Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 7.3.
After the brief setback we are forced to take a small detour on our way towards the palace, dealing with the remaining golems and some stray earth and fire elementals on the way, but with luck and skill on our side, none of us suffer any noteworthy injuries. We manage to save two scared elven children from being crushed by a huge clay golem and they explain to us that the palace is close nearby. Imoen sneaks into the direction that the kids point us to, and in the meantime Jaheira instructs them on which is the safest route to the gates that have been secured by Sovalidaas and his men.
Anxious, we await Imoen’s return and she looks deeply concerned as she reappears in front of us, shaking off the effects of the invisibility potion.
“Bastards, they spotted me, I had to waste a valuable potion,” she curses.
“Never mind the potion, tell us what you saw,” I urge her to get on with the report.
“Uhuh… this won’t be easy… I think that the gate I saw leads to the palace, but it’s heavily guarded… by demons. Lotsa demons… I counted at least seven before one of them spotted me,” she explains.
“Pah, demons – big deal… I need only to know what sort of demons there are and then a little summoning spell will do the business. Theodur, I must know exactly what kind of demons we are facing,” Edwin says.
“Err… I don’t know… I think that seeking out this Demin would be far wiser,” I suggest.
“Yep, but we still need to know whom we are facing, right?” Imoen objects.
“And I have memorized a mass invisibility spell, just in case,” Nalia offers helpfully.
“We will try it, but don’t do anything rash!” Jaheira decides, “Especially you, Edwin… don’t even think about casting that demon summoning spell or you will have to deal with me, afterwards.”
“And boy, that’s far scarier than dealing with any demon,” Imoen giggles, but Jaheira just rolls eyes at her comment.
Nalia casts the spell, making us all invisible and we form a chain and slowly move towards the gates leading into the palace. The palace itself can be seen behind the huge gate, the building that seems to be a high point of the elven architecture, an impressive structure built of metal, glass and crystals, glittering in the early morning sun. It seems to have been built around the tree of huge, monumental proportions and after little pondering I decide that the Royal Palace probably encircles the very same Tree Of Life…
I feel someone tugging at my hand, pulling me to move forwards, closer to the group of the demonical creatures that patrol near the gate… and the more I look at these ugly creatures with leathery, reptilian wings, muscular extremities and mouths, filled with sharp fangs, the more I realize that I do not particularly feel like fighting them. Luckily it seems as if someone feels the same way as another tug on my arm, motions me to return back to where we came from. As the spell slowly wears off, I am glad to notice that nobody has managed to get lost during this dangerous excursion.
“Irenicus and Ellesime are likely to be in the castle,” Viconia muses, “so we have to find a way inside, but tackling those beasts might prove taxing…”
“I suggest finding priestess Demin and listen to what she says, perhaps she can offer some plan,” Keldorn adds.
“Bah! Are you scared of seven lowly tanar’ris? I am well capable of summoning an army of the most powerful baatezu’s,” Edwin speaks animatedly, retrieving one of his newly acquired scrolls and almost pointing it into Keldorn’s nose, “a few pit fiends will deal with those nabassu, glabrezu and balors in no time…”
“Edwin, this isn’t one of those battles played out with toy soldiers on each side… this is quite real, I assure you, not like the innocent games of your peaceful childhood. A little oversight and those demons could all turn on us, instead… no, that is way too dangerous,” I disagree.
“Do you dare insult and question my competence, simian?” Edwin looks at me with disdain.
“Well… um… if you put it that way… err… yes!” I chuckle, “now stop that arguing as we are not going to fight those demons, and that is it… err, at least for now. We will try to look for this Demin, instead.”
Edwin mutters something under his breath, but in the end is forced to obey and follow us, as we turn around to head in the eastern direction. As we move away from the city centre, the opposition becomes less fierce and dangerous – we encounter even a few Drow, most of them mages, but they fall quickly under our blades as our own mages are well skilled in ripping off their spell protections, making them vulnerable to our blows.
A couple of nabassu’s that we stumble upon in one of the houses that we search through, prove to be quite a challenge… not only their claws and teeth make them extremely dangerous melee combatants, their magical abilities are equally formidable – a lesson we had to learn quickly and which proved almost fatal for poor Nalia as she fell victim to the demon’s paralysing gaze and only Viconia and Keldorn’s brave effort at keeping the demon at bay, saved the young mage from being ripped apart by the beast…
Understandably, the girl is in shock after Jaheira has cast a spell to remove the effects of paralyse. Having to watch her death approaching, unable to move, escape, protect herself… even the thought is terrible. I consult with Jaheira and she agrees that a small respite is in order, but since resting amongst the remains of two dead nabassu’s seems rather… unpleasant, we exit the house and seek for another, more comfortable spot to relax for a few moments.
