If Sir Darsarius the Corrupted had been a challenging and deadly opponent, the Marilith he had transformed into was a nightmare. She moved with a profane speed and grace despite the bulk of her serpentine lower body. The Knight’s Adamantine sword was joined by five other abyssal weapons. As the creature split her sword swings between Ragnork and Ved’rail, leaving both bloody, Burgin found himself being crushed within her coils.
Alluvian, gravely wounded by Sir Darsarius, had let herself fall off the precipice on which the battle was taking place. She spread her wings, banking around in search of Gretel and her healing magics. She found the priestess, now perched atop the ruined wall, her own wings instinctively helping with her balance. Gretel healed the Huntress, who swiftly returned to the conflict. Then the priestess, in turn, ran along the top of the ruined wall. Once in range, she channeled the power of Palor into a healing light that spread out to her friends.
The Marilith had already rendered the dwarven warrior unconscious, dropping his body limply to the ground. Alluvian rejoined the melee, positioning herself to assist Ragnork, allowing her rage to fuel her sword strokes. One of the Marilith’s swords erupted in flame, grievously wounding Ved’rail and forcing him to levitate out of range of the conflict. Gretel worked her way close to the melee to better heal those engaged in the melee with Phandria providing healing support. Talesian proved an expert marksman, his arrows continuing to strike, although its hide proved quite resilient. Once again, Samnymian cursed demonkind’s resistance to magic, finding his magics had little effect on the raging demoness. He swore he would find a means to break through such defenses in the future.
Alluvian and Ragnork continued their desperate fight with Darsarius the Marilith. The demoness struck and entangled Phandria, the crushing coils quickly incapacitating her. Ragnork nearly found himself slain, the adamantine sword bit deep into his flesh and the world turned dark around him. Before oblivion could claim the Shevori warrior, Gretel called out to Palor and the swift Close Wounds spell restored him.
Then the dwarven priestess found herself embraced in the Marilith’s coils. Another blow pierced Ragnork’s defenses, dropping him to a knee. Talesian, his arrows exhausted, summoned his resolve and began to close into melee. Samnymian threw his blade, which sailed through the air, wounding the demoness then returned to his hand. But the Marlilith pressed her attack, the flaming longsword slipped through Alluvian’s defenses, and the huntress found herself impaled upon the blade to the hilt.
Despite his injuries, Ved’rail dropped back down into the melee. Using the shield as a crutch, Ragnork dragged himself to his feet, Kel’Elaedrial heavy in his hand. The Marilith drew Alluvian closer, hissing through fanged teeth, “Now Princess, you feed my Master.”. Two abyssal blades were readied, one at her throat another at her right eye. Undaunted, the Huntress let loose a rage fueled shriek and drove Shrar’thanoros into the demoness, while turning so the Marilith’s swords glanced off the shoulder guards of her armor.
What had once been Darsarius screamed in rage, thrashing madly as ichor gushed from the many wounds. Her sword arms spun about without skill, as the snake lower body slapped heavily to the ground. Then with sudden force, the Marlilth flew backwards, spiraling down into the firey red maw below the floating ruins, a thunderclap echoed in her wake.
Then there was silence, interrupted only by the sound of the survivor’s ragged breathing…
In the aftermath of the battle there were several changes brought about by the departure of the demons. The blood red fire below the floating ruins had vanished as essence of what remained of Darsarius had been pulled into it. With the sea of red flame gone, the torrent of energy from the ruins was gone as well, leaving the tiny fragments of collapsed levels above handing in the air. Only the ghostly sphere the vortex had focused through remained. Gretel, while still demonic in appearance, found the voices of Eryna and Morvahna grown quiet, while still present, they lacked the will to force the priestess into action. The faint, flickering lights they had noticed upon entering these ruins appeared to be coalescing, flickering in fewer locations for longer periods of time.
Gretel and Phandria poured what magics remained to them into healing their friends. Ved’rail glanced looked over the scene of the battle, “If everyone is alive, I think we won.”
The flickering image was clearly of an elven woman. Ragnork noted that she resembled the woman he and the two sailors had seen while they had teleported to the lower level of the ruin. While still appearing in a variety of locations in the floating ruin, she appeared most frequently on the narrow ledge near the sphere the vortex once focused on. Samnymian stepped forward, “What are you?” when the image did not immediately respond, he followed with, “Can you understand me?” The image broke apart, then reformed and finally the elven woman’s face took on a look of recognition as if she finally noticed their presences.
When she spoke, her voice echoed about the ruins, some part of the sound coming from each of the flickering images, “You.. have my.. gratitude… at last… they… have been… stopped.” Her words were slow, broken up as the images winked out of sight.
Samnymian repeated his earlier question, “Who are you?”
