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Thread: Cutting Ties

  1. #1
    Apathy Elemental

    EXP: 109,872, Level: 14
    Level completed: 40%, EXP required for next Level: 9,128
    Level completed: 40%,
    EXP required for next Level: 9,128


    Briarheart's Avatar

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    1,785
    AP
    10
    Name
    Madison Freebird
    Age
    30-ish
    Race
    Briarheart
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    Female
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    Corone

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    Cutting Ties

    The howling wind threatened to snuff out the light of my torch. The dancing flame fought for its life, casting shadows every which way as I continued down the rough path that led through the woods. All around me, I could sense the denizens that would normally haunt the night. Once in a while, I could even make out the glowing eyes of the wolves that wisely stuck to the brush. Whether or not it was lucky for them or for myself, I couldn't tell. I'd probably fuck them all up no problem, but I had to admit that my thoughts were elsewhere.

    My task was grave indeed, and I needed my mind clear of all other distractions. I had to be focused.

    Steadily I continued forward, the chill of the night nipping at my unmasked face. The glow of amber from my eyes illuminated the inside of my hood, the hem of which I gripped tightly with briar-knit fingers to keep it from shifting too much in the breeze. The cold air found its way through the gaps and folds in my rough woolen robes, making me wish I had packed a sweater or something to fight it.

    Overhead, in the breaks of the boughs of the forest that surrounded me, not a star was visible. A storm had moved through earlier in the day, leaving behind a canopy of dense, rolling clouds. The ground was still wet from the rain. Mud was caked onto the worn leather of my shoes. Thankfully, this pair was quite disposable--I just hoped I didn't lose one of them before I arrived at my destination.

    One of the pack that watched me the entire time decided that he had enough waiting. Slowly, the animal emerged from the bushes to my left, teeth bared, a snarl cutting through the wind. The light of my torch glinted off the wolf's black eyes as it skulked closer.

    I shot it a fully-erect middle finger.

    Big mistake, as it turns out. Apparently it wasn't the first time someone flipped the thing the bird. Crouching down, the muscles in its legs winding up like springs, the wolf paused for a brief second before making its move. Leaping through the air, its jaws widened, preparing to bite down on the unprotected vines of my throat.

    Instead, it was only met with a jet of acid.

    The pain was immediate and severe. Coughing, hacking, and gagging, the wolf half-yelped, half-gurgled as the fur of its face and the wet flesh of its mouth melted away to bone and muscle. The beast scrambled back to the nearby underbrush, quickly disappearing into the night. The only signs of our brief meeting were a few bloody drops of smoking goo and the soft sizzle of rapidly-decaying leaves.

    I was left alone for the rest of my trek.

    - - - - -

    The shack was... well, it was exactly what I expected it to be, for something that was planted in the middle of an area of the forest where you would hang Here Be Monsters signs to keep adventurers away. All four walls were constructed with rotting wood held together with scraps of metal and planks of less-rotted wood. Bleached skulls of various critters decorated the space around the asymmetrical door frame. Moss and weeds grew on the roof of the small home. A small plume of smoke rose from a stone chimney. The windows lacked any sort of glass whatsoever, opting instead to use tattered linen sheets to keep the elements out. I was almost certain that a stronger breeze than this one would've toppled the whole structure.

    Similarly, the yard was in poor condition. I wasn't expecting a perfectly-tended half-acre surrounded by a picket fence with a fresh coat of white paint, but it was clear that the hermit took full advantage of not having any neighbors to impress. The grass was choked by weeds and briars. The desiccated body of an animal which I couldn't even identify laid off to the side, swarmed by various bugs. A small stable sheltered a plain brown horse with an even darker mane. By the front door sat a barrel that collected rain water.

    Satisfied that I was as thoroughly unimpressed by the hermit's decorum as I knew I was going to be, I waded up the uneven mud and stone path towards the front door.

    The soft light of a dozen candles glowed from inside. Through the curtains, I could hear the crazed mumbling of an old man. I raised a hand to knock on the door, but hesitated at the last second. The muttering suddenly came to a halt. From beyond the door, I could hear him scrambling to his feet, knocking shit over as he rushed around his small cabin.

    “She's here,” he rasped, quietly at first. “She's here! She's here!” His voice grew with a violent, frothing intensity as his bare feet slapped against the knotted floorboards. ”She's here! SHE'S HEEEEEERE!”

