D3 - That First Spark Ch50
Perhaps there was indeed no Anu. Perhaps all that was out there was mere chaos that sometimes, just sometimes resembled order. Perhaps the demons were right on the money all along.After seeing Quiet getting dragged away by the long-thought-dead scum of a stalking demon, Tyrael couldn’t be sure anymore.- NO! – he screamed as he cut through the fog towards the fortress.There was the distant painful cry of this scum of a demon and the obstacle collapsed in on itself with an unceremonious thud, freeing up both ends on the bridge. Whether or not it was Tyrael who caused this, he couldn’t tell and he didn’t care either. Quiet flew towards the fortress, and unless this demon had some god-level space bending powers, he was inside there somewhere.Tyrael yanked his backpack properly onto his back, filled El’druin with his righteous (and completely fed up at that point) fury and prepared to storm the building alone, strategy be damned for the moment. He tore across the stone bridge and burst through the wide open gates, into the welcoming hall.Immediately the cold misty air practically slammed him in the chest. The fortress was shrouded in an unnatural fog and the temperature was noticeably lower than the outside. This sight alone knocked Tyrael out of his frustration and rage, and he stopped. He had to be far more careful, he realized. This demon did not just ambush them, he had prepared a trap for them. Whatever had happened to the Sisterhood, well… Tyrael reckoned bitterly he was about to find out. Keeping El’druin before himself in a defensive stance, the mortal angel chanced a couple of steps inside the hall, eyes constantly darting around.Something definitely passed through here before, but he couldn’t help but doubt it was the stalker demon.The Eastgate Keep’s always had a weird architecture. The smooth walls did not run up to the ceiling, instead they had a waving top with crosses at the peaks that held up a system of beams on which the ceiling rested. The resulting openings in the wall’s top half were either boarded up or left unchecked. Nobody had any idea why Rakkis had built it this way, or why he even included multiple levels of catacombs under the two-storey keep, when it was never meant to be a center stronghold, only a last resort one, but these decisions followed the conquering king to his grave.Now the originally already weak architecture was in shambles. The walls were marred with strange wide slashes, as if something burning plowed the stone up. There were craters in the walls and in the floor, blood spatters in many places, but strangely, no bodies at all. The ceiling had caved in on the left side of the hall, burying the arches, the tattered but decorative carpet and a couple of candle stands under it, and creating an instant ramp up to the upper floor. Some of the ruined tiles had strange half-circle shape cracks in them, almost as if horse shoes had stomped across them. Whatever had gone through here could not have been Sanctuary-born. One of Andariel’s minions, perhaps, taking revenge for their queen? But why this late after the whole incident?And where were the bodies of the Sisterhood?Hoping against all hope that the keep’s mysterious destroyer and the stalker demon had not teamed up, Tyrael snuck inside further. He strained his ears but could not pick up any kind of sound or movement, his eyes did not spot any kind of illusion. The fog was unnerving and cold but it did not hide anything from him… yet, anyway. Instead, it reminded him of Zayl, strangely. Whenever the necromancer would start a long spell or summon a dead spirit, the temperature would drop and small fog would gather just like here.- My apologies, Zayl. It was not my intention to compare you to a demon – Tyrael mumbled under his nose, as if that would achieve anything.He walked past the impromptu ramp, fighting to urge to call out for Quiet. If he was that bastard demon, he probably would have dragged his target into the lower levels to trap him there. So he should head for the catacombs. Then again, that ramp seemed mightily inviting. The demon might like heights. Maybe a quick detour onto the ramparts, see how high he could get up there, then a quick jump to clear his head and return to the task at—Tyrael stopped, stared at the ramp with barely concealed fear, then ran across the hall and into the outer cloister where he pressed his back against a pillar and gasped for air.Dear Anu, it was happening again! He had to find Quiet and get out of here as soon as possible. Maybe having solid natural ground under his feet will help him get back on track. Tyrael let out a distressed trill.Rescue Quiet. Kill the demon for good this time. Stay focused!Redirecting his attention to his surroundings, Tyrael noted half-heartedly just how lucky he was that nothing was in the cloister to take advantage of his distraction. The place was just as much wrecked as the welcoming hall, with the same strange marks and craters (an especially big one right in the middle of the garden) and the cold fog. The mortal angel almost moved on, except his eyes finally did pick up something on the ground.Footsteps which the fog was trying to hide.Lots and lots of fresh footsteps, all in straight lines criss-crossed the surviving grass, all going for the inner cloister of the fortress. Tyrael willed the fog to part with a frown, taking a closer look. The steps were a bit closer to each other than what a normal person would leave, but they most certainly did not look like their owner was running or hells, even rushing. Raising his head, the mortal angel traced the tracks back to its origins and beheld a massive blood smear in one of the inner walls of the cloister, far too big to be something to just walk away from. Bile and a horrible feeling of dread already rising in his throat, Tyrael looked for another line of footsteps. This one led to a rock pile, a result from a broken pillar bringing down a part of the arch with it. A severed forearm stuck out from under it, looking like it was cut off weeks ago, the blood and meat long dry. The mortal angel slowly backed away and even slower turned around. Everywhere he looked, he saw evidence of massacre, and everywhere he saw footsteps leading away from those spots.