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Ald Sotha

Ald Sotha: Resurrection

Image: art comission “Resurrection” by Benjamin Witunsky

 

Twilight had come. The rhythmic crunch of the hooves in the snow once more pulled Lisbeth into her own head. Her comrades were having a conversation as they traveled to the meeting house of the Ealdormen, it was muffled by the traffic of her thoughts. Resurrection was a rare thing, only the most skilled clerics would use it, and only when absolutely necessary to boot. She had never seen it done, but had heard stories of the Priestess’ most revered clerics bringing heroes back from the dead, giving their own life as sacrifice. It seemed like those cases were extreme, she hoped the consequences for something so trivial would not force the exchange of her life for another’s. After all, she had the whole body of this man. It’s not like he was turned to a pile of ash by a rakshasa or ripped to shreds by a manticore.

Her eyes glazed over and her body nothing more than a vessel to contain her maddened track of thinking, her right idly hand rested on the bag that was tied to her belt; the bag that held Mia’s father’s head. Tiberius, being the most perceptive, called out to her. Lisbeth didn’t hear him, it sounded like the others were under water. Can I really do this?

“Lisbeth!” Tiberius called, with a little more authority this time.

She shook her head and met his gaze with a weak smile. Only then did she realize she had a hand on the bag, quickly returning it to the reins of the horse.

Tiberius’ brow furrowed with concern, “Is everything all right?” His voice was soft and genuine.

A curt nod was her response, swallowing the words she actually wanted to say. I have to do this.

Corbin and Crysx were sharing theories as to what was happening in the area, both of them seemed to disagree. There simply wasn’t enough information that had revealed itself yet. It was likely idle chatter to simply fill the silence, Crysx’s time in the Underworld made him hate silence. Mia pointed to a shack on the horizon, indicated that was their destination. It looked shabby for a meeting place of such importance. By the time the reached it, darkness had claimed the sky. It was about the size of a barn, a thatched roof and big double doors in the front only reinforced that image. The front doors were locked.

“We need one of the Ealdormen to open it up,” Mia said meekly. Crysx rolled his eyes and hopped off his horse, smashing the lock and chain around the handles with the butt of his axe.

“You folks have weak steel out here. Perhaps taking some notes from the cityfolk would do you some good,” Crysx said, trying not to sound too offensive. The iron hinges on the double doors screamed as they opened, echoing in the freezing air. Puffs of breath escaping their mouths drifted into their eyes, impeding their effort to see into an already very dark room. Cryx’s axe sputtered with magical flame as he commanded it to ignite. Walking inside, he found an obvious place where the room would be illuminated; a fire pit in the center of a round and massive stone table to the left of the door. The chairs around it were all made of different kinds of stone. Crysx stuck his axe into the pit and it roared to life, though surprisingly with a green flame. The light from the fire played with the shadows of everyone inside, it made the mounted elk’s head high up on the left wall look ominous. It was almost as if it was looking down at them with disgust and malice. Up against the far wall from the entrance, there was a stone about 8 feet tall, it had a faint glow to it.

It was just as cold in here as it was outside, but the fire provided some relief. Corbin went to sit on one of the chairs but was interrupted by Crysx before he could plant his seat, “This place is clearly religious. Don’t foul its sanctity.” Corbin rolled his eyes but obeyed. Upon closer inspection of the stone, it became apparent that the glow came from a ward that covered an iron door embedded in it. Lisbeth knew that was the crypt, something within her screamed it. But why is it warded? The thought filled her with dread.

Corbin was analyzing the ward, but he couldn’t make much sense of it. It felt different, its magic foreign to him. The magic was primitive, primordial even. It invoked feelings and emotions, a far cry from the organized logic of his grasp on arcane magic. It was more akin to the divine magic Crysx and Lisbeth were attuned to, yet still quite strange. It was difficult to spot, but Lisbeth had managed to locate a weakness in the ward and pointed it out. Corbin mustered up all the energy he could to blast that spot with a powerful arcane blast, forcing the ward to shatter and fragment before dissipating. I don’t like this, not one bit, Corbin thought to himself.

The blackness of the crypt swallowed nearly all of the green light from the fire that attempted to illuminate it. The only thing that was apparent was that there was a stairway, crumbling and dilapidated, that lead downward. Crysx kept his axe lit and lead the crew. Lisbeth was the last to follow and addressed Mia before leaving, “You stay up here. If we don’t return by morning, you head to the closest Ealdorman. Understand?”

Mia nodded sheepishly, she didn’t know what would come of this. At the bottom of the stairs, they found themselves in a catacomb. The walls were lined with shelves, floor to ceiling, skeletons stuffed in them for their eternal rest. Hatred hung in the air like a dense fog, they weren’t welcome here. Crysx’s axe and Corbin’s staff struggled to fight back the cold black of the underground, it was unnaturally dark. They walked for what seemed like forever. The crypt was a sprawling grid of shelves, presumably endless. Claustrophobia grasped Crysx’s heart like the paw of a dragon, this space was too confined. It was almost like he was back in the Underworld. His pupils constricted with fear, his heart trying to pound its way out of his chest. Sweat coated the clothes under his armor. As they traversed deeper, the sense of hate and unrest increased. He instinctively looked behind him every now and again. Much to his horror, the skulls of the deceased followed them with their gaze, though never moving while being watched. Their lipless grins and hollow eyes clawed at Crysx’s soul. The curse mark on their foreheads burned with intensity. He knew fear all too well, but still could not get used to it. He could hear the cackle of the necromancer from his dreams echoing in his cerebrum.

The state of the bodies started to take the form of earlier stages of decay. They were getting to the section where the more recent dead were stored.

