Eslet, Royal District.
Birse sat within his office going through a short stack of paperwork, ahead of him was a small metal stand holding up the communicative device. "That's th-the gist of it." Said Sly through the VCD, having had just explained the happenings on Mars and his, Kyle's and Karnage's collision with Scythe.
"I failed." Muttered Sly with a grimace, half showing annoyance and the rest resisting the pain he was currently in.
Birse glanced up from a scroll he was reading "You did, this time around anyway. We did not know Scythe would be this strong, I'd had figured he'd be about slightly stronger than Draxxer but…"
Sly shook his head, grunting in annoyance at that mistake as his shoulder suddenly ached "His aura was at least as heavy as Lucifer's. The magic he used was…his minions were a p-pain to deal with, resistant to physical attacks and highly evasive while capable of f-flight. K-Kyle's fire b-being what it i-is, I couldn't tell any weaknesses to elemental attacks."
Birse nodded "What about the mist? What do you think of it?"
"It was t-the worst part." Began Sly before sighing "It was pure Dread, it could somewhat s-solidify and grab you while I-also expect it to be useful in defending himself. It also seemed to drain my m-mana and stamina somewhat, Kyle and Karnage showed to be more affecting by it than me and Lilith."
"Did you inhale it?" Birse asked "The same mist he summoned through, right?"
"N-no and yes. The mist did not enter me, I didn't smell or t-taste anything e-either…And I didn't see any difference between the mist he used to s-summon and the mist he spread out around us other than i-it's movement, it seemed to thicken when he was summoning through i-it, other than t-that it was all D-Dread." explained Sly.
Suddenly the vision inside the device's ring switched to show Death as he spoke "I don't think that is actual summoning, if it's as you say then it's too short a summon to create something so huge and in so many numbers. I think it's better to say that he's using the same technique Devils use to bring their Hellhounds or Hellsteeds."
"Then why can he not use that to travel through realms?" asked Birse.
"Because." began Sly as the device changed back to showing him "That wouldn't b-be opening a portal through the veil but only through space. Anybody c-can do that with enough m-mana apparently, but breaking or even ffecting the veil requires a specific type of mana including Abysmal, Astral, S-Spirit or Divine."
"Divine?" asked Death showing briefly before Sly responded.
"It's the mana G-Gods use apparently, Liliana told m-me about i-it…Before being g-given to mortals, which makes i-it Astral mana, it i-is Divine mana." explained Sly.
Birse sighed "So the more chances of Scythe finding a way out and here. Is that all you could tell about his power?"
Sly nodded, cringing in pain right after "Ye-eah…"
"What about your situation?" Death then asked showing for a brief moment.
Sly sighed deeply "The attack was s-slow, I could of evaded it b-but that meant Kyle and Karnage w-would have been hit."
"Ever the hero." joked Birse.
Sly smirked "Just looking out for the rookies." At which Death snorted.
Birse shook his head, turning his tone more serious he spoke "How are the Knights coming?"
"So far so good." responded Death "I mean, nobody has died during construction yet…Which is the quickest part of making them, the rune inscribing takes longest due to how little people actually understand runes…" he sighed dejectedly.
"What's this about?" asked Sly growing curious.
"I've been wondering for a while since finding out the political arrangement of Chaoz, just how did Humans become so powerful before being brought down to what we see today?" Birse began to explain "It turns out that, albeit the Elves, Dwarves and other races being exceptional at their magic, they use only very specific kinds of magic unlike us adventurers."
Sly's eyebrows raised in question, not entirely understanding "And?..."
"And." Birse continued "Humans are capable of effectively using any kind of magic that is within the reach of mortals. Wood Elves for example lack the capability to use fire magic, Dark Elves cannot use light magic and Frost Elves cannot use earth magic. It goes on from that, each race has some magic they are highly proficient at while a certain type of magic they are also either very bad at or unable to use at all."
"And us adventurers -or summoned as they call us- don't have this problem." Death then explained.
"So Humans have more options, so what?" Sly then asked, not following their point.
Birse shook his head "Yes and no. Dwarves will always be better Earthmancers or Metalbenders than Humans, but Humans can use those two magiks unlike Frost Elves who cannot. The Humans on Chaoz used that to their advantage, making use of their much more massive numbers than other races and teaching a variety of magic to their people. They not only thought combat magic to soldiers but also to civilians, which militarized their entire population."
"God damn…" said Sly now understanding their meaning.
"And with the variety in magic being thought." Death began to add "It made their magic military more effective against any kind of opposition."
Birse nodded "But that was back then, and now is now. Today Humans live in small towns on Barik -a very small continent- alongside other races. The vicinity of the towns, the protection from the Mers from the water and Avians from the air made the civilian population only learn magic required for their livelihood. The Humans on Barik were only required to 'Keep the peace' within this small continent."
