Back up Pavis overall

Happy Reunion

Very quickly they found a side door to the temple with recent tracks going through it. The four passed through quietly and followed a passage to another smaller shrine. Several things immediately struck Graylor. The first thing was that the far wall of the shrine did not exist in this world. Both Dori and Egil were there and armed. Egil was bathed in Humakt's light and his features were changing between that of Egil and those of a man from the Far East, that must be Li Phanquann. As he watched, Li/Egil turned towards the darkness that was the far wall and started to walk.

"Egil! Li!" Graylor called out, not knowing how deeply submerged in Li Phanquann's personality Egil was. "Wait, where are you going?"

Egil hears a voice behind him, it seems faraway, turning he sees people he recognises. Warriors, soldier of Hereward. Ah yes! That's Graylor. He turns and walks back towards the newcomers, holding up his blade to flash its deathlight in greeting, "Graylor! I can't tarry long here, I must follow the vampire and the other onto the heroplane, with any luck I can end this now. Any magic you can use to help me slow it down would be really helpful though."

"Of course, take back the swords that you dropped earlier. They have been strengthened with the power to Annihilate Chaos. In order, to help you actually get a chance to use them, I'll give you Jalmar's ability to resist chaos; it's a very good counter to vampire hypnosis." Graylor traced the death rune on Egil's forehead, the mark glowed blackly for a moment or two before fading. "May Hu keep you true, Jalmar guide your movements and Li direct your striking."

Egil smiles at Graylor "Ah! Many thanks. I can't, of course, leave you bladeless yourself. Here borrow my new sword for a while, its name is Barzaad's Tooth. It shears through stone like its butter." He points to the ruined pillar to show its effects. After taking the blessing from Graylor Egil bows "and May he keep you true also. If have not returned by Yelm's rise I will see you in Humakt's hall. Farewell." He turns, concentrating on the heroplane, and seems to walk straight through a nearby wall.

Graylor watched Egil disappear with mixed emotions. Envy for not being able to be with Egil; hope for Egil's success, and fear that Egil might not. Just at that moment the noise of the warding shut off. Somewhat relieved Graylor turned to find Dori with Kristen berating her for not having come clean about Cavos, Yenda was nowhere to be seen. Dori cut her off as Graylor turned away from Egil.

"Later - it's done now. Graylor, what's been happening?" She looks a little pale, and too controlled, but doesn't seem to have been hurt.

"Excuse me Kristen, but Dori needs a situation report. How about you bringing the prisoner to remove these bracelets."

Kristen looks darkly at Graylor and Dori, but knows Dori well enough that information is always her first priority. Graylor delivers his report concisely and leaving nothing out.

Dori listens, absorbing every detail, then fills in her side of the story, and Egil's in so far as she knows it. Put together, the tale is consistent, and horrifying. "And Egil as Li Phanquann has gone to hunt Parus, alone," she concludes. "He's too young, he doesn't have the experience, but he's all we've got. Damn it... ah well, it worked out before with Aelf. We can hope. If he fails, maybe even if he succeeds,
they'll come back to the mundane here, and we'd better be ready for them."

All the while he is reporting Graylor is aware of an increasingly loud background noise, a rumbling, scraping sound. When Yenda turns up with the prisoner to free Dori he takes the opportunity to investigate. Yenda lowers the gag and speaks quietly to the prisoner.

"Now you will remove these bracelets from Dori. Don't even think about messing me about!"

He shakes his head defiantly. "I was ordered never to release this woman. I daren't go against Cavos' orders."

"Then you have assured that your continued existence will be as uncomfortable as possible." She rests her hand lightly on his arm and the man flinches from the touch.

"OK. I'll do it just don't do that again!" He sobs. "I need my hands free as I have to physically remove the bracelets."

Dori raises an eyebrow slightly at his reaction. "Yenda. It seems we have something to discuss later."

Yenda loosens the bonds to provide him the minimum amount of movement. He mutters a simple spell and carefully removes the bracelets.

