A side quest of the Cursed Eight
Accipiter G. Goshawk
Welcome to the last episode of this side-quest!
The story continues from where it left off in SQ4: Omens …
“Yes…,” answered Zal’tat dreamily, “I want…”
His hands blurred, and there was a bright flash of magic, as the gnome batted aside the dark elf’s charm.
“I want some answers, Quarij. Why in the name of Gerotil, did you just try to charm us? Who the hell are you and what do you really want?”
The cloaked warlock recoiled, snarling angrily. His staff swept in front of him in a wide arc and the air crackled with magic.
“You are nothing. Pawns; expendable. I must be freed from this prison! My lord calls to me…he is ready. Soon he shall return, and I will be at his side once more, the proudest servant of the Netherfare!” he cackled drunkenly.
A wandering spark flew from behind Zal’tat, as Nala’s arm stretched out, ready to let fly a dazzling blast of energy. Siloqui’s swords left their sheaths with an eager metallic sound.
The small sorcerer grinned.
“Give it up Quarij. You are no match for us. Now, put down your staff and follow us back to the outside world where we can chat.”
“I don’t think that’s wise, Zal’tat,” murmured Nala. “He seems very keen on leaving this prison, and I honestly think he was put here for a very good reason.”
“I agree,” growled Siloqui, crossing her blades. “No one is going anywhere until we’ve cleared this up. On your knees, warlock!”
Quarij laughed madly.
“You don’t understand…you could never understand. It doesn’t matter, you are expendable. A mere nuisance!”
A blast of raw power punctuated the last word, forcing the companions to dive out of the way, as a violet-green bolt smashed into the ground where they had been standing.
“Most unwise,” hissed Nala softly, as her own spell exploded from her hands in a ripple of air and fire.
Quarij choked on his next attack, as the dragonborn’s magic smashed into his chest. He flew ten feet into the air and fell heavily to the ground.
As he got to his feet, the companions pulled back in horror. His face was now misshapen, a terrible mix of dead flesh, bone and magic feverishly trying to keep it all together. It spun around him like a black cloud, lifting him up, giving him strength.
“My master is always with me,” he spat, bringing his hands up for another spell.
Siloqui never gave him the chance.
In the last six seconds, the plains-elf had sheathed her twin blades and had strung her bow. Two black-fletched arrows appeared out of thin air, protruding from the warlock’s arms.
“Curse you!” he screamed, the magic sputtering weakly between his fingers.
“Nope, curse you!”
Crimson flames leapt from Zal’tat’s figure and pierced Quarij’s form. The dark elf looked at the gnome dumbly for a moment, then collapsed to the ground.
“Did we kill him?” asked Nala, peering at the unmoving heap of black robes.
Siloqui’s pupils narrowed. “No, he’s still alive,” she said, as she picked up the subtle movements of laboured breathing.
“Please…I need to get out,” wheezed the dark elf, turning towards them and beginning to crawl in the direction of the shining portal behind them. “I need…to find my master.”
“Listen Quarij, we have no quarrel with you,” said Zal’tat scratching his head. “I mean you did just try to charm and kill us, but other than that we like you just fine. If you promise to behave, we will take you with us.”
“You don’t understand, gnome,” said the dark elf coldly. “I have been in this Black Gem for a too long. Eons have passed, and since then my body has surely decayed. I…I require a new one.”
The companions shivered as they caught the sinister gleam in the crawling creature’s eye.
“We-we could find you one, I suppose,” said Zal’tat slowly backing away. “I’ve a cousin in the Evenlight Forest who is really good at animating golems. He would surely-”
“No, little sorcerer, I need a living body,” said Quarij softly, as he stopped to take a breath.
The dark elf’s form shimmered for a second and then vanished, reappearing on the ground at Zal’tat’s feet.
“Yours will suffice!”
A dark-skinned hand whipped out and clutched the gnome’s ankle, magic spattering like oil where the two bodies met.
* * *
He was lost in a sea of darkness. The wind howled, and somewhere behind him he could hear Nala and Siloqui yelling, their voices feeble.
“You are mine now, little sorcerer.”
He turned and saw Quarij striding towards him. He was younger, taller and dressed in long ceremonial robes of black velvet, adorned with a single white tear.
The dark elf stretched out his hands towards him, and Zal’tat found he could not move.
The darkness wavered and the bloomed with crimson. A liquid light twisted madly from the gnome’s small form and radiated outward, warping the space around it, tearing at reality with sharp claws of chaos.
“No…what..? This cannot-” howled the warlock, staggering backwards as he desperately tied to escape the blood-red talons reaching for his soul.
A dark peal of laughter echoed through the empty space, and Quarij screamed as the maleficent force tore him into a thousand pieces that fluttered into nothingness.
* * *
The gnome blinked.
“He’s back,” said Siloqui, letting out a small sigh of relief.
“Yes, but which one of them?” said Nala darkly, her eyes glowing with barely-supressed magic.
“The one that really wants a beer and a slice of turnip pie,” mumbled Zal’tat tiredly.
“It’s him,” said the dragonborn smiling ruefully down at him.
They helped him get to his feet and steered him away from the blackened corpse that now lay smoking in the centre of the Arena.
“I don’t know how you did it,” said Siloqui as they marched towards the portal. “One minute he was latched on to you like a giant leech and the next he was on fire, screaming.”
“I…I honestly don’t know,” said the gnome, a frown creasing his forehead.
They stepped through the portal together, and behind them, the Arena melted away in a vision of purple crystal.
* * *
“What the hell just happened?” roared Thorin.
They were back in the Temple of Gerotil. Siloqui blinked and quickly scanned the room.
Lohar was sitting on the steps leading up to the blackened Tree of Life, his head in his hands and an odd expression on his face. Grell was latched on to Bane and was hugging the pup with all the strength he could muster, while the dire wolf was doing his best to try and lick every possible surface the half-orc presented to him.
Shainarra skulked in the shadows between two columns, lost in thought. Nala and Zal’tat were standing a few feet away from the small dark gem they had exited, while Kathra and Thorin were staring at them all.
Father Silin was still out cold on the floor, just as they had left him.
“We got trapped in there,” said Zal’tat pointing at the gem. “Met a few interesting characters, fought a dragon…fun times.”
“All that in under five minutes?!” said Thorin, peering at the Blackheart Gem distrustfully.
“It would seem time flows differently within the gem-” Nala began.
“It was boring! I never want to go back in there again!” said Grell, and promptly brought his battle-axe down on to the shiny crystal’s surface.
A blast of purple light erupted from the point of contact and the gem shattered into a hundred pieces, which scattered all over the floor of the Temple.
“Well, that solves that issue,” murmured Lohar moodily as Grell pocketed a few of the fragments. “Now what do we do? Let me remind you that the Tree of Gerotil is still withered, and it may be our fault!”
Slowly, the party turned to look at the small gnomish figure of Father Silin, who was now sitting up and staring wide-eyed at the blackened trunk.
“Uh-oh,” said Grell.-
And here we are! That was the last episode of the first Side Quest of the Cursed Eight. Now I can return to chronicling the rest of their adventures in the world of Syrros!
The story continues in The Adventures of the Cursed Eight Chapter 2…
I hope you enjoyed this series!