“Glinda, be at ease. We do not intend on the removal of the tome.” Amarella insured the half-orc.
“Don’t we?” Leomourn pleaded.
“We just need to write one man’s death upon the pages.” Delgen said.
“Fine, but it will not leave my possession.” Glinda said as she turned the dusty book in her hands and presented it to her comrades.
“What was his name?” Leomourn asked moving to the book.
“Move over, it’s Surekh Al’ Sharif.” Darella said as she pulled the quill from the crease in the pages and stabbed it into her flesh drawing blood as ink from an inkwell. She started writing, but fell to the ground faint.
“Darella!” Amarella screamed and attended her sister, but quickly finding out that she was not dead.
“The graver the wish the more it takes from you.” Glinda said.
“I’ll give it a whirl.” Delgen said,“Now let’s see, what would be the most fitting death for so wretched a tyrant as Al’Sharif? Torn apart by wild dogs, perhaps? No far too messy, Perhaps some sort of auto-erotic asphy—”
Behind the party Glinda softly cleared her throat. “Master Delgen,any haste on your part would be welcomed.”
“Of course, of course,” mumbled the dwarf as he copied the Rogue’s actions. As he brought the blood-tipped quill to page he felt his an icy hand grip his heart. Gritting his teeth he scrawled the pen across the page, each letter stroke drawing even more of his life force.
With the remaining T’s safely crossed and I’s finally dotted, Delgen fell to his knees in exhaustion. The party crowded around him, not to help, but to see to what macabre fate the crazy old dwarf had condemned Al’Sharif.
Amalyn’s eyes went wide as she read from the book, “Surekh Al’Sharif died while addressing his loyal subjects. Suffering a massive heart attack, Al’Sharif’s final words were to inform his people that he had soiled himself.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Amarella cried, looking down at the old dwarf as he wheezed and chuckled to himself.
“How do we know if it worked?” Leomourn said, sitting in the middle of the chamber.
Surek looked down upon the countless followers and could not help but smile. This must be how a parent feels, he thought, when they see the blind love and devotion in the eyes of their gurgling, vapid children.
He raised his hands and a sudden silence washed through the adoring throngs. The people seemed to be under his complete control, eager to follow his command. Despite the day’s sweltering heat he felt himself covered in a cold sweat. He considered it only for the briefest of moments before returning his mind to the thousands of eyes upon him and the work he must do.
He was to deliver his great speech today, one that would finally turn the tide of public opinion against the triumvirate. He would receive cheers and adulation. These people would be on their knees weeping at his very words. Minstrels and Bards would spread tales of the event far across Rienland. The public would cheer for the oncoming wave of industrialization, with him as its head, and the Triumvirate would fail. Yes, Surekh Al’Sharif was on the verge of altering the course of history and nothing could stop him now. Having paused long enough to have achieved the appropriate amount of drama, he began.
“My people, open your ears to me and know my words, for there could be nothing more important for you to hear.”
That was when he felt the sudden stab of pain in his left arm. He ignored it; just a muscle cramp. He must not falter now, not even a bit. The moment was too important.
“For too long the Triumvirate has bound the wheels of progress, well I say no longer! We must take our fate into our own hands.”
He couldn’t ignore it. Slowly but surely, the pain was spreading. His chest felt tight and he became aware of the unbearable fullness of his bowels. He faltered suddenly, catching himself on the pulpit in front of him. The feeling of pressure inside his torso was growing, but still he was determined to make the speech.
“What I tell you today could alter Rienland forever. Listen carefully to these words.”
Despite being nearly doubled over in pain Surekh felt the pressure give way in his lower abdomen. From the looks on the faces of his shocked attendants he immediately deduced what exactly had happened. As the pain in his arm and chest slowly gave way to strange numbness Surekh managed one final rasp of breath.
“I…have shat myself.”
And with those final words the once all-powerful despot slumped forward dead and covered in his own filth in front of his loyal followers.
“Congratulations. You have killed Surekh.” A bodiless voice said within all of their heads.
“What? Who? Is it that genie again?” Leomourn asked looking about.
“I am freed of my duties. I will provide a portal from this temple. I am afraid that there is a small matter of which I have withheld information.” The djinn materialized within the chamber.
“There is always a catch.” Leomourn said.
“Not truly a catch, your task is completed. Though as I have mentioned, in providing Surekh with extended life I siphoned an ancient magic from the well. The essence of that magic is still within the body of Surekh. I now ask you to place the corpse of Surekh within the well to return things to normalcy.” Tal Rasha said.
“Great.” Leomourn said, falling back and lay upon the stone floor.
“Of course you can just walk through this portal and retrieve what is yours and go own your way, but carry with you the burden of knowing that this drought was perpetuated by your decision.” Tal Rasha
“Great.” Amarella said.
“We will do the act.” Delgen said, picking himself up and walking to the swirling and rippling portal that had appeared in the chamber.
“Here is the body. But feel free to use the book as well, you have truly proven worthy of it’s power. Do with it as you will, the greater the act the more taxing it is upon your soul and body though. If the book deems the request worthy you shall live, if not you can harm yourself if not kill yourself.” Tal Rasha said and with a gesture of his hand a corpse materialized and fell to the floor upsetting the dust.
They all took turns writing in the book.
Delgen grabbed the body by the scruff of the silken tunic and dragged the thing through the portal, the toes of the man’s boots carving lines in the dust. Delgen appeared on the other side of the portal in the bright heat of a desert. The others followed.
“You’re just in time! Come! I have tracked the beast! What are you going here anyway?” Griff Byron said as he ran by them.
“What? What are you doing here?” Leomourn asked.
“Make haste, I have found the Dry Kraken.” Griff said as he pulled his many pistols in the half-cocked position.
“Dry Kraken? What?” Leomourn said as he jogged along keeping pace with the erratic temponaut.
“There is an ancient beast that has been placed in this desert that according to my superiors will prevent the advancement of history, if it is not disposed of.” Byron said.
“Where is this well we are looking for?” Leomourn looked back.
“I hope it is bloody close, Surekh’s body is heavy.” Delgen said, dragging the corpse through the golden sand.
“A well, huh?” Byron asked.
“Yeah, why?” Leomourn said, as they ran around a large stone. What came into view drew a gasp from everyone as they quickly drew back behind the stone to gain cover. The aberration that fell upon their eye was a shambling mound of writhing and whipping tentacles half buried in the ancient sands. The whole thing was wrapped in stained and yellowed cloth similar to the style of the buried dead of Shanartha that could be found in giant stone coffins. This thing kept vigil gently undulating within its pool of warm sand.
“It is called a Crawling Apocalypse. The old desert mages learned the art of preserving the dead. Eventually wrapping bigger and more vile creatures. The northern sailors were paid generous purses of gold to trap and produce as many krakens as they could. They were given special nets and ships made by the elves to aid them in the hunt. The tribes of man found six of the vile leviathans, this is one of such abominations. I have killed two before.” Byron said, looking on to the giant wrapped beast as its sere tentacles waved in the heat.
“And there is a well behind it!” Darella said.
“Looks like our paths truly cross.” Griff said.
“Shall we?” Delgen said.
They all nodded and ran out from their vantage and were upon the thing within seconds. Unloosing all their munitions upon the undead thing.
“Anything we should know about this Creeping Apocalypse, Bronwyn?” Delgen said as he threw his hammer. There was a loud thud as the hammer smashed into the creature’s pulsating mass and promptly returned back to the cleric’s hand.
“The wraps that keep the thing together and reanimated are highly flammable! The oils and salves are of the most combustibility.” Byron said.
As everyone began using fire and fire magicks Darella phase stepped upon the thing’s dried back, it there ever was a discernible front or back or top and bottom. Plunging her dagger deep into the creature’s head. Perhaps the dagger or the combination of the blade and the consuming flame brought the creature to a halt and it lay atop the fiery sands defeated.
“Well, to the Well.” Delgen said as he went to retrieve the body of Surekh.
“Wait! Are you not going to drink from the Well of Al’Sharaz first?” Byron asked.
“Should we?” Delgen asked.
“Legend says that it bestows an ancient blessing from the elemental plane of water upon the drinker.” Byron said.
“Are you sure? You didn’t even seem to know that this well was even here just a while ago.” Leomourn said.
“I just looked at the name carved at the base of the thing and recalled the lore.” Griff said pointing at the well
“You first.” Leomourn said.
“Fine.” Griff said as he turned the pulley bringing up a stone pail full of water, after a long while of turning.
“Here’s to you.” Byron said drinking a portion looking well satisfied afterwards.
“It works!” Griff said, the others drank.
“So where to?” Byron asked. He turned a nob on a device on his forearm and a gigantic ship appeared high in the air off in the distance. Griff made gestures with his left hand and the ship turned in the air and approached the group as a great floating hound seemingly answering Griff’s gestures.
A very long and extended argument took place pertaining their next destination.
“Maybe you all can just get on the boat and we can discuss this as we’re moving, it is too hot to have this debate on the burning sands!” Called Byron from high in the air shaking the rope ladder he had climbed unnoticed as they fought.
They slowly climbed the hemp rungs while further arguing about their heading. Leomourn was second to last and reached out to grasp Griff’s outstretched forearm to aid the boarding of the zeitship. Just as Leomourn’s hand was to make contact, Griff looked confused and pulled back.
“What?! That’s weird.” Griff said. In straightening, Griff caused Leomourn to fall back, he reached out for a rung or anything to grasp, but to no avail. He fell back, his feet getting caught in the rungs and tangled. He crashed into Delgen.
“What are you doing, boy?! You are supposed to be deft.” Delgen said wrapping his arms in the rungs to insure his tenacity to the ladder.
“Griff let me fall! Help!” Leomourn screamed grabbing at the arrows falling from his quiver, grabbing most of them.
“What-Griff! What are you playing at Byron!?” Delgen said pointing up.
“I’m sorry there is an anomaly! I must man the wheel, help them!” Griff said to the three girls who were in a confused state petrified until now. They grabbed at the archer’s feet and tried to pull him upon the ship that at that moment lurched forward, causing Leomourn’s left foot to be liberated from the hempen ladder causing him to dangle in a mock of the twelfth trump card in a charlatan’s deck.
