The Peaceful Forest
Lee’s dramatic exultation called Alicia from her momentary stupors, and she gave Kao’s shoulder a brief brush of her hand, and turned to the man whom she was sure had one hell of a day. Most likely mnemonically reminding herself that this man had had most of his day rightfully taken away for a brief mistake she had, well, it could be more aligned to a colossal fuck-up if they had to assign adjectives to the sort. But waving that all away, she turned her violet hues to him, finding herself smiling as she saw the double pistols being drawn from his side like a western repeater, and her head took a moment to cant and sent her waves of jet-black down her shoulder.
“I know what I should be saying is ‘regretfully, I cannot sacrifice a denizen, et cetera, et cetera. But we shall cast aside those humours, yes?” She straightened herself up, her gait altering as she took fluid steps to him, closing the gap in mere moments. “So, the target we are hunting is a supposed child prodigy of an experiment gone wrong in the slums of Nich`e.” A soft husk caressed her voice as she laughed, her head shook and she placed her hands onto her hips. “Good lord, I could never say it went wrong; no, it was actually a wonderful breakthrough! A drug that can actually alter the molecular genetics of a person! Do you know what you could do with that kind of power? Humans into Angels! You could twist Nephilim into Daemons! Daemons to Hell Guards! It is fantastic! But no… Drav was not happy with that simple-mindedness, he wanted something more… He wanted me, he wanted my nephew, and he got the blood of our kind. Exolaeth.” Her face turned into a sick grimace, eyes going dark at the very thought. A snarl nearly left her as she went on. “Exposition aside, they escaped. They could level a city. Yadda, yadda. She’s too young to understand that, so you can help if you would like. Just don’t get yourself hurt. If it comes to worse, shoot her in the head. Won’t kill her, but it’ll knock her out long enough.” Finally she was done speaking.
Alicia offered Lee a small smile, and then she was wandering around the encampment. There were things to say, and others to check on. She met with a few of her commanding officers, men and women encased in black, but around each of them flowed a billowing blue cloak. She doubt much what she had to say had any meaning to Lee, but she made sure to at least act accordingly. The difference between her now and her aloof personally was magnificently vast, but it was not different enough to call her an entire different person. The thought and mind would always be the same, so when she was finished, she turned to offer the same silly innocent smile like the one on the day of their fated meeting on the beach. This was not his war, and she would continue to repeat those words into her mind; even as she crossed through to the different coloured cloaks, she dismissed each of them. Some would wander to the wagons and caravans, others would head off into the woods on their own. The farewells were bitter in their own way. Each of them were stalking to different parts of the world, whether they remained entirely in Terrenus, she couldnt say. The hunt for something that has been on the loose for the better part of three years left enough holes to search, gather, and research. With the last of the troops spoken with, she made her way back to Lee’s side, another smile this time smaller, but a shrug after.
“I do believe we are done here,” she murmured quietly, and rose a hand to her chest. Violet light slowly beamed off of her form, and she glanced around the encampment. Dark of the night slowly started to fill in the forest clearing. Trees began to materialize one by one, they came into view as the caravans and wagons slowly began to fade; dissolving into blackened particles. The Obsidian armoured warriors were next, each slowly turning into nothing. The stage that had been their night’s enjoyment, a place Alicia really enjoyed her time, even if briefly… It, too, began to dissolve away and become replaced with a lush richness of grass and dismembered logs. The world was finally taking its toll, and this was a source she was not willing to entertain. Moments later, Lee and Alicia stood side by side in a rich forest milieu. The silence of the night set in around them, a blackened cast throwing over lights; dimlit fires were gone, and all that could be viewed were what their eyes allowed them to see.
She proffered Lee a smile. “It seems like I don’t have much time left,” a laugh fell from her lips. “Well, let’s get going.”
A smile turned grin, and she looked down his form, could have been sizing him up; but instead she gave a flick of her wrist, and a disc of light formed beneath them. Numbers started to appear in their most common form, and a ticking hand swept, and swept until an aura of glowing orange would caress their frames. Alicia took the lead and dashed off, her form a blackened blur that whizzed through the forest with accelerated celerity, leaving a path of faded gold for her companion to follow.
