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By the time Momo had descended the manor, things had already gone awry.

The glob had swallowed an entire house.

Momo looked on in horror as she saw a toilet float through its semi-transparent flesh. In tow behind it were several chairs, a mirror, and a dining room table. And - no, it couldn’t be - a cat, still fully intact, pawing at the flesh prison like it was a too-small travel crate.

Momo balled her hands into fists. The introduction of the cat into the equation had made this very personal. This was no longer just a morbid annoyance - it was an animal rights issue.

Exhausted from the energy she spent inside, she staggered over pieces of plywood and other building remnants. It was as if ancient oaks had been torn from the ground - the houses leaving behind exposed piping sticking out like frayed roots.

Thank God for the new riding boots, she thought to herself. Her feet would not have survived this otherwise.

She rounded the side of the glob and nearly knocked heads with one of the Earl’s knights. The blob casted an enormous shadow on the field, transforming the lighting conditions from daybreak to nightfall; it was terribly hard to see a foot in front of her.

Nonetheless, an eager group of knights and peasants were hard at work accomplishing nothing. They had assembled at the foot of the beast, hopelessly poking at it with spears and axes.

“The flesh is impenetrable!” one cried out while tugging at the shaft of his spear, the remainder of it fully sucked into the mass. It was like prying something from quicksand. Many of the knights’ weapons seemed to share the same fate: every variation of enchanted spear, greataxe, and longsword under the sun had become fodder for the gelatin, floating amongst the cats and kitchenware.

“Get back!” another knight warned Momo, his foot lodged halfway into the beast, “it will suck you into its gluttonous depths!”

Momo stared blankly at him. What exactly did he think kicking it would do?

As the glob turned ever-slightly, a pinch of light entered Momo's vision. She could see the outline of Earl Yadek sitting a few paces behind the well-meaning war party. He was reclining in the same exact throne from the longhouse - except now it was firmly planted in the dirt ground. From the way his personnel were nursing their arms and backs, it was apparent that he had been carried to the scene while sitting on it.

Momo was starting to understand why people weren’t too fond of him.

Despite the god-sized blob looming over him, he still looked entirely apathetic. As if he was watching a movie that had gone on too long. He sighed in annoyance, mumbling something to the terrified guard next to him.

Seemingly following directions, the guard immediately charged the blob with dual-wielded daggers. He attempted to slice through the flesh, but he was slurped up all the same. The momentum of his strike only served to catapult him further into the goo.

The Earl cracked a small smile.

Momo’s jaw dropped - was he doing this intentionally?

Seeing Momo from the corner of his eye, his smile quickly fell. He raised his shoulders, resuming his apathetic posturing.

“My necromancer hunter, how convenient,” he tutted, “care to explain this?”

He pointed up towards the glob as if Momo had brought it here personally.

“I’m not sure what to say, sir," she said defensively, trying to pivot with the help of a pun, "it’s pretty, well, clear.”

The fully engulfed knight hammered against the monster's translucent skin. The Earl did not laugh at Momo’s double entendre.

“Don’t play sly with me. My scouts saw this thing inching its way from Baumfreund Manor, and they saw you inching with it. Why did you not send word faster?”

“I went as fast as I could, sir.”

“Impossible,” he glared, “this thing is moving at the pace of an injured snail. You were delaying. Tell me why, or risk being the target of my very elaborate imagination.”

The magical aura surrounding him began to flicker like a flame. What was once a shimmering trick of the light turned hot - as if Momo had just touched a pan fresh off the stovetop.

Momo worried her lip between her teeth. She had hoped to avoid this conversation altogether, but the Earl was shrewd.

“I was doing as you told me to, checking out the places marked suspicious on the map. When I arrived at the Manor I immediately saw the glob - obviously, as it is impossible to avoid seeing - and tried to turn back to warn you.”

“But you didn’t,” he drummed his fingers impatiently along his staff, “you took your sweet time.”

Because, as I was turning away from it, I heard a yell from inside the Manor. It was the Duke of the house - Leonardo Baumfreund. He was calling for help.”

