Snow had already settled as a white, soft, gentle blanket over the grassy plains and parks; frozen droplets festively adorned leafless trees and conifers; birds twittered and sang under the bright sun and blue skies. Elves went about their daily business, preoccupied with leading their lives with little or no surprises.
So too with young Anleth, Captain of the Temple Guard. She was looking for Mioralynthia, a sorceress she was well acquainted with, and knew that today she would be at the city hall. She made for the front desk to find out where exactly she could find her, since the city hall was a large and often confusing structure.
"Excuse me," she addressed one of the clerks, who returned a polite smile, "I'm looking for mistress Mioralynthia. I've heard she would be at the city hall today."
"Ah, yes, one moment please," the clerk replied, and went through papers serving some administrative function of which Anleth was unaware.
"But how?" a man standing next to her, clearly agitated, argued with another clerk. "How can I possibly be declared dead when I'm standing right here, telling you I'm not dead? Do I look dead to you?"
Anleth's eyebrow curved slightly when she picked up bits of the conversation, but quickly returned her attention to the clerk assisting her. "Third floor, second door on your left," she was told.
"Thank you," she replied, and made in the direction she was given.
This was it, Anleth surmised, and knocked on the oaken door blocking her path. An exceedingly toneless, neutral 'yes' came from inside, and Anleth, cautioned by the tone, carefully opened the door.
Dozens of paper sheets of uniform size and style littered desks and most of the floor. An old painting hung slanted from the wall, lazily pointing to a tasteless vase that lied flat on an end table, its flowers and most of the water sprawled over the marble floor. Mioralynthia was kneeling on the floor collecting papers with a characteristic, if clearly forced, calm.
"What, eh...?" Anleth didn't understand. Mioralynthia was an orderly woman, unlikely to skip dandily through the office, throwing around stack upon stack of memo's, which was one of the possible causes cursorily considered--and discarded--by Anleth's imagination.
"Our administration captured and confiscated a group of sprites," the sorceress explained without looking up from collecting paper sheets.
"Sprites?" Anleth looked about herself, then slowly began collecting papers of her own, hoping she would get some sort of explanation in the meantime.
"Sprites are winged, mischievous, tiny creatures that ride up magic channels and vortices, such as those opened when spuriously overcharging a sorcerous spell. They become very playful when inadvertently released in a neighbouring office, and are apparently capable of causing a dire mess in instants."
"Ah, so the scorch mark on the wall...?" Anleth pointed over her shoulder.
"No, that would be me. I missed."
"And in the corner--"
"I hit. Repeatedly." Mioralynthia's cold but level tone made Anleth forgo on any ancillary questions. "That aside, Captain, how can I be of service to you?"
"I've received a letter from Tarbo; he's coming over on vacation and invites us to come skiing with him."
"Vacation," Mioralynthia sighed forlornly. A tiny, winged creature flew past her with a mischievous giggle, knocking over an ink stand on her desk. "Vacation sounds so nice."
Anleth nodded sympathetically, but instantly stopped when one of the memo's she was holding caught her eye. "Mistress," she asked for the sorceress' attention, "have you read this memo?"
"Possibly," Mioralynthia murmured, barely audible, and looked over the relevant sheet of paper.
"Sir?" a clerk asked hurriedly while stumbling into the office (and almost over the two women kneeled on the floor), finding an adjudant with sufficient authority in the blink of an eye. "Sir, there's someone at the front desk who claims he's not dead, but our records say he passed away last week."
The adjudant, an elderly elf of a decidedly practical bend, looked up from his recently messed desk and frowned. "Dead, you say? Is he decomposing?"
"I, ah, couldn't really tell, sir. But he was frothing from his mouth when I left."
"Is he saying he's not dead... or undead?"
"Aha," Mioralynthia said, both eyebrows raised. For a moment, the adjudant and clerk believed they were being addressed, but they seemed mistaken. "Interesting."
"Mistress?" Anleth willed her to elaborate.