A disembodied scream echoed in the halls, turning everyone’s blood to ice. In an instant, the party was surrounded by shades. Their legs nonexistent, wreathed in swirling shadows, their faces void of any flesh, the cursed mark carved into their foreheads. They were angry, and they blamed the trespassers. Like a well oiled machine, the party fought the tortured souls, pushing them back to the torturous nether region they manifested from. When the dust settled, Crysx felt pity for these souls. Lisbeth’s compassion only increased her sense of determination.

After what felt like an age, they had found the less populated part of the catacomb. The only body without a head presented itself as Mia’s father. His shirt was torn open at the chest, the curse mark carved into him. Her stomach twisted, not because of the grotesqueness of the scene, but because of the hatred that caused this act of violence. A lump in her throat threatened that vomit was not far from escaping her mouth. It never came.

“Help me with this,” she said, going to the feet of the corpse to pull it off the shelf. Her friends looked at her a little confused, but Crysx came to her aid. The man was frail and therefore very light. The temperature had kept him from decaying, and their noses were thankful for that. She pulled the head out of the sack, stared at it for a moment. The expression of horror and agony tugged at her chest. She was unsure what he’d feel when she brought him back. His lifeless eyes stared at the ceiling, unseeing and unknowing. It chilled her.

She placed the head at the stump of the neck. Placing both of her palms on his chest, she closed her eyes and began to pray. Ithildin clearly heard her plea, even in a place where she couldn’t see the sky. Corbin cried out in protest, finally becoming aware of what she was doing. Crysx held him back. A gasp escaped the head’s mouth as his eyes filled with life again. Veins from the neck slithered out, black with the hatred of the curse. The eyes had rolled back, the mouth quickly gaped open and released a scream of sheer agony that filled the crypt. Lisbeth started to cry but continued the spell. His body twitched and writhed as the veins started to pull the neck and head together once more, the cursed mark on his chest wept blood. Pebbles and dust fell from the ceiling as he screamed, all of the veins on his body turned an ink black and the eyes became white as pearls without pupils or irises. The cursed mark was affecting the ritual. Lisbeth began to panic, but it was too far gone. The scream took the form of not one voice, but hundreds as the spell progressed, but came to a steely silence at its completion. Mia’s father was alive again, but cursed with this awful form. Twisted and tortured, he had been brought back from the grave to be tormented further. He was to help them, in any way they could.

Corbins eyes were wild with fear and disapproval.

“What have you done?”

 

 

Stay Metal \m/

Ald Sotha: The Seed of Deception

A steely silence hung in the air like a fog whilst the party digested what they saw. Crysx cleared his throat and turned to go back up the stairs. The weight of that curse mark was a lot for him, he just couldn’t stand in that room anymore. Tiberius followed suit but Corbin and Lisbeth remained. Though the sky was grey, Tiberius and Crysx squinted in the light of day after their eyes had adjusted to the dark during their investigation. Mia was still kneeling next to some of the rubble with a listless expression on her face. He gave Tiberius a look that he immediately understood. Boots crunching in the snow as he walked, he made his way over to Mia and knelt in front of her. He placed a hand on her shoulder, her eyes lifted to meet his, watery and hopeless.

“We found something in the basement,” he said softly, “it’s what we guess to be a curse mark. It was drawn on a sack down there. Has anyone been cast out of the farm recently? Someone who may have been angry with the rest of the community, perhaps?” He did his best to use a gentle tone of voice to soften the blow of the possibility.

She searched her mind, the clockwork of thought in her eyes revealing itself. She went to answer, but only a squeak came out, her eyes filling with tears again. Crysx’s heart ached, he didn’t want to force her to talk about it but it needed to be done. Wiping her eyes, Mia shook her head. Crysx sighed, hoping that this could have been wrapped up rather easily. He looked over his shoulder to see Tiberius walking among the wreckage, clearly unsure what to do with himself while Crysx tried to find an answer. He poked at the charred pieces of wood with his boot, shuffling them around once more to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. Much to his disappointment, there was nothing.

 

———————————

 

“I can’t determine the origin of this mark,” Corbin said with venom in his voice, frustrated at his lack of knowledge. He stared at the mark with determination, it almost felt like it stared back though it bore no visage of a living creature.

“I hope the farm folk are as clueless as we are, otherwise the elders aren’t doing their job to protect their people,” Lisbeth said. Her voice wasn’t inherently angry or bewildered, just thoughtful. The hands of her mind were fondling this puzzle box of a case but to no avail. “We should find out where those elders are, exactly. Speaking with one would certainly be more helpful than the girl. Ithildin have mercy on her, but I can’t say I blame her,” Lisbeth mumbled, standing and turning to the stairs. Her boots thudded heavily on them as she came back to the frostbitten land that was a functioning farm earlier in  the year. Corbin followed, shooting the mark one last glance before climbing the stairs. Its image seemed to claw at his soul, hateful and malicious. It chilled him, though he couldn’t figure out why. His curiosity had bested him in that moment. Walking back over to the sack once more, he pulled out a small knife and cut open the sack. The grain inside had gone black, the smell of mold and decay filled his nose. It made him sneeze, and before his eyes the rot started to spread, devouring the other food items in the basement. All of it withered before his eyes, and thankfully the curse didn’t seem to spread beyond that. That could’ve been a grave mistake, he thought to himself, now ascending the stairs as well.

The crew started throwing ideas around about how to be the most productive. An insane idea had entered Lisbeth’s mind, though she didn’t mention it just yet. She broke off from the group for a moment to speak with Mia again. “Do you know where they buried your father?” Lisbeth asked. Mia’s gaze fixated on the sack tied to Lisbeth’s belt, the one that held her father’s frozen head. “It’s important to make sure the dead are whole so the spirit can find rest. After all you two have been through, you both deserve some rest,” she said, trying to sound reassuring. It was a macabre topic of conversation but Lisbeth’s duties to her religion made it necessary.

