Into the Abyss of Eternity

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Into the Abyss of Eternity

Post by Zerifachias on Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:52 pm

Chapter One: Demon Hunters

Light blinds even the eyes of the skies as swathes of flame and heat wash over the bodies of countless men, women and children. The entire village destroyed by a powerful source of magic and fire. I look down at my hands and see that I, too, suffer horrid burns and melt under the heat of this powerful demon. My mouth is dry and my tongue shrivels against the heat. My eyes blink but my own eyelids feel like sandpaper scraping against my sensitive eyes. The brace on my arm shatters under the intense heat and flame, the pieces falling to the ground uselessly. I can cast no magic to save myself from this fate.

The demon appears before me, the cloak of flame mere inches from my face and threatening to burn the skin from my flesh. I hear it breathe in and cackle down at me and my powerless state. It speaks words in a language I do not know and casts its curse of fire down upon me. I feel the fire rise up from within my own body, burning everything that I am until nothing is left but ashes and cinders. I feel my spirit rise from my own burning body and watch, terrified, as the demon consumes my soul.

My whole body jerks awake as my head hits the floor and I let out a muffled grunt. I roll over and curl up into a tiny ball, grasping at my skull to keep it from splitting open. My ears are ringing and my throat feels like sand. I have my eyes closed but I know that the place where I am now is far away from that village where the demon attacked. I was not even there when it attacked. Slowly the pain fades from my head as I even out my breathing and I rise out of my position.

I am in a small room with a single bed of straw lifted only slightly up off the ground. My fall was not long, but landing on my head did not help matters. I search for the wall and find the shutters on the window. The sun is still a long time from rising, but letting in some light from the full moon allows me to better see in this darkness. Instead of burnt flesh I see small, delicate fingers and breathe a little sigh of relief. I know that the demon is far away and can only appear before me in my dreams now, but that will not stop the nightmares.

I find the small basin sitting on the floor in front of a looking glass and remove the lid to it so I can drink. I set some aside in a small clay mug and clap some more of the water against my face to wash the grime of the floor off my skin. The mirror does not reveal much in the dim blue light, but from it I see a young woman who has seen far too many horrors in the past three years. Black hair tied down in a heavy braid rests on the floor and dark violet eyes stare back at me through that mirror. I see high cheekbones with a gaunt and dirt-covered face. Life as a traveling mage has not been kind to me. I look under my rounded chin for signs of any malignant growths but find none. It has been a long time since I got rid of those diseased leeches; it is good to see that I am back to health again.

I stand and pat down the light cloth of any stray straws. If I am to get anywhere today, I need to set off soon. My travel partner will likely be awake soon and I would hate to make him wait for me. I find my travel blouse and skirt and put them on, gathering up my cloak and the clay mug while taking a final look at the empty room. This will likely be the last time I have a roof over my head for the next few days, perhaps more. Satisfied with what little sleep I managed to get, I head out the room and into a narrow hall where the pitter patter of light feet catches my attention.

The cat brushes past my sandals, purposely rubbing her golden coat up against my leg. I frown down at it. I never liked cats for some reason. They always seem like they are up to something, and they all hold grudges for longer than any other animal I’ve encountered before, besides maybe crows or ravens. I tap the floor impatiently before brushing past the cat and heading down the hall, stopping two doors later and knocking on the wood. The hall is lit by a single candle at the end of the hall which soon splutters out when the door opens for me. I sneak inside and shut the door behind me so I can confront my friend.

“Good morning, Auza,” he says, yawning silently. The man has not yet put on his gear, so I’m facing a thick wall of muscle when I enter his room. The top of my head only reaches the center of his chest, but then again I am very short, even for a woman. My family, Varshtig, has a long history of being very scrawny, but the other half of is steeped in magic. Veign Klimmek is my friend of many years and we travel the continent together, though we certainly were not friends from the very beginning. I remember being very curt and cold to him for a long time before I decided to get over my afflictions.

Veign has a strong, wide jaw and even cheeks, though he is turning skinnier from all the traveling just as I am. His muscles are clearly visible, even in the dim light. He has thick brown hair cut around his ears and handsome black eyes. The sword he carries leans up against the wall next to the straw bed. The sword is a little more than half my height and has proven its worth many times over. A heavy shield rests against it, the symbol of the Klimmek family: a bright sun amidst a clear sky, printed on the center of it.

“I had that dream again,” I tell him, folding my thin arms over my skinny chest and watch him get dressed. He clips on a leather vest over his chest and glances back at me. “It was clearer this time. I could practically smell the fires around me. I believe we are getting closer.”

