Alan rested his palm over her head, a white mist forming about his fingers and entering her skin. The healing magic rejuvenated the poor woman, her dried up skin expanding to the norm, her scars also fading away.
Her dark eyes draining of blackness, refilling with the green that was hers.
Alan stepped away as the woman woke from unconsciousness, taking in a sudden breath.
He glanced around at the dozen others he had just healed, fear making up their expressions so well it was as if they had worn that guise since birth. Their bodily beauty completely deterred by their ghastly faces.
He’d look away, but everything else around him was just that much worse.
Bodies lay scattered about, ripped, broken and squashed together. Pools of blood as if it had rained red, slowly leaking off the ship’s side as Dark Elves moved around cleaning the ugly mess.
They had long left the other ships behind, the mess above them so much worse to clean up. Since, ash was easier to blow away than blood and flesh.
Alan cursed Erik beneath his breath, the drake’s merciless ways hadn’t changed one bit. And as the portal opened from which he and his party came out from, Alan turned to face him. “Your path might be righteous now, Erikathyr, but this…This is why we called you demon.”
He met the drake’s gaze, seemingly weak as Thea and Makaela held him up, but his eyes fiercer than ever before. “What? Cannot handle a little death?” Erik asked with a smirk, pulling himself out of their hold and weakly walking past Alan.
Over to the only survivors.
“The pirates were vampires, what would you have me do? Waste my time purifying each and every one of them? The disgusting sods made their choice when they sold their bodies to that Blood Lord.” Erik then said, stopping before the freed slaves as they gazed at him in fear.
Alan grimaced, “You’re right…They deserved death, but you cannot deny it, you enjoyed it. I bloody know you did.” he said harshly, glancing over at Makaela who’s expression lay pale and eyes wide. “I can see it in her eyes.” Alan said, “You sense them, don’t you? The stench of fear oozing out as their souls still lay about.”
Erik chuckled, “Of course they still do, their souls are damned for the actions they made. Heaven denies them access, Grim ignores them. But, Hell won’t take them either, not while that staff lays there.” Erik gestured at the white staff as it lay hovering in mid-air above them, golden energy rushing through its carvings.
Alan sighed, he knew Erik had trapped the pirate’s souls nearby but he didn’t know why. “So, who was that stranger that seemingly had access to your Lair?” he then asked, not even wanting to know what the drake was up to with dozens of trapped souls.
“A God,” Erik answered as he glanced in between each blood slave, “A divine not from this realm, apparently.”
“A divine? That creature? I felt more darkness than holy within it.” Alan argued.
“Gods aren’t all bright and light, hero.” Erik warned, “The vilest of beings are Gods, why do you think we Dragons do not fall for their petty lies? This one though had an interesting offer to make.”
“I bet, I could sense that draconic core inside you the moment that portal opened. All I want to know is…How? Grim claimed both our souls and bodies. How powerful is this divine if it can steal from a God of Death?” Alan asked, his tone disturbed.
“Does it really matter? They freed me from Grim’s clutches and gave me what I need to stand as a drake once again. What matters, mostly to you, is what they told me after.” Erik said, glancing back at the adventurer.
“What?” Alan asked as he saw the pity in Erik’s eyes, “What did he tell you?”.
“Findri, she’s back.” Erik answered.
Alan’s eyes widened as he stepped back, a brief chuckle his response before he fully processed his words. “No…she can’t be.” He said, turning around to gaze off into the distance.
“Well, according to that God’s words she is. After both of us failed to meet Grim’s expectations, it summoned her in our stead. For some reason or other, she sold her soul to death, why is beyond me.” Erik said, turning away to study the slaves before him.
“Findri? The Ice Dragon?” Thea asked as she stood by Erik.
“Blue, The Blue Dragon.” Erik corrected as he carefully crouched down before one woman, ”Colour determines clan not element. In ancient times colour determined the schools of magic too, water and ice were all Blue Magic. While light and lightning were all White Magic. Findri though is a half-blood like me, more of a cold breeze than straight frost.”
“Half-Blood?” Nerick repeated in question, watching as Erik went through each woman, revealing a black pattern over their shoulders and studying it carefully.
“My mother is pure White but my father is half-blood therefore so am I. We Dragons numbered little already, breeding in between clans was required to survive and retain. My grandfather is a Red Dragon, who mated with my grandmother, a White.” Erik explained as he backed away from the last vampiric victim.
