Aedraxis looked nothing like what I'd imagine a king would look like. In fact, he looked quite the opposite; a crazed evil overlord bent on ruling the world. Which I guess is quite fitting considering the circumstances. He was wearing black outlandish looking armor from head to toe, with a full face helmet and a long black cloak. He was totally going for the black on black theme here. He gets even less points for that. I hate solid colors. I mean come on, a little splash of color here and there never hurt nobody!
The tyrant surveyed us heroes standing in front of him, and he didn't look all that impressed or frightened. In fact, he looked annoyed. Hey, at least we can annoy the guy. My pulse was in my throat and I know that if I dwelled on my situation, I'd be positively terrified, which is probably why I'm resorting to sarcastic wisecracks to myself to keep me calm. I don't know how we're supposed to beat this guy.
"What is this?" Aedraxis demanded in a cold, steely voice. Just the sound of it had me stepping back a pace. Right at this moment I really didn't want to be Ascended. "Did I not slay you before?" His sneer was directed at Cyril. He idly flicked nonexistent dirt off his gauntlets and gave us all a beady look, as if sizing us up for dinner. I gave a quick glance to Cyril, reassured by his stoic and calm stance. I wish I could be brave like him.
"The gods brought us back to destroy you, Tyrant!" Cyril called in response to Aedraxis's question. Aedraxis gave a mirthless laugh and swept his hands out wide.
"You are too late, Ascended. The ceremony has already begun. Your gods cannot stand against the Dragon of Extinction!" Uh oh, that didn't sound good. My fears were confirmed when Aedraxis turned from us and raised his arms in the air, speaking in some guttural language. Finally he called out "Regulos, I give my life to you, from which springs power eternal!" I backed up a step, and glanced at my erstwhile comrades again. Perhaps we should uh, be moving away. This doesn't seem like it will end well.
A sinister looking mist surrounded Aedraxis's form, obscuring him from view. He cried out suddenly, and then the clearing was silent for a moment. Absurdly, I could hear the tentacles from the Death Rift as they snaked along the barren ground. Than the mist cleared as quickly as it had arrived, leaving a nightmare in its wake. That's the only way I can describe it...him.
A nightmare straight out of legend. The creature was incredibly tall, floating above the ground a good two feet. It was covered in the tattered remains of Aedraxis's black armor, and was covered in some dark scales. Spines grew out of the head, which was so malformed now that it was unrecognizable as anything recently belonging to a human. A long, whip like tail extended out from the form, and its arms ended in needle point claws. I so didn't want a hug from that thing. Not that it was in the hugging mood.
"In life, I ruled Mathosia, but with Regulos, I shall rule all of creation!" Said the creature. It had a duel voiced quality, as if more that one person was speaking. Which is probably right. From it's comment, I knew that Aedraxis must still be in there somewhere, for I know from stories that Regulos cared naught for ruling, or creation at all. In fact, all he cared about was death and destruction. I wonder what Regulos thought about sharing a body with someone so ambitious. Beside me, movement caught my eye, and I was dismayed to note that Cyril was stepping forward, sword raised. Obviously he had no problem taking the initiative.
Before he could say or do anything though, another man ran up beside him. I blinked. It was Carwin Mathos! I'm not sure it was a good idea to have him here. He'd only antagonize Aedraxis/Regulos further! I gave Carwin a concerned look and he smiled warmly at me. Lady Shyla also gave Carwin a smile and a nod. Holding his shield aloft in front of him, Carwin took a pace forward.
"You're insane brother! I will end this if you can't." Carwin's sharp, commanding voice cut through the thick air like a knife and I cringed. That was so not the words to say. I held my breath, dreading what would happen next. We should do something! But we all just stood there, staring at the creature. It turned and regarded Carwin with mildly curious, apathetic eyes, and a cold chuckle emitted from its lips. I gulped upon seeing rows of jagged teeth in its mouth.
