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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Demons & Ghosts

Drawing by sandara.deviantart.com

The gang watched from their places of concealment as a small scouting party was the first to exit the shifting iridescent portal.  They could see sparks of wild magic spark once in awhile evidence to the wizard on the other side. The scouts spread out before giving the signal for the rest of the party to exit. The sound of weapons scraping against leather preceded the appearance of the elite of Amerak’s guard. A wheeled cage came after the men exited followed by the creator of the portal. Signs of weariness showed on Amerak’s face as he allowed the portal to close.

The guards began ranging out, with a few staying to protect their master. It wasn’t long before they discovered the hiding places of the gang. The sounds of battle began to echo in the shadow of the fortress walls.

Dominic had yet to be discovered as he had climbed to a high vantage point from which to shoot his arrows. He found his spot and turned to watch his family fighting against the mercenaries which made up Amerak’s personal guard. Bo and Azereus stood back to back in the age-old stance of brother knights. Dominic marveled at the way they worked in perfect harmony, honed from years of fighting together. Neko was protecting CeCe as she used her gift to drain the fighters around her. Dominic could see the faintest blue aura coming from his friend. He watched as Neko moved in a dance of death for all who came against him.

He notched an arrow to his bow praying to the goddess to guide his aim. He drew back the arrow just as one of the guards snuck up behind Bumbles. The slightest twang sounded as he released the arrow, sending it straight into his enemy’s heart. Bumbles turned quickly to watch the guard fall from the arrow that still quivered from striking him in the back. He looked up and gave a salute to Dominic before lifting his battle ax to smash it into the skull of his opponent. He took a moment to use his foot against the chest of his victim to work lose the ax which had embedded itself into the guard’s cranium. He brought it up just in time to swing it at an oncoming foe. He smiled at the satisfying sounds of crunching bone as the ax caught the guard beneath his chin, snapping his head back.

Dominic searched for Donny in the melee. Where was he? Hadn’t he just been standing at the great doors that opened into the castle? Had he gone inside or was he somewhere out of Dom’s eyesight? “Dammit! Where are you twin?” He whispered as he started to climb from his vantage point.

Amerak stood in wait for his energy to return, it always took so much for him to open portals large enough for his men to go through. He seriously was beginning to consider finding an apprentice. Let him be the one weak as a kit. He studied the fighters taking note that the little thief’s band had joined with the guardians. Fools! They had joined the wrong side. He tried to send a bolt of energy towards the tall black and white-furred male thief closest to him. He frowned when it fizzled without ever taking form. Why was his energy not recovering?

CeCe followed some instinct that told her where she needed to direct her absorption power. She was not surprised when she felt a surge of magic and spied Amerak trying to use his power. She began to siphon his energy, the wildness of his power almost choked her. She tasted his madness as if it were the finest wine. As her own power grew, she began to direct the siphoning at more of his soldiers. She took joy in the feeling of watching as their bodies grew lethargic from her drawing from them.

She didn’t notice that Neko was fighting in concert with her power. Each soldier she drew from became his latest target. Soon they began to have a ring of broken bodies circling around where they stood. Neko was now in full Pantheri battle mode. The blue nimbus pulsing as an attached shadow to him. He didn’t notice as Dominic climbed down from a close outbuilding. Dominic, on the other hand, stopped once he hit the ground and stood with his mouth agape watching the two working in concert.

Donny stood in the shadow of the castle wall. He was paralyzed by the paroxysm of pain caused by the voice in his head. It had begun ranting as soon as Amerak had strolled from his portal. He reached up to rub at the pain that had started pulsing right between his eyes. He felt nauseous. How the hell did the voice in his brain expect him to do anything when even the slightest movement made him feel like he was going to pass out.

While Donny tried to control the weakness, he felt. He slumped to the ground putting his hands over his ears like that would make the voice stop. “Not now, old one. I need to help my family. Guide me in what I should do. Don’t go crazy where I can understand anything you say.” Donny removed his hands from his ears as if that would be the indication to his uninvited guest to shut the hell up. Within seconds he had put his hands back. He didn’t notice though, that the old mage’s voice was calming down.

Amerak finally had taken notice of how his guards were dwindling in numbers. The thieves had joined with the guardians and as a group, they stood strong against his remaining soldiers. He saw something blue and had to reach up and rub his eyes because he couldn’t believe what he was looking at. He had killed the last of the Pantheri. First, he had killed the Pantheri King with his own hands. He still remembered the satisfaction he felt as his sword had penetrated the King’s heart. Later when the infant son had appeared at the Mithralian court he had made sure he had joined the Mithralian royal family in their fiery death. And yet he knew what he was seeing was the Pantheri battle glow. And only those of royal blood produced the glow.

Amerak studied the Pantheri noting the similarities to the King. How did the infant survive the blaze? He let his gaze sweep the group and cursed under his breath when he discovered how the prince had lived. Standing with the shield that if he remembered correctly was, in fact, the Guardian’s Shield was his cousin, Azereus. Amerak stopped breathing when his gaze caught sight of her. “No, no. It can’t be. She is dead. She must be dead.”

