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Before long, the pristine fields of Arvandor are stained black with poisonous black blood as Aramil makes quick work of the Medusa and War Devils. Soon their corpses also begin fading away (though unlike Baftis, their skeletons also desolve). Zorella, wing stumps bleeding and leg most likely broken from her brief stint as an infernal rope in a game of tug of war, is secured without issue.
Before too long, Robert returns followed shortly by a pair of centaurs and a group of nearly a dozen ruesti, the exalted souls of eladrin and elves. One of the ruesti, you'd guess that he was once an elf, steps forward and looks at the remains of the devils that have stained the pool. "Devils in the heart of Arvandor? Did the Glorious Hunt begin and no one told us?" He laughs, and extends a hand "My name is Ramyallil. Wherever you came from, I hope you do not have to go back there soon." He takes a moment to look at your clothes, covered with blood and scorch markes from the arena, and reeking of the refuse that filled Baalzebul's barge. "May I ask what brings you to the Verdant Isles? Bob was unable to provide any details, just that a sidhe noble was in desperate need of aid." His eyes dart between Aramil and Eltain.
Eltain steps forward, for the moment supressing his awe at being in Arvandor. "I am Eltain Sharma, a paladin and high priest in service to Corellon, and these are my associates, Aramil Printempest, Pavick Roslow, Zyrr, Shep, Lucan and Asheroth. We've just escaped from the clutches of Baalzebul in the heart of a giant armada in the astral sea."
There's a long pause as the ruesti thinks of how to properly reply, but his curiosity gets the best of him. "I don't mean to pry, but what were you doing there? That sounds like the kind of place you'd want to avoid."
"We didn't know it was there. Nobody does yet, as far as we know. We went there to try to rescue several people the devils had kidnapped after Pavick traced the destination of the portal they'd used, though we were unfortunately unsuccessful."
Pavick watches Lucan examine the familiar, a look of growing concern on his face. He also looks over the snake, trying to figure out exactly what's going on.
Here's a few rolls in case they reveal anything. Arcana - (1d20+28)Nature - (1d20+18) Let me know if there is another skill that would be more appropriate.
Glancing up, Pavick sees the centaurs and ruesti arrive. He rushes over to one of the ones near the edge of the group. "Please, can one of you help me? My little Slicky-slick has fallen sick! That mean devil woman hurt him and I'm not sure what to do for him."
As Pavick calls out, one of the centaurs trots up to take a look at Slick. As the centaur gingerly looks the snake over, Pavick is able to mumble a quick incantation. Whatever is pumping through Slick's veins is most assuredly not a natural poison, and Pavick is able to detect the magical threads usually tied to powerful curses, though this is unlike anything Pavick has seen. The centaur pauses, and trots over to the unconscious Zorella and begins examining her carefully from head to toe. When he gets to her hands, his eyes widen, and he motions Pavick over. "Here." The centaur points to Zorella's second finger where to small pinpricks the size of Slick's fangs are still faintly visible. "This is unknown to me. I've heard of some vile wizards using the blood of demons for cursing their enemies, but never devils. I'm not certain what she did, but I think your snake ingested some of her blood."
As Pavick and the centaur check over Slick, one of the other ruesti steps forward. This one is an eladrin with sky-blue hair who studies Eltain carefully. "I remember you...you were there when I died, trying to save us after the Summer Fey attacked. You didn't get to me in time..." He trails off, and his eyes briefly glaze over as if he were remembering something that happened long ago, but after a moment his focus snaps back to Eltain. "You should go to Nath Seldarie, and speak to Corellon... He turns, and points to a giant green hill that rises in the distance. A thick mist surrounds the hill halfway up, and on top there's a shining light that you had thought to be a star, but as you stare you can vaguely make out tall colonnades and spires.
Eltain stares at the Eladrin, sad recognition filling his eyes as a memory from the last year comes to mind.
"I remember you as well," he says sadly, "I'm sorry I wasn't in time, but I'm glad your soul was able to find its way home." He gives the dead Eladrin a sad smile. "I can't imagine why Corellon would want to speak with me, but I can't deny that I long to see Nath Seldarie." He clasps the Eladrin's arm warmly as he looks about in wonder at the realm of his god.
