Having been raised in a mercenary company who specialized in the construction and forced demolition of fortifications, Bliks knew that the ruins of a city could tell her a great deal about how they came to be ruined.
One of the most common ways cities might be destroyed was fire, ever present in nearly every building on every street. Except in the most enchanted places it was a threat, as few could afford magical lighting or cooking. Even in more mundane settings, at least magic could be used to try to douse an inferno, rather than relying on fire breaks, bucket lines, or the mere exhaustion of combustible materials. As most buildings, even stone ones, were constructed with wood timbers for support and planks as comfortable flooring, one could see where a fire had torn through a neighbourhood, hollowing out stone buildings and incinerating completely wooden ones. The smell and stains of soot would also mark its passage, but that would be dampened with time.
Earthquakes would also often cause fires, as the disturbance of so many hearths, candles, and lanterns could lead to calamity. Barring that, it would be stone structures that would suffer more, as the mortar could not flex with the moving earth, and as strong as stone was, it was a brittle material, shattering rather than bending. Further, if there was no fire, there was often a tell tale diminishing level of damage the further one travelled from the quake, giving some sense to survivors where the event might have originated; adventurers were often sent to explore those regions in case it was the herald of some great beast or terrible experiment by the creatures who called the Darklands home.
Like earthquakes, floods only struck certain communities, but they were a far more common calamity. Here again, the tables were turned, as wood, while well suited for building boats, fared poorly against the press of a wall of water. Certainly foundations could be ruined by floodwaters, but often they could be shored up and the building saved, but floodwaters, depending on how quickly they came in, could simply scour the streets and avenues of the city, turning carts, rocks, and bodies into grit to grind anything in its path. The accompanying smell of water often far from its former banks could stick to such a city, inviting mould and worse.
Wind was an underrated destroyer of cities, as it was usually such an ephemeral thing, but those in the path of a tornado certainly knew its strength. Entire wooden structures could be torn apart, their rubble thrown through the air like any siege weapon, skewering citizen and buildings alike. But there the ferocity of the wind was focused, cleaving lanes through districts but not flattening the entire city; that was the prevue of hurricanes. There one could also see floods as the wind drove the water onto the land and universal winds that threatened to match the tornados that it too would spawn. The stripped nature of a city after a hurricane left little wonder as to its cause.
A buried city was an interesting phenomena, but just as deadly as the others, often more so due to its rapid onset. Sandstorms, volcanic ash, even an unexpectedly harsh snow could all crush a city under their sheer weight, added one grain or flake at a time. There, the cities themselves might be very well preserved, with sealed interiors often surviving as if the owners had just stepped away; with no access for animals or insects, musty hollows might be all that remain. Citizens trapped in such a city might find themselves physically buried or trapped inside their homes, and so the chance of ghosts or other disturbed spirits arising from those who had hours or days of horror facing the inevitable was much elevated.
Plagues were more common in trade centres, and much more common in ports, where sick travelers could survive the journey only to deliver their destination into a walking nightmare. From the common but easily overcome Mindfire to the deadly plague, these could be contained with rapid use of divine magic, but at times these salves may not be enough. Entire neighbourhoods might be quarantined with barricades, either make shift or carefully constructed, to try to keep the disease contained. In the worst cases fire might be tried to burn the infection out, killing the healthy alongside the sick. These cities are often marked with mass graves or large pyres as there weren’t enough people left to properly bury their neighbours.
A terrifying cousin to plagues were cities that were overrun with undead with the ability to make more of their kind from their victims. While vampires are unlikely to feast with such abandon, less can be said for the likes of Plague Zombies or Shadows, whose numbers can grow beyond containment in very short order. Such cities can vary from being well preserved mausoleums to scenes of pitched battles and last stands, as the living did what they could to survive the seemingly unending necromantic hordes. Many a minor crusade has been launched to purge these cities of their taint lest it spread, often resulting in yet greater damage to the city.
