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Headed by a Snake
Chapter 1002 Spectacle

Tycondrius took a deep breath before sighing and shaking his head.

A few suns prior, he had committed several counts of callous manslaughter, bordering on genocide. At the time, he had done so for the sake of efficiency.

He had even enjoyed parts of it.

But... he was beginning to regret the consequences of doing so.

It was a surprising predicament, though.

Usually, violence solved his problems, not created more...

"(Ask your questions, Ivory Prince,)" Ananta waved.

Tycon wondered if he was perhaps overthinking the situation.

"Ghost," he addressed the apparition.

"My name is GENERAL Willaburr JONES... the thirrrrrd!!" said the ghost.

"Ghost, how do I gain access to the leyline beneath City-State Making?"

"There's a secret entrance in a mausoleum in the western district," the ghost replied. "Turn the adjacent torch to gain access, but you'll NEVER FIND IT!!"

"He's more forthcoming than his attitude would otherwise suggest," Tycon said in aside.

"(The dead know better than to cross a Princess of Shadow,)" Ananta reassured him.

She swiped her hands over the ghost's image, bringing up a series of memory-pictures. Among them was a map of city proper and several points of reference.

One particular memory depicted the General turning the torch and watching the hidden staircase reveal itself.

The engineering that went into the mechanisms involved was remarkable.

Yet... Tycon felt a slight tinge of disappointment. He felt he would have enjoyed it more, had he witnessed it firsthand.

Tycon swiped his hand over the window, returning to the image of a shaken and confused Willabur Jones.

"Mister Jones, what can we expect to find down there?"

The ghost shook his head, adopting a scowl, "You'll only find your doom, you green-haired *freak*."

Ananta waved her hand over the window, top to bottom, causing the ghost's image to disappear once again.

Tycon waited patiently, trusting that the woman had her reasons for doing so.

After another moment passed, Ananta swiped her hand once more on the window, bottom to top.

The image of General Willabur Jones III returned... except he was devoid of clothes and had lost a great deal of weight. There was a myriad of healed-over lash marks on his arms, chest, and neck... some obviously infected and weeping with pus.

He stared at Tycon with sunken eye-sockets and a dead gaze.

"(You're a cruel woman, Ananta,)" Tycon said quietly.

Considering the ?Speak with Dead? Spell, the Shadow Snake Princess merely had to reinforce her will on the recipient to render them obedient. On top of doing that, Ananta also expressed her displeasure by... wearing down the man's soul.

Ananta said nothing. Her smile, however, hid a sharp edge.

"Mister Jones," Tycon said in a quiet voice. "The secret passage in the mausoleum... what are your people hiding?"

"There... is a ?Gate?," The ghost said, his voice hoarse and weak, "I'ts been there since... before the city was built."

"You will ANSWER!!" Ananta shouted.

The ghost in the window cowered in the corner of his box-like cell.

"The Plane of Fire, Sir and Madam!" he cried. "It connects... to the Plane of Fire..."

Tycon furrowed his brows, looking to Ananta.

"(The deeper the den, the darker the secrets,)" she remarked.

"The Plane of Fire contains too many unknown variables," Tycon growled. "For now, let's evacuate our forces fighting underground. Afterward, I'll lead a company myself to see what exactly the city has to offer."

"And I will join you, ssweet Princce," Ananta nodded, "(though, before then, I need to brief my subordinates here in the valley.)"

She swiped down on the ghost, damning Willabur Jones to whatever hell awaited him in the afterlife.

However, the window did not display the jungle greenery of Ananta's Black Opal Valley.

"Do not stand in my way, Dwarfling."

It showed his sister, Cass, standing amidst a ring of defeated Witches, and moments away from committing violence upon one more.

"Ananta," Tycon pursed his lips, "I would like you to tell me that the situation in the window is wholly fabricated."

"Hm... (What should I tell you, if it is otherwise?)"

"Stay grounded, lady," said the dwarf in the image, "One does not simply *walk* into the Commander. His chiseled abs are guarded by more than just Witches. There is lust here that DOES. NOT. WANE."

"Are you done?" Cass asked.

"Alpha Squad stays EVER WATCHFUL!!" Meteora continued, "Silky hair and steady hands... Rippling pecs and perfect butt! The sweat on his skin, a fragrant perfume! Not with ten thousand women could you--"

Tycon heard a series of magical explosions.

It was loud; his sister specialized in wind-type Evocations.

