Book Two: The Lone and Level Land
Debts of the Father, Paid by the Son

Berrona Umbersularday - Moradina Eoselunday

The Stars Dim

An Account by Arek

Arek heard the horrifying cries as he stepped out of the tunnel and into the large cavern. He quickly saw Nimbus and Janarl engaged with a foul-looking human near a narrow stone bridge that spanned the wide expanse. Even with his dark vision, Arek could not see the other end of the huge chamber. The Clockwork T’self was moving in to help both Nimbus and Janarl but seemed to be engaged with two creatures that Arek had never seen before. Still feeling his skin crawl as the final echoes of the cries disappeared into the chamber, Arek instinctively knew that these creatures could not be allowed to do so again. His companions would not be able to fight whatever else lay in the cavern if they did. Pointing Unity towards one of the creatures Arek could see, he silently prayed to Moradin: “Great Soulforger, may your grace prevent these creatures from uttering their evils curses!” Arek felt the surge of energy course through his body and through Unity towards the creature. The creature opened its maw but no sound came out. Arek looked to the other creature and it too had been silenced. Arek saw T’self turn his head towards him and blink his metallic eyes, silently relaying to Arek his understanding of what had happened to the creatures he was engaging. Arek smiled to himself: “By Moradin, this fight has begun well. Now lets see if I can help Nimbus and Janarl.” Arek barely had time to finish his thought when he was blinded by the flash of a huge ball of fire streaking through the cavern. He tried to step back into the tunnel but he had no time. The fireball smashed into the cavern wall, just a few feet above the tunnel entrance. Arek was thrown down the carved steps and onto the ledge. He felt his exposed skin burn and smelled burnt material and sulfur. He could not hear anything but the booming echo of the explosion in his ears. For a few seconds, everything went black.

* * *

Arek ran across the slippery bridge as best he could. He was trying to keep an eye on Thalazzar and Nimbus, flying through the cavern on a giant crow summoned by the human wizard. They had been in a brutal aerial fight with Mastof but now the wizard had landed on a section of the cavern that was several feet away from the bridge. “Too far…” Arek felt helpless. He had no means to help his friends at this distance. Arek could only watch. He saw Thalazzar make another pass but this time Nimbus jumped off the flying creature and headed straight for Mastof. Arek saw the necromancer raise his hand as he heard Nimbus shout something. A flash of greenish energy and then Nimbus was falling into the darkness. Arek followed the monk’s body fall into the void, dumbstruck, unable to say anything.

* * *

As Arek’s vision adjusted to the moonlight, Arek took a quick look at their surroundings. The party had emerged from their journey under the Wall but they were still at a considerable height and could see far to the South, East, and West. They were in what appeared to be an abandoned watchtower. Arek took a few deep breaths of fresh air. While he felt at ease underground, it was good to feel the wind against his face. The others said nothing as they emerged from the tunnel. Janarl had arrived moments before Arek. The hunter was near the ledge a few feet away, staring out over the jungles of what Arek remembered Tiberio mentioning would be Divinity. Arek turned towards the bard. He picked up his lyre as soon as he settled against what remained of a stone column and strummed softly. Rin was with Frankie and T’self. The half-elf was paler than usual, bloodied, and looked exhausted. Arek detected not only grief but also pain and frustration as he studied Rin. They would have to talk later. Arek moved closer to a half-collapsed window and looked at the stars. They shone brightly through the grey sky.

Arek remembered staring at the stars when he had only seen fifteen springs. One night, on the hills overlooking Lake Dakar, he was enjoying the glorious view of starlight reflecting on the water, lost in thought, when he heard the heavy footsteps of his uncle Ulgar approaching. Arek did not have time to get up as Ulgar came up to him and sat down in a jingle of chain-mail. “Still staring at the water, wurn-oz, even at night?” Even if the other dwarves from the clan sometimes ridiculed Arek for his uncommon blue eyes, Arek did not mind when his uncle called him “water-eyes”. “Aye uncle, but tonight the stars are dancing on its surface, like sparks flying from Moradin’s anvil.” Arek said, still looking out towards the lake. His uncle looked out as well. “A fine sight for a fine night.” They sat there for a few moments, saying nothing. Finally, Ulgar said “Well, our turn for the watch is up. Let’s go Arek.” Arek got up but still stared out to the stars. He heard his uncle say: “Mind the present Arek, you cannot always look out to what is beyond your reach.” Arek turned to see his Uncle already heading up the path, back to the clan’s settlement. As he started after Ulgar, Arek turned one last time up to the stars and said quietly to himself “Urtak, the Clan Cleric was right. Moradin’s blessings are sometimes where you least expect them.”

But now, staring at the stars, something felt strange to Arek. He felt uneasy, as if being watched. “Nimbus, what do you…” Arek stopped and the others turned to him at the mention of Nimbus. Arek shamefully turned back. For a moment, lost in his memories, Arek had forgotten their loss. The stars now looked dim and the wind blew cold. Arek suddenly felt all the bruises, cuts, and broken bones of their journeys of the past weeks. But none hurt as much as the ache and hollow feeling he felt in his chest.

Arek, bowing his head, his two hands laying on Unity, spoke softly: “Son of Sentar, your light has only dimmed to our eyes. It will forever shine brightly in our hearts. You will be missed my mysterious friend. May you be one with Sentar.”

Ervan dyeth kelosian sin albatar govaeth lo Sentar irridium.” (in Celestial: "Your wisdom beyond your years has brought you into Sentar's splendor.")  

The Lone & Level Land

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