Interlude I: Preparation
Baron Valtrith watched over the ritual grounds via balcony, the cultists fumbling with the witches commands. If Samael spoke true, the ritual would unleash a terrifying force unlike anything seen on the face of this star. Of course he doubted the words of the man who would bring a monster like the one he created into his presence and let it wander the halls of his castle.
Valtrith gripped the balconies railing, stone cracking in his grip at the thought of the thing that dared to usurp him.
Valtrith loosened his grip, looking back at the ritual grounds. They would still need time to finish.
Take all the time you need, Valtrith thought, a monstrous grin appearing beneath his mask.
Chapter XI: Web of Shadows
In his room, the soulweaver tossed and turned, his sleep disturbed it had been for many years.
A deep, guttural voice invaded his thoughts repeating the same words and phrases. "You cannot resist," "You will join them," "Break," "Drown," "Fall," with nothing to suggest who or what was assaulting his mind.
"Arkham," a new voice yet at the same time somehow familiar as though he hadn't heard it in a long time said to him.
The soulweaver sat bolt upright, drenched in a cold sweat. How long had it been since he had truly slept? Would a day where he could finally sleep come?
Xalia stared up at the night sky above Miskatonic, the sky clear like crystal. She felt at ease for the first time since the journey began until the moon's light caught the feint threads beginning to take shape obscuring the sky.
Emerging from in and around the town came various spiders of all kinds of shapes from small ones she could barely see to ones the size of dragons all to take part in the construction of the web.
Xalia began to tremble, her body shaking more and more as the spiders emerged and begun chanting.
"Atlach-Nacha," the spiders chanted in unison as they worked, their chanting growing faster and faster.
The moon darkened as a titanic purple spider like the one encountered on the road crept across the web, weaving into the web like a tapestry, forming intricate runes.
Fear paralyzed Xalia as the titan spider, slowly descended from the web, sporting a vaguely human face frozen in an expression of doubt and inquiry, gazing deeply into her. It opened its mouth, exposing its mandibles like scythe blades.
Xalia awoke with a scream. Panting and drenched in sweat, she frantically looked around the room, unsure of what time it was, the moons light obscured by the spiders webs that covered the window. It may have been business as usual for the townspeople, but it unnerved her greatly and made her eager to leave.
She stepped out of the room to see the soulweaver in the hall standing outside his own room.
"Couldn't sleep either?" she asked, her breathing less frantic.
"I don't sleep," he said his voice showing no hint of exaggeration.
Xalia didn't question it, she could tell since she first met him.
"I guess we should talk with that professor," Xalia said trying to stifle a yawn.
Ever since the journey began, she too has had troubles sleeping, but looking at the soulweaver she couldn't help but wonder how he functioned in the shape he was in and how fragile he looked.
They hear some movement behind the door the innkeeper told them was the professor's room, an elderly man opening the door slightly, brandishing a knife, withdrawing it upon seeing the two.
"Can I help you?" he asked, not opening the door any further.
"We hoped you could tell us about the town. And maybe another thing," Xalia said nervously
"That old fool at the tavern tell you about me?"
"Is that a problem, sir?" Xalia asked nervously.
The elderly man grumbled something under his breath, opening the door wider, rushing them in.
With a quick glance down the halls, he closed and latched the door, putting his back to it, breathing a sigh in relief.
"Is everything okay, sir?" Xalia asked.
"You should know very well it's not. You've undoubtedly seen the spiders that plague the town. And in the far reaches of Darkovia, no one's going to save us. All these adventurers won't even buy us a moment reprisal."
The elderly man staggered to a table beside the bed, reaching for an uncorked glass bottle and poured some of its contents into a glass. Still clutching the knife, his shaking hands rattled the glass against the knife's steel before taking a loud gulp and letting out another sign as though he had taken his first drink in days.
"The spiders were always there, but the Rose never bothered to try and do anything about them even after dragging the corpse of a big purple one the size of a gorillaphant into the university. Just passing through they would say, preparing to go to Arkham. Only a few stayed behind to root around the university. A token gesture. They didn't know what they were up against and knew there was nothing they could do."
The elderly man refilled his glass and chugged it down.
"Where did the spiders come from?" Xalia asked.
"No one knows," the man replied. "Some say the caves that run underneath the town. Probably always been here. They were probably here long before any of us. Probably be here long after we're gone. That's just how these things work."
"You can't really believe that, can you?" Xalia asked, regretting the decision to talk to this man.
"I've spent my whole life in this town. I was here when people came here to learn and I'll be here to watch it fall. The town watch is never going to succeed in repelling them and those adventurers are never going to do the same. it's either stay indoors until you starve or try to escape and be at their mercy."
The elderly man went to refill his glass once more, uncorking a new bottle to do so. In the dark, the two could see him sway, barely able to stand, but his hands did not shake although his speech grew faster.
"You had other inquiries, yes?" the elderly man asked, slurring his words.
