Quinn and the Tiefling Priestess
Just a few more seconds, you thought as the pressure from the power of the mists was culminating against your stamina. Trel was a needed support. The others in your party clearly don’t realize the complexity of such a task as you two were undertaking. While Trel was maintaining the stability of the rift so it didn’t collapse in on you, you were so close to redirecting the end source. You were confident that you had gathered enough reserve energies from the jungle outside the Ziggurat to properly weave them into the arcane fabric making up the rift. Although, you’d be cutting it close. Trel was performing magnificently…clearly he had been born of Krisatra. You chuckled inwardly to think that fate had led you two here at this moment. Just as you were releasing the last portion of your arcane reserves from the Dreadwater swamps, a peculiar and terrifying thing happened. Your connection with the rift seemed to be severed, and a severe pain shot through your right forearm. The surge traveled across your shoulder bones and landed in your left wrist. The surge was so powerful that it contorted your left hand into a weird position, breaking your concentration for the most important of seconds. Suddenly your body was thrust into the swirling mist, and you no longer knew which way was up.
Your body was being bent in strange positions, but more horrifying than that was the fact that your very soul felt as if it was trying to be rent in twain. Suddenly before you was the conversation you had had with the spiritual manifestation of your mother so many years before just before you left Keygold’s. However, this time everything seemed dark, and dissolving with shadow. You knew you must focus on not letting every fiber of your being be torn apart. Suddenly, you landed with a crash. As you gathered yourself and stood to see your surroundings, it was obvious that you were not in that purely material plane. You weren’t even sure you were still in Celysion. All around you was a swirling mist. But inside that mist you were held in some sort of shadow prison. The bars keeping you from leaving were made out of swirling shadow, and as you approached, they became solid and would not let you pass. You attempted to teleport, but had lost the power. Most unnerving of all was the heavy feeling of sorrow weighing on your chest.
As you accepted more that you were no longer in a safe place, more began to manifest itself around you. Though you had not noticed them before, several others were sitting in the cell with you. A weary tiefling man sat on a bench; he looked crazed as he was rubbing his horns incessantly on the demonic bars holding you in. Several menacing looking dragonborn men stood in the corner whispering in a dark and unknown language, eyeing you up and down. An elderly human woman with long yellow fingernails and had claw marks all over her forearms and neck began weeping as soon as she saw you appear. A more sophisticated, but still diminished soul of a tiefling woman lay alone against a far wall with her face buried in her hands. She was swaying, and humming some sort of dark lullaby, and her voice had a sound of a sweet and dark melody.
Your stomach sank.
What do you do?
’Well now, isn’t this just a fine mess I’ve gotten myself into. Imagine, me, a master at teleportation frustrated and ultimately thrown the planes in a freak arcanic rebound. Simply wonderful.’ I look around a little bit. ‘Well, those bars don’t exactly look friendly, but nor do my cell mates. Maybe there’s more here I missed on first inspection.’
Perception check: 18.
Arcane check: 16 (boo, nature 2 on that role, should have brought my other dice)
“I don’t suppose many here understand me?”
Insight check: 21
You notice that there is some sort of consistent structure seen throughout the mist, but you can’t tell much about its details. Out of nowhere a horrific sound makes itself manifest. It sounds like a gigantic and resonant thump, which causes your whole body to shake, nearly sending you to your knees. It is immediately followed by a thick sludge-like sound of goo being squeezed through an opening too narrow. SSSSSSHHPLERRRCHT. A few seconds later a mirrored, but slightly more distant low beat follows, again followed by the movement of sludge. THHHUUUUUURP. Then the sound ceases. The weeping woman wails louder as the sounds occur, and then remains her soft sob. You can tell there are some sort of arcane energies at work here, but they seem far beyond your control.
The wearied tiefling woman looks up at you, and you nearly jump out of your skin at the sight. Where her eyes should be are liquid orbs of shadow that look like they are dancing with shadow flames, which swarm over her eye brows. She is wearing a deep black robe, and has several ornaments of exquisite make around her arms, fingers, and neck. Her robe has been torn in the lower half, and the mid section so that it has made a sort of extremely revealing short skirt. Her feet are bare, and she has a very attractive figure and skin texture. However, her face looks like it has been agonized for years. The skin around her small horns looks red and bothered. You notice a small ring on one of her pinky fingers, which has a red gem placed in it, and a familiar looking emblem, though you can’t quite recall from where you’ve seen it.
She is clearly aware of your presence.
‘Well, the Dragonborn saw me, but they seemed too undisturbed by the sounds. However, this Tiefling woman is certainly a sight I could have done without, but at least she notices me. She certainly is attractive, if you go for that whole demonic look, but she certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Janora. I’m not sure if that’s such a good thing or not that she notices me… This sludge slurping has me a little worried. I wonder what it is.’ Nature check: 19
“Well met, my uh… lady. I suppose. Though I must say I have neither idea where I am nor how I got here. If you can understand me, would you mind helping me understand where I am?” Under my breath “And please be more friendly than the last Tiefling I met, I really don’t want to fight in here.” ‘I know my way with words is certainly not great, but I might as well attempt to make an ally while I’m here.’ A whopping 8 (natural 6, knew I should have taken 10. sigh oh well).