Magic can have all sorts of effects, ranging from the natural listed above, to the truly bizarre. Consider the partially present town of Urigen, where Golarion and the First World overlap and visitors can be lost if they’re unwary. Or Alkenstar City, a place bereft of magic after the centuries long conflict between Geb and Nex; while it isn’t a destroyed city, to some, losing magic is akin to losing a river or even access to fresh air. There are the portals that open unto realms both fair and foul, both of which can overwhelm the local environment, shattering the bodies and minds of those who are exposed to their energies, without even considering the invasion of our world by creatures from the Outer Sphere. Living spells can render entire neighbourhoods into statues or drive their residents insane, and so when a city shows truly bizarre damage, magic can often be found somewhere at the root of it.
Unmentioned to this point are the impacts of war, which can be any combination of the above, but usually focused through a lens of intention. Walls are often battered or collapsed, buildings shattered with clear signs of the instrument of their failure in their remains. Fire can be started intentionally or by accident, and flinging plague ridden corpses into a besieged city has had a long and terrible history. Infiltrators can do the same, spreading magically conjured diseases, raising bodies of water to overflow their banks; sabotage can take many forms. Further, with the inclusion of magical beasts, all sorts of other harrowing damage can befall a community, from giants smashing buildings as if they were children’s toy blocks to dragons scouring all life from the air.
But war has a tendency to leave the imprint of the warriors. Druids and fey will often overwhelm a city with the natural world, Treants tearing down walls, Shambling Mounds coursing through the streets, until where there had been artifice, only nature remains. Those elemental armies might see similar impacts as the previous destruction, but with intelligent fires jumping from building to building and floods drowning those on upper floors of buildings. Strangest and most terrifying of all were the Earth Elementals, whose attacks were silent; after hollowing out a space beneath a building, it would collapse into the sinkhole then be sealed under the earth. The forces of Heaven would often leave passages for civilians to escape the horror of the siege as well as those defenders who threw down their arms, while those of Hell will seek to put all under the lash, sparing none from shackles.
So it was clear to Bliks that demons had come to Kenabres as they had come to Starfall, but in far greater numbers and strength.
Despite immediately clicking into a combat mindset, Eryno mused over the radio link, ‘Well this can’t be good.’
They had arrived at the northern edge of the city, just outside the simply named Northgate, whose adjoining neighbourhood shared its name. Bliks had aimed for the Northgate Market, an open stretch of ground surrounded by encamped crusaders. As a young adult she had rarely visited this marketplace, as it was outside the heavily guarded walls and there was little here that she could not have found in the city; this was a market for the crusaders who didn’t want to have to repeatedly deal with Kenabres security.
The place was deserted, with only scant reminders that there had been pitched tents or even stalls nearby. For hundreds of feet in either direction Bliks could see a path of scorched earth, where some spell or flame enshrouded demon had swept across the landscape, cutting right through where the marketplace had been. In its wake she could pick out the occasional tent peg or piece of canvas flapping in the breeze, but mostly whatever could have been burnt in the past three days had been reduced to ash.
Mendev, despite being a more northerly country than Numeria, had never struggled with the alien radiation and chemicals that had been splashed across its landscape when the Androffans crashed during Starfall. It’s landscape was rough, but not as frigid as any of its neighbours to the west, with Irrisen’s winter supernaturally enforced. It even hosted the vast Estrovian Forest in its southern reaches. But in a frightening way, she felt more at home on this blasted plain, which reminded her more of the Felldales in western Numeria than the Kenabres she had known.
‘I’m going to have a look around’, she said over the link, first casting Invisibility upon herself, then rising into the air. To the west, towards the river and the Worldwound, was the bulk of the crusader camps, and right through the middle of them was a great tear in the ground, as if some massive plough had turned the soil over. ‘That’s where Chun probably died’, she thought to herself, reminded now of her failed attempts at scrying. Jarringly she was reminded of the gully she had fled down those years ago and how this displacement of earth now eerily mimicked those common across the Wounded Lands. No campfires burned, no smoke rose, just silence and dark stains on the earth, whether scorch marks or spilled blood she could not say.
