9.3B Half Lives

All around him, above, below, and around, Haryk watched as a battle unfolded. It was a battle for the ages he knew. In his many years of adventuring, he had fought all manner of battles, big and small. He had led attacks, and been attacked. Land, sea, air. He had done it all.  And like all proper Celn lighted infantry, he had sat in many a pub telling the tales over ale afterward. As he figured was the case with all who survive such fights common sense tells they shouldn’t, his tales always bent a little towards the more heroic, the more impossible. The Celns were big on superstition, bigger on story. The margin between the moments of triumph and tragedy grew smaller and smaller with each telling.

But this battle was different. On his back,floating in the air like some noble in a bathing house, Haryk watched the fight all around him. He pointed his pistol, here and there, shooting at this beast, cheering when he struck home. Haryk figured he had the best view of all in this one. Above him, the mindflayers, aided by their twisted beholder guards, flung their magical attacks at the dragons, and at Anril and Haryk. Several beams of energy struck out at each of the dragons, rending a leg bone of the steed that Tahg rode on.  Another blast of fire scorched one of the wings of Genoran’s mount. Neither failed their riders though–they stayed in the fight!

There was some commotion from the enemy directed at one of the tunnels below him, but he couldn’t turn around to see. Instead, his eyes trained on the massive cocoon that contained perhaps a hundred or more prisoners from Far Realm. He watched as one of the men, tried to climb his way out. He could see Hojo, who had emerged partly moments earlier try and hold the man back, but in his unbridled fear, the fellow would not listen. A small creature climbing around the outside of the structure, squatted and lunged at the man. He fell out of the cocoon, taking the creature with him into the dark below.

Haryk turned his attention to the mage, for he knew that without the wizard’s magic, they were doomed. While they hovered, Andril used his staff to put up a version of his own forcefield around just in time to preserve their lives a little longer. A colossal beholder, eye ablaze levitated down. It set it’s many eyes on the both of them just as a magical shield surrounded them. Like a bubble throwing rainbow colored hues after the rain, the field encapsulated them completely. Haryk could have laughed for he was just then like a fairy in one of Inara Goldpetal’s stories. That is, the Inara as he first knew her. Drifting around in a rainbow lined bubble, like the little people of legend. Around him, Ket itself loosed upon the world. You can’t make this shit up.  Haryk saw that the attacks from the eyes atop the stalks of the beholder bounced off the field and went out flying into the dark cave. They struck the cavern walls with so much force, that gigantic holes were made after each hit.  No rock fell from the holes or was blasted away–it was as if the rock just simply disappeared.

“You were nearly disintegrated there, Lord Haryk. You’re welcome.”

“Thanks!” barked Haryk who was far past modesty and pride. He twisted around to see what the sound was below him. “Holy island savagery, Andril. You won’t fucking believe this!”

Below Haryk and Andril, in one of the many tunnel entrances which branched off the main chasm chamber, was a ledge. On this ledge stood dozens of lizardfolk, fauns and other halves that Haryk knew were native to the isles. There was a minotaur and several catlike creatures that he recognized as tabaxi. Each was shooting arrows, or throwing spears, upwards and outwards at their foes. The tabaxi were slinging stones. At first Haryk laughed thinking that these puny weapons would be no match for the defenses of the mindflayers. They weren’t magical like Andril’s spells, or his prepared munitions. But then, to his astonishment, he saw that they passed right through the enemy’s magical shields.

“Matter over mind, Andril! Holy fucking half-breeds! It’s matter over mind!” Haryk couldn’t believe his eyes. Somehow, someway, Genoran had convinced the island natives to fight on his behalf. And their sticks and stones were breaking the bones of the evil bastards! Haryk spun around and pumped his fist.

