“Shan’t be Fooled Again…”

“Do you want to know what will happen after we kill you all?” The Priestess asked.

Ira pressed her lips shut. She traded glances with V’vendy. Together, they crept forward through the fog-filled antechamber, harp and bow at the ready.

 

A shadow loomed from the fog. Ira tensed–

 

–It was Corax, creeping low like a predator in tall grass, the talons on his feet carefully crooked away from the floor. He nodded and fell into formation with Ira and V’vendy.

 

“First,” the Priestess explained, “We’ll sally forth and kill all your servants and subjects. We’ll track down your relatives one by one, until no one is left to remember the House of Ira.”

 

Lady Ira’s teeth ground together faintly. She stayed silent. She placed one foot in front of the other in a waddling motion that reminded her of how ducks walked.

 

“And then we’ll deal with Crimson Girth,” the Priestess continued. “Obviously. We can’t have a group of backwater serfs thumb their nose at the Zealots of Evolution. But execution is a wasteful act, wouldn’t you say? What to do, what to do…”

 

V’vendy closed her eyes and listened to the air flowing through her white-feather hair. She felt the breezes stirred by the Priestess, pacing to and fro, whispering under her breath. She felt the movements of the red-robed priests as they fidgeted in discomfort. She felt Ira and Corax behind her…and nothing else.

 

“Rintha,” she mouthed silently. “Where are you?” V’vendy dismissed the question from her mind and knocked an arrow to her bow.

 

 

“I have it!” The Priestess exclaimed, snapping her fingers. “We’ll perform the Reaving Ritual on them, and make them all Roarers!”

 

Ira tensed.

 

“But none of those country hicks have the mettle to control a Roarer’s power,” the Priestess continued. “Not that young boy and certainly not those chieftains. So we’ll carve their brains out with Leech Knives and make them our puppets!” The Priestess coughed. “Like this fellow next to me!”

 

Ira rose from her knees, fingers moving towards her harp’s final string. V’vendy gripped Ira’s shoulder tightly. Corax met Ira’ eyes and shook his head once. Lady Ira trembled, but sank back down.

 

“They’d make the perfect army, wouldn’t you say?” The Priestess remarked. “With them, we could crush all opposition and steer this world towards the holy goal of evolution!”

 

The fog started to clear. V’vendy could make out a faint outline in the distance that matched the profile of the Priestess. V’vendy breathed in and raised her bow. Ira glanced at V’vendy and readied her harp. Corax adjusted his grip on his sickle-blade.

 

“You may be wondering why I’m telling you all these vital secrets,” the Priestess remarked. “It seems foolish, does it not?”

 

V’vendy drew her arrow back to her ear and fired. It whistled through the air and sank into the Priestess’s silhouette.

 

“However,” the Priestess said, turning to look at V’vendy. Spiderweb cracks spread through the air around the Priestess. V’vendy’s arrow quivered in midair, sunk shaft-deep into a wall of crystalline ice. “It’s not foolish to talk when you’re stalling for time.”

 

V’vendy’s eyes widened. She swept her arm out and blew the fog in front of them free with a gust of wind.

 

[Just have the pillars] surrounded the Priestess, the Red-robed acolytes and their slaved Roarer. Ten large pillars of ice ringed the fortification, reaching up the ceiling, every inch of their length coated with razor-sharp icicles.

 

“Finish them off,” the Priestess sneered from behind the ice wall. Her evolving eye blazed with orange light. She tugged at the enslaved Roarer’s ear, pointing at Ira, V’vendy and Corax. “Squash them like a bug!”

 

The knife in the Roarer’s skull rippled. He moaned, purple mana dripping from his lips and puffing into vapor. The pillars of ice cracked at their foundations and toppled forward with an earsplitting groan.

 

The antechamber’s roof exploded. Granite, oak pillars and flakes of cement rained down on the Zealots of Evolving Evil in an overwhelming flood of sediment.

 

Sunlight pierced through the falling debris, shining light into the dark, hidden temple. Framed by that light, a short, squat figure with a magnificent mustache plummeted towards the Priestess and her retinue.

 

“Surprise!” Uuco the Witness declared as he fell, brandishing his stolen scepter. “Sorry for dropping in!”

 

Ira groaned.

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