This is a long entry, as there has been a great deal of action, adventure, and drama. I hope you will bear with me!
We entered Malareth’s lair. The first thing I noticed was the smell – an foetid, cloying stench that filled the nostrils and left me wishing I could immediately expel everything I had just breathed in. When I was hit by the sight in the laboratory itself (for that is what it was) the smell only seemed that much worse. I identified a number of dismembered bodies, along with a pile of decaying off-casts that had been thrown into a nearby corner. In the middle was a workbench, where Malareth stood, his arms planted firmly on the table, and his shoulders hunched with a kind of irritated impatience. His hair was long, dark and oily, and hung limply over his shoulders. In the left side of his head he had a shiny metal plate. His eyes were sunken, and brooding – cast into shadow so that his face seemed lopsided and empty. His clothes were simple – some sort of one piece garment used by butchers I think. It was covered in gore and grime, and Malareth seemed to care little about the state he was in.
On the bench in front of him was a huge pile of dead goblin bodies. I knew as soon as I saw them that Malareth’s reputation as one who dabbles in necromancy was well deserved. The living skeletons that stood around the table might have also been a good indication… but all I am saying is that I would have been able to tell even without them, because of my great intuition. On top of the pile was Moosook! He was wrestling with one of the bodies. Malareth seemed eminently unimpressed with Moosook’s performance, shouting in a shrill voice for the hobgoblin to pin down the corpse. It was only then that I realised the body was moving of its own volition. When our party had finally gathered, Malareth had already finished stitching on the body. He seemed not to be overly threatened by our group – a mistake he would not live to regret.
Malareth ordered Moosook to protect ‘The Source’ and indicated it would be worth stealing. Before Moosook had a chance to do his master’s bidding, I stepped forward and shot Moosook in the chest. The bolt found a gap in his armour and it struck home solidly. Spurts of blood sprayed across the already bloodied table. I would have taken the time to savour the moment – how far I have come since the first time I shot Moosook – but my examination and introspection was rudely interrupted.
Almost before I had an opportunity to even take in whether I had struck Moosook, a hand holding a lute burst forth from a pile of refuse body parts. For a moment I thought that another undead was joining the fight, and I was about to curse my luck, when a cowled being stepped forward. They may have smelled like rotting flesh, but who wouldn’t when keeping the close company of decaying body parts? Initially, his cowl was somewhat askew, and I got a reasonable look – enough to judge the person a ‘him’ and an eladrin at that.
I was shocked to say the least. My only encounter with an eladrin was when I was quite young. I recall it vividly to this day. She too was a bard of sorts, and carried a set of pan-pipes. I was young, and naive, and I thought I had found a kindred spirit – another elf. I was quickly put back in my place. I merely tried to approach the eladrin and that was enough for her to give off a torrent of abuse such that my young ears were set to ringing for the rest of the day. She hurt me deeply with her scorn and barbed insults, and I shall not quickly forget my encounter. To make matters worse it was in the centre of town, and I was unable to show my face there for several months. I have since learned that the eladrin are arrogant, distant, and proud, and that it is best to stay away from them because they have their own inscrutable motivations.
I was immediately distrustful of this new person, and did not want to talk to him. I feel as though I cannot mention my elf-hood around him because I doubt he would understand or approve, and I don’t want to be assaulted like I was in my youth. I must protect my innermost nature from this eladrin. Thankfully I do not think he saw my
fright surprise. He hurried into battle, attacking one of the skeletons and calling out ‘Adventurers STRIKE HERE’ as though he were the leader of our party. Surely this eladrin was cast in the same mould as the rest of his brethren.
As the fight continued, we all proved our mettle. The new eladrin had a tongue as sharp as I believed it would be – abusing the enemies so thoroughly that they were tripping over themselves in an effort to get away, leaving themselves open to all kinds of attacks. Amos was a flurry of blades, leaping fearlessly into battle, while Zephyr cast spells from afar, blasting the foe with his magic. Even Yawn was doing his part, striking the enemy down with shafts of light. Before we could really get into the swing of things, however, there was a surge of life. The pile of corpses on Malareth’s table squirmed and shuddered grotesquely. For a moment I wondered if we were to be joined by a second eladrin, but it wasn’t to be.
A hulking monster made of patched together bodies of goblins rose unsteadily from the slab. It was huge – twice the size of an elf at the least. With its long reach, the zombie struck out at anyone close enough to hit. Malareth also joined in the fray, throwing dark magic at us that sucked away at our life, and strengthened our foes. For a moment things looked dire, so I decided to pull out the stops. I had realised the fight may be difficult but I hadn’t bargained on calling up my full elven strength. With a flip and a tumble I landed directly in the centre of our foes, laying about with my crossbow. They hardly even knew what hit them – leaving them reeling and blinded by gouts of their own blood. I quickly slipped away again while they were still flailing about, and could only hope that this might somehow turn the tide.