"We are due at the residence of the High Emissary of His Majesty the King of Naggaroth."
"We are? When?"
"In..." She looked at the clock and narrowed her eyes. "...two minutes. Give or take."
"Do we know why we are being called upon?" Anleth asked while hurriedly descending the long, wide staircase leading to the front desk and out of the city hall.
"Not the slightest," Mioralynthia replied, focusing more on not tripping down the stairs than really giving it a lot of thought. "We'll be briefed once we get there."
"And... are they fighting at the front desk? Are those wooden stakes?"
"No time. Let the front desk worry about what happens at the front desk. Coach!" she called while running out the front doors. Anleth followed immediately with only a brief look over her shoulder.
"Hold him down!" came the shouts from behind her. "Aim for the heart!"
Diffuse light shone through the mosaically blue, wall-height windows onto the cold stone floor. Lustres and candelabras shone their points of light proudly through tiny, fractal prisms, displaying their everchanging beauty on the walls and ceiling. One could stare for hours at the playful dance of colourful light... if one were paying attention.
Anleth admitted to some nervosity. She had never before been called to Rensat, the local emissary of the Witch King, and she was unsure of proper protocol. She was more of a military figure, and ill at home in the highest social echelons. Even the butler leading them to the meeting chamber, with nose and chin gently raised, straight back, and impeccable tuxedo made her feel underprepared for the occasion. Best to follow Mioralynthia's lead on this.
"Ah, there you are. Right on time," Rensat greeted them with perfect articulation. As envoy, Rensat saw to any and all things that the king wished and that in any way involved this city. Her sharp facial features, quick but controlled gestures, and clear voice hinted to a woman not to be trifled with. She dismissed her servant with a quick flick of the wrist, and beckoned her two visitors to join her at the center table.
"Allow me to cut to the chase," Rensat proceeded straightforwardly. "I've called on you because you have experience in retrieving valuable artifacts and relics from the most diverse of locations. I think of the deep jungles of Lustria, the far plains of the Chaos Wastes, to name but a few."
Usually, Anleth would welcome appreciation of previous efforts that otherwise seemed to go mostly unnoticed, or at the least unmentioned, but she noticed Mioralynthia fidgeting uneasily, and that alarmed her. She knew something she didn't.
"House Salth has expressed the intent to retrieve several valuable artifacts that seem to reside in an abandoned settlement. You've heard of Redoris, I assume? It's comparatively closeby, void of any life, and shouldn't pose anything of a challenge, logistics aside.
"Nonetheless, House Salth would like to leave nothing to chance and has been promised your full cooperation in this endeavour. You shall lend your equipment, manpower, and expertise to the better of this expedition. Your employer will meet you at the temple. Here is the official mission statement," and Rensat held out a sealed envelope, passed Mioralynthia, and handed it over to Anleth. "Report back as soon as you return. Good day to you."
Mioralynthia bowed politely, immediately followed by Anleth, and retreated from the meeting chamber. Anleth kept tactfully quiet, unsure of whether to hand the letter to Mioralynthia and restore some of her pride, or leave the letter where it had been originally entrusted.
"She gave you the letter, Captain," Mioralynthia started, lacking any tone of stung pride, "not because she does not trust me with it--if so, she would not require my presence--but because you would dutifully accept that letter without hesitation, and read it only after you had left her residence."
Anleth suddenly held, rolled her eyes to the letter in her hand, and then rolled them back to the sorceress. A few moments of silent realisation passed until she unceremoniously ripped the envelope apart, snatched out the contained letter, and quickly flicked it open for reading. "Oh, Lord Khaine," she sighed.
"Do keep the suspense, Captain."
"Our employer is Lady Elyssa Salth."
Mioralynthia looked at the open sky while trying to recall the name. It was there somewhere, deep in the dark recesses of almost repressed memory. "Elyssa Salth. I recall her name... Yes, she has won a beauty contest, hasn't she?"
