Chapter 4:

Only Thing To Fear

A Longing Dream I'd Even Burn The World For

Ink dripped down the pen as she held it aloft.

Her hand trembled as she awkwardly positioned her fingers around the quill.

A pool of black drenched the neatly laid out paper on the desk.

After a few more attempts to hold the pen, Krista grunted and slammed it down. The ink splattered across the desk, staining the back wall and her own clothes in the process. With a frustrated sigh, she pushed her chair back and stood.

As one of the newest appointed leaders of the Rings of Eternity, relatively speaking, it was shameful that she lacked the ability to write. At first, it hadn’t bothered her. Why should she care what other thought? But by now she’d begun to feel inferior to the other leaders who knew not only how to write but read too. How could she be proud of her accomplishments if she still lacked what it took to stand next to the other leaders as their equals?

It’d only been three years since she became a leader, but in that time, she’d quickly become the black sheep. Apart from her leadership, everyone saw her as barbaric and unintelligent. Ironic, she thought, when everyone dressed like the barbarians they compared her to.

But that was of little importance.

The other leaders probably didn’t see her as such, she thought.

And everyone else had to respect her due to her stature.

She knew that…

…She knew that…but…

Krista made her way to the large wardrobe at the back of her room. Opening the double doors revealed a slew of outfits, half of which she’d never even touched.

She’d never been one for fancy clothes. In fact, for most of her life, she’d been happy to even have clothes. Having grown up in the streets, there wasn’t much opportunity to be picky about anything in her life, especially not clothes.

Touching the soft fabric of one of the dresses, only a single word came to mind, “Wasteful.” The word escaped her lips but aligned perfectly with her thoughts.

Was there really any need for this many outfits? Apart from her nightgown and everyday clothes, everything else felt pointless. Arguably, even the nightgown could be thrown out.

As she reached out for said nightgown, a shine caught her eye.

Hesitantly, she pulled out one of the red dresses. The simple design wasn’t anything remarkable, yet she couldn’t get her eyes off it. Black lines ran down the neck, forming a floral pattern near the chest. The red material was soft and exceptionally smooth.

Only once before had the thought of wearing a dress crossed her mind.

Late at night, she’d been traveling down a near-empty street of a town she didn’t know. There, in one of the store windows, there was a dress. A pretty black dress with a yellow ribbon. Ten-year-old Krista had never seen anything like it.

That’s the type of outfit you can wear if you have money, she thought.

Back in her village, all anyone wore was simple clothing. With little money, they had to scrape together anything they could and make them by hand. Their houses were all identical and borderline falling apart. A dress like that was out of the picture then, and it was especially out of the picture now.

Yet she couldn’t help picturing herself in a nice house, with her parents smiling happily, and Krista wearing that black dress.

All things she didn’t have.

Knock Knock Knock

The visitor at the door snapped her from her thoughts. She shoved the dress back into the dresser as she yelled out, “What?!”

A timid voice came from the other side of the door, “Sorry for coming this late at night, Ms. Ridson. There is an urgent matter that has come up. They need you upstairs as soon as possible.” The voice trembled.

Krista closed the dresser and dragged her hand down the surface. Taking a deep breath, she picked up her chest plate from the ground. “I’ll be there.”

After armoring herself, she took one last solemn glance at the dresser. The large mirror next to it reflected back her current self. It wasn’t the happy girl who wore dresses and had a family with her, but the rugged woman part of a group who murdered people on a daily basis. The large scars across the right side of her face were a clear reminder of that.

And so, just like that, she exited the room.

The reaper—that’s what they called him.

He hadn’t taken a single life, as far as anyone knew, but many considered his mere presence a bad omen. If you ever saw him walk the halls, you knew he carried with him the news of an untold amount of death. The last thing anyone wanted was to be the one he wanted to meet with.

Krista, for one, never expected to meet him. She actually tried her hardest to forget he existed. Yet, when she opened the heavy double doors that lead to the meeting room, he is who greeted her.

“Ms. Ridson,” The hooded man bowed. “It’s unfortunate we must formally meet this way.”

