Chapter 432: Under the Lake
In the east of Beauclair stood a place with a panoramic view. In the era of elven rule, this place was known as Dol Naev'de. But Sansretour River had engulfed most of the area, leaving only the Valley of the Nine behind.
Within the valley's center stood a beautiful lake. Ripples spread across the surface as the autumn breeze whispered across the valley. And then six silhouettes appeared on the lake's surface.
Five had twin swords strapped behind their backs and leather armor covering their bodies. Their eyes were as wild as beasts’. One was a beautiful woman in a tight black dress. She was twirling her fiery red hair as she stared at the lake with sea-blue eyes. Her lips were pursed, her eyes filled with anticipation.
"How goes the research, Lytta?" Kiyan raised his head, basking in the sunshine. A year had passed, and the scars on his face had lessened to the point where he looked like the victim of a fire accident and not a ghoul.
"Don't worry. Things are going as planned. With Kalkstein on our side, our efficiency has gone up by a lot." Lytta smiled at him. "Two more months and the boys can take their pre-Trial."
"You're trying to get a new student, Kiyan?" Eskel patted Kiyan's shoulder. "I call dibs on Charname. He's the best successor I can hope for. Don't you get any ideas."
"I prefer Acamuthorm." Kiyan's eyes glinted. "He's innocent, and he learns fast."
"I'll take Monti, then." Letho rubbed his head. "I like the kid."
"Aiden and Lambert want him as well." Auckes said, "You already have an excellent student. Leave some kids for the others."
"Once we build the new houses and take in new kids, everyone will have a student."
Coen was listening quietly, envy flashing in his eyes.
While the witchers were chatting away, Roy was swimming across the lake, encapsulated in a beautiful bubble. Every time the young witcher pulled the trigger on his hand crossbow, a drowner would lose its life and sink to the bottom of the lake.
Seven drowners later, Roy found a green portal on the edge of the underwater castle ruins' center. The portal was turned on, and magical energy stirred around it.
The young witcher darted into the portal, and at the same time, Lytta nodded. She then opened a portal as well.
Everything around the witchers spun. A moment later, the witchers and Lytta found themselves in a dark and claustrophobic chamber. The blazing brazier before them shone on a pointed arch, while a portal leading to the depths of the lake stood behind them.
Letho took a deep breath, but his face was twitching. Eskel, Kiyan, Coen, and Auckes didn't look too well either. Their breathing was ragged, and some of them were retching. Only Roy and Lytta were fine. In fact, they were chatting away quietly.
"Damn the portals. I had to go through it twice! Sooner or later it's gonna be the death of me." Auckes retched. "We should have swum our way here."
"You should see the look on your faces. You look like a virgin who just had his first time. Come on, it's just a portal." Lytta grinned and snapped her fingers. The talisman before her chest shone, and a ball of light appeared around her. It lit the chamber up and followed Lytta wherever she went.
"This is probably a side effect of the mutation."
"Well, he's fine." Lytta smiled sweetly at Roy, and they entered the door.
"We did some research regarding this issue." Coen trotted behind them, his hand on the strap before his chest. The Griffin explained, "Our mutation strengthened our senses beyond human limits. Because of that, we experience stronger nausea after portal traveling. Any witcher would know how disgusting portal traveling feels. Roy is an exception."
"Coen, that's a good explanation." Auckes patted his shoulder. "But I hate portal traveling because of a specific memory. It's traumatizing. Ever saw a friend come out of a portal without an arm or a leg? Sure, it's one in a hundred, but the more you portal travel, the higher your chances of losing a limb."
The witchers nodded and descended the spiral staircase behind the door, watching out for their surroundings.
They were now in the corridor of an ancient castle. Patterns of leaves and vines were carved on the pillars flanking the corridor. Ancient runes dotted the dilapidated walls, and even the patterns on the brazier screamed of elven architecture.
