A place of darkness and despair.
That was the most apt way to describe the scene surrounding Fort Aynor. It was a depressing place, flanked on all sides by depressing swamplands. Its walls, towers and buildings were hewn out of cold black stone, and grotesque creatures patrolled the skies above it. To say this keep had always had a gloomy atmosphere around it would be an understatement, though it was also to be expected. It was, after all, one of the major holdings of the Order of the Black Wand, and the organization had an image to uphold. Even if it was one of creepiness and foreboding, it was still, for lack of a better word, their brand.
However, the current oppressive atmosphere was much heavier than usual, as every Necromancer under the guild’s employ had been called here. The air itself seemed to stink profusely of rot, as each of them had brought their own entourage of the dead. They had ordered their creations to bury themselves in the ground so as to not take up space, but it was inevitable some of them would be left roaming about.
There were also living and breathing guards, of course, but they couldn’t be trusted to maintain a vigilant watch with sleet pouring down from the skies above. Especially when it was the dead of night, hours before the morning twilight even considered showing itself. Hence the need for undead sentries, as these creatures were bothered by neither darkness nor cold. Admittedly they were rather literally brainless, but they could still ceaselessly patrol the perimeter and scream their heads out at anyone approaching the base. Determining whether this trespasser was an intruder, a passer by or another member of the guild would then be left up to the living.
The monsters circling above were a different story, though, for they were very much alive. On one hand, there were about a dozen beholders, all of whom were made to stand watch for any disturbances, magical or otherwise. Demons being nearly tireless, not requiring any food or drink and being able to think for themselves made for potentially much better lookouts. Provided that their summoners had issued the right instructions, of course.
But these literal eyes in the sky were not the only ones flying about. There were also a total of nine gargoyles - winged humanoid monsters with smooth onyx black hides covering their slender bodies. Their hands and feet were tipped with sharp claws, their faces and ears shaped like a bat’s, and their snouts full of sharp teeth. These required significantly more upkeep than the demons or undead at the site, but with good reason. Gargoyles were fast, vicious and nimble, being able to evade almost anything thrown at them long enough to move in and tear into their targets. And with the support of their Monster Tamer masters’ Skills, this bunch were even more formidable than the garden variety.
As for the reasons behind all this surveillance around Fort Aynor and its current residents, they could be summed up with three words - guild master’s orders. The Order of the Black Wand had officially recognized the threat of the serial killer targeting their Necromancer members across the Empire. In fact, given the sheer speed at which those people were being eliminated, it seemed unlikely that it was the work of a single individual. The guild had no choice but to recognize it as an organized attack on their ranks, which required an adequate response.
An all points bulletin was therefore sent out to all potential victims, urging them to head to Fort Aynor where the Order of the Black Wand would offer protection and shelter. It was a very temporary arrangement that would only last until the ones responsible for killing their members were found and brought to justice. That was also why the guild master had supposedly disappeared, as he had launched his own personal investigation into this matter by going off to consult his… less reputable associates. This news made many of the Necromancers reassured, as it showed Cromwell was taking their plight seriously. There were of course many cynics among them as well. People who had assumed that old man had simply gone into hiding to save his own skin.
Regardless of their personal feelings on the matter of the guild master’s absence, over a hundred corpse-talkers had answered the call. They had all gathered at Fort Aynor since the order was relayed through their information network ten days ago. Each individual used teleportation, griffins, coaches pulled by tireless skeletal steeds and any other rapid modes of transport they could muster to get here. The Order’s message demanded urgency, so the Necromancers wasted no time in arriving with all due haste.
To say things were uneasy around the keep was an understatement. Having one’s life being targeted would put anyone on edge. And, as if that wasn’t stressful enough already, certain members couldn’t help but feel as if they were being imprisoned rather than being put into protective custody. Sure, the guild gave them comfortable lodging and ample provisions, but forbade them from leaving the premises of the fort for their own safety. Pseudo-martial law aside though, there was no denying there was safety in numbers. It was better to stand together rather than allow themselves to be picked off one by one, so they didn’t complain much.
