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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Ariana Page 41 Book 3

Music, the same angelic melody she had heard emanating from her wall of white, suddenly seemed to surround her, gaining in volume and coming at her from many directions. She quickly glanced around, trying to find the location of the sound. She found, instead the dark and the light owls carrying on some kind of wrestling match, only this match involved sharp beaks and cruel talons.

Not understanding why her feathered friends appeared to be hurting one another, she stood fully upon the wobbling rail, trying desperately to both keep her balance and reach out to her two friends. Arm extended, the great birds were beyond her reach, and she was about to stretch even further, beyond her limit, when sparks fell onto her from above.

Curious, she looked up to see her little friend of light suddenly grow into something large and massive. She was delighted with the change, and extended her arm upward, beckoning to her friend with a silent request to come down and play. A frown crossed her features as the phoenix ignored her and instead shot straight up towards the heavens leaving a bright trail of fire in its wake.

This was not right, she knew. Her friend was not meant to leave her. Her friend was meant to stay. She felt something push hard inside her, seeming to make some barrier she had not known existed, buckle outward. The sensation made her catch her breath and wobble just a bit more on her precarious perch. “NO!” she screamed inside of her head, the words bubbling up from some part of her she had forgotten existed. “STAY!”

The louder she screamed the thoughts inside her head, the harder the pushing from inside her became until finally, with one great push, something burst from inside her soul, covering both herself and the departing phoenix in a nimbus of bright light.

She did not know what had happened, but she could feel that it was right. So, even as she lost her balance and started to topple off the rail, her eyes were fastened on the firey figure above her, and on her face was a small smile.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya sensed the fiends as they circled the ship and watched as five of them landed upon the deck. One stood shorter than the others and carried a spear, that Kaya could tell was made of nothing but pure evil. This fiend looked about, then sneered as his eyes caught Kaya's. "YOU! You will weep at my feet this day Hunter and I will show you pain beyond your imagination." The fiend leader then charged the demon hunter. Kaya's voice held strong, she said nothing to the demon in response, knowing she needed to keep the chant going in order to save the others and keep their minds clear. A'lanthear, you will need to fight, as you did before, but this time I am ready for it.

Yes Mistress, we will defeat this beast and show them they are no match for those who dare to confront us. A'lanthear began to glow once more; Kaya could feel the power well up inside of her, her voice stronger, louder, her body lean and hardened for the fight. The demon let out a scream, but it did not frighten Kaya. She lept forth and A'lanthear rose up to meet the demon's spears downward arc. Sparks flew as the two weapons met.

The demon hissed in distaste as the sparks that landed on him seared his leathery skin. "YOU think you are so powerful Hunter, I shall show you what true power is. You think you felt the evil when you were possessed, you felt nothing then, nothing but scraps of terror. I will capture you and show you what true horror is. You will wish you were dead a thousand times over." Kaya kept chanting, A'lanthear's glow almost to full force now. The light made the demon wince, but not falter. "What, you have nothing to say but that silly chant? It does nothing and I will rip your voice from your throat!" The demon swung a clawed hand at Kaya, his speed surprising. She pulled back enough to only get glancing scratches from his attempt.

Kaya relaxed her body and let A'lanthear take charge. She hated to do this, she wanted to fight the demon on her own, but knew she had to keep the chant going, it was doing good, she knew it. She could hear a chorus of voices helping her own. We will succeed! Kaya lunged at the demon and the two of them fought, weapons clashing together in a hail of sparks and profanities from the demon. Then in a burst of energy, the demon set forth an attack of such speed and force, pushing Kaya back to the edge of the deck. A'lanthear, in a burst of light and magic, set back against the demon, matching its speed and ferocity. Anyone watching could only see a blur of attacks between the two. Every attack the fiend pushed forward was met with a counter attack that pushed him back. It was then the fiend leader spat out a command and brought one of his flying minions down into the frey. The flying demon was cocky but slow, as the fiend leader stepped back for a moment, the other dove in to attack.

Everything was a blur to Kaya, and though she was aware of a second target now, she did not know which one A’lanthear was fighting. It took all she had to keep her chanting going. "Come now Hunter," The new demon hissed, "you surely must be tired of all this, You god is nowhere to be found, it is only you and I now, you know you will succumb to me, you are lost and alone, being a hunter only secures your loneliness, give up to us and we will show you pleasure beyond belief, give up and join us, fight for the more powerful side and you will be richly rewarded. These mortals don't appreciate you, they know nothing of what you have gone through, but you have felt the power, felt the strength, and you know how it good it tastes." Kaya heard and felt the demons offer; for a moment, it seemed that the voices that were chanting with her stopped and she was alone, alone in a cage once more, waiting to be fed, waiting for a drop of water. Where were they when she was captured, did anyone even care? Kaya's voice weakened for a moment, feeling the strength of these creatures, hearing their offer. But then she saw the faces of the children, the children she had slaughtered under the power of a demon and she screamed out the chant, her voice close to hoarseness. A'lanthear sent forth a burst of magic, magnifying her voice, sending it out over the waves to the other ship even. The voices came back, echoing her chant.

NEVER DEMON. NEVER WILL I SUCCUMB Her thoughts screamed at the beast and her voice cried out over the waves:

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

The demon screeched and once again set forth a flurry of attacks, but did not expect a burst of speed from Kaya and her sword. It rushed down to take advantage of an opening it saw and in return, A’lanthear lunged straight into the demon’s heart piercing it completely. The fiend screeched in agony and burst into flame, quickly turning to a pile of ash landing at Kaya’s feet. But Kaya didn’t even see the ash fall, for A’lanthear had rushed her about ready to take on the fiend leader once more.

The fiend leader grabbed hold of his spear and rushed the hunter. “You dare to defy us Hunter, that was but a lucky shot and I shall not be as foolish.” He pushed forward, keeping Kaya on the edge of the deck, but Kaya and A'lanthear fought back, with equal speed and determination. Once again the demon tried to lash at her throat, trying to silence her, but it did no good, her voice held true and strong. But the demon would not give up gracefully and continued to pummel at the demon hunter. Every burst of speed the demon brought forth was met with increasing speed from the team. Finally the demon broke through and grabbed Kaya by the throat, A’lanthear and the spear pressing firmly agasint one another. Kaya could feel the leathery grip and hated it. But then an idea came to her. Kaya continued to sing, but this time she focused her voice more towards the demon, as if singing only for him.