"Carwin." Said the creature, staring down at said man. To his credit, Carwin stood his ground and stared defiantly back. "My bastard brother. You will address me as Regulos, or not at all!" On the last word, the creature flung out its clawed hand, quick as lightning, and a coil of death magic flew from his hand. I watched in frozen horror as the beam hit Carwin in the chest. With a strangled scream, Carwin crumpled to the ground, where he lay, glassy-eyed and unmoving.
I stared down at his dead body for several seconds, unable to comprehend what I'd just witnessed. No! This can't seriously be happening. Not to Carwin. I became aware that my mouth was hanging open, but I made no move to shut it. My mind was in complete shock. Lady Shyla also looked stricken, staring down at Carwin with a confused expression. The longer I stared, the more I wished this was a dream. A dull pain in my hand had me glancing down. I hadn't even realized it, but I'd been gripping my daggers so hard, my hands were white. Noticing this made the fury rush through me like a hot wave. How. Dare. He! I swiftly turned back to the Shade of Regulos and growled.
"Regulos hungers for your souls." Said the creature, upon realizing it now had everyone's attention again. "You will all fall before me!" Not bloody likely! I bared my teeth at him. I'd kill that monster if it was the last thing I did. If only to avenge my newfound comrade Carwin. He did not deserve that death. I glanced at Cyril, and gasped as a dragon spawn materialized out of the Rift behind him. Cyril noticed my look and spun to meet the foe. Using his large sword as a shield, he blocked the beast's jaws from tearing his face off. That's when Lady Shyla pointed behind me and cried a warning. Without thinking, I rolled to the side and spun to meet the new enemy. It was another dragon spawn. Both of them were the size of ponies, and had a mouth full of teeth to make a croc proud. I left Cyril to take care of his own drake, since he seemed like a capable warrior type. Not to mention he's so tall. That left me to take care of this drake. No problem...
I swiped at the creature with my dagger, to gauge its reaction. The drake pulled back from my dagger and hissed angrily. It kept a short distance, circling me like a cat watching a mouse. It was large and it was deadly, but it was clumsy and ungainly with those overlarge wings and large feet. My guess is, it's just a youngling and hadn't grown into its body yet. Too bad for it. Shyla hit the drake from behind with some kind of leafy spell, which exploded when it hit its scaly back. The beast roared with fury and instantly turned to attack her, which gave me ample opportunity to put my roguish skills to good use. Quickly I dashed under one leathery wing and planted a dagger right above the drake's shoulder blade. With luck, I'd hit the heart. The creature turned back to me with lightning reflexes and I barely dodged getting eaten in time.
Thankfully, my dagger thrust seemed to do the trick, as the creature expired soon after, although it put up a good fight right till the end. As soon as it had slumped to the ground and didn't appear to be getting up anytime soon, I turned to help Cyril out. He was holding his own but was having a hard time actually getting a hit on the creature, as he had to keep defending himself from its claws and teeth. Shyla moved up behind Cyril and made a strange motion over the crystal at the top of her staff. The crystal glowed green, and then green leaves appeared over Cyril's head. Instantly he stood straighter and seemed to be more alert. Huh, impressive. The benefits of having a Cleric around I suppose.
While the drake was furiously trying its hardest to get ahold of Cyril, I snuck up around to its vulnerable side and promptly did the same thing as before. I stuck my dagger to the hilt in it's side, right above the shoulder, and watched with vicious satisfaction as the beast gave a gurgled cry and toppled over. I grinned wickedly at Cyril over the drake's body and he raised an eyebrow at me. Before I could congratulate myself or boast, the tentacles of the Rift disgorged another foe. I groaned. Oh come on already! This isn't fair.
This time, the creatures that stepped through the Rift were Ettin. I hate Ettin. Big, lumbering, tough as rocks and almost impossible to kill. We're definitely in trouble. Brother Jebiah muttered a prayer and threw a spell at one immediately, drawing its attention. The spell, unfortunately, didn't seem to have any more impact than a fly though, and I studied the creatures quickly for any weaknesses to use. I zeroed in on their necks, which seemed fleshy and soft, unlike the rest of the creatures. They were at least 11 feet tall though. At least. I'd need some kind of leverage to reach my target. I glanced around swiftly. Nothing I could see nearby that would be of use. I assessed the two Ettin again as they thundered around trying to get a swing at the others. The rest of my Ascended comrades seemed to have caught on to the fact that the Ettin were very slow and even slower in the mind, so all they had to do was run in circles. But that wouldn't last for long. We needed a way to slay them, and fast, as the Shade looked right pleased with itself, which means it was going to try something else nasty in a few minutes.
