Chapter 20: Negative Roots

Chapter 20: Negative Roots

A Chapter by Sairek Ceareste





"...Master Kaerth Rylai, Dormias has returned..."

"Right on time as I had requested. Very good of him... or has he returned empty handed?"

"No Master, he has brought a boy as you had requested."

"...Bring him in, then."

Dressed in dark maroon robes, with black patterns spread across it. Kaerth stood up slowly from his throne. His robes so long, that the bottom end touched the ground in a light folded clump. There was not a piece of skin that showed through his robes. Even his face was covered by a thick hood that folded down. Looking inside the hood was like staring into the void where souls themselves were to be forever damned. When the front doors to the throne room opened without even so much as a sound, not even a mere creak, with a large brute like demon, tanned with yellow-brown skin coming in and bowing on the floor in front of him, Kaerth raised his left arm slightly in a gesture. A hand that was nothing but bones came up from under the robes in a slow gesture as he spoke.

"Dormias, I see you have returned right on time... You have succeeded in your task and have brought me a human boy, yes...?" The tone was not one of questioning, rather it was a statement.

"Yes Master Kaerth Rylai. I believe you will be pleased with this one." The brute named Dormias answered.


Without even moving, he seemed to be looming over the overly large brute who was over two feet tall at least in over his size, even those he was kneeling down respectfully on his knees. "You have checked that he is indeed a boy and no older? I need one young and gullible for this to work..."

"Yes Master Kaerth Rylai. He is bald and frail like all human boys are."

"And you didn't do anything other than bring him here? I know how hard it is to control these... 'habits...'  that you have with the more... delicate guests you bring..."

"No, Master Kaerth Rylai! I would never do anything to betray your trust! I swore on my life that I would not do such a thing!"

"And yet you couldn't contain yourself the last time despite that oath... But I do not want to waste time lecturing you again on things of the past... I am sure you had learned your lesson and I strive for the future." His deep slow turned soon turned into one of deadly threat. "However... if you do it again, there will not be another chance. I can't have my subjects tainted by your selfishness, Dormias. You have delayed me long enough."

"Yes, Master Kaerth Rylai, I understand."

The tension in the room seemed to have slowly eased away as Kaerth's deep voice became more of calm and what could only really be described as 'patient'. "Good then... You will meet me behind the garden later in the next hour. I have something else that I must have you prepare for me. You may be off until then. I shall go see this boy you have brought me..."

"Yes Master, I shall be out of your way at once."

Dormias quickly got up off of his knees, whisking himself off to the side as Kaerth walked his way forward on the black carpet towards the door. His guards began moving towards him, but he held up his hand and shook his head, at least what they could make out of it under the hood it hid under.

"There is no need my children. I would not want to provoke our vessel with armed men. He is our guest. We need to make him comfortable. You will protect him even better than you will protect me, he is that special to us because he is that important, do you get my meaning? I will go alone." His voice then turned to that of a growl. "If I could not defend myself from a mere human boy, then I would not deserve to be throne of the Underworld..."

His men backed off with a small nod, before returning back into position. Kaerth slowly walked down many hallways, turning different paths. Kaerth made sure everything in the Palace was in absolute control and order. His father, previous King of the Underworld had perished. He deserved a completely clean tomb as a sign of respect.

Kaerth slowly walked his way to the doors of the room he was disgusted with the most, even though it was in his father's tomb. He would continue the work where his father left off. And to continue his father's work, this room had to exist. A little bit of the mortal realm inside the Underworld... They called it the "Garden of Life". No demon liked being in the room, but it was the only room where they could keep the important mortals, like this one, prisoners inside of the palace. They would die too soon, within hours otherwise.

Kaerth pushed the door open and closed the door behind him quickly. In front of him was a second door which he slowly pushed open. His skin crawled as he felt the Ethereal energy touch him like murky water. His robes didn't help combat the touch at all. But it was no more than that to him.

Kaerth slowly walked his way into the room. The room filled with lush grass, trees and a stream of water that circled around, much like how a fountain recycled water to keep the flow going. Kaerth moved his way to the middle of the room.

His eyes stared upon a sculpted rocky altar of stone so smooth to the touch that even a fingernail scratching it would be able to ruin its perfection. In the middle of it was a circular hole. The circular hole was filled with crimson red sand, which had a small amount of sparkling in it. In the middle of the sand buried up to his bare shoulders sat a boy looking no older than eight years old. The child looked up at him as he heard him coming in. His cheeks were wet with tears and his butter blonde hair was messy. Blue eyes. That could be a problem. He would have preferred one with green. Oh well, it was a minor set back. The hair too could be a problem, but it was more easy to remedy than the eyes. It wasn't that important though in the end how the boy really looked. What was important was the vessel itself.

 

Kaerth, as he walked towards the boy. He stared into the child’s bright blue eyes which seemed to be widened with fear as the boy looked at the bony hands that were just outside of the arms of the robes, holding no flesh at all.

 

“Do not be afraid, boy. I will not hurt you; I am your friend. My name is Kaerth Rylai. My people didn’t touch you in any… inappropriate ways, did they?”

 

The boy slowly shook his head. Kaerth let out a relieved sigh. “That is good. Sometimes my men get a little out of hand. I wouldn’t want them to treat a guest of mine so badly… They did not hurt you, did they?”

 

Once again, the child slowly shook his head. Kaerth frowned slightly even though the boy wouldn't be able to see it. Or maybe he could? Who was he to assume the depth of human vision? Some humans saw better than others. “You are not shaking your head because you are trying to hide anything from me, are you? If they threatened to do anything if you told me please do not hide it from me. I am here to be your friend, if you have any troubles, any, just tell me.”