“I am, or was, Val’eriana, last Keeper of Lir’karannon.”, was the figure’s weary reply.
“Lir’karannon?”, asked Alluvian.
“A mythic tower of High Magic in the days of the old Elven homeland.”, said Ved’rail.
“Lir’karannon, the seat of High Magic in Eldra’dorlendil was no myth, although little of it remains as it was.”, she replied slowly.
“What happened?”, Samnymian asked.
The spectral figure explained how she, recovering from her wounds in a previous battle against the Lich Lord, had remained behind when Slorin left with his followers to confront the undead blight. She had sensed the arcane disruption, traveling along the ley-lines toward the Elven homeland of Eldra’dorlendil. As the wave of destruction ripped through Eldra’dorlendil, Val’eriana attempted to activate Lir’karannon’s transportation ability. The tower was capable of displacing itself, transporting via a modified gate spell to the astral plane, then back to a new location on the Prime. However, the Elven Arcanist was to late. Valleriana found herself torn asunder along with the tower.
The tower had partially entered the Astral Plane, while the rest was flung across the Prime. Val’eriana explained that somehow her essence has become one with the enchantments of Lir’karannon. Gesturing to the ghostly sphere, which upon closer inspection revealed to be a sphere of arcane energy with tiny fragments of what looked like crystal. The demons were draining that energy, to use Lir’karannon as a means to open a gate from the Abyss into the Prime.
Samnymian asked the phantom, “What can be done?”
Val’eriana explained that they must either disrupt the arcane sphere, destroying the tower and allowing her spirit to fade, or repair the enchantments of the tower, restoring Lir’karranon.
While destroying the tower certainly seemed like the easier option, after much debate the group decided to see if repairing it was possible. The results of Samnymian’s examination of the arcane sphere reminded him of his studies of sentient magical items. Gretel proposed that if the tower was now a living thing, perhaps her healing magics could help? The priestess attempted to direct some of Palor’s healing light into the sphere, where she learned the link between Val’eriana’s life and the arcane magic of the tower could be restored, but only with the infusion of energy, freely given, by intelligent beings.
Gretel explained to her friends that she was going to give up a tiny bit of herself to save Val’eriana and Lir’karannon. They could help as well, every little bit would contribute to the tower’s recovery. Everyone decided to sacrifice a small fragment to the healing, some more reluctantly than others, including Burgen, who mumbled about elven magic breeding insanity.
Gretel directed the life essence into the fragments within the arcane sphere. The spell was followed by a pulse of white light, followed by a sense of vitality from Val’eriana’s image.
“Thank you, my friends, it will take some time for Lir’karannon to recover, but there should be strength enough for this…”
Suddenly the endless, open astral plane was gone. They found themselves still standing among floating ruins, but the ruins themselves now hung in the the midst of a lightening storm, poised over the ocean. Individual pieces of the tower’s ruins hung in the air, as if where they would be had the tower been whole. Rain lashed through the wide gaps between ruined fragments, and they could see the ocean below. The magical effect of the tower’s levitation appearing to push down against the surface of the ocean, causing it to bow downwards.
Alluvian gazed out over the storm crossed waters, “There’s the Devils Bride!”
Ragnork noted the other direction, “And that island is collapsing!” shouting over the storm.
“Likely caused by the tower relocating here.”, noted Ved’rail.
Samnymian turned to the image of Vel’eriana as she explained that the tower would need time to recover, but in time it, she, would return.
Using magics, the group left the tower for the Devils Bride. Captain Laeyora welcomed them aboard, explaining that her crew who had rowed them over earlier had returned at sunset on the previous day, but the ship had intended to remain here.
Above, they saw a massive draconic form drop out of the storm clouds and fly past the tower. As the huge blue dragon banked around it, the tower vanished from sight. The dragon turned then towards the Devils Bride, dropping low.
The dragon hit the deck, altering his form to the elegant elven appearance he had worn earlier. “Well,” he said, “it appears you have succeed. Well done.” To the Captain he said, “Captain, you are free to continue through my territory without hindrance.” He looked them over, his electric blue eyes boring into each everyone, a brow arching when he came across Gretel. The demonic features were already fading away, leaving her a twin to the fallen priestess Eryna.
Sparing them little time, he turned toward the ship’s siderail, “Very well, I have other business to attend to, a navy has decided to pass through my territory, I must see to that.”
“Wait,” interrupted Samnymian, “Surely we are due some recompense for our time and effort?”
Azuretherix grinned wickedly at the elven wizard, “A reward eh?”
The dragon in elf form made a clawing gesture at Samnymian with is left hand. The elf wizard pitched backward with a cry of deep pain, falling to the ground. Gretel and Ved’rail rushed to his side as Azuretherix leapt upon the guardrail, then into the air. Buffeting the ship with his wings as he returned to his true form and took to the air.
