Makaela retreated to the shadows, keeping to corners and alleyways within the ruined city the Lair had summoned around her. Her senses stretched thin, watching for all movement, listening for the smallest sound. Sensing for the tiniest perceivable change in her surroundings.
Her right hand clenched around her whip’s handle, her left ready to throw a dagger.
She felt ready, she thought she was ready for anything Erik could send her way.
She was dreadfully wrong.
Makaela suddenly felt a cold chill from behind her, she turned around, unleashing her whip upon whatever creature Erik might have created. She watched as her draconic whip lashed out at the apparition, green flames engulfing it yet…Both weapon and magic passed right through the creature.
It was a spectre, an ethereal being, a dark spirit with the makings of a humanoid form. Faceless, with claws all too long to be practical for anything but weapons. Without feet or legs either, instead, it hovered as its lower body lay a tattered ghostly cloth.
Makaela immediately tried to retreat, only to be faced with another.
The two dark ethereal creatures lashed out at her, their claws taking physical form to tear her body apart.
She evaded both attacks, her movements quick and body highly athletic.
Makaela passed under one spectre and climbed the ruined wall behind it, turning around she found herself face to face with them once more as they flew up at her. She flipped backwards, evading another slash. Taking the few moments as she flew through the air to strap her whip and grab her knives.
“Light School; Minor Enhance!” She chanted, each of the six throwing knives she held suddenly gaining a dim white glow.
Makaela landed on her feet and facing the two incoming spectres, their blade-long claws lunging at her again. She leaned back and let herself fall, evading the claws as they slashed above her.
She then threw her enhanced knives.
The spectres hissed in pain as the knives melted through their ethereal bodies, slowly they dissipated, the light transferring from the knives and into the spectres themselves. Disintegrating them, killing them.
Makaela stood back up, watching the dark creatures melt away before her. Yet no relief filled her eyes, (“Is he underestimating me?”) she thought while glancing around from her new elevation.
That thought was immediately cut short, and her expression hardened.
Makaela saw as suddenly, several dozen spectres rose from the buildings around her, passing through the walls and ceilings, rising up into the air to surround her. Almost a hundred, she counted before they all suddenly dove back down into the ruined city.
She did not hear them, she did not see them. But her other senses were going mad as she felt them approach. The coldness which darkness brought with, the chill which their element oozed. She sensed it.
And there was more of them than she had knives to throw.
Makaela slid to the left as a spectre ascended from the ground beneath her, spinning with its claws wide, intent on ripping her to shreds. She ran, Makaela dashed over the roof. She leapt from building to ruined wall, sliding beneath claws and flipping over rising shadows. Pushing her athletic capabilities to their very limit.
But she couldn’t run forever.
“I am shadow, I am darkness, I am that looming chill.” Makaela chanted as her eyes glowed a fierce gold, evading attacks left and right as she did. “My dagger is silent like the wind, and my arrow truer than the sun’s light. Lord, one who I would call master, lend me your strength! For I am your blade!” she exclaimed, as she danced with the spectres that would cut her to pieces with the smallest misstep. Their claws passing mere inches away from her skin, as she bent, flipped and rolled aside.
“Draconic School; Custom Cast; Darklight Whirlwind!” Makaela finished her chant, and suddenly a whirlwind of darkness burst out from her body. Dark winds, glowing as if made of light yet giving out no shine, it spun and spun with Makaela at its centre.
Each spectre within her immediate surroundings was torn to shreds, each piece of ethereal flesh then dissipating with the wind.
Makaela stood within the whirling darkness, waving her hands around, and with each movement the wind copied it. A wave of her left hand sent darklight blades of wind down one way, tearing through several spectres before the dark creatures could even react.
Makaela smiled, a wickedly thin smile before she suddenly moved forwards. With the whirlwind engulfing her body, Makaela rushed through the spectres, devouring them wholly within her dark magic as she moved past.
It was a massacre, as she moved through the dark creatures like death itself. The thrill as she evaded their claws, the rush as she met them with her winds, the sound they made as she tore them apart.
Makaela enjoyed every moment of it, she hadn’t been matched so equally in strength in a long time. She enjoyed it so much that, she even ignored the cuts and bruises the built up over her body, Makaela wasn’t able to evade every single attack.
And that was her downfall.
Makaela felt her body slowly stiffen, her movements lagging behind her thoughts. Until she suddenly stopped, standing still, unable to move. Her body wouldn’t respond, not a finger, not even her eyelids.
