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RP:Return To The Cave Of Misery

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Part of the The Day I Tried To Live Arc

Summary: Khitti and the Catalian Trio, with Esche in tow, return to Raiez's cave. Several unfortunate events occur, including the possession of one Khat-woman by a bitchy butterfly. Brand finds alcohol, Lionel is happy Caedan's not there, and Khitti is severely pissed. You know, nothing out of the ordinary.

Raiez's Cave (Dead End)

On the day of the trek back to the cave, Khitti was certainly nervous. Well, wouldn't you be if this place had been your unfortunate home for almost four long months? Her hands had shook as she had handed over Dominic his cup of tea before they left to meet with Lionel, and she had certainly been rather quiet and deep in her own thoughts during their time at home and on the way to the fort. This wasn't just some mission to go back and get her things, to rifle through all of Raiez's belongings. No, she had to make sure the dragon was dead. She hadn't been conscious for that kill and the poor redhead was never going to settle down at all until she knew for sure. The plan had been handed over to both Dominic and Brand the night before, and was gifted to Lionel and whatever companions he'd chosen to come along with them: Enter the cave via the entrance made by Esche the day of the rescue, grab the violin, the oven, and whatever else the group deemed worthy enough to bring home, pop them all into the remaining jar that her and Ayras had been in, possibly procure a stash of dragon scales, and go home. It was simple enough and if everyone stuck to the plan and didn't get into mischief (looking at you, Brand), they could all go home safe and sound. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahaha. No, really. Hahaha. Okay, alright. I think I'm done. Yeah. Anyway. They get to the fort and Khitti sees them off on the Eyrie's mounts, though she doesn't actually get onto one herself. "I'd much rather keep my feet on zhe ground." is all that's said to anyone's protests, if there were any to be had at all. While, this may, in fact, be true, she just couldn't keep up that mask of quiet, contemplative calm anymore and wanted to hide it from everyone for as long as possible. 

As soon as the others headed off, she too did so as well, bounding down the side of the mountain, occasionally keeping an eye on the wyverns above in order to not pass them or get too far behind. "You're going to be perfectly fine. Vhy vouldn't you be? Raiez is dead. Double dead. Extra dead. So dead zhat you probably couldn't even bring her back from zhe dead. She's not going to get you and stuff you in zhat jar again. Brand, and Dominic, and Lionel vouldn't just let her take you again, right? Yeah. Definitely. Totally." She'd certainly sound like a crazy person if anyone heard her right now; it's definitely a good thing no one was there with her. "But, if you're stupid enough to actually get captured again, zhey might, you know." She was forever her own worst enemy, and ran faster in order to outpace her thoughts, arriving at the hole in the side of the mountain before the others showed up.

Heights weren’t new to Dominic, and they normally weren’t something that bothered him. But he wasn’t normally riding on top of a wyvern, either. In fact, this was the first time he’d ever ridden one, unless you counted that time Brand rode one to rescue Khitti from this very same cave they were headed to now. But that time, Dominic was just there lurking in the back of Brand’s mind. This time, he had the reins, and the accompanying knowledge that improper steering or a homicidal whim from the wyvern could send him hurtling to his death. And Brand, riding at Dominic’s back in that nearly solid illusion form of his, wasn’t helping. “Pull more to the right, kid. And dig in with your heels more. Adjust your give on the reins -- oh, for frak’s sake, no! The other way. Are you -tryin’- to get us killed?! C’mon, it’s not that hard.” Nevermind that Brand had had plenty of difficulty of his own the previous time. He’d insisted that was the wyvern’s fault, and nothing wrong with his own capabilities. Dominic… wasn’t so sure. But at any rate, they did eventually manage to land in one piece. Okay, two pieces, if you count Illusion-Brand separately. Speaking of which, that ever-grumpy one dismounted the instant they’d hit the ground, leaving Dominic to tie up their wyvern, and was now marching right past Khitti to survey the “hole” for himself. “Can you still call it a hole if it’s sealed?” he pondered aloud, a hand to his chin. “Shame Odhranos isn’t here. Breakin’ through this much rubble’s not exactly my specialty.”

Lionel had risen with the sun this morning, which was his convenient way of hiding the fact that he'd scarcely slept a wink. The mission to Raiez's cave was fresh on his mind, but it wasn't the dance with a dragon that had kept him from rest. Politics were in freefall here in Frostmaw and truth be told he'd relished the chance to tag along for this encore. Larketian threats, Uyeer schemes, saurian incursions, and he had no idea if any of it was taking him any closer to unmasking the ones responsible for the autumn massacre. Too much was happening far too quickly in Frostmaw for Briar Ku Risu to accompany the Catalian, and if it were most anyone else he was doing this for, she would have flailed graceful arms in protest over his own departure. But early that morning, she'd silently sulked, shoved fresh bread in his mouth, tended to his tea, and told him that everything would be alright and she'd hold the fort until he returned. "Literally and figuratively," he'd replied, and that was the last he'd seen of her. Esche stands vigil outside his quarters until he is ready to move toward the mounts, and then the two men begin their stroll to rendezvous with the others. "Your man Dominic," the elf starts -- no, really, these are his very first words. "What?" Lionel asks. "The fellow Catalian? Somewhat flighty? Probable heart of gold?" Lionel blinks. That'll do for a response. Esche continues as they wind around the corner of a stone hall and near the outlook where the wyverns await. "I had wondered if he knows the location of any further Catalians. Ahem," he clears his throat, "besides the one within. I digress. It would be prudent to rebuild a Catal in the image of the old, perhaps. You have several in your employ." Lionel shrugs. "Frostmaw's got enough on her plate without me sprouting emerald hills all over the snow, Esche. But... I appreciate your consideration." The elf cocks a brow and says nothing more -- for now. The wyvens are hoisted; the two men join Khitti and Dominic. One beside them in midair; one down on the icy ground beneath. They'll make good time, arrive and dismount, and when they come upon Dominic, Lionel stretches and withdraws his sword. Nothing like a man so comfortable in the possession of a tremendous fiery claymore that he stretches before unsheathing it. "Oh, my aching back," he jests, holding the blade tip-forward at the hole. "This is a rubblion, right? I rubble." Motions are made to insist all present scoot out of sight. When they've done as bid, he'll close his eyes, take a deep breath, and a focused blue flame will wink into sight upon the steel. It surges into a concentrated essence before blasting dead ahead through the debris, clearing out a not-inconsiderable number of meters. "Damn it," he says like the cynic he is, shoving Hellfire back into its sheath in mock-petulance. "...I missed a spot."

