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Magic has always been a risky practice. Sarah Gold knew this, the lessons from her father having hammered that truth into her mind from the moment her own magical ability had manifested. Those lessons also taught her that magic was an incredible gift, one that it was a mage's duty to use constructively and help others with.

This was why, every morning, Sarah went out to the McElroy farm to ensure the crops were still growing and healthy. It was an arduous task, almost as hard as Mr. McElroy's job of mundanely managing the crop, since she had to check each plant individually. But the lemonade Mrs. McElroy provided made it all worth it.

"How have your studies been going, dear?" Mrs. McElroy asked as Sarah chugged a glass one hot summer afternoon, sitting on her porch after finishing with the daily checkup. "I hear your brother has recently developed his own magic."

"Yes, he has." Sarah nodded. "My father hopes for him to go into the same school as me."

"Well, I certainly won't complain. Our crops have never been better before you started helping us out. I can only imagine how much yield two young magi can provide!"

Sarah smiled and emptied the glass, which was quickly replaced by another brimming with more lemonade. She stopped with it raised partway to her lips when she saw someone staring at her from the field, almost hidden among the wheat. Upon being sighted, they quickly vanished amongst the stalks.

Was that Bowman McElroy? Sarah hadn't seen him around very often lately, almost as if he was avoiding her. Oh well, she wasn't going to worry about it too much.

"Thanks for the lemonade, Mrs. McElroy." Sarah said as she stood up, setting the half-full glass on the table. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yep. You take care now, Sarah!"

The two waved at each other as Sarah left, heading back to her home to help her father with her brother's first lessons.

Tomorrow didn't come, though. Not for the Gold family.

It was the middle of the night when Sarah was jolted awake by something she couldn't immediately identify. It was hotter than normal, even for summer, and she smelled something off, like burning…

Fire. Something was on fire.

Adrenaline took hold at the moment she realized that, and she bolted out of bed and, still in her nightdress, out of her room. A wall of fire met her, stopping her in her tracks. It had already engulfed a good chunk of the house, and Sarah couldn't see any way to go besides down the stairs, towards the main room. But her parents, her brother-

A beam falling less than a meter away made Sarah's choice for her, and she hurried down the stairs and burst through the front door. She had hoped, prayed, to see her family waiting for her, having already gotten out. But instead she encountered several violet robed people, watching impassively as her home burned behind her.

"Why are you just watching?!" she demanded, desperation in her voice. "We need water, we need-"

"We need nothing of the sort." One of them, in more ornate robes than the others, interrupted her, glaring at her with enough hatred to make her take a step back. "Seize her."

Before she could process this sudden turn of events, two of the robed figures had grabbed her by the arms and were dragging her away, struggling and cursing and screaming for her parents. But nobody came, and the burning house steadily fell into itself.

By the time the group stopped walking, minutes later, Sarah had stopped trying to get free. It was too late, her family was surely dead by now. A cold numbness had taken hold of her heart, especially after she realized who these people were. Her father had told her about them, and she recognized the robes from his descriptions. Members of the Church of the Aura, a violent anti-mage faction in the wider Manna faith. She briefly wondered how they had found her, but it didn't matter.

She looked up as she was forced to her feet, having given up the use of her legs at least ten minutes ago. A noose was being set up in a tree by a couple of Auraites. A noose that she could already see herself swinging from.

The desperation she'd felt earlier rekindled itself, and she once again started struggling against her captors, demanding to be freed, screaming for help. Surely someone must have noticed the blaze, must have seen her being dragged away? She screamed as she was dragged to the tree and lifted up, as the noose was fixed around her neck, as she was dropped, as she was strangled by gravity.

Sarah looked, for the last time, at the town that she had lived her whole life in, at the people she'd helped by ensuring they had enough food. The people who had repaid her kindness with apathy. And closer, the people who had killed her for no good reason.

The last few seconds of Sarah's life were filled with vicious, violent anger.


Sarah awoke in cool, dank darkness. She naturally tried to gasp for air, but got only a mouthful of dirt instead. Strangely, she felt no need to try and cough it up. She didn't stop to dwell on it, though, instead focusing on digging herself out of the hole she was inexplicably buried in. It didn't take long, the dirt was still loose and it was fairly shallow.

How did she get here? Where is here? What happened? Where is her family? These questions ran through Sarah's head as she pulled herself to the surface. She was in a forest… The forest near the town.

The town…

The events flashed back into her mind in an instant. The fire. The Auraites. The noose. The rage. That rage returned, accompanied by confusion. She was dead, she had certainly died at the hands of those murderous bastards. So why…

The sun peeking through the canopy above provided the answer. Sarah hissed as it struck her skin, bringing pain, and she quickly retreated to proper shade. Only the undead were harmed by the sun's rays, which meant she had to be undead. A revenant. And the reason she was back in the land of the living was clear.

The rage overtook Sarah as her disbelief faded, as well as a terrible hunger stronger than any she'd felt before, and her vision quickly turned red. With no concern for the pain from the sunlight, or that she was still wearing her dirt-covered nightgown, the newly risen revenant rushed in the direction of the town.

She ignored the stares and shouts of the townsfolk as she bolted down the road, focused solely on finding the Auraites who had murdered her. And find them she did, already on their way out of town, their numbers slightly greater than when they had arrived. They didn't even hear her coming before she had slammed into the one in the very back, and as they all turned around she was sucking the victim's soul out of her mouth, reducing her body to a withered husk.

Sarah wasn't fully aware of what exactly happened afterward, only that there was a lot of screaming and cursing. When the dust settled and she finally regained her senses, she was surrounded by corpses. Some withered by soultheft, others decayed into unrecognizability. Only one was left alive, the leader of the group, trying to crawl away from Sarah's wrath.

She marched over and grabbed his robe, pulling him an inch from her face. "Who told you about my family?" She demanded. The man stammered and stumbled over his words, prompting Sarah to slap him. "Answer me!"

"Th-the McElroy boy." He finally spat out, tears dripping down his cheeks. "Bowman. Bowman McElroy."

Bowman. Of all the people, that was the last one she expected. The son of the couple she'd spent years managing the crops of, ensuring a constant flow of food for the town and income from selling the excess. That absolute ungrateful bastard!

"Please, I'm sorry, let me g-" Another slap silenced the Auraite. Without a hint of the mercy that was denied her, Sarah forced open his mouth and drew out his soul, consuming it just as she had consumed all the others.

Her revenge was almost finished. Sarah left the remains there and went for the McElroy farm. She found Bowman working the fields, whistling and focused on his work. Too focused to see her coming up until it was too late.

When that was done, she left his body behind among the grain. She couldn't stay here, not anymore. Not a chance in hell she was still welcome, after her change and the violence she'd just performed. Not that she gave a damn. These people let her family die, they could rot for all Sarah cared.

She never saw that small German town again, and never knew what became of it without its guardian magi. Her old life behind her, Sarah decided on a new name while she was waiting in the forest for night to fall, so she could start the journey to the next town.

From now on, she'll be known as Styx Morte, avatar of justice and revenge.

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