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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Vylia Page 31 Book 3

As the ritual continued it became more and more obvious that they were planning to summon something VERY big. "With Ariana's soul as the bait, I'm not surprised. I wish I knew how they got a hold of her though... and that is a sickening thing to see, how can these people not rebel against such disgusting rites," Vylia mumbled to herself just before the ugly torch burst to life. She took aim as the man made his way slowly to the bonfire, waiting for some kind of signal from the others. When it didn't come, and the man was but a few paces from the pyre, "Time to die you bastard," and she let loose her arrow right into the chest of the chanting priest. As the arrow thudded home a second embedded itself in his throat, followed quickly by a third in his now gaping mouth.

As his body tumbled back from the impact of the arrows first one, then another of the dark assistants was dropped by an arrow through the neck as they stood staring in surprise at what had happened. As the remaining guards searched for the archer the third assistant dropped to the ground, an arrow through the chest, but the fourth managed to jump off the raised platform, the arrow aimed for him clattering uselessly upon the ground behind where he had stood.

As Vylia turned to look across the wall for incoming guards the torch went out, so quickly she could have sworn the entire thing was an illusion. But her attention was focused elsewhere as a large group guards charged her position from both sides. "Fantastic, where's a levitation spell when I need it." Firing arrow after arrow at the incoming guards, only a few actually hit home as they raised their shields in defense. She took to firing at legs, and brought a few more down, but had to drop her bow and quickly draw her swords as they closed in, barely in time to block the blow from a guard that had charged at her while her back was turned. "400 years of practice, and I still can't take out a swarm of charging cronies, what has the world come to?" She taunted as she removed the sword hand of the man who had charged her before running him through. Then the rest were upon her.

She had to fight men off from both sides, weaving in and out of sword blows. The majority of her actions were defensive, parrying one attack after another as she tried to find an opening she could exploit without getting skewered. "This is not going to end well..."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya watched with the others as the ritual began. The site of Beridane caused her to plase her hand upon A'lantheer and begin to take steps forward. It was Dorve, who placed a firm hand upon her arm that stayed her. Then her attention was drawn to the fat man in the robes and his guards. That is the same one who put that demon in me...that book...i know that book...CRAP Kaya suddenly knew what they were going to do; summon something and it was probably going to be something big. As the chanting and incantations began, she and A'lantheer felt the demonic presence growing.

When the portal opened, Kaya could wait no longer; she drew A'lantheer and and stqrted to rush forward. It was then she saw the torch bearer fall, his back filled with arrows. That was it, that was the sign. WIthout hesitation Kaya let out a battle shout and lunged forward. I have to destroy that book...that is my goal. Three of the black robed guards saw her leap forward, sword gleaming in the setting sun. With shrill hum, A'lantheer glowed and Kaya separated it into a pair of identical weapons. She began to hum and smiled as she took on the three guards.

The first one knew not what hit him as first one sword cut down his chest then the other, criss crossing and felling him with the blows. As the robes fell from the guards, she could see them for what they truly were. Lith'raug*, sand demons from the elven, her homeland. Kaya let out a battle cry. I thought I smelt their dry hides. Kaya shouted to the others as she boar down upon the other two robed creatures. "Be wary there are Lith'raug among them. Aim for their throats and sides and inner legs." The one behind her stood up and growled a curse at her.

The other two creature finally reached Kaya, but she had the advantage. These sand demons, lizard men as most would call them now, were not used to fighting in thick clumsy robes or on solid ground. There was no sand dunes to use as cover or to sink into. No chance of surprise attacks. They had to come at her straight on...just as she liked it. She started singing an old battle cry, and the two attacking her hesitated; they had not heard such calls so far from home. Their hesitation was just what she needed. Kaya tucked and rolled and landed a well placed blow on the left inner thigh of one of the lith'raug, A'lantheer slicing his leg off in one smooth stroke. BLood sprayed everywhere, but she lept up undaunted just as the second one lept at her. The two collided and fell rolling upon the ground. Sharp claws tore at Kaya, but luckily her new armor was sturdy. Kaya brought up her knee, for though they were reptillian, they still had sensitive areas. The creature yowled in pain and let go of Kaya, giving her the chance to slice her two swords acrossits neck slitting the throat.

THen she felt the teeth clamp into shoulder and and a heavy weight fall upon her back. Kaya screamed from the sundend pain and thrashed, trying to rid herself of the lizard man. Then, just as suddenly as it was upon her, it fell to the ground, Alaric's sword piercing it's side. "Thank you my friend. Now, lets get us some more!" Alaric flashed her a smile then charge off into battle. Kaya looked around, watching others engaging both lith'raug and human opponents. Kaya looked for a way to make it to the altar. I must get up to that book.

