The Truth

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I must admit...as much as I don't like either of them...I feel much more at ease with Aileph leading and Jessica supporting.

Since Kol is trap-checking, it falls to me to explain what we've been up to. They, in turn, explain that after finding our corpses, they got word to a wizard, who informed them we were still active, and transported them to us...more or less.

Something about it rings untrue, of course. Even to someone as relatively unskilled at reading people as I am, they almost radiate discomfort. No matter. They're both so dedicated to doing the right thing that I'm certain I can trust them. In any case, I have a secret of my own, and pushing them won't help matters...even if I did think I could push them to reveal something they thought needed to be hidden.

Soon after we finish catching up, Kol waves as to silence. He's standing in front of a large, dark door with several sigils inscribed on it.

"Look."

He presses a hand to the door. Unlike the rest of the place, it won't let ghosts pass through.

"Pedestal chamber?"

"Warded...even against ghosts, in a realm where souls are generally solid. If it isn't the chamber, it's something important."

"Right. I don't see any trap markings...but I want to be sure. That room will be guarded. What do you sense? Or you Aileph?"

"I can't feel anything but evil, and a lot of it. Couldn't even tell you the strengths of the auras without more focus than I particularly want to direct."

"If by that you mean you wish you could shut off your higher senses, I know what you mean. I can usually guess what a given spell lattice is for, but this place...there are spells, old and current, all though this place. I can't tell anything. But maybe we can do something else..."

I kneel and try phasing through the floor. It lets me pass...

And I really wish it hadn't. I choke back a scream-something I'm quite adept at now...and return to the group.

"Warlock...ya look like you've seen a ghost."

Jessica giggles at that.

"Pit lords. Erinyes. Others...doing things to each other."

"Like what?"

"Bad things. Not going that way."

"Then...I guess we do it direct. Kol, you're sure it isn't trapped?"

"Yes."

"Jessica? War-Kalach, are you up to this?"

I grimace and shake my head hard. "Open the door, paladin."

Behind the door is a pit lord. Ready for us, bearing a very large sword. At the thing's feet, the pedestal with the keystone sword.

"Kalach, can it hurt a ghost?"

"Almost certainly. And it's tough. Can't be harmed by normal weapons."

It seems content to stand guard, giving us a taunting grin. I throw a glob of acid, noting that that doesn't hurt it much.

"Any ideas?"

"Yes."

Kol, to everyone's surprise charges straight at the thing. Thankfully, the fiend is equally thrown-enough to make it miss him. The quick-thinking scout managed to pull the sword free.

The look on that pit fiend's face as the room shifts to being an ordinary tower room is enough to give me a warm feeling. Wish I had been the one to cause it.

Kol sets the sword down beside him.

"So..who wants to do the honors?"

"No one should, yet. This time, you need to listen to me."

Aileph seems about to say something biting, but he subsides and gives a curt nod after Jessica glances at him.

"Okay...so what is it, Kalach? What do you need to say?"

"I need to tell you more about the towers...and what happened to me when I drew from the deck.

You see, my soul was carried...well, to where we just were. Asmodeus...has been watching us. He did not care for my part in opposing his plans. He hurt me. A lot. But then, the balance card hit...and he made me a deal. He put me back...and told me to keep going. See, these towers...accidentally tied into the great magic that keeps him from working directly outside the Nine. Each tower lost weakens that spell...lets him use more power."

Aileph and Jessica look shocked by this. Kol looks concerned, which is about the same by his standards.

"So...we can't just break them. We need to claim them for deities that can hold them."

"Right. A good, champion deity. Several, since there's more than one tower left. You three can mull it over."

Aileph taps the phylactery he wears.

"This can tell whether the wearer's patron would approve of a given action...and Helm would very much not approve."

He offers it to Kol, who says the same of the Red Knight, his patron.

Jessica speaks up shyly.

"Um...we could claim it for my father..."

Shock and concern again. This time, I'm left spluttering.

"Your father...? That...but...huh."

Aileph, Kol and I share glances. No better ideas. She takes up the sword and stabs it into the pedestal, shouting something I can't quite make out. Everything goes white...but I can see a white metal helm, lit from within. All the same shade, but still visible.

I also feel a pain in my stomach. I look down to see the greatsword in the being's hands, and the fact that my ghostly body is already fading into ectoplasm.

"Interesting...choice..."

And then the white is gone.



Yep. How's that for a cliffhanger?