"I never got to find out your name. May I ask for it now?"
While Eltain and the departed soul talk, Ash falls to his knees and retches. The combined strain of the arena events, the dinner with Baalzebul and Baalzebul's curse finally catching up to him. The tiefling coughs and rolls onto his back. The bright lights of Arvandor streaming through the trees make Ash blink. He closes his eyes for a moment to rest.
The world could be so much simpler. Black and white. Why did everything have to be gray? Gray like ash. "Never again," he whispers. "I'm sorry, father. I should have listened to you. Now I'll never see you again. My soul is lost. Damned forever."
A tear rolls down his cheek and drops to the grassy turf. Then another. And another. Soon the tiefling is curled up on his side sobbing with the weight of his choices. The emotions come and Ash is powerless to stop them.
As the Eladrin tells him his name, Eltain hears Asheroth break down. He excuses himself and rushes to the Tiefling's side, laying a hand comfortingly on his shoulder.
"Nothing is ever truly lost or truly hopeless until all who might work to fix it have given up. I'm proud of you, you know. Your words back there were brave and inspiring. Not the words of someone who has given up or is damned beyond hope. Don't give up on yourself, Asheroth, and I won't give up on you either."
Pavick mutters a curse upon Zorella. He gestures over to where Zorella is held captive. "She has her a foot on both sides of the tracks, so it doesn't surprise me that she knows the tricks of demons too. Thank you so much for your knowledge."
Pavick gently strokes Slick as he speaks, trying to calm and comfort him. "Is there someone around here who could help? There must be someone knowledgeable in the healing arts here someone that would know enough to help. I can't stand the notion of relying on that wretched woman to undo what she has done."
The winter eladrin ruesti raises a semi-spectral hand in salute to Eltain. "My name was Nilquantus in life, acolyte of Sehanine." He gives a long pause. "I know this won't help, but I am sorry for what the Prince of Frost has done. He wasn't always this bad. But once he grew close to the Bramble Queen, I fear their hate fed upon each other's." He stops to look at Aramil "What they did to do to your father is inexcusable for any Fey to do to another."
Ramyallil looks slightly uncomfortable, and turns his attention back to Pavick. "The houses of the Seladrine are home to some of the greatest healers who have ever lived. We can find someone to take care of your snake." He motions back towards the city on the hill. "Come, we should get moving. These woods are not a safe place to dally."
As he starts walking, the centaur who had aided Pavick raises a hand. "Hold. What should we do with this creature?" He kicks Zorella with one of his hooves, and the succubus gives a low groan. "We can't bring this sort of filth into Nath Seldarie?
"I say we end her here. Though my sentiment may stem from my hatred of everything she stands for. I have not had as much interaction with her as the others have. Leave her fate to them. You know where I stand."
Ash rolls himself to his feet and stands brushing off the leaves and grass from his body. He strides over to the broken succubus and leers at her with his coal-dead eyes. "Is there something worse than death?"
Eltain nods to Nilquantus. "You've nothing to be sorry for." He sighs. "Perhaps if we could neutralize her threat we could break through to him more easily. Gods know we need allies, not enemies, though I fear my companions are unwilling to try..." He gives the eladrin a rueful smile. "But I've sworn to bring peace to the Winter Lands. I intend to keep that promise. And perhaps knowing that I can work to end the war with a little less bloodshed..." He turns to the others as mention of Zorella's fate comes up.
"Would you truly visit that upon her?" Eltain asks. "A great many things are worse than death, and the enactment of them would make us no better than Zorella and her kind. Are we to become torturers and rapists simply because we dislike someone?" He shakes his head. "As I said, leave her to me." He grabs the tied-up succubus and takes her off into the woods. "I'll be quick about it."
"Save stripping her of what soul she has left, I do not know a worse fate. And I do not possess the power to divest someone of their soul, though that skill might help me free my own. Do what you must."
Ash turns and strides away from the crippled, soon-to-be corpse.
"I make it; you buy it."
Last edited by Orsik Vondal : 10-27-2012 at 06:59 PM.
