Chapter 19 | Patron Power

Five shadows emerged suddenly from nothingness, each like a void that sucked in all light. Amira gripped her amethyst, and the Eldritch magic began to crackle in her palm.

Amira felt the whoosh of a bolt behind her; Phaedrus targeted a shadow, and it stumbled at the impact.

On her other side, the paladin began to glow like a beam of sunlight in the darkness, and he cried out, invoking the power of Lathander. Amira didn’t understand this luminous ability gifted from his deity, but whatever the source, it worked. Liam sliced at a shadow with his glowing blade.

Amira felt her own power ripple within her, pouring amaranthine light into her veins, and a forceful blast emerged from her outstretched hand. It annihilated the shadow just feet away from her. She lowered her hand, and smiled.

The battle erupted, but to Amira, the world was quiet. She vaguely processed the axe swings and shield blocks of her warrior companions. Her magic came from another plane, and when she channeled it, she felt suspended between multiple times and multiple places. The paladin could keep his sunlight gods; Amira had her own patron, an otherworldly being that appeared to her in cryptic messages, who infused her amethyst with abilities far beyond the capabilities of her human form.

In these moments of magic and mysticism, Amira felt calm, and whole, and powerful, and she didn’t burden herself with painful memories. She needed to find a way to feel like this, always. Perhaps she could be more devout, a more faithful servant to her supreme keeper. Maybe then the Great Old One would reward her with what she so desperately wanted: a corporeal connection to her patron, a companion that couldn’t die and would never leave her and would help her to always be the fierce magician she strived to become.

She had much to consider later. But for now, she fixed her eyes on another shadow, visible only because it collided with Akra’s metallic shield. Some of the shadows began to glow with a faint purple light, thanks to Hoben. Strange and helpful things happened when the halfling gripped his lute in his hands and began muttering.

Another shadow exploded into nothingness at the end of her palm, but there were still three ravaging her friends. Akra cried out in pain, the exposed skin on her shoulder withering like parchment lit by a candle. Liam, too, stumbled, but that only seemed to strengthen his resolve. He glowed once again, and swung with his longsword, and a shadow dissipated.

In syncopation, the six fought as one, dueling side-by-side in a rough but effective ballet of light and metal and arrow, and the room went quiet once each shadow had been transported back to the cimmerian realm from whence they had been summoned.

Akra, exhausted and injured, dropped the orb unceremoniously into Amira’s hands. She slipped it into her satchel for future inspection.

Seemingly out of danger, for the moment, they patched up Liam and Akra before continuing.

Down one corridor they found more empty tombs, labeled “Gustav” and “Elizabeth,” respectively. Akra pushed the stone door into Elizabeth’s tomb. As she did, centipedes began pouring out from the back wall, thousands of slimy, writhing creatures. The way they moved made Amira’s stomach roil, and she backed away, stepping on Hoben’s foot.

Akra pulled the stone door shut. “Nope.”

Back to the statue room, where the impact of their recent battle was mostly shrouded by the darkness.

Akra ran her hands along the walls, and the ceiling above her, identifying a plaster door. She cracked it open, and poked her head into the room.

“It’s the hunter’s den!” she exclaimed. Ruh Ruh looked queasy. Of all they had encountered, Amira was sure that was the dwarf’s least favorite room in this house.

A full-sized door led to an unexplored corridor. Liam led the pack, and placed his hand on the door.

Instantly, the door began to shift into something that Amira decided was certainly not a door.

It glommed onto Liam’s hand, and he looked at them, fearful. Without speaking, Phaedrus loaded his crossbow, and shot a bolt straight at the door. To Amira’s surprise, and clearly Phaedrus’s, the bolt narrowly missed the creature, and fell clattering to the ground.

Ruh Ruh pulled a javelin from his backpack, and tossed it squarely at the creature. The door thing roared, and Amira noticed teeth and tentacles protruding from the monster’s odd form. The fighters hacked at it with sharp weapons, and Amira channeled an icy, skeletal hand that touched the creature and made it shriek. Akra breathed on it, an icy vapor emerging from her open mouth.

They were angering it, and that meant their efforts were likely working. Liam pulled away from it, and a glistening pseudopod reached out for him. He ducked, and it narrowly missed sticking itself to his face.

This is getting ridiculous, Amira thought. Were they to be felled by a door monster? With almost no effort, she held up her palm and the blast radiated from the center of it.

