Seelah took a moment to run a mental checklist before leaving the last place of cover. The sun was high, brightly keeping shadows at bay and ensuring she had clear lines of sight. It also ensured that as soon as she stepped into the courtyard, she would be spotted. Stealth was not her area of expertise in any case. She would need different tactics to overcome her foes, and she hoped she had planned well enough. If she had not, the consequences would be dire.
There were two of them pacing in the rubble, hulking things of fur, horn, and claw. Their mere appearance was not so much different from beasts or giants, but even if she had not recognized them from her studies—ceustodaemons, extraplanar guardians set to keep any from reclaiming this place—the malevolent sensation that churned her stomach would have told her they were not of the material world.
Her eyes scanned the broken courtyard one last time. This had been a training ground once, before icons of death and despair had been carved into the rocks and the walls had been painted with obscenities. Once, nearby common folk would have come here for basic instruction in defense and young warriors of Iomedae would have tested themselves to see if they were ready to carry her ideals into a dangerous world.
Now, Seelah would face a very different kind of test.
Illustration by Igor Grechanyi.
For new faith-based tools you can use in battling the forces of evil, check out Lost Omens: Gods & Magic!
After a quick prayer for guidance, she strode toward the two monstrosities, shield up, sword drawn. They saw her immediately, of course. She had not planned to strike from surprise, nor to attack without giving them an opportunity to avoid conflict. She couldn’t imagine a circumstance that would make these creatures anything but her implacable enemies, but she still could not simply slay them without confirming they posed a threat.
“You are on once consecrated ground.” Her voice was firm, even. “And I shall see it consecrated again!”
The twin daemons turned and focused cruel attention upon her. She felt supernatural malice hammer her mind like invisible sling stones, trying to turn her limbs leaden, but she focused her thoughts through the immobilizing magic. Seeing her still moving and uncowed, the daemons responded with angry roars and headlong rushes toward her. She was hard pressed for a long second as they raged, clawed, and bit. Her armor weathered their blows, her shield taking some of the impact as well. Seelah had prepared for this and sensed no hint of the unexpected. She could bring her full force against them. Literal avatars of violent death, there was no chance they would ask for quarter.
Seelah moved to keep them from flanking her, flicking her eyes quickly from her targets to her environment. It pained her to see what had been done to the once beautiful columns and walls of the ruined temple, but she did not turn her face from any corner where another foe might hide. The sacrilege that had been carried out here was methodical, total, and nauseatingly creative. She did not believe these daemons to be any more than guardians left behind to ensure the vile vandalism was not undone. Some other intelligence had brought the temple low.
Suddenly a well-placed blow dropped one daemon sooner than she had expected, and the other leaped back from Seelah. She moved toward it cautiously but at a quick stride.
“Perhaps we should negotiate.” The creature’s voice was deep and gruff, as though mortal words hurt its throat, and its tone betrayed any intention of diplomacy. The false overture was scarcely out of its mouth when a gout of fire followed it. As the flames danced off her magically warded armor, Seelah surged forward and drove her blade deep into the daemon’s chest. The steel cut, the holy forces coursing through it cutting deeper still. With a gurgling cry, the remaining daemon staggered back and fell, ichor dripping from the wound.
“This wins you nothing!” The fiend’s growl was more petulant than defiant. “You cannot hold this place. That which bound us here shall see you begin to rebuild. Your dreamed-of monument to your lackluster mortal of a godling will fall again before you finish gilding it. No accolades will this win you from your light-thrall masters, no wealth or power will you collect!”
Seeleh paused a moment, her enemy’s tar-like blood boiling off her glowing blade. She disliked striking a fallen foe but there was, of course, no chance of turning this thing from its path of evil.
“This place,” Seelah indicated the open court with a jab of her chin, keeping eyes, sword, and shield carefully oriented against any desperate last strike the monstrosity might make, “is just a place. When my order lost it, we grieved, but more for the loss of those within than for toppled stone. We rebuilt elsewhere. We still train the willing, temper the faithful, and sharpen the keenest of Iomedae’s blades. If we can rebuild this place after it is cleansed, we will. But that is not why I am here.”
The daemon laughed once, a hard, humorless noise.
“Then you risk your life and rouse my anger of that which bound me for even less than I thought. It has done this to a hundred places and will do it to a hundred more. Vanquish us, and it shall return to do the same to you!”
At the last word the daemon lunged, claws slashing for Seelah’s armored belly. Unsurprised, she caught the blow on her shield, felt the impact crack its boards and bruise her arm. She smoothly thrust her longsword down and forward, channeling the divine power her patron granted her through the blessed metal, and felt it cut her foe’s fiendish malevolence as much as its hide and flesh. It collapsed, stretched out on the ground, it’s black blood seeping into the stone.
Seelah crouched, peering into its eyes. Was there some dim light still there? Some glimmer of its daemonic spirit still clinging to its useless physical form? If so, perhaps it could still hear her for a few moments more.
“I did not come here because that which conjured you did this to us. I came because, as you say, it may yet do the same to others. And when it comes here to seek vengeance upon me?” The spark was definitely gone from the daemon’s lifeless eyes. Seelah stood and looked at the hours of toil that would be needed to make this an even vaguely defensible place once again.
“When it comes? I will be ready.”
About the Author
Owen K.C. Stephens is a veteran of the tabletop RPG industry with more than 20 years of experience, including being on staff at Green Ronin, Paizo, and Wizards of the Coast and being the publisher of RogueGeniusGames.com. He has worked on numerous RPG lines, including being co-author of the Star Wars Saga Edition RPG and Design Lead for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game. You can support his writing and free content production at Patreon, and follow him at his blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.
About Iconic Encounters
Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.
Iconic Encounter: Ready
Wednesday, January 15, 2020