Xalia describes the plateau she saw in her dream and inquired if it were a real place and where it is if it were.
The elderly man nearly choked on his drink.
"No, I have never heard of such a place. Sounds like a fever dream. What about you, boy? Care to bother me with a question?" the man snapped, whatever he had been drinking affecting his temperament.
"What is Arkham?" the soulweaver asked nervously.
The man let out an exasperated sigh.
"Named after the family that built a house that later became an asylum, Arkham is a town between here and Dunwich. The Rose were more interested in it than here probably because anything magic related they don't like there, they have an on-site prison for it right there."
The elderly man downed his drink and roughly placed the glass on the table before falling backwards onto the bed.
"All right, I've entertained enough of your questions. Get out of my room," the elderly man growled.
The two said their thank yous, the elderly man cursing under his breath.
The inns hallway was covered wall to wall in spiderwebs, spiders of varying sizes crawling in and around them, the smaller ones squeezing under doors and through keyholes while the larger ones crawled along the walls, floors, and ceilings.
Xalia's body froze with fear that slowly melted away when she felt the touch of the soulweaver's hand, taking hers.
"Do not be afraid," he said. "I will protect you."
Chapter XII: Spider Nest
The soulweaver let go of Xalia's hand, his own hands being consumed in a dark light, forming an almost trident-like weapon on his hands. In a flash he was down the hall, various spiders crawling along the walls cut down in an instant. But for each spider her cut down, tiny newborn spiders would erupt from the body of the fallen and scatter into the torn webs or into rooms.
Spiders descended from the ceiling only to be cut down again as the soulweaver made another run down the hall, more newborn spiders emerging from the slain spiders.
"We need to go," the soulweaver said, stating the obvious.
Xalia did not hesitate to follow the soulweaver as he cut through the spiders, scattering their newborn until they got downstairs to the lobby.
Scattered around the lobby were the weapons of the adventurers, their bodies cocooned in webs like the rest of the lobby.
Spiders emerged from the cocoons and rushed the two only for the soulweaver to cut them down as they fled the inn.
The old professor sat on his bed, feeling countless tiny spiders run across his hands and face. Taking another sip off his drink, he coughed, spitting up spiders, the glass shattering on the floor.
"It's awake," he said in a hoarse tone as the countless tiny spiders scurried into his ears and nostrils.
The exterior of the inn was covered in spiderwebs as was the outside of the tavern while littering the streets were the cocooned bodies of what they could only assume was the adventurers and possibly the remaining townspeople although three bodies were curiously untouched by the spiders. As the two moved through the streets, they recognized the three as the town watch, butchered by some unknown to them force.
Multiple spiders began to converge on them, some even appearing to come from the sky, descending on threads from a giant web spun between the inn and tavern.
The soulweaver dispelled his weapons and waved his hands, drawing a pair of elaborate glyphs, one beneath him and one on his left hand. A white light emerged from the glyphs followed by bolts of light raining down, vaporizing multiple spiders.
Deep within the cave network beneath the town, Samael trekked through the ancient caverns Furorem bumbling behind.
Numerous spiders littered the cave floors, cut down by the monster, black ichor covering and eating away at the bodies.
"Are you really upset over that whole fang incident? It's not like it was your only child," Samael said to no one in particular, his echoing voice being the only response.
"You and I both know you don't have a chance at opposing me. The way you're reacting, you'd think I took one of your fangs."
The cavern opened up to a large opening with an enormous chasm in the center soon filled by the emergence of an enormous spider with a face resembling that of a human frozen in an expression of doubt and inquiry.
"That's better. Now then, I have a request of you and you kin."
The giant spider did not change its expression nor made any gesture like it was to speak.
"Kathool is awakening and I want some of your children to do away with its spawn before they reach the ocean."
The enormous spider retreated back into the chasm without an answer.
Chapter XIII: Spider's Lair
"What should we do?" Xalia asked the Soulweaver, but felt like she was just talking to herself.
"We end this," the Soulweaver said, his voice carrying an uncharacteristic sternness.
It's what he would've said.
The Soulweaver began to head deeper into the town towards the entrance to the cave network, Xalia following behind, the spiders largely ignoring the two as they left the town heading to somewhere else.
Few spiders acknowledged the two, the Soulweaver cutting them down, the smaller newborn spiders that emerged from their slain couriers scurrying out of the cave as if following some ingrained command from a higher power.
At the end of the cavern, they came to the seemingly bottomless cavern that was so wide they were unsure if there was even another end.
"What do we do now?" Xalia asked, finding herself clinging to the Soulweaver's shirt.
Jump, a voice said to the Soulweaver. It was a strange voice, both familiar yet unfamiliar, but he trusted it as though it was coming from someone who had always been there for him.
"Jump," the Soulweaver said.
Before Xalia could react, the Soulweaver stepped off the ledge, dragging her behind into the seemingly bottomless chasm.
