Yanzar makes a new friend!
- Gour-Gash, a goliath barbarian 3. Collector of various weapons who understands the better part of valor.
- Trollin, a hill dwarf cleric 2. A red-robed inquisitor with a hidden agenda and a cunning tongue.
- Yanzar, a dark elf druid 2. Very sneaky, except he loves loud, thunderous spells.
- Schmee, a goblin famulus. A little cowardly. Likes bonsai trees and tea.
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Yanzar wakes up on the floor of Xiximanter's cage room. From the moment he was paralyzed and abandoned by the rest of the party until now, he remembers nothing, and his head is throbbing in pain. Xiximanter stands over him, hands clasped behind his back, skull turned slightly to the side as if in thought.
“Fascinating,” he says, “I don't see any Dark Ones in your memories. We disappeared. We were all-powerful and eternal — and then we just disappeared. Isn't that funny?
Maybe I closed myself off too much from the world. I lost an entire empire, and I didn't even notice!" He laughs. "But that just means I was right. And my work is just that much more important."
He then looks at Yanzar: "Say you, little elf, would you like to die or live?"
"Ehm, Lord Xiximanter, I... I would definitely like to live. I would definitely like to make up for any damage or problems we might have caused, too!"
"Yes, everyone would like to live! To live and not to dwell on death. Never to think about death. To live forever. Why should one die, anyway?"
He stares at Yanzar for a moment, as if pondering something, then fishes out a vial from the folds of his robes. "Drink this," he orders.
Yanzar slowly takes the vial - it is full of clear, rose-scented liquid - and resignig himself to his fate, drinks it in one gulp. It's warm - first in the stomach, then all over the body. Yandar's pupils start to dilate. He's absolutely bursting with energy. He looks up at Xiximanter and stammers: "I thought your- Ehm, I did not expect... this... sir. With all due respect."
It nearly looks like Xiximanter's smiling, although it's hard to tell from his bare skull. But when Yanzar goes to hand the bottle back to him, he suddenly squeezes Yanzar's hand. A strange shimmering feeling washes over Yanzar's wrist and a tattoo in the shape of a runic cobra appears on his skin.
"Appearances are not always deceiving," Xiximanter says. “I don't care what you and your party do in this crumbling crypt. You can't do any harm.
I am interested in your original task, though. Your master sent you to find a certain Malévol. I, too, once knew a Malévol. Médard Malévol robbed me and then disappeared. But it seems that during the years I was lost in my seclusion, the cockroaches stopped being afraid and came out into the light. I want my property back and you will help me. If you find out anything about the Malévols, any Malévols, let me know. Just press my sigil and I will hear you. Find me the Malévols, or better yet, find me Médard Malévol."
"I'll definitely let you know whatever I can find." Yanzar rubs his hand with a frown.
"Now, do you think your friends will come back for you?"
"I don't know. What do you intent to do with them?"
"We shall see," Xiximanter says, waving his hand to summon a gust of wind that sends Yanzar sliding into one of the cages. The cage door closes and the lock clicks. "We shall see."
From the diary of Trollin, 26th day of Harvest, 198 Aureum Diem
Although I didn't like it, I had to order my goblin women to get off me and to give me and my one remaining companion a moment to think. Although I have known Yanzar for barely any time, my conscience and especially my god would never let me rest if I left him in the clutches of that dead sorcerer. If he really is a Dark One as Gour-Gash claimed, Yanzar would be in for a very unpleasant fate. I had to hope that I can appease the lich with copious compensation for the damage my party caused, and some deference. The former won't be a problem.
I ordered a dozen goblins to follow me and led them to the alchemical workshop. Though scared and grumbling, I managed to force them to obey by sheer intimidation and having Gour-Gash at their back to kill any would-be runaways. Janek went with Gour-Gash to provide him with light, but the magister and Schmee were left with the goblins for the time being, despite their obvious unease.
