While her brothers winced at her words, they also nodded in grim determination. They had followed her here for the same reason she had led them here. Tryst was dead, killed helping them escape from Count Adbar’s citadel and he had been working with Dergeras. All the pieces had fallen into place; Adbar had been collecting the Artifacts of the Original as well. He had been bent on thwarting them from the beginning and when he lured them in they had taken the bait. It had cost them Tryst, their mission and likely the world.
If the world was going to burn anyway, at least she would take Dergeras down in the flames. She set out at a steady trot, her brothers flanking her, and in a few minutes they had arrived at the back of the keep wall. Here it was still mostly sound and reached nearly thirty feet into the air. Callindra incanted another spell and leaped into the air with the Winds gathering beneath her. Landing on the top of the wall in a crouch, she made certain she hadn’t been spotted and then took a rope from her pack and secured it to a crenellation that was still solid before tossing the other end down for them to climb.
They brought the rope up after them and tossed it down the inside of the wall, each scrape of boot on stone muffled by the spell Callindra had wrought around them. Cronos pointed to a broken window in the crumbling keep and they crept through it without attracting the attention of any of the monsters outside.
The building was thick with dust and decay, but the sound of unceasing chanting came faintly to their ears as they made their way into the depths of the keep. A feeling of foreboding settled over them a feeling accentuated the Winds fled as they got closer. The sound of their footsteps began to echo off the moldering stone walls as Callindra’s magic faded, muffled only slightly by the dust that coated everything.
“This feels wrong. Worse than I thought it would. Worse than I thought possible.” Callindra said, shivering. “The air is dead here.”
“Everything feels dead here.” Vilhylm said, looking at the dust choked walls and floor.
They found a doorway with stairs leading down. More importantly, there were many tracks here. The dust had been mashed nearly into nothing from the passage of many feet. The chanting came from below. It stopped the second Callindra’s foot touched the top stair.
“I don’t like this.” She and Cronos said simultaneously. For once they didn’t glare at each other. Clutching their weapons, the three made their way down the stairs. Callindra idly thought that being a leader unfortunately also meant going first into certain death. Of course, she didn’t care if she died now, as long as she got her revenge. As long as they got their revenge.
At the bottom of the stairs the hallway widened into a single large room. Two dozen or more corpses lay on the floor, bloody knives in their hands. Callindra shuddered in revulsion, they had killed themselves and spilled their lifeblood on symbols roughly carved on the floor in some dreadful ritual.
Stepping around the corpses they moved into the room itself and saw a dark figure cloaked in rags standing before an altar with a figure assembled from clay pieces laying upon it. The mold of the original mortal.
“Dergeras!” Callindra called out, her voice ringing throughout the room, “You have taken my brother from me, you have betrayed the living and made dark contracts with the Abyss. You will die for your crimes here and now on my blade.”
She sprang forward, Shadowsliver a living extension of her arm and sank his twin tips into the figure’s heart, pinning him to the clay figure on the altar. Dark blood flowed from his body and dripped onto the Mold.
“You have … completed.” He gasped, a beatific smile on his face as his life flowed out onto the altar.
A rent tore in reality and something forced its way into the world using the Mold of the Original Mortal as its vessel. It sat up, moving smoothly and easily; flexing limbs that shed the clay of the shell that allowed it to take mortal form.
“THIS IS A STRANGE WAY TO ENTER THE PRIME.” It said in a voice with the power of a glacier. “I, MORDE FIND MYSELF FEELING BENEVOLENT.”
Callindra hacked at it with desperate force, her sword slicing through one of its arms at the wrist as it stretched and sat up. Vilhylm thrust his spear through its torso and Cronos unleashed a torrent of flame that nearly blinded them all with its intensity.
It pointed at Cronos with a finger that flickered with blackness. “DIE.” It said, and he fell to the ground motionless.
Callindra swung her sword in a vicious arc, hacking deep into the Morde’s chest but he simply grabbed the chain, pulled her forward and slammed her into a wall with bone shattering force. She tumbled to the floor in a broken bleeding mass.
“Great Goddess of life I call upon thee in my time of need! Jorda, I invoke the boon you bestowed upon us, come now and save us from this unholy monster!”
Vines and growing plants arose from the ground at his feet, some wrapped around Callindra and Cronos but most of them grew into the figure rising from the altar, ripping into its substance and pulling it apart; the work of a hundred years of growth happening in a few moments.
Jorda rose from the mass of vines, her eyes glinting in sunlit rage as she attacked, “You are not of this world!” Her voice was the clarion call of the charging bull and the scream of a red tailed hawk. “Your kind is not welcome here!”
“AND YET NEICE I AM HERE AND I SHALL NOT BE DENIED” Morde responded, the terrible grating of his words unmaking her where she stood. “I WILL LEAVE YOUR PUNY MORTALS HERE TO BEAR WITNESS TO YOUR DESTRUCTION.”
Jorda looked at Vilhylm and her face contorted in pain as blackness ran up the vines that grew through the man shaped thing that stepped from the altar. “Run.” She whispered, and her body burst into blisters of dissolving ash.