The fall felt like an eternity until coming to a stop on an enormous incomplete web, gradually being constructed by spiders of varying sizes.
Xalia trembled as she remembered her dream. Some spiders were barely visible while others were the size of dragons all working in unison to construct the web, weaving various arcane runes into the webs gaps.
The spiders slipped through the gaps as they began to seemingly abandon their post as the web shook, a monolithic leg of a gargantuan spider emerging from below followed by another and another until the monster pulled itself up from the darkness below.
The Soulweaver stood his ground while Xalia was stone still in fear in the face of the monster that loomed over them.
What is your purpose for taking on this task? the voice asked the Soulweaver.
A Paladin will always aid those in need.
The massive spider bent forward, gazing deeply at the two. A hint of familiarity appeared in its eyes upon seeing Xalia whose blood turned to ice, but its facial expression remain unchanged.
The monster flaunted its mandibles, the Soulweaver taking a swing with his Spirit Looms, the monster reacting to it as an Alpha Werewolf would react to a flea, paying him no heed.
The creature's mouth was less like a spider and even less like that of a human despite its face and more like that of a snake. The monster unhinged its jaw, revealing many more teeth like blades discarded on a battlefield and reached for Xalia with no regard for the Soulweaver directly in front of it.
The Soulweaver attempted to push back the spider, his Spirit Looms clashing with the fangs of the monster, many of them still cutting into the Soulweaver's arms, his flesh burning as the monster's venom enters his body.
Blood sprayed from the Soulweaver's mouth, his body going limp and pushed away by the spider.
Xalia snaps back to reality and calls her scythe and erects an orange barrier around her, deflecting the oncoming assault from the spider.
Get up, the voice tells the Soulweaver, the world around him growing darker. Remember why you chose this fight.
"Please, don't die," Xalia pleaded, the monster wrapping its jaws around the barrier, cracks beginning to form in it, the tips of its mandibles beginning to break through.
Chapter XIV: Dream Companion
The Soulweaver found himself under the shadow of the lighthouse, the world around him fading in and out of existence.
The lighthouse's black light passed over the black waters of the lake illuminating the yellow eyes of what lied beneath the surface. The same yellow eyes that the towns people all shared regardless of how far into their transformation they were.
"Come to mommy," a female voice called out from the lake, echoing throughout the town. "Let me see what a fine young man you've grown into."
He stood stone still. He knew that voice. It was indeed his mother. Maybe she finally came back for him.
"Come join mommy beneath the waters," the voice called out.
"Don't do it," the familiar voice said sounding closer than ever, but he couldn't tell if it was the voice of a man or woman.
The water's surface began to ripple, disturbed by whatever was coming ashore.
It was a woman. Tall and slender, her long black hair, seaweed and patches of scales giving her some form of covering.
He recognized the woman as his mother as she had looked so many years ago and quickly averted his gaze. He should not be seeing her in this state.
"That is not your mother," the androgynous voice hissed.
"Of course I am, silly," the thing the Soulweaver recognized as his mother said.
The thing grew closer to the Soulweaver everytime she faded back into existence, her transformation becoming more apparent.
Skin that appeared smooth at a distance showed signs of slowly turning into scales, underdeveloped webbing slowly forming between her fingers and toes. He tried to remember what his mother looked like. Her hair hadn't been black nor had her eyes been yellow. That voice was right.
The Soulweaver recoiled as the thing posing as is mother appeared directly in front of him, grabbed him and pulled his head into her bosom. Its' skin was slimy and smelled of sea water, but somehow he was beginning to feel at peace.
"Do you want to become one with mommy? To be of one body and soul?"
The question confused him. "What do you me-" the Soulweaver began until a slimy, wet hand began to move down his body causing him to recoil in horror and push the thing away.
"You dare reject your mother?" the thing shrieked.
The thing faded in and out of existence, its appearance becoming more monstrous with each reappearance until its body was more of a grotesque quasi-amphibious horror than human.
"Fight it!" the androgynous voice commanded.
"All I ever wanted for you was to be happy!" the thing shouted, raising a massive arm to crush the Soulweaver.
The Soulweaver raised his arms to shield himself, only for a flash of white light to appear in front of him.
From behind whatever appeared before him appeared to be a spectre of sorts in an all-concealing white robe, hiding any distinguishing features.
"Who are you?" the Soulweaver asked.
The spectre did not falter as the creature's arm crashed down on them.
"It has been awhile, hasn't it?" they said casually.
The Soulweaver's confusion grew, but appeared behind the monster in a flash, ready to strike the androgyne figure beside him the entire time. He staggered for a moment as it flashed in and out of view making multiple cuts in the monster, that let out a pained shriek like that of a human woman, the Soulweaver's eyes growing wide in horror.
"Ignore it," the androgyne figure barked. "You must keep your heart and soul strong, not only for your sake, but for Xalia."
He thought of Xalia and how he said he'd protect her, but what was he doing now?
