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Florence silently trudged through the dusk lit streets of Nutheport, the smell of brine and sewage wafting in the air. An atrocious mix of mud and grime flew in the air as he stepped right in the puddles, splattering it across the ground. Sailors both human and demon hauled their cargo to and fro, some being filled with mundane items and others carrying the likes of slaves and exotic animals. Florence grimaced as he saw the hapless folk stare solemnly in his direction, their expressions a mix of bitter determination and sorrowful defeat. To see such vile and inhumane crimes committed in the open tore his heart open. Etsane could be a beautiful city filled with trade and commerce, yet here it was, more ugly than even the most accursed rumors that flew through the city walls. There had to be change, an overturning of the norm. But that would take plenty of time and effort to just begin the project, let alone finish successfully, and Florence knew that time was not on his side.
“The Six today, Etsane tomorrow.” Florence chuckled under his breath. He couldn’t get too carried away fantasizing about how to deal with the city’s corruption. He had a role to play. Left, right, right, left, straight. Those were the directions given to him by a stranger, pointing towards the location of a well-renowned tavern. Some said it was a base of operations for the resistance, others a safe haven for those cast out by the divine. Either way one rumor that stood strong was that it was owned by a devil aligned against the Six, and a likely ally for Florence. He traversed the streets post-haste, gliding through the winding alleyways and cramped corridors. It reminded him of the slums of Falun, its labyrinthine design confusing those who did not live on the streets to no end. In fact, Florence could almost call Etsane his new home, until he remembered those pained faces. While Falun was not unfamiliar to crime, there was barely any trafficking, with even the most hidden trade routes quickly discovered and rooted out. Florence had made sure of that. He was unwilling to let his beloved country fall to such low levels, even when the situations were most dire.
Left, left, right, left. Florence felt a chill run up his spine. The air suddenly grew colder around him, and the occasional passerby seemed to avoid him to the best of their ability. Florence did not understand why, but he could tell he was being followed. Right, left, right, left. The air was now freezing, the tension suffocating. Florence kept a cool face but inside he was panicking. Was he going the right direction? Was going to the tavern the right decision? Did he even have a chance to survive? The questions dug deep in his head, but he pushed forward, unwilling to give up on his best hope for a powerful ally. Eventually the twists and turns ended, and Florence came upon a straight road. Yet as he continued on his path, a thick fog enveloped the street, growing thicker and thicker as he walked down it for what felt like minutes on end. The time passed, and the dark stone glowed faintly, pulsating with ominous energies. Yet as soon as Florence could no longer see his hands, the fog vanished, leaving him on a barren road. It felt like he had not made any progress at all, yet the sky was much darker, indicating the coming of nightfall. He tried to take another step, but found he couldn’t. His heart began to race as two shadows slowly emerged from the dark, but a different feeling washed over him as well. That of a strange sense of familiarity. He never saw her in his entire life, yet it was as though Florence knew exactly who this approaching menace was.
“Your journey ends here, trespasser,” one of the shadows said, her voice terrifyingly calm. “The Decider wishes for your head as a message to your master, and your head I shall take.”
Florence quickly pulled out his rapier, pointing it threateningly towards the figure, and held the stone close to his heart. What was once a faint glow now shined a violent glimmer. “I’m not going down without a fight!” He declared confidently. Yet the quivering in his blade showed otherwise. The shadows took another step forward, revealing their true nature. One was of pale skin and lithe form, with a stern frown resting on her face; the other a copy of the first except enveloped entirely in shadow. Together they readied to lunge, and a subtle smile formed on the stoic woman’s face. Whereas her previous foe was a weakened god, here she now faced a mere mortal, only barely touched by said god’s influence. And with a single step they leaped towards their prey, effortlessly dodging Florence’s single attack and aiming straight for the heart. In one fell swoop it would all be over, just like masters wanted it to be.
“NO!!!” Florence cried in desperation. He had already failed in his first life, and he knew he wouldn’t have another chance if he lost it all now. Fear coursed through his veins, freezing up his entire body, while his sharp mind was reduced to repeating the same thought over and over again.
I don’t want to die.
And in a single moment the glowing stone flared, consuming the world in a brilliant blue.