At the Witch doctor’s lodge lengthy discussion proceeded between the parties from which Alicia excused herself the details of despite the fervor filled requests from both sides for her to join the meeting. Judging from the affable atmosphere she expected the talks were going to be a successful one. Eventually it came down to exchanging goods and needing the approval from a leading figure, one of which was already present but from the Elven village someone needed to attend as well to make it ‘official’ who was Llynbel. Though because her affiliation to Werdun was shaky at best, it was not known how much she would stand up for them, considering her past history of antagonism. Thanks to Alicia’s actions the water spirit did adopt more of an amiable mannerisms as of recent. However the residents of Faenas’ village know not of her change of heart. Because of this Ranger captain herself was the closest stand in, comparable maybe to Ashlan in standing.
Learning of this development, Alicia herself decided to persuade Llynbel to come. Of course none knew that the two were in a covenant where Alicia’s words would hold significant influence on her, not even Alicia herself. It wasn’t known to many but Dryssia had a not so small following of her own within the adorcist1Adorcism. A term coined in religious sociology by professor Luc de Heusch. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce this I don’t know either) where places or people are believed to be possessed by a spiritual entity and relates to practices and rituals of religious nature to placate, accomodate or revere the said spiritual entity who could either be malevolent or benevolent unlike Exorcism where it’s only negative. tribe - who holds a great deal of respect for spirit of any kind - as the Gran Bwa or ‘The Great Tree Spirit’ and ‘Lady of the Woods’ due to her obvious care and concern for trees and making semi-regular appearances because of delivering venom that Alicia supplied. As such they would heartily welcome the ‘convenement’ of another Spirit like Llynbel.
Relationship between the tree Nymph and her was one of kinship and sisterly care from the latter as the former’s type had become so few in numbers that they were once thought extinct. Convincing her was uneventfully straight forward, rather she seemed to be even interested in meeting these folks who took care of her ‘little sister’. While that was taking place, Dryssia had managed to successfully plant the fungi given to her in a shaded grove near the Elven village. Due to their numbers it would be a while before they are able to proliferate enough and be considered a sustainable food source still it has to start somewhere.
Meanwhile Faenas got ahold of Ash to explain the situation to him while reporting the sequence of events that led up to this current state to others in her village. Someone brought up the topic of appointing a delegate, one thing led to another, one of the officers under Faenas was picked. Making use of the occasion Alicia decided to make a trip to the blacksmith Greimen to have the strange fissures on her blade looked at. Before anyone could notice, she had slipped away in the racket. Though few tried to search for her, by Llynbel’s advice they dropped the case and moved on. After all she knew first hand how no one could find Alicia if she didn’t want to be found.
Knowing that the coming negotiations wouldn’t fall apart even without her intervention, she decided to sneak away after dropping off Dauntless for maintenance.
‘Whew lost the coppers. I really need a skill that’s just a ‘I don’t wanna be here anymore’ button that helps me run away from awkward situations like those.’
Far off from every notable place she knew, she decided to lay low for a little while the whole thing blows over. Sounds of water washing over rocks and pebbles from a small creek nearby dominated this section of the forest she was in.
>Processing search term…
｢ Mirror Image ｣
↳ 〔 Transposition 〕
‘Something to do with my doubles? Let’s see then.’
‘Aren’t things getting a bit pricey? Better be worth it.’
‘I need to have a clone already out and about for it to work… No energy cost… go figure. Wait… This means I can switch with Alice if I need to since she’s technically possessing a Gemini mirror image… I might be onto something though nothing comes to mind… Speaking of clones… I’ve always created images out of water yet the spell itself is not aligned with water it’s… soul, I believe. Technically that means I can make one out of any of the other elements.’
Time went by as Alicia experimented with various aspects of her magic for occasions like these are few and far between. Creating a number of images out of various mediums she can manipulate through trial and error. Testing out their features and limits.
