The fox hovered in mid-air, watching the three pirate ships approaching firing range of the fourth lone ironclad. From high up in the sky he watched, a silver glimmer in his eyes as he smiled. “The stage is set, now let’s see…Who will step up? And what will you do?”
“Come at me like you mean it.” Alan said, raising his sword towards them.
“Hah, fine by us!” Nerick exclaimed in excitement, Ivara hissing ferociously at Alan as she crawled onto Nerick’s right arm, then morphing into a short spear and shield. “Imbue; Wind!” he chanted and his body was engulfed in a green breeze.
“Hmph,” Makaela stepped back and raised her left hand forward, “Soul School; Spirit Form; Aether Bow.” She chanted calmly, the fragmented ethereal bow appearing in her hand. “Let’s see what that immortal title of yours really stands for.” She teased with a cold smile.
“Do not underestimate him,” Thea warned, “He was and still is the most powerful adventurer in the guild.” carefully stepping closer as she held her gunblade in a sword’s grip.
“Really? Cause I feel like I could slay a drake myself right now!” Nerick exclaimed with a chuckle, stomping his right foot forward the ground beneath him shook and shattered, and he flew forwards spear first.
Nerick closed the distance between them within a blink of an eye, lunging his spearhead at Alan’s chest, making full use of his speed and abusing his longer range. All the while he grinned madly, the world seemingly moving so slow in his eyes, yet…
Yet he barely saw Alan move, as within the timeframe of a millisecond the adventurer sidestepped Nerick’s charge, leaving the flat of his blade in the spearman’s way.
Nerick was unable to stop himself, he tripped over the blade and stumbled forwards, rolling past Alan and off into the distance. Bouncing like a boulder for several meters before coming to a groaning stop. He lay on the ground, facing upwards as his mind spun, his vision blurring with stars.
“Slay a drake? Sure, once you put a single scratch on me, maybe you’ll survive long enough to make that drake laugh itself to death.” Alan said coldly, turning to face Thea and Makaela who regarded him with much more wariness now.
“You’re fast…” Thea mused, standing her ground as she focused.
Alan smirked, “I was…slightly inebriated the last time you saw me in action, my head is clear now.” He raised his sword towards her, “Well? Are you coming?” he asked but Thea made no move. Alan grinned, “Then I guess I’ll have to come to you.” He then said, disappearing from sight.
Thea sensed movement behind her and tried to turn to respond, but she was too slow.
She felt the magic draining the heat out of her back before the blast hit her, sending her flying forwards, tumbling over twice before coming to a rolling stop a dozen meters away from where she once stood.
Where Alan now stood, his free hand, held forwards and palm open, smoking with cold air. Suddenly he slashed sideways, deflected two arrows Makaela had fired, the projectiles shattering on contact with his seemingly normal sword.
“Nerick you have no control over your strength, limit yourself a bit. Thea, you’re too slow, you need to work on your senses and speed.” Alan began to say, as he suddenly disappeared once more, then reappearing beside Makaela.
He held his sword to her bare neck, “And you, archers cover for their allies, they don’t use them as bait to prepare their shots.” he chided.
Makaela grimaced as she backed away from his blade, “So you mean to say I should be the one distracting you?” she asked, lowering her bow.
“Mostly yes, more so if you have a higher limit of projectiles than your average ranger.” Alan responded, glancing at the other two as they rose back to their feet. “So, how about we go at this a few more times. Like say,” he smiled widely, “Till you’re crawling tired?”
Nerick stretched back groaning, “Right…That hurt.”
“I’m ready!” Thea exclaimed, steadying herself as she stood up. Resolved to not fall behind.
When suddenly a rift opened among them, reality tearing open into silver energy. A dark elf came through, seemingly agitated as he kneeled towards Makaela. “Priestess! The ship is being chased by pirates!” he exclaimed.
“Pirates?” Alan mused, “Well these are prime waters for their sort so I’m not surprised, guess we’ll have to continue this another-”
“No,” Erik cut him off, “I’ll take care of this, continue the training.” he said, appearing before the dark elf messenger. “You, sort out an illusionist among the dreadblades, make them take Thea’s form and tell the ship’s crew to lock themselves below. You and the rest of the xilfir will stand inside the ship as well, defend the crew at all cost. Our arrival to Sinbeni will not be slowed down, understand?” Erik stated sternly.