    Crazed laughter shook the walls of the As the doorknob fidgeted and the locks were undone, I dropped my torch into the barrel. In an instant, I was enveloped in darkness. Just in time, too, as no sooner as the last of the smoke dissipated in the wind, the shabby door was flung open.

    Stood before me was a disheveled wretch of a man, his skin dotted with boils and blackheads. His grin stretched from ear to ear, and displayed maybe five or six rotted stumps that were one time teeth. The hermit was balding, but his chin was covered with a patchy, graying beard that had—yep, that was definitely lice crawling around in it.

    I was quietly thankful that my sense of smell is greatly diminished, because I already wanted to throw up. I didn't dare show it, though. I was here with a purpose. This... this man, I guess... This psychotic, lonely, dirty bag of bones was my key to the future. And he fucking knew it.

    His glazed eyes were a maelstrom of emotion, filled with glee and awe and fury and purpose and a million other things that I won't waste my time or yours describing. The old man shook with the vigor of a child at a festival, his hands fidgeting and playing with bits of his tattered, dirty clothes (if you could even call his outfit clothes).

    I remained stoic and aloof, standing there in the freezing wind. I tilted my head up slightly, casting my amber gaze down on this poor soul.

    “Gaster,” I addressed him, my voice flat and emotionless.

    This threw him into a sudden fit. A dog discovering you have a stick made of treats and you're ready to play fetch kind of fit. He threw himself at the ground, his knees and elbows cracking against the uneven, damp boards.

    “My liege! My goddess!” He pressed his face into the floor, smashing his forehead in the process. If it hurt him, he didn't show it. “You have finally come to me! After all the messages you sent, all the nights spent awake with fevered visions, you have finally made yourself known to old Gaster!”

    I stifled a grin.

    I could get used to this.

  2. #2
    Apathy Elemental

    EXP: 109,872, Level: 14
    Level completed: 40%, EXP required for next Level: 9,128
    Level completed: 40%,
    EXP required for next Level: 9,128


    Briarheart's Avatar

    GP
    1,785
    AP
    10
    Name
    Madison Freebird
    Age
    30-ish
    Race
    Briarheart
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    Corone

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    “You may rise,” I finally said, extending a hand out from my robes and beckoning him with a gnarled finger.

    Gaster did as he was instructed, the adrenaline rush starting to wear off. The old man couldn't bring himself to make eye contact with me. His pallid orbs focused on every other possible object in his abode, be it the salvaged furniture, the tattered carpets that sparsely decorated the floor, or the various instruments on a table that were immediately recognizable as things to dissect and examine specimens of various sizes.

    The hermit chittered nervously. “Can I... Can I get you something to eat? Perhaps a drink?”

    “I do not require the same sustenance as you mortals. My appetite is sated through... other means.” My eyes flickered with hidden meaning.

    Actually, I was dying for some water. That walk through the woods sucked. But I was willing to bet anything Gaster had stashed away either had more shit on it than his face or was as rancid as his breath. I didn't even want to imagine was floating around in the rain barrel outside.

    Gaster nodded furiously, his initial glee giving way to a surprisingly warm and hospitable tone. “Yes, yes. Very well, very well. Please, come inside, my goddess. You will find that I have prepared everything for your arrival.”

    I let the door swing on its rusty hinges as I fully entered his home. The first thing that crossed my mind was that I'm grateful that my sense of smell has essentially been shot since I fully became a briarheart at the hands of a few pyromaniac magistrates in Eiskalt. The second thing was that it wasn't bad enough that I could completely block out the horrific, eldritch odors that permeated throughout the cottage, and that I should probably breathe through my mouth as long as I'm here.

    Third thing was to burn this fucking burlap sack outfit at my earliest convenience.

    Laenguora--

    It was the first time I heard my chosen name sounded out loud, with actual human tongue. It felt... weird, to say the least. A bit surreal. Laenguora. A bastardization of some ancient language's word for sickness, because I am pretty horrible with names.

    “Would you care for a seat?” Gaster motioned towards a lumpy chair to his right.

    “Thank you for the offer, but I will stand.” No fucking way I was going to risk upsetting whatever horrible things had already claimed the chair as their own and spend the next week picking bedbugs and fleas out of the cracks of my vines.

    “Yes,” the hermit agreed. “It is unworthy, anyway.” Gaster immediately went to work, going from corner to corner, sifting through piles of junk and refuse until he produced a book that looked to be more valuable than everything else in the room combined.

    The grimoire was in pristine condition. The dark leather binding was perfectly stretched across the thin wood of the cover. The brass decorations on the corners untarnished. The creases of the spine were clasped in similar strips of metal. Foreign, unrecognizable letters were printed in the blood of some unknown creature, spelling out the title of the book.

