The truck stopped a short distance from the Amalj'aa encampment, as the group stepped out of the bed, weapons at the ready. Malik and Vael led the charge, with Jarik and Ifrelle bringing up the rear, their patch to the camp clear. A lone guard stands at the entrance as Vael surveys the area, lightly protected, due to the summoning no doubt. She readied an arrow, and let it loose at the guard, striking it in the neck. As the guard fell, Ifrelle cast a fireball to help finish the job. One down, and they're in. A pair of guards at the next station, crossing routes like an old video game, Malik drew his sword and stalked his target, as Jarik conjured a rock to stun it with. Vael and Ifrelle took the other guard, another shot to the neck, and a fire spell to finish it off. Jarik looses his spell, striking the Amalj'aa in the back, making it turn to face him as Malik drove his sword through its heart.
They reconvene and make their way to the cave, stopping every few paces to make sure they aren't being followed. Two more stationed near a tent, the last before the entrance to the cave. No sense in subtlety now, they needed to get to the Flames still held there. A thunderbolt strikes the near guard, with a sword following, and an arrow the far, followed by a stone spell. The way was clear, with nothing to stop them. Ifrelle lit the cave, leading the way, as the group ran towards the holding area, when they arrived, they were greeted by...nothing.
The Amalj'aa have moved their prisoners, and the group gives chase, following the scant tracks and bits of debris left behind. Upon reaching the end of the cave and back outside, they realize what is about to happen. The flames, incapacitated are about to be sacrificed to Ifrit.
"We have to move! Now! Aim for the summoner!" Jarik shouted, as a volley of arrows and spells pelt the Amalj'aa grouped together, as the summoner finishes his incantation.
They were too late, as the summoner finished, the Aether from the stolen crystals rose, pouring to the center of the summoning circle. The Aether twisted and writhed, and when it went still, the group prepared for battle. It reformed into a flaming ball but for a moment, and exploded into a wave of heat and flames, as Jarik protected his allies with a protective bubble, the ground was set ablaze, and a ring of fire surrounded them. Out of the explosion rose a Primal, Ifrit, Lord of the Inferno.
As it walked towards the group, the Flames, the Amalj'aa, both sides' senses were overloaded by the Primal and its influence, overtaking their minds and wills. It roared, trying to do the same towards the Scions, until it sensed the Echo within them, even Jarik and Vael. Once it realized it could not temper them, it lunged, trying to pick them off one by one.
As it did so, Malik caught its claws with his shield, the hulking monstrosity trying to tear at anything it could reach. He taunted the god, not fearing for his own safety at that moment. "Your fight is with me! Come on!" As he swung his sword into its leg, Vael and Ifrelle loosed their respective arrows and spells into its back, while Jarik split time between casting and healing Malik, as the battle progressed, the Primal drove its fists into the ground, opening what seemed like cracks in the earth itself, thinking quickly, Malik dove out of the cracks as they erupted into flames beneath his feet.
Ifrelle tried everything in her arsenal to harm the Primal, ice magic wouldn't dent it, lightning, and non-Aspected spells seemed to harm it, and her last option, throwing more fire seemed do actual damage to it. So she cast, and cast, and cast until her body couldn't do so anymore, diving between fire and ice aspected magics to give her body a moment to rest and allow her to cast more fire spells. As she was charging a spell, she took a grazing blow from Ifrit on the leg, bringing her to a knee. Grimacing in pain, she realized she had let herself take a hit for trying to squeeze another cast out when a hit was coming. As she slowly rose to move from the next set of cracks, she stumbled, forcing herself to roll over to her side, momentum propelling her out of the flames.
Jarik, out of the corner of his eye catches this, and lets loose a Fluid Aura, trying to both push back the god, and snuff the flames for a moment. As he runs to Ifrelle, he launches an Aero spell at the beast's torso, trying to cut it to the point that it cannot breathe without causing pain, if it even breathed like mortals. He loads a healing spell, and casts it on her as he runs closer, moving to help her to her feet as the beast locks horns with Malik after avoiding another charge, the beast's claw caught by the shield, and the Gladiator's sword caught in the god's other claw. As Vael strafed to its back, she lines another shot and fires directly into the back of its head, followed by fire and stone into its ribs.
