Raising from the underpits
The platform stopped moving as it reached the scene.
Another wave of weird energy washed over the party. Suddenly the crowd turned their gazes to the weird group standing in a tight circle around a metal cage.
“Keep them away, I am making good progress here!”, Neirius shouted over the deafening music.
Wataru looked around and grasped his hammer firmly. “How long do you need?”
“A minute most. Mana levels are off the charts here, this is brilliant!”
Two humans detached from the crowd. Their faces were frozen in a mad grimace, foam dripped out from their mouths. They started running towards the group.
“Oh no, you will not take my fun!”, Shinigami exclaimed and vaulted from the scene in a graceful leap. She aimed to land on strong Wataru’s shoulders. Loxodon shook in surprise from the weight that landed on him. It took a moment for him to realize what happened and stop shaking his upper torso. Shinigami jumped from his shoulder to shoulder as if they were made from hot coal, but did not lose her footing. She swung at the closest madmen running at them, her scythe left a slash of fresh blood on the cage below them. The man leaped forward and clawed with his bare hands at Wataru. His dirty fingernails left deep scratch marks on Loxodon’s trunk. Wataru pushed his hammer into the creature’s abdomen. He felt something cracking under the weight of his weapon. The man collapsed on the cage floor.
On the other side, Nai and Katrille aimed bow and magic at another mad spectator. Few hits later another pair of eyes rolled over and an ugly looking woman fell.
“What is happening? Why are they attacking us?”, Rozhe was looking at the growling and shouting crowd. Her eyes jumped from face to face. All had twisted grins, yellow teeth shined from dirty faces. Another mans mouth foamed.
“Incoming! Brace yourselves!”, Rozhe shouted to others.
Katrille felt air gush past her. Burning scimitar landed next to her feet with a clank and a bunch of sparks. She looked up, and on the chains above her, she saw a blade juggler with his gaze fixed on her. “Above us!” her voice was barely audible in all the music and ruckus around them.
Wataru slammed his shield and hammer together and shouted something. Thick fog manifested all around the group, hiding them. Only Shinigami’s upper torso remained outside of the cloud.
“Shit!”, Shinigami touched her scythe and strands of darkness swirled around her, covering her in a sphere of pitch black.
Group stood in the fog. Sounds were slightly muffled inside. They could not see each other, nor they could see anyone outside the cloud. Suddenly a bright flash of flame-coloured the fog in orange. A smell of burning oil filled their nostrils.
“Group up!”, Nai’s voice reached Wataru. He pushed Shinigami of his shoulders and backed up to the middle of the cloud. Sound of a metal wheel rolling on the cage came moments before it manifested directly in front of Rakdos girl. She tried to jump away, but she was too late. Spikes from the wheel cut deep into her leg.
“You will die for this!”, her voice filled with rage was met by a burst of hysterical laughter. Spikewheel acrobat did not even turn her head and rolled forward through the cloud. A pair of arms grabbed the slim girl and blunt teeth sunk into her neck. She slammed her elbow into the ribcage of her assailant, a brittle crack followed her motion and the hands released her. She turned around and saw a slim looking man, with red eyes. She swiftly cut his neck and he fell bleeding on the ground.
Wataru slowly stepped backwards in the mist. In front of him, two figures appeared and clawed at his chainmail. Bloody fingers left marks on Boros uniform. Loxodon landed a firm blow on one of them, sending a limp body down.
Meanwhile, two jugglers watched a play of shadows in the fog. Four columns of flame shot upwards from under the cage, illuminating the figures in the cloud. They aimed and threw two burning blades at the largest of them. Wataru shouted in pain as both blades sunk through his armour. His knees felt weak. He stumbled forward trying to hold his balance, but the pain was too great. The world spun in a quick spiral and he fell on the ground.
On the other side of the fog Katrille kept shooting the blade jugglers with her magic, Nai threaded in and out from the fog and fought off incoming bloodthirsty berserks from the crowd, Rozhe kept her distance and launched arrow after arrow into blurry figures outside of the cloud. She felt more than heard as something heavy hit the ground next to her. She looked at the place where Wataru’s figure was casting a shadow just moments before and saw nothing. She moved through the fog and almost stumbled on his large body. A foaming female was clawing at Shinigami, trying to bite down her exposed skin. Rozhe took her bow, aimed and shot the girl down, then she concentrated on her inner strength and elven magic flew from her fingers down to motionless Wataru’s form. He breathed in through pain and pushed himself off the ground.
“Ugh. We need to get out of here.”, he spoke through clenched teeth. “And thanks.”
Music mixed with cheerful and angry shouts from the crowd echoed around them. Suddenly the cage jerked and started to descend slowly.
After a few more seconds the cage was back in the bowels of the underpits. Ceiling plates closed above them and the deafening sound of the music stopped. Only a distant rumbling and muffled vocals remained.
Wataru wished the fog away. They stood surrounded by a bunch of corpses. Few of them wore Rakdos apparel, but most of them seemed like common folk.
“We need to get out of here”, Nai nervously looked at the dead. “I don’t think we could explain to anyone what happened here.”
“Well, you should be ashamed of yourselves! I asked you to stay under the arena, not to raise in the middle of it when I was performing! You ruined my show!“, Shinigami sounded furious, “I am going the wash and change.”, she stormed out from the lift into baths.
“Well, you left us in a lift! Could’ve warned us?”, Rozhe shouted after her, but Shinigami replied with a vulgar finger gesture.
“Should we wait for her?”, Nai asked.
“No.”, Wataru went up to Neirius who was now standing straight. He was breathing heavily. His hand held a bloody dagger and side of his shirt was soaked in blood. “Are you injured?”, Wataru asked without compassion.
