Purification episode 123: Against The Void

The five women scattered as fragments of the swirling mass swiped at them. Bonnie jabbed her trident directly into the mass in response. The shadows dissipated.

“That was surprisingly easy,” Bonnie said.

“Yeah, I thought it was going to be harder than that,” Axra stated.

“Bon, look out!” Lysara shouted.

Bonnie lunged forward, a shadowy hand hitting the ground behind her. Lysara hurried to her side.

“Looks like weapons do nothing,” Bonnie muttered. “Twila?”

“Lightning Lance!” Twila shouted, snapping her fingers. Bolts shot from her hands into the shadowy mass.

This intruder’s power is measured. We are not impressed. We shall return it.

The shadowy mass stretched out what looked like a hand and lightning flew from it right at Twila.

“Nullifying Barrier!” The reflective wall shimmered for a moment, but wasn’t breached.

“Lilly,” Axra said. “Aim Zerstörelicht forty degrees to your right and fire.”

Lilly did as she was bidden. The arrow of light pierced the shadowy form causing it to dissipate.

“D… did I get it?” Lilly asked.

“We can’t be sure,” Twila said. “It could reform again.”

Sure enough, the shadowy form quickly reassembled behind Lilly, just as large as before. Axra hurriedly carried her away from it.

“Okay,” Axra said. “We need a plan.”

“Neither magic nor steel seems to work,” Lysara said.

“M… maybe if we asked nicely it would let us go,” Lilly suggested.

“Not a chance,” Bonnie said.

“I do love your optimism though,” Axra said.

“I’ll try the strongest spell I know,” Twila said. “It may be able to absorb a normal spell, but I don’t think it can absorb that one.”

“Can you handle it after using that huge fire spell?” Bonnie inquired.

“I’ll have to,” Twila said.

“Then we’ll buy you time,” Bonnie said. “Lysara, Axra, we’ll surround it and try to keep it from dispersing.”

The three ran towards the shadowy mass while Twila began chanting.

These intruders plan for naught. Strike us with any spell and we will endure. 

“Don’t underestimate my Twila!” Axra cried. She slashed at the mass. The creature vanished into the air before her blade could touch it, reforming behind her.

She dodged forward, narrowly avoiding its swiping arm.

“What’ll happen if that hits one of us?” Lysara whispered.

“Nothing good, I’d wager,” Bonnie answered.

The two moved towards the creature, trying to keep it distracted. It swiped at Bonnie, very nearly hitting her.

We have no interest in the ants. Its myriad voices seemed to sigh the words out. Begone!

Bonnie’s legs went numb, causing her to collapse. The creature’s arm went right for her.

“Bon, look out!” Lysara threw herself in the creature’s path. Its arm passed through her and she collapsed on the ground, unmoving.

“Lysara!” Bonnie cried. She crawled over and looked her over.

“Is she okay?” Axra asked.

“Her vitals all feel fine,” Bonnie reported. “She doesn’t have any signs of injury either. I don’t know why she collapsed.”

We told the intruders, here there is neither life nor death. The other four shall join that one.

It slid across the ground towards Bonnie, who still couldn’t rise. She brought up her trident, pointing it defiantly at the creature. Axra jumped at it with her blade, the creature swiftly slid back.

Twila snapped her fingers. “Wail of Death!” A sonic burst erupted around the mass of shadows. Axra, Bonnie and Lilly covered their ears. When the spell cleared the mass had dissipated.

“Please tell me you got it that time,” Axra said.

“I… I don’t know,” Twila panted. Lilly made her way over to help her up. “A… a normal human… would be a pile of gore… but that creature… seems hardier.”

We are far hardier. 

The creature reformed behind Bonnie. Its hand slammed into her. She collapsed on top of Lysara’s unmoving form.

This intruder has strong magic. But magic is little good against such as we. We do not live, nor can we die. 

Axra lunged for the creature, but it vanished yet again. She looked around, holding Todberührung protectively in front of her.

The shadows appeared behind Lilly. Swiping through her and Twila with one sweep of its arm. The two fell noiselessly to the ground.

Surrender, final intruder. We will be merciful and allow the intruders to join together once they are all dealt with. 

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Purification episode 122: The Mystery Element

The five women sat in a circle near the door to the next chambre, regaining their strength and treating their burns after the battle with the Mirage.

“The sixth element worries me,” Twila stated. “I can’t even begin to guess what it might be. I’d hoped it would be in an early chambre, but it being chosen for the final one indicates that it may very well have the strongest guardian.”

“We’ll beat it,” Axra said, confidently. “Just like we’ve beaten everything else.”

“Don’t get over-confident,” Bonnie cautioned. “It’ll only lead to mistakes. The five of us are going to have to work together, beat whatever’s in there as a team.”

“Sh… should we be sitting around this long?” Lilly asked. “Di… didn’t Twila say that, you know, the magic of this place regenerates the creatures. Ho… how long until there’s a new guardian for this chambre?”

“There’s no need to worry,” Twila said. “I’ll sense the magic disruption when it’s about to take effect and we can hurry through the door. But, until that happens I need to rest as much as I can. That spell was exhausting to use. If I’m going to be of any use in the final chambre I’ll need time to recuperate.”

They were able to wait for nearly twenty minutes before Twila sensed the magic at work and hurried them all out of the water chambre and into the final one.

