Chapter 421: The Ocean
Travel during the night was no problem for the group as most, like Seth, had a way to see in the dark.
On the journey, they talked a little more about the dangers of exposure to the sun. Ahmed was even providing the hero and Rich with a talisman each to resist the sun.
He told them the horror stories of villagers and refugees that had been exposed to the sun during long journeys. It did not end with heat strokes or dehydration. There would often be terrible sunburns that resulted in peoples skin peeling off in big bloody patches. When it was not that they would show similar symptoms to those cursed by the blood sun after extended exposure to sunlight.
It made sure that everyone dropped the idea of traveling through the day, even the hero. Even though they did not feel any terrible effects now, probably thanks to their level, none of them wanted to risk any permanent illnesses on this journey. A gods curse was no joke.
The landscape changed as their journey led them closer to the ocean. Slowly, more shrubs and trees appeared in the wasteland. Just as dried up as the grasslands they came from. Everything looked gnarly and bleached from the sun. They followed an old, dusty road, lined by this dead vegetation.
“We have to be careful from here on,” Ahmed warned them.
The reason became clear before anyone could ask when a bush suddenly attacked Yvette. The dry white twigs swiped at her like claws. She jumped back in shock, with a few red welts and cuts on her arm.
In a fit of anger, she struck the shrubs stem and it completely stopped moving. Almost as if it was petrified.
Ahmed wiped his sweat, from heat and embarrassment.
“I should have explained quicker. The plants are just as cursed as the creatures. What didnt die, turned under the power of the blood sun. At least, they are stuck where they grew. As long as we are careful and keep our distance, there is no problem.”
Yvette, the saintess, gave him a glare but couldnt keep the anger up for long. Her expression soon returned to its tranquil state and Ahmed heaved a sigh. They kept moving, making sure to stay away from the paths edge.
They had already traveled some distance, and nobody saw the bush the saintess had struck, crumble into irregular rubble like pieces of glass.
After a stretch of shrubbery, the road led through a vast forest. The coastal region must have once been covered in a lush forest, now only the dry and dreadful carcasses were left. The empty branches reaching to the starry sky alone were enough to give him an oppressive feeling.
On top came the knowledge, that they were technically surrounded by enemies, not counting the beasts lurking in the darkness between the trees. Passing through didnt feel good, but it was definitely not a place any of them wanted to spend the day at.
“How long until we reach Baram?” The hero asked Ahmed impatiently.
“It should come into view in the morning, but we should not get too close. The abandoned cities are teeming with monsters. Its better to cut through the fields and directly enter the coast road.”
This was the route Ahmed had suggested. They couldnt take the direct way between Akhaz and the dungeon, because of the mountains and forest in between. That was why they aimed for Baram, using the road in that direction, and then turn in the direction of Akhaz once they reached the shore.
The knight explained that there were fewer abominations along the shore, because the sea weakened them, even during the day. That road along the shore was, therefore, safer than any other.
Most had spoken in favor of this. They didnt know what really lurked in the wilderness. It was better to evade unneeded risks. Of course, only the hero had wanted to take the shortest route to “help the people as soon as possible”.
The hateful sun was already rising in front of them, at the horizon. The thick forest had made way for dry fields, laying idly without anybody to cultivate them. Outlines by the brightening morning, they could see the silhouette of a town down the street, close to the ocean.
Seths heart jumped a little and it seemed he was not the only one. It was not often, that he had the chance to see the ocean with his own eyes. It was a lot different from seeing it on the TV or the internet.
“I want to visit the shore…” Ellie mumbled with sparkling eyes.
“Me too…” mumbled Elza unexpectedly.
“I also wouldnt mind.” Rich agreed.
Everyone shared their sentiment in general. Ahmed was a little confused about their sudden reaction.
“Errm… It might not be the best idea to get too close to the ocean.” Ahmed stammered awkwardly.
“Why not?” Marcel asked wondering.
“Its true the abominations are weaker to the ocean, but it doesnt mean there are none. Especially the things in the ocean… “
With some pauses and stuttering, Ahmed talked about the first time they had traveled to visit the catacombs, after hearing they could provide shelter. They had heard from refugees, that there were fewer monsters close to the sea and decided to travel along the beach at the shore.
“In the beginning, everything was as expected. We only met lone abominations until… a sea creature suddenly charged out from the water. Its wide jaws with human-like teeth formed a natural sneer as it snatched five people and their horses at once.
The unnatural bulging eyes didnt even look at us as the beast started thrashing around and trying to catch more of us. The uncanny, lipless smile opened, and bundles of tentacled sprouted forth to catch men and horses.”
True terror was visible from the knights expression. It took a while for him to continue speaking.
“That was not the only attack, and there were other beasts. After losing half our people at the sea, we rather took up the fight with the abominations on land…”
Everyone was silent for a moment.
“Just a small visit wont hurt, right?” Ellie broke the silence. She really wanted to visit the sea.
“Ellie, you heard that its dangerous. And we dont have time for something like that. We have to get to Akhaz.” the hero turned her down.
“Seth! I want to go to the beach!” Ellie whined.
“You heard our brave leader. Dont worry, Im sure we will have enough time to marvel at the wonders of the ocean later on.” the blacksmith consoled her. After all, it was assured they would have to find a way to cross the sea.
If what Ahmed described was true, it might be harder than expected to travel this worlds waters.
Ahmed was visibly glad, that they did not insist on getting closer to the sea.
The road along the coast led past a few empty fisher villages, but they kept away at Ahmeds urging. As the days went by and time got closer to the Blood Sun, the abominations they met during the day became noticeably stronger.
They blazed through everything, except for bigger groups that took up more of their time. Seth started getting suspicious of Ahmed. There was something he was not telling them. Even if the fishing villages were teeming with monsters or abominations, they were no problem to them.
What was the knight hiding from them?
It happened when they were just two days away from Akhaz. In the once more temperate climate and closer to the big city, there were more villages and towns surrounded by vast fields.
Suddenly a roar made them halt in their tracks
How long had it been since his even had a reason to gain proficiency? Now it directly leveled up.
The beast before them was more than just some cursed or mutated creature. It was a terrifying amalgamation of molten monsters! Charging at them from a nearby burg was a 6 or 7-meter tall humanoid.
From the single hollow eye cavity visible on the from molten flesh exposed skull, they could guess that the base was once a cyclops. However, where its ribcage was supposed to be, opened a giant maw as if the head of another beast was fused into its torso.
The rest of its skin was fused with squirming humanoid and animal limbs and bodies as if it absorbed everything that came too close to its once molten skin, that had now hardened into the black-armored tumors, they already knew from other beasts.
It was disgusting and horrifying to look at it, to the point that the sight alone and a psychological effect on its victims. Maybe the most concerning part, was that it still had the level of intelligence to use a huge club as a weapon. It kept dragging it over the ground as it run in their direction.
“W-What is that!?” Brock, the mighty monk, screeched in a voice several octaves higher than usual.
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