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RP:Master Of Puppets

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Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc


Summary: Khitti, Brand, Meri, Lionel, and Onyx return to Mourir, home of Amarrah, Facilier, and the rest of the Umbrawisp tribe in an attempt to get Khitti's bloodline curse removed. Things are not as they seem and go rather badly for the adventurers.

Isle of the Damned, The Plane of Shadows

The Cathedral of the Damned, Mourir, the Vale of Shadows. It had been a dangerous trek across the dark plane to make it this far. But at long last, the group stood on the steps of the abode of Facilier himself -- high priest to Vakmathras, nefarious necromancer, and a perpetual thorn in Khitti’s side. “All this way, and no welcome?” asked Brand, peering at the tip of the arch with arms akimbo. “Facilier always gave me the impression he knew everything before we did. I’d expected the man to figure we were comin’.” He turned back to Khitti, concern writ across his brow. “I think I would’ve felt better if he’d been out here waitin’, all things considered.”

Brand’s First Mate, the ‘child’ Onyx, stood with their bow at the ready. “Someone like him would enjoy making a game out of it. His actions won’t be predictable until we know which cards he has in hand.” In other words: it was probably a trap. The undead’s black eyes remained fixed and unblinking on the double doors ahead. “We must proceed assuming the worst.”

“True,” Brand conceded, “I’d just hoped to avoid goin’ back inside here. Place creeps me the frak out.” He nudged one door ajar with the weight of his shoulder, watching the darkness with bated breath. When no dark power drew forth to strangle him, he opened it the rest of the way. The Cathedral awaited, seemingly unchanged since their last visit -- except that now it was thoroughly empty. The moon glistened through the stained glass windows and onto row after row of polished wooden pews. At the end of the aisle, foreboding as ever, stood the altar of Vakmathras. A single candle was lit at its center, worn down to its last hours. The god’s effigy towered above, bony arms outstretched in welcome. “No one else here, either. Maybe he’s out?” Brand asked hopefully. “Maybe we can spring a trap for -him- when he returns, or catch one of his followers and use them as a bargaining chip.” Brand stepped inward, and Onyx followed in brooding silence.

Khitti’s own features mirrored the concern on Brand’s, “I wish we didn’t even have to be here. I wished we’d managed to kill him one of those times before.” The last time they were here jumped to the forefront of Khitti’s mind as Brand pushed open the door, her right hand moving to the tattoo-covered scar on her left arm, rubbing it absently. Funny thing about all of this was that part of her (an itty bitty teeny tiny part, anyway) kind of wished she had that vampirism still. For all the hell she went through--that the four of them went through--to get rid of it, it still gave them a little bit more of an edge against Facilier.

Now, Khitti was vulnerable, even moreso than before. It wasn’t even that she was just human, but pregnant now as well, and she was suddenly left to wonder how good of an idea this was. It was just her nerves though, right? She didn’t push past any of the rest of the group, as she was wont to do in the past. Instead, she stuck with them, moving when they did, and nearly clinging to Brand’s shirt--the former vampire was very much afraid right now. “I don’t know, Brand. Maybe we should go. Maybe there’s some other way to do this. Maybe my father was wrong.”

Meri was along for the ride, ill-advised or not -- almost every adventure she has been on that involves this lot has been ill-advised by someone or another. That has not stopped her before. Meri is dressed for the occasion, having adorned herself with her usual favored pieces of light armor, bracers, boots, shield. She's got her not-so-fancy firesword too, both Brand and Lionel show Meri up in the fire department, no question. Meri is not very chatty, which may or may not be surprising depending on perception. On one hand, she's usually not the gal to be talking up a storm, she would rather stay focused. We like our psions to be focused, don't we? It's kind of important. On the other, she has grown closer to the lot, so one might assume conversation would flow more freely. Largely unfamiliar with the terrain, Meri opts to position herself toward the back of the traveling bunch, Brand could lead the way. She may not be talking but she is clearly listening, Brand gets a nod to acknowledge that they should assume the worst.

Lionel spends the trip in silence, studying every facet of this place that he can. He’s been here once before, but for all the darkness and danger of that visit, it was a far simpler time. He had no idea the Shadow Plane could be the realm of a man like Kahran. Now his mind has shifted its perspective of the dimension from somewhat grim to far grimmer, and he analyzes its strange and alien landscape for signs of raw villainy. If he is fortunate, he might have find hints to the location of Kahran’s probable headquarters, lending a pending return mission to the Plane a much-needed headstart. Alas, he is not fortunate. The party cannot afford a circuitous route en route to Mourir, for it could doom them to failure and worse. Lionel finds nothing of Kahran, nothing of his hordes.

