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The Caverns of Safehaven


This is a fantasy novel I have been working on and off for several years. As I have taken a bit of a break from blogging, I thought I might share the first of two prologues with you. I might share more if there is any sort of demand for it.

PROLOGUE I

Then

 

Excerpt from The Hero’s Guild Civic Guidebook 244th Edition, edited by Guild Archivist Master Tivas Kusheri

SAFEHAVEN

Located at the confluence of the Sea of Storms and the River Tranquodius, Safehaven is a major seaport on the Southeastern Coast of the continent known as Kingsland, with trade routes to the continents Dynarus, Emach, Volsove, Finderes, Tomok, Ambrosius, Motar and Shelland, as well as the Eastern Empires, the Island Kingdoms and beyond. Safehaven has existed more or less in its current location for nearly a thousand years. Because of its strategic importance on both land and sea trade routes, nearly every species maintains an embassy here. Even the reclusive Mer are found here in larger numbers than nearly all the other seaports in the Realm. The Mariner’s Guild is a formidable presence in Safehaven, exercising great political power in civic matters. Elected officials of the township, including the Lord Mayor (the office of which is filled as of this writing by the honorable Alexandre de Bont) are almost always affiliated with the Mariner’s Guild in some way. A wise politician in Safehaven will listen when the Mariner’s Guild speaks.

 

As for the Hero’s Guild, we maintain a sizable recruiting and training facility in Safehaven as well as a regional assignments office more suited to much larger municipalities than Safehaven, but as many contracts requiring travel to other continents bring Guild members who cannot by reason of aversion or lack of funds use Portal Magic to transverse these distances, the necessity is there. Finding passage to even the most remote of locations is generally obtainable with minimal difficulty, and the Guildhall in Safehaven has a diverse roster of talents to fulfill any need.

 

Of course, the usual guilds, societies and confraternities maintain presences in Safehaven ranging from small offices to large complexes. As such, Safehaven maintains a population of fifteen to twenty thousand at any given moment. While the town’s economic livelihood revolves around the docks (and the public houses that feed, house and entertain the mostly transient population of sailors and teamsters), there is a large presence of importers, exporters and merchants that keep the economic engine of the transport of cargo running. While some farms surround the town, the Hills of Westmarch (in which Safehaven is nestled) are very dangerous and are a short distance from the safety of the town walls, making farming an occupation that requires a great deal of bravery and skill with arms. Part of the Guild’s contract with the town requires the protection of outlying farms, who supply the town with much of its food supply (although fishing is the main source of food for the town). Guild magic users can find plenty of work weaving protective spells around the various farms and ranches near Safehaven. A number of Imperial Wilderness Outposts, staffed with a minimum of a garrison of men, maintain vigilance in the Hills for larger threats, including the armies of Ur Bathog (which is a perilously short distance away on the other side of the River Tranquodius).

 

Because of its proximity to Ur Bathog (less than 100 miles away) and its strategic location on Realm shipping lines, Safehaven has unfortunately drawn more than its share of attention from Ur Bathog during all three wars. During the Bad Times following the most recent conflict when the Armies of the Underground overwhelmed the Realm and the Spider Queen sat on the Throne of Brightness for a time, Safehaven suffered most grievously under the boot of Ur Bathog. As a result, Safehaven became a hotbed of subversive activity against the Spider Queen, most of which manifested themselves as raids against the Black Fleet of Ur Bathog. The most daring and infamous pirate based in Safehaven during those years was Kerland Rodo, whose ship the Red Wind created a great deal of difficulty for the Queen and her occupying force. Many of the vaunted warships of the Black Fleet, Ur Bathog’s finest sailing ships, went to the bottom of the Sea of Storms courtesy of the courageous crew of the Red Wind. Many magical items coveted by the dark Wizard-Knights of Ur Bathog, the dreaded Plaguebringers, were looted by Rodo and his crew. After years of harassing the Black Fleet, the Spider Queen eventually turned an inordinate amount of attention to Kerland Rodo, who was slowly driven to Hunter’s Point near the border of Ur Bathog itself, where he was engaged in a fierce battle with Admiral Mantis, the Scourge of the Seas. Although the raiders fought bravely, they were terribly outnumbered and the Red Wind was eventually fired and sunk. While a few of his inner circle survived, Rodo himself was never seen again following the battle. It is assumed he was killed during the encounter, or died of his wounds shortly thereafter.

