MoboReader> Fantasy > The Slayer

   Chapter 7 Things go Pants Again

The Slayer By Lady Lilium Characters: 34544

Updated: 2018-07-13 12:02


They travelled back to the village to collect their reward, and then onwards from there to the bureau, where every wizard, mage, witch, sorcerer, magician and necromancer (or anyone else of magical preference, human or otherwise) went to form their own guild. Only after a guild was formed would a group of magical beings be allowed to accept contracts for missions, and at the end of every mission, the guild master had to report back to the bureau. In short it was a big – fancy building that managed all the guilds in the kingdom, and they did all sorts of important stuff involving lots of paperwork.

To form a new guild several requirements had to be met, the most important being that there had to be at least six members to form a guild and be officially recognised and allowed by law to accept contracts. Unless the guild was already formed and some of the members died, which did happen sometimes, there were never allowed to be less than six. The strongest guild recognised by the bureau in this kingdom had just three members. But together, they had almost god-like powers, and were practically indestructible and invincible and immortal all at the same time.

Every guild strived to be like them, but many died in the process.

The bureau was a large white building, and shone like a jewel on a sunny day, visible for miles around in the field of green on which it sat on. It was a grand building, the grandest many would see in their lives.

Leroy led the way up the wide marble steps, the rest of the guild following behind him.

'How much do you think we'll get for them?' Barry asked him, eyeing up the eggs Leroy carried in a sack.

'I don't know' Leroy mumbled. 'That all depends.'

'On what?'

Leroy grimaced, shooting him a look of annoyance.

'On whether or not they're still alive.'

'Right…'

'If they're dead they are worth nothing. If they are alive…'

'Who would want a living griffin egg?' Waltz butted in, running forwards to prance alongside Leroy.

'Griffin eggs are rare' Leroy told him, 'and believe it or not, but griffins can be tamed. If they are still alive…' he paused to glance down at the eggs, 'they could be worth a lot of money if we can find a buyer rich enough to seriously want one.'

'And if they're not?' Waltz asked tentatively.

Leroy grimaced again.

'If they are dead' Leroy sighed, 'then they can be preserved and sold as pretty ornaments, for a mere fraction of the price they would sell if the eggs were living.'

'How much would that be then?'

Leroy considered Waltz, giving him a stoic expression.

'Ever bought a single chicken egg?'

Waltz faltered then, his eyes growing wide.

'Is that all?! After all that work?! What do you think the odds are of the eggs being alive?'

Leroy grimaced for the third time, glancing down at the eggs.

'Slim if I'm honest' he said. 'The female griffin left her nest all too easily. And if the eggs were alive, then it would have been unlikely that there was a male ready to breed nearby…think about it.'

'Oh great' Waltz huffed, sulking now and shoving his hands in his pockets. 'I was nearly killed for those eggs.'

'So where the rest of us' Leroy glowered.

'Don't worry' Kyle said, patting Waltz on the back heartily. 'We still get the reward from the villagers for killing the griffin.'

'Yeah' Waltz grumbled. 'I guess…'

'What's wrong?'

The members of the guild stopped then, stepping back from the doorway before them to allow a figure to walk past. Waltz's breath caught in his throat at the sight of her.

She was an entire head taller than everyone else, human (as far as she claimed) and scantily clad in armour that shone bright yellow, protecting only the most vital parts of her body. Her hair glowed yellow as bright as her armour, and lifted in the air, floating as if underwater, drifting slowly in an unfelt breeze. She was devastatingly beautiful, and Waltz felt honoured that she spared their group the tiniest of glances as she sailed past….almost.

The guild members stopped, watching her as she walked away.

'That' Waltz said. 'I want to be powerful…and revered………like that......like her. Rhona.'

'Well' Kyle said jovially slapping him on the shoulder again. 'We all start small eh? Now let's go get that reward…maybe!'

The other members of the guild continued on. But Waltz remained where he was, lingering there just a moment longer, watching Rhona walk away until she was out of sight.

He sighed longingly.

'One day' he spoke to himself, 'one day…I will be as powerful as you….I will be famous….and everyone will know my name………one day….'

He turned and followed the rest of his guild, to the main office where loot was traded for cold hard cash, where the bureau paid their members for gathering extra booty on their quests.

