Godless and Faithless Chapter 8
He’d battled them throughout the swamp, his hammer having little effect. Brute force failed to defeat them.
Instead, he looked for other monsters and the dumb swamp slimes would get distracted and engage them instead. Using this method, he made his way through the forest with swamp slimes acting as his unknowing allies.
He needed more varied skills. For one, when force failed him, he found himself in a disadvantageous position. Another point he wrote in his notes.
They also needed another party member. Not to round out the balance of their party but to have another body if they had to split up like this again. Now he was in a swamp looking for dragons alone.
He pulled out the compass, checking again the distance to his goal. He was getting close. The compass was an incredibly useful item, always pointing him toward the exit. If he went the opposite direction, it led him to the center of any location. He made a note to get more items like it.
Something was strange. The villagers made it seem there were many dragons infesting the area, yet he had seen none since coming to the swamp. He saw no signs of them when passing the villages on his way here as if they were never there. Once he got to his destination, all would be known. The women and girls about to be sacrificed to the dragon needed him. He would be a hero.
Reaching a clearing he finally saw the evidence of the dragons, fallen trees marking the ground where they had slithered. But the dragons themselves remained elusive. Then he remembered this was a swamp. These dragons must have adapted to the area meaning—a sound came from his right, a mighty beastly screech.
Here comes the dragon. He ignored the little swamp puddles before, now he knew them for what they were: It was where the dragons slept. Another dragon joined it, then another and another.
Axel told him if he had learned anything from his battles, it was that the one who hesitated died. Taking Axel’s advice, he activated all of his skills. He used Roar at the closest dragon, knocking it back. Then he let out a Battle Cry feeling confidence and vigor flooding his body. It stunned the dragon; he ran at it and activated Rampage for the first time by his own will. Battle Cry improved his morale and made his body feel filled with life, while Rampage felt like a jolt to his mind and heart, forcing his body to push forward. Rayner leaped at the dragon and used Force Hammer on its head, green light smashing into it.
The dragon screamed, trying to get him off its head. Instead, he continued to smash it on the head until it stopped moving.
The creature still lived but as long as it wasn’t attacking him, he could kill it later. Another dragon slithered toward him. Rayner jumped behind the body of the unconscious dragon. When the attacking dragon raised its body above the defeated dragon to peer down at him it got a Roar to its jaw, followed by a Force Hammer. It was not enough to knock it out so Rayner switched tactics. He would make it hurt. He didn’t need a skill like Pain Knife to do that.
Rayner grabbed onto the dragon’s mouth and smashed its teeth with his hammer right at the base of the tooth. It produced the desired painful result, causing it to thrash around on the spot. Ignoring the pain in his back due to the haze of Rampage, he got back up in time to roll to the side to avoid another dragon’s bite. He used the pick on the other side of his hammer to drive it into the side of the dragon. The dragon’s own forward momentum created a giant wound all along its scaled side.
He took stock of his surroundings. One dragon down and two screaming in pain. Weak. These dragons were weak. Truly not the fearsome beasts from the stories. The others that had come out of their swamp puddles were hesitating. The ones that hesitated died. He said that over and over again in his head.
Briefly, he wondered where the maidens were being held but he would find out later. For now, he had to fight. These things were able to steal EXP, that’s why they wanted the maidens, or so he was told. It all seemed strange to him.
He expected a boss to appear but only more dragons followed, most of them smaller than the ones he had just fought. Like the villagers had told him, their scales were not hard, but they were thick. Bad for stabbing if Axel was here. Good for smashing and it was him they were fighting, not Axel. Too bad for them.
He’d downed four and killed six of the creatures, moving deeper into the swamp, using the trees to his advantage. Most of the dragons were not big or strong enough to smash through the trees to attack him. Instead, they hurt their own jaws when he rolled out the way and they bit into the trunk of the trees.
Rayner could tell they were angry, they had to be. Some puny human had come into their home and tried to ruin a sweet deal for them. All the creatures did was sleep in their swamp beds and wait for sacrifices to come to them. No natural predators hunted them. No strong Worshipers were in the area, and few would come to the Alea region of Alta. The easy living they had before was over.
Deeper into the forest the fight went on. He didn’t need to worry about other monsters attacking him, he’d cleared out many of them on his way here. That was his plan, for what the dragons didn’t know is that they had a predator or at least an annoying creature to deal with.
The swamp slimes fell upon the dragons. They were vastly weaker than the dragons but the swamp slimes didn’t have the intelligence to know that. The dragons slithered around on the ground trying to rub them off their bodies. Some of them succeeded. Most of them only rubbed themselves onto more swamp slimes.
