SaRa Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee ran up to the still glowing circle, their pupiless eyes reflecting the complex sigils; reaching out to hold the powerful knit of magical energies. “She made a mistake… He always does.” They spoke quietly, then to their friends, “Rest while you can.”
With that Ankh threw off their cloak and continued ritualized motions as their words echoed in the chamber. Below their cloak they wore their desert sleeveless shirt and skirt. Complex spiraling tattoos wrapping around Their body, humming with energy. Starting at Their left hand, with each word spoke in the ritual, each of the tiny pictograms turned gold and glowed with power.
Ankh’s unseen servant was not, now, unseen at all. A translucent, phantom-like humanoid with the head of some long-beaked bird retrieved a scroll from ink’s pack and rushed it to Bruel the Raven, then stood before him expectantly. Bruel, understanding, hesitantly began releasing the magics of the scroll while the others tended their wounds, rested, and guarded the entrances to the ballroom.
Soon enough, several of the party noticed that in one corner of the huge, strangely-lit room, spider lightning seemed to crawl occasionally a long the mirrored, crystal wall. When they turned their attention to the strange disturbance, a small, humanoid form, a halfling dressed in ragged robes, appeared from behind a veil of invisibility.
The little man held his hands up in a gesture of harmlessness, and begged the not to hurt him. He named himself Birnis, and, in the manner of the truly mad, claimed to be a follower of The Lady of Storms, here to speak prophecy. The group concluded this to mean that he was a follower of Penelia.
He spoke, over and over, in tones declaratory and breathless by turns, words known to several of them: “The Sun will embrace the Serpent!,” and “The Sun will engulf the Serpent!” Gesturing madly all the while at Ankh muttering arcanely at the center of an increasingly vivid magical circle.
The prophet of Penelia went on, laying alleged prophecy before them with an urgency that brought all of them to sharp, if exhausted, attention…
The Man of Many Things will find his long lost joy;
an island of safety in the Sea of Chaos
The Oldest & the Newest see their obstacles removed;
a bastion of order in the Sea of Chaos
…and yet more…
The Sun sets in the west.
And may yet Set in the south.
At this, Ankh’s head snapped up, their pupiless eyes looking straight at the servant of Penillia. “Witness Me”, Ankh said, in an echoing voice, thrumming with power.
And the halfling noded and intoned…
But the Sundered King
Must be rejoined to stem the coming flood
With this last, he begged to know that they had heard, and understood. Kalyx especially committed the halfling’s words to memory, nodding. Birnis repeated his original mad rant: “The Sun will embrace the Serpent! The Sun will engulf the Serpent!”
And then he leaped to his feet, darted past them to the balcony, and before any of them could do more than start in his direction, he flung himself to the flagstones 30 feet below, where he splattered and was then struck by lightning.
A thunderstorm had somehow crept up on them, and now rumbled and flashed ominously as Ankh’s chanting increased in intensity.
As the party walked back in from the balcony, the space seemed both different and the same. The mirrored ballroom yes, but also something older. Stone, grand columns, hieroglyphs all around. Visible for the first time, though it felt like an immutable and ever-present part of the space, was a small cylinder of light, from the top of the room, somehow peaked beyond the ceiling, casting down into the center of Ankh’s ritual circle.
At this time, the ritual Bruel completed his ritual scroll. There on the floor appeared Ankh’s chest. Without a moment’s hesitation, Ankh’s spirit-servant threw open the lid and lifted up the Kor’Kana, mate to the Sar’kana and other half of the Guardian of the Kaenti. Whether it flew across the room or was quickly carried by the servant was unclear, but with a crack of energy, the Kor’Kana was in Ankh’s hands.
There was a moment of silence as Ankh, floating eerily above the ritual circle, held the Kor’Kana aloft. The power in the room was more than palpable, it was nearly overwhelming. The silence was then broken by Ankh’s words, spoken in Supernal, the language of the gods, but understood by all:
Here we are. Sons of Geb, sons of the earth.
Here we are. Daughters of Nuet, daughters of sky.
Ankh turned to Kalix, their golden eyes spilling with light,
I name you, Isis, Queen of the Throne. Weret-Kekau (The meaning somehow clear in everyone’s head, “the Great Magic”) and Mut-Netjer. ("Mother of Gods”)
Gently, in her head alone, Kalix could feel Ankh’s voice, “I give you, my love, that which you most desire. A chance.”
Ankh then turned to Sardis with the same intensity;
I name you, Haroeris. Hor pa khered.
Horus the Elder.