- Oh no – he breathed into the cold air.Then he launched himself, tearing across the garden with no heed for stealth. There was no need for that anymore. Tyrael ran as fast as he possibly could, the fog tried to coalesce before him, hiding the entryway but the mortal angel easily passed through the illusion.- QUIET! – he screamed as he arrived into the inner cloister.No answer, only more footsteps, leading to the jail entrance on the left, most coming from the cathedral on the other end of the garden. Tyrael snapped his head between the jail entrance and the church in desperation, before screeching in a high pitch and ran towards the latter.He had to know, he just had to know, damnit!Inside the cathedral even more destruction greeted him. The building itself by some miracle remained standing, but it bore fresh wounds all over. It looked like as if two armies clashed in here, with marks of sword slashes, arrow and spear stabs preserved on the walls, tiles, carpets and the overturned and broken furniture. Again the blood spatters without bodies. Tyrael looked beyond all that, straight at the main altar in the middle of the nave. A smaller pedestal held up a surprisingly untouched decorated table of the most expensive wood and gold, and on it sat a beautifully handcrafted steel stand with many legs, swirls and leaf-like ornaments. It was meant to hold a not too large or heavy circular object.Only that particular object was now nowhere to be found.Tyrael stared at the altar as his mind finally, finally connected the dots.“Then she proposed we consider the High Heavens just as much of an enemy as we do the Hells… She waved around some kind of weird mirror thing in the air, saying she can spy on the Heavens with it.”- Anu help us – was all Tyrael could choke out, as he spun around practically fled from the place, straight towards the jail entrance.He would rather face the horrors down there, than the realization up here.oooOOOoooQuiet was flying and he had no control over the direction. In his panic he reached for the only object he had on him, the black dagger, and he blindly struck out with it.The next second his own painful shouting was drowned out by the screech of the mean demon and Quiet was free again. Free to smack into cold stone and roll over his head several times until he hit a wall with a painful yelp.Why did the bad guys always have to make him fall this hard?!Forcing his eyes slightly open, Quiet realized he was upside down and somewhere very dark. With some difficulty he rolled onto his butt, but his side hurt very badly. Pulling his hand away, he saw warm shiny liquid on it, the only thing besides his wings that shone in this place. He knew he was injured but he didn’t know how to treat it. He also felt a bit sleepy, and he didn’t like that. He stood up, the ground almost slipping out from under him. Frowning, Quiet ordered it to stay in one place because he couldn’t stand up right because of it, but the ground did nothing. Quiet hugged his very painful side again with a soft mewl, doubling over. That mean demon had nasty claws, alright.Wait! Leendonn had such an injury before!Quiet forced himself to remember despite his sleepiness. Back in that bad town with the many angry people and the very skerry and ugly dog demon… The little angel did not remember that day fondly, but now he recalled that after they found each other, Leendonn in that room with the bed had washed Quiet’s and his injuries with water, then wrapped them in long ribbons very tightly.Steeling his will against the growing sleepiness, Quiet reached out with one hand, squinting from focus. At first nothing happened, but eventually the water heard his order thankfully, and small streams erupted from under the stone floor to form a big ball at his fingers. The little angel splashed it against his side, hissing at how much it stung. Hurting wasn’t enough, it had to sting too?! Still, Quiet splashed it with water one more time, just to make sure.Now, for the ribbons.Quiet looked around, but the light from his wings was not enough to see much.