“We’ve been getting closer for the last three years, Auza,” Veign responds, his voice resonating with a crackle of thunder outside. I see the lines on his face frown as he glances to the window. “That didn’t sound good. We may have to wait the day out.”

“If we wait for the rains to pass we’ll lose the trail,” I say, joining him by the window to glance outside. The sun is just starting to rise, but it will soon be overtaken by the dark clouds quickly approaching from the east, the direction we need to go. “I have no desire to travel in a storm, though. Perhaps you are right.”

“I’ll go tell the innkeep.” Veign hefts the giant’s sword from where it leans against the wood wall and clips it to his back before he leaves. He likely doesn’t expect trouble, but it is better to have a weapon than none at all. I take a seat on his bed and press my back up against the wall, closing my eyes to focus on Veign’s spirit. Using my own spirit energy to focus on another lets me sense where they are in relation to me. If he runs into trouble I’ll be able to sense it and react accordingly.

My name is Auza Varshtig and my partner’s name is Veign Klimmek. Four years ago we set off together under the orders of our superiors to hunt down a demon that has been causing a great deal of destruction in Ermith and Sar’tu. It has crossed the oceans several times, or so we think, in hopes to throw us off of its trail. Not that it needs to. The demon is powerful. We know many things about it, one being that it is closely linked to fire and magic. As a witch, I am able to track it and sense it through dreams – like the nightmare I saw. The dreams only come when we are getting very close and they get worse the closer we are. Part of me believes the demon itself sends the dreams to try and throw me off its trail, but I will not be dissuaded so easily.

Veign comes from a long line of demon hunters we call the Purifiers. They are closely linked to the temples and religious communities and are sent out to deal with supernatural threats when they appear. If the demon is powerful enough, the Sisters of the temple will request an audience with the Archon in charge of speaking for mages and requisition a partner for one of their Purifiers. Four years ago, I was sixteen and fresh out of training. Having gained full control over my powers, I was eligible to be that partner, so the Archon decided to send me, much against my own wishes at first. I remember receiving Veign harshly; I did not like this man several sizes bigger than me. That he was kind to me only made my attitude worse, I was not some child who needed to be coddled and I would prove that.

My mind eventually changed after he saved my life from that fire demon. My arrogance got the better of me and the demon was capable of riling my emotions against my partner because of the sour feelings I harbored for him. After the demon attacked my weakened state, Veign smote it and stopped the fire short, causing it to flee. After that I started being more careful and accepting of my partner. We quickly became friends after I decided to accept him. Now the demon avoids us.

We know that the demon enjoys playing with its food before killing them. The fire it employs will surround a target village or traveler and torture them with the heat and the licking of flames. The fire will slowly cook the victims as long as they stay inside the ring of fire. I’ve seen plenty of men try to escape the fire and end up as naught but dust and ashes. The demon does not feed on the physical body. What it consumes is the person’s spirit. Once it traps a human in its ring of fire, it will already have a hold on the victim’s soul, ready to pull it out and consume it when the human dies.

“I see you’ve made yourself at home,” Veign says as he enters the room. He puts his sword back up against the wall and takes a seat next to me. He sighs and lets his head rest up against the wall. I shift a little closer to him and rest my head against his arm. In the beginning I remember hating this man for the life he stole me away from. Now I couldn’t imagine having a more exciting or fulfilling life. We’ve grown close, certainly, but I don’t think either of us wants to take another step closer.  I feel his arm on my side and pull me closer.

“Any news from the village?” I ask, getting comfortable as I can. There’s not much we can do until the storm passes. We have the coin we need to stick around, and there might be something we can do for the locals if it comes to that.

“A woman came in and asked after the well. Apparently it’s been poisoned,” Veign points in the general direction of the village well. It is a bit of a distance from the other buildings and rather out of the way from everything else and close to a small, wooded area. It is a poor location for a main source of water – forests hold many different kinds of beasts and insects. A swarm may have made the well their nest, that would certainly cause the water to become poisonous.

“They got too scared to build a home close to a forest and instead risk a tainted water source.” It is not always the same story, but many of the smallfolk have the superstition that building a home near a forest attracts evil spirits and beasts. While there is no avoiding the basilisk or the occasional wolf, civilized areas tend to drive those beasts away more than attract them.

