Otrere's Tale - by Rakhir
Skeleton hands pushed aside the lid of the sarcophagus revealing the crowned visage of a dead king. Fire burned in the eye sockets.
'Good,' replied the recumbant lord. 'Summon my guards. This day, we shall feast.'
Otrere joined the ranks of swordsmen and waited for the order to attack. Light from a torch flickered under the doorway and the twenty guards shifted their weiqht as the door creaked open. The figure of a girl stood in the doorway and the skeletons surged forward to the attack. The young warrior fought valiantly, shattering bone and sword as they drew near then Otrere stood before her and glared into the girl's face. And saw herself staring back at her. Swords parried and then the girl was slashed across her neck.
Otrere sat up in her bed screaming. For five nights, this dream came to her, never changing. Always she ended up killing herself in a sword fight. But she was a skeleton when this happens. She did not understand.
'Otrere? Are you all right?' came a soft voice.
'I'm okay, mother. It was the dream again.'
'Here, my child,' said the dark-haired woman, handing the child a goblet of wine. 'This should help you get back to sleep. Tomorrow, you must hunt again.'
'I know, but I keep having dreams about things I've never seen before. Villages burnt. Children slaughtered by knights.A skeleton king whose army I join and finally kill a woman who is me. Why? If this continues, I don't know if I can complete the quests.'
'I thought we could avoid the dreams this time, young one.'
'This time, Mother?' '
Tell me what you remember of your life here and I will explain.'
'I remember waking up in a dark place. You were there and another woman. The two of you spoke for a while then she kissed us and left. She was a warrior of some kind. You led me through a shiny doorway and we arrived here in our house.
'You told me I was descended from Amazons and would follow their teachings and quests. We began to train and when you thought I was ready, you sent me to slay the one they call the Butcher. I found the beast in his room, trapped him and slew him with my bow as instructed by the scrolls of the Amazon. Then the dreams started.'
Otrere watched as her mother prepared a wine goblet, adding some herbs to the mixture and stirring it with a silver wand. The dark-haired woman set the goblet on the window sill where the mixture caught the moonlight and began to bubble. The Amazon was never surprised by what her mother could do with seemingly normal things and sat up when the woman approached the bed.
'The dreams you are having are reflections from the realm of Nightmares. The woman you remember is no ordinary amazon, she is your previous incarnation, now trapped in that realm until she can be rescued. She is one of the few that found out that they had used up their life energy fighting in the Sin War. She chose to reclaim it by assaulting the Skeleton King Leoric and lost. But instead of being slain by the demon, he chose to keep her captive, sending to the chamber of the foul priest Lazarus. There she is being tortured with visions of her failure and while your conscious mind rests in slumber, the visions come to haunt you also.
'I had hoped you would be spared these dreams. You must not give up the quests. You are the only one who can rescue the lost Amazon and restore her to the living world.
'Rest now, child. Let the medicine work. When you awaken, we will train for your next quest, and speak of allies to help you.' Closing the door to the young amazon's room, the dark-haired woman left Otrere to greet some men that had approached the hut.
'Adria, are you sure you won't take 3000 gold for that book.'
'Now Tachyon, you know me better than that.'
Otrere's Tale Chapter 12 -- Watched
'She's coming for you, bastard.'
The smoke from the brazier held a window looking out at an axe-wielding Amazon kneeling to comfort a dying villager before entering the old church.
'She's going to kill you.'
'Gag her,' snapped the priest. It took all four of his favorites to silence the Amazon, twin to the one they were watching. Lazarus sensed that the girl was right, but not today. He resumed his surveillance, only to see the picture start to fade.
'Bring in another child. You've used all the life force in this one.'
Otrere screamed and struggled at her bonds as two acolytes carried a young boy and placed him on the altar. Another priest took a dagger and made a small cut in the child's wrist. A trough caught the flow of blood and directed it to the brazier. Fresh smoke focused the scene in front of the church where the girl closed the unfortunates eyes and rose. She paused and turned to face the window. Lazarus knew she couldn't see him watching, yet the Amazon stared straight at him and drew her thumb across her neck. Behind him, he heard the acolytes gasp in fear.
'Send a message to those idiots in the church. I want this one slain quickly. She goes too far,' he snapped.
Entering the church, Otrere had no idea why she had given the death sign to no one in particular, but she smiled. It had just seemed right to do it at that particular time. Twirling her axe to warm up her muscles, she began to hunt for the ever elusive leaders of the Dark One's minions in the upper sanctuary. Taking her time, she gathered healing and mana potions as she chopped her way through the first level of the temple. She worked on her tactics for slaying large numbers of skeletons and fallen ones, using columns, chests and sarcophagi to funnel their assaults against her. After slaying all that inhabited this level, she descended to the lair of the Butcher, all living there would fall to her axe but him. For his atrocities, that one would die by the bow, hunted like a common animal.
Almost immediately, skeleton axemen rushed to stop her slaughter. As she danced amongst the undead crushing their bony forms with the flat of her blade, Otrere spied their leader, Bonehead Kneeaxe. She decided to play with the undead seargant and slew his entire complement of guards before disconnecting first one axe then the other from his grasp and crushing his skull with the edge of her own axe. Pausing to catch her breath, she noticed the unholy glow of another of the leaders of this level of the church, Soulpus. This one proved no match for her attack, falling before any assistance could reach him, Otrere had made her presence known to a pair of fallen ones in her haste to slay the zombie leader and when the pair attacked, she had little trouble dealing with them either. Soon, Rotfeast the Hungry, Pukerat the Unclean, and Boneripper lay at her feet and she rearmed herself with her bow to send winged death to the Butcher.
Confidence soaring, Otrere entered the third level of the church to seek out more leaders, including the Undead King Leoric. Rotcarnage the ghoul fell to her axe as did Broken Bangshield the Corpse Captain and his horde. Burning Dead Axemen sought to protect their skeleton king, but were easily led into traps where Otrere could deal with them without the support of Leoric. Mentally noting the lair of the Undead King, Otrere set about cleansing the rest of his lair of troops before seeking him out in a duel.
'Be careful Child. The Skeleton King may still be outside your ability to defeat without help.' Advice from her mother whispered in her memory bringing to mind a spell that would allow her to escape should she have the need.
'Porta expositus postulatio'
A shimmering blue portal opens beside the Amazon. Walking around it she marvels that it stands without frame. She can hear birds singing from the other side of the portal and resists the temptation to walk through it, knowing that if she does she may not get another opportunity like this one to slay Leoric. Taking a deep breath, Otrere glided into the chamber of the Skeleton King and issued her challenge.
'King of Fools, face me and feel the wrath of those you led astray!'
Swinging her axe into motion, Otrere braced herself for the coming of the Undead King. The huge skeleton from her dreams slowly rose from his coffin and pointed his sword at her.
