Iricah’s senses finally kicked in and she spun around, her hair and bags twirling around her like one of the Ata’uhn dancers on First Isle. In an instant she had lost her brother once more, and in another a childhood playmate as well. What would be next? What more could she handle? What more couldn’t she?
She started to turn around before the others, but finished last and by the time she was facing the same direction as they were, they had drawn their weapons. Thrak was already stooped over in his battle posture, his axes held before him. He was snarling into the darkness of the tunnel. Frank’s mace was glowing bright. Iricah saw that he had sprouted horns upon his head, his pale skin transformed into a red color. She wasn’t sure what had happened, but she understood the depth of this place, the horror of these halls. Steam rose off of his skin. She could feel his heat coming off of him in waves. Zy’an held his bow out, pointed into the darkness. They all waited. Something was coming.
Some several steps beyond where they stood, a dark silhouette appeared in the hideous passageway of this terrible cave. There was no sound, no movement, it just was there. The face was hidden but the outline was tall and lean, much larger than a man should be, and despite Frank’s light, it was still covered in shadow.
Iricah’s blood ran cold thinking of the goddess of hatred they had fought in Ferroun, knowing what was all around her, knowing what had become of Garondin. A powerful gust of wind, like a dead man’s breath blew through the tunnel and the smell of blood, despite Frank’s prayer, filled their noses once more. Iricah nearly wretched but managed to stand. She glanced sideways at the others, waiting for someone to make a move. All was still in the darkness beyond Frank’s mace.
“Who in the light are you, and what have you done to the King’s son?” Raged Frank. “You will be brought to justice for these crimes!”
Thrak was pawing at the ground wanting to charge ahead. Iricah laid a hand on his shoulder, trying to keep him back for just a minute more. Once he was sprung into action, there was no getting him back. Something felt wrong here. The figure didn’t move, but somehow it’s presence seemed to grow.
“Tell me what you have done to….” Frank coughed and his voice trailed off as if he had lost the ability to speak.
The figure in the darkness laughed. “Silence, fool. What do you know of justice? You can’t even speak!”
Frank tried to answer, but the words would not come out. Iricah watched. Her skin crawled. A feeling was creeping upon her, over her, up her neck and throat. She was drowning in hatred and despair.
“I am the Lord of Chaos,” said the figure in a wickedly calm reply. “What would any of you know of justice? You are not here for justice, you are here for a rescue, and for him, you’ve sacrificed all.” The voice was like a whisper except it was too sinister and powerful. The figure’s mocking laughter echoed around the passageway. “But that is what I am to you, Chaos!! To, Iricah, I am so much more.” The figure, stepping out of the shadows, revealed his hideous face at last. The skin, taught against bone, was gray and mottled with wounds as if it were dead, not living tissue. His eyes were slanted and wrapped backwards towards his protruding ears. He wasn’t elven. All of his features, chin, ears, nose were grossly elongated, as if stretched or pulled that way. The eyes blazed with hatred, even as the voice spoke calmly. They were the eyes of a snake. But the most striking feature of the face was the mouth, from which protruded pointed teeth stretched over red lips. The man, for lack of a better term, also wore the dark enveloping robes of the Host’s army, but their color was a deep crimson, the color of blood.
Iricah’s feet became stone, her heart became a cannonball. Her eyes stared ahead, unblinking.
“Hello sister,” the creature of night in the tunnel said and it laughed maniacly as if that was funny to it. “Welcome to my master’s home. Do you like the decor? You’ve found me at last, and you’ve come for me just as she said you would.”
“Oh fuck this ssssibling rivalry!” Raged Thrak and before Iricah could feel anything other than paralyzed agony, he was flying through the tunnel, his axes, like wagon wheels tumbling in the air for the creature’s throat.
Behind him, the monk’s bow whirled and behind that came Frank, his horns, like his mace, pointing at their enemy’s face!
Iricah lost track of time for a moment, and who could blame her? She was standing in a tunnel made of parts of people, watching her three closest comrades try and kill her now apparently evil brother. Oh, and her one time fiance apparently needed to be told that his little brother’s body parts were still wiggling a bit.
