Feel like burning like a bright wizard? Being as green as a gobbo? Robust like an Ironbreaker? Bloodthirsty like a witch elf? Feel free to speak as them here.
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“Let us play the dance for now, dear Seeress. We will dispose of them later,” reassured Caranordor, as Khrell allowed the plundered Shyish crystal to float across the cavern into Sildra’s hand. The Grand Cabalist took it, gripping it carefully as she regarded the Chaos warband warily. Ithilsyn threw Caranordor a sly smile, as the crystal found its way into the Coven’s hands.
“Now if you’re done plotting against us here, the winds call me to outside this cave,” Khrell exclaimed, the magus looking hungrily beyond as if smelling something delicious outside.
The unlikely party made its way back out of the caverns. The slaves still tended to their work, picks swinging, backs hunched, and faces resigned to their task that would only cease with their deaths. Did they know that their masters had perished? Or were they so broken now that they existed for nothing else but to reclaim shards of crystal? Ithilsyn contemplated their fate, considering their will to be weak and undeserving of freedom that could now be so easily attained.
Any mercenaries that had survived the battle were quick to break up their encampment outside as news of their employer’s death reached them, leaving only criss-crossed tracks and smoking campfires behind. Taking the lead, Khrell hovered through the mines to the mouth of the cave, Druchii and marauders marching side by side, each regarding the other with mistrust and disdain. It was an uneasy truce, but it would have to do for now. Regarding the desolate lands before him, the magus cast his sight, comparing it with whatever visions had driven him here. Gesturing with his staff, to a barely noticeable path winding along the foothills, he hissed his instructions, his horde close behind him. The Druchii took the rear of the column, watchful for any sign of danger.
“This almost reminds me of the parts of the Wastes that aren’t filled with maddened men and beasts,” Khrell mumbled, conversing with his kind as they made their way through rivened hills and forests of dead trees. Now and again the growl of a bear or shriek of a harpy broke the pattern of marching feet as the troop continued forwards with purpose. Ithilsyn wondered why Caranordor was so comfortable in following these barbarians without any assurance of their destination or fealty at that matter. One thing was certain, the further they marched, the more strongly she sensed the presence of Shyish, bleached bones now littering the forest floor, as if the very life had been sucked out of this valley. Even the ferns and brambles now were withered and dry, a solemn weariness hanging in the air that whispered of peace eternal if one would only surrender to it.
Falorion knocked his bow, and crouched under the cover of a thicket of thorny bloodroot. His patrol had been interrupted by a booming sound from the hills nearby, and deciding to investigate it, the Shadow Warrior had stealthily approached to investigate further, so as to report his findings back to his Captain. His icy eyes narrowed under his hood as he witnessed a small warband of tainted humans and the traitor kin emerge from the cavern’s mouth. Waiting for them to decide their course, the elf decided to follow from a safe distance. What business had they here? Let them know the welcome of the Nagarythi.
The path began to wind upwards, disappearing at the brow of a hill. As the group approached it became apparent that this was a great crater, rendered from devastating powers of destruction, the sides marked with ancient streaks of charring in the rock and scree that descended to the pit below, where a small lake reflected the lightning flashing in the gloomy sky above them. A monument to something terrible that had fought in these lands during the Sundering, no doubt. The path traversed the ridge to their left, moving towards a ledge, seemingly to a dead end.
The Shadow Warrior paused, tucking himself behind a blackened tree trunk as his quarry halted. His pulse quickened with anticipation. They were talking. But what about? He had to get closer. Creeping forward carefully, he dashed from tree to tree, from rock to rock, concealing himself behind whatever passed for cover as he covered ground. The noise of their voices began to shape into words, as he crouched down and paced forwards as silently as a mountain cat.
Khrell looked about the terrain, nodding to himself in satisfaction. “This is looking promising. Yes, very promising.”
The Druchii looked to each other, feeling that they had been inadvertently drawn into a wild scheme. “Have a care...” Ithilsyn urged, the Commander nodding at the Seeress, remaining vigilant.
The snap of a twig from behind them raised the alarm. Weapons drawn, heads turned, as a lithe form realising he was discovered, gave up on stealth and began to run at a sprint, crashing through the dry scrub of the deadwood in an attempt to flee.
“We have a spy!” Khrell exclaimed, making a quick gesture with an outstretched hand. The Shadow Warrior stumbled, as a torrent of energy wrapped itself around his legs, and in a panic tried to scramble back up, finding to his horror that the lower part of his legs were beginning to meld and fuse into a shapeless blob. With a cry, he tried to pull himself forwards with his hands, his fingers clutching dry leaves and blacked earth, feeling his mouth going dry as fear swept through him, before the world went grey.
“Someone do go collect that,” Khrell instructed coolly, returning his attention to the crater and statue before him.
“Your will is manifest, lord!” replied a zealot, bounding forward to retrieve the now unconscious elf. Grabbing him by the scruff of his tunic, she pulled him back without any level of care, throwing her quarry on the ground in front of those assembled.
“Thalken fool,” Sildra chuckled, “We should take him with us for when he wakes up, perhaps he’s willing to share some stories with us.”
