“Don't pretend you didn't hear me. This stone. Look at it!”
Ormid reaches into the bag and brings forth a glittering diamond, similar, but very different to the one the vyrleen had obtained a few days before; for where it once had a regular faceted shape, now it has grown almost 1/2” longer, and has become elongated and less symmetrical.
“It's a nascent elemental of some kind.” Offers Shadevia in her wintry voice, “An off-cast that soon will develop awareness.”
“What?” Growls Ardwaine, stomping for a better look, “Ye mean to tell me that ye stole a baby?” She thrusts a rigid finger at Llewellyn, her face a mask of anger.
“I. I, didn't”.
“We can still sell it though?”, Interrupts Shadevia, “It clearly still has material value.”
“WHAT?” - Ardwaine and surprisingly, the Veteran both reply.
“It should still have value.” Agrees Ormid.
“Yeah, if you want to become a slaver!” Retorts the Veteran, “If you are happy to use a living thing as currency.”
The artificer looks at the hulking warforged, and back to the diamond in his hand. “It's not aware at the moment. Just a piece of crystal. We can sell it in good conscience I think.”
There is a sudden blur of movement, and the warforged snatches the diamond out of the artificer's hands, and steps away from the group, the dundiir moving to stand in front of him.
“Ye callous bastards,” she growls, “Just 'cos it aint made o' flesh, don't make it any less a living thing then ye are. To an alchemist ye are all nowt but walkin' bag o' chemicals, but I dunna see any of ye willin' to sell yerselves to the potion hawkers fer spare parts.”
Shadevia flows like a shadow around the priestess, to stand next to the Veteran. Her hands float towards his arms, and she grabs him. The warforged turns to look at her, for a moment shocked that she would be brave or demented enough to touch him, before raising his arm back and preparing to throw the crystal.
“No.” the shadeling breathes, trying her best to stop him. However she is unable to resist the living constructs incredible strength, and can only watch as he launches the shard over the rooftops and beyond the gravitational pull of the streets. It sails into the lilac and silver void, gently losing momentum until it comes to hover several hundred feet out in the skies of the Villa; a winking mote of reflected light.
“What did you do that for?” Yells Llewellyn (carefully moving the other stolen gem from his pouch to a hidden pocket, all the while trying to ignore how much it has changed), “Now it will probably only go and die!”
“or it will come into contact with one o' them lumps o' rock floatin' out there, and get a life fer itself.” Adds Ardwaine.
For a moment the tension that has filled the group since they battled Funglop looks as if it may spill over. However, the appearance in the distance of a band of Syndicate soldiers quickly focuses their attention on their current plight, and they snap out of their quiet rage.
17:01 – 18:35 – Moving to the cover of a nearby stall, the group form a plan. Llewellyn will seek out the Bond Eternal and ask for aid against the Chained Syndicate, whilst the rest of the group wait somewhere inconspicuous. Then they will meet up, and with luck, enjoy the protection of the angels until they are due to meet TocToc.
“And if the plan goes as smoothly as that, I will eat my own faecal matter.” quips Llewellyn as he moves to leave.
“Remember vyrleen,” snarls the dundiir, “A low profile.”
Llewellyn makes a rude gesture in reply and is gone a moment later.
Whilst they wait, the group are forced to hide several times as bands of soldiers bearing the chains and sword insignia of the Syndicate move through the streets. Ormid wonders aloud how they know, in all the infinity of the plane, how to find them, whilst the rest of the group simply thank the immortals that they are in a place where for once, they don't stick out.
Llewellyn weaves his way through the crowds of strange and fabulous beings, asking here and there for directions to the a Bond Eternal office. He is forced to jump into a wicker basket filled with oily beans at one point as a devilish humanoid, covered in seething tattoos and openly brandishing a sword of smoky energy, stalks by, the Syndicate's symbol etched on his tabard. Despite this, he arrives at the frankly underwhelming offices a short while after, noticing the sign above its entrance bearing the Bond's sigil; a shimmering shield from which rise graceful, angelic wings.
The door to the offices is shut, and two fabulous beings stand silent guard outside of it. Each is humanoid, and clad in all concealing plate armour of the highest quality and heaviest kind. They shine with polished refulgence; their armour glowing with holy prayers and a soft, silvery mantle of radiant energy, each bearing a curiously broad, flat, double-edged sword which itself shimmers with a golden halo of heavenly power. Feeling suddenly exposed in a way he finds hard to describe, the vyrleen takes a little while to pluck up the courage to approach the beings, and when he does, he adopts the wrong tactics completely.
