Mentally processing the implications of the childs picture, Vlad casually rubbed it out with his foot. The tunnels would appear to be the correct way forward, and so he heading back in. After a while of walking, Cort complained of being tired, so Vlad started carrying him. Brief surprise about his strength and endurance replaced immediately with the knowledge of this is what he had become. An Anathema. A demonic creature capable of great and terrible destruction. And yet the story in the temple at Reinerheim implied that rather than demons they were… saviours? Heroes? Tired, sore and angry, Vlad realised that at least some of the answers he needed lay in that temple.
Vlad was startled out of his thoughts by screams of fear and the sounds of more cultists running through tunnels, although none in his direction. Additionally, now he was paying attention, there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Arriving at the room, he finds a large temple, bathed in light with a pool much like the ones in Siegsdorf and headless cove. In the pool is a neomah demon, and above it is Silver Heron, apparently held captive by chains of light with portions of its being missing. However, the most arresting sight was on the opposite side of the room, where Hailong and Pyotr stood, covered in blood and gore, glowing with fiery sunlight. Both had caste marks blazing on their foreheads, clearly freshly exalted, just as Vlad had a couple of hours earlier. Coincidence? Divine plan? These questions could wait as Vlad felt his eyes drawn back to the demon in the pool. She looked familiar, and it hit him as did a wave of anger. This was the same demon as the one in the temple under Siegsdorf.
Putting Cort down, and telling him to stay put, Vlad drew his sword and charged. Hailong was saying something, and the power behind the words pulled at Vlads mind. Between the anger at the presence of a demon and his own focus, Vlad simply ignored Hailong and charged the demon.
Vlad and Hailong arrived at the same time, Hailong a fraction ahead, while Pyotr started using his archery to start breaking the chains holding Silver Heron. Hailongs daggers blazed with searing light as they stabbed into the demon, causing it to scream in agony. The light caught Vlad a little by surprise, he could feel the… holiness in the light, and it was uncomfortable. With his previous injuries slowing him down, his stroke went astray and failed to kill the demon. The Neomah did drop the thing it was holding – it looked like a baby, just there was no life in it. Reacting on instinct, Vlad caught the child with his broken arm, swearing as a lance of pain went up his arm. Hailong turned to the remaining cultists that Vlad hadn’t noticed, and started to harangue them again. The demon sunk back from the pair, and started begging for its life, using some form of magic to appeal to Vlads compassion. Unfortunately for it, Vlad had none where demons were concerned, and ignoring its pleas, tried to finish it off. The pain in his arm, the accumulated wounds from the torture, and the Neomah twitching to one side, culminated in Vlad merely taking off one of its tentacles instead of killing it.
Spitting curses at Vlad, and calling him a traitorous child, the Neomah pulled a long needle and stabbed Vlad in the armpit, Vlad unable to bring his sword around in time to parry the attack. An instant burning sensation told of a poison on the needle, and the feeling spread a line of fire across Vlads chest as the needle was driven in. As Vlad fell to his knees in pain, Hailong finished off the demon, destroying its form.Vlad crawled out of the pool and sat down, breathing heavily. Pyotr eyed him questioningly, as Vlad had enough visible wounds to kill 3 normal men, and was still moving.
While he gathered the strength to move on, and the others freed Silver Heron, Vlad studied the situation. A neomah. A “not living” child. A god with pieces missing. Clearly, then, his father had taken his beliefs of empowerment to sickening lengths, and was using neomah to create artificial god (and presumably demon) bloods. This would explain the preponderance of god/demon blooded members of the Crimson Cloaks. The last words of the demon about him being its child were obviously false though, demonic lies to twist and confuse. Vlad had no talents beyond ordinary skill, at least until he exalted.
Explanation and understanding of the workings of the pool evaded Vlads pain fogged mind, and the burning sensation in his chest suggested finding the Doctor in short order would probably be for the best. Vlad decided that revealing his own exaltation right now might not be such a good idea. After all, its not like the rest of them will have exalted at the same time. There would be as much chance of that as there would be of a solar eclipse…