"Eltain, she is a creature whose sole purpose is to pervert pleasures. I suspect that her twisted mind would make such a fate preferable to death for her. Rather, I think that being used as living proof against her masters' will is a more fitting punishment, and more useful to us for the time being."
He turns to the centaur. "Although my companions my have strong feelings otherwise, unless the skull of the infernal sorceress there can be used as such, the succubus is our only proof of the devils sending a massive armada through the Astral Sea to conquer the abyss."
One of the ruesti walks over to the fallen skull that Aramil mentioned and picks it up, only for the skull to start glowing faintly. He quickly drops it and backs away. "Er...what did you say that was?"
"Yes, because she'll absolutely be willing to talk and her masters are absolutely going to care that she's alive. How much trouble has this foul monster caused? If we merely leave her alive as you suggest, she'll have escaped within a day. She needs to be dealt with permanently."
Pavick moves over to the water as people continue to discuss what to do with Zorella. He dips the sleeve of his robe in the water, then uses the wet fabric to dab at Slick's forehead, trying to mimic what his mother had done to comfort him when he was sick as a child.
"I've already said my feelings on the matter. The fiend deserves nothing more than a quick brutal death. She has proven herself slippery enough in the past that I don't see a reason to give her even an inch of rope. Whatever we do, let's get it done quickly so that we can get Slick to a healer."
He holds Slick up next to his face and whispers assurances to him. "You just hold on, we'll be there soon. That's a brave little serpent."
As he turns to dip his robe's sleeve in the water again, he notices the ruesti holding up the skull. "That's what is left of Baftis. She tried to prevent our escape from the Devil fleet by taking hold of the portal from me. It was a great battle of wills, but I managed to wrestle control back from her. She lost her head when I closed the portal." He dabs at Slick with the damp robes again and moves over toward her. "Let me take a quick look at that as we walk. We really should get going for Slick's sake."
Arcana - (1d20+28) to try to figure out what's up with the skull.
Lucan doesn't have the stomach for it himself, but he admits killing Zorella may be the best thing to do. He doesn't say anything to dissuade Eltain from his course. In the meanwhile, he straightens his clothes, and tries to hide the bloodstains. It's not everyday that one meets a god, and he wants to look his best under the circumstances.
As Pavick examines the skull, he finds it does indeed have some potent magical properties.
Skull of Baftis, enchantress of Hell
Implement (Orb) - Crystaline
+4 lvl 20
Enhancement: Attack and damage rolls
Critical: +1d6 necrotic and psychic damage
per plus Power (Action Point * Necrotic, Psychic):
Minor Action. You and one living creature you can see die (save ends). The first creature to make its saving throw deals necrotic and psychic damage to the other equal to twice the your level. Power (Daily):
Standard Action. Choose one creature you can see maintaining a zone or an effect. Spend a healing surge (you do not regain hitpoints), and make an opposed arcana check against the creature. If you succeed, you gain control over the zone or effect as if you had cast it. Sustain (minor action) Spend a healing surge (you do not regain hitpoints) and make an opposed arcana check to maintain control over the zone or effect. Power Daily (Free Action)"
Use this power when an attack with this orb misses its target. The target is affected by any conditions or effects of the attack as if the attack had hit, but gains a +4 bonus to saving throws to end any of these conditions or effects.
Zyrr looks down at the succubus, part of him glad that the sacrilege of her entering Corellon's city far overshadows the sacrilege of him entering Corellon's city.
"If it's proof they want of this collaboration, we've got several eyewitness accounts. And two former slaves that have been amongst this armada for who knows how long. As much as I hate to rid the world of somebody more interesting, I say the wisest course is to slit her throat and burn the body."
"As for the how, we've seen the charming power shared by Zorella and her sister many times over. I'd be most comfortable slipping a blade beneath the base of her skull while she's still down but if you want to give her a farewell you'll need no less than two other executioners. One to kill her once she's charmed you and the other to hold you back from trying to save her. And I'm fairly certain she can charm only one person at a time or she would've just dominated both Eltain and me when we were by ourselves. I volunteer myself, and recommend Ash if killing her is what you absolutely want to do."
Avatar gladly adopted from Ink!
Eltain nods and a few moments later he, Zyrr and Asheroth stand in a clearing with the tied-up, unconscious Zorella. Eltain stares at her for a few moments, pity on his face, before pinning her in place and waking her with a quick thrust from his sword.
