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The First CircleEdit

Jaden and Elizabeth/First Circle of Hell/1st Day

Red - Shadow and Soul

They had just departed the most chaotic battle of their lives and traded it for one of the most undesirable destinations any mortal could wish for. And Jaden had built up a plan for nearly two decades. His dead wife was here, but he didn't seek her out simply because he'd lost his love and wanted her back. She had so many skills that could help his people, and her life did not have the purpose it originally had been intended for. Slain by the Primordial of Ice, Jaden could not have his revenge without Elly. And she had to have ended up here. He could trace her soul's energies as he fell through the soul-cloying shadows.

Elizabeth and Polaris were both deducing the best ways to hit the ground, as they had no idea how far the conjured Stygian portal had dropped them. Everything appeared pallid, grey, and virtually lifeless. It was a limbo of sorts, even though the sky showed elements of heat lightning and discoloration due to high temperatures. It was unseasonably warm as they fell, but things cooled as the ground continued to approach. The young red-headed woman dismounted her horse and let it fall on its own as she braced for impact with her large tomcat in arms.

"This is going to hurt you all a whole lot more than me. Don't tense up!"

Five sickening thuds resounded from the grounds of this dreadful place, and pain seared through all of them. Well, some more than others. Elizabeth's horse was startled and got up to run in shock. It sped off into the distance and disappeared, but they could still hear its gallop. Everything was grey or in an earthen shade that was very close to ashen. Trees, the grass, soil, even the water looked murky. And the stench of death wafted all around them. As they all climbed to their feet, everyone checked their health.

"Everyone got their breath back? There are some things we need to cover. Beth, once it calms down, that horse of yours may come back. But there are some serious ground rules we need to go over."

The Zora general tilted his head and replied quickly.

"Nothing down here is going to have any rules, Jaden. We need to watch our backs. Remember, I've been here before. Stygian horrors could be bearing down on us as we speak."

Jaden nodded solemnly and continued.

"The less time we spend here, the better. Once we find Elly, I've got an exit strategy. The problem is, just like getting here, it takes time to cast, and it may not work right away. There's more than one way out of here, and we'll work together to find something if my plan fails. But first, in case I die, my people have a rite that is passed from Chieftain to Chieftain. And it has to survive. I wish to bestow something thought lost for many generations among my people as well as Hyrule at large.

Elizabeth gave a lopsided grin and chuckled.

"What legend? You have the leadership history in your head and your library. Mom has the mystical side along with grandma. Unless you're giving us your Celestial Aspect forms, you need to let us start looking and looking out for ourselves."

Roaring back at his niece, Jaden expressed much frustration.

"You think you know everything due to your youth. Hear me now and believe me later. I wish to bestow upon you both the Eye of Truth. Only Chieftains of my tribe carry this power and only they can grant it to others, permanently. Should I die and you all survive, our people have to live on. Choose a location for this rite. It is permanent but only visible when you use it. And it bears the appearance of the Weeping Eye."

Polaris pointed to his right eye, and Elizabeth held up her right hand, currently bearing a scar from where her Mark of Devotion once was. Preparing the rite, Jaden began to initiate verbal and somatic components of the Chieftain's Eye. He held his hands out to their selected placements and chanted loudly in his peoples' ancient tongue.

"Do you solemnly affirm to preserve the land of Hyrule and its Royal Family? That a realm must be there to defend against its enemies, both of the plane and foreign to it? And that this power is only to be used for the greater good?"

He awaited responses from the others before completing his spell, but he knew he had to be quick. He could sense a foreboding presence nearby and did not want to be caught flat-footed.

'Polaris Eridanus/ Gates of the First Circle of Hell/ First Day'

As the trio hurtled through the aether into the Underworld mounted on the back of a dying demon, Polaris called out, "This is going to hurt you all a whole lot more than me. Don't tense up!"

It wasn’t entirely a lie, but the statement was at best, dubious and he wondered who he was trying to convince, Jaden and Elizabeth, or himself. The crash to the hellish turf below would be of little consequence to him, and he was sure that was how they would interpret his words as they tumbled through the depths, the fall itself, however, was proving to be a bitch.

He struggled to maintain his grip on the crimson bolts that tethered them to the swords, the anchors of the spell, as the shards of the Fulgarite staff were rent forcibly from his flesh as they entered the land of the fallen. Fulmen himself was down here and the staff was responding to the call of its master now that they were once again on the same plane.

The maniacal laughter of Davus Fulmen, whether real or imagined echoed in Polaris’ ears, threatening to overwhelm him. It was through sheer force of will that Polaris remained conscious enough to focus all of his energy at keeping hold of the final two shards of the staff embedded deep in his flesh beneath the makhaira.

The calm after the struggle was nearly as intense as the struggle itself, Polaris had a split seconds clarity before crashing to the blood burnt turf. In his minds eye, he saw the staff, fully formed despite the two missing shards, floating in front of the gates to some lower level of The Pit and heard once more, louder than ever, the laughter of The Feared.
The crimson bolts holding the named blades in placed, seemingly retracted into Polaris as he found both Winters Tide and Apocrypha in his grip. He covered the distance to Beth in two short strides and stuck the blade tip down into soil beside her.

"Thank you for your trust."
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"Do you solemnly affirm to preserve the land of Hyrule and its Royal Family? That a realm must be there to defend against its enemies, both of the plane and foreign to it? And that this power is only to be used for the greater good?"

Polaris bowed his head and was quiet for the briefest of moments, ”You honor me. You have my affirmation.”

Polaris raised his head and looked Jaden square in the eyes as the Eye was placed, wondering if his former pupil knew what this meant for Polaris and his ties to the Zora nation. He was choosing Hyrule over Zora’s Domain. He was shedding off the ties to the people who exiled him and embracing those who embraced him.

Beth/First Circle/Day 1

It was when Polaris had stood alongside her that Beth had noticed the extent of his injuries. It looked bad, but he had experienced worse. She was still stinging from the landing. Even so, she found it very out of character for Jaden to offer something so sacred to the Sheikah to two individuals who would probably never have obtained it in the first place. But the historical importance was understood. So she affirmed her vow.

"I do so affirm, my Chieftain. Having renounced Sourbeneton for his treachery to myself and to our land, I accept the Hylian Crown as my true master once more."

This was not easy for her. She was a heretic twice over now. Her mother would be very reluctant to forgive. And what of her other family members, or her tribe? She knew her father was forgiving enough to save her when this all began yesterday. 

But now she was helping her uncle Jaden on a mission that seemed of suicide. She knew it would take everything to escape this dreadful place. Things smelled of damp disease. 

Taking the mark was not painful at all. It just felt unsettling and mildly uncomfortable. Learning to use it would be a challenge. Using it properly per her vow even more so.

When the ritual was complete, Tuffy circled around her feet, cheering about how he had his old Beth back. 

"You did come back to us once more! Just as I promised your mom. She doubted me. They all did."

Beth was a little amused by this. 

"Sourbeneton gave me no choice in the matter. He wanted my soul and I changed my mind about our deal once the truth was known. I was duped. You never gave me up or let me down. So I am yours again."

Jaden didn't have time to celebrate nor did Tuffy or Polaris. He still sensed that eerie presence bearing down on them. 

"The fact that no one has come to greet us yet is disturbing. We need to keep moving. There is a castle in the distance, and I think more answers will be found there."

While Jaden was explaining, Beth put a small vial in a nearby stream to collect what looked like wispy water. She wasn't sure if it would come in handy later, but it was exclusive to Hell. Tuffy noticed this and shook his head a bit. 

Jaden also noticed Polaris' wounds and offered to take some of them for him. He left that in the General's hands as everyone handles pain differently. .

A Lone Assassin/First Circle/Day 1

Having tracked them since they landed violently, there were odd issues that the assassin found. 

Three of the four were among the living, just as the Usurper was. One had been here before and escaped. The others were seeking to do the impossible and break out. But why break in? 

The assassin stood 5'1" with a very lithe build. Her hair was cut rather short, almost to that of a pixie style. It was white, and her eyes were deep red. Even though her skin was once tanned deeply, it now had a pallid shade. Her armor was made of Baphomet leather and Stygian iron bands. And it covered her from head to toe. She also had a cloak made of the same wretched leathers. Every single piece of it was taken from a fallen victim.

Were they working with the Baphomet Clan? Or that blasted fallen angel seeking to usurp the true master of this plane? She had to keep following with daggers at hand and recurve bow with quiver slung over her back.

And they looked so familar, but it had been so long. If it truly was Jaden Tirion Bryseis...

A Lone Assassin/First Circle Plains/Day 1

She kept a safe distance from the adventurers. And as she listened, she was conflicted as to who they truly could be. And how they got here without dying, minus the red Zora. Not having to breathe helped her keep her cover. The assassin knew these plains better than anyone. And most who showed up here were new arrivals.

If it weren't for the Baphomet Clan driving out the Stygian Sentries and Sweepers, the newcomers would have been detained and compelled to the castle for judgment and assignment of Circles. At this point, she was killing those goat demons anywhere she could. She was glad for someone who wasn't horned and furry. 

As she overheard them speaking, her eyes began to well with undead tears. It was Jaden and Polaris. And some unknown ginger they kept calling Lizzy. And she had Kae's sword. Who was she? Dressed as a dark warrior, she assumed poor things. But she never saw the girl's face. She was tall and strongly built. 

They were headed to the castle. Maybe they were the indirect answer to the Baphomet problem. The Usurper was held away from Limbo thanks to them. It would break a seal that would be hard to contain. 

Was it really twenty years? Jaden looked so old...but he looked exactly how she had imagined. He wore no ring on his finger other than the chieftain signet. But he had a tattoo on that special finger just as she did. 

She wanted to get closer and reveal herself. But they needed to truly understand why this plane was called Hell.

