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Chapter 15: Reluctant Allies
Light Mancer Arkath was in poor mood as he rode into Harwood village, scowling at his Paladin companion as though it was her fault it had taken them so long to pass through the dense woods in North Cheross.
Harwood sat at the fork of the river feeding Lake Summons & The Wett.
“One day to replenish supplies & we leave” he snapped at Deralyn.
She ignored his vitriol. “Which way will we travel? It’s clear the Shadow Mancer will be long gone by the time we enter Urith. Either we take the river North or we seek aid in Chrysa.”
“The Serpentine?” he spat.
- Continue North by river 50%
- Seek assistance in Chrysa 50%
“I won’t deal with those Portal witches” Arkath snapped imperiously. Deralyn stoically ignored his tone.
“As you wish” she replied. She knew he was too proud to admit his plan had failed & they’d need help finding their quarry. If he was too proud to seek help, she was not.
The village was large and well-kept. The trade in timber from the dense forests along the river kept the small town prosperous.
Deralyn was delighted to see a Serpentine chapel as they passed through town. If she couldn’t go to Chrysa then Chrysa could come to her.
- Split up & visit chapel 53.3%
- Both go to an Inn 23.3%
- Go to the market 16.7%
- Go to the docks 6.7%
“You go ahead and secure us a room” Deralyn said to the Light Mancer, pointing towards an inn.
“Where are you going?” he demanded.
“I have to attend to something” she replied with patience. “I will be along shortly.” She spurred her horse around without waiting for a reply.
Arkath huffed as the Paladin rode away. He rode his horse to the back of the inn and a stable boy took his reins.
Half an hour later he settled into a small room. There was enough floor space to create a summoning circle to replenish his Phylactery & maybe the Paladin’s shield.
- Wait for the Paladin 12.5%
- Go look for the Paladin 12.5%
- Replenish his Phylactery 75%
- Go to the common room 0%
He looked out of the window and saw it was getting late. Had that insubordinate woman not gone off he would have replenished her shield, he though to himself. No matter. His own power was of greater importance.
He attuned himself to the higher planes, eyes turning white.
He knelt & traced a complex circular pattern on the floor, bright shining lines appearing where his finger touched. It took him an hour to complete, the circle a pace across, filling the small space.
His mental compulsion rang across the celestial plane & a being appeared.
- A Confessor 28%
- A Martyr 44%
- An Innocent 28%
The Celestial that appeared in the circle was beautiful. It stood at just 5 foot, a head shorter than the Light Mancer, with silver-feathered wings protruding over its shoulders. It was furious, snarling at the man who’d snared it.
Arkath sighed. He had only captured a Martyr.
Martyrs were low ranking, of the 11th Order.
Gripping his crystal phylactery he stared deep at the spitting Angel, Knowing it.
In triumph, he shouted the Angel’s name “Briel!” followed by some guttural words. The Angel was utterly destroyed, its power captured in the crystal.
Deralyn led her horse on foot, retracing her steps to where she’d seen two women in emerald-green hooded robes; Serpentine disciples. Famous for their divination, she was certain they could help find the Shadow Mancer.
Half an hour later, she arrived at their temple door.
Her metal-gloved fist rattled on the door. It opened to a pretty girl, smiling.
“Paladin” she said. “We are ready for you. Come!”
Deralyn smiled. Of course they knew she was coming. She was led into a dark room, heady incense-thick, and sat.
“Ask” a cowled woman said.
- “Where is Galdren?” 26.9%
- “Where is Galdren headed?” 30.8%
- “Where should I be going?” 23.1%
- Ask the price 19.2%
Green light shone from a thumb-sized crystal on the woman’s forehead as the question was asked. The moment felt like hours. Silence broke with the woman’s melodious voice.
“He must pass the unpassable. He goes to his doom or his salvation. To our doom, or our salvation”. Pause.
She looked directly into the Paladin’s eyes. “Ask another”
A younger green-cowled woman sat in the corner gasped. It was well known that only one question should be asked.
