After they had slain the beast known as the Rat King they quickly searched for Medeina. Ducroh was able to find tracks as Terra and Bartholomew attempted to look for her scent. They passed several corridors with smaller rooms attached until they got to a wider corridor which contained the private quarters of Įgruvia Milžinai’s elites. The trail lead to a large room at the end of this corridor. As they followed they noticed the remnants of illusions which had been performed. Inside the room they found the bookshelves tossed and everything strewn about, as well as a secreted passage that was already open behind one of the shelves. The aura’s of illusion magic grew more frequent and stronger. They squeezed through the narrow secret passage and followed it several hundred meters around a slow bend until it widened slightly. Terra could sense something was amiss, and closely looked at her surroundings. It a moment her eyes unraveled the light bending from corners of the room, disillusioned by the sight of four Vaukojkai armed with spears and decorated in ceremonial feathers. They had been hidden before by extremely powerful magic. Slowly they moved forward and Terra did her best to covertly warn the party of their presence without causing suspicion. Ahead they saw the hallway end and split into two with a dim blue light coming from the areas beyond. Behind them a low rumble turned into the audible sound of marching and a continuous chant coming from the secret passage which they had entered through.
Ducroh centered himself in the corridor as Pascal created a pit, with everyone situated defensively behind the pit to await the source of the chanting. As the marching grew louder they could see shadows moving in the passage. The chanting was unlike anything they had heard. Pascal and Schrödinger could recognize it as a type of Undine, but it was so unlike what they spoke it was nearly impossible to understand. When they moved out from the shadows several dozen figures dressed in long black robes with pointy cowls stepped forward lead by Inquisitor Paleoghafir. Ducroh was surprised by the fact he was alive somehow. He knew these to likely be the cultists known as the Nightingale Church. Paleoghafir said that he couldn’t leave this world as he sought to take back what was his. Terra grew impatient as she noticed the hidden guards approaching from all sides. She struck out with her blades. Unable to down them, they apparated from their guise and advanced with their spears pointed forwards. The chanting grew louder as Paleoghafir called to forces beyond. Their heads began to ache and Bartholomew looked around. Everyone but himself was frozen in thought, completely held within the grasp of the Nightingale Church. Bartholomew quickly grabbed his little girl and burrowed as fast as he could to the safety of his realm. The figures robed in black approached slowly, raising cudgels as they began to mercilessly beat the others until their memories faded away. They could only recall bits of what happened after.
The memories appeared in bursts, flashes before their eyes, being dragged deeper into the passageway. They were brought to a larger room with a massive decorated urn surrounded by pikes covered in gore. Inquisitor Paleoghafir was overheard saying, “Egle escaped with the other Fjorthn, but the hieromonach is ours, along with the device he used to reach outside. He seems to be in possession of the ruined body, as our new pseudanor interrupeted the procession. I fear we should not have waited until the next alignment, as now he must be worn to pass the crown”
He seemed to be talking to someone far away, a ghastly voice responded which Ducroh knew to be Inquisitor Hnteromonas, “You dare mantle the will of her flock?”
Pustules on Paleoghafir’s flesh began to burst and as they did Pascal’s brain twitched with radiating sharp pains.
Paleoghafir said, “Nhhhh-no my teuton, it is I who failed you, though the pseudanor was stupid enough to bring your sword with him as we predicted, and polished as well! I do not think he knows of it’s import. The rabbit got away with the brooch and Speaker’s Mask, we have found him among the crimson, agents have been deployed to bring him back, though his new title has treated him with.. powerful allies. please bestow vigilance to our queen, we must be ever watchful.”
“We will continue then. Use pascal, all we need is aelfhaft to abort the the child. Zvoruna will serve as the new Despoina, take anyone who contests to the pit. When the procession is complete she will open the southern gate. When you arrive grant her my condolences, it has been too long.”
The church began to pour a concoction of nyxtar from the urn into smaller cauldrons. The Hieromonach could be seen tied up against a post as members cast spells on him and slowly stripped away his skin, treating it with the mixture of nyxtar. They putrefied his brain and nerves, boiling his skin and wrapping them all tightly around twigs to mold and dry. All that remained in the end was the hollow aura of a pale golden crown, his body mutilated and turned into a macabre relic.
Bartholomew retreated to his abode to be greeted by a man who looked like a goat who wielded a large halberd. He said that he was a servant to the Speaker of the Crimson Oath, and informed Bartholomew that upon bearing his mask that the title was now his. He could not talk for long, and insisted that they must hurry as agents were looking for them. He helped Bartholomew scry into Nilfheimr to observe the fate of his friends. They were being dragged into the large ceremonial pit of Įgruvia Milžinai. Around the site everyone had been gathered; Zvoruna, Medeina, the librarian and other citizens of the Vaukojkas. Many others were there by force. Ancidaeus was captured again, bound though he seemed to be loosening his ties. Makar was next to a man from he surface who looked like a slave, struggling to remain calm, for whenever he was not the Inquisitor Paleoghafir seemed to speak through him. Behind them all Bartholomew could see Berothath was placed on the altar.
