That first night we camped beside the ruins of an old Raven Queen temple. The giant ravens perched in the crumbling towers while the rest of us made camp below. We didn’t even bother with small talk, our groups kept to themselves. I drifted off to sleep, dreading the tower to come, but I didn’t think about possible dangers along the way until it woke us up.
“Bobert, go home!” Erdan called out to someone that looked exactly like him, albeit in armor.
I groggily got to my feet, noting the others in Ornamental Chaos were up and tense with anticipation.
“I’m here on behalf of my patron, Erevan Ilesere. You can’t stop me brother,” the fellow called Bobert proclaimed. He pointed over toward our group.
Ilesere. The fey deity of tricks?
I could hear Maziel nocking an arrow. With her chin, she gestured toward the ruins where I could see figures stalking behind trees.
There was an uneasy standstill.
“Is this guy going to be a problem?” I called out to Erdan, tiredly.
Erdan opened his mouth to speak, but Bobert touched a tree and disappeared within. He reappeared in front of me. In one motion, he drew his sword and sliced across my stomach. Needless to say, no one hesitated.
While Ornamental Chaos busied themselves with the archers in hiding, Maziel and Klotonk were upon Bobert in seconds as I stumbled back, trying to catch my bearings.
“Stay away from my ward!” Maziel yelled, sending an arrow into Bobert’s chest.
Klo animated several small stones and pelted the elven knight.
I clutched at my wound, channeling healing magic and trusting my friends to handle the rest.
Bobert, thoroughly bruised and bleeding, moved toward me again.
Really, though, why do I make random strangers mad?
Bobert lunged at me, but another arrow staggered him, buying me time to duck out of the way. The elf knight raised his sword again, but a volley of stones smashed into his skull. I cringed as Bobert’s body dropped.
“No!” Erevan called out, running toward his brother. “I could have reasoned with him. Klotonk how could you?”
The gnome looked from Erdan to me, helpless. He had saved my life by killing another.
Maziel kneeled beside me. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll live. Thanks,” I said, pointing toward the archers the others marched toward us.
Maziel’s features darkened. “What’s the meaning of this?!” She roared at the captives.
One of the archers hesitated, looked at Bobert’s body, then cleared his throat. “O-on behalf of Erevan Ilesere, you’ve been intervening with the plans of gods, jeopardizing the fey...”
Maziel grabbed the elf by the collar. “Your god, the god trickery, claims Titania’s Knights of the Green Court are jeopardizing the fey. The very ones who killed Orcus.”
The archer hesitated, furrowing his brows at the statement.
“Exactly. You better rethink your god, who by the way is aligned with Graz’zt.” Maziel pushed him away. “C’mon, we’re leaving.”
Erdan and some of the others from Ornamental Chaos didn’t budge.
“I’m taking my brother back to Glimmer,” Erdan said solemnly. “I have to try to bring him back...”
Maziel sighed. “Fine, go. Who’s coming with us to the tower?”
Dmitri and Xillali stepped forward.
Begrudgingly, the rest of us parted ways.
Orcus’ tower loomed in the distance as our giant raven glided over a forest I could have sworn wasn’t there the last time we visited this place. Dmitri had turned into a blue dragon, his true form, and flew beside us. I had to repeatedly remind myself he was on our side.
The raven dropped us in the tower's courtyard, a mist clinging to the ground. The giant creature cawed loudly then took off.
Guess we’ll find another way back.
“These trees were conjured here,” Xillali whispered, as we all instinctively clustered together, each facing a different side.
Harthoon had to know we were here, but a different voice called out to us from the forest.
“Hello, my pretties. Harthoon says it’s time for you to die!” rang the familiar voice of Ildigrith, the dracolich that had destroyed part of Illium.
Taelim! my dragon-hungry sword shouted in my mind.
I know! I turned toward the forest and grinned. “Fight me, coward!”
The dracolich tittered, and heavy footfalls echoed toward us from the forest’s edge.
A balor, wreathed in fire and bearing a huge sword that crackled with electricity, stepped into view. It was flanked by two other demons with bat-like wings. A deep laughed echoed from the balor’s throat. “No, girl, you’ve slain my brothers. You fight me!”
The balor charged, and the other demons followed. Ildigrith erupted from the forest canopy, but Dmitri was ready, and the two dragons wrapped themselves up in a battle of claws and wings.
I had just enough time to turn into a Brass Dragon as the balor raised its gigantic sword and swung at me, its mane of fire licking at my scales. The others busied themselves with the demons nearby.