Lionel glides his fingertips across the wooden pews within the Cathedral of the Damned, feeling their occasionally-splintered softness. The air is too still for him. “Cheeky bloke,” he says, waving his hand over the lone candle at the altar once he’s stepped past every pew. “Vakmatharas, I mean. Gods. Nothing but trouble.” He has no qualms saying it within such a structure. He’d have no qualms saying it anywhere. “Ask me, Facilier doesn’t strike me as the sort of folk who’d care if we ripped open just about anybody. But a trap could work.”

“If we leave,” pointed out Onyx, turning back to Khitti, “we go back to square one, with no other plans.” Brand offered a nod, though he didn’t weigh in further. He busied himself stalking from row to row, testing himself to see how silently he could pace through the echoing chambers. From Meri, he kept his distance. Leave the psion to her psion-ing. She might sense first if someone was hidden? But search though they may, Facilier was nowhere to be found inside the main body of the cathedral. Nor did he or any of his followers return, no matter how long they waited. Lionel may have been right, and Facilier may not have cared if they’d done something to one of his people, but they weren’t about to settle the question any time soon.

Brand made it nearly to the end of the cathedral when the candle there burnt out of its own accord. He froze in place, expecting the extinguished light to be what heralded Facilier’s arrival, but when no one came Brand created a flame of his own and stepped toward the altar.

The parchment spread across it was incomprehensible. Long jagged marks made their way down the page in a language he could not identify, let alone understand. Inkwells weighed down the parchment at the corners and a heavy basin sat off to one side. As Brand watched, a droplet fell into it from above; he jerked his head upwards and saw the hands of Vakmathras overhead, with one long fingernail curled toward the altar. “The gorram thing moved,” Brand breathed. Or perhaps he’d not looked closely enough when they entered? The doubt crept in as soon as he’d voiced his certainty.

The statue didn’t move so long as he stared, at any rate. Condensation collected along its arms in the chill air, gathering at a fingertip until it was weighty enough to drop into the basin below. Long ago, perhaps, the basin had filled this way; now it overflowed in steady rivulets. Brand followed them to the back side of the altar, and soon enough was hollering his discovery to the rest of the group: “Frak me. There’s an entire stairwell hidden back here.”

Khitti frowned at Onyx, but said nothing. None of them seemed to put much stock in her research of Lithrydel’s deities. It’s not like it was something she was well-versed in, so it was taking some time, damn it! Khitti sighed heavily and followed along behind Brand, lingering at the statue even after he’d gone on and found that stairwell. The urge to touch those long, bony fingers of Vakmathras was there or maybe even spill a bit of her own blood into the basin--wasn’t that how Gevurah called upon the God of Death? For whatever reason--or obvious reasons--Khitti would’ve wanted to go straight to the source of the curse, instead of one of Vakmathras’ lackeys, but… Facilier needed to be gotten rid of, regardless. Immediately. She’s approach the stairwell finally, her own shadowflame lit in her palm, the fire much stronger than Brand’s thanks to their surroundings, “Let’s get going then before I end up leaving you all here to go back home and hide in bed.” She wouldn’t do that… would she?

It is plausible that Meri might have this innate ability to sense something or someone hidden away and lying in wait, so long as it had matter and mass, right? If this was something she could do, she's not indicating that she thinks anyone is going to spring out from the shadows and launch a surprise attack. The thing moved? If it had, Meri had not noticed either, but she had now taken to staring at the statue as if it might reveal to them if it had moved or not. Nothing. Nothing but a declaration that there was a hidden set of stairs...Which meant that they probably needed to examine those stairs, aye? So Meri moved over to where Brand was, and then tried to creep her way past the guy and up the stairs to have a look. She does not voice her logic, but if this was a trap then she figured Lionel, Brand and Onyx would best be able to keep the preggo safe. Lets get going indeed. Meri does not need to be told twice.

“Nothing but trouble,” Lionel repeats, his belief reaffirmed. With Khitti’s shadowflame for a guiding light, he’ll think twice about igniting Hellfire -- probably for the best considering the relatively cramped confines down which they’ll be traveling. That’s all he does, really, is traipse down those stairs and await the worst. The air remains still.

The stairwell descended far into the earth, with the occasional landings that opened onto additional floors. One was comprised of a kitchen and grand dining hall, complete with a fireplace and an elaborate chandelier. Another appeared to serve as storage space, well-organized and fit for the needs of the complex. Several more floors were filled with bedrooms that sprouted off endless corridors in a dormitory style. But there was nothing they could use against Facilier, and no sign of when he or those who followed him might return. Each floor was as vacant as the last.

