“Who are you again?” Eryno asked, turning to the moneylender who was still fidgeting with the buckles on his recently purchased and ill fitting leather armour.
Glaring at the glowing slit that concealed the half elf’s eyes, “I am Lord Horgus Gwerm, you walking iron door.” Turning to Bliks he added, “I thought the help would be more burly and less talkative.”
“My apologies, Lord Gwerm, my companion is fresh to Kenabres, so is not aware of your esteem,” Bliks soothed, turning Horgus away from the towering Powered Armour. ‘Sorry, let me handle this,’ she sent to Eryno while pressing her lips into a thin smile.
He continued to squirm in the armour, trying to find a way to let it settle properly on his out of shape frame before giving up with a frustrated huff. “I suppose that as he is the personal bodyguard of the Black Sovereign that must count for something, but I would have thought such company would bring out better manners. Hirelings need to know their place. And at least he seems to know his way around a blade,” he cotinued, resting a hand on his own newly purchased cold iron rapier, “I just hope that Androffan coffin he’s in doesn’t get him and the rest of us killed.”
“Is there a problem?” Hex asked curtly, holstering one of his revolvers as he calmly walked over to the trio. He had opted for multiple holsters around his waist, giving him fast access to the diverse set of arms he had recovered from the various crashed starships across Numeria.
“Of course not, your majesty!” Horgus effused, “I was just telling your chancellor here how impressed I was with your bodyguard’s equipment. Very fine, excellent manufacture, something you should be proud of.”
Eryno shook his head in disbelief but said nothing. The midday sun glinted off of the Powered Armour’s force field like oil on water and he absentmindedly tried to scratch his neck only to find the plating in his way. Following in Hex’s example, he had secured several different rapiers to the Powered Armour’s shell with magnetic clasps.
The four of them had long since been prepared to leave the square outside of Defender’s Heart, but they busied themselves with double checking the gear and, under Horgus’ direction, reviewed the map of Kenabres. “The shortest route to my manor would be to cut through to Brasenose Lane and then take Old Cornmarket. But if we insist on detouring to the Tirablade … residence … we’ll have to go via Kybald Street before going back to Brasenose. Certainly, miss Irabeth can manage a jaunt to her own house from here?”
“I do not doubt your assessment of her abilities, Lord Gwerm,” Bliks had replied, “but this city is far from the safe refuge it was merely a few days ago. Our paths lie close enough together that it would be unwise for either of us to travel without the other.”
Horgus seemed to barely accept her explanation, only adding, “well, the longer it takes for you to escort me to my manor, the later the hour will be when I can show you true hospitality, not the meagre food and watered down wine of this … establishment. My servants will treat the Black Sovereign as is fit for his title!”
But that conversation was at least a half an hour in the past, as they waited for Irabeth to finalize the preparations for this evening’s coordinated attack. For the first time since Kenabres fell, the Eagle’s Watch would sally from Defender’s Heart and strike at the various demonic and cultist strongholds.
Her arrival was heralded by the inn’s door being unbarred and swinging open. “… to ensure that every crusader knows their duty. We can have neither flagging of confidence nor a breach in our secrecy.”
“If your fellows are not sufficiently motivated by your example, Captain Tirablade, I will ensure their duty!” Marilictor Volso heartily laughed. Bliks had yet to see the man wear his demon inspired helm, which was always at his side, but she was convinced he was well aware of his armour’s intimidating nature, balancing his duty against a desire not to unnecessarily disturb his allies. Here his Ulfen heritage shone through, as he always seemed quick to laugh or offer praise for deeds competently done. Even his braided blond hair stood in contrast to the matte black plate and blades of his office.
Flashing a tusked grin, the half orc nodded to Hex, “my apologies, Black Sovereign. As you must be well aware, the preparations for battle are not things to be left to chance.”
Bowing slightly in response Hex simply said, “indeed.”
She looked to Bliks, a question in the form of a raised eyebrow, who merely smiled broadly. Irabeth shrugged her shoulders under her fine plate mail, a gestured for them to head out. Just before they turned down an alley and out of sight of the inn she turned back, shouting “for the crusade!”
