⟨ Menhir ⟩
Loose stone of the waterlogged cellar floor came together and assembled into something similar to a rudimentary stool. Despite its rough appearance, it was as comfortable as it could be with its top surface smooth and even. Alicia sat on top of it, stabbed dauntless into the ground next to her, and began her questioning.
- “Let’s start with the crux of the matter… Who was it.”
Using Cold Reader, she was quietly monitoring their disjointed thoughts, screening for any attempts of deception. It didn’t take long before one of them answered.
- “W-We don’t know! We didn’t ask! Nobody does!”
The rogues crown didn’t care who wanted who dead or for what cause, only cash. ‘Should’ve thought about that one… I won’t get anywhere like this… let’s change my approach then…’
- “Was it a man or a woman?”
- “Man, for sure!”
- “Describe him to me… What does he look like? How tall is he? Start with the age.”
- “An old fart he was.”
- “Thin and frail but fine clothes he had.”
- “Look’t like one o’ them servants to the lords, an’ the like. Spoke the part too.”
- “Yeah! And his hair was startinta turn white.”
With the promise of the antidote… men were all so eager to contribute, those that can speak with that is.
‘Hm… he’s just a cog in the wheel. Once I find him and get him to talk, I’ll get another lead on who’s really behind this mess. Might want to stay out of this rabbit hole though… Ah, who am I kidding, I’m already knee deep and practically chasing the white rabbit to murderland… I even sport the name for this off brand knockoff…’
- “Know where I can find him?”
- “Dunno but-”
- “He’s supposed to pay double! Err… if we had got to that girl before morrow…”
‘Means he’s still hanging around to pay them… Well well well, seems like I get a free bone here.’
- “Anything else you can tell me about him, distinctive features, behaviours and such that I can use to pick him out of a crowd?”
After some excruciating moments of racking their minds one of them suddenly answered.
- “He’ssa squirmy type. Obviously don’t like working with folk like us. Think he’s better than us cuz he licks the boot of some bigwig.”
‘So I’m looking for a high class, aged man with graying hair, who is uncomfortable with life in the streets. I think we have a pretty complete criminal sketch for our suspect.’
- “Hey, missus… We told you everything you wanted, yes? We won’t go near that girl again, promise! Please, let us uhh…”
The man started to stumble on his words, carefully picking what to say next as he looked at the poor sod who demanded to “be set free” before him.
‘My, my, they seem to be quite eager to leave, aren’t they? Seems like they’ve been quietly cutting away at their bonds…’
When they came to and found themselves captured, few of them had small hidden blades within their arms reach. Slowly, bit by bit they loosened the strange white bindings. By behaving and distracting Alicia, these men thought they were buying time to free themselves. Exchanging gazes and wordless communications amongst them to ascertain their numbers. Unfortunately their collusion hadn’t escaped Alicia’s attention under Cold Reader. Although the water muddled her sense of pallesthesia, due to their close proximity she could pick up on the sounds of the webbing being cut open.
Despite the show of power beforehand, they believed they had a chance to outnumber and overwhelm her. They didn’t know how they ended up like this but for whatever reason she hadn’t removed the weapons from them. Their knives and daggers, still laced with poison. Once they had won, they could take antidote from her and free the others or leave to let them succumb to the poison.
‘I was about to limit test Domination… but hey I don’t need everyone… let’s make an example out of them besides that should make the others more receptive of the spell anyway.’
- ‘Hey Alice? Are you hungry by chance?’
- ‘…? no…, humans… difficult to consume… no exoskeleton… messy…’
- ‘Er… fair enough I guess… Why did I go that way… eugkhh nevermind, let’s just let them make their move first. For now let’s act like we don’t know about their little plan.’
They were expecting her to abandon them once she had what she wanted, her actions were unexpected. She deliberately approached one who held a dagger under the silken bonds.
- “Let me help you down, you can free the rest.”
