One by one we dropped down into some kind of large hall that made up part of a huge building that was, at least now, underground. It was dark here, so I activated the light crystal in my helmet, while the others got out other light producing devices. The great hall we were in was magnificent. The walls had intricate carvings and murals, the floor was marble and even in its current state of disrepair, the entire room was quite majestic. The murals hanging on the wall told a story about a man named Malgim Mortaka and his battle against a horror referred to simply as “The Abomination” sometime after the entire city of Paralinth was transported to somewhere other than Barsaive after the start of the Scourge. It appeared the two were locked in combat and that Malgrim and the horror eventually merged as Malgrim attempted to weaken the horror enough to kill it by somehow bonding with the creature. As I read this I assumed this tactic by Malgrim did not work, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. The words “Malgrim’s Fate” were etched into the tiles of the floor. For his sake, I hoped he was dead.
I was wrong.
We took a few moments to examine the room and take notice of the story told on the walls. Then we the proceeded down a long hallway that was lined with a number of doors. I was in the lead, sword and shield at the ready. Behind me was Dremnin, Urgral and Suulin, followed by Vridich , with Skram bringing up the rear to protect Suulin and Vridich should anything come up behind us.
I motioned for Dremnin to inspect the first door. After a moment of carefully examining it, he glanced at me. "No traps, but it sounds like chewing sounds behind it." His whisper was quiet but sounded loud in the silent hallway.
I motioned to Urgral that I was going to throw open the door. Dremnin stepped to my right and Urgral to my left. Skram moved up beside us, hefting his massive hammer.
I threw open the door and immediately saw a pair of undead of some sort, chewing on stinking, rotting body parts that were heaped in the middle of the room. The two creatures looked at us an began to react, but we were faster. I charged across the room and quickly slew the one on the far end. My first sword swipe slashed its torso wide open, spilling it’s rotted guts, and the second strike neatly removed its unholy head, which bounced with a thud as it hit the floor. I wheeled to help dispatch the other creature but Urgral and Skram had already killed it. Later I would learn that these zombified creatures are known as cadaver men.
We quickly surveyed the room. Other than the bodies and powerful aroma of decay, there was only a pile of clothes, weapons and equipment on one side of the room. Clearly these were the possessions of the unfortunate beings whoes mutilated corpses were littering the room. With disgust and rising anger, we made our way back into the hall to the next door.
Dremnin once again listened to the door after checking it for traps. He nodded to me, then indicated he heard whimpering inside. Afraid that there could be people being eaten alive, I immediately kicked in the door hoping that we would be in time to save them. Luckily, there were no cadaver men, just three starved, tortured and frightened name-givers chained to the wall. We freed them, and after some coaxing, I finally got them to speak to us. They did not know each other. The Obsidman was named Mordakas, and was a messenger from Haven. The Dwarf was a female named Juk who was captured in the ruins, her party of fellow adventurers slain and fed to the cadaver men. The Wyndling was captured similarly and was named Rulung.
Though all three bore few signs of physical injury, they all had that half present look of people who had been through great suffering. Later I would learn first hand the kind of pain they had endured, and I can say without a doubt that their agony had been as bad as any battlefield wound.
After getting them some water and food, we got them to their feet. Suulin suggested that they make their way to the Inn where they should wait for us, because the city may still be dangerous. This was good advice, so I instructed them to do exactly that. I lead them to the pile of weapons and gear in the other room. They gathered up a few thing and made their way out the door.
As she was leaving with the others, Juk turned around and addressed us. With a solemn look she said; "I will forever owe you for saving me. Though I have nothing which I can repay you, I can show you this."
With that she walked over to the South wall of the hallway, took out a knife and stuck it into one of the cracks between the stones of the wall. After a moment of jiggling, there was a clunk from behind the wall, and a large section of it slid aside revealing a dark secret tunnel.
Juk then turned and as she hurried to catch up with the other she called back; "Good luck to you all."
They left, and I noticed that none of them could get out of the place fast enough. I hoped they would make it to Haven.
