CATALYST: CONFRONTATION

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As it is written: “At Winter Solstice within the Year of the Scarlet Witch wise men shall gather to stand between Darkness and Light.”

21 Nightal, 1491 DR

Last Episode: Kumite 2

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The Pit Fiend Abigar claimed the ancient Fey tree as a trophy six years ago to the day. He has served as the dragon’s lieutenant during the attack on Greenest and Phlan. But when the time was right, Abigar turned on the dragon, flaying its hide with his fiery whip and offering its soul to his true master, Dispater. Since then the devil slowly took control of the High Forest, using its magic to make the outer world believe that the green dragon still lived. Few bothered to challenge the Pit Fiend, and those that did met a sudden and violent end.

This tree was called the Grandfather Tree. It held great power as well. Long ago, a vampire had been stalked and killed on this very spot, and then sacrificed to the Woodland gods by the Fey that lived in this forest. The tree had been corrupted by the vampire’s blood when the Fey crucified him on the Grandfather Tree. The tree became twisted, and evil. It grew to become what is known as a Gulthias Tree. The transformation was slow, and it poisoned the Fey who dwelled in the High Forest. And now this twisted, unhallowed tree was a conduit for Abigar’s fell magic.

Abigar was surprised when the monks arrived. There were seven of them, and at first he believed that they had come to banish him back to the Nine Hells. His thoughts raced, wondering why these monks might have come for him. Perhaps they were agents of the Cult of the Dragon who had finally sniffed him out. Or maybe they were minions of Tiamat come to emand services. The Old Witch was clever, and even though she was occupied with her personal holy war to the East, it was possible that she had sent these magi here to make demands of him. Worst yet, they might be liaisons from the Horned Society or the Ashmadai come to speak of the duty to their master. 

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They called out for the dragon by name. It was clear that they were here for the beast and not for him. It did not take long to discern that these monks were not agents of the Dragon Cult. He smelled the stench of destiny upon them. They were not mortal. They were not gods. They were something else, something between divinity and humanity. And they were clueless as to what and who they were dealing with at the present.

Abigar sensed the presence of two gods, both minor ones but gods none the less. The first was Zinzerena   And the second was Lurue. The Pit Fiend understood that since the last Sundering, the gods were cut off from the Prime Material Plane. They were limited to interacting with their priests directly, and with all other mortals indirectly.

Abigar had no time for the petty concerns of minor gods. He was preparing for the war to come. He was waiting for Asmodeus to reveal why he really allowed Tiamat to leave the Nine Hells. He knew that the Blood War would soon come to the Prime Plane, and he was ready to prove his worth against the Rage of Demons.

Abigar heard the monk calling out again. He turned his racing thoughts back to them. He needed to focus. Demons existed in a different continuum then mortals. They had their feet in both the past and the future, glimpsing both simultaneously. Focusing on the present took great effort. He grimaced, growing frustrated that these filthy mortals were bothering him.

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Their spokesman was a wild haired man who presented himself with a haughty demeanor. The Pit Fiend found this one amusing, claiming to bargain and parley with statements thinly veiled in threats. The monk called himself Zhang Senfeng, and he demanded that the dragon leave the High Forest. Zhang claimed that there was a greater power at work.

Three were outside of the tree, observing the others. Two males and one female. One of the males sat high in a tree, watching. The other male sat relaxing against a tree, scribbling in a book. And the female was crouched within the thickets, acting as a sentry.

The first smelled of savory, delicious doubt. It clung to him like a perfume. The second reeked of delectable curiosity even though his scribbling reminded him of the annoying chirping of a cricket. However female stunk of confidence, although Abigar wondered if she could be tempted to slip recklessly into mouthwatering pride. All three would be a wonderful gift for his lord and master within the city of Dis.

The others stepped into his tree, and he smiled a toothy grin as he felt his Hellish aura wash over them. They would believe it was dragonfear, of course, not fully understanding the situation that they were stepping into by entering the unhallowed lair of a powerful devil such as himself.