As Yenda re-ties him firmly, Dori sighs with relief and some of that tight control relaxes. "That's better! Now maybe we can see what's going on here." A cold North wind starts to blow, searching out the corners of the shrine, investigating routes deeper and those to the surface.

Graylor's search reveals that the sound seems to be coming from at least two places in the walls. He turns to warn the others to find Kirsten standing close to one source of noise and Yenda watching as Dori uses her wind to blow dust and sand from the cracks around another.

"There is something tunnelling through these walls." He calls out to the two women. "Prepare for an attack."

He turned back to the wall in time to see a grey claw break through the stone. Trusting Egil's sword he swung with all his might at the wall just above the new opening. As he swung the sword a horrible doubt came into Graylor's mind. "What if the sword is only able to cut stone and not flesh!" As if responding to his thoughts the sword hit the creature beyond the wall and stopped.

"Hells, why do I have these stupid, negative thoughts!" Graylor muttered darkly to himself.

"We have an invasion of Karshtkids!" Grayor called out to the others. "And I have to find new swords!"

"Oh, great!" Dori might even mean it from her tone. "Oddus, Kristen, with me, Vindana, help Graylor find a working weapon in those piles then keep watch, Elendala and the rest, handle the other attack."

Her own sword is drawn, and alight. Not the firey, howling horror he had seen facing the trolls, but still singing softly. She looks at it, puzzled. "That's odd... more light than usual." She shrugs, dismissing it for now. A string of pratzim flies across the room, catching Elendana, and a cutting wind severs it neatly. "Standard tactics, no need to take any silly risks."

Graylor hadn't seen her running a Ten in battle before, only as a junior to Siggyr in the fight against the trolls, and did not really have the leisure to do so now, but anyone who could refer to "standard tactics" for krarstkids caught his Jalmari interest. Just how much did the Legion teach its junior officers?

But that was enough idle speculation, he ran after Vindana and they soon found a couple of shortswords that suited Graylor. He paused only long enough to ask for Ashar's unbreakable blessing and to reaffirm his Jalmari magic.

Turning back to the fight he found that the room seemed to be full of karshtkids. He dodged one stream of pritzm and joined the nearest fight. He submerged himself in the dance of death, reacting instinctively to the ebb and flow of the fight. This left a part of his mind free to think. Firstly the swords Vindana had found were of very good quality. Dori was right the ten did seem to be totally in control, there was no panic the warriors communicated well and none were ever left vulnerable; a great team. Santhis was grimly fighting; he had found a spear from somewhere and was showing some competence with it. The long reach of the tongues of the karshtkids was keeping everyone at a distance.

"Hey Dori, can you generate a good cutting wind to remove these tongues. It will allow us to get closer"

"Try it yourself - you need the practice!"

She's already using the wind to deflect many of the sprays of pratzim, using something that isn't a Cutting Wind at all, but rather seems to clear the air. She concentrates, and the North Wind howls into the nearest 'kid, ice slicing at the tongue that is not withdrawn fast enough.

And behind her, other 'kids now spray pratzim unopposed. The cutting ice stops as she returns her attention to keeping her troops mobile.

Graylor realising how busy the ten-thane is tries it himself. With little success, and she made it look so easy! Those tongues could move fast, though not as fast as Graylor's blades, with his Jalmari training. That was easier but he must practice with the Truewind. He left the karshtkid to Yenda to finish off and moved off to another. This time he is only using his swords for defence he starts really concentrating on the Truewind. He was still thinking of the wind as something outside him. It wasn't it was him as much as his own arm or sword. Now was it. Suddenly the wind was responsive to his thoughts and the tongue neatly severed at the base, wisps of chilled air rising from the cut ends. Graylor continued using the wind to attack and wound his opponent before dispatching it with a clean blow from his swords.

He looks round, others have heard and seen the tactics he is using and using them themselves, with mixed success. Elgan uses his cutting wind blast with practiced aplomb. Irnar using a sword for a change had less luck, true he neatly severed the beasts tongue, unfortunately his blade was not protected like the legion and the acid ate through it rapidly.

