Temple of Fire Everlasting: Main Hall
- Oldest temple of Fastheld, seat of the Shadow Patron, center of the Church's activities in the fallen district: many attributes set this magnificient building apart from other temples and churches in the Empire. But it is the architecture that is truly without rival in the realm: high and higher into the sky its three towers reach, representing in white marble the Three Pillars of the Faith: Truth, Honour, Toil. Giant gates, higher than ten men, open into the main hall, a gilded sunburst carved into the aged biinwood.
- The hall itself dwarves the visitor even more than beholding the temple from the outside did. The curve of the ceiling far overhead bears paintings that depict the great Cataclysm, that greatest of all battles between Light and Shadows and their followers. It stretches all the way from entrance to the area at the opposite end of the hall, where the Holiest of Holies lies, the reason for making this temple the goal of pilgrims, and that which gave it the name: the Fire Everlasting.
- From a crack in the white marble floor springs an unending flame, like a fountain of bluish-white fire, shooting up to well over a man's height. For safety as much as artistic reasons it has been surrounded with a wide waist-high ring of marble, polished smooth by centuries of pilgrims running their hands over it as they circled this natural momument to the Light's everlasting vigilance against the Shadow. To save this holy place from corruption was the reason that the Orders fought to the death rather than yield one inch of ground when Old Halo fell.
Zolor Zahir and his contingent materialize in a flash of blue light, assembled around the column of cerulean fire in the middle of the great temple.
The very foundations of Halo begin to ominously shudder.
Zolor Zahir glances down at the rumbling floor. "Haste, my friends, would seem to be in order." With that, he spins, cape swirling, and makes for the temple plaza.
Aiden Zahir blinks, his eyes having to adjust from yet another flashy transport. "Next time, Zolor," he manages to quip in the midst of the excitement, "do you think you could arrange for slightly less garish transportation?" Granted, this flippancy is fleeting, as Halo seems, predictably, to be in its death throes. "On second thought, we can discuss such things later. For now, evacuating these unstable premises might be in order."
Back in the temple, the Left Hand pauses only a second after getting her bearings. This second is used to search out the space where the Light Maiden had stood when the group originally disappeared, and then she leads her Banes for the door.
Halo, Old Capital: Temple Plaza <Shadow District>
- Though the Imperial line has always held the official claims to the Shadow District, it is the Church that has come to rule in the old capital. Blades or Horsemen or the hired guards of noble domains are nowhere to be seen, but the rattle and clinking of chainmail is everywhere: the Shadowscourges protect this domain with the zeal and ardor to be expected of the Church's Fist when put in the homeland of shadows.
- The plaza, though central to Halo now, was once only one in many; a map, masterfully laid out as a mosaic of cobblestones, tells of a peaceful time before the fall, when this was only the southern-most part of a much bigger city. Now it is the only part still standing, and as the largest open area, it has become the heart of the town. Though Imperial rule is nonexistant, that has not stopped valourous merchants from setting up shop here, supplying the town with the goods and services needed to survive.
- It is a cold night. The air is stagnant, not stirring with the slightest breeze. The sky is filled by dark, low clouds.
"Wouldn't that be nice?" Jodfrey asks, laughing delightedly. "No, get some fellow in a frumpy doublet and fancy trimming and he owns the place. That's just how it goes."
Iestyn sits right outside the temple, while Velvela and Jodfrey stand together talking in front of the massed ranks of Scourges and Blades.
Zolor Zahir comes loping out of the temple as the interior starts to explode with crimson flame, just in time to see his horse, Moorshroud, nittering and bouncing about in response to the general unease of the ground. He takes the animal by the reins and then tries to calm the beast while the rise of She Who Protects continues to threaten.
And out come the guardians, with Paelnor out in front. Held in his hands is what looks like two shortswords strapped together, of which he holds awkwardly as he runs to avoid certain death. "Back!" he calls to those assembled on the grounds, as if the fire and shaking isn't enough to convince them.
Aiden Zahir wastes no time in vaulting up onto the back of his frightened Blazer, keeping the horse from bolting ... at least until it's propitious to do so. "She Who Protects has been awakened," he announces to those who may not have picked up on the cathedral collapsing and the world generally shuddering, yet. "And somehow I think, at least part of us," a canny glance at the nearby Light Maiden, "may come to rue the day."
