Chapter the Sixty Ninth: Final PreparationsWith a new companion in tow, the lot of us headed through the strange teleportation machine and onto the next landmass. As soon as I arrived I could see the towering castle that rose up above the edges of the platform. Frankly, it would've been impossible to miss. It seemed that Arronax noticed it, too. "Hmph. A monument to his arrogance." You're not allowed to make that accusation. "No doubt that is where he's having the machine built."
"Thanks for the tip," I did my best to get along with him, even though I was still uneasy having him along. "Let's head to the next teleporter, then. We'd best prepare before fighting our way in. I don't think his ghostly guardians are going to be too pleased about your coming in along with us."
Arronax chuckled, "You are most assuredly correct, madam. Preparations would be quite wise, indeed." I passed by the castle, instead searching for the way forward. I didn't quite know what I had expected, but the Void was certainly not easy to navigate by any stretch of the imagination.
There were plenty of spectral warriors guarding the landmass the castle was built on, though I had been hoping to slip by them without much trouble. That hope was dashed the moment they spied Arronax casually strolling about by my side. They unsheathed translucent, purple swords and charged at me, swinging.
I spun around them easily, quickly destroying the first two without even hardly expending any effort. I saw two more of the bastards not far away, already preparing for battle, and behind them a crimson-hued specter at least twice their size. Seeing what I'd done to their companions, they were able to anticipate my moves and I took a solid slice to my right shoulder.
The larger guardian charged into the fray the moment he heard me groan, and even as he ran he summoned a fourth warrior with a mere gesture. Gods, a spirit that can summon other spirits...?! What madness does Kerghan suffer to create such a thing?! In the very next moment his massive greatsword was in his hands and he swung at me unsuccessfully. One time is all you bastards get. I don't plan on dying just yet.
As soon as I ducked down, a hail of gunfire launched forth and the guardian that had managed to successfully strike me fell to the ground. No sooner had I stood back up than I heard Arronax's confidant voice calling out, "Incoming!" Incoming...? What's that supposed to...? Son of a bitch! I dove out of the way as far and as fast as I could, a scorching explosion hot on my heels. I hit the ground with a rather firm impact and turned to see a small, flaming crater just where the other ghosts had been.
Virgil was livid, "Are you crazy?! Watch where you're throwing those things! You could've killed her!" I slowly climbed back to my feet, brushing off the dust and small rocks that clung to my armor.
Arronax scolded Virgil haughtily, "In case you hadn't been paying attention, the guardians nearly surrounding her could've done the same."
I scowled, walking up to the both of them, "Can you two please shut the hell up? Virgil, I understand your anger, but I'm fine... this time. Arronax, give me a bit more warning next time? You're not the only one of us that knows how to fight. We're on the same side, let's all try to get along despite our varying... temperaments."
Virgil was quick to spit out a, "Y-yes, of course," with a small bow. Arronax merely scoffed and began heading off towards the teleporter. For all that it seemed he was unaffected by the whole thing, he did seem at least slightly ashamed. When I thought about it, that was probably the very first fireball he'd tossed in the last two thousand years... Nobody's perfect... least of all him.
Since the way to the teleporter was fully cleared, I followed along and we all stepped inside. The landmass we came to next seemed, for the most part, empty. I explored around it curiously for a bit, but in the end there was naught but another teleporter. I was just about to step inside when Arronax stopped me, "Wait! Do you see those stairs over there?"
Indeed, there was a set of stairs leading down the nearby cliff, though they were fairly well hidden. "Yes, I do now... do you know what's down there?"
He nodded, "I've heard that a most powerful weapon is stored here in the Void. If I had to guess, the cave at the bottom of those stairs will lead us to it. If what the Bane of Kree told me when he visited is correct, it's a blade of some sort... and you do seem to be skilled with melee weapons."
"Yes, that I am." A blade, eh? Well, I am rather partial to this axe... but it could be worth checking out. The technology in the rest of this place is spectacular, surely a blade crafted here would follow suit. "Why don't we check it out? It couldn't hurt, at least." We headed down the stairway and into the nearby cave.
Immediately upon entering I was set upon by a vile lizard. Its scales were red instead of bluish-green and it charged at me with a swiftness uncommon among its kind. No matter how swift the bastard was, I was still a master at dodging and I slipped quite easily past its feeble strike. My axe followed along in one fluid motion, cleaving the beast clear into two pieces in only a single attack.
The cavern continued onward, branching off in several directions, each of them filled with yet more beasts. Well, something is definitely here, that's for sure... I suppose I can only hope Arronax is being level with me. I wandered down the leftmost passageway, becoming quickly swarmed by lizards as I progressed.
It all happened so fast that there wasn't hardly any time to react. The first lizard to charge at me was cut down in an instant, but he was quickly replaced by two more. I heard that familiar and disturbingly welcome sound of rapid gunfire and several more lizards fell, yet somehow still more kept on coming. Terry was right there at my side, tearing apart one lizard with his bare teeth for every two I dismembered with my axe. Even Arronax helped out in his own way, now being significantly more cautious not to wound me. Thanks, I think.