 

                                                *                                   *                                   *

 

            The sun was sinking low in the nearly cloudless sky, a nearly perfect afternoon, neither too hot nor too cold. Summer’s end was approaching, the kiss of autumn was in the air. A good day to die, thought Kerland Rodo with a grim smile. He lay in the bottom of the rowboat, feeling the motion of what had once been the captain’s gig of the vaunted corsair Red Wind as the survivors of his inner circle rowed down the River Tranquodius. His closest friend, Cintas Tolsever of the Woodland Elven, was busy trying to Heal him, but Rodo knew his friend’s efforts would be in vain. No, Kerland Rodo was dying and he knew it, and the thought didn’t distress him quite so much as he thought it might have. For a 39-year-old man, he felt very old and tired but he had been feeling that way the past year, as the Black Fleet with their thrice-damned Plaguebringers had closed in on him. All of his skills and cleverness had been devoted to evading the wrath of the Spider Queen; he had been of little use to the suffering people of the Westmarch. Of course, fighting a hopeless war against the forces of darkness will tire a man out some. The thought brought a slightly ironic grin to his once-handsome face, now pale and blood-streaked.

            His gaze turned to the southwest. The plume of smoke that marked the final resting place of his beloved Red Wind was still visible in the distance, which brought a pain to his heart much sharper than that of any of his wounds. Rodo sighed. All things must end, and he had known all his life that his end would come sooner rather than later. An oracle in the Island Kingdom of B’Landes had foretold it.

            Wearily, Rodo raised his head. “Cintas my friend. Did the circle…” he coughed, spitting up a trickle of blood that Cintas didn’t fail to notice. “Are they here? Where is Quinn Goodreaux? I do not see him.” The elf answered gravely. “Dead. A rock troll stove in his skull as he protected our escape.”

 “And Fortunato? I do not see him either.”

            Cintas’ voice was quiet. “Also slain.” He paused, almost unwilling to say the words that must follow, but he knew his captain had to be informed. “By mortisvag blade.”
            Rodo sank back, letting out a groan, although he had never yet made a sound despite horrific wounds. The sound was part grief for his friend, but part realization that his worst fear had come to pass. “Ahhhh, Gods. Then his soul has gone into the darkness. By nightfall, his corpse will belong to the Spider Queen and the Army of the Underground will come to our very doorstep with the undead Fortunato at its head.” Cintas nodded sadly, his handsome face composed as befitting his Elvish heritage but his eyes showing the great pain in his heart. At least, Rodo thought he saw it. The dying may see things not as they were, but as they wanted them to be. Cintas was as stoic as any of his race, but Rodo knew that the elf was as aware as he what would happen if the Queen were to find what was hidden in the Cavern. If Kerland had the strength, he himself would have been screaming in frustration. So much had been sacrificed and it would all be for naught if the Spider Queen looted his caverns. His lair was a labyrinth filled with traps but eventually she would find it. It was inevitable now. If he could have cried, he would have.

            All at once, what he had to do came to him as if whispered to him by some merciless God. He shuddered and felt his body chill. Cintas, seeing this, threw a blanket on him, misinterpreting the significance of his horror for pain. The pain of his wounds paled besides what he must now endure. He closed his eyes and shuddered. Oh Gods, the burden that he had to bear; this was too much.

            When he spoke again, his voice was barely a harsh whisper. Rodo was finding it more and more difficult to speak. “The Orb must not be taken. We cannot allow it. The Mer…?” Cintas shook his head. “They suffered terrible losses, my Captain. Barely a hundred survive, not much more. They could possibly stand a few moments against the might of Ur Bathog, but no longer. They would be wiped out in a matter of minutes, and the Queen would still possess what she has sought for so long. It may be that we must attempt to destroy the Orb.”

            Rodo opened his eyes then. He seemed strangely peaceful, Cintas thought, but the steel that had made him a formidable captain was still present. The dying man turned his gaze to the elf. “We do not know that we can destroy the Orb, Cintas. We also do not know that in destroying the Orb, we may be achieving the very thing the Spider Queen is after. We must also remember the prophecy. A warrior, the Lost Child, will find it. His son, the Statesman, will protect it and the son of his son, the Great King, will at last use it to banish Darkness forever. We cannot destroy it, Cintas. We must not.”

 “What do you suggest then, Captain Rodo? We can remove it from the Cavern…find a place of safety for it.”

