As usual, Veracity and Brianna sleep late. By the time they emerge from their room, everybody - except Hazen - has been up for hours.
Yol scowls. "We've been waiting for you to get up before we prepare our spells. We need to make sure we are in agreement about our plan."
Veracity yawns. "What's the problem? We talked for hours last night. Brianna is going to try negotiating with the demon - not that I necessarily approve of her putting herself in danger like that! - and, if the negotiation fails, I energy drain it, Tebryn banishes it, and we repeat until it's gone, gone, gone!"
"Right," says Tebryn, ticking off spells on his fingers. "You buff up with stoneskin from your godstone - and carry that item, preparing to cast energy drain. I fabricate a Lawful Good holy symbol of Heimdall, just as Yol advised. As soon as we think we're about to meet the Balor, I buff up with fox's cunning, and we advance slowly. Brianna negotiates with it. If it attacks, you energy drain while the fighters fly up to engage it. I try to banish it. If it's still there, the fighters continue to attack it, and you and I repeat our spells. If it's still there then, well, I guess we ad lib..."
"Right," says Veracity. "And I'll veil us as a Heavy Patrol of the sort we met yesterday. That should help us avoid trouble with Kurgoth's army, at least. I'll be a hezrou, Igor and Brianna can be fire giants, and the rest of you can be ogres. OK?"
"Good enough," agrees Tebryn.
All the spell casters prepare their spells. Tebryn fabricates a holy symbol of Heimdall. Everybody packs up all their belongings yet again, hoping that they'll be able to move into a posh villa soon enough.
Veracity veils all as agreed, everybody lines up, and the group heads towards the villas. Disguised as a Heavy Patrol of Kurgoth's army, they walk authoritatively down the center of the street, as if they own it.
In the distance, they spy another Heavy Patrol. "Down this side street!" hisses Veracity. "We don't need to hide, but we may as well avoid talking to them." She turns to the right, followed by the rest of the group. As Kress, taking up the rear, looks back, he sees the other patrol pointing and waving. He waves back.
As the heroes approach the stairs, up ahead, they see something glowing. Veracity stops and Brianna comes up to her side.
"What do you think it is?" asks the Bard.
"Probably the flaming body of the demon," says Veracity. "Let's assume it is, buff up, and approach." She pulls out her godstone and casts a stone skin on herself. Tebryn casts fox's cunning on himself, as agreed, and Yol casts a couple of spells on herself.
Veracity raises an eyebrow at the death priestess. "Just in case," says Yol, turning away.
The party advances slowly, Brianna and Veracity in the lead. Indeed, the glow comes from the body of the Balor, who is standing on the staircase, as if on guard. As the front rank approaches to within sixty feet, the Balor slowly turns his head towards the party and stares at Brianna and Veracity.
The heroes stop, and Brianna takes a step forward, her hands held in front of her, palms facing the demon.
Brianna opens by praising the Balor, speaking in Abyssal. "You are great indeed! There is much destruction here - very good! I admire the work you have done! You worked well with Kurgoth, but he is dead now, as we have defeated him." She pauses, sensing rising anger in the demon at this news.
But the Balor remains calm and Brianna continues. "However the future expands before you! You might enjoy staying here and ally with us, or if you were counting on Kurgoth to send you home - then we can do that for you. It is up to you - we have no grudge against you yourself."
The Balor doesn't even blink. As if it cares not a fig one way or the other, it replies in Brianna's head and she hears it say, "I will let you live today. Go away and do not come back here."
Brianna bows slightly and backs away. Veracity and the others follow her lead and do the same. A couple of hundred feet back, when the demon is but a glowing spot in the distance, she stops.
"Well?" asks Veracity. "What happened?"
"It said that it would let us live, but warned us not to come back to that spot," says Brianna. "It didn't like hearing about Hellspawn's death."
"Kurgoth was a half-fiend," says Tebryn. "He and the Balor were allies - and no fiend likes hearing about puny humanoids like us defeating other fiends."
"What do you suppose it meant by 'that spot'?" asks Veracity. "The stairs? Or the plateau?"
"Who cares?" says Hazen. "The plateau didn't look so good to me once we got close to it, anyway."
"I think it didn't want us on the plateau at all," says Veracity. "What do you suppose it was protecting? Or was it trying to keep something for itself?"
"I don't know," says Tebryn. "I'm curious too. We're as ready as we'll ever be. Why not go 'get it' now? Banish it back to the Abyss and explore the plateau to our heart's content?"
"Let's leave sleeping demons standing," says Hazen. "Or standing demons sleeping. Or whatever it's doing, doing it."
"Scared, Hazen?" says Veracity, raising her eyebrow.
"Yes," admits Hazen. "I'm very attached to my head and I want to remain that way."
"Anyway, our goal is to kill the priestess so we can go home," says Igor.
"You keep saying that, Igor," says Veracity. "Defeating Irae is the quest that Loviatar gave me - but we had several other goals in mind before we first heard about Irae. And besides, we will need to banish the demon eventually, should we want to claim this city as our own."
Igor stares at her. "Why would we want to stay here?" he asks. "But in any case, first things first."
"But think of the prestige, Igor," suggests Tebryn, "should we succeed in sending it away from here!"
Brianna grins. "It would make a good song!"
"No way," says Kress. "Brianna talked it out of fighting us, so we have no reason to look for trouble now. We have no reason to go to up to the plateau that overrides keeping my skin intact, firmly attached to my head."
Veracity sighs. "Very well. We may as well scout out the Castle, then."
The fighters all nod, and the party boldly marches back down the avenue, veiled as before, just as if they owned it.
|Copyright © 2005 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com>||
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.