The fiend screamed, letting Kaya go and backing up away from her. Kaya gripped A’lanthear tighter and they dove towards the demon, striking with a new vigor. The fiend leader brought up up his spear, swinging around to block her attack but mistepped on the deck, tripping over a rope. A’lanthear took advantage of that and brought himself down hard, slicing through a leathery wing. The demon screamed again, this time in physical pain. A’lanthear struck hard and fast, again and again, wearing the demon back against a mast. To Kaya it was still all a blur, but she continued to focus her singing towards the fiend leader, making him hear the words of hope, making him feel their meaning and strength, making him hear all the voices that had now joined in.

Alanthear struck the fiend leader again, this time slicing through a leg, causing the demon to fall to the deck hard. A’lanthear saw his chance and took it, rushing Kaya towards the demon without fear or concern for anything but one goal, death. With a might swing, rushing past the upheld spear and claws and took off the fiend’s head. The head screamed as it fell to the deck, eyes wide in surprise, then the body burst into flames and fell to the deck, slowly burning into ash. Kaya stood panting over the pile of ash, her head spinning, her body sore from the fight. But with a new strength, she bent down and picked up the spear, raising it high in the air, still chanting to give hope to those who were still lost and to show the remaining demon’s that their leader was no more.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen wrenched his sword free and stood to his full height. He spared only a cold smile for his father's dying form. A soft voice called from behind the Elf, "You've already killed him Ardwen; you know he's dead." Ardwen turned to face his "friend", still sitting beneath the knotted branches of the weeping cherry tree.

"Nothing more than the bastard deserved." Said Ardwen. Turning swiftly, he came to face what he was certain was merely another illusion: that of the first friend he had ever made in his long life. "And what of you? Do I have to drive a sword through your heart as well before this facade is over?"

Elerus stood up, stretching and crossing his arms above him as he leaned against the tree. "I had hoped that could be avoided. Besides, you don't have time to waste here, it seems others need you."

"What--" Ardwen began before being cut off by a booming voice that seemed to shake the very firmament of the world.

"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...."

The illusion was crumbling. All around Ardwen the very earth disintegrated, the light of the sky went out, and Ardwen's world was subsumed in darkness. Ardwen searched frantically, not knowing what to expect, but intent on finishing the job of ending the illusion as soon as possible. Ardwen noticed only one thing remained, Elerus was still there, still standing in the darkness. The other Elf seemed to be looking up into the impenetrable darkness above; as if staring at some distant star only he could see.

Ardwen noticed a smile play across his lips, but it was not a smile born of joy. "They are not the only ones . . ." whispered Elerus.

Ardwen strode over to his friend, his steps long and driven by a hard resolve. The warrior still did not know if any of this was real, if any of this could be real, but his heart told him what to do. He grabbed his friend's face along the chin, forcing Elerus to look directly at him. Ardwen's face hovered only inches from his longtime companion and the Blade Weaver spoke his words in dour tones. "I hear you." Said Ardwen, "Know this, it does not matter if this is real or fake, nor what distance separates us, if you need me . . ."

The swordsman trailed off as piercing light returned to the world, in the distance the Elf could hear a rallying battle chant rising and falling on the winds. Ardwen decided that if he did not finish his sentence now, he might never get the chance. "Kimi wo mitsukedasu!" He intoned. The false world, for all in it that might have been true, shattered. Ardwen found himself on the deck of the ship he had boarded to leave Westgale. The ocean was choppy, salty spray licking up the sides of the vessel, and there was a sickly sanguine light in the sky.

It did not take the Elf long to find Ariana. She had climbed onto the railing along the side of the ship and had her arms outstretched toward the sky. Ardwen's feet thumped into the deck as he raced to pull her down from her perch. As he ran toward his Abbess though, he noticed something unusual. The air around Ariana seemed to shimmer and ripple, as if he was watching the scene through moving water. As Ardwen drew closer a wall of force that nearly took his breath away buffeted him. The impact nearly drove him to one knee, but the Elf managed to stumble forward, throwing out his arms to grab hold of his Abbess as she swayed dangerously far forward.

He managed to grab her. Ardwen's arms wrapped about her waist, and the Elf pulled backwards. Both he and his Abbess lost their balance, and as Ardwen's back hit the deck Ariana landed on top of him. "Off! Off!" Ardwen fumed. Then he saw something, a black blur at the edge of his sight. Almost by instinct he grabbed Ariana again, a hand on each shoulder, and pushed her to the side, using his body as a shield. Pain ripped his left shoulder, and a spray of glistening red followed the direction of a grotesquely huge talon as it cut into the Elf's flesh.

Blood dripped down from the wound, splashing softly on both the deck and the white fabric of his Abbess's dress. Ardwen's face was set in a horrible grimace, his eyes shut in pain. "I thought I'd thrown them away." He murmured. The Elf rose to his feet. A demon from the darkest pits alighted on the deck in front of him. It stood nearly a head taller than the Elf, its flesh was the color of rusted iron, and great bat-like wings unfurled from both shoulders. He supposed the creature was male, but it was androgynous to such a degree that it was difficult to tell either way.

Ardwen took a step forward, placing himself between the demon and Ariana. "Move aside." It spoke, its voice surprisingly smooth and clear, "Come not between my prey and I. Yield, and I may spare your life." Ardwen did not move. The creature seemed to sigh, a human emotion distorted to inhumanity on its features. The warrior noted it had one of its arms behind its back, and it brought this arm around and held aloft two swords in the air. Ardwen recognized the blades immediately, for they were his. With an almost careless shrug the demon tossed the two blades aside. The swords spiraled in the air, flashing briefly, before careening into the churning ocean. "You had your chance. Now, we do this my way, slowly, and painfully. I will enjoy seeing you come to regret."

