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    Death of the Author [solo]

    Althea
    Althea

    Developer/GFX Artist- Main Account- Gain An Artifact- Quality Badge Level 1- Quality Badge Level 2- Quality Badge Level 3- Rising Star- Dragon Slayer- Neutral Guild Ace- X-Rank- H-Rank- S-Rank- A-Rank- Wanderer- Eevee- EXP Grinder- Jewel Grinder- Job Creator- Working Together- Forever Solo- Christian Minecraft Server- I Have Friends...- Limited Edition- Hired Help- Unknown Legend- The Completionist- Achiever- Expert Achiever- Over Achiever- Buddy Buddy- Obligatory Beach Episode- Sticking Around- Dank Memer- Fan Artist- Solo Artist- Taskmaster- Halloween Social- Halloween job event participant - Fan Art Contest Participant- Rich- Veteran Level 3- Veteran Level 2- Veteran Level 1- Magic Application Approved!- Obtain A Secondary Magic!- Character Application Approved!- Complete Your First Job!- Obtain A Lineage!- Join A Faction!- Tertiary Magic- Senior [500]- Novice [250]- 1st Place Event/Contest Winner- Advertisement Achievement Badge- Hero- Summer Special Participant- Have an Admin as a friend!- Player 
    Lineage : Eater of Dreams
    Position : Shitposter
    Faction : The Luminous Covenant
    Posts : 936
    Guild : Fairy Tail
    Cosmic Coins : 0
    Dungeon Tokens : 0
    Mentor : Mura Kensho
    Experience : 3,920

    Character Sheet
    First Magic:
    Second Magic:
    Third Magic:

    Death of the Author [solo] Empty Death of the Author [solo]

    Post by Althea 15th November 2022, 5:15 pm

    althea

    word count: 1130
    total word count: 1130/2500
    tagged: @
    xxx
    The village streets were silent, devoid of any signs suggesting human life. The sky was a cold gray, and low-hanging mist clung to the stone-paved pathways. In the first place, the label of ‘village’ seemed a bit generous, the settlement consisting entirely of run-down shacks. Their wooden exteriors were worn and overgrown with thin, spindly vines. Each seemed to be made up of one to two rooms, and the largest had a long-dead tree beside it. It was far from scenic, but Althea wasn’t there for the sake of sightseeing. No, this was the closest recorded settlement to one of the Cursed Lands of Fiore, the Silent Cemetery. It had obviously been long abandoned, but the sorry excuses for houses served as a good meeting place in an otherwise vacant wasteland.

    The blonde had often skipped being briefed by a job’s commissioner after already officially accepting it. The request itself almost always provided more than enough information: the location, the goal, and the payout. Of course, there were times when employers specifically asked to see Althea in person beforehand to explain one thing or another, but outside of those rare situations, she would just dive right in. However, this specific meet-up with an employer was quite opposite to the typical ones. It was requested of Althea of all people. She sauntered through the abandoned village with a simple black cloak, its hood drawn far enough over her head for only loose locks of hair to escape. And without even bothering to knock on the decrepit door first, she entered the house standing beside the ancient tree. Finally pulling down her hood, the aetherial raised her gaze to meet the startled eyes of the only other people in the village.

    “A-Ah, you’re Althea Eventide, right?  Lord, you almost scared the soul out of me.”  A stout man dressed in clean but practical clothes stood up from his chair, the seat creaking noticeable as it did so. It was clearly a chair of very poor quality, but it seemed to be the only piece of furniture left in the rotting cabin. “These lands really aren’t suited for living. But even under these circumstances, I’m still pleased to make your acquaintance.”  The other person present didn’t acknowledge Althea’s appearance in any way, instead opting to lean against a wall and stare out of the shack’s only window. Or was it just a hole in the wall created by decay?  Either way, the hole in the wall was much less eye-catching than the person standing next to it. Althea was unable to discern any details about them, after all, they were clad from head to toe in a hefty set of silver armor. But oddly, enough, any form of weapon was completely absent from their person. And if they possessed any magic, they were suppressing it rather well. However, the Fairy Tail mage was the last one who’d want to probe into other people’s business, so she’d pay them just as much mind as they did her. Finally turning her gaze back to the stout man, she broke her silence.