'To day I shall feast on your blood.'
Otrere danced to the attack, aiming a blow at the giant's knee to knock him to the floor but before it landed, it blade was turned by the parrying sword of the skeleton. Now the Amazon found herself having to block the attacks of the Skeleton Lord. Once, twice, the blade of Leoric found its mark and Otrere was forced to retreat from the room. The Undead King paused at the doorway and Otrere loosed balls of fire to slow his attack. He appeared to laugh as he slapped the fire asided with his hand, then rushed the Amazon again. Otrere fought desparately to keep her foe from striking again, but her attack was countered easily and she found herself bleeding from a third cut on her arm. Rolling between his legs, she attacked his back, but again found no opening to strike as the demonaic skeleton whirled to block the blade of her axe once more. Once again on the defensive, Otrere edged closer to her escape portal. She knew that she had lost the battle today, but that the war would continue another day only if she survived to fight it.
Leaping through the portal, she found herself behind the blacksmith's shop. A fortunate turn of events since pieces of her armor fell to the ground as she stood. Gathering the parts, she waited while the smith dealt with a pair of warriors in a heated discussion of just the right price for a new shield. Adria seemed to trust the smith and Otrere had made several deliveries to him when her mother's customers paid in weapons and armor instead of gold.
'Hello missy, more junk from your mom?' grinned the blacksmith.
Otrere laughed,'No sir, this is my junk. Do you think you can salvage it soon?'
'Well, it may take a couple hours or so. It's not too far gone yet.' said Griswold, scrutinizing the marks on the armor. 'Looks as if you ran into a real bad one here.'
'He likes to think that,' replied the Amazon,'his day will come. Soon.'
'Well, keep your bloody head down next time you see him. This helmet's almost done for, may have to charge more than it's worth to fix it.'
'I'm kind of partial to it. The price shouldn't be a problem.'
'You haven't seen the bill yet,' laughed the smith. 'Now let me get to work and I'll see if I can get this mess fixed today.'
Otrere thanked the blacksmith and went to sit on a boulder just outside the healer's hut and watch the goings on in the town while she waited for her equipment. She watched as a knight strode into town and talked with the smith for a bit, then he set off in the direction of her home. Usually knights avoided her mother, thinking her a witch. Otrere laughed to herself. This should be good if this knight tries to 'cleanse' the town of a witch. She had seen several knights come to the hut with such intent only to find themselves hunting the elusive white snipe of Jocallia never to be seen again. The Amazon decided to follow the knight and see just what happened when he met her mother.
Chapter 13 -- The Knight
Adria rose from her chair to greet her next customer, a tall man dressed in mail wearing a sword at his side and a huge axe across his back. His tabard was of an order she had not seen in ages, one that had long ago fought along side the Horadrim, the Order of the Crimson Griffon, now called the Resistance of Caramar. This one didn't have the build of the usual knight though. Nevertheless, she prepared her quest spell and waited for his challenge.
'Excuse me, M'Lady,' said the knight. 'I am Solestri, Knight of Caramar. I have spoken to the smith and he informs me that you ...'
Adria began the hand motions to gather the bindings to send the knight on his new quest.
'...have in your possession...'
Threads of magic began to tighten on the will of the knight.
'...that you might want to sell.'
Adria immediately cancelled the spell and looked deep into the knight's eyes. She saw an inner glow that told her despite his attire, this knight was a mage, a mage in wolf's clothing but a user of the art regardless. Otrere witnessed the beginning of the spell and almost laughed before she noticed that her mother had not completed the incantation.
'Otrere, fetch this knight a drink of water while I collect the tomes he is seeking.'
The knight turned to face the Amazon. For a moment, she felt an urge to strangle him where he stood. Visions of knights on horseback charging into battle danced across her mind. Then she heard him introducing himself.
'... and I am honored to meet the daughter of the famous Adria. Please allow me to escort you to the well.' Taking her hand, the knight led the girl to the well in the center of town. Did he not trust the water that her mother might offer from her hut? The elder Cain looked on with a slight grin as Knight and Amazon sat by the well discussing the various axe strokes each had used in fighting with the dark minions of the church. A few Amazons from another tribe sneered at the couple as their conversation continued into the afternoon. Otrere and Solestri never even noticed the stares of the townsfolk or passerbys, but when Otrere's stomach roared like a lion starting a stampede, both laughed and the knight was invited to dine at Adria's hut.
While Otrere prepared the meal, Solestri and Adria sat outside the hut and discussed whether the old magic was better than the new. Adria laughed when the Knight suggested that he refused to use some of the more powerful spells, rather facing his opponents in honorable combat. But when he bristled, removed his helmet, and the bandage underneath revealing a glowing red gem, implanted in his forehead, Adria stopped and complemented the knight on his bravery and honor.
Otrere came out of the hut with the dinner and the knight quickly covered his wound while rising to help her carry the heaping plate of rabbit, greens, and fruit. Adria noted that the Amazon had nearly emptied her larder for this one meal and that the Knight would have to double the amount he paid for the tomes in order for her to restock. Otrere blushed to her feet as the Knight offered to triple the amount just for the charming company with whom he was dining. Solestri told of his family and their quest to found a new order of knighthood that would lead in the coming battles. Otrere listened enrapt with the knight's tales, sitting staring at him until the sun had set and the food on her plate, still untouched, was cold. Finally when the chill of dusk was upon them the Knight stood and thanked his hosts, and prepared to leave for the nearby tavern where he would get a room for the night.
'Tomorrow, I will seek out the lord of the gargoyles and slay him in single combat,' boasted Solestri.
'I'll join you,' Otrere said in a rush. 'I need to do some hunting in the catacombs myself.'
'Nay, lady, such a place is not for one as you. I would not have such beauty lost in that darkness.'
Before the Solestri could react, Otrere leapt across the table and kicked him in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. Then grabbing a tray from the table, she began to strike at him where he lay. The knight blocked the first swing with his forearm, then caught the tray and threw it from the Amazon. Otrere began to punch at the fallen knight, but he grabbed her wrists and flipped her over his head and rolled to kneel on her arms.
Rising he appologized,'Madam Adria, I am sorry if I offended your charge. I meant know disrespect.'
'She is an Amazon truly, and I would take her with you,' replied the sorceress. 'Besides, she would only follow you if you didn't.'
'You needn't speak for me, mother. Either he wants a companion to guard his back on his quest or he doesn't. His choice I guess,' growled Otrere. 'I just didn't want him to think I was some kind of flower that needed his protection.'
'Oh I can see that Madam Otrere. I would welcome your company on my quest. Perchance we shall help you with your training as well.' Taking the Amazon's hand, Solestri cautiously kissed the back of her hand, then Adria's and bade them good night.
The women watched as the Knight of Caramor walked into the village, neither knew what to make of the man. Otrere because she had had so little contact with the species, and Adria because she had not seen an Amazon tamed so quickly.