Ardwen crossed his arms in front of him so that one arm's elbow rested against the inner elbow of another. This put his left hand on the right side of his face, and vice versa. Ardwen thought of Elerus, thought of the Hands, thought of all the faces that looked out at him from the past. He knew he could no longer run, no longer hide, for they had bled for him in the past, and raised him up when all others were content to let him fall. "Naruhodo, demo kono tatakai ga awaranai." Ardwen said. As soon as the words left the Elf's lips, twin lights appeared in his hands, each mirroring the other. The light emanated in a conical shape from his hands, brilliant white near his palms while the fringes and rays were a pale pink.

A grid-like pattern formed in the air, outlining the shape of two blades in precise squares the color of the edges of the light. The light faded, but the warrior now held two blades, one white and the other black. The demon took a few steps forward, the deck hissing beneath its talons, before having to dodge swiftly to the side as one of the blades whipped past its head. The creature's eyes narrowed and it noticed the Elf had tossed the white blade, narrowly missing. The demon smirked and moved forward again before a sharp, biting pain, in its left wing gave it pause. One of the Elf's blades had returned, twirling back through the air in a great arc and slicing its wing. Black blood bubbled from the wound and seared the deck as it hit. The demon was not concerned. The wound was superficial and the only reason the Elf had scored the hit was because of a cheap trick. Obviously at least one of the swords could be thrown and would then return to the wielder's hand.

As the demon watched the Elven warrior reached up and caught the tossed blade. The demon's grin grew. Things had just become interesting.

Written by - Vylia

Vylia awoke with a sudden intake of breath, tears flowing down her face, and anger burning in her eyes. The demon had brought all of the pain back... her time after being kidnapped, her lost child, the days of unending pain when The Turning occurred, physical pain, emotional pain, and a reminder of the torment her soul had taken. She could feel something was still very wrong here, the demon may have been banished from her mind but the feeling that there was still more to come wouldn't leave her.

The next thing she noticed was that Ariana was not in her bed, and Turin was passed out beside it instead. She rushed over to him, checking for wounds, and upon finding none checked for a pulse. It was there, still strong, but he wouldn't wake no matter what she did. Perhaps he was exhausted as she had been, though his skin had taken on a sickly white hue. Vylia knew there was nothing she could do for him right now, she would need all of the energy she could call on to fight the evil that was coming closer to the ship with every second. She picked up her swords, that she had foolishly left belowdecks when the pirates had attacked, and headed for the main deck.

Vylia heard Archeantus' shout for Ardwen, though if anything else had been said she missed it. She looked to the left quickly, noting Ariana's precarious position, and Ardwen already running to her aid, but she also saw the demon diving toward him and knew that if they collided Ardwen would never reach her in time and the demons would win. But that didn’t come to pass, as Ardwen lunged forward, despite the buffeting winds to grab Ariana about the waist and pull her back to the deck, then throw her off him just in time to avoid her being hurt by the demon’s attack. Vylia stared in amazement as Ardwen called forth twin blades of magic akin to her own and launched the white blade at the demon before it curved back to slice across it’s skin, blood bubbling on the deck. All of this occurred in what seemed to be slow motion before Vylia came back to her senses and saw the other demon diving for the Abbess.

Vylia charged at the demon, borrowing Ardwen's manuever and throwing her shortblade in the demon's path causing it to pull up from it's dive to avoid being skewered. The demon turned to regard her with a growl as her sword sailed over the railing and into the depths of the sea, but Vylia did not slow until she stood before the Abbess, her longblade clutched in both hands before her. She heard the fight between Ardwen and the demon behind her begin in earnest and she smiled at the horror before her, "Come demon, feel the bite of my blade and die a quick death. Your master may be beyond my abilities, but you are not." Vylia turned her head slightly toward Ariana, "Abbess, you may wish to get below decks before things get out of hand."

Written by - Ariana

She was aware of a very brief but familiar sensation of weightlessness, as if she had returned to life before she had been forced into this body. But the sensation was gone before she could enjoy it as rough hands seized her around the middle, yanking her back from the Void and into the world of hard forms once again.

A gasp of air was expelled from her lungs as she landed on top of …. something, and then was roughly pushed to the side. Now that this form she had been given no longer ached constantly, she found herself rather annoyed with the rough handling, and she started to squirm. It took her several moments to realize that the aura she felt sliding against her skin like oil was the same one she had clung to before. The darkness she had felt pulling at her before was considerably diminished now, and she wondered at the change.

The person rose, and she pushed herself up behind him. Details that had before been hazy to her light deprived eyes were now crystal clear, though the sounds that surrounded her were muffled and strange. She took in a sharp breath as she stood amazed at the wonders that surrounded her. Lights flashing, colors contrasting with one another, and moving creatures of wonder in every size and shape she could imagine spread out before her, a veritable cornucopia for her senses. Her fingers practically itched to explore.

She has just stretched out a hand and taken a half-step forward towards a rust-colored, angular creature that had wings not unlike her feathered friends from earlier, when her attention was diverted by the sudden arrival of a second person. This one she did not recognize and she did not understand the sounds it seemed to be directing towards her. Unsure of what she was supposed to do, she responded with the only words she knew.

“No,” she said in a voice that was little more than a whisper that was quickly carried away upon the wind. Vocal cords, unused for centuries, struggled to meet the demands their owner placed upon them. “Stay,” she added, a curious gleam entering into her eyes.

Convinced she had responded properly, she lost interest in talking, and instead honed in on the latest thing to capture her attention. Carefully, with one finger, she gently reached up and stroked the small triangle of flesh peeking out from under a mass of blonde hair. Marveling at its softness and enjoying the feel immensely, she gave a raspy, dry-throated giggle, and reached out to repeat her action.

Written by - Vylia

"No," Vylia barely heard the whisper, and wasn't sure if she really had until Ariana spoke again, "Stay." She was about to argue the point when she felt Ariana lightly stroke the tip of her ear, but before she could respond the demon was upon her. She knew she couldn't sidestep it, for that would leave Ariana directly in its path, so instead Vylia waited until the last instant before stepping slightly out of the claw's path before placing one hand on the flat side of her blade and shoving the hand away from both herself and Ariana. "Lady Ariana, if you must stay here, then please do not distract me." The demon grinned down at her, "You can't beat me if you keep trying to protect the girl... Leave her and you mortals shall live another day." Vylia went at the demon with a wide swing to test it's speed, which it easily block with it's clawed hands, sparks flying from the claws like little suns. "After all the trouble we went through to get her back, you think we'd leave her to the likes of you now? Besides, who wants to live forever?" Vylia grinned as she began a quick series of stabs and slices at the demon, forcing it on the defensive and giving herself several paces between the fighting and Ariana, allowing full movement on her part.

