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IX. Reckonings

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#1 Guest_Oryx_*

Posted 12 November 2002 - 05:46 PM

IX. Reckonings

The Zhentarim outside the city were holding off the charging rangers and druids with a phalanx of protected archers. Soldiers stood side by side, large shields nearly together, while archers between them fired through the narrow slits left between the shields. Nearly every ranger’s arrow glanced off a shield while they took casualties themselves. As comrades went down beside them, rangers and druids stood side by side and cast entangling spells at the phalanx, and archers and shieldsmen were wrapped motionless together as vines leapt from the very forest floor and constricted their every limb.

“Into city!” ordered Tazok. “All units now! Take city!”

Every Zhentarim who could move turned and fled up the remaining tree-ramps. They came onto the ramparts and descended into the city, joining their fellows against the elves in the final grueling minutes of battle. Soldiers and spellcasters on both sides fell in great numbers onto the streets of the city, which were already covered with the bodies and blood of men and elves. In the middle, Tazok was swinging about with two massive clubs and any elf unfortunate enough to get within range was dashed to the ground or flung into the air, crushed and lifeless. Tazok roared with anger as he saw the last of the Zhentil troops come up the tree ramps, followed by druids and rangers. The forest forces began reclaiming the ramparts from the Zhentil and then fired arrows or called fire, lightning, and insects onto the Zhentil troops below. Tazok watched in amazement as a man on horseback came up a tree-ramp, and galloped onto the ramparts, holding his longbow high and firing into Zhentil hearts with deadly speed and accuracy.

This was Kivan, enraged only more with every arrow he fired into an enemy. At last, looking down his arrow, his jaw dropped in disbelief as his sights set on a half-ogre he had crossed paths with long ago. His mind was barraged with images. Love. Sojourn. Forest. Bliss. Rain. Hooves. Raiders. Ropes. Laughter. Brands. Knives. Torture. Mine. Pain. Hers. Pain. Horror. Watching. Screams. Pleadings. Laughter. Days after night after day after night. Her death. Rage. Unconscious. Tent. Hands. Ropes. Escape. Rain. Wandering. Road. High Hedge. Revenge.

He fired. An elf came between him and Tazok and took the arrow. Kivan strapped his longbow and drew his longswords. Kicking his horse in the ribs, he rode it forward off the rampart. He pushed himself up into a stand on the saddle as the horse whinnied and flew through the air. He leapt from it and straightened into a dive, pulling his legs together behind him and his arms out in front, his swords side by side pointed straight toward his target.

“DIE!!!” Kivan cried as he fell into Tazok and both blades plunged into the beast-man’s chest. Tazok groaned as he felt his heart sliced apart and lifted his clubs high. As his life gave out, he brought them down together upon his enemy’s head, recognizing with his last thoughts the man he had tortured so long ago. Kivan soon joined Tazok on the ground in death, his last thoughts of bittersweet revenge at last.


Edwin and Xzar continued to chant and cast, the poison mist expanding and swirling about the Tree. Viconia too, began chanting, sending necromantic magic into the tree and causing the bark to crack and wither. She held her dagger overhead and looked down at Ellisime’s bound form, but then she heard noises and turned her glance to the entrance from the temple.

The bodies of elite Battalion Alpha soldiers came rolling down the stairs and off the branches of the Tree, followed closely by Valygar who had another impaled on his katanas and flung the trooper to his death below. He noticed the ceremony in progress and sent a magic missile hurtling at them. Edwin and Xzar slyly sidestepped it and it went flying into Viconia instead and knocked her back onto the branch and sent her ceremonial dagger falling through the tree.

“You cowards!! Destroy him!” She screamed and the wizards began casting. Valygar hasted himself and began running along the branches toward them while Aerie and Jaheira came down the stairs.

Edwin and Xzar exchanged glances midcast and abruptly changed the tones of their spell.

“I recognize that one, spineless rivvel! No dimension doors! You will attack them and defend me!” Viconia screamed while preparing a spell for the incoming Valygar.