"And the mishmash of races living alongside them made them entirely forget their advantage." added Death.
"Alright, that's cool and all b-but…what the fuck are t-these Knights you talking about?" said Sly getting bored of the history lesson.
"I'm getting to that, impatient bastard." said Birse with a chuckle before continuing "In short Barik's military is mostly Human, having militarized Griffins and Pegasi for quick response tactics around the continent. Magic became more of a commodity unless you took your time to learn by yourself, spending years of your lifetime on it's study like the Mage Guilds have. Who by the way are considered their own faction within the alliance, not part of either race."
"Go on…" Sly said getting cosy in wherever he presently sat, the VCD only showed his face and very little of his surroundings.
Birse rolled his eyes in annoyance "My point is, any being can use Magic it's just that most only make use of it as a commodity and soldiers within the Esfeltian military have not been required to learn it as a teaching system has never been established. The Esfeltians have been living in peace, never having to think of improving their military's power."
"So they sat cosily, enjoying being the underdog and ignored by the other main powers." explained Death "Until today." He backed away from his device and moved it along showing the inside of where he was "Cause it's time for a wake-up call".
Sly's eyes went from entirely bored, to open so wide he was wincing from the pain it caused him. Death showed them the inside of a large underground facility, it's walls and ceiling was straight up stone while the floor was at least flattened. Men and woman of different races ran around carrying heavy equipment, tools and magical instruments.
Standing on elevated ground were several dozen Griffins who's leather or metal armour had been removed and was replaced with much heavier looking equipment. Thick metal plating was placed over leather and warped to cover most of the Griffin, leaving it's eyes, beak, talons, tail and wings free. The Griffin's wings were also mildly encased in a layer of dark leather on which long metal plates were attached to.
"Can they even fly?" asked Sly looking very much impressed.
"They can, trust me. Griffins are magical beasts just like Dragons and Wyverns, they have the power to carry anything below five times their own weight over a fair distance with little trouble." explained Death "Encasing their wings and feathers doesn't affect their mobility or evasiveness either."
Looking closer as Death approached one of the Griffins with most of it's gear equipped, he could see runes inscribed over the metal plating with a distinctive red hue "The armour they wear has been inscribed with weight reduction runes, magic repelling runes and durability runes." Death continued to explain.
"The inside of the wing's armour was also inscribed with spell runes, runes that hold certain spells that the Griffin can learn to activate." Death pointed at one group of men heaving a large strap of dark leather and the red runes glowing on one side of it.
"Okay you've m-militarized runes, my q-question now is how and w-what does this have to do with the d-damn history lesson?" Sly then asked.
Birse shrugged "Well the runes were just a good bonus, I managed to get the Mage Guilds to assist us on that regard along with very basic training on elemental magic to Esfelt's soldiers."
"You gonna explain this next part or should I?" asked Death re-appearing into view with a wide grin.
"All you." said Birse causing Death to chuckle, almost maniacally as he turned around showing them the opposite side of the facility.
"Anyway those are the new armoured mounts, here's what's riding them!" exclaimed Death with an overenthusiastic tone.
Large Golem like constructs stood side by side facing away from the wall in several lines, each construct was humanoid shaped and made of what looked like stone but a much lighter shade. The Golems were equipped with heavy looking armour, thicker than even what the Griffins were wearing while also having a layer of dark leather beneath.
The armour they wore was very similar to full plate armour but the sections in between the joints looked divided into several smaller and more complex parts. Each Golem had by their side a large shield and a massive staff, each of these including the armour itself were etched with runes that glowed a dim red.
"These are what I like to call 'Magically Armoured Golemancy Enhanced Knights.' Or Mageks if you will." explained Death as he approached one of said Mageks.
"I just call em Mechs." added Birse with a smirk.
"I will too." said Sly in agreement.
Death coughed "Assholes." then continued to explain "The armour plating is similarly to the Griffin's inscribed with the same three runic inscriptions. The shield is similar to the armour but has an extra inscription that we could only add to it because of it's wide size and flatness, we added a runic spell holder containing a barrier spell. The staff on the other hand is just as the armour and shield reinforced with runes but within it is entirely made of mana crystals.
The wood on the outside makes it light and easy to swing around while the mana crystals on the inside makes it the perfect weapon to cast spells with. Like any normal Mage staff, except that it's humongous." pausing his explanation Death turned around giving the Magek his back while aiming the VCD his way "You still with me?"
"I still don't get your point about t-that history lesson." said Sly, looking impressed but also confused.