"She was also almost disqualified because she was convinced Easter Monday would fall on a Thursday, this year."
"And now I recall why my memory was reluctant to dig up the recollection it had so carefully repressed."
A quick glance on Elyssa Salth's body instantly explained why she was a winning candidate for any beauty contest she had ever entered. An equally quick gaze into her eyes, however, gave Anleth the distinct impression that, although she was obviously alive and well, somebody else was driving.
"So, like, you're the ones Rensat was talking about?" Elyssa burst out when seeing Anleth and Mioralynthia in the temple's own council chamber. "Oh my gosh, this is so awesome! You must be Lynsey--I hope we're really gonna get along!" She wrapped her arms around Mioralynthia and squeezed her for a good hug.
Mioralynthia held perfectly still, one arm gently raised in a vain attempt to stop the physical assault, and silently rolled her eyes to Anleth. Was this woman for real?
"And you're, like, that guard woman, right?"
"Captain Anleth, at your--" Anleth had made the clever move to salute in a very hug-obstructive manner, but that only made the big, loving squeeze all the more uncomfortable for her. "...service."
"I just love people in uniform. They're, like, totally hot and everything. Can I get one of those suits for my parties?"
"Can you--?" Anleth stood baffled for an instant. "My lady, the Temple Guard uniform, that of its officers in particular, requires dedicated honours and privileges--"
"--and is currently out of stock, I'm sorry to say," Mioralynthia intervened with a meaningful glance at Anleth.
"Really? That's too bad. But that's okay," she smiled and looked back at Anleth.
"When would you like to leave?" Mioralynthia attempted to speed everyone through this.
"I was thinking tomorrow but, like, not too early or anything. Two, maybe three o'clock?"
"You're joking, right?" Anleth tried to sound as diplomatic as possible under the circumstances. "We can't set up an entire expedition in twenty-four hours."
"Well, that's annoying. Maybe my dad can help? You know my dad, right? He, like, owns half this city or something like that. Oh yeah, he said that, if things didn't really go my way, he was gonna visit you two and, like, sort stuff out or something. He was, like, really hung on this full cooperation thing."
"Does four in the afternoon sound manageable?" Anleth offered.
"Yeah, maybe four's better. I don't wanna get up early."
"Medical supplies. Who's taking care of medical supplies?" Mioralynthia's eyes skipped around busily while tapping her pencil on the list. Someone barely avoided her while dashing past, holding all sorts of rations in his arms.
"Medicals? I can do the medical equipment." Anleth asked, catching her breath. She had been running around a lot over the last night and morning. "Anything else?"
"Weapons, we need weapons and--"
"What is that?" Anleth pointed behind Mioralynthia.
"That," she replied without even looking, "are Lady Elyssa's personal effects: clothes, food, cosmetics, or so I'm told; I haven't had the time to check."
"How much clothes can you have? We just packed a cartful." Anleth took a deep, calming breath in her hands, and stood perfectly still for a moment. "I'm on medicals."
"Rations, rations..." Mioralynthia checked the list again. "Captain, is your lieutenant back from the general stores yet with rations?"
"Yes, but she was hit by a chariot before she made it in."
"Are the supplies unharmed?"
"They are, but she's out, and everyone else is committed. I've nobody left."
"For the love of-- Okay, go, I'll figure something out--" Mioralynthia hadn't the time to finish that phrase before a guard stormed into the corridor with an alarmed expression on his face. "Ma'ams, one of the carts just lost a wheel, and the crash spooked the horses."
"Ooh, I feel a killer migraine coming," Mioralynthia muttered.
"Right then," a cheery voice suddenly called out. "Who's up for fun and skiing?"
The sorceress looked up sharply at the source of the sound, and found a man with two suitcases in his hands, thick, white clothing on his person, a pair of skis on his back, and a wide, friendly smile on his lips.