Just then a man, or rather something that resembled a man, stepped out of one of the tunnels. His skin was a mottled brown colour and lumpy just like the karstkids, a large three jawed mouth was gaping in his chest a foul secretion dripped from its fangs. I barked in a guttural language and the karstkids changed their tactics individuals were targeted by more than one kid and soon the casualties started. Elgan was hit with a tongue round the face and then while he was stunned by the acid burns he was bitten by a second karshtkid immediately he went rigid and fell flat.

"Santhis, you're closest. Get that man, he's the controller. Without him we stand a better chance of defeating this lot."

Santhis was concentrating hard on his enemy. The temptation to use Oilamley magic was great but the new feeling of wrongness surfaced in his brain so he resisted the pull. He had worked out that as he got close the thing opened his mouth. So he timed his blow with his approach and delivered a two-handed blow directly into the creatures mouth. The spear penetrated through the brain and protruded out the other side of the creature. He acknowledged Graylor's command and gathered a reserve spear he had put against the wall and approached the figure at the back. To his horror he recognised the face despite the hideous form it was taking.

"Jax, is that you?"

"Santhis you dog. Are you here to help against these invaders?" The man grinned at Santhis. The sight was not reassuring as even his normal mouth was full of fangs. "How do you like my pets?"

"They are abominations, just like you; and to think I once called you a friend." Santhis turned away in disgust.

"But Santhis you have always been my friend. Why should this change things? We are all working for the same ends." Santhis could hear the charm in the words and felt himself wavering. There was only one way to deal with this. He spins quickly round and registers the look of surprise on Jax' face as his spear enters his chest through the gaping maw.

The bridge between planes opens and Egil drops back into the mundane dragging the hapless Cavos behind. As his eyes begin to get accustomed to the seeming bright cave he is whacked across the back by something. Spinning he finds himself confronted by a krarshtkid, preparing a defensive stance he shouts something at Cavos but in the pervading Silence of the Grave his lips move but nothing comes forth.

Jumping back and forth between the mundane and the Real - no, the Other - side can be disorienting even if you're used to it. Egil isn't, and the number of swaps he's done in the last few hours might worry even the most practised godi. For the moment, the instincts of a trained warrior take over - under attack, defend yourself. He drops his burden, draws, a little awkward with two shortswords when he's used to a broadsword and shield, fends off a claw while stabbing at the creature's underbelly - ah, a mouth there, too.

Is this the place he'd left? It hadn't been full of krashtkids and confusion, then. Or so brightly lit. Or so much wind... Dori looks round from her own battle, and another gust blows aside the pratzim that had been about to glue his sword-arm to his side.

Swift but deadly slashes make an end to the 'kid and then Egil turns to find another opponent. Stepping forward he emerges from the
Silence spell and the sounds of battle fill his ears. He spots his cousin, resplendant in shiny blue woad, and his friend Gerras, in the grip of a chaos killing frenzy. He charges the krarshtkid Gerras is struggling against, skewering it from behind.

"Greeting Gerras, need some help to clear up this mess?" Gerras grins back, clearly having the time of his life.

Mauvin, throwing deadly wind blasts at krarshtkids, moves across to join them.

"Mav, you follow us with that wind, we'll lead the way and chop at anything that comes within range." His still wears his visage of fear though the krarshtkids feared it not but more deadly was his Great Blow which rent the monsters with alarming gashes. Into these Gerras thrust his spear killing the monsters. Mauvin's cutting wind blast defends the pair, chopping away striking tongues and foul pratzim. Soon three monsters lay dead and Egil was casting about for more enemies.

Egil spots Graylor and makes his way across to him. He bows slightly and presents his swords back to him "Many thanks for the loan of these. They are splendid. Enjou swept the head off of that monster with a single strike and then burnt his remains to cinders. How did you fare with Barzaad's Tooth?"