 

For the third time, the boy slowly shook his head and then closed his eyes as another pair of tears rolled down his face. Quietly, the child mumbled out “…I want to go home…”

 

Kaerth let out a "sympathetic" sigh as he moved towards the child and sat himself seated cross-legged. He smoothed out the wrinkles in his robes. “I know you want to go home. I know that you must miss your parents very dearly, but I need your help. Please believe me when I say it pains me to have to take you from your home and from the custody of your parents... But I promise you it will only take a few days. I will try to work as fast as I can so you can be back home with your parents." It was very much true. He had no interest in harming this child. If anything, that was the last thing he needed to do. He needed to gain his trust. To do that he would need to anything for the boy. Almost. Taking him home, at least just now, before he could weave strings of threat of his plan into the boy would be too soon.

 

"What... are you going to do to me...?" The child asked in a quivering voice.

 

"Nothing... You just need to stay as you are for a few days. Nothing more will happen to you; I promise. I am here to personally take care of every need you have that I can without interrupting the ritual..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Cyial, where has the Abbot gone?" Sairek asked the Demon Acolyte, as he and Nayleen were at the entrance to the monastery. The Incubus himself had just came out of the structure to join up with them. Sairek held all of their belongings his own usual way and they all had a good breakfast to keep them satiated for many hours. The Demon's ear twitched hearing Sairek, as he held his book in both arms and pressed it against his chest.

 

"I looked around for him, but I couldn't find him. One of the Acolytes told me that he decided to go on ahead. I think he wanted to get an early start so that the distance between our paths wouldn't be too great. It makes sense to me if that is what he did. He had gone to bed rather early last night, before even sundown. He does do that sometimes."

 

"Seems fair to me too." Nayleen said before giving a small grin." We should go also. If we get beaten by an old man who's taking a longer route, it's going to look really bad on us.

 

Sairek sighed. "I guess... I wish we had more time here... There's still a few loose ends to tie up... Like that b*****d who dueled me... there's still that Ogre too, but we'll have to leave that up to the town. I'm not going Ogre hunting on these streets. I've barely stepped on these streets and I've already had enough of them."

 

"The streets have been nothing but trouble here." Nayleen pointed out and Sairek gave a single nod. With that, he began walking on ahead. Cyial and Nayleen walked in formation behind Sairek, as they went to the second gate of town which would lead them out to the forest. The trio approached the gate, the two soldiers guarding this side of the wall saluted to Sairek. The boy bowed back in respect. Cyial put his book between his lap, and bowed his head down as well. Nayleen, unsure of what to do, didn't do anything but bow just after a slight delay after Cyial.

 

"Please have a safe journey, Prince and co." One of the soldiers spoke to him.

 

"Your wish means much to me, thank you sir." Sairek commented back, pleased at the gesture.

 

The doors opened up, and Sairek walked through, as they walked through the hollow passage in the wall to the other end, Cyial glanced towards Nayleen.

 

"You were lost on what to do?" The Acolyte asked, and Nayleen let out a "Mhm," as she interlaced her hands behind her head as they walked. "Sorry, I don't know any of this kingdom's customs. Ours is quite a lot different. I maybe should have looked that up before coming here. Although, I was kind of planning to keep everything all hush-hush."

 

"Just do a small curtsy next time, even if you aren't wearing any sort of dress or anything of the sort, it is the gesture that counts." Sairek spoke, although he didn't turn around to meet the two. Nayleen dropped her arms at her sides.

 

"A curtsy? I'm wearing hunting clothes... I don't think a curtsy is really--"

 

"Just do it. It's not the looks the matter; it's the gesture. Unless you want to do the gesture that guys are supposed to do again." Sairek repeated. Nayleen sighed and rolled her eyes.

 

Sairek pushed the other door open when they reached it. There were another two soldiers also stationed on this side of the wall, and they saluted the trio in greeting. Sairek bowed to both of them formally individually as he did so. Cyial repeated his gesture, and Nayleen curtsied slightly as Sairek had told her to do. She felt a bit embarrassed, but didn't let it show. The trio soon continued on their way and Nayleen let out a sigh.

 

"Didn't seem any different to me..." she muttered.

 

Sairek shrugged. "You could say hello to a stranger on the street, but during your entire life, that may be the only word you will ever say to them as well as be the only moment you ever see them in your life. Still, people greet each other anyways, right? It's just respectful."

 

"I guess." Nayleen shrugged.

 

Eventually after about an hour of walking, the sun now rose above the low cliffs to expose itself and light the field they were walking on. Along with that, the forest came into view when they topped a gently rolling hill. The forest itself seemed to be covered in a light blue mist, creating a light fog around the area.

 

"That looks quite..." Cyial began.

 

"...Ominous?" Sairek suggested, and the Acolyte nodded. "Has it been like this before?"

 

"I'm sorry, I don't know. I never went this way out of town before. There has been no reason for me to do so... The Abbot says it's dangerous this way because many bandits have liked to use this forest for cover, so nobody has really bothered with it. I wonder if any bandits now have fled since the undead began appearing though... or how many have been killed..."

 

Sairek gulped a little bit when Cyial finished that sentence. Despite them being bandits, if they found many corpses, it would not fill his confidence. Against his better wishes, Sairek began walking towards the forest. The other two soon were following pursuit behind him.

 

After around twenty minutes, they reached the edge of the forest and their sight was masked by the thick fog. They could see the top of the hill before they entered the fog. Now they couldn't even so much see the sun, which they could have a few minutes ago and they weren't even under the canopy of tree tops yet. Sairek couldn't shake an uneasy feeling he had. He was sure they all had it. The Prince soon stopped his walk as he glanced over to Nayleen.