"Tarbo! Lord, you're a life saver!" Mioralynthia almost threw herself at him but, instead of herself, pushed her checklist in his arms, causing him to drop his suitcases on the floor. "There are rations in the front hall; they need to be loaded onto the carts. When you're done with that, go to the infirmary and help Anleth with the medical supplies."
"You know, ah," Tarbo replied, startled. "If this is a bad time, it can wait until tomorrow."
"No, we need to leave at four, sharp. You fix things, right? Go fix!" Mioralynthia turned him around and nudged in his back. "I'll meet you out front."
Tarbo's job description defied actual description. Officially, he was a trainer at the Temple, based somewhere in the south of Naggaroth. Unofficially, he 'fixed' things and usually, when he was about, something (or someone) needed fixing.
"Right, ah, right," he said, going in the general direction he was nudged. "I'll get on that."
Trees lined the untrodden road to Redoris, the expedition's destination. More snow was gently twirling down, tiny, beautiful crystal settling on clothes and in hair. The long column marched on diligently, interspersed by horse wagons and carts.
"Mistress," Anleth addressed Mioralynthia, "what is Redoris?"
Mioralynthia looked at Anleth for a moment, realising she was too young to know the settlement, then realised her own knowledge on the matter was limited. "I know it was a settlement founded centuries ago in the very north of Naggaroth, but caught misfortune and was ultimately abandoned. It's been a ghost town ever since."
"Redoris?" Tarbo picked up. "Now there's a story to share around a campfire."
"You know it?" Anleth asked, glancing at Mioralynthia for her reaction, and she was just as curious to hear.
"Oh yes, I know Redoris," he replied, and took a deep breath to prepare for a long story. "Centuries ago, the Temple decided to honour Khaine by erecting a massive cathedral temple in his name on a site in the north of Naggaroth. As the works continued, more workers came and began to settle near the construction site. This ultimately founded Redoris.
"Though small in size and numbers, Redoris prospered fairly quickly, and managed to make a living for itself in trade and farming and, of course, pilgrimage. But in the end, the Temple lost interest in the construction and reduced funding whenever they needed money elsewhere. Redoris remained a small anecdote in history.
"Until one day, an elderly elf came to the village. His name was Daynarii, and he claimed to be sent by the Temple to oversee the finishing of construction of their village's centerpiece. Backed by an inexhaustable flow of money, Daynarii succeeded in finishing the upper level and even building an entirely underground catacomb.
"But the villagers grew wary. While usually Chaos storms from the north would ebb and flow, near and far, they continuously came ever closer, and they lasted longer and became more powerful. In the thick of night, during the closest storms, sightings of undead horrors were made at the outskirts of town. Villagers starting leaving Redoris for more southerly located cities, far away from the storms.
"Alarmed by reports of the undead brought in by fleeing villagers, the Temple wavered at first. When villagers described Daynarii, they realised something had happened under their very nose: a male sorcerer had turned what should have been a temple in the honour of Khaine, into a necromantic stronghold. Finally, the Temple acted: they sent in their best and finest champions, holy men and women, veteran warriors, sorceresses, to find and defeat Daynarii. A famous paladin called Adrianna led the expedition.
"When the expedition arrived in Redoris, a Chaos storm was raging overtop. There was no sign of the villagers, no sign of life. The expedition entered the temple and its catacombs under the fierce storm. For days, no-one left while the storm raged on, but finally, Adrianna emerged. She had been wounded, her entire expedition killed, but she defeated and killed Daynarii."
Anleth nodded, taking the story in. "But Redoris never recovered."
"Few people ever set foot in Redoris again," Tarbo added. "Or that's the legend, anyway."
"There's usually some truth to a legend," Mioralynthia raised. "It could be useful, it could not be. It's a good story either way. Anything else we need to know?"
Tarbo chuckled. "No, because there are no hotels and no decent mountains near Redoris, so legends is all I can give you."
Anleth glanced at the pair of skis on Tarbo's back, then aimed her eyes at Mioralynthia. Who was going to break news?
"Tarbo," Mioralynthia started, "I really hate to tell you this, but... we're not going skiing."
