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Author Topic: The Fugitive, The Runaway, and The Novice. (Here to meet Artist Criteria)  (Read 377 times)

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Offline sparishr

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Just Posting this here to meet criteria for looking for an Artist XD.

Chapter 1
How do the weak become the strong? How does a man born with nothing, from that create a legacy? Through passion.

But how should the strong protect the weak? How does the legacy, outlive the man? With devotion.

These were the tenements of the Guild. Those that walked underneath its banner, understood the duality of these statements. And thus those that served its banner inevitably were consumed by its reality.

The magics possessed by those known as Archons are an untenable chaos, but the Guild had strived for generations to use this chaos to save lives. The Age of the Guild was defined by prosperity and marred by tyrants, but it is an aged defined and immortalized by the Heroes that lived for the Guild and died to its whims. The story we retell this night, is the most remembered and revered of its age.

The tale of the Fugitive, The Runaway, and The Novice.

   Down the winding paths in the forests of Avirria, a carriage horse drawn, barreled downward towards the forest town of Redgarden.

Inside was Ivo Cassferth, tan from the sun and sands of Firi, his hair black. Bright white clothes surrounded by a black overcoat with a hood resting around his neck. Across his lap a long metal pole. Two opposed blades at one end, a hook jagged hook on the other end, known as an Ettin Glaive. It was his weapon of choice. He stared intently at a roll of paper, with a red seal that had previously bound the ends together.

   His eyes scanned the parchment, an official Guild Summons to Action, over and over as he rode. It was a simple piece of parchment, and yet staring at it slowed his heart.

A voice from across the carriage called to him, “Haven’t you read that thing enough times by now? You’ve probably memorized it all by this point. A bandit raid on the town of Redgarden, and we’re going there to stop it. What more is there you need to know?”

   The voice was his companion, Eris Denera. Dark umber skin, long sleek hazel hair tied into a tight braid, deep green eyes, and a scowl some described as built into her face. Her iron muscles shaping her leather armor bolstering her already intimidating figure. Her weapon of choice, her fists, augmented with steel plates welded to the knuckles on her gloves.
She sat across from Ivo in the cabin of the carriage.

   Ivo lowered the scroll took a shallow breath, “I can’t shake the feeling that something is off.”

Calmly Eris sighed, “Worried, are we? We’ve been over this Ivo you do the talking, and I’ll do the fighting. It’ll be as simple as that,” Eris was a marvel. Ever calm in combat and twice as stubborn as the ground beneath her feet. Something Ivo admired even in the shadow of her more destructive tendencies.

They hadn’t known each other long, but they had grown into warriors with each other and in doing so Ivo had earned her trust, something he deeply intended to keep. But even if he did value her calm, she could be too complacent at times. Ivo unrolled the scroll again and held it out in front of Eris, “But doesn’t it seem odd that we of all people got this job?”

“Odd? Odd how?” Eris yawned, raising her hands to rub her eyes.

Ivo pulled the scroll back and stared intently at it, “I mean… I'm not even a part of the Guild yet. And this job came from the Guild Legion himself, to us! It doesn’t strike you as strange that the Guild Legion, leader of the entire Guild, had a job handpicked just for us, a couple of nobodies?”

“Are you afraid of a little attention Ivo?” Eris said with a slight giggle. Her gaze drifted toward the ceiling as she slunk back, lounging comfortably in her seat.

Ignoring her comment, he continued, “And it’s asking for three Guildsmen! Just to stop a few bandits, doesn’t that seem a little overkill? You could likely handle them all by yourself if you wanted to Eris, so why so many of us?”

Ivo threw the paper towards Eris, it landed covering her face. Ivo winced slightly as it landed, expecting retaliation from her. Unaffected, Eris didn’t even flinch to remove it. “So, you get an easy head start on your Guild career. It’s more than I was ever given,” She gruffly yawned again, her voice muffled by the parchment.

Eris had been made a full Guild Member long before Ivo had even met her. However, while she had been a part of the Guild her progress had been slowed by the mentor Ivo and her now shared. Something Ivo believed she resented him for.

“I don’t trust it,” Ivo softly whispered under his breath. Eris stretched causing the scroll to fall to the ground.

Ivo felt a tinge of anger in her voice as she spoke, “You don’t need to trust the job, you just need to do it,” Eris looked over to the window, the parchment hesitantly sliding off as she turned her head. A loud knock coming from outside the carriage, no doubt from its driver.

Ivo called to Eris, “We must be close to Redgarden then. Do you think I should wake him up?”

   Ivo’s eyes panned over to the third member in the carriage. A pale, dusty haired man. His ankles and wrists bound by iron shackles the chains long since shattered, and a soot covered white silk robe that hid his slim frame. His name was Artemis.

While Ivo had been around Artemis for some time now, he knew nothing about him. His mannerisms displayed a cruel form of insanity and Ivo was weary not to get to close with him even if the strange man had taken a strange liking to Ivo.

The man had a strange manner of speaking. He talked as if he was not himself, as if he was only a passenger in his own body, never making eye contact, his gaze drifting about your person as the conversation dragged on.

Eris shook her head, “No need. He’ll wake up sooner or later. I could use the peace and quiet until then,”

The silence continued for some time as the sound of the horses dragging them along echoed on the wood interior. Awkwardly Ivo sat forward in the carriage, his hands gripping his knees, “What do you think we’re going to find in Redgarden?”

Eris’ eyes opened wide then narrowed, and a slight grimace formed on her face, “Optimistically? Lots of dead people, and if we’re lucky most of them will be bandits,”

Ivo sighed, “And if I were to call you a cynic?”

Eris rolled her shoulders, “I don’t think bandits are going to be the worst of our problems,”

   The carriage slammed to a stop violently, the horses neighing viciously outside.

The halt wrenched the sleeping Artemis forward, heaving him from his seat and tossing him about the cabin, leaving him buried face first in the seat across from him.

Eris giggled, “See, I think that woke him up,”

   Artemis, in an awkward fashion, peeled his face off the seat. His eyes now wide open, wandering about the cabin. Then in a split second his head snapped toward Ivo, “We’re there then, yes?” He asked. His voice had a subtle reverb to it, nothing you could describe but something that gnawed at the edge of your awareness.

A shadow slipped in front of the frosted glass of the carriage. The door violently swung open and exposed a ragged bloody man. His voice tumbled past what seemed to be broken teeth, blood vibrating in his throat as he spoke, “You’re the Guildsmen right? Oh, thank god.”

   In response Eris and Ivo shot up out of their seats and hopped out of the carriage, Artemis followed behind, clumsily stumbling out.

Ivo looked about, they stood in the center of a road splitting the forest. The trees decorated with deep red leaves that nearly blotted out the sky. As his eyes drifted toward the ground he saw, bloody corpse after bloody corpse.

The Bloody Man spoke, tearing Ivo’s awareness away from the surroundings, “It’s been five days since we sent out the Guild request, we were beginning to worry no one was coming.” Ivo could see the relief in his eyes hidden behind a tired blank stare.

   Ivo' gaze, again, momentarily drifted, his mind desperately trying to absorb as much as it could from the surroundings. There were bodies strewn about, some decorated the same as the Bloody Man in grey steel armor, others dressed in a red and brown uniform, no doubt the uniform of the bandits.

Ivo’s gaze drifted back to the Bloody Man, he tightly gripped his side, blood squeezing its way from between his fingers.

The Bloody Man spoke quickly, taking deep gasps as he explained, “You must hurry, follow this path through the woods. My men and I have been guarding it for your arrival.” The man grimaced as he leaned into his side. After a moment he continued, “Our patrols have found traps and bandits along it, meaning the path may not be safe, but it is the fastest way to Redgarden.”

Stone-faced, Eris’s eyes darted to his side, “You don’t seem to be in any condition stay here on your own.”

The Bloody Man responded with a chuckle, “Don’t worry about me, the townspeople need you more than I do. You’re very late, but with any luck, you might do some good yet. Now get going.” The man's arm weakly pointing off down the path.

Eris and Ivo snapped to an attentive posture, then forming their hands into fists placed each hand against the opposing shoulder. This was the Guildsmen’s Salute. To receive it an honor, to give it a promise.

It was their promise, Redgarden would still stand come dawn. Eris and Ivo bolted down the path guarded for them. Artemis, still silent remained behind, his eye locked a distressing gaze on the Bloody Man.

   A purple haze drifted from Artemis’ arms. His eyes never fully looking at the Bloody Man, instead tracing his outline. A purple shimmer danced across Artemis’ irises, and he slowly approached the Bloody Man speaking, “He doesn’t have much time, left does he?”

The Bloody Man slowly lowered himself down onto his knees and leaned back against the trunk of a nearby tree. Evidently in pain, he attempted to make eye contact with Artemis, failing as he tried to speak, “You know for a Guildsmen, your bedside manner could use some work.” The Bloody Man let off an evidently nervous chuckle, the chuckle turned into a grimace as pain overtook him.

Artemis’ hands slammed shut, as his hands closed a purple light ignited the shadows on the road, a banshee’s scream tore through the open spaces. As the Bloody Man’s eyes slipped open after the noise subsided to shifting layers of whispers on the wind, He saw two glowing purple scythes in Artemis’ hands.

Artemis spoke, now his eyes were focused on the Bloody Man. His voice once again followed by the subtle reverb, “We promise we will make it quick, he only has a few minutes to live anyways, we could claim him then.”

The Bloody Man’s smile faded for a final time as he slowly stammered, “A Spirit Archon? No, the Guild wouldn’t risk..." Clearly conflicted the man hesitated to speak.

