Chapter 16: Stopped at the Stronghold
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A gruesome tadpole-like creature equipped with a circle mouth filled with sharp teeth and sharp curved claws pounces on the large kite shield of John. Its terrifying mouth emits a glass-shattering shriek as three magic arrows pierce it. It falls, still screaming in pain as it writhes agonisingly in the brown mud. Before it could recover, two equally unpleasant monsters recklessly clamber over it. Eleana leaps over John and plunges her shiny short sword into the skull of the first creature. A huge fireball completely consumes the second one, killing after a few seconds. John finishes off the one laying on the ground with a stab of his sword.

"Jeez," he groans as three Cave Goblins come into view. "This is gonna knock a few years off my life."

"It'll end it if you're not careful," responds Eleana.

"You two, stop flirting," spits Tina. "Unlike you two, I like living my life. I didn't come this far to be killed by two silly humans bickering among themselves."

"Wow, so this is Merille around everyone else, what an ugly bad side you have!" says John.

"The reason I'm more reserved around her is that she is the one who saved me from my shitty life. I'm not going to fall here, or anywhere for that matter."

"Ai-yi-yi, give me a break," mutters John as a large worm, nine more Cave Goblins, an undead knight and Lesser Drake come into view. "Let's get this bullshit over with already."

The group of six, excluding Fug who went flying down the tunnel and into the fray, had split into two to move faster and also draw less attention. While Tina, John and Eleana were dealing with a collection of equally annoying enemies, Zeruna, Argon and Arin were dealing with their problems.

'I never saw a tidal wave in my previous life; I guess I have now.'

Layers and layers of sharp pincers gnash and snap towards Zeruna as she tries her best to keep the swarm of monstrously-large centipedes at bay. She is using a quarter of her total power to prevent these creepy bastards from crashing down upon her and her two comrades. Anyone else would've been minced and turned to shreds with this many centipedes.

"For fucks sake! They keep coming don't they!" yells Argon as he stabs at the ones that manage the breakthrough the psionic barrier.

"They normally come in swarms of twenty, this is just outrageous," Arin adds. "I'm happy this is only a localised wave."

"Hey, don't lose focus," says Zeruna, as she pretends to be strained while holding back the horde.

"Should be saying that to you, sweetheart," returns Argon.

"Don't... push your luck buckaroo; nothing is stopping me from letting his barrier loose and just flying out of range of this bull."

'This is annoying, I don't think I'll be able to hold the barrier for much longer. In Chroniks, there are time limits to how long a Psionic ability can be used. I assume such restrictions have carried over to this world since most other ones have. I need to think of a quick fix. Wait, that might work!'

"I'm going to do something crazy; I need you guys to clear up the ones that fall."

Unsure, but also trusting Zeruna her judgement, the two adventurers swiftly slay their opponents and make their way to Zeruna's side. They observe as the barrier begins to bend and shape around the growing swamp of jet black centipedes. It was like watching fisherman use a gigantic net to catch a school of fish — the way they get scooped up by Zeruna is also slightly amusing to the party. Some fall to the ground and scurry towards the three.

"This is going to get gory," comments Zeruna.

"Shi, honey, I've seen wor–" Argon's mouth hangs agape as he sees the huge mass off centipedes get suddenly and swiftly crushed into a small ball the size of a basketball.

The crunch made from the exoskeletons and tough carapace of the centipedes is spine chilling, the sound of hundreds of creepy lives being violently snuffed out in an instance. The compact ball of centipede flesh drops to the ground in an echoing thud, sending another chill coursing down Argon's and Arin's spine. 

[3096 total gained, sufficient SP gained (3206/2500), ability to summon now available]

"Not now, later!" Zeruna hisses to herself.

"I fear no man, but Psionics scare me," utters a dumbfounded Arin.

"Stop gawking at my impressive powers and get to getting to that stronghold."

""Yes ma'am!""

