After taking a breath and the dust finally settles in the room, I take it in more fully. I realize that it truly is a dump. What drives something to wallow in filth and darkness? What warmth and joy can a creature find from a god so cold and cruel as Set or Anubis? No matter. I serve her lovingness, Isis. Mother of Gods. I heal myself by channeling my faith through my Pike of Retribution. The others toss around various potions and scrolls, as it is always better to explore the Island of Set, or any island dedicated to a god of darkness for that matter, at full strength.
No sooner had I gotten to my feet that we hear a RAP RAP RAP at the door. I tense up, though I hope for it to be the crazy elf. Our Centaur throws the couch out of the way, nearly taking out a group member or two, and opens the door – onto a hideously demonic scene. The three shedim from the forest are there past the doorway, standing in the hallway we just cleared, and surrounded by more demons. Holy Light, give me strength.
Karma valiantly strikes the first Shedim in line for destruction, and it runs in fright, past its compatriots. The second evil avian takes its place, to be the target of Alric’s strike, though it instead nicks the equine breast of our paladin, spattering hot blood over the door jamb, sliding down and mixing with the acrid black demon’s blood already on the floor. The shedim sqwaks as it tries to get into the room, but is mown down before fully coming to attack position by our barely fighting strength group, blood spattering several of the recently sated blades and mixing in with the drying blood-stains on the planks underfoot. Alric knocks him unconscious, and the silver dagger I was readying for its eye I loosed at the shedim now wide open behind his fallen comrade. It stuck fast in his chest, air bubbles forming around the wound, and a faint sucking with its terrified gasping barely audible over the sound of battle. It runs off… with my dagger still in it! Blast! Before I have a chance to think about retrieval, the view of the hall is obstructed by a monstrous demon.
Talk of a Baal-rog in the basement brings a visual of a demon family reunion, where this Gallu is the baby brother. What a family resemblance! He stomps in and it looks like he almost slides across the floor, stepping on the unconscious shedim. Gavin rushes him, and attacks, only to retreat almost immediately, leaving a barrier in front of the demon. My skin crawls as my sympathy for the demon – Sympathy for a demon, I know! – makes my skin feel like spider webs are all over me, for that’s what it looks like, the demon fighting invisible restrictions. The Gargoyle follows through the door almost immediately. The Gurgoyles I saw earlier aren’t within sight through the door. We start to hack and slash in a rhythmic, dance of death.
Filled with the resolution from my recent brush with death, and pouring out my soul, worries and fatigue to my god, I yell at the Gargoyle over the din, “GARGOYLE! STOP THIS FOOLISHNESS! What is it that you want? Answer now or forever hold your tongue, or rather we shall hold it for you!!” The gargoyle haughtily slides its gaze from me to its next target. We continue to dance, a swing here, a stab there, and the Gallu finally breaks free of its invisible cage. It strikes out, and I yell, outraged, at the Gargoyle, obscenities in some unknown tongue “VAI PRO INFERNO DA MISERIA!” and make an obscene gesture.
With that, the Gallu yells at Overkill in perfect elven…. though I can’t understand what is said. Realizing the Gallu is probably the leader I say, in a commanding voice, “You are out numbered and outmatched! Call off the gargoyle, and tell us why you press the attack!" in elven with a lemarian lilt, while Tyvernos starts humming “just as soon as I belong…then it’s time I disappear…” and vanishes into thin air. The Gallu ignores me, so I shake my head exasperatedly. “Even though you are a demon, you could have saved yourself… if for just a little while. HAVE AT THEE! Strike true, Alric, my friend!” But before Alric’s strike, he disappears in a huge poof of smoke, dust, and spirit flame, blasted temporary death of a demon. I look at Gavin, and he smiles back, a mischievious little grin. Psy-magic and trickeries! I am so glad he’s not more of a prankster.
Alric pushes the charge out into the hall, and calls back, “THERE BE MONSTERS IN THE HALLS!" I rush out the door behind the mind-mage, nearly tripping over his short-legged advance. Once free of the chop-block, I thrust my 16 foot rod of holy destruction through one of the two remaining demon-spawn. Almost like a fountain following a boulder, the steaming entrails blast through his back, bits of spine spray shrapnel into the walls, and thick ropes of gore drawing a primal masterpiece into the decrepit hallway. The body implodes like the Gallu and Gargoyle before; unholy stains the only reminder of his temporal existence.