- I wanna see! – he called out angrily.Immediately a big ball of fire appeared just below the ceiling, filling the place with warmth and light and… chasing away the fog from the ground. Strange, Quiet did not know fog could appear inside buildings. Finally being able to properly see, the little angel saw the long red rug that covered the middle of the hall in a nice line. Asking it nicely, the rug tore itself apart at a spot and formed long red ribbons. Quiet made sure to make them the same material as the one Leendonn had used, it was probably very important. Then he called them over and had them wrap around his torso tightly and cover his injuries entirely. Again it hurt, but the ribbons started to soak up the shiny liquid from him. That was a good thing, right?He shook his head and looked around a bit more. It was a long room with big pillars, the red rug and nice pictures on the wall. They showed ladies with bows and swords and daggers, fighting skerry-looking monsters of all kinds. There was one strange lady among them, who wore long robes, had no weapon on her, instead she was holding a nice silver mirror. Maybe she liked to look at her face very much? Quiet turned around, following the pictures, and reared back a little in alarm when he looked behind himself. Behind him was the wall that stopped his rolling, and on it was the largest and skerriest picture of them all: a big ugly red-haired lady with horse legs, pointy ears and four strange arms growing out of her back, was snarling with her sharp teeth, normal arms held high, ready to swat at something. It was a good thing the ugly lady was shown from the side and she wasn’t looking at Quiet, because she was indeed very very skerry. In front of her stood seven strange but strong-looking people, but only one of them looked like the ladies on the other pictures. She had two daggers and she was shouting at the ugly monster lady. There was another lady in red armor who had a long spear, and another in green clothing with a strange stick. The rest were men, one big with heavy armor, another with a bear skin on his back for some reason, then another with a strange club that was shining, and finally a pale man with white hair who wore bones on his clothes for some reason. He was also looking at some skerry skeletons and pointing at the ugly monster lady. Quiet really didn’t like that bone guy, he decided immediately.Were these good people who fought the ugly monster lady? They looked like it, weird as they were. Quiet felt tired anyway, so he sat down onto the red rug leading to the big painting and just looked at it some more. The monster lady looked a bit familiar, but he couldn’t place where he had seen her before. The seven good people looked very angry and brave. Leendonn told him many stories about how he and his friends fought a lot of monsters, some very big and very skerry, and Quiet liked to think Leendonn had looked just like these good people during those fights. And, Quiet hoped that one day he too could be this strong. Leendonn did tell him he still had to grow much, but he could learn a lot once he is older. The little angel wondered that if Inarius was also big and strong, why didn’t he fight bad people and monsters? Or maybe he did, and Quiet just couldn’t remember yet? Inarius had made friends with three monsters, that is true, so maybe he hadn’t liked fighting all that much?But then why was he so mean in that memory those skerry ghosts had shown him long ago?Quiet got the distinct feeling that things were very complicated indeed, and it wouldn’t be a simple answer. Maybe this is what it meant to be an adult. He looked at the picture again. It was a very simple thing: bad people and good people fighting, and good people winning. But if things were really this simple, then Ashava, Adenah and Izba would have been bad as well, surely. Quiet was starting to realize the world was not that two-sided. Maybe Inarius could also be good, but he had made a bad mistake, like Quiet had done in that noble’s home?“No, no you are not bad. You have made a big mistake, yes, but that doesn’t make you bad. I will teach you, and you will know how not to kill and cause grief, and you can be good.”Maybe Inarius just did not have a friend like Leendonn to teach him how to be good after he made that big mistake? That might explain why Inarius was so mean in that memory, when he had been so friendly with the three demons. Leendonn did tell Quiet once that Johhana had been good as well but turned bad.“People change, Quiet. Sometimes for the worst. Angels are very much the same.”Maybe Quiet would have had turned very bad too after that noble’s home, if he hadn’t had Leendonn to help him. The thought filled him with dread but also he appreciated Leendonn even more than ever before. His friend was indeed very smart and very strong! Quiet hugged himself, humming happily.They would meet again soon and Quiet could tell him how much he had learnt!A sensation knocked the little angel out of his daydreaming and it immediately washed away his feeling of tiredness. He felt many many feet hitting the floor and some kind of stairs outside this room, causing waves in it. But he could not sense the people making these waves.Oh that was bad.He stood up, still swaying a bit, but feeling somewhat better and turned to the far end of the room. At the light of fire ball, something came in through a big door. It was a lady, looking a bit like the ones on the pictures on the walls, but there was something very bad with her. She was walking slowly and uncertainly, her hands held a bow but they were hanging limply by her side, and her face… well, half of her face was missing. Quiet froze with fear, he reached out with his mind but could not feel anything coming from her, just a big emptiness. Behind the lady, another similar one walked in, this one had a big hole in her stomach. Then another, then another…Quiet burst out in tears pressed himself against the wall behind him as more and more dead ladies appeared and walked towards him. They wanted to kill him, and he did not know what to do! They shouldn’t have been moving, why were they moving?!Somehow Quiet tore his eyes away from the crowd coming closer to him, and stared at the pictures of these ladies fighting skerry monsters. Behind him the seven heroes did the very same.