Last Chance—The Safest City in Terrenus
Two years to go until retirement, at least that is what Zef thought to himself as he bounded down the usual beaten path through the docks. He wore his usual blue-silver tabard over a rusting chaimail hauberk, and his rune-blade sat unused for four months at his side. Zef passed a building, an ordinary looking shack that hung weathered seaweed over it, he always thought it looked strange but he passed it nearly every day on his way to the Wall. It belonged to an unlicensed apothecary who believed that the Wylds would be coming back, raising from some forgotten ancient prophecy to curse and bring Last Chance back to the plagues of the underworld, but Zef believed differently. The Madame has shaped things up, brought Last Chance out of its desperate plea of need and into one of the largest and safest cities in Terrenus; but that didn’t stop those who thought this place once a safe haven for the immoral to make their way here.
As such the Apothecary was allowed to continue their practice as long as they operated a front-end business and paid their taxes to the Madame. And if one of their products was so much as led back to them, they would be slammed with regulations and permits. Zef didn’t care though, and the amount of dealings he had seen in the three years he worked as a CDF, most of them if pestered enough would indeed lead back to the Apothecary in some way. As he rounded the building to the North-East he spotted the Apothecary standing with a shadow of a man. Or at least, he seemed like one until a light flickered above, exposing a scarred and riddled line face. Zef usually avoided interrupting business but something about this man seemed off, and he couldn’t place it. Now that Zef thought about it, he had seen that man a few times before…
Ignore it. Just leave it be. It is just your imagination.
Remember what Aya said? You’re just thinking about that same event over and over. Zef always shrunk into his coat when he passed the Apothecary, but tonight’s honorable guest caused him to pull in just that bit more. The scarred man was much larger up close. He had broad shoulders and a chest shaped like an iron-keg, and when he lifted a light to the Apothecary’s pipe, his hands looked like gigantic mugs meant for ale. Just that brief flash drew Zef’s attention to the shaggy peppered beard that then raised his gaze to a scar that disappeared beneath it. Zef rounded another building and nearly shook out of his bones when the Apothecary’s hollowed-skull laughter rung out. What on earth were those two chatting about?
The sounds of laughter eventually faded and Zef was continuing down the beaten path once more, a path he had trudged over a thousand times as he neared the end of the docks toward the Wall. Relief swept through him as he began to see the common dock workers start their shift, and he shared smiles and nods as he passed on through, hustling as quick as he could to his post. Sunlight was now beginning to crest the darkness of night, the rays splitting above the massive parapets, the exposing the Madame’s grandest addition in all of Last Chance: The Wall. The familiar banter and chit-chat of workers aided in settling; topics of the usual sort, of course, weather, shipments, and the mummery of none of it going well.
The tower at the top of the Wall provided amble enough freedom for Zef, at least enough for him to finally get settled. The chair felt stiff against his back and he stood from it, made his way to the door and swung it open to exit, feeling the need to move now that his nerves were settling. A shadow stood at the other end of the door, its form was just disfigured enough for Zef to yell what the fuck before the colossal slime of a fist crushed into his chest, bending him inward and slamming him into the wall of the tower. Splintered shelves fell around as the oozed creature lanked into the tower room, the metal light overhead swung from the debris and Zef got a good look to the creature’s monstrous form… or lack of form. It held no definite shape except grotesque, it’s body a writhe of bones and putrid carapaces mismatched, they swirled and floated over the creature’s form like cursory bees to a flower.
Zef watched the creature lower its head beneath the light, it’s jaws began to unhinge, it’s massive arms expanded and the creature let loose a blood curdling screech that caused him to swear and shut them close, hoping to avoid any lasting damage in the process. It ambled then, Zef made a notion to move, dodging quickly from the first strike as the furrows of blackened claws sliced through the marbled stone, deep rows of sludge were left behind and he backed into the door. Rushing out into the night, another figure emerging into his path. This time Zef was prepared and he drifted his hand to unsheathe his rune-blade, however, the shadow launched over his head and took off toward the interior of the tower. Zef made to glance but did no such thing, instead he found a place to halt when he no longer heard a sound.
