Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Battle on Two Fronts

Fenris looked to the others, who nodded in approval. He swung the door open. The beast was sitting silently in the middle of the room. The bodies that had been there previously were now gone, likely consumed by the creature, Fenris thought. The barrels of blood remained however, stacked all around the room. Fenris lead them cautiously inside, weapons drawn. He was unable to tell if it was conscious.

"Your friends beat you to me," the creature suddenly spoke, its voice resonating through the cave, dustings of loose dirt and small rocks falling from above. It revealed a trove of eyes on the front of its gruesome face, and opened its mouth, exposing a field of sharp, dangerous teeth.

"It will be simple to toy with them while I destroy you. You probably shouldn't have sent the two most powerful in together, they could have done some damage here, I'm sure," the demon said.

"Actually, Bianca here is the worst of us," Varric said, "Uncontrollable."

Good, Fenris thought, let's keep it talking as long as possible.

"You know, I'm in the mood to both fight and have a chat," the creature said, beginning to rise from its sitting position. It unfolded to its full height and looked down upon the group, "But I'm already talking to them."

The demon roared, opening its arms wide. They all rolled into cover behind crates or bunks, expecting a spell to flash out from the beast. After a few moments, Fenris carefully looked out toward the creature. Floating around it were streams and streams of blood, and more seeped from the containers around the cave, floating eerily toward the demon, as if it had no weight. He quickly looked to the others, and found Merrill's wide eyes seeing the same thing he was. She caught Fenris's look and turned to him. She just nodded once.

The blood began to swirl around the creature, faster and faster until it became thin, more like light than liquid. It drew the blood toward itself suddenly, then in an instant it burst forth from the beast with tremendous force. It stopped suddenly, as if hitting an invisible wall. Fenris looked to Merrill who was now standing, staff raised toward the demon. She had somehow shielded the spell.

"Go!" she yelled, exertion creasing her forehead. They flew into action. Fenris and Aveline charged forward as Varric and Sebastian let loose a storm of arrows. Fenris couldn't tell the difference, but one aimed for its face and eyes, the other for its feet in an attempt to pin the creature down. Aveline gave a heroic yell of defiance and Fenris felt a surge of confidence as he swung his sword in a wide arc, gaining a glancing blow on the creature's forearm. The demon had a formidable reach, it's arms so long that it's hands hit the ground when standing. It quickly retaliated, tossing Fenris aside with one easy swipe. It roared in pain and Fenris saw that Aveline had taken advantage of the distraction and gained a decent slice to the creature's back.

As he regained his footing, he watched as Merrill threw out her arms and the blood that still hovered in the air crashed against the walls of the cavern. He didn't know what the creature was able to do with that blood, but he knew that in stopping it, Merrill had turned the tide of this battle for them. She immediately thrust her staff outward, tendrils of evil black mist shooting from her and striking the beast directly in its eyes.

Fenris noticed the opportunity, and ran full out toward the beast. He dropped to the ground as he approached it, sliding along the bloody floor, his sword held firmly in his grasp. He slashed the demon's leg almost clean through, causing it to roar and buck in pain. Fenris quickly rose to his feet, turning to flank the beast when suddenly it's skin burst into flame, forcing Fenris to step back from the sudden heat.

At first, he thought it was something Merrill had cast, or that one of the archers had fired a flaming arrow, lucky that the beast was flammable. But as the demon laughed manically, he knew it wasn't that easy. The creature began casting furiously, violent balls of flame shooting from its fists. Fenris ducked one and rolled into cover behind a crate. A wooden crate, however. He knew it wouldn't last him long, so he peeked out of cover to check the status of the others. It seemed they were keen to do the same, though Sebastian's cover caught fire and he rolled behind another, firing arrows furiously as he did. One seemed to strike the beast in the eye, and it pounded the ground furiously with its fists, knocking Sebastian violently off his feet.