'Sorry' they were told, after they had spent nearly an hour lining up to see the right man who dealt in the sort of thing they were trying to get rid of in the flying magical creatures department. 'They're dead.'

'Are you kidding me?!'

'I could crack one open for you' the man behind the desk replied to Waltz in a bored tone, 'but that would make them slightly more worthless than they already are.'

'No its fine' Leroy sighed as Waltz stormed away. 'We'll take what we can for them.'

The man took the three eggs, placing them safely in a box then placing that box on a conveyer belt behind him, which would take all treasures placed there to a secret place deep within the bureau where it was categorized depending on which buyer they would try to sell it to.

After doing this, the man behind the desk reached for one of the draws, picking out a single coin and handing it to Leroy.

'Try not to spend it all at once' the man smirked in humour.

Leroy took the single bronze coin, trying his best to suppress a sigh.

'Thanks' he said flatly, before pocketing it and marching away, followed by the rest of his guild.

They returned to their own business after that, to relax and take some time off enjoying the reward that was split between them. They made the most of what they had, until they were gathered again for another quest.

Waltz sat with Barry and Rude on a picnic bench on the grass outside the inn the guild were currently staying at. They weren't lucky enough to have their own permanent residence like some guilds, and so they were forced to travel from one place to another, always on the move as they went from inn to inn and on worse days when work was scarce, camping out in the elements, be it summer or winter. Life was hard, and the guild was always on the move. This time they had a little extra money to spare, and so were staying at an inn. They had each stayed at many in their time; this one was a pleasant one, large and spacious and set directly beside a main road, which was for the most part quiet. And around them, was open land were wild, partly-wild and semi-tame animals roamed free. Waltz watched one of these now, a sheep staring at him with disinterest, its jaw working as it chewed the grass in its mouth lazily.

For his own amusement, Waltz copied the gesture.

Beside him, Rude gave a weary sigh and a yawn, reaching for his tankard and drinking deeply. Opposite him Barry shifted slightly, on the verge of falling asleep, he rested now with his head upon his folded arms, dreaming idly in the sun.

When Waltz grew tired of copying the sheep, right down to its random bleats, he threw his arms up into the air, making his best impression of a tree caught in high winds.

The sheep became suddenly very alarmed, bolting away to a safe distance before stopping and adopting its bored posture once again.

Waltz groaned, leaning back against the bench with his elbows on the table behind him, one foot resting upon a knee.

'I'm bored' he said.

Barry turned his head to face him, still resting peacefully on his arms.

'Why don't you go eat some grass?'

'Why don't you put a chicken on your head and dance the fandango?'

Barry smirked, turning away and closing his eyes again. He became still.

Silence ensued again and Waltz tilted his head back staring up at the clouds that drifted lazily over their heads above the earth, so peaceful in a world of their own.

'How wonderful it must be to be a cloud' Waltz mumbled to himself, 'to drift over the land with not a care in the world.'

'I don't know' Rude spoke up, 'I heard it's pretty cold up there.'

'Yeah' Waltz answered peacefully. 'But I bet the view is beautiful.'

Waltz continued to stare up at the sky, the clouds reflected in his bright eyes.

'A new world' Waltz sighed, closing his eyes, '…must be nice…'

Rude watched him for a moment, chin resting on a palm. He spared a glance up at the blue sky above them, before returning his attention to his tankard.

It was a peaceful time for them between quests, and the members of the guild would often split, each going to do their own thing. Some would visit family, others would visit friends, and some like Waltz, Rude and Barry, chose to spend the hours in their day simply relaxing.

Unlike some of the others within the guild, Waltz was lucky enough to have two living parents. But they lived too far away for him to visit. Waltz did not have a family of his own, he had no children, and his lovers would change as often as the seasons. Waltz had never settled down, he was always on the move, never staying in one place for too long. And that was the way he liked it. It was not always an easy life with the guild, each day was as uncertain as the next, and he was never sure where he would end up or what dangers they might face on their next quest. But it was this that Waltz found most exciting. The days were always changing when you were involved with the bureau.

Waltz heard a voice then sailing through the air.

'It's blue' said the young voice. 'It has large wings and scarlet-tipped feathers.'