"Excellent! We were just trying to organise a celebration feast. But as you can see some of the guests got a bit out of hand!" Graylor grinned and neatly skewered a karshtkid that had come up behind Egil.

"Thanks for returning my swords, I am glad that they were useful to you. Barzaad's Tooth and I did not get along too well. He cleaves stone magnificently but failed to cleave simple flesh. That may be because I expressed doubts on his ability. I am sure that it would be better behaved for one with less doubts." Graylor pulls Barzaad's Tooth from his back and hands it reverently back to Egil.

"You will have to tell us more about Parus demise when we aren't involved in a work out. Did you get Cavos too?"

"I dragged him out by his hair to face Dori's punishment but lost track of him for a bit as I was attacked by one of these things as soon as I came back to this plane. He can't get too far though, he's so weak he can barely crawl. Still we should have a care, a nip on the leg might be enough for him to recover." Turning to his companions he says: "Gerras, Mav over by that ruined pillar where you saw me is a vampire, it's very weak but still dangerous. Can you go and see if it's still there?"

With the controller killed, the krarstkids are less of a threat - many are now dead, and many of the rest are retreating back into the tunnels they came from. The extra holes don't seem to have done the stability of the place much good, though at least the water is now draining away. Having a pillar missing isn't helping matters, either. The creaking and groaning sounds from above have an ominous note to them.

Looking round, Cavos is not where he had been left - perhaps fortunately for him, as a rather large chunk of roof now occupies that space.

Geras and Mauvin, not even familar with what Cavos looks like, stare around in bewilderment, but Kristen, now freed from the need to guard Dori's back, sniffs the air. "A rapist, and you let him go? He's here, somewhere.... there!" She runs over to where Yenda had left their prisoner. Who is still very firmly bound, and completely unable to resist the teeth sunk into his throat.

"Yes excuse my bad manners there, if you'd killed all the bugs before I got here then it wouldn't have happened."

Ignoring the threat of the fangs, Kristen grabs Cavos by the scruff of the neck and pulls him off, easily overcoming his attempts to cling to his victim. She throws him to the floor, still whimpering and reaching towards the meal he had perhaps had a few sips from. Before any of the rest can intervene, the axe swings down - but only the razor sharp tip makes contact, and all the men present wince as they see the result. Except Cavos, who is still desperately trying to get back to his interrupted feeding, and apparently hasn't noticed what just happened to him.

Egil draws in a sharp breath before composing himself. "So do undead balls last longer on your pretty necklaces or is it banned to have chaotic nuts round your neck? No offence, just curious." He grins, he has a strange feeling of elation since returning from the heroplane, maybe it was being so close to his god that is doing it.

Graylor looked on with horror at the scene before him. By the gods the man didn't even notice. In other circumstances he would have felt sympathy but had chosen this path and this seemed to be justice of a form. But what was justice if the recipient was unaware of what was going on?

Yenda's reaction was strange she showed more shock at Egil's words than at the emasculation of the pathetic creature on the floor. She edged near to Kristen to have a closer look at her necklace. She had seen it before but before she had thought the "beads" to be wooden now with dawning comprehension she shuddered.

Santhis looked in disgust at his former master. He was shocked by the state he was in. Seeing Kristen's version of justice and the lack of awareness on the part of Cavos brought on an unexpected emotion; pity. This was not a thing to despise or be frightened of. This was something to be put out of its misery.

Graylor spoke out. "There is nothing we can do to him that would make any difference. The greatest punishment we could give him is to leave him exactly as he is. But the sight of him sickens me we should end it now."

He looks over to Dori and asks. "What do you want of him? There is nothing left to be avenged on or even much left to have justice. I suggest that what you need to know you ask now and we then finish it. Any of us would do it for you, but if you want the right then it is yours."

She shakes her head. "This time, I don't need anyone to do my job for me."

