(MacabreFox & POOHEAD189 collab, with special guest and illustrious GM, MiddleEarthRoze)
Oblivion was just as terrible as it looked within as it did without. Moreso even, and Bardeck would be lying if he did not feel a sense of trepidation and dread at having entered such a place. Even the skies appeared to be wreathed in flame, and the dread towers that rose above the cracked rubble of the plane had a striking similarity to the Malacath maces his Orcish mentors would forge. He whispered a prayer to Talos, and made sure to keep Gideon close as they walked. Even stepping in for a moment, Bardeck now wished his truest friend had not followed him into the dark of this plane, but he knew that Gideon would refuse to be separated from him. Especially when it held such danger as this. His hound held the same loyalty to Bardeck as the warrior did to Gideon.
Crossing through the flaming portal with the group of volunteers led Brona to question her sanity. Naturally speaking of course, Brona would have turned right around after making it out of the chapel alive, and headed straight home to the Imperial City. Initially, her gut instinct when stepping through the portal, was that this realm... was not meant for any Man, Mer, or Beast. No, this was something otherworldly. She had heard of the planes of Oblivion, but never did she ever believe that she would step foot inside one. The most profound aspect of this realm
, was the lack of sound. Raising her hand, an orb of light appeared, which she quickly released. The light surrounded her briefly before it faded away. Those who were trained in magick, or who had keen ears, would notice the lack of sound from her footfalls. She marvelled in silence at the vast world stretching before her, in particularly the river of fire flowing to their right. The heat from the river made her sweat as she pushed to the front of the group.
While the Imperial woman seemingly had her shit together, for the lack of a better word, Brona scanned the surrounding area. Already wary of traps, or other diabolical devices set to obliterate them, she kept her eyes peeled. No sense in having her head blown off, or being flung into slow moving fire around them. She much prefered to keep her head at that. On occasion, her eyes flickered to the jagged spires, their presence drawing closer with each footfall. Blinking became difficult, for the natural moisture in her eyes seemingly evaporated. Even her tongue felt sandy. By the time they reached the guard that had survived, Brona could only listen in disbelief at what had befallen them.
The group bumping into the guard was fortunate. He'd never thought he would see an Imperial's presence give off a familiar feeling, save that of his father. He looked frightened beyond belief, as did their Imperial guide. Bardeck was sort of confused at that. Yes, this was Oblivion, and it was more terrible than he had expected. But they had control of their own two feet didn't they? They could have turned and fled, but they were here. Why fret if their choices lead them here? The caveat about the situation was when the Guard exclaimed he had lost his friends, and to that Bardeck felt disheartened. Even though to die honorably was a worthy goal, he understood the anguish of someone close to you dying being such a fresh wound.
The decision came, by way of a towering Nord, that they would head for the towers after all. For Brona, this didn't sound safe at all. Although, in her mind, she rationalized that if they were going to close this portal, that would be the place to do it. So, Glenndus, as she came to know him, an Imperial with a similar skillset to her own, led the group. They dodged rockfalls, poisonous plants, and hidden bombs. With the lack of enemies present, she grew suspicious that something was wrong, and it turned out, she was right. She witnessed in horror as a set of spikes butchered him. Her stomach threatened to upheave the last meal she ate, but with luck, she managed to keep it down. The Imperial woman, the one that had come to the chapel, lost her cool. Cursing at the situation she found herself in, the woman backed away, heading for the portal through which they entered. Her slew of profanities and rants ended abruptly through the means of a mace. Bones crunched, air escaped from her lungs as a demon stepped out from behind the rock they had passed only seconds ago. Swinging her into the air as if she were a mere ragdoll, he, if they even had a gender, let the blood from her body drip onto his face. He tasted her blood, a forked tongue like that of a snake lapped at the crimson droplets. As if casting aside a carcass, he flung her into the river of molten fire. The smell of burning flesh filled the air around them, and to be fair, it smelt worse than roasting a boar over a spit. Sizzling in the flames from the fatty oils of her body, the Imperial woman came to a grizzly end.