Waltz did not need to look; he knew already what was going on and who the child was talking to.

It was a man called Kenneth, once a member of the guild he shared with Waltz, now he was retired, though not by choice. He had been blinded by an elemental during one of their previous quests, and his sight had never returned. He was cared for and guided now by Patrick, the son of one of the other guild members. Kenneth didn't have a proper place in the guild anymore; no one knew what to class him as. But they cared for him nonetheless, due to his years of service, and out of kindness and friendship.

'We've got to do something' Rude said, staring sadly towards Kenneth and Patrick who explained the birds that were flitting through the sky around them.

Waltz opened his eyes, looking now towards Kenneth. Barry sat up too, staring.

'What can we do?' Barry asked.

'I don't know' Rude sighed, '…something…'

Waltz watched the pair, saying nothing.

He noticed suddenly movement to his side, turning his head towards Leroy who marched towards them.

'Oh no…' Waltz groaned, feeling a sinking sensation in his chest. 'What does he want?'

Leroy stormed right up to their table, slamming down on the wood a sheet of paper, his fingers splayed over it. He withdrew his hand, and the three guild members sitting at the table all leant forwards, peering at the sheet.

'Siren' Waltz read out loud. Then he baulked. 'What is this?' he stammered. 'You don't want us to kill this do you?'

Leroy smirked at him. Waltz could see the adventure and excitement already gleaming in his eyes.

'You are correct' he said. 'There is a big reward for killing this siren, not as a paid contract but in loot. It's said that she is guarding quite a plunder. The man who put up this contract has lost his son to this beast. He says the pay is whatever it's guarding in its cave.' Leroy paused. 'I hear it's quite a lot.'

'How do you know?' Waltz voiced with interest. 'How do you know what it's guarding?'

'There are those who have gotten close enough to see inside its lair' Leroy answered, 'but these are simple fishermen and townsfolk. They dare not get any closer.'

'Great' Waltz said flatly, glancing up at Leroy. 'Let's summon the other members of the guild and get going.'

'That's the thing' Leroy bowed. 'We have to go now.'

'Now?'

'Now' Leroy repeated, shooting an irritated glare at Waltz.

'Why the rush?'

Leroy glanced down at the sheet before him, picking it up and staring intently at it.

'This contract has been up for only a few hours, and it's already peaked a lot of interest. If we want to claim the treasure, then we have to be the first ones there.'

'But we're missing Trevor, Earnest, Kennedy, Tom, Kyle and Richard.'

'It's alright' Leroy answered. 'There are four of us here' Leroy indicated the four of them around the table. 'And don't forget Tristan' Leroy said straightening up and glancing behind him.

The others looked around. Waiting by the inn, already with his horse saddled, Tristan waited.

'Well…' Waltz sighed straightening up. 'We'd better get a move on.'

In no time at all, the five of them where grasping onto the jagged rocks by the coast, being lashed by the stormy waves and trying not to slip on the seaweed that spawned at their feet, trying not to fall into the sea and drown.

'Do you think we could have picked a better day for this?!' Waltz called over the wind.

Leroy didn't answer, only glared at him, his clothes being whipped around as he gave Waltz a level expression.

Waltz turned away, gritting his teeth, he continued to edge carefully along the rocks, moving tentatively and holding on for dear life.

'One of life's little pleasures when you're part of a guild' he sighed quietly under his breath, knowing the others wouldn't hear him. 'Oh but there are better days…'

They reached the edge of the rocks, finding here a great hole before them, just below the surface of the icy water.

Waltz grimaced then, turning back to the others.

'Here it is!' he called.

'Go on!' Leroy called back with a slight grin. 'After you!'

Waltz turned away quickly, refusing the give Leroy the satisfaction of his displeasure. He stared at the hole beneath the water for a few seconds, taking a deep breath and moving forwards, climbing into the sea before he had a chance to doubt the situation. Waltz ignored the biting cold as he dipped below the surface and pulled himself along the rocks. A very short time after he resurfaced, finding himself inside a large cave that was lit by a strange blue glow that emanated from a sort of fungus growing upon the rocks above water.

Seconds later the others joined him, first Leroy, then Tristan, Barry and finally Rude.

Rude hugged himself, beginning to shiver violently.