Deralyn’s brow furrowed. Her question was answered and so couldn’t be revisited. She took a deep breath.
- Should Galdren be stopped? 15%
- Should Galdren be helped? 15%
- What is Galdren chasing? 60%
- Where should I go? 10%
The hooded woman again paused, crystal glowing brightly.
“Galdren chases the catalyst. The shifter. The progeny of the gateway” she waved her hand in a flourish towards the ceiling. “He chases chaos.”
The conference was ended. Deralyn rose.
“The price” the woman intoned.
Again her crystal glowed & her eyes widened.
“I’m afraid the price is high.” The woman lowered her hood and explained to Deralyn what was required of her. Deralyn shook her head.
“This is madness” she hissed.
“It is necessary. And you will.” The woman stood, nodded & left.
Arkath shuddered in pleasure, rose to his feet and brushed his robes. The euphoria that accompanied the obliteration of a Celestial and the storing of its essence in a Phylactery was fleeting.
He was hungry and decided to eat. He had no patience for the disobedient Paladin.
He exited his room & turned towards the stairs down to the common area. He’d taken two steps when the sharp pain in his back struck. Once, twice. The dagger was sharp. On the third it twisted.
He fell to his knees and someone casually stepped over him and walked downstairs.
- He dies 18%
- He heals himself 14%
- He sends a message 41%
- Deralyn arrives 27%
High Mancer Serabel poured over a text in her study miles to the South. She sat bolt-upright suddenly as a sharp pain hit her optic nerve, white light flooding her eyes to receive the strong message.
“Help me! Wounded. Harwood. Portal… witches”
Arkath, the fool, she thought.
In his panic he’d called to his superior rather than his companion. Serabel didn’t reply, but her eyes still glowed.
Where was Deralyn? Was she dead? No, she was formidable. Arkath wouldn’t be a great loss but the Paladin wasn’t easily replaced.
She needed to act fast.
- Heal him from a distance 45%
- Command Deralyn to him 30%
- Watch the scene from afar 5%
- Identify the attacker 20%
The link between Arkath & Serabel remained. Gripping the shining crystal around her neck she pulsed healing energy across the Celestial plane into the injured Mancer.
The innkeeper dashed up the stairs to investigate Arkath’s scream. She bent over him and looked at his wound.
The wounds on his back started to knit together but something was wrong.
Black symbols appeared in a circle around the wound, triggered by Serabel’s Celestial magic. Arkath shrieked. The symbols pulsed three times.
The dark magic explosion destroyed the top floor of the Inn.
Deralyn sat atop her horse as she made her way to the inn she had pointed Arkath towards. She looked into the middle-distance, brow wrinkled in thought at the cryptic information she’d been given, and the price demanded of her.
An enormous explosion rocked the street.
A gout of black energy shot diagonally over the roofs of buildings. A familiar feeling of demonic corruption filled the air.
Kicking her horse forward, she reached the inn and saw, as expected, that it was the source. The scene was chaotic with cries, panic, & injured patrons.
- Help some injured 21%
- ”Arkath!” She ran inside 47%
- Investigate the area 32%
Dust settled in the common room. The staircase leading to the top floor ended abruptly, no ceiling just open sky.
Deralyn searched the area but there was no sign of Arkath. No sign of his body.
“No, no, no…” she repeated over and over. “I should have been here”.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a large, clear crystal on a chain. Arkath’s Phylactery. It must have been impervious to the dark blast. She picked it up and put it over her neck.
Exiting the inn, she looked at the crowd. The injured were being cared for.
Who’d done this?
- Search for the killer 59%
- Try and contact Serabel 35%
- Leave town 6%
Her eyes leaped from face to face. Some injured, none badly. Many more people helping. The maid crying because the innkeeper wasn’t to be found. Some local guards arriving, too. Nobody seeming out of place.
Deralyn needed to get away from the inn before the guards stopped her.
She slipped down an empty side street, stepping over rubble from the upper floor. She concentrated, opening her mind to the sense of corruption. There was a trail. She followed it.
