"No way. No damn way."
Azure sighed and shook his head, too tired from having dug the big man out to argue with him now. Fortunately, there was someone else at hand willing to do it for him.
"What part of 'Vertrius was the one that just attacked us' is unclear for you, Rockhead?" Nyx's tone was cutting and sarcastic, as dark as her ebon-flamed eyes. "Do you need me to use smaller words or did some of those stones knock loose what little sense you had?"
Corundar stood up from where he'd been sitting, squaring his shoulders and staring down the lithe shadow sorceress. "I'm not the enemy here, woman. He is. Or did I give you that little love tap up your side?"
He was referring to the sword slash left by the armored warrior as he flew past her back to his mount. If she'd not lurched to the side as he passed, his blade would have ended her. Growling, she broke eye contact and clenched her fists. "He's our enemy, but he's also our responsibility."
The half-giant spat into the ruins of the wall where he'd been buried by his own folly earlier. "I don't buy that! He's always played on the wrong damn team!"
Azure opened his mouth to speak but Byrne made his point for him. "Actually, he was with us for a long time, Cor." Her voice was uncharacteristically quiet. Hearing from Akasha that the knight they'd been fighting was their former friend Vertrius had really taken a toll on her.
"So what?! Am I the only person here to remember what happened when we first met him? He was on Father's side, trying to kill us. Has this escaped you all?!? He's rotten, through and through. I knew he'd turn on us again."
Nyx, who'd been trying to hold back her temper, finally snapped. She lashed out with one hand, manifesting her powers as a tendril of utter darkness. The whip of shadows sliced through the air between her and the Lord of Earth, veering aside only at the last moment to unleash her rage on the stones of the sundered wall.
"Hey! Watch it, you witch!" He clenched his fist, the ground beneath him shifting and shuddering as he prepared to defend himself. "Does the truth hurt?"
Nyx's armor appeared in a flare of onyx, obsidian plating covering her entire body save for her face. Her features, harsh and furious, made even Corundar take a step back as she screamed at him. "You hypocrite! Truth? You should have your tongue ripped out for daring to use the word! You want hurtful truths, trying looking at yourself in this mess!"
Byrne held her hands up, finding herself in the unlikely role of peacemaker. As Azure moved quietly behind Corundar, preparing to restrain him if he had to, she approached the Dark Lady slowly. "Come on, Nyx. let's all calm down, okay?"
"Not until Big Stupid pulls his head out of his ass or I shove it there permanently." her voice was taking on that ethereal quality, the ghost-like tone that meant the woman named Nyx was going away, soon to be replaced by the wrathful persona that lived inside of her - Sardon. If that happened...
In her mind's eye, Byrne saw the same thing she'd done to poor Faile occurring here. Only this time, it would be with all of her friends and the damage would be far worse. She couldn't bear to see that happen. Never again.
Her own armor manifesting in a pyre of raging heat and dancing flames, Byrne took to the air on the wings of a phoenix.
"STOP THIS RIGHT NOW!"
Her voice, amplified through the power of the goddess still within her, echoed for miles around the mountainside. Below her, her friends were all stunned and deafened by the sonic blast. They were still struggling to stand up by the time she landed.
"Please, all of you, we can't do this! This is what the Maimed One wants! We can't change the past. What's done is done."
Azure, Corundar, and Nyx turned to look at her, their expressions letting her know instantly that no matter how impassioned her speech might have been, waiting until their hearing returned first might have been a good idea. Still, the point had been made.
Nyx relaxed her powers, her armor fading away and the fury in her eyes subsiding. Corundar released his fist, sending the energies built up within it back to the earth from whence they came. Azure shot her a pained look, his skin tender and blushing from where her manifestation had given the poor water elf an instant sunburn.
Nearby, Akasha was still oblivious. Through all of this, since whispering her shocked revelation, she hadn't moved. The woman was still catatonic.
Corundar was the first to say something, as usual. "Look, I am not trying to dodge blame here, but I just don't see how him being a bastard is my damn fault."
Nyx growled again, but there was little hostility in it now. Rubbing her ears, she spoke quietly. "Vertrius lost his powers and left us because back on Athas, you were the one that tried to force divine energy into him."
"Hey now! I was trying to help him! Who wouldn't want to be a god? He was already basically invulnerable; nothing could affect him or hurt him. Godhood was the next step, right?"
Azure sighed again, finally getting what Nyx and Faile had been telling them all for weeks. "I think I see what the ladies have been saying."
Curundar turned on him even as Byrne figured it out as well. She dropped to her knees, shocked and disgusted at what they'd done. "Then for the love of Ao, tell me!" he said, his tone getting frustrated again.
Azure continued slowly, his calm demeanor the only thing keeping him from breaking down like the Lady of Fire. "Invulnerable, yes. Which meant he could not absorb the power you sent at him. Remember when we all had to work together to get the divine spark to merge with him?"
Corundar nodded. "Yeah, so?"
"We forced it to penetrate his defenses. He didn't want it but we made it happen anyway. It must have been... agony."
Corundar shrugged. "Again, so? I remember ascending. It hurt like a bi..."
The blue elf raised his hand, shutting Corundar up. "No, Cor. Think about this. We shattered his invulnerability. We drove the power of Athas' divine life force into a vampire. We didn't ascend him"
Byrne finished the thought, her voice dark with self-realized horror. "We murdered him."
The Lord of Stone was having none of this. "I don't think so. He was walking and talking just fine afterwards. Sure, he lost his vaunted immortality, but he was alive, damn it. A-LIVE."
"He was alive because of the contingent resurrection spell Akasha put on all of us. We'd long since used ours, but Vertrius never had. Byrne's right. We didn't make him a god. We killed him. Horribly."
"But..." Corundar scoffed, looking to anyone else in the hopes of having some support. "Come on." His tone turned a bit desperate. "You can't be serious." Seeing no one on his side, he tried to bluster again. "I was trying to help him, all right? I didn't want to hurt him."
Byrne nodded slowly. "I know, Cor. None of us did."
"But we are all to blame. It wasn't just you. It was your idea and you forced it to work, but we all had a hand in it." Nyx was speaking now, her eyes shut and glistening with bitter tears. "He's different this time. Before, he fought us because he was forced to. Now..."
For a long time, no one said anything. Finally, as the night glittered coldly above them, it was Akasha's voice that broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Now he wants us all dead."