The corpse of the small Scamp was kicked lightly, resulting in a faint, dry crackling sound that was horribly similar to dead leaves.
“Hm, it’s dead.”
“But what killed it?”
As the three doppelgangers surrounded the shriveled up corpse of the Scamp, they began to debate among each other on what to do next. Their orders were rather specific, but given the vague death of the scamp, it was certainly difficult in telling just what killed it in such a way.
“So what now?”
“Find the Lord, that was master’s command.”
“Kill him right away, if he won’t submit.”
They all nodded towards each other, before quickly shifting into the shapeless, smoke form gifted by their master. Silently gliding over the land, they began to make their way towards the mana of the new lord, leaving only the faintest of smoke trails behind them.
Looking across to the Satyr, Drake held out his hands expectantly, and Satyr quickly placed his makeshift satchel of monster cores in it.
“Thanks, this should help me make it to the next step.” Drake replied happily. With this, he could hopefully make it to the next step, and perfect the technique that Yami showed him.
Taken aback by Drake’s strange attitude, Satyr responded in a rather unsteady fashion.
“A-ah, of course master, there’s no need to thank me of course, it was my order.”
Drake stared at the Satyr strangely, and laughed to himself. It seems that the average response for an order wasn’t exactly a thanks in return. Unless he was forced to, he didn’t want to force the Satyr to do anything he was against, which resulted in this situation.
He thought to himself for a moment, and smiled deviously. Yami certainly seemed unnerved and a bit embarrassed at first, but she quickly grew to love it, so…
“Satyr, I imagine it would get old pretty quick just calling you by your race, right?”
Yami, who had been fairly downcast since her and Drake’s discussion, immediately perked up, and began to listen intensely. Given that she had been almost asleep between Drake horns before, this was a sudden shift in attitude.
“It doesn’t bother me, master. I don’t expect to ever be given a name, and neither should any demon.” The Satyr said in a rather straightforward way.
Drake laughed inwardly. While it was certainly different in tone, it was the same thought. Names shouldn’t just be given out, and those who had names were among some of the most important, as they were powerful enough to be seen as an individual.
[Drake, you’re going to give him a name?]
The question from Yami was reserved. It didn’t have any traces of anger at the Satyr, nor any envy. It was a simple, honest question.
[At the very least, he’s the first on my journey to become what I am. It would be a shame if he was left nameless while others came along. Also…]
Picking up Yami from in between his horns, he sat her on his shoulders, nuzzling her small frame with his face.
[You’ll always be my Yami. Don’t let anyone else tell you differently. You’ll always be special to me as the first friend that I made in this new world, and the one that I will always trust. So don’t let yourself be jealous, alright?]
As the oblivious Satyr watched the private conversation, Yami took a moment to herself, and flew up off Drake’s shoulder. She smirked, and then began to smile widely. Taking her hands, she put them to both sides, and thrust her petite chest out proudly.
[Hm, let myself be jealous. Drake, it seems you still think too lightly of me. I would never do such a thing. But…] Flitting towards Drake, she stopped next to his head, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
[Thank you.] She said sweetly.
Drake only smiled slightly, and turned back to the Satyr, who watched the strange interaction with a neutral expression.
“So, do you want a name?”
The sudden question took the Satyr by complete surprise. Given his disposition, he expected that he might never receive a name. For the first time, the serious expression of the Satyr dropped, leaving him with a dumbstruck look.
“Master, you can’t intend to…”
Smiling, Drake cut him off.
“How do you like the name, Therion Alpha? I think it suits you quite well. Shortened to Therion, of course.” Drake said in a mischievous manner.
“Master, you can’t just-”
“Forget trying to convince him, Therion.”
Floating off Drake, Yami turned to the Satyr with a strangely blank expression, only cracking a smile after a moment.
Attempting to hide her smirk, she said, “You won’t be able to convince him when he has his mind made up. I tried the same, and lost just as badly. And this was even before a contract, mind you. Have you ever heard of such a thing?”
