Monday, September 5, 2016
Glass and Roses, Chapter 5
Valdimer's footsteps echoed on the flagstones of the crypt. He held his rod out like a torch, a clean white light emanating from the tip. “They don't seem to be here at the moment,” he said, adjusting his glasses and squinting at the shadows.
“Maybe we killed the last of them,” Dror offered, sheathing his sword.
The light shone on large stone sarcophagi in the center of the chamber. Valdimer began to examine the one in the center. “They weren't run-of-the-mill bandits,” he muttered. Berit kept her crossbow drawn, tensely watching the several hallways that led deeper into the crypt. Valdimer brushed away the dust on the sarcophagus. “They have some link to the demons and Nangarth. They were after the map that led to this tomb, I'm sure of it.”
“Could you be sure a little faster?” Berit said. “I don't like it down here.”
“You kill people for a living,” Valdimer said.
“Yes, but I'm gone before their bodies are cold,” Berit replied. She stood close to Dror. “Some dead don't always stay dead, and then they tend to be mad at whomever killed them.”
Valdimer rolled his eyes. “You didn't kill anyone in this tomb.”
“They don't know that,” Berit muttered. Valdimer pushed aside the lid of the sarcophagus. “What are you doing?!” Berit hissed.
“It's been disturbed,” Valdimer said. He peered inside. “See for yourself.”
There was no body inside the coffin. Instead, it was being used to store daggers, wands, potions, and other supplies. In the center of it all was a medallion that resembled a curved bow behind a sharp fang. Valdimer carefully withdrew the medallion. “As I thought,” he said, showing it to the others. “Demonic cultists.”
“That symbol,” Zhihao said, eyes growing wide. “I've seen it before.”
“Where?” Valdimer asked.
“In...in a dream.” Zhihao seemed to be unable to tear her eyes away from the medallion. Valdimer put it in his pocket and she snapped back to normal.
Valdimer squinted at Zhihao. “It might be demonic itself. It's best if I keep it and study it later. I know the most about magic items amongst us.” He stood up. “Let's do a bit more searching here before we leave, though.”
As they continued to explore the catacombs, Zhihao kept trying to stand close to Valdimer. Her hands, slightly raised, moved toward his pocket. He made to pat her on the shoulder, but also pushed her away a bit. She didn't seem to notice. Finally, Valdimer instructed Berit and Zhihao to search one room while he and Dror investigated another. Berit sneered but took Zhihao with her. When they were alone, Valdimer turned to Dror.
“I don't like what's happening to Zhihao,” he said.
“Yeah, I've noticed it too,” Dror said. “She wants that relic.”
“I'm worried that...” Valdimer paused to think. “I believe she has become possessed by a lesser demon. A more powerful one would have more control over its subject, like the mayor of Nangarth, but this one seems to just be subtly influencing her actions. We have to keep the medallion away from her, and if she tries anything violent...”
“Understood,” Dror said, putting his hand on the pommel of his sword.
They regrouped and continued through the final hallway. It reached the largest room in the catacomb, which contained several more stone coffins and a large, empty throne. There were clear signs that people had been using this room recently. Braziers were still smoking from the last time they were lit. Tools of worship were stocked in the corner of the room. Some of the graves had been smashed or defiled. Valdimer looked around, wondering where to start. Zhihao stumbled into him.
Valdimer jumped away and turned on her. “That's enough!” he said. “What is it you want?”
Zhihao couldn't seem to focus her gaze. Her eyes darted around, rolling aimlessly inside her head. “I need...the symbol...”
“Why?” Valdimer said.
“I don't know...”
“You don't know because you've been possessed!” Valdimer said. He nodded to Dror who drew his weapon. “I'm sorry, but until we can figure out how to cleanse people of this, we have to stop it before it starts.”
“I...” Zhihao said. “I...” She clutched her cloak closer to her. Then, suddenly, she sprung forward in a flying kick and knocked Valdimer to the ground. Dror ran forward to attack her, but she had already gotten her hand on the medallion. She shrieked, and her eyes began to glow.
“Wait!” Berit said. “This isn't possession!” Dror paused with his sword raised, standing right next to Zhihao. She was kneeling on Valdimer's chest, but wasn't harming him like a demon would. Her eyes were emitting yellow light and her mouth was wide open. She gripped the medallion like a bouey on a stormy sea.
Then she began to speak in an echoing voice. “Mephutozim is gaining strength. He will return. It is up to you to stop him, Zhihao.”
“What kind of sorcery is this?” Dror spat.
“Divine, I think,” Valdimer said from his spot on the floor. “I think she's possessed by a god, not a demon.”
“This relic is the symbol of the ancient demonslayer, Folami. A demon will submit to your will while you wield it, but be warned. This power is not limitless. You must stop the demon lord from achieving his goal: plummeting the world into Hell.” Zhihao's eyes stopped glowing, and she fell sideways off Valdimer's chest. He stood up and brushed himself off, noticing that the medallion had glowed for a split second as Zhihao finished her trance.
“Let's get her somewhere she can rest,” Valdimer said. “We have some research to do.”