20 THAUMONT 1,005 A.C. – DYMRAK FOREST, KARAMEIKOS
I turn my head and I see goblins, all around us.
In their wild eyes I see no mercy: they’re here to kill us, to hunt us like we’re wild animals.
All of a sudden the creatures make a wild scream and attack us: Azulenia runs in front of Francisco, protecting the fragile body of the cleric, while Elarik stays near the woman, helping her.
The nagpa, De’Ath, makes a couple of steps behind the two elves: what a coward! He is more despicable than I imagined.
No courage in battle means no honor in life.
I prepare myself taking a big breath and extracting my kasas.
Taking the attack position I can clearly feel the ki flowing in my entire body. Master Aredhel voice reverberates in my mind, like she’s next to me: “Expand your mind, let the power pour out.”
The dwarf, Tordek, drools, totally consumed by rage, and twirls the great axe above his head with a wild yell then he hits, with incredible precision and fury, the head of a goblin.
In the middle of the battle, while I’m sinking my kasas in a goblin’s throat, an enormous column of fire incinerate another monster: Francisco did it! The cleric looks at me for a second and makes a resolute gaze, like he approves me.
Some goblins hit violently one elf in front of the nagpa and he collapses on the ground, dead: immediately De’Ath murmurs something and, with difficulty, the elf stands up again.
Azulenia and Francisco look at him with a mixture of repugnance and hate.
After the deaths of other goblins the rest run away, hissing and screaming against us.
Tordek moves some steps behind the creatures and yells in a language I don’t understand: he reminds me a wild animal, without any control on his instincts.
After a couple of minutes in which we clear out our campfire from the dead bodies, De’Ath starts to talk again with icy voice: “As I said earlier : that tabi is my master’s property. He want it back in Serraine: you have to give it back to me.”
“No way! First of all give a proper death to the bodies that are with you. We don’t make deals with two undead standing up on their own feet.” Declares Francisco while Azulenia nods her head, silently.
The nagpa growls, angered: “These are my personal guards. They will not do anything to you all if you don’t attack me. They’re my… Guarantee.” He talks about them as if they were objects, not the bodies of persons who were alive in the past.
The discussion becomes an animated debate: Francisco, Azulenia and the other members of the group don’t trust the nagpa and, honestly, I have their same opinion.
Tordek still squeezes the tabi between his arms and the small creature looks at De’Ath with terrified eyes.
“You heard the priest. Undead. Down. Now.” Grunts the dwarf, scrutinizing the nagpa.
“Give me the tabi.”
Emotions run and, one second before I intervene, Azulenia sentence, her clear and resolute voice, echoes through the forest: “We don’t negotiate with who animates the dead ones.”
De’Ath eyes ignite in hatred and he watch us, resented, then opens his mouth a couple of time in an empty gesture. “You… You all have no idea of what you did!” He pronounces these words with crackly voice then goes away, vanishing in the shadows of the night.
Immeral shakes his head, resigned.
“So? The crystal?” Reed asks watching me.
“The tabi has the answer.” I reply.
“We must proceed. The nagpa is furious now, I think it would be better to proceed.” Says Azulenia and Elarik nods, totally in accord with her: one by one, we all agree.
We recover the path to the tabi’s hiding place: after half an hour an enormous, hollow tree stands out in front of us: the little tabi enters in a small cavity in the trunk and we await in silence.
After some minutes the tabi emerges from the hole with a worried expression on his face.
“Where’s the crystal?” I snarl at him but, a second before I launch myself on the creature, an unknown voice reverberates around us: “I have it.”
A big and old tabi emerges from the trees, walking slowly and proudly: he observes carefully all of us then talks again: “Is this shiny crystal yours?” I see the gnomes’ crystal closed in his left hand.
“It belongs to me. Can you return it, please?” I ask.
“Maybe.” He harshly replies. “I need some help and you can assist me perfectly.”
Francisco makes some steps closer to the tabi: “First of all: have you got a name?”
“Quenstin. Chief of the tabi clan in the Dymrak forest.”
“Thank you, Quenstin. Now: if we help you, will you give back the crystal to our friend?” Francisco talks slowly and points at me with his thin index finger.
“Will you help me? Have I got your word of honor?” He seems very worried and anxious.
“You must tell what do you want from us first.” Replies the cleric.
“There’s a dangerous basilisk that terrorizes and kills my people and the other creatures in this part of the forest. If you kill it, returning me a proof of its death, I’ll give you back the crystal.”
“Yes!” I agree to his request. “We have a pact, Quenstin.”
He smiles, satisfied: “All right cat.” He extends his hand and I vigorously shake it, pointing my gaze in his eyes.
“I can guide you to the basilisk’s nest. Can we go now?” Asks Quenstin.
I turn to the group: “I’ll go there, with or without you.”
“Yes, we must hurry.” Says Francisco but Immeral looks at him with pained eyes: “Francisco, we have to reach the Lake…” His voice is suffering too but the cleric interrupts him: “I made a promise and I intend to honor it.”
