In the popular imagination, impressive things arise from a single heroic deed, based on a plan, executed with the will and support of the Light. There is probably trumpet-fare and cheering. This is only the thought of one who comes to the stage long after those who ached and bled to make it have passed on.
The rainstorm starts with one drop, soaring through the clouds. The avalanche begins with one stone dropping in just such a way…..
What happened in Cern’s laboratory started with a twitch of the Witch Hunter’s eyes, and the distortion of the Talent that is thought. To be fair, it also began with a demon in the shape of a dog leaping the slime-filled pool at the entrance of Cern’s lab.
There was talking before that. Perhaps the wizard could be faulted for arrogance, or bravado. But he did prove himself to be an Adept. And he was in his own laboratory, beneath his tower, and Working.
There were insinuations, rebuffs, accusations, legal insinuations. A dog leapt. The Witch Hunter advanced. Adept Cern covered himself in an invulnerable-seeming suit of glowing plate mail. The Prospector Mellendor drew a whip of flame out of thing air. He did not, however, get to use it.
The Butler rebuffed the hound in mid-air, throwing him back into the wall. Gavin and Illyria rushed across the room. Alain muttered to himself several times, “Wait, I think – I – could we just – ….”
Gavin shook one of Cern’s massive worktables free of all its materials like a dog shaking a small toy. He raised it up like a shield and rushed the Adept. Illyria breezed past them, leaping behind the circles of the girl and the demon.
in his heart of hearts, Alain had harbored a hope like a sick puppy in the winter: Adept Cern is a fraud the skinny puppy’s collar read. The reason the Adept was never seen working magic was because he was a talentless hack. Conjuring the glittering field across the middle of the room to imprison Gavin and Alain in a long timeless moment full of pretty flashing lights dragged that little puppy out into the toolshed with an axe.
Illyria released the Balefire – the massive demon of consuming flame. Perhaps because he called her ‘little princess’. Illyria was notably vain and had always wanted to be a princess, somewhere down in her very, very small heart. Also somewhere in that heart (it was crowded in there), she had been harboring truly terrible fates for the prospectors, and for this elvish one especially. The tilt of his nose spoke of the elvish king’s blood. She didn’t want just to see it. She wondered what it would look like spraying out when his head came off.
The Balefire obliged like a very, very large and ungly fairy godmother. Although, honestly, with more fire than she would have preferred.
The Adept was firing sizzling bolts of devouring Ley Line energy at her. He turned invisible when she approached. He was quite vexing.
The wizard called out more help, a blue burning creature of energy.
They all gave Illyria a lot more attention than she had hoped for. She was, however, quite a Healer.
She was also a trained Feather in the cap of the Lord of the Quiet End in the capitol of the Western Empire, the most bloodthirsty and backstabbing place in Palladium. Her cloak had absorbed the last of the wizard’s blasts before coming undone around her. But her gloves were still intact. And they turned into knives. She gripped two small vials of poison out of her belt, crushing them. Then her wet gloves became wet knives.
Cern died with a blade hilt sticking out of his throat, and poison running through his veins.
The glitter died along with him. There was some unappreciated hilarity in Gavin completed his crushing rush against the wizard.
The free Hound ripped the Butler’s throat out. Always bet on the dog, never the butler.
They broke the circle and freed the girl. She turned out to have been a ghost, and her body was in the cauldron. She was gone, now. Another item on the “Naughty” list for the wizard. Alain suspected she might be the whore’s daughter – they had vanished together some weeks back.
They searched the books in the lab. They found out a little about ghosts, and demons, and the uses of angel skulls.
The lights in the lab burned hotter than the noonday sun.
They found a mirror that showed the truth inside of people.
Illyria was beautiful, but wicked.
Jack (the Hound) was a shadow of burning eyes.
Alain was a comical child’s coloring of a captain, puppeteered by a tall, grey, gaunt figure with bad skin and a withered arm and leg.
The mirror didn’t survive its revelations.
They took some of the books. They took the wizard’s jewelry. They set the lab on fire.
They mounted the tower steps and on the 2nd floor, Alain put his hand on the silver symbol of the eye, exerting his prodigious will.
Quite suddenly, all the hot updraft of silver fire went out, and Alain looked up, concerned. Before his head hit the stone and he passed out, all he said was, “Oh.”
Median, the gnome guardsman met them in Cern’s den. The people of the town were dancing in the streets, talking crazy, he reported. The 3rd prospector – the human one – was found injured in his home. Townspeople were with him – neighbors.
Eyes crazed, blood oozing from his wounds, the prospector Quall looked up into Illyria’s eyes. “Thank the Light you’re here!”
He reached under his shirt and pulled out a silver medallion of the Eye of the Dismembered God. “I’m part – ” he coughed up blood “of a secret order called the Order of the Watchful Eye. We came because – ” blood was running from his nose, and one ear, dripping onto the floor to mix with the rain water dripping from the ceiling, “the Old Ones are rising!”
Jack turned and looked outside, expecting a flash of lightning. He was growling low in his human-shaped throat.