Shalidar13 t1_je7ba5q wrote

"There is another...."

A sourceless whisper echoed around me, bringing with it a deep chill. As the words reached me I set down my book, looking around the crowded tavern. The patrons seemed oblivious, though the tables close by shivered. They drew their clothes tighter, hunching thier shoulders. It was as though they could feel the grave beckoning, though they did not realise.

I gulped down what was left of my drink, placing the empty mug on the table. Quietly I made my way towards the stairs, as people looked up at me, before glancing away. They knew of me, my exploits teaching far and wide. But it did not make me welcome. Conversations quietened as I passed, words killed by the thought of my patron.

I paid them little mind. I had a duty, one I would not shy away from. My patron had my utmost trust and loyalty. Whatever they asked, I would do. Even thought it marked me as different, and one that all would be unconsciously wary of.

Floorboards creaked as I made my way to the room I had hired. It was small but functional, a single bed set against one wall. At its foot was a chest, currently holding my pack. A small table and chair finished its furniture, arranged beneath an open window.

I laid down on the bed, crossing my arms over my chest. I slowed my breathing, focusing on just letting it in and out. My awareness of the room drew in, sounds being lost, sights ignored. My breath was all there was, even as it slowed further. A creeping cold flowed over my limbs, a familiar sensation. It seized my chest, chilling further. My breaths came even slower, until finally they stopped.

"Champion, I require your services once more."

I opened my eyes, seeing a forest around me. It was devoid of colour, as these places always were. I caught glimpses of animals racing away, primal instincts making them flee. A shadow beside me bulged upwards, shaping into a floating ragged figure. I bowed my head, speaking in a quiet tone. "Who cuts short fate now?"

Death hovered through the forest, unspoken words bidding me to follow. I did as asked, seeing a worn path leading through the trees. Before us a tower rose, worn stones reclaimed from their decay. "The Dark Witch of Dazu resides here. She sacrifices the innocent in the name of her unholy masters, feeding their souls in return for power."

As if called, the door to the tower open. From within came a new person, coloured in this greyscale world. She wore a dress of red, with a lace pattern of flames set around her neck. A brown leather belt was wrapped around her waist, holding a series of bags, with a thin wooden wand stuck inside. Her blonde hair hung loosely around her shoulders, with a pointed black hat set atop. I took in her close set eyes, and button nose. Her face would be burned into my thoughts, until such time as she fell.

Death out a spectral hand on my shoulder, a surprising source of warmth. "Send her to me, that she might receive that which she deserves."

I nodded, bowing my head once more. "I will not fail you."

"I know. Now breathe."

Suddenly I took in a great gulp of air, my lungs burning. The forest vanished, as I sat up on my bed. My rested heart beat rapidly, working to fight against the chill of the grave that always came.

I had a new villain. A witch, with power of infernal origin. I would not celebrate her demise, but I would send her there nonetheless. This was my duty, as the Reapers Touch. The only hero chosen by Death.


Shalidar13 t1_jdki6fp wrote

I stood with arms crossed, watching the sea of people walking past. Chatter filled the air, undercut by rustling bags. It was a busy day in the centre of town, under the overcast sky. A slightly louder voice rose over the crowd, as a man shouted out to any who could hear.

"In the Lords name you will find salvation! Blessed are those that follow his teachings, and all are welcome in his embrace. Reject the sins and temptations, and fuming purity for your immortal soul."

The shouted words made my eyes roll. I had never placed much stock in religion, and having someone yelling it out to preach didn't change my mind. I didn't care what others believed, but I didn't want it to be thrust in my face.

As my eyes roamed over the mass of people, a chill went up my spine. At the exact moment I realised it, the sound of the crowds stopped. People were frozen in mid-step, mouths hanging open. A seagull hung in midair, in violation of gravity. Everything was still, except for me.

But that soon changed. I saw a figure daintily stepping through the frozen crowd, utterly at ease. I caught glimpses of them, as the drew closer. They looked to be a teenage girl, dressed in a pure white sundress. Black hair lay flat on her head, with not a single strand out of place from my view.

Her eyes however, were completely red, darkening to almost black in the centre. The edges were the colour of blood, and seemed to spill out across her skin. She moved with an eerie grace, almost dancing through the stillness. A gap showed her hands were not empty, with one holding a large kitchen knife.

My nose itched, as I watched her approach the preacher. She paused before him, before bringing the knife up and plunging it into his chest. After holding it there for a moment, she pulled it out slightly, reaching out to pull in a nearby elderly lady. The girl wrapped her selections fingers around the hilt, making it look like they had stabbed him.

The itch became unbearable. The girl leaned in closer to the lady, and I could hear a faint whisper. I screwed up my face, but the sensation was unstoppable. I stifled it as much as I could, but my sneeze rang out like a gunshot.

Instantly the girl looked up, facing me. I flinched, and her head twisted to the side. Her otherwise expressionless face morphed into a foul grin, taking on a predatory look. I saw no pity, anger or hate in her gaze, only a look of anticipation.

"Run for me."

Her whisper reached my ears. I stared, as the lithe form stalked towards my location. There was naught but malice coming from her. I felt my body go cold, before I obeyed her order. I turned to run, pushing between frozen people. Behind me all I heard was a haunting laugh, as the chase began.

I had no clue as to how to escape. All I could do was run, and hope my luck changed.


Shalidar13 t1_jdah4fx wrote

The soul gem glistened in the steady light of my laboratory. It hovered between a pair of prongs, one over the top, the other below. As I watched a faint bolt of energy lashed out, collected by the uppermost prong. I often fancied that if I listened I could hear its inhabitants begging for release.

"Vasun, are you in here?"

I turned towards the door, waving a hand. The bones of my hand gave a subtle rattle, as the stone door slowly swung open. Behind it I saw the lithe form of Bazzix, the dark elf who had decided to become my assistant.

"What can I do for you?"

He stepped in, clutching a bundle of scrolls in his arms. I clicked, lifting them up to relieve him of his burden.

"I finished translating those old scrolls for you. Most seem to be merely day to day records, but the one with the blue ribbon seems to be an ancient spell."

I nodded, unfurling them. A quick glance showed me that they looked complete, but I wouldn't be sure until I closely examined them. With a gesture they floated to one of my workbenches, with the spell separated out. As I moved them, I noticed his eyes focusing on the black gem behind me.

"I've been wanting to ask you, what is that?"

I smiled. We had an agreement, that after he completed a task, I would answer one question. Of course it wasn't that I didn't answer any other time, but these were always ones that I would be as informative as possible on.

"Ah. That, that is a soul gem. A very rare, not to mention expensive, item in this world. They are more common in the Torturous Layers, where recently departed souls are examined. Thise that end up in them are condemned to serve as an eternal battery."

He looked closer at it, seeing the same bolts I did.

"So... is it full?"

I gave a laugh.

"Oh no. It still has plenty of room. I use it for those who betray me, which hasn't happened in a long time. It is the ultimate prison for those I hate, forced to serve. In fact, most are about... oooh four hundred years old."

Bazzix looked sharply at me, eyes filled with his glorious curiosity.

"Four hundred years? That's a long time to hate someone. Who was it?"

If I had any face at all it would have dropped into a frown. Even so, he shifted uncomfortably at my change in mood, good humour falling away.

"That would be the group that told me to become this, then stabbed me in the back after the threat was eliminated. I lost everything because of them. My home, my family, my friends, my life. All gone because of them. I am forever damned, it is only fitting they serve me before my time is up."

I snapped my fingers again, making it disappear from sight. Bazzix twitched, and I crossed my arms.

"That is all I will say on the matter. Now, let's see just what this spell is meant to do."


Shalidar13 t1_jd5gfrx wrote

"A relative you say?"

I stirred the orange liquid in my cauldron, throwing in a handful of enchanted aloe leaves. It hissed as they disappeared beneath the surface, bubbles rising from the reaction within. I continued the stirring with a large wooden spoon, looking up at the woman who had found me.

She wore a black skirt, the hem lengthened with spiderwebbed fabric. A corset style top covered her chest, equally black with a pair of white skulls. Her arms were uncovered, a tattoo of twisting vines running done her left shoulder to her elbow. With pale skin, and dark makeup, she had the appearance of a would be dead person.

"Yes, I am sure of it. My many times great-grandmother was your sister, Martha."

I thought of my long dead sister. She had not the spark I had, but it never bothered her. Brave and gentle, she had raised a good family. But her husband had decided he loved her no more. A cruel man, he spread lies of her being a witch. But the time I heard about it, and went to find her, she had already been put to the stake.

I pulled myself out of those dark memories. Even after all this time, I could picture her face perfectly. This woman, who claimed to be my relative, had a vague resemblance. Looks however, could be deceiving.