Due to being situated higher on the wall, he had the perfect opportunity to plunge the dagger right into her exposed neck and since she had no reason to suspect them. When she stepped close enough into his reach, he couldn’t help but let a conceited smirk form across his face. Why would he even try to hide it now? She couldn’t have noticed it from her angle, even if she did she wouldn’t recognize it’s underlying sinister intent. But against all odds even if she did, it was far too late for her to do anything anyway. He had won.
Or so he thought before she grabbed his hand and yanked him from the webbings, throwing him to the damp concrete. The rapid succession of events had left everyone but Alicia dazed of what just happened. Without letting go of his wrists she held his arm open before driving her knee into his elbow joint. It was accompanied by a vicious cracking sound before it deformed, clearly bent in a direction it was never meant to bend. During the sharp onset of pain and loud scream of agony that came after it, he dropped his poisoned dagger onto the floor, the poison spreading in the water. The other men, who had their weapons, recovered quickly and began to free themselves, landing on the ground in a splosh one after another with rallying cries.
- “Damnit! Let’s go!”
- “Get behind her!”
Outnumbered and surrounded, their victory would seem apparent. Even though they found themselves in the extraordinary situation of being caught by a single girl, it was at this moment freedmen made a tragic error by assuming Alicia was an ordinary human.
- “My what vulgar bunch you are…”
- “Oi listen here, we might just sell you off to some trafficker if you hand over that antidote and beg for mercy on your knees.”
- “Yeah! On your knees and cleaning this prick clean!”
So said another slavering over her beauty and how he would defile it, patting his groins. Mocking snickers spread around amongst the thugs freed from their bonds, but unusual worry spread among those who were still stuck to walls and ceilings. Without the rush of adrenaline coursing through their veins, they had the clarity to note Alicia's uncanny composure, without a sign of distress almost seemingly expecting this outcome. She was not even reaching for her weapon, which was still jammed ground.
⟨ Likurokinesis ⟩
Clenching her hand into a fist, the water under the feet of the nearby rogues began to turn into ice, welding them to the ground below, achieved through both temperature change and sheer power of magic forcing it to solidify. The man who just had one of his arms mutilated scowled with spite:
- “I’ll toss your bleeding head to that girl before we flay her and feed what remains both of you to the maggots!”
As the resulting ice was mostly formed through intense pressure rather than temperature and since their feet were already exposed to the chill waters they were none the wiser to their new frosty fetters. Once Alicia was sure they were sufficiently restrained she opened waterskin…-
- “Such sinister threats, such candid confidence…”
-…and poured out its contents into the ground, stunning everyone still. Shimmering, cascading liquid of their salvation was spilt, mixed with the sordid puddle. Before they could process what and the why…
“…Where’d all that aggression go? What’s the matter, got a-”
Pausing for the delivery…
- “KILL HER-”
They plunged headfirst into the water as soon as they attempted to charge towards her, they tripped, tied by the unexpected trappings. When they stumbled further into the waters, she took advantage of their exposure to it
⟨ Cryokinesis ⟩
The whole atmosphere of the room seemed to freeze over and it wasn’t metaphorical either as the frost quickly set in, trapping the heads, hands, legs of many under a glacial prison. The panic-stricken screams of those whose heads were entombed within the ice could be heard through and felt throughout the waters even to those without the skills necessary to understand the tune of vibrations.
- “See… Told you’d need your breath to scream later. Now is an acceptable time for it. Even if you’re wasting your last reserves of oxygen. As for the rest of you taking a bath…”
- “How many times have you been asked for mercy…?”
They were at loss for words, not even being able to lie. They never spared someone on their hit list. Even gloating and taking pride in their little perfect track record of slaughter.
- “And how many times did you show clemency…?”