The floors, ceiling and walls were all black. There was no visible source of light and yet there was no need for darkvision. Everything was perfectly visible.

In the centre of the chambre was a dais with a very plain looking throne sitting on it. At first, it looked like nothing was on the throne, but as they walked forward they saw shadows swirling around it. As they advanced, the shadows became more and more defined until there was very clearly a humanoid figure sitting, waiting, watching.

You would challenge for the Einklangümlich? 

It sounded like a multitude of voices, some male and some female. They permeated the air all around them, seemingly coming from nowhere.

“This is freaky,” Lysara whispered. “Just what is this element?”

They heard the sounds of laughter all around them. In as varied of voices as they’d heard before.

These challengers came unknowing? These challengers should know, should fear. We are the great contradiction. We are non-existence and fundamental to existence. We are that which exists in nothingness. We are the sound of silence.

“Can it with the riddles and get to the point,” Axra stated, trying to sound strong but suppressing a shiver.

We are that which has no gender. We are that which is denied by the Gods themselves. The cracks of reality, that which exists outside of chaos and order alike. 

“Bon,” Lysara whimpered, hugging against the other woman’s back.

The constantly shifting shadows rose and began advancing towards them. We are neither magic nor physical force. We are that which is found neither in life nor death. If we have a name, Mortal challengers, it is Nothingness. For we are the void. In ignorance you have challenged us. In new found enlightenment you shall regret it, briefly. The void supports no life, nor does it provide the peace of death. And now, the void shall absorb you as its own. 

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Purification episode 121: The Water Chambre

The fifth chambre had a small ledge, leading into a deep pool of water.

“So, we just have to go in and swim to the exit, right?” Lysara asked.

“There’s gotta b more to it than that,” Axra said. “Some kind of sea monster has to be lurking in the water.”

“But I don’t see anything in there,” Twila stated.

“M… maybe it’s attached to the door again,” Lilly said. “O… or invisible.”

“The people who built this sure have a thing for invisible or otherwise hidden enemies,” Axra noted.

Twila nodded. “They probably wanted to make sure that no one could get to the staff without being prepared, and to prevent anyone who wasn’t committed from making it too far.”

“Perhaps I should go in first and you can see what attacks me,” Bonnie suggested.

“No way!” Lysara cried. “You aren’t going in with your arm like that! I’ll go.”

“Even with my arm like this I have more experience drawing out ambushes,” Bonnie said. “I’m the best choice for this.”

“Neither of you are going,” Twila stated. “The enemy is in the water. That much is clear. If I send a jolt of lightning into it, then it should be forced to reveal itself.”

“Good thinking,” Axra said. “That’s my Twila.”

“Stand back,” Twila commanded. She stepped forward, chanting. “Lightning Lance!” She snapped her fingers and lightning flew from her fingertips into the water. The reaction was instantaneous. The water gushed upwards before slamming down, nearly hitting Twila before receding back into the pool.

“Was it supposed to do that?” Lysara asked.

“It shouldn’t have,” Twila muttered. “Unless, perhaps…”

“What is it?” Axra asked. “You’ve got that tone to your voice.”

“Can you stick your arm in and out of it really quickly?” Twila asked. “And I do mean quickly.”

“Sure,” Axra said. She moved carefully next to the pool quickly dipped her arm in and pulled it out. For a brief moment she felt like something was trying to pull her arm down.

Twila walked over to her and brushed her fingers across Axra’s arm. “Just what I thought,” Twila said. “You’re completely dry. Did you feel anything while you were in there?”

“I felt like something was trying to pull me in,” Axra answered. “Just for an instant.”

“Our enemy is a Mirage,” Twila said. “A nasty type of magical creature that bonds with some substance and controls it. This entire pool of water has been taken as part of its body. If we try to swim in it, whether I magic us up some gills or not, we’ll be crushed instantly.”

“So, how do we beat it?” Axra asked.

“That’s the problem,” Twila said. “Magic won’t affect the Mirage. We could kill it with your blades if we could find it, but its core is probably near the bottom, protected.”

The five stood, thinking.

“You say that magic won’t affect the mirage itself,” Bonnie stated. “Does that include the substances it controls?”

“No,” Twila said. “I could damage the water around it, but it wouldn’t do us much good unless I could…”

“Boil the water away,” Bonnie interrupted. “Leaving its core exposed.”

“It would have to be done quickly,” Twila stated. “Right now the Mirage is largely ignoring us, but if we do something that threatens it, it will come after us.”

“Can you turn most of the water into steam quickly enough that it won’t know what hit it?” Axra asked.

“It is possible,” Twila said. “But it will take a very high level fire spell. I might be able to cast one, but it’s going to leave me weakened for a while and the Mirage will start drawing in the steam as fast as it can. You’ll only have a few minutes to be able to reach it.”

“Leave that to us,” Bonnie said. “Princess, you can guard Twila while Lysara and I deal with the Mirage.”

“Agreed,” Axra said. “Finish it quickly, all right?”

“That’s not the only problem,” Twila said. “It’s going to be absurdly hot in here when it’s done and not just directly where the spell hits. We may suffer some burns just by being in this chambre.”

“There’s not much choice,” Bonnie said. “We’ll just have to deal with the Mirage and hope that the heat dissipates quickly.”