Makaela felt frozen, but not like ice. She felt a coldness fill her, but no numbness followed.
All she could move were her eyes, and through them, she noticed the dark ethereal chains that suddenly bound her. Appearing out of every wound on her body, the chains were held by the spectres as they surrounded her.
She watched, as the largest of the spectres rose from the ground before her. Claws at the ready and raised up towards her chin. Makaela saw a dark smile form over the spectre’s faceless guise, she knew its meaning from song, a spectre’s smile meant someone was going to die.
The spectre slowly raised its left claw back, taking its time, as if enjoying her confusion, her following fear and the inescapable acceptance that came last. Makaela did not close her eyes, she couldn’t, she could only watch as the spectre’s dark claws descended upon her.
The claws stopped a mere inch away from her chest, the sharp points teasing her skin.
“I must say, you’ve done better than I expected you to.” Erik said, as he suddenly formed out of the spectre before her. “You lasted longer than the other two, which was expected, but you still died.”
Makaela then felt control of her body return to her, as the ethereal chains that bound her dissipated with the spectres. She fell to her knees, gasping for breath. “T-There was…too many.” She said.
“Indeed there was, this first lesson was to show you just how strong you really are. That you really aren’t strong at all.” Erik explained, “Were you equipped with even mid-tier magic spells and the mana supply to sustain them. You could’ve taken each spectre out from afar. But you aren’t, which is why I chose spectres to face you in the first place.”
Makaela having recovered herself stood up to face him, finding two spectres hovering beside him, immobile.
“You successfully struck first,” Erik continued, ”but failed to recognise that not everything can be damaged physically. You successfully changed to the appropriate response, making use of magical attacks and the corresponding element. Light is indeed most powerful against shadow. Yet, you couldn’t sustain those attacks to the number of spectres that surrounded you. So as expected, you made use of your longest spell with the greatest destructive capabilities.”
Makaela was confused at first, she thought he was out to kill them, and she had fought her hardest just cause of that…she then realised that was the exact response he wanted. Why he said he was out to kill them.
Yet she couldn’t confirm any of it, the drake was in full-on lecture mode.
“You found yourself capable of destroying the spectres with ease, but lost yourself to the excitement. You could’ve taken minimal damage, you could’ve survived this encounter. But your mind was too drowned in the bloodlust.” Erik said with a raised brow, disapproval in his eyes.
“I apologise…I’ve always been…” Makaela began to say with an awkward smile.
“No, I’m not telling you to take control of your thirst.” Erik cut her off, “Instead, I want you to make use of it.”
“Make use of it? How?” Makaela asked, unsure of what he was speaking of.
“Over the millennia, the xilfir have only focused on their connection with me and the basic element of Darkness that you are highly attributed with, to gain strength. This is foolish.” Erik reprimanded, “Makaela, using my strength for your own will get you nowhere, your connection with me is unlike Thea’s. You are highly limiting yourself. Also, your race’s high attribution to Darkness is a side product. Not your core strength.”
“Then what is? If not our blood and not the shadows which we delve in, what are we truly capable of?” Makaela asked, not following his line of thought.
“Darkness, Xilfir, Dark Elves. I did not name you after your attribution with the element of dark that lies within mana. Makaela, see past the element of darkness, you will find the power not through combining it with other elements but by understanding darkness at its very core.” Erik explained, “Makaela, the xilfir are named not after the resource that is dark mana, but instead after the school of Dark magic.”
With that, Makaela caught on. “But Dark magic is divided into many other sub-schools like…hemomancy, necromancy and death magic?”
Erik smiled, “Yes, you are thinking along the correct lines now. Your people have focused on the sub-school of Shadow magic which is sourced by dark mana, where instead you are capable of so much more. It has all been there for you to figure out, yet only one ever has. Makaela, other than the source which is dark mana, what else is there in common between the schools of Dark magic?”
Makaela shook her head, she only knew four of them and had only ever mastered one.
“Unholy, Psychic, Shadow, Necrotic, Blood and Death. Those are the subschools of Dark Magic.” Erik listed, “What is there in common with each? Other than the resource that is dark mana which each of these kinds of magic use, what else is required to successfully cast these spells from?”
