Chapter 44: The thing that creeps at midnight
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Darkness.

Of the many elemental attributes present in the world, darkness is by far the most controversial.

The core elemental attribute behind all types of magic is the attribute ‘Arcane’. Arcane is pure, unadulterated magic, untouched by any element or spice.

Below that, it diverges into several fundamental core elements. For example -

Holy : Air : Fire : Nature : Ice : Water : Dark

These are simply some of the roots of the elemental tree.

A single step deeper and they diverge fully into a mass of incomprehensible complexity. For example, between the prongs of ‘Nature’, ‘Water’ and ‘Dark’ lies the ‘Poison’ attribute. Between ‘Air’ and ‘Fire’ lies ‘Lightning’.

While some attributes are favored amongst our people for their utility, pragmatism, or even showmanship, others are favored for different reasons. ‘Holy’ is the one that we of the faith are the most proud of. We devote our entire lives to learning of this strange remnant of the gods.

On the far end of this collection lies the other attribute, ‘Dark’.

To say that this is an undesirable feature of the world is an understatement. People who are unlucky enough to have been born with an affinity to ‘Dark’, or to any of its sub-attributes, such as ‘Ash’ or ‘Poison’, are rightfully scorned by polite society.

Lower socioeconomic class adventurers often do not have a problem with working with dark-attributed people and in fact, tend to find these unlucky souls very useful for their unusual ability to fight and aid in their dirty work.

But do not expect to see that same necromancer, who helped a party fight through a dungeon an hour before, invited to their table at the guild afterwards.

The worst offenders to our societal tastes are, however, the witches.

Their world-breaking misuse of the elements is a malignancy present within the system of attributes.

— They must be removed.

 

~ Introduction into priesthood for beginners. Chapter nine.

 


 

Feathers fly through the air as Isaiah’s wings press open wide, the shaking blade that is clutched in its porcelain grasp striking against a misaligned, clawed hand, which is attached to a strangely misshapen being. The witch, who perhaps had looked like a human before, now has a face like the skull of a canine, covered in taut skin. Black hair flows off of her visage, as if she were a sinking corpse. Her eyes are alight with a shine akin to the glow of the crooked moon.

 

— Black, oily rain drops down around them both, burning the grass and befouling the land.

 

She shrieks, lifting a hand to pull free from their stalemate and points at him with a crooked, long finger.

 

(Perchta) used: [CURSE]

 

An odd, hissing smoke shoots towards Isaiah. The body of the spell twists and churns, winding like the gestalt of a hunting viper. PREDATOR. Isaiah’s old bird instincts kick in and it shoots back, pressing off into the air as the maw of the serpent snaps shut where it had just been standing. Isaiah resists the old urge to ‘pook’.

 

“Witch Perchta,” says Isaiah, hovering in the air, now that it has a moment. “I apologize for my carelessness,” it concedes. “Please. Let us make amends. I will fix your home.”

 

She points up toward it with a long, crooked finger. “…Carelessness?” she asks in her crooning voice. Her feet rise up into the air like a departing spirit, ready to leave the world. Despite her being down below, still near to the ground, Isaiah hears her whispering into its ears, as if she were just next to it. “- Carelessness, when that bell rings day and night, disturbing my quiet rest?” she asks.

 

Something is wrong with her silhouette, standing down below in the moonlight. It is quivering, waving around as if it were a reflection in a body of disturbed water.

 

— Isaiah drops down, pulling its head inward just in time as another serpent, made up of a dark colored smoke, snaps its jaws shut just where it had been hovering a moment ago. Isaiah turns around, shooting just across the forest floor in quick flight as it faces upwards towards the real witch, who is hovering in the spot that it had been at a moment ago. “- Carelessness, when my view of the world is obstructed by your eyesore? When people, who have been terrified of my forest, now wander through it in the hundreds?” she asks, pointing at Isaiah.

 

Isaiah holds its sword, looking around the darkness for hints of her presence. There is another ‘image’ of her, remaining where she was a moment ago, its hand still stuck in a pointing motion. But Isaiah is confident that this isn't the real Perchta. She’s using the same trick as before again. It's some sort of illusionary magic.

 

In an odd flashback, Isaiah can’t help but recall when it had first awoken in this life and seen itself in the river. It had held that reflection to be a real entity. Perchta is pulling this same trick, that the river had played on it.

 

The wind shifts.

 

Isaiah slashes up with the sword, just above itself.

