The Villains followed Tiadora through the twisting halls of the manner in single file, the jingle of armoured chain links, the rattle of bolts and arrows in their quivers, the clatter of sheathed blades as they knocked against packs filled with crowbars and lanterns and torches and other equipment all merged together into a quiet din which filled most of them with quiet confidence. No man or woman was without a weapon or two, none could claim that he or she felt vulnerable behind their chain shirts, none could say there was an eventuality which they couldn’t cobble together a solution to. The feeling of confidence at being fully prepared before an important test was certainly warming to the heart.
They now all stood before a door which some knew had been tightly locked previously, beyond the skills of any locksmith among them. Tiadora merely caressed the handle of the ancient door and all heard the tumblers snap back smartly. The trusted aide of Cardinal Thorn turned the handle and gently pushed the door open from where she stood, allowing a cold, dark aroma to waft up to greet them. The beginnings of stone steps could be seen. Tiadora smiled at the damp, mildew-like smell of age as she turned to look at the party.
‘Below’ she said with an air of slight menace ‘you will find the Nine Lessons.’
‘How long will this take us?’ Rythern enquired, trying to suppress the squirming anticipation in his stomach
‘Perhaps the rest of your lives’ Tiadora’s eyes twinkled along with her dark grin.
‘What awaits us down there?’ Vaelus asked
Tiadora paused, considering her answer before replying ‘You should always expect a fight’
The excitement was palpable among the entire party now. One could verily taste it passing from man to man. The opportunity to be tested in a controlled environment, to match wits against whatever architect designed such a place. Perhaps it was the mind and conceptions of Adrastus Thorn himself which lay in wait for them. This was the opportunity for each Villain to prove his worth, to justify his presence.
The stone steps were well hewn but slightly damp as they led the party under the manor. The fine stonework of the walls suggested they marched into the foundation of the house, that whatever that lay before them was here upon the manor’s beginnings. As they descended, they each passed under a stone arch built into the wall and ceiling. Across it was an inscription carved boldly into the stonework:
“Deception is a tool, self deception is death, deceive always thine enemy but never thyself”
A bare room, no more than forty square feet, greeted them, illuminated by a single lamp suspended from the ceiling. Directly opposite to the stairs was a wooden door with a large iron ring for a handle. After the party took up positions in preparation for whatever horror lurked behind the door, Vaelus lit a torch and walked towards the door. All watched him as he cautiously stepped before it. He suddenly paused, as if he sensed something. After a few seconds, Vaelus reached out a firm hand and touched the iron ring lightly with his finger tips. Again he paused as if something vexed his senses. Slowly he began to turn the handle and then as fast as a bolt of lightning, leapt into the air, landed several feet away, tucked and rolled expertly back to his feet. The floor immediately in front of the door dropped, no longer supported by the latches which were connected to the door handle. The stone paving hurtled into the pit and crashed with a deafening bang into rubble. Glancing over the lip of the pit, Vaelus saw the three foot long steel spikes that would have met him hungrily had he not suspected the pit the moment he stepped onto the false platform. Carved into the pit wall was the inscription: “Thou art deceived, pain is thy reward” He grunted sternly, almost sneering at the trap and brushed himself down as he walked back towards the others who marvelled at the huntsman’s reflexes.
Now the party had one more problem. With the only door in the room obviously a decoy, there appeared to be no other means of progression and were it not for Shivani’s inclination for observing the cunningly disguised, there wouldn’t have been. After only a few minutes of searching, Shivani found the tell-tale signs of the imperfection in the stone work in the southern wall. Pushing as hard as she could upon the secret door, the stonework slowly relented and swung open to admit them. A narrow corridor greeted their sight, only seven feet high and allowing two to walk abreast with yet another wooden door before them. Above it was another inscription, reading: “Following the herd is for fools. Fear not their icy derision, instead fear only their Infernal Lord.”
