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- Posts: 480
- Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2004 5:20 am
- Location: Blighty
Chapter 1 - Before Initiation
Chapter 2 - Norgos 3: Corruption
Chapter 3 - Nothing Happens
Chapter 4 - Starter Dungeons, Still?
Chapter 5 - Chasing The Bloodstained Man
Chapter 6 - Initiation
Chapter 7 - Ben & Ward's Sandworm Safari
Chapter 8 - The Daikara Recon
Chapter 9 - Visiting The Family
April Fools Special - Slogans
Chapter 10 - A Complex Alliance
“So, Ward... That is the name you're using here, correct?”
“Yes, in the sense that it's the name I use everywhere. Andrus Ward, at your service. I've never really cared for my first name, you see.”
“Hmm. Well then, Ward, why don't you tell me your story? I make it a point to speak with and learn about every member of our order. It much reduces the risk of spies and saboteurs.”
“Well now, if that's what you're worrying about, why don't we just bring the trainer in here? He claims he can smell magic, after all.”
“Please, Ward. I know many of our more... zealous number claim that 'their lives only truly began when they came here', but everybody has a history. I would like to know yours.”
Ward shrugged lightly in his chair, “Not much to say. Spent most of my adolescence in Derth. Hung around the guilds, mostly. In particular, I had a job as an errand boy for the warriors' guild. Messages, cooking, cleaning, anything that needed doing. As the years passed my tasks grew in importance, I began assisting them out in the field, even aided a couple in combat, and before you knew it, I was a bulwark myself. Had my share of ups and downs...”
“I can see that.” The woman who was questioning Ward, who had maintained the same even, reticent tone for the entire conversation, began to display traces of amusement as her gaze fell upon Ward's one good eye. Ward instinctively felt the scar tissue where his right eye once rested, and he himself began to snigger.
“Oh, this!” He began, “Rhaloren cultist. They can scratch, let me tell you. Plucked it straight outta my head! Screaming about plains of bile, sacrifices for dark masters, swords and feathers, it all begins to blend together once they get going.”
“We are intimately aware of the depravities of the magical, Ward. So tell me, what did you do when you lost your eye to this cultist?”
With a proud grin, Ward replied, “I am a bulwark, am I not? I caved his face in. Ruined my eye too; he had placed it over one of his own, ranting about how it could see the shadow-spectres of the red star.”
The woman shook her head, “We're getting off track, I feel. I notice that you haven't spoken much about your life before your adolescence.”
Ward folded his arms, “That's right. I did not.” The woman was mildly surprised – Ward's tone had gone from genial to cold within seconds. She wouldn't be able to get much out of him, regarding his childhood... Not yet, anyway.
“Let's forget your youth then.” The woman began again, “Why not describe your journey to us? What began you on your path?”
“As you may know, the warriors' guild in Derth often works in tandem with the town guard when it comes to protecting Derth's townspeople. Obviously, the guild takes care of more hazardous tasks.”
“Derth, yes...” The woman mumbled, deep in thought, “That town is quite close to... them. Do you not fall beneath... their protection?”
“Hmhm. Derth is neither threat nor opportunity to who you speak of. At that moment in time, I don't believe they had even acknowledged our existence. Still, guard duty. I had been with the guild for a good amount of time now, and had fallen into a routine when it came to my obligation to the town guard.”
“Go to the Trollmire, and kill as many trolls as possible.”
“Hey, complexity only where complexity is needed, I say. No other group causes more injuries and deaths among Derth's townspeople as trolls. Monstrous things they are. Seven feet tall, skin like hardened leather – well, it is hardened leather – pea brains shielded by inches of solid skull... And yet, they only ever pick on civilians, bridling whenever us warriors get involved. I suppose the bully mentality even permeates the animal people.”
“Animal people? Charming.”
“Do you have any troll friends, miss?”
“Once I see one wearing a monocle, that is when I'll change my opinion of them. Still, there I was, just another bulwark wandering through the Trollmire.”
- Level 1! +3 Strength, +1 Shield Pummel, +2 Shield Wall, +1 Rush, +2 Armour Training, +1 Combat Accuracy, +1 Weapons Mastery
“Naturally, I was familiar with the fundamentals. Our combat revolves around the efficient use of sword, shield and armour. Feinting, blocking, taking the brunt of blows with your body so that your blade is free to strike unopposed, rendering entire columns of foes impotent as they come against your unassailable guard, the flash of steel as—”
The woman raised a hand, “Yes, I understand. Bulwarks are nifty. May we continue?”
“Ahem. Yes, anyway. So, I traversed the outskirts at first, battling all manner of forest troll, snakes, wolves—”
“Wait a moment. Snakes? Wolves? I thought trolls were your quarry.”
“Hey, I like nature as much as the next man, but anything that snaps its jaws at me gets a free laceration for its trouble. That won't be a problem, will it?”
“Not at all.”
“I will say however, there was an ulterior motive for my forays into the Trollmire. Equipment.”
“Yes, a lot of rich kids from Last Hope entertain dreams of becoming adventurers, don't you know. So, of course, they spend their riches outfitting themselves in the most well-made, powerful, ego-festooned gear they can, and then gallivant off into the wilds. Of course, without proper training, they're essentially walking meat for the trolls. I'm just there to pick up the pieces – literally, in most cases. Found a snazzy flaming mace this time! Much better than the old military surplus longswords the guild hands out.”
“Mmhm. Anything else?”
“Just some iron boots. Ooh! Also, this set of iron mail armour; it was a lot like the suit I was originally wearing, only this stuff looked impenetrable! Not a single weak link! I mean, sure, it didn't stop the trolls beating the poor sod who was wearing it into jelly, but not a single weak link! I appreciate good craftsmanship.”
“Don't we all?”
- Level 2! +3 Strength, +1 Shield Wall, +1 Vitality
“Actually, there was one other thing I found... A note.”
“Part of one, anyway. It was about this guy looking for this legendary troll's secret cache of valuables or somesuch. I kept it, take a look.”
Taking the tattered parchment Ward placed upon the table, the woman scanned her eyes over it for a moment before commenting, “Strange. He appears to have knowledge of the Trollmire's reputation, a clear goal in locating the troll's treasure... yet he acts surprised that the area is dangerous. I wonder what type of person he was.”
“A tit, I'd say.”
“By now I had progressed a good distance into the Trollmire, and I was certainly encountering a larger number of the great lumps. I almost got double-teamed by a couple the moment I entered this clearing, but fortunately I found a narrow gap between a pair of trees I could squeeze through. It was hilarious – one of them was trying his hardest to swing his club past my shield while the other one was just stood behind him, jumping up and down, bellowing! Hilarious. He could've just walked around!”
“You make it sound like the battles with these trolls were childs' play, Ward. Do you intend this?”
Ward shook his head, “No, not really, but... You could tell these guys hadn't faced much resistance before, y'know? They were more used to bludgeoning people through simple cloth and leather, not iron plate. Speaking of iron plate, I found some on another poor unfortunate. Quite a nice piece; it had obviously been treated to make it acid resistant. That said, I didn't really feel up to wearing it...”
“Hm? Really? An oh-so-mighty lord of war such as yourself, unable to wear simple iron plate?”
Ward tapped his fingers together sheepishly, “Well, it's just that the baker had a sale on cakes the day before and... I may have a sweet tooth...”
“But hey, that's in the past. I'm much tougher now, I assure you, and I'm guessing not many cakes get baked in a place like Zigur, right?”
“Still! Ah, equipment... Yes, I found a pickaxe and this funny belt. It was strange – as I fastened it, I couldn't help but feel my mind become more alert, my thoughts more acute...”
“Ah. Sounds psionically powered.”
“Huh. I just thought I had it on too tight. Also, I found another flaming weapon, this one an axe, which I thought was nice. Cuts over contusions when it comes to trolls, right? Ah...” All of a sudden, Ward's tone became almost apologetic, “I-I understand that these weapons were actually, ah, arcane in nature. I'm sorry I used them.”
The woman waved her hand dismissively, “Never mind that. What happened next?”
“Hm, let's see... Ooh! Do you know how tough it is to hit a swarm of hornets with a waraxe?! Well, listen to this...”
The troll dipped a wart-covered, scabrous hand into the stew, ignorant of its scalding temperature, scooped up a measure of the slop and brought it to his lips, tasting it in a ludicrous trollish version of daintiness.
The wolf and snake meat gave it a good flavour, the halflings gave it a pleasing, earthy aftertaste, and the rocks added essential roughage. But still, Prox thought, it could use a little something more, something to make it a little more savoury...?
And then, by fortunate happenstance, the scent of the perfect ingredient entered the mighty troll's nostrils. Human, of course! A burbling giggle escaping his lips, Prox rose to his feet, gripping his club in his stew-stained hand...
- Level 3! +3 Strength, +1 Shield Wall, +1 Weapons Mastery
“Okay, I was in the deepest reaches of the Trollmire now. Deeper than my usual patrols, I must say, but hey, I was feeling gutsy that day. Not many would-be adventurers get in this deep, so the loot was thinner on the ground than usual, although I did find some iron gauntlets... with severed hands still inside them, I should add.”
“Agreed. Still, you'd never guess who I ran into around this point – a cutpurse.”
“A cutpurse? A common thief? Why would such a person be traversing the Trollmire?”
“As it happens, I knew the guy. He's a well-known nuisance around Derth, never made an honest coin in his life, always cooking up madcap schemes. It looked like he was waiting for travellers to get exhausted fighting or evading trolls so they'd be easier to ambush. You should've seen the look on his face when he saw he'd bagged a bulwark instead of a bumpkin!”
“Interesting. So, did you kill him?”
“I had to,” Said Ward with resignation, “He made it clear he wasn't going to be dragged in alive. Still, he was a pushover. Simple block-and-shock job. I must say however, he had some interesting gear... First of all, he had this kooky-looking pickaxe – the head of it was like a giant fang! The scryer said that it was the 'Tooth of the Mouth'... Sound familiar to you?”
