Scythemia

Eclipse: Dying Light

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"Oh, hardly, dear Malhavik!" Aaren hid her disgust at the warping of the corpse rather well, she smiled sweetly at the guise with a tilted head. She didn't notice a bit of blood that stained her chin in transporting the body, but it worked to her advantage.

"The good news? Everything that needed to be done is done, completely and thoroughly. I told you it would be easy." She was silent for a couple moments, and her eye lit with curiosity and mischief. "Now, how about we discuss what I get in return. Where can I find you?"

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The corpse convulsed and twitched randomly. Black fluid began to run from the eyes, nose and mouth.

"Agamand Mills, Tirisfall. I await your presence with joy!"

The corpse stiffened and remained motionless, black eyes continuing a dead stare at the elf.

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Aaren eyed the shell with dismay. Part of it was because it was human, part of it because it was a corpse all the same and defiled. She washed her hands again in the stream, and her face to scrub away the perceived stench; her sleeves were dripping when she was done but she didn't care. She jumped back onto her hawkstrider as it protested and jerked the reins back into the direction of Warspear.

Aeriil knew were to go when spurred into that direction, so she could allow herself the moment of weakness, the disorientation and dizziness that consumed her for the ride back. Gripping the saddle was enough to keep her steady, for now. She didn't wait for the rest to catch up, she didn't care for waiting around any longer when she had the next step before her. Her own impatience began creeping upon her.

The ringing in her ears ceased soon enough, and her mind reached out to Tesonii:

"I'm heading to Tirisfal. Stay close, but not too close. I'll give you cues as I can. We'll get this done, and he will be safe, I promise.

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They gathered at the perimeter of Agamand Mills. Juli frowned as she dismounted from her zhevra. It wasn't that Tirisfal Glade was scary; most of what haunted the countryside was not a threat. But it felt wrong. Evil things had happened here.

She looked over at the others. Shokkra had said nothing but indications she wanted to get down to business, but Juli was still unsure of her motives. She certainly didn't seem to be treating this with the gravity it deserved. Tesonii, at least, she had no doubt of. The death knight was loyal to Kex'ti. Juli caught her eye and nodded, then looked at Darrethy. He had been far too quiet during this. If she had a more suspicious mind, she would have thought he was hiding something, but she trusted him. It was probably the curse weighing heavily on him.

"When she gives Tesonii the signal," Juli said, "we'll move in. I'll take lead." She pulled her shield onto her arm and settled her eyes on the blighted farmstead.

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Malhavik looked up from the journal he had been writing in when he noticed a familiar clinking noise draw near.

"Ah, miss Syreena! How wonderful to see you! I trust you brought drinks for the guests?" He laughed merrily and ushered Syreena down the steps.

"There is one here you absolutely must see immediately! Come, come"

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Aaren made her way to the Tirisfal portal as quickly as Aeriil would carry her. She was left in Warspear, and a drake carried the priestess even more quickly to Agamand Mills. From her vantage point, it looked the same as it ever did, and spotting the crypt caused a disgusted curl in her lip. She headed there first.

She composed herself after she landed. The potions weren't enough. The crystals were worse, but she reasoned their use was worth dealing with the decline later on. The empty shards were discarded in a bush. She focused, wanted to let Tesonii see the entrance of the catacomb and lack of apparent guards. Each corner, each turn, but hearing the warlock's voice speaking to someone should be good enough, from here.

There was no answer as he spoke, but Aaren expected to see Darrethy there when she rounded the next corner.

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Syreena Breen smiled warmly at Malhavik.

"Yes, I brought drinks," she answered, holding up a bag that held a serving tray and various beverages and snacks.

Then she went with him down the steps, curiously wondering who it was he wanted her to see.

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The Forsaken wound there way down through the narrow corridors and twisting staircases, passing many heavy wooden doors guarding unknown chambers. Malhavik chuckled from time to time as he watched Syreena nimbly maneuver over the scattered bones, steep steps, and uneven hallways without spilling any of her goods.