‘Earth is durable and overall has much higher physical properties but takes too long to form into a image… Air is fastest to form but extremely difficult to have it take a tangible form and mass. It could be excellent for tricking the eyes from a distance like a mirage or an illusion… but has to be maintained actively otherwise it wants to just disperse… since it is just a bunch of gas. Lastly fire has much the same problems of air, must be maintained, doesn’t want to take on a physical form, wants to fall apart and set everything on fire… I guess water is the most balanced of these choices huh…’
Measuring how the sun shifted its position in the sky she estimated hours had passed while she was busy with her experimentations. Determining the time to be somewhere near mid afternoon.
‘That’s long enough for them to forget about me right… Oooh I should have Alice take a jab at making a pull string hoodie. Last time she made some sort of robe… I mean I guess that’s just a really long and baggy hoodie…’
Thinking to herself she made her way back to the great oak…
The two’s morning practice had ended early because of some sort of commotion when Filly2Faenas came back. For them it just meant more playtime before dark. Their very existence was a unique case. Born with a telepathic bond formed at their very conception meant being closely connected with one and another to the point of being able to not just share thoughts, messages and notions but to sense completely personally individuated sensation such as of pain and physical stress and more abstract sensations of complex emotions and memory formation.
They often had the problem of sharing too much memory among themselves that sometimes they can’t tell apart whose memory is whose. Thankfully, as of recently they learned to better separate their mind. This was mostly to prevent cheating in their games of hide and seek. In the end no child wants to share their best hiding spot…
She was in her new hiding place she found yesterday, a hollow spot hidden from sight with overgrowth and plant roots under a deep gully and it has been a while since Annie started searching for her. So she was sure she wouldn’t be found any time soon. Strange giddy feeling of using this spot faded before long and tedium soon set in, though if she were to get caught while leaving now to find another place would be an enormous disappointment, so mustering her patience she fought the boredom laying on the dampish soil.
But just then she felt the vibrations of hurried running through the soil around her. Just as her guardian Alicia taught to her she tried to pick up on the characteristics of the tremors. The strength, repetition, speed. They were weak, quick steps in a pattern of one… two… one… two… one and two. Bippy…? Biidii…?3She is struggling with the word Biped/Bipedal. the exact word she forgot, the simpler term she could understand was ‘two footed’. The steps were shallow and quick meaning that the owner was not that big. It was very similar to the steps of her sister though strangely it seemed to be tripping and stumbling.
Could it be that her sister cheated and knew where she hid? Or was there something else at play? Whatever the reason, it was unimportant. What was important was that someone was running straight at her hiding spot and she held her breath and pulled in her knees. Somewhat annoyed at the thought that her sister cheated in their game… By now she could hear the footsteps stomping the grass and mud, desperate winded breaths. But then she identified further quakes of footfall… two maybe three… heavier and low repetition… Almost like the footsteps of the Elves they often played with… yet something was amiss, even for Elves their steps were heavy… too heavy, and their movement was almost as if they’re searching or chasing someone.
The first pair was now almost on top of her and suddenly she heard a snag followed by a high pitched scream of a girl. While rolling down the slope of the gully somehow it grabbed onto the roots covering the entrance of the hollow, frantically clawing through the quickly collapsing earth she made inside. Their eyes met and the other party not expecting the hollow to be occupied almost let out a scream, holding her mouth shut with her hands.
- “Jus ‘eard the brat this way, c’mon! Boss’ll have our ‘eads if we’s lose er!”
A girl mid in her teens by appearance. Her hair wavy, rich yellow hair reminiscent of a golden rod4 RGB: 252, 214, 10 would surely look regal if ridden of its dirt, filth, and flakes with its length falling below her shoulders. Complimentary to Goldia’s imperial golden gaze. Various emotions could be gleaned from the wide rounded madder red5RGB: 165, 0, 33 sometimes called, Carmine red. eyes. Trembling footfalls of her pursuers came closer, both silently waiting for its resolution. Though she lacked her mother’s ability to read the rate of heartbeat through the earth, she could nonetheless tell how much she was panicking.
Stopping on top of the hollow, rough and vulgar voices of men talking loudly to each other could be heard through the earth and the opening.
- “Wait! Wait!”
- “Wat is d- bloody horseshit!”
