I was awoken a few hours later
Siegfried entered the room along with one of the battlemages who was was watching me closely for even the slightest movement from me. I sat up slowly, my shoulders were aching from the position I had been laying in. Then Cliu entered the room, quite a bit shorter than Siegfried with full plate engraved with the Pendragon crest. With all the gilding there was little question of who he was.
They just stared at me for a moment before Siegfried told him I was the captured tiefling.
Cliu asked me for my name and I told him “Beleneth” he turned to Siegfried and then told him I was a Delenian spy before asking what I was doing in his lands. Before I could answer I saw and felt a familiar spell as a zone of truth settled on me.
Before I could speak he held up his hand and told me that he knew I was a spellcaster and understood this spell and that he wasn’t going to put up that, he expected direct answers
“My first answer is I am not a spy”
He responded with saying that I was Delenian so I was a spy even if I did not call it that. It seemed that he had already made up his mind about what I was despite my saying bluntly that I wasn’t while in a zone of truth.
I showed the fragment of the flame of war and demanded to know how I came to possess it. I tried to tell him About Luci, about Almoria and how the flame was lost and found but he did not care for it. He didn’t say it but it was quite clear he was accusing me of theft since it was owned by the pendragons. At this accusation I tried to protest but it seemed that he did not care about why. He wasn’t open to listening to me even knowing I was forced to speak the truth. He cared not for how we carried the flame of war.
He demanded to know who were my companions and this I would not answer, I would never betray my friends. I may have made mistakes in my life but this was not one I would make. They had accepted me and cared for me despite my problems. I could see he only wished to capture them and question them as well. I would not betray them to this man. Again he demanded answers forcefully and I refused to answer. He turned from me and said “very well” as the guards closed in on me.
The only thing I could think to say was “This is gonna hurt” before the guards proceeded to start beating me. I remember vomiting after the second gut punch, the sticks kept hitting me in the body and head. I tried to twist away but they were all around me. I fell out of the chair and caught a boot that split my lip. It didn’t stop until I blacked out.
It hurt so much. I don’t know how I kept my mind intact. I was stretched across the top of a table with my arms bound above my head. At first they just beat me. Striking my body with reeds before they switched to the iron rod. Quick blows to my sides and I felt the crunch of my bones. They cracked my ribs, every breath came with ragged pain. They demanded to know who my companions were. I just shook my head. I was struck again and again, each blow raised a sickenly dark bruise on my body. My legs were almost completely covered by the bruises. I felt them put a block under my foot. I didn’t realize what they were doing until my foot was shattered. Spasms of pain rocked me. Every time they moved my foot It felt like it was being ripped off. Another blow, another crunch as my ankle followed. I lost control of my bladder and fouled myself in my agony. I blacked out.
I just as suddenly awoke again. They had healed me to bring me back, thrown cold water on me to clean away the smell, I could only sob in terror. They kept asking me over and over again, “who are your companions? Where are they?” I don’t know how I refused to answer. My head was strapped down. I don’t remember clearly but I think I was striking my head against the table in my pain.
The interrogator grabbed my broken foot and twisted it. I screamed again and vomited what little was still in my stomach. He pulled out a set of pliers. Such a cruel instrument. My fingernails were ripped out, He used them to bite and twist my flesh, my breasts were damaged horribly. Every time I blacked out I awoke again with healing magic fading.
What cruel gods would allow this to continue?
All this time Siegfried stood there dispassionately watching me suffer.
They took a break, food was brought to me. Siegfried told me I was brave but I should just tell them to end it. They were just going to kill me when I was no use to them. Better I suffer than they capture the others. I’m paying to price for my shame, my lies, my corruption. Better I die than my friends.
A mage came into the room. I had seen him before, with Cliu. He did something subtle, for a moment I was thinking he was friendly but then I remembered who he was with. I glared at him. I saw him cast a spell on me. I hardened my mind, pushed back, I saw him push it through but my dark power rose in response. He was rather perturbed and cast something else at me but again I resisted his influence to control or read me. He shrugged to Siegfried and left the room.
I slumped in exhaustion. I was so tired, everything hurt. I would never walk again with the damage done to my body. Even if they let me live it would be as a cripple.
I was told they would begin again soon. I sobbed and immediately tried to use my magic, not to save myself but to end it. I tried to knock myself out, to kill myself with my own spells. I felt the magic snatched away by the battle mage guarding me. I tried again but this time they took my hand and with a sharp motion twisted my fingers back until they snapped like twigs. I cried shamelessly in pain and frustration.