Azulenia seems in accord with the skinny man and Elarick too; Tordek mutters something and caresses the little tabi.
“We’ll help you, Quenstin, but I have a request: take this young tabi with you, keep him in your clan and, please, protect him from the nagpa who’s looking for him.” Says Francisco.
The old tabi observes the small creature then take him by the hand and replies: “I can do it. Now we must go.”
The way to the basilisk’s nest is not very long and, in half a hour, we’re in front of the entrance of a big cave; all around a lot of petrified tabi warn us about the danger of this place.
“The basilisk is somewhere inside this cave. Good luck, I’ll await for you.” Declares Quenstin and he disappears inside of the forest with the little tabi.
“Let’s go!” Says Tordek with a big smile on his round face.
Inside the cave is totally dark and very moist: with my sensitive ears I’m able to catch a lot of noises that the common humans can’t hear.
The damp dripping.
The feeble hiss of the wind.
My companions’ steps.
We arrive in a large, natural room: in the centre a big section of a stalagmite and, behind, a dark shape.
“Behind the stalagmite’s base there’s something.” I whisper to the group and, quietly, we try to surround the beast but, unfortunately, Azulenia and her heavy armor clinks, attracting the attention of the basilisk on her.
All of a sudden the monster attacks her with its lethal gaze.
“My legs! I can’t move them!” Azulenia screams, moving a cutting blow against the basilisk: Francisco lights up the room, showing a big monster with a dull brown body and a yellowish underbelly, while Elarik runs to the paladin, worried and furious.
The battle starts: Tordek acts under the controls of his own rage and shoots down his battle axe on the creature.
I try to jump beyond the stalagmite but my foot slips and I fall on the ground, out of breath: Immeral looks at me for a second and the basilisk petrifies him, taking advantage of this moment of oversight.
The battle is very confused and brutal but, in the end, Elarik gives the last and deadly hit to the beast: I cut its head, it’s the proof we need and I also take a couple of colored scales.
However Azulenia and Immeral are petrified and we employ a lot of time to move them to the entrance.
“Tordek! Here!” Francisco yells from the deepest part of the room: we all run toward him, curious.
“Look there. I feel something… strange. I’m unable to clearly understand. It’s like a… an enticement.” The cleric point a passage in the stone.
“An enticement?” Reed seems confused but very curious. Francisco nods, scrutinizing the stone.
The dwarf starts to watch the breach, entering in it and moving around: “Seem that it goes down, deeper in the earth. It’s very interesting!” Exclaims Tordek.
“Maybe later, my friend. We must help Azulenia, Immeral and, obviously, our new companion.” Says Francisco smiling at me.
Remeber, Sha, you have a mission. Don’t be sentimental.
I observe them for some seconds: “Let’s move, I need that crystal.”
“Tordek! Pay attention!” “Shut up Elarik! You’re not the one who’s 1.30 meters tall! She’s a damn petrified giant!”
“Be careful with the dear Azulenia. She’s fragile, now.” Francisco makes a little laugh at his own joke.
“I’m glad you’re so happy: maybe, now, we can talk politely.” De’Ath voice interrupts the carriage of the poor petrified Immeral and Azulenia: the nagpa watches us with derisive eyes, moving a step toward Elarik and, immediately, I move a step between him and the others.
“Brave as usual, right?” He talks with a sarcastic smile on his disgusting face.
He knows. He’s the one who killed Allstorn, I’m sure.
“Go away, nagpa. We don’t make pacts with necromancers.” I growls, showing my fangs.
His expression changes and gives way to disappointment: “I want my master’s pet back. Nothing more.”
“As you can see we haven’t the little creature.” Replies Francisco.
“GIVE IT BACK. NOW!” He takes a breath and proceeds: “You have no idea about what I could do.”
“Stop it!” Quenstin appears from the forest behind the nagpa and, proudly, speaks: “Go away, nagpa. You’re not welcome here.”
De’Ath makes a disdainful laugh: “What do you think you could do to me?”
Quenstin with austere expression replies: “I’m not alone.” All of a sudden dozens of tabi show themselves, surrounding us.
“I’ll give you one last chance, nagpa: get lost.”
“You have hindered the wrong nagpa’s aims and my master doesn’t forget easily.” With this threat De’Ath leaves the forest, followed by his undead guards.
“Quenstin.” I attract his attention. “Here, the basilisk’s dead. We kept the promise, now it’s your turn.”
I show the monster head, placing it on the ground in front of me; Quenstin gets close to me, observing the head, and extends his hand, giving me the crystal.
We thank him and, with the help of Quenstin clan members, we return the petrified ones to Ryania.
At the gates of the village Quenstin says: “Thank you all. Now my people can return to live in peace.”
“Thank you Quenstin. You helped us all.” I reply, shaking his hand, then we observe him returning in the deep of the Dymrak forest.
Francisco watches me: “Now, Sha, we must talk.”