A few days after I had returned from my training with the Shadow of the Mountain, Kalak arrived back in Beacon. He seemed happier. He was whistling, dancing. And it was a few days after that, Camreal should have been arriving.
The morning passed with no signs of him. But Chakar and the rest of the men I had freed from the Guild were apparently healed by Reed during my absence. they were now ready to leave and head home. Back to the South. So I decided to see them off.
I wished them well, and a safe journey. They thanked me and said if I was ever around I’d always have allies among them. They really were great men it seemed. I watched them walk off and eventually the passed over the horizon
I turned around and started to walk away when I saw a small pillar of smoke rising from the south west of Beacon. That’s when I Am appeared in front of me.
“Excuse me, Miss Sepherene. Camreal seems to be having an issue just outside the city.” I was a blur of motion. I didn’t want to use too much Essence right away so I did only boosted my speed a bit. Plus I’m sure Kalak and Leon are on their way too. And I may need their help.
I leapt into the air and glided across the sky as I got closer, so I could get a better view. It didn’t last long. As I got within a few hundred yards, I felt my body lock up. It was something magical, for sure. And then I fell from the sky and slammed into the dirt. I watched as Camreal went toe to toe with Magistrate Falchion, unable to help him.
Falchion had been hunting us for the better part of two years as a member of the Second Hunt. She had been in Mahltin. Before that she had been in.. Torvus? It’s hard to remember. Such a long time had passed. But that meeting had been what put Camreal on her hit-list. There had been a huge fight and Falchion had gotten the best of me. I was gravely wounded and Camreal had saved my life by casting a spell on her. The specifics I wasn’t sure of but it burned a number of runes and sigils into her bones, marking her as his servant upon her death. And she has fought ever since to find him and force him to remove it.
I heard two similar thuds, just a bit heavier than the sound I made. I took it to mean Leon and Kalak were here. But in the same predicament. I heard a few more sounds of foot steps, barely over the yelling and weapon clashing happening just a couple hundred yards away. I looked up to see a familiar sidereal face but not necessarily a friendly one.
Tempest was a member of the Bronze faction. They were our greatest enemies. They planned the destruction of the Solars so many generations ago in favor of the Terrestrials ruling creation. And there he was standing in front of two helpless Solars who desired to tear down the realm his kind had built for generations. The exact words seem to escape me, but I remember he began to gloat. He was amazed at how easy it was to trap all of us. Even the traitor, Leon. He explained that we weren’t allowed to help Camreal. This was a fight born of fate. He made a swift movement pulling his sword from its sheath and plunged it into the earth. There was a flash and Camreal and Falchion vanished.
“Bring them back!” Leon shouted. He was suddenly on his feet. He drew his daiklave and fire stretched down the length of it from his palm. I was starting to regain a bit of movement. Perhaps all was not lost.
“I’m sorry but I can’t. They are still there but they have phased into another plane until one of them dies. It is locked by fate.”
Kalak and I pushed ourselves to our feet and drew our weapons.
Kalak spoke up, “that was a mistake, if Camreal dies or not she’s still marked. There’s no way Camreals going to let her out of it now.”
“Be that as it may, Phoenix, it is done. There is no changing it now.”
“Then it looks like you’ve sealed your fate as well Tempest. I’m tired of these games with you.” I dashed forward and started slashing. One high, one low, a tumble and one from behind. It was extremely fluid, for just regaining my mobility. But i had no luck. Blocked. Blocked. Dodged.
Leon and Kalak were right behind me. But he had enough time to prepare himself. Blocked. Blocked. Blocked. He turned a slashed Kalak across the chest. His armor took the brunt of it, but it didn’t look pretty. We tried again to even scratch him with our weapons but it was no use. I charged in again and flipped out of his reach after he blocked all my attacks. Leon tumbled through sweeping at his legs and he simply leapt over. And Kalak heaved his grand daiklave again. Blocked.
We all looked at each other and spread out around him equidistant and lunged. Blocked and he counter attacked. His sword slid deep into my shoulder. I felt my arm go limp. I palmed Him in the chest and commanded the power of the Least Gods. All of his attunements broke. Armor fell out of Elsewhere. His weapon clattered to the ground. Dodged. Dodged. Kalak and Leon’s sword fell through empty space. But Leon had strategically placed himself behind Tempest. He open his palm and launched a huge orb of flame and heat. The light that accompanied it, blinded us all.
A moment later, we began to see again. There’s smoke rising and obstructing sight a bit. But as it fades, there stands Tempest. He was covered in soot and dirt but otherwise untouched.
His things were still scattered across the ground. He reached out and grabbed what he could. And he vanished. A moment later there was a small pop. Camreal and Falchion were back. Kind of.
Camreal was back with some deep cuts and maybe a broken bone or two. It had been a good fight from what he said. But in the end she just couldn’t beat him. He had killed her. And just moments after explaining this we heard movement. It was from Falchion. She was standing up. So it was true, he could enslave the dead.
What happened next is probably the grossest thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve walked in on Leon changing before. I’ll never forget that tattoo of Kalak.. Anyway, Falchions body was now shedding its skin and organs. It left nothing but the branded skeletal foundation that Camreal had marked as his. Everything else landed as a smelly gorey goo. We stared in horror as it walked over and grabbed the armor that Tempest had left and then came to kneel before its master.