I knocked on the lich's door and then he was standing there. Xiximanter, a Dark Lord. So it was true. No wonder only Gour-Gash returned from this misadventure.
I had to choose my words very carefully. Fortunately, my training taught me humility, even if feigned and insincere. But still, I flattered the Dark One. The goblins were accepted as a replacement for those left loose in his workshop, but he demanded my shield, blessed by Miri, in exchange for Yanzar's release. Though my blood was boiling, I reasoned with myself that if I refused and made him angry, it wouldn't help me nor Yanzar nor anyone at all. May the Three-That-Are-One forgive me. Xiximanter returned Yanzar to us and before we retreated, he told us that he would pay handsomely for every magic-user we bring to him.
"What a reasonable skull guy," Gour-Gash said.
Now, though, nothing awaits me here in this tomb. I rescued Yanzar and found out about the whereabouts of a surviving Dark One. Just as high priest Vatek feared. Now I must get back to Balalán as quickly as possible and report my findings. We returned for the magister and though She-Bull was loath to let me go, I convinced her that I shall be back in just a few days. Well, it might take more than a few days, but hopefully I shall be back, with an order of holy warriors to raze this place.
We also took the golden statuette that was the goblin king before me, and the magister decided to try his depetrification mushrooms on a petrified head, so we brought it to the inn as well. It worked, and it was bloody and ugly. We drank to our dead comrades and the now dead head.
But I had my mission and no more time to spare. The only thing left to do was offer an apprenticeship to Janek. He has proven his mettle and will make a fine addition to the Church's finest. His father was reluctant at first, but he soon understood the opportunity that his son has within his grasp.
We slept until the morning, said goodbye to Gour-Gash and the others, and joined an Ugrathi caravan headed to Balalán. May Miri guide and protect my companions until I return with fire and blessed blades.
From the diary of Yanzar, 27th day of Harvest, 198 Aureum Diem
In the morning, we (Gour-Gash and I) said goodbye to Trollin and headed back to the dungeon with Schmee on our heels. Although I knew Trollin for a very short time, he saved my life and I will never forget that.
We stopped for more of the miraculous anti-petrification cucumber-fungus-things and went to decide which statues we could bring to life. The magister was excited by the idea that he could talk to someone who actually lived centuries ago. (There technically was Xiximanter, but who in their right mind would want to talk to him?) We searched through the statue room and found the least damaged ones - a lady dwarf in heavy armor, a belligerent-looking human woman, a robed elf, a (possibly) human with horns and decorative armour, and three statues entangled in an embrace, an orc and two gnomes. Starting with the least burly one, we had Schmee crush the cucumber and carefully smear the elf statue with it. After a while, the stone cracked and crumbled away. An orange-yellow-gold elf emerged from the dust - he was literally all tinged in autumn colors; his skin, clothes and all. He was clearly still shaken from his stony sleep and he immediately drew a crossbow at us. After a bit of calming down, we learned that he is one of the Sidhe. He spoke Elvish with a very strange accent and seemed completely oblivious even to our calendar.
Meanwhile, Gour-Gash and Schmee managed to revive another statue - the human fightress. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that she was once loyal to Xiximanter, so a scuffle broke out until we managed to tie her up.
Our new golden friend then told us that he was petrified on his way to assassinate Xiximanter, and that he was a part of a hit squad. We found one of his brothers-in-arms - one headless statue lying nearby - and he insisted on trying to revive it even though the head was nowhere to be found. It turned out quite predictably and our golden friend had a small meltdown. On reflection, we might have taken the head of this statue with us yesterday, to experiment with...
Gour-Gash had the perfect idea to use our captive as a guinea pig for one of the unopened tombs, so we took her there. On the way past the terracotta statues sitting on the three thrones, however, the prisoner managed to momentarily slip Gour-Gash's grasp and crack one of them. Gour-Gash cracked her neck in retaliation. She still had released three skeletons from inside the statues, but even though the crown-bearing skeleton was throwing some strange black fire about, we quickly subdued them all.