 

The snake is cut in half, diverging into two paths, the remnants of the smoke falling down like a cloud of fungal spores towards the inky dirt below.

 


 

~ [Red] ~
Uthra, Female, Worker{3}

 

“I’m gonna do it! Let me go!” protests Rorate, looking down at the fight below from up atop the tower, pulling back against Red, who is dragging her back into the house. She winces as the rain strikes her skin, burning her. "If I jump from here, I can totally grab her!"

 

“- Go to hell, long-ears!” snaps Red. “Fishing you out of the water is one thing, but I’m not on scraping duty anymore!” barks Red. “That’s Crystal’s job!” The uthra has already used all of her magic to cast a shielding spell down on the ground for the people and also around the nest of blackbirds in the forest. She doesn’t have any soul-points left for Rorate now.

 

Red yanks Rorate back, throwing her inside of the house and then slams the door back shut, barring it with some construction materials that had been laying around.

 

Red shakes her head, looking down the side of the tower.

 

This is going to be a problem. With the tower being higher up than it used to be, Isaiah is strong enough to last a while. But witches don't move with empty-hands. She wouldn't be here if she wasn't sure she could handle the tower and the core. Red realizes that she needs to do something. But what…?

 

— The uthra looks around herself, staring off towards the distance, as the idea comes to her.

 

She flies down the side of the tower as fast as she can.

 


 

~ [Isaiah] ~

 

“- Carelessness, when you scar the land and destroy my home?” asks a voice in its ear. Isaiah feels a hand grabbing its ankle. It looks down at the claw, holding onto itself. Witch Perchta narrows her eyes, having caught it in her grasp. “— That is not being careless. It is being selfish,” she says.

 

The blackwater that stains the ground, flooding over the land like a draping blanket of oil, bubbles in a strange movement. Despite the impossibility of a flood growing here, on this relatively flat island, the blackwater simply does so anyway. It grows like a rising tide, steadily pressing higher and higher, inch by inch. The grass isn't visible anymore. It's as if the tower were a lighthouse amidst a lightless ocean. The surface of the foul water, sleek and unusually glossy, is disturbed by streaks moving beneath itself, like parasitic worms, burrowing just beneath a layer of fatty skin.

 

A man who had climbed up onto a tree, who the uthra haven’t gotten to yet, slips as he loses his grip.

 

Isaiah moves towards him, but a clawed hand yanks him back.

 

The man falls, splashing into the black ooze and screams, flailing around as he begins to sink down into it, despite the impossibility of him doing so. It could really only be a foot deep at best, yet his body fully submerges down into it. He’s vanishing, kicking and flailing, as if he were sinking in the deepest ocean in the world.

 

Inky hands rise up out of the blackwater, grabbing his screaming face wherever they can grasp — Fingers clasp in around his open mouth, on his hair, in his eyes, and they tear him down into the nothingness below. He simply vanishes.

 

“— I was here first,” hisses Perchta, narrowing her eyes. “Here is how you make amends.”

 

(Perchta) used: [CURSE]

 

- The bell-tower rings as something massive strikes against it.

 

The resounding gong echoes around at the very unusual hour, reverberating through their bones.

 

(Perchta) has been repelled by [Holy Bell]’s DARK repelling effect

 

Perchta yells in distraught annoyance as her hand and the rest of her body are repelled by the magic of the bell-tower. The curse flies off to the side and Isaiah cuts through it with the golden sword, before spinning around and swiping down towards her.

 

— She lets go and the blade misses as she flies back towards the darkness.

 

The bell rings again and Perchta flies back further, covering her ears and snarling in feral anger. Blackwater pours down her skull-like face from the rain, her hair matted and wet, now drops limply at her side.

 

(Perchta) has been repelled by [Holy Bell]’s DARK repelling effect

 

Isaiah lifts the sword, lowering itself back down further towards the witch.

 


 

~ [Red ] ~
Uthra, Female, Worker{3}

 

“- Come on you shit!” yells Red, leaning in. “Do it again!”

 

The priestess and the golem from floor six of the tower stand there on a bridge of floor ten, staring vacantly with dull, lifeless expressions towards the distance.

 

Red flies in, grabbing the rim of the priestess' collar. “I didn’t carry your fat-asses all the way up here for you to just stand around!” she snaps, slapping the priestess across the face. “- Do it again!”

 

— The homunculus priestess doesn’t respond. She and the golem just stand there like statues.