The hesitation faded as the man accepted his fate, "Fine, I hope those two have a good leash on you.” The man growled out of agony, Artemis stared blankly at the man. In an angry tone the Bloody Man muttered, “Do what you have to do Guildsmen. Just make sure Redgarden survives, for my sake. Touch a hair on any of its citizens and I’ll be waiting for you on the other side… Monster.”

   Artemis gave a slight bow and slowly walked over to the Bloody Man. Standing over him Artemis raised his arm.

   Eris and Ivo barreled through the forest. As his heartbeat pounded in his ears, he could hear twigs cracking in the distance. In his peripherals Ivo could see shadows moving off in the distance. Picking up his pace Ivo started to pull ahead of Eris

   Ivo called back to his companion, “You see them Eris? I don’t suppose they’re Redgarden forces coming to greet us,”

   Eris responded, “If they haven’t moved in yet they’re waiting for something, keep your eyes peeled we don’t want to get caught out!”

   As they bolted through the path Ivo caught a glimpse of something small and metal laid across the path.

He felt his body tense, his brain trying to tell him something but the heartbeat in his ears was too loud. Ivo struggled to piece together what was about to happen.

   Ivo rocketed past the metal object and felt his right foot catch; in the harrowing silence that followed Ivo’s ears caught a brief click on either side of the path. A single word sparked across his body like a scream filling his head… Tripwire.

Flames erupted on either side of the path, a blast rocketing forward turning the trees to shrapnel. Ivo tumbled forward.

A roar echoed from behind him, Eris heaving across the open space toward him, slamming down, shattering the path, driving her knee into the ground.

The stone called out, heeding her call. As her knee drove deeper into the ground, two stone walls erupted upwards between them and the incoming explosions. The blast collided with the walls. A loud crack resounded as the shockwave and shrapnel pelted the walls, large fissures breaking into the stone. Ivo caught the rare glimpse of Eris wincing in pain.

Ivo looked up, three bandits rolled out from the forest. Each wearing red and brown armor, armed with crude steel weapons.

Eris undaunted howled in rage shaking the ground. The bandits hesitated and stepped backwards. She hurtled forward slamming straight into one of the bandits cleaving him from the group and both Eris and her prey tumbled into the forest.

Ivo stood up, and took his blade from his back, his Ettin Glaive. A long ornate black hilt. Two blades extended from one side, each blade faced outward, one blade longer than the other. On the other end a jagged hook. Ivo gripped the weapon as an old friend, his lungs filling with an unnatural calm.

Faced with two bandits Ivo raised the weapon and prepared to clash. Both bandits charged him brandishing their weapons, catching each blow against his glaive, glancing each strike off. An axe flew past, cleaving a strand of hair, another passed over his head as Ivo’s back struck the ground as he rolled landing back on his feet avoiding swipes all the way.

Ivo prepared to strike, when a purple light sailed over his shoulder. A scythe buried itself deep into the chest of one of the bandits.

A chain suddenly materialized around the hilt of the scythe tracing back behind Ivo, the chain suddenly tightened ripping the bandit past Ivo.

He turned to see Artemis standing behind him, the bandit still impaled on the scythe he now held in his hand. The spectral chains bound to the hilt of the scythe traced along Artemis’ forearms, linking into the shackles he wore on his wrists.

A purple light tore across the bandit as the scythe was ripped out of his chest, the bandit dropped to the ground but left a purple shimmering reflection.

Artemis released hold of his weapons, the blade dissipating and disappearing as it fell. With a free hand he reached into the reflection and slammed his hand shut, shattering the reflection into a purple like haze that siphoned along his arm, absorbing into him. As the siphoning stopped Artemis, slowly breathed out.

Ivo’s attention snapped back to the imminent threat of the bandit that still stood. He heard the metal of the enemies’ axe graze past him as he dodged below his strike. The weight of the strike dragged the bandit’s arm far back behind him.

Thrown off balance he was vulnerable, Ivo spun his glaive around and forcing himself upwards the twin blades of the glaive drove deep into the bandit’s chest. The bandit’s eyes filled with shock as his axe dropped from his hand and gripped the hilt of Ivo's glaive for all but a moment before he ripped his weapon backwards sliding him off and dropping him to the ground.

Ivo looked around, Artemis still behind him, but Eris nowhere to be found. Ivo called out, “ERIS!”

   In response the ground shook, and the sound of rocks crashing downward echoed off in the forest. A familiar voice howled back, “WHAT?”

   Ivo ran further up the path through a cloud of dust. As he passed through the other side, he saw Eris standing in front of a set of legs sticking out of the ground. Eris evidently having buried her enemy face first, an unusual amount of restraint for Eris.

“I didn’t hear you yell a single insult that fight, I admit I was starting to get worried.” Ivo shrugged, eyes still locked on the man buried in the ground.

“Worried about what? I think it would be a safe bet, that any fight you walk out of alive, would be a trivial for me," Eris turned to look further up the path and with a smirk she turned back to Ivo. " Now, if you're quite done patronizing me let’s get moving, and Ivo…, “Eris left an air of irritation.

    Confused Ivo queried, “Yes?”

Eris turned toward him, a smirk on her face, “Keep an eye out for booby traps from now on, I’d like to save my strength for the actual fight, not for getting you out of trouble.”

Ivo’s head dipped in embarrassment, turning to see Artemis whose head tilted to the side. Shaking he head, Ivo bolted off into the forest.

The red of the leaves grew darker as they closed in on the town of Redgarden as the tips blackened with soot.

Once again on the move, the Trio arrived at a break in the woods. What was once scores of trees, had been carved out into a barren field leading up to large wooden gates and the wooden wall that lines the outskirts of the town of Redgarden.

They strode toward the town, as the Trio crossed through the clearing an arrow came screaming out from a guard tower along the wall. Eris slammed to a halt, tearing up the ground as she did, while the arrow pierced the ground straight in front of her.

   A loud clambering came from on top the tower as Eris grimaced to the top. She ripped her arms upward and a stone savagely tore itself from the ground. Ivo watched as her arm cocked backwards, preparing to strike.

   He reached out and softly grabbed her arm, “Easy there, give it a second,” Ivo whispered to Eris. In disappointment Eris dropped her arm and the stone made a solid thud as it hit the ground.

   A masculine voice called to us from the top of the wall, and a man in silver armor poked out of the wooden structure into their view, “My deepest apologies Guildsmen! My men were expecting bandits…You must forgive them, they are not used to quite so much commotion! Just wait down there a minute while I get the gate open for you!”

   Eris growled under her breath, “Oh don’t trouble yourself, I’ll get your gate open,”

   Ivo turned to Eris, “Come now Eris. What has Archmage Highborne been telling you. Savagery a necessity, but brashness an oversight,” Eris shot Ivo a deadly look. He threw his hands up to concede. Clearly their teacher’s wisdom only worked when it came from the Archmage himself.

From atop the wall more clamoring and arguing could be heard for just a moment. Shortly after the gate began to open, shaking a layer of dust off it. The Trio slowly made their way inside the gate and were greeted by the same disheveled man in silver armor. Ivo scanned the man, he was evidently tired with bags under his eyes, the armor on his left leg cracked and broken.

He calmly and confidently began to address them, “Greetings I am the Captain of the Redgarden Military Guard. I am relieved to see you have finally made it, in all honesty many of us had started worry. But now that you are here, maybe we have a chance at pushing back these bandits. Now which one of you is in charge?”

Eris disrespectfully walked past the Captain bumping into his shoulder, nearly knocking him over. Ivo instinctively dove forward catching the man before he fell to the ground and pulled him back up to his feet. She called back as she bumped into another set of guards, “Ivo… The talking!”

Ivo attempted to distract the man from Eris’ less than kind approach, vigorously shaking the Captain’s hand, “That would be me Captain, Guildsmen Ivo Cassferth at your service.” It was a lie of course, Ivo was not a full Guildsmen yet. However, he thought it best to avoid mentioning that.

After a few seconds of thinking the Captain awkwardly responded, “Ah, yes, very good. If you’ll come this way with me, I can take you to the Mayor. He’ll want to speak with you immediately,”

They strode further into Redgarden, it was a humble wooden village. Ivo caught glimpses of youthful eyes in windows as they passed. At the center of the town was a large wooden hut no doubt the abode the Mayor inhabited. There were a few guards surrounding the hut, two dead bandits at their feet. Upon reaching the door the Captain stood beside the entrance and motioned for them to enter.

Eris walked into the hut and Ivo quickly followed motioning to Artemis to follow.

As they crossed the threshold the shadows in the room shifted. Ivo stopped in his tracks inquisitively looking around trying to pinpoint the cause, naturally he looked to Eris who was evidently unfettered, and back to a distant faced Artemis. Neither showed signs of having noticed and so Ivo dismissed the feeling and walked deeper into the hut.

    The Trio came to the heart of the hut. A humble council room with a large wooden table housing a map, and various sheets of paper. Around the table in a circle were several elders sitting cross legged, smoke drifted from plates in front of them, whether it was incense or pipes Ivo couldn’t tell in the low light of the candles that lit the room. Leaning dramatically against the table was no doubt the Mayor. He slowly began to turn around and acknowledge their presence.

His words were smooth and bore a sense of ire, “The Guildsmen I presume? Good, the bandits broke through the southern checkpoint two hours ago. This doesn’t give us much, if any time at all.”

After a moment of silence, A shove from Eris pushed Ivo forward into the room, no doubt Eris reminding him of their agreement.

“That is correct. Ivo, Eris, and Artemis at your service. You must forgive me; we didn’t have much information to go off from on the ride here. Do you mind clearing a few things up for me?” Ivo answered.

The Mayor walked slowly along the dark wood table and took a seat that faced them. He articulated flawlessly striking each sound as it left his lips, “You may ask freely, but I will remind you of the lack of time at our disposal.”

