• Published 27th May 2015
  • 12,276 Views, 813 Comments

Foal Necromancer: Soul's Rebirth - Bold Promise



Madness. Bitterness. Cold, unwavering cruelty. Could love and acceptance truly wipe these stains away, or will they only offer the chance for the creation of a new foe, far worse than any Equestria had ever seen before?

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Well, that was a pain in the neck...

Author's Note:

In case you didn't read this explanation in the main description, I'll repeat myself, as a memorial to the gauntlet I went through when I first started out on this story. I can not express how anxious (as in general anxiety, just to be clear) I am now to ever look at another comment again without forward mental preparation.

This story is about as similar to the original as coke is to pepsi. So no, I'm not saying mine is better, because apparently wanting to surpass your predecessor is frowned upon.

This iteration was neither meant as a revenge fic, nor as a work of plagiarism. Nor was it meant as a compliment to the original, to venerate it and to forever accept second bloody place.

A lot of things were inspired from the original, but I intend on making this my own work. The beginning will start similarly, since that was something I could only change for the worse. There was no good alternative way to start this thing off, all I could do was to put my own spin on it. After the opener, however, it's open game.

Again, let me remind you that this isn't an upgraded version of the exact same thing, since I am not Kytranis' clone, so I'm not capable of doing things the exact same way he would. This is a relaunch. Something some guy decided to do because he had the gall to aspire to make something better, but then realized that he was being an idiot by trying to do that and figured out he could only make something worth anything if he did his own thing. Since that's how you make something creative. Because your work reflects part of who you are.

All due respect has been offered to Kytranis, feel free to enjoy this version as you see fit, as long as you respect it as a separate literary work. Also, this is a no-profit work, so you don't have to worry about suing me, Hasbro. I'm most certainly not planning on publishing this cringy, though meaningful, abomination.

Also, regarding asterisks. I will be using them in the author's notes for the purpose of useful clarifications, fun tidbits and characters' two cents. They're not obligatory to read for things to make sense. They're mostly so I don't have to go through especially unnecessary exposition that the reader might want (not need) to know, but the character doesn't know about yet, thus minimizing the past tense-present tense confusion as much as possible. I am also of the opinion that this a is pretty fun thing to do, personally. Of course, I know better than to have an opinion on the internet.

(*) At night.

For new readers, hit shift+f to open the search bar that helps you find the asterisks immediately. But if you're on your cell phone... well, you're shit outa luck. Open another tab or something. You might also find the use of this site's literal bookmarks useful.


Now that all of that is out of the way, let us begin.

Darkness. The biting cold of a winter's night inside a long-abandoned crypt. The smell of a mass of unearthed, rotting, shambling corpses faithfully standing guard. A normal person would avoid such a place. For me, however, it was home sweet home.

It might've not presented the most lavish of accommodations, but I was not complaining. All I required was shelter, though not from the elements, but from... well, let's just say I wasn't at the best of terms with those that would presume to be my betters.

In truth, the place I described earlier was the safest place that I could hope for. I've had my metaphorical eye on it for over half a century, only moving in when I knew the time was right. The way things were going, I couldn't really afford to wait any longer either way.

It just so happened that only a few days after I moved out of my old lair, was when the lord of the land had sent another squadron of 'heroes' to deal with me. They were completely unprepared for the trap I left for them. When I arrived in the aftermath, I had found that these mercenaries were carrying just the right scrolls and ingredients for countering my reanimation spell. They've finally found a way to get rid of me once and for all.

It's been ten years since I moved into my new... I did call it home, in jest. Ten rather uneventful years. I may have visited the nearby town on occasion, or left for some other reason at some point, but most of the time spent in those ten years did not present me with that many memories. Either fortification or preparation. I've fortified these labyrinthine caverns to the point where none but the suicidal, or the especially foolish, would dare come venturing beyond the warnings near the entrance. As the realm would have it, there was never a short supply of economically-challenged hapless fools, or truly mentally deficient wannabe heroes.