“I’m afraid this was never part of the bargain (not that I usually honor agreements anyway),” Edwin shrugged his shoulders at her as his portal appeared.

“Scary rangers used to beat young Xzar up!!! Xzar run Xzar hide oh no!” Xzar cried, holding his hands over his ears, as his portal appeared.

The wizards each disappeared through their closing portals while Valygar roared and leapt into the air at Viconia, his katanas forward and his dreadlocks flying around his head.

“Good males, evil males, hate ‘em all,” Viconia sighed and her hands shot out. Valygar froze in midair just in front of her and then abruptly dropped to the ground, lying there midroar like a lion statue.

Viconia looked up to see Aerie and Jaheira charge and then stop just within spell range. They began casting but Viconia had just finished and a storm of vengeance appeared over her enemies and began raining fire, lightning, and acid on them. As it fell to them, it fizzled above their heads and illuminated shimmering elemental protection orbs around them. Jaheira completed her spell and thousands of insects flew out of the leaves of the Tree and swarmed toward Viconia. While the drow priestess had to stop her chant to keep them out of her mouth and swat at them, Aerie froze time.

The avariel woman walked up to the drow woman and leaned in to her, staring her in her frozen eyes and thinking very, very, mean thoughts. Her wide-eyed stare vanished as her eyes narrowed and her small lips contracted into a tiny, cruel grin.

“Oh, look at me, a sweet and innocent little caged angel,” she cooed, while gesturing theatrically and batting her eyelashes. “And look at you, a dark and heartless black widow. Oh my, and look at how the race of men fawns over me, seating me upon a pedestal for worship, and scorns you, tying you to a stake for burning.”




“And look at you now, perfectly still, not able to snarl and scream, you almost look pretty for once.”

“My only regret is that you won’t feel the pain while you’re stopped. But I’ll try to make sure you live the next few moments to experience it.”

She backed up and conjured a stack of energy blades into her hand. She tossed the discs at incredible speed, sending them slicing through Viconia one after another, sending them here and there to try to make painful cuts all over her.

Time unfroze.

Viconia screamed in terrible pain as she suddenly felt slices throughout her body. More blades came and she continued to moan. Jaheira was dashing up behind Aerie as a fast wolf, and just as the avariel ran out of blades and raised Crom Faeyr high for the killing blow, Viconia managed to pull herself together to swing back with her mace, but a wolf jumped between them and shapeshifted into a Jaheira with her scimitars parrying both the hammer and mace. The other two, both enraged, swung again – it was difficult to tell whether they were aiming at each other or Jaheira – but the druid let her scimitars fall and her hands darted out to each of their faces. Her fingers curled over their cheeks and the three of them were pulled into shared thoughts.

I am an elf of the air I am an elf of the wood I am an elf of the earth
My parents were lost My parents were killed My parents were fled
I was a slave I was a mongrel I was an outcast
I hated land and its dwellers I hated men and elves I hated drow and rivvel
I became wingless I became a widow I became a captive
I almost died in a cage I almost died in a dungeon I almost died at a stake
I was freed by a gnome I was freed by my friends I was freed by you

In the same instant, their daydream ended, and the avariel and drow took their weapons back from the half-elf’s scimitars. Aerie let her hammer fall to the ground but Viconia swung again. Jaheira sidestepped the mace and put her hands to the cheeks of the others again.

“For the glory of Amn!” a soldier yelled and charged the makeshift pyre in the government district square. As his comrades around him were held, entangled, and smashed, he made a charge to kill his captive witch before it was too late. As he thrust at the drow tied to the stake, another longsword swung into his field of vision and blocked his.

“Glory?” another armored fellow snarled in his face over their crossed swords. “I’ve seen enough of Amn already to know it has none.”

“She’s a witch!” the soldier yelled in his face.

“And her crime?” Onyx arched an eyebrow.

“Look at her! She’s a drow! And I said, SHE’S A WITCH!”

Onyx sighed. The soldier tried to back away from him, and he swung other hand up to put the axe it held against the back of the neck of the soldier, who wisely stopped moving. “And I said, AND HER CRIME?”