'Or is the cat playing with a mouse?' she thought to herself.
Chapter 14 -- Breakfast
The next morning, Otrere woke early and rushed through her exercises before donning her armor and dashing to the village. Adria watched, amused at the actions of the girl. Clearly she was smitten with the knight, something one wouldn't think to see in an Amazon. But then, Otrere was a bit different, at least this one. Raised in town, she never had the militant feminist upbringing of the Amazon's and didn't have the memories of the slaughter of innocents by men her captured charge possessed. Otrere had grown quickly, but then she was a creature created by magic to rescue her lost souls, not a normal woman. Adria wondered if Solestri, or anyone, knew about the Amazon trapped in Lazarus' chambers. She entered her hut and collected the herbs she would need for her spell. Lighting the brazier, she tossed the components into the fire.
Slowly the smoke formed a hoop at the sorcerss' eye level, colors danced within its border. Adria peered in at the tortured form of Otrere, beaten and forced to watch the horrific ceremonies led by the renegade bishop Lazarus.
‘Soon help will come, Little One.‘
She dispelled the scrying and set about preparing the restoratives sought by her customers, wiping tears from her eyes.
In town, Otrere waved to Griswold as she headed for The Inn of the Rising Sun to seek out Solestri for their expedition into the catacombs. She located the knight seated in the middle of the room, praying over his meal.
Heads turned as the Amazon strode to the knight's table, several of Ogden's customers shifted position to place their shield in easy reach. Amazon and Knight, there were going to be some broken dishes. The Amazon unhooked her axe from her belt. Ogden's employees rushed to collect dishes and payment as customers edged closer to the door. The knight looked up from his repast and stood. Patrons of the inn bolted for the door.
’I've been expecting you, mistress.
‘ Solestri bowed and motioned for Otrere to sit across from him. Smiling, she leaned her axe against the table and sat while the knight motioned for another plate. Ogden, seeing the danger was passed, brought the plate personally and informed the pair that the meal was on the house. Otrers fixed an icy stare on the innkeeper.
’I can't let you do that,‘ she stated. ’Take this for my meal.
‘ Otrere started to hand the man a few gold pieces, but Solestri touched her other hand, stopping her.
'Last evening, I was Adria's and your guest. This morning, you are my guest. Ogden will add the cost to my room. Let us eat.'
Otrere snapped her gaze on the knight and began to mentally list reasons why she should pay for herself. But when she looked into his eyes, she lost all thought of arguing with Solestri and just stared at him until the mage-knight reminded her that it was rude to allow the food to spoil when one is a guest. The Amazon blushed and began to eat the fruit and bread the innkeeper had provided.
Gradually the customers returned to their tables and the babble of conversation rose. The knight and amazon ate quietly. Lost in their own conversation, they never noticed the shifting light in the windows, nor the fresh bowls of stew Ogden delivered for lunch, nor the steaks for dinner. Otrere told the knight of her Amazon training, her battles with the Butcher and King Leoric. Solestri spoke of his quests in the lower labrynth. They spoke of their dreams, what they would do if the Sin War ever ended. They fell in love. Otrere stretched and kicked her axe to the floor, then looked around the inn.
‘Dearest Solestri,’ she began, reaching to take his hand,.‘we have a problem.’
‘Nay My Love,’ replied the knight touching her cheek. ‘I'll speak to Adria...’
Smiling, Otrere touched a finger to his lips and shook her head. ‘It's too late for our hunt today, but you may escort me home.’
Solestri looked to the window without moving his head, lest he break contact. Sure enough, the sun had set and lanterns lit. Kissing her fingers, the knight picked up the fallen axe and presented it to the woman who had captured his heart. Then taking up his own axe, he offered his hand to the Amazon. Otrere smiled, linked her arm in his and the couple walked into the night.
Griswold called to the couple, telling them Otrere's equipment was ready. The Amazon smiled, waved at the smith, and told him she would pick it up in the morning. The smith shook his head and went back to his work.
‘Kids,’ was all he said.
Adria heard the door to her hut open then shut.
‘Otrere?’ she called when she heard a heavy metal thunk. ’Are you alright? Did you meet Solestri? What happened in the catacombs?’
‘It's me. Fine. Yes. Nothing.’
Adria caught a glimpse of the Amazon before Otrere entered her room. She looked ensorcelled. Whirling she ran to the window, looked out, and smiled. Solestri was watching the house from a short distance away. She heard Otrere's window open and the young woman bid the knight good evening. The knight caught something in his hand and kissed it. Then he turned and made his way back to the inn.
Watching Solestri walk down the path to the inn, Otrere didn't hear the door to her room open. She felt her mother's hands on her shoulders, guiding her to her cot. Donning her niqht clothes, she fell quickly asleep and dreamed, not of skeletons but of a certain kniqht of Caramar.
Chapter 15 -- The Hunters
Otrere woke early the next morning, eager to meet Solestri and help him in his quest for knighthood. The pair would assault the catacombs below the old church to seek out the minor leaders there as more specifically, Nightwing the Gargoyle. The knight would face the beast alone to complete the next portion of his training. Otrere would serve as support, guarding his back from the other denizens of the labyrinth. Remembering what happened the previous day, Otrere packed a light breakfast to avoid having to sit in the inn again with the knight. It had taken all her resolve not to stay there with him. Today they had more important things to do.
Stopping by Giswold's smithy to pick up her repaired armor and weapons, she gazed through some of his other wares, purchasing a large shield of blocking, not for today, but after she slayed Leoric with her axe, she would need such defense to enter the caves below the catacombs. While she donned her armor and haggled with Griswold over the price of the repairs and shield, and adding her buckler to her gold to pay him, Solestri came out of the Rising Sun to greet her.
'Well Amazon,' he began in a very formal voice ',ready to delve into the depths below the church?'
'Certainly, Good Knight,' replied the warrior-woman, matching his inflections.
Then the two started laughing. Griswold didn't know what to make of them, then he noticed that the knight had an Amazon necklace tied around his arm. Strange times in Tristram these days. Looking at the church, the smith noticed a large number of birds flying over it. He shivered remembering the time he had gone into the temple with the traitor Lazarus and barely escaped with his life, carrying the boy, Wirt, up the final two staircases and to Pepin's hut. But that was a long time ago, he turned back to his forge and began working on a new blade made from a strange metal a warrior had found inside the labyrinth.
Otrere started down the path to the old church, chewing on the apple she had packed, when Solestri touched her arm and told her of another entrance they could use in their sortie. He explained that during one of his assaults, he had come across a stairway on the fifth floor below the church in the old catacombs. Following these he had emerged in the cemetary just outside town. Solestri showed Otrere which crypt led to the deeper chambers and the two prepared for their hunt. Both chose axes for their quest, Otrere's a normal blade she had discovered in the chruch, Solestri's an axe of considerable power. The knight took the lead as the pair entered the darkness.