“Which makes me more of a blazing lightning strike, which is my name in translation to common, than a blinding flash. Enough chit-chat though,” Erik then said as he turned around to see Alan holding his own face, clutching his chest with the other hand as his gaze drooped to the bloody floor. “Alan, I can’t say I’ll enjoy having Grim see every move I make, but I won’t lie either. I know you wish to go see her, and I can send you there, but the truth is? I need you at Sinbeni.”
“See her?…” Alan whispered, pain clear in his voice as he looked away from them. “If she’s back…If she’s truly back…I dare not cross paths with her. My…my mistakes ended her life, my mistakes branded her as a betrayer alongside you.” He chuckled coldly, “If she were to find me, she’d end my immortality short.”
Erik suddenly stepped to him, pulling Alan’s hand away from his face before clenching his own hand into a fist. Erik punched Alan, his fist moving faster than the eye could see, sending Alan tumbling back several times until he crashed into the ship’s cabin.
“Erik?!” Thea exclaimed in surprise grabbing the drake by the shoulder as Alan groaned.
“Snap the hell out of your pity, Findri is a Dragon, and unlike you humans we Dragons know when to take responsibility for our actions and failures.” Erik reprimanded harshly, pulling away from Thea and approaching the rising adventurer.
He grabbed Alan by the collar, looking the man straight in the eye as he spoke, his own surging with a fierce gold as he met Alan’s frosting blues. “If anything, Findri blames herself for your mistake. I know I would.” He told Alan, pushing the adventurer back and into the wall before turning away.
“Now if you don’t mind, I have a dark spirit to vanquish.” Erik then said as he faced the marked women.
“The vampiric mark? You can remove it?” Nerick asked in surprise.
Erik chuckled in response, “I’m young, but I know the Dark Arts as well as the most eldritch of creatures. I did say I delve in magical knowledge, I never said I limited myself to just one or two fields of it.” he explained before gesturing at a dark elf who unlike the rest had been waiting nearby, her hands held forwards and holding a cloth covered tray.
The xilfir stepped forth at Erik’s indication, forwarding him the tray. “As you ordered great master, all the items you listed. I found each, at which hall of your lair you sent me to.” The dark elf said in elven.
“Good, I was wondering if I still had all that.” Erik mused as he raised the cloth and uncovered the tray’s contents. A black wooden bowl with strange runic carvings, a mortar, pestle, and an assortment of bottled up ingredients one stranger than the last.
Erik glanced at everything briefly, “Yes, that’s everything.” He said before grabbing the mortar and pestle, emptying a bottle of green sludge alongside a bottle of red pearls into it. He began to crush the pearls along with the sludge, the ooze slowly turning brown. He turned around and walked over to Nerick, handing him the tools. “Ground that up till it’s all brown, right?” he said before quickly turning back to the dark elf.
“B-Brown…okay?” Nerick said as he continued to crush the ingredients, Ivara taking a quick sniff of the stuff before suddenly shaking her head and backing off. Her eyes briefly turning a shade of red before she sneezed and it disappeared.
Erik returned to the tray, grabbing two bottles as he glanced inside, “Phoenix ash, Troll bone marrow…” he mumbled out the ingredient’s names as he emptied them into the bowl.
“What are you doing?” Thea asked as she watched him work.
“Old magic,” Erik said, “Very old, as old as the bloody vampires themselves. Dark Arts met with the same is how you fight off curses. What I’m doing here is ancient Orcish shamanism alongside good old Fae witchery. Everything in our world has a specific magical make, races older than humans who had peaked at the bending of mana knew this well, and mixed certain items to bring out a specific event their mana could not.” He explained whilst emptying several other items into the bowl.
“Will this do?” Nerick asked, showing the mortar and the slimy brown ooze within.
“Perfect, hand it here.” Erik said, taking the mortar from his hands.
“So…what exactly are you doing though?” Thea then asked, her eyes widening as Erik downed the ooze in one breath. “Uhh…”
Erik’s eyes flashed a bright crimson for several moments before gold took over, he glanced at Thea with wide eyes. “I’m setting up a protection charm on my human vessel first and foremost so I don’t accidentally curse myself.” He said, then turning to the bowl with one last ingredient laying unadded.