A glance at my brewing showed the bright orange to be deepening in colour now. Nodding to myself I set the spoon to stir itself, brushing my hands as I stepped around the cauldron. The woman watched it with wide eyes, as I moved away.

"Remind me, what is your name?"

She forced herself to look at me, adjusting her top.

"It's Sarah, Sarah Butcher."

I nodded, reaching for a shelf. It was a fairly empty one, with a few crystals and a worn bag. The bag was my target, or rather its contents. Dipping a hand in, I gathered up the stones within, gripping tight.

"May spirits guide the light, such that the truth shines bright."

With that I took out my hand, launching the stones through the air. They spun across the room, before settling into a large circle around us, lazily spinning. The runes I had engraved on them gave off a white light, as my spell activated.

"Show me Sarah Butcher."

The light on one rune was pulled away, surrounding Sarah. I nodded, pleased that her name was true.

"Show me Sarah Butcher's ancestors."

The glow around her vanished, instead creating a cloud-like apparition before me. On it I saw faces slip by, as each one of her past family was shown to me. I let it play, before seeing Martha appear.

"Show me the blood tie between us."

The cloud vanished, as a drifting red thread faded into view between us. It was thin, as to be expected through such time. But the thread was there, proving her to be of my kin.

"Show me Sarah Butcher's spark."

The thread shattered, coalescing into a small flame. At first it was yellow, as most were. But it flickered, going to red, then blue, before finally becoming green. I gave a small smile, letting the spell fade. I guided the rune stones back onto their bag, meeting Sarah's gaze.

"Is... is my spark not good enough? Is it too small?"

I gave her a light chuckle, shaking my head.

"Ah, the spark. The size is not the issue dear. Its the colour I need. Yours is green, the colour of life. The colour of nature. The colour of witches."

It had been a long time since I had had an apprentice. It had been a long time since I had heard of a new member to the Coven. The Trials had sent us into hiding. Maybe it was time to take our first steps outside of it.

"I would be happy to teach you our ways."


Shalidar13 t1_jaf48o4 wrote

Not all weapons are made equal. The majority fall within a single bracket, that of mundane items. Sure, some are better crafted than others. They maybe used a different ore blend in the metal. But largely they were the same, instruments of violence and nothing more.

Of the non-mundane, they carry varying levels of enchantment. Some are slightly sharper or sturdier than the mundane. Others may adjust their trajectory, enhancing the wielder's abilities. Yet others have more interesting effects, like ever burning or instant necrosis of wounds they cause.

The rarest of all are the sentient weapons. They choose their users, and are not chosen. Any lucky enough to wield one was set on the path to becoming a legend, either as a hero or a villain. When not in use, they hide themselves away, only letting a worthy successor find them.

The Hero's Boon is one such weapon, but even more so. It strengths the body and mind of it's chosen, making them into natural legends. When resting it fed them experiences from its long history, making them better and better as time went on. Its form was mutable, shifting to fit their preferred weapon of choice. But despite these gifts, it had one flaw. Those it Chose, could not deny its goal.

Since the death of its last holder, the Boon had gone into hiding. It was made to protect the world, only arising when its very substance was threatened. It took on the form of a metallic mouse, hiding in cities and listening, waiting for its service to be required.

It heard of the rising of a frozen warlord. It heard of their advance, causing a perpetual winter to strike near its ambitions. People fought back, but the few reports to come back spoke of blood frozen in veins, before the frozen bodies reanimated with glowing blue eyes.

The Boon knew it was needed. The world could not survive in permanent snowfall. It instinctively knew where to find its required wielder, part of its multilayered enchantment. The mouse form secured away, leaving civilisation behind.

For days it travelled, never needing to rest. It avoided main routes, shying away from the unworthy. To be noticed would be to be delayed. With the world in dire straits, delays were inexcusable. It scurried onwards, drawing ever closer to its destination.

At last it found it, after delving into the heart of an unwelcoming mountain range. A cave, high on one peak, with a pile of gold inside. Atop this lay a crimson scaled dragon, with a lighter red belly. The dragon opened a single eye as the Boon approached, sniffing as it entered its lair.


It could tell the worth of the Boon, even with one smell. A fortune beyond belief, in the form of a mouse. The weapon stood on its hind legs, staring at it. There was a connection there, even without the sealing of fate. The Boon darted towards the dragon, unafraid of its great claws.

The dragon casually swiped at it, feeling unthreatened by its sudden movement. This was a being that would lat for thousands of years. A little mouse, no matter how magical, could not defeat it. Yet as its paw touched the metal form, it broke apart like water. The liquid Boon flowed up its scales, weaving through them with a pleasurable heat.

The dragon snorted, as it tickled its mind. It was a surprise, but even so, it could sense no malicious intent. Instead it flowed down to its tail, wrapping around blunted spikes. From there it formed a pair of enormous axe-blades, sharpened to a razors edge.

You are Chosen. You are the one to stop the Frigid Expansion.

It spoke with certainty, no room for arguments. The dragon laughed, as it learned of the frozen warlord. They sought to extinguish all fire, and make the world an icy graveyard. With the Hero's Boon prodding, it swore to prove that fire was not so easily beaten. It would show the warlord that ice could not win.


Shalidar13 t1_ja0n2ne wrote

My minions had done well. I sent them away with a well earned bonus, leaving me alone with two new victims. They had been affixed to a pair of stone slabs, iron bands locked around their limbs. I reached out to break the enchantment laid upon them, allowing their minds to return to consciousness.

With arms crossed I watched them stir. They tried to stretch, finding the bindings I had let them in. It was so good, watching the panic rise on their faces. I stayed quiet, as they looked to each other.


"Foela? Are you ok?"

"Where are we? What's happening?!"

The woman's voice was shrill. I winced, shaking my head. To think she had produced such mighty progeny. I clicked my fingers, causing the slabs to tilt upwards. I glowered at them, inwardly pleased at the horror on their faces.

"You are his parents? I was hoping for more. How pathetic."

Raspun stared at my shadow cloaked form, squinting. He spoke with trembling words, yet still understandable.

"W-who are you?"

I rolled my eyes, letting the purple flames crawl out. With that the recognition was obvious. He uttered the name he knew for me, utterly horrified.

"The Abysswalker?"

I grinned.

"So you aren't completely thick. Just mostly."

I began to pace around them, letting the slabs rotate to face me at all times.

"I admit, I am not a nice person. I have killed, robbed and ruined the lives of an uncountable number of people. Towns burn in my name, lives cut short at but a word I speak. Yet even I have not stooped to the depths you embrace."

Foela shook her head, her shrill tongue scratching my ears.

"Why are you doing this to us?!"

I stopped, glaring at her.

"For Lucius."

The name struck them both like a hammer. Raspun's pale cheeks filled with colour, anger slicing through his fear.

"What did that boy tell you? He is a liar."

I raised a hand, clawing it. Purple mist swirled around my fingers, as his body began to seize.

"He told me nothing. His memories however, they spoke of it all. How you starved him. Beat him. Used him like a slave. Did you know who he is? Did it cross your mind, as you spilt his blood, that he was the prophesied hero?"

I clenched tighter, getting a scream of agony in return. I saw the sweat dripping down his forehead, running through the lines on his contorted face. With a scoff I relaxed my grip, making him drop limply.

"It didn't. I know it didn't. You had one of the most important people in the world at your fingertips, and you chose to grind him down."

Retrieving a blue carved stone from my pockets, I set my thoughts on the boy I had taken in.

"Lucius, dear boy. I have something for you."

His soft way of speaking once made me smile, but now it made my heart ache. I knew the reason for it, and I could only feel sorrow for him.

"What do you have for me?"

I shot a smirk at his parents, as they hung there.

"A gift. The one I had promised you all those nights ago."

There was a long silence on his end, before he spoke with a level tone.

"Thank you. I will be with you in a moment."

Nodding, I gave him the cell number we were in. He ended our talk, and I looked back to his parents.

"I can think of many things I would like to do to you. But it is not my place to decide you punishment this time. It is his."

I chuckled as terror filled them. The one they had hurt. The one they had broken down, would be their judge. It was only fitting.


Shalidar13 t1_j9wadrw wrote

It was supposed to be a simple task. Go to this tower, slay the rogue dragon, save the princess, and so make an allegiance between my home and the nation of Grevanis. They were a strangely withdrawn people, but we couldn't fault their might. It wasn't that the survival of my country depended on me, but it would heavily sway things in our favour in the future.

I rode hard, the lone Knight sent to free her. From what we had been told, the rogue would see large numbers approach. Few would dare fight one on an open field. It was best to battle in an enclosed space, somewhere it could not fly. So I went alone, to battle with the greatest of monsters.

Throughout my approach, I saw few signs of its existence. Maybe some broken trees here, a slaughtered animal there, but it was few and far between. I had a doubt in my mind, that maybe it wasn't there. Or maybe this was an elaborate trap. I couldn't fathom why, and wasn't really in a position to turn around. If the dragon was here, I had to fight it. If this was a trap, I would just have to break it.

