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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Talonmane Page 40 Book 3

"Muridel...", the dwarf whispered her name as their lips met after 7 years of seperation. It was sweet, so sweet, thought Munchadin, moreso than he remembered. He pulled back then just to gaze in her gray eyes, and the face of the dwarf-woman he'd married made him ache, the love was so true. She put her soft hand to his whiskered face, and he leaned into it with a fervour as tears formed in his eyes, and he smiled with a degree of joy he shared with no one else. The married lives of dwarves were a most private thing, and especially of that the deeper emotions of man and wife.

"My brave Munnie, me heart bursts for your kisses. Oh, how Ah've longed fer you to hold me in cold cavern nights. Ye've been out sailin' the world an' savin it too, if Ah know a whisker on yer cheeks. But yer home now, nuthin' else matters. The children are home t' see their father, too. Doni's begun his third apprenticeship - learnin' how t'make the machines of Men, if ye can believe it; an' Grudel's leadin' her mates in the 'vanced schoolin - an' with that hi-fancy elf teacher at that! An' Brungi...ach, little Brungi is no more the infant ye knew, and he spends all his play time tryin' to be like his Da - untyin' an' tyin' those naval ropes ye keep, and playin' wi' th' model ships in yer study, tellin his mates they'll some day be his crew...an' on yer ship, if ye can believe it!."

Munchadin shook his head, his beard now wet from the waterfall in his eyes...the joy...his family...he pulled her in and tight then, holding her to him and breathing in the scent in her blonde hair and letting himself drown in it all. How could the days...so many days...at sea be worth leaving her? Leaving them? Why did he ever go?

She whispered in his ear, "A hot stew's on, an' yer Ma's biscuit recipe's not been fergotten, with butter fresh made an' kept in th'way o' them halfling folk ye met 2 voyages ago. An' yer brother's had three kegs o' his best sittin' in our basement since nearly th'time ye left. The Ironbrow household an' name an' participation in the Parliament has been kept up an' we prosper! Gold, platinum, and silver accounts are all greater than when ye left. So come now, we'll go home an' see the tots, an' we can pick up Doni on th' way. We'll 'ave a supper and ye can tell yer tales an'give yer presents and catch up on all th' goin's-on. An' then when the hour is late, we'll 'ave the night t'ourselves..." And she kissed him more passionately than any dwarf would do in public, though certain allowances could be made for a husband and wife parted for long years.

He was so happy, he had thought it was a trick of his mind when he started to hear a strange and soothing song playing in the background. He then noticed the environment for the first time. They were on a pier in a place unknown to him. All around, members of his crew were joining the families who'd come to greet them, and behind, Wavehammer sat in a dock too close to any shore he was aware of. There was a sea fog beyond near vision, and getting his bearings was difficult...nae, impossible. The odd song, rising and falling like a wind grew in his mind, and with it, his thoughts seemed to clear.

"Muridel, my longin' fer you, my love fer our family, it is deeper than any waters Ah sail. But dear, dear lassie, somethin's just not right...

****

He ran with a speed and freedom he'd not known since...since Aerynth, since the days of endless war and closely-held peace, where the campaigns were never finished and the threats to then-Ancora never over. Ancora...and the Abbey before the greatest of their walls had been erected...he could see them in the distance between the trees of this forest as he ran. He was in the woods Southwest of the fairgrounds, where a great gathering had been happening since the day before. He remembered this time...

He ran, dashing after the lithe wolf as nothing slowed either of them. Farther and further from the Abbey they bolted, until the sounds of the fair were but an afterthought. But then he lost sight of her. The grey wolf, agile and deadly in her prime, deadly Kildef knew all too well as did many in the region. This wolf's territory was being ever-encroached upon in these days, and she was ever ready to fight. Truth be known, she'd go looking for it as often as not. Yet this Kil felt deeply; understood innately. It was the untamed he desired...for he never let it show in his life, his life that was always of duty and rightness, the Honour of a Knight Ranger and steadfastness necessary to see the return of the Preservers. Yet with her, he could allow himself to be consumed by the wild...

He was knocked from his feet in that instant, the wolf leaping from dark cover and onto him...he fought to hold back the jaws as they slipped and tumbled down a leaf-covered slope. By the time they reached the bottom, turning over and again, the wolf was no more. Instead of the jaws he fought to keep at bay, he found himself over and his own face inches from that of the woman he'd chased for two years. She still held that annoyed furrow to her narrow eyebrows, that nearly perpetual expression of annoyance toward any man. With a strength surprising to many, but not him, she used her legs and grasp on his tunic to twist him over and exchange positions. Victorious, her smile finally shown. For but a moment, a softness was betrayed, and she relaxed. But he knew this one too well, and he showed a slight smirk with one eyebrow raised, for he didn't expect that moment to last. The Amazon didn't disappoint him. With the hunger and agressiveness of her alter-ego her mouth took his. He pulled her in harder, one hand grasping in her hair. This wasn't something of love, but of animals under a forest canopy who devoured something each sought.

The Abbey seemed more distant with each second. Why did he not move to her city when he had the chance? why stay with the Church? Did not Braialla call him to her side with greater need than the All-Father, who had no shortage of champions? Did not his own half-Amazon blood have a meaning? He found that he didn't care right now about any of these things...but only of the passion, the fury in the moment. He growled the name more than spoke it, "Aya..!"

But a noise; a low song; a chant unknown to him reached for his attention. In response he held her hair tighter, hair that...was completely dry? That should have been still wet from the soaking she received all through the day in that booth of Turin's? With great effort he pulled her head away. He tried to think of that song between his ears as an annoyance, an interruption to his moment of desire fulfilled, but it wasn't such a thing. It called him to reality. Did this actually happen that day?

Written by - Ariana

The darkness enveloped her as her body rocked sometimes gently, sometimes violently, with the turnings of the ship and the cresting of the waves. She dwelled there, in darkness, grateful for the comfort it provided as she grew accustomed to the strange feelings buffeting her.

She felt … lighter than she could ever remember feeling before. Pain was an aspect of her existence, so commonplace that it had burrowed its way into her very soul. She no longer remembered what it was like to live without it, and the sudden freeing from the constant ache in her bones and joints and muscles was disconcerting and frightening.