“I can take you there. It’s in the meeting hall of the Ealdermen, where they meet to discuss important matters,” Mia’s voice sounded as if it would fail her at any moment. “It’s typically locked because only Ealdermen are allowed inside. You’d have to speak with them to gain passage.”

Lisbeth chewed on that for second, she couldn’t help but think, Oh, we’ll get in. With or without them. She gave a small nod to Mia before proposing the idea to the group. Crysx and Tiberius understood the religious weight of the situation, but something about this made Corbin suspicious. Lisbeth’s heart was too big for this to be a simple gesture, the others were too devout to see it. Corbin knew if he spoke up, the others wouldn’t hear him. “I really think that the best course of action is to do this without the Ealdormen. They won’t understand the burial rites, they probably would be offended,” Lisbeth said to the party.

“Well, shouldn’t they perform their own rites?” Tiberius was interested in Lisbeth’s thinking.

“No, not this time. there’s a curse involved and I’m not entirely sure their beliefs can shield them,” She answered confidently. She was certainly right in that, Crysx and Tiberius knew it. It was all they needed to agree this was the course they would take. Corbin’s stomach writhed like a pit of snakes. Being an elf of cold fact, this religious approach was making him uneasy. He believed that his calculated magic could circumvent the curse, obliterate it even. He knew better, though, Crysx, Lisbeth, and Tiberius would have none of it. Not until they failed.

Lisbeth had planted her seed, and she knew it would blossom. Once in the act, they couldn’t stop her. I’ve never resurrected anyone before, she thought, I hope this curse doesn’t affect it too much…

 

 

Stay Metal \m/

Ald Sotha: Farmers

The horses whinnied in protest, the cold was making them irritable just like the rest of the party. With the snow on the ground, it seemed like a never ending journey just to one simple farmstead. The girl sobbed every now and again. It bothered Crysx to no end, it seemed like she did so every hour on the hour. All he could do was promise that they’d get to the bottom of this. Lisbeth had shown a surprising coldness to Mia’s misery, Corbin knew that it was her thinking face. She was without a doubt up to something in that devilish little brain of hers…

Tiberius trotted along slower than the others on his steed. He didn’t exactly know what to make of this ordeal, he questioned why he was even coming along in the first place. Held by no oath to the folks at the Axefall, he easily could’ve stayed back with his paladin order. Something propelled him forward on this endeavor, he was curious to find out exactly what that was. The sound of the snow routinely interrupted everyone’s thoughts. The top of it was semi-frozen and made a loud crunching as the horses lazily walked over it, every now and again one leg sinking deeper than expected, jostling the rider.

It was a cold and miserable two days of travel out to the remote collection on farms. Not much conversation was had, all of them were far too engrossed in thought and speculation about what they might find. As they drew near, the conversation finally came out. The night before arriving at Mia’s farm was the night they spoke, gathered around the meager camp they created along the road. The vast darkness of the plains at night enveloped them, it made their thoughts run like an avalanche down a mountain. A small fire in the center of them was the only thing fighting the dark, the flames dancing wildly in everyone’s eyes, mirroring what was happening inside them. “Do we think this could be related to home?” Lisbeth asked in a grave tone. Fear turned the hamster wheel in the minds of everyone in the group, its persistent squeaking driving them mad. Crysx could hear the laugh of the necromancer that found him in his dreams.

Tiberius stiffened, having only heard rumors about what had happened, “I think we should gather information before we come up with any ideas. Jumping to that conclusion could cause use some unnecessary stress.

Corbin nodded slowly, “It could be the remnants of General Gug’s friends. You killed him but we didn’t take the time to hunt down his friends.” His eyes were locked with Lisbeth’s. They both were feeling a degree of doubt on that theory, they shared the emotion through a gaze.

What’s important is not how it effects us,” Crysx said standing up, “but how the simple folk return to their lives unhindered.  These people have been living in fear, not knowing who would be next to burn. We can worry about what this has to do with us when their lives have been saved.

Mia started to sob quietly.

Lisbeth shushed her gently, placing a hand on her back and rubbing in a circular motion. He was right, and that’s all they needed to hear to be fixated on that fact.

The party.jpg

The sun was starting to rise as the house revealed itself on the horizon. Mia suddenly holding her breath told Lisbeth that it was not just another random house. Mia was saddled with Lisbeth, she was the best at dealing with small folk having a more humble background than the others. She reached back and placed a reassuring hand on Mia’s knee, Mia hugged the back of Lisbeth and confirmed her suspicions.

Lisbeth alerted the others and they all guided their horses in that direction. The house was a mere skeleton of what it used to be, the charred remains piled up in the middle of it. They all dismounted except for Mia and fanned out to investigate. Lisbeth found the imprint in the snow where Mia’s father had lay, the snow still stained from his brutal murder. Tiberius and Crysx worked together to clear some of the rubble, looking for something that would tell them more about the attackers. The only thing they found was the hatch to the cellar. Surprisingly, the door was only slightly charred. Good quality wood… Corbin thought to himself as he watched his friends unearth the hatch. Corbin walked over and opened it up, its hinges screaming loudly in the open air.

The group descended the wooden stairs together, they creaked in protest under their weight. It was slightly warmer than outside in the cellar, slightly more humid as well. Well sealed, Corbin thought once more. Using his staff for light, the room was illuminated. The three others followed Corbin slowly, looking around cautiously with a hand on their weapons. Yet they found no one, instead they found a fully intact food store.

Well,” Crysx said looking around warily, “We know they’re not plundering at least.”

No,” Corbin said, crouched in front of a sack of grain, “it’s worse than that. They’re cursing.”

The party huddled around the sack, it had a symbol drawn on it in a vibrantly red paint. Even to the less arcanely inclined folks in the party, it sent out swaths of hatred. Lisbeth felt her stomach twist, being all too familiar with the feeling.

