B.3 Chapter 38: Change on the Rise
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The early morning sky was a cloudy gray, its miserable appearance reminding James of frost’s constant monotone feel. Draugr’s Haunt was rocking beneath him, the longship’s journey through the waters far from smooth. While it once gave him motion sickness and fear of the sea, James was far from emptying his stomach over the edge of the railing. He was instead focused on what he saw the previous night. His time with Iendis and the fates he was subjected to. Despite brushing off the experience, James hadn’t been the same. Truth be told, he was freaked out by it all.


Earthlings, death, fate. All of it was on his mind. It didn’t help that he had only gotten answers and loose promises from his trip to the tree of fate.


‘Do you think we’ll be able to fix our wound?’ Faust spoke up, interrupting James’ thoughts.


‘Iendis told us herself. We can heal it. It’s possible. We just need to find a way for Dahlia to figure it out.’ James answered sourly. As much as he wanted to, James couldn’t discuss what had happened to Dahlia. Faust was the only one he could tell his fates to.


The speaker back at that island had informed James that his meeting with Iendis was only for him and Faust to know. No one else. That meant James couldn’t share anything with his closest friends.


Of course, that didn’t prevent him from trying. Just the other night, he had tried to tell Dahlia about his meeting with the demi-goddess. It didn’t end well. The second he had spoken, his body locked up. His throat had turned to cotton and his chest felt as if it was being squeezed. James couldn’t say a single damned thing about his meeting. Even mentioning what Iendis looked like sparked this response.


The shaman didn’t take it well. She was currently on the other side of the deck, avoiding eye contact with the blond man.


James couldn’t blame her. It wasn’t easy for Dahlia. She had tried her damndest to find a solution, to figure out how to save James. Iendis was her last hope, and the closest thing to an explanation she got was a vague answer and stacked odds. Dahlia needed time.


‘What was the point of meeting Iendis if I can’t even tell my friends?’ James wondered.


‘That’s the cost of the Tree of Fate, I suppose,’ Faust muttered. ‘These are your fates to know. To tell anyone else alive would clue them in on their own fates. Perhaps that is why I am the only one who you’re allowed to tell.’


James cursed under his breath at that. It was such a stupid rule. He would still change the fates of those around him. What would change if Dahlia or Seamus knew about it?


“The gods really are something,” James murmured. He looked up at the clouded sky, recalling what Iendis had told him about fate favoring him.


‘Maybe it would be better if we’re out of the equation. Balance fate’s scales so that the clan lives on.’


James now knew the dangers of his lucky escapades. The consequences of his actions. The more he continued to escape danger and avoid death, the more people that would suffer because of it.


‘Do not think like that. We cannot attribute our life to the suffering of others,’ Faust said.




‘We are alive for a reason, no? Fate favors us. For what, I do not know. What I know is that we cannot throw our lives away so carelessly. We have a clan to lead, a home to grow, and friends to protect.’


James could feel how his body rose in heat as Faust ranted.


‘You have something I never had, James. You have a chance to lead a better life. Instead of sulking about your cursed futures, we should instead focus on acquiring one for the clan.’


Faust’s words hit James in a way he didn’t expect. The centurion was right. The fates he had seen at that tree only detailed his own. The only one that showed a safe future for his friends and clan was the one with the outlanders.


‘You’re right.’


James reached into his satchel and pulled out a small pink blossom. Even in the dull light of the clouded day, it glowed with vibrancy. This was the one blossom he kept, the one that showed an actual good ending. Iendis had told him to hold on to it, as good luck for his travels.


‘Maybe we can acquire a good future for the clan…’ James thought.


‘How do you suppose we acquire this fate?’ Faust questioned.


“I have to find them,” James answered. “The outlanders.” He remembered their names. Arthur and Naomi. Both summoned from earth by conniving gods and sentenced to survive in this world. Even if Arthur was sided with the Lumen Kingdom, there had to be some sense that James could knock into him.


“That’s our mission. Once the clan is financially stable and we get our bond fixed, we will find them.”





