Second Darkness

Summary 17: Game of Shadows

Chapter Five: A Memory of Darkness

 
Lord Vilastir introduced himself to the Immortal's and demanded who they were and how it was that they came to activate a portal that had been dormant in over a hundred years. Corthana insisted they were simple travelers. Ruil then mentioned they were in search of the Winter Council, to which Vilastir said that he lit a lantern each night to stop the darkness from intruding upon his home, but said he forgot its color. Ruil responded that it was green. And in that, Vilastir seemed to approve and said that he would take them all to the city of Iadara, hometown of Ruil, at which point he would take them to see the queen as she would want to hear their tale. By his attitude, it was clear that Vilastir was not a fan of humans, saying they were a barbaric race that had yet to evolve like the elves.
 
After a few minutes of healing their own wounds, the Immortals followed the elven scouts to the capital city of Kyonin. The view of Iadara was a spectacular sight, with gold leaf tiles upon the buildings, silvery grout in the tiles upon the roads, and domed buildings everywhere. In a word it was paradise upon the world of Golarion, and it almost brought Gunderhoff to tears over its pristine architecture. Vilastir left the Immortals at the Golden Leaf tavern, and said he would summon them shortly when the queen would see them.
 
After checking in, the Immortal's decided to identify and sell all the items they had no use for. They also made several large purchases to better their own defenses. In many places, they noticed the religious symbol of Calistria, Goddess of trickery, lust, and revenge. It was not a sight that gave Citrine much confidence in her surroundings as it meant that those who worshipped her were an unpredictable lot.  This however was the perfect place for Corthana who easily found buyers for all the drow equipment they had found.
 
A few hours later, and emissary arrived at the Golden Leaf. He brought the Immortals directly right to the palace, where there Queen Telandia awaited, along with her dozen advisors. Her lead advisor, Lord Vilastir was by her side. There was no place to sit so the heroes were forced to stand before the great ruler of all elves for several hours as she demanded they recount their story from the beginning. Yet it was clear that she held all four of them in low regard. She attempted continually to poke holes in their various accounts. She berated them for lying outright to royalty; at by the time they were done, it was clear she didn't truly believe them. Afterwards, she demanded they leave while she discussed what they had said with her advisors.
 
After all the Immortal's had done, they rightly deserved medals of valor, not shunned by the highest elf upon the planet as though they were children and she their disapproving mother. As they exited the Grand Hall, one of the advisors pulled Ruil aside, and whispered a silent command in the name of the Winter Council. Yet Ruil's reactionary gaze of death was one that said he would not comply. As he met up with his friends, he warned them that they would likely come under attack by the Shin'Rakorath upon order of Lord Vilastir.
 
As they neared the Golden Leaf, they noticed that the streets had suddenly become silent. Upon a pair of rooftops, nine elves suddenly jumped up and let fly a hail of arrows. Corthana took two arrows in the collar bone. Ruil took one arrow through the throat, and another one in the leg. Gunderhoff too took two arrows in his chest. Citrine was able to dodge one arrow, but a second one hit her in the back.  After one of them declared that this was for the Shin'Rakorath, they all let fly a second volley, targeting the same Immortals they had hit previously. Corthana took another three arrows right in her ribs. Ruil took three arrows in his abdomen. Gunderhoff quickly got up his tower shield, but arrows were coming in from everywhere and an arrow grazed his leg. Citrine found herself hit by three more arrows. The Immortal's however lived up to their namesake as each one of them continued fighting on, despite the pain.
 
Corthana launched three daggers, hoping to knock them down from the roof. Only her first one grazed an artery and the wound was not accurate enough to send him tumbling from his perch. Citrine pushed through the pain and blasted one of the groups of elves with holy fire, greatly wounding them all. Gunderhoff too tried to pray to his god, but his dwarven toughness was too hobbled by his immediate wounds. Ruil then cast a haste spell from his boots upon himself, and then quickly pulled out his bow. Yet he was unused to the speed of his own movements that he nearly dropped it, and it took him several seconds to recover.
 
The elves retaliated, this time firing off their arrows as fast as they could, hitting Citrine four times with arrows. Corthana then found herself on the receiving end of another volley upon the command of the one bleeding from the dagger wound in his leg. Corthana deflected one of the fletchings out of the air, but five more found her flesh, making her into a porcupine, and knocking her unconscious to the ground.
 