As for preparation, well... a new group of heroes had arrived. This unassuming winter's night, would be my last on this world. My calculations were verified and my tests went correctly. After ten years of preparation, this. Should. Work.

I used my magic to stretch out my senses in order to get a proper look at my executioners. A team of four, by all means appearing to be made up of what a king's ransom could only barely manage to cough up. A group which, if they spent any amount of time getting to know each other, their strengths and weaknesses, and were to learn to complement each other, then they would be unstoppable. They would be the type of foe I would not mind dying to that much... However, I could smell their souls from my location across the caverns quite clearly. These were not real heroes, merely thugs in positions of prestige.

I really am not one to criticise however. Not just because of the eventual hypocrisy, but also because at that point, I didn't really care much either. My adversaries' faults didn't phase me in the slightest back then, since I was much worse. I would like to think that I've become a little better since, but that's an entirely subjective matter.

I like to think a lot of things. I liked to think that my nobler attributes made my darker ones worth it, but... I'm getting off topic.

You will have to excuse me, I tend to ramble. Not long ago was I still in seclusion in the dark, with only the dead to keep me company. Such things tend to take their toll on one's mind, especially in my case where said mind wasn't all there to begin with. It's difficult focusing on... anything, anymore.

The four heroes advanced through my lair. They disarmed both tripwire and rune traps, and dispatched my servants in quick order. They came across one of the spider's dens, the denizens of which they made short work of. I watched as the mage torched the webs and the priest stunned the larger mother while the remaining two of the party cut down all the smaller ones.

'Poor Anabel, she had to see her eggs get destroyed before she died.'

I contemplated my pets' deaths, wondering whether pity was called for or not. The flesheating monsters were actually not that bad, once you got to train them so they stopped trying to bite the hand that fed them. I even grew attached to one of them at one point, Skitters I called it, before it died to an adventurer raid. I distinctly recalled being upset at its loss, hence my conundrum regarding the den's destruction.

I shook my head. 'I don't have time to be distracted now. They're drawing nearer, it's now or never.'

There was no window to let light or air inside. This was meant to be a place protected from the world, to preserve the peaceful rest of the one buried here. So of course I went and desecrated it all towards my own ends, much like a lumberjack destroys an ancient grove.

This used to be the resting place of some general or another whose name I can't really be bothered to recall. Supposedly he was kind of a big deal during his service. You know, before he died, after which, surprisingly, he gradually grew less and less relevant. His lineage faded into obscurity, his achievements overcome by time, and I claimed his crypt.

When I first came here, the only object in the room worth mentioning was the general's stone coffin. A simple, yet generously large, flat-surfaced container with a few words written at the head to identify the bones resting within. I've made a few changes to the decor since then.

Stolen books in one corner, tanned skin parchments to the side, notes strewn and discarded, runes etched onto the stone coffin, stone and wooden bowls here and there filled with alchemical ingredients, instruments made of bone at one side of the makeshift table, even a few glass tubes. What I wasn't resourceful enough to make, I scavenged from the adventurers I defeated.

If one were to see within the room now, they would notice a dark figure (hunched over uncomfortably) in front of the coffin, magical energies pouring from his skeletal hands into three suspended crystals, glowing as they filtered the energy into a small crystal the size of a teardrop. I've been charging this uniquely manufactured gem with as much energy as I could for the last two months. Not counting the trials and tests, and failed attempts I'd conducted beforehand. A maddening monotony without question, and my back was killing me, but I decided to err on the safe side. After all, who knew how much power I would require to pierce the boundaries of reality and sustain myself for long enough to find a suitable new home?

As the power was cut off, the light dimmed, leaving only a small pale light glowing murkily in the dark, emanating from the gem floating in the middle of my incantation circle. Skeletal hands wrapped around it, carrying it to a disturbingly thin face, gray from lack of sun and sporting bandages over its eyes. Or rather, the place where my eyes should've been.

I pressed the gem in through the skin of my forehead, where it was absorbed seamlessly. The power was there, only as a minor distraction.