After Vaelus’ discovery of the kind of trickery and cunning they faced, all but Shivani hung back from the corridor, fearing some massive force to come barrelling from the next room or being trapped in the confined space between the two rooms somehow. Shivani’s life as a travelling performer had taught her many things, but clearly one stood out clearer than the others in his precise moment: Fate favours the bold. She cautiously approached the door and opened it with a grimace. The sudden shock caused her to reel slightly as a sudden escape of frigid air caught her in the face. As she ventured into the room, she clutched involuntarily at her arms, her thin sleeves doing nothing to block the virtually Arctic air that bit through her flesh. It was is she had just stepped into a clear yet unforgiving winter’s night. The room was approximately sixty square feet and possessed four doors in the north, east, south and westerly points. As the Villains stepped through the northern door, the evidence of the room suggested that no one had stepped here in decades. Dust lay thick on the ground. The air had frozen the moisture in the walls so that they clung onto the dirt and filth of the room and even the flame in the suspended oil lamp did not dance and seemed to contain no joy or heat about it with only a bare minimum of light escaping through the translucent frozen glass panes. The source of the fell air was apparent immediately. Upon the western door clung a thick violet mould which pulsated with its own, esoteric heartbeat. This hateful fungus was the source of the frigid air, feeding greedily on whatever heat it could sense to sustain itself until all about it lay as cold as the depths of space. Only frost could destroy it entirely and allow access to the door it clung to. Yet the party were at a loss as to how to generate such a thing. Approaching the eastern door, Vaelus gently places his hand on the surface of the wood, feeling for any vibration that may give a clue to what lay beyond the door. He felt nothing and so peered cautiously through the key hole. There he saw what he recognised as a taught wire spanning the room and connected to the door. Whatever lay beyond, the trap was ready to spring on any who did not treat the room with respect. Vaelus went to the southern door and found exactly the same trap behind it, whatever it was.
As the Villains experimented with disabling the fungus with alternative means at their disposal, Grakas examined the trap for himself and with the cunning of his fiendish ancestors, conceived a surprisingly simple means to disable the trap. He approached the east door, pressed his back to the wall adjacent to it and with great speed, twisted the handle and forcefully pushed the door open very slightly and held it there. With the tension in the wire suddenly lessened, the enormous crossbow-like device at the far end of the room released the javelin that had been aimed directly for the door. The missile launched across the room and hit the door so hard it managed to penetrate deeply through the thick, riveted oak, the force so massive that Grakas’ arm reverberated with the impact at the man-stopping blow. Now unguarded, Grakas opened the door fully to a small, empty room, completely bare save for the inscription on the back wall, just above the balister which read: “Thou hast followed the herd”. Shrugging as to the meaning of the words, Grakas went to the southern door and repeated his actions. Once again, the javelin sunk deeply through the thick oak, causing some to shudder at the dark thought of what would have happened if the door wasn’t checked prior to its opening. But as Grakas pushed the door open fully, he found something quite strange and unusual. Just behind the javelin launcher was an elegant marble plinth, upon which sat an exquisite blue jewel which shone with a thousand breath-taking facets and casting a cold blue light across the walls around it. When the barbarian picked it up, he barely suppressed a shudder as a terrible cold washed over his hands and arms. It was freezing! Grakas carefully stepped out holding the jewel before him and Vaelus let out a gasp.
’That’s Alchemical Ice!’ he said in hushed tones. ‘I barely thought such a substance existed!’
Urged excitedly by his comrades, Grakas held the exquisite jewel aloft and launched it ceremoniously at the fungal door. The gem shattered instantly, releasing what appeared to be a deathly cold blue fire which consumed the mould ravenously. Within twenty seconds the mould was gone and the door could be opened. Beyond lay a new corridor which immediately turned left and just beyond the door, engraved upon the wall were words that announced: “Thou hast made thy own path.”