Looking to the south she gazed upon the nearest and lowest tier of the city, the Gate district. Kenabres as a whole was built on a rise in the land, and each of the districts had been roughly cut into that hill. During each period of expansion an effort was made to level the ground in the planned new district, but the overall effect was four great stacked plateaus, each with their assigned district. With a look of horror, she traced the gash through the crusader camp southward, through the first great wall and across the Gate district, then up the slope and into the second highest tier, the Ring district. Flying yet higher she could see that the gash had breached even the innermost wall, that of the district of Old Kenabres. Whether something had come from the Cathedral of Saint Clydwell and half burrowed its way far to the north or vice versa, was unclear.
From her new vantage point, the city appeared to be replete with wounds, gaping trenches where there used to be houses, streets, businesses, and churches. Another gash similar to the one she had first glimpsed, had torn through the city from the north east, either starting from or ending at the Cathedral as well. And yet there were more, another to the east, and then one to the south that split to the south west and south east. ‘Several great machines of destruction, either living or constructed, either came from the central Cathedral, or came together there.’ Bliks reported to her allies, who had begun to make their way south towards the entrance to the city. ‘I can see no fires, but the city has been devastated. Our travel across it may not be easy.’ At this height she could see some movement, but it was in the air, not on the ground. Peering at one of the shapes, the shape of a buzzard came into focus. Bliks hoped that it was merely that and not a Vrock or some other demonic bird.
Then her heart sank. Above her the sun had taken on the shape of an elongated crescent, not that of an eclipse, but as if it had been stretched out across a broader piece of the sky. The clouds themselves were black as soot, not just at their bases, and the background, which should have been a clear blue, was tinged crimson. Over the link she warned the others, ‘The corruption of the Worldwound has expanded here. Don’t be too surprised if you see things horribly out of place. And, as they tell the crusaders, don’t touch anything if you can avoid it. The taint can penetrate anything.’
Hex was the only one of the three visible when they passed through the gate. The two towers looking over the entrance were empty, and from the gatehouse itself no calls for identification rung out. There appeared to be no damage, but the thick wooden gates had been secured open, as was typical of any day. Beyond them the iron portcullis had been wedged off the ground, with several rocks and beams being used as a simple lever; if nothing else, the guards had had time to cut the ropes holding this barrier up. That they hadn’t had enough time to close the gates suggested they had been rapidly overcome.
Here was the first sign of violence.
Pinned to the inner wall of the gatehouse, just before it opened up into Northgate, were the remains of a member of the Eagle Watch. His boots were missing and his exposed hands and feet were blackened with pooled blood. The rest of his uniform, known across Avistan, was the distinct navy blue jacket with yellow collars and a stylized eagle on each shoulder, over a leather vest and a cloth undershirt. His pants were a field variety, in a plain wool, yet his tri corner cap was missing, stolen or blown away in a passing breeze. The likely damage to the face by scavengers was hidden as his chin was buried in his chest, stringy black hair flopping down over that as well. That the ranseur impaled in his chest had been driven so far as to press its cross hilt against the dead man’s chest gave some sense to the strength of the demon. ‘Bliks?’ Hex asked.
‘A Bulezau by my guess. That he was impaled off the ground and the weapon’s size mark it as such. Goat head, twice the height of a human, followers of Baphomet, which is unusual. Best to catch it in a rage, it’s easier to hit, and Eryno, it likes to charge. They’re a middle tier demon, either blessed weapons or cold iron should work.’
‘Gotcha. What was that bit about it being unusual?’