    “Yeah, that’s me.”  She replied simply, crossing her arms as the man took a few steps closer to her. “You’re Mr. Laurence?”

    The man smiled, his dense brown beard shifting in accordance with his jolly expression, “That’s right!  No need for the formality though, I’m not a big-time merchant… Well, at least not yet!  Thank you so much for accepting my commission, although I wished we met under happier circumstances.”  He gently gestured towards the person in heavy armor, “Don’t mind them, they’re just a mercenary I hired to guarantee my safety. I hope you don’t mind them sticking around as we talk for the sake of my peace of mind.”

    Even as they were pointed to by Laurence, they didn’t react, their helmeted gaze fixated on the decrepit view outside. Still, Althea just shook her head. It made no difference if the entirety of Ishgar knew about the request she’d be making of Laurence in this shanty cabin. Of course, just the thought of it was enough to raise her blood pressure, but she was willing to tolerate an additional pair of silent ears.

    “Fantastic, then I’ll start describing my… issue in further detail then.”  At the drop of a dime, his happy expression evaporated, instead being replaced by a stern visage accompanied by angry eyes. “As you very well know, some of my men were kidnapped by creatures of the dark while we were transporting goods. They were monsters, and clearly had already passed on from our world to the next, and yet…”  His fists clenched as he struggled to keep his composure. “Five of these undead seized my people!  It’s only been a fortnight since they were taken, and their screams as they were dragged away from the caravan…”  His voice wavered, his throat choked with retrained sobs. “Please, let me take them back to their families alive.”

    Althea blinked slowly. Frankly speaking, she found Laurence’s performance of grief as straying too close to melodrama. What was a merchant caravan doing anywhere near the Cursed Lands in the first place?  From the way he spoke about the event, the stout man was present during the abduction, but why didn’t he just… not go through one of the most hazardous areas in the country? Maybe that element of a preventable tragedy was the factor that led to such sorrow from him. So, ignoring his apparent displays of frustration and sadness, she began to address the real reason she took the job in the first place.

    “You have mana lacrimas, right?  How many could you give me?  I need a lot.”

    “M-Mana lacrimas?”  Laurence seemed surprised. Apparently, this wasn’t what he had in mind when she requested to see him face-to-face. “I’m afraid to say that, as our main trading good, I can’t just give those away… You see, for the sake of fairly paying all the people in my guild, we have to turn a decent profit…”  He was visibly nervous, his fist unclenching to begin hesitantly stroking his beard. However, more notably, Althea could spot the armored bodyguard shift ever so slightly in the corner of her vision. But disregarding the subtle reaction, the aetherial pressed on, her amber eyes trained on the merchant.

    “Don’t ask me why, but I need enough crystals to… let’s see, power a neighborhood for a year?  The sooner the better.”  It seemed like Laurence wanted to interject, but the blonde continued speaking before he got the chance. “I tried asking other merchants, but they wouldn’t let me just buy out their entire stock. Oh, and it’d be nice if you sold all of the lacrimas to me the moment you get new ones. Thanks.”




    _____________________________________________________________________________________


    Althea
    Althea

    Developer/GFX Artist- Main Account- Gain An Artifact- Quality Badge Level 1- Quality Badge Level 2- Quality Badge Level 3- Rising Star- Dragon Slayer- Neutral Guild Ace- X-Rank- H-Rank- S-Rank- A-Rank- Wanderer- Eevee- EXP Grinder- Jewel Grinder- Job Creator- Working Together- Forever Solo- Christian Minecraft Server- I Have Friends...- Limited Edition- Hired Help- Unknown Legend- The Completionist- Achiever- Expert Achiever- Over Achiever- Buddy Buddy- Obligatory Beach Episode- Sticking Around- Dank Memer- Fan Artist- Solo Artist- Taskmaster- Halloween Social- Halloween job event participant - Fan Art Contest Participant- Rich- Veteran Level 3- Veteran Level 2- Veteran Level 1- Magic Application Approved!- Obtain A Secondary Magic!- Character Application Approved!- Complete Your First Job!- Obtain A Lineage!- Join A Faction!- Tertiary Magic- Senior [500]- Novice [250]- 1st Place Event/Contest Winner- Advertisement Achievement Badge- Hero- Summer Special Participant- Have an Admin as a friend!- Player 
    Lineage : Eater of Dreams
    Position : Shitposter
    Faction : The Luminous Covenant
    Posts : 936
    Guild : Fairy Tail
    Cosmic Coins : 0
    Dungeon Tokens : 0
    Mentor : Mura Kensho
    Experience : 3,920

