Story:Holy Opposites Chapter 23
Chapter Twenty Three:Edit
Time meant less underground. The passage of days was measured by how long it took the spellcasters to replenish their magic. When the four of them reassembled after a light meal and a nap, it was dinnertime in the world above, and early morning in the Night Below.
Benra hugged Luanea goodbye and bowed to Doshellas, then shook both Paladins’ hands. “Good luck down there, you all,” he said. “Do return if you need us.”
Axio and Cavria saluted, the drow genuflected. “Thank you for your hospitality,” Axio said for the group. “We’ll be back as soon as we’re finished.”
The journey onward was slow. Axio chafed under the necessity, but it was probably going to save them. The four warriors – they were technically adventurers now, weren’t they? – advanced through the outer reaches of Undermountain, ready for action. The silence was unnerving. He had grown up in Waterdeep, so he knew the stories about monsters, madmen, criminals, and worse. The halls of Undermountain had killed thousands of people over the years, and those were just the ones lucky enough to actually die. Halaster Blackcloak and his psychotic apprentices had more inventive ways of permanently disposing of their toys.
“Pit trap here, disabled,” Doshellas said. He indicated the floor with an arrow he had in his left hand. His right held a torch. All three clergy had cast light on something they were carrying, and still held torches. No such thing as too much illumination in the Underdark. They could always fall back on their darkvision if they needed it.
The room they were in had clearly been well traveled. There were defined pathways around the traps that couldn’t be disarmed, with large splotches of brown paint the walls to denote falling panels. Every door hung open, and most had had their locks physically removed. Their caution didn’t stem from the traps. The problem was the monsters.
There were bones scattered everywhere. Most were from beasts, but at least two looked like partially eaten human remains. Axio had found arrows embedded in walls, as well.
“Movement,” Doshellas whispered, and they all froze. A pair of bats flapped by, and after another moment of silence, he waved them onward.
“Axio, compass check?” he murmured.
Axio withdrew his magic compass and studied it in the torchlight. “Seems… yes. It’s that way,” he said. He pointed off in a direction that looked random to the others. “So we’ll have to move south and west a bit to find it.”
“Got it.” Doshellas withdrew a map and studied it. “Hmm. Want to avoid portals and gates if we can,” he said in his whispery voice. “Unreliable, not always mapped. Halaster was ripshit.”
“No kidding,” Cavria said. The debased statues on the walls made even her skin crawl. They had passed rooms with elaborate alchemical devices in them that were indistinguishable from torture devices. “So how do we get there?”
“Don’t know. No direct route that I can see. Could try the Shaft,” Doshellas said doubtfully. “Not safe, though.”
“The Shaft is filled with thousands of gargoyles. We’re not going anywhere near it,” Luanea said firmly. “Nor are we taking the Pit of Ghanadaur. I will not set foot in that unhallowed cesspool without an army behind me.”
“Stairs it is,” Doshellas said reluctantly. “There are passages around. We need to find one.”
I stood ahead of the others as they talked, scanning the corners of the next room. The path we had been following branched here, and I saw far less paint on the walls ahead. I didn’t see movement, but that didn’t mean there was nothing there.
I cautiously leaned through the door, scanning for traps. “I don’t see anything up here,” I called back.
The others joined me. “Looks like this was a storeroom,” Luanea said. Doshellas scanned the room with his experienced eyes.
“Hmm. Fight happened here, recently,” he said. He pointed to two nicks in the wall. “No dust on those. Can smell blood.”
We all drew our weapons and advanced, eyes scanning around for trouble. We didn’t make it ten feet.
Axio heard it first. His eyes few open as he saw the monsters. “Specters!” he shouted, and something came through the wall at us. It was a specter, all right, with a smaller one behind it. It was in the shape of a humanoid, but I couldn’t make anything else out. The tormented soul screamed as it lunged at us.
Doshellas whipped his bow out as Axio cast a spell. The ranger’s bow glowed with holy light, and both specters slowed their approach. Doshellas fired as I turned to cover the others’ backs. Sure enough, another undead was emerging from the side of the room, phasing through the stone like it were water.
