Author note: So, ladies and gentlemen, I’m back with a new chapter for you! In this, the Slayer will voice its opinion on a certain matter. I hope you’ll like it. And if you can/have the time to/feel like it, I’d like to hear your opinion on the chapter and story in general: it’d be nice to ‘hear’ your voice
…Fear the voice in the dark
Be aware now
Believe in dark wings
And dark words…(Blind Guardian, “A voice in the dark”)
The day was warm and a bright Sun shone over their heads as the adventurers made their way through the Bridge District. Thanks to the information they got from Mekrath, the party found the entrance to the Twisted Rune lair: the portal was hidden behind the front door of an old rat-hole not far from the tanner’s shop.
After opening the door, they activated the magical protections on themselves and formed a human chain to avoid being separated during the magical travel: each one of them took the hands of two companions, with the exception of Edwin, who was at the head of the chain holding Meg’s hand and of Yoshimo, who was at the end of it and stood directly in front of the portal.
"Do we really have to give this up?", the bounty hunter asked, looking at the Rogue Stone in his free hand with longing. "You know it’s the only way to activate the portal", the Ilmatari replied, "Besides, we have several gems like that one in our common purse".
"I know, I know...", he sighed and reluctantly extended his hand towards the swirling mist and with a flash of light, the entire group was transported inside a different building, with the walls of a strange pinkish colour and a tiled grey floor and there was a soft humming coming from their left. "Okay, weapons and spells at the ready. Aerie, turn us invisible", the Painbearer ordered.
They moved quietly along the place, alert for any sign of imminent danger and Yoshimo and Imoen scouted ahead looking for traps, finding out with some surprise that there were none. "This is not a good sign, sekai no hikari", the Kozakuran whispered, his forehead creasing with worry, "If they feel no need to place traps, this could mean they are powerful enough to deal with whoever should intrude their lair".
"Well, we’re powerful ourselves, no? I mean, after all we’ve been through...". The Red Wizard cut her off, shaking his head even knowing that she couldn’t see him, "We’ve come far, it’s true, but remember that this is not an ordinary enemy: it’s the Twisted Rune we’re up against and its members are not to be underestimated".
She swallowed uncomfortably: if even Edwin was wary about them, there was good reason to worry, "Okay, duly noted", she said, Hey, beast. Yes, little Goddess? Do you want something? Yes: give me your strength. From what they say, I guess it’s gonna be a horribly hard fight, so I must be stronger and faster than normal, if I want to be of any use to them.
The Slayer smiled smugly, practically rubbing its claws together with glee, So you’re saying that you need me? I’m flattered. The young woman rolled her eyes, huffing, Don’t get your head too swollen, it’s only temporary. When the enemies are dead, you can go back to sleep.
It made an amused sound, Temporary, you say? And why should it be so? I know you like the feeling of the power coursing through your veins, the knowledge that nobody could stand up to your rage should you unleash it in full.
Just accept what is yours by birthright, use this gift and stop worrying about their judgement! You need to be strong and you can be strong, so why should you condemn yourself to being weak?
The Ilmatari’s heart started hammering in her chest, her fists clenched and unclenched as she struggled to suppress the eagerness growing inside her, I...I want it, it’s true. But I can’t... Why not? Who is stopping you? My...My common sense is stopping me. The monster laughed out loud at that, Your common sense forces you to be weak? That is called foolishness, little Goddess and you know it.
Imoen’s voice broke the spell, snapping the Painbearer’s mind back to her surroundings before it was too late, "Heya, sis, what’s the plan?". Margaret Dawn sighed, relieved, "First of all, you and Yoshimo scout ahead and see how many of them there are and what kind of enemies we’ll have to face, then we can think of a battle strategy". "Roger, madam!".
The Slayer sensed her relaxing and her lust for power decreasing and hastily tried to bring her back on track, If you accept the power your heritage can grant you... She cut it off sharply, Save it, I am not buying it: you nearly had me there, but now I’m in control again. Just give me your strength and shut the Abyss up!
It growled angrily, but complied and she felt the familiar rush of power washing over her. Good puppy. I’ll buy you a chewing toy as a reward. You will change your mind, Daughter of Murder. It’s only a matter of time. Keep on telling yourself that.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, the pink-haired thief came back, her voice full of worry, "Bad news, guys: I saw two men, a woman who wears mage robes, two Liches, a Beholder and a Vampire". That caused a shower of muttered curses and a heavy sigh from Meg. "Two Liches? That’s not bad, that’s a disaster!
Though...Maybe we still have a chance, seeing as we’re already well protected against magic", she said, twisting her Ring, "First of all, Immy will cast that flammable fog in there and Edwin will light it up, just as we did with the Master Brain: this will alert them of our presence, but it will probably take one or two of them down as well before we have to face them directly.
I’ll play bait and try to lure them here one at a time, since I have the Boots of Speed on. It’s not up for discussion!", she added quickly, knowing without having to look that Anomen was about to protest. He muttered something under his breath, but didn’t argue openly, so she continued.
"In case it doesn’t work and we have to take them all at once, Minsc will focus on the closest Lich with his axe, while I will fight the other with my mace. In the meantime, Jae, Edwin and Solaufein will give us backup with their spells, taking down the defences of the Liches and hurting them as much as they can.