“Unless you have another option,” Axra said.

“I don’t,” Twila said.  “Just be prepared for it.”

Twila closed her eyes and steadied herself, chanting quickly. It took nearly a minute to finish the incantation. When she was about done she held her hand out, ready to snap her fingers and finished shouting: “Flames of Armageddon!”

A pillar of pure white flames erupted, focused on the pool of water. Steam flooded the room as most of the water evaporated instantly. Bonnie shielded her face from the super-heated cloud and looked for the Mirage. She quickly located its now humanoid form. It was roughly the size of Velvet for the moment but steadily getting larger. She grabbed her trident, ignoring the pain it caused her hand and lunged for the thing.

It backed away from her, still too small to act effectively. Lysara moved in from the other side. Her chakrams slicing into it. The mass quivered, stilling long enough for Bonnie’s trident to jab into it. When she pulled her trident out, a scarab beetle roughly the size of a rat was speared on it.

“That’s… that’s it,” Twila gasped. “Ho… hold on… I… I think I can cool it down… a bit faster.”

“Don’t push yourself,” Axra said. “It’s clearing pretty fast on its own.”

“The Princess is right,” Bonnie said, she let her trident fall to the ground and wiped her brow with her good arm. “We can’t afford for you to waste your power when we’ve still got the sixth element to worry about, whatever it is.”

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Purification episode 120: The Aether Chambre

“Sorry,” Lysara said. “I think that Bon got carried away there.”

“I got carried away?” Bonnie asked. “You were the one who…”

“Yeah, but I’m always like that,” Lysara said. “You know that I can’t control myself around you. You’re supposed to be the responsible one.”

“You… I…” Bonnie stammered.

“I’m just teasing you, Bon,” Lysara said. She turned to Twila and Axra. “We both got carried away.”

“What, when we were taking a break?” Twila asked. “I’m sorry, were you two doing something? I didn’t notice.”

“I was too busy paying attention to my Loves to notice you guys,” Axra agreed. “Lilly and Twila are both looking remarkably ravishing right now. Considering the trouble we’ve had down here.”

“I… I was cleaning my ears… so I didn’t hear a thing,” Lilly added, her face bright red.

“You guys…” Bonnie began.

“Are really wonderful friends,” Lysara finished.

“Well, we’ll leave it at that,” Twila said. “On to the fourth chambre.”

They opened the door to the next chambre. Axra had to shield her eyes. The entire room was bathed in bright, multi-coloured light.

The walls, floor and ceiling were all bare, leading to a silver coloured door.

“So where’s the trap in this one?” Axra wondered.

“The lights, perhaps?” Bonnie speculated.

“Would they be that obvious?” Lysara asked.

“The torches in the last chambre were pretty obvious,” Twila stated. “As was the caged beast in the air chambre, whatever it was. It’s entirely possible that the lights are the source of the danger for this room.”

“Yeah, but the earth chambre had that invisible thing,” Lysara said. “Whatever is in here could be invisible.”

“Either way, we’ll just have to proceed carefully,” Twila said. “Whatever enemy is waiting, it will probably strike when we’re about to leave or, possibly when we hit the centre of the room.”

The group moved cautiously forward, watching the lights warily.

“Isn’t all this an awful lot of trouble?” Axra asked. “If they were so afraid of this elemental staff being found then why not just destroy the damned thing? Why set up some elaborate ordeal for someone to go through to get it?”

“Because they want it found,” Twila answered. “But they don’t want it found by just anyone. The obstacles are to make sure the person who finds it is a skilled mage. My guess would be that its power is too dangerous for just anyone with a small amount of magic ability. Hence the whole production.”

They reached the door without incident.

“I… I can’t hear anything,” Lilly offered. “Anything dangerous, I mean.”

“Could the thing that guarded this chambre have been killed?” Lysara asked.

“Unlikely,” Twila said. “We’ve been dealing with beasts that have magical origins. The enchantments that power this place should be replacing them if they get destroyed. Even the chambres we’ve cleared should have replacement guardians on the way.”

“But there’s nothing here,” Axra said. She shrugged. “Let’s just go.”  She reached for the door handle.

“Princess, look out!” Bonnie pushed her out of the way. The silver from the door had stretched towards her.

It flowed away from the door like a thing alive, coalescing into a humanoid form.

“Fireball!” Twila snapped her fingers. Flames flowed from her hands into the creature and shattered against a crimson light.

“Magic doesn’t work?” Twila asked.

Bonnie’s trident thrust against the creature’s chest, deflected by an azure light.

The creature gestured at them, beams of light sweeping from its fingertips and blasting all around them as they frantically dodged.

“Physical attacks don’t seem to do much good either,” Bonnie said.

“Lilly, can you tell where it is?” Axra called.

“I can hear it,” Lilly said. She pulled back on Zerstörelicht’s invisible sting and fired. The bolt of energy scattered against a crimson light, leaving the creature undamaged.

“Even a mystical weapon is no good?” Axra asked. “How do we beat this thing?”

“I think I might know,” Twila said. “We need to attack together. Icicle Storm!”

She snapped her fingers, a flurry of icicles breaking against the creature’s crimson shield. Lysara’s chakram swung at its back. The creature hurriedly shifted into a tube-like form to avoid it.

