Ira, V’vendy, Rintha and Corax reeled back as molten rock and burning blood splashed over them.
The Priestess took advantage of this distraction. She strode up to the altar with the sleeping Roarer. She drove her sacrificial dagger right into his skull.
The Roarer’s back arched in a moment of searing agony. Then he collapsed, limp, motionless and absent. Gleaming purple Mana oozed from where the dagger had pierced his skull.
“No!” Ira shouted, untying and casting aside her burning cloak.
From the shadows, Rintha ground his teeth together. The crack on his clay face spread a little. “Alas,” he whispered, so quietly even he couldn’t hear.
Roots sprouted from the gnarly wooden hilt of the sacrificial dagger. Wiggling like worms, they burrowed into the Roarer’s temples, pulsing and rippling as they drank up his Mana like water. Thin purple lines traced themselves along the dagger hilt, standing out like veins.
The Priestess sighed in relief. “It worked!” She breathed. “It worked this time!”
“What have you done, you monster!” Ira shouted.
The Priestess turned to look at Ira, keeping her right eye closed. “Many things, “ she replied. “I’ve done many important and marvelous things that will change the shape of the cosmos…. but since I’m in no mood to give an elaborate lecture for your benefit, I’ll say just this:”
The Priestess curled her fingers inward, beckoning the Roarer. The Roarer sat up on the altar, eyes blank and empty.
“I’ve domesticated Roarers,” the Priestess announced smugly.
She pointed a finger at Lady Ira. The Roarer turned to face Ira.
“Destroy that sniveling Noble!” The Priestess spat. “Kill her with Frost!”
The sun burned overhead. Mirages shimmered across the roads and rooftops of Baruck. Laborers lay sprawled around the glassy crater in the Infinite Temple’s eastern side, waiting for the noon heat to pass so they could resume clearing debris. They sunned themselves with straw hats, sipping from water skins.
One of the laborers, a shaggy-haired Nobble, sat and glowered, occasionally casting a resentful glare at one of the passing Temple priests.
“One of these days,” he muttered. “One of these days…” He sighed and rested a hand on one of his pickaxes. “But when?”
Uuco the Witness appeared before the young Nobble in a flash of blue lightning. “You!” He exclaimed, smoke rising from his frazzled hair. “The agitator! My dear boy, you’re exactly what I need!”
“What?” The Nobble stammered, trying to process what was going on.
“No time to explain!” Uuco grabbed the young Nobble by the tunic collar. Lightning engulfed them. Both Nobble vanished and reappeared a few levels up on the Infinite temple, on a platform rimmed by Bull statues.
“What is this!” The young Nobble wailed, his own hair standing on end.
“Listen!” Uuco shouted, tapping his foot on the clay bricks. “I need you and your friends to make this floor cave in!”
“What?” The young Nobble repeated. “Why?”
Uuco groaned and stroked his mustache. “The folks that blew up the Temple?” He explained. “The sots that hurt plenty of your friends? They’re right below, worming their way under the Temple foundations like termites.”
Uuco fixed his fellow Nobble with a glare. “Now are you gonna let them skedaddle around without payback? Or was your pretty speech about justice just words?”
The young Nobble stared into Uuco’s wide, passionate eyes, examining them closely. He concluded that this person was very untrustworthy…but also not a liar
“Okay,” The young Nobble said, nodding. “I’ll gather my work gang.”
“Good boy!” Uuco cheered, patting the clay tablet strapped to his back. “I’ll be sure to tell your story in my chronicle!”
He turned to go. He turned back and frowned. “One more thing.” He gestured towards the young Nobble’s face. “That needs work. You can’t call that a mustache!”
The Roarer swung its legs off the altar and stood up. The dagger buried in his skull wriggled in a nauseating fashion.
“Quicker!” The Priestess shouted, stamping one foot on the ground. “Hurry and freeze the aristocrat to death!”
The Roarer did not raise his hands, chant words of power or even twitch. His mouth fell open slackly. Purple Mana ran down his chin, splattering across his chest like a baby’ sick.
“Blight this,” Corax cursed, firing a searing beam from his mouth at the undead Roarer.
The Roarer vomited more Mana onto the floor. Curdling and churning and foaming, the Mana rose up like a cresting ocean wave. The Mana crystalized into clear ice, forming a wall that Corax’s mouth beam struck. Steam fountained upward, creating a fog that obscured the location of friend and foe.
Mana kept flowing from the Roarer’s mouth, forming itself into pillars of ice that rose and toppled foreward onto Lady Ira.
Ira plucked a ringing note on her harp. A shockwave burst from her instrument, shattering the falling pillars and sending sharp shards of ice raining everywhere.
Another string flared and snapped on Ira’s harp. “Hidden Gods damn this day,” Ira muttered, taking a step back. She glanced to the side as a familiar face loomed out of the fog. “V’vendy?” she whispered. “Are you alright?”
V’vendy got to her feet, wincing as her blistered skin chaffed against her clothes. “I can fight,” she mumbled from between chapped lips.
Ira reached for the last unbroken string on her house. “I can heal you–“ she started to say.
V’vendy shook her head violently. “Save it…for something big,” she wheezed, drawing three arrows from her quiver and holding them between her fingers.
A fiery beam pierced through the cloud of mist, sweeping left to right. V’vendy and Ira ducked down, letting the beam pass over their heads. Heated rock dribbled down the wall where the beam had swept. Ice shards crunched under their knees.
The Priestess’s voice rang out through the cloud of steam:
“Do you want to know what will happen after we kill you all?”