‘Much’ being the operative word. Tensions continued to rise as the days rolled by and more and more people showed up, so it was inevitable there would be arguments and disagreements. The mystery assassins hadn’t made a move ever since the call came out, understandable considering all potential targets were on the move. It almost felt inevitable they’d be drawn to Fort Aynor, though, as the Necromancers had made themselves a very juicy target. A detail that was not lost on any of them.
Still, they were arguably a small army, and they even had the support of a bunch of mercenaries and adventurers, both from within and outside their own guild. Mostly people who were either paid off or ordered to protect them, but they were protectors nonetheless. Some refused to attend the post because the thought of babysitting that many Taboo wielders in one spot was too much for them. It took a certain level of scumbaggery and poor morals for a person to completely overcome the disgusting sensations brought on by that stigma of a Skill. It wasn’t a job just anyone could do.
So, to sum up the situation, the Necromancers had found themselves banding together to face off against an unknown threat that was definitely headed their way. All while under guard by a bunch of people who, frankly speaking, probably didn’t give much of a shit about them beyond earning a paycheck. Maybe even a few who wouldn’t mind betraying the heretics out of some sense of morality. Considering the environment, it was not stretch of the imagination to say Fort Aynor had become like a powder keg, waiting for just the right spark to set it off.
And then, it finally happened.
A loud screech pierced the stormy night as a gargoyle fell to earth with a massive, frozen hole punched clean through its chest. Three more followed by the time the alarm was raised, and four beholders were then banished to their home dimension before they could report on who or what was assaulting them. People spilled into the courtyard, primed and ready for a confrontation. Undead rose from their buried positions and demons were being rapidly summoned. The keep’s magical defenses were activated and a shimmering blue barrier covered the entire base, cutting off the icy rain while also providing ample light.
It was already too late though, as their assailant was already inside, dropping the floating beholders left and right with frightening speed. The gathered people stared skyward, but they couldn’t see any sign of an intruder. It was almost as if the levitating heads were being sliced apart by nothing. The gargoyles also lost their lives without being able to do anything, as they were wrapped up by barely visible webs and had their innards gouged out by the unseen invader.
All things considered, it had taken barely thirty seconds to completely decimate the fort’s air superiority. After that, the invader began picking off the adventurers with brutal efficiency. A Necromancer was crushed flat by an unseen force. Three of his colleagues were decapitated in a single moment. Another’s upper half disappeared, gobbled up by the invisible monster in one bite. The next victim didn’t even feel anything as a blade cut him neatly in half top-to-bottom.
It wasn’t just the Necromancers, though. Warriors, Druids, Rangers, Rogues, Wizards, Warlocks - all manner of people were being dismembered one after the other. Death spread seemingly at random, with no warning or reason behind it. And then, with so many of them getting killed off, fear began to spread. Not among the veterans, they were hardened and desensitized to bloody battlefields. But the newbies among them were another story.
It was one such greenhorn, a barely Level 20 Necromancer, that made the inevitable poor decision that made things worse. Terrified out of her wits, the homely looking black-haired girl frantically prepared a Corpse Explosion. It was one of the Necromancer’s only means of direct offense, and it was quite powerful to boot. Unleashing it in such a crowded space was going to hurt more people than it would protect, but the girl was already beyond reason.
And then she saw the man in front of her having his head ripped off, causing the rookie to snap.
The Spell she had been holding back was unleashed in the next instant upon the man that had just died. His body exploded into a shower of boiling blood and flaming bone, injuring the caster and three other people in the process. Everyone’s attention focused on the location of the blast. That desperately thrown out Spell had hit their assailant full on, dealing minimal damage, but knocking out the optical camouflage that obscured their form.
It was then that every person on the scene was finally able to lay eyes upon the monster that had been butchering them. It had a slender humanoid body shape, oddly feminine in appearance. It was completely covered in an ice-like carapace that was so black it seemed to suck away what little light there was. Except for the right half of it, which was covered by steaming crimson blood, courtesy of its last victim. Its hands and feet were adorned with bladed claws that put the gargoyles’ natural weapons to shame. A total of eight crystalline appendages jutted out of its back, each tipped with a massive double-edged blade. A sleek and pointed abdomen that seemed more at home on a wasp than a spider hung from its lower back where a tail would normally be.