Whoever did this, she thought, they’re after revenge…

curse mark.jpg

 

Stay Metal \m/

 

Ald Sotha: Further Obligation

What a welcome sight their little guild was. After having spent so much time on an island hellbent on killing them, it was welcome to be back somewhere safe. Since the Paladins of the Stars had pledged to help the party reclaim their home city of Ald Sotha from the necromancer and his undead army, they would be lodging at the Falling Hammer until they had enough people to march. It seemed like such a lofty goal, but it had to be done. Walking through the door, they were greeted with the familiar hustle and bustle that made the warehouse that was converted into an inn lively. There had been some progress since their last time here. There was a hearth that was nearly finished, the bar was built and there was a meeting room in the back for the inner circle of the guild. Crysx wandered into that room and saw Galgurt’s hammer hung on a plaque. Something within started pulling his mental strings at that sight.

Lisbeth spoke with Yaelandra about what information she had been able to turn up in their absence. So far, nothing useful. Just a little bit of information about important businesses that help keep the city running and the name of the guard captain, Luken Velarius.

Corbin was lost in his own mind, the voice speaking to him again. He was in a deep conversation with himself, wondering how the two wishes could be used to their utmost effectiveness. More importantly, what he should do with the reconstructed wish gem…

Everything was interrupted when the door burst open, standing there was Jonas Commodore III with a peasant girl, presumably in her early twenties. She was crying and Jonas held a burlap sack with something in it.

“The farm folk have suffered in your absence,” he said gravely, walking in as if he owned the place. His arm outstretched to give the bag to Lisbeth. Corbin was roused from his mind at the sudden change in atmosphere, Crysx came creeping out from the back room, curious as to what was going on.

Lisbeth opened the sack to find a severed head within. The face of the older man was twisted into a grotesque expression of agony, the cut cleaner than any she had ever seen. The farm girl sobbed quietly, her hands covering her mouth as tears streamed down her cheeks and between her fingers. The appalling specimen in the bag had clearly been outside for some time before it was delivered to their doorstep, the expression on the face was clearly remained because the flesh was blue and frozen.

“I had told you that the farmlands were to be helped in exchange for a lowered price on this property. You have failed to protect this family before something could happen, you are now hereby ordered to see to this matter on terms of imprisonment if it is not seen to. Their blood is on your hands,” Jonas was calm and cold, an amazing contrast from the kindness they were shown their first week here.

Lisbeth shot a look to Crysx behind her before responding, “We’ll see to it immediately. The girl, does she have a place to call home?”

Jonas shook his head no, “She’ll show you to her farmstead, that way you can start investigating immediately. Anything left behind by the perpetrators will be  still fresh most likely. Her name is Mia, she’ll be staying with you until accommodations can be made.”

The girl managed to stop crying but her bottom lip still trembled. She stood there like a caged animal, slouching and clearly frightened. Her right arm was across her stomach, hand clutching her left elbow, not knowing what else to do with them.

Jonas left with a solemn goodbye. Corbin spoke up at that point, “We only just got back. Can we at least take the night to rest in an actual bed?”

“I think he’s right,” Crysx chimed in, “It’s been a tough run on the road recently. We need it otherwise we won’t last long out there. The wind out in those plains alone would chill us something fierce.”

Lisbeth agreed, she could feel the tiredness in her bones. Tiberius came over, asking after what had just happened. They caught him up and he offered his services once more to aid them in the pursuit of justice. Who could refuse free help?

Everyone fetched a hot meal, Mia accompanying them being given no other direction. The girl ate, albeit slowly and without vigor. She was fundamentally broken by what she had seen, it was clear to them all. Over supper, Lisbeth took note that Corbin was quiet, not talking with the rest. He was up to something and she knew it. Having trust in him, however, prevented her from blatantly asking.

Immediately after Corbin cleared his plate, he retreated to the confines of his room with hardly a word. With that, Crysx also became hyperaware of his behavior. Shooting Lisbeth a concerned look, she simply gave him a nod of reassurance.

Without prying words interrupting his thoughts, Corbin was able to start working. He hollowed out the top of his staff and placed the orange wish gem. With a simple spell, he was able to make the wood almost completely encase it, a small amount of light peeking through. With some chalk, he began to draw a magical circle on the floor to start his ritual. Casting haste on himself helped him complete his work by dawn, his new staff slightly glowing with its new power. Even Corbin wasn’t entirely sure what it was capable of, but he was proud of his work and excited to see it be used. He was the one who reconstructed the gem, could the party rightfully be angry with him for repurposing it? He didn’t think so. With only an hour or so to catch some sleep, he did just that. Weary as he was, when the time came, he was ready to hit the road.

They all were, with a looming sense of dread as to what they might find…

 

 

Stay Metal \m/

Ald Sotha: Unexpected Guests

Artwork by Benjamin Witunsky – “Hidden Hallway”

 

On the other side of the illusion was a dark hallway. Lisbeth, Crysx and Tiberius almost bumped into Corbin on the other side, he was simply standing their with his staff slightly raised, illuminating the room. On the far wall, which was still only slightly lit due to the distance, was some sort of shelf built into the wall. There were two objects on it. Corbin cautiously stepped forward, scanning the small confines of the hall with every step. His heart was pounding in his ears, not sure if this hall was hidden to hide a prize or to serve as a decoy for grave robbers. Without someone who did this professionally, the situation could  very likely reach a grim end.

As he drew near to the shelf, it became apparent that the object sitting on the shelf was an urn of some sort, next to it a book, treated savagely by time. Corbin’s forehead started to tingle, then his nose, as he stepped closer. Magic, he thought, his heart pounding with excitement and eyes the size of dinner plates. His companions had followed behind him but said nothing in sheer wonder with what they have discovered. With the hand of a librarian, Corbin gingerly picked up the book after leaning his staff on the wall. It was leather bound, and in surprisingly good shape for the unknown age. The cover was caked in dust that Corbin blew off, the particles dancing in his light as they were forced into the air. There was no title.