“Another one here,” I said, and I raised my glaive. I cast divine favor on myself, and charged into battle.
I drove the glaive into the specter, and it howled forlornly, before swiping at me with its phantasmal claws. I grimaced in pain as it found a chink in my armor, but I still stood. I stepped sideways and swung the glaive in two long arcs, side to side, and the specter started to flicker as I damaged its corporeal link.
Axio was a whirlwind of movement, as was Luanea. The priestess slashed with her bastard sword, finishing off the smaller specter, but the larger one was undeterred. It clawed at Doshellas, who sprang backwards and rolled away as Axio cleaved through it. The specters certainly didn’t like the radiant light of our weapons. It seemed to be doing as much damage as the actual blades. The one I was fighting flickered again and rose high in the air. A beam of black magic struck me in the chest, and I stumbled, but I forced back the sudden agony. “Not so easy,” I snarled, and I swung the glaive high. The specter disappeared with a scream. “Kelemvor take you, pitiful thing,” I said, before I doubled over with a racking cough. I supported myself on the wall and spit out something black, which was not a good sign.
Silence fell as the last specter died to a divinity-infused shot from Doshellas. Luanea was at my side in an instant. “Here, let me help you,” she said, and I felt inexpressibly soothing relief flow into my lungs as Eilistraee’s magic healed the necrotic damage the specter had done.”
I squeezed her hand. “Thanks, Luanea,” I said, drawing a ragged breath. “Everybody else okay?”
Axio was healing himself with his divine power pool, I noted, but I had barely asked when he pulled his hand away from his left arm and revealed healed skin. He rolled his sleeve back down and buckled his dented armor back in place. “I am now,” he said when he was done. “Those poor ghosts hit hard.”
Doshellas hadn’t been injured. Luanea nodded. “All right, then,” I said. “Where to now?”
Axio was tilting his head to look through the door to our left, the opposite of the way the map said we should be going. “Huh. Anybody else see that?” he asked.
I looked past his shoulder and saw a large wooden box on the floor of an adjacent room. There was no paint nearby, but the idea that there would be something valuable this close to Skullport beggared belief. “Yes, but it smells like a trap,” I said. I walked almost all the way to the doorway and gingerly poked at the box with my glaive. Sure enough, it sprang open and tried to bite.
“Mimic,” Doshellas remarked. I withdrew the glaive and rammed it into the creature’s midsection. Doshellas walked up next to me and shot the impaled creature twice, and it died with a gurgle.
I walked into the room and kicked at the dead creature, and a piece of gold fell out of its side. “Hey, this thing ate some real money,” I chuckled. I grabbed the coin and pocketed it. “Now, just a few hundred more, and we’ve turned a profit!”
Axio laughed, and Luanea and Doshellas both smiled. I knew jokes weren’t always going to be the appropriate response in circumstances like these, but for now, I could help keep humor high.
Darius Vorthane watched, stone-faced, with Bastienne Toller beside him, as a thief told a story.
“Found Paladins. Preparing Raid, Undermountain,” the thief read in his sending. “Traveling With Drow Cleric, Seeking Hidden Temple. Know Toller’s Name. Entering Through Skullport.” He looked up from the paper in his hands as he approached the twenty five-word limit. “Going Dark, Now, Toller. Won’t Return Here.” His image faded away to mist, which promptly dissipated.
“I’m glad your man has a sense of loyalty,” Darius said lightly.
Toller cursed bitterly. “Undermountain? Why Undermountain? The temple is nowhere near Undermountain.”
“They don’t know that.” Darius refocused on his portly subordinate. “But you, Toller, your laboratory and satellite altar, they were in Undermountain, were they not?”