Polaris Eridanus/ Hells First Circle/ First Day

It wasn’t long after the formalities of acceptance that the Weeping Eye was placed on both Polaris and Elizabeth, the sensation was odd, not painful exactly, but it carried a peculiar tingle with it. The level of clarity this gift would bring was worth that sensation and more, once he learned to utilize this, the possibilities were expansive.

The four set off across scorched earth after Polaris respectfully declined Jaden’s offer of healing. As they tread the trodden trails of the freshly damned it was quiet. Eerily so. The conversation carried on and Polaris found himself looking over his shoulder more and more frequently as they went. Perhaps it was the environment, but he was sure they were being followed. He had no proof though, so when Jaden asked

”What is it General?”

Polaris shook his head and waved the Chieftain off with a story of his last time on this blighted plane and the unholy goat abominations he’d had to contend with, which were, thankfully not here. The black spires of the blasphemous spires looming ever higher, the group found themselves at the castles front. There was no door to behold. No entrance nor exit.

After a time, Polaris began to run his hands along the surface of the castle, muttering to himself as he went.

”Uh.. what in Dins name is he doing uncle?” Beth whispered to Jaden

The muscled Sheikah shrugged and joined Polaris in the act, ”Sooo… what are we doing”

Polaris paused in his search long enough to give a brief explanation, ”I had hoped that the Eye would circumvent this, and perhaps it will in time, but I’ve not been able to refine my technique in just a few short minutes anyway… there are certain magical methods through which dark wizards and their ilk may conceal things, doorways included. If I can find the… right… Ah! here we go... This is the spot.”

Jaden stepped back as Polaris started muttering again. Beth came forward and looked expectantly at him once more, and once more Jaden merely shrugged and motioned to watch Polaris.

Polaris finally stopped in one particular spot and chuckled. ”So crude.. but, we are in hell, so.. Lizzy, your dagger if you will.”

Polaris held out an expectant hand. It was only after a few moments that he tore his eyes away from the building to look at Beth, who still hadn’t given him her dagger.

”Lizzy, your dagger.. please.”

”I.. don’t… what do you need it for? You already have so many injuries.. If I’m correct in assuming the next step is a blood offering, why not let myself or..”

Polaris sighed in frustration, but his features softened a bit at her insistence. ”The offer is touching, but I am well. Besides, your blood is much more valuable than mine.”

Without any more discussion on the matter, Polaris deftly took the blade from Elizabeths grip and drew it across his palm and in a single fluid motion, he pressed his hand to the stone.

Jaden/First Circle Castle Outskirts/Day 1

He and Beth could also concur that they had something on their tail. But they did not activate their Eyes of Truth, as they were not sure if their magic would regenerate on this plane like it did each day in Hyrule. Sure, Jaden had some potions, but not quite enough for an extended campaign. 

Getting to the castle was top priority for him. Even though these eerie meadows and plains would be interesting to explore in full, this wasn't a place that the living elected to go to unless they were truly depraved, or they had unfinished business. He was also sure that very few ever found their way here while they still drew breath. 

They all spoke of plans and fallback options should things go poorly. Finding Elly and getting her back was paramount, regardless of whether Jaden were to live. Maybe Polaris could take her back to his time. Or Beth could find a way to get Jaden out with her help later. Either way, she had to be found. And knowing she wasn't one full of vice and depravity in life, she either had to be here or a few circles below. He had a map in his head. He knew there were nine circles in total. But getting between the levels of sin would be a challenge. And the fact that there were no Stygian Sentries even to this point had him thinking something was way off.

Beth concurred, even in the eerie silence and the heat-streaked skies as ground turned from dried grass and soil to scorched ash the closer they got to the castle. 

"We should have had some sort of welcoming committee by now. There's no one here. Not even those wandering virtuous folks who were struck with lament from a lack of their deity's presence you keep going on about. Either we're in the wrong place, or something horrible killed everything out here. For a second time."

Polaris shrugged as he kept the pace and explained the true issues that were being avoided by it being so quiet here, namely goat demons. Beth still doubted, so Tuffy climbed up on Jaden's back and tried to talk some sense into her.

"Lady Bryseis, we are very definitely in the afterlife plane of Hell. We are abominations and invaders because the majority of the group is still alive. Very few have done this successfully and escaped. Your former deity being one of them before he was banished here by your parents, aunt Elly, and Lady Lemeris twenty years ago. Agreed, it is disturbing that nothing is here. But we also do not know how dangerous any hostiles will be when we encounter them. Count your blessings. You'll find few here."

Beth nodded reluctantly as they approached the castle promenade. With no door, the General asked Beth for her dagger twice. She handed it to him and tried to talk him out of performing a blood rite to gain entry. 

”I.. don’t… what do you need it for? You already have so many injuries.. If I’m correct in assuming the next step is a blood offering, why not let myself or..”

She knew she was fighting a losing battle in persuading Polaris. He sighed and replied, ”The offer is touching, but I am well. Besides, your blood is much more valuable than mine.”

Beth and Jaden let him proceed, even though they felt it unjust to let him continue to sacrifice himself. He didn't need to do that. This was Jaden's burden to bear, and Beth's revenge was very conditional, even though the Chieftain did not make that part so clear. 

As undead vitae seeped into all the runic, ensigiled openings of the door, it began to slowly open. Weapons were drawn, and Tuffy assumed a defensive position on Jaden's shoulder. Polaris seemed very calm, however, as the threshold revealed an empty foyer. 

The Limbo Spires

The masonry inside was just as stark and ebon-hued as its exterior. Lit torches cast a pale green incandescence on everything while heat-streaked skies illuminated through eerily clean windows. Stale air showed no signs of circulating, and various tapestries and paintings revealed indeed that they were in the land of the damned. Occult symbols that they'd never seen before, short of Polaris, were wall to wall. Statues paying homage to all sorts of wretched beasts lined this foyer, which had blood-stained carpet leading to a front desk of sorts. Sweeping spiral staircases were to the right and left of it, and hallways led off further than they could see. Still, no signs of life. They saw footprints in the ash and dust that had been tracked, and then they heard the door shut behind them. Something had to be in here. They could all feel it. 

"Rule number four. Don't split up. Polaris knows more than the rest of us about this place. But we need maps and a census. I need to know where they are holding her."

Jaden could hear a woman chuckling, and he wasn't sure if the others shared that, but he kept looking, weaving and spinning about. What was that?

Beth patted him on the back and nodded, confirming she heard it as well. She heard chatter down the hall to the left, but it was in a language she had never heard before. Some words she could pick out, as her old master had used them. He called it Black Speech...perhaps he learned it here? Jaden focused his ears toward it and covered his face with his palm, motioning for them to not speak and to head the other direction. He whispered softly.

"We are not alone here, friends. A group of demons invaded and they are having a meeting down the hall about keeping Limbo sealed. Some false god keeps trying to escape from below, and the true master of this place is not happy with any of it. Whoever he is. They called him Beelzebub. I don't want to hear any more of it...their speech is making me a bit loopy."

The fact that he could understand or even hear from that far away had Beth a little surprised. Was he so bent on getting Elly back that he learned extraplanar languages? 

"So why are we going the other way then? We need more information."

Jaden did not respond. He motioned as they continued quietly. Polaris shrugged, but kept an eye behind him, looking back often. That unspeakable presence wouldn't leave them alone. When they arrived at the end of one of the halls, an open door set a library before them. It had many stacks and racks of tomes. Some had to have been alive. Or undead. Or possessed. And Jaden could read the spines of them. The sections. It was as though he had found exactly what he needed.

"Paydirt."

They kept quietly in step, but they were alone again. It was also way too quiet in here. No sentries. No foot steps other than their own. There was something seriously wrong in here. Until they came to the room's center and saw a horrid abomination reading with a goblet full of blood in his free hand. It had a man's torso, but a black-furred ram's head with curled horns and glowing crimson eyes. Its legs were furred and appeared to be hind's cloven feet, with that same smooth black shade. A halberd lie on the table as well, with bone charms dangling from its hilt. Strangely enough, the goat man had no armor. But it got up as soon as the group skulked too close. It spoke in that terrible language, and Jaden hung on every word of it. Polaris made out most of it, and Beth was clueless. Tuffy also shrugged his paws. 

"Brethren, the meeting should not have ended. Why do you seek me now? The tomes must always be under watch. We can't let that guttersnipe get in here and find what she needs!"

It began to walk around, searching. It left its goblet and book, but it was now armed, marching toward the door. Beth dashed for the table to get the book, and as soon as she was in the open, she could hear the hooves clicking on marble floors. Jaden hissed when he knew they'd been made, and followed her. Polaris and Tuffy hung back, and the General was quite angry. He knew what these beasts were.

"How did you breach the Spire? You are the living among the damned! I must know, before I slay you." It brandished its spear and bayed, licking its lips. 

Jaden was honest, even with zweihander drawn.

"I am Jaden Bryseis of Hyrule. My wife was slain on our wedding day. I seek her location in the census, and all I want is her soul. I'm taking it back to my home, and I mean no harm to you or your kin, unless you choose to mean harm to me."

Elizabeth had both Apocrypha and the Starborn Edge readied, even though she had no idea what her uncle was saying. The beast laughed and snarled at him before taking a few steps closer.

"You bent time and space only to die at my hand. I think I know your bride. She wears the hides of my brethren and drinks of their heart's blood. We leave these halls, and we are at her mercy. You can have her. But she'll never get in here...and you'll never leave-"

An explosion of deepest crimson came out of the goat man as one blade erupted from the center of his chest and another ripped its throat wide open; vitae gurgling and bubbling down from the vicious wound. As it fell, a petite humanoid female had both her chained kunai at the ready, dripping agony all over the floor. She was shrouded and masked, and her leathers were meticulously cured. Throwing her hood back, there was very little mistaking who had been following them. Jaden rushed toward her, and she motioned for him to stop. He had been waiting for this moment for nearly two decades, but his bride was incensed. 

