Chapter One Hundred and Ninety Five – 195
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The Revenants rushed forward, and Felix unsheathed his club.
 
Name: Inscribed Femur of the Envoy
Type: Weapon (Enchanted)
Lore: Taken from the Body of a mad construct, this club is inscribed with the foul magic that had animated it. Due to preponderance of Profane Sigaldry, it relies on Essence to function rather than Mana.
Durable VII - Profane Sigaldry has engendered an etheric durability in the bone.
Self-Repair X - Profane Sigaldry heals the bone like flesh, over time.
 
The bludgeoning weapon had shrunk shortly after receiving it, no more than twelve inches, too short to be a useful weapon. Rafny hadn't been able to do much more than wrap some leather around the narrower end of the blue, metallic bone. It had been beyond her Skill Tier. She couldn't even alter them in minor ways, or budge the inscriptions on them, let alone tell that they didn't take Mana as a normal enchantment might. Felix didn't spare the time to explain. It didn't take Mana at all. It took Essence.
 
The monsters charged into view and Felix fed out a measure of their own Essence into the club, and swung. The Femur shot out until it was over six feet in length, and swept through an entire row of oncoming Revenants.
 
Territorial Quest Alert!
You Have Gained Contribution!
 
"HA!" Felix crowed. Every time they'd killed the Revenants, they gained a mysterious amount of contribution. He'd earned some already, but there wasn't a leader board or a little bar that filled up. "Focus fire on the ones I drop. Evie, Vess, handle the flanks. Thangle, protection for the Tin Ranks! Go!"
 
Arrow of Perdition!
Arrow of Perdition!
 
Felix slammed the bolts of blue-gold light into the nearest Revenants, right into their cores, and the both of them stumbled to the ground, screaming. He could feel something shatter within them both, the piercing noise of tensioned wires suddenly cut off. His Mana dropped precipitously to less than a third of his maximum. Painful. He'd not used it since upgrading his core; the Arrows hit hard but they ate up so much Mana.
 
Spears of silver and orbs of flame blasted the monsters to either side of Felix as he advanced, ducking beneath the swinging arm of another. Cutting off the flow of Essence to his club, it shrunk quickly back down to a foot-long baton which he used to brain the nearest Primordial spawn. The club was greedy though and had eaten up a large chunk of his stored Essence, so Felix caught the near-dead Revenant and breathed in sharply.
 
Ravenous Tithe!
 
Ripped into greasy smoke and down Felix's gullet, the smog barely cleared when another three monsters were atop him.
 
Hmm, no, Felix frowned as he fended off their claws with his blue metal baton. I'll kill too many at this rate.
 
Ravenous Tithe!
 
This time, Felix focused on the air itself, claiming it. Ambient Mana and Primordial energy flowed into him like water, and the entire horde faltered. Confusion pulsed through them for a moment, and that was enough. Felix tore through those closest like a farmer reaping wheat. Others he hamstrung with his claws and sent stumbling toward his group. They needed to learn to fight even more than he did, after all. Felix spared a glance back.
 
Territorial Quest Alert!
You Have Gained Contribution!
 
Things were going to plan.
 
Vess was front and center, knocking back more of the Revenants than she killed, but her exploding projectiles weren't exactly surgical. Wild storms of air Mana burst and faded around him, shredding those monsters caught within. Atar's Sparkbolts kept on, hurled from the magical crown that hovered above his head. He was far more precise, but also considerably more potent than before. His power had grown since the Domain, despite his recent illness. He felt...different. More raw, maybe, but his fire had turned a bit more red than before.
 
Felix made a note to keep an eye on him. Just in case.
 
The Tin Ranks were clustered near the back, with Evie and Thangle providing defense and support to them. Evie's chain lashed about, striking the swimming Revenants in the water, dunking them with the force of her augmented weapon. Thangle was...well, nowhere to be seen, but that was his thing. When several of the beats climbed up the river wall, they were immediately struck by some a purple haze, and started lashing out against the empty air. As they'd discussed, the Tin Ranks rushed in to take them out.
 
"Rolling Boulder!" Stellis wielded her new mace with less grace and Strength than most, but a haze of dusty-brown vapor enveloped the flanged head as it hit hard enough to send a Revenant stumbling. She'd improved significantly since he'd last seen her fight, and Apprentice Tier weapons were no joke.
 
