Aeric Dalia/Vol 2 Chapter 3
Areic rushed from the ancient fortress with Faline's limp body in his hands, Dalia close in toe. Voren was fending off an apparition, as he got closer to the doorway it dissipated in the coming sunlight. Aeric carefully placed Falines body on the back of his horse yelling at the other to stop wasting time. As he placed her, she cringed in agony as the poison did its work. They mounted up and fled from the accursed place as it began to crumble in on itself. The thunder beats of their horses hooves drowned out by the crashing of heavy stones in the background. Aeric didn't want to show the painful look of fear on his face to the rest of the party. "Why can't you just heal her?" Dalia yelled trying to keep up with Aeric's horse. "If he heal her now, we close up the wound, and the poison inside will stay, then she will die." Voren yelled back Dalia couldn't help but contemplate Faline's death being beneficial to the succubus. She quickly tried to push her jealous thoughts out of her head. Right now all Faline should be to her was a companion in need, not an obstacle to the man of her desire.
It seemed like an eternity of riding with Aeric desperately leading them towards a settlement, a town, anything he could find nearby. The open and windswept plains acting against the group in the search for aid. The world had its beauty to any traveler, but the openness of it all only seemed to give Aeric less hope, though he pressed on anyway. The jarring ride was doing little to help Faline, as she soon begged for Aeric to stop. He ignored her cries. In the Distance, he saw the towering statue of the Two kings of Di, the city wasn't far.
Their horses Were tired and exhausted. Everyone was easing up, but Aeric, his simpleminded objective still burned into his consciousness. 'I slow down, she dies.' He could see the city walls in the distance. He was given a new vigor, but his horse wasn't. His warhorse whined, huffed and began to slow. "I understand the urgency, but killing yourself to save her won't solve anything!" Voren protested to the silent Paladin, as he caught up. Aeric stayed silent, pushing his horse, while trying not to kill it. They gates grew closer. The complaints he heard were drowned out by his desire. The large city towered before them. There was bound to be at least one person who had an antidote for her poisoning. There was a problem, no sane man would ever willingly let a demon into their city. Aeric glanced back at his acolyte's horned and winged visage. "How can we mask your appearance?" Aeric Pointed towards Dalia. She had completely forgotten that about her condition. She had the ability to change her appearance but had never tied with such heavy bindings as her armor. It wasn't foolproof, but it managed to hide her true nature. Almost within the blind of an eye her appearance had changed. Her horns and wings had vanished, but it was an odd illusion just as much as it was alluring. She hadn't actually changed her appearance, just the vision of it. Her true self could almost bee seen out the corner of your eye, but an unwitting person would have scoffed it off as their mind playing tricks on them. She looked human, but with her unnatural beauty still untouched. It took Aeric a moment to look away, and the rest persisted, rationalizing that they couldn't believe what they saw.
The image of five armored and armed warriors approaching the gate didn't bode well for the troubled guards standing by. They immediately halted the group with spears pointed in their direction. "Halt! Who goes there?" One guard shouted " Paladin Voren, Faline, Aeric, and initiates Hale, Jenis and Dalia." Voren announced before the Haughty Aeric could cause a sceen. The guard signaled for others to show up, and many of the bored guardsmen quickly obliged. Soon there was about ten or so armored men standing between them and the city. Aeric Clenched his teeth and hands on his reigns, causing the leather to creak noticably to Dalia. She could almost feel his frustration, and as Voren was futility trying to explain gthe situation she trotted up to the guards. They immediately fixed their gaze to her. Aeric had felt this before, he knew what she was doing, and though he was aware of it, he still had trouble fighting off the aura she seemed to emanate. She had to admit, she was enjoying the attention of men again. She spoke in a warm and soft 'innocent' voice that went across everyone ears like velvet. "Please, Our companion is hurt and in dire need of an apothecary. If you turn us away, she'll likely die."