Dradin, not so lucky as to have transport, living or otherwise, dashes across the plaza on foot. "'Scuse us!" he calls as he avoids colliding into Scourges and Blades, moving at full sprint.
Ashlynn is fast on the heels of the last few stumbling out of the condemned temple, a helm tucked awkwardly beneath her arm as she casts a single glance over her shoulder before she wades through the confusion toward Cleo, the mare whinnying and dancing in place, but thus far still following its training to hold obediently to the spot where its reins had been dropped. Soon, those reins are caught up, and the courier leaps fluidly into the saddle.
Toivo dashes awkwardly, the sword in his hands seemingly foreign. "C'mon, c'mon," he shouts towards the amassed soldiers.
She doesn't so much depart the Citadel of Halo as much as render it utterly devastated in her path...
With a sharp crash of splintered wood, shattered stone, and a shower of debris, a violaceous dragoness crashes through the entire front of the Cathedral and onto the plaza beyond; flickers of crimson flame trailing from her vast lavender wings and sinuous tail as she exacts revenge upon the central home of the Church of True Light.
Glass and embers rain down around her, but seem to have little effect as they fall upon the shimmering perfection of her violet scales. Her tail swings around behind her as she spreads her wings, two-toned eyes burning with unbridled determination as the spade of her tail smashes through several support columns, which - in turn - tumble and cause one quarter of the Cathedral to fold in under itself in following.
She glares upwards at the cold night...
"Wh--" Well, that's enough of a report for Jodfrey! "Fall back, but in an orderly fashion!" He bellows over the shaking, almost going hoarse to get the volume needed. "Archers, knock arrows, defend your assigned ray!" Unlike the others, he doesn't flee, can't flee, even though the man regards She with his eyes bulging out at the sight of it.
Four Banes come running out of the building, stopping neatly by the Light Maiden. "Iestyn," the Left Hand calls, clutching a huge instrument in one hand, "we must flee. Velvela, disperse the Scourges throughout-" she begins, but when the dragon comes shattering up through the ground she grabs for the Maiden's arm and physically yanks the woman aside.
From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir flinches at the explosive devastation wrought by Aisha'Taria, and wheels his horse around to break away from the scatter radius of the debris. And when he hears Jodfrey calling for archers to prepare for an assault against the drake, he trots up next to Blazer and says to Aiden, "Might be best if we get as far from those imbeciles as possible."
"Don't shoot, Cap! Don't fsking shoot!" Toivo has the good sense to halt and shout, unable to wave his hands in the air. "DON'T SHOOT!"
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir draws his horse back as the citadel so much explodes in the wake of the Drake. Zolor's suggestion draws a quick nod, and in circling his steed around, the Duke answers his kinsman, "Indeed, if they get the damn foolish notion of angering She Who Protects, there may be nothing of the entire Shadow District left by the time She gets through with them."
Velvela's hand closes on the hilt of her shadowscourge, but she listens, at least, to the Left Hand's cry. "Disperse," she orders the Scourges at full volume, neatly ranked up in gleaming rows, "DON'T attack. Disperse."
Harper joins in on Toivo with expressing his sentiments. "Don't shoot at it, huh? She's out after the Ravager!" That said, he joins in with the withdrawal/full out retreat.
"Be bloody nice if you'd told me that earlier!" Jodfrey hollers back to Tovio, springing back into Waterdeep's saddle and sticking close to Velvela. He glances at her, and then at the Left hand, before issuing more.. Updated orders. "Belay that! Disperse, stay with the scourges!"
From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn wrenches the mare's head around when it panics with Aisha's appearance, keeping the dancing river trotter in a tight circle as she is about to shout the same warning to the guardian before the others beat her to it. Finally giving Cleo free rein, she aims for the palace road.
Well, that's taken care of. Toivo can run again. And run he does. Straight past his Captain and his unit. That man never wants to step foot in the Shadow District /again/.
Iestyn is spurred to action with the Left Hand's touch, and she runs blindly after the other woman in the midst of the three accessory Banes.
Dradin seems to be moving on pure adrenaline as he makes a mad dash toward the temple gates. "Outta the way!" He dodges another group of Blades and leaves the temple, maybe for the last time.