Still I somehow became surrounded on all sides, the legion of lizards never seeming to cease. They bit at me and clawed at the open wounds, hissing and growling menacingly as they did so. I winced in pain, gritting my teeth at the familiar burn of poison in my veins. This blade had better be bloody worth it.
Somehow, the endless tide of lizards eventually ceased. There were no spectacular explosions or crafty cave-ins, just a whole lot of blood, bullets, and a maddening, foolish persistance to continue onward. When it was all over and I stared upon the dozens of charred corpses littering the ground I had to grudgingly admit that Arronax was helping out quite a bit. "Arronax... for what it's worth, thanks. You're pretty good in a pinch."
He smirked at me, amused, "I certainly don't need to be told that, but thank you all the same. You're not too bad yourself, though I admit it was hard to get a good look at what was going on with so many bloody lizards swarming all over the place. Nasty place, this is... it makes me wish I would've had more of a chance to explore the Void before being trapped in that godforsaken shell."
Our brief conversation was interrupted by the sound of Franklin's voice, "I'm not afraid of the likes of you! I'll take you all on by myself if I have to!"
I rolled my eyes and stared at Arronax sheepishly, "Looks like Franklin's found trouble. We'd better go help him." Without waiting to hear Arronax's response, I ran off.
The thick hallway widened out even further a short distance ahead, giving way to a rather expansive room. A thick, massive blade sat upon a spike-studded altar at the far end of the room, dimly lit by the haunting glow of the jellyfish creatures floating between the altar and myself. Even in that pale light I could see the intense copper luster on the blade, the subtle shine off of its razor-thin edge. I had to have it.
First the smaller jellyfish creatures crowded around the entrance to the room, Franklin firing away at them overzealously. Vollinger and Sebastian's guns joined the deep chorus shortly after, and even Arronax contributed a fireball of his own. The cavern trembled beneath the force of so much power, both technological and magickal. I didn't even dare get close to where they were concentrating their attacks.
As soon as the dust settled, I darted into the room and stared upon the blade greedily. I reached out my hand and picked it up, feeling how amazingly light it was. Carrying it was effortless, swinging it was like attacking with the wind itself. Despite its weightlessness, the blade itself was sturdier than a thousand year old castle and the edge so awe-inspiringly sharp that it cut the solid stone ground almost before the blade even came in contact with it.
I gripped it firmly and easily in my hand, quickly becoming accustomed to the new weight. When I was satisfied I handed my axe over to Arronax, knowing I would never need it again. He looked at the axe with a half-shocked and half-amused look on his face. "I suppose I'd be willing to carry this... thing... for you. I certainly hope you don't expect me to use it."
Although common sense told me not to push my luck, sometimes I just couldn't help myself. "Come now, you've got to broaden your horizons! Keep an open mind and all that. The world's changed in two thousand years, you know." The closest thing I received to a response was a horrified look on his face that almost suggested he found himself standing downwind from a paper factory.
Laughter almost overtook me and he only sighed in response. I suppose it's good the old fellow at least has some sense of humor. With my new blade in hand, we left the twisting cavern and proceeded towards the teleporter to the next landmass. Almost as soon as we arrived I could hear the horrible screech of more jellyfish creatures and I darted off of our landing platform to combat them.
With my new blade, I was a nigh unstoppable whirlwind. I cut through them in a flurry of strikes more than twice as fast as I possibly could've with my axe. Almost half a dozen creatures had fallen beneath my blade before the rest of my companions even realized battle had begun. Arronax was quite impressed with my skills, and applauded the increased efficiency.
I could see the teleporter leading to the next area, but standing between it and myself were at least two dozen more floating jellyfish bastards of all sizes and colors. I breathed in deeply, preparing myself for the burning pain that was sure to follow when I made my attack. As if signalling the start of a race, Franklin's gun fired off and the wall of creatures charged at me just as quickly as I charged at them.
Between the three gunners and Arronax all slinging powerful attacks at a range, fully half of the creatures were dead before I could even reach them. I was only thankful that my companions were accurate in their strikes, or I myself would've been dead long before reaching the creatures. They screeched and flailed at me as I approached, but I dodged around them almost without effort.
When I finally began swinging my blade it was like an explosion had erupted amidst them. In mere seconds I'd killed a half a dozen, and the rest fell in seconds more. I was awestruck by my own skill when wielding such a high-quality blade and I began to understand exactly why this particular weapon had been so carefully concealed and heavily guarded. Gods, this thing... this thing is horrible. As much as I was grateful for the blade in my coming fight against Kerghan, I had already resolved to leave it in the Void if I were ever able to make it out alive.
