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Letter #14: Death is Only the Beginning

Dear Maria,

You are no doubt shocked by the demise with which our antagonistic mage foe fell by; that malicious, sneering, loathsome Hamir who had, at best, burned all supplies of our patience with every interaction with the man and, at worst, actively sought to see any number of our group impoverished, imprisoned, or immolated upon a pyre.

Yet his death hung little on our minds. I had interacted little with Hamir yet I felt I knew his personality very well; well enough that I saw in him the most base reflections of my father, and for a person to have such cold a heart I dare say I think no one shall weep for Hamir; for no one did for my father. What was a point of contention was my continuation of studying the Tome of Twisted Skin; that cumbersome and imposing slab of leathered flesh that dominated every moment of our presence at the ship with an imposing doom that clung to the air like a choking miasma.

Once I proved myself of sound mind and reason to maintain my examination of the book, I was molested no more; I was even offered the support of Leith’s company and powers should the volume begin another trick far more dangerous than the ones we had previously seen. As I was magically able to decipher the giant script and as it was written in such large hand that the font was of clear interpretation, I discovered the exact nature of this book.

This tome was not only a spell book – as indicated by the wish spell I found the book opened to – but also an account, almost autobiographical, of the journeys and experiments and rituals done by a mage. But not just any mage. I suspect you may not know his name, for I believe there was only one book I found any mention of this person in. If you feel a brave or rash need to pursue some investigation of your own, I can only dissuade you from the act; for what I am about to surmise here shall be more merciful to your mind than any account out there.

An occultist from over a millennia ago whose name was forgotten by all but his most devoted and zealous admirers. A high-elf by the name Zabazius Izralael Darrion; famous for being considered the first to reach lichdom; a perverse and twisted parody of life maintained by dark magick, achieved by inhumane and diabolical rituals, creating a powerful undead whose influence can be felt beyond death – if such a thing is even possible for a being like Darrion. He existed in the age of giants – no doubt why this book was here amongst this trove and in giant text. Was this the book of Darrion, or of an Ostorian disciple of his who wished to replicate the lichdom process. This book is a guide to such unnatural abuse of the weave.

I was in a state of such shock and awe that it took the others’ yells of alarum to break me from my investment and notice the veins of blue lightning crawling across the deck of the ship. They moved in such sudden jerks of power that my flesh began to stand on end; great hands of electricity scuttled away from the book, sparking spasmodically before their pointed claws wrapped around Hamir’s corpse like two great constricting snakes.

Hamir’s eyelids burned away to reveal two bulbs of great white that shone from his skull, and in a torrent of streaks of swirling lightning, his body rose into the air. Bolts of electricity arced from his back, landing against the wood beneath, held up by these crackling spiders’ legs that constantly shifted, searing the deck below as it did so.

I shot off an ice-knife, landing solidly against his roasted torso before it shattered into a blizzard, Leith followed with a scared flame, Brixton loosened an arrow, Adrik healed himself as the last fight with Hamir had been tough for our brawler, and Gudael blessed Leith, Adrik, and myself before summoning her spectral blade and ramming it through the undead’s clavicle. The lightning roiled around the levitating corpse, eyes still burning an unholy white, as his skin and flesh began to meld once more back together, a crochet of torn tissue and muscle.

Whatever was controlling Hamir’s corpse like some macabre puppet began to screech in a high pitch ring, paralyzing all but two of us. Adrik was able to make a strike at a blackened portion of flesh that had been carved out by Gudael’s spectral longsword. And as the axe sunk into the wound, the tendrils of lightning ceased, Hamir’s body fell once more to the ground, and those of us who were paralyzed were released from our affliction.

Adrik cleaved what was left of Hamir in twain and placed his body further out by the wall of skulls we had come across upon our first delve into the Underdark. It was during this that some of us caught the stench of death – specifically that of giant spiders – coming from where we had combatted the ogres some days ago; where we had first met Gudael. Whether their bodies were now merely under the full influence of rot or if something larger than they had gotten to them, we decided to lay low and keep sound and light to a minimum until we had rested.