“I knew it!” Twila declared. “Axra, if I give you a signal can you hit that thing in less than thirty seconds?”

“I can do it in ten,” Axra stated.

Twila nodded. “Bonnie, I need you to strike at it from the left. Lysara, go from the right. Lilly, fire shots in front of it. If we can box it in we can beat it.”

“If this works I am going to kiss you so hard!” Axra promised.

“I’ll look forward to it,” Twila said. “Bonnie, Lysara, Lilly, go!”

The three women moved in unison. Lilly fired her arrows at the sound of the creature, Bonnie and Lysara hemmed it in from the sides, avoiding its energy blasts. The creatures azure shield blocking their attacks.

Twila chanted. After nearly a minute she nodded to Axra. Axra took off, running straight for the creature, evading while continuing forward to reach her target in the promised ten seconds. Twila snapped her fingers. “Stone Spike!”

The ground thrust upwards, hurling at the creature even as Axra leapt up to strike at it with her blade. The stone shattered against a crimson field, Axra’s blade went right through slicing into the core of the thing. Its silver body lost cohesion, melting into nothingness.

Axra ran over to Twila and kissed her, hard. She broke away after nearly a minute.

“Told you I could get there in ten seconds flat,” she panted.

Twila just nodded and wiped her mouth.

“I’m confused,” Lysara said. “How did that attack go through?”

“I noticed that it was using different shields for physical and magical attacks,” Twila explained. “I knew that it had to have time to shift from one to the other when it dodged Lysara’s chakram instead of blocking it like it was everything else. So I figured if a magical attack and physical one both hit at the same time that one of them would bring it down.”

“That’s my girl!” Axra declared. “You really have quite the brain in your head.”

“I… I’m proud of you too,” Lilly said. “A… and I’ll show it too… later, when it’s just us three.”

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Purification episode 119: Fire Chambre

The third chambre was lined with several contained fires.All lined up and leading on a path to the exit. The group cautiously made their way along the path.

“Does anyone else wanna take off their small clothes?” Lysara asked.

“Don’t you dare,” Bonnie said.

“But Bon,” Lysara pleaded. “It’s so hot. Besides, you’ve seen me without them before. So why…” Bonnie clamped her hand over Lysara’s mouth.

“Pretty sure her seeing you isn’t the problem,” Axra said, patting Lysara’s shoulder. “She just doesn’t want me or Twila looking at her girl.”

“I didn’t think of that,” Lysara muttered.

“I don’t like this chambre,” Bonnie said. “There’s got to be more to it than just being hot.”

“Another invisible monster?” Axra asked.

“I… I haven’t heard one,” Lilly said. “j… just th… the sound of the fire.”

“We’ll just have to stay alert,” Twila said.

The five continued on. When they were nearly at the door the flames all flared and before them stood a humanoid being that seemed to be made entirely of fire with black eyes gazing at them from its flaming head.

“A fire elemental,” Twila said.

“Kind of obvious isn’t it?” Lysara asked.

he elemental hurled flames at them. Axra, Bonnie and Lysara all jumped back away from the blast.

“How do we get close to it?” Axra asked.

“I just need to cast a strong water spell,” Twila said. “Buy me thirty seconds.”

“I can manage that,” Axra stated.

“No, you have to protect Lilly,” Bonnie stated. “With the fires all over the room she’ll never hear what’s a threat until it’s too late. I’ll buy Twila the time.” She circled away from the group before moving towards the elemental.

“I’ll help!” Lysara declared, running after her.

Bonnie hurled her trident at the creature to draw its attention. It hurled a bolt of flames right at her. Bonnie moved to block it from hitting Lysara with her own body. Lysara tackled the larger woman to the ground, the bolt passing over them.

“Deluge!” Twila cried, snapping her fingers. Water swept through the room, extinguishing the fires and slamming into the fire elemental, reducing it to ashes.

“Guess the next room is water, aether or the other,” Bonnie muttered, rising. She grabbed her trident, checking it over for damage. “Let’s head out.”

Lysara pulled her down, roughly. “Bon, just what were you thinking?”

“I thought it was going to hit you,” Bonnie said. “I just wanted to shield you.”

“I don’t want that!” Lysara screamed. “I know that I’m not as strong as you. You’re a knight and I’m just a musician. I know that, but I can still hold my own in a fight. I don’t want you to ever sacrifice yourself for me.”

“Can we discuss this later?” Bonnie asked, glancing back at Axra, Twila and Lilly.

“No, we can’t,” Lysara said. “Bon, lately you’ve been treating me like a frail person who needs protecting. I’m not. I can fight and look after myself. I… I want us to be equals.” She reached out and grabbed Bonnie’s hands, looking into her eyes. “I love you, Bon. Let me protect you too sometimes.”

“Lysara,” Bonnie muttered. “I… I love you too. That’s why I can’t bear the idea of you getting hurt. Every time I see a strong enemy… every time I see something come near you I fear the worst and it drives me crazy. I don’t want to lose you so I try to fight whatever it is… take the brunt of the attack… to keep it away from you. I’m sorry, I know that I should trust you more I just… panic.”

“Bon, you have more courage than anyone else I know,” Lysara said. “So, have the courage to believe in me, okay?”