Ifrit leapt back, no longer trying to physically dominate the Scions, instead, it opted two do two things, the first, to conjure a focus, a nail into the ground near its feet, and then to channel its Aether through that nail. Realizing what was about to happen, Jarik made a call out, "Vael, Ifrelle! We need to bring down that focus! Put your fire on it! Malik! Try to break its concentration! Don't let it cast!" Malik whipped his shield into the god's leg, trying to force its knee to buckle, then swung his sword wildly, trying to bring it low to stop the cast. Frantically, Vael, Ifrelle and Jarik throw every spell and arrow they have into the nail, trying to break it. Finally, a breakthrough, the combined fire of the three ranged fighters was able to crack through the nail, and force it to collapse in a heap of Aether, thereby breaking Ifrit's concentration just long enough for Malik to brush it back fully.
Surprised, and realizing it was losing the fight, Ifrit calls all of its rage and fury to bear, exploding in a torrent of flame once more. The Scions dive in together as Jarik strains to maintain the bubble he conjures before the explosion, falling to a knee as it begins to crack and dissipate. Even more enraged, and now desperate, Ifrit throws all of its power into its blows, hammering at Malik until he buckles, and drops prone, shield still at the ready. Vael fires an arrow directly at the beast's face, drawing its attention long enough for Malik to get to his feet, and Jarik to patch him up. As he rises, Ifrit conjures pools of flame under the groups feet, forcing them to scramble to all sides of the burning circle. As the pools explode, Malik, in an act of desperation throws his shield at the beast, forcing its attention on him, as it catches the shield and throws at back at him even harder.
Ifrelle, drained and pushed to her limit, forces one last fire spell to leave her hands, before falling to her hands and knees to steady herself, and leaning on her staff to stand back up. She glances to her side, Vael and Jarik fighting together to cover her as she calls up the last dregs of energy she has to stand and keep fighting, to answer the bell. Vael, having caught a claw to the shoulder from Ifrit's rage while helping Malik, grimaces as blood trickles down her right arm as the battle nears its end. Both sides worn down beyond their limits, the Scions covered in blood, ash, and dirt, as the Primal readies one last, desperate attack. It lunges, aimed directly at them with the intention of taking them all out in one shot, as Malik catches it one last time with his shield, this time, striking its head to stun it, while Jarik casts Medica to heal the group just enough for one final strike. As Vael lets loose one last arrow to its head to further stun the beast, Ifrelle uses those last dregs of energy to call down a meteor of Aether in her own desperation, aimed directly for the Primal. As it strikes, the force of the blast sends the Scions flying back, while Ifrit lets out a final roar of pain, falls to the ground, and dissipates.
The battle was over. They had done the unthinkable, and felled a god this day. The Scions, battered, bloodied and bruised, leaned on each other to stand, the realization of what they've done washing over them. Even in the haze, and surrounded by flames, Jarik couldn't shake the feeling of eyes watching them. Not the Flames, not the Amalj'aa, but something else. Something more powerful than Ifrit.
"Scions, do you read me? Repeat, Scions of the Seventh Dawn, can you hear me!? This is Drybone Command, we weren't able to get close, but could observe the battle from afar, by the gods, you've slain Ifrit! We're coming to intercept, are the Flames with you?"
Malik's voice was shaking and tired from the ordeal, "We read you, bring a medic..pickup...sor..sorry, can't talk good right now." As the rescue crew arrived, they conferred amongst themselves what had to be done.
"It's not good Sarge, looking like telltale signs of Tempering."
The Flame Sergeant let out a sigh, "Damn it all, bloody shame it has to be done, these was good people, man or Amalj'aa. Nobody deserves a fate like this.
"What has to be done, Sergeant?" Vael asked through gritted teeth as the medic tended to her arm. "Tell me, don't leave me in the dark on this."
The Sergeant's face was grim as he looked towards the captives. "Tempered by the Primal, minds burnt out of them to where all they are is a shell, mindlessly worshipping it. Even with it dead, their worship'll bring it back, sooner than later, and it'll be worse than before. All that can be done, is to put them out of their suffering. It's horrid work, but it's all that we can do for them at this point. Poor bastards were dead when Ifrit looked 'em in the eyes, you won't want to be here for it Ma'am."
"My gods...is there nothing more we can do?"
"No ma'am, this is it. The truck will take your lot back to Drybone, I...I will have to get this started, then identify their bodies and inform next of kin. A lot of good men and women have been lost today, don't blame yourselves, it's the cost of this job. Raises many a man up, but it'll take what it's owed at a point."
The Scions boarded the truck at the other end of the cave, and were driven back to Drybone, the Sergeant walked the other direction towards the aftermath of the battle, to complete the grim task ahead of him.