Some say it was a myth. An old wives tale, designed to scare impudent youngsters to sleep at night. Some even say it was simply the fevered nightmares of some old, forgotten power, long absent from this realm. But they are all wrong.
I know... I was there.
Aye, scoff if you will, but how do you explain... this.
The stranger reaches into his rucksack, and flips a blood red crystal onto the table. It seems oddly reminiscent of an eye. The stranger pauses to take another pull of his Ale.
I see I have your attention now, friend. However, my throats getting a little too dry for tale telling, if you catch my meaning. He eyes his now empty flagon meaningfully
Ahh! Much better. Now where was I... Ah yes.
50 of us there were, and never was there a fellowship as brave or true throughout the land. Heroes, mighty sorcerers and warriors all. Yet in the end, what did it matter?
I was the forward scout for the expedition. Young, reckless, a veteran tracker fresh from the Mith'rindaar war. In those days, I was the best. I could track a moth through a snowstorm on a midwinter night. With me was my best friend Ayel of Gom, A barbarian scoundrel adept in the arts of the hunt, and Sha'ela, his wife, who could not only track something almost as well as myself, but she was a damn good cook as well. Together, we set out that fine spring morning, to seek fame and renown. I wish that day had never come.
We had not traveled more than a League from Qeynos when the first portents of doom began to arise. One of the squires was gathering wood for the evening cook fire, when he pricked his finger on a shaderose thorn. He died shortly after despite the best efforts of Azlia, the Healer-adept.
Of course, the shaderose is only found in the Eastern wastes, a whole continent away...
Our journey continued, more often then not imperiled by some unforeseen force. It is almost as if, it knew we were coming.
Ayel, Sha'ela and myself did what we could to ease the journey, but there were many days when even our skill was barely enough to keep the darkness at bay.
You might ask yourself, why did we continue? Were we that prideful and stubborn? Were our hopes of fame and glory so strong that we were blinded to the danger? You could say that, but you would be wrong.
I know the truth.
We had no choice. The Lag affliction that was sweeping the land at that time was no fluke of nature, as your history teaches. It was deliberate. Caused by an intelligent malevolence for which your consciousness has no analogue. We had no choice.
One day, many months after we left the fair city of Qeynos, we arrived in the territory of the beast. For days, food and supplies had been scarce, but even the meager amount of vegetation we had encountered seemed like a veritable forest compared to the desolation that met our eyes. For hours we trudged on, ever deeper into the demesne of the monster, until we stood before it's lair.
Prince Arneth IV, the leader of our band dismounted from his tired war steed, and turned to face the smoke enshrouded chasm. "DEFILER! Face us, or die trapped like a rat. It matters not, you shall not prevail!!!'
There was a long moment of silence, then the sounds of an evil, twisted voice came over the wind.
" Ssssssssssuuufffffffeeeerrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "
That was all the warning we had, then it was among us. A singly slash of it's razor sharp arms, and 14 of our strongest warriors lay dead on the field. those that remained did their best, as the mages worked their art, yet still they fell. Prince Arneth died with a spike through his chest. Thurgidan the White fell to a blast of it's envenomed breath, the rest I cannot bear to remember their fate, even now.
In the end, there were only us, the rangers.
Ayel, his massive long sword ready, Sha'ela, with her bow of thunder drawn, and myself, with the ancient blades passed down through generations, advanced on the fiend. It was a battle to which mere words do not do justice. Ayel and Sha'ela were magnificent, going toe to toe with a creature of nightmare, and still keeping their edge.
Against the odds, we were winning. The creature was beginning to fade, and hope surged anew, when it happened. Ayel overextended on riposte, and gave it enough opening to reach around his guard. Such a small mistake, and such a small would as a result, yet kill him it did all the same. I could only watch in horror as Sha'ela, overcome with grief charged the monster head on, and followed her beloved into the next world. It came down to me.
A_Fire_Beatle_01 stood before me, gaping rents and gashes marring its once smooth carapace. I was not in much better shape, chinks and holes all over my armor. We were both wounded, yet neither mortally. If I fell, the terror would continue, until it consumed the world. I advanced, my Rage lending speed and strength to my blades. We fought, I'm not sure how long, it seemed like days. We matched each other stroke for stroke, steal to pincer, until finally in a shower of sparks, both of my blades snapped. I fell backwards to the ground, groping frantically for a weapon, as the fire beetle crept towards me, an evil gleam in it's crystaline eyes. It reared up on it's thorak, ready to strike the final blow that would doom norrath to oblivion, when I felt it. The hilt of Tanith the Braveï¿½s long sword in my grasp. As the creature fell towards me, intent on removing the breath of life from my body, I quickly extended the sword with all my might. Then I knew no more.
I awoke hours, maybe days later, my body covered in Ichor. For days I labored to remove my fallen companions from this lair of evil, carrying them to the Barren commonland plains. That done, in the tradition of the Elvin people I planted a Maloren tree seed at the head of each grave. I have not been back since, but I am told that a large forest now grows, where once there was only desert. Ayel and Sha'ela I buried in the Surefall grotto.
As to the monster himself, it's power over time and Ping was largely bound to it's body. This eye, I cut from it's skill as a feeble attempt to avenge the loss I had suffered. The body, I gave to the secret order of Shadowhaven. I hear they put it on display somewhere in their city on the moon.
I later found that my trophy had a curios effect, or a curse. I have not decided which. Since that day, I have not aged. For many years I have wandered the land, I have seen the fall of the Combine empire, the rise of the merchant kingdom of Freeport. I've outlived dragons, daemons, and even the ancients themselves. I have tried to get rid of it, to end the loneliness that comes of knowing everyone you know will die, yet it always comes back some how. It must be part of the magic. At any rate, that is how I know the true story of Arneth's last ride, a tale that will haunt me until the end of time. But enough of talk of monsters and death, tell me a tale of your exploits? Humor an old man, and get me another drink!
Edited, Apr 14th 2007 8:56pm by Kaolian