Author's notes for this baby:

- ripped a line off of Pirates of the Caribbean (love that movie!)
- I am SO sorry this chapter took as long as it did to come out…

EPISODE 23

It had been two days since the crew had left the confines of the dwarven city. After the incident at the palace, Korgan had promised up and down that he would deal with 'Rose' and her lackeys when they arrived, and they had made a quick pit stop at the markets on their way out of town. They'd refreshed their consumables, and purchased new clothes for Mezzen, whose single set of robes had been mended so many times they were starting to fall apart anyway, as well as a new spell book (complete with new spells) for Zoe, and a new coloring book for Mezzen, in the hopes of keeping him out of other, more important books.

For the next day, their travels outside the city were highlighted by two notable things: bad jokes about Korgan's taste in men and a strange, lingering odor reminiscent of the Venorik'Z'ress basement…

------------------------

On the second day, the crew happened upon the source of the smell. Strewn across a low outcropping of stone that served as a bridge and scattered over the cavern floor was a mass of dead bodies. The small-sized, relatively fresh corpses had been stripped of armor and most weaponry; across the makeshift bridge a good dozen of the unfortunate deceased were piled in a haphazard heap at the mouth of what appeared to be a ill-used mine shaft.

As soon as Zojikoe rounded the corner and caught sight of the grisly scene, he immediately put a hand to his mouth and turned back around, going out of sight to purge his stomach. The rest of the group stopped in their tracks and stared. Ka snorted.

"Nice." She snapped dully. Beside her, Dil'andau shook his head.

"Fucking gnomes, fuck." He grumbled bitterly. The dead were indeed gnomish; deep gnomes, actually. Dil, along with the rest of the Drow, held no love for the diminutive race; their greed made them careless, and often in their search for wealth they would find themselves encroaching on territory that was not theirs.

Personally, Dil'andau qualified them as beady-eyed vermin.

He laughed.

"See that, champ?!" He cried loud enough for the out-of-sight Zojikoe to hear over his vomiting. "I told you it was a waste of time to stick the kid in a closet back at Korgan's place!" He looked over at Mezzen, who was wide-eyed and literally trembling with horror. "Kid's now looking at five times the death he would've seen had he watched us tear into the King and his lot!" Zojikoe ignored him and he guffawed some more, then bent to roughly clap Mezzen's back. The boy stumbled forward and teetered closer to a gnomish corpse, but before he could suck in his breath to scream, Rose's hand shot out and pulled the boy back towards her.

She glared up at Dil'andau and the male gave her a challenging look, expecting to be berated. Instead, the priestess bent to speak softly to Mezzen. Confused and admittedly a little triumphant, Dil'andau smirked.

Maybe that diaphanous clothing had done the impossible and kicked Rose down a notch.

"That's right…" He mumbled under his breath and turned to Ka, hoping to get some prime gloating in while he still could. The psion, however, had gone ahead and was picking her way through the corpses, periodically bending to briskly look through the gnomes' clothes. After rolling one guy over with her foot, she plucked from beneath him a bloodied piece of parchment; she gave it a quick read then turned to the group's general direction.

"Hey Zoe!" She cried loud enough for the whole Underdark to hear. "Found a 'burning hands' scroll. That too high level for you?" There came no answer. Across the way, Rose's head snapped up and her eyes narrowed, her displeasure at the volume of the exclamation visible by how thin her lips were. Ka pursed her own lips into a small 'o' and idly dropped the scroll, then scooted away from the corpse. "Sorry." She peeped.

From behind Rose, Mezzen, Slayer and Dil came a loud shuffle, a whimper, and the clank of metal. Simultaneously, they all turned to see an armed newcomer step in from around the bend; in a firm headlock, the hideously scarred drowess held Zojikoe. The mage was trying in vain to squirm from her grasp, her arm muffling a multitude of swear words. At the sight of her sister, Rose gritted her teeth and closed her eyes.