“Cast from?…” Makaela mumbled out, repeating what she singled out as the key phrase in his question. “Dark Magic cannot be cast by…minions and golems? You can enhance a golem with Unholy but it cannot cast the magic itself…Just how a Lich still needs their…soul…to cast necromancy.” realisation struck her, “Soul. Head of the Pact’s Soul body, Etheria…She was the first true born, the most powerful…”
Erik nodded, “Only one ever realised this before you, and Etheria was that one. Soul Magic, a power the Gods themselves fear. So much so that, during the first age they pushed every race capable of such power into extinction. But, they missed those with dormant capability. The Elven race being one of them. This is the power I awakened within your people, the Dark Elves, the power over souls.”
Erik suddenly snapped his fingers, “Within each spectre is a maddened soul crying to be fed, listen and you might hear their cries.” he said as hundreds of spectres suddenly formed all around them.
Makaela blinked, and Erik was suddenly gone.
His voice echoing out of each spectre that now surrounded her, “Do not drown in bloodlust, let the river take you. Do not fight it, but instead flow with it. You’ll swim faster if you go with the current, let the hunger lead you.” he said in elven.
Promptly after, the spectres then lunged at her.
“Because I won’t be stopping the spectres this time.” He warned.
A few minutes earlier
Nerick walked through the gravel road, a city of ruins laying all around him. He kept his distance from the buildings, spinning about, watching every corner, every shadow. Ivara lay over his head, the baby wyvern also watching, glancing from roof to roof.
He sensed nothing, untrained in the detection of magic. He also though heard and saw nothing out of the ordinary. But he knew something was out there, through intuition and experience alone, Nerick knew.
And he was right, as suddenly the ground beneath him began to quake.
Nerick was thrown off his feet as the very ground rose, the road expanding upwards as the buildings shattered and collapsed around him. He leapt away, finding himself soaring further than he anticipated he would. Higher than he thought he could ever jump.
And as he soared through the air he saw, It rising from below. The road, the buildings and everything else below, it all rose with legs and arms. A massive golem of earth and stone. Its body cracked and flowed, the earth within it ever moving, the stone forming plates of armour around it.
Nerick landed facing the giant, an ant before its size. He stared up at it, as it fully rose to its feet. “No f****** way.” He said with disbelief clear in his tone, never in his lifetime had he seen a golem. Magic so ancient, it was only told of in fiction.
Yet fiction now stood before him, a goliath, raising its joined fists over him.
And as those same massive fists descended upon him, all Nerick could think of, was run.
And run he did, turning tail and dashing away. He ran, faster than he ever had Nerick ran. Feeling the raw magic surging through his muscles, without chanting a word, without even casting a spell Nerick was infused.
Ivara had to hold on tightly as to not be thrown off by his sudden speed, then leap off just in time too, since he ran straight into a wall.
Nerick crashed through the brick wall, tumbling over from the impact to then find himself buried in rubble. Yet he did not feel squashed, nor injured. No instead he rose out of the stone rubble with ease, surprised at his new strength he gazed at the large stones that just lay over him.
Only brought back from his daze by Ivara’s whining, just then remembering as he looked up.
He hadn’t escaped the golem yet, and its fists were still descending upon him.
Nerick grabbed hold of the wyvern and turned to run once again, but as he glanced behind himself he saw that it was too late. The golem sped up its arms’ descent, and Nerick’s thoughts flashed before him as seemingly a mountain fell upon them.
He was going to die, and even if he shielded Ivara with his body, she too would die. Nerick now understood the burden he had accepted; his own life wasn’t the only thing he had to protect now.
He had gained power, but he was still a burden.
He understood that, he just didn’t accept it as reality.
Nerick rested Ivara around his neck, then faced the golem’s fists, now inches away from his face. His mind raced faster than ever before, it was like time had slowed down for him. He felt it, the heat that lay around the golems fists, the sheer pressure that they created in their descent.
He needed to equal it, he wanted to equal it. He raised his arms up and lowered his stance, closing his eyes too. Nerick told himself, as sure as death itself, that he would equal it.
The ground quaked, the very air shook.
He felt both, he felt, he was still alive.
Nerick opened his eyes, finding a large shield of dark green scales attached to his right arm. He felt it, he felt the golem pushing down upon him. But what should’ve been the weight of a castle, beneath this shield Nerick barely felt any of it.
He pushed the golem’s fists off him, unbalancing the giant and sending it back and stumbling away.
Grinning with glee as the shield suddenly morphed into a wyvern, Ivara climbing up his arm and taking perch around his neck.
“So that’s what Erik meant.” He mused, glancing at Ivara as it licked his cheek. “That’s bloody amazing.” He said with disbelief.
