Feral roar. There’s a magic in it.
It freezes my movements. No! Most of my vitae has been given to the dead! No! I’m helpless. There’s no fire burning here.
Is this a rebound? That means I raised too much energy and haven’t yet mastered how to direct it. Into those I raised, into myself and my fellows to heal us.
Did I do something wrong? No, I don’t think so. I used a circle that my grandfather studied under his grandfather.
Can I activate the tattoo my sister gave me? Yes! Yes I can. It replenshes my vitae. I must use the 2 remaining charges.
What is that?! It moves like a falling cloak in chaotic movements. Twisting and turning, coming towards us.
Is Sharlond not active? She was to keep us safe from intrusions and enemies….
It’s a shrieking terror, it moves through the planes, mostly the Eternal Jail of Tartarus and Shadows. How’d it get here? Oh Gods! The venom burns. I wish I could set my blood on fire.
Is this a test from Vyrta? I don’t think so. This doesn’t seem elegant enough for her.
Did I tap into the Infernal Outer Plane? Oh dear, who does that man worship?
It’s trying to chew my life out of me! Two thrice damned heads gnaw on me! I keep focusing on regaining my strength as I fight the paralysis. I also try and recall what I’ve read up on shrieking terrors. Recall it. Recall it.
The poison requires a neutralisation or heal spell or potion to be able to close the wounds if the body isn’t able to push out the venom. There’s something about its kiss which can turn a person into Vargouille, essentially an evil sharp fanged flying head of hissing and shrieking. Ick. I’m going to have to check everyone over.
Fire and acid on the head stalks stops it from acting like a Hydra. I got fire! Kill the body or take all of the heads. I got this! Once I can move…. wait! That’s my wing lowering! I’m regarding mobility. Damnit. When did I strip off my clothing? Ironically the leg tattoo is going to save my life. I pull Pyrico’s Talon out and twirl it to get some momentum before I strike it. Without my gauntlets I am not as good with attacking with both hands when I’m wielding my scimitar. Damnit!
One head detatches itself from Jern and snaps at me. I move a little and it misses. Perhaps I should raise my shield… no, I need to kill it before it does the dwarves more harm. I attack again but my attack is deflected by the neck. I trust in my skills of movement. I have been forced to fight naked in the pit, I survived that I will survive that though I worry about the poison in my veins.
I hear Jern, I’m relieved. I yell the information about the planar abberation to him, but the growls of rage from him tell me he’s not necessarily paying attention. Then I hear Princess protest. I think he dropped the hammer.
I keep doing my turns and twists to avoid the bites and lash out at the beast. My scimitar explodes and I grin. The cut is nice and deep. I pull out my scimitar and use it to deflect the next bite.
Azerite is now moving. This is good, but I can’t get a read on him. My wounds hurt. Jern looks bad, Azerite does too. I know Nameless is about, so I call to him to help us. Our vitae is drained. We’re in serious danger, I don’t know if I have the needed potions as we do not have a priest.
I hit the body again and then Jern bashes it. Finally Azerite strikes it, his sword lets loose a chilly frozen burst. I skip back from it. I do not want him fighting near me again.
There’s questions, I’m having a hard time focusing. We need to get out. I have wounds bleeding, but Jern and Azerite are having it worse. Jern especially. I hear Nameless’ giggle and call him. Perhaps he’ll fix up my friends. Instead it turns out that not only did he bring them in, he also brought the shrieker in and offers to bring in more. I tell him no.
He wants Jern for a pet, I tell him repeatedly no, not happening. Nameless takes credit for bringing Jern and Azerite in, I mention Jern I understand, Azerite I don’t even know. So why him? Why not my mate? Somehow Nameless thought Jern is my mate…. close good friend, yes. But mate? He’s a dwarf. I tell Azerite how to get out and I make a fire. He does so but is still here. I take my scimitar and begin hacking a head off. I seem to have a new habit, I wonder what Baelok will think of this….
I look at Jern then at Nameless, “Can’t you help them? You brought them here, they gave their vitae to help me.” He’s disinclined to help and seems to be in sinister mode. Odd for him to bring a tormentor from a plane that is the best prison in the entire planar cosmology.
My weakness almost causes me to swoon and I miss some of what he says. I try and end the ritual, but no good. I’m still in the in between. I inhale and keep myself calm. I focus and dive into my grandfather’s memories, swiftly finding this ritual. I end it as his clan does.
