‘Wild’ Erp: Episode 3: Blessings of the Gods
I slipped into an alley running perpendicular to the main thoroughfare, stepping from shadow to shadow until I came to a small street with a large contingent of undead shuffling about looking for their next meal. Glancing around I remember a smile spreading across my face when I saw the buildings around me. A large inn stood both on my side, and across the street. I checked the handle and the door swung open silently, so I stepped in and stopped, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness while listening for anything that would give away a potential problem. After a few moments of hearing nothing I quickly crept over to the stairs and ascended to the second floor. I made my way up the staircase, the wooden beams creaking softly underfoot, until I came to an open door. It was a small room, sparsely furnished with a straw mattress and a chamber pot. Through the open window I could see the inn across the street, and the window that lined up with this one. Taking a deep breath I suddenly burst into the room with a speed I rarely had need of. I leapt, planted a foot on the windowsill and flew out into the air between the two inns. The glass paned window rushed up at me, and a second before I hit it and alerted the entire street to my presence, my body was torn apart and I felt myself propelled through the glass, an odd feeling that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
I came back into the real world and fell into a roll in the small room. I stopped by planting my foot hard on the floor and listened for any noises. A scream pierced the air from the floor below, as if someone was being butchered. I crept to the door and opened it, careful to push up on the handle, lifting the entire thing the tiniest bit, but enough to prevent the hinges from squeaking. The hallway was dark, lit only by the light escaping from the first floor. The scream echoed through the building once more and I felt myself start walking toward the stairs. I stalked down them as quietly as I could and came out onto the first floor in a large reception room. It was destroyed, one of the walls having collapsed and taken part of the second floor with it. In the middle of the room was the source of the screaming, a skeleton staring at it’s bony hands.
“You Defiant bastard! You said it wouldn’t hurt me!” The skeleton screamed at a bald man with an odd looking staff. The man merely laughed and shrugged.
“I am as good as my word, you felt no pain. You didn’t ask if you’d be stripped of your humanity. Still, a small price to pay in the long run.” The skeleton shook, though I couldn’t tell if it was from rage or the magic holding it together.
“Small price? Small price? Let’s see if you think it’s a small price when I rip the flesh from your lying bones!” The skeleton launched itself at the bald man, but a black shadow interceded and threw the skeleton to the ground. The bald man stood over the skeleton with a sneer on his face as the shade held it down.
“You said you want to help, and you shall. Shade, take him and hook him up to one of the machines.” The Defiant turned away and walked over to a small table where he took a quill and dipped it in an ink well. The skeleton screamed as the shade lifted it easily into the air and carried it out. When it was gone, the Defiant set down his quill and looked directly at me. “Well, now that we’ve got that taken care of, how can I help you my good Dwarf?” I stepped out of the shadows of the stairwell, right hand on the hilt of a dagger in what I hoped was a casual, yet warning, stance.
“Who are you?” I asked, sauntering over and putting the toe of my boot into the rubble and ash piled up on the floor.
“Well, I guess introductions are in order. My name is Varil Lorithian, Master Technician of the Defiant, at your service,” His bow was stiff and he never took his eyes off of me. “and your name my good Dwarf?”
“Not your business, judging by what I’ve seen,” I spat. Varil laughed heartily and waved a hand toward the door the skeleton had been carried out of.
“Don’t feel bad for him, he was a traitor anyway. I just made him useful.”
“Aye, and exactly how is that?” Varil waved the question aside as if it didn’t matter.
“I think I’ve heard enough, Guardian. You think you’re helping, but we’re creating an army of the dead to defeat Regulos, and sacrifices must be made.”
“The walking dead in this city, that’s your doing?” I asked, horrified. Varil merely nodded and smiled.
“Some of them anyway. Enough of this, I’ve got work to do. Give my love to your Gods, Guardian.” The ball atop Varil’s staff glowed an otherworldly green and his mouth opened to cast a spell that probably would have ended very badly for me. I didn’t really feel like finding out, so I kicked with my foot, sending the soot and ash into the Defiant’s face. He stumbled back, spitting and wiping the dirt out of his eyes, and I was on him.
I lunged with my dagger, but it was turned aside by a force shield. I kept hammering for a way through, sending yellow sparks flying with every thrust. Varil laughed and waved his staff, sending me flying into the opposite wall. I slammed into it with such force that one of the wooden support beams cracked, or a rib, I wasn’t exactly sure. I gasped as the air was driven from my lungs, and Varil walked slowly toward me, his staff focused and keeping me stuck to the wall.
“Foolish Dwarf, you had to stick your massive nose where it didn’t belong.”