The preparations had been done. Now, for the final necessary step.

It wasn't long at all before the room was lit, revealing me to my executioners. I straightened my back with a few sickening cracks, as I spoke, "I don't suppose you actually have a good reason to intrude. Perhaps revenge for your dear cousin Twice Removed that fell at my hands at some point." I gestured out with my palm up as I turned around to finally face my invaders.

I could feel the fear in their souls upon seeing me. Quite literally. Dark robes enveloping me loosely, dark wisps of power flowing out of my sleeves and down my skeletal legs. Underneath was skin stretched across ribs and a stomach stuck to my back, but none of that was an issue for me. Necromancy was so very useful like that. Instead of hampering me, it aided me, offering me the advantage of intimidation. My face most likely seemed almost alien to them, my white locks made me appear as a Revenant. But I was not undead.

Their group was fairly standard. One was a bearded, robed old man with arcane energies boiling underneath his skin and glowing in his eyes; another a cleric whose blind devotion made her soul shimmer with holy fire; a trapper in a leather hooded tunic used specialized techniques to move about the darker corners of the room unseen even to my enhanced vision; and of course, you can't have a group of dungeon-raiders without your generic, brutish knight sporting all platemail armor. This one apparently wanted to go all out, with his ridiculous helmet reminiscent of a bucket.

Upon regarding their equipment in better detail, I could only notice that my transgressors could've spent less money to prepare to face an elder dragon. Instead, they all came here to face me.

I'd be flattered if I wasn't disgusted. So these were the ones who were supposed to go down in history as the ones who had finally slain the legendary Living Lich. Oh well, I supposed it could've been worse... For one thing, at least they didn't have anyone capable of bringing back the recently fallen. So at least they wouldn't emerge from this encounter without losses on their end. Neither did they have any barbarians, no thanks to the gods. Bloody savages...

Without as much as a howdy-do, the knight charged in. The royal sigil, a crimson lion crest drawn on his armor and towering kite shield. He sported a sword looking sharp enough to slice me in half, from top to bottom, ten times over if my body were that of a normal, unenhanced human. His equipment seemed enchanted as well, judging by the runes etched on top and the glow passing along. I certainly recognized how his shield was absorbing the magical energies nearby and empowering him further, and his sword glowed the distinct tint of the spell-breaker enchantment. And yes, the other three's equipment were all about the same in regards to general quality.

"Die, monster!" Bucket-head let out, sounding far more imposing than was necessary. He might as well yell himself deaf for all I cared.

Honestly. It wasn't as if I hadn't already heard that line a few thousand times before.

The knight swung with all of his strength, about to slice me exactly the way I described earlier. I prepared the bones at the point of impact, reinforced adaptively for the particular circumstance, courtesy of my mastering necromancy beyond what anyone else ever managed, beyond any preconceived limit offered to the school. I merely stopped the blade in my hand.

"Tell me." My dead tone sent a shiver down his spine. "How many did you kill in the name of your king, to reach the rank of Champion?" I made it a point to let him take a good look at my face, something I felt he didn't really have much experience with his victims, as far as the particulars of his sudden spike of fear suggested. "How many innocents dead..." I lowered his sword slowly, "...how many witch pyres lit..." I forced the brute to buckle under my hold, his face landing level to mine. "All in the mane of your Holy Light?"

The spell-breaking enchantment was very potent. Despite my outburst, it actually took quite a bit of my concentration to halt the blade from sliding through. The reason I could counter his spell-breaking enchantment was because it was designed with magically generated shields in mind, thus the namesake. To break shields. However, it wasn’t a shield that was holding it, but bone. It was holy magic, however, which was why it actually took as much effort as it did.

Perhaps they might've been able to figure out how to reverse-engineer a direct counter to my magic, if they bothered to study necromancy themselves beyond experimenting on those I care about.

I almost didn't notice the rogue finally deciding now was a good enough opportunity as any to strike. I merely dodged out of the way, noticing the distinct purple glow of soul-eater knives, one of them piercing my cloak, another whizzing by my ear. I landed a few steps away in a position to better face them both.