I’m looking over the woman trying to determine where her power might originate or any other arcane properties of her while I await her response. Arcane check: 31
You are unable to tell what is creating the sound, but you have at least observed that it isn’t coming from any one direction. It seems to be happening all around you, just beyond the mist.
You at least can deduce that the swirling shadow flame eyes are a product of your environment, not of any power of the woman. But you can tell that she does have some form of ancient power, and that it originates with some pact she has entered.
An unnerving and somewhat maniacal grin spreads across her soft lips. Her teeth are sharper than you would have expected, and are a brilliant white. When she speaks her voice is a smooth creaminess, and yet it gives you shivers. She lets out a quick chuckle and rapidly stands and is inches from your face,
“You, ilsulech, have been punished in more ways than one for your sins,” she begins jestingly as she inspects each of your impressively under-average appearance. She runs here soft fingers across your cheek, and then rubs the lobe of your ear. She laughs a high pitched laugh as she touches each of the scars and blemishes across your face and forearms, near your vambraces. As she does, it reminds you vividly of the spiders that swarmed and bit your skin in the Bael Turath ruins. You can feel that she is rubbing the inside of her bare leg on the outside of yours.
“Welcome to misery, Ilsulech”
"Ilsulech? I’m sorry I don’t know what that means, and please, hands and legs to yourself." I say as I remove her hands from my face and step back a little, though still far enough away from the Dragonborn. “Misery, well, it would certainly seem as if this is a miserable place, where ever it may be. I’d still like to know where it is and anything that may help me escape. I have no desire to be here long, though my teleportation abilities seem to be impaired at the moment.” I start looking around again and attempting minor Elven cantrips to gauge the level of arcane suppression.
She looks offended as you move her hands away from your body, “You’re no fun,” she mutters as you continue talking. As you mention your intentions she bursts a loud guffaw, “ESCAPE?! Ha! Think you that we’ve waited here all these centuries and haven’t given thought to our imprisonment, our cell? Aydrekuth! You are more foolish than I imagined. But you’ve certainly performed well enough to gain the attention of The Chained Vrokai.
Of course you wouldn’t know the meaning, ilsulech, for it is not of your age. While there is no completely proper translation to the common tongue, you may say it…’punished one’.
What is it you’ve done to earn the privilege,” and you can hear the sarcasm in her voice at that word, “to enter this miserable chamber?”
It seems most of your powers have been suppressed. You’ve been unable to successfully cast any spell.
"The Eladrin are much friendlier. Not really caring much for Tieflings." I mutter.
“No fun.” I shrug. "Been called worse. But let’s talk about you. Is there something wrong with you Tieflings? The first one I met tried to kill me in the ruins of Bael Turath just after being ‘born’ in one of those accursed ritual chambers and you seem to be looking for something I’m not willing to give. The charms of the Fair Folk much outweigh yours. Or perhaps my nature is no long as quick with such advances having spent many years with them.
“You mentioned the ’Chained Vrokai” I believe this is the one we now call the Chained God, also known as Anathema. Can’t say as I know what I’ve done to invoke his wrath. I had hoped we’d be able to destroy the Corrupted Heart without his interference. So much for that idea. I can only hope my comrades can reach it and destroy it without too much trouble.
“You also mentioned about being here for centuries?? How is that possible? I’m pretty sure your race doesn’t live that long. You’ve also yet to answer my question about where we are.”
She again grins maniacally and sighs before saying, “These dragonborn men simply haven’t been able to satisfy my needs. And oh how my needs are….insatiable.” She then begins to circle you, all the while inspecting you. The back portion of her skirt is torn, obviously very revealing, and her long tail continues to tap against you periodically as she circles you. Suddenly the beating and sloshing sound occurs again, and the weeping woman wails. You nearly lose your balance.
From behind you she speaks, “Tieflings are a coveted race, human! While our kingdom had its follies, our eyes were opened to pacts and powers only accessible through demons. If the last tiefling you met tried to kill you, it was because your inferiority was offensive.
I’d have thought you’d know exactly where you ended up. Did you not stare at the heart before you came to us?! You are in a beating heart of Tharizdun that once belonged to my lover, Shammath. Time is different in this heart. In all this time, you’ve only yet heard it beat twice. Yet to a mortal, it beats hundreds of times a minute.”
"A coveted race?! Are you serious? Your bravado is simply quite staggering. Is that why you forsook your humanity and dove into magics you don’t understand? The Elves and Eladrin watched as you and the Dragonborn nearly drove each other to extinction. I know what happened, they’ve kept very detailed histories. You Tieflings are nothing more than power hungry children toying with something you don’t understand. Sounds like this Shammath was of the same demented persuasions as well. At least if time flows slower here it shouldn’t be too long until my friends are able to find the heart and destroy it." I go over to an unoccupied area and sit down, simply resigned to wait.