But then she felt it, an insistent tugging at her soul beckoning her to follow. Curious, she opened her eyes and found herself further astounded. Though the room was dark save the light of a single candle, she could see things that had once been nothing but blurry blobs. The room she was in was paneled with dark wood, and her eyes could detect knots and whirls and imperfections in the grain. Amazed, she lifted a hand and rubbed gentle fingers along the wood near her head before the tugging grew more insistent.

Rising and seating herself on the edge of the bed, still more wondrous sights were there for her to behold. Figures stood before her clearly, each with different clothes and faces begging to be explored. She did not recognize any of the figures, but that did not concern her. At the moment, each seemed to be lost in a world no one else could see, not reacting to one another, and certainly not reacting to her. Had she more time, she would have liked to explore her new wondrous discovery, but the insistent tugging she had felt before was quickly becoming a demand.

Rising to her feet, she stood unsteadily for a moment as muscles long unused relearned how to support her. Not wasting time in heeding the summons, she half-stumbled half-walked across the cabin and pushed through the door. Climbing the few blood-slicked steps to the deck was the work of more than a few minutes as her bare feet struggled to gain purchase on the worn boards.

Reaching the deck she looked to the bright glow ahead of her. It spanned as far as the eye could see, and though glowing brightly, it caused her no pain. Instead, the light felt comforting and familiar and silent tears dripped from her eyes as she realized that this was home. Reaching out with one arm she made her way forward towards the light, taking no notice of the destruction around her – the splintered wood, the bodies of the slain, the piece of railing that was missing in the area for which she was headed, the long fall into the water below should she get too close to the edge.

She noticed none of these things, instead wholly focused on the light and the faint sound of music she was certain emanated from it. Above all else, this is what she wanted. Above all else, she wanted to go home.

Nearing the edge and the drop before her, she continued determinedly forward, until the sound of flapping wings caught her ear. Momentarily distracted, she put her arm down and quickly glanced around for the source of the sound. Off to her left, she saw a great white owl alighting on a secure piece of railing. The insistent calling lessened considerably, no longer sounding urgent, so she turned from the beckoning the light and instead made her way to the great bird.

Standing before it, she stared at it. It returned the favor and stared back, its unblinking golden orbs gazing deeply into her blue ones. After a moment, it cocked its head at her. She cocked her head at it, and it soon became a game. It would outstretch its wings and she would respond by stretching out her arms. She would stand on one foot, and it would follow suit. They were soon joined in their merriment by a small glowing ember, which apparently won the game since it could perform stunts neither the bird nor the woman could emulate. The bird soon tired of the game (or losing), and fervently flapped its wings at them both while letting loose a great squawk.

In return, she smiled.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan heard a whisper of movement behind her and quickly glanced to see where the noise might have come from. Her eyes grew wide and her mouth dropped open with shock at the sight of Teran not only stirring, but getting up. Arms limp at her sides, she could only stare with open-mouthed fascination as Teran moved about the cell with a natural and fluid movement that belied the grievous wounds that even now were healing.

Her astonishment at this, however, was nothing compared to the choking surprise she exhibited when he stripped. Though dumbfounded, she could a blush creeping over her cheeks and the bridge of her nose as Teran presented her with the full moon and monty. She was too shocked to do the decent thing and turn her back on him, instead gaping at him like the village idiot.

It wasn’t until he was fully dressed with wounds nearly healed and peering out into the hallway that some of her normal composure returned. Though the blush had yet to recede, Mavigan was able to admit that he was having fun at her expense. So, when he flashed an arrogant smile at her and asked “How do I look?”, Mavigan promptly responded by punching him hard in the shoulder.

“Dumbass,” she muttered along with a few choice phrases that implied his lineage could be traced back to a goat. “Can we please get the **** out of here now? Preferably without me having to wade through more of your blood?” Then, wanting to make her point perfectly clear, she kicked him in the shin.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya's voice grew stronger, louder, and as she chanted, words began to form:

"Be not afraid
Of this day of life
We're here to win
We're here to fight

Call on your soul
To ride the wave
Of pain and sorrow
Your life it will save

Death holds no power
o'er a heart strong
wake up and fight
to right the wrongs

Be not afraid
Of this day of life
We're here to win
We're here to fight."

Written by - Turin Wallace

Since boarding the ship, Purgatori had gone down into the holds of the ship, letting herself shrink into the darkness. Her purpose in coming had been a personal matter, for Beridane had done much wrong before usurping the Ancoran throne, and she owed her life to the old man above. Quietly, amid the squeeking of the rats and the creaking of the cargo, she began to scrawl symbols of protection into the timbers of the ship.

Soon, she could hear and feel the commotion above, as they were being boarded. Scrawling dark runes that glowed red into the doorway, she prepared herself for those foolish enough to disturb or harm her. With a motion of her hand, they would ignite and send slivers of death into any intruder. Nodding in satisfaction, she sat down, and closed her eyes.

When she woke, she was back in the study at Greydale. Old, dusty tomes lay before her and her master, Lucius, was speaking about the perfect technique for raising servants. Today was a special day, however, and it was to be her first incantation of the raising ritual. As Lucius finished speaking, he turned to her and waited for her to speak the words. It was then she noticed...singing...which she found odd in this quiet and dark study. Usually only silence filled the still air, and still, she could hear clear singing. Shrugging it off, she threw her head back and prepared to begin the chant, when a feeling of something amiss struck her. Taking a deep breath, and with the words of the song becoming more clear, she again attempted to speak the words of power...only to realize that this was wrong.

With a shake of her head, her eyes opened into the darkness of the ship's hold. How long had she been here? Instinctively, she tugged at locket between her breasts, for something was not right. Opening it, the vial emitted a faint pulse of energy. Where normally the energy was enough to light a room, now it was faint.

Flicking her hands in controlled motions, the dark runes went out and she charged out of the hold and up the stairs. Throwing herself into the room where the Hands of old gathered, she paid no heed to any of them, save for the old man laying on the floor. Cradling his head, she looked for signs of life, and after seeing his chest slowly rise and fall with each slow breath, she then looked to those standing about.

What she wanted to say, but could not say, was to get him up and off the floor. Her eyes and face spoke volumes and motioning with her hands, she hoped they would understand. Her mind screamed, "He needs care! Won't you people do something! Your precious, mad, Queen lives and you leave him on the floor! Fine friends, all of you!"

It was then she felt one of them probe and respond within her mind...