The woman shook her head.
“Oh. Still, the other interesting thing was this sword – a thought-forged iron longsword of banishment. You know, picking up that sword, I think that was my first experience with arcane-disrupting forces. I kinda got a shiver holding it, the same as when I first came here to Zigur. Obviously, this sword was much better than the flaming waraxe I was using previously.”
“Since the sword was arcane-disrupting, and the waraxe was arcane.”
“You get that, right?”
“... Also, did I mention I found a mages' staff? Just broke the thing. Broke it and threw it right into the transmogger.”
“Ward. Why are you telling me this?”
“Well, I thought you'd want to know. I mean, I heard that the Ziguranth like it when you destroy arcane stuff, and that you should always use—”
“Please, Ward.” The woman sighed, “The Ziguranth's goal is an end to magic. Nothing more, nothing less. All this piddling around and petty point-scoring with barely-enchanted weapons and the like... I have no time for it.”
“Sorry. Still, I suppose I should get down to the real challenge I faced down in the Trollmire – a troll by the name of Prox.”
“Prox, hm? How did you learn his name?”
“Embroidered on his loincloth. Anyway! This troll was definitely a cut above the rest of them – experienced, tough. It's rare for trolls to live long enough to even be experienced, and yet... that was his downfall as well. He was elderly, and I could tell it was hindering him in combat. I just had to wait for lulls in his assaults, counter his more obvious strikes, push forward when he was fatigued, and before I knew it he was down, face-first in his own stew. I'm not sure whether that was a good way or a bad way for him to go, frankly.”
“Bad. It burns, I can assure you.”
The woman gave a dry chuckle, “Lack of sleep and an improper eating schedule, I'll say no more.”
- Level 4! Level 5! +3 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, +1 Riposte, +1 Shield Wall, +1 Precise Strikes, +1 Armour Training
“Beating an opponent like Prox really got the blood pumping, y'know? I felt ready! Ready to wear that iron plate armour! Ready to finally put all my shield wall practice into use! And the loot? Prox had some serious plunder! This pair of rods, imparticular... One of them was the 'Rod of Annulment', according to the scryer. Messes with enemy infusions and runes. Note how I'm not making a big deal out of it being arcane this time?”
“Appreciated. Now continue.”
“And the second one? It was only a 'Rod of Recall'! I tell you, everyone in the guild loves these things. It's like a badge of honour; if you've got a recall rod, you've earned your stripes as far as the guild's concerned. Plus, there's the obvious utility. No more dull return journeys! I must say, I'm not sure if it's arcane or not.”
“Neither are we, to be quite honest... One of our psions who found one said it was arcane at first, but then he changed his mind and said it was natural. Then he changed his mind again and said it was psionic. Then arcane again. Then psionic again. Then natural, then psionic, then natural. Then just well-made. Then he just went sorta cross-eyed...”
“So, anyway, once I was back in Derth I—”
“Hold on, wait.” The woman lifted a hand to interrupt Ward, “I feel like we've skipped something. The map you pieced together from that poor unfortunate's notes. It supposedly lead to a troll's treasure stash. I find it hard to believe you would've passed up such a bounty.”
“... So, anyway. Once I was back in Derth—”
“Are you saying that you ignored it? That the troll that protected this trove intimidated you...?”
“ONCE I WAS BACK IN DERTH I stopped by the old infusion shop to see if they had anything interesting in stock. No such luck, sadly. From what I heard from the shopkeeper, the young Thaloren boy that usually delivered the infusions had been in some distress when he stopped by, and had forgotten a good amount of the merchandise. At the time I wasn't that curious, to be quite honest, but I soon found my curiosity piqued when I visited Stire, the alchemist.”
“Mm. A virtual recluse most days, although his pursuit of membership into the Brotherhood of Alchemists had brought him out of his shell somewhat, asking members of the various guilds for help gathering ingredients and whatnot. He had even asked me – bone giant dust, wight ectoplasm, greater demon bile... The man handed out suicide missions in such a casual manner.”
“Hm. Irresponsible perhaps, but not malicious. At least, that's what I would've said on any other day. But when I visited him this day... I don't know what got into him! The moment he greeted me his eyes immediately locked on my sword's sheath, and within moments he was screaming at me!”
“What sort of things did he scream?”
“Let's see. Butcher, savage, moss-eating filth, unwashed maggot, and some other stuff I'd rather not say in polite company. At the time I was absolutely flabbergasted by his behaviour, but now? I've had some time to think about it...”
The woman nodded, “He sensed your weapon was arcane-disrupting. He believed you were an agent of the Ziguranth.”
“Indeed. I sensed fear from him initially, but it soon turned to bravado. Daring me to strike him in public, saying how I was powerless with guards within earshot... I guessed he had just had one too many bottles of his homebrew and walked away, but the last thing he said to me was interesting – 'and tell that elven wretch that I hope the blight takes his precious bear'.”
“A grown man, maledicting a distressed child's cherished toy. Shameful.”
Ward rubbed the back of his neck, “Ah, actually, when he said 'bear', he didn't mean it quite like that...”
“You know, I still feel guilty, lying to that child. All he could understand was that Norgos was 'sick', and I told him that I was 'going to make him all better'. The forest warden that took me to his lair made it plain, however – it was too far gone, and the only way it was going to find relief from its pain was by putting it to the blade. According to the Thaloren I spoke to, whatever malady this bear had was not natural. Someone or something had clearly planned for this bear to suffer. You know, I don't ask this in a disgusted, hypothetical sense, but in a sincerely baffled one: Who does this to a bear?”
The woman scratched her nose, “Norgos is something of a celebrity to the Thaloren, a very much beloved animal. I believe it stems from a time when a rogue vampire attempted to overthrow Shatur, only to receive a vicious mauling from the bear in question. I've also been told that he has above-average charisma for a bear. Whoever afflicted Norgos was obviously hoping to demoralise the Thaloren, for whatever reason.”
“... What was that about charisma?”
The woman shrugged, “Don't look at me, they're the ones who said it.”
“But anyway,” The woman continued, “I must ask. Why did you volunteer to deal with the Thaloren's problem? You're Cornacian, and Shatur is miles from your home.”
“Would you believe that I'm an ineffable champion of justice who saw an opportunity to perform a good deed?” Seeing the woman shake her head wearily, Ward smiled, “Let's just say that I still had some excess energy following my foray into the Trollmire. To a warrior, battles are like cupcakes – you can't just have one.”
Last edited by Burb Lulls
on Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:15 am, edited 9 times in total.
- Posts: 186
- Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:31 pm
Oh hey, the beginning of another massive Burb Lulls story. Exciting! It'll be ironic if he runs into Eden's guile at some point. Unless this is the same universe as before, in which case Ward better watch out for any skeleton rogue rares wearing yellow boots, eh?
Oh, and what update changed wards so that they aren't considered magic, again? It would be funny to have Ward actually use wards, but I don't think that's going to work in 1.0.0.
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The master returns! Truly we are entering a golden age of DitL revival.
- Posts: 480
- Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2004 5:20 am
- Location: Blighty
Amphouse wrote:It'll be ironic if he runs into Eden's guile at some point. Unless this is the same universe as before, in which case Ward better watch out for any skeleton rogue rares wearing yellow boots, eh?
I'd like to think that they share the same universe, although having multiple DitLs in the same universe will always be a problem, what with each character killing the same set of people each time. So, ah... there happen to be two Proxes, two Kor'Puls, two Masters, two everything! Okay?
Still, next part! A little shorter than the first, regrettably, but it at least leaves a cleaner point to start from for the next part.
“You didn't speak much about your experiences at the entrance of Norgos' lair, you know.”
“Eh. Wasn't anything there that merited attention, frankly. A few snakes, a wolf...”
“Nothing about Shatur, either...”
“Oh, right. I didn't go there.”
Mildly surprised, the woman raised an eyebrow, “Hm? You travelled all that way and didn't even drop by?”
“... May I ask why?”
“Ugh,” Ward ran his hands through his hair, “I'm sure the Thaloren are great guys when you get to know them, and I'm sure their bond with nature is grand and impressive and all... but in my humble opinion, Shatur is the most boring town ever.”
“Dire. No taverns, no nightlife, nothing! Everything sold there is also sold elsewhere, in much more interesting locales. In Last Hope you can go pub-crawling, sightseeing, Derth has an underground arena racket going on... Heck, even Zigur has its raves.”
With a start, Ward realised who he was making this claim to, and chuckled uneasily, “Ah, you know. The raves. ... That's not just a rumour, is it? How some nights the Ziguranth just light up their psiblades, lick some molds, and have sweet rave par—”
“Ward. For the remainder of this conversation, can you not use the words 'Ziguranth' and 'sweet rave party' in the same sentence? Plus the remainder of your life, for that matter.”
“... I can manage that.”
“Good. Don't want word getting out, after all.”
“Huh?! So you mean...?!”
Norgos roared in agony, the ancient beast collapsing as it struggled to breathe, its insides roiling and rotting. A broad figure stood before the bear, his dark robes caked in countless layers of dried, diseased blood. The figure gave an idle snicker.
“Enjoy the gift I have bestowed upon you while you can, beast. It won't be long before nature's virtuous defenders arrive to put you out of your misery.” The figure turned and paced away from the ruined animal, grass and shrubs withering and turning black as he passed, “Hmhm. When the cat is away, the mice will play...”
Norgos lay still for a moment, wracked with pain, before the distinctive sound of a man walking in full armour drifted across the clearing. The bear's mind was in ruins, its thoughts far below even the basic drives it once possessed. All it knew now was to kill.
“I feel I should now tell you that I was not sent into this bear's lair to perform one execution, but two.”
“The warden who took me there, he told me that the culprit behind Norgos' affliction was likely still within his lair. A corruptor, by his reckoning. I must say, I've never actually faced a corruptor before.”
