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Authors: John Nest,Timaeus,Vaanouney,You The Reader

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Zectas Volume III: Malediction of Veneficatl Valley

BOOK: Zectas Volume III: Malediction of Veneficatl Valley
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ZECTAS VOLUME THREE
Malediction of Veneficatl Valley

This book is dedicated to the people suffering in Syria. May peace return to their lives soon.
A special thanks to Timaeus, Vaanouney,
and you, for enjoying Zectas.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One: Expanded Horizons

WATAK WATAK WATAK WATAK
It was four in the morning and the swift sound of wooden Eskrima sticks echoed loudly inside a closed but well ventilated garage.
Seth and Donny were engaged in a fast paced training session. Seth had the upper hand against his younger brother.
Both of them were careful and stopped at the last moment, before actually hitting each other. A swift strike aimed at Donny's skull was blocked inches from its intended target.
"You'd have to do better than that if you want to beat me."
Donny had a hard time catching his breath, but was still smiling. His older brother may have overpowered him, but he liked the challenged. It gave him a purpose and a goal.
Both of them were focused on sharpening their Eskrima skills. They didn't want to see a repeat of their defeat in the previous AUTOMATA (Amateur Unarmed Tournament Open Martial Art Techniques Association). As they kept on fighting, Seth noticed that their eldest brother was watching them.
"Time out, Donny."
With short breaths, Seth pointed to the doorway where Nash stood.
"Don't stop on my account. I was really enjoying your session. You two have gotten really good, and it's only what, a year?"
Suddenly, Donny threw his Eskrima sticks at Nash without any warning
"Come on, Nash. Why don't you have a go at Seth? Don't be afraid of getting bruised up a bit. Seth has excellent control."
Nash smirked. He knew his brothers thought that they had gotten better than him because he couldn't join their practice sessions, but what they didn't know was that Nash secretly kept on training by himself.
"Nah, no thanks. I know you just want to show off your skills."
This time, Seth was the one who goaded him.
"Come on, I promise that I'll take it easy on you. Besides, you've been doing Eskrima way before we did. I'm sure you're still decent at it somehow."
"Alright, if you insist. But remember not to strike the face. Otherwise, Mima will see my bruises."
"Don't worry. Like Donny said, I'm pretty good at controlling my strikes."
Nash readied the two Eskrima sticks that Donny threw. He made the sticks form an "X" and took a defensive stance.
"You even want me to initiate the attack?"
Nash didn't answer. He remained focused on Seth's left extended stick, pointed straight at his defense.
Seth's right hand and stick were hyperextended behind his back. Seth's offensive stance was poised to strike at any opening.
The younger Smoak jabbed his left stick towards Nash's chest. Nash responded by raising his crossed sticks upward.
As soon as Nash raised his defense, Seth's right stick came from the side and was about to hit his brother's side obliques.
Nash's right stick remained blocking Seth's first attack while he smoothly slid his left stick downwards and parried Seth's side attack.
Seth's eyes widened when he saw his surprise attack was easily deflected. A flurry of exchanges began and Donny stood captivated by his older brothers' rapid exchange of blows.
A few minutes of continuous strikes kept on and Seth finally got a hold of Nash's left stick. He managed to disarm it, but at the price of his own right stick.
The brothers simply exchanged weapons as they disarmed each other simultaneously.
Seth backed away as his exhaustion was setting in. Nash stood firm and after a second slowly moved towards Seth.
This time Nash took on an offensive stance, whereas Seth was forced to take a defensive one. The brothers had another exchange of quick attacks, until Seth's arm began to slow down.
Immediately, Nash took a quick step backward and raised his defense. He saw that his brother was having a hard time and wanted to stop their spar.
"Time out! I think that's about enough."
Seth was panting heavily.
"Okay, as long as you remember that you're the one who asked to stop the fight."
Seth instantly fell down to the floor and laid there as he was catching his breath.
Donny threw a towel over to Seth and walked towards Nash.
"How in the world did you do that? I thought you stopped Eskrima?"
"When did I say that? I did have an unfair advantage. Seth was already tired from your intense sparring session and he underestimated me. Which I thought he would have learned his lesson by now."
Nash had resumed practicing Eskrima right after Seth lost badly in their first AUTOMATA .
Grandmaster Cacoy gave Nash a few drills that he could do on his on. His master also told him that 'Eskrima is about focus, understanding, and routine. You don't have to think when your body reacts for you. Focus on the basics because that is the foundation of all techniques.'
Donny shook his head after he heard Nash's answer.
"I think the match would have ended the same even if Seth was at his best condition."
Slowly, Seth tried to sit up. "Yeah! I think you've also taught me a new lesson today, and that's to increase my stamina. Your jogging must have really helped, huh?"
Nash smiled.  He helped his brother get up on his feet. He didn't want to mention that his increased stamina was from all his odd jobs before he started playing Zectas.
"I told you that treadmill wasn't for decoration. Now come on. It's time for breakfast. Donny, you go get Mima from her room."
Donny dragged his feet as he stepped out of the garage.
"I really wish I wasn't the youngest, then I'd have someone else to pick on and order around."
"Oh, come on Donny. It's not like I'm asking you to re-tile the roof. Anyway, I have a surprise for you."
"Really? What is it? What is it?"
"You know, Donny? I still think of you as a seven year old brat whenever you do that. I'll tell you at the table. Now, go and get Mima."
"Fine! But you better not be lying about the surprise."
A few minutes later, everyone was gathered at the table. Nash made banana pancakes since Seth and Donny were getting plenty of fresh bananas from their Eskrima master.
Mima Daphne broke the silence as the brothers were busy devouring their breakfast.
"Nash, I heard Donny say you had a surprise for everyone?"
"Oh, the surprise. Right, you know how my birthday is coming up and I've always skipped on celebrating it? I was thinking about changing that this year. I have some spare money and I thought that we could go somewhere nice."
Donny quickly answered.
"Like Hawaii?"
"Actually, I found something better than that."
"Better than Hawaii? Are we going on a ski trip or something?"
"Nope. There's this new place, up in Sheboygan. They say they have comfy lodge houses, and their activities include horseback riding, archery, kayaking, zip line, they even have that new thing. That flyboarding, you know the one that makes you fly in the air like Ironman with jets of water propelling you up?"
Donny was losing interest, but changed tunes when he heard about the flyboarding.
Mima Daphne looked concerned when she heard about the activities.
"That sounds like fun, but it sounds expensive and I think an old fuddy duddy like me would only be in your way."
"No you won't Mima. I've already planned on having a nice and easy nature trek with you. We could also make a kite like we used to when I was younger, like the one Papap used to make. A big green dragon kite."
"Hmm... That does sound like a good time. Alright, I'm in."
Nash turned to Seth as he was the only one left.
"Of course I'm in! You don't expect me to be stuck here, alone in this house while you guys are out there having a blast, did you?"
"Great! The best part about this place is their promo. They offered 75% off to the first 1,000 customers who registered on their website."
 