The very bottommost landing was blocked off by heavy, bolted doors -- but even this couldn’t pose a deterrent to the group for long. Just as Brand began to speak of burning down their new obstacle, Onyx sent an illusion through the cracks and unbarred it from within. The doors gave way to a dark expanse, a hall with a stone-tiled floor and twin lines of columns that stretched on past the limits of sight. An incense tray hung above and just beyond the door frame, regaling them with the earthy scent of patchouli. “Very homey,” Brand quipped with an uneasy smile. The incense was still burning; Facilier or someone in his employ couldn’t be far.

Further in, past where any light from the stairwell could reach, an anti-magical static seeped into the pores and made a hasty home in the bones of those who now passed through. The flame Brand had been using for light doused as suddenly as the candle had up above. He backtracked to fetch a torch from the stairwell, and yet that too extinguished once he crossed the invisible threshold. Grumbling, Brand pulled a dagger from its sheath and shuffled onward into the gloom. “We must be onto somethin’,” he guessed. “People don’t work so hard to hide a room for no gorram reason.” Brand allowed himself the faintest hope at that thought. Facilier’s home was far more than it had appeared to be on their last trip here. Perhaps, fumbling through places they weren’t wanted, they’d discover some terrible secret the high priest of Vakmathras hadn’t meant for living eyes.

The room may have prevented the use of magic, but at least they were not doomed to darkness for long. The tiles soon illuminated in violet hues, marking each footfall with a dim oasis of light. The purple ebbed and grew again as they proceeded onward, each step connecting to the next with bright and fleshy incarnadine stripes. But the red stripes spread far beyond the growth of the violet light, bounding further and further in great lurches with every additional step taken, branching off and criss-crossing itself and even at times inching up the many pillars. The hall seemed to extend this way forever, until all the floor was covered in red and the deep soothing violets could no longer be seen. Brand fell in more closely with the rest of the group, as the lighting grew ever more disturbing. “Do you sense anything?” he called in a hoarse whisper. Even with his magic rendered useless, maybe Meri or Onyx still could…? “Can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but upstairs was -less- creepy.”

Khitti was not expecting this and promptly frowned again when her flame also went out. She withdrew her bow from back, as well as an arrow, and went to nock it as they crossed the threshold, but, unfortunately for her, the runes Onyx had long since inscribed upon the weapon didn’t glow. And when they didn’t glow, that meant she couldn’t use the vampire-grade string that Alvina had added to the bow when it was made. No magic and no bow. That’s fun. Thanks, Facilier. “Frak. Remind me to go weapon shopping after the bakery starts raking in gold.” Well, she’d make do regardless, of course. The bow was fixed to her back again and the arrow wielded like a vampire-slayer’s stake. It might not work against Facilier, but she could certainly take out a few of his employees with it. “I don’t sense anything undead, for the moment. Well, besides the obvious.” That’s you, Onyx. “Maybe if we ask Kahran nicely, he’ll burn this place to the ground instead of Lithrydel. That’s a good plan, right? Maybe he likes cake. We’ll save the world with baked goods and get rid of Facilier at the same time. Maybe -this- was my destiny all along.”

The door would not have posed a threat for long, if Onyx had not been so quick thinking then Meri would have soon stepped up to the plate. Upstairs was less creepy, and yet Meri was not so surprised that the further along they went, the more unnerving things became. She tries to ignore, she has to ignore it. Panic was not an emotion that one wants to feel in a situation like this, especially when they had little choice but to press on. For Khitti's sake. And so press on they would. Did Meri see something? Well she wasn't so keen on sticking with the group for just that purpose, she tried to stay two steps ahead as if this would give her a clearer mental picture but she was not met with any success. What she could sense, it was hazy and vague. A little nebulous if you will. Ahem. Anyway. The response that Brand get is a shake of her head, she could not see enough to put it to words. Maybe Onyx would have better luck.

Lionel keeps foremost focus upon the shadows where foes might lurk. The shifts in color spectrum are impossible to ignore, violet and red flashing over his body like they do, but as trance-like as the colors make him feel, their enemies could use it to their advantage and pour out in quiet sulks from behind them. The red that blankets Lionel further into the room feels to be him to be appropriate and right; passion is far and away his pillar, supplanting the cold blue logic which guides so many of his peers. Red passion to destroy Lithrydel’s enemies, to protect its denizens -- his surrogate family most of all. How cruel fate is -- how troublesome the so-called ‘gods’ truly are -- that Lionel’s driven passion seems to drag that family forward with him into the dank recesses of otherworldly locales so frequently, or else the fates conspire to send them off on their own accord with him there to defend.