"You know what to do."
A white light radiated from the Soulweaver's chest, the glow of the androgyne figure growing in intensity before delivering a series of slashes to the creature, moving with such speed it may as well have been standing still.
The androgyne figure appeared in front of him once more, its cloak flew open, releasing a torrent of white energy. The beast was vaporized and the sand beneath it burned to glass.
"Thank you...." the Soulweaver began unsure of what this beings name is.
"Iustitia," they said. "Try not to forget me again."
The Soulweaver awoke with a gasp, his vision blurred and getting worse. The poison in his body hindered him from standing, he had to force enough willpower to purge it from his system, a viscous multi coloured fluid slowly oozing from the wounds on his arms.
He could faintly hear what could be best described as glass cracking as the giant spider threatened to break through Xalia's ever weakening barrier, but was powerless to aid.
Chapter XV: Atlach-Nacha
Xalia's cracking shield filled with a bright orange light as a multitude of symbols surrounded her, an overwhelming force beginning to charge. The symbols disappeared inside her, her body glowing like a sun.
The monster broke through the barrier, a ray of energy left Xalia's body and pushed the monster back, threatening to bore through it.
Both the monster and Xalia sagged, one from exerting a lot of energy while the other strained to not be immediately obliterated by the attack. It shook as it regained its footing, pieces of its carapace falling off in grey sheets, disintegrating as they fell through the holes in the web.
It had been some time since the spider had encountered anyone or anything that could harm it. The expression on its face remained unchanged, but its eyes showed fear.
Xalia breathed heavy and began channeling another spell, several rune inscribed rings circled around while an image of a hammer appeared above her. The monster shrieked as she delivered a blow from to its multi-expressioned face and followed through with a blast of cosmic energy.
The Soulweaver slowly attempted to stand up, the monster's venom dripping from his arms, he staggered trying to approach Xalia whose own exhaustion was beginning to get to her.
Atlach-Nacha, Iustitia said. She's done well to wound it despite her fears.
The Soulweaver produced his spirit looms and attempted to attack the monstrous spider, a white glow radiating from his chest like when he and Iustitia defeated the thing posing as his mother while Xalia attempted to channel another spell.
It's time to end this.
A beam of light dropped down on the Old One, a pained cry coming from it, its eyes burned.
The blind god thrashed about, the web shaking, threatening to kill them all.
Iustitia appeared beside the Soulweaver, their cloak flying open and unleashing a torrent of energy, the Old One shrieking as its body fell apart into scraps of grey, turning to ash.
The two collapsed in exhaustion, their energy spent.
It would be some time before Xalia saw the irony in using cosmic powers during their quest, but the most recent endeavour would be the hectic climb back to the surface.
Chapter XVI: On Darker Tides
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Kathool R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," the aquatic horrors chanted mere days before the events in Miskatonic.
Standing along the shores was a mob of aquatic humanoids born from the relations between between man and Deep One. A sin Neso can not overlook, but could do nothing to stop.
There are forces at work even stronger than the Avatars and while they'd never admit it to anyone other than themselves, they were frightened.
The crowd parted as humans walked into the waters, a Deep One waiting within to begin the unholy ritual to bear more Deep Ones.
Innsmouth was already taken over, the lesser deity Dagon watching as each human that enters the lakes' black waters begins to change.
They could destroy any coastal region if they desired, but like their god Kathool, they wait. Dreaming.
Haeos and Khazri could conjure up the perfect storm to wipe these blasphemous things off the face of this star and ensure they never step foot near the waters again, but fear strangled them.
It takes a lot to scare a god. Especially one's that are so boisterous and prideful as the gods of Lore. But what they fear is not of Lore.
What they fear was ancient when Lore was young.
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Kathool R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn," the Deep Ones chanted.
"Ia! Ia! Ia!" the humans chanted back as they sunk into the water.
You cannot resist.
Three figures moved through the remains of Innsmouth, two moving in spastic and uncoordinated ways while the other walked up right and proper, their steps made noticeable by crushing the bodies of dead spiders scattered throughout.
The destruction of Innsmouth would go as unnoticed as its existence, but the speed in which the servants of the fallen King of Spiders moved on the town forced them to accelerate their plans.
The lighthouse was all that remained of the town, its black light shining over the ruined town and the spider corpses that littered it.
The three spoke in an alien language that had been thought dead for millennia as they traversed the hellish landscape. The Crawling Chaos had come to Lore and none knew why or how, they'd need to take the reigns of time and move it forward with their own hands if they are to awaken the Master of R'lyeh before the promised time.
At the edge of the water, they chanted in their alien language, calling to the Ruler of the Deep Ones who was already unhappy with the attack by the spiders, but they would need to accept the current circumstances.
The tide ceased and the world around them fell silent, broken only by the bellowing of the great beast that lies beneath the lakes.
