Chapter One Hundred and Ninety Six – 196
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The club came whipping upward, hissing with thick purple-white steam. It hit the Ghoul straight in the chest, cutting off it's honking screech mid-syllable. Ice spread across it's scaled underbelly, and frozen chunks of its scales cracked. The thing was almost lifted off its feet, and the force of the blow sent Felix knee deep into the rubble beneath him.
 
"GRAAAUHHK!"
 
Wild Threnody is level 46!
 
Ack!
 
The Ghoul's retaliating blow came only seconds behind Felix's desperate dodge. A fist the size of a manhole cover smashed into and through the ground floor, taking his already compromised footing with it. His boots were enchanted to help with slick and rough terrain, but even they weren't quite a match for sinking into shifting debris.
 
Shadow Whip!
 
A thick tendril of blackened Mana shot outward from Felix's palm. It wrapped around the screeching head of the Ghoul. He yanked, hard, reversing his fall and sending him rocketing upward. The Femur of the Envoy had shrunk down as he slackened the Essence stream. He pushed more out of his channels, tearing at them. Lightning surged along its expanding length.
 
"HUAH!" The six-foot long club took the Ghoul in the chin, snapping its head up and driving it backward. Felix fell with it, riding its body down onto the rubble strewn floor. Quickly, he tried to twist the club for a second strike, but the putrid mouth breather got an arm up slammed Felix, center mass.
 
"GRAAAAEEEEEE!" Its lipless maw screeched in warning and challenge. Felix stood up nearly thirty feet away and dusted off his body. Instinctively his flesh had morphed into scales along his shoulders and spine, muting the impact. He could feel the Skill was so close to Tiering up, he was almost tempted to take a few more hits. But Felix had seen the people in the overturned wagon and heard the approach of more. He didn't have time to play around, and this Ghoul was more dangerous than he had expected. As he watched, the evolved Revenant sucked in great mouthfuls of breath that denuded the air of ambient Mana and that almost effervescent Primordial energy. It's wounds healed rapidly.
 
It's using the same technique as the Ravagers.
 
The same as him.
 
Shit.
 
Purple-white Mana vapor suddenly coalesced around the Ghoul's lower half, resolving into four ice-wrought chains that snaked from the ground. The Ghoul shattered them with a wild swing of its meaty, ape-like arm, but couldn't avoid the three silver spears that slammed into its shoulder and back. The Ghoul screamed in pain and rage, so loud that Felix felt a part of him echo with its fury, but it's cries turned to whimpering exclamation as the spears exploded. Wild whirlwinds of compressed air Mana blew chunks out of the Ghoul's flesh, enough to sever its arm entirely.  The limb fell to the ground with a resounding crash.
 
Don't mess with Vess. Felix smiled, before he narrowed his eyes. The Ghoul was taking quick, panicked breaths, stripping the air once more. The arm didn't regrow, but the wound healed over. A second round of spears came at the abomination, but the big thing was smart. It was expecting the attack, and when they came close it bashed them out of the way. The beast's Strength was so high it drove them deep into a nearby building, where they exploded in a shower of debris and dust.
 
"Blood and ashes!" Vess' curse rang through the streets. A swirl of purple Mana vapor manifested around the Ghoul's face, but it merely breathed it in. Devouring the magic.
 
"That's not fair!" Thangle's voice was perhaps higher and more affronted than Vess'.
 
Then the fireballs arrived.
 
Technically they were Sparkbolts, a low level Mana Skill most fire mages were taught, but Atar had grown. Six of them impact the Ghoul's side nearly at the same time, and they burst into five-foot diameter explosions. Felix could see the man rushing forward with an enraged gleam in his eye, hand outstretched as more Sparkbolts formed. Atop his head his Crown of Ignis had flared brighter than ever, it's three prongs blazing as it floated there.
 
Yeah, those're definitely more red. That was concerning. Yet Felix's attention was drawn to the beast, who stumbled away from the fiery blasts. The burnt and cracked scales on its side did not  heal nearly as fast, despite its frantic panting.
 
Reign of Vellus!
Unfettered Volition!
 
