Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wrath of the Righteous, part 16: Victory and Loss

As the group inside the Gray Garrison felt the effects of the energy released by the Wardstone fragment and comprehended what their visions had revealed to them, they were stunned by what had transpired and could not react to the arrival of the babau demons. When the visions of the past and of what was happening elsewhere faded, an image of Areelu Vorlesh appeared to them, accompanied by demons of various other types. Vorlesh sneered at them and threatened, clearly expecting her babau slaves to exact her revenge on them for depriving her of the power of the Wardstones.

Irabeth drew Radiance and charged the wall where Vorlesh appeared, but she collided with the wall and fell to the floor, then began gasping and clutching at her throat as though something was choking her. Asami heard similar sounds coming from the mongrelfolk in the room behind her. At that moment another wave of energy flowed outward from her and the other members of the Eagle's Watch. When this energy struck the demoness she screamed in rage and agony as her bones visibly snapped and the membranes of her bat-like wings were shredded like dry leaves in a high wind. The portal through which she and her demonic minions were about to enter the mortal world snapped shut.

While Vorlesh had been speaking, the babau had all been gesticulating and muttering incantations. Immediately more babau appeared in the two third-floor rooms of the Garrison, doubling the demons' numbers. One of the demons motioned and for a brief moment the illumination in the chamber dimmed, then returned to the golden glow emanating from the bodies of Asami and her friends. Another babau made gestures indicative of a spell to dispel other magic, but it could not overcome the light.

All of the babau wielded polearms as well as magic. There were now four of them within weapon reach of Asami. Nevertheless, she summoned her splintered spear and hurled it at the demon standing directly in front of her. Two of the demons slashed at her with their blades, slicing open both of her arms. Her spear went wide of its target and splintered on the floor. She drew her wand, realizing as she did so that the wound in her right arm had already vanished. She fired three blue missiles at the babau, but because she had to rely on what power the crafter had imbued in the wand instead of her own skill at overcoming magical defenses, the missiles bounced harmlessly off the babau's slimy hide.

While Asami was ruefully looking at the demon she had failed to injure, she saw Jiro, who was behind the demon, slump to the ground. Irabeth was still unconscious from the suffocation spell Vorlesh had cast, as were the mongrelfolk. The situation was already looking grim for the companions. Then two of the demons attacked Asami with their polearms, their claws, and even their teeth. She felt faint and the light dimmed. She scarcely sensed when her body collapsed on the hard floor.

Despite being insensible to what was happening around her, Asami somehow experienced when Kirara fiercely attacked the ankles of several of the demons with bites and scratches that were unusually severe. But she knew nothing else about what had happened to her friends until she opened her eyes again. She did not see Aegronius swinging his adamantine morningstar against the babau, or Irabeth regaining her feet to stand against them. She did not witness Zosta punching and kicking them, only to fall when overwhelmed by the wounds they inflicted on her. She did not witness Runa fighting furiously in the name of Iomedae. She was unaware of her own injuries healing far more quickly than was ordinarily possible, or of how her friends' attacks were somehow able to penetrate the demons' tough hides and their weapons were unharmed by the acidic slime that coated the babau. She did not know that for some inexplicable reason the power granted her and her friends by the Wardstone fragment was not extended to Irabeth.

When her injuries had healed enough that she no longer hovered on the brink of death and she regained consciousness, she found that the room in front of her seemed to be full of babau. She could see Irabeth lying on the floor, now surrounded by a pool of blood. Aegronius was down as well. Jiro was on his feet again, and there was something large, white and furry lying on the floor behind him. She groped for her wand, which had fallen from her hand when she fainted. There were babau standing close enough to her to strike her, but they were all facing away from her for the moment. She expended another of the wand's charges and saw the missiles successfully bypass the demon's resistance, though they did not appear to do much damage. She heard Runa call out the words of a spell, but saw no effect.

Before Asami could decide what to do next, the babau all vanished, carried off by a spell that she knew to be one of teleportation. It was a powerful spell, strong enough to have transported the demons thousands of miles away. Asami staggered to her feet. Jiro was bending over Irabeth with an expression of grief on his face. Asami looked around at her friends. Though their clothing, like hers, was stained with blood, everyone but Irabeth was still alive. The two rooms were empty of enemies. Several glittering shards of the Wardstone fragment were embedded in the walls. Seeing them, she remembered the vision and her heart sank. The Wardstones were no more, and Irabeth was dead. What would defend the Worldwound now?

Next: part 17, Aftermath


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