“For the crusade!” Volso shouted back, his bladed gauntlet held up in a fist as salute.
The neighbourhood looked no worse for wear than the day before, having avoided much of the destruction that had struck Kenabres, but the streets remained deserted. As they walked, Bliks could see a few eyes peering out from behind curtains or shutters, and not a few windows had furniture pushed up against them. She hoped that these survivors were still managing to get food and water.
The road they took had a gentle arc to it until they reached a sudden jog in the street. Spying a pair of crows watching them from a nearby sign, Eryno lined up one with the integrated laser in the Powered Armour’s forearm. It vanished in a flash of heat and light, sending feathers billowing across the street.
‘Uh … guys?’ Eryno sent, now pointing at the remaining crow. It looked impassively at where its companion had recently sat then looked back at them, cawing. A handful of pigeons settled down across the street, silently watching the travelers.
Bliks let the wand of Magic Missile drop into her hand from its wrist sheath while one of Hex’s revolvers seemed to jump into his hand. Seeing this activity, Irabeth also drew her longsword and tapped on Horgus’ shoulder. The surprised nobleman had been reciting something under his breath and turned on the paladin with an irritated expression. He was about to say something when, with her own eyes, she guided his to the accumulation of silent avians now lining the street.
Out of the corner of her eye, Bliks saw sudden movement on the ground, only to see a handful of rats scurrying around the corner. They travelled in a line, evenly spaced out, running along the boardwalk, parallel the dry gutter. Neither they nor the birds registered as magical, nor did they have the characteristic of dangerous swarms she had previously encountered, but their behaviour was disturbingly abnormal.
‘Be right back.’ His boosters humming to life, Eryno bounded off in near silence, slipping around the jog in the street. Waiting for his return, the remaining travellers held their weapons of choice at the ready, pressed up against each other and the siding of what Bliks guessed was an upscale flophouse.
Overhead not a cloud blotted out the red hue, one that would have been expected at dusk but the sun hung languidly amid the sky, its disk bloated and scarred with spots and scars. Across the street from where they cowered, one of the rats stopped to sniff some piece of garbage. In challenge, three pigeons landed around it and started growling and cooing. The rat backed off from the most aggressive of the three only to be pecked ferociously by the other two as it scampered away. Eyeing the travellers, the pigeons flew back up to their perches, silent as before.
‘It’s clear, but you won’t like it,’ Eryno sent, breaking the silence in Hex and Bliks’ heads. The android nodded to the others and they cautiously moved around the corner.
Eryno was at a crossroads several houses down, standing in the middle of the street. Just in front of him hung a limp body from an overhead rope. Once it was clear he wore the insignia of the Eagle’s Watch Irabeth shook her head, “several of the scouts I sent out at first light had not yet returned. I had hoped that they were merely delayed. Alas.” As they got closer, the wounds on the young man were evident; he had been severely mauled by talons that scorched and rent both armour and flesh. His legs were tied together and only one full arm remained, the other torn off at the elbow.
“I’m … not sure,” Bliks said to the unasked question, “no demon that I know of could cause these kinds of wounds. Too small for a Balor … too precise for either an Ooze or Omox Demon … maybe a variant Shadow Demon, that strikes with flame instead of frost … and Lilitus brand with a touch, but not with their claws.” Her shoulders fell slightly, “of course, the Abyss is constantly spitting up new monstrosities. Wait.” She looked around quickly, “with his arm torn off like this, the street should be awash with his blood.”
“They used a bucket,” Eryno said, pointing to a barely noticeable circle of blood spatter around a clear patch of ground. Still the air was thick with the metallic smell of the man’s vital fluid.
Horgus unexpectedly added, “does no one else notice there are no flies?
“Even as Deskari is the Lord of the Locust Host, such are the unnatural horrors of the Worldwound, Horgus,” Irabeth icily replied, “I’ve seen corpses rot to ichor before we could even cast Gentle Repose and others showing new wounds long after their death. This … this is why the Eagle’s Watch has been forever at your door.”
Horgus seemed about to angrily reply when Hex interjected, “we should not tarry.”
