The Lance of Marduk

No Going Back

The Princess Diaries

It must have been nearly a week now. It feels like a different world since we came back up. Did I make the right decision?
Well, we were in a different world. Or a different plane, subspace of this world? We left Cadrin, that’s for sure. I’m not sure I’d call any of that the city proper, to be honest. The ancient crypt, yes, I mentioned that, and the Orcus cult excavating. Just after the cultists, I left off at… oh, the dragon! A reanimated dragon guarded the chamber not far beyond, but now it’s been reduced to dust. That felt amazing, knowing that our little rag-tag group has now slain a dragon.
Blah blah blah, farther down deeper, and here’s where my mind stopped keeping up. Within a chest, Bjorn and I discovered pages scrawled in an ancient language with transmutation circles carved in. Up above, there was a library, filled with long-lost books in ancient tongues no living being could read, none of which I more than batted an eye towards. But here there was an urgency: these were single pages stashed away in a chest, locked away such that merely opening the chest caused an explosion. I spent the next few hours only partially conscious of what was going on around us, deciphering the text.
The text which revealed a plot to destroy my entire home. The walls, the walls which won the war, the walls the elves targeted, the orders from the black guards, the “orders beyond the throne,” everything since then had been a plot to turn the city into a giant transmutation circle and transform its populace into an army of zombies or something, maybe I’m wrong, it’s all a blur, just an adrenaline rush to stop it!
Except more important things came up. I can’t believe I just said that, more important than saving everyone I knew for near all my life… but dear gods. We met a deva down there who mentioned guarding a weapon – a weapon of the gods, one which reaps souls through mere contact. A weapon with which you bleed out your very essence of existence at the slightest grazing… resting within the temple. The temple which these dark cultists had been excavating. She sent us to investigate a portal into the far realms. And this is where all perspectives became irrelevant. As we drew nearer to the room containing the portal, I felt a presence tugging at my mind, edging its way in – a gnawing curiosity, the insatiable urge to see what lay within that room, a need to find the portal. Lady Ioun saw fit to use me as a vessel through which to discover the age-old secrets sealed within the temple. I was able to serve her directly, to feel her presence as never before, and dear gods it felt…
Incredible. Painful. Cathartic. It tore at my mind, but the mere concept of what was going on – the experience was exhilarating! I had a god in my head! I had to succeed, to find what lay beyond that wall, to display the worth of my faith, to express my will to serve my goddess. Phenex did whatever she could to hold me back, but Phalanx managed to open the wall, and once we got in, so did the gods, period. I simply stood there in awe of the newfound impact we had had on a global force in our world. But them the moment passed, and we moved along. We returned to the deva to report on the situation regarding the portal, after resealing it off with a rune that My Lady provided us to keep it hidden.
Shortly thereafter, Nevah, having found no viable alternative to placing all her faith in our simple party (and having seen neither any harm in the matter nor a reason to distrust our lot), bestowed upon us the scythe she had been guarding alongside the portal for centuries, Lifecutter. That weapon simply should not exist. The presence of such a powerful artifact was exceedingly humbling, and seeing it happened into our possession left me simply dumbfounded.
Following this revelation, Nevah lead us to another portal, and here’s where we truly left. But dear gods it’s so overwhelming, I can’t even skip to there! The portal was… weird. It’s not like we could just walk into the shadowfell (surprise), but as price for passage, we had to reveal our darkest secrets. It honestly doesn’t make sense… I suppose their secrets didn’t register to me at the time, but I can easily write that one up to shock. I only caught two of theirs, neither of which I suppose change much… hell, now I have to think about it. Phalanx killed his wife – but there were extenuating circumstances! In all honesty, his secret only made me feel bad for the fellow, being forced through a terrible situation where… let’s just say I can relate. Phenex fucked her cousin. Nope, I don’t have to think about it, and I’ll avoid letting that one register. Didn’t hear from Bjorn, or Sydienne.
I had to mention my mother. I thought I’d gotten that image out of my head forever. She was turning blue, damn it, but still twitching! And I just ran… When Trestin showed me the note, when he and I burned it, we hid from the world every degree of our involvement exceeding that of any other. Only Bjorn knows – Bjorn and Sydienne, but she’s gone now – and hopefully that’s that, just word of it and now it’s gone forever.
But through the portal, we materialized in the shadowfell, standing before none other than the Lady of Death, the Raven Queen. She knew of the scythe – the weapon that had hidden from her reach for centuries, the weapon which could end her war on Orcus, the weapon which corrupted her predecessor, the weapon which no being should ever wield, the weapon which lay in our possession – and she wanted it. At this point, My Lady appeared before us as well. It felt as though we had been plucked from our lives and thrown into a new realm where every action was of immense significance and simply fell above our heads. After a long conversation describing the conflicting interests everyone had in the scythe, Bjorn simply handed it over to the Raven Queen and we were whisked back into our world. I freaked out. He had potentially catalyzed the descent of Death into a state of soulless oblivion, of course I would freak out! But hardly missing a beat, he pulled out Lifecutter from within his robe, revealing that the weapon he handed over was simply Sydienne’s replica. My breathing and my heartrate caught up with their natural rhythm.