‘The Worldwound is the realm of Deskari, Lord of the Locust Host, the Usher of the Apocalypse. Baphomet is another Demon Lord, and it is a rare thing indeed for any to work together. There might be new rifts that have opened up in the Worldwound into Baphomet’s realm, the Ivory Labyrinth. If true, there might be fighting between these two, and while this attack is horrendous, it might be an opportunity for the crusade.’
‘If you’re going to try to sell me on some ‘the enemy of my enemy’ argument …’ Eryno began before Bliks cut him off.
‘No demon is trustworthy, even if it is in their own interests to work alongside others. That there might be infighting is not an opportunity for new allies, but for new targets. Fewer of the lesser demons will be able to shield their masters from both observation and surgical strikes.’
‘That’s what I like to hear. Give me a sec guys, I’ll scout ahead.’
Eryno wasn’t strictly invisible, but he was able to find any available cover to conceal his movements. That he continued to do so despite wearing his powered armour spoke as much to his own skill as to Bliks’ enchantments; both she and Hex quickly lost track of their companion’s location. The android studied his companion, waiting for Eryno’s reports. ‘You seem familiar with this place.’
Bliks felt caught off guard, like Hex had pointed out some clear lie she had told. ‘Yes, I’m sorry. Sorry I didn’t mention it earlier. I only spent a year or so here, about fifteen years ago.’ She gestured around, ‘My dad brought me here because of a contract his company had taken to work on the pumps. They’d gotten a reputation in Outsea, learning from the water breathers there on how to work with filters, keeping their salt water from mixing with the local fresh water, and so Kenabres thought it would be forward thinking to make sure they filtered their water from potential Abyssal contamination.’
‘It may be hard to believe, but they pump their water up from the West Sellen, quite the feat.’
Hex looked at Bliks with cool detachment, ‘Might I remind my Magister we’ve been in crashed starships.’
Bliks nodded quickly, ‘Yes, but they’re able to do the pumping without either Androffan technology or magical aid. Well, they were able to do so. When I was aloft earlier I saw only one of the three still intact.’
‘Nobody’s out on the street guys, you’re clear to move up.’ Eryno cut in over the link. ‘Well, nobody living that is.’
Making their way to their powered armour clad companion meant skirting a clutter of smashed carts, the merchants goods scattered across the street with at least some of the merchants dead alongside them. One of bodies appeared to have been torn apart after death, the lack of extensive spatter gave Bliks that impression, but not eaten, just defiled. ‘This is the kind of senseless violence demons revel in’ She said over the link.
‘You’re not the only one who’s had a close encounter of the demonic kind as a kid, Bliks’ Eryno replied.
Bliks felt a twang of pain, ‘You came here too?’
‘Naw, not here. Back in Torch. Some idiot thought they might get a Dretch as a servant, you know, mopping the floors. Haunted the Chapel of the Wanderer for weeks. One of my buddies told me I was too scared to go there at night, so I thought I’d show ‘im.’ Eryno said over the link in a kind of matter the factness that did not match Bliks’ first encounter with the creatures of the Abyss. ‘Stupid thing was trying to hide in one of the mausoleums, got the jump on me though. Almost had it before old man Radli ran it through. That was really the worst of it, got its blood in my cuts, almost killed me.’
Eryno was hold up in the shell of a building clearly wrecked by fire. To her eyes it looked like some local general store, such was the variety of goods; either that or some hoarder had lived here. It’d probably take hours to sort through the salvageable from the garbage, and yet, she considered, she could probably magically mend even the latter.
‘Pretty big building over there, want to check it out?’, Eryno pointed down the street, past a relatively intact house to a remarkable, if soot laden building. From their vantage point Bliks could make out four minarets, two of them at each of the northern and southern ends of the building, and the leading edge of a brass coloured dome. But she knew something was amiss, as this church should have had four more minarets, on the eastern and western sides, but they were conspicuously missing.
‘It’s the temple of Shelyn, and it doesn’t look in good shape.’
‘What does around here?’ Eryno joked back, then went silent.