Slowly opening the book, the binding on the spine made a crackling sound, but the book did not break apart. Corbin’s hands felt like they were on fire, excitement and adrenaline coursing through his body like a plague. The ink on the pages was severely faded, but still legible with relative ease. That’s when his hear sank to his toes. “I can’t read it,” he said after a moment.

Lisbeth came close behind him to peek over his shoulder only to be met with symbols she was vaguely familiar with the shape of, but not the meaning. “The language is that of the Serpent Folk. It only makes sense, considering where we are. Even with all my learning, I can’t read it either. Maybe somewhere down the road we’ll find someone who can. I’m sure there are some old colleagues of mine that keep their secrets regarding the language, it’s told to be inherently magical. The legend goes that the Serpent Folk were the first creatures to use magic,” Lisbeth told him. The last bit was enough to satiate Corbin, he moved on to the urn.

The urn was of small size, at least comparatively to others of similar make, only about a foot in height and half of that in width. It was round and smooth, made of clay presumably, and had a number of symbols carved around the lid. It was the language of the Serpent Folk. Corbin felt like he was going to sneeze or that something was going to burst out of his forehead, this was the magical item that he was sensing. Cautiously cracking the lid, a gale force wind came out of it, the lid flying from Corbin’s hand. The hall turned into a wind tunnel for a moment before a hearty laugh echoed along the walls.

image1.PNG

Before them stood a tall man with a tornado in place of legs. He had a sword on his hip that had a curvature to it, the handle very ornately gilded. He stood there with his arms crossed and a smile on his face. He said something in some sort of archaic language but no one understood. The man frowned.

“I am Corbin, these are my colleagues Lisbeth, Crysx and Tiberius. How long have you been trapped in this urn, djinn?” Corbin asked with a stern tone. The fact that he was a hermit reared its ugly head during social interactions such as this.

The djinn looked surprised, “I am Vaarek,” he said with a deep bow, “Are you my new masters? I am not sure exactly how much time has passed. Seeing elves in the halls of the Serpent King definitely tell me it has not been short.” The djinn let out a haughty laugh.

After a brief conversation with him, Vaarek revealed that he was the Serpent King’s personal djinn, a slave to his will. Having the roles reverse was degrading to the djinn at first, but soon became familiar and monotonous. The symbols on the lid of the urn bound him to it and he bargained three wishes for his freedom with the adventurers. The group readily agreed, but not without knowledge of the extreme care that was needed in making every wish. All this talk of wishes reminded Corbin that the orange wish gem had been crushed in the fist of the gargoyle statue. Corbin thanked Vaarek before placing him back in his urn. Putting the lid of it near the top sucked the djinn back into it, though he was clearly unhappy about it. The entire party heard Vaarek’s voice in their heads before he the lid was placed back on the urn:

Be careful what you think, because I am listening for your wishes.

Corbin hastily made a sling out of a bit of rope he had in his satchel, affixing a loop around the neck of the urn and the rest of the rope across his chest. It sat comfortably against his satchel, it serving as a sort of pad between the urn and his leg. Hastily, he turned around, pushed through his companions and returned to the gargoyle room. Pulling a small jar out of his satchel, he scooped up the orange dust left behind by the crushing of the gem and placed it in the jar.

“What’re you doing?” Crysx asked, still a bit confused by what had just happened with the djinn.

“Giving me a fourth wish,” Corbin mumbled to himself under his breath.

He tore three pages from the book that he found next to the urn and placed them in the jar with the gem dust.

“That’s important information that we need to translate!” Lisbeth cried out in protest.

Corbin ignored her. He used a spark cantrip to set the pages alight and began performing a magical ritual. Flames swirled around the inside of the jar, the dust of the gem turning to liquid. Then the jar started melting as well, and eventually, it took the shape of the orange  gem that it had been before. Corbin picked it up and shut his eyes, searching for the feeling that it was still magical. It was. With a look of satisfaction he placed the gem in his satchel.

“Let’s get back to New Port,” he said. The party stared at him for a moment, silence hanging in the air like a dense fog. Tiberius, with a nervous cough and a scratch of the head, turned on his heel and began walking back to the tunnel. The rest followed, their thoughts interrupted.

“Look, we’re going to word it very carefully, but we’re going to use this djinn to get back home. It’s not looking hopeful without it and I don’t want to starve to death on this island,” Lisbeth demanded. It was blatant that this little mission of theirs was starting to wear on her nerves. Alas, the party agreed. “And you,” she said, pointing at Tiberius, “This never happened. Corbin, you’re going to fake a teleportation circle to make it seem like you’re capable of doing that.”

“With the right preparation and materials, I AM capable of doing that,” Corbin said frustratedly, “But I’ll take part in your little ruse.” 

When they returned to the wreck of the Northern Star, the Manticore and Order of the Sword paladins were looking at them expectantly. They showed them the book, saying that it was the only artifact they turned up. When asked about the urn slung around Corbin’s side, he simply answered that he could find a use for a container with such symbols inscribed on them, that it cut down on some of his workload. The story seemed to stick, as nobody questioned them further.

The false teleportation circle was met, Corbin shot Lisbeth and Crysx a look to indicate that he would be making the wish. They nodded silently. Having read a great deal about djinns, Corbin knew what kind of wit he was up against. He chose his words carefully and tactfully. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, they were on the streets of New Port, right in front of The Falling Hammer.

 

We’re home…

 

 

 

Stay Metal \m/

 

Find more Benjamin Witunsky art on his Instagram account as well!