The Death cut through the desert air like a bird or a fish in the water. It continued forward at a fast pace, many knots faster than a water ship. From Leomourn’s vantage a most peculiar scene unraveled in the upside-down world he was seeing.
The sky was rent a few miles away and colours he could never put a name to spilled into the world and diffused into the sky. From the wound in the sky came thrusting through the tip of what appeared to be a spear and then an arm and a large man. The man was armoured in metallic armour and his skin held an azure patina in the sunlight. Despite the water flowing back into the world, the chilled skin of the giant caused a mist and drew line across the sky as the frost melted and fell to the ground like a rain. A Frost Giant had just ripped trough the sky or reality itself and started to fly in the direction of the ship.
“You can run no longer boy!” The giant screamed.
“What’s happening?!” Delgen asked trying to crane his neck, at the same time moving Leomourn’s bulk from of his line of view and remain attached to the rope all at once.
“Make haste! I need aid! Ladies, you are are to be my boatswains! Quickly, witch take the foresail, theif-gurl take the lateen mizzen, facelessone! The mainsail is yours!”
“What the-what?” Amalyn said, the sisters ran to sails and began ripping at riggings and pulling ropes and by chance sails were coming up and filling with wind.
“What about me!?” Leomourn screamed.
“Stuff it! Give me your hand, drop the arrows.” Delgen said.
“Little scoundrel! I shall stick you like a fish. I will make my master proud! Yes, he who slays the Fourth Hound of Al’handra will become Duke of Nyght!” Screamed the Frost Giant as it threw a large rock at Leomourn. The rock missed and hit the ships hull causing a large crash and sound of splintered oak, much more pleasing than splintered bone. The giant thrust his spear through the air and was propelled forward.
“Do you know this guy?” Delgen asked as he pulled Leomourn’s bow from it’s place on the quiver.
“No, never seen-oh no…” Leomourn said, dropping a handful of arrows.
“What? What did you do to piss this guy off?” Delgen said handing the bow to the archer, as the giant was gaining on the ship. The giant was close enough to thrust the spear at the hanging archer, a lurch in the ship made the hempen ladder jostle and move the dwarf and archer swing out of the way as the crackling spearhead cut through the air and space and time. The tip burst through the hull of the ship and the oaken caravel’s hull shattered and disintegrated as dust in the time distruption caused by the spear.
“Quickly tie down the sails! We need to gain distance and I can activate the TMP. Horse the sail, Amarella! Abeam to port!” Byron said.
“What?” Amarella said as she looked back over her shoulder.
“Pull the main boom to your left. The rigging would be too slow in this situation. We need to change courses quickly, and you are big enough to do it with brute strength.” Byron said this and Amarella understood. She grabbed the boom and ran portside, the ship lurched to the right fast and hard.
“Who is this guy Leomourn?!” Delgen screamed.
“I think this is the giant who took my mother!” Leomourn said, he nocked and fired an arrow. The arrow deflected off the giant’s armour.
“Here! Take this!” Delgen said, flipping his hammer in his hand and slammed it hard against Leomourn’s chest clanking against the armour.
“What?! Why? This is your hammer! I don’t know how to use it!” Leomourn said scrambling to grab the hammer, dropping more arrows in the process.
“This is your fight. You need this. Just throw it.” Delgen said, taking the bow from Leomourn.
The giant had fallen a bit behind during this exchange but thrusted the spear forward and sped close. After advancing enough he took a horizontal swing of the spear first cutting through the hull once again and then the hemp rope from which Leomourn and Delgen were hanging precariously. They fell before they knew what had happened.
Leomourn felt the sensation of free fall and had almost given up. Ever since that first day when his uncle had sent for him life had been so hard. He was fine moving cargo to and from ships, sure he smelled of fish but it was safe and constant. He would move cargo from sunrise to mid-afternoon then he would go to the twin’s inn and he would eat a fine and free meal. He would relax and talk with all the newcomers that came in and out of Dragonsmouth. He would sometimes drink, when he had no work the next day and he would play games with the guests. He would end the night by going up to the master suite that was his and Amarella’s and he would sleep on the finest bed in Dragonsmouth. Life was safe.
Leomourn stopped falling he felt a pressure about his ankle. He looked up and say Griff Byron’s left hand holding his boot. Griff was smiling. Leomourn then thought of all the fun and adventure he had had. All the new people, magic! He thought of the loot! Now he remembered life at the docks being boring and monotonous. He didn’t want to move another tuna the size of a horse again. He was fine fighting monsters that he had heard about as a boy, almost dying at every turn. He was happy to be with the twins and the elf. He felt weird thinking it but he was happy to be hanging on to life by a thread, with Delgen. Leomourn never had friends as a kid, never had friends at the docks. He would just move crates and then go home. Now he had friends, a family that not only fought alongside each other to reach a common goal, but because they cared. Life was fun.
Griff fired a shot from his gonne, it connected with the giant’s thigh causing the giant to founder in his flight. Griff returned the hand cannon to it’s place and in the short window of opportunity he grabbed Leomourn’s other leg and pulled the archer and dwarf onboard.
“What were you two doing?” Griff said, and ran back to the wheel pulling his sword out of the wheel, which he had jammed through the wheel and into the deck.
Leomourn looked down at the hammer in his hand and then to Delgen, they were still in heaps after being pulled onto the ship. A tear crawled out of his eye, to his chagrin. He clapped a hard palm on Delgen’s shoulder.
“What!? Get up and kill the guy!” Delgen said. Leomourn smiled and stood up. He widened his stance and threw the hammer. A fine throw. Delgen smiled but made sure no one saw, as he gathered himself up and smoothed out his clothes.
“Right, just a few more fathoms more and I can activate the T.M.P. safely. Keep him at bay, try to push him back.” Griff said looking back. He took a long-arm from his back and tossed it to the dwarf.
The hammer returned to Leomourn after it had landed flush against the giant’s cheek. He readied the hammer again but the giant had advanced once again and this time closer. The giant then took a high arcing swing with two hands over his head and came down hard upon Leomourn.
Leomourn jumped back and almost fell, the weight of the hammer helped him regain his balance, not dexterously but accidentally. Delgen had dropped to one knee, after putting on some silver lined spectacles, and was lining a shot. Leomourn ran forward and pressed a hard foot into Delgen’s shoulder and jumped onto the spear that was momentarily stuck in the deck of the ship, it’s magic slowly turning the oak into dust and petrified wood. The kick to Delgen’s shoulder sent the shot wildly and missed the giant completely.
“Gahh!” The dwarf screamed and tossed the rifle to the deck, it slid away. He stood with one hand on his hip and watched what the archer thought he was doing.
Leomourn ran up the shaft of the spear and took a slight leap after jumping over the fists of the giant. He took the hammer high into the air and smashed the giant in the face. The giant screamed and with a grimace ripped the spear from the ship. Leomourn put his feet into the giant’s chest and leaped back to the ship, crashing into a heap on the deck that was slowly falling ill with age.
“I think you only made him mad.” Delgen said, slowly putting his spectacles away in their secret spot. They looked up at the giant, his face slowly melting and scabbing.
“What does this hammer do?” Leomourn said, looking down at the weapon in his hands and then threw it once again.
“It is dwarf-made, so…many things. Mainly it is meant to kill giants.” Delgen said.
“Oh. Thanks.” Leomourn said. Darella and Amalyn ran to their sides, their riggings having been tightly bound.
“Oh you thought to help?” Leomourn said. Darella rolled her eyes.
“Now together!” Delgen said, seeing the giant approach once again. Leomourn threw the hammer, Delgen unleashed divine magics, Darella tossed her shadow dagger and Amalyn unleashed a maelstrom of fiery pain upon the giant. All this pushed their foe further back until he took one more thrust and rushed once again. Leomourn dropped the hammer and jumped on the the railing of the ship and balanced their precariously. He pointed his left fist to the giant and mumbled something and a gigantic white ram half the size of Fafnir himself exploded from Leomourn’s bracer and knocked the giant even further.
They then they felt a lurch, heard the sound of wood creaking and the sound an ancient titan groan deep from within the heart of the ship. There was a loud popping noise and then a forcefully explosion that emanated from the ship and sent the giant flailing back and then out of time. Reality was ripping and they swore they could see other worlds like glimpses through a glass and slowly the world was normal again.
“Well. Took you long enough.” Leomourn said smirking at Griff.
Griff turned round and charged the smirking archer. A palm clapped against Leomourn’s throat collapsing his windpipe, and a foot kicked his feet from under him. Hair flying, the archer fell to the deck of the ship, leaving the smirk in the air. Griff was upon him a knee in his chest and a dagger to his throat.
“You could have cost us our lives! Or worse my ship! Look at her! Who was that! How does he know chronomagic and why is he after you!” Griff screamed. Amalyn, Darella and the now present Amarella put blades to Byron’s back and screamed in protest and threat.
“I wouldn’t if I were you.” Griff straightening and revealing a grenado he held close to his chest the fuse burning sending sparks out into the air, some falling on Leomourns gasping face leaving black specks upon the alabaster flesh. They all stepped back.
There was a weird sound from somewhere else on the ship and then the device on Griff’s grenado hand made a small mechanical sound.
“Oh, pardon me.” Byron said putting the grenado in Leomourns trembling hands and ran from the stunned group.
“I apologize, I lost my temper.” Griff said as he disappeared below. Leomourn was visibly shaken and had no idea what to do with the burning bomb he held now and could not speak to ask for suggestions. Amalyn ran to him and grabbed it up and ran to the edge of the ailing ship and threw it overboard, a few seconds later a thunder clap was head as the grenado discharged. Amalyn sat their with her hands on the ship, patting clearly shaken. Delgen walked up and put his hand on hers.
“I would have just pulled out the fuse.” He said and walked away.