Chapter XVII: Light & Dark
The climb from the cave system was a hectic one, the town of Miskatonic being no more, the buildings including the university being covered in webs. A few spiders lingered, but ignored the two.
The two travelled through the Doomwood in silence until they came to a dilapidated building much like the sanctuary Xalia stayed in the night before arriving in Innsmouth, bt much like the one the two stumbled upon before entering Miskatonic, it also smelled of sea water and bore the strange T-shaped symbol on the altar.
"Who built these places," Xalia asked no one in particular.
"Adventurers like He and yourself," Iustitia said appearing beside the Soulweaver. "Adventurers build these structures to protect themselves from what resides in the woods, but this one and the one you two found previously aren't like the many others. This one is...tainted."
Xalia shrieked, surprised by the sudden appearance of the foreboding figure.
"It's okay, Xalia," the Soulweaver assured. "This is Iustitia, an elemental spirit of light and my SoulAlly."
Xalia understood how Soulweaver's operated and their relationship to an elemental spirit, but she was confused by what they meant about the sanctuary.
"Yes, I'm sorry. You startled me is all. What do you mean by this place being tainted?"
"Apologies," Iustitia said with a slight bow-curtsy. "What I mean is this symbol is not one of the Avatars as there would be in similar structures like this one. I'm sure you can tell there are other signs."
"The sea water smell."
"I'll have to believe you, my own sense of smell left me a long time ago, but yes. We are far from the sea, but here you can smell it as though we were on the coast."
"What do you mean by these places being built for those wanting protection from what was in the woods?"
"Not everyone is trained to use a weapon or magic nor can everyone afford an escort. Sometimes even those who are or can are not capable of safely going through the woods," Iustitia began, Xalia thinking over how different she is from many of the people in not only Amityvale, but greater Lore as a whole. "So they built these and decorated them with sigils of the Avatars following the influence of someone from far beyond. But while some may fear what those symbols represent and stay away, others do not. A werewolf for example does not fear the light like a vampire does."
A chill came over Xalia at the mention of werewolves.
"How do you know all of this?" the Soulweaver asked.
"Before I became your ally, I spent a long time traversing the Light Plane. I saw many things. The rise and fall of tyrants, emperors, and empires. The deaths of many. I also learned things through this time such as the pointlessness of alignments."
"What do you mean?" Xalia asked, confused by Iustitia's words.
"You would consider Darkness evil correct?" the light spirit would ask.
"Yes, like I would consider Light good," Xalia stated. "Darkovia is always under constant threat by the forces of Darkness. There was even a time darkness consumed the continent because of a being of darkness."
"Indeed. But even the wolves, beings of light have attacked Amityvale pursuing a girl for reasons I no longer recall nor particularly care about. And one end while darkness covered the land, on the other end there are those who fought to prevent their land from being consumed by light. There are even little things like overzealous paladins, aggressive light elementals and minx fairies to greater things like the existence of light liches like Sek-Duet."
Xalia considered Iustitia's words. Her upbringing didn't really allow for deep thinking on the morality of the world around her, nor was she certain why they were having this conversation, but it did offer a glimpse into who Iustitia is or maybe even was.
The Soulweaver thought about Iustitia's words. The one who taught him about Soulweaving always said Doomwood and the greater Darkovia was crawling with evil and always will as long as Darkness exists, but what about the rest of the world? Wasn't there evil there too?
"Do you know what this symbol means?" the Soulweaver asked.
"There are things in this world and beyond besides the Avatars. Beings so old, they can recall the birth of the Avatars and the creation of this star with the utmost clarity. Some of those are beyond even Lore's greatest heroes which even if they do encounter, won't be able to permanently defeat it. This symbol is a sign of one of those beings. The monster in Miskatonic, Atlach-Nacha was another."
"So we didn't truly defeat it?" the Soulweaver asked, dejectedly.
"No. It will regenerate in time, so while it's not gone forever, you both did put a stop to whatever it was doing which is something to take pride in."
The Soulweaver smiled softly at Xalia. It was a small smile, but her body felt warm at the sight of it.
"We should go. If there's a symbol of this being, it may have followers nearby. Arkham shouldn't be too far," Iustitia said flatly before vanishing.
Arkham's main attraction for any travellers who stumbled upon the town was the tavern/inn much like any other town. Although unlike many other such establishments across Darkovia and Lore as a whole, Arkham's was named "Pandora's" after the proprietor, a tall, slim dark haired woman who patrons would describe as very friendly and easy on the eyes in the dark dress she wore that left just enough to the imagination.
"Oh my," Pandora said in a hushed tone from behind the counter.
She could feel someone approaching the town, an insatiable hunger coming over her.
Chapter XVIII: A Rose By Any Other Name
Samael trekked through the woods, Furorem staggering behind, the walls of Arkham visible through the trees.
Shadows passed over the trees as something flew over, scanning the area, searching for something or someone.
I don't have time for this, Samael thought.
