As the battle in the dome comes to its conclusion, a lone adversary bolts for the teleportation circle.
Samir hurdles a corpse, sidesteps Una as the halfling guts another tiefling, and mounts the dais a step behind his quarry.
“He’s running away!”
No, wizard, he’s a tiefling – the descendant of men fearless enough to sit at the table with Devil Princes and offer them a deal. He’s not afraid of getting killed. He’s withdrawing to pass information on our numbers and disposition to his masters.
As the tiefling places another coin on the dais, Samir hears a whispered word as he draws his sword back to strike.
Samir and his foe appear on a teleportation disk amidst a scene of horror…
The downstroke of his sword opens the tiefling’s back from shoulder to hip, sending him stumbling off the dais into a dozen of his waiting allies… Squads of warriors, demons and monsters turn weapons and sorcerous implements in his direction. Across the chamber, innocent slaves suffered the ministrations of blasphemous rites, and a channel dug into the stone ran with blood toward a crackling circle of arcane energy forming along the far wall.
The battered tiefling spat with contempt… “You may swing a sword and know a few tricks, but against all of us, they will avail you little. You were a fool to come here.”
Lightning poured from the genasi’s sword, sending the warriors surrounding the tiefling to the ground in twitching spasms. The gathered army hesitated for a moment in shock, with none hearing the rueful whisper that accompanied Samir’s charge into their midst.
“Somehow this is all Una’s fault….”
In mere moments, two Gnoll soldiers bring a bloody Samir to face his ultimate captor, restrained by massive conjured hand of force.
The crippled tiefling thrust a finger of his remaining hand in Samir’s face “He lies! None of his allies know the word to transport here, and he travels with the Company!”
Bleeding and mangled, and still has plenty of energy left for spite and slander. His ancestors would be proud.
The wizard at the center of the great ritual addressed them both, “My servant seems to suggest I should not believe you, genasi. But let us test this allegiance of yours to Houze Azaer.”
He casually floated to stand over a familiar figure on the table and raised his dagger above her.
“A daughter of House Azaer. Hers will join the river of innocent blood that must be spilled to open the Demon Gate.”
A smile played along his lips as he eyed Samir, expecting bargaining, begging, despair and curses. Hearing none of these things, he continued.
“Once the Demon Gate is open, Baphomet’s Horde will come. We will use the Teleportation Circles to invade the Seven-Pillared Hall, the Horned Hold. House Azaer’s holdings here and above will be forever lost, as this ancient buried city becomes the platform for my Patrons conquest of Cormyr.”
Only a single raised eyebrow greeted the threat.
“Calling my bluff, under these conditions? Perhaps she” he gestured to the girl on the table, “is not the only one with a little tiefling in her.”
Samir’s expression became briefly thoughtful, as the dagger’s downward plunge seemed to slow to a crawl. The long road that brought him here unfolded, and he recognized little of the genasi who first began the journey…
As the river reaches the sea, it cannot help but recall its headwaters.
Seven years ago, in a safehouse outside of Airspur, capital of Akanul, a young Vahid-na strikes a bargain with an earthsoul genasi…
Brown skin and golden energy lines hidden in the shadowed alcove, the Steward delivered one last warning, “I know you’ve faced bloodshed before, but this will be different. You will have to do things that will make you uncomfortable, to win a place in House Azaer. Difficult things.”
A younger, brighter Vahid-na countered, “I know, my Steward. My commander often tells us that ‘If you want to hunt monsters, you have to go where the monsters live’. I’ll do what I must, if you will do this for my wife and children.”
“They are not yours anymore. Vahid-na of the Howling Season was never born. Shaudran who was never born is his uncle, and they share the burden of their crimes with each other and no one else. By the authority vested in me by the Queen, I declare a sentence of Samir upon you.” As the deal was set, the Steward drew a mithral-coated stylus and a small vial of acid from his cloak, “it is not official without the brand. Uncover your chest.”
Moments later the smell of burning skin filled the room.
A pathetic, gurgling scream pulled Samir from his reverie as the dagger drove into Fatima’s chest.
I was wrong, Steward. It isn’t enough to go where they live. To hunt monsters you have to become a monster.
“Not even a word, then? Your blood will prove of little use in this ritual, it seems.”
With Fatima’s unexplained death, and the rumors of her defilement, House Azaer will fall to bickering and recriminations – easy prey for the other houses of Calim. The infighting will hold their numerical advantage over Memmonar in check and keep the Skyfire Emirates evenly matched. Not the stunning collapse the Steward had hoped for, but success nonetheless.
“One more innocent death, in a river of so many. No call for tears or curses – and I thank you for your service. You have been a most useful tool, wizard.”
The mangled tiefling lurched closer to Samir, his face twisted in outrage, “Paldemar is tool to no one! We must kill him for….”
That’s close enough.
Gripping his sword by the guard, Samir loosed a silent pulse of force in all directions, shredding the hand that held him and buffeting the tiefling away. Samir fell into his shadow a heartbeat before a storm of spells and arrows destroyed the spot where he stood. Stepping out from wizard’s shadow with his sword in mid-swing, Samir saw the crippled tiefling’s body, crumpled on the ground with his neck at an impossible angle.
He smiled as a wave of magic erupted from the wizard’s hand.
“I would send you to the Abyss, but the Gate is not yet ready. It is only chaos, yet, but the chaos alone will tear you to bits!” A burst of eldritch energy swept Samir away from Paldemar and into the swirling, crackling portal.
The genasi’s scream was brief, but it had a nice gurgling quality that was satisfying to Paldemar. It seemed to resonate throughout the nine worlds, and Paldemar fervently hoped they heard it in Hell.