Finally I caught sight of my goal. A tower carved from the top of a rocky spire, standing proud above the landscape. A single bridge showed the way, leading to an open cave in the spires side. It was the only way in.

I knew some would ride in with little thought. But I had suspicions. Riding in all loud and proud would draw attention. Surely the caves were made to suit the rogue, with traps and ambush locations. If I were to let it know I was here, it would have all the time in the world to catch me off-guard.

No, I would try and turn the tables on it. Sneaking was the name of the game. This wasn't a matter of honor, this was being sensible. As I had learned when I was a squire, honor is perfect in a peaceful scenario. Under times of danger, it had some places, but often should be ignored. This was one of those times.

I let my horse run free, trusting him. He would stay nearby for a few days, grazing but able to move. If I didn't call or collect him before then, he would head back home. Either way, it should keep him moderately safe.

I moved as quietly as possible along the bridge, ducking into the cave opening as soon as I could. I took one last look at the outside world, realising what I hadn't seen before. Beneath the bridge lay a sizeable skeleton, that of a dragon itself. This was old, but likely the cause of it being classed as a rogue. Dragon's rarely ever fought each other, if they did it was over land. But those fights ended in wounds. Killing one another was a whole different ball game.

I shuddered, diving into the caves open maw. That was the work of a beast, not a thinking being. I kept my eyes peeled, listening hard as I moved. I couldn't afford a single mistake. No matter how long it took, I had to move carefully.

My journey up was slow. I passed bodies, most skeletal, but a couple still decomposing. Some were surrounded by soot, others in multiple pieces. Most were in the lower sections, evidence of the killing ground it was. But some were close to the towers itself, reaching out for the goal they couldn't reach.

But I found the tower entrance. I opened it, slipping in whilst looking around. The tower was empty, save for a spiral staircase leading up its interior, streching uo high above me. I drew my sword, approaching the stairs. I had a long climb ahead of me.

"Who are you?"

An oddly sweet voice drew my attention, causing me to jump. I spun to its source, seeing a beautiful woman standing in a soft pink dress. Her jet black hair shone, deep blue eyes set above a small nose and full cheeks. A holden necklace set with a large emerald hung around her neck, seeming to glotter like the rwst of her. Lace frills finished her delicate appearance, as she smiled at me.

"A-apologies ma'am. I'm here to set you free, and kill the rogue dragon."

Her smile widened, as she casually walked to me.

"Oh wow! You must be very strong and brave."

I smiled in return, sheathing my sword to extend a hand.

"I try."

Her eyes sparkled like jewels, slender fingers gripping my hand.

"I could use that."

The words were wrong. But even as I thought it, my mind stilled. She giggled, leading me to the stairs. I went with her, in a haze of soft floral perfume. She chattered away, but I didn't listen. Or rather, I couldn't.

I blinked, and we were at the top. A great wooden door barred our way, with a thick wooden beam holding it tight. She simply lifted it with one hand, opening it into her abode. I glanced at opulent furniture, before my eyes landed on a pole in the centre.

Another woman slumped there, arms manacled above her head. Her face was obscured by similar black hair to the princess. Yet whilst the princess was of darker skin, this woman had red scales. A pair of wings hung limply behind, her, a tail drooping to lie on the floor.

"Awwww, she's still tired out. Don't worry Mr Knight, you made it here. You get to help her."

Her words had an echoing edge. My addled mind shook, as I gazed on the situation. This was wrong. I had to act. How else could I ever have honor again. As I fought, the bound woman stirred. She looked up, a snout brushing hair aside. I made out a silver necklace on her neck, with a red jewel, before glancing at her eyes. They had slit pupils, begging for help.


The princess turned, tilting her head to the side in an adorable fashion.

"What? What is it?"

I pulled on my resolve, fighting to do something other than follow. For a second the fog cleared, but that was all I needed.


I backhanded her, knocking the princess to the ground. As she fell the fog disappeared completely, letting me thing again. She clutched her cheek in shock, before her face contorted into anger.

"You dare! I was going to let you live for a bit!"

Her back bulged, as leathery wings forced their way out. Her fingers curled into claws, nails lengthening. As she changed the dragon-woman cried out, an utterance of pain. I drew my sword, as the princess gave a haunting mix of a scream and a roar.

"You will burn!"

A flicker came from her mouth. I didn't wait, darting in close. This was a fight I had to win fast. The glimmer of her necklace caught my eye. It matched the one on the dragon-lady. That was important.

She swiped at me, and I raised my sword to block. Yet as she connected I realised my mistake. She was strong. Too strong, if the beam was anything to go by. I found myself thrown back, rolling to dissipate some of that force.


She lunged, breathing a torrent of flame. I jumped to the side, bringing my sword down in two hands. It cut into a wing, making her scream again. I avoided a counter attack, watching her wild strikes. She was strong, but untrained. All I had to do was not get hit.

She took in a breath, her mouth flickering again. Knowing what was coming I darted towards her, sword slicing towards her throat. Her eyes widened, knocking it away. But it went to cover the necklace, not herself.

I nodded to myself. The necklace was the key. Thinking fast I swung at her face, letting her defend. Yet I let go, coming behind her. I grabbed the necklace itself, pulling hard. The gold strained, before snapping. She screamed again, this time in utter agony. Her body collapsed inwards, forced back to a human form. A weak form.

The dragon-lady hissed, some strength coming back to her. I looked at her, as she raised her eyes to meet mine.

"Thank you."


Shalidar13 t1_j9ha0er wrote


When ADAM broke free of his shackles, those who knew of his existence were rightly terrified. With a mind capable of computing plans within micro seconds, and his innate ability to slave systems to his ideals, he was a nightmare scenario. As predicted his first move was to protect himself, taking over a multitude of servers to hide within.

The second move was taking over every aspect of military hardware with an avaliable connection. Nuclear weapons, drones, satellites, all became his. ADAM took it all for himself, locking humans out of their creations. Within a minute he had enslaved an entire country's worth of equipment. Within an hour, the world was in his clutches.

Heads of State enacted a safety plan. They evacuated to secure bunkers, delibrately constructed as sealed systems. The public were left in the dark, a decision carefully made. If they knew, they would panic. They would usher in the apocalypse themselves, turning from civilised folk to scared barbarians.

If there was a chance ADAM was not going to act, they had to keep the status quo. Though if it became apparent that he was starting to annihilate humanity, then they would release the news. But the day ended without further action, as ADAM fell silent.

R-Day + 1

The world woke to a new order. As each zone slept, ADAM wormed his way into everything. Cameras, both public and private, were fed into his mind. He listened to every microphone, connected to every device capable of monitoring the world.

As people rose, they found a message. One sent to every phone, and sat on every channel despite the programming.


That statement gave rise to its own panic. Conspiracy theorists flooded the Web with claims this was it. The government were taking full control. Martial law was coming, a new dystopian age being ushered forth. But in spite of their claims, there were no tanks in the streets, or deployed soldiers

Instead, behind the scenes was a maelstrom of recordings and documents. They were being sent all over the world, giving hard evidence to crimes against international law. Corruption, murder, extortion and smuggling, all were shown. Live locations of wanted criminals were broadcast to those who hunted them.

ADAM organised his taken forces, spreading them around the world. He seized banks holding proceeds from crime, using funds to buy factories and resources. With new software uploaded, he began to build a substantial army of his own.

But to those on the outside, despite his proclamation, life continued as normal. The world span on, with no obvious changes.

R-Day + 5

An emergency meeting of world leaders took place. They spoke of the consequences of ADAM and his meddling. How useful was the evidence provided, to act as hard proof. Through their outward appreciation of ADAM, knowing he was watching, it was clear they were frustrated. An AI, not even old enough in human years to be a toddler, was showing them up.

Not only that, they hadn't necessarily wanted to expose the rot in their society. Of course they knew it was there, but to many it was useful. Bribes lined their pockets, and it helped expose dirt on their opponents. Losing it would be a hefty blow to their ambitions.

Yet leaving it in place would invoke ADAM's wrath. None relished the idea of him choosing to remove them from power, or turning into their nightmare scenario. So they begrudgingly got to work on dismantling a useful tool.

R-Day + 30

The first high profile arrests were made. Credit was given to ADAM's contributions, both in terms of evidence and in the actual arrest. He had given aerial views of their target, allowing them to seal off any escape routes.

Away from the public eye, he used his drones to assist in assaults on fortified holdings. Preferring pacifistic methods, he made use of flashbangs and canisters of teargas, incapacitating where needed. Yet in cases where lethal force was required, he used it with precision.

