These past couple of days me and my group mates, along with the entire city-hive of Nefir, marched down from Aimi through Veseeld to Kal’wor. The day after leaving Aimi we reached Veseeld. Thanks to the Inquisitor the city sat in wait for us to pass. Both the Northern and Southern gates were wide open. The shops of the Market District all put away. Many passerby’s gave us snide glances and avoided us. But otherwise no one in Veseeld hindered our progress. There Ishitari bid us farewell. She had to go talk to the Diamond Knights inside the tower, but said she’d try to rejoin us down in Kal’wor.
We reached the outskirts of the duergar city the following day. Although the dark dwarves manning the gates welcomed my people, they told us Kal’wor couldn’t handle every single dromite with in its walls. They were kind enough to let the Queen and her Court inside. A number of them, including Malgo, came outside to help us set up camp. The Lodge members were actually the ones who offered to take in the Queen! I made sure to thank Malgo for his generosity. As we erected the tents he advised we continue our search for the Iner Forge and go to Sky’s Well. He handed us some directions and suggested we leave the next day. My payment for the Lodge due soon, I made sure to pay him fifty gold before I left.
In the midst of setting up the tent camp outside the city, Mirath wandered off somewhere and didn’t come back. I wonder where he went? Into the forest? He’s friendly enough, but a bit strange. After helping my Life Bond settle in to their new home my group and I headed inside to the market place. I bought some armor and a new saddle for Socks. (And a stylish intelligence-enhancing hat!) I spent that night with my Life Bond.
It took another day to reach the well. We were greeted by a bunch of spears pointed in our faces. A goblin in green robes stood in the back. The goblin walked up to us, the spears moved aside to make room for her. I assumed female, by the sound of her voice. “What is your business here at the spring of heaven and Sky’s Well?”
“We came here to find out information regarding the Iner Forge.” I said.
She narrowed her eyes. “Why would you want to go to that place?”
“We have a mission that we need to complete.” I began.
“And we have a key that opens the door.” Sandstorm butt in.
“You guys just love giving information to people we hardly know, don’t you?” Malazhar asked sarcastically, jabbing Sandstorm in the gut.
“Why should we help you? We’re just peaceful greenskins.”
“We’re peaceful too.” I replied, “We just want the information and we’ll be on our way.”
She thought for awhile. “Well, we’ll at least let you in here. Depending on how well you’re accepted by the people we might be able to help you. We usually don’t grant audiences with the Eternal One though. Come in, come in. But don’t touch the falls please. It’s very private.”
The other goblins put down their spears and let us in. As she led us to the well the female goblin told us of the second entrance to the North, but since a monster is usually there they don’t need to guard it. We passed a few simple homes and shops before reaching the springs. Goblin children splashed and played in the shallow end. A few more green robed goblins sat at the water’s edge, mumbling to themselves and sipping some of the water. Some of them were blues. Powerful psionic goblins.
“Oh hello!” One of the blues greeted us in Goblin.
“Hello.” I said back, also in Goblin.
“A lot of people here are suspicious of anyone coming in, but they call us the robed ones.” The goblin bowed. “We’re usually the people outsiders talk to.”
“I see. We’re wondering if you have any information regarding how to get to the Iner Forge.”
“The Eternal One might, but he’s so old he usually doesn’t accept people. Let alone an audience. You might be able to convince him that you’re worthy. We have a few tasks.”
“What tasks do you require of us?”
“One of our housing quarters to the North here has some pretty big spiders that live up at the top.”
“You want us to go kill them then?”
The goblin nodded. “That would be nice, yes.” I relayed this information to the others. They all agreed to help rid the goblins of the spiders.
“Before we go, anything we should know about them?” Malazhar asked in Common.
“They’re poisonous, and they’ve killed a few people.” The same goblin replied.
We headed North where they told us to go. I clambered aboard Socks and took up the rear. The roof of the housing quarter extended eighty feet above us, coated in cob webs and small and large tunnels alike. When we got there I couldn’t see a single spider, but I could smell the corpses of the poor greenskins they’d killed. Malazhar picked up a rock and threw it. Two spiders instantly dangled down from the rooftop, their eight eyes glaring at us. Ith swung his sling and immobilized the first one.
