Today’s snippet, titled “A Battle Yet Remains”, is a piece I wrote about my PC in Mark’s new (Good) Pathfinder Campaign.
Be forewarned, there may be mature themes and naughty language below.
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“Approaching,” Ezekiel whispered, nodding with his chin. “There.”
Rhiallis and Sadie looked. “Not Korael or Cole,” the hin said. “But from Vilareth Ford, or that direction at least.”
She bit her lower lip in thought. A woman, it seemed, with a lithe figure and a graceful step, was moving toward them. How queer, Rhiallis thought, her hand gripping Radiance’s hilt, to see a lone figure in the ‘Wound, approaching a group the size of ours, intimidating as we are, with no trepidation. No fear. She must be quite powerful in her own right. But… who are you, dear girl, and are you friend or foe?
She wore dark clothes, well-cut and tailored, with a deep hood. Her eyes were concealed, and most of her face, making it difficult for Rhiallis to read her expression. When she was close enough, Rhiallis lifted her shield-arm and presented her palm. Nothing. Thank Iomedae for that much, at least. She is not tainted with evil.
“Greetings. This is an unusual place to meet a new face.”
Her voice was nearly lost in the evening breeze, harsh and whistling. “It is, yes. My name is Miranda and I have been looking for you. I was sent to lend you aid.”
“Sent?” Aimsley peered around Rhiallis’ shoulder. “Sent by who?”
The name of the Commander at Vilareth Ford instantly relaxed her and she gave what she hoped was a welcoming smile. “Well met, then, Miranda. Kamilo Dann is a friend of the Valorous Order.
“I am Rhiallis Ondrash Corweir. This is Aimsley Keevy. There, Ezekiel Soltolano, Tomn Parris, and-” Rhiallis paused, glancing about. “Sadie Millbridge.”
Miranda nodded at each name, then frowned, unable to see a fifth person. From her thighs came a small, brash voice. “I love your boots!”
“Well met, everyone.”
Tom Parris gave the newcomer a long, critical look. Rhiallis noted that she woman did not wear much by way of armor or protective gear and unlike most of those one might meet in the ‘Wound, she did not bristle with weapons. “What sort of help might you offer us, my good lady?”
“I have a great deal of relevant knowledge. And a rather powerful affinity for things of an arcane nature.”
“Oh, excellent. Perhaps you and Aimsley-”
“As I was saying,” Aimsley began again, her voice a bit haughtier than normal. “If we cut back toward the Ford slightly, we can intercept Jesker at the tomb before proceeding through the Weeping Hills to the area the dragon- er, dragonesque beast was last seen.”
Ezekiel cracked his knuckles, tossing his glorious mane of golden hair. “A bad priest or a dragon. Which is more pressing?”
“The problem is that they’re both pressing,” Tom Parris said.
“And time is of the essence. Or so Kamilo lead me to believe.” Miranda rubbed her chin in thought. “So, which way?”
Sadie made a face. “No, Jesker. That pervy prophet needs a spanking.”
Rhiallis looked down at the map Sadie had carefully labeled. “Jesker first. Rather than double back. Agreed?”
There was a moment of silence, then the six of them nodded in unison and the decision was made. Rhiallis smiled inwardly as her friend rolled up the map and tucked it away. They broke their make-shift camp quickly and got back to the drudgery of a long march.
With only five – no, we’re back to six now, she reminded herself – bodies in their ranks, the road seemed somehow lonelier.
She would miss the cheerful bickering from Korael and Sadie, their weird-but-affectionate friendship was reassuring to her, and Cole’s quiet calm. But the two had chosen to take on an important mission of their own; one way or another, come Hells or high water, they were going to find a priest who was capable of performing the resurrection ritual to restore Mira – and Graves, Mytra, Celeste, Seraphina, and perhaps even Viggo – to life. Their absence was profoundly felt.
Sadie froze, gesturing for all those behind her to stop.
The entire line stopped, ears straining to hear whatever had caught their scout’s attention. Rhiallis heard it then, a terrible, howling scream of agony. It chilled her blood and she clenched her hand, sending a silent prayer to Iomedae for mercy.