"Dammit…Lloth!" She moaned, drawing a strange look from Dil'andau. Why wasn't Kirisstind dead?! Had Korgan screwed her and her companions over? An undeniable red-hot rage welled up within her at the thought of the bearded dwarf; growling, she shoved Mezzen behind her and stepped forward, finger pointing accusingly at Kirisstind. "Drop him." She hissed and her sister flashed her a toothy grin.

"Nice to see you again too, blood of mine." Kirisstind replied coldly, eyeing the remainder of the people in the group. She made no move to release Zojikoe. Rose felt a sudden jolt of panic, but suppressed it just as quickly as it came.

"You're late." She managed, stalling. To her left, Dil'andau had his weapon drawn; she couldn't see Ka as the psion was well behind her, but still she hoped that the drowess was readying some kind of trick that would aid them. Slayer's fur stood on end and Mezzen's small hands pulled on the back of her robes. Kirisstind cackled.

"I was delayed by a poorly-organized welcome committee." She spat sourly, recalling the bloody wake-up call she'd gotten that very morning. She had narrowly escaped death at the hands of a pack of rabid dwarves who found entertainment in sticking axes in peoples' skulls while they slept. Needless to say she'd used up quite a few of her stronger spells in an effort to…dissuade the dwarves. She came out of it alive, alone and enraged. Rose sneered.

"I know what you're here for, sister," She spat the word, "but it's a foolish undertaking. We are four and you are one." She motioned with her chin for Kirisstind to back off. "Drop the male, drop your weapons." She ordered. Beside her, Dil giggled. She had a pretty good idea why and ignored it. Kirisstind widened her eyes and pouted, adopting a grotesque expression of feigned innocence.

"What weapons?" She cooed and snapped a slender knife from under her sleeve. She brought the blade to Zojikoe's throat and tightened her grip on him, causing him to cry out and gasp for air. Rose felt a bead of sweat trickle down the back of her neck.

"Drop him!" She roared and darted forward, Mezzen screeching along with her, then stopped abruptly as her sister dug the blade into Zoe's flesh. Kirisstind licked her lips.

"I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request." The vile female replied, a droplet of Zojikoe's blood sliding over the sheer blade of her knife. She tore her gaze from Rose's and took a moment to peer down at Mezzen. "Means 'no'." She added and winked at the impotently furious little boy before turning a scowl up at the crew. "Make one move against me and I cut his head off."

She meant it, too. Irritated by the deadlock, Dil'andau scowled at his newest sibling.

"Why aren't you back home, ripping peoples' hearts out and sucking up to my mother?" He growled. She raised an eyebrow at him. "Rose is with me – us – and you have no business here. The Matron's gonna be pissed when she realizes you've run off to kill what could eventually become another Streeka'Xukuth priestess!" Kirisstind was not impressed; in her arms, Zojikoe whimpered powerlessly at Dil's aggressive tone.

"The Matron?" Kirisstind echoed almost softly, narrowing her already-narrow eyes at the male. "The Matron?!" She sneered. "You fool! It was the Matron who gave me the 'ok' to go after Rose!" Dil blinked. "The Matron doesn't give a damn what happens to her, so I can do what I please!" She grinned her rictus grin again before going on in a more sly tone. "And guess what, sunshine? The Matron doesn't give a damn about you either!" Dil's brow furrowed.

"What?" He snapped, confused. "But she sent me here, after the Kyrashar Rose!" He countered and meant to add more, but Ka's deadpan voice sounded in his mind and stopped him before he could.

Ha! Exactly. Sucker! There was a pause, and then: That hurt... Kirisstind nodded at Dil's stunned look, assuming he finally understood his plight.

"Your have the IQ of a garden tool, male." She droned. "Your precious Matron sent you out on this wild goose chase so that you could die. Die and never return to the city, to infect your House with your idiocy." She looked pleased with herself. Beneath her knife, Zojikoe peered over at Dil'andau; the warrior looked lost in thought, his weapon was lowered and his shoulders slumped. The mage felt a pang of sympathy, then pushed it out of his mind and thanked the Gods no one had witnessed it.

