Chapter 30. Dead Inside
Erin stepped off the airship onto the green grass of Athose. She was back again, but she would have preferred any other reason than the one that brought her back. Seven of them had crowded onto Sevadus' fairly small airship and flown to Athose for Vechs and Zisteau's joint funeral.
Vechs' parents, who'd sent them their invite, had said that anyone was welcome so Etho had decided to tag along to pay his respects. On the invitation it had stated to wear a bit of green to match the lenses of the goggles Vechs always wore and the fact it was Zisteau's favourite colour.
Skereth and Erin wore matching brooches, Chad a green shirt, Sevadus a green belt, Etho had a green cord bracelet and Meria and Kerin wore matching green earrings and necklaces.
They had landed outside a beautiful, small church on the outskirts of the town where Vechs had grown up. Erin wasn't sure of how religion worked in Sunreth, it wasn't something she'd even thought of as an agnostic, but she was interested to learn now nonetheless.
A woman Chad pointed out to be Vechs' mother approached them. She was wearing what appeared to be one of the lenses from Vechs' goggles as a necklace. She had long, thick, black hair that was plaited neatly, "Hello Chad, lovely to see you again."
Chad embraced her tightly, "Hello Mrs Davion, I would have preferred any other circumstance. I am so, so sorry." He said gently.
Mrs Davion smiled weakly at Chad, "It's not your fault, I don't blame you," she turned to address the rest of the party, "any of you."
Chad introduced them all to Mr and Mrs Davion then went off on his own. Etho wandered off somewhere and the Luran mothers found themselves talking to some relative of Vechs'. Erin and Skereth talked for a while before Erin heard the voice of someone she hadn't seen for weeks and weeks.
"Hey, you were the girl with Vechs and Chad at the market." Nebris Tovras called.
Erin spun to see the half-drerkek approaching. He was smiling but his eyes were filled with sorrow, "Nebris, right?" Nebris nodded, "It's nice to properly meet you, how are you?"
Nebris laughed softly, "Well, I have to say I feel pretty lousy."
"We all miss him, too," Erin said, "Uhm, my name is Erin Wicken, by the way and this is my girlfriend Skereth."
Skereth and Nebris shook hands, "Nice to meet you," Skereth said.
"You too," Nebris played with the green ring on one of his fingers, "Vechs was a good guy, he didn't deserve what happened to him."
"No...He didn't," Erin wiped away a tear, "He's in a better place though, with Zisteau again."
"Yeah, I bet they're annoying everyone they can, wherever they are." Nebris said with a sad smile, "I am so sad to hear you had to witness it."
"I...I don't want to speak about it, I'm sorry." Erin mumbled.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I won't say any more about it." Nebris squeezed her arm comfortingly, "Things will be okay one day. We'll all remember Vechs fondly and tell people stories of the guy."
"Yeah." Erin felt Skereth's fingers entwine with her own, she squeezed her girlfriend's hand to let her know she appreciated it.
Erin and Skereth mingled some more before everyone started to make their way inside.
The sermon was beautiful. It started off with someone who seemed to be a Sunreth version of a vicar telling the story of Vechs and Zisteau, about how they met and some of the times they shared. Then Vechs' cousin performed a beautiful song which brought almost everyone to tears. Zisteau's brother told a story from their childhood to lighten the mood a little and then they all had a moment of silence.
Of course, this was the moment the door was blown off its hinges. The church was filled with screams as bittermist flooded into the building. It rippled and formed waves as a large figure dressed in black leather walked in. The mask they wore completely covered their face, in fact it was more of a helmet.
In one hand the figure carried a large, black battle axe. This person did not have a mask that Erin recognised, and she had come to know all the masks of the Erizul Guild.
"Everyone get out!" Erin shouted, she reached to her hip and pulled a sword from its invisible sheath, since escaping the dungeon she'd always carried protection. Sevadus, Chad, Etho, Nebris, and Skereth all leapt into action.
Etho swung his dual swords threateningly, "Who are you?" He demanded.
The figure didn't speak, they only charged at Etho with their axe and swung at him violently.
"So we're playing that game, are we?" Etho jumped into the air and somersaulted over the figure's head. He stabbed both his crackling blades into the figure's back. Black, blood-like liquid splattered from the figure's torso, but they stayed standing.
"What the fuck?" Nebris muttered.
Erin ran at the figure next and swung her sword through their leg. Her blade was coated in the black blood, but tendrils of bittermist seemed to pull the leg back together.
"Okay, that's cheating." Erin said dryly. The figure turned on her and she only just darted out the way narrowly missing the axe slicing her in two.
"Hey! Over here you bastard!" Skereth shouted. The figure spun and charged at Skereth who ran at him then at the last moment slid between his legs, "Erin! A weapon would be lovely right about now!"