"Speak of the devil. Jaden Tirion Bryseis, you have a lot to explain. As do the rest of you."

They could hear many hooves headed their direction. They knew there were invaders. And they were angry.

"Elly. I love you. I have never given up on my promise...please...don't turn us away. If you only knew what I did to see your face..."

The General looked quite perturbed, and piped up. Jaden was being a bad soldier, even if finding Elly was a lot easier than they'd all expected. 

"The time for emotional reunions can come later, people! Baphomets are beings of immense power and stature. She killed a Librarian. One of these is like fifty men put together. We just kicked over a hive."

'Polaris Eridanus and Company'

Polaris did not enjoy being the one to interrupt heartfelt reunions, the abashed stares he received from the others did little to ease that feeling of discomfort, however, the low thunder rolling closer to them had nothing to do with him or his magic. No, that sound, he knew, emanated from a cacophony of cloven hooved heathens hellbent on holding their hard won piece of real estate. Namely, this castle.

In short, the group found themselves smack dab in the middle of, of all things, an underworld turf war and Polaris wanted nothing to do with it.

As the first of the herd of goat demons rounded the corner, Polaris sheathed Winters Tide in the same motion that brought a bit of crowd control to his hands in the form of his lightning forged dual makhaira. More thunder. This time it seemed, WAS his doing. He hadn’t meant to. It was increasingly apparent that he’d retained at least some semblance of Fulmen’s powers, the storm, although diminished, still raged within him, and perhaps always would.

Those were thoughts for another time though. As the first Baphomet galloped through the darkened archway of the hall at the far side of the chamber, the General lashed out and a pristine silver blade, wreathed in crimson lightning struck the goat demon in the chest. As the creature burst into a cloud of ash and hellfire, a handful of it’s brethren stampeded into view.

Otherworldly shrieks and bleats were enough to turn the stomach as they surged forward.

Jaden sauntered forward and swung his massive zweihander in a looping arc with relative ease. The blade passed harmlessly through the target. The Baphomet, whose shrieking had died in his throat when he saw the gargantuan blade coming at him, still stood there, cudgel raised high, mouth a perfect ‘O’ in a stunned silence.

Jaden, to his credit, assessed the situation and fell back with only minimal confusion.

”Not dead. Can’t hit ‘em.” was all he muttered to Beth as he grabbed her and pulled her back, allowing Polaris and Elly to take the lead.

As his bride and his mentor engaged in immortal combat, Jaden turned to his niece and reiterated his previous statement, ”We can’t hit them. Change that… and before you say it, no I don’t want you to kill me.”

Lizzy nodded as she set to work on wards and incantations as her and Jaden followed Polaris and Elly as they fought their way towards… somewhere. She thought perhaps she heard Elly saying something about a gateway to a lower level to escape the rising tide of goat demons, she wasn’t sure as it took all of her focus to chant the proper spell while not dying.

Jaden and Elizabeth/Limbo Spires/Day 1

He could feel Elly's eyes burning into his soul after she found him lacking in character. While all he wanted to do was prove her wrong, he could see her leering at Elizabeth. She had no idea who the fire-maned vixen was that accompanied them. Nor the fat cat with cow markings. Sure, she recognized Polaris. Her eyes narrowed even further when she saw Beth was carrying Kae's sword. As Jaden was about to retort, he heard the clacking of hooves coming from multiple directions, and barked orders to form up. 

Elly and Polaris had taken point even though Jaden had tried to. When a handful of the Baphomets came into view, Jaden charged up to one and used a wide arcing strike to try to sever it in two. These power attacks were often an opener of his as they had a demoralizing effect on other opponents. He could even see the goat man's face start to mouth Stygian vulgarities as he was mid-swing. But the usually satisfying feeling of cleaving flesh and bone was not there. His darksteel zweihander traveled right through goat torso as though it wasn't even there. While it was still wondering how it didn't end up in two halves on the floor, Jaden retreated back to the others and pulled his niece to the rear with him.

"Not dead. Can't hit 'em."

He saw Elly and Polaris working together to start cutting through the growing number of Baphomet warriors as he gave Beth some very desperate advice. "We can't hit them. Change that...and before you say it, no I don't want you to kill me."

Elizabeth was tempted to do him some degree of harm when hearing that. She knew that Apocrypha was crafted of some essences of this plane, as they resonated when she pulled the blade. There had to be a spell that would allow her and Jaden to harm opponents while here, or else this was going to be a very permanent trip. One incantation she began would allow them to register as proper denizens of Hell without being dead. The other would attune their blades to these planar energies, allowing them to do what Polaris had just done to a degree. They didn't exactly have the techniques to disintegrate, but they did know how to maim and dismember. 

"Should have thought of that before you decided to come here on vacation, Jaden. What's your answer for this? I should kill you for bringing that curvy bimbo to parade around in front of me!"

Jaden didn't respond. He wanted to. But her insults were really uncalled for, especially in the middle of the battle. Tuffy looked up at both of them and nodded solemnly. "The time for answers comes later, Lady Shea-Bryseis. For now, allow me to assist."

Elly chuckled when she saw the cat waddle up to their front lines. He dodged a few goat men and their halberds before shifting into the Celestial Lion he was used to being when not in Hyrule.

"My father, Felis Minor, sends greetings from the Cosmos!"

He leapt at one and was able to damage it, pinning it down and ripping out its throat while shredding its sides to bits with his back claws. Elly entangled the one that was going to impale him mid-attack, and sent her left-handed chain kunai through its left eye socket. 

"Cut the ones that don't matter, and keep moving! Jaden, Lizzy, you two stay back until you figure out whatever the problem is. Tuffington, pay attention!"

Polaris was grateful that he had a little more help with Tuffy pitching in. But he wasn't as experienced as the others. He could hear Beth chanting in that awful Black Speech once again. As he continued to work his way through the hordes, he wondered if redemption was truly possible for her if she continued to use these bits of profane technique. 

Elizabeth continued to chant in the rear as Jaden waited impatiently for her to finish. He only knew the rotes to get here, and figured that darksteel was a sufficient enough material to deal damage to denizens of Hell. But he never met one to test it on, nor was he able to summon one even amidst his best efforts. Elizabeth's betrayal prevented further testing...

Pale green sigils began to encircle Apocrypha while violet-white glyphs surrounded the Starborn Edge. She concluded her chanting with multiple shouts in Celestial and the Black Speech, and ran both blades against one another, melding the two paradigms. 

"Baphomets, you are not invincible to the living! No longer! The Cosmos and the Outer Realms both forsake you!" 

Vibrant gold wisps emerged from the coupling of paradigms, and they enshrouded Elizabeth's form. She laid a hand on Jaden's shoulder and spread the blessing to him as veridian slits began to form near her shoulders. 

"By mine will, it is done. Let us contribute to the offensive." 

Her voice reverberated throughout the hall, and Jaden could feel his chest tremoring a bit. Elly finished another of her opponents and looked back to see Elizabeth's empowered form. Her gaze changed slightly, but still wasn't sure who this mysterious warrior was. 

As Jaden rushed to the front once more, he was able to start cleaving again. Black blood began to paint the ground as his wide, sweeping strokes sundered halberd and Baphomet alike. He was never one for discrimination in that regard. 

"Honey, this is your niece, Elizabeth Jade Bryseis. She's my pride and joy."

Elly kept making a path through, starting to show some signs of fatigue. She said nothing, sighing, thinking it was a lie. Beth ran past her, diving into a crowd of their enemies and systematically eliminating them. She was parrying blows from all angles as limbs were severed, heads were removed, and torsos were punctured. 

Jaden insisted all the while he impaled three in one stab. "Remember Sourbeneton? Remember how he cursed Kae's firstborn? Well, this is Kae's firstborn. And she fell hard. Kae sent me back to kill her. But I will save her, just as I will save you!"

Polaris also joined in the sigh as he extended one of his Makhaira out into the next wave, sending red ice chain lightning throughout at least a dozen. He then proceeded to shatter them with precision whipped strokes, sending visceral shrapnel all down the corridor. 

"Sum it up later, Jaden! Their numbers will overwhelm us if we don't keep moving."

Elly ran up to where Beth was, and Polaris, Tuffy, and Jaden were not far behind. They saw a large gateway in front of them, but the door was shut. It did have an opening mechanism, and they heard a lot of clamor coming from the other side. 

Behind this door is the Central Processing Gateway. It's not the way out, but it will get us away from these bleeding bleaters. Let's get it open."

Jaden started working on the door with Tuffy walking him through it as the others formed a defensive perimeter around him. Elly looked over at Beth and eyed her up and down. The resemblance was a lot more apparent in her eyes. 

"She's so tall. More muscular. More curvy. I always told Jaden to go find a woman with curves if I were to die, as I still have no clue why he was drawn to my lithe form. But there's no mistaking it. Her ferocity is exactly like Kae's. Maybe I'll forgive him. But he'll have to work for it."

Polaris Eridanus and Company

At least this door didn’t require a blood sacrifice.

A simple lever pull disengaged the lock mechanism, and despite the massive size, the tumblers fell into the open position in complete silence. With a faint ‘sigh’ the door swung open with otherworldly ease.

Once inside the group found themselves in a circular chamber, the walls of which were lined with artwork both vulgar and profane. Colorless light emanated from flameless lamps that dotted the walls in the open spaces between the paintings, casting a lifeless grey light about the room. On a raised dais in the center of the room, the tattered back of a high seated chair faced the entryway, beside the chair was a weathered looking pedestal.

Behind them, the Baphomets rounded the corner, saw that the door had been opened, and faltered in their pursuit.

”Fools!!”

”They’ve entered HIS domain. They’re no longer our quarry.”

