Despite the large horns growing out of her head, Salissta Stormrage was quite an attractive lady.
But it was her warmth, a side effect of being a vessel for a Demon Lord, that currently attracted the Scions to her.
The group sat inside the glowing teleportation circle, huddled close together while bandaging bloody wounds and trying to remain warm against the icy chill of the Shadowfell. Being in the realm of death was unpleasant to say the very least. Barely surviving against their undead welcoming party was bad enough, but the cold and necrotic energy surrounding them seemed to be seeping into their bodies like a chilling toxin.
Abelarde told himself that it was just the cold that had him shaking. His holy symbol of Amaunator was squeezed in his hand, and he was thankful for the Sun God’s assistance in surviving the ordeal. But he couldn’t stop thinking about that voice that had popped into his head, asking for help. Who was this person, and where were they?
Lucan and Toby tightened their bloody wraps and took stock of the situation. Salissta sat cross-legged in the center of the circle, providing demon warmth to the others while she meditated. A voice outside the circle brought her out of her trance immediately, and made every head turn. It was a very angry voice, coming from a very unlikely source.
“It’s a trap.”
Bare-chested and bloody, steam still escaping from a number of his wounds, Koyas stared at Salissta. “You led us into a trap,” he said, his voice far less timid and much more assertive than normal. Or whatever normal was in reference to Koyas the Mad. “After everything I’ve done to keep Koyas alive, you seem to have little problem throwing him to the wolves time and again.”
Abelarde looked at Lucan. “Should it seem strange that he’s referring to himself in the third person?”
“It would be strange to think it strange,” Lucan replied.
Salissta slowly opened her eyes and looked up at the monk. “I’ve led no one into a trap. This is a dangerous place. One can’t even be sure of drawing their next breath without worrying it may be their last. We survived, and will simply have to be more cautious from here on out.”
“We survived?” Lighting crashed. Koyas stretched his arms out to the sides. The grey light illuminated the gutted tower momentarily, but in that moment the monk’s ravaged body was fully displayed. “Does this look like survival to you?”
“Get over here you mad fuck,” Toby said. “We don’t have time for this. We’re alive. That’s the end of it.”
“And where do we go next? What good will come of us being in the Shadowfell?” He pointed an accusing finger at Salissta. “Why is that hellspawn dragging us father from the light?”
He took a step closer to the glowing teleportation ring. Madness was running unchecked in the monk’s eyes, enough so that Salissta drew her staff close to her chest. Koyas turned his attention to the Scions of Legacy. “You killed the Blood Lord! The one who commanded legions of undead armies and was responsible for the death of entire kingdoms! He’s dead, but here we are in the Shadowfell. Why?”
He pointed at Salissta. Blood ran down his forearm and dripped from his fingertip. “She killed Abelarde, possessed the dead body of your cleric, and had her power taken away from her by the man who sent her to the Nine Hells for a century or two.”
The former warlock gave him a curious look. “You weren’t there. How do you know this?”
“Koyas could smell the lie that is your entire existence and he told me.” The monk stood just outside the circle. “I may not be a Scion of Legacy, but I live to keep Koyas safe. I’m not about to throw our lives away based solely on the word of a demon woman looking for revenge.”
Salissta had heard enough and stood up. Her voice was as chilling as the air around them. “Then you should have left when Saffrenia did.”
“If I had any say at that time, Koyas would have followed the woman. Instead, he chose to follow you, first into the Underdark, and now the Shadowfell.” Koyas smeared his bloody hand across his bare stomach. “Darker and darker we go.”
“This is about much more than myself,” Salissta turned from the monk and addressed the Scions within the circle. “This is Illidus wanting the power of a God and bringing Hell to Earth!”
Lucan eyed the horned woman suspiciously. “I thought it was your brother who was so power hungry.”
“I’m starting to believe that I have been mistaken.”
Abelarde didn’t like the sound of that. “What changed your mind?”
“Last night while I was meditating,” Salissta closed her eyes and she lost herself in a dream. She moved her hands over her body, just hovering over her skin. “I felt the presence of Illidus. I felt his fire all around me. We still share a bond.”
Abelarde cocked an eyebrow. “Not sure how comfortable I am with you feeling his fire, whatever that means. Besides, I thought he was destroyed when you stole his whammy?”
Salissta’s hands stopped moving. She opened her eyes, a little embarrassed at her performance a moment ago. “I thought I had. I performed a powerful ritual and absorbed his essence. My brother, in his arrogance, simply put on a mystical helmet and thought he was powerful enough to take the Demon Lord’s power and control it. But when I was meditating, I could feel Illidus talking to me. Instead of Kalak absorbing the essence of Illidus, I fear the Demon Lord stole his.”
Koyas stepped over the teleportation circle and joined the others. Salissta’s body heat warmed the air, and the steam from the monk’s wounds disappeared. Koyas didn’t seem to notice or care. “Illidus talks to you. You feel his thoughts. Maybe he feels yours too. In which case, you’re hurting us more than you’re helping us.”
Lucan looked over at Abelarde. “He may by out of his mind, but he’s not wrong. Could be that Illidus decided to celebrate his freedom by going back to the Abyss. It was Kalak who wanted this god machine. If she’s right and Illidus is in control, how do we know he’s still going after the machine?” He shot a glance at Salissta. “Or did he tell you he was?”
The talk of lying, betrayal, and possibly getting screwed over again wasn’t agreeing with Toby at all. “How do we know she isn’t using us so she can use the machine on herself?”
“You haven’t exactly given us much good faith to go on,” Abelarde told her.
Salissta looked shocked. “I took you to the Underdark to arm yourselves with powerful magic items! Why would I strengthen you if I wanted to betray you?”
Lucan seemed unconvinced. “Doesn’t mean you won’t turn on us as soon as we help you get to this machine. Maybe you’ll use that fancy dagger you picked up while we were in Apothica.”
Salissta’s calm gave way to frustration. She paced around the edge of the ring, the glow casting long shadowy horns up on the wall behind her. “I told you the truth before when I said I couldn’t stop Kalak without you. But if we’re dealing with Illidus instead of my brother, I’m less certain about our chances of success. That doesn’t mean he can’t be defeated, and it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be.”
Toby reached out and flicked a lock of her hair as she passed by him, stopping her in her tracks. “It’s not that easy to trust you, what with you wearing Yelena’s body like a damn coat.”
“Lucan is right,” Koyas told the Scions. “If she can hear Illidus’ thoughts, there’s a chance he can hear hers.” He looked at Salissta as her fingers tightened around her staff. “Or maybe that’s what she wants. Maybe she wants to warn him that we’re coming.”
Her staff crackled as Salissta swung it in a long arc toward Koyas’ head. But the monk moved much quicker and caught the staff with his left hand and punched her square in the face with his right. Salissta left her feet, as well as the teleportation circle, and slammed against the wall behind her. She dropped to the ground in a tumbled heap, her horns scraping against the stone wall until her back hit the hard ground.
Abelarde appeared to briefly consider stepping between the two, then tossed that idea in the trash just as quickly. “Enough!”
Koyas looked at the staff, which has stopped sparking, and tossed it over to Salissta. “Not even close, but it’s a start.”