The Reaper was clad in a ghastly robe. His hood hung over his head, the darkness covering his face. A single gem at the center of his chest shone in bright green, tiny cracks like veins covering the surface. Whoever they really were, nobody, or at least most people, didn’t know their identity. It was hard to even point out any specific qualities to his voice—raspy was probably the closest one.

Krista ignored his introduction, instead asking, “How many?”

The Reaper flinched but soon nodded. He lowered his head as he answered. “All but two.”


The answer didn’t immediately sink in.

One hundred and fifty souls left the base. Two came back. That’s what The Reaper said. He was an arbiter of death. A serious one at that. He wouldn’t lie, but it felt like a lie. So…

Finally, Krista’s stomach sank.

She tried her hardest to stay standing. Biting her lip, she asked, “What happened?”

“The survivors reported a few warriors we hadn’t accounted for. There wasn’t enough time to call for a retreat. Unlike we’d originally thought, they also have spell users.”

“How could something like that be overlooked?” Krista asked, her voice deeper.

The Reaper shrugged, “I’m but a messenger.”

“Then…” her words trailed off.



This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.

She repeated those phrases in her mind.

People died under her all the time. She’d accepted that fact long ago. But never had this many of her men died in one night.

A part of her hated how dismissible death had become, but another knew this was necessary. That didn’t mean she didn’t feel anything at all about the deaths they suffered—or the ones by her own hand, but she hated how weak she still was. The other leaders didn’t bat an eye at death, and they never lost these many soldiers at once.

Was she really that inferior to them?

At this rate, she probably wouldn’t hold her position for very long—no, she probably wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the group at all if she messed up bad enough.

She’d sacrificed too much for this.

After years of being alone, she found a place she belonged, a place where her dream could become a reality. Under no circumstance could she let that slip through her fingers…

“Shall you be calling for another recon? Doing so twice isn’t common, but this situation seems far from normal.”

Krista nodded to herself. At this point, they couldn’t blindly toss more soldiers into the wolf pen. Scouting the situation again would waste more resources but upped the chances of victory on the next raid.

“Right…I’ll do that,” she said, scratching nervously at the side of her index finger with her thumb. Peeling off skin, she looked up at The Reaper. “Notify the barracks. I’ll fill them in later.”

The Reaper's invisible glare pierced her cheek. “Very well,” he said before walking towards the door. After passing next to her, he pulled open one of the doors—then froze. “Ms. Ridson. I don’t mean to meddle with your plans, but may I request something?”

Krista’s eyes widened at his unexpected question. “What is it?”

After a moment's pause, The Reaper continued. “May I recommend having Corvus lead the recon? Success will be certain if you bring him along.”

The name echoed in Krista’s mind.

Corvus—one of the many classified as Hunters.

This was the first time she’d had to consider calling in one of the Hunters. Behind the leaders, the Hunters held the highest authority. As an elite squadron, they only came in on the direst of circumstances.

Were things really that bad now?

While she hadn’t met most of the Hunters, Corvus was one she was familiar with. She’d talked to him on a few occasions, but she didn’t enjoy how laidback he usually was. Yet out of all the Hunters, he was the best one for this occasion due to his specialty in reconnaissance.

Maybe her failure wouldn’t even reach any of the other leaders or higher-ups if he was involved. At least, she had the option of asking that from him. Plus, this way, she could ensure that no further failure would befall her.

It was the best way.

Maybe even the only way, she realized.

“Alright. Call Corvus. I’ll catch him up to speed,” Krista ordered.

“As you wish,” The Reaper answered before exiting the door.

Scratching at her finger, she thought over what she had to do.

Corvus’ leadership skills were top-notch, so there were no worries there. But there was still the question of the town. She had it thoroughly scouted. What could’ve possibly slipped by, not only her, but the recon team that scouted it?

She had to fill everyone in on what they already know. Then there had to be a full report written so she could thoroughly analyze it and form some proper strategy. Maybe she should have someone look it over. Corvus might want to. Maybe a strict strategy wouldn’t go over well with the group, but it’s what she had to do to—

A sharp sting ran up her hand.

Blood dripped from the new wound she made on her index finger. As she looked at it, she noticed her hand was shaking. Was it out of fear or anger? That she couldn’t fully know.

The red liquid slid down the side of her finger and splattered against the wooded floor.

“I can’t…lose…” she murmured to herself.