“We could take a look,” Veign suggests, his shrugging shoulder knocking my head back. “Sorry,” he adds quickly. I frown at him and push myself up off the bed and onto my feet. “I suppose it would be better to look now, before the rain comes.” He follows suit, grabbing his bastard sword and shield while I wait for him by the door.

The hallway leads one way to a dead end and the other way to a long stairwell that shoots down two flights into another small room with a wooden door and a trapdoor behind the staircase. Ignoring the trapdoor, the other leads into an average-sized tavern that is open to the elements save for the rooms above our heads. The front of the four walls does not exist and instead the top is held up by four strong supports. The several tables and chair decorating the floor are all empty at this time of day, when most of the men are out working the farms. They will all likely be preparing for the rains that are about to come. A glance up at the clouds tells me that we have a good two hours before they reach us, if that.

A middle-aged man stands behind a raised counter, cleaning mugs and putting them in little boxes under the floor. He quickly notices us and ruffles his shaggy brown mustache at us. “I’ve no drink for ye,” he mutters, pointing to a small barrel on top of the counter. “Last o’ the stock right there. Needs save it for tow-night.”  His accent is clearly from Sar’tu. Many people come to Ermith from the southern continent to flee the constant wars and infighting that continent is so prone to.

“Not here for that, my good man,” Veign answers, leaning against the counter while I examine the woman cowering in the corner. The innkeep’s wife is a battered, frail woman who has definitely seen better days. The man is clearly prone to violence and takes it out on his wife; I hated him from the first time we met. He calling me a wench had little to do with that though. I let Veign do the talking, he is a much better people person than I. “We heard about the well, decided we’d like to take a look. Got any information on that issue?”

“We don’t need no stinkin’ demon hunters peering down our well,” the innkeep spits. If we were not paying for our rooms, this man would see us out sleeping in the dirt. “There ain’t no demons down there.”

“There might be,” Veign replies simply, shrugging his shoulders again. “We’re only offering to take a look. It’s the only source of water you guys have, isn’t it? It couldn’t hurt for us to take a look.”

“Ask Tamira,” the man says, jerking his head to the side. “She works tha mill over yonder. She’s tha one comin’ see me.”

“Tamira by the mill, got it.”

We take our leave of the tavern, stepping down to a dusty dirt road that will soon be crawling with worms to take advantage of the rain. The village takes a sort of ‘T’ shape from the front gates some distance away. Behind the buildings lining either side of the road are large fields of farmland. The villagers are in the middle of their harvest, so a portion of the grain they are growing is already harvested. The mill is on the road to the east and up a small hill. The windmill moves slowly with the wind and I can feel a slight chill in the air.

We climb the hill to the mill and find several carts lying about the road leading to the mill. Looks like the villagers don’t expect this storm to be very big, the carts are only protected by sheepskin cloth draped over them and staked into the ground. Closer to the mill the land is separated by a long fence that encircles the land. Off in the distance I can see a few cows grazing off of the grass fields. The Plains of Ermith are nothing if not full of grass, though the amber waves are cut out of the way when a village sets in.

We quickly find Tamira’s husband getting ready to herd the cattle back into the large barn building beside the mill and stop him. He is a burly man and somewhat more aged than the innkeeper. He introduces himself as Ordon and is more than willing to hear out our questions. He is far friendlier than the man giving us room, though the stigma of being a mage still has him very wary of my presence. I can see his anxiety in the lines below his eyes and the sweat on his brow. Another reason why I usually let Veign talk to people, I’ve been told I have a very intimidating aura despite my short stature. I can’t help it though; the intimidation aura runs in the family. Having magic doesn’t help much with that either, I suppose.

“Aye, you’ll want to talk to Tamira,” Ordon tells us. “She says she saw some manner of beast spitting in the well and ran as soon as it saw ‘er.” He looks to Veign and me nervously when we exchange glances. “Ya don’t think it could be some kind of demon, could you?”

“A beast spitting into the well,” Veign asks, “are you certain that’s what she said?”

“Aye, I try not to mis’ear my own wife. She gets mad if I do.”

“Could be a servant of despair,” I suggest, glancing to Veign. “Though I’ve not heard of one causing disease from spitting into a well. That’s unusually clever, even for them.” Servants of despair are lesser demons and hardly ever truly dangerous. The most damage I’ve seen one cause is minor illnesses in the weak and frail. From the sounds of it, no one has taken from this well since this Tamira woman saw the demon.

“Are those dangerous?” The man seems truly frightened now, as all common folk would if they heard a demon is spitting toxins into their drinking water.