I drop to the ground, my wings hurt! Oh the pain!! I don’t move, closing my eyes and allowing my wings to drape over me as my wounds slowly close. I inhale and flex them gently, my tail slowly moves as I try and think. There’s no ritual high, probably because of Nameless’ interference. I am definitely heady, aftereffects of the myrrh and frankincense. It is no doubt numbing some of the pain, but by the gods I hurt.
I force myself to get up, my legs are wobbly, my head spins, I’m dizzy. I look before me and study the sigils I marked of the Council. The wand, my hair, the blood and Daniel’s whisker are gone. Only Majok, Zeltar, and Drayus drank their wines. This saddens me as that means Faelyn and Siella are missing or weakened. “Thank you, Drayus, Zeltar, and Majok for your aid and energy. I will do what I can to bring back Faelyn and Siella, please give me some insight on where to look for their holy relics and sights.” I inhale deeply and start to walk the circle. But I stop as I notice shadow shards in Jern and Azerite. I scowl.
“Nameless! The ritual is over, and you are causing my friends pain,” I look around trying to find the dark one. I seriously may need to figure out how to separate him from the corruption he consumed sooner than I was anticipating. “Remove the shards, Nameless!” The anger at this twisting of the ritual gives me some strength. My wings flex out and my tail drops but still sways in annoyance anger. Nameless appears and gleefully rips the shards out, what have I done? I have to get it in my head that he’s not the same Nameless that I grew up with, nor the same one from nine years ago. He finally departs, firmly spoiling the gladiators. Or is he showing them that I do not fear him? I drop again and shaking my head.
“Poisoned…. we’re poison…” I look up, trying to find Phaeron, Fyraiia, someone. I move to my pouch of holding and put my hand in it. The previous owner had those vials of antiparalysis, perhaps a neutralise poison or heal? No. Nothing! Blast it! “Does anyone have potions of neutralise poison or heal? We.. we need them.” I motion to the head, “Nameless brought that to us….” I see Psyren by Jern. She’s using a wand on him, good.
I force myself to stand up. I didn’t realize that I fell. I close my eyes, I am healing. My wings aren’t aching as much. That’s a relief. I turn to start the circle walk, when Jorin is suddenly there, stiff and regimental. “I hear you need these madam,” comes his voice. I look, then nod, with a slight frown. There’s only 2 potions.
“Give them to Jern and Azerite,” I tell him. I don’t look as bad as them, my weakness is from vitae drain.
“No madam,” he argues and pushes one towards me, “I’m charged with protecting you madam, not them.” I forgot about that… damnit. I look between Jern and Azerite.
“Take that to Jern,” I tell him, I look back to Azerite, I have no intention of taking the potion. But when I look back, Jorin is still there, studying me. He is stone, ancient, steadfast, and determined. He’s waiting for me to drink it. “They’re worse,” I try to argue. But he shakes his head. If I wasn’t weak, I would just ignore him and give it to Azerite, but, I am certain he would force the second potion down my gullet rather than give it to Jern. And between Jern and Azerite, Jern needs it more. Desperately. I sigh and drink the potion. The gladiators will hold this against me. Jorin now toddles off to give Jern the potion.
I finally start to inspect the circle.
I take a knee where I summoned Pyrico, “Thank you Pyrico for your help, your presence, and your strength. I will call upon you again when I need your strength and power to set this world right,” I offer a hand to the gladiator that follows Pyrico. I then move carefully through those who follow Feruuk, inclining my head to them, they are working up to sitting themselves up. Then the follower of Rakhar, he’s growly and working his new lease on life. Then it’s the followers of Warmonger that I wobble through, I kneel, and I’m surprised. The head I gave has been turned into a skull tankard! I blink, at first thinking I’m hallucinating, but it’s there still. “Thank you Warmonger for allowing your followers to rejoin the fight. Thank you for this gift,” I take it and raise it to my forehead in a salute. “Thank you,” I murmur, shocked and uncertain about what to say. I will have to look it over later, but I’m truly surprised and honoured by this token of his favour. Was he listening to what I was telling the dead about my plans?