 

"Can you navigate forests fine even with a dense fog in the way?"

 

"It's not really going to make it that much harder, more like it will just make this take much longer. Forests have certain signs to them. Like... bent plants could mean that an animal, or person, has stepped on it recently and could still be nearby depending how fresh it is. How the terrain grows describes usually if a water source is nearby or not... generic stuff like that. The less I see, the more we're going to have to wander around, but we shouldn't be getting lost. You can't see far in forests anyways, right?"

 

Sairek looked from her to the forest. It got darker under the thick canopy of trees and the boy would have glanced back at her. "Are forests this dark?"

 

"Well, looking at how thick the brush is, and the fact we're in a dense fog, it's not a surprise. They usually aren't, but giving the circumstances, it's quite normal. The absence of the sun to use it as a reference point of direction may be a bit annoying I'll admit though."

 

"...It's the perfect place..." Cyial soon muttered out and both Sairek and Nayleen glanced towards him.

 

"Perfect place for what?" Sairek questioned.

 

"The perfect place to hide undead. It's day, but it's still dark despite that. The undead prefer dark places. The undead can easily ambush inside of here, as well inhabit the area because the sun makes Ethereal energy flow around more. Can you feel it Sairek? There's more Ethereal energy in here than normal, but it feels incredibly... still. Like comparing the flow of water to thick honey."


"...Actually to be honest, I can't feel it at all..." Sairek said sheepishly as he scratched the back of his head. "I'm not that experienced yet, Cyial. Normally I can feel it moving around, but I just can't sense anything when I try to draw it into myself. The staff kind of does it for me. I kind of... command it to draw it in or when not to. I have to judge how much I have in when there's enough of a mass that I can feel it, or just by guessing."

 

"Oh... well, try drawing the energy in with your staff. It should be much easier to sense it that way."

 

"To do so, I am going to need to cast a spell and release it. I can't just draw in energy and then keep it in there for hours. The energy will compress too much after a while and that would be bad. Not only would I have to use the spell I am drawing the energy in for, but it would be uncontrollable. That would be dangerous."

 

"Can you preemptively draw in energy though? I thought most magicians could?"

 

"I can, but that's not being directed into the staff; that's concentrating the energy to border around the staff. So that way when you do cast a spell, the energy has less distance to travel and the spell casting is almost instant. Aside from that, that still requires me to draw the energy in and not the staff. I can't sense anything on my own and I only just have the ability to draw in the energy by myself when standing still. Wandering around, doing other things, even if I had the power to keep it there, I would certainly lose my grip on it the moment I begin doing something else.

If I had been using a metal staff, I could draw it into the weapon without charging a spell, since they are not objects made out of Ethereal in the first place, it can cause no damage. That's one of the big advantages they have over their disadvantages. But even if that's the case, I wouldn't be able to sense the energy with that either."

 

"Just use... I dunno... Wuaie. Try blowing this fog away if we're lucky." Nayleen suggested. Sairek shrugged at the suggestion. He had no objections. He held his staff out in position. He closed his eyes and used the staff itself to draw in the ethereal.

 

"...There, I feel it moving towards the staff... do you feel it's movement too, Sairek?" Cyial asked. The Prince nodded.

 

"The Ethereal is meeting resistance. It's moving slower than normal... It just feels like the area I'm in just spawned with the staff... Okay, here it goes..... 'Wuaie,'"

 

The wind came out of nowhere, flapping Nayleen's hair, and Cyial's robe, but Sairek's clothes stayed nearly stationary as the wind ejected from his staff in front of him and not behind him. Cyial and Saireks' eyes seemed to widen a bit in interest.

 

"Feel that?" Cyial asked curiously.

 

"Yes." Sairek confirmed.

 

"I am completely lost..." Nayleen muttered.

 

"Wuaie pushed the Ethereal around and I bet when it stops moving, it will all..." Cyial trailed off as he waited.

 

They were silent for a few seconds as the wind died down. It eventually went to a stop, and Sairek and Cyial looked around for a few seconds.

 

"...Disappeared for me." Sairek spoke quietly.

 

"It's still there... I can sense it, but just barely..." Cyial commented. "This is unnatural for Ethereal to be like this... Fog can slow it down, but not enough for it to be still; let alone meet resistance."

 

"What does this all mean? Nayleen questioned. Sairek turned to her.

 

"It means that this fog is completely unnatural. It was summoned... but to do that, the cloud itself would have to have far more Ethereal energy... which means even if it was made to stop Ethereal, it would have Ethereal energy in it still... Which more or less means it's completely counterproductive."

 

"...Unless, you don't need Ethereal for this cloud..." Cyial spoke quietly.

 

"Don't need...?" Nayleen questioned. "But that's... Wait... that's... You don't mean--" Nayleen trailed off

 

"Remember those three when I was attacked?" Sairek asked her. "That was blood magic. Blood magic is in the negative magic pool. Where the underworld generally uses it. All types of magic needs an elemental of 'life' to work. Blood is what demon's use as their catalyst."

 

"...So this cloud, is an underworld spell. That could only mean that this cloud was made by that Necromancer..." Nayleen muttered quietly.

 

"This place... It's an absolute trap! The Necromancer has made this forest his home turf vantage point... It's perfect for undead minions!" Sairek growled through clenched teeth. "There's Ethereal in the air that we can use but it's practically harmless against the undead like this! "Cyial, are you sure the Abbot wants us to go through this way?"