She's still in there somewhere...

When they approached the door to the lowest chamber, Malhavik produced a simple black iron key. He stuck the key into the lock and door clicked open without they key being turned. The room was very dark, save for the demons fiery mane at the far end of the room. With a nod from Malhavik the demon began to drag the lid off the top of the white marble sarcophagi. Malhavik paced the room, lighting candles with soft green felfire. As soon as the room was well lit, and the safeguards of the coffin removed Malhavik spoke loudly.

"Head up stairs my lovelies, the other guests should be arriving soon. Gather your brothers and sisters and make sure you entertain them while we prepare."

He turned to face the dark waitress as his demons made there way out of the room.

"The one lying in that coffin I hoped might pique your interest. Have a look won't you?"

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Syreena went down the steps into the cellar without hesitation. Cellars still made her nervous normally, but this was Mal's cellar, and she was sure he wouldn't allow a druid to be in wait down there to smash in her head.

She smiled at the warlock as he invited her to look in the coffin, though the thought did cross her mind that it was quite an odd invitation. There must be something very interesting in there. She set down her bag of drinks on the floor and stepped over to it, tilting her head as she looked in.

She saw Kex'ti lying there. He was so still, she thought he must be dead. He was covered in bloody bandages, and she could see strips of flesh missing from his chest. One of his hands was missing a finger, and that arm was blackened from the fingers to nearly the elbow.

The waitress started to recoil, but then froze. She stared into the coffin with a strained expression.

---

The Shadowblade occasionally peeked out at the world through the waitress's eyes, but for the most part, she was content to stay in the much more pleasing world she'd created within her mind, letting that part of her that served as a waitress stay in control. She could see what the waitress could see, if she chose. And now she did choose to see, exerting her will over that of the waitress, and forcing her to look when the waitress would have backed away.

Kex'ti. That damned hated elf, who she blamed for everything since the beginning of her end. Everything from her demotion to her missing ear was his fault. Even her failure to save Konro and her losses to Breygrah could be traced back to Kex'ti, as far as she was concerned. Who would have thought that a retaliatory attack against a random Sanctuary elf would have cost her so much?

Now he lay helpless, close to death if he wasn't dead already. And no Lilly or Khorvis here to help him this time. She slowly reached out and traced the edge of one of his pretty ears with a clawed finger. She paused, and then she withdrew her hand. As much as it pleased her to see him this way, the feeling was bittersweet, for she wasn't the one who was able to make it happen. She slowly turned to look at the one who did, meeting Malhavik's gaze solidly for just a moment, with a look of approval and then shame, before bowing her head slightly.

---

Syreena looked up again at Malhavik, her expression now one of curiosity and mild confusion as she took a few steps back from the coffin and retrieved her beverage bag.

"What happened to Kex'ti?" she asked, and then she continued without waiting for an answer. "Tesonii's been looking for him. She won't be happy to find him like this. He looks dead."

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Now.

Tesonii had watched Aaren disappear into the greasy darkness of Malhavik's home. The sky rumbled with thunder, and the air was sickly and damp. Desiccated, dead crops littered the innocuous ruins the assault team had followed Aaren to. Pieces of the air shimmered with unnatural heat. Demons lurking in plain sight.

The priestess's thought echoed in Tesonii's mind, and the knight siphoned heat from one of the shimmers. Redgormor pargon shlee pargon pargon, she thought. A bestial roar emanated from a rime-covered felhound. The knight bounded from the treeline, easily reaching into the empty landscape with her spells. Runes on her draenic crystalblade flared with black light as she concentrated her will at a point in the distance. The soil gave way to cloying, icy quagmire, but Tesonii danced her way towards the center of the slowly rising quicksand, her blades lashing and thrusting at felguards and voidwalkers that came too close. Impacts of fel-fire flew around her as she shielded herself with runic armor. Not all of her magic was focused into her weapons, after all. As she fought, the wasting area she had conjured swelled and gripped at Malhavik's minions. While the stronger beasts pressed on against the mud, many were dragged below by the sludgy, corrosive spell.