“Yes,” Toller admitted darkly. “If they find the golem there…”
Vorthane’s fist came out of nowhere, taking Toller square in the eye. The cleric pitched backwards over his chair and landed on the floor, stunned and bleeding where the impact had split the skin. His master loomed over him. “Now you’ve done it,” Vorthane said, with a voice from the grave. “You created a Wire golem without my instruction, not once, but twice? Oh, Bastienne, how you have sinned…”
Toller struggled to his feet, but Darius was faster, and he cast a spell. Toller stumbled and faceplanted as the world went dark.
When he awoke, he couldn’t move. Icy adrenaline and hot fear crashed through him as he realized where he was. “Vorthane! Vorthane, don’t do this!”
His master’s voice came from somewhere behind and below him. “Oh, Bastienne, I am in such a merciful mood,” he said, apparently genuinely. “I’ve decided to let you earn a second chance.”
Toller licked his split lip. “What? You have?”
“I have. As you can see, I have attached you to the Harness.”
Toller swallowed. “I… yes, I can feel it.” Cold glass probes pressed flush against the backs of his hands. He couldn’t move. He was staring up into a dark ceiling. “I, uh, I don’t feel like I have a second chance.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll get one, when you plead for it loudly enough.”
A white-hot jolt of agony jolted his left arm. Toller cried out in pain as a glass tube impaled him. Immediately, he felt a horrible emptiness spread through his arm. “No! Please!”
His master’s infuriatingly calm voice continued from below. “You see, Toller, Master Bane teaches us much. He teaches us about pain, about suffering, about how all must be cast down and rebuilt. I agree with him.”
Toller screamed as the agony and numbness rushed through his left side. His right side convulsed as a hundred tiny needles suddenly impaled him. “No!”
“You agree with him, too, Bastienne.” Vorthane nodded knowingly. “I have seen it. I see you, Toller, and I see your faith, as childish as it is. All must be torn down in strife, and rebuilt in perfection. It will take a long time.” Toller screamed again as his right arm swelled. “It may even take more than one attempt, you know. We are but mortals, and can never quite match Master Bane’s high glory. Some come closer than others, of course.”
The fat cleric’s words reduced to incoherent wails as more glass tubes and needles impaled his legs and back, redistributing his blood. The suction device was a gnomish contraption Vorthane had paid a great deal to obtain. It was so effective. There was nothing like moving somebody’s vitae around to make them pliable. “You see, I do not sit at the left hand of Master Bane. Nor do you. I sit at his feet and learn as he teaches. Master Fzoul sits at his right hand, as he should, and High Cleric Steelwind sits at his left. I learn from all three, you know.” He looked to his left, where several dozen lesser Baneites were sitting with varying looks of disgust or glee on their faces. “You should learn, Bastienne, but you are slow to, and so if you cannot learn… why, then, you shall teach.”
Toller bellowed in agony as the machine in his left arm withdrew a long draw of blood and injected it back in. The blood was mixed with the smallest amount of citric acid, not enough to induce blood clotting, but enough to prevent him from passing out. “Please! Stop!”
“You know what that will take, Bastienne,” Vorthane said lightly.
“No, you’re discomforted. I can see your soul, and I will know when you are sorry,” Vorthane said. His eyes rippled purple with psionic light, and several students looked away. He noted which ones and returned to the main attraction. “Repentance towards Bane is a noble thing to do. Towards me, well… I do not command Master Bane’s authority, of course, but he has vested me with a small fraction. You shall respect it. You shall obey my commands as you obey his, and that is the way of things.”
A shard of glass lodged itself in Toller’s neck and began pumping. His screams wound off into a whimper as he passed out from the pain. Vorthane sighed. “So fragile.” He turned to look at the lesser Baneites once more. “You. Do it.”
The selected junior cleric raised a hand and cast a healing spell. Toller awoke screaming.
“Very good, student,” Vorthane said approvingly. “Bastienne, you’re not sorry yet.”
Toller tried to beg forgiveness, but a glass pipe shot down from above into his mouth, blocking his voice. “No, not yet,” Vorthane remarked as the suction started up. “Not by a long shot.”
I snuggled happily down under the blanket I had brought with me. Axio had seen fit to sneak a truffle into the rations pouch. That was so sweet of him.