"If you wish to die, then I shall grant that wish. You should have stayed trapped in our illusions, by the time I get through with you, you shall be begging for mercy!" The demon accented its point by beginning it's own barrage of attacks, and Vylia was hard pressed to keep up with her one remaining sword slashing back and forth, always stopping the claws only inches from her skin. "I spent twenty years being tortured by people who thought they could cure the sin of even one's race if they tried hard enough. Nothing you can come up with scares me in the slightest. They liked fire too, myself I prefer the sun… Rama Surinen," and to the demon's surprise it found its claw stopped not by the longblade, but by the short one that Vylia had thrown overboard. Its surprise only increased as she slashed the longblade across the demon's chest and the skin burned away even though it knew itself immune to fire. With a howl it backpedaled even further from the treacherous elf, clutching one hand to its chest. "All life is sacred demon, even yours. This is your last chance to leave." "Never! And for this wound you shall suffer a thousand years of torment in my master's dungeons!" With a mighty yell it launched itself forward, striking at her with such fury that even with both her blades Vylia was kept on the defensive, dodging as much as she could, for every parry left her arm tingling from the force of the blows.

Vylia glanced behind her slightly, a worried expression on her face as she realized the demon was pushing her back toward Ariana. She accepted the next hit, dodging slightly to the side so the claws merely grazed her arm instead of gouging out a chunk of her flesh, and used the opening it presented to slice off a pair of the demon's fingers from it's right hand, her longblade flaring as it once again touched demonic flesh. It was then that both Vylia and the demon she was fighting noticed Kaya holding the dark spear aloft, the demon's attack faltered and Vylia did not hesitate as she drove both of her blades into it, her longblade piercing it's heart and bursting forth with a light almost as bright as the sun as it sprouted out of the thing's back. The creature promptly burst into ashes, settling in a pile upon the deck. Vylia raised her shortblade in salute to Kaya just as she was shoved to the deck from behind…

Written by - Talonmane

The two amphibians easily grabbed into the wooden hull, climbing in an undulating fashion and heaving themselves over the port rail and onto deck of the mortal's small vessel. They were not demons, but things of myth that were said to serve the immortal infernal. Sailors tales called them Merchas, for reason lost to time. As other mers the upper body was humanoid, but in their case, the lower was thick, long, and eel-like, with a tall fin running along the length of the upper surface. The upper half was twice large than the torsos of Men, smooth and slick and featureless on the front, and scaled as thick as heavy armor on the back. The arms ended in over-large, webbed claws, and a second pair of arms just below the first were presented as thick tentacles precisely like the main pair of a squid: long and whip-like, but with a wide oval at the tip with many suckers. With no real neck, the thickness of body went right into the head, which was shark-like, and could not bend forward very far to look ahead when it 'stood' on solid ground; instead, it had to turn the head to one side as much as it could to lay an eye on what was before it. On land it did not have the agility in the upper body to lunge with the great jaws, depending instead on using its four arms to bring a foe close. Nor could it slither very quickly on a surface. But its body and arms were nimble in reaction. The creatures were coloured a milky pale on the fore, and a very dark greyish brown on the rest. The vessel perceptably listed under the arrival, for they were denser, heavier than appearance would suggest.

The fiend still in orbit saw them come aboard and flew in behind them, hovering out of reach. "You! you have no stake here. Begone, before you find the heat too much to bare and your soft carcasses dry and crack and split open to pour your guts to the fish that are normally your only victims..."

In return, one of them turned to face the winged one, its tentacles lashing out and missing as the fiend pulled just out of range, water droplets spraying and steaming upon the hot flesh. In a voice exceedingly deep, and as if a growl echoed in a vast cavern, it retorted, "This is our world, imp! We act as we please, and your Lord will need to deal with ours to gain the prize." It pointed a gnarly finger at the fiend and continued, "The bargain is this: turn over the traitor Harpy, and you can take the woman. Otherwise, she comes with us!" it said, twisting it's hand then to use a thumb to indicate Ariana as the subject of its speech. The mercha squinted the one eye it kept trained upon the demon, and displayed a fierce intent. "Be a good dog now and go tell your master." Then it folded its arms, as if to wait.

The other new arrival gyrated slowly toward Ariana, and found both Vylia and Kaya in its way, and a fiend on deck that had just attacked Vylia and shoved her down. Ignoring the demon, it spoke, "Land walkers, I bring greetings from the Children of Mercherasul. We invite all of you for an extended stay in L'Rhyhae, where the imps cannot threaten you. You will have to undergo certain...changes...however, to withstand the Deep. But there is great reward to be found serving our Lady, or her consort, the Lord Leviathan. I can assure you a future of victory over your tormentors, and your House in time might come to rule a country again...in Her name. Refuse...," and the creature widened its jaws and flexed its limbs under an intense show of threat, bringing to mind that of both a shark and a bear, before once again relaxing to give a rather calm impression, "....and be devoured."

The fiend on deck hesitated...whom should it attack first, it wondered?

****

Angelus flew at the incoming meteor still hundreds of feet above the 'Hammer. Ahead of the elemental the air wavered in layers just before impact.

The harbour and 30 miles around it were lit brighter than day. The fireball detonated and expanded in a searing luminsence and with a noise explosively great, and shockwaves that temporarily took the air from ships sails. No debris fell, as apparently anything solid in the meteor was disintegrated in the blast. It continued to glow, dissipating only slowly, the light and heat fading, all but at the center...

****

The Wavehammer was not much slowed, gliding on as Bragni's sailors worked to get the wind back in the canvas between cheers and breathless relief.

"Yes! yes, me hearties, our prayers were strong! Now hold yer places, and remember that. Were plowin' down the mouth o' Hell now - dunnae look up, just stay t'yer duties. Marlie, tell the lads to fire!!" The ship was closing with their foes now, less than 500 feet from the point where Hrulga and Adramelech floated 400 feet of the water. Munchadin steered them slightly to starbaord, opening up the line of sight for Kildef to fire from the port-aft light ballista. The dwarf barked out his name, exuding an absolute confidence that the job would be done and well, "Kildef!"

