In his dreams Gashnak is a kid, running through the woods with his childhood friends Earil-Gania and Maurice. They laugh and play, hiding behind the mossy trees and green bushes of that wild land. Their parents watch in amusement, such three odd children having so much fun together because they are all so different. The sun shines brightly overhead in the Brudic skies and Gashnak is happy.
He opens his eyes, wakefulness coming to him. He is in a room not unlike the one he lived in Brudic as a child. Slowly he raises a massive arms and sees it criss-crossed with scars and remembers where he is.
This is the house of Radofax, and he is in The Underworld.
Everyone gathers in the central room, yawning and stretching, all having had an excellent night's sleep. Gashnak looks over to Alex, coming out of her own room. She smiles thinly before sitting down at the large dining table. She wanted to sleep alone last night without him, and so she did.
Dril scratches beneath his beard and then rubs his long ears. "I needed that!"
Radofax again is an excellent and happy host. He magically conjures for everyone whatever type of food or drink they desire. Their clothes have all been cleaned and everyone feels quite refreshed for the first time in ages. If is the first decent sleep they have all had in a very long time. The extereme fatigue is gone.
Alric flits up and sits on the table, his purplish wings flexing back and forth as he eats his bits of nuts and honey. "I slept like the dead last night!" He says cheerfully.
Nobody says anything but all give him a good 3 second stare.
"You have been a most excellent benefactor," says Wilford to Radofax. "You have been quite the gentleman."
The white haired old man smiles and bows courteously. "Thank you my lord. I do hope I was able to make things pleasant for you. I took from your minds the places you were most content and made them into the rooms you slept in. I do hope you rested well."
Jinx smiles warmly, a little sadly. "I slept as well as I could considering where we are." She tries not to think of what is outside, the millions of wandering shades all seeking release.
"Once we are finished here we need to go to the City of Truth," says Gashnak. "I know time is different here like you said but still, there might be soul hunters out there searching for General Rangh. We need to make haste."
Quickly they finish their meals and get their gear on, strapping on armor, weapon's belts. They gather all they might need for what lies ahead.
Gashnak goes to the door, and opens it up to the fog and gloom beyond. "Radofax, lead the way."
The old man nods and heads on out to that barren landscape and everyone else follows. It is eternal gray twilight here, and once more the shades of the living come moving towards Jinx. She sees them better than she did before, looking into their pained faces she can see all they want is absolution, peace. Seeing such suffering pains her greatly, for she has no idea of how to give it to them.
Radofax sees this of course, leading in the front with a torch in hand. "Dear lady, these souls sense in you a power, a light. They come to you in the hope that you can send them on their way to whatever lies beyond. That is what they are doing."
"What can I do to help them?" She says with her voice almost cracking. Alex puts an arm around her for comfort.
Radofax looks back, sadness in his old eyes. "I do not know." With a wave of his hand the souls stay back, keeping away from this unusual man created by absent gods. Though the souls are nearby they do not get close enough to be bothersome any more.
Looking across this foggy, unreal landscape Malik cannot help but imagine how it is so much like his past. He cannot remember anything over a few months ago, but ghostly images of what happend before him haunt him like the shades are doing now. For a moment he wonders if he really wants to remember who he was.
Shortly a large, crumbling stone structure appears on the flat horizon. It is ancient, looking almost like the remains of some great beast instead of a building. Curving beams of stone arch together but it is obvious that this place has been abandoned long ago. In it's center is a tall dias, with steps leading all the way up to what looks like a broken throne on top.
Radofax holds his torch high. "This is the City of Truth." He points with his torch to the dias. "Up there Azoth would sit, the Judge of the Dead. There he would weigh the sins and joys of those who had died so he could send them on their proper path. Even for me, a person that cannot really feel time moving, it feels like it was ages since that happend."
"Let's check it out," says Kazier.
Immediately Alric flies high and lands on the throne of Azoth. When he does that three circular braziers on either side of the throne burst into red flame, coming to life. Somehow his being there has triggered this.
The tiny pixie laughs. "Look what I did! I could be the next god!"
"Not dammed likely," grumbles Dril under his breath.
Radofax ascends the throne, brushes aside Alric and sits down upon it. He closes his eyes and waves his hands slowly in either direction. The lost souls that have been following them now move away from the crumbling structure.