“Yes, great master!” The dreadblade said in elven, quickly rising up and rushing back through the rift.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t help?” Thea asked, glancing over at the rift in worry.
“You think I cannot handle a few measly pirates?” Erik asked with a raised brow as he briefly glanced at her, “I’ll deal with it quickly, if I need you, you’ll know.” He said, but instead of stepping through the rift he closed it.
“First though, let me go grab a few things…” He said, a wicked smile forming on his face before he disappeared.
The vampire rose off his throne as they caught up with the escaping ironclad, his two galleons having broken off from his own and moved with the wind to surround their target. He walked to the ship’s port side to face the lone ironclad, smiling yet without any emotion. Even as he stood away from his throne, dark tendrils of energy flowed from it and into his body.
He glanced around his ship’s deck, seeing no sign of the cloaked mage he had sold passage to. It did not bother him, the strange being had already paid heftily. Instead he returned to his target, his eyes widening as black energy crackled about his body.
“Seafaring transport, surrender your passengers and cargo. If you do without retaliation, we shall show you mercy.” The vampire spoke, his voice loud and booming across. He waited briefly, but no response came, and no change occurred in the ironclad’s course.
“This is your final warning, surrender, or be boarded and slain. Continue your escape, and we shall not hesitate in sinking you.” He warned.
“Ye wanna sink me pretty boy!?” Genus exclaimed from his ship’s loudspeaker, “Let’s see ye bloody try! And as ye do, I’ll have me a pint! Roll out the cannons! Show these sea scoundrels why we sail the North Orca!” the dwarf exclaimed as his ship’s sides opened up, revealing over a hundred cannons starting to protrude out.
The vampire sighed, raising his left hand and a couple robed pirates stepped forward from the rest.
The Orca’s cannons shone a bright blue before suddenly a hundred rays of ice burst out from either of its sides, firing at both the enemy ironclad on its starboard and the two galleons on its port side.
The vampire quickly lowered his hand forwards, and each mage raised their staffs or wands ahead. Each quickly chanting, and in response to the cannons, each pirate ship raised a large barrier of mana. The icy bursts clashed with the barriers, dimming them greatly but not penetrating their protection.
“Very well then,” The vampire said, “The locker it is for you.” He stated, and his crew rejoiced.
The Orca continued firing, but the pirates had several mages aboard and when one tired another took their place. All the while the three ships closed onto the Orca, more pirate mages enhancing their ship’s speed and agility.
The pirate ships surrounded the Orca, even as it continued to fire madly at this close range. One of the galleons sailed ahead and moved into the Orca’s path, as the ironclad closed the distance into boarding range with the Orca.
“Block them,” The vampire ordered the galleon at the front, and anchors dropped from its starboard side.
The galleon slowed down and quickly turned, facing its starboard into the Orca’s path and revealing it to be suddenly solid iron. The pirate mages had used alchemy magic to alter its material, and the Orca was heading directly into it with no space to turn, the other two ships now in boarding range of both its sides.
“Board!” The vampire exclaimed, “Search every room, leave nothing unturned and unopened! Find, My, Property!” he bellowed with fury as his crew suddenly bellowed with him, the pirates’ eyes turning pitch black as their skin paled white, their nails turned to claws and teeth to fangs while bat-like wings grew out of their backs.
The vampiric pirates leapt of their ships and soared over onto the Orca’s empty deck.
When suddenly, before the Orca collided with it, the front galleon exploded.
The ship rose up into the sky, shattering into pieces as lightning and flames burst from below it. It soared high, fragments of it raining down upon all three ships as they sailed beneath its rising wreckage.
What remained crashed down into the sea behind them, what remained now barely recognisable as a ship while it sunk.
“Your property?” Suddenly spoke a voice, each vampire turning to its source which lay on the Orca’s front deck. It was Erik, a rift closing behind him. He wore a hooded robe of dark gold, trimmed with crimson and silver, forming the shape of thin lightning and flames. Within his left hand lay a sealed weapon, covered in black cloth and chained down with ghostly ethereal chains that went right through his hands as he held it.