"Atar! Keep it up!" Felix shouted as he raced up the side of a nearby building. The two Skills, linked closer than ever before in his Bastion, seemed to thrum in concert. The blast of blue force sent him just high enough to land gently atop the ledge. Huh. He took off down the roof, getting back into melee. "Pit! The wagon, if you please!"
 
A piercing screech came from the cloud sky above. Warm confirmation washed across their bond. Felix re-sheathed the shrunken club at his waist and considered his options. The Ghoul was strong, but it was hurt. He'd been avoiding Zara's Chanter method of Skill activation, especially in the heat of combat, but as the Sparkbolts flew he had a moment.  Alright Zara. Let's do it your way.
 
Intent. Affinity. Guide and Listen. Felix let his senses delved into his core without actualizing himself there, instead grabbing hold of his Mana with his Intent and sending it spiralling along his channels. At the same time, Felix felt for the Skill's pattern, the unique vibrations that had been imprinted on his Spirit. Tediously, laboriously, he traced it out. Still running along the ledge, Felix strained and lifted his right arm.
 
"Reign of Vellus!"
 
A weak puff of blue light emitted from his hand, followed by a weak stutter of static electricity. Felix's breath wooshed out of him all at once. "Well, that's embarrassing."
 
The Ghoul, meanwhile, had climbed the building and was headed right for him. Just like all the other Revenants. He shouted out again. "Vess! If you please!"
 
From a street over, another spear hurtled at him, this one made of yellowed bone. Felix caught it out of the air, skipping slightly so it didn't slip from his grip. It was a tooth, nearly eight feet long, fashioned somehow into an ungainly and huge blade.
 
Name: Blade of the Fang
Type: Weapon (Enchanted)
Lore: Taken from the consumed flesh of the Ravager King, this is a trophy and weapon all in one. Profane Sigaldry has left its mark, but far deeper are the ties to the Primordials. It requires Essence to function.
Durable VII - Profane Sigaldry has engendered an etheric durability in the fang.
Self-Repair X - Profane Sigaldry heals the bone like flesh, over time.
Hungry Edge - Fueled by Essence, the edge is preternaturally sharp.
 
Felix spun the lance-like blade and grasped the four foot long handle.
 
"Round three."
 

 
Pit dropped from the sky.
 
The wind screamed in his tufted ears as the city below rushed to meet him. His wings were tucked, his head held in line with his spine, and his legs pulled up. Aided by memories of another, nearly forgotten life, among the fog-shrouded trees.
 
Flight is level 24!
 
Pit's wings opened with a snap and the thunderous roar of displaced winds. He landed on the cobbles, only slightly heavily. The overturned wagon was to his right. Two of the large land chickens were tangled in their leather leashes, bodies broken by the wagon's fall. Beyond that, a number of living creatures were huddled in the remains, one of which was suspiciously still. Pit poked his head over the edge of the wagon.
 
"AHHHHH!" Screamed a tiny green Goblin. His nose was large and pointy, as were his ears, teeth and chin. greasy hair stuck wildly from his head, and he clutched another sleeping Goblin in his arms. "Chimera! A  Night damned monster!"
 
Pit let out a confused coo, but the Goblin simply screamed all the harder. Pit slowly blinked before taking catalogue of everyone else within. Three Goblins, four Hobgoblins, two Dwarves, a Gnome, and a single Human. There were others, but they had all died. Pit's coos turned softer, sadder. These creatures had died needlessly.
 
The approaching thunder of a fleet of land chickens tore around the nearest corner. Pit cut his crooning short and fixed them with a glare. Red-Whites. Pit hated them, almost as much as his Companion did.
 
"Ho! A chimera!"
 
"Monster in the city!"
 
"Open fire, men!" Cried the Red-White in the lead. His white armor hid his face, but Pit could feel the man's Spirit pulse with fear and loathing. A rain of golden Mana followed, forcing Pit to lift a wing to block what he could.  Their power stung, and Pit could feel it chipping away at his Health. But he couldn't move: those attacks would cut right through the wooden wagon and the people huddling within.
 
Frost Spear!
Frost Spear!
Frost Spear!
 