Tesonii's swords impacted against a six-armed demon's own onslaught. The shivaran's baleful gaze looked down at the hooded woman. Despite the burning corona surrounded it, the demon couldn't have noticed the wide grin on the elf's face as Julilee barreled into it, shield first. Ichor and green flame scattered off the shield, and Tesonii reversed the grips on her blades as she arced them in unison into the creature's belly. She carved outward, rending the demon's body with a twirled rune.

Shokkra's axe carved its way through demon after demon, seemingly working her way through a kill order of ever larger monsters. Tesonii had sensed magic emanating from the back, but had yet to see Darrethy display any particularly flashy attacks. Tesonii nodded to the Commander before leveling her blades and dashing towards the farmhouse. As demons began to pursue the women, Tesonii used the shivaran's body to emanate a freezing aura. Just after Julilee had cleared the blast radius, of course. Just.

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Throughout this entire endeavor, Darrethy had been meditating nearby. He did not cower or hide, it was not his way, and so he merely waited in a circle nestled in the mountainside and waited for a signal.

His eyes snapped open under his hood, and as one he could feel the surging of countless souls through his body. Reaching over he slowly unsheathed an Arakkoian blade he had brought with him, the scythe like weapon was decorated with bells, trinkets, and runic blessings of Anzu. His other hand reached for a shield made of solid purple crystal, glowing as it detected the demons that lurked nearby...most of his armor reacted to Fel that way, a sign it was time for him to start killing again.

The world turned to grey and as the color faded away the only thing he could see were Malhaviks demonic minions in bright neon colors, with a shout of something incomprehensible he rushed forward with his own Shivarra appearing in an explosion of fel flame. Her razor blades and his own volley of shadowbolts tearing apart anything that came near, wings unfurled from his back as he leapt across the field with demonic might, his veins pumping with fel fury "You go ahead! i'll hold them off."

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Darrethy wasn't there. She didn't even see Malhavik. The voice was still muffled by a door, echoing against the walls of the dank and macabre sepulcher. Instead, Aaren saw two hulking Felgards, and they looked directly at her as if they expected her. She gave them a smug grin and approached, but in unison they took three steps to block the door. Her eyes fixed on them. She was ready to daze them if she needed to, but they stopped, and just watched her.

"Malhavik! What the hell is this!" she called out, mostly with an amused tone spiced with annoyance. She didn't get a response, but he had to know she was there. She had hoped that she could get inside and close before the others showed up, but if they had to fight their way in, so be it. At least Tesonii would be aware of what the priestess saw.

Aaren closed her eyes and focused. Partly on the warlock, but also to try to get a view of who he could possibly be speaking to.

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Shokkra's axe ended up halfway through a felguard's chest. Another charged at the orc, being that Konro's axe was stuck in a ribcage, she leapt at the demon's eye with her boot knife. The felguard fell backwards and howled in pain as Shokkra buried her knife it it's left eyesocket.

Darrethy was throwing felbolts and stabbing demons all over the place with his fetish Shivarra. Julilee was running to follow the zombie's orders to go ahead and help Aaren or whatever, charging through some imps with her shield. Tesonii or Scythemia as Karthok had told her reluctantly did the same, shoving off the Felguard arm currently adorning her runeblade. "Guess I better follow the fucking elves. I don't even know why i'm here. Saving the elf Shaman. Not like Aaren's joining the 37th anytime soon. Might as well strangle the shaman once he wakes up." Shokkra lazily retrieved her axe from the demon and followed the elves.