    “The Arcaneum Plagicium,” Gaster muttered in awe as he presented the book to me. I took it and casually (but regally and mysteriously--I was in Goddess Mode, after all) started flipping through it. As expected, it contained information on various diseases, poisons, methods of torture and murder, and other such things that I would hope a man with ill intent and towering ambition like Gaster could use to further my goals.

    I closed the book. The snap echoed against the rickety walls of the shack. My amber eyes flashed menacingly as I addressed him. “I trust you have studied this? Absorbed all of its knowledge? Committed my secrets to memory?”

    He didn't so much as nod as he did vibrate. “Yes, yes I have, every last letter, every last sketch and diagram. I have spent the last ten years devoted to your teachings, my goddess. I am ready to be your servant, your herald, the hand that rots the world, the instrument of your revenge for those who have forgotten or denied you.”

    Underneath my rough robes, a chill crept up my spine. Nobody ever talked about me like that before. If they did, it was in sarcastic tones as a sword was pointed at my throat.

    I bit my tongue until the sensation passed. “I have heard the worried whispers of travelers across the land. The plague that you have begun to spread is already taking hold. The flame of each life that you have snuffed with my gift has given me... such life...” I trailed off, feeling the weight and enormity of the moment bleed out, leaving nothing but a tickle of dark absurdity behind. That, and dramatic dialogue was never my strong suit. That was one of the first things Markov impressed on me, was that subjects absolutely love dramatic, “godly” dialogue.

    If the sickly hermit noticed, he didn't show it. In fact, I'm not sure he did, standing there as he was with his hands clasped together and his head bowed in reverence.

    “You have done well, Gaster,” I finally sputtered. “You're a good boy.”
    Last edited by Briarheart; 10-04-2017 at 11:45 PM.

  3. #3
    Apathy Elemental

    EXP: 109,872, Level: 14
    Level completed: 40%, EXP required for next Level: 9,128
    Level completed: 40%,
    EXP required for next Level: 9,128


    Briarheart's Avatar

    GP
    1,785
    AP
    10
    Name
    Madison Freebird
    Age
    30-ish
    Race
    Briarheart
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    Corone

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    Within three days--three long, tiresome, humid, dirty, smelly, disgusting, emotionally draining, mentally taxing, physically demanding days--Gaster and I arrived at our destination.

    Lanbert was the capital of the kingdom of Medina. When I first stepped through the gates into the city, I got the impression that it was very much like Radasanth back home. Between the similar architectural philosophies, the melting pot of various races and cultures on display as I walked down the cobblestone streets, the rolling hills and endless farmland outside the walls, and the towering castle that was visible from any point in Lanbert with a clear view of the skyline, I may as well have been in a slightly more storybook Corone.

    I was okay with this, naturally. It made my job easier knowing that I was comfortable with my environment. Felt very much like being back in Radasanth, what with how easy it was to stick to the alleyways and side streets and avoid rousing the suspicion of the common folk. It also meant that I could easily navigate the darker parts of town to find the things that truly interested me. Like, say, a table with three or four unsuspecting suckers I could trick into handing over all their gold after a few manipulated rounds of cards. Or a place to hide out while the smelly old hermit carried out my bidding.

    Maybe a nice cafe to grab some hot cocoa at after I sent him along his way, too. I could use a mug of the stuff right now. And a hot bath. And a new set of rags. Oh, and a small souvenir for Hype. She'd probably adore some useless little dust-collector she can put on her dresser.

    But I was getting ahead of myself. Time was growing short, and there was still so much to prepare for. We had to act tonight.

    - - - - -

    The abandoned building was situated somewhere in the slums north of the castle, roughly half a mile from the pipes which led into the bowels of the gigantic stone structure. Very few people knew about it, but I had done my research ahead of time. Gaster attributed the revelation to my divine powers, mumbling something about destiny and fate and other bullshit.

    “Your orders are simple,” I intoned to him in my most mysterious yet menacing tone. My dark goddess tone, I guess. “You are to infiltrate the castle two hours after midnight, when the guards are at their most tired point. The darkness is your friend. Embrace the shadows, become one with your surroundings.”

    Gaster nodded intently, his features dour and focused underneath the years of sickness and grime caked onto them.

    “You will find Princess Arianna in her quarters. Distract the guards, lure them away from her. Then, steal her away and bring her back to me without raising an alarm.”