Gritting his teeth against the disconcerting “I'm horribly naked before the all seeing powers of these guys” feeling, Llewellyn strides confidently towards the door, as if he is meant to be here and is simply going to walk in. He nearly makes it too, the door's spiked surface within reach, when suddenly he finds the swords crossed before him, the metal sparking and snarling where it meets.
“STATE THY BUSINESS WITH THE BOND ETERNAL MORTAL KIN!”
They have the voices of wind chimes, driven by the tempests of heaven's wrath; beautiful beyond description and yet as terrible as anything the vyrleen has ever heard. Never before has death been so sweetly masked, or, he realises, potentially so close.
Stepping away from the swords, Llewellyn summons his bravado and silently puts on the mask of the con-artist; the mask he wears so well.
“Gentle...men. I have business with the Bond, and would seek permission to pass by your formidable blades and into the offices there beyond!”
He smiles up at the angelic guardians, trying not to feel too intimidated by the unchanging visages of their cherubic face plates – or the pure, silvery glow welling from beyond their eyeslits.
“DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT, CHILD OF THE EARTH?”
“Well no. But how am I to get one if you won't let me in.”
“YOU NEED TO VISIT THE CENTRAL OFFICES AT THE HUB MORTAL. THERE YOU CAN SPEAK TO ONE OF OUR OFFICERS AND STATE YOUR BUSINESS. THIS PLACE HAS NOTHING FOR YOU.”
He takes another, involuntary step back. “Th-thank you. I-I'll do that.”
The swords return to the “guard” position so swiftly that they seem to teleport there.
“See you soon!”
He backs away from the guardians and is almost trodden on by a massive humanoid apparently composed mostly of stone, metal ores and jutting wands of glowing crystal. Leaping out of the way, he quickly gets his bearings, and blends in with the crowds, moving back towards the inn where the group wait.
However, he suddenly finds himself in trouble as the devilish humanoid he saw earlier rounds a corner, accompanied by two gorgoth similar to those that guarded the entrance to the Submissive Succubus. For a heart-stopping moment the daemon kin looks straight at him, his molten eyes oozing bloody radiance, before they pass by him and continue to scan the crowds. Seeing his opportunity, Llewellyn quickly darts forwards...
...Just as the daemon realises what he saw and looks back towards where he was stood...
The daemon – a half-breed known by many as a cambion – growls in anger as he sees the spot empty, and drawing his sword, orders his companions to sweep the crowd. With a grunt the gorgoth go to work, tipping over baskets and barrels, and shoving people out of the way, but they are unable to find the vyrleen anywhere.
“Ee's not 'ere yer worship.” growls one.
“Ee's bloody well vanished is wot ee's dun.” Adds the second.
For a moment the cambion feels a wave of rage sweep over him. Then, realising that the diminutive humanoid cannot have got far, he simply nods sharply, and with a sweep of his fuming blade, bids the gorgoth follow him, and stalks further along the street...
...Revealing the curled vyrleen that was hidden beneath his tabard, between his booted feet - though not seeing him, so fixed is he on the surrounding area...
“Too close.” whispers Llewellyn with a shuddering breath as the killers sweep away from him, “Too damn close by far.”
19:00 – 19:05 – The group have reunited, and are wending their way through the crowded streets, back towards the hub. Ormid has once again been forced to gently impose his will on the surrounding area in order to bat aside another wide scan from a scryer, and the group have managed to avoid several small groups of Syndicate soldiers, including a group lead by the same strange human the vyrleen met by the notice boards the day before. However, eventually their luck runs out (helped in part by several members of the groups eagerness to punish the Syndicate for their continued harassment), and inevitably, the group find themselves in combat again...
...And it is no push over this time...
The group find themselves facing an eclectic bunch, including the human planar mercenary and his Dismordiir (Derro) sidekick. Two humanoid dracani, who each wield deadly spells of lightning and thunder, and two of the shadowy gorgoth complete the band, and they work together superbly.
Within the first few seconds of the battle, most of the group bear grievous wounds; electrical burns from the stormcaster's lightning, and deep wounds from the war cleavers of the gorgoth. Paths of access are reduced by the Iron Defender's oily breath, and Llewellyn scores some heavy early blows on the human, but for a while it is looking increasingly grim – especially when one of the gorgoth redirects a deadly blow from the Veteran, and sends it chopping into Ardwaine's neck, opening a spurting geyser of crimson there.