What cemented this monster’s arachnid origins, however, was the appearance of its head. It maintained vaguely human-like proportions, which was difficult to determine since it had spikes of tar-colored ice instead of hair. The same stuff also obscured the face, although a set of eight orange eyes glimmered just beneath the transparent mask. Two pairs of massive, bladed mandibles flanked its mouth, forming an ‘X’ shape as they clacked together. The maw behind them was unnaturally wide, seemingly encompassing over half of the head’s lower region. And it was filled with countless teeth, each of which would put a dagger to shame.
The observers were able to see them only for a brief moment though, as the creature had opened its mouth for one express purpose.
A deafening screech washed over the fort, drowning out all other noise. The disorienting sound, the monster’s truly nightmarish features, the side-effects of Butcher of Humanity as well as the full force of Despair Aura blended together to create a wave of pure terror. It was so potent that people began fleeing for their lives, abandoning any pretense of working together with others. Those that didn’t run still found their hearts pounding, their hands shaking, their lips quivering and their vision blurring. And since no Priests were around on this unholy ground, there was almost nobody capable of shielding the group from the adverse mental condition.
It was then that the spider-thing resumed its duty with extreme fervor. Enraged by having been revealed in such a manner, it was no longer content to just slice people open or bite chunks of them off in passing. It activated Power Overwhelming and sent a horizontally-oriented Reality Slash through the crowd. Dozens of men and women were dismembered in an instant, sending sprays of blood through the air. Spell Crystals and grenades were hurled all over the place, peppering the courtyard with flames, shrapnel, darkness and even an overcharged Singularity.
Boxxy then moved on to rounding up those that tried to flee initially. It leaped through the air at a low angle, beheading people and undead alike as it passed just above them. The dopple-stalker tossed wads of Impact Webbing all over the place, which expanded and wrapped around any poor sods they hit. It also liberally sprayed acid on people, making them scream out in pain and further adding to the chaos.
Some desperate souls tried sending their minions at it, barraging with it magic or putting up magical defenses, but all was for naught. For Boxxy’s Malefic Union with Drea had given it access to the Counterspell Skill, which allowed it to rip through any magic standing in its way. The Mana Locator Gland hidden inside its body also gave it omnidirectional ‘sight,’ allowing its numerous limbs to deflect attacks coming in from all angles at once.
The rest of the people gathered didn’t fare much better than the Spell-slingers. The few well-armored bodyguards around were set ablaze by Ebonfire, while the more agile ones fell victim to the shapeshifter’s superior speed. It also created multiple copies of itself through Mirror Image, further increasing the rate at which the sheep were slaughtered. As for the ones that ran and actually made it out of the confines of the fort, they would find themselves facing either a djinn or an archfiend, depending on how terrible their luck was.
But as the Mimic indulged in its natural urge to kill, maim and devour, it lost track of time. Malefic Union’s three minutes expired all too soon, causing the monster to collapse on the spot. It vomited uncontrollably as its hard shell became a viscous sludge, rendering it unable to do anything to defend itself. Some of the adventurers noticed this moment of weakness and moved in to strike, but Boxxy’s body doubles - which still maintained their form - stepped in to protect it. Unlike their original, the Mirror Images had been able to maintain their half-demon half-monster constitution. They couldn’t use many of the original’s Skills and only commanded a fraction of its strength, but they were still more than enough to cover Boxxy until it got back on its feet.
And once it did, the Hylt Creeper wasted no time. Wielding Voidcaller, it instantly summon Drea back to the physical realm, then the two began merging once more. Unlike that time with Arms, Boxxy found Claws to be a far more agreeable ‘host.’ The process was still painful, but nowhere near as agonizing as it was back then. It would appear that the once-mimic and the once-stalker were, for a lack of a better word, extremely compatible. Thinking back on it, the Mimic’s original instincts were quite similar to that of a spider, and it even enjoyed the use of arachnid limbs quite a bit. In some ways, this outcome almost made sense, even though it really didn’t.