- “Issa damn ditch, brat couldn’o haf past it. Musta gone ‘round.”
- “Told yer we needs a collar on that bitch.”
- “Boss’s word, no touching her. Now hurry up and find er!”
As the sounds of them became more distant, the girl looked like she could finally take breath.
- ‘Are you hiding too?’
Gasp of surprise escaped her lips as the disembodied voice rang inside her head. The only thing protecting the girl from the elements of the world was a worn, hole riddled, rags barely enough to cover her privates. Though physically she was uninjured, the skinny body of hers suggested a diet lacking in substance and nutrition. If not for the slight sunkenness of the cheeks she possessed a fine look.
- “I’m hiding as well, from Annie. I’m Goldia but my sister calls me Goldie. What about you?”
- “Auh um ehem. Rosa- auw!”
Trying to stand up straight in a low ceiling hollow to give proper introduction, she had hit her head against the hard earth above her.
- “No! It’s Rosalia! Rosalia Reynold de Valtima.”
- “That’s long… I’m Goldia Alice of… um Velauhart I think.”
Her confusion and surprise stemmed from the fact that she possessed not only a last name but also a claim normally reserved only for the aristocracy. No peasant would care to remember their father lineage if they were even able to.
This strange girl deep in the forgotten forest had the very same, a name, Surname and a claimed region. And now she looked at her despite being slightly dirt, the dress she wore were of exotic design, made of expensive material known as silk costing a fortune even for a well off wealthy family such as hers. It lacked the eye catching colors vogue with the high class causing it to appear relatively dull. Regardless, any noble would be able to tell its value and in turn their monetary backing, rather she wanted to praise whoever commissioned this piece for their taste. In a sea of bright colors all wanting attention to themselves, the calm white blossom stood out even more.
And she was sure she just used some sort of magic there to silently speak to her. Since the Vindication, the vast majority if not all nobles were ‘sonorants’ able to use magic to some degree. A ‘sans voix’6French for ‘Without Voice’ or Voiceless. Does not mean they’re mute. But I was considering naming them Muette. IPA /sɑ̃ vwa/ or basically Sa-vwa. being born into a noble house was at least a gossip and at most a scandal. All of this added, made her that much more likely to be some foreign noble if not relative of some obscure house of her own kingdom even, had not heard of the region named Velauhart. Only thing deducting from her theory is perhaps the location. No normal child would wander around playing hide and seek in the forgotten forest, filled with treacherous beasts, once a place to exile prisoners who heard the death sentence. Her being a member of the high society doesn’t necessarily mean she would be on friendly terms especially with how she’s dressed right now.
Rather without her signet ring, sigil or any heirloom to prove her authenticity, Goldia ought to have her arrested for attempting to impersonate an imperial dignitary. But she was also the only hope for freeing her from her abduction and even if she’s mistaken, her father would no doubt reward them plenty for her rescue. Thus betting the other party being sensible:
- “Please, Help me. I’m the abducted daughter of the lord Reynold. I promise my family will do you anything you want within their power for recompense for my safe return.”
- “Help…? I do not understand… You are hiding from those men?”
- “Yes, a place to take refuge. Anywhere is fine.”
After pondering for some time wrestling with her feelings of not wanting to leave her hiding place and to help the nudist stranger Goldia remembered that Rufus and his pack were usually on patrol around the forest.
- “Then I’ll go find Rufus, he'll know what to do! You can stay here until I come back, this is my bestest hiding spot.”
- “Be careful! They’re still out there looking for me. I don’t know what will happen if they find you.”
- “I’m the second greatest hide and seek player in the world! They’ll never find me!”
Without answer she went out, leaving the confused girl to hide in the hollow. Mix of emotions swirled in her heart, fear of her new acquaintance getting caught by the brigand slavers, guilt for letting her go alone into dangerous territories and a sliver of hope for the future borne from her boast with the aim to ease her. What a hopeless shamble she is right now, if even a child younger than her would see her and try to encourage her. The young aristocrat mistook Goldia’s declaration as a boast. Perhaps, but one borne from pride. For the number one player of hide seek she knew was none other than Alicia…
- “This is nice and snug… You’ve gotten really good at this, Alice.”