"You could have been so much more, Zorella. You possess, even now, so much external beauty; but inside there's nothing but ugliness. If only you had turned your talents to doing good, instead of seeking to destroy..." He crouches by her, a dagger in his hand. "I pity you, Zorella. And I forgive you. But that doesn't change what you've done."
Zorella's eyes flutter open, and they immediately go to the dagger at her throat, then dart to the three faces staring down at her before her gaze goes back to Eltain. "Please, I can change. Just give me a chance..."
"Why should we believe that, Zorella?" The Shepherd spoke the first words he had spoken on the other edge of the portal, despite the gloom on his face and the clouds over his head. He laid a hand on Eltain's shoulder, silently asking him to hold for just a moment.
"You've given us no reason to believe the words you speak." He tilted his head, a stony bird.
"But..." He paused. "I am not above mercy. And my friends are not either. However, give me a reason to give it to you."
Last edited by Haberdashery : 10-29-2012 at 09:30 PM.
"Please, I can change. Just give me a chance..." Ash knew this was a trick. Wasn't it? Only moments before she was trying to lure him across the threshold of the portal. Back into death's awaiting maw. You can't change. You are what you are. Ash's eyes light upon Zorella with sad eyes then continue to the ground. His voice has no anger in it. It is barely louder than a whisper.
"Wha...?" Ash shakes his head to clear it. "I...well...I don't know. Perhaps. My soul seems bound for the Hells, but I don't consider myself a part of them. Perhaps it is my destiny, Shepherd. The Hells. I would think that if I am doomed the reside in the Hells for all eternity, that I would destroy as many fiends as I could before they ripped my soul apart. I don't think I have changed from my true nature, though. What I was before Mephistopheles."
Ash crosses his arms and wipes his face with one hand. He stops with his hand over his mouth and begins to look around the grove not really concentrating on anything. "Shepherd, you have given me a thought. If the true nature of a being is something inviolable...then somewhere within every infernal creature...is the angel they once were, right?"
He wheels back to Zorella and crouches down. "What is your True Name? The name you had as an angel of Baator? Before Asmodeus fell. Before the Dawn War. This is the price of my mercy. No lies. No tricks. Just the truth."
Eltain curses as Shep shows up and Asheroth proves entirely too receptive to his words; the entire point of taking Zorella off into the woods was to avoid anything exactly like what was going on. With a swift motion he drives the dagger into her throat and twists before she can speak or anyone react, speaking to his companions and the succubus as she dies.
"No. There won't be any bargains. Change? I wish I could believe that. Sure, anyone can change. I don't believe the true nature of a person is unchangeable. But you've had plenty of chances in the past to change, Zorella. Every day of your life you could have changed. But you didn't. We're creatures of habit, you and I. I too chose the life I live. But I chose to fight against the evil you represent, while you chose to embrace it. May you find in death the beauty you missed in life. Requiescat in pace." He closes the succubus' eyes once she passes, then looks at the others.
"I don't trust her even in death. We need to burn the body." He pauses and looks at Asheroth.
"Anyone can change. Anyone can be any kind of person they want. But there's a limit even to mercy, and creatures like her have had plenty of time in which to change their path."
Ash's mouth hangs open for a second before he moves again. His hands poised to receive Zorella's former name. The moment had ended so abruptly. Without raising his eyes from Zorella Ash speaks, "And if we find ourselves in a like situation with the Prince of Frost? What then, Eltain? Has he not had the same opportunities to correct his ways? Would you not plead for mercy?"
The tiefling rises from the ground eyes still on Zorella. "She was probably lying. To save her own life. But now we will never know, will we? They once were angels. Warriors in the service of a good god. Led astray by Asmodeus. And I believe they can be that again."
Ash kneels back down and whispers to the body of Zorella, "I will find a way to redeem you. To save you." He places a hand on the back of Zorella's body and flames slowly begin to consume her spreading from Ash's palm. It takes some time, but the corpse finally crumbles to ashes. Asheroth clenches his fist and puts some of Zorella's ashes into a belt pouch. "To remember that we can all change."