The master of the creatures flying overhead had been engaged in conflict with Samael longer than either could remember, but given the nature of the two, it would be one that would never end.
Outside the walled town hung time and weather worn banners of a blue rose. A symbol for the impossible. The symbol was fitting for an organization bent on eradicating magic from a world fueled by it. Blue roses did not occur naturally, needing to be manufactured.
Sentries along the walls, wielding weapons discarded by the group that forged them long ago.
"This isn't Amityvale," Xalia stated.
"Amityvale was fortified due to it being home to a human that was targeted by the werewolves and vampires that inhabited the surrounding area," the Soulweaver said, Iustitia's words coming from his mouth. "Arkham has its own share of monsters haunting in the dark to require fortification. It was also an ideal location to house problematic prisoners."
The sentries permitted them entrance, the gates closing behind the pair. Arkham was not a particularly outstanding town, having all the houses and shops one would expect from any town. What set it apart from any other town was the looming structure atop a distant hill, like a divine being overlooking all of creation.
Passing townspeople gave brief glances to Xalia then quickly carried on at the sight of the Soulweaver, some even crossing the street to avoid being near him. Some townspeople walked as they did while others walked a bit more erratically, mumbling under their breath.
There's an evil about this town, tread lightly, Iustitia warned the Soulweaver.
The two approached the building marked "Pandora's," seeing it to be a tavern/inn of sorts. Various people were sitting around tables either in groups or by themselves while an attractive dark haired woman served drinks. The various noises of chatter and clinking glasses they could hear from outside ceased upon entering and everyone turned to look at who just entered. The dark haired woman was too far away for them to see the hungry look in her eyes upon seeing the Soulweaver.
The two passed by occupied tables to an empty on, some people speaking in hushed tones, the less subtle ones looking at them and specifically the Soulweaver as they did. The Soulweaver heard the name "Innsmouth" three times.
How did they know where he was from especially just by looking at him?
The black haired woman approached them as they sat down. "What can I get for this charming couple?" she asked.
The Soulweaver blushed and averted his eyes. Xalia too blushed, but did her best to not avert her gaze although the woman's attire made her feel uneasy. Despite being marginally more covering than her own, it still had a certain allure to it and the woman's proportions emphasized what that allure is.
"We're....we're not a couple," Xalia said trying to avoid stammering.
"Oh? So this cutie is up for grabs then?" the woman asked, placing a hand on the Soulweaver's shoulder.
Reflexively she shook her hand off, sinking in his seat.
"A shy one, huh? I know a thing or two that can remedy that."
"We're just passing through," Xalia said trying to steel her voice, unnerved by something about the woman.
Xalia didn't think of herself as jealous and she'd be lying if she said she didn't consider the Soulweaver attractive, but she also didn't feel anything romantic for him. She felt something sinister about the woman.
"Oh? And where might you two be headed?"
"Somewhere," Xalia said realizing she sounded vague without doing so intentionally.
The two managed to each get a room at "Pandora's," but neither could shake the feeling of dread that came from that. It seemed normal for them to have their own room given their strictly platonic relationship, but something about Arkham made them feel uneasy about it unlike their accomodations in Miskatonic.
The Soulweaver looked at himself in a mirror over a wash basin, noticing he was looking a bit more disleveled than usual, showing more signs of any lack of self-care than his lack of sleep.
The Soulweaver conjured up a spirit loom, recalling a lesson from the Paladin from his childhood. It was a mundane task, just using his spirit loom to shave, but the memory made his mind feel at ease and actually made him happy.
Easier than having to maintain a straight edge, he recalled the Paladin saying as he slowly began to remove the stubble growing on his face, letting out a hiss when he nicked his cheek.
The Soulweaver went to blot the blood with a cloth, but stopped when he saw something out of the ordinary in his reflection. A tentacle was slowly starting to emerge from the cut on his cheek. Panicking, he cut it off, but a new one grew back in its place and another emerging from other spots on his face, scales forming in places where tentacles didn't emerge.
Blood, writhing tentacles and bloody scales filling the basin as the Soulweaver hastily tried to shear them off until he was looking at himself again, nothing on his face except a small cut and a lack of facial hair, the basin empty.
"Mm, you clean up good," a familiar voice said from the doorway of the bathroom.
The Soulweaver could see the dark haired woman from before in the mirror wearing something he was unsure if it could be considered clothing. He was reminded of the things that claimed to be his mother and looked away.
There was something else about her that was different, but he wasn't sure what. Iustitia might have known, but apparently even elemental spirits need sleep.
"You don't seem like the usual inhabitants of Innsmouth," she said approaching. "At least not from what I can see."
The Soulweaver swings with the spirit loom, the woman catching his arm effortlessly, his eyes going wide in fear and shock.
"Feisty. Let's see if I can't break you in," she said whispering, almost panting into his ear.
Pain, shame, fear, and guilt ran through his body.
