Chapter Nine: Battling Demons
“There is only one rule,” the Gamemaster repeated, eyeing each of the three massive creatures, “you cannot kill Evelyn. If you do, there will be no soul to win.”
Kikabi, the red lizard with the glowing eyes, grinned wickedly and hefted his Morningstar on his shoulder.
The Gamemaster introduced each of the monsters in turn. Kikabi, the red one with lizard-like features and deadly claws, Allata, the pit fiend, his scaly flesh and curled horns coloured maroon, and Vikhuuth, a balar with burnt orange hide and wielding a crackling sword of lightning in one hand and a fiery whip in the other.
Roon, Thia and Bran were ushered to the end of the room by a window, where the Gamemaster conjured a row of seats. He erected a magical barrier between his audience and his fighters. “There will be no interceding by your friends,” he explained, gesturing to them as they took their reluctant seats.
“Who does this creepy bastard think he is?” Roon whispered to Thia, perching on the edge of his seat.
The elf shook her head, looking helpless. Kilian, Opal and Evelyn paced with their backs to the barrier, watching the three massive creatures anxiously. If, as the Gamemaster said, the devils couldn’t kill Evelyn, then that meant more danger to Kilian and Opal. Evelyn looked over at the sorcerer and druid and whispered, “I’m sorry if I get you killed.”
Kilian seemed to shrink.
The Gamemaster gestured to the six contestants to spread out around the room.
Roon pressed a nail into his staff over the religious symbol carved into the wood. “Protect them, Baravar. Keep them safe.”
“Who’s Baravar?” Bran asked curiously, but there was no time to explain.
The Gamemaster raised his arms and said, “let the fight begin.”
Immediately, there was a thunderous crash of sound as the creatures slammed into each other. Kikabi and Vikhuuth went for each other, the former flying up over the balar and screaming a high-pitched, unearthly screech that made the ears hurt. His Morningstar cracked into the balar’s chest and exploded with fire, but the balar seemed to consume the flames, the heat cascading over him like a soft rain. The balar returned to attack with a thrust of his massive sword, lightning arching in all directions, then cracked its fiery whip around one of the lizard’s leathery wings, dragging it closer to the ground.
The pit fiend, seeing the battle between the two giants, charged at Kilian, its wings unfolding and lifting it into the air as Kilian tried to fly up and back out of its reach. Opal cast a beam of light over the fiend, but it rolled out of the way, so the druid roared as she transformed into a sabretooth tiger and tried to grab the fiend by its leg, but she was smacked away by its muscular tail. The fiend managed to reach its long arm and bat Kilian out of the air as if he were a mere fly. The storm sorcerer slammed into the ground and there was a crack as he hit.
“Kilian!” Roon shouted, standing up and running to the barrier. His friend wasn’t moving. “Let me heal him!” He said to the Gamemaster, but the tiger-man shook his head and turned back to the fight.
There was no way Opal or Kilian would survive against these creatures.
Evelyn cast a magical armour over herself and began shooting green eldritch blasts at the monsters, but they seemed to glance off them without effect. The girl cursed and stepped back as far as the barrier would allow.
The pit fiend twisted in the air and dove for the sabretooth, its claws spread to grab her. Opal backed away, but the creature slammed into her with its tail and knocked her off her feet. It landed on the ground next to her as she tried to stand and brought its mace down on her back, throwing her across the room in a bloody heap. The sabretooth body vanished, and Opal lay there as herself, unconscious and bleeding. In a rage of bloodlust, the fiend then turned to Evelyn and flicked its tail at her, and suddenly a portal opened behind the fiend, and another in front, and it hit itself with its spiked tail and backed away, snarling. The portal vanished, and the fiend’s tail was severed from its body. It roared and turned at its bloody stump, screeching horribly at the pain.
“Do not attack the prize soul,” the Gamemaster reminded the fiend. It snarled in response and turned as the Gamemaster healed Kilian and the sorcerer got to his feet unsteadily. The Gamemaster healed Opal next, and the genasi looked around in confusion for a moment and then summoned a beam of light back into the room and directed it at the fiend, singeing it and forcing it back as an oozy substance leaked from its stub.