Fortunately for us, the next house is absolutely empty and after Imoen has finished examining it for traps, we all settle in as comfortably as we can, taking our places on the various sofas and chairs… Jaheira and I make ourselves comfortable in a large, fluffy couch, while Imoen and Viconia retreat to one of the side rooms, accompanied by Keldorn’s glance, which then is fixed upon me, but I only shrug my shoulders in reply and turn to face Jaheira.
“It’s not going to be easy, is it…?” I muse, looking at her, “it will be tough to even get to him with the dragon at his command… and we were so close to death already…”
“We cannot afford to be weak, Theodur, and I do not mean only physically weak,” she says, “You must believe that we can get through it… and even if we have few reasons to be very optimistic, we must not get desperate. Until we still breathe, there is always a chance…”
“I know… but after this is all over, I’m calling quits with this adventuring business… I want to spend some time with you in peace…” I smile at her and her answer is a brief kiss on my cheek.
“Remember, simian, that you promised to escort me to the Baldur’s Gate as a payment for my invaluable services,” Edwin interjects, without taking an eye of the spell scrolls in his lap, as he looks at them lovingly.
“When did you promise him that?” Jaheira recoils from my embrace and fixes me with a glare.
“Err… look, dearest… this isn’t really the time to talk about it… and, umm… I think that Edwin has misunderstood for I clearly didn’t-”
“Is that so, chimp? I see that you have a short memory indeed… well, you better remember the contents of our little chat or otherwise this Red Wizard might decide to break his promise as well and leave you on your own, facing your inevitable doom (no doubt that these idiots would perish the next moment I walk out the door, and it is so tempting to do just that, after all, having to think for seven is incredibly taxing even for a genius such as I)” Edwin snorts.
“Um, Edwin… we’ll talk about this later…” I try to wriggle out and steer the conversation in another direction. “Keldorn, you have seen a fair share of battles… have you ever participated in anything as grandiose as this?”
“Well, let me think about it lad… ah, yes… some twenty years ago Amn and Waterdeep were involved into a massive war against baatezu demons, pouring out from the vaults of the Dragonspear Castle…” Keldorn explains, “I was only a young knight at that time and that was my first serious test… a test which proved too serious for most of my friends that were accepted into the ranks of paladins at the same ceremony as I… out of twelve, only I had the fortune to survive. Though, I did not feel all that fortunate as I saw my friends falling before the might of the demon spawn… yes, I have had enough practice in fighting demons, lad. More than I asked for, to tell you the truth.”
Nalia takes over the reigns of the conversation from me as she continues to question Keldorn on his past adventures, Edwin remains silent and absentmindedly plays with his precious scrolls, while Jaheira and I snuggle together and enjoy some peaceful moments of closeness. After what to me seems like a too short amount of time, Jaheira disengages from my grasp and orders everyone to get ready and after a quiet growling from some of the party members, we return to the bloody streets of Suldanessellar once again, heading from one house to another in search for the priestess Demin.
And sure enough, as we enter one of the houses, we come face to face with a middle-aged elven female, wearing a green chain mail and a decorative diadem wrapped around her head, carrying a mace in her right hand and a shield strapped to her left… and it seems to me as we have found our priestess.
“Oh, thank Rillifane! I hope you come in peace strangers, for I need your assistance,” she pleads to us, stepping closer, “I am Demin, priestess of Rillifane Rallathil.”
“We have been looking for you, priestess Demin-” Jaheira starts to speak, but falls silent, interrupted by a sudden reciting of a spell… I turn around to see Keldorn, calling on the powers of his god and when I look back at the ‘priestess Demin’, I see that her features are starting to melt revealing someone… something that is definitely non-elven…
“Rakshasa!” Viconia snarls and jumps forward and whacks the creature with her mace, surprising the beast. Having overcome the numbness, the rest of us join in the battle and just in time – even though Viconia has the momentum, there is little doubt that the rakshasa is the more powerful fighter of the two and already Viconia has her great agility to thank as she gracefully avoids the swings of the creature.
The tiger-headed monster falls quickly under our combined assault, however, and as its body hits the floor, we immediately start to look around for the real priestess… and we don’t have to look far as the weak groans from the side room lead us to our target. Priestess Demin lies on the floor in a puddle of blood, facing the ceiling, her lips parted as she tries to call for help, but only blood spurts out of the corner of her mouth.
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 7.3.
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