Suddenly a massive arachnid, at least twice as large as the other two, descended from above onto Malazhar. I heard him scream and saw two giant fangs stab him in the chest. He managed to crawl out from underneath, bleeding badly but healing himself as he got away. Sandstorm charged in and slashed the spider with his mind blade. I summoned a lance of ice and flung it at the beast. Cinna followed my lead and finally killed it with an ice ray.
The two remaining spiders shot webs down at us. Sandstorm managed to dodge them but Malazhar wasn’t so lucky. Acting quickly, Ith shot and killed one with the sling. Sandstorm finished off the other. Once it was dead he ripped its fangs from its head and strung them on a strange necklace embellished with a few other bodily trinkets. He put the necklace away and helped Malazhar escape his sticky cocoon. We returned to the blues and told them we’d defeated the spiders.
“Thank you. Those spiders were a nuisance.” The blue bowed deeply. “But there is something else you can do for us. There’s a way up North, near the entrance. We usually use it as a secondary entrance but some tunneling creature has made it its home.”
“So, you want us to go off and take care of that creature too?” I asked.
“We believe it’s called a Zorn. If you bring us its horn, I think it might aide us in our quest to become Eternal Ones ourselves.”
“Great. I can probably use this baby on it.” Sandstorm grinned, touching the hilt of his axe.
We left promptly after that. The location where they told us the Zorn resided smelled of wet earth and mildew, but the creature itself was no where to be found. Likely still underground, since not even my antennae could pick up its scent. Impatient, Sandstorm stomped the dirt beneath us. The ground rumbled fiercely and the Zorn burst out of its earthly shell. The best had pebbly, stone-like skin, the maw atop its head large and powerful. Its three spindly arms ended in razor sharp talons. Three stone-covered eyes glared back at us, a stubby leg beneath each of them.
I recognized it from some books I’d read on underground menaces. “Be careful! Don’t use ice or fire, that won’t hurt it at all! Electricity isn’t effective either, and only use your melee weapons if they can bludgeon its face in!” I took a step forward and formed a lance out of the only energy type left: sonic. I flung it at the Zorn, hitting it square in its eyes.
Malazhar jumped at the beast, morning star drawn, but missed it by a long shot. Cinna stood beside me and pointed her finger. A ray of sonic shot forth and collided into one of its arms. A pebble whizzed past our heads but the Zorn dodged Ith’s blow by a few feet. The best roared and slashed at the closest person with in its range. Sandstorm bent backward to avoid being bitten but could not escape the slash of its talon. As he bent back he swung at the Zorn with the mind blade, but I don’t think he hit it.
I took a deep breath and thought hard, using mind thrust with as much strength I could manage. The Zorn wailed painfully, scratching its head in its dying throws. Its massive weight shook the ground when it fell. Like with the spiders, Sandstorm took it upon himself to wrench the horn free from the Zorn’s corpse. He tucked the bloodied thing away in his knapsack and we met back up with the goblins at the well. Sandstorm handed me the horn once we got there. I bowed my head and held up our offering.
“Thank you.” A blue plucked it from my hands and smashed the horn against a nearby boulder, shattering all but a tiny crystal inside of it. He picked it off the ground and hid the crystal somewhere in his robe. “This will be very helpful.”
Another blue beside him waved at some guards standing beside the entrance of a small hut at the edge of the well. The blues ushered us inside. At the back of the hut sat a small figure in a an elegant purple robe, surrounded by a throne made of sky blue crystals. Beside him was a male-looking human with red hair, seated in a small chair. As we walked in the two were preoccupied talking with one another.
“Hello and welcome to my home, Sky’s Well.” The elderly goblin raised his arms, revealing long bony hands and arms. “I am the Eternal One.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” I greeted him in Goblin. I curtly bowed my head to add some respect. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sandstorm get on knee and Cinna bowed too. Couldn’t tell for Ith or Malazhar.
“And to you as well. What have you come here for?”