Silence greeted him as he stopped moving, catching his breath and wheezing the air of his cursing skipped days of fitness. He turned back to his tower, seeing nothing out of the ordinary… That was until the tower wall buckled in, and stone exploded out in every direction as the figure that launched over his form was flung onto the non-malleable walkway in front of him. The body was lithe, slender to a point. As the sunlight finally creased, it exposed a ray of golden-silk hair and two sturdy points of ears. It launched into the rushing shadow, and the figure spun with two bleeding blades of night. Sun light kissed the blades in just a way that Zef saw starlight bleeding from the weapons as they sliced into the creature’s hollowed-husk of a stomach. The creature let loose a horrifying screech that went short the moment the shadowed figure released its head… probably its head?
Right! The Alarm!
Zef moved to back up and felt something solid and sturdy behind him, he turned around to see the scarred man glancing down to him. Fuck… He’s huge. The man gave a kind smile that would scare motherly wolves away; the scarred man made to step past him, his large figure casting a horrifying shadow to the land below as it walked toward the slimmer form. The two turned to glance to one another and for a moment Zef was thinking they were possible partners, but that ended the moment the slimmer figure launched toward the scarred figure. They clashed and the sound of their blades rung a high pitched wheeze, and Zef bolted down into the next tower’s door. He swung it open and was greeted by another monstrous figure, it’s carapace was different.
“Not this time!” He roared as he swung his rune blade down across the creature’s head as he had saw from the slimmer form. His blade lodged and then rebounded, an aura of silver flickered around the monstrosity and it swiped toward Zef. Panicking, he dodged and kicked back, rolling onto the stone floor and lifting back up right. His breathing harsh from the fleeing, the nerves, and everything about him… He didn’t take time to notice the crescendo of an alarm resounding along the walls. More CDFs began to appear, and the glimmer of hope that Zef would be saved was extinguished when he saw the litany of forms clashing below with an army of ambled monstrosities.
The Separation of Chaos—Into Eternity
It was the freedom of the run that carried Alicia forward, her mind wandered to the matter at hand and that was how she was. The past no longer belonged to her, it was lost from her; and she was happy with that. What she had done, and what she will do shall remain behind her for the coming days and though others may end up paying for her transgressions among the land, it would not be her duty to care. Apologies were slippery in that sense, they came from her in the same way as the flames licked the air, desperate and with hope, but nearly pointless and empty. Because at the end of the day, the flames will retire to charcoal and the sticks will be burnt…
With wind whipping her hair across her face, she turned toward Lee to see if he chased after with the same fervor she was accelerating. The forest floor beneath her was hardly noticeable with the enchantment still in effect, they were almost gliding at nearly four times that of the fastest sprinter in all of Archadia. She thought to yell something, to perhaps warn him of future endeavors, but she herself did not know entirely what they were to come up against. Instead as they rushed through the darkening, yet enlightening wold, the milieu becoming smaller to their destination, Alicia let her eyes close and she expanded herself into the astral realm. Her physical was locked to a destination, and so she expanded herself to her Source.
As her body became lighter and her mind wandered, the world around her brightened, light slanting through the thickened brush of leaves and foliage, Alicia would gently glance around momentarily and then reach out to the small shards of aether she could feel. Digits brushed over thin-sliced blades of pure energy, and she felt the Source hum to her, welcoming her and there she took her step. Leaping into the next plane of existence, she would stand before a massive ball of concentrated power. Rings upon rings of itself stood high in the sky, massive roots of aether trailed off in woven patterns like that of a grand oak. Each branch delivering aether as the spherical orb of energy pulsed with hummed energy.