Even from this distance, the building seemed to lean back, reclining from the street, its towers at a slight angle to vertical. Thus it had been since its construction, an inviting place, not dominating the space around it. The closer they got, the more details they could pick out, and the work was both varied and intricate. No stretch of wall was left without either a mural or an engraving, no pillar not adorned with garlands or some finery. When she had last been here, Bliks had known this place as more of a as an art gallery crossed with a concert hall, with the art, both inside and out, changing as often as the seasons.
Now the art was marred by soot and in places deliberately defaced. In the road that led up to its front gates a battle appeared to have been fought. Piles of hunchbacked demons crowded the street, looking like some kind of horribly deformed ratfolk with four horns protruding from its head. ‘Abrikandilus.’ Bliks told the others, ‘Use cold iron and avoid their bites. They’ll also try to break your weapons and might attack from a height. And’, she parted her arms, ‘as you can see, they attack in packs.’
‘They probably didn’t have a chance,’ she continued, referencing the bodies of the clerics of Shelyn. ‘Charms and air magic don’t fare well against demons, and the rest of their spells focus on protection and luck, but even that runs out.’ The defenders bodies had been mauled by the rat demons that had gotten through, their bites not merely tearing skin but disfiguring their victim’s whole body. As was no surprise, they were armed with cold iron glaives, which could hold the creatures at bay, but exhaustion must have eventually overcome them. At first glance Bliks thought they had been unarmoured, a dangerous choice this close to the Worldwound, but their tunics and leggings were indeed tough leather, even if they were slightly revealing; Shelyn was the goddess of love after all. Bodies of both men and women had pushed these demons back, at least for a time.
‘But why fight out here?’ Eryno asked, looked up at the engraved but solid doors of the temple. ‘Even if those things could have broken down the doors, they could have held them there, much easier too.’
‘They sallied out, perhaps to break out.’ Hex replied, ‘Or perhaps their defences had been bypassed.’
‘After you,’ Bliks sent to Eryno, who did a little bow and then slipped through the doors.
‘Why didn’t you stay?’ Hex asked Bliks as soon as Eryno left. She had started to cast some cantrips over the bodies, cleaning them of dirt and blood while he kept watch over the courtyard.
‘You mean here in Kenabres? I’d learned all I could from a crusader by the name of Miammir and Dad didn’t want me to study under either the Blackfire Adepts or the Riftwardens.’ Reaching out with Mage Hand, she shifted weapons aside, moved limbs, straightened clothes, all without touching the bodies. ‘I mean, really those two groups are diametrically opposed, the adepts wanting to somehow channel the Worldwound while the wardens want to seal it; both are a bit crazy.’
Hex flicked open his revolver to double check his load, something she felt he did with a grace and fluidity that few dancers could attest to. He caught her looking and fixed her in his gaze, ‘Tell me the rest when you’re ready.’
Silenced, Bliks went back to her work. That this place could bring back such vivid fears that even the emotionally detached android was aware, disturbed her. Having just given the fallen some semblance of dignity Eryno’s voice cut through the link, ‘Bliks, you’re right, they do like to try to go after weapons.’
‘Situation?’ Hex asked briskly, the previous conversation seemingly a distant memory.
‘Got the drop on a group that must have gotten inside. Made a bit of a mess.’
‘We’ll be right there.’
Bliks floated off the ground and hurried after Hex as they entered the temple. The foyer had a green tile, marked so as to give the visual impression of grass except where it had been cracked by a toppled statue of an Avoral, a humanoid Agathion with the legs and arms of a bird, the torso of a human, and a head that mixed both. Here there was a smashed desk where an acolyte would greet visitors, there was a cloakroom, the ceiling outside of it showing signs of fire inside. Confident that Eryno had cleared the traps between them, Hex strode without concern through the debris of the temple, throwing open a set of double doors that led into a larger chamber.