Doshellas was leaning against the far wall, watching the corridors. We had progressed nearly half a mile through Undermountain, growing steadily closer to the sending circle the compass had shown us. Luanea had spent all of her spells for the day, as had I, and Doshellas had only two left. We had decided to stop for the day, despite our haste, and rest long enough to replenish our spells when we rose.
Axio unrolled his bed beside mine and slid in. He had already removed his armor, which was stacked neatly beside him. He had spent a bit of our water to clean it properly, and I had done the same. After all, we were Paladins, so we could just purify more water if we needed it.
“Enjoying your first proper dungeon crawl?” Axio asked lightly.
I chuckled. “No, but we’re in the black, at least.” The mimic had not been the only thing around with a gold coin to spare. Just in the last few rooms, we had found a ratty bag of rubies used as a counterweight for a long-broken scale, a small pile of silver in a locked chest, and a crate of unused Sunrods in a closet that had been picked over otherwise.
“We are. I should bequeath half to the Promenade for helping us, but I’m keeping the rest to give to the Grand Cleric,” Axio said. “These expeditions are expensive.”
I tucked the blanket against the cold stone. “Well, we’ve got a lot more to do. Who knows what else we’ll find?”
“Right.” He sighed. “I just hope we aren’t taking too long. I would never forgive myself if the cult started killing more children.”
“We’ll do what we can,” I promised. “We can’t rush.”
I looked over at where the two Eilistraeeans were keeping vigil. “Uh, Axio… can you cast protection from evil on me?” I asked sheepishly. “I used up my spell slots for the day.”
He looked at me, confused. “Sure, but why? You think we’ll be attacked?”
“Well… I’m having horrible nightmares,” I admitted. “I cast the spell on myself every day so it doesn’t happen. Ryaire thinks it’s Asmodeus, torturing me.”
He leaned over, all concern. “Oh, Cavria, I’m so sorry,” he said, resting a hand on my shoulder. “Of course, here.” He spent his last spell slot for the day, and I felt a brief tingle before the sensation faded.
“Thanks, Axio,” I said. “All right. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I’ll relieve Luanea in a few hours, so… sleep well,” he said.
I shut my eyes and tried to rest, and to my relief, I managed it. No dark dreams tormented me that night.
When I awoke, the room was as dark as old pitch. I frowned. Shouldn’t somebody have been up? I glanced around to see Axio and Luanea standing back-to-back in the middle of the room, watching the doors. Neither was in a combat stance. I realized that with their darkvision, they didn’t need torches or a light spell, so they were letting the darkness hide us.
I settled back down to catch some more sleep before I had to rise when I heard Axio speak. “It’s not that,” he said, very faintly. “I just wish I could do more.”
“Of course you do,” Luanea said gently. “We all do. That’s what being a cleric is all about.”
“Yeah.” His broad shoulders shifted. “I just… I dunno.”
Luanea was silent. I tried not to listen in, but it was the only sound in the room, so I could hardly avoid it. “I do wish it were… just a little bit easier,” Axio said. “But that’s wrong of me, isn’t it?”
Luanea shook her head. “No, Axio, it’s not. Our job is nearly impossible to bear alone. The part to focus on is that you’re not alone. Cavria, Solen, your parents, they’re all here.”
Luanea reached back and laced her fingers with his. “And I’m here,” she said faintly.
I don’t know why my heart thumped when I saw that. I also didn’t know why Axio removed his hand from hers after a moment. “I know, Luanea. I miss him too,” he said sadly. “I pray for him.”
“I pray too,” Luanea said, so faintly I could hardly hear her. “I hope that’s enough.”
I felt horribly intrusive. I forced my eyes shut and shifted my hand over my upper-facing ear, trying to block it out.
Moments later, though, Doshellas stirred. “Mphm. ‘Sit morning yet?” he grumbled.
“It may as well be,” Luanea said in a more normal voice. She struck a Sunrod against the wall and it crackled to life. She set it in the middle of the floor, casting shadows over everything. “All right, friends, let’s get our spells in order and grab a bite. We need to move.”