The Lith’raug are a reptilian based race, their skin is red, leathery and scaly. They have protective eye covers over their slitted eyes, to keep the harsh desert sands out. They are clawed, with slightly larger snouts filled with razor sharp teeth.

Written by - Wilhelm

The Chancellor staggered back, struck by Vylia's three arrows. His dying thought was to complete the sacrifice or else his own soul was forfeit. As he stumbled to his knees he tried to toss the green-flamed torch upon the waiting kindling. Just then, the pillar glowed brightly for a moment, the excrement and graffiti upon it vanishing instantly, and the torch went out. With a final cry of despair Chancellor Damon collapsed.

Those with Inner Sight, and those who still believed in the All Father, saw a ghostly image of a giant one-eyed man superimposed over the pillar, and the woman bound to it, pointing a rune-carved spear at the torch with a beam of light shooting from the spear to extinguish the torch.

The shadowy gap in the air ceased its motion towards the bound woman, shivered a moment, and then moved to the Chancellor and sank onto his body, which convulsed for a moment, and then the darkness vanished.

The giant figure then looked directly at the advancing Ardwen, nodded in approval, and gestured at Ariana. The ropes that had bound her so tightly parted and fell away and she slid down the pillar. The figure then faded away, saluting with his spear those advancing to rescue Ariana.

Cries emerged from the assembled crowd in the square:

"The All Father be praised!"
"Death to Beridane!"

Throughout the crowded square citizens threw themselves on the guards, engaging them in combat with whatever came to hand. Some guards, still loyal to the gods, threw off their tabards and joined with the crowd. It was not enough, the crowd was mostly unarmed and untrained, but for a span of the guards were busy defending themselves against the rebellion that had been brewing for weeks against Beridane's tryanny and blasphemy.

Written by - Archeantus

From across the way, Archeantus heard a familiar whisper in his mind, “Fantastic, where's a levitation spell when I need it."

He quickly scanned Vylia’s mind to understand her plight. She was surrounded.

He could not do much, he had to conserve his energy, but he could buy her time.

Pinpointing where she was, he stepped up and off the ledge, and flew across the scene of growing violence, landing twenty feet away from the melee on the battlement, Vylia in the heart of it.

A few of the guards yelled in triumph seeing they had the lithe female elf trapped, but found the elf’s fortitude a hard foe to defeat. Still they gained, her defense bound to fall under the onslaught. That was when they heard a shrill whistle from behind the left most force.

A couple of them turned their heads to see where the sound came from to behold a man in tattered grey robes, his face blindfolded, a staff in his hand. His face was shifted slightly sideways, as if his attention was elsewhere.

The old man’s other hand raised, and beckoned them, which in turn pulled the staff apart revealing a long white blade. This blade rose to point directly at them, the old man’s face then shifted, centering on them as well.

“Angelus, come.” The old warlock called in his mind.

The few guards who noticed the old blind man, called out to their immediate comrades, “We have another rebel on our hands.”

One of them vying to reach the elven female turned at the statement and about laughed at the sight of the old man and the sword. Turning, he chuckled, quickly rising to what was perceived to be an easy challenge.

“I’ll take the blind man, you all have fun with the elf!” He laughed.

Raising his sword, he rushed across the battlements in the dying light, letting out a firm cry.

At about the same moment, a shriek was heard throughout the courtyard, and a bird of flame burst over the chaos below, toward the battle on the battlements. Angelus flew upward and dove directly into the group opposite from its master. The fiery bird rose and fell like flaming lightening, instantly sewing discord.

Now it was the guards who suddenly found themselves surrounded.

The guard came upon Archeantus, bringing his curved Falchion downward, aimed directly at the old man’s blindfolded head. His strike landed against a sudden blade, which appeared far more quickly than the guard could have suspected from the look of the older swordsman. His hands stung, it felt as if he’d just struck a pillar of rock,

The guard found himself aghast at the sheer strength of the older man. He paused, his eyes looking into the calm face of his opponent. Other than the cloth that covered most of his face, it was as if he were looking into the face of someone watching the still sea. It startled him and he paused even further, a pause that would have spelled his death. But the man did not retaliate. Instead, the guard was granted a sudden vision of his family, which ended quickly, for his sword was suddenly struck cleanly from his softened grip.

“Go. We are not here to destroy, but to liberate…” The old man whispered.

The guard blinked in utter shock, noticing out of the corner of his eye a medallion of silver and gold, three rings interlocked one with another, dangling on a chain around the old man’s neck.

