Book One: Ordered by Gods
CHAPTER ELEVEN:
That Which Stalks the Night
Berrona Eoselunday

“A Fatal Mistake”
An Account by Arek

The low glow of the campfire quickly faded as Arek jogged to join up with Inigo in the thick swamp. The situation was not to the cleric’s liking but there seemed to be no time. Inigo seemed possessed and would not listen to alternate courses of action. The fighter insisted that he and Arek had something urgent to discuss. Arek attributed this strange behaviour to the Geas spell the Lizard-Men had cast on Inigo. Perhaps the magic-induced quest had affected Inigo’s mind. But there was no time to find out. As Arek moved deeper in the swamp and farther from his friends, he hoped that Tiberio’s intuition was wrong and that Inigo could indeed be trusted. If not, there was not much Arek could do alone to avoid a trap. “Guide my steps Soulforger,” Arek prayed softly as he went into the fetid darkness.

***

“Stop Inigo! We have come far enough. What is happening here? What have you found out? What is my part in this? What is that which stalks the night? ” Arek cried out as Inigo was again getting out of sight. Arek was getting tired despite his magical boots. He had followed Inigo in the swamp for several hours now, sometimes only relying on broken branches the fighter had left as a sign of his mad dash. Arek looked up to see Inigo has stopped and moved back closer to him and hissed: “Silence! I told you no talking. We must keep quiet in the swamp so as not to attract the beast. When we get to the temple, then I will tell you.” Without another word, Inigo turned and resumed his run. As Arek started to follow, at a loss for words and considering Inigo’s answer, it seemed the night was even darker.

***

They finally reached a clearing. The ground was firmer here and the forest less thick with trees and shrubs, Arek noticed, similar to that in the surrounding area of the temple of Sss’Raast. Arek was relieved that he was finally getting closer to some answers. As he crossed the last line of trees, Arek noticed Inigo at the far end of the clearing. With his darkvision, Arek could see that the fighter was facing him, was waiting for him. A slight parting of the mist, which usually clung over the swamp, showed Inigo to be deathly pale. The cursed fighter called out: “Arek, you asked before what is that which stalks the night?” He paused. “I am!” and slowly faded back into the trees. Arek felt his blood chill “No! Damn you Inigo. And curses to my folly and following you here alone,” Arek thought. He could not see Inigo or whatever looked like Inigo. He crouched defensively and called out : “Moradin, hear my call. I need your blessings.” A few moments later, Arek was in a dense cloud of mist. He felt confident he could not be seen but he also was now blind.“What a stupid mistake this has been. What a stupid fatal mistake. A Claimer in training indeed.” Arek thought as he spat on the ground, gripping Unity tightly and trying to think of a plan to fight this creature. But only images of terrified and beat up gnolls kept coming to him

***

“Arek, come back to us. Quickly!” Arek felt the pebbles and sand on the ground as he slowly emerged from a dark sleep. “Inigo…A vampire!”Arek’ eyes flared wide open. “The fight…I should be dead. I was dead… My friends.” Arek saw Nimbus touch him for a second or two and then he was gone, moving swiftly as he always did, around a pillar. “Pillar…It seems familiar…The temple of Sss’Raast.” Arek felt the lifeforce coursing through him. “Nimbus’ lifeforce!” Arek slowly got up and heard the all too familiar sound of metal against metal coming from outside the temple. He had all his belongings, Unity most important of all. He had been laid here. But for what? Or for whom? Where was Nimbus? The sound of the fight again caught Arek’s attention. “I must get out of here and help my friends. I cannot fail again. Help me Moradin.” Arek ran as quickly as he could out of the Temple unto a landing and saw his friends fighting Inigo and other foul undead creatures. Arek pulled out his silver anvil-shaped symbol and cried out to Moradin.

***

As the dust settled, Arek saw Janarl quickly climb the stairs that led back up to the temple. Arek figured that Nimbus was still inside when part of the building was destroyed. Perhaps the monk was responsible for this. Considering what he had learned about this remarkable human in such a short time, Arek would not be surprised. Somehow, Arek knew that Nimbus was inside, alive. He still felt the energy that Nimbus had given to him. Arek followed Janarl as quickly as he could in the unstable temple, looking carefully for a sign of Nimbus in the debris. The temple had not yet fully collapsed but that was only a matter of time. They had to find him quickly as Arek estimated they only had a few moments before the whole structure gave in. And then Arek saw him. Pinned by sections of the many columns that had once supported the roof, Nimbus was lying on the ground. Arek , Janarl, and Caliber got to Nimbus and managed to pull him free.

***

As the rain fell, Arek looked at the ground where once the temple had stood. Nimbus was slowly coming back to them but kept whispering about Sentar and how he understood where we were and what had happened decades, centuries before. He seemed linked to this place. As the others tended to Nimbus and to their own wounds, Arek walked alone towards the mound where the temple had been. The rain felt good against his face and neck as Arek pulled off his helm. He took a few deep breaths and knelt to one knee. He looked around and saw that life was returning to this place. He could feel it. He also noticed something about himself. “Praise Moradin, I am back. I failed yet, by your grace, I have rejoined my friends. Protect Nimbus. His passing has not yet come. I was certain everlasting night was to be my fate. But I bask in the light. Yet I feel hollow Soulforger. Were it not for this magical belt, my strength would be gone. What has happened Father?I feel depleted. Torn. What has Inigo done to me?” He scooped a bit of soil and put it into a small pouch. “Perhaps Zayda will be able to help Nimbus. Perhaps she will be able to help me as well…”

Next!
Thalazzar Sees an End in Sight

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