I decided to put my question about exactly what secret those two were sharing until later. Axio had been right. We had no time to spare.
Some hours later, Toller awoke in a small stone cell. He was shivering on the floor, covered in his own blood. He had no idea how long he lay there, slowly starving, shivering from trauma and cold. It could have been a day, it could have been a thousand. When at last the door opened, he shied from the light.
“Cleric Toller, you are hereby forgiven by Cleric Vorthane for your trespass against the Word of Hate,” a silhouette in the door said flatly. “Bathe and dress. You have new work.”
Vorthane was leaning back in his chair, sipping a fine Secomber honey wine, when Toller appeared at the door. He didn’t look too much the worse for wear, now that he had healed his wounds, but he was clearly shaken to the core.
“Ah, Bastienne,” Vorthane said. “Welcome back to the fold, brother. Are you feeling well enough to travel?”
“Yes, sir,” Toller said, wincing as phantasmal glass punctured his skin. “What does the Master wish?”
Vorthane smiled warmly and rose, spreading his arms. “Ah, it is good to hear your soul sing in tune with the choir once more, brother,” he said happily. “Yes, the Master wishes for you to prepare the Grist Cage for many hundreds of new supplicants.”
“Oh? So many?” Toller asked dully, feeling surprise work its way past his traumatized stupor.
“Very much so,” Vorthane said, nodding. “Your satellite temple in Undermountain has become a liability. I have sent ten men to it, to retrieve the Grist there, but we must have a place to put them. You have allowed us to gain much Grist, very much, more than I had thought. We can proceed with the next step of the ritual within the month, now, with only a mere few more children taken.”
“Good, sir,” Toller said. “Shall I go?”
“Oh, no, no, the Cage is here in the basement,” Vorthane reminded him. “One of the lesser clerics is going, with nine of the flock.”
“They know about the traps?” Toller asked.
“They do,” Vorthane said. “Don’t worry; I know you don’t remember telling me about it.”
Toller whimpered involuntarily as memories of his excoriatingly horrible torture returned to him. Vorthane noticed and let sympathy color his voice. “There, there, brother, it’s over now. Will you serve the Master?”
“That’s all he asks,” the old psychic said kindly. “Now sit and eat, for you have much to do.”
I finished attaching my armor and buckled my javelin to my side. I had had to clean it the previous night after using it on the neck of a skeletal goblin that had gotten entirely too close. “Welp, I think we’re good to go,” I said. The protection from evil in my glyph tattoo had recharged, so I wouldn’t have to beg one off the rest of the party tonight. “Which way, Axio?”
He withdrew the compass and examined it. “South, from here, almost directly south.”
“South it is.” Luanea pointed down the nearest hall. “This way.”
We fell into the marching order that had established itself on the journey previously. Doshellas took the lead, looking for traps with his hunters’ eyes. I followed, covering him with my glaive, while Luanea took the middle as our default healer, and Axio followed up in the rearguard, protecting us with his shield. Doshellas led us through an empty chamber that opened up into a long hall, turning slightly to the right, and we followed in silence. There was a single door at the end, and he knelt to check it for traps.
“Got a springpoint trap on the tumblers,” he said.
Axio cleared his throat. “Should I take the door down?”
“There’s something on the other side. Let’s see if I can disarm it,” Doshellas said. Then he paused. “Smell something.”
“We’re near the Slime Pit,” Luanea said disgustedly. “I had hoped to avoid it… but like Axio said in his office, we may not be able to.”
Doshellas shook his head. “One problem at a time,” he said. He gingerly stuck a thin metal probe into the lock and lifted with exquisite care. We heard something shift on the other side of the door, and Doshellas threw himself backward just in time.
The door exploded in splinters. Something flowed out of the door and engulfed the hapless ranger.
“Doshellas!” Luanea cried. Axio and I charged in, stabbing furiously. We both knew what was happening.