“Go Mathias” The voice commanded more firmly. “You have a greater calling to perform than to die here.”

Mathias hesitated only a moment longer, he knew his life had been spared. He ran past the old man, realizing there was a change in the air. Once past him, he stopped and looked again at the robed man from behind, the image of his family still fresh on his mind. He looked down at his feet and there was his sword where it had fallen. Stooping down, he picked it up thoughtfully, gazing at the battle all around, the dying sun lit the clouds a vibrant red, and sheathed his sword.

Turning, he ran toward his home.

The warlock then whistled again.

Written by - Rikshanthas

As the two travelers exited the Lucky Albatross, the setting sun bathed their dark cloaks in its red glow, as if in blood. Trumpets sounded from the direction of the city plaza, causing the pair to look in that direction as they circled around to retrieve their horses. The informant they had consulted had said something of an execution, that nearly everyone in the city had already been "encouraged" to attend, and the guards were "informing" the rest. Not wishing the guards' attention, they had agreed it would be a necessary evil to attend this likely-undeserved-and-unjust execution.

Their horses were not where they had left them; the ropes which had tethered them were quite obviously cut. Furious neighing and shouted curses carrying from not too far away indicated the bandits were having a rougher time with their spoils than they'd expected. " 'Atta'girl Nightwind," Lienad said as the two closed on the would-be thieves.

They rounded a corner to come face-to-face with the bandits just as one of their number, a grizzled-looking human who'd obviously had enough, ran his sword through the neck of the struggling mare. Lienad froze in complete shock as the priceless animal sank to the ground, coating everything in a pool of red. He was not aware he had shouted aloud, but suddenly all six of the remaining bandits were facing him; Nightwind had managed to drop one with flying hooves. His eyes were riveted to the mare; the blood pulsing out onto the stones may as well have been his own. His vision blurred, somehow Astalder found its way into his hand. Then he was charging them, his cloak flying back as he shouted a vicious curse upon them all. Lienad was upon them in an instant.

The first two, standing together, were decapitated where they stood, too stunned even to react. A third was run through before he could draw his weapon. Another managed to put up a meager defense, but was swiftly cut down by the grief-mad warrior. Another, obviously a coward, dropped his sword and bolted. Which left only the one who had slain the horse. A single swing of the enchanted blade sundered the bandit's crude sword. The next seperated his hands from his arms. Finally a full-body thrust into which was poured more hate than could be believed possible for one man, ended the hapless bandit's existence.

For several moments the blood-covered warrior simply stood there, breathing heavily from the exertion and barely-contained emotion. At the light touch of Shara's hand on his shoulder he collapsed to his knees, somehow crawling to his fallen mount's side and cradling her still head in his lap. Blood still trickled from the vicious gash in the mare's neck, dripping into a pool now nearly an inch deep. The tears came then, running down his face unheeded as he silently held she who had been more than a simple mount or tool, but a valiant battle companion, trusted friend, and too many times to count, his very life. Shara knelt beside him in silence, placing an arm around his shoulders for support as the trumpets sounded once more in the distance.

Something inside her prompted Shara to place a hand on the mare's neck, and she gasped in dispelief. "She still lives!" the elf exclaimed. Withdrawing her arm from Lienad's shoulders, she placed both hands firmly over the open wound, desperately calling to Nagarren to save one who needed and deserved Her healing, a truly noble spirit worthy of Life. She felt the power of the goddess' response, opened herself to it and let it flow through her into the dying mare. Lienad simply watched, too numb with shock even to breathe, as her hands were bathed in a yellowish light, and the blood seemed to flow backward, returning to the mare's veins even as the wound closed, leaving only a jagged scar. Nightwind raised her head from Lienad's lap and looked up at him, blinking sleepily with such a comical expression that he burst out laughing even as the tears flowed down his cheeks. Then Shara slumped against him heavily, and he caught her before she fell to the ground, his expression changing to a mix of concern and surprise.

"You never told me you were a cleric," he said almost accusingly. "All these years and you ask me about my faith now that your horse is saved?" She replied quietly, managing a weak, teasing smile. "I wasn't, really. I never took the vows. Turned away from that path, couldn't deal with all the stuffy rules. The last few weeks have kind of shoved me back onto it." She tried to rise to her feet, and would have plunged right back to the ground had Lienad not caught her up in his arms and carried her to her own mare, which had placidly stood by throughout. Nightwind, now standing a little unsteadily but growing stronger by the moment, looked on stoically as Lienad placed his companion in the other's saddle, where she slumped. "I'll be fine," she said wearily. "just need ... rest ..." and she flopped forward in the saddle. Lienad made sure she would not fall, then began the walk to the main square, Nightwind following without a hand on her reins.