Khitti raised the index finger of her left hand into the air, mouth agape as she stared at Lionel and his particular way of opening the hole in the cave again, but ultimately it just drops and she shakes her head. "You can't ever do zhings -normally-, can you?" To be fair, Khitti, you're not exactly normal either. The vampiress didn't linger long at the entrance because, well, there wasn't anything more to say. At least not from her anyway. She pushes past the warrior and the rest of the party, her pace probably a bit faster than it should be for someone that just wants to get her stuff. When the rest of the party finally joined her, they'd find her standing in front of Raiez's partially preserved body. Despite how long it had been since the dragon's slaying, the temperature within the cave, thanks to the frozen city above it, kept the corpse quite cool, and there seemed to be no smell for now. Regardless if there had been, that didn't stop Khitti. Well, she was stopped, but the gears were turning in her head as she stared at the dead Blue. An odd sort of feral shriek left her throat as the redhead raised her right leg, bringing it down repeatedly on Raiez's snout until she managed to knock out a fang or two. No sooner did that happen did she then move lower to the dragon's shoulder area and began to rip out those precious scales that littered the female lizard's entire form, using every ounce of her vampiric strength if need be to pry them from the soft tissue beneath. Oh, she had plans for those scales. No one was going to kidnap her again and she was going to make damned sure of it. She'd continue until she had a decent amount, enough for her plans of armor, working fast but delicately so as not to ruin them.

As Dominic finished the last knot securing the mounts to their resting place, Illusion-Brand gaped at the gape. “Well, that’s, eh, certainly faster than what I’d had in mind.” There wasn’t much he could have done, not in his current form. His magic simply worked… differently, as an illusion cast by Dominic’s limited abilities. Brand would conjure no impressive feats of terramancy or even his beloved fire, not like this. “That sword of yours is rather more versatile than I would’ve expected.” But there, Brand’s interest in conversation ended. There was a cave to explore anew, and possibly treasure to plunder, and an Esche to avoid. While Dominic stood at Khitti’s side, watching her work and offering to help her carry all those dragon scales, Brand ventured away from the group as much as feasible. Dodging rubble and debris, he began to pick through whatever promising piles of paraphernalia he could find, hopping from one spot to the next guided by some sort of logic unknown even to him. He certainly hadn’t come here hoping to gain anything in particular. Well, no one would turn down gold or other generic valuables, certainly. But if the dragon had hoarded anything more specific to his fancies, he figured he’d know it when he saw it. Ah, and there as if on cue was a centuries-old bottle of wine, miraculously unbroken despite being pinned underneath a fallen stalagmite. Brand tucked it under an illusory arm and continued his hunt.

Lionel smirks silently when Khitti and Brand respond verbally to his fiery services, content in his role and following them deep inside the earth. Esche travels fast beside, elven eyes narrowing in scrutiny all around him. "Looking for a nice wedding gift?" Lionel asks him rhetorically, sifting through rubble and shrugging at the various broken pots and stashes of gold which little interest him. "I am not," the elf answers, as if it actually required saying. The pair seem destined to their own little conversation for the moment, what with Khitti and Dominic close and Brand brandishing a right fine vintage. "...Right," Lionel calls back sarcastically, changing his mind about the gold like the fickle fellow he can be and shoving it inside a beige cloth sack. The money can be put to good use within Frostmaw's impoverished communities. With luck, maybe it will even will the harsh winter ice to thaw out so that crops can grow out beneath it. Lionel seems wholly uninterested in Raeiz's remains -- despite the vital part he played in her downfall, she's just another corpse to him. He flickers in registry of Khitti's batch of scales, whistles at her speed, and carries on. This leaves Esche to move further west through the tunnels. Alone, he reaches the pocket of his dull grey robe, fetching a vibrant orb small enough to fit snugly into his soft and slight palm. It resonates a beautiful crystalline aqua, but this device is so subtle, so quiet in the magics it seeps, that the odds anyone else present will detect it border on nil. Even Hellfire does not resonate -- troubling, that, but Lionel will never know. Esche's eyes now flash a startled recognition. He begins to move further wayward of the group, calling out behind him, "a moment; I will see what lays beyond this fallen stalactite." Without awaiting reply, he shuffles off into the darkness.