Next we checked a number of rooms. All were simply crazy. I remember one being full of colorful balls that bounced around crazily. A few escaped into the hall and we had to round them up and force them back inside so they wouldn’t give away our presence. One of them stuck to Dremnin’s shield and would not come off. Another room was full of a mist with healing powers. Another was empty. The final two rooms were far more interesting.
The first and been a scholar’s library and was full of ancient books, most were from a time prior to the Scourge. We looked around this room for some time, and not one of us failed to realize that it was a wealth of extremely valuable information.
The second was really more of a series of small rooms each containing a fountain with Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The previous room showed that Malgrim Mortaka had walked through these fountains in a particular order to protect himself from the horror. Though we realized the protections did not save him, we did the same, for the benefits could be useful. Then we made our way down the far tunnel, and found the most surprising thing of all.
We travelled down another long hallway, and we saw ahead of us light. Sunlight. Which was strange because we were below ground and the hallway angled slightly downward. As we approached the light we started to hear the sounds of surf, as though gentle waves were lapping up on an ocean shore. I readied myself for a trap, as this was certainly not natural.
Then, we walked out of the dungeon we were in and onto a beautiful beach with bright sun and pounding waves. An ocean lay before us, only, it did not appear natural. It was Dremnin who noticed it first, the water looked greener than the oceans of Barsaive. I glanced behind us, the entrance to the tunnel was still there, at the base of a massive cliff side.
“Where are we?” I muttered. I did not like this. Somehow I felt as though we were being watched, or that we were pawns in some big game.
Vridich, who looked very calm, responded; “We are no longer in Barsaive. I do not think that this is even our own world.”
I took as step back toward the tunnel.
Vridich looked around peacefully, seeming to examine the sky and the terrain around us as though this was perfectly normal. Dremnin has a concerned look, as though he were lost, a look I had never seen on his face before. The others just stared, mostly dumbfounded.
“Let’s go back. We’ve got a job to do.” I said. I did not like this place, whatever it was. Looking back I think my dislike was simply apprehension of something so unknown. The others seemed to agree with my sentiment, as they nodded or muttered consent as we headed back into the hallway from which we came. I also would later wonder something else… could some of Parlinth’s people have survived the Scourge by escaping into such a world?
After a few minutes of quietly making our way through the dark corridors, we came upon an entrance to a room that was already lit. We glanced inside and saw inside a scene I will never forget. There were about a dozen gray cloaked people in the room standing in a circle, chanting. In the middle was a giant alter and on it was a horrible creature that resembled “The Abomination” that we saw in the pictures in the great hall. It was a roundish blob with a semi-clear nearly fluid looking bulbous body. A few large tentacles writhed around. We could easily make out a human shadow inside of the creature. It had to be Malgrim Mortaka! I looked to the others, and they looked to me. I nodded, it was time to attack. Without a word Skram, Urgral and Dremnin fell in beside me, with Vridich and Suulin behind us. Then we charged.
I lead the way, rushing in to the left and striking the creature with a wicked overhand slash of my sword. The blade impacted the flesh of the beast, and penetrated deeply. The creature shrieked in pain, which I found to be a satisfying noise. I noticed though, that the skin of this beast was much harder than it looked. It was like trying to cut through a suit of hardened leather armor that was a foot thick! I saw Skram’s great hammer bounce off of the hide after a powerful stroke, and I heard Urgral swear. This was a bad sign.
I struck the beast again, and again it squealed. Only this time it’s squeal seemed to be that of pain, no longer did it sound surprised. It was then that I felt it.
The only way that I could describe it is that another presence was in my mind. It was trying to take over, to shut me out entirely. I remember my arms starting to go slack and my mind seeming to start to disconnect from my body. But only for a split second, for I am no commoner. I am a man of Konigsberg, with will of steel and a heart of fire! I fought back with a rage. My mind steeled itself and I felt the grip of the being that trying to take hold of falter, and then slip away. I had regained control of myself, but the presence of the thing was still there, in the background, somehow locked onto me.