Next is Syrenia. I am humble before the Queen of Oceans. I’ve always had an uneasy feeling with her. If I anger her she can do me serious harm. But I honour her nonetheless as she deserves respect. “Mistress of Oceans and the Waters that give us life, I thank you for your presence and help. I hope to do you honour” I look, yes the blue gem is gone. I am glad that she liked it. I slowly stand up, aware of eyes upon me, but I ignore them. They have never seen something like this. Like me.
Nameless is the next mark. I kneel before him, “Nameless, you vex me and torment my friends. Yet, you brought me help when I needed it, I thank you. You tested our strength, I hope we measured up. And you keep testing my will and my resolve. You push me, and I will push back, as is our way. You took the coin,” I smile, “Please remember the old days,” I ask of him, “And thank you, Nameless.”
I get up slowly up and move to the next sigil: Shaelona, Mistress of snow, ice and the Frozen Waste. The opposite of my patron, Pyrico. I am weary of my approach, as she more than Syrenia, can end me. And I had nothing worthy to gift the Ice Queen. Yet the need to call upon her, and it was she who struck me with ice spears. I lower to a knee, “Thank you Shaelona for transferring my vitae to the fallen. Thank you for not killing me in the process. And thank you for coming and helping in this ritual, Lady of Frost,” I lower my head, deeply honoured as it was necessary to have her present. I then notice the gift I gave her was still there, frozen in a chunk of ice. My hand slowly moves, did the string of pearls and clear gems offend her? Did she leave them as a gift to me? Was she insulted? Gingerly I touch the coldness of the ice cube. It hurts, but I take it anyways, I lower my head, uncertain if I should apologise or say thank you. I elect to thank her for the lesson to be learned.
I force myself up, place the necklace in ice into my pouch with Warmonger’s tankard. I’ll study it later.
I stagger to stand before Ylena’s mark. The spine and tail are still there. I failed again. “I’m sorry Ylena,” I say as I sink down to my knee, “I am sorry if my gift offends, I promise I will do better next time I have need…” I promise the grand matron goddess. I need to learn more about her. I shall have to question Osozo. “Thank you for everything,” I finally whisper, “Thank you for healing their bodies, thank you for helping me during the fight.” I take the refused offering and put it back into my pouch.
I head to where Quillar should be, or a member of the court of air. The wine is untouched, the incense not taken. I take back my gift, then raise the wine in a toast. “I swear, to the realm of Air, to the friends and priests of Quillar, I will seek him out, find him and bring him back. I ask for the help in seeking what I need to bring him back.” I take a sip then pour the rest upon the mark.
Finally, I arrive to where Vrynith ought to be, or one of the star godlings. But nothing. I take back the mirror, surprised that I managed to bring back the men with a goddess that I offended and two missing gods with no replacement. I take up the wine and again in a toast, “Court of Vrynith, hear this oath,” I have seen the stars, they still glow bright, just this damned mist keeps us from seeing them. “I will seek out Vrynith’s relic upon this world, I will seek his holy site, and I will endeavour to bring him back. I will endeavour to return his strength. I just pray that there are some hints as to where to look,” I’m realistic.
I need help to bring back these gods. I hope that I can find it, find people, books, scrolls, something. Knowledge, I need that. I need to find a historian or three. I have thoughts in my head which depart when I notice Vytra’s wine untouched. Her skull not taken.
“The Lady of Death…. missing?” I’m shocked. She was one of the gods a permit could be gotten for to worship and be a priest of. What other gods of death are missing? How many souls are wandering this world, trapped. A cold chill. But I recall Syrenia is a goddess of death but for those who die by water, in the ocean, who worship her. But, who else is gone? With Pyrico be able to usher them onto their next lives? I’m chilled, now understanding the importance of the death rite I do. That is a rite that I must teach Fyraiia so she can teach the others….
“Vyrta, Lady of Death, I will find a way to bring you back. The souls need you,” I’m going to have to talk to Phearon and confirm if Lheare worshipped Vyrta. She might know where to look for the necessary items and place of power.
I raise her chalice in a toast and make my oath to bring her back.
Then I note that Sharlond wasn’t present. I stop. The ring of shadow wasn’t hers, but Nameless. Nameless, did he hide the ritual? Are we open to someone knowing about the ritual? “We have to go,” I say urgently. I gather up the cloth. I take her chalice, “Lady of secrets and shadows, the resistance needs your knowledge. I swear I will work to bring you back, free you from wherever you have been sent.”