'Gods I can feel my balls shrinking…'

'Come on' Leroy said, acting as if the cold, wet water did not faze him. 'This way.'

They swam through the water until they reached a part where the rocky floor was raised beneath them. From here they were able to trudge onwards, the water from this point only waist high.

'Funny' Waltz was saying licking the salty water from around his lips. 'I fancied a swim anyway.'

'Alright we must be nearly there' Leroy said pausing and reaching for his top pocket.

He took out several small pieces and passed them around.

'We mustn't hear her when she sings' Leroy said to them, as the others shoved the wet cotton wool into their ears. 'She will try to put a spell on us.'

'So what's the plan?' Barry asked.

Leroy paused, his pieces of cotton wool still in his hand.

'No plan' he replied. 'Get close…kill her. If stealth fails' he said, 'then we go all out. We'll kill this hag before she harms anyone else, and leads them to their death with her song.'

'Right' Waltz said resting his sword upon his shoulder. 'Let's rock and roll.'

They made their way onwards, they had reached the end of the cave when they finally saw it, and it was no hag.

She lay on her front on the edge of a rocky shore, the water around her was crystal clear and as still as glass. From the waist down she had a green and purple scaly tail, like that of a fish. As Waltz spied this, the Siren curling it slowly back and forth, he was reminded suddenly of the goldfish that swam in the ornamental ponds of a pretty town he had once passed through.

The five members of the guild crept carefully closer, keeping close to the wall, although everything was lit in a pale blue glow that radiated from the strange moss around them, and there was nowhere to hide. Waltz noticed Leroy ahead of them glancing all around, searching for a place to conceal themselves. But there was none. Leroy looked ahead again, grimacing as he advanced forwards, his hold on his swords tightening. Leroy focused on the siren again.

Her skin was pink like a human's, her chest was covered by a feathery layer and she had short blond hair upon her head, beneath which grew two long and mighty wings, draped downwards and bright orange in colour, like the setting sun.

It could not be denied. She was very beautiful as she lay there upon her mound of gold and silver coins, she would be the object of every man's desire. Every man, save for any

member of a guild, who was all too familiar with a siren's trickery.

'We can't get close without being seen' Leroy whispered, stopping in his tracks suddenly. 'There's no point in trying a surprise attack.'

And then he realised the others couldn't hear him, not now that they had their earplugs in. He glanced back at them, and each of them was giving him a strange expression, wondering why he had suddenly stopped.

Leroy sighed, facing ahead again and straightening up, abandoning his hunched posture as they crept up to the creature.

The siren suddenly noticed them. Seeing that Leroy had given up on the idea of a sneaky attack, the others straightened up also.

The siren watched them curiously for a moment, a look of innocence and purity is what she adopted.

She smiled shyly, before crawling around on her hands, her scaly tail waving to the side as she slipped into the water so carefully, she barely caused a single ripple in its surface.

Waltz stared wide eyed at her as she drew closer. Even from here he could see her lips moving as she sang her song. But to him he heard nothing, nothing but the blood pumping his ears, and his own breath in his throat.

But it was not him that the siren drew closer to. It was Leroy.

She drew as close to him as the water would allow, using her tail to prop herself up before him. Leroy was on guard and high alert, his sword raised, ready for whatever this thing might do. The siren's lips were speaking words unheard, and Leroy watched her mouth move silently.

After a few seconds the creature stopped singing, looking a little wounded, like a little girl. Her trick wasn't working, and for a moment Waltz began to feel sympathy towards the thing.

No he thought quickly to himself. No you mustn't let yourself fall for its tricks.

The siren glanced to the other members of the guild, seeing the weapons they carried, before looking back at Leroy. She smiled widely, in a gesture that seemed genuine.

She knows we can't hear her Waltz thought. She knows…

The siren moved closer. Leroy drew a slow intake of breath as it descended on him, her profile towering over his. But still the other members of the guild did not move, they remained uncertain, waiting for whatever was to happen.

The siren leant closer to him still, reaching out to touch Leroy's face, caressing him tenderly.

She glanced one last time towards the others, as if checking on them to see if they had moved, before returning her attention back to Leroy.

She kissed him, lips planted firmly on his as her hands ran down his body.