The battle between Kikabi and Vikhuuth continued behind them, but Roon was focused on his friends. Kilian flew up into the corner of the room while the fiend was distracted and began sending bolts of chaotic energy at the monster. Evelyn continued shooting blasts of green energy at the creatures, but they ignored her, the pit fiend’s bloody stump a reminder of what would happen if they retaliated.
The fiend’s attention was drawn to the two fighting goliaths. It raised a hand and Kikabi, who was flying a few feet off the ground, instantly froze and dropped with a loud THUMP on the ground, unmoving. Allata had paralyzed the lizard. Balar and fiend immediately moved in and started beating the frozen creature. The balar struck the lizard with a bolt of lightning, and Kikabi stirred and roared, grabbing the balar’s throat and slamming him to the ground, his momentary paralysis gone. Allata moved back and hissed, but Kikabi limped and was bleeding from dozens of gashes across his scaly hide. He started to move back, breathing heavily.
Kilian, still flying above them, threw out a rumbling thunderous boom and all three creatures grabbed their heads, crouching against the pain. Opal moved her beam of light over them and they started to smoke. Kikabi shrunk back and said in a low, guttural voice, “I YIELD!” He threw out an arm and a portal appeared, and the giant lizard-man stepped back into it and disappeared.
“Yes!” Roon and Thia shouted at the same time. “Two more to go,” Roon said in relief, “if they keep out of their way, maybe they’ll kill each other off.”
“Here’s to hoping,” Thia breathed.
The fiend leapt and bit into the balar with sharp teeth, drawing blood and clawing at it viciously.
At that moment, a portal opened behind the Gamemaster and the point of a sword was thrust through his chest. He shuttered, his front spilling blood, then collapsed as the blade was pulled free. The barrier dropped immediately. A tall, winged man appeared through the portal holding the bloodied greatsword. He stepped out and the portal vanished, his wings bursting out in white-feathered glory. His eyes turned white and blinding and he held the blade to his mouth and whispered to it. The greatsword floated up on its own.
“The barrier’s down,” Bran said quickly, loading a bolt into his crossbow and standing up, aiming at one of the creatures across the room.
For the moment, the fiend and balar seemed to have not noticed the sudden demise of the Gamemaster, nor the bright celestial who had appeared, so focused as they were in tearing each other to bloody scraps.
Kilian suddenly dropped from the ceiling and landed hard on the floor, groaning. Roon ran to him, keeping an eye on the fighting demons, and quickly healed the sorcerer.
The floating greatsword flew at the pit fiend and started slashing at it, drawing its attention away from the balar. Vikhuuth snarled as the celestial man released a massive arrow into his thick shoulder. The balar pulled out the glowing tip of the arrow and cast it aside.
“Quick!” Opal shouted, creating a dome of water that rose and grew in the middle of the room, swirling and obscuring its centre, “get in!” With that, the genasi dove into the dome.
Evelyn ran in after her and disappeared from view. Roon helped Kilian sit up and pointed to the water dome, “we have to get in there!” he shouted over the sound of rushing water.
Kilian nodded silently and got to his feet, turning to see the balar suddenly flash and disappear, reappearing only a few feet from them.
“Run!” Roon shouted, trying to cast his bane spell onto the balar and missing.
The celestial shot another arrow, this time hitting the fiend, the arrow exploding with radiant light and forcing Allata to the ground. Roon and Kilian ducked away from the balar, who just realized they were standing there and took a swing, and the two of them ran for the dome. Thia shot magic missiles at the fiend as she ran, then dove into Opal’s water dome.
Roon turned in time to see Vikhuuth summon a portal and disappear through it. The fiend charged the celestial as Roon dove into the dome of water. Kilian and Bran appeared beside him seconds apart. All of them were out of breath, but momentarily safe.
It was a strange sensation, standing inside a dome as water raged around you, and a more fervent battle raged outside it. Roon stretched out his hands and cast a white light over his companions, bathing them with healing. They all looked around at each other uncertainly, then Opal jumped out of the dome. “Wait!” Kilian shouted, but she was gone. A few seconds later, the genasi reappeared, smiling, hair dripping water.