Erik grabbed the bowl full of different dusts, a barely liquid yellow goo among them and two long black fangs protruding out. With his other hand, he grabbed the final item, a skeletal bat’s wing. Dropping the wing inside he then turned to the still hovering staff.
“Stand back.” He said, moving to stand beneath the staff.
Everyone stepped away from him, they watched from a safe distance with curiosity in their eyes.
“Lost and damned souls hear me now, this voice with which I command and control.” Erik exclaimed, raising the bowl up towards the staff. Its contents suddenly lit on fire. ”Your sins lay bare before me, and your time has come. Retribution lays before you, but the cost is hellish. You who wander and take, giving nothing back. You who delve into greed, gluttony and lust. You waste of space, you who would dare once breath the same air as the victim.”
As he spoke, a green mist formed around them, it spun in circles around them with Erik and the staff at its centre. Ghostly expressions of fear, fury and sadness forming within the mist, as it flowed faster and faster.
“What time you had left, I take, I reap. Your life, now energy. Your existence, fruit for my words.”
The souls screamed in agony, anger and horror. Then staff began to suck them in, its golden light turning a bright green as the mist flowed inside.
“The time which you abandoned, I now order. The time which you left behind, I now own.”
Erik spoke the last words as the final bit of green mist entered the staff, as it now glowed green in its entirety. He dropped the bowl, letting it shatter on the ground into a small explosion of ashen smoke. The smoke surrounded him briefly before dissipating.
Erik raised his hands up, the staff lowering down into them. He held it, as the staff screamed in many voices, the souls bound within begging to be released.
“Is that…what I think it is?” Alan asked, snapping out of his daze as when he saw souls enter a physical object.
“A reaper’s weapon, yes.” Erik answered, grasping the staff tightly as he approached the terrified women. “Fear me not, the ones who hurt you lay within here, broken and bound.” He said, as he raised the staff before him. “What you should fear is their master, who will resurrect into one of you if nothing is done with your marks.”
“It’s fine, he’s going to help you.” Thea assured them with a warm smile, yet she stood as far away as possible alongside the rest. (“You…do know what you’re doing right?”) Thea then asked.
Erik grinned as he looked the staff up and down, “You know, I’ve never actually wielded death magic before, guess there’s a first time for everything.”
Thea watched the women’s eyes widen in further fear, (“That didn’t help.”) she noted.
Erik turned to face them all, changing the staff to a one-handed hold as he held out his empty palm towards them. “Don’t move,” he said before starting a new chant, “Darkness beyond life, I humble servant of thee call upon thy. The end, the fall, the door, the passing, the ascent, the descent, the crossing. Your names I call, O’ death, and these souls I offer for your power!”
Erik closed his hand before them, green energy flowing out of the staff and into his fist.
“To this offering, I ask, break the immortality before me!” He exclaimed, tendrils of dark green mist forming out of his fist and piercing into each of the women where their vampiric marks lay. “Cleanse these hopeless souls off the perversion of life which plagues them!”
They screamed, fury passing through their expressions as darkness flowed out of their gaping mouths, forming into a cloud above them. The dark marks that lay over their necks and shoulders dissipating with the green tendrils of deathly mist.
Erik slammed the staff down and a wave of invisible force blasted outwards, dissipating the dark clouds into the sky above. “There, your souls are free now, don’t waste your time thanking me.” He said, turning away from the confused women.
“As for you,” he then faced Alan again. “Think it over, you have two weeks before we reach Sinbeni. And don’t underestimate what’s coming, this is no common crisis you adventurers face every other week.” Erik said harshly, “Faetera could be on the brink of war once more, and this time it won’t just be my kind that slips into the night never to be seen again. Ask yourself, ‘Hero’, how would you like to go? Crawled up within a tavern? Or blade in hand, grit on your face and blood rushing through your veins?” he asked.
Then turning away from the adventurer, as Alan returned to gazing into the distance, towards Druvia.
“You and Nerick watch over these, make sure they don’t go running off and causing problems.” Erik said, raising his free hand forwards and opening a rift. “Thea, Makaela, with me. There’s still one more mark to deal with.”
“One more?” Thea asked as she stepped behind him.
“Your little rogue.” Makaela answered, stepping through the rift first.
“Shizuka?” Thea said in surprise.
