GGCE 25.1 – Cursed from Birth

(Unproofed.)

With a final cry, the Lich fell limp as a mithril blade leaped from its shoulder as Avery sliced the leader in half diagonally from the hip. Her golden eyes had lost their luster that they held before, but after several hours of fighting, even she was exhausted. Just as the halves of the undead fell to the floor, the first rays of dawn broke the horizon. The light chased away the fragile darkness. Large gashes in the surroundings and craters welcomed the new day along with thousands of yellowed bones and rusted armor.

The Lich had been felled on the hill they had been first spotted on, even though it wanted to flee, he couldn’t outrun the white-haired goddess so he went down fighting with all his might, conjuring minion after minion until he himself held no more mana. Avery sat on the charred earth below as she looked over the old camp. Fenrir stood amongst the broken carriages and wagons that were not moved in time. She wasn’t sure how many died and who escaped.

The battle may have not been such a problem to a normal warrior, but with all her power, she wasn’t a true warrior. Her tactics were born from a videogame and the monsters did not act like their fellow counterparts. They did not attack in small groups nor was there a limit to the number of minions the boss could summon. Attacks from the Dark Knights came at her from every angle and she found she was not indestructible. It was the first time she had suffered real damage, not to a health bar but to her body. She felt her body was tender in all the places the swords had tried to stab at her.

Navara appeared to her right, much worse for wear than she was. Her beautiful clothes were torn around her midriff where it appeared sword had glanced her, slicing to the muscle. Blood caked her upper thighs are she weakly made her way over with pale of face. Avery quickly moved into gear made her way to her over the piles of bones. “Hey, hey, hey! Sit! You’re wounded!” The maiden said as she quickly cleared a spot for her to sit down. “I’m okay.” She said with a weak voice as Avery helped her sit on the cleared spot.

“Jesus! No, you’re definitely not!” Avery’s face was almost as pale as the beast-girl at the sight of her ghastly wound. “Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay.” Navara smiled before she groaned at the laugh that caught in her lungs. “Shh.” Avery placed her hand over the girl’s wound. A warm golden light grew from her fingertips just as the sun peaked over the horizon. Even though she felt she was empty, she knew there was still more juice in here and she slowly poured it into the large gash in her stomach. Navara felt a wave of euphoria wash over her. Her body swayed slightly, threatening to fall over before Avery caught her with her free hand.

Along with the pale face, there were dark rings around the girl’s eyes to attest to the fatigue she was under. She knew to fight for that long shouldn’t have been humanly possible, but Navara held out while she and Fenrir were exactly to be held to normal standards.

Fenrir finally approached the couple. His fur was matted with his blood and he limped with much difficulty. Large gashes marred his sides. “I’ll get you after her.” Avery told the large wolf. “Mm. Take your time, my wounds aren’t as fatal.” He said before he sat down behind them. Avery couldn’t handle using large amounts of mana in one go so her healing had to be at the medium level rather than the instant healing she could have done in the game. Rather, she was thankful for Fenrir and the Magnus to help her in figuring out how to recast most of her spells.

Mana was such an ambiguous concept that most people weren’t cut out to be a mage, however, Avery was quite the imaginative woman. She helped designed parts of the game concepts after all. What the two failed to tell her was the Medium level of spellcasting was something most people would never reach until their later years. Imagination was not so common among the people whose livelihoods weren’t as idle as hers. Thus, spellcasting was normally reserved for the talented, nobility, or the lucky.

With a few minutes, Navara out of her critical state and she moved over to Fenrir. “How many died…?” She asked as she stroked his fur with much more mana than she used with Navara. “Most of the servants and Mercenaries. The leaders had already escaped into the forest with the client when the situation became bleak. They’re all probably halfway back to the capital now.” Fenrir reported. He spat on their names, the mercenaries who deserted the battle. With their combined strength, they could have protected and safely escort the rest of the caravan away. But they ran after their leaders. Afterward, the wolf couldn’t stem the tide of undead that wrapped around them.