Torches lit the small room at the bottom of the stairs. Quickly surveying the room's access points, the pair set off to the west in search of their quarry. Not far away from the entrance, the inhabitants of the catacombs made themselves known, horror skeletons and blink bats. Standing back to back, the knight met the charge and the amazon fended of the blinks that got past his defense. As they battled, the pair moved through the corridors, turning the tide and defeating the guardians of the stairs. Kicking open a door, Solestri shouted for joy when a nest of winged demons was discovered.
'Surely this day, Nightwing will feel my wrath.'
Leaping into the nest, his axe sang its war song. Crushing the beast-statues, Solestri discovered that the room was a library and the pair split the scrolls found between them, Otrere seizing a scroll of Town Portal, while the knight chose a scroll of Resurrection. With unbridled speed, the knight began to rush through the hallways, stopping only when confronted by the denizens. Otrere was always at his side, when the pair came upon Wraithraven's flock, it was her turn to lead the way. In the middle of this fight, an arrow announced the presence of goat clan archers. Seeing that Otrere had the blinks under control, Solestri moved to deal with the new threat. Sensing she was alone, Otrere pressed her attack, she would not let any escape to follow the knight, and none did.
With the blinks slain, Otrere listened for sounds of combat. From her mother, she had learned that sound travels through the catacombs making it easy to find one's companions should they get separated. Cautiously she moved through the hallways, smiling when she saw the bodies strewn about the floor. Soon the sounds of battle came to her. Rushing down a side hallway, Otrere found Solestri fending off a horde of skeletons, blinks and goat men. Standing at his shoulder, Otrere helped the knight force his way into the room. When the opportunity arose, Solestri moved to deal with the archers and soon only two stood in the room.
Leaning her axe against the wall, Otrere fixed her hair back into a ponytail to keep it from her eyes. Solestri noticed a gash on her forehead and quickly cast a healing spell on the Amazon. Feeling magic at work on her, Otrere prepared for an assault.
'Not used to company?' asked the mage-knight, smiling.
'Not the kind that would want to help me.' replied Otrere.
'That's a shame. We work well as a team,' commented the knight. 'But I must leave you for a time.'
Shocked Otrere stared hard at the knight. 'Why? You just said we make a good team.'
Taking the Amazon's hand, Solestri gazed into her eyes and nodded. 'That we do, my love. But Nightwing's lair is still two more levels below this one. I will travel quickly to find him and...'
'Are you saying I will slow you down,' snapped Otrere, jerking her hand away.
The knight appeared behind her and grasped her shoulders. 'Yes, I must travel in the blink of an eye to find my quarry. Will you wait for me here?'
Turning in his arms, she looked up at him and touched his cheek, 'I will continue my hunt here, while you continue your quest.'
'I'll not be long.'
And he was gone. Otrere continued her hunt switching back and forth from axe to bow as need arose. Teaching horrors how to use their axes and goat men their bows. Occasionally she heard a message from Solestri as he sought to bring down Nightwing. She could sense his frustration as the gargoyle lord did not appear. When she had searched the entire level, Otrere used the town portal scroll to transport her back to town where she decided to wait for Solestri.
'I've found a Night clan leader. Do you want to face him now?' came another message from Solestri.
'With you to assist me, yes.'
Another portal opened and Otrere gazed at Solestri on the other side of it. Stepping through, she found herself in a small room filled with barrels.
'Where is he?' she asked.
'He's just outside that door,' replied the knight. 'I will wait here for you.'
Otrere checked her belt for potions and moved the barrels out of the way. Suddenly the door burst open. Blighthorn Steelmace loomed in front of the Amazon. Boldly she stepped in front of the beast and started to swing her axe. The Night clan leader easily dodged her attack and struck a severe blow to her shoulder. Dropping her axe, Otrere could only watch as the next blow came to her head. Screaming Solestri bathed the goat man in fire burning him to ash as he ran to the fallen Amazon's side. On his knees beside his love, he read the scroll of resurrection and the scroll disappeared. Nothing else happened.
Half her face smashed, Otrere opened her remaining eye and looked into the face of her love. Solestri, seeing life, cast a healing spell on her. The wounds did not close. Some other force was at work here. The mage-knight poured all his energy into keeping the life force of Otrere with him. Picking her up, Solestri leapt through the portal to town and ran to Pepin's hut.
Kicking the door open, the knight burst into the room and yelled for the healer. Pepin came out of his back room to see what the commotion was and motioned for the knight to lay the body on the table.
'What happened?' asked the healer as he examined the girl.
Solestri described the fight between Amazon and Night Clan while Pepin nodded and called for one of his assistants to bring some herbs. Otrere raised a hand towards the knight, who knelt weeping beside her. The Amazon, wanting to comfort him in some way, touched his hair. Taking her hand in his, Solestri prayed to whatever gods would listen to save this woman. Then he noticed that he was no longer holding her hand. Looking up he saw her body starting to fade as well.
'I'm sorry my love,' mouthed the wraith and she was gone.
The knight fell back against the wall and weapt. He had seen so much death in his life, both friends and enemies, but none had affected him like this. He had only known the young woman a short time and yet she had broken through his armor and driven a dagger into his heart.
'Can I help you, good knight?' asked Pepin.
'No,' replied Solestri. 'I must see Adria and tell her that I let her daughter die.'
Slowly the knight rose and straightened his shoulders. Gathering the items the pair had recovered in their expedition, he made his way to the sorceress' domicile, wondering just what he would say.
Chapter 16 Rescue and Redemption
A man's voice intruded upon the girl's slumber. Then a woman's, speaking words of comfort to him. The girl rolled out of bed and walked to the wash basin. Splashing cold water on her face to completely wake up, she tried to hear what the two were saying. The man's voice was familiar, she just couldn't remember a face with the voice. The girl dressed and located her bow. She had some hunting she needed to do today. Listening at the door, the girl heard the man struggling to tell her mother something. He was weeping. Shrugging her shoulders, the girl opened her window and snuck out of the house. Trotting through the cow pasture, she entered the cemetary and prepared for her hunt.
The temple steps were wet from the afternoon's rain, the setting sun colored them blood red as the girl entered the cathedral to track down the slayer of children. Soon her bow played its symphony of death, decimating the guardians of the Butcher, then singing his requiem. She traveled onward something drawing her forward and deeper into the church. She led the Skeleton King in a dance across the cathedral, strumming and leaping her way between torches and sarcophagae, adding an occassional bolt of holy fire to her serenade. Standing over the Undead King's bones, she felt herself drawn onward as if an outside power was at work. Hurrying, she dashed down the stairs and into the catacombs. The deeper she went, the stronger the pull. Goatmen and mudmen alike fell, horrors and fire clan lay broken on the floors after she passed. Alternating sword and bow, the Amazon rushed into the caves. Acid rained about her and she loosed bolts of lightning in reply and charged to the fray. Soon Plaguewrath lay bleeding at her feet and she about her for more foes. Down.