The guard swallowed hard, unable to turn his gaze. The thought of resisting her was far from his mind. He signaled the rest to let them pass. As they passed it was like Dalia had let her grip on their hearts and minds. Aeric felt more relaxed, around her. He didn't feel the need to fight his desires anymore. She had entranced him so easily, unlike before. She may not have been much in the fight before but Aeric was worried at just how powerful his demon was. "I don't appreciate you using your abilities like that." He spoke inanely "Would you rather I punched him in the face?" she shot a sly glance to the steel warrior.
He held his tongue. He didn't want to admit that she was simply doing what he would have done if he could have. Aeric's brutish and simple method of solutions was similar to Dalia's elegant and clever ways. Just as they were different they were similar. Aeric knew this, and wished to find a way to truly use Dalia for what she could be, not what she was.
It wasn't hard for them to find who they were looking for. The smell of an apothecary hut could be smelt for miles. Even over the squalor of the impoverished city. The old lady that ran the shop looked more like a witch than a doctor. Aeric paid no heed as he barged in and carefully rested Faline's body on a pile of cushions. "We need medicines NOW!" Aeric commanded the witch "And a good day to you too...." The old lady grumbled as she walked towards the wounded paladin. She inspected her wounds and took out a bit of her blood,placing it into a small glass container. She dropped a few drops of an unknown substance into the platter that made the blood change a variety of colors. This meant little to the paladins, but the witch mumbled and whispered to herself as if she were talking to an assistant. He prattled on to herself as she shambled to shelves with an assortment of odd vials and potions on it. Her slow pace made Aeric grow impatient. His frustrations were nearly swept aside as Dalia rested a hand on his shoulder. He looked towards her, and her calm and concerned face somehow soothed the fire growing in his gut. He felt that she was using another one of her alluring abilities on him, but he was thankful none-the-less. Though he wouldn't tell her.
"Ah-Ha!" The witch cackled as she shambled back to Faline. " This will do the trick, though it'll only stabilize her, it won't cure the poison running through her." "What do you mean?" Aeric barked. Dalia stood closer to him.
"Well I haven't seen a poison like this since I was a little girl, and people didn't try to burn me for this an' that." She rambled on about something Aeric cared little of. " But, it's an ancient Varvistian poison alright. I don't have an antidote for it. Too old, and my customers get injected with the new stuff these days ya see. Bad business to hold the old stuff, cost too much to keep." "Is there anyone that could help?" The old lady seemed impervious to Dalia's soft tone. "Weeeell." There's an old doctor outside of town a bit. He knows a great deal on poisons, more than me. He used to test them on people. Murdered a great deal of em too. Or a least that's what the rumors say, he was never found guilty at trial. Good mob of people been looking for him for some time now, looking to exact revenge and all." "I don't understand, are you telling me the only one that can save her-" Aeric was cut off. "Is a deranged maniac who murdered hundreds of people in the name of medicine? Yup. Though its been years since ol' Alistar did that kinda thing. He used to be so cute back then too..." Aeric tried not to imagine the hag's younger years.
It wasn't an easy decision by any means. Aeric couldn't let his oldest friend die, the alternative; seeking a madman for aid. Life had an interesting way of testing ones integrity. He silence the old woman and purchased a few more vials of the temporary cure with what little coin they had. He tried his best to be diplomatic about finding the location of the doctor, but it was Voren's tact that got the information from her. "Good luck Paladin, and thanks for not threatening to burn me for for you god like the rest!" Her voice grew quieter as they left
The house wasn't that far outside of town, and if the apothecaries rumors were true, it was only a matter of time before an angry mob found the man, and then his only hope would have vanished. He told Voren and the initiates to stay in town to do what they could to help the impoverished people. Really he didn't want to mix Voren's idealism with the mass murderer. He and Dalia would look for the man.
It wasn't hard at all to find the estate the man had hid himself to. It was a good hours ride outside of town up on a hill overlooking the city. A Large manor, with a small field for crops outside it with a few workers tending to the land. A distinct difference from this building was it was in good shape. It wasn't run down like the hovels from the city of Di. Aeric cursed the man in his mind, he lived well while other suffered around him. It would take all his will to not harm the man. He turned to his Acolyte and uttered very desperate words. " Whatever happens, do not let me touch him. Do anything, and I mean Anything to prevent me from harming this man." His gruff voice was quieter than normal. Dalia was sinister plans lined up, but she could feel the worry in Aeric, and understood the reason he felt the way he did.