“My home is on the other side of this block, through this alley,” Irabeth directed, leading the travellers away from the macabre scene.
Eryno boosted himself up to a roof, vanishing over its lip, shortly sending ‘street’s clear. Well … mostly clear.’ Hex grabbed Irabeth’s shoulder and brought the rest of the group to a halt. ‘I think I found our scout’s arm,’ Eryno clarified.
Leading with his favoured revolver, Hex exited the alley first. Near the middle of the small cull de sac was a forearm with a still attached blood soaked hand. Turning to wave the group forward, he instead levelled his firearm at the building just down from the alley. As he circled towards the buildings furthest from the alley Irabeth led the group out.
The Tirablade residence’s single story was uncommon in Kenabres, but seemed to be free from overt damage. What maintenance had kept it in good order was marred by the fresh writing on its front façade.
Dripping in crimson, the C was clearly incomplete, and the wood slats of the building had been broken where it should have finished the O. The snapped bone of the scout’s hand showed the ferocity that it had been used to pummel the wall after it failed as a brush. Nearby the discarded bucket was still slick with blood.
“My … home!” Irabeth finally exclaimed in horror, then again, “our home” in a barely concealed rage. Stomping across the street she reached for the door’s handle.
Her shield clanged against Eryno’s breastplate as he interposed his armour’s bulk between her and the door. Baring her tusks, she growled at him before giving him a shove, “out of my way, outsider! Whoever did this clearly waits within and will meet my blade!”
“A champion on the field of battle you may be, Irabeth, but listen to my friend’s silent council,” Bliks said where she stood with the others. “His caution has saved my life on many a day.”
“And clearly, paladin, this is a trap,” Horgus added contemptuously, “any fool should have seen that. This writing, killing your man? All a setup.”
“How are you so well versed in the ways of the Worldwound, moneylender?” Irabeth shot back, “despite the evidence, perhaps Aravshnial was onto something with his accusations!”
“Yes … yes!” a voice chortled from the open air between them all, “home at last and with sensible company.” A crack seemed to open in that space, spewing forth a tendril of intestine, followed by ribs snapping the crack yet wider as it vomited out more internal organs. Over these muscle was knitted, themselves covered in a mottled green skin, as yet more bones and muscles painfully broke through the rift, forming limbs. Even as the torso was clad in parallel rows of small leather plates, the head swam into existence, its tongue worming up from the open throat and tusks bursting from raw gums. Finally an ornate helm feathered into place, giving its wearer the appearance of a twisted insect.
Irabeth spat then spoke, “your parlour tricks still don’t fool me Vagorg” finishing by swinging her blade through the phantasm.
“Oh they aren’t meant to fool you, but I doubt those weak minded crusaders at Defender’s Heart have your insights. That’s where she is, isn’t it?”
In a flurry of leather, blood, and skin the image rearranged itself into a striking duplicate of Anevia before again shifting in a revolting fashion to mirror the paladin’s appearance from the frizzle of her black hair to the bronzed plate armour.
“They surely wouldn’t turn away their captain, now would they?”
The half orc turned back to face the impassive faceplate of Eryno’s armour, her face filled with pleading, “please, let me pass. I cannot, I will not let him touch my wife.”
“I intend to do more than touch her … I’ve always wanted to see Deskari’s children slowly feast on a living host. It is beautiful I am told.”
“Bliks?” Hex asked.
“As you wish Sovereign,” she replied, dismissing the still laughing Fearsome Duplicate with a casting of Dispel Magic, “but I do have to say, he made quite an appearance. Fine technique.”
Giving the mage a sickened look, Irabeth turned to Hex, “now what is our course? Walk into this trap or leave him to strike my fellows as they rest for tonight’s assault? You seem intent on not doing the former yet I do not think you a fool as to allow the latter.”
“Caution is not inaction,” Hex replied, nodding to Eryno, who turned and began examining the door. Without touching it, he ran his gauntleted hands swiftly and steadily over its frame and then across its entire surface. He then paused and traced a finger in a spiral pattern over one of the door’s quadrants until he tapped the air above a point near the frame.