“Yes, and what I’m about to do is for you, my and her own good.” Erik said, glancing back at Thea with stern eyes. “Thea, I’ll trust you to watch, intervene if you deem fit. But remember that this will be her choice.” He told her, then waiting for a response.
Thea met his gaze briefly, then nodded. “I’ll trust you, Erik.” She said, as they both stepped through.
Shizuka lay balled up on the bed, hugging her legs to herself. She trembled, her entire body shivering in fear as the memories haunted her mind. His face, his voice, his words. They reminded her of the horrors she had to live through, the things Renwick had put her through for years.
Plaguing her dreams, day and night.
The games he’d play, torture to her mind and body.
The way he’d use her, less than a tool, nothing but a resource for him to abuse.
Weak, useless she always felt. Not a speck of hope, nothing but cold darkness within her each day that passed by his side.
She missed the time before, the mild fear of strangers filling the streets she called home. She missed the starvation, even as her stomach lay empty she preferred it over the forced feeding, kept like an animal.
Like a pet.
She missed her freedom, even at the cost survival. (“Maybe death is better…that this?”) she thought as she waited for him to come.
She knew she couldn’t escape, she knew there was no hiding.
Every time he had found her, every time he had almost caught her, and several times she had escaped at the cost of other’s lives.
(“What’s the point anymore?”) She asked herself, (“I cannot run forever…”) she thought, pressing her forehead into her knees. Her feline ears hiding within her hair, also shivering, as her tail lay coiled up around her waist. The hair on both spiking up, like electricity was passing through her.
She held it in, her sadness, overwhelmed by the fear that filled her. A draining coldness that numbed her entire body when the portal opened before her bed. She gazed over her knees, eyes wide and expression pale.
She shook her head, it was time for him to come. Another life, or more, was spent at the cost of her cowardice.
But, his rose-red eyes weren’t what came through.
Instead, to her relief, Makaela appeared out of the portal. Followed by Thea and Erik.
Seeing her broken and terrified state, Thea immediately rushed to her side, dashing about her bed and kneeling next to her. Thea reached out to Shizuka, but the bestia suddenly move away from her, a natural response from the terror that filled her.
Thea met Shizuka’s wide and confused eyes, with her own, giving her a warm smile. “It’s okay now, he’s gone, you’re safe.” She said softly.
Shizuka shook her head, “H-He’s never gone…It’s never safe!” she exclaimed, tears now starting to stream down her cheeks as she rushed into Thea’s chest.
Thea put her arms around the girl, letting Shizuka drown her face into her chest, she felt her trembling and muffled screams. She felt her cold tears wetting her shirt and chest. Thea held her close with one arm, raising her right hand to pat Shizuka over the head.
“It’s going to be alright, kitten.” Thea said, glancing over at Erik as he stared at the bestia, studying her.
He had underestimated how afraid she’d be.
Erik opened his mouth to speak, but Thea’s sudden fierce eyes turning to his, made him lose his voice. (“Not now!”) Thea exclaimed through their connection, (“Give her time, let her release some of it first!”) she told him harshly before turning back to the shivering girl in her arms.
Erik’s mouth closed, he stood there with Makaela beside him, both of them watching awkwardly as Thea held the feline bestia.
For the briefest moment, he had seen it, a bright gold light shining within Thea’s eyes as she chided him. He felt it too, a surging energy akin to his own filling her body.
But she had never called it up, she hadn’t summoned his mana through their bond, not consciously at least.
Erik set these thoughts aside, for now, continuing to watch and wait as Shizuka spent several minutes clinging onto Thea. At first, she screamed, muffled cries as she wept. Soon they changed to mumbling, “Why? Why risk yourselves?…Why fight him? Why protect me at all?” she asked in quick succession, shaking her head and rubbing her wet face into Thea’s chest.
Shizuka leaned away briefly, her reddened eyes rising to meet Thea’s. “Why? I’m…I’m not worth anything!” she said, her voice cracking.
Thea smiled, her own eyes now leaking with tears as she couldn’t handle watching someone in such pain. “I told you, you’re stuck with us now.”
“You are worth something, Shizuka.” Erik then said, the both of them turning to him as he left his staff hover in place while he approached. “If you weren’t worth a damn, then you wouldn’t have been born. All life is worth something, the question is, what will you do with that worth? Will you burn it away like the Blood Lord that shadows over you?”