“Let me go and fight like you aren’t a coward, for once in your miserable life, Sorcerer!” I shouted, and while Varil did laugh, he also released his spell and I fell to the ground.
“Very well, attack at your leisure. You have three swings before I kill you, use them wisely.” Varil laughed and slammed his staff into the ground. I lunged, then dropped to a roll and came up almost underneath him, but the point of my dagger was turned away nearly a foot from him. As it was being deflected I brought my other dagger down toward Varil’s chest, but it too hit the invisible barrier. Cursing I rolled back to get some room. Varil watched from behind him protective bubble, his voice grating in its mirth.
“Once more, and quickly if you would, I have places to be. Even now Orphiel is working on creating a new type of Ascended, and now that I have finished the last of my experiments I’ll be joining him in history.” Varil laughed deeply, and I glanced around the room for something. My eyes once again went to the dirt and soot on the floor, so I scooped up a large handful. Varil raised an eyebrow as I did so. “A feeble final thrust,” He smirked as I threw the handful at him. It hit his barrier and coated it. “If you hoped to blind me with that, you’re dumber than most of your kind.”
But it wasn’t blindness I was attempting, merely to see the extent of his barrier, and exactly how far from his body it rested. I felt the world rip through me and I was propelled forward, right through the magical barrier. It was a tight fit, and I came back into the material world with my legs wrapped around Varil’s waist, my head on his shoulder, and my dagger shoved up under his chin. The light in Varil’s staff sputtered and disappeared, and as he fell to the ground I released my hold, rolling to my feet. A breeze hit my back, and I pulled off my shirt to see that the back was missing.
“Cut it close this time, you old fool,” I grumbled at myself while stripping Varil of his leather doublet. It was well made and would provide much more protection than the thin shirt I had found myself in when I woke up in the church what seemed like ages ago. I slipped out the front door and back into the street. It was nearly empty, and I continued to make my way toward the church that was my destination. It was mostly rubble from what I could see, but as I stepped inside I saw the massive anvil shrine to Bahralt.
As I knelt before the altar the air became colder and I felt an oddness creep over me, until I began praying, asking for the blessing of Bahralt to empower me. As I did I felt a presence, amazingly powerful and full of love, even for a bastard like me. My limbs filled with power and my exhaustion disappeared entirely. The blades of my daggers glowed with a bright light and then, as suddenly as it had come, it was gone, and yet I felt different. I left the small church and made my way along the abandoned streets, heading for the spot Borrin had marked on my map as the location of the machines creating the walking dead. I didn’t give it much thought until I turned a corner and saw what I was looking for. Row upon row of horrible machines, harnessing the power of sacrifices to change living beings into the walking dead.
A shade wandered between the screaming skeletons, adjusting straps and checking dials on the machines as he went. When he saw me he let out a howl that sounded more like the wind than any creature I had ever head. It shot through the air at me and I brought up my dagger in a feeble attempt to protect myself. To my amazement, and the amazement of the shade, my dagger burst into a bright light and tore through the shade, shredding it to pieces. It took me a second to regain my composure, but by then I knew I had received Bahralt’s blessing. I walked up to the first machine and took a close, horrifying look.
The machine fed tubes and the power of the plane of death through the still living skeleton’s attached to them. They screamed and flailed but it didn’t stop that power from bursting from their chests, corrupting the innocent Mathosians the Defiant were using as subjects. Each machine was connected to the others by massive cables, all of which led back to one massive machine. I stepped over to the closest one and jabbed my dagger deep into the circuitry. A bright light bit into the metal and built up until the machine sputtered, and as the light died out it sparked an explosion that passed from one machine to the other, the holy energy attacking the death plane energy powering the machines and destroying them. The Mathosians who were still alive ran, and the skeletons fell to the ground, finally lifeless. All except the one next to me, the one I had seen in the inn. It looked up from the ground, it’s hollow eyes staring straight at me.
“Kill me, don’t leave me like this.” It made noises as if sobbing, but it had no tears to shed. Neither did I.
“Where’s Orphiel? Where’s this death machine?” If he could produce Ascended, and had sided with Regulos as it appeared, then I needed to find him and put an end to his abominations.
“He…he said something about Overwatch, but I don’t know.” I believed him, he had no reason to lie, not now. His sobbing finally stopped when I brought the heel of my boot down and crushed his skull.
“These machines won’t be a problem anymore, and if I find Orphiel with another of them, or something worse, he’ll die a death even this poor bastard wouldn’t envy.” I scraped the bone fragments from the bottom of my boot as I turned toward the road that would take me to the city gates.