With a sudden thrust he stabbed that point with a short blade in his other hand then stepped back as the blade arced and a spiderweb of glowing lines spread out from its centre. Irabeth tentatively reached out as the lines faded and then looked to the ranger.
Eryno’s voice was slightly tinny through the suit’s speakers, “Bliks could explain it, I guess. Magic traps have these weak points. Jab ‘em in the right place and they break.”
“Now that unpleasantness is resolved, this problem is not my concern,” Horgus said, straightening his back, “may I suggest, your majesty, that we let the crusader have her revenge while your companions escort me to my manor?”
“Lord Gwerm. During the recent Sovereignty Succession, there were three paths. Support, oppose, flight. Those nobles who supported me had my loyalty. Those nobles who opposed me had my respect. Those nobles who flew had my contempt.” Hex said flatly to the air before turning to look at Horgus, “The other nobles of Kenabres have either died or fled. You have not. Yet.”
Horgus wilted slightly under Hex’s gaze, even though it bore no particular malice or threat; the android was as impassive as ever. “But of course, your majesty, it was only a suggestion.”
Trying the handle, Eryno opened the door, “Whoa.”
Looking past his suit, Bliks could see a strange sight. Instead of the expected humble front hall, for all she could imagine she was looking down the throat of some massive beast, its lips gaping and pressed up against the doorframe. Eryno’s adamantine blade tested the lips and they came away uncut. “Hard. I’d say some kind of force barrier.”
“It’s a demiplane!” Bliks exclaimed, her eyes dimming from a Detect Magic, “I’ve been planning to create one of my own … this is fascinating!”
Hex rested a hand on the floating mage’s shoulder, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m certain, Sovereign,” she replied, trying to calm her voice, “a temporary one by my guess. There’s a Gate between us and it’s location, but normal Gates last at most a few minutes. In any case, powerful magic was used to make this, as powerful as I have seen.”
“This is madness!” Irabeth added, “Vagorg was a mercenary sorcerer, I bested him with ease years ago, and yet you speak of him as an equal!”
Bliks pursed her lips, “perhaps he had help or found some font of power.”
Having backed away from this abnormal sight, Horgus said, “how can we even be certain he is in there? Would it not be unwise to step into this trap?”
“A demiplane is not idly made, Lord Gwerm,” Bliks explained, reaching a hand beyond the door’s threshold, “and any kind of environment or layout could be inside. He’d have the ultimate home ground. As Irabeth said, our choices seem to be that we either face him on his terms or he faces our allies; either way he has the advantage.”
“Proceed Spymaster,” Hex said to which Eryno gave a thumbs up and elbowed his way into the glistening tunnel. Bliks floated in after him and then paused, turning to look at Horgus. The nobleman began to throw his hands up, and then steeled himself, following Bliks. Hex took the next place in line while the half orc paladin brought up the rear.
Once the last of the party had entered, Bliks looked back, half expecting the mouth to close and the tunnel to convulse like some great beast swallowing them down, but the ruddy light of the Worldwound seeped in through the open Gate. Then she winced as a droplet of some kind of fluid fell on her face from the tunnel’s ceiling. Inside was considerably warmer and more humid than Kenabres, while the walls themselves seemed to glow dimly like light seeping through a hand held up to the sun. The air also reminded Bliks of the breath of a victim of some wasting plague; she was glad for her ever present breeze to keep the foulness from overcoming her. Behind her she could hear Horgus cough as he breathed through his mouth.
Pausing for a moment, Bliks opened her pack withdrawing a bulky Signal Booster, attaching it with its built in clamps to one of the walls. Its outer plates opened like a metal flower, sprouting spines and arrays. “Just in case he’s not actually here,” Bliks said to Irabeth, “I left a commset with your inquisitor.”
The tunnel seemed to spiral gently downwards and despite the slime was not overly slippery. Eryno made no attempt at stealth, his suit’s massive frame brushing wall as well as ceiling leaving behind clear streaks as the fluid sloughed off. Then the tunnel opened up into a small chamber, a few feet drop down to its floor. Landing in several inches of liquid Eryno swept his blade around the space before Bliks floated down after him.