"Sairek, we can't be intimidated by this. I am sure the Necromancer wouldn't reinforce this forest against us so much if he was confident that he would succeed. Remember, he's trying to slow us down as much as possible... wouldn't undead minions and fog do that?"


"It can also kill us." Sairek mumbled.


Cyial gave a small casual shrug. Sairek only frowned in response.


Nayleen chuckled a little and cross her arms over her chest. "Don't worry boys; no fog is going to stop me from navigating a forest. Besides, undead minions can't possibly be smart. We will beat them through wits and cunningness rather than brawn!"


" While 'cunning' is a word... 'cunningness' is not." Sairek muttered to her in a dull tone.


"You be quiet." Nayleen snorted back to him as she walked forward to go on ahead. Sairek only let out a long sigh, reluctantly following her alongside Cyial.


Nayleen took note of the positions of the trees, the way grass seemed to be patterned and sometimes, she would go up to the bark of a tree and study it. Sometimes her decisions of where to go would take minutes. Cyial waited patiently, but Sairek could not hide the uneasiness that he had. Especially due to the fact they were moving slowly. Often times the Prince would be shifting here and there as he stood, or gripping his staff with both hands directly in front of him with the butt of the staff on the ground, always looking around as if something would be lurking in the trees to attack them.


Nayleen did not seem to complain that she couldn't figure something out, however. Even when she took minutes to make a decision.


After a while, Sairek tried to ease his burden of worry by trying to do more than just standing there. "Everything okay?" He soon asked Nayleen after they had been in the forest for over an hour.


"Just fine. I will admit this is a little bit harder than I expected it to be. Not because of the fog though." She replied back.


"Why, then?" Sairek asked, truly curious. If not the fog then what?


"This forest is a little bit different than I am used to. That's not unnatural; this is a different kingdom, far away from where I lived. The landscape should be different, if not completely different at certain points. Some signs I haven't experienced before are here in this forest. I have learned about them though. There is something that is bothering me though."


Sairek's eye brow rose. "Such as?"


"Well, there's no signs of habitation of animals almost at all. Sure little insects and stuff, but nothing else. I haven't even seen a single sign of an animal, or even much a monster."


Sairek held his staff with both hands as he thought. "If the Necromancer was expecting us to go this way, clearing the monsters would help us go through the forest quicker... that would be counterproductive... It makes me believe there's something at the end, like a trap..."


"Maybe the undead isn't the Necromancer's doing." Cyial suggested. Remember the rumor of the old building in the forest flooded by undead? That has been an old rumor for quite a long time now. I can't remember when exactly, but it's been at least a few years. This would be much longer before this Necromancer would have showed up... Maybe something happened with that?"


"That's a bit of a stretch, don't you think?" Sairek questioned with uncertainty. "Besides, what about this underworld fog that we are in?"


"Just because it's the underworld's magic, doesn't mean it's a Necromancer's doing, Sairek. The undead are very much capable of casting magic spells too."


"Really?" Sairek let out in surprise. As if all fear forgotten and curiosity was piqued with interest, Sairek held the staff in his former stance glancing towards the Acolyte. Cyial nodded in confirmation.


"Why wouldn't they? The underworld pretty much consists of two main races: Undead, or Demon. Things like a Incubus or a Succubus are like side races to a Demon. Almost anything in the underworld is capable of casting negative-branched magic. In fact, to them, it's probably much easier to cast then for humans. The mechanic of casting is far more simple."


"Well... if the cloud is blood magic, I would have thought it would require... well, blood. I don't think any undead would have that." Sairek said.


"...Blood magic requires just blood; it doesn't have to be your own...." Cyial slowed down at the end until he stopped.


"Oh lands, you are kidding me..." Sairek muttered with a tinge of worry. He suddenly felt a little sick to the stomach. He realized what Cyial was getting at. The Prince raised his left hand to his stomach as if trying to settle it down. He felt dizzy at the realization.


"I can back that statement up..." Nayleen muttered grimly. It seemed she got what Cyial meant to, and the Acolyte nodded.


"The undead must be using both monster and animal blood to fuel their spells. Maybe even any unfortunate bandits that lurked in here. This means that this isn't the Necromancer's doing . A Necromancer wouldn't need to hunt the blood of creatures; not unless this is somehow a clever ploy by him to lower our guard, but that seems farfetched and not needed. I don't see any real advantage to that. We will be on guard either way."


"But... if the Necromancer didn't cause this... what could? The Undead decided to suddenly become more hostile after years? Or did they just rise up or what? What's going on?" Sairek questioned as he continued to ponder."


"I think I know the answer to that." Nayleen spoke up. She turned towards Sairek. "Remember when I lead you to the forest near your castle, and how you asked me to provide you proof that the tree was wilting? Remember when I mentioned that the Ethereal in the air is becoming thinner in some places?"


"Yes..." Sairek answered.


"Well, that has got to be it-- since the Ethereal is diminishing overtime, the undead are strengthening, becoming bolder. It's making them become more aggressive.... That must mean..."


"The undead are going to attack Lamen?!" Sairek let out in disbelief.


"They may attempt to go to the castle next... But... Lamen is a pretty well defended city. It has walls and the such... surely it can hold off against the Undead, right?" Cyial questioned.


"This country has been at peace for a few centuries now, Cyial. I hate to admit it, but the defense in all cities are extremely soft right now for an organized attack. I mean we try to keep our defenses up but no matter how hard you try, after three-hundred years of peace people are going to relax. They are only really equipped to handle some bandit raids. Not an assault, especially by the undead... And I highly doubt anyone will believe us either as unnatural this fog is, we don't really know how many undead we are actually dealing with. Although I am the Prince and I suppose I could force the order if truly needed... but even at that, it would take so long to rally the troops, and that would just leave other places defenseless if they don't attack Lamen..."