The violet Dragoness snaps her gaze towards the Scourges and Banes as she picks out their armor from within the fleeing crowd. It would seem that she entertains the notion of wholesale slaughter for a moment, tensing as if ready to pounce, yet apparently decides against it at the last moment, unleashing her vengeance instead upon the burning skeleton of the Cathedral behind her.
Out of spite, she whips her tail around again, lashing it through a number of other support beams and then an outer wall, ensuring that *nothing* of the Cathedral survives her wrath, and the flames that her bitter hatred has brought in her wake. Regardless, this is all just merely amusement...
...for she looks back upon the dark heavens once more, and unfolds her wings to their full span, casting a dramatic image in front of the crackling flames of the defiled Citadel of Halo as it burns behind her.
Her ears perk high. "Kas'arath.
Velvela simply stands there, her neck craned back as the Scourges make for the gates of the temple in a shining river. watching not them, but the freed dragoness.
From Waterdeep's saddle, Jodfrey Seamel declares to Velvela, shouting to be heard over the noise, "This is a good time to pull out, I daresay, Sister Mikin. Come on, let's join our command and go." He reaches over from his horse to gesture to the gates.
"Light," Velvela Mikin breathes quietly. "Let her be about her business."
In one swift move, the Dragoness takes flight, and in a heartbeat of flapping wings, vanishes into the shadows of the night...
From Waterdeep's saddle, Jodfrey Seamel pinches at his nose in a pained manner. To those blades still in range, which isn't that many of them, he calls out for return. "Form up on me, we've yet to search the ruins and make certain there's no fires or trapped persons!" He bellows. Jeez, back and forth like a yo-yo.
With a quick salute at Jodfrey, Velvela marches down towards the scourges. "Pass on the word. Disperse, reassemble at the Inn when the skies are clear," she shouts, "ALL SCOURGES, disperse."
From Waterdeep's saddle, "ALL BLADES, cleanup detail!" Jodfrey calls to clarify, saluting in return to Velvela. "Save some tea for us, won't you, Sister? We'll be along when we're finished, though the main force will probably go all the way up to Shadowatch."
Velvela smiles brightly to Jodfrey and then begins the task of catching both her mount and the Light Maiden's own, and leading them off.
The Bladesmen begin the slow, careful process of ensuring no fires spread, tending to the few injured who were hit by debris when the dragoness erupted from the ground.
From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn's lip curls in an undisguised, though silent, snarl at Zolor's cheeky response, and despite Harper's suggestion, she remains firmly in place as she watches the drakes with avid attention, holding her mount firmly in place despite its occasional nervous nicker.
He Who Destroys hisses angrily as She Who Protects vanishes into the night. He arcs around, swooping low, the wind from his wings buffeting those gathered at the temple gates as his shadow engulfs them.
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir hunkers low as the gargantuan shadow of He Who Destroys seems intent upon the group yet gathered outside of the charred ruin's gates, a low murmer heard, perhaps for the first time genuine trepidation in the Spymaster's voice, "Now I know how Gell Mikin must have felt ..."
Above the Shadow District of Fastheld, beyond the reaches of the crimson glow that the burning Citadel of Halo casts into the cold night sky, the dark heavens abruptly erupt in a battle centuries in the making, of a scale unseen in all of the history of the realm.
The real battle begins with booming, gutteral snarls of arcane taunts and draconian banter that seems to smote the hearts of all those who hear it. Vengeful and bitter are those words, dripping with dead and the ominous warning of the conflict to be. The voices of the combatants are discernable all the same; the lighter silky tones of Aisha'Taria contrasting against the forsaken hisses of Kas'arath. The constant beat of leathery wings forms the instrumental background of this aria of conflict, before all hell is unleashed...
The flare of magical attacks and defenses being exchanged illuminate the dark sky, highlighting the ashen scales of the Ravager as he dances a deadly aerial dance with the violet scaled Protector. The clash, claw and talon lashing, one outlooping the other, spirals following in suit, each vying for the higher position while attempting to keep the other one below them. A deadly game of cat and mouse...