****

After Turin slumped into unconsciousness, his mind was blank. Only after sometime did he feel a slight pressure on his shoulder, the voice of Brinna waking him. The day was perfect, a cloudless blue sky, the green of the forest for miles around, and a slight gurgling from the stream they were camping at.

Looking at Brinna, he took her once again into his arms and kissed her. It was not unusual for him to do so, yet why did today feel different?

Speaking, she said,

"Turin, dear, my mother is dying. She asked that I visit her, but I did not want to go without your permission. You think it best that I go to see her?"

Turin replied,

"Why would you even wait..."

His words trailed off as he began to hear singing. An elf woman's voice, no less. Looking around, Turin felt wrong, something wasn't as it appeared. He could see Brinna looking at him, but somehow he knew it was not her, he wasn't sure how but he did.

As he laid back, and letting the darkness once again take him, he whispered these words,

"You are a woman of action, not words. You are not Brinna..."

Written by - Tempyst

You will not sssuccceed Kaya'Talas...you are weak... Kaya heard a familiar voice inside her head as she chanted. Ssssee, even now you falter in your goal.

Kaya steeled herself, her hand clenched aorund A'lanthear's hilt until her knuckles turned white. I will not fail my friends! I am not *her* anymore, I will break them free! The demon laughed, making Kaya shudder, for she remembered that laugh too well. It was the same laugh it had after it slaughtered those children using her body. Laugh all you want monster, you do not possess me any longer... Kaya took a deep breath and continued her chanting, this time with a louder, stronger voice; fading out the demon's laughter, but still leaving her shaken.

Written by - Ardwen

The demon swooped around the deck of the mortal sailing vessel. It was a sign of the fragility and briefness of the lives aboard that they needed such a thing to simply move over the native elements of their own world. He had no temporal body. He had merely come to the mortal realm at the sight of a tear in the medium separating the Red Realm of his world, and the vulnerable shell inhabited by mortals. The opportunity to inflame hatred, cause suffering, and feed had been more than he could resist, and so he was even now searching for a soul to ensnare.

But, there was a catch. Adramelech himself had come to this world, and the many souls present were already being tested and tempted by other powers. He had to find a mark, and quickly. Passing through the very substance of one ship, the demon hovered above the deck, swiftly searching to see if any of the nearby souls would suffice. Nothing. Disappointed, the spirit prepared to leave, but then suddenly paused. There had been something there, no, someone. Someone coming up from the wooden holds below the ship. Watching intently, the demon saw an Elf emerge from below onto the open deck. He looked wounded, blood caked on his body, and the demon could smell violence and death hovering about him like the aroma of some elegant dish. If he had a mouth, he would have smiled.

"Oi! Ardwen!"

Ardwen jumped and spun around to find the source of the voice. What the warrior saw caused him to draw in his breath and nearly took the wind out of him. He saw his old friend, whole and happy. Ardwen stood dumbstruck, his mouth moving slightly, afraid that if he made a sound it would scare away this blessed meeting. Ardwen lamely reached out one hand, the fingers and muscles limp and slack, and placed it on his old friend's shoulder.

"You--" Ardwen whispered before being cut off.

"Pandarrion in Heaven Ardwen, you look like you've seen a ghost. Are you feeling alright?" Ardwen's friend asked with a slight chuckle. The Bladeweaver looked at his friend closely; he looked exactly as he had remembered him. His hair was long, white, the mark of his northern heritage. He had a gentle smile on his face, and his shocking blue eyes seemed to at once offer friendship and understanding.

"I-I'm fine, Elerus. Better than fine, this . . . I am fantastic." Ardwen said, returning the smile and laugh.

"Saaa," Elerus began, the familiar speech pattern was as much a joy to hear to Ardwen as the sight of his friend. "I'm glad you could make it today. I know how much you enjoy Ohanami, and I for one wouldn't miss it for all the treasures of Twilight."

Ardwen blinked dumbly at Elerus's words before he looked around. The sight was beautiful, beyond even his wildest imaginings. They were in a gentle meadow, softly rolling hills covered the landscape, and he and his friend stood on one of the crest of those low hills. Dotting the hills in thick groves were Shidarezakura, or in the vulgar tongue, weeping cherry trees. They were in bloom, their branches laden with slightly pink blossoms that swayed lightly in the warm wind. Ardwen had not seen their like for more than three thousand years. Hadn't he? Didn't Elerus and he go each year to watch the blossoms scatter in the wind? It was, as his friend said, one of his favorite activities, and the delicate blossoms only came once a year and lasted but a few weeks. Why would he miss the event for so long? Ardwen pushed the thought out of his head. Missing Ohanami for three thousand years? It was a stupid notion. Ardwen was certain he could not suffer to miss it for one year, much less several thousand.

Ardwen and Elerus picked a nearby tree and sat down beneath its branches, resting their backs against its massive trunk. Ardwen took in a deep breath, savoring the sent of the spring air, and as if on cue a slightly stronger breeze stirred the flower-heavy boughs causing soft pinkish petals to drift through the air. The petals made lazy loops and settled on everything, including the two Elves. It was more than Ardwen could endure. Softly at first, and then with sobs, he began to weep.

"Ard? Hey, what's wrong?" Ardwen could hear Elerus's voice tinged with concern, but Ardwen had covered his eyes with the back of his arm to hide his shame, and to dry the tears.

"This . . . I . . . I'm afraid. I don't want to leave this!" Ardwen said through gritted teeth. He looked over at his friend, the edges of his vision still misty.

Ardwen watch Elerus grin and shake his head slightly, "But Ardwen, you're not making any sense. Leave? You don't have to leave. Who said you did?" He said. In response Ardwen could only shake his head side to side slowly and bite back more tears.

The demon was watching all of this with great interest. It had been a trivial matter to pick out the memories of the Elf, and he was silently amazed at how easily the warrior had succumbed. Still, all was not done. The Elf was close to breaking, but not quite there yet. The demon searched through more memories, more names and faces. He was shocked at the depth of those memories, for the Elf had lived for longer than he had thought possible for their kind. He was sifting quickly now, trying to find the right key to totally crush the Elf's will. The demon reveled when he found the threads of an old and buried memory. It was the Elf's father. As he followed the memory the demon learned that Ardwen's father had died while he was but a child. More than that, he had been murdered.

"Why do you weep, my son?"

Ardwen heard the voice, and could not believe it; part of him did not want to believe it. The Bladeweaver looked up, and saw him standing there, alive. "Impossible . . ." he said. "Fath--" Ardwen felt tears drip down his face again, and he began to laugh. It was baying laughter, relieving laughter, and a touch of something else, something deeper.