“One Fafnir, frost giant is reported to have ripped the minute hand from the Cosmic Clock. The transgressions was done under-veil and was thus unseen and could not have been prevented. His whereabouts are unknown, wielding the power of the Cosmic Clock his location and threat level could be infinite. A reward shall be granted to the Fixer who locates and defeats this brigand and double if he returns the Hand. It is unknown what the consequences will be now that there is no minute hand governing time, already we see fluctuations. This is of great import and must be taken seriously, any fixer on a non-urgent mission devote time to his case upon your convenience or sooner.” Griff read from what he called his, Lettre of Marque, which he produced from a small thing built into his ship, that looked not unlike a glass chest. he explained that this device was used to send items, like weapons, money, sometimes food or letters through time.
“Fafnir.” Leomourn let the name drip from his tongue as if was a poison.
“Well, I hope you have a summer home in Felden because I won’t be Zeitspringing anytime soon. The T.M.P. fried the engine and it will take about a week for it to be ready for travel, not to mention the damages to the hull and the deck she suffered from your friend.” Griff said, looking up from the letter he had began to write at his desk in the small dark office room before the captain’s quarters.
“He’s not my friend, he stole my mother. He drove my father mad. My father swam the icy Sea of Woes to find her! He wasted his life away, bent on finding her and I, it ate at his soul. He was driven to sin and worse. He enslaved to find us!” Leomourn growled.
“Okay! I’m sorry. I didn’t know, but why is he after you now? You seemed to not know who he was, have you never seen him before?” Griff asked.
“Only once, many years ago, when…” Leomourn trailed off.
“Why is he after you if he has your mother.” Griff said, the others looked to Leomourn too in confusion.
“I don’t know…wait…oh no. I wrote in that book that she be returned to my father.” Leomourn said palming his face.
“Who? Your mother?” Byron asked. Amarella held Leomourn.
“So what was the T.M.Z. that you so badly wanted to activate, don’t get me wrong it worked wonders, but it has killed your boat.” Delgen said, pulling a chair up to the desk peering discreetly at the letter Byron was penning.
“Temporal Magnetic Pulse. It creates a forcefully expulsion centering on the hull of the ship outwards. Banishing any thing within the area from this time and into the Time Sea. Fafnir could be anywhere and any time. Using the T.M.P. drains the power from the engine. The engine runs on infinite power but it takes time to recharge, the T.M.P. is a last resort and you better help it works and you catch the foe in the area of effect because it leaves you helpless for about a week. Luckily we can sail on the winds still.” Byron said folding the letter, he poured wax and pressed down on it with a ring. Leaving a winged sword sealing the note. He stood up and put the parchment into the glass chest that was half-built into the wall and closed the lid.
Delgen watched as the letter disappeared without a sound.
“I want to be a Time Fixer.” Delgen said.
They after sailing the desert for a number of days finally set their eyes upon Felden once again. It was much like they had left it save for the fact that water was slowly crawling the waterways and the lake in which Felden was an island was slowly filling with blue ink once again. People were bustling about and free, no Surekh to oppress them. The city was at the infantile stages of flourishing. Griff moved the ship to the one man in town who was a boatwright, he had lost his job during the Dry ages…no water, no boats. Byron said he would meet them here in a week and a half for their next journey but for now they could go about and hopefully find coin to help with repairs, though on the way Delgen had used what magics he knew about mending, but the damages were too far and serious. Darella had tried to swing a hammer to fix the deck as well but to no avail.
“May your god’s shine upon you.” Griff said, grasping Leomourn and Delgen by the forearms and kissing the ladies’ fingers.
“Hey! Where is Glinda?” Leomourn said as they walked by the post where they had met their comrade.
“I don’t know. I thought she was with you.” Delgen said to the twins. They both shook their heads in opposition.
“I guess she never walked through the portal, with us. She wanted to make sure the book never left the Temple.” Amalyn said.
“Was there an other way out?” Leomourn said.
“Let’s just hope.” Delgen said, they walked to the nearest inn following the dwarf.
“Word on the street is that there have been some murders in the last few nights, the people think the Watchmen are not doing their job. Some say it is caused by the eclipse. Also they took down the water bar.” Darella said after joining the table, she had done her rogueish rounds as they drink and ate.
“I wrote his death in the book…” Delgen whispered after a gasping sound and after he grasped his chest. He looked down reflectively.
“What?” Leomourn asked after throwing back horn of elven ale. The dwarf ignored the inquiry, and the rest of the night was somber if not silent.
A stout dwarf approached their table. He was a fist taller than Delgen, perhaps younger but it is hard to tell with the mountain race. He had salt and pepper coloured hair. He had put his coat on the lower rack by the door. He walked with meaning with a militaristic air about him. There was a belt of many things hanging from his waist, including many daggers and pouches. His boots made loud metal clanks as he stepped, to announce his presence and maybe to show that he didn’t care who noticed but wanted to be noticed.
“Oh no…” Leomourn said, hiding behind the horn as if to lead the dwarf to another table.
The dwarf produced a purse from his belt and tossed it on the table. Leomourn came out from hiding and slowly pinched the bag and pulled it by his plate of pork.
“I am Inquisitor Drexel Ironshaft. I noticed you lot when you came through town not too long ago. You left Felden last Lykosdai. The next day we found a dead body in the middle of town, so I know it wasn’t you. This body was the first of nine murders that has happened over the last few days. There was one every night, for the last ten nights. I trust you lot have nothing to do with this since I saw you walk out of town myself.” Drexel said. Delgen had not even looked up from his somber trance.
“The harsh nights have ceased now that the ground is wet again with lifeblood. Though with this murderer out and about, I have enforced a city-wide curfew, to protect the citizens of Felden. We have a few of my Watchmen hidden throughout the city keeping an eye on the town. Thus far to no avail. We know not when and where to keep are keenest view, the murders have been completely random. As I had said before there has been nine murders. The first one found Selendai, that night was silent and there was no body found the next day. Which lead me and my men to believe it was just a murder in the heat of the moment, the killer to afraid to move the body or take anything. Then Syggsdai evening there was another murder and there has been one every night since then. The reason I have told you all this is the fact that I saw you with my own to eyes leads me to believe you do not have anything to do with these killings, and I would like to have more eyes on this case. I have a reward in gold to tempt you if that is what you wish, but I have gathered that you lot are an experienced group and might serve as a seasoned set of eyes and ears that may offer an objective view that my tunneled eyes from the inside may be lacking. If you agree I shall meet you at the Morgue; Abydos, the Empiric will be there keeping the bodies. Horus his assistant will see you in.” Drexel said.
“We’ll do it!” Leomourn said after feeling the weight of the purse.
“Very good.” Drexel turned and walked out. Leomourn opened the bag of coins and poured it on to the table. Leomourn was anticipating coin after coin to fall to the table but instead a few handfuls of dried leaves fell and settled on the table.
“Smart guy.” Darella said. Leomourn protested, crossed his arms and settled hard in his seat.
“Here.” For the first time in about half the night Delgen had spoken, as he slammed the horn that Heimdall had wielded, into Leomourns gut.
“What is this for? I was joking.” Leomourn said as he held the horn.
“It’s yours.” Delgen said and removed himself from the table and walked out.
“What’s his problem?” Leomourn asked.
They met back up with Delgen on the path to the Morgue, but no one uttered a word.
They opened the door to the dark building and were greeted by Horus, who lead them downstairs. The air and humidity got colder and wetter as they descended. They got pretty deep and came to a large room lit by candle fire. They were lead to the other end where there are nine gurneys. There is was queer figure pacing the beds.
Doctor Abydos wore a beak doctor costume. A protective suit consisting of a heavy fabric overcoat that was waxed, a mask of glassed eye openings and a cone shaped like a beak to hold scented substances. Some of the scented materials were amber, balm-mint leaves, camphor, cloves, laudanum, myrrh, rose petals, and storax. He held a wooden cane pointer, that which he used to examine the patient without touching. He paced with a clipboard and a quill, sometimes poking at the cadavers upon their cold metal beds. Even though he allows the clerics to cast Gentle repose upon the corpses, he attributes the slow deterioration to the cold temp and his own alchemical concoctions he adds has boiling and constantly dripping and fuming.
“I am happy you came. As you can see there are nine victims all of their causes of death differ, some of the victims have had body parts removed. Which were all found next to the body the day they were found. Five of the bodies all have a long cut from wrist to wrist. Feel free to examine them as you will.” Drexel said and stepped back to listen, after silently entering the room.
They all move closer and look at the bodies. Leomourn shrugged.
“How about you humour us to stimulate our senses. We have just come from a taxing trip into the desert and our observations skills have been burnt and dried by the heat and sun, and out deduction is dormant.” Delgen said.
“Very well, Doktor.” Drexel motioned.
“Yes…This specimen seemed to be a middle aged human male, average height, above average weight. He was suffering from androgenic alopecia, dyspnea and bromhidrosis. There is a laceration from wrist to wrist rupturing the ulnar artery.” Abydos said after he approached the first body, a middle aged man clothed in a fine red silk shirt, black leather pants, a dragonskin belt, and the finest owlbear cloak that gold could buy. Delgen looked longingly at the cloak. Around his neck he wore a large golden necklace, he had silver and mithral ring, basilisk-hide boots and displacer beast coin purse. There was a cut from wrist to wrist and there was a large cut in the abdomen.
“What does that mean in common tongue and can we touch the body?” Darella said leaning in.
“Yes feel free.” Drexel said putting his hand up preventing Doktor Abydos from protesting.
Darella poked and prodded. Leomourn joined finding first the amount of coin in the man’s purse, Drexel said that they had already found that out and that it was for now evidence.
“He has splinters under his fingernails.” Darella said.
“Very astute. Something has slipped mine eye. Most likely a defensive wound…but wood?” Drexel said, visibly excited that there were things this group could find that he had not…maybe they would be of use.
“His face is stained it seems, and his hair is sticky.” Leomourn said, he put his finger to his tongue.
“His hair tastes sweet. How did this man die?” Leomourn asked. Looking at the doctor.
“Cause of death was asphyxia which lead to cerebral hypoxia and myocardial infarction. His stomach was removed…which was filled with bolus.” Abydos said, reading his notes.