Gwenyth pulled on her hood, doing her best to hide herself in this part of Vindis. The slums known as the copper district was a shithole to say the least. Scum and criminals scoured the edge of the shadows, their presence enough to make anyone fear for their life. The elf herself wasn’t fearful of the slums. She felt more on edge than afraid. While no mere thug could do anything to really threaten her, she still had to keep herself secluded and secretive. If she got into a fight, word about her and her group could reach the ears of the Thieves Guild.


Gwenyth made a face at the thought of that crime syndicate. That those swindlers and scum made an entire guild for their crimes was a despicable thought. They ruled Vindis from the shadows, which made it all the worst. The city was corrupted from the roots, making it an infeasible feat to try to control it. The clans that fought for its ‘control’ were doing it in vain. Just because you say you own it does not mean you actually do. In the end, it would be the people and scum that truly run it.


“We’re close,” Arthur called back to her.


“We are?” Gwenyth asked. They were still in the slums, where most of the platforms still shook and dead ships were used as makeshift buildings. “Your contact couldn’t afford to live in a better place?”


“The watch never comes around here,” Arthur explained to her. “Makes it secluded enough for us to continue with our work.” The former apostle continued his brisk pace, not missing a single beat as he passed by hobos and worn out escorts.


Gwenyth had to give it to him. Arthur blended in with the locale seamlessly. His way of movement and speech was enough for him to look like he was one with the peasants. Eilif and William, on the other hand, stood out like beacons. The herald looked out of place, his staring and muffled gags making it clear that he was not a commoner. William was a soldier, sure, but he was far from used to the peasantry. The herald had lived in Lumen City most of his life. The sight of slums and decrepit buildings was definitely off putting for him.


Eilif didn’t stand out as much as him, but the bounty hunter still looked creepy to be around. His brass goggles and grinning mask were unsettling to look at, which certainly made it harder for him to blend in. The immortal man also had his cloak and hood on, which was supposed to conceal his figure and mask, but Gwenyth could still see how the locals reacted to his visage. She couldn’t blame them. On the surface, Eilif reassembled the boatman, ready to reap the souls of this helhole.


Out of the group, only Gwenyth and Arthur looked like they belonged. The elf herself had counted a few strange looks directed at her, but she knew it wasn’t for her disguise. To see a young-looking woman in these parts was possibly a rarity of all things. Even with her hood up and her cloak covering her body, she could still catch the looks of dirty looking men and the toothless grins of degenerates. The elf had to refrain herself from reacting to the stares by tearing these vermin a new one.


“We’re here,” Arthur suddenly spoke up. The group stopped dead in their tracks. Gwenyth peered over the old man’s shoulder.


“You’re joking.” She grimaced. Where she expected a building, there was none. There was instead a capsized galleon, its hull facing the sky. Runic symbols and war paint decorated the hull, along with the name.




It was so exposed, so out there. She wondered if Arthur was fucking with her.


“This is your contact’s hideout?” Gwenyth added with disbelief.


Arthur sighed. “It is. As hard as it is to believe, this is where we’ll be setting our operations.”


“You couldn’t find a better spot?” William commented. “This is… really exposed.”


“Believe me. This place is safe,” Arthur assured everyone with a wave of his hand. “The town watch refuses to come to this part of town and Thieves Guild don’t dare to tread this area,” he continued as he walked towards the capsized ship. Gwenyth reluctantly followed behind, but not before checking her surroundings first. She couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was being watched.


The group managed to fit through the opening at the rear of the ship, where cargo would usually go in for a galleon of this size. The dust-heavy atmosphere was enough to make the elf sneeze, her eyes red with tears as she waved off the thickening air. Eilif seemed to be the only one not affected by it, which was obvious. William had to cover his mouth with his cloak, and even then he occasionally coughed and sneezed.


Gwenyth squinted through the low light of the ship’s interior, her focus on Arthur. The outlander was wearing his scarf over his nose and mouth, keeping him from coughing and sneezing like the rest. He stopped over a hatch the elf didn’t see before. He kicked at it, causing it to swing open.