Aeric carried Faline to the large decorative doors, his acolyte behind him in the manner she accustomed herself with. His fist pounded on the large door, crashing down each time sending loud shock waves though the marbled halls. Many of the workers turned their gaze on the holy warriors.
The doors opened slowly. Revealing the inside of the manor. The walls were keenly crafted, and the hall was impressive, but there was no furnishings. The man opening the door was an elderly man, wearing red velvet suit, and his long white hair was pulled into a pony tail in the back. He was reading a book seemingly careless to the world around him. He peered up at the imposing paladin. The designed etched into Aeric's armor, and the craftsmanship put into it gave away his status to the old man. His heart skipped a beat, as he closed his book. "It seems my past has finally caught up with me." The man sighed with an almost relived look. " well come in, do make it quick." "We are not here for your life, we are here for hers." His thunderous voice echoed through the naked halls.
The old man examined the uncontentious Paladin. He nodded his head, and gestured for them to enter. As they walked in the old man pushed the door closed and started guiding them through the bare halls.
There were no furnishings or decorations anywhere. It seemed as if the building was built then forgotten. The only area with furnishings of any kind was the doctor's study. The room was lit by an elaborate fireplace. The room had tall bookcases filled from top to bottom with old tomes. His desk was finely crafted as well as the chairs and couches in the room. All of the same rich dark woods. Aeric rested Faline on the long couch and knelt beside her. "An old hag from the city told us that she was inflicted with an ancient poison...We were in-" Dalia was interrupted. "Yes yes, I know exactly whats afflicting her, just look at the coloration of the wound." She nodded to pretend to understand. "Can you help her?" Aeric spoke tersely through his teeth. Dalia walked beside him and grabbed his hand. Shaking her head subtly
"Yes I can, but first you need to calm yourself. I may have done bad things long ago, but they were for a purpose. And I've tried to undo those mistakes I made."
The old mans words disarmed Aeric. He had judged the man too quickly. Though he was still cautious, the man spoke of redemption. After he calmed himself, Areic took a look at the extraordinary building he lived in. "For a humble murderer you seem to live in excess." Alistar sighed " Yes, but I spent my entire illbegotten fortune on this house. I spent it on needy Masons and carpenters looking for work. I hired hungry peasants to work my fields for food. I live here, yes, but I made sure others were better off for it." He looked up at Aeric. " So paladin, tell me, do ones sins outweigh ones actions?" Aeric could almost see himself in the man. He told Dalia to leave the room. As the door closed Aeric found a chair to sit in. He removed his helmet to look upon Alistar with fresh eyes, the old man was somewhat confused. "Let us speak, doctor. Monster to Monster." Aeric smiled.
Voren and the others wandered about the streets watching beggars and peasants beg for food or work. The only people of affluence seemed to be the guards who shoved the peasantry around. Because of this, most of the people tried to avoid Voren and the rest because of their appearance. They looked like Nobles who would cut down any dirty peasant to touch their 'royal' vestments. The cried of a man rang out as a guard drew his sword chasing a man. "Stop! Thief!" Voren joined the pursuit.
The guards chased the feeble and cowering man into a corner. He was holding a loaf of bread in his hand, shaking. The guards drew closer with spears pointed demanding he surrender and lay down the loaf. As the man refused the guard captain raised his sword and dropped it violently. It stopped suddenly as it impacted on Voren's sword with a loud 'clang'. He parried the captains attack and place himself between the beggar and the guards. "Get out of the way, This man is a theif!" The Captain yelled "Yeah yeah, I know the cliche. Never-the-less, you will not harm this man. Depart now and no one will be harmed and this man delt with accordingly."
