Koda’s Breath’s nose wrinkled with the stench. It made him nauseous, the smell of boiling flesh. Slick tar covered every surface of the Special collections and the air shimmered with the heat emanating from the hot liquid. Ulfridda wore a white cloth across her nose and mouth while Alepe had dug out an old aquabreather from somewhere in the Priory and retrofitted it to filter air. Korr had stuffed hay up his nose and it stuck out in tufts.
Ulfridda crouched behind the barricade that the Scholars had made between the Special Collections and the Statue of Abaddon at the entrance to the basement. She spoke in a hushed tone, as the wandering tar elemental seemed to hunt by sound.
“Koda’s Breath and Korr, you two be the front line. This elemental creates a miasma which poisons a large area around it, siphoning health into itself. Korr, I want you to try and block that magical energy, while also keeping its attention.”
“What about Ounce?” Korr asked.
“She isn’t trained, Korr.” Koda’s Breath touched the giant’s shoulder. “We just don’t want her to get hurt.”
“Where is she?” Serene Wrath looked around.
The party searched the near vicinity, before hearing a piercing caterwaul come from behind the barricade. Ounce had climbed over and was stuck in a pool of hot tar.
“OUNCE!” Korr bellowed, jumping over the barricade and rushing to her aid.
“Blast!” Ulfridda swore, using Air to lift herself over the barricade. Koda’s Breath and Serene Wrath followed, with Alepe keeping up at the rear.
The tar elemental spotted Korr and headed straight towards him.
“PROTECT SERENE WRATH AND I” Ulfridda bellowed at Koda’s Breath.
“TAKE THE LEFT FLANK!” She motioned at Serene Wrath and his golem began running to the elemental’s left.
Koda’s Breath reached Korr seconds before the Tar elemental, and threw down a Sanctuary. Blue light pulsed in a dome around them, blocking the elemental from penetrating. He knew it would buy them only a few precious seconds. The elemental was vaguely humanoid, but the slick tar seemed to well from its head and pour over its body, giving it an ever-forming appearance. It beat against the walls with its fists, leaving tar splatters floating in the air.
Ulfridda called upon water, forming shatterstones around the Sanctuary’s wall. The freezing cold hurt the Tar elemental, and it whipped around to face her. It threw a ball of tar at her, before being blocked by Serene Wrath, who exploded into crystal butterflies. Koda’s Breath looked around, seeing Serene Wrath creating clones at an alarming rate, sending each to block an attack or confuse the creature.
The sanctuary wall fell, and the elemental turned again to attack Korr. The air around it turned green, and Koda’s Breath felt the life being sucked out of him. Korr had finally extricated Ounce from the tar and turned to face the elemental.
“Not my friends.” He whispered. He brought his big hands up and clapped them together. The green mist evaporated, and life returned to the party. He put Ounce into a pocket in his tunic and looked at Koda’s Breath.
“I’ll distract it. Protect Ulfridda” Korr ran at the creature, punching and kicking at it all he could. The tar could not touch his body, being infused with magic.
Ulfridda attuned to fire and blasted the creature. “Alepe, throw your elixirs, then fire at the creature as much as you can!”
Alepe sprung into action, unbuttoning flasks from his toolbelt and throwing them at Ulfridda and Koda’s Breath. After he threw them all, he whipped a pair of long pistols from his belt and fired at the creature continuously. The elemental threw tar in all directions, and Koda’s Breath summoned a Shield of the Avenger, which absorbed the projectiles. Serene Wrath created clones and shattered them, inflicting conditions on the elemental. Korr managed to get his arms around its neck, and without warning, it melted into hundreds of small slug-like creatures, which swarmed outwards to the edges of the room.
“Blast!” Ulfridda swore. They were herded into the centre of the room, trying to avoid the boiling tar slugs.
“Serene Wrath, now would be a good time!” Ulfridda called to him as she threw fire in all directions, hitting the slugs as often as she missed them. Serene Wrath concentrated, and clones popped into existence.
Suddenly there were twenty Serene Wraths in the room, and they fanned out. When they found a slug behind some machinery or a crate, they threw them into the air and Ulfridda blasted the slugs with fire. Koda’s Breath swung at the nearer slugs with his hammer, freezing them into lifeless chunks on contact with Icebreaker.
