Chapter 24: Food for the Dementher
“Fuck! Fuck!” Naomi chanted shrilly as the Air Mage and Warlock pushed through the heavy metal door that led out onto the roof of the Prison Garrison building. “Why did we come up here? For the view?”
“You’re a B-ranked Air Mage, aren’t you?” Fallon asked breathlessly as she checked the sun's position and headed to the south edge of the building. “Here, the Garrison wall is ten, maybe fifteen feet away? Can you levitate us to it?”
Naomi moved over to the waist-high wall and jumped onto the ledge gracefully as she scanned the distance between the Garrison roof and the wall that separated them from the rest of the High Guard’s forces.
“I’ve never had to jump that far,” the Air Mage muttered with an unhappy look.
‘But it’s not like an Air Mage can fall, though, right?’ Fallon shook her head incredulously.
The sound of something large and sinister barreling up the stairwell towards the roof snapped Naomi’s frightened gaze from their goal over to the roof door. “Did you lock it?”
“The door locks from the inside, not the outside,” Fallon snapped. She grabbed the edge of the wall and climbed up beside the Mage. “As long as we have [Levitate], even if we can’t make the wall, we can reach the gate there.” The Warlock gestured down towards the entrance to the Prison Garrison and frowned at the two sentry guards, who leaned lazily against the granite stone wall beside the gate.
‘They have no idea what’s going on inside the prison,’ the Warlock realized in disbelief. ‘Then again, if the Dementher opened a door inside the prison, that would make sense. But—that would mean someone on the inside marked a sigil for the Dementher to port to.’
A lesson Fallon had learned early on from Asmodeus was the requirements to open a door. A Dementher needed a drawn sigil to port to in the event they or their Warlock had never been to that location before. The one exception to this rule was any location the Dementher could visually see, such as a map or painting. However, Asmodeus argued that such tools were often inaccurate and cumbersome to deal with.
“Fuck!” Naomi shrieked as the sound of heavy feet pounded closer behind the closed roof door. “Alright, it’s worth a—”
Locked or not, the metal roof door snapped off its hinges and cartwheeled across the roof past the frozen Air Mage and Warlock. Fallon teetered unsteadily on the ledge and dropped to a low crouch as she caught herself on the wall. The ground below loomed ominously some forty feet away, and Fallon did not like her chances of landing without breaking both legs. The Warlock whipped her topaz-blue eyes towards the empty entrance of the rooftop vestibule as six bloody footprints made their way onto the rooftop.
‘Damn it, Asmodeus. Where are you?’
Six dripping chains with hooks that resembled the pincers of a scorpion’s tail danced in the air as the Dementher slowly materialized before them.
“Naomi,” Fallon whispered tensely. “[Levitate] us both—now!”
Naomi nodded numbly. The Air Mage quickly placed a hand on her own chest.
|Mage Active Skill—Levitate I (Tier II)|
|An elemental buff that allows the target to walk on air for ten minutes in a single direction. Target will gradually lose height depending on the amount of distance covered.|
Fallon pushed herself up into a crouch, ready to leap off the moment Naomi placed a similar buff on her.
“Sorry, Seviner,” Naomi whispered back as she turned towards the Warlock. “Buy me some time, will you?”
“What?” Fallon’s head snapped sharply towards Naomi as the Air Mage grabbed the Warlock’s shoulder and pushed Fallon off the ledge back onto the roof. ‘That fucking bitch!’ Fallon barely registered the impact of her fall as she watched Naomi leap off the edge of the roof to escape.
A guttural snarl rippled across the roof as crimson chains blurred overhead. Fallon flinched and rolled quickly to her side, then realized that the Dementher wasn’t after her but the escaping Air Mage.
Naomi reappeared with a muffled, distorted screaming as she clutched the hooked pincer now impaled through her stomach while another circled both of her legs.
“Running away are we, Ingenium?” the Dementher chuckled maliciously and then slammed the Air Mage face down against the roof.
Fallon grimaced as Naomi gargled out a mouthful of blood. The Air Mage’s blue eyes turned slowly towards the Warlock as her limp body was dragged across the paved limestone roof towards the salivating Dementher.
“Looks like you can’t fly away like your friend here,” the Dementher observed as its sightless head turned in Fallon’s direction. “Good. Stay put. I’ll eat you after I finish off this wingless bird.”
“No! No, no, no!” Naomi sobbed as the chain yanked her beneath the Dementher’s flaring nostrils. “Please—help me, Sev—”
Fallon jerked her gaze away as Naomi’s head disappeared inside the Dementher’s monstrously fanged mouth with an unsettling crunch.