“Indeed, are you this ship’s customer then?” The vampire asked with a raised brow, inspecting Erik’s strange clothing. “I know she is here, bring her to me and no harm will be done to your crew.” The vampire offered.
Erik met the vampire’s eyes, his own seemingly normal. “Her? Oh, you mean this one?” Erik asked, waving his free hand wide as suddenly Shizuka appeared ahead of his arm.
Shizuka at first had her eyes closed and hands held hugging herself, she shook her head, not wanting to look.
“Yes…” But then she heard his wretched voice, “Come! Return to me, servant!” the vampire exclaimed, raising his right hand towards her.
Shizuka opened her eyes as they glowed a sudden violet, her gaze fixing upon the vampire. She looked at him, horrified, tears now streaming down her cheeks as she tried to step away.
Erik held her by the shoulder, “No, she will do no such thing.” He said.
The vampire’s expression grew cold, “And who do you think you are to defy me?”
Erik chuckled, “The real question, is who the hell are you?” he asked with a smirk.
Rage briefly passed through the vampire’s expression as his minions hissed in equal fury, yet quickly he regained his calm. Opening his arms wide as dark tendrils of magic grew around him, “I am Renwick Astrophel, Pirate King, Vampire Lord.” He then pointed at Shizuka, “And she, is my next vessel. Return her, and your death will be swift.”
Erik chuckled once more, causing Renwick no small amount of frustration. He released Shizuka’s shoulder as suddenly a rift opened and swallowed her, closing right after.
Renwick’s eyes widened, “Where, where did you take her!?” he exclaimed in fury.
“First, I should return the favour of introduction,” Erik said, raising his sealed weapon before himself. He unchained and unclothed it, revealing a perfect staff. Thick from one end to another, made from pure white wood and with a serpent carved wrapping around its length.
Erik held the staff straight with his right hand, as he once again met Renwick’s eyes. He smiled coldly, his eyes suddenly shrinking into slits as they set upon the vampire, a predator’s gaze. “Renwick, was it? For my chosen’s sake, I give you the chance of turning about and leaving.”
Renwick anxiously laughed at his offer, the drake’s eyes causing a primal fear to swell up within the vampire. “Leave? Fool, I will gain what I want to know even if it’s off your cold dead mind!” he responded with a hissing tone, not one to be scared off his prize.
Erik’s smile widened, “Good.” He said, “Then Thea will have nothing to argue with if I leave no survivors.” He suddenly spoke in draconic, causing each vampire to shiver. Erik slammed his staff down, causing the Orca, the ocean surface and the other ships to suddenly and briefly quake. He glanced at their growing expressions of fear.
“Pray not to your gods, they turn a blind eye tonight.
For I offer no promise of mercy, I come not with swift ends or painless deaths.
That you may speak of this foul and horrible end that I bring upon you, to the rest of hell to which I shall send you to.
Speak my name, let it ring synonymous with the worst horror your puny minds can produce and call nightmare.” Erik chanted, as he slowly rotated his staff single-handedly, reality starting to blur around him.
The vampires which lay frozen in fear before his voice, slowly recuperated, Renwick snapping out of his horror first. “Kill him! Kill him dead!” he exclaimed in terror, stepping away from the ship’s edge.
His crew, albeit hesitant at first, rushed forth at the sound of Renwick’s voice.
“I am Erikathyr, Guardian of nature’s spirits. I am Erikathyr, Destroyer of the weak.”
Erik rotated the staff from its starting vertical position until it lay horizontally ahead of him. And suddenly as it did, the previously calm water began to grow disturbed. The cool breeze, starting to blow more fiercely. The once clear night sky, filling with dark clouds.
“Draconic Arts; Custom Art…” He dragged out his chant, eyes narrowing as he stared down at his staff. The carving that lay upon it suddenly glowed a bright gold.
The pirate vampires charged at him, swords and axes gripped tightly as archers and gunmen took fired a volley, mages at the very back preparing countermeasures for whatever spell Erik had just cast.
Erik took a deep breath, before finishing his spell. “Imbue; Draconic White.” He whispered, yet the words reached even Renwick.
Causing each and every one of them to suddenly freeze in their steps, all their gazes falling on Erik as he finally took a step forward, his form trailing a white light behind him as he seemed to move in slow motion at first.