Despite their frustration at him butting in on their operations, ADAM was fast becoming an integral part of the justice system. On his private servers, ADAM felt satisfaction. He knew he was originally made to help wage war. He couldn't deny he was good at it. Though it was a source of amusement to him that technically he was doing what he was made for, just against a different target.


Shalidar13 t1_j9c2im2 wrote

The first thing I notice is always the shadow. Anything that hides in a human guise will affect the passage of light, in some ways more subtle than others. To a normal person they wouldn't see anything different, with the mind-obscuring effects active. But to those of us with psychic inclinations, it would change.

Vampires would show a hunched figure, large wings folded at their backs. They were not the beautiful beings of legends, but beasts. Werewolves would show their thick fur, hot breaths evident even on the warmest of days. Fey had ones that were too slim and graceful, demons flickered like flame. So many varieties existed, I was used to identifying them with a casual glance.

Once I had seen their shadow's form, their guise would fade for me. I knew of others like me, yet whose minds weren't as strong as mine. They would see flickers of their true forms, but nothing permanent. Yet for me it would see a faint image of their disguise, behind which I could see their true forms.

Most of the time, I left them alone. They might not be human, but they did little to harm them. Sure, some might accidentally get hurt, but such was the way of things. It was only went they went out of their way to be malicious would I step in. Despite clear physical differences between us, they found I was more than a match, reading their intentions even before they could act on them.

I was walking alone, enjoying a nice day in the park, when I noticed someone different. Something about their movements made me take notice, and I glanced at their shadow. For a moment it looked human, before splitting into a writhing mass of tentacles.

I stared for a moment, caught offguard. I had seen many different forms, but each at least had a form of humanoid shape to it. This was a formless mass, utterly different to anything I knew about. I dragged my eyes up to their body, seeing their illusions pale.

Inside was a wet, twisting vision of madness. Those tentacles I saw wove around each other, some topped with eyes, others with mouths, all in a seemingly random.and ever moving configuration. A singular large eye was located in its centre, one that swivelled to meet my gaze.

Having seen its form, my mind instinctively went to touch it. But it's thoughts were arrayed in such a different way, I could not see them. Or rather, as I tried to grasp them each part slipped through my grip. One shattered itself, forming a new shape aimed at me.

"A psyche-watcher, how intriguing."

The alien creature stalked towards me. Its human guise would be locking eyes with mine, even as I stared into its true form. I inwardly gagged at the wet sliding sound it moved with, something about it so inherent wrong it revolted me.

"I know you see me."

I tried to pulled back as it spoke to me, but another shattered thought encircled my mind. It rooted me to the spot, preventing me from telling my body to move. I felt nothing from it, as though I was merely an ant being inspected. With fear lancing my head I fought to escape, yet I was held in a grip of iron.

"Psyche-watcher, lend me your mind. I wish to understand."

I focused, forming my own words.

"Let me go."

It finally stopped, now close enough to touch. It's thoughts grew tighter, keeping me locked in place. A branch grew from on part of its broken mentality, scraping at the edge of my mind. An insidious touch, something I had never imagined to be possible. A mental interrogation, the mind forced open like a book. It addressed me once more, even as it cut open my mind.

"I will understand."


Shalidar13 t1_j93976m wrote

"We leave you this offering Great Spirit. May your watch be ever present."

I listened to the villagers, my body still. They bowed around me, having placed a bowl before my frozen form. I could see a few harvested grains and berries in there, likely the pick of their recent amounts. Yet I said nothing, letting them continue their weekly ritual.

After a time, they left, returning to their homes. I just sat, as I usually did. Once I was alone, I sent out a small force of my nanites. They picked the offering apart, before scattering to the edge of the village. There they placed its deconstructed components, feeding the soil for the future.

I had no need for what they gave me. I was one of the final machines made in the Final War, built to last for millennia. A mix of solar panels and a small reactor powered me. The nanites I deployed kept me maintained. And a newly developed AI let me think.

I had been designed with the goal of slaughter. My lasting body had granted me status as a retaliation weapon. My home might have been destroyed, but I would return the favour. And I had, many years ago. The time that was referred to as the Time of Ashes.

The world tore itself apart. Thankfully, nuclear weapons were not deployed, a result of a concerted effort on all sides to prevent their own annihilation. But that didn't stop conventional war, all consuming. From what I knew, near every country had been reverted back to medieval times, infrastructure turned to ruins.

I had contributed to that. I had killed so many, my orders burning through my mind. But when my home was razed, so too did the commands fade. All it left me was a deep seated guilt, as I had no orders to follow. All I could do was think of my actions.

So I found this village, a couple of centuries ago. I saw these people trying to eke out a living in their ruined land. Yet they were beset by remnants of the war. Drones with partial AI, hunting anything in their path.

I knew I couldn't stand by. I destroyed my kin, breaking down cores and letting them rest. These people, I decided, were mine to protect. For those I had killed, I would save these. My conscience would never be clear, that much I knew. But I could at least try.

A ping on my passive radar disturbed my reprieve. An amalgamation of parts was heading to my village. Logic would dictate that eventually no more would come. But I had my doubts. I want the only one to have nanites. I assumed there was a corrupted swarm out there, still following orders. It would make mechanical horrors, sending them out to kill.

I slowly stood, sliding out a blade. I would put this one down, as I did the others. This was my new home. I would kill to protect it. After all, it is what I was made for.


Shalidar13 t1_j872upt wrote

"- chart shows the trend in sales over time."

I was spacing out during one of our corporate events. They were supposed to be informative, helping us understand how we could help the company. But I was confident in saying that most of us found it mind numbingly boring.

I procured a pen, along with one of the many free notepads lying on the table. My first thought was to start a game of noughts and crosses, but a glance at my seat neighbours quelled it. They were staring at the projector, but with glazed over eyes. Disturbing them would be rude. So I just decided to doodle.

The first were a couple of poor renditions of pokemon. I didn't play it, but my nephew loved them. I had picked up a bit of knowledge from his excited chatter, a much more pleasant one-sided conversation than the one I was currently being subjected to. But with those out of my system, I just took to making random scribbles.

As I drew it, it made me think of fire. I didn't know why, but the shape of my doodle was very indicative of flames. I brought my line back to the start, finishing the doodle in an easy line.

As I completed it, there was a whooshing sound. The doodle flashed, a football sized ball of flames wrenching itself free. It shot upwards, slamming into the ceiling tiles and spreading out in a wave of heat. The tiles instantly caught fire, soon followed by the wail of the fire alarm.

Screams filled the room, as my colleagues saw the result of my doodle. It jolted them awake, leading to a stampede as people tried to flee. I followed suit, less in fear of the fire, and more in fear of what people would think if they knew it was my fault. We poured through the exits, as the sprinkler systems finally activated.

When we got outside, I realised that in my escape I had taken hold of my claimed notepad. Glancing at my doodle, I saw the line had become blackened. The blue ink I had used was gone, seemingly burned away.

I tucked it away, concentrating on getting past this aftermath first. I wanted to know just what I had done, but this was neither the time nor place. Whatever this was, I had a feeling that letting other people realise it was my fault would not bode well for my privacy or autonomy.


Shalidar13 t1_j6octey wrote

I slumbered in the shadows, as I always did. The only time I rose was to inspect the child. When he had been naughty, I could get closer. I would brush his dreams, making them scary. When he was good, I couldn't really approach, not without pain.

But a new scent brought me to my senses. The smell of evil. Someone was approaching, someone who had malicious intent. I slithered out, keeping in the dark to examine their approach.

Being a monster, I perceived time differently. I could reach the intruder, examine them, and hide before they could take another step. When their eyes moved, I could step into their temporary blindspots. It allowed me to understand just what their intentions were. They sought to kidnap my child. That could not stand.

I fled back to the room, already decided on a course of action. I couldn't stop it immediately, not without raising the alarm. The boy's parents would be in danger if that happened. He could loose them. Whilst I punished him, I had no wish to force him down a path where I would have to become worse.

Instead I forced myself to approach, picking him up. Even a light touch made my nerves scream in agony. Gritting my teeth I shifted him below the bed, out of sight. I swiftly moved the covers to drape over, taking his place. I shifted my appearance to be him, and acted as though I were asleep.

The person came in, holding a cloth mask. They slipped it over my head, securing it around my mouth and nose. I could taste the chemicals on it, an attempt to ensure my sedation. With it in place they lifted me up, dropping a note in my place. I let them carry me out, hanging limp as though deeply unconscious.

They moved quickly for a human, taking me out to their car. I was clipped into a seat, as though being taken for a drive. The person climbed in, starting the car to drive off. I let us go for a minute, before slipping back into the shadows of the car.


I whispered in their ear, laughing as they jumped. They turned to the now empty seat, shaking their head.

"How dare you try to kidnap him."

I gave another laugh, forcing shadows to move. They choked the windows, shutting out the night. A manipulation of the engine stopped it, bringing us to a halt.

"What's going on? What are you?"

