Morathi pulled herself upright, her half open silk robe trailing behind like a pale ghost. Her skin was luminous in the torchlight, as pale and ghostly as her robe.
“It is time to leave.” She said. “You must return now.”
Vaarsuvius rose unsteadily, spent after the days . “Will I see you again?”
“I am to remain with you for a time.” Morathi replied. She was still enticing, disturbingly so, but the focus had shifted, becoming straight forward. “too watch over and guide you. And…other reasons.” Vaarsuvius felt a shiver of desire at the last words. “I am to act as your guide as you usher in a new age for your world.”
“How am I to undertake that? It is a significant task.”
“Use the gifts She Who Thirsts has given you.” Morathi replied, gesturing with a cruel smile.
The elf looked down with horror and lifted a weak hand, to see dark grey, papery skin and pulsing black veins writhing like worms. The mages carefully manicured nails had become, while not quite talons, hard and sharp, black and shiny as the carapace of a beetle.
Muttering a cantrip anxiously, Vaarsuvius staggered back when confronted with what should have been familiar features. Gaunt as a skull, totally fleshless, with wide, livid scarlet-eyes, a nose that was flat as a snake’s with slits for nostrils, and not only fangs but an entire row of thin, needle like teeth that barely fit together. A mane of purple hair fell down to the small of the back, in wild, heavy tangles, and a feral light shone in the eyes.
“What have you done to me?”
Morathi’s expression was chilling in its rapturous intensity. “Made you worthy.”
“You are a priest. You hold certain truths to be self-evident.” Odin said suddenly to the still awed dwarf. “But there are no permanent truths. Nothing, in the universe, or any other, is constant, just fragile structures in a sea of chaos. I exist here, and in other realms too. And many sit beyond my grasp all knowledge. I am a concept, sustained by belief, as is my son, and all the gods.” He spake. Durkon had once wondered what that type of tone was, but now he knew. It was a tone possessed by gods and the greatest of heroes for talking of things beyond the comprehension of most people.
“Balance is important.” Odin continued. “So I can’t act directly. None of us can. Make no mistake, I need you.”
“Ye’re askin’ me tae take tha wyrd ‘o ma friends on me shoulders.” Durkon said. As a cleric, he was more familiar with divinity then most people. He’d actually spoken to Thor a few times, when he’d first become a cleric, and when he’d cast Commune to ask Thor’s advice on dating outside the faith (Thor had taken one look at Lien and snapped him a high five). This was different.
“No.” Odin replied, in a more normal tone, that could be used to describe less important things like the end of the world. “I want you to take the world on your shoulders.”
“Not this.” Odin said, a gnarled hand rubbing his creased forehead. “Who else?” He said at last, his voice thick with complaint. “Why do you mortals always ask that? Who better? What does it matter?”
Durkon fell silent.
Roy had been walking for ten minutes when he became convinced he was being followed. At first he’d ignore it, but he began to catch glimpses, a flicker of something, but it was gone as soon as he tried to examine it.
Turning, he jumped back when he saw a face inches from his own. He started, jumping back and grasping for his sword as the features swam in to focus.
It was certainly a pretty face, the lips a bit too thin, the eyes inhumanly big, and more delicate then any human, or even elf, but as close to flawless as seemed within the bounds of mortal possibility. Creamy skin and platinum blond hair completed the picture, topping a build that was so slender it looked ready to snap under the slightest pressure. Delicate ears tapered into sharp points, and creamy skin like milk glowed even in the dark.
“…Celia?” Roy said slowly, one eyebrow rising as he tried to make sense of it.
“Hey there, handsome. I’m supposed to guide you. Basically, any Outsider with an interest and a claim of your loyalty gets summoned. I’d tell you more, ‘cept I don’t know myself.”
Roy shook his head. “Oh no. No no no. This is an illusion, and if I believe it I’ll get killed or something. Not getting fooled so easily.”
Celia sighed, and folded her arms beneath her breasts. “Roy, it’s really me.”
Roy shook his head. “Prove it.” He said, with finality.
Celia sighed. “You hate the big, dumb fighter archetype.”
Roy shook his head. “Not going to cut it.”
She sighed again. “When we kiss you curl your toes and make a soft gurgling noise at the back of your throat.”
Roy blinked. “OK, that’s pretty good. Maybe you can read my mind…"
Celia shook her head, took two steps forward and kissed him.
It was a gentle, easy kiss, not insistent, her soft lips mashing with his, cracked and dry from thirst and the dessert. At last they pulled apart. Without consciously realizing it his hands had strayed into her hair and made a mess of it.
“Good enough for me.” He said, and pulled her close to kiss her again.
