Hector sat and ate his breakfast. The common room of the inn had filled up since he’d gone out for training. Hector kept his head down and made his plans.
He needed to find Galelea. She would be able to help him. And he needed to master his abilities. That would take some time. Assuming little time had passed, he had just over two months to prepare for the arena tournament. If he hurried, he’d be able to get somewhere by then, maybe even get his revenge on Lerren. That would be sweet. And those strange people, the thin woman and the wide red-haired man, would have to meet the blade of his axe in due time as well.
Hector squeezed his hand into a fist and had to push down the black flames that threatened to overflow. He was having a hard time getting used to that.
He looked down at this mediocre breakfast. Porridge and bread with boiled eggs. Bland and flavorless, but food. It would serve for now.
Hector was interrupted by Michael. He would have to leave that one behind. Though, he’d been chosen as champion. Hector knew that was unusual. Galethea was the first person he’d met who’d had the same kind of experience in the towers that he had. Meeting with one of the Class Signs was unusual, important.
Michael sat. The boy would be okay on his own. Hector went back to his food.
“What do we do next?” Michael asked.
“I am going to reconnect with my old teammates. You can do some quests and get some experience.”
“How do I do that?” Hector pointed away at the bar. There was a woman sitting there. She had a wide smile on her face and was wearing the basic armor given to a Calamity Caller. She might have even just finished her trial this morning. He looked strong, with a lean muscular build and flowing fiery auburn hair. Her skin was a sort of ashen gray color, but she had pale pink markings over her eyes. She was not from this country, the Kingdom of Damasc, but from Altria, to the North.
“She could help you. Group with her and quest a while.”
“And you’ll meet up with your old crew. I was thinking, though, I mean, you aren’t Orephius anymore. At least, not really.” Hector only grunted. If he was trying to imply something Hector didn’t understand it. “Well,” Michael said slowly. “I just mean, what if they don’t believe you.”
“Of course they’ll believe me,” Hector said.
“And if they don’t? Think of what it will look like. A fresh faced Executioner claiming to be Orephius. Sounds like a scam to me.”
“No, it doesn’t. I’ll know things that only Ore would know.”
“If they let you talk to them. That’s not guaranteed, either.” Hector pushed his bowl back, the black flames threatening to overflow once again.
“They will know,” he said. He stood and held up his axe. “By order of the Champion of Eidolon and High Gladiator for Prince Raynar, the Hero Orephius, I request aid to travel to the capital and reclaim my rightful place.” That should shut the boy up. Hector looked with serious eyes, glaring at each of the men in the bar in turn.
They started to laugh. Hector couldn’t believe it. They actually closed their eyes, put down their drinks, and laughed. He was too stunned to call the flames, they died inside of him.
“Good one bud,” one of them said.
“A fresh Executioner saying he’s Orephius, that’s a laugh,” said another.
“Don’t even look a lick like the hero,” a third said.
Hector gave a weak smile and sat. “They don’t matter,” he muttered. He looked into his cup with no intention of drinking. Michael ordered a drink himself and they sat there, quiet for a while, holding their drinks and avoiding looking at one another. Finally, Michael took a long drink, as if to steel himself.
“It may be better for you to get a fresh start,” Michael said. “I help you, and you help me. At least for now.” Hector nodded.
“We’ll need someone else, though. Why do you go recruit her to our cause. We could use her skills.
Hector stalked down the road toward the nearest town. He’d buy a horse and be rid of this place, back to Eidolon in days. He’d meet with Galethea and together they would kill the king’s nephew for what he’d done.
He’d wait for Michael to be talking to that girl, then Hector had just left. He felt…nothing. It was strange to think, but it was true. Before, when he’d been Orephius, he’d felt a sort of obligation to others. Now that he had been reborn as Tytos he found things like this easier to do. Michael was an alright guy, but he was new, fumbling his way through the early parts of the game. Hector, however, had things to accomplish.
Still, he looked back over his shoulder. It would be better if the boy just found his own way. There was nothing for him down the path Hector now had to tread. He kept telling himself it was for the best. You are the predator, Romulos seemed to hiss at him again. He is the prey.
Michael was weak. He might remain weak, or not. But Hector was strong. He’d been strong as Orephius, and now he would be strong as Tytos. He would be vicious, too. There would be no standing against him this time, no honorable combat. He would rip and bite and win.
He wasn’t really looking where he was going. He was lost in thoughts. So, he heard the sounds of the fight before he saw it. The grunts of pain and screams and shouts, the sound of weapons cutting through flesh, hitting against metal and leather armor. He felt the buzz in the air as magical energies were channeled and released. The feeling of it was so lush and urgent compared to what he remembered, and it caused a strange, giddy thrill rise up in him, all hot and electric.
He rushed forward. The shadowy flames flared up around him.
It was a three or four humans, fighting against a scrabbling group of mutants, strange abominable creatures in chain and leather armor. They had wide, squat bodies like humanoid frogs, with strange, insect like mandibles in their mouths that clicked and chittered as they fought. The mutants had hobbled the human’s cart, breaking one of the wheels and killing the driver. He laid slumped on the ground, unmoving.
There were five mutants. Four of them held weapons and one of them stood on top of the cart, cloaked in a robe, a staff clenched in chitin covered claws.
“Ho!” Hector called. “I’m here to help you.” He didn’t wait for a reply. He rushed at the skeleton wizard, letting his aura flare and burn, pulsing with crackling energy.
He swung his heavy axe toward the mutant mage. Far away, he heard a howling, light a wolf, calling to the moon. He channeled Death energy into the blade, like a dark, noxious smoke around his hands and weapons. The wizard turned and raised his staff. It flashed with magic and a strong wind blew. Before Hector could reach the creature he felt himself lifted in the air by a powerful whirlwind.
It was a control caster. Some unfocused approximation of a Lorekeeper class. It would take more than that to stop Hector. He was unrelenting. He channeled Fire energy now and mingled it with the Chaos energy that his class gave him unique access to. He pushed these into the wizard’s conjured whirlwind, forcing his will to undermine the logic of the spell. As he pushed, he felt it unravel. The Wind energy clashed against his own spell, his aura. It held for a moment, then tore apart, the wind fizzling into nothing as Hector fell. He hit the ground. He leaped toward the wizard, using the momentum of his fall to propel him forward. He was still channeling energy into his axe blade and he swung a crushing blow.
The axe smashed hard into the skeleton and it went down. The magic that animated the creature was severed as the ribcage and spine where the axe had hit shattered into splinters. The light went out of its skull’s empty sockets. Hector landed on the cart and turned to face the others.
A spear slammed into his chest, hitting the buckle on the belt of his sheath but not biting through to the lather. He’d thought that the mutants would be occupied with the other two humans, but they weren’t. In fact, the humans seemed to just be watching. Hector grabbed at the spear and called to them for aid.
The woman raised her hands to cast. Hector pulled the spear and twisted. The spear clattered down to the ground. So did his axe.
Hector stopped, his blood going cold.
“Got him,” the woman said. Hector looked down at his hands. They were distorting, bending backwards at unnatural angles without breaking. When he tried to close his hands into fists he found it impossible. They just stretched and contracted strangely.
“Biomancer,” he said, but it came out wrong, garbled on his tongue that was growing thick in his mouth. As he stood, the skeleton behind him began to reassemble itself. He tried to activate his aura again, to become Indomidable, but he’d used it so recently, and use too much energy besides. He cursed, but his eyes were already going black. He felt himself fall before he was truly unconscious. He felt them wrap the ropes around him before it all went black.