“Count yourself lucky, Ward. They are irredeemable progenitors of blight.”
“Hmhm. There's that florid Ziguranth speech I've come to love—”
“Perhaps I have not made myself clear.”
“Corruptors are irredeemable.”
Ward leant back in his chair, stunned. The woman he had been speaking to, who had not once raised her voice the entire conversation, now had her face inches from his. Lips curled, hands balled into fists, her voice stark and cruel. The image of a man poking a sleeping dragon silently surfaced in Ward's mind.
“The Ziguranth hunt mages. You know this, everyone knows this. What everyone does not know is our goals, our drives. We slay mages out of necessity, for their blind, foolhardy pursuit of power will spell Eyal's end. We slay chronomancers out of pity, for their lives should have been free, unmarked by the fractures the Spellblaze caused. We slay corruptors... for they are scum.”
Ward was silent.
Gradually, the fire faded from the woman's eyes. She paced away, a hand grasping the bridge of her nose. “You now know my views on this matter,” She spoke, the emotion slowly fading from her voice as she mastered herself, “Now, continue with your story.”
After a pause, Ward began, understandably hesitant, “As I approached the end of the lair, I came across a woman wearing mage robes. She said her name was Ce'Nawe.”
“I see. Was this the corruptor the warden spoke of?”
“I think so... You see, the warden, he said that the corruptor would try to pass herself off as wounded and in need of an escort to her recall portal. He told me that, on finding the portal, I should sprinkle some of this on it.”
Reaching into his pocket, Ward revealed a leather pouch, a small amount of unassuming grey dust within it. The woman eyed the pouch as Ward continued, “Apparently, what the dust does is alter the location a recall portal—”
“I am familiar with this dust.” The woman interrupted Ward, taking the pouch and tossing it in her hand idly, “I should be, seeing as we are the ones who created it. It is used by the Ziguranth to capture errant mages – that is to say, all mages. I assume now this warden you speak of was one of our number.”
“Then... Ce'Nawe was sent here? To Zigur?” Ward's voice was now quiet and hesitant.
“In a manner of speaking.”
“... She was tortured?”
The woman tutted, “That silly myth. We do not torture mages.”
“No, we execute them.”
Ward shuffled in his chair uneasily, “It still seems a little...”
“What? Barbaric? Inhumane? Tell me, does the Allied Kingdom not have crimes that are punished with death? Do you accuse them of barbarism as well?”
“So, that's the way you see it? Mages are executed because they break your laws?”
The woman folded her arms, unrepentant, “Correct. Whether the mages like it or not, the Ziguranth's laws apply to all. Call the concept tyrannical if you wish, but I remind you again the Allied Kingdom follows the same principle.”
Ward sighed, his tone tinged with melancholy, “Moments ago, we were talking about dust. Call me irresponsible, call me a coward, but ethical debates rank slightly below food poisoning and head trauma in terms of pleasantness to me.”
To Ward's surprise, the woman's response was sympathetic, almost warm, “Do not misunderstand, Ward. I agree that the current state of affairs is far from perfect. One only hopes that my true plans can be put into motion sooner rather than later. Hmhmhm, yes...”
Ward eyed the woman warily, “Um, so, quietly ignoring that incredibly ominous smile you now wear, should I continue with my story?”
“Hmhm. Of course, of course. Ignore me. Continue.”
- Ce'Nawe Betrayed! +2 Willpower
“It's funny. After dealing with that corruptor, my mind felt... I don't know. Galvanised. I'm almost tempted to say I was just imagining it, but for some reason it's stuck with me far more than it should have.”
“Ah, it is no coincidence. Though performed unknowingly, your efforts were in concert with the Ziguranth's, and so your natural energy was strengthened.”
“Pardon?! You're saying that some weird nature-spirit-type-deal slunk inside me and gave me a tune-up without me even noticing?! I...” Ward shivered, suddenly feeling somewhat exposed, “I'm not sure how to feel about that...”
“I'm suggesting no such thing. You are part of nature just as much as any tree, rock or animal is. Your new power came from within, not without.”
Sounding happier, Ward sighed, “Ah. Well, I suppose that's good.”
“Indeed. Oh, additionally, you didn't get the corruptor. We keep records of the mages we capture, and no female corruptors have been dealt with in the past few weeks. I assume you snagged a mere passerby.”
“Aaand the good feeling's gone.”
- Level 6! +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, +1 Quick Recovery, +1 Combat Accuacy
“We've dallied long enough. Tell me about your battle with Norgos.”
“Ugh, dealing with Norgos... It wasn't a pleasant experience.”
“Even in its corrupted state, the bear still posed a challenge?”
“No. Not at all. If anything, that would've been better. But when I found Norgos, I found a bear that was begging for death. I had hoped to make the execution as quick and as clean as possible, but the bear's size, and the way it was thrashing... It was an ordeal. The fact that it managed to blind me with a sun infusion that had somehow become caught in its jaws did not help.”
“But you did eventually kill it, correct?”
“Yes, I did eventually kill Norgos. However, what troubles me is that while I did kill Norgos, I did not kill whatever was tormenting it. An acrid black humour seeped from the bear's body upon its death, killing the plantlife it spread across within moments. My attacks did not score flesh, but rather some dark, fibrous material, mottled grey and green, which had filled the bear's body. And even though I was positive that Norgos was dead... the body continued to convulse.”
“I understand that the Thaloren had to burn an entire acre of forest surrounding where Norgos fell.”
- Level 7! Level 8! +3 Strength, +3 Constitution, +1 Overpower, +1 Fast Metabolism, +1 Armour Training, +1 Weapons Mastery
Getting to her feet, the woman Ward spoke to sighed deeply, shaking her head, “Your first experience with the blight. Your opinion?”
Ward took some time to respond, having to carefully put his thoughts into words, “It's... I want to say it's like a disease, but with a disease the pain and the suffering is secondary, not vindictive. Plus, if a disease kills you, at least you get something vaguely resembling peace... But blight? You get the feeling that pain is the goal, and not just a by-product... Out of all the emotions and concepts we have that could take physical form, why did it have to be suffering?” Suprisingly, Ward chuckled, “Hm, what I wouldn't give for a bag of love! Or some powdered fortune!”
“Hah! Yes, or some bottled happiness! Or a flask of courage!”
“Oh, those exist. Why don't we go to the tavern a get a couple? We have been talking for a while, and my throat's getting hoarse...”
Thinking for a moment, the woman nodded, “Hm. Okay, yes. Let's take a break. A few drinks, and we'll return to continue your story.”
“Sounds good.” Getting to his feet, Ward muttered, “You know, while it's maddening that I didn't actually catch the corruptor responsible for causing Norgos' misery, at least I found evidence as to where he or she got their tools...”
“A scalpel. Jammed just behind Norgos' skull. The scryer said it was the 'Unerring Scalpel', and you know what that means...”
The woman sighed, “Kor'Pul. Honestly, is there not a single foul plot in all of Maj'Eyal that he isn't involved in?”
“I doubt it. Still, shall we go... ah, Protector, is it?”
“Please, Ward. You aren't a member of our order yet, and are not under any obligation to call me by rank. Just call me Myssil.”
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Yay, another Burb Lulls DiTL!
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- Joined: Mon Jul 26, 2004 5:20 am
- Location: Blighty
One drinking session later...
“Can I just say,” Ward beamed, re-taking his place at Myssil's table, “That I never expected a place like Zigur to have such a top-line selection of drinks like that!”
“Well, we do trade with Last Hope. Not to mention, many of our herbalists practice brewing in their spare time.”
“Honestly, between the beer and the psiblades... Why not just run an advertising campaign for the Ziguranth? ZIGURANTH: WE HAVE BOOZE AND LIGHTSABERS. Your numbers would triple overnight, I guarantee it! In particular, that one brand you had... 'Stumbling Treant', wasn't it? What on earth was in that?”
“Oh, that's one of ours. See, we use a special type of yeast that only ferments once consumed, so in a sense it releases alcohol as it passes through—Okay, enough. Surely you want to return to your tale on how you came to us, and not just talk about beer?”
“I'm fine talking about beer for the moment. Did you know I had my own still, back in Derth? With the amount of smoke and broken windows my house had, people often mistook it for the alchemist's abode. I hope I didn't leave it on—”
“Enough, Ward. Now, if I remember correctly, you had just dealt with Norgos and found out that the corruptor behind his condition had used one of Kor'Pul's tools in the act. Kor'Pul's lair is quite close to Derth, I recall – I assume your next action was to return home and investigate?”
“You assume correctly. I said my goodbyes to the forest wardens, and made my way back to Derth. Nothing happened on the way back there.”
“It was an extremely uneventful trip.”
“I... wasn't claiming otherwise?”
“... Nothing happened.”
“Hey Boris. Who's the tin can?”
“Haha. Found this clanker passed out in a heap right beneath the secret entrance to our hideout. Stupid git must've fell right through without seeing it! I tell you, the tunnel vision those helms give you...”
“Haha, ouch! So, what's the plan for him, then?”
“Guy's got above-average gear I reckon, plus his sword looks like it was made by those, ah, whatchucallems, Zigurwotsits... Yeah. We'll scratch out some ransom demands, send 'em to his family, send 'em to his gang, see what we can get for him.”
“And if they don't play ball?”
Snickering sadistically, Boris said, “Strip 'im for parts, then give 'im to Ce'Nulralle, I guess. Gal's been wanting a new toy for some time...”
Unnoticed by the pair of rogues, their backs to his cell, Ward gave a low groan as he regained consciousness. He remained motionless; the rogues had kept him in his armour, and its weight stopped him from moving much, given his current state.
“Geez, Ce'Nulralle... I almost feel sorry for the sod. Ya know the boss said that her curse is getting worse? She's having berserk episodes now. Just yesterday me and some of the boys had to get some stronger chains to tie her down with...”