The Earl hummed, “and his sister? What of the Duchess?”

“She had… gone mad.”

His eyebrows lowered. Suspicion colored his face.

Mad? People do not simply go mad.

“I don't know how else to put it,” and she really didn't, she thought as she nervously tapped her heel, “apparently there had been a dark artifact in the house that summoned this thing - and in turn, drove Duchess Lione to insanity.”

Dark artifact. What a masterful lie, she quietly smiled. She was convincing even herself.

“I see," he hummed, "so if I hypothetically told you to go fetch this artifact and dispel this creature, could you?”

Shit. Never mind, charisma be damned, she was still a terrible liar.

“Er, um - no,” she dragged out the no, trying to summon her next thought, “it’s been destroyed.”

“Destroyed? Then why is this creature still with us?”

“Now that it’s here we can’t exactly unsummon it, I guess.”

Yadek grew frustrated, sitting back in his seat with a groan.

“I can’t believe I’m going to have to solve this myself,” he shook his head, gripping his staff tightly, “move out of the way.”

Momo darted to the side, watching as the Earl descended his throne. He walked with a limp towards the monster, favoring his left leg as he staggered forward. He put the majority of his weight on his staff, his face contorting with pain whenever he crossed an irregular piece of terrain.

Momo felt immediately bad for her earlier thoughts. He clearly couldn't have traveled the distance from the longhouse by himself.

As the knights took notice of him, they immediately fell back. The Earl's arrival to the fight resembled a torch coming alight inside a swarm of bats, his presence sending shockwaves throughout the crowd. Terror transformed to awe on their faces as he reached the front line, his staff readied.

From a mile above, the creature sloped its head down at him, taking notice of the rest of his army fleeing behind. It gurgled out a sound of displeasure, unhappy to see its food no longer running straight towards it.

With a sudden motion, Yadek jerked his arm up, hoisting his staff parallel to the sky above. The yellow orb at the head of it burned like a dying star, a river of sparks flying from it.

[Holy Beam],” he said softly, clenching his fist.

 

A pillar of sparks shot from the staff and pierced the flesh of the beast, burning a cylindrical hole straight through it. The gelatin wailed loudly, wobbling in dismay. The glob quickly attempted to clog its hole by redistributing the wreckage it had inhaled - crushing chairs and tubes and stoves into putty, regenerating its flesh. After a few moments, it was as if nothing had ever hit it, the hole completely sealed.

“It can heal itself?” one of the nearby knights cried out. The village mob of knights and peasants chattered in panic, looking to the Earl for guidance.

Momo began to sweat. Was that the limit of the Earl’s power? If so, she should probably start running. Or walking. This thing still didn’t move very fast.

“So you can regenerate?” the Earl thought aloud, as if speaking directly to the beast, “interesting. But that will not save you.”

The Earl shifted his left foot backwards, the dirt melting to mud beneath it. He hauled the staff over his right shoulder so the tip of it faced the glob. He winced at the new weight, but nonetheless readied himself for a second casting.

“[Unchain Soul - Holy Flame]” he shouted as a cannonball of fire shot from the staff, enlarging to the size of a small sun as it soared upwards. It moved parabolically until it crashed down on the monster’s face, a carpet of flame unfurling down the length of its body.

The glob writhed like a fish out of water as its flesh was burnt to a crisp. Its extremities turned to ash, its insides spilling out like an avalanche.

The crowd was immediately drowned in a flood of objects - floorboards, tubs, stray cats. A kitchen table soared directly for the Earl’s head, which he quickly sent soaring in the opposite direction with a light hit of his staff.

Momo blinked. It was like something out of a cartoon.

⟡ For defeating the oversized minion of a powerful rival necromancer, you have gained 2 levels in [Necromage Initiate].
You have gained the skill [Abysmal Burst].

[Abysmal Burst]: Fire a powerful beam of Death magic at your foe.

Momo looked at the paper quizzically. Two entire levels? But she had barely touched the thing.

Regardless - [Abysmal Burst] was just what she needed. She had been sorely lacking ways to defend herself.

