Chapter 26: Nerick

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Erik entered through the metal door leading into a short corridor, like a barracks the ship’s interior had a sleeping quarter, a kitchen, a bathing area and a meeting room. He opened the last door taking into the sleeping quarter, finding rows of bunk beds along either wall and two more rows running down the middle.

He glanced down each row, seeing Nerick snoring asleep with Ivara laying over his face, also asleep. Thea lay the bunk across, soundlessly asleep with Shizuka sleeping in the bunk above. The bestia though seemed disturbed, rolling about her bed seemingly in the middle of a dream.

Erik glanced about, many xilfir lay resting also but most of them were aware of his presence. Trained to remain attentive even during sleep.

It had been eleven hours since he sent them off to rest, and they had taken every hour to. Exhausted from the weeks of camping out in the forest, even more so by the wyvern ride to Daldorth.

He approached his party, stopping in between their bunks. (“What do assassins dream about?”) He pondered, curiosity getting the best of him. “Hover.” He quietly chanted, a fluorescent green breeze forming around his feet and raising him to Shizuka as she lay squirming in her sheets.

He briefly watched her face as she turned back to him, grimacing, pain and fear filling her pale expression. He raised his right palm over her face, his eyes narrowing as he focused. “Dark Arts; Psychic School; Sight Meld.” He chanted, summoning several wisps of milky white energy. They flowed out of his fingertips, dispersing across Shizuka’s face as they touched her forehead.

Shizuka inhaled the smoke, and Erik’s vision twisted.

He closed his eyes, allowing the spell to take over his senses.

And by his magic, her nightmare started all over.

 



 

A child, past scrawny, bony from the head down. Too young, too malnourished to tell whether it was a boy or a girl. The child had short, choppily cut ginger hair, and green eyes hollow of emotion. This was Shizuka, a decade or so younger Erik figured.

She walked across the bustling road, a town of large tents and little wooden buildings. A Bestia encampment Erik mused. The child would glance around, but the faces and appearance of her kind warped as she did. Turning dark, twisted and demon-like. She was terrified, yet nobody gave her a glance. Ignored, the child was completely ignored as she trod through the shadows of the large warriors and workers that surrounded her.

She tried her best to avoid their massive legs, but she couldn’t stop herself from bumping into others as they did not even notice her in their path. She was suddenly kicked down, falling to the dirt below as easily as a dry branch.

The large bear-man that she bumped into briefly stopping to glance down at her, in her vision they turned dark, his eyes glowing blood red as they gazed at her. She trembled, frozen in terror beneath his scrutiny.

Watch your step, rat, you’ll dirty me.” Scoffed the warrior, suddenly kicking the scrawny child aside and off the road before continuing on his way. As if nothing had happened, as if he had just moved a pile of trash off the road.

Shizuka tumbled off into a merchant’s stand, her back slamming into the stand’s wooden leg. She winced and whined in pain, tears dripping down her cheeks as she lay on the ground. Then suddenly something fell before her, a long stick with pieces of freshly cooked meat stabbed across.

Shizuka froze, she stared at the food, her stomach grumbling hungrily as she did.

(“No…”) She told herself, (“I am no thief…”) she continued to tell herself. Shizuka glanced up. The merchant, a wolf bestia, hadn’t noticed the missing kebab off his stand. (“Maybe?…”) She thought, a slight hope going through her tiny heart as she grabbed the stick off the ground. Her mouth salivating at the thought, even as some dirt lay across, did it really matter to her starving body?

(“No!”) Shizuka told herself once more, her hands trembling, the stick still in her hands. Her late mother’s last words ringing true in her mind, (“Take what you deserve! Not what is not yours!”) she remembered.

Thieves were disciplined with the highest of harshness here, Erik also remembered. If, his memory of thousands of years ago remained correct.

Shizuka steeled her heart as she rose from the dirt, her back still stinging as she did. She wiped the meat from dirt, dirtying what little of her tattered clothing wasn’t. She turned around, the merchant now noticing her before his stand.