Andril and Haryk noticed that the fighters had appeared in the tunnel entrance that the dragons flew in from. They waved their arms and moved their bubble closer to the ledge, but it was taking some doing and they were not alone. Around the cocoon above, the dragons flew taking the attention of most of their enemy with them. The King was looking for a way to free the prisoners, but Haryk didn’t know how in the darkness of Ket he’d do it.

But several of the mindflayers were still focused on them, there in their little sphere flying through the dark cave. Haryk knew the defenses wouldn’t hold, and just as he could feel the mindfuckery beginning to pierce his psyche once more, he saw a spear hurtle through the air, striking the beast that was attacking him. It sent him backwards in the air, the thing’s dark cape fluttered around it’s body as it disappeared through the smoky air. Haryk bellowed as he felt the attack in his mind subside. He and Andril were nearly to the ledge! He reached out, and took the clawed hand of a lizardman, that at first he mistook for a very familiar lizardman. It wasn’t, but it’s hissing battle cry was the same! Next to this creature was a faun hurtling a javelin at an another of their foes.

Haryk’s feet touched the ledge like a dancer landing a jump. Andril came up next to him. He had never been so happy to see a half, any half. He struck out his hand just an explosion rocked the ledge next to him. A fireball blasted outwards, knocking Haryk off his feet and against the stone wall of the ledge. Around him, a dozen of the halves caught fire. Screaming in agony, Haryk heard the voice of the enemy in his mind, “Come to me, slaves!!!!!” Their flesh burning, the half-men and half-women, catfolk, lizardfolk, minotaurs and fauns ran off the ledge and down into the terrible darkness. Haryk could see their fiery bodies growing smaller and smaller as they fell into the nothingness of the place.

In their place, other halves came forward, reinforcing their position. With their simple weapons, they pelted the remaining mindflayers and actually sent one of the beasts away from their position.

But then, a searing cry of incredible power radiated out from the top of the cavern ceiling, where the colossal tentacled beast looked down upon them. Like a brain, without a body, it sent chilling energy into his brain, and Haryk knew that he wasn’t the only one. Even the dragons flight faltered and Haryk followed one, seeing Tahg nearly fall off his mount. Somehow, he kept himself wrapped around the creature’s neck.

Three of the cat creatures, the tabaxi laid down their slings and jumped to their death off the ledge, just as if they were hopping off a log in the forest. One creature, a massively muscled minotaur brought his fists to his temples, smashing his brains out. He too fell over the ledge in writhing agony. One of the fauns, the one who had grabbed Haryk’s hand as he landed, brought his hands to his head, making fists he pulled them back, and brought them forward towards his temples too. But Andril saw it in time, and he pointed his staff at the faun, speaking a quick word of magic. The faun’s hands stopped, and the half-man shook his head, as if he were clearing his ears of water after a swim. He turned to the mage and grunted a thanks.

“What is this new sinister shit, Andril?” Cried Haryk.

Andril pointed to the ceiling, where the massive blob now pulsated with dark green and blue hues. “It’s the elder brain, Haryk. And it’s pissed!”

Haryk watched in shock as more of the enemy arrived through the different tunnels below what Andril called the brain. He knew now there was no saving the prisoners. This thing, whatever it was, was darker then any nightmare he had ever heard conjured about Ket. “For once,” he mused, “The stories were underrated.”

The forces arriving from the tunnels were different now. Like the halves that fought next to them, they had the appearance of men, but that’s where the similarity stopped. These creatures, like part people, crawled out of the tunnels like spiders and along the cavern walls. Haryk saw, his face dropping, that they didn’t just look like spiders, but that they were spiders from the waist down. In their hands they carried wicked blades, and they screeched out in unholy inhuman battle cries.

While the nightmarish fiends crawled towards their position, Haryk saw the gems along the cavern wall flash! He pulled his head back, gazing upwards and heard the same giant snap! he had heard before.

Screaming erupted from inside the massive cocoon. And then, like sick fruit off a rotten tree, it fell towards them in the inky, ash filled air!

 

 

 

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