The heroes remained vigilant, weapons tightly gripped. The empty sarcophagus in front of them was proof that this place still had a powerful evil coursing through it; everything was against them.
“What now?” Odus whispered, almost afraid a loud noise at this point might bring more undead to them.
“She’s here somewhere…” Garrick replied in his own whisper, “… and I’ll not leave her to further torment if I can help it.” His eyes squinted into the darkness beyond the sarcophagus, but he could not feel the evil presence that sent a shiver down his spine when he first saw her. Shaking his head at the horror of it all, Garrick‘s thoughts turned again to her end, and Kane‘s feral attack that forced her to retreat.
As the heroes continued to check the secret chamber, Isak stood frozen in place, staring at nothing at all, clearly replaying the events from the large burial chamber. Odus laid a hand on Isak‘s broad shoulder and said, “I know, Isak.” He met Isak‘s gaze to try and snap the warrior back to the present, but Isak made no sound. He did not smile. His face was stoic. “I thought there was a chance it would work, too.” Odus continued, “You couldn’t have known…”
Isak narrowed his gaze and locked eyes with Odus. “I saw it in his face when I did it… I was his horror… he saw me as I did it… he looked at me…” Isak‘s face twisted now and he closed his eyes hard, as if saying the words made it more real.
Hurrying back to the large burial chamber, the heroes had their heads on swivels, wary of every corner, staring into every shadow. It was only a matter of time, Mordekai thought, before the evil of this place collected itself again and manifested against the heroes. Leading the way, Garrick strode purposefully, thinking of little else than the defensibility of the temple upstairs, and the rest they so desperately needed.
“Yes; Rao will grant his blessing to those who deserve it. Kane was our friend, holy Rao will bless him.”
“Let’s hope so.” Garrick replied, “We could use all the help we can get these days…”
Arriving in the chamber, the heroes’ pace immediately slowed to a tentative step. All of them fixed their gaze to the same place; the crumpled form of their companion, lying still as before. Reluctantly, respectfully, almost fearful of seeing him in this state, they approached the comatose form. They no longer checked the shadows, they no longer listened for steps behind them. It was as if an oppressive silence fell over the room. Coming upon Kane‘s form, and with the time to take it in, the heroes each tried to hide their surprise. Kane was no longer as they remembered him, he was his true form now, but horribly twisted. His white, androgynous face was now greyed, sunken beyond comprehension and twisted in agony. It was if the moisture had been sucked out of his skin and was stretched impossibly across the frail bone visage. His body, too was diminished beneath his clothing, his limbs twisted and bent as the convulsions of his death throws racked his body in pain.
Garrick and Mordekai said nothing, and let Isak gather into his arms the frail, gaunt form. It was nothing for the huge warrior to carry such a thing, but the weight was surely in his heart, not his arms.
Upon emerging from the crypts, Odus makes his way over to the alter of Rao. He then gracefully falls to one knee, closes his eyes, bows his head, and begins to pray.
Oh Rao, I thank you for watching over myself and my friends. May you continue to bring peace and serenity to our hearts in these dark times, so we may be able to continue the good fight. Oh Lord, may you bring peace to my heart, for it is heavy with grief for the loss of my friend. He was quite the fellow, but I saw the good within… Lord, may you watch over his soul, and bring him peace in eternal rest.
Upon finishing his prayer, Odus rises to his feet. As he rises, he can feel the peace and calm he had asked for wash over him; washing away the heaviness of grief from his heart. His eyes still shut, Odus takes in a deep breathe, and a long exhale. Then opening his eyes with the next inhale, he looks to the heavens, flashes a smile, and under his breathe says, “you’ll be missed my emotional friend… You’ll be missed.”
Death is a natural part of life. Kane was not natural. Perhaps, Mordekai thinks to himself, this is why Kane‘s death makes him uncomfortable. He could almost hear the chuckle Beckett would bellow if he could see Mordekai now. “Uncomfortable?” he’d say, “Admit it. You are sad.”
“I am sad,” the Seeker says quietly to himself, “He was worthy of an end better than this fate.” Mordekai is alone, standing well apart from the others. Worthy friends, each of them, and heartbroken at this turn of events. But they knew Kane longer than he did. A few weeks is all Mordekai spent with the cursed changeling.
Kane was an unnatural creature of the shadow, of that there is no doubt now in Mordekai‘s mind. But not unnatural because of the vampirism, he knows that now. His initial opinion of Kane was wrong. So wrong. He wasn’t unnatural because he’d been cursed with a shadowed hunger for flesh, but rather because he chose not to embrace it.
From his corner, Mordekai looks across the room at the prone form Odus before his god’s altar. There is comfort in his belief of gods, the Seeker, realizes. Mordekai holds no such beliefs. The spirits are my only guide, he thinks to himself. Odus believes that Kane will ascend and be in the heavens, but not Mordekai.
He is gone. His body nothing more than fuel for the earth now. This makes the Seeker sad, as he realizes he had more in common with Kane that he thought. Kane was struggling to fit in, much like Mordekai. But Kane is gone.
Or is he?
Mordekai smiles. Perhaps bereft of the host, the vampiric curse that plagued Kane is the only thing dead. Perhaps the spirit of Kane is finally free. The Seeker glances down to his hand, listening to the distant whispers of the spirits around him. Perhaps his spirit is with Mordekai, now, lending his strength.
And Mordekai is surprised to find that this thought makes him comfortable. His hand closes into a fist.
The heroes woke the next morning, Odus finishing the watch, still staring down the stairs into the crypts below. Seeing Mordekai come out of the small room beside him, Odus greeted him warmly, “Good morning, Mordekai. Not a whisper from downstairs as you slept, and not a one from the altars beyond.” Odus gestured from the large chamber where the morning sun was trickling in through the huge stones.
Mordekai nodded, his face grim. “It has been a long night, despite the short hours. I will lend what aid I can to your efforts, and I remain hopeful that the gods see fit to return him to us.” Odus wasn’t sure if Mordekai truly believed what he was saying, but appreciated the words nonetheless.
“None.” Odus replied. A quiet night upstairs and down.”
“I have.” Odus replied with conviction. “It is time to return to us one who has been lost.” Odus layed a hand on Isak‘s shoulder as he walked past him, through the hall and turned into the large chamber where Kane‘s body was laid.
Moving to the other side of the chamber, Odus‘ eyes grew wide and his pace quickened for a few strides. Then, coming a stop, his eyes grew wider still. Garrick and Mordekai did the same, their heads turning frantically from side to side, the same look on all their faces. Turning around wildly, panic-stricken and in disbelief, the same realization set in to each of them, one at a time. It was only Isak who was not in a panic, only he who stood now, silent as before, his face a mask of calm.
“My fault…” was all Isak said, more to himself than for any of his companions.
Odus turned and checked again, daring again to look at the altar of Rao.
… Kane‘s body was gone.