"What is wrong my son? Why do you cry? Is this not all you could want, all you've ever wanted?" Ardwen heard his father's voice inquire.

Ardwen had his head titled back, still chuckling. He stifled his tears and gestured with one of his hands, "Everything I could want? Yes, yes it is. This is paradise. I behold before me my friend that I thought lost by the growing years and the distance between worlds. I watch that season which is best. But above all, above all, you are here."

The demon knew he had chosen correctly. He summoned his art and power to move in for the final ploy. In the illusion, Ardwen's father knelt down, placed a hand on his "son's" shoulder, and smiled while asking, "Why out of all here are you most pleased to see me?"

The demon watched as Ardwen returned the smile. He watched as the warrior reached up along the arm his "father" had placed on his shoulder. He watched as he trapped that arm in a hold, and twisted. In a blur he had drawn one of the blades along his hip, and plunged it through his own father's chest. The violent movement had carried them both backwards, and Ardwen stooped before the prone body, his sword's hilt still protruding from his father's bloody chest. Ardwen lowered his head next to the gasping form and whispered, "Because I've always wanted to kill you twice, old man."

Written by - Dartanian Merquise

Dartanian’s sleep was not a restful one. Despite the exhaustion which clung to his body from the weeks upon weeks in the field, he was plagued with unpleasant dreams. It was not the first time he had had such dreams, or indeed the first time he had had this particular dream. Yet somehow, this time was different….

He was sitting in his father’s command tent, pouring over a slew of maps displaying troop movement and disposition. They had been engaged with the forces of Baron Hayner ever since the assassination of King Pallanon. Thus far the skirmishes had been fought to a draw; the Noble Houses of Merquise and Hayner knew one another all too well. Still, the battles had been steadily tipping in favor of the Barony of Hayner, due no doubt to the support of Beridane the Usurper, who provided Hayner with a seemingly endless supply of funds and supplies he had stolen from the countryside of Westgale.

This was precisely the dilemma which Dartanian was currently working on. His father Robert had asked him to personally take care of the supply problem. Dartanian, as was customary for the heir to House Merquise, was in command of the elite cavalry unit known as the Blue Knights. Hoping to kill two birds with one stone, Dartanian had decided to use the Blue Knights to disrupt Baron Hayner’s supply lines and take what they could for themselves. If his plan worked, it would severely cripple Hayner’s forces and give House Merquise a distinct advantage in the execution of the maneuver which Dartanian’s father was currently planning.

He was studying the maps sketched by his best scouts when he realized it; this was a dream. Soon they would come, and there would be nothing he could do…Spinning around abruptly, Dartanian tried to call out, but the scream caught in his throat.

“What’s the matter son?” his father asked, looking up from reports of his own.

He sat bolt upright in bed, panting hard, a cold sweat covering his skin. Allowing himself to take several long, deep breaths, he was able to slow the pounding of his heart somewhat. It had been so real, much more real than ever before. How could that be? It was the same exact dream after all. It just didn’t make any sense.

Rising quickly, Dartanian pulled on a set of proper clothing and headed out into the hall. After several minutes of searching, he was able to find a good vantage point atop one of the battlements. He gazed into the night, scanning the black horizon. Some distance away, he was just able to make out the site where his men were camped. He hoped that his men were able to sleep more peacefully than he was; they would certainly need their rest for the days to come.

As he pondered this, he felt a strange sensation from far to the west. Aiming his gaze in that direction, he could not make out anything bearing special notice, yet the feeling remained. It began to grow, and as it did, Dartanian began to feel small and helpless. It was the same feeling he had had minutes before as he dreamt. Could this strange feeling have something to do his dream?

****

Many miles away from the Citadel, a lone swordsman was camped in the middle of a dark forest. The wood from his small fire popped intermittently, the soft warm glow struggling to pierce the night around it. A large warhorse lay close to the fire, fast asleep. The man was dozing lightly against a large tree trunk, a thick cloak wrapped tightly around him for warmth. The wood was nearly silent—which was quite unusual—and a rather loud pop of the wood served to stir the man from his sleep.

He opened his eyes slowly and scanned his surroundings. Nothing seemed to be out of place; his horse and all his belongings were where they should be. He surveyed himself mentally…all was in order. Then what was this nagging feeling, almost like a dark presence weighing heavily on his mind. He had felt its ilk before, but this was different, much darker and more menacing than any he had felt before.

The horse stirred, letting out a somewhat annoyed whinny as the man rose to his feet. Seeing that nothing was amiss, the horse lowered its head and fell back asleep. Turning his head from side to side, the cloaked swordsman continued to scan his surroundings, hoping to discover the source of this disturbance. As he did, the feeling grew, and he was able to pinpoint it. Turning westward, he gazed hard; no doubt this was where the presence was, but how far away he could not tell.

Pulling back the hood on his cloak, hoping to get a better view in the direction of the dark presence, the man revealed the pointed ears of a half-elf and several blood-red tattoos covering his face. The presence continued to grow. There was no mistaking it now, this presence had a vile demonic taint about it. “It is for reasons like this which is why what I am doing is necessary,” he thought to himself as he continued to stare into the blackness of the night.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn sniffed as the three of them walked through the door on the other side of the passageway. “Something doesn’t smell right, I can smell blood, a lot of it, and it doesn’t smell human. That’s a good thing, except it’s a bit overpowering, I can’t tell if there are any other scents in the area. Mavigan may be in trouble, we need to hurry. Follow me.” Keeryn runs off down the hall, turning corners quickly and silently, listening for any sounds besides the ones made by her companions as she searches the compound in search of Mavigan and Teran.

It didn’t take long after she found a staircase up to the previous floor before she found a trail of blood, a long streak on the ground, with smaller footprints in it, like what one would expect to find if a small person was dragging or carrying someone bleeding to death. Keeryn only hoped that Mavigan wasn’t hurt as well as she followed the trail, hoping it would lead her to the wayward pair. She turned a corner and came almost face-to-face with a wandering cultist, but hardly slowed as she cut him down, slicing across his throat causing a spray of blood out and across her right arm as she continued to run past. She ignored the surprised look on the face of his companion, trusting the two behind her to deal with the other wanderer.

