Chapter 44: Stay and Die!
The old man stood next to the silver casket, pumping more energy into it through the glass cover.
He gritted his teeth.
That one is getting too strong. He’s now even calling me, ‘old man’. Soon he might have ideas on his own.The old man coughed and hacked. Pulling his hand from his face, he saw the black-green blood, and quickly hid it away. And just when I’m getting weaker. The side-effects of making her were too severe this time. He can already talk like the highborn as he’s advanced, but now he just might start thinking like them. If the construct dies, I’ll lose his support, and then I’ll lose the support of the others. I cannot let that happen!
The old man watched as the large wraith turned into more of a human-looking figure, it’s skin like black and smooth. As expected, it took only a few seconds for him to break the boy’s barrier and kill him. He then watched as the wraith stuck out it’s long, pink wet tongue and licked its lips. Stretching out with it’s other hand, as the first stayed bored into the boy’s chest, the entire arm turned ethereal and grabbed at the boy’s head. But unlike the more solid arm, it passed right through without causing any physical damage.
If an outsider were here, an averati or a human, they would not know what the wraith was doing. But the old man did.
A terrible howl emanated from the boy’s body. One that turned into a piercing shriek.
The old man took his hand from the casket and quickly made some hand gestures and chanted a few words. As soon as he finished the last word, a large barrier erected around the large wraith and the boy, quickly curtailing the horrid sound, leaving the area to silence once again.
The old man grimaced.
“Is he trying to alert the entire highborn army that we’re here?! This damned…” He’s getting even more out of hand. The more souls he eats, the stronger he becomes, but the less self-control.
From the start wraiths were born differently. They were born from the souls that were unable to advance to the spirit domain, where all souls must go after they have been severed from their bodies by death.
There are many reasons why a soul could not leave this plane and enter the spirit domain. One of the reasons here was because of the natural spirit gateway that existed between the plane of the living, called the life domain, and the plane of the dead, called the spirit domain, was corroded. How did it corrode? No one knew. All they knew was that it was, and not many souls could leave. That resulted those souls to wander, which was then they became often called as spirits.
As spirits grew old and malevolent with the passing of years, they could, with the help of certain natural compounds, like the lava pool within the stalagmites, be turned into wraiths.
This was why the Stalagmite Realm was filled with many wraiths. And the wraiths prospered here. The channels of the lava pools was extensive within each stalagmite, and they connected throughout the entire realm.
But not all wraiths were born the same. Occasionally, some spirits would interact with others and consume them, drawing out their spiritual force into themselves. This, when transformed into wraiths, caused them to be bigger and smarter. And these bigger and smarter wraiths were deemed highborn.
They ruled over the other wraiths with fear and might. They had the ability to consume their souls and grow stronger still.
The old man had come and taken over using the power of his cultivation. But.. Even with his power he was unable to bring the highborn to heel. He need the wraiths for a purpose, and for full control. Wraiths were not just some lowly dark creature. There was something more and darker involved, so much so, he was scared to act alone. That was why he had made the construct. If ‘she’ becomes the Wraith Imperator, they will follow her! And they will then follow me! I must complete her. He had given the lowborn wraiths a chance to change their fate, to get stronger.
The large wraith was originally a lowborn. And due to the old man’s experiments, he grew stronger.
But now he’s getting out of hand. And not just him. The stronger ones are showing some instances of going ary as well.
The old man stood there and watched as the large wraith pulled out the severed soul of the boy. He watched as the wraith squeezed with it’s ethereal hands, and the soul lit up lightly and turned into a tiny ball of light. He watched as the large, sharp teeth gouged out chunks from that light until their was none left. He watched as a smile spread across and the lips were moistened with a lick of its tongue.
He sighed, removed the barrier, and continued pumping more of his energy into the casket.
He felt some of the constructs life-force slip away.
“Damn it. Having stopped the energy flow just a tiny bit decreased it’s life force by so much! I’m going to kill him.” But the old man knew he could not. It would expend so much of his energy to, and more importantly, the large wraith had recently become key to keeping the other lowborn wraiths in check.
With gritted teeth, the casket, lifted up by several wraiths was pulled along as he went forward
The army he was leading, held no more than from the promises he’s made, and the slim, white construct a symbol of it all, began to move forward once again.
“Time to finish this.”
Yara gritted her teeth as she slammed her sword into the metal shield of an enemy student. Damn it, which elder let him bring a shield with him.
The sword in her hand was slick with blood as some of it rolled down and splattered on the handle, mixing with the sweat from her palm.
More and more enemies pushed against the group. They had lost half their number already. The only good thing about it was that they were clustered together, and only twenty or so enemies could attack at a time or risk injuring others. Even more so was that these students were not cohesive. They attacked each other as well.
She hacked at it again, and the large green-skinned averati with the shield backed up.
Yara pushed her way ahead out of the cluster of her group and launched herself to against the averati with the shield. The averati fell back again, his shield thrown back slightly. But that slight movement was enough. With a skillful thrust, Yara switched the sword to her left hand and jabbed the blade up into the averati’s chest.
The male spat blood and keeled over on his back.
Yara jumped back, blocking the wooden axe of another averati, but luckily it was made of wood, and as she hacked at it with her sword, the axe broke and she cut the averati’s head off. I don’t even get time to breathe.
She fought as she inched back until she was once again, arm to arm, with her group.
“Ah” A scream echoed by her side.
Another one fallen. Damn it! Nargul, hurry it up!
The portal was five hundred feet high. The area was wide as seven hundred feet, and you could see the air around distort. It was like the portal they entered with, except this time it did not reflect the image of their background, but instead, showed them the other side.