    The old man bowed his head before me. “It shall be done, my goddess. None shall stand in my way. I will strike down any who attempt to stop me.”

    “No killing,” I cut in.

    Gaster hesitated a moment before tilting his head up enough to look into my amber eyes. “Forgive my ignorance, my goddess, but why?”

    “If you eliminate one guard, you risk alerting the rest.” I bit my tongue right before telling him that I was speaking from experience. “You have my orders, servant. You may take your leave to prepare as you see fit.”

    He bowed back down, muttering foreign prayers that I could just barely make out. He clasped his hands together with a loud thwack. “Tonight, I shall bring glory to your name. All will soon fear the rise of Laenguora, Mother of Plagues, The Doom of Medina, The Ancient Briar, She That Takes--”

    Go!” I cut him off with a wave of my hand and a snarl.

    The hermit shifted in his ratty rags, something akin to a way a child spasms when scolded by a step-parent who is a little too friendly with a belt. “Yes, yes, of course, my goddess!”

    He rose to his feet, took one step towards the pile of sacks where he kept his gear, and paused. A second later, he was back on his knees, head lowered in supplication once more.

    “Before I go carry out your will, may I...” His voice trailed off.

    I arched an eyebrow at him. “May you what, servant?”

    It was several seconds of babbling before he built up the courage. “M-m-may I... May I, unworthy and unclean as I may be...”

    “Out with it,” I commanded.

    Gaster shrunk into himself for the briefest of moments before sputtering out, “May I have a blessing? For good luck?”

    The old man inched closer to me, his head hung low, an air of expectancy surrounding him. I took a deep breath, and exhaled.

    Oh gods, he really was expecting a blessing, wasn't he?

    For a brief moment, I considered denying his request, striking him for something as silly as a good luck blessing, and sending him on his way. But then Markov's voice rung in my head. ”In order to seal the deal, you must make the client happy. To make the client happy, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do something outside your comfort zone. Even though you are the goddess, your success lives and dies by your subjects. Cater to their needs, and they will cater to yours in turn."

    The grease and grime on the shining bald spot of his head looked soupier than normal. I swore that the blemishes and sores that checkered his skin visibly throbbed. I could see the lice swarming around his scalp.

    Fuck you, Markov. You owe me big time for this.

    Slowly, I extended a hand over Gaster's head. My vines began to shake uncontrollably. Oh my gods, I was about to do this.

    I lowered my hand. Inch by inch by inch. Closer and closer and closer.

    Every fiber of my being was screaming at me to stop. DO NOT TOUCH THE DIRTY MAN. YOU DID NOT BRING ENOUGH WIRE BRUSHES TO SCRUB YOUR HAND. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH SOAP IN ALL OF MEDINA TO WASH IT OFF, NOR ENOUGH ACID IN YOUR SACS TO BURN THE SHIT AWAY.

    I made contact with him.

    I could've sworn I heard a soft squelch in the quiet of the abandoned building. I felt the squirming of tiny insects as they crawled around the thin clumps of hair underneath my fingers. It took every ounce of inner strength I had not to scream when several of his whiteheads popped under the rough skin of my vines and by the curly hairs on Hromagh's balls it's all over me now how long do I have to keep my hand here--

    At my feet, Gaster whimpered, decades of stress leading up to this moment suddenly melting away.

    Deep inside me, something stirred. It was my lunch, preparing to jump ship and add another layer to the mess that was this man.

    “You are blessed,” I hissed behind clenched teeth. “Now get the fuck outta' here.”
    Last edited by Briarheart; 10-09-2017 at 10:37 PM.

  4. #4
    Apathy Elemental

    EXP: 109,872, Level: 14
    Level completed: 40%, EXP required for next Level: 9,128
    Level completed: 40%,
    EXP required for next Level: 9,128


    Briarheart's Avatar

    GP
    1,785
    AP
    10
    Name
    Madison Freebird
    Age
    30-ish
    Race
    Briarheart
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    Corone

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    I spent the rest of the night preparing for Princess Arianna's arrival.

    Well, let me backtrack a bit.

    I spent the first three hours after Gaster's screaming my throat raw and departure desperately trying to get the gummy, oozing, lingering feeling of his stupid fucking blessing off my gods-damned hand. I ran out of the building, rushed towards the closest shop after scaring the shit out of a few locals while trying to ask for directions, bought about six bars of soap and three different brushes and some other things and ran back to our hideout.

    This was followed by forty minutes of vigorous scrubbing with soap in buckets of rancid rainwater. Went through two bars and five buckets before I felt remotely clean.