I took it upon myself to read what few passages I could in the book before resting, seeing Adrik wonder over to our good cleric as she began to pull out a collection of paints.

In what we considered the ‘morning’ was, I awoke to find Leith out of sorts and requesting of my knowledge. He had found a crown and a ring amongst the gold, but only knew of the crown’s origins. Leith knew it as the Crown of Ire and that it belonged to a Zabazius Darrion, but beyond that he was unsure of the implications; neither of us could discern the identity of the ring. I revealed that the book, just like the crown, belonged to Darrion and told of the necromantic properties the two items could potentially hold, especially when together in the possession of the wielder.

Leith and I discussed the implications of these items falling into the wrong hands and what to do. We could not trust the mages, that was certain. It would have been unwise as well to give unfettered faith to the Queen. But could we trust the Daughters of Twilight? I don’t doubt their devotion, but this book’s contents and influences are beyond the scope of mortal beings. Not only that, but with the example of Milmor Glass, the Daughters of Twilight might have some people in their employ who are not of the most honest hearts and may easily give into corruption. So long as this book is not in our protection, we cannot know for sure the safety or diligence with which this book will be granted.

It was decided that this book cannot remain down here at the very least and that we may start our recovery of the book at the Daughter of Twilight before finalising our resolve on what to do. We made a sled type vehicle aided by Adrik’s strength and my floating disk in order to move the abominable thing.

At the crevasse, expecting to have to make some strange concoction of a plan in order to get the great tome across, the skeleton of a bridge had started to have been made by the workers Adrik had spoken to sometime before. We passed over it with much ease and found Zandor Rem waiting for us at the entrance of the dig site. With Rem in tow, we made our way to the Daughters of Twilight, perhaps forever leaving behind the Barachial Envoy.

Upon arrival at the Daughters of Twilight there was contention as to whom we should deliver the book to. While Glass was our main point of contact, our boss, and had been told about the book in advance, Sister Iolanthra Imdrael was the Cancellarius of the Solanor Temple and would likely have more power – both magically and institutionally – than Mister Glass

It was during the discussion of whether we could trust Mister Glass or not – or whether his involvement in this would at all be beneficial to our cause – that Milmor himself strolled up to us, inquiring rudely of Leith – as the gnome is seemingly want to do every time he addresses the good elf – of what he might not be entirely trustworthy of knowing, especially as our employer. Imposingly, he took it upon himself to resolve the discussion by seeing us to his room in order to discuss the items in question. We introduced Rem – who had disguised himself so that others about the city may not recognise him and thusly spot in him some ill-intention against the Envoy – and Milmor learned of Rem’s alliance.

Perceiving no other course of action around the gnomish obstacle, we revealed to him the Tome, the Crown of Ire, and the Ring. At this, Milmor paled. The gnome, despite his seemingly infinite wisdom and self-proclaimed importance, was terrified by these items, and suggested we take them to Sister Seneshal Iolanthra Imdrael. Gudael ascended the towers of the Solanor Temple to entreat Sister Imdrael whilst Leith had a private discourse with Mister Glass.

It was not long before we were sent for. Ascending into Sister Imdrael’s audience chambers, the ceiling above us was a glimmering dome of stained glass, depicting a mighty fist of flaming rock striking a single moon; its remnants scattering like sand amongst the heavens – the Day of Pa-Kad frozen in a haunting still; muraled above our heads.

Here we met Sister Imdrael – those of us who hadn’t before. She described to us in grim detail the history of this book and the crown. Just as I had feared, it did indeed belong to that lich Darrion and she sought out our most surface thoughts on the matter. I cannot tell you what the others were, for I was not she who could delve into the minds of others, but I was indeed concerned. Concerned that this book might be taken and used by some corrupted individual, influenced by it to assist in reaching whatever ends it may, and yet that I may never see it again. That within its infinite evil and malicious pages I might never find the answer to my questions.