“What is that?” one of her friends whispered. “How far?”
Sadie motioned to indicate that she was going to move ahead and see what awaited them. She withdrew a wand and tapped Rhiallis with it. Inside her skull, as her friend crept ahead, she heard Sadie’s voice.
Okay Rhi – I’m going up there. You guys stay back here. There was a long pause. Sadie had wrapped herself in shadow and was invisible to Rhiallis’ keen eyes. Suddenly, the halfling’s voice returned. Oh, by Desna’s Wing, what the fuck are they doing to her? Rhi… Rhi there are demons here, big ones, with vulture heads and molting feathers and big hooks on their feet and – and.. they’re ripping her apart. Describe them to Aimsley and Tom. Maybe they can tell us what kind they are. Oh sick… I’m gonna hurk, Rhi. Even a hag doesn’t deserve that.
“Demons,” she whispered to her friends. “With vulture heads, she says, and wings with molting feathers. They’re torturing hags. Sadie’s coming back – but she wants to know, do you know what we’re dealing with here?”
Aimsley frowned, Tom Parris scratched his cheek, Miranda closed her eyes. The three of them thought for a moment, then each shook their head in turn. She glanced to Ezekiel who merely shrugged.
I feel like I should know, but no – Sadie, no one is sure. Maybe once we see them… but they sound familiar.
Sadie popped up at Rhiallis’ side and spoke aloud. “If you’re going to cast any protective spells guys, do it now. We want as much surprise as possible with these things. There’s three of them – and one hag – that I could see. Oh, and one of them has lots of mirror images of himself floating around him.”
Rhiallis and Ezekial shared the same thought and both called upon Iomedae’s holy blessing to enchant their blades. Radiance, the golden longsword that had once belonged to the legendary paladin Yaniel, and the gleaming two-hander that normally rested across Ezekiel’s back, began to shimmer with a silvery haze.
“Bodiis tiid, wuappede med masek. Faal Rah do Lu bolaav mii nelom, ko daar un tiid do praag,” Aimsley’s incantation changed the weave of time itself; each of the party seemed to be moving at an advanced rate though the world continued on normally.
So enchanted, the Valorous Order charged over the crest, racing toward the hut at the bottom of the valley where three monstrous bird-headed demons engaged in horrific acts of brutality. They had finished with one; a pile of meticulously dismembered body parts had been arranged nearby. The second was limp, barely even conscious. Her saggy body had been systematically pricked, poked, sliced, and slit; even at a glance, Rhiallis was certain she had nearly exsanguinated right there in the dirt.
Vrocks, she knew it, immediately upon seeing them. They had seen one in the mauve flames beneath the swarm cavern before reaching Drezen. And then again, inside Drezen, protecting the entrance. They had emitted terrible disease-ridden spores. She shuddered violently, recalling how those purple vines had begun sprouting from Mira’s flesh and prayed that they would not infect her friends again today.
“EEEEEeeeEEEE-YAAAAAH!” Sadie’s battlecry as she rode Ezekiel’s shoulders into battle was infectious. The acrobatic hin leapt from his shoulders, somersaulting over the beast’s molting head to land at its feet. Ezekiel’s blade tore into the demon a heartbeat before Sadie stabbed him one, two, three in quick succession.
Tom Parris let loose a barrage of arrows an instant later; the first of the Vrocks dropped to the ground in a gory puddle. All three arrows had buried themselves in the demon’s head; one shaft quivered in each of his eye sockets, the third was planted deep in his throat. Rhiallis barely had time to register the skill behind those shots as she reached her own enemy and swung. Radiance sang through the air, a golden blur. A glass-like crash rang out as her enchanted blade smashed one of the illusory mirrors to pieces.
The two remaining Vrocks, apparently shocked to see how easily their cohort had been cut down, began to hulk up. Their muscles grew, their eyes seethed with hate. And then, with an eerie cry, they shot into the air.
A ruckus within the hut caught her attention and Rhiallis glanced over just in time to see the thatched roof explode. Another Vrock hurled himself into the air, meeting his friends. They began to slam into each other, grunting rhythmically. It was half-mating dance, half-psych up. Rhiallis began to flap her wings, leaping into the air to meet them in airborne combat.