The demonic goats slowly began to disperse, a few lingered longer than others, bleating excitedly and hopping from hoof to hoof trying to get a better view into the room. After nothing happened for quite some time, the stragglers too started to leave.

As the last set of cloven feet echoed faintly in the distance, a gravelly voice pulled the group out of their collective reveries.
”You’ll forgive my servants, they are.. over zealous. I know why you are here, and if you will only heed my call and step forward I can help you..”'

Elly clutched at her chest and inhaled sharply in pain. ”No.”

Breathing sharply, she withrew a twisted leather cord from under her shirt and held up, what looked like a glowing green marble.

”Is that..”

”An eyeball.” Polaris looked at Jaden and nodded approvingly.

The sagging, tattered chair shifted and a massive brindle colored shadow rose from the seat and strode around the chair to face them. Yellowed pus dripped from beneath a ripped cloth eye patch on the right side of a scarred goat face. Muscle rippled as the hulking behemoth shifted its weight. The scuffed horns curled tightly and ground to jagged points at the ends. At nearly ten feet tall, a wicked looking two handed battle axe was slung across its back, a spiked ball hung from the handle, swaying as the creature laughed.

”Grant us passage back to the world of the living Reaver.”

The rough, bleating laughter died out, the Reaver suddenly serious.
”Absolutely Hellion.”'

The Reaver slapped its hand down atop the pedestal and the chair spiraled downward into nothingness.
”All you need to do is catch me.”'

With that, the oversized goat leapt into the yawning blackness that had moments ago been occupied by his tattered throne.

”Well, I hate that guy. Let’s follow him.”

One by one, the foursome disappeared into the black.
====================================================================='

Davus Fulmen | Mind of Eridanus | Hell

“Ratnis deserves his place of power in this land. As do I. I serve him eternally and shall be rewarded with the screams of those who fear me.”

Davus had Polaris pinned down against a searing hot rock slab. They were deep inside a volcano, with a lava scorpion bearing down on him. To their left the clone of Kaimu lay dead, mangled and torn apart, his body still sending off sparks from the lightning strikes that had delivered the killing blow.

“This is just one of the many practice realms within my mind.” Davus sneered and began choking Polaris, who was helpless to respond. “I doubt your conscious self is even feeling this. I’m just planting the seeds of fear, and of anger. I can feel it. This place is driving you mad. You are becoming nothing more than a rabid dog. I’ve always been partial to dogs.” Davus paused and tightened his grip around Polaris’ throat. “Sorry. I meant to say I’ve always been partial to putting them down.”

Polaris throat split open, and he died upon the rocks. And seconds later it all restarted. But the scenery changed. Now they were at the battle where Polaris had slain Davus, where he had ended the reign of terror, or so he thought. None of it was real, but it was real enough.

It was a cruel game by Davus. Polaris wasn’t quite dreaming, wasn’t quite having nightmares. Instead Davus had found his way to the deepest part of the Zora’s mind, playing with his memories and torturing Polaris in every way he could without ever becoming detected.

Every time it felt like Polaris surface mind was becoming cognizant, Davus would pull back, relax his attempts at instilling fear and insanity, and sure enough things would calm down. The Zora was too busy fighting his way through the hellish landscape to give proper attention to his own inner chaos.

And it would continue until Davus knew everything there was to know about Polaris, destroy him from the inside out, and return to his master.
=====================================================================
As they all touched down one by one, Polaris looked at each one of his number, unaware of the war raging in the depths of his consciousness, and smiled unwittingly. He was so consumed with their protection that he was blind to the seeds of destruction taking root deep within his own mind.

Jaden Bryseis and Company/Limbo Spires/Day 1

The door wasn't as complicated as Tuffy or Jaden originally anticipated. It clicked open, and one of the most abhorrent monstrosities that Jaden or Beth had ever seen stood waiting on the other side.

Nearly ten feet tall, incredibly massive, and very much a Baphomet Overlord, it commanded the respect of all who were present. The hordes of goat demons peeled off, bleating in amusement. Cloven hooves scattered in their clacking down the various halls of the Limbo Spires.

Elly recognized the beast, as did Polaris. When Jaden noticed it was missing an eye and Elly was holding one, he made a logical connection, as did Polaris. He grinned while Beth was gaping still. For having very few things shake her, she became a lot more sensitive in the past day or so.

The coward descended into darkness, enjoying his wretched throne. Of what Jaden knew of the planar charts, there was to be a serpentine being here who would judge and process each soul toward its final destination. There was no such individual, nor were there any markers to show where this pit of black miasma would lead.

They could all hear moaning, howling wind, and collisions. Air was dry, yet mountainous. It was dark for a few minutes, but their fall was not a fast one. When this next area came into view, Beth blushed at the sight of it. Elly covered her face with her palm, and Jaden kept a very stiff upper lip. Tuffy sighed and reverted back into his overweight normal self.

The Second Circle, Lust

It was in these realms below Limbo that the non-repentant sinners were punished by the very things that sent them here. This circle in particular was sexual torment. Whether it was rapists on the receiving end, bondage afficionados having roles reversed, or just nymphomaniacs, there were plenty of deviants to be found here. No comfort of any kind existed. Just a lot of pain, and feigned pleasure. Some denizens were chained to mountainsides and had their eyes held open by demons as they watched reel after reel of smutty material being projected into the grey and orange cloud-filled sky.

"The ideas this place gives me...folks shouldn't bend that way..."

Polaris rapped Elizabeth on the back of the head and admonished her bluntly.

"The only idea you should be having right now is catching that Reaver. You are young. Save your compulsion for carnal vice for another time."

She showed no anger as she was being corrected. But the temptations of youth and nubile flesh were hard to resist. Nodding in affirmation, she kept walking amidst the rocky, winding paths.

"No clue where that fuckface went. Babe, I didn't know you two were acquainted!"

The others let Jaden and Elly take point. They had a lot to talk about, even in an awkward place like this. Sights here were pure nightmare fuel, and even in the first few minutes, eyes had to be averted.

"That fuckface, as you call him, is the Reaver. Overlord of the Baphomet clan. I've been at war with him pretty much since I got here. Since I could not pass on, or be sentenced, the true master of this plane asked me to help him regain control. The Baphomets took over Limbo, which is where we just were. I've not left there in nearly twenty Hyrule years...and now we are giving chase to him. If we end him, maybe I can appeal to Beelzebub to free us."

Beth could still overhear them speaking, and she felt very sorry for her aunt. She wanted desperately to speak with her, but Tuffy kept looking up at her, knowing her thoughts all too well. 

"You have to let them work this out. She is really unhappy with him. Trust me. Your uncle's no saint in this whole thing."

"None of us are. If we were righteous, this plane would disintegrate from our radiant holiness."

Elly had many questions for Jaden. She had a decent idea as to why she couldn't pass on, but he didn't listen to her about moving on if she were to die. He never took another wife, lover, or significant other. Nor did he honor her wish to find a woman with curves to lie with for the rest of his days. He had indeed hidden her body in a grotto whose whereabouts were only known by Chieftains past. He also preserved it with Lunar Necromancy to suspend and protect it against decay. She was angry with him about both of these things, considering him deranged and bent toward uncouth ends. His answer to why was a pale green chunk of crystal the size of his fist. 

"If we can find a way out of here, which I have a few ideas for, all you have to do is agree to hop in this thing. You'll be back in your body in no time. Don't worry. It's safe. This one's never been used."

Elly stopped immediately and pursed her lips at Jaden. The others kept walking, and eventually caught up.

"On what plane do you think that's even going to be comfortable? I've seen the Baphomets use those things to torment souls for their own amusement. Trust me, I want to be free of this damned prison. But that soul gem will be painful. I might not come out of it the same girl you married."

Beth interjected as she got closer.

"Aunt Elly, none of us are going to be the same leaving this place as we were entering. Uncle Jaden wouldn't recommend this unless it was the best option. He saved me from Sourbeneton, and I was his most devout follower until yesterday. Until I learnt the truth of the sodding git. I'm still getting the hang of life without those dark blessings he provided..."

Elly didn't want to hear any more. 

"That really is touching. You've got a lot of nerve, and a lot of your mother in you, to recommend a bad option as a positive. I'd ask for forgiveness about what I said earlier, but apologies don't mean anything here. I've been here since you were a fetus. If it's my only way out, I'll take it. Otherwise, you keep your harlot mouth shut about things you don't know. Knowledge is the greatest gift. You should acquire more of it."

Beth did not take to insults well, and Jaden stood between them, trying to end the argument before it escalated further.

"Ladies, please!"

He could hear many of the women condemned to all sorts of insidious vice start echoing and asking what he wanted. Some even invited him to come join them. 

"I am among the living, girls. Resume your normal unlives. My words concern my niece and wife."

As they kept walking, they could hear the Reaver's footsteps, but could not pinpoint where they were. Going off course would only lead to getting lost, and it seemed as though these mountain passes were endless anyhow. Beth gritted her teeth in frustration while Polaris and Jaden both tried to calm her down. Elly continued to chirp at her, mocking her station as the daughter of Kae Bryseis. Jaden continued to try to console Elly, but she was having none of it. The thought of even spending a moment in a soul gem and traveling between planes frightened her more than anything else could down here. Even her new deity, the Ruler of Nine.

Polaris Eridanus and Company

Polaris risked an awkward glance in the general direction of Lord Tuffington, the plump celestial feline looked about as good as he felt. The internal squabbles of these three pieces of the clan Bryseis were better resolved by them and then alone. There would be no use, and hopefully no need, for either of them to interfere. Unless things got murderous. Things didn't usually get murderous. Polaris and Tuffy were keeping close tabs while pretending not to. 