“What’s that?” Gwenyth asked as she approached.


“Ladder,” Arthur simply answered. “We’re going down.” He looked at the elf, his eyebrow raising. “Ladies first?”


“Very kind of you.” Gwenyth rolled her eyes as she stepped to the open hatch. The elf cautiously took her time climbing down, her vision clearing a little as she got adjusted to the darkness. Naturally, her eyes could see through the dark if given time. Common elves already had better eyesight than humans, but Gwenyth’s was superior. The deck was nearly empty, the only thing around being all but crates and random furniture long abandoned. Once the elf reached the floor, Arthur was already halfway down.


“What is this place?” Gwenyth asked.


“An old hideout, once used by thieves.” The former apostle explained. “That is until it was taken over.”


“Who took it over?” William called out as he started his descent. Before Arthur could shout an answer, the floor shook. Gwenyth tensed up at the feeling, her sense going sharp as the air suddenly turned electric. The particles in the air froze for a moment, as did everything around the elf. She grabbed at her saber, her gaze moving to wherever the source of the magic could be.


Gwenyth was midway with unsheathing the blade before a hand grabbed at her shoulder. Her focus was broken and the elf stopped.


“Stand down,” Arthur boomed. Gwenyth stared at him, unsure if he was asking for a punch to his throat. Before she could berate the former apostle, she stopped herself. Arthur wasn’t talking to her.


“You told me you were with trusted people,” a female voice called out from nowhere. Without warning, the air shimmered and shifted before the group. Illusion magic was dispelled and Gwenyth was met with the sight of a witch. The black-haired woman looked beyond angry, her hands already mid-way through forming runes.


“These are trusted people,” Arthur started, his hand gesturing to the group.


That is a silver-haired elf! Are you trying to get me smited?” The witch pointed at Gwenyth with an accusatory glance.


The elf raised an eyebrow at the witch. Although this woman could accurately tell that she was a silver-haired elf, she had outed herself as being stupid enough to believe that the pure-blooded elves were products of the goddess Delphine. It was a common myth, but one founded in fear.


“This is your contact?” Gwenyth asked with a mutter.


Arthur sighed and nodded. “This is Lydia. She has a tendency to be careful when it comes to the divine.” His words seemed to anger the witch more.


“Excuse me for being careful, but I do not want to risk the golden bitch’s wrath just because I was around her precious descendants.” The witch argued with a scowl.


“That is a myth,” Gwenyth countered. “I have no relation with her. Believe me.” The elf raised her prosthetic, her hand lowering the bandages to showcase the wrist. Lydia raised an eyebrow at the gesture, before her eyes settled on the small insignia embedded in the enchanted porcelain. Her reaction dropped at the sight of it, her features losing its aggression.


“How did you…?”


“It’s a long story. I’d rather not get into it,” Gwenyth sighed as she lowered her arm. “Do you still believe us to be her inquisitors?”


“No. That insignia is proof enough,” Lydia muttered as she lowered her hands.


“What about the herald?” Eilif suddenly asked. “You don’t seem particularly upset about William here.”


“Azlene has nothing against the dark arts,” the witch explained. “In fact, her old clergy used dark magic in the past. The ember goddess might side with the golden whore, but she’s not fully into the whole ‘light’ side of things.”


That caused the immortal to chuckle a little, his raspy voice making it sound like he was heaving.


“You, on the other hand…” Lydia muttered. “What are you?”


“I am a simple bounty hunter,” Eilif answered. “No need to pay me any attention.” The response was far from what Lydia wanted. The witch narrowed her gaze at the cloaked man, her mouth opening for another question.


Before she could get one out, however, Arthur interrupted. “We’re not here for an introduction. Lydia, you said you found our target?”


“I did. Last month, a man came here. He made contact with the thieves and made some kind of trade with them.”




“Don’t know what deal they made, but it was pricey enough that they sent him off to hunt my former mentor down,” Lydia explained.


“Your mentor? The necromancer?” Arthur asked in a surprised tone. “Is he…?”