She held the kebab up to him, in her mind, giving it back to the rightful owner.

But in the merchant’s eyes, he had just caught a thief.

Enraged, the wolf rushed around his stand and snatched the item from her hands. He gazed down at her, his own appearance twisting before her as he lay the food back on his stand. His body turning dark, warping like black smoke, his eyes red and fierce as they gazed down at her.

You know…the punishment for thievery, do you not? Beggar?” The wolf asked her, his face warping into a canine snout, black fangs growing out as he spoke.

Shizuka tried to step back, she tried to turn tail and run, but the wolf had already grabbed her by the neck. He raised the child to his height, choking her as he gazed into her eyes. They lacked life, Erik noticed.

The strong rule, the weak should just perish. You’re a waste of breath.” The wolf said, grabbing her neck with both hands, choking the child to death.

Until, a hand appeared over his shoulder. “Release it.” The cloaked figure said, and as suddenly as they spoke, the wolf’s fearsome appearance turned back to his normal one.

Who?-” The wolf began to ask, turning around to meet the voice’s source, finding itself letting go of Shizuka. The wolf gazed into the man’s rose red eyes, warping with black tendrils of energy.

The wolf was frozen in fear, staring and trembling before them, it found itself unable to breathe.

They were pale white in appearance with long greying black hair. “You will forget, you will move on, you will not speak.” The man said coldly, giving the wolf a brief view of his two long and thirsting fangs. A vampire, Erik noted.

The wolf nodded, moving away from the vampire’s path and back behind his stand. The other customers had long left, and anybody else walking by was walking around and away. The strongest of beast-men, the deadliest of elves, they all tread far from the dark creature.

Then, the vampire turned his gaze onto Shizuka, who shrivelled beneath it. The little feline closed her eyes and covered her furry ears, trembling in a small pile. She heard the vampire crouched nearby her, she heard it hiss, she felt its gaze upon her.

The strong rule, the weak do perish. Tell me little one, do you want to be strong?” The vampire asked, Shizuka peeking open her eyes to then meet theirs. Fear ran through Shizuka’s eyes, fear and curiosity.

She watched the vampire forward his hand to her, the creature’s every movement left a trail of dark mist behind. She stared at its hand, scrawny, claw-like nails and paper pale.

“Why?…I’m weak…I cannot offer you anything.” The child said, glancing away from their cold gaze.

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But one day, you might. Nobody is useless, even the weakest of creatures can learn to thrive. My, just think of humans or goblins. They can thrive, so why can’t you?” The vampire said.

Shizuka’s gaze returned to meet his, wide and surprised. “I don’t…I don’t know.”

The vampire gave her a fanged smile, void of any emotion. “Because you limit yourself, forget your vows, forget your rules and laws. Unbind yourself, free yourself. Only one rule lays true, the strong always win. But the definition of strength is vague at best. Each has their own definition of true strength. You only need to think of one question…” he urged her to take his hand, she did.

What is yours?” he asked, as darkness enveloped the both of them.

What came next was not images, the dream changed to pure emotion which Erik felt.

As if her mind could not form the memories, as if feeling was the only way it could describe them.

Erik felt pain…

He felt sorrow…

He felt anger…

He felt guilt…

He felt more pain…

Erik then felt nothing at all.

 



 

The mist cleared from his mind, opening his eyes Erik saw Shizuka awake before him. She stared up at him with cold eyes, “What did you see?” she asked, knowing the spell he had used.

Erik took hold of her tight shirt, slowly revealing the left side of her neck. Two marks lay there, two black holes, like bite-marks. A circular mark lay around them, characters Erik barely understood bound together by a circle of the same black. A vampiric curse mark, Erik mused.

“Everything.” He answered, “I saw and felt everything.”

Shizuka glanced away from him, “Will you kill me now?” she asked.

