Drowning in Snow -- Part 1
The pair watched the planes zoom by. Six spheres in brass frames, each glowing with the magic of its element, orbited a rotating model of Telara.
"Look, Galdash," said the handsome young Kelari as the blue sphere approached. "Here comes Water!"
His taller Bahmi companion gasped, and then she laughed as it spun past them, contrails of magic swirling in its wake. "Such a wonder! Is this really how the planes rotate around Telara?"
"They don't rotate," said another Bahmi woman standing nearby. "The planes are dimensions, overlapping the physical universe and one another in time-space. Sylver's orrery just illustrates planar interaction and predicts cystic transplanar eruptions."
She turned to look at the two younger Defiant: the Kelari in the unadorned robes of a first-year planar scholar, the Bahmi Paragon with a sleek braid draped over the crossed swords on her back. The elf looked like he understood half of what she'd said, but his bodyguard looked unabashedly bewildered.
Uriel sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose, pulling her hand away when she felt the eyepatch. "The planes are whole worlds, not little planets. This is just a mechanical version of the diagram every arcane student must draw."
"Wait," said the Kelari. "That eyepatch... Uriel Chuluun? Dion Sevaritus. I read your treatise on the lesser effects of Death-taint. I would love to hear how your field work went; there was never a report."
Uriel stood staring at his slender hand. Another sphere rushed past, blowing at the tufts of pigtail sticking out from her high-browed head, and her good eye was inscrutable. "Excuse me, I have a summons," was all she said, and left him standing there awkwardly, her footfalls drowned out by the gliding metallic planes.
Imagine a long black snake slithering through the grass, venom in its fangs and murder on its mind. Starting at the tail, someone slices bits from the serpent, but oblivious, it presses forward until only its head is left. Such was the fate of the invading force that had but recently burst from a Death Rift and now wound its way through the mire of Stillmoor.
At first, it had come as a swarm of lorn, hunched former humans with skin the color of the cold moon and eyes like the night it hangs in. But something, someone, worked its way through the invasion, cutting undead down with cold efficiency. One by one, the Deathtouched returned to their proper state, and their assassin was only ever seen in flashes of a flawless kill, teleporting to the next victim before the first's knees touched dirt.
Finally, only the leader hobbled with purpose toward the lights of a village. Intent on wreaking ruin, she did not realize her followers were gone until she heard no footfalls but her own. She looked back and beheld them slain in a long trail, then wailed as their slayer appeared from thin air behind her, twin daggers working like a mantis's serrated limbs.
The fat lorn matriarch flailed her deceptively strong limbs, sending her attacker flying. Spitting a curse through rotten teeth, she flung a spell which illuminated the tossed Kelari: long, smooth limbs, teal hair and matching eyes. Her fine-boned face was passive as an icy lake, but her eyes held a seething, vicious hatred that made the hag relieved her spell would vaporize the attacker. But the Kelari vanished, the bolt struck a tree, and a moment later, the hag felt a sharp kick to the back of her head.
As she tumbled forward, the hag saw the Kelari corkscrewing gracefully through the air, drawing her two daggers. And then her world was red flashes and the shunk-k'shunk of ceaseless stabbing.
Kira was still furiously stabbing what remained of the lorn when the clear jewel on the underside of her bracer began to glow. Hands still, she raised it to her ear, and it whispered, "Meridian, Meridian." The summons of the Unseen. Kira stood, hands spread and glowing with white light as she visualized the capital's portal. She would wash off the blood back home.
Uriel stepped into the chamber, and stopped awkwardly when she noticed that the Faceless Man was deep in hushed whispers with her father, Rahn Chuluun, while Kira haunted a darkened corner. Both men towered where they stood. The Bahmi chieftain's loose-fitting robes showed but hints of his still mighty frame, and the Faceless Man's voice came from beneath his featureless mask like the murmurs of some forbidden god trapped deep underground. Uriel inched away from the door, unwilling to make eye contact with anyone in the room, including Kira, who looked away with purpose in reply.
Finally, Rahn nodded once, curtly, and strode to the door. There he stopped, hand swallowing handle, and looked over his shoulder at Uriel. He opened his mouth once, then walked out, closing the door with the deliberate care of someone trying not to slam it (and thus crack it in half). Kira wondered how many of Uriel's interactions of late consisted of concerned backward glances.
"Defiant," said the Faceless Man, turning to regard them. The gleaming mask had no eyes, no features of any sort, but a pair of horns that jutted out past his broad shoulders. No one could say for sure whether the horns belonged to the mask or the man. "Thank you for waiting. I have a mission requiring two agents who trust each other, and who have my trust."