And then it pounded right back out of step. The room we were deposited into contained cultists, nearly finished carving transmutation circles and performing rituals before us, but more importantly, at its opposite end, Trestin. Trestin’s frail and unconscious body lay helplessly chained to a pillar across the room, behind the cultists, who, at this point, had unquestionably become targets. And so we fought. And so they fell. After their defeat, I immediately made my way over to Trestin to free him and ensure that he was in a stable condition. The chains fell easily and his breathing was regular, but his mind appeared to be not entirely there. Then, in just those few moments’ pause, the caster made it all too apparent that we had not finished our task. He finished his ritual and summoned demons, one of which Phalanx took on individually while the rest of the room raged on in chaos. I tried to stay close to Trestin while keeping him out of the fray, and eventually, even the demons succumbed. But then, out of the shadows stepped Vairis.
Yes, Vairis, the probable lich and mastermind behind this whole fiasco of attempting to destroy my home. He offered us a reunion speech, seeming to wish to step into the realm of civil discussion at this point. We conversed, caught up, discovered just how much he had used us. The exchange cut deep with the foul fangs of deception. However stoic an outward appearance he attempted to project, Bjorn in particular was clearly devastated by such a deep and fundamental betrayal.
But all this talking had to come to an end at some point, and when there was no more to be said, we launched ourselves at Vairis and his lackeys. The fight amounted to a great deal of artful dodging – I would expect no less of such a crafty rogue – and ultimately, while all his underlings fell, we found ourselves unable to pin down Vairis. The tide of battle turned when Trestin rose and fought back through the mental link Vairis held on him. As soon as he struck this grave blow, Vairis took flight back through a portal routed to the citadel, giving rise to a chase that would span the city and the surrounding countryside. Bjorn, Phenex, Phalanx, and Sydienne instantly set to pursuit, while I found myself otherwise occupied.
My Silver lay before me in shambles. While he managed to shake Vairis’s mind, he nearly shattered his own. I tried to carry him out and follow behind the others, but quickly realized that this extra burden which I refused to discard would keep me from ever catching up to the nimble traitor. He and I walked off to the infirmary, and I learned the story of Vairis’s arrival in the city and rise to power. And that Trestin truly did die. I was indeed responsible for his death. Only, when Vairis tried to raise him as a zombie, someone intervened and released his soul to come back to life on this plane. And that struck a chord in my heart. Someone out there sees what happened as vile enough, sees him as significant enough, that they gave him a second chance. He means enough in this world that someone out there was watching over his soul and freely sent it back to live the life he was meant to have. He certainly means the world to me…
It killed me to realize that I was with Phenex. That sounds so terrible… I had written her a poem apologizing, hoping to make everything right so that we could continue on and be happy together, but when this is the reality that I was leaving… He broke free of Vairis’s hold because of me. My return reignited a spark within him that flared against this unnatural control. Trestin, I’m so sorry.
Sydienne came back with word that Vairis had passed through the city gates and the four of them stood no hopes of catching up. Her arrival jolted us back to reality and to the gravity of the situation at hand. Satisfied that Trestin would recover with time, I dashed off to commandeer an airship and give us a practical shot at winning this chase. Syd and I boarded a military vessel and flew after the rogue on horseback. Bjorn trailed after Vairis by a surprisingly short distance, but all the same, he would never – could never – have caught up. At my command, the catapults launched and Vairis’s horse was crippled, launching him a short distance such that Bjorn was able to bind the Halfling and take him back as prisoner. The dwarf was fuming, and I dare not think of what might have happened had the shots killed Vairis instead…
So we all returned aboard the vessel, all six of us, including that filthy traitor, and set back to Cadrin. But it’s never that simple. The Raven Queen found out she had been duped. A crackle of thunder seemed to shake the ship as a cold wind crept in, and her imposing form materialized before us within the ship. Once more, I couldn’t help but feel that we were in over our heads, but Bjorn faced her boldly with unwavering conviction. He held firmly by his decision to not hand over Lifecutter, with the entire Lance behind him. Staring Death in the face, we stood our ground, prepared to surrender our souls as we lay our wrists below the blade of the scythe. Mere mortals, we told a goddess she was in the wrong and should entrust the matter to us. Had she fancied, she could have taken it and been done with us, but she deferred to us to decide upon the fate of the weapon. Now, we have a god’s scythe in our possession: at least until we can destroy it.
Bjorn went off to conclude things with Vairis. Phenex and I openly told my father what there is between us. I made it clear that I will be leaving. And the two of us officially started dating. Goodbye, Trestin…

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