...and then they both swoop at each other, biting and clawing, talons raking across the other, the fight taking on a more personal level as arcane magics are forgotten in favor of brute strength. The Ravager breaks free, swoops around, and two collide and, in an entagled mess of tail, wing, and beautiful draconian body, come crashing down to earth with a low-pitched whine of powerful descent and freefall...
"Sweet Light." Jodfrey breathes, Waterdeep rearing against his command at the battle's noises. Barely managing to control his own mount, the Captain gapes up at the falling dragons, then urges his mount into a heady gallop that seems to suit them both. Harper turns about again as the Ravager passes overhead, the guardian inhaling sharply and falling to a dead stop as he watches the entanglement. As they begin falling, he can only begin to break away again, and hope he's not struck by the overly large bodies.
"MOVE!" Toivo shouts at the top of his lungs, dropping the sword in his hand and breaking into nothing short of a panicked sprint. "GET OUT OF THE WAY!"
Dradin walks back up the road, going against the common sense of most sane people, and looks up at the two beasts. "Don' see that ev'ryday," he grunts. "Then again, don' fink anything I seen today is.. seen ev'ryday." He ponders this for a second before scrambling back down the road in reaction to the descent of the dragons.
...and the tangled forms of the two Drakes smash into the still-burning embers of the Citadel of Halo. Embers and debris are thrown into the air, raining rubble, glass, and flame upon all those underneath, sparking smaller fires to take hold on the surrounding buildings...
Aisha'Taria has left. Kas'arath has left.
From Blazer's saddle, Well, if there was anything, however miniscule, left of the Cathedral before, there most certainly isn't now. With Kas'arath now within the chasm beneath, the Spymaster cranes his head again, looking, waiting, expectant for most anything. And ready to turn tail and run at a second's notice.
From Moorshroud's saddle, Zolor Zahir struggles to control his horse as the beast rears upon the impact of the colossal drakes slamming into the wreckage of Halo. At first, he pulls the reins so Moorshroud points away from the devastation. But then he knits his brow, tugs again, and brings the animal around so he can trot cautiously toward the ruins.
From Cleo's saddle, The terrible fight above seems to leech the remaining fear from Ashlynn and replace it with simple, dazed acceptance of the events they have unleashed. After only a reflexive yank upon the reins in anticipation of the river trotter's attempt to break free of her control yet again, she turns an almost calm gaze upon the point of impact after the initial wince away from the crash, too overwhelmed to display anything more as she waits for the victor to be revealed.
Harper turns about again, as the conflict appears to be over, frowning and moving back to intercept Toivo. He says something quietly to the man, restraining him.
Dradin seems divided as to whether he should stay or he should go. He lingers around to see if anything else comes of the conflict, but is poised to break off into another run.
Zolor Zahir rides Moorshroud off toward Halo, Old Capital: Temple Plaza. Aiden Zahir rides Blazer off toward Halo, Old Capital: Temple Plaza. Dradin has left.
Toivo pauses and blinks at the other Guardian. "Alright, alright," he tells the man, turning on his heel to grab the sword. That done, he gives a look to Harper as if to say.. "Better?"
Harper nods his head slightly, before looking back to the ruins. "What in the light are they doing?" he mutters, shaking his head ...before being very stupid and moving slowly after them.
Zolor Zahir eases his horse through a shower of falling embers, negotiating a path through piles of debris and flaming ruins of tapestries from the shattered cathedral. Slowly, slowly, the horse grows closer to the jagged edge of the chasm formed by the impact of the creatures crashing into the ground. Thick twists of black smoke coil toward the roiling sky.
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir rides his steed in tandem with Zolor, proceeding at an inexorably slow pace, attention fast upon the wreck of a citadel, searching for the slightest sign of movement.
Dradin stays further back, but tries to crane his neck to get a better view.
Harper is with Dradin, staying back, and holding that double bladed weapon in his hands. He leans forward to take in the scene.
From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn's jaw tightens as the Zahirs ride off, and not to be outdone, she gamely knees her trembling mount in the same direction.
Zolor Zahir stares into the brilliant chaos of ruination, the gaping monument to destruction that has supplanted the majesty of the old church, and his eyes reflect the smoldering wreckage before he turns toward Aiden and says, "I suppose that problem solved itself."