The gelatinous cube that had devoured our friend wriggled as we stabbed it, and Doshellas twitched feebly as he started being digested. Luanea rammed her sword into the cube and wrenched it free.
The cube – a juvenile, thank Ryaire – expired, and Doshellas flopped to the floor as the stinging acid melted out of its dissolving body. Axio and I leaped back as the acid sloshed over our boots, but Luanea charged in, heedless of danger. She slapped her hands on Doshellas’ melting skin and started healing, and at once, he coughed and stirred.
“Fucking ow,” he grunted, raising one arm. Axio stepped forward and hoisted the drow up. “I hit the wrong tumbler.”
Luanea hugged him tight. “Oh, don’t ever scare me like that again!” she wailed. “I thought you were done for!”
“I’ll be fine,” he mumbled, pulling free of her embrace. The acid on his shirt kept eating, however, and he scrambled to keep his clothing intact as several pieces of leather stayed stuck to Luanea’s breastplate. “Oh, crap.”
Axio dug into his pack, which he had the presence of mind to keep above the acid-washed floor. “Hang on, I have a spare shirt.”
Doshellas threw his ruined torso armor in the corner, shaking his head in anger. “A hundred gold in armor, down the fucking drain,” he said bitterly. It was the most talkative I had ever heard him.
“I’m sorry,” I said, unsure of what else to say.
He grunted and accepted the shirt Axio gave him. “Bright white? Really?” he asked, struggling into it. Indeed, Axio’s shirt was white as snow. “Ugh. Thanks, though,” he said. “It’ll do.”
We pressed on, now bereft of stealth and Doshellas’ tools, which had been wrecked by the cube. He was fuming, I could tell, but he kept his calm. We worked our way deeper into the Undermountain, passing chambers full of monsters and traps by. I have to admit, the occasional gleam of gold or treasure in the rooms we passed temped me, but I had to hurry. Maybe we could come back someday.
We were well off the map, by now. There was nothing in the next half a mile of map, just an empty space. More than one, we had to stop and solve some absurd riddle or puzzle to proceed. Halaster continues to be an annoyance a century after his death.
Eventually, though, we came to a vast room. It was nearly a hundred meters in every direction, and it ramped down slightly to the bottom. Our door was twenty feet in the air, with the ground sloping gently towards a drain at the bottom. Doors ringed the room, and after a moment’s listening in silence, Doshellas nodded towards one. “That’s the way down.”
Axio pulled out his compass. “This says… our target is back that way?” he asked in puzzlement. “We just came from there.”
“It’s below us, then, or above,” Luanea said. She gingerly rested a hand on Doshellas’ shoulder. His white shirt was ragged with sweat, cuts, and more than a little blood. This had been a dangerous venture. We had cut our way through a pack of skeletons just two rooms back. I was out of healing spells, and I suspected Axio was running low. “We can stop for another night.”
“We’ve only been going four hours,” Doshellas pointed out. “I’ll be fine.”
Luanea held his shoulder a moment longer before letting go. “Alright.”
We started along the room, staying far from the drain. I stopped the group with a word as a sudden jolt of adrenaline flooded my system. “Stop!”
The other froze. “What?” Axio asked tersely. “What is it?”
I slowly turned on my heel. I couldn’t see anything different, but…
“I can sense something,” I said, squinting. “Something magic. Something close.”
The others drew their weapons and we stood in a circle. I looked over the nearest doors. They were all bolted shut, from this side.
Except one. I refocused on the second closest door. It had no lock. No, it had one, and it was lying on the ground below the door, broken off.
“I think it’s that door,” I said, pointing at the damaged one.
Luanea glanced over my shoulder. “Hmm. I think I sense something in there, too…”
Axio gasped. “Demon! Move!” he bellowed, leaping free of our circle. We all scattered and righted ourselves.
I screamed as I saw what was coming out of another door on the far side. I felt a wave of horrifyingly powerful magic roll over us from somewhere above, but that didn’t matter. A Balor, a primordial fire demon the size of a house, emerged from an impossibly small door and sprang at us, waving a fire whip high and brandishing a sword.