"What? No no no, you're not going skiing; I'm definitely going skiing."
"It took years for me to get a vacation that wasn't work-related. Do you see these skis? Composite ebony. Doesn't bend, doesn't break, perfect handling for tight corners. People start wars for skis like this. So, mark my words. I am going skiing."
"Hm, what's the holdup?" Anleth wondered out loud, breaking the conversation. The column had halted, and one of the soldiers came hurrying to them.
"Captain," he wheezed when he arrived after the jog. "One of the carts buckled under the weight. We're redistributing over the other wagons, but there's a big chest of Lady Elyssa's that we can't load onto any of them."
Anleth brushed a hand through her hair. "I suppose it's too big to carry?" The soldier nodded. "How are we going to move that chest?"
Slowly, Anleth's eyes rolled back to Tarbo's skis. Soon, Mioralynthia's eyes followed, and even the soldier's.
"Oh? Oh, no." Tarbo chuckled and shook his head. "I killed for these, and you know I'm not kidding."
"Come on, Tarbo," Mioralynthia tried. "Help us out, here."
"Lynthia, there's not a thing in the world you can say that will convince me to hand over these skis."
Tarbo watched from a distance while he saw his skis being tied underneath the heavy, round-topped, red-and-gold chest. Sturdy ropes secured the load to the finely shaped wooden planks underneath, carefully balancing the weight across for maximal sliding and minimal chances of accidentally breaking them.
"Don't worry," Mioralynthia assured him. "You'll get them back."
"And yet, I can't stop looking at them, because I get this funny feeling that this is the last time I'm going to see them."
"I told them to be extra careful with them, and they promised me they would take every precaution. The lieutenant there is an avid ski-er, himself."
"Oh, have you met Lady Elyssa Salth yet?" Anleth raised in an effort to get his mind off his skis.
"No, I haven't."
"How about we take you to her, so you can meet her for yourself?"
"So you, like, were totally on those other expeditions as well?" Elyssa was thrilled to be surrounded by that much experience. "That's so awesome! This trip is gonna be so cool."
"Yeah, ah..." Tarbo wasn't entirely sure how to react to that. "So tell me, how did you end up in this treasure hunt?"
"Me? Oh, I hear about these raids and artifact hunts and all in, like, Lustria and everything, and I was all like: d'uh, I could totally do that! You know what I mean? So I asked my dad--you know my dad?--anyway, so I, like, asked him if I could go, and he said: yeah, go ahead, I'll fund the whole thing. So I went over to this Rensat woman--she's really nice--and she and my dad talked, and then she told me to go to the temple and that she would, like, sort everything out, you know?"
"Ehhuh." Tarbo focused his eyes back on Elyssa's. "Hm? I'm listening."
"So, like, I heard there were these ancient artifacts in some crazy temple in Red Doris or something?"
"Whatever, like, nobody lives there and everything, so why does it have a name, anyway?"
Tarbo's spider senses tingled. He looked over his shoulder at the hill they had passed a minute ago, and saw several soldiers pulling frantically on something... the chest his skis were on.
"My gosh, is that my chest?" Elyssa guessed. "Looks heavy."
Tarbo replied with little more than a simple 'ehhuh'. In the distance, he could see the red-and-gold chest appear from the top of the hill. One of the soldiers slipped and rolled off the hill, while the others tried frantically to hold onto the heavy weight. The chest slid off the hill, picking up speed while one brave lieutenant held onto the rope in a vain attempt to stop it, plowing through and eating snow. Soaring through the column, the dangerous, high-speed object perfectly followed every corner, every tiny bump in the terrain, and ultimately lost the pesky lieutenant holding onto it.
With a elongated, graceful curve, the chest tore across the column, knocking two elves off their feet, then vigorously launched itself off the nearest cliff. It sailed courageously through the air, windily trodding its colours and banners in Tarbo's eyes before slowly picking up vertical velocity and disappearing behind the cliffy horizon, silently plummeting into the depths.