“Sometimes, you simply need to do dangerous things to reach your goal, or to make the world a better place.”Quiet stared back at the dead ladies who were getting very close now. They were still very skerry, especially the emptiness inside them, and Quiet was still skerred out of his mind. They were going to kill him and he would never see Leendonn again.… He wanted to see Leendonn again!Quiet stomped with one foot. The ground blew up before him, sending the dead ladies flying, smacking into walls and pillars. Those still in the door fell out of the room. The little angel gulped down a big breath of air. These humans weren’t alive. Something was controlling them, the same power he had felt in those ugly skeletons back in Wezztmarch, and it made them move even though they shouldn’t have been moving. That was a mistake, and it was up to Quiet to fix that mistake. He had to find Teeriel and they had to kill these monsters. And Quiet had to see Leendonn again.Steeling his resolve, Quiet called up many red spears around him, just as the ladies began moving again. Most of them got up from the ground and drew their bows at him. Arrows flew at him but Quiet easily turned them back, even though it did not seem to have much effect on the dead ladies. However, while he was occupied with that, another dead human, who flew close to him after the explosion, grabbed his leg. The little angel screamed and stabbed with one of the spears, making her blow up into dust. Another lady shot an arrow at him and he barely had the time to duck away from it. He redirected another volley, but the dead ladies did not even react to the arrows sticking out of them, they were already firing new ones. Quiet whipped his head among the many enemies and dangerous things, quickly losing track. Panic was creeping back inside him as he failed to pay attention to everything. He had to leave, but the stairs were far away and—Stairs?Stairs led to somewhere. Quiet swept across the building as much as he could, and he did indeed sense a floor above them. More than one, in fact.- Open up! – he shouted, frantically pointing at the ceiling.The stones obeyed him and a nice circular hole appeared above him. The ground rose up under him, just as more arrows were shot in his direction. Quiet allowed the fireball to fall straight onto the dead ladies as he flew up, landing hard on the new (still fog-covered) floor. He rolled over his head, senses working overtime from fear. He sensed the footsteps of more empty dead people here, but these were far fewer in number than those under him. With some effort he reached out further, although something was trying to dampen his powers again, and gasped from relief when he sensed Teeriel. He was somewhere above him, not too far away. Maybe he was fighting these dead ladies too.Quiet pointed at the ceiling above him to create another shortcut.A black hand struck out of the darkness, fingers curled around his throat and chest, claws thinking into his back.Quiet screamed but only a chocked croak came out. The hand lifted him from the ground, and it felt like it was sucking the power out of him. Quiet tried struggle, but the sleepiness returned with backup this time, despite the pain from his new injuries.Then the owner of that hand appeared mere centimeters away from Quiet’s face, and the little angel renewed his escape attempts from the terror.It was a horrible man with very white and wrinkled skin, a bit like that bone guy from the picture. His head was bald and had a strange golden band running across his forehead. His eyes were black and empty, the very same kind of emptiness Quiet was feeling in the dead ladies. He wore dark ugly clothes that had metallic things and chains on them. His free hand was before his face, index finger placed on his lips, and he was missing his little finger on that hand. Quiet clawed at the other arm keeping him in the air and stealing his strength away, but he was feeling more and more tired. He tried to call out to Teeriel, but the fingers grew tighter around his body.- Sssssshhh – the man hissed in the dry voice of the fog demon. – This once… Just this once be silent. Go quietly back to the Arch. Leave Sanctuary in peace.Quiet forced some small air into his chest and he tried to punch the horrible man’s white face but he was too far away. His fear was slowly becoming rage at seeing those eyes, although he had no idea where it came from. This monster was stealing his powers and he couldn’t do anything!… Or could he?He didn’t need big power to kill someone, he had learnt that well. Quiet grabbed the fingers around his throat and tried to pull them further apart. In the meantime he focused beyond the horrible man… right behind him, in fact.