When Dominic asks if he can help, Khitti sets the entirely large pile of scales onto the ground next to his feet. "Go get me zhe jar. It should still be on zhe shelf vhere Raiez kept Ayras and I over zhere." She motions towards the many shelves that lines the adjacent room. "Zhe oven and books should already be inside and Lydia's violin should be nearby on zhe floor, so put zhat inside it too. Zhe scales and stuff I'm gonna set vith it too, please." She gives the great Blue beast another kick to the face, then circles around to the nearest treasure pile. Something for Pilar, something for Linn, something for Odhranos, and maybe a huge pile of random magical objects for the Mage Guild, and some for Hildegarde's lot too. Amongst her searching, she managed to find Linn's armor and tossed that next to the scales to get added to the jar. Well, she'd leave the stuff for Frostmaw up to Lionel, and she made certain to tell him as much, "Hey! If you find some zhings zhat might aide Hildegarde too, don't hesitate to add it to zhe pile if it's too heavy to carry long distance. Raiez's jars shrink zhings down so ve can put multiple zhings in it. It's ~magical~." She does this odd sort of waving with her hands, making eerie music to accompany it. Brand was eyed for a moment, as well as that bottle of his, "Seriously, Brand?" Khitti shakes her head with a sigh and starts tossing interesting things into her own personal pile; she'd find something for Pilar, Linn, and Odhranos out of that and give whatever else was left to the mages in Xalious. It was then as she did this that she happened upon something shiny--you know how Khats are with shiny objects. This one, in particular, was made of silver, a choker necklace whose metal had a hammered look about it, and was very plain-looking otherwise. Directly in the middle of the necklace, a lapis lazuli stone hung from a tiny three-ring chain, dangling there carefully as Khitti held the bit of jewelry up to her face to inspect it. Curiously, the stone looked fractured, a jagged scar right down the middle, but it made no difference to Khitti, the woman having a fondness for that dark blue hue.

Dominic did as instructed, trekking to the other room and leaving his shadowy, snarky mindmate behind. “What?” asked Brand, fixing Khitti with an expression that was the picture of innocence. “We’d be mad to leave this behind. Might well be older than the pointy-eared bastard that just went gallivantin’ off down the hall.” Not that Brand was bothered by the elf’s absence. Out of sight meant not trying to dig into the depths of his mind. Maybe. Hopefully. He’d keep his guard up, just in case. Dominic, meanwhile, had successfully found the jar once meant to house Khitti and the rest of them. The others were all broken now, he assumed; the initial escape of the mages must have decimated most of Raiez’s collection. But no, what was this? Just after placing Lydia’s violin inside the jar, he spotted another one on a lower shelf. This one was somewhat larger, and was filled almost to the top with a clear liquid. Not one meant for imprisoning mages, then, not unless one had found a way to melt themselves at will. Curious, Dominic reached for this second jar -- and promptly recoiled. A face. He’d seen a face animated in the liquid, he was sure of it. A fleeting image frosted within the glass, twisted as if by some cry of anguish, and then it was gone again. Was that why Raiez had been keeping it? Some spirit trapped in water for her amusement? Dominic squinted, but the vision did not return. He lingered for a time, bouncing from one foot to the other in a moment of indecision, but ultimately elected to bring both jars back with him to Khitti’s side. “Found you some holy water, I see,” Brand quipped. Knowing full well what Dominic had seen, he’d opted to deflect any inquiry from others by pre-emptively offering a plausible explanation. “Careful you don’t get that on your girlfriend. She might be allergic, bein’ a vampire an’ all.” Nevermind that she was sort of Brand’s girlfriend, too. “Fine. You take it, then. Because it definitely won’t make -you- burst into flames,” retorted Dominic, playing along with an eyeroll.

Lionel is entranced with the jar of Khitti's referencing. Similarly, he's bewildered she beat him to the punch, saying the word magical like she does. Is it possible he's met his cynic's match? Is such a -thing- even -possible?- Jaw slack, he gathers gold for the shrinking, followed by stacks of shiny sundries. Lionel O'Connor's best day ever. He'll refrain from praising the jar openly, however; he's been developing this damned strange thing lately called self-awareness in uncomfortable situations. Instead, he busies himself with an off-key whistle, if such a thing can be described in such a way. Lots for Frostmaw. Lots for the queen. Maybe even this nice porcelain rabbit statue for that home of his he rarely visits. Wait. Why the heck did Raeiz own a porcelain rabbit statute -- of -any- quality? He shoots a glare to the dragon, but can't deny the truth: she had fine taste in lagomorpha. All this ruckus leaves Esche to his devices. It's a right fine thing the elf has no notion of the trouble Dominic's off getting himself into. It's a flaw of his to draw sterling enough singular focus that he misses events in the peripheral. He moves further down the cave, flickering a nice white flame at the tip of his staff to brighten the void. Cave paintings line the halls, catching his curious eye. They're old. As old as he is. He doesn't need to study them to realize this in a heartbeat. They're beautiful, but unfinished. This cave beneath an ancient city seems to have been colonized long, long before a dragon swept in to roost. Within him, Levantine informs. Levantine. Now, there's a name. An Ishaarite spirit, older than Halycanos -- twice over. Calm. Healing. Loving. Dedicated. Fierce in that dedicated healing love. Fierce. So fierce. Determined. Levantine speaks the truth to the elf as he cocks a brow and admires these paintings. He hears her, but no one else shall hear her. Nor shall Halycanos know of her presence. Not for many, many months. Nor will that foolish fickle spirit by Dominic. She's masked. He masks her. They protect one-another in a partnership without end. Esche scoffs, glaring behind him. They would never understand. "Emerald fields in the snow," Esche mutters back Lionel's line from earlier. Distaste twists his features into a snarl.

"Vill you two shut up? Dominic, don't let him antagonize you! Brand, don't act like you vouldn't be sad if I died. Sheesh." She shakes her head, her attention mainly still on that of the necklace. "I'm not your gods damned mother, you know..." she muttered as she slipped the jewelry around her neck, clasping one side to the other.