After many past failures, finally with help from Alice she managed to make the coveted ‘hoodie’, complete with muff pockets. As she was happily trying on the completed project…
- “Mistress… This is urgent.”
Telepathy conveyed more than just words, and through it she felt the anxiousness held by the conferrer.
- “Ramiel…? What happened.”
- “Young mistress Goldia has come requesting aid. There are intruders in the forest who came chasing after some young high class girl called Rosalia. From the descriptions, likely humans. She met the young mistress, and now seeks a place of refuge.”
- “That doesn’t sound bad… there’s more to it, aren’t there?”
- “Her pursuers are loose somewhere in the forest and… Forgive me, we’re unable to find young mistress Anastasia…”
The implications were that these intruders might have found Anastasia. Normally she had at least one dire wolf or a spider to watch over the twins while they were out and about. But in their games of hide and seek, they couldn’t keep up and lost them often, though she scolded them time and time again they never seemed to learn. This grim report was not only addressed to Alicia but to Alice. The moment she understood the implications she almost bolted out.
- “Alice, wait! Where are you going to look for Anna? I know what you’re feeling right now. You’ll just be wasting your time and energy without any information.”
After some deliberation she hesitatingly stopped, her boiling emotions could be felt so clearly even to those without telepathic connection.
- “Rosalia, where is she now?”
- “She and the young mistress are with me, heading towards our abode.”
- “She ran from them. Which direction did she run from, what can she say about them?”
- “I shall ask…”
Only mere moments of pause passed yet to them it seemed as though they survived agonizing hours of torment.
- “It appears she fled from the south-west. By the girl's account, the interlopers settled around a shallow cave where they hold their captives in a crude campsite.”
- “South-west, look for a camp. Got it. Take Goldia and the girl to Werdun, ask them to take care of her until I return. Captives huh… slavery is it…?”
Considering the current cultural and scientific development of this world landing somewhere in the bracket of the classical era to the dark ages, where the rights of even a fair citizen was severely limited, what would fate entail to those who are less fortunate to fall into slavery. Forcibly squashing the negative thoughts she refocused herself. She couldn’t let her own mind and imagination become her enemy. With lead to follow both were raring to go.
- “Shall we go ‘together’ then?”
Alicia asked, holding out her hand, with a silent nod Alice grabbed her hands melding into one as a certain spell was undone.
⟩ Mirror Image ⟨
↳ › Gemini ‹
>Statistics parameters exceeding expected forecast.
>Galvanizing excess input…
｢ Autoanimaphagy ｣
↳ ‹ Development ›
>State updated: Anima Reunification Overcharge.
>All statistics positively modified by 30%.
>Modifications will decay to normal parameters over an estimated time of 500 seconds.
It was quite some time ago since they were together like this. Though at times inconvenient, she had missed the company of Alice, who was the fiery presence radiating within her filling her with outpouring her with emotion. Whole once more, they weren’t just complete. Every fiber of their being was overflowing with energy, it felt as if they could take on the whole world.
- ‘This won’t last, let’s make the most out of it.’
- ‘bring everyone…’
- ‘Yeah… that will be helpful.’
Extending the range of her telepathy to encompass all of her familiars, a clarion call to duty was sounded.
- ‘Hear me, Anastasia has gone missing. Yes that cheeky, trouble-maker, always running around making a mess. Whilst she’s lost foreign invaders tread upon the forest, stomping in our homestead spreading their filth. Let’s give them a warm welcome shall we?’
- ‘Rufus, rally your pack, comb the forest starting from here to the edge in the south, find Anna. You have my permission to takedown whatever stands barring your path.’
With a resounding howl of their leader, all the wolves started their ‘hunt’, each heading in every direction with the final goal being the edge of the forest. Their monstrous spiders were waiting for their assignment as well, Alicia didn’t know but they doted upon the twins just as much if not more than the Elves or Alice, their mother.
- ‘Rest of you… we’re catching ourselves some skin dogs, follow our lead.’