“You're on Nulralle duty? Hah! I guess the boss found out about that little gem stash you were keeping from him, eh?”
“Yeah, yeah... Seriously Boris, why don't we just off her? It's a pain keeping her locked up, and it's not like she's that happy. It'd be, uh, one of them 'merciful kill' things, or whatever.”
Boris shook his head, “Not happenin'. See, Ce'Nulralle used to be the boss' wife. Real Toknor and Mirvenia romance, I hear. Heck, the reason she got the curse in the first place is because she knocked the boss out of the way of a necromancer's spell... Took it herself.”
“Huh, I'll be damned. Still,” The rogue thumbed over his shoulder, “Better go get those ransom notes written up, right?” Seeing Boris nod, the two then departed from Ward's cell, continuing their conversation as they left.
“Hey, you wonder if the boss and Ce'Nulralle still...? Y'know. I hear he likes 'em freaky.”
“Geez! Keep it down! Between this and the gem stash, you are just begging to get your throat slit, aren't you?!”
The rogues' voices drifted out of earshot. Now left alone, Ward achingly got to his feet and considered his situation.
The rogues had taken his weapons but left him his armour, most likely because of the possibility he could've regained consciousness while they were removing it. It was a cold comfort though; for all the problems a good suit of plate could solve, escaping a jail cell wasn't one of them.
Now pacing to and fro, Ward silently considered his options for escape. Loose bricks? Weak bars? As if. Ward could tell from looking that the rogue hideout was a repurposed dungeon, used as far back as the Pyre Wars. The cells were made to hold trolls, for goodness sake.
Pretend to be sick? Fake a heart attack? That'd be a good way to get a dagger between the eyes. Rogues have a very low “not worth the trouble” threshold. That's why they're rogues, after all. Ward was frustrated – was this the best he could come up with?
And then it struck him. Perhaps the way to escape was by making them think something far worse had escaped...
“Help! HELP! She's coming! You can't just leave me here...!”
A squat and wiry-haired halfling rogue approached Ward's cell, grumbling, “What are you screaming about, ya nickel-plated ninnyhammer? I'm trying to get some sleep, so how about you—”
“Ce'Nulralle! She broke out! She's coming!”
In an instant, the halfling went from cantankerous and slouchy to wide-eyed and rigid, “You're joking.”
“Why the hell would I joke?! Why would I even know her name?! I just heard a lot of you guys screaming it down the corridor, and then there were crashing noises, and then...!”
The rogue backed away from Ward's cell, biting his nails, shaking his head rapidly, “Oh no. No-no-no-no-no. I'm not getting caught in this. I'm outta here, I'm—”
“No!” Ward thought fast, “The noises, they came from the direction the exit's in. You go by yourself and you'll get massacred!” Ward didn't know how believable this was, but the hideout seemed so winding and circuitous that most of the rogues themselves didn't know the entire layout. Judging by the rogue's panicked reaction, he had taken Ward's bait.
“No! I can't die here! I... What am I going to do?!”
“Let me out of this cell. We'll have better luck getting out of here together.”
“What, let you out?! I... don't know...”
“C'mon, I'm a bulwark! I can protect you! I bet I've got three times the HP you have!”
“What's your armour stat?!”
“Don't pressure me—”
“It's not even double digits, is it?! She's going to rip you to shreds!”
Flustered, the rogue waved his arms, “Alright, okay! Hang on a second...” Taking a ring of keys from the wall opposite Ward's cell, the halfling fumbled for a moment with the cell's lock, eventually swinging its door wide.
Still keeping up the act, Ward stumbled out of the cell, now glancing around hurriedly, “Quick! Where are my weapons?!”
“Quickly! How do you expect me to fight Ce'Nulralle? Throw my shoes at her?!”
“Alright, alright, okay! I-I'm pretty sure we keep captives' weapons in this box over here. Let's see...”
Opening a large strongbox in a niche dug out adjacent to the cell door, the halfling took out Ward's sword and shield, struggling beneath their weight for a moment, before returning them to Ward's hands. “Yeesh, those things weigh a ton! You fight with those things?!”
“Yep. Here, let me give you a demo.”
* * * CLANG! * * *
The halfling, his face now profoundly flattened from Ward's shield pummel, fell to his knees before crumpling to the floor in a heap. Ward's confidence had been bolstered now he was reunited with his armaments, but he knew he wasn't out of the woods yet. Warriors, as a rule, don't fight stealthily, and the reverberating clang he had just caused must've been heard by half the hideout.
Fortunately for Ward however, the panicked environment he had created worked in his favour, and he found he was able to keep up his Ce'Nulralle ruse for an incredibly long time. Most of Ward's encounters in the hideout's winding corridors consisted of: “Hey, you!” “Behind you! Ce'Nulralle!” “What?!” Clang. It was only when he encountered rogues in groups that he had to fight in earnest, but even these confrontations were simple – without the initiative, the rogues' opportunistic fighting style was hamstrung.
While searching for an exit to the hideout, Ward did not find stairs leading upwards towards the surface as he had hoped, but instead stairs that lead further down. He thought to himself – he must've fought his way through the majority of the rogues already, so as a group they were effectively crippled, and yet... They could recover, seek revenge maybe? The last thing Ward needed in his life was a vengeful rogue gang hounding him. No, this was one snake that needed its head cut off. So cut if off he would.
“Time to meet 'the boss'...”
“Behind you! Ce'Nulralle!”
* * * CLANG! * * *
With the guard incapacitated, Ward made his way to a large and very solid-looking oak door, the various embellishments, warning signs and etched skulls around it indicating it to be the door leading to the chamber of the rogues' boss.
As Ward prepared to 'pick the lock' of the door (read: send the door flying off its hinges) he stopped as he heard an urgent, hissed conversation between two men inside the room. Listening closer, Ward crouched to look through the door's keyhole...
The first of the two men, a middle-aged and portly dwarf riddled with bruises and dressed in rags, sobbed, “I'm sorry! I tried! Fortune knows, I tried! They said it wasn't their problem!”
The second of the two men, by contrast a tall and scar-riddled human, his face contorted with anger and his outfit seeming to consist entirely of belts, cloaks, straps and dagger-sheaths, struck the dwarf across the face and snarled, “What?! Not their problem?! Then make it their problem, you worm! Because if it's not their problem, it's your problem. Understand?!”
“Please...! I can get their help! Just give me another chance!”
“I thought dwarves were meant to be cunning! A race a merchants! Masters of barter! Yet all I've heard from you is 'Please! I'm sorry! Please! I'm sorry!' ... Tell me, is that the same method you used to ask for their help as well?! No wonder you failed!”
“P-Please... I'm sorry...”
For a moment the assassin lord simply glared at the merchant, before drawing one of his many, many daggers. “Worthless,” He spat at the dwarf, “A tool that cannot perform its function. Fortunately, my knives are far more trustworthy...”
And at that moment, the chamber's door was sent flying off its hinges.
Flabbergasted, the assassin lord snapped his head toward his chamber's now-empty doorframe to see Ward pacing towards him, sword twirling idly.
“Wh... Who are you...?! What is the meaning of this...?!”
“Oh, sure, I'll tell you. Absolutely,” Ward spoke, raising his shield, “Now hold still.”
* * * CLANG! * * *
Despite Ward's opening attack, his battle with the assassin lord was not nearly as simple as his battles with the lord's underlings. There was the fact that he wasn't immediately knocked unconscious by one shield pummel, for example. Additionally, Ward soon discovered the assassin lord's knives were coated in poison – nothing so potent as to be immediately fatal on contact, but enough to sting and numb the flesh that the lord's daggers marked. Fortunately for Ward, he found that the poison's effects were minor enough for him to continue fighting regardless, thanks in no small part to the natural vitality he had developed in previous battles.
Then there was the assassin lord's bodyguards. No ordinary rogues, the four men that flanked Ward as he fought the assassin lord were shadowblades, having kept themselves unnoticed in the darkness before Ward's entrance (one per corner of the room, maybe?). But once again luck was with Ward, for being touched by magic was a curse just as much as a gift when facing somebody with a manaburning weapon – one solid strike was enough to incapacitate each shadowblade in turn, leaving Ward free to focus fully on the assassin lord.
“Ugh... Aagh...” The assassin lord stumbled, red blotches seeping through his clothes, one arm hanging limp and useless – sheer adrenaline was the only thing keeping him on his feet. With one final overpowering strike from Ward he staggered backwards and, tripping over the merchant's hunched, gibbering form, collapsed against his chamber's wall, defeated.
“Ha... Haha...” The assassin lord laughed, his voice strained, “Performing a... purge, moss-eater? So what if my bodyguards use magic? I'm an... equal-opportunities employer...”
“First Stire, and now you,” Ward sighed, resting on his shield, “Is 'moss-eater' just some new insult I'm not familiar with?”
“You mean you're not... Ziguranth? Ha... Must be a desperate man to carry their sword, then... and their reputation.” Ward began to speak, but the assassin lord continued, shrugging slightly, “Then again, maybe I should've gone to them... first. My lady's curse... They could've performed some... purification thing, get the hex out of her...”
“I heard from your men about your wife and her curse,” Ward said. Turning to the merchant, who now stood frozen in corner, unsure of whether to be frightened or relieved, Ward asked, “That's what you two were talking about? You were trying to get somebody's help to cure Ce'Nulralle's curse?”
“Angolwen,” The merchant nodded, “I begged with them, pleaded, waved as much gold in front of them as I could afford, but all they said was that it wasn't their concern.”
“Not their concern,” The assassin lord gurgled, “The scumbags...! The necromancer! He wore... Angolwen robes...”
Ward shrugged, “Have you tried anything else? Taken her to Last Hope, seen a physician, used a wild infusion? Anything?”
The assassin lord did not reply, his head slumped, his eyes unfocused and glassy. He had died.
“Daggers and leather armour... Daggers and leather armour... Oh, look. Daggers and leather armour... What a surprise. Daggers and leather armour.”
