Gin’s Journal, Day 39, Page 81
Rua Matuk, Theren, Tamar, and Balor hung on to the rope on the side of the rocky pinnacle while I hovered in the air next to Rua and Theren. I realized we were in no position to converse with Vod (if he came), let alone do battle if need be. We could not wait in this position, exposed for all to see on the side of the pinnacle.
On top of the flat surface pinnacle, Rua’s betrothed, Tov Gark, sat in silence, waiting for his fate to arrive.
‘Can you convince him that we mean him no harm,’ I said to Rua’s mind.
“You cure Tov Gark, first?” she said. Theren listened to the one-sided conversation.
‘I cannot cure him until we meet Vod,’ I replied.
“But you cure yourself. You cure Tov Gark.”
‘In time, but we must meet with Vod before I do anything. But we can’t hang here until Vod arrives. We need to be on the plateau and to ready ourselves. Will Tov Gark alert the others if we climb up? Can you speak with him and tell him we are here to help?’
“Tov Gark has Vod Sickness and waits for Vod. Vod will take him. You cure him so Vod does not take.”
It became apparent that her interpretation of why we came to the meeting place of Vod was drastically different than my own. I had enough and flew up and landed on the plateau.
Tov Gark stood up, surprised by my presence. He was about to say something when he saw Rua climb over the pinnacle edge followed by my friends.
“Rua! Why you here?” Tov Gark said. “I have Vod sickness and Vod will come soon. You must leave.”
“Tov Gark, I bring ones that can heal you. Vod need not take you. This one here,” Rua pointed to me, “Can cure you. He cure himself of Vod sickness.”
“Not so,” Tov Gark said. “No cure for Vod sickness. Vod comes soon. All you must leave, now.”
“But he can,” Rua rushed to her lover. “He is powerful. He can cure you so Vod does not take you away from me.”
‘Talk to him, Rua,’ I said to her mind. ‘Convince him to be quiet. Tell him we will help him.’
“No,” Tov Gark said, pushing Rua away. “This is our way. Vod must take me. I have sickness. These strangers are not friends. I must tell Si Matuk and others.”
“Please, Tov Gark,” Rua pleaded. “Let them heal you. Gin Okami, you heal him now. You said you would.”
‘I said after we met with Vod.’ I looked to Tamar and gestured towards the sick male elf. She nodded and grunted in confirmation. She walked up to the elf and knocked him unconscious with the butt of her pommel.
“What you do?” Rua screeched. She knelt down to her fallen lover. “Why you do this? You not cure Vod sickness. You killed Tov Gark. I must…” Balor came up behind her and knocked out the elf woman.
“Good work, you two,” I congratulated the dwarf and half-orc.
“What are you doing?” Theren said. “You didn’t have to do that. You could’ve killed them.” He rushed over to examine the two young elves.
“They compromised our situation,” I said. “It’s better this way.”
“But you didn’t have to hurt them,” Theren sneered.
“It was the quickest way to remove a liability. Besides, they’re fine. Tamar knows how to hurt and leave no marks, and I’m assuming Balor too.”
The half-orc grunted. “I am guessing they were about to warn the others?”
“Yeah. Both of them were,” I said.
“We could’ve stayed hidden on the cliff wall and waited,” Theren said, bandaging the wounds on the two elves. “We didn’t have to do this.”
“No, Theren, we did,” I said. “We need to prepare ourselves and make sure the terrain is to our advantage. Hanging there on the cliff face, Vod would be able to pick you off one by one.”
“Looks like the wounds will heal in time, Theren said, “No major damage.”
“Good, now tie them up and gag them,” I said.
“You’re sick, Gin,” Theren said. “You want to tie them up after you’ve beaten them unconscious?”
“Makes sense to me,” Tamar interjected.
“Can’t have them ruining our endeavors if they wake up in the middle of everything,’ I said.
“Fine, whatever,” Theren said, “But I’m not sure if I can trust you anymore.”
“It’s a bit late for that now,” I said with a smirk. “Balor and Tamar, hide Rua in those bushes. Leave Tov Gark’s body in the center. We want Vod to think there’s nothing out of place.”
“How long do we have before Vod comes?” Balor asked.
“About an hour.”
Malum flew in the darkness and I watched through her eyes. The cavern was gigantic.
Up ahead, two massive openings continued into darkness and in between was another colossal structured door, similar to the entrance into the cavern, only a bit bigger.