Though not as splashy, a crawling cascade moved out at once, hellbent on seeing through this predicament. Their spirits were soaring for it was not often that they received an order from Alicia, besides they had their own motivations to ensure the safety of Anna.
- ‘Dauntless is still at the smith’s place. No matter, I’ve had these fangs since the beginning. They’ll see me through just fine.’
She found a promising trail in no time at all. Their sprint on all eight was something fierce, so much so that wind resistance was becoming a significant problem. Backtracking the trails left behind by the men, the smell of alcohol, sweat and filth. Soon the noisy revelry happening over yon, was heard followed by a stench of alcohol and grunginess. Tree limbs and other cumbersome objects were piled to make an improvised roadblock.
Three men, rough dirty clothes worn under second hand hardened leather brigandine with some sort of skirt to protect the upper legs and thighs, most parts of it seemed to have been crudely patched up with plain cloth. Drinking pale fluids from a clay liquor bottle, on their person were weapons hatchet, simple spear with bronze tip and thin wooden shaft, rusted shortsword, all of them had some sort of dagger of equally poor condition.
‘Lookouts, their den can’t be far then. We’re headed the right way. Still… No response from Anna…’ Alicia and Alice could roughly track each other and their kindred especially Anna and Goldia through one way telepathic transmission, with its effective range being well over a kilometer it was unlikely that these people could have found Anastasia. That was a small relief for Alicia but for Alice it did little to calm her down.
- ‘Spread out, encircle their camp. I don’t want any runners. Catch them alive if you can. Dispatch them if you can’t.’
As most of the pack members of Rufus were searching for Anna throughout the forest, few that accompanied her could be counted on single hand. To make up for that, almost all of her Monstrous spider familiars had come with them. They quickly went on to spinning their web surrounding the outer perimeters of the brigands’ site, a silken noose tightening in and they didn’t even know.
- ‘Let’s go say ‘Hello’ at least…’
↳ ‘H.sapien variante-I’ acquired.
Their raucous laughter seemed to shake the very leaves down of the trees around them. And then out of nowhere…
- ‘May I ask who you gentlemen are?’
Lost in their intoxication more laughter followed.
- “Gendleman, ˌphaˈah that’s what yer mother calls me.”
- “Ehahahaehaeha man you cont hold a drink worth shite.”
- “That was you wusnt et? You pickin a fight wiff me?!”
If telepathy is heard by many recipients it feels as if some invisible person right next to them said it. Yet that was not possible and with the company of others it is easy to chalk it up to one’s companions.
‘Well that was dumb of me… Fine.’
- “I suppose it’s rude to ask one’s name and intentions without introducing yourself first.”
Panic and alert quickly spread throughout their bodies, as someone was in front of them, where there was no one before. Their judgement clouded by inebriation surprise quickly turned into lecherous glee. They thought she was some lost girl who they could ‘use’ to fill their needs without a care. Even the shortest among them was a head taller than her.
- “Oy lassy, tis dangerous in this place y’kno. Who knows when some big monsta jumps out of the brushes eeeh?”
- “He’s right, why do you join us for some fun?”
- “We’ll keep you safe and sound hahahaha.”
Ironic how they were telling this to perhaps the most dangerous monster of the forest.
‘Letting them take me into their camp is a thought… but’
⟨ Instinct ⟩
‘Something tells the fun they mentioned is not exactly a cordial invitation for a drink. Not that I drink that much anyway. Guess I’m doing this the painful and potentially hard way.’
- “I must decline but I would like to ask. Could you please tell me where you live, I would love to go over for a chat and a drink?”
｢ ᴡʜɪsᴘᴇʀs ｣
Though they were firmly told to report a sighting of anyone back to their base, being undisciplined brigands drunk off cheap alcohol, they were exceptionally easy to deceive and manipulate for the Void’s beguiling allay.
- “Is just behind us, how bout we go there now for a drink?”
- “Thanks for the tip. I’ll be off then.”
As she was about to pass by them, they drew their weapons. This would undoubtedly be intimidating to a lone traveller and downright terrifying to the average girls they terrorized. Alicia was neither though.