Gunderhoff blessed his allies, helping their combat skills. Ruil then targeted one fresh elf with a pair of scorching rays, burning the foe badly. Citrine spiderclimbed to one of the roof tops, and impaled the same elf with her scimitar. That elf retaliated as he threw down his bow, and stabbed Citrine with his rapier. The other elves continued firing down below, now targeting Ruil. He was much more prepared for the attacks this down, and dodged all but two arrows.
 
Citrine was surrounded by foes, each now with their swords drawn, but each one very injured.  She thus took out two of the weakened ones with a pair of quick slashes. Gunderhoff thought about healing up Corthana, but realized that would make her a target. He thus healed up some of Ruil's wounds, in the hopes that the elves would see him as a healer and target his armored body and positioned himself in front of his friend. Ruil took out his bow then and fired three arrows. Again though, he was simply unused to the speed, releasing the arrows before he could fully get a bead on his target. His first arrow did however graze one of the elves.
 
Gunderhoff's human shield helped to deflect some of the arrows that again flew at Ruil, yet still four found their way through holes in the defense, and slammed into the elven Immortal, sending him bleeding to the ground to join Corthana. Citrine, for her part, was able to deflect the rapiers trying to slay her as the elves were much more skilled in the bow, rather than the sword. Gunderhoff simply had no choice as he continued seeing the woman who had saved him, slowly bleeding to death. He thus took the chance and healed some of Corthana's wounds, praying to Torag that the spellthief would not jump up and make herself a target. Citrine too saw her friends dropping, and so used one of her most powerful spells and healed most of Ruil's wounds from a distance.
 
Ruil by then was tired of being a pin cushion. He thus dimensional hopped with a thought right to the roof with most of the uninjured elves and then slashed one with his shocking grasp imbued sword, sending the scorched body down to the ground. The remaining ones threw down their bows and impaled Ruil twice. Meanwhile, after the healing touch by Gunderhoff, Corthana felt her eyes open. She felt the pain wracking her body and wanted nothing more than to be dead. She thus used her ability of subterfuge to play that role, becoming a corpse in the eyes of enemy and ally alike. Citrine saw her friend dead upon the ground, and wanted nothing more than revenge. Another quick sword slash ended the life of yet another Shin'Rakorath soldier.
 
Gunderhoff wanted nothing more than to join the fight, and Ruil made that wish come true as the warrior cast a regroup spell that instantly teleported Gunderhoff and Citrine by his side. The dwarf smashed his hammer true into the ribs of one enemy, breaking bones. The elves then backed up a few steps and fired off a volley of arrows at Ruil, while the others on the roof did the same. Yet after all the blades and rapiers were finished aiming for Ruil's position, only one arrow had succeeded upon inflicting any wound.
 
Citrine, still very wounded from all her previous wounds, decided it was time to look after her own health and healed most of her wounds in order that she could stay in the battle. Ruil then slashed an elf with a shocking grasped sword, burning him to near death. Gunderhoff thus stole the kill as he smashed the elf off the building with his hammer. The elves retaliated, this time targeting Citrine. Only one arrow found her back, and that elf paid dearly as he took a counterstrike from Citrine. She then asked why the Shin'Rakorath were attacking them, to which the soldier said they were doing only what they had been ordered to do. He said that Ruil had been ordered to do join taking out the Immortal's, but he had refused.
 
With most of the Shin'Rakorath soldiers dead, it was soon a simple matter to dispatch the rest. And all too soon it was time to morn their fallen comrade. Yet, as that neared Corthana with a burial shroud, the spellthief opened her eyes, showing to all that their remained a thread of life still flowing in her veins. A few moments later, several Iadara guards conveniently showed up and asked if they could be of assistance. After explaining all that had happened, the guards said that they had to report the incident to the Queen.
 
Only minutes later, Queen Telandia arrived personally to survey the battle scene. She deplored the actions of the Winter Council's soldiers and said that it was obvious the Immortal's were in danger in the city and said they would be escorted to the Paradise Chambers, where only the most honored guests stayed within the city. She also said that, the attack gave credence to their fantastic story about the drow, and she would continue talks with her advisors on what should be done next.
 