It looked at first a move made from lust, but as Waltz watched, he saw her check several of his pockets as she did this.

Beside him Tristan began to draw his bow, doing this swiftly and silently as he ducked behind the others out of sight. He raised his head, glancing up at the siren as either side of him, Barry and Rude reached into their own pockets.

Waltz took a step back, allowing his body to relax slightly. He had no projectile weapons or spells upon him, and so allowed the others to take the lead. He watched calmly as Tristan fired the first shot, impaling the siren in the ribs. Her body jerked to the side from the impact as she released Leroy, but she had no time to scream as she was hit twice more by spells thrown from Barry and Rude's direction. The ingredients from the spells they had used scattered everywhere, as in one swift move Leroy flicked his sword upwards, decapitating her before anyone else knew what had happened.

Her body collapsed and her severed head fell with a heavy splash into the water. She would not have felt a thing.

Waltz let out a weary sigh, sheathing his weapon and straightening up, taking the soaking cotton wool from his ears as the others did the same.

'That's better….' He said. 'I can hear now.'

'Nice one' Tristan nodded to Leroy, 'finishing off the beast yet again.'

Leroy nodded silently, cleaning the blood from his sword and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

'Hey' Rude interrupted suddenly. 'We've got company.'

The others glanced around, spotting the figures that Rude indicated.

'Hello boys' said a smiling female figure.

The guild stared at her in surprise, wondering how she got there.

'Thank you for doing all the work' the woman waved over to them as other figures appeared behind her. 'We'll be leaving now.'

'Hey!' Leroy called striding forwards. 'That reward is ours. We killed the beast.'

'And you did an amazing job' the woman congratulated, opening a tiny purse as she did so. 'But now it's time for you to leave.'

She glanced down to the coins and jewels and gems below her, extending the tiny purse outwards as she did so. The coins and treasures began to move, swirling as if in a high wind that none of them could feel. Everything went into the woman's tiny purse. Not a single piece was left.

'Hey!' Waltz called angrily. 'This isn't fair.'

The woman regarded them all with a cold expression, eyeing them as if she considered them to be only one small step above sea slugs.

'We can fight you for it if you'd like' she answered coolly.

Waltz sneered at her, taking a step forwards. But Leroy stopped him suddenly, grabbing onto his arm roughly as he started towards them.

Waltz was about to object, but a glare from Leroy silenced him.

'We won't try to stop you' Leroy called over to them.

'What the hell are you doing?' Waltz hissed.

Leroy held his tongue.

The woman, what must have been the leader of the other guild smirked at them. She turned to the others behind her, raising her hands. A flurry of light appeared around them as their profiles glowed. In no moment at all, they were gone.

Waltz stared in outrage at the spot where seconds ago they had been standing.

'What the hell?!' he declared dejectedly. He rounded on Leroy. 'Why did you stop me?!' he snapped, his tone would normally have gotten a rise out of Leroy. But this time Leroy let it slide. 'Why did you let them get away?' Waltz demanded. 'I could have taken them!'

'No' Leroy sighed, 'you couldn't have.'

'But…'

'I care about every member of my guild' Leroy interrupted. 'I would not put any of them in danger needlessly.'

'But…'

'Waltz' Leroy interrupted again. 'We could not have even hoped to win against them. They were a far higher level than us…a more powerful guild.'

'But…'

'We would have lost' Leroy flatly. 'We stood no chance.'

Waltz stared at him in disbelief, anger and sadness in equal quantities stirring inside him.

'But…' Waltz mumbled, speaking weakly now, 'it's not fair….'

'I know' Leroy sighed. 'I know.'

Waltz stepped back, shoulder slumped.

He tensed suddenly, eyes wide as he noticed a sudden glow coming from his chest.

'Oh no' he groaned, before being forcibly teleported away.

First Waltz stood there. Then there was no Waltz.

The other four members of the guild stared at the spot where he had stood seconds before.

'What the crud?' Barry spoke up. 'Where does he keep going all the time?!'

Leroy sighed heavily now, folding his arms.

'Come on' he grumbled turning away. 'Let's get out of this cave and into fresh air again.'

A short time later, and Waltz found himself trudging through filth and muck in a part of the kingdom where no sane human being had been in the last thousand years.

