Designed by Corax
Medium Groups: 31-31
Large Groups: 31-31
Celindra stretched out a long leg and planted her heavy plated boot on the edge of the fiery chasm. She wiped the last of the spider blood from her blade and carefully peered over the edge. Ancient demons of great size swirled about in the fumes, and she took a slow, calming breath as their cruel laughter swelled up from below.
Thus far, Lord Eldrick had been right about everything, and the new armor had protected her from the intense heat of these caverns as well as from the spiders' blows ... but this was something else entirely, and for a moment her confidence wavered. But if Eldrick was right about the secret these demons held, it could tip the balance of power in the struggle against the Archmage Vecna, and she would wield it in the final battle if she could wrest it from them now.
Gripping the longsword's blade between her teeth, she tied back her long, red-gold tresses with a length of titanium wire, a frown of determination spreading over her face. She drew Swordbreaker from its leg sheath and gripped the toothed dagger in her left hand, drawing a deep breath of the sulfurous vapors as a mighty cry of battle grew within her throat. Unleashing it, she plummeted headfirst over the chasm's edge, into battle.
The coven's chanting was swelling, and something was rising from the pit. Too long had the woman ruled this land. The coven's chanting was growing, and something was rising from the pit. Too long had her iron grip held them. The coven's chanting was building, and something was rising from the pit. Too long had her so-called virtue been the law. The coven's chanting was rising, and darkness flowed upward from the pit. Too long had the bright temple blinded their home. The coven's chanting was deafening, and something burst from the pit in a wave of engulfing gloom, a rush of feathers and fur, feral growling, withering chill, hunger, and above all darkness from the pit of darkest night, darkness from the blackest depths, darkness from the beginning of time.
General Asten reined in his warhorse at the crest of the ridge and held his hand up to signal a halt to his forces. He peered down to the valley, where smoke swirled and voices cried in the anguish of battle, where once a town had thrived in peace. Through the magical Eye of the Eagle, he beheld the clashes of the scattered groups of clerics as they skirmished and retreated, healing their wounds and resurrecting their own dead to fight anew. He turned his horse and addressed the host of Daren Archers gazing up from further down the trail.
"We bring the arrows of war to a place that has seen too much bloodshed already. Remember that Vryce has charged us to bring not destruction, but peace. Remember as we vanquish these combatants that we must ultimately rebuild their shattered homeland, and for that we must gain their trust. I have no doubt that we shall prevail in battle, but that will be but the start of our mission here. We shall transform Sevoseth from a burned and broken battlefield into a center of peace, understanding, and wisdom. Do not underestimate this task."
The general drew a glowing magical arrow from the quiver at his side and set its nock upon the string of his mighty arcus. He then spoke under his breath to his four lieutenants, who stood close by. "Be vigilant," he advised them, "for these are not mortals we ride against today."
Haddas snuffed the guttering candle and draped a heavy robe over the form of his master, Asten, where the general had fallen asleep over his reading. Asten's face was ashen, his breathing shallow, his mighty fingers withered with age, now too frail even to hold a bow steady, let alone draw its string. Haddas placed a large mug of broth near the general's head, careful not to stain or stir the many piles of scholarly notes and arcane formulas that crowded Asten's desk. He knew better than to wake his master, to offer him the food that would surely be refused, to help him to the bed he no longer slept in.
Haddas retrieved a fallen book and carried it to the shelf, placing it into a gap between the spines ... and to his surprise, a creaking echoed throughout the chamber as the entire shelf swung open to reveal utter blackness beyond. Eyes wide, with breath shaking, Haddas lifted his pale lantern, only to see its light swallowed up by the darkness beyond. He looked over at his sleeping master, who had not stirred, and immediately thought that he should close this hidden door at once ... yet something about the inky darkness drew him in, almost against his will, moving his feet forward, step by step; though his eyes and his instincts told him to run, he inched into the black.
The librarian squinted through a ring of smoke. "Asten was a great man, but mortal. Celindra and the other one just waited for him to die. Now that he's gone, and his Daren Archers with him, the temples are starting to fill with the faithful once again, and if you ask me it's just a matter of time before they spill back into the streets. And you can bet the first thing they'll burn is the Library of Peace." The old man refilled his pipe as he spoke, and a slight twinkle came to his eye. "Don't you worry about me, youngster, I can take care of myself." He sighed then, heavy with years. "But it saddens me to see this peace, built at such a heavy cost, vanishing like a puff of smoke." The librarian blew a silvery smoke ring and watched it float up over his head. "Beautiful, isn't it? For a little while, anyway..."
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