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Chapter 24. Enveloped in Mist
It was just the three of them again. After a month of there nearly always being someone else it was now just the trio. The feeling in the air was different to when they left Skol Prida. They'd landed in Zopru just over an hour ago and Sevadus had left them to go do whatever it was he did when he wasn't with Chad.
Erin wasn't entirely sure of Chad and Sevadus' relationship status. They seemed to be dating, but Erin knew you couldn't just switch feelings for someone off, especially not the ones as strong as Chad's were for Vechs.
She had decided to keep her nose out, though. It wasn't her business, therefore she wouldn't pry.
Saying goodbye to the Lurans had been hard. Erin was going to miss them, but she'd promised that she'd be back in a week or so. She didn't think reviving Zisteau would take any longer than that. She was going to miss Sevadus, too. He was still a felin and had decided to remain one for the foreseeable future. Although he had changed his pelt several times since the first transformation.
Chad and Vechs were talking cheerily about seeing Zisteau again. They were telling Erin stories about adventures they'd had together and Erin listened intently.
"There was one time that Zisteau tried to make Vechs breakfast in bed and it went horribly." Chad laughed.
"Oh God, I remember that! So Zisteau was- is a terrible cook. He couldn't cook to save his life. Anyway, I'd had a really bad day the day before so Zisteau is like 'I'll make Vechs breakfast to make him feel better!' apparently he forgot he can't cook," Vechs laughed fondly at the memory. "So at like nine in the morning I wake up to the smell of smoke. Naturally I get worried and run downstairs to find Zisteau covered in flour, eggs and milk and putting a fourth lump of black onto a plate. Apparently he was making pancakes."
Erin laughed, "It's so sweet that he tried!"
"It was, we didn't eat the pancakes he made, instead he treated me to a nice brunch at a nearby café. We decided it was safer." Vechs laughed and got that look on his face that he always got when he talked about Zisteau. A hopeful expression.
The next hour was spent telling funny stories and generally enjoying adventuring after a long hiatus from it.
They were in a forest that felt scarily familiar to Erin, but she didn't know why. It had been warm for most of the day but now it was getting cold, even though the sun still shone bright enough to dapple the ground with patterns from the trees.
It was then that a black fog started to float around them. Erin looked down and stopped in her tracks. The think bittermist looked even more deadly in person. It strung the air and made her feel cold wherever it touched her.
"Shit…" Vechs swore softly, now also realising the presence of the bittermist, "this is not good…"
Then everything happened all at once. The black mist whooshed past around them to form five tornados in a line, blocking the path. The tornados started to morph into humanoid shapes and Erin knew exactly who they were. The Erizul Guild.
Just like in her dreams they wore cloaks and masks. Three of them did a tai chi like movement which caused the mist to wrap around Erin, Chad and Vechs' ankles and wrists, holding them in place. The one in the middle, the man Erin knew to be the leader, pressed his neck to make the lower section of his mask fade away.
"Hello." He said simply.
"What do you want?" Erin spat, her voice far stronger than she'd expected it to be.
"So feisty, Miss Erin." Said the guild member Erin thought to be a felin. Erin's blood ran cold as the felin removed his hood and mask to reveal those cunning pink eyes.
"I believe you've met Mr Otto Razor before, Miss Wicken." The leader said with a smile before turning to Vechs, "and I know you've met Miss Talbot."
Vechs frowned in confusion, but as one of the more feminine bodied guild members revealed themselves his face went pale and he looked terrified.
"Persephone…" He whispered.
"Hello again, Vechs." She said with a wink. Unlike the others, Persephone's mask revealed a vertical half of her face, rather than horizontal. It struck Erin as weird, but she didn't dare ask; Sevadus had said these were the most dangerous criminals in Zopru.
"The others you have sadly yet to meet. So allow me to introduce you," the leader said with a smile, "On the far left we have Chaol, he's got quite a special skill that you will soon all come to learn." The leader's smile was so horrifying and sinister, "and on my right is Zada White, a talented brak swordswoman, I advise you to keep on her good side. And then there's me," he took a single step forward and bowed deeply, "My name is Blame Connors. Often known as The Controller."
