It might have been the fact that we had all brushed with death closer than we had ever been before (well…besides the time I actually died that is), or perhaps it was the bastard sword arching towards my open neck, but I began to feel reminiscent.
It had been a few weeks after Goghi Rah’s attack upon the Iron Lands, and the wounds had not yet begun to scar over with the passing of time yet. Rufus, in a rare moment of compassion, invited me out for an ale at our newly refurbished Kyto brewery. After about 14 pints in, he finally began to open up. That is, reply in more than two word sentences.
“You cannot possibly begin to tell me that you went toe to toe with a dire bear, and literally just glared at it to death.”, I chortled. Ugh, give me some tasteless Taldorian spirits and I have the social graces of a cockatrice.
“No, Daeron. You don’t get it. In the wilds…it’s all about the will to survive.”, Rufus slurred. I knew all about the wild lands, I was an elf after all. But I began to realize his invitation wasn’t for me, but for him. Maybe he finally began to trust his travelling companion of a year and a half after all. I implored him to go on. “So yes, I was face to face with a dire bear. But Bones was with me, not just but a pup. The beast had a feral rage barely simmering beneath it’s bloodshot eyes. It wanted blood, whether it was Bones or my own. But that bear did not expect that I wanted to live more than it wanted my precious blood. So I stared it down, unflinching. I, nor Bones, would die that day. It could’ve slayed us then and there, but it knew…it knew…”, Rufus murmured, staring into his mug.
I laughed it off then, and flung out my usual barrage of sarcastic responses. I have come to care for the woodsman, but sometimes he really is in his own world sometimes. Or at least I thought, until I was face to face with him, with that same look he described about the bear in his own bloodshot eyes…
Perhaps I should start from the beginning…when I woke up the Lich.
“Vor-duu-kaiii.”, came a voice unlike the sound of thunder. It’s one word introduction shook our very cores. It was as if the creature spoke to us on different planes of existence, all in the same moment. The words it spoke was beyond such pithy things as language, and trust me I know more than a few. It spoke to our very souls. My friends seemed to react to our foe much differently than I, and heavens bless their ignorance, for they knew not the power of what stood before them as I did.
That eye…it’ll haunt the rest of my days. Unblinking, unmoving, undying. That crimson orb looked through you as if you weren’t there at all. For what is the life of a mortal to such a horror? My undying ancestors would be the only creatures that might seem to hold a candle to it.
He looked at us as if we we’re just pawns in some children’s game, and he just might have been right. What could I have possibly done to stop him?! That wretched eye! I am a just a creature of dreams…but that…THING…it’s as if it had been crafted of the very stuff of nightmares. I…am powerless against such a creature.
Or, so I would have thought, if it wasn’t for the same 3 heroes that I have had the privilege of standing beside. They might fight for their own reasons, Sir Thorne for glory and prestige, Rufus for the taming of the wilds and maybe an ale at the end of it all, and Gazl for his god and the light that she brings to the world, but oh how they FOUGHT!
Vordakai laughed at our attempts to stop him, boasting how he could end us all single handedly, and it was that pride that was his downfall. Sir Thorne rushed headlong even after being blasted by a cone of fatigue that would’ve crushed any weaker willed man. Rufus, with a single minded determination pelted the arrogant lich with arrow after well placed arrow, even when it seemed few of them hit their mark. Gazl, as always, was the rock of our group. Supportive, unyielding, and never wearing down. We had been paralyzed, fatigued, and cursed…but not once did he keep us from falling. His foundation helped us build the victory against our undying foe.
And so it was that Vordakai was cast out. He blasted us all with waves of fatigue, he paralyzed, he cursed, but they kept on fighting. He screamed, he bellowed, and he mocked, but
the Iron Tide kept on fighting. He zapped, he plotted, and he resisted, but the Iron Tide never ebbed, not once. And in the end, Vordakai fled, but not before unleashing his trump card, in the form of an ungodly possession over our dear Rufus.
I had managed to at least keep Rufus’s possession from affecting our fight over the lich for the time being, but that time was running out. And it was at that moment that I remembered the tale he had told me about the dire bear all those months ago. It had to be me, I had failed my friends in helping to drive back the lich, but I would not fail them now. That lich, if freed, will make Goghi Rah’s destruction look like an anthill being stepped on. He would bind everyone we loved into undying servitude, and it appeared he began with one of my oldest friends. This will not pass. So I locked the door behind Sir Thorne and Gazl, and waited for what was left of Rufus to stand and face me. That look…he was right…that look in his eyes…it wanted blood, and that fey baned blade in his hand meant to quench that thirst.
But not today. He drew that blade up high enough to touch the 15 foot high ceiling…the irony of my own Enlarge Person spell being used against its own caster not lost on me. But I stared into those eyes, the eyes of a man. Not the eyes of a lich. It was those eyes that knew it needed to break free, and to rejoin his friends. And down came the sword…crashing to the ground…my friend fell to his knees. Sir Thorne and Gazl rushed into the room after our noble knight bashed down the door. Rufus looked up at us…with nothing but a cool icy glare.
“I’m going to put an arrow right through that fucking eye, and you all are going to help me do it.”.
Needless to say, we’re going to oblige him.
(OOC – Sorry for creating some dialogue for Rufus myself, Jake. I felt he was the star of the night after being dominated and subsequently freed by a cyclops lich! Hopefully my impression of our surly ranger friend was good enough for your liking!)