I reached into my vestment and pulled out my holy symbols, hanging them outside of my armor. I had forgotten that I had so many different ones, though the new one was the most awkward, being spherical. The symbol for The Bountiful One called to me in that moment and I held it in my right fist while I pulled a tiny sliver of the divine into it. To my surprise it pulsed with sound the moment the energy entered the sphere. Thrice it emitted a tone like the bleat of a swamp night bird, which confused me as you can imagine. No other holy symbol had ever made a noise. Then it began to glow with a golden light which suffused the room even through my clenched fist. The light seemed to make the room I was in waver for a moment. The cage I was in faded, the horror below me stuttered as if a layer of fog lay between it and me. I increased the flow of the divine and the light increased tenfold, casting the entirety of the chamber in a bath of golden light that did not cause me to look away, but filled me with a peace that I had not felt in a while. Not since Kithri healed me, as a matter of fact. Or no, one time since. This reminded me of the in-between place where I met the Sorceress after defeating Illitharad’s brain abomination back when I had almost died and Liz had taken up my journal.
And that realization synchronized the images that were flitting before me, the flashing of the room I had been in when I was struck, with Leviathus and the frogs in attendance, against the cage and the tentacled horror, and a realm of golden light where there were no solid objects.
It was this third echoing place that the sound was true, as far as I could discern. The bleating of the night bird came more frequently as the sounds of the battle that raged round me in the first scene warred with the sound of the monster below me. I was in three places at once. Three realities overlaid upon one another, each flashing in and out of existence like the beating of my heart. Only the first two were flashing by so quickly that the third, the golden realm was becoming more and more solid until, from one moment to the next, the bleating became the mellifluous sound of one whose voice had not been heard in seventy thousand years.
“Who wakes me from my slumber?” a male voice echoed from the golden realm.
I glanced around, looking for the source of the voice and seeing nothing grew still.
“Who speaks?” I asked.
The voice hesitated for a few moments, whether to gather his thoughts, or because the distance for the sound to travel was so great. Eventually though, he spoke once again.
“You are Kithri’s ilk,” he said, a statement of fact and curiosity. “Yet not just. There are others who hold your loyalty. How is it you wake me from oblivion?”
I only had one thought and held up the holy symbol, his holy symbol, the sphere of the Bountiful One. “I have called you with your symbol, it appears.”
Soft laughter echoed through the golden realm and I thought to feel ashamed. But for some reason, a new strength flowed into me, not unlike a hand on my shoulder, a warm smile, or a kind word.
“Is it truly you, Merric?” He asked.
I nodded, not finding my voice, but that seemed to suffice.
“You must wake from this,” the Bountiful One said, his voice urgent. “Thanks I owe you, beyond your reckoning, but you must wake and defend yourself.”
And the world shifted. The golden light flashed and the images before me shuddered into motion once more. Me in midst of battle, me in a cage, me in the gold infused aether.
I blinked and I sat in the cage, looking down at a great maw with teeth. I thought to climb to my feet and see if I could somehow escape the cage before I became some creatures dinner when Magda showed up. She appeared at my shoulder, her wings beating furiously and I realized she was attempting to fly upward with me in tow. But she was too small, despite her magical strength.
“What is it?” I asked her, and she let me go with a squeak, allowing me to settle back against the wall of the cage.
“You would not respond to me,” she said, her voice higher pitched than was normal. She looked harried with panic. “You must break out of this cage. I cannot free you.”
I looked around, remembering other cages. Other times I had been held against my will and anger rose in me. I stood abruptly, sending the cage swinging and a tentacle lashed upward, smashing into the bars and sending my cage careening wildly.
“Flee,” I cried to Magda and I reached upward, grabbing the crossbars at the top of the cage and kicked at the place the monster had smashed. The bars there were bent and I aimed to finish the job. I kicked and I kicked, each impact bending the bars outward a fraction more. And each time, the tentacles struck the cage I spun even more erratically until I thought the chain that held me suspended from the ceiling would break and I would plummet into the maw of this great beast.
Finally, when I could no longer tell which way was up, the side of the cage gave way and the world shifted.
Miranda, the elven sorceress strode into the golden aether, resplendent in her flowing gown of silk. She was adorned with jewelry of the finest craftsmanship and she carried a wand that glowed with power. Miranda whom I had freed from centuries of enslavement to the Psi-Flayer, Illitharad. She with whom I shared a moment of intermingled existence in that instant I had nearly died from my psychic thrashing. Her sweet voice spoke to me words both urgent and dire.
“Wake up, fool, ” she snapped at me. “You are stronger than this charlatan.”
“Charlatan,” I asked. “I hang in a cage about to be fed to some monster.”
She shook her head. “If you do not wake, you will lose another ally. You will grieve already this day. Do not make the accounting worse.”
I had only shared a conversation with this woman the day I slew the brain abomination. How strange to be speaking with her now. She had gone on to the next life. I had seen her transition.
“Perhaps I am not here, Merric. Perhaps this is a construct of your own mind to work out the puzzle you are trapped in. Either way, you need to come to your senses before another dies.”
“Who has died?” I asked, startled. “Liz? Does she live?”
Miranda shook her head, made a “tsking” sound, and turned to walk away. “Wake,” she called over her shoulder. “Do not play the fool.”
The worlds flashed again and the chain that held the cage snapped and I plunged downward toward the monster. Then the golden room faded and I stood in the midst of battle stupefied. My companions fought with the frogs, the dead and dying littered the halls. I could not see Sparkle, but Bÿglar fought over Liz’s fallen form, a dervish with his spear, killing any frog that dared to come within his reach. Others fought behind me, beyond my vision, and the sounds were horrifying. Rufus shrieked words I could not understand and lightning lanced across the hall, flinging frogs aside like rag dolls. The strong odors of offal, ozone and blood washed over me like a tidal wave and I found that my limbs were free.
In that moment, and the barest of moments it has been, Leviathus lunged forward, his short dagger aimed at my throat.