Intact, the room had been a music hall in the round. The central dais had served as both altar and stage for performers, with retractable planks covering a circular trench that allowed either a choir or musicians to support the performance but remain out of sight. Above it all was an elaborate domed ceiling, supported by magic, but decorated with a mundane fresco, depicting Shelyn’s history, from her birth after the imprisonment of Rovagug, to her rise as a minor deity, to her brother’s matricide that thrust her into her mother’s place in the pantheon as the goddess of love.
Now it was as if a great blade had sliced an egg in half. The ground had swallowed the dais and trench and yet gaped, and the great dome had been ripped open, exposing the temple to the elements. The room had scattered, cushioned benches and out of place but unoccupied beds, giving the sense of some kind of temporary shelter or even hospital.
Eryno stood by one of the many pillars that surrounded the perimeter of the room, both it and his shield slick with demon blood; a rat thing had clearly been crushed between stone and steel. At his feet lay two more, these more cleanly killed with his rapier, but still oozing over the former polished floor.
Speaking out loud, Eryno broke their usual silent conversation by saying, “Saw they were going to jump this guy, didn’t look like he was in any shape to handle it.” The first survivor they had seen in Kenabres was clearly not a local Iobarian, but instead a dark skinned man, perhaps of Vudrani ancestry, sitting against one of the benches, holding a beautiful glaive near its blade, more like an oversized knife than a polearm. His hair was cut short and despite the multicoloured bird on his breastplate, the sacred symbol of Shelyn, he was uncharacteristically clad in agile half-plate, a considerable step up in protection from the dead clerics outside. Blood seeped from a wound in the man’s leg, where his armour had not protected him.
“Thank you, strangers, but you must flee. This place is lost, I am all that remains of my order.” His voice was weak but not ragged, still holding a calmness, despite his surroundings, “I would not leave with our wards, but was directed to not aid with the distraction. I fear that seeing you instead of my sisters and brothers, that they are dead.”
Bliks was well versed as the spokesman of the group, kneeling to bring herself level with the wounded man. “They sent many of the rat demons that sought to destroy your temple back to whatever pit they crawled from. Now, before more return, let us tend your wounds while you tell us your tale.”
“My name is Sosiel Vanic, cleric of the Eternal Rose, and while I have heard time is hard to measure in the Worldwound, that days are somehow shorter, they are still days, and it has been three since the Kite was destroyed.” The man winced when Bliks began to tend his wound, but continued, “It was mid afternoon and we had just finished choir practise when it seemed as though there was second sun rising in the south. Shadows fell unnaturally, and those who saw it directly could not see for several minutes. They said afterwards that it was like a thunderstorm of fire, roiling with flame but with arcs of lightning, but we had not a moment to ask, for as soon as that light flashed, we were surrounded by the hosts of the Abyss.”
Eryno looked over Bliks’ bandages, nodded, and cast Cure Light Wounds. While he had the ability to cast both Moderate and Serious versions, he had instead opted to take a broader selection of spells; besides, if the situation truly became dire, they could always use Androffan Hemochem. The man’s voice continued, stronger, even calmer, “We drove those out who had trespassed within this hallowed hall, and called on Shelyn to shield us from their vile teleportation, and then waited for the crusaders to clear our city of these invaders, for the wardstones to once again turn back the tide.”
“The faithful and the fearful came to our doors and we let them in, but that trickle soon dried up.” Pulling himself off the ground, refusing Eryno’s offered hand, he tested his wounded leg, found it held his weight, and then continued, “Despite our glaives, we are not a martial church, we rarely even fight those creatures of unredeemable evil except in the immediate defence of ourselves or others. We are artists, poets, singers … I was a gardener for Shelyn, planting flowers in her name long before my brother Trever brought me here.”