In the past minute the Ranger tried to convince himself that the lives he cared for balanced upon this shot. He succeeded.

The harpoon lanced out with a heavy twang, and all else seemed so silent. The rope at Kil's feet fed out and out, streaming into the sky. The shaft of the bolt spun, and in so doing released the strings that held a wrapped net. The air caught in the loosening material and it began to billow.

The demon smirked at the incoming shot, as well as the one he saw rising up from a Doledrun vessel beneath him. Hrulga crowed and looked quite pleased to have to opportunity to show again how futile Munchadin's efforts were. But this expression fell then into a dark realization, and she felt herself as if in a pit alone. She scanned the area, looking about for the source of her fear as her face contorted further into hideous expectation of being thwarted.

From the Southwest at the surface of the harbour a smokey cloud rolled back and Gossamer Wing sprinted out. At her prow, where the crew of the 'Hammer saw the figure stand once before, a secreted person spun about to let an outer cloak toss away, and a staff of long, ancient wood raised and took light. A heavy gray owl perched behind screeched with surprising volume. The ropes and harpoons from Munchadin's three ships glowed in a hue of green.

"AACKAAWHH! You! Not YOU!"

FUMP! came the sound of Kildef's harpoon as it punched through the Harpy's side just below her right ribs. Its net had unfurled behind it and now covered the witch, sealing her in a green cage. She screamed and cried, and tore at the material to no avail.

Next to her, the shot from the Rennafont came at the demon, but Adramelech was fast enough to catch the bolt as it passed through his magical defenses. His left hand smoked as the flesh encountered the strange fibrous material, and he realized then what he was dealing with. In rage he grasped the rop and began reeling it in, intent on having his way with the Doledrun ship. He didn't see the harpoon from the OathFather ascending from behind...

Marlie watched and her breath caught in her throat, and hope was dashed as the bolt missed and proceeded to complete its arc down toward the water.

Adramelech, try as he may could not set the rope aflame. But this he expected since he knew of its special properties. So he pulled taught and let the ship below think that even though they missed, they still kept him busy. And he reached above the clouds once more for a fiery doom to rain down to the vessel that was now stilled and could not escape.

The person at the prow of the elven frigate, clearly now female in form, but whose face was still hooded, held her staff aloft and sung. The notes were long and beautiful, and both the clouds and harbour to the North - not far behind where the demon and harpy hovered -began to spin in a slow vortex. In the midst of the sky between cloud and water, a rushing of wind occured, and what looked to be a localized storm materialized and grew. Lightning cracked and flashed from on high into the apex of this storm, and a funnel of seawater from below and cloud from above both met there, in a magnificent show.

The woman's singing reached a crescendo, and at the strike of another lightningbolt, a sphere of power exploded outward, and all of the weather phenomena displayed coalesced immediately and sharply and all was quiet. In glory, stretching his limbs and feeling reknewed, his lighthouse beam eyes falling upon Adramelech and Hrulga...Aquanimbulos had returned.

Written by - Archeantus

The nightmare had begun. He could sense the powerful beings had arrived as they had in his vision. More would come, yet still his attention was focused on what would happen high above them in the tumultuous sky.

He could hear his friends and comrades engage the nightmarish enemy, but he could not stray his mind away from Angelus. Something was happening to her that was highly peculiar, she was receiving strength from multiple sources...

"Who...could...?" The warlock whispered.

The moment she struck the meteor he lowered his head in silent hope. He heard the large explosion, felt a wave of heat.

And felt nothing...

His breath stood silent as he realized she was gone.

He began to shake, feeling a long lost anger build.

"No..." He repeated again and again.

The odds began to stack against him, all his hopes and dreams crumbled and there seemed to be nothing he could do about it.

The anger took hold and he screamed, ripping the blindfold from his head revealing a ghastly red scar across his deadened eyes. His wet gray hair clung around his anguished face.

The scar was a price he'd paid in Aerynth, a sacrifice for not following them to this world long ago. Coming back to them was a further price. His youth had long been spent reaching them. Now his treasured companion, in many ways his sight within his blindness, had been taken from him. What more could he give? Kneeling there, hearing his friends battle, their fate falling out of his trembling hands, he screamed further and took the medallion of his god within them.

Clutching the triskellian, shaking in sheer desperation and anger and rage, he was about to rip the gold necklace from his neck, the very faith that had carried him for so long, when he heard a stern voice whisper deep within him.

It said one word, and said no more. When he heard it he knew it was as much a reprimand as it was a show of love.

His head lifted, and he stood.

For all the things he could have been told, it was the least likely. He had seen nothing of this in the vision the demon has shown him. The All-Father could see further. And so totally devoid of understanding why, he did what he'd been commanded, a directive from the All-Father himself and left his friends in dire need there on the deck of the Far Seas Call.

"Fly..."

Launching himself into the air through his grief and pain, channeling his mind, he rapidly gained altitude.

It was in that moment something strange happened.

His sight returned to him, a blessing born of obedience. It shocked him and he nearly faltered in his upward flight.

For the first time in ages, he saw the world as he had remembered it. It was as exquisite as it was painful for he knew that all could be lost in the next few precious moments. Nothing however could prepare him for what he saw. Looming over him two powerful beings, a large demon lord and his cohort towered in the reddened skies, wind and lightening raging about them.

He suddenly looked down now, peering at the few small vessels and even smaller inhabitants that now fought for their lives. It was then he heard a few small ballista fire and watched as small harpoons made their way up toward the massive beings, one from the Wavehammer, more from the others. The first expanded into a net and landed within the Harpy's hide, who seemed to let out a cry of shocked dismay.

Archeantus glided watching the moves his friends made, making slow realizations as his anger slowly subsided.

The Demon Lord made a deft movement and grabbed one of the harpoons out of the air, seeming to laugh, yet finding something strange about what he held.

The other harpoon sailed past him, missing its mark...and fell back toward the sea...

In a sudden realization the old warlock knew the purpose of the divine command he'd received.

"Winds and Faith don't fail me now..." He said as he darted across the sky, a small speck to those above and swooped, unknown to the Demon Lord, downward in a large arc to retrieve the falling harpoon.

