The Flight to York
Still shaken by their treatment at the hands of the Bishop, the companions pushed the carthorses to their fastest pace as they passed through the frozen landscape south of Durham. Following the main road, the ancient Roman thoroughfare of Dere Street, they made good time, passing through several abandoned villages before night began to draw its dark veil across the land.
Feeling the bitter cold even more as the faint warmth of the sun faded, the group took refuge in a small hamlet standing to the west of the road, finding that it was not quite as deserted as it first appeared. William, a weathered man of vigorous years, seemed to lead a village made up mainly of his extended family, which welcomed the companions, giving them both food and shelter.
As they ate a meagre meal, the group urged William to take his family to York, for fear of the undead marching from Hadrian’s Wall. He was reluctant to do so, saying that his family had worked this land for generations and he had nowhere else to go. Having eaten, both Sophia and Tector tended to the Archbishop. Their healing powers eased his ragged breathing somewhat, but there was not the slightest flicker of a return to consciousness. After a few hours of sleep, the group rose with the dawn, thanking William for his hospitality and leaving a third of their food in the hope it might help his family to survive the unnatural winter.
They continued on as quickly as the horses could manage, the wheels of the wagon crunching on the frozen snow. Making good time throughout the day, they stopped only to feed the horses, until night began to draw in once more.
Looking for a suitable place to shelter for the night, the group came upon a deserted village. Stopping the wagon, the companions dismounted and crossed to the nearest building. Tector, after some hesitation, opened the door and looked inside, seeing nothing but an abandoned hovel.
From the corner of her eye, Sophia noticed a sudden flicker and turned to see a thin streak of flame, emanating from a slender figure near one of the other houses and arcing toward the group. Instinctively, she threw herself through the open doorway, just as the flame reached the companions and exploded in a roaring fireball! Sophia was protected by the wall of the house (she rolled a 20 to dodge!) but Storm and Tector were not so fortunate and took the full brunt of the flaming attack.
Grimacing with pain, Storm squinted through the thinning smoke and made out that their opponent was a slender female dark elf. Leaping into the air, he summoned a whirlwind which lifted her airborne and slammed her into the ground. Moments later, the house behind her practically exploded outwards, a huge creature smashing through the wall and charging towards Tector, its eyes filled with rage.
Struggling to her feet, the sithe sorceress fixed Storm with a glare. Gesturing with her gnarled staff, chains of flame appeared in the air around the dragonborn, seeking to close in and pull him to the ground. Somehow he was able to evade them, tearing free of the flaming tendrils that grasped at him. Tector narrowed his eyes and lunged forward to meet the demonic monstrosity. As they clashed, the dragon knight’s greataxe was the first to connect. A blow that would have severed the arm of a man barely drew blood as the demon’s thick hide and supernatural metabolism combined.
Cowering in the doorway, Sophia reached out with her mind, seeking the demon’s and attempting to bend it to her will. She connected for a moment, but the creature’s mind was so dominated by rage that she was unable to take hold. Reeling from her contact with the demon’s mind and fearing madness, she quickly withdrew her consciousness.
Circling above the two fearsome combatants, Storm unleashed his ice javelins, one of which sank deep in the rage demon’s chest (20 on his attack roll!). Another struck its leg while the third exploded behind it, showing it with razor shards of ice. The dark elf responded, pointing her staff at the storm sorcerer and unleashing a lance of white-hot flame. The dragonborn was unable to evade and was seared to the bone by the terrible fire. Still bearing wounds from the crossbow bolts of Hugh de Puiset’s soldiers, he collapsed unconscious and fell 20 feet before slamming into the ground. His broken body lay, unmoving as his friends looked on, horrified.
Barely seeming to notice the grievous wounds inflicted by Storm’s ice javelins, the rage demon tore into Tector with both its fearsome claws. Like his dragonborn friend, Tector was also carrying some injuries, and the blows of the demon, laced as they were with inhuman strength, sent him sprawling to the ground, his eyes rolling back in his head.
Weeping with fear, Sophia called upon the power of her Solstice Amulet. As the faint blue-white glow of its protection coalesced around her she sprinted from her place of shelter, skidding to her knees beside Storm and pouring healing into his shattered form. For a moment nothing happened. Then the dragonborn drew a great, shuddering breath and opened his eyes.
Sophia pulled Storm to his feet as the demon surged toward her. One of its terrible claws connected, and the monstrosity looked puzzled as the blow was deflected by the aura of the Solstice Amulet. Quickly recovering himself, Storm conjured a dragon of lightning and sent it arcing through the air, catching the sorceress in the side. She screamed as her limbs convulsed for several seconds with the powerful electrical charge, before punching her staff angrily toward the dragonborn. A gout of flame shot toward him but, perhaps inspired by his recent near-death experience, Storm threw himself aside (20 on his defence roll!).
The raging demon once again hammered its huge fists into Sophia, trying to smash through her protections to no avail. Ignoring the beast’s frenzied attacks, the lady ministered to Tector, helping him painfully to his feet. Storm launched himself airborne once more, pulling Geimhreadh’s wand from his belt and levelling it at the sithe. The lightning bolt he unleashed struck her square in the chest, slamming her to the ground, where she lay twitching.
Frustrated with its failure to injure Sophia, the demon turned its rage on Tector, slamming both fists into his helm and sending him reeling. With the dragon knight stunned and unable to react, Sophia interposed herself between her friend and the demon, pushing the big man away.
Safely airborne above the demon, Storm engulfed its upper half in the freezing cold of his dragon breath, before launching a lightning orb that struck its arm. However, the dragonborn underestimated the strength and power of the demon, which was able to leap a great height and slash the sorcerer’s leg with a sharp claw.
Recovering his senses, Tector called upon God’s blessing to heal himself, before drawing on the power of his Brooch of Mithras to channel further healing power into his bloodied body. Backing away from the demon, Sophia moved over to the still form of the sorceress. Satisfied that her foe was dead, she picked up the sithe’s fallen staff.
Flying higher in the air to avoid any further attacks, Storm hurled a lightning orb down on the demon’s head as it charged at Tector, tearing a deep wound in the big warrior’s neck. The dragon knight responded with a huge overhead blow which somehow barely scratched his demonic adversary.
Circling back around, Sophia focused her mind once more, this time projecting exhaustion into the demon’s mind. Somehow the lady’s enchantment overcame the demon’s rage, and it slumped to the ground, asleep!
Hovering above, Storm waited as Tector called on the power of his armour, bitter frost flowing from his gauntlets and freezing the blade of his greataxe. The dragon knight stepped forward, blade glittering in a great arc as it swept down, cleaving a great gash in the prone demon’s stomach.
Awakened from its unnatural slumber by the pain of the terrible wound, the rage demon rolled to a crouch, ready to surge to the attack once more. Before it could do so, Sophia drew her bow, loosing an arrow which took it through the neck. Gurgling as its lifeforce finally fled, the monstrosity toppled to the ground. As the companions watched, it dissolved into a toxic black sludge, noxious fumes filling the air.
The group caught their breath, and Tector called on the blessing of the Lord to heal each of them, before returning to the wagon and checking on the Archbishop. Thankfully, they found his condition was unchanged. Conferring briefly, they decided to leave the Godforsaken village, despite the late hour, and press on into the night in search of a more welcoming place to shelter.
The story continues in Redemption of the Cross