Nargul stared at the dark canyon ahead, entrance sitting on top of a far away cliff. On it, there were steps etched into the face of the cliff, and torches emanating a crystal light glow every few feet of steps.
Nargul sighed, “we’re so close. But so far! Damn it. I can just touch it! I wouldn’t have to use this. I wouldn’t have to lose…” Nargul stopped himself. Some of his men were at his side, there on the pretence of ‘guarding’ him as he set up the path to leaving this wretched place. All of them knew what he had and what it could do. The only thing they did not know was that not all of them would be able to go with him. As for Yara, she stayed with those fighting. ‘They would have gotten suspicious if all the upper levels of the group were not fighting’, she had said. And Nargul happily agreed. But as he began to think about it.. This girl really is too cunning. Trying to show off fighting with them, eh? Nargul narrowed his eyes. If he used the box and escaped with only a few of his clan, abandoning even his own people, he may be spurned by the elders of the academy for leaving his people behind. But… She fought with them till the end. Even if she’s an easterner, and ends up running here to escape, they would think differently of her. And she knows it!
Nargul cursed, but at the end of the day, it was his life that mattered most. He was not going to risk his life fighting. Besides, he had to do this. No one else could unless they were from his clan. And even then, would he be able to trust them? He shook his head and sat down.
The sounds of battle raged behind him, and when he heard another scream of one of their own falling, his eyes flashed with a trace of fear.
He pulled out a black wooden box. His fingers traced across symbols etched into the surface as he placed it at the foot of the portal. Taking a deep breath, he took out a small knife and kicked the tip of his thumb.
“By the blood of the Omniac, open!” He roared.
And the symbols on the box lit up.
Nargul stood up, and watched as he backed up. He knew what was going to happen. It would definitely work. It was made by the head branch of his clan. How could it not work? But he was told beforehand it needed time to fully activate.
Nargul glanced back at Yara’s silhouette, and his heart stirred. The female averati was beautiful and cunning. Something any man would want in a wife. She was leadership material, and firm in her ways. And even though she was from the East, a part of him did not want to leave her. Even with her not allowing him to touch her, he knew that with her low status in the family, he coul eventually claim her through his connections. But… She’s just too cunning. He closed his eyes and turned around. How could he not realize this? Her power was over his own in his own group. Though they spurned her for her origins, and outwardly acted as if her ideas were air, he could see the respect the others had for her. Even some from other groups began to respect her. And in times of danger, his groupmates favored her orders over his, and that was simply because… they knew they would have a higher chance to survive!
That look Nargul saw in the eyes of his group made him feel inferior. And that inferiority disgusted him, especially since the feeling stemmed from a lowly easterner. How dare she? A mere easterner threaten my position! When the box activated, he would use it along with the few he gave instructions to, and leave, locking everyone on this side. This was his only chance. Otherwise, he would not have much chance to get rid of her. Even his most closest confidants when it came to the girl, he was not sure they would help him kill her. He knew they wouldn’t betray him, but making them kill her was an entirely different matter. And he was not sure if he, or Jargul, could match her in a fight.
Nargul looked back again and clicked his tongue.
Just stay here and die!
When the fight started, Cotter’s wooden cell was left open. Even Jargul paid no attention to him, running of with Nargul somewhere behind.
After time slipped by, Cotter began to gain some strength back. No one had been there to force feed him any more of that stuff that sapped his energy away. So he was able to finally tear apart the twine that held him fastened to the wooden pole that jammed deep into the ground.
Averati were innately strong. And because his family was from a large clan, albeit they were from the eastern side, they still had enough resources and techniques to bolster their strength to a particular degree.
As Cotter left the cage, he climbed out the tiny shallow pit he was in. But as he stood, what he saw was chaos.
In front of him, tens of averati from Nargul’s group were trying to hold the shallow hill. They fought vigorously with hundreds of averati that were pouring through from the forest.
And the only few things that kept them alive until now was mostly skill.
The group that held him hostage were made up of some of the most skilled warriors that were apart of the trial. That, with those attacking them being on lower ground was also an advantage. But there were also the fact that those attacking were actually attacking each other in some places, and most at the back were defending themselves against attacks from behind.
A few wraiths began to spill out of the forest. They launched themselves against the students, closing in and smashing the averati students closer together like a giant net falling down, and trapping a school of fish on the ocean floor.
He saw Yara roar, the sound making even his blood boil. More and more averati ganged up on her. She was fighting two, sometimes three at the same time.
Her face was fierce, and the aura exuding around her was pressuring.
“Yara.” He mumbled.
His heart ached.
It was that woman who kept him in a cage like some human’s swine. A woman he thought he loved. Knew he loved. Only… he was not so sure now.
Cotter gritted his teeth.
A small light suddenly flashed, and Cotter glanced back. A ways away, he could see Nargul and a group of seven standing there, unblooded, in front of a box. She fights there for your people, your group, and you do nothing! Standing there safe.
There was a part of Cotter that loved Yara deeply. He could not bear to be without her, and so, seeing the averati she chose over him not even fighting by her side, an anger boiled inside of him.
It was then that a wail broke the air. It was far fiercer than the one before.
Cotter turned to look.
Coming out of the forest was hundreds of wraiths. They swarmed out like a boiling fog, and attacked.
More and more students that were trudging up the hill and fighting each other turned back and started to fight the wraiths.
The wraiths were ethereal and would swipe at them, bypassing their tools, and scratching at their souls.
Lights exploded across the field. Averati were using their tools and abilities to push the wraiths back.
A few light blue barriers erected here and there, blocking the wraiths from their attacks.
Far to the left, a large ball of flame blew across a few yards.
“That technique… Can’t be…”
And then the entire flank exploded in a mass of flurry.
And the wraiths went wild.