Death rolled his eyes and turned back around to continue "Golemancy is what will control these big bastards but golems alone cannot cast spells, not unless their Golemancer is in direct physical contact with the golem. So the Golemancers will be riding inside the Mageks, like pilots and their Mechs back home. Riding inside will be human casters who are currently learning the basic elemental magics and golemancy."
"Oohhhh" Sly suddenly exclaimed in realisation.
"Bingo, we'll be abusing the Golem's durability to defend the caster within who will have the capability to cast any sort of element possible." Death then explained.
"So we're effectively turning as many of our militia into monstrous constructs as we can manage, that can cast AOE spells of any element." added Birse.
"Huh…" Sly stared at the Magek behind Death briefly before asking "I can t-think of two problems though…"
"What's that?" asked Death.
"How the fuck do they see inside that thing?" asked Sly in half-disbelief.
"Oh simple." Death began as he showed down the line of Mageks, there were more Mageks then there were armoured Griffins "Golemancers have the capability to form a mental link with their constructs, this also improves how quickly a golem can move and how better it would fight other than making it a retarded construct of stone.
The Golemancer doesn't exactly pick from where they see through the construct though…if it's humanoid then it's where the eyes would be on a human…if it's like, fox shaped like Kyll's then it's where a fox's eyes would be." Explained Death as he pointed up at the Golem's head where the helmet had eye sockets.
"Sweet." said Sly obviously impressed "Next q-question, what stops enemy mages f-from tripping the shit outta you?"
"Well…" Death looked into the VCD with a smirk "Unlike some of us…it takes a whole lot of mana to move something as fucking heavy as these bastards here when you don't have a creator's link to it -that's what Golemancers call their link to their constructs by the way- and the magic repelling runes will stop enemy casters from affecting the golem's armour directly. Also if you're an Earthmancer and you're trying to morph someone else's earth golem you'll find yourself unable to."
"That's O-" Sly began to say as he appeared into Birse's view, where he could distinctly see someone else peeking over Sly's left shoulder.
"What in damnation are those?!" exclaimed Sistine with wide eyes from behind Sly.
Sly jumped having been taken completely by surprise, glancing back at her "W-What the hell are you doing?" he asked flinching at the pain from having actually hopped up and mildly blushing at it.
"Pa told me to keep an eye on you." said Sistine with a grin.
Sly rolled his eyes "Great, babysitter." And turned back to the VCD "I'll…call you back."
Birse raised a brow "What, not introducing us to your friend?" he asked with a mischievous grin.
Sly's expression showed mild annoyance as he spoke again "Sistine, king of Barik, Birse. Birse, grand g-grand daughter of Satan, Sistine." He made quick introductions.
Death coughed appearing into Sly's view "Forget someone?"
"Also meet his advisor, Death. Say g-goodbye." Sly said before ending the call.
Death appeared on Birse's view and said "Well at least he's still himself, as little as I appreciate that."
Birse snorted "Yeah." His response was short as his expression turned darker "Any progress?"
Death's expression and tone also darkened as he sighed "Nothing good, necromancy is a taboo magic even among the Mage Guilds. All I could find was very basic explanations on what the magic is centred around and what Dread is. No curses, or counter-curses at that." he explained dejectedly.
Birse closed his eyes in contemplation "We have to find something, we haven't heard anything from Kyle and Karnage yet either and I don't expect to in days. How are we supposed to finish the Quest without a Chosen? There's so many damn questions…Liliana was too damn vague about answering them."
"So we have no choice then?" asked Death before sighing deeply "We have to wait for Kyle to come back?"
Birse slowly opened his eyes, his expression short of being villainous "We're not just gonna sit around and do nothing while we wait. You, Cherry, Soren and Steph keep working on the Knights Op."
Death stared into the VCD questioningly "What you gonna do?"
"I was going to send Jacky, CH, Seren and Skill over to Hasharr but…" he looked back into the device "I've received reliable information that Zeeke along with some of his guild, Rekt and a few others have escaped the continent. They were seen making their way towards Il'tel."
"Escaping to join up and get buddy buddy with the Elves huh?" said Death scornfully.
Birse nodded "At first I couldn't care less but if he's the last Chosen along with Kyle…I sent the others after them, Jacky, Seren, Skill, CH, Woody and Sparta with Kyll's Fae going with."
"You gonna imprison them?" asked Death with a raised brow.
"You know exactly what I'm going to do." Birse replied solemnly.
Death shook his head "I don't like this, Birse."
"He's become too much of a liability." said Birse also shaking his head "I've talked with Jacky for long enough, he agrees. Zeeke will be removed."
"So this is what we've become…" said Death glancing away from the view.
