Chapter 53 - Sin, Suffering, Scheming & Soul Searching

Opening Scene

Descending deeper into the mithal, the odd weather and harsh terrain mirror the turbulent emotions of the characters. In the center of a pool of lava there is a beveled rune-carved stone. There is a powerful aura of necromancy emanating from the stone that makes each of the characters uneasy. Fizbin, however, is filled with curiosity and the urge to know it and understand it, almost as if it is calling to him. Arthus sees the paths of his companions unravelling in chaos and he is overwhelmed and is driven back by blinding light that explodes behind his eyes. Fizbin approaches the stone despite his friends’ protests and in a flash finds himself sitting at a table with the Intellect and the Heart. They beg Fizbin to let them be together and he agrees with the condition that he controls when Fizbin reclaims his body.

Fizbin collapses but quickly rises and turns to look at the group. They are shocked to see that Fizbin is gone and Sirilius is in his place and a flesh golem stands watch over him. Alisaar roars as his claws dig into the volcanic earth and his wings explode out as he prepares to spring. The golem roars a haunting challenge in response.

The golem steps in front of Sirilius as Alisaar sails forward in a rage at seeing the desecrated remains of Sirilius’ companions. Alisaar and the golem trade thundering blows, leaving Alisaar bloodied and battered. William’s sunblade bursts into radiant light to combat the golem’s breath weapon, an inky cold necromancy, as it begins drawing in the party’s life force as it issues forth. Sirilius begins screaming in both a child’s voice and an adult’s voice as his consciousness struggles to endure the flood of information, memories, and emotions of the past 2500 years forcing their way into his mind. Fizbin can stop it by exerting control again, but knows it would destroy everything he has worked for and decides not to. Fizbin pleads with the two entities in his mind to order the golem to stand down “You’re doing it again! We are the five and you’re doing it again!

Sirilius lurches forward on his knees and shouts “Drake no!” With that the golem recognizes the command and stops instantly.

The party stands tensely, William puts his hand on Alisaar’s chest to keep the bloody warrior from advancing as Sirilius stands before them, slumped shoulders, thin even for an elf, with a simple, sturdy and well-travelled white robe. Shoulder length hair drapes over piercing black eyes. He looks puzzled and uncertain, as if he had just been pulled away from something else. He scans the party quickly trying to understand his new surroundings, when his eyes fall on the golem. His eyes fix on the what were clearly the eyes of his two friends. His confusion slowly turns to horror as the truth dawns on him. He looks back and forth to the party and the golem and they can see the questions he is asking himself through his expression. His mind races to come to terms with what he sees, but he cannot escape the desperate sadness of the truth he knows in his heart. He moves slowly and places his hand tentatively over the golem’s head and says in a cracking voice, “Did I do this?” The golem stares forward and Sirilius falls to his knees weeping. He begs forgiveness for what he realizes was done by his hands, unable to even grieve the loss of his friends. Sirilius screams in agony and horror as his mind reels from the realization of what he has done. He cries out “What did I do? What did I do?!?!”

In the outpouring of emotion from the wizard, the area is charged with magical energies. Arthus’ vision blurs and he can see the dark weaves pouring into the golem allowing it to animate, as well as the paths of its constituents and their termination here. Arthus’ mind is then consumed with the echo of his predecessor’s battle with Jennesta…

Sirilius, battered and broken barely able to stand against a shattered wall, his vision blurred by pain, shock, and despair. Khalid, the devil-kin, lay dying by his feet,
his mid-section opened by razor sharp naga claws. Drake’s wounds are so grievous it is beyond belief that he is still breathing, let alone advancing through the naga
hordes toward the Witch Queen. Sir Ilan’s cries of pain and prayer ring out in the distance as explosions of light struggle to overcome the darkness of the naga
swarm around him. Though the companions were surrounded and overrun, somehow any time a naga was poised to strike a mortal blow, an unseen guardian struck
from the shadows to turn the attack. August seemed to always be in position to protect his brothers’ blindspots.

The Dragonborn wades through a group of naga guardians, hacking through them with a power that he should no longer be able to conjure, and leaps with a mighty
roar that shakes the cavern, hurling his ancient spear at the witch goddess in a last desperate attempt at victory. At the last moment she moves ever so slightly, but
enough to turn a mortal blow to a meaningless scratch across her cheek. She levels her staff as the Dragonborn lands and a lance of power pierces through the
mighty warrior’s very soul. Black energy begins to consume him from within as his life force is drawn by the Witch Queen. She turns and smiles at the chosen of
Pelor and as she makes a crushing gesture with her hand and his body seizes and begins to convulse. Khalid manages to force himself to one knee and begins firing
arrows with impossible speed. Jennesta simply laughed as more power flowed into her. The arrows simply disintegrated in mid-flight from the incredible energy
swirling around her.