The landscape was dotted with obscenities, everywhere you looked there were members of both sexes and even... things somewhere in between... of every race imaginable and some not, externally locked in various acts of debauchery. The very landscape itself was... well, there were, unnatural rock formations, the trees twisted peculiarly together, intertwined in such ways that of you looked just so... None of these things would occur in the goddess ruled lands above. 

Even the three would leave here with rosy cheeks. 

Perched between two exceptionally detailed shrubs, one phallic, one... the opposite... was the Reaver grinning lopsided as it gesticulated wildly, panting and bleating alternately. 

"Well... that's not even all that creative." Observed Polaris as he placed himself in the middle of the bickering Bryseis' and drew their attention, unfortunately, to the miming Baphomet.

Party of Jaden Bryseis/Second Circle/Day 1

Maybe it was two decades of bitterness. Maybe Elly really had moved on. But the moment he showed her his escape plan, she changed completely. She became on the outside what she was within. Rotting in Limbo does that to the best and worst of people, especially if they're not cursed with a lower circle assignment. She clutched the inverted silver pentacle under her armor and kept swearing bitterly. Not only was she damned, but her husband developed an over-arching plot to bring him, his niece, and one of his best friends here, along with some fat celestial cat. She looked over her shoulder while Jaden and her niece did their own share of arguments, and saw the General and the pleasantly plump talking cat discussing matters of their own. 

They all saw perversions of many kinds. Elly hurled insults at Jaden for only thinking with his genitals and not his head. There were too many other things he could have done with these elaborate plots. Like lead his people instead of falling into full blown alcoholism. Beth didn't help matters much by disclosing he had become his own mixologist and distiller. He had developed a recipe for Sheikah Smokewater that was twice the potency of what their secret tribal recipe called for. It was so volatile that incendiary flasks had a little in each one. And his regeneration in slumber staved off any permanent liver damage, so he kept going and didn't have to raise his tolerance to get blitzed nearly every day. 

Elly was truly disappointed in what Jaden had become. But he did get through to her in the point that regardless of what he'd become, he never forgot the promise he made to her: He would always be her champion, and he'd never stop fighting for her, even in death. She found it foolish at first, but when she looked around and wasn't blushing at the sight of all the sexual misconduct going on, he had rallied his friends, family, and even a celestial being to his cause. 

"I told you that you were worth it when we were engaged. All the while when we were kids. Even now, in Hell. Snap out of it!"

She didn't have time to respond when she spotted the Reaver grinding against a tree shaped like female genitals while a phallic tree rubbed against its buttocks. 

"It's Mr. Fuckface! Let's go show him what getting fucked over really means!"

Tuffy covered his face with his palm and licked it a few times. 

"Really? For the love of Farore's Fanny."

The group all charged at him before he made a gesture with the sign of a v with his hand, nails facing outward. He licked between the fingers and bleated loudly, sinking into the miasma below, similar to before. 

"No clue where he's taking us. If he had as much virility as he appears to display, he'd stand and fight."

Beth led the jump into darkness once more, both her blades drawn. 

The Third Circle, Gluttony

A vile stench overwhelmed the entire group as they landed solidly onto ground covered in icy slush. But it wasn't quite ground. It was frozen corpses, or corpses in the process of being frozen. Paths did not exist. And the sleet was bone-chilling. Three-headed dogs were perusing different groups of people, chained up by random horrific demons and force-fed and force-drunk until they vomited, sometimes repeatedly, and sometimes while being force-fed. Those too taxed to continue were eaten by the three-headed dogs. And then they fell from the sky to begin the process all over again. 

It affected Jaden more than anyone else. He could smell all of the alcohol amidst the vomit and excrement. This was his fate when he died, if he understood anything of life beyond death. Elly didn't deserve any of this, and he should have let her pass on. But he needed her help if the Primordials were to truly be beaten. And it was the look on her face as she saw Jaden's that truly made her understand what he was struggling with. The dogs were not aggressive toward them; in fact they ignored the party completely, grunting and moving on to the next corpses to devour.

Clarity finally made its way through Jaden's thick-minded defenses. 

Jaden pulled out his flask and stared at it longingly. It had been his main source of comfort for many years. He had forsaken all other women due to his vows, and even though death did them part, he knew death could not stop true love. This was the end of that delay. He unscrewed the top of the weeping eye-emblazoned flask and poured its contents into the slush of humanoid waste. 

"If I die this day, I die honest, and sober."

Polaris and Beth both rubbed their eyes in disbelief. Alcohol was indeed Jaden's vice of choice since his teens. Elly patted him on the shoulder.

"The smartest thing you've done in 20 years. Don't ever touch another drop."

"I will brew you a suitable replacement, and drink up your existing supply so you don't."

"Let combat be your drug of choice. Just as it was during the Interloper War. Or let your bride be your rock. You've seen where the drink leads you."

The support was overwhelming, and he chuckled as he drew his bride to him. Ground near where his smokewater had hit actually ignited in reaction to the waste.

Crouching amidst the corpses and hiding amongst the dogs, the Reaver silently mocked Jaden. Sure, he had vices too, but those were all encouraged in his station. All he had to do was keep dragging them further down, then they'd never escape. He grabbed one of the bloated corpses, took a bite out of its leg, and threw it at the party to get their attention.

"Don't kid yourself. You'll hit the bottle again some day. Especially when that wife of yours drives you mad. Go ahead. Keep chasing me, idiots."

After puking on a series of victims who were in the process of being devoured by the hounds, he created another black miasmic portal. At least they weren't spending too long here. Scents most foul were causing Beth to dry heave.

Jaden Bryseis and Company/Third Circle of Hell

"You will pay for these lies with your blood, filthy goatman! You don't have the balls to face us."

Beth rested her hand on Jaden's shoulder. He'd just made a very powerful declaration about a vice that controlled his life since his teens. She'd just forsaken her deity less than two days prior. They were both in unfamiliar emotional territory. Even so, they had an adversary to keep pursuing. But why did he keep running away?

"Those portals of his don't stay open any longer than he wants them to. We should be moving...and out of this vile vomitous vicinity."

The others concurred quickly and all ran for the miasma-filled rift. This time, however, they did not fall. Instead, there was a brief moment of horizontal floating, and from there they ended up in a place even more disturbing, but a lot less foul smelling.

The Fourth Circle, Greed
Endless painful grunts of men and women filled their ears before a flat, sandy plane came into view. The sky was still streaked with heat lightning and various disturbing discolorations. And it was quite arid, with no water in sight. Those being punished here were in pursuit of things material and had no exception to it. Many of the damned were putting full effort into pushing, hoisting, and otherwise moving giant boulders. These boulders were made of incredibly dense rock, while some were made of precious metal or gemstone, or a combination of the two.

Still other boulders appeared to be thick sacks of wealth. Metallic noises and shuffling could be heard from those. To pass the time, demons instigated the damned into running into one another with these boulders and laughing at the collisions with their brutal, and often bloody aftermath. Many times they would stop rolling and then begin to fight each other hand-to-hand over whose bag or boulder was bigger or better. Again, as Jaden and Beth and their cat were among the living, the demons left them alone, captivated by their torture of the condemned.

"Lizzy, you can't take it with you. You can see that many races of many worlds pursued what you did while you were back in time. This is where it gets you. I don't need fancy trappings, nor do most other folk. All you need is faith in yourself and the strength to draw your sword. This is what Sourbeneton wanted from you, just like those demons want from those fools."

Beth just kept walking, visibly disturbed. Sure, it was nice to have nice things. But she raided for greed and for glory from a deity who did not give her the same respect. Her trappings in the Crimson Sanctuary rivaled monarchs in their throne rooms in many cases. She prided herself on ill-gotten things. All the blood she shed, or had shed in her name. It was all wrong. 

"General, I don't know why you're bringing this all up, but thank you. Uncle Jaden had to knock off the drink. I had to realize the talents given to me are for more than just amassing things that won't do me any good when I finally do die. I'll want for the better future of my family and my people."

Jaden flashed a lopsided grin at Beth as she continued.

"You can forget me ever hanging up my battle gear. This is what I was born to do. But I will do it with purpose and passion instead of blind zeal."

In the distance, the Reaver had found a way to mock them once again. He had hoisted a large rugged canvas sack of wealth and began beating the damned and demons to death alike, not discriminating. Any who tried to best him were quickly reminded of his prowess; their damnation was reset at the point of their assignment. Just as it was when they first arrived and just as it was each time when they were killed. It would take much more for a properly condemned denizen of Hell to suffer Final Death. 

"Little girl, I was hoping you'd have arrived here the way you were supposed to. You were so close so many times! Your former master chose wisely in disowning you. And you think you all have a chance against me? Keep pursuit. You may finally find out."

The Reaver shattered his bag of wealth, spreading gemstones, trinkets, goblets, and crowns everywhere. They were all covered in patina and oxidization, absolutely worthless. From the clamor arose another dark portal, which the group ran through with much haste.

This was the final pursuit.

The Fifth Circle, Anger

There was no rain as the unsettling weightless feeling dissipated, but it was humid. The heat was cloying, and anyone capable of sweat began to do so with very little hesitation. It was unnaturally dark here, and clouds filled the sky, which was not streaking with heat lightning. An eerie silence permeated this realm, and they stood on the banks of a great river. In the distance they could see a skiff and its sailor, but it was stuck in a logjam of sorts. Looking down, the river was full of bodies, and it could be walked upon. These bodies were all bloody, battered, and beaten. Many of them had been freshly killed, and they were not re-set into their initial place.

It was hard to determine what this place represented. Even the ground was full of squishy bog, but the river appeared to have a similar surface. And there was another river converging; its waters less muddled and brackish. While ghastly pallid, it was at least only partially obscured. Bodies were starting to prevent it from flowing as well. Both were well over their banks. They had no way across via boat, and who knew how steady the bodies were to walk upon. 

And how far would this journey continue? 

