Book III - Chapter 9

 

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Maybe you would build something up, and watch it prosper. Or, tear something down, and watch it burn. Maybe, you would even choose to destroy, but with the goal to begin anew: To rise up like the phoenix, bringing the end of one age, and the start of another.

Whatever the actions, the reasons, the intentions, or the goal: you need power.

Good or evil can battle, and people can judge them. Through the retelling of events, even the common man can twist and tangle history, until the villains are the heroes, and the heroes the villains. Empires can topple, cities can burn: but all that really matters is who’s left standing in the end. Who is still alive to tell the story, and decide the truth of who was good, of who was evil.

Power decides.

Yet, all that said, and I’ve skipped the other category. A place in which I often find myself stranded, lost amid this middle-ground for those who don't identify with either.

The moral gray that's neither good or evil.

Angel or devil…

Saint or demon…

Yet, somehow, in this case: very much a God.

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Chapter 9

[Eveth]

Another building fell to pieces, as Alem stopped them short. His hand, raised, stopped their advance, right on the corner to the next street. Beyond it, Eveth could hear the giant centipede’s rampage continuing.

“What is it?” Eveth asked. “Getting cold feet?"

“No.” Alem peeked around the edge of a building. “I think someone else is fighting. I don’t want to get us put in the middle of them.”

“Did the Guard really make it all the way out here?” Eveth asked, creeping up to the corner, herself, for a closer look, stopping as Alem shook his head.

“Probably not the Guard, but there’s a lot of dust. Hard to see.” Alem set his hand on Eveth’s shoulder, suddenly. “I think we should hold.” He stated.

“Shouldn’t we help?” Eveth looked up at him. “This could be a good chance, especially with a monster that strong.”

“I just get the feeling we should stay back for a moment.”

“Why?”

“I just do.”

“Alright.” Eveth eyed the corner, then Alem, trying to decide if she should try and look for herself. From the expression he wore, Alem seemed to be considering something important. “What, exactly, do you see-” His eyes widened, and Eveth stopped.

“Oh, shit.” Dropping his hammer, Alem tackled Eveth out of the way, as the Centipede came crashing back through the wall. Heavy natural armor ripping apart molded and laid stone walls, with ease.

Only, this time, far less intentionally.

“YOU DARE THREATEN THE FAITHFUL?”

Following after the centipede, the voice Eveth heard was as arrogant as it was loud. It shouted above the noise, cutting clean and free, and embodied with more confidence than she’d ever imagined possible.

“YOU FOOL! WITH ONLY THIS FRAGEMENT OF POWER, YOU ARE NOTHING BEFORE US!”

“CRAAAAAAAAAAAA!” The centipede turned about, legs skittering for purchase, before ripping stone apart for another sudden acceleration as it rightened itself. It moved to retaliate, as Alem practically carried Eveth over his shoulder, as he jumped forward, again. Behind them, legs like steel spears, crushed the ground as the monster rose up, height bordering some of the still-standing buildings around them.

“I AM THE WILL OF THE LORD. I AM HIS INSTRUMENT.”

Eveth saw the monster dive down with another shrieking call of battle, clearly targeting something close. From the angle it swung itself, whoever it was fighting, was close.

“BEGONE!”

This time, Eveth felt mana smash into them. Like a wave, or a ripple- it shook the air in a sudden pressure, as the building to her left exploded: giant centipede crashing through the molded-stone walls. Thankfully, she was ready, and Frozen air solidified. The magic blocked the ricocheting blocks and pieces that came their way.

At first, anyways.

“Crraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-”

Trying to rise, once more, a sudden impact threw it back to the rubble. The force was enough to send Alem stumbling, cursing all the while as he and Eveth hit the ground. Landing as she did, the barely formed [Barrier] almost crumbled from the lack of concentration, under the scatter-shot of jagged stone.

“YOUR FATE IS ALREADY DECIDED.”

“CRAAAAAA!” The centipede smashed through another building, bordering the recent destruction. Whipping about, flailing wildly against its enemy. As the spell faltered, Eveth desperately regaining control to bring its forms back into place, she caught a glimpse.

Beyond the [Barrier] was a battle of titans.

“THIS MUST END.”

Atop the centipede, what seemed to be a large [Golem] was in full melee. One massive stone hand held the centipede down, as an even larger frame stood above it, second arm delivering blows. As the centipede’s body curled about, in an attempt to bing its opponent, the second arm ceased its raining blows, and joined the first, beginning to throttle the monster. Ruthlessly, it lifting and smashing the centipede’s screeching jaws and head against the ground with relentless force. Above it, a ball of flame floated.

“MEET YOUR DEATH WITH DIGNITY!”

A… shouting ball of flame, Eveth realized.

“What in all the Light is that?” She asked.

“Dangerous, is what it is!” Alem coughed, climbing back to his feet. “Get ready.”

“Understood.” Eveth replied, as she rightened the [Barrier] spell, for another shower of stone, responding from a sudden shift in the battle before them. Tiny shards of earth moved as if the pieces were launching from slings. Small as they were, they sent dozens of cracks along the sustained spell, even as Eveth struggled to enforce the mana already in place. Even as she repaired them, wisps of cold air from the breaks made her skin prickle.

