The Blood Alchemist: The Witch’s Tower – ERDEN (Chapter 1)

The news reached the taverns before it did the palace.

By early morning, the drunks who, up until that moment, were lying spread eagled across the floor, tables, and bar counters, were woken up by the sound of clashing pans. A lone soldier from the Imperial Army was seen at sunrise riding briskly towards the town of Messovia, a good hundred miles away from the capital city of Teutonia. An Imperial Army soldier was a rare sight in a backwater town, even if it was close to port, especially one who had been riding on his own without a backup. Unfortunately, Imperial Army soldiers were known to be cravens who were only as good as their status and numbers. Alone, they make a good punching bag.

As such, early risers in the town of Messovia immediately gathered around the town’s gates. The early risers woke up the regular risers, and the regular risers woke up the late risers. Including the overnight residents of taverns.

Everyone who was awake, voluntarily or begrudgingly, waited at the gates with apprehension as the soldier came closer. The crowd was eerily silent. Yet, as the horse and its rider came up closer, waves of gasps and yelps filled the morning air.

The Imperial Army soldier whom they were so eager to test if he was the usual arrogant, craven bastard they could turn into a punching bag, was headless.

As soon as it reached a few feet away from the gates, the body which was clearly hoisted and tied onto the horse, dropped to the ground. Some people started screaming, while others began to run as if the headless soldier would suddenly stand up and attack them.

But of course, the corpse remained immovable.

It was a grim sight, and the children who waited with their parents in the gates were immediately thrusted into the back. However, some still managed to squeeze their way through the crowd of adults, especially street urchins who didn’t have anyone to stop them.

“Out of the way. Out of the way, you!” a pot-bellied man with an absurdly big mustache pushed the onlookers aside. He wore a faded red coat and emblazoned on his chest was the sigil of Teutonia. When a street urchin refused to move, he pushed him aside, pointing a finger on his dirty face. “Get back to the ol’ woman. That hag has been looking for ye since yesterday. Her cow’s gone, and it’s all thanks to you!”

The boy spat in his direction, and then ran away when he saw him raise his mace.

“I’ll deal with ya later!” he yelled after him.

The constable shook his head and turned his attention towards the crowd, now closing in the headless corpse. His stomach clenched. As the constable of a town known for its numerous taverns, Erden had almost seen it all. Bloody brawls and duels that end in death were commonplace. Most of the time, however, he dealt with drunkards and crooks who were slashed, stabbed, or shot to death, but never beheaded.

Still, it wasn’t an easy job. He couldn’t count the times he had to transport a body from the taverns and inns to the rocky cliff, where their bodies would be dropped to the cold, raging waters below. As a poor town far removed from crowded cities with huge population like Konigstadt, Messovia just didn’t have the money to pay for grave diggers and delegate plots of lands to turn into cemeteries. It had always been this way, despite being under the jurisdiction of the most powerful nation in the continent.

So, if anyone came to Messovia looking for a drunkard family member, he would immediately tell them what could have possibly happened to them.

When he was a young lad, a reeve and an apprentice to the former constable, Erden found this practice heartless and unforgiving. But when he soon saw how frequent violence and death were in towns like Messovia, he realized that things like this were sometimes unavoidable.

Well, in his defense, as soon as Erden became the chief constable, he tried to keep the bodies in a shed for seven days before dumping them to the sea, so the bereaved could still have the opportunity to claim their family member.

No sooner than he did, a group of corpse eating wraiths stormed into the shed during the middle of the night and feasted on the carcasses.

Sure enough, when he returned the next morning, the remains of the body which now only constituted of severed hands and feet, weren’t a pretty sight.

Erden thought it would be better to bury them at sea than letting them be the food of the wraiths. Who knows what those wraiths would want next.

So, when that little act of mercy didn’t work, Erden thought of the next best way to give grieving families closure: sketch the faces of the newly deceased and keep them in the constable’s office. That way, if anyone came looking for a missing family member days or weeks after, they would have a way of knowing whether the person they were looking for really died.