“Why?” Erik asked, causing her to meet his gaze once more.

“I’m a vampire’s pet, I’m that thing’s barn animal. I cannot escape, I cannot hide, it will find me. The Dark Guild were the only ones who could hide me. You killed my teacher, I cannot go back.” Shizuka explained, “He will come.”

“Hmph, so what?” Erik then said, his eyes solemn as he met her confused gaze. “I’m a dragon, I fear no blood-sucking pest.”

Shizuka chuckled coldly, “You should, what you did to my teacher, how you bent those wyverns to your will…How you equalled the Hero in power. He can do more, so much more.”

“Yes, I am currently weaker than I should be. And yes, a fed vampire could pose an alarming threat to this party. But I’m afraid I cannot kill nor dispose of you.” Erik simply stated.

Shizuka huffed in disbelief, “Why? What worth am I to you?”

Erik’s eyes narrowed, “My chosen has taken a liking to you, that is the only reason I require.” He said, then lowering himself back to the ground. Glancing below, he saw Thea was also awake. (“You saw, you felt it too. Didn’t you?”) He asked her through their bond, knowing such magic was shared with her too.

Knowing that it was, by her pale expression as she nodded.

(“I apologise, you were right. Everyone has a story. A reason. ”) Erik admitted, (“But my words remain true, you cannot save everyone.”)

(“I’ll save as many as possible, until the last drop of blood leaves my body. As long as I can walk, as long as I can breathe. For my mother, for my father, for where I could not save them.“) Thea responded shakily.

Erik sighed, then glancing at Makaela who stood at the door. Pyra’s message had long arrived, he knew, but he wouldn’t tell either of them. Thea’s mind was fragile enough as it was, and Makaela had other things to think about. The cloudy gaze she had said enough.

(“I cannot hide it forever, I will need to tell them. At some point, but not today.”) He vowed, then turning to Nerick and Ivara who lay still asleep. “Awaken.” He spoke in draconic, causing the young wyvern to shiver and groggily wake.

Stretching its claws as it did, and pinching Nerick all over his face.

“W-W-Woah!” Nerick woke up suddenly, causing Ivara to leap off his face and hiss in annoyance. Nerick felt his face to find blood mildly leaking off several scars, “Oh no…not again…” he mumbled, as his skin took a sickly shade of green.

Nerick fell back into bed, paralyzed.

“Can you fix that?” Thea asked worryingly as she looked at Nerick.

“No, but it’ll pass.” Erik said with a sigh, raising his right palm over Nerick’s paralyzed body. “Wind School; Hover.

Nerick floated up a few centimetres before Erik grabbed his leg, the warrior’s head bumping into the bunk bed above. “And I’d rather not wait any longer.” Erik then said, starting to carry Nerick off like a balloon.

An awkward sight to both Shizuka and Thea, as they watched Ivara leap back up onto Nerick’s face.

“Well? Do I have to drag the both of you too?” Erik asked while glancing back at them, both Thea and Shizuka getting out of bed then and there, trusting that he would have. They followed him out, Makaela coming after them as they passed her by.

Thea nodded at her but Makaela didn’t notice, her mind seemingly preoccupied. “Is everything alright?” Thea then asked her as they reached the end of the corridor.

Snapping the dark elf out of her daze, Makaela blinked twice before glancing at Thea. “Oh? Y-Yes, everything is fine…” she solemnly said, then returning to her dazed look.

Thea looked at her in confusion, when suddenly she bumped into Shizuka who had stopped frozen before her, seeing Makaela’s eyes also widen she turned too. Thea watched as Erik ran his hand ahead of himself, reality seemingly to bending and breaking at his touch.

His eyes closed as golden energy sparked at his fingertips, Erik warped the light before him, continuously moving his hand through it like liquid. “Draconic School; Spatial Subschool; Mid Tier Manipulation; Rift.

