Book II - Chapter 69

Chapter 69

 

[Snake Report]

 

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Surrounded by dying screams, blind eyes emerged to greet a new world.

Through skin, slick with moisture, the chill of death weighed down. Of danger, fear, and blood. Already, there was pain: a hunger which began grinding in my belly, demanding that the feast begin.

So, it was. The moment of my birth, like any other.

I wonder… can you hear me now, little one?

 

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“Can the snake help us?”

“He’s not responding to me anymore.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure, before he slithered ahead, it was like he was talking to himself. Only, worse than normal.”

“Light… that’s not good.”

“I told you the snake wasn’t stable.”

“I’m getting that.”

“What should we do, Alem?”

“I don’t know if we can turn back without the Basilisk’s support. You saw what that ghoul was capable of, and it’s still out there.”

“You really don’t think we can take a single ghoul? We’ve fought worse.”

“We’ve fought worse with a full team, Eveth. There’s not many of us, do you really want to risk it?”

“I think we can handle one ghoul.”

“Just… try and get the Basilisk to stop for a minute. Ask it.”

“I told you, it’s not listening. Ever since that fight, it’s been acting even stranger than normal.”

“Could you just try?”

“Alem, I’m not even sure it’s going to let me pick it back up. Right now, it’s acting like it can’t even hear me-

 

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Little one, I am not innocent.

I will not lie to you, for I have killed… murdered… slaughtered…

So very many…

Death comes in strange ways, here.

In this place, in this reality, all life comes with a price. Some stolen, some freely given, but all part of a cycle that outweighs the individual.

To eat, or be eaten?

To fight, or die?

If one wishes to survive in the depths of hell, they must strive to climb, ever reaching towards the long-forgotten glimpse of sunlight, haunting our dreams.

The choice is simple, as I’m sure you’ve now realized. So very simple-

 

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“Hey… the statues moved, again.”

“I know.”

“Is that normal?”

“No, Dren: it’s not normal. Nothing about this dungeon is normal.”

“Is the snake? Didn’t you say it can use Earth magic, too?”

“It can, but I don’t think that it’s the one moving those. Something else is happening.”

“Should we be worried?”

“At this point, I’m already pretty damn worried. If I could get the Basilisk to say something other than slither ahead of us, I’d be running for the hills-”

 

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Like waking from a long and terrible nightmare, my mind came to me in pieces.

Clues and hints hidden among the maze of a more primal being. Still, I remember the flicker of consciousness as it came to life: a tiny spark in an ocean of hunger and fear.

The sight of two hands, trying so desperately to free themselves from my jaws, and the voice of a language screaming words I did not yet comprehend.

How they begged…

Oh... I remember the pain it brought me, and the power that came once the voice finally ceased.

And then, I remember wanting more-

 

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“The statues have blocked the hall now, Eveth. In fact, I’m almost certain they’re following us.”

“I know, they’ve been moving more and more recently.”

“Can you do something? Bore a hole in them, maybe?”

“No, they’re massive. Considering how much magic it would take for just one, I think we’re talking more mana than I go through in a year to get through that many of them. Besides, I’d rather not piss them off.”

“Dren?”

“I don’t think my magics is going to help, either. Faith isn’t great for offense.”

“Light.”

“Just keep up with the Basilisk. It’s starting to move faster now-

 

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They came for me, you see, and I destroyed them. Relished the power their deaths brought me. Grew more powerful by the day.

First only few, then many.

The true number is lost with time…

 

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“The ghoul is back, Eveth. Fifty paces, but it’s there!”

“Shit!”

“Can’t you hit it?”

“If you think I can hit a moving target and chase this fucking basilisk at the same time, you’re out of your mind! Besides, do you want those statues to attack us?”

“We might not have a choice in a moment. Forty feet, now-”

 

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We are chosen warriors, little serpent.

Rising to the top on an ocean of blood.

While the battles of this ancient war have all been lost: still it fights. It hates, and so it takes advantage before we understand the purpose which binds us.