Feeling pumped up by my success, our group renewed our attacks. I dived for cover, sweeping a pot of something I thought was water off a table so that I might use it for cover. It smashed on the ground and I had myself another case of the stinky pot, but I don’t want to go into it in too much detail. Let’s just say I paid dearly for my cover, and I will be seeking something to plug my nose in future battles if this trend continues. In any case, I had a good view of everything going on. I saw Yawn blasting back the undead, and Zephyr being flown out of direct battle on that stupid floating disk. He didn’t look happy. I also saw that when Yawn began to heal people, the eladrin stranger paled with fear. His unease was obvious to all (except perhaps to Yawn who seemed to take no notice of the fellow’s discomfit).
I don’t like this fellow trying to dissuade Yawn from healing with his glares – healing is a good and necessary thing. I mean… this eladrin hasn’t even seen the potential irritation Yawn can cause yet, he has no right to look at our dwarf that way! Luckily Yawn was as blithely clueless as he always is, and continued healing never-the-less. At one point Yawn came near to heal me, and the eladrin butted in again with his own offer of help. I had to decline, for I know not his powers, and nor has he earned my trust. I think this he took as a slight, but I find it more offensive that he thinks me such a simpleton as to trust any stranger who pops up in the middle of a pile of rotting corpses. It was at that point that Amos accepted the offer of healing.
In the midst of battle Moosook made his way to the alcove in the back of the room. He must have been playing around with something in there, for with a shimmer an unearthly barrier was erected, effectively sealing the hapless hobgoblin in. A crystal embedded in a stone began to glow blue – such a blueness that I could hardly bear to look at it without getting a throbbing headache. Oily black tendrils of power slid from the rock, slowly but surely latching onto Moosook like so many leeches. He screamed in terror and I could not help but pity him. Privately I hoped that we might save him if we ended Malareth.
From out of nowhere it seemed came Fenstrom. He oozed into the closed off alcove – through cracks that (presumably) he had created, snatching the crystal up. I was so surprised that I almost failed to note the conversation he had with Malareth. It sounded as though Fenstrom was in the midst of winning the latest victory in a long-standing and bitter rivalry. He had words for our group as well, taunting Zephyr about his father, and promising to test the crystal’s power on Ercullum. I fear now for the cleric’s safety, even as I realise that this means I must face the power of the crystal a second time in the name of protecting my lands and people.
Fenstrom left, taking the crystal with him while we were busily engaged in battle. The black tendrils left Moosook, but it was clear that we were too late. He looked fragile, and on the verge of death, as though one puff of wind would be enough to bring about his demise. I mourned my inability to do anything to save Moosook, even though he was a villain, he was certainly played for a fool and forced into a position where any fool would do. In this drama, he was a lesser evil that was swept up in the tides of events, and little deserved what fate had befallen him.
I bent my will to the task of finishing the battle. Ignoring the skirmishes going on around me – the eladrin battling the zombie monster, Amos being knocked out by Malareth and his henchmen, Kat looking startled about something, Zephyr trying to send the enemies to sleep – I shot the wicked Malareth, aiming to kill the necromancer. He had erected an aura of evil around him that seemed to sap the strength of my party, and I was one of the only fighters capable of sending a ranged attack at him from outside the malevolent influence.
In the end it was everyone who brought the battle to a close. Malareth went down, and so did the zombie. I hurried over to Malareth and began to cut his head off. I wanted the grisly business done with. So eager was I that I hardly even noticed as the zombie began to rise again. What we had thought was dead, was yet undead. Luckily it didn’t take too much finishing.
Unfortunately killing Malareth did not extinguish the barrier. Looking in I could see that Moosook was weak. His withered, skeletal frame was curled up pathetically in a corner of the alcove, almost as though he’d been dead for a month or more. His hair was fragile and grey, and his skin was dry and drawn tightly over his bones. Each breath seemed to cost him dearly, rattling in his throat. I could tell that Yawn was just itching to heal the hobgoblin, and I could see that Zephyr was equally determined to kill Moosook himself. Although I dislike Moosook and all of his evil kind, I felt sorry for him. He was a proud warrior, and being forced into submission through magic that cannot be fought off does not seem a fitting end. He had no chance to make a stand or defend himself – truly his death was Malareth’s doing.
I found Zephyr’s continued blood lust distasteful. To kill someone who has already been brought so low; to take pleasure in killing something near dead and too weak to pose a threat, was to pick over the corpse of victory like a vulture. At the same time, Yawn’s desire to heal the hobgoblin was misguided. Moosook freely admits that it was his fault that he was in such a mess, and healing the hobgoblin would only cause friction within our group. Unable to decide who to side with, I turned my mind to looting and let events play out as they would.