Lionel prefers pie, which means it’s technically conceivable to him that Kahran enjoys the taste of cake. “I might start believing in destiny if that were yours,” he tells Khitti. His muscles are tense no matter how he tries to relax them. It’s always been a bit of a failing of Lionel’s; genuine ease of stance in the face of crushing anxiety comes easier to some than others. “Feels like a dead end. Yet it also feels like exactly where we’re supposed to be. I don’t like any place that feels like both simultaneously. Keep your guards up.” It doesn’t need to be said, but hearing his own words say it seems to help him somehow.

Brand chuckled, despite the eerie surroundings. “The lot of you could make a walk through anywhere interesting. I wonder if Kahran has been introduced to the concept of cheesecake…? Maybe we could turn him yet. Or maybe he’d like those hard candies of yours.” He elbowed Onyx, who said nothing and gave not even a hint of amusement. The undead was even more withdrawn than usual today. If they’d been in less dangerous territory, Brand might have taken time to pull them aside and inquire, but deep within Facilier’s abode was hardly the place for it.

Before much longer, the end of the room revealed itself. There was another altar, this one larger and grander than the last. To one side, a skeletal organist sat before a great monstrosity of silver pipes. He sounded a chord at their arrival, chilling tones that preluded a hymn to Vakmathras. Spirits appeared in abundance, lending their voices to the music. And at the center of it all stood Facilier, dressed in the formal robes of his station as high priest, locked arm-in-arm with a very familiar redhead -- the spitting image of Khitti, even down to her tattoos. Only there was an addition, new and yet quite familiar: inked tendrils, coiled up an arm and nooselike around her neck. Her stare, ringed in violet, never lifted from the floor.

“How good of you to come, ma chère.” Facilier’s airy accent reverberated through the hall. “I feared it was too obvious a setup, but no -- our honored guest arrives right on schedule. And with a more formidable audience than I had dared hope for! Truly, Vakmathras has blessed me on this day, as much and even more than he has blessed you.” Facilier's grin was broad with sparkling gold teeth, in sharp contrast to his dull and ashen skin. He stepped away from Khitti's doppelganger and faced off with the true von Schreier woman, seemingly unafraid of whatever she or anyone else might be able to do to him should they close the remaining distance. “I believe this is the part where you show me the strength of your fury, is it not? Come then, do your worst.” He spread his arms open wide and waited.

“I’ll be sure to poison that frakking cheesecake and fill it with razorblades. I’m sure he’d like that too.” Onyx’s silence hadn’t gone unnoticed, and as it continued, it made Khitti all the more uneasy. Even when things were bad, Onyx always had some sort of dry comeback for Brand, so perhaps things were much worse than they’d all expected. Khitti wasn’t able to give it much consideration though, for when that train of thought had started, it was soon derailed by Facilier… and… herself? Facilier talked his talk and walked his walk, right on towards Khitti.

There wasn’t much that Khitti feared anymore. Spiders had gone on out that door when Francis came along. Bears went too after she’d met Alex’s pet Adagio. Kreekitaka and his rattling paddles was nothing more than a mere annoyance. Even death itself wasn’t on the list anymore. But… there was one thing that she -was- afraid of, a person rather, and he was standing right in front of her. The impossibly tall priest of Vakmathras didn’t get that fire from Khitti he so craved, literal or otherwise. “What… is that?” Olive-green eyes shifted from Amarrah’s father to her own likeness. “It’s not Lydia. You can’t get her anymore. So what the actual frak -is- that?” Khitti made no attempt to strike him just yet, but her grip on that arrow tightened, every muscle in her body tense now in an attempt to hide the trembling that begged to shake her form.

