The Testament of Karion Hope
We are several days out of Phent along the Golden Way. The cart we are driving is filled with caskets, and those caskets are filled with people, all of whom are in a deep trance brought about by some dark magic.
Magic no darker than my own ‘gifts’, no doubt. My Grandsire speaks to me the more I use His power. My soul is lost.
A day ago we tried to revive two of the casket’s occupants; a tall human and a beautiful elven maid.
The human we picked because he looked to be a stout fellow and, as the habit of these slavers, his clothes and gear were intact. He wore armor and carried a sword, but wasn’t dressed as a Shadowmaster and had the countenance of a kind man. Upon achieving consciousness, the man told us his name was Cole, and that he was a Holy warrior of a God I did not recognize.
My Grandsire allows no other deities in my life. There is only Him.
The Elf, to report with honesty, was picked because her beauty was irresistible. She was breathtaking as any of her kind. When she revived she would not tell us her name. There was a shyness to her that made her even more irresistible to the heart.
Heart? I have no heart. I have only Him.
I shall call her Acacia, after the tree of the same name. Stunning to behold, but full of thorns if you get too close.
Whynn had rejoined us along the road, his loins still aching from the merchant’s daughter. The loss of his companion still ached him a bit, but it couldn’t be helped. It was good to have him there, he is a reasonable fellow and quick with his blade.
My constant companion of late is [THEARTIST], a half breed minstrel who is light of morals but quick to quit a fight. Perhaps he could find courage and compassion for others somewhere within him.
After some days on the cart, just before nightfall, we came upon a camp next to a small trail. There were men and orcs, and a small tent. Whynn disappeared into the shadows, and the other four of us approached the camp as the scum traders. After a few moments, when the talk was fruitless, Whynn struck from the shadows, dispatching a slaver. I was set upon by a number of them, but my new companions proved to be worth the time to wake them.
Cole’s bravery was impressive as he stepped into battle without reservation. Acacia launched javelin after javelin at the enemy, and Theartist hid behind the cart, a cart that was toppled over onto him when the ogre emerged from the tent and flipped it.
The battle was quick, and we knew that the slavers had planned to take the cart up the trail. We camped and the next morning set off.
Along the trail we found obelisks. Acacia told us a story of an old crazy wizard who was reported to have a stronghold in these woods that was guarded by obelisks. Theartist’s sharp eyes found two other obelisks in the distance, lined up with the one we were standing next to. We made note and moved on.
It took only a few hours to find the abandoned castle the scum were using for a base. A tall spire marked the place; a ruined old castle built into the side of the mountain. We formulated a plan to scout the castle under the guise of a troupe of wandering minstrels, with Theartist and Acacia leading that effort. The three of us asked and were granted entry.
Orcs and men filled the place, much more of the first and fewer of the second. There was work being done, the stronghold stunk of labor and desperate fortunes. Theartist, with Acacia helping, conducted a show fit for a royal court, all the while orcs and men who would consort with them looked on. A perfect pearl presented to a pig.
In my heart I am no better than these men, these orcs. My Grandsire whispers to me to join them, help them enslave the innocent to make my own fortune. I struggle in silence.
We are given a tent for the night and some food that neither I nor Acacia ate. After sundown I found a way out of the castle and gathered Whynn and Cole. Upon meeting with the others we decide to enter the spire.
The lone guard in the spire was no match for the sharp shadow that is Whynn at night. We began to descend into the belly of the tower, trying to use caution and stealth. It was at this point that Theartist, for a reason that still escapes me, pushed me aside as I looked into a dark hatch and jumped in. He acts rashly at times, preferring to work independent of his comrades. This time he paid a dear price for it.
A murder of ravenous birds set upon him the moment his feet touched the floor. Within seconds he was suffering from dozens of cuts and bites, and he fell to the floor. Cole and Whynn jumped in immediately, trying to protect our rash companion. I let fly my Grandsire’s magic and, with Acacia’s assistance, the four of us were able to defeat the birds. Theartist was revived and we moved on.
The next room was occupied by a giant spider, which fell to Cole’s sword and Whynn’s blade quickly enough.
Thus far I’d mostly avoided using my Grandsire’s powers. A cantrip here, a small trick there, but nothing to really rouse him in my consciousness. The next room would change that.
In there we found a man asleep in his bed. His cries for help were interrupted by Whynn, who dispatched him.
But the walls, the walls were covered in tapestries and upon a tapestry I saw a face and the face looked back at me and my heart raced and I saw that face smile at me and it knew my secret. Panic gripped me as my mind raced and my heart beat and my body poured sweat into my clothes and I couldn’t breath.
An instant later, the panic was gone. My companions had not noticed. The man in the tapestry no longer smiled but his face was still there, the face of a thousand sins.
Knowing that help for the now dead monk was coming, I tried to block a door with a desk. In lieu of helping with this endeavor, Theartist sought to inspect the contents of that desk, taking several items of value all the while I, and Acacia, were trying to protect the group.
Perhaps, like me, there is no help for Theartist. He is better than I am despite his failings. His soul isn’t doomed.
After Theartist was finished pillaging the desk, Acacia and I were able to move it with only a moment to spare. The monk’s companions knocked, and called for the now dead man by name; Incanvar. In a moment of brilliance, Acacia started making the sounds physical pleasure, a performance that almost moved me to arousal.
That is, if I were capable of such things. My Grandsire will allow me no pleasures of companionship, no solace in the touch of another. The price for His power is high.
We explored the castle a bit, finally making our way to the Great Hall where Theartist and Acacia made their inspired performance earlier that night. Several orcs were asleep in the room, and men were about playing games or some such nonsense. The room was lit dimly lit by the orange and yellow flicker of weak candles and dying torches.
Calling upon my infernal powers, I lowered the illumination of the flame. Whynn set about his ugly work, spilling the blood of the orcs as they slept. I then reversed my spell and caused the lights to flare like miniature suns, shocking the rest. Before their eyes could adjust my companions had brought about their demise.
We suffered nary a scratch, but all of the slavers lie dead.
Seeing us work as a team inspired me to tell my companions that the rest of the camp was ours should we choose to take it. Whynn, ever steady, agreed with me, saying that twenty orcs were no match for us. Cole never spoke, never needed to, his bravery was his testimony. Acacia agreed quickly enough, adventuring like this was new to her. She was still unsure of how dangerous she truly was.
Theartist agreed and we hatched a plan wherein Theartist, with the assistance of my magic, would startle the camp with another performance. We launched into the show and chaos erupted.
Whynn, on the other side of the camp, exacted a heavy toll on the orcs, making them pay for their slavery with his blood soaked blade. Acacia, growing more confident with every moment, called upon the plants themselves to hold the slavers while my Grandsire’s fire scorched the flesh from their bones. Cole, a rock, let the orcs crash upon him, but wouldn’t move. They fell before him like weeds before the scythe.
Then Theartist quit his music and conducted a symphony of slaughter with his own blade.
As before, we spilled no blood of our own, our plan worked. Twenty of the vile orcs lie dead in the camp.
A good night’s feeding, my Grandsire was pleased, or so he whispered. The souls of the dying orcs were cursing my name.