Thursday, March 07, 2013

[Raeslyn's Story] Side Story 1: Into Another World

A/N: Because this is a special dungeon story, it will be long, just warning you! :)
    Entering the Lodge of the Planes, I blinked my eyes to get used to the dim interior. I didn't need to but it was an ingrained habit from my previous life that I hadn't shaken yet. Accosting one of the Lodge waitresses, I asked her which one of the men in the room was Tam Daggerborne. She gave me a wide eyed scandalized look as if I'd told her that Shyla that ran around Sanctum in her underclothes. I scowled. What? It wasn't as if I had time to sit around and study famous heroes or whatever. Not that I would sit around reading anyway even if the opportunity arose. I never did like reading. When I continued to glare at the woman, who's name was Lola Rennen if I remember from my last visit, she finally sighed and turned to scan the room. She pointed out a really tall, broad shouldered man who was grinning and chatting with a group of others, hand expressing what had to be some kind of grand story. I scowled. Great, just what I needed. Well, better get this over with. I wonder what he wanted.

     I strode over to the tall man. His armor was in good condition but was obviously well used, the silver burnished and the blue coat of arms somewhat faded. He acknowledged my approach with a steely eyed nod and I knew he recognized me in that one look. Well, at least he was smart.

    "I got a message saying you wanted to see me?" I asked. He raised an eyebrow. "Sir." I added as an afterthought. Tam Daggerborne grinned at me and waved a dismissive hand at his fellow men. To my aggravation, he clapped a big hand on my shoulders and drew me in, as if he was about to impart some important secret. Knowing he was a famous warrior and had no doubt done something impressive to earn that, I didn't make any outward signs of protest against his manhandling, but I could feel the hairs on my neck prickle; what I'd fondly referred to as my 'sneaky senses'.

     "I'd like to commend you Raeslyn on a job well done in Silverwood. We haven't quite dissolved the threat yet but with your help we've let the Fae and the goblins know that we're a force to be reckoned with and we aren't just going to let them take it without a fight." He rubbed his chin grimly, eyeing me. "However, no matter what we do to stem the tide of Fae invading Silverwood, and no matter how many plots we attempt to thwart, it's not going to help if they just keep skipping back to their own little hidey hole to lick their wounds and try again. We need to put a stop to the pesky creatures at the source."

     "Sounds reasonable." I agreed slowly. It was after all, only the same thing I'd been thinking this past week as I worked to keep the Fae from doing any permanent damage to my beloved home. Tam nodded at me.

     "It's widely known that the most powerful demons and cultists hide in dank dungeons and hidden fortresses. I wonder, do you have the skill to defeat them?" I opened my mouth to express my firm agreement that I did indeed possess the skill to defeat such foes, but Tam continued, either ignoring me or not noticing, "This corruption of Prince Hylas by the Fae weighs deeply upon us in Sanctum. He was a prince who was known for keeping his realm intact through the horrors of the Shade. We built Sanctum in his realm as a sign of respect to the High Elves. That he would kneel to the dragons is not something that should be taken lightly. We need to find out what caused him to turn from us, and we need to put an end to the Fae threat."

     "Yes?" I prompted, feeling a bit impatient. Was he ever going to get to the point before I died of boredom? I spent a moment amusing myself with the imagery of an Ascended dying of boredom and having to explain to the Vigil in the Soulstream what happened. I almost laughed at loud.

     Oblivious, Tam continued, "My scouts and spies have located an anomaly in the area of that dratted maze of hedges up by Highglade. It seems there is a hole in reality, similar to that of a planar rift. The mages have tested its energy and are sure that it leads to the Realm of the Fae, a mysterious section of the Plane of Life that the Fae are native to. They've torn a chunk of Silverwood away from Telara and turned it into a mystical extension of their home in the Plane of Life. That is how they are able to keep infesting our home and spreading their malignant mayhem around the forest. An ordinary mortal would not be able to survive the trip through the portal into that other realm, but you, an Ascended, would be uniquely suited for making the journey into that dimension and perhaps seeing what you can do to put an end to the Fae threat permanently in Silverwood. No doubt there are other such pockets around Telara, but if we can seal this one, that Silverwood at least would be safe, and Sanctum would not be so personally threatened." He gave me a keen look.