“Kill the T’Skrang, and you will be rewarded beyond your wildest dreams.” It told me.
I knew it meant for me to attack Skram. I would not. I realized too, that though the creature was present in my mind, it could not read it, because if it could have it would have realized the futility of trying to get me to turn on my allies willingly. I smiled inside, this creature, powerful though it may be, was a fool.
“No.”. I said out loud.
As I fought with it in my mind, I struck it again. My blade slicing deep into its body with a satisfying rip. I was scarcely aware of it’s shriek this time. I was only semi-aware of the rest of the battle raging around me.
Then my mind exploded in agony. The burst of pain was sudden, and powerful. I staggered, and nearly fell.
“I love it when you pathetic creatures resist me. It is such fun! Now do my bidding, kill the T’Skrang or die and serve me in death!” I could feel the anger in the soundless words ringing in my head.
“Never!!!” I screamed in defiance, and with a bit of fear, as I struck the beast once again. I was only slightly aware that my scream had also been out loud. It squealed again, angry now, as my blade struck home.
I followed up my strike with another, this one also hitting home. Almost as soon as my blade struck the beast, I was rocked by another blast of mind crushing pain. I started to fall, then I dropped to one knee, shook my head to clear the dizziness and stood again, and I attacked again with even greater fury. I stabbed into the now gaping wound my previous strikes had created and the voice, I could not tell at this point of it was just in my head or not screeched in agony and rage. My head exploded in pain. I staggered again, but again managed to keep my feet. I tasted blood. The world seemed to be turning into a red haze. My comrades later told me that my eyes, ears and mouth were bleeding, but I not remember that. I just remember my vision clouding up with a red fog.
The voice in my head spoke again, this time without the self assured tone. "Kill the T’Skrang, or I shall make you my undead minion for all eternity! I will bind your soul to your corpse so you will NEVER know peace! Do it!"
I laughed, at least in my head I did. Outside of my head I was barely able to keep my sword swinging as the excruciating pain clouded my vision and my ability to use my limbs, but the war in my head between this creature and I raged on unabated.
“I am man of Konigsberg, beast! I am proud and honor bound! I would die before dishonoring myself or my ancestors by such treachery! I am a follower of Thystonius, who fears no challenge! He would mock me if I gave in to a creature as vile as you!”. I was shouting at the beast, but only my head now. On the outside my friends saw me staggering, pale, with blood running down the grimace on my face, and my sword swinging wildly but with deadly precision.
I stabbed it again, and followed up my swing by bashing one of the gray cloaked people who was to my side. I was scarcely aware that the man was there, I just reacted. I managed to turned my blade to the side to not kill him at the last moment. He fell in a heap.
Again I was blasted by the pain. The voice in my head was now in a rage, speaking in a language I did not understand, or perhaps I was in too much pain to understand. I was nearly ready to fall unconscious, so I gritted my teeth and began to Fireblood.
Ardor later told me that I appeared to be grinning, blood running down my face, from my ears, and out of the corners of my mouth. If I was grinning, I was not aware of it. I felt an intense heat searing at wounds, making me less aware of the pain.
I said, or thought, to the beast; “My ancestors watch this fight and are proud of me! You are a fool beast! Thystonius laughs at you!”
The pain blasted me again, only slightly muted this time due to my Fireblood. The creature howled in rage. I did not have long.
Another gray cloak approached me holding out a long knife awkwardly. I raised my blade and recognized the girl that we had chased earlier. I turned it to the flat and swatted her on the head, knocking her out cold.
Another blast of excruciating pain coursed through my head . I was woozy, barely aware of my surroundings now. The voice in my head was gone, but the presence of the beast was still there. It had given up on getting me to attack Skram. I struck the beast again, working the hole I had created in its disgusting hide, and my mind was again immediately blasted with horrible pain. At last I lost control of my limbs, and blissfully fell to the floor as everything went black.