Talking, talking, so much talking. Footsteps could be making their way straight for them and they probably wouldn't hear it with the amount of chatter that was taking place. The psion grew a little irritable, and her expression showed it, if only because she was trying to focus on the route ahead and found that she could not. Or maybe the explanation is more simple, that magic is not the only thing being affected. It could explain why what she can see is hazy at best. No matter the explanation, they basically walk right into Facilier's trap, which he is kind enough to share with them. Not that any single person had a doubt that they were doing just that, not if past experiences in dealing with Facilier have shown anything. This is the part where they show their strength of fury? Well it sounds like that is exactly what Facilier wants, which is why Meri is not going to rush foolishly into the offensive. She'd leave that to the two hot heads. The psion would instead hang back to try and get a better analysis on the situation, to try and see what Facilier might be up to...and then she'd come in as back up, maybe, depending. She'd have to wait and see what unfolds…

Lionel sneers through his teeth at the dreadful noise the organist produces. They call this music? Truly, the Shadow Plane inverts everything it touches. His azure eyes flash forward to their host. Gold teeth. Seriously? This one exudes overcompensation with his every breath. “Piss off, man. My knife blessed me the day I carved off your family jewels.” As far as Lionel is concerned, Facilier has only ever sired one real jewel, and she sure isn’t that thing staring back at them from the bastard’s side.

Lionel has spent half his life perfecting the swiftness with which to draw his sword from is scabbard. It’s one of his most invaluable skills. “We give this rat the chance to spew his cheese and he’ll be over us like white on rice.” It’s said in a whisper. Whether the others will heed his urge or not is now immaterial. If Lionel is alone in his rush, at least he’ll keep the enemy’s attention steadily diverted. It might be enough to give the rest of the group a necessary edge. Hellfire does not ignite, cannot ignite, but its steel is still as sharp as ever. Without his Ishaarite magics to guide him, Lionel’s movement is cleanly visible rather than the unfocused blur of supernatural haste he would otherwise elicit, but he’s still so fast on his feet and conscious of his zigzag path that he’ll reach Facilier within slimmest seconds if left unchecked. That’s when Lionel will swing, first as a feint to the hip but then with a nimble backwards jump he’ll take the sword uprising to slash across the bastard’s face.

“Mere words, now? Disappointing. I told Kahran to leave some fight in you for me.” Facilier’s glare lingered pointedly on Lionel, who seemed to take that as an invitation to fight. The sword cleaved the high priest’s smug grin right in two… and yet as soon as the sword had completed its track, skin and bone stitched back into place with nary a scar. “Not that it would have made a difference,” Facilier continued, unperturbed. “I am beyond your ability to injure now, as you can well see. Come, then.” With a snap of his fingers, the Khitti lookalike staggered forward. “Allow me to show you your inevitable future.”

With a shrill unending cry, Khitti’s mirror raised her hands skyward. The anti-magic haze around them lifted. The red veiny lights became engorged, throbbing up the pillars as if pumping them with blood. The pillar walls became transparent; each began to glow a sickly greyish-green. In the new light it could be seen that each of them was hollow, filled with a dense fluid and floating flecks of fibrous tissue. Hundreds of Khitti copies slept within hundreds of vats.

“The -really- interesting thing about the curse on you,” Facilier continued, “is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether the bloodline propagated is, strictly speaking, yours or not. I’ve been doing some experimenting, ma chère, and it seems a sufficiently skillful recreation works just as well. With your sister’s ash and yours, plus a little necromantic know-how...” He gestured across the length of the room. “Your curse is a two-for-one bargain, you see. For each one of your ‘sisters’ I add to my army, another of your ancestors succumbs to rage sickness -- rage I can put to -very- good use. And that’s only with ash. Just -imagine- what I can do when I acquire the child that grows inside you.”

Where Khitti had once been trigger happy and quick to fight, Lionel stepped up and took over for her. But, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter? Hellfire, even without the flame, should’ve did the trick, but it did nothing. That trembling of Khitti’s made itself known finally as Facilier’s body healed itself. The trembling shifted from fear to anger, an irritated frown lining Khitti’s lips, “I’m going to destroy every single one of them. And you’re not getting my child.” She narrowed her eyes at Facilier, pulling another arrow from her quiver, “Even liches can die, Facilier. I -knew- those portals were yours. So what… you helped him and he made you into this abomination? As if you couldn’t possibly get anymore ugly.” Now that fire was back, thanks to the threat to her kid, and Khitti stepped forward. She moved to meet with herself, instead of Facilier, one arrowhead aimed for her mirror’s heart and the other seeking her temple.