     I shook free of Tam's strong hold, stepping away a few paces to give myself some freedom. I'm not overly fond of closed in spaces. "Yes, that sounds sensible. But if this really is a pocket of the Plane of Life that's interceded with a chunk of Telara to form it's own unique dimension, I'd rather not just run in there blindly and alone. I think I'd prefer to have a few others with me as back up." I glanced around the Lodge as I said this, idly wondering if I could convince other Ascended to band with me. No doubt many High Elven Ascended such as myself were just as insulted by the Fae invasion as I was and would aid me.

     Tam nodded eagerly. "Excellent suggestion! I couldn't agree more, which is why I've already arranged a team for you. I was hoping you'd be the one to fill the last spot and since you appear eager to go, well, we're just glad we have such brave and stalwart warriors to lend their might to protecting Telara!" He beamed at me, chest swelling up, and I frowned. Others? He already had a team formed and was just wanting me to join? I felt irritation flare up. Why couldn't he have just said so to begin with?! Ugh, men! I also felt annoyed because...well I hated to admit it, but I'd felt rather prideful in the fact that it seemed he thought I was worthy of this task and I alone. That I was the most remarkable and strongest of the Ascended he'd come across so far and was handing this mission to me because of that. Silly now that I think about it. I've encountered the auras of many more powerful Ascended in Sanctum. Of course I wasn't the strongest. I just happened to be a more well known Ascended because of my recent work in Silverwood. I muttered darkly to myself.

     "The team is already up at Highglade. They were camped there while they waited for me to find them a fifth member. You can go ahead and join them by the hedgemaze as soon as you think you're ready. Don't take too long, the sooner you enter that other realm, the better for Silverwood." Tam Daggerborne nodded firmly.

     "Alright...I guess I can go there now. I just equipped myself with supplies and provisions earlier today anyway so I guess I'm all set...." I said reluctantly. With nothing else more to say, I shrugged, inclined my head respectfully, if a bit stiffly, and headed back out into the bright sunny day surrounding Sanctum. Despite having this mission veritably thrust on me, I was actually looking forward to it. I wonder who my companions would be? I hope we got along! Somewhat vainly, I wondered if they'd be able to keep up to my quick daggers and stealthy abilities.

     I collected Naesa from the stables and was soon racing across the bridge from Sanctum to the main part of the forest, the echoing clatter of the mare's hooves on stone giving a satisfying background noise for my thoughts.
     "So this is what we're going to do." Said Roland, our so called leader. It wasn't my choice, but I was the last one invited to this little party so I kept silent as the tall warrior outlined his plan for assaulting the Fae realm. While everyone listened eagerly, I analyzed the strange shimmering portal that led to the pocket of this other world we'd be entering. It seemed to be set up as some kind of well, except instead of a hole that led downward in the center of the circular stone structure, there was a shimmering pool of planar magic that made me uneasy. I could imagine all kinds of things going wrong here, but I doubted they'd listen so I kept my thoughts to myself. Finally, the others stood and seemed ready to go. Roland, our self appointed leader, strode forward with his shield held in front protectively. If he was concerned about the portal, he didn't show it, jumping straight into it. Apparently being Ascended wasn't proof against recklessness. A slight, pale skinned Mathosian woman tentatively approached it next, nearly tripping over her long, rune encrusted robes in her nervousness. I wondered if we'd have to push her in. Immediately after she'd carefully climbed in and disappeared from this plane of existence, I leaped in, not giving it another moment's thought so I wouldn't let me concern be seen by the others.