While the corridor was only a few hundred feet, twisting occasionally at right angles, for some members of the party it went on for miles, an endless slog of trepidation. They had already surpassed two Lessons yet Tiadora told them that they should expect a fight. What horrors conceived by the twisted master of this place lay in wait? Surely soon they would be grappling with some malignant entity. For the bolder members of the party, exactly the same thoughts were gently gliding through their minds, only they each relished the thought. Upon conclusion of the passage was another door identical to the ones they had already surpassed, the inscription above it reading: “Know thine enemy, shatter all that blinds you and then burn thine adversary to ashes”
Shivani opened the unlocked door to a room of blackness as deep and complete as the unholiest levels of the Abyss. Every eye failed against it but where Rythern’s eye failed to unravel its mysteries, his mind did not.
‘This darkness is magically based. No matter how good your vision, no matter how bright your lamp, only magical light can defeat it. Something vicious resides here, count on it.’
Suddenly, Lucian sent a hand into the womb like pockets of his cloak and held up a small marble-like stone. It looked like a pebble but he smiled confidently.
‘An Ioun lantern’ he said triumphantly ‘I believe this should do the trick.’
‘Who shall go into the room?’ Vaelus asked
‘I shall’ Shivani volunteered, taking the stone from Lucian’s palm.
She cast the stone up with a flick of her wrist and as it reached its zenith at eye level, it stopped. It hung there as if suspended by an invisible thread before slowly beginning to orbit her like a tiny moon. As it travelled, brilliant light shone from it as bright as a torch. With her sword in hand, the bold Vishkanya stepped into the room, expecting some beast or monster to lunge for her at any minute. In the light of the magical lantern, she saw that the room wasn’t particularly large, perhaps fifty or sixty squared feet. As she stepped away from the door and into the room, a shining gleam caught her eye. It lay immediately in front of her and glimmered with the lusts of wealth. Upon a marble stand, nestled in the bosom of a claw-like setting, sat a gorgeous slither of black obsidian, just distinguishable from the blackness around it via its shining edges, like moonlight outlining a black storm cloud. Suddenly, PAIN! A great burning radiating from her heart struck Shivani with the force of a raging inferno. She staggered at the blazing torture of a pain beyond anything she had endured before. From the light of the orbiting lantern, she caught a glimpse of the soft skin on her forearms suddenly tearing open and a thin line of blood flowed from her veins and sailed in a meandering stream into the darkness, as if a red satin ribbon were being drawn from her body. The pain was extraordinary and she knew that should she succumb, she would be dead in less than a minute. Then suddenly she remembered the inscription above the door. Looking up at the slice of obsidian, she leapt forward and sent her sword sailing through the air and straight through the precious rock. The blade passed through it as if it were not even there, cleaving it in twain where the two halves fell to the floor and shattered. Immediately, the darkness disappeared yet Shivani could still see nothing. All around her was a swirling red/black mist. It swept around her and she screamed again as another ribbon was torn from her veins, her blood being absorbed by the cloud. Suddenly, the cloud was gone. Shivani threw her gaze around the room. She could see her comrades watching anxiously from the westward door. There were two more doors, one in the northern wall and another in the eastern wall. Beneath her feet were a series of holes, equally spaced from each other in a grid, approximately one inch in diameter and spanning the entire floor. That was where the mist had gone! Not waiting for it to return, Shivani dashed for the northern door, bidding it to open with one of her bardic cantrips.
By now, the others realised what they needed to do, this cloud, this aberration, was some form of vampiric mist feeding off the blood of any living victims it would reach, growing stronger and faster with each meal. Fire was the key, the tool that would send it shrieking to its masters in the Beyond. Rythern cursed for not having any fire based spells but he hit upon a plan. Maybe, just maybe, there was a possibility that his undeathly heritage would come in handy. If the mist were using Negative energy to perform its killing, perhaps the sorcerer would be unaffected. It was a grave risk but it may just allow the opportunity for him to shatter the bullseye lantern he carried as well as the oil therein at the mist, engulfing it. Rythern stepped fearfully into the room with Vaelus just behind who brandished a burning torch. Both men held fast and waited for the first sign of the Things return. Wisps suddenly began to swell around the floor towards the southern wall and Rythern launched his lantern at the spot. In his minds eye, he saw the lantern shatter, the flame igniting the oil in a spectacular roar of fire. What actually happened was the lantern hit the floor, bounced, denting the hood and clattered away, the flame going out.