A few minutes later following the trail, as she entered what looked like an area filled with metal spears shoved into the ground and ceiling, she rewarded with a familiar voice, "…without me having to wade through more of your blood?” Followed by what sounded like somebody getting kicked. Keeryn slowed to a stop just before she got to the source of the noise and peaked inbetween the bars to see Mavigan glaring at Teran, her face completely red.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm and Resini led their group further down, quietly following the trio ahead of them. No further cultists approached from the rear, indicating to Wilhelm that the escaping prisoners had drawn their attention away, or that none were willing to pass the abomination lair. Wilhelm prayed the ex-prisoners would make good their escape.

Wilhelm could tell from their heartfires ahead that Keeryn and Jasmine were not injured, while the undead Sabbatine was the usual unreadable blur. The smell of blood grew stronger again, especially after they crept up a staircase to find a long streak of black inhuman blood accompanied by bloody footprints.

Resini pulled out a wand and passed it over the black blood and murmured a cantrip. A sinuous image appeared briefly and vanished. Looking suprised, Resini whispered to Wilhelm, "Dragon blood."

Wilhelm looked started for a moment, then nodded as something became clear to him. He motioned them to proceed.

They then came upon the bodies of two cultists, showing that they were back into the inhabited area. Wilhelm and Resini split the group off to the right and left and cleared out several more cultists before determining the area was now clear of foes. Reforming, the group continued until Wilhelm motioned them to halt before an opening into a larger area.

Peeking through the opening, Wilhelm saw the trio they had been following over by a line of metal bars. Beyond them Wilhelm could sense the heartfires of Mavigan and Teran. Teran's unusual heartfire was less obscured than before, but more strange because it seemed to show him as badly injured but the wounds were healing rapidly as Wilhelm watched. This confirmed Wilhelm's suspicion.

Wilhelm was pleased to see from her heartfire that Mavigan was tired and worn but not seriously hurt. His group again settled down to wait and to watch the rear.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Turin once again felt the call into consciousness. This time, however, was gone the gentle and idyllic scene he had only moments before awakened to. A tinge of sulfur hung in the air, and before he even opened his eyes, he could feel the presence of something other-worldly in front of him. Slowly, Turin opened his eyes.

Standing before him was the demon, Abigor. With a voice that made him inwardly cringe and feel awed at the same time, Abigor spoke,

“Turin Wallace, Crusader of the All-Father, one of the old ones of Aerynth, listen to me. The fell lord Adramalech has set his sights on your Queen, Ariana, and wishes to take her as captive. His purposes are his own for doing so, but even now his plans are coming to fruition. Oh, you may fight against him and have done so, but know this: you and your friends will lose this fight.”

Turin nearly laughed, how many times had he heard this line before? Yet, before he could say a word, the demon pointed to a pool that somehow appeared between them and spoke,

“Do not think me a fool, Turin Wallace. See for yourself.”

As he looked into the fell waters, he saw himself and the others on the boat, and the events transpiring. He could see the battle being waged and the power Adramalech was wielding. It did not look good.

Raising his voice, Turin replied,

“I’ve seen worse yet, and we have pulled through. This causes me no fear or regret. If this is all you have, then leave me.”

Then Abigor spoke further,

“Your faith in your friends is admirable…but foolish. Watch and see what will happen.”

Turin watched and saw the battle turn, his friends were either drowned or slain, and Ariana taken. Worst yet, the demon showed him of future events not of their own situation, watching the world fall evermore into darkness.

Turin, averting his eyes from the scene, spoke,

“It is enough. If that is our fate, and that of this world, then leave me to face it with my friends and family. Take your gloating elsewhere.”

It was then the demons eyes held a damning glint, and a sickening smile graced Abigor’s face. The demon then came close to Turin, whispering in his ear,

“It does not have to be so, Turin Wallace, Crusader and Champion of the All-Father. I could, for a small fee, be inclined to disrupt the plans of Adramalech and aide you and your friends.”

Before he could reply, the demon knew what Turin’s next question would be, and whispered further,

“The price shall be determined later, for who knows what will be necessary to stop Adramalech this day. I so loathe locking myself into a deal and finding I sold myself short. However, take a moment to think it over, we aren’t in a rush.”

Turin had faced evil many times before, and each time he and his friends had the last laugh. Although he knew that the last vision was a fraud, something felt right about what he was seeing in the scrying pool. Still, he decided to test the demon before him, saying,

“Be gone, fell spirit! Just as the last vision was nothing of substance, something playing on emotions and feelings long past, you simply are preying on the fear of the present and future. You are nothing more than an illusionist and perverter of facts!”

Abigor’s eyes gleamed white hot, anger was roused within the demon, Turin sensed it. In reply, Abigor seethed the next words,

“Fool of a man, do you not know the fallen lord has given me the power to foresee what is what will yet be? Adramalech will crush you and your friends, like you swat a fly, he will do to you. I offer you a chance to avoid that fate, along with your friends, so long as you pay my eventual price. Your time is running out, Turin, I will not extend my offer again.”

Quickly, Turin’s mind raced, could Abigor actually be telling the truth? Demons deal in deception, but what he was saying rung true, and Turin could not shake that from his mind. As Turin pondered quickly, he asked aloud,

“Why do you wish to aide us? Why not help Adramalech? What purpose is there to helping us?”

Abigor replied,

“Why do men fight each other, Turin? It’s simple, really. Adramalech has insulted and done me wrong in the past, I only wish to return the favor. His anger will know no bounds and hells themselves will shake with his fury if I can thwart him. I, however, will relish in my victory and delight in his suffering.

As for you, Turin Wallace, I will reward you handsomely for your part.”

Turin raised an eye, intrigued. He then asked the inevitable,

“Reward?”

Abigor motioned towards the scrying pool, what Turin saw made him turn pale. Abigor laughed, and said,

“Serve me, and you shall be a general in my army. Fully one-sixth of my army, ten legions, will be yours. Just think of it, while you and your friends’ flounder on faith in the All-Father, I give you power, glory, and hellish legions to command against your foes.

All for the price I will name, later.”

Turin faltered. With power such as this, with troops such as this, who could oppose him…them. His mind straying, he cries out,

“All-Father, save them! Save me!