     The sensation of going through the portal into the realm of the Fae was like nothing I could ever describe, although if pressed I guess I could say it was kind of like diving into deep water. Seconds later, I was on the other side, standing amid knee high grasses. The others were all standing in a semi circle in front of me, various stunned expressions stuck on their faces. I glanced around myself, hands hovering near my daggers. The place was green. That was the best I could do to describe it. Literally, green everywhere. It felt like a jungle gone crazy, beyond any sense of natural order or control. Leaves, trees, grass, flowers, everywhere there were things growing. Vines snaked around and strangled bright blue starflowers, branches towered over young struggles bushes that needed sunlight. And the air was so thick I couldn't help but cough softly. The sweet, sickly scent of rotting fruit assaulted my nose, and immediately I felt a headache set in from the smell. Behind me, the last two members of our party arrived, an older dwarf cleric schooled in the healing arts in case one of us were injured, and a sharp eyed elven archer with a long silver bow. The archer immediately stepped up beside me, eyes darting to the shadows.

     "Come on, this way. Be careful." Roland informed us loudly. I glared at him. No sense in alerting everyone we're here with loud noises! Seemingly oblivious to my glare, the warrior quickly ventured further into the strange realm, following a pre set path through what looked to be another one of those blasted mazes. Upon turning the first corner, we spotted a bright colored pixie sitting on  a large rock, wings lazily waving. Her look of shock was comical. Roland gave a loud, overly dramatic roar and charged the pixie, who looked horrified. Not that I'd blame her. I wouldn't want a huge, armor clad oaf roaring at me and charging me with a ridiculously long sword either. She hastily scrambled behind the rock and yelled something in a strange dialect to someone behind me. Two ugly looking Fae sprang up and rushed in front of her, attacking the warrior with ferocity. I took a moment to fondly wonder what would happen if we just let Roland try to work this problem out himself, then sighed and unsheathed my daggers, darting through the shadows to appear at the back of one of the brownies. Already the archer was knocking an arrow and loosing it as I moved. The battle was chaotic and rushed. Swords flashed, arrows flew, and spells bounced back and forth. The Fae, although slight, delicate looking creatures, put up quite a fight and before we'd killed them, we'd sustained a bit of injury. Roland had been harmed the most from the two tiny men who'd leaped at him, although the bloody pixie had bitten me on the arm. I hope I didn't catch anything from her.
     After that, we were a bit more cautious when encountering abrupt corners or twists in the confusing mess that was this realm. I really hoped we could find our way back out of here! We encountered many more Fae as we went, some harder to kill then others, but we eventually overcame them all. We are Ascended after all, and I was in the group. I grinned to myself as I dispatched a devious brownie who'd tried to skewer me with his own crude dagger. I straightened up and heard voices, in a language I could understand no less. I held my hand out to silence the others.

    "Maelow my love, your hair shines like the bark of a tree!" A sultry, overly sweet voice purred from around the corner. I lifted an eyebrow at the others. Roland pulled a face that I can only describe as constipated. Putting a finger to my lips, I crept forward, cloaking myself in the shadows to remain unseen. There were two large pixies, with bright iridescent wings fawning over a large Fae man in a loincloth. The three were lounging out in the open with not a care in the world and the man was playfully tugging on the hair of one of the pixies. His own hair, the subject of the previous comment, looked like dead grass in my opinion. Still, a sense of menace and power seemed to surround him. The two maidens didn't look like pushovers either. I turned to go back to the group and nearly smacked into the warrior. Stepping back, I hissed angrily and stomped around him. He followed behind me, plate armor clanking, and I rolled my eyes.

    "So there's three of them, and they look like they could be trouble. We've got to have some kind of strategy." I began calmly, ignoring the fact that Roland hadn't listened to my command. He moved forward and nodded. "Ya, what she said. We need a plan. So we'll take out the guy, then the two chicks."