Still, no boss appeared. He had to keep reminding himself that this was not a game, no law required a boss to exist. This was it. Yet the villagers told him the largest dragon could wrap around a small hill. He counted himself lucky for once.
He took the chance to stab them all in their soft spots with the pick end of his hammer. It didn’t kill them all, but it didn’t need to. The point was to leave them weak enough for the swamp slimes to finish them off.
He had counted twenty-four dragons. The villagers had made it sound like more. He gave it no further thought, the path was clear to find the maidens. After spending several hours looking for the maidens and killing a stray dragon, he began to think they were already dead.
Then he remembered the swamp beds. Heading back to the clearing that the dragons once called home he searched for an undisturbed swamp puddle. When he found it, he put his hand down into the puddle.
He felt a hand and pulled the body up; it was a girl, naked under all the mud. He would ask how she survived under there later. He tried waking her up but nothing worked. He hoped it would not be like this for all of them.
He spent the next few minutes looking for similar puddles and hauled the maidens out. The girls who were awake explained what happened.
“They did not want us because we are virgins; that makes no sense. Men are virgins as well ya know,” the oldest of the girls told him.
“True. I should have thought of that.” He’d read too many stories. “Then why?”
“They wanted to demoralize the population. Taking the community’s women is a great way to do that.”
“So, they don’t steal experience?”
“No. Their claws have a skill that lets them attack a Worshiper’s experiences directly, causing memory loss and impeding the growth of Worshipers.”
That was a better explanation of why nobody wanted to fight the dragons.
“Demoralizing the population. They were softening up the area for war.”
She nodded. “Every village and town in this region is walled, and all have a militia. We have a high population of fighters and we would not roll over while an enemy army invades.”
“When and where is this attack coming?”
“Soon, in a week maybe. If it hasn’t started already. They will want to attack the neighboring region, Alis, first.”
Ridgehill would be in danger as the only real stronghold left in the region of Alis. He had a bad feeling about this, the Inimi even used dragons to fight for them. “They told me there was a giant dragon. It is part of the attack, isn’t it?”
Again, she nodded confirming what he suspected. “C’mon I will take you all home.”
“Hold on,” she said. “Girls, I know you are all scared but some good must come of this. We have a bunch of dead dragons to loot!”
He forgot about that. “Are the scales valuable?”
“No, but the claws are. They damage EXP. Monsters, unlike us humans, have skills ingrained in their body.”
“Wait, does that mean they don’t need gods?”
“They do. It just means they have all the skills at the start, they just need to grow into it and they do so with the help of their gods. At least that’s what I think. I don’t exactly chat with them.”
Done with answering questions they looted the dragons.
Rayner returned to Gregory’s house with the rest of the women to give them time to recover before leaving. That and he could not escort every girl to her village.
Sasha’s mother fussed over them, while he explained to Gregory what he learned.
“It all makes sense, those damn Inimi.”
“I don’t know what to do. Ridgehill and the rest of the Alis region cannot defend against another attack.”
He took a moment to ponder his predicament. “If they defeat our neighbor, we will fall next.” He stood up. “Too long have we believed ourselves defenseless and look what it has brought upon us. No, this time we will fight. They are afraid of our potential. We may not have fancy equipment or important gods blessing us but we do have each other, we always have.”
“I heard the miasma is gone! We should gather up every fighter from the villages and defend our countrymen!” Sasha said, pumping her fist. Gregory was quite the speaker, and so was his daughter. “Dad, could you leave us alone for an hour?” Rayner knew what she wanted but was this really the time? Gregory must have thought so because he left them alone.
“Sasha, I think we should save this for another time.”
“It’s not just me who wants you right now.” The door opened and in entered a group of the girls he had saved. This was not happening.
“We wanted to thank you.”
“Being a maiden has never brought us any luck.”
“Could you help us with that?”
How could he say no to these maidens asking him for help? He was a hero after all.
The girls let their dresses fall where they stood, presenting themselves for him. He grabbed a cute chubby girl, kissing her while gripping her plump bottom. He could hear Sasha behind him encouraging the others to join in. He could feel lips kissing his back, hands feeling his sides, then roaming his chest.
The others surrounded him, fawning over him, worshiping him. He rolled with the chubby girl on the ground and entered her. Her hands on his behind encouraged him, helping him push deeper into her.
He moved onto a leggy brunette, the first girl he pulled from the swamp puddle. She wrapped her long legs around him using them to hold him inside her.
All of them had prepared themselves before entering the room, he could feel the lube on their sex. They didn’t need it; they were already soaking the ground. The girls not taking part were being entertained by Sasha. She was rubbing one girl’s pussy lips and fingering another, putting on a show for him as he thrust into the girl under him.