He suddenly swiped his hand aside, tearing reality with and leaving behind a violet scar with golden tendrils of energy wiggling within.

“Is that a rift?” Shizuka asked, recognising the magic.

“Yes. I can only open this to and from a specific place, follow me.” Erik said, stepping into the rift right after, pulling Nerick and Ivara with.

Thea and Shizuka glanced at one another, as Makaela followed after him, also walking through the dubious looking tear in reality.

“I guess we’re going through it?…” Thea said, stepping to the rift she raised her right hand towards it, carefully poking the tear.

When suddenly the both of them were sucked inside, the rift closing behind them.

Thea’s vision went momentarily black before fading back in, blurred at first, her mind spinning too from nausea. “Welcome, to my home.” She heard Erik say as her eyes adjusted, to be then met with golden light coming from each and every direction.

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“Welcome to my Lair.” He said, arms wide and grinning as he stood facing them. Everyone was in awe as they glanced around, even Ivara, the wyvern’s eyes shining with amazement.

The hall they stood within was utterly massive, circular in shape with marble white flooring, tiled and with each tile being shaped strangely. If one did not look too closely, they would notice the tiles drawing out a coiling dragon.

The walls were white marble too but with indents filled with blue crystal, the lines of crystal going all around the room, drawing images that moved with the moving indents. Scenes played out within the circular wall; An egg hatching a newborn drake, a growing drake following after his enormous mother dragon, a matured drake watching a nearby village from the mountaintop, an enraged drake burning said village down.

And lastly, in full colour. The last scene showed Alan the chosen of Findri, clashing with Erikathyr the destroyer.

The scenes repeated themselves, ever changing but never playing out anything else.

The ceiling, on the other hand, was less artful. Full gold and divided by indents into several sections, each section full of runic carvings. Thea, Ivara and the waking Nerick could not read a single word, but Makaela who was elven and Shizuka who knew basic runic could.

Spells, thousands of them were inscribed into the ceiling. A mage’s haven they thought as they went through some, finding spells from every known school of magic and much more ancient or completely forgotten.

“One of my many collections.” Erik explained as they all stared at the ceiling, “Hm, it’s too dim in here. Damned human eyes.” He then said in annoyance, indeed the room was a bit gloomy from the lack of light.

Snapping his fingers though, the ground quaked beneath them as suddenly and out of nowhere golden platforms appeared in a circle around the dragon’s shape on the floor, not affecting the art in the least. From the platforms exploded out a surge of lightning, tendrils of energy intertwining as they surged into the ceiling. Gold, blue, red and white energy flowed from the platforms and up into the runes, powering them too and making them glow brightly.

Each set of runes glowing the magical colour that represented their school. Red for fire, Blue for water and so on.

“I-I thought dragons collected gold? And lived in caverns?” Shizuka asked, her eyes wide in shocked awe.

“Right, and all humans live in dreary huts of wood and stone?” Erik asked back with a raised brow, “Yes, we dragons have a fascination with great worth. But each dragon, more specifically each clan is different. You’re thinking of the Brown dragons and their earthen caverns, hoarders of gold and gems the most of them.”

“Then what does your clan hoard?” Nerick then asked.

“W-We aren’t all hoarders!” Erik exclaimed in embarrassment, and at their raised brows he sighed. “Although…I admit I am.”

“And?” Thea urged.

Erik coughed to clear his throat, “My clan has always had a fascination with knowledge, we gather it, we collect it at the centre of each of our lairs. We protect it in every way possible. My collection though, is a specific kind of knowledge. I collect magic of all kinds. Here, is an almost complete collection of spells known to the mortal races, along some known only to the immortals.”

“A-Almost?” Shizuka stuttered to ask, her jaw almost dislocating as she stared at the ceiling intently.

“Don’t get your hopes up, bestia, the runes are enchanted. You will forget each spell after looking away.” Erik said with a smirk, causing horror to fill Shizuka’s expression. “Come, I have more to show you.” He then said, as each of them felt a sudden pull.