Most of the time… insurance plans were never needed, but Alicia was not somebody to have anything go smoothly. With a gentle tap of the sphere she grasped a newly created thread, and with it she spun it softly, gently opening her lips and letting out a soft song as she spun the wove of aether down through the forests, past the forceful leylines that endagered her very being, and she would latch it to Lee’s back. However, the empowerment would not be active just yet… After all, it was a small sliver of aether, it needed to grow big and strong, didn’t it? Alicia smiled to this, she turned to the sphere and offered a prayer of gratitude. She closed her eyes.
The moment they reached the end of the Peaceful forests was when things began to turn a bit grimy, despite the shattered blades of light that fractured overhead and split into multitudes of beams that allowed the imagination to paint the scene before them. The entirety of the frontward wall of Last Chance’s massive fortified barricades were covered in a substance not altogether far from blackened plasma. The gloops dropped off and fell into a heavy, thickened splat, smothering an already sheened floor, land that was corrupted and corroded as the battle raged on within. Alicia dove head first when the first creature rose up from the blackened tar, it’s body a barrel of plasma and its head nothing but chunks of bone and cartilage. Alicia struck with a force akin to a ramming ballistic, her fist slammed deep to the elbow into the beast’s gem beating heart and she ripped it free, forcing the blackened catalyst away and sending the creature sprawling. Turning over behind her to check on Lee, she called out to him. Another of the creatures lanked forward, its body was more slender and several skulls were already aligned over its shoulder, chest, and make-shift hips.
Taking the initiative to move toward him, Alicia halted to the sound of glass being crunched, she sank to a crouch, spinning her frame and drawing up her Source-blade, the weapon wheeled to life, energy humming as it flicked through the air. CLANG! Preparing to buck against the creature and drive a wedge against their form, Alicia found herself stopped short to the figure in front of her. This thing, whatever it was, was not one of the oily black beings that came from a vast quantity of nether, no… this figure was far more slender, far more feminine. A blade of light tipped over the trees, shedding onto the figure she was crossed with, a snarl left her lips as emerald hues stared back at her. Silver hair and a blackened duster, the figure offered a smirk and tugged away, separating their forms and Alicia danced back. Her violet hues pierced to the figure and she rose up her blade in challenge, the star-silver glinted from the morning sun.
Alicia spun the massive claymore in her hand, the kinetics being drawn from the area around her as she tilted her chin up. “And who might you be, lovely?”
Noticing the woman for the first time was covered in some sort of scaled cloak, a grin parsed her lips and she smirked. “Ahhh… I recognize that armor, that must mean you are my very first roadblock, aren’t you?”
“Hyaaaahhh!!!!” came from above, enough for Alicia to kick off the ground to annoy the giant’s slam, his fist colliding into the ground while his large, fanged blade pierced the earth. Alicia didn’t bother asking as she already knew who this was, but a surprised smile did steal over her expression. “Ah, Caym… So good to see you again, lovely, how is Seph? How is her imprisonment?”
The large man only grunted as he straightened his form, the scars over his face glinting in the morning light that swept the fronting battlements of Last Chance in a scent of charnel. A lumbering creature boiled out of the forest with breakneck speed, crashing its large, lumbering frame into Caym’s. The two heaved into one another for only a moment, soon the oozed carapace was smashed and Caym ripped away the creature’s insides, fist crushing over a rheumy gemstone. With little care, the object was thrown aside, and Caym roared after the cloaked woman who had taken the opportunity while his back was turned to strike. Instead the massive man’s weapon the glinting steel, forcing a song to sing across the growing battlefield. Alicia moved then to Lee’s side, tapping him on the arm and pointing to the growing blob of chaos slowly starting to force its way deeper into Last Chance.
“I’m going to open a path! Follow, okay?!”
