Lightning crashed down onto Barrett, into him, through him… deep inside to his very core. He managed to wrestle some form of control over the lightning, reducing the damage it did to his life force and increasing the damage it did to the curse.
Lightning struck again and again until Barrett was almost just a smoking mess… but the curse retreated. It was somewhat of a relief that the lightning had begun to scorch his insides- at least he wasn’t bleeding heavily from the curse. He wasn’t sure if there was any permanent damage to the curse- it seemed to recover completely from everything he had done before.
Before more lightning struck, Barrett started running down the other side of the Lightning Mountains. He activated the boots he had received from the Order of the Four Winds- running as fast as the wind… or at least faster than he usually would. Behind him came Master Hykel, and because Master Hykel was higher up, more of the lightning ended up directed towards him. Barrett didn’t care- Master Hykel would be fine, and he wanted to make it off the mountain with his own power.
It was only a handful of kilometers to a safe zone- it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes even in his current state. There was just a question of whether he could keep going for that long. Magical boots didn’t run on their own. His stamina was mostly used up, and his body was a wreck. His muscles barely listened to him, even the parts that weren’t particularly damaged. However, he wouldn’t be much of a Pure Body Temperer if he couldn’t make his body listen to him even when it didn’t want to.
He reached a chasm full of rushing water that marked the edge of the most dangerous zone, and he jumped slipping and sliding over it. As he landed on the other side, his feet slipped and he fell, tumbling down the mountain. Instead of trying to stop himself, Barrett just let it happen, even encouraging the motion.
Eventually, he came to a stop. He could still feel rain pouring down on him and feel the wind blowing up the mountain, but the sound of lightning had faded slightly, and not just because of the damage to his eardrums. Then he passed out.
Fortunately enough, the curse had been beaten badly enough that it wasn’t ready to attack again before Barrett regained consciousness a few hours later. It wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of real sleep, but the smell of food roused him from his unconsciousness. He needed to eat… and he needed real food and not just trail rations.
Master Hykel was preparing a breakfast of sausage and eggs. The sausage they had brought with them, but seeing the giant egg shells the size of his fist he thought that Master Hykel had found a nest of some sort.
As he ate, he felt stamina flowing back into him, starting from his stomach and flowing throughout his body. He just let the food rest for a few minutes before he had enough stamina to increase his digestion, after which he ate several day’s worth of food for a third tier warrior in an hour.
“Learn anything?” Master Hykel asked.
“I certainly got a better grasp on my current limits. As for the curse… it can definitely be damaged by other things than my stamina… but I don’t know how to do it without damaging myself. Maybe I just need to save up my energy and try to eradicate it.”
“Perhaps.” Master Hykel was eating more slowly, but he consumed nearly as much food as Barrett- and he barely had any injuries to recover from. “It will never hurt to get the assistance of an expert, however. Truly troublesome curses such as yours are too rare for the Immortal Berserker Sect to have any methods for defeating.”
“And the Silver Blades might be connected to anyone in Stredo who could help…” Barrett sighed, “You think they have more allies hidden in Stredo?”
“Do you think it’s possible that they don’t?” Master Hykel asked, “At the very least, there were more people using their services. They just got a little too frustrated with your success against them and overreached themselves. It helps that you noticed Victoria ahead of time.”
Barrett shrugged, looking down at the last few bites of food on his plate, and the empty pan over the campfire. The amount of food had been just about perfect. “Honestly, I mostly guessed. Though I think the connection with the curse helped…” Barrett frowned. “They got really careless.”
“People do that when they’re angry. Not everyone is trained to act rationally while upset, you know. At best assassins would be trained to dull their emotions, but they don’t train in emotions. We’re berserkers, but even we make stupid decisions in moments of passion sometimes. Just imagine what other berserkers get up to, if they don’t take proper precautions.”
“Well, I imagine they mostly get themselves killed and their group doesn’t grow big.”
Master Hykel laughed, “Well, there is that, isn’t there? Now then, we should get back on the road. Ogloni awaits us.”
From afar, Ogloni didn’t look much like what Barrett had expected. Sure, it was a city with guards, but the buildings looking over the walls seemed normal and the walls were the same. He had expected piles of skulls and bodies everywhere. Of course, that was just because of the city’s reputation. Even if necromancy was allowed, not everyone would be a necromancer, and they weren’t going to just keep heads on pikes outside the city gates for no reason.
As they approached closer, Barrett did see the first signs of the city being different. Mixed in among the normal guards on the wall there were those with soulless, dead eyes. If he hadn’t been expecting undead, he might have taken them for something other than zombies. After all, they weren’t twisted and rotting, and they still wore armor and held weapons.
Close to the city, Barrett smelled the stink of formaldehyde vaguely draped over the whole city. It would be barely noticeable if it were restricted to just one small area, but it had suffused through the whole city.
Barrett and Master Hykel approached the city from the north, though the east gate was most convenient to their travel route. Unlike Stredo, there were no strict checks, though the guards collected a small fee from them for entering and reminded them to pay attention to the laws.
Inside the city, Barrett found the stench of formaldehyde was mostly restricted to one section of the city as they travelled through the streets. Master Hykel stopped them in front of an inn, “Let’s get set up with a place to stay, then we can start asking around… though not too obviously. I wouldn’t put it past the Silver Blades to have sent someone here- and they likely already had some contacts in town. However, there should be a number of options for people who can help with your curse, for the right price.”