It was then that an unfortunate event happened, as they often do with the vampiress. The amulet which was once for protection was now quite the opposite thanks to that cracked blue stone. Sharp, claw-like spikes strike out from the underside of the necklace, piercing Khitti's throat, sinking the metal appendages so deep that blood begins to flow from beneath it. Oh, poor Khitti tried to call out from her side of the treasure pile, she tried so very hard, but nothing came out. All the while through her struggling, something deep within her mind stirred. Khitti tried to pull the silver trinket from her throat, but the claws only dug further, even going so far as to send a brief jolt of holy magic through her body. It was enough to weaken her, and also enough to awaken that being that had laid dormant for weeks within her. With that jolt, she let out another scream, but yet again no sound came out. A thick, black shadowy smoke poured from her mouth instead, coating all it touched in shadows and those curious spores Brand had witnessed once before. Best not to touch those, of course, you mortals. The dark magic that radiated from the redhead now was strong, unfettered, and dangerous; even Esche would be able to sense it from so far away. Khitti was down for the count, though still left standing, something familiar taking hold. "Well, well, well, my dear. You seem to be in trouble again," came the voice from the woman's mouth. It certainly wasn't her own, no accent or hints of snark; it was dark, cool, and confident. "Didn't I tell you? I'd get my way sooner or later. I may not be out, but this is certainly the next best thing. Let's go say hi, shall we?" Unwillingly, Khitti picks up one of the many magical objects at her feet, one of those dripping with shadows and dark magic, and quietly steps out from behind her hiding place. She walks right past Lionel--he wasn't her target just yet, but his time would soon come--and stops right beside Dominic. She not-so-discreetly kisses his cheek to get his attention, her occupied hand attempting to shove the magical and now tainted object into Dominic's hands, her lips moving from the side of his face to his ear, "Hello, pretty boy." Eyes that were once emerald now glowed a deep, dark purple and fixated on the dark-haired male in a sidelong glance, a deranged grin tainted with malice making itself known to him.

One of the advantages of having an ethereal form was that Brand served as a second pair of eyes, registering what Dominic’s own hadn’t yet. Not-Khitti glided to his raven-haired brainmate, and Brand tucked that wine bottle of his back amongst a hoard pile, seeking to keep both that and Dominic’s mystery jar away from possible mischief. Stay here, my precious alcohol. I’ll be back for you. I’ll be back for you. Another advantage was that the illusion made no noise unless Brand willed it. And likewise, he wasn’t constrained by the usual rules of physics, whereby travel from point A to point B required the movement of impulses along nerves and bone and sinew suffered the limitations of a physical body. As fast as thought could move him he flew, blinking out of existence in one locale and reappearing in the next, ever so conveniently right next to Not-Khitti. No sooner had she placed that strange object into the unwitting Dominic’s hands (he’d not thought to actually alert the kid in all his haste, whoops) than she was greeted with a harsh punch along the jaw. “Welcome back, lemoncakes,” said Brand, sounding oddly chipper considering his sort-of girlfriend had just been taken over by what he presumed was that bitchy butterfly. What the frak. How was that even possible? Wasn’t she supposed to be -gone-? Brand had little chance to ponder, however, for that object in Dominic’s hands soon drew his attention. “Gimme that,” Brand growled, and swiped it out of the other’s grasp. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to take creepy shadow objects from your possessed girlfriend?” No, Brand. That’s kinda oddly specific. Dominic indicated as much with a confused yelp. The Domi-half of their brain had been caught off guard, and was still catching up to current events. ‘Pretty boy’. Right. He’d been called that before, and not by Khitti.

It would be too much of Lionel to ask that any Catalian could avoid the rigors of multiphasic identity. Except for those dwarves. Why do only dwarven refugees get all the good cards in fate's crude hand? These thoughts flicker through him and past him as spores settle in myriad directions from someone twisted and new. Khitti's no Catalian, but far be it for any remaining Catalian to avoid contact with women of a similar disposition, it seems. Despite the darkness -- literal and figurative -- stepping past him with a clearly practiced nonchalance, his brain's abuzz with harder questions. How best to deal with this round of tomfrakkery? How strange is it that just yesterday eve, he'd borne witness to Pilar's lover-lady's eyes changing, too? Not very? Lithrydel's the melting pot of stranger things. In fact, the Knight-Commander appears utterly devoid of fear or nervousness as this newfound speaker reaches Dominic. Muscles are taut but Hellfire isn't grabbed; magical greatswords aren't the answer when an innocent life is on the life. The first sign of real reaction stems when Lionel twitches involuntarily: he's just described Khitti as innocent -- now that's the strangest thing here of all. "Lovely voice," he comments idly, but only -after- Brand has knocked her to the floor. And then he moves, in a flicker of light from where he was to where he is, hovering over Khitti's conquered body with left knee stern and right foot on her chest. Gingerly, mind you. But firm. Whatever the essence of that darkness in her mouth, it's nothing a little mouthwash can't handle soon enough. "Shame about the malice. I'm almost smitten." His azure gaze casts to Dominic, then to Brand, then to the full shadows separating the group from wherever Esche has headed. Then back to Brand. "My skill level's novice, maybe even initiate, on this particular peculiarity, Brand, but I hope it's wise for you to be holding that thing instead." Casually, foot still on a woman's diaphragm, he gestures to the object.

Esche is fifty meters and half a world away. He senses danger and immediately reacts. Drawing a breath, the elf swirls his staff to end the guiding flame. As he moves through blackness in a stride near-silent, his only focus is coming to their aid. He still needs Lionel and Lionel still needs them.