Yami ended her sentence with a snicker, eyeing Drake out of the corner of her eye with a sweet smile.
“He’s just that sort of person. So, accept it graciously. Otherwise you might annoy him, and that wouldn’t do, right?” She said with a wink.
The Satyr looked between the two for a moment, and then sighed reluctantly, before walking forward to bow.
“Thank you, master.”
Drake could barely contain his smile, and quickly turned away from the Satyr, saying, “Yea, yea. Come on, let’s get going.”
Flying up next to Drake, Yami asked, “What do you mean? Aren’t you going to eat them here?”
Drake shook his head emphatically, lifting up the small bag of cores. Even with the bag resembling something like a patch of roadkill, the cores inside still shined ever so slightly, resulting in a faint glow.
“Listen, you two don’t know this, but something always bad happens when I go to a new step. Hell, when I first gained a mana core, even with it only half-formed, I was out for God knows how long. When I woke up, you guys had already started to spawn. Even when I turned into a Lord, I passed out from the pain. So…”
Drake dangled the bag of cores.
“I’m not going to eat these here.
Both Therion and Yami looked to each other quizzically, watching as Drake began to make his way back to Gwyn’s barrier.
“Spawn? What does that mean?” Therion asked.
Yami gained an intelligent expression, holding one finger up in the air.
“I think it has something to do with the creation of new species, although I’m not sure what that has to do with me. While your species is created with demonic mana, I was created by the Creator’s themselves. I’m not sure why he referred to me as well. Strange.”
“Hey! What are you guys doing? Hurry up.”
“I made a mistake.” Gwyn muttered.
Gwyndolyn, a witch of Izalith, came from several sources. Like all the monsters in the world, they could stay true to particular myths or tales, or take from several sources, adding them all to make a greater whole. As for her own particular type, she was made with an even mix in mind. Almost human, but not quite. Containing both the power of magic and sorcery, which most monsters were unable to effectively use, while at the same time belonging to the “beast races”, making their own decisions with that in mind. And, above all, coveting and constantly working towards greater magics.
For Gwyn in particular, she had already been born with the talent to cast a variety of magic, with her trump card being gravity magic. Being exposed to such a powerful mixture of magics like Drake’s intrigued her immensely. If she could somehow study and imitate such magic, she could quickly become even more powerful. However, such talent came at a terrible cost.
Witches, as a race, are often hunted down by others. Initially, they are weak and feeble, only able to conjure up the most pitiful of magic outside their own domain. Gwyn’s barrier was such an example of this, both protecting her and empowering her immensely, but leaving her almost defenseless outside. Their tendency to appear as beautiful women had also endangered several who were caught defenseless by the humanoid races. So, Gwyn was left alone, trapped in a cage of her own making. That is, until Drake and Yami came along.
Laying down on her bed, she closed her eyes, thinking back to her battle against the monstrosity that Drake’s mana had conjured.
That mana wyrm that came from Drake. It was meant to be the true inheritor. That alone explains the frightful aura that always seems to seep out of him. If he wasn’t able to use his abilities, he wouldn’t seem so frightening, but that thing seems to have all the knowledge the Creator’s gave him.
Gwyn furrowed her brow, and quickly grabbed a discrete container of liquid. The slight brown color, and the way it burned down her throat quickly gave it away as alcohol. She had traded one of her potions for the strange concoction only a few days after her creation, trading it to a simple goblin who had come across it, although it was more out of curiosity than for any real need.
Thinking back to her fight with him, she thought of what she said out of frustration, quickly downing a quarter of the burning liquid down her throat.
“You’re privileged in comparison, and don’t even know why!”
She smiled faintly, a deep sadness exuding from her smile. Maybe I was too hard on him. He’s still a child compared to all the others. He barely knows how to control his own power, and I was just taking out my own weakness on him. Weakness that was taken advantage of at the worst possible moment.