Finally I decided I'd just try to scale the Ettin's back. I sent a quick prayer to Tavril for luck, than took a deep breath. I gauged the distance to the Ettin, waited till it had turned it's back to swipe at Cyril, than ran like mad. A few feet from the Ettin, I pushed off with one foot and leaped as high as I could. I lodged my foot in the Ettin's conveniently placed belt. The belt was so big that it was an easy feat to keep my balance with one foot wedged between the belt and its flesh. Best not dwell on that overmuch or I might get grossed out. The Ettin straightened and made a non intelligent noise of confusion, and twisted around to look behind it. I almost lost my grip when it did that, but thankfully grabbed ahold of a fleshy ridge in its shoulders. Holding on with one hand, I reached to my own belt and pulled out one of my sharpest daggers. This was also one of the daggers I'd coated in poison earlier. I grinned as I stuck the dagger in the back of the Ettin's neck. It roared and shook itself, reaching behind with a massive hand to grab at what was causing it pain.
The constant moving finally dislodged my foot and I tumbled to the ground. I tucked myself in and rolled with the fall just like my mentor had taught me, and gave silent thanks to his patient tutelage. Well, that was one Ettin down. Only, it wasn't down yet. It staggered a few steps, and glanced around wildly, roaring continuously. Uh oh, looks like I only made it mad. I was sure I'd stuck the dagger in as far as it would go. I glanced down at the dagger in question. Sure enough, it was coated in blood. I tried not to dwell on that fact. It was either the Ettin or us, and I'd rather we survive. While the Ettin was disoriented, Cyril hacked at it with his ridiculously long sword. Go Cyril! The poison seemed to take effect soon after and the creature fell to the ground. I swear I felt the ground shudder with the impact. They are that big, seriously.
Seeing its comrade fall, the other Ettin roared in anger and rushed at Cyril, the last person to harm the other Ettin. Ugh, here we go again. While Cyril played tag with the Ettin, I quickly ran over to my discarded pack and grabbed my vial of poison out. The dagger I'd used was no good now, covered in blood as it was, so I carefully placed it next to the pack for cleaning later, and pulled out another dagger. Never fear, I have plenty of these babies laying around. With deft hands, I poured the thick, deadly fluid over the blade of the new dagger. I put the stopper back in the vial, shoved it back in my pouch, and waited impatiently for the poison to turn shiny. That's how I know that it's properly bonded to the metal of the blade. Working with poisons is iffy stuff. Sometimes, it just melts the metal. Other times, it slides right off. Those times are the worst.
Thankfully, the blade took on a reflective sheen and I knew it was all good. I quickly reversed the hilt for ease of movement and dashed back into the fray, hoping no one else had been slain while I'd been preoccupied. They all seemed to be doing good. Cyril kept the Ettin distracted, Jebiah wacked at it with his magic, and Shyla stayed in the background healing injuries. Just like before, I waited till the Ettin was distracted, than ran at its back. This one's belt was made of cloth, which sagged when I placed my weight on it. I cursed when I almost fell off again. I'm not an acrobat, and this is the most combat I've seen in my life!
I sank the dagger into the Ettin's neck and jumped free before it could reach around and grab me or shove me off. This time I landed on my feet, bending the knees to absorb the impact, and danced out of reach when the Ettin made to swat me. A few more lumbering steps, and down it went. I grinned and nodded at Cyril and Shyla.