Birse slammed his fist onto his desk as he glared into the device "Would you prefer losing another member? Are you going to question my judgement here?"
Death looked back into the device, then shook his head "No, you're right. If we don't get bloody, this world will bloody us. I guess I just never fully grasped what that meant…" he turned around to face the Mageks "I never thought I'd be making weapons for war either…"
Grand Fae City of Orion, Outskirts
Sly deposited the device into his inventory, he had missed the system a lot and just doing that had amused him somewhat. "What are you doing h-here?" He then asked glancing back at the one who had apparently followed him out of the city.
He was currently sitting on a large rock facing out into a lake, a lush green forest behind him grew all around said lake. The lake was about an hour walk away from Orion's southern gate and there was no path that took there, Sly had to travel through the forest.
"You really thought you, the last descendant of Ares who has been cursed to die within the month, would be left to wander alone?" Sistine asked with a frown.
Sly huffed in annoyance and turned to face the lake "I thought I'd be left to my own damn self, what do you care anyway?"
Sistine snorted, amused by his annoyance. She leaned down and whispered in his ear "Let me rephrase, you are presently the last descendant. Doesn't mean you'll always be." a hint of mischievousness in her tone.
Sly's eyes widened briefly but slowly he regained his composure, he couldn't misunderstand what she meant but he knew exactly what she was trying to do. What Val was trying to do. Sly rose from where he sat, his feet plunging into the shallow water ahead of him but he didn't care.
He glanced back at her, his eyes wide in anger "I've had about enough of being toyed with. I know none of you really care, I know what you're trying to do. I may not be a genius but I ain't a fool either. Fuck off."
Sistine's expression turned bored as she stared at him "Heh, your loss. Honestly? I didn't care either way." She shrugged, turned around and walked away into the forest.
Sly stared after her, finding it very hard not to clench his fists or grind his teeth in anger less he feel more of the pain as it continued to linger on his body. It hadn't taken him long to interpret the Devil's intentions for him, what Satan and Val had planned for him. Their insistence after finding out about the curse was the last stretch for him, he wasn't about to let them have their way no matter how attractive he found their offering. He hated being used above everything else.
("Continuing the blood line my ass!") Thought Sly remembering Val's words earlier that day as he suddenly and out of habit slammed his fist flat on the stone behind him causing waves of agony to rush up his entire arm. Sly fell to his knees groaning from the pain, shuddering at the feel of it moving through his body.
He lay there crouching on the water, holding onto his arm as the pain very slowly subsided. ("I hate this…") he then thought, not only of how much he hated his current weak situation due to the curse but also of how much the truth angered him. They had barely tried to hide it, how they looked down at him condescendingly while trying to couple him with Sistine to continue the Ares bloodline.
He could tell, how much they pitied him for being unable to even summon his weapon. ("They think I'm just a failure…They've already given up on me…") Which was supposedly the easiest part of training to be a Devil ("They think I'm broken…")
Sly rose as the pain lessened to the norm, a lingering burning feeling throughout his entire body while his bones creaked and felt rigid. He stared off into the lake as the suns lowered, it was reaching sunset.
"Scythe…" Sly murmured as he stood there, glancing down at his hands he thought ("Even the others won't let me do anything...") Not only had Satan refused to let Sly continue his training but Birse had made it very clear that he won't be tasked to do anything until his curse was removed.
Sly stood there for a few moments, staring down at his open hands dejectedly. Suddenly he clenched them into fists, feeling the pain rush through his palms, up his arms and then fill his body making it burn from the inside out.
He continued to clench his hands, suffering through the pain he took deep breaths. "If I can't heal it…if I cannot lessen it…." He thought as he suddenly took a step forward as his entire right arm was encased in dark purple aura, he punched forwards letting the aura escape and burst out into a shockwave.
"Then I'll just fucking ignore it!" he exclaimed to nobody at all, his tone turning hoarse from the agony that engulfed his body. Yet his eyes were wide and burning with determination, even as he shuddered and trembled from the pain he took another step forward and threw another fist which resulted in a second shockwave of aura.
Also resulting in even more pain rushing through his system. Sly took a deep breath as he remained in his stance, as night ascended throughout the sky, as the light dimmed around him. It was thin, barely visible but as day turned to night it slowly became clearer.
A thin layer of mist was oozing out of his body, it was unbeknownst to him therefore not miasma. As he continued to throw punches and causing shockwaves of aura, the mist seemed to slowly thicken with each wave of pain.
Sly hadn't sensed or noticed it, as it was very thin and still barely visible. Yet it was there, Dread was oozing out of his body with a dark greenish hue. He continued his punching way into the night, the mist continuing to ooze out of him without his notice.
Sly would continue to do this every night and half way into the morning.