or three days I'd searched for the place of bloodshed. As one of the Secret Order of Jerah, my job was to hunt down and destroy the servants of Lord Kaliban. My name is Matok, and my power comes from the sacred sword.

I followed the priest's acolyte toward the inner sanctuary, weaving through narrow, twisting passages.

The outer court was paved with red marble, and covered by future sacrifices. People moaned and wailed for help, scratching sores and dabbing open wounds as they awaited. My grief for them became a burning rage.

Silently in the shadows, I awaited the high priest. While he made gestures before a blue, pulsing crystal in the inner sanctum, I studied the standing stones near the sanctuary entrance. They were black granite slabs polished smooth on the outer surface, with strange glyphs carved deep within the cold stone. I had seen such glyphs on standing stones in the mountains of the shadow people, and doubted not that those dealers in blood had left the evil monuments, though what their strange writing expressed I did not know, had no wish to know.

The priest stepped into the courtyard, eyes searching for his next victim. Like a butcher of choice meat, the priest carefully examined the sacrifice his acolytes brought. I warily followed the priest, his servants, and the wailing victim, into the inner sanctum. In the center of the small room stood a pale blue crystal pulsing with life. The priest struck the blue crystal with a long, bone-like object, and the crystal resounded with a high-pitched tone that set nerves on edge. I had waited long enough.

I lifted my sword. The diamond-like stone in the hilt began to send forth blazing, rainbow colored shafts of light that filled the room, causing the servants of the priest to scream and flee. Yet the priest stood before me, mesmerized, but quickly composed himself, throwing me a dark, murderous look. The victim stumbled away, moving back into the outer court, now free of his captors.

"Do you think I abide alone,"said the priest in a mocking voice. "Do you dare enter this sacred dwelling, and expect that you shall live?"he laughed, his twisted features menacing and more repulsive.

"I waste no words,"I said. "I came not to banter with villains, but to kill enemies."I held aloft my sword, and the swirling rainbow of color grew more vivid upon floor and walls. The blue crystal at the center of the sanctum grew dull, its throbbing less as light from my sword overshadowed it.

The priest pushed a lever in the floor, and a large yawning gulf opened up near the base of the blue standing stone. Dark vapors poured upward, and a screech from the bowels of the earth pierced our eardrums. The priest merely smiled.

Out came the beast, covered in blood-red scales, a mouth that opened the length of a man, lined with teeth sharper and larger than a warrior's spear point. It had yellow eyes, and fastened them upon me. The devil reminded me of a dragon, yet its form seemed to shift in multi-colored light, making it appear insubstantial.

While studying the beast, I lost sight of the priest. He lunged upon my back, seeking to pin my arms to my sides and knock the sword from my right hand. He nearly succeeded, but I had fought with sword and spear upon the battlefield, while he had spent his days standing by while his victims were consumed. I threw him off, and swinging my sword, I struck him a blow upon the head that sent him to hell. I turned my attention back to the beast, and just as well, since he was closing the distance between us.

t rocked back and forth as if trying to decide how to devour me. I quickly stabbed at the heart of the beast, hoping to bring it down in a single blow, but as I feared, its scaled body caused the blade to glance off harmlessly. The beast did not seem to notice my attack. I warily approached the beast again, and it opened its mouth wide as if expecting me to step inside. Grimly, I rushed upon the beast, and it was taken aback, not prepared for attacks from its meals. The shimmering body of a woman took form as I drew closer, long hair, red lips became exposed, smiling at me.

How could I fight a woman?

"You want me," she smiled.

Yes I did, my body responded. But she was evil! Some of her long dress was still dragon scales. There was no choice! Fired by extreme urgency, I swung and brought my blade down upon the beast-woman's neck. Silver light from the wound radiated around the beast, burning into its body, causing the creature to slowly crumble into dust as it gave me a piteous, confused, but then enraged look. The devil gave a death scream, and was gone.

Next, I brought the sword down into contact with the pale blue crystal. There sounded a loud crack! from within the device, its evil power broken forever. The roof began to collapse, and I moved back into the outer court.

Standing among the sick and afflicted, I called for their attention. They were amazed at the collapse of the inner sanctuary--even their moans had temporarily ceased.

"There is no power here for good or evil. The priest will not return, and the power of the devil is broken in this defiled temple. Return to your homes if you can."

The destruction of the sanctuary was complete, no more blood would desecrate this place. Now that its devil was in hell and its priest dead, I hoped that true healing might come to this dark valley of the standing stones.

Yet my work goes on, for the servants of Lord Kaliban are many, and we who oppose him are few. Today was a victory, only Elohm can say what tomorrow will bring.

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