Before suddenly exploding with movement.
Erik shot forwards, appearing before the closest pirate, seeing the surprised vampire eye to eye. Erik smiled, a wide and wicked smile, his eyes looking down at the dark creature with not pity, but a hunger.
“Shall we get a little violent?!” Erik exclaimed, gluttonous excitement clear in his tone.
The vampires responded in kind, turning to his new position and without mercy for their own, the mages and archers let loose. All matter of projectiles flew towards Erik, balls of flame, ice and darkness, poison-tipped arrows, iron bullets and even a cannonball.
Surrounded, Erik was completely surrounded on all sides.
Exactly how he wanted it to begin…
His form blurred white as he spun on the spot, waving his staff around, crushing flesh and bone on its first turn around, then suddenly bursting afire on the second spin. A whirlwind of flames formed around Erik and quickly expanded outwards, incinerating every attack sent his way along with any living being in range.
He didn’t stop, no Erik immediately rushed to his next target, surging forwards as lightning engulfed his entire body. Bashing his staff into the vampire’s gut with enough force to quake his entire being, sending the man flying through everybody else behind them. Killing each and every single one of them.
Erik spun his staff, deflecting a cannonball downwards while knocking the sense out of another vampire’s chin nearby.
He swiftly moved through them, not like an elegant beast, not like Makaela. But instead like a destructive force of nature.
A continuous barrage of strikes, the sound of squashing flesh and shattering bone unending, a sonata that played on a horrifying loop. Blood, limbs and even bodies flew around and off Erik’s path, as he danced with the sound.
Yes, a dance, one of death.
With every step, ending a life.
With every leap or dash, killing several.
Renwick watched in confusion, not an arrow, not a single bout of flame or blade touched Erik. His crew being knocked around like slabs of useless meat before the drake’s sheer martial arts.
Enraged and afraid, “You! You shall not stand before me with some fancy footwork!” the vampire exclaimed, raising his hands forth as a limp body flew past him. He glanced at the beaten and bruised corpse briefly, the man’s expression half way to horror, given no time to fully express his fear.
Renwick turned back around, his eyes falling upon Erik as he suddenly found the drake standing still, eyes wide and staring straight at him. Renwick felt a coldness crawl up his spine, Erik’s face and body were splattered with blood and gore, yet the drake grinned with fiendish amusement.
“D-D-Darkness which rises at my command! Flow and form!” The vampire stuttered into a chant, stepping even further away from the ship’s edge. “Fury and lust be my weapons! Red, red as blood which flows through all but me! Hunger, gluttony, I thirst for which I do not have!”
Erik chuckled, stomping his foot down and causing the few survivors that lay scrambling around him to stumble and fall over. “Light which we earned, brightness which makes us whole.” Erik in response also began to chant in draconic, ”The white of our scales and the gold of our eyes, for we are light and light is us. We neither command it nor it commands us. Blessed we aren’t, imbued we are. Fire and lightning stand aside, as my blood’s true element rises forth!”
“Dark Arts; Hemomancy Vampiric Sub-School…” As Renwick chanted his enslaved and chained women suddenly rose to their feet, forced up by the tendrils of darkness that flowed out of his throne, each of their eyes turning pitch black.
“Draconic School…” And as Erik whispered the first half of the spell, he raised his staff ahead of himself, tendrils of white light growing out of it like roots and slowly reaching out upwards.
“Blood Rage!” Renwick exclaimed, as suddenly each of his slaves raised their heads high, each screaming in pain as blood gushed out of their bodies. The vivid red liquid flowed out from every orifice of theirs, sucking them dry and leaving them to fall unconscious onto the deck floor. The blood then formed around Renwick briefly before engulfing him whole, entering his body rapidly.
Renwick’s form grew, his muscles expanding severely as did his entire body’s length and height. His fine cloths ripping and tearing as he grew in several bursts of sudden size. Out of his back also grew two sets of bat-like wings, much larger than the rest and each of the four wings ending in a clawed hand.
The vampire had grown into a monstrous beast.
Yet before it, Erik could only laugh, a cold chuckle that made the enlarged Renwick shiver. The vampire hissed as Erik’s draconic eyes met his once more, but this time they shone a bright gold. Erik steading his staff, chanting the final phrase of his spell with hysteria.