Approaching the table, Ivo stood as confidently as he could muster, “I’d like to get to know a bit more about these bandits. It seems odd that the bandits would attack you.”

The Mayor leaned back and clasped his hands together disapprovingly, “You find it odd that bandits most of them killers, thieves, and traitors already, would ransack Redgarden?”

“Allow me to explain, most Bandit droves stick to the roads, or small towns without an established militia, but Redgarden seems to be well manned and ready for battle.” Ivo pleaded.

The Mayor grimaced heavily, “I’m sure them men appreciate the praise even after days of siege.” He raised a hand to rub his temples in frustration, brushing the wire rimmed glasses that hugged his face.

Eris crossed her arms, clearly growing impatient as the conversation dragged on.

 “What I mean to ask is if you could think of something that would have encouraged them to act so brazenly. It may help us to understand how to resolve this without conflict.” Ivo did his best to shrug off the passive nature of the Mayor.

Creaking expressed the distaste from the Mayor as he leaned back in the oak chair, evidently uninspired by Ivo's line of questioning.

“In short, Bandits are scavengers not conquerors. If they’re coming for you, you have something they want. Something they’re willing to risk many of their own for,” Ivo countered, stifling a grimace.

The Mayor coughed and took his wire rimmed glassed off, swaddling them in his jade colored coat to clean them. He passively spoke to Ivo, “Thank you for spelling that out for me Guildsmen, I’m sure the thought hadn’t occurred to me. But to answer your question I am afraid none of us have any idea what would have spurred this. We’ve received some produce shipments, but that is hardly enough to spark them into action and we sent out the Empirical taxes less than a month ago, so the town is the poorest it’s been this entire year. By all rights a bandit attack now wouldn’t reward them with anything.”

 It was then that the elders that surrounded the room joined the conversation. A cough from one of the elders broke the long silence as he cleared his throat to speak, “It’s the vault they’re after.” The elder coughed into his elegant red satin robes, as the room filled with a symphony of hushes and accusations.

“Hold your tongue, Elder Koth!” Cried an elder dressed in a black robe. His trembling hands shooting up aggressively toward his compatriot.   

All the shadows in the room shifted suddenly, drifting ever so slightly out of place.

Ivo scoured the room looking for anything out of place, unsure if it was a fabrication of his stress addled mind. Eris and the Mayor did not seem to have noticed; Ivo looked back at Artemis his eyes we aggressively whizzing around the room. Looking for something.

The glasses returned to the Mayor’s weary face, the movement calling Ivo’s attention back to the conversation. He questioned the Mayor, “I’m sorry, the elder just now. He said something about a vault. That certainly sounds like something a bandit would want.”

“It’s old myth nonsense that the elders like to hold on to, the stuff parents tell their young one’s late at night,” The Mayor finished. Ivo remained adamant and waited for more.

“As it goes, there's a vault deep in the mountains and the entrance is at the mountain’s base, inside of Redgarden’s walls. But the myth says it was a library, or some kind of hospital, I’ve never yet run into a bandit that was able to read, let alone an entire tribe that would risk invading us over books.” The mayor finished

“But the bandits aren’t working, alone are they?” The cracking voice of Elder Koth interrupted the Mayor.

An air of outrage quickly filled the room as the elder in black exploded, “Speak again Elder Koth and we will be forced to reconsider your families place in Redgarden!”

Eris scoffed in disapproval from behind Ivo.

Ivo turned to motion for Eris to calm herself, as he turned back to address the Mayor, “Excuse me if you will Mayor, but how much information do you plan on keeping from us?”

He began to shuffle through papers on the table, his gaze piercing the Elder in red, “There have been reports of a mysterious third party amongst the bandits. However, what the elder omits is that these reports are few and conflicting. Some reports say there are a group of men, other claiming to have only verified one man. However aside from the timing, there's nothing connecting him to this attack.”

“How has this man been described,” Ivo pressed

Rolling his eyes, the Mayor explained, “He’s been described as an average sized man, a black robe bearing some sort of V symbol on its back, with a silver hood. There are no descriptions of facial features, in all it’s a vague and an insultingly unhelpful description,”

To Ivo’s surprise, the description drew a reaction beyond disinterest or anger from Eris, as he heard as distinct breath of apprehension from her. He was tempted to turn and ask her but decided against it. She would not be honest with him in front of this many eyes, it was a conversation best saved from another time.

“Guildsman, you must understand, the Redgarden armed forces have not seen a conflict like this for some time. I think it has been affecting my men, perhaps making them see things that aren’t there, so without a concrete report, I’m not going to waste time on someone who might not even exist.” The Mayor’s eyes drifted toward the elders.

“Be that as it may, this would be information I would have liked, to keep my team informed if nothing else.” Ivo’s impatience grew as the conversation droned on.

The shadows in the room once again fidgeted. Ivo’s eyes instinctively fixate on the movement, there was no doubt in his mind that he had seen something that time. The feeling of displacement grew more intense with every breath.

A tap came from behind, Ivo turned to see Artemis withdrawing his hand, eyes locked in the shadows of the ceiling.

 “What is it Artemis?” Ivo asked

Artemis’ closed his eyes and a scowl grew on his face. His raspy dark voice broke the silence, “We see him.”

Ivo’s hair stood on end and his arm dove for his blade, the metal singing as he pulled it from his back. He scanned the room looking for what it was that Artemis saw, that would drive him of all people to speak up.

A demonic cry broke the silence. The room with a dark eerie purple light, gleaning from Artemis’ scythes.

Their eyes cast upward, and saw a dark shade hiding amongst the rafters of the ceiling. The shape of a man, realizing it has been discovered the shade flinched.

Artemis’ scythe rocketed upward crashing into the shade and slamming the creature into the ceiling before ripping it down shattering the table.

Not to be outdone Eris roared a battle cry shaking the wood as she slammed her foot down shattering ground, from beneath the now grounded Shade a rock spire crashed upward impaling the creature.

For what seemed an eternity, the shadows in the room writhed in agony, shifting and convulsing. The Shade cried out splitting in half and then faded from existence, the shrieking subsided, and Ivo could feel his heartbeat in his neck.

Eris charged past Ivo, taking ahold of the two now split table halves, tossed them aside, and continuing her charge. Eris slammed into the Mayor gripping him by his collar and shoving him up against the wall.

Adrenaline rushing, Ivo bellowed, “What in the hell was that?”

“That… thing had to have come from an Archon.” Eris howled, the Mayor flinch as the word Archon left Eris’ mouth.

Eris, stunned at the Mayor’s reaction, savagely continued, “So you knew? There was no mention of an Archon in the contract! Planning to keep that bit of information from us as well, right?” Eris slammed the Mayor against the wall.

“Please Guildsman, you must understand. We didn’t have the money for that expensive of a job, please the village is poor and there's no time to send another contract. We’ll gladly pay our debts when the tradesmen restock the treasury.” The Mayor strained to speak as Eris’ fists drove further into his collar bone.

Ivo recovered from his shock and choked out his words, attempting to restrain his anger, “You knew there was an Archon? I should have known. Asking for three Archons to defend you from a few bandits?”

The Mayor pleaded, “Please! We’ll pay the proper amount”

Eris viciously pulled the Mayor from the wall and slammed him back into it, “It isn’t about the money! Do you have any idea why the cost goes up to fight an Archon? We don’t know how powerful this other Archon is! We have no idea who they are, or what they’re capable of!”

The Mayor meekly whimpered, “I only had the best intentions for my people.”

Eris growled back, “This has just become exponentially more dangerous for all of us, and there is no way we can guarantee we can beat whoever this Archon is!”

A desperate cough comes from one of the elders, “You wouldn’t leave us to die, would you?” His soft fearful eyes reflecting the candle light.

   Ivo sighed heavily and walked forward placing his hand on Eris’ shoulder feeling her heart rapidly beating through her veins. He spoke calmly collecting himself, “No I wouldn’t.”
Ivo’s eyes met Eris’ as he spoke, “We wouldn’t,”

    "We were sent here by the Guild to help, that hasn’t changed." Eris' grip loosened as Ivo spoke, “Out of respect for my team I’d ask this be mentioned to our superiors. They will reward us for our actions in their own way.”

As Ivo stepped away Eris dropped the Mayor. Ivo began to walk towards the door, Eris in tow, Ivo looked back to the Elders.

In a gruff tone Ivo addressed the room, “I have no doubt this vault is what they are after. Where is it?”

One of the Elders called back in outrage, “That secret has been in our protection for generations, before Redgarden was even founded! Its location belongs with us only!”

Ivo’s fist slammed against the wall, “That shade was sent to spy on you, collect information. How long do you think it was there? How much do you think you’ve told that Archon without knowing it? It’s obvious he’s coming for that vault; he’ll tear all of Redgarden apart to find it. So, you want us to protect it for you, you’re going to tell us where to be,”

The room was silent for a moment. The voice from the Mayor echoed from the back, “I’ll show you,”

Several of the Elders gasped in disgust, “You wouldn’t dare!”

“He is doing what he believes this right, unabated by fear! Something this council has neglected to do for generations!” The same Elder in red defended the Mayor.

The Mayor growled back, “I will only show them the entrance, no more. But asking them to protect something they can’t find serves no one.”

“It isn’t theirs to protect!” One of the younger elders.

The Mayor snapped a howl at the old man, “NO! It is mine. All of Redgarden is mine to protect. From bandits, from famine, from acts of God.” The Mayor paused, “I’ve hidden enough from the Guildsmen at the council’s behest. However, I have asked them to travel from great distances to help us. Heroes deserve the truth if nothing else.” The Mayor gestured to Ivo then to Eris and Artemis.