Sirilus realized in that moment that the only way to defeat Jennesta was with the combined power of all of the companions, and his heart broke. In order to keep
Jennesta from consuming the life force of his friends, and somehow to find victory, he would have to draw on the most forbidden of dark magic. Lore he was well
versed in, but would never dare utilize. Not until faced with this unthinkable situation. Surilius drew in every ounce of his will, every last shred of love and hate, his
utter terror and the boundless sorrow for what he was about to do and fought Jennesta’s hold on his companions. He drew in the essence of each of his
companions, tears flowing down his cheeks. Drake clawed his way forward toward the witch even as the light was extinguished from his eyes. Sirilius’ power surged
and he knew victory was assured.

Nagas continued to flood the cavern as Jennesta’s eyes widened and Khalid unleashed a furious volley of arrows to keep them from disturbing the arch-mage,
fighting them in hand-to-hand when he had to. Sir Ilan shouted an oath a charged into wave of naga warriors as Sirilius’ will focused on him. The consecrated
knight of Pelor thrust his holy blade skyward and called forth the wrath of heaven itself for what he knew was the last time. Blinding light surrounded him as the
scores of nagas were incinerated. The light flickered, faded, and then was gone, and the darkness swallowed Sir Ilan even as his voice still resonated through the
cavern. Sirilius stood tall and was healed and whole.

Jennesta screamed and turned her gaze to Khalid who continued to fire into the nagas as Sirilius and Jennesta tore his very essence from him. He snarled and cried
out in defiance as charging nagas fell short of their intended victim, and as he fell to the ground Sirilius’ mouth stretched in a predatory smile and a hunter’s eyes
narrowed on their prey.

Doubt crept across the face of the Witch Queen and she snarled a curse as she swept her hands wide across the cavern and the nagas simply dropped in place as
she reclaimed their life force.

August was barely standing amidst a pile of naga corpses, his chest heaving as he struggle for breath. He held a broken blade in his off-hand, his other arm hung
uselessly. He looked back at Sirilius through his one remaining eye, nodded to his friend with a crooked smile, and started to laugh. Sirilius cried aloud as he
consumed the life force of his final companion. As August’s body slumped silently on top of a mound of extinguished nagas, Sirilius’ cries turned to laughter, and he
gave Jennesta the finger.

Surilius thrust his staff forward and focused a lance of power born of the essence of heroes and unleashes an impossible shock of power that destroys Jennesta’s
form…

Arthus’ vision fades back to the present and tears fill his eyes as Sirilius sobs and pulls himself up on his staff, walks over to the golem and places his hand over its heart. He whispers “your job is finally done my brave friends.” His hand sinks into the golems chest and Sirilius withdraws a large soulgem. The gem and the golem begin to crumble to dust until all that remains is a splinter of the gemstone’s core. Fizbin understands at once that this will lead them to the elder Sirilius.

As the golem disintegrates Sirilius is looking at Arthus who was positioned to attack the golem from behind, but could not strike. He sees the expression on Arthus’ face as he realizes just who and what is standing before him. Sirilius quickly seeks Fizbin’s guidance and then holds out his hands and says through tears “I apologize, I should know your names, but I do not, I am Sirilius, and I believe you are the chosen five of this era.”

From behind Sirilius, Alisaar and William tensed and a rumble filled the air. Sirilius turned to face them as Arthus caught the feint sound of a bow string straining and said sharply over his shoulder “This is not the thing that tortured you!”

Alec hesitated for a moment as Sirilius cried “Please hear me out! Fizbin’s consciousness is still alive within me! He has asked for my help and time grows short. If you are truly the chosen five and you embody the same virtues as your predecessors then I believe we have much to talk about. Otherwise… do as you must.”

Arthus, again speaking over his shoulder, asks “Will you hear him out?” He can see the wheels turning in Alec’s mind and the tension in the air noticeably diminishes as Alec’s hatred melts to something far more sinister. “Of course…” Alec answered with a rapacious smile. “Good.” Arthus replied trying to resist the color draining from his face as he silently sheathed his weapons.

Sirilius lets go of his staff and it remained standing on its own power. He holds out his hands as he addresses William and Alisaar. “You know from Fizbin that I am not truly disarmed, but I lay down my staff to show that I mean you no harm.” Before either of them could respond, Alec replies “Swear it then, on your power.” Arthus turned to Alec with a questioning look but then just shook his head. Sirilius replied “Very well, I swear on my power that I mean you no harm, and so long as you do not seek to harm me I will do the same.”