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Talons of ice arced from the walls. Each delicate spiral sinking into the fel-infused blood of the summoned demons. Tesonii followed Aaren's directions as she descended into the shadows. The other women cleaned up the disabled monsters as the blue-haired elf hunted Aaren's path like a hound after a fallen bird. Each slice and pivot of her blades sung with words louder than silence. Tesonii's runes glimmered and flared in the darkness, burning out like so many lightbulbs. Even the burning, molten ichor pumping in the demon's veins froze before the woman's aggressive attacks. The creatures writhed for scant moments as Shokkra's massive blade hewed limbs and Julilee's shield and sword shattered the frozen flesh of the beings like glass.

Aaren, you need to leave now.

Tesonii had learned much about listening in her time as a mute. She knew the cadences and melodies of the spoken word. How those sounds echoed around stone. Aaren, and two others voices, were just a few corridors down. The frenzied claws of the demonic hordes pressed back against the trio of women as they surged forward into the dark. Above, in the sick light of the ruined farmstead, pulsed a growing presence of magic. Darrethy had stayed behind to deal with Malhavik's demons. What Tesonii knew about warlock magic meant that Malhavik's seemingly endless supply of powerful demons meant that his prowess with the demoniac was truly formidable; horrifyingly formidable. If this were truly a surprise attack, what would the full weight of Malhavik's attentions have wrought?

Tesonii idly thought about the challenge involved in such a possible turn of events, even as she saw Julilee throw up a bulwark against oncoming sprays of green fire. Tesonii reached over the much smaller elf, the heavy blade of her bastard sword separating a felguard's head from its shoulder. The swords spun with Tesonii as she and Julilee danced forward, sheltering each other with shield and spell even as the tide of readied demons trickled from a phlanx of wrathguard down to lone attacks by felhunters. The rune knight still envied the Commander. But she certainly respected her ability to fight.

The blood staining Tesonii's weapons warped the rune she'd scribed, and each spell required greater attention than the last. Her muscles ached with exertion from the deadly waltz, yet Julilee, protected only by her armor and shield pushed forward, her endurance unflagging. Shokkra as well continued to fight. Some instinctual rage against demonkind propelled her. The orc woman bled profusely, yet bloodthirst or conviction overcame whatever pain she felt. The soldier's hooked axe swing in a vicious uppercut, and found its way into the chest of a massive, corpulent succubus. Shokkra reversed her grip and pulled the hooked tip of the weapon into the creature's viscera. Bones cracked. The demon screamed. And a green-red spray of viscera and blood showered the orc. Above, the magic coiled itself deeper. The women in the basement reeled, momentarily, light-headed, as if they'd suddenly stood up too quickly. Tesonii had not fought at Darrethy's side, but she recognized his presence. It was like a smell. Something somehow dusty yet somehow also moist and sticky.

Several demons had winked out of existence. Those that remained were clearly stunned by Darrethy's will, leaving an opportunity open for Shokkra to strike. Under the heavy force of her attack, a voidlord exploded into wisps of blue-black smoke. Shokkra's backswing caught a shivvara in the throat, crimson raining outward onto Shokkra.

"Lok'tar ogar!" cried the orc, the bloodspray removing any lingering fatigue as Shokkra fought back up the stairs. Whatever demons lurked in the compound, the only ones the elves needed to deal with were already here. The ones up above would not pass Shokkra. Tesonii nodded to the Commander. Her face grim and set, the two arrived outside a black iron door. Tesonii thought to the priest:

Aaren, we're coming in!

In the green blood staining her blades, Tesonii hurriedly marked long chains of runes. The Commander's expression showed none of Tesonii's glee, Shokkra's rage, or Kex'ti's self-confidence. There was only a steel gaze oriented on victory. On Kex'ti's safety. Whatever fear the woman felt--for surely she had to--she was an expert at setting it aside when she donned her armor. After a few steps back, Julilee raised her shield, and charged the door. The hinges gave, and the door fell open.

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By then, Aaren had gotten inside. She hadn't had much of a chance to speak to Malhavik, however, before his imps began reporting the chaos going on outside and approaching. To say he was surprised when they burst in would be incorrect, however, as the legions of demons he'd prepared testified.