“I’ll try,” Bonnie said. “From now on I’ll try to trust you to look after yourself in a fight.”

“That’s all I ask, Bon,” Lysara stated. She embraced the other woman.

“Should we be watching this,” Twila whispered.

“Nope,” Axra answered. “Let’s just look at the wall over there for a little while.”

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Purification episode 118: Air Chambre

The second chambre was white marble from the floor to the ceiling. Near the ceiling was an opaque cage attached to the ceiling and the wall. There was no exit in sight.

“Seems straightforward enough,” Twila said. “The exit’s gotta be up there.”

“Inside the cage?” Axra asked. “Doesn’t that ruin the purpose of a cage?”

“In this case, the cage isn’t to keep something in, it’s to keep people out. This is a test, remember? I just have to cast the flight spell on all of us and we can fly up there and move on to the next room.”

“I don’t like it,” Bonnie said. “There’s gotta be something dangerous in that cage. They wouldn’t bother to make it opaque otherwise.”

“Maybe they thought that people would look for invisible doors first,” Lysara stated.

“There’s no way that someone would come in here and not find that worth investigating,” Bonnie reasoned.

“I agree,” Twila said. “There’s almost certainly something dangerous in there.”

“Could Lilly fire an arrow through the bars and hit whatever’s in there without us actually opening it?” Lysara asked.

“I’d say no,” Twila said. “The fact that the view is obscured even with the bars indicates that there’s a protective spell at work. But, we could try. Lilly, aim up at an eighty degree angle and move about four degrees to the right.”

Lilly brought out Zerstörelicht and took aim as Twila had bidden her. “L… like this?”

“Perfect,” Twila said.

Lilly fired. The arrow moved to a spot right between the bars, dissipating harmlessly before moving into the unseen area.

“Did… Did I hit it?” Lilly asked.

“It was a perfect shot,” Bonnie answered.

“B… but did I hit it?” Lilly asked again.

“Sorry, it hit some kind of shield,” Axra said. “We’re just going to have to go up there ourselves.”

Twila finished casting the flight spell and the five floated up.

“I’ll open the cage, the rest of you stand back,” Bonnie said.

“No, I’ll open it,” Axra said. “You can’t open the cage and be ready for a fight at the same time, not with your arm like that. I can.”

“Princess, I should be the one…” Bonnie began. Axra held up a hand to silence her.

“Seriously, you need to drop that royalty thing,” Axra said. “We’re here as comrades and friends. I really don’t want to make this an order, but I will order you to stand back and let me open this thing if I have to.”

“Very well,” Bonnie said. “Just be careful.”

Axra held Todberührung with one hand and carefully reached out with her other to open the cage door.

As soon as the door was opened the darkness vanished and they could see inside the cage. The creature inside had two pairs of white, feathery wings, a head with antennae, compound eyes and mandibles, an upper body similar to a mans but without arms and a lower body covered with feathers with sharp talons.

“Some kind of chimera?” Twila asked.

The creature rushed out of the cage at high speed, nearly tearing into Axra with its talons, but she flew up, avoiding its grasp. It turned in mid-air and attempted another pass at her.

“Lightning lance!” Twila yelled. The creature turned and moved back, narrowly avoiding the blast.

It turned and moved right for Twila. She hurriedly chanted. “Barrier!” the creature was deflected from her at the last moment.

“Too fast,” Twila thought. “I have to find a way to counteract that.”

Bonnie’s trident came up after it, but it easily evaded the jab. Its talons came down at her.

“You’re mine!” Lysara cried. She swooped down on it from above, with her chakram out. It looped around, causing her and Bonnie to nearly collide.

“How is it so fast?” Lysara asked.

“Cheetah Speed!” Twila yelled, snapping her fingers. Axra felt a surge of power.

She rushed through the air. at the creature. It very narrowly avoided her blade. She doubled back, coming down after it. The creature turned away from her and moved away, trying to run out the effect of the spell. Lysara and Bonnie moved into its path. It tried to dive clear of them, but Axra swooped right down on it, Todberührung slashing into its wing. It wobbled in air, trying to regain control. Lysara’s chakram carved into its chest and Bonnie’s trident impaled it.

They watched it crash into the ground.

“Wasanyonehitbythat thing?” Axra asked. The speed spell wearing off as she spoke.

“Almost,” Bonnie reported. “But no one actually was.”

“Then let’s fly to the next chambre,” Twila said. “And pray that our strength will hold.”

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Purification episode 117: The Earth Chambre

The five entered the first chambre. It was built with an earthen floor and rocky crags jutting out at seemingly random points.

“Careful, Lilly,” Axra said. “The ground is pretty uneven.” She helped Lilly over a jagged part.

“Th… thank you,” Lilly said.

“Isn’t this a bit strange?” Lysara asked. “I mean, every time I’ve heard someone mention the classic elements it’s been fire, water, earth and then air. So why start in the middle?”

“The classic elements don’t really have a traditional order,” Twila said. “They’re always portrayed in ancient texts as part of a cycle where each element feeds into the others. It…”

She was interrupted by the sound of gravel falling from one of the crags. The group looked over. Lilly drew Zerstörelicht and pointed it in the direction of the sound.

“There’s nothing there,” Lysara muttered.

“Something had to make that gravel come down,” Bonnie stated. Her eyes darted around, searching for the source.