"An Elite from the thieves guild as well," I muttered slightly less darkly, but still pretty dark. "You must've cost a ransom to hire."

I detected magic and holy fire coalescing at the chamber's entrance. The mage shot first, telegraphed, easily dodged. The cleric, however, shot to intercept. Clever, but nothing special. I merely jumped high out of the way.

"A Battlemage from the Ivory Tower and an Inquisitor from the Order of the Sun. The king must be really cross with me."

"Silence, fiend! We're here to end you!" the Champion demanded, forcing himself back to his senses.

"That cultist self-assurance of yours is really comfortable, isn't it? Since it helps you sleep at night."

I like to think the battlecry the knight let out as he charged in again was a few lines less self-assured in pitch. He was faster this time, however, as it seemed that he was enhanced by the leftover radiation from the magics used, as well as by the Inquisitor's chanting.

Normally, I’d try a direct attack. If it weren't for the knight’s equipment, I would just blast him with a wave of death. However, I knew better. Even with the presence of death enhancing my abilities, I knew better than to throw energy willy-nilly, only to find it get funneled in through the shield and turned into more power for my adversary.

More importantly, every moment mattered. In a fight, everything is decided not upon your own skill, but upon the mistakes made. The opening in your opponent's stance, the rock you tripped on. And in a fight to the death, it only takes one mistake for everything to be over.

Well, unless you have a handy Reanimation spell to fall back on.

I summoned a bone wall, which the knight powered through only barely. He was slowed only long enough for me to bring forth my own warriors. After all, what is a necromancer without his undead minions?

Dark magic spread around me. The stone cracked, not because it was damaged physically, but because it was dying. Distant moans and screams could be heard. The cracks spread as the already thin barrier to the realm of the dead grew progressively weaker. The knight, not wanting to let me finish what I was trying to do, charged at me again, only to be held in place by a skeletal hand gripping at his foot, coming out seemingly out of nowhere. Panicked, he tugged and trashed, only barely managing to break free.

My desk exploded, projecting stone throughout the room. The knight rose his shield to stop an especially large piece from hurdling towards his head, the rogue jumped out of the way. The mage wasn't fast enough, but the cleric was there to quickly heal his brain hemorrhage. When he came to, however, I could sense that he, similar to his peers, saw his life passing in front of his eyes when he saw what came out of the general's grave.

When I was young, I had heard tales of this man. An honorable warrior, as brave and noble as a young impressionable boy would color him. 'He was as strong as ten men,' they'd say. 'He once saved an entire village from elven bandits', they'd say. 'He once wrestled a great bear with both arms and a leg tied up, just for a challenge'...

As I studied the great warrior stepping out of his tomb, with his runed greatsword in hand, himself a head and a half taller than the brutish knight, glaring down at him with empty eyesockets glowing murkily in the dark, I was wondering whether those tales gave him justice. I wondered how he died. I wondered how he lived. I wondered if perhaps his descendant wasn't in this room right now, and I wasn't forcing the tortured general to kill his own blood.

I wondered what he felt as he was compelled to rise his weapon in my service. His strike was interrupted by a holy lance, causing him to stagger. His adversary only barely managed to shatter the bone that made up his arm. I wondered if he felt anything. I wondered how much of his anger was his own. Singlehandedly, he finally managed to successfully bring down his blade, sinking it into the dead stone where the knight was mere moments ago, and I wondered. Did I deserve to have survived this long?

'As if morality ever did me any favors,' was my resolution.

More warriors pulled themselves out of the ground. Shambling, rattling and angry. These used to be the adventurers that braved the traps and managed to reach my lair. They deemed me worth killing, and paid the price. They were all steadily infused with my own presence ever since my taking possession of their remains, and equipped with the best armor and weapons that they and their peers could afford. These were my finest minions.

They would provide a short distraction.

One of my servants was brought down instantly by the cleric, before it had the chance to strike the knight in the back.