 “No, the damned Plaguebringers would know in an instant that the Orb was vulnerable. Its presence would draw them like a moth to flame.”

            Cintas frowned. “What, then? Fortunato will know the way to safely lead the Queen and her army right to it. He can hand it to them himself. The Hills of Westmarch are much safer for the Orb than the Cavern is.” Cintas didn’t like where this was going and felt an icy hand grip his heart as his Captain whispered “You have the right of it, but nonetheless the Orb must remain in the Cavern.” Rodo coughed up a fresh dribble of blood. “I have a plan, though it is a fell one.”   

            The dying man took in a long, shuddering breath. Even breathing was difficult now; soon enough he would not be breathing at all. “Your people have a ceremony that they perform in times of great need. A spell of protection that ties the spirits of the dead and the living to a single object or place…” Rodo’s body was racked by hacking coughs and more blood and spittle trickled from his lips. Cintas sat back abruptly, his eyes wide with horror as he realized what his friend was asking. “You wish me to perform the Shinia’a Zarus? Gods and trees, Kerland, no! You’d be condemned to an eternity of torture, never knowing rest. You’d be compelled to kill to protect the Orb and with each death your soul would become bleaker, more hollow. At last you’d be worse than a ghost. You would be a mindless, soulless spirit compelled to remain and kill without knowing the reason why, full of pain that cannot know surcease, at least until the Lost Child comes to rightfully claim the Orb and you might just kill him for spite. I cannot sentence you to such horror, Kerland.”

            The dying captain clutched the hand of his friend. “There is no other way. And once the Lost Child comes to claim the Orb, my soul will at last know peace, or at least oblivion.”Cintas tried to speak. Other options would spring into being, but his logical, orderly mind would shoot them down before he could speak them aloud. The sound of the oars dipping into the water and the grunts of the oarsmen underlying it were the only sounds as Kerland lay, his eyes closed, the blood from his wounds pooling in the bottom of the boat.

            Eight men had survived the fury of Ur Bathog at Hunter’s Point, and all of them were in this boat. Besides Cintas and Rodo was Simon Cambridge, a small, lithe man who had, with typical modesty, awarded himself the title of King of Traps. One of the craftiest thieves in the Realm, Simon had devised many of the traps in the Caverns that were meant to protect the men who lived there. Now, those same traps would protect a treasure beyond price, if they held. Simon noticed Cintas’ stare and gave him a weak grin. Well-loved by the women of Safehaven, Simon Cambridge had survived the battle without a scratch. He always seemed to fall on his feet, like the cat that was his animus.

            Kren Forgelighter rowed beside him, his Dwarven frame more than equal to rowing the boat, though it was a task he would scarcely have trained for in the depths of Fire Mountain. Kren was a magnificent warrior and a talented weapons master. The dwarrow had seen more than his fair share of tragedy already, and by the looks of it, would see more this day. Kren was silent, giving complete concentration on the task at hand and yet if a soldier of the Army of Hate had appeared on the shore of the river, no doubt he would have been the first to notice. His flame-red hair and beard were matted with dried blood, some of it his own but most that of those he had fought with such valor on the deck of the Red Wind in the final moments of the battle.

            Andor Morgan manned the tiller, one arm broken and nearly useless. The blonde Clirrican was the war strategist for Rodo, nearly as clever as the captain himself. Much of Rodo’s success was due to Morgan’s meticulous planning and preparation. Morgan’s vanity, however, was a weakness that sometimes infuriated the elf; the two were never close. Morgan had thought himself Rodo’s closest friend, and he was, if you considered only humans. Perhaps Cintas resented Rodo’s friendship with Morgan, as Morgan clearly resented Cintas. However, there was also mutual respect between the two for the other’s talent and ability.

            Rhodes Jamar, helmsman of the Red Wind sat near Morgan. Jamar, a native of Safehaven, had many generations of mariner in his blood. He had what Rodo called “a tracker’s gift” and had the uncanny ability to predict what a ship’s captain that was being chased by the Red Wind would do. Cintas could not recall an occasion that a ship, once in Jamar’s sight, had gotten away. The leather-skinned Jamar was broad-shouldered and splay-legged, but strong with the broadsword, as many dead piled near the Red Wind’s wheel would have attested, had they been alive enough to do so. Jamar was not a handsome man, but his blazing intensity was unforgettable. He turned now to Cintas, a worried expression on his unlovely face. “Cintas, we are near to the Cavern, perhaps five minutes.” Cintas nodded. The elf knew his decision would have to come soon, but how could he decide to damn his closest friend’s eternal soul?

