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Pov: Mayor of Ralston.

 

The preparations for the festival were coming along swimmingly, much to my satisfaction. I'd had to haggle with the local merchants for days to get a proper percentage rate of their profits in tax. We had been doing the summer festival every year for the past few generations and all of a sudden they think they shouldn't share their coin anymore? Who did they think they were? I had been governing over this little town in Duke Rass' name for nearly 20 years now, they weren't about to get one over me.

Now if only that Helios-damned alchemist died in a mouldy cave somewhere, life would be perfect. I'd sent for some witch hunters to stay on top of the problem so that the guards could focus on their tasks in preparation for the summer solstice. With some luck, they'd be arriving any moment now.

I heard a servant knock on my door, so I called them in. They walked in and bowed deeply, showing me the proper amount of respect.

"Mayor, a witch hunter has arrived at the town hall. He's asking to speak with you."

Ah, speak of a devil and they shall arrive. I told the servant to bring the witch hunter to my office. It was somewhat strange that a single solo hunter would take up my contract, but then again there was only one enemy, so it shouldn't be a problem long-term.

 

A few moments and a knock on my door later, I saw a young man entering my office. He was garbed in leather armour and had a simple looking sword strapped to his waist. Peculiarly, the young man didn't look a day over 18. People that advanced to tier 2 this early were quite rare. He must have been a talented one. I hoped his investigative prowess wasn't hampered by his inexperience.

"Good day to you, Mayor. You may call me Arthur. I hear you've had some trouble with a rogue alchemist?"

I smiled for a moment at his forced politeness. People like me with a [Governor] class could quite easily pick up discrepancies in behaviour, courtesy of skills like [Sense emotion] and [Detect truth]. He was very clearly still getting used to proper polite speech. A commoner born hunter, perhaps? No, those would already have had some experience when it comes to speaking with people of a higher rank. He must have joined the hunters after his class awakening then. Not exactly a common occurrence, considering the guild's reputation. What a curious young fellow.

"Getting straight to business, are we? Well, I'm quite busy right now, so I appreciate it. I am mayor Sertal, proud governor of Ralston. If you've read the quest file, then you will know about the circumstances. No new discoveries have been made in the past few days. My trackers assure me the culprit is still in the local area, most likely not in the town itself."

"Would you mind allowing some guards to escort me to this alchemist's lab? I need to inspect it myself."

I was unsure what he intended when he asked to see the scene of the crime. Did he expect to find some clue the guards hadn't yet discovered? Or did he have a way to track people that we didn't? Hmmm, another mystery. This boy was becoming more and more interesting. Still, there was no point in forbidding it. It was best the young man realised what he was dealing with early on. I doubted he would find the alchemist anyway, I had mostly hired a witch hunter to keep unrest in the town at bay during the festival and to scare off that madman.

"That should not be an issue, I'll have a guard escort you there. Good luck on your hunt, Arthur."

With that business done, I should get to contacting the royal bank for some sponsorship...

 


 

Entering the town had been easy. Turns out just showing the witch hunters' badge was enough as a proof of identity, although I had had to show the quest form as well.

The mayor had been an interesting character. During our entire conversation I had felt like he was seeing through me. Maybe he had a class that was built around interaction with others? A lot of public officials and politicians had classes like that, I knew. Still, he unsettled me a little. He seemed to care a lot about Ralston, but its individual citizens? That was another question.

 

The guard leading me through the town was a gruff old man, that replied in as few words as humanly possible. In a way he reminded me of Barnold, since he was just as quiet, just a lot less wholesome. I missed the party a little, it had been a week or so since they went out on their new quest. Something about slaying a troll family in the mountains. I had wanted to go with them at first, but I had had to focus on my own class tier up first.

After a while, we arrived at what I was sure had been a thriving store just a few weeks prior. The glass was clean and the wood comprising the house looked brand new.

Inside, however, signs of struggle could be seen. The guard took out a key and opened up the store.

"I'm stayin' here. Seein' that basement once was more than enough. You do what you need to, hunta'."

I nodded and headed inside. Privacy would allow me to use all of my skills if worse came to worst.

The inside of the store was filled with potions and poisons, different bottles and baubles lining the shelves. One shelf was even filled with numerous kinds of ingredients, all left behind. By now spiders had covered the place in cobwebs, evidently seeing an abandoned house as a prime hunting ground.

What worried me, however, were the signs of struggle I had noticed through the window. A toppled chair behind the counter, a burn mark on said counter, and a number of objects thrown across the room. The quest notice had said the Alchemist had gone missing before they investigated, so couldn't he have left without trouble? Did someone suspect what he had done and confronted him?

Well, now was not the time for hypotheses. Behind the counter was an open door that led to a small living room filled with common furniture. Some expensive couches, a few small paintings and some magical baubles that the alchemist could no doubt afford because of his steep income. One of the carpets was pulled away, revealing a trap door that fitted seamlessly into the floor.

I wondered if the guards had stumbled across it by accident, because with the carpet on top I myself would not have noticed any sign of the trap door. I grasped a small handle carved into the hatch and opened it.