William, evidently satisfied, sheathed his sword and stepped forward to introduce himself. Alisaar let out a disgusted breath and gouged a small trench in the ground as he sharply withdrew his halberd.

The party settled into an uneasy parlay…

Sirilius looks quizzically at Alisaar, not sure what to make of his wings. “You appear Dragonborn but there is something different about you…”

Alisaar’s eyes narrowed as he exhaled hard through his nose. He tried to remind himself that Fizbin was still alive within the wizard’s body. “I am Bonded.” He responded tersely.

“Interesting…” Sirilius said thoughtfully. “Drake had mentioned the bond a few times, but more as legend or folklore. There haven’t been any dragon’s here in centuries.”

“There are now.” Alisaar stated as politely as he could manage.

Because of Fizbins influence, Sirilius knows enough not to try to explain what the golem was or why it was necessary since Fizbin is able to explain how evil the golem would be to a Dragonborn.

Sirilius turned to face Arthus and for a moment looks past the Seeker to the shadows behind him. Arthus studies the mage as Sirilius asks “You must be the seeker of truths?” Arthus smirked and inclined his head in an affirmative gesture.

“I admit I was expecting to meet a very different Surilius.” He responded.

“You may still.” Came the wizard’s reply.

“Are you supposed to be coming with us?” Arthus asked.

“That depends on what it is you intend to do.” The mage replied.

“We intend to finish what many others have tried to do. You had more success than any who came before or after you, but at quite a cost.” Arthus stated with compassion in his voice as the fate of Sirilius’ friends was still fresh in his mind, and he silently wondered what the end result of his friends’ battle will be.

Sirilius nodded and spoke softly “Defeating Jennesta is not the ultimate goal. She will endure as long as the fate of this world is left in question. It was a decision we struggled with, but we never had the chance to make it one way or the other. The window is only open once every 2500 years, are you prepared to make the ultimate decision?”

“I’ve always had good timing!” Arthus quipped, snapping back to the present.

Sirilius smiled thinking of his friend Khalid.

“We have one important step left to take…” Arthus prompted.

“What step is that?” Surilius asked.

“We need to find you.” Arthus responded matter of factly.

“Then it’s a good thing I have the key to doing just that.” Sirilius said holding the shard of soulgem. “Understand, I can find him, but I do not know where this road will lead, or have any control over the one you have known as Sirilius, but I will aid you as best I can.”

“We should leave here as soon as possible, there is no way you have avoided attracting attention.” Sirilius says as he glances at William. “But I am told that one of your companions may not accept my assistance…” Fizbin informs Sirilius of the capture and torture of Alec at the hands of the Elder Sirilius and Lady Fierna and that there have been consequences for his release.

Arthus says “When this is all over, there may be some difficult questions to answer.”

“I know” Sirilius replied. “Still, we should not delay.”

“Well, I hope you know the way out of here.” Arthus said.

“There are two ways actually. We can find an exit from the mithal and travel over land, or there is a gate that this gem will open which will lead us to the Underdark… How much longer until the Spire’s alignment?” He asked the group.

Arthus looked at William and they both shrugged at each other. “It is impossible to tell, time has no meaning here. However, when we entered the mithal we had three months. For all we know, we may already be too late”

Sirilius considered the timeframe and said “Has the mithal fluttered or faded since you have been inside?” he asked.

“No.” Arthus replied.

“Then there is still time. As the alignments get closer and closer the aelids will begin behaving erratically and the mithal will vanish for short periods as they send power to the Spire. Once they are completely aligned, the mithal will collapse.” He continued. “So, we have the overland path that will take longer, or the gate which will be heavily defended. Or we can simply wait until the mithal fades and teleport, but that may take an hour or a decade.”

The party considered their options and agreed that this was no time to be sheepish.

“We will take the gate.” William said confidently.

“Very well,” Sirilius said with a nod “This is your quest, I am only here to help.”

Stepping from the shadows Alec said sharply “If this is our quest why do we need you? Why isn’t Fizbin here?”

Sirilius turned to see Alec standing with his obsidian bow in hand, lean and menacing, but somehow beautiful.

Confused he looked around at the others. “How? How can this be? You are… the soul? I don’t understand how this could be… How unfortunate.” Sirilius said with genuine sorrow in his words.

“I am here because I have unfinished business.” He replied looking at Alec.

“Don’t we all.” The fiend snarled pointedly as he turned and stalked across the lava field.

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Chapter 52 - Choices

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last edited by CaptainMonstrousCaptainMonstrous


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