Malum flew down the cavern opening on the right and found herself in a large open area with piles of litter on the ground and a large double door to the far end. The doors were of stone and had intricate carvings, albeit worn and deteriorated. On the right side door was the design of a regal and noble male elf clad in heavy armor and wielding a large shield and two-pronged spear. On left side door was the design of a robed female elf holding a sphere and serpentine-shaped staff. There was no way for Malum to pass through the door and so she left.
Upon returning to the open cavern, Malum flew down the left opening. She found herself in a graveyard with tombstones scattered about. The air was thick and cold, and a greenish mist, that gave an ever so slight illumination, coated the ground. And then she heard a moan.
Malum perched herself on top of a tall headstone and saw a rotting corpse lumber slowly amongst the rows of tombstones. Its grayish flesh sagged and dripped from its bones and black ooze seeped out of its multiple lesions and bodily openings. What was more interesting was that the ghoul had odd growths and malformations all over its body like that I had seen on victims of the Vod sickness. This ghoul was an elf that had the sickness!
The ghoul moaned and gargled. It had been almost a week since I had last heard that sound – the sound of the undead seeking live flesh to devour, and it sent shivers down my spine. What were they doing here? – In Vod’s spire? Was Vod a necromancer? Were these undead his pets? Did he control them? Was he really as benevolent as the elves described him to be? I began to doubt and realized that, perhaps, we were dealing with a malevolent force.
‘Fly away!’ I ordered Malum. ‘Leave now!’
She flew back to the main cavern and up to the colossal door in between the two smaller caves. There I saw the faint engravings of a phrase upon the entrance of giants – Behold Sinarthaax.
I quickly pulled out my pack and all of my ancient scrolls and documents to find that single map. I placed my hand in my pocket and slipped the ring on to my finger.
“Old man! I have a question for you,” I said audibly. In my excitement, I didn’t realize I was speaking out loud, loud enough for my friends to hear me.
‘Are we back? Have we returned to Starwind Monastery?’
“No, but I have a quick question.”
‘But you promised we would return…’
“Not right now. First, tell me about Sinarthaax.”
‘Sinarthaax? That place is unimportant. You must return…’
“Krallak, humor me. Tell me now or we will never return to Starwind Monastery.”
‘Very well. It’s a nation of elves located in the Doomtooth Crags on the western mountain range of Delthrand, close to the Kingdom of Selz. It’s where Forshenill found the portal. You know this already. This is unimportant.’
“Krallak, what else can you tell me?”
‘The elves are xenophobic and paranoid. I don’t know very much about them. They keep to themselves and are typically hostile to outsiders. Forshenill had difficulty dealing with them, but I can’t remember how he handled them. But I do remember that he didn’t really like them all too much and didn’t want to talk about his experience with them. I read rumors that they interbreed within their family, believing that it keeps their bloodline pure and strong. And that they perform rituals of cannibalism, not just on their enemies but that also they eat their own kind, even children, if they find any weakness or sickness in them. But then again, what do I know. I never met them nor care to. They are unimportant. We must return to Starwind Monastery and watch for the Heaven Rock.’
“Krallak, show me on this map where Doomtooth Crag is located.”
“Is Gin alright?” Theren asked Tamar.
“Oh, just ignore him. I told you before, he gets like that sometimes. It’s his way.”
“His way to madness?” Theren whispered.
“I’ve found it!” I shouted. “I know our location. I know exactly where we are.”
“Good for you, Gin,” Balor said, “But you might want to pack up there and hide with me. Look up. I think our guest has arrived.”
High above us, and flying closer, was a giant, winged lizard-like creature with a long tail that had an enormous stinger at its tip. On top of the beast rode a single rider, clad in dark armor, covering his whole body from head to toe. Vod had arrived.
I quickly took cover behind a bush with Balor. Theren hid behind another bush across from us. I did not see Tamar anywhere.
“Now don’t do anything aggressive unless I give the word,” I whispered to the dwarf.
“I thought you wanted to talk to him?” Balor asked.
“I have my doubts,” I said.
“Doubts? Now? And what is this word of action?”
“Shazam? What kind of word is that?”
“Just don’t attack until I say so.”
The flying beast hovered over the body of Tov Gark and descended with talons extended.
I waited and watched. Time slowed to a crawl as the beast’s talons reached closer and closer to the prone body of the elf.