Shizuka though glanced away, “What can I do?…I’m cursed, marked for life!” she exclaimed, her eyes closing as she held herself.
“Excuses,” Erik snarled, “Listen to me, above all, pitiful beast-woman. I who turned the entire world against me, I, who’s own family turned their backs on. I betrayed everyone, I disappointed everyone. Yet do you see me sulk? Do you see me balled up and helpless? No, I’ll fight, I’ll fight till my legs break and arms fall off.”
Erik leaned over them, holding onto the bed’s side as he grabbed Shizuka by the chin, turning her eyes to face his. “Do the memories scare you? Do his actions haunt you? His touch, his voice and face, like a demon they plague your mind and soul. You think that makes you weak? Then you are, you are very weak indeed. But do you wish to be strong instead? Do you not yearn for power? Is that not why you became a mage in the first place?” he asked her.
Shizuka nodded, her eyes though teared up more, narrowing as she couldn’t meet his gaze.
“Then let that fear, that terror which numbs your mind and body, fuel you instead. Burn it, turn it into hate, let fury overwhelm you instead.” Erik spoke in draconic, Shizuka at first not understanding a word until she met his eyes, the words then echoing into her mind. “I can free you, I can dismantle his mark and damn his soul to hell for the rest of eternity. He’ll never come back, that abyss will swallow him and warp him into its minion. You’ll be free, to live your life as you wish from now on. Is that what you want?” Erik asked.
Shizuka gazed into his deep blue eyes, golden energy surging through them like lightning filling the sky. She nodded in silence.
“Is it? Or do you want his power? Do you want to take the strength which enslaved you, and make it your own?” Erik then asked, Shizuka’s eyes widening at his words. “The darkness which he bent you with, into his will. You’ve lived with that darkness by your side for years, would you abandon it now? Or will you master it? Wield power like you never have before, ancient dark magiks of beings before the first age, bent to your will.” He offered her, yet her ears couldn’t believe the words.
Shizuka glanced at Thea, as if for confirmation. She nodded with a warm smile, trusting Erik.
“You are now still a slave, I give you a choice. Do you wish to be free? Do you wish to go on with your life? I won’t lie, bestia, you alone will never be accepted by the rest of the world. Your own people look down upon you for your tribe, I’m sure you know how the rest feel.” Erik said, as Shizuka returned to looking him in the eye.
“No…they won’t… nobody will accept me.” Shizuka agreed softly, her gaze beginning to droop.
“Or, you can become the master.” Erik then said, her gaze steadying on him. “Wield darkness by my side. And whereas, as a slave, you would have been forgotten. Whereas, free, some would’ve remembered you.” He said, leaning away before forwarding his hand to her.
Shizuka glanced at his hand, open for her to grasp. She then looked up at his eyes, set upon her, as she lay at the centre of this drake’s attention.
“By my side, your name will echo through history, nobody will forget what we’re about to do. Join me, Shizuka, join us. And I promise you power, if you accept to face the challenges that lay ahead. Times will be hard, sometimes seemingly impossible, but you won’t face them alone. With us, we shall stop hell, and in turn become legends beyond my own tales made myth.” He promised her, conviction filling his tone.
Shizuka grimaced, her expression turning dark as she moved away from Thea, turning to a full kneel before Erik. Her gaze dropped to the ground, “I-I’m tired of-the fear…the coldness…I want to leave it behind. I hate it, I hate this feeling, I want to change. I don’t want to be weak anymore, I want to be strong, stronger than him.” She said, clenching her hands into fists as they rested on her thighs.
Her ears rose up straight as her eyes widened, her tail uncoiling from around her waist and starting to wave back and forth behind her. Anger filled her eyes briefly. She then suddenly raised her hands up and slapped both palms on her cheeks, leaving them flushed red as she met Erik’s eyes once more.
“I want to be strong, Erik-athyr, I want to fight and I do not want to be forgotten.” Shizuka told him, her eyes burning with resolve.
Erik grinned as he stretched his arm further towards her, “Then take my hand.” he said.
Their eyes locked on one another, Shizuka reached out and grabbed Erik’s hand.
He raised his other arm back, the then staff rushing into his grasp.