Again they asked me questions, again I somehow refused them. I to not know how. I was on the edge of breaking, I knew I could not do this anymore, I just wanted it to end.
They suddenly stopped and left. I don’t know why or on what signal.
Several guards entered and they undid my bindings. They seized my arms and forced me to my knees. I watched as Siegfried drew his sword and told me that he was giving me a moment to make my last prayers. I felt the cold tip of his sword at the top of my spine. I was so very scared.
I babbled, hoping for a reaction, he just said “curious last words” before he thrust.
The pain was mercifully brief. Like cold ice, sharp and swift but then my vision grew dim and faded and pain seemed to fade away with the light. It took but a few seconds.
My next sight was of the stars. I could look all around me and all I could see was an infinite void filled with stars. I couldn’t see or feel my own body. I somehow realized it was gone. I didn’t feel anymore pain, I didn’t feel hot or cold, I felt relief, it was all over. A growing sense of awe was starting to flow into me. Looking at the stars and realizing just how tiny I was. I wasn’t afraid though. The idea seemed alien in that moment. Feelings I had before of shame or anger were gone, it was peaceful. It was out of my hands and I had done my part so I surrendered myself to the gods.
The moments were timeless, There was nothing to judge, I may have been there a second or a thousand years, I could not tell, I just hung there amongst the stars.
Suddenly I saw a single eye among the stars looking at me. I couldn’t tell how far away it was or if it had always been there, I don’t think it was but I do not truly know. I looked at it for a time, then it drew closer, or maybe I was pulled towards it, with no sensation of the air on my skin and no point of reference either way might have happened.
I was before the eye, I couldn’t see anything else, no features, nothing. I felt tiny again, but not in a bad way, I wasn’t afraid of what was before me.
I heard a voice, the first sound I had heard in this place, it was soft, melodious and warm. “My child, what exactly, why are you here? This is not how we are supposed to meet”
I found I could speak, my voice was quiet and timid “I wouldn’t betray my friends”
The voice continued “As brave as you were I hope you will get the chance to tell them face to face.”
I could only react in shock, “but… but I’m dead.”
“No, no you are not”
“I… felt it”
It couldn’t see it but it felt like she was smiling as again she said “no, you are not”
Suddenly my eyes opened and I took a gasp of air. I was looking at the sky with long, tall grass waving over my head. I slowly lifted my head and looked down to see my body once more, completely naked and unharmed. I held my hand before my face and flexed my fingers that an eternity ago had been sickenly twisted and broken to prevent me from using my magic against myself. I couldn’t see a mark on it and my fingers felt just fine.
I sat up, covering my nakedness as best I could, and looked over the tall grass to see I was in a field near a forest, Nothing stood out as a place to go so I sat down to think for a moment. I began checking my body over, I bore none of the injuries I had suffered in the last few hours, but I realized it went far deeper than that.
At first it seemed odd but I realized something was missing. As I thought about it I realized something was different, my power, that sickly disgusting taint on my soul was gone. The power was still there but it felt changed. Rather then a feeling of being dirty it felt… warm? It felt comfortable, like a blanket on a cold winter day. I couldn’t understand it.
I sat there for a time, at one point I felt like I was being watched but looking around I couldn’t see anything. I had no idea where I was or if I was even still in Lodis so I had no idea which direction to go in. After a time while thinking I heard a horse, cautiously I peered over the grass to see a pair of riders coming my direction. I thought about laying low but then I realized oen of the figures was Sylthana. Staying low I raised my hand and called out and they quickly adjusted course towards me, Sylthana jumped off and ran towards me pulling her cloak off which she covered me in even as we clung to each other and hugged tearfully.
She asked me how I had escaped and her face suddenly took on a look of shock when I told her I hadn’t, They had hurt me, and I remembered the execution, that I had died.
She shook herself out of it and we returned to Servilla. The other man with her was one of the Corpse men that I had seen briefly at one point. Out of politeness he was looking away. My father had used divination to locate me which was probably that moment of feeling like I was being watched and the Corpse guided Sylthana to me.
We returned to Servilla, smoke was rising from the city and I heard sounds of on going battle. We avoided the conflict and made our way to the Fox and Goose. There I was quickly taken to my father who was overjoyed to see my safely returned. The rest of my companions were also present and they immediately began inquiring what had happened. I told them everything. My father made a comment that I had seen the Nether and I would ask him more about that afterwards.
Sylthana said I was the fourth. Her church has recorded three other times somebody returned from death although she did not know any of the particulars of those incidents having occurred in the distant past.