"You're mean!" Mezzen chirped from behind Rose's robes. Kirisstind looked away from Dil, but before she could address the boy Rose stepped in.

"Enough of this!" She cried, startling the crew out of their momentary silence. She pulled from her belt the dagger that Zojikoe had fashioned for her and the offensive action put Kirisstind into motion instantly. Zojikoe screamed as the scarred female growled and drew back her arm, ready to do away with him.

He couldn't believe Rose had done that. Couldn't believe she hadn't thought twice.

Perhaps she had re-assessed her priorities and really didn't like him anymore.

"Rose, wait!" He shrieked and screwed his eyes shut, bracing for the kill…

But the blade never came.

An unseen force flung the knife from Kirisstind's cocked hand just as she pulled it back and sent the small weapon flying off to the side.

"Why didn't you do that earlier?!" Dil'andau roared at Ka and started for Kirisstind. Cornered, the priestess dropped Zojikoe and scrambled back, then performed a few hand gestures and disappeared just as the warrior came within range. Dil'andau whipped back around, swinging his halberd in a wide arc that nearly decapitated the kneeling Zojikoe. "Bitch!" He swore, looking around frantically. On the floor, Zojikoe rubbed his bloody neck with a shaky hand.

"Now I know you're not gonna understand this," He warned, speaking to Dil, as all went quiet again, "but she's gonna cast spells!" His eyes, darting about madly, fell upon Rose. Once regal, the dagger-wielding priestess now looked disheveled and tired; her gaze, only mildly alert now that Kirisstind had disappeared, reflected a look of resignation.

It was a look he'd seen only on his sister, and he was horrified to see it on Rose.

Steeling himself suddenly, Zoe got to his feet and straightened himself up beside Dil'andau.

Rose would not turn into Ka.

Ever.

Shoving Dil'andau aside, he began to chant, his hands moving swiftly and precisely as they traced arcane symbols in the air before him. Across the way, Ka's eyes snapped shut and back open again. She pointed to the mine shaft.

"She's there!" She called as Zoe's spell went off and Dil'andau came tearing through the room. Zojikoe's spell stripped Kirisstind's invisibility shield, revealing her in mid-cast. Hoping to disrupt the vile priestess' concentration, Ka reached out for Kirisstind's mind with her own…and found a block of distinctive illithid origin.

What the hell is this?! She demanded of Rain. The illithid paused.

There's a member of my community in her House. Blame him. Ka sighed dismally and, before her, Kirisstind completed her incantation.

This is gonna suck, isn't it? She asked of her brain-mate.

I think so, yes. Came the drab reply.

And it did.

A soon as Kirisstind released the energy held in her spell, the gnomish corpses that littered the floor began to stir. Dil'andau halted a few feet behind Ka and stared as one of the creatures to his immediate right pulled itself to its feet and took a shambling step towards him. Idly, he raised his halberd and poked it in the chest; the whole top half of it slid off at the waist and fell to the ground with a thump – the bottom half tipped over seconds later. He chuckled and flashed Kirisstind a charming smile.

"This is the best you can do?" He asked, hoping with all his heart that the answer was 'yes'. Ka exhaled loudly. Kirisstind returned his smile and made a sharp pushing motion with her hands; as a group, all the corpses in the room rose to their feet.

The suckening, Rain chimed in Ka's mind. I like to call this 'the suckening'. Have fun!

"Rose!" Ka cried, stepping back from Kirisstind as the gnomish zombies began to close in around her. "Do something!" She clumsily patted about her person in search of a weapon and found none handy. Beside her, Dil'andau whipped by blade first and dove at Kirisstind. Cackling now, priestess held out her hand and froze the warrior firmly in place.

"Not so fast, handsome." She hissed and clutched at a spider bauble hanging from her belt. "I'm not done with you. Lloth is not done with you." She reached out with a bony hand and clamped Dil's shoulder, releasing a spell that she'd memorized and quick-stored especially for him. The sounds of battle rose up from around them as the zombies began their assault. Dil could hear all of it but could do nothing; frozen, he watched Kirisstind stride by him.