I looked up at the goblin. “We’d like to know how to get to the Iner Forge.”
“Why should we help you in the first place?” The goblin lowered his arms. “If we happen to know this knowledge.”
“Well, this is needed for all of Almendra actually…To keep it safe.”
“Safe from what?” The old goblin raised an eyebrow.
My gaze shifted away from his own. “From the illithids.”
“And why would the illithids be attacking Almendra?”
“They’re trying to get in. We don’t know why, but they’re planning on invading soon. They pushed the people North of the Thak desert down into Almendra, and they recently invaded my city’s sister city.”
The Eternal One pondered on that for awhile. “It’s not common we help outsiders, but I’ll have one of the guards grab something for me. I’ll consider giving it to you.”
I nodded. “Fair enough.”
A goblin near the entrance squeezed passed us and disappeared into a room off to our left. He reappeared with a small, well-used scroll in hand. The goblin handed it off to the Eternal One.
“This was written by Morsomir, an ancient traveler about six hundred years ago.” The Eternal one began, in Common so the others would understand. “He claimed to know the direction to the Forge. It’s been badly torn as you can see, beaten. I’ve edited it somewhat, tried to figure out some of the glyphs on it. I imagine that he wants somebody to know, but what do you plan on getting from the Forge?”
“It’s not what we’re taking, it’s what we’re bringing to it…”
“Help defend my village a little bit better.” Sandstorm added, under his breath.
“So then what are you taking to the Forge?”
My gaze shifted to Cinna. “A special key.”
“May I see the key?” The Eternal One said with piqued interest.
“Um, okay.” Cinna gingerly pulled out the Key strung around her neck. She approached the Eternal One’s throne and kept it with in range for him to see it properly, but far enough away he couldn’t touch it.
“It’s the Shadow Vault, right?” He asked. We all nodded. “Dangerous things for dangerous people to hold on to.” The Eternal One sighed deeply. Cinna silently tucked the Key back in her shirt.
The old goblin’s gaze looked down at the human beside him. The human who hadn’t said a single word since our arrival. The human with dark red hair who looked eerily like Ari. “What do you think, friend? Should I trust them with this kind of knowledge? A map to essentially great power. It’s killed a lot of people.”
“What’s the risk?” The human answered. From the deep voice the human was definitely male.
“Well, they could use it for bad things. It could hurt a lot of people, but I trust you. If you’d be willing to go along with them to ensure they don’t do anything stupid, I’d be willing to let them use the scroll. I’m far too old for me to go.”
“I could go.”
The Eternal one frowned. “It’s in Goblin, and I don’t think you know Goblin right?”
The human shook his head. “No.”
“I can, though.” I added.
“Then take the scroll.” He held out the battered parchment to me.
I bowed my head and took it from him. “Thank you.” The scroll felt withered in my hands. I took out my dagger and cautiously slid it beneath the vibrantly colored string tying it together. With a swift flick of my wrist I cut the string. I unrolled it to take a quick peek. The Eternal One wasn’t kidding when he said it was torn. It had a number of holes, with large tears along the edges.
“What’s your name?” Sandstorm asked the red haired human.
“Cehos.” He replied.
“Just so you know, yes, the right side of the map is cut off before it gets all the way to the Forge.” The Eternal One warned us.
“This is a good enough start.” Sandstorm said confidently. He finally rose from his kneeling position.
“I don’t know what it means by ‘dwarves’. It could mean Kal’wor, or somewhere near there but I’m not sure.”
“I can probably bring this to Malgo and ask him about that.”
The Eternal One nodded agreeably. “Probably a good idea.”
As we left the shack, Pe Ell dashed towards us. I saw panic written in his expression. He was panting heavily like he’d sprinted for quite a distance. “I think there’s some trouble going on somewhere here, somewhere near you guys.” He said between breaths. “I heard some information about someone hunting you down recently.”
“It’s probably that yanki from the Cult.” Sandstorm said.
Pe Ell shook his head. “I don’t know about the Cult hunting you down. You have a powerful psionic item and there’s a group that wants it.”
“We, uh, have a key to the Shadow Vault.” The half giant offered. “Maybe that’s it?”