When a heavy weight fell on her back, she was initially brought to curse Horgus’ clumsiness but then felt teeth digging into her neck and screamed. Eryno spun, stabbing right past her head. Another scream filled her ears, this time not her own. She fell into the fluid on the floor of the room. The weight suddenly vanished, the pain of the bite became burning.
“Babau!” Irabeth shouted.
The chamber was empty again. Clasping a hand to the back of her neck, Bliks looked around as the others jumped down into the shallow pool. Then from the other exit a skeletal figure pounced on Eryno, it’s claws sparking off his force field. He ignited his boosters but the flame coursed around the demon barely pushing it back. Then he jumped back, slamming it between the wall and his suit. The creature screamed again, an inhuman howl, then vanished again.
“Inheritor, that thing’s fast,” Eryno said.
“Demons with Quickened Teleport? That’s not good,” Bliks replied, holding a Wand of Magic Missile at the ready.
The roar of Hex’s revolver announced its next appearance, shot as it dropped down from the curved ceiling. It merely snarled and disappeared without attacking.
Flicking her wrist, the wand withdrew on a thin wire and Bliks fumbled with one of her packs’ side pockets. Her other hand now burned with the acid that the demon was covered in.
Her arm lancing out, Irabeth speared the creature when it next appeared, her blade sliding between its ribs. Lining up her arm, Bliks fired off the newly retrieved wand, a pale green aura surrounding the demon. Claws raked across the paladin’s plate, marring its polished surface.
It looked all the part of a victim of starvation, every bone protruding painfully, its arms and legs thin as rails, each limb ending in claws. Just above its sunken eyes protruded a pair of horns and it was devoid of hair, yellow slime dripping off its taut grey skin.
“Who sent you?”, Bliks said in Celestial, “answer and you will not suffer.”
In her mind she heard its response, even as it gnashed its teeth and tried pulling itself along Irabeth’s blade, ‘I care not who brought me!’ Its progress was reversed as Eryno slammed a gauntleted fist against its chest.
“Kill it, it …” Bliks began before she was drowned out by Hex emptying his revolver into its head. As she had suspected, the Summoned creature dissipated back to the Abyss. “It knew nothing,” she finished, “sent to test our reactions I’d reckon. Barely a scout.” The pain of her wound subsided and she looked at the minor burns her hand now sported. As she had the night before, she sent her internal nanites to her wounds. Immediately she could feel a flush pass over her.
“Magister?” Hex asked.
Bliks shook her uncomfortably warm head, “it’s all right, I’ve just pushed my nanite reserve beyond its recommended levels. Just a little uncomfortable, I’m still good to proceed.” Her stomach growled and her tongue felt sticky as the little machines drew on her body’s resources to fuel their repair operations.
Looking across the group, Hex said “we invite more if we tarry,” and once again Eryno led the group through the tunnels. As he strode, he shifted his shield back as he attached one end of a manacle to his wrist, idly tossing the loose end. The slope now mostly levelled off, but soon enough the liquid on the floor rose so they waded knee deep. Bliks robes dripped from the viscous fluid even as she floated herself, crosslegged, above its surface. The light was also dimming, which did not impede the Torch Bearers, but Horgus began to stumble. Hex released a brightly glowing Ioun stone around the nobleman’s head.
As they sloshed through the dark tunnel, Horgus said “tell us, Captain, how do you know this sorcerer?”
“It was many years ago,” Irabeth began, her voice sounding hollow behind her visor, “when I was working as a marshal for the city-state of Tymon, he was a member of a cult to Xoveron, demon lord to gargoyles. They had been too free with their coin in buying large quantities of Alchemist’s Fire, so I was given the task of determining their true intentions. In an attempt to create a sacred ruin for their master, they conspired to burn down a neighbourhood.”
“With the help of several of the blooded gladiators, we foiled their plan. Guile let him strike at my companions, driving fear into their hearts. Only by Iomadae’s grace was I able to overcome his foul magics and end his mad scheme. He had a silvered tongue, even trying to convince me that it was a foul mistake of our shared heritage, to let him flee from humans who would only kill him. Last I knew, he worked gagged in the arenas.”