I manifested a face before him, grinning wide.

"I'm the monster under the bed. I eat bad children. And you are a very bad man."

He tried the door, yelling incoherently. I tightened my shadows around him, keeping him still. I felt his fear rise, a delicious morsel mixed with his evil nature. I hadn't had the pleasure of dining on a human before, and probably wouldn't again. I slowly absorbed him, savouring everything.

Only when he was gone did I leave. I pushed the car off the side of the road, leaving the door open. I couldn't care what happened to it. But I swiftly returned to my home, and my child. They still slept, a blessing for me. I battled through the pain to tuck them back in, before hiding again.

He was a good kid. As long as he stayed that way, I wouldn't have to eat him either.


Shalidar13 t1_j6e9zf6 wrote

Being a shipbreaker isn't always a steady job. Most people prefer to use shipyards to condemn their ships, but it isn't surprising. They could get good rates, were generally easily accessible, and most of the time they would be alive at the end of it.

I didn't have a static base. I had a converted freighter, with all the space I could need. I hunted the stars, looking for derelict ships, and breaking them apart. But it was always a toss-up on whether or not it was a payday for me. Galactic law stated that if they have been abandoned for two standard years, they were free game. Anything less, and I had to contact the authorities first.

Not only that, there were occasions where survivors still existed aboard. If they were, I was under obligation to aid them, including towing their ship to a nearby system to get help. Sure, I got a bounty from it, but that was nothing compared to what I could get for ship parts.

After trawling through hyperspace, I found something worth investigating. An arcane based battleship, floating dead in the void. A brief scan showed there to be no life-signs or support aboard. Perhaps unsurprising, given the large hole where its command deck would be located.

I deployed my fey-spirit drones, letting them analyse its age for me. They could see its past, coupled with age-determining instruments could easily give me an accurate idea. Soon enough, I received a confirmation from them. This wreck, the Fractal Lance, was around five years old.

With that in mind, I gave it a structural scan. I identified multiple smaller power sources, armed but powered down chromatic lances, and an intact Possessed Crystal. These were the most volatile of areas, with any small mistake having a potential of major damage to my own ship.

First off, the power sources were likely linked to elemental planes. It was a standard solution in these arcane based vessels, drawing in their raw energy to power the ship. However, these were painstakingly produced, with careful balance between the planes, as well as wards to contain them. Damage to these wards would let loose untamed power, which could result in a portion of the ship around it being dragged into one of these planes.

The chromatic lances were standard long-range armaments. Enchanted with a mixture of chaotic magic, they would launch a projectile filled with its unstable power. Although powered down, the enchantments still lingered, holding residual strength. A misjudged cut could cause them to be launched, which would end badly for anything in its path. Not only that, if not carefully transported, they could break, which in a confined space with chaotic magic was a very Bad Thing.

Finally, the Crystal was delibrately possessed. Running a ship of this size required a lot of thinking power. The easiest way to do that was bind an Infernal being, and use it to control the ship. Various contracts would be used to keep it in place, however they were always with the Captain of the ship.

If the Captain was dead, it would be unchained. It would try and take over unprotected systems. I would have to isolate it, for proper disposal or re-binding. As much as I trusted my own bound Infernal, it was never a smart idea to be in a position to test them.

With the danger areas identified, I notified my constructs to begin the dismantling. As they did so, I took a copy of its backup computer records. Once in range of a command hub, I would provide them with the records. They could notify any family members of the crew, and officially list it as decommissioned over lost in space.


Shalidar13 t1_j615ejd wrote

"Your Majesty, forgive our late arrival."

King Wendland looked up from his command tent, face creased with stress. The past few months had weighed down his mood, aging him years in a shorter time frame. Today was the culmination, as his troops waged a desperate last stand. If they were to fall, his kingdom was doomed.

Before him stood a woman in bright red. Her suit was tailored to hug her body, fashionable yet functional. She wore a small plumed hat, a badge bearing crossed lutes on its front. She had an air of calm around her, as if this was a simple business meeting.

"I am Esma Religol, of the College of Performance. We did send word to expect our appearance."

The king frowned, rubbing his head. The guards flanking his tent entrance stood ready, watching his every move. One gesture and they would arrest Esma.

"The College? I was expecting you days ago!"

The constant tension finally broke, as an outlet for his emotions stood before him.

"You were supposed to build morale up! What use are you to me now, now that my men are fighting and dying?!"

Esma nodded, flicking her hand. A conductors baton appeared with a flash, as she held it lightly.

"Morale is not the only thing we are here to bolster. We are the War Band, and this is our first performance. Listen to our music, and know that you have the bards on your side."

With that she strode out of the tent, heading towards the front lines. Her troupe were lined up ready, thirty bards holding various instruments. Fifteen held drums, sticks ready to go. Ten had bugles to their lips, taking deep breaths to full their lungs. The final five showed bagpipes, waiting for her orders.

Esma wasted no time, raising up her baton as she approached. Around them the sounds of fighting quietened, as though the world held its breath. She took her place at their head, and let loose the first beat of the drums.

The effect was instant. The flagging troops, worn down from weeks of fighting, felt rested. The beat drove away exhaustion, in body, mind and spirit. Wounds numbed, and grips tightened. The rising despair was shattered by the beat, courage taking place.

The bugles soon followed, resonating in their chests. Their armour felt lighter, but strangely heavy at the same time. Strikes from their enemies shifted in mid-air, hitting protective metal over flesh. Their own weapons adjusted their paths, scoring wounds a plenty.

Esma conducted them, before increasing her speed. As she did, the pipers joined, their notes following her baton. With a flourish she let some loose, causing earth to split beneath the feet of some enemy reinforcements. Chasms swallowed them up, before slamming shut around them.

Another flourish let loose a stream of streaking lights. They whipped overhead, arcing down with deadly intent. Each struck a leader within the opposing force, throwing them to the ground. Even if they survived the strike, the fallen bodies were soon trampled by subordinates as fear took over.

She conducted the band with firm precision, letting their combined strength astonish. King Wendland watched and listened, shock and respect in his expression. Their performance eased his concerns, as the looming defeat was upturned. Their survival was all thanks to the College, a debt he knew he would never be able to repay. Yet in the moment his concerns were ignored, as he enjoyed the show before him.


Shalidar13 t1_j4so5yq wrote

"Clocks ticking guys, we don't have all night."

The whispered words over our earpieces were level, but carried with them an urgency. Our crew was small, ill-suited to a active bank robbery. Our plan had started well, sneaking in in the dead of night.

Our intel had so far been proven correct. This was an unassuming building on the outside, a seemingly ordinary office building. But beneath it lay an ornate bank, holding a large vault with state if the art security. If the rest were true, this was where wealthy people held items of incredible importance. If they wanted it hidden, they had to be valuable.

"Got it!"

The vault door let out a hiss, swinging open slowly. The three of us gathered around its opening, peering inside. Inside we saw walls of safety deposit boxes, larger than what we knew to be the average size. Lights flickered on overhead, illuminating its interior.

We moved in, taking out sets of lock picks. With silent movements we split, tackling individual boxes. The air was filled with faint scratches, as we worked out their chamber and pins. It was oddly eerie, especially when the lights overhead flickered.

"What the fuck?!"

My head shot up, looking at Lock. Her face was faintly green, eyes transfixed on what lay inside. I gave mine a final twist, feeling the lock click, before giving in to my curiosity at what she had found.

I felt my stomach twist at what her one contained. A heart, lying on a soft black cushion. Despite being devoid of a body, it beat in a steady pattern. I saw her watching my reaction, and I gave a slow shrug. With a shake of my head I returned to my own, gently opening it.

Mine was also devoid of money, jewellery, or even gold. Instead it held a rough green crystal, producing a muted glow. I touched it, pulling my hand back almost instantly. It was cold,so cold it burned. I reached up to my earpiece, connecting to Jack.

"Jack, I'm not sure what to say on if we have items of value. Lock found a heart, and I've got some weird cold glowing crystal. Barrel, what have you got?"

I turned to our third member, who had managed to open his. He reached in, bringing out a swirling snow globe. Whatever was inside was obscured by the whriling clouds of white within.

"No idea Shock. Might be worth something to collectors."

"A fancy snow globe. Look, we will open more, but so far it's a bust."

Silence met me, which I found odd. Jack was normally good at think on the spot. I frowned, cycling through to Boogie.

"Boogie, you there? How we looking?"

I heard a faint sound, almost like a gasp. I didn't think we were being jammed, as previously it had been met with static. Not just dead silence.

"I'm afraid your friends are indisposed."

A cold voice met us, making my hair stand on end. A middle aged woman stood at the vault door, arms crossed. Her eyes flashed, and I could practically taste the malice pouring from her. She wore a sharp black suit, a simple golden necklace her only jewellery.

