Chapter 8: The Queen & Her Keeper

Screeching and dying, the horde was alight with white flames. The group assembled themselves around Adalos and prepared for battle. This time they would prevail. They wasted no more time, in less than a blink of an eye they were upon the skeletons. The unfortunate undead didn’t know what hit them, all six of them like a plague upon their numbers. They fell like great trees in a forest fire and they were their doom. Six seasoned warriors working as a unit spelled death faster than Marie could, it was amazing. Something she hadn’t experienced in a long time.

What had seemed a insurmountable enemy before paled to the united forces strength. Marie dispatched on to her left while Haro covered her right, Adalos and Jim stood side by side landing blow after blow. The tide began to ebb. With a flick of her wrists, Marie called down one last flash of white fire. Most of the skeletons fell into heaps of ashes while the few remaining were quickly dispatched by Chrom and Diarus.

Only the Queen remained. Her bow trained on Katymar’s heart. The half orc didn’t seem phased by her enemy, especially now that back up had arrived. Katymar brushed herself off, her own bow ready to fire. The standoff was cut short by Bender’s bellow and charge. His newly unwrapped great axe sang as wind whistled off it. If Marie had any praise for Bender (and she had very little thus far), it was that he truly was a fearsome opponent.

The Queen, finally realizing her position, made her way to the golden door. With ease she clambered up the side and glared down at the party.

“Coward!” Bender sneered.

She laughed darkly, “I’m no fool.”

“We’ll just go up after her then,” Haro says, she begins to scuttle up the wall.

“I’d wait on that,” Diarus insisted, helping Haro down, “we can just bring her down to us.” He touched the gold which began to glow brightly as it warmed making its way up to the Queen. She spat angrily and howled as she let go, making her way to the floor. Immediately she was surrounded, but she was not an enemy to be trifled with. Her lithe body dodged blow easily, snaking her arms careful to catch her prey unaware.

Marie and Haro fought side by side, their weapons moving in sync to confuse her. Katymar stood back firing arrow after arrow with the precision of a master huntsman. Bender, the least restrained, slammed his axe into her side while Diarus tangled her feet by creating vine that encircled them. Chrom stuck her with his staff causing her to fall backward. She screeched and hissed as they closed in.

“I’m disappointed,” the shadowy being returned, “you’re weak.” His smoke like hand jutted out from the red portal, moving slowly downward and batting them away. He picked up the still furious Queen and pulled her through. “Another time, love,” his voice hissed through the now empty room as the portal shut.

Katymar

“What the hell is this?” Katymar was adamant, “Who the hell is that?” she gestured to Marie with her bow.

“Good to see you’re still alive and kicking,” Adalos said amiably.

“That doesn’t answer any of my questions,” Katymar said.

“I’m Marie,” she said.

“Not an answer,” the half orc repeated, “Will anyone just tell me where we are?”

“The first temple of Tebris,” the Golden Frog appeared.

“Are we going to have to fight you again?” Haro groaned.

“No, Katymar has proved herself worthy,” the frog said, “before you are three doors. What lies behind each of them, I do not know. They were left here by Tebris himself with great importance to them.”

“Let’s see what’s behind door number one,” Bender made his way the obsidian door. Instinctively Marie readied her weapon, she didn’t like the feeling she got from the door. It swung open and her worst fears were confirmed. Something on her back shifted and it burned as it flew from her pack into the room. It was the black orb she’d found earlier.

“I’d been looking for this,” a harsh voice said. Yellow cat eyes flickered high above them  grinning cruelly.

“Nix,” gasped Marie and Adalos in unison. Marie in fear, Adalos in anger.

“You’ve all been so helpful,” he sneered, crushing the orb and lapping up the black slime the poured out of it. Adalos and Bender charged.

“Don’t!” screamed Marie, trying to hold Adalos back. It was too late. Bender and Adalos were easily brush aside. They both hit the far wall with a sickening thud.

“What a surprise,” Nix focused his attention on Marie briefly, “I thought you’d gone into hiding.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” Marie tried to convince herself more than him.

“You will be,” he hissed, “fortunately for you, I have better things to be doing with my time right now.”

Black smoke filled the room and then he was gone. In his place an old man stood, one Marie suddenly recognized. He walked out of the obsidian room and over to Haro, “That was not good at all,” he sighed, “you shouldn’t have opened that door.”

“You’re the Onlooker?” Haro seemed to remember a strange dream.

“I am,” he replied. He walked over to where Jim was fussing over Adalos and Bender who were unconscious and unmoving. “They’ll be fine,” he assured him, “you should all rest for a while. There is still so much ahead.”

“Right,” Chrom said, beginning to unpack his sleeping roll, “I do not know this man, nor where he came from. I do know that we’re all tired and I’m afraid we’ve done something terrible. Let’s get some rest so maybe we can think clearly tomorrow.”

“I have no issue with that,” Katymar added, rolling out her own sleeping arrangement.

“I’ll take first watch,” Marie said, more interested in talking to this strange Onlooker person than sleep. Jim cautiously watched over Bende rand Adalos, making sure they were comfortable while everyone else settled in for a brief rest.

“You’re going to have to do better than this,” the Onlooker mumbled, he shook his head wearily. “You have no idea how much of this depends on you to think. You know more than the rest the danger you’re soon to face.”

“I don’t understand,” Marie said.

“You’re quest and theirs is more entwined than you know,” he replied, “you’d best take care of them.”

“Take care of them?” Marie wrinkled he nose in annoyance.

“You’re clearly the most aware and if anything happens to them I will hold you accountable,” he said simply.

The onlooker
The Onlooker, Level 20 Sassmaster

“Why me, I’m really not cut out for this? I don’t think I’ll even be with them much longer, I’m just going to talk to Tebris and be on my way,” Marie answered.

“You once had a more true sense of duty,” the Onlooker says, “I leave them in your care.”

With that, he disappeared leaving Marie confused, upset, and more than a bit angry.

 

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