Entering the darkness of the abyss, she glanced about for the stairs leading to the vile priest that held her body captive. Lava hounds rushed her, and her blade of vampires cuta a swath through them and into the heart of the succubi controlling them. Once more lightning flew from her fingers as she fought on through the night. The sounds of explosions caught her ear and she rushed on to see what or who was loosing such power. She caught a glimpse of a knight descending the stairs to the next floor and ran to catch him lest he gather reinforcements. A hail of red bloodstars crossed in front of her and she turned to deal with the winged demons. Cursing, she charged the demons and cornered them in a small room where they cowered in fear as she slashed arms, wings and throats.
She had to catch the knight quickly. Running she paused at the top of the stairs to listen. No sounds came from below, a trap. Cautiously the girl descended the stairs and glanced about. The clank of armor warned her of the approaching knights. Smiling she raised her shield of blocking and moved behind the stairs. The knights stopped just short of the stairs and whispered to each other. That was when the girl launched her attack. The steel lords never knew what hit them. Chuckling to herself, the girl edged closer to the entrance to the next chamber. Ice magic struck her shield and she retreated a step from the doorway to rearm her bow. Interspersing her firebolts with lightning arrows, the girl worked her way through the labrynth towards the altar room. Every so often she could hear the sounds of another battle, strong magic battling the denizens as she used her sword and bow.
Chanting mixed with screams of agony reached her ears, she was close to her goal. Snow witches tried in vain to drive her back to no avail, they died as had their sisters on the floor above, cornered and cut apart. Soon the altar room was bathed in fire and the acolytes of Lazarus were burnt in mid-canon. The girl leapt into the room, slashing at the hellspawn that sought to keep her from their master. In the corner of her eye, the girl could see the tortured body that was her quarry. Another slice and the last of the hellspawn fell. It was fallen bishop against Amazon.
'I know why you're here girl,' hissed the priest,' and it will do you no good. My death will not restore your friend.'
'Fine by me,' hissed the girl and she rushed the priest and kicked his staff from his hands. With unexpected agility, the prelate leapt over the altar and seized another staff. Fireballs rained about the girl as she dodged and dove over the altar herself to close with the priest. Sword and staff clashed across the chapel. As soon as the girl closed with the priest, he would blink away and attack her from another part of the room. The girl switched weapons again and stood her ground. Arrows danced across the space between them pinning the priest to the wall. The girl approached the captured form of the dark priest and glanced at the key dangling from his belt. Staring into his eyes, she unbuckled the belt and removed the key. Unlocking the shackles holding the tortured woman, the girl helped her to sit offering a restorative potion to heal some of the wounds inflicted by the priests.
The woman stared into the girl's face, looking at herself in the young one's eyes. Anger started to well up in her stomach and screaming she grabbed the girl's sword and plunged it into the heart of the priest. Not satisfied, she continued to hack apart the body tears streaming from her eyes until the girl laid a hand on her shoulder. Leading the woman to the altar, the girl caught her as she fell.
Solestri entered the altar room and watched as the woman fell into the girl's arms. A bright light swelled over the pair and spread across the room. The knight backed out of the room as the light approached. The women were lifted in the air and the glow increased to the point that he was forced to look away. Then all was dark. The knight turned to see one woman standing on the altar with her back to him.
The girl stopped and turned to face the knight.
'I thought you dead. How is this possible?' Solestri approached the girl, holding out his hand to her.
Like a snake, the girl drew her sword and pointed it at the knights chest. Rage burning in her eyes. The knight stepped back, raising his shield. Otrere stepped forward, a snarl on her lips. Solestri, recovering from his shock, lowered his shield and took off his helm. Dropping shield and helm to the chapel floor, held out his arms.
'Beloved,' whispered the knight dropping to one knee. Otrere had raised her blade and prepared to cleave the weeping man's skull with it when the word sliced through the fog of her rage like a knife. She froze in place and stared at the man. Familiar and strange. Friend and enemy. Shaking her head, she lowered the blade. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she clasped her arms around the knight of Caramour. The two stayed that way for what seemed an eternity, not daring to let go lest the other disappear in smoke.
Finally, Otrere pulled herself away. 'I'm not the same girl you came to love. She doesn't exist anymore.'
'She is inside you. She always was. You'll find her again.' replied Solestri reaching out to take the Amazon's hand, 'And I'll be here when you do.'
'Oh isn't this pretty.' came a gruff voice from the entrance to the chapel. 'Two losers in love. I'll let you have one kiss before I send you to my master in pieces.'
Otrere turned to face the man. He was huge, well over seven feet tall, covered in metal armor glowing with unholy light. The sword he carried was easily as long as he was tall, yet he seemed to carry it with amazing ease.
'You would do well to warn your master we are coming, Gorash,' hissed Solestri. At the sound of the intruders name Otrere's blood started to boil. GORASH. It was he that had attacked her village and captured her and her friends. He that had ordered them to be used as sacrifices. He who had lead the charge that killed all her friends. She looked down at the floor. A war staff was in reach. Peering closer, it was of Amazon make, a champions staff. Solestri drew his sword and readied himself for the dark knight's attack. Otrere reached out and picked up the staff.
'Ha, ha, ha. Girl, what do you think you will do with that stick?' laughed the Marauder of Innocents.
'Start by teaching you some manners. Solestri, deal with his master.' A coldness in Otrere's voice caused Gorash to blanch and Solestri to take three steps before he realized what he was doing. In the woman's hands, the staff began to twirl slowly. Then gradually picking up speed, the air began to hum. Saluting Otrere, Solestri ran past the dark knight and headed for another battle. Otrere closed with her quarry.
'Do you really think you can hurt me with that, Girl?'
Otrere replied by slamming the end of the staff into Gorash's knee. The knight deflected the blow and countered with a strike at her head. The staff intercepted the blow and Otrere used the energy to spin and connect the other end of the staff to his helm. The knight reeled and tried to parry, but the girl continued her assault, striking helm and belly, legs and arms. She moved inside his guard, too close for him to use his sword and too fast for him to draw his dagger. Memories of the training she had done, the afternoon when Adria tried to get past her for a meal and the gradual increase in speed the two had displayed in that fight. With new confidence, Otrere increased the swings of the staff. Blow after blow rained down on the servant of Diablo until his armor started to fall from him leaving him nearly naked on his knees in front of her bleeding from welts all over his body, too weak to even raise his hands in surrender. Only then did Otrere pause.
'Who are you girl?' asked the knight.
'Death' was Otrere's reply as she whirled and kicked the dark knight in the face driving the bridge of his nose into his brain.