He made for the door; his clothes slightly torn in the squabble before. Ivo turns to the Mayor, “Thank you,”

“Don’t thank me. Guildsmen shouldn’t be magnanimous in victory. Men like me won’t learn anything if you are.” The Mayor readjusted the jade robes now in disarray.

The Mayor threw open the Redgarden forces cowering outside, weapons drawn. The Captain greeted him, “Milord! We heard the clamor and thought the worst,”

 “And I see you arrived to help in record time! Thank Alyrah the Guildsmen were there to protect me.” One by one the Guards felt the sting of sarcasm in his voice.

The Mayor barked, “Captain, remind me to court martial you when this is over,” leaving with an angry sneer.

“Of course, Milord,” The Captain appeared to sheepishly retreat into his armor like a turtle.

The Mayor walked onward past the guards heading toward the base of the mountain. He motioned for the Guildsmen to follow.

Through the winding paths of the city, across the humble stone paths, over bridges, past grandiose mansions they strode until they came upon a thick grouping of trees.

Pushing into the darkness, the group came upon a fountain. Carved from what appeared marble and the edges clad with gold; the water did not flow from the fountain and the pool's liquid glinted in the fading sunlight, motionless.

The Mayor stopped at the fountain’s and gazed to the waters, “This is it, the long-forgotten entrance to the vault.”

Eris slowly knelt at the edge of the fountain and placed her palm on the ground. She was silent for a moment. She spoke slowly, “This… stuff, the fountain… It isn’t rock.” Her eyes raced under her eyelids, “There’s miles of this stuff down there.”

The Mayor smirked, “That would be the vault. You must understand I can’t show you how to open it. I may dislike how to council has been running things, but I still must protect some secrets,”

“This is more than enough.” Ivo turned and called to Eris.

Eris’ eyes opened in response and she looked up to Ivo.

Ivo continued, “How long do you think this stuff would hold up against you?”

Eris stretched upward and stared at the fountain gripping her shoulder, “Realistically? I would reckon a good ten minutes to cleave through the top half.”

Eris leaned down and tightly gripped a section of the fountain, she slammed her fist down against the marble, but even with all her strength the fountain only responded with a tiny crack along the surface.

Disappointed, Eris amended her statement “Maybe a little longer, whatever this stuff is, it won’t give up without a fight,”

Ivo turned toward the Mayor, “Alright I’ve seen enough. Looking at it now, I don’t truly believe bandits would be coming for something like this. But at least it gives us something to look out for. That’ll be all for now, I think it best of we make preparations for the bandit attack,”

The Mayor began to stride back toward his abode, “Very well Guildsmen. I leave the fate of Redgarden in your hands,”

As the Mayor disappeared into the tree line Eris strode over to Ivo and whispered to him, “There’s no guarantee the Shadow Archon isn’t still spying on us,” Eris eyes darted out into the dark of the forest.

Ivo turned back toward Redgarden rolled his shoulders. After a soft sigh Ivo began to walk back into town and spoke softly, “I’m counting on it. The Redgarden council would have let that Archon tear Redgarden apart to keep their secret. Maybe we can spare a few lives this way,” Ivo looked back to Eris her eyes piercing his, stopping him in his tracks.

After a few heartbeats Eris strode forward, past Ivo.

A quiet song of nature, the breath of the wind, followed the Guildsmen as they arrived at the town hall once more. The Captain with his face buried in his hands turns to see them arrive.

The Captain enthusiastically picked himself up, his hands frantically swiping at his behind attempting to clear the dirt off. His voice clanged about in his metal suit before erupting outward toward Ivo, “AH! Guildsmen welcome back! I hope the stroll with the Mayor did you well! You shall be presently surprised; I will not be getting court martialed.” Ivo could make out a foppish grin behind the faceplate on his now donned helmet.

   Ignoring the Captain’s greeting, Ivo questioned him, “Captain, do you have some idea from which direction the enemy will be coming from?”
Confused for a moment the Captain eventually responded, “The main forces should be approaching from the south. You passed through that gate on your way in.”

Ivo turned to look at Eris. A nod came from her, “Captain, take your men and post them at the other entrances to the town.”

The Captain looked puzzled, “Wouldn’t that leave us-”

Ivo quickly cut the Captain off before he finished, “My team and I will handle the south gate, I want you to ensure no forces sneak in from behind.”

The Captain stared wearily at Ivo for a moment but gave a slight bow with a confused smile, “As you wish Guildsmen. I will have my men move out as soon as you take post at the south gate.” After rising from his bow, the Captain motioned to his men in the area and they dispersed leaving the Guildsmen alone.

Eris breathed a sigh, “This close to the main attack the bandits won’t split their forces.”
Turning toward Eris Ivo responded, “I am well aware of that. The men of Redgarden have fought hard enough. It's time for us to pick up the slack, are you afraid of a little attention Eris?”

Artemis took a deep breath in, “We can smell them, they’re almost here”

Ivo looked back to Eris, “Then it may be time for us to go meet our guest. Eris, Artemis, let’s move.”

Offline sparishr

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Chapter 2
The sun, long since peaked, swelled lower in the sky. The heat emanating off the dirt, light reflecting off suits of armor as guards passed while the Guildsmen walked back through the south gate entering the clearing. The gate creaked as the large structure slowly closed, with a foreboding slam as the doors locked in place. The Captain had done as Ivo asked, and soon the gate was silent.

Ivo looked out across the clearing to the motionless tree line, “Alright Eris, level with me. How afraid should I be?”

Eris scoffed and leaned against the wood of the gate, “They’re just bandits Ivo. You said you used to hunt demons, bandits shouldn’t terrify you.”

“You know I wasn’t talking about them. You’ve been in the Guild longer than I have, I figured you’d have an idea of what we’re up against. So how many Shadow Archons do you know about.” Ivo scoffed back,

   Ivo waited for what seemed an eternity, no response came from Eris.

“How many, Eris?” He pressed.

“Not many. Now is not the time to think about it. Get your head in the game.” Eris softly shut her eyes.

“There’s a distinct lack of confidence in your voice. It’s… Unsettling. So, who is it?” Ivo turned toward Eris.

   Eris jutted up from the gate aggressively Eris charging forward toward Ivo, and growling, “It doesn’t matter now drop it Ivo!”

   A pale arm, chains jingling, bolted, between Ivo and Eris. They looked up to see Artemis looking out at the clearing. With that slight reverb in his voice he advised them, “They’re here,”

Ivo stared into the clearing.

Even from this distance they could hear the clamoring of steel and branches snapping. A large brute emerged from the shade and began to bridge the clearing. Behind him swarmed a tide of much smaller bandits. The group showed fatigue from the long and arduous battle, many wounded, arms in slings and heads bandaged.

And so, they strode out into the clearing to meet the mountain of a man leading the bandits, Eris and Artemis followed quickly behind. The Bandit Leader and The Guildsmen stopped just a few paces from each other.

The Bandit Leader spoke with a low intimidating gravitas, “We’ve fought for three days, beaten back the tide of your soldiers. All of it, to reach this moment. And this is what Redgarden responds with. If I’d known this was what we had to look forward to, I would have savored that last battle more. At least those men seemed imposing, right before we buried them.”

Ivo addressed the whole of the bandit group with a demanding tone, “Redgarden is under the protection of The Guild. Turn back now and The Guild has no quarrel with you.”

The Bandit Leader was unmoved and raised a hand to scratch his beard. A deep gash had cut away much of it leading up to the right side of his chin, while a deep read had coated it. His glassy eyes stumbled around, as if conflicted on how to procced, “The guy who hired us said there would be Guildsmen. Good, my men had gotten bored of goring petty guards. Though to be honest, If I were you, I’d account for the difference in numbers.”

The difference between their groups was significant, for every one of the Guildsmen there were thirty bandits. But there was no fire in their eyes, and Ivo saw into the cooling embers. Battle clearly had taken its toll on them.

 Ivo scoffed to the Bandit Leader, “Your men are tired and broken. Against petty guards you may have stood a chance. I'm sure you’ve heard about what The Guild can do.”

The Bandit Leader’s hand raised to the axe clipped to his side, it was bent to the side, apparently from a massive strike, “We’re not cowards kid, against what the common folk would like to believe. You can stand aside and let me finish my business, or you can die with the real cowards that are hiding behind that wall.”

Staring into the Bandit Leader’s eyes Ivo growled, “I don’t believe either of us are ready to leave just yet.”

The Bandit Leader gave Ivo an irritated look, “So, we both know how this is going to end then?”

From behind Ivo's voice, Eris’ voice boomed, “Don’t threaten what you can’t kill”

Ivo stepped backwards and called to his companion, “Eris no need hold yourself back on my account, I believe we’re done talking.”

A stone wall erupted from in front of Ivo knocking the Bandit Leader back.

Rushing forward Eris’ fists struck the wall shattering it into a hellfire of shrapnel, forcing the army of bandits to back off. As the dust cleared Eris stood in place of the wall she had just destroyed. Much to his character as the dust cleared Artemis was nowhere to be seen and there was no indication as to where he had run off to.

Eris turned to Ivo as the bandits collected themselves, “I’m only going to handle the big one, or the all the little ones. I’m not going to do all the work for you.”

Battle cries erupted as the bandits began to advance on them. Ivo shrugged and gave a smirk, “I can take the big one, wouldn’t want you to get bored now would we?”

Eris tilted her head back a smile on her face, finally excited by the action, she scolded him one last time, “Now don’t get yourself killed it would make me look bad.”

Ivo peered around, with a look of apathy on his face, “What about Artemis? Where has he gone?”

 “I’m not worried about him, he can handle himself.” Eris bolted forward toward the group, stopping just shy of reaching the bandits. Slamming her fits deep into the earth, her hands emerged covered with stone.