The building was true to its namesake. Within the Paradise Chamber, beautiful bird flitted about and sang a musical tune that soothed the heart. The entry door was flanked by a pair of hornet statues, the holy symbol to Calistria.  Within the center of the room was a beautiful pool filled with water the purest of water. If Iadara was heaven, then this chamber was where the gods received their inspiration for heaven's creation.
 
Yet there was one other person within the room. It was an elf named Quilindra and she ordered the Immortals to leave. They responded by saying they had been invited, to which Quilindra said that all the illusions said the same thing. Ruil dimensional hopped to her in order to prove they were not illusions, yet there was no convincing her. She told them to think of an apple, and one appeared within their hand. Ruil then thought of a vorpal sword, and one appeared in his hand, much to his delight. Quilindra insisted that everything was an illusion and that the Immortals had just become imprisoned by the queen like she had. The Paradise Chamber had the ability to grant false wishes and freedom. That is until the prisoners realized they in fact were still prisoners once their eyes adjusted to the illusion.
 
Corthana didn't believe any of it and so simply walked out of the building and down the street. Once she realized she was not at all bound by the so-called magics, she returned to announce that they could leave whenever they wanted. Citrine's mind had already seen through the illusions around, and announced that Corthana at not left the room at all, and in fact had simply walked around the pool.
 
Ruil continued to try to convince Quilindra that he was real, and so the female proposed he lay with her upon the cushions after closing the curtain. Ruil hesitated at the thought, and so Quilindra proposed that he cut himself to show he bled. He thus took out the new vorpal blade, as he brought its edge to his wrist, it passed through. And so he took out his real sword and did the same, this time sending drops of blood upon the ground. The rest of the Immortals did the same.
 
Citrine continued to scan the surroundings, using her mind to see what was truly there. Her eyes fell upon the elf Quilindra, and as she did so, she saw the succubus in disguise. Citrine commanded Ruil to back up, at which point Quilindra announced that her true guise had been discovered and so, showed everyone her true form. Despite the change, the Immortal's did not attack her. Ruil recognized her demon kind, and thus knew that she posed no real threat. Quilindra said that their situation had not changed in that they were all still prisoners of the Winter Council and the queen. After asking her about the Land of Black Blood where Allevrah could be found, she said that the Winter Council's vast libraries would have knowledge on this. She also said that the queen was a member of the Winter Council, meaning it was time for some payback.
 
Quilindra said she knew of a series of portals that would take them to the Winter Council. If they were to act, they could have to do so immediately as they were currently being spied upon by Queen Telandia. They thus needed to make it past the hornet golems outside, past the illusions, and to the first portal within the garden district nearby. The later was already done by most of the Immortals. Gunderhoff was first through the curtain, and took up a defensive stance. Corthana then used her mind and finally saw through the illusions around her, and then fired off her wand of magic missiles at one of the stone golem wasps, but it absorbed the magic. Ruil was next in the room as his eyes were the last to adjust to what was real.
 
Citrine cast divine power to augment her strength. Despite the magic, one of the golems slammed its fists down upon her shoulder, shrinking her by two inches and shattering her shoulders. Gunderhoff meanwhile was on the receiving end of the other golems fists, but they bounced off his raised shield. Corthana thought quickly about her actions as she did not want to suffer the pain Citrine was currently feeling. She thus contented herself with three thrown daggers, all of which bounced off the hornet harmlessly.
 
Ruil moved closer to the fight, taking a massive punch as he got right in the hornet's face and cut it twice with his sword, knocking off a few pieces of stone. Citrine swung her sword at the same one, knocking more stone pieces off. One of the hornet's cast slow on Immortal's, with everyone but Gunderhoff resisting the magic. The other golem again smashed a fist right through the raised tower shield and into Gunderhoff's face, knocking out a tooth.
 
The fight was not at all going well for the heroes. It was decided that a strategic retreat was necessary to rethink their actions. Ruil left the room and teleported everyone to him in order to escape harm. Luckily the golems didn't follow. Quilindra, who had finally seen through the illusion, stayed away from the combat given her fragile form, offered up a few healing spells. After everyone was healed up, Citrine handed to Ruil a magical acorn that he threw at one of the golems, destroying a great chunk of the golem. Seeing the golems still not moving to the curtain, Citrine cast her magical fires and slowly burned one and then the other golem dead.
 