    Character Sheet
    First Magic:
    Second Magic:
    Third Magic:

    Death of the Author [solo] Empty Re: Death of the Author [solo]

    Post by Althea 15th November 2022, 7:30 pm

    althea

    word count: 1101
    total word count: 2231/2500
    tagged: @
    The merchant guild leader’s previous grief was immediately replaced by a wide smile. “Ah, yes, I misunderstood you. The relationship of ‘client’ will go both ways then!  I won’t be too nosy about your intentions for our lacrimas, but how much would you be willing to pay for our products?”  Althea couldn’t help but wonder what part of what she said changed his mind so quickly. One minute he was all, ‘I can’t, my employees will be broke,’ and the next he was asking for prices. Maybe it was one of those money-making mind techniques people always touted merchants as being masters of?

    However, the spirit quickly dismissed her confused thoughts, instead crossing her arms as she spoke to the merchant. “Just name a number.”  After all, how much money could some magic rocks cost?  Back when Althea could produce her own ethernano, there was no reason for her to ever buy one of the things. So she wasn’t exactly familiar with the rates at which they were sold, but it couldn’t be that much. All she needed was some temporary measure to supplement her magic power before she got any contractors. Of course, being limited in the expression of her abilities put a slight limit on any jobs she could reasonably go on, but the magic power in the merchant’s lacrimas could serve to keep her summoned on Earthland.

    The shorter man smiled, “It’ll cost half a million.”  Half a what?  Of jewels??  She was expecting more in the range of the tens of thousands at max, but hundreds of thousands of jewels???  Althea was already lost, but he didn’t seem to notice. “But that’s just for the amount of lacrimas for your initial target of powering a neighborhood. Since you’re buying in bulk, I factored in a fairly hefty discount for all the labor costs for transportation. I warrant that’s more than generous enough for such a good patron such as yourself. As you can see from this situation with my men, meeting deadlines is rather difficult, so it sometimes drives us to take more… desperate measures. It’s been getting even tighter for us merchants after the war started.”  Huh?  What??

    The knowledge that Fiore literally went to war while she was gone shook her to the core. Thank god she no longer had any reason to be entangled with the Magic Council, she’d be able to just ignore the whole conflict. “I expected that lacrimas would be sold at a premium during wartime, but my investment ended up being useless. I have a huge surplus, and it’s all because… Okay, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but…”  Even though the entire village was completely abandoned, the merchant lowered his voice, his eyes darting about. “According to my sources, Pergrande has some sort of… technology that automatically dispels magic.”

    In an instant, two things happened practically at the same time. Althea’s right hand jetted out towards Laurence’s neck, and the armored guard’s lance toward hers. Both attacks stopped but a few millimeters from their target, and it took the merchant a few vacant blinks to even recognize the attempted grasp at his neck.

    “Stand down, mercenary.”  A deep, resonant voice echoed from behind the silvery helm. “I seek no quarrel with you.”

    Althea turned away from Laurence, who was rendered silent and shivering from the mage’s sudden move towards his neck, and towards the guard. However, her expression was much more annoyed than concerned. “I never wanted a ‘quarrel’ either, you’re the one butting into my conversation uninvited.”  It wasn’t 100% her intention to go right for a good grip around Laurence's neck, things just ended up that way. Whatever additional information he had about Pergrande’s mana-dispelling tech was prioritized much higher for her than his physical well-being.

    But still, the armored guard stayed put, keeping their blade trained on Althea’s neck without wavering. The only sound in the run-down shack was the sound of Laurence’s hyperventilating breathing as he was either too stunned or too scared to move an inch.

