Shaking Down Shadows
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Ten years ago – Somewhere in Aztlan
Divillian rested between the roots of a young Kapok tree, using his greatcoat as groundcover. There wasn’t much risk of being spotted by security forces and the beasts in this area wouldn’t need to see him to find him. His eyes closed and in his mind he took a step back from reality. The forest exploded into his view, burning vibrantly with life and mana. It took him a bit longer then normal to collect his astral form, but as he released himself into the manasphere he relaxed.
How you doing D? Nathan’s thoughts streamed into Divillian’s mind. When this job is done, we should both spend some time studying the mana here, its so different than at home. Divillian responded. He focused his attention on exploring the woods looking for traces of the Shadow that indicated the painful disruption of mana. It only took moments to find the trail snaking it’s way along a fey line towards a village nearby. He took care to hide his astral form amongst the astral constructs darting through the forest and followed the trail to it’s source.
The short temple was frighteningly devoid of a form on the astral plane, as if all the mana had been drained away leaving a hole in space. Divillian took a moment to note the position of the temple relative to his resting body and approached the building hesitantly. A sensation of panic trickled down his spine and he turned in time to see something… It’s many limbs pressed into the astral space, prying it open for it’s massive eye to peer through at him. Divillian immediately returned to his body and yelled out.
Nathan was there and grabbed Divillian’s chest, keeping him from running into the forest in a panic. “Hey Div, you’re alright!” he shouted at him while Divillian struggled against his orc hands. Recognition came across Divillian’s face and he settled down. “There’s something really terrible in there. We HAVE to succeed at disrupting its presence. This is much bigger than some disruptive cult in Aztlan.” Nathan helped Divillian to his feet and handed him his coat off the ground. They climbed out of the roots and rejoined the rest of the team.
Torg looked at Divillian with his golden Troll eyes, “You look a little paler than usual bud, how you doin?” “I’ll be fine. I found the place. This… is going to be a particularly awful Torg. We might not make it.” Torg simply smiled. Alex stopped preparing poisons for his throwing knives and looked at the team, “We leaving?”
It took the group another two hours to reach the temple grounds. Torg used the scope on his sniper rifle to point out the some of the cult security patrolling the area and when the signal was given dropped them all in seconds. The team crossed the open common area in front of the entrance, stopping to take a look at the grounds. “Confirmed, they were eating people. Azzies weren’t lying” Torg pointed out the blood and viscera covered feasting table near the temple doors. He put the sniper rifle back in the sling on his back and pulled out his AK-97, popping in hollow point rounds. “Let’s move forward.” They hit the temple doors hard and after the smoke cleared, Torg counted. “Nine down, three more unaccounted. Doesn’t look like big bad was in the room.”
Alex noticed the door behind the large unusual statue of some fat beast with the head of a toad and the body of a fat gorilla. Human hearts had been stuffed into its open mouth. “That’s fragged… “ he choked out as Torg pushed the heavy door open. The smell of dust and blood drifted up the stairs. “It’s now or never..” He dropped a pair of flashbangs down the steps and the team stepped back until Torg flashed the signal. A couple of loud pops and the team descended down the stairs. Alex’s machine pistols quickly ended the guards at the base of the stairs and in the room. The priest, a desiccated body wrapped like a mummy in loose snakeskin, stood from the table and hissed violently at the team.
Divillian pulled out his silver sword foci, its orichalem runes glowing with sunlight, and uttered an ancient elvish challenge to the creature in the priest’s body. Torg’s AK released a stream of lead at the priest, but the bullets just danced away from his body. The spirit raised his hands, glowing with shadow, and threw the stone altar at Alex who danced away from it, moving across the room with blinding speed. He plunged his poisoned dagger into the body of the priest and the injection system released the acidic compounds. Nathan brought his hands up and released a pair of powerful fireballs, shaping them into an implosion around the priest’s body which was now burning. As the flames and chemicals mixed, a powerful explosion ripped the priest apart. “Are we good?” Nathan asked. Divillian allowed his mind to peer into the astral.
“No.” the jelly mass of the creature hovered in astral space, it’s tendrils latching onto the bodies of the dead cultists. Behind it, space seemed to open and the creature Divillian had seen before pressed into the room, it’s many chitinous limbs reaching towards the team. “Uhh, D. What in the fuck is that?” Torg asked alarmed. Divillian returned to the physical and saw the creature as clearly as he did on the astral. “That shouldn’t be..” Nathan released a blast of lightning, as powerful as he could manifest, and it burned into the creature. In response the creature’s tendrils cut through his skin like soy paper and ripped it away from his body. He collapsed screaming. A blind madness overtook Divillian and he began to laugh. He leapt into the astral and hacked away and the shedim’s astral form, using his rage to empower his blows and force it back to the metaplanes.
Torg was grabbed by the creature’s plated tentacles but Alex was able to cut through enough of them for him to break free. Divillian realized, there was no way they could defeat this thing without some kind of help. Divillian wrapped his mana into a form and attempted to give the form life when something went terribly wrong. The waves of twisted mana coming from the creature distorted the form which fell into Nathan’s lifeless body and began to draw the energy away from the fresh corpse. A ridiculous chittering could be heard as the bloody form of Nathan manifested in the room, skinless and mad with pain. No… Divillian returned to his body and stared at the blood spirit in front of him. No… Tears came to his eyes. Nathan’s bloody form grabbed the sides of his head and screamed radiating overwhelming hate and pain. Immense, uncontrollable fear overcame Divillian and he ran.
Divillian sprinted from the temple into the woods until his senses returned. He tried running back to the temple, however, once he broke from the woods, Torg’s “Plan B”, a bundle of C4 contained in his cyber torso, brought the temple down. Divillian collapsed to the ground weeping. His friends were gone, he had failed them spectacularly.
The grunts from Aztech showed up quickly, they had to have been waiting nearby. “Is it done?” they asked him. “Yes. Take me home.”
Present Day – Tir Tairngire
Kyle Bladesong, Divillian’s Path mentor seemed apprehensive about his student’s decision to return to Seattle. “Are you sure you’re ready? The pain might seem dull but it’s there and it will be a threat to you and those around you until you’ve gotten it under control. I haven’t even seen you practice your astral defences in years. You’ve undoubtedly lost some skill.”
“I believe so. I no longer blame myself for the events that occurred. It was a mistake to try and summon a spirit in those conditions but I wasn’t thinking clearly and the spirit that arrived was out of my control. The horror would have killed all of us regardless. Besides, I’ve used up every dollar I’ve had in this therapy and if we’re going to continue I’m going to need to put some money back in my account.”
“I see” Kyle stood and picked the datapad off his obsidian topped desk. His fingers played with the interface, finding the thumb-box to mark. “I’ll release you. Watch yourself and if you need any help just get a hold of me.” He bowed slightly in respect and tradition while Divillian stood there, unable to speak. He decided to take the pad and leave before Kyle could change his mind. “Thank you Kyle, I’ll let you know how things go.” Divillian took the pad and slipped it into a pocket on the inside of his coat. “I’ll be back soon, we’ll have a glass of Alamestra to celebrate.” Kyle simply smiled, “See you soon D.”
Divillian left the Temple and collected what he could from his apartment, throwing the rest into long-term storage under Kyle’s supervision. He climbed on his rock-hunting scooter and hit the highway for Seattle. On the way, he sent a simple message to a pair of friends he hadn’t talked to since before the incident.. “I’m back”