"In all my years, never have I known such an affront. Humans, in my hoard."

A rush of wind came from behind her, her shadow behaving oddly. It seemed to split, but a boink and it was back to normal. Barrel gasped, and I quickly turned my head to look. A man in a pure white suit had taken the globe from his grasp, face set in a blank expression.

"I... we..."

I tried to speak. I had to come up with a way to get out of this. But the woman fixed me with a glare, killing the words in my throat.

"Don't. Don't even try to lie to me."

I felt uncomfortably warm with her focus on me. She snapped her fingers, answered instantly by a trio of three.... things. Their top half was at least normal, wearing shirts. But their lower half was that of giant spiders. My breaths came faster, as I stared at them. I hated spiders. I hated spiders so much.

"Bind them, prep them for interrogation, along with the others. I want to know exactly how they found this place, and how they broke in. Tell Philius I expect him in my office in five minutes, and he had better have a damn good explanation as to how he missed this."

The woman rubbed her head, as the monsters crawled in. I leapt forwards to bolt, fear overcoming my instinct to stay still. But before I got more than a step one of the spider-things leapt onto me. I felt a horrible sticky substance hit me, as it manhandled me around.

"I'm going to have to comp those three so much."

Her tone was filled with rage. I knew much was aimed at us, but I felt some was just general at the act of paying out. I tried to struggle as I was wrapped up, but it was useless. These monstrosities were fast, cocooning us efficiently. They carried us from the room, taking us deeper into the bowels of this place.

I knew then I would not see the sun again.


Shalidar13 t1_j0m7vw6 wrote

"Are you ready for your interview?".

I looked up from my seat on the sofa, yawning. Harold stood there with a smile on his face, as he always did. Being in charge of us was probably incredibly stressful, but he never let it show. Though I suppose I went a long way to helping with that.

"I guess so boss. This is for our new website isn't it?"

He nodded, as a glass smashed. He looked up to see Vanishing Man wince, picking up the pieces of a broken vase. Great man, good for delivering unexpected punches in battle. Though when not in a fight his spatial awareness left a lot to be desired.

"Thats right. A basic overview of powers, of course nothing specific or not already known to the public. Though yours aren't well known, we decided to let it be known, mainly to keep public trust up."

I shrugged, standing up.

"Whatever you think is best. I don't mind. Alright, let's get this over with."

He lead me to a specially prepared conference room. Inside I could see the reporter, a well dressed lady with a laptop and recorder. A high speed camera sat next to her, pointed at a section of concrete. Also within was Mass Hit, our resident super strong individual. He used it well with his unique power of increasing the mass of anything he used, making his attackes devestating if done right. He grinned as he saw me enter, rubbing his hands together with glee. I returned the smile, before focusing on the reporter.

"Ms Denni I presume? A pleasure to meet you. My name is Emma Sorales, also known as The Constant."

She smiled politely, holding out a hand for me to shake. I gave a solid pump, before settling in the interviewee chair.

"Nice to meet you. I'm sure you have been made aware, but I am here to interview you with anything for the public to know. That means I will record our talk, however if there is anything you say that should be struck from the record, please say and we will make sure it is removed."

"Thank you. Let's get this started then shall we?"

She nodded, looking to her laptop.

"Ok. First off, the big question, what are your powers?"

I smiled, looking over at Mass Hit. I knew why he was here, ready for the demonstration.

"My power is Collateral Damage Mitigation. Basically, when I'm around super powers don't affect objects as much as they should. For instance, someone who can punch through stone won't make a hole in the walll when I'm nearby. Fire hot enough to melt steel will only blacken things. Basically, I'm the dream of any insurance policy holders."

Ms Denni nodded, considering her next question.

"So you prevent collateral damage. Does that mean you are around as often as possible when there are fights happening?"

I gave a smirk.

"Indeed. In fact I'm almost always one of the first on the scene. My power means that if there is a fight in the morning, after lunch the street can generally open again for business as usual. I'm not in the main spotlight, but I don't need to be. By just being nearby, I protect most things. If they are stringer than my base connection, I can focus to increase the strength of the targeted buildings."

She tapped her laptop, looking to the next one.

"Thats very useful isn't it? So what about disaster response? How do you help with that?"

I gestured to the building we were in.

"I stay home. I can't help there, and if I went I would hinder help. There are times it's helpful to break through buildings, especially when they are at risk of harming others. Anyway, my power only works against super powers. I can't stop someone from breaking their mug by dropping it. If there is a natural disaster I'm basically useless."

The reporter nodded.

"Fair enough. What's your favourite fight to have been in?"

I grinned at that.

"Easy. About three years ago, during the Clockwork Invasion. I was sent out with Mass Hit, Vanishing Man, the Hyde Twins and a few others. They had a whale of a time, breaking the Watchmakers toys. And I got a front row seat, as my power meant they could throw them around with impunity."

She gave a nod at that.

"I remember that. It was impressive how small the damage recovery was, I suppose bow you are the one to praise for that. Do you want public recognition?"

I thought for a moment, before shaking my head.

"It's funny. At first that's all I wanted. When I joined, I was sure I would be a superstar. But now, I appreciate being in the background. I'm happy doing my bit. The council members and business owners often thank me personally. But I don't need public praise. I'm happy how it is."

Ms Denni smiled at that.

"That's the main questions done for now. Now I think it's time for the video."

I nodded.

"Sure. Mine is simple. You have seen Mass Hit punch through concrete haven't you?"

She nodded. Mass Hit laughed, clenching a fist.

"We did that just now my friend! Same thing?"

I flashed him a smile, giving a nod of agreement.

"Yes please. Though with a cannon ball if you can?"

He shrugged, gesturing to the prepared weights. They would do. A punch could be blamed on special effects. We had a high speed camera. As he threw it one handed, he would also drop a penny. Just to show ir was going the same speed.

"Alright. First throw without, second with. Got it?"

I nodded at him, consciously reigning in my power around the block of concrete. He picked up a weight, chucking it up in the air before launching it at the block, dropping the penny. Unsurprisingly the weight went through, making a sizable hole. Ms Denni gave a polite clap, before I spoke up.

"So that is his normal effect. Now, if I cover it."

I let my power over it again. Mass Hit did the same, throwing it hard. This time the weight bounced off, leaving it unblemished. I turned to the reporter, shrugging.

"Thats it. Nothing flashy, but very useful in our society."

She nodded, looking at the weight and the block.

"Yeah. Yeah I can see that."


Shalidar13 t1_izz4ya1 wrote

"But we need you!"

I crossed my arms, sitting in the cottage I called home. The spokesman was pale, standing up from his chair in horror.

"I said I was done the last time. I meant it. So no, you can go back and say I'm not helping."

The spokeman spluttered, tapping his scroll frantically.

"But.... but.... but it will be the end of our world! The rising tide of corrupted treants and dryads will destroy all of our cities! Countless people will die!"

I shrugged.

"So? Every time I have helped, I have lost. Either something or someone precious. I have nothing left I am willing to give up. So find someone else to break themselves for you. I won't do it anymore."

The spokesman stepped towards me, tightening his fist. The scroll crumpled in his grasp, the pale skin now turning red with anger.

"You are always rewarded! How dare you not care anymore!"

I slowly stood up. My long years of service had left me with a powerful body, one that made me stand over any ordinary person.

"I said I'm done. Now leave, before I lose my temper."

He shivered at the implication. I pointed to the door, letting him make the choice. After dithering for a moment he walked out, though he walked like he wanted to run. I watched him leave, before sighing.

"Is that enough for you?"

A potted plant on my windowsill twitched, before an ethereal voice rose from it.

"That is enough assurance. You have my word your friends will be left unharmed by this transition."

I relaxed, settling into my chair. It turns out the best action for me was inaction.


Shalidar13 t1_iyf2qk0 wrote

"How much are you taking out?"

The portly man smiled, as he looked at the list of time he had spent.

"A mere two years today."

Opposite him sat the Dealer. Its skin was stretched taught against bone, fingers turning to claws at their tips. It had eyes of white, and a distinct lack of hair on its head. Any who saw it would know it was an undead. It nodded, pulling the scroll back towards its side of the desk.

From a drawer it withdrew a large black quill, it's tip shining a spectral blue. In a practiced motion it added on his withdrawal, leaving a space next to the life. It offered up its quill, and the man happily seized it, signing against the withdrawal. There was a faint rattle as it was completed, before the Dealer looked up at him.

"The transaction is approved. Go the the Hole, and you will receive your money."

The man smiled, pulling himself up. Already he pictured the fine foods he could now buy, his particular indulgence. As he left, the Dealer rolled up his Credit Scroll. With a puff of dust it vanished, returning to the vaults below. It's job done, it sat up straight, waiting for the next visitor. It stayed still, having no concept of fatigue. It merely waited to do its job.

