On the vast plains, all sorts of monsters and beasts were roaming around in the dark night. In the distant valley, a dozen or so will-o'-wisps floated aimlessly like eerie lanterns; they were poor souls awakened by death energy. An intense battle once took place in that area, and corroded bones and rusty swords and armor were still scattered around the place. The appearance of will-o'-wisps meant that the location was a no man's land; even ogres, who were known for their ferocity, would keep their distance from such a place.
Toward such a location, the drow wizard dressed in a black cape walked calmly. The two poisonous spiders had already deteriorated into rotten flesh; these spiders spawned by magic could only survive half a day at best. They aged and deteriorated rapidly, and would die the moment the mana in their bodies ran out. The wizard extracted the poisonous sacs from the dead spiders, then poured some powder over the spider corpses, dissolving them into a pool of blood. He then took out a crimson gem and walked into the valley overflowing with will-o'-wisps. The wandering ghosts ignored the living person, allowing him to trespass through their territory.
Apart from the overflowing wild grass, there were also plenty of destroyed buildings which had been weathered badly. Even so, their current disgraceful appearance somehow still reflected their former glory. Broken marble pillars that had one-meter diameters were scattered all over the place; these gorgeous pillars once supported a marvelous palace, but they eventually fell into ruin in battle.
Groups of eerie shadows emerged from the rubble. Without physical bodies, the shadows floated in the air and approached the wizard who dared to enter such a haunted place.
The drow wizard chanted a weird, incomprehensible chant; it seemed to be a unique secret language that was not used by any races.
Some erudite sages would create their own spoken and written languages. If they did not pass on the language to someone else, it would require a great deal of effort to decipher.
Hearing the chant, the shadows slowly backed off, all gathering under a specific pillar, and disappeared into the cracks. When inspected closely, a part of the pillar was darkened. It had a humanoid shape, most likely the traces of someone or something who was tied onto the pillar and burned to ashes.
An altar dozens of meters wide lay in the center of the valley. The inner circle drawn on the altar had cracked here and there, with strange plants growing from within. The carving of a hexagram could be seen, but it looked to be damaged, with traces of explosions and smashed marble pillars nearby. The only object which remained somewhat intact was a heavily weathered statue of a deity, whose appearance and identity could not be identified due to the statue’s deterioration. There were marble snakes entangling the statue’s legs. It seemed to be a female deity; even though one of the statue's arms had already broken off, the distinctive features of a woman could still be identified. The long hair which reached her buttocks, the two bulging mounds at her bosom, and the slim legs all suggested that the deity was indeed female.
The wizard took off his black cape, revealing a pair of pointy ears and dark grey skin. The slender silhouette stood in front of the altar, then slowly knelt down.
The drow had shown his, no, her true colors after removing her cape; the wizard turned out to be a female.
Placing her hands on opposite shoulders, she began to chant a prayer in a weird voice. Her prayer echoed eerily, and faint balls of uncanny light started to appear out of thin air.
The drow then stood up, her scarlet eyes glowing in the dark. She gently took off her robe, showing a delicate and slender body dressed in thin, simple clothing. It seemed she was not wearing undergarments, and her two tips on her breasts pressed against the thin shirt.
This was just the beginning. She took out a barbed, crimson viper whip and lashed it in the air. The whip produced a cracking sound, drawing an arc in the air until it landed on her back.
The drow voiced a muffled shriek as the whip struck her back. Her clothes were torn apart instantly, and blood oozed out from her wounds; the sharp thorns on the whip had pierced her skin and opened up her flesh. The blood flowed from her wounds onto the altar.
She shuddered as she remained kneeling, her face distorted due to pain. Only the creatures of the Underdark knew the obliterating pain of being hit by a viper whip. She gasped for a while before her mind recovered.
The wizard once again whipped herself on the back.
The viper whip smeared in blood dropped to the ground. Her entire body was shivering. The two wounds formed a cross, and her flesh was badly mutilated. As the sensation of pain gradually grew stronger, the wizard showed a look of ecstasy on her cramped face. She unhesitatingly retrieved the whip and lashed it against her back again once her mind and body recovered from the pain.
Crack! Crack! Crack!
The sound of whipping resounded throughout the place. Her back had already turned into a mush of meat and blood at this point, and none of her skin there remained. Even so, her expression suggested something different; her smile as she shuddered and convulsed in pleasure was extremely creepy. As more blood dripped onto the altar, a faint deep pink aura started to glow. The fresh blood flowed along the carvings on the altar to the battered statue in the center. The deep pink glow gathered at the statue and converged to form a hazy shadow.
The shadow cleared up slightly to reveal a young maiden with a slender yet curvy body, and in her hands was a viper whip. She had light grey skin decorated with crimson tattoos and long, wavy hair which reached her bottom. The shadows of two vipers entwined from her ankles all the way up to her thighs, then converged at her slim waist to form a belt. Furthermore, she gave off a faint glow of divinity.
The young maiden suddenly held up her viper whip and whipped the kneeling drow. The mushy flesh on the her back began to heal rapidly, and the skin also swiftly regrew. The drow moaned in pleasure and immediately knelt on all fours.
"Head North!" The divine voice reverberated throughout the altar. The maiden pointed at the air and projected various different scenes. "The domain of the Frostmaiden. I can sense it. She has already awoken. The freezing winter is slowly enshrouding the world.
"Her powers are going out of control. Find her and bring her to me. I shall grant you your well deserved reward afterwards."
Along with the divine glow, the silhouette of the young maiden slowly scattered into the air and disappeared. The wizard stood up, then donned her robe and hood. She retrieved her viper whip from the ground, then turned and walked toward the valley. The shady shadows lingered around at the altar, barely showing under the bright moonlight.
The gushing sounds of a stream could be heard. Soran unsheathed his curved sword, which he had been using to cut thistles and thorns, then headed toward the stream for a break.
He washed his face in the cool water, then rubbed his body to remove the bloodstains. It was not only for hygienic reasons; creatures in the wilderness were extremely sensitive to the stench of blood. It would reveal his location if he did not remove the bloodstains on his body.
All of a sudden, he had goosebumps all over. Soran rolled back and picked up his weapon, glaring at a rock upstream. A black creature was staring at him, its light brown pupils rather noticeable in the dark.
Soran took a good look at the being which caused him to feel alerted. The feline beast was gracefully standing on the large rock, looking at him as though it was a human.
"That's not it!" Soran clenched his sword and looked around vigilantly while muttering, "Bobcat?"
Indeed, it was not a panther, but a black bobcat. Both were dangerous beasts residing in the wilderness; an adult bobcat could easily hunt down large boars. However, typical bobcats rarely reached the size of panthers. The bobcat looking at him was obviously not a common wild beast; in fact, there was also the possibility it was not a beast at all.
A small figure appeared on the opposite side of the stream. She was wearing an exotic outfit and had paint smeared on her face. It was hard to tell clearly in the dark, but Soran could notice her slightly pointy ears. The person was probably a half-elf just like himself.
The half-elf woman who appeared out of nowhere scooped up and drank water from the stream with her hands, then frowned as she glanced at Soran. She waved the bobcat over, then leapt into a tree ten meters away. The bobcat followed suit; it took one last glance at Soran before rushing into the forest.
"A high-grade druid?!"
Soran could only watch as the two left the scene. It was a short encounter, and neither party communicated at all. Even so, Soran could roughly tell the two were heading in the direction he had come from.
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