It wasn’t necessarily a good thing, though. The merger between them was so seamless that Boxxy was finding it hard to differentiate its own personality from that of Claws, her intents and habits reinforcing its own primal wants and needs. That was why it found itself unable to resist taking a bite out of its victims now and then, or why it was so superbly pissed off it had been seen as a result of that Corpse Explosion. Even though it practiced fusing with the webstalker leading up to this event, maintaining total control while in the thick of battle had proven to be exceptionally difficult.
Having become a dopple-stalker once more, Boxxy wasted no more time in resuming its grim duty. This fodder hardly even stood a chance, though. The majority of them were magic-wielders, who were the natural prey of demons like Claws. The rest were crushed under the Mimic’s ridiculously bloated Status. Regardless of whether they fought back, ran for their lives or hid in a corner somewhere in the keep, they were all methodically hunted down and eliminated. It was a one-sided massacre that saw the death of one hundred and eighty seven people within less than twenty minutes.
After spearing the last survivor through the heart and lungs with a bladed hand, the Mimic casually walked out of Fort Aynor and looked upon its work. There was blood everywhere, and mangled bodies were strewn all over the place. It was a gruesome, grizzly scene that would surely make all but the most jaded of adventurers vacate the contents of their stomachs. The only thing that could’ve caused this much carnage was without a doubt a vicious monster who thrived on naught but death and violence.
Which was a bit of a problem. The plan was to have Accatau, the ‘current’ Hero of Death, take the blame for all this. However, nobody in their right mind would think this was the doing of the world’s greatest assassin. The scene would need to be set, which was why it called its trio of pet demons to help it with the cleanup.
Snack was assigned to lookout duty, whereby she would keep watch for any approaching people from the air. Not that the Mimic was expecting company. The only ones who would think of coming this way were either members of the Order of the Black Wand who were running late, drunkards who lost their way, or idiots who didn’t know any better. As unlikely as it was for someone to just ‘show up’ at a place like this, it was vital there were no living witnesses, otherwise this entire ruse would fall apart.
Arms’s considerable muscle power was put to use carrying the bodies and their various bits into a huge pile in the courtyard. She naturally felt dissatisfied at having to do menial labor, as she hadn’t had nearly enough fun. She only got to crush twenty or so skulls while she was watching the perimeter, which wasn’t nearly enough violence to satisfy her. Then again, as far as archfiends were concerned, even pummeling every living thing on this world into soup wouldn’t be ‘enough violence.’
As for Claws, she was given the task of processing the corpses. Anything that looked magical or shiny was stripped from the dead bodies and thrown into a nearby treasure chest for her master’s later perusal. After looting a body, she would then do one of two things to it. If the deceased wasn’t afflicted with Taboo - which could be felt even after their passing - then they would just be set aside to be eaten or absorbed. If they were a sinner, their skull would be removed and meticulously stripped of all skin, hair, flesh, muscle and sinew. The rest of their corpse would then be made into the webstalker’s midnight snack.
At that same time, Boxxy was busy erasing any evidence of violence from inside the keep. It was something it had always been good at, ever since the day it was born. Admittedly the scale of this operation was unlike anything else it had ever had to deal with, but that just meant the volume of work was bigger. The methods involved would still be the same.
Blood splatters were either licked up or burned away with acid, depending on the situation. Rogue body parts were gobbled up, and any smashed up objects were cleaned up. Even scratches or gashes in the furniture or floorboards were covered up thanks to the monster’s Phytokinesis Skill. The chips and cracks in the stonework were unsalvageable, but it was unlikely anyone would notice those. Even Boxxy had a hard time telling which of the markings had been there before it arrived. Cleaning the courtyard would be a bit trickier since the soil had soaked up much of the blood, but it wasn’t impossible.
The point was that the shapeshifter could leave the keep in a state that would make it impossible to think a fight had broken out, and it would do so without much difficulty.
“Master! We have an airborne intruder coming in from the east!”
Unfortunately Snack had made a rather un-tasty report before it could finish up.
“Claws and Arms - get inside and hide!” it commanded. “I’m on my way up to see this one for myself.”
Boxxy threw on the Sandman disguise and dashed to the roof of one of the central keep’s towers. The rain had stopped and the defensive barrier had been shut off, allowing the monster an unobstructed view of the sky. The clouds had been dyed a fitting blood-red by the sun that hadn’t quite risen over the horizon yet, but there was something far more impressive flying just beneath them.