Amarrah did a one of those comedic spins one does when punched in the face in a cartoon. She did hit the ground, and she even allowed Lionel to step on her--it wasn't her body after all so what did she care? As they conversed above her, all Amarrah could manage to do was laugh. This wasn't your run of the mill, every day normal laughter. This was the type of sadistic, evil cackling that could send chills down many a cowards' spines. Curiously enough, the ones that hovered over her weren't exactly scaredy cats, were they? The shadow being spat out a bit of Khitti's blood at Brand's feet, a red-tainted grin gifted to him, "Oh, Firebug. You were always so cute when you were angry. What's wrong? I thought you loathed her." The grin only widened further. "That's not the case anymore, is it? I've seen what's in her head and it's absolutely delicious. She loves -both- of you?!" A bit more cackling ensues. "Who didn't see that coming, am I right? She swears up and down that she hates the world, but all your -kiwi- wants is a family. It's so sad. So very, very sad." She tilts her head enough to set her violet sights on Dominic, that smirk of hers never fading, "Still want to kill me, little one? Gonna have to go through her to do it, you know. You're even worse than she is, though. You don't even want your magic. Pathetic." And then, finally, her attention settles on Lionel, "And you...you might be the worst one of all. She almost called you 'friend', you know. She -almost- trusted you and then you went ~poof~! She--" Amarrah looked around like she heard something, letting out a soft gasp, "Oh my...I think she's awake." Suddenly, Khitti's countenance shifts from that psychotic air to one of pure horror, screams leaving her throat, "DOMINIC?! BRAND! HELP ME! I CAN'T--" The redhead's voice cut off and Amarrah piped back up, "Annnnd, that's all the time we have for today! We'd like to congratulate our winner, Miss von Schreier on her monumentous win. Tell what she's won, Johnny!"

With that, shadows collect around the feet of the three males and Khitti's form disappears into it, Amarrah waving as the portal closes just before Lionel's foot can fall through it. "Wellll, Amarrah, Khitti's won the chance to watch the annihilation of nearly everyone she cares for! Such a fabulous prize! It was well worth the wait!" is said in an obviously mock announcer voice by none other than Amarrah as she rises through another portal further away from the trio. Another smile sweeps across Amarrah-Khitti's face, a pleasant sounding "Shall we begin then?" accompanying it. In quite the elegant manner, as if she were conducting an orchestra, Amarrah points at different parts of the room as portals, not unlike that of which KhittiBrand's faithful doggo-spider Francis pops out of, begins to open. These spiders though, were -not- Francis and certainly thirsted for the flesh of the mortals. Thousands of tiny minion-like ones swarmed the cave while larger ones leapt about off the cave's walls. One rather nasty one jumps at Lionel as Amarrah summons up those tendrils of hers from her fingertips. Now in their full form, they were more like spidersilk, sticky and clinging to everything it touches. The spidersilk claws its way through the air, its target poor Dominic, in an attempt to wrangle him ever so near. "Come here, cutie, you and I need to have a chat."

Brand had not been idle during Amarrah’s gleeful monologuing. Once it became clear that a punch to the face wasn’t enough to knock the sadistic shadow creature out of sorts, Brand began digging through Dominic’s pack. Plan A was to shove something into her mouth and keep her restrained until Khitti could regain control -- Amarrah’s talk was irksome, but it was after all only talk. Knowing the intent was to get under the skins of everyone present took some of the bite out of all her barking. But no sooner had Brand withdrawn a pair of rolled up socks for the gag than the first of many portals appeared. Seven hells, of -course- she wouldn’t make it so easy. Reverse previous action. On to Plan B. First things first: Dominic was a liability in a fight and so necessity dictated he step to the background. The illusion of Brand vanished. A ripple across Dominic’s skin heralded the usual shift, and soon there Brand was in the flesh, already rolling away from the nearest of tendrils mid-transition. Fire and ice alike rained down on the hazards nearest him. Flame seared along the silken shadow claws, curling them like burning parchment. Ice shards pierced through the legs of the nearest spider. Frigid water submerged the nearest troop of spiderlings and froze them in mid-march. Wait, what? Something felt off. No, something aside from the obvious. Nothing to do with that cackling creature in charge of it all. A sense misaligned, a color twisted, a shiver but no chill. Brand whipped around, seeking the cause, but its aura had already vanished -- if it had ever really been there at all. In his momentary distraction, a second stream of tendrils found their way to his ankle and seized him by it.

Lionel counts himself fortunate Amarrah chose him last when dishing out the sass. He's kept pace with the crustacean king of smart talk but this sultry scarlet cuts too close to the bone. Next to what Amarrah has revealed to him, the revelation that her unwilling host loves two men doesn't even faze. He's uncharacteristically dumbfounded when Khitti begins her very own scream, drawing forth Hellfire in a diagonal slant over his lithe form -- defensively. He's already on edge and the battle hasn't even begun. Tiny sweat droplets forge over his brow, a rare thing indeed for a man whose core temperature is so magically, thoroughly, regulated. When the woman fades and his foot almost fades with her, he leaps back dramatically but maintains perfect poise. Azure eyes flick to Amarrah's repositioning, then flick over and over to each new portail d'arahnoïde. WIth a focus only gained via willful ignorance of a busy mind, Lionel swings his sword in a 360 arc, whipping up a flaming frenzy to coat its spirit-powered steel. The move looks more like a fire dancer's fancies than any swordsman's trick, but the orange tempest it summons toasts the lunging spider in a flash. Before Lionel can as much as notice Brand's dysfunction, Esche seems to appear out of nowhere -- as if spontaneously generating next to him -- staff-o-lantern at the ready and whispering words indecipherable. Those vile tendrils capturing Brand's ankle seem to fade away like so many ashes, but more remain, seeking flesh like death's inquisitors. Lionel lets his left hand free from his grip on Hellfire's hilt, there to tap Esche on his shoulder appreciatively mid-sprint to a veritable armada of miniature spiders. But that spare hand comes in, dare the author flummox his readers, 'handy' as Lionel soon slams the blade's tip into the soft, loamy soil underfoot. An infernal shockwave spreads out with forward trajectory, flames of blue and red and fuchsia spreading out but only on a course to melt the little devils and their portals in their tracks. Lionel himself kicks boldly into the earth and hops up atop that hilt, balancing himself with that hand he'd already withdrawn. He's still not finished yet. Suspended in midair, on one perfect foot teetering upon his ground-sheathed sword, he'll fetch an ebony serrated dagger from its place inside his pocket, wink at Amarrah, and toss the thing straight toward her left index finger at an angle that will only carve a slender cut to surprise her if successful.