At the sound of her voice, Cavos looks up, wild hope in his eyes, and tries to move towards her. Kristen's axe moves to intercept him, then stops as Dori raises a hand. "Don't. Restrain him if you must, but no more." She studies Cavos, impassive, hiding all reaction. "You can't seriously believe you can still succeed, now? Giving up just because it's impossible has never been your style, though. Nor mine." She smiles in grim self-recognition.

She looks back at Graylor. "I have all the answers I need, and more. I wanted to know why. I'd hoped - well, that was always a foolish dream. I know, now. Power, as usual. And the other things I said to you, back then, that I wanted - I've got them."

He remembers, as if it was an age ago, the taste of sherbert, and her voice - "...if I could be sure that when I kill him, it really is justice, not revenge, if I could forgive him first, so I can regret his death instead of enjoying it..." She doesn't seem to be enjoying this.

"No, Cavos. You don't get to take that final step. Not just because it would involve killing me. Not even, funnily enough, because letting you turn into a vampire would be against everything our cult believes in. Because it wouldn't help."

There's some emotion showing through the mask now, but not perhaps what anyone might have expected. A wry understanding - and compassion.

"Think about Parus. Why do you think he understood what he was doing to you so well? Why was he doing it at all? Same reason you kicked Egil - you'd never have done that, before, not for no reason. Parus lied to you, Cavos. He lied again and again. Taking that final step over the edge won't stop the pain, not for long. It would just remove any chance you ever have of
escaping it. I won't let you do that. I'll give you a choice, but not that one."

There was still some intelligence in his eyes. Not much, but some. "Lied?"

"Yes. You knew that, all along, after a fashion, you could have guessed this. But I'm absolutely sure. I can end your pain, but not that way."

Wary caution, an animal hurt too often. "Trust?"

Exasperated understanding, now. "Yes, of course you can! You said that to Egil, and the same applies here. Cavos, have I ever lied to you, or to anyone? Ever, even once?"

This close to the edge, all his armour, all his suave deception, is gone. "No."

That stops her for a moment - even now, she hadn't expected it. "You know, that's the first time you ever admitted that," she says softly. Then shrugs - back to her job. "You have a choice. Not much of one, I admit, but it's your choice, your freedom - Humakt insists on that. If you want, I can end it, end the pain. Give you peace. If you accept it."

He understands what she means, that much is clear. As before, when Egil had offered him the same choice, longing wars with terror. Fear of Death - his experiences not that much earlier won't be helping.

"Scared?" she says softly. Again, with understanding, not contempt. "So was I, when you drove me to the same choice when I was fifteen. It doesn't hurt. Life hurts, not Death. Believe me, I've been there, I've done it, we all have. Death isn't something to fear. It's an escape - your only escape, now." Then, almost wistfully: "Let me help you?"

He meets her eyes, and something passes between them - something too complex and too long-standing for analysis. The exhausted whisper is almost too faint to be heard. "Please..."

She nods, accepting it, and motions Kristen back. "Let him go." Her sword flashes down - literally, as light blazes from it - and his body goes limp as his head rolls across the floor.

Graylor walks over to Dori and places one hand on her shoulder. He looked about to speak but the look on Dori's face made him hold his words. Yenda put her arm round Dori.

"It is over. You acted most honourably, but tell me what was his other choice? As far as I can see he didn't have any choice."

"It wasn't much of one, no." Dori is still staring at the head on the floor. "The other option was that I still killed him, but he didn't accept it."

"But...." Yenda looks bewildered by this. "What does it matter? He's still dead either way."

"Oh, it matters, at least I think it does. Hope it does... They call this a secret, but that's only in the sense that if you haven't been there, it won't make any sense. And you have. You're Humakti. Think back to your initiation: you died, remember? You accepted death, embraced it - and then moved on. And here you are."

Yenda stares at her in shock - that's never spoken of. Although come to think of it, she's not sure why.... "How do you know?"

"Because you're here. If you don't accept it, you don't come back. There's nothing afterwards, just oblivion." She shrugs wryly. "Or so I'm told. How can we ever know, after all? In this case we might have been left with a ghost, I suppose, but we know how to deal with them. But I think it worked." She nods towards the head. "Look at him."