They had not been walking for more than a minute when he noticed a hooded figure skulking in the shadows. Astalder flashed back into Lienad's hand. "Identify yourself," Lienad said coldly, pointing the Dragonblade directly at the figure. Hands raised in a placating gesture, which parted its cloak to reveal a markedly feminine figure. "I --" The mysterious woman seemed about to say something, but paused as if unsure how to proceed. Then she simply drew back her hood. Lienad gasped, letting the tip of Astalder drop.

"Ankhara?!" he managed to say. The raven-haired enchantress had not lost an ounce of her dark beauty in the decade since he'd last seen her. Lienad was dumbfounded for a moment, then his eyes narrowed suspiciously - knowing Kari, he could guess her presence was anything but coincidence. "You had something to do with this, didn't you," he said angrily, waving his free hand back toward the corpses of the bandits. "You sent them to set an ambush for me!" There was no need for her to respond, the haunted look in her eyes answeringing his questions. "Why, Kari? In Tinorb's name, why?" His voice was steel.

"I didn't know it was you!" she exclaimed. She described her plan to him: grab the horses, and when the hapless owner followed, dispose of him quickly and quietly and retrieve the Dragonblade. "You know I don't kill out of malice or greed - I was desperate," she said almost apologetically. "I need the money that sword's worth - well, not all of it," she said guiltily, "but enough - and I'd never in a million years have thought you'd be the one carrying it! I never realized the universe could be quite that cruel!" Her face darkened into the expression of a man facing the hangman's noose. Lienad sheathed Astalder as she continued in a self-insulting tone. "I should have recognized Nightwind, there's never been a horse that fine outside the Elven capital." The mare seemed to perk up at the compliment. "I'd never have taken on Gelrund if I'd known - the man's dislike of horses was common knowledge. I'd have killed him myself for hurting her if you hadn't been you, and come charging in like the Uruloki himself. But you travel with an elven cleric now?" She looked toward the form slumped in the second mare's saddle, her face brightening slightly. "That was a relief, at least. I guess we've both changed since we knew each other." Her expression darkened once more.

Sounds of shouting carried from the town square, causing both of them to turn in that direction. Then more shouts, from much nearer and in a different direction. Ankhara put both hands on Lienad's shoulders and pushed him toward his mount. "You've got to get out of Westgale," she said quickly. "Word's spreading that the Dragonblade is here; those idiots I hired couldn't keep their mouths shut. Soon you're going to have every lowlife in the city after you. I can try to mislead them, lay a confusion spell on the area, but it won't give you much time," she added, pushing him into the saddle when he wouldn't move fast enough. Suddenly, too swiftly for her to react, Lienad hauled her up in front of him. "We'll drop the horses off at Jak's place, then I need to get to the main square," he said as he hauled Nightwind around, grabbing the reins to Shara's mount and urging both horses to a quick canter. "Don't know why, but I can't shake the feeling I need to be there. And I'm not leaving without you this time, Sis."

Written by - Teran

Teran's eyes opened serenely as Mavigan's lips were on his own. For the briefest of moments his guard was down and his emotional state was readable through his eyes. It was a look that could have made a grown man weep, there was so much sadness and misery on show... he had the look of a man broken by centuries of pain. His eyes were so haunting that some might have thought it more merciful to let him die and be free of whatever baggage he was carrying. It took him only a few seconds to regain his composure and fix a hard stare on Mavigan.

"Next time keep the one you break for yourself." he snapped before his expression and voice softened, "Are you hurt?"

He cradled his shredded left arm with his right arm trying to slow the blood flow. He closed his eyes and cleared his senses and focused on his arm and the pain it was causing him.

****

"AAAAIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" Sabbatine shrieked as she lept out of the blood pool towards the creature.

She put so much power behind her jump that at her apex she was at least thirty feet above the swirling pool. She clutched her sword and axe in each had as she descended towards the beast. Her aim was nearly perfect and she landed on the creature's left shoulder even as Jasmine leapt or fell off. Sabbatine slipped and began to fall off but she stabbed her sword into the creatures shoulder wedging it between two bones and stabilized her position. The creature cried out in pain and overbalanced itself as it lunged for Jasmine, unable to stop its momentum long enough to make a serious attack at her it had to continue its dash to stay upright.

Sabbatine began swatting at its massive head with her axe, cackling with glee as bones began to crunch and flesh was ripped by her wicked axe. Her smile was stretched almost to her ears, every one of her teeth was showing. She seemed more like a charicature of her former self born from savagery.

"You can't drown me in blood!!" she cackled bringing the blunt side of her axe down, crushing the bear face's jaw and giggling as she watched its teeth fall out of its mouth.