“No,” Lydia shook her head. “The idiot instead went off to join him. For studying purposes, of course.”


The witch’s words visibly stunned Arthur. He clenched his fists. “He has Malik with him? Are you serious?”


“Believe me, I tried to stop him,” Lydia huffed. “That moron saw something in him.”


The elf couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Their perpetrator had a necromancer on his side now? He made dealings with the Thieves Guild? It was dangerous to think about that kind of man with dark connections. It was enough to make Arthur visibly shocked. That itself made Gwenyth on edge.


‘What are we dealing with?’


“This man, the one your mentor went with, what’s he like?” Gwenyth asked suddenly.


“He was tall, blond, and looked disheveled. Appearances aside, he was something I had never seen before,” Lydia described.


The elf raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”


“He had a spirit in him. Bonded with his ley lines like a second soul. They fought in sync and used an assortment of magic. Necromancy, cryomancy, mind manipulation, control of the undead, unlike anything I saw before.”


“The Draugr,” Arthur muttered.


The Draugr. Gwenyth remembered the rumors of such a man. They had their suspicions, but it was still a surprise that their perpetrator was the same man who was feared in the southern islands.


“That confirms it,” William muttered behind Gwenyth. “The Draugr is the same man who broke the ley lines.”


“Where is he?” Arthur asked.


“He’s not in Vindis anymore,” Lydia revealed. “He left with Malik some time ago. Not sure where they went.”


“I see.” Arthur shook his head. “Is this place secured?” He asked suddenly.


“It is. Malik or not, this place is still mine,” Lydia proudly stated.


“Good.” Arthur glanced around the musty ship. “We’ll set our base of operations here. Watch the city and make sure this Draugr is our guy.” His words seemed to infuriate the witch.


“What? You’re not setting your base here!”


“We’re going to. Otherwise, our deal is off,” Arthur revealed. That did something. Lydia’s look of annoyance was replaced with seething rage.


“You better not, Clarke! You promised me!” The witch shouted.


“You promised to help me in any way you can. Until the ley lines are sealed once more, you’re not getting anything from me.” Arthur’s words hung in the dust filled air. Lydia only stared at him, her jaw visibly clenching. Finally, she broke eye contact.


“Fine! Do what you want, but you owe me.” The witch turned around, heading off to the hatch nearby.


Gwenyth watched as the young woman climbed down, leaving the group all alone. “What was that about?” She asked.


“I made her a deal a long time ago.” Arthur revealed.




“Her brother was killed years back. I made a deal with her to give her the man who did it,” Arthur explained.


The elf raised an eyebrow. “You know who it was?”


“Of course I do.” Arthur sighed, his fingers moving to rub at his eyes. “The Red Death himself. Deimos.”





The spell crystal sat alone on the table, its dull blue hue showcasing nothing extraordinary. The Red Death watched it with calm patience, awaiting the call that was due a couple of minutes ago. Just as he was about to question Eli’s punctuality, the glass surface glowed and hummed. He grinned, his hand moving to grab at it.


“Jackal,” Deimos muttered the passcode for it. In response, the crystal shone some more, signifying that a connection was made.


“What’s your update?” He asked. The crystal shimmered and blinked at his question before responding in a low hum.


“There isn’t much. Holter’s process is hard to track, mainly from the lack of ley lines. We are in a floating city.”


“But you have found a trace?” Deimos raised an eyebrow.


“Yes. It reeks of him. My raven found traces of him around the slums and harbor. There is also talk of a draugr in the shadows.” Eli’s voice came in a low whisper, almost as if he was trying not to get caught. “I believe he is dealing with the Thieves Guild here.”


“So his influence reaches farther than we thought.” Deimos chuckled as he leaned back in his chair. “Continue to investigate. See what else there is about the city.”


“Yes, sir… Are we going to carry out the initiative?” The last word Eli spoke out was coated in what Deimos could assume was excitement.


The Red Death smiled. “Soon. When the pieces are in place, we shall carry out and seize the opportunity.”