Aerie, Immy, I want you to summon as many creatures as possible: they will work both as a distraction and as allies. Also, try and Charm both the Beholder and the Vampire: having even one of them on our side will help a lot. Yoshimo, you stay back and pepper the bastards with your arrows.
Anomen, if the Charm fails you’ll fight the Beholder, since you wield the Shield of Balduran and the enchanted cloak to protect you from its rays. Can this plan work for you, guys?", she asked, worried that she may have forgotten to take something into account. After a brief consultation, having made the necessary changes to the plan, they took a deep breath and prepared for the fight. Ilmater watch over us...We’re gonna need it.
The fight against the Twisted Rune was the most difficult and dangerous one Meg had ever faced: they had won, but it had been a close shave, so close that for a moment she thought it would be the last. After a long and costly battle, nearly all of the enemies lay dead on the floor, only the Lich named Lagole was still standing and he showed no signs of fatigue, despite having been hit and hurt more than once, while they were nearly out of both healing and offensive spells.
The Ilmatari barely had time to cast one of her most powerful healing spells on Minsc, who had just been hit by a burst of flames, when the Lich cast Imprisonment on her and in a heartbeat, she found herself trapped in…Something, a sort of box buried in darkness, so small that the walls were pressing into her. She tried to scream, but she seemed to have lost her voice, she pounded on the walls with her mace, but it just bounced off and nearly hit her on the nose.
Okay, let’s keep calm, she thought, trying to ignore her rising claustrophobia, Immy bought a scroll of Freedom, right? I’ll just have to wait until she casts it and I’ll be free and then I can get back to killing the Lich. The Slayer laughed, You think your sibling will save you, little Goddess? How foolish of you. She has no reason to do so.
What are you babbling about? Of course I can trust her, we’re sisters! Exactly, the creature nodded, sounding smug, You have the same Sire. And this means you are a rival to her, one she surely wants to get rid of, in order to seize the power of your heritage for herself!
The young woman’s eyes darted around, looking for a way out, hoping to find a crack in her prison, but without success, while her heart beat faster and panic grew inside her chest, "Shut up, I don’t believe you". Have I ever lied to you, Daughter of Murder? "Do you really want me to answer?".
It scowled, I have always been honest with you and you know it: I told you about your blood, about your bond with your brother. I never either hid, or warped the truth. So why should you doubt my words now?
She opened her mouth to argue, but immediately snapped it shut: it was right, that much she couldn’t deny. Not once had the Slayer lied to her. Oh, sure, it did its damned best to try and lead her down a dark path, but never with lies. But if it was telling the truth even now...
Just as she was about to go all the way down a very dangerous path, there was a flash of light and she found herself back into the room with her friends, safe and free. Imoen was the first to approach her, "Meg! Hey, you okay?", she asked, genuine concern filling her voice. Margaret Dawn smiled warmly at her little sister, "Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for getting me out of there.
The Lich?". "Big guy chopped his head off", the pink-haired thief thrust her thumb in Minsc’s direction and the Rashemi nodded with an enthusiastic grin. "I killed the evil Lich with my very powerful axe! It was a sight to behold, I’m sorry you didn’t see it, little Meg: when my axe hit, his head rolled on the floor and...", he stopped abruptly and sobered, "Well...Maybe it’s good that you didn’t see it. It would have made you sad".
"Sad? Why?", she blinked, puzzled and he brushed the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Because the body turned to dust and I noticed that you always become very sad when it happens". "Oh, Minsc...", she hugged him tightly, moved, then examined her friends with attention: they had already been healed as much as possible, but she noticed that Aerie avoided putting too much of her weight on her right leg, Jaheira’s breathing was strained with pain and Anomen’s left arm hung limply from his shoulder.
The Painbearer patched them up as best as she could with her last spells, but she realized all of her companions would still need at least two days to fully recover from that fight, "Let’s go back to the inn, you all need to rest. And some food won’t hurt, now that I think of it". They were all too happy to agree and moved to leave, but then it occurred to them that they had no idea how to get out.
Edwin muttered a curse in Thayan, "Wonderful, just wonderful (Wounded and trapped in this accursed place. The horoscope did say it would be a bad day, but not that it would be this bad!)". Meg sighed, "There must be a way out, though. Let’s search the place, see if there’s a portal or something like that".
It took them two hours to search (and loot) the whole place and in the end it was Aerie who found the solution. "This is a magic potion", she said, pointing to a cauldron in a corner from which came a narrow line of green smoke, "But I’m not sure of what kind". The Red Wizard walked up to her and cautiously sniffed the liquid, "I would recognize this smell everywhere: it’s a teleportation spell (Ha, my teacher would be proud of me!)", he added under his breath, smiling to himself.
The Ilmatari brightened, "Really? Then we will be able to teleport ourselves to wherever we want, instead of walking for miles on end! Great!", she exclaimed happily. He shook his head, "Much as it saddens me to say it, this potion works only one way: from inside here to the Bridge District. Besides, it’s incomplete: we need a Beholder eyestalk to activate it".
"No problem about that", Yoshimo, who was the closest to the corpse of the Beholder, ripped the eyestalk off and tossed it into the cauldron, causing the liquid to change from purple to blue and after a moment, the portal opened and they were transported back outside the house in the Bridge District.