He stands back up, brushing his robe with his hands. "These lost souls will stay clear of the fortress for some time, but they will indeed come back. I have given you some time to search this place in peace. Forgive me, I must return home now. It is what I must do."
Wilford goes to Radofax and shakes his hand. "Thank you for everything, kind sir."
The old man smiles and nods his head at the living man's kindness. "You are welcome. I do hope you find what you are looking for." He then leaves, vanishing back into the gray the way they had come.
"We need to split up," says Kazier. "We can cover more ground that way faster."
"I don't like splitting up the party," whines Alric. "Bad things always seem to happen."
"I think we've got to if we are going to thoroughly check this place out," says Gashnak. "I don't like it either but I feel as though time is running out. "Me, Malik, and Kazier will go this way. Alex, Dril, Wilford, Jinx, and Alric you go the other."
"Isn't that a little uneven?" Asks Alex.
"Let's just start looking for whatever it is we are supposed to find. Who the hell knows where Rangh might be." He knows it is uneven, but he knows that he Malik and Kazier can probably kill anything that might come their way. He wants to make sure that Jinx and Alex are protected and the fierce sprig, wise-cracking pixie, and human duellist should be able to do that.
The two groups fan out and start looking through the rocks and rubble of what once made up the beams and ceiling of the City of Truth. This whole experience is dreamlike, unreal. Gashnak wonders as they look about Earil and Maurice, thinking fearfully that they too might be wandering out there some where. That thought is like a knife in his heart.
Using the double-headed axe, Dril pushes over rocks and looks here and there, not quite sure what to expect. Wilford is nearby, poking into shadows with his rapier, still unsure of how safe this place really is. He wonders how his path, as wild as it was, led him here to this eternity of gray.
The circular braziers burn dimly and with little heat. Malik goes to one and looks at it, seeing the flame burning nothing. Fire without fuel, no wood, no oil. Stranger and stranger.
Jinx looks up at the dias of Azoth and goes up its crumbling steps. She looks at where the god must have sat in judgment and tries to imagine what it all must have looked like then. In her mind's eye she can imagine the City of Truth a sparkling silver-white, with all the souls coming here in humble robes. Azoth would look at them, and pass his fair judgement.
Then, she sits down upon it.
A thunderbolt of light shoots from the throne into the murky skies above. A wave of bright, illumination suddenly fills the land, turning it from it's dull hue to a myriad of other colors. Upon the throne of Azoth is Jinx, eyes and mouth open wide as if she is trying to scream. Her hair is buffeted about as though she is in a whirlwind, and her fingers claw at the throne's stone arms.
"Jinx!" Bellows Gashnak and starts running for her as does everyone else. Only Kazier stays back, suspicious of what might be coming.
Suddenly dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of gray souls start moving towards her. They go leaping through the air, arms out stretched. Radofax's protection is gone as the endless tide of lost souls all go hurling themselves towards the petrified Jinx.
As the souls touch her they vanish, disappearing into the column of light that is blasting to the heavens above. They are escaping The Underworld, they are finally going to where they need to be.
Malik races up the steps and grabs a hold of her and feels an icy energy gushing from where his hands touch. He tries in vain to pull her off but hasn't the strength.
Alric flies up, the light jetting from the throne is almost blinding him. He can see the souls launching upwards into the light as they get here. "Guys! Get here fast!" The pixie can feel a sudden rise in mana here, growing strong and stronger. He has a very bad feeling that if it goes on it will cause Jinx to die in a fierce explosion, her mortal body not being able to handle the powers used by a god.
Taking the steps four at a time Gashnak gets to Jinx and wraps his massive arms around her. Thousands of thoughts, individual minds all go stabbing through his own. Memories, emotions, feelings, all that are not his own, a thousand million fragments of what makes up lives goes through him. He locks his fingers and pulls, roaring as he does so.
Miraculously she comes off and the beam of light instantly stops. Gashnak, Malik, and Jinx collapse. Curling wisps of energy still come off of Jinx's body and her pained face slips into unconciousness. The thousands of souls still in The Underworld moan in a ragged unison and then fade back beyond the boundaries of the City of Truth.
Touching her face Gashnak can feel that she is terribly cold. "She's alive," he says. "But just barely. She's freezing!" Alex takes her furred cloak off and wraps it around the unconcious woman and Gahnak carries her down the steps to one of he braziers. "I need to try and get her warm."
