One: Ordered by Gods
Cuthberta Umberselunday &Umberdakarday
According to Arek
“The Horror…The Horror…” Arek had slipped just moments before into the chamber’s floor, escaping the magic web and probably certain death as well. But now, being one with the rock of this forsaken place, Arek was not so sure if he should not instead have taken his chances with the giant enchanted suits of armour above him. Images of dwarves being tortured, whipped and brutally killed where flooding Arek’s mind. It seemed that years and years of hatred and war were being poured into Arek and he could not do anything to stop the flow of vile images.
One scene was particularly painful: a dozen dwarves were being cornered by several stone giants wearing battle armour similar to those that Arek had seen on the ceiling of the vast chamber. Arek was near the dwarves but out of the giants’sight. He could see the pleading expression of some of the dwarves and heard one of them say, “Cleric, call to Him, ask Moradin to help us. Our brothers are being butchered.” Yet Arek felt himself not caring, saw himself turning his back to the dwarfs in need. Arek watched in horror as what was clearly himself but in a blackened and filthy uniform, his hands holding a sunrod, signal to the stone giant party and indicate to them where the other dwarves were trying to mount a last fight. Arek felt his stomach churn and almost threw up as he heard himself say: “There they are. Kill the filthy dogs and spread their bones over the hills.”
Arek could not stay another second underground. With a gasp he willed himself to leave the stone and found himself in the magical web yet again. Luckily, the giant armoured creature had been slain. Stuck in the web, Arek shuddered and tried to forget the visions.
* * *
Arek ran the steps as fast as he could. With the help of his magical boots, he leapt the steps two by two. Arek was confused and afraid. What was he doing here in this godforsaken place? What was that huge, decomposing creature with lettering all over its skin?
All that Arek knew was that he had to get away and fast! As he reached the top of the stairs, he felt different. A few more paces, this time much more slowly. Domaldi… Nimbus… Tiberio… Frankie and Calibre… What?
Arek stopped and looked around. He had reached a small landing. He heard Domaldi cry out to Heironeus. He heard the sound of metal against metal. Fighting! My friends need me.
Just as Arek realized this, he saw Caliber and Frankie, perched on the clockwork’s shoulder, crashing through the double doors on the other side of the landing and running back towards where Arek had just come from. Without a word Arek followed, Unity already in his hands.
* * *
“No!” Arek cried out. “By Moradin, no!” Arek saw Domaldi’s crushed face hit the ground with a sickening thud.
The young paladin lay completely lifeless and Arek knew that Moradin could not help the young human. Not through Arek’s limited understanding of faith at least. Just moments ago, he and Domaldi had joined forces and turned one of the undead ogres. Both had been fighting another undead ogre and the huge creature with the rune-covered body. By the grace of Moradin, Arek had delivered a powerful blow to defeat the ogre. But Domaldi had taken the brunt of the attacks coming from the other creature. The last hit, a huge blow that sent the Paladin flying a few feet, had been fatal. Arek was certain of this.
Down on one knee, Arek felt the leather grip of his warhammer tighten against his palm. He had lost a loyal companion and a friend. If he did not act, he might lose others on this day. He himself might reach Moradin’s side more rapidly then expected. He felt his muscles tighten.
He gripped Unity and screamed with all of his might: “MORADIN!” As Arek engaged the creature, he knew that it would die even if he had to go down with it. He owed Domaldi that much.
* * *
Arek felt sick to his stomach.
Dragging Domaldi’s body up the stairs, Arek was not sure if he would be able to take another step. During combat, Arek’s grief had been overcome by the sheer intensity of trying to stay alive. But after hearing his friends’ words to accompany Domaldi’s spirit and now carrying the young man back to where they had planned to spend some time to rest, Arek was feeling his strength leaving him.
A few more steps…
Arek shifted his grip on Domaldi’s body and then he felt it. The same feeling as when he had been underground in the ruins’ foundations. And then he saw it. An image that filled Arek with dread and shame. Arek saw himself looking over Domaldi. But instead of uttering his final blessings as he had done just a few moments ago, Arek was laughing. Arek was heartily laughing, smiling an ugly, distorted and un-natural smile. Arek could feel the misplaced glee and happiness.
This is not right! This cannot be. Arek stopped, cold sweat dripping over his forehead and down his back. And then the vision was gone. But the shame remained.
And just then it seemed to Arek that the walls were a bit closer and the shadows darker all around him. A few more steps and perhaps this nightmare will end…
Domaldi Dark End!