Suddenly, a new group of Vrocks appeared, summoned into existence by the cavorting demons in the air. All of them flying, each of them wreathed in glimmering duplicates that would make it incredibly difficult to hit them.
“Hold still so I can hit you!” Rhiallis growled, surging forward. She was forced to change targets repeatedly, flying at acute angles to maintain control. Flight was a difficult skill to master and Rhiallis knew that she must look like a broken marionette, hurking about in her beautiful silvered armor.
Six Vrocks threw their heads back in unison and let out a mighty howl. It split the air and she whirled around involuntarily, trying to block the sound from her ears. Beneath her, she could see all of her allies suffering the effects as well. From the corner of her eye, she noticed one who had been rocked harder than the rest- Aimsley was staggering. Twin rivulets of blood dribbled from her ears, leaving crimson streaks down her cheeks.
There’s nothing I can do from up here, Rhiallis told herself, and forced her focus back into the battle. She swung Radiance again and again, feeling stronger with each mirror image she shattered, each drop of demon blood she spilled. Like Graves, like Celeste, like Ezekiel – Rhiallis fought like a lion. Although most of her strikes managed only to dispel the illusions, she flew across the sky, her confidence growing by the second.
“HRUUUNGA-hruuuuuungaaaaaAAAaAAAH!” There were only five demons remaining, yet their combined might was equally as strong. Rhiallis could only watch in horror as they ignored her swings and let forth a communal blast of wicked, lurid violet energy. It shot through the air, zapping the clouds, the earth and everything in between.
She heard a single, heavy thud.
There was a long, keening wail and it took a dozen heartbeats before she realized it had come from her own throat. Aimsley crumpled to the ground once more and this time, went absolutely still. Her face was frozen in a rictus of agony, her hands were as claws, her body twisted.
Rhiallis turned, preparing to dive – away from the battle, but toward her friend, to do her duty and fulfill her true calling. If I had been down there, with her, healing my allies instead of battling… I am no warrior… damn it… Iomedae forgive me… I have failed them again.
Though her thoughts turned dark and melancholy, Rhiallis was not given time to mentally pummel herself. The remaining Vrocks burst forth with another sonic blast and she whirled, pain blazing in her golden eyes.
Someone had cast a spell upon Ezekiel and now the two of them, righteous paladins in service of the Inheritor, buzzed through the skies slashing at the demons with everything they had.
“Curse you, beast!” Rhiallis screamed, driving Radiance through the soft flesh of his unprotected belly. “Back to the Hells and BURN!”
The last Vrock slid from her blade, leaving its crimson blood hissing upon the holy sword. It tumbled to the dirt and landed with a sickening crunch.
Rhiallis flew to Aimsley’s side.
“I can’t perform the ritual,” Tom Parris said, kneeling beside the fallen elf. “I don’t have a diamond large enough to use as a focus.”
“There’s naught I can do, either.” Ezekiel tossed his head, his golden hair gleaming like green-tarnished bronze in the eerie Worldwound moonlight. “Poor girl.”
Sadie called out from the doorway of the hut. “Don’t worry about it, Rhi can wake the dead!”
The hin disappeared into the hut with Miranda and Tom Parris on her heels. Ezekiel hesitated, watching as Rhiallis dropped to her knees beside her friend. She bowed her head, sweat beading on her face, still out of breath from the frenzied flying and fighting, and spoke a soft prayer over Aimsley. White light, limned with a rose-gold shimmer, emanated from her hands and spread across the elven corpse.
It could have been a single minute or an hour – Rhiallis lost herself in the wonderful glow of Iomedae’s grace – but when Aimsley’s eyes began to flutter, she smiled.
“Welcome back,” she whispered.
There were shadows behind her eyes as she met Rhiallis’ gaze, but Aimsley nodded. “Thank you, Rhiallis… there’s still a battle to be won, right?”
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Note: Image is “King Jagiello Statue Central” by (Mulligand) from SXC.hu; edited by me