Maybe when he was younger, may have looked upon the humans like ants. Now in his later years, his view of humans was much more magnanimous. He felt horror when he couldn’t stem the tide of the undead. Even when he began to use the small, but powerful, amount of spells he knew. They only managed to buy minutes before the damage was covered by new minions. Fenrir’s eyes never left the smoldering carriages, his eyes dim with grieve over his powerlessness. “Maybe If I was younger…” His thoughts were just as dark.

“You did what you could.” Avery muttered as she healed the last major wound on his neck. Avery was sure he did, but she was the one who needed the comfort most. While she kept a strong front, she knew she could have fought harder – faster. But he inability to master magic and her new sense held her back. She was not sure if she could die, but the moment she knew she could be hurt, she regretted charging headlong into the horde. She played the hours-long battle in her mind, micro-analyzing every detail. She could have cast a spell here, save that one. There was an opening there where she could have ended the long fight.

“You did well too, Mistress; and I think that wound is good.” He shrugged his shoulder as Avery noticed she had zoned into her own thoughts and had just been leaking mana into the air since the wound was completely healed. “Ah, yes.” She sounded distant as she moved onto the next one. “There are only a few bad really bad ones from what I can see, but be sure to tell me if I miss anything…” Avery said while Fenrir nodded slowly. Navara looked over the carnage. “So what were they after? They looked like they were looking for something.”

“Last time I fought them, they were hunting down sources of power so-” Avery’s voice cut off before she looked at Fenrir. “The Control Orb…?” Avery asked Fenrir. “That would be a source of power. A big one at that.” The Orb was in Avery’s item box. It took a few days for her to figure out how to cast the space spell, but she was able to before their trip. A lot of her old items that she hadn’t bothered to clear out were still there too. It wasn’t unending and still had the same space restriction before, capped at two-hundred item spaces. “Mistress, if I may, I do believe they tried to chase after the rest of the Caravan. We should check for them on the way back.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“I’ll see that the king strips you of your damnable title!” A horse male voice shouted after the Third Prince as he stepped out of the Academy Council Chambers where the parents of the slain children had kicked up a storm. On his heels was one of his brother’s guards. Both their faces were dark. “Sorry, you had to stand through all that.” Desmond sighed as they both stopped by a flight of stairs to the first floor. Thick white granite pillars rose on both sides of the steps before ornately carved railings encased them down to the bottom where white stone griffins stood on their hind legs as post toppers.

The reception hall was echoed with the steps of several scholars, admin, and parents with their children. The walls were adorned with the skeletons of monsters from Avery’s Age with bronze plates under them detailing what scholars of his age believed they were. The building itself was built in the Age of Gods, its grandeur couldn’t be seen from the Palace since it was built on at the foot of the Noble District and its roofs were long since covered in vines and moss. It’s grounds occupied the entire district beneath the Noble District with its cathedrals, villas, and plazas. It, in of itself, was its own city dedicated to the Academia and other pursuits of knowledge.

It was a place of law and logic, in normal circumstances; today was not normal in any sense. There were very few cases in the history of the Academy where an expedition had been nearly annihilated. This expedition was even stranger, with the only surviving members being the detachment of soldiers, the royal family members, and a foreign princess – plus a stranger. Even when Desmond testified before the council, he found it hard to believe and he was the one who lived through it by sheer luck – or fate. He may never know.

But that still wouldn’t soothe over the riled parents. Many of them were bought off, much to Desmond’s disdain. He never liked how parents could see their children as more than pieces of golden crowns. A disposable life that a number could be attached to.

What made it hard were the parents who cared for their children. It was easy to tell which ones cared. Desmond became fairly fluent in seeing that side of people. His heart ached for those people. To watch a mother wail over the accounts of their child’s death. Anger, sadness, and hate. All directed at him as the survivor. He offered no excuses, no apologies, or compensation to them. He’d wait for them to approach him. He felt it’d offend them if he tried to offer anything in the meeting or earlier. Politically, he should have made an announcement, but his father would have just shouted him down. As a human, he should have lowered his head to them, but that wouldn’t appease the ones who lost loved ones.