This ancient castle was a part of a great civilization that used to rule this land—elven civilization. Much like most great buildings in the north, they shared the same roots. Unfortunately, during the expansion of Sansretour Marsh hundreds of years ago, the marsh buried this castle in the depths of a lake, turning it into ruins.
The floor was covered in dust and potholes. Signs of caving in and footprints were strewn across the ground. At the end of the spiral staircase stood a passage leading to a circular plaza. It was here that Roy came to a stop. He turned his attention to the feline statues flanking the corridor.
Status: Puppet (An extra-dimensional demon has taken over this statue, turning it into a killing machine.)
Cryptic Strength (Passive): An unknown energy has modified this creature. HP and Mana are increased. +5 to Constitution and Spirit. Loses all sense of pain. Does not have to eat. Replenishes its energy by absorbing the elements lingering in the air. Gains powerful regenerative abilities.'
"Something's off with those statues."
"Something feels familiar." Letho rubbed his chin. "I think I've seen them somewhere."
"The underground lab." Anger flashed in Kiyan's eyes. "Hieronymus summoned the demon hiding in that statue, and it possessed my body for twenty years."
"Looks like you can get your revenge then." Auckes rubbed his hands, his eyes glinting with ice-cold fury. The witcher covered himself with two magical shields. "There are seven of us here. We'll tear these bastards apart!"
Everyone nodded. They cast their Signs and wiped their blades clean.
The light of Yrden shone beneath Roy, and magical shields swirled around him. He looked like a magical lamp.
Lytta weaved a gesture in the air, and blue light shone from her talisman, covering her in a magical shield.
And then the witchers charged straight into the plaza. Roy, Letho, and Lytta took the left, while everyone else took the right.
Something seemed to have activated, and crimson light shone from the statues. They turned into sleek, living creatures and leapt off their stands. Yrden was waiting right there, and the trap slammed into the monster, bringing it down a little.
Letho swatted the monster's claws away with his blade and joined the fray, spinning around like a whirlwind of death.
His blade cut the guardian open, and it backed off, howling in agony. But that was not the end.
Lytta sternly produced a fireball and shot it at the monster, carving a hole into its back. And then a bolt of electricity flew from Roy's hand, tearing through the land.
The guardian let out another howl, but before it could do anything, another bolt of lightning blasted away at its head. The smell of charred flesh filled the air, and the guardian fell down, numb.
A crossbow bolt flew through the air. The guardian was sent flying right into the energy shield, and it hung there.
An eerie smile curled Letho's lips. He charged straight at the incapacitated guardian and launched another whirlwind of chaos at it.
The monster was overwhelmed by the bolts of electricity, flaming fireballs, crossbow bolts, and Letho's blade. Ten seconds later, Roy's bolt pierced through the monster's head, turning it into nothing but pink dust.
'Guardian statue killed. EXP +300. Level 9 Witcher (5200/6500).'
The battle on the other side had come to an end as well. Four witchers surrounded the remaining guardian. It was brought down low and dealt a heavy blow.
Coen's hands looked like a blooming flower, and his Sign radiated a beautiful glow. A barrage of Dual Signs kept the monster pinned to its spot before it toppled over.
The remaining witchers circled it, swinging their blades at the monster. Not once could the monster leap back at the witchers. All it could do was struggle until the bitter end. One last howl of frustration later, it was nothing but debris.
Auckes shook his head. He wanted more.
"You want a one-on-one with it?" Eskel wiped his blade.
"You think I'm an idiot?"
Roy picked up the loot. To his surprise, there were powdered monster tissues lying in the dust. "The demon must have changed it fundamentally. It was no longer a simple statue. Coral, do all mages summon demons in private? I thought it was supposed to be taboo."
"Some of us do." Lytta smiled and gave him a kiss. It was a reward for his performance. "The stronger a mage is, the harder it is to contain their curiosity. It's a dark path."
Roy was reminded of that mage who was hiding behind all this chaos. The group left the bodies behind and moved forward.
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