( To Part 3 )
Having delivered 'justice' to the people of Mekbah, we retired to Tavern's Inn to rest. We arose in the morning, and Somak resolved to visit the forests north of town to see if it was his home. Barridan and I decided to accompany him; Barridan seems to be in search of his memories, and hopes that if Somak finds his, we might find ours as well. For my part, I just want to be out of this town; it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, perhaps from excessive self-righteousness (though it could well be the lack of alcohol instead). So north we went, guided by Edgerd of the Hunter's Lodge, to an encampment of druids. Alonso decided to remain in Mekbah for the time being, for what purposes we know not.
The woods had eyes on our journey; first squirrels and chipmunks, then weasels, hunting cats, and finally a great bear which stepped forth onto the path and spoke to Somak. They conversed in the language of the woods awhile, and the bear turned into a nude human female. Barridan and Somak were much enchanted with her; for my part, I still have eyes only for my Ygritte, who now is but another unburied skull in the ruins of Kathras Deep... This woman appears to have been Somak's lover, but he did not recall her, as his memories are lost with ours to the Rod. Though saddened, she led us to a druid encampment of significant size - I was surprised to see so many living among the trees, and with no fire, but only magic for light and heat. Somak has a residence here, so we dropped our packs there. Somak visited the Elder Druid, an elf ancient beyond words, and spoke with him at length of the Chromata and the memory loss. The druids were to have a council that evening, with the intent of sending teams to keep the other artifacts from discovery. This makes me a little nervous... I worried that they will try to take Mavrilith from me, and to hide it away. Fortunately, these worries proved to be unfounded, though I am not sure why... collectively, they certainly have more raw power than I, so they could have taken it, and they could likely guard it better. Somak's trick of hiding the Rod deep in solid rock would be a good start. I am not well liked here; the druids hate fire and axes, and I am marked by one, and carry the other. I must sleep lightly tonight... At least their dislike is honest and open, not like the sanctimoniousness of Mekbah.
We waited for the great assembly in what passed for a tavern; while the novelty of their strange brews was pleasing, I long for a cold draught of decent ale... some of these concoctions were most similar to things brewed unwholesomely in the trenches and tunnels of the Goblin Wars. My companions found them displeasing, and I suppose they probably were... but the taste was weaker than the memories. Barradin made off with a lovely forest lass, while Somak spoke with druids from across the continent who had arrived through the trees; quite a marvel, that. Somak learned of the woods to the south, known as the Hellheim Green, whose druids are a dishonorable folk, and where dwells a great green dragon, rumored to hold the green chromata... 'tis a fell place, but mighty close to the surfacer's entrance to the Dwarven Holds, and a second chromata might be useful in my quest. I spoke not such things in the company of those who would prevent the discovery of the chromata, though... no reason to remove myself even further from their good graces. I was also disheartened to hear that the stonespeakers were not welcome at this conclave; while I have no strong desire to show my maimed face to another dwarf, it would be good to hear tidings of the homeland...
Eventually the meeting was called, and we sallied forth from the tavern (except Barradin, who returned from his... exploits elsewhere). The Elder spoke at length, telling the assembled what he had told Somak earlier, and asked that I display Mavrilith. Again, I was rather apprehensive here... not just that they might take it from me, and weaken my ability to slay the Red Terror, but also that it might take hold of me. As I held it aloft, I could feel it hungering after the magic of the druids. Every sorcerous light and flameless torch calls to it as food to a starving man. I worry that one day I will not be strong enough, and it might possess me and drive me at my allies, and wonder if the Black Blade will become more trouble than it is worth.. but for the time being, I held fast. The meeting was eventually adjourned, and we retired to the home Somak shares with his woman, Rielda among the trees, though Somak rested elsewhere; he feels an outsider here, and is angry that these familiar sights have not returned his memories. I cannot blame him... I am not as troubled by the loss of memory, because I retain my purpose, but his purpose was fulfilled with the death of the dragon, and only now does the loss come to haunt him. I do not think this problem will vex me, if I do manage my final objective... survival beyond the last, great dragonhunt seems unlikely. And what more would I want of this earth then, even if I did survive? The pleasures of the flesh grow dim, and my people await in the feasting halls of the All-Father...
- Journal of Fjolkir the Beardless,14th Day of Firefast
That... was a hell of a day.