Cyial pulled his book up and opened it. The child began flipping through some pages, he spoke as he turned the pages one by one. "If we can find a way to get rid of this cloud, not only would it make it easier for us to travel, it will weaken the power of the undead. Ethereal will flow in the area instead of being stilled. That would probably damage the moral of the undead and still the assault. It would also make it much easier to navigate this place."


"But how? We don't know where to start." Nayleen stated.


"I'm looking up on how we may be able to right now now." Cyial said. After a few more page turns he stopped on a page. "Hmm, this looks like the spell here... 'Reovlak Caoeur', in the Underworld language. To us in the common language, that means 'Revolting Cloud'.


"I don't see anything revolting about it... 'Annoying Cloud' would be better." Sairek muttered quietly, as Cyial continued to read. He soon breathed in and it caught in his throat."


"This isn't good..." He said through gritted teeth. Sairek set his staff back on the ground.


"Why?" Sairek questioned in a demanding tone.


"Revolting Cloud is... well... it's an Underworld spell that converts Ethereal into a... poisonous type of gas..."


"What?!" Nayleen shrieked out angrily. "How does that even make sense?!"


"Remember Nayleen, this is negative-branched magic... to us, it pretty much breaks any physics that we would consider illegal." Cyial spoke in a quiet tone. "In this case, it's converting Ethereal into something completely different... like a different chemical you could say. A cloud this big would require channeling and constant blood to keep up. The undead must be sacrificing almost all of the forest creatures with blood to keep up this spell... And we just walked right into it."


"How long do you think we have?" Sairek questioned through gritted teeth


"I have no idea, Sairek... I don't know how long it would take to transfer the Ethereal into gas. Further more, we don't even know how long this cloud has been up for. It also depends on the size of the cloud... We seem to be completely fine so far, but if I had to take a guess, I would say that is why the Ethereal has been stilled. We need to stop this, fast. The undead can convert the cloud into a giant poison gas, and send it to Lamen!"


Sairek's grip on his staff tightened, as his hand shook. His teeth was gritted with anger. He looked down at his feet.


"S**t..." the Prince cursed out loud in anger. "We... don't have a choice... We have to stop it... If we don't, not only will we die... others will die too... And I have to... as the Prince..."


His head looked at the both of them, as he glanced to Nayleen. "We need to find that old house, Nayleen. It's the only hint we have that could possibly lead us to something."


"I hate to say it Sairek, but that can be hard to find." Nayleen grumbled. "Houses don't grow with the forests, but sometimes the landscape can change around them if they have been there long enough. Let us hope that is the case..."


"Are you sure the house is the only way, Sairek...?" Cyial questioned in a quiet voice. "Remember the rumors... and the nobility... It could be dangerous for you."


"It can't be any worse then letting a gas cloud kill all of my father's people; including us." The Prince muttered to the Incubus. "I'll be honest, Cyial. I am scared-- no, absolutely terrified right now. I actually have no idea why I haven't run off crying by now. Maybe it's because I know I can't, or because I've just had too much. Like when you enter a tub full of hot water; you're sure you scathing... but after a few minutes it only feels warm despite it being the same temperature."


Cyial frowned a bit at Sairek, but didn't press him on the subject further. Nayleen soon let out a loud "Hmmm..." as she thought.


"Well," she began. "I have been following signs to help us make our way to a cave. We're going to have to change course. But if this house is so rumored and unraveled in mystery, I would imagine that it would be way deep in the forest. So to be honest, the best thing we should do is probably just ignore all signs for now and walk in a general direction and just gain distance."


"I guess that is the best course of action..." Sairek muttered. "We need to beat two clocks here... First, the time of day. If it becomes night time, we may be as good as dead, whether it be the undead, or this cloud. And of course the second time limit is the cloud itself... Unfortunately we don't know how much time it has. If the signs are correct like Cyial said, it could be only a couple hours away for all we know before the venom gets strong enough to actually start effecting us. We best get moving right now."


The other two nodded their agreement, as Nayleen took the lead again and lead them deeper into the woods. Still, Sairek couldn't shake the apprehension away. He couldn't help wonder what the hell they were doing... they were walking straight into the the body of the things that wanted to eliminate them... because that was the only thing they could truly do? If the Necromancer hadn't caused this problem, then just how much was this Necromancer planning to interfere? Was they simply being watched, or being tested? Maybe the Necromancer did this after all... or maybe even a combination of both of the jobs of the undead with the Necromancer?


Sairek realized that his head was beginning to ache from thinking too much. He also realized that thinking of the problem wouldn't yield any results. He needed to think of a solution to the problem, not the problem itself. But, even in doing so, his mind could not come up with anything. It was too hard to think in his state of mind. He was filled with apprehension and too tense to think clearly and make accurate judgements in the situation. He was unable to theorize and his thoughts were running around rapidly in meaningless patterns.


Ever since that... 'thing' came from the altar, it has been all he had felt. He felt as if that monster could just come, swallow him and steal him away. Deep down inside, he knew it couldn't based on the Abbots' words and the fact that it clearly hadn't consumed him, or else it probably would have easily done so by now. But he was still terrified of the very thought of it. He didn't care what others said by saying the Necromancer was trying to intimidate him. What he saw was very real, it demonstrated the Necromancer's power; intimidation or not. He failed to see how the Necromancer couldn't stop them right now just because he wanted to. There was no way Sairek could stand up to him, even if he was weakened severely in this realm.


