The Dragon Between

Something Dark is Coming

Something Dark is Coming…

As the vampiric lord’s body dissipates into mist, and the party pauses to catch their breath, Viktor casts a glance around the interior of the ruined temple. The remnants of the master’s minions, vampire and giant zombie alike, lay in pieces scattered across the flagstones. The pews are smashed and rotted; the elegantly-crafted stained-glass windows shattered, the lead framing hanging like giant cobwebs; the Octograms and other symbols of the eight deities defaced or torn down; the main altar defiled with filth and old, dried blood. His features twist in disgust and he makes a low spitting sound.

“No symbols of the Blood. Only a gore-choked hovel. A waste, home to apostates and foulness,” he mutters to himself, pausing to wipe the worst of the clotted ichor from his blade.

As Viktor tends to this task, he pauses, coughing just faintly at the reek in the air, then more forcefully, dropping to one knee and hacking loudly. For a moment, it feels as though something has sunk claws into his chest, gripping his heart and lungs—then the sensation fades as quickly as it had come…

…but not entirely.

He rises to his feet again, hawking to clear his throat, and spitting out a gob of phlegm. The mass spatters at his feet, and in the light cast by the little metal-and-crystal sphere hovering around the Warforged nearby, he can see the stuff is tainted with streaks of blood, and something else, black and tarry. In the air, as he closes his eyes, clutching his holy symbol pinning his cloak, he can feel the taint that had gripped him, like a miasma all around. The very air of this place is suffused with the necromantic energies of this undead lord and his many minions, polluting and poisoning, like a vapor of arsenic.

Yet, it calls to him, or something in him—perhaps the same curse levied upon him at Saerun Road, years ago. Mastered by his strength, his faith, his determination, Viktor can still feel it growing within him like a flame in a gas-filled mine.

He bares his teeth, fangs prominent, and that sensation enfolds him again, leaving him feeling as though afflicted with a fever of ice, his limbs stiff and the air hot and thick around him. His eyes open again, and he looks around at the rest. Briefly, he can hear the collective beat of their hearts, the rush of blood in their bodies, even the bright pulsing spark of life that animates the warforged who stands nearby, and a hunger to take it all for himself threatens to overwhelm his senses as his vision floods crimson.

Briefly, Cuinas’ head turns in his direction, as though sensing the bloody impulse within him. Even the warforged… Torque, Viktor reminds himself… turns around, impassive face still seeming wary. The Karrnathi grits his teeth, hard enough to produce an unpleasant grinding sound, and draws breath through clenched jaws.

“The Blood is the Life. Seek the Divine Within. May I find the strength within myself to persevere through this challenge. May my blood flow undimmed,” he whispers to himself in prayer, clutching at his brooch as he squares his shoulders, raising his head.

The Blood is of Life… the unbidden thought returns to him, as some other sensation slips through him, shrouding his heart and seeming to ward away the psychic poisoning in this defiled place. But Life is not Blood. Life is… Blood is…

“There is something more…” Viktor whispers, steeling himself and preparing to move deeper into the temple with his companions. “…and I will find it.”

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Zsander

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