"What the hell happend here?" Asks Dril.
"She must have triggered something," answers Alex. "She is a priestess after all. Being on the throne must have turned it on. Let's face it, she is a good and pious person. The rest of us are less so. Her connection to the gods must have done this."
Kazier grimly smiles. "If I sat on the throne I think I might have fallen the other way."
The big orc cradles Jinx in his arms, doing all he can for her. He looks up at the rest of the group. "You all do what you got to do. Look for Rangh. I am staying here with her."
"I can stay with her," says Alex.
"No. She's my friend and I am going to look after her." He looks up at Alex, pain in his eyes. "Do what we came here to do and then lets get the hell out of here." Gently he rocks Jinx back and forth, hoping beyond hope that she will come out of this, that she will not fade away and die.
Hearing him say this she and the others fan out once more, searching everywhere. All know that time is against them, and wonder what might be happening back in Draman Del, if the city is still standing.
‘If you hadn't come with me from Redshore none of this would have happend to you,' Gashnak thinks to himself. He looks into her face, her eyes closed, mouth slightly open, skin as pale as fresh fallen snow. "Don't go Jinx, we need you."
Kazier's keen eyes and hearing helps him find a hidden panel on the floor. Tracing it with his fingers he makes a square and realizes that it is hollow underneath. Using his knives he is able to get the tip of one inside and work the large tile up. With some help from Malik and Wilford they push the stone aside.
Below is a circular tunnel leading down into darkness. There are metal rungs there, obviously meant to be climbed. Alric casts a light spell down there, and once more it instantly fades. All look down into the foreboding gloom and wonder what might be down there at the bottom.
"Who wants to go down there first?" Asks Malik.
All turn and look over to Gashnak. He sees them and nods. "Alex, Dril, you take care of Jinx. Watch out for her, make sure she's okay."
Alex goes to her knees and lightly takes Jinx from Gashnak's cradling arms. "I will."
Standing up he moves over to the tunnel and drops a lit torch down it. The torch tumbles a ways then hits the floor. "Let's do it," he says, hopping down, climbing he rungs down into the shadows below.
At the bottom he picks up the torch and holds it high, looking around in this dim chamber. Kazier follows behind and of course slips, falling the last few feet to land hard on his ass. Alric buzzes down and laughs at this.
"That wasn't funny, pixie."
Alric grins merrily. "Yes it was."
From above Wilford calls down. "You all right?"
"We're fine," answers Kazier, rubbing his behind.
There are four passages radiating out of the chamber. Gashnak slowly goes to them, one at a time, torch in one hand, Asgadrath in the other. In each darkend tunnel he looks and listens, only hearing ghostly moans in the distance of each.
From the last tunnel steps forward an armored man, a cloak over his shoulders, his face hard and stern as though forged in steel instead of flesh. He gazes into Gashnak's eyes who also gazes back. The two stare at each other for several heartbeats.
"You have my sword," he says in a strong, commanding voice.
"General Rangh, I presume?"
The man nods and gives a thin smile. "Why yes. It has been a long time since I have heard my name. I am Sir William Rangh, General of Draman Del."
Gashnak bows in respect. "An honor to meet you general. We have much to discuss."
Going up top introductions are made. All who meet Rangh are impressed by his presence, for he does have an aura of power about him. It is apparant that Rangh is slightly immaterial and not wholly alive.
They speak of the past, of what the year is now and what is happening at Draman Del. "My friend Gadrath knew of all this. He foresaw a dark hour when Draman Del might fall to the forces of evil. However I have felt most recently that something has happend. Something has changed."
Gashnak gives Rangh Asgadrath and the man holds it in his hands, smiling. He runs a finger along it's blade, pleased to see it once more, like greeting an old friend. "Thank you Drakand, I appreciate having my blade back."
"It was an honor to use it my lord. Deathshadow used it before me."
Gashnak holds Jinx a bit closer to him. "He was a hero from our time who was also a defender of Draman Del. He died in battle, not long ago."
"I understand," says Rangh. "Asgadrath is a sword meant for heroes." He then frowns, swishing the blade through the air a few times. "Something is wrong. I feel that it no longer has the power it once did. It drew it's strength from the Guardian Sword, Naterah, something must have happend to it."