With the threats gone, Quilindra quickly led the Immortals out of the Paradise Chambers. Luckily there were no guards in sight and so she led them to the first portal in the gardens. She used a gemstone from her bracelet to activate the magic, and the five of them went on through.
 
On the other side, they found themselves surrounded by trees. Quilindra led them on a nearby path to a temple to Calistria, where within there were many elves, each going through many of the dozens of portals within. It seemed that this place was hub for the various portals scattered throughout Kyonin and the rest of the world. Quilindra led them to a portal that looked like any other, took out another gem stone and stepped through the magical gateway that opened at her touch.
 
Upon the other side, the air was frigid. Snow and ice blew everywhere, but Quilindra seemed unaffected. She walked about a mile towards another portal, this one called Icegate. Surrounding the portal were several elves with very white skin, an obvious side effect of the cold that constantly surrounded them. Corthana took out a scroll of invisibility sphere to cloak all five of them as they did not want to get in a fight with the snowcaster guardians. Soon the gate was open, and the Immortal's were through, with no pursuit in sight.
 
They found themselves in a forest again, but this time all the foliage around them was dead. Quilindra brought them to a fallen temple, where within, Quilindra warned that she had nearly died from the banshee that guarded the portal. There was also at least one or two huge arachnid demons within the temple that they would have to bypass.
 
While Quilindra waited outside, the Immortals entered the temple ruins. Only a few steps in, they immediately saw two huge giant bebelith demons. Ruil recognized the demon and remembered they enjoyed ripping the armor off of warriors. Corthana remarked that the demon was a Gunderhoff can opener. Still in their invisible state, the demons didn't appear to see the warriors, yet they seemed to know that there was some foreign presence nearby.
 
Corthana cast levitate upon Gunderhoff in order so that he wouldn't make noise as they tried going past the demons. Yet the bebelith was completely blocking their way, meaning they would need to physically get past it. Ruil cast a ray of exhaustion that made the demons movements a little sluggish. Corthana threw her daggers right into its knee, trying to knock it down, but the appendage was simply too tough to weaken with a simple steal dagger toss. Gunderhoff then blessed everyone as was his routine. Citrine blasted it with her holy fire, wounded it further.
 
With everyone now visible, the bebeliths went to work. The second one moved up and bit through Gunderhoff's plate mail and into flesh. The other one tried to bite down on the dwarf, but the Defender punched his shield up into its mandibles, locking them in place. It panicked in that moment and rather than use its claws upon Gunderhoff, it used them to dislodge the metal meat in between its teeth.
 
Ruil went to his preferred spell, blasting the same bebelith with scorching rays that made chitin armor pop. Gunderhoff meanwhile was still trying to stabilize his flight after not letting go of his tower shield and being thrown in the air. Citrine cut down with her scimitar, but found that her blade simply could not get through the beasts hide, despite it connecting. Corthana then tumbled behind the bebelith and cut its leg from behind.
 
With Ruil doing all the damage, the bebelith clawed at him and ripped his armor clean off, as well as leaving two bloody furrows in his chest. The other demon continued his assault on Gunderhoff, biting him and clawing him. The second claw nearly grabbed hold of his armor, but after seeing what happened to Ruil, the dwarf was quick to deflect it aside. Still he suffered great pain from the attacks.
 
Whenever Ruil became embarrassed in battle, he let that channel as skill through his blade arm. This time was no different as without armor, a cut hard at the bebelith, sending one of its eight foot long, two hundred pound lungs falling to the ground with an audible splat. Citrine then blasted it with fire, knowing her sword was useless. Corthana eyed her greatsword that Ruil had strapped to her back, and then tumbled to it, drawing it in the blink of an eye.
 
Gunderhoff found himself attacked yet again, this time by both bebeliths. One of them bit him hard on the arm, and ripping the triceps clean off the bone. Ruil slashed that same demon with steel and lightening, but still it stood on its eight legs. Citrine again blasted it with fire, while Gunderhoff adopted a defensive stance. Now with greatsword in hand, Corthana hit the bebelith twice, doing a little bit more damage.
 
The bebeliths clearly wanted to tear off Gunderhoff's armor, and they continued attacking him. He seemed to constantly be leaving an opening in his defense in order to concentrate on parrying the second claws so they could not de-armor him. This time it cost him as poison from one of the demon bites infiltrated his veins and began rotting his body from the inside out.
 