He pointed to a woman left unattended. “Come here.” He opened his mouth, she caught on, placing her pussy on his mouth for him to lick.
One girl after another came over his shaft. He used everything he had to please them. Rayner played with them using his fingers, he nibbled on their breasts and explored every part of their bodies.
This was the girls’ first experiences; however energetic at the start they tired quickly. Even Sasha slept in the arms of the first plump girl he entered, leaving him with the older girl he’d spoken to in the swamp.
“I hope I am not too old for you. By the way, I am no maiden, the village elders just hoped the dragons couldn’t check.”
He answered her by grabbing and pulling the girl into a deep kiss. She melted in his arms; her fingers ran through his hair. She lowered herself onto him as he sat cross-legged on the ground humping her hips onto him.
“I’m going to cum,” no longer able to restrain himself.
She picked up the pace of her hips as their bodies shook with the force of her movements. She wanted it; she wanted his cum inside her.
She bit into his shoulder to stop from screaming as she climaxed after feeling him fill her with cum.
“How was that for a reward, hero?”
Axel didn’t like what the rescued villagers had to tell him. Not only were the monsters being used by the Inimi to attack villages, but they were impersonating Coalition forces in order to besmirch their name. His wisdom kicked in providing him with an answer. This was the preparation for another attack.
The villagers were outraged on learning of this, and with the confidence gained from fighting off the siege, contacted the other villages and told them what was happening.
What was Axel doing during all this? Resting. He would not make a move until he joined up with Rayner again. Martha was giving him the stink eye; he had made a bad impression on her. First by having a ball of miasma in his possession, a cursed object. Then, when she healed the burn wounds of Fred’s wife, the woman he used as a human shield to defeat the bandit mage.
“So, nice weather we are having,” he joked.
She clicked her tongue and left him alone. Fine with him. He used the privacy to check his stats.
Name: Axel, Level: 3, Class: Thug, Mana: 21, Skills: Pain Knife(1.0) Fear Knife(0.5) Malice Seal(X), EXP: 44.
Focusing on the new skill Malice Seal, he read the definition. It used his mana to seal up malicious entities; the mana cost varied using as much mana as needed to complete the task.
The message his stats were sending him was clear. A thug who used pain, fear, and malice to defeat his enemies. He did not like it, but it was what he had to work with.
John entered the room, followed by Rayner. At seeing him alive and safe Rayner gave him a bear hug.
“Do you plan to finish me off, Rayner?”
“Sorry, it has been a rough day. I have bad news.”
They traded information. An invasion was coming and what they dealt with on their quests was the preparation for that invasion. None of that was what really upset Axel.
“You had an orgy with a bunch of virgins!”
“One wasn’t. Sasha wasn’t either because of earlier.”
The jerk was teasing him. “Oh, that makes me feel much better.”
“Didn’t you get any offers from some grateful village girls? It seems to be culturally acceptable to offer sex as thanks for a job well done.”
“I got some offers, but some of them are afraid of me. I had to keep this thing,” Axel pointed to the ball of sealed miasma, “around most of the time. They sense it and freak out.”
“Yeah, it’s not just that though. We live in a brothel but you don’t seem to be taking advantage of the services offered.”
“I don’t know. Maybe when we get our bearings, no more bouncing from crisis to crisis.”
“I want that too but wishful thinking won’t stop the invasion.”
“No, it won’t. I’m still thinking of a plan.”
“Actually, I don’t think we need to do anything complicated this time.”
“Right now, every fighter in the Alea region is being gathered to fight. They will make it to Ridgehill faster because they can cut through where the miasma used to be. They can handle the Inimi, they are not as strong as we once believed, the militia can defeat them.”
Rayner was right. Most of the citizens of Alta had the belief that the Inimi and Coalition soldiers were invincible, far above them in every possible way. They held the same belief regarding their chances of defeating monsters.
Axel’s and Rayner’s experiences had been different. From what they had seen most of the soldiers had no special skills, none that they had noticed at least. And the monsters were easy to take on if one knew what they were doing.
If the citizens had more confidence, they would realize that. Evans and his men after having their families killed and homes destroyed took up the spear and fought bandits and wolves. This village fought a horde of monsters. As soon as the other villagers escaped bondage, they took up any weapon they could and killed the bandits. They could fight. They could thrive.
“They can’t fight a giant dragon though,” he said.
“But we can,” Rayner answered.