Rangh looks back up at the crumbling throne. "Up there, beneath it, is my armor." Together they push it aside and draw out the ornate metal plate that once belonged to the living general. The armor is beautiful beyond words, as if crafted by dwarven gods. Very impressive stuff.
"I cannot wear it while in this state," he says sadly. "But if something should indeed happen to me and I am not able to make it back with you, take it. Your enemies will recognize who's armor it is and they will fear it."
"General Rangh, you are a legend to us in our time," says Malik. "What makes you think you won't make it back with us?"
The man breathes deep. There is a strength to him, something intagibly heroic, all can sense this. "I am no longer alive and thus I do not know if I can return to the world again. I am just trying to think of all possibilities and contingencies my friend. Though ages have passed, Draman Del is still my home and I want it saved. Naterah, must be found also."
Making haste the group goes back to Radofax's home. Gashnak carries Jinx all the way and this time Rangh takes the lead. The spirits do not approach or swarm this time, but keep a respectful distance as if even they know who this man is.
On the way much is talked about. Rangh is baffled by most of it, never having heard of Rellian or Corvel. "There has been such a gulf of years, I think I will scarcely recognize the world any more. I am just pleased that Draman Del is still there."
They talk of leaving The Underworld, but Rangh has no idea how to do it. He shakes his head when he learns the group has no plan to escape. "My old friend Gadrath would have known how to do this. Without the power of the Naterah I do not think we can leave."
From out of the swirling mists comes eight figures with glowing eyes, swathed in black leather. Gaunt, pale-fleshed beings. With them are an equal number of savage, white furred dogs with plumes of frost coming from their savage jaws.
"Soul Hunters," whispers Alex.
They stare, unblinking at the group. Their eyes locking in on General Rangh who stands there defiantly glaring back. Sheathed at his side is Asgadrath and his hand goes there and carresses it with a comfortable familiarity.
"You are our prey," says one in a menacing voice. Then, together they all say it again. "YOU ARE OUR PREY!" They draw their wicked weapons and begin advancing towards the defiant Rangh. His fingers begin to lightly tap on the hilt of the still sheathed blade.
"No, your mine!" Yells Kazier leaping forward with weapons drawn and the battle erupts.
Though Kazier moved first it is Rangh who strikes the first blow. In a blur he dashes forward slashing out Asgadrath and cuts one foul soul hunter in two and then drives the sword up to the hilt on another.
Behind him Wilford comes running up, waving his rapier. "Rangh we'll protect you as long as we have breath in our bodies!"
"That's good to hear!" He says with a grin, obviously enjoying being in battle once more.
The battle is wild and fierce, but the soul hunters and their ghostly dogs are quickly and brutally wiped out. In the midst of it all is Rangh, a spinning warrior of awesome power and destruction. All join the fray except for Gashnak, who stays back holding the still unconcious Jinx in his arms.
Two white dogs go leaping at him but Alric blasts both of them out of the air with his magics. The yowling and burning dog bodies go spinning away into the mists of The Underworld. The pixie looks to the orc and gives him a thumbs up. Gashnak almost laughs.
When it is over only Wilford and Malik are seriously hurt. Immediately Alric goes to them and is pleased to see that his healing magics work here in The Underworld and don't fade like his light spells.
Rangh looks over the bodies of the slain. "Soul hunters?"
Alex nods. "Yes, that is what they were. Our enemies don't want you making it back General Rangh."
With a heavy sigh Rangh sheathes Asgadrath. "My enemies today sadden me. If they think I am so weak as to only send eight warriors with dogs to take me out. They must think me a puny man indeed!"
Everybody laughs hearing this.
They continue on to Radofax's home. This time Rangh knocks at the door of the little wooden cottage.
"Good to see you again!" Says Radofax, opening the door. He looks at Rangh and claps his hands to his sides. "General Rangh! They found you!"
He just nods at the old man. "So it would seem."
Radofax ushers everyone in, pulling out chairs and setting up food and drink like before. He seems even more energetic than before. "You just missed your friends who were looking for you."
"Friends?" Asks Dril, not liking the sound of this.
The old man smiles and nods. "Yes, yes. The man's name was Neserai and he had several hairy fellows with him. There was also a very lovely young woman named Zinaida."
"I don't think they were our friends," says Malik.
"Really?" Says Radofax, his smile now fading. "I gave them directions to the City of Truth, I told them you would be there."