“A little, I will be fine. The experiment was a success, look!”, he pointed with the dagger at the metal flower in the cage. A small blurry sphere of red energy floated around the flower in a hypnotic orbit. “This ends the part with Rakdos, I will calculate the results and get back to you tomorrow on where we will go next”.
“Next? We are not finished?”, Katrille asked in disbelief.
“Oh, far from finished. We have just begun!”, Neirius stepped back and allowed Wataru to lift the cage under his arm.
They walked back to Rakdos dressing rooms. They were covered in shadows, a figure stood in the corner and was picking his teeth with something sharp. It was a demon, with wings neatly tucked behind his back. His masculine figure was shining in the dim torchlight. His skin was covered in some sort of oil. He looked at the party and smiled with his perfect teeth.
Katrille’s eyes froze to his gaze. She heard a voice in her mind. A seductive low tone. Back of her head grew hot. “What are you doing here little sheep? Would you like to have some fun with me? If so, show me what nasty things you can do… Hit the skinny human, he seems… boring.”
Her hands twitched. She turned to Neirius. Took a step forward. And stopped. “No, this is wrong. Get out of my head!”, she thought furiously.
“Resisting are you? Maybe you are not as sheepish as I thought. Disappointing…” The voice left her head and the heat subsided.
Nai watched all this when her head felt the touch of Incubus. “Show me what you can. Take a stab as this elf. I bet she is nasty inside.“, her hands drew her sword. “Yes. Show me her blood.”, the voice pressed her with a strong yet gentle tone. She obeyed. Rozhe looked with surprise as the blade slid into her stomach. She grabbed the protruding blade and coughed blood. Her feet gave and she stumbled forward. Her landing was softened by a pile of dirty clothes.
“What are you doing?!”, Wataru placed the metal cage with the device on the ground and looked at Nai. Her eyes were white and she had a seductive smile on her face. Wataru raised his hand and white stripes of energy came from the ground binding Nai’s body. She grunted and resisted, but the bondages held. “What has gotten into you?”, Wataru held his distance as he cast another spell.
Green sprinkles manifested on top of motionless Rozhe and dug into her flesh. She gasped for air. “What…”, she rolled over and slid away from Nai. Suddenly she heard this voice in the back of her head. “My child, don’t let her get away with this. You want her dead. Stand up and slice her open!“. Rozhe’s hands moved on their own. She stood up and moved in for the kill. Her dagger pushed in Nai’s abdomen.
Katrille grasped her head. The heat left an unpleasant sensation in her skull. She looked at the demon in the corner of the room. He had a bloodthirsty grin on his red face. She cursed and fired three magical shards from her fingers. They sunk into the demon’s body, making his face morph. His face curled up from anger and pain. “Don’t interfere… You are no fun!”, the voice echoed in her mind.
Out from the corridor Shinigami came drying her wet hair. “What is going on?” She looked at the bloody shirt of Rozhe, her hand holding a dagger sticking out from Nai’s abdomen, Wataru, holding Nai in place and Najneth, the lusty demon in the corner of the room, painfully stroking marks of Katrille’s magic. Something clicked in her mind. “Srztak, nurtlr skratgran, Najneth!”, she grunted in Abyssal. “Eh, fine, have it your way, I was just a little bored, that’s all.” Najneth’s voice intruded Shinigami’s mind.
The demon turned his eyes back to Rozhe, “Your friend thinks you should stop fighting and make out. Be a dear and kiss her.” Rozhe’s arms dropped the tension. She curled both of her hands around helpless Nai’s neck and leaned in for a passionate kiss. Nai, confused and in pain did nothing, just watched in surprise as soft elven lips touched hers. A taste of sweetness and blood filled her mouth. Nai could not think straight for a moment.
Wataru dropped the bonding spell. As soon as she was able, Nai pushed Rozhe away from her. “What just happened?”
Rozhe’s eyes rolled back and focused on Nai’s surprised face. “I… I don’t know.”
Demon vanished in thin air.
Suddenly Wataru tensed up. “Aren’t they annoying? Don’t you just want to punish them for all their faults and mistakes?“, a seductive female voice touched his mind. “Oh no you don’t, vile demon. I wish to banish you!”, Wataru said out loud. Luckily his conviction to the Unknown Angel protected him from the demonic lure.
“We need to leave now.”, Nai was still shocked, she pressed her wound and limped out eyeing Rozhe.
They returned to Neirius Laboratory way after sundown.
“Let’s talk about payment.”, Katrille started, “It was way more dangerous than I anticipated. I think you should pay us more.”
“Yeah, and you ruined my show”, Shinigami added.
“Girls, let me talk this one out.”, Rozhe intercepted, “I know I am a new one in this group, and I am sure you are a very reasonable person. How about you pay us to double that you promised?”
“Forty gold each? No no, don’t be ridiculous. I will be bankrupt before I finish my research if I pay you that lucrative. It was just an evening job, and all of you are alive! Mostly.“, Neirius was not keen on separating with his gold.
“How about 35 gold? That sounds reasonable?”, Rozhe pushed.
“Best I can give you now is 30 gold, including your daily wage. And this is my final proposal.“, Neirius words were met with silent nods from all the party.
“Great having business with you. I hope we will not die during your next mission too.“, Wataru said dryly, with his eyes fixed on the contraption that he was carrying all this time. “How many more such experiments do you need to finish your project?”
“Up to eight more. Maybe less if they are as successful as one today. Why?”
“Just adding up.”, Wataru looked helplessly at Nai.
“Hey, I heard about your misfortune.”, Rozhe approached the Loxodon. “Take my part, I don’t need it as much as you do.”
“Thank you!”, Wataru nodded. “I will remember this.”