The Pit Fiend’s illusionary magic was already at work, cloaking the tree nature of the corrupted tree. He knew that their mortal eyes would see an ancient, rotting tree. They would not see the shattered remains of the creatures that littered the entrance hall of the tree. They would not perceive the leathery man-flesh that Abigar has grafted into the tree. They would only see a drifting cloud of green gas and smell the acrid odor of poison. Both would reinforce the belief that the dragon remained master of the Grandfather Tree.

This mortal, Zhang Senfeng, and his companions were delectable. Zhang himself was overconfident and haughty, speaking with a delightful tone of razors to his words. The others were appealing for sure, surging with emotions and and ideals that could easily be manipulated and twisted. These mortals were exactly the kind of man-things that a devil like Abigail loved. They were food, and they would be delicious.

But Abigar considered the overwhelming stink of Fate and Destiny that surrounded them like a cloud of buzzing flies. They were touched by the gods, for sure. The Pit Fiend smiled slowly, realizing what he had overlooked: their blood. They had within them the blood of kings. These monks were all demigods, mortals descended from the time of the Time of Troubles. These were Exarchs. Their blood held great power.

Their unmaking was within their very blood. The Pit Fiend understood that life in itself is power and that this power manifests itself through the blood that courses through all living things. Many creatures desired souls. Abigar preferred blood.

“There is nothing better,” thought the Pit Fiend. “Then a good game of cat and mouse before a hearty meal of man-flesh.”

As he rose up at the top of the tree, he unfurled his black, leathery wings and growled menacingly at the monks. His eyes were smoldering embers and his gnashing teeth resembled the maw of a shark. His pig-like nostrils exhaled black ash as he reached out and screeched with a voice that sounded like steel grinding on iron. He pointed his gnarled index finger at Dorn.

“Pitiful monk, I know you by your blood!” The Pit Fiend has tricked Dorn into shedding blood within the tree, thus allowing the Devil power over him. Abigar had plans for the monk. He would not simply devour him. He would coat the monk in thick sap and pitch from the Grandfather Tree, and set him aflame like a candle. The Pit Fiend would revel in the screams of his victim and savor the man-thing’s marrow as it melted from his bones.

The devil pointed at Zhang and spoke the monk’s true name. Unwittingly, the devil had tricked the prideful monk into revealing his true name which gave the Pit Fiend power over Zhang. The monk found that he was frozen in place, unable to move and forced to simply watch as the battle unfolded.

The Pit Fiend had plans for Zhang as well. He would bury the monk up to his head in the soft flesh of the earth of the Grandfather Tree. After that, the Abigar would paint the monk’s face with milk and wild honey; and soon, flies would begin to feed on Zhang. After a few days, maggots and worms would devour their body as they decayed alive.

The others, thought the devil, I will simply eat. Humans are nothing more substantial than food and fodder.

Before Abigar even opened his eyes he knew that he was no longer on the Prime Material Plane. His mind reeled, remembering the damned monks who had defeated him. They had fell upon him like locusts, laying him low and slaying his mortal coil. He should now be safely in the hellish land of Dis, awaiting the judgement of his master … but he was not.

Instead, he was suspended upside down, fully encased in thick, sticky webbing. He felt a thousand thousand tiny creatures scuttering across his flesh, burrowing and feeding. He could no move and his innate spells failed him. He was helpless, hung like a chunk of meat in a larder.

He slowly opened his eyes and looked at the creature in front of him. He had already sensed her, knew that she stood watching him. She was half spider, half stunningly beautiful drow, watching him with a wry smile.

“Why have you imprisoned me, Lolth? Why do you torment me?”

She purred happily.  She shifted, revealing a mound of fresh egg sacs below her.

“Let us talk of prophecies,” she said. “Let us talk of those who murdered you.”

And as the Pit Fiend closed his eyes, he knew that he would tell her everything that she wanted to know, whether he wished to do so or not, all the while her offspring would slowly devour him. He knew it would take decades.

Abigar wept.

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