            Near to Jamar sat Reid Sarkasian, Rodo’s bard and wizard. Even now, the rotund human was muttering incantations, hoping to confuse any longboats from the Black Fleet that might be following. So far, he had done a magnificent job. Reid was a man of great passion, but he had never taken a woman to his bed, as far as Cintas knew, which was to many human men the measure of a man. The Elven made their measure on ability and accomplishment, and by that measure, Reid Sarkasian was as great a man as any in the boat. His formidable talents had saved them many times, and he was as devoted to Rodo as any man in the Circle, save one.

            Crouching next to Rodo’s prone body was the last of the survivors. Jupa of the Windward Isles, master of the cudgel, was Rodo’s bodyguard. He was the greatest warrior of the entire crew, a chief among his people. His dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail, several ribbons decorating his locks, each one symbolizing a battle he had been victorious in. The side of his head was shaved in the manner of his people, marking him as an important man in his tribe. Elaborate tattoos, depicting his family history, decorated his head, chest and neck. The thick torso of Jupa bespoke his strength, not only of body but of character. Jupa was a simple man, given to simple thoughts. The strategies of war bored him. He preferred to wade in and hack away, but he was disciplined enough to change his style when fighting an enemy of superior numbers, and he had done so with great success. He wore only a leather loincloth. Bonechains dangled from his ears, nipples and around his waist. It was he who had carried Rodo from the burning deck of the doomed ship, although he had been gravely wounded himself. He had refused any Healing, insisting that Reid and Cintas concentrate their energies on Rodo. From the blood that bubbled out of the gash in Jupa’s side with every heavy breath, Cintas reckoned that Jupa would be following his beloved Captain into the Eternal Forest not long after.

            All of them were good men, all legends in their own way, but most important to Cintas, all friends, they were family when you get right down to it. It was Rodo who was the greatest among them, who had fought the tyranny of Ur Bathog and used its riches to feed and clothe the starving and hopeless citizens of the Realm, who were slowly dying under the yoke of the Spider Queen. He had fought the good fight and saved countless lives with his own blood. It was just not fair that he should die this way. And, to consign his soul to eternal suffering for his troubles, never to know the peace of Zindr’anamor, the Forest Everlasting? Cintas found the taste bitter in his mouth, all the more so because he knew his friend was right this one final time. Gods, he deserves better thought Cintas to himself and that was as much prayer as he was capable of giving. The Gods had abandoned the Realm, it seemed.

            “I will do it,” said Cintas in a strangled whisper. Rodo nodded and closed his eyes, seemingly more at peace now. More violent coughing and more blood dribbling from his lips. Cintas knew, as any good healer would, how terrible Rodo’s wounds were. Will alone was keeping their captain alive, it certainly wasn’t his ministrations. Morgan looked back at Rodo worriedly, then looked up at Cintas, his eyes asking the question he could not bring himself to speak aloud. “It will not be long now,” Cintas said quietly. Morgan looked away. The others heard it too. Cintas thought he heard Sarkasian choking back a sob. He dared not look; the emotion in these men were almost more than the elf could bear. Jamar was the one who spoke. “There is the entrance. Pull for the shore, lads.” Nobody in that boat, save Cintas and perhaps Rodo knew an even more terrible truth about the Shinia’a Zarus. For the ceremony to work properly, three others must die as well. Cintas wondered who among them would be willing to lay their lives down with their captain.

            The boat beached on a wide shoreline at the foot of a gently sloping hill. The more able-bodied men picked up Rodo’s litter, Jupa now too weak to handle it alone. They carried him into the hills that had sheltered them for so long. Rodo was glassy-eyed, occasionally grunting when the bearers stumbled. Jupa led the party, cudgel at the ready, staggering at times, a fresh flow of blood erupting from his wounded side. His loincloth was almost black, soaked through with the blood of his wounds, and the blood of the warriors of Ur Bathog, whom he had sent to whatever Hell awaited them.

