Selestra 22nd (cont’d)
We reached the grain merchant, and were assaulted by ‘fan’s. No sooner had Asher gone out into the street to meet up with them had a magic net dropped upon the rest of us! A real attack, while we were distracted by the CrIssians. Panic struck, and more people were hurt by the stampede than would have been hit in a crossfire.
Around the street, on the rooftops surrounding the market, appeared over a dozen Gargoyles. The lead one, a particularly ugly brute, yelled over the din of screams and shouts, “I’m gonna get me some CrIsis!’’ Well that’s what I think it said. My Demonic doesn’t cover expletives… and it added a bunch of them in there.
Then, they dove.
Before they reached us, a human child on a flying carpet rushed down to us. “CrIsis! Overkill, Tyvernos! It’s me, Gavin! Hurry, before they get to us! Climb up and let’s get out of here!” Overkill’s demeanor changed, and his eyes became wistful; it had been so long since he’d seen his friend.
Otto released a circle of fire, protecting us from any further attack, and the rest of us set to removing the net. No sooner had we begun that it disappeared. My hackles raised immediately. Magical Nets don’t go down of their own accord…
The Gargoyles reached us, and I ripped a page out of my Wardbook. The page was one of six identical. Several rune words and phrases adorning a wicked-looking circle drawn in black ink covered the page. In the center of the circle, defiantly bold, the symbol for Death sat – A line with a small triangle balanced point-down but at a jaunty angle, and a stylistic crook and sickle sitting on top of it. With a word and a touch the ink shone, as if freshly written. I held it, ready to be hit by one of the swooping Gargoyles. Luckily they’re as stupid as they are ugly, and they slammed into a Diabolist who’s had a chance to reach is Wardbook.
Angry red light exploded from the parchment, and twenty howls of agony rose. My mind calibrated, and I realized that I hadn’t exempted Otto, Gavin, or Kupyr. I hoped that I didn’t kill any of them. The Gargoyles lifted us all off the ground and started to fly us away. Luckily they aren’t very smooth-flying creatures with cargoes, so when I activated my second death ward it activated almost immediately. A second blast of red light washed over the scene, and this time twenty-two screams rose, more blood-curdling and anguished than before. It seemed like the second death ward was my Ace in the Hole, ironically, and it took down twenty-one targets. Every gargoyle sent against us mere moments before plummeted to the ground in the throes of death, carrying CrIsis with them.
I landed with a crash next to the corpses of a toddler and her mother. My heart lurched, though I knew that I saved many more from much worse by ridding the realms of the beasts – not to mention saving our lives, allowing the work of the Gods to continue unhindered.
Overkill landed, unscathed through his Godly Warplate. I got up, and lept over a hundred feet, and slammed deific lightning from my staff into a giant troll astride a dire gryphon. As I battled with Minotalic fury, Overkill stood, and proclaimed to the world that his Gods would not let harm come to him! Magic and foe alike slammed into him, and not a step he took, an austere pillar of stone amid a turbulent stormy sea.
Indaris leapt to his feet with ease, as nothing seemed to touch him. He threw Asher onto his back, and they lifted the rest of CrIsis from the pits of defeat to the peak of success.
One by one, the enemy of Crisis fell, not without harried panic gripping most of CrIsis. Azariel’s body lay unconscious in the street where he fell, and I hurried the fear of death into the enemy’s hearts with horrific feats of physical prowess. At long last, my horns punctured the invisible puppet master behind the whole attack, none other than Lady Daera Kaze, Priestess of Taut.
Our wagon approached the gates of Shinkasa…. Wait.
From Oceanside to Shinkasa… um… Where did we get the wagon filled? What happened during the journey? Huh. See what I mean? Jumpy.
As our wagon approached the Gates of Shinkasa, I saw the shadow of death and decay fall across our path. It was made by an enormous tower, white-washed and compensating for the lack of any possible human decency of the ruling family. I felt the need to go around the capitol city, but we needed to replenish our stores. I stood in the driver’s perch, and spread my arms wide. I proclaimed to the Gatesmen that we were CrIsis, and that no door would be closed unto us, and that they should give us free passage.
No sooner had I said “CrIsis” that a dark cloud of arrows rose from the city walls. ‘Ah, yes. Another city of Taut’s minions, ready to perish!’ I thought; then the screams of, ‘’MINOTAUR AT THE GATES! FIRE!’’ reached my ears. I looked at my outstretched arms, and saw the hairy leather stretched over steely muscle of Xerx’ses’ arms. I sighed to myself.
We made our way through the city’s streets….
What? Oh, yes. I think I remember Tyvernos protecting us with a wall of wind, but I can’t think of how we went from outside the gates, being fired upon, to walking through the city’s streets free of city guards. Either way…
A wagon full of straw blocked the far end of the street, and the alleyways were far too narrow to allow us exit. My hackles rose once more. As soon as it exploded in flame, I grabbed my Wardbook, slammed my hand at the section of Death Wards and activated them. My hand came away slick with ink, but no mar was visible on any of the pages.
I collapsed from exhaustion, and as I drifted off to sleep, I felt a strange sensation… a jolt or something, followed by an ogerish howl. To my surprise indaris’ feet stayed firm in front of me.
I swung my mace at the Ogre’s face. Another troll, astride a gryphon, dove at us. This one hefted a giant polearm, glowing black. Would that be considered anti-glowing? Or Unglowing? Regardless, it sucked the light from around it, and Tyvernos yelled, ‘’Soul Drinker! Ack!’’
Asher waggled his fingers a few times, and the gryphon lost control of itself. The troll threw the Runic Polearm at us, and it landed in the wagon. Before any of us could react, the ground opened up under us, and all but Indaris and Asher landed in the river of lava eating its way through houses on either side of the street.
My minotaur legs froze, and my chest contracted in a silent scream as I slowly sank to the bottom of the magma.
Unseen hands grabbed me and me and hefted us out of it. The charred, barely identifiable remains of an elven body soared seemingly unaided through the air. Arrows pincushioned it as it left all possible range. The half misshapen bovine body came to a rest on the ground next to the Psi-Mystic and the Priest. As my mind processed the agony it went through in the Lava, I had the presence of mind to find the Irony in a Priest casting magic even after all of the magical-class group members were prevented. There must have been the hand of Fate and Luck herself watching that fight.
The pigeon Tyvernos set Azariel’s lifeless form on the ground as I watched helplessly from above. Out of the forest strode Indaris, carrying Overkill’s melted form, and Asher carrying a bald and burnt Xerx’ses, as if on an invisible funeral litter. I could feel the love, greif, and hope like a palpable force washing over the half-destroyed heroes. Days of struggle proved fruitful, and I sat up next to myself, weak but alive.
Thank the gods for magic. I cannot imagine the pain and agony that we would have to go through to recover from that, if we even were able to live past the first few moments.
As I write this I feel in my bones that this was not a simple dream or nightmare, but a horrific vision of our future. Sometimes fate is as unavoidable as the Sun rising each day, but I will do all I can to prepare us for this terror.
>>An excerpt from his Journal, written on Selestra 22nd in the 23rd Year of Emperor Voelkian Itomas II, by Azariel, Apprentice Alchemist. Acolyte of Osiris and the Lady Luck.<<
First Picture Credit: Disney- please don’t sue us.
2nd Picture Credit: PandaJester
3rd Picture from Paolo Cagampan
4th & 5th Picture Credit: Cooltext.com