* * * * * * 

Smoke, Sierra, and the rest of his private army were quietly gathered inside Verbrannt castle's throne room. They sat around a long rectangular table as they waited patiently for Caid to arrive.
The three massive Maneators had to sit on the floor because they were too big to fit in any chair. Their height was just the right size as they sat around the rectangular table.
Gandiva had always been impatient, and the tigress Lioumerean couldn't help herself. She stared at Espion and asked.
"You're sure your father's gonna arrive today?"
"Relax, he's only been late for ten minutes."
The room had an awkward silence. Originally, there were two factions about the guild creation. One group was afraid of letting other Sonstwelters in, while the other wanted their strength and numbers.
Given their war against Duke Burmistrz and the Brandals, the creation of a guild was agreed upon. Yet, the ill feelings about the decision remained.
Espion could no longer take Gandiva's impatience and stood up.
"I'm going outside to wait for my father."
Smoke stood up as well.
"Wait up. I'll join you."
The DarkElf and the Spy went out of the throne room. When they got to the hallway they met an intimidating middle-aged man clothed in a black suit.
Caid stood still for a moment, and slowly walked towards Espion. The young Spy ran towards his father and hugged him tightly.
Caid whispered to his son.
"I knew you'd be alive. I believed in you the whole time."
The Beggar Evocati released his hold of his son and faced Smoke.
"Thank you for keeping your promise."

