Purification episode 79: Against the Destroyer

Lilly approached the entrance swiftly but silently. Not wanting to give away her position, she took note of every small stone, every crack in the ground so that she could avoid making any noise. “Please,” she thought “please still be open.”

Once she reached the top of the steps, confirming the entrance was still open, she pulled out the scroll, placed her hand on it and whispered “invisibility.” The scroll shimmered and vanished in a puff of smoke. Lilly felt her body tingle. Looking down, she couldn’t see herself.

She nodded to herself and moved quietly down the steps. She couldn’t hear the thing moving. Had it gone back behind its panel? She examined the area once she’d reached the bottom of the steps. There was no sign of it.

She carefully moved forward, alert and watching. There was still no sign of the destroyer. She reached the pedestal and quickly located Axra’s sword. She hurriedly picked it up and secured it in her belt. Then she turned to Zerstörelicht.

It was a beautiful bow, that was for certain. A pure white colour with very intricate, very small engravings that looked like vines with flowers, probably roses but she couldn’t tell with the naked eye. Still, she considered leaving it behind. After all, if she picked it up that thing would show up again. It would definitely be safer to leave and come back for it with the others.

But… She pictured that horrible instant where it had blasted Axra in her mind. If she left it until then, it might happen again. She reached forward and snatched it.

Immediately, she heard the sound of the wall lowering. She glanced over at it and ran as quickly as she could towards the steps. The Destroyer followed after her.

She glanced over her shoulder at it. Some of the cases were beneath its bulk, others were to both sides. Was it designed to avoid damaging the cases?

Lilly ducked behind the nearest case. She was still invisible so she was hoping it would pass over her. No such luck. It stopped near her and its spindly legs reached for her. She gasped and scrambled away from it.

Its eyes shined and an energy blast shot towards her. She rolled beneath it. It hit the wall just over her head. Did the creature have some way of sensing her or was it sensing Zerstörelicht?

Lilly continued her run, ducking behind the cases as she went, hoping that it would prevent the construct from firing at her. She held Zerstörelicht defensively in her arms. Maybe… maybe it could stop the creature.

She reached towards her pouch for an extra bow string.

No string. 

She paused, confused by the voice she seemed to be hearing. Hesitantly, she reached for an arrow.

No arrows. 

She stopped and held Zerstörelicht in front of her. If she wasn’t supposed to use a string or arrows then how?

She decided to test it. She went through the motions of notching an arrow and pulling the string. Surprisingly, she felt the weight of something in her hands. Looking down, she saw Zerstörelicht glowing. She pointed it at the destroyer and released the string.

A brilliant beam of pale pink light shot from the bow and flew into the construct, creating a miniature explosion on impact. It forced the destroyer back a few paces, but the creature easily recovered. Its fangs flew at her.

She barely managed to sidestep them and swiftly fired several more shots.

“I… I’m not hurting it,” Lilly thought. “Is it stronger than Zerstörelicht?”

The construct charged at her, very nearly taking off her head with a swipe of its legs.

“No, it’s not that,” she thought. “I… I’m too weak. I can’t use it properly.”

She managed to flip out of the way of its fangs and fire a bolt from Zerstörelicht into one of the chains. It shattered, sending the fang flying into the ceiling.

Unfortunately, the damage didn’t seem to register for the destroyer. It came at her faster than ever, with eye beams and legs. The protrusions on its back were glowing.

Lilly dodged desperately, having no time to counter-attack. Could she really get out of this?

I’ll come back for you when those six die.

Gail’s words came back to her and Lilly’s own confusion over them. Why had she been so sure that Lilly would survive? She’d almost died twice already. Once trying to protect Twila and again when the reaper had almost stabbed Axra but…

“No way,” Lilly thought. “It couldn’t be. The bolts that hit those things…”

Lilly froze in her tracks. If she was wrong… but if she was wrong it was over anyway.

The destroyer’s attacks stopped right before they could hit her and bounced back. The destroyer was tossed through several cases and into the wall, shattering into pieces.

“Gail…” Lilly said, aloud. “You…”

With a loud popping sound, Gail appeared in front of her.

“Oh, my sweet Lilly,” she said. “Did you think I would leave you unprotected?”

Gail looked around. “I don’t see their bodies. Did the destroyer vaporise them?”

“We… well no,” Lilly said. “I… I gave them sleeping medicine and came here alone.”

Gail seemed taken aback, but smiled and gently stroked Lilly’s hair. “I never took you for the reckless sort. But that courage is beautiful in its own way.” She glanced at the broken heap. “Well, I suppose you don’t need me protecting you anymore. I doubt there’s anything down here that can hurt you now. Not while you hold that bow.”

Gail curtsied.

“W… wait,” Lilly cried.

“Oh,” Gail said. “This is a surprise. Did you want me to make love to you while we’re alone?”

Lilly felt her face flush. “I… I’d like you to send us… me and the others… up to the underground. A… Axra was b… badly hurt and…”

“Shhh,” Gail interrupted. “I know. You’re a girl who cares deeply for her friends and companions. That’s part of why I love you and it’s an easy enough favour.”

“Th… then you’ll…” Lilly began.

“On one condition,” Gail said. “Let me kiss you.”

“K… ki… kiss me?” Lilly asked. “I…” She closed her eyes and nodded.

The next moment, she felt Gail’s lips on her forehead.

“All right,” Gail laughed. “Let’s go.” She snapped her fingers and Lilly found herself outside of some kind of temple. With her companions on the ground nearby.

“What just happened?” Velvet asked. He looked over at Lilly. “Hey, you lived. Why are you blushing?”


Writer’s Note:

Hey everyone, as we approach the end of another year I thought it appropriate to take a moment to thank all of you for your support this year.

Whether you celebrate the Solstice, Hanukkah, Hearth’s Warming, Kwanzaa, Christmas or something else entirely I wish you a joyful and bright holiday season.

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Purification episode 78: Reckless Choice

Twila stood, still and quiet with Fang flying above her.

Lysara paced restlessly.

Reginald sat with his chin resting in his hands.

The three of them watched the makeshift tent, waiting for Lilly to emerge and give them news of Axra, Bonnie and Velvet.

After what seemed like a long time, the flap opened and Velvet walked out, stretching. He leaned back against a rock near them.