As Gwyn thought back, she hiccuped slightly, the alcohol beginning to wear away at the mask she always wore to keep herself detached. She took a moment to gaze out her window, the bright blue sky marred by faint smoke trails coming up from the forest.
“I’m sorry to the both of you… but we just live in two different worlds. The only place I’m safe is in this little bubble I’ve created for myself, while you two get to truly live out in the world.” She murmured.
Downing the rest of the small glass, she said softly, “I’ll do better, I promise.”
As Drake began to make his way back through the forest, he noticed something strange. This was one of the areas that he passed through regularly, given that his small hole in the ground was somewhat close nearby. But for some reason or another, practically all the underbrush had disappeared, leaving the forest floor eerily clean of limbs and other twigs.
He stopped to stare at the surroundings. Someone or something had definitely been through here, he just couldn’t tell what.
“Hey Yami, Therion, do either one of you notice anything strange around here?” Drake said as he turned around.
Strangely, after Therion received his name, Yami had been much more open to the large Satyr, even going so far as to chat with him instead of riding on Drake’s head like normal. It was a good change of pace, at the very least he hoped that they could be friends.
“What do you mean by strange, master?” Satyr asked quizzically.
Yami quickly flew next to him, asking, [Do you mean how everything is so clean around here?]
Drake quickly answered. [Exactly. It wasn’t like this at all when I blacked out.]
Yami smiled mischievously, before landing on Drake’s shoulder.
[That’s obvious. It’s goblins, of course. Their mana signature is so faint that I didn’t figure it’d be important though.]
Drake turned to the small imp, his confusion building.
[Wait, you knew? Why didn’t you tell me?] Drake asked accusingly.
Yami seemed surprised and almost hurt. She muttered, [Well, it didn’t seem very important. I told you about Therion after all, and that’s because he is the only monster that’s actually came towards us.”
Drake shook his head.
[Wait, you mean there’s more? What do you mean he’s the only one who has come towards us?]
The young imp flitted off of Drake’s shoulder, an annoyed look on her face.
[I mean exactly what I said. Your aura repels practically everything near us. That’s why we never end up fighting anyone unless you’re on the lookout for food. You mean you didn’t know?] She said, her wings beating in an agitating fashion.
Wait, if that’s true then…
“How did you find me in the first place? Yami said that you raced towards me because you felt demonic magic, but how did you even do that?”
What Drake didn’t understand is that normally, unless intentionally restricted, the natural aura of monsters radiates out towards others. Factoring in the population of a certain species and their strength, most creatures are able to avoid a fight. A goblin wouldn’t wander into a cave of trolls, and almost certainly, weaker species avoid those who have the ability to wipe them out entirely.
In other words, Drake had been unconsciously suppressing his aura whenever he was hungry, and had kept it at full power at almost every other time. Humanoids are the exception to this rule, as until certain individuals are able to give off a frightening aura, monsters can simply overpower them. This backfires when they group up in parties, but the enhanced senses of monsters can often compensate to detect humanoid groups before they can get too close.
“I simply looked towards the most powerful demonic aura, and raced towards it master. There, I found you. I thought you knew, since you seemed prepared whenever I arrived.”
Drake sighed in an exasperated manner. It seems he still knew entirely too little about how the world worked. He had jumped to conclusions instead of trying to think it out.
[Yami, I apologize, this was my fault.]
The small imp swayed back and forth for a moment, clearly a bit miffed at being accused so suddenly.
[Hmph. I was only looking out for you. They’re just goblins. You could probably wipe out the entire tribe.] She said. She then floated over to Drake’s head, and made herself comfortable.
[Let me stay here for a while. Then I’ll accept your apology.]
Drake smirked to himself. She had already accepted his apology, and just wanted to take her favorite spot between his horns. That much was obvious by their connection.
[Yea, yea. So Yami.]
[What are the tribes like?]
Yami popped down in Drake’s line of sight, her small horns magnified in his vision.