Within his chest, astride his grown bond, a fog-strewn forest stood silent and majestic. Dark creatures roared within, but Pit focused on a massive tree in the center of the forest that was matched by a burning sun far above. Stars burnt in the sky, radiant bodies that spun in circles and ringing faintly with a beautiful Felix-music. He tore a leaf off his Great Tree and split it once, twice, three times and felt the fog spin around another, shorter conifer covered in snow. The power surged upward, through the sky and into the serpentine pathways that held his forest separate from the world.
 
"AUGH!"
 
Six foot spears of ice screamed toward the Red-Whites, first just three, but each spear broke into two smaller pieces. The foul Humans shouted in fear, only a few of them managing to erect small shields of golden light. Their chickens squawked in alarm, and before the barrage ended, Pit charged.
 
Poisonfire!
 
Ethereal, virulently green flame enveloped his entire body, propelling Pit faster along his ruinous rush. His new size was far more suited to this style of combat, and the chimera took a measured glee from the surprise on their faces. The Red-Whites didn't know what hit them.
 
It was Pit. And he hit them hard.
 
You Have Killed A Red-White (x3)!
XP Earned!
 
Poisonfire is level 27!
 
Three of the Red-Whites were down, unmoving on the ground along with their traitorous chickens. Three others had scattered from his charge and rounded their mounts amid Pit's slashing claws.
 
"Desist, monster! You cannot kill all that embrace the Trackless! We are as endless as the Sea itself!" One of them shouted, but its words felt hollow. Pit could almost taste the vibration of their Spirits; they feared death. They feared him. Pit let out a challenging shriek and their chickens reared up in terror. Then something changed.
 
Their Spirits, mired with terror and a familiar stubborn refusal to flee, shifted. As one, the three of them turned tail and ran.
 
A massive thump shook the earth from behind, and Pit cut off his Poisonfire as he looked. Felix, covered in his scaled armor and dripping with black blood, stood atop the Ghoul's unmoving body. That huge fang rested on his shoulder, and the monster's severed neck pumped more thick, congealing effluvia. Felix met Pit's gaze and grinned, his mouth full of fearsome fangs. Pit felt a flash of reciprocal triumph and affection and let out a warbling cry.
 
We win.
 

 
Scared em off, I guess, Felix thought, catching the flash of retreating red cloth. Why where they here though?
 
"You alright, Pit?" The big tenku nodded, not bothering to mention the dozens of points of damage he had taken. Felix clucked his tongue. True, it wasn't much compared to his total, but still Felix's stomach soured. It was a clean anger, though. His anger. Damn redcloaks. You shoot my dog and run?
 
Only his concern for the people in the wagon kept him from chasing them down.
 
Forcing a stream of Essence into the Fang, Felix shoved it into the street, slicing through the cobbles like butter. When he stopped feeding it though, the blade stuck fast. It was too big to carry around everywhere, but it was a powerful weapon, especially against the Primordial spawn. It had cut through the Ghoul's regeneration and powerful Vitality easily. Felix reviewed the notifications he'd been ignoring.
 
Wild Threnody is level 47!
Unfettered Volition is level 49!
Make an Entrance is level 42!
Bastion of Will is level 63!
Mana Manipulation is level 40!
 
Territorial Quest Alert!
You Have Gained Extra Contribution!
 
Excellent. Felix put a hand out toward the Ghoul's corpse and breathed it in.
 
Ravenous Tithe is level 56!
 
"Whoa," Felix reeled as a truckload of Essence poured into him, along with the usual Mana and a bit of the Ghoul's blood and flesh. He felt heavy, like he'd just eaten a huge meal. It wasn't uncomfortable per se, but it was weird. A large ruby drop formed above his ring core, larger than the rest by half. "How much Primordial Essence did that thing eat to become a Ghoul?"
 
More importantly, how many more were there?
 
The others arrived soon after, Evie and Atar leading the way while Vess and Thangle brought up the rear. The Tin Ranks' faces were pretty entertaining when they beheld the demolition of two and a half buildings, but Felix couldn't really enjoy it; he was lucky no one had been in the structures. This could have cost a lot of lives had they fought somewhere populated. He needed to be better.
 
"Thangle, Evie, Vess, can you three please help whoever survived over here?" Felix pointed to the wagon Pit was still guarding. "I saw at least one living Goblin, but there are--" sense memories flickered from Pit. "--Three Goblins, four Hobgoblins, two Dwarves, a Gnome, and a single Human survivor. Huh. Thanks, Pit."
 