The champion was busy with two other minions, as the fallen hero reattached his arm.

The mage managed to keep me busy, summoning fireballs to meet my death coils in the air, diffusing my barrage of death with his arcane one, casting a barrier to slowly crush me if it weren't for my minions gradually drawing closer to him, forcing him to refocus his efforts for a moment.

The rogue however, had been overwhelmed and torn apart. Understandably, knives and evasive magics are not very useful against a throng of skeletons who can smell the blood coursing through your veins.

He was smart enough to try to avoid being surrounded, he was smarter still to keep several trump cards up his sleeve. His rank of Elite was made evident by just how well he managed to stay ahead of my subtle maneuvering of my servants. He was indeed an Elite, however I've known Grand Masters.

Blood-curdling cries echoed off the stone walls, giving the remaining three heroes more than sufficient reason to draw a perimeter and focus on my undead servants.

The knight kept backing away, shield holding fast against the fallen general. One especially strong strike, however, sent the enchanted shield flying and clattering off into the corridor they had arrived from, almost taking his arm with it. The knight recovered quickly, and managed to roll out of the path of the next strike, slicing at ancient armor as he did, but failing to do any real damage. The general backhanded him, dazing him long enough for what would've been a final strike if it weren't for the inquisitor striking the ruined hero in the back.

Having had enough of that, as well as an opening as the mage was busy with another one of my minions, I decided on who to kill. I summoned bone constructs to impale the priestess. She looked around her, almost curiously, as she found she couldn't feel the stone under her feet anymore. She let out her final breath mixed with a gush of blood, then her limbs went slack and lifeless.

At least it was quicker than the trapper.

She truly was a priority for me. Holy fire countered my minions, and I was starting to feel a sunburn coming up. Still, that left the other priority target quite alive, and as I brought my attention back to him, I found the mage building up power for a massive outburst.

Annoyance tugged at my lips. 'He could have saved her, instead he used her as a distraction. How... pragmatic of him.'

All I could do was to send another death coil at the mage, but I wasn't fast enough. By the time the coil landed, his Mana Bomb had deployed. The blast was so powerful, it dissipated my coil and evaporated all of my closer-by undead. I was knocked back against the wall, waiting for the final blow to come.

I felt the knight's sword pierce through my magically supported heart.

The fallen general got back up and limped over to protect me, until a fireball disintegrated him, releasing him from my hold.

It became quiet save for two sets of panting breaths and my own gasping. "It's over. Lay to rest."

'...Actually, I can't say I remember hearing that one before.'

"...Rest?" My cold, dead voice echoed out. I could feel my magic seeping away at an alarming rate. "...I've lived so long." My voice faltered more and more, my body growing heavier and heavier. "I refuse to rest."

Even if it was just what I needed to do in order for my spell to work, I still refused to give in. After all these decades, after all that I had done, after so long since I've lost the will to live... something kept me going. It wasn't the fear of Purgatory, nor was it spite, or some kind of vow... Insanity, perhaps?

"We've found a way to counteract your phylactery," explained the mage as he approached. "You will not be able to come back... leaving you with nowhere else to go but the afterlife. Once you die, you will stay dead."

"So do the world a favor and just DIE ALREADY!" The knight emphasized his last words by pulling his sword out of my chest, then -

A lot of pain erupted in my neck. The world spun around, the ground rapidly approaching my head. Huh, now that my power left my body, it looked quite unassuming, what with how much of a dried-up husk I was. Then again, the lack of a head on my shoulders might've served towards that impression as well.

My head bounced a couple times, and I would've monotoned "ow" if my magic wasn't already nearly spent. I then rolled into a dark corner, where I expired, and my hidden, modified phylactery activated and shattered.

It was true, after my spell was taken apart and sold, it was only a matter of time before the king and his Templar got a hold of it. They didn't study it, they just threw holy magic at it until something stuck. What they eventually decided on using was a specially designed variation of their Exorcism spell, designed to banish me from the world. Lucky for me, I had no intention of trying to come back to this world.