A bandit got in close, but Eris responded by delivering a bone crushing uppercut, launching the bandit backwards. Slamming her foot down, tall pillars of rock exploded from the ground that surrounded Eris, knocking many of the bandits back as they erupted outward.

Swinging her arm around Eris destroyed the base of the pillars causing them to fall on top of her enemies, kicking up a wave of dust. Out from the dust boulders flew, catching many bandits off guard as they tried to dodge.

The dusty cleared as an immense stone pillar erupted upwards into the sky. Eris traveled with it, clinging to the side.

As the pillar slowed to halt Eris heaved herself upward, drifting higher into the air. A hush fell over the battleground, broken as she roared into the open spaces slamming back down onto the pillar, cleaving through it, sending shards of rock and stone splintering out around the area.

She collided with the ground the surrounding earth split and ruptured, some parts erupted into spires of rock, other parts split open forming gaps to trap bandits.

Ivo began to walk toward the Bandit Leader, still picking himself off the ground coughing and letting off curses as he rose.

Ivo drew his Ettin Glaive from his back and braced for combat. The Bandit Leader rose to his feet, with a rage boiling in his blood, he tore the axe from his side and careened toward Ivo.

To respond in kind, Ivo bolted forward. As they passed the Bandit Leader savagely swung his axe, clanging against Ivo’s blade erupting a high-pitched scream as the metal collided.

The impact nearly took Ivo off his feet, spinning him as they passed. As Ivo revolved, he kicked his leg out and slammed his heel into the Bandit Leader’s chest sending them both rolling backwards.

Both regained their bearings. Ivo quickly rolled forward to close the distance between them and thrust his blade upward causing the Bandit Leader to recoil. As he stumbled back Ivo rocketed a fist forward slamming into his chest.

The blow didn’t show signs of affecting the mountain of a man. With a chuckle he grabbed ahold Ivo's extended arm and roared as he tossed Ivo aside.

He taunted Ivo as he slammed into the earth rolling a distance back, “Quite the henchmen you’ve found yourself, she's quite capable. Maybe she could teach you a thing or two.”

Ivo coughed as he stood, “Well, I do suppose we both have our talents.”

 “Oh really? I’m glad we kept this between us then? No sense in us ruining the underlings’ fun, right?” There was a heavy coating of sarcasm on the Bandit Leader’s voice as he ran his hand through his jet-black hair, pulling the red bandana from his head.

Ivo darted forward, slashing downward catching a few hairs from the bandit’s beard. Instead of recoiling the Bandit Leader continued forward catching Ivo off guard. His colossal axe arched upward and in a last-ditch effort Ivo caught the axe in the hook end of his weapon.

Much to Ivo's surprise the momentum carried him upward arching over the Bandit's head. As he landed Ivo held tightly onto his Ettin Glaive, the axe still trapped in the hook.

Throwing all his weight forward Ivo ripped the weapon from the brute's hands, sending it off into the distance burying itself in the ground ten yards away.

An elbow rocketed backward from the Bandit, cracking the air as Ivo dodged below it. Trying to run the opposite way Ivo found the Leader’s other arm whirling towards him slamming into his chest throwing him back.

Ivo rolled violently backwards, slamming to a halt as he rolled back onto his feet, and without skipping a beat, bolted toward the Bandit Leader, his glaive drawn to strike.

 Ivo drew in close, his glaive aimed to kill. In response the Bandit threw a wild uppercut. Feeling the air pulse Ivo stepped aside from the blow, and swinging his blade drove two deep slashes across the Bandit’s chest.

In agony the Brute roared, and his hands dove down to grab onto Ivo. Narrowly dodging his grasp Ivo span around the mountain of a man stopping as he reached his backside. After a breath of time, blood erupted from the Bandit Leader as the cuts carved by Ivo's blade split open violently.

Ivo turned expecting to see his enemy defeated, instead the Bandit swung even more aggressively slamming into Ivo, sending him sliding backwards.

A voice like two stones crushing into each other spoke, “You’ve got guts kid, and one damn good sword arm. Hell, if I wasn’t here to burn this town to the ground, I’d be tempted to call a truce and offer you a strong drink.”

Ivo loosened his grip and rolled his shoulders, “I’m sure Redgarden would be willing to pay double to not burn it down, you didn’t even try to haggle with the Mayor. And here I thought bandits would good at this sort of thing.”

Kicking the blood off his glaive Ivo giggled, “Hell, if you apologized enough I’m sure they’d even throw in the drink for free. You seem like a decent man.”

 The Bandit Leader walked over to his axe and ripped it from the ground tossing dust about the area. Letting out a soft chuckle he called to Ivo, “I suppose you can call me a coward then. The guy who hired me, I’m much more afraid of him than you… And he didn’t seem the haggling type. Hell, the only reason I’m here is because he put a blade to my throat.”

Ivo chuckled back, “No chance for that drink then?”

Armed once again the two forces dove towards one another, their weapons clashing, Ivo was thrown to the side, but landed on his foot and launched himself back at the Bandit.

His axe careened over Ivo's head as he dipped below and thrust his glaive forward. That Bandit Leader's clothes tore he moved out of the way.

The brute seized Ivo's arm lifting him up and savagely slamming Ivo into the ground, lifting him again, slamming down once more. The impact tore Ivo's blade from his hands sending it clattering across the ground.

The Bandit giggled as he threw Ivo backward, not a moment later Ivo jumped to his feet, grimacing from the pain in his chest. Shaking off the pain Ivo bolted for his blade, but the Bandit Leader buried his axe in Ivo's path.

   Ivo stumbled back, now on the defensive.

   The Bandit Leader scoffed, “Not too useful without that blade of yours.” Ripping his axe upward and stepping between Ivo and his weapon.

   He swung his axe downward and buried it into the ground. The Bandit Leader struggled to take it from the ground. In the moment of hesitation Ivo dove for his glaive, rolling over it and picking it back up. Ivo turned to confront the Bandit Leader.

   Instead Ivo heard a cry come from his side and reactively spun to counter. A bandit underling careened into him sending both rolling off to the side. Ivo tossed the underling off and rolled onto his feet ready to strike, this weakling would be no challenge.

   A purple flash streaked across his vision and a second later was gone. Where the underling had stood not a moment ago was now replaced by a cloud of dust.

Ivo followed the cloud of dust to the tree line and caught a glimpse of purple light igniting off in the shadow of the forest. As scythes rocketed out of the shade, ripping several bandits from the field into the darkness.

Ivo thought to himself, “So that’s where he made off to,”

Ivo watched as Artemis dashed through the tree line keeping out of sight. Stopping to drag unsuspecting bandits from battle to his clutches. Suddenly he stopped moving and two scythes burst from the shade and wrapped around two trees. Out from the tree line Artemis rocketed fourth like a slingshot. As he passed two bandits, he gripped onto them and propelled them across the clearing back into the darkness of the forest

A familiar banshee screech reverberated in the spaces as a shimmer of purple in the shape of a man burst from the tree line. With a cry it rose high into the sky, a hollow cry of agony piercing the air, a spirit now under the reigns of Artemis, swooping down passing through several bandits. The Bandits dropped down to their knees gripping their chests, a purple haze flowed out of their eyes and mouth drifting off them into the controlled spirit. With another screech the spirit flew back to its master.

   The sound of stones ripping out of the earth brought Ivo's senses back to the fight at hand. The Bandit Leader had ripped his weapon from the earth.  With a guttural rage the Bandit Leader surged after Ivo, followed by a savage rainfall of blows. Ivo dodged what was slow, countered when the space was given, and blocked what he had to. Finally, the assault halted, and Ivo locked weapons with the bandit.

With a tired sigh the Bandit Leader growled, “You can’t hold out forever Guildsmen, I can see it in your face. The way you wince when you defend yourself. You’re weakening by the second.”

Ivo threw himself backwards out of the lock and taunted the Bandit, “We better make this quick then, I think my friends are getting bored with your minions.”

He gazed out over the clearing. The battlefield, littered with downed bandits and broken earth, the ground shaking with Eris’ attacks, as bandits were sent soaring into the air. The haunting sounds of bandits’ blood curdling screams as they got dragged off into the forest reverberated across the clearing.

The Bandit Leader rested his axe against his shoulder. And let out a bellowing laugh, “Your friends are damn outright terrifying,” His eyes slamming back to rage.

Ivo responded with a light hearted, “You think they’re terrifying now? Try getting to know them.”

In anger the Leader rushed forward swinging his axe down with all his strength, the first strike crashed across Ivo's glaive with such force as to tear the weapon out of his hands. The second attack rose high above the Leader’s head and quickly barreled downward.

Ivo whispered to himself, “There it is,” The axe sailed down with frightening speed, but with a calm step backwards the blade struck nothing but the earth. Colliding with such ferocity the Bandit had no chance to adjust the swipe for Ivo's movement, and the axe cleaved a deep gouge into the earth.

The Bandit Leader moved to unbury his weapon but found Ivo's boot on top of his weapon locking it in place. The Bandit Leader looked up in anger.

Before a word could be uttered Ivo slammed his palm into the Bandit Leader's nose and gripped his face tightly.

A bright flash enveloped the area and a deafening screech filled the empty clearing, as a hail of skittering lightning danced across his hand pouring straight into the Leader’s face as he convulsed crying out in agony. Ivo ripped his hand away grimacing from the burning sensation in his palm that pulsed up his arm. The Bandit Leader crashed to the ground.

The battle became still as the bandits gazed at their now beaten leader, in terror the remaining bandits began to flee. Ivo calmly walked over to his blade, checking it for notches from battle, and placed it back in its holder along his back. Ivo could hear earth crashing as Eris threw her final strikes at the fleeing bandits.