"I see my minions proved ineffective against Ascended. No matter, I shall destroy you myself!" The cold, deathly voice from behind us wiped the smiles right off our faces. Oh light, I'd forgotten all about the Shade. Which was obviously a foolish mistake. The Aedraxis/Regulos creature lowered itself to the ground to stand on two clawed feet that resembled dragon feet more than human, and raised both hands above his head. The sky seemed to darken. Uh oh. A lash of wind seemed to radiate out from the Shade's form. It was so sharp I felt a sting on my face and when I touched it with my fingers and inspected them, they were covered in blood. Cyril had similar slices on his throat and hands and Shyla had a long slice on her forehead. She quickly hummed something and her scratches disappeared, but the Shade was quickly calling up the wind again. We needed to finish this because we weren't going to stand against that for long.
Cyril had the same idea as me and charged into battle with the Shade. Jebiah followed suit with a rapid succession of spells. I felt the pain under my eye lessen than fade, and knew that Lady Shyla had healed me. I gave her a grateful smile, before tossing aside the poisoned dagger and grabbing two more unused ones from my boots. Showtime.
I dashed into the fray, trying my hardest to dodge the winds that Regulos's avatar threw at us. I have to admit, if not for Lady Shyla's constant healing, we'd have been in serious trouble. She was like a soothing breeze at our backs, constantly keeping us safe and whole. There was one curious soul inside of me which seemed to hum to itself in tune with Shyla's chanting, which I found somewhat distracting while I was trying to fight. I kept dividing my attention between the Shade and the humming, which was filling my ears, but wasn't actually a physical noise. In my mind's eye I pictured a young, black skinned elf with a lute, sitting on a mossy boulder and playing a haunting melody that ensnared her enemies with its deadly song. I shook my head to rid myself of the image, but it kept trying to impose itself over my eyes.
I'm trying to stay alive here! I growled in my mind. A sense of calm amusement floated back to me and I sighed. Fine.
The battle seemed to last ages. My arms were beginning to tire and I felt exhaustion creeping up on me. Keeping up a fight for that long would tire anyone, even an Ascended! I knew at some point one side of the other would make a mistake. And I was right. It was the Shade. He began uttering his wind spell when Jebiah hit him with an ice spell that didn't do any damage as far as I can see, but it did seem to make him lose concentration. In that moment, he was vulnerable and Cyril immediately rammed his sword in the creature's stomach. I followed suit with my daggers wherever I could. The avatar staggered and shrieked, an ear shattering sound. When he didn't immediately continue assaulting us, I hesitantly stepped back. Cyril did as well. We all waited with bated breath, hoping that was it.
With a dramatic shudder, the creature collapsed on its face. "I have fallen...but I will return!" Was the last words the Shade spoke before it expired. Cold words, those, that made me shiver all the way to my boots. It seemed to deflate after death, and didn't look nearly as imposing as it did earlier. I took a deep breath and wiped my brow. I suddenly felt so tired, I just wanted to sleep for a week. I couldn't wait to get back to Valor Hold.
Lady Shyla silently ghosted to Carwin's fallen form and stared down at him sadly. "I...I can't believe Carwin is gone!" She said in a quivery voice. Cyril came up and put a hand on her shoulder. Gods he's tall, was my inane thought. "The cost was great but we, we were victorious." Shyla murmured, the words almost too low to catch. I nodded mournfully, staring at Carwin.
"This isn't over yet." Cyril said firmly, drawing back from Shyla and turning to look down at the corpse of the avatar. He gestured to the Hammer of the Vigil, which lay forgotten behind me from the beginning of the battle. I turned and gave the weapon a blank look. "You must shatter the body of Aedraxis to sever Regulos's hold on this place." I blinked at him. Seriously? Why can't he do it?? After staring at Cyril for a minute, wherein he looked back at me expectantly, I groaned and threw up my hands. Fine! Ugh. I stomped back over to the Hammer, where it lay innocently, and resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at it. Instead, I picked up the overly heavy weapon and trudged back to the Shade's body. I raised an eyebrow at Cyril and he gave me a serious nod.
"For Carwin!" He shouted. And I echoed him when he said next, "For the Vigil!" As we finished the cry, I struck downward with the hammer onto the Shade's skull. There was a blinding flash, my eyes were filled with a vision of thousands of white-gold wings, and than...nothing.