With all of our preparations finished, we simply had to board the gigantic silver worm; Ailyn said it was called a Maglev. She was the only person who understood how to operate the device which controlled the creature, so it was her job to guide us to our destination.
The incredibly spacious metallic tunnel’s entrance had changed considerably since the last time I had seen it. There was a large concrete platform on each side of the beast; which allowed people to easily walk into its body from every entrance and load large quantities of equipment, supplies, armaments, and even several huge war animals into its rear compartment.
In total: over three hundred soldiers, fifty merchants, a hundred construction workers, and a decent amount of adventurers came with us on the mithril monster. Conor was being sent by Beatrix, along with his small army, to defend or invade the mysterious city at the end of the labyrinth.
Ethir brought a myriad of weapons, such as: pistols, knives and short-swords, along with many bullets and the materials required to create them. We had most of our combat-related clothing and armors with us, packed away in very large satchels and thick leather bags.
All of his outfits looked nearly identical to each-other, consisting of: tight ebony leather, covered in a black mithril cloak and hood: They were much heavier than they appeared. On his face was a slightly different mask than the usual one; it wasn’t a blank obsidian oval with nothing but eye-holes.
There seemed to be a piece of black leather covering his nose and mouth; while the upper part was made from a beautiful mithril, which was as reflective as a mirror. Where his eyebrows would have been, were dozens of sparkling red mana crystals, embedded into the metal.
His normally golden irises appeared to be tinted orange as they glowed brightly. On each side of his forehead were relatively large, black mithril, horns; which curved upward and were easily visible outside his overhanging hood.
As for myself; I was wearing my own leather outfit which wasn’t very glamorous, but considering the circumstances… I wasn’t particularly worried about my appearance. I wore all of my piercings, even the ones on my nose, lips and eyebrows; power was more important than comfort.
Only one ring on each of my middle fingers was necessary; there were red gems and mithril were embroidered in various patterns all over my wrist and shin guards. My boots were of a similar design, so that I could cast various movement related spells through the soles of my feet with ease.
I wore a hooded cloak, nearly identical to Ethir’s; which could have been used to improve my flight magic, or act as protection from: blades, arrows, fire, even stray bullets. When we entered the train, I was greeted by many familiar faces; some where my former students, others were friends or associates.
Hiwel’s ex-bodyguard Julie, was Conor’s second in command; the two of them, along with Ailyn, were waiting for us in the control room at the front of the hollow worm. The relatively tall woman wearing full elven-steel plate armor, and the gigantic man whom had a scaled up version of the same attire; were both sitting down on the very low bench to my left.
Neither of them could stand up straight without their helmets smacking on the ceiling; but there were at least a dozen centimeters before I would have had the same problem. Ailyn smiled at me, then stated “I was afraid you guys wouldn’t make it. I’m glad you’re both feeling better.” sincerely; as she turned towards the mission’s leader for permission to disembark.
Conor cleared his throat loudly, struggled to stand up, then crawled across the floor and squeezed through the relatively wide doorway. After a few seconds, he yelled “Brace yourselves! This is gonna be rough!” in a booming voice; my ears were ringing afterward.
When I turned back towards the front; the silvery metal seemed to become translucent, and I was able to clearly see the brightly illuminated amphitheater a few hundred meters in front of us. There was a large plaza between the front of the maglev and the massive building; it was filled with thousands of people who were waiting to watch the mysterious creature depart.
The marketplace and buildings were mainly used by miners; they actually had small villages inside the various tunnels and only left periodically to sell their ore, pick up large shipments of food, or buy new equipment. Ailyn excitedly shouted “Everyone strap into your seats! We’re taking off!”, as she placed both of her hands on the colorless glowing crystal; I nearly fell to my knees from the sudden elevation.
Conor yelled “Oh shit!” in a surprised tone, which was followed by a loud clanging; then scraping of metal against the ground, as the creature quickly tilted its head upward. Ailyn was sitting in a special chair that locked her into place the moment she touched the mana gem, but Ethir and I were still struggling to stand slightly behind her.
I used earth magic to temporarily seal my boots to the metallic floor; he didn’t seem to have any issues with keeping balance. For a moment, the front of the maglev was completely upside down; but Ethir just gracefully landed feet-first on the ceiling, before rejoining me on the ground again: after the beast had leveled out.
Ailyn cheerfully yelled “Wohoo! Here we go!”, as we started dramatically increasing our speed; down the shiny metallic tunnel. If I wasn’t used to the sudden accelerations during advanced flight magic, I probably would have passed out like Julie did.