I look everything over then I explode the fire to erase the ritual markings. I nod, pleased by the erasing.
I start to move ahead, Jern appears beside me. The archer is already getting the horses hitched. The gladiators are either standing around or helping. Some are moving the revived humans to the triage wagon. “What’s in the last wagon?” I know the triage wagon is getting full. I see Azerite stomp that way. Jern wants to help get stuff done. I’m not certain what’s going on with him, but I keep him with me. He needs rest.
Suddenly there’s a cloak around my wings and shoulders. I look and smile at Phaeron. I lean my head on his shoulder, “Thank you,” I whisper. He walks in silence to the last wagon. I open the door, look in. It’s spare parts, tents, provisions. Nice. I move aside to let Jern in and claim a place. Wrapped in the cloak, I lay down on the floor and try to revery. Phaeron departs, a few moments later he returns with my clothing. No words.
The wagon starts to move and I can hear Jern’s snores. Deep and rumbling. I try to get rest, but my mind wanders about the repercussions of my action. Will the Efreet come and criticise me? I sigh and finally get up and look Jern over. He isn’t looking well. I move a hand and touch his face, some hair falls out! I pull a bit more out. No! I forgot about the Vargouille transformation that could happen. I rush back to my pouch of holding and pull out two potions, one of cure disease, my last one as far as I know, and one of heal critical wounds.
I wake him roughly in my panic, “Drink this,” I command, pouring the first potion into his mouth, hoping that I’m not too late. “Now this,” his trust in me is seen as he drinks without arguing. He grumbles a bit, but I let him have that. Then he settles back to sleep. I walk back carefully to the door and swing it open. The archer is riding a horse. “Go quickly to Azerite, see if his hair is falling out,” I tell him. “And what is your name?” A late question.
He gives it and then is off, I call after him to report on the result.
I close the door and study Jern. I know I was very close to losing my friend.his hair…. his beard. I can see patches missing. Damn me for not checking sooner! I now tug on my hair. Either my planar blood makes me immune or it wanted Jern.
I’m almost into a troubled revery when there’s a knock. I call out for results, and I’m told Azerite’s hair doesn’t fall out. Good.
I slip into a calm revery, sorting potions in Toza’s lab. Reading books that my great great grandmother had. I’m going through memories. Then get stuck on if the Lady of Death is gone, how many other death gods are gone? How many souls are wandering this haunted land?
I start awake. The wagon isn’t moving. I get up and realise that I’m filthy with blood, paint, and ash and smoke. I manage to use magic to clean myself, then dress. I also cast the spell upon sleeping Jern. He may appreciate it when he awakens. Poor him.
I quietly open the door and depart, asking why have we stopped. Apparently we don’t travel and eat at the same time. I get a plate tossed into my hand with food on it from the hostile cook. I try coaxing her out but for naught. A gladiator mentions this as being peculiar and I tell him it’s my fault. I know the cook distrusts me. I make a joke about her desire to poison me. I then ask for a second plate for Jern. I incline my head in silent thanks but she doesn’t seem to take note.
I carry the plates back, noting Fyraiia and Phaeron are in charge, organising the gladiators. Good. I open the door to the supply wagon and get in. I place his plate by his nose, not desiring to wake him unless he’s hungrier than tired. I sit back down by the door. There’s several magical items piled in, seems my friends want me to work. I eat first, listening to Jern’s snoring, cease then start back up. I don’t talk, my thoughts on his hair and beard. Dwarves take their hair as seriously as my mother’s people. For us, it’s a sign of position, honour, our braids and trophies tell our deeds and honour our family, clan and tribe.
The wagons start moving again and I start going through the pile and divide it up, writing a list for Jern. He is my second, I realise. I trust him as much as I trust Gronx, Psyren and Sslith’lac. I can rely on him to not leave me in a bind. That means he won’t leave me if I order it. He’s truly loyal.
I need to shape up to become a Mistress of Ritual my clan needs; the leader an army yet gathered needs; perhaps Shiek of my tribe? I shake my head. More like a cult of primitives. But effective in our magic if I can get enough clansmen.
I wake again to the wagon stopping. Lunch. I take back our plates then bring back new plates for Jern and I. I place his near him with tea and ale for his thirst. I’m quiet, sorting through Gods I know are gone, who’s courts are gone or busy trying to find their leige. I sigh softly. Does Feruuk and Rakhar still to their people? Do I need to call to the gods and talk to them? Perhaps I should and inform them directly that I plan to wage war. Is it too early now?
