Part 13 - A Demon Forgiven

They took the two ladies to see Pliny the Younger. He sensed a presence around Phimbria and cast a divination on her. Unfortunately, the news was not good. He said that all the futures led to the destruction of Rome except the one where Phimbria confronted Kato Vetruvius. But even that future was bleak. He said that she would fail to defeat him, and that he would destroy her.

They then spent the next several days meeting with their allies and enlisting their help. Even Kessimo and the Guardian Wolf agreed to help them. Rillian informed them that he had a statue of Jupiter erected over the buried stone with the glyph.

They did encounter one setback, however. When they went to see Hermeticus, they found that his home had been destroyed. Neighbors said that the shadows seem to come alive around his home, and then it erupted into flame.

On the night of the next Earth Plexus, the Nephilim gathered. Clemens brought Kessimo and Rillian, now in his persona as Maximus Pretorius, brought his equestrians. Phimbria was also with them.

Clouds began to roll in. When the lightning would flash, they could see the image of a great dragon in the sky. With each flash, the image became more substantial.

Then the ground shook and the statue of Jupiter fell over. Bursting from the ground where the glyph was located was a giant scorpion made of the same black substance as the children. Riding on its back was Kato Vetruvious. He looked the same as before, but his eyes glowed red. He wore a headband with a bright red jewel at the center.

As the black rain began to fall, Kato stated that he was disappointed that this was all they could muster to fight him. He warned Rillian that steps had already been taken to neutralize him as a threat. Rillian scoffed at that notion and charged the sorcerer. Kato weaved a quick incantation and a moment before he could land a blow, Rillian exploded in a shower of blood and viscera. As the others stood in shock, the children began to form from the black pools.

The Guardian Wolf next charged Kato, but he was intercepted by an earth demon that erupted from the ground. It was the same demon that helped Kato kidnap Ophelia.

The battle began in earnest. The first obstacle was the giant scorpion. The Nephilim fought with that as the equestrians and Kessimo fought the Children. Once the scorpion creature was destroyed the Nephilim seemed to have the upper hand. But the children were not the only ones to die that day in the temple at Kerenda. Emerging from the ground were centurions, shades of the warriors who died under Kato’s command. Suddenly things seemed more desperate.

Metulis managed to fight his way to Kato. He saw that the gem now glowed the same as Kato’s eyes. He managed to grab the gem, but his hand and arm were instantly petrified into stone.

One of the child shades attacked Phimbria. It knocked her to the ground and bit into her flesh. But then their eyes met. The gaze was held for only a moment, but the child smiled at her. Its color shifted from black to a glowing gold, and then it faded away.

Above, the phantom image of Baphomet was then perfectly clear. It began to slowly drift down toward the glyph stone. They knew that if it reached the glyph, the great dragon would be reborn.

When asked how she destroyed the shade creature, Phimbria did not understand how. She said she just felt sorry for the tormented creature and wished him peace. The significance of this was lost at first and the battle continued.

Many of the equestrians fell, Kessimo and the Great Wolf were badly injured. Hybridia was slain, and Janu went into Stasis. The dragon continued its steady decent. It then occurred to Cosmo what was happening.

Kato had become a manifestation of the Three-Eyed Demon of Vengeance. No violence could end him. As Pliny had said, they would fail to defeat him. However, Phimbria had been blessed by the Goddess of Mercy. The one thing that could bring an end to vengeance was forgiveness. Cosmo implored Phimbria to show the creatures compassion.

Phimbria was unsure of this, but soon stopped defending herself. The shade children quickly pounced. She cried out as they tore into her flesh, and she dropped to her knees. But then a golden glow came over her as she seemed to calm herself. The glow passed into the children. They too began to glow with the golden light and fade away.

Ophelia staggered to her feet. She began to move forward toward Kato. The earth demon charged but the Nephilim headed it off and kept it a bay.

Several of the surviving shade centurions stood between Phimbria and Kato. She then identified each warrior by name, telling them that they were heroes who had earned their peace. They too turned golden and faded away.

Finally, only Kato remained. She approached him slowly. He tried every form of magic at his disposal to stop her, but she just kept coming. She said that just as she could not defeat him, he could not defeat her. They were opposites, but equal. Together, they would be balanced. He implored her to stay away, but she reached him and embraced him. As she held him, he began to weep. Soon a bright light encompassed the both of them. The beam shot up and scattered the image of Baphomet, which had been looming directly overhead.

When the light faded, both Kato and Phimbria were gone. The scorching and ash left behind had erased the glyph of Baphomet. Finally it was over.

All but one of the equestrians were dead. Hybridia was also dead. Metulis had lost his left arm, and Cosmo had been permanently blinded by the light that had destroyed Baphomet. But the threat was over and the city was safe.

The Nephilim went on to live out their simulacra’s natural lives. As was the nature of Nephilim, those lives were greatly extended. Some lived long enough to see the first cracks in the great empire begin to form. But eventually all returned to Stasis, awaiting their next lives.

Part 13 - A Demon Forgiven

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