However, slowly and painfully, the group pull back from the brink and begin to wear their foes down. First to fall is one of the gorgoth. He is dismembered by the warforged after slipping in the caustic oil and failing to stand back up. Next to go is the second Gorgoth; trapped by the warforged's mark, and unable to land a hard enough blow to take him down (though by this point the Veteran is leaking oils and vital fluids through a mass of burns, cuts and contusions, his automatic repair systems purring with activity as they seek to repair his damage).
Suddenly finding itself too close to the warrior, one of the drakven like humanoids is the next to fall, its body slopping messily into two piles, the air sizzling with suddenly undirected arcane energies as it dies. Silvery magic envelops the seriously wounded warforged as he activates his healing cloak, and a burst of aeolian ferocity engulfs ferrous; shielding him in buffeting winds and ripping the helm from the human mercenaries head, finally drawing the blood that the vyrleen's repeated (and to the human, infuriating) attacks had failed to draw.
The human is by this point almost insane with rage, and whilst his companion busies himself stabbing at Ferrous, he launches a bewildering array of attacks - some drawing on daemonic magics, others using techniques known by angels and their allies – at the group.Llewellyn continues to strike at him, denting his armour and drawing more and more blood, whilst Shadevia and Ormid blast him with their unique spells and primal energies. He launches into the middle of the group, his axe laying about him in a blur of bloody ruin, and all but Shadevia find themselves seriously wounded by his attacks. Ormid, gore welling in thick torrents, finds himself fending off a blur of blows, and Ardwaine, only just recovered (thanks to her own spells, sheer stubbornness and Ormid's restorative potions), finds herself gasping for air after receiving a cleaving blow to the head, that shears through her skull and leaves her stumbling and bleeding.
“Is it funny now you little bastard?” Screams the human at Llewellyn, his rage at the vyrleen's earlier attacks – which involved a lot of darting in, hitting, and leaping back to safety (usually with some quip about the mercenary being “too slow” or “too stupid” to hit back) – the only thing stopping his increasingly grievous wounds from killing him. “Are you laughing? Are you? ARE YO......”
An arrow, crawling with swarming spirit insects and thrumming with primal power suddenly blossoms in his throat, bursting in a puff of crimson from the back of his neck. His eyes go wide, and his mouth gapes as the seeker's arrow ends his life, his blood drenched axe clanging to the floor, his massive bulk dropping to his knees. He tries to say something, but there is no breath left in him, and his final act is to slump forwards, his face smashing into the flagstones as his lifeblood pools around him.
And that's it.
With his ally slain, the dismordiir turns to run – as does the last of the spellcasters (who upon seeing its partner cut to pieces has already backed off in preparation of flight).
However, neither get very far, for suddenly the air seems to take on an energized, silvery hue, and a beam of blinding white light, six paces across and reaching it seems into the eternity of the sky, manifests in the middle of the street. A luminous, armoured figure, mantled in blinding armour like glass reflecting summer lightning, and bearing a greatsword of pure golden flame, appears floating from high within it, its form shedding motes of electrum light like fireflies. At sight of this angelic apparition the entire party are stricken with the simultaneous urge to run in terror and to fall to their knees and give praise, their minds overwhelmed by its terrible beauty and the wordless song of ineffable rage and painful love that comes from it.
The Chained Syndicate soldiers have no doubts as to what they wish to do however, and turn to run. Neither make it more than a couple of steps before pure beams of chiming light, straight as an arrow and too brilliant to look at, leap from the fabulous figure and strike them, immediately turning each to sparkling dust in a soundless explosion of radiant energy.
As the figure nears the ground, so the group can make out its features; noble, androgynous and terrible. There is an inhuman beauty there that speaks of impossible cruelty and impossible goodness, and several members of the group find themselves thinking of the Lir' and Synd'Aelwyn. A halo of almost colourless flames burns around the angel's curly haired head, and its eyes – slits of golden light from which beam shafts of auric effulgence – seem to take in everything around it, as well as the group.
After a moment the giant being floats just above the party, the air around it warmed by a gentle heat like early summer sun, its wings gently fanning it past them. It looks at them, and then in its searing, awesome, beautiful voice, it asks them, “You were looking for us? We of the Bond Eternal? I understand we share a common enemy. I believe we need to talk.”
There is a rushing sensation, and the group are suddenly surrounded in a waxing glow like smeared sunlight, which is quickly too bright to be tolerated. They are vaguely aware that they are screaming, but over the glorious harmonies of the angel's voice resonating through the brilliance, they cannot hear themselves...