            As the sun descended to the horizon, the perfect afternoon coming to an end, they came to the entrance of a cave, made nondescript by hanging vines and underbrush. It didn’t look like it could go back more than a few meters, but once inside, a magic word spoken by Sarkasian revealed a passage that went deep into the ground below the Hills of Westmarch. Silently, the men carried their leader into the familiar stronghold they had lived in for nearly twenty years, all knowing that this time, he would not be leaving it.

            They expertly navigated the often confusing labyrinth of passages, past lethal traps set in better times by Simon Cambridge, past rooms filled with fabulous wealth, plunder taken from the treasure galleons of Ur Bathog. At last, they came to what appeared to be a dead end. Quickly, Sarkasian chanted several words of power while making a broad circular waving gesture with both arms. A door came into view, undetectable even by most magical means. The door led into a chamber unadorned and Spartan. Only a pedestal of limestone in the center of the room served as furniture. On the pedestal sat an unremarkable crystal sphere, polished to brilliance, about eight inches in diameter, and wound with silver filigree. From the interior of the crystal, a soft blue-white glow emanated, lighting the room, casting no shadows. Expert magic users, such as Sarkasian and Cintas, could detect the enormous power that the artifact contained. Even those without magical ability could feel that this was no mere glowbulb.

            The bearers set down the litter and stepped back. Rodo was nearly white-faced, eyes closed, breathing ragged. The shadow of death was clearly upon his face. Cintas knew that Rodo couldn’t survive even another hour. He spoke for his friend in a soft, strong voice. “My friends, our captain is near death. The fellowship of the Red Wind is no more.” Jupa groaned and sank to the floor, no longer able to stand. Tears were streaming down Sarkasian’s face, and the others appeared to be on the verge of weeping themselves. All could sense something of enormous importance was about to happen. Cintas didn’t intend to keep them waiting. “Captain Rodo has asked me to perform an ancient rite that we Elven rarely perform. It is called the Shinia’a Zarus which in our tongue means “woeful binding.” It is much more than that.

            “The purpose of the ceremony is to bind the soul of an individual to a place or an object, and install that soul as the protector of that which it is bound to. It is not something we Elven do lightly, for it forever separates that soul from the afterlife, and denies that person a peaceful death. It also, over time, warps that soul in ways that cannot always be predicted, or even imagined, removing as time goes by anything of the light that once dwelled within it. Our captain has asked me to bind his soul to the Orb.

            “There is no other way to protect the Orb. The armies of the Spider Queen will arrive here in hours, the secrets of our Cavern betrayed by the soul that once belonged to Fortunato, stripped from him by the Spider Queen and her cursed mortisvag blade. The Army of the Underground would take the Orb to Ur Bathog and present it to its dark ruler, and she would plunge the Realm into eternal darkness and pain, worse than now, as unimaginable as that sounds. It would mean the destruction of light, justice and peace. It would mean the end of life itself, as she makes herself into the goddess she dreams of becoming. We cannot destroy the Orb, for we do not know what its destruction would do to the Realm. It might end all life in all the worlds and dimensions; it is that powerful. Our world would never have been, and all our lives and those we love, and those we revere would never have occurred. We have one option open to us now, and it is a terrible one.

            “The rite is costly. Kerland Rodo will die in its performance, but his death is certain regardless. The ritual, however, requires three lives to follow him in death, to aid him in his responsibility. They will be specters, not bound to the Orb in the same way; they will be called to it by Rodo when aid is needed, so they will know some peace, but it is a fitful slumber. They will be released to eternal rest when the Orb is safely in the hands of the Lost Child. There will not be enough left of Rodo’s soul when that happens to allow him any sort of rest. I myself cannot be one of the three, since it is I who must perform the ritual. Three of the six of you must decide here and now to die. It will be painless, I can promise you. Time is short, so you must choose quickly.”

            Jupa struggled to his feet, his eyes filled with pain. He could not speak, but he tapped his chest twice. I will go, he gestured. Cintas nodded. “You were a foregone conclusion, warrior of the Isles. Who else?”

            There were looks exchanged among the remaining men, then slowly Reid Sarkasian stepped forward. “I will go. I have nothing left in me, and I am tired. Let other bards sing songs of me!” His lips twisted in a ghastly approximation of the easy, crooked grin that the cheerful, outgoing bard was known for. Rhodes Jamar stepped forward immediately. “My beautiful Red Wind is ashes flying on the breeze to safe harbor among the stars. A helmsman without a ship is of no damn use to anyone. I will join my ship and my shipmates in the Hereafter.” Cintas noted the great sigh of relief breathed in by Morgan.