- Why can’t you just die?! – the man snarled at him, apparently surprised that the little angel was still kicking.Then those empty black eyes opened wide with realization as he saw Quiet was no longer looking at him. He whipped his head around just in time for the small red needle to launch itself at him. Instead of entering his skull and exploding inside, the needle flew straight into his left eye and through the cheekbone. The man screeched in a definitely not-human way, his free hand grabbed his injured face while the other waved Quiet around wildly like a flag. The little angel yanked out his dagger and stabbed it right into the wrist. Through the weapon some of that big boost of power he has always gotten from killing people flowed into him. As the horrible man flung him away, he used that (stolen back) strength to have the ground catch him and set him on his feet gently.From far away, Quiet finally had time to properly look at the situation. There were some torches giving some light in this dark corridor of stone, but there was basically nothing else, but fog, him and the horrible man now doubling over and screaming strange words. No dead ladies or other bad surprises. So Quiet focused back on his opponent and he felt his rage build inside. This had been the mean demon who had been following them, who had been saying very mean things to him in that foggy stone garden and who tried to kill him! And beyond all that, there was something else, a feeling far older and deeper. Hatred and hurt, from both sides that made him up.Quiet wanted to see this man dead.His foe was regaining his footing, he pointed at Quiet and shouted something in that strange language, just as the little angel lunged forward. Quiet ran at the horrible man, jumping in the air and ordering the ground to hit the target as hard as it could. The floor sprouted a pillar that flew straight at the man’s chest, and—Burst into dust just before it could reach its target. In the meantime, an invisible force rammed into Quiet’s chest so hard, he could not even make a single sound as he flew back like an arrow, straight into a wall. He collided with his left side against it, and a loud crunching sound in his arm finally prompted him to scream. He collapsed onto the floor, his arm pulsed with blinding pain, he couldn’t move it, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t move!!- I forgot what pain felt like after all this time – the horrible man rasped from somewhere before him, but Quiet couldn’t lift his head up. – But it looks like you still did not have enough of it.To the deepest pits of Hells with that voice! Regaining some semblance of his composure, Quiet slapped the ground with his still working arm. Tiles lifted up and shot at the enemy who ducked most of them. One hit him in the left elbow, and again, that tile turned into dust. In the meantime, a fresh wave of agony flooded Quiet from an invisible hit on his unmoving arm, making him cry out. A small part of his mind, that was somehow still functional, realized he could not attack this man, or else he would end up killing himself.Run! both sides of him screamed in unison.Quiet ordered the torches around them, but not to target the horrible man specifically. Instead, the flames crisscrossed across the ground and grew very very large, creating a number of walls between Quiet and his foe. The little angel struggled to his feet and what little energy he still had, he used all of it to start running and screaming for Teeriel.oooOOOoooWell, the Sisterhood had been found.And they had, indeed, been turned into undead controlled by someone, just as Tyrael had suspected.The mortal angel dodged and cut another archer in half by the torso, expelling the evil magic with El’druin from their bodies so that they wouldn’t rise up again. Again, he murmured an apology and a farewell to the once no doubt heroic woman. A terrible fate to be so defiled in death. Tyrael ran deeper into the catacombs, desperately looking for the godforsaken stairs in this godforsaken place. He did not encounter many enemies, and he had a terrible suspicion as to where the remaining horde might have been, that is why he ran. In the meantime he tried his damnest not the acknowledge the now all too recognizable injuries on the undead. A blazing flail, a magical hammer, ghostly horse hooves or the spears of an entire phalanx… Everywhere he looked, it just screamed at him.- Find Quiet. Kill the demon – Tyrael panted as he rounded a corner and cut the head off a dagger-wielding zombie in the same go.These two sentences became his mantra in the first two minutes of his entry in the catacombs and it only strengthened from there. If he lost track of these two goals, there was no way he or Quiet would make it out alive. Even though these undead weren’t particularly dangerous, since the controlling power was clearly focused elsewhere, the lower levels were bound to be more and more hellish.- Find Quiet. Kill the demon. Find Quiet. Kill the de—Tyrael stopped. Did he just hear the little angel’s voice faintly from somewhere? There was a dreadful and heavy pause, but then—There it was again! A distant shout. Or maybe a scream.Tyrael launched himself like a madman, dragging his somehow still surviving backpack with himself. Taking another turn he was almost nailed in the face by an arrow that left a nasty gash on his left cheek. He let out an angry whistle at this and with a single jump he closed the couple-meter gap between him and the undead archer, slicing her in half. Either that was a lucky shot, or the power controlling these undead knew he was here. He did not really bother being stealthy, so he had a strong suspicion it was the latter. Which meant things would get worse from here on out.Right on cue, as he ran into a room full of random barrel stacks, hopelessly looking for the stairs, Tyrael found himself surrounded by Rogues. Immediately he