I stepped through the teleporter at the far end of the landmass, instantly warping to the next one much to the displeasure of my stomach. There wasn't any time to dwell on the feeling, however, and not because I was beset upon by horrid creatures. Quite the opposite, the landmass was almost entirely deserted... save for a lone man wandering about it with no purpose.
Well, that was rude. I don't think I've ever been actively sniffed before. "Who might you be?" I didn't really need to ask when I thought about it, there wouldn't be many human barbarians wandering around the Void. By my reckoning, there ought to have been only one, and my initial impressions of him certainly did little to sway my prejudice.
He smelled like sweat and blood and had a crazed look in his eyes. I met his haughty stare with a defiance of my own, not bothering to conceal my abject hatred of him. When he spoke his voice was like iron nails being raked across thick gravel. "I have been known by many names, but the only one that matters now is the Bane of Kree. That is the name I was known by when I wielded power over men."
Is that what you call the meaningless slaughter of thousands of innocents? I don't call that power, I call that cowardice. My hatred and utter lack of respect showed through in my words in the form of extreme sarcasm, "So, do I just call you 'Bane'? Or would you prefer 'Mr. Kree'?" Virgil gasped audibly behind me.
In a fraction of a second his sword was in his hand, the tip of the blade inches from my throat. The anger in his voice was barely contained, "Do not mock me. It will be your last mistake." By the look on his face I could swear he toed the line between crazy and just plain violent. Perhaps it was a bit of both.
I glanced down at his blade disinterestedly, grabbing the edge with my thickly-gauntleted hands and shoving it off to the side. Threatening me just might be YOUR last mistake, cretin. "What were we talking about, again?" I refused to be intimidated by such lowly scum.
Well I don't especially like you... but I've never been one to pass up an opportunity for a story in the past. "Tell me, how did you come by your name?"
His eyes took on a far-away cast as he recalled the memories he held so fondly. There was a disgusting pride in his voice at the incorrigible actions of his past. "Kree was where I forced the world to respect my power. No one had ever breached the great walls of Kree, but my horde swarmed over them as if they were but a mirage! I held the fate of every man, woman, and child in my hand, and showed them no mercy." His eyes, already distant, glazed over completely as he savored that moment of 'glory'. "If only I could return to Arcanum..."
Ugh... no... no, I cannot accept help from a man like this. I don't care how desperate I am, I just can't. "Is that when you were using the Bangellian Scourge?" It seemed as though the blade had never had a more fitting owner. Even Pete didn't hold a candle to the Bane of Kree.
His attention snapped back into focus and he glared at me with sheer disbelief, "You know of the Scourge?"
I snorted, glaring at him with utter contempt, "I destroyed it."
His sword sprung forth again, but I was ready for it. Kryggird's Falchion flashed through the air with unparalleled speed, knocking the Bane of Kree's own blade from his hand before he even realized I carried a blade of my own. My second strike sliced across his legs, sending him crumpling to his knees in the sheer, sudden pain. I twirled around him deftly, landing a third strike straight on the bastard's neck. His head was neatly severed, slowly sliding off onto the ground even as the rest of his body slumped forwards with a wed thud. Arronax scoffed at me, "Well, that certainly could've gone better. We could have used his help, you know."
I shook my head, fetching the dropped sword from the ground, feeling the strange itch on my skin as I approached it, and passing it off to Virgil. "I don't need the help of a man like that. Never. We'll just have to make due with the other two." Virgil swung the sword a few times to get a feel for it, then stowed it in his pack in preference of the axe I made him, glancing at me with a shrug.
Arronax scoffed, "Well, I'm glad one of us is confident." Please. Who's the one that refuses to use the perfectly good weapon I gave him? "Just don't mess up the other two. We really do need all the help we can get. Kerghan has grown unimaginably powerful since he was sent here. You've no idea what we're up against."
"Your opinion is noted, Arronax." I brushed him off rudely, stepping onto the teleporter to the next landmass. As soon as I warped to the next landmass I was hit by a horrid stench like rotting meat. I covered my nose with my arm and glanced around, noting that my initial perception was spot on. There were dozens of lizard corpses littering the ground everywhere the eye could see, most of them ripped apart and obviously chewed on. If the smell didn't gag me, the sight certainly would have.
Lumbering around the platform was a pale-looking demon creature. It stood at least twice as tall as I and glared about the area hungrily, sniffing in every direction. As it looked towards me I could see and hear it sniffing exceptionally loudly before it finally lumbered over to me.
No, really? Here, in the Void? "Gorgoth? You mean THE Gorgoth? What a small world!" I simply couldn't hold back my sarcasm. I knew it was rude of me, but it wasn't exactly like the beast in front of me was the model of polite society.
He shoved his face near mine and sniffed in deeply, which at that range was practically deafening. "Uggh... Gorgoth hungry..." I didn't suspect he actually heard a damn thing I was saying.
