One of the last sights I expected to see upon re-approaching the oldwalls was a small contingent of Unbroken. Unmoved by the fact that I saved the lives of two prominent Unbroken commanders, they saw only allies to Voices of Nerat and his Scarlet Chorus. I offered to let them go in peace, even after they drew blades, but the brutes scoffed and charged. I have no doubt our skirmish undid all of the goodwill I had earned with the Unbroken to that point, though if I hadn’t yet earned their loyalty, or at least confidence, I don’t know what else I could have done to change things.

As we approached the breach in the historic oldwalls, ephemeral creatures began to amass within, as if defending against a frontal assault. “Banes,” Eb whispered, knuckles turning white as she gripped her staff tightly. From the little information I had so far, it seemed that my new blade and her spells were our best shot at getting through them, and into the depths of the oldwalls themselves. Light emanated from the crack, simultaneously calming and imposing to behold.

The banes were everywhere, seeming to come from every crevice and behind every fallen stone. Magic flashed, daggers swung, swords whistled, and otherworldly screams filled the musty air. Barik and Verse may not have been wielding magical artifacts, but they fought with the ferocity I had come to expect from them in our travels – though they were of two very different mindsets when it came to combat, they worked well together, covering for deficiencies in each others’ approach. I may have to ask at some point how a Scarlet Chorus member and a Disfavored were able to function so well, but for the time being I had my hands full, trying to slay the ghostly shapes charging us from the deep.

“Were the banes drawn to the outside air, the corpses, or those stone ornaments?” Eb mused in the musky, sticky air after all signs of immediate danger had passed. “All three?”

With grim-faced determination we pressed farther into the oldwalls, vigilant against attacks from any direction. I know this is the only way into the spire and to collect the artifact, but the very air made my hair stand on end, a palpable disquiet falling over everything.