"Smoldering Lash!" A line of compressed fire Mana whipped outward, a small mirror to Evie's chain, and Heva wrapped it around the same Revenant's neck. The sizzling, even from this distance, was gruesome. The creature was knocked free of the purple Mana's illusion, but it had no time to scream or retaliate, because a bright, green-gold sigil the size of a melon slammed into its chest and ripped open its skin with a similar, but different sort of sizzle.
 
"Got em!" Merk shouted, thrusting her inscription stylus into the air in triumph.
 
A large sword flashed and lopped off the monsters head in a single stroke, felling the beast. Cade growled. "Don't get cocky!"
 
More monsters came for them, but they were in good hands. Felix turned back to his enemies, just now regaining their feet. Time to earn some Contribution.
 
The fight went predictably after that. Felix mopped up those that came within reach, though those that fled were typically dispatched by Atar or Evie. Contribution went up, but still he had no idea how much, and he worried at their lack of progress. How far had the Inquisition gotten? Cal had scouts keeping an eye out, but there were only so many with the right Skills, and one of them was Cal herself. And she was busy running the camp.
 
All reports were that the redcloaks were steadily making their way inward. Securing the Sunrise Quarter as they went. That couldn't possibly be good.
 
Felix briefly asked Zara why she didn't just...destroy them all and claim the Authority. She claimed she could not. Zara could kill the Revenants, but not without demolishing the city, and even then, credit for the kill wouldn't go to her. As a Chanter, she was apparently isolated from the System, to an extent. Authority could not rest on her shoulders, not System given, anyway. Once, those who delved into the mysteries of the Grand Harmony were revered; but the Pathless changed all that somehow. Now, they were all but excluded from the System itself.
 
Ultimately, that meant she was relegated to support. To teaching them her ways, and strengthening their people. Otherwise she risked her involvement fouling the Quest completely.
 
"Wait, so that means won't I be a problem? Or Vess and Evie?" Felix had asked.
 
"You're all too new to the Chant to have garnered much Significance," Zara had waved away the concern. "Being Unbound also means you in particular are free of many restrictions. It's why your kind is so dangerous."
 
Dangerous. Felix reflected as the last of the Revenants fell beneath his club. He'd take whatever advantage he could. Life on the Continent wasn't easy and seemed to be getting harder.
 
"REEEEAAAAAARRRKKK!"
 
Case in point.
 
Across the bridge, a half-demolished building collapsed. From the rubble emerged a massive monster. It was easily twice the size of a normal Revenant, perhaps thirteen feet tall if it stood straight, though it was still built in the same vein. Two arms, two legs, both built like tree trunks.
 
Voracious Eye!
 
Name: Manawarped Ghoul
Type: Primordial Spawn
Level: 42
HP: 3045/3045
SP: 1818/1864
MP: 34876/0
Lore: An evolved version of a Manawarped Revenant, a Ghoul has supped upon the Primordial Essence and used it to advance itself.
Strength: Strength and Endurance are exceptionally high
Weakness: Low Perception
 
Territory Quest Alert!
Kill The Manawarped Ghoul For Extra Contribution!
 
"Oh damn," Felix said. The Ghoul turned and fixed it's single, blue-green eye on them. It roared another challenge before it began to run, dropping to all fours for speed. The earth shook beneath it's tread.
 
"Oh damn."
 

 
"Yah! Yah!"
 
"Can't you get them to go any faster, you stupid, useless whoreson!" Hartl cried, her lank hair whipping in the breeze. Gnokl spared her a withering glance, reins in hand as they fled for their very lives.
 
"If you can be getting more out of these birds, feel free to try!" Gnokl shoved the reins into her hands and threw his own up. "They're gonna catch us anyway! Oh my beautiful face! Lost to the horrors of death!"
 
Behind them, thundering on their own avum, were six redcloak Acolytes. The one in the lead lifted its fist and Gnokl threw himself down with a strangled yell. A bolt of light ripped through the edge of the wagon they drove, showering them with splinters. Hartl screamed, Gnokl screamed, even the avum screamed, but they trundled on. They'd missed.
 
Gnokl heard cursing from the Acolytes in pursuit. He lifted his head up and displayed a handsign so vile, no bright, Pathless thing would ever know---Another quick dodge, and a second light bolt fractured the wood beside him.
 
All that glitters! Gnokl kept his head down and crept among his unconscious companions, most of whom he'd never be able to pick out of a crowded room. Almost all of them had spent their meagre Mana to propel their wagon or fire pot shots at the redcloaks; they all were breathing fast, eyes dazed but open. Awake, but not with classic Mana overdraw. Damn weak core-havin' parasites! I coulda gotten out by now! 
 