Using its Eagle Eye Skill, Boxxy zoomed in on the dragon-shaped shadow in the sky to confirm that it was, as one might expect, a dragon. One made out of bleached bones and stitched together with rotting flesh and muscle that was just barely keeping it whole. It had a wingspan of over a thirty meters, and was about twenty meters long including everything from the snout to the spike-tipped tail. And riding upon this unholy beast’s back, although the Mimic couldn’t see the person directly, was someone the Eyes of the Dead God identified her as another of its targets. Arguably the most troublesome one on its ‘naughty list.’
The woman in question could be no other than Nora Cromwell, a VIP. Boxxy was rather unpleasantly surprised to see her here and now, as she was one of several Necromancers who didn’t respond to its ‘invitation.’ It was understandable that not all of them would show up. Some probably felt they couldn’t trust the guild with their lives and remained in hiding, while others couldn’t be reached at all due to them being away on a Quest or some other errand.
Nora’s case was quite different, though, as she had clearly shown up ready for war. She probably felt quite confident in going it alone, and with good reason. According to Boxxy’s information, she was the only Level 100 Necromancer in the Order. She was also the guild master’s sister, and likely a big part of why the organization was so readily accepting of her kind. As for her Ultimate Skill, the only thing Boxxy knew about it was that it was called Bone Dragon, though it was painfully obvious what its effects were by now.
However, it was worth noting that the thing she was riding wasn’t an actual zombified dragon. Upon further inspection, Boxxy’s enhanced eyesight was able to determine it was merely an undead construct in the shape of one. Its skull, for example, was made out of the compressed remains of dozens, probably hundreds of corpses. It made the Mimic quite curious whether this thing was anywhere near as strong as its legendary namesake. Luckily, it had just the guinea pig to test it out.
“Snack, can she see you?” it called out.
“I don’t think so, Master. I’ve covered myself with a cloud-shaped mirage.”
“Then would you kindly introduce yourself by spraying your fire magic all over our guest’s face?”
“As you command, my Master.”
Boxxy kept staring at the circling not-dragon in the sky while the djinn drew closer. The bone construct suddenly swerved around and unleashed its version of a dragon’s most fearsome weapon - the breath. A stream of sickeningly green clouds was ejected from its maw at high speeds, enveloping the ‘invisible’ djinn and wiping all but her soul out of existence in a matter of seconds.
The Mimic was quite surprised. Not at Snack being detected, though. A Level 100 adventurer would surely have countermeasures against something like illusions and mirages, especially if she had shown up with hostile intentions. The shocking part was how much power was behind the attack that just hit Snack, as it was at a Level where Boxxy wasn’t sure if it could survive it. It would appear that, even if it was a knock-off, that dragon was quite formidable.
However, it was ultimately just another undead pawn under a Necromancer’s control. Which meant it had three key weaknesses. The first was fire magic. This was Snack’s specialty, though it was quite obvious she’d be unable to get in close enough to actually use it. The second was holy magic, which Boxxy did not have access to since Fizzy was still unaccounted for.
The third and arguably most exploitable weakness was Nora herself. If she could be eliminated, then her minion would lose consistency and crumble into nothing. The problem there was that her bony beast was covering her completely, making it quite difficult to get a clean shot on her. One could theoretically use the Flight Spell to get a better angle, but maintaining the Spell and engaging and combat were mutually exclusive activities unless one had the right Skill. Any ranged attack Boxxy would make would have to be launched from the ground, but hitting her from its current position was outright impossible.
Unless, of course, the Mimic could somehow curve its shots.
Up in the air, Nora was silently cursing under her breath. She had come here because that ‘invitation’ smelled fishy. Rumors had a tendency to spread at the speed of light, so she was somewhat aware that her guild’s Necromancers were being targeted, but the Order offering them protection? It was ludicrous to think her brother Remy would ever approve something that expensive.
It wasn’t like he was a cheapskate or anything, but he was far too frugal to spend so much gold on a bunch of nobodies. She would understand it if he did it just to protect her and maybe a few of the more promising ones, but that wasn’t the case. Otherwise she would have received a secret communication or message or something - anything - explaining his intentions. Unfortunately, the man himself had disappeared abruptly without a word, which only deepened her worries.