“Camreal you can’t seriously be debating keeping her like this. She may have been the enemy but she died. She deserves peace.” Kalak pleaded. He sounded truly sympathetic for the woman.
“I’m not debating, Kalak. I just am. This is my insurance that these things don’t continue to happen. She’s an example.” Camreal was calm but decisive. He knew what he wanted and he was determined.
“She was a person! Have some humanity Camreal! This is wrong! We look past all the other darker things you do but I will not let you do this.” Kalak anger was becoming very apparent very quickly.
“Oh shut it Kalak.” I growled “You can’t tell me that this is where you draw the line. That all of a sudden you have a new found distaste for shackles!” I stepped in between them. “Remember the incident with Guild? How you were going to buy their freedom. Further propping up their disgusting system! Dozens of men captured, experimented on and then enslaved and sold on an entirely different continent! You struck me that day. But now you beg for this woman’s soul? That is one hell of a line you draw…” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“Thank you Sepherene.”
I spun on him. “I’m not arguing this for you, Camreal. You know my opinion on this doesn’t bode well for you. But after the things I have done I will not force you. I’m merely pointing out that Kalaks soapbox is broken.”
The argument carried on for a while longer. But eventually we called it and went back to Beacon with the new addition.
After a few hours I went back to find Camreal and asked him about the book he went to get. He was just reading through it. He had found what was necessary to fix Dranas leg. I also ran through the idea of fixing the wolfs family. But that news was not as good. I went and got Reed just in case and we got to work.
The book did what it was supposed to do. But it wasn’t perfect. All of the diamond was gone. But so were the parts of her leg that were changed. Reed assured us that he could regrow it. But it would take the better part of a month.
There was a meeting in the hearth room after that. Kalak had something important to tell us. It was the 4 of us. That’s it.
“The mask of Winters is coming for me. He said he would come for me when I’m at my highest. He plans to march on us. But someone from Pasiaps Stair said he can help. I met him on my voyage.” None of us took this well. I had heard about the mask of Winters. He was one of the reasons we went south after the Unconquered Wolfs death. I knew this was nothing close to a good thing.
We talked about it for hours but we had no other options than to go to Pasiaps Stair. We decided first thing in the morning. I didn’t sleep that night. I thought about where I might go. How I might escape with all my sisters. But nothing I could come up with seemed possible. Not when I’m one of the most wanted people in the Realm.
But in the morning we all got ready and travelled for a week to the Stair. The stair was a terrestrial training academy built into the side of a huge mountain. I had been there once, to steal back my Demon Scale. I wonder what Cynis Indry is up to..
We walked into the city and headed towards the designated area. We waited a little while before someone found us. He was a special weapons instructor in the Academy. It was the man I had stolen from. He made no mention of it though and took us to a secret entrance to Pasiaps stair.
He took us through the training facility to his private quarters. He stepped behind a curtain and appeared to begin to change his clothes.
“Tonight, the Mask of Winters plans to march into the Realm. We have one night to stop him. Luckily I know just the way. What most people don’t know is that there is a shadowland at the base of the mountain in one of our vaults. How you ask? All will be made clear. Follow me.” He walked out in new attire. And suddenly Kalaks tune changed.
If Kalak was right, this man was an abyssal from Thorns. At least that’s how Kalak met him. Years ago, before Beacon was even a dream, Kalak had lived in a city named Thorns and it was sacked by the Mask of Winters. Frat was the night, Kalak says, he escaped the abyssal with little more than a threat. While the abyssal claimed to have ensured his survival for this day. The day to save the realm.
After little deliberation, Kelak decided he didn’t have much of a choice. So we followed him down into the vault. With the sun already down, we saw hordes of undead monsters, nearly instantly. But none of them harassed us. We walked and they stared. The parted like Camreals hair on Calibration. Say what you will, but he likes to clean up. We followed it down and down quite a while. It didnt feel that dangerous. Although I’m sure it was because of our guide.
Finally we were interrupted, by a shadowy figure. When he revealed himself, it was clear he was an abyssal. He claimed to be a forward scout for the Mask of Winters. Leon attempted to shrug him off but that was quickly corrected by his war strider. But with teamwork, and a few quick attacks we dispatched him rather easily.
I attempted to question our supposed ally, but all he would say is all will become clear soon.
When we finally arrived, we were in a big open chamber. And there were large double doors in front of us. Directly in front of those doors, was a large pile of bodies. They looked ancient. Kalak walked up and picked up a note and he seemed to zone out for a few minutes before looking up at the door again. He would later describe that moment to be when he got a flashback to one of his previous lives as a solar.
I looked at what he focused on. Appearing to bar the door was a mirror of Kalaks sword. He drew his sword.
“That was put there years ago, and there was nothing and nobody that could move it. Except for you. As soon as you move that sword the door will open and the Mask of Winters will be foiled. But it is three minutes to midnight, so we must hurry. "
Kalak brought his sword closer. And once they were within a close proximity, the one on the door started glowing. It fractured and pieces started flying and connecting with the one in His hand. Within a few seconds, there was only one sword and it was 50% longer and wider. It was the largest sword any of us had ever seen. That’s when the doors grinded open and the ground began to rumble.