Despite the growing phantasm of creatures oozing to life and creating a barrier of plasma like aberrations, Alicia grasped the heavy hilt of her massive claymore, and then took a deep breath. A pulse of power slowly ran off of her. A white glow gently caressed over her blackened outfit, manipulating the threads and alternating their colours. A blackened harness that had once clung to her shifted to a deep hue of navy and cobalt, the hue continued down her waist and over her legs as the once tightened trews expanded and flourished into a large battle-armored kilt, and finally her once bare hands were sheathed into steel gauntlets. Alicia opened her eyes, and a crack as loud as thunder could be heard and the blade snapped down the middle, shattering into two separate weapons. Alicia’s once violet eyes now burned a cobalt blue, her expression altered to a more youthful appearance that offered the same smile. She took off toward the blob in an instant, the ground quaking beneath her as the traces of violet and navy light followed her celerity. Each strike came in random assortments, splattering blackened mist against the inner wall’s battlements.
Once Alicia broke the line inward, she would twist around and slapped her blades together. In an instant, Ten Judgements reformed to the solid massive slab of obsidian as the blackened outfit smothered over her form. Twisting the blade toward the earth, she slammed it deep to the middle where a pulse of light exploded in a ring. The first ring collided with the coalescing phantasm, shattering it and spattering the insides. The second pulse did a little bit of the same, except it drew every bit of splattered plasma inward toward the weapon where she then withdrew it from the earth in a second. Like a spinning twister, the phantasmic blob was sucked into the shattered vacuum where the air once was and Alicia slammed the heavy blade down onto its gem-heart with a cry.
The blade shattered the pulsing heart, the beat gently sputtering until it died out and she let out a whisked breath. “One down… Seven to go.”
The Darkening Sky—Twisted Ambitions and Broken Flies
Where… am I?
He floated within an unknown place… an unknown world. Soon his shitkickers slapped the ground, the gray earth depressing, webbing beneath his feet until he found purchase to be erect. A glance to his left brought his vision into an accursed fish-eye view, a swing to his right returned the very same hue. With a grunt, some freedom at his back, he took the steps forward as he crunched through the empty land. His mind was at war, the once familiar feeling of fullness was completely gone; empty and swept away, he felt the loneliness that he had only felt once before. Worrying not, he had been through worse, he continued forward as his vision did not waver. The only thing he knew was going forward, and going forward solved every problem he had ever fucking had.
How long had he wandered? He did not know. How long had he been in this world? He did not know. How long until he reached the end of this fucking land? He did not know. How long… FUCK! Yes! We get it! I don’t fucking know! Who the fuck are you to judge where I am to go!? Who the fuck are you to decide my fate!? To decide my path! WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?
A tree stood several meters ahead of him, it’s ivory sheen offered itself as an idol of translucent light. A contrast to the crushing darkness that threatened to sweep him under the rug. As he closed the gap between him and the tree, the branches grew and grew, expanding into massive gnarled fingers that split the skies into mighty veins. A calm wind flew by, causing the ivory tree to wither and rake the darkness and he blinked. He blinked again. A boy stood at the tree, just far ahead that it delineated his thoughts from the truth. But something about that boy… It drew him in, and he continued to walk like a moth to the flame. Soon enough like every other accursed thing in this bloody place, the boy disappeared from view. He was left standing by the trunk of the massive tree, and he reached with a shaking, trembling hand to touch the bark. It felt cool against his palm, heavy and lasting, his pulse bleated and he heard himself gasp.
“Oi! Mister! Are you okay!?” That voice…
“Mister! Mister! Oi! Cockwit!”
And just like that the pain vanished, he spun around to face the boy who glanced up to him with beaten, swollen eyes. The child curiously tilted his head, shaggy brown hair falling around him that it was like a moon in the brush. He knew that look… And then he realized what this was. Did he challenge it though? What was the logistical success in really fighting against the whims of destiny. Ugh, Destiny. What a load of crap. He sighed. Pressing onward past the boy, brushing him off as he wanted to know nothing more about what sort of lesson there was, he continued onward. Once his boots crushed the ash… The tree faded from view, and a new path availed itself to him.
Like a god damned fish to a hooked worm, he made his trek across the opened path. Each step was forced from him as teeth grit, and his body trembled from the sudden onslaught of cold. Feeling as if he was trailing through a river of molasses, he took a moment to stop and breathe. Deep in. Deep out. Deep in…. Dee…p… What?