Gideon bared his fangs, his haunches and back raised in warning as the Oblivion hordes appeared before them. Bardeck was both taken aback, but admittedly relieved in a sense. That thing
would pay for this, but at least there was no a solid foe to fight. This plane was terrible enough, but for awhile he thought its greatest threat was that it taught one the meaning of tedium. Bardeck the warrior hefted his shield and pointed his Axe at the Dremora that had killed the Imperial woman in such a brutal fashion. He said no words, for the challenge in his eyes spoke volumes of what he intended toward the denizen of this hell. It was at that moment that Orintur charged! Bardeck felt like they could become fast friends if they lived through this. Fortunately (or unfortunately) there was more than one of the Demons to fight. Another Dremora churl cackled gutturally, and waded towards Bardeck with hate filled eyes.
Moving towards the rear of the group where the Dremora that had dispatched the Imperial woman, Brona found herself standing a few feet behind Bardeck, the same man that had come to her aid in the town square, while she watched in astonishment at the Altmer paladin's courage. She slipped the recurve bow from its tethers on her back, with her other free hand, she retrieved an iron arrow, and notched it. 'This is just like hunting deer.'
she told herself. Her breathing slowed, aiming at the same demon Bardeck moved towards, she calculated his next move, both eyes open.
As the hordes of enemies appeared, Bardeck approached the Dremora warily, having to hack down a Scamp as he did so. The smaller beast was quick however, and cut a deep gash in the strong man's arm before it was dispatched with an Axe to the skull. It was at that distracting instant that the Dremora struck, striking lightning swift and slamming his mace into Bardeck's exposed side with the black iron weapon. The man cried out, his armor absorbing part of the blow. Blood dribbled down his side, however. The Dremora swiped again, but this was blocked by Bardeck's shield with a resounding 'crack' as the two objects met. Bardeck gritted his teeth, undeterred in spirit as he attempted to regain control of the fight.
As Bardeck's shield deflected the blow, she loosed the arrow, the shaft sailed through the air with a whistle. The barb missed its true mark of aiming for the demon's eye, and instead embedded itself in its shoulder. He hissed, eyes flickering to Brona for a brief moment before turning back to Bardeck. She lowered her bow, and with one free hand, conjured up another orb, this time Touch of Fear. Spinning in the palm of her hand, she aimed it straight at the demon, and released it. The orb blasted it, though it appeared unaffected, it merely cackled, saying, "Ignorant human, your spell cannot affect me." Its voice sounded thick, as if it had rocks in its throat that grated against one another. The sound of this demon's voice filled her with a sense of dread, raising the hair on the back of her neck and arms.
She swore under her breath, her luck was running out. Just when she reached for another arrow to notch, she cried out loud in dismay. The teeth of a stunted reptilian lizard dug straight into her calf, while another one bit into her left forearm, rendering her bow arm immobile. Cringing in pain, she dropped to one knee. The recurve bow clattered to the floor, and with her right hand, she tried to fish out the iron dagger at her hip.
The arrow was a welcome distraction, and Bardeck shoved the Dremora back with his shoulder, jerking his axe to the side in a slash that made a light wound on the Demon. It hissed in annoyance and pain, and raised its mace in a counter attack. Even as Bardeck moved to raise his shield, his hamstring was cut by one of the diminutive scamps. He cried out, and fell to a knee. Luckily, his shield was still raised in time to block the Dremora's powerful blow. He didn't know how much more punishment his iron shield could take. These Dremora were likely to have magic weapons. Salvation came in the form of the Warhound Gideon, who hit the Dremora in a leaping tackle. If the Demon had been wearing a helmet, he might have been able to weather the canine's onslaught. However, as damaged as he was already, with Gideon's jaws at his throat, he could do little but score a light hit on the hound's flank as he was summarily mauled.