"We must have missed them on the way," says Malik.
Jinx wakes up. Her eyes flutter and slowly open, looking around she sees Gashnak gazing at her with concern.
"Hi there," she says in a tiny voice. Obviously still very tired and ill.
"Hello back," he replies, hideous face turning into a smile. "Are you okay?"
"Well, I have had better days. I am so tired "
Everyone is very happy to see Jinx recovering. She too is pleased to meet General Rangh. They take some time to rest and recover from their struggle with the soul hunters. There is some discussion, and nobody knows how to escape The Underworld, not even Radofax.
"Well if Zinaida is here," says Wilford, "then she will have a way out."
"Then that's the plan," says Alric. "We put the squeeze on her and make her take us out. I can try and come up with a spell, but a pixie twisting and melding magic to do something like this is probably impossible."
"It might be a little harder than that Alric," says Alex in a nearly sarcastic voice.
While everyone rests and drinks, Jinx pulls Gashnak close to her. She whispers into his ear, not wanting anyone else to hear.
"Many souls came through me, Gashnak. It nearly killed me. But I did release countless thousands of them, sending them on their final journey." She stops for a moment, her lower lip quivering some.
The big orc takes her hand in his. "You okay Jinx? What else happend?"
"Maurice and Earil were two that passed through me."
When he hears this his eyes widen, then narrow. He keeps a gentle grip on Jinx's hand but his heart starts hammering hard in his chest.
Jinx holds him close, knowing how much this means to him. "They do not blame you for their deaths. You all were ambushed, it was a miracle from Rellian that you survived."
Hearing this starts causing his eyes to sting. "I tried so hard to save them . . . I am so sorry . . . I failed and they died . . . "
She hugs the big orc, fighting back some tears herself. "They were honored you kept on going, especially Maurice. He was proud you took his name and continued on. They know what you have done and know you have never forgotten them." Gashnak looks away, putting a hand over his eyes, not wanting her to see him like this.
"You have honored them so much. Now they are free." Jinx puts her head to his shoulder, feeling the pain of her old friend. "You will meet them again some sunny day. Remember Gashnak, you are who you are."
There, in a corner of Radofax's home the two sit away from the others. They do not see Gashnak and Jinx speak. Together they hold onto each other, friends giving each other the support they need. They have been through a lot these two.
For a time they all rest, sitting on cushions and couches that Radofax has provided for them. Alex kicks back on a mass of pillows. Dril sleeps on the floor. Alric curls up on a napkin. Malik and Wilford just sleep in their chairs at the table. All know that this is but the briefest of respites, for once they leave this place they will have quite a confrontation.
Both Rangh and Radofax stay up, not really needing to rest. The two really seem to enjoy the company of the other. These two residents of The Underworld have seen many strange things and while the others sleep they share some of their experiences here.
A short time later Gashnak stands up, and goes around gently waking the rest. "Time to get up people. We have to go out and meet our destiny."
Rangh stands, his hand once more on the hilt of Asgadrath. "Indeed. The moment has come."
Once more the group stretches, checks weapons and armor and mentally prepare themselves. Gashnak is oddly more at peace now. The terrible doubts he had been having about himself, and what had gone before seems to have evaporated like dew in the morning sun. His talk with Jinx has given him a sense of peace he hasn't had in a long time.
Going over to Alex he helps her up. "You know, I was thinking of leaving you behind again," he says with a toothy grin.
She smiles at this, trying to wake up. "Better not. I'd kick your green ass."
Radofax opens the doors and the group follows him outside. They aren't quite sure what to expect. Travelling on a ways, Jinx, looking even more exhausted, tells them to stop. She stretches her arms over her head and points her fingers upwards. With her powers she then sends out another ball of light, bright but not blinding. It sends out a very clear signal.
"Now they know where we are," she says. "Be prepared."
Gashnak puts a hand to her shoulder, drawing out his hanji-shah. "You are a good person Jinx, you know that?" He looks at the curving bloodsword and sees it begin to glow.
She just laughs. "I try to be."
From somewhere out in the misty gloom comes the sound of clapping. It grows louder as that person approaches. Out of the darkness comes a familiar man, his face smiles maliciously.
"Bandegil," hisses Kazier.
With him are two dozen tatooed and fierce Zenith warriors. All look as though they are the very best warriors in the barbarians forces.