 

+ Completed Quest: Find Caid's son, Espion
  You have reunited Beggar Evocati Caid and his missing son, Espion. You have earned Caid's trust and respect.
  Rewards:
  * Beggar Evocati Caid's Recommendation
  * 300,000 exp

 

 

+ You gained Beggar Evocati Caid's Recommendation to rank up to Beggar Evocati.
+ (1/2) Beggar Evocati Recommendations until next Beggar rank up.

Smoke beamed at his reward. He wanted to increase his Beggar rank as soon as he saw the 75% reduction to his equipment and certain abilities.
"Thank you very much, Beggar Evocati Caid. I'm truly honored to be recommended by such an esteem Beggar. I was just very fortunate to have found your son in the labyrinth. Espion has been a great asset from the moment I saw him."
"Really? You didn't find him too rash and impetuous?"
"Well, to be honest, it was a little difficult at first. But right after we killed a few monster mobs, he understood what he needed to do."
Caid faced his son, and gave him a pat on his shoulder.
"Good for you, Espion. Huh? What happened to your eye? Why is it all glossy?"
The Beggar Evocati finally noticed Espion's injured eye. Smoke was about to explain what happened when the young Spy stopped him.
"Da, it was my fault. I got careless and a krampus scratched me. I would have died if it wasn't for Smoke."
Caid watched his son and noticed that he was not the same person. He had matured somehow.
"You never used to take responsibility for anything before. You always used to put the blame on someone else. It looks like you really learned something from Smoke."
"Yeah, that's why I've joined his private army. I want you to know that this isn't a form of rebellion  or anything like that. I just think that I'll be a better vessel to your Beggar legacy if I continue to travel with him."
Smoke subtly joined in on their conversation.
"Umm... Beggar Evocati Caid, You should also know that Espion is free to leave my private army whenever he feels like it. In fact, that goes for all the members of my private army."
Smoke knew that Espion was intimidated by his father, which was why he tried to smooth things out between them.
For a split second the shadows of three people appeared around Caid. They were the past holders of Caid's Beggar stone. Their melded minds converged and voiced out each individual's opinion.
Caid took a deep breath and sighed.
"Looks like that's all there is to it then."
Espion smiled with relief as he gained his father's approval.
"Since that's been decided let's talk about your war with Duke Burmistrz."
The Beggar Evocati's voice deepened and became serious as soon as he spoke about Coatl city's mayor.
"I think we better join the others before I continue."
Smoke, Caid, and Espion entered the throne room together. Smoke sat at the center of the long rectangular table with Igniz hovering around him. Sierra sat at his right side and Adder to his left, while Caid sat opposite to him.
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet, Beggar Evocati Caid. He's here to share the intelligence his men have gathered in Coatl."
Everybody gave Caid forms of acknowledgement, most of them nodded except for Gandiva, Laernea, Ichaival, and Rasant who waved at him.
"Please, Beggar Evocati Caid, be as blunt as possible. What's the Duke's plans on our rebellion?"
Caid nodded at Smoke's request of the hard facts.
"According to the intelligence I've gathered, the Duke is in serious trouble. His current campaign against Centzo City isn't doing very well. The villages outside of Centzo's main defenses were evacuated and taken inside the main city itself. The Duke only has 100,000 Brandals left. It would be suicide if he would make a direct attack on Centzo city now."
Every one of Smoke's private army had smiles on their faces, but Caid said something troublesome before anyone could speak out their minds.
"Due to this major setback, the Duke has changed strategies. He has his entire army of 100,000 Brandals encircle Centzo city. His plan is to cut off the trade and supply lines of the city. Although the main city has livestock and some scattered farm lands, I doubt that it could feed the city's enlarged population from all the refugees."
Rasant, the orange Maneator, thought about Burmistrz plan and Centzo city's size. The Maneator quickly expressed his thoughts on the Duke's plan.
"If he only has a hundred-thousand Brandals, then there's no way the Duke could cover Centzo city's entire area."
Caid looked at the Maneator and nodded.
"Normally, that would have been the case, but the Duke divided his Brandals into ten legions of ten-thousand men each. Eight legions were scattered around Centzo and blocked all the main roads. Centzo can't attack each legion one by one because that would leave their city defenseless for the other legions."
