After the death of Talion and Rex, Clay looked about the clearing. Littering the ground around him were the corpses of the Thicket’s spiders. Falaren put her bow across her back and Silhuin looked racked with guilt, blaming himself for striking the killing blow against the gargantuan spider which then fell and crushed the druid and fighter. Nonetheless, the group knew that they still needed to push towards Iesel’den and defeat the avatar of the Thicket so that its evil may be banished from the material plane. And so, the group walked forward into the passage that the spiders guarded.
As they walked down the increasingly narrowing path, the hairs on the back of Clay’s neck stood up as he heard an all too familiar sigh rattle through the branches of the Thicket. Having felt the presence of the demon Torpor, Clay began to reach for his sword and shield as the Thicket seemed to grow ever more dense around the remaining members of the party. The trees began to grow so close to one another that it was impossible to see between them and the sun was blocked out almost completely. Realizing the Thicket’s plan but a moment too late, Clay became separated from the elves and was unable to call for help.
The trees closed in on the paladin, and eventually began to wrap around him, losing their material substance and becoming shadows. As the shadows wrapped around his legs and torso, the paladin struggled and swung his sword…
The sword arced across the shadows and struck a suit of armor, landing a beautiful killing blow against the foe. Clay instinctively felt another attack directed him and raised his shield to block the blow. He stood in a wide and open field, a perfect battle ground, with the sun hanging high in the sky and not a cloud was to be seen. Clay parried another attack from the second armored opponent and quickly struck it down as well. Looking at his two fallen opponents, the paladin noticed that his enemies were completely armored and masked, showing no flesh.
Before being able to investigate the fallen, Clay noticed that five more opponents approached him; dressed just as the other two, they approached with weapons drawn. Clay quickly began to back up and try to assume a defensible position but found that the field seemed to have no end, and noticed that yet more armored foes appeared to encircle him. With nowhere left to turn, the paladin readied his weapon.
One by one, the foes broke free from the circle to attack Clay, and one by one, the paladin struck them down. As he fought the seemingly endless horde of armored foes, he noticed that for each one that fell, two more appeared in the distance to take its place. Clay also noticed that clouds began to appear on the horizon and quickly grew, as he fought, to dim the sun’s light.
In desperation, Clay shouted out for guidance from his god, and, in return, his necklace began to grow warm. After striking down yet another suit of armor, the paladin found a moment to look at his necklace and saw the word “Compassion” written on its back. Believing he knew the will of his god, Clay pleaded with his foes that he did not wish to fight them.
Unhearing and equally unfeeling, an armored foe stepped forward and struck out at the paladin. Clay blocked the blow and again attempted to parlay with the enemy. As the foe readied another strike, Clay dropped his shield and sword and stated again that he did not wish to fight.
The enemy struck Clay in the shoulder and seething pain went through the young man’s body, but he stood there, unwilling to fight. The armored figure swung for Clay’s knees and the young man did nothing to protect himself from the attack. As he collapsed to his hands and knees, the clouds began to dissipate and the sun shone a bit brighter.
Clay looked up and told the opponent to do what he must, and, in response, the figure rose a sword high to decapitate the paladin. The sun shone bright, and Clay closed his eyes as the sword swung down.
He felt the cold steel enter his neck, through his eyelids he saw a brilliant light, A moment later he felt nothing, he felt endless oblivion. In the next moment, he felt a hand on his cheek gently slapping him. Clay’s eyes fluttered open and, as they adjusted to the new light, he saw a young man dressed in silver armor with a large heart of Rao on his chest.
The paladin of Rao looked at Clay and told him that it is good that he had awoken, but whatever had knocked him out had also knocked out his friends. Clay looked around and saw Ezrah crouching over Silhuin who, though unconscious, seemed to be struggling against something and a few tears trickled down his cheek, Falaren, unsurprisingly, looked stoic even while unconscious.
Clay could only wonder what nightmares his friends were enduring and waited to see if they too could regain consciousness…