Meri wrinkles up her nose, not because she was disgusted by the sight of seeing Facilier cleaved in two...but because it was way too easy for it to be believable. Even with Lionel being the man behind the sword. Meri is proved right, Facilier repairs himself before her very eyes making the blonde woman like they are once more suddenly in over their head. Should they have left Khitti behind somewhere else maybe? This better not be the bridge all over again, and Meri is definitely done watching people she cares about burn to death. That is not allowed to happen for the third time this year, but that thought is in the back of her mind and the psion soon finds herself panicking, as stoic as she likes to try and be. No, if anyone needed to burn today it needed to be Facilier. Surely he was not indestructible? Khitti confirms that he is not, and if anyone had an idea how to kill a lich it would probably be the necromancer of the group, right? Except Khitti doesn't bother, she goes for the Khitti clone. It's when Facilier talks of taking the KhittiBrand baby that Meri is finally spurned into action, recklessly so but this moments happen. She wasn't nearly as fast as Lionel and her sword was not nearly as snazzy, but she too was going to close the gap between herself and Facilier to take a turn at some stabbity action. It might not be effective but maybe she'd feel just a little better if she got one hit in. She'll help destroy the other KhittiClones later. Maybe.

The silver lining to being surrounded by countless vat-grown copies of his surrogate sister after failing utterly to deprive a frakker of his face is that at least with the haze lifted Lionel’s sword is now glowing vivid green-streaked red. “You know,” he muses, “I used to know a guy who spouted terms like ‘ma chère’. Tiefling, him. Whatever that is. Talked a lot, too, just like you. I’ve got no frakking clue who or what a ma chère even is, but I’ve long since learned to zone out when I hear it. I -did- keep my ears perked long enough to hear about your new boyfriend. You and Kahran being all chummy together is just about the least surprising thing you might have said, but just the same, you get ‘em, girl.” He blows still air from his lips and feigns a smirk, still only meters from Facilier. “Trouble is, I caught that slip where you said you’d acquire Khitti’s child. That’s your warrant, mongrel.” Clutching Hellfire’s hilt with his left grip, he snaps his fingers with his right. “This place could use some flair. Something bright and bold that really brings the F out in U’.”

Lionel has inarguably joined the talky ranks of Facilier and Kasyr despite himself, but it’s all for a good cause: Hellfire’s charge for his planned spell reaches its fruition. The blade blazes a pure emerald flame now, and that flame spreads out in enough stray streaks to liven up even the dankest chamber. Each of those streaks breaks off again and again, and each fresh blaze makes for its own targeted vat. It’s the culmination of Lionel’s power, the sum total of his abilities, the desperate bid to shatter this freakshow. It’s an all-or-nothing gamble. Either the vessels were burn or they won’t. Either this batch of horrors will be ended or it won’t be. But Lionel will be damned if he’s going to let anybody talk about his family that way, whether thanks to his inherent and flawed single-minded commitment to heroism or otherwise.

The organ played anew, a celebratory tune that clashed horribly with the scene. The spirits joined in a chant, voices rising ever more loudly. Blade met bone and green fire rained down from overhead. Brand, too, unleashed his fire, sending it toward Facilier. But the high priest was as impervious to the flame and Meri’s blade as he had been to the fury of Hellfire. Stranger still, he made no move to counterattack, content to leer at his opponents and stand with fingers steepled before him.

And the group was about to face a much bigger problem. The horde of vat-grown Khitti lookalikes were catching the flames sent down onto them and hurling them back onto Lionel, Meri, and Brand. Khitti, they avoided. Onyx, they did too. The undead moved too close to the real Khitti, standing at her side and shooting arrows out at her fake sisters. The one Khitti fought caught or dodged her blows, and yet even this one would not fight back. Her screeching only continued, louder than before.

Facilier monitored the fighting for a time before shouting above the din. “I find, ma chère, that great despair of a sacrifice lends even greater power to the ritual. Before I kill your friends and make you and your progeny mine, then, I think it is important you know who has made all of this possible.” He cast a hand out toward Khitti and snapped his fingers.

On cue, a shadowy tendril locked the woman’s arms behind her. From a nearby bow, a gemmed contraption shot into her midsection, where it latched tightly into her skin and began to pulse in sync with her heart. “I -did- warn you not to keep the child,” lamented Onyx.

Things happened like a whirlwind, as they often did with these fights Khitti and her family got themselves into. Not too long ago, she probably could’ve killed this copyKhat with her bare hands. She almost started to fling fire and shadows as well, until she realized the mirror in front of her, and all the others, were avoiding her entirely. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

Facilier’s words were heard, of course. She heard it, but couldn’t quite process it in time. Someone else… made all of this possible? Someone else besides Facilier? Someone that wasn’t Kahran? These thoughts were cut short by the tendrils that succeeded in holding her captive and Onyx’s ‘I told you so’ was gifted to the world. First there was a wave of shock, and then that fiery anger that Facilier craved so much, but ultimately all of that was cast aside as the gem pulsed its dark magic and pain washed over her.