Standing over the body of Gorash, Otrere wondered why she didn't feel better. She had slain the man who had cause her so much pain. She should not feel like there was more. Then she remembered that even Gorash had a master. And Solestri was fighting by himself. Otrere dashed for the gate leading to the lair of Diablo and leapt through it, staff in hand.
There were charred and hacked bodies all around her. Solestri had been very busy. Sounds of continued battle led her to where he was locked in combat with the demon lord. She moved to flank the demon but was attacked by two of his guards. Dropping her staff she parried the first attack with her sword then drew on her shield and traded swings with the knights until an opening in their defense appeared and she dispatched them just in time to hear the demon howl in agony, spraying blood all about the chamber. The massed guards disintegrated where they stood leaving only Otrere and Solestri standing.
As she watched, Solestri drew his dagger and cut out a gem from the forehead of the beast, an unholy, red, glowing gem that dripped with blood. The form of the beast collapsed upon itself leaving a small boy, eyes wide with fear at the horrors he had been forced to witness. Otrere knealt to comfort him when a sickening sound like a knife driving through bone came from behind her. Spinning she saw Solestri collapse to the ground screaming.
'What have you done, Solestri?' asked Otrere holding the knights head in her lap, glowing red gem protruding slightly above his eyes. Visions of a day spent in a tavern with this man flooded Otrere. Tears started to well in her eyes. She reached down to touch his cheek, a smile came to his agonied face.
'Someone has to contain the demon until he can be destroyed permanently,' moaned the knight. 'I couldn't let you do it. It had to be me.'
'There has to be another way.'
'Perhaps in the East, where the Horadrim came from, they have the knowledge to contain Diablo.' winced the knight. 'I will head there to learn from them.'
'Then I'm coming with you.' stated Otrere. 'You'll need my help.'
'I can't let you. Even now, I can feel the demon trying to take over my body. If he succeeds he will have all my strength. You've seen what he can do with a mere boy. Can you imagine what he would do with a knight schooled in the ways of magic and combat as I am. No. You must not come with me lest you fall to his power also. I couldn't bear it.'
'I don't care. It's my decision, not yours
.''That's where you're wrong.'
With that, Solestri teleported across the room. Then disappeared through a portal. Otrere rushed to the portal to catch him but it disappeared before she could reach it. So, casting her own portal, she returned to town. She looked at the ground and saw where the knight had arrived, but no foot prints led from his landing spot. He had teleported away. Running to Adria's home, Otrere saw an Amazon talking to the fallen angel.
'Mother, I must leave,' interrupted Otrere, and without pausing entered her home.
'Otrere! I have taught you better manners,' snapped Adria, following. 'Forgive her Mistress. She sometimes does think before she speaks.'
'When she comes back to the tribe, she will find her place,' stated the Amazon. 'Otrere, kneel and be accepted into the Bhagwalli tribe.'
'No, I have to leave. Now. I can't be bothered with rituals,' as she packed some belongings in a backpack and threw it over her shoulder.
'What do you mean?' asked Adria, grasping Otrere's shoulders. 'Go where? I don't understand. I've tried to train you in the ways of the Amazon so that, someday, you could return to the tribes and not be outcast. Do you want to throw that all away?'
'You wouldn't understand', replied the young warrior shrugging free of her mother's grasp.
'Then explain it to me. I invited Queen Charisena to welcome you back into the tribes when you returned from your hunt and now you reject her! You owe both of us an explanation.'
'Yes child,' stated the Amazon queen, firmly stepping between the girl and the doorway,'explain to me why you reject your sisters and your history.'
Growling like a caged bear, Otrere straightened to look the pair in the eyes. 'There is no time. Someone I care...The demon we have been battling beneath this village has escaped. I saw the form he is now using. He already has a lead and I mean to close the gap soon and catch him. I have not completed my training in the Amazon ways and am not worthy to be counted amoung you. Yet. When I return, I will join the tribe, but for now my duty lies elsewhere. I'm sorry.'
Otrere removed the tribal emblem she had worn since birth and handed it to Charisena. Then shouldering her past the stunned Amazon, began to run East in a pace she could maintain for days.
'Solestri,' whispered Adria.
'What did you say?' asked Charisena.
'Nothing.' replied Adria. 'Good Hunting, Otrere!' she called.
Chapter 17 -- Storm Clouds Rising
Horns blared in the distance as Otrere jogged to the East. Solestri would be miles ahead by now with his damnable teleport ability. She hoped he wore himself out and had to sleep since she planned on running through the night. She cursed herself for revealing that the darkness beneath Tristram was on the move to Charisena. Sure enough the Amazon Queen was raising the Amazon Nations and their allies in an all out effort to destroy Diablo before he could take root in another place. Otrere meant to rescue the man that the demon had taken, or kill him herself. She owed Solestri at least that much. At least she could take some comfort, knowing that it would take days for the armies to mass and follow her.
A short way from town she saw a young woman, dressed in armor approaching. She wore the colors of Caramour. Could this be Solestri in disquise? Otrere was never sure around mages and legends told of wizards with the ability to change their form. Cautiously, she slowed to a walk and greeted the woman.
'Hail mistress of Caramor', Otrere greeted the woman. 'What business brings you to these parts.'
'Greetings stranger,' replied the woman. 'How come you to recognize these clothes? Caramor is a good distance from here and rarely do we leave our land. Except in time of need.' The last part in a whisper.
Otrere sipped from her waterskin extended it to the stranger, who nodding took a drink. The old adage, 'No one poison's herself to kill a stranger.' was in effect.
'I have met a knight from your land,' answered Otrere. 'Perhaps you know him. His name is Solestri.'
The stranger coughed and thrust the waterskin back to Otrere.
'Where did you meet him? Where is he now?' she asked.
Otrere studied the face of the woman. She knew that Solestri was the most hunted man in the land right now, but this woman seemed more worried for him than eager to kill him. Looking closer she saw a family resemblence in the woman's eyes.
'You are Riara, aren't you. Solestri's sister,' stated Otrere. The woman nodded. 'He told me of you while we dined in Tristram, just down the road from here. I am Otrere of...Tristram.'
'Is he still there?' asked Riara.
'No, he isn't. In fact I am chasing him now.'
Riara's eye brow rose slightly, 'Chasing?'
'Your brother and I were fighting a demon lord in the catacombs beneath the town of Tristram. Whilst I dealt with the minions, your brother attacked the creature, slaying it and removing a gem from its forehead.' Otrere turned away and continued.
'We discovered that the demon had possessed a young boy and was using the boy to carry out its dark purpose. Solestri discovered that the demon was trapped inside the gem shard, and before I could stop him, jammed it into his own forehead. He said he had to go to the East, where the Horadrim came from and search there for a more permanent container for the demon. He wouldn't let me come with him.'