“Only if it goes unchecked,” I tell him. “Servants are among the lowest class of demons that can’t cause any real harm to healthy people like you. Their targets are weaker: children, elderly, the already-sick. Exorcising them takes little effort. If it is just a servant, we’ll have the well cleaned up in at most an hour. Still, I think we ought to talk to Tamira to see if she remembers what the thing looks like.”

“You’ll find her inside my home,” Ordon informs us, pointing to a small hut beside the mill with his pitchfork. It is a quaint little home without much to make it stand out against the other buildings in the village. Having a large mill and cattle would make this couple wealthier than the others in the village, but not by much. Veign thanks him for his help and we leave him to his work.

Several children are running about the house, chasing each other with sticks. One of them nearly bumps into me without even realizing it. I step back to avoid the next one then hurry to catch up to Veign, using him as a shield against these brats. They might be little, but I’m little too. Just one of these little snots could knock me over easily if they tried to. Veign’s presence makes them shy away a bit, intimidated by his stature but not my aura. Veign is supposed to be the nice one out of the two of us.

Ordon’s wife, Tamira, answers the door when we knock and invites us inside. She is a plain woman with sagging bags under her eyes and brown hair peppered with graying spots. She offers us something to drink and a snack to cure our bellies, but we politely refuse the gifts. We don’t need to take anything from these people. If there really is a demon in the well, the villagers will be told that our services are not free. We would still do it if they couldn’t pay us, but it is a matter of our own survival that we take something in return.

“Your husband and the innkeeper recommended that we come speak with you about the strange beast you saw,” Veign tells the woman, then gestures to me. I’m too busy looking around at the house to notice. The fireplace sits in the center of the small home, the stone chimney doubling as a support and a place for the smoke to escape. Around that small camp sit a pair of rocking chairs and a long bench covered in light cloth filled with gray lamb’s wool. The walls are plain with very few decorations other than a small painting of a sunset behind the mill – a familiar sight from the other evening.

“A traveling artisan painted that for us,” Tamira says to me, noticing my fixation. “Didn’t charge us a single bit of silver for it neither.”

“Awfully nice of him,” I say absentmindedly. “It is a pretty painting. I am envious.”

“You are too kind.”

Veign glances down at me with a questioning look. I shrug my shoulders at him and allow him to speak to Tamira in my stead. “Ma’am, do you remember what the beast you saw looked like? We’re trying to figure out what it is before deciding if we can do anything about it.” Tamira looks a bit surprised at the request. Did she think she is entertaining simple visitors for her husband? She doesn’t seem oblivious, but I’ve been wrong about that sort of thing before.

“I’s not sure, ser,” she finally answers. “I hardly remember where the well is anymore.”

“Wait, you don’t know where the well is?” I have to speak up to this. Is she daft or is this demon stronger than I originally thought? Both could be true, but just to be sure I examine Tamira’s body for any signs of corruption. My vision gains a blue tint as I focus on her. I feel no disturbances in the air, but I can see a shift in the pattern around her head.

“I…no, I suppose I don’t,” she replies and I see the air shift and drop from her head. I slip my hands down into the purse by my belt and pull out a long ring of sandy brown beads and hold them up in front of me.


“Possession,” I cut Veign off before he can question me. “The demon has her mind but does not inhabit her. I can sever the connection. Stand back.” At my words, Veign takes a step away from me, but the demon controlling Tamira recognizes my words and sends her at me. Too late, the magic is already prepared. Magic pulses from the beads in my hand and freeze the woman in place first. Once she is secure, I summon a precise amount of magic and purify the woman’s mind. The air grows cold and the fire in the middle of the house splutters out, but those are temporary. The demon will not have sway over Tamira’s mind any longer.

“Good work.” Veign moves forward quickly to catch Tamira as exhaustion overcomes her and she falls. He places her in one of the rocking chairs carefully and turns to me.

“Servants of despair can’t possess people,” I tell him, but he already knows this. He is not a Purifier just because of his abilities. “It may actually be a real despair demon we’re dealing with.” Servants are considered the lowest tier of demon, a class one demon. Their influence is almost insignificant but always present and can become troublesome. A simple exorcism will usually drive them out for good. Above the servants are the thralls. Thralls of specific demons share many of their traits and power and are controlled by the demons directly. Class two demons are far more dangerous for these reasons – they have real power.

Class three demons take different forms and traits that define them. Despair is but one of many types of demons that interfere with the mortal realm. Unlike the classes beneath them they can change their outward appearance and cast magic to possess human or beast minds. Why one would bother to poison a well when it can ravage the entire village with magic, I’m not sure. But it is dangerous and needs to be banished.