“I… it’s right there,” Lilly whispered.

“Right where?” Axra asked. Lilly was pointing Zerstörelicht at the height of the crag. “There’s nothing up there but empty space.”

“I… it is,” Lilly said. “I… I can hear it.”

Twila scrutinised the area that Lilly was indicating. “Lilly, fire your bow,” she said.

Lilly did as she was bade. A burst of gravel went sliding and they heard a roar. Spots of blood dotted the peak. Still, no creature was visible.

“Axra, guard Lilly!” Twila shouted.

Axra moved between the crag and Lilly, sword drawn.

“Above you!” Lilly cried.

Axra swung her sword upwards, feeling it make contact with something.

Bonnie moved in, thrusting past Axra with her trident feeling it make contact with something.

Lysara started running forward with her chakram drawn.

“Stay back!” Bonnie shouted. “You don’t have the experience to challenge something you can’t see.”

“I can fight too!” Lysara protested.

“Brace yourselves!” Lilly shouted. Axra and Bonnie felt a giant weight slam into them. The two were thrown forward.

“Dispel invisibility!” Twila cried, snapping her fingers.

The air seemed to shimmer, revealing a six legged creature with a flat, insect-like body, tail with stingers attached. It’s head was flat and fanged. It had visible puncture marks in its body from the trident. One of its front legs was torn open from Lilly’s blast.

It raised its tail and swung downward at Lilly. She heard the blow coming and managed to move away from it in time.

Lysara ran in. She slid under the creature’s tail and swung her chakram across its face. It slammed its body forward in response, pushing her back.

“Fireball!” Twila cried. The flames slammed into the creature. It flailed back.

“Now!” Axra said. She, Bonnie and Lysara all moved forward. Axra blocked the tail and Bonnie and Lysara delivered the finishing blows.

“What is that thing anyway?” Lysara asked.

“I’m not sure,” Twila said. “I’ve never seen or even read about anything like it.”

“A relic of the old world, no doubt,” Bonnie muttered.

“What if they still exist but no one knows about them because they turn invisible and hide?” Lysara asked.

“I don’t think it’s likely,” Twila stated. “Some mage would have detected them by now.”

“You didn’t,” Lysara said.

“Well, there are better mages than me out there,” Twila said. “Is everyone okay?”

“A little bruised, but fine,” Axra stated.

“No problems here either,” Bonnie reported.

“No complaints here,” Lysara said.

“Good, then we can continue,” Twila said. “We’ll have to remember to be on our guard in the next chambre. If Lilly hadn’t heard that thing then it might have caused us some serious problems.”

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Purification episode 116: Inside the temple

“Okay,” Twila said. “I’ve cast a spell on this that should make it watertight, but I don’t know how long it’ll last or if it’ll fully protect your eyes while underwater. Do you still want to go through with this?”

“I do,” Lilly said. “I can’t sit on the sidelines while you and Axra are in danger.”

“Magic sure is handy,” Axra said. “Is there anything you can’t do with it?”

“Plenty,” Twila said. “For instance, it’s going to be really hard for us to see down there with only the gill spell.”

“I can lead the way,” Bonnie stated. “I remember where the entrance is.”

“It’ll have to do,” Axra muttered. “Let’s just hope we don’t encounter anything like the creature that took a chunk out of your arm.”

Velvet looked away while the five stripped down to their small clothes. They carefully strapped their weapons to themselves afterwards. Twila cast the spell and the five women dove into the waters, leaving Velvet on his own.

“Good luck team,” he muttered. He looked over at Fang. “I’m gonna take a nap, you watch the campsite.” The little dragon made a loud scoffing sound. “I’m gonna guess that’s a yes.”

*****

Bonnie found herself squinting as she led the group. The murkiness wasn’t an issue, the darkvision spell saw to that. The water itself presented the problem.

Lysara swam by Bonnie’s injured side, prepared to aid the other woman in a moment’s notice. The swim itself was slow going without the aid of the full waterfolk enchantment.

As they passed the Poseidon statues, Bonnie felt the weight of the trident she’d taken and briefly wondered if she’d invoked the wrath of the God in doing so, but she couldn’t allow herself to worry overmuch. For the moment, the mission was more important.

The five swam into the temple. The entrance led into a twisting corridor. the group followed it. The first room they came across was a chambre with a hole at the top. Bonnie looked at the others and swam up, right out of the water.

The room they found themselves in was bare. Marble walls and double doors at the end with a large, golden plaque above it.

“How does an underwater temple manage to not be fully underwater?” Axra asked.

“It’s an enchantment,” Twila answered. “A very powerful one at that.”

“So you could have totally just used the waterfolk spell and we’d have been fine,” Lysara stated. “I bet you feel totally ridiculous right now.”

“It was the safest bet,” Bonnie said. “I blame myself for not scouting better.”

“You were injured, you couldn’t have,” Lysara argued. “Besides, you barely got back to us as it was.”

“Well, we can’t really blame anyone,” Twila stated. “Still, it’s odd.” She moved over to the plaque.

“Sh… should we go back for Velvet?” Lilly asked. “You know, now that we know how little time we’ll have to spend underwater.”

“Leave him be,” Bonnie said. “We’re already here, we may as well find what we came for.”