            Simon Cambridge let loose a long, shuddering sigh and then spoke. “I suppose I should die now as well. That way, the secrets of the traps of our cavern will never fall into the hands of the Queen.” Cintas smiled sadly at the thief. “Simon, my friend, your words do you credit, but we only need three. You shall live, and make your way to our friends in Shile. You know of who I speak. They will help you forget and deny the Queen your knowledge.” The self-styled King of Traps hung his head and nodded quickly; Cintas could see the tears falling from the eyes of the thief.

            The elf then turned to the stout, flame-haired dwarf. “Kren Forgelighter, our people have been enemies since the sun and the moon were new. And I say to you that I have never known a stouter friend or a warrior I’d more wish beside me in combat. You, along among us, have children and family to tend to. Your duty now lies with them. There is no shame in walking past the dark door the others pass through.”

            Kren looked up at the elf, and Cintas was oddly moved to see the tears flowing without shame down the dwarrow’s cheeks. “Cintas, our people have ever known enmity, and at first I was part of this company because we fought a common enemy greater than even one another. I have grown to trust you and have named you grishak, dwarf-friend and welcome in every dwarrow forge. You and yours will always be welcome in the feasting halls of clan Kren.”

            Cintas nodded. He looked at the men who would live and smiled. “Morgan, Kren, Simon, you must leave now and scatter to the winds. The armies of Ur Bathog converge on this place, and the reanimated corpse that was once our comrade Fortunato will lead them to this very room. Take what supplies you need, but be gone in five minutes. I will begin the ritual then. Anyone still in the caves when I begin the rite will be caught in the spell and share the fate of these men.” He touched his fist to his heart, then his index and middle finger to his lips and forehead in the traditional Elven gesture of farewell. “We will not meet again in this life,” he said.

            Wordlessly, Morgan, Kren and Simon left the chamber. Stopping only to retrieve food, water and weapons, all three left the cavern the way they had come in and not a one looked back, each walking in a different direction but none towards the west, where the army would be coming from. None of them would ever return to the Hills of Westmarch again in their lives, nor would any of them meet one another again.

            Inside the chamber, Jupa lay against the base of the pedestal, panting as it became harder for him to breathe. Cintas knew that Jupa was perhaps an hour away from death if left alone, but would in fact die much sooner than that, at the hands of his friend. The thought was unnerving for a moment, then the elf banished it from his mind. He had a ritual to perform.

            Sensing that Morgan, Kren and Simon were beyond the range of the magic that the ceremony would unleash, Cintas turned to the men who were about to die. “My friends, I love you all. Fare well, until we meet in the Forest Eternal. My captain, may the Gods take pity on you.” Rodo was barely breathing, his eyes glassy. The three condemned men sat in a triangle around Rodo’s supine body. Cintas stood outside the triangle, apart from the three whose spirits would be torn from their bodies. He began chanting in a mellifluous contralto words from a language spoken by no living elf. ’Kikiaka’a sinila moso trillcatar…

            The sound of his voice was oddly comforting to the doomed men, and a great peace filled the cavern, as the love these men bore for one another made a statement to the Gods who may or may not have been watching. A strong white light began to shine in the triangle, enveloping all four men, who found themselves falling asleep. Cintas continued chanting, unmindful of the tears that fell like rain from his golden eyes. The ceremony was more beautiful than he thought it would be, and it was much easier than he’d anticipated. It didn’t take long at all for it to be completed. Cintas then left the room, at peace with what he had done, and so left the caverns of his youth for the forests of his homeland, moving quickly through a land ravaged by hate and cruelty, finding some surcease among the green coolness of the woodland. For the rest of his life, he would be hounded by agents of the Spider Queen but they would never defeat him. He would die an elder, revered among his people. Of Kerland Rodo and the shinia’a zarus he would never speak of until the day he died.

            Several hours after the ritual had been complete, the peace and quiet of the empty cavern was shattered by the arrival of the Drow, accompanied by legions of orcs, goblins, hellspawn and other creatures allied with the Spider Queen. They came into the caverns, gibbering with hate and madness, focused on carrying out the will of their heartless ruler. The zombie that had been Fortunato pointed them unerringly to the hidden door of the Orb chamber, and opened it, unleashing the fruits of the shinia’a zarus.

            They say the screams took many days to die.

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