"Uh... of course you are, my good man..." Now, now... I've got to try... reasoning with him...? Somehow... Gods, this is madness. "Have you a moment?"
The only response I got was much in the same vein as the same one I got before. He sniffed at me quite deeply for a second time, "Gorgoth eat you, lady... look good!"
No eat Samantha... Samantha pointy! "That's no good. Listen, I'm here to defeat Kerghan."
He started screaming at the top of his lungs and flailing about harmlessly. It was like watching a child throw a tantrum, if that child happened to be absurdly huge and amazingly ugly. "What? Gorgoth no care about Kerghan! NEED FOOD! FOOD! Little woman taste good!"
I've really begun to have enough of this. How can anybody expect me to put up with this even for five minutes, let alone long enough to drag this bastard's hide all the way to Kerghan? "You'd best learn to control your appetite, monster..." I drew my blade menacingly, staring at him.
"That's it, Gorgoth. You've eaten your last meal..." Perhaps it was the horrid stench hanging in the air that had put me in such a foul mood, but I had no patience left for dealing with his rather uncommon eccentricity. I swiped my blade at him threateningly, drawing just a touch of blood where the blade had swiped past his skin. Now do you understand what you're dealing with?
He went into a childish rage like I've never seen before. "Food! Eat! Blood! Kill! I EAT YOU LADY!" I don't plan on winding up as a meal for you or anybody. Whereas my first strike had been only a threat, my second wasn't so kind. I sliced him neatly across his midsection, blood and half-digested, rotting meat spilling out unceremoniously. I nearly vomited then and there, but I had the presence of mind to first dodge behind the bastard and plant my blade firmly at the base of his neck, putting him out of his misery. When I was sure he hadn't survived the experience I darted to the edge of the landmass and heaved off of it, wondering grimly just where it would all fall off to.
Arronax gave me a none-too-pleased glare when I stood back up. "That's two out of three that you've killed, now, madam. Are you planning on actually enlisting the help of the third one or would you like me to just char him to a crisp the moment we lay eyes on him?"
I grumbled under my breath, "All right, your point is well taken. I promise you I won't kill..." Who's the last one again? Oh, god, no... not him... I continued speaking through gritted teeth. "I promise you I won't kill Kraka-tur, no matter how badly he's bound to make me want to kill him."
Arronax sighed, walking towards the portal. "Well, let us be off then. I'm sure he's just around the corner." I followed along, stepping through the teleporter and onto the landmass beyond.
Much like the platform where I'd found the Bane of Kree, that particular platform was devoid of any lizards, floating jellyfish, or any kind of life. Aside, of course, from the strange dragonlike beast lumbering about it pointlessly. I spied him on the far side of a tree before he disappeared behind it. Walking forwards toward the tree I saw him come just into view before quickly slipping out of my sight again.
Curious, and more than a little bit annoyed, I rounded the tree only to see he wasn't there. I took several steps around the tree, slowly moving faster and faster, occasionally catching a glimpse of the edge of a crimson wing. Finally the bastard turned around and screamed at me, "Who dares disturb the mighty Kraka-tur?!"
I coughed gently, trying to keep my foul temper in check. "I suppose that would be me... dreadfully sorry about that..."
He inflated his chest, spreading his wings out at their full length and holding his claws open to the air menacingly, "Sorry? SORRY? Do you have any idea the powers I can bring to bear against you? The wrath of Kraka-tur knows no bounds!" Sure it does. I've read your bloody journal, you simpering coward.
Sighing deeply, I spoke through clenched teeth, trying desperately not to offend him. Are you happy now, Arronax? Do you bloody enjoy watching me do this? "I'm very sure. Perhaps I could ask you to tell me a bit about yourself, oh mighty one?"
So far so good, I guess, in that I haven't quite killed him yet. Not for lack of desire, either. "Tell me about your life in Arcanum..."
He once again struck a menacing pose, proudly boasting about himself. I'd suspected he would jump at such an opportunity, and I was quite completely correct. "My life in Arcanum was millenia ago! Such are the lives of gods! But, I will tell you... once I was a mere mortal, just as you are. I lived in a small village where I was ridiculed and belittled, just for being different! Granted, I may not have always been the easiest person to live with, but isn't that the way of strong men? I was a visionary, and I was scorned because of it..."
I wanted to impale him where he stood just listening to his ridiculous lies, but I simply listened quietly, patiently, trying desperately to avoid killing off the last remaining creature I could ask for help in defeating Kerghan. "So, I was out adventuring... as I was prone to do... and I happened across an old temple in the mountains. There I found an old scroll which described a spell so powerful, so horrible, that I still believe it was hidden away on purpose. Before me, there had been no man in the history of Arcanum who could have handled such old and powerful magick!" I can defeat Kerghan without his help, can't I? Please? Ugh.