“Why!” the soldier gasped, dumbfounded. “Look at you! I can tell you’re a paladin! What do you think you’re doing, defending an evil drow against the law of Amn?”

Onyx struck his sword against the soldier’s, who let his clatter to the ground as he winced from the strength behind the blow. While hooking the soldier’s neck between his axeblade and handle, Onyx turned around, forcing the soldier to babystep with him, and began to flick his sword around the tied up drow. “It’s funny,” Onyx began as his sword flashed about and the a rope severed and fell, “You always think paladins are supposed to uphold the law.” Another rope came down. “And the good.” Another, ungagging the drow, who gasped for fresh air. “Sometimes, they just can’t be reconciled.” One of the drow’s wrists was freed. “That used to gnaw at me, truly it did.” The other wrist. “And you know what I realized?” An ankle.

“What?” the soldier sputtered. The other ankle.

“Lawful doesn’t have anything to do with the laws pulled out of the arse of this bureaucrat or that despot.” Her neck. “It’s an absolute. There is one code of law, which no government I’ve seen resembles, which perfectly aligns with good.” Her waist. The drow was freed and stepped away from pole.

“And I suppose you think you know it?” the soldier sneered.

“Yes,” Onyx smiled, removed his axe, gripped the soldier’s neck, and shoved him into the pole. “And do you know what it makes you?” Onyx pressed his axebladce to the soldier’s neck again, and the man tried to back up but, his back against the pole, could not.

“What?” the soldier asked nervously.

“Evil.” Onyx stated and slashed the man’s neck. He collapsed immediately, gripping his throat and dying in an expanding pool of crimson blood. Onyx turned to face the drow woman while Aerie and Jaheira walked up beside him. Yoshimo crouched and picked some coins off the soldier’s body while Minsc was busy shielding Boo’s eyes from the gore.

“Haven’t we met before?” Onyx arched an eyebrow while the drow woman cackled and kicked the fallen soldier. “In a remarkably similar circumstance? Viconia, was it?”

“Hah!” Viconia laughed with an air of triumphant superiority. “Unusually perceptive! You rivvel usually say our kind all look like! But then, most of them are not…” she gestured to herself theatrically, “Viconia DeVir, indeed! Cleric of Shar and bane of all in my – or our – way!”

Her face fell when Onyx’s betrayed nothing. Aerie and Jaheira each shot sideways glances at him, looking for hints of lust or scorn. The three priestesses could all sense Onyx detecting evil.

Viconia’s mind resurfaced from the past and she began showing her memories, letting the other two feel the hate she felt whenever she had these thoughts.

The drow woman sighed as the paladin stoically appraised her, betraying nothing. Finally he showed visible disdain after she felt the signature of a detect evil. The elven women beside him seemed to sense it and their faces actually lit up, as if they had found something to capitalize on.

“Ooo,” the tiny blonde elf – an avariel? Could she possibly have her wings tucked into that robe? – wrinkled her nose. “A drow! And she’s evil, I can feel it!” She half-hid behind the man next to her while holding forward a holy symbol of Aerdrie Faenya.

“Show some spine, child!” the half-elven woman scowled at her. She turned to appraise Viconia again, while shooting the man periodic glances. “She…does appear to be a wicked one, though.”

“That’s funny,” the man snorted sarcastically, turning to the half-elf. “Weren’t you saying we needed some balance in the party?”

The two exchanged looks of scorn, for some reason causing Viconia to smile, but the half-elf quickly softened hers. “Perhaps…but remember what I told you last time we met her? Not a betraying drow like this, a more manageable and simple evil? Remember Kagain?”

“He was an okay guy,” the man smiled fondly. “Not a bad attitude, and he sure knew how to get an axe threw an ahnkeg shell.”

“Say,” the half-elf smiled and continued her ploy, “wasn’t there another mad dwarf back at the Coronet?”