She therefore came here, as it was the only lead she had on her missing brother. And what did she find? A bloodied courtyard, a pile of bodies, a floating pest, and a hooded stranger standing atop one of the keep’s tallest towers. Granted, she didn’t have a scout’s trained eyesight and couldn’t make out any details since she was over a hundred meters away, but she was still able to conclude two things. That she had just missed the ‘party,’ and that the stranger in the billowing cloak was either involved, or outright responsible.
Just then, she spotted streaks of shimmering blue flying towards her at breakneck speeds. She stopped peering over her seat in between the Bone Dragon’s spine bones and ducked behind the protrusions to protect her head. The attacks coming in from below shattered against the beast’s underside with loud noises akin to glass breaking. They did a grand total of zero damage, nullified by the Bone Dragon’s Chill of the Grave Perk. It was something present within all undead with corporeal forms, and the source of both their immunity to cold-based damage and their vulnerability to fire.
Nora was not an idiot, however. Even if that ‘warning shot’ did nothing, the fact that her suspect was able to hit a fast moving target like her pet at this distance was immensely impressive. It showed he was a Ranger of considerable Level, and not someone she should underestimate. She feared her head would be taken clean off if she allowed this shady stranger the opportunity, so she resolved herself to avoid doing so.
Casting the Sight of Korolog Spell upon her gigantic minion, she was able to channel its eyesight directly into her own mind. She began controlling the almost-dragon more actively, making it turn towards the archer. He fired dozens of arrows at her, but they all smashed hopelessly against the creature as it dived closer. Once she got close enough, she unleashed its breath once again with the intent to kill. Nora had determined this was not an opponent she could safely capture alive, but she could still interrogate his or her corpse. Assuming something was left behind, of course.
However, Boxxy’s servants had triggered the fort’s magical defenses before the stream of decay could reach their master, causing the Bone Dragon’s attack to be repelled by the siege barrier. Nora clicked her tongue in frustration. While her pet’s strongest move was stupidly effective against living things, it wasn’t all that destructive when used on inanimate objects. It had a corrosive property to it, but it wasn’t nearly potent enough to punch through the Fort’s defenses. This sort of thing was why she had denied participating in the recent war, which had turned out to have been the right decision considering how so many of her peers had fallen.
Admittedly she wasn’t sad to see that pompous bastard of a ‘Holy Necromancer’ bite the big one, but she had more pressing matters to worry about rather than old rivals.
Another volley of arrows came in from the archer, passing through the one-way barrier and peppering the undead abomination once again. These were different from the first, however, as they exploded violently in fire and smoke. The Bone Dragon was far too tough to fall just to those, but Nora was forced to pull back up all the same. She was continually bombarded with more of the weird flat-headed projectiles, but they became easier and easier to evade the more altitude she gained.
Deciding this was a bad place for her to fight, Nora decided to fall back for now. She turned the faux-dragon’s head around to look back over its shoulder as it flew further away from the keep. Its glowing blue eyes showed her that more bomb-tipped arrows were incoming, which she reacted to by firing back a half-powered breath. Even if its corrosive effects were relatively weak, they were still more than enough to prematurely detonate the explosive devices and cover her retreat.
Just then, a stream of more enchanted ice arrows flew out of the smog. Nora’s focus sharpened, as she wasn’t sure why her enemy would keep using ineffective attacks. It was only when it became obvious they’d fly harmlessly over the dragon’s back that she allowed herself to relax the tiniest bit.
Except that it was only at that moment at the magical projectiles swerved unnaturally towards her. Nora nudged her ride to roll to the left in a panicked response, but it was far too late. A total of five icy arrows ripped right through her enchanted robe and cloak, digging deep into her back. She screamed out in pain, but the searing sensation was instantly replaced by one of biting cold as the wounds began to ice over. Heat rapidly left her body, as she found herself growing weaker and weaker as her consciousness threatened to slip away.