Eris looked up and turned to see Ivo walking towards her, still gripping his palm in pain. She called out to Ivo clearly trying to mask that she was out of breath, “Glad to see asking you to take care of one guy wasn’t too much to ask of you.”

He scoffed back, “I make do with what I have! Some of us weren’t blessed with catastrophic power to command the earth. Maybe if I could call lightning bolts down from the sky it wouldn’t take me as long.”

Eris clapped her hands together shacking off a layer of dust, “Don’t pretend like it’s my fault your magic couldn’t hurt a fly.”

Artemis appeared out from the tree line, with a thick purple smoke drifting from him.

Ivo yelled out to him, “It’s good to see you in one-piece Artemis!”

Artemis outstretched his arm and portion of the smoke billowed forward toward Ivo, wrapping around his hand. The pain caused by the use of magic slowly fading as the cloud dissipated.

   The reverb that had once accompanied Artemis’ voice had now grown into a full-on chorus of voices echoing his own, “He should not be so quick to lose focus. The shadows are still on the move,” The voices faded and returned to the reverb as he spoke.

Instinctively Ivo looked toward his shadow, but there was nothing out of place about it. Then Ivo muttered to himself, “The Shadow Archon… is he not showing up to his own party?”

Eris reminded Ivo, “The bandits said someone hired them, it had to be the Archon?” Ivo turned to look at Redgarden, the crimson sun setting casting shadows on the village.

Ivo scratched his head thinking out loud, “By the sounds of it the Archon could have taken Redgarden by himself, why hire the bandits?”

Eris chipped in, “They may have just been a distraction.”

Ivo quietly whispered, “To distract us from what?”

   He stared out at the village and birds swarmed fleeing something, “Oh no.”

The earth beneath their feet revolted and an earthquake shook the world. Ivo turned toward Eris, but the shaking was not coming from her. A deep grinding and tumbling echoed across the clearing. The sound echoing from within Redgarden.

Eris exasperatedly exclaimed, “The Vault…”

Ivo bolted off toward the gate, “We need to move, now!” he yelled back to his comrades. Eris and Artemis followed quickly in suit. With no men manning it, the gate would not open for them. Ivo got to thinking quickly, “Eris, get us over the gate! There's no time to waste!”

Eris sprinted forward, grabbing onto Artemis and Ivo. As her next foot struck the ground the earth burst, exploding upward tossing the trio high into the air soaring clear over the gate.

A purple scythe barreled downward into the wood of the gate burying itself deep, the chain materialized and slowed their fall back to the ground. Eris and Ivo landed gracefully touching down going straight into a full sprint. Artemis tripped as he landed slamming face first into the ground rolling back onto his face and bolting after them unaffected by the blow.

 They retraced their steps to the town hall, turning the corner Ivo froze. Eris and Artemis caught up with him rushing past but stopping shortly after.

Where once the town hall had stood, now only rubble and smoke remained. Eris ran forward into the destruction.

She called out, “Hello? Anyone!”

There was a short cry of agony emanating from beneath piles of wood. Eris dug her arm into the rubble, attempting to clear it. With a roar Eris ripped a large piece of debris from the ground, exposing a beaten and bloodied body. Ivo finally snapped from his shock and rushed over to help the man.

   The body was one of the elders that had been in their meeting with the Mayor the same elder that had told them of the vault. Ivo asked, “What happened here?”

“The Archons, Guildsmen they came for us," The elder painfully breathed in, coughing up blood as he exhaled,

The blood was extensive, where many pieces of rubble had pierced his body. Metal nails, fractured wood now buried deep into the old man. The dark red of his blood began to seep through the red robe.

   The sounds of debris slamming to the ground thundered as Eris rushed to uncover more survivors.

   Ivo gripped the old man's hand, "There, there you're going to be alright," Ivo looked to the destruction surrounding him, "Archons? So, there is more than one,"

   The elder struggled to respond. His lungs failing him the elder gave several evidently painful nods.

   Eris growled in anger as she uncovered more and more dead elders. Ivo looked to see purple hazes drifting upwards wrapping along Artemis' feet, Artemis staring coldly as it happened.

 “We can get you help, just hold on.” Ivo tried to pull the Elder up.

   The Elder tried desperately to push against him, “The damage is already done Guildsmen, my brothers are dead. Salvage what little pride I have, save the vault."

Slowly Eris returned, she did not speak a word. Ivo looked up to Eris, her eyes stained with anger. Whether it was anger that she had failed to keep Redgarden untouched, a thorn buried in her pride, or a genuine feeling of defeat Ivo couldn't tell.

   The Elder’s breathing had long since stopped, he softly placed his head down and rose facing the west, Eris behind him and softly spoke, “Alright Eris, I’m done talking.”

Artemis, standing above the elder, knelt placing his hand on the elder’s now motionless face. As he pulled away a weak fading shimmer followed. Artemis closed his eyes and a pattern began to glow a deep purple wrapping around his arm. As Artemis breathed in the shimmer was drawn quickly inward, being absorbed by Artemis. Breathing out a purple light emanated from his around his iris’.

   The chorus of voices returned as he spoke with voice of each elder echoed his words, “We are hungry.” Artemis’ hand slams shut and his scythe screams into life, reflecting a deep purple onto Ivo.

   They left the town hall and sprinted off to the west. They passed district after district, there were no bodies, no signs of conflict as they drew closer to the base of the mountain.

The sun burned low in the sky, as the trio bolted through the grove that lead to the fountain rounding the last familiar bend, finally the fountain that hid the passage to the vault came into view.

   The land was decimated, the once proud marble fountain torn from the ground leaving a deep scar in the land, exposing the passage down into the earth.

   It was a horrifying sight. Corpses adorned the area surrounding the fountain. Soldiers who had once defended the gates of Redgarden. The surrounding area was soaked in blood, much more blood than normal injuries would create, as if the blood had been drawn from their wounds.

   Eris shook her head, "We told them to guard the gates, why are they here." Eris turned and walked towards a single body. As she drew closer should could discern the green noble clothes she recognized, the edges singed, the fur it had been made of still burning.

   "There’s no doubt about it this is the work of an Archon. But I doubt a Shadow Archon would have caused this kind of carnage, it’s too visceral,” Eris turned away from the sight.

   Ivo looked downward to his foot, catching the glint of brass. Ivo knelt down and picked up the object. The shattered glasses of the Mayor. Eris tipped the body over the inspect it. The Mayor of Redgarden, now bathed in his own blood, his throat slit from end to end.

   Both Ivo and Eris scoffed and arose to stride over to the crevice carved out by their enemy.

They gazed down into the darkness of the space beneath the fountain, unable to see much of anything aside from a path downwards. Ivo turned toward Artemis and asked, “Can you see anything down there?”

   He responded, “We cannot see anything, but we feel something down there. Something alive,”

   Eris spoke up, “A Shadow Archon might be stronger down there in the dark,”

   Ivo took a step down into the darkness of the cave and turned to Eris, he looked into her eyes fear wouldn’t describe what he saw. Rather an unease or dread glinted behind her usual gruff.

   “You know who it is down there don’t you Eris?” Ivo spoke with calm surety.

   Eris didn’t speak, she motioned nodding and sighing.

   “If you think we need to run Eris, we will. But he’s killed people now Eris, we can’t ignore that. Now, do we need to run Eris?” Ivo locked his eyes with Eris’

   Her fists tightened, and while the dread did not disappear from her eyes, her stance looked as confident as ever. Eris chuckled with a hint of nervousness, “Me? Run? I wouldn’t be caught dead running, that’s much more of an Ivo thing to do isn’t it?”

   Ivo laughed, “Alright then. Artemis? How are you feeling?” Ivo turned to where Artemis had been standing a moment ago to find him missing, he turned gazing into the cave and saw the familiar eerie purple light of his scythes glowing in the dark, “I suppose that settles it then,”

   The Trio strode deeper into the darkness of the cave. Bit by bit the stones beneath their feet turned from rock to a marble like substance, carefully and ornately cut creating a regal looking path through the cave.

   They came upon the true gates of the Vault. A vast white structure with a golden trim, deep runes carved into the surface and a key-like hole near the center. However, a large gash had been torn straight through, a red tinge painting the edges. No doubt by the Archons they were pursuing.

Ivo stretched his arms outward and clapped them together, “At least he was kind enough to leave the door open for us.”

They entered the first room of the true vault. The room was the same white material of the door, yet it carried an unnatural dark. Attached to the ceiling there was a golden brazier, and throughout the room were the shattered remains of stone. Chunks of what appeared to be statues.

Ivo walked over to examine one of the more intact pieces. It didn’t seem as decayed as the rest of the vault. Ivo called over to Eris, “These don’t look like they fell apart naturally,”

Eris moved over to him and looked over the hunks. She responded, “A defense mechanism maybe? I’ve seen similar looking things in northern Gondowahn. It likely activated when the Archons came in here,”

Ivo picked up a piece, it was deceptively light, and a light blue glow emanated while he held it in his hand. The light faded as he dropped the stone to the ground, “Certainly not regular stone anyways,”

Eris looked about the room and waved her hand aggressively, the same face she usually had in combat. Ivo heard shaking in the distance beneath his feet, but nothing in the room moved. She gave a slight grimace and turned to Ivo, “Whatever this marble like stuff is I can’t control it. Any earth I can control is quite a distance off. I’m not bringing in the cavalry without some significant effort,”

“That is not ideal.” Ivo gave the room a look again and focused cryptic runes that covered the walls.

Eris took off for the far side of the room and called to Ivo a second later, “There’s a door! It’s the only way I see forward.”

Ivo stood up and carefully shuffled his way through the debris and made his way to the door. It was a simple metal gate; the bars were too thick to be cut conventionally and the spaces too thin for any normal person to fit through. Ivo attempted to open the door only to find it locked, he stuck his arm through the gaps and tried to open it from the other side, but to no avail.