“Asmodeus,” the Warlock’s voice trembled as she rubbed the sigil on her chest. Fallon willed her stiff arms and legs to move but barely managed to push herself off the ground into a kneeling crouch. ‘Asmodeus, if you don’t get your ancienter ass here soon, another Dementher is going to have me for a midday snack.’ Fallon blinked as a burn spread through the sigil that bound her to her familiar.
|Active Dementher Skill—Familiar Ether Link (Tier ↁ)|
|Through your sacred bond, your familiar grants you access to its mana pool. While the link remains active, your mana pool will refill whenever it hits 30%.|
|Active Dementher Skill—Ether Burst (Tier ↁ)|
|Familiar and Warlock’s movement speed and attack speed are increased by ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ.|
Skill adjusted for Warlock’s current rank. Movement speed increased by 15% for 10 minutes. Attack speed increased by 10% for 5 minutes.
‘Stingy ass Nucleus system!’
Fallon’s stiff limbs unclenched as Asmodeus’s Dementher magic poured into her body. The Warlock activated [Infernal Gaze] as she sprinted across the roof, away from the sight of the hostile reptilian Dementher ripping open Naomi’s chest armor and ribs.
[Infernal Gaze] outlined the crimson chain that sprang after the fleeing Warlock like a glowing hornet. Fallon dodged and slid across the limestone rooftop as the crimson pincer cracked against the paved surface to her left. The Warlock quickly rolled back onto her feet, arms and legs blurring as she followed the edge of the roof towards the north end, where it dropped down to the two-floor structure of the main office building.
“Is this a race, Ingenium?” the reptilian Dementher howled with a hint of diabolical delight as it sped up behind her. “That’s a rather interesting perception ability you have there. But can you dodge them all?”
Six hooked chains twisted across the shortening distance between the Dementher and Warlock. Another problem presented itself as the edge of the roof came into view—but not quickly enough. Fallon pivoted sharply to her left as a pincer speared through the air beside her, then dove down onto her right shoulder as a second attack smacked the ground with enough force to trip the Warlock as the chain slapped against her legs. She grunted and rolled further away as the third pincer split through the robes of her left sleeve and left a jagged wound down the Warlock’s arm that burned like a firebrand.
Fallon rolled to a stop with a strained growl of pain as she tried to push off her injured arm—and found the last three chains blurring down upon her. A single red spark ignited in the air above the fallen Warlock, who almost wept at the sight, but flinched as the three red pincers hit the air above her and ricocheted off dead space with an ear-splitting clang.
The Dementher pursuing Fallon dug its six clawed feet into the roof as the monster skid to a halt, nostrils flaring once more as a black tongue slithered out from behind bloody fangs to taste the air. “What’s this? Are you a Warlock? What, is your familiar too timid to come out and play?” The sniffing Dementher dragged the chain that had cut Fallon’s arm back towards its quivering tongue and slowly licked off the Warlock’s blood. “Ohh-ho-ho! Phosphorus might just die from envy! But—what is another Relius doing on this world?”
“Mammon!” Asmodeus’s enraged voice boomed across the roof as a large, curved blade that closely resembled a giant monster’s claw appeared in the air above Fallon, where the chains had been deflected earlier. “How dare scum like you covet my Warlock?!”
Mammon’s head snapped as the reptilian Dementher’s six legs twitched and shifted uneasily beneath its scaled crimson body. “Asmodeus? What are—how did you escape from purgatory?”
“Did you honestly think Mastema would defeat me with such a cowardly trick?” Asmodeus retorted with a sound somewhere between a growl and laughter.
Fallon watched from her position on the ground as the shadow over her grew. Six towering legs appeared on the rooftop around the Warlock as she crawled cautiously to her knees. Fallon quickly realized the ‘claw’ that had saved her from the Dementher’s chains earlier was Asmodeus’s single horn which had grown in size with her familiar.
‘Close your eyes, Warlock,’ Asmodeus hissed gently against the dazed Warlock’s mind even as his true face, something between a bear, wolf, and stag, turned towards her. ‘Don’t move from that spot—no matter what happens.’
Before Fallon could think, much less voice a reply, Asmodeus’s attention returned to her attacker.
|Active Dementher Skill—Aura of Depravity (Tier ↁ)|
|All of the Dementher’s physical attacks now deal ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ Ancienter damage. All successful attacks inflict [Infernal Flame] to target which deals ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ damage (x5).|
With the challenging roar of a lion, Asmodeus charged the reptilian Dementher. Mammon scampered sideways, using two of his chained pincers to grab a section of the roof and pull him away from Asmodeus’s horn that cut through the limestone surface and two of Mammon’s chains as if they were little more than twigs stuck in the mud.
The severed ends of the chains quickly dissolved into burning pools of blood that eroded the prison roof and dripped like acid down to the floors below.
Asmodeus turned sideways as he lashed out at Mammon’s short, scaled tail with his front hooves. The Dementher stag’s four back legs dug into the rooftop, churning the paved stone into chipped flacks of shale and chalk as cracks spread through the mortar.