It was a horrible place, where a long time ago a great war had raged and fires cast by powerful mages set the land alight. Nothing had grown back since, and the massacre could be seen clearly all around, even after all this time. Within the boggy swamp and muddy filth that reached ankle deep, could be seen bones. Leg bones and arm bones and ribcages and skulls were everywhere, poking out of the mud and slosh. And there was only dead land, for as far as the eye could see.

'Powerful magic' Waltz muttered under his breath, pausing to take in the dreary scene around him. 'If only it had been used for good.'

Everything that had once grown was now blackened and charred, and the air felt damp and cold.

He had been ordered to this place by the dreadful witch who controlled him. There was something she wished for him to retrieve, but as usual, she kept the details to herself.

'Keep asking annoying questions and I'll set your eyes on fire' she had told him curtly when he asked what she wanted him to fetch.

She sent him away quickly after that, using her magic to whisk him away, although her magic was a little off, and Waltz did not touch the ground smoothly with his feet as was intended, but landed on his back deep in the mud, groaning and whining in displeasure as he felt the cold wet mud seep into his clothes.

He had stood up quickly, beginning to shiver. He moved fast to try to keep himself warm, searching for this thing that the witch wanted him to find.

'It's a valuable thing carried by a demon child' the witch had said to him. 'She is guarded by a vicious beast. I want you to kill it, and bring me the thing the child carries.'

'Anything else you would like to tell me?' Waltz dared ask, hinting at a little more detail, which he didn't get.

'No' the witch had said. 'Now get going.'

And so here is where Waltz found himself, searching for a thing and feeling thoroughly miserable.

He paused for a moment, staring at the top of a skull which sat before him embedded in the mud; he gritted his teeth in annoyance.

'Go on' came the voice of the witch speaking inside his head. 'Get a move on.'

Waltz suppressed a groan, making his way wearily onwards through the dead wasteland. And here is where he eventually found the thing.

'Oh good' the witch's voice said in his mind. 'You found it.'

Waltz stared in shock at what was before him.

There was a little girl, who could not have been more than six in age. She was dressed in faded colours of blue and white and had light blonde hair and bright blue glowing eyes. Behind her was the most ghastly creature Waltz had ever seen, and one he was unfortunately familiar with. It walked on all fours, with large black clawed hands and naked skin. It was a large creature, with a balding head and pure white eyes. It looked like something that might have once been human, a very long time ago.

'A ghoul?' Waltz mumbled, 'and a possessed child.' He watched them from what he hoped was a safe distance for a few moments, suddenly realising something. 'The ghoul is guarding the child' he said.

'Don't worry' the witches voice told him as the ghoul turned to face him, noticing him for the first time. 'It will only attack you if you hurt it first or get too close. Now kill it.'

'Hu?' he baulked.

'I said kill it. Now. I'm not a patient woman.'

Waltz grimaced, drawing forth his sword and charging forwards before he could give time to doubt himself.

The ghoul bared its teeth, the little girl instantly darted backwards to hide behind the thing.

Waltz's sword was met with the teeth of the ghoul, its angry eyes glowing ever brighter and growing wider. In the few brief seconds that Waltz was face to face with the vile beast, he saw its eyes turn from white to red like blood seeping into water, and black pulsing veins appear in its skin.

He fought back the wave of fear that threatened to rise inside him, instead using all of his strength to push the ghoul back.

'Kill him!' the little girl shrieked behind the ghoul. 'Rip him into bloody pieces!'

As if commanded by the little girl, the ghoul lunged at Waltz, as Waltz had lunged at him. Waltz managed to block its needle-like teeth by magic, holding it back, arms beginning to shake.

'I can't…' Waltz groaned, the muscles around his eyes twitching. 'I can't hold on.'

'If you don't kill it' the witch told him, 'I will kill you myself.'

Waltz grimaced as the light in his chest began to glow again, a warning from the witch that she owned his body and soul. She could do with it what she pleased.

Waltz cried out, partly in fear, partly in anger, and partly in desperation. He lashed out at the beast, cutting it again and again, though it seemed to feel no pain as it fought back, swiping at him. It cut him, its claws digging deep into his shoulder. Waltz rasped in agony, dropping his sword inadvertently. Without a moment's pause he turned and ran, seeking now only a place to hide and heal. But the ghoul ran after him, its large gallop and long legs reached him in no time, and it hurled itself into Waltz's back, shoving him forwards.