What happened, exactly, he did not know. His eyes were clenched shut, as he was massaging the bridge of his nose to ease a quickly-arriving headache.

"I believe your ssister jusssst killed the Dwarfling," Ananta mused.

"I'll have to go and thank her," Tycon sighed. "Good evening, Ananta."


"I wonder why they call it a Beithir Blaster." Zashleigh Yates said aloud-- to no one in particular.

She tightened the straps on her enchanted shield before picking up the ancient-looking staff. It was lighter than she imagined it to be.

"Because the woman who designed it was a narcissist with illusions of grandeur," Heartsong answered curtly. "Her last dissertation got her lightning-roasted by her peers as well as by an actual Beithir."

"Tch," Zashleigh scoffed. "Doesn't every Witch in Evocs die horribly? And by their own practiced element?"

"I never said it was surprising," Heartsong shrugged.

"But why did that Artificer, in particular, name this thing what she did?"

Zash flicked her fingernail against the wood. It seemed hollow inside.

Heartsong wrapped her palm around the staff's headpiece.

"Because it has many, many, *many* layers of wind-element Spell Circles scribed both inside and outside the wood," she sighed. "I can sense two very secure magical safeties... but let's not take any chances, Squad Leader."

Zashleigh nodded slowly, "A-alright."

It was a bit off-putting to be admonished by her junior Witch, but Heartsong rated to do so.

She was the subject matter expert on all things Evocs, safety included.

Zash cupped her right ear, sending a thought-message to the Command Tent.

[Promethea, come in. This is Zeta-One. What's the sich?]

[Zeta-One, this is Promethea. Be quick but cautious, Zeta-One. We have on good word that most of Alpha Squad went down in a single Spell.]

One of Heartsong's ears twitched and she furrowed her brows.

"That sounds... real bad."

"Yeah... you're tellin' *me,*" Zash said through her teeth. "Alpha Squad's strong... but they're only the Tower's strongest for their piloting skills. On an individual basis, the members of Zeta Squad have higher combat stats across the board."

Heartsong bit her upper lip, "But how often does Alpha Squad get fielded separate from their Divine Armors?"

"Zash!!" Dessi shouted as she rushed into the tent, "We gotta go! And now!" πš’π“·πš—πš›πšŽπ™–π. 𝒄૦𝓂

"Where's the rest of the squad?" Zashleigh asked.

"Doesn't matter," Dessi shook her head. "The enemy's been taking out Witches left and right! You're the answer, Zash. We need a Spellbreaker."

"Y'know, I don't feel, super-confident," Zash rolled her eyes, turning back to Heartsong. "Isn't the Commander, like, thrice as good at Spellbreaking as I am?"

"Should I tell you how good he is with fire magic?" Heartsong teased.

"Or shadow-walking?" Dessi sighed.

Zash thrust out her hand, still holding onto her staff, "You guys are in-sufferable."

Heartsong put her palm on the top of Zash's hand, "I was thinking more... in-spirational."

"I'll do you one better," Dessi said as she placed her hands above and below the stack, "I'm thinking--"


After being teleported via ?Dimension Door?, Zash walked out from behind a dark shadow of a tall tree and into the light.

Dessi had mentioned a couple of suns back that she'd been strangely attuned to the shadows recently. The difference in her current abilities versus only a few suns prior was... drastic.

And, of course, Heartsong had very recently revealed that her familiar was a Gold-Rank Fire Fairy.

Her name was Beyatriche-- a very cute name for burnination incarnate.

And those two, the strongest Fire and Shadow Mages in the Tower, were walking just behind Zash, one on each side.

Zashleigh took a deep breath before masking her lack of confidence with fiery eyes and a professional smile.

If she couldn't be confident in herself, her companions more than made up for the fact.

The enemy caster was a single, teenage girl, barely taller than an elf (with Heartsong for scale.)

She wore an expensive-looking white dress, kept together by a belt of thick, gold bands that contrasted with her olive skin. The handle of a sword stuck out over her right shoulder, as well-- hopefully ornamental in nature.

Zash found two things extremely worrisome, though.

The first was that the girl's mostly-black hair seemed to be... crawling, albeit very slowly. It could have had something to do with the strong breeze. Or, more likely, the girl had a weird bloodline that Zash had yet to identify.

The other thing, though...

"Why are there so many people here?!" she yelled.


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Headed by a Snake Chapter 1002 Spectacle