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Author: EnroItzal Original Source: Scribble Hub

“Are you alright?” asked Lyra who was gazing worriedly at the grimacing Erin.

“I’ll be fine,” Erin assured her with her own hand cupped over her nose. “I just need a few moments to get used to it.”

The reason for Erin’s grimace stemmed from the stench the village was exuding due to the scattered bodies and carcasses. It was obvious a massacre had transpired. Corpses in a volume more than carcasses laid strewn about the entire village, indicating the villagers were the one being massacred. Erin could already smell the stench just as the village came into sight but now that they had set foot into the village, the stench was at the level of unbearable for anyone with even a nose slightly more sensitive than the average human. However, Erin’s endurance and tolerance were something she had polished in her forty and over years of life and she didn’t stop polishing these two traits of hers even after her reincarnation.

As tolerant as Erin could be, the sight of the village was something she would never be used to, the sight of meaningless deaths. It was worse than a war. It was no battle. It was simply a one-sided culling. Men, women, elderly, and even children; no one was discriminated against. The monsters slaughtered them all alike.

Sometimes, Erin surprised herself with her still-sound mind. The many adversity she had to overcome to attend the title of Sword Saint, it never amounted to the many meaningless deaths in her journey. It shook her resolve every time.

Nevertheless, she steeled her nerves and calmed her heart. She had a job to do and if left undone, only more meaningless deaths would accumulate.

“Focus, Erin. Focus.”

The quest’s objectives were to investigate the disappearance of the two adventurers and to identify and subjugate the threat that was plaguing the village. At a glance of the village’s condition, Erin knew they would be here for quite some time. Amongst these deaths, it would be hard to even make out the contour of their shadows, much less finding a clue for their objectives. As for the subjugating part, Erin doubted that was something she could even accomplish with her current level of abilities.

“This is terrible.” Even Freed, who could no longer hide behind his aloof facade, voiced out his horror in a hollow tone.

“No s̲h̲i̲t̲,” Lyra retorted.

Erin had her fairshares of bloodsheds and wars but this was something she could never have a straight face for. The feeling of helplessness— like these villages must have felt— she hated it. She hated and feared being powerless. She believed this notion to be one of the main factors that drove her obsession into becoming the Sword Saint.

Turning her eye away from the horrifying sight, Lyra furrowed her brows. “That poor girl… I can’t imagine the things she had seen.”

“Any survivors?” Freed asked as he looked around, already with his sword drawn.

Erin cast Life Sense but the results turned up null. The only lives she could pick up were of the crows and rats feasting on the rotten flesh. Erin shook her head in response. “Nothing but crows and rats.”

Lyra’s face turned gloom. “Does that mean Marcus and his companion didn’t make it?”

“What do you think?” Freed shouted with an exaggerated gesture. “Of course they’re dead! Look around you! Do you think they could handle this number of monsters?!”

Lyra locked eyes with him, jabbing a finger at his chest. “We don’t know that.”

“Lyra’s right,” Erin said. “We can’t confirm their status until we find their body.”

Freed pointed at a corpse strewn nearby. “Look at that body. I can’t even tell if it’s a man or a woman. What makes you think we can find their bodies?”

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“That is one of the quest objectives,” answered Erin with a resolute tone and expression.

“Objectives?” Freed canted his head.

It took Erin a few seconds to realize Freed failed to get her meaning. “It means goal, as in the aim of this quest.”

“You Faerie-kin sure use some fancy words.”

Erin ignored his remark and continued to scour the razed village. With her amplified sense of smell and hearing, it was even harder for her to bear than the average human. It was at times like this that she viewed these gifts of hers as a cross she had to bear.

“All is not lost… there has to be someone alive… or something that could help us, to point us to the culprit.”

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Erin remained hopeful that they would find something auspicious even in the slightest among the ruins. However, that was only a faint glimmer. The more she looked, the more despair she felt in having such wishful thinking. No matter where she looked, there was no corner left untouched by the slaughtering. Even the secret spaces beneath the floorboards were carved out by something big. The worst part was that these places were mostly filled with the corpses of infants and children, half-eaten.

“Half-eaten?” Erin questioned. She looked around to confirm her suspicions and it did.

The monsters didn’t attack this village to fill their belly, this quickly became Erin’s conjecture. Although not many corpses were in one piece, the fact that so many bits and pieces laid strewn about, spoke volume of the monsters’ intention. The monsters didn’t slaughter the villagers for food but for sports.

Erin coiled her fingers into a fist tightly. “Even if I don’t find Marcus or William, I will find the monsters who did this and kill all of them,” she vowed in her heart.