    But the itchy, tingling feeling just didn't want to go away. While I was pretty certain that I accidentally took a few layers of skin off my hands and I was just regenerating them, I had to be sure. So back it was to washing my hands.

    This lasted for another thirty minutes before I decided to burn it all away instead.

    Holding my upturned hand above one of Gaster's emptied burlap sacks, I coughed up enough acid to melt away anything that might have survived the initial onslaught of lye, oil, water, and scents. Bits of my flesh sizzled and smoked from where they were contaminated. The pain was nearly enough to make me scream, but the thought of finally being clean again was enough to shut it out.

    The air was mixed with flowery perfumes from the soap and the earthy scent of smoke from the burlap sack where I missed my hand and sprayed acid onto it.

    No matter how much I scrubbed or melted or washed or anything the feeling lingered.

    I was probably three seconds away from chopping my hand off and being done with it.

    I had a few shards of sharpened glass stashed away in the crevices of my body, kept in place by my twisting vines. I could pull one out, take a few swipes across my wrist, throw the severed hand out the window, wrap up the stump, and carry on. Who would know? Who would even care?

    Not I, that's for sure. It would grow back in a few hours, maybe a day anyway.

  5. #5
    Apathy Elemental

    EXP: 109,872, Level: 14
    Level completed: 40%, EXP required for next Level: 9,128
    Level completed: 40%,
    EXP required for next Level: 9,128


    Briarheart's Avatar

    GP
    1,785
    AP
    10
    Name
    Madison Freebird
    Age
    30-ish
    Race
    Briarheart
    Gender
    Female
    Location
    Corone

    View Profile
    In the end, I decided not to. As it turns out, it's a lot easier to decorate a room when you have two hands.

    The stage was set for the arrival of Gaster and his prize. The windows covered with dusty curtains, a space in the middle of the similarly dirty floor cleared out. I had a vaguely mystical-looking enneagram drawn in chalk in the center of the room, the nine points connected by a circle. On each point sat a tallish candle, their flames dancing in the darkness, casting a soft orange glow that wasn't quite strong enough to illuminate the entire area.

    I took the time to produce the Arcaneum Plagicium and look up several relevant-looking runes to decorate the enneagram with. Winging this sort of thing was a bit difficult, but at the same time kind of fun. The last time I had to deal with some mystical bullshit, all I needed was the corpse of a scholar and a small rune inked with their blood on their forehead.

    I had everything set up the way I figured it should be roughly ten minutes before Gaster returned with Arianna. Everything was in its place, each line of chalk, each flickering candle, the placement of the tome on the floor before me as I sat cross-legged on the cold, dirty planks.

    A chill crept down my spine as the doorknob fidgeted. The clicking of gears and shifting of bolts echoed like cracks of thunder in my skull.

    This was it. This was it!

    Rusty hinges protested as the door swung open. A tallish figure wrapped in a gown of damp silk collapsed to the floor. “Unhand me, you monster!”

    Even with her words charged by electric anger, her voice was as sweet as the damsels in distress from stage plays and storybooks. How incredibly fitting.

    Gaster soon followed her into the mostly abandoned warehouse, shutting the door behind him with the softest of clicks. He had a predatory grin on his face, but I was disappointed to note that his gods-awful stench came back with him. I specifically sent him into the moat and through the drainage pipes hoping that the water flowing through them would've washed some of that stink away. His hair was still wet and matted, held in place by the now gooey crap that had congealed on his skin from years of hiding in the woods.

    Amber light flashed hungrily from my eyes. I did not address my disciple as he started at me expectantly. Instead, I turned my attention to our guest. “Welcome, Princess Arianna.”

    The girl's head snapped up to get a look at me. She immediately recoiled, her beautiful features twisting in horror at the sight of my own. Her chest heaved with a fresh burst of adrenaline as she quickly scrambled to her hands and knees. Before she could rise, Gaster put his boot into her lower back, forcing her down to the floor once more.

    “That will be enough,” I said flatly, casting a glare at him. Gaster immediately got the hint, bowed his head, and took a step back.

    Shifting underneath my robes, I rose to my knees and inched towards the princess as she laid prone in the middle of the enneagram, thick sobs wracking her body as a couple teardrops mixed in with the dust and chalk. I reached out with a briar-knit hand, hesitating briefly before gently cupping her by the chin.

