“You face the Test of Sacrifice next. I know what you have faced to get here and it means nothing.” When the black-winged angel spoke those words, I felt my faith almost break. The deaths, the pain, the fear. That was all a waste? Why would Pelor do this to us?
Leaving the Plane of Ulcers, we followed the beam of the lantern father north. Slowly a building came into view. As we got closer we saw a black-winged angel laying almost prone close by the building. He was pierced with black iron spears in several places. His eyes were closed but I thought he might still be alive.
I’d been walking beside Kaurophon and as I approached the angel, he lagged behind. “I’m not sure we need bother with this creature,” he said.
“I think he’s still alive,” I said. “We won’t tarry but I sense that he is good. I want to stabilize him, at least.”
Kaurophon nodded curtly, turned away and began to fiddle with his cloak. “Are you alright?” I asked.
“Hmm? Oh, yes. It’s just the acid has eaten holes and I’ve had this cloak a long time.”
“When I’m done with the angel, I’ll do a quick mend.” I paused, looking for a reaction. “I don’t mind at all.”
I knelt beside the angel, said a quick prayer and got out my first aid box. Within minutes the angel was conscious. He opened his eyes and they were a glorious shade of green. I was speechless for a moment, the color was so vibrant. And then I found my voice: “You are OK. We’re friends.”
He grabbed my arm and started to speak. But then his eyes slid past me. “Kaurophon?”
I sat back on my heels. “You two know each other?”
The angel nodded. “I am Saria and I offer you my help, as I have helped Kaurophon in the past.”
Myntilly had been following the exchange and came closer to the angel. “What kind of help?”
“You face the Test of Sacrifice next.” He said. “I know what you have faced to get here and it means nothing.”
Cinder laughed. “If you said that to the last group I can understand why you’re full of holes.”
The angel pulled himself into a sitting position. “I have been here since the beginning. I helped Adamarchus create the tests. I know the first two tests are meaningless because I made them that way! They simply weed out the weak or uncommitted. The Test of Sacrifice is the true test.”
As Acgar fingered one of the iron spears, Cinder asked the obvious question: “Who attacked you?”
“There are two ahead of you. One is a fire giant. They attempt the Test as well.”
“How far ahead?” I demanded. All niceties flew out of my head.
“A few hours at least. I’m not sure.”
A greasy fear filled my belly. Last time we faced a fire giant, Ragnara died in the melee and it was a close thing for the rest of us. Almost as soon as it arrived, though, my fear was replaced (and I’m ashamed to admit it) by a burning desire to find our rivals and destroy them. My companions must have felt the same way. There was a moment of silence and then Sadi stretched her arms. “Well,” she said. “Let’s move out.”
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