“He drowned.” Drexel said.
“In wine.” Leomourn added.
“He had a note stuffed deep in his pocket.” Darella said.
“What does it say?” Drexel asked, clearly having not seen the note before.
“All things do help the unhappy man to fall.” Darella read, she shrugged and handed the slip of paper to Drexel.
“He was found face up in front of the Temple of Heironeous. He was identified by the locals as one Viktor Edler Von Strumm. A vassal who held seisn of a large farming plantation at the edge of Felden county. Seems he came into riches at a young age and has been wallowing in it for quite some time. It seems he’s never worked a day in his life. He doesn’t seem to have any living family members, the only lead we have is that his Superior is one Lord Romulus. Romulus is not in town right now he is in Icedell, he deals mainly there but his inferiors are in town, if you think you could get something valuable from interrogating them.” Drexel said as he walked to a wall and added the note to a symbol on the wall. He had a whole system of images and words on the wall, some connected by a red thread and others a blue thread.
“We might after we learn more about the bodies.” Delgen added, and walked to the next body and stood waiting for Doktor Abydos to speak.
“This specimen seemed to be a male human of above average height and weight. He seemed to be healthy no signs of disease or plague. There is likewise a laceration from wrist to wrist.” Abydos said.
“Cause of death?” Delgen asked.
“Cause of death was asphyxiation. Heart was removed, the incisions were very deft.” Doktor Abydos points at the heart in a bowl beside the gurney.
This man was tall and slender with a birdlike face and hooked nose. He wore simple silk clothes, a belt bag bursting with scrolls, simple but high quality boots. There was a cut from wrist to wrist and there was a large cut on the left side of his breast.
“There are scratches and bruising on his neck.” Delgen said, without moving or altering his stance of arms clasped behind his back. Drexel smiled a broad smile.
“There is something in his throat.” Leomourn said, diving his hand deep into the corpse’s mouth. Doktor Abydos muttered something about hemostatic clamps but all too late, as Leomourn pulled a large golden coin from the dead man’s mouth.
“There is a note in his shirt too.” Darella said.
“And this one reads? Is it in the same hand?” Drexel asked, excited.
“A politician is the devil’s quilted anvil; He fashions all sins on him, and the blows are never heard.” Darella said and tossed the note in the air, Drexel grabbed it as it fell through the air like a feather.
“He was found face down in the streets, his hand teathered to a large rock by a leather cord. The local merchants identified him as one Naveen Tareeq, a merchant who climbed the rungs of Noblehood. He quickly rose to the top of the circles of the Nobles becoming one of the richest in Felden. There were many items in his pockets ranging from coins from around the world, to trinkets and statuettes. He had glasspieces and ivories and bones. There was a holy symbol of Pelor next to him…though it was broken to pieces. We asked the local temple if they knew this man, and they found that he was a clergyman of Icedell. It is odd that he was not in clerical vestments. I think since you are a man of the cloth you might be able to find out more about this man at the Temple of Pelor. It seemed the aim of the murder was to focus on killing wealthy noblemen, I have heard that a cut from wrist to wrist is a threat among merchants or nobles, it represents a bad deal that has gone hand over hand or letting one hand know what the other has done.” Drexel said as his eyes glassed while he recalled his knowledge of the body.
“There is a small word cut into his chest.” Darella said, pointing to what looked little more than a scratch perpendicular to the cut used to remove the heart. Doktor Abydos moved in with a magnifying lens.
“Avaritia.” Abydos read.
“Make note of it!” Drexel said looking over the doctor’s shoulder, then ran to the wall and wrote the word under another symbol on the wall.
“Oh my!” Amarella said from a few feet over. She had just noticed that the third body was very badly burnt, mostly blackened like a suckling on a spit.
A slender man lay on the gurney not really much to see past the burnt flesh and clothes tattered and melted to the body. The only thing that was clear was the elaborate golden codpiece that was shining very brightly due to the polishing nature of the flame.
“Lemmie guess, cause of death…fire?” Leomourn asked as he stepped over.
“This specimen was a male human of average height and under average weight due to substance usage and malnutrition. There are light scarring found all about the body and there are piercings through both mammary papillae. A laceration from wrist to wrist. Cause of death was hyperthermia, perfusion, hemorrhaging and thermal decomposition. His genitals were removed, also which were pierced.” Abydos read poking the body with his rod and then pointing at the bowl of unburnt genitals that filled a silver bowl on the side table.
“He smells familiar.” Leomourn said.
“Of human cooking?” Delgen said, smiling at Drexel. The joke was to the room, if Drexel found it amusing he hid his reaction and approval.
“Of lantern oil…glass!” Leomourn said after fetching a piece of broken glass from the dead man’s hair.
“He was found face down in the streets still smoldering. Luckily he was identified by the golden codpiece which was unharmed in the fire. The lovely wenches at The Honey Pot identified this vic as one Roderigo Castille. He runs the place. He manages the place…and from the sound of it he is one of his own clients. He ran the place and ran the women, they also informed me that he had a very intimate relationship with sannish, baccaran and devilweed. It is hard to get anything out of the girls from The Honey Pot without dropping coin, but if you guys feel lucky I would go there and ask around. This guy is not a nobleman like the first three, but he was drowning in gold and quim. He doesn’t seem to fit the M.O. of the murderer, which puzzles me. Good luck finding a little note from our murderer on this one." Drexel said and just as he had finished saying so, Amalyn reached into the bowl of genitals and pulled from the disembodied pudenda a small rolled note; steadying the mess with her other hand, that had been tucked away in the prepuce of the dead man’s copulatory organ.
“Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.” Amalyn said and handed the note to Drexel as if it was a poisonous insect.
“What do all of these silly notes mean?” Delgen asked rhetorically.
“You say this man was a frequent of the brothels?” Amalyn asked.
“Yes, he owned the Honey Pot and was one of it’s clients.” Drexel said.
“Lust…” Amalyn whispered, with a finger on her lips.
“Excuse me?” Drexel inquired.
“This one was guilty of Lust. One of the Seven Sins.” Amalyn said.
“What?” Drexel asked.
“No, she may be on to something.” Delgen said stepping to the others.
“He was burned alive, as in life he let the fires of passion burn his soul.” Darella said, pointing gently at the seared corpse.
“What if they were all killed in a manner befitting to their greatest sin?” Amalyn looked at the dwarf.
“Well, that seems…I guess. Perhaps…Well I never…” The dwarf said, alternating between covering his mouth and displaying an open palm in the air. Perhaps more in shock and awe at the astute postulation of the elf, than the act itself.
“Let us examine all the bodies before jumping to any hypotheses.” Amarella said.
“Luxuria.” Darella said, pointing to the dead man’s chest. With the aid of torch light and pulling a blackened fold of flesh away, there could be seen the word carved in the man’s skin. Darella ran to the first body and ripped open the shirt that had been stained purple around the collar.
“Gula?” Darella said, finger on the word.
“Who is this strange man who kills men at night? He’s is right under my nose…is he toying with me! My town!” Drexel said punching a fist into the gurney.
“Steady, friend. We shall find this man.” Delgen said, moving to the next gurney.
An ancient looking elf lay there naked but his undergarment. There was brusing and dents all over the body the marks being alternately single then double, implying great pressure from a metal chain much like the one laying on the table by the bowl with a bloody organ sitting in it. Amalyn whimpered after casting a gaze upon the old elf.
“This specimen was a male elf of some two centuries of age. Average height underweight, unhealthy for his age. Apoptosis caused by atrophic development can be found throughout the body, perhaps even cachexia. It can be assumed that this specimen suffered from asthenia. According to the amount of blood found in the cadaver even after the laceration across the pectoralis major implies that the victim might have had anemia in life.”
“Where did you find this guy?” Leomourn said pointing at Abydos.
“So how did this one die? Was it the chain?” Amarella asked.
“Cause of death can be suggested that pressure caused by constriction caused a rise in the pressure in the victim’s body cavity greater than the heart could counter, resulting in immediate cardiac arrest. This victim’s spleen was removed.” Abydos read from his clipboard.
“Found it! Acedia!” Leomourn said after rushing to the body and searching for the little carved word on the body.
“Heaven fashioned us of nothing; and we strive to bring ourselves to nothing.” Darella said reading the note she found tied into the old elf’s silver hair.
“This old guy was found face down in the streets wrapped in chains, so tight the old guy couldn’t have even wiggled his toes. Some of the older citizens of Felden gasped and called this one Beltin, Beltin Magesblood. They seemed to be more amazed to see him at all then to see him dead. He hasn’t been in town for a long while, said to have stayed in his farmhouse on the outskirts of town according to most. There was an old crone that told me something about this man and how his wife and child were taken from him long ago, if you’re interested you can go ask her yourself.” Drexel asked, taking the note from Darella and putting it along with the word on the wall.
“One last one.” Delgen said, sounding more relieved than anything.
The body of a fit man lay on the gurney. His chest and arms a collection of knotted muscles and sinewy lines glistened in the faint candle light. His head bore shortly trimmed dark hair and a well trimmed beard. He looked stern and his forehead had wrinkles that seemed to have come from constant furrowing of the brow. There were two predominating things about this cadaver. Firstly there were bruising and fresh cuts all over the body and secondly, both of the hands were removed and placed in the bowl beside the bed.
“Oh, gross.” Amalyn said. Abydos stepped forward.
“This specimen was a male human most physically fit of all. Perhaps mid thirties, increased muscle structure in arms back and abdomen with phenomenal mass mainly found in the triceps which imply a repetitive downwards motion. Many fractures were found in the fifth metacarpal, phalanx and scaphoid. There were what seem scars from what seem to be self-inflicted wounds all over the specimen’s body, as with the others there is a laceration from hand to hand.” He said pointing with the rod.
“A fighter? Is there an arena here?” Amarella asked.
“No, none. He was a slave owner.” Drexel said.
