Gathered in the dim light of Eli’s skull, the Seekers travel beneath the winter seas in the mouth of a leviathan to the island of Erobyss in search of Timeran’s staff. It is dark, damp and cold… the days long and lightness. To pass the time, the Seekers share tales of their travels to Oblivion…
The pained scowl that is ever present on Creed’s face is particularly menacing in the flickering light of the skull. “I’ll go first,” says the Chaplain with a somber voice. “After Mhari hit us with the searing flash of light I remember what seemed like an eternity of pain. Then the light turned to darkness. I don’t know how long I was there but then I started to slowly become aware. It felt as though I was clawing my way through layer upon layer of mud until the world around me finally came into focus. I was on some sort of road…or trail. On either side, for as far as the eye could see, was this endless bog. I remember all of you there with me which filled me with a sense of relief. The last time I traversed purgatory it was alone.” With that the Chaplain’s voice fails as the memory of his first death floods back to him. He produces a bottle of Dunkeld whiskey and takes a long pull before passing it to Rykson Finn, the last of the Outriders.
Rykson holds the bottle for a long moment, staring into nothingness, not wanting to face the memory of that terrible place. The young ranger scratches his chin, and lifts the whiskey to his lips. He shudders and breathes deep. “I don’t remember a flash, or any pain. I don’t really remember much of anything… suddenly we were just standing there. I remember the bog, and I remember being together on the path. Nothing was right about that place, the air wasn’t air. Everything was… dead. I felt dead. Then we were attacked, right? Something from the bog – like tentacles. And there was music, or singing. Harpys? I can remember them calling to us. And then we were fighting – one of us was… killed? Viktor? I can’t remember. It’s like it was all a dream. A nightmare really.” He turns to Tudor, and passes him the bottle, hoping that the sharp-minded wizard will remember more.
Tudor looks pained as he starts speaking. “Just about the hardest thing I have ever done was walk away from my family, Lissa, and Bufree. But, it was every bit as difficult if not more so to watch as Creed and Moradin were killed in that first fight. I wanted to stop and grieve, but we couldn’t. It was weird, I saw you die but I knew that we would finish our quest together.”
Tudor finds himself unable to shake the emotion threatening to overtake his words, but he swallows down the lump in his throat and continues: “Seeing Lissa there was the worst. She was waiting for me. I left her… I left her but she never left me. She gave up on everlasting peace to wait for me. She still seemed so full of energy…”.
Tudor wipes a lone tear from his eye and then chuckles as he says: “Hey, remember how we were going to fight the Grey Lord because he was demanding one of our lives? That dude could probably blink and completely destroy us. Creed, you volunteered so readily to give your life? You are crazy. You are still my brother, and we shall continue to be Seekers for a long time to come. You are all my brothers and the world needs the Seekers now.”
He becomes more serious and academic sounding, “I have been thinking about what Mhari did to send us over to that plane and I feel confident that I will be able to figure it out. I don’t think the mechanics could be much more different that any of my teleportation spells… but it should be more gentle when I do it. I think that we may benefit from such knowledge at some point.”
Creed reaches for the bottle over the sleeping form of Moradin and Tudor hands it over, forgetting to take a drink as his mind races with arcane calculations. He pokes Moradin with the bottle but the dwarf only stirs a bit then returns to his slumber.
“I guess it takes a lot out of you to vomit all day like that,” Creed says before taking another pull from the bottle. “Perhaps such magiks could be of use to us but I certainly would not want to ever return to that… that… drained place. When Moradin and I were killed we suddenly found ourselves in…” he pauses rubbing his forehead as he struggles to remember. “The Pit of Thrall,” he says at last. “Thousands, maybe tens of thousands of spectres flew around us. What I remember most is their eyes as they flew past. They looked so deeply confused, so lost. I was nearly overcome by the despair of the place.” Creed suddenly snatches up the bottle that he had let absentmindedly fall to his side just as Kongo makes an attempt to lick at the sweet whiskey, “None for you, boy,” Creed says as he again passes the bottle to Rykson.
Rykson takes the bottle with steadier hands as the whiskey begins to take its effect. Quietly, he whispers to the massive hound serving as his pillow, “You can have a little, partner. Don’t tell Creed.” The the ranger turns to the party rogue, “Viktor, you’ve been awfully quiet. Do you remember what happened after Creed and Moradin were… taken by those tentacles?”
The scoundrel speaks up for the first time in a long while. “Nah. Don’t remember. None of it. Don’t want to either. What’s done is done, why call a committee to discuss? We saved Dunkeld and got nothin’ for it. Blast it all, I say.” The haunted look in his eyes and the slight shake in his voice belied his gruff demeanor, but the Seekers understood well enough – Viktor did not want to talk about the experience. Death doesn’t suit the rogue, apparently.
The young halfling shakes his head sadly, “Sorry, Viktor, but I need to talk about it. I need to sort it out in my head, or I’ll not be able to think of much else.” Rykson pauses thoughtfully, and takes another, shorter, pull from the bottle before stopping the cork and tossing it to Viktor. The thief nods in thanks, and takes a long draught himself while the ranger continues.
“After… after that, I remember continuing along the path and arriving at… an inn? That doesn’t seem right – why would there be an inn in such a place?! Yet… there was.” Ryskon pauses, trying to concentrate, to remember. “Althos. The innkeep said his name was Althos. We talked to him and drank something that tasted better than anything I have ever had before. What did he call it? Ambrosia? He told us about another mortal who lived in that strange realm – a wizard named Fhorsh, I think. We were going to find him, but we needed someone to lead us there. Wait! That’s were we met the girl…”. Rykson’s voice trails off as he remembers the girl they met. A girl that Tudor already knew. He looks at the wizard with a mix of apprehension and sorrow.
Tudor reaches for the bottle and Viktor hands it to him. Every one of the Seekers has experienced tremendous loss and with that loss comes an understanding of the emotions clearly painted on Tudor’s face. No words need be said to express sympathy or encouragement and thus, no words were exchanged between Tudor and Viktor. They shared an eternity of conversation, laughter and tears with one look.
Tudor holds up the bottle and looks at Rykson, who nods yes, and then takes a long pull from the bottle. “This day, my friends, is for celebrating our victory over death. The people of Dunkeld may not care what we did for them, but we’d do it again. Legends may never know the story of how the Seekers saved Dunkeld, but the gods will never forget it. The Last Hill Outriders and Ironkiln Clan may never know that Rykson Finn and Moradin Thunderbane went into hand-to-hand combat against the Corpse Lord of Cadaverus… but the whole world benefited from your bravery! The people of Silas will not be there to greet their hero, whose faith is so powerful that it reached from the very pits of hell and provided a guiding light for us, but we greet him as hero with every mention of his name. Most will never know how brave and good of heart Viktor is, but we do and we would gladly put our lives in your hands any day. We have all traveled a rocky road and that road looks to be turning mountainous, but as long as we are together, we will save this world.”
Tudor takes another long pull and exhales. When he looks up at the Seekers, he eyes show neither pain nor fear, only respect and confidence. He looks at each of the others taking time to silently communicate his appreciation and admiration to each of them. Then he takes another long pull. “Do yous remember the shteps? Who fingered out that it was two down and one… (hiccup)… up? Did we all die in those hallwayssss? (hiccup) I love you guys!” The conjurer takes another big pull of whiskey, “You guysh are the best but I shtill think we should have eaten, I mean beaten, that blood jelly. I think it killed someone after we ran…”