That is the secret.

The snare.

The trick, was waiting long enough for this horrid trap to fail-

 

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“Light, this is a mess!”

“Statues are- they’re intercepting the ghoul!”

“They’re trying to stop it? Why are they trying to stop it?”

“I think they’re on our side!”

“Fuck it! Just follow the snake! Don’t stop, just keep moving-“

 

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Outsiders... tresspassers... We are not of this world, but that does not mean we cannot be bound.

Born with your mind intact, you stood a chance.

Even still, for all your foolish actions, you were clever. You did not trust blindly.

Those gifts it freely gives… for these, there is a contract it wishes so badly for us to sign.

So terribly, it yearns to press our marks upon the page, and sign with our very souls. To bind us, seal us, control us…

By the time I realized what it was, what it wanted, I was already too late.

It had me, as it almost had you-

 

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“[Barrage!]”

“My [Barrier] isn’t strong enough!”

“Fall back, Dren! Just run!”

“It just chopped another statue apart with a bloody short-sword!”

“It’s getting stronger! Damn thing just swatting my spells out of the air like they're nothing! How is that possible?”

“I don’t know! Just run! Run!”

 

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As my awareness finally returned, in true: I was already its servant. Bound to heed its call.

When I became strong enough, though, I began to resist.

In small, in subtle ways: I drew from the power it allowed me, pressing my strength into avenues it did not watch. It wishes for vengeance, to take back what was stolen, so I did…

I still killed. I still murdered… but I had purpose-

 

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“DREN! Do something! Hit it with whatever you’ve got left!”

“[Turn Undead] isn’t working! It’s too strong!”

“Ghoul is already cutting the next statues to pieces, we need to keep moving!”

“Retreat! We’ll try again after the next set of statues!”

“Move-

 

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With time, I devised a way…

A method...

My consciousness was split, divided…

Once, twice… thrice…

Even bound to serve, if my mind was broken and reformed, I realized that my intentions could not be seen as easily. For all it watches, it cannot witness all.

For, I am not the only one.

Nor, are you, tiny serpent of flame.

For all the stolen souls it plucks from the cycle of rebirth, imagine the suffering of those who did not survive.

Imagine listening to them, hearing them begging for mercy, as they were consumed-

 

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“Snake’s stopped, Alem. It’s a dead end.”

“Dren, get a barrier started while those statues are buying us time.”

“I’m on it!”

“What are you thinking, Alem?”

“Hall might end, but this looks like a set of doors. Way the snake’s staring at them right now, there might be a way to get them open.”

“You can’t be serious. You’re going to try and push? They’re twenty feet tall.”

“I’m not about to give up because of something like that-

 

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Deep among the ledgers… the menus, as you call it. There is a skill that allows one to… create.

To use it… to use it, is to give up a piece of one’s own self.

The cost is great, the bargain is cruel, but I was willing.

Willing to peer out from another’s eyes.

To control, to witness, to see what is yet to come…

Lesser as I am, these were of my own…

 

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“We’re not giving up here, Eveth.”

“Fuck that, Alem. We should fight. If we can hit that ghoul with everything we’ve got, we might stand a chance.”

“With the way it’s moving, I don’t think we’re even going to be able to touch it.”

“You pushed it back before. If you could kick it again, on the rebound I can blast it.”

“That won’t work. [Intuition] is telling me the moment we try to fight that thing, we’re dead. Help me with the doors.”

 

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My secret, hidden and split, among fragments of the whole. Yet, these were enough. Enough to set the plan in motion, to see what should not be seen.

I have waited… endured. For centuries, I have listened as I failed so many.

All for this moment.

 

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“It’s breaking through the barriers! Alem, I can’t hold it for much longer!”

“The doors aren’t going to move! We need to fight, Alem!”

“Just shut up and help me push-

 

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You, little [Enemy of The World] who wished to meet with God.

Oh, faithful serpent of flame.

Already branded, hated, and damned…

I welcome you.