They continued their vigil until, finally, Lilly came out of the tent.

“How’s their condition?” Twila asked.

“Is Bon gonna be okay?” Lysara added.

“We… well I…,” Lilly took a step back and a deep breath, clenching her fist. “B… Bonnie is banged up… but… with some, you know, time… she’ll be just fine.”

Lysara clapped her hands together and smiled.

“And Axra?” Twila asked.

“Ax… Axra is… she…” tears were visibly forming in Lilly’s eyes.

Twila leaned over and hugged her. “It’s okay. Say it slowly. How bad is it?”

“I… if w… we don’t… if…” Lilly cried in Twila’s arms for a couple minutes before composing herself. “If… if we don’t get her to a cleric soon… she… she isn’t going to…”

Twila’s voice was low when she spoke again. “How long does she have?”

“M… maybe a week,” Lilly sniffled. “Pr… probably less.”

“We’ll get her to a cleric,” Twila said. “We’ll go back to the dark elf village and ask the old man to fix her up.” She let go of Lilly and looked back at the others. “We’ll rest tonight and go nonstop using a flight spell. Carrying Axra and Bonnie should be simple enough. We should be able to make it back in a few days.”

“Is that really a good idea?” Reginald asks. “If we rush without rest won’t it put a strain on you?”

“I can manage,” Twila said.

“Besides,” Velvet added. “There’s not much choice. Can’t have the Princess dying on us. We’ll just have to wait to rest until she’s safe.”

“I’ll cook us up something filling for tonight,” Lysara volunteered.

“Good idea,” Twila said. “We’ll need it.”

“Allow me to aid you,” Reginald said.

“Tw… Twila,” Lilly said. “I… I don’t think I’ll b able to sleep. D… do you have some, you know, medicine or something?”

“Sure,” Twila said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a powdery substance. “If you take this it should put you out for seven or eight hours. Be careful, it takes effect very quickly.”

“Th… thank you,” Lilly said, accepting the medication. I… I’m going to help Lysara too.

Things were quiet when the group sat down to eat. Lilly looked down at the ground, not touching the plate in front of her. Twila ate in silence, occasionally giving a bite to Fang. Lysara went into the tent to be near Bonnie while she ate. Reginald occasionally looked around as though trying to think of something to say, but always returned to his meal in silence. Velvet downed his food quickly and laid back.

Lilly waited until she heard her comrades’ breathing calm and moved over to Twila’s bag. She carefully removed the invisibility scroll and put it in her belt.

“Strange,” Velvet said. His voice almost making Lilly jump. “Everyone fell asleep super fast. I don’t think Twila or Reginald even finished. It’s almost like something happened to make them fall asleep.”

“M… make them?” Lilly said. “I… I won… wonder what th…” She stopped talking and looked away from him.

“I’m guessing if I weren’t part dwarf I’d be out too, right?” Velvet asked.

“I… I forgot how resistant dwarves are… to these things,” Lilly said.

“So, you’re going back down by yourself,” Velvet muttered. “Do you really want the bow that badly?”

“It… it’s not that,” Lilly said. “I… I have to get Axra’s sword. It… it’s really important to her. I… I mean I’ll try to get the bow too, you know, so we don’t have to come back. I… I don’t want to risk Axra… or anyone else getting hurt by that thing… again.”

“I’m not going to come down after you,” Velvet said. “If you go down there you’re on your own.”

“I… I did try to put you to sleep too, you know,” Lilly said. “D… don’t worry. I… I’m sure I’ll make it back without any… serious problems.”

“If you say so,” Velvet said. “So, what should I do when they wake up and want to know where you are?”

“If… if I don’t return by the time they wake…” Lilly took a deep breath. “If… if that happens just go back by yourselves.”

Velvet nodded. Lilly started moving back towards the ruin. “Make sure you come back,” Velvet said. “Cause I really don’t wanna explain all of this.”

“I… I’ll do my best,” Lilly called back, hurrying into the darkness.

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Purification episode 77: The Beast Beneath

The staircase wasn’t long, only going down about five metres, but the temperature was noticeably hotter than it had been in the ruins above. The chambre itself was long, rectangular and surprisingly intact. The entire chambre was a bright white marble with glass cases scattered around.

Axra moved over to examine one. It had some kind of jewel inside, oval-shaped and bright red, and a plaque in some strange language.

“Hey, Bon,” Lysara said, gesturing towards a case. “Isn’t this pendant pretty?”

“It is,” Bonnie said, glancing briefly at it. “But I doubt it’s what we came for.” She turned to Twila. “Do you detect any magic?”

“A lot,” Twila said. “There’s magic all around us. Every case down here may very well have some kind of magic item in it.”

“S… so, do we have to, you know, check all of them?” Lilly asked.

Twila shook her head. “Not at all. There is one source of magic that’s significantly above the rest. That should be Zerstörelicht.”

“That’s my Twila!” Axra declared. “Lead the way and let’s grab it.”

“We should advance with caution,” Bonnie stated. “Given the security around this place there are probably golems about.”

“Not necessarily,” Twila said. “This was probably a basement to a museum or possibly a research facility. They almost certainly used dark elf guards.”

“And your basis for thinking that?” Bonnie asked.

“Golems can be useful for sending into battle but they’re more than a little inflexible,” Twila answered. “Getting them to distinguish between an authorised person and a thief… Well, if they could readily manage that feat then we’ve forgotten much about crafting golems.”

“Besides,” Axra said. “There aren’t any golems in sight. They’d post some at the entrance if they used them, right?”

“That does seem probable,” Bonnie conceded. “Just the same, it would be prudent to show caution.”

“True,” Twila agreed. “We’ll be careful going forward.”

The group followed Twila forward. Axra and Lilly flanked her. Bonnie and Lysara brought up the rear, looking around for any signs of trouble.

After eight and a half minutes of walking they reached a marble pedestal with a pure white, unstrung bow resting on it.

“That’s Zerstörelicht ?” Axra asked. “A crummy wooden bow?”

“It… I… I don’t think it’s wood,”Lilly said. “Th… the texture is… wrong for wood.”

“It’s definitely not wood,” Twila observed. “But I don’t know what it’s actually made of.”