A sickening laughter broke the silence that followed. Turin glanced about, believing he would see his patron god, or an archon at the least appear to bolster him and cast this demon back to whatever abyss he came from. He was wrong. The demon spoke,

“No, Turin Wallace, the All-Father will not and cannot save you or your friends. Only a demon’s bargain can. Your time dwindles, what is your choice?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Turin spoke,

“Very well, Abigor, aide my friends to escape the fate Adramalech had planned, and I will pay your fee.”

Abigor’s eyes flashed with devilish glee. Then, with a flourish, offered up a parchment from out of thin air. Holding it out to Turin, he says mockingly,

“What? Nothing for yourself? Surely you are not this magnanimous, Turin Wallace…”

Turin’s eyes flashed angrily back, but with an even voice, he replied,

“Let’s leave that for another time, demon.”

No sooner were his words spoken then he could see the writing on the parchment shift and change. Looking he could see the arrangement between the two spelled out. With a hint of glee, the demon said,

“Very well, I feel generous. I’ll save that line for you; however, it in no way alters the price I will ask. That, Turin, is set and unalterable. Nothing, once you sign, will change it.”

Looking straight into the demon’s eyes, Turin nodded in agreement, then solemnly replied,

“Then, let’s get this over with. Now, where is my ink and quill, so that I may sign my name?”

Abigor boomed a terrifying laugh, and offered a smoking, dark bladed dagger, while saying,

“Oh no, we do not deal in such things. You will sign in blood; it tends to stand up better than ink.”

Thus, Turin took the blade and slit his palm. Reaching out, he took the parchment and let his lifeblood drip onto the pages. The deal was set, the contract binding. In a rush of wind and fire, Turin began to lose consciousness, but could hear Abigor saying,

“It is done.”

Back in the hellish underworld, a robed figure stood before Abigor, and asked,

“Did he submit?”

Abigor smiled a toothy grin, and replied,

“He did, you knew what you were talking about, fallen one. I guess we both get what we are looking for.”

The robed figure just walked away.

Written by - Archeantus

The passing moment of peace, so long sought after by the wizened old warlock swiftly passed interrupted by a young woman entering the dimly lit room. Her impassioned eyes centered on the resting Turin. Quickly, she rushed to him, gently cradling his head in her trembling hands. Her eyes then glowered around her, looking about to those around her accusingly.

Archeantus knew her thoughts before she voiced them mentally, her fiery eyes left nothing to the imagination as to how she felt about Turin’s unconscious state.

"He needs care! Won't you people do something! Your precious, mad, Queen lives and you leave him on the floor! Fine friends, all of you!"

The warlock sighed, while lowering his grizzled head, and entered the young woman’s mind, quickly gleaning small bits of key information.

“Purgatori, one who owes her life to the one known as Turin. Please understand, your concern for him is matched two fold by all those you see here in the depths of this vessel. We all owe our lives to him, many times over. He rests for but a small moment—“

It was then that Archeantus felt a strange sensation surge deep within his mind. A darkness began to spread, slowly clouding his mental connection he held so dear to his friends. With the darkness came an emerging fear.

Quickly now, he continued speaking to the young necromancer, growing increasingly unnerved. “—I am sorry. There is something terrible happening. Our fates are all in jeopardy. Prepare yourself well Purgatori, the debt you owe may be called to pay in full very quickly. Till then, look into the open eyes of the one who saved you—“

With that, Turin was released from unconsciousness, as was the warlock’s mental connection to him.

In deepening alarm, Archeantus progressively lost his ability to detect his friend’s minds. One by one then fell into darkness to him, and he began to feel truly blind. And suddenly he felt alone, in all its gnawing fury. He panicked, stepping back in sudden terror, hitting against the wooden wall behind him.

“Am I losing my powers? Have I failed?” He began to ask his God fearfully. “After all I have done, everything I’ve sacrificed to be here? Is it all for naught?”

He was greeted with a mocking laugh in reply.

The voice that followed was full of Demon taint, showered in malevolent intent.

“You have failed you fool. Such a long road you’ve traveled only to see your destination and fall. You are nothing but a helpless old blind man. Your friends minds are in our clutches, and nothing you can do will save you. You are a pebble to the wave. Wither and kneel, cry out the name of the fallen one.”

The warlock then saw before him in his mind’s eye everything he’d done, worlds he’d lived, friends he’d won and lost as he journeyed ever forward, lives he’d lived, wars he fought, women he loved, eons he’d spent in the void, all in the name of reaching full circle, to come back home to those that formed him from the small worried boy, to the promising youth, to the faithful young man. Everything to find what he lost, to come back to Ancora, wherever she rested, whatever the cost.

He watched them fade out of his vision, one by one, his hands outstretched as he screamed helplessly.

Again the mocking laughter, again the deafening feeling of loneliness.

The vision shifted to present, he saw the ship they sailed, saw what they faced. Reddened lightening and blazing fireballs wielded by forces beyond his control cut through the wind and smoke from above. He watched them die at the hands of wave and sea, fire and hate.

The maddening desire fueled his passion having been spent through every sightless step through his timeless journey to be with them again.

“Do you see what shall befall them Archeantussss,” the voice hissed vehemently “There is nothing you can do. Their fate is sealed.”

“No…” he fought “No…it cannot be. It cannot end here.”

His fists were clenched in growing anger.

A wave of darkness then swept over him, deeper than the blindness that besieged him for so long. He slowly knelt and cried, beginning to believe that all was lost. And when the darkness appeared to completely engulf him, a small ember shone slowly through the mists of sadness and illusion the demon wove. The old warlock felt the familiar warmth of his constant companion.

Raising his weathered face to the soft light, his jawed clenched as he realized that not all his links had been severed, only one remained, and it was enough to call him back.

Seizing control of his near broken mind, he focused with all his might, and with great effort, shattered the demon’s illusion.

Taking deep breaths, he slowly spoke.

“Nothing is set in stone demon. I would fly against infinite odds if there was but a faint hope to save them. Go and tell your lord…I am coming.”

The darkness left, but the danger had become all the more real. They were being tested, all of them, and he could not help them, they were blocked to him.

“Thank you Angelus.” He whispered to his old friend who was buzzing excitedly around his head, seeming to implore its master to head above deck.

Reaching into his robe, his old hands rested around the golden medallion.

“Father, what must I do?” The warlock prayed.

And then slowly he walked up into the storm, knowing that what had to be done would soon reveal itself.