To make matters worse, Sairek felt practically blind in this forest. He couldn't sense anything and of course the thickness of the 'Revolting Cloud' spell made it hard to see almost anywhere. He felt as if the cloud was slowly getting thicker around them the deeper they were walking in. Every nerve in his body was screaming at him to go back, as well as every instinct. This must be how scared deer felt with a predator around. He then realized that the situation wasn't so far off from what was happening right now; except they were willingly walking into the danger.


Sairek shook his head which Cyial gave him an odd look when he did so, but he ignored it. He was thinking about the problems yet again and was losing his psyche over it. He needed something else to do other then just walk and think. But he didn't really feel like conversing with the other two. They needed to be on their guard after all, as did he. They needed to hear any faint noises and keep looking about, despite the fact they could hardly see more then twenty feet ahead of them and then some areas were less visible due to dense brush around them.


"Okay, this should be deep enough, I think. We should begin looking for signs now." Nayleen soon said as she slowed to a stop.


Cyial lifted his hand up, and pointed towards his right. "You mean like that?." He asked casually.


"Are you serious? Is that really the building?" Sairek asked with uncertainty. He walked a little bit ahead of Cyial's finger and breathed in a bit as the a mossy stone wall almost seemed to appear right in front of him. The walls were severely aged and in terrible condition. Almost as if they could collapse at any minute. Fungai seemed to inhabit the ruin of the place now.; It was big enough that Sairek couldn't see the entire structure's length, or height. There was an aged door that was wide open. Almost welcoming them in a sick way. Sairek swallowed and gulped the stale air.


"Hmm, I can't remember? Did the rumors mention a wooden house, or a stone house?... and this seems a bit bigger then your ordinary house to say the least." Nayleen stated, as she walked up to the building and knocked a bit on the stone wall. To her surprise which made her retreat her hand, the brick she knocked on shifted a bit out of place.

 

"Careful..." Sairek cautioned her. "We don't need this place collapsing next to us..."


Cyial spoke to Nayleen's question. "I don't know what material it was. But even so, I don't think it's that important. Not unless we have the wrong building." Cyial spoke as he moved up to it. Reluctantly, Sairek pushed himself forward to join the three. He himself spoke out, trying to not let his voice shake too much. "If this was the place, then it's rather deserted by the undead, unless it means little to no importance to them..."


Nayleen slowly moved her way to the door. It was almost unnaturally dark inside. With a wave of her hand to motion the other two boys closer, Cyial stepped forwards first followed by Sairek.


"Light this place up a little for me, will you?" Nayleen asked the Prince. Sairek held his staff in front of him. His left hand hovered inches from the head of the staff. He muttered "Balinzer,".


And nothing happened. Nothing at all.

 

"What?" Sairek said outloud in a confused tone. He looked at the other two for a moment before trying again.


"Balinzer!"


Still nothing.

 

"BALINZER!!!"

 

Nothing.

 

"Wuaie! Waert! Ethirul!... Vulkenhei!"


Sairek sighed as he lowered his staff a few inches staring at it. "...I don't understand..." he grunted. "I'm drawing in Ethereal to the staff. It has enough energy... Why are any of my spells not working...? I don't think I am doing anything wrong..."

 

"An insulator...?" Cyial soon spoke out several seconds later. "The negative energy is blocking the passage of Ethereal through completely. It's not that you're not drawing enough energy in, it's that you are drawing both the cloud's energy and ethereal at once; they are canceling each other out. Normally you would be able to distinguish the two even in a situation like this, but you can't sense the difference, Sairek."


"So are you saying due to my inexperience in detecting energies, I won't be able to cast spells under this cloud?!" Sairek said in a bit of horror. Without his spells, he was next to absolutely defenseless.


"No, not exactly. It will be much more difficult; you will have to just draw in a lot more then normal, Sairek. As far as I can tell, there is more Ethereal than there is of this cloud, for now. It's going to be hard for you to cast any spells here because of that, though."


"But how was I able to cast 'Wuaie' before, then?!" the Prince questioned.


"We were at the edge of the cloud. There was a lot less blockage there. We're deep in the midst of the cloud. It is only natural that the cloud would be thickest in the middle." Cyial answered.


Sairek was hating this more and more by the minute. He let out a frustrated breath, as he tried drawing in energy once again. He drew in ridiculous amounts of the elements in the air for seconds. He drew until he felt the energy nearly about to burst and escape him because it was almost too tough to hold so much in one area at once. He then chanted '"Balinzer!!!" with more force.


A small flame ignited on the staff, a small fire that made Sairek groan in distaste. "...I drew everything I could muster until my muscles were tense and growing tired from keeping the energy in place... and that is all I can manage to do!?"


"Um... S-Sairek... look..." Nayleen whispered in a shaky voice. The Prince slowly lifted his head from his staff and turned to where Nayleen was looking as the room was illuminated now. Sairek stepped back in horror.


Boarded up signs were plastered on the walls. So many of them. Things scratched in the signs. In capital letters, telling them to leave, to get out, while others welcomed them in, but the spelling on each word that welcomed them were badly spelled, as if someone had to make an error in the words if they were lying.


Sairek's heart nearly jumped out of his throat as a loud slam came from behind them. The three spun around at the same time to see the wooden door had closed. Sairek rushed up to the door and shoved it; it didn't even so much budge. And the door was missing the doorknob to open it.