Yenda had been trying to avoid doing that. But the face didn't have the frozen rictus of terror she had half-expected, had seen far too often after a fight. Instead, he looked almost peaceful.

Yenda turned back to Dori, her face full of questions, but one look at Dori's face showed that she was deep in contemplation. So Yenda bit back her questions and left Dori to her reverie.

Just then an alarming groaning from the ceiling caused them all to look around in alarm. The moment had passed for some. Egil called out.

"This place is coming down. Let's move out before it is too late."

Graylor looks round and notices Elgan's stiff form again. "Elendala is there anything you can do? He's been poisoned by those karshtkids. But let's get him out first. Santhis you lead the way, you others rig up a stretcher and carry him out."

Immediately there was a bustle of activity as the ten followed his suggestions.

Elendala took a quick look at Elgan and shook her head. "I don't carry the antidote for whatever their poison is. Dori knows more than me, she might...?" then as she looked across at her ten-thane and teacher - "no, probably not." She looks up at Graylor, half-laughing. "And I take it this time the unicorns will be even less keen to help?"

"He fails to qualify many times over and he's male!" Graylor grins. "I wonder if any of my brothers have more advanced magic against chaos wounds? Anyway we must get him above ground and to help."

In no time the stretcher was ready and Santhis was leading them all out to the surface. Graylor turned to find Dori still stood where she was with Egil not sure how to break into Dori's silence. Another great groan came from the ceiling and cracks started to appear. Worse there was a thundering roar from the exit tunnel and a huge plume of dust was spat out of the opening.

"Egil can you go and see what that was." Graylor asked. "If it is blocked then I think we'll need the powers of that new blade of yours!"

Egil sped into the dust while Graylor assessed his ten-thane. He had seen that reaction before, felt it even when the Whispering Swords were wiped out. The only thing that cut through was Irnar reminding him of his duty to his friends. Some day he would retrieve Axin's dagger that housed the guardian Talos. But that was for later, now he had to rouse Dori.

"Ten-thane. The ten has been evacuated. We need to return to the Legion and report."

The words, especially mention of the Legion, finally broke through Dori's isolation.

"Right, carry on Graylor. Let's head back then." She finally roused herself and followed Graylor.

Egil had been busy, the block that should have sealed their exit had finally fallen and he was busy carving a way through. Graylor worried that the Unbreakable blades had failed in some way. But an examination of the ceiling showed great chunks taken out of it. The blades hadn't failed the ceiling had!

The companions made their slow way through the karsht tunnels. Progress was hampered by having to carry the stretcher, some of the bends were sharp and difficult to manoeuvre round. It wasn't long before they heard the booming crashes that they were expecting. They all offered silent prayers to their gods that Dori, Egil and Graylor had made it out in time. Finally they came to the entrance hall, at which point they heard a long scream but no sound of battle. Drawing weapons and exercising some caution they edge carefully to a shuttered window to see what is going on. To their surprise they see the Marble Phalanx in control of the area and torturing someone; they can't see who. But by the tone of the voice and colourful language it is Karrath, the others of his ten are bound and are being dragged away by soldiers wearing red feathers. There were too many to act now but the ten-thane will be arriving soon and she will know what to do. Weren't the rest of the Legion supposed to be arriving soon. Better to sit tight and wait for an opportunity than to rush out to suicide. So they settled down to wait. Santhis returned to the tunnels to collect Graylor and company. Shockingly a howl rent the air.

"Yinkin's balls, what was that?" Irnar exclaimed quietly. "That was no natural sound."

"No indeed not, that was the sound of a demon." Graylor's quiet voice affirmed. "I have heard that sound only once before. I have no magic to dismiss this fell beast though my brothers do teach the way. I hope that Vur is on hand and that he and his men have the means to dispel it."

"What is the situation?" Dori asked and was quietly briefed.

Valid XHTML :: Valid CSS: :: Powered by WikkaWiki