25 Arodus, 4718 (Starday) cont.


Our battle against the initiates in the dimly lit warehouse raged on. As I rounded the corner to join Oliver in the passageway between the crates, I felt the healing powers of Abadar wash over us as Felyx called out to her god above us. I joined Oliver in the fray just as he swung Oak Heart at the initiate stabbing Cornelius. He was clearly not in his element and I hoped the higher ground he clambered toward would keep him safe.

The rest of us continued our battle against the initiates; Oliver, Verity and I on the ground, Felyx above. We succeeded in ending several, but others fled back into the darkness.

With no more initiates within my reach, I turned and ran back into the open area in the center of the warehouse, chasing down the initiate that had fled across the boxes, though I couldn’t spot her. I could now hear the humming that Felyx had previously heard, though I couldn’t pinpoint which direction it was coming from. I gritted my teeth, my frustrations beginning to boil over. Verity ran forward, pulling a longbow from her back and firing into the shadows. A scream and the sound of a body hitting the floor echoed from in front of me. 

Behind me, I could hear Cornelius let out a grunt as he finally managed to scale the boxes. Felyx let out another shout, saying that she could see a man wearing a gray jester’s motley and facepaint approaching us from the south. I could hear the now familiar twang of Dignity’s Bard losing a bolt, and then a slight pause in the humming. The bolt had somehow found its mark.

Oliver ran up beside me, also unable to see any of the initiates. As the humming became louder, I recognized the magic in it as a bard song. I told my friends, before taking a deep breath and beginning to sing a hymn to Ragathiel and moved towards the passage the jester was approaching from. We would see if inspiration or rage would win the day.

An initiate jumped out of the shadows before me. I was surprised when she didn’t strike out, but as another one slid behind me, I realized their plan. They struck out simultaneously, though only one dagger struck true, finding a gap in my breast plate. 

Behind me, Oliver let out an angry growl, a sound that I now knew meant he had accepted the righteous fury of  the General of Vengeance. He rushed up, the two of us now flanking the one who had stabbed me, striking her with Oak Heart. 

A second later, the jester emerged from the shadows. He carried a sickle, painted to look like a smile. Cornelius let out a surprised shout, saying that it was Mister Smiles. I had a vague memory of someone mentioning a jester from some noble or another’s party a few days before the gala, with a “slightly off putting” clown called Mister Smiles. “Slightly off putting” felt like quite the understatement.

Mister Smiles laughed, saying he was glad to be recognized by his fans, before throwing a tart, which landed squarely in Cornelius’ face. As my friend burst into uncontrollable laughter, I realized the Hideous Laughter spell had taken effect. 

I heard Verity shout at Cornelius before she quite literally threw her bow at him, which just caused him to laugh even harder. She jumped off the boxes pulling her glaive and sliced at the initiate in front of me. Her cold gaze told me that she too had allowed the raging song to take over.

I turned around and brought my bastard sword down on the initiate that Oliver had already hit with Oak Heart, felling her, before spinning back around to face the other initiate and Mister Smiles. Above me, Cornelius seemed to be regaining his composure, his laughter fading into wheezing. 

Atop the crates opposite of Cornelius, a small figure came into view. He looked similar to a gnome, though one who had undergone the bleaching with a wild mane of pale gray hair and dark gray skin. He looked annoyed at the state of the fight. He pulled a ceramic ball from his belt, and threw it. As it landed next to Cronelius, it shattered, letting out a noxious yellow cloud that smelled of rotting eggs mixed with other foul things. Verity, Cornelius, and Felyx all began retching. I recognized it as an alchemical bomb, and I could hear Felyx attempting to stumble her way out of the cloud.

Oliver let out another growl, running over to the crates and beginning to climb them. Ahead of me, Mister Smiles targeted me with a spell, but I was able to shake off whatever it was. He frowned, retreating back the way he had come. Beside me, Verity managed to make her way out of the cloud, retching and coughing. 

I attempted to reach the alchemist as well, but unlike Oliver I was unable to find any good handholds and made no progress. Perhaps it is time for me to accept that climbing isn’t my forte. I caught a glimpse of Cornelius literally rolling off the top of the crates to get out of the cloud, though the miasma was already beginning to dissipate. I heard a noise above me, and looked up in time to see the strange alchemist quite literally drop another alchemical bomb on me. This one exploded rather than releasing the foul gas. I let out a scream, which was answered by a roar from Oliver who had reached the top of the crates and began to charge towards the alchemist. 

Another tart flew through the air at Oliver, who sliced it in half before it hit him, turning to Mister Smiles and shouting that “this was not the time for clowning around” which quite frankly if the circumstances weren’t so dire would have been hilarious. Even in a rage Oliver can make jokes. 

Verity stumbled her way past me, still sick, but determined to pursue Mister Smiles. I used the last of my magic to heal myself, letting out a quiet prayer to Ragathiel before resuming my hymn and following Verity around the corner after the jester.

The alchemist, sensing that being next to Oliver was probably unwise, leapt from the crates, and took a slash from Oakheart for his troubles. He then threw another bomb, and a nauseating cloud overtook me, Oliver and Verity. 

Felyx had managed to recover from her own exposure to the gas, and I felt the healing powers of Abadar flow over me once again. Above me on the crates, I could hear Oliver turning to pursue Mister Smiles, even though he was coughing and retching. I gritted my teeth, before continuing to sing the hymns, tightening my grip on my bastard sword as I prepared to face Mister Smiles myself.