She brought her axe around and tried to stab it in the face to little effect but the childlike face began to whimper and cry much to Sabby's glee. For almost a full minute she pounded on the creature, rarely using the lethal edge of her weapon. Finally she did enough damage and the creature fell down. She pulled her sword free and began to beat on it with both her weapons. When the creature stopped moving she looked around with her wild eyes and shook her head shaking some of the wet blood out of it. She finally fixated on Jasmine and grinned, licking her bloody lips. She seemed to be seeking Jasmine's approval.

Written by - Archeantus

As Jasmine lifted from the blood, she knew the creature was upon her. She had only moments. But it was then she heard the gleeful laughter. She hastily fired a glance behind her only to see the once crushed Sabbatine directly on the top of the creature, her sword planted firmly within its shoulder. The creature overstepped Jasmine, seeking to regain its balance.

As she stood, she continued to watch in amazement as her undead friend began to unleash blow after blow upon the monstrosity’s many heads. And when the beast fell, Sabbatine was relentless, continuing her onslaught.

Finally the bulbous creature lay still, partly submerged in the blood that had given it life. Sabbatine stepped off her kill with near child-like glee, shaking her head of the gore she created.

Jasmine simply watched in a state of budding surprise, and then when Sabbatine looked at her, with excitedly dull eyes waiting for approval, she could not help herself.

She smiled, then began to laugh.

Covered in blood, injured, the smell of rot and evil all about her, Jasmine laughed. Far from mocking, nor was it loud and grating, but it sounded like it had been contained for years until this moment.

Wiping the blood from her face, and sheathing her dagger, she let her laugh slowly die out contentedly. The sight of the look on Sabbatine’s cheerful face, and the experience of combat had been exhilarating for the assassin. She hadn’t felt this alive in a long time.

Finally she was able to speak, realizing she should say something to Sabbatine.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” She said with an actual grin.

Written by - Vylia

"Okay... giant flaming bird to my rescue is it? Heh, if the fanatics back home could see this they'd die on the spot," Vylia laughed as the tables were turned in her favor, Archeantus to her right and a phoenix on her left, surrounding the guards in both directions. As a few of the guards turned at the sound of Arch's voice Vylia took the opportunity to cut them down their backs, her swords curving back around just above the ground to block a pair of blades from the guards on her left.

As their confusion mounted she took full advantage of it, carving into one after another, cutting off hands and across thighs in an attempt to badly injure them rather than kill. It took less effort and she needed all the energy she could muster just to stay alive, even with the reinforcements. Anyone looking from the outside would have thought she were dancing, and they'd have been right, though it was a dance far more deadly than any court function. Her whole body was on a swivel, spinning under and around blade strikes while parrying others. Cut, spin, parry, duck, upswing, roll, kick... Vylia had accepted death before she had climbed up here, but she'd be damned if she was going to let one of her friends fall with her.

She wasn't without wounds herself however, even she wasn't fast enough to block or dodge every strike. It was only a matter of time before the adrenaline coursing through her came to an end and her body gave out. It was getting closer, she could feel it, she had backed herself against the edge of the battlements, the courtyard behind and below her, and the remaining guards in front. Her sword arms felt like lead, she was barely able to hold them at all... it was at that point that she heard the voice in her head, "Have faith in me, jump." She didn't pause at hearing a voice in her head before she yelled out, "Arch, it's time to go! Let's join the others on the ground!" and without looking behind her she leaned back and leapt backwards off the castle wall, though it looked more like she had fallen back with the amount of energy she had to push off with.

Written by - Ariana

When Teran began to splutter and cough, Mavigan sat back on her heels, a sense of relief washing over her. She watched his chest rise and fall on its own a few times before she pulled her feet out from under her and shifted, back propped against the wall of the cavern. She completely missed the look in his eyes, but heard quite clearly his admonishment. She jerked as if he had struck her, but the anger quickly followed. “Next time I’ll let you drown!” she spat at him as she scowled and scooted herself along the blood-slick floor until she was at least a foot away from him.

It was obvious from the set of her shoulders that she would have liked to have put even greater distance between them, perhaps a continent or two would suffice, but she was feeling queasy and faint, so she stopped. Affording him no more glances, she leaned her head back against the wall and shut her eyes, a hand creeping up to cover her still bleeding belly wound. When Teran gently asked, “Are you hurt?”, Mavigan responded with tight-lipped silence, ignoring his question and choosing instead to focus on the sounds of battle, and the subsequent sound of creepy laughter.