You know, I do believe I have a copy of this story without all of the bloody embellishment. "The last dragon in Arcanum was Bellerogrim... the mightiest, most fearsome creature who walked the land. And so I went straight to his lair, and battled him to the death in order to get a single drop of blood! It was a ferocious battle, but in the end, I was victorious. Even as a mortal man, I was very, very brave and powerful..."
I had to actively hold back my laughter so as not to accidentally offend the poor sod. Does he really think anybody would believe such bunk? "And so... with the blood of Bellerogrim the dragon, I used the scroll and became the evil and destructive Kraka-tur! Mighty Kraka-tur! Pillager of cities, devourer of women and children! And Kraka-tur roars with-!"
"I think I understand," I cut him off abruptly, rapidly tiring of his excessive bluster. "How did you get sent here?" Why do I even ask these things? Do I hate myself that badly?
"Right." Gods, just stop talking. You're not fooling anybody, you know. "What have you been doing over here in the Void?" I thought that perhaps if I asked him about something in the present instead of the past his obviously warped mind might not embellish it so. I could be quite naive sometimes.
He twirled around flamboyantly, flapping his wings and baring his long row of teeth. "I've been spreading terror here, as I did in Arcanum! Look around you! This is the valley of death! No one has survived the fury of Kraka-tur!"
I'm sure the others stay away for a good reason... probably so they don't have to listen to you talking. "Let's talk about something else, shall we? What's your opinion of Kerghan the Terrible?"
You have got to be kidding me. It seemed like excessive flattery would be necessary to enlist the bastard's help. I only had to hope he wouldn't run at the first sight of trouble. "I'm looking to destroy him. I need the help of the mighty Kraka-tur!"
He looked at me with an obviously scared glance. "Hmmm. Perhaps. What exactly is going on?" I was shocked no small amount that the cowardly bastard in front of me might well have been more reasonable than Gorgoth and the Bane of Kree combined.
"It's difficult to figure out where to start, but the short of it is that Kerghan is attempting to return to Arcanum. He is a madman that wants to bring an end to the world... surely you can't allow his name to be sung higher than your own, now can you?" I winked slyly at him.
He flashed me a toothy grin as be began to understand my meaning, rearing up to his full height as his nostrils began to steam. "I see. So! You ask the terrible Kraka-tur for his help in battling evil Kerghan! Fight fire with fire! I shall destroy that bumbling necromancer with a great sweep of my claw! His blood will flow as mighty Kraka-tur passes his judgment! All will cower before the power of Kraka-tur!"
I couldn't help but sigh impatiently. "So... you will help me?" Please, let's just get the hell out of here and get on with it already.
"Yes, please!" SHUT... UP! Mustn't... kill you... need the extra help... arrgh, why do you have to be so damned difficult?! "What are you saying?"
For once he gave me a level stare. "Kraka-tur expects payment for his services! Did you think I would come to your rescue without some sort of offering? You must pay your respects! Kraka-tur exacts a heavy toll! Entire villages have been sacrificed to appease me! For I am-!"
"Yes, yes, I know already!" I flipped the Eye of Kraka-tur around in my purse idly, noting that the creature in front of me had both eyes. Well, so much for that. Instead I pulled out the journal of his that I'd uncovered so long ago. I suppose I won't be able to share this with Frederick after all... not that I've only just figured that out now... "Well, perhaps I could give you this journal back..."
Suddenly his eyes took on a rather nervous look, "Wha...? My journal? You mean my last testament? Where did you get that?"
I've got you now. "You left it behind in the Lair of Bellerogrim, all the way at the bottom..."
I've just got to be nice a short while longer... I'm almost there...! "Yes, I'm sure. So will you join me if I return it to you...?"
When he wasn't trying to be intimidating he actually shrunk down to quite a pathetic sight. "Hmmm. So you'll give me back the journal, and I'll help you to defeat him? Could you, uh, make sure never to tell anyone what you read in there...? Not that I fear anything or anyone! Kraka-tur is like the moon and the sun! Timeless and terrible! I will desecrate all-!"
"Yes, yes, I get the point. So will you join me or not?" I can't possibly describe just how much I hate you, but if it sees Kerghan dead, than I suppose I can endure. At least I didn't try taking Gorgoth with me... ugh.
"Oh, good god." JUST SHUT UP! "Let's go..." I was terribly thankful to not have anything else left, save for breaking into the castle of Kerghan himself. I stepped on the teleporter to the next landmass, glancing behind me carefully to make certain that Kraka-tur wasn't backing out of our little bargain. Somewhat to my surprise, he actually was following along.
The teleporter seemed to lead to the very same landmass I'd first arrived on, and I stared uncomfortably at the Void-side Ring of Brodgar for several moments. Just on the other side of that, Nasrudin's... I breathed in deeply, pressing on towards the other teleporter in the area. Somewhat predictably, that took me back to Arronax's prison and from there it was trivial to make my way the rest of the way to Kerghan's castle.
The spectral guardians standing on either side of the gateway into the castle glared at me hatefully as I approached, hands on their ghostly swords.