His black gaze moved to Aaren. "You betrayed me."

Syreena vanished.

There was little time for damage control as Juli had spotted Kex'ti's body. While the sight of his condition didn't make her lose control of her rage, an emotion she always kept under tight control in combat, it did provide her plenty of incentive to charge the Grim warlock.

"He's cursed!" Aaren blurted, ducking away as Juli collided with the bound voidwalker Malhavik had summoned with the snap of a shard.

Tesonii made a soundless cry, shoving past and going straight for Kex'ti. She pulled his lifeless body into her arms.

"FOR YOU ASSHOLES FOR SOME REASON!" Shokkra shouted meanwhile, vaulting over them and atop Malhavik. A blast of fel energy from him knocked her axe away, but the tackle still bore him to the ground with her. He growled and blasted her back again, his power undiminished despite all his preparations. Juli, slicing into the voidwalker, realized why Aaren had been so cautious as Malhavik rose back to his feet, green flame wreathing his hands.

She stepped back for a moment of respite and pointed her sword at him. "You," she said. "You attacked a member of Sanctuary unprovoked. Do you act with the blessing of the Grim?"

It was impossible to read his expression under his mask, but she thought he looked at her disdainfully. Shokkra rolled to her feet, looking to her axe. Tesonii edged around the room, carrying Kex'ti. "I seek only to prevent Accalia from destroying us all," Malhavik said.

"What does kidnapping and torturing Kex'ti have to do with that?" Juli said incredulously.

Aaren looked between them. Shokkra bared her teeth. "You guys are a waste of breath," the orc warrior said, and lunged for her axe. Another shot of fel energy knocked it away before she reached it.

"He is immune to the curse," Malhavik said. "If we can discover why, we can disrupt the flow of power to Accalia."

Juli began to wonder why she had asked. He was Grim. There was no reasoning with him. She set her shield. "You will pay for this," she said.

"Perhaps," he chuckled. "But not today."

He seized another floating shard and crushed it. The ground began to rumble. "Oh shit," Shokkra said. Tesonii turned and ran for the door with only one desperate look at Julilee. Aaren went. Juli hesitated, then followed. "Not without my axe!" Shokkra said, diving for it again.

This time, Malhavik was busy opening a demonic gateway and did not stop her. He stepped through and disappeared as she grabbed it and charged after their others, the quaking increasing tenfold. Chunks of stone and earth began to collapse around them. They barely made it out before the entire underground laboratory imploded in on itself.

Darrethy was waiting for them outside as the dust settled. "Did you ensure he stayed inside?" he inquired drolly.

Juli, breathing hard, sheathed her weapon and turned around to face Tesonii, who was laying Kex'ti's form out on the ground. "The soulstone," she said. "We didn't get the soulstone."

"Ah," Darrethy said. He produced something from within his robes: a glowing green shard. Juli stared at him, and it, in shock. Aaren did not look surprised, though she shot a guilty look at Julilee.

Why he had it wasn't the most important thing right now. Juli clenched her fists. "Can you... restore him?" she asked.

"Most likely," he said, "assuming his body can survive the trauma."

She watched as Darrethy moved over to Kex'ti and knelt down. Aaren moved over as well, summoning the Light to encompass Kex'ti's body. The wounds were slow to heal without a soul, but she tried to get the body into a condition where the soul wouldn't immediately escape it. Juli watched anxiously.

Darrethy placed the soulstone on Kex'ti's chest, just above the breastbone, then placed one hand on Kex'ti's forehead and the other over his heart. Demonic soul magics twisted the very essence surrounding Kex'ti as the gem flared brightly, and then Kex'ti's body gave a big heave and he gasped in a choking breath. Tesonii covered her mouth with her hands, and Aaren immediately began funneling Light into him.

"He'll live," Darrethy said.

Juli sank to the ground in relief.

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