“It’s locked” Ivo stared at the door and proclaiming to no one’s surprise,

Eris gave a slight giggle and pushed Ivo aside. She leaned up against the wall and lightly swung her arm into the gate. The metal buckled and collapsed inward, slamming against the ground.

“See I knew we kept you around for some reason,” Ivo laughed and walked through the now open doorway. The door lead to a wide passageway still adorn with the cryptic writing. Ivo leaned it to give the runes a closer look, he rubbed some of the letters thinking there may have been some dust covering portions of it.

“What are you doing Ivo?” Eris scoffed.

“Just trying to see what language this stuff is. It’s completely foreign to anything I’ve seen before, I mean it’s nothing like Imperium,” Ivo’s gaze combed the wall.

“And this is the most pressing thing to you right now? Not the Archons that could come to kill us at any moment?” Eris crossed her arms impatiently.

Ivo waved Eris on, “Keep going I’ll catch up, give me a cry if anything happens,”

Eris rolled her eyes and continued walking. Ivo traced the outlines of one of the symbols, as his hand left the stone, he felt a slight shock as a bolt jumped from his hand to the wall.

A deep crushing sound echoed off in the distance, and the symbols on the walls erupted with a bright blue light emanating a deep hum.

Slamming her foot into the ground, Eris tore back and stared Ivo down in anger, “What did you do?”

A ringing in Ivo's head echoed, slowly, almost dizzyingly turning into whispers. The ringing raised and subsided randomly. Ivo gripped his head in pain, “Do either of you hear that?”

Ivo looked to Eris and Artemis. Eris responded, “The humming?”

The whispers calmed to the edge of Ivo's awareness, “No… the whispers,”

Eris crossed her arms and looked at Ivo, “I didn’t hear any whispers,”

“We hear whispers all the time, but no new voices,” Artemis cocked his head.

Eris walked back to Ivo and helped him onto his feet, “Alright let’s avoid touching random symbols for now huh? Does that sound like a good idea? Yeah, I think it does,”

Ivo gave a halfhearted smile and turned to walk down the now illuminated hall. They followed the lights down into a grand coliseum, rows and rows of seats spiraled the perimeter of the room leading down to a small clearing at the bottom, with some sort of podium at the center. It was hard, but Ivo could make out what seemed like a book lain on top of the podium.

   They walked down to the clearing and approached the podium. Ivo whispered to himself, “This is what Redgarden was protecting?” As Ivo approached, he discerned that the book was actually carved stone. As they drew closer a handprint began to glow on the surface of the book.

   Eris looked inquisitively, “I guess they did say it was a library, but that doesn’t look like any book I’ve read,”

"I can’t imagine someone trying so hard to get to this," Ivo stroked the sides of the book, and inspecting for dust, but there was none.

Artemis seemed captivated by the device, slowly moving towards it.

" Artemis? You alright?" Ivo wearily tracked Artemis

"We just want a look at it," Artemis stretched his arm outward toward the book. Eris and Ivo stare wearily at Artemis, debating if they should stop him but Artemis' hand pressed against the handprint sparking the device to life.

   The vault sprang to life. From the pedestal beams of light shot of in all directions. The runes that covered the walls of the vault began to pulsate violently, the ground igniting into a blue light.

   A deep echoing voice pulsated throughout the vault as the lights grew more intense, "Andromeda platform 359 active, diagnostics initiating." The light in the room began to pulse, suddenly the overhead of the vault broke apart, dust falling to the ground, revealing a black void more akin to a liquid than stone. Lightning arced across the surface, the ocean of fluid rippling as the energy cut across. The substance began to plummet down around the clearing. Obscuring the surroundings, nearly blotting out the soft blue light that engulfed the vault.

   The echoing voice boomed across the space once again, "Identifying subject." The void substance rippled. "Subject Archon, Zionnan variant,"

   A soft blue light arced throughout the ground, seconds later Ivo and Eris felt the ground shake, cracks began to form in the ground, the solid white marble breaking apart to reveal mechanisms that spanned deep into the ground. The blue light intensified pulsing up through the exposed cracks.

   Ivo turned to Eris, " Should we shut it down?"

   Eris looked to Artemis enthralled with the device and turned back to Ivo, "How would we even shut it down?" Ivo looked out to the void substance that had surrounded them, then once again to Artemis. A sense of helplessness crept into Ivo's mind.

   Ivo called to Eris, "I guess we're just along for the ride for this one."

   Again, the voice of the vault called out, slight errors pulsing in its voice, " Notable subject ailments: natural age degradation, permanent damage to psyche due to traumatic experiences, inability to devour ethereal essences will result in increasing mental instability. Additional subject detected within subject, parasite of Jeneye origin. Restructuring of primary subject available. Parasite survival, unlikely.

   A purple haze violently rippled out of Artemis. Artemis grimaced in pain, a rare sight, he growled, " No... We will not allow that,"

   The voice echoed throughout the room again, "System verifying component lineup, standby for summary," Ivo could hear several mechanical shifts below the ground. He peered into the cracks watching as a blue cloud enveloped the space beneath them, electrical arcs spanning the clouds. The chamber once again called to life, "Conversion unit status, damaged. Reverb unit status, unresponsive. Power supply, insufficient. Standby interlocks broken. Corrective coefficient drift requires recalibration,"

   The blue light that had engulfed the room turned to a deep blood red. A loud bass tone ricochet off the walls, " This platform cannot engage restructuring functions, session terminated. Warning user, continued attempts to engage this platform will result in lockout," The room began to stitch itself back together, the ground closing back up, the black void liquid retreating upwards once again solidifying against the ceiling.

As silence retook the room Artemis backed off from the podium. Eris and Ivo panned the room wearily. Eris turned toward Ivo the two laugh a long and nervous laugh, no doubt relieved.

Ivo looked about the room

A voice reverbed from the darkness surrounding the room, "Disappointing isn’t it? From what I’ve read about it, it actually used to be quite remarkable,”

Eris, Artemis, and Ivo instinctively collapsed together weapons drawn backs against each other, peering out into the darkness. The darkness of the room began to intensify, they could still see the glowing blue runes on the walls the darkness began to overcast them.

   The voice once again called out to the group seemingly coming from all directions, “So you must be the Guildsmen Redgarden sent for. The bandits did not hold you off as long as Shadowhelm had hoped. I should have expected it from such a pathetic drove of thieves, I don't understand what he saw in them,”

The Trio began rotating, each squinting into the dark to see where the voice was coming from. Ivo called out to the voice, “If you want a job done right, you should do it yourself.”

   A low toned laugh bounces off the walls, “I suppose that was inevitable,”

   Ivo growled, " The same could be said for what's coming next"

The voice taunted them, “Quite lively, and disrespectful for a newcomer to the Guild,"

Ivo responded in anger, “What makes you think we’re new?”

The echoing sound of a rock tripped down from atop the spiraling seats that surrounded the room. The group pulsed outward separating defensively to face their threat, glaive drawn, Eris fists gripped, Artemis' blades glowing in the dark.

As their eyes adjusted, they made out the shape of a man in the upper seats that surrounded the room.

He calmly sat leaning, as lazily as possible, against the seats tossing a small rock up and down, " I've fought and killed, my fair share of Guildsmen.” The man lifted to his feet. His black robe audibly striking the ground as it clambered to the ground. A grey cloth clung to his right shoulder, obscuring his right arm, there was a distinct crimson stream falling from underneath, pooling against the ground.

“The difference between you and them is,” The crimson stream halted as it suddenly reversed pooling back up beneath the grey cloth. Ungodly, the pooling blood began to race at a greater pace, congealing together forging a serpentine crimson blade, “this is where they would have started running." The man cackled.

   Eris gritted a gasp out from between her teeth. Just a single word, " Sanguis"

“Don’t sound so meek child. I am impressed you know the name," Sanguis hissed, Ivo could make out the grin of his teeth as he spoke.

The three Guildsmen began to slowly approach, Eris significantly slower than Ivo and Artemis as she fell behind.

Ivo tried to take a confident tone, finding his voice failing him, “It’s a pleasure to have finally met. But if you don't mind it is getting late, you don't suppose we could move this along?”

“Ah, I remember the arrogance of youth. I’ve seen it broken in men younger than you many times." Sanguis lazily cackled once again.

Past Ivo’s head a purple light flashed across the space careening toward Sanguis.

   An ungodly screech rang out as the crimson blade and Artemis’ weapon clashed. Sanguis held the lock as he stared at it with disinterest. Artemis stood, uneasy, pulling tension against the chains that bound his scythe.

Sanguis pulled against the chain as he spoke, "Now, now, now, three against one? It seems a bit unfair to make the first strike,"

“Don’t take us for fools, where is the Shadow Archon? We know You aren’t alone!” Ivo roared up to his opponent. The lazy smirk fell from Sanguis’ scared face. Sanguis ripped his blade downward tossing the scythe back down to Artemis and cleaving apart the ground beneath him.

"The arrogance to think that he would waste the time to fight you," Sanguis rolled his shoulders muttering, "Even so, we can fix those odds can't we," Sanguis began to waltz down the top of each seat, almost losing balance on several occasions.

He swung his hand across, and a green flame boiled on his skin, cracks of an unholy green light scattered outward around his eyes, illuminating his face beneath the dark hood, then fading after a few seconds. The room began to stink of sulfur, Ivo’s instincts kicked in as his grip tightened on his glaive.

With the most amount of life Sanguis had shown up until then, he thrust his arm forward. The green flame boiled up around his chest once more and burst forth, a wave of flame rolled forward devouring the ground in a swell of fire. From the flames seven dark scaled creatures erupted oupward, and tore forward toward the Trio roaring, their cloven claws tearing through stone of the ground as if grass, their spiked tails viciously wiping back and forth.