A break, at last, that hopefully lasts longer than a minute or two. In my joy, I let loose a bestial roar! “Is that all you throw at Isis’ chosen? Set of the darkness?” followed almost immediately by Alric’s yell “I would that the Tyvernos’ greatness find the blue diamond in his invisibleness and come back to us to be able to get the heck out of here!”. As if he were waiting on someone to call his name, Tyvernos reappears, shouting “REUNITED!!!” and runs to Otto crushing him with a HUG of EPIC GNOME-LIKE PROPORTIONS. As he announces that he has cleared out the rest of the mansion, and all that is left is the basement past the Baal-rog, CrIsis dusts themselves off and gathers in the hallway just outside Chandar’s room.
While deciding whether to open Fala’s bureau or to go into the basement, the door blasts open, slamming Overkill into the wall. “Squirrel” again. Rushed as I was, when I lunge I trip over a decayed floorboard and land on my knees, though through some stroke of luck, or divine providence more likely, my holy pike still skewers the beast. Tyvernos announces to the group, in the midst of melee combat, that he is nearly taxed of potential psychic energy and that he must needs rest before venturing any further! He then delves into his mental inventory and yells “It’s a MAGGOT. Do not look it in its bulbous stalks!” After taking a beating, it retreats into the thin hallway behind the door, the Pike of Retribution falls from its flesh sheath, slick with blood from the last hour of pitched battle.
Truly spent, I say to my party that I will stay behind with any wounded, if there is a group that wants to explore into the basement. Cava, Alric and Gavin disappear into a hidden compartment at the end of the hall. Tyvernos, Morgan, Karma, Overkill and I all start to lick our wounds, and spend more energy healing up, not wasting any time going into the room, since we are in a defensible area, and can protect our scouts’ rear. Not one minute goes by before we hear the din of battle, and our three comrades reemerge from the trap door.
“Lets go back to the forest to recuperate our energies,” someone says, and the rest of us gladly make our way out of the mansion. I walk into the dark dining room that not an hour before we had broken into. It feels like we have been here in the Manor for weeks, not hours. I step around the decayed feast strewn around the room mixed with the broken, dented tableware.
I look over at Cava, the noble ranger, and we remove the table from in front of the window. He seems to trust me more than he did when I first joined their group. I have felt myself part of the group these few short days – or has it been weeks? – And he seems to be letting me in and accepting me, at least as a temporary member. I can tell he’s had a much ravaged psyche, though by what or whom I can only fathom. We help the rest of our rag-tag invading party through the window, and make a short trek to a canyon campsite put together by the Ranger and me. After spending the rest of the afternoon and into the middle of the night healing, we return to the Manor.
Climbing through the door, the Assassin and Paladin make a beeline for the bureau. I try to make the case to go into the basement, but of course the voice of ‘reason’ paladin rules the group. Tyvernos agrees with my desire to get to the basement, saying “My fellow CrIsis members. Can we afford to be distracted by the dresser when there is a greater danger in the basement?” But is as useless a group leader as can be, as he has no sway. I concede, saying “To give majority and do something is better than bickering and doing nothing.” Tyvernos follows the group to open the drawer once and for all. We open the blasted drawer, and find – NOTHING!!! Shock and awe! – at which point, I make my way back into the hall.
We are stopped by the insanity incarnate, Fala; yet ANOTHER boulder in the road. Rage courses through my veins. This obstacle will not bar me from my goal. And even though Fala never answers our questions, or gives us aid, the majestic Centaur, scion of curiosity cannot leave the matter be, she must follow Fala to the end. The femme elf mentions the Blue Diamond, and the dots in my mind SNAP into place. She must be a tortured victim of the evil in the basement. We will find our goals are the same, the centaur and me. I walk up to her, and say "WE are not mere adventurers. Please, let us go on with the wishes of the GODS,” To which she rambles some more, not answering any other questions by our group. She runs off, and we almost have to drag Karma downstairs, to the ultimate goal.
