Escape from the Strix
Confronted with an almost unending swarm of Strix, Rajah and Sabriel fell back to join Sei in Lord Helling’s private study. Rajah realised that the most logical reason for Lord Helling to have chosen a seemingly dead end part of the ancient catacombs for his hidden, private study was likely due to the fact it had a secret passage – something that was no uncommon for ruins such as these.
While Rajah and Sabriel set about looking for the entrance to the passage, Sei threw her explosive compound through the stone door, slamming it shut and tripping a bookcase in front of it to secure it as the flames engulfed the hall in a blazing inferno. Unfortunately, Sei did not account for the compound’s instability, and soon the entire structure started to shake and collapse as the alchemical mixture underwent a chain reaction.
As the catacombs fell around them, the trio raced through the tunnels towards the surface, eventually bursting out into the evening air with nought but a few scratches and bruises. As Helling Estate collapsed into a sinkhole behind them, the group recovered their senses just in time to be confronted by the local guard.
As the guards moved to arrest them, Sabriel ordered them to stand down, explaining that Lord Helling and his household staff had become infected with the Strix Plague by the estate manager, Baxton Gresh – the guards should have been thanking them for what they did, not throwing them in jail.
Baird, who had just flown onto the scene, was likewise surprised to hear the news that the Plague was in the city.
As the guards started towards the ruins to see the situation for themselves, the ground began to shake, and the sky darkened. The evening twilight was quickly swallowed up by menacing clouds as near pitch black darkness enveloped the city. High above them, the clouds slowly started to gather into a massive vortex above the temple district of the city.
Elsewhere, Baird sensed that this was somehow connected to Aurora’s spiritual essence and quickly flew to her rescue as the others followed.
As the group raced through the streets towards the temple district, they passed several instances of the Rothgar guard engaged in fierce fighting against demonic-looking spirits. The vortex had somehow caused a convergence between the physical world and a distant, twisted part of the spirit world, allowing the spirits to manifest freely. Rajah sensed that the spirits were all too familiar to the entity that he harboured inside him.
When they reached the Temple District, they found the usual flat, paved plaza in ruins. In the centre, a large pillar had erupted from the ground and was now floating in the air and surrounded by a red, menacing energy. Suspended in the air alongside it Aurora was wracked with painful spasms as the pillar pulled forth her life force.
A black-armoured figure stood before the scene, arms folded behind his back, observing it as an artist would admire a finished piece of art. Nearby Raph Spiritbane lay pinned beneath several layers of rubble. His expression was one more of angered frustration than pain.
Looking at the pillar, Sei realised that, if it was what she thought it was, the only way to stop it was to either kill Aurora or have someone else of significant spiritual power (i.e. Baird) take her place and similarly perish. The alternative was to see the ritual complete, which Rajah insisted wasn’t going to happen.
Unwilling to see Baird sacrifice himself, Sabriel ordered the others to distract the armoured man while she drew her blade and steeled herself to do the only other option – end the life of an innocent child. The others tried to say something, but she cut them off – in the end, Aurora was just one life compared to thousands, and if she had to die, it would be by Sabriel’s blade and no other, she could not order another to undertake such an act.
What followed was a vicious combat between a demon lord and the mercenaries, before Sabriel finally threw her blade, charged with lightning, through Aurora’s heart. The spiritual shock wave from the ritual’s abrupt end exploded out from the pillar, engulfing all those present in blinding white light…