“Cause of death: desanguination due to haemorrhaging. Abrasions, excoriations, haemotomas, incisions and contusions populate the whole surface of the specimen. Both hands were removed cleanly. The radius and ulna precisely separated from the carpus with out even damaging bone.” Abydos said with a tone sounding almost like admiration.
“This one was found face down in the streets in a pool of his own blood. He looks to be badly beaten. His wife was one of the on-lookers as word fell that there was another murder, she said he never came home that night and she was anxious…though she did not even feign sorrow or even show a sign of mourning. I also recall she had a blackened eye. She was the one who identified him as Deidrick Mulson. I would ask her more about this one, she is one Marlena Mulson.” Drexel said.
“Men often are valued high, when they are most wretched.” Leomourn read after he found the letter on the man’s body, quickly handing it off to Drexel not caring for the assumed hidden meaning of its presence.
“Ira.” Darella said reading the fifth and last word.
“So, five men killed five different ways all with a word carved in their flesh and with five little notes placed on their person.” Amarella said.
“So if the murderer was to have killed them in manners according to their sin…” Darella said.
“The great big fat one-” Amalyn said.
“Von Strumm.” Drexel said.
“Must have been guilty of gluttony.” The elf said.
“And he was drowned in wine.” Leomourn added, the elf nodded.
“The stomach removed…perhaps thought to have been the source of the sin or temptation.” Abydos added from behind the noisome masque.
“What of Naveen?” Drexel asked.
“He choked on the coin.” Leomourn added looking off in the distance.
“Greed.” Amalyn said.
“Sometimes the heart yearns for more than logic dictates.” Delgen said poignantly, tipping the silver bowl containing a human heart.
“We know the burned man died for lust.” Leomourn said.
“Obviously his means of implementing his sin were removed.” Darella said, not even looking in the bowl of blackened genitals.
“But what of this little old one, who would ever want to kill him and what sin could he possibly have committed?” Amalyn almost in tears.
“Chains…Sloth.” Delgen said.
“He was enslaved by the shackles of apathy, therefore the physical chains took his final breath.” Leomourn said, eyes all turned upon him. He shrugged, Amalyn glared at him.
“This one was guilty of Wrath then.” Amarella said.
“Well how was he killed?” Leomourn asked.
“Desanguination due to haemorrhaging. The abrasions, excoriations, haemotomas, incisions and contusions may lend to the idea of being dropped down a cliff or into a ravine filled with sharp rocks and blunt edges. The dirt and small debris evident in some abrasions support this idea.” Abydos added.
“He was dropped off the side of the island, surely it would be filled with rough edges in this drought.” Drexel said, adding many notes to his wall of investigation.
“So if we have five murders, five sins…that leaves-” Darella said.
“Two more murders. Envy and-” Amalyn started.
“Pride.” Delgen muttered almost imperceptibly.
“Well, my friends; you have certainly helped me immensely. I shall offer you payment of one thousand gold coins right now just for the help you have provided me just then. It is up to you if you will to walk away now, but I will also welcome your further aid.” Drexel said from the wall as he completed the words and notes, pulling a purse of gold from his belt and handing it to Amarella.
“Is it real gold this time?” Leomourn asked with a grimace of untrust.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is real this time and I hope you can forgive me for deceiving you earlier, I had to ensure your interest without loosing funding.” Drexel said.
“Now if you are to help me, I would suggest you to gather information before night fall, for it the murderer acts upon pattern there will be one more citizen of Felden to fall tonight.” Drexel said.
“What about those four?” Amarella asked.
“These four have all received similar lacerations running the length of the mandible; resulting in trauma to the sterno hyoideus muscle, trachea, the sterno-cleidomastoideus muscle and the external jugular vein.” Abydos said flipping a page on the clipboard.
“We put these four over here because though they were murdered during the same time period, I have reason to believe they are either done by a second killer, a copycat, or just random killings that have coincidently happened. Firstly they were all killed cleanly with no elaborate display of torture or the like. Also there are no signs of self-defense or struggle with these four. The second more interesting thing is that they are all clerics of Hieroneous. They were all found face up or on their side.” Drexel said. Darella searched all the bodies and could find no hidden lexeme or little written note to be found on any of the bodies.
“We have to act now, before any more are killed in the night!” Delgen said driven by some unknown clout.
“I shall stay here and see if I can figure anything out about these words or notes.” Drexel said as they exited into the city.
The group went out into the city and followed directions to the five leads that Drexel had given them. They walked with a nervous eye to the darker parts of the streets, as if the murderer had already found out about them and was tailing them.
“Fruben Goldtruffle. He works for Von Strumm and Romulus.” Darella read as she lead them to a large villa in the richer part of Felden. She knocked on the door. A nervous and obviously annoyed balding man answered the door and led them in. He lead them into a large room with display cases and showed them to a silver platter that had a decanter of Gnome wine and six pewter goblets. Delgen eyeballed a large banner that hung from the wall above the door. It was a finely crafted banner of golden background and a crimson fish.
After a very rushed and awkward conversation with Fruben they found out, Von Strumm was a vassel of his masters and his untimely death has caused a constraint upon his fiscal status. He was making more gold having a Edler Von in charge of the farming plantation, now with his death he will have to reemploy a new vassal and that will be costly. Von Strumm was supposed to come talk with the treasurer the day the body was found to discuss the terms of his seisin, because it seemed as if Von Strumm wanted to leave the plantation, Romulus wanted to convince him to stay. So it would be counterintuitive to murder him. Romulus is in Icedell where his primary villa is. He travels mainly between Icedell and Felden. Fruben had lead the conversation outside and before they had even noticed he had closed the door leaving them outside.
“So Romulus knew Von Strumm…” Leomourn said.
“Who’s next?” Delgen asked.
“High Priest Drunin Farthenbach Cleric of Pelor in Felden. Naveen’s lead.” Darella said. They walked to the temple of Pelor and had a genteel conversation with Drunin.
Drunin said that the clergy of Pelor does not require their members to take a vow of poverty and it is very common to see a follower of Pelor to live lavishly. He knew that Naveen stayed mostly in Icedell and somehow always got what he wanted. He coyishly mentioned simony, but felt bad for even thinking it. He said Naveen ascended the ranks of clergy quite fast and there there were rumors that he achieved this in less than savory ways but none could truly know. Naveen was open to other temples and often chose to aleiviate his troubles by visiting other sites of worship.
“When a temple is privately funded by a nobleman such as Romulus who’s to know what really goes on behind the walls, as long as it brings in more believers of Pelor." Everyone’s brow’s were raised.
“Faith should not be built upon a foundation of gold and coin. For when those fail the whole of the religion fails and can be corrupted.” Delgen said as he walked away from the temple, fuming.
“Delgen, I know you are a man of the cloth but I have never heard you before today mention religion.” Amarella stated.
“Religion is best kept close and personal, it is most effective that way. I only speak out when the divines are misused for petty or vile reasons. My faith has been shaken many more times than I can count but still I hold true to the All-Father’s teachings be it silently or not.” Delgen huffed.
“Unanda. Crone, from the outskirts of town.” Darella said.
She had been around for a while. She was a half-elf and was a little girl when Beltin’s wife and child were taken. She said there used to be raids in the past, barbarians would come in and take women and children. She said Beltin was devastated he locked himself away in his little hut and never came out since that day. Many thought he was starving himself feeling ashamed of not being able to prevent the tragedy, others secretly whispered of his cowardice and said if he really was torn so then he should have gone out to look for them and went at all costs to find them. Unanda visited him once and a while, she was the only one who knew he was alive this whole time. She took him food and drink as he wasted away on his bed with his wife’s scarf and his daughter’s toy clutched to his chest. She said recently a Nobleman by the name Romulus wanted to buy Beltin’s farmland, to have a second branch in Felden to double his income and have a fief in both towns. Beltin was stubborn and refused, he said Romulus could have it when he died, even though Unanda knew the price would be more than enough to move into a smaller house and possibly raise his spirits. Unanda was hopelessly in love with Beltin and was very distraught at both his stubbornness and his death.
“I guess Romulus owns the farm now.” She also mentioned that clerics would come and offer solace to Beltin often, though he would only rarely speak to anyone other than her.
“Next.” Delgen said walking away from the small hut that was Unanda’s.
“Inma. Mistress of the Honey Pot.” Darella read.
“The Honey Pot, huh. What is that a sweet shoppe or a meadery? I could go for either!” Leomourn said.
“It’s a brothel.” Darella said.
“Oh. I could go for that as well.” Leomourn said, before he could finish the statement his back was met with a crushing blow from the barbaric Amarella.
“Welcome to the Honey Pot.” The young woman said at the front of the building. She was lithe and suggestively clothed. Her mellifluent voice instantly putting Leomourn and Delgen into a slight stupor.
“Would you like a room and or companionship? We offer lads and ladies of all ages and races.” She said leaning forward on the desk exposing more of her alabaster bosom.
“We are here on official business, that has to do with the murders that have been happening here in Felden. We are to ask misses Lott to lead us to Mistress Heinous.” Darella said.
“Oh certainly, she is with a client right now but should be free shortly. You can call me Mona by the way.” She stepped from behind the desk and led the group deeper into the house of assignation. The sway of her hip summoned the two men to immediately follow her, then the others.
Inma was a halfling prostitute. She was clothed in a skin-tight leather dress and wielded a whip. She sat upon a huge silken bed and seemed to be in a rush, she revealed that she was basically in charge now and she has been waiting for this moment. She had clients waiting and said she must soon see to the machinations of a healthy and proper brothel.
“Inma?” Darella said as she opened the door.
“One and the same darling, you here for companionship? Or maybe a job opportunity. I will be happy with either, dear. You can call me Cominma.” The halfling opening the front of her corset.
“Roderigo? He was a good man. He was nice to all the girls and he could talk to anybody, he had the most charisma of anyone I have ever met. He was great with the clients, we even had some female clients that came for him, and men. Yeah he was a lad of the night, he was a great lover. He was very intuitive and was always in rapport with his partner, he was not a selfish lover. I would say that this was his only flaw…his greatest gift was his biggest flaw. I often had to cover his mistakes and take over while he was pleasing his ego. I was running this place basically. I knew I could do it, and now I just have to prove to Romulus that I can, so that he does not replace me.”