The Soulweaver stood in the doorway of Xalia's room his arms behind his back, eyes blank, dried blood around his lips and nostrils and his shirt stained with more than just blood and dirt from the events leading up until now. He wasn't sure how he got there only brief flashes of what happened before.
"What happened?" Xalia asked, reaching out to him.
He backed away, stumbling to the floor, his arms still concealed and expression turning to one of fear and shame. His body trembled, still feeling the woman's breath on his neck and in his ear as if his nightmare was still occurring.
Xalia went into the Soulweaver's room, the bed was torn apart and the word ASYLUM written on the wall in a reddish-black substance resembling dried blood. In the bathroom the mirror was broken which she was certain she would've heard, but she heard nothing from the Soulweaver's room.
Xalia was filled with guilt. She said she'd protect the Soulweaver and she failed. Pushing her feelings of guilt back, she left the room and went downstairs to the tavern, scythe at the ready.
If she couldn't protect the Soulweaver, she could avenge him.
Chapter XIX: The Black Goat
Samel stopped trekking through the woods, feeling something that wasn't present before. The things hunting him above the woods outside Arkham returned to their master, and he was well aware of them. What he felt was something strong although still surpassed by his own power and the power of the one inhabiting Arkham, but it was good at hiding its presence.
If Valtrith was involved, Samael was very curious as to know how, but first he had a task to complete in Dunwich.
The woman seemed disappointed the sight of Xalia being the only one to descend the stairs leading from the rooms.
"Is that little cutie still asleep? I didn't think he'd be that worn out, but," she shrugs. "It was his first time."
She smiled and licked her lips.
"You know, if you prefer a woman's touch, I don't discriminate."
A ring of runes appeared around and she raised her weapon which began glowing the same colour of the runes.
A beam fired from the tip of her scythe, striking the woman directly who seemed to be completely obliterated, turning into a cloud of black smoke.
From the black smoke came the sound of a bestial, predatory laughter then a great black pair of bat-like wings that with a single beat dispersed, but not dispel the smoke with enough force to nearly knock Xalia off her feet.
Standing before Xalia was an enormous goat-like creature that gazed upon her with the same hungry eyes the form it took before gazed upon the Soulweaver. It was similar to the Trickster's Xalia had encountered long ago, but it was bigger and its mere presence was almost suffocating.
"What are you?" Xalia asked.
"Just the friendly owner of Arkham's inn & tavern, Pandora, but most people call me Pan."
Pan grinned, showing almost carnivorous teeth.
"But you can call me master."
The black smoke drifted and swirled around the room, taking the shape of various monster.
"I am your new god. Profess your love unto me or be destroyed."
Iustitia appeared before the Soulweaver who had not moved from his spot against the wall where he had stumbled, their expression showing fear and concern, trying to mask their guilt and shame.
"Who did this to you?"
The Soulweaver remained silent, staring vacantly at nothing.
"Please answer me," Iustitia pleaded, growing desperate, but still the Soulweaver remained silent.
"Damn it, answer me!" they snapped, picking the Soulweaver up by the collar, his body going limp.
Iustitia saw the Soulweaver's arms. The marks left behind by Atlach-Nacha's fangs were still visible and scabbed over, but there were fresh wounds only just starting to clot over. Claw marks.
Iustitia slowly lowered the Soulweaver who slumped against the wall, still trying to conceal his arms.
"I'm...I'm so sorry."
Iustitia slowly faded away, their pained expression slowly giving way to anger.
His body felt disgusting to him. His heart and soul felt tainted and stained black with sin.
He didn't know what had happened, it occurred so quickly yet at the same time so slowly that he could vividly recall every painful and horrifying moment.
The smoke monsters swarmed Xalia, the spikes produced by her shield, effortlessly dispersing them, but they would merely circle around and reform in different shapes.
"I had hoped to enjoy a warm meal, but at least I got to enjoy the boy before he becomes another victim of Innsmouth's curse."
In what seemed like a flash, Pan lunged at Xalia, the spikes from the shield piercing the beasts hide, but doing nothing to hinder it as it plunges one of its massive hands through the shield, reaching for Xalia's neck.
As the spikes and shield fade, Pan is flung across the room, Iustitia standing before Xalia, eyes full of fire and one arm outstretched having thrown the alleged god despite it being several times their size.
Pan laughed as it recovered. "How nice of you to show up after the fact. Unable to act when the one you're bound to is in danger? How impotent."
The smoke monsters moved to converge on Iustitia and in a flash of light, forcing Xalia to shield her eyes, vapourized them.
Pan lunged at the two, Xalia stepping forward, a ring of runes circling her head and inflicting multiple deep gashes into Pan with her scythe while Iustitia fired a blast of light into the alleged god.
Pan hunched over and with a great beat of its wings, knocked both of them back and stood up presenting itself as unphased despite the large, burned gashes on its body.
"Mmm, it's a shame one of you is just a spirit. You both put up far more fight than the boy ever did," Pan taunted.