Horus the Avenger.
Horus the Raptor.
Somehow that last line had particular weight, as Ankh’s voice settled into Sardis’s head and stated simply, “Guide their way”
At this point Ankh turned towards Erlys, pupiless gold staring at pupiless silver,
I name you, Nepthys, former consort of Set. Mistress of the House, Mistress of the Heavens.
The calm voice settled into Erlys head, “Help her protect my Ba (soul)”
Ankh then turned, seeming to yell at the heavens, at the light coming down from the Apex of the pyramid, voice booming with power.
I am Osiris, son of Atem Ra. I am Ankhet, daughter of Nuet.
Pharaoh of the Sedge and of the Bee.
Pharaoh of Upper and Lower Mokiir.
Defender of the Ma’at.
The Foremost of the Westerners,
Lord of Silence.
Here we stand, the Ennand. Here we stand to Judge.
You are a mere shadow of the glory We have been, are, and will be.
Defeat Us, or be Forgotten.
You cracked the door, now I tear it open!
With that, Ankh reached to the heavens, large golden, phantom hands extending up to the apex of the pyramid where the small circle of light laid upon Ankh. The hands tore at the edges of the light, and the room felt like someone was knocking a hole in a damn of power. The light which had been a small trickle to the center of the ritual circle was now a torrent of rushing power the size of the inscribed circle. The room was overwhelmingly bright, and wind whipped Ankh as they floated in the river of light. In the din, Ankh’s voice was clear:
I Call to you Set
With a ceremonial knife none had seen, in the hand opposite the Kor’Kanna, Ankh sliced at their leg, very apparently cutting an artery…
I Compel you Jade One
And at those words, they sliced their other leg. If they had not been floating, it seemed unlikely they could have stood after this…
I Summon you Typhon
Here they slashed at the wrist holding the Kor’Kanna. They would have dropped it if they had not immediately discarded the ceremonial knife and clasped the Kor’Kanna in both hands.
Accept my embrace, or be Engulfed
As they floated now several feet above the circle, an improbably large pool of blood filling, then surging past the boundaries of the ritual circle, Ankh’s eyes glowed like the sun. The final pictograms of the spiraling tattoos flickered from black to gold. The moment stretched out; time seemed to stop. For a brief moment all was frozen, quiet. Those gathered in that frozen moment of time felt like Ankh turned, looked directly at them specifically, and softly spoke, “Old magic, true magic, only comes with sacrifice”
In that frozen moment, Ankh grasping the Kor’Kanna with both hands, thrust the haft through their right eye. Ankh arched back and screamed, as time was rushing by once more. A deep scream of pain, and rage, and challenge. As they screamed, their mouth seemed to distend and widen. The light began to flow into Ankhs mouth. It’s color had changed to the color of jade, shaded in black and white. And as the light flowed into Ankh, Ankh’s skin began to take on the color of green, the color of life and of death. The light filled Ankh, and the golden tattoos beamed. As their scream still echoed in the grand chamber, the light finished filling Ankh; and with that, they collapsed to the ground in the middle of the pool of blood.
When they stood again, they were not Ankh.
A pale, beautiful, elven woman with ebony hair that reflected the fading green light of Ankh’s circle with an eerie, almost living sheen. She rose, naked, from the floor with exquisite grace, and, for just a moment, looked down at herself in tightly-controlled alarm, as though shocked to find herself there, or, perhaps, to find her Self there. She glared down at the golden spirals that twined about her body, an eerie echo of Ankh’s tattoos.
As she raised her head to look at the party with pupiless, jade-colored eyes, the pool of Ankh’s blood drew itself up and around her, forming a close-fitting emerald gown in an elegant eladrin style. A beatific smile softened her features as she spread her arms wide, as though in welcome. At the same time, in the chaotic recursive reflections of the ballroom, appeared shimmering images, echoes of reflections, of huge, draconic heads: black, white, and green. Sibilant whispers echoed through the chamber just beneath conscious understanding.
Khalipanofax spoke to them then, her gaze focused squarely on Kalyx. Her voice was smooth and warm. She was, she said, pleased to see them, and hopeful that they might take a lesson from their companion, Ankh, who had, very clearly, decided that her presence and aid would be needed in the coming times of trouble.
The Jade Queen might have gone on, likely at length, but none wished to give her poisonous words the chance to sway them. Kalyx, with a crackling rage known only to those bearing a lifelong grudge, prepared to unleash lightning upon her “mother” made flesh…
…but Sardis Darathuun went first.