Three of the demons jumped forward tossing Eris aside and dragging Ivo backward. Leaving Artemis untouched as four of the creatures encircled him but wouldn't dare draw closer.

Artemis tilted his head. The demons stepped back, displaying an anger that for their kind would equate to the human sense of fear. With a wave Artemis tossed his scythe, careening into the demon in front of him cleaving a path forward, tossing one of the demons aside sending it running in fear. Artemis slowly strode forward, His eyes locked on the dead space behind Sanguis as if looking through him.

Sanguis' eyes perked up, " A Spirit Archon? In the Guild? You're telling me they're letting something like you live?"

The Spirit Archon, Artemis tilted his head backup straight, "Is he trying to anger us?" A demon, wriggled with anticipation, arching itself, lunging forward toward Artemis. Without shifting an eye, nor a loss of breath Artemis slashed downward crushing the beast’s skull, leaving it motionless below him. In response the other demons scurried backward to chase the easier meals.

" Don't misunderstand me, I understand how it feels, for everyone around you to want you collared," Sanguis removed the grey cloak that had covered his injured arm. Artemis made out several deep stab wounds in the upper portions of the arm, and several horizontal slashes in the lower portion.

Only a pace keeping one another from harm, Sanguis moved to finish his thought, "However, in your case I do feel as if the collar would be more apt," The purple haze of Artemis' scythe split the air, clanging against the serpentine blood blade Sanguis having moved to block.

Sanguis twisted to slide under the chain binding the scythe and thrust forward, the blade splitting the air as it sliced forward, Artemis blocking in turn with his free weapon.

Artemis ripped his free hand off to the side, sending his scythe careening away. The flying scythe buried itself deep into the wall far from the battle, and as if reverting to instinct Artemis dragged himself away from the battle. Tossing his free scythe toward his target, crashing headlong into Sanguis, kicking debris into the air.

Seemingly untouched Sanguis gripped unto the chain and savagely heaved backward, pulling Artemis back toward their fight.

The Spirit Archon slide across the ground, and came to blows with his enemy. A vertical crimson slash screeched out in agony as it clashed with the purple scythes, again pulsating with life, the force pushing Sanguis backward.

With what could amount to a laugh Sanguis stared into Artemis' eyes chasing his ever-elusive gaze, " And how did this farce come about? Collared like a pet? Even that seems too soft, for the so-called civilized people. I'd imagine strung up, beaten to death to be more likely,"

Artemis dropped his scythe, turning to haze as it fell, pushing forward he rocketed a palm straight into Sanguis' chest. Sanguis fell to a knee as a purple haze pulsed out of Sanguis.

A rugged laugh, too lazy to say happened at all, emanated from the now grounded Sanguis as he looked up toward Artemis, "You can avoid my gaze all you want, but even I can see there’s something not quite right in there. What else do you have creeping around in that head of yours?"

Artemis' empty palm pulled back for another strike. As his arm sailed forward, but his target twisted away, the palm passing harmlessly beside his head. Sanguis readied his blade and pushed forward carving a slash deep into Artemis' side as he sailed past underneath his now extended arm.

Blood oozed from the severed flesh, Sanguis spun around to face Artemis and snapped his fingers. The blood around the wound sprung to life, spikes erupting from the deep red cutting deep into Artemis as he tumbled over in pain, tearing savagely at the spikes writhing in agony.

Ivo crashed to the ground, the demon's teeth buried deep into the collar of his clothes, Ivo lunged out his arm, burying his glaive into the ground, ripping both the creature and himself to a stop, sending both tumbling.

As Ivo quickly sprung onto his feet another demon leapt at Ivo, to defend himself Ivo thrust the midsection of glaive into the assaulting creature's mouth to keep the creature from tearing his teeth into his flesh.

With a free hand Ivo rolled to his side, the hilt of the glaive slid through the creature's bite, the jagged hook of the glaive carving into the demon's face. Having captured the creature Ivo threw his weight forward, slamming the creature downward sending it flying back.

Writhing the creature picked itself up and hissed deeply toward Ivo, a forked tongue darting in and out of its teeth. The creature lunged forward, jaw wide to clamp. Ivo raised his weapon, ready to redirect the creature as it passed. However, something stopped the creature’s momentum, as it disappointingly slammed to the ground.

The creature ripped its head back. Eris held a tight grip on its tail, in her other hand another demon tail, the owner squirming attempting to get away.

With a roar Eris lifted one of the demons up and heaving forward slammed it down upon its brother. Deep cracking emanated outward as she lifted both and with a guttural howl Eris tossed the two demons far across the room sending both slamming into the seats that traced the bounds of the room. Another demon lunged forward trying to blindside Eris.

The air pulsed outward as Eris' fist cleaved a path forward meeting with the hard scales of the demon's chest as her head dodged under its claws. The force ripped the demon backwards and flattened the demon against the ground, the strike having killed it instantly. The demon defeated almost effortlessly, and Eris aside from a slight grimace seemed no worse for the wear.

Ivo looked with pride. The creatures were demons, no mere bandits, and what would take most men no small effort and a sharp mind, Eris could accomplish with pure brute strength alone.

But then Ivo heard it, the small pelting of a drop of blood crashing to the ground. Ivo traced Eris's arm till his gaze caught her hand.

It had previously been bound in leather with a metal plate placed against her knuckles, now the plate lay dented and torn on the ground. Demon scales were not to be trifled with, twice as hard as conventional armor and sharp enough to slice through most conventional metals, Eris' bracers were clearly no exception.

A demon lunged burying its teeth deep into Eris' shoulder. Ivo darted forward catching the creature neck in his hook and tossed the demon aside.

" You've fought these before? They’re not as cute as you made them out to be," Eris sounded winded.

" I believe the words I chose were bloodthirsty, savage, and horrid," Ivo responded in a confused tone.

Eris smirked as she gripped a lunging demon by the face and tossed it aside. She chuckled at Ivo, "Well, you were the one that said it so... Well, I assumed,"

Ivo let a grimace crawl onto his face as a demon careened into him. He twirled his blade carving a deep gash across its back sending the creature into a frenzy. As its head ripped back, Ivo punted it hard into the face, "Well don't let me take playtime away from you,”

Eris clobbered a demon across the face while restraining a writhing demon in her other hand. Leaning forward tossing both towards the ground, “Can you see how Artemis is doing?” Eris asked as a demon rolled into her knocking her back.

   His blade glanced off the scales of a demon, in response Ivo ripped forward grabbing a tight grip on the creature’s tail and sliced the limb from the creature. In the space before the next attack Ivo looked over toward Artemis.

   Artemis was close in with Sanguis, a strike rocketed forward from Artemis his palm striking deep into Sanguis’ chest. A light purple haze pulsed outward from the enemy.

After a pause Artemis rocketed his arm back for another strike but Sanguis dodged below it and buried the edge of his blade into Artemis’ side as he slid past.

Ivo called out the Eris, “It isn’t looking ideal,” Sanguis spun around and with a snap of his finger blood spikes erupted outward from Artemis sending him writhing in pain, “Okay, now might be a good time for one of us to go over there and help him!” Ivo started to stutter.

   Eris kicked a demon off from ontop of her and threw herself upward. She waved to Ivo, “I’m on it,”

   “Not so fast,” Ivo called out to Eris. Rolling backwards, dodging under two savage demons. Eris look over to Ivo in confusion.

   Her hands were still bleeding from the strikes against the demons and had only gotten worse as the struggle had gone on. Ivo called to Eris, “ Look at what he’s doing, all of that red liquid he’s using to fight. He’s a Blood Archon, and all you have to fight with right now is your hands… Which are currently dosed with your own blood. I at the very least have my glaive to fight with. I know you’re not very good with tactics, but do try to follow me on this one,”

   Ivo watched as Eris’ head dipped. Clearly a warrior heart like Eris wouldn’t be soothe by logic alone, “Look, even I’m not vain enough to think I’m going to win this one alone. We’re going to need the heavy firepower here. If I can buy you some time to get some earth to use, I think it’s our best chance,”

   Eris grimaced and looked down to her fists, “You fight demons all the time! Shouldn’t you be the best option to fight them?”

   Ivo slide under a charging demon and stabbed upward cleaving a gash into its leg. The creature tumbled over as Ivo slid up to Eris, “Their scales are weakest at their neck, at close range they have an extreme sensitivity to sound so if they get close use that big girl voice of yours, and lastly if you can sever their tails, they’ll lose balance making them that much easier to pin down. That’s all you’ll need to know, after all there is only five left!” With that he bolted off toward Artemis, Sanguis slowly walking toward Ivo.

   Eris roar, “IVO!” shortly followed by the sound of a demon slamming to the ground.

Offline bossx5

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First let me say i haven't finished chapter one yet and i am already hooked. This has thought in it and you obviously have a world build already. I just wanted you to know i like it so far and cant wait to finish at work now but i will give a full review if you will when i read it.

Offline sparishr

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Well didn't expect this. Recovering from getting OC sprayed, some nice positivity to come home to XD. Appreciate the kind words!

Offline legomaestro

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Hey sparishr, wait, which criteria are you referring to?

And if I'm not mistaken, haven't you already posted this story somewhere before? I think I read it a while back and commented, but I'm not sure.

Offline sparishr

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I have indeed. Not this version in particular, I was going to start looking for artists and wanted this hear to be able to refer the artists, to conform to the rule #2 of the "looking for artists" forum. There is nothing substantially different between this and prior versions (as far as I remember anyhow), wouldn't pay it much mind I meant this more just to be a placeholder.