chapter 49: the wraiths

Within one of the great forests of the world, a fog was slowly rolling in. Through these woods, small figures could be seen running alongside various monsters. Some appeared as wolves, some as giant spiders, and others as bears. However, they all paused at the appearance of the unexpected fog.
This scene occurred in front of eleven halflings, and when the fog cleared there was the sorrowful whining of a young lion cub. These halflings, chosen for their ability and compassion, adopted the young cubs to raise. In the coming months, they would appear riding their new companions through the forests, the mightiest beasts they had ever seen.
Meanwhile, another fog arose within the walls of Try’s Hold. Few paid attention to this fog, as such things were common among the plains. However, in this particular fog, twenty isolated unicorn centaurs vanished from where they stood.
When they reappeared, they were standing in a strangely even line. All twenty were facing another unicorn centaur, with a slim athletic build and black hair. “Hello.” He spoke, as if he had been expecting them to arrive in such a manner. “We have some things to discuss.”
The native centaurs were on guard against this figure, yet could not muster the courage to attack. None of them were particularly powerful, having mostly managed matters within the cities. Only two of the twenty had ever been out to hunt personally, while the others had only left the safety of the city’s walls for brief runs. As such, they could do little but listen as the figure spoke.
“You have been chosen to be the founders of a new group, one that will protect these lands for ages to come.” The figure spoke of strange beasts, unseen by many. One of the chosen seemed to understand what he talked about, calling them the spirits of the fallen. Between the two of them, they taught the rest how to see these spirits.
“These creatures have always lived alongside you, and you have never noticed their presence. However, times are slowly changing. There are stronger, more violent spirits emerging. Nobody is ready for these, yet, and in fact nobody is even equipped to threaten them. A special kind of power is needed for that.” As he spoke, the figure casually waved his hand. A roar rang out through the plains, and a white beast as large as the body of the centaurs appeared from thin air. As the native centaurs looked at this beast, they could feel the primal strength hidden in its ghostly frame.
“This is only part of the power you need, the power to tame the fallen spirits. And this, this is the other part.” After speaking, a strange mist seemed to surround the speaking centaur. At the same time, the ghostly lion turned and charged at him. The native centaurs gasped, expecting him to be torn to shreds by this ferocious beast. However, instead the lion simply merged into his body, causing the mist surrounding him to solidify.
What was left afterwards was a full set of leather armor, more complete than anything the centaurs had created before. Leather plates covered the entirety of his lower body, as well as the upper sections of his front legs. Extra leather hung off the sides, protecting his underbelly from attacks. For his upper body, his torso, arms, and head had been similarly covered in armor.
On his chest piece, there was a clear image of a lion’s head stitched into the armor, while his helmet resembled a lion’s skull, wrapped perfectly to fit around his head. Finally, in his right arm he wielded a lance, and in his left a shield. The lance seemed as if it was carved from bone, or a giant fang. The shield was one of leather and bone, in the shape of a giant paw.
“This is the power to create weapons and armor by using the power of the spirits. For any of you that agree to join this cause, I will teach you how to achieve this power.” Saying so, his spear rested at his side as the stranger looked at each and every centaur gathered.
Surprisingly, not a single one rejected the offer, but before they began they were made to take an oath. This was not any simple oath, but one enforced through the leather scrolls that could bind a person’s actions. This oath consisted of a set of rules which must be followed and passed down to all future generations with similar methods.
First, the group known as the Wraith Enforcers, or simply Wraith for short, will not allow themselves to purposefully be known by others. Whether their organization or abilities, they would keep all of these things secret. This was to prevent the possibility of others seeing that it was possible to obtain power from the fallen spirits. The only ones to be taught of the organization are new recruits, who will submit this same Quest Oath.
Next, Wraith would not openly participate in any political feud or war. Their purpose was to defend the world of the living from the creatures that don’t belong there, not to fight against other living beings. When it comes to matters of politics and military, they would officially remain neutral.
Third, there could be no fewer than twenty members of Wraith at any given time. This was to prevent the group from dying out over time due to a lack of numbers. Furthermore, one elected member would live away from the public, holding quest scrolls from the other members to ensure their survival. With this, the group could survive even if specifically targeted.
Fourth, in the event where a powerful spirit appears that can threaten the living world, all nearby members of Wraith would participate in order to subjugate it. This was the true purpose of the Wraith Enforcers, so hiding from these enemies would serve no purpose. In the event where the nearby members are not enough to subdue the spirit, they are permitted to prioritize their own lives.
Fifth, the members of Wraith will train in the following classes to prepare for the day when they are needed. Spirit Tamer, to communicate with and secure spirit partners to fight with. Spirit Hunter, to create armor and weapons capable of harming powerful spirits. Warrior, in order to hone their abilities with their chosen weapon types. Aside from these three classes, members are permitted to train in their own classes as well, to display their individual ability. However, the abilities from Spirit Tamer and Spirit Hunter are not to be used in front of those not from Wraith, unless it is in battle against a spirit capable of threatening the living.
Finally, members of Wraith are forbidden from forcefully taming spirits of intelligent races or creatures. If the spirit willingly agrees to the partnership, it is permitted. However, force shall be used under no circumstances to coerce those spirits.
While these rules did not directly restrict the freedom of the centaurs, they were still wary of it. They had seen the power that they could achieve after witnessing this nameless figure, but realized that they could not show that same power in front of others. On the other hand, they understood the attraction power like this possessed. If many people knew that they could become stronger by capturing the fallen spirits, there might be those who would even kill their fellows to obtain that power.
After some consideration, they chose to give the oath. As each one created a pair of leather scrolls, the figure was handed one from each centaur. When he did, the contracts glowed in a bright light, and shattered.
Once all of the scrolls had been handed in, the figure nodded to himself. Then, he looked up into the sky, and spoke to the heavens. “Find us somewhere good to hunt.” As soon as his words fell, another mist rose in the surroundings, carrying them away once again. This time, their travel was a more mysterious one. Although it had been the middle of the day when they left, it was early in the morning when they arrived. The sun was just rising over the horizon, so many thought they had been sent through time.
This caused the air of mystery surrounding the figure to rise even more. But, he did exactly what he had promised. He took the twenty of them hunting, teaching them how to kill various weaker monsters. Although they were clearly weaker than the lion that the man possessed, he assured them that they would reach that level one day.
By the time their hunt ended, each of them had contracted a monster or beast suitable to their level. They then went around, no longer fighting, but instead harvesting the raw energy of the spirits to feed their contracted spirits. It was only after all twenty were capable of summoning ghostly figures of their own that the hunt neared its end. Each centaur was given a few additional spirits to refine, told to keep the raw energy separated from their spirit.
When they had finished, he spoke to the sky again, and once more they had traveled through time and space. Half of a day seemed to go by in a flash, and it went from high noon to dusk in moments. Looking around, the centaurs vaguely recognized this at the place that they had initially met the strange figure.
The rest of the day was spent teaching the centaurs how to manifest armor and weapons from the raw energy they had refined. This was probably the most difficult task they had faced, and took them until the moon was high in the sky to complete. However, by the end, they had each managed to create their own weapons and armor. Sadly, none of them were able to make it physical as the strange figure had, but he assured them again that that would come later.
With their training at an end, the figure spoke to the sky again, asking to leave, before bidding farewell to the group. One last time, the fog rolled in and they all moved again. This time, they each appeared exactly where they had been before they had met this stranger, before they had gained this new power, and this new purpose.

