The Fall of Faith

Friends New and Old

Excerpt from the Memoirs of Dorak the Axe Bearer, Thane of Karak Belgrin

The following chronicles a part of one of the more famous quests of a mighty dwarf that once lived in Norska. Though he passed over a millennium ago, his legend lives on…

“Unknown time and date, in the Land of Sun and Sand”
That Evening

That last battle was unpleasant. Being thrown around on a stone platform is one thing. Taking a bath with acid-spitting ooze is completely another. Demons be damned, this place turns viler with every step we take. It is as if some twisted mind created a maze of pointless challenges for its own amusement. Well, we’ll see how much it laughs when Vamut’s sharp blade rests within its chest!

With Fynias’ help I manage to clamber out of the now-frozen pit. A few short blessings later our impressive group looks none worse for wear, and with newfound resolve we continue on our mission. Jaq’n once again displays his great skills and quickly finds a way to disable the whole contraption, allowing us to safely leave the circular room and proceed on our search.

A few corridors later we find ourselves passing through a honeycomb of imp holes, all too frightened or distracted to heed our presence. I’m sure that’s a short-lived relief, but for now a welcome pause. Eventually we hit a crossroad, with two obvious paths leading left and right. I might not have my bearings right in this place and difficulty in finding myself, but my dwarf senses are right and a third choice opens up. I know its there… I can sense it… but it takes Jaq’n’s skills to find the passage leading straight into a massive chamber within the cube.

The ‘place’ is a vision from the most horrid dreams. Dozens of bridges, platforms, and passages intertwine in the air, leading in and out of dark corridors. The entire floor is covered with hundreds of cages filled with the moaning and screaming of the captors. The ceiling is filled with the low rumblings of hordes of imps – all busy with their chaotic tasks and yet oddly sensing our presence. It doesn’t take long before our presence is noticed. The Fallen is here … we spot her in a distance, and as we do she conjures up vile devils in our path. She then proceeds to blink around the chamber, out of the reach of my spells. To make the matter worse, the Imps, as if on command, form large swarms and head straight for us!

Fortunately, we have a few tricks up our sleeves. The mage makes quick work of the Fallen – she clearly underestimated our skills. My holy wards keep the Imp swarms at bay as Sir Cael censures them into oblivion. And the devils, though landing a few blows, are no match for our prowess, and are swiftly disposed of. It was a nasty situation, but by now we’re aware of the dangers and we keep our guard up at all times.

We make our way to the Fallen and recover the Circlet of the Heavens that Thorain’s Messenger told us about. I need no reminder of our oath and my duty. I grab the Circlet and make haste back to the imprisoned Messenger. However, once in her presence I cannot bring it upon myself to don the Circlet. It isn’t my place. It isn’t right. If anyone, anyone at all has any right to don this holy item, it would be Sir Cael, a paladin and royalty. I hand him the circlet with a simple “I dare not” and watch with reverence as he kneels, dons the Circlet, and removes the heavenly sword from the imprisoned Angel. At once she is free, and with a single wave of hand her wounds are healed and health restored. My knees buckle under the weight of the moment, but I compose myself and simply remain speechless as the Angel thanks us. Imagine! An Angel of Thorain thanking US! No Thanks are necessary, and she knows this, for it was my duty, and I’d do it again without hesitation. Still, the Angel grants us a boon before going back into His Presence and awards us a short rest both physically and mentally. When we wake up, though only an hour passes, our memories and blessings are fully restored, and we feel energized into resuming our quest.

Sir Cael was granted the greatest boon, for the Angel left her sword and the circlet in his possession. I feel no jealousy. I feel no envy. He is a Paladin, and he is royalty. If anyone is to wield a mighty weapon of such awesome power it should be him. I am humbled by the presence of such a worthy companion.

We soon find ourselves back in the large chamber. The screams and moans of the captors vibrate throughout the room, but it would take weeks just to free a small subsection, and if we stop to do that we’ll fail in stopping the end of the world. That’s not acceptable, and though it breaks my heart to once-again choose to turn a blind eye to their suffering, we move on. We find one small floating chamber and decide to explore it for additional clues.

The inside is filled with eerie lights, sculptures of tortured man, dwarf, and beast, and a few sets of fast-spinning blades around a central shaft. It is a prison and a trap, and it would be suicide to venture further if it wasn’t for Jaq’n’s skill once again. He climbs up the shaft and skillfully disables the mechanism controlling the spinning blades. We find that this is indeed a very special prison, and inside is none other than my old ‘friend’ Khalid – the same man I was on a boat with only two days ago! Yet this Khalid does not know me, and he is much younger than my companion. He has little to offer other than additional warnings of upcoming doom. He mentions that he is held here because the master of this place thinks that he has some hidden knowledge. I don’t know what to make of it. For now, at least, we cannot free him from the chamber, so all we can do is proceed further and see what other surprises the day will bring. I have a feeling we’ll be coming back to free him soon enough. I remain puzzled though, for now I do not know who, or what, to trust. This place is a place of evil and deception – perhaps it is playing mind tricks too?

Still, the main task remains ahead. We bid Khalid farewell – for now – and make our way back out, chasing the elusive resolution to this horrible nightmare.

Comments

It is amusing that when the devil was transfixed on the end of this one’s arrow, the disbelief and outrage on its face was entirely too common, too human, too elfin. What horrid theories one of a thoughtful bend can make from this, about the very nature and means of devils and demons. What they are, and what they might once have been.

How universal and eternal it is to die with shock on one’s face. Emotions the man named Jaq’n has seen etched permanently on a thousand corpses. Usually through the art of his own hands. The devil-things, summoned on the whim of some darkling woman, died easy enough, and it paled in comparison with how frightful it is to be one of the Chosen. The shining knight spoke convoluted words that hurt the ears of a man. And dozens upon dozens, hundreds of fell devilings were driven down before him. He continued his speech, his words harsh and ululating, and hundreds more were forced into whatever hell that the hell-spawn fear. That which gives him his shine must exact tremendous due to gift a mortal with such strength.

More doors are found, portals elsewhere, and within some odd clock-and-blade prison we find a bedouin, just like the man calling himself Jaq’n. At least in seeming, as he seems to be possessed of riddles the way the devils are possessed of violence, the way the priest’s axe is possessed of demonic strength. He knows everyone and everything, and nothing.

A memory rises from teh grey ether of yesterday, one of a clique of Monks in the far vestiges of the East, the great unmapped boundry-lands giving onto Asiacommunista. These monks were practicioners of meditation, and could achieve mighty things, when sense of self was systemically eradicated. Hence the more they knew, they less they became. Or something in the reverse of that. This Khalid, this “drinker of water”, seems very much like the same, only out of joint and out of his realm. Perhaps he is merely home, on his favored cushions, dreaming his dragonsmoke-dreams, and dreaming us up to converse with him. Stranger things have happened.

He apparently recognized this one from a dream or another. Something familiar, some path trod upon. It is truly disconcerting to be remembered when there is nothing to remember. It leads one to think on secrets and wonder just where the universe and the Will want a man to travel. And what it might ask of him when he reaches that place.

It is good to wear a simple mask. A man can pretend to be anything he wants, with anything in mind. Without such, we are babes to be read and understood against our wills.

And devils are not the only things that can express shock.

Friends New and Old
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