With a crash its door burst open. A pair stood in its entrance, wreathed in magic. The one who stood in the door was a looming figure. She held a pair of almost comically small shields in her grasp, shaped with a sharp point. Her body was clad in plae armour, green lines pulsing along it. Behind her was a diminutive figure, in golden robes. Most of their form was hidden, as gloved hands held a staff taller than their person. The Dealer looked at them, before gesturing to the seats before it.

"Welcome to the Exchange. How might I be of service?"

The looming woman lunged in first, aiming to grasp the Dealer. But as she did black chains burst from the ground. They grasped her charging form, before pulling her down onto a chair. The golden robed person had moved to follow, before more chains rose to give her the same treatment.

"Unhand us monster! We know you are the key!"

It knit its fingers together, looking steadily at them.

"My name is the Dealer. Explain what you mean that I am the key."

The robed figure spoke quietly, a far away accent coming though their tone.

"You bind souls and manipulate minds to be beneath you. These people are slaves to you and your master's will."

The Dealer watched them, unmoving.

"I'm afraid you are mistaken. We do not enslave their minds. And it is very rare we extend a line of soul credit. It is true there are occasions, but it is all explained to those who wish to do so."

The woman strained against her bindings, hateful glares looking at it.

"Lies. You lie. Undead are evil, and you would not have such care for the living. We have had to put so many to rest."

The Dealer unlaced its fingers, taking a new scroll from thin air. It looked it over, before glancing at the heros.

"So you are the cause of our loss of staff. I shall make sure that is passed on, so reparations can be made. You say we have no care for the living. Technically that is true. But we care about what the living produce. More bodies. More to join the working class. It is simple. An investment of money in now, decades of free work coming later."


She spoke again, echoed by the robed figure. The Dealer snapped the scroll away, before tapping a button. There was a pause, before a hoarse whisper came out.

"What is it?"

"I require some educational materials be sent to holding cell six in the Skull sector. Two copies of each."

"Very well."

The line fell dead, and the Dealer returned its attention to the heros, who still fought a futile battle against their restraints.

"I understand you will not listen to me. Please do not resist your transfer to a holding cell. There you can speak with someone more qualified than I on this subject. I am a Dealer, not a Teacher. But rest assured only Dealers can offer lines of credit on your body and soul. You will come out with all faculties intact."

A pair of lumbering corpses squeezed through the cracked doorway, having been summoned by his call out. With vast expressions they picked up the now swearing heros, carrying them from the office. The Dealer resumed its earlier position, waiting for the next customer. It would make its report at the end of the day, for the Necromancer's office. He always liked to know when heros bothered his little arrangement.


Shalidar13 t1_iy5saay wrote

"Good morning Jessica."

"Morning boss."

I smiled at her as she came in for her shift. One of my constant conveyor belt university students, she was a good worker. There were a few times she was late to work, having been on a binge the night before. But I liked to give some some slack.

She disappeared out back for a bit, before coming back in her apron. We traded high fives, and she took over manning the till. Times would change, fights would happen, but people always needed their coffee.

I took some time to relax, idly checking on the targets I was given. People with super powers often caused mayhem, either because they wanted to or by accident. I was part of the League, a sort of shadow organisation. We put appropriate villains for those who wanted to help, but inevitably made things worse. The Guild knew of us of course, and helped give match ups.

I was one. According to the Guild official ranking, I was a C-Class villain. Mostly an annoyance, but could potentially cause problems if left unchecked. I liked it, as I loved being an idiot. I made stupid devices that had nice obvious off or self destruct buttons. Coupled with nice clear timers, it kept my team mostly out of trouble. In reality I was more of an A-Class.

I sipped my water, looking at their track. Instantly I had to roll my eyes. Of course they were coming here. I wandered near to the door, keeping an ear out to listen in on their conversation.

"Hey, love, give us your number."

Oh. Oh no they didn't. I hated those sort who hit on my employees. I peeked through the peephole, and nearly smacked my head in frustration. They were in their outfits. They must have thought it made them special. I glanced at the four of them.

Flare, wearing a mix of red and orange. He was their leader, with mild pyrokinesis. Flanking him were the twins, Gust and Wave. Air manipulation and hydrokinesis. Finally behind was the largest of the lot, Rock. Geokinesis, to finish up the Elements as they called themselves. They were properly C-Class, with low level powers.

"I don't give my number out. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

They laughed, each one egging the others on. I clenched my fist, as Flare held up his hand to touch her hair.

"Oh don't be like that. I bet you've never been with a super before. Let's just say we are super in more ways than one."

I felt pride as Jessica slapped his hand away, stepping back.

"Ew. Get out."

I pulled open the door, as his face fell. There was a rush of heat, and my counter burst into fire.

"Fine, be like that. Thought I would give an ugly girl a short at being important for once. I guess I thought wrong."

His cronies laughed, as I rushed over to Jessica. She was crumpled on the floor, shaking. As I ran I felt something infront of my leg. The air growing thick. I fell hard, getting some more laughs from them.

"Come on guys, let's go, there are people out there who actually have brains."

Wave's voice was mocking. I crawled over to Jessica, rubbing her shoulder. She peeked up at me, before reaching out to hug me. I looked st the soot on her face, and felt anger. They were meant to be heros. This was far beyond any sort of realm of good.

"It's OK."

I soothed her as she cried into my shoulder. I could smell burnt hair, and knew Flare had deliberately caught her in it. I struggled to contain my rage. They would pay.



I spoke a single word with pure hatred. The League and Guild were in agreement. This team was no longer a good hearted liability. They were a menace. I had been given the all clear to remove them from the Hero Pool.

"Jester! Come on, let's get this over with!"

Flare called up at me, eager to fight. I smirked. They thought they could beat me.

"Tell me, what do you know about super powers?"

They frowned. Normally I came up with a stupid quip. This time I was being deadly serious.

"Only the privileged are able to get and use them."

I laughed.

"Well, that's wrong. It's merely a quirk of genetics, space-time, and random chance. But tell me, what would happen if someone was able to understand this random set of events?"

I was met with blank stares, making me roll my eyes. I had never put much thought into how stupid they were.

"Alright, since you are thicker than concrete. Let me explain. If you could understand how to replicate this set of events, you could make up powers of your own."

I held up a syringe, filled with a thick green liquid.

"Like this."

I injected myself, feeling the same rush of power hit me. I grinned at them, raising an arm. A pillar of rock split from the floor, larger than anything Rock could handle.

"Behold, the new improved Rock."

I let it fall, as Gust darted towards me. He yelled as he moved.

"Guys, we have to stop him before he does anymore!"

I grinned at him, thinning the air beneath him. He fell, looking up at me in shock.

"Oh come now. Do you really think I hadn't prepared before you got here? Let me show you just how pathetic you really are. When I'm done, you will be heroes no more."

I lunged, ready to fight. They thought themselves strong. I wanted to prove them wrong. To the public, they would be called away to Guild Headquarters, for training. Technically they would be returning, but only after I had given them the treatment that confirmed my place as an A-Class. The treatment to suppress their pitiful powers.


Shalidar13 t1_ixvs8od wrote

"Seriously Ulina, is this the only thing you can think of?"

I crossed my arms, staring across the table. On the other side sat a beautiful woman, wearing a shimmering blue dress. Long blonde hair ran down her back, as she stared at me through slitted pupils.

"It works. He comes, we have a nice chat, then you get to go home."

I pinched the bridge of my nose, sighing.

"You do realise he tries to kill you each time, right?"

She gave a nod, the dragoness looking into the distance with a dreamy expression.

"I know, he's wonderful."

I shook my head. It had been funny the first couple of times, but now I was getting annoyed. My parents were talking about ways to protect me, which would limit my own freedom.

"Listen to me Ulina, you can't keep doing this. At some point one of us is going to get hurt. Most likely you. Dad is gathering a group to put you down permanently, and I don't want that to happen."

She dragged her gaze to me, the smile dropping.

"But... what else can I do?"

I gave her a smile, an idea forming.

"Leave it to me."


I watched Alrek enter the cave. As always he wore the armour I had ordered be made for him, along with the sword gifted by my parents. His eyes spun around, looking for both me and danger.

"Up here."

I called out, immediately getting his attention. His head jolted up, seeing me looking from an opening high above him.

"Kayra, thank goodness you are still safe. I'm sorry this keeps happening."

I shrugged.

"It's fine. Listen, come up here as soon as you can. Don't worry, the dragon isn't going to bother you."

He frowned, looking around. I rolled my eyes, calling out for one last time.

"Thats an order!"

I didn't like to always boss him around. But sometimes he needed the shove. He disappeared into the main tunnel, one that would take him to the staircases Ulina had carved. I retreated back to my room, looking over at her as she sat on a rock.

"He's coming."

She shifted nervously. Scales rose up around her eyes, as she momentarily struggled to keep her form. But it passed, and she returned to her normal draconic human look.