“And so day passed into night. The screams continued outside and fires raced across the city. Finding no refuge in their homes and despite the demons and the darkness, people from across Kenabres once again made their way to our doors, where we soothed their fears with song. But quietly we were told the truth, by one who had been in Old Kenabres before fleeing for his life. The dread Balor Khorramzadeh, Storm King of the Worldwound, had again attacked the Kite, and this time, consumed it. Alas our great protector Terendelev was this time no match for the beast, for even in her draconic form he smote her again and again. Gone too was the wardstone, and so while it seemed our hope too should go, song once again buoyed our spirits.”
“By the time the sun finally rose again in the sky, much of the sound of battle had ceased. We thought we must have won or the demons had, as they have in the past, fled back to their pits of madness.” Sosiel paused and for the first time looked distressed, staring across the chasm that now split his temple, “But then some servant of darkness must have heard our singing or saw our lights, for the ground tore this holy ground apart, sending many into the depths below. Shelyn had been bested, and we set ourselves to leave.”
“Then those things,” Sosiel pointed with his glaive, now holding it in a less desperate grip, “came. They seemed drawn to the art, as we saw them scurry past simple shops, only to revel in ruining a beautiful façade. Through that day and that night we held them at our doors, striking them from our walls when they dared climb them, continuing to sing the songs of Shelyn, even in this shattered place. But our supplies were exhausted by their constant press and the needs of our wards, so we made a final gambit, hoping that our audacity would bring us luck and thus salvation.”
“My brethren would strike out from our front doors, calling the beasts to us with song and verse, while those we sheltered could flee to more defensible holdings. I was tasked with remaining here, to guard the relics and works of our faith to the end. My sisters clad me on one side while my brothers clad me on the other in this sacred armour, and then left. I heard their song for hours until sleep took me, and upon waking, I heard it not. The beasts made their way inside and I slew them in the halls and galleries, keeping them from our treasures, but in time, I found my calls to Shelyn went unanswered, my faith flagging, and thus was wounded, as you found me.”
Anguish suddenly filled his voice, “But my sisters and brothers need not have thrown away their lives! They stood outside those doors long after the last straggler we had sheltered had departed, all the while drawing those fiends to them. Perhaps they sought to set an example, to show resolve against the storm, but … we are but artists, poets, and singers.”
“The resolve of the crusade is what keeps it alive, friend Sosiel.” Bliks soothed, “And even though this building is damaged, it remains. Its art remains. You remain.” She smiled as the man finally pressed his free hand against his chest, spreading his gloved fingers over the iridescent bird. “Does not Shelyn also embody protection and defence? And they loved each other so that they could not leave any, even as they fell. They worshiped the Eternal Maiden to the end.”
‘We can’t leave him here, he’ll die just like the rest.’ Eryno pointed out over the link.
Bliks turned to her companion, still smiling, ‘Give me an hour and I’ll take care of that.’ Aloud she said, “Now we should see to your brethren, see that their bodies are properly cared for and sheltered from further abuse.”
‘See if you can find a way around this chasm’ Hex sent to Eryno, ‘I’ll get the lay of the land from one of their towers.’
Laying a hand on the cleric’s back, Bliks guided the steady, proud, but somewhat broken man back through the wreckage of the hall. They paused when they came across Abrikandilus bodies, to which Bliks evoked a Greater Floating Disk to carry those festering remains to the edge of the chasm; it sickened her, seeing how quickly the demons bodies decomposed, sloughing off skin and hair mere minutes after death. A quick Prestidigitation let her clean up the much but not all of the stains their bodies left behind.
The black skinned man stopped at the exit from the great hall, after Bliks had cleared those bodies and said with some forcefulness “I have told you my tale, stranger, but who are you and your companions, that you come to Kenabres in this terrible hour? You do not seem to be crusaders, but you also do not seem to be in line with these invaders. Speak and at least give me your names!”