“The possibility exists it could be stronger than a normal despair demon,” Veign mentions, which would be true in many cases, but I doubt it is the case here. Demons stronger than class threes have no business in tiny villages. Class four demons target mages relentlessly and with hatred common with their kind. Rage and sloth demons are but two examples and both are powerful representations of man’s greatest sins. They tempt mages with power in order to consume and possess them and cause as much damage in the human world as they can until the body they inhabit rots away or are killed. Then the cycle starts over again. Very few mages are able to resist and those that do are doomed to die anyway.

“That possibility has always existed.” I glance for a moment at the woman sleeping in her chair and search for any additional signs of corruption. Finding none, I confirm my thoughts with Veign and we head back to the inn to gather tools for the exorcism. The innkeeper sees us come in but does not ask after us. He is unconcerned about Tamira or the well, it seems, but after a quick inspection I can tell he is not possessed. He is just an incredibly cynical and asocial man. Certainly not worth my time considering.

The tools that we need are simple enough to gather. A tiny pouch of ashes from a cremated goat, mixed with a pinch of salt. The smell is nothing to get excited about, but to a demon it makes the perfect bait along with a vial of blood taken from a common farm animal. A small blue crystal the size of my index finger is the last thing that I need. It is called Liusia and forms in vast quantities underground. It is not necessary but I would prefer to attract a demon with a magic that does not belong to me. I may end up attracting more than just one demon if I did that. The idea is simple: demons are attracted by blood and magic. Combining the two will allow me to create a bait that can draw the demon away from the place it has claimed as it’s lair, in this case the well.

I take a small pinch of the ashes and sprinkle it into the vial of blood, quickly corking the vial and mixing the contents together. With that done, I slip the vial into a secure spot in my pouch. “We should do this quickly,” I tell Veign, moving so that we can get going. “Once the storms arrive, the demon will be able to feed freely.” Most demons are active only under the cover of darkness, it draws less attention. There are very few beings powerful enough to withstand the light.

The path leading to the well is clear of foliage but does not make a straight path to the thing. The forest at the end of the path surrounds the well. The grove where the well is built up is completely overgrown, green pines and everbushes suffocating what little space is left. The air here is clear, but I can taste a foul wind coming up from the depths of the well. The well is made mostly of stone and built up like a shrine, useless charms of bronze hanging from the wooden pillars. I tap one of the bells and it bangs out a horrible tune from its broken sides.

I glance over the edge of the well and see the water, clear and crystal blue at surface level. It looks completely healthy, but the smell is much more powerful now that my head hangs over the edge. No one else would be able to smell this stench- I only can because of my magic. I reach for the vial of blood and uncork it, ready to dump the contents down in the water. Before I do, I tap the Liusia crystal against the glass. The vial shatters to dust in my hands and the blood falls without a drop of it sticking to me. Immediately the water begins to change, bubbling and turning black.

“Stand back,” I instruct Veign, following my own advice and taking several steps away from the well until my back is close to one of the pines. The air shifts and vibrates around the well; the demon has taken notice of the bait and now looks to those who disturb its rest. From the corner of my eye I see Veign grasp onto his shield and hold it out in front of his body, angled slightly down and his bastard sword resting across his shoulders, ready to strike at any moment.

The air distorts around the well and shoots out, colliding with Veign’s shield and my barrier. The green magic protecting me doesn’t budge from the force of the shockwave, but I see Veign struggle to withstand the attack. A black hand rises up from the depths of the well, its long, skinny claws gripping onto the stone walls and crushing the rock under its grip. Another black claw rises up and the demon lifts the rest of its body up from the well. It takes the form of a naked woman, its skin a putrid green color and its limbs turned black against the light of the sun. The light causes its skin to steam and release a noxious gas. I snatch the beads from my pouch and gesture them towards Veign. A protective layer of my magic now surrounds him, guarding him from the poison.

“How rude of you to disturb my sleep, little witch,” the demon moans, her voice wracked with some indescribable pleasure. Her voice causes my ears to ring in annoyance. Veign freezes where he is, the demon is likely trying to tempt him now with visions. “I’ll see to it that you are taken care of, my sweet little rebel,” her whispers are like poison and her toothless smile speaks to her age. This is a very old demon, but not the smartest of them if she’s willing to pick a fight.