And then the pain exploded.

Across the room, Mezzen had darted into a corner and was cowering there; defending him was Slayer, who kept the oncoming zombies at bay as best he could. Rose stood nearby, fending off a duo of zombies with the help of her dagger.

"Mezzen!" She called to the boy, shaking from her robes the clawing little scabbed hand of an undead gnome. "Get out of here as soon as you get an opening!" The second zombie had a short sword and she found herself having to dance out of its way more than she would have liked. "Run! Run outside and back into the caves!" She looked to the boy when she could spare a glance and wondered if he had even heard her; he was curled into a ball, well hidden behind Slayer's muscular ebon form. Worried, she prepared to raise her voice and repeat the warning, but a scream followed by the sound of more spell casting caught her attention.

The scream had come from Ka and she'd unleashed it after one of the surrounding gnomes had planted his pick-hammer into the back of her leg. Panicked, she gathered what little concentration she could and launched herself into the air, levitating a few feet over the mass of zombies.

Holy shit holy shit holy shit! Rain! What do I do?! The desperate call reached the illithid in little time.

At what point, exactly, did I become your advisor? Rain quipped. Ka, only half paying attention to the 'conversation', frowned. Below, the zombies more-or-less scattered and wandered away when their target moved out of reach. Kirisstind was slowly and confidently heading for Rose.

You want my knowledge?! Then keep me alive! And keep the others alive too so they can keep me alive! She snapped. Rain made a gurgling sound and Ka felt a pressing at the front of her head.

Use the circlet, you idiot girl! The illithid scolded. Ka blinked and reached up to touch the cool metal of the circlet of Venilkesk – the psionic answer to an undead threat. She grinned.

Rain! She called, hopeful once more. You rock!

I'm not doing this for you, just so you know, Rain grumbled bitterly. I'm doing it for Mezzen; that little creature's master would kill me if I was in some way responsible for his death. Ka dismissed the ramifications of the comment and, heartened, returned her attention to the matter at hand.

Her mood, however, went right back to hell when she caught sight of Dil'andau slashing his way through a wave of undead assailants. It took her a few seconds to come to grips with what she was looking at, but when she finally accepted it for what it was, her heart sank.

Kirisstind had turned Dil into a drider.

"Fucking Lloth, fuck." Ka spat viciously, watching the male hack gnomes out from between his huge, eight, segmented legs. She'd never actually seen a drider before, and she had to admit to herself that she could honestly have done without ever seeing one at all. Simply put, it was ugly as sin. She smiled.

On the upside, the gnomes were much too small to actually harm Dil.

Mildly content now, Ka put a hand to the circlet on her brow and focused her attention on a zombie milling about beneath her. "It's time for an ass-whoopin'…" She mumbled to herself, calling upon the energy held within the magic item she fondled. It took a moment to get a response, but when it came, the unseen release went off like a shot.

Beneath her, the target zombie literally exploded.

On the ground and about ten feet away, Zojikoe's arms flew up to shield his face; the exploded zombie's still-fresh innards splashed him with enough force to sting the flesh beneath his robes. There had been no warning that the creature would explode, and he had been concentrated on a – now lost -- spell. Stunned and aghast, he lowered his arms and patted about himself swiftly. "I want somebody to take me to a hospital…" He grumbled and shot a dark look up at his sister (who he could only assume the disturbance had come from) before attempting to restart the incantation he'd ruined.

Not two seconds into it, however, did he stop again; an odd blur at the corner of his eye caused him to turn his head. "Holy shit!" He cried, eyes widening as he caught sight of spider-Dil. What a gloriously suited transformation! Zojikoe grinned; were it not for the hordes of undead gnomes, he would have considered having a kind thought for Rose's disfigured sibling. Maybe a pat on the back, a thank you, a small gift even…

"Holy shit!" The mage cried again, though this time the exclamation was not for the fairly-distant Dil'andau, but rather for the oncoming wave of zombies that had just about appeared into his immediate field of vision. Without so much as a second thought, he belted out the words to an invisibility spell and vanished as Kirisstind had earlier on. He had every intention of torching the room with a fireball the second he could manage it.