Conor’s screams could be heard the loudest; even amongst the rat tribe, elven women, and squawking ostriches. We accelerated for two minutes, before our driver announced “Okay, we’ve reached this train’s maximum velocity of three-hundred miles per hour! Unless we lose power, or crash into something, the rest of the ride should be pretty boring!
“We should be arriving at White Mithril in approximately eight hours! Try to get some sleep while you can! There are bathrooms in each compartment, and the cafeteria is in the middle of the train! Make sure not to crowd the halls though!” in an amplified voice; through some sort of mechanism which could be easily heard throughout the maglev.
However, I immediately noticed a problem while walking towards the rounded glass-like wall in front of me. We were travelling so quickly, that we should have passed the horde of blood elves by then; yet there were only a handful of magical beasts.
There was no way that I could sleep in such a situation, but that doesn’t mean I just stood there the entire time. Ethir and I spent at least a half-hour in the cafeteria; they kept a stock a high quality antler-bear blood, even though I was the only one who actually drank it raw.
It was mostly used as seasoning for vegetable dishes, as an ingredient in some of the more expensive sauces. The flavor was like a less potent and slightly salty version of what Michael used to taste like: so it was one of my favorites.
Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry and apple juice were each pretty high on my list as well. I used to love tea when I was still a wood elf, but when I tried it again as a vampire… my reaction was very unpleasant.
If there were traces of certain kinds of herbs or mushrooms in any of my soups or drinks, my throat closed up and I lost the ability to cast magic until I could breathe again. I wasn’t the only person with such problems though; Ailyn nearly suffocated when she tried to eat a squirrel tribe delicacy, walnut and acorn salad.
Three hours into the trip, I started to hear something; a sinister whisper, drowned out by the deep roar of the massive worm’s mana. The seductive aura lured me towards the back of the maglev; past the animals, equipment, and supply compartments, was a small oval shaped room.
It was completely empty, aside from a single chair in the center of the floor, but sitting on that elaborately decorated throne… was my enemy. He was grinning with his despicable fangs exposed, and a his orangish snake-like eyes followed me; as I slowly walked to the left side of the room.
His skin was incredibly pale; in contrast to the black veins, that were clearly visible all over his face. He was clothed in a thick, dark-red robe, that seemed to be made of boiling blood: which was barely being kept together.
I could barely even hear his incredibly muffled aura, but it was deceptively beautiful; I knew that he wasn’t really there. Yet, I was still terrified of him; the monster that murdered my husband, children, parents, siblings, everyone I ever cared about: except my nephew.
The demon snickered obnoxiously; then he whispered “Can you hear me? I’m not really good at this whole long distance telepathy shit… “ in a nearly inaudible voice. He cleared his throat, then yelled “How about now!? Is it working yet?! Hello?!” in a deafening roar that literally made my ears start bleeding.
His crimson irises seemed to start glowing brighter, as they focused on me; I fell to my knees from the sharp pains that shot throughout my body. My mind was clouded by a terror that I had only felt once before then; and I had to fight with all of my willpower, just to stand upright in that monster’s illusory presence.
He sighed, as his gaze shifted to my right; to the man who entered the room after I did, and was nearly impossible to detect until he removed his mask. Ethir muttered “Compared to Michael… you aren’t very powerful.” in a trembling voice to the demon, as he helped me stand.
Belial’s back erupted into a pitch-black inferno that blanketed the back of the room in a thick smog. His aura tore a hole in the gigantic metal worm’s mana pool; the floor began to rumble violently when he roared “So that bastard is on this planet too?!” furiously; as he stood up and towered over us.
At that point he didn’t even slightly resemble Eredhon; just a three meter tall vortex of swirling blood and flames. It felt like thousands of needles were filling my lungs with each breath, and I could barely see anything through my hazy eyes.
The demon began laughing maniacally; then he yelled “I suppose this game wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t have a halfway decent opponent! Damn it! I’m sure that little bitch has already switched sides then!” arrogantly.
When the door opened up behind us, the whole room returned to the way it was when I first entered. Ethir and I glanced at each other for a moment; before Conor said “Oh shit! Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt; I just heard a weird aura coming from back here. We’re coming up on the intersection now; you guys might want to rejoin us in the control room… when you’re done.” in a startled voice.
I was on my knees and couldn’t actually see him behind the red-goblin who was trying to help me stand. By the time I got up; he was already gone, and I didn’t have time to ask him how he broke us out of that illusion.
While we were walking back towards the front of the maglev; there was a clamor all around us and everyone was looking out the left-side windows. Then I saw them; standing in the northern tunnel entrance were at least a hundred thousand dark elves, but their appearances and auras were warped dramatically.