    “Okay, fine.”  Althea’s hand lowered to her side, and the guard withdrew his lance accordingly. Suppressing her deep wells of frustration, she took a few steps back from the merchant. “Man,”  A grin reminiscent of the one she often wore a very long time ago skillfully spread across her face, “You guys thought I was trying to attack Laurence?  No wayy~”  She shook her head at the notion, placing her hands on her hips in an exaggeratedly upbeat manner. “The place I went to for about a year had a social tradition where you place your hands on people’s necks as thanks. It must’ve been my muscle memory, sorry.”  She was still smiling, but her eyes were cold. The spirit wasn’t lying, the only interpersonal interactions in the Aetherial Wastes were bloody struggles to the death. The few times she ran across another aetherial spirit and narrowly survived, she would always wring their neck until their corpse melted into the Wastes. Just to be extra sure, ya know?  It was her form of thanking them for being weaker than her. It was only polite to make sure the gift wouldn’t be resold, traded, etc.

    Still, the armored guard was lucky she didn’t intend on seriously harming her employer in the first place. The fact a country had the ability to dispel magic… Well, that meant they could potentially send her right back to the Aetherial Wastes. However, she didn’t take very kindly to people pointing weapons at her. This time would slide out of respect for a fellow hand-for-hire, but the next time she caught them pulling something out at her, she’d be targeting a different neck. Additionally, the way the guard summoned their weapon out of nowhere but still refused to dematerialize it annoyed her…

    Ah, Althea should really practice how to be around people again. Now that the initial shock of the information subsided, she felt nothing but embarrassed by her overreaction. Letting out a sigh, the false smile fell from her lips and her amber eyes returned to dull indifference. “Sorry, I got a bit worked up. I didn’t even know we were at war, and the thought of Pergrande being able to…”  She shook her head. “Anyways, I’ll be going to solve your problem now. Feel free to deduct any emotional damages from my pay.”  The spirit turned around and pulled her hood back over her head. “Again, I’m really sorry about that, please please don't press charges.”  And with that, she left the shack and stepped back onto the empty village roads.




    _____________________________________________________________________________________


    Althea
    Althea

    Developer/GFX Artist- Main Account- Gain An Artifact- Quality Badge Level 1- Quality Badge Level 2- Quality Badge Level 3- Rising Star- Dragon Slayer- Neutral Guild Ace- X-Rank- H-Rank- S-Rank- A-Rank- Wanderer- Eevee- EXP Grinder- Jewel Grinder- Job Creator- Working Together- Forever Solo- Christian Minecraft Server- I Have Friends...- Limited Edition- Hired Help- Unknown Legend- The Completionist- Achiever- Expert Achiever- Over Achiever- Buddy Buddy- Obligatory Beach Episode- Sticking Around- Dank Memer- Fan Artist- Solo Artist- Taskmaster- Halloween Social- Halloween job event participant - Fan Art Contest Participant- Rich- Veteran Level 3- Veteran Level 2- Veteran Level 1- Magic Application Approved!- Obtain A Secondary Magic!- Character Application Approved!- Complete Your First Job!- Obtain A Lineage!- Join A Faction!- Tertiary Magic- Senior [500]- Novice [250]- 1st Place Event/Contest Winner- Advertisement Achievement Badge- Hero- Summer Special Participant- Have an Admin as a friend!- Player 
    Lineage : Eater of Dreams
    Position : Shitposter
    Faction : The Luminous Covenant
    Posts : 936
    Guild : Fairy Tail
    Cosmic Coins : 0
    Dungeon Tokens : 0
    Mentor : Mura Kensho
    Experience : 3,920

    Character Sheet
    First Magic:
    Second Magic:
    Third Magic:

    Death of the Author [solo] Empty Re: Death of the Author [solo]

    Post by Althea 25th November 2022, 1:50 pm

    althea

    word count: 1013
    total word count: 3244/2500 [wc met]
    word count excess: 744
    tagged: @
    The sound of Althea’s swift steps against the cobblestone echoed through the empty streets. Eventually, the slow steps accelerated, faster and faster, until she was in a full sprint. Since negotiations fell through, she’d be sure to budget her use of magic power. However, nothing was stopping the spirit from using the innate strength she was automatically infused with through aether. She ran deeper into the empty expanse of the Cursed Lands, appearing as little more than a black blur against the gray-brown landscape. Despite her speed, Althea’s steps across the wasteland looked as if she was drifting through the water. A light touch on the ground was enough to propel herself several meters forwards, and she took in a deep breath as she enjoyed the sensation of wind against her face.

