Arnie, Tifa, Max and Arabella raced after the creature…straight into the rift. Only Max, Tifa and I seemed to hesitate at all at that border…go figure. As we touched the rift, time and space seemed to waver and the next thing I knew we were in some kind of room…
After an awkward bit of diplomacy with the lich – for that sure is what he looked like to me – it became pretty clear that he was insane. The whole room appeared to be the inside of some kind of huge machine, though it’s purpose was unknowable. I’m not sure which of them annoyed the lich first, but it probably didn’t really matter. Any one of them would have eventually. At any rate, squads of what seemed to be clockwork kobolds were closing in on us now while others kept Arnie and Tifa away from their master. I hissed a warning to Arabella – she’d better get us out of here or be ready to engage in combat. Arabella grinned grimly at me and I tightened my grip on her arm. I felt her take a breath, step back and fling a couple of spells. Rocks and dirt fell from the ceiling, burying several kobolds. I saw Max pull out his mace and gather himself to join Arnie in the fight. As he did so, he suddenly froze, his eyes widening in surprise. “Uh oh”, I thought. “Something’s up.”
Arabella began to concentrate again, beginning the motions to cast another spell, when…“HEY!” I yelled. Something inside my head snapped. I tried to scream, but all that came out was a long hiss. She was gone…well, I could still feel her arm, coiled around it as I was, but in my head…nothing. For the first time in a long time, I was alone.
Arabella gasped. The tiny, cold knot of calculating calmness that was Nicholas was gone from her mind. She looked down at the snake coiled around her arm and hissing loudly. No feeling…nothing. She ducked quickly as several mechanical kobolds tried to take her head off. Have to deal with that later…for now…
She tried again to start her spell. Something was wrong. There was magic there, but not the magic she knew. Somehow it was different. She hesitated, confused. Then Arnie took another brutal hit from a swarm of half-mechanized dog creatures. Crap. He wouldn’t be able to take much more of that. She looked for Max, time for him to get to work. She found him standing to the side, staring at his mace like he’d never seen it before…more so than usual anyway. He looked as confused as she felt. They locked gazes across the battlefield and a sudden understanding dawned on them simultaneously.
Tifa shrieked as another swarm of kobolds overwhelmed her best efforts to fend them off.
“Frack, Frack, Frack.” Arabella cursed under her breath. “I’m not losing any more of these morons…especially not one of the little ones.” As she concentrated on this she heard the roar of a huge dragon and magic power poured out from her – a nimbus of platinum light exploding from her in all directions. Tifa and Arnie were caught in its blast and gasped as it reinvigorated them, closing their wounds. OK…not really sure what the hell that was, she thought, but I can roll with it. She shouted at Max as she ran towards him. “Give me the mace! And the shield!”
Max didn’t hesitate, tossing her the weapon and quickly turning to unbuckle the dwarven-made shield from his arm. The mace fell neatly into Arabella’s hand. It felt right. She had a thought, and pulled something from her handy haversack as she waited for Max to free his arm from the loosened shield straps. “Here, take these”, she said, handing him her scroll cases. “I bet they’ll come in handy…”
Slipping her arm into the shield’s leather straps, the hefted the mace and started towards the thick of the fight. After less than a step, the mace in her hand became a dead weight, nearly causing her to drop it. Feelings of doubt washed over her, coupled with visions of a huge platinum dragon roaring a challenge at her. Uh oh…her mind raced. Seems like this thing has a bit of a mind of its own. It must want assurances. She really didn’t have time for a theological discussion right now. Luckily, she knew a thing or two about dealing with this. Concentrating, she sent her strongest assurance to the weapon…“Yes…Bahamut is my lord…now lets protect our friends!”
It worked and she nearly stumbled as the mace leapt forward dragging her towards Arnie and Tifa….
Minutes later, she and Arnie and Tifa and Max (who’d demonstrated some new magical abilities of his own, even though hampered by his chainmail) stood in the midst of the dead clockwork kobolds and watched the lich’s spirit drain away through cracks in the room’s floor. The evil creature was vanquished for now, thanks largely to Arnie and Tifa, both of whom had nearly died several times. Arabella was still a little amazed at the power she’d been able to channel during the fight. More than once she’d reached out to heal Arnie so that he could continue pummeling his way through their foes. Thanks to the mace, she’d even made him immune to the lichs’ fire shield spell ensuring that he did not incinerate himself beating the lich into submission. Max seemed equally amazed – his spell casting having taken on quite a different cast itself.
“We need to get back”, Arabella reminded them once they’d all caught their breath. “The others cannot hold the right on their own. We need to help protect it.” Fiddling with the controls on the lich’s machine, Arabella, figured out how to re-tune it so that they could return to the dungeons under Moonsong. She wasn’t sure that things would ever be the same again. The sad, blank look from NIcholas, still gamely wrapped around her arm, bore witness to that. But, they were still needed. Arnie, TIfa and Max gathered close. Arabella gripped the mace tightly, took a deep breath and activated the machine…