“It really is Goblins…” Lyra mused as she inspected the peculiar footprints the entire village’s soil was littered with. The footprints had the shape of a small foot with four toes with each slightly pointed crooked.

“What about these ones?” Freed pointed at footprints of similar outline but twice the size.

“Hobgoblins,” Erin was the one who answered.

“Well, f̲u̲c̲k̲ a duck,” Freed uttered. His eyes bounced from between the dozen footprints and counted the numbers. “That’s a lot of Hobgoblins.”

“Not just Goblins.” Lyra pointed at sets of pawprints. “Serks and Dire Wolves.”

“Serks and Dire Wolves? I thought these two don’t get along?” Freed questioned.

“Evidently, they do now,” Erin said. “Looks like the Goblins have tamed them to suit their uses, or something else did.”

“Whoa there— Goblins have pets?” Freed dropped his jaws. “This is the first time I hear about this.”

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“It’s mine too.” Erin sighed. “This is not even the worst thing we need to worry about.”

“Then what is?”

Erin gestured with her head to a ruined two storey building. Just around the area, there were footprints five times the size of the average human footprint.

“F̲u̲c̲k̲i̲n̲g̲ hell,” Freed gasped. “What manner of creature is of that size? Four toes… crooked… some sort of Goblin variant?”

Lyra walked over to the over-sized footprints and gave a closer look. “The tip of the toes are curved instead of pointed. It’s not a Goblin. No Goblin variants have ever reached this size.” Lyra turned to Erin. “What do you think it is?”

“Off the top of my head, a Troll,” Erin answered.

Colors were drained from Freed’s face. He let out a nervous laugh. “You’re pulling my leg here, right? P-please tell me you are. P-please?”

Lyra rolled her eyes at Freed’s declining behavior.

Erin gave a quick glance at the trees that bordered the village. She saw none of the branches were broken or disturbed. “The trolls are not more than sixteen feet.”

“And h-how tall is that?” Freed asked.

Erin sighed. “No taller than the trees around us. Otherwise, the Troll would have disturbed the branches in its travels.”

“So we have Goblins, Hobgoblins, Serks, Dire Wolves, and a Troll,” Lyra laughed ironically. “Trolls hate Goblins. Serks and Dire Wolves are natural enemies. Goblins don’t work well with other species. But here we have evidence that pointed to all of the contrary. What kind of joke is this?”

“The kind that killed off an entire village for sports,” Erin responded. “Or for some other reasons?”

“What’s that?” Freed pointed over the two’s heads.

They turned around to follow where his finger led their sight to. They found a ceramic pot dangling on frail-looking ropes a few feet above ground. The ropes were tied to a nearby pole for support. The pot itself was oozing out an unsettling feeling towards them.

“What is that?” Lyra asked the same question. “Some kind of alarm?”

“Looks like it,” Erin agreed but as she appraised the pot, she had a change of opinion. The contents of the pot were something called; Miasma: Liquid Essence. From the description, it was mainly used for dark rituals as catalysts. “Huh… it’s Miasma but in liquid form.”

“Why is something so ominous dangling in the middle of nowhere?” Lyra questioned with a frown.

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“It’s mostly used for dark rituals,” Erin relayed the information to the two. “So I’m guessing whoever or whatever is responsible for this village massacre, they might have done it for the purpose of a ritual.”

“Monsters are conducting a ritual?” Lyra’s eyes widened. “Since when are Goblins capable of such things?”

“Obviously, we’re not dealing with your average Goblins, or Goblins at all”

“Oh god…” Lyra gasped. “what have we trod upon?”

“I wish I knew too.”

“Erin, I think we should leave,” Lyra suggested. “I have a really bad feeling about all this.”

“What are you talking about?” Freed turned to Lyra and threw her a glare. “We have yet to eliminate the monsters responsible for all of this.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t. I don’t like the look of things.”

“Are you suggesting we should abandon the quest just because you have a bad feeling?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m suggesting.” Lyra returned the glare.

“We’ll fail the quest if we return without doing anything!” Freed shouted. “Golds are the stakes here.”

“Look around you! Does this look normal to you? Do you think whatever is happening here is worth gold? There’s a g̲o̲d̲d̲a̲m̲n̲ ritual in place. We are not prepared for this.”

Freed scoffed. “A ritual? Says who? That vixen? Who knows if she’s not just spouting nonsense just to keep up her vanity? She’s a Fae!”

