|Round and round again.|
Minutes passed like water over pebbles after the fighting was done. I could only stand rooted to the spot, a white-haired oak staring at my sword, while the others were brought, if not to their feet, at least back to their bodies. There should have been blood on that shining blade. It should be drenched in blood. Long after the incandescent rage had passed, even aware of what he was, I thought his blood should still have coated my sword like a sheath. I'd have had proof, then, some tangible evidence that that blasphemy to the name of my friend was dead. Even knowing that he was defeated seemed...unreal. In some ways, it still does.|
Really, everything happened in a whirlwind. The decision to go to Curmeah to retrieve the stolen mirrors, the visitation by Aahrin and Dolartu, like thieves in the night, and before we knew it, we were in the palace in El-Alahd, the place besplendored like the very definition of opulence. I had been impatient, veritably quivering with the desire to find out what our host wanted and be on our way. Of course, one does not refuse the hospitality of one such as Ankhotep; we sat through the sumptuous feast, enough for thrice our number, which I assume was prepared in our honor, and we sat through the harem's dance. Nyran did seem to enjoy the sight of them a little too much, though; indeed, he seemed quite the lecher, allowing his baser instincts to cloud his mind, especially in our current straits. I am quite sure that they were all exemplars of human pulchritude, but it really was neither the time nor place for such indulgences.
I am shocked to remember that Nyran was not the only one possessed of such thoughts that day. Ankhotep himself seemed more than a little interested in Anwar. The marriage proposal, if you want to call it that--such things are simply not done in proper society--quite took me aback.
Soon enough we managed to pry from Ankhotep and his subjects the probable location of those enchanted mirrors, surely our only way home. Just as quickly we were whisked to the former site of Aljidan, razed to the ground by Ankhotep's well-fed forces, compared to the starving masses brought by the damming of the Neph in our own world.
Crawling like overfed worms (my compatriots probably were overfed, considering the feast) through the cavern was most undignified, and the inky black monstrosities guarding the inner sanctum were most alarming, but both were peripheral.
There we were, standing once again in the chamber where our friend had met his untimely fate. Once again my fellows sat to listen when we should have been ridding this sad and weary world of another menace to its imminent eternal slumber. Fortunately for them, Nyran soon made it clear, with an all-too-familiar green ray, that talk was done, and battle was joined. The anger, the righteous fury that had been at a quick boil now erupted into sun-scorching fury as I leapt at him, to find him gone.
It should have been as clear as spun crystal that we had not met the entirety of this offense against nature's minions. He called forth Rezariel...who had been waiting inside Dolartu, eager for the chance to possess the dragon-blood body and betray us to his master. Time sped up; things happened quickly until everything stopped, and time seemed to hit a dwarven-wrought wall. Dolartu magically convinced both Anwar and Arilyn to surrender their crystals to Aahrin; the spell's effect engulfed me as well, though I was secure in my lividity from its effects. He met his end soon enough, caught between the diamond-hard fists of Nyran's summoned constructs and the rock of the sanctum's walls.
His death was the moment of that mockery's return. He released a scream, though to call it such would be akin to calling Argusund chilly, or Arilyn tactless. It was as if the loudest scream I had ever heard had been magnified and distorted until it were loud enough to crack mountains. Come to think of it, I seemed to remember it from the tomb in Lochlainn; it had a similar sound, and feeling. I felt ten barrels of that black gnomish fire-sand going off simultaneously in my head, and I slumped senseless, lifeless, to the floor, along with all my comrades save Nyran and Antarus, certain, as I was dying, that it was the end...
...until I was hauled to my feet by an unseen force, feeling the life flooding back into me, a torrent of vitality threatening to carry me away. It was hard to catch my breath. Was I dead? It was hard to remember, until I reoriented myself. And saw Antarus, a smile of pure relief on his face as he slumped over, his own life draining away out of the spilled phial of his body. He must have wished our places reversed; he was no worker of divine energies, and I am sure there was little else in all of arcana that could have caused his own death and my immediate resurrection, with only my fevered gasps for air to remind me that a moment ago, my soul and my body had parted ways.
If my anger had been sun-scorching before, it was now enough to sear away all of creation. I was determined that this thing should die, again, and never again walk to parody the life and death of so noble a being as was Jacques. Sword flaring, I launched myself upwards at him, barrelling through his field of repulsion as one insensible. Nyran's constructs reached him first, but they could not dispatch him as quickly as their size would imply. His fiery retaliation was not insignificant, but I did not even waste the moment to shrug it off. My blade whirled and sung as it seldom has in all my time wielding it. I landed an oblique cut across his abdomen, which startled him enough to allow my last swing to drive home. It plunged through his chest, holy retribution for his crimes against the world gleaming through his body, and ended him. For a time, at least.
So it was that we eventually found ourselves staring into the mirrors once more under this parched desert land. It was then that Aranor showed himself in our presence again, muttering his nonsensical natterings. I'm rather glad we have Jerick to deal with now; if he still maddening, at least he gives straight answers or refusals. One by one my friends stepped through the glass, until I alone remained of the fellowship. I could not help getting a last jab at Aranor before I left, but that was not my reason for staying. I owed Antarus. At least my thanks, but I gave him my friendship, as well. Then, as before, all was white, white as the moment of creation itself must have been, and then....
...sand gets absolutely everywhere!
|Associated Regions: Curmeah, Aljidan, Dark Mirror|
|From the journal of Islan Diemyn|
Contributor: Chris Schuettpelz