The number one rule of dealing with a demon is thus: you must not speak to one. Speaking to a demon allows their toxins to enter the mouth, giving them another tool to send illusions of things that you desire. The demons of despair are known to send images of hopelessness, but this is not a demon of despair. The moment it showed itself I knew that it is in fact a demon of desire. The differences are very little, especially the way that they fight. Both rely heavily on powerful illusions to subjugate their enemies and wrap them in pleasure before they suck their souls out.

It is a surprise to me, then, that the demon is targeting me and not Veign. True, his training as a Purifier would allow him to break free of an illusion if he recognizes it, but the desire demon would have a much easier time trying to convert him and not me. Mages are not inherently resistant to a demon’s urges, but I am a special case. I see the demon raise its hands towards me and I freeze, unmoving. Paralyzing illusions, I recognize it immediately. The demon smiles lustfully, caressing its body as it starts to approach.

“You should have let me be, little pet,” it cooes. Veign starts towards it, but she casts a different illusion over his eyes. He will see the demon back off, most likely, and disappear into the shadows of the trees and believe I will follow him. True enough, Veign runs after the illusion. Now I have the demon to deal with all by myself. “How do you like this form?” The demon whispers, caressing its body once again. “Or perhaps you would prefer the big, strong, hero-type?”

“I’d prefer to see you kneeling, actually,” I tell it, throwing the bag of ashes into its face. It screeches and jumps away from me, clawing at the dust covering its eyes. It won’t matter what she tries, I gave that dust the purpose “Blind” and so it will blind whatever it clings to. I raise my beads and summon my power, causing two white chains to shoot up from the ground and wrap around my enemy, forcing the demon to the ground.

Once the dust clears, the demon kneels before me, rendered helpless under the strength of my magic. Frowning I move closer to the demon and put my sandal on its head, pushing the creature down into the dirt. I can feel it struggling beneath my weight and the weight of the chains, but it will not break free. Not when it made the mistake of targeting me first. “How can you not be affected by my illusions?” It hisses at me, venom spitting out from its teeth.
“Because I am immune to such things,” I tell it. “Most mages train to break through illusions, those that think it is important anyway. I did not train to break them, but to see them.”

“I don’t understand.” Red eyes open, I can see the confusion and fear running through them. No matter what kind of demon I am dealing with, whether it is as powerful as this one or a weak servant, seeing them cower in fear before my power is always satisfying.

“You do not need to understand.” The one and most important rule about fighting a demon does not apply to me. From the very beginning, before I even came into my magic, I could not see illusions. This body and my blood refuse to even acknowledge that type of magic. That is why, out of all the fully trained and highly skilled mages in the temple, I am the most suited to dealing with demons. Their illusions simply do not work on me. “The only thing you need to know is Oblivion.” With a single word and a portion of my power, chains similar to the ones already pinning the demon pierce through its body, its black blood flying out of it. The demon screams echo through the air as its body is torn apart and turns to naught but ashes.

I step towards the well and poke my head out over the edge of it. The water is still tainted, I can sense the power fading slowly but it is still there. It will likely remain for several days if left alone. Instead of waiting, I reach into my pouch and take out a little more of the goat’s ashes. To it I whisper the purpose of “Purify” and dump the ashes in the well. As soon as the dust touches the water I see it beginning to work. The well will be clean again once the ashes settle, for now they will remain on the surface of the water. I’ll need to inform the villagers of this.

“Auza!” Veign approaches at a light jog from the forest. With the demon banished, the illusion he saw will no longer affect him. He stops just before he reaches me and glances at the black bloodstains on the ground at my feet. “You took care of it then? Sorry I couldn’t help much.”

“There’s no need to apologize, Veign,” I tell him, brushing off my fingers on my skirt and putting the beads back into my pouch. “I cannot expect everyone to have my level of resistance to illusions.”

“That’s for sure,” he laughs. He straps his sword and shield to the thick leather strap on his back. He did not get to use his abilities this time, but I also did not expect the demon to miscalculate so heavily. “Shall we go and tell the villagers?”

“Give me a moment.” I reach for the bronze charms hanging from the well’s shrine and rub some of the goat ashes on it. I gave the ashes the purpose “Ward” so that they drive away lesser spirits and beasts of the wild. It will not last very long, but it is worth more than these false charms. Bronze cannot hold magic just as iron can’t. A shell of magic may be cast over metal, but it cannot be enchanted as some precious gems may be enchanted. For now, the ashes will have to do until these villagers can afford something better, if they even care about warding spirits away.


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