[Why do you want to know something like that? They’re filthy creatures, even if they are more civilized in their tribal system. You killed one, didn’t you? I saw its corpse nearby whenever I was created.]
Then, as Yami finished answering, her demeanor changed. She slowly sat up from her position on Drake’s head, as if she was paying attention to something intensely.
Then, suddenly flying off of Drake’s head, Yami suddenly took a defensive pose, flying high up and trying to scout for what she was sensing.
[Drake, get ready. There are traces of demonic mana coming towards us, and quick.]
Drake looked at Yami in a nonchalant manner. [What, again? Is it just more demons looking for a master?]
[No, they seem like servants.]
“Master, there are enemies coming.” Therion said, his voice full of menace.
“Right, get ready Therion. From the sounds of it, we don’t know if they’re friendly or not.”
Therion’s eyes narrowed threateningly, with the faint red glow of Drake’s aura beginning to build around his hands.
“Master, I recognize this mana, it comes from an opposing Lord. One that I fought recently.”
“Wait, you fought some servants of another Lord? When?”
“Now isn’t the time master, they’re almost here.”
Taking a defensive position, Drake held both his hands stretched out, letting his aura build in his hands. If he needed to attack quickly, at the very least he’d be able to blast out two deadly spikes at whoever was coming towards them.
“Yami, fly up. I don’t want you getting hurt. You can use my magic to a small extent, so spray them with shards if you get the chance. Therion, you can join me. It’ll be fun to see how someone else fights when they aren’t trying to kill me.”
Therion nodded in response, a feral grin beginning to build on his face. Getting the chance to battle someone who potentially matched him in strength was all he could ask for after receiving power. It’d give him the chance to finally tune his new abilities.
It was only a short moment after they were prepared that they begin to show up. Formless, shadowy figures circled Therion and Drake, with Yami hanging high up in the air, watching. Then, just as suddenly as the appeared, they began to solidify. Therion recognized the process. It was a faster, more stable version of the strange Void Smoke ability the worthless Scamp used. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to cancel the process entirely, but he could certainly still damage them while they were in that form.
Taking a triangular position around Drake and Therion, each of the three doppelgangers finished forming, taking a reserved, expressionless disposition as they began to speak among each other.
“Strange, two Lords, one weaker and one stronger.”
“Is one a servant, or merely a trick?”
“It doesn’t matter, the result is the same.”
Turning away from one another, they turned to Drake and Therion. Speaking out in unison, the three began to speak. They all spoke to the more powerful of the supposed Lords. Their long white hair coupled with their almost sickening pale skin highlighted just how inhuman the three of them truly were.
“We come with a message from our master. Join us on our conquest and become subordinate to our Lord, or die. Choose quickly.”
As the three doppelgangers gave their ultimatum, a strange, almost exhilarating emotion began to infect Drake. A widespread, mad grin spread across his sharp fangs, with a brief flicker of unrelenting fury only briefly showing in his eyes. His signature aura began to pour out of him, enveloping him completely and slowly spreading towards the others. All the while, only a single thought echoing throughout his mind.
How dare the whelps try to order me…
“Hehehee… You just walk up to me, and ask me to submit or die? Who do you think you are?” Drake said, his voice barely keeping an even tone, his aura continuing to billow out in waves.
The doppelgangers all looked to one another, unnerved by the aura coming from the strange creature. At first glance, it seemed to be a Demon of Envy. Such a demon would certainly be useful under their Lord, and the demons he owned would be even more suited to assassination than they were. But…
“Well, just who are you, and why are you here?!” Drake yelled, his voice becoming increasingly unstable from excitement.
This was clearly no Demon of Envy. In fact, the mana waves coming off of the strange creature indicated him as a Demon of Pride. But no demon would ever disguise themselves as one of the Draconian race, let alone the unique powers they would give up as a result of such a perfect disguise.
Sensing something was wrong, one of the doppelgangers spoke up, a haggard look on his face.