Amarrah was not at all pleased when first Dominic shifted to Brand and then her spidersilk was charred and left to turn to ash thanks to both of those blonde Catalians. She let out a growl, glaring at the two of them as they vanquished all of her spiders, "WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE?! Can't you just let -me- have nice things for once?! Why does everyone help -her-?!" The shadows that had swept over all of Raiez's treasure hoard gather in various places, acting like geysers of sorts for massive balls of fire to erupt from. That dagger from Lionel had definitely gone unnoticed and certainly met its mark as it slices into the side of Khitti's finger. Blood begins to flow, and a hiss erupts from the possessed woman's throat as the dagger clatters to the ground at Not-Khitti's feet. It would appear that she's no better at being a vampire than Khitti herself is, all of her focus on her magic rather than those heightened senses. It did nothing for her mood, unfortunately, souring it even further. She picks up the blade and hurls it right back at Lionel, aiming for his face, an irritated shriek sent along with it. No sooner had that been done, did the ground beneath their feet start to shake. This was no mere cave-in, unfortunately. Gnarled, skeletal hands pop through the dirt, even more that looked to be nearly fresh accompanying them. The shambling corpses push their way up and out of the ground, intent on feasting on the foreign males that invaded their resting place. The ghouls didn't just come from the earth, however. Some were bloated and veiny with skin nearly dripping off of them like the water they vacated. More of their undead brethren poured in from the hole in the side of the mountain--gnashing, chattering teeth bite their way through the air as they all but Thriller-danced their way to the fire-wielders, outstretched arms and bodies littered with razorsharp icicles and a frozen touch that'd give any warm body frostbite.

This was Amarrah's fury, pure and filled with a crazed hatred unmatched by most that dwell these lands--but sadly, it was just as flawed as any other villain's that trespassed in Lithrydel. No matter how desolate and gloomy things managed to become, there was always a silver lining, there was always a light in the darkness--and this light just so happened to be in the form of a diamond-shaped vial with a gilded silver stopper that rolled off the top of a hoard pile that had become disturbed by the undead. It spun across the floor, doing a loop-de-loop here and there before bumping into Brand's foot--the glow of the divine starlight within pulsed softly during its trek to the alcohol-loving male, only getting brighter once it stops as if to say 'Hey! Listen!'. All the while, Amarrah was getting desperate. She unleashed fireball after fireball towards the males, still entirely unaware of Esche's approach from within the caverns behind her--even going so far as to let loose the black and purple shadowflames in wide arc-shaped streams, an insane, anxious laughter bubbling up from within her as she used nearly every ounce of her power to try to slay those gods damned humans.

Brand’s distraction had lasted only a moment. No time to analyze whatever the frak that had been. Compartmentalize. Ponder it later. He was already running from the undead that had spawned nearest him when the vial knocked into his boot. One more fireball flew from his hands, one of many sent to crisp the zombie horde. He’d gained a few precious seconds to peer at the thing at his feet before he’d have to move again. Holy magic? Not his forte. And no appeal to any god was likely to be heard from a staunch atheist. Still, convenient, to be found by such a thing when surrounded by unlife and shadow. And it wasn’t like the gorram thing was labelled “Vial of the Divine: Just add prayer...” A rotting hand latched onto Brand’s arm. No more time for deliberation. Another barbecued zombie later, Brand was sprinting to Not-Khitti, vial in hand, dodging shadowflames and skeletons alike. Would holy magic hurt a vampire, or just the shadows? In lieu of prayer, Brand thought in Esche’s direction. Like using that vampiric mindlink he sometimes shared with Khitti after a feed. If the elf was a gorram telepath, he might as well do something useful with his nose in Brand’s thoughts. [Shield Khitti. Only what is rightly her, if you can.] Brand arced in his path, intent to look like he was running past the possessed vampiress and not aiming for her. From behind, he veered back, smashing the vial at her feet when he got close enough. If they survived this, he really needed to ask what, if anything, light magic would do to her. Hopefully it wasn’t as potent a vampire killer as fire, or he’d likely have more than just the one dead lover in his dreams.

Lionel winces as Amarrah shrieks sullenly, then balances impossibly leftward with that one foot to the hilt as his own dagger whirs past him. He looks offended, in a ‘hurt puppy’ sort of way. An expression so absurd it’s almost worth letting linger, really, but that just isn’t meant to be -- skeletal hands shake the ground and Hellfire begins to teeter, leading Lionel to hop off with enough force to kick one back from whence it came in his falling. If only he could have crunched them all. A fleet of undead threatens to surround them and shadowflames race out in an arc to rival the balls of fire right alongside them. There is nothing Lionel can do about those fireballs. His own abilities would only intensify them. Instead, he hoists Hellfire from the earth and lets blue inferno roar over steel before billowing outward from the sword and rushing over to meet the oncoming shadowflames. Most dark magics will dance endlessly with the barrier Lionel has formed, to say nothing of the undead that barrier consumes in its stretch. By now, the horde -- sans the torched -- is veering close and Halycanos’ protective ways can’t defend mortal flesh against too many of these touches. To say nothing of Esche and Brand, surely lacking possession of anything Ishaarite at all. Out of the corner of the man’s eye, a shape is grazed by bitterly icy demonic appendage, but there is no effect. Lionel will never know, nor indeed will the others present, but Levantine has guarded Esche resplendently. Lionel rushes across the cave to align with Brand and reassess the battle, then begins to swing Hellfire in fast enough wild enough slashes to keep the unpredictability. He’ll feint left, then ruse right, then strike true vertically, seeking to confound. He follows it up with big meaty horizontal slashes, breaking corpses gruesomely. Brand’s words are caught and Lionel blinks at the glowing vial. Esche sidesteps in-between them and then into and out of the shadows behind Amarrah, staff positioned high overhead and then shoved down with a thundering crack -- but not to hit. The elf continues to monitor Brand’s every thought. This one merely happened to bear his name on its label. His weapon is encased now in elemental wind but layered in slick darkness. The darkness, a possible comfort to the woman, will trap her but also ward the harshest -- deadliest -- lights from the now-shattering vial. The wind will bounce her to and fro within that slick entropy like a ragdoll cushioned in sludge. Far off to the right, it’s all Lionel can do to slay, slay, slay. Too many damned zombies. -Always- with the too many damned zombies.