‘Stupid Dwarven rubbish!’ he shouted as the mist lunged for him. The pain was excruciating. Rythern felt his veins opening to the air and a great ribbon streamed from him. He cried out, fighting back agonized tears. Vealus launched his torch towards the cloud but only seemed to graze it. With a rush of quick thinking, the half-elf went into his pack, found the lamp oil he kept at the top of his pack and tore a strip from his sleeve, stuffing it into the neck of the flask. Rythern flailed maniacally at the pain as his blood was drawn from his half-vampirc body. He saw the slither of light from the northern door Shivani had just opened and desperately sprinted towards it, the mist using the opportunity to pull a generously long ribbon from the sorcerer just before he dove past Shivani and into the corridor. With that the mist retreated back under the floor.
With Rythern acting as an appropriate distraction, Vaelus ignited the rag and awaited the return of his opponent. When it rose up and approached him, he pulled his arm back but misfortune sent a loud shock-wave through the hearts of the entire party as the huntsman’s grip on the bottle slipped. The burning rag fell from the neck and the flask shattered harmlessly to the floor, its vital contents draining away into the holes in the floor. Vaelus ran for his life back towards the others with a rare sign of fear having seen what this creature had done to Shivani and Rythern. As the mist began to pursue him however, Shivani had already prepared her own Molotov cocktail from her possessions. She lobbed it straight and true… only to have the bottle sail harmlessly straight through the cloud and shatter next to it. The oil exploded and sent burning drops into the cloud’s “flank”. It swirled more violently and an audible shriek rose up from it. The shriek sounded enraged more than pained which only caused spirits to sink lower amongst the Villains. From the westward door, Vaelus prepared yet another cocktail and threw it hard at the mist, again it sailed harmlessly through the cloud and shattering nearby. The great cry of despair rose up from the lips of many of the Villains at the horrific bad luck they had suffered. Perhaps they were fated to die here!
As the mist advanced towards Vaelus once more, Chase leapt before him, brandishing his torch like a sword. He waved it with furious, panicked conviction, the rush of flame filling the air. But the cloud twisted itself around the hated element and lanced out at Chase, opening his neck and drinking deeply, the distinct sound of a husky voice emanating from the vapour as it fed before retreating once again into the floor. Everyone realised that this was hopeless. The Vampiric Mist had gained tremendous strength and mobility now that it had gorged itself on the life-essence of four of their number. Wasting no more time, the Villains all sprinted for the northern door, desperately cramming themselves into the confined space. The mist did not follow them but as it rose from the floor again, it swirled around the room caught in its own breeze, prowling the confines of the chamber like a great lion pacing its cage. Once again the strange, husky sound emanated from its form and it was only now, apparently beyond its reach, that Shivani cocked her head as she realised the thing not only spoke in an intelligible language, but that it was a language she herself could understand.
‘The mist, it’s speaking Aklo! It speaks the language of demons!’
‘What is it saying?’ Lucian asked
‘Blooooood… Swweeeeeet bloooooooood!’ Shivani translated as the Mist swirled around the room searching for a warm body.
All were quite for a moment as they caught their breath. But then Grakas, furrowed his brow in confusion.
‘Demons speak Abyssal’ he said quietly
‘Do they?!’ Shivani asked surprised ‘I could have sworn that they spoke Aklo, that is why I learned the tongue.’