“We come under orders from Lord Absalom. He is a lord from the east, and he wishes to accept you into his forces. Such a subordinate would be a wonderful addition.” He answered nervously.
Drake merely nodded his head in a sarcastic manner, saying “Oh, Lord Absalom. Of course.”
As Drake stared at the three doppelgangers that surrounded him, only one thought was going through his mind.
So weak. If I just kill them, I’ll be done with them. It’s so simple
“Therion.” Drake muttered.
“Kill them all.”
Returning Drake’s feral grin, he answered. “Yes.”
Drake’s figure streaked across the forest as he enhanced himself with his aura as he charged forward, a vicious snarl on his face. Therion followed suit, dashing towards his own target with his claws fully outstretched. The moment that the doppelgangers came in contact with Drake’s aura, it began to weaken them, in both body and spirit.
Drake’s body momentarily blurred, appearing in front of the first doppelganger before grabbing the creature by the arm. The sound of tearing flesh and bone echoed out as a red bolt of crystal suddenly shot through its arm as Drake released the mana he had kept concentrated in his hand. The doppelganger released a terrifying wail as he looked Drake in the eyes, the doppelganger’s form beginning to become hazy as the moment passed.
Keeping a firm grip, Drake smiled and opened his other hand to the center of the doppelganger’s torso, and fired.
Initially, all of the doppelgangers were shocked from the sudden offensive, and attempted to shift to their smoke form. This was the reason they were so successful on the few missions their master had sent them on. Having no true form, their ability to shift from one state to the next greatly amplified the natural ability Absalom gave most of his servants. They could shift in and out of it freely, attacking as they willed while being almost invulnerable to all physical forms of attack. However…
Clutching his chest, the doppelganger struggled to pull out the large crystalline spear that was now imbedded deep within himself, with the second spear still pierced deep within his left arm. The creature gave a horrible, wracking cough, spraying droplets of blood onto the crystal that started to glow with an evil intent.
Panicked, the doppelganger quickly struck out at Drake, who simply let go, and watched as the creature jumped backward, struggling to change his form. His Lord’s ability didn’t activate, and it left him utterly open. Attempting to use his own abilities, his body flashed with a faint silver light, before fading away completely, leaving him utterly terrified. Did he lose his powers entirely, and what was this strange crystal in him?
“How…” The doppelganger couldn’t help but voice his grief out loud. He attempted to vanish once more and transform into smoke, only this time, the crimson crystal responded violently. Glowing in beat with the doppelganger’s heartbeat, the crystal suddenly grew to almost twice its previous size, the doppelganger shrieking with pain.
Cutting through the air, Drake rushed forward, using his tail to sweep the creature’s legs, the spikes of crystal tearing away lumps of pale, white flesh away from its body as it fell to the ground, gasping for air. The creature’s body struggled on the ground for a moment, as Drake walked up to the struggling figure. His serpentine tongue flicked out of his mouth, tasting the air as he fired two more bolt of crystal into the body, the short gasps of breath coming from the doppelganger quickly silenced soon after.
Drake gave a terrifying laugh, and turned to Therion. He saw the Satyr clearly had the advantage. The doppelganger had been able to transform in time to avoid any physical attacks, but it wasn’t faring any better than Drake’s. While it was able to evade the Satyr with its smoke form, with every mana infused attack through the smoke, more and more of its form was lost. The mana absorption from Greed was slowly allowing the Satyr to tear through it, piece by piece. It wouldn’t be much longer before there was nothing left.
“He’s not useless after all.” Drake said, his voice changing into a more serpentine tone.
Turning to his last target, Drake was surprised by what he saw. During his first fight, he was half-expecting the useless creature’s third companion to jump in and help, or at least assist with the Satyr. However, looking at his situation now, he was pleasantly surprised. Even at a glance, Drake could see the multitude of small red shards that had been planted in the ground around it. He knew it was likely that the doppelganger had attempted to join in the battle, but was trapped by the hail of deadly mana from Yami.