Kryggird's Falchion was off of my belt even as I started to speak. "Not before you do..." The first guardian slumped to the ground almost before he could hear the words I was saying. I turned just in time to parry the sword strike of the guardian behind me, and Arronax jolted him into oblivion mere moments later.
"Hoho! Nicely done!" Kraka-tur chattered on behind me as I pushed open the gate and entered the castle. "Of course, the great Kraka-tur could have dispatched them much more quickly! But! There is no need! For the terrible Kraka-tur must-!"
"Do me a favor, good fellow, and please put a lid on it!" Thank you, Franklin. If you didn't say it I would have.
He seemed almost offended, at least as far as I could tell through his incessant boasting. "Hey, now, there's no need to be rude... I mean... don't think that just because the fearsome Kraka-tur has agreed to help you that he won't rend you from limb to limb if you dare speak to him in such a manner ever again! You're just-!"
"He means it," Arronax cut him off, "Shut the hell up already or you're really going to make me mad."
Kraka-tur shrunk down and cowered into a ball, slowly waddling along behind us, "Yes, yes, of course A-Arronax... I didn't mean to... I mean... So be it! I will do you this favor this one time only, but you are lucky you have caught the legendary Kraka-tur in a generous mood! If not, you would..."
Having learned our lessons quite quickly, the rest of us ignored Kraka-tur's incessant babbling and just let him cower behind the rest of the group as we explored the castle. The architecture of the place was not significantly different than Arronax's prison chamber had been, so I suspected it existed long before Kerghan had come to this place. Not far inside I found a small, circular ring that emanated magickal energy similar to a number of things in Tulla. Cautiously, I stepped into it and was immediately teleported to a different area.
Enough with all the bloody teleportation already... how many times must it feel like my stomach is being removed from my body? I was greeted by two more ghostly guardians as soon as I teleported into the next room, but they were lying dead on the ground by the time anybody even followed after me. In the next room I could see a great big machine and I wandered in awe towards it.
Kerghan sure does love his plated guardians, doesn't he? Several more of the spectral bastards set upon me as I entered the room. "Kraka-tur will guard the doorway to, uh, make sure none of them escape! Great and terrible Kraka-tur will look on to make sure you are worthy to travel with him!" SHUT UP.
Somewhat tougher than the previous champions I'd faced, my first several strikes were parried before I managed to score even a single solid hit on the warrior I fought with. Soon enough I managed to slip past his guard and strike him down quickly thereafter, but the other warriors in the room were already on me.
Terry came to my rescue, grabbing the nearest warrior by the ankle, much to his surprise. Virgil came charging in bravely, his axe striking a flaming arc throughout the air before coming down on the specter's helmet. The helmet cracked and broke and, with nothing beneath, the dark ghost in front of me fell to the ground. Thanks, Virgil... It had been so long since Virgil actually fought right by my side that I had almost forgotten what it was like. It was a nice feeling, somehow safe even though I knew his skill with a weapon didn't compare to my own.
The other ghosts in the room were already dispatched by the time I could turn my attention to them, and from the intense, burning smell I couldn't tell exactly who was responsible for it. Truly, it could've been any of them, but in the end it didn't much matter. I gazed at the portal creation machine in front of me curiously, but it was far beyond my comprehension. I couldn't even begin to fathom what could make such a thing work.
Passing it by for the time being in favor of more important things, I stepped through another teleporter and into what looked like an obvious prison. I walked down the corridors of the prison, staring into each of the expansive bunker-like cells, hoping to find some remnants of the Black Mountain Clan. All I could see throughout the several cells were corpses... dwarven corpses. At last I came upon a cell with a small handful of dwarves still alive inside. I deftly picked the lock and opened the door, rushing through to speak with them.
They're here...! They're really here! Gods, look at them... what they must have been through... what Kerghan's done to them... "Who are you, good dwarf?"
He bowed to me slightly, "I am Grenjar Silver Hammer. Tell me, did Stennar reach you?" I could still scarcely believe it. Truly, everything had started when I met Stennar on that horrible day....
Stennar... Gods, I had no idea at the time... you tried to tell me... "Yes, but he died before he could tell me what was happening."
Grenjar stared at the ground solemnly. "Stennar." Several moments passed while he silently grieved for his lost brother. I wanted to apologize, but there was nothing to apologize over. Indeed, if Stennar hadn't told me what he did I would never have come to rescue the Black Mountain Clan. I left Grenjar to his grief until he felt comfortable speaking again. "How did he die?"
I tried to spare him the grisly details of the murder, instead being very vague about the whole thing. "He perished in a horrible zeppelin crash."
Er, right... I suppose I'd almost forgotten about that. This poor bastard has been trapped here more than twice as long as I've been alive. "It's an airship. A boat that flies, suspended under a large balloon."