As the party regained their consciousness they awoke to the horrendous howling of Schrödinger as the feathered Vaukojkas prodded him with their pointed spears. The Nightingale Church uttered verses unknown to them, with only few decipherable words letting them know it was indeed another chant to Giltinė. The room was swarming with laumes, bringing up the earth’s fetid breath with their winds. In the center of the room a light pierced from the mass of flesh and feathers, this one even brighter than the ceremony to Typhoeus, the alignment of the winter solstice had come. This was the moment they had been preparing for. Cultists started to take Pascal towards the altar where the crown awaited him. Bifröst poured down from the laumes and tethered to nearly all that moved, pulling up severed limbs from the pit below. Bartholomew with the aid of his new ally was able to calibrate a burrow behind the altar where Berothath remained, moving to take out several guards. Ancidaeus having freed himself turned to Terra and Ducroh to loosen their restraints. When Terra was free the entire crowd was engulfed by a cloud of obscuring mist as she took her predatory shape and stalked through the plumes. When Pascal was freed she moved to dismiss the binding circle which kept Schrödinger in place. Ducroh had been disarmed of Undhrbyrðr, but in their hurry to perform the ceremony he was left his his bow and arrows. He lined up a shot directly at Paleoghafir’s head as they lunged toward one another. His arrow let loose and lodged directly through the inquisitor’s head. Paleoghafir staggered forward, unnaturally continuing to move but hindered slightly.
The room grew more damp as the winds churned around them. Bartholomew could sense an exchange brewing as Ducroh moved to disarm Paleoghafir, appearing right behind him as Ducroh wielded his own blade. The slave who was bound came running towards Paleoghafir, swearing revenge, but too much emotion sent him over the edge. The inquisitor took control of his mind and sent the man towards Ducroh, his fists burning with anger as swung wildly, igniting his clothes with each punch. Arrows from the darkness narrowly missed Ducroh and the others. Bartholomew knew something Ducroh did not, and as he once again wielded the blade, the rabbit took the brooch of Ausrine he had stolen, raising it up high as it harmonized with the chanting. The entire room filled with blinding light and a piercing noise as the devices attuned. The liquid from the pit below rose up into the sky and the Bifröst which connected everything became so bright it’s colors merged into an argent storm. Paleoghafir cried out and apologized to the queen as she rushed for the crown, he knew something was wrong and that he had to act quickly. He push the cultist out of the way as he raced Terra to the crown, placing it upon his head as he vanished into a cloud of dust. There was a momentary silence as everyone rushed to flee. From behind the temple’s altar a violent luminescence crept. Once again winds picked up from behind them. Ancidaeus pleaded to follow him towards the southern gate, as he knew that this was one place they did not want him to go. He could not say why, but he begged for their trust as he believed this was the only way out. The source of the light and wind from behind the temple revealed itself, Berothath, recovered from her mortal wounds and with wings even greater than her sisters. Manically she cried out as gusts of wind sent citizens and cultists hurling into the air, “Who is afraid to fly now!? Ah-hahaha!”
They ran down the steps towards the southern gate into a long corridor. The winds picked up from behind them and some regretted looking back. Berothath was not what she used to be. At the end of the corridor it opened to a large chamber littered with the inanimate bodies of Fjorðinn warriors, each of them seemed to be frozen still engaged in combat as if a statue made of crystal. Just beyond them was a large circular stone door which had been opened. There was no time to think, and they continued inside. When they passed it’s boundary time began to loose all meaning. They saw reflection upon reflection and lost themselves in a realm which they struggled to define. Terra saw something else, and realized that her emotions paved way, a small path which she could grasp. She realized that she could see through the eyes of many. The number of paths before her was countless. She was looking through the eyes of all those who the queen had “blessed”. Terra had taken on the path of the nyx-tar, and was inhabiting those bodies where it coursed through their veins. The queen to her was tangible now. A vessel through which all of the dead and broken could live once more. Before she could finish this though, her and the others were sent crashing into the ground, or what they perceived to be so. All around them light bounced back and forth. It looked as if they were in a room of mirrors, but upon further inspection everything was transparent like glass. The walls, furniture, decorations, and everything else around them were only visible by the feint refraction of light and silhouette on their edges. From the far side of the room they could see one of these figures moving closer, a feminine outline beginning to appear as she grew brighter and brighter as she walked closer to greet them.
“Ah.. Hello. You are not who I was expecting, but welcome.”
“Who are you?”, asked Ducroh.
“I am the Queen.”