“Tunnel’s opening up,” Eryno reported, cutting Irabeth’s story short.
The walls of the chamber ahead were beyond Bliks’ darkvision, but curved away to either side. Grinning to either side of their tunnel were crouched four headed gargoyles, crude approximations of Xoveron. A path led out of the sludge, winding up a rise in the terrain, cutting through tumbled down stone walls and collapsed arches. The stench of decay was overpowering, but the air was otherwise still.
“Welcome!” a voice cut through the darkness, its source uncertain, “I’m so pleased my dear Irabeth told you of our last congress.”
“Face us, coward!” the paladin shouted in challenge.
“Mind Lord Gwerm,” Hex commanded Irabeth, who stared at him in defiance, then huffed agreement. With inhuman speed, Eryno dashed to the remnants of the nearest wall, his armour seemingly taking on its appearance, even though Bliks knew that that could only be a trick of her mind. She stood from her seated position, still floating above the liquid, cautiously moving about the perimeter of the chamber. From his belt the gunslinger swapped in different shells, firing them off into the darkness only to have them explode harmlessly in balls of brilliant illumination.
The centre of the chamber was a massive mound, with crumbling perimeter walls and a smashed cairn at its summit. Splintered remains of great timbers lay under toppled cyclopean boulders. Encircled by a natural moat, the whole looked all the part of a ruined outpost in some forgotten swamp, somehow transported into this place. Everywhere perched gargoyles.
‘Can’t see any half-orc sorcerers here,’ Eryno sent over the link from somewhere in the ruins.
Bliks swept the area with Detect Magic, ‘this whole place radiates, I can’t see any magic standing out from the background’
“It is a wonderful tribute, you and these Deskarans give to my lord. All these cities left in ruin between your squabbles. Each sanctified in his name. The Horned Prince need not send a single follower from Ghahazi and yet that realm grows. All thanks to you. Your failure to protect Kenabres is another welcomed gift.”
Bliks heard, almost felt the grunt over the link that Eryno sent out. Turning to scan the mound, she saw one of the many gargoyles swing up after dealing some telling blow to the ranger. Magic Missiles stabbed from her wand, joined by bullets from Hex’s gun, shredding the stone creature mid flight. She flew towards where Eryno stood, one hand with his favoured rapier at the ready while the other swinging the loose end of the manacle. Another gargoyle animated, this time trying to grapple with him. It sprawled to one side after he backhanded it with his shield, again shattering under repeated gunfire. The next tore through his flickering force field, getting purchase on his suit. This one he drove back with a slash which Bliks dispatched as Hex reloaded. The gunslinger then peppered another enough that Eryno could finish it off with his forearm Laser Pistol.
“Come on, I’m hardly breaking a sweat here,” Eryno taunted with a laugh.
The trio stood at the mound’s apex, waiting for the next gargoyle to animate.
Bliks looked around. Her heartbeat slowed. ‘Do you see anything?’ she sent to the others, the nervous energy of battle gone but without conclusion.
‘No,’ Eryno replied.
‘Same,’ Hex agreed.
Around the entrance to the large chamber a shimmering wall of light sprang into existence. “Father, Master, secure your faithful!” Horgus yelled from its far side. His yell was joined by an animalistic howl and a righteous shout. Through the Prismatic Wall’s oscillating colours, Bliks could make out Irabeth fending off one of the two gargoyles that had stood near them.
It was hardly fair. It towered over her, its claws catching her blade and twisting it out of her grip. With a casual toss the creature flung the blade through the Wall to its annihilation. Horgus’ jab into its side evoked only a howled spell casting that had him curled in a ball. It then snatched Irabeth by the neck, ignoring the blows she delivered with her morningstar.
“Hex, I know your plan was to ration our resources for tonight,” Bliks said, finishing her explanation by casting Friendly Transposition, resting a hand on the back of Eryno’s Powered Armour.
A heartbeat later and her hand was instead against Irabeth’s plate and the gargoyle creature had its hands around the stiff neck of the Androffan suit. It merely sneered and spat a stream of acid onto his helm.