'Sounds like him,' smiled Riara. 'Always the nobleman, saving the damsels in distress, carrying more than his share of the load.'
Otrere bristled at Riara's comment about damsels, not wanting to lose a potential ally, she looked away. She hardly considered herself a damsel, though she had been in need of assistance when the knight-mage rescued her.
'I fear he has taken more of a load than he knows,' stated the former Amazon. 'All of the forces around Tristram hunt him now. That's why I must find him first. To save him from himself and those that would seek to kill him.'
'He can't be far if you set out to catch him right after ... Who seeks his death?!'
'The entire Amazon Confederation,' was all Otrere said.
Whistling, Riara paused to consider the import of that single statement.
'He teleports,' began Otrere. 'That should give him a good lead on the others. I am heading East to either catch up to him or get in front of him. One way or another I'm going to catch him.' Otrere stared hard at the Huntress of Caramour. Solestri could now move great distances leaving no trail. If she was lucky enough to find where he landed, there was no way Otrere would be able to tell which way his next leap would take him. She could be heading in the wrong direction already.
'I will help you,' said the Gothic Rogue. 'I have an amulet to which our family members are attuned. It can tell us which way Solestri is located. Maybe we can catch him before anyone else does.'
Taking the amulet from her neck, Riara closed her eyes and raised it above her head. Slowly she began to chant Solestri's name, her brow became furrowed with the strain of the link. Suddenly her eyes flew wide and she shrieked, dropping to her knees and vomitting. Otrere put her arm around the rogue and comforted her.
'What happened?' she asked.
'The demon...Solestri...',Riara took Otrere by the shoulders and stared into her eyes. 'The demon has taken control of my brother. He is in the direction you were coming from. I could sense his power growing. He seized my mind and showed me what he was doing. It was an orphanage. There are no more children there now. He laughed at me and said I was next.'
Otrere recalled an orphanage just a few miles outside Tristram, she had passed it earlier today.
'We must hurry,' she said. Grasping Riara by the arm, she lifted the rogue and set off at a trot until the woman collected her wits. Otrere increased their pace, now racing to catch up to Solestri, to help him fight the demon. As dawn approached, the sky began to darken and the wind increased. The orphanage was just ahead. Several thunderheads collided overhead and rain began to pour from the sky. Otrere slowed her pace to keep her footing and listened. A voice shouting over the storm could be heard.
'Aperio limen malam insomnium regnum!'
'It was Solestri! Suddenly, a portal opened in front of Otrere and skidding to a stop, she drew her sword to search for the possessed mage.
'Where are you,Solestri?' called Riara, nocking an arrow to her bow.
'Why are you following me?' cried Solestri from across the field 'You know why,' replied Otrere.
'Did the witch send you?'
'Brother, we have come to help you.'
'Begone,' he shrieked and a wave of fire sped between the mage and rogue.
Riara ducked behind a tree and winced as the flames passed her. Solestri was much stronger than she remembered. Shaking her head, Otrere glanced about for the source of the voice. Solestri would never refer to any woman as witch. The demon was in control, for now. She saw the knight across the clearing, sword drawn and shield ready, but his face was contorted, as if fighting an internal battle for control. She saw Riara preparing an arrow.
'Solestri, my love.'
Otrere approached him sheathing her sword and lowering her own shield. She offered her hand to Solestri. He raised his hands and a fireball exploded beside the girl sending her spinning to the ground. Rolling, Otrere sprang to her feet, blinded by the light from the explosion, she listened for the knight. She heard the twang of Riara's bowstring, then he was running past her. As Solestri passed, he lashed out with his sword. Otrere blocked the weapon with her shield and swung her blade at the mage's legs connecting with air and allowing a fist to land a blow to her temple. For a second time, Otrere dropped to the ground, hoping that Solestri could fight down the demon before she was killed. The sizzle of lightning followed by a woman's scream told Otrere that brother had slain sister. Weaping she tried to rise only to have her feet knocked out from under her again.
'Stop following me lest I have to kill you!' commanded the mage-knight and he leapt through the portal.
Otrere stood and ran towards the portal as it closed, diving to enter the realm where her love had gone. But the portal closed and she landed roughly on the ground. For a while, she lay on the ground weeping in despair and pain. She had to follow him but Riara needed her help. Resting she cast a healing spell to ease the pain, she crawled to where the Huntress of Caramour lay. She noted the burns covering the body and the eyes staring blankly into space. Carefully she drew out a scroll of resurrection and read the words over the fallen rogue. In a blaze of light, Riara's body convulsed into motion and she sat up before the former Amazon.
'Where is he?' asked the woman.
'Through a portal to who knows where.'
'We must follow him.'
Nodding Otrere tried to remember the words she had heard the mage use.
'Aperio limen malam insomnium regnum!'
The portal reopened, weaker this time. Otrere didn't have Solestri's magic strength and the spell weakened her to the point of exhaustion again. Slowly the pair drug themselves to the portal and fell through.
Chapter 18 -- Through the Portal
'Signal Riara that we are in position and waiting for her move.'
The messenger scampered into the underbrush and Otrere returned her attention to the camp in front of her. She listened for sounds of her troop around her and was pleased to hear none. It had taken a few weeks, but now all of them understood the need for silence. Crys of alarm rose from the camp before her as wave upon wave of arrow descended upon the unsuspecting thieves. Men scattered and died as the rain continued. Some ran straight at Otrere's line and met silent death at the hands of the former Amazon's band.
The 'battle' lasted less than three minutes. Otrere and Riara met in the center of the camp to review the damage and free the hostages that had been taken.
'Solestri's not here.'
'I'm sure we'd know if he was in the camp before we even encirled it.' replied Otrere. 'I doubt he would have twice the number of guards outside his camp as these did. At least we have saved these people from dieing on his altar.'
Wincing Riara nodded. She hated what her brother had become and had a hard time accepting Otrere's insistance that they call the demon they hunted by her brother's name lest Diablo hear them. But she had listened to Adria's warning also and all agreed that it was best not to test the beast's powers.
'Let's see if these men have a map of the area with the new temple's location on it,' stated the Huntress of Caramar.
'Estel! Get these people some warm food and clean clothing and post guards! We'll camp here for the night,' shouted Otrere as she followed the Goth into the dead bandit leader's tent.
Upon entering this realm, Otrere had taken Riara to Tristram and located her mentor's incarnation. After convincing Adria that she wasn't seeing things, the pair proceeded to tell her what had happened on the other side. Otrere told her of the battle with Diablo in the catacombs beneath Tristram and the possession of Solestri by the demon after the battle. She told of the chase that had insued and meeting Riara and this pair's battle with the demon-mage outside Tristram. And of the portal that had led them here. Adria shook her head when she heard the entire tale.
'Why would he come here?' she asked, looking out the window. She knew that another incarnation of the beast lived beneath this town of Tristram as well, but to have another on the surface as well? 'Why?'