Taking his cue from the tension in the air around Kalyx, Sardis leaped forward, warpicks a blur of motion, seeking to strike down the goddess before anyone could react. before he could close within ten feet, something unseen, save for a blurred, black reflection in a nearby pillar, struck Sardis, and knocked him aside like a toy.
With a hiss of anger, Khalipanofax, clearly done with having her monologues interrupted, spread her arms, hair and gown whipping wildly in the storm winds blowing in from outside, and began to grow. She grew and swelled until she loomed over her enemies. Wings, a tail, and the necks and heads of dragons spread out from her as if coalescing from her own reflection. She towered and expanded until her outstretched wings blocked the flashes from the storm’s lightning, and the horns of her heads dug gouges in the crystal ceiling, showering shards down on their heads. The heroes froze in abject, helpless terror as the dreaded goddess of dragons and secrets roared her rage at them, cursing them for fools, traitors, and ungrateful children.
For several moments, it seemed as though all might be lost.
As the party stood stunned by the dark majesty before them, the Queen of Lies blew out a deadly blast of mixed acid, ice, and poison, bringing several of them to their knees. She began to lay about her with her teeth and stinging tail, shattering the crystal room, and forcing her foes to shake themselves from stupor and fling themselves to the side.
Soon enough, the three companions of Ankh, aided by the Ravens of Sephalia, joined battle, however hopeless it might seem, against Khallipanofax, Goddess of Dragons.
Following their initial terror, the party found the battle closer to possible than they might have hoped. Despite her immense power, despite her dread rage, the enormous Three Headed Dragon was hard pressed by her mortal opponents. Indeed, to her intense frustration, Khalipanofax seemed unable to land any blow at all against Eirlys, who not only turned the Queen’s snapping jaws aside from herself, but deflected some of her blows against others. It seemed impossible, but perhaps, just perhaps, the weary heroes might survive the fight, or, beyond even imagining, snatch a narrow victory from the terrible situation.
As the battle raged on, it became clear to them that the Great Dragon was being handicapped. At moments, rather than diving to bite at her foes, one of her heads would shake as though confused, or murmur something in a strange language. Soon enough, they realized that Ankh was not, as it had seemed, gone, or devoured. Sa Ra Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee remained, a vessel, having embraced and engulfed the Jade Queen. They were there, working against Her from the inside. Lashing out with Their own magics, pulling back a killing blow, and impeding the Goddess where They could. More importantly, both Kalyx and Eirlys realized that Ankh had somehow bound Khalipanofax to Mana’era with Their sacrifice. To slay Her now would not merely banish an avatar, or weaken her. Killing Khalipanofax here in the Crystal Ballroom would slay her indeed, breaking her upon the rocks of her own former mortality. If they could win this fight, they might rid the world of the Queen of Lies forever.
They redoubled their efforts.
One of the Ravens was slain. Nearly all of the heroes were wounded to near-death. Kalyx herself was almost turned by force back to Mother’s service, which would most likely have spelled doom for all of them.
But there came a moment. Just as they had all begun to fear that they would fail of simple exhaustion before they could defeat the Beast. After the Crystal Ballroom had been cracked, shattered, and broken beyond any hope of repair. As the hope of victory had just begun to fade, the Jade Queen’s efforts moved from pursuit of victory to pursuit of escape.
She almost succeeded. Teleporting, smashing, and attempting to fly out any exits she could, Khalipanofax attempted to flee the losing battle. Knowing, even better than her enemies, that her immortal life was at stake, she tried all she could, cursing them all the while, to flee the Ballroom, and Cormorell, and seek release from the bindings Ankh had placed on her. But she could not. When she tried to flee, Ankh’s will forestalled her. They whispered lies to the Queen of Lies, They turned her from her path, They fought against her from the inside with the last glimmering vestiges of Their own will.
And They succeeded. With a final crack of lightning, Kalyx struck the swaying Dragon Queen down. The flash and thunder hit with such force that all were thrown to the ground. The shriek of Khalipanfax seared their minds as her life was stricken from her.
Everything was quiet then, but for the falling of rain outside.
As they stirred back, they found Ankh, bloody, burned, and broken, laying naked and covered in Their own binding tattoos…gasping out their final breath.
“I was, I am, I will be…”
And then Sa Ra Ankh of the Sedge and of the Bee, bound to Khalipanofax, Goddess of Secrets, Lies, Dragons, and Treachery, broke into motes of glowing dust, faded, and disappeared, leaving only a pile of books, robes, and magical implements behind.