“Romulus own’s this too!” Amalyn asked.
“Romulus owns the Honey Pot or a portion rather, he takes income from it in exchange for upkeep, income and protection. Seeing that you have taken some of my time I will send my clients to other girls and move on to my next order of business, if you’ll excuse me, I will go see if there are any more hopeful girls at the Mulson Manor, it’s a shame Deidrick was killed and his wife has chosen not to continue in her husband’s trade, he was the source of our best girls.” Cominma said.
“You buy your girls from—” Darella was to ask.
“We can take you there! We are strong!” Leomourn said, puffing out his chest. Inma smiled and linked her arm into the archer’s quivering arm and put her arm around the dwarf’s neck. They walked out of the Honey Pot and to Marlena Mulson’s villa. Once there Marlena told Inma to go down to their ludus and examine the girls.
She was at home taking care of her six kids and bustling about with her slaves trying to figure out how to maintain the legacy of slaves her husband left her with. All the kids and Marlena had bruises and flinched with the slightest movements of the hand. Marlena had a host of merchants and nobles waiting in her common room with aspirations of purchasing one or many of the myriad of slaves that Marlena was more than willing to rid her villa of. She will turn a huge profit, enough to feed her children and herself for years to come. She admitted that her husband had a temper and often beat her, though she says she may have deserved it. She said he hit the kids, slaves and often walls and anything else. She admitted that he would even inflict pain to himself sometimes and had attempted to commit suicide a few times throughout their marriage.
She said other than gladiators the most expensive slaves her husband dealt with were prostitutes. He would feed and treat fit males and attractive females the best, for they were the best assets he would say. He sold mostly to The Honey Pot if not the gladiatorial arena Lord Romulus ran.
She said in his beginning years she knew that to start up the business her husband was driven to pay savages to attack villages to gain slaves. He stopped the day they accidently attacked his own city. From them on he strictly purchased from other slave-merchants.
Deidrick went to the temple to get over the demons of his past. He was beaten as a child, and thus coped by being a control-freak.
They left the villa in more of a somber mood than they had entered. Cominma did not join them in their exit, much to Leomourn and Delgen’s disappointment.
“So what have we learned? Other than all roads lead to Romulus.” Delgen asked.
“Romulus owned the farm Von Strumm was a vassal for, and Von Strumm did not want to work for him anymore. Romulus was to talk him into staying, killing him would have been detrimental, but it could have been out of anger? Romulus funded Naveen’s advancement in the church and in turn received special treatment and coin. Romulus wanted Beltin’s property…that is one real motive to kill, though the man was to die in a few years no doubt and with the drought there was no real need to haste. Romulus funded the Honey pot and a gladiatorial arena and it could be assumed that he invested in the Mulson’s Slave house.” Darella said.
“This man has his finger’s in all the pies.” Delgen said.
“Though it seems that he would have no real reason to kill any of them. It puts more of a strain on all of his business acquisitions save for maybe Beltin’s farm and maybe the Honeypot. Perhaps he is being framed?” Darella said.
“We should report to Drexel and call it a night.” Delgen said.
“No, the veil of night has fallen and we should tarry no longer. Let us split up and watch the streets to see if we can catch the killer in the act.” Amarella said, sympathy fueling her ire.
“Never split the party.” Delgen said.
“She’s got a point, with our eyes and the Watchmen, we can cover more ground and we know his style. I travel by myself all the time.” Darella said.
“Fine, but Leomourn you travel with me…and go all wolfy and see if you can pick up a scent.” Delgen said, loosening the tie on his hammer.
Delgen walked the cold streets of Felden with a silent wolf by his side. The light of the moon reflected majestically off the ice covered hairs of the white wolf that sniffed at the ground, following some invisible path. Delgen reveled in the first silence since…he could remember. He needed time to reflect and think about things. Time to think about what has happened and what he has done. He was happy in this moment of aimlessness, for the first time in a long time there was no drive or mission. He would be happy to walk the streets of Felden all night…all week.
“I smell it!” The wolf said, looking up. A puzzled look painted Delgen’s face, before questions could be asked the great white wolf ran forward in the manner dogs do when they are upon a stick, their most persistent quarry.
Leomourn ran the streets of Felden, feeling quite at home in last of the desert chill that covered the city like an icy blanket. He had been so excited when finding the scent he had subconsciously picked up on in the dark morgue. He was so happy he forgot to warn the others and had forgotten to wait for Delgen. He ran forward and Delgen’s scent was lost to the wind, but soon he smelled Delgen’s scent ahead of him. He was excited once again and his tail wagged, but then was confused. How could he have left Delgen far behind but then be coming upon Delgen again. Before he could stop to look back and ponder his eyes fell upon the answer to that question.
There was a body on the ground with a giant boulder sitting atop it’s back. Leomourn thought that with his wolf ears he had heard screaming and the sounds of suffering just a few moments back but the body was alone. He approached it. When he got close enough he noticed that the body was that of a dwarf, and that dwarf was Delgen.
Leomourn howled into the night. He looked at his dead friend under the rock. Delgen looked peaceful, despite the huge rock on his back. At once Leomourn was a man again, a sad one. Leomourn tried to push the rock off his friend, but he was not strong enough he wished Amarella could be here, she was the strong one. Delgen just laid there, he looked different, but Leomourn could not place why, not in this light.
“What have you found?” A voice said from behind Leomourn, this startled him and he looked back. He was even more confused when he saw that Delgen was the owner of this voice in the night. Leomourn looked to Delgen who was standing a few feet away and then to the Delgen under the rock.
“What?” Leomourn said pointing to both Delgens.
“What? Oh.” Delgen said as he stepped forward and looked at the body under the rock. The girls arrived at this time after seeing the magically symbol Delgen had shown in the sky that was to prompt regrouping.
“Quickly get that rock off of me!” Delgen said to Amarella, frozen in place.
Amarella with the help of Leomourn remove the stone, after they put it down there was a moment of silence. Then the dead body seemingly was revived and started to gasp for air and writhed around screaming to an unknown attacker and then looked confused.
Young Delgen gets up and complains about his clothing being ruined. He looked up at the odd assortment of viewers.
“Well if your going to kill me finish the deed.” Young Delgen said putting his arms up in mock defeat. A look of confused understanding painted everyone’s faces and a stern look from Delgen implied silence and cooperation.
“We are not to kill you.” Amalyn said.
“We saved your life.” Leomourn said coyishly.
“You did not save my life, this trinket, a very expensive trinket I might add, saved my life. Assassin’s Bane they call it.” Young Delgen said, after peeling a necklace from his neck and dropping it on the ground as if it was a piece of filth he was appalled to have to wear.
“Who killed you then?” Darella asked.
“I was attacked towards the end of the night, I was packing up the last of the Shardhammer Water Bar, and was drug into a dark room blindfolded and kept there for a while. There must have been a silence spell cast because I heard not a thing all night until after I was drug once again and was placed here prostrate.”
“Your sin has caused others to fall before you. Your hubris has allowed you to live freely and you have never felt the weight of humilty. It is a shame that you won’t live to see the fall of your house..perhaps you would have come upon the weight on your own.’ I don’t know what the prat meant, I assure you I will have my men find this fool. Then the bastard told me that he was at show me true beauty, and cast a spell. The incantation he kept saying was “Bella verus.” Young Delgen said, touching his back as he mentioned the bit about weight of humilty.
“Bella Verus? That is a rare spell that show’s the victim true beauty from all around the world, natural wonderment and even visions from beyond this earth, it is said to kill the victim from wonderment. I heard of people dying after finding ancient ruins or art work and even mountains. I am surprised that you survived." Amalyn said after trying to remember where she had heard the name of the incantation.
“More likely a hallucinogenic drug introduced by inhalation that induces hyperkulturemia which causes death.” Doktor Abydos added who had sneaked onto the scene, most likely woken by the Watchmen. Abydos had to be the first one to see the dead body of every murder that happened in the city.
“The killer must have also given you tetrodotoxin a toxin from a fish, often imported from the coastal port cities for assassinations and political crime, to make it appear as if you were dead. The question is why would he want you to survive? Did he give you a message?” Doktor Abydos asks.
There is blood on young Delgen’s chin. He said that through the darkness he saw that his assailant was interrupted in the act of seemingly trying to cut his face off but only succeeded in making a long gash from ear to chin. Old Delgen raised a brow and pulled open his tunic and peered down his chest, but made no sound or face afterwards.
“We need to tell Drexel everything, and we need sleep.” Delgen said, walking away.
“What’s his problem?” Young Delgen asked, and then walked away with members of his men who had appeared shortly after the Watchmen and Doktor Abydos.
They slept and woke a little after highsun the next day, Darella had stayed up later to give a full report to Drexel and was still the first to rise the next day.
“Let’s get some food, and not from here.” Delgen said as they all met at the bottom of the stairs of the rundown inn that Drexel had commissioned for their stay.
They walked the streets of Felden and came to the Temple District. They went to a food vendor and ordered. They sat and eat at a bench, silently. Delgen stared up to the Templo Mayor but remained silent.
On their way back a cold hand is placed around Amayln’s mouth and midsection and she is pulled from her place in the advancement and into a dark alley.
“It would be prudent for you and your friends to stop meddling in affairs that do not involve you. Drexel is a good man but he is putting his nose where it ought not be. I give you this last chance, intervene with my work not and perhaps leave town; if not, surely your death will come as justly is it will to all in this filthy city. Let the cycle of Magnum Innominandum complete itself!” And she was released on to the dirt of the alley. She ran out and joined the group of people who had been looking around for her.
“He was here! He just took me into the alley! He told us to leave him alone! He mentioned the Magnum Innominandum!” Amalyn said, gasping for air, and retold what had just transpired.
“Did he carve into your flesh?” Leomourn asked.
“No, but…” Amayln felt her body and found a crumpled paper in her pocket.
“_I know death hath ten thousand several doors for men to take their exits_.” She read from the parchment.