     Chicks? I mouthed to the healer, who raised an eyebrow and shrugged. "Come on, let's go." Roland said, and strode back around the corner, unsheathing his sword as he went. The four of us stood there for a few moments, before the cleric rushed forward, already chanting a protection spell. I groaned. This was such a bad idea.
     "Maybe next time we should actually think of a real strategy", I couldn't help but point out as Leliana, the cleric, passed her hand over a strange burnt patch of skin on my thigh. The magic spell had caught me by surprise as I'd been trying to dispatch the green winged pixie. We'd found out the hard way that that the two "chicks" were seriously obsessed with their man and had done everything they could to keep him safe, including sacrificing their lives to create magical barriers that prevented harm, physical or magical, from befalling him and also making him stronger. He'd almost killed Roland, who was still lying on the ground in a daze as his Ascended gifts sought to repair the damage he'd sustained. I was actually surprised he was still alive. He'd been nearly sliced in half by Maelow. The archer had also gotten badly injured when the Fae man had suddenly made a last ditch effort to take him out near the end.

     After we'd rested for some time and our wounds were mostly healed, although Roland still walked stiffly, we pressed onward. We all knew instinctively that being here after dark would be bad news. Past the bodies of the three troublesome Fae, the ground sloped steeply upward and to the right. The trees began to thin out and were larger. Also, the air became slightly colder and thinner, allowing the sickly scent of pollen to clear away. Thank the gods for small favors.

     By this time, we'd all learned our lesson and trudged along more or less silently, with the occasional whispered comment or question. We were a group, not out of comradeship but necessity and therefor didn't see any reason in befriending each other. Or at least, I didn't. I couldn't speak for the others. After we'd climbed what seemed to the worlds largest hill, the ground flattened out and indeed became rather marshy. This realm of the Fae was so chaotic and confusing. It would drive me mad to live here. Guess that explained the Fae. Looking to the left and down, I saw a small pond covered in green lily pads. Movement rippled the surface of the pond and I steered everyone away from it warily, although Roland looked like he wanted to challenge whatever it was. Were  there even any intelligent warriors? I sighed. Up ahead, the last party member, a mage, drew to a sudden halt with a stricken expression. The rest of us shambled up beside him curiously and stared wide eyed. There was a giant monster blocking our path. That was the best I could do to describe it. It was huge, and green. It kind of looked like a tortoise but at the same wasn't. The I guess, was covered in grayish green moss, and it's arms were thin and spindly and seemed to bend in strange places. It's face was large and oddly shaped, like it had been only half formed. The creature was shambling back and forth aimlessly in front of the only path leading away from us, up another hill. A large guard dog. That's what this thing was, I realized.

     "So, about that strategy." I said softly. Roland scoffed. "We don't need a strategy for this thing, it's just a big dumb animal!" He waved his sword for emphasis, and I frowned. I turned to the archer for aid. Of any of us, he'd be the expert on how to handle the thing. He fingered an arrow thoughtfully as he scrutinized the beast.

    "Well..." he said, drawing the word out slowly, like he did all his words. He rarely spoke and when he did, he spoke so slowly that I felt like shaking the words out of him before I died of old age. "The creature looks harmless enough..." Roland flashed a confident smirk, but the archer continued, "...but I think it poisonous...." Roland looked crestfallen and a little less eager to take on the shambler.
     "Right, just don't let it touch you." The mage commented sarcastically. He clapped Roland on the back. "Good luck man." Of the five of us, Roland and the mage were the only two who knew each other with any familiarity.

     "....Also..." the archer continued, as if the others hadn't spoken, "...I'd say the creature....has...weak...eyesight. We can just.....stay...behind him....or away.....and shouldn't risk." I felt an eyetwitch developing at his painfully slow words.
     "Alright, don't get poison on you, stay behind him, don't get hit. Got it." I said sharply, before our arrow shooting friend drawled something else out. I was itching to get this over and done with and deeply regretting agreeing to this task already, although I knew it was for the better for Silverwood.

     We all shambled around the corner, with Roland in the lead, although he was walking cautiously for once. It wasn't until we were close enough to pick out individual colors that the creature noticed us. It turned and let out some kind of challenge that sounded like a dying cat and lunged at us. In unison, we all backed away from Roland, who held up his shield to keep the creature from getting at him, taunting it with nicks and slices from his wildly waving sword. The mage stood way back, near one of the tangled hedges, hands flying as he cast spell after spell of powerful elemental magics. Arrows from nearby plunked into the scaley hide of the creature, doing some damage but not able to hit anything vital. We would eventually wear the beast down, but I was getting nervous of something bad happening. And then it did. With a strangled yell, the cleric, who had been hovering with her hands fluttering in concern, fell to one knee, clutching at her ankle. I spared a glance and noticed a strange puddle of black liquid forming under her feet.

