Beyond the sealed door of the buried temple a series of stairs descended from the aboveground world like a runaway blasphemous thought. Corizande stepped lightly, her skeletal minions matching her quiet step for step. She followed a whisper, the unquiet dead. A distant friend she had seen fall in a dream who now haunted her. The compulsion had led her here on the trail of whatever demon had slain him.
The dust suspended in the still air did not yield for them, resisting the slightest breeze as if even the air was dead down here. The only illumination other than her conjured light was a soft glow from green mineral veins that permeated the stone around them. Unlike the manmade mines and temple above, the underworld below seemed untouched since the old gods had hewn it.
Reaching a landing in the subterranean cavern she commanded her light ahead of her, examining the precisely cut stone floor marked with a massive metal seal, imprinted by forgotten magic into a mural of the demon whose voice Corizande knew. Corizande’s book of spells hovered in the air over her open hand, pages turning by her thoughts. The silence here was imperfect, the air thick with a scent like iron and filth, some she recognized as the cruel Fallen that had spilled from the depths into the valley throughout the long winter. Corizande knew she was not alone.
She pulled the loom woven cloth armor tight over her shoulders, its pale blue from dye a secret only her coven knew. Sewn into it and her long gloves were ancient coins of bronze inscribed with forbidden verses. Together they radiated a formidable shield, strong enough to protect her from the common threats of the worn roads of home at least. Against the hordes of Hell, it had been barely enough to get her this far. To her credit, her devotion to dark magic also afforded her a personal guard of animated dead, her skeletal skirmishers and hollow-eyed spellcasters. Against the Fallen she often needed not raise a finger herself to fight, but whatever fiend had drawn her colleague here was anything but common hellspawn. Somewhere in the dark lurked a much more powerful foe.
Not ten paces beyond the seal Corizande found the first signs she had been looking for: piled corpses of Fallen and cursed beasts torn, frozen or incinerated by the high magic of a sorcerer. This was the work of her lost friend, a trail of destruction that bore his signature appetite for destructive elemental forces. She recalled his kind dark eyes, warm smile and infectious laughter. He was an arrogant son of a bitch, but had treated her with uncommon respect which earned her friendship. Today she repaid that respect by finding the monster that had been his match.
The carnage led her room after room of the same, her minions dispatching stragglers and other lesser Fallen lurking about to loot the dead. The trail led lower until she encountered a series of previously sealed gates that now lay open. Dried blood magic runes on the floor betrayed the nature of the foe she pursued, along with strange, scattered petals. They were red like roses but made the hair of her neck stand on end. The sensation felt like creeping madness, but one that bore dark wings and had heavy cloven footsteps. Not just any demon, but one she knew. The same on the seal she passed as she entered; Lilith. Daughter of Hatred.
Finally she arrived at the bottom of the cavern, a dark lake that suffocated the last beam of her magic light until only pale ambience remained. A long polished stone path extended over the edge of the lake, like an unfinished bridge between worlds. The floor was covered by interconnected blood runes, some of them still wet. At the far end of the open space she could see a figure knelt, back facing her as they continued inscribing the summoning spell. A barrier of blood magic surrounded the figure, who was breathing erratically. As Corizande approached she could make out it was a woman not many years older than her, seemingly driven mad by the same demonic voices. Nearby was the broken body of her friend, his staff shattered not far from his lifeless hands.
The woman, who was stammering under her breath to someone Corizande could not see, glanced at her nervously and hurried to continue her blood inscription. Corizande’s skeletal guard drew close around her as movement began increasing beyond the edge of her waning light. Corizande turned her wand to the body of her friend.
“Speak’, she uttered. A faint image of her friend appeared like a spirit above him, but beyond the veil he was unable to reply. He simply signed thank you and nodded his head in a final act of parting.
Corizande was not numb to the sting of grief at the sight. She blinked away fresh tears and fought a well of emotion as the clamor of approaching monsters grew louder. The woman started laughing as the blood runes on the floor began to glow bright red. Swirling clouds of choking darkness rushed into the space, forming a horde of demons flanked by beasts, winged succubus and a towering monstrosity wielding a blade of bones. His weapon crashed into the shields of her skeletal soldiers even before his hooves touched the stone. The chaos grew into a deafening pitch as her spellcasters rained dark bolts on her enemies. She pointed her wand at her departed friend.
“Rise, and be avenged”