With a grunt, one of the marauders hauled the Shadow Warrior over his shoulder, as Khrell led them down the slopes towards the edge of the black pool. At its centre stood a menhir, two chains shackled to it, opposite which a creature cloaked in darkness, yet emanating a soft purplish glow on the water’s edge. It appeared at first to be some kind of daemon, but to their relief it became apparent that this was no more than a statue. Upon closer inspection, four runes of Eltharin were carved into its chest, beneath each one, a deep hole. The Shyish crystal in Sildra’s hand began to glow as she approached, until it shone with purple light as she held it up towards this vile monument. The holes seemed to match the crystal’s diameter perfectly, and she tapped it with a fingernail as she tried to deduce the link between Zathos Chillwind’s hellish mine and this site.
“Perhaps...” she whispered, holding the crystal up to one of the holes. Illuminated by a wash of purple emanating from the relic in her hand, she nodded to herself. “These holes... they are sockets of some kind. And this...” she gestured with a nod to the Shyish crystal, drawing it away from the statue, the light dimming as she did, “is some kind of key.”
Ithilsyn inspected the runes, translating them as she did so. “Daro... Elu... Kynth... Khadath....” she whispered.
“We have but one crystal,” uttered Caranordor. “She must choose.”
“Khadath, Sildra...” Ithilsyn suggested. The Cabalist raised the crystal and slotted it into the socket. It retained its glow for a moment, then fell dull. The Seeress frowned to herself, realising she had misread whatever pattern was to be found here.
“DA FIRST ‘UN!” screamed Noogl to Sildra, the goblin breaking the silence with enough volume to cause a small tumble of scree to fall into the water. Weighing the stone in her hands, Sildra looked back at them questioningly and placed the crystal in the socket. The purple light from within the stone blazed from its cradle, yet still nothing happened. The sorceress looked up at the statue, it’s eyes frozen into an endless stare at the menhir beyond, the shackles empty.
As the Daro rune activated, the statue creaked with the grinding of stone. The rune began to glow, before the empty eyes lit up, and a voice resonated from the hideous statue. “Who awakens the Guardian of Klarath Har?”
“Zoggin’ hell... Dat iz a zoggin’ death wardun!” muttered Noogl, scrambling behind some of the armoured Druchii, just in case...
With slow yet purposeful movements, the statue began to walk towards them, in an almost mechanical manner, halting perfectly still as it studied each of them separately, awaiting an answer to its question, one clawed hand held outwards, as if considering which one to tear to pieces.
“Pilgrims from afar. We seek to marvel at the wonders of that which you guard,” announced Khrell, looking up at the huge sentinel towering above him.
A brief grinding chuckle was heard in reply, “To gain an audience to my Master, a blood sacrifice is required.”
“Then by Akhar of the wind of rage, you may have it, guardian.” Khrell replied.
Sildra glanced to the menhir, then turned to Caranordor shouting out, “It needs an offering. Bring me the Shadow Warrior!”
With the prisoner still slung over his shoulder, the marauder’s stepped forward, his feet crunching over the gravel of the lakeshore, before splashing through a narrow causeway of shallow water to the stone beyond. Dumping the elf down, he lifted him by one arm, clamping a wrist within one of the shackles, doing the same with the other. Held aloft by his wrists, the elf groaned to himself, as the marauder pulled back his hood and spat in his face, then slapped his cheek a couple of times as if rousing a drunken friend from a stupor. The elf’s eyes blinked open, confused and weakened, before his shrill scream echoed from the walls of the crater.
The guardian turned towards its offering, and moved back down to the bottom of the crater, each step grinding noisily, before splashing slowly through the water as it spread its wings, and opened its palms towards the captured elf. Sweeping a claw downwards, it tore through the Shadow Warrior's body with one blow, rendering his face and chest to a mess of split bone and bloody gore. His insides spilling out before him, the victim rasped and choked, his blood spreading from his feet to form crimson blooms in the pool beneath him. Several watery tendrils erupted from the surface, coiling around the terrified elf. What could only be described as a scream erupted from his ruined throat, and then the elf began to age at an impossible rate. In the blink of an eye his hair grew longer, the colour from it fading to an ashen white. His skin grew leathery, as his flesh withered and wasted away, the screaming devolving into dry gurgling as his soul and life force were drawn from his mortally wounded body. For a moment, all that could be seen of him was a decaying skeleton clad in the garb of the Nagarythi, until even this decayed, and his remains scattered into dust.
Stepping back to the position of his vigil, the Guardian fell still once more. The Shyish crystal within its socket cracked and shattered, as the glowing rune fell dim, the creature once more fading to nothing more than a blasphemous statue from an age long passed.
Above the crater, the ground began to shake and rumble, sending a tumble of rocks, bones, and skulls the rolling down in a cloud of dust, landing noisily into the lake below.
It appeared that the way had been opened.
With thanks to Sylleth for the artwork.
If you wish to join us or learn more about us check this topic:
Chapter I - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=23964
Chapter II - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24190
Chapter III - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24669
Chapter IV - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24808
Chapter V - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24875
Chapter VI - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24880
Chapter VII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24898
Chapter VIII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24937
Chapter IX - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24976
Chapter X - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=24979
Chapter XI - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25000
Chapter XII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25033
Chapter XIII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25053
Chapter XIV - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25067
Chapter XV - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25155
Chapter XVI - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25174
Chapter XVII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25801
Chapter XVIII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=25921
Chapter XIX - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26031
Chapter XX - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26114
Chapter XXI - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26214
Chapter XXII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26233
Chapter XXIII - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26323
Chapter XXIV - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26342
Chapter XXV - viewtopic.php?f=55&t=26440
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