Looking to the last doppelganger, Drake smiled and began to laugh, his eyes fully concentrated into thin slits.
“Surrender or die? Is that what you said? Well what now, keheheee.” Declared Drake mockingly.
Extending his hand, Drake’s mana rushed towards the doppelganger, taking him by surprise. As he worked to avoid Yami, he noticed his foot suddenly caught on something. Looking down, he noticed his foot was completely incased in a red crystal, with it continually growing further onto his body by the second. The creature’s face blanched in fear, and it repeatedly attempting to shift forms. With each attempt, the terrifying crystal only advanced further and faster. Turning to the Draconic being, his eyes widened in panic.
“Unlike the choice you so graciously gave me, I won’t let you do either..” Drake laughed.
As the mana Drake had released around the doppelganger came together, it continuously morphed together with a satisfying, glass-like sound, slowly freezing the enemy in place. Within moments, crystals were building on the doppelganger’s entire body, slowly building around him until his mind and body had slowed to a complete halt.
“I.. must… escaapppeee…” As the crystal completed sealing in the doppelganger, it stopped moving, completely frozen in place by the crystal structure around him.
Drake waved his hand, the swirling mana concentrating on the doppelganger and completing the crystal structure around it. A tall, 6 foot crystal had completely surrounded and encased the last enemy in a deep, blood colored crystal, the very crystal only becoming more solid by the second as it trapped the doppelganger within. Satisfied, Drake turned to Therion.
And now, all I need to do is…
Drake suddenly stopped in place, the feral look that had been so gleefully made on Drake’s face was now frozen. His aura that hung so thickly in the air mirrored his reaction, staying eerily still compared to its normally fluid nature.
I said, get out of my head!
Like a string of twine snapping, Drake suddenly dropped to one knee, a horrified, pained expression on his face. The mana that had been building in the air responded in kind, recoiling wildly, slowly weakening and losing its constructed form. The crystal around the doppelganger stayed solid, but the rest of Drake’s aura in the air began to dissipate, not even attempting to return to Drake. It was as if the connection was simply cut altogether. As it hung there in the air, it began to lose its shape and form, slowly disappearing altogether without a proper source.
Yami, noticing Drake’s sudden change in behavior, began to make her way down to him. His sudden collapse after trapping the last doppelganger worried her, and his sudden battle hungry nature during the fight surprised her a bit as well. [Drake, are you alright, how did you do that?]
Finishing the last of the doppelgangers with a swipe of his claws, Therion had also won and was now left with what looked like a small ball of smoke, congealed and kept together by its own mass.
Drake kept completely still, still struggling to comprehend what had happened to him during the fight.
It’s gone, right? He thought to himself.
He felt a chill come over him, running through his entire body as he asked that question to himself.
Picking himself up, Drake began to shake in place, clearly fearful of what had just happened.
Turning to the Satyr, he forcefully ordered, “Therion, bring whatever you have there, and the other two doppelgangers. I need to get back to Gwyn’s, now.”
The Satyr stared for a moment in confusion, then turned to make his way to the body of the doppelganger on the ground and the crystalline form of the other without any questions.
Yami then floated down to Drake’s shoulder, her voice full of concern.
[Drake, what happened, how did you-]
[It wasn’t me, dammit!] Drake yelled, his voice echoing out in anger and frustration.
Seeing the small imp flinch in place at his outburst, Drake felt a deep guilt run through him. He turned away from her small, questioning eyes and began to walk deliberately towards Gwyn’s barrier.
It wasn’t me… He thought, this time as if trying to remind himself.
*Authors Note* Well, this was certainly one of the first battle scenes that I really felt satisfied with. As a still somewhat new author, new types of scenes can be a bit hard to portray correctly for me, so i’m pretty proud of this chapter. Leave some comments of what you thought of the chapter, it helps me out a lot!