Waltz cried out in pain as the ghoul bit into his shoulder, right down to the bone.

Flames erupted around Waltz's body suddenly as he called his magic to him, reaching for the first spell that he could.

The ghoul screamed in panic as his skin caught alight, leaping off him and backing away in anger and confusion.

Waltz pushing himself onto his hands and knees, crawling forwards to escape the thing, but it just came for him again.

Waltz sucked in a sharp breath as he felt the claws of the ghoul digging into his back again. He summoned the fire for the second time. It grew like a mane on his back and shoulders, climbing up the ghoul's arms and burning its chest. It roared again, backing away, but this time it didn't go far.

It began to advance on Waltz again.

'Alright' Waltz mumbled, turning around and climbing gingerly to his feet, ignoring the searing pain from the fresh wounds in his back. 'Let's play.'

They ran towards each other, each without fear, each without weapon. The ghoul fought with teeth and claws. Waltz fought with his magic barehanded.

The possessed girl watched the spectacle from a short distance, eyes large and shining, her profile crouched close to the ground.

The two battle fiercely for many minutes, until one of them fell.

Waltz grabbed the ghoul by the face with both hands, using all and the last of his magic in one desperate attack. He could not fight for much longer, so he tried to end it quickly. But if the last of his magic wasn't enough to kill the ghoul, then he would be defenceless. It would kill him for sure.

Either the ghoul or the witch Waltz thought as he summoned his fire, the flames burning into the ghoul's face and skull.

It backed sharply away, lashing around and screaming an eerily human scream.

It sunk to the floor, its movement lessening as the fire spread inside its skull. It slumped forwards, and died.

The fires died with it.

Waltz let out a weary sigh, body trembling with exhaustion, he was bleeding from several deep gashed over his body, and felt suddenly weak and drained.

The little girl who had watched the whole thing cried out suddenly, running forwards towards the body of the dead ghoul.

'No!' she begged. 'Get up. Please get up.'

When she received no reaction from the dead ghoul, she began to cry, sobbing into her hands.

Waltz watched her uncertainly.

'Well?' the witch's voice came inside his head. 'What are you waiting for?'

'She's just a child' Waltz mumbled, feeling a tug inside his heart.

'No' the witch snapped, becoming angry. 'She was a child. Now she's a monster. Don't be swayed by the emotions she thinks she's feeling. Now kill her!'

Waltz hesitated, watching the blue eyed girl cry over the ghoul.

'It's either her' the witch informed him, 'or you.'

Waltz bowed his head.

'I won't wait much longer' the witch sang.

Waltz turned his palm over, summoning his weapon to him by magic.

The little girl stopped her crying, glancing up with shining eyes as Waltz swung the sword back.

He cut her head off in one swift move. Her body began to glow. Waltz reached forward to grab the dark object that was within the pool of magic, his fingers clasping around it as the light faded.

He straightened up, staring down at the strange black thing he held in his hand.

He felt a twinge in his stomach and his heart skip a beat as he suddenly realised what it was.

It was the blackened, charred remains of a child's spine.

Waltz felt suddenly sick.

'Now' hissed the witch. 'Bring me my prize.'

There came a glow from the centre of Waltz's chest, and he was taken elsewhere, to the hut in which the witch supposedly lived.

Today she took on the appearance of a young woman with pale skin, light eyes and blonde curly hair.

She extended her hand silently to Waltz, who offered her the thing he carried.

He was only too glad to get rid of it.

'Very good' the witch said to him. 'You've done very well.'

Waltz gave her a blank stare, deciding to keep his mouth shut to see what would happen.

This time, it only took one day for him to return to the inn in which his guild stayed, trudging onwards through wild and overgrown forests and open and boring plains. He bore his injuries silently, exposed to the elements along the way. He had not tended to them, but allowed the blood to dry. Desperate to get back to the guild, he wasted no time. He did not rest, and did not eat.

When he finally reached the inn, he was exhausted, filthy and hungry. He found the rest of his guild easily enough, resting and drinking in the hall, clean and happy and well fed.

They were not pleased to see him.

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