His mind couldn’t accept the fact that CeCelia was alive, while his beloved Astyr was gone. The whole plan was to eliminate the whole royal family so there would be no one else to claim the throne when the queen was dead. Unfortunately, events had transpired against him and Astyr had perished in the inferno that destroyed the city of Mithral. Now here stood the one person that could ruin everything.

Drawing on his anger, and hate he reached deep within himself to build the strength to kill CeCelia, he would make certain that both she and the guardians all paid the price for his heartbreak. The spell he began to invoke caused the dust of the ancient fortress to chase around his feet like small devils. He paid no attention to the single male off to the side clutching his head. “Well if it isn’t my beloved niece, CeCelia, she has risen from the grave. How did you survive my dear? And I see you saved the Pantheri brat as well. Give it up, Guardians. You will not win, not while I hold the mystic. He alone knows the true words of the prophecy and I will have those words.”

Amerak sent the dust devils flying towards CeCe, as they got closer to her they had picked up all the stray debris in their path. When they were right upon CeCe and the ones closest to her, Amerak sent a surge a raw power to impale her with all the various rocks, pieces of glass, and other refuse picked up along the way. In the cloud, the guardians could feel all his loathing and hatred. It ate at them as badly as the debris pelting their bodies.

Inside the cage, ShĂ©nmei rose and motioned Nilla to join him. When she came over to where he stood, he asked, “can you pick this lock, little thief?”  Nilla reached through the bars to study the lock that held them imprisoned. She turned to look around the floor of the cage hoping to find something that would work as a pick.

Her gaze fell on the face of the apprentice and she looked quickly away from his shocking visage. She had no time to wonder at what she saw. “If I can find a nail or bit of wire, anything that I can work the mechanism with, then I can get us out of here.” She stirred through the straw that was scattered on the floor hoping that a nail had worked loose from the worn cage. She startled when she felt a hand on her arm. She looked up at the apprentice and then quickly looked down at what he held in his hand. “That will work.” She said as she crossed back to the door and set about picking the huge lock.

CeCe couldn’t believe that the battle had changed so quickly. One moment they had been doing great. The next moment found them being attacked by dirt?? She lifted her hands to protect her eyes from the stinging grit being flung at her. She worked to pull her scarf up to cover her mouth and nose. She noticed the others doing the same. She finally got it pulled up and then turned her attention towards her uncle. Closing her eyes, she reached deep within herself as her hand felt around in her pouch for the Eye.

The debris cloud had lifted CeCe and was moving her away from the group, Amerak had beads of sweat popping out on his brow from his intense concentration. If only he could get her close enough to kill. What would her friends do with the loss of the little queen? He saw her reaching into her pouch and wondered at what she could have that could be of any help to her. The sunlight glinted off the jewel momentarily blinding him. “No! It cannot be! How does she have The Eye of Mithral? No one has seen it for centuries.”  The dust devils dissipated on his break in concentration. CeCe’s feet settled once more upon the cracked dried ground.

Just as CeCe lifted the stone, Nilla heard a satisfying click in the lock. She pulled it off and flung it to the ground. “Quickly now. We must get away before he turns his attention to us once more.” She beckoned the two mystics to go ahead of her and once they were free, she dropped down to the ground beside them. She looked around for a place to hide and caught sight of Rauwyn motioning her from the entrance to a shed. She reached over and touched the elder on the arm. “Master, my sister waits over yonder. We can be safe there.”

Donny stood his mind clear now. The ancient voice of Driekor was calm as he instructed him in what to do to end the battle and strike fear in Amerak’s heart. Donny left the shadow of the building his steps getting more confident as he went. He lifted the Spector’s Staff and began the chant to release the spirits. He paid small notice to CeCe lifting the Eye at the same time. Amerak paid him no attention his eyes were locked on the stone held tightly in her hand.

“Papa, papa…” Amerak spun around at the sound of a voice long silent. “Where are you, papa? I am all alone”, the voice cried. Amerak felt a cold chill run down his spine as he saw his daughter walking towards him.

“No, no! You’re not real. You can’t be real. My Astyr, why?” Amerak wept. He turned away from what he knew couldn’t be his daughter but felt as if he betrayed her by shunning her appearance. He closed his eyes praying that when he opened them, she would be just a thing of his imagination.  He turned back towards the guardian’s intent on proving the apparition false. Slowly he opened one eye, when he saw just the bewildered group before him he let out the breath he had been holding. In a flash, the ghost of his daughter appeared in front of him. She was so close he could see the detail in the embroidery on the neckline of her gown. “Papa! Why did you hurt me?”, she said in her sweet voice. He watched the tears slip down her cheeks as she sobbed his name over and over.

Amerak had to get away. “Oh Astyr, my darling, I never meant for you to get hurt. Please forgive me.” He cried as he worked to build a portal to his fortress. “I cannot come to you my love, I need to finish what I began. Please find your peace.” A small portal began to coalesce behind him, he turned and ran to it. Just before he entered he turned one last time to see the accusation written on his daughter’s face.

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