Suddenly, the beast was no longer aflame. He turned to look at Fenris, an arrow stuck directly in one of it's many eyes. The air felt cold suddenly, and Fenris heard a cracking sound, much like one might hear as a frozen river broke up. Before he knew it, the creature was covered in a thin sheet of blue ice, standing not two meters from him. It thrust one taloned claw toward him and fired a vicious, inescapable flurry of ice. It happened very quickly and before he knew it the ice had crashed against the cavern wall behind him. He had just phased out of a spell's path, he thought in shock. Anders would be so proud.

The creature hadn't seen it, thinking the job done and moved on to firing vicious spheres of ice at his companions. They were farther away from the beast and seemed to be able to affectively switch cover as needed. Fenris took the opportunity to try and notice a weak spot on the demon's form. The bulk of its weight seemed to rest on its front side, its spine relatively unprotected by the grotesque layers of flesh that lined the rest of it. He didn't want to, but he knew he had to. He hid back behind the crate. He had to play dead, not catch the beast's attention and wait until he had a clear shot, right down the demon's spine. Suddenly the air in the room warmed and he felt the hair rise on his neck. He stole a glance back the beast, purple and blue light sparking off of it violently. He knew it was coming eventually. Lightning.

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Justice shot his staff upwards, casting a spell that knocked the demon back as it approached them. This infuriated the creature, and Hawke took the opportunity to skirt around to its flank as it roared in defiance at the spirit. She struck it quickly, rolling away again as fast as she could to escape the breadth of the beast's arm span. It barely noticed the slice she had given it as Justice repeatedly beat streams of lightning at its face. She wished the spirit would let up, it'd be safer for Anders if she maintained the creature's attentions.

She wouldn't waste the opportunity though, and drew closer again to its flank, using her momentum to spin into a devastating slash that dug deeply into its spine. The creature roared in pain again, and Hawke realized it was enough to get its attention as it turned furiously toward her. She ducked a violent swipe of the creature's arm. With all its power and size came a degree of slowness that she was quite thankful for as it swung again. She barely missed the impact as she threw herself the ground, but struck up again with her sword, gaining a deep slice into the beast's forearm.

Behind the demon now, Justice fired a series of lightning strikes, seeming to aim for the areas already weakened by Hawke's sword. She rolled away from the beast, swinging up again as she rose to strike a glancing blow on the creature's stomach as it gave chase. Suddenly a fireball shot from the demon's fist and barreled toward her. She dodged it, mostly, receiving only a minor burning sensation on her arm as she fell out of its path. She rolled back to her feet and continued to back away.

The creature reached up and shot a cold blue orb of ice at her, which she was able to skirt almost entirely until it landed at her feet, rendering her immobile. She cursed and struck her blade into the loose sand, attempting to wrench her feet from the obstruction. The demon stalked toward her like a wolf hunting its prey, when suddenly a strikingly beautiful stream of golden light shot from Justice. The light wrapped its tentacles around the demon and pulled it backward, away from Hawke. It growled furiously and swept a backhanded lash at Justice, knocking the spirit prone.

Hawke was finally able to pull her feet out of the unnatural ice and she grabbed her sword and sprinted toward the beast. She knew she had to act quickly, the demon's fists were barreling down toward Justice, toward Anders, and fear sped the beat of her heart. She ran and leapt at the beast, stabbing her sword clean through the creature until the hilt was all that remained.

She knew she wouldn't be able to pull it back out, and she also knew it was too late. She had stopped the beast from killing Justice, but she wouldn't be able to react fast enough. She felt the beasts' wicked claw tear through her. For some reason she didn't think it would hurt. But she felt every inch of skin being torn, every muscle and organ beneath it obliterated by the talons.

And then she was awake, clutching her stomach in pain and screaming for Anders to get out. She turned to the prone mage next to him and shook him, screaming his name, as if it would help. Anders couldn't last long in there by himself. She could only beseech the Maker to allow him safe passage from the Fade. Then she looked up as she heard the demon's shrieks of pain resonate from inside the cave. She stood, grabbing her greatsword and dragging it behind her, stalking toward where her companions battled.


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