Thyrsus' inquisitive mind wondered about the other two legions.
"What special assignments did the Duke have for the ninth and tenth legions?"
"Well, he has those two legions provide food and other war supplies from Coatl to Centzo. Both provision legions run at opposite directions, this made sure that their food supply is constant. They would run out of food in no time if they relied on the supplies that they brought."
Smoke, Sierra, and everyone else's faces became sullen. They were hoping that the Duke's plan left his men vulnerable. To the point where they could take each legion by force and slaughter them one at a time, but ten-thousand Brandals was still beyond their military power.
Caid looked at Smoke and his men and understood their disappointment.
"The Duke isn't dumb. He has seen his share of wars. Although, this last move of his isn't really a bad thing for you and your men."
Smoke looked confused and asked.
"Huh? How come? After he conquers Centzo wouldn't he just come looking for us?"
"He will, but you'll have about three months before that happens. He can't also neglect defending Coatl city because Centeo city is just waiting for a chance to expand its territory and because of your recent victory. He now thinks that he would need to send more than 5,000 men to conquer you. Do you think you can come up with an army in three months?"
Sierra who sat quietly as Caid spoke finally talked.
"But what if the Duke decides to risk it and send out another five-thousand Raiders against us? We barely have a thousand men in our army right now."
Caid shifted his face towards Sierra and said.
"You just have to improve your security system. That's why I have my Light Wizards of Regard come with me. They're all outside."
Gandiva, the tigress Lioumerean was surprised and asked.
"Regard? You mean the ones who made the jumbovision screen for the mounted race? You own Regard?"
"Yes, it's one of my many businesses in Coatl."
"And the Duke doesn't know that you're Espion's father?"
The young Spy raised his voice a little as he answered.
"Of course not! I made sure that no one of the Duke's men would know about my family."
Gandiva raised her hands in surrender.
"Okay, okay, I was just asking."
Caid cleared his throat and proceeded to talk.
"I've instructed the Light Wizards to install camera runes in a radius of twenty kilometers around Verbrannt castle. I've also had them install these camera runes on the main roads from Coatl and Centzo. They'll set up a monitoring room inside the castle as well."
"Thank you very much. I feel really responsible for the safety of the people."
Sierra was really grateful for what Caid did. Sierra proceeded to ask for advice on what else they could do around Verbrannt Village to increase their defenses.
Everybody inside the throne room shared their own ideas about what to do. Until the topic of forming a guild was raised.
Smoke voiced out his main concern.
"Basically, I just want to be sure that we don't recruit any traitors. Creating a guild isn't just for fighting against the Duke. It's something that should go beyond that. I know we could create a contract like what we did for the mounted race, but what if the Sonstwelter is already prepared to lose everything just to spy on us?"
Caid said something that he thought could help them.
"I could make a casting circle of truth and intent. From that you could know if the potential recruit is a spy or not. Although the problem whether he changes his mind in the future and betrays you still exist."
Sierra accepted Caid's suggestion.
"That'll be better than nothing at all. At least with that we'll be assured that they're not spies and have no intention of being one."
Everybody proceeded to add more conditions and penalties on the contract that the guild member will have to sign. They then went on to discuss about other places where they could recruit more men.
Adder finally spoke and suggested that together with Smoke they should visit Condortl Village and ask for their help. Smoke agreed without objections.
As their strategy meeting kept on, Sierra went out and ordered their food to be served on their table. As they ate, the talk shifted from battle strategies to war stories and legends.
The topic of Smoke's escape from the labyrinth came up. Laernea insisted for him to recount their adventures inside the labyrinth and how they escaped.
"Alright, I was teleported into the labyrinth and had to solve a puzzle just to get out of the first room. After I got out, there were swarms of wolf spiders, crested newts, and fire salamanders. Igniz and I were dealing with around five-hundred of those monsters when we found Espion being chased by three krampus. The krampus monsters were the ones the Tenebris used to replace the Maneators."