The first thing to do was to establish leadership. This was harder than it sounded. Despite all the talk of togetherness, it turned out that in the past when other villages were in trouble, many did not answer the call for help. Arguments and fights broke out. Another problem with picking leaders was how it strained formerly friendly relationships. It was tempting to put the people he knew in charge, but just because he knew them didn’t mean they were the best for the job.
Telling John, Mary, Martha, and Gregory that none of them would have a large role to play in the small army they were forming was unconformable, to say the least. It got ugly when his and Rayner’s leadership was questioned.
“Who are you guys?” one man said.
“I heard you used a woman as a human shield!” a woman yelled.
“I heard the muscular one deflowered all the maidens in the region,” said another woman who looked jealous.
They were packed inside the village elders’ home as it was the only house with enough room for all of them. The elder was not happy to give up his home. He was mostly unhappy with Rayner and Axel for breaking up the deal they had with the dragons without telling him.
It made him look weak. That’s because he was. Instead of being glad that they were no longer under threat of the dragons, he complained at being disobeyed. He was the one most responsible for stirring up trouble.
“All of what you say is true, but those women asked for it, and Axel did what he had to in order to save the rest of the villagers,” Rayner said.
Axel put his head in his hands, the fool was too honest. The crowd reacted in an uproar, he had to fix this. “Look, as my friend here said, what you say is true. We are strangers, in the end, we can just walk away from this fight—”
“That’s right you have no stake in this fight!” a man from the crowd said.
“Unlike yourselves…” He let that statement hang. “We can walk away and leave your country to its fate. All while you argue over leadership and jockey for scraps of power. You have gathered this small army and already you act like the foreigners who run around your nation causing trouble.”
His rebuke was effective; many would not look him in the eyes. Mary, John, and the others he knew hadn’t spoken up to defend him during the arguments. They were still angry over being passed over for leadership positions, they disappointed him. It was not as if they had no role to play.
Many people who were not suited to fighting had skills that could be used in interesting ways, if only they had guidance. After the siege, Mary and Walker had shown they could make maximum use of non-combat skills.
“Our role is to fight the dragon. Not to be the head of the army. We helped organize things, and that is it. If you all want to separate, fine with us.” He had to make sure they got the point. He and Rayner didn’t work for them. He would not let them take advantage of their kindness.
Martha spoke up, “Some are afraid to take the routes the miasma used to cover.”
He could not just tell them to get over it. “Does anyone have a skill that can reduce fear?”
Mary raised her hand. “I know someone who uses a skill to calm his frightened kids, it works by turning fears into illusions of happy thoughts. For example, a spider turns into a worm, his kids like worms.”
“Good we can use that, thank you, Mary.” Her frown lessened at the comment.
Walker spoke next, “There is a skill that slows the effects of mana, we could use it to make the skill Mary talked about last longer.”
This opened the flood gates and others spoke up, offering suggestions.
After the meeting ended Axel went outside to look at the small army prepping themselves for war. Most of them had spears. That was good, swords were hard to use in formations. If he had his way, he would have them drill in all sorts of formations but the invasion was coming too soon for that. Besides, he had learned all his military tactics from movies and history books, it didn’t qualify him to train an army.
Mary and Walker came beside him. “Hey.”
“Hey,” they both said.
“We just wanted to say sorry about getting angry before, in the end, this is about saving our homes, not our egos,” Walker said.
“Don’t worry about it. It worked out in the end. You two were seen as being objective, the others trusted you when your opinions changed.”
“Are you sure you will not lead the army?” Mary said.
“We are not generals; we know a few useful tactics but that’s it.”
“Well then, this is goodbye, you will have to leave now to catch that boss dragon. Oh, and if you ever want a reward, come see me.”
“I will, thanks.” Axel hoped she was talking about sex.
He and Rayner said their goodbyes to others whom they had come to know, gave some parting advice, and left to slay the dragon.
How hard was it to find a massive dragon so large it could hug a hill? Extremely hard. They had been searching for days and had worried it had already reached Ridgehill.
Turns out it was looking for them, for when they took a break after days of searching, it rushed them from behind. It came at them with a vengeance. The monster must have known of Rayner’s slaying of its fellow dragons.
As it slithered through the grass, it made deep trenches in the ground, changing the landscape. To dodge its first attack, Rayner threw Axel out of the way, thus the dragon had separated them. The dragon attacking them again continued to slither, writhing its body, and making the trenches deeper. It was shaping the terrain to its advantage.
“Axel look around! It trapped us,” Rayner called to him from the other side of the dragon.
He hadn’t noticed it before, but yes, they were trapped. A deep trench surrounded them; the dragon must have made it before attacking them. This was no dumb creature.
Making their predicament worse was the flat featureless terrain they fought on. He had no Idea what to do.
