Belàldur waited silently in the shadows as Børæn performed his strange ritual with his knife. By this point, the elf was well accustomed to bizarre human behavior, but this tendency for humans to cut themselves open offended him on a practical level. In his experience, bloody hands only attracted sharks.
He had volunteered to help Børæn deliver Ja’Kar’s body here to the village – not that Børæn needed the help, the giant of a man seemed to hoist and carry the corpse as effortlessly as Belàldur wore his cloak. But Belàldur knew the way, and besides, he owed at least this much to the fallen monk.
As Børæn ended his formal address and began to talk freely with the others, Belàldur stepped out of the corner of the tent – he had instinctively gone to the place where he was least likely to be seen or noticed upon arrival – and made his way towards an old man with tears still in his eyes, with a group of grieving goblyns nearby. “Greetings, I’m Belàldur,” he said with a slight bow, “I see the news of Ja’Kar’s passing has hit you hard. I would tell you of the events that led to his death, and the good that has been done for the world thanks to his sacrifice.”
“I’m sure you know of the old abandoned monastery that had become the home of chaos and evil. Perhaps you’ve heard some of the tales of the horrors that were within, and the many humans, elves and others that had died in there, or worse. If not, count yourself lucky, and I’ll not tell any of those now, you’ll sleep better. Enough to say that the corruption of that place was spreading, and the only hope we had of ending it was to dive deep into that river of piranha.”
“There were seven of us – Ja’Kar, Mazlor and two of his followers, Jorann, Pyria and me. We went deeper into that demon pit than ever before, and came to a room with rows of thick columns. Not wanting to be surprised by creatures hiding behind them, Ja’Kar and I decided to scout ahead… he took the right wall, I the left. Unfortunately, there were two things we didn’t know: first, this room was somehow enchanted so that at any moment you could wink out of existence and appear instantly in a completely new spot. Second, there were horrific floating creatures guarding the way, ones that we’d seen before. Like small flying ships with metal undersides, that could project deadly beams at their enemies.”
“Their metal hulls were too strong for weapons to penetrate, so out of desperation I leaped up to grab one by its stalks and pull it to the ground. So there I was, on top of this thing holding onto it with the help of Pyria as we tried to stab its fleshy top, when it happened – I suddenly found myself kneeling over the lifeless body of Ja’Kar. He had sacrificed himself by facing one of those damnable things alone, giving us time to grapple with the others. Thanks to his last act, we were able to survive and destroy those floaters, although some of us were seriously injured.”
“Then the next wave hit the shore – something again appeared out of thin air in this room that we were sure was another agent of chaos that we’d have to fight to the death. It turned out to be that large fellow over there quaffing drink that you’ve already met – Børæn – and fortunately for us, he has a good heart beneath all that bulk. He helped us get to the one place down there that was clear of corruption, and the “holy men” of the group worked their healing magic on the injured. We spent the day resting there, then set sail again into the depths.”
“Soon the magic of the clerics was needed again, to defend us from twisted wizards that had the ability to control minds. Pyria’s sorcery was also key, she was able to vanish a moving wall of magical force that threatened to squash us flat. And Børæn, despite his youth, proved his worth as a warrior.”
“As we approached the eye of the storm, I opened a door and my mind was hit by an evil force that tried to take control,” Belàldur grins, “but my natural stubbornness won out and I told it to take a giant leap off a short pier. Inside the room, there was the rogue apprentice wizard we’d been looking for, and a creature that had to be a full-blown demon of the Chaos dimension, right in the middle of a giant portal.”
“The wizard cast an illusion that made him seem to be in four places at once, and I fired arrow after arrow in anger as my comrades charged in. But soon, I heard the eerie sound of one of those floating creatures coming up behind us! I slammed the door shut, holding it closed as best as I could while yelling at the others to hurry, hurry! The door exploded and I was knocked backwards to the ground…”
“I’ll leave it to others to describe what happened next, because I was on my back looking up at the ceiling, but the next thing I knew the demon’s voice was rumbling in my ears, giving a warning that this was not the end of its attempts. The flying creature fell to the ground with a crash, and I looked up to see the portal closing. Somehow, we had done it.”
“That alone was not enough to fully cleanse the place, as it turned out. Just when we’d caught our breath, a wizard wearing a red and white striped robe appeared, and told us in order to truly purify the monastery, a life with powerful magic within it had to be sacrificed… his own. He seemed surprised when I asked his name, apparently none had thought to do so before, and he answered, ‘Toorak.’ I thanked Toorak for making the ultimate sacrifice, and wished for the deep waters to welcome him home.”
“The dark corruption of the monastery is gone now, there will be no more reality shifts, no more foul creatures created, or innocents taken to that place to be twisted in the image of chaos. The shadow of that place is gone, though I have no desire to ever return to it. Never again will this land be cursed by the evil of that place, and never again will we see the floating tower that had been Toorak’s home.”
Belàldur reached up to lightly touch the grey leather headband at his forehead. “I wear this to honor Ja’Kar’s memory and his sacrifice. Ja’Kar and Toorak – 2 names I’ll remember of humans that gave their lives for the greater good. I’m sorry for your loss, and if there’s anything I can ever do for you, I’m at your service.”
“Now,” he said with a lighter tone as a smile played on his lips, “where can I get some of that drink, before Børæn finishes it all?”