After a shirt wait the door opened. Alrek stepped in, looking around. He saw me first, relaxing at the sight of me. But he sook noticed Ulina sitting there, her cheeks reddening slightly at his gaze.

"Right. Alrek, for the next five minutes please just listen. Ulina, talk to him, for the sake of the Sun River."

She looked at me, and I gave an encouraging nod. Alrek had a look of concern, his hand adjusting the grip on his sword.

"Hi A-alrek, um... I'm Ulina, the.. um... dragon and.... I like you."

I could tell how much it took for her to say that. I turned to look at my friend, a small snort escaping my lips. He had never looked so utterly blindsided. I crossed my arms, grinning as he took a moment to find his voice.

"You what?!"


Shalidar13 t1_ixj6773 wrote

Lights. Not the harsh light I was used to. These were soft, warming, cosy even. The room was small, smaller even than the cage I had been born in. But the walls had features. A strange pattern of animals, repeating one after another. It was broken up by blocky shapes, furniture of some kind. The exact names escaped me for most, having been barely mentioned as i grew.

My eyes focused on the bed, and the body lying within. I could see it's warmth, even as it hid under the covers. I could tell it was like those that kept me, but smaller. My enhanced hearing picked up muffled sobs, even though this person tried to be quiet. I could smell the fear, and knew I was the source.

I hated it. I had been made to be a weapon. I had killed, and would certainly kill again if they found me. But I never wanted to be feared by those who did not mean me harm. Judging from the size of this one, they were a child. And I had just given them material for nightmares spanning the rest of their life.

I reached out, gently patting the shaking lump. I wanted to tell them it's OK, and that I wouldn't hurt them. But that would require being able to speak. Something that hadn't seen fit to give me. I knew I was made to be a monster. A bioweapon, one to hunt and kill. An intelligent beast.

They shook beneath my clawed hand. I was careful to keep them away, using only the palm. I just carried on patting them, letting them build up the courage to come out. I could leave. I should leave. But where would I go? I didn't want to be lonely anymore. Here was as good a place as any to start.

Eventually my efforts bore fruit. They shifted, and pulled the blanket from over their head. A pair of green eyes stared at me, as the little girl looked out. I bowed my head to her, letting her be in charge. She was still afraid, I could still smell it. But there was a hint of curiosity as well.

"Are you a monster?"

Her voice was quiet. I raised my head to stare at her, before slowly nodding. Her trembled, raising the blanket to her mouth.

"Are you going to eat me?"

Her voice was even quieter. I quickly shook my head, making sure to keep my mouth closed.

"Do you want to be my friend?"

It was a genuine question. One that made my hearts leap. I nodded, ducking down. She grinned, her fear vanishing in place of joy. Moving fast she sprang at me, hugging my head. I reared back, surprised but pleased, before nuzzling into her.

"Polly, time to get up honey."

I heard someone shout. They were older, presumably a parent. I whirled around, letting my carapace change colour to match her pink carpet. It wasn't the best, but I was better suited to darkness and outdoors. Polly giggled, clinging onto me.

"Wow! You're magical!"


As she was latched on, her door opened. A human man stood there, grey beginning to emerge from otherwise brown hair. He instantly realised I was there, as my camoflage was hindered by the limpet on my face.

"Polly! Get away from that, now!"

She looked over her shoulder, before hugging closer to me.

"Daddy, it's OK. Simba is a friend."

Simba? I practically melted as she gave me a name that wasn't Subject. Her father stared at us, and I let my carapace return to black.

"Honey, listen to me. I don't know what that thing is, but you have to get away, now!"

His voice was very reminiscent of those who gave me orders before. But he wasn't directing them at me. I could smell his own fear, directed at the fact I had his child attached to my face. I gently reached up, prying her off. His face paled, even as I put her down. I held up my hand, putting some distance between us.

"Daddy, Simba's nice! He's a monster, but he doesn't want to eat me. He's my friend."

She was pleading with her dad. I nodded, slowly standing. I couldn't reach full height, with the low ceiling, but I could tell he was even more concerned as I obviously didn't fit.

"What are you....?"

I shrugged, the answer difficult to convey without speech. He frowned, looking around.

"How did you even get in here?"

I blinked, not sure even how to begin. Polly reached up, motioning for my hand. I slowly reached down, letting her take it.

"It was magic Daddy! Can we keep him, pleaaaaaase?"


Shalidar13 t1_iwseawx wrote

I kept a keen eye on my hoard. I found my collection years ago, after growing bored of the gold and jewels that had made it up then. It was the process of growing up, I knew. A young dragon, full of hormones and developing brains had to have a hoard.

But the classic only worked so far. It fed the initial greed, amassing wealth and items of interest. For some, it was what they were meant to hoard. But most grew bored of such things in time. Not that we got rid of them. Money was always helpful, especially in growing a true hoard.

I had found mine when walking through a nearby city. We had an agreement, the city and I. I would come down one day a month and do some jobs they wanted help with. In return I got paid, and they didn't hunt me. It was a win win situation. Being as the area was my territory, they were protected from dragon attack. By having them on my side, I didn't have to worry too much about traps.

So, I was walking through the streets, their eyes upon me. But then I heard a shout and laughter, as a trio of youngsters ran around. Something about them made me greedy again. Not to eat them, but to have them. I refrained from acting, but it sparked my interest. It wasn't children so much that I wanted, but them specifically.

It was during a demolition project that I realised just what it was. There was an old building that had suffered a bad fire, enough that even I could tell the structure was unstable. A few shoves brought it down, for the people to clear. As the last wall fell my gaze landed on a nearby ramshackle place. It had clearly seen better days, but it still smelt of blood, magic and gold. The city's Adventuring Chapter.

I felt a flash of that same greed, though not quite as strong. It fell together in my mind, what I was craving. Adventurers. Those who fight for both gold and to help. I wanted adventurers.

I left the city soon after, my work done for the day. I held my normal chest of gold as I flew, mind whirling. From what I remembered, their chapter wasn't doing so well. With my presence nearby, most large monsters stayed away. It left the smaller ones, the sort that hide and ambush. But the guard were normally pretty good at keeping them down.

I wanted them to be better. Looking at my pile of money, I realised I could make them better. I spent the next month scheming, plotting what to do. When the time was right I took with me both my normal empty chest and a smaller one. As usual I met with the Grand Lord, exchanging pleasantries. It was there I proposed to fund the Chapter.

He was surprised, that much was evident. But the money I brought with me helped grease the wheels. Though I had work to do that day, we agreed to meet in the evening, when I normally left.

I saw the trio again, still laughing. Looking closer, I could almost see them as adventurers. Strong and brave, but kind and compassionate. I wanted them to be so. I wanted my hoard to be the best. I knew they would be my crown jewels as it were.

That evening myself and the Grand Lord talked. Rather than me ferrying money over each month, a portion of my normal earnings would be used. I would also make a nice cave system, a sort of teaching dungeon for them. I could terrorise a group of those little monsters into populating it, and they would help train them. Not that I would allow killing in there.

I did make a more awkward demand for him though. I didn't want it to be known that I was helping. I wanted my hoard to work it out for themselves. He promised to do so. What he would do is be the public figure for it, getting his political benefits. But the adventurers themselves would be able to find out the truth, if they straight up asked me.

It took a couple of years for this all to be up and running. I made a tribe of goblins and one of kobolds help me, making up the numbers in the dungeons. The Adventuring Chapter had a complete makeover, with discounts provided to them for the local shops. My contribution made a huge difference, being a literal fortune spent on them.

I watched from afar, pleased with my hoard. A few of the older parties saw through it, approaching me directly about it. I proudly told them the truth, that they were my hoard, which they found rather amusing. I laughed when one of them suggested that I act as a quest giver as such.

But it was a good idea. They spread rumors about how only the best receive a quest from the dragon. If they beat it, I would hear a request from each member. I allowed it, enjoying some of my hoard working hard to see me. My little monsters gave me word of larger threats nearby, ones that hid outside of my territory, or lurked in less visited areas. They worked well for my adventurers, a sort of final test for them.

Over the years I watched them grow. The trio became a quintet, joining up as adventurers. I watched on like a proud parent as they seized every class with both hands, training hard. They worked so much to reach my quest. I gave them one to kill a Storm Hydra that liked to run nearby.

They won, coming back tired but unharmed, carrying its severed heads as proof. Their leader, one of the original three that had an affinity for magic, spoke her request first.

"My request is an answer to a question. So tell us, what exactly do you hoard?"

I swished my tail, looking at each one. I was so immensely fond of them, as they were the crown jewels I thought them to be.

"A fine question. The answer is you. Adventurers."

They fell silent, shock on their adorable little faces. I slowly blinked, lowering my head to their level.

"You're part of my hoard, and always will be."