It wasn’t much of a consolation, but at least, Erden thought he tried his best in this forsaken town.

Now, he would normally ask one of his reeves, Karl, to sketch the faces for him. But, as luck—or rather, misfortune—would have it, this one in front of him doesn’t have a face.

“Should we draw the body instead?” Karl said beside him. Erden turned to him and looked at the gangly young man like he would at a dead bug under his shoe.

He shook his head and moved towards the corpse. “Just—keep notes.”

Kneeling down, he started inspecting the dead body. Of the many corpses he handled during his time as a constable, this was the most badly mangled body he had ever seen—even more mangled than that of poor Ansas who was thrown off from the church tower. This corpse looked as if it had gone through something worse before dying that Erden thought it might have been tortured and mutilated. Then, after it was beheaded, the merciless bastards even desecrated his body. He saw slash marks on the back as if the assailant tried to write something on it. Upon closer look, he noticed that they also tried to cut the soldier’s arms as only the sinews were keeping it from falling.

Erden didn’t understand it. What could they possibly achieve by doing this? Or, what could this man have done to deserve such disrespect?

He was aware that pretty much everyone in poor towns like Messovia hated the Imperial Army, with their constant abuse of authority over the common people. Even constables like Erden who were under the payroll of the royal family despised the smug bastards, while envying their relative luxury and ease of living.

However, he felt a small pang of pity towards the corpse who had been once a living, breathing person.

“May the gods rest his soul,” he muttered and begrudgingly continued searching his body for clues as to his identity.

He had to have an identification somewhere, Erden was sure of it. As far as Erden knew, all Imperial Soldiers had papers stating their identity and rank in their possession. They even used it as a badge to do whatever they wanted in small towns and get away with it, which was one of the reasons Imperial Army soldiers were loathed.

Remembering that, Erden started to lose hope of finding an identification. If this lone Imperial Soldier was indeed accosted by the common folks, it was also likely his possessions were looted, his identification taken as a trophy by the people who murdered him.

Until he found something.

Erden gingerly fished out the slip of paper. There was a hastily scribbled note written on it.

As soon as he read it, Erden’s eyes widened in terror.

“What’s that, sir?” Karl asked behind him. He handed the note to him.

“The Citadel of Kur has fallen

The island of Vanhofgard has been freed.

Let the walled cities of Konigstadt tremble

At the uprising of the enslaved.


No less than an hour after Erden the constable found the ominous note from the dead soldier did its contents spread throughout the entire town. At the behest of the mayor, who had just been woken up by one of Erden’s men, a messenger was dispatched to the next town.

The mayor wanted to be the one to deliver the message to Konigstadt where the king lives, perhaps in an attempt to butter up the royalties as the bringer of an important news.

However, Erden reminded him how brutally bearers of bad news were treated by the imperial soldiers. He cautioned him to think it through before doing anything. They had already done their part, and sent a message to the next town, which would then be responsible to relay the message to the town closest to itself, until the message reached the capital.

Back in the day, a sole messenger would bring the bad news from town to town with them, shouting through the streets, before heading straight to the palace where they would break it in front of the king and his council.

But as the palace started beating and sometimes even killing messengers who only brought bad news, townspeople stopped sending envoys to Konigstadt. Whenever there were uprisings, plagues, and invasions from neighboring kingdoms, the palace was usually the last to know. It was absurd, but unfortunately, as incompetent the current royal family and the Imperial Guards were, it happens.

Erden and the reeves brought the corpse back to the station, where they would then prepare it for its drop off in the rocky cliff.

There was one thing that bothered him, though. Messovia was a seaside town. Although its port was comparatively insignificant compared to big cities like Fenoa and Maflessi, it was also relatively closer to the Great Death Reef, where, at the center, Vanhofgard was located.

So, why did the headless messenger came riding by a horse, instead of a boat, or shipwrecked, at least? And why, in the name of all deities, did it come from the west of Messovia, where nothing was there but a long stretch of dead woods and badlands?

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