She turned a corner & saw a figure before it stepped into a portal.
- Sondennath, The Hunter 47%
- A tall plain-looking man 53%
Deralyn watched as the plain-looking man walked into the portal. He turned to look directly at her as the portal closed, smiling.
Righteous anger blossomed in her chest. Her companion had been killed by a higher demon free to walk the world under its free-will. Rare. Dangerous.
She remembered Sondennath, The Hunter. He had walked the world, too. Coincidence? What was loosing these demons?
She had no way to speak to the Light Mancers now Arkath was gone. She’d need to wait to be contacted.
With a sigh she turned back towards the inn & her mission.
There was a light tap on the door of High Mancer Serabel’s study.
“Lady Serabel?” the trepid servant called. No answer. He repeated it & opened the door a crack to look in. The High Mancer had been at work for many hours without disturbance.
She was unmoving on the floor.
- Servant found her dead 25%
- She was unconscious 50%
- Servant ran for help 25%
The High Mancer’s breath was shallow but the servant couldn’t rouse her. He lifted her up & carried her to a couch, making her comfortable before ringing to summon Lady Serabel’s secretary, a Light Mancer named Neryl.
Neryl probed Serabel with his power.
“She will be ok”
Serabel slept fitfully for three days despite powerful healing cast upon her. On the fourth she woke.
“High Mancer” said Neryl, who had sat vigil at her side. “What happened?”
She looked at him. “No time” she rasped. “I need to see…
- High Shadow Mancer Birth 40%
- High Dark Mancer Rela 13%
- the other High Mancers 47%
Serabel sat behind her seat to receive the other High Mancers of Meldon.
High Shadow Mancer Birth arrived first. He was the shortest of the three, and the youngest. Less powerful than either of his counterparts, but the two large crystals at his neck glowed with trapped magic.
After a few moments of clipped small talk, High Dark Mancer Rela swept in. She was taller than them both and three times Barth’s wiry thickness. She walked with a cane.
Rela had been in-post when Serabel had started training, though her face showed youth. A pact with a demon.
- Serabel is polite 46%
- Serabel is angry 8%
- Serabel is rude 15%
- Serabel cries 31%
“Colleagues” she said with formal courteousness. “As you will know by now I have been recovering from an attack on my person.” The other two nodded, though faces were unreadable. “My Mancer was killed in the field. His death was triggered by a trap laid, I believe, for me.”
“The trap” she continued “was demon-wrought”.
At this, Birth shouted angrily “You cannot be suggesting we had a hand…” while Rela just barked a laugh.
“I suggest nothing.” Serabel said calmly. “Merely state fact.”
“The Shadow Conclave know nothing of this” snapped Birth.
- Rela smiled & shrugged 33%
- Rela: “I have a theory” 60%
- Serabel continues 7%
“Go on” Serabel said stiffly.
Rela’s eyes darted sideways at Birth.
“The Dark Conclave has identified two Freewalkers.”
“What?” snapped Serabel. “Why wasn’t this knowledge shared?”
“We only knew of one” said Birth in surprise.
“There could be more” said Serabel.
“Given the two we have identified,” continued Rela, “it is likely that there is a Celestial Freewalker loose, too.”
Serabel’s brow furrowed. This was not good news. “The two you know of? They are powerful?”
Rela nodded. “The Hunter has been released, as has Tamiel”.
- Discuss why they are free 41%
- Discuss when they know 18%
- Discuss 2 released Demons 24%
- Identify the Celestial 17%
“You do know what this means, of course” lectured Rela. Serabel scowled. She had hoped this could be kept secret longer.
“A Star Child has fallen” nodded Birth. He, at least, had not know until now.
“It has” Serabel agreed. The old texts talked of Heralds. One from the pit.One from the Heavens. And a third of both.
It was, after all, their history. The coming of the first Star Child & his Heralds founded the Mancers, so it was believed.
Now that the event was in the open, the rivals plotted together.
Though they still kept their secrets.