Ivara then glanced up, leapt off him, and sprinted away.
Nerick watched after her in confusion, not having the time to realise his mistake, not before the golem’s foot crushed him down into the ground he stood on.
Ivara watched painfully as the golem raised its foot up, revealing Nerick halfway into the ground and reaching out towards her.
She covered her eyes with her paws as the golem’s foot stomped on Nerick once more. Peeking through one eye, she saw it raise its foot again, now only Nerick’s head being visible as his body lay nailed into the ground.
Erik sighed, appearing before the buried Nerick. He stared down at the man with raised brows, expectation all but lost from his expression, replaced with the disbelief he now wore. “How have you survived so far?” Erik asked, his tone dead serious.
Nerick coughed out some dirt he had almost swallowed, “Uhh…Lucky I guess?” he offered, struggling to pull himself out of the ground.
Erik took a deep breath, (“This is going to be a long two months.”) he thought to himself. Waving his hand forward, Nerick suddenly rose out of the ground, left hovering before him. “You’re distracted, focus on the task at hand. Really, I told you that you could change Ivara into anything you wanted, yet you were still surprised after doing so by your own will?” he asked as the golem above them took a step back.
Nerick opened his mouth to respond, “No…actually, don’t answer that.” but Erik denied him from doing so. He then lowered his hand and released his hold over Nerick, who’s feet then touched the ground. “You are not human anymore, Nerick, your body has been forcefully altered into something much stronger. But that doesn’t mean you’re indestructible, you can very much still die. You can just take a couple more stomps from a golem than your general human could.” Erik warned.
“Oh, wait if I’m not human then what I am?” Nerick asked, glancing down at his own hands, studying the strange characters that painted them.
“You are a Djinn,” Erik answered simply.
“Djinn?” Nerick repeated, grabbing a lock of his now long black and silver hair to examine it.
“Raw magic floods your veins, imbues your muscles, bones, flesh and skin. Your tolerance to mana is a thousand times that of a human, if even one-tenth of the maximum amount of mana that can run through you, ran through a normal human body? They’d burn alive.” Erik explained, “As for casting magic, please tell me you at least know the basics?”
“Yeah, I had to start somewhere to learn that I bloody couldn’t!” Nerick claimed, feeling insulted.
“Well, show me.” Erik insisted, “Cast the simplest projectile spell you know.”
“Fine,” Nerick shrugged and turned to face the nearest wall, raising his hands open before himself.
But before he could start to chant, “Oh and, anything you might’ve been told about limiting the mana you flow into your spell? Forget all about it.” Erik then told him.
“Is that…safe?” Nerick tentatively asked.
“Trust me.” Erik said.
Nerick shrugged and returned to facing the wall, right palm over left as he focused. He willed his mana to flow, feeling the energy run through his shoulders then arms, finally converging at his palms. He willed it out of his body, feeling the mana resist from being pushed out. Right then as it resisted, “Fire bolt!” he chanted.
And instead of cutting off the supply of mana that the spell took to be cast, instead of locking out the words of power from using more than he infused them with. Nerick did as the drake told him, and let it take every drop that lay within his arms…
Nerick’s vision filled with crimson, what was supposed to be a fist-sized bolt of fire was replaced with a world of flame. The fire grew and grew before him, spewing out seemingly without end out of his palms. The heat thought wasn’t normal either, the blaze burning through even the stone wall and every building behind and around it.
Everything turned to ash before him, and what was already ash got disintegrated into nothing. For several moments the flames gushed out, then slowly died down.
Nerick suddenly collapsed backwards, his body going limp from the over exertion of mana.
Erik, on the other hand, was left smouldering. His face dirtied with ash, his front hair and eyebrows burned. “Well, we don’t have the years it’ll take to get control of that. I can promise you this much.” he warned.
“Hah…I-I can’t feel my arms!” Nerick said, panic in his voice as he lay on the ground.
Erik chuckled, “Be grateful it’s just your arms!”
“You said it was safe!” Nerick argued as Ivara ran up to him. The little wyvern climbing up onto his chest and coiling up, declaring this cushion her property.
“I never said such a thing.” Erik disputed.
Nerick was going to respond but, Ivara’s tail now rested on his mouth. He glanced at the wyvern, and it shook its little head at him. “W-What?” Nerick asked.
“Oh, right I forgot to mention-” Erik began.
(“You no win argument with dragon.”) Ivara said.
Nerick’s eyes widened to their limit.