The Reaver stood with his large axe at the dead center of this expanse. Beyond it loomed a large stone-hewn citadel. He chuckled, brandishing his weapon in a challenging fashion.

"Give in to your anger. Come at me! You will not be disappointed. Defeat me, and I will grant you passage from this Circle."

'Polaris Eridanus and Company'

'"Give in to your anger. Come at me! You will not be disappointed. Defeat me, and I will grant you passage from this Circle."'

Polaris spread his arms wide, halting the advance of his three companions. ”Wait. He’s been leading us here from the beginning. We’re not fighting on his terms, besides, Polaris bent over and broke off a large chunk of dry red slate and hurled it into the swirling river water. As soon as the water broke the surface with a splash, hundreds of animated corpses leapt from the deep and the surface of the water turned into a mish mash or writhing and grabbing limbs, all too eager to drag each of them to their deaths below.

”Inferi. Despicable.”

Polaris spat as the cloven hooved Reaver bayed with laughter while hopping gingerly across the tide of undead flesh roiling in front of them. Polaris reached out with his mind, meaning to take control of the wave upon which the Reaver rode and crash it and him against the craggy red stone beach.

A bead of sweat formed on Polaris’ brow and crimson lightning split the sky above as the General struggled against the combined might of the two hellish waterways, after some time, the wave quivered ever so slightly and dissipated, allowing the Reaver to hop harmlessly from body part to body part until he was safely on the far side of the converging rivers, harassing the boatmaster.

Polaris released the waters, panting heavily he wiped the sweat from his brow and looked at the swirling convergence. Converging rivers. Fifth level of Hell. Polaris gazed at the far off boatmaster as he struggled against the bleating Reaver, and a light bulb came on.

”Whatever you do, stay out of the water. We stand at the meeting of the rivers Styx and Lethe. Two of the main rivers of the underworld, neither waterway bends to my will, down here they have but one master. He resides below. The Styx, source of the most binding of oathes, any oath sworn on this river is an unbreakable vow. Bathing yourself in the waters is said to provide near invincibility, the only weak point being that which binds you to the world of the living. Of course, most who attempt it burst into hellfire or, have too weak of an achor and end up dragged down to the depths by the hateful souls that inhabit the river. The Lethe, well, lets just steer clear of that one altogether. They call it the river of forgetfulness for a reason.”

At a loss for as to how they were to procede, Polaris strode down to the waters edge and cursed. He didn’t have to look back to know that the group was coming up behind him,”You really have no mastery of the rivers?”

It was Elly, Polaris looked over his shoulder at her and offered a hollow smile, ”None.”

Something like determination, or perhaps resignation, passed across her face, ”Okay then.” Bewildered, Polaris and the rest watched as she brought her fingers to her lips and unleashed a shrill, piercing whistle. The ferryman on the opposite side of the Styx appeared to nod, and pushed off from the bank, guiding his craft across the turbulent, inferi infested waters with a long pole which he used to push off of the river bottom.

Silently, the boat slid up onto the bank and the tall hooded ferryman held out a bony palm expectantly. Elly placed a tattered leather pouch in his hand. The ferry master hefted the pouch, tossing it up and down a time or two as if weighing it’s worth. The clink of the Rupees inside was oddly loud next to the violence of the waters. Satisfied, the ferryman bowed his head and stepped aside, allowing Elly and Polaris to board his vessel, but barred the way when Jaden and Elizabeth tried to join them.

”No room for de living on mah boat.”

Jaden and Beth looked afronted as Kharon pushed off from the banks and set course across the boundary line of Hades.

If one looked over the ferry’s edge, they would see the ghostly white faces of the inferi floating along under them in the silvery black waters of the Styx. Souls, literal, ethereal souls, floated by as they crossed the river in complete silence. No sound came from either the water or the oarman and his ferry. All sound was replaced with the deafening roar of the utter silence that seemed to envelope all as they crossed the river of hate.

The boat again slid up onto the bank in complete silence. ”Everything about the damnable river seems silent.”

Kharon chuckled, ”Tell me about it mon.”

With that, he shoved off once more and disappeared into the mist. Wait, mist? A solid wall of mist rose up about halfway across the river and rose high into the sky, obscuring anything on the far banks.

”Looks like the guy downstairs doesn’t want anyone on this side being able to look back.”

Polaris nodded his agreement. ”So it would seem. I’d wager they can still see us, even if they are obscured to our sight.”

'”No worries. You’re right. They can see you lot, no way they’ll miss seeing your final deaths. It’ll all be clear as a bell and the two of them will be completely helpless to interfere.”
The Reaver, axe in hand, lowered his horned head and charged.

Jaden Bryseis and Party/River Styx Confluence

After hearing Polaris' explanation of their surroundings, Jaden and Beth were rather confused and discouraged. Indeed, the Reaver Warlord had lured them down this far, to fight on favorable turf for him. They could not involve the damned waters in any way, and the undead slaves trapped in the water prevented further movement. He was perfectly content skipping along the surface of the water to the other side of these rivers, where a looming citadel towered, hewn of the foulest slate.

And how did Elly know to call the Ferry? She had mentioned she'd not been beyond Limbo before, nor even able to get inside the Spires. Had she been lying to them this whole time? 

Before they knew it, the boat had arrived, and Jaden attempted to barge onto it before its master stopped him.

”No room for de living on mah boat.”

Beth sighed, drawing her weapons. Jaden put his hand up in turn to put her off of that train of thought.

"Elly, can't you talk some sense into the ferryman? I came down here to fight for you.

Elly shook her head and motioned for Kharon to take them across. To mete justice to this Reaver. Polaris nodded at Jaden, sending a message of understanding, and a silent promise. 

"Love, this one's personal. There's no place for the living on the other side, either."

Letting out a roar of disgust, Jaden swore bitterly as mist walled the others nearly completely from sight. But then the waters began to tremble on the shore. Those Inferi, those enslaved abominations began to stir, almost climbing over each other. Rifts of pure chaos began to split from the sky, and things were less quiet. Tentacles of obtenebrant shadow crept through them, reaching down hundreds of feet from the sky to consume the enslaved. 

Tuffy morphed into his Lion form and Beth readied her weapons once again. Jaden reluctantly admitted that they were surrounded. They could hear a deep whisper in their minds; a sinister laugh, and then suddenly, it went silent. 

"Back-to-Back, establish a perimeter! We have to hold out until they've dealt with that goat!"

Jaden let out a resounding shout in ancient Sheikah, and two Auras spread to the others, Defiance and Vigilance. They had to last. Elizabeth released her Apocryphal enchantment allowing them all to do damage to the dead. She then uttered Celestial Words of Power, spreading her own auras in inverted colors to her Uncle's. Her Nephilim Will rebuffed the hordes of undead and the tentacles of shadow by lowering their physical properties. Tuffy then roared, filling them all with the Valor to fight for hours, if not days if required. 

"Let them come. I feel Perdition's Call, but I shall not answer!"

As the enslaved began their onslaught, the group began to cleave their way through this horde. 

"Watch for the tentacles! They seek to take anything sentient and consume it! Priority on those!"

Tuffy leapt over one and slashed it clean through, causing it to twitch and flip as it spewed deep violet ichor everywhere. The Inferi who saw it lunged for it in an attempt to consume it, and Beth capitalized by running them through before returning to her position. 

"Keep edging away from the water. We can't let it touch us!"

Jaden nodded and kept his Zweihander busy making a path. The undead were able to get superficial wounds in on the group, but neither side was showing signs of stopping, even as more Chaos Rifts began to open. The tentacles were easy kills if they were detected in time, and they bought the group more time as Inferi attacked them as well. As Inferi and tentacle both fell, wisps of ghastly ectoplasm began to form a stairwell to the river...

Meanwhile, at the Citadel Outskirts...

Elly and Polaris couldn't hear the commotion happening on the other side of Styx. Elly was concerned about them; how they'd not be content with waiting, and that Jaden would try something crazy to get to them. She prayed he would not. But before either her or Polaris could get out of the boat, the Reaver was waiting for them both, charging. 

'"They can see you lot, no way they’ll miss seeing your final deaths. It’ll all be clear as a bell and the two of them will be completely helpless to interfere.”'

"Kharon, we'll be fine. Get to safety!"

Polaris grabbed Elly and leapt for the shore; Reaver barely missed making contact with the boat as they rolled beyond the water's edge.

"Don't got ta tell mah twice, mon. Kill da usurpah so I can have mah rivah back!"

With that, Kharon sailed off with haste, rapidly guiding his pole through the logjam of corpses until he was out of sight. 

Hastily stumbling to their feet, they barely avoided getting split by the Reaver's axe. Elly used her fleetness of foot to move in flanking position. Polaris had Winter's Tide parrying and knocking his enemy's attacks wide while Elly did her best to begin an offensive. It kept taunting them all the while; and they were unable to get any kind of pattern down. The swings were too wide, and he'd let a long flail come loose from the bottom of his dual-headed axe. 

In response to the wide swaths, Elly unleashed her dual chain kunai with heads that resembled pitchforks. She was able to tangle her left chain with the flail, and she uttered Stygian rotes to send hellish shadow magic through it, which began to burn the Reaver. Soon, both of her chain kunai were covered in black flame that smelled of brimstone. The smoke let small plumes of Stygian sigils as she swung these chains. She began to accumulate deep lacerations in its side and back before it kicked Polaris and knocked him back. 

Elly split into three, with two brimstone shadow clones trying to deliver critical blows. With its full attention on the Silencer, Polaris sheathed his sword and let his makhaira fall free. Conjuring red ice, it cascaded along the chains until they reached the blade tips. He gave them some heft and began to rush forward, cracking the red ice free. Shards flew at high speed as Elly blurred and blinked her form out of the way. The Reaver howled in disgust; unfamiliar with pain for nearly two decades before today. 

"All talk. No wonder you kept running!"