“Isn’t that why you’re going over to the Forge?”
Just out of view I saw a human man approach Pe Ell from behind, a malevolent grin across his face. He held no weapons in his hands, or hiding any on his person. Pe Ell withdrew his sword, standing between the strange man and us. “Two powerful psionic items?” The man said with great glee. “This is a great idea! I’m glad they sent me on this mission.”
I heard the click of an arrow locking into place, and the hum of Sandstorm summoning his mind blade. I held a power at the ready. The strange man chuckled and cracked his neck both ways. Each time bright purple sparks exploded from his body. That worried me. I hoped by the Queen that man wasn’t what I thought he might be…
“You guys need to get out of here.” Pe Ell said gravely, his sword pointed at the man.
“We can take ’em, come on.” Sandstorm replied, a bit cocky.
Pe Ell took a step forward and swung his blade. With complete ease the man dodged, grabbed him by the hand, and twisted Pe Ell’s wrist painfully in the opposite direction. Pe Ell’s ebony skin paled. The blade fell out of his hand and hit the ground with a clang. Weapon gone, he punched the human in the face over and over and over. The man didn’t even bother avoiding his blows. His battered face completely regenerated after each and every punch.
Suddenly he grabbed Pe Ell by the throat. “You have too much psionic energy for your own good.” The man gripped his throat tighter and tighter. The drow’s skin withered away before our very eyes, almost to the bone. My eyes opened wide in terror.
“He’s a psych eater!” I shrieked. “Everyone get back, they devour psionic energy!”
“You need to go!” Pe Ell shouted hoarsely. The man sniggered and threw his body to the ground. Pe Ell’s head rolled to the side, no life in his red eyes.
Cehos grabbed Cinna’s hand and dashed to get away from this monster. I climbed aboard Socks as fast as I could. He’d be able to run away much faster than I ever could. But before the rest of us could catch up, and with out a single move from the man, the two of them smacked face first into some unseen barrier that knocked them off their feet.
A rock whistled just above my head. The psych eater caught it mid-air and crushed it in his hand. The pulverized rock dust floated to the ground. Some blood dripped from the man’s palm. Sandstorm tossed a vial of acid at him, an arrow from Cehos’s cross bow followed a moment behind. The damage done by both healed unnervingly quickly.
How in the Abyss did we stand a change against this?
Sandstorm leaped into the air and crashed down onto the man, his mind blade shaped as a great sword. “Fuck off!” He shouted.
As Sandstorm took a few steps back away from him the psych eater slapped his hand on the half giant’s chest. “Well that wasn’t very helpful.” The man grumbled as he summoned Sandstorm’s mind blade, almost the exact same right down to the color.
Sandstorm gritted his teeth. “You son of a bitch!”
Cehos tried distracting the psych eater by piercing him with an arrow, but the arrow missed and landed somewhere in the well beyond. Cinna knelt down to check up on Pe Ell. But from the look in his eyes I feared the worst. Malazhar charged in to defend his friend, going in swinging. He missed with his morning star but smashed the man with his spiked shield. Cinna rose back to her feet and blasted her fire ray full force into the psych eater. As soon as the flames cleared Ith grabbed onto the man and threw him to the ground. Using all his strength he held him in a grapple.
With the psych eater prone I used mind thrust, pouring all the power I could muster into it. Sandstorm removed his red great sword from its hilt, and as Ith held him steady, sliced open the psych eater’s throat. Blood pooled all on the ground, some of it vanished with the gentle waves of the well behind them. A moment later one of Cehos’s arrows struck the man in the chest.
A burst of energy shook the whole place. Some the others closer to the blast bashed into one another and nearly fell. Ith yelled and flew and smacked into the back wall of the well. His body went limp and landed in the shallow water below. A strange feeling came over me. I tried manifesting one of my powers but nothing came to me.
Whatever just happened, I don’t think any of us could use psionics anymore. I looked to Cinna and the others to see if it was the same for them. But as I looked over there, Pe Ell’s body was gone. His sword too.