It collapsed into a bloody mass on the ground. Amira nudged it with her boot.

Akra looked down at her blood-stained armor. It covered most of her torso, and she looked like red candle dripping beads of wax down a candelabra.

“I have a red outfit now!” she said.

As they went into the dining hall, Amira wondered how everyone had so much energy. She was beginning to feel quite weary.

Hoben climbed onto the table, and hopped onto the chandelier, dangling from it. He kicked his feet out, and began to swing, back and forth, across the large wooden table.

With an elegance Amira was sure he didn’t plan, he flew off gracefully and landed on his feet right as the chandelier fell from the ceiling and crashed in an array of metal and glass shards.

Amira wanted everyone to be significantly calmer, and quieter. Couldn’t they just proceed without stirring up every monster harboring in this house? She wondered what time it was, what day it was. Being in this basement was stifling, and she craved just one whiff of fresh forest air.

The chanting was louder than ever when they continued through the dining hall and reached a large bedroom. It was so constant and consistent that Amira had begun to tune it out. How strange it would be once it finally stopped.

Akra entered the bedroom first, and a pair of dark, leathery hands burst from one wall.

It didn’t take them long to realize that they had found Rose and Thorn’s parents. Gustav and Elizabeth were well past the point of no return, and Amira felt no guilt about dispatching them as quickly as possible. They deserved every part of eternal damnation.

They made easy work of them. Gustav’s fleshy, decaying arm fell to the floor in chunks, broken apart by Phaedrus’s bolt. Akra and Liam slashed at both ghouls with sharp edges. Akra ducked as Gustav reached for her, but his remaining, still-whole skeletal arm grabbed her shoulder.

She flung it off and bashed him with her shield. Amira followed with an Eldritch blast, and Gustav crumbled into a pile of smoldering ashes.

Ruh Ruh jumped on the bed toward Elizabeth, growling and making her way across the room. Amira let him hack at her first, before releasing a purple beam straight through Elizabeth, who followed Gustav.

Amira inspected her right palm, which she favored for casting. The palm was smooth and untouched, the deep grooves of her lifelines looking exceedingly normal. Magic constantly amazed and confounded her. How was it possible to generate such force from within her own body, force that crumbled others in an instant, and yet it made no impact on her own skin and bones?

Never before had she used her magic like this. She felt alight and strong and happy. She felt the approval of her patron. This was what the Great Old One wanted from her: to use her unique power to rid the world of creatures like this, to think beyond her own sorrow and motivations. She had been given magic to change the world, not to waste it predicting rich people’s fortunes. Amira realized that her destiny was just beginning.

She crouched in front of the chest at the foot of the bed, and tried not to get ghoul ash on her cloak. Inside the chest was an array of interesting items. The dwarf claimed a gold-edged black cloak, a chainmail shirt, and a mess kit. Amira slipped a vial of alchemist fire into her satchel before anyone could protest. The rest split a lantern, thieves tools, and a spell book.

The chanting was so loud that they had to shout at one another to converse. Amira could make out the words, clearer now:

He is the ancient. He is the land.

They came into a room full of reliquaries. Amira noticed an array of withered body parts on display, such as a hand and an eye, alongside crudely-preserved animals like a frog and a bat. She peered at the veiny bat wings, outstretched and pinned at the tip to a piece of wood. She half expected the animal to awaken, and look at her with glowing purple eyes.

Someday soon she’d find her familiar with bat-like wings, or feathered wings, or perhaps no wings, if that’s what it preferred. She could feel it. Every time she channeled her patron’s power, she was one step closer to summoning the animal manifestation of it to her side.

“Is this your religion, warlock?” Liam asked. She bit her tongue, holding back a snarky retort. Her gods couldn’t be contained in glass display cases. They existed beyond the confines of earth, in unseen, obsidian depths.

Ruh Ruh approached a severed finger, tongue out. Amira pushed his head away from it.

“Don’t lick the artifacts,” Amira said, making a note to file that away under, Things I never thought I’d say to a barbarian.

They reached a portcullis, and dread prickled in Amira’s chest, along with excitement. She wanted to feel the crackling lightning Eldritch power surge through her, darkly pulsing within her.

Together, Amira and Ruh Ruh reached through the slats of the portcullis, and rotated the wheel. As the portcullis raised, the chanting stopped.

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