Hero the Escape
Chapter 1: Vacationing in a Rain Forest

Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth

I walked through the near empty predawn streets of the capitol leading the Betrayer by a heavy two meter mithril chain leash. The lich bone enchanted collar that she wore prevented mana recovery along with any form of magical identification. Even continent wide famous holy tattoos were of no use with the restrictions of the Lich Collar. Unfortunately, the artifact had the side effect of negating any other magic affecting the wearer. Further disguises required mundane methods.

Because of who she was, I had to be careful that this particular woman could not be recognized. I added an iron mask and a double set of full peasant clothes to complete the disguise. We received a few curious glances but my magical disguise as a renown slave trader was enough to keep the curious at bay.

When we entered the temple district, my captive perked up, yet was unable to do anything besides helplessly follow since she was cuffed, hobbled, gagged, blindfolded and deafened by the muffs. Her body shook in tears when we passed the Temple of Aune, Goddess of Health and Home; High Priestess Anna’s home for two decades before she and her retinue joined myself and the Companions for the final battle against the Dragon Queen.

Most of us would have lived. If during the battle, the High Priestess of Aune and her Paladins of Hearth hadn’t attacked the Light mages, intent on preventing them from healing the other Companions. I was too busy at the time keeping the Dragon Queen’s attention on me during the hour long combat, freeing the rest of our group from the enraged monarch’s attacks, to notice the betrayal until too late. The seven holy knights of Aune stayed in a defensive formation until the last of my friends and allies dropped in the final seconds before I delivered the death blow to the millennia old dragon monarch.

Once Ragathralath, Queen of Dragons, collapsed, the seven remaining ‘good aligned members’ then sacrificed a portion of their lifespan, casting the Forbidden ritual, Soul Death spell upon me. Only to have the spell fail because of Gar’s gift, my only real friend, gave me Baal’s artifact on my and Marnie’s wedding day. Baal’s Finger nullified Aune’s backed spell, granting me thirty seconds of Holy class spell invulnerability. That alone was enough time for me to sacrifice my last Tear, granting me recovery of half my mana pool giving me a second wind. Killing the remaining Paladins of the Hearth and rendering the Betrayer Priestess unconscious. Shocked at the spell failure to obliterate me and unable to respond her protectors’ demise, all Priestess Anna could do was watch in horror as their ‘God’s Ordered Betrayal’ failed. The High Priestess of Aune never experienced true combat nor true violence, for a living avatar of a Goddess, her subdual was too easy. The following days, my barely controlled rage almost compelled me to kill her many times over. Not that I gave into my desires, I had something worse planned for the woman.

The mountain of gold and treasure hoarded by the Dragon Queen all those millennia were melted into slag and would take miners and craftsmen centuries to separate if I planned on letting them have access to it. As planned, the Queen’s fight caused the formally dormant volcano to become active.

With my aid, Her lair filled with magma which eroded the mountain side causing a minor eruption and a major lava flow that should last months, destroying the bodies and the loot that the allied kingdoms hoped to confiscate. I even had a copy of the treaty from one of a dead king’s trusted aids on the agreed upon distribution of the spoils. No one from the Companions were listed as a share recipient.

Of the twenty six individuals that entered the Lair, only myself and the Betrayer exited, her presence was masked, both magically and physically. Mine too for a lesser extent and duration. My magical cloak would only last a few more days. I didn’t have much time left to make my escape.

In my guise as the renown slave merchant and soul mage Ander, I mercilessly dragged my captive onto, Baal’s, the Evil God of Destruction, grounds and into the temple proper. Stopping just inside the entrance to the temple proper, my ‘gift’ and I waited until an acolyte approached. I handed the silent boy a bone coin and asked if the High Priest Garjol Dem would receive me. The acolyte gasped in shock feeling the power from the coin burning a permanent imprint of Baal’s Face into his palm. After his initial shock, the young man ran to get his superior. The coin was one of the thirteen pieces of the lost artifact of the God of Destruction. It was probably beyond the acolyte’s imagination that the one who gave me the Coin was the High Priest himself, allowing access to the temple core in case of an emergency.

The Betrayer was screaming into her gag the whole time after entering Baal’s temple, but no one paid any attention to her near inaudible protests. This was my first time in the main hall in years visiting the complex, Gar and I always met in seclusion to do our business and relax.

We had found friendship early in our youths and kept it hidden for the last three decades. Over that time a strong trust between us had built, Gar was even one of the four that attended my and Marnie’s wedding. It took almost a dozen years, but she finally understood why he and I could be such close friends despite the gap in our goals. Hell, fifty of my worst Death Curses were removed by him. I still had twelve of the lesser ones active. The three main greater ones, we didn’t dare remove, so as not to let my adversaries spur themselves to find even harsher methods to curtail me. NOT that a Soul Chain was light by any means. Nor was the Curse of Unyielding or the Curse of Subjugation.

Greater Curses were so broad in scope I had plenty of room to maneuver around them, usually. Since the death of the Queen, the Curse of Unyielding broke which alerted King Edward to Her Death and since the Curse of Subjugation was still active, he knew I had lived. The Soul Chain was a desperate measure by the Assassin Guildmaster to prevent me from killing him. He never thought that I would plant him in the heart of the World Tree, encased in a shell of amethyst rendering him in a state of permanent stasis. Never aging, never dying, never changing as long as the World Tree lived. Not until I died or the curse was broken by the Gods themselves would he ever be free.

I didn’t have to wait long before Gar came and greeted my assumed persona pleasantly, before leading me along dragging my Gift, who had fallen over yet still thrashing and whimpering into his personal sanctum. No sign of the acolyte, nor did I expect to see one, or anyone else see him. Ever. Gar locked and warded the chamber before casting Baal’s Domain as an added precaution.

My friend poured two tall scotches after I removed my disguise, “To Marnie, may she find happiness in the next Existence.” ‘To Marnie’, I replied and we touched our glasses before each taking a healthy swallow. Neither of us said anything for the next five minutes only remembering the good times completely ignoring the pitiful wretch chained to an anchor in the corner.

I was the first to break the silence, “I brought you a gift.” I pointed at the Betrayer and removed her Iron mask to enjoy the delighted gasp from my only surviving friend. Her telltale Goddess’ given tattoos adorned each cheek, wrist, breast, thigh and ankle. The sunrise over a small cottage was known throughout the world and only the Chosen One could adorn it. No one else would be able to adorn those marks until Priestess Anna’s Death. She was still blindfolded, gagged and deafened and most importantly collared. Baal didn’t have Chosen Ones, He wanted competition.

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