“Can you read it?” Axra asked.

“Part of it,” Twila answered. “I can’t read the beginning, it’s a congratulations of some kind, probably for making it in here.”

“So, what comes after that?” Bonnie asked.

“It says that we have to defeat the six elements to reach the… I can’t fully translate this part, something to do with greatness, prize.”

“Six elements?” Lysara asked. “I thought there were more than that?”

“There are,” Twila answered, “considerably more. It’s probably referring to the classic magic elements. Fire, Water, Earth, Air & Aether.”

“Oh, that makes sense,” Lysara stated.

“B… but…” Lilly began.

“The plaque says six, doesn’t it?” Bonnie interrupted. “What’s the sixth one?”

“Good question,” Twila muttered. “I don’t know. I’ve never heard of a sixth element before.”

“Well, whatever it is it doesn’t matter,” Axra stated. “We’ve just gotta go through here, right?”

“It’s going to be difficult without our armour,” Axra stated.

“Tell me about it,” Lysara said. “I feel naked in this.” She tugged at Bonnie’s arm. “Bon, do I look naked?”

“Not at all,” Bonnie said.

“In any case, we’re just going to have to make due,” Twila said. “I can cast some defensive spells. They won’t be as good as armour, but they may be able to deflect a glancing blow.”

“I am a little concerned about that,” Bonnie said. “Clearly, this place was designed so that only a mage could gain access to it. The creatures ahead may be specialised against magic.”

“Well, we’ll just have to risk it,” Axra stated. “We’ll get the defensive spells and move ahead. To whatever the first creature is.”

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Purification episode 115: Insistence

The group made their way back to camp, not wanting to risk exploring the island until they had some counter-measures in case of another female Selkie. Fang greeted them as they approached, hovering to Twila’s shoulder.

“How embarrassing,” Axra said. “I can’t believe I let myself get charmed like that.”

“I’m so sorry, Bon,” Lysara cried, her arms were wrapped tightly around Bonnie. “You’re the only one I love but I…”

“Don’t worry,” Bonnie said. “It was out of your control.”

“It’s just fortunate that you three were immune,” Twila said. “Otherwise who knows what might have happened.”

“That’s true enough,” Axra said. “Way to go, Lilly!”

“I… I think I was only… you know, not affected because of…” Lilly reached up and touched the bandage that covered her eyes. “Because I… can’t be attracted to someone just based on their voice.”

“I’ve only ever found one person attractive,” Bonnie admitted.

“Really?” Lysara asked. “Wow, I’m so lucky!”

“The important thing is that we avoid it happening again,” Velvet muttered. “Don’t wanna have to fight you three again.”

“If Axra, Lysara and I all fill our ears with something that’ll block the sound then we should be able to avoid getting thralled,” Twila said. “I could also do a sound blocking spell, but this way isn’t vulnerable to counter-spells or anything like that.”

“Do you have everything you need to make something like that?” Bonnie asked.

“Of course,” Twila said. “It’s all in my bag, but first let’s treat that burn.”

“No rush,” Velvet said. “Doesn’t even hurt.”

“That’s because it’s a really bad burn,” Twila stated. “If we don’t get it treated quickly then things are not going to go well. In fact, we should get you to a cleric after we’re done with our mission. Assuming the war between the Gods and Titans has ended and we can find one.”

“It’s cool,” Velvet muttered. “I already washed it.”

“Gonna need to do considerably more than that,” Twila said.

Velvet sat down obediently while she treated the injury as best she could.

“I… I’m so sorry,” Lilly muttered. “If… if it wasn’t for me… because of me…” She trailed off, weeping quietly.

Axra sat beside her, putting a gentle arm around Lilly. “It’s not your fault. Everyone who came here chose to be here. You, Bonnie, Velvet, Lysara, Twila and me all chose to come here and search for the staff.”

“B… but if I… If Gail hadn’t fallen for me. Then none of this would be happening,” Lilly whispered. “F… for my sake Bonnie’s arm… Velvet’s back… it’s all my fault.”

“Pull yourself together!” Bonnie declared. “I didn’t come here for you. I didn’t get my arm hurt because of you. I came here because I wanted an adventure. My arm was injured because I decided to go off on my own and I was careless when investigating the route. Because of you I don’t have to do this on my own and I have strong comrades who can support me and fight by my side.”

“I came to find treasure so I can retire young,” Velvet added. “Course, I would’ve wandered around in the labyrinth until I starved since I couldn’t have gotten down here without magic.”

“See?” Axra asked. “Everyone chose to come here for their own reasons. So don’t blame yourself. We’ll get the staff and we’ll return to the surface where all three of you will be fixed up good as new.”

“Axra… everyone… thank you,” Lilly muttered.

“I’ve done all I can,” Twila said. “I had to graft an artificial skin over the wounded area to keep his back protected, but it should hold until we can get him proper help.”

“Do we go back to searching the island for a way into the temple?” Axra asked.

“No,” Twila said. “I’ve got a better idea.”

“You’ve thought of a way to extend the waterfolk transformation spell?” Bonnie asked.

“No,” Twila answered. “But there is an easier spell that should last long enough for us to get through the temple.”

“You don’t have to show off how amazing you are,” Axra said. “Just tell us.”