Lyra furrowed her brows in anger. “These are Goblins’ footprints. Goblins were here. Goblins don’t kill for sport. If they’re not looking for food, they’re looking for broodmares. Look around you, damn it! They killed even the women too. They didn’t even leave the women alive for breeding. They are not looking for food or broodmares. And there’s a f̲u̲c̲k̲i̲n̲g̲ pot of miasma in the middle of the village, dangling suspiciously on thin ropes! What more obvious f̲u̲c̲k̲i̲n̲g̲ clues you need before you realize we are out of our boundaries here!”

“F̲u̲c̲k̲ off with your shivering c̲u̲n̲t̲, lily. Just because of these assumptions you’re thinking about abandoning the quest? Have they told you how much we’ll be getting for this quest?”

A vein bulged on her brows. “I am aware but I don’t care. These coins are useless if I’m not alive to spend it.”

“You are unbelievable, woman.”

“I agreed with Lyra,” Erin chimed in with a calm voice after a deep cerebration. “I think we’re overreaching here with our abilities.”

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“Overreaching?” Freed scoffed. “I never thought I would ever hear that from a Fae.”

Erin groaned in frustration. “It ain’t just about me, you idiot. I don’t want to hurt your frail ego but whatever is out there waiting for us, you’re not ready for it; we are not ready for it.”

Freed clicked his tongue. Without a word, he began treading over to the pot that was brimming with Miasma.

“What are you going?” asked Lyra.

“I’m going to destroy that stupid thing that seems to be plaguing the minds of you two.” Without a care to where he stepped, he made his way to the pot without sparing the two a glance.

It was Lyra’s turn to groan her frustration. “That idiot, he’s going to—”

Suddenly, Erin felt a chill down her spine as her Sixth Sense began screaming.

[Sixth Sense activated. Ominous Threat detected.]

Erin shouted, “Freed! Don’t take another—”

But it was too late.

He planted his foot down onto the soil in front of him, snapping off a thin string that was hidden by the blood, flesh, and dirt. The snapped string set off a chain reaction, one that even Freed took notice. He could do nothing but watch the contraption unfolded before him. The contraption ended with the rope around the pot coming off.

Erin put her all into Fleet Foot and dashed past Freed in an instant and straight for the pot. However, she was too slow. The pot broke into fragments as it touched the ground, spilling out its contents. The Miasma liquid oozed out from its broken receptacle.

Lyra paled at the sight. “Oh god… you stupid son of a—”

“F̲u̲c̲k̲ you! How should I know there would be a trap? They’re just Goblins.”

“The village was scattered with portent! What the f̲u̲c̲k̲ do you think!?”

“Silence, you two!” Erin shouted. “Cease this stupid quarrel. Stay vigilant. Something big is coming.”

As soon as Erin said that, the Miasma liquid flowed unnaturally throughout the ground, tracing a specific path until it began to form into an ominous symbol.

“Oi oi! Shouldn’t we stop the flow of that black liquid of whatever it is before it completes— whatever the hell it’s doing?” Freed asked, panicking.

“It’s dark magic we’re dealing with here. You’re welcome to try stopping it if you’re that brave.”

“Oh shut up, I was just suggesting,” Freed retorted.

Erin paid no heed to the argument and stayed her eyes on the Miasma flow. She activated Spirit Sight in hopes to see what she couldn’t with her naked eyes. Her hunch paid off. Trails of black smoke was dispelled from the ominous symbol. The black smokes found their way into the corpses and carcasses nearby.

With her skin crawling, Erin appraised the corpses and carcasses. The status which read; Deceased was slowly turning into Reanimated (Spellbound) and their race was replaced by Ghoul.

“Oi oi! What the f̲u̲c̲k̲!? What the f̲u̲c̲k̲!? Aren’t they supposed to be dead?” Freed exclaimed as he pointed frantically at the slowly rising corpses and carcasses.

On a reflex of their experience as adventurers, they quickly formed a circle with their backs to one another. Lyra almost let out a squeal when she felt Erin’s tails touching her back. Freed on the other hand was much too focused on the Ghouls to give any thoughts to Erin’s tails. Erin herself was aware but the situation in front of her took precedence.

“I wonder who do we have to thank for this?” Lyra muttered dryly as she nocked an arrow.

“Oh quit it, would you!? That was an accident.” Freed brandished his sword at the rising Ghouls with a trembling grip.

“Erin, what do we do?” Lyra asked.

“I say we run but—” From where she stood, Erin could see their way out of here was already thwarted by the Ghouls which were already clogging up the path with their rising numbers. “—that option is out of the window. Which leaves us to only one option.”

“And what’s that?”

“What else?” Erin drew both of her swords, the broadsword in her right hand and the saber in her left. She conjured up Arcane Armor just slightly on the tip of her tails, enough to slit through one’s throat. “We stand our ground and fight.”

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