- “List’n up yer comin with us. Jus cuz yer pretty don’t mean we’ll let you go free.”
- “Right o, rather your looks make it even more exciting.”
Giggling to themselves, imagining what ‘fun’ they would have.
- “I’m in a hurry. Won’t you please make it easy for all of us?”
They all felt a terrible shiver shoot down their spines. Still what was to fear from a lone unarmed girl? As one of them closest to her tried to grab from her shoulders.
⟨ Ars Bellica ⟩
« Unarmed »
Stepping into the man’s proximity holding his outstretched hand to guide him, almost like an intimate lover’s embrace she followed up by a savage palm strike from underneath, rattling the brain within its skull. Before anyone could react, the man lost consciousness from the concussion and fell over. They only realized what had happened after the short sword he held, fell and clinked against the earth. By then using the initial surprise, she had moved on to the other one wielding the spear. Spear was a weapon that best utilized its range but in extremely close combat situations like this, the weapon’s length makes it burdensome to swing. And if the opponent has entered a deadzone where the enemy is too close to stab, using the weapon effectively was extremely difficult.
Although he was armored, the leather covering the guts and torso had become soft to the point where it’s efficacy against a strike from a bladed instrument was in question. Punch7See upset punch. to the area just below the sternum knocked the wind out of the still stupefied brigand, causing him to crumple down forwards gasping and wheezing for air. Stepping out of his way of fall she grabbed the spear before delivering a blow8See hammer fist. to his hind head to knock him out cold.
- “You whore!”
Bellowing an enraged cry the last remaining one charged overcome with fury, hatchet in his hand raised up and running at her.
⟨ Marksmanship ⟩
Quickly spinning the spear around the tip facing backwards she threw the spear at the outraged assailant. The blunt end of the spear hit right between the eyes smashing the nose and nasal bone structure before falling down. The brigand staggered back covering his face groaning in pain not seeing her approach. Alicia quickly grabbed the spear before it hit the ground and swept his legs with the spear's wooden shaft but being made from thin worn wood it snapped easily. Nonetheless a wood shattering blow to the shins and ankles made him kneel, yowling from pain. Using the opportunity, drove her knee straight into the slaver’s bloodied face, finally incapacitating him.
- “Ew, you got blood on me. Is that snot? Disgusting. Well I guess I haven’t forgotten all my training… more like pay to be beaten up…”
‘First two knuckles… punches to the meat, palms to the bone. I wouldn’t normally fight outnumbered but it ain’t my first time sobering up drunkards… And that damn spear almost gave me a heart attack when it broke into pieces. You really can’t put a price on quality huh… I miss dauntless already.
Still I don’t remember being this… strong? I don’t even have that much muscle but I put the lights out of that first guy. You know I never truly appreciated my new stats, that might be because monsters in this place just jacked up like hell or something. Nah these guys were just drunk and sluggish. Anyway.’
- “Clean up this mess, don’t take a bite… yet.”
From the shaded woods her Monstrous spiders emerged, cocooning the unconscious men in silk… Though low-life bandits it took considerable amount of physical power to take down three armed men and although she brushed off their slow speed as them being intoxicated on brew they were still on lookout and weren’t tipsy at the slightest. She was simply so fast that their untrained slow movements looked like that of stumblings of tipplers. It did not help that her expectations and standards were referenced by the beasts of the forgotten forest. A region so treacherous that it was used to execute prisoners by means of ‘exile’. Or the fact that she made herself at home in its heart where beasts are dense.
There was a commotion outside his tent, his men were making a scene. Something just didn’t sit well with him, things were quiet as of recently. He took a strange job from an anonymous man who paid well, upfront. Too well for the effort of work that was needed. Still he took the job to pay his men. They raided a carriage, at the told time and place to capture a girl, young, yellow hair and red eyes. Ordered to hold onto her, separate from the others, no harm to be done to her body or the ‘use of merchandise’. Said they would contact them again when the time was right and pay more.