She was going to need a minute.
As the full impact of what her brother had become came back to her, she heard her name called, and then heard it again. She was vaguely aware that it was coming from deeper into the hellish hallways. And then she remembered! Gaelon! No! No! Damnit it all! She was here to save him. There was no need for this! She was here to save him from Wrath’s twisted power. She could do it. She had become more powerful, she just needed a moment. Gaelon would listen. She could do this!
The others had run off, battling her brother, and they had to stop, now! They would kill him! He was twisted and warped into something terrible, but he was still there. She had heard Frank once talk of the dark powers of the night. The Inquisitioners called them the undead, some stalked for prey, and others lived off the souls of others, some off the blood of others. This wasn’t him, surely it wasn’t!
“Gaelon! Where are you?” She called into the darkness. There was no one, no light to see by.
“Iricah!!!! We need you! Iricah!!!!” It was Frank! She ran, stumbling over the grisly portions sticking out of the walls.
“Don’t hurt him!” She yelled.
She came upon a terrible scene. Zy’an, wounded badly was fighting back the gangly creature, who had once been her brother. And as she took it all in, realization, like the weight of the world, settled onto shoulders. Whatever this thing was, it wasn’t Gaelon, and this not Gaelon Lord of Chaos monster was killing her friends. Frank was trying to attack it with his mace but he couldn’t maneuver well enough around the two. The Gaelon beast slashed out, ripping into Zy’an’s flesh, and then, with a word of magic and a finger, he brought his hand upwards and flicked it out. Frank’s body rose up suspended in the air, his legs kicking out, and he flew backwards, smashing into the wall.
The man’s face snarled like an animal, his teeth bared. “My master will be most pleased that you have come. It is as she has foretold.” He looked backward and saw Iricah watching it all. “Sister, you have done as you were supposed to. I told you that you were meant to be here. Join with us, Iricah. You can not understand true power until you understand true pain. I will show you!”
Zy’an lay on the floor at his feet. His simple robe was slashed open, and his skin hung over his raked flesh, cut deep into the muscles and bone. Blood was pooling. He was dying, and yet Iricah knew he would still get up to fight. He wouldn’t quit until he couldn’t quit.
Iricah couldn’t speak. For the first time she could recall, she just didn’t know what to say.
The monk lay still and with blazing speed, he made his move. With the last of his strength, the monk made a swift motion to stand. Gaelon, or the Lord of Chaos, pointed his index finger at him and smiled at Iricah while doing so. “Here is your first lesson Sister. DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” He yelled back at the monk. A ray of black energy shot out from his fingertip, like a hand outstretched, it clawed through the air, reaching for Zy’an!
In that instant, Thrak, whom she hadn’t been able to see in the dark, lunged and threw his body in front of Zy’an. The shadowy ray struck him in the chest, and for a moment he was frozen. His axes fell upon the ground, his body, blackened like charred meat over a fire, fell, and lay still. Thrak’s tongue lolled out of his mouth. His tail, never fully regrown, made one last flick and then lay motionless as well.
Thrak was dead.
The creature moved his hand and Frank, now greatly injured, froze in place, his mace held high over his head. Savoring his victory, the Lord of Chaos walked to stand over the body of Thrak. He looked casually at the monk trying to stand and snarled. Zy’an was using one hand to keep his abdomen together, and eventually found his feet, legs shaking. The monster towered over him.
“This Iricah, this is what you will come to understand. You will see that in our anger there lies a power. More power than you can ever know!” He raised his finger at the monk this time.
Iricah knew it was the only moment she would get. For maybe the first time in her life, she guessed quickly at where something was in one of her many bags, reached in, and just like that, grabbed it out. More miraculously still, she slunk in a half lurch closer to the figure while it was raising it’s fingers to kill her friends, and as her one time brother raised his finger to kill again, she popped the cork, jumped into the air towards it’s face, and jammed the vial containing Zy’an’s blood, upside down into his throat as hard as she could.