‘Aklo is the language of unworldly things like aberrations and evil fey’
‘Really? I had no idea. Well, a fortunate mistake I suppose’ she laughed.
The bard looked out into the chamber and addressed the Mist.
‘What is your name? What is it that you want?’
‘Blooooood!’ It hissed ‘Need bloooooood, must have blooooooood!’
‘Well we have to call you something…’ Shivani paused before translating ‘Any suggestions, guys?’
Rythern rolled his eyes ‘Why not call it Bob?’ he said sarcastically
’That’s a great idea!’ Shivani beamed and turned back to the Mist before she could catch Rythern’s shocked expression that she hadn’t recognised his comment of derision. Rythern then threw a scowl of utter irritation and contempt before he rolled his eyes, shook his head at the Bard’s apparent lack of normality and turned to the others who had just opened the new door that lay before them, the inscription above stating: “Cruelty is a tool, not a past time. Be ruthless to thine enemy but reward those who serve thee well”.
The room was illuminated by a single dim oil lantern but there was only one thing within the room to illuminate. Dominating the room stood an implement of pain, of interrogation, of misery and death. Upon its sleek but blood-stained wooden surface, a thousand silent screams entered the minds of those who had heard victims of this infernal machine. The crunch of bones, the scream of fictitious confessions blurted out merely for an easy death were virtually palpable all in the shadow of this mechanical wonder, this simple executor of physics. Before the Villains stood a Rack.
Unwilling to venture back into the chamber with the Vampiric Mist, the Villains set about attempting to discover the significance of this Lesson. Why the need of the Rack? None could fathom for the moment. Convinced that there was something of true significance secreted somewhere before them, Vaelus began combing the entire room, examining every brick, every detail, every loose pebble in the paving for a clue. After twenty minutes, he found it. Discovering a loose brick in the south-western corner of the wall, Vaelus carefully prised it out to reveal a small lever. Grasping it firmly, Vaelus pulled the lever towards him an a great mechanical clunk sounded close-by. A small section of wall retreated away from them and then slid flawlessly into the stone beside it to reveal a very small room no bigger than a wardrobe. Within this tiny space, trembling like a defenceless animal was a man, apparently young, yet old enough to answer for himself. He was perhaps in his early twenties and wore the heraldry of Mirta as well as a bold family crest on his tabbard. He wore the garb of a Mitran knight but his lack of arms or armour and general youth suggested something amiss about that observation.
“Oh, thank goodness someone’s found me! Thank you Mitra!”
Vaelus lowered his self to his knee so that he could look at this most unimpressive specimen directly in the eye.
‘Indeed, praise be to the Shining Lord’ Vaelus smiled ‘Thank the heavens we found you. We are but servants of Mitra searching this hate-filled place. Tell us, who are you?’
‘Yes, yes!’ the man breathed, excitedly ‘My name is Timeon and I am a squire of the House of Balentine! My master, Lord Balin, is still somewhere in the complex. Please, you have to find him, he is in grave peril! I saw what lies ahead, the monstrosities that lie beyond this place.’
‘We will find him’ Vaelus assured the squire ‘but you must tell us everything you saw so that we can prepare.’
Timeon, squire to House Balentine, proceeded to evacuate a hasty yet surprisingly detailed account of the remaining Lessons, the traps, the creatures, as much as he could possibly re-call.
When he stopped, he breathed as if he had been trapped beneath an ocean and had just broke the surface. He was safe, all was beginning to be set to rights and soon his Lord would be discovered and aided.
‘You have done well’ Vaelus said quietly with a smile ‘I am sure that there is little else you could tell us about this place… isn’t that a shame.’ He turned his head slightly towards the others who stood behind him, each man looking at Timeon with a mixture of loathing and pity. ‘Put him on the Rack’ Vaelus said coldly.