“We need to find out about about this Magnum Innominandum.” Delgen said and then rushed off in the direction of the Temple of Heironeous.
When approached about the Ritual called the Magnum Innominadum, the clerics muttered prayers and mentioned, words like Saligia and some manor. This is all the information they gave and walk away asking for forgiveness of Heironeous.
“Can we talk with the…head Cleric here?” Amarella asked, not knowing who was in charge in this type of situation.
“Our superior died a few nights ago as you would have heard. Cenodoxus is by default in charge now. He is the Confessor here, but he is ill with a bad case of conjunctivitis or the like and has requested to receive no visitors for the time of ailment.” The bumbling cleric said.
“Well, will you humour us upon the nature of Magnum Innominandum?” Delgen said, moving his necklace depicting the Hammer of Moradin behind his tunic.
“What you seek can only be found within the Drachen Manor. I warn you now, do not venture any further for what you seek, for you will not find what you wish. There is naught but curse and death within the Drachen Manor.
Our adventurers entered the Manor hesitantly and within a time of a few hours returned with the knowledge needed. What happened within the manor is a topic for another tale.
They left the Manor with the knowledge that many years ago a demonologist Called L’Mur Kathulos summoned a demon called Hastur to cleanse an ancient Felden of sin. The Ritual of Saligia required blood of three and two to summon the Prince of the Broken. The summoning criteria was changed to the blood of seven after the banishment of Hastur. They went back to the temple of Heironeous and sought council with Cenodoxus the Confessor.
They were escorted past the altar and were left in front of a closed door as the cleric walked away them.
They entered a room behind the altar and saw a lavishly furnished chamber filled with books. There was an old elf sitting in a chair relaxed and leaning back, bandages wrapped around his head.
“Dear sir, we come bearing inquiries pertaining the nature of such things as The Ritual of Saligia, Hastur and Magnum Innominandum.” Darella said, bowing despite the many bandages over the priest’s eyes.
“What you seek is history and of little import.” The old man said slowly.
“Humour us.” Delgen said pacing the room and turning his nose to the relics within.
“A few centuries ago a man unleashed a demon upon this town. He completed the ritual to summon ”/campaign/the-flame-of-time/wikis/hastur" class=“wiki-page-link”> Hastur. Hastur reigned terror and destruction upon the town of Felden, until three Holy Warriors fought the demon and banished Hastur from this world. One of the Warriors was my grand-father. That is the robe he wore during the battle." The old elf pointed at a ancient robe a dark green with a silver pine on the chest in a glass case that had some rips and tears with some bloodstains.
“One of the warriors died in banishing the demon, though the oldest and the youngest finished the deed. I still have the two Blades of Essentia used to banish the demon.” He pointed at an other display case.
“Tell me again, why do you seek such tales of evil?” The Confessor said.
“We have been investigating a handful of murders that have happened in the area the last few nights, have you not heard of them?” Darella asked.
“Five men murdered and one attempted murder.” Delgen little less than growled.
“A sixth? Attempted you say?” The Confessor asked, slightly intrigued.
“Yes but to the hour he still stands.” Delgen said proudly.
“Nonetheless his blood was still drank by the earth.” The Confessor said.
“Excuse me?” Delgen asked.
“The Ritual of Saligia. Superbia, Avaritia, Luxuria, Ira, Gula, Invidia, Acedia.” The Confessor said.
“The words.” Leomourn said.
“This Ritual requires the blood of seven men guilty of the Seven Sins to bring the Prince of the Broken forth into our realm.” The Confessor said.
“Well we intend to stop that.” Amarella said.
“I am sure you are, but whoever is out their with the knowledge and resources to have come this far is far too much to deal with, though I do not doubt your strength and will. You all seem to be virtuous and walked through the flames of sin and temptation unscathed.” The Confessor said.
“Yes…so can we use the Blades of Essentia?” Amarella asked, confused.
“Sure. Also I will tell you where the next murder will likely take place.” Cenodoxus said. Everyone else in the room became tense, Leomourn’s fingertips in an instant upon the feathers of an arrow.
“To summon the Prince of the Broken the blood of the Seven must fall to the ground in the ”/campaign/the-flame-of-time/wikis/the-ritual-of-saligia" class=“wiki-page-link”> symbol of Hastur. A unicursal hexagram, so the last murder must take place in the same place as the first. That just so happens to be right out side these temple walls." Cenodoxus the Confessor said.
They left the chambers and sought council with Drexel. By the fall of night they had all posted outside the walls of Temple of Heironeous.
“When will he strike?” Leomourn asked.
“Silence.” Delgen hissed.
Then in the cold desert night a slow grinding was heard and shadows were cast. Before anyone present could react, the large oaken doors of the temple crept open and out stepped the Confessor.
“I am here to offer my assistance.” Cenodoxus says slowly walking to where Drexel and Delgen stood shrouded in darkness.
“We can use any help we can get.” Drexel says though Delgen was obviously annoyed.
A few moments later as the moon hangs overhead Cenodoxus stepped near the dark red stains of the first murder and denounced:
“Other sins only speak; murder shrieks out: the element of water moistens the earth, but blood flies upwards, and bedews the heavens. It was I the whole time! It is too late now, ”/campaign/the-flame-of-time/wikis/hastur" class=“wiki-page-link”> Hastur is knocking on the doors of our reality and I can hear him. With my death the cycle will be complete. There is nothing you can do now! Hastur will destroy all the sinners in this ruined town. I have been waiting for this moment for years, having to watch the filth walk the streets and hearing their sins when they come to confess. My grandfather stopped The Cleansing many years ago. Now Hastur will return and destroy all the sin in this town and Heironeous will reward my acts, despite my own sin.” Cendoxus said this as he removed the bandages on his head revealing darkened and dried bloodstained lids devoid eyes.
“I have watched and heard all the sin and it has sunk into my soul like a poison. I thus have removed the tools of my sin, Envy. If I were to live any longer I would cut my ears out of my head too, for all the poison that has seeped it’s way into my soul. As my blood spills on this earth, the cycle is complete. Despite the efforts my inferiors have made to cancel the summoning ritual Hastur shall walk this land again! Their counter-ritual may have weakened and contained Hastur, Eater of Sin but not forever, that weak spell shall only last a few days! Eldranoth said you would be here. He also said you would think you would be able to save the town. He was fond of you, and ironically I can see why.” Cenodoxus said.
Cenodoxus opened his mouth to speak once again but a dark hand clapped over his lips and he fell to the ground limp. As his body fell into a crumpled heap there stood the darkened form of Darella with a dagger made of shadowstuff.
“What? I was tired of hearing him talk.” She shrugged.
“He knows Eldranoth!” Leomourn shouted.
“Never mind that, I had to stop that Ritual before he tried to kill himself.” Darella said, but just as she said that a dark crimson liquid pulled itself out of Cenodoxus’ mouth, climbing over the dead man’s lips.
A loud thundering sound was heard in the center of town like the moaning of a titan from deep underneath the earth after the thirsting ground drank the sole drop of blood that fell from the dead Confessor’s mouth.
The party gathered their things and ran towards the sound, Delgen screaming for the guards not to disturb the body of Cenodoxus the Confessor.
To their eyes befell the scene of a hell materialized to actual form. A square of Felden had sunk some twenty-fives toises into the ground and had fallen to ruin. There were great fires and demonic corruptions to be seen within. Inky black tentacles that writhed and whippped about in the air like so many feelers gripping for prey. Undead and demons had populated the ruination that was once the houses belonging to the good people of Felden.
In the center of hellish spectacle was seen the grey corpulence of a demon, chewing on the limb of a fallen villager while raping another, barely alive. The demon did not seem to heed much other than his indulgences, not noticing the party of adventures clambering down the fallen and wet earth that divided Felden from this Hellscape.
After surveying the vision before them, the cleric noticed four cairns built of human skulls that were casting a taint about the area and granting the demons and undead the power of unhallowed ground. Delgen dispelled the cairns while the others fought with the undead villagers and demons. After defeating the undead and finding out that a number of the undead had in life been Martinets, identified by their amulets of anti-magic around their necks. Darella took two amulets and pocketed them, their enchantments canceling each other rendering them powerless and portable.
Amalyn grew more and more frustrated as she continued through the scene that befell them. Every spell she cast was in vain as there were apparently more amulets of antimagic that were clandestinely sleeping beneath the bloodied earth. She furiously spoke words of arcane summonings and her hands writhed in grotesque gestures in hopes of conjuring the elements, but to no avail.
Delgen took heed of the struggling elf and watched as she mouthed a monologue that was lost on the wind and clangor of battle and rain. The elf seemed reluctant but soon it became apparent to the miner what was happening but before he could act the mage was reaching into her robes and pulled free an amulet.
“Elf, pray don’t dare listen to that abomination within.” Delgen screamed, knowing that the amulet around Amalyn’s neck was of the very same statue that once held the daemon as prisoner. Knowing the proximity of the metal kept the full power and grasp of the foul shade subdued, keeping the elf safe he hoped she did not remove the amulet.
The elf glared perhaps at the dwarf perhaps not but she stood straight and tugged at the white-silver chain that held the shard close to her heart. The links broke with a sound that seemed to silence all but for a moment. All eyes were upon her.
Where the elf once stood was an effigy, a crude outline of the mage engulfed in the conflagration that was the daemon freed. A spiral of holocaust gathered around the wizard and then welled into the sky. A burning elf stood their with tightened fists and tongues of flame coming from her eyes.
“I told you I would have her.” Said the elf in an unfamiliar voice and timber.
“No.” Amarella breathed.
“You shall all remember the name: Adramoloch.” The elf rasped.
“We shall forget your foul name as quickly as we shall vanquish you. Don’t listen to this maumet, this is not our Amalyn.” Delgen said, holding the hammer around his neck.
The creature within the elf laughed in response and within a the time of a lightening strike was gone in a flash of red fire and a line that led away from the vista. The laughing echoed on the wind and thus Amalyn was gone.