Ruil blasted the bebelith again with rays of fire, bringing it to the breaking point of death. Seeing this, Citrine again blasted it with fire, and this time the great arachnid fell to the ground. Corthana looked to the fresh demon and feinted left then cut right, bringing blood flowing. It retaliated, but Corthana adopted the same technique as Gunderhoff, deflecting only one of the claws, while the bite and a single claw brought great pain. Poison flowed through her veins, and her liver started shriveling away.
 
Ruil again blasted away with scorching rays to burn away at the demon. Citrine then healed up some of Gunderhoff's wounds as he had taken a huge pounding over the battle so far. Corthana tried to tumble past the demon to get into flanking position, but the bebelith saw the move coming and bit her across the neck, and flung her back and foiling her attack. She could do little more than block as best she could as the bebelith continued its assault, clawing her and biting her again.
 
Scorching rays flew forth from Ruil fingertips, brining a pair of screams from the demon. Citrine then healed up most of Corthana's wounds, bringing great relief. That gave her the confidence to again tumble through the bebelith's legs, this time timing her roll perfectly. As she emerged from her tuck, she cut hard the creatures rear Achilles heel. That got its attention and it spun around with claws and teeth tearing at her flesh and ripping her armor completely off. Poison flowed through her veins, causing burning pain throughout her body.
 
It seemed there was no end to Ruil's magical power as again fire flew, burning away even more demon hide. Gunderhoff hit the bebelith with his hammer, this time smashing through bone. Citrine went to her powerful spell pool and blasted the bebelith with a flamestrike that brought it on the edge of death. Corthana used the demons rear knee as a spring board, jumping high to plunge her greatsword into its back. Had she weighed more, the sword likely would have sunk deeper into internal organ, ending it there. And thus the fight continued on. The bebelith impaled her through her stomach and then flung her through the air where she landed unmoving. It then turned on Ruil and impaled him through his shoulder through his ribs. It lifted him up to its mouth where it ripped open his chest to expose all the beating morsels inside.
 
Ruil was only barely holding on to consciousness, and got in a feeble sword hit on the demon. Gunderhoff attacked it, but his hammer missed. Citrine quickly grabbed a revivify scroll and restored life to her spellthief friend. She looked to Ruil and was sure she would need to use another one as she saw him go down from a pair of claws. And then she looked to Gunderhoff whom had no armor to stop the bite that sent more of his blood flowing. With his last once of strength, the dwarf upper-cutted the bebelith with his fist, and that seemed to cause a massive brain hemorrhage in the demon as it fell dead to the ground. After a few restoration spells from Citrine, and healing magic from Gunderhoff, Citrine, and Quilindra, the Immortal's found themselves ready to take a few hours to rest up.
 
Once they felt they were ready, they headed to the portal. There they came face to face with the true guardian of the temple, the banshee Elledariah.  She screamed bloody death, causing the brains of Ruil and Corthana to nearly explode, and sending them to the ground on deaths door. Gunderhoff swung his hammer in desperation, but as he did so, the banshee grabbed his hammer away from him, and left the dwarf standing there in shear embarrassment. Citrine prayed to Sarenrae with all her devotion, promising to kill Beltias Kreun in Riddleport to take back the temple in her name. And so her prayer was answered, and the banshee was obliterated in Sarenrae's holy radiance. Citrine and Gunderhoff then ran to their friends, stabilizing their conditions before healing them up.
 
After going through the Death Gate, they came upon a huge observatory. Elves it seemed loved to watch the stars. Quilindra said that the final gate was at the top, guarded by the hezrou demon Vodzur. Ruil grabbed his friends and flew right up, where there they saw the bloated frog-like demon and his four elven minions. Citrine blasted the group with of them with a flamestrike nearly killing the elves and sending a message that the Immortals were not a group to be trifled with.
 
And within a minute, the portal was open, and all their enemies were lying dead at their feet. Soon Ruil would finally meet the organization he had sworn his life to defend. That meeting however would begin with blades drawn, and spells thrown. All the Immortal's flexed their weapon arms for the great battle that would surely begin upon entering this final portal.
 
And leading the mighty war party was Quilindra; a hidden smile upon her lips…

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