She concluded from those sounds that the beast had been defeated and their ragtag group had been victorious. She allowed the tension of the battle to flow out of her much the same way her blood was still flowing from the deep puncture wound in her stomach. Suddenly feeling very sleepy, she wondered if anyone would mind if she took a nap.

Written by - Teran

Teran's expression softened as soon as he saw that Mavigan actually was hurt, grievously so. He moved to her side and knelt down. Emotions flooded his thoughts as he considered his brief history with her and all she had been through because of him. He wondered what punishment she would choose for him if... when she discovered what he had done to her family. He wondered if he had the guts to face whatever the consequences would be... Teran almost laughed at that thought, he was certain of what the consequences would be.

He peered at her searchingly and felt his emotions stir once again... it disturbed him that she had this effect on him. He actually found himself conforming to her desires, he found himself seeking her affection. He gently picked her up, cradling her in his arms and putting his own pain out of his mind as he sloshed back towards the now dead beast.

Sabbatine cheered excitedly "I killed it Teeran! We killed it!" as he walked past heading for the exit that was on the opposite side of the room clutching Mavigan in trembling arms. He climbed out of the blood and gently laid her down on the floor. He began to strip away her armor so he could get a better look at her wound without exposing her to their companions. The cut was deep and undoubtedly painful. Teran knew he could patch it up but with wounds like that magical healing was a far better than natural healing.

A cold wind blew over Mavigan and the Assassin made only worse by their blood soaked clothing. He could not see very deeply into the tunnel that lay before them but it did seem to be going down and cold air was blowing out. He turned and called Sabbatine over and motioned that she should go get Wilhelm and the others who had been covering their rears while he tended to Mavigan.

Written by - Wilhelm

Resini carefully studied and tested the odd cells and the lock-less bars, looking for magical traces of the means by which the people were put into and taken out of the cells. At last he looked satisifed and said,

"Very clever. It's a dimensional rotation spell."

Forming a circle with his assistants, Resini combined and focused their powers and directed his wand at the bars of the cell in front of him, rotating the wand and reciting a spell. The bars seemed to rotate with the wand, but through some other dimension, turning first 2-dimensional, then 1-dimensional, then vanishing. As Resini held his wand steady, the rest of the group hustled the prisoners out of the cell. While Wilhelm and the healers formed their own circle to heal the prisoners, Resini reversed his spell and the bars reappeared. This was repeated for each cell. The prisoners, revived from their torpor by the healing, fell to their knees in thanks to their rescuers and to the All Father who had sent His paladin to rescue them.

From the prisoners, Wilhelm leaned of their terrible intended fate as food, flesh and blood contributors to the Abomination ahead. Wilhelm was torn, because these people needed a chance to escape this complex but his group's duty lay ahead with Queen Mavigan. Wilhelm learned from the prisoners that a dozen of the prisoners had been soldiers, and this gave Wilhelm an idea. He talked to the former soldiers and they agreed to lead the prisoners out in an escape attempt that would also serve, if discovered, as a diversion for Wilhelm's group.

He and his party led the prisoners to the closest of the rooms in which they had stashed the bodies of the Dark Cultists they had killed, and had the prisoners don the clothing and weapons of the cultists. Resini placed his hand on the forehead of the most experienced soldier, whom Wilhelm had chosen as the leader of the escapees, and mentally transferred a map of images of the way out and the other rooms in which they had hidden slain cultists. Led by the soldiers, the band of prisoners left to provision and arm themselves and pretend to be a large cultist group headed for the entrance in response to the invaders.

After wishing them well, Wilhelm led his force back towards the dark passage down which Mavigan's group had gone. He had sensed through their heartfires that Mavigan's group had defeated the Abomination, but also that Mavigan and Teran were badly wounded and needed healing.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen’s face was a set of grim and hard lines. He was fighting with everything he had to keep the Beserker armor in check, but as the obviously sacrificial ritual proceeded he didn’t know if he had it in him. There was simple and undeniable urge rising in him, the desire to kill and maim. Ardwen’s time in the legion had only fed this desire, this base instinct to fight and slaughter. It was more than a simple emotion, it was the ecstasy of the fight, the irony smell of blood, the balance and edge of his blades, it was the only time he truly felt alive – felt whole.

Slowly, silently, Ardwen moved his left hand to grasp the hilt of the longer of his two blades. The motion was mostly hidden by his cloak, and was only aided by the fact that all attention was on the perverse incantation that was being carried out before him. Right when Ardwen could not contain the urge any longer, right when he was about to rush forward, three quivering feathered shafts found the body of the human that was holding a pale green burning femur.