Chase, Grakas and Rythern suddenly lunged. Between the three of them, Timeon’s enfeebled struggling was worthless. Now it is true that this simple squire had done nothing to any of them, nor did he possess the ability or authority to enact anything against them or their intentions. Yet he was viewed as either a weak and pitiable insect who had no more right or value to life as a house fly or as an easy and supple morsel from a society that sought to destroy all of them. Whether each individual Villain sought entertainment or revenge, it didn’t matter, despite his panicked screams that rang through the room anew, Timeon was held down onto the table and his limbs connected to the winches through the lengths of stretched cord.
‘What are you doing?!’ the Mitran squire wailed ‘Why are you doing this, I have told you everything I know about this place!’
‘This is true’ Vaelus admitted with a considered nod ‘But I’m sure you haven’t divulged everything you know in general and it would be such a waste to leave this device unused.’ He caressed the wooden structure slightly before he gave a smart nod to Rythern who turned the winch. The crunch that rose from the man’s limbs was akin to the loud popping of someone cracking their knuckles. Timeon screamed louder than he had done since his birth.
‘Alright, alright, I’ll tell you everything I know!’
In the next few minutes, Timeon screamed out everything he knew of House Balentine without the need for any further encouragement. In only a few extended breaths, he described the strategic importance of the House which resided at the Watchwall fortress on the northern approach to Talengarde, the surrounding countryside and offered to draw detailed maps of the interior including the Tower, the Rookery and descriptions of the various key figures in the leadership.
As this full confession was blurted out, Shivani stood apart from the others, just outside the room, staring at the inscription above the door. She puzzled over it and the full extent of its advice and secrets until she suddenly spoke out.
‘Stop it!’ She called out as Timeon was coming to the end of his confession. ’Can’t you see he has suffered enough?! There is nothing more he can say!’
’I’ve told you everything I know, I swear it!’ Timeon wailed
Each of the Villains stared at Shivani from their places with confusion save for Rythern who still stood manning the winch and looked rather horrified at Shivani’s protest.
‘Untie him this instant!’ she demanded.
To Rythern’s further surprise, Vaelus (who knew by now to trust Shivani’s intuition and understood she was up to something) obeyed and ordered the others to detach Timeon from the device.
‘What are you doing?!’ Rythern complained
‘We cannot hurt him any more, he’s told us everything’ Shivani scolded the sorcerer.
Rythern was lost for words
‘Come here’ Shivani helped Timeon to his feet and stabilised him as he stood.
‘Oh thank you, kind miss’
’Don’t mention it, sweetheart. You have suffered enough. You did very well and it’s time for you to go home.’
‘Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!’
The bard guided the squire towards the end of the corridor.
‘Just go out this door and head to the right’ she instructed, ‘we have cleared a path for you.’ She said kindly as she held the door open.
‘I wont ever forget your kindness, miss’ Timeon said, not taking his eyes off her
‘You won’t need to remember it, dear’ Shivani smiled pleasantly before roughly shoving Timeon through into the chamber and slammed the door closed behind him. Whatever volumes had been reached by Timeon on the Rack were nothing to the shrieks and death throes that reverberated through the door. The sound was one of unadulterated, repugnant, drawn out slaughter touching all but the furthest corners of the dungeon, penetrating walls of rock and even faintly reaching the ears of a few of the servants upstairs who blankly stared through it with their enchanted minds as they went about their dutues. After only a minute, the screaming stopped and Shivani opened the door to reveal the flayed remnants of Timeon’s corpse which looked like a desiccated pile of skin, every drop of moisture having been drawn from it leaving a pile of bloodless, shrivelled remains like a pile of worn-out clothes. The Vampiric Mist swirled around happily nearby, its appetite sated for the moment on the feast provided.
‘Now Bobby’ Shivani addressed the apparition ‘Are you happy with your tasty treat?’
‘Yeeeeeeeeesssssssss…. bllooooooooood’ the cloud hissed.
‘If you let me and my friends through the room unharmed, we’ll bring back more blood for you, ok? Do we have a deal?’