    Come to think of it, it had been a while since she last just… ran around. Even when arriving at the abandoned village, Althea instead opted to use a method of teleportation to get there right away. And there wasn’t much point to running in the Aetherial Wastes, space didn’t work in a normal way in that dimension, so the relation between speed, time, and distance was a bit fuzzy. As she continued traversing the Cursed Land, she saw something in the distance. A gray stone jutting out of the cracked soil, a grave. But that wasn’t all. No, on the contrary, there seemed like there was no limit to them. Once Althea could spot one, she was able to see twenty more in the distance. And beyond that morbid horizon was a sea of stone, the Silent Cemetery.

    The spirit slowed her pace to a walk as she entered the Cursed Land proper, her senses at their absolute most alert. The dark gray sky made it difficult to tell how far the sun was through the sky, but she was sure that nightfall would be fairly soon. This was her first escapade into one of Fiore’s most malevolent lands, and she knew little to nothing about them. As a spirit, she could already feel the inherently magical nature of the area. Somehow, the cemetery seemed even more lifeless than the town on its outskirts. Before there had at least been hints of a previous human civilization, but the unnatural sight of a field full of nothing but unnamed graves was distinctly unnatural. Death seemed to permeate into the ground itself, blocking nature from ever hoping to nurture greenery in this forsaken land.

    Yeah, this was quite exciting for Althea. An entire nation was equipped with technology that served as the direct bane to her existence, but there was no use letting an emotion like fear overwhelm her. More than anything, the thing that drove her to lunge at the merchant was her weakness, and such actions would only reflect poorly on herself and the guild. However, she felt nothing but palpable excitement as she walked between the tilted and cracked graves of the dead-quiet cemetery. Life was silent, and not even wind dared to whistle through the air here. Where had the merchant guild members been taken? The risks that came with her magic only served as a handicap to accentuate the challenge, and whatever the cause was, Althea was ready to eliminate it.

    How eerie it was to hear nothing but her own footsteps, but it was even more unnerving to suddenly have another’s sounds added to hers. It was a slight shift in the earth, a clumsy redistribution of weight against the ground. Whipping towards the source of the sound, Althea caught sight of the only other thing moving in the desolate plain. Something seemed to be moving next to one of the Silent Cemetary’s many graves, and she began her approach without an ounce of hesitation. And upon coming close enough, it was clear to Althea that the merchant’s claims of undead were not at all exaggerated. A man was tied to a headstone with a coarse rope. Well, it’d be a stretch to still call the creature a ‘man.’ Its gray skin was in the process of peeling off, revealing the rotting muscles underneath. Also, there was no sight of its jaw or arms, leaving the undead creature to uselessly wiggle about tirelessly to no avail. Whoever put it there didn’t want the creature escaping. It eventually seemed to notice Althea, its bloodshot, glassy white eyes rolling in their sockets as it struggled even harder against the rope to reach her.

    However, this proved to be a prime opportunity for Althea. When she accepted the request, she was only given a rough estimate of the amount of power she’d actually need to complete it. But a perfect test dummy for the supposed minimum strength for these undead was right before her eyes. How convenient. She briefly wondered if testing the effectiveness of her attacks against this zombie, in particular, would hold much meaning considering it had already seemingly taken substantial amounts of damage. But if you really think about it, all undead have ‘taken substantial amounts of damage’ by the time you fight them, that’s why they’re dead. So, without a moment more of consideration, Althea launched a simple punch directly at the undead’s head. What followed was a smear of rotten brains and stinking blood splattering outwards with the force of her blow. The trajectory of the mess was showered in the direction opposite to the spirit, but her hand was still covered with blood and guts.