Jern’s awake! I remain silent, turn to watch him discreetly. His pain is palatable. I feel sorrow and sympathy for him, sympathy, an emotion that I thought I lost. He glares at his reflection then asks for a knife. I hand him the one I stole, non magical but beautifully crafted and sharp. He begins his work and I turn away, not wanting him to see my weakness.
This is my fault, if I had recalled earlier he would have his hair. If I hadn’t been out if it…. Gah! I hate guilt, it’s why Gronx got injured, why I hesitate with Phaeron, why I am stuck. I should do a roll call with the gods before I enact another ritual. It pains me that he must cut it all off. I should have killed the terror quicker.
I inhale and still my thoughts as my mother would during the day loop.I inhale deeply.
I regain control and by the time he’s done, I offer to clean him up properly. I have shaved Gronx, so Jern should be easy. I wet some soap and solemnly clean him up. “I’m… Sorry,” I begin, “so very sorry.”
I dwarven fashion he rebukes me, saying there’s naught for me to apologize for. The wagon moves again, and the emotions are raw. I remain silent til he offers me his hair. The sacrifice is great, I take it and begin to braid it. “What god do you worship?” It would be best to use it in summoning a god he reveers.
“I honour the earth,” I nod.
“Then for Merlay,” I tell him and wonder if there’s a bardic spell for hair growth or a vanity potion. Something. We travel in silence, so I go back to the items, allowing him to come to terms with it.
Eventually we stop, most likely for the night. I slip out and take in what’s going on, then head to see Daniel and Clarence. They are both unconscious. Pulses weak. I clean them as Psyren tells me that the wand doesn’t work. It’s a limited source and as far as I know there’s no priest here to recharge the wands. “Stop using it on them if there’s no reaction, we need a priest.” I sigh then begin stripping Daniel down, removing his bandages and clothing, items of magic and begin to clean him properly and search for the wound or magical mark. It could be a poison. It could be a curse. I have limited resources. I then strip Clarence down and inspect him, nothing is amiss. There’s residual magic, but it’s from the wand. “Keep giving them liquids and broth,” I tell Psyren as I nuzzle her. She smells good. “There’s going to be a meeting at dinner,” I speak aloud to all. Then I head out.
I spread word, and help in setting up the central fire. Then it’s to the cook to inform her. I finally head back to get Jern and explain to him what’s going on. He’s hesitant but he can’t hide forever. “I need you there,” I tell him. He finally releants and joins me. He’s uncomfortable with his lack of hair, my discomfort of being amongst a large group is a small thing on comparison.
We find a place to sit. I watch people come in. More gladiators than I thought. Our people move in. Then we are looking at each other over the fire. The cook is standing aside with Azerite beside her. That’s funny. We both rely upon the dwarves for strength. Mine is stronger.
Then there’s a little catfolk walking in and delivering plates of food. I thought it was Daniel until I saw the white patches. Jern and I discuss it, observing its movement and lack of interaction, play, and reaction. The cook seems to think I’m insane as I ask questions about it. Jern gets angry, I’m keeping calm and thinking. Boneblades used to be ogres. The halflings were hunted, is this what they became? Or are they children? Devoid of senses.
I asked who makes them. I’m trying to get information but it’s frustrating. I thank the cat for the food and then for picking up my plate. Daniel broke the condition. There’s got to be a way to bring the personality back.
We are about to totally lose Jern in his anger when Jorin steps up and comments favorably upon Jern’s change. Some sort of hero worship. Jern takes it in good grace though with sarcasm. But Jorin doesn’t notice, he rather seems at peace and happy with it.
My speech to the people was horrible. I told them of how I want to fight the Kabal, no Xikites. How I wanted to bring back the gods, essentially go to war against an all powerful group that controls everything. Most say that they will wait til we reach our destination then make their decisions. Far enough. The Rakhar follower will follow me. This will be interesting.
I fully identified myself. Who my parents are, my siblings. Azerite doesn’t see any family resemblance. I shift my features.
Now I sit before the fire, watching it, half looking for a sign. Too many gods are missing.
How many more? No wonder this world is close to collapsing.
I’m going to have to call the gods and see who I have to work with on my rituals.