‘Yeeeeeesssssssssssssssss! Bring me blooooooooooooood!’ the Mist danced through the room like a ballerina upon the stage.
‘Come on guys’ she called to the others.
As each of the Villains passed her at the door and skirted Bob’s chamber to the eastern door, Rythern eyed her as he passed with a look of suspicion, distaste and praise.
“That was far colder than anything we would have done to him” he thought to himself and he began to question himself whether that sat well with him.
Through the eastern door, the passage turned left at another right angle and went on for another sixty feet or so before stopping at the next Lesson, the inscription this time reading: “The chosen are revealed by their might, the weak deserve no sympathy”.According to Timeon’s account, the party knew what lay beyond and prepared themselves.
‘Should we heal ourselves before entry?’ Lucian asked
Suddenly aware of the damage he had sustained at Bob’s efforts, Rythern spoke up
‘I could use some healing.’
‘Oh really?’ Shivani smiled mischievously next to him, raising her hand ‘I could do that for you.’
Rythern could immediately feel the familiar hum of energy that lay just beneath the surface of the Bard’s palm. The memory of being struck by the sickly, burning sensation of Positive energy resurfaced to the forefront of Rythern’s mind and he ignored the yawning ache of old wounds as the memory of the pain he had felt at Zerran’s error at Brandescar.
‘No, no, no, no, no. Woman’ Rythern said sternly but with a definite note of apprehension concealed just beneath the surface ‘Come near me with that stuff and I will bitch slap you like your pimp does!’
‘Oh really?’ Shivani said with great amusement ‘You really want to do that?’ She took a tiny step forward, daring Rythern to act
‘Listen, lady, touch me with that stuff and I will slap you with my own brand and I can promise you now, you won’t be as pretty afterwards’ As he said that, the sorcerer rose his own hand, palm out to reveal subtle beads of acid beginning to rise through his pours.
With that, Chase could stand it no longer. With Rythern’s final vocal nail hammered into his coffin, the cleric strode up behind him and unleashed a devastating bolt of Positive energy into the dhampir. In a repeat performance of last time, the half-vampire’s body started convulsing violently as new wounds in his neck and chest began to unleash new waves of precious blood. Weakened from the encounter with Bob, Rythern collapsed in a heap on the floor with Chase standing over him, a look of the uttermost contempt spread wide across his features.
The Villains began to cry out, demanding an explanation of Chase.
‘He got what was coming to him’ he spat ’ That guy has been nothing but trouble since day one and quite frankly, I’m tired of putting up with his threats and attitude.’
Shivani simply began to laugh hysterically.
Unwilling to watch Rythern die then and there,Lucian charged his hands with Negative energy and pressed it into Rythern’s chest. Immediately the wounds healed and Rythern groggily sat up, aching from head to foot. He looked up from the floor, saw Chase and instantly realised what had happened.
‘You despicable, conniving, back-stabbing cockroach!’ Rythern spat ‘How dare you attac…’ and without even allowing Rythen to finish the sentence, Chase rolled his eyes, grasped Rythern’s head and allowed another pulse of Positive energy to fire into him. This time, with Rythern being so weak from the previous hit, his chest almost seemed to explode, suddenly becoming a wash with blood in such a mortal wound, Lucian realised he barely had seconds to react. With Displacer Beast-like reflexes, the Anti-paladin pulled Rythern back from the the very brink of death but failed to channel enough to heal these new wounds completely, meaning Rythern remained unconscious. Shivani began to laugh even harder and held onto the wall for support lest her legs give way in her gales of hilarity.
‘What the hell did you do that for?!’ Chase complained to Lucian
‘Me?!’ Lucian cried incredulously ‘why the hell did you hit him again?!’