     "Move!" the mage shouted at the same time I did, but she was already staggering out of the pool, a golden nimbus of healing magic surrounding her small body. Shakily she accepted the mage's help in regaining her feet, her face ashen. Her bare calf, where the black liquid had eaten through the fabric, was blackened and swollen. Note to self, don't stand in puddle of black goo. I quickly glanced down to make sure I wasn't.

    "Roland," The archer's voice came from just to my right and I realized that he'd moved forward while I'd been distracted. He was standing nearly as close as Roland now, and had an arrow knocked and pointed at the beasts head. Throughout this entire time, we'd all been chipping away at the creature and I could tell its various wounds were becoming painful. It wasn't reacting nearly as fast and inky dark blood slicked its leathery hide. Roland glanced back over his shoulder while still keeping his defenses up and seemed to grasp what the archer had planned. In one swift move that surprised even me, he rolled to the side, avoiding the thrashing creature's sharp claws and teeth and also inadvertently avoiding another puddle of black poison at the same time. The second he was clear, an arrow thunked solidly into the creature's skull, sinking into the eye nearly to the feathers. The shambler moaned and lurched forward, blindly swinging. We all instinctively backed as far away as we could. I wiped my daggers on the tall grass, wanting the ichor off as soon as possible in case the blood ruined the blade. With a thud, the creature collapsed. After several near breathless moments, we cautiously approached. Roland prodded the creature with his sword. There was slight movement that subsided and then he raised his sword and gave a short elated laugh.

     "Ha, take that!" He said, staring down at the creature. Then we all crowded around the cleric to see how she was doing. The blackened skin looked really bad, but she said it wasn't painful and she could already feel it healing, so we agreed to press onward since no doubt whoever planted the creature here would know of its demise by now.

    "Good shooting by the way." I said grudgingly to the archer as we trudged up the hill. He turned and smiled at me and for one dreadful moment I thought he was going to say something. But he just nodded and we continued on. Curiously, as we climbed, the grass changed color, growing duller and losing its vibrancy. It turned brown and the leaves on the trees became a golden orange. Leaves also littered the path.

     "This is totally not natural." I muttered, more to myself, but the mage looked over and nodded. "Hopefully, when we put an end to this Lord Twyl fellow, this realm will collapse or disconnect itself from Silverwood and we won't have to worry about it affecting us anymore." the mage replied.

     "Let's just hope we're not inside when that happens." The cleric said, still looking pale and limping slightly.

     As we climbed, we came across many strange winged insects, which very closely resembled the vespids that had plagued Silverwood. Well now I know where they came from. The insects were everywhere here it seemed. Their wings created a humming sound that made a constant background noise that was almost as maddening as the cloying flower scent from below. We left a trail of crumpled vespid bodies behind us as we progressed through the strange wood.

     Through the trees, I could just make out what looked to be a small encampment and without speaking, we all slowed and then eventually stopped out of sight. The archer, who had the sharpest eyes, peered through the trees at the camp. It was easy to do since most of the leaves were now littering the ground, various shades of red and yellow.

     "There...seems to .....some satyrs....around a" the archer finally said as we all squinted at the camp.

     "Satyrs? Their not usually a bad lot actually, for Fae. Maybe we can reason with them. They are one of the more friendly non native races on Telara." Everyone turned and stared at the mage, who shrugged. "What, it's true. I know a cleric friend who actually has one as a traveling companion."

     As if I'd ever trust a Fae at my back. Ha. Roland rubbed his chin in thought, smudging dirt onto his face.

