Wings flapped in a darkened sky shattered by green-tinged lightning. Shadows flitted passed the creature struggling to remain in flight, souls sacrificed for the express purpose of knocking it out of the sky. Still it pressed forward, eyes scanning the dead, cracked ground far beneath as a myriad host of creatures pressed their assault against it.
The searching eyes found what it was looking for as a different creature below curled under a mass of shadow enveloping it. As the creature in flight descended, it was struck by a bolt of fire along the left side of the wing causing it to tumble helplessly to the ground.
Arrens found himself on the floor next to the bed he shared with Aely. So tired was she from the previous night's events, that she didn't stir. Arrens quietly picked himself up and felt a pang along the claw-shaped scar on his left arm. He flexed it, willing away the pain, and went into his study, quietly shutting the bedroom door behind him.
Sitting at his desk with a candle providing soft light, he pulled his notebook out and flipped through the care-worn pages. As quickly as he could, the warlock began writing the notes of his dream. Shaaroon had been out of reach for the past week, the demon disappearing after being commanded to hack and slash at the residual shadow that had occupied the body of Giorgi, the dead Rider pulled from the canals. The dream had clearly been a means to find him, albeit one not willingly had by the Professor. Dreaming of going back to the Twisting Nether was not one he was particularly fond of.
Arrens rose from his seat and approached the bookcase on the far wall. Removing The Old Gnome and the Sea from its spot, he traced his fingers along the now open slot and spoke a minor incantation in Demonic. The bookcase parted as stone steps spiraled downward into a darkened void. Removing a lone torch from its sconce, he stared at it a moment before magical fire began licking the pitch-soaked rag on top.
Descending ever lower, Arrens at last reached the bottom to find the imp, Gakfip, nestled into a bundle of hay in a corner. Wakened by the light of the torch, Gakfip screeched in his high-pitched voice and spoke in demonic. "Gah! Sweet dreams! Ruined!"
"Silence!" Arrens shouted in the same language. "I have little time to find Shaaroon while his location is still fresh in my memory."
"Why do you need him?! He's no demon! He's an exile from his own kind! Not fit for his demonic form!" Gakfip yelled while wiping sleep from his eyes.
Arrens glared at the trouble-making imp. "I've not time for your games, imp. Time is of the essence. Now get me the materials for a proper summoning, and be quick about it!"
Gakfip grumbled some more in his native tongue as he bounced around the room grabbing candles, arcane dust and a soul shard kept reverantly atop an antique looking desk. Handing Arrens the shard, Gakfip placed the candles in the standard pentagram pattern and spread the dust around them in a circular pattern. "Stupid rituals. You should have Klathmoth doing this. All that idiot's good for is manual...." Gakfip disappeared as Arrens dismissed him back to the Nether, tired of hearing his incessant whining.
The materials in place, Arrens placed incantations upon each of the five candles in the corners of the pentagram saving the center candle for last. The warlock grabbed a vial from his pouch, wondering if it would work and praying it would not be needed. He took a deep breath and stood in the center, careful to avoid disturbing the ley lines the dust created. Lighting the last candle and feeling the heat as it licked his calves and up his legs.
Arrens closed his eyes and began the summoning incantation he had done thousands of times before. He felt the power course through his veins as he established his connection to the Nether. His mind raced. He could only hold the summoning open for a short time as he searched for where Shaaroon was located before the portal would allow for any demon to come through. His mental vision scoured the landscape again as it flew at blinding speed to where he thought Shaaroon was located in his dream.
His mental vision fixated, Arrens found the slumped form of Shaaroon, the demon's body covered in shadowy resonance -- a shadow that was not native to the Twisting Nether. Arrens' vision descended quickly and entered the mind of Shaaroon. His mind was assaulted with millions of voices screaming at once, visions of the dead being picked apart by this shadow creature as they offered it to their unnamed master. They were attempting to do the same to Shaaroon, but the demon was an unfitting sacrifice. As such, they tormented him, keeping him barely alive yet in a state of inperceptible pain.
The warlock mentally pulled, trying to force the demon through the portal. Knowing the incantation placed wards upon the summoning portal that would prohibit any but those the master desired, he had no fear of the shadow following through as well. But Arrens also knew he had to act quickly. The wards would last only so long before it became an open passage for any to come through and would act as a beacon for not only the shadow entity, but also the other demons in the vicinity.
The shadows rose from Shaaroon's body in an attempt to block the summoning portal. Sinewy tendrils spread like a web around the portal. Quickly, they began to block out the entirity of the portal, blocking Arrens' access to the Nether and extinguishing his view. Acting swiftly, Arrens uncorked the vial he had been holding and poured the contents around the center candle. Saying a quick prayer to whatever benevolent deities might be listening, he waited. Slowly, painfully, the clear liquid contents seemed to drip through the portal and onto the shadow beneath. Each drop of holy water that fell caused a hellish scream to resonate from the shadow as it sizzled and dropped away, leaving the slumped form of Shaaroon in clear view. Arrens' mental vision swooped down and grabbed the demon, bringing it upon the mortal plane.
The Professor opened his eyes. Shaaroon lay before him, just outside of the summoning circle. Saying a quick word in Eredun, the candles extinguished as the circle was closed. He raced to the demon who lay clutching his large axe to his chest. Kneeling next to him, Arrens pressed his thumb to the demon's forehead and spoke harsh words once more in the Eredun tongue. Shaaroon stirred under his ministrations before scrambling to his feet, axe at the ready.
Arrens nodded soberly. "It's good to have you back, my faithful servant. Rest easy for the evening. Tomorrow will be another day."
Leaving the felguard in the warded cellar, Arrens once again grabbed the torch and climbed up the spiral staircase. Extinguishing the flame with a word, he exited from behind the bookcase and closed it back up before replacing his copy of The Old Gnome and the Sea. Blowing out the candle upon his desk, he silently entered the room to see Aely still sound asleep. Crawling under the covers of his king sized bed, he draped his arm around Aely's sleeping body and waited for sleep to take him over.
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