“The last one is dead,” she said, dropping her spell so water splashed down over all of them, soaking them anew.
Sure enough, the celestial stood over the smoldering remains of the pit fiend, its maroon skin cracked and still burning with radiant light. The celestial looked up at them, his smooth, muscular chest pale and bare. He sheathed his greatsword.
“Thank you,” Kilian said wearily, rubbing his neck with a pained expression.
The celestial dipped his head in acknowledgment.
Evelyn stepped up and said in her soft, quiet voice, “who are you?”
The being spoke inside their minds in a deep, ringing voice. My name is Qalaerence.
“Why did you help us?” the girl asked.
It is my job to eliminate evil, he said slowly, eyes glowing brighter as he looked at them. Evelyn, his gaze focused down on her, your great-great grandfather was a demon hunter. He defeated the Gamemaster several times, and the Gamemaster has been taking it out on your family ever since.
Evelyn looked at him quietly, and he turned and walked over to the throne and picked up the stone sword the Gamemaster had used. He gripped the stone hilt and blew on the blade, which turned to dust and scattered under his breath. He turned the hilt in his hand and Evelyn’s petrified eye had transformed into a smooth, sparkling crystal with a slash through it. It looked like a cat’s eye. The hilt shimmered and changed from stone into a gleaming metal with ornate shapes wrought throughout. He held it out and with a flash, a beam of radiant light flew from it like a blade made of starlight.
This was your great-great grandfather’s blade, he told her, though his voice still echoed in the minds of everyone as he bent and handed the hilt to Evelyn, the blade disappearing, he called it Sunblade, for every good sword has a name. Take care of it, Evelyn. With that, the celestial opened a portal and went through, the portal vanishing an instant later.
“Woah,” Thia finally said in the silence that followed.
“We all survived,” Kilian said in astonishment.
“Let’s search the house,” Evelyn said, turning away as if the last few minutes hadn’t happened. She put the hilt in her pack and walked toward the double doors.
“Wait,” Kilian said, “should we bury your father’s body?”
Evelyn’s stepmother’s gruesome and bloodied body lay next to her father’s white-haired, pale one. The girl shook her head.
“Are you sure?” Thia asked hesitantly.
“Your father was controlled by a succubus,” Bran said quietly. “There may be no reason to hate him now.”
Evelyn sighed and turned back to her companions. “For now, all I want is to sleep. Let’s decide what to do tomorrow.”
They all agreed wearily and made their way down the broken steps of the Elynbrynne manor, pushing through the front doors and closing them behind.
They found rooms at the Kingscourt Inn and slept off their injuries, then returned to the manor the next day. Evelyn took her trophies, cutting out the succubae’s eye and taking the Gamemaster’s backward-knuckled paws and putting them in her bag. Thia shook her head in disgust but say nothing. The girl had clearly been through a lot in her childhood, and for some reason, hacking out body parts and keeping them was something she liked to do. Thia found some potions and they found stray pieces of gold and gems in chests throughout the manor. Finally, Evelyn announced that she wanted to leave Everlund and head to Silverymoon. “That fighter lady in Triboar told me about a giantslayer sword in Silverymoon. I think we should go there.”
“Urgola?” Roon asked, and she nodded.
“A giantslayer sword does sound useful,” Kilian admitted, “do we know how far it is from here?”
“A couple days on foot, I’d wager,” Bran said.
“Evelyn,” Roon said carefully, “are you sure you don’t want to bury your father?”
“Well,” the girl hesitated, sitting on the steps and looking down at her feet, her hands folded in front of her, “I guess now that I think about it, it was my stepmom who took over my dad’s mind and made him kill my mom.”
“Why did she do that?” Kilian asked, leaning against the railing.
Evelyn shrugged. “Money. Control, maybe. Once she married my dad, she convinced him to marry me off to some elf-man I’d never met. I guess the elves were offering him a lot of money for me. I was only fourteen.” She wiped her eyes, looking up at them, “anyways, that’s why I ran away, and I never looked back.”
“And six years later,” Thia filled it, “you have a choice to make.”
Evelyn nodded and stood, clenching her fists and walking outside. The rest of them followed her quietly out.