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir remains on edge, seemingly not quite so convinced. "It's too much to hope for that they'd have finished each other off," he opines, looking warily at what may, Light hoping, prove a monumental burial mound. "That would be entirely too easy."
Dradin idly kicks a rock as he peers anxiously at the chasm.
Harper shakes his head as he looks about warily to the burning heap of what was once the Cathedral.
The ruins of Halo continue the burn. The flames seem to want to offer no answer other than the crackle of burning timber...
From Cleo's saddle, "And the emperor must still be found," Ashlynn interjects coolly, watching the crater of destruction with nearly single-minded focus, kneeing her mount cautiously to the side as she tries to gain a vantage point that would reveal more of what lies within its center.
Zolor Zahir grunts, tucking the medallion back under his doublet collar as he maneuvers Moorshroud around so he can face the courier. "Mistress Birch, it pains me to think I might be the first person to break this to you, but ... alive or not, the Emperor has gone beyond the Aegis. By definition, he is now Shadow-Touched. If he tries to return, he will be treated no better than a Wildling. Start getting used to his absence. Assuming he's an intelligent man, he won't bother trying to come home, if he's even capable of doing so."
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir, with a sigh, turns Blazer from smoldering folly, the talk of the Emperor turning a disappointed frown into something of a Cheshire grin. "Which means we must do what we can to pave the way for the succession. Ah, Zolor, if the Council meetings leading up to this occasion were heated, I anticipate they will pale in comparison to those sparked over the subject of regency."
Two cloaked figures on horseback pick their way through the ruins. "Stop Oldman," a female voice states as they come across the scene ahead of them. Ester halts her mount and stands up in the saddle to peer ahead. The other figure obliges with a grunt and reins his horse to a stop. He looks as well then turns to her and mumbles, "Whadda yah think?"
From Cleo's saddle, A flicker of disgust struggles to emerge before Ashlynn suggests innocently, her eyes remaining upon the site of the drakes' impact in her futile search, "And you teleported half a score of people, M'lord. Does that not show you are tainted as well? Please explain further to this poor, innocent courier." At Aiden's comments, her eyes flick once toward the noble before returning to the flaming ruins. "There should be no 'discussions' over the regency, should there be, M'lord Aiden Zahir? Lord Oren Nillu is to be the regent by law."
The Light Infantryman apparently grows brave enough to move forward a little, still looking to the chasm cautiously. The ongoing argument doesn't get much of his attention, however.
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir lifts a brow in incredulous response to Ashlynn's political commentary, "Were these normal times, I should agree with you, my dear. They are not, however, and however much we may defend the good Lord Chancellor, and I -do-, there are those who would stop at nothing to see him ejected from office. This realm cannot suffer such a disruption, least of all without an Emperor to guide it. Even as Regent, even for all of his considerable talents, Lord Oren will be a middling substitute for His Belated Majesty."
Zolor Zahir sighs, shaking his head in mild amusement at Ashlynn's assertions. "The medallion belonged to an ancestor of mine. When in contact with Seraphite ... or the fiery gas created by superheated Seraphite ... the medallion is capable of certain remarkable powers. But all this talk of Shadow and Light is all rather academic, really. After all, Shadow magic and Sunkissed alike held that dragon in her prison. Shadow magic and Sunkissed alike *freed* her. So, stow your recriminations and save them for someone who might be the least flustered by them. I, for one, just find it pathetic. You miss your Emperor. Huzzah for you. I didn't take him over that wall. Don't treat me like I did."
Dradin rests his hand on the crystal dirk at his side, still looking toward the crater.
"Is that your friend?" the man asks Ester and gestures towards the courier and the noblemen. Ester has already nudged her horse forward. "Think so...stay here," she states bluntly. The horse starts picking its way towards the crater. She pushes back her hood as she draws near. Her companion nods and goes back to surveying the destruction.
From Cleo's saddle, "If so, perhaps you should not act so eager to keep him on the other side, then. Someone is liable to mistake your good intentions, M'lord," Ashlynn notes flatly to the elder Zahir before she glances narrowly toward Aiden and concedes with a nod and an ironic twist of her mouth, "No, these are indeed not normal times."