He gasped at me audibly, which was an impressive way for a dwarf to react when describing technology to him. "What? I've never heard such a thing! How is this possible?" Oh, Grenjar... you've been away for so long...
"The world has changed greatly since you've been there." I hated having to be the one to give him news like that. It simply wasn't fair, he'd done nothing... just an unfortunate victim of Kerghan and his trickery with the Dark Elves. ...and now so many of them are dead... there are hardly any left...
Grenjar seemed angry, then, and I couldn't really blame him. "No doubt driven by dwarven ingenuity and technological advances!" If I were in his situation, I, too, would be bitter regarding what had happened with Bates.
"Uh... yes, you're right." I wasn't going to try and hide it in the slightest. He had every right to be angry with Bates, and possibly with humanity as a whole.
Fate... I suppose that's one way to put it. "Can you tell me about what happened?" I needed to hear their story with my own ears, directly from them... I'd spent so much time picking up the pieces of their story that I just had to hear it the way they would tell it.
He shook his head sadly, remembering, but willing to share despite that. "The dark elves had been lying in wait, looking for a way to bring some dwarves over to this side. They knew that technology would eventually weaken the wards to the point of failure, but they decided to accelerate the process. They needed a machine to open the rift back up by distorting the already weakened wards. An elf couldn't make a machine to save his life..."
I followed along, almost as sadly as Grenjar himself. I truly pitied them, I knew what it was like when the fickle force known as fate had other plans in mind for one's life. "And then Bates made his steam engine..."
He nodded, "Exactly. Somehow, they convinced King Loghaire to banish us." ...and he would pay for that decision, too, as would all dwarves... so much damage at the hands of the dark elves, at the behest of Kerghan... My resolve grew even stronger as Grenjar continued speaking. "We were shocked, to say the least... but our king had spoken. We were told our banishment was to the Isle of Despair, but this is where we ended up. We can only assume our king knew nothing of their true intent."
That would be a fairly correct assumption. Boy was he ever surprised when I told him you weren't on the Isle of Despair... surprised, and naked. "I don't believe he did." I had the most odd memories of dwarves.
I knew all about what had happened to Stennar after he'd escaped, and at last I could hear how his final journey truly began. "Please, go on."
He began preparations to disguise himself as a gnome. He starved himself to the point of sickness, and when the gate was near readiness, he... he shaved his beard. He believed that the full responsibility for what had befallen us was his... he would do whatever he thought was necessary to make things right. Even that.
They tortured some of the clan to force us to reveal his plans, but we wouldn't break. We knew they needed us to finish the gate, and, heh heh, we had been disabling the gate in various ways for months. For all they knew, we still had months ahead of us to finish the thing, when we could have been finished months before.
Finally, they killed half of the clan in a last effort to force us to talk. We still did not break. And now, we are all that is left of our once great clan.
A quiet rage washed over me as he recounted the story, explained the reasoning for the number of dwarf corpses in the other cells. Still, despite all that, they wouldn't talk... and the Hand found and killed Stennar anyhow... I stared Grenjar in the eyes with furious resolve, "I will return to free you when I have killed those responsible." Without waiting for a response, I stormed off down the hall.
My way forward was blocked by a phalanx of four dark guardians, with a fifth brazenly charging ahead of his allies to try and take me on by himself. That lone guardian fell in no more than three swift strikes and I was already marching on the phalanx ahead. They held their formation until Arronax's fireball scattered them by force, slamming them up against the walls on the sides of the hall. Kryggird's Falchion sung, a high-pitched wailing noise, as it sailed through the air. I wasn't taking any chances and I neatly decapitated all four of them without pausing for even a second as I walked past.
The hallway turned back on itself as I continued on, expanding soon after into a room almost as wide and tall as the gargantuan chamber Arronax had been imprisoned in. Standing in a menacing formation along both walls were groups of Kerghan's strongest guardians, wielding massive greatswords and covered in blood-tinged armor. The room was lit only by a bright, magickal brazier flickering in the center of the room. As soon as the ghostly guardians noticed my presense they made to stop me. This is it... the last battle before I fight Kerghan.
I dashed forwards, cutting the first of the spectral knights to ribbons right where he stood. His ghastly, tortured wail filled the room as the damned spirit that gave him life was finally released into the great beyond. I didn't stop there, I charged into a pair of the knights swinging my lighter-than-air blade recklessly as I approached. I wounded one of them grievously, but the other nearly took off my arm with his great sword in response. While I was momentarily stunned, the knight I had been attacking regained his composure and impaled me on his greatsword in response.
I cried out in pain, feeling the blood spill out of me and run down that haunting, spectral blade. My grip on Kryggird's Falchion loosened and had it not been for its absurdly light weight I would have dropped it completely. Out of nowhere, Terry came sailing through the air and he bit into the spectral knight's neck. I could hear his unearthly, shocked gasp as Terry gnawed fully through the armor. He stumbled backwards, taking his sword with him and allowing me to drop peacefully to the ground.