“Whatever,” Axra muttered. “Let’s just grab it.” She took a step forward, but Bonnie put an arm out to stop her.

“There may be some kind of security measure,” Bonnie said. “I’ll grab it.”

She moved forward and carefully reached for the bow.

“Wait,” Twila said. “There’s some kind of spell around it, probably some kind of trap. Let me dispel it.” Twila chanted quickly and gestured towards the bow. A bright light flickered and went out.

“Great,” Axra said. “Now let’s…” The ground rumbled around them and she nearly fell onto the ground but Lilly caught her and pulled her up.

The eastern wall had slid open and a large creature gazed out at them. It was spider-like with eight legs and eight yellow eyes. It was six metres tall, almost reaching the ceiling, and ten metres wide. It had long, sharp fangs and several odd protrusions along its back.

It rushed straight for them, its legs sliding easily across the ground.

“Don’t worry, I’ll handle it!” Axra declared. She drew her blade and charged back at it. Its eyes glowed briefly and a beam of light slammed into Axra, forcing her sword out of her hand and tossing her back. With a gasp, Lilly moved to catch her, getting dragged to the ground with her, but doing her best to cushion Axra’s fall.

“Princess!” Bonnie cried. She charged the monster, only for one of its fangs to fly at her, attached to the main body through some kind of chain. It coiled around Bonnie. The creature lifted her into the air and slammed her roughly into the ground.

“Bon!” Lysara screamed.

“I’ve got it,” Velvet said. “Man, what a pain.” He strode briskly towards the construct, braced to catch whatever it threw at him. It swiped one of its legs at him. His arms caught it, but the creature easily tossed him aside.

“Barrier!” Twila shouted, snapping her fingers. A shimmering field appeared around the construct. “Lysara, grab Bonnie. Lilly, pick up Axra. Reginald, get Velvet!” Twila ordered. “Hurry, I can’t hold it long.”

Lilly was in pain from the collision, but she managed to crawl out from under Axra and pick her up. Lysara moved to her fallen love. “Still breathing,” she muttered. “Thank the Gods.” She picked Bonnie up and tried to not dwell on her wounds or think about how much blood she’d lost. Reginald reached Velvet quickly and hoisted him up with some difficulty.

“Forget the bow,” Twila muttered. “Just get out of here.”

“Wh… what about you?” Lilly asked, noting that Twila had developed a severe nosebleed.

“I’ll be fine,” Twila answered. “I’ll run after you when I can’t maintain the barrier anymore.”

The creature’s eyes glowed and Twila’s barrier shattered. She cried out in pain and nearly fell over. The monster was striding right for her.

Twila hurriedly chanted as it approached. This was going to be tough. If her timing was off… She shook her head and tried not to think about it. The creature was almost upon her.

“Cheetah’s Speed!” She cried. She moved rapidly, barely avoiding a blast from the monster’s eyes, Fang clutching onto her back.

She bolted back towards her comrades. They were starting their way up the stairs when she reached them, but the construct wasn’t far behind.

She fumbled in her bag and quickly found the summoning scroll. She pressed her hand to it. “Summon!” A reaper materialised and instantly moved against their opponent. “Summon! Summon! Summon!”

She kept going, summoning reaper after reaper and sending them to slow the menace. The reapers were being easily dispatched, but it didn’t matter. Her friends were almost up the stairs. Finally, the scroll shattered in her hand, its final charge used. She hurried up the stairs after her friends. Their opponent reached the bottom of the stairs just as she was going up into the ruins. It looked around as though confirming that it was alone and went back the way it had come.

“Thank the Gods its not following us,” Twila muttered.

“What was that thing?” Reginald asked.

“I… I think it was that,” Lilly said. “You know… the sleeping destroyer.”

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Purification episode 76: The Hidden Chambre

Lysara snuck out of her tent. In the morning they’d go search for the enchanted weapon, the Zerstörelicht. Was it another sword, axe, mace, maybe something weird like bagh nakh? She didn’t care right now. She had more pressing matters.

The entire day had been awkward. She and Bonnie had barely said a word to each other. She walked carefully over to the fire. “Lilly, slow watch tonight?”

“Thankfully, yes,” Lilly said. “But shouldn’t you be… I don’t mean for it to sound like I’m giving you orders or anything… but didn’t you ne… want to sleep?”

“Actually, Lysara said. “I needed to talk to you in private and since you’re working with Velvet tonight I figure it’s the best time.”

She glanced over at Velvet who was staring out at their surroundings. Head resting on one hand.

“Oh… sure,” Lilly said. “What did you wanna talk about?”

“You’ve known Bon longer than anyone else here,” Lilly said. “So, do you know how she started working for the kings?”

“Oh… I… that’s a…” Lilly looked down, up and finally turned completely away from Lysara. “I… I have no idea… I mean, how would I… know anything like that?”

“You’re such a bad liar,” Lysara stated. “Is it… really that bad?”

The two sat in silence for a time. Finally, Lilly spoke up. “I… don’t think it matters. I… I mean the past is over, right? And… and the person she is today is strong, dependable and trustworthy. Don’t you think?”

Lysara had to take a moment to think about it. “I guess you’e right,” she said, at last. “Bon’s always been there, looking out for me, protecting me. Does it really matter what her past was like? I mean, I’d love to know, sure, but I guess I can live just knowing the person she is today.” Lysara rose. “Thanks, Lilly. I’m sure I’ll be able to get some sleep now.” She hurried back to her tent.

“That could have gone better,” Velvet muttered.

“I know,” Lilly agreed. “But… it’s really none of our business.”

*****

They ate and broke camp early, anxious to find the weapon and return to the surface.

“Bon,” Lysara sang “let’s walk together!” She took Bonnie’s hand and smiled at her.

“Sure,” Bonnie said.

“The first step is to find this storage area where the Zerstörelicht is being held,” Twila said. “Then we’ve just got to grab it.”

“It’ll be a snap,” Axra said. “Just use your detect magic thing and we’ll be able to start going home today.”

“I… I wouldn’t be that confident,” Lilly said. “I mean… Gail did indicate that something really nasty… really deadly would be in our way.”

“The sleeping destroyer, was it?” Twila muttered. She put a hand on Lilly’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll be careful.”