Their mana was chaotic and overwhelming, yet not much greater than the average magical beast. Some of them had grown horns or antlers, while others were even taller than Conor; but there was only one true demon among them.
He was still wearing the appearance of a wood-elven man; the kindhearted and handsome person whom I sincerely loved. Belial was standing on the right shoulder of a massive and deformed, obsidian-skinned giant.
Ethir muttered “Why was he… waiting here?” in a worried voice; which I could barely hear, over the noisy humans and dark dwarves around us. We could only see them for a few seconds before we entered the eastern tunnel, but I definitely knew it was him.
That demon was wearing a smug grin as he waved at us; a casual taunt that should have filled me with intense rage. Yet, I could only feel a shiver down my spine, because I knew that he was too powerful for us to challenge directly.
After regaining my nonexistent composure; I turned to the curious masked man and anxiously murmured “If there weren’t any blood elves attacking Black Mithril, and there are only a hundred thousand of them here…”, before getting cut off by a loud beeping noise: that echoed throughout the train.
Ailyn’s amplified voice angrily shouted “Raelin, Ethir, stop having intercourse and come to the control room please!” in an incredibly urgent tone, before a loud rumble echoed around us. I sighed dramatically, as we began pushing our way through the rowdy crowd of heavily-armored men and women of varying sizes.
When we finally reach the front of the train, Conor furiously roared “That fucking bastard! Did you see him?! Damn it! We should go back and kill him right now! Screw White Mithril!”; it made me have to cast a simple wind spell to protect my sensitive ears.
Julie was struggling to keep the rampaging giant from breaking any of the very delicate looking devices, that were attached to the walls and ceiling. She yelled “Calm down! We cannot abandon our mission for petty revenge!” in an irritated voice, as she kneed him in the groin; which let out a loud metallic pang.
He was completely unscathed, since his armor was shock resistant, but still responded to the attack with a loud grunt. Then Ailyn screamed “Shut up! I’m trying to drive here! Unless you want me to crash this thing into the ground like you did; I suggest you sit down and stop acting like a child!” in a shrill tone.
As she rolled the crystalline orb slightly to the right; the entire worm jerked to the left suddenly, and caused both of the shiny wrestlers to slip on the overly-smooth floor. After crashing into the wall, they seemed to calm down momentarily.
I sighed, then told her “We weren’t having sex… but even if we had been, you shouldn’t announce something like that to everyone. I definitely don’t remember teaching you to be so crass Lyn.” in an irritated voice; while trying to shrug off the embarrassment.
Ethir loudly whispered “There were at least… three-hundred thousand… probably more.” while glaring at Conor; who finally stopped yelling and just stared back for a few seconds. Then he returned to his normal cheerful demeanor and grinned obnoxiously.
Julie muttered “That… sounds like a lot.” sheepishly, while taking her helmet off; revealing a face that seemed much more youthful than I had remembered. It was one of the side effects of consuming large quantities of magical beast meat, or other mana rich foods; which she managed to capitalize on: Even her teeth had been replaced with new ones.
Conor started laughing, turned towards the woman sitting next to him on the bench; then boisterously said “That’s three times as many as that army you were so afraid of back there. Hell, we only have about fifty thousand bullets! Ah, I haven’t been this excited for a fight since the last time I was down in this shitty labyrinth… I wonder what Michael’s been up to lately?” while glancing between the two of us.
His own helmet, which covered his entire head; except for two small slits so that he could see and a few small holes for him to breathe through, had been knocked off in the scuffle. His nose was bleeding lightly and there was a relatively large bruise on his left eye, but they were both rapidly healing.
Ailyn turned her seat around to face us and nonchalantly revealed “Lorelei told me that he was in the third ring, in an ancient elven city called Ael Tol. Probably about four hundred miles south of our current position. Although, she then went on to describe the various unrealistic and completely implausible ways he penetrated… never-mind.”; then she sighed and spun back toward the controls.
Four hours of reminiscing and casually chatting about inconsequential things passed by incredibly slowly. Even if I tried to feign composure, my heart was pumping far too rapidly; the closer we came to our destination, the more difficult it was for me to calm myself.
I wasn’t a warrior or a soldier, I had never even killed a person before in my entire life; there was no possible way that I could have been prepared for what I had to do in that terrible place. Ethir was as innocent as I was, but he had a level of resolve that I had been incapable of achieving at the time.