jammed El’druin into the ground and created a force field around himself. The undead smashed against the wall, uselessly hacking away at it. Tyrael used this time to assess the situation: there were eight of them, all armed with double daggers, all sporting some kind of horrible injury that unfortunately did not hamper their movements in this state. Outside of the barrels, there was nothing else in the room, only yet another door. Torches lined the walls, inexplicably lit for some reason. Perhaps the master of the undead needed the torches to properly see and navigate. It’s a good thing he had left them for Tyrael now.Deciding on his next step, Tyrael let out a shrill whistle and with it, a shockwave of air and light erupting from his body (huh… he didn’t know he still had that skill). The undead went flying, some of them crashing into empty barrels. Keeping track of everyone’s position, Tyrael quickly swooped forward to the nearest target who got buried in barrel parts. He stabbed through the wreckage, quickly expelling the magic from the corpse, then he yanked El’druin out of there and vaulted over the obstacle. Right where he was standing, a pair of daggers clattered against the floor, just as he expected. The other undead were rising, but only two meant immediate danger, so Tyrael allowed himself to focus entirely on them. He took El’druin in one hand while loosely twisting the free end of his cloak around the other. One of the Rogues jumped on top of the ruined barrel stack and launched herself from there. Tyrael easily side-stepped the attempt, keenly aware of the other advancing foe who went around the obstacle. The mortal angel crouched down and spun around on his heels, using his cloak to knock the daggers of the newly arrived undead aside, and slashed with El’druin in a wide arc, cutting off the jumping one’s arms. He rolled behind the disarmed undead, using her has a meat shield against the renewed wild slashes. The other Rogue skewered her former comrade, both of them sporting that unnervingly blank stare. Tyrael jumped up and stabbed both undead across. He silently thanked these corpses were too old to leave much of a mess. Blood and entrails could be slippery to fight on.That left five enemies to deal with, all of which were running at him now. Tyrael retreated, using the other barrel stacks as defense, especially a strangely large one in the middle of the room. He danced around them, hoping to make at least one Rogue break away from the group so he could pick them off one by one. Unfortunately, the puppet master did not think so, and the undead moved together tightly, relentlessly pursuing the mortal angel. Wiping his brow with his cloak twisted around his hand, Tyrael abruptly switched tactics. He jumped back, well over the huge barrel stack, landing neatly on the other side and sending the entire mound flying with another smaller shockwave from his hand.An opening appeared in the floor before him, wide and deep, equipped with some neat stone stairs leading into darkness. Tyrael stared at the sudden discovery, completely stunned. That almost cost him his life, as he did not realize his tactics did not work. The undead had flattened themselves on the ground against the incoming barrage and now they sprung to their feet. One closed in the gap far too quickly and slashed with her punyal. Only Tyrael’s eons upon eons’ worth of battle reflexes saved him. He struck out with his cloak-covered hand, managing to grab the weapon and yank it out of the cold hands. The clothing provided enough padding that he could hold onto the blade without fear as he ran the Rogue through with El’druin. Flinging the acquired dagger far away, he then had just enough time rear back and slash at another undead who too collapsed.After that he practically had to flee from the three aggressive foes. Their puppet master was clearly running out of patience, and Tyrael… Tyrael was running out of stamina. The last half a year had been spent in peace and rebuilding, and apparently he lost some of his battle prowess. But still, he should not have been this tired! Whatever the reason may have been, he had to finish this quickly or risk being overrun. The puppet master was clearly prepared for his newly found shockwave tricks, he could not use those.Wait, he still had one more trick! Tyrael had no idea what that trick was but he knew he had it.So, naturally, he threw El’druin. And naturally, the three Rogues easily avoided the sword since he had always been a lousy shot, even as a full-fledged Archangel.The weapon clattered against the ground behind the three undead, but quickly stood up perfectly straight on its tip, glowing almost invitingly. The Rogues did not see any of this, however, and they rushed the defenseless Tyrael, their master no doubt believing he has already won. The left most zombie slashed with her dagger in a wide horizontal arc from left to right and—Her weapon sank into the chest of her middle comrade, since there was nothing to stop it in the middle of the arc. Tyrael was suddenly standing behind them a meter or two, grabbing El’druin. He once again jumped forward and slashed off the heads of the two closest to him. The last one, or rather her master had no time to properly react and she too was quickly run through, officially ending the fight.Tyrael yanked his sword out of the abdomen of the limp body and swayed terribly. These last few skills really took a lot out of him. He leaned onto his knees, taking large gulps of air.