Ward sat on the stone floor of the now-deserted hideout, apathetically throwing the huge pile of daggers and leather armour he had amassed from the fallen rogues into his transmogrification chest. He and the merchant had parted ways, the merchant giving him pittance as a reward for rescuing him, along with 'all the magnificent loot you can carry from the rogues' immense treasure hoard!'. Sadly, it seemed as though the rogues that laired here were not particularly successful – the greatest amount of gold Ward was going to gather was from the transmogrification of their mediocre equipment.
“Who knows how long that merchant was working with the rogues?” Ward sighed to himself, “He probably knew there was nothing of worth here... Not exactly breaking racial stereotypes there, dwarf. Still!” Tossing one final iron dagger into his chest, Ward got to his feet and stretched, “Should be enough gold for a night out when I get home. Now, how do I get out of... here?”
Ward's eye had fallen upon an immense chest, wrought of gold, studded with a technicolour assortment of precious gems.
“I think... I may have found their stash.”
Hurrying to the golden chest, Ward set about unfastening the array of locks and clasps that kept it closed, humming happily to himself. “Wow, if the chest looks this swanky, just imagine the value of whatever's kept inside! Just finding stuff like this... This must be why adventurers adventure!” Opening the final lock with a satisfying click, Ward swung the chest's lid wide, “Hello... beautiful?”
From inside the casket, a woman grinned at Ward broadly. Her skin was pale and marked with her veins, and her limbs were unnaturally disjointed and muscular. From within her eyes there was not a spark of madness, but a veritable inferno.
“Beautiful...” Ce'Nulralle tittered, lurching up from out of the chest. Ward backpeddled hastily as Ce'Nulralle slouched towards him, broken chains trailing from her wrists and ankles, “Such adoration you heap upon me, my love...”
Ward paused, confused. Would he be able to bluff his way out of this?
“Wait a moment,” Ce'Nulralle's brow began to furrow, “You aren't my husband...”
Ward raised his sword and shield with a grumble. Thought not.
With an inhuman scream Ce'Nulralle charged at Ward, sending him off his feet and crashing into a wall. It was clear – the assassin lord's wife was going to be more of a challenge than not just the lord himself, but his entire gang put together. Apart from a few painful sparring matches against berserkers back at his guild, Ward had not faced many human adversaries that were his superior when it came to strength. He was used to his charges and shield strikes staggering enemies and opening them up to greater assaults, but Ce'Nulralle was barely fazed at all. And it was only going to get worse.
Seeming to forget Ward for a moment, Ce'Nulralle threw herself against the chamber's walls, pummelling her own head mercilessly with her overlong arms. Initially confused, Ward realised with terror what she was doing: Driving herself into a rampage. There was no chance of battling Ce'Nulralle in such an enraged state, so Ward wisely chose to flee, hoping to put as many twisting corridors between himself and her before she continued her pursuit.
Ward's battle with Ce'Nulralle was protracted, painful and – from Ward's point of view – almost cruel. He hid himself from Ce'Nulralle as she rampaged, waiting for her fury to finally abate. Left alone, the hate that powered her curse would weaken and, once she had grown more docile, Ward would strike from behind, battering her as hard as he was able to, until her rampage began anew. Then he would flee, and the cycle would begin all over again. Given the tremendous strength that the curse bestowed her with, it took many assaults for her to finally fall.
Once Ce'Nulralle had finally been defeated, Ward took a moment to collect himself; this encounter had been the closest he had ever come to death. He pondered what to do with Ce'Nulralle's remains... Just leave them here? Now she had died, had the curse died with her? The curse did come from a necromancer, supposedly, plus there was what happened to Norgos – the blight continued to fester even after the bear had fallen. Even if he did take measures to make sure the curse wouldn't persist, what would he do? He wasn't a mage or a wilder.
In the end, Ward fell back on the one 'purification' tool all men had access to. On reaching the exit and re-emerging into daylight Ward found a loose branch, set it afire with some flint, hurled it into the tunnel he had emerged from, and left the hideout in flames.
“Ward, you have convinced me entirely that nothing happened during your journey back to Derth. Now, could we please continue?”
“Of course. I just felt I had to make sure you understood the absolute lack of anything happening.”
“I suppose I should just get straight to when I investigated Kor'Pul's old lair, but there is one other thing I should mention... Something I'm not particularly proud of.”
“See, the time I had spent travelling to Shatur to deal with Norgos was time I wasn't working for the warriors' guild. Put simply, I didn't have much money. All I really had was what I had scraped together from the hideout—event that never happened. So... I entered an arena battle.”
Myssil was confused, “That's it? You participated in an arena battle? Were all the combatants volunteers?”
“The arena wasn't held by corruptors? Slavers? Anything like that?”
“Of course it wasn't.”
“Then why aren't you proud of it?”
Ward scratched his head, grimacing, “See, the Derth arena, in the gladiator community it's seen as strictly a beginner venue. It's where you go when you're an absolute rank amateur. I'm afraid I might've hustled it a little.”
“Yeah, when I went to see the guy who runs the arena – real shady guy, by the way – I purposely fitted my armour improperly, mispronounced 'battle', held my sword the wrong way around... 'Gee, mister! A baddol? I could sure fight in a baddol! I have to hit the other man to win a money, yes?'”
“I'm beginning to understand the lack of pride you feel...”
“Mm. I battled a gladiator, a slinger, and an arcane blade. Or rather, some homeless guy, some homeless guy who threw rocks at me, and some homeless guy who had learnt how to make his sword spark every now and then. It was kind of a walkover. Still, I got some coin out of it, and the arena manager gave me some pointers afterwards – he thought I was some sort of warrior idiot savant, and that he wanted to make me his protégé.”
- Level 9! Arena Victory! +1 Strength, +2 Constitution, +1 Spell Shield, +1 Combat Accuracy, +2 Vitality
“These fights. Were they to the death?”
“Depends. The gladiator got killed, I know that much. I think the arcane blade was okay, and I sent the slinger flying over the arena wall, so I don't know if he's dead or not. The landing sounded pretty brutal, I won't lie. Still, Kor'Pul...”
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I really like your writing. You dont have anything else on the internets I can read, do you?
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No, sorry. This DitL, the other DitL
, and some of the lore in-game is pretty much the extent of my writing.
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[tome] joylove: You can't just release an expansion like one would release a Kraken XD
[tome] phantomfrettchen: your ability not to tease anyone is simply stunning
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“As far as unspeakable undead horrors go, Kor'Pul is about as close as you can get to mundane. There was a time when he was an absolute terror of course – many history books say so – but luckily for all of us he loused up his big lichdom ceremony; he came back incomplete. Lost a good amount of his powers, a good amount of his sanity, and just in general failed to achieve the permanence that all necromancers crave. Every now and then he'll start showing signs of activity, send out the odd roving band of undead, but it's pretty much a token gesture.”
Myssil pursed her lips disapprovingly, “You shouldn't underestimate necromancers, Ward.”
“Oh yes, I know. But really, compared to some of the horror stories I've heard... Every couple of months or so a group of warriors from the guild go to his lair to destroy him, just to calm down the undead activity in the area for a while. The task has become short-hand for performing basic, day-to-day actions in Derth. 'Oh, I'm not up to much today. Some cleaning, some shopping, killing Kor'Pul, you know'.”
“I can't say I approve of such a blasé approach to undead battling, although I must say that recently I've not heard nearly as much news regarding Kor'Pul...”
Ward grinning knowingly at Myssil, “Well, what if I told you that some dashing bulwark figured out a way to stop him coming back for good?”
“I'd say that if that bulwark couldn't specify how he did it, then that bulwark is talking out of his backside,” Myssil smiled sardonically, “Now, continue.”
“With pleasure. Okay, I'll admit, I'm downplaying the danger of Kor'Pul and his a lair a little. It's still not a fantastic place to bring the children, I'll say that much. In particular, you could tell that in his life Kor'Pul had a major experimentation bent – almost the entire top floor of his lair was committed to containing the results of his spellcraft and scalpel-work. Over the years just about all of his experiments have either escaped or perished, but you still find a few surprises now and then... like Emelussra, for example.”
“The doomed snake, according to the old notes I found. A bizarre thing, it was like a regular brown snake, except for the fact its eyes were glowing purple and it cast five shadows instead of one. The fact that said shadows lifted themselves from the floor and attacked me was the just the cherry on the cake.”
“How did you deal with this snake?”
Ward shrugged, “It was a snake. I stamped on it. Whatever dark powers Emelussra wielded, they didn't help its resilience any.”
“Hm. Any other 'experiments' of note?”
“Well, there was one chamber which had a vent set in the floor. It was blasting some tremendously foul odour into the room; almost made me vomit.”
“Sounds like necrotic air. Some necromancers cultivate the gas generated by rotting corpses to create suitable environments for their undead minions – it empowers them.”
“Smelt like dog piss strained through a used loincloth.”
“... Lovely. Anything else?”
“Just one other thing. I found some old journal entries from some roustabout hoping to make a name for himself by battling the undead. That wouldn't be enough to merit interest on its own, but he specifically refers to himself as a 'sun paladin'... What the heck is a sun paladin?”
“Oh, those. I don't know.”
“... 'Oh, those'? Myssil, are you hiding something from me?”
“Yes,” Said Myssil, bluntly, “And you're not going to figure out what, so drop it and move on.”
“Tell you what. I'll tell you what I know about sun paladins if you tell me about your childhood.”
“Moving on! So, on the next level...”
Myssil smiled, happy in the fact she had diverted Ward's curiosity. Truth be told, she was the only member of the Ziguranth with knowledge of the sun paladins and their allies. She would have to reveal her knowledge of them eventually, but not before she was certain of their position: Would they be potential allies, or just another group wilfully risking the world through magic?
“We sense their powers, in a fashion, so that would point towards magic, yet the source of their powers is natural... I mustn't let the fact they wear armour and not robes colour my judgement – it could be magic... but I can't be sure... Oh Ardon, what do I do?
