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Like a Bat out of Hell (part 3)

January 10, 2014

“She did what!?”

The Worshipful and Revered Brightsong, High Priest of Selune, Master Illusionist, Master Harper and many more titles to boot, was normally seen as a cherubic and kindly gnome whose affability was only barely exceeded by his vast power. At this moment, he did not look it and the teenage human shrank back despite being nearly a foot and a half taller than the diminutive high priest. “It wasn’t my fault!”

“Then whose was it?” The gnome growled dangerously. The boy’s mouth worked feebly and the gnome sighed in exasperation. “That doesn’t matter. What happened? Tell me again and use short words!”

Jimmy looked at him hopelessly and began to repeat the story. He only hoped that his mother would rescue him but judging by the set of her lips, she was more likely to suggest some horrendous punishment to the priest.

***

“So, we are agreed then? You will renounce Selune and be my warlock but in exchange I will help you leave here and not require any specific service from you although I am free to watch and come to you with later proposals?”

“No way! I never said I’d renounce my goddess.”

“But darling girl, of course you have to if you want to be my warlock. I can’t share you know.”

“No, you never said that.”

“Oh very well.” The devil said with annoyance. “No conversion necessary. But you must agree never to be anyone else’s warlock then!”

“Ok.” The young gnome said bravely. It wasn’t that she wanted to do this. But she did not really see any choice and she had already agreed that it was better than the alternatives.

***

“Lady, I have failed you and your chosen one. I pray for your forgiveness and the light of your knowledge. What has become of her and how may I recall her to us.”

As his divinations proceeded, Brightsong’s face went whiter than his hair.

***

The devil’s eyes flashed with cruel fire and suddenly the young gnome felt those flames catch her soul and brand it forever. It was not precisely agony, more a deep knowledge of spiritual degradation that was in its own way worse.

The gnome clung to the caveats that she had made, the hope that she would survive, the desperate prayer to her goddess for forgiveness but somehow she knew that it would not be enough, that she had made an irreversible step towards darkness that she would never be able to renege on without greater penalty.

Even as she struggled to recover her mental balance, the image of the devil tormenting her disappeared again and the hellcat that had been slinking around in fear of his presence leapt.

This time, however, the cat faced, not a wizard’s apprentice with no spells but a fully pledged and packed warlock who met the hellspawn’s charge with a scream of frustration and a dark bolt of dark fire, seemingly drawn from shadow as much as fire. The hellcat screamed and ran, its tail smouldering, pursued by more of the hellish blasts as the gnome poured her rage and hatred out at it.

Once it was out of sight, the young and pretty gnome looked at her hands, devoid of any trace of the energy they had just channeled and wept bitter tears.

****

It is not easy fora priest of a goddess of light and goodness to contact the lower planes. Not that Brightsong was using clerical magic. Instead, he was weaving arcane ritual magic and hoping it would not go wrong.

It wasn’t that he was a poor ritualist. In fact he was probably a more powerful wizard than he was a cleric. But he specialised in illusions and devils, unfortunately, were notoriously hard to fool with these.

So conjuration it was. Lady Selune had blessed him with every protective spell he had asked for and these warded him now, shimmering fields of glowing moonlight that would protect him from every energy and attacking spell he could think of.

Still, he feared what he was about to do. For the one that he proposed to summon was as much a God as his own lady was and that was not something any sane person would do.

****

“So, you seem better prepared to face the world now.”

The gnome looked up from her spot blackened hands and scowled.

“You promised to let me out.”

“No, my dear girl, I promised to help you.” He purred. “And I shall. There is an exit from here that will take you straight back to that dreary little plane you call home. It is about a hundred miles north of here. You cannot miss it, it lies in a ruined fort where the archdevil Senuchs lives.” He smiled with cruel mirth. “There, isn’t that helpful.”

Even as the gnome opened her lips to retort, arcane chains of bright blue limned in silver moonlight enveloped the gloating devil. His eyes opened wide but before he could say anything, the bonds flashed and he and they were gone.

The Gnome looked at the space wide-eyed. Then silver tones rang in her head, “Quickly child. You must get to the portal before Brightsong loses control of him.”

“Lady?” She gasped.

“Yes but hurry. I cannot do much to assist you here without causing all kinds of trouble. Enhancing slightly the gifts you already have for the duration is about it. Run, child.”

Run she did, not thinking of the hundred miles that she had to cover, just responding to the urgency in the Goddess’ voice. So focused was she that she barely noticed when the change came upon her and her limbs lengthened into a half-elven form, lithe, dexterous and enduring.

Still it was not exactly something she could completely ignore, but despite her urgent questions there was no further answer from Selune.

***

Brightsong was faltering. Sweat ran down his balding forehead and beaded in his beard, which was no longer well-groomed. He had blinded himself, deafened himself, distracted himself in every way he could imagine but the temptation to pay attention to the god in the summoning circle was overwhelming.

He knew it would be a mistake, that the only thing allowing him to maintain the spells he had woven was his refusal to acknowledge what he had done.

The trouble was, it was like not thinking of pink elephants. Not concentrating on something was something, not noticing it was harder.

Still, he was a master illusionist and a high priest of Selune and he would not fail her. From somewhere the venerable gnome found a reserve of strength. He might not succeed but he would hold to the promise he had made his Lady and do his best to give his poor, misplaced apprentice the chance to escape.

He only hoped it would be enough.

****

She was still a half-elven ranger, running flat out through the sulfurous fumes of hell when she saw them, terrifying demons floating on bat-like wings through the turbulent skies.

Instinctively she crouched down and tried to hide, skills at stealth she had never before had coming to the forefront of her mind. In the shelter of a sharp-edged stone pillar, she cowered, fearing to move and wishing she had a weapon.

“You must move, child.”

She shook in miserable terror. “But, they will see me.”

“Trust in yourself. You have the capacity to do this.”

The half-elf shivered and moved; slowly, tentatively, stealthily. Sheltering in shadows and fogs, she slipped onwards but to no avail. One of the imps saw her and swooped with a scream of glee.

She ducked, grabbing a sharp stone and throwing it hard and accurately at the base of the imp’s spine. It equalled and fell but there were more of them coming and stones would not be enough. She wished for a bow and vowed never to fail to have one by her again.

Then she cursed to herself, how could she have forgotten the pact she had sworn. She concentrated on summoning the hellish energy se had wielded so devastatingly before. It was not there. She could not feel the pact that had seared its mark so conclusively on her soul.

“Silly child,” spoke the voice, breaking into her amazement, “it was a different you that swore that oath.”

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