That was the signal, it was obviously Vylia, and she had found her mark. Yet before Ardwen could move forward he saw an ethereal image of the All-Father coalesce into existence over the pillar Ariana was bound to. With some manner of holy magic, the figure extinguished the vile torch and released Ariana's bonds. Ardwen was not certain, but he could have sworn that he felt the figure gaze on him, he was certainly not sure why, but it almost seemed to nod in approval. Ardwen managed to dash off a quick, yet fervent thought, “I know what I said before,” he attempted to say with both his mind and soul, “but if I live through this, let’s talk,” then he hastily added with what amounted to a mental smirk, “or throw lightening at me, it’s all good.”

And with that Ardwen burst forward. He had but one objective in his mind, make it to Ariana’s side and shield her. As fast as a striking serpent Ardwen had both blades in his hands, people were falling over one another to make way for him. He had almost made it to Ariana’s side, his made dash seeming to pay off more than he expected, he was almost there when a guard leapt in front of his path to bar his way. Ardwen’s face turned into a predatory snarl and without slowing his pace he shouted, “You bar the way of death itself mortal!” The man did not move.

Ardwen flipped one of his blades over in his hands so that the shorter of the two faced the opposite direction. With his left arm held forward and the blade horizontal the warrior looked like some rotating set of blades that only awaited its chance to begin its reaping. “Ride the whirlwind.” Ardwen thought, the name of the technique briefly flashing through his mind. He moved in, the guard swung his own blade in an overhead arc.

The guard was good. A professionally trained mercenary he had years of fighting experience behind him. His equipment was well crafted, he did not spare expenses on his gear. The guard was good. He had fought against many foes from many different lands and schools of fighting. He was good, and yet even had he used the entirety of his life to practice and train, and even if he had used what years remained to him in his life, he would not have come close to the more than five millennia of warfare Ardwen had experienced. Ardwen’s longer blade sprang up, parried, moved aside, the elven warrior rotated, and the guard died with multiple points spouting blood: two on the lower arm, and two on his shoulders.

Ardwen grabbed the corpse before it fell, stabbing it with his shorter blade and using his leverage to control its descent as he hopped over it and found himself at Ariana’s side. Another guard, alarmed at how quickly this sable-clad warrior had gained his position rushed forward. Ardwen danced fire this time, a rain of blows that abandoned all defense, he was not here to protect himself, only Ariana. Ardwen’s blows were too fast and too imbued with strength for the guard to withstand, his defense crumpled and Ardwen clove his head in half with a feint that turned into a return stroke. Grasping this body too as it fell he stacked it on top of the first.

Ardwen could not spare a second to even look at his Abbess. The guards and mercenaries were recovering from their shock and rapidly pushing back the rebelling populace, Ardwen knew he had mere moments before they rallied enough to try and swarm his position. Still Ardwen said awkwardly, “Abbess, I am here. Here to protect you, here like I should have been all along. I swear that not a single blade nor arrow will touch you.” But Ardwen felt the thrill of combat, his blood pulsing through his veins and beating a chaotic rhythm in his temples, and in much the same spirit of morbid jesting as he had with the All-Father he added, “Let us see if I can build a wall out of them.” The warrior switched his blades back into the position to ride the whirlwind. He could hold out, but not forever, he was strong, but not invincible, he could only hope that the other Hands would be able to break the backs of Beridane’s men.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Turin stood and watched the proceedings, awaiting the fatal shafts of death Vylia would unleash. He did not have to wait long. Relieved that she would not meet such an end, he returned to the task at hand: she had to be spirited away and quickly.

With a simple movement, he removed his robe and unsheathed his great sword. The others were already deep into combat, Vylia was in a desperate fight on the ramparts with Archeantus assisting. Kaya, Dorve and Alaric were dealing with both guards and the lizardmen who were part of the ceremony. Ardwen was defending Ariana.

The populace was more a mob now, with guards hacking and firing into the rebels. "Bravery and flesh can only go so far against steel and tyranny", Turin thought. Moving towards the mass of guards that were slowly trying to encircle their small group on the platform, Turin says,

"For the All-Father and Saint Lorne! Stand down or be put to the sword!"

The guards look to each other, then rush the Crusader. Positioning himself between Ardwen and the new horde of oncoming guards, Turin says to Ardwen,

"No need for a wall of the dead, just get going, head to the docks. Take the southern exit from this place. You should have a downhill fight, find the first ship you can commandeer and put her aboard. Oh, and don't come back, I'll hold them as long as I can. Now go!"

Shouting to Kaya, Dorve and Alaric, he says,

"Let them be, protect Ardwen and Ariana, follow them closely!"