A deep, solemn silence followed from the head of the column. The attentive soul could hear a very distant crash.
"Were those, like, skis?"
"Yes," Tarbo croaked.
"They followed every curve, and they, like, went along perfectly with the bumps and everything, and then that corner. Those were, like, really awesome skis."
"Yes," rose from Tarbo's voice.
"Wow. Totally sucks to have owned those."
Mioralynthia placed a hand on Tarbo's shoulder and squeezed sympathetically while he lifelessly stared ahead of himself.
A low, uneven breeze pulled over the snowy ground while the upper wind howled hauntingly. Thick, dark clouds covered the skies and blocked out the setting sun. A door squeaked in the wind, its noise amplified by the deathly silence. A shutter hung from the window, attached by only one hinge, as if it had hung thus for centuries.
Anleth looked about carefully, as if expecting the entire population of Redoris to rise from their homes and attack them as intruders. She wasn't sure what to expect, so she kept low, cautiously low, her hand near her sword while inspecting the surroundings. As ghost towns went, this abandoned settlement accurately fit the bill.
"A storm's coming." Mioralynthia was staring at the skies to the north where, very occasionally, a red flash could be seen.
"I didn't know these storms came this far south," Anleth said as much as asked the sorceress. "Any chance it might pass us?"
Mioralynthia gently pressed her lips and shook her head. "Doubtful. I have the impression it is coming right for us."
"How long?" Tarbo asked, trying to judge the distance for himself.
"Two hours, maybe three?"
"Alright, we should find shelter somewhere. We don't want to be caught outside in a Chaos storm."
"Sir, didn't the legend mention catacombs underneath the temple?" Anleth raised.
Tarbo nodded, catching on with the idea, then looked at Mioralynthia. "What do you think? Is that good enough shelter?"
"Probably. In any case, it should lessen the impact enough for us to weather the storm."
Anleth looked at the temple structure and immediately understood why it was the center structure. Its massive, towering spires loomed in the thunderous skies, its damaged superstructure giving it a disheveled, ancient, and menacing look. She hoped the catacombs would still be alright.
It was becoming dark rapidly and, around the elves, the storm was nearing, the occasional flash lighting the temple more than the torches did. The roof of the temple had suffered irreparable damage, probably from lightning strikes, and large holes, yards wide, yawned to the rumbling skies.
Around and inside the temple, elves were searching for ways to access the catacombs. A few groups were sent out in the town itself, looking for structures strong enough to weather the storm should the catacombs exist only in the legends of Redoris. Time was running short; the storm approached.
"Is that, like, a Chaos storm?" Elyssa asked Mioralynthia when she joined her looking out one of the shattered windows, its beautiful glass scattered over the floor and covered under patches of snow and dust.
"It is," Mioralynthia answered, keeping her eyes on it.
"Storms are, like, so awesome! Like once, I--"
"Chaos storms are not awesome, they are lethal," the sorceress cut her short. "We would be wise to find cover."
"Really? What are they like?"
"Chaos storms are almost clouds of Chaos energy, microscopically small pieces of warpstone flying in the air, channeling energy and striking haphazardly. In the most powerful of storms, demons are said to travel, crossing over from their hellish dimensions in the power unleashed by the lightning strikes." She took a deep breath, narrowing her eyes while the distant, red flashes reflected in them. "So believe me when I say we wish to avoid direct exposure to them."
"Hey, over here!" two soldiers suddenly shouted. "We found something!"
The massive slate moved aside under the enduring effort of several soldiers, revealing a long, level stairway descending into the depths of the temple. It was dark inside, and a cold draft pulled from the now open entrance.
"I'm not sure we can take along the horses," Tarbo raised, sizing the animals up with his eyes. "But we can't leave them out here. At best, they'll die horribly, and at worst they'll grow teeth and spikes and burn us to cinders with fire breath."