Even if there were still live people in it.

Being horribly, horribly maimed was in fact better than being dead, after all…

Just ask Dil.

Back near the exit, Rose finished off the two gnomes threatening her just as Kirisstind gingerly stepped through the chaos of the battle to stand before her. Kirisstind's presence seemed to repel the zombies, for they no longer ventured near, opting instead to head for the corner where Mezzen cowered or back towards Dil'andau. As far as Rose was concerned, that was fine.

Everything else, however, was distinctly not.

"Look at you," Kirisstind purred, coming forward on cat feet, her eyes giving Rose a brief look-over as she drew close, "all helpless and alone. It's disgusting." She turned her head and spat. "Not the opportunistic monster I remember…" When she looked back up at Rose, the priestess had her dagger up and a glint in her eye.

"I was alone when I gave you that scar, sister." She warned. "So you may want to re-evaluate your definition of 'helpless'." The butterflies in her stomach weren't butterflies any more. They had turned into gigantic moth Gods. Her pride was wounded, more so than she could even begin to admit; one who has not been the eldest sibling cannot understand the irritation of watching a younger sibling grow to surpass him or her. Kirisstind had the upper hand and there wasn't a thing Rose could do about it. On impulse, she raised her dagger and slashed at Kirisstind with it. The younger drowess sidestepped to avoid the weak attack.

"What're you gonna do, Rose?" She teased, making no move to counter with her own weapon. She donned an expression of mock surprise. "Cut me?" She laughed and Rose scowled. "And then what?" She made a slashing motion across her face in the opposite direction as that of her existing scar. "Cut me again?! That won't do…oh no." She muttered a few words and flung her hands up, encasing Rose in a thick, sticky web. Rose sighed heavily and slumped forward in the webbing.

"Kirisstind…" She tried to shake her head and managed to get some of the acidy web in her mouth. "You've got some serious issues." Kirisstind grinned.

"Yes." She admitted, then leaned in close enough to Rose for the other drowess to smell her breath. "But mine aren't half as serious as yours." She winked. "See, Lloth still likes me…" Rose's eyes widened and then narrowed sharply. She was hoping Kirisstind hadn't noticed, but deep down she knew better.

"Shit. That's kind of embarrassing…" Rose grumbled impotently and rolled her eyes. "Look, if you're gonna kill then just kill me. Okay? Let's go." She raised her head as much as she could in an effort to offer her throat. Kirisstind looked amused. Rose stared straight ahead and lamely began to say her silent goodbyes to the world; no more House, no more Lloth, no more Zoe-sex, no more Mezzen-hugs...

Mezzen!

So as to not alert Kirisstind, Rose peered over in the boy's direction with the corner of her eye. She couldn't see Slayer (that was bad) and she couldn't see the little Mezzen-lump behind him either (and that was worse). Her heart rate quickened and she momentarily felt bitter; it was sad that she was worried more about Mezzen's wellbeing than at her own...damn Lloth for knowing that. Had the boy run off as she had suggested earlier? Was he dead on the floor? Was he somewhere else in the room? She couldn't see anything past Kirisstind…

Invisible and rendered virtually brain-dead by all the commotion, Zojikoe began to realize that he'd made a good choice in rejecting the War Wizard program at Sorcere. It was no wonder why fighters were the only ones capable of doing well in such ruckus. Just look at Dil, Zoe thought to himself, he's still alive right now because he's a vegetable. No thinking required. If it moves, kill it; that's it, that's all. No words to remember, no components to hunt for, no distractions…it's like running around in the Elysian fields!

He stopped himself in his ranting and made a quick tally of what spells remained in his memory; around him, the zombies all converged upon Dil'andau, as he was the only valid target. Ka had not yet set foot on ground and every now and then a zombie violently exploded.