 

Ald Sotha: A Surprise in the Dark

Artwork: Tunnel of Wealth by Patrik Hjelm

 

While taking some time to compose themselves and get a grip on the fact that they were still indeed alive, the party had made swift friends with a paladin of the sword, Tiberius. A brick wall of a man, honorable to a fault. He had been the one to pull Lisbeth from the tomb, a manticore paladin grabbing Corbin and Eitger himself tending to his son, Crysx.

Corbin covertly checked his satchel with one hand while talking. He verified that all the gems he had collected were there, one of them feeling warm to the touch. The wish gem, he thought to himself, intrigued by the magical secrets its creator knew. Having tuned out of the conversation quite a few minutes ago to retreat into the depths of his own mind, Corbin blurted out, “We have to go back in there. There was a paladin that referenced a tunnel that took us to the room with the golem and elementals. We need to be taken there immediately.”

There was a moment of steely silence among the honorable band run ragged. All eyes were on Corbin. The image of the gargoyle statue haunted Corbin’s mind as he patiently awaited an answer.

Tiberius spoke, “The Order of the Sword took the same entrance, I could be your guide. You are still too weak and can’t go alone.”

The group erupted into an argument. Everybody shouting all at once some with vigor, others with anger. Eitger put a hand up and everyone was silenced.

“I’m not sure why you would wish to return but you are bound by no oath to us. Do as you will, we will try to find a way back to the mainland in the meantime. If we find a way before you return, we will wait approximately one day. After that, you are on your own.” Eitger looked at his son, as if awaiting for him to change his mind. The moment did not come.

With a sigh of relief, Tiberius turns to the party and points off into a direction, prompting them to walk. Buffeting wind coming off the ocean reminded them that the forest was indeed preferable. As the trees closed in around them, Crysx looked over his shoulder to glimpse at his father. He stood there as the paladins bustled around him to tend to the wounded. A small sense of sadness hung in the air, but was quickly interrupted by Lisbeth.

“What exactly are we going back for again?”

Corbin sighed, “The gargoyle statue. That riddle is eating at my mind like a rabid dog, I have to figure it out.”

Though not a hundred percent satisfied with the answer, Lisbeth kept quiet. What else were they to do? There was no obvious way off the island and a good walk may help clear their heads now that they found who they set out for. Arriving at the mouth of the cave, it became apparent that it was much less a cave and more a tunnel. Its gaping maw staring at them from the ground, tapering down into the deep and dark.

“It’s a stroke of luck you guys found this lead to the tomb. This thing could have gone anywhere,” Crysx said, staring into the unknown.

Tiberius started lowering himself down into it, “When the desperation sets in, you’ll take the first thing you can find really. Plus, we found some tracks leading right up to this entrance.”

Crysx chewed on that for a second but Corbin’s mind was better at puzzle solving, “We followed a bunch of footprints to a completely different entrance. The Order of the Manticore said they used this tunnel as well. Strange.”

Tiberius agreed as Corbin lit the top of his staff to be able to see better. Crysx’s axe was ablaze with a magical flame that crackled and spat, as if harboring a hatred for the darkness. Interested in how this was formed, Corbin started analyzing the walls. They had a strange ribbed pattern, almost as if this was dug rather than naturally eroded by water. Eventually, Crysx stubbed his toe on something and cried out. Immediately dismissing it as a rock, he continued on but Corbin took a second to look.

It was quite clearly not a rock. Dark purple in color, a perfectly symmetrical shape and clearly heavy since it didn’t move when kicked. It shined slightly in Corbin’s light, almost as if it was enameled.

“Purple worm… We should continue with extreme caution,” Corbin said grimly, looking up at his companions. Crysx looked up at the ceiling and walls of this cylindrical tunnel. Lisbeth furrowed her brow before simply walking off rather briskly.

“We’re on a time budget here, I like biology as much as anyone else but we have to get this done. You wanted to do this, remember?” Lisbeth was a little frustrated with Corbin’s infatuation with the tunnel and was ready to continue.

Eventually they found the room where they had first run into the Order of the Manticore. From there it was almost trivial to find the gargoyle room.

Together they analyzed the riddle again:

“Power can be found in unlikely places”

“Power sometimes blinds the mighty”

“The mighty sometimes wield no power”

 

Thinking hard as to what that might mean, he instinctively placed a gem in one of the hands. It  seemed odd how perfectly it fit, but nothing happened. He removed it and thought some more before placing the red gem in the arm that said “The mighty sometimes wield no power” and just like that, the stone hand closed and crushed it into dust. Feeling utterly defeated for a moment, it clicked in his head that the location in which the gems were found was crucial. The orange wish gem was placed in “Power can be found in unlikely places” and the two parts that made a complete blue gem in the final spot. They were all crushed but after that nothing happened.

Lisbeth looked at the arm laid in front of the gargoyle, “Although it’s not attached, I wonder if it still functions. Kind of strange that it has no writing.”

“Hold on a moment,” Crysx said, walking over. He took out his water skin and poured some on the arm before scrubbing it lightly with his hand. It revealed a riddle, caked with dirt.

“Look for your prize”

“Well what the hell does that mean?” Crysx thought aloud.

Corbin shushed him, frustrated. All three of them looked at Corbin while he thought. He picked up the arm to look at it more closely and realized the hand shimmered for a moment. Poking his fingers into the palm of the hand, he could feel something. He plucked something out of its place and tried to look at it, but nothing was in his hand. It felt like it was the roughly the same shape and size as the other, now destroyed, gems. He placed it up to his eye and could see that there was a doorway behind the statue.

“An invisible gem that cuts through illusions… Interesting,” Corbin mumbled to himself. He walked forward and, to the others, disappeared into the wall.

Stunned for a moment that he figured it out, they soon followed…

 

Stay metal \m/

Ald Sotha: “We’re Not Done Yet”

image credit: Elder Scrolls Online cinematic trailers (video still).

 

Blackness.
Nothing but the dark of the void. Bodiless, weightless, without emotion nor care.