Anleth skipped her eyes at Tarbo. She had never really had a close encounter with Chaos yet, and she wanted to make sure he wasn't joking. She regretted that he wasn't. As officer, she joined her guards on their way down the stairs.
Their steps echoed hollowly in the substructure. While not spacious, the corridors weren't entirely cramped either. The walls and ceiling looked sturdy enough, and since they had survived all these storms through the centuries, they would suffice for this one. She looked up the relative light at the top of the stairway and beckoned for everyone else to come down in an orderly fashion.
"Not a moment too soon," Mioralynthia mentioned, clutching her overrobe a little tighter when she heard the thunder nearing. Soldiers hurried to bring the necessary supplies, in priority, down the stairs, ready to leave behind what must if the storm came too close. They weren't taking any chances.
"I've never been in a catacomb before," Elyssa mentioned. "Do they, like, bury dead people here?"
"Ehhuh," Tarbo replied, keeping his eyes on his surroundings, and using his torch to light the way. "And not just dead people."
"What? You mean they buried, like, not-dead people here, too?"
Tarbo just cocked his head a little, not really answering that question, and focused on the corridors they were walking through.
Anleth looked up when she heard a far but solid boom over her head. Lightning had struck the temple not too far above their heads, and it made her wish they had already found a deeper location.
The dusty stones reflected golden torchlight upon the midnight blue hue they inherently had. The dust on the floor muffled the steps of the others around them, filling the corridors with ambient noise but allowing them to hear nonetheless. Anleth wasn't really expecting something, but if Mioralynthia was right--and when wasn't she right?--demons could ride on those lightning bolts... and perhaps down to this level. She looked back at the sorceress and found her... restless.
"Mistress," she asked in almost a whisper. "Are you alright?"
Mioralynthia didn't really answer that, her eyes skipping about, her brows gently frowned. She was focused, not on her sight or eyes, but on her magical senses, and something was alarming her. "No," she finally admitted, equally silent. "No, something is amiss."
Ahead of her, a soldier turned his head to the wall for a while, as if admiring the flat reflections, then stopped and slowly turned his head to the two women, a grin on his lips and a distinctive glint in his eyes. Anleth frowned and looked back for a while, then noticed Mioralynthia's transfixed stare on the soldier.
Suddenly, the soldier swung his left arm at them, and a bolt of white and blue erupted from his fingertips with intense crackling. Instantly, Mioralynthia deflected the assault onto the wall next to them, disintegrating several bricks and bursting gravel and dirt into the corridor.
"Guards!" Anleth shouted with full lungs, not even bothering to beat the dust and debris off her. "Capture him!"
Instantly, the soldier swung his other arm and hurled another crackling bolt of deadly energy at them. Luckily for Anleth, Mioralynthia was prepared for the worst, and the searing crackles ricocheted off an invisible shield to land against the other wall.
Destruction and chaos broke loose. Bolts and streams of energy blew large chunks out of the walls and floor, throwing back any elves making an attempt to capture their former comrade. Mioralynthia responded in kind, focusing on deflection and absorption in hopes of staving off casualties, but she was visibly having trouble doing so.
"Capture him if you can," Anleth clarified as she ran at him. "Kill him if you must!"
The sorcerous soldier's eyes started to glow a menacing yellow, his body lifting itself off the ground while more energy flew from his fingertips. "Then kill me again, you must! You will never capture Daynarii, not in life and not in death!"
Anleth hastily parried a sudden lightning strike on her sword, flinging it from her hands and throwing her unto the floor. She would not be so lucky again.
Suddenly, a dagger soared past Mioralynthia's ear and landed squarely in the chest of the sorceror ahead of them. He plummeted to the floor, not even screaming in surprise or pain, but tried to clamber back on his feet.
"Now!" Anleth shouted. "Immobilise him!" She immediately followed her own orders and threw herself onto the sorceror, holding down one of his arms while fellow guards piled on him. "Hold him down! Mistress, quickly!"