    “Huh, that one was like a balloon.” She murmured, her gaze shifting between her dripping hand and the stained dirt and gravestones. The armless – and now headless – body of the zombie went completely limp as it leaned grotesquely against the grave it was still bound to. It was far less resilient than Althea had assumed, so she was fairly confident in her ability to handle huge hordes of them. Turning away from the limp corpse of a corpse, she headed deeper into the Silent Cemetery, each footstep evoking a huge sound in the suffocating quiet.




    _____________________________________________________________________________________


    Althea
    Althea

    Developer/GFX Artist- Main Account- Gain An Artifact- Quality Badge Level 1- Quality Badge Level 2- Quality Badge Level 3- Rising Star- Dragon Slayer- Neutral Guild Ace- X-Rank- H-Rank- S-Rank- A-Rank- Wanderer- Eevee- EXP Grinder- Jewel Grinder- Job Creator- Working Together- Forever Solo- Christian Minecraft Server- I Have Friends...- Limited Edition- Hired Help- Unknown Legend- The Completionist- Achiever- Expert Achiever- Over Achiever- Buddy Buddy- Obligatory Beach Episode- Sticking Around- Dank Memer- Fan Artist- Solo Artist- Taskmaster- Halloween Social- Halloween job event participant - Fan Art Contest Participant- Rich- Veteran Level 3- Veteran Level 2- Veteran Level 1- Magic Application Approved!- Obtain A Secondary Magic!- Character Application Approved!- Complete Your First Job!- Obtain A Lineage!- Join A Faction!- Tertiary Magic- Senior [500]- Novice [250]- 1st Place Event/Contest Winner- Advertisement Achievement Badge- Hero- Summer Special Participant- Have an Admin as a friend!- Player 
    Lineage : Eater of Dreams
    Position : Shitposter
    Faction : The Luminous Covenant
    Posts : 936
    Guild : Fairy Tail
    Cosmic Coins : 0
    Dungeon Tokens : 0
    Mentor : Mura Kensho
    Experience : 3,920

    Character Sheet
    First Magic:
    Second Magic:
    Third Magic:

    Death of the Author [solo] Empty Re: Death of the Author [solo]

    Post by Althea 6th January 2023, 1:02 am

    althea

    previous excess: 744
    post: 2136
    personal total: 2,880
    thread total: 2,880/2,500 [wc met]
    Fortunately, Althea’s path through the graveyard was far from random. Her existence as a spirit placed her in a state that allowed her to be especially receptive to the world’s forces. And of course, any magic that manipulated life in a way that could produce a creature like the one tied to that grave would leave an unmistakable ‘stench’ of death. Of course, there was always a chance that the aura of murder she was heading deeper into was nothing but a natural byproduct of the abnormal nature of the land. But after coming face to face with that undead, Althea was rather confident in it leading her to what, or more precisely, who she was searching for.

    Finally, the scenery of graves was interrupted by something that would seem innocuous in any other graveyard setting. A small, wooden cross was driven into the lifeless soil, standing at a height slightly shorter than the tombstones. The highest concentration of death was right below her feet, and there was most likely some sort of mechanism behind opening the entrance to the depths. Briefly, the blonde considered taking a more subtle and stealthy approach to the operation, but it didn’t take long for her to decide otherwise. She was never one for subtlety, and this situation was no exception. Her power has suffered from a major drop after returning to Earthland, but her experiences as a mage as well as the time she spent wandering the Aetherial Wastes had forged her battle sense into a sharp, ruthless blade. All the magic in her body was being dedicated to stalling out her counter-summon, but her physical form still harbored a deceptive amount of strength for her rather delicate frame. So, Althea wretched the wooden cross from the ground, dry soil falling off the stake as it exited the earth. Then, in one movement that lasted for only an instant, the spirit leaped far into the air and launched the shabby grave marker toward the ground below. She threw it like a javelin, watching as she began plummeting back to the ground as it rocketed towards the ground. Then, in a burst of violent, destructive speed, it collapsed the dirt, the loud crumbling of rocks against the fractured earth eerily echoing through the Silent Cemetery.