Fireball? No. I can't remember how that starts…

Flame strike! No. Cleric spell.

Dominate mind! Of what, Zoe? Dead gnomes? What the hell is wrong with you?

Lightning bolt! Hell no. That'll kill us all.

Time stop! Ha. I wish…

A light but insistent tug on his robes pulled him from his thoughts. He looked down, fully expecting to see a gnome there, but instead found his over-distressed adoptive son. "Mezzen!" He cried, then, remembering that he was in fact invisible at the moment, added "How come you can see me?". The panicking boy furrowed his brow and danced from foot to foot.

"I don't…I can't...I…Zoe!" He flustered, casting a nervous glance over his shoulder at where Rose was facing off with her sister. Zoe followed his gaze and found himself gawking at what he saw when the shifting waves of gnomes and Dil'andau's ambling form cleared from his vision.

Kirisstind had Rose trapped!

Instantly understanding Mezzen's clumsy-voiced need, the mage's mind sprung into action. "Tell me, son, did the illithids teach you to read magic scrolls?" He asked quickly, eyes scouring the floor for the 'burning hands' parchment Ka had found and offered him when the crew had first entered the chamber. He spotted it a dozen-or-so feet away from their current position, fluttering a couple inches off the floor under where Dil'andau and a trio of gnomes fought. If he could get Mezzen to go for it, he could easily get to Rose and deal with Kirisstind; he didn't want the boy with him, as that would present Rose's evil sister with a target he'd rather her not have access to.

Not that he could have explained that to the kid without inciting a fight.

"Mezzen?!" Zoe pressed when the boy didn't answer at once. He looked expectantly down at him and rolled up his sleeves, preparing his false run for the scroll.

"Yes!" Mezzen answered vehemently, nodding his shaggy-haired head. Zojikoe grinned.

"Then you and I are going to teach Rose's sister a lesson she won't soon forget!" He winked at Mezzen and started towards the thick of battle, and, as he'd been banking on, the boy gripped his robe and held him back. Zoe whipped around and put on a mock expression of frustration; to his delight (and relief), Mezzen frowned and shook his head at him.

"No, no, Zoe... I'll go!" He scolded and offered Zoe a pleased smile before darting off into the fray.

Zoe watched the boy's retreating back for exactly two seconds before whipping off towards Rose and Kirisstind. Shoving aside the small zombies that got in his way as he hurried to the other end of the room, he found himself distracted by the tremendous pounding of his heart within his chest; he could hear it in his ears and feel it in his limbs – it was almost crippling. What in the Nine Hells was he doing? Was he mad? There was no way he could take Kirisstind alone! He stopped his desperate pitch about five feet from where the foul the priestess stood and steadied himself, gaze focused entirely over Kirisstind's armored shoulder, on the lingering look of abandon in Rose's eyes.

Maybe he was mad.

Opposite him, a small – moving – patch of white caught Rose's attention. Kirisstind sneered and took a quick glance over her shoulder.

"What are you looking at?" She snapped. Rose furrowed her brow at the small figure that scurried about a few feet behind Kirisstind. She allowed herself a good look at it when it came back into view, hoping it was what (or rather, who) she thought it was.

And it was!

Mezzen's shock of white hair dipped and bobbed as he snaked through the remaining gnomish zombies at top speed, arriving finally where the disfigured Dil'andau finished slashing through his attackers. The boy ducked to avoid the shaft of Dil's halberd as he swung to find more enemies, then bent as if to pick something off the ground from between the drider's legs. Kirisstind growled and shot another look over her shoulder.

"What?!" She cried, annoyed now. She watched Dil'andau skitter to the side and roar at the boy who crept beneath him, then turned a vicious grin upon her sister. "You'd best stop worrying about that one." She purred, smug now. "The male's mind is that of a beast; the boy will make him a fine meal!" Even as she cackled, Rose's heart steadily filled with hope.