Without further information, Myssil would have to wait. But with increasing reports of foreign men in armour of white and gold, and shrouded figures whose robes shone like starlight, how much more time did she have?
“The second level of the lair must have been Kor'Pul's personal quarters during his life. At least, I think they were... It was relatively homely as far as dank, mouldy dungeons go. Amusingly enough, I even found an old copy of the Moonsisters parchment.”
“Kor'Pul had a copy of Moonsisters? That's baffling, but why is it amusing?”
“Aheh. Well, you may not know, but certain old copies of Moonsisters printed around Kor'Pul's time were rather infamous. Let's just say that the 'moon sisters' in question were... anthropomorphised. Generously anthropomorphised.”
Myssil took a moment to comprehend what Ward had said. When she did, she slapped a palm to her face with a rattling sigh.
“I suppose even a malevolent, megalomaniacal necromancer like Kor'Pul needed something to do in his down time. Moonsisters is hardly a lone offender, too – let's just say that in the first drafts of 'The Memories of Artelia Firstborn' that lady did a little more than just—”
“I think I understand well enough, thank you Ward. Incidentally, how did you come to be so well-versed on the subject of... exotic mythology?”
“Moving on! The one thing I found that truly made me believe I was in an area meant more for recreation than business was a little golden chest, marked with the word 'Islenn'. Care to take a guess at what it meant?”
Myssil held a finger to her chin, “Was it... a collection of letters to one of Kor'Pul's old sweethearts, named Islenn?”
“Close. Green worms. Countless green worms, all of them – for some bizarre reason – wearing tiny little suits of worm-armour, ending with tiny metal gauntlets.”
“Bulwark... brawler... worms.”
“I refuse to believe that even a madman like Kor'Pul would do something like this as a serious experiment. It must've been more of a hobby – I can only laugh, imagining the countless nights Kor'Pul hunched over his desk, meticulously crafting tiny scraps of metal into casings for his pet worms.”
“So... Most of Maj'Eyal was terrorised for countless years by a necromancer who, in his spare time, indulged in worm armoursmithing. ... All of a sudden I feel a little depressed.”
“Hkkk... Eilinona... Eilinona, come to me...” With loud, clattering footfalls – much in contrast to the careful and silent step she possessed in life – a skeleton rogue approached her master.
An ancient skeleton, bones burnt black and riddled with countless fractures, rested upon a simple plinth of stone. The staff in its bony clutches shook visibly, and the fire within its hollow eye sockets flickered feebly – for Kor'Pul, simply continuing to exist took monumental effort. Necromancers, however, embody 'monumental effort to continue to exist'.
“An interloper... within my lair... Hkkk... Bring me his bones... his flesh... humours...” With a snap of the neck that could be interpreted as a bow, Eilinona turned and departed Kor'Pul's chamber, her master hissing after her, “See he does not... harm... my darling worms... Hkkk...”
“Kor'Pul had saved his best for last. Guarding the deepest reaches of his lair was an entire retinue of skeletal warriors, not to mention an honest-to-goodness war bear. It came as quite a shock – these skeletons were literally the first ones I saw within the lair that had weapons.”
“I suppose so many people have looted his lair by now that the amount of weapons within it must be dwindling rapidly...”
“Mm. Still, weapons or not, I was in for a big surprise when I opened the door to Kor'Pul's crypt. See, there was this skeleton—”
“Ward? If you're surprised by a skeleton being in a necromancer's lair...”
“Yes, yes, very funny, let me finish. Apparently, since the last time someone had attacked Kor'Pul, he had assigned a skeletal bodyguard to his chambers. From the way this skeleton fought I could tell it was a rogue in life; the frantic, flailing actions of its limbs lent itself to flurries. Fortunately for me said skeleton didn't actually have any daggers, and was simply relying on its bony fists to cause harm. That went about as well for it as could be expected.”
“Mm. So, once the bodyguard was disposed of I assume you faced Kor'Pul?”
“That I did. Managed to get the jump on him in quite an impressive manner too. See, Kor'Pul's little crypt has this pair of long, winding corridors leading to him – no matter how you approach him, he has a long time to pepper you with spell volleys before you can close to melee distance. So I decided that I'd put that Tooth of the Mouth to use and create a corridor of my own... I'd like to think that the sight of me bursting through a stone wall mere yards away startled the old bag of bones a little. But really, besides that, there's not much to say about my fight with Kor'Pul. He tried to freeze me with a spell early on, but I managed to take the brunt of it with my shield – just made my shield hand chilly. Then it was just a matter of getting up close, goading him into melee so he forgot to cast any spells, and beating him into submission.”
- Level 10! +1 Strength, +2 Constitution, +1 Perfect Strike, +1 Spell Shield
“And this is the part I'm proud of: How I took care of Kor'Pul for good. See, Kor'Pul has this staff, 'Kor's Fall' it's called. Now, when other adventurers have slain Kor'Pul they'll always take the staff, scry it, then either sell it or use it for a while and then sell it. The staff'll get lost as it's traded from store to store, but in the end it always ends up back in the freshly-reanimated Kor'Pul's grasp. I think that staff is the source of Kor'Pul's power. So, I didn't keep it, I didn't sell it on – I broke the thing, stuffed it into my transmog chest, and got rid of it for good. Kor'Pul's not returning.”
“Hmm,” Wondered Myssil, “So that's your reasoning. Are you certain that destroying Kor'Pul's staff will stop him from resurrecting?”
“Definitely!” Ward dusted his hands happily, “He's gone. Finished. No way he'll come back as something even worse. None.”
“Hm. I wish I could share in your confidence. But anyway, we've been talking for a while now, and I think I would now like a clear answer to this question: What is your reason for wanting to join the Ziguranth?”
“Oh, since you mentioned it earlier, I did in fact track down that legendary troll and his treasure stash. Legendary might be overstating it, however...”
- Level 11! +2 Strength, +1 Willpower, +1 Spell Shield, +1 Thick Skin
“The troll had a few gems, some pieces of armour from fallen adventurers, and also this funny necklace that the scryer called the 'Withering Orbs'. Apparently, many undead hunters say that wearing them makes hunting the undead a little less dreadful, if you get what I mean.”
“You didn't answer me. What is your motive for joining the Ziguranth?”
“Say, did I ever tell you about a friend I once had, back in Derth? Robin, I think his name was.”
“Answer my question.”
“Yeah, I suppose you would call him a scholar. He had adventured a little in his youth and had some money saved up, so he spent a lot of his time buried in books and such. He was just one of those guys that loved knowledge. I really do envy him for it – I've known a few people well-versed in academia, but nobody who really threw themselves into it like him.”
“Answer my question.”
“In particular, he was fascinated by magic. Didn't have a lick of magical ability himself, but he probably knew more about magic than any mage you could ask.”
“Ward, this evasiveness is incredibly suspicious.”
“It was always his dream to study in Angolwen. Naturally, just finding a place like Angolwen is a challenge, let alone earning permission to stay there. He did manage it eventually, though...” Noticing Myssil's scowl, Ward chuckled and added, “This is going somewhere, don't worry. It actually ties into where I travelled next...”
Deep within a cave, its many paths lit by the eerie, pulsing luminescence of countless crystals, a broad figure wearing blood-stained robes crouched, scraping a small quantity of crushed crystal into a cloth pouch.
“Perfect,” The figure chuckled, “My timing could not have been better. Running into those Rhaloren amateurs would have complicated matters. Still, I do believe I now have all the necessary reagents...”
Standing up straight, the figure turned to see one of the crystals, its light now pulsing faster and more violently, launch a searing blast of fire in his direction. The firebolt bounced off the figure's shield harmlessly. With a derisive cackle, the figure turned and paced away, leaving the crystal to 'seethe' – it would now have to find another target to expend its arcane energy on...
“One of the places Robin went to study magic was the 'Scintillating Caves', near Elvala. You must know it, the one with all the crystals?”
“Yes, we're familiar with it. Another of the Spellblaze's parting gifts for Eyal...”
“Yeah. Anyway, it was one of the places Robin had travelled to to study magic – the Spellblaze, in particular.”
“Oh really,” Myssil commented darkly.
“Don't worry yourself, I know what you're thinking. His studies were much more the 'how do we stop such a tragedy occurring again' style and less the 'how do we cause five more so they make me more powerful somehow' style that your order is so familiar with.” A touch mollified, Myssil nodded as Ward continued, “Still, I couldn't say that about the current group studying the caves...”
Myssil froze, “What?”
“I found some notes detailing a recent foray into the caves. From what I could tell, it was the Rhaloren.”
“Rhaloren. Perfect.” Myssil cradled her head, “We weren't aware of this, Ward. The Rhaloren are the biggest group of corruptors in Maj'Eyal, just about the only one with any structure or direction. For such a group to be investigating a place like the scintillating caves... I might have to arrange for a sortie to the Shaloren peninsula...”
“Ward, quickly. Is there anything you can tell me about their purpose in the caves? Was there anything in their notes we could use?”
Ward shrugged, “Just typical corruptor-speak. Ar-har-har, the Spellblaze was a good thing, who cares about the deaths, mages good, non-mages bad, and so on and so forth. But honestly, you may not have to send anybody to stop what they're doing... because technically, it's already been stopped.”
“Has it now...”
“For what it's worth, I didn't actually find a single Rhaloren inside the caves, just a few of their research notes. Given how... hostile the native crystals can be at times, I'm surprised they could get any research done at all. In particular, there was this one large crystal that I had to smash... Once I did, it dropped a smaller crystal that the scryer called a 'Crystal Focus'... which I also smashed. Smashing crystals is incredibly cathartic, you know?”
“I would imagine so.”
“I didn't talk much about anything but the lowest regions of the cave because, frankly, there wasn't really much to mention in the previous regions. Well, apart from the strange glut of doomed wildlife I found. A snake, a giant blue ant, both of 'em throwing their shadows around like confetti.”