“DIE!” it screamed with a hideous laugh, and battle was joined.
Luanea, to her immense credit, reacted in an instant. She began singing a prayer, and I felt warmth and strength seep into my body, easing my shock. I felt myself return from Androlynne and hurled myself aside as the demon stabbed where I had been standing.
“I will not fall to you, monster!” I cried, though I wasn’t sure. This one was as large as the one from Pale Night’s domain, at least, and we were all sapped of our strength.
Doshellas took a knee, safely out of range of the monster’s melee attacks, and fired a glowing white arrow into its back. He threw his Sunrod high into the air and it landed against one wall, rolling down towards the drain.
I couldn’t see what he was doing with the Sunrod, though, because the monster was on me. A great slash of fire lit the ground beneath me as I leaped high above it. I felt an unreal agony in my back and my armor exploded from my chest as something struck me in the back, and I rolled awkwardly, slamming against the damaged door.
For some reason, Luanea and Doshellas were screaming something, but I couldn’t understand them. Axio was on the demon now, slashing. “SMITE EVIL!” he screamed, and his blade shone with the pure light of Ilmater.
He drove the blade up to the crossguard in the Balor’s side, and the demon staggered, clearly hurt. I swung my glaive at its knees and scored a hit. I felt a great rush of air as I leaped over its retaliatory blow, and I sprang fully ten feet up in the air.
I blinked in surprise as that registered. That wasn’t really something I could do, even unburdened by my chest armor.
Doshellas seemed to overcome whatever shock he had had, and shot an arrow into the Balor’s back. He immediately turned and ran as the Balor bellowed in pain, but the demon was fixated on me.
Luanea resumed singing, and I saw a wave of power emanate from her and wash over Axio. He roared his wrath to the sky and cleaved with his magic sword, slicing a chunk of fiery flesh from the demon.
I hit the ground and stumbled. Suddenly my back felt heavy. I winced. Whatever had hit me in the back must have deadened a nerve. I didn’t have time to worry about that, though.
The damaged door exploded, showering us with sparks. To my astonishment, a vast, glowing angel emerged from the tiny door, swinging a sword of shining ice. The Balor roared a challenge, and the titans clashed.
I cast a healing spell on myself and rose to my feet, then stumbled again. Still, my back felt far too heavy. I reached back and felt something sore there, as if I had been impaled. I swallowed my fear. If I had been stuck with something, I would have to have Luanea or Axio heal me themselves. That was for later, though. I watched in satisfaction and relief as the angel ripped the Balor to pieces with blow after blow from its sanctified blade. Axio was beside it, striking when the angel withdrew, while the drow attacked it from behind.
The Balor didn’t withstand the assault long. With a howl of agony and hate, it exploded, sending Doshellas and Luanea reeling, their clothing ablaze. The angel immediately stopped and cast a mighty healing spell over the four of them, and the Eilistraeeans batted out the flames.
It spoke. “Are you well, my little friends?”
I cocked my head. For some reason, it didn’t have the same world-tilting power behind its words as the angels in the Arbor, or even the one I had seen in the forests of Androlynne.
“No, sir,” Axio said heavily. “I think not. What are you doing here? What foulness of Halaster could constrain your noble self to this putrid dungeon?”
“A fair question, little Chosen,” the angel said. It didn’t seem to notice that Doshellas gasped in surprise when it said that, and I winced for Axio. Doshellas hadn’t known Axio was Chosen? How awkward. The angel turned to me. “But the battle has not ended.”
I turned – there was nothing behind me. “Er…”
“Come and die, little devil,” the angel said, and it lunged at me, sword raised high.
|The tale of the Holy Opposites ||
|Arc 1: | Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 |
Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10
|Arc 2: | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 |
Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20
Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25
|Arc 3: | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30|
|Arc 4: | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Chapter 33 | Chapter 34 | Chapter 35 |
Chapter 36 | Chapter 37 | Chapter 38 | Chapter 39 | Glossary