Written by - Ariana

As she stood smiling at the glowing white image of the owl, a dark fluttering of wings caught the corner of her eye. Turning towards the movement, she saw another owl, this one dark as pitch alighting on the rail near the wall of white. Hopping from one foot to the other, the black feathered beast seemed to beckon to her, its great red eyes in stark contrast to the golden ones that even now tried to impart a warning.

Unbidden, her feet turned from the light and took her closer to the dark. One hand closed tightly on the rickety railing near the black bird that seemed to hop over a few inches as if to make room for her. Slowly, she began to heft herself onto the railing, when suddenly a great screech echoed from behind her and white collided with black sending both tumbling into the roiling air beyond the ship. The railing wobbled dangerously, and she tried desperately to maintain some sort of precarious balance.

Written by - Talonmane

Old Thanduin had lived long and seen much. He should have retired after the last ship upon which he'd served was decommisioned, but he couldn't imagine life anywhere else. He had not just long life, but the peace in one's mind that settles upon the aged who can look back at a journey greatly lived and forward in acceptence of the inevitable fact of mortality. It was thus different than the long years of the immortal elves. He had travelled the length and bredth of the world, and it held few surprises for him. It was thus that he alone of everyone in the harbour this day never believed the infernal illusions for a second. His actions in the next moments would perhaps save the ship, and in so doing, save much more than that.

""Ye'll 'ave t'do bet'r than that, ye ole Scratcher! Me wife - whose soul be for'e'er blessed, fer she ne'er traffic'd wi' th' likes o' you - ha' been dead these pass'd thirty years. Ye can bring out me whole fam'ly, march 'em all 'fore me weak'nin' eyes, me mates an' ev'ry lad and lass ah've met, fought with, drunk with, in ev'ry port in this great round world. Bring 'em all out an' parade 'em through me 'motions, me guilts an' regrets, d'sires an' pities, rages an' loves. Ah'll still know 'em all as Ah always have, no matter ye're twisten' an' baitin'! Ah'll still spit at ye, ye grande LIAR!, an' ha' a great Dwarven belly laugh as Ah piss on yer shadow when ye pass on by!"

As swiftly as his creaky legs would cary him, the grayed dwarf ran to the pilot's deck , grasped a rope and heaved himself to stand on the fore-rail. He listened carefully and let the timbre and pace of the distant chanting song become as the cresting and falling of the ship's keel in the waves. His considerable baritone which earlier in the day boomed out the Mountain Wedding Song now took up Kaya's tune, at first adding a smooth accompanyment to her, then after a few full verses, his was the dominant voice in the air. He sang his full life into it, as legends say the greatest of the DwarfSmiths had done to the finest metalworks of their storied careers. He was no one's fool, and knew in his heart what could be at stake today, and what life he had earned and had yet to give was breathed right now. He defiantly stared down the demon in the distance, a joy and fury in his bad whitened eye, and a tear in his good one. After all, he did not want to bid goodbye...but taking this as his time and moment, he let his passions go as they may.

****

Munchadin shook it off, yelling from his gut. He stumbled backwards and onto his backside on the hard wood of the deck behind the 'Hammer's helm, grasping out with both hands trying to hold onto the vision. He knew it was false, but the strength with which it had called to him still tore a wound in his soul.

Next to him he saw Kildef as well on his back, a great pile of rough-braided rope held tightly in his arms, which he pushed suddenly away after inhaling the smell of it right to his nose as if he were trying to gain the scent of something dear to him. This was one of the great coils they'd readied earlier that day, a special and awfully stinking material that was strung to ballista bolts and woven into nets and wrapped about the shafts. The Ranger choked and coughed at the stench, waking to full conciousness and kicking himself back away from the material. He stood as he could, looking around in suspicion, one hand at the hilt of his long blue sword.

The Admiral and Ranger both took in their surroundings: sailors all over the ship coming awake - some startled, some weaping, a couple even laughing heartily where a few others were in maddened anger. But upon seeing their mates and feeling their ship beneath thier feet once more, the tide of emotion fell and each gathered up the duties of his post. they were trained to hold on to such things. When in doubt: duty. They also took up old Thanduin's accompanyment to Kaya's song. Some had difficulty with it, but even they would merely humm as they could, and loudly. Amoung them, only Bimglin was quiet. He checked each on and nodded periodically to Munchadin, but it was as though whatever periodic voice he had was not yet returned to him. They each suffered the remnents of the demons' intrusions as they could.

In the midst of this as the last of the crew were recovering from the illusions, a woman's scream tore at the sky in heart-wrenching, trembling anger and fear. "Marlie..?!" Munchadin called her, and his niece answered still in the throes of the visions, yelling at the top of her lungs, "You CAN'T 'ave her! She's NOT yours! NOOO!......MAVIGAN!!"

"Oh, Marlie, darlin'..." Munch's insides wrenched at the power of her yells, as the name of the Ancoran heir echoed out a second time around the entire harbour. He hobbled quickly down to the main deck and foreward to get a glimpse of the basket atop the foremast. The young dwarf-woman was draped over the basket at the waist, her normally-braided hair half undone and hanging disheveled about her head. She was choking after having vomited - something that she never did even once since she was a little girl aboard ships.

"...Ah'm alright, uncle...Oh! they're coming for her! We've got to help! they'll take her!"

"Who, darlin'? Mavilina?" Munch said, using a dwarf-form of Mavigans name, a use carrying the familiarity of someone in the family or close to the family. It was what he had called the princess since her earliest days as a childhood playmate of his niece. "Darlin', Mav's not here, and who is going to take her?"

"No! not her..." Marlie pulled herself up onto her usual spot upon the rim of the baskert with one hand grasping the nearest rope, and thrust her other arm out toward the Far Seas Call that was following aft and just to starboard of the cruiser. "Her!!"

Aft, Kildef listened to this exchange. In an instant all remainder of the infernal vision was blown to the winds, with nothing but a fond memory of his wolfish friend from another age still left where it belonged: in the recesses of the mind where one recalls past glories. Marlie could only mean once person. Leaning off the aft rail, he resisted every urge to plunge into the cruiser's wake. He had to stay here, had to fulfill his part in the plan, or they day may be lost. Relying on his brothers and sisters in Providence was nothing new to him, and he had to pour all faith into their ability to keep Ariana safe.

Relying on his brethren had always meant one name above all others, but last he knew, the Crusader was down and out, though he would be needed, by the Abbess and by them all. Archeantus would be seeing to him, but Kildef felt something here was terribly, momentously wrong - his Ranger's gut told him, and his sternum ached from the feeling. He called out over the back of the ship in his great Northman voice, "TURIN!!"