Amarrah started to feel oddly...calm? No. There was something going on. The elf that had moved behind her had done something! The realization was little too late, however, for her own anger had betrayed her, causing a lovely case of fury-induced tunnel vision with the sole aim of extinguishing all their lights. Luckily for everyone present, the light from the now destroyed vial wasn't of the divine as originally thought. It was, however, the actual light of a star, likely bottled by some greedy mage, and not-so-rightfully claimed by Raiez some time before her long slumber a millennia ago. As Brand smashed it to the ground at Khitti's feet, it acted as a sort of flash grenade, blinding all including the undead that still sought to swarm them despite Lionel taking out most of their brethren. The light was warm and inviting, as if it were the entrance to heaven itself. It'd last for what seemed like forever, disorienting all and vanquishing Amarrah for the time being, setting her back into the recesses of the redhead's mind for the time being. Hopefully forever...

...What surfaced after the shadow creature was sent away was something entirely new. Well, sort of. Amarrah had not been quite so kind to Khitti once she'd been locked away within, leaving her with all of those memories that had been gifted to the both of them by the lightning elf Ayras. Over and over and over she lived that life of the elder redheaded female, like a broken record left to spin for an eternity. It had felt like an eternity to Khitti. But no, here she was, brought to the forefront again. Amongst the piercing white light that had surrounded them all, a feral growl could be heard and the picking up of those twin shortswords that had been left by the vampiress upon her rescue. Blood splattered here, there, and everywhere as Khitti beheads the nearest shambling zombie, kicking its now headless body to the side with a firm boot planted on its chest. More surround the fiery redhead and she gifts them all with slashes to the throat, more blackened, putrid life force spurting out, landing on those nearest to the walking corpses as they fell over to the floor. Arms, legs, and anything else Khitti could get to would be hacked away, and she'd still be fighting as the light dimmed, the woman looking more like she was in the middle of a gladiator match than in a simple fight with the undead. No one else would get the chance to best any of the zombies, and now that Amarrah was defeated, no more would rise. Khitti was angrier than she'd ever been before--one couldn't be too certain if it was because of the memories that overlapped into her waking thoughts or if she was just that upset with Amarrah--the hatred nearly radiating off of her as she stopped finally, all of the undead well and truly amongst the deceased now. Blood-soaked locks clung to her face, dark emerald eyes that had long since returned to normal not making eye contact with any of the three males present as her arms lower to her sides, hands still gripping those swords tightly. "Sorry" was all that was said before her mouth twisted into an irate frown, crimson brows knitting together to complete the look.

Maybe, Brand thought, there were gods after all. That was what that warm feeling meant, didn’t it? He’d been wrong. They were all dying and this light was their guide to whatever lay beyond. Which realm’s pantheon would turn out to be reality? Would any of them be correct, or was what awaited them something entirely unheard of and unexpected? Maybe, if he played nice for long enough, or appealed to any prankster gods among them, someone would let him haunt Krice for laughs. ...Wait, nope, just kidding. Scratch all that. The light was fading, and there was Khitti, ankle-deep in corpses newly re-corpse-ified. All fleeting theistic belief died upon sight of them, and Brand felt smug in once more dodging seemingly inevitable oblivion. “You’re welcome,” he said to Khitti, a shrug somehow evident in his tone. The man himself gave her no rolling of his shoulders, however, because he was already tramping back to his stash. One bottle of ancient wine and a jar of weird haunted liquid -- both were inexplicably spared by recent events, and he cradled them carefully in his arms before asking the obvious question. “I thought you’d said Amarrah was gone…?” See, to Brand, -that- was the obvious question, not anything regarding Khitti’s wellbeing. Anyone able to take out that many undead singlehandedly was clearly perfectly alright. Duh.

Lionel’s profound discomfort upon exposure to the blinding light cannot be understated. For a few fleeting seconds, when the light remains overlong, he experiences Brand’s own wonder -- and it is not a pleasant experience. The Catalian does not get so far as to question which gods are real. He does not even begin to process that he may be on his way to meet some. Six months ago, Lionel would have welcomed the end. It’s a sad thing to say, but it’s true. He’d returned here to Lithrydel in search of a fitting conclusion. As though life had been a series of chapters in some free-form book written by others and he wanted off this crazy novel. Everything changed and all rather quickly. He had opened his mouth to scream at whoever would listen -- to beg them to let him back. To promise he’d changed his mind. To ask for just a little longer, to continue making some kind of difference. Or else, at least to beg for the lives of ‘two’ fellow Catalians and their beloved vampiress. When the light fades and a slender form hovers off in the distance, feminine with two slender swords and a very familiar stance, Lionel rubs his eyes and sits upright. “Caedan…? Come to finish the job…?” A tap at his shoulder sends Lionel into a frenzy; he jumps off to the side and blinks. “Oh, it’s only you, Esche.” How foolish of Lionel to fear poor Esche. Upon rising, Lionel will realize that Caedan is Khitti and everyone’s okay.