Virgil dashed forward, his axe parrying the other knight's sword just in time. I stood up weakly, feeling the wound in my side. I could feel Velorien's blessing holding me together, somehow giving me the strength to continue fighting. The echo of rapid gunfire filled the room and the knight that Terry had been paralyzing at last fell to the ground. I swung my blade in a high, upward arc and instantly decapitated the remaining knight.
From across the room I could see a fourth knight begin to charge, but he stopped quite suddenly with a look of horror in his eyes. I could hear his spectral groan begin to issue forth and he slowly dropped to his knees. At last he cried out one last gasp of pain and collapsed onto the floor along with the rest. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Arronax's hand lower back to his side and I decided I'd rather not know exactly what just happened.
Finally, through the door at the end of that long room, I found the last teleporter. I stared at it nervously, feeling the tightness in my chest grow. Arronax stood next to me, also staring, "You can feel it, can you not? There is no doubt... Kerghan is through that portal."
I nodded at him, "Yes, even I can feel it... there's no mistaking that dark power... the very same I felt on the plains of Morbihan." At last, it has come to this... Kerghan, I will destroy you.
Bonus ContentRequested by Iris of Ether
Requested by MuShRoOmFaCe
Speaking of Kraka-tur, I mentioned I had bonus stuff.... First, let's take Kraka-tur's alternate dialogue paths... because they're hilarious.
You're quite an annoying fellow, aren't you?
Wh-what? No one speaks such words and lives! Tremble before the might of Kraka-tur! I have spilled oceans of blood! Mountains of bones mark the roads of my fury! Fire and destruction...!
Maybe I'm not making myself clear. You're a joke...
From there it just repeats. He won't fight you unless you specifically leave dialogue and attack him. I love it Here's the character sheet:
Sadly, he's not bad at all (and he actually does fight). Most of the Void creatures are like this. They're kind of a failsafe in case you came in at a really low level with a shitty party and saved over your backup save. If you grab up as many of them as you can, plus Arronax, you can have a really decent fighting party.
This drops off of the Bane of Kree, by the way. That's what those three sound files of Torian's were that I uploaded yesterday
I did promise a book, and even though I'm up too late already a book you all shall have.
Mastery of the Magickal Arts
Black Necromancy, Mental, and Summoning are colleges of magick composed of spells which no rational mage would cast upon themselves and are thus entirely useless without another limited being apart from oneself as a participant in the casting process. To accept such a constraint upon spellcraft is to place the focus and potential of magick outside of oneself and the larger reality which encompasses all being. Artistry requires true control which flows only from the independent extension of conscious will. The colleges of Morphing, Nature, and Phantasm do have some aspects of manipulating oneself or reality directly yet rely too often for their efficacy upon a limited entity apart from oneself. These are the paths an adept must reject when beginning the journey of subsuming magic into transcendent being.
Exploration of personal identity is bound inevitably to an exploration of reality in its entirety. In seeking out the wisdom and knowledge of others, achieving insight through personal reflection and meditation, and the imaginative utilization of divinatory arts, there is much that can be discerned of what and where we are. The physical universe is composed of an incomprehensible myriad of patterns woven with unfathomable subtlety and diversity from a single energy that which we perceive in its
the abstract. Conveyance is the magickal control of a unique pattern of physical energy in relation to the larger pattern of reality in a single moment. Temporal is the magickal control of a unique pattern of physical energy in relation to other patterns of reality than that of the moment. White Necromancy is the positive shaping of the energy which flows both from and into the convergence of a unique mind and body. Force is the direct shaping of the potential energy which flows through all of the patterns of reality. Meta is the magickal reshaping of reality patterns which have been altered via conscious will and allows for complete mastery of the magickal arts.
The path through these colleges requires much perseverance and devoted development of skill, yet a mage who has mastered these has come a very long way and is capable of holding her own against any other. There is an even further transformation of power and style within reach of those with the fortitude and desire to travel on. The elemental grouping of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water is a very basic and useful perspective of reality in its broader physical qualities. Balance and compliment between elemental oppositions form a dynamic that can be grasped very personally and intuitively amongst conscious beings. An accomplished mage should choose one element from each axis of opposition based upon their own sense of empathy and aesthetic taste in relation to each pair. My own affinities reside in the elements of Air and Fire and form a connection that weaves itself into the very name I have chosen to take.
The path set forth in this tome reaches its zenith in completely mastering half of all known magic. More important is the transformation into magical being which takes place as an adept reaches finally to the level of archmage. It is here very important not to let oneself be consumed by the drive to acquire more magick. An archmage who has reached true mastery can instead enjoy the freedom and opportunity that a self transformed through magickal ability allows. Personal development can now be focused along new channels, such as the abilities of unarmed combat and the refinement of physical and psychic characteristics. It is the true archmage who can focus on such wonders as artistic creation, exploration, and teaching others.