We passed over the enormous horde of monsters, that couldn’t even be considered blood-elves any longer, an hour before we started to slow down. Ailyn announced “We’re here, welcome to White Mithril! Looks a lot like our city did before the dragon attacked; kind of anticlimactic…” in a sarcastic voice, as we continued outside of the tunnel at an incredibly slow pace.
Once we left the metallic labyrinth; the giant worm slowly fell towards the ground, until it was only hovering at less than a meter. We cruised past two, very large, completely open gates and came to a halt several meters from a large crowd of incredibly short, stocky, and remarkably hairy humans.
The maglev gently landed and it was easy to see the shocked expressions on their faces: which was understandable given the circumstances. I was pretty surprised as well the first time I saw that metallic monster, but what I couldn’t comprehend was the strange show that was being performed on the stage in front of us.
Well, it wasn’t something that I had ever been exposed to before; so it took me a few seconds to grasp what was about to unfold before my eyes. Conor quietly put on his helmet, making a serious expression that I had never seen him use before.
Julie looked like she was about to start screaming, but she held it in; she took a deep breath and covered her face with mithril-plated steel. Ailyn sighed, then angrily muttered “Well, my job is done for now… I’m going to get some rest while I still can; try to save some of the ammunition for the horde of giant monsters.”; as she took her hands off the controls, leaned her head back in her relatively large, fluffy brown fur covered, chair: that reclined with a loud creaking noise.
On the two-meter high, twenty wide, wooden stand; there were were many large metal cages spread out. Inside of them were people of various races; one was even filled with dark dwarves.
Among the crowd were a few strange creatures that had humanoid torsos attached at the waist, to the bodies of horses, cattle, or deer. Most of which were being ridden by dwarves wearing beautiful white plate-armor, while carrying swords and shields made from a similar material.
There were many races aside from those incredibly short humans; but each of them were completely naked, and wearing strange steel collars or shackles: as if they were livestock. On the stage was a man with an elaborately-braided brown beard; his skin was very tan, and his robe seemed to be made out of a fine colorless silk.
He was grasping a chain in his left hand, and holding a strange white metallic rod in the other. The moment I peered into that little emaciated cat-eared girl’s eyes, it finally clicked inside of my mind.
Ethir muttered “Slave… market…” in a quiet voice, that was seething with rage and disdain. As Conor and Julie left the room and began shouting orders to their soldiers, I started to feel it welling up inside of me; a fury more intense than I could have ever imagined.
Iris was rampaging within my mind, trying to take control of my body; screaming for me to punish the criminals. While I was struggling to stay conscious and hyperventilating, the massacre had already begun.
In the vanguard was a giant man, at least seven feet tall, entirely clad in mithril-plated steel armor. He was swinging around a massive double-edged sword, which was far too heavy for anyone to wield without using earth magic.
One slash from Conor’s unreasonably thick blade was more than enough to cleave a dozen dwarves in half at a time. I unconsciously chuckled when I saw him use the flat side of the weapon, to splatter a heavily-armored swordsman within his surprisingly durable white plate-mail.
The muffled sound of gunfire, released me from my indecision… I couldn’t be like Ailyn. Even though most of the people being slaughtered probably deserved it, there were plenty of innocents who were mercilessly killed in the process.
I turned toward Ethir and his sorrowful gaze met with mine; he already knew what I was going to do. We quickly left the train from the exit on the right-hand side of the control room, and used a bit of wind magic to lift ourselves onto the ten-meter high roof of the maglev.
As I calmly walked up to the very tip of the creatures head; I gazed down coldly towards the fifty thousand or so dwarves that were scattered about the massive plaza. Many people, even their soldiers, were running away from Conor, Julie, and their incredibly imposing battalion of berserkers; whom had seemingly demonic weapons and impenetrable armor.
Our mages were completely destroying theirs; even though a massive army seemed to be encroaching upon us, the dwarves had no chance at victory. Slaves of every race, age, and gender, were being gunned down along with their masters.
Most of the three or so blood crazed fools, and the couple dozen adventurers, were either mine or Ethir’s students at some point. Yet, they had seemed to have forgotten the most basic rule… never waste time, energy, or mana.
Anyone who received Michael’s mark seemed to lose their senses when it came to punishing the disgusting criminals who broke his laws. I have no idea who each of them saw or heard, but if it was anywhere near as compelling as Iris’ screams of hatred and rage… I honestly couldn’t blame them for losing control.
When the army of twenty-thousand heavily-armored dwarves, carrying steel shields and spears; marched into the plaza from each side of the massive white pyramid, a little less than a mile in front of me, I was finally ready.