Erin conjured up a morning star for Skereth. She gave it a swing and grinned wickedly. Nebris had somehow grabbed hold of the axe's handle, he and the figure were now having some sort of pushing match. The rest of them saw their opportunity and all ran to try and kill this person, whoever they were.
Then Nebris slipped and the figure stumbled forward, nearly tripping over the fallen Nebris. They spun, slicing their axe through the air and caught Skereth's arm. The brak cried out in pain but then grit her teeth, "That the best you got?" She spat and smashed her morning star into his head. Black blood splattered everywhere but bittermist healed the figure again.
Erin wasn't sure how she managed it, but through her anger at this person for hurting her girlfriend she managed to disarm them. The axe flew across the church and Sevadus shot magic at it, shattering the axe into millions of shards.
The figure looked at the dust that had been their weapon before pulling a dagger from their belt. A dagger Erin would have known anywhere. It was Vechs' dagger. She froze and the figure took the opportunity to run at her. They were just about to stab the dagger into Erin when Etho hit them with a flying kick.
It was six versus one, yet they were barely holding this invincible person off. The figure was just picking themselves up from the floor, when there was the sound of thunder and the man Erin hated more than anyone else in the world appeared in a puff of bittermist.
Blame stood on the podium where people had been speaking previously. The man had a wicked grin on his face. He wore only the top half of his mask, but Erin knew it was him.
"I hope we're not intruding," Blame purred, "but I thought the invitation would be extended to me, I am the reason for this shindig, after all!"
"You fucking bastard!" Chad shouted, his voice more powerful than Erin had ever heard it, "what the hell do you think you're doing!? This is a day of mourning for Vechs and Zisteau and you just waltz in like you own the place! How dare you disgrace my friends like this." He gestured behind him to the figure, "and what the hell is that monster?"
"Monster? Uh, darling, would you mind removing your helmet and coming over here," Blame then had a second thought, "not in that order."
The figure walked over to Blame and Erin knew exactly who was about to be revealed, though she didn't want to believe it.
The figure place his gloved finger to his neck and the helmet evaporated to reveal the worst. Vechs stood in front of them, though his blue eyes were dull and the twinkle was gone. Vechs' cheeky smirk now seemed so wicked and demonic, Erin could barely look at him, yet he couldn't look away.
Blame jumped down from the podium and kissed Vechs on the cheek, "Isn't he beautiful?"
Erin saw a scar that wrapped around Vechs' neck from where he'd been beheaded, "What have you done to him?" Erin breathed weakly. She couldn't believe her eyes, it was too horrible and disgusting for words. How could Blame do something like this?
"I reanimated him. He was far too gorgeous to leave dead. Look at those beautiful eyes, and his little smirk, goodness gracious me."
"Why would you deface his body like this? Why not just let him die in peace! Was killing him not enough?"
"Oh he's not dead, he's undead if you will. And it's not so bad, he's great fun to have around, you know." Blame grinned, "He follows my every command so willingly and to his very best. I told him to come here and make a scene but expressly forbade him from killing anyone."
"Why spare us?" Chad asked.
"Because what would be the fun in killing you? I'd much rather you live in fear that one day I'll come and kill you in your sleep. It's so much more fun!" Blame's voice was shrill and disturbing, just as it always was when he got excited.
Erin clenched her fists, "I don't understand you, Blame. You ruin Vechs' life, then kill him only to bring him back to life. You're human, stop playing god!"
"But it's so fun!" Blame clapped his hands together, "Having people worship you and make sacrifices in your name, who wouldn't want that?"
"A surprisingly large amount of people, actually!" Erin spat.
"Normal people are sooooo boring." Blame groaned, "Always letting your morals get in the way! Just let go! Live a little! It's so rewarding not giving a fuck what people think! And having so many people fear you so much that you're untouchable? Oh there is no other thrill like it! My dear Miss Wicken, you should join the Erizul Guild, you'd love it."
"I highly doubt that, Blame." Erin hissed, "I am perfectly fine with letting my morals get in the way."
"I will only make this offer once, Miss Wicken, after today you will be my sworn enemy and I may end your life at any second before you can even scream."
"That's a chance I'm willing to take. I'd rather be dead than like you."
Blame laughed, "All right then. I'll leave you to your funeral, Vechs and I have some business that needs…taking care of," he waved, his face twisted into a maniacal grin, "See you on your deathbed, Erin." And with that, all the bittermist in the room swirled around Vechs and Blame and transported them away.
Skereth let out a whistle, "Well he's an arsehole," she turned to Erin who'd begun to shake, "Oh!" She ran over to her girlfriend and pulled her into a tight embrace, "I am so proud of you for standing up to that bully," she then lowered her voice, "you're also really hot when you get all powerful and fearless."Erin laughed shakily, "Thanks." She couldn't get the image of Blame's maniacal face out of her mind. His insane eyes and twisted grin were burned into her vision. She would never feel safe again.