“He was a monster!” the avariel screamed. She wrapped an arm around the man’s and looked up at him. “And you dueled him to the death when he was mean to me, didn’t you?”

Viconia and the half-elf each rolled their eyes, sharing a moment before scowling at each other again.

The three returned from the past. Jaheira thought to them, it didn’t have to be that way. Now see what might have been.

The drow woman sighed as the paladin stoically appraised her, betraying nothing. Finally he showed visible disdain after she felt the signature of a detect evil. The elven women beside him seemed to sense it and their faces softened, almost as if with pity.

“Ooo,” the tiny blonde elf – an avariel? Could she possibly have her wings tucked into that robe? – wrinkled her nose. “A drow! They’ve been so evil to her here,” she stepped forward past the man. “Yes,” she nodded as if reading Viconia’s mind, “I am an avariel. From above the ground rather than below. They were awful to me too! They took me here and cut off my wings!”

Viconia felt and showed a moment of sympathy before hardening her heart again.

“Show some spine, child!” the half-elven woman scowled at her. She turned to appraise Viconia again, while shooting the man periodic glances. “She does appear to have had as rough a time here as you did, though.”

“That’s funny,” the man began sarcastically, turning to the half-elf. “Weren’t you saying everyone needs some balance in their life?”

The two exchanged scowls that melted to looks of sympathy, for some reason causing Viconia to smile a moment before frowning at the foolishness of such an emotion. “Perhaps…but remember what I told you last time we met her? Not being outcast and hunted like this, a more manageable and direct opposition. Like yours.”

“I wouldn’t call Irenicus direct,” the man snarled furiously. “Sure knows how to break up a party.”

“Yes,” the half-elf agreed sadly, and Viconia could sense painful loss on her face before the woman looked pointedly back to her, “We need to rebuild ours.”

“Say,” the man mused, “wasn’t there another priest back at the Coronet?”

“He was a buffoon!” the avariel giggled. She wrapped an arm around the man’s and looked up at him. “We need someone wiser who can join us, don’t we?”

She and the half-elf both looked at Viconia, and the three shared a moment.

The three reemerged. Viconia’s mace joined the hammer and scimitars on the ground.

Just then a gasping Zhentil soldier came down the stairs. Several more came behind him, but were felled by arrows from a wave of elves trailing them. The man held a longbow high while running forward. The three elven priestesses began casting, but he drew an arrow and aimed for the just-awakening Ellisime. Her eyes and mind working quickly, Viconia saw the arrow let loose and lunged over Ellisime, catching the arrow in her own chest and falling.


Onyx and Sarevok stared one another down across their swords. Onyx was divinely imbued with the greater strength, but Sarevok used his position up the steps to put his weight behind his weapon, and neither could be budged, though each could otherwise have moved storm giants. At last Onyx devised a way to break the stalemate, and simply went into a quick crouch and reduced the force behind his sword, sending Sarevok lunging forward and falling over him. The dark warrior rolled down the stairs with deafening clangs, but quickly jumped up from the level below seeming unharmed. Onyx had already drawn Hangard’s Axe and flung it down at Sarevok, but during his wind-up, Sarevok held Soul Ravager in a strange position behind his on head, and then the axe began to fly, he stepped aside and then swung with Soul Ravager, batting it back up at Onyx. The paladin, already with a foot off the stairs to step forward, found his own axe crash into his chestplate and was sent tripping back over the top stairs onto the apex of the pyramid. As he stood, Sarevok had run up the stairs and the crashed swords again, but Sarevok’s momentum sent Onyx stumbling back into the stone table. As Sarevok swung again, Onyx feigned aside and Soul Ravager cracked the marble slab in two. Carsomyr then swung into Sarevok’s shoulder plate and sent him flying sideways. He crashed into the stone pedestal, which cracked off its base and shattered on the floor. Sarevok, now over the edge of an exposed hole, tried desperately to regain his balance. He would have succeeded, but Onyx came charging at him and Sarevok could do nothing except parry Carsomyr, even knowing the paladin’s momentum would push them right over the hole.