     "Ok. Let's see if they can be reasoned with. Satyrs are rather intelligent, for Fae." He said finally.  I had to agree. Even the ones I'd come across in Silverwood seemed less hostile than the other Fae races. So we proceeded toward the camp slowly, carefully keeping our weapons sheathed. Before we'd even come into sight, the largest satyr, a magnificent male with large curling horns, had turned his head in our direction. We stopped at the edge of the camp.

     "Uh, hello, great satyr...lord." Roland began haltingly, glancing back at us. The mage nodded encouragingly at him. "We seek to do you no harm. We're just passing through on our way to with your leader, Lord Twyl?" He spoke the last like it was a question, holding his hands out to show he meant no harm. The satyr lord narrowed his eyes and pointed his spear at us threateningly. I edged toward my daggers. Than the satyr lord burst out laughing, deep throaty chuckles that made me cringe, they were so loud. He struck his furry thigh as he laughed and we exchanged confused, cautious looks amongst each other as he carried on.

     "Come, make merry. I care not if you take off that arrogant fool Twyl's head! Indeed, I will celebrate to your victory." He waved at one of his companions. "Good sir, get them some mead, so that we may make merry!" He spoke so loudly and brashly, I had the urge to shush him. His companion paled and hesitantly backed away, looking anxiously at us.
     "Sire, we cannot. These newcomers have slain our prized vespids, there will be no more mead for some time and they--"
     "WHAT?!?!?!?!?!" The satyr lord's tremendous roar had me stepping back in startlement. In moments he went from a large, jovial fellow to frothing mad, his antlered face turning beat red in fury. "No mead?!? Slay them!!!!!" He pointed his spear at us and roared. Oh dear. In an eyeblink, I had my daggers drawn and was fending off an attack by one of the goatmen. Looking to the side, I could see that the others had the same problem. Roland was able to deflect my assailant's blow and draw his attention away from me, to which I was grateful. I took advantage of the distraction to viciously stab the creature between the shoulderblades. It looks like diplomacy was officially over.

     The battle with the satyrs was long and bloody. They fought violently, but with great skill and it took some time to whittle away at their numbers enough to even attack their lord. We beat him into submission and it was the healer who stayed our hand in slaying him, saying that if it weren't for the misunderstanding of the vespids and the mead, he would have been our ally against Twyl. I'm fine with that, although the idea of leaving a potential enemy alive made me uneasy. We did force directions to Twyl's domain out of the stubborn creature though, and realized that we were quite close to our goal. We climbed upward and to the east yet again. This time I could definitely feel the bite of winter in the air. It occurred to me suddenly that it seemed that the seasons had changed the further we went upward. A rather odd and unnatural process. Just further proof that this wasn't exactly Telara anymore. Finally, as we neared the top, it became so cold and frigid that snow began to dance in the air. I haven't seen snow for myself before, having lived my entire life in Silverwood, so it was rather strange sight. Beautiful, but harshly cold. Shivering, I pulled my cloak around my shoulders.

     "Let's hope it isn't much further or we'll freeze to death." The mage muttered. He looked minutes away from that state as it was. I nodded in agreement as we trudged through deepening snow drifts. The land evened out and we found ourselves assaulted by large angry treant guardians, no doubt watch dogs to Twyl's domain.

     I pointed up ahead, where if I squinted, I could make out the odd shadowy form of some kind of winged humanoid. "What is that?" I asked rhetorically. Everyone kind of froze, staring ahead. "I bet it's Twyl! Come on, let's get him while he's just standing out here in the open!" Roland exclaimed, rushing forward. I groaned and rubbed between my eyes. I couldn't wait to get away from that imbecile. All brawn, no brain.

     "Wait, shouldn't we be more...nevermind." The cleric protested, hand outstretched as if she could physically stop the warrior from barreling on ahead. "If we just let him get killed, do you think the Vigil would frown upon us overmuch?" I asked mildly into the swirling snowy silence. They all gave me varying looks of disapproval and I held up my hands. "Kidding. Come on, best go help the fool." I dashed forward through the snow. The novelty of winter had worn off very quickly.
     As we approached, we saw that Twyl hadn't engaged Roland in combat. In fact, the Fae monarch had turned and run back the way he'd come, across a narrow ledge. Looking down, I couldn't see the bottom, just dancing snow that fell forever. Note to self, do not fall off. Roland looked smug. "Bugger's scared of us! Ha!" He waved his sword triumphantly. The mage came up behind me, panting. His robes were wet from the snow around his ankles.