With the citadel looming overhead, everyone could hear hecklers shouting from all along the keep wall. They formed a chant before too long, and it did not appear favorable for the Baphomet Warlord. Even if he was able to cleave one of the shadow doubles in two. Elly reacted in pain when this happened, and blood began to flow from her nose and eyes. Her yelp brought a sick smile to the Reaver's face as he felled the other, causing her to cough up more of her hellish vitae. 

In your Baphomet Slums!
You look in the dustbin for something to eat,
You find a dead rat and you think it's a treat!
In your Baphomet Slums!

As the crowd continued to chant further insulting lines, the Reaver's composure was suffering. He may have had Elly in a very bad position, but Polaris moved to intervene, raking the back of its legs with his makhaira and leaving some red ice behind in the wounds to slow its movements.

Both Polaris and Elly readied their chains, nodding at each other while it lowered its head to charge once more.

'Jaden and Elizabeth'

Rift after rift. Wave after wave. Inferi and tentacle alike fell at the hands of the two Bryseis’, truly a more beautiful dance of carnage could scarcely be imagined.

With each tentacle that fell, another swath of shadow solidified and stretched ever farther across the river building a gruesome bridge to the other side.
Polaris and Elly'

One of the trio of Hellions fell at the hands of the Reaver and Elly had started to bleed. Polaris, marshalled his focus, opening up the floodgates of his magic. As one, the hundreds of frigid crimson shards began to swirl around him in a whirlwind of bloody hued frozen fury.

The Reavers full attention was still leveled at Elly as Polaris lashed out with one and then the other of his chained maikha, the chains clinked and popped as both blades found their mark. The behemoth Reaver bleated wildly as the pair of blades sunk into his back, with their fronts protruding from his chest. Red ice spread from the exit wounds, covering the beasts chest entirely. As the crimson rime spread across the Reaver’s back and chest, Polaris pulled hard on his chains, bringing the Baphomet Overlord to his heel.

”Don’t mind if I do.”

Elly, battered and bloody, but not defeated, rose to her feet and staggered forward as the Reaver struggled against Polaris’ hold.

Her chained kunai sizzled with shadow flame as she marched forward, with a vicious battle cry, she unleashed one of her chains, wrapping it around the neck of the Reaver and using it to scale the monstrosity like a cliff face.
Jaden and Elizabeth
Back to back the Bryseis’ crept onto the shadow tentacle bridge and before long they found themselves completely suspended over the river, with the far side in view, one could chance a glance and see Elly with a kunai raised high above her head.
Polaris and Elly'

With a grunt, Elly drove the free kunai deep into the Reaver’s forehead, with a roar the beasts body went limp and it died the final death.

As its body was reduced to ashes, Polaris retracted his chains and Elly did the same as the two walked slowly to the rivers edge.

Elly and Polaris/Outskirts of Citadel Dis

Polaris saved Elly handily in a critical moment of weakness. Her shadow doubles tapped into her life force to stay active and deal damage. And when the Red Ice General brought him to a heel, Elly felt two decades of rage come to the fore. She put one of his eyes out early on in her time in Hell. Never came close after her first sneak attack. He hid in the spires like a coward. 

"Don't mind if I do."

But now, he was restrained and encapsulated. Served up fresh. She longed for this moment. Balling up one of her kunai in her fist, shadow flame blazed through it. She rushed at the Reaver and buried it deep in his forehead. Feeling the bone and brains mix on impact felt liberating. How many more years of duty would this buy her? The baphomets did not have a next goat in line. Reaver was eternal. He turned to ash shortly after passing. The bleats he let out would have sickened her if her heart could beat. 

Polaris loosened his grip and drew his makhaira back. He saw the Reaver's large axe lying there, and motioned for Elly to take it. 

"Nice work. Take it for Jaden. He would have some fun with it."

She struggled to lift it, but Elly took it in triumph. They both walked toward the water, but before they could signal the Ferryman, Kharon, they saw Jaden, Beth, and Tuffy all guarded against unseen foes. They had seen many enemies from the looks of them. And they were suspended on top of a wide shadow soul bridge whose wispy essence was deceptive in its density.

They could feel that eerie presence again. Something had been observing, studying, and critiquing them. Shadowy rifts of chaos broke open the sky above, shattering like glass. 

"Doesn't appear to be getting any better. We should form up. Even in the middle of Styx we are better off together than separated."

Elly nodded and dragged the axe behind her. They both moved quickly, finding the bridge firm.

Jaden, Elizabeth, and Tuffy, River Styx
Wave after wave of tentacles and inferi were wearing on them all. They were tired, hungry, thirsty, and banged up. As the shadow and soul bridge kept building, they found themselves backing onto it. Few inferi dared to follow them there, but the chaos rifts didn't discriminate. Tentacles started to lessen in number the more they backed on to the bridge. And when they were almost centered past the wall of mist, Jaden saw Elly and Polaris putting an end to the Reaver. 

He let out a resounding victory shout, but Beth and Tuffy were not facing that direction. They turned for a moment and looked rather confused. Jaden was way too excited for being in a very bad situation.

"What is so great about being over the river on a spirit bridge? We are probably screwed, you know." 

Jaden said nothing, not feeling it worth wasting breath. That creepy feeling was back and he couldn't quite explain it. But chaos rifts began to crack open the sky. There were no tentacles now, but their friends were closing distance.

When they all regrouped, Elly handed Jaden the Reaver's axe. Beth approved of this, and Tuffy thought it wise to have a weapon of this plane. 

"Thought you could use a souvenir."

Hoisting it, Jaden found it was perfectly balanced. Realizing as the rifts were overtaking the sky, he grabbed Elly and kissed her quickly. She seemed to mind until she understood what he was thinking. 

"I can feel him in my mind. He is everywhere in these rifts. Used that damn goat to lure us to where he is strongest. He swore to kill me. He must have done it while on this river. We must hold fast!"

No sooner than when Beth finished talking did hundreds of tentacles shoot from the open rifts and merge together on the bridge they had found themselves on. When they dissipated, it was exactly who she had feared.

He stood almost twelve feet tall; a withered angel with vestigal wings and a blood-stained shifting white robe. His form was deceptive, though. Carrying a ball of amorphous black matter in his left hand and a staff made of ethereal chains in his right, Sourbeneton snickered at the group.

"Mine will was done without you resisting. You lusted for the death of my champion. Gorged yourselves on the thoughts of it. Had desire to notch your kill before anyone else. And now your violence...Sin at its most foul. All the way to the River Styx. My domain."

Boring his infernal gaze into Beth, he cleared his throat.

"And you, my betrayer, will give me your soul. It is predestined. The rest of them are merely accoutrements. You longed to face me, and here I am."

Rage began to flow through Beth. Jaden stood in front of her, as did Polaris. This may have been her fight, but she was not alone in it.

Jaden, Elizabeth, Polaris, Elly, Tuffy/River Styx, Domain of Sourbeneton

The Dark Father himself had decided he had had enough interference in his plans. He had calculated Jaden's excursion; he knew as soon as Elly was slain he would try to get here. And that Elizabeth sought revenge, even though she was the pact-breaker. Sure, he had made it quite clear that he would harvest her Nephilim soul when he saw fit, but he did not foresee her resisting so much. Even so, they were still doing his will by being here. 

Jaden and Polaris both took point and had weapons readied, even with Beth protesting that this was her battle. 

"For all the ill you have caused my House, you will suffer final death. Gods bleed just like everything else, especially false ones like you!"

Elly stood in the back with Beth and Tuffy, analyzing the towering fallen Celestial being. She noticed he wasn't wearing armor, but there was quite a bit of energy coming from him. Sickening light energy that shouldn't be on this plane. It came from Beth before, so it made sense. 

"Yet you are the one who piqued Elizabeth's curiosity in extraplanar beings. You could almost say that you led her right to me...Jaden, you are why this all happened. Your soul will join the rest. Kae's thrilling heroics in the Sacred Realm were merely a setback. Enjoy the Lake of Fire."

At that, Sourbeneton clenched his raised fist and shattered the amorphous black matter into hundreds of pieces. They turned to droplets all around the group, and when the Dark Father spoke words unintelligble, said droplets began to materialize into humanoids. These fallen people all started to whisper the name of Elizabeth's sword.

"That's right. They all serve me. And here, the ephemeral is tangible. All of those heathens you killed in my name will now take all of your lives. Completely fruitless efforts!"

Jaden charged his Zweihander with lunar energies, drawing any essence he could into it that was available nearby. His blade glowed a strong violet-white, and in one sweeping arc, he unleashed a shockwave of coruscating cosmic light. Many of the souls behind Sourbeneton were released upon contact, but the Dark Father was unscathed. He laughed, pointing his chained staff at the Sheikah Chieftain. More amorphous black matter congealed at its head, forming into a large hand. It lunged at him and Polaris, who both dodged the attack.

"Lizzy, Elly, cat, deal with the numbers. Leave the big one to us!"

The two elder warriors moved to flank Sourbeneton, who did not intend on standing still. As he kited them around the soul bridge, more fallen victims began to replace those granted rest. Exchanging blows, neither side seemed to tire.

In addition to the overwhelming numbers of Elizabeth's fallen victims, chaos rifts began to crack open on each side of the bridge. And with those came all sorts of issues. Infernal energies began to leak out, pushing back against the auras that Jaden and Elizabeth had been putting forth. Tentacles grabbed onto the souls, and after brief clenches and lifts into the air, they began to glow dark violet, empowered by Sourbeneton's foul magicks. 

"We have to close those portals somehow! They're going to overrun us."

Elizabeth was having much trouble using Apocrypha during this encounter. She kept battling against the will of her former master, who kept trying to shape it into various instruments that could do her harm. It was frozen to her left hand; and this hampered her skills greatly. Every time she felled one of her victims, he tried to invade. It was only her willpower that could keep him out, and eventually that would falter. She had to act faster. Raising the Starborn Edge to the sky, she spoke in Ancient Sheikah, trying to mimic what her mother had done in the past with hostile magic. 