That was weeks ago and he still hasn't gotten a word from them. He was anxious because he needed to relocate. Their old hideout was compromised. And this temporary one on the edge of the forgotten forest was no good. Did they know they moved to a new base. Thoughts swirled in his mind but the itching from the lice in his scruffy beard distracted him. Scratches abated the incessant itching but only for a moment. Everything had become silent though he was thankful there was some peace and quiet. It was unlike his men to keep quiet for more than a minute.
Something was off. Disturbed by the odd silence he turned to see what was happening, just in case he grabbed his new halberd. Beautifully polished and well oiled, he had to cough up a terrible fortune for it but it was well worth future investment. Unlike his lout of an underlings spending it all on meat and mead. Pristine grass waved gently in the wind, crates of stolen goods and food were still intact. And the tripwires set at ‘merchandise’ tucked in the cave were undisturbed. There wasn’t anything wrong except for the fact everyone who was posted was missing.
Cold sweat trickled down his neck and nape. He knew stepping foot into this accursed place was a bad idea but he had no other viable choice. It could be that his men are pulling a prank of sorts so…
- “Come out you wretches! I didn’t tell you to abandon your posts!”
Deafening silence followed, his beating heart seemed to be annoyingly loud for the circumstance. After a brief period has passed he noticed a girl, long white hair, deep blue eyes. A bewitching beauty not found in the backwater villages they frequently raided. Rather a mistress fit as a concubine of a mighty Emperor if she herself wouldn’t become an Empress.
If it was in a different situation, oh how he would relish her flesh. For a moment he thought one of the captives might have escaped, but as he saw earlier the tripwires were untouched. And considering where he was it all added to the welling dread. Wave of trepidation washed over him, but holding tightly into his weapon he steeled himself.
- “You’re Iosif aren’t you?”
- “How do you know that…-”
Only his close aides knew him by his name, others only called him boss so how could this girl know his name? There could only be one option, she was the person sent by his mysterious contractors. He could have sworn it was a man last time, that was through thick layers of cloth covering their face and muffling their voice though.
- “-No. You’re here for the girl aren’t you?”
Moment he uttered those words he felt fear beyond words could describe, tremors and shaking wouldn’t stop. He didn’t understand anything but something about her changed drastically, even though she was yet to move muscle nor change her expression to something other than that neutral smile she wore since the beginning. It was taking every bit of will in his body just to not fall down and collapse.
He realized that it was a mistake to accept that job, but it was too late to back off now. Just give the girl and be over with this nightmare. There was something wrong though. Where were his men? Why did they leave without a word?
- “I-I’ll bring her n-ow…”
She was kept separate from the others as per request, behind his tent her hands were cuffed and chained to a metal rod. She has stopped eating for a while now and that was worrying him about her committing suicide but that didn’t matter now, she was alive and delivering her would free him of this plight. But the… gone. She was gone. Where were the men tasked to keep an eye on her? Then it struck him, she was purposefully not eating to get skinny enough to pull her hands out of the cuff. What would happen if he were to say that she was missing to this terrifying person?
- “Gone isn’t she?”
‘Obviously she’s not here since she would have responded to me by now… but that implies they did have her…’
As she dealt with the leader’s men she peered into their memories briefly to gain whatever information she could. From there she learned miscellaneous nonsense and the leader’s name but what stuck out the most was that they were some band of raiders abducting women from villages to sell into slavery over someplace else. Within these memories she saw how they would assault and violate some of the defiant captives. Knowing Anastasia she was every bit rebellious if not more than the women they remember. Unforgivable, after learning this she let loose all of her familiars on them. She would have spared them if she could, but now it was different.
After what she said the man seemed to be petrified, sweating buckets.
- “Sh-she’s gone… but, but that’s okay we can find her again, safe and sound. I promise no extra fees. We followed all your wishes, she wasn’t touched at all I swear it.”
Desperately making a strange bid to buy some time. But what was important to her was the claim that she wasn’t touched. Sensing his madly beating heart, some micro inflections of his face, she could tell this wasn’t some sort of trick. He was telling the truth.
- “No, I’ll find her… after I deal with you.”
- “No! Please forgive me. I’ll do anything, I’ll give you anything, just spare me!”