“Darkness which flows deep within,” Erik began to chant, as Shizuka’s black mark suddenly expanded to engulf her entire arm, meeting his whereas the green mist within his staff rushed down his own body and meeting the darkness midway through Erik’s arm.
He felt it, the hunger that made up the darkness, and for it he altered the chant. “Gluttony that plagues, like an endless pit screaming to be filled.” He felt the anger, the fear, the sadness rushing within Shizuka and flowing into him. “The burning of fury, the coldness of terror, the emptiness of sorrow. They lead you, they command you. But by my will, they stand aside, for I make you their master.”
The dark pattern slowly moved back down Erik’s arm, the green energy taking over his body and beginning to flow into Shizuka. And she felt it, a rush of cold that filled her heart with dread, the effects of death’s mana.
“Draconic School; Custom Cast…” Erik chanted for the altered spell, then pouring his own mana into it, turning the green mist-like energy that engulfed their bodies into a golden surge of lightning. “Unleash Linage!” Erik exclaimed.
He then felt his consciousness enter her, his mind being surrounded by her very being, reality blacking out from view.
What he saw, was not truly in sight but instead where his mind currently lay. He saw things he could not explain, but could somewhat understand. Her mana, the attributes of water’s element to which her soul was naturally aligned to, and the attribute of darkness’s element which was forced upon her.
He saw each of these as clear as day, not in shape, not in colour, but an inexplicable feeling that it was what he saw.
Just as he had seen the lightning and flame that filled his own soul, just as he had seen the darkness and shadow that filled the Elves long ago. He reached out, grasping the darkness which ran rampant within her and taking command of it.
And as he grasped it, he noticed, a small speck of something else.
He recognised the energy, as he had within the elves, but here it was much more noticeable.
He grasped it too, unable to bend it to his will as with the darkness but able to bring it forth from the corner.
Suddenly the existence around him took colour, his mind trying to make sense for his inner eye. He found himself laying within a world of blue energy, water’s elemental colour flowing all around him. Within his right hand, he held a patch of darkness that spiralled around itself, lashing out at the green with spiked tendrils.
Erik crushed it with his will, the darkness then suddenly flowing out and melding with the blue, turning it crimson, like a sea of blood.
He then turned to what lay within his other metaphorical hand, shining bright but colourless, a see-through bubble of ethereal energy. Erik knew what it was, not just any element, but something far more.
He tried to crush it, but it resisted his attempts. It was too durable, far more than when he had encountered it before.
Blunt force wouldn’t work to bring out this aspect of Shizuka, as he had done with the vampiric darkness. He could’ve left it be, his goal here was done, the mark would be gone and what power the vampire had would fall to the bestia…
But something within him burned to know, whether or not he would be right.
Curiosity fuelled him, to try something else.
As a Dragon, he had little of it, but he trusted his skill at bending mana enough. Erik brought forth this time not his raw draconic energy, but instead the minuscule amount of spiritual energy he could call upon.
It was barely enough to cover his right index, a bright ethereal aura of gold that formed a claw over his own.
He rested the ethereal orb before him, and it stayed, hovering in place.
Erik lay his claws about it, slowly, carefully beginning to pierce his index claw into it. It resisted still, pushing against the alien energy that tried to enter it, but eventually as Erik took his time it softened to his touch.
His energy pierced the bubble, popping it.
And out of the small orb, a rush of raw spiritual energy exploded outwards. It blew past Erik, released from being separated, it melded with the rest of the energy around him.
Erik watched as the redness around him quickly changed, from an impenetrable bloody darkness to a misty rose-red. Like murky water, dirtied with some blood.
Erik felt himself being pushed out, his control over the spell falling apart as the change made Shizuka’s soul far too resistant for him to remain connected.
The bond was broken, snapping Erik back to reality.
And before him his new creation lay, kneeling and gazing up at him with bright pinkish eyes. Her hair had changed too and with so did her ears’ and tail’s colour, from ginger to a darker red.
Erik released her hand, as Shizuka looked behind him and into the mirrors. Her eyes widening as did Erik’s, both equally surprised.
But whereas Shizuka was surprised by the change in her hair and eye colour, alongside that her mark was gone.
Erik grinned widely, for the being that now stood before him was no longer a bestia, but neither a vampire…
He could sense it, as similar as to the what he had sensed before, and just as confusing to him.
Yet, what lay before him…
Was undeniably a Spirit Beast.