Refuge

The Heroes of Caer Kahziel

The otherworldly entity, a vile Beholder, glared ferociously at the assembled crowd and began to descend upon it. Screams rang out as many ran in terror of the foreign horror, but the adventurers remained along with the stalwart Eladrin guards, readying their weapons for combat.

Ruin dashed over to Mist, shouting, “Trust me on this one!” He whispered a strange spell into her ear, polymorphing her into a mighty hellsworn. Only momentarily taken aback by this development, she charged headlong into battle.

The Beholder was unlike anything the seasoned combatants had seen or even read about before. Frost’s fingers lingered momentarily over his journal as he reached for his orb and began channeling his psychic energy to keep the abomination at bay. Even while defending itself from the party’s maneuvers, the monster unleashed rays of destruction from its eye stalks that caught several Eladrin warriors in their path and reduced them to piles of ash.

Despite these losses, the battle seemed to be going in the party’s favor as they pushed it back from the teleportation circle and The Lady’s sapling, which was growing at an uncanny rate. They tore its vile flesh from its skull, and the otherworldly monster bled gold and metal. However, the tide turned against them and quickly overwhelmed them. As the party looked into the Beholder’s hateful eyes, they felt waves of psychic energy probing their thoughts. With its hypnotic gaze, the Beholder took control of Mist and Ruin, stopping them dead in their tracks and turning them against their allies.

Mist and Ruin watched helplessly, trapped within their own minds, as they were forced to strike at their comrades to kill. Mist lunged at Reynard, who only barely managed to avoid her scimitar impaling his gut. Her enhanced demonic form slammed against his body, and he pushed her away as she regained her sense of self and returned to the battle. But by that point, they were all already in over their heads.

The Beholder had gained the upper hand, launching its rays of destruction in every direction. The remaining Eladrin guards ran away in terror, leaving the party alone in the desperate struggle. One of the creature’s rays struck Frost, who tried to resist its searing burns but could feel it rending his flesh even as he focused his mind to keep the Beholder — and his own allies — away.

In the end, it was too much. As much as he tried to ignore the pain and continue fighting, his mental fortitude reached its limits, and his fragile body collapsed. Still conscious, but barely aware, he watched the hopeless scene play out as the Beholder’s otherworldly power continued to dissolve the flesh from his bones. Moments later, he passed away in agony.

Mist saw Frost’s body fall still and the life fade from his eyes. Her ward was dead; she had failed her clan; and she was being controlled like a puppet by a hideous abomination. The infernal rage possessing her from Ruin’s spell brought her to hitherto unknown heights of primal rage, and she charged straight into the Beholder’s central eye, absorbing its blast and plunging her scimitar into it to the hilt. With her otherworldly strength, she lifted the creature over her head and hurled it across the room.

And then there was silence.

The creature’s flesh burned away, revealing a skull of gold and eyes made of precious gemstones. A quick scan of the surroundings showed the party that the battle was truly won; they had survived, save for Frost. They gathered around his maimed body, and not even Reynard’s healing technomancy could heal his grave wounds and recall his spirit from the beyond.

Ruin called out, “Lady! I request an audience!” She appeared from the trunk of her tree, which had grown up into the trunk of the tree above in the brief span of the battle. Solemnly, Ruin offered his own soul to The Lady’s service if she could bring Frost back from the beyond. She accepted his offer, and she disappeared along with Frost’s body.

He awoke not long after in a strange, fantastical place with colorful birds and animals and lush, vibrant foliage. As he reached for his journal, he saw a squat, homely creature standing above him that apparently looked like a cross between an elf-on-a-shelf and a Troll doll: It was The Lady. She told him that she had brought him back from death, and he recalled those last moments: “Yes, I remember… the pain was — excruciating.” “Yes,” she replied, “I don’t really care. Off you go.” “But I have so many ques—” Frost began to object, but in an instant he was already back among his comrades.

The party said farewell to Ruin, who had sworn himself to The Lady’s service eternally. His sacrifice was far greater than Frost and Mist knew how to express their gratitude, but Frost swore to him that, when Frost returned to his people, they would all know and celebrate the name of “Anjax” — Ruin’s true name — for generations to come.

The normally dour people of Caer Kahziel were overwhelmed with joy, as the growth of The Lady’s tree reconnected them with the mystical Feywild. They honored the party as heroes — although they assured the party that Caer Kahziel was never in any real danger from one creature — and regaled them with feasts and celebrations that would continue for weeks.

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