blood moon, this forest will hang with the bodies of your kind. Enjoy the peace while it lasts, vermin.”

Marcello’s eyes lit up. Again, a mention of the blood moon, and he was starting to piece together the fact that the old ones were perhaps constrained by something before that event. If that were the case, then he had a few more days left to get to the bottom of this mystery or even attack the old ones before they grew to their full power.

This was exactly the kind of information that he was looking for, and he really did manage to kill more than two birds with one stone. He felt a bit sorry for Eric’s camp, but after trying to ambush and kill him multiple times, he wasn’t exactly remorseful for unleashing the wrath of this entity upon them. If anything, this was a more mild form of payback, when he had half a mind to personally waltz into the camp and kill and humiliate Eric himself.

“We’ll see about that,” Marcello replied. “My master Eric is unbeatable.”

He thought for a moment, then added another sentence. “You should go for him first.”

Marcello mentally crossed his fingers, hoping that the voice would take the bait.

“Oh, no…” the voice replied with a snide tone. “You will be first, my friend. Enjoy your last three days of life.”

Marcello cursed in his head, realizing that his plan had backfired just a little bit. Now, he really needed to race the clock and get to the bottom of how to combat this entity before the blood moon took effect.

With that last sentence uttered, the bonfire began to fizzle out, as if it had been extinguished through overuse of mana or some kind of phenomenon like that, leaving Marcello and his goblin shaman slave alone in the dark isle by themselves.

The goblin shaman had not said much during that entire conversation, spending the time mostly just cowering on the floor as it too had suffered some tremendous mental damage from the mental probe of the voice, except instead of resisting it, the shaman simply succumbed and was thoroughly shaken by the experience.

Another notification popped up, right as the bonfire settled down.

Your understanding of oroculism has improved.

“What the hell is oroculism?” Marcello asked nobody in particular. He saw that there was a line underneath the word, and quickly opened up the tab to see if there was any glossary entry on the term.

To his surprise, there actually was. The system provided some baseline information about how things worked in this world, with more information being provided as Marcello experienced more things. Evidently he had experienced enough of whatever constituted oroculism to be able to form or unlock a definition of it from the system glossary itself.

Oroculism is the art of probing another’s mental state through projecting the caster’s spectral form into another’s mind. It also affects an individual’s ability to form a mental barrier against enemy mental probes. Certain powerful creatures have the ability to pierce their opponent’s minds with powerful mental probes, allowing them to review the thoughts and memories of their victims with variable amounts of clarity depending on a multitude of complex factors. This ability is seldom seen in humans.

Pierce… now where did he hear that word before? Ah, it was in the description of his inheritance. He was slowly starting to understand a bit more about the strange description, as new concepts revealed themselves during his adventures, if he could call it that. During his struggle to survive and power up was more like it.

Either way, he had gained another terribly useful piece of information from the voice. He vividly remembered it telling him to enjoy the last three days of his life. If he could stretch that vague tidbit a bit further with a few more calculated guesses, then he surmised that the blood moon event itself was going to occur in three days. Or maybe not the event itself, but something that allowed the entity behind the voice and its brethren to be able to move freely within the forest.

Three days until he was hunted like a deer. He had three days to turn this sad inevitable fate on its own head. If his theory about the old ones being physically restrained or limited in some fashion in the next few days was correct, then if he found them in their weakened states he could hunt them first, before they hunted him in turn.

That was a big if though.

Marcello kicked his goblin shaman slave in the shin. “Wake up, buddy. It’s time for you to take me to the grove.”

Before he confronted the old abandoned castle, it made sense to secure a silver weapon first.


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