Watching them turn to follow, he mentally calls out to Archeantus,

"Arc, old friend, change of plans. Can you teleport Vylia and yourself out of here and onto the docks? There are too little of us and the populace will be slaughtered if this fight continues. We have attained what we came here for, it is time to go."

He could almost here the un-asked question in the secondary pause. Answering as best he could, in-between parries, Turin answers,

"No, I don't think I'll be taking that ship. Don't ask, just get out of here. Protect Ariana and save yourselves."

With the others already gone, Turin stood alone upon the platform.

Written by - Ariana

She had no conception of the flow of time; for her there was only the Now. Her life simply seemed to move from one discomfort to the next, with no discernable pattern or reason. Thus, it was for her, simply another form of existence as she remained tied to a post, on display for all who cared to see. For the space of one now, all was quiet and uncomfortable and unbearably bright. The next now exploded into her senses with a cacophony of noise and shouts, and for a moment, the light she shunned invaded her, so bright it burned. She remembered the sensation as one she had felt before she had been ripped from her comfortable void of darkness and roughly deposited into this realm of hard boundaries. The light burned and consumed her from both the outside and the in, and she lifted up her voice in a hoarse, whispering scream.

And then it was gone, and she felt herself sinking down into the realm of light and noise. Fear turned to panic, and panic turned into a raging beast with claws and sharp, deadly teeth, tearing at her heart and flesh. Propped up on hands and knees, eyes clamped tightly shut against the invasion of the light, she flailed around madly with arms and legs, hands and feet, desperately trying to find a way out, a path that would remove her from her nightmare.

Finding no salvation, no escape, she curled up into a tight ball, arms thrown protectively over her head, a trembling mass of flesh half buried in the hay. Caught in the throes of panic, she almost missed it – the slight brush against her mind of the darkness that represented home. When she did detect it, her trembling slowed and then ceased as she focused her entire being on that tiny bit of dark. As it drew closer, and finally took its place beside her, she lay still as death, afraid that the tiniest movement on her part would cause her to be abandoned.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya's eyes were locked upon that book. She heard Turin yell out orders, but there was no way in hades she was going without destroying that abomination. It was her duty, her charge to rid the world of such, or at least send it back to the abyss from which it came. "Dorve! ALaric! Help Ardwen!"

Dorve muttered under her breath but did as commanded. She swept up her arms, staff in hand, and with the earth shaking, huge vines erupted from the ground, writhing about like the tentacles on some unworldly creature. Vines snapped about grabbing up those that fought against her companions or whipped about, hitting them and throwing them through the air, clearing a path for escape. Alaric stayed his course and protected Dorve so that none of the guards would interupt her spell.

Kaya made her way to the book fighitng and cleaving everything that crossed her path. With each step nearer to the darkness of that tome, Kaya'Talas felt a power grow within her, one she had never felt before. Nyrondis was with her, guiding her hand as she fought her way to the altar. Byt the time she reached it, she was bruised and bloodied, but her focus was on nothing else. She reached for hte book, but quickly drew her hand back in pain, feeling the burning, evil energy down to her bones. Kaya let out a cry, but gritted her teeth and united A'lantheer, then raised it to the sky. "NYRONDIS GIVE ME YOUR POWER - MAKE ME YOURS SO THAT THIS EVIL MAY BE DESTROYED!"

Vines that had been under Dorve's control, wrapped themselves around Kaya, melding into her. As each one dissolved into her body, she grew in size and power. A green energy encompassed her and to those that could see, it seemed as if the form of great horned stag superimposed itself over her giant form. SHe raised A'lanteer high above her head and she Let out a battle cry, "FOR NYRONDIS AND THE ALL FATHER, BEGONE DEMONS!" A'lantheer pulsed with green energy and Kaya swung the sword down with all her might, hitting the book, splitting it and the altar in half. SHe could feel the evil within that book, feel the anger.pain and hate.

A frightful, eirie screamed filled the air; the book let out its evil howl for all to hear. A black, glowing energy burst forth from the tome, then the screams were gone and a bright, glowing life filled light emerged. Kaya could see now, the souls of all who had been sacrificed in the name of this book. All off them floated upwards, men, women, and the children, from teens to newborn babies. They all smiled and she could feel their thanks and gratitude for the end of their agony. Kaya felt the tears flow down her face as the souls finally found their way home.

Then Kaya felt the energy leave her and saw the book and altar crumble to dust. SHe fell to one knee, feeling weak and vulnerable. Taking a deep breath she prayed again. Please Nyrondis, give me the strength to help my friends, then I can rest. SHe got to her feet, feeling her second wind hit her. She smiled and then lept down and joined the fight, helping to making sure the way was clear to the docks.

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