The guards persisted drawing closer. Voren issued his ultimatum, and then they attacked. The young Paladin had no trouble parrying and blocking their attacks, he was keen to not return any blows. He was trying to wear the guards out. The fight was drawing a crowd. They all watched as the Valiant paladin fought for one of their own. The guards were soon dangerously outnumbered to a growing courageous mob. They weren't getting anywhere with the paladin. The Captain ordered his men to stand down and try to leave with some semblance of authority before the peasants overran them. Voren triumphantly sheathed his sword. and let out a comforted sigh as the men stormed off. But the lusty crowd wasn't done with the guards. As they left a peasant hurled a large rock at a guard, striking him in the head and bringing the man to the ground. The captain Immediately drew his weapons and ordered them to attack.
Voren drew his sword as quickly as he could, Jenis and Hale not far behind. He tried to close the gap before the guard started wholesale slaughter. He wouldn't make it as soon the aggressor was impaled on a spear. Instead of turning with fear the mob grew angry and started to charge the guards. Voren was lost in the confusion vainly trying to quell the revolt.
The paladins were fending off as many attacks as they could but the brawl became a skirmish, and before he could do anything to stop more guards showed to the fight, as well as more peasants, only lightly armored and better armed. Voren parried an attack that would have killed a peasant. The guard captain turned his sights from the rabble to the Paladin who caused the commotion. "You idealistic brat! All this blood is your fault!" He stabbed at Voren. His words impacted Voren deeply, to the point where he was distracted long enough for the captains blow to glance off his armor. The Paladin tried desperately to fend off the enraged Captains attacks, but every time a guard was slain, he seemed to fight harder. Voren had no choice but to fight back. He started throwing attacks that the captain blocked with his shield. The captain's shield bashed into Voren knocking him off his footing long enough for his sword to drop violently on his pauldron, denting it, and sending him to the ground. Their fight seemed isolated from the bloodbath around them. Even Hale and Jenis seemed to be fighting off in the crowd, hurling insults and pottery at people. "Stop this madness at once!" Vorens face was full of fear. fear at what he had caused. "No one is listening boy! You cannot undo this!" His voice full of unquenchable rage The captain jabbed his sword at Voren's neck. The Paladin rolled away in time, and swung angrily at the captain trying to disarm him. At the same time, a woman with a chunk of wood, bashed the captains kneecap, dropping him to his knees. Instead of disarming him, Vorens sword passed though the captains neck. The first man he had ever killed.
Before the captain died, he gargled his own blood and looked at Voren almost with a smug look of satisfaction. Voren was in shock. He was taken over by terror at what he had done. What started as an innocent atempt to save a hungry man, ended up with several people's death. One by his virgin hands. "No! No no no no, Everyone stop this madness!" He cried desperately looking at the blood on his sword.
The peasants fought back the best they could, with many of them being killed by the cities guards, but their losses weren't without kills of their own. What the guards had in weaponry and armor the peasants had in determination and grit. It was a fight to the death. Voren charge in between the peasants and guards, fending off man attacks. The people saw this and fought harder. The Paladin swung his blade at another soldier. He successfully disarmed the man, but several peasants plunged swords and other weapons into the man. He gave up, he couldn't save anyone now. All he could do was survive.
The battle raged for a long time, more and more peasants ran to the aid of their brethren, and the guard sent in more men as the city bells started to ring. The district was a wretched battlefield, the ground coated in mud and blood. Voren did his best to maintain himself, but he couldn't hold himself any longer. The view of so many dead bodies was a new sight to him, his senses were overwhelmed. Every time he tried to 'admire' the carnage he caused someone would attack him, and ever time he tried to be non-lethal, the mob with kill his target for him. They started cheering the dizzied paladin on. He engaged a couple spear wielding guards. The first thrust at him, he parried and pulled the man with his spear. Voren Dropped his sword on the back of his neck, killing him instantly. The blood spray marred his white armor.
The second man charged to avenge his friend, crying out his name as Voren fought back. The guard's spear was grabbed by a rebel, and he was exposed. He didn't know what welled up inside him, but Voren Stabbed the defenseless man in his bloodlust.
The mob cheer on their champion. As Voren turned to face more opponents in the melee he felt cold steel hitting his face. The Paladin took the brunt of a mace swing to the side of the face. He fell to the ground, and soon his vision went dark as the battle raged on without him.