Captain Layora brought the Devils Bride back on course as the adventurers recovered from their ordeal within the ruins of Lir’karanon. Within hours they left the sinking remains of the island behind. Gretel’s appearance remained that of the fallen priestess until the first rays of sunlight reached her. When she felt the touch of Pelor, she found herself returned to normal, the demons were still there, but their cloying voices had become quiet.
It took several days before the shores of Cormaer became visible on the horizon. Of the dragon there was no more sign, and the captain discussed their options; Azuretherix’s errand had taken them more than a week off course. Their supplies were more than adequate for the full trip to Kovir, but they could put in at a Cormaer port to resupply. She left it up to them. After some debate, with a bit of worry of running into trouble in Cormaer’s stratified society, they bid the captain head for Cormear’s port of Wendelon.
Samnymian spent these days pondering the draconic markings left behind by Azuretherix upon his flesh. Runes of draconic origin appeared to be scored over other runes deeper in his flesh. With the use of mirrors and read magic, he was able to slowly unravel the draconic symbols, transcribing the markings onto parchment. His first discovery translated into a spell, and as he penned that to paper, the upper layer of runes faded, allowing a new layer of runes to become visible. After penning the Dragoneye Rune spell, the spell Path of Frost became visible, Wreath of Flames and Soul of Anarchy followed. There were still more runes, but these proved much more complex than simple spells and would require more time. Samnymian began to suspect that, given the complexity, these runes were more than a passing cruel fancy on the blue dragon’s part.
The coastal port city of Wendelon was not the largest of the Cormaer City-States, but it was the most prominent this far north. The city’s harbor was protected by a pair of large, rocky islands that over the years have grown to house the fortress-manor’s of the high ranking citizens. These natural barriers protected the docks and berths from the fiercest of storms. Captain Layora gave her passengers a brief summary of their current destination. The Cormaer nation had dissolved into a loosely associated group of City-States several hundred years ago, the result of a civil war after the death of the last Cormaer king. Each City-State was now ruled by a Prince, all claimed to be the rightful descendant of the last Cormaer king, but none had the military might or political skill to ever extend their rule beyond their own city. Besides the ruling Princes, Cormaer society was divided between Citizens and non-Citizens, Citizens were protected by law, non citizens were protected by what their money could buy. Cormaer City-States could be very dangerous places for visitors. Wendelon’s Prince Anthoris was known as one of the more pragmatic of the Cormaer Princes, as trade helped fill his coffers, the Law of Wendelon was there to promote it.
With the Devil’s Bride safely docked, Gretel decided to venture into the city in search of temple of Pelor. The demons who tormented her seemed weaker now, but she sensed they were only biding their time. Fortunately, there was a temple devoted to Pelor in the City-State. Gretel spoke of her predicament with an acolyte and was quickly ushered in to meet the head priest. Erend Rhal had served as High Priest of Wendelon, he greeted Gretel and listened to her tale. He prayed to Pelor and informed Gretel that there were three demonic influences over her. Two could be dealt with, they would perform a ritual at dawn that would break their link with her. She would lose the “gifts” they’d bestowed on her, but would be free of them. The final demonic influence was stronger, but much more subtle. The ritual would help protect her, but not sever its attention on her. High Priest Erend bid them farewell until dawn.
Gretel and Phandria accompanied Alluvian outside the city, she went in search of a temple devoted to Ellenestra she had learned was just outside the City-State’s walls. Meanwhile, Ragnork and Ved’rail decided to find an Inn and a drink. Samnymian pulled himself away from studying the draconic runes to join them.
They discovered the temple of Ellenestra was, in fact, a druidic site called the Shrine of Autumn, and was located about two hours outside the City-State’s walls. The Shrine was a place of natural power, tended to by those devoted to nature and followers of Obed-Hai and Ehlonna. Alluvian, Gretel and Phandria spent the evening tending to the gardens and finding peace in the natural serenity there. They were made welcome to spend the night under the stars.
Samnymian, along with Ragnork and Ved’rail found an Inn with both a far reaching variety of Ales and bardic entertainment from music to dancers. Ved’rail played a few songs, much to the enjoyment of the patrons and staff alike.
At dawn they gathered at the Temple of Pelor, High Priest Erend Rhal invited Gretel and any of her friends who may wish to join them in the ritual. The high priest’s blessing echoed the arrival of dawn, Gretel felt Pelor’s presence swell within her and in the aftermath, the connection the two succubi had was severed. Gretel remembered how the Herald of Pelor had warned her of the impending trials ahead, but his light filled her with the confidence to go on.