Where am I?

When you spend an eternity under sensory deprivation, you are left with many thoughts but few things to truly worry about. A place without pain is nice, but without joy to counter it, it is torture.

Like the tide slowly working its way up the shore, the world came back to them. First the static behind the eyes, telling them they were still alive. Then the muffled voices, their ears still worked. The smell of salt, how did I get outside? Then the excruciating pain of a soul thrust back into a wounded body.

Blurry, but clearly a person.

“Look! This one’s waking up, they’re alive!” One of them shouted, pointing like an amazed child.

We did it, Crysx thought. He tried to speak but nothing came out. His throat felt dry as sandpaper, something was caked under his nose, he could feel it as he moved his lips when attempting to speak.

By some unnatural force, Corbin’s eyes snapped open. His consciousness had returned far faster than his body was ready. His mind filled with frantic thoughts about the gems. His twitching movements, attempting to search his belongings, caused some of the paladins to rush over and do what they could for him. A lay on hands spell had Corbin’s limbs working again.

Lisbeth spoke with Galgurt in her unconsciousness. “You can’t give up, not yet,” he said, though she could not see him in the void. His voice sounded like they were in very close proximity to each other, but all she could do was hear him.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen! Please, help me!” Lisbeth cried out frantically, her voice echoing in the void. For the first time in a long time, she felt helpless. Her thoughts returning to when she had lost her sister.

“You helped me, remember? I am bound to you but I’m powerless. I don’t believe this is the end for you, I’m not a man of faith but you have shown me the Gods have a greater plan for you,” Galgurt said back to her, a touch of sadness in his voice.

Corbin sat up and began searching his bag instinctively, frantically. For a moment he regained control of himself and looked up to see a group standing around Lisbeth, she wasn’t moving. His eyes turned to Crysx’s body, he was moving slightly and starting to make sound, eyes slowly opening and closing. Fear gripped his hear like a vice. Corbin quickly went over to Crysx, pried his mouth open and jammed the top of a healing potion bottle into it. As life came back to him, Crysx looked at Corbin, frightened. He pushed the bottle away, “Hey, that hurts!”

Corbin looked at him grimly, “Not as much as it’ll hurt to lose her,” he said, pointing a Lisbeth’s body. Corbin’s eyes grew wide as he awkwardly scrambled to his feet, his legs still not ready to cooperate. Falling down in a heap next to her side, he prepared a lay on hand spell paired with bastion. With the mighty power of desperation, Crysx brought Lisbeth back from the brink of death. Not without a cost, but they luckily had a hefty amount of healing potions left from the trip.

“By the stars, I thought we had lost you,” Crysx said with a sigh of relief.

Lisbeth sat up and stared straight into his eyes with a burning intensity.

“No… We’re not done yet.”

 

Stay Metal \m/

Ald Sotha: Omen Finale

The party stood in shock at this revealing of information. Crysx looked at his hands, taking note of a very very dull glow emanating from his body. He felt amazed, betrayed, wounded, thankful, blissful, confused, a thousand different emotions all at once.

“Why did you hide this from me,” Crysx asked his father.

Eitger stared into his son’s eyes, “I’m so sorry I had to do that to you… Come. We have a quarry to hunt, we can talk later.”

Crysx’s mind was less than focused on the task at hand now that he had all these questions swimming in his mind. Lisbeth placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder,

“Let’s go. Everything will reveal itself in time, just as this had.”

They followed the paladins into the dark. Seeing how their direction was the only way forward, they had no choice but to continue on the winding, tube shaped halls until something revealed itself. The lack of activity left Crysx to be a victim of his own mind. Discomfort among the group hung in the air like a dense fog, the only sound was the clatter of boots on the stone flooring echoing around them. Much to everyone’s relief, the hallway opened up into a room. there were three doorways, one opposite and one on either side. The opposite doorway looked as if it were about to capsize but there was clearly movement on the other side. Determined for a distraction, Corbin and Crysx rushed forward through the threshold with Lisbeth not far behind.

“It’s them!” Eitger exclaimed as the paladins were slow to react.

When Corbin Crysx and Lisbeth crossed through the doorway, their carelessness and haste caused them to jar it, crumbling into a heap of rubble behind them. Panic took over Crysx like a spell. Turning around on a ring’s width, he ran back to the capsize, the drum of fear pounding in his chest as he called out for his father.

“We have no time, they’ll find a way,” Corbin called after him.

“Crysx! Don’t let them escape, we’ll find a way around!” Eitger called through the stones.

A moment of hesitation seemed like an eternity to Crysx until he decided to follow his companions into the unknown. The path snaked before them, this way and that. Hurried footsteps in the distanced told them that they weren’t far behind. Whatever mad plan was behind their quarry gave them incredible speed, it became apparent. Soon, it was only their running that could be heard,  huffs of breath and their hearts pounding in their ears. A large room lay before them in time, the borders hidden by the darkness. The far side was illuminated by the enemy. Four dragonics stood in front of them, a human behind them kneeling in front of a massive statue of a being with the lower half of a serpent and upper half of a human-like creature. Its cold, reptilian face glaring down at all of them reminded them of a god. A gleam of light caught Corbin’s eye as he gazed at the statue. The two eyes seemed to have gems encrused into them, blue in color and roughly half the size of the gems he already possessed.

“You are too late. In due time the Serpent King will rise and owe me his allegiance for his return,” the human said, his voice thick will a sadistic pleasure.

The four dragonics, two reds and two blues, were facing them, poised to protect the human. Standing slowly, the human turned to face the party as well. His eyes shone in the dark like two peridots, a black slit running down them vertically. The pupils opened and closed as they focused and analyzed the party. There was more to this one than was apparent.