Mammon swung about with the nimble dexterity Fallon would expect from a newt, not a great, clambering, blind, carnivorous monstrosity the size of a fully grown ox. The Dementher’s long jaws snapped around Asmodeus’s front leg with the force of a trapdoor slamming shut on a misplaced limb.
Fallon clenched her jaw, and half rose to her feet, but Asmodeus's warning held her in place as the Warlock gripped her injured arm and watched the Dementher fight on alone.
Asmodeus reared up, his horn glinting under the clear blue sky as all four front hooves lifted off the ground and dragged a suspended Mammon into the air. With a powerful twist of his body, Asmodeus sent the still determinedly clinging reptilian Dementher crashing through the small vestibule and its door that led to the stairwell. The shattered remains of the flimsy structure scattered across the roof as Mammon landed on his side, his grip unshaken as his pincer chains flew wildly towards Asmodeus’s face.
Fallon held her breath as her familiar lowered his head, taking the full brunt of Mammon’s attack to his horn and the side of his face. The chain that struck the Dementher’s large horn coiled around it and yanked the stag’s head down towards Mammon, who unclenched his jaws from the Dementher’s crippled leg as the reptilian Dementher twisted his head sharply to reach for Asmodeus’s exposed neck.
|Active Dementher Skill—Infernal Flame (Tier ↁ)|
|A blast of Ancienter flame that deals ᚢᛜᚲᚾᛟᚹᚾ to the target. Damage is applied twice to both Mana and Health Pool.|
Asmodeus's fiery breath melted Mammon’s face and jaws as the Dementher whirled away. Fallon watched Mammon flounder across the roof like a stranded fish on land as the injured Dementher let out a strangled, blood-curdling scream.
Two of the reptilian’s chains melted away in the blast. Asmodeus quickly caught and chomped his way through one of the remaining two pincer chains that lodged into his front shoulder.
ALERT! Your familiar has been inflicted with [Ancienter Poison ↁ].
Asmodeus grabbed the final chain between his teeth and yanked his prey across the roof as Mammon dug in his claws, which left deep, scaring grooves in the cracked limestone.
“What can you do with one puny Relius?!” Mammon howled through his melted, misshapen jaw.
Asmodeus’s abyssal black eyes glimmered with the flames of the ancienter as he brought his uninjured front hoof down on the squirming Mammon’s neck.
“If you kill me—if you send me back there—I will tell them all where you are, Asmodeus! I will tell Mastema about her!” Mammon snarled with more fury than fear as Asmodeus bit his way through the trapped Dementher’s last chain.
“You come to my city, Mammon. You injure my Warlock! Do you still believe you’re in any position to bargain or make threats, maggot?”
“You can’t win—you’ve lost too much power—”
Asmodeus pressed his full body weight against the reptilian Dementher’s neck and lowered his wolf-like fangs towards the mound of severed chains. “I will take back my power—starting with you.”
Fallon raised trembling hands towards her face and looked away as the once small, moody, and at times even cute Dementher shredded his way through Mammon’s flesh and bone until his canine teeth seized and ripped out the squealing Dementher’s heart.
The black dripping organ twitched and, to Fallon’s blurring gaze, appeared to unravel like a coiled centipede desperate to escape before Asmodeus’s teeth crushed through its body.
Mammon’s squealing died, his body becoming limp and lifeless in an instant before it slowly dissolved into a pool of acid and mist. Asmodeus tossed back the insect-like organ and swallowed it down with a growl.
ALERT! Your familiar has consumed an enormous amount of experience in a rapid amount of time.
Familiar, Asmodeus, has gained 3,200,700 experience!
‘No frigging way!’
ALERT! Dementher, Asmodeus, has gained the required experience and Tier ↁ Nucleus to evolve. Would you like to evolve your familiar? [Yes] [No].
‘Yes!’ Fallon gave the mental command without hesitation.
ALERT! Familiar evolution is in progress.
Asmodeus's six legs trembled as the cloven hooves splintered and stretched, dividing into four long talons on each foot that dug into the already shattered and crumbling roof. His injured front leg gave off a metallic burning smoke as it straightened, appeared to heal itself, and then slammed against the limestone surface, which shattered on impact.
“Warlock,” the Dementher’s voice, now heavier and filled with a deep, unsettling hunger, whispered across the roof as Fallon slowly lowered her hands. “Cover your ears.”
The Warlock blinked once and then wordlessly complied with her familiar’s demands. Asmodeus raised his dripping mouth and howled out a deafening storm of fury that clashed against the mundane normality of the clear blue skies and distant wisps of stratus clouds that formed an unrelenting wave against the horizon.
Fallon shut her eyes as the Dementher’s powerful roar vibrated through the weakened rooftop beneath her. When she opened them again, a smaller Dementher, with his innocent fawn-like body, wolfish ears, six legs, a serpent's tail, and two horns, butted his head gently against her knee.
“Time to go, Warlock.”