Upon call, Mioralynthia hurried over to the sorceror and looked him over quickly. She had to act quickly, think quickly... She placed one hand on the sorceror's chest, snatched Anleth's amulet with the other, and started channeling energy. Anleth could feel raw magical energy running past her body, over her clothes and skin, as she lay against two sorcerous creatures.
A sudden flash erupted, blinding her momentarily, heat almost burning her. When she regained sight, she noticed she wasn't holding an arm anymore, but a charred skeleton. Burnt flesh stuck onto her clothes and hair, the stench pervading the small area they had occupied. "Ugh," she said, raising a hand to her nose.
Mioralynthia let go of the now incinerated chest and of Anleth's amulet. She took her dagger from the remains and sheathed it. "Nice throw," she complimented Tarbo.
"Nice fatality," he replied, visibly impressed, and helped Anleth on her feet. "What was wrong with him, anyway?"
"Not a fatality," Mioralynthia countered. "An exorcism."
"Well, I hate to get scholarly on you, Lynthia, but he looks really dead to me."
"Because that's all the choice he left me. And he's not dead."
Tarbo scratched his head and stared at the charred remains. "We agree to disagree, then."
"That's not who I'm talking about."
"If he's not destroyed," Anleth cleared the linguistic confusion, "then where is he?"
Mioralynthia slowly looked over her shoulder at the soldiers running at them to help out and clear the remains. "Hiding." She took a deep breath. "Running."
Suddenly, she raised her head, as if jolted into action, then looked down one of the corridors. "There, that room! Don't let anybody in or out!"
"Why? What's going on?"
"Daynarii is somewhere in that room. I felt a spike of energy."
It is dark in the catacombs, too dark to the liking of most, but at least there are plenty of torches to go around. You hate to think how you will have to manage once those run out. A distant rumbling passes far overhead, a storm that has no intention of leaving anytime soon, like a hunter waiting for its prey to come out into the open.
You've been cordoned in this room for what are minutes but seem like hours. Mioralynthia felt a spike of energy emanating from this room and, suspecting that Daynarii has attempted to take over another body, has requested the area be cordoned. And you happened to be in that room when it happened.
The floor is dry and dusty, the stones uneven, etchings and engravings vagued with age. You are gathered in one of the larger chambers, with empty sarcophaguses nearby. Or, at least, you believe them empty since nameless; you haven't really bothered to check.
"Ladies, gentlemen," Anleth greets you as she approaches, beckoning you to have a seat... anywhere. She stays standing as she makes her announcement.
"As you undoubtedly know, Daynarii, the necromancer of legend, is not destroyed. He was defeated, he was killed in combat by Adrianna, but his spirit and powers survived in this tomb. Apparently, Daynarii also wields the power to possess or corrupt individuals, taking along what sorcerous powers he has."
In one of you, she must mean. You look about yourself at your fated fellows. Some you now see for the first time, some you have met cursorily, and some you may have known your entire life.
"In his weakened state, we cannot accurately sense Daynarii. Mistress Mioralynthia sensed him somewhere in this chamber, but she cannot detect exactly where... or whom in. She does believe she can exorcise him; however, there is a complication. Exorcising a 'pure' soul causes a violent feedback that will temporarily knock her out and may, ah, cause fatality in the subject.
"We've deliberated to do this by number. Each and every one of you will have to be checked extensively and subjected to exorcism until we find Daynarii. But we believe it's only fair that, since it are your lives at stake, you get to decide the order. By majority vote."
And so begins this strange time, where you must vote for one of your comrades to save yourself. Daynarii will lay low, probably influencing the order, forestalling the exorcism until he can build sufficient power. The stakes? Your life.
- Shadow Dark
The activity deadline is set to pass on Thursday, 19h00 GMT. You should have posted at least once before this deadline passes. Also note that, although you can vote, nobody can get executed/exorcised before the activity deadline passes.
Good luck, and good hunting.
[Edit] Believe it or not, but I actually forgot a (tiny) part in the story, a phrase at the very start.