From the foredeck, Bimglin called back, "Sir! It's time!"

Marlie looked down to Munch and nodded, recovering herself and showing him that she was ready by reaching into the basket and pulling up the messaging beacon. He only said, "We'll see it through, lass. You count on that." And he returned back and up to the helm, checking to be sure Kildef was ready at the ballista mount. The Ranger seemed preoccupied, and stared back repeatedly to the courier. Their eyes met a moment, and the dwarf knew from the look that the man would carry out his end of things, despite his worry for the others.

The Wavehammer had been sailing straight forward the whole time, closing with Hrulga and Adramelech. In the sky, the elemental Aquanimbulos was nowhere to be seen. The enemy had somehow withstood (dare not i say, weathered) his assault. Munch shuddered to think of the force that could do that, and he mourned the absense of the creature that was beginning to grow on him. He was quite a handy friend for a sailin' dwarf, and had a sense of humour too, he thought. Nearby, coming in from two other angles, the Oathfather - still sailing despite her wounds of the past 3 days - and the Doledrun destroyer Rennafont also neared their planned positions. They were triangulating upon the targets, and each were armed as was Kildef's gun.

Munchadin smiled a bit at it, that they were still able to come to this and be in position. Was the 'mage' right? would the viney, hempy material hold true to what the ancient stone record said? The 'mage' had supposedly searched the world for this knowledge and then again for this plant. And the source for it was even in question. They would not be really sure until it was tried. And that was now...

"Flash the boys to take aim, careful aim! Get the right target...Kildef...yer ancestors're watchin' ye, they'll guide yer hands if'n ye trust 'em, and trust the Father. Bragni! be ready fer a tug-'o'war here!"

In response to their closing, the presence of Adramelech surged and once more they felt the demon's aura extend over them all like a sheet of heat and evil. Though nauseous, the crew took it this time. The demon's comrades, in their failed efforts to steal the will's of the crews, had only made the people stronger in their resistance to it. Hrulga, however, still had vast power at her disposal.

"Your sorry destiny is fixed, dwarf! There is no end other than what I have knitted with the fine needles and yarn granted by the Master. You have used up whatever defenses you had, whatever pitiful inklings of strategy your could devise...feel now the Red Fire!"

The clouds again roiled in brightening red turbulence, and the next meteor tore down toward the 'Hammer.

"Plow ahead, mates! Faith!" The Admiral yelled, and prayed harder than he ever knew he could.

****

Around Far Seas Call, seven flying fiends closed in fast on leathery wings and trailing sulfurous vapours. The Summoning proved true, for they could feel their full forms present on this plane, and they were free to go where they pleased. Oh, the havoc! the sensuous disaster we could spawn! the terror! and not least, to delight in seducing mortal women, to sire a clutch of tiefling progeny! Ahh...But the Arch-Duke has stayed our liberties, and bade us one task alone while present here: swoop in on the brightest of the bright soul sparks floating below, and take Her to the fort of our ally.

Easy enough to find, for no mere spark was this, but a pulsar of unexpected magnitude. The Arch-Duke was right, this is a treasure to bring unto the Realm, a victory the likes of which has not been seen since the Age we challenged the gods directly! Dleglumu, leader of this troop, saw the human woman now, a beauty to be sure! worthy of all possible effort to turn with desires beyond the natures of mortal men, wor...but alas, she was destined for greater things, for the Arch-Dukes pleasure, and this we cannot deny. This in fact, we must bring about. The woman stepped near the edge of the boat.

They swooped down to its deck. There was an awful, painful keening, a chanting to their wits. ...what?! a hunter!! Never! we will peel the memories from her soul and the skin from her body! We will take her as we will, and revel when she admits her willingness to the taking! We will send the message of our power that will not be stopped!

Written by - Archeantus

Reaching the deck, the spray and wind hit the warlock's face. He could hear the yelling, could sense the desperation that pervaded the hearts of the souls present upon the two meager vessels. Many called out to unknown visions, coming to grips with inner demons, from within and without.

He would have no more of this, time was gold.

Centering himself, with the wind blowing wildly, the sea shifting erratically, he began to build the fragments of all the souls of the 'Hammer and Call who would hold a part in the battle ahead.

It was then he heard a rising chorus lift up from din, from both ships now, rising in voices old and young, human, Dwarf and Elf.

He finished his work, fortifying their minds from further attacks, then added his soft voice to the battle song.

Yet he sensed something was immediately amiss. It was her She was.....here...outside on the deck. But where?

Cursing his blindness, he knew she was near. How? He twirled around in frustration. The danger amplified suddenly, knowledge coming from Angelus.

Reaching out mentally, he caught hold of the closest one he could trust with such danger.

It was Ardwen.

"ARDWEN!" The old warlock cried out over the wind and song.

He did not know where she was, or how she had appeared on the deck, he only knew Ardwen needed to save her. Darkness, great darkness was rapidly approaching their small vessel. Quickly he pierced his consciousness with all the urgency he could convey.

"Ariana is in great danger, she is here on the deck, I cannot see her, I only know she is close. Terrible things approach. It is up to you my friend...Save her...."

Suddenly he felt the fire of his small friend and he knew Angelus would reveal her. The fire grew, as Angelus formed into her full form. Small embers fell like rain, illuminating Ariana's precarious form, so very faintly upon the rail.

Then a booming voice thundered above.

"Your sorry destiny is fixed, dwarf! There is no end other than what I have knitted with the fine needles and yarn granted by the Master. You have used up whatever defenses you had, whatever pitiful inklings of strategy your could devise...feel now the Red Fire!"

Archeantus took a sharp intake of breath. He had seen this before, the demon has made sure of that. He knew the outcome, could see the massive ball of flame rocketing toward them.

"No..."

"....Ahead...............FAITH!" He could distantly hear Munchadin roar from the 'Hammer.

He could not stop it. The weight of it bore him down. He could not protect them from such a thing...

Faith...

Angelus was gone, embers still slowly floating slowly down. She was going to meet it.

Kneeling down, the warlock cried out, not knowing the outcome of such a clash. The thought of loosing his closest companion rocked him to the core.

Faith...

"Father...please..." he said through clenched teeth.

Angelus now high above, coursing and bursting into channeled searing flame, like an arrow of light, flew directly into the fiery doom.

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