    Unmarked graves were shattered by the force of Althea’s blow, and a cloud of dust hung over a dark cavern into an abyss below. Whoever was once laid to rest on this land was none of the girl’s concern: they were already dead and had no say in whether or not she desecrated the last testament to their life. And if anyone alive had any investment in them or their remains, they wouldn’t have been buried in such a disgustingly bleak place. However, the dark, gaping hole left by her simply throwing a wooden grave marker was unnaturally large for the amount of force she dedicated to it. The source of that deathly aura had hollowed the ground below for whatever purpose they had. Still descending towards the ground -- now a hole -- Althea heightened her senses to the limit as she let herself plunge from the sky and into the darkness.

    She landed with a soft tap on the ground, making an impact more akin to a feather effortlessly meeting the floor rather than a fully grown human falling from dozens of feet above. The cave was large and dark, permeated by the thick stench of rot. By all means, it seemed naturally generated, but had been repurposed and… redecorated for the owner’s purpose. Piles of skulls and bones were littered throughout the room, each of various shapes and sizes. The only common point they held was the fact they all once belonged to a human. The only light available was from ghastly blue torches that dimly flickered against the wall. And next to them were rusty chains hanging from the ceiling, and disembodied arms hanging from their cuffs. Whoever had removed them from their prior owners did so messily. With her naturally heightened eyesight, she could see the rough flesh, cracked bones, and uneven cuts. One arm would be cut near the shoulder while the other would barely have a wrist attached to its hand. Amateurish butchering. Could it be that hard to cut through flesh with one single cut? From how Althea saw it, ripping and shredding were reserved for ‘prey,’ not ‘meat.’ Of course, she had never actually hunted a human to eat it before, but she wouldn’t judge the preferences of others.

    Either way, she wasn’t here to criticize the decor of this grungy place. Ideally, she’d move fast enough to prevent whatever fate befell the owners of those arms from happening to the merchants’ men. But whatever chamber she was in clearly wasn’t home to them, so she began spreading her senses to get a better grasp of what lay in wait for her deeper into the cave. However, considering the vibrations she could feel through her bare feet against the cold, stone ground, there was no need to go searching for the owner of this place. They were coming right towards her.

    Before she could see them, she could hear them. Unnatural gurgles and moans, clattering and clanging, heavy footsteps, and an abhorrent squelch. The rotting stench and aura of death grew stronger with every passing moment, and Althea waited silently for her opponent to arrive. She leaned against a wall, arms crossed with an expression of apparent boredom, unmoving and unflinching even as a huge, malformed shadow began emerging from the darkness.

    What appeared before the spirit was a monstrosity of some kind, seemingly made up of a bloody patchwork of human flesh. Flanking the creature on one side were a pair of lumbering, destitute walking corpses, much like the one she saw above ground. On the other side of the mass of flesh were two skeletal warriors, one armed with a spear while the other held an axe. And on top of the swollen, bloody monstrosity was a man riding it like some kind of mount, a smaller, hooded figure sitting in his embrace. The creature was only twice as tall as the average human and stood on two thick, trunk-like legs, but a fleshy harness allowed the two passengers to comfortably take a seat atop it.

    “You.” The man wore a cloak much like the smaller person in his arms, but his hood was down, letting the dim blue flames illuminate his disgusted expression for all to see. “You interrupted my tea time with my beloved Elodia. Prepare to-”

    Althea was already in the air, spinning in an accelerated feat of dexterity to dive toward the necromancer. Her cold, amber eyes were trained on his head as she aimed a dropkick to reduce his head to a messy pulp in one decisive move.

    “Tch, so impatient.” Before her attack could connect, a wall of bleached white bones emerged between Althea and her target. Crashing into the interlocked structure of fleshless joints, a loud crack echoed through the vast underground. Using the wall as a springboard, the blonde somersaulted back to the ground, a slight trace of frustration emerging in her otherwise uninterested eyes. The attack she landed had been enough to heavily dent the skeletal wall, but not collapse it in one blow. If it was her from just a month or two ago, she wouldn’t have even needed to move from her spot leaning against the wall to separate the necromancer’s head from the rest of his body. Althea enjoyed fighting difficult opponents, but she wasn’t exactly in a fun-loving mood at the moment. The information about the ongoing war and the existence of some kind of hard counter against all magic had completely soured her day, and the youth wanted nothing more than to get this job over with. Instead of letting her mind relish in the joys of combat, it was still preoccupied with the dizzying anxiety and confusion from earlier.