- Teeriel!The scream came from the opening this time, and it immediately knocked Tyrael out of his slight dizziness.- Right. Find Quiet. Kill the demon – he reminded himself, shaking the sweat out of his eyes and donning his cloak quickly.Steeling his resolve, he rushed down the stairs, fully expecting zombies to guard it. Except all he found were two corpses lying face first on the floor around the steps, with blood red lances sticking out of their backs. Tyrael stopped a few steps before the end, staring incredulously at the sight.- I’m—here! – came a hoarse shout from somewhere further down the corridor.The mortal angel almost laughed out loud in his relief, despite his circumstances. Quiet was dragging himself along, left arm hanging limply by his side, the other holding his black dagger. He had a strange red bandage around his side and his wings quivered constantly. Behind him orange light danced on the wall and the characteristic crackle of fire filled the air.Tyrael jumped there and scooped Quiet up, quickly turning back towards the stairs. In the meantime, he noted the strange puncture-like injuries in Quiet’s back.Something whizzed through the air and the next second his cloak was pinned, just as he sprung across the first few steps. Tyrael smacked into the stairs hard, stars danced before his eyes, his forehead felt like it would split wide open and just eject his entire brain out. Quiet let out a short screech from the collision. With some difficulty, the mortal angel pushed himself up and looked behind him. Spots of light danced madly before his eyes, but he thought he saw a bunch of bone arrows nailing his cape down. With a huge effort he managed to yank the clothing free, leaving most of it behind.- Stay right there, traitor!Oh to the deepest pits of Hells with that voice! Gaining strength from his loathing, Tyrael cuddled Quiet close to his chest while grabbing El’druin tighter with the other. He stood up, almost losing his balance on the stone step.His forehead was definitely bleeding, he noted the warm feeling sourly.From where Quiet and the bone arrows came, a new figure stumbled into view from around the corner, and Tyrael had to double-take, thinking for a second that his eyes were still failing him. Instead of the long reptile-like body of the demon the voice clearly belonged to, at the end of the corridor stood a ridiculously tall and pale as snow man clad in scorched black leather robes, adorned in chains and… very Rathmian-looking metallic symbols for some reason. His little finger was seemingly freshly missing from his left hand, his wrist was stabbed through and his left eye was a bleeding hole. Still, with the remaining completely black right eye, the creature was loudly and clearly communicating the sheer amount of hatred, rage and madness inside.Having no better idea in that moment, Tyrael yanked out one of the bone teeth (that, again, had a Rathmian-looking rune carved in it) and flung it at the advancing foe. Unfortunately the projectile merely grazed the shoulder of the man.… Or it would have grazed it, but the tooth burst into dust just as it made contact with the cloth. Quiet let out a choked cry, prompting Tyrael to look down at him and catch the freshly opening slash wound on the angel’s shoulder.Exactly where the arrow would have hit the man.New shadows appeared on the lit wall besides the tall figure, their owners rapidly approaching. Realizing what was going on, Tyrael took off and ran up the stairs with all his might. Was that… was that the Iron Maiden back there?! The mortal angel stared down on Quiet with shining golden eyes and he saw it – red sparks orbiting slowly around the small battered form, the tell-tale signs of a very necromancer-specific curse. What kind of demon was this creature?!- Cheating bastard! – was all Tyrael could choke out as he climbed the stairs.He couldn’t attack him, not until the Iron Maiden curse was active, otherwise every injury would be inflicted upon Quiet. The only option was to run, but Tyrael had nothing to ensure this demon-man-thing would lose their tracks.They needed a miracle at this point.- Zaim, Sahptev God of Mountains. At your service, Substitute Guardian.Tyrael almost tripped over his own legs at the sudden voice in his head.- My apologies – the newcomer went on calmly.- Are you gods still around?! Could have fooled me! – Tyrael barked angrily, regaining his footing and tearing across the second level of the catacombs.- I am sorry for our absence. To keep it short, our latest… actions caused our bounds to temporarily grow more restrictive. There is little we can do right now.Tyrael climbed out into the jail, gasping for air. As much as the gods’ tendency to drop in on him unannounced frustrated him to no end, right now the surprising calmness and stability of this one deity was actually a welcomed support. He knew he probably had a minute if not less to come up with a plan, before the necromancer-demon thing and his entourage of dead Rogues also made their way up here. First and foremost, he wiped off the blood from his face, and pressed his cloak against the stinging injury on his forehead. His brain was pulsing, and the annoying lights occasionally returned to his vision.He was in no condition to fight anyone, let alone an entire horde.- Alright, Zaim – he panted, collecting his thoughts despite his headache and adjusteing his hold on the barely conscious Quiet. – God of Mountains, you said? Are you good at earthquakes?