With my left hand I began charging one of the simplest water spells; using my right, I was preparing a similarly basic earth magic technique. However, the scale on which I was performing them was what made the task so difficult.
I took a deep breath, then released a thunderous scream; that was accompanied by lightning bolts erupting from the tips of my ears. Even though I was temporarily deafened, I could clearly see that the chaos had been halted.
When my hearing returned, I yelled “Everyone that wants to live, get on the ground! Now!” in a furious voice, that was enhanced by wind magic. Conor and his soldiers were the first to respond, by immediately following my orders.
The slaves; even the ones whom had large, horse-like bodies, quickly followed after them. Then the frightened dwarven women and children, some of which were already severely wounded, were the last to heed my warning.
My right hand was aimed toward the army that was still marching forward. Their commander was riding an incredibly muscular, brown-skinned, centaur woman; and wearing extravagant, white plate-armor.
They were at least a hundred meters away from me, when I released that spell… I couldn’t watch, but I clearly remember the sound of their armors crumpling. There was terrible popping sound; as everything that was inside, exploded out of every opening.
Even if I didn’t see it happen, I could feel my mana crushing them all to death; but it wasn’t over after that display. My gaze was fixed on the thirty-thousand dwarves who were either trying to flee, or simply standing and staring at me, or what I had just done.
There was no escape, no turning back, I had already crossed that threshold; the moment my right arm fell limp, I raised my left. Tears were streaming down my unmasked face; I’m sure Lori would have found it comical, that I was crying while using a spell like that.
It wasn’t quite as grotesque, but watching all of those people; crimson liquid draining from their eyes, I couldn’t help but giggle at how silly it was. I screamed “We came here to save them from the monsters! Why did you make me do that?! Don’t you see what you’ve done?! Those children are not responsible for the sins of their parents!” in a hoarse voice, filled with more regret than I had ever felt before in my entire life.
Iris was snickering in the back of my mind; then she sarcastically told me “Don’t be so hard on yourself, brat. Massacring fifty-thousand people isn’t such a big deal; when you start accidentally destroying planets… then you should probably dial it down a notch.” while appearing in front of me. I quickly released a torrent of blue flames; only a few meters from my face, and she was gone when the relatively short spell was over.
Even with my immense mana pool, and using those beautiful red jewels to lessen the load, I was completely drained after those two massive spells. I fell to my knees and planted my hands onto the worm’s silver carapace; watching my hideous reflection as I tried to smile, but only saw a grimace.
Ethir was wearing a solemn expression on his mask-less face; as he rested his chin on my left shoulder, and wrapped his leather-clad arms around my waist. He whispered “You aren’t a monster.” in a sincere voice; as I continued to watch myself sob in the mirror, while slowly blotting out my reflection with the clear liquid that was falling from my eyes.
While he was consoling me to the best of his ability, and I was acting like a child again; I could hear Conor furiously shouting “Focus on the most severely wounded! Hey, you! Where the hell do you think your going you bastard?! Julie, deploy the judgment squad and take your guardians to secure the perimeter! Sergeant Stone-hammer; get that damn juror out here, now!”, muffling the sound of my whimpering.
Regardless of the method, killing people or animals that had weak auras was disturbingly easy. It wasn’t some great revelation of mine… I had known how fragile everything was, since the day my daughters were eviscerated in front of me.
I was completely powerless to resist back then; only able to take a single bite of that monster’s ankle. He didn’t even care enough about my life to make sure that I was dead; that was how insignificant my thirty years of blissful ignorance had been.
There were creatures throughout the world, like what I had become, who could massacre thousands of people as if they were swatting a fly. Yet, even if at that moment; Ethir had decided to press the muzzle of his pistols against the back of my unprotected head and pulled their triggers, I probably would have survived.
Although, according to what Michael had told me, even if I had died… I would have just been reborn again anyway; that was probably why killing was so simple for him. From his perspective; he was merely removing garbage from his sight, and sending it somewhere else.
However, that kind of mindset wasn’t something that I was capable of at the time; I had definitely become powerful, but I was still helpless against my own feelings of guilt. Even if I wasn’t mentally prepared to fight against people; those demons that were steadily marching towards the city, were a completely different matter.
At their incredibly slow pace, it was going to take at least a month for the first monsters to charge into White Mithril. We didn’t have nearly enough forces to fight a war on two fronts; even if one of those sides were too weak to actually pose a threat.
Fortunately, Lori had expected a similar situation to occur and we had plenty of time to prepare for their arrival; creatures beyond my darkest nightmares… hundreds of thousands of them.