And before they knew it, they were in a completely different room.

Larger than the last, this was no hall but instead a long corridor with massive doorways taking to different rooms. They were at one end, an entrance on either side of them. Glancing at one, a single word etched in runes above the entrance, “Dwarven” Makaela read it as.

She peeked inside, and her expression paled.

“This is my most prized collection,” Erik said, “The armoury.”

Within the room tagged as dwarven, was the largest collection of weaponry they had ever seen. From common weapons altered to be infused with crystallized mana, to stranger weaponry made to entirely work around the magic crystals.

“An old art the dwarven race use to possess during the third age,” Erik explained, ”they called it Manatech. Since dwarves never could, and still cannot, use or summon up magic. They collected its crystalized version, robbing the earth. Infusing their weapons, their machinery, their bodies even. They matched the elves with it. That is, until the Fae wiped its existence from the world. Not before I collected a few scraps here and there that is, those flies never dared say a word about it either.”

“Come, there’s more than just this.” He said in amusement, enjoying their expressions of amazement.

“B-But…” Shizuka complained, she was staring down at the floor while holding her own head. Eyes wide as she felt the memories of the spells slowly fade away. “They’re gone…they’re all gone!” distraught in her useless efforts to remember.

Thea had to urge her forwards.

Erik led them down the corridor, past several more rooms full solely of weapons. Elven enchanted, Giant made, Mer formed, even Demonic and Angelic albeit most of those two were broken. Shizuka’s eyes sparkled with interest as they passed her kind’s tribal weaponry, ancient blades and staves infused with spirits of their ancestors.

Dozens of races past extinction named this corridor as well, their rooms far smaller and some even barren.

Then they reached the final three rooms. Fae and Draconic side by side. “This way, and if you enjoy living, then touch nothing.” Erik warned as he stepped inside. There was very little dragon-made weaponry, the goliaths of magic needing little from the art of crafting objects.

But there was still a few, nine weapons in total lined the room. Massive to match their size, from a blade that could cleave mountains, a tail attachment lined with runic writing, each had their size, runic inscriptions and magical aura in common.

All but one, the last item at the very end of the row. The one Erik stood before. Like the rest it lay floating in mid-air, rotating clockwise as in on showcase.

“This one is part of my special collection, its origin is unknown other than that it was made during the second age. The Dark Age. I know not why it was made, or by who, but I know what it does.” Erik explained, as he raised his right palm open towards the object.

The walls of white marble flared golden for a moment, hidden runic inscriptions briefly appearing before fading away. The object then slowly floated down into Erik’s hands, tiny compared to the rest.

He turned around, the item in his hands.

Over one hand was a black collar of unknown leather, silver gems lining its length and a buckle of grimly dark gold. From it grew a thin chain of the same gold, taking to Erik’s other palm where the chain ended, the last hoop forged into a pitch-black ring.

Simply looking at the object filled each of them with dread.

“This was made for a sole purpose. To forcefully bind a humanoid being, to a dragon.” Erik explained, his eyes dark as he gazed down at the magical item. “Over the ages, its power has waned, no dragon or drake could be bound down by it now. But,”

He glanced at Nerick, “As it is now, I cannot do much for you. I wondered if I could bind you and Ivara, but the wyvern is too young and your magical capabilities are lacking at best.” He raised the item towards Nerick, “Do not underestimate the offer I am about to make, human. This object is the blackest of magic, curses come with that even I cannot remove. Once wielded, it cannot be undone. This will bind you and that wyvern, it will infuse you both with great power.”

Nerick stared at the ring warily, Ivara that lay around his shoulders though had a shine of curiosity about her eyes as she gazed at the golden chain swinging back and forth. “What are the downsides?” Nerick asked, looking up to meet Erik’s eyes.

“You will share pain, you will share emotions and…If one dies, so does the other.” Erik explained grimly.