“Maybe we won’t even encounter it at this point,” Lysara suggested. “I mean, we haven’t seen or heard anything about it yet, right?”

“Not like it matters if it does,” Axra said. “I’ll just deal with it. I’m not scared of some sleeping monster.”

“Dealing with monsters is a hassle,” Velvet said. “Let’s just grab the thing and get out before it wakes up.”

“Indeed,” Reginald said. “As spectacular a sight as the young beauty of a princess going up against a strange beast would be, the best battle is ultimately the one you don’t have to fight.”

They headed to the spot indicated by the map. Like most of the ruins in the deep underground, it was practically leveled with barely the support remaining to tell that it had been a building at all. Twila cast her magic detection spell and looked around.

“See it?” Axra asked.

“I’m not really seeing anything except some of our own equipment,” Twila said. “I suppose they might have shielded it somehow, but where would they hide it?”

“Only one possible place,” Bonnie said. “If the building had a basement then that might still be intact and they could have shielded it.”

“I see,” Twila said. “That would make the most sense. Especially if they were housing something really powerful. There’s no helping it, we’re going to have to look for a trapdoor or other entrance of some kind.”

They searched around, moving piles of stone and rubble around to look for any hidden entrances and not finding any signs of anything intact.

“Maybe we’re in the wrong spot,” Lysara suggested.

“Or maybe it’s a magic door,” Bonnie added.

“But would that not be detectable by the lovely Twila’s spell?” Reginald asked.

“Not necessarily,” Twila said. “It is possible to create a magic door that isn’t detectable by any normal spell. The trick is to have the magic flow from a secondary source when the door gets activated. In which case, the secondary source could very well be in the shielded area.”

“Whoever built this place was serious about security if that’s the case,” Bonnie said.

“So, how in tartarus do we open an invisible door?” Axra asked.

“There might be a way,” Twila said. “This thing was built a long time ago. So, a knock spell might very well be able to force it open. In any case, it couldn’t hurt to try. Everyone, stand back.”

Twila chanted for several seconds and finally let out a loud command. “Knock!”

The response was immediate. The ground started shaking beneath Twila. She hurriedly moved to more stable ground on the side. The floor slid open to reveal a marble staircase, still intact, leading down.

“You did it!” Axra exclaimed.

Twila nodded. “Let’s hurry, before it closes back up.”

“I’ll take point,” Bonnie said.

Fang flew to Twila’s shoulder and the eight of them began filing down the staircase.

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Purification episode 75: Misgivings

The party moved through the air, confident that there wouldn’t be any more trouble now that they’d dealt with the last of the Hestial League members who had followed them.

Save for Bonnie who was watching the ground carefully. Wondering if it was possible that there had been more in their group that hadn’t approached her. More who were still after them. She didn’t share her concerns with the others, though. She’d bring it up if she saw some evidence, otherwise they’d just call her paranoid. Still, she had to protect the Princess and she had no greater desire than to protect Lysara. A certain amount of caution was necessary for those goals.

Bonnie glanced over at the woman she loved. The woman who, against everything she’d dared hoped, loved her back. Lysara was floating near Velvet. Occasionally she’d turn to him and open her mouth as though she were going to say something, only to quickly close it again.

She thought about floating over, helping Lysara with whatever question she really wanted to ask, but she thought better of it. If Lysara needed her, she’d come get her. Besides, it might be a question that Lysara couldn’t really ask in front of her. So, Bonnie resumed her study of the ground below.

*****

Axra floated over to Twila.

“You know,” Axra said. “It’s weird seeing your little dragon on your shoulder in mid-air.”

“Well, he can’t float as well as us,” Twila said. “And his wings do get tired.”

“Couldn’t you use the spell on him too?” Axra asked.

Twila shook her head. “Since dragons can fly under normal circumstances, using a flight spell doesn’t effect them. Unless you do it to a ground dragon or one that’s lost its wings. You could use magic to make one fly faster or otherwise enhance its flight abilities, but this kind of spell won’t do anything to a creature that can already fly. It would be like casting a water breathing spell on a fish or casting a darkvision spell on you, the redundancy makes it ineffective.”

“I get it,” Axra said. “Don’t need a spell for what we can already do. So, how far to the ruins we need to reach?”

“Well, we are going faster since there isn’t any rough terrain and the physical exertion is minimal,” Twila said. “If I had to make an estimate based on our current speed and accounting for the brief time it takes to land and recast the spell, plus stopping to eat…” She paused.

Axra noted that she pursed her lips and put a single finger up to them when she was calculating. It actually made her look really pretty. “I’d say that we’ll probably arrive tomorrow night. Assuming that we don’t have to stop to fight any more enemies, of course.” Twila chuckled for a moment. “And assuming that we actually have been resting at night. It’s impossible to tell down here.”

“Awesome,” Axra stated. “We can rest outside and then grab the…” Axra paused, not remembering the name.

“Zerstörelicht ,” Twila said.

“Yeah, that,” Axra said. “You really have a good memory.”

“Wh… what worries me,” Lilly said. Both Axra and Twila looked over at her. Axra wasn’t sure how long she’d been near them. “Is… is that we, you know, don’t know what it… looks like.”

“That shouldn’t present a problem,” Twila said. “I should be able to use a spell to identify any magic objects or weapons in the area.”

“Yeah, it’ll be a snap,” Axra said.

“I… I wonder,” Lilly said.

*****

“Hey, Velvet,” Lysara said. “Can I ask you a quick question?”

“I suppose,” Velvet said.

“Why are you so defensive about your mom?” Lysara asked. “I mean, she was super nice when we all met her, but didn’t you go a bit far?”

“Well, I don’t think anyone should be going around talking bad about someone’s mum,” Velvet said. “Especially when she isn’t around to defend herself. Talking bad about me is one thing. I don’t mind that, but my mum was always there for me. She looked after me and my dad. She ran the business basically by her lonesome and had to come home and make us do the housework. She never said anything bad about anyone behind their back. If I do anything that helps anyone, it’s because of the way she raised me.”

“I understand,” Lysara said. “Still, wasn’t killing someone over it a bit much?”

“Well, I didn’t really mean to kill him,” Velvet said. “I just lose control of my strength when I get mad. It’s one of the reasons I keep calm, mosta the time.”