Immediately my senses were assaulted. I smelt the smell of aged blood that I had become familiar with in the dungeon. Only this time there was a caveat. That was apparently all human blood. Thinking of that, I had a hard time stopping myself from puking all over the floor, but I caught myself just in time. Another thing I noticed was the dark mana slowly floating out of the cellar like a thick smoke. It was now clearly visible, thanks to my [Dark sight] skill.

After some hesitation, I dropped down into the cellar. There was a ladder, but I didn't want to touch it. Who knew what that psycho smeared on everything in here? The cellar turned out to be a cobbled hallway that led deeper underground. I followed the path, occasionally coming across an unlit torch, which I left as such. There was no point lighting it and carrying it when I didn't need to.

After what felt like five minutes of walking, the mana concentration started to rise drastically. I knew that whatever had been done to cause this would be horrible, so I felt a little guilty when I acknowledged that the mana left me feeling like a fish in the water. It was a strange idea, to feel at home in a place of death and pain. I didn't quite know how to feel about it.

I decided to put that out my mind for now and kept going. Fairly soon, I found the cause of the high mana concentration. The hallway opened up into a larger room, which had empty cells on both sides of the walls. The floor was covered in dry blood and entrails, leaving no brick in its natural colour. In a pit at the centre of the room was a giant mound of...well, I didn't quite know what. Was that...human body parts, cut into pieces? Where were the bones?

I tried to separate my feelings from my thoughts, but this time, I failed. The result was my dinner on the floor. It didn't look like much, since my pellet meals had decomposed almost entirely. I fell down to my knees and put my hands on the floor to support my body. A moment later I started breathing heavily and quickly. I couldn't take this. This much pain and death had been inflicted and it made me stronger. The idea alone disgusted me. For the first time, I cursed at my class, wishing that I had received something else. That my life could go down another path. That I could have become a knight from the stories, or just a baker back home. A moment later, I caught myself and readjusted my mindset. I remembered my goals. I remembered my parents encouraging me, and the expectations of my guild mates. I would be strong. I would be free. Even if I didn't really know what that meant.

I would never become a madman like that alchemist. Never.

I stood up and slapped both of my cheeks to wake myself up. With a determined look, I swore I would catch that bastard and crucify him.

 


 

I marched through a forest nearby Ralston with a bitter feeling. I had demanded answers from the guard that had escorted me. Why hadn't they buried those boneless corpses yet? Why hadn't they filled that cellar in yet?

The guard had said that there was no way to drag out a mountain of corpses out of a house before the festival. It would scare the citizens. Apparently respect for the dead wasn't as important as profit for the living in Ralston, I had thought angrily. Who stood to gain the most from the markets and events of the festival? Those in power, including that shifty mayor.

 

I wasn't exactly sneaky as I stomped through the forest, scaring off all of the animals. I was still angry about the mayor's attitude. The reason why I had come out here without further clues was simple. A dark ritualist or caster like the alchemist wouldn't just sit still. He would no doubt be continuing his experiments somewhere in the surrounding area of Ralston, creating lots of dark mana in the process. It would be simple for me to explore said area and find where there was a slightly higher concentration of the stuff. Yet, by nightfall, I had explored a good portion and not found anything. Still, I was determined. That murderer would die, and soon.

I decided to continue into the night, since the darkness didn't bother me.

 

A few hours later, I was stalking through the forest with Revan at my side, who had decided to help out with my quest. My distant thoughts were interrupted when he looked at me, expressing a feeling of agitation through our bond. He jumped up and down once, which I took as a sign of him telling me to follow. A moment later he ran off into the night, so I did exactly that. Sure enough, he had found the entrance to a cave. The cave had a small amount of dark mana wafting out, but not enough to convince me that this was the place. Caves were naturally dark and therefore emitted a small amount of dark mana passively. Still, there was no harm in checking.

 

The cave entrance became smaller and smaller, eventually forcing me to crawl through a thin passage. I nearly got stuck a few times, which scared me half to death each time. Eventually I got to the other side, where the cave opened up again. I was about to stand up and beckon Revan over, when I heard a whooshing sound. This was a sound I had become intimately familiar with because of my swordsmanship training. Relying on instinct, I whipped around, blocking the incoming attack as best I could with my arms. There was no time to draw my sword before the opponent struck. An axe cleaved halfway through one of my arms, despite my high constitution.

Not wanting to lose this chance to surprise my opponent, I drew my sword with the broken arm, using my augment slightly to knit my flesh and bone back together. When I took stock of my situation, I realised that my opponent wasn't one to falter due to surprise in the first place, because before me stood a white skeleton wielding a one handed axe and nothing else.

It looked at me with empty eyes as it came at me with a predictable and simple attack, which I parried and countered, impaling its skull with a thrust. Revan had joined me by this point and bit down on its bones as a final act of revenge. The skeleton collapsed into an unmoving pile of bones and dust.

So this was where the bones from the victims had gone.

On a brighter note, I had found my alchemist.

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A note from Belgianfri

Picture of a komodo dragon skeleton: https://nl.pinterest.com/pin/536772849320694373/

That's roughly what Revan looks like right now, although his bones are black rather than white.

Discord:

https://discord.gg/SYmvVrssyT


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Belgianfri

  • Your holiness

Bio: I like fries. The belgian kind.

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