Bardeck nodded to his companion that had taken the opportunity to finish their opponent, and he spun to hit the Scamp that had cut him with his forearm. It wouldn't do much damage to the Scamp, but it mattered little. The screeching creature slipped into the lava with a scream. When he had spun, Bardeck saw Brona surrounded! With a grunt, he staggered to his feet and made his way over to her as quickly as he could. He could see the Imperial woman scrambling for her dagger, but time was not on her side. He thanked Talos and Malcalth at once when he reached her, using his body weight more than his strength to slam his shield downward and nearly crush the Clannfear runt that had attacked her under it with jarring force. It squeaked and clawed at the ground, but it was dying. He shoved it away.
Again, the Nord man came to her aid, giving her enough time to finish off the other reptile that still clung to her arm. She could feel its teeth working back and forth, gnawing on her arm. Needles of pain raced up her arm and to her shoulder, leaving her to make one decision. With fingers curling around the hilt of the iron dagger, she drove the blade through its skull with the last reserves of her energy. Panting with exhaustion, she mustered enough strength to offer a weak smile and to say, "Thanks, friend."
Bardeck was often too earnest or too awkward in social conversations, but he found that combat brought speaking easy to him. Perhaps it was because he was distracted by other things so he spoke without overthinking, or perhaps he enjoyed the fighting enough that it brought out his true self. But it wasn't hard to talk to Brona here, especially when she called him a friend. He held up his shield to guard against any other incoming attacks before either of them, and gave her the grin of a comrade. "No problem. If we're to make it out of hell, friends should stick together." It was at that moment Gideon the hound bounded over to them, a few cuts on his hide and jowls but nothing more damaging. His tongue lolled out and he looked between Brona and Bardeck, sniffing the air.
This world was unlike any Niko had seen before. The heat alone was like stepping into a world-sized oven; but the sights that met the brave group was enough to still his heart. Heads on pikes; charred bodies; and a quiet sense of foreboding bringing with it a chill that should be impossible in a heat so intense. While he had kept his cool around his old comrade Ilend, walking through this quiet, hellish realm was beginning to tip him over the edge. He was reminded of that icy, spike of fear that only affected him in the worst times of his life... he kept waiting for a necromancer to jump out from behind a rock... to see one of the strung up corpses slowly turn and show a too-familiar face.
He was brought to his senses when something finally did happen; unfortunately for Glenndus, that was. It was clearly a quick death for the fellow, but gruesome for the group to look on. Swallowing bile that had suddenly rose up in the Nord's throat, Niko turned from the penetrated body of their scout to the raging Imperial woman. Things seemed to fast-forward from there, but the way she was killed seemed to be in slow motion. It was terrifying, disgusting, and it lit a rage in Niko's normally pleasant eyes that could not be extinguished. Unsheathing both of his swords, his face twisted into an uncharactertic snarl, ready for any foe that dared to cross his blades.
It didn't take long for him to pick a target; one of the Dremora Mages closing in one two of his comrades; a woman and man, both of which looked injured. Launching himself at it, it had barely any time to even glance his way before Niko landed a blow; completely severing an arm from the beast, it bellowed in rage and agony, flailing at him with it's mace blindly. Dodging the blow, he felt a scrape on his cheek and his hair flip through the motion of the weapon; he reacted in kind, yelling as he brought his sword clean across the Dremora's unprotected neck. His head fell from the stump which began gushing blood, body twitching as it fell to the floor. The summoned scamp had already been dispatched by the young warrior, and the expense of his hamstring, that was. Panting slightly from exertion, Niko turned to the two - no, three, if one counted the particularly happy looking dog - with a sigh, brushing a droplet of blood from his scraped cheek.
"Stay close - I'll make sure nothing else harms you until the battle is won." He nodded to the pair, voice husky with adrenaline and his eyes now dying down to a cold stoniness. He disliked torture, pain, needless harm. This very realm represented all of those things, and Niko hated everything about it. At the very least he could help bring an end to the pain it brought - and even heal some of his companion's wounds to end their pain too.
The two nodded their thanks. Bardeck gave a salute with his shield, and Gideon sat down, panting.