From Blazer's saddle, Aiden Zahir spurs his horse round, and begins back downward towards the gate. "As enjoyable as it is bandying words, duties call, and someone must lodge an official report at the palace. Light keep you both," he bids Zolor and Ashlynn with an enigmatic wink before beginning his descent.
From within the crimson flames that engulf the Citadel of Halo, a lone claw reaches out from the epicenter of the deep chasm that the two falling Drakes forged when they collided from the ground. It rakes deeply into the earth beneath it, obsidian talons holding tight as a second claw, complete with forearm, reaches from the shadows beyond...
"I never said I *wanted* him stuck on the other side," Zolor replies with a furrowed brow, scowling at Ashlynn. "I simply recommended that you get used to the possibility that the man's not coming back. Sorry if that upset you unduly." Still, a faint smile quirks his mouth.
Harper pauses midstep and squints forward to the chasm. Did he see something moving? The light of the burning cathedral aids in pushing away the darkness, but at the same time the smoke and dust in the air doesn't help much.
From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn's eyes narrow as she prepares a repartee to the remaining Zahir before the scrape of talon on rubble whips her attention back to the crater, shifting easily with her mare's nervous skip sideways. She squints, trying to make out the hue of the arm that has emerged.
"Shades," Dradin whispers as the talons appear, and he takes a few steps back, getting ready to run if necessary.
Intrepid snorts nervously and Ester immediately pulls back on the reigns and stops him. Her brow furrows as she peers through the dust and flickering light at the emerging appendage. "Easy now boy..." she murmurs to the animal as she herself tenses, readying herself. She speaks up, directing her comment in the direction of the courier, "Watch yourself Ash."
The owner of those claws and talons begins to emerge from the wide ravine that now exists where the internal rooms of Halo used to be. A wedge-shaped head is pulled free of the chasm, fan-shaped ears folded back against the creatures head as it heaves its curvaceous leviathanical bulk from the depths of the underdark.
Folded wings slip out of the hole next, followed by powerful hind legs and claws, the Drake's protracted tail snaking its way out in the creature's wake. It is feminine, without a doubt, yet the scales of this Drake are neither ashen nor violet, but a sapphire that glimmers and shines as beautifully as any gemstone, each one bathed in a dull incandescent glow.
It seems to have the same general shape and features that Aisha'Taria had, yet there's something slightly more sinister about her, as if she was also forged of elements of the Ravager. Slightly more power. The color is, of course, also wrong, and those eyes... orbs of violet and cobalt. She unfurls her wings, spreading them to a span greater than either of the two Drakes that came before her, and the flames of the burning wreckage of Halo seem to merely dissipate with every measured step she takes. Those eyes again look upon the gathered crowd; a snarl encompasses her features, fades, and becomes a mere look of apathy.
"The Instrumentalist has risen." she announces, her voice a mixture of compassionate silk and malevolent hiss.
"This Kingdom SHALL fall."
Powerful wings crack, and with the portrait of the burning Citadel behind her sapphire form, she takes flight into the darkness of the cold night sky...
From Cleo's saddle, Ashlynn's head whips toward the huntmistress, her expression startled, before a choked and stilted laugh emerges. "Well meaning, but too late!" she returns with a mirthless grin before it quickly fades. "What are you doing here, Ester? You shouldn't - " Her words and thoughts are lost to the violent emergence of the changed drake, Cleo finally uncomplaining, frozen into immobility, as is its rider. The courier's eyes follow the creature up into the sky, and only then can she finally murmur hopelessly, "No..."
Zolor Zahir frowns as he watches the ascent and listens to the proclamation of the newly forged drake. "All kingdoms fall. Eventually." He coughs. Might be the smoke. He eases the reins of his horse so that Moorshroud turns back toward the rended chasm in the earth that once was a cathedral. "But not today." Without another word, he turns the horse away from the devastation and gallops away.
Harper blinks as the creature lifts into the air and flies off, apparently not fully comprehending what just happened. "Instrumentalist?" he mutters, off after its departure.
Dradin stares as the dragon climbs upward. "...shades...” he repeats, and turns to set off down Palace Road at a jogging pace.
Ester's mouth drops open as she stares wide-eyed at the creature. Hands grip the reigns as she echoes the courier's statement emitting just a strangled. "Light no....no..."
Return to Season 3 (2005)