“Is that so,” Lysara muttered. “I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten you into serious trouble.”

Velvet shrugged. “Almost did, once. But King Axel said he’d deal with that if I put my strength to use for him for a while. Kind of a habit of his, really. Bringin people with a lot of strength or skill to serve him and pardonin them for their past. I think most of us who served the palace personally were like that. Except Lilly and maybe a few others.”

“I never knew that,” Lysara said. She glanced back at Bonnie. “Well, thanks for sharing. You don’t mind if I talk about your devotion to your mom when I tell this story, do you?”

“I don’t care,” Velvet said. “Whatever you gotta do.”

Lysara nodded and floated over to Bonnie. “Hey, Bon… I was just wondering, how did you come to serve Kings Axel and Zero?”

Bonnie stared at her, face blank. When she spoke, her tone was very controlled and emotionless. “I don’t remember.”

“Oh, were you really young?” Lysara asked. “You must have been super cute even then!”

“I said I don’t remember,” Bonnie snapped. “So just drop it, okay?”

“Sorry,” Lysara said in a low tone. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I’m not upset,” Bonnie said. “Just… just forget it, okay? It’s been a long day and I’m a little tired.”

Lysara nodded, uncertainly. “Sure thing, Bon. I’m sure that’s all it is.”

They floated side by side. Neither one saying a word nor looking at each other.

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Purification episode 74: Velvet Loses Control

Bonnie and Velvet conducted a thorough search of the immediate area, hiding behind cover as they went and moving quietly so as not to alert their target. Bonnie spotted their prey quickly enough.

He was largely concealed behind some debris and he seemed to be occupied watching their comrades. He didn’t give any sign that he’d seen them.

“Wait here,” Bonnie whispered. “I’ll circle around and herd him towards you. Lay low and catch him when he runs. If we take him alive we can get some answers.”

“What if he decides to fight you instead of running?” Velvet asked, his voice low.

“Then I’ll deal with him,” Bonnie answered. “Remember, try to take him alive.”

Velvet nodded and took his position. He watched Bonnie circle around, paying close attention to their opponent. Hopefully, the guy would just run right to him and he wouldn’t have to give chase.

Velvet saw the guy tense up, look over his shoulder and bolt. Bonnie looked stunned and hurriedly gave chase. He’d seen Bonnie before she was ready. Fortunately, he was still on a direct course for Velvet.

Velvet waited until he was close and jumped out of hiding, grabbing his arm.

“That’s enough,” Velvet said. “You’re coming with us.”

The human was tall and athletic, but still winded from his sprint. Bonnie hadn’t even caught up yet.

He reached for something in his belt, Velvet grabbed his other arm and held firm.

“Damn Hybrid!” the man spat, struggling to break free. “Only a worthless bum of a human seduced by a dwarven whore could’ve spawned you.”

Velvet’s grip tightened, but he kept his voice level. “What did you say?”

“Oh, did you not hear?” the man asked, chuckling. “I guess it does damage the baby when the dwarven harlot drinks during pregnancy.”

Velvet spun the guy around and held him up by his neck. “My mother is a saint and certainly not a ‘harlot.’ Take it back.”

“Why, does it bother you?” he asked, starting to gasp for air. “Are you something of a mama’s boy?”

“Velvet, stop,” Bonnie said.

“Take it back,” Velvet repeated, ignoring her.

“I guess it’s hard to be a mama’s boy when your mom gets around so much,” the man smirked and spit on Velvet. “Son of a whore.”

“Velvet, no!” Bonnie yelled, but she was too late.

Velvet uppercut the guy into the air, jumped after him. Spun around, kicking him as they landed and began brutally pummeling him.

“Velvet stop! Stop Dammit!” With considerable effort Bonnie managed to pull Velvet off of their target.

She grimly surveyed the damage. The man’s face had been beaten into a pulpy mess. His skull had been visibly broken open and fragments of his brain were dripping out.

“Dammit,” Bonnie exclaimed. “We needed him alive.”

“Sorry,” Velvet muttered.

“Can’t be helped now,” Bonnie sighed. She bent down and removed the guy’s pouches. “We might be able to get some clues from these. Let’s head back and you can get cleaned up.”

They walked back in silence, Velvet holding his hands behind him and Bonnie rummaging through their vanquished foe’s belongings. Lysara approached them as soon as they were in sight.

“Just where have you two been?” Lysara asked. “And why is Velvet’s face all red? Just what were you doing?” She looked down at her feet and shuffled nervously.

“I’m sorry,” Bonnie said, Lysara looked up with a shocked look on her face. “I should have told you. I took Velvet to find and capture the last Hestial League member.”

Lysara breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, thank the Gods.”

“I was going to suggest looking for him myself,” Twila said. “I was just going to wait until we’d rested.”

“So, did you find him?” Axra asked.

“We did,” Bonnie said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t take him alive.”

“Well, I’m sure he fought hard,” Reginald said. “Forced you to use lethal force in your own defense and whatnot.”

“Actually,” Bonnie said. “He didn’t fight at all.”

“Then how did you manage to kill him?” Axra asked.

“He… he deliberately provoked Velvet into killing him,” Bonnie said. “That’s what it seemed like, anyway. He knew exactly what to say and how to act to make Velvet enraged beyond reason.”

“It’s hard to imagine Velvet getting enraged,” Twila said. “Still, it shouldn’t be surprising. Since they knew so much about your past it’s reasonable to guess that they researched all of us.”

“I suppose it is,” Bonnie said. “I apologise. I miscalculated the situation. I thought that Velvet and I could manage without any problems. I never imagined that they’d done such thorough research or that he’d go that far to avoid capture.”

“It’s not your fault, Bon,” Lysara said. “If anything it’s Velvet’s fault for letting himself get provoked.”

“Yeah, I messed up,” Velvet said. “Can I have some water, though? My hands are really sticky.”

Twila handed him a canteen, glancing at his hands and quickly looking away.

“Di… did he, you know, insult your mom?” Lilly asked.

Velvet nodded.

“Oh, that’s kind of sweet,” Lysara said. “Defending your mom like that.”