They couldn't see me, due to my being dead and all. The two already dead heroes had not had enough time to pull themselves together quite yet, and the battlemage clearly did not have the necromantic knowledge to be able to detect me in my entirely spiritual state. The priestess could've, however. Probably. Maybe.

I gave my body a small once-over, paying my respects to this shell which dutifully did all it could to keep me alive.

This was all the legacy I was about to be leaving behind. A headless, dried-up body, and a head no doubt to be kept as a trophy. Hell, I imagine it would be quite valuable. Perhaps the mage would now decide to kill the knight for it? I would not be surprised. Regardless, it was of no concern to me anymore. I’ve seen enough blood in this world. It was entertaining, but in the end, all that it ever left behind was a pointless mess.

I gathered my spirit around my soul, picturing it as an arrowhead, then I pierced through the air itself, fitting like a needle through fabric.
For the shortest moment before that, though, I thought I saw a black figure with wings in the corner of the room. Oh well.

Beyond the reaches of reality. A realm of abstract and imagining. Behind myself I found a bubble of light, not too much bigger than an estate. Gazing back, I’d see fleeting images of the world I was leaving behind. I only had one thing to say.

'Good riddance.'

The Voidscape didn't have much to say for itself. Just a vast sea of darkness. A clear night sky. To say it was (further) maddening in the isolation it offered would be an understatement.

In the distance, I could see lights, not unlike stars. They were no doubt distant universes like the one I had left behind. Every one I would pierce to check for habitability would consume a fraction of my energy, and I couldn’t afford to search through too many. Luckily, I thought ahead here as well. My spell was directing me to habitable ones that also presented the magical energies necessary to facilitate my rebirth.
I just headed towards, and entered, the closest one which satisfied my requirements...

Creatures with tentacles coming out of their mouths producing nightmarish sounds in a nightmarish symphony that rent at my mind, like an orchestra from Hell itself. The airless expanse that I found around me, holding nothing but darkness. I soon felt eyes turning towards me, and only through some manner of miracle did I gather the presence of mind to escape in time.

If I had not already known what Hell was like, I would've thought I had found it. The void I had returned to was not all that much reassuring. However, I pushed forward.

Bracing myself, I tried again.

This time, they were not aware I was around. However, they were no less easy to look at. Blobs of featureless flesh, dragging themselves along a floor of orange things I assumed were their equivalent of grass. A reddish mist permeated, but I soon discovered that this was actually their atmosphere. Long, thin pillars that looked strong enough to withstand a dragon's swipe jutted towards a starry sky in the stead of trees, the moon looking very much populated the same way this horrid world was. I did not want to try to understand why it was so different. I only wanted to get away.

I was at my limit. I had prepared enough energy to try as many times as it would take, however I did not expect it would be so trying psychologically. It took every bit of my resolve to try again. Third time's the charm...

'Be a decent place to live. Be a decent place to live. Be a decent place to...

'...Huh. This one actually seems nice.'

I appeared overlooking a castle in the mountains, which by all intents and purposes looked as though it was supposed to collapse under its own weight and topple over. It was decorated in snow, I assumed that either they had winter here as well, or I arrived in a normally cold climate. At least it was not too different from my old world, I thought. The sky was normal, a normal night sky with a normal moon, a normal atmosphere which I had hoped held normal air for me to breathe. Not that I wouldn't develop lungs specific to the locals anyway, but I didn't want to survive here. I wanted to live here.

'Let's just see what lives here...'

Floating closer to the city at the mountain's base, I noticed a few creatures flying about.

'They seem... equine in appearance. Is that Pegasus? Is it wearing armor?

'Did it just greet that other Pegasus? Are they talking?!

'Okay, either the mythical spawn of the Lord of Dreams was busy around everyone's back and populated this entire country with slightly smaller versions of himself, or my spell is having some unexpected side-effects on my perception.

'I should figure out how to synthesize that effect if it's the latter...'