Aeric's candidness took the old Alistar aback. He was perplexed, 'how could a paladin be a monster?' he thought to himself. Instead of dwelling on it, he simply nodded. Rather then prattle on about his own sins, he simply asked Aeric to talk first, as Alistar's story was already known. "Why am I a Monster? I succame to my rage. And I refused to listen to reason, and because of it, many innocent people died." "Anyone cam make mistakes, it that we learn from them that gives them any meaning." Alistar was fumbling with vials and chemicals as he was talking. "I had known her since we were kids, we were in the Imperial army together, campaigned together. We were separated and lost together." Aeric started speaking more for himself than Alistar's sake. " We were found by a Paladin and her companion" He gestured to Faline. "She took us in, we were initiated into the order. Me and my friend became Paladins together. We set off to try and save the world like every idealistic asshole with a pocket full of dreams."
Dalia was carefully eavesdropping from outside the heavy door. " One day we went to go investigate a monastery, were people had gone missing." He sighed painfully. Alistar gave him his undivided attention. "The entire village was under a curse, or something, they had become mad and were making a poison to make others like them, and distribute it via pottery, grain and alcohol shipments. We were captured, and she was murdered before my eyes." Aeric paused. "I did my job, I told myself. Without any further investigation, I began wholesale slaughter. I waited on the outskirts of the town and waited for the caravan to leave. I killed everyone, women, children. I rationalized to myself that they were cursed and I couldn't help them any other way. I was just stricken with rage, unrequited rage." Aeric looked away from Faline, worried that the unconscious paladin could somehow hear. "One could say that you made a tough choice and did your job." Alistar tried to console him "Yeah, but what I never told anyone, not even the counsel that rendered my judgment. I went back to the village, and set it ablaze."
Dalia leaned up against the door with her hands clasped around her mouth in shock. No one told her why Aeric was being punished, or what he had done. Now she knew the horrible truth. Aeric was just as much a demon as she was. So much made sense to her now.
She pushed herself from the door, starting to pace back and forth in confusion. She had heard stories about only the worst paladins being assigned demons as acolytes. No paladin had succeeded in this task, eventually the demon would win out and the paladin would be slain by his companion. She feared that's what her fate was, to kill Aeric. She even went so far into her musings as to believe that Areic's will to survive drove him away from her advances so many times. The man she idolized as the perfect paladin was shattered. The shock came to her so suddenly that she had lost concentration and her illusion faded away revealing her true nature. She didn't realize that her Amber eyes, horns and wings were visible as she leaned in to hear more.
"Well...I do say, we aren't too dissimilar. But I tried to maintain a logical and rational head for what I did. Personally I think that makes me worse, that I encouraged myself to kill at the bequest of reason." Alistar started speaking to break his amazement. "Now tell me your sins, doctor." He hid his true feelings behind a forced smile "As you could see, the city of Di isn't a good place to live. It once was a thriving and independent city of incredible wealth, before the Kingdom of Varvistahd captured the city and deposed the two kings. They bled the city dry, and left us to fend for ourselves. I was an aspiring chemist. I knew a great deal about potions cures and poisons, but I wanted to know more. More about their applications, their dangers." He continued to work, applying some chemicals to Falines wounds, causing them to bubble harmlessly.
"I also was a patriot of the old kings, that my father taught me about before the old guard cut him to pieces. I devised a plan, I would make a poison so strong that only I could cure it. I would sell the cure to the rich guards and nobles of the upper city. But no ordinary poison would do. See a poison can work fast, or be cripplingly slow, but you'll always know its a poison." He spoke matter-of-factly. " The trick is to make it look like a plague, and make it look like the nobles were in danger. Me and many collaborators agreed that for the restoration of Di we had to destroy the current. We had captured many legitimate criminals, rapists murders, and the like, and we began testing our evil on them. Thankfully the city was well into squalor by then and no one noticed them disappear, not to mention we had an abundant supply." The elation in his voiced beguiled his true feelings. " Hundreds of subjects, hundreds of results. We perfected the poison, and the antidote, we made it spread through the air. We carefully set them about the city's upper and lower districts, then conveniently went on vacation, were we made mass quantities of the antidote." Areic tried to pay attention but medicines and science never were his forte. He gave the attention needed to listen however. "Once the city was stricken with a 'foul plague' we came as doctors and physicians curing those of the lowercity. By this time hundreds had died, but our antidotes works, and we charged a good price for them. Happy to take anyone's money. we then set our sights on the rich nobles and charged at least five times the amount. Many refused, and many died."