Before we returned to the village for a dinner, I persuaded the others to make a quick detour to see Xiximanter. I had some questions.
Arriving at the village was unexpectedly grim. Something foul had clearly happened and the village had been ransacked, as if people dropped everything they were doing and ran away. Splashes of blood were left on the ground and the inn had a huge hole in the wall. No birds nor other animals could be heard.
Just behind the door of the inn stood a statue of the innkeeper.
Yanzar knocks on Xiximanter's door. Nothing happens for a moment, then the door opens slowly and silently. No one is behind them.
The alchemical workshop has been somewhat cleaned of the havoc wreaked by the party and a skeleton covered in orange slime is kneeling under the table, scrubbing the floor which still has a slightly greenish-gold tint to it. On the table in the center of the room now lies some kind of a silvery orb roughly the size of a human head.
"Come on in, little elf," Xiximanter calls from the warehouse. "Why did you come? You couldn't get results that fast - so what do you need?"
"I would like to know if you can tell me anything about Runcius Malévol, as I know nothing about him except that he is somewhere in these mountains. It would be quite helpful in my search for malévols, if you could give me any information."
When Yanzar enters the warehouse, he sees Xiximanter standing in the middle of the room, hand splayed, a goblin hovering in the air in front of him. The goblin is rolling his eyes, his arms are outstretched and his chest is open. Organs are slowly flying out of his chest cavity and landing in prepared containers set on the ground. The rest of the goblins are cowering in three cages and not even breathing as they're trying to disappear from notice.
"I don't know your Runcius Malévol, but I know the Malévols. Once upon a time, they served the Storm King and served him well. Many generations of Malévols served him and they won glory and power for themselves in his services. They were even appointed the magistrates in Balalán and the surrounding lands under the mountains. They began to consider themselves a powerful noble house and eventually rebelled against the poor old Storm King."
Xiximanter laughs and the goblin's still beating heart flies out of his body. The goblin gasps and stares at the drops of blood swirling around the heart.
"As far as I know, the Malévols made a deal with the Aunian Empire and invited the Triune Church to Balalán. That's when the slaves of the other Dark Lords started rebelling. I was travelling a lot back then and didn't have time to deal with such trivialities.
Once when I was away from my palace, however, Médard Malévol broke in and stole my grail- He stole my property."
Xiximanter finally turns to Yanzar. The goblin falls to the floor and crawls away from Xiximanter, groping at his body in terror. His chest is still open and now completely empty.
"The Malévol family had many members, and I'm sure it didn't just disappear. They must have estates, mansions, residences. Find any Malévol and he might be able to tell you more about Médard. Or about that Runcius of yours. And if the first Malévol doesn't know anything, kill him and try a cousin. One of them must know something."
"Ehm... Thanks for the information, I guess... I'll go then," Yanzar mumbles and slowly inches away. "I don't want to keep you from important things..."
“One moment, please,” Xiximanter slides closer, as if examining something on Yanzar (in Yanzar?).
"Can I... help you?"
"Try feeding this to one of your companions," Xiximanter says. One of the glass containers with goblin pieces rises from the floor and floats through the air towards Yanzar. Who knows which organ is it - maybe the spleen? - but it pulsates slightly. It seems that Xiximanter lost interest in this interaction. He swoops over to the poor goblin, poking at it with a skeletal finger as the goblin tries to crawl away.
"Uuh, should I be worried about something? What effects will it have?"
"I'm curious, too."
"Well, you created it. You must have some-"
Xiximanter stands up and turns around, robes billowing. "Do you know what a mutation is? A random change in an organism. Sometimes beneficial," he motions to the disemboweled goblin who won't die, "and sometimes less so. Mostly much less so. But the most interesting and least predictable results are always when using multiple subjects from different races. Mutagenic hybridization."
"Aah, then... I'll definitely... Yeah. Ehm, so... Thank you and nice talking to you?" Yanzar says as he backs out of the room.
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