A series of rings like a model of the solar system appeared beneath Pan and a wall of strange, ice-looking matter sprang from the floor and around the monster, disappearing and leaving behind patches of yellow on the monster.
Pan clenched a fist which proceeded to grow several times in size and swung at the two, its arm stretching several times its length. Xalia did not have time to wonder how such a blow didn't kill her instantly.
Xalia used her scythe to steady herself, readying another spell. This needed to end and it needed to end fast.
Energy crackled and lightning started to form in the rings beneath Pan who readied another attack, but before either of them could continue, Pan sensed something amiss from far far away and in a cloud of black smoke, vanished.
Xalia's attack ceased and the rings faded as she collapsed to her knees, her breathing heavy and her body sore. She would need a moment before picking herself back up. Even Iustitia appeared exhausted, their body language showing Pan's words had gotten to them and the brief battle taken a toll on their body.
The monster in the caves of Miskatonic felt easy in comparison to Pan who she believed did not flee out of self-preservation.
Iustitia's head perked up like the ears of an animal that heard something only it could hear, grave concern showing on their face.
Chapter XX: The Ritual
Baron Valtrith overlooked the ritual ground, his followers bumbling around as they attempted to comply with the commands of the witches. What was the point of keeping these fools? Those who were of the living were as useless as they were lost which made them susceptible to the idea of joining him not even having the excuse of being undead and thus without a mind of their own like his reanimated followers.
Darkness came over the sky above the castle as if a heavy black sheet was pulled over it, the ritual had begun.
The witches had begun chanting and soon his followers as if compelled to do so despite the language they chanted supposedly being alien to them. It was alien to Valtrith, but he somehow understood it like the text in the tome.
Should the ritual succeed, he'd be more than prepared to begin his attack on R'yleh's master and then Lore in its entirety. A devilish grin appeared beneath his mask.
In the center of the ritual grounds, a pitch black yet somehow visible in the darkness substance began to seep from the ground before erupting like a geyser looking as if the ritual forced oil from below the surface. The geyser would soon stop and the oil-looking substance would begin to congregate in one place and take shape as if molded by invisible hands.
Valtrith felt his entire body begin to pulsate like a giant heart followed by a sharp pain running up the entirety of his back.
Kathool. He sought to assimilate Kathool into his own being. Caitiff sought to study Kathool and even in its weakened state threatened to drive the monster to madness. Valtrith was different. He would resist. He could resist. He sought Kathool for his own purposes. He was nothing like Caitiff, he created that monster afterall. He was nothing like that traitor. That failure.
The mass of the oil-looking substance took on the form of Baron Valtrith and would appear before him, stretching its form to move from the ritual grounds to the balcony Valtrith watched from like a spring.
Valtrith stared the oily-looking construct down as though it were another enemy, but it did not falter instead advancing on him in the same manner it appeared before him and began to envelope his body, spreading out to consume the tendrils that his body produced against his will.
Who are you? a voice asked him. It was one he could scarcely recall having not heard it in a great many years.
I am- Valtrith began, cut off by the voice.
What are you?
Who are you? the voice repeated.
It would continue to ask the questions over and over like a child trying to agitate its parents until like an agitated parent, Valtrith snapped.
I am fire. I am darkness. I am death. I am Baron Jayon Valtrith!
The voice Valtrith would remember as his own from when he was human would cease and the oily substance would be absorbed into his body as would the tendrils it produced. He felt different somehow, it was a subtle difference, but it was there.
He held out his clawed hand, the blades turning into tendrils then returning to normal. Holding his hand flat, a doll sized Serenity would materialize then be consumed. He was in control, but there had to have been something more, something that would have to be tested in the future.
The witches huddled amongst themselves as the cultists began to disperse.
"What did we just do?" the shortest of the three witches asked.
"I don't know," the tallest and presumably their leader said. "Whatever we did though, it's finished and this tome is now ours."
"Assuming Valtrith doesn't try to kill us first," the middle of the three said.
Baron Valtrith entered the courtyard that served as the ritual grounds, approaching the trio. Whatever happened certainly did change him, but it was hard to tell how beyond him no longer showing the same traits of being unable to control what made up his body as before. There was something more sinister about him.
"Thank you for your cooperation. You're free to go," Valtrith said, his tone far more casual than it had ever been. A collective chill ran through the bodies of the witches.
"Y...you're welcome, Baron Valtrith," the shortest of the three said.
Without another word, Valtrith turned to return to the castle interior. He thought of Pan and using them to dispose of the witches and retrieve the tome. He absolutely could not allow them to live as long as they possessed it.
Neither of them spoke again until Valtrith was out of sight and presumably earshot.
"Did we do the right thing?" the shortest of the three asked.
"We have never done the right thing," the tallest of the three began. "This was just more deplorable than anything we had done before."
< Message edited by NagisaXIkari -- 4/7/2019 6:59:44 >