Somehow, the very fires of Arkhen himself paled in comparison to the agony the forced growth of Khitti and Brand’s child caused her, her screams making this known to all. For each pulse that passed through her, the child progressed as it would in a week, forcing her pregnancy along much faster than any human could bare. If it wasn’t stopped soon, the child was likely to be born here, in the Shadow Plane, and it almost certainly wasn’t going to have a mother.

Meri had not truly expected a counter attack, Lionel did not receive one, so she is not dreadfully surprised. Several other things happen though, that Meri was also not expecting, but these things did surprise her. The shot to Khitti's midsection? Meri's blue eyes are directed to that incident by Facilier's words. The psion does not have that much time to focus on the details, momentarily distracted by the fact that Lionel's summoned fire is being thrown back to them. Meri's first reaction is not to try and shield herself from the fire, but to try and deflect the gemmed contraption from Khitti's midsection. Alas, as seems to be the case in many scenarios in Meri's life, the efforts are too little and too late. Khitti has been shot and Meri's heart breaks yet again this year. It's cool guys, she doesn't need that thing, does she? Khitti is screaming and while Meri is not quite sure what is transpiring, she is fairly well convinced that she's going to see both mom and baby die right now. Using her psionic abilities to shield herself from the flames might be the smart thing to do, but she doesn't. She'll try and avoid the flames the old fashioned way, but trying to dodge and evade. Why? She would rather use her psionic abilities to try and pry the contraption free from Khitti's belly, to try and save her, even it it meant that she would not be able to escape from the flames without her own share of burns. Her attempts to avoid the flames does not bring her closer to Brand, Khitti, or Lionel but further away. Bummer. Anyway, if Meri's attempts are no good, surely Lionel will also do something to try and save the redhead. I mean they can't let her die twice, right?

Lionel has never before borne witness to an enemy that can so rapidly circumvent the magics of his blade. For a brief, terrible heartbeat, he wonders if Kahran’s strength is Ishaarite by design. On many such occasions, he’d rattle his foe’s nerves with a quip of quirky mock-sadness that his entire spiel was ignored wholesale in favor of Facilier’s boring sentiment, but there’s no time for it now. Lionel’s been bested. His only recourse is to swing wildly at each and every flame he can find, buzzing about the chamber to the full speed and questionably gravitic route that Hellfire’s magic enables. Offensive fires are out of the question now, and can only be snuffed out when Lionel brings his blade upon them, but support fire like the blazing trail he leaves behind with each step may be the key to saving the others. At the pace he’s going, it will be the end for him, but so long as they live his sacrifice won’t be in vain.

In his mad blitz, swinging Hellfire this way and that way in wild arcs to stop the flames from burning them to ashes, Lionel is a touch slower to see what is happening between Khitti and Onyx. His combat-attuned brain immediately registers Onyx as a threat and files the information away accordingly, but it takes him precious extra seconds to see what’s happening to Khitti. The shock of it sends two of his own flames billowing across his right arm, and the only thing that prevents the limb from burning up then and there is his reflex to power down his weapon entirely. It’s almost instinctual; his bond with the fire spirit Halycanos is too many long years in the making for lag. He has no idea if it will work, but he has to try, or else die without fulfilling his purpose. Hellfire’s flames are extinguished, the trail behind Lionel is extinguished, and the many-splendored emerald-hot strike from above is similarly extinguished. Severing his link to Halycanos throws Lionel across the floor and leaves him with the feeling of sharp ice ringing through his veins. He’s forgotten what it’s like to be cold.

Whatever it is that reminds Lionel to sheath his sword before scrambling on sore exhausted legs to Khitti’s side, he’s grateful for it. He’s failed utterly as a fighter today, but as a simple man whose family’s safety is on the line, there is but one thing left to do. He positions himself, leaning on his scabbard like a man beyond his years, directly between Khitti and Facilier. “Brand, Meri, get her the frak out of here. I’m right behind you.”

Brand hadn’t seen a fight go so poorly, not since the time Khitti died, and he wasn’t keen on seeing it happen again now. It was the only prevailing thought in his head amongst the chaos. He peeled away from the high priest to kneel at Khitti’s side, and everything else be damned. Onyx’s betrayal, Lionel and his flames that should have been enough to knock down a Khitti zombie army on their own, Facilier’s promise to take their child, the threats Lionel was still knocking away -- it would all have to be processed later. “Khitti, you need to port the whole lot of us outta here, right now.” If she was even able.