“Sweetness won’t tell us what they’re up to, how they know so much about us or where their main force is hiding,” Bonnie said. “I took his belongings, but there’s nothing particularly helpful. He had a couple hundred gold pieces, a dagger, some scrolls that look to be magical in nature and a couple pills I don’t recognise.”

“Let me see the scrolls,” Twila said. Bonnie handed them to her.

“I… I can probably identify the pills,” Lilly said. “That is, if you don’t mind.”

“Go for it,” Bonnie said, handing them to her.

“They’re spell scrolls,” Twila stated. “Some mages prepare these so that they can be used by anyone. It looks like we’ve got a sending scroll with two, maybe three charges left. A summoning scroll, probably how he got the reapers, a dozen charges or so left and an invisibility scroll, down to its last charge.”

“I… I know what these pills are too,” Lilly said. “Th… they’re a deadly poison. F… for suicide… or, maybe, assassination.”

“I don’t suppose you can tell who he was sending to?” Bonnie asked.

“Not at all,” Twila said. “When the spell is active you can trace its rough sending point, but after the spell’s used you can’t tell where it went. And if I were to use the scroll I’d have to choose my own sending point, which does us no good.”

“I thought not,” Bonnie muttered.

“It’s okay, Bon,” Lysara said. “Here, let me feed you.”

“Is that the meal you made for me?” Bonnie asked.

Lysara nodded.

“Great,” Bonnie said, smiling slightly. “I’m looking forward to it.”

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Purification episode 73: Aerial Battle

Bonnie put all of her weight into swinging her axe, getting carried forward in the air as a result. She sliced through one reaper and immediately turned to cut open another.

“Very nice,” Reginald muttered. “She’s using the flight spell to bounce about in the air. It won’t be easy to hit her.”

He deflected a reaper’s attack with the flat of his blade and pierced its gut with a quick thrust.

“I’m afraid my sword is too light for such a maneuver to e effective for me. I’d probably drop it trying.”

Velvet rolled upwards into the air, catching two reapers by the necks. He slammed their heads together, shattering their skulls open and letting the merged mess fall to the ground.

“So much for all that energy I saved floating up here,” he muttered. “What a pain.” A reaper tried to cut into him with a scimitar, but he caught the blade between his hands, snapped it and threw the blade into the reaper’s skull.

Axra dashed past Reginald and Velvet and flew towards the bulk of the enemy force. A pair of the monsters moved to stop her. The first she sliced the head off of with a well timed swing of her sword. The second fell to the ground, its wings torn open by Lilly’s arrows.

Twila watched the chaos. Time was running out and they wouldn’t finish in time, not like this. Whoever had sent the reapers had timed the attack to force them to crash into the ground, of that she was almost certain. “Lysara, get everyone to pull back and land,” Twila said. “Lilly, fire as many arrows as you can at the reapers when they try to pursue. As soon as they’ve gotten some distance, follow them down.”

Lysara nodded and moved to tell the others, shouting for them to land. Twila began chanting.

As anticipated, the reapers moved to attack the others while they were landing. Lilly’s arrows flew at an incredible rate. Killing some, wounding even more. Fang flew above the reapers, raining fire on their backs, but they didn’t stop their pursuit, steadily gaining on the fleeing group.

Twila beckoned for Lilly to land, not pausing her chanting even momentarily. They were going to make it to the ground, but they wouldn’t have any time to adjust before the reapers arrived if she failed. She pointed her right hand, palm outward, at the mass of reapers and completed the spell. “Empowered Chain Lightning!”

A massive bolt shot from Twila’s palm into the closest reaper and jumped from there into the others. The entire mass halted in mid-air, writhing in agony as the lightning coursed through them.

Twila kept the spell going until she was certain that the reapers were all either dead or immobilised and began her descent, knowing she couldn’t make it fast enough. Sure enough, the flight spell ended and she began plummeting towards the ground.

Fang flew beneath her, trying to push her up but nowhere near large or strong enough to do so.

Twila closed her eyes, bracing for the landing. She landed only slightly roughly, feeling someone catch her.

“That was close,” Axra said. “Hey, you didn’t pass out, did you?” Fang flew down to Axra’s shoulder and nuzzled her.

“No, I’m fine,” Twila answered. “Thank you. I would have been in trouble if you’d missed.”

“Well, I owed you for bringing down those things so that we could land,” Axra said.

“M… maybe we should break, you know, to eat and rest… before continuing,” Lilly suggested.

“It would probably be for the best,” Axra said. “We can’t have our genius friend here using too much power again.”

“I’ll be careful,” Twila promised. “Could you put me down, please?”

“Oh, right,” Axra said. She carefully put Twila down.

“That was close, huh Bon?” Lysara said. She hugged the other woman. “I’m just so glad you’re okay.”

Bonnie nodded absent-mindedly. She looked around their surroundings, noting every place that someone might hide.

“Bon, are you listening to me?” Lysara asked.

Bonnie turned towards Lysara. “Sorry, I was just thinking how much I’d like to eat the food you make.”

“Really?” Lysara asked.

Bonnie nodded. “That fight sure did give me an appetite.”

“Then I’ll go make you something,” Lysara said. “You just wait right there.” She skipped off to retrieve some supplies from Twila’s bag of holding.

“I’ll find some kindling,” Reginald volunteered.

Bonnie grabbed Velvet. “Come on. You and I are going to find the guy who sent those damn things after us.”

“Can’t it wait until we eat?” Velvet asked.

“No,” Bonnie stated. “The longer it takes, the more time he’ll have to summon more reapers.”

“What a hassle,” Velvet muttered. “Do you really think he’s around here?”

“I would say so,” Bonnie said. “He’d want to see us fall. Now stop whining and come along.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Velvet sighed, following after her.

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Purification episode 72: Ambush

“We’re making good time,” Axra said. “Flying is the best!”

“Just don’t go too high,” Twila cautioned. “Once it starts wearing off we’ll only have so much warning before we have to get back to the ground or fall the rest of the way.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Axra said. “I can move really fast when I have to.”

“So I’ve seen,” Twila said. “It’s still not a distance you want to risk falling.”

“True enough,” Axra said. “Don’t worry, I’ll stick close to you.”

“That’ll work,” Twila said.

Axra moved down to Twila’s level.