‘Ready your arrow,’ I mentally communicated to Theren.
I could feel the raging heat of Balor’s breath next to me. The mere presence of Vod made Balor eager to fight.
‘Hold,’ I mentally said to Balor. ‘A few more seconds…’
I looked over and saw Theren with his bow ready and his arrow needing to fly. I could see the hateful expression on his face. He did not like the look of Vod, to say the least.
Balor’s breath stopped and his body turned rigid and shivered in anticipation. He was ready to spring.
And where was Tamar?
The talons were inches from the elf…and I shouted, “SHAZAM!”
Balor leapt from his hiding spot and rushed the flying beast. An arrow flew and struck Vod in the shoulder. The armor-clad rider yelled in pain. The flying beast halted its descent and began to fly up, away from the Plateau, and out of Balor’s reach with his great battleaxe.
Balor roared in frustration.
“He’s not mortal!” Theren shouted. “He is evil! He is undead!”
I extended my arms and opened my palms to release the tentacles of the Umbra. They struck true and nearly threw Vod off the beast. But he still steered his flying steed away from the pinnacle.
“Don’t let him get away!” Theren shouted. “He must be stopped.”
Vod reached out with his arm towards Theren. Crackling bolts of lightning surged around his arm, pulsating and growing in strength. The light took shape into javelin in his hand and he threw it at the elf.
Theren was thrown back by the strike of lightening to his chest, almost pushing him over and off the edge of the pinnacle. His hair smoldered and his clothes were scorched. Blood dribbled out of his mouth.
“Evil one! Hear me now! By the Fire God, I shall smite thee down!” Tamar hollered.
A giant vulture flew over me, its wings a bright yellow and red and its eyes smoked as if they were ablaze. And to my utter surprise, riding the giant bird was Tamar. She held her great sword, Solemn, in one hand above her head and the reins encircling the giant vulture with the other. Her face was etched with righteous fury and uncompromising vengeance. For a moment, she looked like a hero of legend upon that giant creature, ready to destroy a great evil of the world, a story that is told many times but one that never gets old.
She swung down but missed Vod’s flying beast. Yet, with her downward momentum, she swung back up and struck Vod at his side, cracking his armor. Flames sparked and spread across the two flying mounted warriors. The sword’s impart burnt Vod’s armor, but the flame’s heat only seemed to invigorate Tamar that much more. The half-orc laughed hysterically in her triumph.
But Vod and his mount were not defeated. He began to fly away, wounded and smart to avoid a battle he knew he could not win.
Theren shot with his arrow again but missed.
Balor, not to be out done by Tamar, ran across the plateau and threw his trident and, like Theren with his arrow, missed. Balor roared once more in frustration but would not give up. He grabbed his throwing axe, Sever, from his belt, and hurled it in pure hatred. The magic axe slashed against the head of the flying beast, nearly severing its eye in two. The beast wavered in its escape. The axe continued its flight path back to Balor’s hand and the dwarf, this time, roared in victory.
Vod turned around from his seat and extended his arm towards Balor and a bolt of lightning struck the tough, stout man.
Balor got back up, dusting himself off and dousing the flames from his beard.
“Ha! Is that all you got! Weak! You gotta do more than that to bring down Balor Windhelm! You hear me, you coward!”
“That didn’t hurt you?” Theren asked.
Balor snorted. “I’d rather get neutered with a rusty knife than be hit by that again, but I ain’t gonna tell him that.”
Theren tried, once again, to fire off another arrow, this time hitting Vod in the crack at his side, piercing through his dark armor. I saw the subtle grin of sadistic pleasure on Theren’s face.
“Enough of this,” I said. One more time, I released the tentacles of the Umbra upon this reality and shot them towards Vod and his beast. The first tentacle hit the beast in the same open wound Balor’s axe inflicted. The tentacle burrowed into the open wound and drilled itself into the poor beast’s brain, killing it. And as Vod began to spiral downward on his mount, the second tentacle struck the armor-clad rider at the opening Theren and Tamar made, and tunneled underneath. Like a worm excavating through dirt, the tentacle dug its way through the body of Vod, eviscerating whatever flesh and bones he had underneath his armor.
Vod was dead.
“Tamar!” I shouted. “Hurry. Grab his body! Don’t let it fall!”
Theren stared down at the cliff face that led up to the plateau.
“I think we have more guests coming,” he said.