 

A blur of movement shoots past the open face of floor ten of the tower.

 

Red turns to look as Isaiah flies past, rising up higher into the sky. A twisted, screeching shadow shoots up after it into the air, snarling and snatching like a rabid wolf on the heels of a deer. The two of them vanish into the night, high above the tower.

 

She tsks in annoyance, turning back to look at the priestess.

 

Red narrows her eyes, looking at the homunculus. Something has changed on the robed woman's face. The priestess' expression seems more… alive? “GET TO IT!” yells Red, shaking her.

 

The massive golem roars in fury, arching its arm back as it swings out towards Red.

 

— The uthra dodges out of the way. The golem’s gigantic fist strikes against the bell again a third time now, ringing it aloud.

 


 

~ [Isaiah] ~

 

Isaiah shoots up into the air, flying as high as it can go. Ravenous teeth, covered in foul smears snatch and snap just behind itself, catching the loosened feathers it leaves in flight.

 

The cry of the bell rings out again through the night.

 

(Perchta) has been repelled by [Holy Bell]’s DARK repelling effect

 

The tormented entity behind itself shrieks and howls, stopping mid-flight as she spasms together.

 

Isaiah turns to look at the witch, who is clutching her head, her body returning to its normal shape of that of a human.

 

The bell rings again.

 

(Perchta) has been repelled by [Holy Bell]’s DARK repelling effect

 

In the night, the air changes. There is a movement in the sky far above and the clouds part ways, the moon losing its significant presence and simply becoming a part of the quiet night once again.

 

The bell rings once more.

 

(Perchta) has been repelled by [Holy Bell]’s DARK repelling effect

 

The face projected before the moon by the mass of inky clouds is entirely erased. The ground begins to become visible again. The blackwater drains. The rain slows and then stops.

 

“- You ruined my home!” yells Perchta.

 

Isaiah shakes its head. “We will fix it. Let us be done with this.”

 

The witch points at Isaiah with a finger, her long-crooked hands returning to the shape of those of a normal human’s. “This isn’t over!” she warns.

 

Isaiah lifts the sword into the air as she loses momentum, her flight coming to an end. The blade glints, catching the rays of the clean moonlight, which now shine down true and uncorrupted. “It is,” replies Isaiah simply, as it plunges down towards her.

 

— Perchta falls. The sword gleams.

 

The image of the woman distorts, quivering as if it were a reflection upon water and Isaiah spins around, seeing through the trick just as before.

 

The sword pushes through the clawed hand of the witch, catching it in mid-strike, as it was reaching towards Isaiah from behind. She hisses, blackwater and spit coming from between her clenched teeth as the sword presses through her palm.

 

(Isaiah) has pierced (Perchta) for {09} HOLY damage

 

It pulls the blade free from her wounded hand and catches Perchta by her wrists.

 

It isn’t entirely unsympathetic. After all, this is all about a nest, isn’t it? For itself, this entire endeavor had been about its own old nest and now it's about its new nest, the tower. Just the same, Perchta is here because of her nest, her house. It can not excuse her actions and the damage caused, but it does understand them.

 

“I’ll settle this,” warns Perchta, narrowing her eyes. “You wait,” she says, leaning in towards its face, her features and bones returning to those of a human’s, as the magic of the witches' moon fades away. “When it’s dark and when the night is here and when you lay in your bed, I’ll be there and I’ll snatch your eyes out,” she warns.

 

“I would prefer if you came in the morning,” replies Isaiah. “We could enjoy the day together then,” it says. She hisses, lashing out to try and bite it in the face in a last ditch attempt. “Good night, Witch Perchta."

 

~ [Isaiah] ~
(Isaiah) used: [Minor Heal] on (Perchta)

Cost: {4} SOUL

Restored target HP to 100% {93%}

 

“I’LL GET YOU!”

 

Isaiah nods, letting her go. “- As long as it is only me.”

 

The woman plummets down into the darkness, the wind and the force of her drop fluttering her robe and her wet hair and as she falls, vanishing into the darkness out of Isaiah’s eyesight, it knows that she never lands on the ground below. Isaiah is certain that this was the right choice to have made. A witch isn't so easy to kill. It wouldn't have worked. At least this way, a door remains open for a peaceful alternative; at least a crack.

 

Isaiah flies down itself, returning to the soil, hoping that there is anything below left to salvage. Not only of the tower, but of the people and of this new relationship that was meant to have been established with their kind.

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