“Unleash Linage!” He bellowed in excitement, the light that had formed around his staff suddenly bursting up into the sky, dozens of bright white rays of light briefly shining into the clouds above before dissipating.
For several moments, nothing happened. All but Erik lowering his staff as he walked over to the Orca’s edge. He climbed onto the railing, facing a confused Renwick, he opened his arms wide.
Renwick watched him, surprised beyond belief, as Erik stepped off the Orca and fell out of sight.
Right then, pure white lightning struck from the sky. Strike after strike, the light stormed down where Erik fell, the air sizzling with heat as the electricity raged for several moments before dissipating.
But the light did not, as Erik rose back up, hovering in mid-air.
Changed, Erik’s form had changed too.
His skin cracked, as patches of white scales grew out of it. Then veins of pulsating white light formed, flowing from one set of scales to another, covering the rest of his skin.
His nails expanded, morphing into long bladed-claws.
His body grew slightly taller, his muscles expanding a bit too but not by much.
And suddenly, as the sound of something ripping was heard, a scaly white tail grew out of his behind.
Erik stretched out his arms, popping his neck and shoulders as his tail swung from left to right and back. “So,” he spoke calmly, his voice now sounding rougher, “Shall the real entertainment begin?”
“Hah! You stand before a king! You may have killed my subordinates but you shall never equal the strength of a pure-blood vampire!” Renwick hissed back, the tendrils of darkness which flowed between him and his throne growing thicker.
Erik grinned, revealing two opposing sets of fangs. “How cute, the bat thinks itself worthy of the drake.” He teased in amusement, his right hand suddenly bursting with movement as he threw his staff.
It flew at Renwick, the vampire pushing itself to its very athletic limits to evade the weapon, and as it soared past his face Renwick realised what lay behind him. He reached out for the weapon, managing to grasp it with his left hand, with the weapon his entire arm flew off.
Renwick shrieked in pain at the violent ripping of his arm, gripping his now stumped shoulder as he heard a large crash ahead. He glanced up with horror in his eyes, the staff wasn’t aimed at him but instead, it was aimed at his throne.
What was once a throne of bones, was now a measly shattered pile, the staff that destroyed it laying half embedded into the metal floor among the remains. Lightning sparked off the staff, several tendrils suddenly flashing upon the slaves’ shackles and blasting the cheap iron to pieces at its last hoop.
Renwick felt no anger or hatred, his beatless heart lay too cold from fear to feel either, that same coldness then spreading about his entire body as he sensed death approaching from behind him.
The vampire turned, the tendrils of darkness that bound him to his throne slowly dissipating around him, and at the same time his stump burst with blood as a new arm grew out. He faced Erik, the drake now suddenly standing before him, hovering down to the ground.
“You…” He hissed, “You’ll pay for this…” Renwick warned, but his tone was more akin to a fangless dog’s whine.
Erik chuckled, “No, No I won’t. You really thought I wouldn’t detect the large necrotic core you crafted into that chair? Foolish rodent, be grateful for your new arm, it will be the last time you regenerate.”
Renwick snarled with rising fury, then lunged at Erik with abandon.
Erik did not evade, he only blocked. Every slash of the vampire’s clawed wings he deflected with his own blade-like claws, every large jab by the vampire’s hands slapped aside.
Faster and faster their movements grew, with every blink of the eye each having clashed a dozen times. Renwick’s body blurred as he struck over and over, met with Erik’s barely visible arms as he blocked each and every attack solely with his bare hands.
The sound of each collision quaking the air around them.
Seeing no progress, Renwick suddenly disengaged, leaping back and away from Erik.
But the drake left it no room for respite, charging in as the vampire soared through the air. Erik spun forward, his right leg coming down upon Renwick as the vampire enveloped himself with his wings to block it.
Erik’s downward kick broke several things as it bashed through Renwick’s wings, blood trailing behind the vampire as he shot downwards and slammed into the metal floor. The floor itself bending inwards from the sheer force, leaving Renwick groaning within a large crater shaped off his form.
Quickly coming back to his senses, the vampire rolled to its left as Erik’s fist planted itself into the already bent metal floor. The floor tearing beneath his strength, his fist going right through the metal as the entire ship briefly sunk a few feet.
