Striding up to the nearest of what seemed like a sea of dunes and hills, the party looked around, and found that while they may not have been the only Drow there, they were certainly a rarity and couldn’t escape being stared at. Not in a mood to be objects of curiosity, itching to fight, and boiling over, the party had, as a group, simply decided to take on whatever was in front of them.
Rychard got in the opening shot with a spectacular fireball that engulfed nearly everyone atop the heap in great, leaping flames, and, streaking there with his own hell-born quickness, Rabadash unleashed a furor of curses, opening up a portal so that Hadar could sate his hunger. The surprised and overpowered denizens of the Restless Heaps didn’t put up much of a fight, and the damages to the company of Drow were minimal and hardly memorable. This group, filled with war-weary veterans, fighting an almost ridiculous campaign to save someone who in the end would still be lost to them, was not about to brook some tiny demonoid irritation in their path. The Warden leapt about the battlefield, leaving wrecked bodies in her wake, and the Warlord directed the battle with a furor that bordered on berserk glee.
Surveying the carnage around them with satisfaction, and all the forms they just laid waste, Rabadash couldn’t help but notice something that prickled the back of his mind like pine needles.
“This seems to be an awful lot of demons here,” the warlock commented idly, reaching into his innermost understanding of the arcane for an explanation.
Rychard seem to reach the same conclusion, and pronounced with reasonable certainty: “That’s because the Elemental Chaos is riiiiiiiiiight over there.”
The horror of their reality hit them full force now: they stood on the edge of the unmaking of the world, in several respects. Escape was a fantasy, but they had come too far now anyway to back off and leave Lori to her torment, not to mention that if what Vorkhesis said was true, any information that she gave up to her torturers and would probably result in terrible war and bloodshed, not to mention the part about the possible annihilation of the material world. The group stood in grim silence for a while, until Rabadash shaded his eyes and watched the light that seemed to flicker from mound to mound.
“I think that light that keeps appearing and disappearing is some kind of a gateway or portal.” he observed. “All we can do now is wait.”
Waiting was a torment in itself, as the wails of the tortured accompanied every geyser blast. Krav was the first to crack. “I can’t take this anymore! We have to get them out of there!”
“You’re out of your mind,” countered Rychard. “Who knows how many there are? Who’s going to lead them to safety, you?”
“You bet I am!” Krav snarled.
“And where is safety, exactly? How are you going to get anyone there?” Rychard wanted to know.
Krav paused, but refused to be defeated by something so cold as logic. “Better that they die free and on their feet. I don’t give a damn whether you help. I’m going.”
It was at that moment that a geyser blast erupted a few feet from where they stood, on the next mound over. Rushing toward it, Krav could see that a great cage, filled with what appeared to be apparitions, or perhaps souls, was suspended over a bottomless pit. Rabadash reached toward one. Touching it, he understood the presence of a sort of warding spell that kept the incorporeal prisoners trapped inside, negating their ability to pass through matter—the corporeal prisoners needed no such abjuration.
“Perhaps there’s some sort of release?” asked Kuorlai. Krav poked around with his glaive.
“Maybe here?” It was at just that moment that the butt of his glaive indeed found a release latch…that dropped the bottom out from the cage. Screaming, the living prisoners dropped into the Abyss below, but the ghostly ones seemed simply to fade from existence.
“Damnation!” whispered Krav, horrified at what he had caused, but taking some small comfort in having relieved their suffering. A grimace settling across his face, he set out to find other holding pens, and free their occupants in the same manner—it would be the most merciful thing he could do.
It was as he approached the fourth or fifth cage, and was about to press the lever that he felt a familiar presence, but to his horror, as he started with recognition, his glaive twitched the lever. “No!” he shouted, as a green whip surged past him and screams surrounded him. There, at the end of a tenebrous tentacle, was the one that Krav and Rabadash had died for. As well as one can command a weapon of destruction to act as an implement of rescue, Rabadash tried to haul the immobilized spirit to the surface, Krav and Kuorlai supporting him as best they could. The tendril evaporated, but had moved Loriana’s spirit outside of the cage’s hold, and she floated serenly up and toward them.
“I can’t believe we found you,” whispered Krav. The spirit stared at him in apparent confusion.
“You have the form of an Elf and the soul of a Dragon…what are you?”
The spirit looked distant, as if trying to recall something. “Krav?!”
The warlord nodded. “Rabadash is here too,” he said, pointing.
Her outline wavered. “You came for me.”
“We died for you.” That was Rabadash.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “I have to go now. You do, too.”
That was the last any of them spoke before they were caught in the quake and blast of a geyser, and they plunged eternally down, down, into the Abyss.