Finally, treking down the stairs, I step off the last grime-ridden step into the dank basement, and the light from my pike doesn’t even illuminate the ceiling. I take a step forward and my footfalls ring hollowly around the hallway we are in. The rest of the group looks at the nearest door, and Alric picks the lock. The second he gets the last pin in place, the click of the lock is drowned out by a screaming claxon. So much for secrecy!
We enter the room, and it is a treasure trove for adventurers such as CrIsis. High quality maps of Bizantium and the Western Empire are spread out on the table, warmly decorated, it is definitely a study for a powerful sorcerer. Karma crosses to the maps, and takes them down carefully. Behind she spots a locked box, which Tyvernos tries to read the wards, but fails horribly! Karma, Alric and Otto fall to the ground, in an enchanted sleep when it is opened. Another alarm goes off, bells this time. Waiting on the impending doom, fed up with problem after problem, I yell to the heavens. "ISIS! I have been a faithful tool in thine hands, All we have seen is blockade after blockade on our road!THOTH! SMITE MY FOES! Hasten our steps and swings! GET THINE ENEMIES HENCE!" In the silence afterward, I realize that my god hasn’t left me. They are not turning a blind eye. The gods of dark have power over this world just as the gods of light. As we are in the realm of Set, Isis can’t walk among us.
Cava opens a secret compartment, and we all step through sans equis and elf. We are greeted by a giant flaming demon; the Baal-rog, flaming steam rising from its body. To be honest, I was a little terrified, and spent just a little too long staring at the slavering maw. Upon entering, a tall elf ensconced in black, flowing robes thanks us for finally arriving. Within seconds, I hear a cacophony of clattering bones, and see a small horde of skeletons hit the wall, thrown by Gavin. The female elf in the back of the room cries out, and with a whisper and a gesture, unsummons them, but continues casting after they vanish.
The Baal-rog throws a magical net over our group, and I dive forward to avoid it. I set my feet and start sprinting, meeting the demon mid stride, and thrust my pike at his midriff. He dodges, and whips Cava who parries with his axe and throws the fiery whip to the ground twenty feet behind him. Enraged, it lunges. Mid lunge I dive around him to flank, but am slammed in the back by molten air. I position myself with my back to the giant magical circle, sacrificing the view of its mysterious majesty for a view of more immediate dangers.
Overkill finally catches up to the ‘rog and rips into it with his swords. Slash, Stab, Thrust, Rip. Bouuffft! With a giant explosion of spirit fire we three are covered with demon dust. With another fiery volley, the elf in black draws my attention. Illinar is the name Fala said, I believe. If I am not mistaken, I would say this is him. I charge him, and thrust my pike at him as Morgan, freed from the demon’s net, throws a silvery dagger at him. Both weapons fall lifelessly to the floor. How? A magical circle. Of c…. Thunk!!
Instantly I am transported from the fight. Why? Where? Weightless, like swimming in mid air, I am there. Just there. Amazing. Every particle of my being tingles, like when you sleep on your arm, except instead of pain, pleasure. Every inch of me, every little piece explodes into countless grains of sand at the speed of love, retribution, exaltation. “Dearest child,” words and feelings impress themselves from the light bathing me. “You are loved. It pains me to see your pain, see your suffering; but all this is for your good. You speak too much about your willingness to walk through the refiner’s fire, but where is your perseverance, after a single ember strikes your foot? Your faith is more a part of you than you realize. Feed it, and you will be able to endure the mountains falling on top of you or the seas swallowing you whole. You have much work yet to do, and much to change on the Isle of Lemaria.” With the last, I felt more an impression than words say “I suspect an agent of the dark is spreading sedition and decay among the faithful there.”
At that, the pleasure shifted to screaming, throbbing pain as reality sank in. Every grain of sand grinding itself into place. One million needles skewering themselves to bone-deep agony, and I open my eyes. I blink the dream from them and from my mind. The pain fuels me. The pain sustains me. It will be the downfall of my enemies.
My eyes lock onto the broken form of an unconscious Illinar. I sense some hesitation from the group. “Kill him” I croak, my throat almost feeling alien after the eternity I spent as a fog of ecstasy. Flaming ethereal swords strike him down. “The blue diamond is found,” the gnome says. Finally. Now, on to more pressing matters. Followers of the Dark, thou shalt perish.
Written early on the 12th of Thoth by the servant of Isis, Raf Innisfahl.
Picture courtesy of Wordpress.com