Dil's attention was clearly no longer focused on Mezzen; in fact, the warrior was heading for the few gnomes that remained. Mezzen, for his part, had run towards her and was now standing a bit behind Kirisstind. Rose's eyes widened slightly as she caught the boy's oddly bright gaze. Heroics were cute and all, but this was ridiculous; she silently begged Mezzen to leave, praying he'd somehow understand.

From behind Kirisstind's robe, Mezzen winked and tugged on something she could not see, turning his expectant gaze upward. An invisible hand ruffled the boy's hair.

Understanding the situation now, Rose immediately returned her attention to her sister. It took every ounce of willpower she had not to grin when she locked her eyes on her sister's. Kirisstind seemed to feel the shift in demeanor nevertheless and quickly unsheathed her sword.

"Alright, I think we've had our fun." She hissed, tensing up now that she felt something was amiss. She had barely the time to raise her sword before it was promptly wrenched from her grasp and flung aside. Infuriated, she whirled around and instinctively looked up to where Ka was levitating slowly to the ground. The psion looked impassive. Panic rising within her, she turned her gaze to Dil'andau; there were no more zombies about and the male's amber eyes were on her. She then scanned the room for Zojikoe, who was mysteriously not present.

"There was another…" She mumbled, backing clumsily away from where Rose stood trapped in her magical webbing. She glanced briefly at her sister, whose smile was now not only in her eyes.

"You talk too much." Rose said simply. "Lloth doesn't like that." Kirisstind's face fell. She knew she was beaten.

Then, there was a tap on her shoulder.

As if in a daze, the doomed priestess turned around, fully expecting to see Dil'andau's blade come down on her skull…but instead she saw Mezzen. She blinked, confused. In the second it took for her brain to wonder how the knee-high boy could have tapped her shoulder, Zojikoe flickered back into existence, a most wicked smile on his face. With a kind of sick family pride, both father and adoptive son raised their hands identically, producing two great gouts of flame that engulfed her lower and upper body.

Kirisstind screamed and threw her hands up to her face in a misguided attempt at quelling the flames. She stumbled around a bit and came dangerously close the webbing that held Rose, but before she could do the other priestess any harm, the massive, muscled form of Slayer slammed into her from the side and knocked her to the ground.

There was another scream, a growl, and then nothing.

The group, as a whole, breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Owned! Rain gurgled in Ka's mind. Ka almost jumped.

Now that, Rain, is what I call 'the fuckening'. She answered, nodding slowly to herself. A smile crept onto her lips and she looked around for Dil; she found him off to her left and jerked at the grotesque sight of him. Ugh, yeah. Right. She grumbled internally. Forgot about that. There was a pause, and then Zoe's voice rose up from near the entrance.

"Rose!" The mage cried, still in fight-mode. He stepped forward to take the priestess' dagger from her ensnared hand, hoping to cut her free of the web. Rose managed a cool laugh.

"Whoa, Zoe." She chuckled, relief like a cold wave washing over her. "No need to get all dramatic, now…see?" As she spoke, the webbing slowly fell apart around her, dispelled by the death of its caster. Zojikoe looked unsure, then he relaxed, hands dropping limply to his sides.

"How can you be so calm about this?" He wondered aloud, shaking his head. He felt drained; there was no better way to put it. He'd felt everything from terror to euphoria in the last few minutes and the emotional rollercoaster was not a ride he considered himself tall enough for. Rose came forward and took his hand in hers.

Her hand was shaking.

It was all the explaining he needed. Unspeakably thankful to the forces that be, he scooped her up into a tight embrace and she returned it with all sincerity.

"Ewww! Her eye is coming out!" Mezzen's voice piped from a further off. Zoe and Rose both turned to look at him, caught somewhat off guard by his perky tone. The boy was crouched beside Kirisstind's charred corpse; when his adoptive parents looked over at him, he proudly held up a round object. On the end of it, a gelatinous tendril wagged back and forth.

"See?!" He pressed, shaking what was now obviously an eyeball.

Floored, Rose nodded stiffly.

Zoe put a hand to his mouth and gagged.