Parshal was led down another winding series of corridors. Two dwarves dragged his unconscious High Priest behind them. He thought about trying to fight his way out of this situation, but he was sorely outnumbered. The acolyte thought of himself as a good fighter, but twenty to one odds were something he knew he couldn’t overcome. Instead, he tried to remember the route they had taken, in hopes that an opportunity to escape came up in the future. The only thing he knew for certain is that they were consistently going further down into the mountain.
Suddenly, they came to a set of huge doors. Once again, Parshal found himself wondering why dwarves would make a door that big. It made more sense to make them dwarf size, forcing anyone who attacked them to bend down to fight. He thought about asking the dwarves about it, but decided that he suddenly wanted them to get attacked and have it come back and bite them.
When the doors finally opened, the acolyte wasn’t exactly sure what he was seeing. Cages lined both sides of the massive room. Normally, he would’ve thought that it was their dungeon. However, in addition to many humans, dwarves, and elves in the cells, there were animals in the cages, as well. He saw bears and foxes. There was also a cage that contained nothing but a large wooden box. Something was inside it, because he could hear sounds coming from it, but he couldn’t see what it was.
The two dwarves carrying Fragiel dropped him onto the ground next to Parshal. Paragon walked up to the unconscious priest and slapped him across the face. When that failed to rouse him, he signaled to the guard, who pulled a vial out of his sleeve. After taking the lid off, the guard put the vial under the High Priest’s nose.
Fragiel shot upright almost instantly. His first reaction, after waking up, was to retch. There was little food in his stomach, however, so nothing came out. The heaving continued for a several moments, causing all of the dwarves to laugh at him. Dwarven words followed the laughs, but he was past the point of caring what jokes they made at his expense.
Once the episode had passed, the High Priest settled his gaze on the Paragon, who had pulled the Sceptre of Chaos out. Seeing his goddess’ creation in a nonbeliever’s hands enraged him. “How dare you desecrate Accura’s sceptre with your filthy hands,” Fragiel spat. “Put it down at once.”
“Or else what,” Paragon laughed. “If your goddess didn’t want me to touch it, she would’ve punished me for it by now.”
Many scathing retorts filled his head, but Fragiel choked them back. After all, Paragon was right. If Accura was going to smite him for touching her holy artifact, he would be nothing but a pile of ashes. Instead, he snapped, “You may be touching it, but I know you’ll ever be able to use it. Only her High Priest is privy to the spell that activates its magic.”
“That’s true,” the dwarven leader answered. “But that’s not a problem now that we have you.”
This time, the High Priest laughed. “You might as well kill me, dwarf. I’ll never use my goddess’ sceptre for you.”
Paragon leaned over, putting his face just inches away from Fragiel’s nose. The High Priest couldn’t hide his disgust at the dwarf’s breath, which reeked of ale. “Who said anything about you helping us,” Paragon whispered, flicking his eyes to Fragiel’s side.
Following the dwarf’s gaze, his eyes soon rested on his acolyte. Confused, Fragiel muttered, “Parshal?”
The former city guard’s body erupted into laughter. Fragiel watched as Parshal shook from the display of mirth. Soon, another form began emerging from the acolyte’s frame. When the form finally took its shape, the High Priest recognized it immediately. His goddess had come back to the world.
“What seems to be the matter, High Priest,” she asked when she had finished laughing. “A little confused, are you?”
Instinctively, Fragiel knew that questioning the goddess usually ended with him being punished, but he just couldn’t comprehend what he was witnessing. “Yes, my goddess,” he answered. “I would very much like to know what is happening right now.”
Before answering, Accura nodded to Parshal. The acolyte nodded in return and walked away to perform the unspoken command. “Very well, High Priest, I shall satisfy your curiosity. The other members of the pantheon and I created this world over three thousand years ago. Since that time, we have been ruling the world much like you and the other High Priests have been ruling Qyoond: by committee.
“I have grown tired of this stagnant way of doing things. I intend to shake up this world and the heavens above it. To do that, I needed you and Parshal here to start the plans I have set into motion. Once we are finished here, I shall rule it all!”
“I still don’t understand, my goddess,” Fragiel admitted. “If you needed us here, why not just order us here? Why the deception?”
A look of rage crossed Accura’s face as she sent waves of pain directly into her High Priest’s brain. As he rolled around on the ground in agony, she shouted, “Deception was the point, you idiot! If the others in the pantheon knew what I was about to do, they’d try to stop me. Because of the deception, they are up in the heavens right now blaming each other for the theft of my sceptre. By the time they realize what I am planning, it will be too late to stop me.”
“My goddess,” Parshal interrupted. “It is done.”
“Good work,” she smiled. “Let us begin.”
Accura took the sceptre from Paragon and handed it to Fragiel. “Point it at the cages and recite the spell, High Priest.”
He didn’t hesitate. Immediately, he began the incantation. When he finished a ray shot out of the sceptre, engulfing the cages and everything in them. The cages began to shake. Then, they slid closer together. A few seconds later, some of the cages combined together. Dwarves now shared a cage with the bears, the elves with foxes, and the humans resided with the large wooden box.
Suddenly, the screams of all of the creatures in the cages filled the room. One by one, they started sliding closer to each other. In amazement, Fragiel watched as the dwarves combined with the bears, the elves with the foxes, and the humans with the inhabitants of the wooden box: scorpions.
Smiles spread on the faces of Accura and Parshal. Fragiel did his best to hide his revulsion at the abominations that were now kneeling for the goddess. She now had an army.