“Nerick, you don’t have to do this.” Thea then said, grabbing her friend’s shoulder.

Nerick though continued to look Erik in the eye, “I have no family, I have nothing to say is mine other than my own name. I grew up on a farm where my father hammered into me the reality of human society, I trained as a soldier where my lack of magical power became very apparent. Then…before the creatures of hell I was useless. I was hopeless. I kneeled, I accepted death.”

His hands clenched, sensing his tension Ivara whined and bumped her snout into his cheek. He reached up to pet the young one, “You taught me a lot, Erik. You took me further than I ever would have made it on my own. In this world, as I am? There is nothing I can do, nothing I can change. I won’t be remembered as I am. Not on my own.”

Nerick sighed, his hand pausing over Ivara’s head, and the little wyvern whined for him to pet her more. “I want power. I want to become stronger, I want to surpass my limits. I want to leave a footprint on this world.”

“You will lose your humanity.” Erik warned, “You might not even recognise yourself after.”

Nerick smirked, “Good, I never liked the depressed drunkard soldier anyhow.” He then glanced over his shoulder, at the spoiled wyvern that lay her head down, eyes wide and whining in a low tone. The young cub was giving him the puppy eyes, she wanted to be spoiled more. “What about Ivara? What will that thing do to her?” he asked.

“Anything you want for her, you will be in complete control of her very existence. The only limitation is size, not smaller than a twig, not larger than an oak tree.” Erik explained, “The two I tore this item off of, was a human mage and a serpent changed to look like a mer. Guess my surprise when the piscine humanoid grew into my cousin.” He said jokingly.

Nerick chuckled, “Yeah.” he solemnly said. Relieved the cursed magic would only affect him negatively. He looked back down at the ring, glancing over the chain and then the collar, it seemed too large for little Ivara. “With this…I won’t have to tremble in fear of the next demon? I won’t have to sit and wait, unable to do a thing as I watch hell tear through my comrades?”

“Much more, with this, you will be able to tear through platoons of demonkin. With this, you’ll match Demon Lords in power.” Erik answered.

Nerick’s hands clenched into fists, his eyes were wide and teeth grinding with one another. In the end, he breathed out. A long sigh, “What do I do?” he then asked, “How do I put it on?”

Erik forwarded him the ring, “You’re left-handed, right? Slip this onto your second finger from the left, on the left hand.” He told him.

Nerick took the ring, the deepest black he had ever seen. He felt it in his palm, smooth like liquid, almost slipping off his skin. He raised it by his open left hand, as he neared the ring to his finger he felt a pull between them.

Black tendrils of misty energy formed out of the ring and coiled around his finger, he felt them, slithering over his skin. He sensed it, he sensed the energy touching him. The magic was cold, ancient and powerful.

Nerick faltered at the feeling, a darkness so cold permeating his skin and slowly dug up his arm.

“You feel it, don’t you? The energy forcing its way through your body, expanding you, it is preparing your body for the shock that is to come.” Erik explained, “Prepare your mind, human, once you slip that ring on…You will feel agony like you have never felt before.” He said while wrapping the collar around Ivara’s neck, the wyvern staying obediently still before the drake.

The collar suddenly shrunk down to match Ivara’s size, then buckled itself.

“You can always go back,” Erik said, “One more step, and there is no going back. You can avoid the pain, avoid the weight of power. You can go home, and live out the rest of your life knowing others are doing their best to defend this world.” Erik offered while backing away from them, gesturing for the rest to do the same.

Nerick’s eyes were narrowed as he stared at the black ring, the magic crawling under his skin as it flowed up and through his body. Just now reaching his chest.

He looked up, first glancing at Ivara who was playing around with the shiny golden chain, now that Erik had stepped away. Then at Erik, expectation clear in his eyes. Then Thea, worried as always. Glancing over Shizuka who showed great interest in the object, and Makaela who couldn’t care less.

Nerick returned to staring at the ring, pondering his very existence.