“It’s reforming over here!” Alepe yelled, and the party turned around to see the remaining slugs slithering to a central location.
“Be ready! When it’s done, hit it with everything you have!”
Alepe fingered the last phial in his toolbelt. It was purple, and labelled with a large X on it. He popped the cork, and downed the whole bottle. Energy surged through his veins, and his skin turned dark red. As the elemental reformed, he leapt into the air and knocked the creature down. The blast knocked Korr off his feet, and Koda’s Breath slid along the slick tar to the edge of the room. Alepe went toe-to-toe with it, delivering punishing kicks and lighting fast punches.
Ulfridda yelled from her position near the centre of the room. “Stupid! He is using Elixir X, it will only last 20 seconds! When he loses strength, Get him out of there!”
Serene Wrath helped Koda’s Breath stand, and Korr stumbled where he had been knocked down. Alepe’s skin returned to its normal colour, and the elemental pulled back to deliver a powerful killing blow.
Ulfridda swore and rushed forward, knocking Alepe and Korr to the edge of the room with a gust of wind. She attuned to Earth and covered her body with a rock barrier, taking the brunt of the damage from the elemental’s strike. She lay on the floor, dazed, for a few seconds. The elemental reared back for another strike, and Koda’s Breath rushed forward to help her. Its arm changed into a spike, and slammed down towards Ulfridda. Koda’s Breath barely made it in between them, releasing his virtues, and the spike went straight through his chest.
Blood splattered onto Ulfridda behind him. Serene Wrath summoned a multitude of clones to blind the elemental as he rushed to help Koda’s Breath. Ulfridda attuned to flame, cauterising his wound.
“Ko, Are you alright?” Serene Wrath was sweating with fear.
“I…I…” Koda’s Breath tried to reply, but blood bubbled from his mouth.
“Don’t speak.” Ulfridda attuned to water, washing his body with healing energy. He fell unconscious. “Don’t die on me now, kodan!”
“Can you save him?” Serene Wrath looked at Ulfridda.
“I do not know, but not here. Kill that thing, it’s nearly gone, while I get him out of here.”
Serene Wrath turned to face the creature. Alepe stood stunned on top of a pile of boxes, safely away. Korr was grappling with the creature.
“Alepe!” Serene Wrath called up to him.
“What?” He was roused to action.
“How many clones can I make on this thing?” He called up.
“Well, that depends!”
“Depends on what?” Serene Wrath summoned more clones.
“On how many your mind can take!” Alepe jumped down, and threw an elixir onto Korr.
Serene Wrath expanded his mind. He connected deeply with the tar elemental. He felt the malignant energy, its purpose, it believed, was death. To reform the land in its image. He felt the hunger for expansion exist within the mind of the elemental, grabbed it, and anchored it to his ability to generate clones.
The room filled with kodan. As soon as they were created, he shattered them, the sound of broken glass filling the room to deafening levels. He felt himself slip away.
Is it His? The voice asked within his mind.
It is not. We are safe from Him here. He answered the voice, but it ignored him.
You cannot defeat Him. Only darkness can destroy darkness. I am in control.
No! Serene Wrath called out into the void, but his mind was replaced. Darkness filled his consciousness.
Ulfridda had managed to safely bring Koda’s Breath to the Priory Scholars who began treating him behind the barricade. She returned to find the tar elemental slain on the floor, its body melting into a pool of boiling sludge. She looked to Korr and Alepe to cheer, but the look of fear on their faces made her pause.
Serene Wrath was standing over the body. His robes flew about in a breeze behind him, long strands of tattered cloth. His eyes were red and glowing, and his teeth were bared. He had used his teeth and claws to slay the beast.
“Serene Wrath?” Ulfridda asked tentatively. He looked at her, no sign of recognition on his face.
“Are you His?” He asked.
“We are not Jormag’s” Ulfridda answered him. “You are among friends, Serene Wrath.”
The kodan seemed unmoved. “You are not kodan. You are Icebrood!” He raised his palm, and created a phantasmal elementalist. It looked exactly like Ulfridda, except for the purple haze surrounding its body. Ulfridda stepped left, and it stepped right. She raised her arm, and it raised its arm.
“Who are you?” Korr asked.
“I am Darkness” The mad image of Serene Wrath answered. “And you are death.” He pointed at Ulfridda, and her clone attacked her.