Stealing the harpoon from the sky, he held it in his hands and looked back up at the Demon Lord Adramelech.

"You won't see this coming. You'll pay for her death." He said, still feeling the anger boil inside him.

Arcing back, he cut through the wind flying upward now, his tattered gray robes whipping in air. Moving out and away, coming from behind the Demon Lord, the small warlock was now above him. Pausing a moment, he resolved his course and dove in as fast as the wind allowed, the harpoon gripped firmly ahead of him, it's sharp point aimed for the Demon's exposed back.

The Demon Lord detected the flying Warlock at the last moment and suddenly twirled around to swipe his powerful arm at his assailant. Archeantus had prepared himself for such a moment and changed his course, spinning quickly underneath the Demon's arm to pass behind him. Stopping suddenly in mid flight, finding himself with his opportunity, he raised the harpoon, and with all his might, and thrust it into the Demon's back.

Great pain entered into the warlock's body as the harpoon's spear entered. He screamed yet held on with everything he had, waves of heat burning his body, his mind straining to hold on to his very soul.

It was only seconds, and he fell unconscious falling rapidly to the sea, and to death...

Written by - Ardwen

"Such a paltry trick will not change your fate Elf." The demon hissed as it circled around Ardwen. The Elf did not reply; instead the warrior simply kept in step with the winged beast. Ardwen was focused now on the footwork, trying to make sure his foot was the one on the outside of their two circles so as to give him the advantage of reach with his blades. The demon was not content to wait and dove in at the warrior, driving two clawed hands forward, one high and one low to throw the Elf off.

But, Ardwen recognized the movement. Instead of trying to strike back against one hand he pivoted the sword in his left hand so that the sword faced down, holding the other blade upright, the demon's twin attacks met two blades. Sparks were born as Ardwen parried the demon's attack, and the sound of hardened fingernails scratching against steel shot through the air. The demon pulled back uninjured, but it did not pause. It aimed a baleful hand at the Elf's head, and as Ardwen raised a blade to block it, it launched its other fist at the warrior's exposed ribs. The second blade once again frustrated it as the swordsman held it perpendicular to his raised arm.

Finally the demon broke off, using its great speed and wings to win some distance between it and Ardwen. The Elf watched as it narrowed its eyes in consternation, and he could feel the demon's focus on him. "How," it spoke. "can you block my attacks so readily?" Ardwen did not know if the thing truly expected an answer, but he was not giving one in any case. He wanted it to believe that the last two blocks had been out of sheer ease of reading its movements. They weren't. The demon had so far thrown a double-strike and a simple combination, and the attacks were very similar to those used by Sundancers (fierce unarmed and inhuman warriors themselves from Aerynth). Ardwen had been guessing, taking gambles of calculated risks.

The Elf knew that those who fought unarmed with any great skill had a style, and the demon was no exception. The basics were always the same. However, Ardwen realized he had not yet truly challenged the creature either. The warrior knew he had to go on the offensive and gain the initiative in the fight. Ardwen leapt forward and brought both his blades to bear against the pit-spawn. These were not the fluid strikes of Bladeweaving that drove Ardwen's two blades. Instead, the Elf moved the two blades in tight circles, driving in his attacks mainly from the side. As brand struck claw the fight continued at a furious pace. The demon's blows sent shudders down the warrior's arm, yet Ardwen found the skill in each blow more frustrating. The demon knew how to control its strikes, never over-committing, and whenever Ardwen would rotate an elbow or wrist to bring a blade to attack, the demon had an interceding claw in answer.

The Blade Weaver had no idea how long the exchange went on, but something finally broke it. Ardwen saw a brief blur of movement just at the edge of his vision. More in instinct than anything else, the warrior jerked he left hand in to block. It was just in time as a roundhouse kick thudded into the Elf's arm. Still, Ardwen was caught ill prepared, and the demon let the kick slide past. The beast's talon hit the deck, putting its back toward Ardwen. The Elf moved in. In response he was knocked off his feet by a backwards thrust kick from the same leg that had thrown the roundhouse. The demon had never fully set it down; it had kept its weight off the leg and waited.

Ardwen saw the turbulent sky above the ship deck, and he greedily sucked down air. Then the frame of the demon filled his vision. It did not kneel down to attack as a human might; it had no need to. With a twisted smile it raised one talon above the Elf, ready to drive it down and gut the prostrate warrior. In desperation Ardwen tossed one of his blades into the air. Amazingly the creature contorted itself out of the path of the whirling blade, and it sailed harmlessly by. Still, the creature did not attack; instead it lowered its wicked talon and glanced upward. It spoke, and its voice was now calm and condescending, "I know it will return." The demon spoke true, even as it finished speaking it moved, and Ardwen's sword once more missed its body.

Then Ardwen tossed the other blade. The demon, however, had read the movement, and though it had to shift feet it managed to dodge the blade. It raised a bestial talon again and prepared to end the fight. It was caught on both sides as the two blades found purchase in its foul flesh. Ardwen's eyes tightened and his mouth set into a smirk. The other blade had followed its mate, as they were supposed to. As it was still in midair it had moved to follow its oppositely colored companion. The demon had been caught in a pincer, foot raised and unbalanced, and its blood now sizzled and hissed as it poured from the two deep wounds.

The warrior sprang to his feet and reached forward, with an intentional twist of the imbedded blade he removed one of his swords from the demon's gut. The other sword ripped out of the demon's flesh in response and returned to Ardwen's hand. The demon crumpled to the deck, and its body began to burn and singe into ash. Ardwen took both of his blades and threw them at the same time. They fluttered through the air. The two blades, both black and white, plunged into the demon a second time. The harbor was lit like daylight for a brief instance, and Ardwen heard a mighty boom resound through the air somewhere far above him. The boat listed slightly. However, as the fire that devoured the hell-spawn expired, the two blades were nowhere to be seen, and all that remained was a pile of flaky ash that reeked of charcoal.

Written by - Talonmane

"We both know I'm bound to inform my lord, not that it is at any command of yours to be a messenger, you stinking whale-food. You have no idea what you've stumbled into here, and I'll be happy to explain on our future battlefield. For now, I indeed go to bring word of your slimey involvement. And watch the mortals. They're likely as not to make a clamy stew out of the likes of you..." And the fiend sailed off and up toward Adramelech.