Esche was never blinded. What Esche had done while Khitti kicked ass is not yet revealed.

Khitti put the sword in her right hand into her left with its twin, her now free appendage peeling the stray, bloodied locks from her face, raking them back into the rest of her hair. It's then that Brand's give a glare, one of those not to be trifled with 'death stares' that women seem to keep in their arsenal of dirty looks, "Do me a favor, Brand, and don't speak her name in my presence. If you do, I'll make it so you never find another drop of alcohol in all of Lithrydel ever again." She was certainly in a right awful mood, likely one more sour than any Brand or Amarrah had been in, combined. "No. She's not gone and even after all of zhat, she's still here." The vampiress taps herself on the head with wry smirk, her hand moving then to the necklace at her throat, "And now I've got another new problem...as if I didn't have enough." She finally shifts her attention towards Lionel and Esche, brows furrowing as the smirk shifts into an irritated frown, "Who zhe hell is 'Caedan'?" But, before he'd be allowed to speak, she puts a hand out and shakes her head, "No. Don't tell me now. I'm in no mood for fairy tales." The jar used for shrinking things is soon snatched up from where it'd been left, and the swords placed inside, Khitti soon returning to the plundering of the dragon's cave as if nothing at all had happened.

Brand squeezed his precious new bottle a little more tightly, a defensive frown upon his lips. He followed behind Khitti, keeping just enough distance that he’d hopefully be able to save the thing if she decided to make good on her threat. “What the frell’s with the necklace, then? Was -that- what summoned, eh, Lemoncakes?” Yep. If Khitti was opposed to hearing the butterfly’s name, Amarrah would go by that pet name he’d snarkily given her just before the fight had broken out. Brand pretty much gave everyone nicknames eventually, anyway. “Can’t you just take it off?” He’d not noticed the bits from the necklace that had plunged into her skin to start all this, nor the blood that had trailed from it just after. And she was, at this point, covered in enough blood that those couple of rivulets escaped notice.

Lionel winces. There is clear and present relief the very second Khitti decides she does not in fact wish to know the truth behind Caedan Navarre. "Right, then. We're all chipper now. Everything's chipper. I should have assumed this place would try to kill us all over again -- I really, -really- should have -- but no one's perfect, me least of all." He wanders over to his bag of things. Miraculously, everything is right where he left it. Then again, with a bag like this, who could possibly be surprised? Esche smiles politely, although he's willed himself to appear fatigued. He runs a hand over his pocket where something very Ishaarite had been found in Raeiz's horde. Its powers remain dormant for now, lest Lionel or even Brand -- that fellow doesn't even know what he has! -- detect them. Levantine will see to all that at a later date. "I must confess, I'd not thought such danger was on the line, myself," he lies. "Khitti, you have my thanks for protecting us while we were... out, of sorts."

The only non-Catalian that's also not a pointy-eared bastard with crazy mind powers side-eyed Brand at the mention of 'Lemoncakes'. "Oh good. Zhank you. Now I'll never eat any sort of lemon cake again." Those emerald eyes of hers narrow then at the alcohol-loving male, "You should call her vhat she is: a batshit crazy bitch. One, zhat, vere she to have an actual corporeal form, I'd rip her to shreds." She took a deep, unnecessary breath, only if to try to calm herself, and shook her head, "She vas already here. Dormant. Asleep. Something. I don't know. She's been here zhis entire time...and I zhink I know vhen she came back." More random magic items are stuffed into the jar with haste, such angry haste, another side-eye given this time to Esche when he speaks. "Yeah..." was all that was offered, before returning her attention back to Brand, "I zhink zhis necklace is broken. I've read about stones before and zhis one--it's meant for protection. Not zhe holy sort, just zhe...I don't know. But, it's on zhere, for good, I zhink. I tried to take it off and next zhing I knew, vell...-She- took over." Khitti paused briefly, her fingers twitching like she wanted to strangle someone, before she stood up and slammed the lid onto the jar, then tossed it to Brand. "Ve need to go. Now." The statement definitely sounded more like a command than a request; were the menfolk in the cave with her anyone else, she might even seem intimidating. Maybe. Hard for someone of her size to seem that way unless she were in that predator-like mode that vampires came with. Thankfully for Lionel, there wasn't any snark about the topic of his 'perfection' that he claimed he wasn't. She had plenty of other things on her mind at the moment, most of which were a bit violent, even leaning towards the side of murderous. "I vill come back for zhe rest of zhe scales later. Zhere's a crab who's going to get zhem shoved down his zhroat." And then, with that terrifying sentence spoken, she was headed towards the exit of the cave.

Khitti was gone before Brand could even begin to argue about staying longer. The words died on his tongue, and instead Brand blinked incredulously towards Lionel as if to say, “See what I have to deal with?” A few steps were taken toward the exit, hesitantly, and then backtracked upon as Brand decided to shovel several fistfuls of gold coins into the jar Khitti had thrown at him. Then and only then did he depart, precariously balancing all of those precious glass items in his grasp.

Lionel sees what Brand has to deal with. In a way, he's always known. With a last, not-at-all-wistful glance at this damnable cave, he quietly seeks its exit. Really, the only thing on his mind by now is that thinly-veiled Kreekitaka reference. Ugh. Literally Kreekitaka. Esche, on the other hand, takes a few seconds to himself. He peers around curiously, his staff lit up again and cast toward those murals he'd espied. "Curious," he whispers into the air. Ishaarite script, it isn't, but there are striking similarities. He files it away in his mind for further pursuit at a later time. His people might share greater common ancestry with this ragtag haphazard realm of 'Hollow' than he'd previously realized. An inquisitive glance toward Khitti. She could be trouble. Esche purses his lips and catches up with the rest of them, cheerfully contemplative and bothering Lionel with cultural questions. His mask is back on.