Insanity’s End: The Seekers

September 13, 2007

Aubrick’s response came so fast it seemed he must have been in motion even before the enemies boiled out of the walls – but as they came forth, there he was guarding Stanley Miller. His blade moved like silver lightning, striking down the enemies that threated their savior – but there seemed no end to the foe’s numbers, and their hideous shrieking was echoing in his head like a thousand tiny daggers.

“To the dome!” cried Tailos, dropping his now-useless cloaking spell and unleashing blasts of flame and cold that seared the creatures to blackened husks, or left them as ice-shrouded statues. But many of the creatures had shells that resisted the fire and ice, or moved with a slithering grace that carried them untouched through the spells he wove. His eyes were growing wide with panic – he knew that more than they alone could hear the shrieking, and he felt a powerful and dreadful mind focusing its attention upon them, and it took all his will to stay sane under the burden of that consciousness.

Their cover was broken, their minds were straining, their defenses were on the verge of being overwhelmed… and the god within Rowen cut loose with the fullness of its power.

A howling wind burst forth from the god – an implacable force that swept outward, scattering their foes like insects in a gale. It left the heroes themselves untouched, but even the strongest of their enemies was caught in its grip, torn from the alien floor beneath them, and hurled away in a great circle to shatter against walls and crumple as they struck the distant ground.

For all its might, though, more enemies were already bursting out of the ground, and out of tunnels that threaded through the labyrinthine streets of the city. The gale had bought them only a a single moment of time – but a moment was enough. Rowen called the air back to them, and it lifted them up, whisking them safely through the sky and past the gibbering hordes below – and setting them down atop the dome, where only a handful of the winged spawn could strike at them.

Tailos tried to muster within himself what reserves of power he yet retained, even as he snarled, “Quickly, make an entrance. Now!”

Aubrick shook his head to try and clear his eyes of sweat and the monstrous ichor that had splattered upon him – failing, he simply reversed his grip upon his sword, lifted it up… and then drove the point down, the enchanted blade piercing the dome and sending a spiderweb of cracks echoing outward. He slammed a foot down upon the weakened crust – and beneath him, the dome shattered, sending him falling through to the cavernous womb below.

Tailos sent out a sparkling web of fine dust into the air around them – as the spawn flew into it, their limbs froze up, and they went crashing down to the earth below. More soared past, however, and he threw bolts of energy at them, one after another. Glancing behind him, he saw Rowen standing beside the hole – but she was still, and bore a dazed expression of confusion upon her face.

“Go!” he cried, and the word seemed to rouse her – glancing at him, and frowning, the god slipped through the hole and floated down into the room below.

Room was a poor word to use – den of evil might more accurately describe the aura that pervaded the space. It wasn’t evil, however – not truly. Merely unnatural, alien. Anethema to the proper inhabitants of this world.

The inside of the dome was covered in what at first might appear an astonishingly accurate rendiction of the night sky, complete with countless stars shining like pinpoints of light. But they were no stars ever seen upon this world – and they shimmered and moved, as though alive with their own will and desire.

The floor was rough, and vibrated ever so slowly, like skin layered over a massive, beating heart. Pores were punctured in it, every dozen feet, and some viscous slime welled up from them, bubbling and filling the air with a heavy acidic stench that burned the nose and eyes.

And in the heart of the room, the Ancient Beast itself. It filled up the space in a way that hurt to look upon it, as though it took up more dimensions than the eye could see. A writhing tendril trailed away from it to a swirling portal, an abomination of an umbilical cord that brought it fresh energy and succor to heal its wounds.

Aubrick was already on the ground screaming, his blade lying useless several feet away, and the god within Rowen could feel itself becoming the full focus of the beast’s attention. God or not, Rowen was driven to the ground, struggling to keep mind intact, trying to even understand what it was looking upon.

A thousand maws and a heavy, twice-lidded eye. A body like a man grown old and hunched, with a dozen arms that themselves had a dozen tentacles flexing and waving like half-grown fingers. Spikes and thorns poked through its skin and then withdrew, leaving wounds that balefully glared for a moment, or smiled with the glint of teeth, and then healed over into jagged scabs. More eyes opened in the malformed face, pulsing out a wave of hatred with a monstrous, unstoppable will. All this, and more besides – Rowen’s perception of it was the barest edge of its reality, the merest figment of what it truly was.

Hideous. Alien. Indescribable.

Until Stanley Miller dropped through the dome and landed, with a cat’s grace, upon the floor.

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