Today’s snippet, titled “Without Hesitation”, is a piece I wrote about my PC in Mark’s new (Good) Pathfinder Campaign.
Be forewarned, there are mature themes and naughty language below.
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The tentacles remained. Huge, writhing, pornographic things, black as sin and glistening with an acid powerful enough to melt flesh from bone. Nîda shuddered. They would vanish in time, if they were born of the same spell she knew, but in the meantime… they could only wait.
Behind her, in a deserted room, Nîda found a mural that consumed one entire wall. It was a map of Sarkoris as it once had been, huge and proud and wild. Sparsely populated, she recalled, noting the absence of many major settlements, but so vast. It is no wonder they were able to break through here. A second layer of markings showed the multitude of alterations the Worldwound Incursions had made up on the topography of the region; the vast chasms, the ruined cities, the decimated villages and the corrupted forests.
Nîda turned her head from the sight, sickened.
“If we cannot turn back this tide,” she said softly, as if sharing pillow secrets with a lover, “the whole of Golarion will soon be suffering the same fate as Sarkoris, and Mendev. We must not fail… must… not.”
When the tentacles dissipated at last, her new friends were able to gather the enemy corpses and strip them of anything useful, or valuable. Although Nîda found the whole process utterly distasteful, she understood that using the enemy’s tools against them was both the intelligent move and a way to empower their own work. Still, she accepted a curing potion and four holy symbols reluctantly.
“We can’t leave these behind, though they are useless to us, for once powerful clerics used them in their good works.”
“Plus, they’re silver. They’ll fetch a good price.”
Nîda frowned. I shall never get used to the mercenary thought-processes some of these so-called heroes possess. As avaricious as any villain in any novel, truly, only… they take from the wicked not the poor. Master Sorvanir was right – morality is never quite as black and white as we would like…
The beautiful foreign woman left the landing bearing a fantastic new blade; the hilt was adorned by an exquisite hawk’s head and the blade, enchanted specifically to kill demons, was cold iron. Nîda found it queer that she had never seen such a weapon, though similar ones in book illustrations surely, in person until this week and now she had seen two. She said so aloud and received a few chuckles in return. Nîda frowned, busying herself with the letter she had taken from the case in which Kumiko’s new sword had lain.
It was addressed to Lord Staunton and detailed certain machinations that had been going on behind the scenes for years. Nîda saw mention of Irabeth and reminded herself to be sure to give it to the half-orc woman when they returned. She tucked the letter into a pouch on her belt and turned back to the group.
“This room next?” Mira nodded toward the locked one across the way from the steps.
“Yeah,” Jensen said, cracking his long, graceful fingers. It was a strangely human gesture and she wondered if perhaps he had studied with one. “Let’s do this.”
Nimble hin fingers worked the lock open and Graves entered the room with Kumiko on her heels. Nîda hardly had a second to register the raw horrors of the chamber before a chorus of eerie groans sounded within.
A quick, bloody battle ensued with the disembowled, walking corpses. For a moment, Mira and Kumiko worried that the halfling-sized zombie was their missing friend, but once the rotting gore was washed away, it became apparent that the hin was male and much older than Seraphina.
“She might still be here,” Nîda heard Mira whisper. Her heart went out to the girl; holding out such hope despite the enormous odds. Though she would not even admit it to herself, let lone to anyone else, but she sort of… somehow… wished that some miracle had touched Jovi and restored his life.
She did not love him anymore, she could not forgive him the betrayal. But she regretted his demise, and her own part in it would haunt her for all her days.
At least in this moment, there was good that could be done. Nîda and the others worked tirelessly to quickly check the other rooms – including one where, to their horror, they found the hin wizard, Seraphina, her chest cracked open, her flesh flayed to the bone, an expression or terror frozen on her little face – before returning to the steps to clean the huge alabaster basin. It had been filled with blood and entrails and ichor and obviously used for some profane ritual.
“Once its clean… we should fill it with clean water and bless it,” Graves said, as they scrubbed. “Paladins and clerics used to worship here, I don’t know if just cleaning it is enough.”
Nîda smiled at that. Lieutenant Graves was more intuitively intelligent than she had originally given her credit for. Alessandra worked a simple cantrip to fill the great bowl with the purest water and as Athynacious said a quiet prayer over the surface, it began to glow.
“A scrying fountain,” Jensen rasped, wetting his lips. Nîda imagined that he was already counting all the spells he could work up on the thing.
Within the crystal clear water, an image burbled up at them. It depicted a room, then shifted, showing them their living enemies, and shifted again to a priestess who wielded a massive scythe in one insect-like arm.
“We go up,” Kumiko said, drawing her blade once more. “We kill them all.”
“Aye,” Athynacious agreed. “But let us cast our blessings and defenses first. There’s no point in attempting stealth – they know we’re here anyway.”
“They’re waiting for us, preparing just as we do, I’m sure.” Graves climbed to her feet and checked that her blade was loose in its sheath. “Hurry up and cast, its time to go.”
A flurry of spells encased the comrades as all those practiced with the magical arts began to create defenses. Graves took the lead, with Kumiko half-a-step behind. Mira and Jensen went next. Nîda was followed by Alessandra and Athynacious brought up the rear. They were as ready as they ever would be.
At the top of the steps, a battle scene burst into being. The pace was faster than Nîda could comprehend – a tumultuous rapid-fire back-and-forth with the mage who had harried them before and his minions.
Nîda hardly blinked and Mira was on the floor, sliced brutally in half. Her eyes blinked three times – utterly surprised by her gruesome fate – and then she went still.
As they fought for their lives – and the lives of the innocents they had left behind at Defender’s Heart – the room was ringed with fire. Wall of Fire! Nîda recognized the spell and her inner resolve quivered in fear. This was the spell that has brought about the demise of the first party.
She called upon the conjurationist powers Master Sorvanir had taught her and took one step that sent her several feet away. Passing through the flames to the relative safety of a small alcove, Nîda felt the fire drying the tears from her cheeks. At least there won’t be any evidence of my fear, she thought, and chuckled inanely. Steeling herself, Nîda realized that she could do nothing from this position and that she must rejoin the battle within the circle of flames.
“GARUND! Back to me!”
There was a lull in the mayhem for the briefest second and Nîda quaffed a potion so fast she nearly vomited it back up. A heartbeat later, the same bloody scythe that snuffed out little Mira’s vibrant life bit into Nîda’s flesh and she screamed. She wanted to be brave and stoic and as mannerly as the other warriors, but she was not and the pain too visceral to ignore. The same swing rent her friend, the green-eyed cleric with a secret, in two at the waist. His innards spilled onto the floor and she slipped.
The wizard blinked through the wall once more, escaping their righteous vengeance again. Temporarily, Nîda told herself, wishing she had prepared that spell today.
“Die, you evil son of a BITCH!” Graves shouted, driving Radiance into the fighter’s chest. Nîda assumed that was what she said, at least, for the ferocity of her growl made the actual words mostly unintelligible.
He fell, at last, and Nîda paused to catch her breath as far from the ruined corpses of her allies as possible within the confines of the room.
“We can’t wait. We have to push on. Without Mira or Athynacious.”
There was some hesitation, but no argument.
Nîda was just steps behind the others when the door to the final room was thrown open.
“We-” she started to say, then the world exploded in brilliant, burning orange, and Nîda knew no more.
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Note: Image is “King Jagiello Statue Central” by (Mulligand) from SXC.hu; edited by me