    "I...*puff* really don't *puff* think he's scared." He got out between loud breaths. Apparently physical exercise wasn't something he did often. I scoffed. We all edged out along the precarious path that Twyl had taken, to see him standing by a large stone altar, hip cocked to the side with nonchalance.

     "I see you've dispatched my minions." His voice was high and velvety smooth, sending shivers down my spine. I won't lie, he was quite the attractive creature. Ugh, get ahold of yourself, I chastised myself disgustedly. Twyl pointed behind us to where we'd killed the treants. "I guess it's true what they say; if you want something right, you have to do it yourself." And he suddenly attacked us. He was fast and strong and agile, and it took all of us to keep from getting killed, let alone landing any sort of hit on the Fae man. He dodged and spun, and despite Roland's best efforts, he had no problem getting past him to score hits on the cleric and the archer, our most vulnerable comrades. Eventually, the odds began to wear him down, but it felt like I'd been fighting forever. My hands were numb from the cold and gripping my daggers so tightly. I had burn marks along my arms and face from fending off magical attacks, and I dared not look to see how to the others fared. Roland jerked his sword forward at the last possible moment, missing being slain himself and stabbing Twyl straight through the chest. The Fae monarch made a gurgling noise, looking more sad than anything else. His large, copper colored wings immediately ceased beating and he staggered backwards.

     "The merriment has ended." He coughed out, falling to the snow. "Hylas's dreary reign begins..."

     I frowned. What? Hylas's reign? What on Telara did that mean? Well here was definite proof that Hylas was indeed involved with the Fae and the plane of Life for nefarious purposes. I felt myself slump at that. I'd held out ridiculous hope that he was merely a puppet, being manipulated. Unless he was under a spell or something....? I turned to the rest of the group to see what they thought of this when suddenly there was a bright flash and what looked like a concealment spell shimmered and fell behind the altar. To my utter astonishment, the man of my thoughts stepped up to Twyl's body, grinning like a crazed lunatic.

    "Prince Hylas?" I heard someone gasp out to the left, but I had eyes only for the prince. He looked so different from what I remembered. Still grinning, Hylas stooped down and ripped the beautiful gold crown off the Fae leader's head, letting the body flop bonelessly to the ground.

     "Finally! The crown belongs to me! I must thank Shyla for sending me such capable lapdogs. You killed him for me, and made it so much easier! Now the power belongs to ME and none shall stand before my wrath! AHAHAHA!!!" Still laughing hysterically, he threw something on the ground that dazzled my eyes. I saw nothing but blackness and sparks. From the cries of fear and dismay around me, I guessed that it was something that afflicted all of us. Curses, now he was going to get away. With what was no doubt a powerful Fae artifact. My vision cleared just in time to see the tail end of a portal winking out of existence. I slammed my daggers home into their sheaths and kicked snow angrily. The others had recovered just as quickly and were now tending to their grievous injuries or just staring in shock.
     "And so luckily, we found a device on Twyl that allowed us to exit that mad world and come back to Silverwood, ending up back at that well where the plane of Life was interfering with Telara. With Twyl dead, the Fae should not be causing as much of a problem anymore, and if they do, it shouldn't be as significant. They are nothing without a leader." I tipped my head back and swallowed a mouthful of my favorite berry wine, wiping my lips on my leather bracer. Tam was giving me an approving, proud look, as if I was a prized steed that had performed to his expectations. I scowled.

     "By the way, next time you think of some hairbrained idea to send me on a mission that dangerous, I'm picking my allies." I thrust a finger at him. I may have had a bit too much wine, a small part of me thought. But I brushed it away. I was in fine spirits, having taken care of one threat to my beloved home. Now to just neutralize the many others. I sighed heavily. An Ascended's work is never done.

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