His Companion cooed in pleasure.
 
"Freaky beast magic," Evie said, just loud enough for Felix to hear it. He curled his lip and she grinned, cheekily. Vess and Thangle, however, simply rushed to their side. Concern was clear on their faces, and in rapid order they had extracted everyone from the wreckage, even the poor dead avum, and turned the wagon back onto its wheels. Most of them were injured badly, though a few were just unconscious.
 
"Mana starved," Thangle explained. He opened another Gnome's eye and stared at her pupils. "Used too much Mana, stores dropped too low."
 
Felix nodded in understanding. He'd encountered it a couple times. More interesting was that he recognized the Gnome, and a few of the others, all from the Drum Tank Inn where he'd spent most of his time in the city.
 
"Don't touch me or mine, Human!"
 
Felix looked over at one of the only conscious members, a Goblin named Gnokl. He'd once tried to do business with the man, back when Felix had thought the Domain was just some sort of dungeon. Things had gone south since then. The little green fellow was clutching another Goblin to his chest and refusing to move or to have his injuries checked.
 
"Vess!" Felix shouted by way of interruption. Both the woman and the enraged Goblin looked up. Felix pulled a hardened case from his satchel. "Here, give them my tonics. It should help take the edge off most of their injuries. Hey Gnokl, do you remember me?"
 
"Remember you? All you tall things look the same, but I'd remember a monster if I met it before," Gnokl almost growled.
 
"We made a deal once, for monster meat from the Domain," Felix explained, ignoring the monster comment.
 
"Wanderer," realization dawned on the Goblin's sharp angled face. "You never came through on your end of the deal."
 
"Sorry to say, the monsters there weren't fit to eat, and the Domain's gone now," Felix gestured broadly to the city. "Most of em are in the city now. The Revenants."
 
Gnokl blanched. "That's about my luck, summed up."
 
"Gnokl."
 
The Goblin looked back up at him, caution in his gaze.
 
"Can we see your friend?" Felix asked. "I promise we won't hurt her."
 
Gnokl gritted his teeth, but nodded, and let Vess pull the other Goblin free. "Can't do much more to her, anyways."
 
Felix lifted an eyebrow. But she's not--
 
A shuddering gasp tore through the limp Goblin's frame, and Gnokl turned toward her in surprise. Vess pulled the tonic away from Hartl's lips and let her rest. "She's still hurt badly, we need to get back to camp," Vess said.
 
Felix nodded at her, before turning back to the Goblin. "Gnokl, why where the redcloaks chasing you?"
 
Still gaping at his breathing friend, Gnokl took a moment before he answered. "Redcloaks caught us all at the Drum Tank. Said they had come to save us." Gnokl spat. "We were safe in the tavern. We had Jacinda and Ignatius, no mouthy monster was gonna breach those walls."
 
"They took people? Why?" Vess asked, apalled.
 
"Night if I know! They wanted folk, and they weren't particularly keen on discussing the particulars. We barely escaped, stole a wagon. Redcloak bastards caught us quick, though." Gnokl rubbed at his arm, and cautiously accepted Felix's last healing tonic. The little things healed only fifty or so Health a pop, but they were useful and cheap to make according to Aenea. "Thanks."
 
"Don't worry about it. We'll have more questions, but let's get somewhere safe first." With a nod, Felix stood and walked toward Atar, who had been inspecting the wagon, but was now pushing at his Fang.
 
"Gonna have to do more push-ups before you can pull that thing out," Felix grinned. Atar gave him a flat look and tried, unsuccessfully, to yank it from the stone street. "You're not worthy."
 
"You're referencing something dumb again, aren't you," Atar deadpanned. Felix used all his Deception Skill to feign shock. It clearly wasn't enough and Atar rolled his eyes.
 
"I'll let you look at the sword back at camp. I would have already but you've been...preoccupied."
 
Atar rubbed at his neck, where red scales had once sprouted. "Hm."
 
"Is the wagon usable?" Felix asked, changing the subject.
 
"Wheel's bout to fall off, and the team's dead," Atar gestured at the mangled bird corpses. "But the tack is more or less intact. Maybe Pit can pull it?"
 
"I'll see what I can do. Let's get these people moving."

 

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