    A lethargic, throaty groan from her left interrupted Althea’s contemplation. It wasn’t like her to get so distracted in the middle of a fight, but that was reflective of how shaken she was. Thinking about that can be saved for later. Casting a narrow gaze to the side, she watched as one of the undead corpses lumbered towards her, gnarled hands outstretched towards the spirit. However, Althea simply wretched one of its rotting arms right off its shoulder before using it to quite literally club its brains out. Then, whisking around, she threw the limb at the axe-wielding skeletal warrior that was quickly closing in on her. She had thrown it hard enough to knock the skeleton onto its back, affording the blonde enough time to turn back around, grab the remaining zombie -- which had just now entered her range -- and throw it over her head to the skeleton with a spear. The undead spearman, however, simply held out its weapon, puncturing the zombie projectile in the chest and preventing a head-on collision. But as that was in progress, the spirit had already begun her charge towards the skeletons, first turning her attention towards the recovering axeman. Before it could even stand back up, Althea was already using her foot to slam its head back on the ground with a stomp, leaving behind nothing but the pulverized remains of a skull. The spearman had quickly removed the unmoving zombie from its spear blade, skillfully moving to make a series of quick jabs toward the youth. The attacks were fast and sharp, but Althea weaved fluidly between attacks before finally finding her opening. Dipping into the skeleton’s blind spot, she dealt an uppercut to its chin with a loud crack. Not one to waste the opportunity given to her, she then performed a leg sweep, taking the skeleton’s spear for herself as it fell limply to the ground.

    It was then that the hulking, fleshy creature from earlier came bounding through the wall of bones from earlier. It let out a guttural roar as eyes bulged from throughout its body, each of them bloodshot. It reached an arm towards her, which warped into some kind of twisted maw to consume Althea through. Spear still in hand, she ran right up towards the monster, veering away at the last moment before vaulting onto its fleshy, deformed limb. Running up its fleshy skin and towards its shoulder, her gaze was trained on the man ahead. However, he smirked, raising his palm towards her as she approached. Dark energy swirled around his hand in a sphere before launching itself right at the spirit. Narrowing her eyes, Althea leaped from the abomination and spun into the air, using centrifugal force as she did so to throw the spear at the necromancer. The man’s eyes widened as the blade pierced clean through his stomach, vomiting a thick clot of blood. Hands trembling, he looked down at the lithe figure sitting in front of him in the harness… who had also been stabbed straight through the chest.

    “My precious! My Elodia!” Ambivalent towards his mortal injury, he hastily lowered ‘Elodia’s’ hood. Revealed underneath was a young teenage girl. Her pale green hair was done into pigtails, allowing her long elf-like ears to show from beneath. And a metal muzzle was fitted around her mouth. As Althea landed back on the ground, she couldn’t help but recognize the figure. She had often served as an annoying peanut gallery for her in the past before the spirit was ever reverse summoned to the Aetherial Wastes. She did think the name Elodia was familiar, but it wasn’t like that mattered now. “My sweet, beautiful Elodia! The love of my life for these past 3 years! Your beauty has been… tarnished!” The only thing the blonde could see in the room apart from herself was a huge sack of flesh, a soon-to-be-dead man, and an immaculately preserved corpse.

    Rushing at the hulking monstrosity, it only took a barrage of punches to render the beast bloodied and bruised, misshapen flesh torn by the sheer force of her strikes. With a shriek, it fell over, and Elodia and the necromancer fell into a pool of rancid, dirty blood. “Ngh, this wasn’t meant to…” The man struggled against the spear, but the result had already been set. The undead nymph was already done for, and soon he followed suit, evaporating into a haze of black with his final breaths.

    Althea let out a sigh, moving around the mass of corpses to venture deeper into the cave. The encounter had left her unmoved, and she had no intentions now apart from rescuing the captives, delivering them to the merchant, and returning to Magnolia to take some time to properly process the day.




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      Current date/time is 25th February 2024, 7:27 pm