For every slash and bite, the balor matched my blows with a shocking swipe of his sword. Each tore through my hide, and my body begged me to drop the dragon form. I could hear Feeps in the background, inspiring us, a wave of his magic pushing us on. I matched the balor’s roar, and we continued to battle.
A horn blew in the distance, and I vaguely recalled the undead armory that should have been patrolling nearby. They found us, and soon we were surrounded. A terrifying roar from Dmitri managed to keep them to forest, but they continued to pelt us with arrows from afar.
By now, I was having a difficult enough time standing on my own, and a heaving balor grinned madly back at me. Maziel’s arrow took it in the eye, and I used the opportunity to rip open new wounds. Another volley of arrows sunk into its skull, and suddenly the flames on the balor’s body were sucked within. Its eyes glowed brightly, and it opened its mouth as flames spewed out. It exploded, knocking me back and leaving a crater where it stood.
“I’ve got you, Klotonk,” I could hear Odison say through the ringing in my ears.
“Come back here!” Dmitri roared, and I knew Ildigrith had fled once more.
That turned out to be a blessing. Now back as a half-elf, I clambered to my feet just in time to watch new opponents step out from the tower.
Maziel whipped around in time to see Harthoon, the Wand of Orcus in hand, flanked by the undead figures that were Maziel’s mother and two sisters. Time seemed to stop.
“So, do we kill dem?” Dmitri asked tentatively, looking to Maziel.
I could see Maziel’s entire body go rigid with rage. “Hell yes we kill them. All of them!”
Two undead centaurs galloped out of the tower, and Xillali and Dmitri immediately rushed to meet them head on. I hesitated, as did the rest of us, and Harthoon used that opportunity to point the wand at Maziel and fire a dark energy into her chest.
Maziel screamed as her armor practically melted off her frame. Fear coursed through me at the thought of losing this fight, of losing my friends. I quickly gestured my spell’s requirements, pointing the healing surge at Maziel. The effect was immediate, and the drow got to her feet with a determined grin.
Harthoon whipped his head in my direction. He trotted forward, ignoring Maziel who was battling her deceased relatives. He moved beside Klotonk, who had busied himself keeping the army at bay. With a wave of his wand, the gnome popped out of existence. Harthoon moved on, ignoring Dmitri who had torn a centuar to shreds and enveloped Maziel’s mother in lighting.
I turned into a mammoth and charged, goring the lich with my tusks.
Harthoon cocked his head down at the wound. He waved his wand once more, mumbling: “Help me! We made a deal!” to no one in particular. A ball of black energy was summoned into existence, and it exploded in a wave of necromantic energy that left us writhing.
I dropped my form and slowly got back up, managing to conjure a storm overhead. I sent bolts of lighting into Maziel’s family, and then Hartoon. The lich narrowed his eyes, annoyed.
As Harthoon loomed over me, I waited for that familiar word, the one that would snuff my life out in an instant. Instead, a bony figure finger reached out and touched my forehead. Pain washed over me, dropping me to my knees. Then images flooded my vision: I was standing in my father’s tower, staring at the Glaistig who approached his throne. I watched, frozen in horror, as she ended his life, his head rolling along the ground.
I screamed, clutching my head. Harthoon laughed maniacally, until an arrow erupted from his throat. He ripped it out, choking, but another arrow took its place, then another, and another. Harthoon spun toward Maziel.
The drow calmly raised her bow and fired into Harthoon’s skull. The light in the lich’s eyes died, and he disintegrated into a pile of ash, leaving only a gauntlet and the wand behind. With a pop, Klotonk appeared nearby, looking about wildly and braced for battle.
The army stopped attacking, and as quickly as that, they turned and fled into the forest.
Maziel’s remaining sister closed her eyes and smiled. “We’re free.” Her body turned to dust in the wind.
Maziel dropped, turning away from all of us, her shoulders heaving. With an effort, I got to my feet and approached her. I wrapped my arm around her sobbing form.
“My family's final passing, freed from everlasting torment…” she choked.
I said nothing and just held her while the others tended to wounds.
Eventually, Maziel collected herself, wiping her face before turning to face me. “I am happy to have dealt the death blow, but I almost wish you got to do it.”
I leaned into her. “Nah, who better than my second mom?” I shrugged. “You've always looked out for me. Thanks for saving my life. Also, don’t tell Lysandra."
Maziel returned a genuinely warm smile, and together we moved toward the others.
“Let’s get the hell out of here please.”