Belial pressed a perfect finger, smooth as buttermilk that might have been manicured by angels to the halfling’s brow. Suddenly he could feel the rest of his companions, he could how far they were and which way he would have to go to find them. He could find them all.
“Thank me.” Belial breathed, inches from his face.
Belkar stuttered incoherently, but no sound came out.
Belial grinned a nightmare grin.
A long, thin tongue snaked out, licking him, terrible in it’s intimate promise, from his naked crotch all the way up to his neck, straying a bit to either side on his chest and leaving a terrible trail behind that made his skin hiss.
“Don’t make me wait, Belkar.” He said, sending a violent shudder through the Halfling’s very soul.
Elan had been walking for a long period of time. As he has walked, the passage had got tighter and lower, until both is shoulders were scraping rock with every step, and he had to bow his head.
He suddenly had a terrible feeling that if he didn’t get out of there, he was going to smother to death. His chest constricted. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He was strongly tempted to break away and run back to the gate, and to leave the dungeon. Even the thought of dying in the dessert without supplies or protection didn’t deter him. He licked dry lips and looked about for an escape route.
It was then he realized he had no idea where he was, which way he came, and that the tunnels were moving around of their own accord.
Elan tugged at the collar of his shirt, that, while loose, wasn’t loose enough.
He didn’t understand this. He wasn’t claustrophobic, he never had been. And yet he felt trapped alive, entombed, with no hope of escape.
People often thought Elan was stupid. This was far from the case, in his own way he was fairly intelligent. It was just that once he got an idea in his head he couldn’t make it go, no matter what he did. And while the logic he used to come to conclusions might be somewhat questionable, it certainly made a lot of sense from his own perspective.
“Hello Elan.” A voice said.
Elan turned quickly, smiling as best he could. He wanted company, yes, but anyone would be better then the Halfling… Except the lich. Or that goblin who tried to disintegrate Miko. Or perhaps Miko, whatever happened to her (She must have got out during the city. Maybe she was looking for them again.) Or pretty much any of the aberrations in the monster manual… Well, there were worse things to have as company, but Belkar was still a bad one. Still, it beat being alone.
The Halfling looked like he’d been put through a sausage-maker. Everything seemed to be bleeding or twisted. His clothes were ragged tatters, that did less for modesty then his own body hair, and he was shaking like a leaf in a gale.
“Hey Belkar.” Elan said happily, trying to makeup for the awkwardness of the situation, then noticed the Halfling had his knives out, and was looking a little uncertain. “Hey, did I fail a spot check? What are you looking at? I haven’t seen any monsters so far…” He snapped his head around, trying to figure out what had happened.
There was a cold, stinging sensation in his upper leg. He looked down to see Belkar’s knife buried in to the hilt, shock and adrenaline dulling the sensation to a gentle throb.
Elan looked up, his eyes wide with shock, then his instincts as an adventurer took over. His hand flickered for his rapier, and drawing it in one smooth motion he pointed at the Halfling who had darted back. Elan took a step forward, a witticism already leaping to his lips, and had just a second to look surprised before the other knife caught him in the throat.
"We're not fencing." Belkar mocked, recovering from his throw. "So before you fight, make sure the other guy is obeying the same rules as you."
Elan made a horrible gurgling sound as he staggered, red liquid welling up and spurting between his clutching fingers, as his muscles jerked with death throws. Belkar kicked the legs from under him, and retrieved his knife.
Elan gibbered through the pain, his eyes glazed over. It was doubtful a single coherent word would escape his lips before his body finally succumbed to shock, and he died. His arms convulsed as his muscles contracted, and his lips moved as sounds gurgled out of his lips.
Belkar turned his back. He’d gotten the XP after all. He didn’t feel triumphant. If anything, he felt even emptier then he had when Belkar finished using him, and the pain receded. He was hollow.
Elan was looking at him accusingly, his eyes glazed over and his head lolling slackly. He’d done it out of fear and shame, not his own decision. The bard… the ex-bard’s gaze didn’t waver, and Belkar, meeting his blank, empty stare. He wished he could grind the carcass into dust.
“Good work, Belkar.” Belial said, in a voice that seemed to caress him. “You killed the fool. Now deal with the rest, before I lose patience.” There was no body, no perfect form of Adonis's better looking brother this time. Belial had receded, having no more use of physical form. Belkar’s body would be his host, if necessary.
Belkar shook his head, shame holding him more strongly then fear. It wouldn’t last.
“I said rise.” Belial said, and Belkar’s body responded to the implacable command. Ravaged muscles tautened painfully, propelling him upward with a groan of hopeless rage.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now, keep on moving, and don’t disappoint me again.” Belkar nodded and began staggering onward, towards the place he knew Roy would be.
Girard’s gate was almost a disappointment after the labyrinth. A plain, wooden door, nothing more. In fact, to anyone unaware of the significance, the two elves who appeared in front of it, one achingly sensual, the other androgynous, would be far more interesting. They kissed hungrily, then the female elf stepped away, fading as she did so. Her partner looked around disinterestedly, then sat down, legs crossed, and placed alabaster hands on the knee’s beneath a cotton red robe, faded and worn.