The answer was obvious… It wasn’t clear if they were stammering due to cold sapping their stamina and heat or fright, though Alicia cared little for the distinction. She poured more and more mystic energies into the waters, draining even more heat from it and intensifying the freezing process. Crystals were now forming all across their bodies, silencing them forever. Their fates were sealed, only those who were still stuck their webbings and those that stayed their hand were spared of a frore demise. It was obvious now that she had never drawn her blade… Her magical abilities had been so overwhelming it was simply unnecessary, or so they thought.
And she clearly exempted a certain person of this slow end, the man with his broken arm. When her eyes slowly turned to him, terrified by what’s to come, he attempted to escape running to the doorway behind leading to stairs up, hugging the wall still holding his broken arm. Strangely she let him go, puzzling those left behind, until moments later he came back, his frantic screams echoing through the stony walls.
In his fearful sprint he tripped and splashed into the freezing waters but still carried on, crawling to Alicia, grasping at her legs even ignoring his broken arms. He looked up as if she was her saviour.
- “Th-There’s a monster coming! Please, you have to fight it! Or we’ll all die!”
Still donning an apathetic look she asked.
- “Now why would I do that…?”
The question was an odd one… It was obvious to those around her. Whatever monster he saw would have clearly been aggressive to her as well and even if she wanted to escape, leaving them as a distraction… she still needed to go out the same way the monster was coming.
- “What do you mean why?! It’s going to kill us all!”
Inhuman high pitched cry of some creature echoed from the hallpassageway followed by an emergence of the monster. Alicia knew what it was even before it’s reveal. A cave crawler. Horror quickly spread, with unintelligible screams coming from the man still clutching Alicia’s legs. Soon more cries of fear came from his former comrades, perhaps it was just now dawning on them what threat they all faced. He didn’t notice, but he was clutching onto something else… It wasn’t the slender shins a girl would strut with proudly. But a sleek tip of different a type of legs.
The creature, after observing them a little, slowly retreated, almost as if it lost interest.
- “Let me ask again… Why? Would. I. Do. That?”
- “W-what did you do to it?”
He had yet to face her, preoccupied by the monster’s appearance and now baffled by it’s strange departure he turned around to see an Araneae Hybrid. A beauty and a beast.
- “An odd answer… Well that should be all I need…”
>Subject’s willpower to resist sufficiently drained. Domination spell success rate estimated 99.9%. Required energy use reduced by 97.2%.
- “Now then… Do as I say.”
⟨ Domination ⟩
>New active available. ⟨ Relinquish ⟩ When used, abolishes effects Domination on target. Some changes may remain.
Incomprehensibly wailing man that was attempting to crawl away suddenly stood up and approached her, his fear still swam within his eyes yet the newly instilled obedience was more powerful obligating him to stay. It was difficult to say if he was the same man judging by his actions but there was no doubt about it on Alicia’s mind as she scrolled through his thoughts. Personality, memories, behaviours, skills and abilities everything that made him, him remained as it was… just this time, with a fanatical devotion to her cause, whatever it might be.
‘Well it’s the first thing to try out, I always wondered if a human could do this…’
- “Hold your breath…”
Previously a cold hearted assassin now turned into a devoted servant did as his new master dictated. His face turned red, sight blurred, and started to asphyxiate. His natural survival instincts, the reflex to breath all superseded by the command, until his very body could no longer carry out the order, collapsing as his conscious mind was unable to continue, deprived of oxygen. The spell’s hold remained and while it had no conscious mind to control it seeped into the subconscious mind. The man was dry suffocating, carrying out the last known orders, even without consciousness, as his body tried desperately to restart breathing.
‘Well that’s disturbing…
- “That’s enough!”
With a gasp his breathing resumed.
That’s an experiment alright… Interesting… and disturbing. Mostly disturbing.’
When she turned around to face the remaining men, stunned in dread, whimpering meaningless things to themselves. When she locked eyes with one of them, he voided his bowels… Indicated by unique smell urea and yellowish fluids dripping through the webbings.
>All targets suitable for Domination.
- “Congratulations gentlemen. You’re all under new employment!”