Ichaival was amazed when he heard that Smoke and Igniz dealt with five-hundred monsters by themselves, but he was also curious what the krampus were.
"Are the krampus monsters the boss monsters of the labyrinth?"
"No, they were more like the mini-boss, but let me get to the boss later. After I found Espion, we went on to discover the Tenebris hidden laboratory. We had to fight through one krampus to get to it. That was where Espion lost his right eye's vision..."
Smoke's voice became regretful as he remembered how the fight with the krampus ended.
"Inside the Tenebris laboratory I found the manual to create a Maneator. Luckily, I had enough components to make my first Maneator. Which was Weise."
The gray Maneator raised his hands as everyone's attention was on him.
"Together with Weise, I decided to take on the three krampus monsters roaming inside the labyrinth. I needed their embryo as a component for making more Maneators. We already had a hard time fighting against one krampus, there was no way we could take on three at the same time. So, I decided to use the tunnels inside the labyrinth to force the krampus to fight us one on one. Igniz, Espion, Weise, and I, dealt with those three krampus."
Smoke gave a nod to Espion and Weise, while Igniz hovered brightly all over the rectangular table.
"Regrettably, the krampus were hardwired to destroy any embryo they see. After we killed the first krampus, the second one immediately destroyed the embryo dropped from the first krampus' fading body. Which was why we only managed to get one embryo and that was Rasant."
This time, the orange Maneator waved both his hands wildly as he liked the attention that was given to him. Everybody laughed a little at Rasant's antics, and returned their gaze towards Smoke.
"From the loot of the three krampus we found a labyrinth map that pointed to the treasure room and the exit. Of course, I went immediately for the treasure room. I used Mitleid's key to open the treasure room, and there lay the boss of the labyrinth. It was a gigantic sphinx called Andrais. The great sphinx must have been around five meters from the ground to its head alone, with a body length of... Around eighteen meters? The notification said that he was a level 700 monster, and all of us were slashed when we arrived in the treasure room. We were left with 2% of our lives."
Smoke's eyes looked up to the ceiling, as he pictured that someday he would get back and conquer Andrais.
"Andrais was bored guarding the treasure, so he spared our lives. Instead of killing us outright, he gave us a chance to answer his riddles. Fortunately, all of us managed to come out alive. That's also where I've gotten these seven treasures."
Smoke laid down the seven treasures he got from the labyrinth on the table.
"Allow me to explain each one to you. The seven treasures are: 'Sable Wizard's Surcoat', 'Lunar Gravity Boots', 'Digger's Wand', 'Storm Staff of Ehactl', 'Mirror of Meztli', 'Gloves of Itzli', and 'Ring of Ezikill'. For now, I can only use the first three items."
He then pointed towards the last four treasures.
"As for these four, I have to chose which Elemental Affinity I have to improve on because they are all conflicting elements. The storm staff can make wind attacks and requires Wind affinity. The Mirror serves as an ultimate spy tool and requires Light affinity. The Itzli Gloves reduces casting time on channeling spells and requires Lightning. The Ring of Ezikill requires Dark affinity and can resurrect a dead Sonstwelter once a month, provided you kill ten-thousand monsters of the same level as yourself in the span of thirty days."
Intentionally, Smoke didn't mention that each of the four treasures were blessed by various gods and required over level 500 to be used.
"After the treasure room, we went to the labyrinth's exit. There we fought against the exit's guardian. A gigantic krampus with the height of four meters. It was a hard battle, but our coordinated attacks overwhelmed the monster. That's where I got the weighted chain and sickle weapon and Stark's embryo. I think that's the reason why Stark is bigger than his brothers. Anyway, The exit is located somewhere south east of this castle. The white mausoleum is now covered by a thick green forest. That was why you never found it, Sierra. I plan to go back there to create another Maneator out of Konig Mitleid's components, but enough about my impression on the labyrinth. You guys should talk to the men who helped me escape the labyrinth."

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