The dragon finished making its dividing trench and was again ready to attack. It coiled around itself, making false strikes with its head so they would not know who it would attack.
It attacked Rayner; he jumped over the dragon and landed on it. Axel recognized the signature green distortion that came with the use of Rayner’s Force Hammer. It had no effect. Worse, Rayner couldn’t stay on the dragon, Its body was too wet. Axel smelt oil mixed with water. “It’s covered in oil and water!”
“I know!” Rayner yelled back. “What are we going to do about it?”
He could only shrug as Rayner dodged the dragon’s strikes. Axel had to cross that huge trench and do it before the dragon turned its attention back to him. Taking a running start, he leaped across the trench and made it halfway before hitting the dirt.
If this world hadn’t changed his body, the fall would have been the end of him, now he only had to dust himself off and run up the side of the trench. Making it to the other side he could see Rayner holding off the dragon by continuously using Roar. Thanks to Rayner the dragon hadn’t gobbled Axel up while he was in the trench.
Axel knew they would have to face an intelligent monster eventually, he thought they were at least somewhat prepared. He was wrong. Tired of screaming at Rayner the dragon bypassed him and went after Axel. Rayner tried stopping it by slamming the pick end of his hammer into the dragon’s side but again the dragon didn’t even feel it.
The pick stayed in the dragon’s body, dragging Rayner along for the ride. He bumped into the ground as the dragon moved. The dragon stopped rushing Axel and treated Rayner as if he were a cowboy on a stubborn horse. It bucked its body up and down, then shook side to side causing Rayner to get dizzy. It then rolled over on Rayner.
While all this was happening, Axel extended his mana outwards, releasing it on the dragon. It would do no damage but it would get its attention. People could tell how strong he was without looking at his stats, they could feel it. According to Madam Grace, it was because of his high level.
He was a level 3 Thug, violence and murder were his tools. He didn’t like it but to win this battle he would use it. He would release his mana upon the beast. This time he would use his mana not to seal malicious mana like the miasma, but to release his ill will upon the dragon.
The dragon turned its ire on Axel, giving Rayner a chance to unhook himself from the dragon’s side. Knowing what Axel was going for, he let out a Battle Cry. Axel could feel himself filling with life, he stood straighter despite his bruises and his eyes grew resolute. The dragon tried to push through the wave of mana Axel sent toward it. It was not the force of the mana itself that held it back, rather it was the ill will that came with it.
Still, it pushed through, it would get to Axel eventually. In a battle of wills, Axel would lose.
Then a spark lit in his head, his wisdom kicking in; he’d become familiar with its effects. He couldn’t control it like Rayner did with his charisma; it came when needed, taking a passing thought, and building on it.
A useful idea crossed his mind. What was he missing? What had happened?
Was it the dragon’s use of trenches that triggered it? No. Was it Rayner riding the dragon? No. Was it his Rayner’s Battle Cry? Yes!
When the village was under siege all the villagers who were able used their skills together in order to defeat the enemy, something he and Rayner had been doing since coming to this world.
Their Titles Godless and Faithless worked together to protect and make them independent from the gods. During the attack by the Forest God in the Corpsewood, he used his high-level mana to protect Rayner. Even now he took advantage of Rayner’s Battle Cry skill to increase his own.
Straining to keep the dragon at bay he told his plan to Rayner. “We need to combine skills!”
Rayner stopped mid Battle Cry until he realized that wasn’t what Axel meant. Giving Axel a wicked grin, he ran over to him. “This feels like a movie!”
“Only if this works. Now I don’t know exactly how to do it, but I think you have to let my mana flow through you. Don’t make a joke!”
His lips turned up into a smile. “Sure.”
He might as well be rolling on the ground. Whatever, Axel would pay him back for that later.
Axel reduced the amount of mana he sent at the dragon and flowed it into Rayner. The dragon sensing opportunity pressed forward until it was right in their faces. Axel could see the black pit of its insides as it opened its jaw. If this did not work, it would swallow them whole.
“I can feel it!” Rayner updated him.
“Is ready!” He let out a deafening Roar, pushing the dragon back.
Rayner didn’t let up, releasing Roar after Roar until it stunned the creature. Together they attacked the monster, jumping as it raised its head. Rayner used Force Hammer, range and power extended with Axel’s mana. The resulting blast of force hit the dragon head on, gore gushed from the impact area.
They had won, together. Unlike the movies the monster didn’t just fade away into death; It still lived, gravely injured but alive. It trashed and flailed as if that would heal its wounds. What came next wasn’t as exciting. This time without the pressure of battle they methodically hacked at the creature, using their combination skill to beat it to death.