Zephyr, being of a wizardly bent, quickly won his way through the forcefield, leaving the dwarven cleric Yawn on the outside. Yawn was beating at the force field, shouting that he would never heal Zephyr again, and Zephyr was stabbing Moosook enthusiastically, if inexpertly, in the chest. While I was still searching for loot, the bard decided that he also wanted a piece of Moosook. He was screaming something or other about needing to question Moosook. To be honest, I think Zephyr saw in him the same spark of insanity or rage that he shared, and so he pulled the bard in with him to torment the hobgoblin before he died properly. I had heard from Kat that the bard was a torture victim, and I thought he would find such activities unseemly, but perhaps not. He freely boasted that he would torture Moosook if he was not answered. I think it was a lie – I hope it was a lie.
Seeing that Yawn was standing on a large treasure chest, making life difficult yet again, I asked him to go and fetch something. Something trivial. It happened to be that orb I had seen Zephyr eyeing off. Well if I had been thinking clearly at the time I would never have done such a thing, but what is done is done. Yawn was so angry at Zephyr that he snatched up the orb and left the room, shouting back over his shoulder,
“Know that your actions have consequences!” As soon as I had gathered my
treasure senses I rushed out, but Yawn was long gone – boy he can fetch up a turn of speed on those stilts, I tell you. Leaving the dwarf for a moment I went back to the room to see the drama play out.
That bard was almost as demented as Zephyr in his questioning of Moosook. I don’t know what he expected to get out of the poor creature – that dwarf body we passed in the other room looked quite fresh, but Moosook didn’t have such a head start on our adventuring party that he could know too much more than us about the mysterious Morgana. We learned that she had betrayed her dwarven group and left them for dead. She was last seen heading to the Chaos Scar – which Kat tells us is an evil place. It is a crater where an ancient deep space object crashed, breaking into chaos shards. These shards are said to spread madness and paranoia – and then we realised that the very thing Malareth had been keeping in the alcove was a chaos shard. He had called it ‘the source’ and Kat confirmed that these shards can be a source of great, and terrible power. Kat also posed the theory that the portal in Farallax’s den would lead to a room deep in the keep on the Chaos Scar.
Eventually, getting little from Moosook to make him pleased (in deed he discovered unpleasant news that one of his enemies (presumably) was alive and with Morgana), the bard quit his questioning, and said to Zephyr ‘I am finished with this one ’. His contempt for Moosook, who had given him information with his dying breath, was not commendable. Zephyr took out his dagger once again, and stood poised to kill Moosook. I watched in with no small amount of horror. Surely if he committed himself to this craven, despicable deed, then he was not the person I believed him to be. It would be the final damning proof for me that we could not trust him to reject Fenstrom’s promised offer of employment, and that his dark blood lust outweighed his honour, and human compassion.
With the frustrated shout of a man torn, Zephyr bulked at the last moment. He turned his back on vengeance and allowed Moosook what little dignity and grace the hobgoblin had left to him. I admit that I was relieved. I feel that my estimation of Zephyr’s character is correct. He may be seeking revenge – and indeed revenge for just reasons, which only serves to show his good nature – but he is able to realise the difference between taking his rightful revenge, and committing an evil deed in the name of revenge. I am proud of him, and today I think he has shown that he is both trustworthy, and deserving of the title ‘elf’. I am no longer in doubt that when it comes to the moment of truth, Zephyr will reject Fenstrom and his evil offer. Moosook was also impressed in some way. He offered Zephyr a word of advice – not to trust Fenstrom – hinting that although Fenstrom’s offer was bound to be enticing, the wizard should not let the offer sway him.
I feel that I must go to Yawn, and take the news of what has occurred with me. It is not that I worry about the dwarf, or that I do not want him to leave our party, it is just that I don’t trust him, and that powerful orb would do better in Zephyr’s hands than anywhere else. I left strict instructions with Zephyr to take the lead of our group, recalling how well he did at leading when we had been drugged by Vilma‘s tea, and gave him Malareth’s head to bargain for that armour. Damn Yawn and his terrible timing, I wanted to take that armour for myself! It was hard to part with my dark leaf. I have kept it for so long in the hopes that one day I would find out more about Bony… and now that I am that much closer I find the opportunity snatched away. I wish I had questioned Farallax about Boney when I had the chance, but now it seems I will have to wait, perhaps a very long time indeed. I hope Zephyr keeps my armour safe until Yawn and I return. I hope he remembers to get that second moonstone! I hope the party will be safe without me there to guard them!