Asking himself, was he truly so vain to give up on his own humanity? Just for more power?

What did it even mean?

To give up one’s humanity?

(“This is my limit, this is as far as I can make it.”) Nerick told himself, (“Erik is telling me if I remain as I am…If I continue onwards with them…I will be killed.”) realisation going through his mind. Nerick smiled weakly, as he pulled the ring away from his finger. The tendrils of magic fading out of existence.

Thea sighed in relief, quietly as to not show it. Watching as Nerick gave the ring back to Erik, who stared at him with curiosity in his eyes. The Drake was surprised, he fully expected Nerick to give in to power.

“Why?” Erik asked, meeting Nerick’s dejected gaze.

When suddenly, Nerick lowered into a half-kneel before him. “Because although my life is worth nothing, you offer me great power. Erikathyr, I cannot choose, I’m too afraid to choose. So, I ask you to choose in my stead. My life which you saved, as a Knight of Druvia, although the practice hasn’t been used in centuries…I vow it, I kneel before you and vow, from here onwards I fight in your name!” He exclaimed, raising his left hand towards Erik. “My life is yours, do with it as you wish.”

Erik stared down at the human knight, glancing at the ring within his right hand and then at Nerick’s outstretched left hand. His eyes narrowed briefly, followed by a bellowing laughter that filled the room and corridor outside.

“Wonderful, yes you humans never change. You never do what I expect you to do, you don’t even do the opposite. I fear I’ll never come to comprehend, but then again, that is how you came to rule over the other races. You spark my curiosity, I hunger to know.” He smiled openly, a wicked grin as his blue eyes shimmered gold. “Very well, Sir Knight. Then I resign you of your existence, human, you shall be no more.”

Erik slipped the ring around Nerick’s finger, and the tendrils of dark magic suddenly lashed out. The darkness engulfed Nerick’s hand, the tendrils digging into his skin and flowing up to envelope his entire body.

Nerick tried to scream, but the darkness shrouded him, silencing him. He fell to the side, engulfed in shadows as he twitched and shook on the floor. Ivara had long leapt off him, she prowled around him at first, whining in confusion as she watched her master flail in agony.

The wyvern then turned to face Erik, fury in her young eyes as she hissed up at the drake.

Erik though continued to smile, even as he appeared to hold Thea back. “Nerick!” She shouted, trying to force her way through him, “Stop this!” she told him.

“No.” Erik responded coldly, “This was his choice, he gave it to me knowing what I would do. There is no going back now.” He explained, as suddenly Nerick’s body stopped flailing. He lay still on the ground briefly, before suddenly without moving a single limb, he floated up into standing.

The shadows that engulfed his body dissipated, and with them the ring, chain and collar faded out of existence.

Nerick turned around to face them, revealing his changed appearance.

His hair had grown longer, reaching his waist, and had turned into strands of black among mostly a gleaming silver. His eyes were completely gone, replaced with a pit of darkness, a silver orb glowing in the very centre as his pupil. His skin had paled also, turning mildly grey.

But the change most prominent, was the black rune-like inscriptions that ran across his skin. They were like tattoos except that they glowed a misty black. The tattoos formed two lines, each character connected in some way. They wrapped around him, each line starting out off a single character over his eyelids and then coiling down his body. They wrapped around his face, his neck and lower. Visible over his arms, even his chest as he stretched out his shirt’s collar to check.

“How do you feel?” Erik asked.

Nerick stared down at his hands, opening and closing them over and over. He felt so much energy flow through his body, more so than when Erik used him as a vessel to cast his spell. He felt it, the power surging through him, a power he had only ever seen others produce.

“Well!?” Thea exclaimed, “How do you feel!?” her anxiety getting the best of her.

Nerick looked up to gaze at them, “Like I’m back on pipe, but without the side effects!” he said with a wide grin.

Ivara lay her head on the floor and covered her eyes, whining in shame.

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