Around the Fountain of Youth, Jade, Imoen and Luna had been fighting a losing magical battle to purify the water of the most potent of poisons, Yamash’s very blood. Now that its flow had stopped just before destroying the fountain, they were slowly neutralizing it.

Then they heard clangs and roars echoing from the shaft above. Two enormous masses of metal fell out of it and splashed into the fountain, sending still-impure droplets of water splashing over all three of them. The droplets fizzles against Imoen and Luna’s elemental shields, but Jade reeled as the venomous water splashed over her face and arms. Luna ran to her and began a healing chant.

In the fountain, the cavalier seemed utterly unfazed by the toxic water and watched his brother scream terribly and writhe in agony at being immersed in it. At first Onyx snarled and watched Sarevok be consumed, but then his own brother’s groans turned to an eardrum-shattering shriek of terror. Onyx shook his head out and then something else came over him. He reached down, gripped Sarevok’s forearm, and pulled him to his feet out of the water and pushed him back, letting him fall to the steps beside the fountain.

“I’m dead already, you fool!” Sarevok spat in contempt as his faced turned green and the veins showed through. Onyx leaned down and began to chant a neutralizing spell, but Sarevok reached up and began strangling his brother. Onyx’s calm suddenly turned to rage and he reached down and returned the favor. The stared each other down hatefully while trying to crush one another’s throats, and though their necks and the armor around them were tough, their hands were stronger.

Imoen gasped in terror at the sight of her brothers killing one another. Just as they were about to choke each other to death, her tiny hands reached out and her fingers splayed over their cheeks. Imoen showed her brothers something that had been locked within their minds, a memory, her oldest yet, one which she had only recently been able to remember. A memory which she could now put together and understand…

Priests of Bhaal were walking about, children littering the floor, most crying and screaming, scared by the darkness of the cave, the absence of parents and warmth, and the palpable evil of the priests.

Among them were three human triplets, two large and nearly identical boys and a much smaller girl. They were not crying, but were afraid and holding each other tightly.

“Whassa goin on, Immy?” one of the male triplets asked his sister.

“I dunno Ony – scawwie though,” Imoen replied. “Where is mommy?”

“I dunno ,” Onyx answered, “you know, Sawwie?” he asked the other male.

“I no-no eitha,” Sarevok answered.

One of the priestesses, a seeming leader, strode among them, ceremonial dagger held high, chanting about the release of the essence within the children and the resurrection of their god. An acolyte rushed in and said something to her, and she began barking orders frantically. The sounds of clanging weapons and exploding spells could be heard from other rooms, and the children were now crying at the tops of their lungs.

The doors burst open and resolute figures appeared in the doorway. There were three in front: an old human wizard with a staff in the middle, a half-elven man with a sword to his right, and a half-elven woman with a scimitar to his left.

“Ah, Gorion and his noble Harpers, at last we meet,” the archpriestess cackled.

“And it is the last time we shall, Nyalee,” Gorion responded calmly.

“Kill the infidels!” Nyalee commanded as she herself rushed out the opposite end of the room. Her acolytes charged or stood and chanted.

“D-die!!” the half-elven man yelled and stepped forward, cutting down a charging acolyte.

“Feel nature’s fury!” the half-elven woman cried and cast a tangle of vines at other acolytes, immobilizing and disrupting them.

Gorion was wordlessly firing magic missiles at acolytes, interrupting each who tried to cast, and his two compatriots, along with other Harpers were rushing into the room, then charged with swords curves and straight to slash them all down, entangled or not.

“Jaheria and Khalid, bar the far door,” Gorion commanded and the two half-elves ran forward to the door Nyalee had disappeared through. “Good warriors,” Gorion began, “Nyalee will be returning within minutes with more priests of Bhaal and a large cohort of Iron Throne mercenaries. We do not have the strength to fight them. We have to get these children out of here – now!”

The Harpers began sheathing their weapons and strapping their shields and dispersing across the chamber. As they picked up as many children as they could carry, they ran back out the door they had come through.