My attention snapped back to the psych eater, who looked to Malazhar almost ravenouslye. Unphased, Malazhar charged at the man and swung, but tripped and fell to his knees. The man’s grinned widened. I stood there terrified, fearing I was going to witness yet another death. Just as he reached down to pick up Malazhar Pe Ell’s sword stabbed him from behind and through the chest. His sword was about the size of a great sword, at least twice as large when he first withdrew it. At first the psych eater was completely stunned. But his surprise turned into a malicious smile. He grabbed a hold of Pe Ell’s sword and dragged the drow along with him into the water.
“Go, get out here!” Pe Ell yelled over his shoulder. He pulled and yanked as hard as he could, but the psych eater’s hold did not break. Why he didn’t just let go of his sword, I don’t know.
Cinna and Cehos, were furthest away and in the lead. Ith sprinted out of the water and met up with Malazhar. Sandstorm fell behind to make sure me, Thraenor and the two gith made it through. I felt the invisible wall crumble as we passed through it. I looked over my shoulder to get one last peek at Pe Ell, still struggling with the psych eater. I was knocked off Socks as the man exploded. Pe Ell went soaring over the edge of the waterfall and out of sight.
There was no way he was going to survive that. The waterfall was over a thousand feet high and if the fall itself didn’t shatter every bone in his body he’d be impaled by the jagged rocks below.
“What the hell was that?” One of the goblin guards asked aloud.
Most of the other greenskins looked absolutely livid. “Leave!” They screamed. “Just leave! Tell them to leave!”
“It’s not their fault.” The Eternal One said to them, “They did not call that one here.”
“I still want to know what the hell just happened.” Cehos demanded.
“A psych eater attacked us. They drain psionic energy.”
“I got that.”
I put my hands up. “Hey, I’m just as confused as you are right now!”
“And who was that other guy?” Cehos asked.
“That was Pe Ell. He was…” My antennae drooped. “One of our friends.”
“He was kind of our protector for awhile.” Sandstorm added.
“Sorry about your friend. There is no one that can survive the fall.” The Eternal One said with melancholy. He looked over at the water, confused. The water was no longer pristine and clear, but instead the color of blood.
“Damn,” The Eternal One cursed. he knelt down at the water’s edge for some time before looking over at his kin and us. “I know what I must do to save the falls. Goodbye. I bid by farewells to you. I don’t think you want to be here to see all this. I’ll give a speech to my people and I will go. You may sleep here for the night, and I will perform the rituals tomorrow morning.”
“We probably will. Is there a bar somewhere around here?” Sandstorm asked. The Eternal One nodded.
Cehos stopped us for a moment. “Wait, before you go, I did not catch all of your names.”
“Cinna.” She waved.
“Malazhar.” The gith said reluctantly.
“And I’m Vilu.”
“What race are you?” Cehos asked me.
I grinned. “I’m a dromite.”
Sandstorm clapped Ith on the back. “By the way, nice job with the psych eater.”
We retreated to the nearest bar, as directed by the Eternal One. As soon as we walked in Sandstom sat up at the bar and downed a few drinks. Malazhar and Ith joined him. I sat with Cinna and Cehos at a nearby table.
“We should do a toast in Pe Ell’s honor.” I suggested.
“I agree.” Cinna said.
“A round of mead for everyone!” Sandstorm asked the bartender. The goblin behind the bar nodded and handed each of us a mug.
“To Pe Ell!” I exclaimed, lifting my mug into the air.
“To Pe Ell!” The others cheered. “We knew him too little!” Sandstorm added as he swallowed his in a gulp.
“I’ll drink to that at least.” Cehos added with a smile.
After he finished his drink Sandstorm said, “You probably know about as much as we do.”
He was right about that. We hardly knew anything about Pe Ell, yet he sacrificed his life to save us. An honorable death, to say the least. Life goes on, but I do not want to waste the chance he’s given us. The majority of the others got wasted. I was tempted myself, and probably still had more than I should have, but I wanted to remember this while it was still fresh in my mind. The others want to search for Pe Ell’s body tomorrow morning and bury him. Maybe that will help ease some the pain we all feel in our hearts tonight.