I slept poorly, and dreamed of old battles in the Goblin Wars, advancing in time before the Burning. In the last that I dreamt, we were taken by surprise by the vanguard of Warlord Urkrosk, led by the orcs of the Blood Rune. They had marched day and night for a week, leaving the weak behind, and reached our holdfast long before we expected them. They fell upon us with no warning, and we were routed. I awoke with a start to the shattering of the door of Somak's dwelling and the screaming of the alarm stone, sometime in the wee hours of the morning. Outside loomed brutish faces with great axes... and for a moment, I was unsure where and when I was, but I flew at them with my axes. I have taken to sleeping in my armor of late, and it was well that I did; they were berserkers, many and strong, but I held the doorway, driving three in turn off the walkway around the great tree. Barradin also awoke and hurled fire at them through the portal; he tried to avoid burning me, but I dodged poorly, and soon my cloak was aflame and the scars on my face burned once more. The frenzied orcs had also landed several telling blows, and the situation seemed dire. Somak's arrival was most fortunate; he flew up on a giant eagle from where he had rested, and drove the remaining orcs back to a rope bridge. I drank several healing potions to little effect while Barradin and Somak advanced. More orcs came around the tree across the bridge, but the eagle brought down the bridge with its weight, and Barradin slew them with fire as they fled. Somak and I then dispatched the remaining berserkers. He summoned more eagles, and we flew for the center of the encampment. I continued to nurse my wounds as we went.
The camp had been laid waste, the druids slaughtered, and perhaps a hundred orcs gathered in the amphitheater where the conclave had met. We were about to engage them when we saw a grave sight above the Elder's dwelling - a black tear in the world, guarded by a massive orc in shining armor with a pair of axes. We altered course to engage him instead. At his feet lay the dying Elder, and between them stood Rielda, unarmed and unarmored. Somak leapt from his eagle and struck the orc upon the head with his spear. They exchanged brutal words in the crude orcish tongue as Barradin and I dismounted, and then the orc transformed into a mighty bear and the battle began in earnest. I struck him many times with my axes, and Mavrilith drank deep of his enchantments; it flashed corpse-white and drew his magic from him in red ribbons, then sang in exultation. He roared in pain and struck at me with his teeth and claws, but he was disoriented and his blows went wide. Somak also struck him several good blows, and things seemed to be going in our favor, but more orcs began spilling out of the gash, which evidently was a portal they had used for transport. Barradin had disappeared, and we surmised that he was seeking a way to close it, as well as calling down lightning and his ghost arrows. To make matters worse, a pale shade had appeared... Hethras, who had helped us slay Saffras in Duskdale. While he aided us against the orc-bear, we had no illusions regarding his trustworthiness, and an untrustworthy ally is sometimes worse than a direct foe. Fortunately, we were able to lay low the bear swiftly, and any chance for treachery he had had diminished, though he did feast on the orcs entering through the portal. I went to slay the bear, but Somak forbade it, saying that it was his half-brother Somar. The bonds of blood run deep... more orcs came from the north, so I ran to engage them while Somak and Hethras fought those coming from the portal. I prevented the reinforcements from slaying the Elder, and by the time the portal ran dry of orcs, Barradin had determined that it opened to the Abyss.
The key to closing it, he said, was to take the black dagger at its base, step through, and plant it in the soil beyond... This laid heavily upon us. I would have done it; I do not fear death. But, by the same token, my time is not yet - I have one last dragon to slay, an oath to fulfill, a wrong to set aright. Only then can I go to meet my ancestors. Barradin did not welcome the prospect of being stranded in the abyss; his magic is not yet powerful enough to bring him back to this realm, so 'twould be a death sentence for him just as for one of us. In the end, Somak volunteered himself. He had recovered his memories in his final blow against Somar... but the home he had known was laid to waste. To linger here would only bring him suffering, and so he said his goodbyes to Rielda, and to us. He bade us question Somar thoroughly, but to spare his life; he leaves us a most dangerous captive... and yet I would not dishonor the last request of a dead man, and a boon companion. He left the great bag with us, and Barridan cast some wards over him. Somak readied his spear and stepped through the portal... and was gone. I hope, for his soul's sake, that his death is quick and clean, a warrior's death, and that he does not succumb to the corruption of those lower places.
So goes Somak the Strong, Caller of the Waters, Shaper of the Stone, Dragonslayer. He shall be remembered.
We were put in a somber mood, and spent the rest of the day routing the orcs, extinguishing fires, and burying the dead. Rielda is disconsolate, Somar still deep in the red dream from his wounds, and the Elder is dying. This is a dead place... Barridan and I will depart on the morrow, after questioning Somar. There is nothing more we can do here. I have been inventorying the contents of the Bag to keep my mind off of things. It is too heavy for me; we will need to buy a mule. Now we are but three... Barridan wants to ride for Malas and Dehlia by way of the Araduin Hills, and perhaps to discover his own past there in his homeland. For my part, Kathras calls to me... my scars ache, the dreams grow more vivid, and ten thousand souls cry out for vengeance. I can hear them whisper, and when I close my eyes, I can see their faces. My fate, my doom, will not wait forever. Might I meet it as well as Somak did his.
- Journal of Fjolkir the Beardless, 15th Day of Firefast
To Part 5