Sandy Beach, Cenril

Was she even able to? Could she ignore the pain long enough to get them to safety? Khitti gritted her teeth and focused on the anger that had tried to consume her before the pain from the strange gem contraption overtook it, fixating on how angry it made her that Onyx betrayed them all and how Facilier almost got what he wanted. Very soon, those familiar black portals, created by Khitti’s magic, would swallow them up and dump them on the beach in Cenril. It wasn’t the Tranquility, but it would have to do. The fact that she even managed to get them so close was a wonder. When they were safe--or as safe as they were going to get, considering Kahran liked to pop up out of nowhere any time he liked--the rage subsided again and Khitti just cried.

Meri was not exactly close to Khitti or Brand, the flames had caused her path to stray further away from them and not closer. Getting to Khitti's side to get her the frak out of there would still take Meri several seconds to accomplish even if she full on ran. Lionel's command was not so easily heeded. Realistically, something was bound to happen to Meri eventually wasn't it? She has been on a few too many missions and adventures and managed to walk out with little physical repercussions. The hotheads have also had pretty good luck with the whole 'leave no man behind' rule. Today will mark an end to that streak. When they hit the beach of Cenril, it would seem they are missing one person. What happened? Well it all happened so fast, Khitti was in so much pain, Meri was some distance away...Most of them were safe, at least, but Brand and Lionel would have tend to Khitti. That was also rather pressing, baby things considered.

Lionel is shocked all over again by the sudden warmth of the beach as it assails his weakened skin and heightened senses. Facilier is in league with Kahran, Onyx is in league with Facilier, Khitti is in pain and eminent peril, and Meri is missing in action -- if not dead. Lionel had hoped to find clues to Kahran’s whereabouts. Instead, he almost incinerated his companions and let one of them suffer unimaginably. To label this day a failure seems too weak to suit. He doesn’t walk so much as shambles a few meters down the shoreline, the gentle water feeling as a needle to his shins. His back is turned to Khitti and Brand. He sighs, slowly, and his throat stings for it.

Brand’s eyes were fixed on Khitti’s growing middle. The jewelled contraption had already catapulted her past her third or fourth month, if appearances didn't deceive. “What the frak.” Brand grappled with the craft’s round silver edges, trying to pull it out. It stuck fast. “What the actual frak.” Every pulse of the gem set in its center seemed to send another ripple of pain through Khitti, but it was too hard a rock to crush under his thumbs without risking everything else underneath of it. It had significantly slowed its pace since they'd arrived on Cenril’s shores, at least. No doubt Facilier had expected them to try to fight their way out of the problem, where the strong magicks of the Shadow Plane would have brought her to term in minutes. “What the frak.” Onyx had shot her with this thing? His first mate and trusted confidante was working with Facilier? How long had that been going on? And right under his nose, too. How many times had Onyx gone away to take care of ‘other business’ -- and Brand had hardly even questioned it? “Seven frakkin’ hells.”

Reason would take back over eventually, but not until Brand had run out of things to curse about. Facilier was working with Kahran. Perhaps thanks to that, Facilier’s power had grown to a level beyond their reckoning. Meri was… Meri was nowhere to be seen. Facilier -- and likely Onyx, too -- had portals of their own and could follow them here at any moment. “Khitti, hey. The ship isn’t far. We’re gonna get you to Lennier, and we’re gonna get this thing outta you, and he’s gonna know what to do, okay?” He’d better. The magic’s slowing was small consolation for Brand’s burgeoning panic. He hauled Khitti to her feet, thereafter lifting her into his arms. “Lionel, you’re fastest. Run to the ship and bring a Tikifhlee back for us. We can’t stay here.” Meri, unfortunately, was on her own now.

Now is not the time for ‘I told you so’, but… she told you so, Brand. Once again, no one believed Khitti, this time about Onyx, and look where it got them all. But, this wasn’t something she flaunted in their faces. She didn’t even say it. She wasn’t even thinking it. Khitti’d quickly grown numb to the pain, to the unfortunate stretching of her insides -and- her outside. Things hurt worse now than they might’ve were she still undead, but it didn’t matter. Meri was nowhere to be seen. Lionel was injured. Her and Brand’s child could very well be gone now. She couldn’t help but think that this was, ultimately, all her fault. That cure of hers was the cause of all of this, because she couldn’t just be happy with what she was and with what she had. “Okay.” That’s all she could manage right now, as Brand helped her to her feet and picked her up. She wanted to apologize. She wanted to beg for forgiveness, but from who? Brand and Lionel would just shush her and assure her it wasn’t her fault. And the gods? They weren’t listening to her. They never listened. If they did--if they’d listened all those times she’d spoken to them in the past few months--they wouldn’t have let this happen… would they?