I told them that something had changed as well, that Malkior, the demon was no longer a part of me. Enrico asked if that meant I would have to learn to fight differently but I shook my head telling him I still felt like there was something there and to demonstrate I pulled in an eldritch bolt and then stared in shock.
Where before it had been a miasma of green energy my hand was now enclosed in a purple energy with streaks of purple energy flowing throughout. I stared at it wordlessly until I was shaken from my revelry by my father say “You are a seeker of the void”
He explained the Seekers were a secretive order from the second age in the service of the Void. Their traditions and histroy had been oral and they had disappeared entirely after the Cataclysm. I was probably the first Seeker of the third age. What this means I have no idea. In the short term it explained what happened. With my death the contract with Malkior ended, Beleneth had granted me a new power to replace it. I was free of one but in the service of another. I am fine with this, she freed me.
I left for a time with Aderyn to change into something other than just the cloak. She was the closest in size to me so I was able to wear her spare robes for a time. I returned Sylthana’s cloak to her and my father gave me his to wear for the time being.
I found out the others hadn’t had any idea of how to break me out and had moved ahead with the attack on the Crows Flock. It had been a trap and I found out that it was rakasha causing the trouble in servilla. It made a lot of sense, the others didn’t know much about Rakashas so I filled them in on how dangerous they could be.
Braum had nearly died during the battle having fallen over the edge of the burning building but Ulrith of the Corpse had shielded him with his own body after receiving mortal wounds from an elemental the Rakasha had summoned.
Fortunately they had escaped the trap, the Rakasha disappeared, knowing what I did about them he was long gone, they sow chaos then run off to do it again somewhere else, that particular one was likely not even in Lodis anymore.
During the battle Ip’Nix had disappeared and my father had gone into a rage, realizing it meant something had happened to me, dispelling the mansion spell I had been hidden in and killing everybody who was thrown out of it. That explained why I couldn’t sense Ip’Nix, a pocket dimension would effectively block us.
The Corpse had united and risen up, the Pendragons were in retreat it seemed, some of the buildings burning had been set to confuse and slow their enemies. I found out there was some 400 corpse in town but there was several thousand strong in the main city.
I tried to return my father’s cloak but he declined saying I would be in more need of it. I told him I didn’t feel right wearing it since my vows to the Vanguard were also ended when I died. He dismissed my concerns and told me to decide for myself.
I needed to borrow his component pouch, lacking anything of my own I needed a way to re-summon Ip’Nix. My father understood and gave me the pouch and a crystalline arcane orb to use as a focus. Although I was no longer bound to Malkior the spirit that was my familiar was still there. I called him out and he appeared, seeming to be in shock at my return to living. I hugged him, overjoyed to see my little friend.
I cared for him and I offered him a choice to be free. If he took it I would never call on him again, luckily for me he decided to stay with me, I had been treating him well so he was happy to stay.
I returned it to my father and he told me to take what I needed and to keep the focus. I thanked him for everything he had done. He also gave me a satchel bag for my supplies, I would later find he had slipped in some gold for me which I would make use of to reequip myself.
Lacking any good alternatives we decided we needed to get Elmdore out of the city and back to Gainsbrough lands as quickly as possible. I had discovered some of my abilities had shifted a little and I was able to change my appearance easily. It was an illusion but I could do it in a heartbeat without drawing on my power at all. I was worried about the Pendragon’s hearing about me being alive so I decided to keep my appearance hidden all the time. I got a few odd looks when I made myself look similar to Aderyn that I could be a sister to her. Most of my companions were curious but figured out who I was immediately. Being just an illusion I just made myself appear half-elven like her, hiding my horns, tail, hair and skin tone.
One thing I’ve realized after it all happened and I had time for the shock to wear off.
I’m not afraid anymore.
Things that had me secretly terrified and ashamed are gone. I remember what Ertealean did to me that night. I remember how I felt entering into the pact to save my own life. I remember everything that Cliu’s soldiers did to me, every crunch of bone and cutting of flesh.
I remember everything, but I have no emotional attachment. I’m not ashamed of Ertealean’s rape. I’m not scared of Malkior’s power, I’m not flashing back to the torture. When I was reborn somethings were left behind. Perhaps a measure of the purification souls undergo under Nephtas’ care?
My mother has given me my life back in more ways than just physically. I can think clearly once more. She didn’t take away my emotion, I still am saddened by the death of Luci, I still love Algus and Sylthana and care deeply for all of my companions. She has given me a way to grow again. She is not directly in my life but I think she still loves me.