“Why they no-a takin us?” Sarevok asked.

“I no like dis place – they should take us!” Onyx cried.

“Heya, heya, taka us!!!” Imoen screamed.

The triplets watched the Harpers scoop up children and disappear. The half-elves finished barring the door, but Khalid grabbed a baby fire giant and a raven-haired girl, and Jaheira grabbed a drow infant and a blue dragon egg.

“Waaa!!! Taka us!” The triplets were crying.

At last, as the warriors were leaving with most of the children, Gorion came upon them. Tears streamed down the frail wizard’s face as he saw the three of them and looked down at his own two arms. He tried to grip his arms around all three, but grimaced at the pain in his back as he tried to stand. He crouched his knees and bent low, but could not make himself stand with them.

Pounding and shouting could be heard from the other side of the door. “Slaughter the infidels!!! Seize the children of our Lord!!!!” shrill
voiced cried.

“Cower before the steel of the Iron Throne!!” other voices boomed.

The door burst open and heavily armored fighters stood in front of chanting Bhaal clerics. Gorion stood and cast a web spell over the doorway and entangled some of the fighters, but the others began hacking through.

“I’m so sorry, my child,” Gorion cried as he picked up Imoen and Onyx in each arm and ran out of the room just as an Iron Throne fighter made his way in.

“Sawewok!!!! No…Sawwie!!!” Imoen cried, reaching back over Gorion’s shoulder.

“Brotha Sawwwie! Don tak us apart!!” Onyx cried, pointing back and punching Gorion’s shoulder.

“No!! Imowen!!! Ony!! Don leave me!!” Sarevok cried, toddling after them as the mercenary scooped him up.

“No, brat, only your master matters now – Reiltar!” the mercenary laughed as his captain walked up him and inspected the child.

“Hmm,” Reiltar mused at baby Sarevok, strong and huge for his age, kicking furiously in the arm of his adult lackey, who was having trouble holding him, “perhaps this little slave will make a useful mercenary someday…”

“I wan my bruda and sista! I wan my mommy!!!!” Sarevok screamed and kicked in the mercenary’s grasp. He let out an eardrum-shattering shriek.

“I wuf you Sawwie!!!” Imoen cried back.

“I wuf you Sawewok!” Onyx cried as he and his sister disappeared up the hallway in Gorion’s arms.

The triplets returned to the present. Onyx and Sarevok were still holding each other’s necks, but no longer applying pressure. Their eyes were still locked, but tears streamed from them. Her hands still on their cheeks, Imoen let them share thoughts. They walked through each other’s lives, Sarevok in Candlekeep and Onyx with the Iron Throne. They saw themselves fighting one another, Sarevok wielding Spiderbane and Onyx the Sword of Chaos. Then Onyx languished in hell while Sarevok saved his sister and his soul from Irenicus.

But then, they did not see each others’ true lives. Sarevok did not see himself turn away his brother to defeat Melissan alone and go on to win three Throne Wars. Onyx did not see himself ally with Cyricspawns and demons and seek to lead evil forces to the throne.

Irenicus was slain but now they couldn’t even tell which of them had done it; which of them had been the Terror of the Sword Coast and which of them had been the Hero of Baldur’s Gate. It no longer mattered. Together they defeated Melissan, abdicated the Throne, wed Aerie and Viconia, and fought side by side in the Throne Wars.

The brothers let their arms fall off each other’s necks and to their shoulders and hugged. They wrapped arms around their sister and she joined in the embrace. Luna and Jade stood over them, casting purifying magics which returned Sarevok and then the fountain to their natural colors.


Anomen found himself at the apex of a step pyramid again, but his surroundings were utterly foreign. The pyramid seemed to be made of solid bone, the sky was an eerie blood red filled with crashing lightning, and the pyramid seemed to stretch down forever around him, no land visible below.

Zaltec stood at the opposite corner of the top step, snarling viciously and swinging his Viperknives about, “Go back from whence you came, Farworlder!” he screamed. “The affairs of the gods and people of the True World are not your concern!”