"General Rangh, so pleased to meet you," he says in an unsincere voice. "You have brought him to us and for that I am truly grateful."
"You've got to get through us to get to him," says Gashnak moving up alongside Rangh.
Bandegil tosses back his head and laughs evilly. "You cannot stop destiny. I will destroy the soul of General Rangh and take the sword Asgadrath, all for my god!"
"Well, traitor, you will soon be serving your god in a much more personal way!" Says Gashnak. "Your day of reckoning is at hand."
"You still have quite a mouth on you orc!"
Malik, has his bow ready, watching the two groups slowly inching towards each other. He listens to the somewhat witty repartee between them but can only take it for so long.
"Enough talk!" He says firing an arrow right at Bandegil's face. The arrow veers away, obviously another protective spell is on him. "Dammit!"
Instantly the two sides go charging into each others, swords and axes swishing through the air. Radofax stays back with Jinx, trying to be away from the terrible fray that is unfolding before them.
Kazier slashes with his claws and drives his draenam blade deep into one barbarian's throat. A geyser of red jets out from the horrific wound. He then turns and gets face to face with the snarling Bandegil, barely blocking the villain's sword.
Alric flies up behind the treacherous Bandegil and does an energy blast at his back. To his shock the spell fails and it's energy is deflected away. He has far more protective magic on him than can be believed.
Alex goes whirling in, her two blades spinning in graceful but devastating arcs of destruction. The foes that attempt to close with her soon lose limbs and their lives. The ambidextrous elven maiden certainly knows how to deal out death.
Rangh advances and kills the barbarians two or more at a time. The legendary general certainly lives up to his reputation as a fearsome, unstoppable warrior. Heads, arms, legs, all begin to start piling up around him.
Dril hurls his axe, chops off the legs of one onrushing man and then catches the bloodied hanji-shah in his hands. He goes right into the midst of battle, the surly sprig fighting quite vigorously.
Wilford has a change of engagement with one barbarian. Thrust, counter, block, thrust. It goes this way back and forth for several moments. The barbarian's axe slashes across his chest, absolutely ruining his shirt with blood. Keeping calm he lunges forward and his rapier neatly runs the man through.
Several of the Akrindorians run around the side, trying to get to Jinx. Malik gets in the way, tossing aside his bow and drawing his shortsword. He lops one's head off in a spectacular spray of blood and is then quickly surrounded. Back and forth he parries their blows, but takes hits across his legs and body.
One moves around to Jinx and stabs at her. She defensively blocks with her staff, Radofax moving away from the conflict. The barbarian slashes across her thigh and then hacks her deeply in the side beneath her right arm. Jinx cries out in pain, dropping her staff and falling to her knees. She looks up at the savage looming before her, readying a final blow.
Gashnak sees what is going on and swiftly splits one's face is half with a single strike from his bloodsword. He turns and goes leaping in the air, over the heads of many people. As he goes he draws out Maurice's weapon, the silvered saber. With a sword in either hand he drives both of them fully into the back of the man trying to kill Jinx.
"Glak!" He says, seeing two blades erupting from his chest. Gashnak hurls his dying body aside and goes down to the bleeding and fallen Jinx. Alric flies on over and puts some healing magic on her, slowing down and reversing the damage done.
Malik is bleeding profousely from several nasty hits, but he keeps on his feet. The two barbarians on him are slowly wearing him down. With a burst of speed he stabs his shortsword through one's chest, tip going out his back. Instantly he collapses in a heap of spraying blood. The other barbarian tries to split his skull and he ducks the deadly blow. As he rises so does his blade, and it's point runs right up the foe's middle. From the red rent come his glistening insides, for which he gazes at in disbelief for a moment before falling dead.
Another barbarian leaps on Wilford and stabs his sword deep into the duellist's thigh. In a rage Wilford knocks the weapon aside and attempts to fall back defensively. The crazed warrior keeps on pressing his advantage on the wounded man.
Gashnak sees this happening. He picks up his silvered saber and throws the blade. It's point goes right behind the barbarian's knee, pinning him to one spot. The man howls in pain from the unexpected hit but Wilford doesn't let him suffer long, driving the point of his thin blade into the man's mouth and out the back of his head.
Kazier and Bandegil battle face to face and it is fierce. Several barbarians come to the aid of their lord but are cut down either by Alex or Rangh. Soon the battle is over, except for the fierce fighting going on between these two frenzied fighters.