    Why was I so worried about this moment? I felt myself overcome with a case of jitters. Some stage fright before the curtain rose. Panic rippled in the back of my mind, ready to grow into a full-blow attack. I trained weeks for this moment. Besides, I was in a different world, a different timeline, a different dimension. These people did not know who I was, they had not heard about the horrors committed by one Madison Freebird, the Briarheart of Concordia, the Scourge of Eiskalt, the Agent-Turned-Slayer of Pode.

    For a brief moment, I entertained the thought of ripping a hole in the aether, stepping through it, telling Markov to eat a fat one and disappearing into my studies once more.

    But... wasn't this what I always wanted? The power and freedom to do whatever I felt like to whomever I wanted? And now that I finally had it firmly in my grasp--and that I was fully licensed to commit these terrible, terrible acts--I wanted to give it all up?

    I worked too hard for this. I couldn't back out now. I won't.

    There were Grand Plans afoot, and I was going to be a part of them. Something important. Something lasting.

    Looking back on everything, I think that's what I truly wanted. I just wanted to matter.

    “Don't cry,” I hissed softly to the girl who had no intention of doing anything but. The princess tried to pull away, but I wouldn't let go. I gripped her jaw tighter, and forced her to look at me.

    “Please don't cry,” I repeated myself, my tone still soft and comforting. “Instead, you should rejoice! You're about to be a part of something beautiful!”

    The light of my eyes reflected perfectly in her own wide, red orbs. She tried to force out a few words, but I couldn't tell you what they were.

    Instead, I soldiered on. “You do not know who I am. Nobody does. Not your books, your historians, the madmen who dwell in your asylums. Nobody remembers me. Nobody fears me.” I licked my teeth menacingly, just to watch the princess squirm in my grasp. “That all changes tonight. And you will be the one of the first to learn why I will not be forgotten again.

    It was hokey, but it would get the job done. I'd have to see if anyone around the office had anything would help me out with my “godly talk”.

    Before Arianna could renew her struggles, I lifted her to her feet, and pushed my body up against hers until we both stood within the chalk circle. The nine candles resting on their points suddenly went out as I wrapped my vines around her trembling form. I could feel the dampness of her gown and the warmth of her skin pressed against my body. She tried to scream, but I latched my hands onto her face and squeezed my thumbs into her temples until her voice died down to a whimper.

    Don't worry, honey. This is hurting me as much as it's hurting you.

    The cloud of plague and spores building in my lungs brought a sense of urgency to the situation. This was it, this was my moment. I had to make my mark on this world. Give them something to truly fear.

    I yanked Arianna's head towards mine until our mouths touched. The sharpened edges of my teeth cut into her lips as I parted them with my tongue. My thoughts blurred as I lost myself in the moment. Inch by inch, I bent her backwards, twisting my body to allow myself complete and total control of her.

    I exhaled. Wisps of miasma ebbed from the gaps in my teeth as I forced the cloud of dead down her throat. I held her struggling form tightly as she gasped and choked and futilely hammered her fists against my arms and shoulders.

    Breath. Breath in deep, princess. Become the tool of my vengeance.

    It only took a moment, but it seemed to drag on forever.

    My personalized plague mixed with the air in her lungs, with the blood that ran through her veins, with every fiber of her being. As the seconds ticked by one by one, she grew pale. She convulsed as her body fought against me and the virus that was already beginning to kill her.

    I ripped my mouth away from her the moment the last of the violet cloud entered her. I gazed into her eyes, which were rolled into the back of her skull, the emerald shades of her irises barely visible. One thought ran through my mind. What the fuck was I doing?! I could have done this any of a thousand different ways. I could have simply breathed on her. I could have dipped my hand into the source of the river that divided the town, where people collected their drinking water from. I could have snuck into the banks and coffers where the city's riches were stored and contaminated them.

    Why did I have Arianna brought here?

    It all came down to Gaster.

    As disgusted as I was with myself, assaulting the princess like this, it left an impression on the old hermit.

    With this act, I had him enthralled. He saw what I had done, and would know the true horror of my act within a few day's time.

    I released my grip on the princess, and allowed her to collapse to the floor in an unconscious heap. “Come before me, my servant,” I snarled at him.

    Gaster immediately complied, throwing himself at my feet in a dirty lump of rags and flesh.

    “Swear by my name. Swear your life to me. Swear you will serve none before me.” I was in no mood for theatrics any longer.

    He may as well have broken a few of the floorboards, he pressed his face into them so hard. “My life is yours, my goddess.”

    I reached into my robe and produced a pristine mythril dagger. “Let us seal our pact, then.”

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