They two start storming forward and repeat the tactic they had been doing before they stumbled upon the pocket of monstrous centipedes, Zeruna freezing them using Psionics then allowing Arin and Argon to finish them off. Despite this, they got injured at times; some monsters would crawl out off the ground while others just charged out from unforeseen angles.

If Tina and Zeruna weren't, it is most likely the rest of the adventurers would struggle to get close to the castle, but, with their overwhelming powers, both groups make it to the castle relatively unharmed. However, all their expectations were promptly thrown out the window. Awaiting the six at the entrance is a man who is stereotypical butler minus the grey hair; however, there is something different about this man. His skin is incredibly pale and he has crimson eyes as well as a hint of blood around his lips.

"Greater Appraisal," mutters Zeruna quietly.

[Aldue, Level 175
Occupation: Servant

Hp: 90,00
Mana: 20,000
Stamina: 90,000

Race: Vampire (Minor)
Titles: The Refined, Faithful, Reliable, Master of the Crossbow, Sharpshooter, Sir Butler, Diamond in the Rough

Stats:

Melee - 189
Defense - 244
Speed - 440
Agility - 894
Finesse - 820
Strength - 323
Vitality - 337
Magic Attack - 943
Magic Defense - 303
Total - 4493

Skills:

Holy Resistance L2, Curse Resistance L5, Fire Resistance L2, Unholy Resistance L1, Eagle Eye L2, Vampiric Strikes L4, Blood Thirst L4, Body of Thorns L4, Sure Shot L4, Intuition L4, Blood bow L5, Blood Siphon L4]

'A vampire! That explains the Transylvanian castle... kinda. This vampire isn't a Noble so he can't get Blood Wrath or any skills being a vampire noble entails. The only problem is that he may be able to sense the fact I'm a Dark Elf and also descended from a Noble Vampire. That could be a problem, I may have to alter the Sparrow Knights memories if that does happen.'

"Greetings, I am Aldue, personal butler to Lord Caspian. He currently requires five 'strong' souls to dedicate themselves to his 'romance'. As his blood-bound servant, I was told to test those who come to see if they are worthy."

"So you're behind this mess?!" barks Argon.

"I am not the mastermind," replies Aldue. "I have no intention of fighting you; however, I was commanded to test everyone who comes here with this."

The vampire claps twice, and there is immediately a violent shaking. From the ground bursts an unending a stream smooth and sleek body. The force of this massive serpentine appearance through the ground pushes back the group barring Zeruna who just stands there, a mere three metres from where the creature appeared.

Its scales are like hardened pieces of clay thrown together. Its underside is a strange toffee colour covered in numerous scales earnt from battles with hardened creatures. Its eyes examine

"A Naga!" yells Arin, his usual carefree face chuangin into one of sheer horror.

"Be careful not to look into its eyes for more than three seconds else it's petrify curse attack will kill you!" warns Argon.

"Appraisal."

[Nameless Ground Naga Level 592.]

'That's the highest level I've seen so far. If this Caspian can subdue such a creature, I worry for the Sparrow Knights. I may have to make them wait outside while I and Tina deal with this Vampire. That name too: Caspian. It feels familiar.

Oh yes! I remember now, Vampire Lord Caspian, also known as the deranged. I was going to add him to the Children of Chaos, but I could never find him, and frankly, I gave up when I heard about his personality from NPCs as well as some people on forums who'd had this NPC spawn.

Apparently, he's incredibly unstable. He 'falls in love' with women frequently and instantly becomes madly obsessed with said women. These women normally end up rejected him at every turn usually resulting in their demise upon. Those who fake love usually end up killing themselves due to the torturous acts of abuse inflicted upon them. In short, a total fucking nutjob who goes through women like a drunkard through bottles of alcohol.

At first, I came here and joined the Sparrow Knights because I and Tina were hungry and needed money; but now, I have a proper reason. As a former man, and current women, I'll take this bastard down! However, first I must kill this Naga without it harming Argon, Eleana, John and Arin. Maybe I could convince it to join the Children of Chaos, but it's too weak to be worth my time. Vidir doesn't count — he has a special place in my heart.'

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