It worked. A thin orb rested at the blade's tip, and shattered similar to Sourbeneton's orb. The thin Lunar beams all fired on the chaos rifts, and one other was reserved for a special recepient...

Upon contact, all the rifts that were open had sealed. The Edge was reacting to history; it had met Sourbeneton prior, and was ready to deal with him again. The Triune did not forgive Celestials for their treachery, and even though Elizabeth was not Kae, it knew its purpose, supercharging itself with Lunar magicka. It was awakening, as it had twenty years prior. 

Tuffy and Elly were keeping up, and keeping count of souls they'd felled. They appeared to be dancing with how graceful they were sending souls home. 

Jaden and Polaris used every tactic they had to try to keep Sourbeneton still, but even while exchanging blows and magical techniques back and forth, they couldn't force him to stop his gliding movements. He taunted them ferociously, until a thin violet-white beam went right through his forehead, causing him to cry out and curse, holding his head in his hands. 

Polaris used this opportunity to strike hard and swift with Winter's tide, fully charged with red ice lightning. And Jaden had spoken truth earlier. Even false gods can bleed. He severed Sourbeneton's wings with prejudice, causing chromatic vitae to spray wildly from their stumps. They turned to ash as soon as they came off; the clouds seemed to be gathered by a flaming fist that quickly disappeared from view. Jaden wildly slashed him across the chest with an Unbalancing Strike, knocking him prone with a deep wound. 

But this fight was nowhere close to being over. As the two veterans charged to press the onslaught, Sourbeneton closed the wound on his chest and rose to one knee, unleashing a shockwave of Fallen Light that knocked them back so far they fell at the feet of Beth, who had her hands full with fallen souls. 

"How...dare you! All of you! Especially my precious Elizabeth...you will be the first to suffer. Soul Prison!"

Slamming his staff into the ground, ephemeral links of chain began to race beneath the wispy undercurrents. Angry that he had to walk once more for the first time in millenia, he sent these links at Beth in an attempt to bind her. 

She tried to dispel them using her mother's sword as she rolled to the right. They missed her the first time, and she skipped to the left to dodge them once more. Tuffy even tried to jump in the way of them, but the Dark Father had his full rage locked onto Elizabeth, and he made the chains miss the Lion. 

Polaris threw his dual makhaira in the path of them to throw them off, yet Sourbeneton deflected them. Before anyone could try anything else, Elizabeth was bound at all four limbs and around her neck. He lifted her high into the air, and even though she struggled with everything she had, he sent a surge of Fallen Light through. Shrieks of absolute agony and pain followed as she continued to fight against everything overtaking her. And at last, her willpower had given out. Though still high in the sky, her body went limp; yet both her swords were gripped tightly in hand. 

Then, Apocrypha went formless, flooding up her arm and into her mouth, eyes, ears, and nostrils. 

Jaden yelled in frustration and charged Sourbeneton once more. 

"Careful, careful. You failed to protect your bride...you'll fail again..."

His emotions were not in check. Withdrawal from alcohol, dreams crumbling in front of him, and the rage that he once harnessed all assaulted his stability of mind. And Sourbeneton did not make any effort to defend against Jaden's slashes and stabs. He could hear Beth scream every time he hit, but that didn't stop him, not until Elly yelled at him.

"He's linked with Elizabeth's body and soul! You're killing her! Knock it off!"

Deep red vitae commingled with streams of gold rained from where Beth was suspended. She was convulsing in her bonds, unable to struggle against them any longer. Sourbeneton cackled in sadistic glee as he continued to exact pain and anguish while the others stood there, helpless. More fallen souls had made their way onto the bridge, along with Inferi among their ranks. 

"Of course you won't hit me again. No sacrifices amongst you, right? Her fate rests solely with her..."

At that moment, they all formed a perimeter back to back and started to lay waste to more fallen souls. It indeed was all up to Beth to break out of her mental prison.



[b]Sourbeneton's Soul Prison/Bryseis Family Enclave[/b]

Elizabeth quickly lost consciousness once Jaden hacked away at her former master. She awoke in a mindscape, with wisps of pale green light on the borders of her vision. She could see herself as a twelve year old in the sparring facility that Jaden had constructed for the family. Her eyes were full of fire, youth, and arrogance. 

Her brother, Tristan, was there, as were Jaden and Polaris. The elders were supervising a match between the two siblings. She began to remember this; it was a pivotal point in her training. Tristan was much happier to be immersed in books, scrolls, and things not athletic in nature. Yet, he had a gift for grappling. 

Every time Elizabeth tried to throw a punch or kick, Tristan would turn it against her, countering with grapples and throws. He had a distinct reach advantage, as he was nearly a foot taller than her. With his rose gold locks tied back, he was more than able to keep Elizabeth contained, as he knew too well how to apply opposite force. This began to frustrate his younger sister, who kept trying even harder to land a blow.

Feinting punches kept getting turned away, at least until Jaden gave Tristan the signal to teach one very important lesson: no one yields in a true battle. He grabbed both of her arms at the elbow joint and swept her legs to take her to the ground face first. Sweeping around to her back as she was stunned, he kept both arms clenched as his knee drove into the middle of her spine. He kept her legs pinned with his other leg; and a submission hold had begun.

Tristan started to pull quite hard on Elizabeth's arms, applying pressure to the shoulders and their sockets. She refused to submit, and Jaden did not stop the fight. Polaris advised him that the lesson had been learnt; but he told Tristan to keep going. Even the well-mannered young Sheikah mage questioned this, but Jaden became ever the more belligerent. 

[color=chocolate]"No one yields in a real battle. She thinks she can get out of it. Do not let her go."[/color]

[color=firebrick]"I am not yet beaten, Uncle!"[/color]

And then, suddenly, both of her arms dislocated from the shoulder. Crying out in pain briefly, she passed out. 

[COLOR=#ff8000]"That was an accident, uncle! I swear! I did not mean to do that...Nayru, forgive me for my lack of wisdom..." [/COLOR] [COLOR=#000000]It was at that moment that she realized what she needed to do.

[i][color=firebrick]"Nayru, forgive me for my lack of wisdom. Give me the insight to end this and make things right.[/color][/i][/COLOR] [COLOR=#000000] [b]River Styx[/b]

The visions faded from view, and she became lucid once more. Viridian wings sprouted from her back with ferocity, her eyes flung open, and Sourbeneton's chains shattered. Descending to the ground, Elizabeth landed on one knee, battered, bloody, but indignant.

Polaris Eridanus

He may have taken Sourbenetons wings, but that seemed to only have further enraged him and when next Polaris made to attack, his makhaira were swatted away out of hand. The dual, lightning forged blades crackled and hummed as the sunk deeply into the charred turf as the shambling bodies of the impious closed in. Polaris jerked hard on the chains, but found himself unable to dislodge them.

As Jaden attacked Sourbeneton fruitlessly and Elizabeth battled her own demons inside her hell within hell, Polaris scuttled over to his blades. It was as if the very realm battled against him, and perhaps it did, he was in hell after all. As Polaris struggled to reclaim his blades, the shadows of the inferi and any number of other godless abominations fell across his back. Those nearest him reached out hungrily.

A sonic boom echoed over the inky black river as previously non-existent winds swirled with an unrivaled ferocity across the area. Several of the inferi stumbled backwards, brushing sand from their faces and grunting animatedly. More and more sand poured onto the plane, seemingly from nowhere as a raspy, hummed tune echoed in the ears of all present.

”Now now beasties,” two claps of the hand and the ring of creatures was brushed away and parted with ease as the hunched figure of a wizened old hag shambled into view and looked down upon Polaris. ”Quite a pickle you’ve found yourself in here general!”

Polaris made to stand and found he held no control over his limbs. Rhunerys cackled heartily. ”Seriously my boy, such anger. Calm yourself… you’re going to need a sense of calm to survive what’s in store after this little sidebar into hell. Why you came here is beyond me. Simply dreadful place really.. anyway,” She clapped twice more and began to limp away, ”Accept this token.”

Winters Tide was drawn from its sheath by an unseen hand and the makhaira were dislodged as both began to swirl in a small, sandy funnel cloud. As the wind picked up speed it became harder and harder to distinguish one from the other until at last the wind died out entirely and atop a mound of sand rested Winters Tide. No, the blades of the makhaira laid atop the sand. Back and forth the weapons changed form, one moment the hand-and-a-half Winters Tide, the next it was the pair of curved knives that were the makhaira.

”Sorry I couldn’t, you know, do something about those chains, but that would hurt. A lot. However, heh heh, at least you don’t have to carry so much now. Winters Tide and the makhaira are one and the same… oh, we may have discussed this before, but there is power in a name. Names give substance, and, frankly, I like to name things.”

Polaris looked quizically at her, ”Those makhaira are makhaira, attached to chains bound to your flesh, but what ARE they?”

Polaris grunted. ”Tools. A means to channel my wrath and mete out justice.”

Rhunerys raised a withered finger and stopped Polaris mid-sentence.”Wrath. I like that.. Wait, no, lets go with fury. Oh bother. We’ll call that homework, come up with a name for them will you?”

Rhunerys clapped once more and was gone.

Polaris leaned forward and picked up Winters Tide, it required only a bit of focus and the blade was gone from his hands, replaced by the leather wrapped handles of the makhaira which were somehow reattached to his chains. Polaris smirked, obviously impressed.

Beth touched down not far from him, having escaped her incarceration and he strode towards her. ”Glad to see you made it out, I’ve got a new toy to play with.”

As he walked towards her, the weapons in his hand furiously changed form over and over as he worked to get the bearings of this newfound power.

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