Sairek began drawing in energy like he never had before. He raised his staff as his plan was to blast the door away with Vulkenhei, despite how slow his spell casting was here. He drew in so much until his head throbbed from the pressure. He then held his staff behind his head. Balinzer hissed out, making room for the new spell which made the room go dark yet again, although not impossible to see.


"Vulken--"


As Sairek was swinging the staff down, ready to speak out the last syllable of the magic word, a bony arm shot out of the dirt floor of the structure and a strong grip with what seemed to be impossible strength clenched around Sairek's throat. The boy choked out as the hand tried to pull him down towards the ground, of course, from this surprise, he was unable to hold the energy in and the spell completely fizzled out and the energy he had was released with a loud 'POP'. Sairek struggled with every ounce of strength as he could for a few seconds, before Nayleen shouted out in fury. She grabbed Cyial's book out of his hand and swung it down on the arm with relentless strength. The brittle arm snapped in half as Sairek's hands suddenly pulled the arm away when it had snapped. The remains of the arm flew against the door. Sairek stumbled back into Cyial who caught him as the Prince gasped and coughed, clutching his throat. A thin layer of sweat coated his face as he panted weakly and stared at the spot where the arm had risen out of the ground to snare him.


"This place... it was a damn trap...!" Sairek gritted through his teeth and heavy pants. He stood up on his own soon though, as Nayleen handed Cyial back his book quickly, the other boy took it as he held it close to him. They both had alerted looks on their faces, darting around cautiously.


A low, sickening moan reached their ears. They still couldn't see anything, but Sairek stared down at the ground. He felt a small vibration under his feet as the three were huddled together.


"Below us! Dive out of the way now!" He shouted.


Following Saireks' words, the other two jumped away from each other at the same time as Sairek himself followed suit when they did. Seconds later the earth where they had just stood upon exploded upwards and showered bits of dirt everywhere. Sairek held his free hand up over his face until the shower ended. He gritted his teeth as he saw some weird slime like monster, with a long neck and a completely disfigured face. It let out the same groan they had heard just seconds earlier. It had claws that were dyed with aged dry blood. It was missing half of it's left arm. Sairek quickly glanced towards the door where the other dis-embodied arm was. It was no question it was the same one.


"What the hell is this thing...?!" Sairek gasped in horror. The monster rose it's neck straight upwards, which if that was counted as the creature's height; was over twelve feet tall. Nayleen quickly stood up on her feet.


"I have absolutely... no... wait... that's a 'Hundred-Hands beast!"


"Hundred-Hands...?" Sairek repeated. "You mean it has more than two...?"


He soon found out the reason it was perhaps called the hard way. He felt something root out of the ground and before he could even turn around to see what it was; he felt the back of his neck grabbed. Bony fingers, like the ones that had grabbed him before, wrapped around the back of his throat; with enough force to begin choking him again. The hand with such strength pulled him back. Several more hands rose up around him; completely ensnaring all of his limps as he struggled to simply breathe, let alone move a muscle.


At the same time, Cyial let out a cry of his own before it was suddenly cut off. His situation the exact same as Sairek's.


Nayleen managed to move out of the way since she had risen to her feet. The creature let out a moan, almost in a pleased way that it had caught two out of three victims. Ignoring Nayleen, it began to slowly waddle its way towards Cyial, who began to rapidly writhe in panic at the hands that binded him

 

"Nayleen!!" The young Demon shouted in panic as the monster lurched its head back, readying to strike with its teeth. The Demon child yelled in fright as the creature lurched forward. Nayleen dived right in the way, daggers drawn. The Hundred-Hands had slow reaction time; she held her knives out as she drove her form into it for the daggers to stab both in its forehead and jawline. Yet; it didn't even flinch in pain; in fact, it still kept on pushing against her to get towards at Cyial.


"S-Sweet Gods...!" Nayleen cursed as she pushed with all the might she had. "Does this thing feel not feel any pain?!"


Another hand rose out from the ground, right behind Nayleen. She glanced back and gasped as it launched towards her. Cyial gritted his teeth as his incubus tail latched out and quickly wrapped around the hand's wrist several times as he pulled back with his tail to keep it at bay. One eye of his was squeezed shut from the effort as he fought with his tail to keep Nayleen from being snared by the hand.


Black blood leaked from the beasts' head before eventually it gave up, removing its head from Nayleen's daggers almost casually. It let out a louder groan in annoyance. As if Nayleen wasn't worth it, the beast slowly began to turn away and waddle its way to Sairek at slow pace.


"Go, free Cyial now! It'll take some time for it to reach for me!" Sairek shouted from across the room; although his shout was weak by the fact it was a struggle to breathe. Sairek struggled to move, but even though the hands had no muscles in them at all, he was in the strongest grip then he had ever been in. Not even the soldiers at the castle could hold him this tightly with all of them working together.


Nayleen let out furious shouts, as she stomped on the brittle bones; once again borrowing Cyial's book to crush them. Eventually, Cyial was free, and with a gasp, sat himself slowly back up while coughing as he rubbed his throat. Nayleen dropped the book, as she sprinted over to Sairek; the monster was nearly over to him.


The beast began to expand and constrict now. Going back and fourth. It soon made a gurgle. It reared it's head back, before soon aiming at Sairek. The Prince's eyes widened as the creature soon spat a green liquid towards him.


"A-Acid...!" Sairek cut off.


"Sairek!--" He heard Cyial shout to him in panic.


There was no way he could channel anything in time to stop the acid. The energy was too weak; it would have to take several seconds to draw a spell up; if he even had any spells to stop acid. There was no way Nayleen could stop the spit either...


Sairek squeezed his eyes shut, before he heard a loud splat as the acid made impact.