"It be okay, Gnokl," Lotr said in a dreamy voice. Her eyes were nearly as glazed as the rest, but she held on. "We make it."
 
Gnokl snorted and recoiled from her limp grasp. She always was dim. A faint frown crested her freckled Goblin face, but he didn't care. Lotr had spent the bulk of her power to save the others in the wagon. The non-Goblins. Traitor.
 
"Feh, what d'you know?" Gnokl climbed over the last of them, a few more Goblins, a Hobgoblin, and an Orc. Not many Humans made it out of the Drum Tank Inn when the bastards took it, not that it bothered the merchant.
 
Head low, Gnokl reached deep, peering into his core. It was a weak thing, feeble really, looking like a pile of crowns. It had once been more, but he'd bartered it all away, Skills and a weak Temper hurting him far more than Gnokl cared to think about. His Skills lay around the vault, dull coins on the ground. Instead, he looked at his reservoirs and noted he was half on Stamina, but there was maybe one last Skill's worth of Mana left.
 
Barely enough to rub together, he whined. In the past, when he'd dreamed of a vault that was filled to burst with coins, he had never needed it so much as then. Gnokl ran his pointed tongue across his pointed teeth.  Damn gods and damn Humans!
 
"Can't you magic us again!?" Gnokl snarled to the back, where a tiny Gnome lazed, smaller even than him. She had pale hair and pale, colorless eyes covered by thick glasses. A pair of dainty, nut-brown hands were shrouded in a brief, dim pulse of purple Mana...before it wafted away.
 
"I-I can't," the former cook gasped. "I used...too much. At least an...hour before I can do...anything."
 
"We'll be dead by then!"
 
"We're gonna die!" Hartl screamed. Gnolk spun around and beheld the road ahead; it swerved to the right abruptly, too sharp for their wagon to manage.  He had barely moment to register it when everything lurched sideways and his stomach shot up to somewhere between his eyebrows.
Then, total chaos.
 
He blacked out. Only for an instant. He woke to find himself twisted among the other passengers, and a series of Status Conditions floating in his vision. Despite the nasty knock on his head, he felt fine if a bit...swimmy.  He'd been shielded by the others' giant bodies. Gnokl gasped a thanks to his great god, the one that truly moved the world, and got his bearings. His ears were still ringing, so he wasn't sure if the redcloaks were surrounding them or not; he could only hear the pounding of his heart. Then he saw her.
 
Hartl.
 
She was just a few paces away, thrown clear of the wagon. Her harsh face looked softer for some reason, her thin hair more full. She didn't move. He could see no breath. "H-Hartl..." he choked out. But she didn't answer.
 
"No," the goblin whisper-screamed. His voice was scratchy and thick, and tears as big as copper stones dropped from his wide eyes. "She owed me money!"
 
"OH DAMN!"
 
A cacophony so great it shredded past his ringing ears, Gnokl grabbed Hartl's body just in time to avoid the collapse of a nearby hovel. He screamed, clutching her against him almost like a talisman against the madness that descended. There was a crackling report, a sharp boom of thunder, and Gnokl beheld a massive furrow in the street. A cloud of dust and debris that spiraled into the sky. A voice, almost sounding happy shouted from inside the cloud.
 
Lightning exploded forward, a beam so focused and bright it rivaled the sun! He gasped and blinked, but it was too late, it had seared into Gnokl's vision.
 
"REEEAAARCCCH!"
 
A massive monster, easily twice the size of a Human, was yanked hard through the hovel ahead. It's limbs scrambled for purchase, but a blue light around its body did not relent. It was slammed down into the building's foundations.
 
"Stay! Down!"
 
Gnokl swung around, and saw a young...Human? It stepped out of the dust and flexed it's terrifying, scaled arms. Its talons dripped with black blood that sizzled against the rocky street. It was almost familiar, this thing, but the talons....The Human looked at Gnokl and the others in the road, and the way it tiled its head made the Goblin think it was taking stock of even the redcloaks on their way.
 
"It's never just one thing," it muttered, before flashing a sharp grin at him. "Can you move? Or--" The rubble shifted. "Balls. Okay, just--just hold tight. I got this."
 
The Human set itself before bursting across the road, those cobbles that weren't already broken shattering beneath his feet. Gnokl stared in confusion and dismay. What is happening?
 
He cast his eyes about, back toward the wagon, and he could see the redcloaks coming around the bend. Lotr, was leaned up against the Gnome cook, barely conscious, but she smiled at him. She whispered, loud enough for him to hear.
 
"We make it."

 

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