- My specialty.- Good. I ask you to bring this entire keep down with everything you have got on my mark. Understood?- Substitute Guardian, is that advisable?- Zaim, we have a zombie army and a mad demon armed with Rathmian magic under our feet. I am open for other suggestions! – Tyrael took off again, running back towards the outer cloister’s gate. – Also, I have a name!Finally, he had a plan! Granted, it was a plan his overworked, overstressed and over-shaken brain could not really think through, but he knew deep down it could work! How, he had no idea, he just knew.- Fair enough, Tyrael. I shall prepare – Zaim conceded.The jail’s doors burst open and the necromancer demon stormed out, his form melting into dark mist partially. Behind him a horde of undead Rogues followed at unnatural speed, their flimsy movements now tight and orderly. By that time, however, Tyrael was in the corridor of the outer cloister.- Quiet! Quiet, wake up! – he shook the little angel mid-running.- Huh? – came the barely audible reply.- Can you use your magic?! Wall off the door or—or make the grass grow big to strangle the enemy?!Quiet closed his eyes and grimaced from the no doubt massive pain. Tyrael honestly hated to ask the child for anything right now, but he needed the gain all the time possible for his plan to work. He ran across the garden, in his wake the grass quivered and burst towards the sky. The blades lunged at the just now entering demon and his undead. Their pursuer let out a rage-induced screech, exactly what Tyrael wanted to hear. He entered the welcoming hall, then took a sharp right turn, and bolted up the instant ramp onto the second floor. From a smaller room he quickly ended up out in the open, and onto the outer walls.Here he skidded to a sudden stop and pressed his back against the ramparts, facing the doorless opening he just came from. He gulped down some well-needed air, preparing El’druin, but did not move in any direction. He needed the necromancer demon to believe he was cornered.Speaking of which, with unholy roaring, the monster came thundering from the ground floor and out the door in a half-mist state, before solidifying again right on the doorstep. He no longer had his zombies with him. The aggressive grass was doing a good job down there, then. Tyrael exhaled loudly through his nose, shaking the sweat and blood out of his eyes with a quick flick of his head. He held El’druin firmly before him.- You should have been on my side in this! You know exactly who he is! – the demon howled at him, claws extended fully on his right uninjured hand.- I do not negotiate with monsters – Tyrael breathed.The demon shot another round of bone teeth at him, but Tyrael stabbed El’druin into the floor and deflected them with his force field. He glanced down at Quiet, seeing the red sparks finally extinguishing around him. Tyrael returned his gaze to their foe, just as the monster hurled a wicked ghostly scythe at them. It got deflected as well, but the shield shuddered under the impact.- Why are you protecting him?! He is the Eraser of Sanctuary!- He is Quiet – Tyrael hissed through his teeth, keeping up his magic.- He has gotten to you! Just like he has gotten to everyone else in his cursed life. What did he offer you?! A chance to regain your wings?! He is lying to you, you must know that! Help me protect Sanctuary, Fallen One!- Tyrael, now or never – Zaim chimed in, nonchalant as ever.- You should have never bothered the rest of these warriors, monster! – Tyrael called out. – They deserve a proper burial!He dismissed El’druin and the shield with it. But before the demon could act on that, Tyrael punched the air before him with a defiant war-thrill. A shockwave of air and light erupted from his fingers and swept the enemy back inside the room. Tyrael spun around and heaved himself onto the ramparts.- ZAIM, NOW! – he screamed.Then he jumped.With terrifying force the earth moved, and the keep shook to its core. The walls boomed and thundered like a tortured giant, bringing down the floors and pillars with them. Stones bounced and flew around as if they had no weight, landslides started on the sides of the Spine, animals fled, trees were torn out of the ground. Yet Tyrael felt none of the effects, riding the currents through his jump as he was, evading incoming projectiles tactfully.By the time he landed pretty softly on his feet, skidding a meter or two, the destruction came to an end. The mortal angel allowed a moment to lean on his knee with his free hand and just breathe properly finally.- Thank you, Zaim. I greatly appreciate your aid – he said after catching his breath.- My pleasure. I must say, Tyrael, that was an exceptional gliding you have performed. Take care. Both of yourself and of the Allfather – with that Zaim fell silent, returning to his domain.Oh right, the gliding. Tyrael made a move to wave away the praise. Seriously, everyone could glide—Wait.Glide?!Tyrael whipped his head around. The collapsed remains of the Eastgate Keep vomited a storm of dust clouds onto the sky behind them.A good two hundred meters behind them.Tyrael gawked and nearly dropped the unconscious Quiet.What?!What?!WHAT?!Exhaustion crushing into him out of the blue, mind shutting down, Tyrael turned back towards the road leading slightly uphill, and without a word he stumbled away from the final resting place of the Sisterhood of the Sightless Eye.