There was a time of disbelief and confusion but the task at hand drew their attention and dulled the memory of loosing a friend as demons and corpses attacked from all fronts once more.
They defeated the Malebranche who had served as Hastur’s minion and they advanced upon the Prince of the Broken. They were quickly upon the Demon of Sin, proving to be less a fighter than a sinner. Leomourn loosed arrows. Darella used her pantalones of teleportation and was behind the Demon. She plunged first her rapier into the back of the thing and then her dagger. She used the hilts as leverage and placed the soles of her feet into the folds of the fat demon’s back and began climbing up the Prince of Sin’s back using her blades to pull her weight up the length of the Demon’s back. As the pain of her enchanted blades seared into the cursed flesh of Hastur his writhing mound of rotting and moist flesh wracked not displeasure but with laughter. Hastur’s mountain of flesh shock the rogue and his laughter loosened the blades from his back and Darella fell to the ground. Darella stood up within an instant had her blades ready to carve them deep into his gizzard as she watched him turn around.
Darella’s comrades held their fire, seeing her engaged in battle with the demon. Darella held the demon’s gaze as he turned round and laughed revealing his corpulence and the scarred filth that was his pudenda. Darella made a grimace and was about to take a step back when Hastur grasped his lower jaw with muddy hand and while laughing, dislocated it wider still. Frozen more in disgust than fear, Darella remained motionless. Hastur, faster than his girth would lead on to believe, doubled over and closed his mouth over the dark rogue’s head. With a clenching of the demon’s jaw, the two shiny blades fell to the wet ground, the muffled sound of metal on earth echoed in the night.
Time stopped for those around the scene, as Darella’s comrades watched in disbelief. The demon slowly stood straight and laughed once more in the blood-rain that fell from the silent sky. Amarella, at the second sight of her sister’s death went into a bloodrage and charged the demon. Amarella threw her shield to the ground as she advanced and her sword of light shown brighter than ever before. The pain and rage that Amarella felt when her sister died was channeled through her control over light itself. The blade she created in her fist was made not only of light but of pure rage. Amarella was upon the demon and there was naught but flashes of light and afterburns of each attack that seared the eye and ripped into the demon’s flesh. Despite her rage, Hastur pushed the barbarian away and she fell into the mud. The corpulent Demon Lord laughed as black fetid blood oozed from each wound and pooled at his fattened toes.
“SALVATORE!” A voice growled. Delgen was seen holding ancient arcane hand signals and threw his hands up high into the damp night air.
A small popping noise filled the night sky and there was a small flash of green light. A figure appeared in front of the demon and it stood there switching his gaze first from the demon and then to the decapitated figure on the rainy earth.
Salvatore snarled lowly and reached slowly above his shoulder and his grip tightened around the hilt of his broken sword. In one swift motion Salvatore unsheathed his blade and spun in the air and cut the demon. Blood dripped from under the Prince of the Broken’s chin and slowly the fell beast’s head slid down the front of the now bloody chest as the creature fell limp.
Salvatore dropped his blade in the bloody mud and was upon the body of Darella sniffing and whimpering and let out a sorrowful howl, after nudging at her limp limbs with his muzzle.
Amarella had stood and walked over the body and head of the still laughing demon.
“I will be whole again just as soon as this blessing weakens.” Hastur spoke in a raspy voice.
Amarella loosened her grip and the light that was her rage faded in the night, and in darkness she took a Blade of Essentia from her hip.
“Fuck you.” She said and carved the symbol of banishment into the demon’s rotting flesh, there was a thunderclap and the beast was gone.
In the falling rain three warriors and a shield guardian breathed heavy and let go a sigh. Reminiscing upon battles with goblins and beasts and of chain demons, of a hag from the Gray Wastes, of a mage in a dragon’s body, of their defeat over the challenges of the Temple of Heroes all to culminate in the defeat and banishment of the Prince of the Broken, a demon who was being summoned to reign death and sin upon the land. So close was the land to be overrun with rape and ruin, and were it only for the selfless suicides of five brave clerics who could not stop the ritual, but could contain the Prince within that small area. Were it not for the five priest’s noble blood at each intersection of the foul symbol of summoning preventing the full liberation of Hastur, surely the tale of Rienland would have ended that fateful night.
But at a cost.
“So we can finally have a drink and relax?” Leomourn said, reluctantly after seeing Amarella’s reaction as she carried the limp and lifeless body of her twice decapitated sister.
“Not yet.” Delgen said, as he walked off. The rain still falling from the sky, only rain now, no more blood.
“What now?” Leomourn whined, wiping blood from his brow.
“Cenodoxus mentioned ”/campaigns/the-flame-of-time/characters/eldranoth" class=“wiki-content-link”>Eldranoth." Delgen said climbing the wet earth.
“Yeah.” Leomourn said.
“My sister.” Amarella said, pointedly.
“I want to know why they know each other, and why that mind flayer was here. We shall bring her back, may Moradin protect her.” Delgen said, surmounting the scale and helping the others out of the Hell-Hole.
“How will you find that out?” Leomourn said spitting mud from his mouth, after falling into the dank soil.
“Cleric.” Jabbing two thumbs into his chestplate, Delgen raised his brow.
The dwarf propped the corpse of the Confessor against the stairs of the Temple and started to chant guttural though divine words lost to all but the clerics of Moradin. Soon to the surprise of his companions the limp head of Cenodoxus straightened and opened it’s already clouded eyes, looking blankly into the eyes of the cleric. Leomourn had sat beside the corpse and mockingly put his arm around the dead man, when the spell had taken hold and animated the body; Leomourn jumped aside flailing and looked first to the animated body and then glaringly at the cleric.
“How do you know Eldranoth?” Delgen said slowly but with stern condemnation.
“Eldranoth came to me days ago. He was distraught when he came to me, I never knew one like him could feel such emotions. He was asking me questions about a man’s soul. He told me that when an Illithid is made, a man’s soul is destroyed. Mind flayers have no religion and are trained into thinking the ultimate goal is to be introduced into the Elder Brain. He revealed to me that his brothers all taught him that once introduced into the Elder Brain, not only was it the ultimate reward and honor, for you are giving up all your knowledge for the betterment of your entire race and that you advance your race one step closer to Thoon, but you also retain your individuality, kind of like a collective pool of knowledge. Eldranoth had his doubts and made a promise with his mentor and his captor that if one of them were to die before the other the survivor would ask the Elder Brain a secret question that only the other would know and if the Elder Brain could not answer correctly then it would disprove the notion that a Mind Flayer keeps his individuality after death. Appearantly his mentor was killed in a raid and Eldranoth later conducted the experiment and was so unhappy with the result that he destroyed the Elder Brain and all of the Illithids in that coven called Mahkra.” The newly animated body answered slowly and without emotion.
“Go on.” Delgen said.
“Eldranoth said he suffered from nightmares, memories of the man he once was. He came to me for the Oblivion Stone, an artifact that consumes dreams. Confessors have used these stones for a long time now. There are only a few left, but they are much needed when you constantly hear the crimes and sins of others and have no way to let out the pain. He explained to me that the man he once was was a simple fisherman. He said one of the dreams was one where this man, Langston, was a young man, his sister was violated and attacked by some men and was dying in a pool of blood on the rocky crags of a cliff that over hung the ocean, on a rainy evening. Langston made a vow to find her attackers and also to stand up for the helpless and to stand against monsters. His sister died on those rocks but not before giving Langston a locket from her neck. Leta was the force that kept Langston going, visiting her Cliffside grave every day and clutching the locket making a vow to find her killers.” The corpse of Cenodoxus continued.
“Eldranoth not only felt guilt for ruining Langston’s soul in his transformation into an Illithid, but felt guilt for Leta too, by Langston’s capture, he was never allowed the chance to complete the promise. Eldranoth asked me if there was anyway to save Langston’s soul, but I told him that it was consumed by the small worm that was Eldranoth, when he eat the man’s brain.”
“Eldranoth said that he likes you all because you have survived struggle and never gave up, and in his eyes are worthy of the eternal soul that he has been spared. He kills humans who waste away and in his eyes are not deserving of the soul. He thinks that you are the perfect foe and if he was ever to be destroyed he would feel honoured if it were by your hands or machinations. He does not see you as enemys but more as siblings in a life of struggle, as family.”
“Eldranoth has accomplished an impossible feat, to further accomplish another impossible feat. He has halted the existence of the ”/campaign/the-flame-of-time/wikis/the-Æther" class=“wiki-page-link”> Æther. He has found the source of the Æther and has disabled it. Now souls immediately disperse to another realm, with no grace period. This will make resurrection much more difficult. He has taken down the Æther because he is to become an Alhoon."
“Damn.” Delgen said pointedly.
“What? What does that mean?” Leomourn asked.
“An Alhoon is a Illithid that undergoes Lichdom. The ”/campaign/the-flame-of-time/wikis/the-Æther" class=“wiki-page-link”> Æther was placed on the continent of Rienland by some accounts by the hands of Sygg the God of the Land, others believe it was created by powerful mages to prevent Liches from being made and still some claim the Æther is far more ancient than history itself. The Æther draws a soul from the body at the time of death and holds it there for seven days, until it is allowed to go to its appropriate realm. When a lich removes his soul from his body to put it in his phylactery, the Æther would pull it up into itself and is lost in a collective consciousness like a drop of dye in an ocean of colour, causing the ritual to fail. Thus no Lich has been made on Rienland ever, until now. Eldranoth removed the Æther, and has now become an Alhoon."
“Damn.” Delgen said louder this time.
“Eldranoth said this was the only option seeing as if he were killed or if he rotted away his sentience would rot as his flesh, and he wishes to live forever since an afterlife was denied to him. I also feel that in a sense he wishes to accomplish this feat so that Langston’s soul was not lost in vain.” Delgen closed his eyes as he consumed the new information.
“Eldranoth is honorable; I pity and envy him, my sin once again. It is a shame I could not see him succeed and bring terror upon all the disgusting parasites that have and still corrupt an eternal soul that Eldranoth is so robbed of.” The corpse said and it’s eyes closed and the head fell limp, and was dead once again.