The mercha turned to join his partner in speaking to the humans, who were now joined by Ardwen who had just downed his foe.

"M'rhoe, you are too quick to fall into sharky instincts, all teeth and no wit. Forgive us, worthy land-striders. I am Jh'roros of L'Rhyhae, and we represent our Lady Mercherasul. We wish you no harm this day - quite the contrary - we want only what you do: for the woman there to be left unharmed, and the fire-demon's plans to come to naught. If you choose to not return with us, you put yourselves at continuing risk - and not just yourselves, but us all who are legitimate inhabitants of this world. As long as that woman is in the open, unguarded by great power, Adramelech and even others of equal or greater intent may come to rule us all. Come. Let us show you the Iridescent Pearl of the Deep, magnificent L'Rhyhae!"

"Jh'roros, you are too patient with them. Look at the ash...these are rebellious and independantly-minded. Mere offers will not bring them. You are foolish." Said the M'rhoe, who absent-mindedly picked pieces of fish and bone from his 3 rows of many teeth between sentences.

"Pay no heed to my assistant here, the blood in the air has fouled his reason."

The fiend on deck who had pushed Vylia and who had been listenting to this exchange backed up one step, and still seemed very unsure as to who to attack. He knew he had not the faculties to out-talk the amphibians - he was a soldier, not an ambassador. So, he continued to back up slowly and take in the scene, all the while watching Ariana, and hoping to make his move...they only needed to get her off the ship and into the air...one quick swoop and...

Written by - Agmund

The dwarven skeleton crashed through the canopy just behind the center beam, and a mere couple of feet from the shaman. The old dwarven warrior followed right behind, with one hammer raised high and to the right, and the other low and to the left. His legs were poised in a similar manner, and his battle cry was a silent scream of emotion.

Within his eyes one could see the countless battles of his for-fathers: the oath takers in a delicate dance of death. They fought to push forward; one generation of elders after the next, in rows of glimmering mail. Always they fought, but always they fell. From many, to a few, then finally to one, and though badly bloodied the one struggled until the last breath escaped his lungs. He fought madly, gasping for air until at last he too was dead.

Time after time they pushed to take the bridge. Fighting pitched battles amongst a sea of enemies, they fought with all they could muster to reach the other side; but none ever did. In what would seem to be senseless and needless death, came the honor of giving the enemy one last shout; one last glorious charge.

Throrgrum’s hammer struck the wrinkly wretch in the shoulder, and the momentum behind it forced the shoulder blade down into its innards at a deadly angle. The shaman: who was obscured by the draping canopy, made a croaking sound, but it was barely audible above the unceremonious landing of the dwarf.

His left leg had given way behind his eagerness to push the hammer as deeply as it could go into the body of the shaman. This caused him to end up in a sideward spin, though uncontrolled, which sent him rolling off the litter and crashing face first between the bridges railing and two ogres. Morthand, however, managed to land right beside the dead shaman, and on both feet. He brandished a long sword in his right hand and a large round shield on his left arm. Realizing rather quickly that the shaman was already dead, and that Throrgrum was in trouble, he screamed out “AAAAHHHH! Face me! FACE ME!”

A cacophony of sound erupted into the air and the foul host marching across the bridge turned their attention to the commotion. Taskmasters of various ugliness shouted orders, mostly to kill, but one above them seemed the loudest. With the situation becoming apparent to the orcs and ogres closest to the scene, it was that same voice that they headed.

“Alive! Take them alive!” shouted a somewhat small orc at the front of the still raised litter. Throrgrum had just shaken off the sting when the orc slapped an ogres leg “Down scum down!” That sent the massive ogres into action and they moved as quickly as an ogre could to lower the litter to the bridge.

“Fight em’ lad! Fight em’ till ye can fight em’ no more!” Throrgrum roared loudly as he regained his senses. Morthand responded with a battle cry that nearly brought a tear to Throrgrum’s eye. Indeed, as the gray bearded dwarf raised himself to one knee and prepared to swing his hammer into the leg of an ogre, he could see the man leap into action. He leapt onto the very supporting beams the ogres carried, and once there he wasted no time in slamming his blade down deeply into the spine of a massive brute.

Throrgrum almost stepped outside of himself to watch the human; the man he considered his own son. For the dwarf everything had slowed down. His eyes went from uncertainty to confidence: his heart from sadness to acceptance. This would be their end, but he could see no better end than to perish here, in battle beside his son, upon the bridge of his father’s blood.

The old dwarf growled “That’s it son!” and dropped one hammer, gripping instead the hammer of his clan in both hands. He swung it with all he had into the kneecap of the ogre beside him. This, however, caused a cascading effect, that Throrgrum did not anticipate. The litter was in the process of being lowered to the ground, but because the system holding it aloft was complex, it meant that the ogres had to lift the supporting beams off to either side of the wooden blocks.

Now that the weight of the litter was no longer suspended upon the stout bodies of eight ogres, but rather precariously in their moving arms, the father and son had upset the balance by removing two of them from the equation. The effect gained momentum quickly. The ogre that perished by the sword slumped to the bridge, leaving the large blocks held in place by the steel rods to crash into his body. While the ogre who met with the hammer howled in agony, tossing the supporting beam off his shoulder. All of this culminated in the litter falling quickly at a sharp angle towards the side of the bridge.

It was all Morthand could do to keep his balance upon the beam, and while he struggled for his footing, Throrgrum was shuffling rapidly underneath the litter in an attempt to come out on the other side before it fell. The dwarf emerged just in time to meet a wall of orcish spears, with the taskmaster leering in front.

Written by - Ariana

The object of her attention moved quickly away from her, and her arm dropped down by her side as her lips pursed in a pout. Everywhere she happened to glance, people seemed to be playing with the large feathered creatures, and some new slithery, wormy ones, and no one wanted to play with her. Her pout turned into a frown, and she moved away from the blonde and stepped closer to her dark-haired friend.

The boat suddenly tipped sharply, and her bare feet slipped in the small puddle of red, viscous liquid collecting on the smooth boards of the deck. Her feet shot out from beneath her, and her hip smacked hard into the planking. The pain dazed her for a moment, and she sat there, one hand rubbing the injury, the other propping her up, as the fabric of her dress acted like wicking and soaked up the red liquid.