“Whew…” I let out a sigh as I returned to the admin room, returning to a human body and collapsing on the bed. “One race down… too many to go.”
I had chosen to start with the centaurs first, because they were the ones that would require the most care in their handling. There was always the chance that there would be a rebellion, and that the unicorn centaurs would be hunted. As such, it was important to get their foundations set early, to prevent the group from going extinct before they even really got started.
“Doing good so far, Dale.” Terra said as she walked into the room and sat down beside me. “But, I don’t really think that’s enough to prepare them, do you?” She asked curiously, looking down and watching me.
“I know…” I shook my head, reaching out and gently grabbing her hand. “I’m just waiting… After I teach the basics to all of the races, I’ll fast forward a little bit and go back down. By then, they should be ready to learn the rest.”
Terra nodded with a smile when she heard that, though she had a knowing look, as if she had suspected something like that all along. “That’ll probably be for the best. Just think, Dale, you’re actually planning something for the long term.” She said with a mischievous grin.
I bitterly chuckled, thinking back. “I’ve planned things before… There just always seems to be something that makes the plans fail. Guess I just need more practice, huh?”
“That’s right. But you’ll get the hang of it. Now, you go ahead and rest for a bit, you’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow.” She reached over, patting my chest before getting up and walking out of the room.
Taking her advice, I decided to sleep for a little while, before repeating my previous actions at another race. Maybe the beastmen this time. I thought back to the lessons I had given, and the rewards that came with them. Three levels of Leader, two Spirit Tamer, and an achievement for founding a secret society. More importantly, there was something special about this achievement.
Congratulations! You have earned a personal achievement!
For establishing a secret society within your world, you have earned the Secretive achievement. +20 points, Hidden Aura Talent acquired.
I’d have to ask Terra to confirm later, but that should at least somewhat counter my Godking aura, right? Right?!

In the coming days, every race was set upon by the strange fog that secreted away twenty people. Never more, never less, and these twenty were always chosen from those with low personal power, but had the desire to protect others. These twenty people would all disappear for between one and two days, before returning in the same manner as they left before.
However, those who knew them began to notice certain changes in the people that the fog had chosen. They seemed… happier, as if they had found their reason for living. Those who had no interest in the art of fighting suddenly sought out instruction, quickly improving their skills.
In secret, they continued training their spirits, refining the energy from the beasts they killed in their hunts. Over time, they steadily grew more and more powerful in their usage of these spirits. However, the skills they showed on the surface remained those that anyone could learn.
It was a full fifty years later when the fog once again made its path through the world. This time, it chose every single member of this new Wraith Enforcer group, including those that had joined in the last half century. Once again, the original members saw the youthful face of the man who had trained them. Unlike themselves, he seemed to have not aged a single day.
Once again, they were subjected to his training. One civilization at a time, they grew to understand the more advanced aspects of their powers. Specifically, they learned how to manifest their equipment in a more physical manner, and how to use the power of magical beasts to copy their effects.
When he left this time, he told them that this would be the last time any of them saw him during their lifetimes. It was at this time that he had confirmed what they all suspected, that he had been sent by the gods above to teach them. The threat he was preparing them for was very real. To demonstrate, he took each group to a particular forest. In this forest, it looked as if all life had been sucked dry. The towering trees had collapsed under their own weight, their wood rotting away. The plants had shriveled up and wilted, and there was barely a sound from nearby animals.
He spoke of how this was a place that had been attacked by one of the powerful spirits that they were being prepared for. This forest was still recovering from the aftermath, and would one day be restored to its former glory. Until then, however, it was a scar upon the world that clearly illustrated the threat these spirits posed.
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