“If you have something worthwhile to say or let me know about instead of eyeing me as a slave or how drunken men look at the barmaids let me know. In the meanwhile, why don’t you go conjure one of your precious demons to appease your ‘insatiable needs.’ Unless you’re ‘all so powerful demon magic’ is as useless as my own arcanic abilities. In this place.” I begin to quietly recite Elven verse and song to pass the time and tune out the beating heart and apparently maddening influences.
Her demeanor suddenly changes into something much more menacing and angered. She stares at you from the center of the room while you sit in your resting place.
She begins speaking with a fury in her voice, “Think not that I haven’t recognized the downfalls of the pacts we made! But those leading the tieflings to battle misused the gifts of the demons! But remorse, I feel none. My gifts and powers have been amplified by the pacts of the fathers.” She approaches you quickly and kneels down in front of you. Leaning in, the animosity in her face softens a little.
“Listen to me. And listen to me well, ilsulech. I’ve spent what feels like millennia in this prison, but I have won the favor of the beings that watch over us, and it hasn’t been easy. You’ve been here mere minutes and you will not jeopardize everything that I have worked for. I can see by the emblems that you wear that you are a friend of the Eladrin, the pitiful race that was too weak to take up a stand or a belief. And yet, you are not one of them. You are a human; you have greater capabilities than any of the other slaves around us,” and she eyes the dragonborn, the tiefling, and the weeping woman.
“Do not think that I have not been rewarded for my gifts. Just as Shammath thought I loved him, so do these demonic beings that watch over us give me privileges based on my…services. And my gift of persuasion.
I’ve seen the fall of my race. I’ve been an emissary from time to time to the mortal world. But always…ALWAYS a piece of my soul has been bound to this horrific place. The time draws nigh for my escape, and all the better if you say your friends will approach the heart. But if they be an hour away in the mortal realm, it will feel like months in here. And so we have a year or more to plan our escape. You will either drop your pride, ilsulech, or be smitten. If you even attempt to be this brazen and prideful when they come, it will not matter if an army is coming for the heart of Tharizdun. For this particular heart may only be destroyed from the inside out. I know nothing of the other hearts, save one more belonging to a Sandek Kiroset.”
Speaking softly to her as she leans in, “I’m certainly interested in the other hearts. Any information you have will be of utmost importance to us once we’re free. I’m not sure it’s my pride that’s getting in the way. I landed here, and asked some questions. You came over with your haughty attitude and puffed up self importance expecting me to fawn all over you. However, who’s right and whose wrong really doesn’t matter much right now, does it? Perhaps we started off on the wrong foot. I am Quinn Arroway, son of Krisatra Arroway. Who do I have the pleasure of meeting?”
“My name is Saressa Falloth.” Quinn, you immediately recognize this name from the full tale your mother shared with you about the origins of the Ziggurat and the Corrupted Stone. “And I hold a certain sway with the beings here, though I am still a prisoner. They will come soon for you, to inspect you, and see what else has entered the heart.”
I recoil in surprise. “Saressa?? How are you still alive? You weren’t bluffing when you said you’ve been here for millennia! I guess that’s not really important now. You said someone will be coming for me. What should I expect? What will happen?”
“Think you that The Chained Vrokai would be merciful unto death? He sends his exarchs and servants to slaughter and enslave for his purposes. And his sole purpose is to escape. Just as he desecrated Shammath and his soul, so has he bound all who get to close to the heart in this prison, to rot. Our very souls are empowering the protection of the heart! Why would he want me dead?
The beings that will come are demons, demons of the darkest sort. But I doubt you’ll see their form.”
"Our souls are powering the protection of the heart? Can we sabotage things from inside? What will these demons be doing to me and how effective are weapons here?"
“Yes, Ilsulech, yes! The more captive souls that the imprisoned Vrokai can place within this heart, the more dangerous it becomes to those who approach it. You have done nothing by coming here except to endanger your friends further. I believe the only way for destruction is from the inside of this heart. I can’t speak for the other 5 hearts. As for weapons…this I do not know.”
I pull the extra long sword from my pack and throw it at the bars. “Let’s find out for sure…”
The sword flies through the air and then passes through the bars as if they were nothing more than a light fog. You hear it land on the outside of the bars, and it sounds like it pierces flesh. The sound of the beating heart spasms for a moment, and loud slurping and crunching sounds happen all around you and you feel yourself shaking.
“Bahamut’s holy breath!” cries one of the dragonborn men leaving his secluded circle. “You humans are all the same – ignorant all the way through,” and he is walking very briskly towards you. His scales are a dark brown, his teeth yellow, and he is still wearing plate armor. He reaches out his hand to grab you by the throat when suddenly all light goes dim. None of you can see one another and the woman begins to wail. You hear the sound of footsteps coming and a whisping sound as the bars of the cell are opened. You sense several figures moving all around you, and a short scuffle in the corner. Then a flash. And true darkness, then unconsciousness comes.
It is some time before you awake again. You are in darkness, and feel shackles on your feet and hands. You sense that your location has changed, and your head is throbbing. The ground beneath you feels squishy and moist.