As the ache dissipated, she became aware of a slick wetness on her fingers. Bringing both hands into view, she stared of the redness that coated them. She rubbed her fingers together, watching in fascination as the liquid smeared across her skin. The sight of it stirred something inside of her, the merest hint of a memory, as if she had been coated in this substance before. She brought her hands to her nose and sniffed the substance, and then cautiously stuck one finger in her mouth.

The salty, metallic taste exploded on her tongue, and she grimaced as she tried to spit the taste out. She knew this taste. It was one with which she was intimately familiar. It was the taste of pain. She did not know how she knew this, and whenever she tried to push the knowledge, her head ached with the effort.

As she continued to spit the pain out of her mouth, the world exploded with a great noise and a blinding flash of light. She jerked with surprise, and once the light faded, her eyes searched the sky, desperately seeking something. She found it, and quickly rose, eyes never leaving the light in the sky. Unbidden, tears began to track down her face. Her quick taste of blood had opened the link she had long ago sealed away, and she was acutely aware of the pain around her. It roiled and bubbled inside her much like a storm-darkened and frothy sea.

Tears still streaming, she opened herself up to the opposite of pain. Arms stretched out to the sides, she let it flow through her, around her, and towards the sky. This time, there was no explosion as she called the power, desperate to stop the aching turmoil around her. Instead, there was a gentle shimmer of light and comforting warmth that expanded and continued to expand around her until it reached the sky.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya stopped her chanting and growled. She could still hear the words going on around her and was pleased. But she was not pleased with what was in front of her. She listened to the offer the shark like creatures made with a grimmace. When they finished, she raised A'lanthear and pointed it towards the speaker. "You smooth words mean nothing to me. I cannot speak for my comrads but as for me, I would never serve you or your mistress." Kaya was about to charge in to fight once more, when a soft warm glow encompassed her, making her anger and pain fade away instantly. She looked back and saw the remaining demons blasted back off the ship by the glow, while the shark monsters looked merely annoyed. She stood there wondering for a moment, what was going to happen next.

Written by - Vylia

Vylia turned herself over quickly after she was knocked to the deck, but stayed there just as stunned as the demon that was standing over her when the serpentlike creatures pulled themselves to the deck. She was unsure what side they were on, and given the current fight would probably have attacked them if one hadn't said they weren't there to fight them. She bounded back to her feet, intent upon the being she knew was hostile, smiling mid-jump when she was hit with the holy energy. She knew the feel of that spell, and knew it meant Ariana was recovering, it did nothing but reinforce her sense of duty to protect the woman. The force of the spell was strong enough to shove the demon over the railing, forcing it to work it's wings quickly to keep from falling into the sea.

Vylia tskked, mentally admonishing herself for taking so long to get up and allowing the demon to escape, even though it was forced off the ship under no choice of it's own. With a sigh and shake of her head she walked across the deck to stand beside Ariana once more, regarding the new arrivals with a bit of suspicion now that she had some time to think more on what they said and registered what Kaya herself had replied. "I think we all shall pass on that offer. We have our own allegiances to stick to, and your Lady is not amongst them. Pandarrion and Brialla guide my course, and I do not feel any urging from them to follow you into the depths." Vylia looked around the ship, to the dwarves still singing, and into the skies above at the demons still hovering there and smiled knowingly, "I think we have this event well in hand, even with the Demon Lord left far above us, our faith shall see us through." Even so she did not put her blades away, and held them ready in case any of the demons suddenly got brave.

Written by - Turin Wallace

Turin heard Archeantus' voice calling to him, and he was finally free of his dream-like state. Except, these were no dreams or nightmares, they had been real. Feeling the soft hands that cradled his head, he looked up to see Purgi holding him, her eyes wide with concern. He let his eyes glance at his right hand and a fresh cut was evident.

Looking back up, he asked softly,

"Are we out of danger yet?"

Purgi just shook her head, meaning no. Turin cursed,

"Damn. Well, someone needs to keep their end of the bargain."

A brilliant light burst forth into the room.

Minutes later, Turin strode out from the room, careful to lock the door behind him. Making his way to the deck, he found chaos and carnage all around. A feeling of sadness welled up inside of him, as he thought, "If it is to be my future, this madness, then for my friends I shall bear it gladly."

Seeing Ariana standing on deck, he caught a momentary glance, her eyes were not as cloudy as they once were. There was hope. To Turin, he felt the crushing effects of those who have none, envious of those who now do. Though the battle was fierce, though others had paid the ultimate price, his friends and allies retained that spark that would drive them forward.

Shaking these thoughts from his mind, he could see the Merchas striding upon deck. He had heard their demands, but when they saw him, he could tell they saw what he had become.

Before either could react or speak, one of the hovering fiends lashed out at Turin, distracting him from the new creatures on deck.

"So, you think you can stop us?! Think again fool of a man!"

The fiend lashed out at him with a whip, as is if completely calculated, Turin instinctively grabbed at it. Such an infernal weapon would normally singe and burn mortal flesh, but as Turin held it taught, struggling against the raw power the fiend possessed, it's eyes lit up. It saw him clearly, and began to say,

"Our master has been betr..."

Turin yanked hard upon the weapon, and the fiend crashed hard into the deck. Deftly wrapping the whip about it's neck, Turin choked the life from the demons body, the job being done once it's body began to smolder and reduce down to ash.

Looking back at the Merchas, Turin vaguely says,

"An infernal prince once performed a service for your Lady and Lord. Remember it, and leave this place."

The Merchas hissed and howled, they knew what he had mentioned, though to someone outside it would seem just an odd statement. The lead Merchas replied,

"So he did, mortal. We have not heard your name before, but know this; we look forward to many more encounters with you. These rather droll winged fiends get so tiring and offer very little in conversation, however you, you may offer us some entertainment.”

As they slithered back into the sea, a chill went down Turin's back. He could not place the odd feeling in his body, he did believe they would meet again, but it was what they considered entertainment that gave him pause. However, Turin had other more pressing thoughts on his mind.

Throwing a glance out towards Adramalech, an odd smile graced his lips, and he once again went below.

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