‘I am sick to death of that man’s belligerent attitude! He has done nothing but threaten, bully and insult the majority of us here and I for one am not going to stand for it any longer’ and with that, pushed Lucian out the way, charged his hand one final time and sent one more excruciating divine-knife through Rythern’s chest, aiming the blast straight into his heart. If Rythern had been awake at the time, he would have screamed as loud as Timeon had done on the Rack. Lucian dove heroically the second he found his balance again, hand outstretched, reaching as far as his arm would allow and sent one final wave of “harmful” power to restore a semblance of a chance into Rythern’s dying body. His heart began to beat once more, the wounds did not close but the energy provided did stem the bleeding. Rythern was alive and stable, but only just.
Amidst the arguing that rang out from the party over the next few minutes, a small breeze that emanated from no where in particular heralded the sudden arrival of Tiadora. She stood blinking at the scene before her and looked down at the broken form or Rythern.
‘Oh my’ She exclaimed curiously yet with an apparent lack of serious concern ‘Why have you done this to my dearest?’ she asked of Chase.
‘He deserved it, he betrayed the Master by violating the Third Loyalty!’ Chase announced triumphantly, convinced the documentation would support his position.
‘I see’ Tiadora said with a darkening voice, though who she aimed her displeasure at was uncertain. She rolled up her sleeves, called upon the power of Asmodius with two sweeping gestures and resuscitated Rythern who drew in deep, pained, rasping gasps as he tried to remove the taste of blood from his mouth. Chase appeared slightly disappointed with this turn of events and Shivani began to calm down as her laughing came to a conclusion.
Standing up, Tiadora addressed the entire party. ‘I would advise you learn to co-operate if you expect to survive.’ She grimaced, her voice a little heavier than normal ‘If not, I’m afraid the Master would not risk investing any more trust in any of you. I will not speak of this to him, so please don’t do anything to arouse his ire further.’ and with that she disappeared once again.
As he continued to sit on the floor, his back to the wall, Rythern said nothing but spoke with his glares of what he planed to do to Chase, or at least request of the Cardinal, as soon as the opportunity arose and the time convenient. However, he did not have to wait very long. After only around ten minutes since Tiadora left, a great sensation of burning heat and the smell of sulphur wafted into the senses of the Villains and with a sudden spitting similar to that of a bonfire and a rush of fire, his Grace Adrastus Thorn stood before them. His expression was one of utter fury.
‘I will not stand stand for this bickering!’ he roared. ‘I am a trusted follower of Asmodius and as such, I see all! Nothing is hidden from my sight! Tiadora has been punished for trying to cover this up and now I shall deal with you!’
With no further warning, he vocalised a spell of undeniable power, the room began to warm dramatically and with a sudden motion to Chase, the air around the cleric ignited and enveloped the man in Hell-fire. Far beyond any mortal heat, the fire burned for less than ten seconds, silencing Chase’s screams almost instantly as the flames overcame his body and even his equipment and reduced them all to smouldering ash as the column of Hell-fire subsided. Thorn then turned to Rythern
‘I probably would have killed you too if I were Chase. You have not been playing well with others and I will not tolerate this any longer! You will either hold your smug remarks and work with the others or I will bring the same wrath upon you! I cannot accomplish what I want with you driving the others to this sort of behaviour. You have been warned!’
Rythern cowered at the display and dared not make further eye-contact with Thorn.
Then Thorn turned his attention to Lucian.
‘Lucian, I know of your desire to work well towards our mutual goal and I am entrusting you to continue. You have done well in your attempts at mediation and have demonstrated the ability to be trusted with further rights and responsibilities.’ Thorn held out his arm and warmly took the man aside, away from the others.
‘You shall be my angel slayer.’ He says firmly ‘You shall be the infernal sword levied against beings far superior to that of most mortals and therefore you shall be superior to them. I shall teach you the secrets of delivering death and pain upon the Celestials themselves.’
He then turned back to the others. ‘Do not waste my time any further or you will all be sent to Asmodius directly to explain your incompetencies… and he is a lot more impatient than I am.’ And then he was gone.