Moving through the air was a strange sensation. It wasn’t like you were walking through anything like the phasing spell had been. It was more like you were free of the ground. Your feet weren’t anchored and you could float up or down with little effort.

“I wish I had wings,” Axra muttered. “Then I could fly around like this all the time.”

“I… I’d be too scared to,” Lilly said. “It’s so…” she glanced briefly down before returning her gaze straight ahead “far.”

Axra put an arm around her. “Relax. It’s perfectly safe. Twila’s magic won’t let us down.”

“I’d advise you to keep focused on what’s straight ahead,” Twila said. “Just think of it as walking on the ground instead of floating above it.”

“Still, this is quite amazing,” Reginald stated. “I am curious, though, is there a reason we didn’t use this to get the dark elves up the stairs?”

“There is,” Twila said. “As confident as I am in my magic, I could never affect that many people at once. Plus it would have taken a lot more power than the bridges since it would have to have been cast on everyone as opposed to simply providing a temporary gap and I reached my limit even doing those.”

“Of course, of course,” Reginald said. “My apologies. I should have realised.”

“This is almost as easy as riding in my wagon,” Velvet observed.

“Do you miss your dogs?” Lilly asked. “I’m sure they’re being well taken care of.”

“I know,” Velvet said. “I just miss having them pull me.”

“Let me guess, it’s a hassle to move without them,” Lysara said. Velvet simply nodded. “Hey, Bon, watch this.” Lysara sat back, still floating in the sky, and produced her lyre. She strummed a soft melody and sang.

This love tween us has found its start

now let us never part

My love for you grows stronger and stronger

Aphrodite, I pray it last forever and ever. 

Our journey together may it never end. 

Though we go over mountain, through cave and round the bend. 

All the while our love grows ever stronger. 

Aphrodite, I pray it lasts forever. 

She put her lyre away and looked expectantly at Bonnie, whose cheeks were flushing.

“You really should watch where you’re going,” Bonnie said.

“How come?” Lysara asked. “There’s nothing for me to trip over and I know you’ll protect me if something attacks. Or could it be that you didn’t like my song?”

“Or maybe she didn’t like being serenaded in front of everyone,” Axra whispered it so that only Twila and Lilly would hear.

“Well, it is a nice gesture,” Twila whispered back.

“I… I thought it was very, you know, nice,” Lilly whispered. “I… I wish someone would do something like that for me… sometime.” She glanced shyly at Axra and quickly looked away.

“Oh Gods, it is that,” Lysara said. “I’m sorry, Bon. I was in a hurry to write something for you and I guess I didn’t put enough time into it. I’m sorry. I’ll write you something better, okay?”

“It’s not that at all,” Bonnie said. “I… I’m just not used to this…” she absent-mindedly moved her hair back “kind of thing.”

“That’s right! I forgot that I’m the first lover you’ve ever had,” Lysara said. “All right, leave it to me. I’ll romance you so well it’ll be fit for a great love ballad.” She floated over to Bonnie and gently kissed her. “Speaking of love ballads, I’ll bet I can turn my song into one!”

“She has way too much energy,” Velvet muttered. “I get tired just thinking about it.”

Axra flew along silently. Twila had called it a nice gesture. Was that the sort of thing she should be doing? Still, she couldn’t play an instrument or write music. What kind of romantic gesture would get Twila’s attention? Maybe finding some rare books of magic or presenting her with a library. She could arrange either easily enough when she returned home. Her dads wouldn’t like it, but if she used the treasures she found during the journey to finance it they wouldn’t say anything.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a loud shriek, forcing her to cover her ears. Several winged forms dashed towards them, Reapers.

Axra reached for her blade, but the lead one was upon her. She thought that it’s lance was going to run her through, but Lilly moved between them, arms spread out.

The lance stopped just short of Lilly’s flesh and the reaper crashed to the ground, its body smoking as though a powerful current had fried it.

Axra looked over at Lilly but Lilly seemed as shocked as she was. Lilly gingerly touched the part of her chest that the lance had almost pierced.

Axra put the question of what had happened aside and drew her blade. There were still plenty more of the creatures and they had to be dealt with. Bonnie, Velvet and Reginald had already drawn their weapons and moved to engage them. Lysara was grabbing her chakram.

“This isn’t good,” Twila called. “The spell will wear off soon and if we’re up here when it does…”

“I’ve got you,” Axra said. “But we can’t start descending with them on us like this. They’ll be all over us. We’ll finish them off and get down quickly. Lilly, cover me.”

She hurried into the fray.

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Purification episode 71: Moving by Air

Reginald leapt to the side, narrowly avoiding his porcine assailant’s tusks. The creature turned back around and ran for him again. Velvet ran forward and punched it between the eyes. It roughly turned its head, slamming Velvet with the side of its tusks.

Bonnie swung at its left flank with her axe while Lysara thrust her chakram at its right. The creature stomped against the ground, throwing large segments of the ground up all around it, forcing them back.

The creature took the opportunity to race at Lysara, trying to gorge her with its tusks.

“Thunder Lance!” Twila gestured and a bolt flew from her hands and ripped into the creature’s side. It rolled uncontrollably several times and tried, with extreme difficulty, to rise. Bonnie ran forward, ready to finish it. Lilly stepped in front of her.

“Is there a problem?” Bonnie asked.

“I… I don’t think we should kill it,” Lilly said. “I… I’m sure it’s just scared.”

“Are you serious?” Bonnie asked. “It tried to kill us!”

“I… I don’t think it was,” Lilly said. “I… I think it was just burrowing and we startled it.”

“So, what do you propose we do about it?” Twila asked.

“Well… we’ve shown our dominance… so I think it’ll stay clear of us now, probably,” Lilly said.

“With all due respect, Fair Lilly,” Reginald said. “That is quite an assumption.”

“Maybe,” Axra said. “But this girl knows animals. See?” She nodded her head towards the creature. It was burrowing its way back underground. Axra put a hand on Lilly’s shoulder. “Any idea how to avoid attracting more?”

“Well…” Lilly said. “It seems to move around underground… so if we make lots of noise while walking…. they should be able to hear it and avoid us.”

“What if the noise attracts them instead?” Twila asked.

“I don’t think it would,” Lilly said. “The tusks look like a defensive trait. It’s actual teeth looked designed for plants. So… it’s probably not going to go after living things… especially if they sound really big. Herbivores are usually pretty skittish.”

