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Book 7, Chapter 70 - The Trap

 "We've been waiting for half an hour, why isn't he back yet?" Dawn was getting impatient. Something didn't feel right. "Is that old man just fucking around? So unreliable... should we just go through and take a look?"

She wasn't wrong. Why was it taking so long?

Autumn offered a reminder. "The Boundary Portal is connected to the other four realms, but since my realm's collapse the enchantment is only enough to cover the city. Its power wanes. If you wait much longer the portal will close and can't be opened again."

"That settles it. Let's go!" So under pressure of time, the remaining three members of the traveling party stepped through.

Just as they did they felt the power of the portal falter. It blinked shut, leaving them in the heart of Radia's Temple. But instead of the orderly room they expected, they found the Temple in a mess.

Cloudhawk scowled. "Something happened."

Selene and Dawn smelled the cloying scent of blood on the air. Clearly this place was awash in carnage. No wonder Master Anan had not returned - he must have run into trouble.

"Hey, hey! Cloudhawk! You're Cloudhawk!"

A frantic voice called from the darkness of a nearby hallway. The sound of it made the hair on the back of their necks stand on end. By the sound of it, the voice belonged to a young man. One who sounded crazy.

Cloudhawk was on alert. "What are you so happy about?"

"I was wondering how I was going to get to your cesspit and kill you. Lo and behold! You walk right into Radia! Why shouldn't I be thrilled? You destroyed this great Temple, so now you can be buried with it!"

Oh. A zealot - either of the Temple or the gods. But it was strange because Legion had been here not long ago. From the highest leaders to the smallest families, he was supposed to have had it under control.

He'd taken the Temple's two Oracles, convinced them to comply then let them loose. Legion had used extraordinary measures to make them obedient so that they could take control of the Temple. Obviously it didn't work, but why not?

A strange noise filled the chamber. Figures poured in from every direction.

Clerics in white robes and Templars in golden armor charged at them. Only, the look of them was off. Their flesh was swollen and visible tumors bulged from beneath their skin like blood blisters. They looked horribly infected by some sort of fungus.

Leading them were the two Oracles.

What happened that turned the Oracles into these monstrosities? The young leaders were not weak and defeating someone of their position with strength alone was difficult. Perhaps this was the result of some foul trick.

Cloudhawk didn't make a move, only calling out to them. "You've prepared such a grand welcome. But you haven't even told me who you are."

"Apostle Zephon Allgood."

The insane chatter of his voice came again. The tumorous members of the Temple closed in and then, in grotesque fashion, began to swell. Skin began to split and from the rent flesh poured out sickly black masses. At first glance they looked like gore, but grew like cancer. It advanced so quickly that in a blink of an eye, they swallowed up their former hosts.

Hundreds of Temple faithful turned into a torrent of sick flesh that covered everything. Cloudhawk and the others felt like they'd been swallowed into the gullet of some monstrous thing. Dawn gaped in open shock. "What the fuck is this?!"

She watched in horror as human clerics were devoured by whatever plague this was. IT used them as fuel to keep growing until this was the result. Now that they were surrounded by it, the sense of danger was palpable.

This wasn't just flesh and blood. It was a highly energetic film that covered the area, making it advantageous terrain. In similar fashion to Cloudhawk's Cube it creates a sort of separate dimension, one Cloudhawk couldn't teleport into or out of.

Selene shut her eyes. When they opened again there was a flash of silver from the right. The future was unveiled before her.

"It's going to explode!"

Sure enough the tumorous growth continued to swell and the three of them saw the walls closing in. At the same time those lethal energy levels were rising.

BOOM!

Everything was released at once. It filled the pocket dimension it had created, sweeping through everything caught inside. With nowhere to escape, Cloudhawk's body was ripped to pieces.

"Aahh-hahahah! I killed him! Killed him! He's dead! Rot in hell you filthy bastard!"

Insane laughter echoed through the Temple. But through his tears of joy he saw the monstrous orb that covered the hall begin to shrink.

What? How?

Dawn had saved them in the crucial moment. All of a sudden, a large dragon scale emerged upon her towering armor. Just as the explosion was released, she threw down Selene and protected her with her body.

What followed was hard to believe.

Like an insatiable sponge Dawn drew in all of the surrounding energy. She was unscathed.

"How did you do that?!" Zephon shrieked. Cloudhawk had been obliterated, how did these two wenches survive?

Under the Apostle command bubbles of flesh rose and burst, aiming to blast the invaders apart. The power they released was incredible, but Dawn's sturdy armor and the aid of the Abyssal Scale saved her life. Unfortunately, though, her experience with the relic was slight. She couldn't hold out forever.

"Bastard! Son of a bitch! He killed our spare!"

Anger flashed in Selene's eyes. She pushed Dawn off of her and drew her resplendent weapon. As she leaped into the air burning holy light radiated forth. She came down like a shooting star through the darkness.

From her hands birthed a dazzling slash of light and energy. It tore through the Temple chamber and anything in its path was torn asunder. No blood seeped from the wound. Instead it bubbled and dripped with black icor. Half a second later, it reacted by detonating in a terrible and violent display.

1. 'Secluded Unicorn.' The imagery is the important part here; unicorns are meant to indicate purity and untouched goodness. Secluded, hidden, but the character also means quiet. So a protected, virtuous idol of purity. The names I chose were Zephon - a Hebrew variant name for quiet and also the name of an angel who sought Satan after his fall - and Allgood for obvious reasons.

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