I decided to search further. As I drew closer, I noticed a massively powerful presence in the castle. If my presence was ten times stronger than that of the strongest creature down below, then whoever was in the castle was ten... no, at least thirty times stronger than me.(*)

I decided it would be best not to get too close to that particular flavor of doom...

I floated down over to the city. All the creatures inhabiting it were not as unreasonably powerful, even though the great majority of them were still most definitely more powerful than the common human. I approached one of them, entered through one home and found a sleeping equine, only this time with a horn instead of wings. Another house, and a couple of unicorns were found sleeping.

I dashed towards the direction of a conglomeration not far away, passing through another two houses. One of said houses containing two equines apparently having a little nighttime fun of their own, which I had no intention of spectating (I've had a long night, I did not need any of that weirdness), then the second one holding a child's bedroom...

A child, sleeping peacefully. This one had neither horn nor wings. Maybe they grew out? It was smiling, holding a smaller bear toy.

'At least this world seems peaceful enough,' I thought.

So it really was a race of sentient equines... Still, I decided to rush forward to the conglomeration.

There was music. It was a concert. Unicorns, pegasi and equines without either horn or wings were everywhere. I could read looks of content on their faces. They were smiling, enjoying the piece. The music itself was quite moving. A gray mare at the cello leading the orchestra. I decided to wait a little longer, figure out my next move here.

The music was soothing. Like holding a wounded limb to your chest, or like entering a warm inn on a cold winter night. I was tired.

I wasn't sure if I would come across a world governed by humans next, or if I'd wander into an elder god's parlor, but considering the two realities I had seen already, I thought that perhaps this was one of the better ones. Perhaps there were too many variables, and humans were merely one in an infinite number of creatures that could have developed on a world. Perhaps I needed to lower the bar.

I approached the creatures below. They looked... odd, certainly. Their eyes were too big, on their also oversized heads. I wondered why that was. It was disturbing. Still, they looked friendly. Once I suspended my reprehension at their appearance, I tried looking at them. Really looking at them. Wondering what they were like. To live with.

It would take some time for me to get used to them, but... it didn't seem so bad here.

Granted, I would have to find a safe place to spawn now, and then I'd have to study the locals from afar with my divination spells in order to learn their language and customs, but none of that seemed unscalable. I might even be able to fit in!...

My train of thought crashed down into a dark hole when I felt an impossibly powerful presence approaching from the far side, similar to the one I felt earlier. At the same time, the one in the castle decided to approach from the other side. Did they find me out?

I rushed towards the distance, looking for somewhere to spawn. A small town, then a forest. As I entered, there seemed to be a... presence abound. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the plantlife's network was far more complex than that of any normal forest. Was it looking at me? I somehow felt unwelcome here...

Oh, me and my paranoia. I couldn't afford to wait forever! Every moment I delayed was another moment they could find me in. I needed to find somewhere to spawn already.

'This cave looks promising enough. Nothing alive inside... perhaps it's a predator's den, whose owner went out to hunt? If I'm lucky, it's mating season and this is a male's den. If I'm unlucky, it's a female's den with juvenile pups. Either way, I need to hurry.'

I moved to the back of the cavern, then let the spell run its course...

I'm not certain how to describe the feeling of being brought back to life. Essentially, it was just the opposite of dying. Instead of feeling your entire body painfully shut down, struggling to keep going even though your heart had long since stopped beating, here it just felt like... waking up from sleep. Only stronger.

I could feel my bones forming out of nothingness, then the tendons and blood vessels, then my vital organs and muscle tissue, then my skin being covered in fur. Then I felt blood filling my veins and my heart starting to beat. I gasped in my first breath, feeling everything numb like it had been asleep.

Then I realized that I was indeed asleep, as my spiritual consciousness had only started to sync with my physical one.

Then I felt the two massive presences from before.

'Oh no... I need to wake up! I need to make a phylactery quickly!'

No use, however. My mind was still starting up for the first time, binding my soul to it and building the myriad neural connections needed for me to actually be able to use this body to begin with.

I was vulnerable...

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