It was almost a minute before three figures appeared before the seated mage, each ridiculously tall and broad, clad in dressed entirely in dark robes that concealed their faces and forms.
“It is time. We are calling in your debt.” The center one said, and placed it’s hand on the wizard’s chest before Vaarsuvius had a chance to react.
The wizard looked up to the ceiling, then something faded, and the elf stood up, exactly the same and yet changed, horribly. Eyes stared at the three of them like orbs of unrelieved blackness of something that slithers in the deepest oceans of the world. The face, angular and sharp, was now a pallid grey. A network of thick, pulsing veins covered the cheek and throat.
Vaarsuvus attempted to laugh, a thin stream of ichor running down the chin. “Sorry, but you can’t take what is not there.”
The figures stepped back, seeming unsure, for a split second, and then vanished, as though they had never been, but for the changes wrought to the elf remained.
Vaarsuvius seemed relaxed. Since drinking the potion during the ritual, there had been a being wrapped like a nest of vipers around the wizard’s heart. It didn’t speak, it had no words, instead it sent urges, primal and refined, appetites to be quenched. Vaarsuvius's inhibitions were gone, along with the pitiful moral constructs and beliefs. Nothing. Nothing but Passion, pleasure, pain, and inspiration. An urge for limitless experience and unfettered desire, and pangs like hunger. The wizard felt… empty. But the being coiled with it’s chest knew what Vaarsuvius would have to do to fill the emptiness up.
V tried to laugh again. Things were looking up. Shadows congealed from the air itself, and when they faded, the elf was gone.
Belial was wroth. He was never angry, and in hell it was said he was most dangerous when he was smiling (and he almost always smiled). But now his perfect brow was creased, and his silky skin glowed red like a forge. Vapour curled out of his mouth, hissing as it did between the rows of fangs that had grown in the place of perfect teeth, and his muscles were tensed like a taunt string. His horns had grown until they formed an enormous crown, and his wings had unfurled, their golden feathers seeming to burn with a light that seemed unspeakably holy, and coldly unforgiving at once, that made you want to curl into a ball and cower.
“You can’t do this.” He said, is voice charming and sensual, despite the clear enraged madness suffusing his essence. Somehow this was worse.
“Tell that to Slaanesh. I’m sure he would be fascinated to hear your complaints.” Morathi replied carelessly. “The powers that be have duly noted your concern.”
Morathi seemed unaffected by the enraged devil. She had sold her soul to Slaanesh, there was little left that could affect her. And here, at least, she was beyond it’s grasp.
“Calm down.” Morathi said, in a tone calculated to enrage. “You’ve made your move, and my master’s made his. Now, lets see what happens next.”
Belial took a step back, no longer looming over her, but his anger did not recede.
“Your god is a virus. It does nothing but consume, and can leave you nothing but ash and bitterness. It builds nothing, it can only destroy.”
Morathi cocked her head. A feeling of lust was pulsing in her chest in time with her heart, but she held it back. Giving herself to this being would be a bad decision. “And you are any different?”
"I build on mortals. I perfect them, cleanse them of impurity through pain.” Belial snapped, still glaring. When she laughed he flashed her a murderous look then vanished, probably going back to play with his little toy.
Morathi turned her gaze outward, following the Prince of Pleasure’s new proxy. Vaarsuvius. This world was so… interesting.
Odin handed Durkon a jug, made of clay, and decorated with markings, fantastic whorls, swirls and curlicues traced lightly into the jug. “If you will it, take my mead, and accept my help. Otherwise, we have nothing further to discuss.”
Durkon took the jug. He stared at it for a long moment, then hesitantly took a swallow. The fiery liquor burned his tongue, took him by the throat, wrung his neck, then sizzled down his gullet, to his stomach where it exploded.
Durkon gave a moist sigh, and wiped the tears from his eyes.
“Good, eh?” Odin said, taking it back. “My own brew.” Then he looked at Durkon sternly, his one eye twinkling. “You are mine, now. Not just my follower, but my servant. Are you prepared.”
“Ae think sae.” Durkon replied, somewhat unsteadily. "But Ae couldnae say fer sure.All Ae can dae is me best."
“Good.” Odin said. “If you thought otherwise, you wouldn't be worth my time. You’ll know what to do when you have to do it. It’s a hard path you have to walk. I wish you best of luck.” He said, then vanished, leaving a chill in the air as his presence departed.
Durkon sighed., moving to replace his hammer, when he realized it had become a great spear, of hard, knotted oak, carved with the same designs that had been on Odin’s golden lance. As he strapped it as securely as possible to his back, he noticed something else. His beard had turned the purest, cleanest white. White as snow, soft as anything.
“Ae guess ah’m yers at that.” He muttered, annoyed at the changes, then adjusted his pack and began making his way towards the gate. He didn't know what to expect, or what to do. But what was there, but to meet it head on as best he could?
"Doesnae mean Ae like ye though."