- “Oh I forgive you. I really do. You said that she was untouched, I could forget this. About all of this.”
She was slowly walking towards him.
- “No! Stay back.”
Pointing his weapon to keep her at a distance, he brandished his halberd. Moment she entered within a striking range he raised up his halberd and with a strange cry brought it down on her. But she quickly stepped forwards, the blade missing her but the heavy steel would surely smash the clavicle. A loud thwack echoed throughout the area. Reality betrayed expectation, forget harming her, she didn’t seem bothered at all. Was this weapon a dud? Was he swindled? No the weight on it was real, the chops with the blade he made was real. Then…
Unnatural fear gripped his heart and shook him to his core. Unintelligible screams escaped his mouth as he tried to pull in the halberd to still hit her with the hook of the blade, yet it budged not a single thread as she held onto the weapon still resting on her shoulders. How could someone like this dainty girl possess such strength? He couldn’t believe his own eyes but the resistance felt on his hands were undeniable. A tall muscular man being outmatched in a contest of strength.
⟨ Compound Synthesis ⟩
↳ ‹ Apitoxic ›
From where she held the weapon, sizzling sounds and something bubbling could be heard. Somehow it felt to him that the weapon was giving a slack, becoming more loose, hopeful that he could pull his weapon free to attack again, he yanked it with all his strength. And it was free, some sort of thud falling down could be heard… With some hope returning to him until he looked at the tip of his weapon. Where there should have been the blade there was nothing, broken off right before. Where was the head of it? Behind her, stuck to the soil. Some vile liquid had eroded away in the part of the steel shaft. The weapon wasn’t becoming slack because she set it free, oh no. It was getting free because toxins burned away at the steel to the point of it being thin and weak enough to be bent and broken. He screamed bloody murder as he realized this. And her smile had been replaced by an unamused expression.
When she took a step forward he took one backwards, once… twice and then he tripped… Something clung to the soles of his boots and made him fall, as used his hand to support himself from completely falling and they too were stuck when he tried to get up on his feet. Some sticky substance wouldn’t let him go.
- “Leaving so soon? I’m sorry I can’t allow that.”
Incomprehensible babbling of fear was the only thing he could spout.
- “I forgive you… But there’s someone else here that simply can’t pardon you…-”
She morphed and grew taller, towering over him, her eyes changed their hue from their bright blue to deep scarlet, hair shrinking shorter until it was around her shoulders. It wasn’t his mind playing tricks on him making her appear taller because of his fear, for she had grown taller standing on eight legs. Huge fangs whose tips were glistening with fresh venom, stridulating with aggression. He witnessed all of this, and until the end and beyond he screamed and screamed until his voice could scream no more.
- ““-and who am I hold back, a mother’s rage?””
They asked themselves two distinct voices overlapping. The former melodious overlapping with the strong and dull one. His death was not going to be a short one as the fangs started with his legs tearing them off, before digging into his stomach and working it way up. The sound of gore sploshing was accompanied by haunting screams and pleas of mercy. Until only the former left, a solo performance.
- “Mistress, we have recovered young lady Anastasia.”
Ramiel’s voice broke them out of their entrancement.
- “Huh? Where? Is she okay?!”
- “Young lady is currently resting at the Village, she is unharmed. It appears young ladies were playing a game where young mistress Anastasia has wandered into the deeper portions of the forest to the north. Just outside our reach of communication.”
Hearing the report she deflated, relieved about learning of their safety. But then…
‘Wait if she’s over there to the north and never met these guys… What the hell was he talking like he knew what I meant? Wait wait wait did we just kill about forty odd people from a misunderstanding… Oooh we screwed up big time. And there are still twenty ish of them in that cave but… wait these guys were abducting people and I haven’t seen any of the captives that means… Huh… I don’t think many people will mind a band of kidnapping brigands going missing right? Well let’s try and talk to the guys in the cave… I’ll just have to come up with a convincing story of why almost all of their captors have gone missing… and clean up this blood… Hopefully they have a place to go… I don’t wanna have to take them in.’