The Vow

Thetis, interrupted in her studies is at first alarmed by the presence of interlopers, but when she recognises Claudia and Salix, she resumes her conversation. At first the heroes had not spotted her interlocutor, but now, curious they scan the scene. Beyond her desk, Thetis keeps a level gaze on the ruined corpse of a man, long dead, standing before her and speaking in a loud rasp.
"You may have ensured that this vessel was blind but I can still sense that you have guests, you needn't worry about me my dear please attend to them, or do you not trust me?" It is clear that she does not for in the ensuing conversation she demands that Claudia and Salix leave and insists to the dead soul that the ceremony can continue.

Claudia decides at the mention of ceremonies that this must end and attempts a flame strike but it bounces of a protective sphere and Thetis appears unconcerned. At this point however she begins to suspect that they may be agents of the animated corpse and it becomes clear that he represents some potent foe.

The heroes rush to engage in hand to hand but she retreats rendering the terrain hard to cross and continuing her debate. At this point, from another entrance Puff appears, led by what appears to be another of the nuns. Puff appears to be encased in a milky white skin and move sluggishly, to the directions of his partner. He quickly enters the fray in pursuit of the retreating mother superior.

As Thetis retreats along a submerged river she is defended by two earth elementals, along with the many arcane defences that she has prepared. All the while that the heroes try to penetrate her armour her attention is principally engaged in the conversation with Orcus.

"I have prepared the settlement and accept the vow but the betrothal is for seven parts in twelve, remember I hold the key and without it you shall remain in your little prison" she offers whilst swatting aside the ineffective blows of the heroes.
"You forget that I have waited many lifetimes for this pleasure, the prospect of a little longer is not so unappealing, maybe a more comely bride will present herself" the corpse replies. The irony is not lost on Claudia at least, though Puff seems rather more single minded in his attacks. "Your new enemies seem to be rather persistent maybe you had better focus on them for a moment and we can resume when you have set your house in order?"

It becomes clear that she is holding in check the great powers that stream into her womb, drawn in silver threads through the bare rock walls. Niobe, the sister that has led Puff here screams that she draws power through those threads from the spirits that she has entombed in the Field of Stones, and Claudia notices that Moonblade does seem have severed a number of them.

The battle rages on and their persistence begins to take it's toll, one of the earth elementals is defeated and whilst the heroes have taken some blows, some of their replies are now having an effect. "Six parts in twelve and I will wed thee!" screams Thetis, clearly realising that her position is not now quite so sure.
"Four parts in twelve will be your part I think and to me it looks like you will need to act swiftly."

Thetis turns her full attention on her foes and summons a great column of flame onto Puff, through the white hot fire he throws his arms up and shouts a battle cry. As the flames disappear, his milky white skin has burned away revealing a skin of burnished gold. "I am the Bal Marglod know me and know death!" is his cry and Claudia is slack jawed in amazement.

"I do!" screams the bride.
"I do, so mote it be" is the reply and as the corpse falls away, the groom is momentarily revealed in a shimmering vision of a winged demon with a ram's skull for a head. Orcus, for it is he, takes his brides hand a declares "I cede unto you four parts in twelve of all of my immortal power."
"And I offer you the freedom of the Westgate Cathedral of Caratia as my dowry."

A moment passes, Orcus takes his brides had and with a wicked blade he cuts a great slit in both his and her wrists. Thetis is dumbfounded, then she realises what he has done, and whilst both of them stumble, it is her that falls to the floor whilst Orcus with eight parts in twelve of his diminshed powers remaining is able to smile and fade into the darkness. The vision passes and in an instant the heroes, momentarily paralysed, burst into action. Before she is able to seriously defend herself she falls under many blows and is defeated.

Over the next few days the heroes are able to take things in hand in the monastery. It is clear that dark necromantic arts have passed here and they are resolved to destroy the place. Niobe is given a day to collect all of the children and remaining nuns and take them to the nearest place of safety, for the heroes are resolved to destroy the place.

Niobe tells the party that the Settlement of Caratia, in casting the city out of all mortal realms, enabled a gate to be opened to hell, and it was from here that The Immortals were able to treat with Orcus for their great powers. Whilst given free roam on this plane within the ruined walls of the city, he was unable to cross it's boundary. One of the gates to the city was built into the walls of a great ecumenical cathedral named The Westgate, authority for which fell to the most senior ministers of the churches of Caratia. From the documents that remain in the study, Claudia is able to determine that Thetis has prepared a nuptial contract in which for a share of the power Orcus holds she will give him free passage through the Westgate Cathedral, a right that is hers now because there are no other gods in this realm and whilst she is in exile here, she is still in principal the head of the church of the one god.

Claudia deduces that Orcus has weakened himself in order to weaken his new bride so that she might be defeated. He now holds the key that grants him free passage in this realm, and though weakened at the moment, every day that passes he will be gathering his strength to carve out a new kingdom on earth.

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