Kingdom of Arboria, Year 2, Month 11
We escaped. We only lost one, and she is now restored to us. That's an achievement in itself, in my book, but bittersweet. The writing of this journal becomes urgent now, not as catharsis, but as a record: if we should fall someone needs to know what we faced in there.
By now, dear reader, you know that we had found a magical gemstone eye, a focus of some kind (as we came to learn) and brimming with evil power (as Jaric found when he opened his soul's eye to it later). Shella pried it from the wall. (The rest of us were standing well back, half expecting the room to implode, or explode, or some other hideous fate to befall Shella. But Shella was not to be deterred.) For a moment, we thought it was all successful; Shella reappeared around the corner tossing the gem blithely in the air and calling out to Gelros.
And that is when they appeared. I will call them the Emaciated One and the Corpulent One; it seems fitting. The Emaciated One was mere skin and bones and tattered rags, with a single red crystalline gem in its single eye socket. This, we believe, is the Vordekai of the legends. The Corpulent One has a name too—I heard the Emaciated One speak it in the heat of battle—but I can't recall it now. It dominated the room, wearing the sort of armor you only ever see in low-brow horror paintings in the pop market and brandishing a giant flaming axe. They appeared with a crack of thunder and a sense of impending doom. (I'm not exaggerating here; that's exactly what it felt like.)
As I recall, the conversation went like this…
The Emaciated One: "Fools! Give me back my focus!"
Gelros Zhevons, Duke of Arboria: "Ah, no?"
And then they attacked.
Both of the monsters' eyes gleamed with that same ability we had previously observed in the lesser cyclops, only this time it appears they applied it to moving first and fastest. The Corpulent One swung his axes three times, and neatly divided Everiel into three pieces. Just like that, dead on the floor. I've seen death and war, but that hideous display shook me. It shook the others too, I could tell. Thankfully Shella didn't actually see it happen; I believe she would have lost her mind then and there.
The next few moments were chaos. I won't lie, we were in disarray. Shella came charging out the passage, murder in her eyes. Narzeth somehow managed to brush her on the way by and expand her to twice her normal size, making her equally as terrifying as the Corpulent One itself. I took a shot, hoping to dislodge that axe, but failed to land it. A tough shot at the best of times, but the nerves didn't help. Kris and his cat entered the fray too, but seemed mostly ineffective against that hideous non-Euclidean armor. Moreover, Kris paid for his movement by soaking a punishing axe blow.
Fortunately for us, the cyclops made mistakes too. The Emaciated One attempted to cast a spell right in front of Kris, Shella, and Shadetail; it didn't even attempt to dodge. Perhaps it has grown accustomed to it's own dominance and didn't expect resistance? In any case, my companions made it pay for that error, and it staggered back. It looked surprised, at least as surprised as dead skin and bones can look. I followed through with several arrows, which appeared only partially effective but still kept it busy ducking.
As Shella bore the brunt of the Corpulent One's wrath, both Gelros and Jaric tried to heal her, but failed. The same demoralizing aura and sense of dread I could so clearly feel was somehow affecting their healing magic too. Narzeth was able to use his boneshattering spell, but to be honest, the impact seemed quite limited to me. At this point, I was getting quite worried about losing Shella and therefore the fight, but at that moment the Emaciated One called a retreat. With another thunderous crack, they were gone. The words "Cephal, attend me!" echoed in the air.
Dishevelled, we looked at Gelros. He looked at a loss too, but then said simply, "We're leaving." And so we left. Oh yes, there was the minor matter of "Cephal" (we surmise), who turned out to be a zombified wizard and attempted to stop us with fire. We eliminated him as a threat. Remembering what had happened with the cyclops zombie, Kris took his body with us. We unceremoniously stuffed Everiel's remains into our bag of holding and beat a retreat.
Amazingly, we met no further resistance on our way out. Upon reaching our encampment outside the valley, we rested a brief night and then made all haste for the Nomen village, the Eye still in our possession. Gelros had a long discussion with Mother Moon. She is overjoyed at the safe return of Xamanthe (and has even gifted us Skybolt!), but the shadow of Vordekai's return hangs like a dark cloud over the celebrations. Shella has been dour and snappy since we ran from the Valley of the Dead; she detests leaving a fight unfinished.
Jaric returned Everiel from death. I am sure that was an expensive proposition. Never let it be said that Gelros does not invest in his followers. I was not present, but I hear Everiel had some strange experiences beyond the grave… something about chanting, fire, the sound of feet, and seeking the "trials." It sounded very religious. I don't go for that stuff, but what with the evil undead cyclops and all even I am reserving judgment this time.
I should also note that we identified Cephal: it turns out he is one of the lost leaders of Varynhold. Even to my poorly trained eye, his body clearly shows signs of extensive, methodical torture. His bones are broken and re-knitted (poorly); his robes are shredded. He possessed a number of powerful magical items. Now that he is a corpse, we relieved him of these. Jaric insisted on a proper burial, which is only right; the man was noble once. Before he became a dead and broken slave.
We have decided to break the Eye. Seeing as last time we did anything with it, the Emaciated and Corpulent Ones appeared, we're going about this carefully. Mother Moon has directed us to a pool at the top of a high waterfall, with a small island. Tomorrow, we will set an ambush there, and Shella will destroy the eye. I don't know what will happen then, but the terrain should at least be more favorable than an evil chamber in a dark fortress.
If I don't return, I've personally asked Xamanthe to carry this journal back to Arboria and warn them of what's coming. Jaric was praying; Everiel and Shella were sparring (I guess that's how they pray?). I don't pray, but if I did, this would seem like a good time. Instead, I spent the afternoon training Bessie and practicing archery with the centaur. Something to take my mind off the task to come.
Wish us luck.
- Defeat Cephal (6,400 XP)
- Quest: Return Xamanthe (7,200 XP
- Cephal's gear
- 4th: Fire Shield, Lesser Globe of Invulnerability
- 3rd: Fireball, Fly, Wind wall
- 2nd: Acid arrow, Glitterdust (DC 14), Mirror Image, Scorching Ray
- 1st: Burning Hands, Mage Armor, Magic Missile, Shield
- +1 Dagger
- Ring of Protection +2
- Rod of Lesser Selective Magic
- Amulet Natural Armor +1
- 9 potions cure moderate
- Skybolt (Darkwood / Ivory +2 Thundering Composite Longbow STR +4)