She quickly tore the paper in two as one of the Earl’s knights looked over her shoulder excitedly.

“Get anything good?” he grinned, holding his own stack of parchment. He didn’t seem to notice her quickly disposing of her own.

“I’m confused,” she mumbled, noticing as half the crowd was busy studying the papers in their hands, “didn’t the Earl do all the work? Why is everyone getting levels?”

“Why do you think I was jamming my spear up that thing’s arse?” he laughed, “it’s the one-hit rule - as long as you get a single hit on an enemy, you’ll be rewarded with a good chunk of experience. ‘Course, the one who deals the fatal blow gets a bit more, but it ain’t too substantial a’ difference.”

He showed her his parchment. Momo noticed how different it looked from hers. While Momo’s was covered in Morgana’s skeletal koi fish - his was painted with an entirely different insignia: a shield, engraved with the face of a bear.

“Can I ask you another question?” Momo muttered.

“Shoot!” he said, too giddy to be bothered.

“What’s that shield about? The one with the bear face?”

He curled his eyebrows, “the symbol of Ursa?”

“Um, sure.”

“It’s just that,” he seemed dumbfounded, “symbol a’ Ursa. The symbol appearin’ on your page just shows what God has claimed you. I’m a [Nature Paladin], and Ursa’s the God of Nature and Wildlife, so he’s keen on me.”

“Claimed?” she squinted, “what does that mean?”

“It means like it sounds. Once you’ve demonstrated an amount of fealty to a certain God, usually by doing jobs they’d approve of, they can claim ya. It means they’ve got an eye on you, or whatever Gods got for eyes.”

“Oh,” Momo went a bit pale, “totally unrelated, and in no way pertaining to me, but what is Morgana the God of?”

His face twisted into disgust, his eyes squinting in suspicion.

“What business have ya got with her?”

“None! I’m just a… necromancer hunter,” technically not false, “and I thought I could use some knowledge on her. To help with the hunting. That’s all.”

This satisfied him, and he blew out a long breath, “well, she’s a bad one, that you should know. The Goddess a’ Death, Decay, and Pestilence. Those used to be Ursa’s domains - but she stole them from him.”

“Stole?”

“You heard me. Thieved them from him. At least that’s how the stories go,” he shrugged, “now, enough of this. Now is a time for celebration - I’m headin’ to the pub.”

He bid her goodbye with a hard pat to the back, nearly toppling her tiny frame. She thanked him weakly, the information he gave her running amok in her mind.

She couldn’t act surprised that Morgana had marked her. She had quite literally been the definition of a dutiful servant - delivering bugs and bones, catfishing customers, bringing in coin to her decrepit sanctuary - all kinds of diabolical witchery.

But Momo, forgetful as she was, had sort of neglected Morgana's attachment to the whole ‘Morgana’s Dawn’ thing. Momo had really just been serving Valerica, who was admittedly one of Morgana’s closest henchmen. So… whoops. yeah. Two plus two is four, and all that.

Still, it was hard for her to square how she felt about being under the 'eye' of the Goddess of Death and Decay. On one hand, she certainly held a more optimistic opinion of necromancy than the general population. She saw the power for pure good in it: the ability to reanimate a soul, to give things a second chance at life.

When practiced morally, or at least not completely totally immorally (cough cough: Lione), she saw it as no worse than a class like [Knight] or [Paladin]. They still paraded around their weapons of war like it was nothing. Those weapons killed, Momo’s hands could revive. If anything, it seemed that the Good vs. Evil spectrum had been dropped on its head. Since when was killing better than healing?

Momo groaned, her skull burning with these terribly intellectual thoughts. There was a reason she dropped her Philosophy minor after a single class. She wasn’t meant to think. She was meant to draw, and to binge television series while petting her cat occasionally.

Gratefully, the Earl tore her from her thoughts.

“Well, that was a small inconvenience,” he remarked, staring out at the vast wreckage before him, “an inconvenience I would like not to repeat again.”

He leaned forward menacingly, catching Momo’s eyes.

“And I think that starts with you, little Necromage.”

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villa1ny

Bio: A globetrotting word wizard.

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