Malik steps forward to aid Kazier but Rangh puts a hand on his shoulder. "No, let them fight it out."
All watch as Kazier and Bandegil rip into each other. The traitorous Bandegil's sword slashes across Kazier's scalp, sending blood all down his face. In turn Kazier rips him across the meat of his upper thigh with his long, razored claws. Their weapons clang off each other, both badly wounded now, each trying to find that one opening to kill the other.
Spinning around, Bandegil slashes deeply across Kazier's abdomen, opening up his dark shirt with blood gushing from the awful wound. "Ha!" He yells triumphantly. Kazier falls forward, stabbing with all of his fading strength and his blade goes three feet into the guts of the once grinning Bandegil.
He falls down, dropping his sword from numbed fingers. Bandegil looks up at Kazier standing above him. The man is exhaling blood, trying to catch his breath. The staggering elf moves in closer and Bandegil tries to stab him with a hidden dagger from his boot. The feeble attack is easily knocked aside by Kazier's claws.
Kazier then moves his sword back and thrusts it through the face of Bandegil. The man's head nearly explodes in a burst of clotted gore and bone. The nearly headless body splatters backwards in a very satisfactory manner.
"Reckoning . . ." Says Kazier before falling over himself.
With Jinx in such poor condition Alric finds himself quite busy healing everyone up. Everyone seems to have taken a hit or two, even Rangh would have had a scratch on him, if he wasn't a spirit. Gashnak hovers over the injured Jinx and Alex soon joins his side.
"She going to be all right?"
"I hope so."
Dril comes over, flicking the blood off his axe. "I'll carry her now, we've got to find a way out of here." Though small, the sprig lifts up the unconcious Jinx and carries her along as the group moves in the direction Bandegil had come from.
They see a flickering light ahead and they move towards it. Distantly, they hear an almost ghost voice calling out. "Neserai! Neserai! You must hurry! The gate won't stay open much longer!" The whole group picks up their pace. Even Radofax is following along.
Getting to the light they see a gruesome sight. There are a dozen Draman Del soldiers all tied to posts, arms behind their backs. Their throats have been slashed, blood having been collected in some type of silver bowl. They look like they have all been murdered in some sort of dark sacrifice. Bloodied sigils have been painted across the ground.
Gashnak looks at the pulsating circular light and dives through it without hesitation. Everyone else that can follows right behind.
Leaping through the gate Gashnak goes into a roll, then leaps up to his feet. Right in front of him is perhaps the most darkly beautiful woman he has ever seen in his life. She has long hair the color of midnight, a silver skull clasp at her forehead, full breasts barely contained by the tight fitting black bodice she is wearing. There is a great look of total surprise in her eyes when she sees the grinning orc rising right in front of her.
Gashnak stabs his bloodsword through her chest, right between her perfectly curvaceous breasts. Her mouth opens into a circle and blood begins to bubble from it. She puts a hand to his shoulder, eyes even wider from the sudden shock of being stabbed. He looks deeply into her dark eyes, peering into her soul.
He draws the blade out and whips it around, taking her head off with a slash. The beautiful corpse and lovely head topple to the ground, and Gashnak stands there quite triumphant. "Nice to meet you, Zinaida."
There are a few Zenith guards here as well but are all rapidly slaughtered by Alex, Malik, and Wilford. Kazier is still quite wobbly from his devastating fight with Bandegil. Looking around they can see they are somewhere in the Cursed Woods.
Gashnak glances about, "Did everyone make it?"
Everyone is there except for Rangh and Radofax.
Alric goes flying back to the portal, which is beginning to spiral smaller and smaller with each passing second. The pixie yells at the top of his little lungs: "Rangh!" They can hear voices calling to them from the other side but they are distorted and fading. All that can be made out is Rangh's voice. "You must continue on..... You must become the heroes!"
Just before the portal closes Asgadrath comes hurling through it along with Rangh's armor. It all clatters to the dark earth. The portal whirls and vanishes, the gateway is no more.
Gashnak moves over to Asgadrath and kneels, putting his hand to the sword. He looks into the air, to where the portal was. Slowly he tightens his grip around the hilt of the famous blade. "We've got a lot of work to do . . ."
TO BE CONTINUED . . . .
Chronicled by Ken Paynter aka...Gashnak
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