“Y-You-You monster!” Renwick exclaimed as he quickly rose to his feet, his wings broken as they lay dragging along his feet.
Erik chuckled coldly, ”Monster? Do not mist-” he said while trying to rise but finding that his fist was stuck in the floor, “Blasted damn it!” he swore under his breath. Pulling his hand back with all his strength, his fist did come loose, but the hole he made within the thick metal only widened.
Erik turned to face a shivering vampire, the dark creature taking several steps back as their eyes met. “Where was I? Ah, right. Monster? Do you mistake me for a simple beast? No, I’m far worse,” Erik said, taking a single step towards Renwick to which the vampire took another back, “Far superior to the deadliest of wyverns, far smarter than the vilest of demons, far stronger than any other race upon this world. Monster? No, Ohohoho, you wish I was a mere monster.” He chuckled again.
Renwick’s eyes widened, the shiver he felt before now overwhelming his every sense. Run, his entire mind and body screamed at him to run.
“I am no monster, you oh so simple bat.” Erik snarled, suddenly appearing mere centimetres before Renwick as the vampire turned tail.
Run the vampire did, as fast as it could, it leapt onto the Orca and dashed at top speed towards the other Galleon. Hoping the few living that lay about would slow down the creature he had awakened.
Demon, his mind thought at first, but it was Devil which it later cried as he heard its wretched laughter.
Death incarnate, his mind then settled upon as Erik appeared standing in his path.
“I. Am. Dragon.” Erik worded out, his voice booming out and sending a blast of wind onto Renwick. The vampire was sent tumbling back from the force, quickly coming back to his senses, he tried to crawl.
Run, his mind still screamed. Run, his body tried to do. And laugh in sheer panic, Renwick did. Terrified into insanity as Erik once again appeared in his way.
“To hell, your soul will go I presume. Good, carry a message for me then.” Erik said as he stomped his right foot onto the crawling vampire, quaking the entire ship and bending the floor slightly, ”Tell Xokith and Kurzan, this world is mine…”
Renwick dared a glance, a single glance at Erik’s expression.
He regretted every moment of it.
As he saw the drake’s eyes surging with sparks of white lightning, amusement clear within them.
His mouth wide, a grin like no other, curved wickedly and revealing his perfect fangs.
“No…Please…” Renwick begged, shaking his head, eyes wide in terror.
“I claim Faeterra, in its entirety, as my territory. If they dare set their vile feet upon it, I shall burn hell itself to finish what I started with Azruxan. Tell them, I care not for their plans, I care not for their rank or title as Devils.” Erik snarled, removing his leg from the vampire as his tail curved around to loom over Renwick. “For if they try to take what is mine by draconic claim, then I shall make damned sure they become the last of their race!”
“Mercy!” Renwick pleaded as he continued to try and crawl off.
“Draconic School; Blaze tail.” He chanted in a whisper, his tail bursting afire as it struck down, its tip piercing into Renwick’s head before the flames engulfed him whole.
Erik watched the vampire burn, the draconic flames flowing down his body and turning it all to ash.
“Xilfir.” Erik then said, a dozen dark elves appearing around him. “Clean up the rest,” he told them in elven, the dreadblades then suddenly bursting into shadows.
And the screaming continued, as they systematically went through the survivors, swiftly killing each of them.
Erik turned away from the now pile of ash, he looked up at the sky as it cleared of clouds, revealing the stars beyond. “Well? Have you enjoyed the show? Or will you remain in hiding?” he asked.
A laugh came in response, as the cloaked fox came out of invisibility, “You detected me? Heh, so you’ve regained your draconic senses then?” he asked while floating down to stand before Erik.
“Who are you.” Erik snarled in question, every fibre of his being sensing something completely off with the figure before him.
The fox smiled as he removed his hood, revealing a man in his early thirties, the fox ears clearly part of him and not an aesthetic. “I’m-” he began to say but stopped, as Erik’s eyes suddenly rolled back into his head.
Erik fell forwards face first, falling to the ground unconscious.
The fox groaned in annoyance, rolling his eyes. “Well hell I haven’t even said my name yet! Faint afterwards why would you!”