“It’s simple,” Twila said. “I’ll give the four of us gills. We won’t be able to maneuver as well, but we should still be able to get into the temple and get out if we’re careful.”

“Four?” Axra asked.

“Well, we can’t take Velvet,” Twila said. “Gods only know what the water would do to his graft. We can’t take Lilly either. Her bandage would come right off. They’ll have to stay back here and guard the camp.”

“I… it’s fine,” Lilly said. “I… I don’t need the bandage.”

“Yes, you do,” Twila said. “It’s protecting your eyes from further damage.”

“Th… then I don’t need eyes!” Lilly yelled. “L… let them be damaged.”

“We can’t leave her behind,” Axra said.

“Axra… you too?” Twila asked. “This is her vision we’re talking about.”

“I know,” Axra said. “I don’t want her to go blind either, but I also know Lilly. She’s shy, but unexpectedly stubborn when it comes to stuff like this. If we leave her behind now she’ll always resent it. The three of us are going to be together for a long time after this and we don’t need that hanging over us.” She and Twila gazed into each other’s eyes for a moment.

“I understand,” Twila said. “I’ll find a way to make a bandage that’ll be fine even underwater. Then the five of us can go.”

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Purification episode 114: Sightless Archery

The Selkie didn’t give pursuit. Bonnie, Velvet and Lilly were able to gain a brief respite. Able to ponder their next move.

“I thought Selkies only affected the opposite sex,” Bonnie muttered.

“No reason they should,” Velvet said. “If they amplify attraction then it doesn’t make much difference whether it’s the attraction of a man or woman. I even said that, remember?”

“No you didn’t!” Bonnie declared.

“Did,” Velvet insisted.

“C… could that be what you muttered under your breath?” Lilly asked.

Velvet nodded.

“Okay, so you said it but no one heard it,” Bonnie stated. “Whatever. The important question is what to do next.”

“Ummm… panic?” Lilly stated.

“We can make our way back up and find a mage to counter the effect,” Velvet said.

“We are not going to run!” Bonnie declared. “I won’t leave Lysara and the others in that creature’s hands. There’s no telling what she’ll do to them.”

“But there’s no way we can dispel the charm magic,” Velvet protested.

“There’s one way,” Bonnie said, she hefted her trident. “We have to kill her.”

“You only have the use of one arm and Lilly’s blind,” Velvet said. “we aren’t going to be able to fight our way past Axra and the others without hurting them.”

“We won’t hurt them,” Bonnie stated. “We just have to be clever. Lilly, if she uses her sonic attack would it give you a good fix on her location?”

“L… like the one on the mountain did to Axra?” Lilly asked. “We… well it is really loud. So…. so I’m sure I would be able to find her from it.”

“Great,” Bonnie said. “Then I’ll get close to her and force her to use it. You’ll stay back and fire as soon as you hear her.” She turned to Velvet. “You will keep Lysara and the others occupied. Just make sure you don’t hurt them.”

“W… wouldn’t it work better if you took the shot?” Lilly asked.

“I can’t,” Bonnie said. “Not with my arm injured like this and Velvet’s never touched a bow in his life. The only one who can take the shot is you.”

“B… but what if I miss?” Lilly asked. “Or I accidentally hit you?”

“It’s nothing to worry about,” Bonnie said. “The Princess was tossed away when she was hit by a sonic blast, the same should happen to me. I’ll be well clear when you fire so shoot with confidence.”

“This plan sounds like a hassle,” Velvet muttered.

“Is it more of a hassle than explaining to the kings that you let their daughter become and remain a Selkie’s thrall?” Bonnie asked.

“Yeah, it is,” Velvet said. “But I’ll at least survive it. I’m in.”

The trio made their way back towards where they’d seen the Selkie. She was still there, with Axra, Twila and Lysara on alert.

She anticipated us returning. Bonnie thought. Good. It means she hasn’t had a chance to do anything to them yet.

Bonnie took Lilly’s hand and led her to a large, flat stone. Lilly nodded and brought out Zerstörelicht, pointing it in the general direction of the group.

Bonnie moved over to Velvet and nodded. He sighed and ran out of cover, rushing towards the Selkie. Axra and Lysara went out against him. Axra reached him first. He rolled under her swing, kicking Axra’s legs out from under her.

Lysara’s chakrams slashed right for his head. He moved to the side, grabbed her wrists and forced the weapons out of them.

It was then that Twila got involved, a burst of flames heading for him. Velvet pushed Lysara away and somersaulted into the air. The flames singed his back, but didn’t do much damage.

Twila’s involvement was the cue that Bonnie had been waiting for. She charged for the Selkie, trident ready to pierce through. The Selkie saw her coming and reacted instantly, her sonic burst pushed Bonnie away. Bonnie heard a whiz in the air as she went flying and saw the Selkie’s stomach burst open, a massive arrow of light going right through her midsection.

“Way to go Lilly!” Bonnie called. “You got her!”

She regained her footing and went to check on the others. Velvet was washing his burned back. Twila was standing, looking confounded. Axra was retrieving her sword. Lysara was rubbing her wrists, a confused look on her face.

“Bon? Are you okay?” Lysara asked.  “I feel hazy, but I seem to remember someone attacking you.”

Bonnie ran forward and hugged the smaller woman tightly. “It’s fine now. It’s all going to be fine.”

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