Desmond’s knuckles turned white from his tightened grip. “Your Highness?” A sweet voice came into his ears. His grip loosened as he turned around to face the voice’s owner. His brother’s guard was between them already. It was one of the slain children’s mother. A noblewoman who was known for her big heart and ever bigger purse. Lady Dorothea, mother of two of the deceased girls. “Lady Collagher, I am truly sorry for your loss.” Desmond said with a slight bow and a hand over his heart.

Her eyes were puffy with dark rings around her eyes. “A little late for your condolences, Your Highness.” Her voice was sweet, but bitterness and anger prowled beneath it. Her grey hair had become more pronounced than before. No color remained in her hair and she had visibly aged. “I won’t offer you any excuses, but if you wish to berate me, we-” The lady rose her hand to cut him off. “Never. I am a woman who has learned her place among the aristocratic ranks of the Capital. Even if it’s the unwanted child of an Emperor, we have to pay respects in public still.”

The irony of the statement was not lost upon him. Desmond did his best to keep his expression solemn lest he’d anger the grieving lioness. He didn’t want to think about what would happen should she explode here. While he was more than willing to accept her harsh words, his father still demanded his authority be respected. If she did anything unbecoming aside from words, she’d be beheaded by the state. That was not what he wanted. He respected the Callagher House. They were genuine people from what he had seen. It was a shame he had ended their household line at Fable’s End…

“Yes, as you may. If you have any requests that are -” He was about to say in his power, but the noblewoman cut him off again, but with her own words. “Even if I ask for your head on a pike?” The venom in her tone was clear as day and her words echoed through the stone chamber, bringing it to a standstill. Desmond was unperturbed. So long as it stayed words, he could take it – so he kept telling himself.

“I believe my ever merciful and generous father is first in line for it, so I do believe I cannot hand it to you.” Desmond’s anger and guilt flared, letting the words fall from his tongue before he could catch them. He looked into her eyes and watched the confusion cripple her reddened face. Her statement could have killed her should it have been his younger siblings. His First Brother was well liked among most circles. His Second brother was dead, so you couldn’t ask for his head. His younger siblings had the temperament of his father, without the nasty calculations. They were just nasty people.

In that regard, he offered a more egregious statement that made several people at the foot of the stairs gasp. He had planned to say something along those lines, but he ended up saying the thought in its entirety.

Lady Callagher fell silent before she muttered a half-silent “Pardon me…” before she picked up the long hem of her dress and quickly exited the hall down the stairs. Her personal guards followed her without so much as sparing a glance at the hated prince. “Your High-” The guard was about to speak before Desmond shook his head. “I know, I went too far.” Air flared from his nostrils before he picked up the remains of his dignity and made his way down the stairs. The shocked onlookers made themselves scarce, knowing all too well how bloody knowing royal secrets could get.

They stepped out of the suffocating administration building and into a large plaza. There was a circular four-step decline center-space where a large stone fountain dragon laid curled up. Beneath its chin was a large stone open with several openings where water flowed from. The water fluttered over the dragon’s claws, down its tail and over carved runes the wise of a fingernail. Eventually, the water landed onto the decline’s floor, flooding it up to a finger’s height before it drained out into the water system again.

It was all beautiful and scenic among the tall stone buildings with the vines dangling above it wooden beams cross over it. The beams were new and there to support the various holiday decorations that were hung all year around. It somewhat detracted from the original historic look of the plaza, but this was one of the few plazas large enough for those festive gatherings.

The plaza was bustling with students and staff as they crisscrossed towards their destinations as this plaza was the center point of the grounds. ” Sadly, the world goes on, yes?” Desmond smiled wearily to the school guard beside the door, who only shrugged. None the wiser to the massacre the prince had been inadvertently responsible for. The duo stepped down the four levels leading up to the building before disappearing into the throng of people below.

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