Alistar could see the lost look in Aeric's eyes " So long story short, we 'cured' the plague, and became rich as barons off of it. We were going to pool the money and oust the rulers with the people in support. But one of our own threatened to tell our crimes if we didn't give him the money. We dispatched him with, you guessed it, a clever poison, and our group descended into paranoia from there. well I managed to live, but not before someone let out allegations of my crimes." He lit a candle under a large glass bottle and filled it with multiple liquids. "well no one could testify against me so I walked. I went into exile as people learned more, now here I am, living in pure regret. as I pitifully attempt to atone." "If there is hope your you, then there is hope for me." "I hope" Alistair chuckled
Voren woke several hours later, the city was in celebration. The city was light with many decorative lamps and streamers. Voren was in what passed for a luxurious bed with a bandage around his head, and two beautiful women at his side tending to him. He jumped up quickly but the pain forced him back down. "Argh... What happened?" His hand rubbed the swollen side of his head. "You lead our oppressed people to victory M'lord." The beautiful brunette spoke. " You stood up for us, and fought for us even though you had no reason to, and you gladly laid down your life for us." She started to climb onto the bed with Voren, who immediately noticed he didn't have any of his armor. "But I'm no hero, I just." She placed a finger on his lips "Shh, M'lord. You will need your strength, me and my sister want to personally reward you for your valor." Voren looked at the two women climbing into his bed, and was washed with many conflicting emotions. He passed out again.
Jenis and Hale were enjoying their fame as well, getting drunker and drunker as the night went on. Jenis was a lightweight and had never been drunk before. The tall lanky man was dancing with the band spinning in circles till he fell over knocking a maypole with him. Hale laughed with everyone else. For now the revolution was a success and the people of Di were free.
It was growing late, and the Doctor was growing tired, as was Aeric. Alistar did what he could to make the antidote for Faline, but told Aeric that not much more could be done for that night. He would have one of his servants carry her to his infirmary where he would continue his treatment in the morning. Aeric donned his Helmet and was escorted by Alistar to the door where Dalia was still eavesdropping on the other side. The door opened and her demonic visage was standing in her old white armor that Alistar had seen someone in before. "Demon!" He grabbed a candle stick and brandished it threateningly. Aeric had almost forgotten about her disguise. He had grown so used to her horned appearance. "When I said to leave, I mean not stand at the door like a puppy waiting for her master to return." "..Yes sir, will make a note of it." Alistar was calmed down seeing the paladin not immediately attack the demon. Aeric waited as someone came to retrieve Faline. He helped carry her to the infirmary. The only other area of the large estate that had furnishings. Aeric didn't want to leave her side, but was pried away by Dalia.
They were escorted through the lavishly constructed halls to their room. The room was the same as the rest, the only difference was there was a large mattress on the ground with nothing on it. Aeric was used to simple arrangements, Dalia was learning to enjoy the minimalist lifestyle, making the most of any situation. "Looks like we might have to huddle together for warmth." She joked as she quickly shed her armor, dropping it haphazardly on the hardwood floor. Aeric also was relieving himself of his metal cocoon, letting the cool air wash over him. It was a refreshing reprieve from many days of hard conditions and riding. He hadn't gone as far to shed all his vestments like his companion who was patting the mattress inviting him to lay down. He obliged her, the notion of sleeping between soft objects was too good to refuse compared to the last three days of rocks and dirt. Dalia immediately rested herself upon him, drawing shapes into his shirt with the tip of her finger, whipping her tail side to side. She had persistence, Aeric had to give her credit. He already succumbed to her willy nature before. His thoughts where a torrent. He pondered if he could use her to clear his mind and relax. Dalia laid her chin on his chest with her tail still whipping. "Do I really have to ask this time?" She purred. "I'm thinking." He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her, and fell asleep.