“All right,” Twila said. “I can cast a spell to amplify the noise we make and a second spell to protect our hearing.”

“I would reconsider were I you,” Reginald said. “Such a combination might indeed frighten away creatures such as that, but they would also give away our position.”

“And the hearing spell might make it hard to hear actual threats approaching,” Bonnie added. “While I understand and respect Lilly’s desire not to harm animals, it would be a tactical error to weaken our own senses.”

“So, we just have to avoid startling them, right?” Axra asked. “So that they don’t feel threatened if we do encounter them again.”

“You sound like you have a plan,” Twila observed.

“It was startled because we were on the ground all around it when it popped up, right?” Axra asked. “So what if we could fly like Fang? Would they leave us alone then?”

“They very well might,” Lilly said. “S… since we’re so much smaller… they might not notice us if we were above… much less feel threatened.”

“Is a spell like that possible?” Axra asked.

“A flight spell is pretty easy,” Twila answered. “But it won’t last all day like the darkvision and psyren protection spells. I’ll have to recast it four… maybe five times a day.”

“So… it’s too much power,” Lilly said, looking downcast. “I… I’m sorry. I should have thought about your situation more.”

“Actually,” Twila said. “It’s a simple enough spell and it’s certainly easier to cast it than it would be to cast a bunch of combat spells.”

“Good,” Axra said. “Then we’re flying the rest of the way.”

“Please wait,” Bonnie said. “Princess, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but wouldn’t it expose us too much to take to the air?”

“The area’s pretty torn down and flat as is,” Axra said. “Anyone looking for us could find us easily enough. At least this way we can avoid needless battles.”

Bonnie looked around, noting several areas where they might take cover but knowing that Axra’s mind was made. “It is as you say, Princess,” she conceded.

Axra grinned. “Okay then, let’s fly!”

“Gather close, Everyone,” Twila said. “The casting range on this isn’t very large.” The group huddled together while she cast her spell. “Mass Falcon’s Flight.” They lifted off of the ground, resumed their formation and continued on their way, unaware of the pair of eyes that was watching them from the shadows.

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Purification episode 70: One Small Favour

Bonnie took a practice swing. The axe was heavier than her blade had been. She’d have to learn to compensate.

She gave it another practice swing. Better. It had to be adjusted a bit more.

“Bon, what are you doing?”

“I’m getting used to my new weapon,” Bonnie answered. “I’ll have to be able to use it properly if I’m going to be of use to the Princess.”

“You need to take it easy,” Lysara said. “You’ll re-open your wounds.”

“It’ll be fine,” Bonnie reassured her. “I won’t overdo it. Besides, I’m not really tired yet.”

“But you’ve been up all night,” Lysara said. “You really need to sleep.”

“I slept a little when we stopped to rest,” Bonnie said. “Right now my mind is just too restless.”

“Well, we could sleep together,” Lysara said. “That could calm you down.”

Bonnie’s face turned bright red. “How would that possibly calm me down?”

“Well, you’d get tired after,” Lysara said. Bonnie stared at her, mouth agape.

“I… I’m going to bed,” Bonnie said. “Good night.” She hurried away.

“You know, she’s really cute when she’s embarrassed too,” Lysara muttered. “Maybe I should tease her more often.”

*****

After resting and a leisurely meal, the group prepared to disembark.

“Is… is it really okay to, you know, leave the five of them like this?” Lilly asked.

“There’s not much choice,” Axra answered. “We’re heading into dangerous territory and we can’t exactly drag them along with us. Besides, they’ve resigned themselves to living out their days here.”

“It… it just seems so… sad,” Lilly said. “I mean… a small group in a big town… alone. Waiting to… die.”

“I think that’s the wrong way to look at it,” Axra said. “Instead, I’d think of it as them living out what little remains of their lives in peace. Secure in the knowledge that their loved ones are safe and doing well.”

“I… I suppose that is pretty nice,” Lilly said.

The old woman hobbled over to them, propping herself up with a walking stick. “I thought of one thing you youngsters can do for me.”

“If it’s within our power, we shall,” Twila said.

She nodded. “Nothing too tough. Just take this to my granddaughter.” She held out an ornate sword with a black, crystalline blade. “I was going to keep the old thing here, but I figure it might make a good memento, though I pray she never has cause to use it.”

“How will we know your granddaughter?” Twila asked.

“By name,” the old woman answered. “Ask around for Blome.”

“Blome,” Twila muttered. “Okay. We’ll find her.” She slipped the blade into her bag.

“Wasn’t that the name of the girl you saved, Velvet?” Lilly asked.

“Don’t remember,” Velvet muttered.

“It was!” Lysara declared. “I remember her.”

“Then it seems I owe you personally,” the old woman said, looking at Velvet.

“It was nothing,” Velvet said. “I just happened to be there.”

“Well, take care,” she said. “And youngsters, be careful about offering anything within your power to anyone. Sometimes, they’ll ask a price that’s possible but all too high.”

“You’re right. I should have been more careful,” Twila said.

“See that you are in the future,” she said.

*****

Twila took the lead, following the map. Axra kept close to her. They were followed by Lilly, Reginald, Lysara & Bonnie, who were walking hand in hand, and Velvet.

“How far is it?” Axra asked.

“It looks to be a couple days travel,” Twila answered. We’re going to have to go right into the heart of the city. Supposedly, Zerstörelicht is hidden in a vault under the ruins of some large building. Possibly a town hall or a school.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Axra said. “We’ll just have to get there, find it and get out.”

They continued on their way. Walking over rubble and deserted streets. Keeping an eye out for potential danger.

“Ev… everyone,” Lilly said. “I… I don’t mean to cause alarm… but the ground it’s…”

“Shaking!” Reginald yelled. “Quick, move!” He tossed Lilly away and rolled away from the area they were standing on.

“What are you…” Axra began. Her words were interrupted by the ground that Reginald and Lilly had been standing on bursting open. A creature roughly twice the size of a bull burst through. It had tusks, thick matted fur, milky white eyes and a porcine shape.

It sniffed the air with its snout, grunting slightly. It turned towards Reginald and surged forward, kicking up dirt and stone as it went.

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