"...So tell me... what is your name? I've told you mine."


Kaerth let out his friendliest tone that he could muster up. The boy was silent as he just stared down at Kaerth's feet.


"If you don't wish to tell me, I will not force you--"


"Shesta..." the boy soon spoke out suddenly.


"I apologize, can you say that again?" Kaerth asked politely.


"My... name... is Shesta..." the child mumbled out quietly again.


"Shesta..." Kaerth repeated. He then grinned. "Shesta... That is a fine name indeed. Well, Shesta, you must be hungry, yes?"


The child slowly nodded in confirmation and Kaerth's grin grew wider underneath the void it hid in. "Anything you would like, my friend? Just name it and I shall have our cooks make anything you desire nice and fresh. Any meat, cakes--"


"You have cakes?" The child cut off in a tone that was becoming more excited.


"Why yes, we do. What kind would you like, Shesta?"


"Do you have honey-dipped strawberry? That is my favorite..."


"...Honey-dipped strawberry..." Kaerth drawled. "My, you have a good choice in flavoring of food. Honey-dipped strawberry it shall be. Hold on while I go get it for you."


Kaerth pushed himself up, dusting off his robes, as he walked out of the doors he had come in. He walked one room away, where demon cooks were working away.


"Master Kaerth Rylai, what do you wish to have?" One of the cooks asked; a tall orange colored imp. A wide grin was on his face.


"Honey-dipped strawberry cake for our guest."

 

"You want us to make it the usual way for our prisoners?"

 

"You idiot." Kaerth said through an angry tone that made the imp cook flinch. "I need to have the boy healthy and well! Feeding him poison with magic to make it taste like honey-dipped strawberry cake will make him ill and then I can't do the ritual in due time! I at least need the gruel that won't kill him..."

 

"But Master... to care so much for a human is... unnatural--"

 

"Keep your ostentatious mouth shut before I forcibly remove it from your face forever. I told you make the child food and you will do as you are ordered! I have no interest in harming the boy."


"...Would you like the feeding-piece as well, Master...?"


"Yes."


The imp wandered his way to a counter, getting a bowl, and a strange dark gray instrument that had a wide bowl, with a tube that got narrower at the end, until it was only a little bit wider in diameter, not much wider than that of a straw. The imp moved over to a bowl of a putrid smelling substance and poured it into a much smaller bowl that was made out of stone. The Demon then scurried back over with the bowl to Kaerth, who took it. With his free hand, he raised his hand over the sickening plump of mesh that was in the bowl.


"A little bit of magic here... a little bit of magic there... and this gruel to the boy will now become something like the best meal he had ever tasted in his life. A true cake, but with my own secret ingridient mixed in it... Such spoiled creatures the human children are. But what can a creature do otherwise that is so helpless and only growing, realizing their worthless identities in their lives?" Still sprinkling the magic over the gruel, he was transforming it into something different. Technically it would be honey-dipped strawberry cake. Just mashed together in a rather strange mess. Still, it was the human food that the boy had requested. And a bit more.


Kaerth looked up as the imp had scurried back over to the counter and with both hands, held the instrument up Kaerth had requested in both hands, as if he was offering something to a deity. Kaerth took the instrument in one hand and he grinned.


"You have done me a good service. Do keep up the good work."


The imp bowed, pleased at the compliment, as Kaerth walked out. holding the bowl in one hand, and the instrument with the other. The doors back to the garden of life seemed to open automatically for Kaerth, as he stepped and walked towards the boy.


"I have your food right here, Shesta. I hope you don't mind that we had to mash it up a little though. It wouldn't do you any good to eat solid food with no free hands to eat it with, would it? I shall feed you through this so there is no chance of spilling. I hope you don't mind?"


The boy seemed a little bit intimidated by the instrument, but he shook his head anyways. Kaerth lowered himself towards the boy, and whispered into his ear in a friendly manner. "I've... took the liberty of adding a bit more honey and sugar in there then normal... I hope you don't mind?"

 

Shesta soon lost any signs of intimidation and instead his face broke up out into a grin. Kaerth lowered the feeding-piece to the boy's lips, as he opened his mouth to let the tip of it slide in. Kaerth then slid a little bit of the mashed food into the instrument. Seconds later, he saw Shesta begin sucking on the tip to get the it into his mouth. The boy's face lit up with delight; and not disgust. A good sign. He soon swallowed.


"This is the best cake I've ever tasted, Master Kaerth Rylai!" The boy exclaimed excitedly.


Kaerth smiled. "See? I am here to make sure your time here is a pleasant one, Shesta. I love Honey-dipped cakes too, you know."


"Really?" the child asked. And Kaerth nodded with the smile still on his face. "Why yes, indeed. They are quite fun to make and they are my favorite kind of cake as well. I think we are going to become great friends, you and I Shesta... great friends indeed..."








© 2013 Sairek Ceareste


Author's Note

Sairek Ceareste
Chapter last updated on Febuary 4th, 2013

Changelog:

- I don't know how to explain this other then most/all dialogue with the Kaerth scenario has been completely changed and reworked, as well as most descriptions.

- Everywhere else there has only been a few minor description and dialogue changes

- Some grammar fix ups, but new ones may have risen with how big the rework has been on the chapter


Change log [April 4th, 2012]:

- Introduction to the chapter has been changed somewhat in aspects here and there, from coversations, to descriptions

- Many typo fixes. Many....

- Made some explanations a bit more clearer, or a bit more sense

- Made some descriptions easier to understand, or make a bit more sense


...That's all I can remember... shoot.

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Added on November 12, 2011
Last Updated on February 4, 2013