Belial smiled down at the Halfling, still on his knees, a mean, sinister smile, that made Belkar tremble as his gaze grew wary. He wasn’t begging, or better, crying, yet. That would come later.
“Belkar,” he said softly in his throaty, perfect voice. “You weren’t very polite to me a few seconds ago.”
The ranger bit his lip, his eyes growing rounder. Belial continued.
“In fact, you have been less then civil to me since I got here. Have you?”
“I didn’t - “ Belkar began.
“Don’t interrupt.” He said politely, correcting a minor mistake. “I went to all the trouble of finding you, and what happens? Coward, am I? Weak, am I?” His voice had risen as he spoke, and he was swelling, the muscles on his chest rippling as he expanded, towering until the small ivory horns poking above his flowing blond hair scraped the ceiling. Belkar was cowering back against the wall, his head ducked and a look of mournful wretchedness on his face.
“Please’, it’s just that – “
He shook his head mock sadly, dropping his voice again. “There really aren’t any excuses. Are there?”
Belkar sniffled in response, trembling like a leaf in a gale.
He leaned across the hall and stuck his beautiful face close to halflings, making his voice obscenely gentle.
Tears had welled in his eyes and his lower lip was stuck out as he raised his eyes to the fallen angel’s, chin wobbling hopelessly.
“I’m s-sorry,” he stammered, “it’s just I been so c-confused. I thought… I couldn’t remember. I d-din’t know w-what to do. Please, please don’t be mad at me.”
He stared at him with wide, wet eyes for a long broken moment before lowering them, his shoulders sinking, his arms going limp. There was no mercy on Belial’s face. Nothing but a feral pleasure.
“Do whatever you need to.” Belkar sniffled at last.
Belial smiled, wide and bright.
“I’m glad you understand.” He stroked the ranger’s shaved head gently for a second then slammed his other fist into his gut with bone shattering force.
He barely made a sound as Belial kicked and punched him, knocking him onto the stone floor and rupturing muscle, organs and splitting bones. He desperately raised his arms at one point to cover his head, but Belial knocked them away easily, broke the left one in three places by stomping on it, and then slammed the halfling’s head into the wall a couple of times to make the point, leaving a gory smear. After that, Belkar just lay there, whimpering a little, but otherwise just keeping his eyes squeezed shut and his lips pressed tight together. Belial wasn’t getting a lot of enjoyment out of it – he felt oddly indifferent and detached, in fact. It wasn’t like other times when it was all for kicks (heh – literally!). The thing was, he wasn’t really angry at all. And the Halfling was already broken, there was no interest. Just the same, he knew the little ranger needed the discipline.
Letting him think he was angry would probably make it more hurtful to the little bitch, he liked to think of how much he’d suffer, crying and hysterical, all alone, so keen and unrelenting was the pain of knowing he was angry at him, and how much he was going to pay for it, and not being able to do anything about it.
So this way was easiest to make a short point. What did Belkar need to do for the punishment to stop, and Belial to forgive him? Why, whatever he asked. If he’d do anything, he could take a beating. Besides, Belkar needed the pain anyway, to remind him. Who he was. Who he belonged to.
Mortals were all the same. Once you forced your way past the defiance, the resistance and the lies they told themselves, they opened up to you, and you owned them.
He stopped before Belkar could fade out completely, sink into unconsciousness where the pain couldn’t reach him, then pinned the Halfling to the floor.
Belkar opened his eyes and looked at the fallen angel with absolute surrender.
It aroused him, and a second later he was inside the ranger and pounding for all he was worth.
By the time he had finished, Belkar was a wreck. His limb thrashed weakly, twisted terribly and bones pressed against the skin, threatening to jut out. Each breath was a sickening, choking rattle, and he was lying in a pool of his own blood and urine.
Worse, he was burning from the inside after Belial forced himself on him, the devil’s juices dissolving him, burning through skin and flesh like molten sand. Belial reaches between his legs, and grabs his testicles. He holds them for a moment, and then squeezes, until he feels the balls crush beneath the delicate skin.
Belkar was at death’s door, yet still awake. The devil wouldn't let him blank out. Belial kicked him again on a whim, then flicked his fingers. Gradually, with agonizing slowness, muscles spasmed and twisted of their own accord, dragging his twisted, mangled body back into position with a crackle of sinew and bone. Belkar screamed and thrashed, his eyes wild with pain, but Belial’s terrible will prevented him from losing consciousness.
“Now.” Belial said coldly as he worked his magic, indifferent to the halflings screams “We are about to take the gate. I want you to kill your leader, that simpleton, and the bitch. Oh, and kill the dwarf too. If you don’t, I will come back, and we will do this some more.”
Belkar nodded anxiously.