While her mentor was lost in thought, Otrere walked through the house, giving Riara a tour of the building. Uncannily, everything was in the exact same spot as the real world's house, there was just a cloud of doom hanging in the sky, like something was waiting for the right time to strike. After walking about the house, Otrere prepared dinner from the stores she found in the kitchen and the pair ate in silence. Occasionally they would hear Adria talking to herself and several times Otrere had to explain to a bedraggled customer that the shop was closed temporarily and to come back tomorrow.
Toward evening a familiar figure approached the house dragging her armor and weapons behind her. Otrere stared at the woman. She looked as if she had been beaten with several whips, or one whip for several hours. Looking closer, she realized who it was and called to Riara to help her bring the young woman into the house.
Helping the young woman to sit, Riara spoke,'Something tells me that if we went to Caramar, I'd be waiting at the door for us too.'
'Who are you? What's going on?' whispered the Nightmare Otrere.
'Hush, little one,' came a voice from the back of the room, and with a wave of her hand Adria sent the newcomer into a deep slumber. She moved across the room and closed the shutters and locked the door. Without speaking she motioned for Otrere and Riara to take the slumbering Amazon to the back room and set about placing candles and braziers about the room. When the pair returned, she motioned for them to be seated at the table. Lighting the candles, Adria began to chant and circle the table. As she passed the young women, she touched each lightly with the base of her staff. Soon the room began to fill with smoke, and Otrere tried desparately not to cough. With a loud cry, Adria slammed the base of her staff to the floor and the smoke coalesced into a hemisphere encasing the table and trio beneath a gray wall.
'No one should hear what I have to say,' whispered Adria 'and much of this is speculation, but...Diablo has come here for reason. He can't escape until he restores the soul gem to full potency.'
Otrere and Riara looked at each other. Solestri had the soul gem, or rather, the soul gem had Solestri. It already controlled him. It would get worse?
'When Lazarus broke the soul gem and unleashed Diablo upon Leoric, the energy released caused parallel universes to be created. Each closer to the pure evil of the gem than the next. But the wards on the Horadrim monastery outside Tristram prevented Diablo from leaving, probably due to his control over the body of the poor prince.'
'Your brother and Otrere attacked Diablo's incarnation and defeated him. Weakened the demon to the point that Solestri was able to seize the gem and place it in his own forehead. In his arrogance, Solestri thought he could contain the demon and in its weakness, the demon was mastered and dormant. The wards only noticed a powerful mage leaving the catacombs and did not stop him. Solestri was able to carry the demon out of the monastery and tried to go to the east, where the Horadrim came from, for help.'
'But man must rest, demons not so. Diablo took control of the knight-mage while he slept and gave him a new task. Free the demon completely. The only way this could happen is for the mage to retrieve the remaining shards of the gem and place them in his body. Only when the three are one can Diablo truly escape the bonds of the monastery and resume his war with the forces of heaven.'
'This is not an easy task though. Solestri must gain enough power here to rival the incarnation of Diablo that infests this monastery. You must find him before he enters the church and defeats the demon. If that happens, he will move on to the next realm and try to gain the last gem.'
Riara hit the table with her fist and rose to pace within the dome. Otrere shook her head in frustration. Not only had the mage defeated them in the real world, now he would be getting stronger and they would have to face him again. The ex-Amazon wasn't sure that they would succeed.
'How will we find him?' asked Otrere.
'We can use my gem.' answered Riara, holding her amulet in her hand she closed her eyes.
Screaming, she dropped the gem and clawed at her face. Otrere dove for the rogue as Adria cast a stoning spell. Otrere clung to the statue of Riara until the spell dissipated and held her arms to her side. Meanwhile, Adria kicked the amulet into a sack and tied it shut. She placed the bag in the middle of the table and sat across from the pair and waited. Almost immediately, Riara struggled with Otrere trying to harm herself and any in the room. Adria cast a sleep spell at the tortured rogue and tossed a length of rope to Otrere, so Riara would not harm anyone when she awoke.
When the Huntress of Caramar had been secured, Otrere returned to her seat and stared at Adria.
'What can you tell me of this gem?' asked the angel.
'Only that members of Riara and Solestri's family are attuned to it somehow, and Riara is able to locate her brothers by use of it.'
Adria winced,' and now Diablo is attuned to it. I think, I'll keep it for a while. Brothers? Do you know how many gems there are?'
'No, but I would guess that each family member has one. Solestri mentioned his family and that he had a brother, Drasca and Riara who is here. Do you think she is still in danger?
'Not from the gem she carries, but if Solestri-Diablo should decide to contact her through his gem, she could be in great danger. She will not be in control of the connection and the demon may destroy her without touching her.'
'Can you do anything for her?', asked Otrere, feeling responsible for the Huntress' condition.
'I can let her sleep until the demon is destroyed. Or I could try to de-tune the gem. It will be dangerous and we would all be in danger until I finished. Even if I'm successful, she may still be contacted by the other gems, but at least she won't be able to bring ruin upon herself with her gem. You should start hunting for Solestri now. I will send Riara to you when she is freed of the demons control.'
'Where should I look?'
'I don't think he will try to assault the temple. The Dark One is free on the surface and will need to gather strength before he attempts to defeat his incarnation in this realm. Start with hunting down the bandit bands that have moved into the area. Most likely, Solestri will take control of one of these, then use it to consolidate his strength before moving to take the gem from the demon beneath the temple.'
Adria drew a pattern against the hemisphere and an opening appeared. Otrere strode to the exit when Adria touched her arm and kissed her cheek, 'Go child, let the light guide you.' Otrere smiled at her mentor and hugged her. 'I'm glad you are here,' she whispered, a tear falling down her cheek.
'I am where you are,' replied the fallen angel, pushing the ex-Amazon from the hemisphere and closing the entryway.
Otrere gathered her things and looked in at the young Amazon slumbering in the back room. Smiling she approached the girl's closet and looked at the arsenal that her nighmare incarnation had collected. A few bows, a beaten sword, a shield with a crack in it. Shaking her head, 'Griswold has his work cut out for him here.' Otrere took her Amulet of Heavens and laid it on the girl's nightstand and left the room.
Crossing the bridge to the pasture, Otrere stashed much of her equipment in an old tree, smiling, it was the same tree she had used for years in the other realm. Gazing about her, she noticed that much of the landscape was the same as the other world, there was just a weight in the air, dragging her mood. She entered town and waved to Griswold as she entered the Tavern of the Rising Sun.
'Damn,' hissed the ex-Amazon. 'Again, a band of fools who merely wait for their master to appear and collect his tribute. Trusting and stupid men!'
'I just got a bad idea,' answered Riara.
'Oh, worse than chasing shadows?'
|Charis Griselda KingOfPain|