“CRAAAAA!” Despite being pinned down, and thoroughly thrashed, the monster wasn’t giving up without a struggle. Even held in place, the lower coil of body segements and numberous armored legs were finding purchase on an unbroken support pillar in the rubble. With a sudden lurch, they strained and lifted. Slowly, precariously at first- but successful nonetheless: the massive stone entity fighting the centipede was pulled to the air, and thrown down with a heavy bodyslam. In seconds, their positions had reversed, the massive monster now on the offensive.

Beneath the onslaught of legs and pincers, the stone golem weathered blows: arms raised defensively. In seconds, they had deflected almost a dozen hits, but there seemed no end in sight. Valiant resistance or no, the golem’s arms were losing material quickly. Pieces were being broken away at a dangerous pace. Throwing a leg up to intercept the next strike, a stone foot caught the centipede, letting a good portion of it break off, to roll back from the surrounding coils. Eveth watched the leg reform as it landed in the street, crouching low.

“We need to help them!” Eveth shouted to Alem. “Where’s your weapon?”

“No clue!” Alem replied, ducking as a huge chunk of the Golem was launched in their direction. “Buried, most likely.” He huffed, prying free a piece of timber from the rubble beside them. Experimentally, he swung it once. “Hopefully, this’ll do.”

As if in reponse to that, the Centipede reared back, turning to them. It seemed to have finally noticed their presence.

“Light.” Eveth muttered, rushing several spells into place around her. “This is going to be a terribly stupid way to die.”

Beside the centipede, the strange body of stone was recovering- somewhat. Though it seemed smaller, Eveth observed, as the Golem rose back up, extending its right hand out as if to catch something. Then, the ground lifted up, effortless: forming a spear. On its other arm, Eveth saw a portion of the stone molded away from the torso to form as a shield.

“Convienent.” Alem grumbled, enviously.

“More than convienent.” Eveth’s eyes narrowed, as more of the stone fell away, reshaping as it went. “Is that-

“FAITHFUL ONE, THE MIRACLE IS FADING. TIME IS SHORT.”

Above them, the ball of flame shouted once more, spurring the now-slender Golem into action. Charging forward, its spear pierced the Centipede’s armor, clean through.

“CREEEEEEEE!” In rage, the coils of segmented armor spun like a whip. The tail end of which, caught Eveth’s barrier with a hard strike, crushing almost all of it, as if it hadn’t been there in the first place, forcing Alem to dodge.

“Gods, damn this thing.” Eveth cursed, as the motion followed through, saved only by half a step worth of distance. Desperately, she pulled the barrier back into form, ignoring the gnawing chill of mana loss. This monster was strong. Much too strong, to be anything one would encounter near the surface. The moment it decided to focus on her and Alem, they’d be in deep trouble.

“Spirit!” Someone shouted. “I need another spear!”

The [Golem] was, Eveth realized. It’s already lessening form took on an even smaller appearance, as more of its mass was redistributed. The weapon formed anew, as the torso shrank. As the spear finished, she was certain she caught a glimpse of blond hair, before the monster lunched forward to intercept. Sand blasted from the impact.

“Defense, Spirit!” Bracing, the would-be golem raised their shield, planting it hard in the ground as the pincers closed. Scattered pieces flew free, but rolling back again, they abandoned it, just as the wicked edges closed shut, dodging a certain-death. Throwing themselves back forward, the sharpened shaft of molded earth plunged deep into the monster’s maw. The remainder of the stone which armored them began to add to it until there was nothing left but the weapon itself. Settled to the ground, it had joined itself with the street beneath them, as the lone woman held it in place.

“Now!” Alem shouted, muscles bulging he ran forward, to impale the creature through the eye.

“CREEEEEEEE-” It screamed in pain, as it fought against the stone that had impaled it. Each thrashing struggle sending gore spraying.

“Eveth!” He shouted, makeshift weapon snapping, as the creature threw him back. Pulling her focus, Eveth [Buffered] his fall, and the following impact into the building beside her. “Don’t worry about me!” He shouted, clutching his ribs. “Hit that thing!”

Eveth turned back, just to take a hit to the side of her head. Vision reeling, she almost fell as a gash opened on her scalp: stray stone having found its way through her barrier in the confusion. Grasping for control of her spell, Eveth watched helpless, as the massive monster heaved against the woman holding the spike of earth which bound it painfully in place.

“Spirit!” The woman shouted.

“THERE WILL BE A PRICE, FAITHFUL ONE!”

“I will pay!”

“SO BE IT.”

For the briefest of instants, all the dust, all the soil, all the smoke in the air seemed to freeze. Drawing in on themselves, Eveth watch as familiar but alien patterns formed: of Earth magic beyond comprehension- but mixed and intertwined tightly with the impossible flow of Faith.

The flame, above, fell to the ground- and from the stone, one more spear emerged. Unlike the previous, this was glowing with energy, barely capable of keeping its form, as grains of sand and dust fought for shape. Ghostly, aflame, yet solid all the same. Raising it from its resting place, letting out one final shout of resistance, the woman plunged it through the centipede’s remaining eye, holding tight as the beast flailed in one final death rattle.

Then, both the woman and monster, fell to the ground.

Rising back up from the carnage, the flame began to fade away. Still, it lingered, looking down upon the woman, as she forced herself back to a kneel, barely steady enough to keep from falling over.

"DO NOT FORGET, FAITHFUL ONE."

It spoke, even as the wind carried its final embers away.

"YOU MUST FIND HIM, BEFORE ALL IS LOST."