Without hesitation, Crysx lunged forward with a mad cry as the head of his axe burst into flames. The creature grinned as its body twisted and morphed to reveal in truth he was a red dragon. His dragonic minions rushed forward to meet Crysx. The battle with the dragonics was rather quick and decided, only being permitted a hit or two on the party. The real problem was the dragon. Blasts of fire spewed from the dragon’s mouth like demons from a hell hole. His wrath was fierce, and before long, he too was starting to be defeated. Unexpectedly, the statue on the other side of the room burst to reveal that it was actually the Serpent King encased in stone. Both of the gems were sent in opposite directions across the room. That’s when the tides of battle changed. Crysx quickly became the victim of the dragon, a mighty swipe of the claws knocking him unconscious. The Serpent King felt magic emanating from Corbin and Lisbeth. Thousands upon thousands of years of slumber made him thirst for its consumption. Lisbeth was quickly struck down, on the brink of death even.

The power that Crysx wielded, even when helpless, shielded Lisbeth from the void of death. Corbin saw his time running short and couldn’t help but think where the hell are those damn paladins? He made a mad dash for the gems. Upon scooping one up, it became apparent that one was simply a half, he guessed the other was the companion piece. With a quick mending spell, he was able to reconstruct the gem and channel magical energy through all three of the gems he possessed to land a desperate blow on the Serpent King. The spell made the creature roar in pain and rear back from the spell caster. The dragon had no fear, knowing that Corbin’s time was at an end and struck him down.

Cold darkness started to engulf the party, the room was spinning around them. Before slipping into complete unconsciousness, they heard the war cry of fifty paladins echo through the room…

 

 

Stay Metal \m/

Ald Sotha: Omen Part 4

Continuing on, the party faces various traps and puzzles that they overcome with will or wit.

Eventually they find a room where they hear fighting in the distance. Rushing towards the sound, the party finds a group of paladins battling some clay golems and earth elementals. The fight was quick due to their superior numbers, but not without injury.

“Hail, delvers. We are paladins of the Order of the Manticore,” one of the combatants greets them. After a short conversation, the party was able to gather this:

  • Eitger’s paladin order was divided by the specific star in the constellation that they worship, these called themselves the Manticore due to a smaller constellation within the larger one.
  • They all carry morning stars to symbolize the mighty beast’s tail.
  • They have no hierarchy, all Manticore paladins have the same say in what the order does.
  • This group of paladins was summoned by Eitger and his division, the Order of the Sword to come to Omen.
  • They’re not entirely sure if it was just them summoned or the other orders as well.

The paladins explained that they had entered this room from the gaping hole on the west side of the room, it leads up to the surface via a series of tunnels/caves. It became blatantly apparent that the order to travel was rushed, hinting at some urgent matter at hand.  They agreed to help the party find Eitger, seeing how they were looking for the same person.

After traversing some rooms that yielded almost nothing, they came to a long hallway. The party could hear some voices echoing down it towards them. Deciding to err on the side of caution, they proceeded as slowly and quietly as they could. The hallway was dark, the only lights coming from Corbin’s staff, which he attempted to somewhat stifle at the potential threat.

The voices hushed, hearing the sound of the footsteps drawing near. It became obvious that the creatures down the other end were large, heavy, as the sound of an attempt to move quietly echoed back at the party. Slowly being washed with light, Eiter Greymane walked out of the darkness to greet his son.

Shock took his face by storm, and then happiness and relief as he embraced Crysx.

“I didn’t think you’d come, and I was worried that even if you had, some horror may have bested you. You’ve grown large and strong. I am proud of you,” said Eitger, amidst a flurry of emotion. Crysx was conflicted about how he should feel. Lisbeth and Corbin both felt slightly awkward at the family reunion. Corbin’s mind immediately became fixated on the wish gem, as he tinkered with it in his satchel.

 

 

One thing I have failed to mention during these summaries is Crysx’s one unique thing: his curse. Plopping you guys down in the middle of a two (now three) year long campaign is a little tough to make sure all the details come through. In short, Crysx is a dark elf and his curse is that he only has the appearance and personality of a dark elf at night. During the day, he looks like a high elf and is less angry/temperamental. Back to the action.

 

 

Crysx asked Eitger a flurry of questions. In short, the paladin order had not been summoned to Omen for their prohpetic and cataclysmic death. Cleric Godfried was scared of this prophecy and assumed every time they came here, it was for such a reason. The truth of it was that they were pursuing a small group of dragonics and one human which had made off with an artifact. They had tracked them to here and were attempting to follow their trail based off of what they knew about the artifact. What was stolen was a totem of the Serpent King, the first Icon ever known. Eitger drew the conclusion that they only place this could be used for something is Omen, though it was truly a leap. He took his chances, and actually found evidence of their landing here. Since then, they had been tracked to this dungeon and they’ve been exploring in an attempt to find their quarry.

On a side note, Eitger mentioned that the orders get together and come to Omen for one week every five years to cut down some of the nefarious beings that call this place home. They call these crusades “cleansings” to prevent a big conglomeration of evil forces to eventually find their way off the island a little stronger than they arrived. They firmly believe that they are doing the Great Gold Wyrms holy work by performing these cleansings.

One of Crysx’s hands had turned dark permanently as he tried to lift his curse himself, far previous to gaining access to this dungeon. Eitger had noticed as much, and a feeling of guilt hung in the room like a dense fog.

“My son, it is time that the truth be told. Kneel before me and I will relieve your pain,” Eitger said in a solemn tone.

He removed the gem from Crysx’s forehead and crushes it into dust. Blinding light envelopes Crysx, and when he emerges he is blatantly no elf or dark elf, but an Aasimar. The curse had been placed on him by Eitger at birth to protect him from being hunted his whole life. The side effects were unexpected, but a small price to pay to keep a prophetic hero alive.

Eitger explains that the order has been waiting thousands of years for his coming and now is the time that the age of peace starts…

 

Stay Metal \m/

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