It then turned its attention away from his grappling partner to see where Irabeth had appeared screeching, “I will furnish your marital bed with your entrails, paladin! And you!” it continued, turning to address Eryno through the hole it had melted, “you cannot contain my power!” It grinned a mouth full of fangs and tusks, and then looked down at the green aura that now surrounded them both.
The other manacle of the Dimensional Shackle now bound them together. The beast wrenched at the links, but found the Powered Armour’s other hand tightened around its stone like wrist, leaving the links slack.
Soundlessly, the weapons and equipment attached to the Powered Armour fell, their magnetic clasps disengaging. Emergency seals popped and the chest of the suit blasted away, smashing into the monster’s chest. Momentarily thrown off balance, it stabbed a claw into the cavity where Eryno had just been.
Free of his suit, the ranger was as spry as any snake, dodging and rolling away from the creature as he grabbed his rapier and shield. He may not have been an Aldori swordlord, but his spiked shield could strike true just as easily as his rapier could deflect attacks.
A laser blast passed through the Prismatic Wall, harmlessly burning the beast. It screamed in frustration and exaltation, “I am a scion of the Abyss! Blessed with the elixir of Death and Life! You are no match for me, little things.”
Its movements were hampered by the unyielding grip the suit still had on it, but it still lashed out at Eryno and he could feel the heat of its claws sear his bare skin where the claws barely grazed. Seeing his blade glance off its rock like hide, he stepped back and dropped the blade.
The thrusters flared to light on the suit, jerking the two linked giants to one side. Grabbing his other forearm, Eryno held his shield in front of him. Then in a blur, his exposed cybernetics glowing in overdrive, he ran forward, slamming into the gargoyle.
For a moment as it staggered, it seemed unconcerned by this attack. Then one of its wings touched the Wall and shattered as it was simultaneously burnt, melted, and electrocuted. The Wall then seemed to draw the beast into it, with an unbearable suction.
“My Prince, why?!” it screamed as it was inexorably ripped apart, “I was using them! For your glory!” Its howls of protest ended as its head was sucked through and the Wall winked out, its forearms and a part of a leg falling inert to the ground.
The chamber then rocked, throwing the survivors around. Then, with surprising speed it contracted, squeezing its contents through the entrance. Only fluid seemed to be carried alongside their bodies, the shattered gargoyles, the ruins, all left behind. Around the twisting tunnels they were hurled, riding the crest of the collapsing demiplane.
When they were ejected out into Kenabres, the liquid stayed behind, even shedding from their clothes as they were forced through the Gate.
Bliks was the first to regain her feet and she looked to the others, “is everyone alright?”
Hex nodded while Eryno gave a thumbs up, the burns on his chest already healing under nanite administrations. Horgus wouldn’t meet her gaze while Irabeth stared into space, seemingly still in shock.
“That. That was Vagorg,” Irabeth said, not speaking to anyone, “he was twisted, powerful, but it was him. I saw it in his eyes, in his tusks.”
“The power of the Abyss,” Bliks replied, “he must have somehow given himself over to it and it remade him in his master’s image.” She then paused, pondering, “then why did Xoveron turn on him? I had thought that your charge would remove the Prismatic Wall as a barrier to Hex’s bullets … and who was he using?”
Horgus began to weep. It was a painful thing to hear, like many sorrows rising at once, no longer contained. “You, you, you judged me w w wrong Sovereign,” he began to babble, “I w w wanted to flee. It showed me w what I am, a coward.”
Brought back to focus, Irabeth crouched before the man, resting her head against his chest, and holding him close despite his feeble attempts to push her away. “I heard you call out to Abadar, the Wealthy Father, the Master of the First Vault. You struck at Vagorg despite his terrifying visage.” She looked up at the man through her visor, “his spell put fear into your heart, fear that was not there on its own accord.”
Outside her blood stained home, the moneylender returned her embrace.
‘Did anyone else feel that pulse?’ Eryno sent silently over the link as he crawled back into the shell of the Powered Armour, damaged beyond immediate usefulness but not destroyed.
Hex looked over at Bliks and nodded, ‘Yes. Same as Hellion and Unity.’