“The slaughter of the innocent anywhere is my concern,” Anomen stated resolutely and held ready his mace and shield.

“So be it, missionary!” Yamash snarled and summoned a swarm of large hissing snakes between himself and the Helmite. Anomen cast a storm of vengeance down upon them and they were consumed by elements and Yamash himself was burned and stumbled back. Anomen then cast a pillar of flame down upon the evil priest, who managed to shoot back a bolt of lightning that snaked across Anomen’s armor and through his body. Anomen grimaced and healed himself just in time to then block both of the charging Yamash’s Viperknives with his shield. He swung across with Silvereye but Yamash feigned aside and then managed to duck and plunge a dagger into Anomen’s thigh before retreating and beginning another spell. The knight winced and called down a bolt of glory upon his foe, but Yamash finished his spell and a protective globe appeared and blocked the bolt. Yamash began another spell but Anomen charged, swinging Silvereye into the hishnashaper’s chest and dispelling his protection. Yamash gasped in pain as ribs broke and swung his daggers at Anomen’s shoulders. The knight managed to block one with his shield but the other one plunged in and Anomen felt its poison begin to seep through him. He chanted and neutralized the poison and blocked Yamash’s Viperknives with his mace and shield, then brought an overhead swing of his own down on Yamash’s head. The evil priest blocked the mace between his crossed daggers and spun away.

He and Anomen came at each other again, swinging, slashing and blocking in a deadly dance. As Yamash came in for two horizontal swipes, Anomen pulled his waist back and the daggers sliced through the air. He was meanwhile bringing his on weapon down, and Yamash managed to move his head out of the trajectory of the mace, but then it smashed into and crushed one of his shoulders. He winced as Anomen continued the motion and swung Silvereye down and then across one of his legs, crushing the kneecap. Anomen followed the low swipe through with another coming back the other way and crushed Yamash’s other knee. The hishnashaper’s legs fell out from under him and he dropped his daggers. As writhed on the surface of the pyramid, Anomen lifted Silvereye high and prepared a careful downward swipe.

But as he swung down at Yamash’s skull, the evil priest’s head began to deform and his skin grew scaly. Now possessing the head of a serpent, he struck up and his jaw unhinged around the head of Anomen’s mace and he swallowed it. His mouth wrapped around Anomen’s forearm and his fangs sunk in. Anomen felt a near-paralyzing poison enter his bloodstream and his hand went numb and Silvereye was swallowed out of his grasp. As he pulled his hand from the serpent’s mouth, Yamash’s body became that of a snake’s and he then began to twist around Anomen’s legs and pin them together. As Anomen swung down with his shield, the great serpent’s tail lashed up and gripped around his left shoulder, immobilizing his shield arm. The snake continued to wrap around and around Anomen’s body, and the knight just barely managed to pull his right arm away from his body before it was pinned. Soon he found himself gazing straight into the snake’s eyes. It opened its mouth and bared its fangs, moving to bite Anomen’s head, but he grappled his arm around its neck, squeezing with all his might. The snake was constricting him as well and he felt his ribs and hips come under great pressure even through his armor. The snake hissed and its forked tongue shot and flickered as it too was strangled. Man and beast struggled for dominance, the man feeling the poison still coursing through him and weakening him as the beast constricted his body, and the beast feeling its air being cut off and its spine being nearly snapped.

At last, with a thunderous roar of righteous anger, Anomen suffocated the beast and snapped its neck. But as it died, it spent its last energy crushing Anomen’s ribcage and squeezing the life from his poisoned heart. The limp beast slid off him and fell lifeless to the ground, but he soon fell onto his back, trying to call upon Helm for healing as his life and consciousness slipped away. He closed his eyes to the foreign sky as his thoughts turned to the sky of his world. To his loving sister and raging father. To the people and training of his early life. To the faith he had found in Helm, and the adventures across the Realms that it had propelled him on. To everywhere and everyone he had gone to in search of true love and a destiny. And to the beaches and jungles of Maztica, where at last he had found both.

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