Down on the ground, Boxxy continued firing the Winter’s Bite at her. Unfortunately, it had lost the angle it needed to allow the Artifact-grade bow’s heat-seeking arrows to curve around the Necromancer’s cover. Too wide and they wouldn’t pick her up at all. Too close, and they would end up hitting the dragon instead. Thankfully the beast itself was as cold as death, so they only had one viable target to lock onto. One that it had just severely injured.
She yet lived, though. The not-a-dragon’s flight path was a bit wobbly and unsteady, but it was very clearly not dead. Well, not un-undead, at the very least. Or was that re-deaded? Confusing terminoligy aside, Boxxy still had a job to do. It put away the crystal bow and started focusing its magic onto its own body.
It’s body shot up into the air as the Sandman-shaped monster gave chase. It was catching up steadily, but it doubted it could reach Nora in time. For as convenient as it was, Flight was a Spell with certain hard limits. One had to keep their body as still as possible to maintain it, and it would only last for either a certain amount of time or a set distance traveled, depending on which limit was reached first. It also had a top speed and a maximum altitude, the last of which was the most pressing problem, as the Necromancer kept going almost straight up.
Boxxy had a fix for that, though. Once it felt the Flight Spell reaching its height limit, it reached an arm into its Storage. The sudden movement broke the Spell, leaving nothing but inertia to carry the monster upward. Before it could fall, the shapeshifter pulled out a grappling gun it had thrown together in its spare time. It was a one-shot wonder that would need to be reloaded with blast powder and then repaired in order to be re-fired, but one shot was all the Mimic needed.
It aimed the barrel of the handheld device and pulled the trigger. The hook was launched with a loud bang and a gust of smoke, sending it flying towards the dragon-shaped skeleton. It hit the monster’s flailing tail and got lodged in between its bones. Boxxy climbed up the rope, which threatened to snap due from the combined strain of the creature’s weight at the lower end of it and the way it was swaying wildly in the wind.
As for Nora, she was too busy treating her grievous wounds with healing potions to notice she had a hitchhiker. It was only when her heart was gouged out from behind that she realized her opponent had followed her aboard. Needless to say, it was already far too late for her, as her life ended in that instant. And with its master dead, the Bone Dragon let out a pathetic cry and grew still, after which it fell towards the ground. On its way down it began to crumble into the countless bones that made up its body, which further deteriorated into dust and ash long before any part of it could crash in the muddy swamp.
Boxxy was not in the least bit worried though. Even though activating Flight under these circumstances was probably going to be impossible, it didn’t need to. It leapt of the decaying pseudo-lizard and sprouted a quartet of leathery demonic wings, which it used to glide back to the ground and land safely, without much incident. It had to admit, all things considered, that had been a very satisfying kill.
The Mimic’s job was far from done, though. Not only did it still have five more blips on its divine radar, but Nora herself didn’t seem to be a hundred percent dead. As the murderous creature fell, the Eyes of the Dead God had shown something immaterial drift out of her body and dart off into the distance at a speed no mortal could hope to match. That yellow glow was presumably the woman’s soul, but normally the thing would just flicker and disappear instead of flying away like that. The Quest Progress counter didn’t go up either, which, when combined with past experiences, led Boxxy to only one plausible explanation.
Its quarry was about to become a lich, much like Valeria, otherwise known as Nasty, had done in the past. That was not a problem, though. The current Mimic was much more powerful than it was back then, and in every imaginable aspect to boot. It was therefore quite confident it could take Nora down a second time. Especially since changing bodies like that would have deprived her of both her Ultimate Skill and her Level 100 Necromancer Job. Needless to say, a powerless being like that offered so little of a challenge that she would not be worth a single drop of XP. To make matters better - or worse, depending on the point of view - her tainted spirit was even flying in the direction of another of its marks.
The Mimic therefore felt quite confident it could still accomplish the Quest well before the time limit. In fact, with a bit of luck, it would already be done with this business and back in Azurvale an entire week before the deadline, perhaps even earlier. That was just how much of a resounding success Operation People Herder had been. As for the Imperial authorities, the only thing they would find at Fort Aynor would be a spotless yet deserted fortress. That, and a bunch of polished Taboo-ridden skulls strewn across its courtyard in a way that spelled out one of Mortimer’s most famous and infamous decrees.
‘Death brings absolution.’