“My name is Bliksemani Volgeling and my companions are the android Hex and the half elf ranger Eryno, who saved your life and helped heal your wounds. We are emissaries from Numeria, sent to find out what caused a great tumult we saw in the north. But I bear ill news friend, for even as far south as Starfall has been struck by the demonic horde. They were driven back, but we believe there is something wrong with the wardstones.” Bliks tried as soothing a tone as possible, knowing that Sosiel would be looking for signs of possession or other demonic trickery. Long had the crusades struggled with infiltrators, most horribly in Kenabres when a Lilitu demon slaughtered scores of citizens in the Red Morning Massacre.
Sosiel nodded and allowed them to proceed to the main entrance, “I know not Numeria but for the tales of thinking golems and powerful metals. Few crusaders call that land home, and I know of no churches to my lady there.”
At that Bliks shocked him with a laugh, “Indeed! Numeria is neither a beautiful land nor is it easy to make it so. We have shrines, of course, to the Eternal Rose, but as you say, no churches.”
Exiting the great temple, Sosiel first braced himself, and then walked stiffly to where his fellow clergy lay. Weeping openly he knelt, finding their holy symbols and placing them around their necks so that it would rest on their chests. Bliks interrupted his reverie, “We did what we could, to clean and arrange the bodies, but I’m not familiar with your funeral rites, so I dared not do more. Might I suggest we move them indoors?”
“We have no crypt, but there are galleries where I know they enjoyed hours of song. Until we have the proper time, there they shall lay.”
And so Bliks gently lifted each body in turn with the floating disk, ferrying them through the doors and halls until they came to a simple panelled room, where Sosiel’s footfalls immediately gave her a sense of the acoustics; a fine practise space indeed. As she lay them down, the cleric set a music stand at their feet, on which he placed one of their hymnals, taking sometimes a few minutes to find a particular piece for each of his brethren.
When they finished their work in silence, Sosiel said “Even with them here, I cannot abandon this place. Our relics are not secured in some hidden vault as so many other faiths do, but are hung gladly for all to admire. Love is something not to be hidden.”
“I understand, but we cannot leave you unprotected in this place. Let me leave you at least with that.”
Nodding Sosiel then began to sing. While his tone was sorrowful, neither the melody or the lyrics carried that through. It was a song about sunsets and spoke of flowers that opened only in the dark. Bliks listened for a minute, but saw in the hymnal that this song could be sung for much longer than she had planned to stay, and so she bowed out of the room.
Flying briskly through the halls, she again cast Invisibility on herself, and then settled in at the front foyer to prepare a spell in a slot she had left open just for this circumstance. With that completed, she exited the building and began to enclose it in ritual and charms. Running her fingers over the frames of exterior doors, the stone extended in an illusion to completely shroud them from view. Then she would clench her fist, feeling each door magically lock in turn; even if it had no lock, arcane forces held it tight. Through each stairway she flew, her fingers splayed wide, thick cobwebs spraying and tangling each from passage. Behind her trailed a persistent mist, clouding the entire building’s interior, but in the foyer she finished, enchanting the area with a compulsion for any that passed through there to immediately leave the building.
The Guards and Wards completed, she reached out to her companions, who had been quiet over the link, ‘What’ve you guys seen? I think I’ve secured this building as best I can; Sosiel refused to leave.’
‘Gotcha. Looks like it’s a bit faster skirt this chasm if we go to the west. But where are we planning on going anyways?’ Eryno replied first from somewhere she sensed was both above and to the west of her.
‘South east. There’s both light and movement from what looks like a bunker.’ Hex replied, from a direction similar to that of Eryno.
‘That could be Defender’s Heart, it was Kenabres’ largest inn. I’d have to see it for myself to be sure.’ Bliks mused for a moment then continued, ‘At some point I will want to check out the Cathedral of Saint Clydwell on the hill, as it seems to be the epicentre of this mess … and I think we should see the remains of the Kite to see what remains of the wardstone … artifacts, even minor ones, are not so easily destroyed, and even so are rarely destroyed completely.’
She could still hear Sosiel’s singing as she hurried to catch up with her companions.