"Shit. I've heard of you." Chad muttered.
"Oh my reputation proceeds me!" Blame clapped his hands, "How marvellous!"
"I'll ask my question again," Erin said through gritted teeth, "What do you want?"
"Why the hurry? It's not like you have to be anywhere. Persephone's right here." Blame purred. The man stepped towards Vechs and stroked his cheek, "So handsome. I could just eat you up!" He clasped his hands together as he walked back to the line, "But I'll be good. We're in public after all."
Erin glanced down at her wrists, she could see blood under the mist. Blame noticed the look and grinned, "Oh, so sorry about that. Side effect of the mist. Do you like it? I helped develop it!"
"It's impressive." Vechs spat.
"I have never felt so insulted by a compliment." Blame said, putting his hand to his chest like he was really offended, "I'd keep the little remarks to yourself, Davion, wouldn't want to have to hurt your pretty face, now, would we?"
"I will ask once more, what do you want?"
Zada, who was controlling the bittermist holding Erin, flicked her hand and the mist struck her cheek. Erin felt warm blood trickling from the stinging cut.
"I advise you shut up, Miss Wicken. I'm not a fan of being rushed," Blame drawled, "I like to draw out moments like these. I don't get to meet many new people. And when I do they don't stick around. Normally end up dead. Would you like to end up dead? Is that something you want, Miss Wicken?"
Erin clenched her jaw and shook her head once, "I thought not." Blame smiled, "Mother always told me not to play with my food, but I never did listen to her." Blame begun to pace, "Didn't listen to her in her final hours… 'Don't kill me, Blame! I know you're still a good man!' Pah! Good man, imagine that, me; a good man." The other guild members laughed, "I was never a good man. The other kids in the town were afraid of me. Rightly so. I played with the demons under my bed."
He stopped in front of Chad, "The demons were good friends. They never laughed at me. They taught me magic. I was born a disgusting normal human, but they changed that." He laughed insanely and turned away, beginning to pace again, "They called me mad, those kids in the town. Said I was a psychopath. They weren't wrong.”
"This was years ago. Hundreds of years ago. The demons still come out to play. They respect me more now, though. They say you can't kill demons. They're immortal, apparently. I killed one though. Several actually. Genocide. That's what they called it. I went to prison. High security. That was a fun challenge, took me a week to break out. But enough about me, I know you're all just dying to know what I want with you."
Erin clenched her fists, something she quickly regretted due to the intense pain that shot through her arms.
"Don't move too much, the mist doesn't like that." Blame sang merrily. "Now, what do I want with you. Well, you may not know this but we've also been following the works of the Order of the Sphinx. However I think you've had a little more luck than us, according to our sources."
"But if you wanted information, why would you take Vechs' heart? You took it long before I was even in Sunreth." Erin frowned.
"Observant. Vechs is a whole other thing that I shan't be going into yet." Blame said flippantly, "You and Vechs knowing each other is merely a bonus."
"Hang on," Chad said suddenly, "you were the masked person in the library before us!"
"Well done, Mr Johnson!" Blame said, "Yes, that was Chaol, he gathered the information for us." Blame started pacing again, "As I was saying, you know things, things we would like to know."
"Why do you want to know? And why do you need us?" Erin asked.
"Because you've been able to speak to the Order members. In all our attempts we've failed. And believe me we've been trying for a long time. You give us information on the Order and we'll let you live." Blame stood in front of Erin with his hand outstretched, "Do we have a deal?"
Erin glared into Blame's eyes throw the holes in his mask, "No. We do not have a deal. I don't know what you might do to Earth if you went there!"
"Earth…so the mundane land has a name." Blame pushed his hand towards Erin again, "Believe me when I say you do not want to see what my friends and I are capable of."
"I would rather die than let you go to Earth," Erin spat, her voice steady and her glare unmoving."Your wish is my command." Blame replied with a laugh and as he did the bittermist shot up around them, causing her to black out.