When she turned on Adrik she seemed much more affected by his thoughts than anyone else’s. She spoke some words of comfort to him before attempting to calm his emotions through her divinely granted manipulation of the weave. Much like myself, Adrik took exception to being the subject of any spell that may alter his true self and so, politely excused himself before leaving the chambers.

We agreed to meet him once more at the Broken Oak Tavern. Meanwhile, Sister Imdrael assured us that the Daughters of Twilight will ensure the books safety and protection from covetous claws. Brixton was given the ring, identified merely as a Ring of Rain that may allow the wearer to transmute the rain into a flight of stairs. I was once again loath to leave the book. But besides on our own person – which its sheer size alone, not to speak of its malignant influence on those around it, would be near impossible – it is better off here, in the care of clerics and those close enough, spiritually, to Sehanine that they might seek her guidance and protection from that monstrous book and its wicked companion, the Crown of Ire.

On our way out, Milmor suggested we go speak to Drazael, in order to ensure our pay for the job we had just completed – and were potentially about to die for. As for Milmor himself, he was scolded by Sister Imdrael for his continuously unscrupulous and extra-legal activities that he participated in not only while under her employ but also in using the Solanor Temple itself as a base of operations for his criminal tasks. We left as Milmor was told his position at the Temple was needing to be reviewed and revised by the Daughters; and with that we went to meet with Adrik.

We found him polishing off a shot of dragon’s breath and looking despondent, despite his not-so-cheery claims that he was fine. It was here that Leith relayed to us a potential course of action. You see, we had little to no idea where in the world to take our stolen cache of Ostorian treasure. Thantifaxath? Aphrodious? Dagdagiel? Leith suggested inland, to Lockhearte Lake. ‘And into the den of the Black Guard?’ we all thought to ourselves. Yet the elf elaborated on his plot. He told us that we might the Servants of the Fox. Who they specifically were, we had little clue; but Leith seemed to know and trust them enough to risk going inland – the direction where the Inquisitor Rennaz was likely coming from – on a ship inundated with stolen magical items that would likely be of great interest to the Black Guard.

With a destination for our yet unpurloined vessel, we left to meet with Drazael so that we may collect our compensation; our share of the previously pilfered wagons. At his house we discovered that, out of the Triumvirate’s most gracious gratitude, they not only had some large sum of gold for us but also had put aside a collection of minor yet still potent magical items. Drazael, evidently, did not trust Rem like Glass may have – perhaps the dwarf was unsure of a man who fell in unapologetically with thieving magicians and thus feared for his own trove of items – and suggested to Adrik that the mage be disposed of.

Adrik stood his ground and denied the request from his cousin, pledging his undying confidence and faith in the faux-employer-turned-ally. Next, we were disclosed to the amount our reward would be. With a fifth going to each member of our party, we were to be granted five-hundred-thousand gold pieces; to a total of one-hundred-thousand each.

We were stunned. I was stunned. In one week I had acquire enough gold to not only settle my portion of the Montkoff reparations, but also the debt incurred by my own lecherous actions and Pyotr’s destructive nature. I have requested that Drazael send to you eighty-thousand gold pieces, that you may handle the cash and so, with your expert orderliness and untempted heart, you may put our woes to rest for good.

That leaves twenty-thousand. I was immediately given one-thousand and was promised to obtain what share I had left in due time. I might request some other large sum be sent to you as well. With the safety-net that are my fellow companions I feel no anxiety around the loss of finances – however, you have wages to pay, upkeep and repairs to maintain, and a right beyond any others to be spoilt to your heart’s content, having suffered my presence as well as my sudden and surprise departure.

This letter shall conclude here, for despite more of the day to tell you about, I cannot focus on any of that. My heart and soul are elated that our debts may finally be cleared; that no more shall this weight claw at my hefty shoulders. Though that does leave one in an existential predicament. What now? What shall I strive for henceforth? I could go along with my companions yet without drive nor desire I feel that my days and achievements will be hollow.

I have much to consider.

Your famously rich and famously hunted husband,

Baron Edryn Styewell Krillinovich Montkoff

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