“In a place like the scintillating caves, it's not surprising that the wildlife is afflicted in such a manner.”
“Oh, also I found an axe. 'Skullcleaver'. I transmogged it.”
“More brownie points for when you joined the Ziguranth, I assume?”
“No, actually. It was just too skeevy for me. All that dried blood... People really need to learn to clean their weapons after use.”
“So, when you said that the Rhaloren's expedition into the scintillating caves was already stopped, you didn't just say that because you found no trace of them beyond their notes, did you? That hardly means anything.”
“No, there is one other reason which I'll get to shortly. First of all though, I think I should mention that, after emerging from the scintillating caves, I stopped briefly at a small human village situated right at the base of the Shaloren's peninsula. Within this village's tavern I had my first close encounter with the Ziguranth...”
“The Rhaloren camp you speak of has not escaped my notice. Corruptors like blood, correct? Once word gets to Zigur, I will see that the scum drown in it.”
“Wow. Tell us how you really feel, huh?”
“Tell me about it. Does 'he who fights monsters' mean anything to you?”
Sat at the tavern, a good dozen empty tankards surrounding him, Ward listened semi-curiously to the conversation a trio of men were having at a nearby table. One was a rogue, idly carving doodles in their table's wood with his dagger. The second man was an archer judging by the quiver resting at his feet, a rather anxious and unsettled individual, this state of mind no doubt compounded by the third man – a berserker, and an obvious member of the Ziguranth.
The primary thing Ward noticed about this gentleman was that he was a little too still – though sat quietly, there was no feeling of calm coming from him. The man was a wildfire, waiting for a spark to set him aflame. He was clad in full mail, and his cloak bore the sigil of an imprisoned blue flame: The symbol of Zigur. Though Ward was sure he had seen members of the Ziguranth before, he had never seen one displaying his allegiance so openly.
“Our work is noble,” The berserker rumbled, “Have you ever considered the alternative if the Ziguranth did not exist? How long would it take until, while sat quietly at home, your door is broken down by a mage and his thralls, with a declaration that they now reign supreme over all without magic? Who will save you?”
“Yeah,” Snickered the rogue, “I'm sure the mages are drawing up their diabolical plans for conquest as we speak. I like you, I really do, but you could stand to distance yourself from your work some.”
“Hrmph. Well, enjoy living in a world run by mages. If you haven't got magic you'll be a slave... or a test subject.”
“Oh, please,” The archer rolled his eyes, “Mages never actually used test subjects, you know.”
Almost immediately, the archer realised his mistake. With a clatter the berserker let his tankard fall to the ground, the noise having the effect of silencing the entire tavern. All eyes were on the trio now.
“Flynn, why did you say that?” Muttered the rogue, his head in his hands.
“I... I didn't...” Flynn stammered, the Ziguranth berserker looming up from his chair, giving the unfortunate archer a reminder of just how unsettlingly large berserkers can be, “I didn't mean to... Did they? Really? I... I didn't know!”
But it was too late. Wrapping a hairy fist around the archer's neck, the berserker dragged him roughly from the tavern, the rogue stumbling after them, calling, “Hey! Hey! Wait, look! Calm down, just don't...!”
Ward whistled quietly, having watched the entire spectacle. Turning to the bartender, he winced, “I hope the Eidolon's looking out for that guy.”
“Mm,” Hummed the bartender distractedly, busy cleaning a tankard with an old rag.
“How do you feel about the Ziguranth frequenting this place, anyway? Having such a contentious group around must make things feel tense sometimes.”
Surprised, the bartender looked up from his cleaning and said, “What, are you serious? The Ziguranth are more than welcome here.”
“Elvala, that pack of corruptor-harbourin' Spellblaze-deniers,” The bartender spat, “Rhaloren cultists are just flooding up from that city. They throw the entire village into turmoil every time they go past, attacking folk, ranting about their precious blight. The Ziguranth are the only people who do anything about it!”
“Really?” Ward said, intrigued, “You don't get help from anywhere else? Patrols from Last Hope?”
“What? Here, out in the wilds? They're practically on the other end of the continent.”
“Well, what about Angolwen? If I'm right, they're situated pretty nearby.”
The bartender laughed scornfully, “Yeah, Angolwen, help us. If you'll excuse me, I'm just gonna roll my eyes until they fall out of their sockets. Still, you having another?”
“N~No, I better push off,” Said Ward ruminatively, placing a few coins onto the bar, “See you.”
As Ward left the tavern, he noticed an archer – wittering, battered and stripped to his undergarments – dangling from the tavern's signboard.
Last edited by Burb Lulls
on Mon Apr 29, 2013 12:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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you write this more, make parcae a happy, yes
- Master of Eyal
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a darkgod too!
[tome] joylove: You can't just release an expansion like one would release a Kraken XD
[tome] phantomfrettchen: your ability not to tease anyone is simply stunning
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- Location: Blighty
The Rhaloren inquisitor collapsed, gasping for breath as a broad figure in a dark robe stood over her, a vine-covered, bloodstained mindstar in his hand. “Honestly,” He chuckled, “How do those tree huggers use these things? Do you just brain people on the head with them? Oh well, it seems to work... Doesn't it, dear?”
“Hideous worm...!” The inquisitor snarled, watching as the robed figure turned, now daubing a message crudely on the chamber's wall with blood: ZIGUR JUDGES ALL, “If my love was here...! What is the meaning of this?!”
“It is a ploy, my simple wench,” The robed figure said carelessly, “Corrupting that ancient bear, framing the Ziguranth for this attack, my little project up north... Surely you have heard of the phrase 'divide and conquer'? The Ziguranth only have so many hands, so if I can occupy them all adequately... what shall they use to shield themselves?”
“I eventually caught up to that berserker from the tavern, you know. Got him to divulge the location of that so-called Rhaloren camp. I thought that, while he was off mustering forces in Zigur...”
“You'd assault the Rhaloren directly, on your lonesome? Huh. It takes a lot of gumption to behave more recklessly than a berserker, of all people.”
“What can I say? I—”
“Or a lot of stupidity, obviously.”
“Hey! I'll have you know that ploughing through the Rhaloren camp was a breeze! Just charged my way straight down to the bottom floor without a single interruption!”
“Really?” Said Myssil, mildly surprised, “Are Rhaloren defences that weak?”
“It seemed like there was quite an amount of internal strife in the camp at the time I attacked; the Rhaloren were too distracted to bother me much. First of all, it looked like they had a severe wildlife infestation – I'm not talking rats and such, but wolves, snakes and bears! Most of the Rhaloren I spotted were engaged in a running battle with the beasties.”
“Wildlife attacking corruptors,” Myssil sighed, a note of positivity in her tone, “Justice is rare enough, but poetic justice?”
“And that was just one thing. The second thing was that, even though I didn't mean to, I sort of... blended in. By coincidence, my armour was very similar to the armour that the Rhaloren guardsmen were wearing. It's funny, the guards in Elvala seemed to wear the exact same...”
“Doesn't surprise me. Publicly, Elvala officials say they don't condone corruptors, but everyone knows that's a lie. Chances are half of the governors there are Rhaloren...”
- Level 12! +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, +1 Assault, +1 Weapons Mastery
“Hm. And then there was the third thing: It seemed as though that the Rhaloren's leader, some woman called the Inquisitor—”
“She's not the Rhaloren's leader. The Rhaloren's leader is a man who calls himself the Grand Corruptor. I'll assume he wasn't there.”
“... It seemed as though the Rhaloren's interim leader had already been attacked, by a Ziguranth member, no less.”
Myssil raised an eyebrow, “Really? That's strange. I've given no orders to attack that Rhaloren encampment... Maybe it was just someone unaffiliated with us, using our name. It happens quite often. Most of the overzealous, hysterical 'Ziguranth' you see out and about tend not to be official members...”
“Huh. Do you ever do anything about them?”
Myssil shrugged, “They serve a purpose; creating an environment, a society that is deeply uncomfortable for mages. After all, we don't plan on simply killing every single mage in all of Maj'Eyal, one by one. We'll just do it until the remaining mages get the message and stop using magic... or, until my plan can be realised...”
“And there's that mysterious 'plan' again...”
“Continuing on. If you were attacking this Rhaloren camp, you must've eventually faced the Inquisitor...”
“I did. I felt a little sorry for her, seeing as she had obviously just had her bell rung by somebody. Hiding a limp, wincing when she tried to dodge blows, lots of stuff like that. Then she started launching fireballs and soul rots at me, and I felt less sorry for her. Fortunately for me, I had just passed one of the Bulwark Breakpoints©!”
“... You've lost me.”
“Bulwark Breakpoints. It's a little belief I have, regarding bulwarks: See, most fighters tend to grow in power at a steady pace, I feel. Archers slowly get more accurate, berserkers get stronger, alchemists figure out how to make better gem bombs... Bulwarks, on the other hand, tend to get stronger in single, great lurches. For example, you fight and fight and fight, staying at around the same level of lethality, and then suddenly something clicks – you figure out how to really assault people.”
“You know how sometimes you'll see a bulwark fighting somebody, then all of a sudden they pull a shield-sword-sword combo out of nowhere and their opponent just sort of... explodes?”
“I... have, as a matter of fact...”
“That is what I just learnt, previous to battling the Inquisitor. One assault, and she was finished – left a great lady-shaped imprint on the far wall, as well...”
“I'm... happy that you're proud of such a feat.” Myssil eyed Ward awkwardly. Deep down though, she understood what Ward felt; the first time she performed a mana clash, it felt so good it was almost embarrassing.
“Still, after dealing with the Inquisitor I found two things of note. The first was a suit of 'Eel-Skin Armour' – I have no idea if it was good or not. When I picked it up it squidged out of my hands, flew through the air and fell into the transmog chest before I could examine it. The second was a message on one of the walls of the Inquisitor's chamber... ZIGUR JUDGES ALL. Ring a bell?”
