Self is Lost: Chapter 3, Temple of Darkness

Fafnir continued on his path to the temple. It had been a long path longer than he had expected from the air, but otherwise fine. There was the occasional forest critter, but nothing more of interest. He fully expected more ambush parties but had encountered none. He dismissed it and kept moving.
His equipment has been malfunctioning more and more the closer he got to the temple. At this point, dropping the defense protocols would be disastrous. He had three of those defense layers. If more than 1 remained, he could drop one of them and repair the damage done by magic. Originally he would have dozens of those layers, but the activation code for those was in the lost matrix. Only one of the three remained, so repairing it would require him to cease his mental defenses, which was impossible. He can create a backup barrier, but it will take quite a long time. The laser’s calibration sight was also haywire, so it became unusable. To his relief, the autocannon and coil cannons functioned fine.

He sighted another heavy patch of foliage. Dismissing it, he strode forward. As he passed, an elf burst out of it. Fafnir stepped back, rendering his opponent. The elf drew his twin daggers in challenge, and Fafnir accepted with a signal of his sword. He was used to fighting with a lance, but the sword would have to do. His foe tried to stab his left arm, but Fafnir caught the blade between the metal surface of his arm and the sword, and twisted it, almost forcing the elf to drop his weapon. Quickly Fafnir attacked with a sweeping attack, forcing the elf back. Fafnir then transformed his arm into a claw, and took a defensive stance. He knew his stance was perfect, as the calculations dictated. What was alarming is that his opponent also had a near-perfect stance.

Fafnir attacked with a stab and brought his metal knee to the elf’s stomach. The elf responded with a quick attack and retreated in preparation for another strike. Fafnir was aware of his enemy’s style, and had already started adapting to it.

The elf feinted, and then suddenly disappeared in a cloud of mist, shrouding the arena. Unwilling to let himself be tricked and deceived in the mist, Fafnir jumped high into the air and waited. He can clearly see the elf surprised at his disappearance. Fafnir caught the opening like a shark drawn to blood, and struck the elf with a powerful attack. The elf blocked with daggers, but is still struggling under Fafnir’s power. Fafnir lept back on the ground, and transmuted his arm once again. It took two tries to succeed, with the first opening data commands. Nothing was observable from the surface, but magic currents and machine strength were channeled. With a strike, he cut through the elf’s weapon, and landed a heavy wound, staggering his opponent.

Fafnir never realized how he missed the maelstrom of battle as he waited for his opponent to recover as an honored duelist would. The elf disposed of the broken dagger, and feinted again, throwing an object as he leaped back. The object covered the air with particles as the elf retreated. Fafnir wanted to pursue the elf, but found his feet entangled by vines again.

“If the enemy flees, cut them down without mercy,”

Fafnir remembered the phrase his father had spoken while fighting a contender for a political position in his family. The contender had fled when things had gone south for him, but his father ended the opposition with an arrow through the head. This situation was very similar.

With an emotionless face, he sent a solid tungsten orb through the fleeing foe’s head, ending his life on the spot.

Fafnir tore his feet out of the entangle of vines and walked past the elf’s lifeless corpse. After another 100 or so meters, he stood at the gate of the temple. Two guards tried to ambush him, but were disposed of with his autocannon. The temple was dark. Fafnir shone his light through but to no avail. The light could only reach 3 meters or so, but Fafnir knew his enemies would not be affected. He ran an active sonar, which would scan the temple’s layout and his foes, but leaves him at the risk of detection. He can sense two guards already approaching him. As they peeked the corner, Fafnir shot them in the head, dropping them. The ascent was brutal, but he was sure his shard lay within the temple. He walked up the stairs. The ascent would make any human recoil in fear, but he felt nothing. His shard called with a distress signal, and he responded to the call. Descending further, he walked with a determination unseen in the 200 years he had lived.

Two shadowy forms stalked around a levitating piece in a chamber illuminated with an eerie blue glow.
“High sorceress, are you sure this would work?”
“Be not worried. faithful follower. The Mother blessed us on this day. Soon the automaton will be lured to this place, and its body will be cast into darkness, and soul devoured.”
“I hope so, but he seems to be more than a normal automaton. May I have a request?”
“Speak, follower. ”
“May I have the honor to kill him and cast his corpse into the pit? He slew my brother, and I will have revenge.”
“I see no problems with your request. It will be fulfilled. But you knew better than to use pronouns for holy creations of the gods to describe mechanical blasphemy. Common animals have more connection with gods than soulless automatons.”
“I understand. I will be more careful in my use of pronouns.”