“That settles it,” Myssil folded her arms, “Whoever attacked the Inquisitor before you? It wasn't us. Somebody is trying to frame us. Nobody in our order would perform a non-lethal attack on a corruptor and then leave graffiti about it, for goodness sake.”
“Framing, huh? Who do you think it could be?”
“Not a clue. This is baffling, actually... Attacking the Rhaloren is something we would do. Why would somebody try to frame us for an act that we would likely have performed by ourselves, in time?”
“Maybe they wanted the Rhaloren to lash out at Zigur in retaliation... Incidentally, is 'ZIGUR JUDGES ALL' the Ziguranth's slogan, or something?”
“No. We don't have a slogan, as of now.”
“... 'We Have Booze And Lightsabers' is still available, I should note.”
“There's a reason why it's still available, nit.”
“Did anything of note happen on the way back out of the camp, Ward?”
“One odd thing did occur, actually. Just as I was approaching a staircase leading out of the camp, I caught a glimpse of a dark, robed figure walking ahead of me...”
“But what's really odd is what the figure said. I remember it clearly, since it seemed so random,” Ward cleared his throat, “'Still pursuing me? This chase is almost too much to BEAR.' He really emphasised that part.”
Myssil was silent, but Ward noticed her eyebrows raise for a moment before settling again. “What, what is it?” He asked.
“I'll let you figure it out. Think on what the figure said. He was within the Rhaloren camp, and wore dark robes, so he was obviously a corruptor...”
“He has apparently seen you before...”
“And the 'bear' pun?”
Resting a hand on his chin, Ward pondered quietly for a few seconds. All of a sudden, his one remaining eye flashed as something audibly clicked inside his head.
“... It's him, isn't it? The corruptor that got Norgos.”
Seeing Myssil nod, Ward shook his head and gazed downward, his expression darkening, “He was right there, and I didn't get him...”
“Don't let it get you down, Ward.”
“Just thinking about it... I get the wrong mage in Norgos' lair, and the git who's really behind it is confident enough to throw a pun at me before taking off? That's a hard pill to swallow.”
“Hm. Perhaps finding him could be an additional reason for you joining the Ziguranth, though I should repeat you still haven't told me the main reason yet.”
“Yes, yes, I'll get to it eventually.”
“Hmhm. I suppose something funny happened around the entrance to the camp, too. This one Rhaloren who had hid when I first charged through the camp tried to jump me as I was leaving, saying he knew necromancy and 'was going to summon a horror from the grave to drag me to my own!'.”
“A necromancer and a corruptor? Must've been a charming man. So, what happened?”
“He summoned a skeleton archer. Behind him. It shot him in the back.” Ward clapped sarcastically, “The Rhaloren, ladies and gentlemen.”
Ward sighed, “Oh, I'm not looking forward to retelling this part of my travels. When I was on my way back to Derth, I was just walking along when I ran into this... son of a bitch!”
Not missing a beat, Myssil nodded and said, “I see. Did you and the son of a bitch become friends?”
Ward was on his feet, “That corruptor! The one who got Norgos! The one I saw at the camp! This must've been him as well! All this time I've been thinking that the Thaloren didn't manage to contain the blight in Norgos' body, but that wasn't it! It was him!”
“What? What was him?”
Calming down a little, Ward sat down again and muttered, “The Thaloren... They were having another problem vis-?-vis their forests, and this problem was a little worse than a blighted bear...”
A broad figure wearing bloodstained robes gazed upon his handiwork with gleeful satisfaction. His corruption of Norgos was a good idea, and the way he had framed the Ziguranth for attacking the Rhaloren inquisitor was devilishly cunning, but this last part of his scheme was nothing short of a masterstroke.
“Hah. It'll take Zigur's entire population to deal with this!” The corruptor laughed as he watched the blight take hold on the plantlife surrounding him, “Foolish moss-eaters, besmirching blight's good name with their disingenuous assertions...” Watching a passing wolf suddenly collapse and howl in pain, tentacles bursting from its back as it writhed in agony, he added, “Seriously, how could you say anything bad about that?”
It was at this point that the corruptor felt a large, plated gauntlet rest on his shoulder. An impossibly deep voice boomed in his ear, “A corruptor? And an orc? How interesting... Go limp. It'll make it hurt less when I savagely beat you into unconsciousness.”
“You must've heard about it. The 'Heart of the Gloom' incident.”
“Indeed, we have. So, this elusive corruptor of yours caused it? And you yourself were involved somehow?”
“The Thaloren were nice to me when I was aiding them with their Norgos problem; polite, courteous, down-to-earth, none of that elvish aloofness you come to expect. I decided to see if there was anything I could do to help them with their new problem, and there was. They were planning to burn down the afflicted region of the forest much like they had done with Norgos – not an action they took lightly. Honestly, a lot of them looked heartbroken. But anyway, before they could send in their forest wardens to burn the place, they needed a warrior to exterminate the blighted creatures within so they wouldn't be attacked. I took the job.”
“I see. So, within this... gloom, did you—”
“Please,” Ward held up a hand, “I'd rather if we just glossed over this part. There are only so many ways a man can describe the state of a ruined animal. Let's just say I tore into the gloom as fast as I could, killed a lot of beasts whose insides were mostly on their outsides, and left the place to burn.”
- Level 13! +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, +1 Blinding Speed, +1 Weapons Mastery
“I suppose I did find an item of note there, an arcane sword. The scryer called it the 'Spectral Blade'. Most likely the weapon that the corruptor used this time.”
“Mm. Did you transmogrify it?”
“'Course I flippin' did.”
“During the course of our discussion, I've noticed that you always seem to become most distressed when recalling the maladies the Thaloren have faced,” Myssil smiled crookedly at Ward, “Something of a nature boy, are we?”
Ward was confused, “Not particularly. Besides, I thought everyone here was nature-happy. It's kind of your thing.”
“Mm, I suppose, but it's more of a stereotype foisted upon us than a reality. Folk from all walks of life become members of the Ziguranth. People think that we live out here in the wilds so we can be 'closer to nature' and 'attune with the planet' and so on...”
“... Don't you?”
“Hardly. It's to make us difficult to hunt down. Trust me, I would much prefer to lead the Ziguranth from a luxurious Last Hope atelier, but that would make us stick out a little, wouldn't you agree?”
“Huh. So that's why everything in Zigur looks so... unassuming. So it's more concealable...” Chuckling, Ward added, “I mean, half the time I forget that I'm sat here talking to the absolute head of the Ziguranth, simply because the setting is so humble.”
“Well, I used to have a giant throne carved from the countless skulls of the mages I have slain, but I found it made guests uncomfortable.”
“Haha. That's funny.”
“Haha. You think I'm joking.”
“Even if I was more inclined to speak about that wretched gloom, it's not like I'd have much to say. No loot, no unusual inhabitants... It's not like anybody would ever go there out of choice. Even adventurers have standards.”
“Well, technically this 'gloom' had only been around for scant days. It's not surprising that few had attempted to venture into it.”
“Hmhm. 'I was adventuring in the heart of the gloom before it was popular!'”
“Hm. I was about to say that corruption would never become popular, but the way things are heading nowadays... Still, what did you do after dealing with the gloom?”
“The Thaloren paid me handsomely for my services so, seeing as I was still a little down over the whole ordeal, I decided to head to Last Hope. One thing can always cheer a warrior up...”
“Please tell me that the next part of your tale isn't just you gushing over whatever you bought during your shopping spree.”
“... Seriously, would you take a look at this!” Ward proudly rapped his fist on the elaborate suit of plate armour sitting by his chair, “Radiant plate armour of the dragon! Dwarven steel. This dragon emblem? Hand-carved marble! That radiance comes from the finest armour polish in all of Last Hope. Just look at that lustre! LOOK AT IT—”
“Ward, please!” Myssil raised both hands – one in Ward's face, and another to her head, “I do not share the same armour-fetish that you bulwarks possess. I'm sure your armour is very nice, but please!”
“Tch. At least that wyrmic I saw on the way in here liked it. Couldn't take his eyes off it.”
“Indeed. He took me aside earlier to ask if he could have it once you die during your initiation.”
“Still, aside from you running around the shops like a schoolgirl on allowance day, did anything else of note happen while you were in Last Hope?”
“One thing, I suppose...”
“Well, goodness! Isn't this a surprise? You! Yes, you! Over here!”
On hearing a familiar voice, Ward turned to see a ramshackle merchant's cart, manned by none other than the dwarven merchant he had saved within the assassin lord's lair.
“You!” Ward said, approaching the cart, “Yes, I remember! You were...”
“Urthol, that's right!” The merchant grinned, slapping his cart, “Just got back to Last Hope myself, re-opened my little business. Does anything catch your eye? I assure you all my wares are of the highest quality!”
And the highest price I'd wager, thought Ward as he silently glanced over Urthol's eclectic stock. One item caught his eye. Lifting a crystal diadem from the heap of merchandise, Ward hummed, “Hey, this actually looks valuable. Kinda familiar, too.”
“Familiar? Are you partial to diadems, sirrah?”
“No, but... Didn't I see some lady wearing this in the news the other day? Aletta, I think her name was. High society gal, if I recall correctly... The story was about how she had recently disappeared without a trace. Do you know anything about that?”
“No!” Said Urthol, a little too loudly.
“Hm. Still, ah, your stock's very nice. I'll be sure to return next time I'm in Last Hope,” Ward muttered under his breath additionally, “Once I have more money than sense...”
“Oh? You're leaving our fair city?”
“Yes, I'm heading back to my hometown, Derth. All the stuff I've been through recently, my guild must be wondering where I am. I hope that sandwich I left in the mess hall is still good...”
And we are finally out of the starter dungeons! By the end of part five, no less.
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So Ward will turn to Zigur after seeing Derth slaughtered by the insane lightning mage? Ouch.